Is There Really Help: This Time?
April 14, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A while back I wrote in this column about the challenges of the VA and the Federal Government recognizing the health damages to our ‘brown and blue water’ Navy that were involved with the Vietnam War. The ‘Blue Water Navy’ especially has been shunned by our system in not being able to get the help needed from the VA Health System for these last 50 years or so, but all that is changing with the new House Bill and courts that have ruled that a 73 year old Blue Water veteran Alfred Procopio and the many Blue Water Veterans are entitled to benefits currently available to service members that were stationed on the ground in Vietnam. Guess they could have waited another few years and all would have been dead but at least our system is giving some of those that need the help a chance to get help with many of the diseases that come along with exposure to Agent Orange.
The new VA Secretary Robert Wilkie changed the stance of the VA after the court ruling in favor of the ‘Blue Water Navy and Marines’, by saying that the VA would not appeal the courts decision. Also, the VA had put the ‘cost’ of providing these benefits to the Blue Water Veterans at about $5.5 Billion, whereas the actual ‘Act’ proposed about $1.1 Billion over a 10 year period. Secretary Wilkie also told the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee that even though he has told the DoJ (Department of Justice) to drop the appeal, he did not know what ‘other’ Agencies would do.
On the heels of this progress to help our veterans, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee promised to bring again, a hearing on the horrible exposures to our Troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and that were exposed to the “Burn Pits” problems.
The idea of seeking new ways for people to kill one another is really quite prevalent from the beginnings of time. Chemical warfare is recorded as early as 600 years before Christ. In 600 BC the Athenian military taints the water supply of the besieged city of Kirrha with poisonous Hellebore plants. In 479 BC Peloponnesian forces used ‘sulfur fumes’ against the citizens of Plataea. In the 17th Century France and Germany (who always seem to be fighting each other), signed the first international agreement to ban chemical weapons and in this case it was banning the use of poisoned bullets. During the American Civil War the proposal to use chemical weapons was generated by both sides, though none were actually recorded as being used. Seems a NYC schoolteacher John Doughty recommended firing chlorine-gas projectiles at Confederate troops, and Confederate soldier Isham Walker suggested dropping canisters of poison gas from balloons on the Union troops. WWI was absolutely horrific in terms of chemical warfare, and by the end of the war there were 1.3 million casualties caused by chemical weapons! In the 1930’s the Italian Mussolini drops mustard gas bombs in Ethiopia to destroy Emperor Haile Selassie’s army.
Having all this in mind plus the extreme use of chemical weapons in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the subjects we mentioned at the beginning of this article, please give thanks and support to ALL the men and women serving our great country, who have volunteered to ‘be there and protect our freedoms’. They more than deserve our support!
“Our Flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.” As seen on reader boards throughout our Nation –
Author = The American People.
Honoring Our Veterans: Locally
March 31, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Really want to thank all the families, relatives and friends that sent information on their loved ones regarding their military service to this great country, as a result of reading my article that was published on March 3, 2019. The stories and information about the service of your loved will make their way into the ‘military archive, library and memorabilia’ display which we will house in the front building of our offices at 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, Oregon. We do hope to have some items and ‘reference library’ inventory on display for you to see by the time of our ‘Grand Re-Opening’ event on Armed Forces Day May 18, 2019.
Our Re-Opening event will be ‘honoring’ our regions Purple Heart recipients and bring to light the East/West U.S. Hwy 20, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean in Boston, Mass., to the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon, the “Medal of Honor” (MOH Highway). Idaho just had a commemorative signing event with Governor Brad Little to officially name U. S. Hwy 20 in Idaho, the “Idaho Medal of Honor Highway”. Idaho’s Sen. Abby Lee and Representative Scott Syme sponsored the Bill HR89. The Idaho portion of US Hwy 20 begins near Parma, Idaho and ends at the Idaho State line at the Continental Divide/Targhee Pass, which enters Montana just west of West Yellowstone. Oregon has already, with the help of Bob Maxwell (MOH recipient) and Dick Tobiason with the Bend Heroes Foundation in Bend and support of the Oregon Legislature named our States portion of the US Hwy 20, “The Oregon Medal of Honor Highway”. Here in Oregon US Hwy 20 extends from the Idaho border at Nyssa, Or and runs concurrently with OR201 and US20/26 through Nyssa, Cairo Junction, Vale, Juntura, Burns, Hines, and then runs concurrently with US395 from Hines to Riley. It continues through Bend, Or over to intersect with US 101 in Newport, Oregon.
Our local Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning at TVCC, hosted this last week a fantastic “Construction Combine 2019”, which engages ‘trainees’ who are interested in learning the construction trades, and pairs them with local contractors. The program here was coordinated and managed by Andrea Testi, director of the TVCC, CBWCL, Worksource Oregon, and the Idaho Dept. of Labor. The Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida wrote a ‘Grant’ through the Home Depot Foundation to provide funding for the needed construction materials for the participants to construct 4 sheds about 10’x10’ each. The ‘training’ for the applicants was offered at no cost, and also the possibility of being hired by one of the participating contractors. There were about 18 men and women that signed up for the training, and about 10 area contractors, who were coordinated by Mr. Owen Spurling, not only a contractor, but Commander of the VFW Post 9036, Leland Thomas Post, New Plymouth, Id. Mr. Spurling is also the Commander of VFW District 4, Idaho. Mr. Spurling coordinated the contractors to cover all aspects of the construction trades including framing, dry wall, roofing, electric, plumbing and general construction and how to read blueprints. The inaugural event was hosted last year by ISU in Pocatello, Idaho to a huge success!. The program was also geared to assisting veterans who wanted to learn and secure employment in the construction trades. Also the completed sheds were given at no charge, to veterans who could put the sheds to good work and who were nominated to receive a shed.
Mr. Travis Evenden of Payette, Id, nominated Kent Burns, a 21 year combat veteran of the Idaho National Guard, who ”decided to take his experiences, and instead of hiding them, he created a place for everyone to come to and share their story. His Barbershop has long been a place for men to go and shoot the breeze as well as get cleaned up”. “Kent created this space to invest in the community of Payette, and he takes that further by donating time as a Board Member of the Payette Community Alliance Network (PCAN) which bridges relationships with business and the local community”. We understand the shed will be used to secure the BBQ Grill and supplies for community events, etc. Thanks Kent for your service!!
The three other veterans that were selected from the nominations are: Mr. Lang, Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Mathews.
“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so ‘virtue’ appears from good deeds.” and
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha (approx. 483/400 BCE)
From Smiles to the Reality of War
March 17, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
When I think of “Green Eggs and Ham” I think not only of St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of the interesting meals I had when I was in Country with the Army and Marines, hopefully to again rejoin my Air Force Unit, and just maybe get back to ‘mail call’ and receive a ‘comic’ or two about one of my favorite characters, ‘Beetle Bailey’.
“G.I. Joe”, “Our Army at War”, “Star Spangled War Stories”, “Captain America”, “Frontline Combat”, “Sgt. Rock”, “Weird War Tales”, and “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” are but just a few of the titles of “War Comic Books” that have been published since the mid-to late 1930’s. What started us all ‘reminiscing’ about the military/War Comic Books the other day over the ‘coffee and conversation’ table at Veteran Advocates, was a lady that came in and asked if we took donations of books and magazines for the veterans. Of course we said yes and asked if we could help her bring them in. When we were looking at the stack, there was an old “G.I. Joe” comic!
Fascinating is the history and popularity of the ‘War Comics’ genre, for even prior to the US involvement in WWII, comics such as the “Captain America Comics” depicted the ‘superheroes’ fighting Adolph Hitler and the Nazis among others. Marvel Comics with cartoonists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created that “Captain America” superhero series, featuring the alter ego of Steve Rogers, who was a frail young man enhanced to a peak-human perfection through an experimental serum administered to aid the governments success in the war. The first ‘Captain America Comic’ was published in March of 1941. Captain America was also the first Marvel Comics character to appear in the media outside of comic books. The character was a very successful movie series started in 1944.
Also interesting to note that the ‘Fictional’ character Steven Rogers was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1920, to poor Irish Immigrants, (we of course are struck by the apparent relationship to St. Patrick’s Day!).
Another famous series that appeared in ‘Military Comics #1, was first published in August 1941. The series was called “Blackhawk”, published by Quality Comics and then by DC Comics. Flying in Grumman XF5F Skyrocket Planes, the Blackhawk Squadron was led by a mysterious man known as Blackhawk and was a team of 8 WWII ace-pilots. They operated from a hidden Base known as ‘Blackhawk Island’ and fought against ‘tyranny and oppression’. During the height of their popularity in the early 1940’s the ‘Blackhawk’ titles were constantly second to Superman.
In 1987 Marvel debuted a new series based on the writers actual experiences while deployed to Vietnam. The series was called “the Nam”, and the writer, Doug Murray relayed his experiences through fictional character Ed Marks. Another Vietnam War comic book was from 1987 to 1991 and was “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” published by Apple Comics.
Speaking of Vietnam, we had quite a few folks contact me from all around our western Treasure Valley area regarding our article in the Argus Observer on March 3, 2019 regarding the “Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial”. One contact I would like to mention here is about a local boy who still has family and friends here in our area. Major Joseph Ygnacio Echanis, United States Air Force. The location of his name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall is at: Panel W16, Line 33. Major Echanis was born in 1937, the incident date is Nov. 5, 1969 as follows: flying in the 497th Tactical Squadron at Ubon RTAFB was a pair of Navy strike aircraft against a target in Laos, Ban Kari pass area. A fireball was seen on the ground and contact was lost with the crew, Major Joseph Y. Echanis and Major Douglas LeFever, and they were classed MIA (Missing in Action). The Secretary of the Air Force approved ‘Presumptive findings’ and approved their Death as follows: Major Echanis 01/21/1975, Major LeFever 06/29/1978.
“We have long honored those who gave their lives during the unfortunate reality of War.” Michael Castle.
These 9 Men-Gave All…
March 3, 2019-2nd Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Surprising how quickly we and our friends and ‘loved ones’ can be affected by making a decision that resulted in producing a totally different effect upon us rather than what we expected. Even more baffling is the reality and self-belief that we made that decision ‘for the right reasons’, and for the ‘compassion’ of the circumstance. Case in point are the following 9 men from right here in Ontario, Oregon, who gave their lives for their Country and Family and ensuing generations, that their service would help to ensure the freedoms and values that all Americans respect and enjoy. Though, when either enlisting or having been drafted during a time of war, one senses that their life just might be given, but one clings to and pursues the idea that returning home and back to the life we left, the family, friends and hopes and aspirations will be the outcome of the decision we made when going into the military.
These 9 men ‘Gave All’. These 9 men are ALL ‘Casualties’ of the Vietnam War, and are listed on the ‘Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial’, and are from Ontario and Vale, Oregon.
Sgt. Frank James Mathews, US Army 60th Infantry, Born 09/12/1948 – Casualty date 02/26/1968
Pfc. Felipe Villanueva, US Army 1st Log CMD, Born 01/26 1944 –Casualty date 07/13/1966
Spec. 4 Robert Dawyne Fellows, US Army 26th Infantry, Born 05/16/1945 –Casualty date 09/25/1966
Capt. Derald Dean Swift, US Air Force, 3rd Tac Ftr Wing, Born 12/14/1937 –Casualty date 12/07/1966
Spec. 4 Joseph Leon Whitaker, Jr. US Army 1st Aviation BDE, Born11/10/1947-Casualty date 08/29/1967
GYST Robert Lee Sproul, US Marine Corps 1st MARDIV, Born 12/16/1933 – Casualty date 06/13/1968
Spec 4 Ted Leroy Sharp, US Army 173rd AHC 12th AVN GRP, Born 04/09/1948-Casualty date 11/19/1968
Pfc. Delos Richard Buxton, US Army 12th Cavalry, Born 08/28/1946 – Casualty date 07/12/1969
CWO Robert Junior Fishleigh, US Army 1st LOG CMD, Born 10/03/1915 – Casualty date 09/25/1970
All these 9 men made the ultimate sacrifice, as did the thousands of other men and women who have not only given their lives, but have come home scared and missing limbs, and scared from the ‘invisible wounds’ that the traumas of war and conflict inflict on the minds and souls of those have been through such horrific actions. So, please in your own way and manner, impart a few thoughts of ‘thankfulness, gratitude and understanding of the value of life and living’, to all those men and women who have, for us, given so much. Not that it will immediately change the course of war and conflict, but that it might touch the souls of those who bear the scars of that inhumanity, and bring them some degree of solace.
Whether or not we want to admit the fact that we are individually able to ‘sense and feel and react’ to unspoken thoughts and feelings from others (much less ourselves), we do know that unspoken thoughts have a very large impact on us. So, if we just send-out some good ole positive thoughts, they will certainly be appreciated one way or another!! Also if you are by chance just a ‘vocal’ person, it is always nice when you see a veteran wearing their cap or jacket, to give them a ‘handshake’ and a heartfelt ‘thank you for your service to our Country’. That will always put a sparkle in their eye and give them a feeling of appreciation!!
Though these above listed men are listed on the ’Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial’ at www.VIRTUALWALL.org, there may also be others from our local area here that I am not aware of yet. If one of your family members or friends is listed on the Wall but not mentioned here, please send me that information at www.veteranadvocates.org, I will reply to your effort with a thank you.
I think about this much when I write these columns and reflect what Plato said; “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” And what MacArthur said; “The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
Why Do We Serve Our Country?
February 17, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Certainly was taken by surprise the other day when a mother and her two children stopped me when I was leaving a local restaurant and ‘thanked me for my service to our Country’! Actually had forgotten that I was wearing my US Air Force hat and of course that prompted her comments to me. What ensued then really did pull at my emotions and cause me to flash unexpectedly at a good portion of my life’s history. I thanked her for her thinking about our veterans and asked if she or her family had also served our country, and turns out that her father served during the Vietnam War and her grandfather served during WWII. It was then in this conversation that her son asked me why I joined the military, and how is it that one knows they want to join the military and serve our country! Well now, I paused a moment and collected a few thoughts and asked him if he ever felt that there were certain things, certain circumstances and certain people in his life that he would just about do anything to protect them, or to see that they would never not be there? He answered that he would always do anything to protect his mom and dad and his little brother. I replied that that was a very admirable attitude and that it reflects on the choices we have in making decisions about our life. Also that many people make those types of decisions regarding the freedoms and rights as an individual that we here in America are able to enjoy, (sometimes much more than other people around the world). So to answer his question I told him I joined primarily to work with other like-minded individuals who feel the desire to help ‘defend and guard’ the liberties and freedoms we have here in America, and that I wanted my family to be able to continue to enjoy those choices. He replied that he thought he understood that and thought that those were some pretty good ideas. That little boy and his family were all invited to VAOI and I sure do hope that they come on in because he will learn much from the men and women that have served in our military, and he’ll get the straight scoop from ‘the horses mouth’.
Back at the office sitting around the coffee and conversation table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida and jawing with some of the veterans, I was quickly reminded that definitely not everyone joined for the same reasons! Some were definitely not ‘joiners’ and did not want to go into the service at all, but were drafted during wartime and while in the service served for a very different reason….. and that reason was the ‘brothers’ that were on each side of them, especially in combat. Almost every one of them (to the man) were proud that they served and many would put on the uniform again if and when our Country needed their service. I have to admit that some definitely would not serve again, and knowing their stories, I certainly understand. As the saying goes, ‘there are always exceptions’.
An exception to note here is the last draftee of the Vietnam War. Jeffery Mellinger of Eugene, Oregon got his draft notice in the mail in 1972. Then, 39 years later, Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger in July of 2011 retired from the Army! He said he did not join willingly, but upon retiring says that he sure was surprised that he found his ‘calling’ in the Army!!
I get quite a bit out of the conversations around the coffee and conversation table, and one thing is, war is the most horrible thing a person can go through, and if there is a chance that it can be prevented, it should be prevented. If not, then we as a community, together as a Nation, need to pay the price of ‘caring’ for those that have served in those wars! We cannot do that by ‘playing politics’, and procrastinating making available the ‘help’ that is needed. We need to immediately take care of all those that have served us and that come home scared physically and emotionally!
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Also “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”.
Vince Lombardi, 1913 to 1970 – Football Coach
Valor and Our Community
February 3, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Extraordinary! Yes, the efforts and desire to ‘do for those we do not even know’. Yes, incredible, that so many people in our community take the ‘high Road’ of appreciation, to recognize and thank strangers and those individuals they more than likely will never meet. We at VAOI are absolutely amazed at the amount of folks in our area that because of this latest government ‘shutdown’, have come into our offices with all kinds of donations! Donations for not only those folks they feel will be directly impacted by the ‘shutdown’ but also for those veteran families they just sincerely want to thank and show their appreciation for! For instance, there was a very excited lady who came in the other day with a very large stack of newspapers from a neighboring State, that she had been saving for about 30 years. All these newspapers were filled with front page articles about the War in Iraq, and she just so deeply felt that by bringing them in that more veterans would know that their efforts were ‘genuinely’ and deeply appreciated by our citizens for whose liberties and freedoms they fought for. Then there was the nice couple who stopped me in the market the other day to ask me about how the services offered by the Veterans Administration, especially the counseling for PTSD was being affected. When I told them that we were still getting the counselors coming to our offices and that there was no stopping of that so far, they were very happy and handed me a donation to help those families facing those sometimes unseen ‘mental wounds’. The strength in caring for others does seem to have a propensity to propel all your energy from yourself to the goals you pursue for the benefit of those you wish to help. Not only does that draw comparison to those ‘helpers’ I am referring to above, but also to four men who 76 years ago on this very day, actually gave their lives assisting and helping others.
On February 3, 1943 at about 12:55am, a periscope broke the very cold waters of the Atlantic ocean. The periscope was that of a German submarine the U-223, and it spotted the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, which was carrying 902 military service men, merchant seaman and civilian workers. The Dorchester was on its way to a base in Greenland, escorted by three Coast Guard Cutters. One of the torpedoes fired from the German submarine hit the starboard side, mid-ship and in 20 minutes the Dorchester would slip beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic. The CGC Comanche saw the explosion and rescued 97 survivors. The CGC Escanaba circled round and rescued 132 survivors, and the third CGC Tampa continued escorting the two ships.
According to many eyewitnesses, four Army Chaplains brought ‘hope and comfort’ in the despair of the nights catastrophe. The Chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. The four chaplains spread out quickly amongst the soldiers offering prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live. “One witness, Pvt. William B. Bender, found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by dead bodies and debris. I could hear men crying, pleading, praying, Bender recalls. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.” When there were no more lifejackets to hand out the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” said John Ladd, another survivor who saw the chaplains’ selfless act. ‘Ladd’s response is understandable. The altruistic action of the four chaplains constitutes one of the purest spiritual and ethical acts a person can make. When giving their lifejackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their lifejackets to the next man in line.’ As the ship went down the survivors could see the four chaplains, arms linked and braced against a slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers. Of the 902 men, 230 survived.
“Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”
Carl Sandburg, American poet, writer, editor, Pulitzer Prize recipient. 1878 to 1967
Local Nightingales Deliver Love…
January 20, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
By asking any veteran or any person serving in the military about the validity of the saying “an Army travels on it’s stomach”, you will discover that an overwhelming percentage (probably 95% at least) will agree with that quote. Regardless of who is attributed (for both Napoleon Bonaparte and Frederick the Great are attributed to that saying) the reality that ‘food warms the heart and the soul’ and generally emboldens man to ‘overcome all odds’, is an absolute reality throughout military history.
To further give credence to that axiom, there are a few local supporters of our area veterans and military, who on a consistent basis, bring into the offices at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, ‘delectable, incredible mouth watering, absolutely ‘can’t imagine life without it’, preparations of homemade goodies which run the gambit from sweet to savory! These ‘goodies’ not only enfold the Heart & Soul of the person making them, but bring a ‘warming’ acknowledgement and gratitude and thankful appreciation from the many veterans who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of said goodies! And who after consumption, feel that they then can continue their day in absolute untethered contentment. Amazing how one can feel so good when one knows that there is someone who truly, truly cares about them, and who, through a piece of cake, or a cookie, or a bowl of soup or a simple casserole, can be ‘transformed’. Truly there are times when the power of experiencing ‘Deeds’ and ‘actions’ can far outweigh the deliverance of words. And also to the many of you that bring by those extra grocery bags of staples that you have purchased for our many veterans in need of a little extra assistance, if you could see the gratitude and thanks they truly show and express, I know it would also warm your ‘heart and soul’ as it has theirs.
So I want to personally thank all those ‘supportive and caring’ folks who may not truly realize the very deep impact that the ‘actions of their thoughts and deeds’ have on our local veterans and military and their families. Thank you also to those of you in our community that choose to share the ‘bounty of your labor’ through financially supporting those veterans and military that need temporary assistance over the rough times in their lives. These gifts have and do really make a difference in sometimes being able to keep a family together.
So now, back to our quote about “an Army travels on it’s stomach”. According to many historians, this saying has been ascribed to three people; Frederick the Great (also known as Frederick the Second), Napoleon Bonaparte, and Thomas Carlyle. Seems the earliest reference to this was in 1858 in a work by Thomas Carlyle about Frederick the Great. The saying occurred in a description of an unsuccessful military endeavor: “they were stronger than Turk and Saracen, but not than Hunger and Disease. Leaders did not know then, as our little Friend in Berlin came to know that ‘an Army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly”, and the ‘little Friend in Berlin’ referred to Frederick the Great. Then, an entry dated in 1816 in a book by Count de Las Cases, “Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena”, described a conversation Napoleon had with a eight year old child, Tristan: “Tristan is very idle. He confessed to the Emperor that he did not work every day. ‘Do you eat every day? Said the Emperor to him; Yes Sire. Well then, you ought to work every day; no one should eat who does not work. Oh, said Tristan, if that be the case, I will work every day. Such is the influence of the belly, said the Emperor, tapping the belly of Tristan. It is hunger that makes the world move”. Then in a later volume of the Counts book, Napoleon considered that every soldier be given a supply of corn to grind and make bread, from which he was quoted as saying; “there is no subordination with empty stomachs”. Interesting to note that Frederick died in 1786 and Napoleon died in 1858, you might then draw your own conclusion.
“The greatest and noblest pleasure which we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices.” Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786
Our Greatest Generation
January 6, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A main topic these last few days around the ‘coffee table’ is one regarding our nations oldest WWII veteran Richard Overton. Mr. Overton was not only the oldest ‘verified’ WWII veteran but the oldest man in the United States! He was enlisted in the US Army in 1940 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and served through 1945 in the 187th Engineer Aviation Battalion and was a Technician fifth grade upon leaving the Army. Mr. Overton passed to his Maker Thursday December 27th, 2018, at the age of 112 years old.
The conversations regarding WWII vets is so very personal and local for so many of us, because most of our own dads’ and granddads saw active duty in one of the Armed Forces during the Second World War, and most of our moms’ and grandmas either served in the ‘Women’s Army Corps’ (WACS), the ‘WAVES” which stood for ‘Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Services’, and the ‘Women Airforce Service Pilots’ (WASP), or were employed in companies that made parts and supplies for the US Military. Many here locally in the Japanese community served in the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment which still maintains the distinction of being the most decorated Unit in U. S. Military history. The 442nd was composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry. They were primarily engaged in the European Theatre in Italy, Germany and southern France, and the Units Motto was “Go For Broke”. The Unit was activated in early 1943 and grew to a compliment of 4,000 men, many of whom their families were in ‘internment camps’ here in the United States. The Unit was ‘inactivated’ in 1946 but was again ‘activated’ in 1947 as a Reserve Unit and garrisoned at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
There were approximately 16,100,000 Americans that served during WWII, and it is estimated that about 490,000 are still living. The number of surviving WWII veterans here in the western Treasure Valley region is unknown, but I know of about 3 or 4 who come into the Veteran Advocates for coffee and conversation periodically, and are still doing fairly well, and we have lost another 4 or 5 within the last few years. We do still have a number of Korean War veterans that are still pretty active and come in quite regularly and have some amazing stories to tell of their incredible experiences in that War. One topic they quite frequently speak about is the possibility that they may actually see the re-unification of the two Koreas in their lifetime. Before this last year and a half there seemed to be no possibility of that happening, whereas the reunification of the European theatre and Eastern Europe was a reality to the majority of the WWII veterans who were actually there during the battles or were stationed there after the war.
One of our local WWII vets told the story of when he was captured and a ‘POW’ (prisoner of War) and the horrific death march the prisoners had to endure. Yet with that experience, was liberated and returned home and pursued a bountiful life and family. Another WWII local veterans spoke of flying the planes during the battles of War and then the stories of the ‘Berlin Airlift’ crisis after the war when the Russians cut off access from the Allied Zones to West Berlin in Western Germany, truly an international crisis. I am also impressed with the personal responsibility, humility, work ethic, their need for prudent saving and faithful commitment that these individuals have shown as a group. They have taught us much because of the time they lived was during the Great Depression and WWII.
No matter what War or Conflict or International crisis, there will always be those men and women that ‘step-up’ to help overcome the odds and uphold the values and principals that we as Americans hold so dear in our souls and hearts and that reflect the human dignity and rights to Freedom. These are our Veterans and our present day Military and we ‘Thank You’ for being there and taking on this selfless heroism in our Countries’ behalf.
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” Bob Dylan
As Christmas Approaches…
December 23, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Over the past week we had been talking around the ‘morning coffee clutch table’ at the Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida about our extreme and ‘out of the ordinary’ military Christmas Eve and Christmas experiences. We certainly got some local flavor and stories about Korea, ’Nam and other far away places but what brought the stories home and our history was the ones they zeroed in on! This got us to wondering about our Nations early Christmas celebrations and especially here in the Oregon Territory.
Quite a Christmas Eve it was here in Oregon about 213 years ago, and a retired Army Officer visiting us the other day, mentioned just how good we really had it compared to an Army unit that was here in Oregon in 1805. First of all, a lot of us did not even realize the Lewis and Clark expedition was led by two Army Officers, Lewis & Clark. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was also known as the “Corps of Discovery” when President Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis, a retired Army Captain, to head up a group to explore the territory of the newly acquired ‘Louisiana Purchase’. The group was comprised of US Army volunteers and Lewis’s close friend and past Commanding Officer William Clark, acting as his Second Lieutenant.
The Oregon Christmas Eve story began in November when the expedition first encountered the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River. Based on a recommendation from the Clatsop Indians to winter at a location along the Columbia River, rather than by the Pacific Ocean, the group decided that everyone should vote including the Native American female ‘Sacagawea’ and the African American slave ‘York’. So they all voted to build an encampment for the winter on the southern shore of the river. Lewis and a few men then began to explore for the best spot and on December 7, 1805 journeyed to the present location we know now as Fort Clatsop. Upon arriving they split duties into two groups, one party led by Clark to go to the Pacific Ocean in search of salt and the other led by Lewis to cut down trees to build shelter and hunt for food. The construction was slow because of the heavy rains and very high winds, but on December 23, 1805 they all started moving into their dwellings even tough the roofs were not yet on, and on Christmas Eve everyone was moved in. On Christmas Day they named the encampment “Fort Clatsop” in honor of the local Indian tribe. In all there were two main structures with all the men living in one and the other occupied by Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau and their son Jean Baptiste.
We here in Malheur County are especially familiar with the name of Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, for not far from the town of Jordan Valley in southern Malheur County, there is a US National Register of Historic Places named “Charbonneau, Jean Baptiste, Memorial and Inskip Ruins” which marks the final resting place of the ‘youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’. He was born in February 1805 along the expedition trail in Fort Mandan, North Dakota. Jean Baptiste and his mother Sacagawea symbolized the ‘peaceful’ nature of the “Corps of Discovery”. Captain William Clark in St. Louis educated Jean Baptiste. Then and at age 18 traveled to Europe became fluent in English, German, French and Spanish and upon returning to America in 1829 he spent 40 years as a guide and ‘mountain man’ roaming the far west. In 1866 he left the’ California Gold Rush’ activity for a new strike in Montana, contracted pneumonia enroute and died upon reaching’ Inskips Ranche’ on May 16, 1866.
A more famous Christmas military account is that of “George Washington crossing the Delaware River” on Christmas night 1776. This was a big turning point in the Revolutionary War, and was a huge ‘surprise attack’ against the Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey. The Continental Army then crossed back across the river to Pennsylvania laden with prisoners and military stores to help them during the winter encampment.
‘The ultimate camping trip was the Lewis and Clark expedition’ Dave Barry. and 'Don't go around saying the world owes you a living.' Sacagawea.
Needs, Celebrations and Strict Orders
December 9, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Always at this time of year we at the Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida as well as other support organizations in the region, experience a very large increase of veterans and military and their families needing additional support and assistance, not only counseling and financial help but also food and clothing and transportation assistance. It is these times that prompt us to extend even greater “Thanks” to all of those local individuals and businesses and organizations that have supported our programs of assistance to veterans and their families! So, “Thank You”, your compassion has already assisted many families to enjoy ‘Thanksgiving Dinners’, and many more will be able to have “Christmas Dinners”, and enjoy having ‘warm clothing’ during this colder season and not have to worry about having their electricity, gas or water service temporarily terminated. Truly, the ‘Magic and Belief’ of the season is alive, and we are very thankful, for everyone benefits!
There are so many stories about the military and veterans during the Christmas season, and many were mentioned these last few weeks during coffee and conversation at the Veteran Advocates office, here are a few.
During Christmas in 1914 during the ‘Great War’ WWI, one very magical incident occurred on the battlefields at Flanders. With the British and French troops watching from their trenches, the German soldiers began placing small Christmas Trees outside of their own trenches and lit the trees with candles. And then the German soldiers began singing familiar Christmas songs and by gosh, the British and French soldiers then joined them in singing. Then some English speaking German soldiers proposed to their British and French counterparts that they start a ‘Christmas Truce’. The message from both sides was “we not fight, you not fight”. British and French troops then began displaying “Merry Christmas” banners and greetings and soon the response from both sides was unbelievable! They left their trenches, exchanged greetings and gifts and buried their dead. They shared their tobacco, their food, newspapers, postcards and other personal items. Then a Scotsman brought out his soccer ball and the game evolved into a regulation soccer match! They used helmets and caps to mark the goals, and the German team won by a score of 3 to 2. The ‘Frontline Truce’ lasted until New Years Day, for the Commanding Officers on both sides ordered a resumption of the killing and fighting, and if that was not obeyed, you would face a ‘court martial. Soldiers on both sides reluctantly returned to their trenches and guns. Several of the German troops faced a punishment of being sent to the Russian front. Being very aware of this story, Military Commanders during WWII prevented this WWI ‘Christmas Truce’ from happening by issuing strict orders that if that activity happened, they would be severely punished.
This one happened in Korea on December 25, 1952, when a C-47 Kyushu Gypsy cargo plane made several circles over a small isolated Korean Island. Children playing below on the Island would always wave and shout at the American aircraft and the plane would then rock the wings in reply. But this Christmas day all was different, the cargo door opened and from a low altitude the loadmaster pushed out a container with a parachute attached. This day the container did not drop mail, but instead, over 100 pounds of candy bars!
The pilot, 1st Lt. Don Davis from Natchez, MS, told reporters that they had been collecting candy bars for several months because they wanted to bring a very special Christmas day to all those kids. Attached to every box and bar of candy was a message written in Korean that said: “Merry Christmas from the Kyushu Gypsies”.
“There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.” Andrew Carnegie
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
From ‘55’ to Afghanistan
November 25, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
A group of Veterans sitting around the coffee table the other day at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida reflected back when 55 MPH was the law of the day. So, do you remember “I Can’t Drive 55”? Yes, it was 1973 and the US plus a major portion of the Western World were in a Major Oil Crisis and ‘Chaos ruled’. And on this very day in 1973 President Richard Nixon announced there would be a “Sunday ban on the sale of gasoline to customers”, and the top speed limit of 55 miles per hour was extended indefinitely, (thus the basis of Sammy Hagar’s hit song “I Can’t Drive 55”).
Our veterans were also very much involved with this ‘crisis’ because of “Operation Nickel Grass” and the events that led up to that operation. (Now I don’t want any of you ‘old-timers’ to confuse this ‘Nickel Grass’ with the cost of an illegal product very popular at that time), for Operation Nickel Grass was a United States Military strategic airlift operation to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The U. S. Air Force shipped over 22,000 tons of Tanks, Artillery, Ammunition and supplies in C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft to Israel to help ‘hold-off’ attacks by the Soviet-backed Arab Republic of Egypt and Syrian Arab Republic forces. “And why ?” do you ask were we involved in this war? The roots were based in the 1948 formation of the state of Israel when the Arab countries rebelled against the 1947 United Nations Resolution 181, dividing land between Arab and Jewish States. The US desired a Jewish State even though the British (who controlled the area at the time) were against it, and finally the Arab States said ‘enough’ and we are not going to give you any more oil. So Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Cuba, all supported by the Soviet Union, attacked Israel.
In May of 1973 gas prices averaged .385 cents per gallon and by the end of the year they were averaging .555 cents per gallon (for those stations that were able to get gas).
Interesting to note the actual first act to control our consumption of gasoline was in 1942 when President Roosevelt ordered a “Nationwide Gasoline Rationing” to begin on December 1, 1942 because of the need of gas for the war effort.
Also on this 25th day of November in 2001, the US Marines were the first ‘major’ use of ground troops to land in Afghanistan. Members of the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units based in Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton were set down in CH-53 and CH-46 transport helicopters securing an airstrip that was about 12 miles southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Department of Defense spokesmen said there would be additional troops, armored vehicles and supplies dispatched to the Kandahar airstrip within 24 hours. The Marine Units had been aboard amphibious assault ships in the Arabian Sea where there were a total of about 4,000 troops. Previous to this Marine landing, there had been only a few hundred ‘Special Ops’ forces on the ground advising local rebel militias and harassing Taliban and al Qaeda groups.
Having just celebrated our National Day of Thanksgiving, it is interesting to note that our first Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, on November 26th of 1789, proclaimed that this day was a “National Thanksgiving Day” in honor of the ‘New Constitution’. This date was then later used to set a date for the ‘Thanksgiving’ we are all use to. And that was in 1863 when our Commander-in-Chief and President, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as the official day for Thanksgiving celebrations. Then in 1941 to add yet another name to those acknowledging this day of ‘Thanks’, our Commander-in-Chief and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill ‘officially’ establishing the fourth Thursday in November as ‘Thanksgiving Day’. Just maybe unbeknownst to the preceding three listed Presidents, it was an occasion in 1621 when the Governor of Plymouth, Mr. William Bradford, invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival to give ‘gratitude’ for the ‘bounty of the season’, and before this event, Colonists set aside a weekday called ‘Lecture Day’ to celebrate post-harvest successes. Then, yes again, in 1777 our Continental Congress declared the ‘First American Thanksgiving’ following the Patriot victory at Saratoga.
“There’s likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that’s your mission.” Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
HONORING OUR NATIONS VETERANS
November 11, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
For most veterans, the idea of serving our country, satisfies our own mind and souls’ desire of fulfilling that sense of “Duty, Honor and Service” to our fellow Countrymen and the “Values” that our Country represents. Most of us would also take up arms at anytime should our Nation again call us for our service. And we as Veterans, respect all those ‘future veterans’, all our men and women that are now serving our Country, that they too may feel the power and inner strength that service to our Nation affords. And I’d say most of us veterans today have a respect and gratitude to all those who have served before us, having built a strong secure foundation of the cost of Patriotism and love of our country.
Some of the earliest references to military and veterans, here in America, were noted in the chronicles of the early colonial settlements, such as Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These dated from the early 1600’s to the American Revolution in 1775. Colonial governments employed ‘full time soldiers’ to patrol between fixed ‘frontier fortifications’ to quell Native American tribes, for the ‘imported British regulars’ were not accustomed to the methods of Indian fighting. There from began the incredible history of the ‘United States Army Rangers’. The Plymouth Colony commissioned Colonel Benjamin Church who at the time was the Captain of the first Ranger Force in America, to form a Ranger Company to engage the Indian inhabitants of New England in the 1675 King Philip’s War. What made Colonel Church attractive for this was his ability to train soldiers in the Native American patterns of war. These Colonial military units hired and/or enrolled nearly all ‘free white men’ as ‘citizen soldiers’, from around 1610 to the 1750’s. Low pay for soldiers reflected the ‘historical reality’ that if you were going to survive you had to serve your community. Also most colonies did not have money to pay their citizens for their service. As a result the average pay for a soldier was about $5.00 a month, and officers about $20.00 a month, and some had to pay for their food and supplies out of their pay. As time progressed there became a more formal contracting in recruiting men to ‘take up arms’ and fight for their Country, some promised pay for periods of time and some promised parcels of land for their time served. There were some colonies that did arrange and offer financial assistance for ‘veterans disabled during conflict’ and this began in Virginia around the 1620’s.
Because of the many desertions from our Continental Army, Congress, in 1776, enacted the “National Pension Law” act that provided ½ pay for life for disabled veterans, and ensuing acts that covered pensions, bonuses and widow eligibility. This was a plan for veterans that was derived from the plan the British Parliament enacted for its’ veterans in 1592, which provided medical care and disabled veteran assistance and ‘bonuses’ for those soldiers actively serving.
Before WWI, a soldiers military service bonus was land and money, ex: a Continental Army private received 100 acres and $80.00, while a Major General received 1,100 acres and approximately $200.00. An amazing 73.5 Million acres had been issued to veterans through this program by 1860! This system was somehow stopped when Spanish-American War veterans did not receive a bonus until after WWI when they each got only $60.00. This didn’t go over too well and Pres Calvin Coolidge vetoed a bill in 1924 saying:” Patriotism, bought and paid for is not patriotism”. Congress overrode his veto and enacted the ‘World War Adjusted Compensation Act’ where each veteran received a dollar for each day of domestic service served (to a $500.00 max) and a $1.25 for each day of overseas service (to a $625.00 max). The catch was that cash was immediately paid up to $50.00 and all other amounts were issued ‘certificates of Service’ maturing in 20 years!!. Well, those certificates totaled up to over $3.5 Billion Dollars, and that’s when the ‘the walls started tumbling down’, and “Pay the Bonus Army” became a public outcry and was devastating to all!
As of 2017 the approximate count of US Veterans is 18.2 million. Oregon is home to approximately 276,000, Idaho 111,000, Nevada 201,000, Washington 523,000.
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” President George Washington – 1732/1799
GULF WAR SYNDROME AND THE BURN PITS
October 28, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Since the last ‘Veterans Corner’ article dealing with Agent Orange, I have had quite a few inquiries from veterans and their relatives, about “what is happening with the VA on ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ and the ‘Burn Pits”. For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, they are names that identify ‘mental and physical disorders’ amongst our military veterans who served while deployed to the Gulf Wars from 1990/91 through today.
According to reports from the US National Academy of Sciences and the US Department of Veteran Affairs, of the 700,000 US Military that served during the Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm, there are now over 250,000 that (even over 20 years after) suffer from the ‘symptoms’ associated with Gulf War Syndrome. These figures are also comparative to those military veterans from our coalition partners, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Denmark who also served ‘in-country’ at the same times.
Symptoms of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ include the following: Terminal Tumors, Birth Defects, Neurological problems, Memory problems, Fatigue, Skin conditions, Muscle/joint pain, Respiratory problems, Gastro-intestinal problems, Headaches, and PTSD among others.
The US Congress ‘mandated’ the VA and NAS to continue to provide reports on what have been the probable causes of these symptoms/conditions, and the general consensus has been linked to exposure to ‘neurotoxins’. Sources of these include: 1-‘Depleted uranium’ which was widely used in tank kinetic energy penetrator and ‘autocannon rounds. 2- ‘Pyridostigmine Bromide Pills’, which were pills taken to protect our troops against exposure to nerve gas agents such as ‘Sarin and Soman’. 3-‘Organophosphate poisoning’ which caused the destruction of ‘neurons’ in the central nervous system, and was widely used in insect repellents which were distributed to decrease pest-borne diseases. 4- ‘Anthrax Vaccine’, used to vaccinate troops from anthrax that Iraq loaded into many of their artillery shells. 5- Direct contact with Sarin and Soman nerve gas. 6- All the continuing ‘Oil well Fires’.
In May of 2018 a Department of Defense publication noted that “research suggests that the ‘Gulf War Illness’ symptomology experienced by Veterans has not improved over the last 25 years”. “The effect that aging will have on this unique and vulnerable population remains a matter of significant concern, and population-based research to obtain a better understanding of mortality, morbitity, and symptomology over time is needed.”The VA refers to all these Gulf War symptoms as “Chronic Multisymptom Illness” and “Undiagnosed Illnesses”, and presumes that certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. The “presumptive” illness must have appeared during ‘active duty’ in the Southwest Asia Theater of military operations, or by December 31, 2021, and to be at least 10 % disabling. For a list of “Presumptive Service Connected Disability Benefits” please copy and paste the following in the web search bar, then scroll down to section that pertains to you:
https://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/serviceconnected/presumption.pdf, and for information about Gulf War ‘Eligibility Requirements and Compensation’ log onto the following link for the VA:
I would like you to know my gratitude, being a Vietnam War veteran, for all the positive actions the VA is doing for us, however it is the ‘delay and constant research’ that the VA does in determining just ‘what is or is not’ acceptable, that undermines the desperate conditions so many of our War Vets have. Those delaying tactics contribute to seeing too much more suffering and crippling and even death, from those impacted by “War produced” illnesses. When our country sends us into war, those of us who ‘volunteered’ to fight for our Freedoms should be covered by the “cost of conflict that has to include covering the damage & wounds to our men and women in service by supporting their claims of damage suffered”.
I have not here been able to address those impacted by the “Burn Pits”, because I found those ‘symptoms’ to be too extensive to elaborate in this article, therefore I will address this at a future date.
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” General Douglas MacArthur
Agent Orange Awareness Month
October 14, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
October has been designated as a month to become more aware and informed about ‘Agent Orange’, its’ development, history and use as a defoliant and a product used in chemical warfare and thus its’ long term effect on the human body.
Most of you are aware of Agent Orange through its’ use during the Vietnam War, and the devastation it caused to thousands of US Troops stationed there and also thousands of civilians living in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the millions of acres of agriculture and forests that were destroyed, defoliated.
It is estimated the between 1962 and 1971 there were approximately 20, 000,000 (that’s million) gallons of Dioxin-like compounds (DLCs), chemicals, herbicides and defoliants sprayed over that region! He__ its’ no wonder so many of our troops and area civilians died and or became infected with cancer, birth defects, skin diseases, infected lungs etc, etc, and continued having these problems because of that lingering contamination and food sources growing in that contaminated soil. These DLCs are chemical compounds that are ‘highly toxic’ POPs, that meaning ‘environmental persistent organic pollutants’ that cause major health problems to individuals who were exposed.
Seems that Britain was the first nation to use ‘herbicides’ to destroy food crops and natural tree and bush and undergrowth, which was used as cover for the opposing forces. For during WWII, the British and us Americans were attempting to develop ‘herbicidal weapons’ for use during the war. As a result two phenoxy herbicides were discovered, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, which when both of those are put together in equal parts, one then has created ‘Agent Orange’. The British started using this Agent Orange during the ‘Malayan Emergency Conflict’ in the mid to late 1940’s, after which in 1960 our US Secretary of State Dean Rusk advised President Kennedy that the British had established a ‘precedent for warfare with herbicides’.
Then in late 1961 the South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, asked the United States to conduct aerial herbicide spraying in his country. This started a rather heated ‘policy’ debate in Washington DC, and ended in November of 1961 by approving our (US) herbicide spraying program named ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. As the British did in Malaya, the goal of the US was to defoliate the land thus depriving the guerrillas of food and concealment and clearing sensitive areas around our (US) base perimeters. The other goals of the program was ’forced draft urbanization’, which aimed to destroy the ability of peasants to support themselves, forcing them to flee to the US dominated cities thus depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base.
Agent Orange was most usually sprayed from helicopters or low-flying C-123 Provider aircraft, though they were also conducting ‘spray-runs’ from trucks, boats and backpack sprayers. The first batches of Agent Orange were unloaded at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in January 1962. The Air Force ‘Official’ record shows at least 6,542 spraying missions during ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. And by 1971, 12 % of South Vietnams’ land had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals.
Many veterans in our immediate area of Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho, have had ‘in country’ exposure to Agent Orange while serving in/around Vietnam. Many of you still have not checked with the VA regarding the many diseases that the VA acknowledges are associated with Agent Orange. For a complete list of these diseases and evidence needed for the VA to consider these potential claims, log onto this VA site: www.benefits.va.govthen search Agent Orange. - or you can visit your County Veteran Service Officer. Malheur County Mr. Connie Tanaka, 541-889-6649: Payette County Ms. Marcia Morgensen 208-642-6000 Ext 116. The VA also has an Agent Orange help line, 1-800-749-8387 and an email address: GW/AOHelpline@vba.va.gov
We pretended there was no problem with Agent Orange after Vietnam and later the Pentagon recanted, after untold suffering by Veterans. – Jim McDermott
CELEBRATING THE NAUTILUS
September 30, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
On this very day in 1954, the first ever nuclear powered submarine was commissioned. This was not however the first submarine to be named ‘Nautilus’, for in 1870 Captain Nemo commanded his “Nautilus’ in Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’, and during WWII the Navys’ third vessel named USS Nautilus (SF-9/SS-168) was a Narwhal-class submarine commissioned on July 1, 1930 and commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Doyle, Jr.
The first of the US Navy ships named ‘Nautilus’ was a Schooner that launched in 1799 and the Navy bought for $16,763.00 in 1803, also the date she was commissioned (and renamed USS Nautilus). She was captured by the Royal Navy in July of 1812. The ‘second’ ship named ‘Nautilus’ was a 76 ft schooner commissioned into the Navy in 1847 for service in the Mexican-American War and commanded by Lt. G. M. Bache, and then was returned to the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Captain Hyman Rickover had the idea of a nuclear Navy, and guided the project from 1951 when Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine, and Capt. Rickover became known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”. It was on Dec 12, 1951 that the Navy Department announced that the submarine would be the 4th vessel to be called “Nautilus”, and her 1st Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Eugene P. Wilkinson, ordered “all lines cast off, Underway on Nuclear Power” on January 17, 1955.
It is interesting to note the ‘regional connection’ that the Nautilus has, for the first actual prototype was constructed and tested by the ‘Argonne National Laboratory’ in 1953 at the S1W facility which is part of the ‘National Reactor Testing Station’ in Idaho Falls, Idaho. (The Idaho National Laboratory is really quite large at about 890 sq. miles and was established in 1949 to research nuclear energy).
The Nautilus had a length of 320 ft., a speed of 23kn, 6 torpedo tubes and a compliment of 13 officers and 92 enlisted, and was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. The ‘Nautilus’ is also listed as a ‘National Historic Landmark’. After some ‘conversion’ work was performed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1984, under the command of Capt. John Almon, she was towed back to Groton, Conn. In July 1985, and in 1986 became a public attraction at the ‘Submarine Force Library and Museum’, serving as a museum of submarine history which is operated by the ‘Naval History and Heritage Command’.
For the many of you that are interested in military history and studies, there is in our region the ‘Puget Sound Navy Museum’ in Bremerton, Washington, and it too is managed by the ‘Naval History and Heritage Command’. The ‘Puget Sound Navy Museum’ is located at 251 First St, Bremerton, WA 98337 by the Washington State Ferries Terminal at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard/Bremerton Annex of Naval Base Kitsap. They are open 10am to 4pm but are closed Tuesdays, and the admission is free. Featured now is an exhibit of Naval photographer John H. Steen who was stationed at Bremerton from 1903, and chronicles the early twentieth century life of the shipyard and its’ sailors. There is also an exhibit and artifacts of the ‘special operations submarines’, USS Jimmy Carter, USS Connecticut, USS Seawolf, USS Michigan and USS Ohio that were all ‘homeported there in Bremerton. There is also a ‘research library’ for those folks interested in Naval History and a Museum Curator to assist you. Check out their website at: www.pugetsoundnavymuseum.orgor call 360-479-7447 for more information. You will really enjoy your visit to this ‘Puget Sound Navy Museum’.
As a side note: Oregon has more ties to the U.S. Navy than one might think. Oregon’s state colors are Navy blue and gold! I will talk more about Oregon and our Navy in other articles.
“Sit down before fact, with an open mind. Be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever, and to whatever abyss nature leads, or, you learn nothing. Don’t push out figures when facts are going in the opposite direction.” Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, US Navy
Our National Guard and War
September 16, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Many very interesting ‘movements of people’ happened on this very day September 16, and they all were focused on or in this country. First, in 1620, 102 people set sail from Plymouth England to ‘the New World’. Second, in 1776 during the American War for Independence, in what is now ‘Morningside Heights’ in New York City, the ‘Battle of Harlem Heights was fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign. Third, in 1893, the largest ‘Land Run’ in history begins with more than 100,000 people converging into Oklahoma to grab land that had belonged to the Native Americans.
Also of note on this day is perhaps the earliest ‘terrorist attack’, in 1920 in the New York City Financial district (though the investigation that ensued failed to uncover the cause or perpetrator and is still ‘unsolved’), 300 people were killed and over 100 more wounded in a blast from a explosives laden horse drawn wagon, that shot up nearly six stories high.
Under authority of the US Congress, on September 16, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt orders the Army to begin ‘mobilizing’ the entire National Guard for at least one year of training, to prepare for action prompted by the worsening conditions in Europe.
Starting with the 1620 Mayflower sailing, of the 102 passengers, 35 were members of the ‘radical’ English Separatist Church traveling to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, and were following their brothers and sisters who about 10 years earlier emigrated to Jamestown, Virginia because they were promised sizable shares of the colony’s profits. The balance of the passengers were ‘Entrepreneurs’ who were enlisted by the London Stock Company to ensure the success of the enterprise in the new America. Anyway, the Mayflower was forced off course due to storms and landed at the tip of Cape Cod in what is now Massachusetts and founded the first permanent settlement in New England.
The 1776 ‘Battle of Harlem Heights’ (also called the New York & New Jersey campaign) had Commander-in-Chief George Washington commanding 1,800 Continental Army soldiers along with Generals Greene and Putnam. They held a high ground position in upper Manhattan against a British force of about 5,000 soldiers under command of Major Alexander Leslie. The British troops made a rather tactical error by having their buglers sound a fox hunting call “Gone away” while in pursuit (the bugle call means that the fox is in full flight from the hounds on the trail). And it was intended to insult General Washington (who was an avid fox hunter), but backfired, for the Continental Army then ‘stood their ground’ and flanked the British and pushed them back. The British withdrew then and headquartered in Westchester County. This victory for the Continental Army was a great boost to morale, for they had suffered some substantial losses.
With a single shot from a pistol on this September day in 1893, thousands of pioneers on foot, on horseback, on a mule, in carriages and in wagons, fought to be the first to stake their claims on the best lands that lay ahead, lands that were inhabited by our Native American Tribes. The Indians were promised these lands for “as long as the grass grows and the water runs”. However, pressure steadily mounted to open those lands for settlement and subsequently there were many ‘land runs/grabs’ by immigrants during the 1890’s.
Because the Nazi armies had occupied most of western Europe by 1940, President Roosevelt and Congress on this day in 1940, directed over 240,000 National Guard men to become regular Army personnel. They reported to Forts located all across the country to augment the 190,000 men already trained or training for possible deployment to Europe. These actions were on the heels of the newly enacted ‘conscription laws’ enacted by congress.
Regarding my quote below: think about it on a National/State terms but also closer to home on our local level.
“We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) State of the Union Address Jan. 9, 1941
Last Draftee in the Vietnam War
September 2, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
The date was September 2, 1945, (73 years ago today) and in just a matter of hours after the formal surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri, an ‘ominous’ event took place back in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, paraphrasing our own Declaration of Independence, declared in a speech to a huge crowd that “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!”. As Japanese forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1945, Ho Chi Minh’s forces known as the ‘Viet Minh’, (which he organized after being expelled from China in 1941), seized the northern city of Hanoi and declared a Democratic State of Vietnam (more commonly known as ‘North Vietnam’), and of course was named President. At this same time the French military troops took control of Saigon and the southern regions of Vietnam while Chiang Kai-Shek’s Chinese forces moved into North Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh then took up negotiating with the French to get 2 things: 1st, the Chinese out of North Vietnam and 2nd, to get France to recognize a Vietnam independence and reunify the North and South Vietnams’. However for one reason or another, in 1946 a French Cruiser opened fire on the town of Haiphong and eventually war broke out in December of that year. Armed conflict between the North and South Vietnams’ was continuous through 1956 when the United States became more strongly present in South Vietnam with economic aid and then in 1961 with the addition of military troops. U. S. air strikes to North Vietnam began in 1965-1966.
I suppose an ‘irony’ of this accounting from Ho Chi Minh’s Hanoi speech on September 2, 1945, is that he also died on September 2, in 1969, from a heart attack in Hanoi. The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, though all US Forces personnel were reportedly withdrawn by March 1973.
Now this is about 30 years after the official ending of WWII, and within that time, the ‘American Conscience’ has shifted immensely in many aspects, one of which was the idea of ‘Conscription’ (military draft). There had been a huge ‘anti-war, anti-draft’ movement in the U. S. which turned a great percentage of our citizens against everything military including the people in the military. Even Nixon’s 1968 presidential election, campaigned to end the draft, but that wouldn’t happen until December of 1972 which saw the last men conscripted who were born in 1952 and reported for duty in June of 1973. Also in early 1973 Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced that ‘no further draft notices would be issued’.
(Of special note, Jeff Mellinger is believed to have been the last drafted enlisted ranked soldier, drafted in 1972, and actually retired in 2011 as a Command Sergeant Major!! And the last Vietnam War –era soldier drafted of Warrant Officer rank, Chief Warrant Officer5, Ralph Rigby, retired after a 42-year career in November of 2014. Thanks guys for your service to our great Country!!).
To many, the idea that we as a collective American society, have been relegating the Defense of our Democracy to an ‘All Volunteer’ force, weakens and diminishes our ‘moral responsibility’ to equally contribute to its’ preservation. This attitude has also diminished our respect for those who do volunteer, through, if for no other reason than, the number of times we have committed our men and women into harms way and conflicts (since abolishing the draft) to the number of times we committed them into ‘harms way’ and conflicts when the draft was active. Since using an all-volunteer force for over 40 years, we committed our men and women 134 times; the 40 years before that, with the draft, we committed our men and women 24 times. So also, as Dr. Mike Haynie, a veteran and Ex. Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University relates in his TEDx talks, the ‘Moral Outrage’ is that we have made it too easy to leverage ‘Military Conflict’ as not only an instrument of public policy, but that now that ‘policy’ and practice runs counter to the idea that ‘war is to be avoided at all costs’.
“A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society”. Thomas Jefferson (1792)
Our State Veteran Services and a Growing VA
August 19, 2018 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
With the appointment of, yet again, another Secretary of Veteran Affairs, the conversations around the ‘coffee table’ lately have been on just how does one really identify the problem sources of this Agency and then proceed to fix them, especially when your dealing with an entity that has an Annual Budget of over $180 Billion dollars! Lets face it, in our country today, with the amount of just individual and corporate ‘Bankruptcies’, credit insolvencies, high debt and lack of cash flow (that we all periodically experience, and that’s with an average Family Household budget of about $80,000.00 a year), who has the ability to totally manage and control an operation that has a proposed 2019 operating budget of $198.6 Billion dollars, with around 380,000 employees and operates the largest ‘health care system’ in the U.S.? Well, we didn’t know of any one person that can manage that alone. Now in the U. S. there are a few corporations (not government agencies) that have ‘Annual Revenues’ about the same as the operating budget of the VA, and those are Berkshire Hathaway at about $224 Billion, Apple at about $215 Billion and Exxon Mobil at about $200 Billion, and their ‘operating budgets’ will ‘generally’ reflect a figure of about 10 to 20% of revenue. They are ‘for-profit’ and certainly have the flexibility in management that our government does not have.
So what all does that budget cover and pay for? There are (from VA figures) a minimum of 9 million veterans that each year are served by the Department of Veteran Affairs. To serve those 9 million veterans, and their families, there are over 1,700 Health Care hospitals, clinics, community living centers and homes, prescriptions and pharmacies, and counseling centers in the US. In regards to ‘Benefits’, the VA administers compensation, pension, Education, training, vocational rehabilitation, home loans and life insurance. The VA also offers Burial and Memorial assistance, for there are over 125 national cemeteries and the assistance with Headstones, Markers and Medallions. Also provided and available are employment centers, Homeless veteran resources and facilities, surviving spouses and dependents assistance.
I have here mentioned a few of the VA facilities located in Oregon: Portland VA Medical Center, www.portland.va.gov; Roseburg VA Health Care System, www.roseburg.va.gov; VA Southern Oregon Rehab Center, www.southernoregon.va.gov. Outpatient clinics are located in Burns, 541-573-3339: Newport, 541-265-4182: The Dalles, 541-296-3937: and West Linn, 503-210-4900. Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Eastern Oregon: Bend, 541-647-5200: Boardman, 541-481-2255: Enterprise, 541-426-0219: La Grande, 541-963-0627.
The following are locations in Idaho State of the VA facilities: Boise VA Medical Center, www.boise.va.govand phone is 208-422-1000: Community Based Outpatient Clinics: Caldwell, 208-454-4820, located at 4521 Jefferson St, Caldwell, Id 83605: Lewiston, 208-746-7784, located at 1630 23rd Ave, Bldg. #2, Lewiston, Id 83501.
The State of Idaho and the State of Oregon also have State Departments of ‘Veteran Services’, and the Idaho Division is located at 351 N. Collins Rd, Boise, Idaho 83702, and their phone is 208-780-1300: www.veterans.idaho.govhere you can find access to Veterans Advocacy, Veterans Homes, Benefits, Services and Resources.
The Oregon State Department of Veteran Affairs is located at 700 Summer St. NE, Salem, Or 97301, and their phone is 503-373-2085: www.oregon.gov/odvaand here you can find listings for the Oregon Veteran Service Offices in each County, information on Benefits, Programs, Resources, Home Loans, State Veterans Homes, etc. For those of you in Malheur County Oregon you will contact Mr. Connie Tanaka (retired Army) 541-889-6649, located at 316 Goodfellow St. Suite #4, Ontario, Or 97914. In Baker County Oregon contact VSO, Mr. Rick Cloria, 541-523-8223, located at County Courthouse, 1995 Third St, Baker City, Or 97814.
“Facts are stubborn things: and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams, served as the 1st Vice President and the 2nd President of the United States 1797-1801
Sometimes You Don’t Know the Outcome?
August 5, 2018 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini
On this very day, August 5, 1917, the entire membership of the National Guard was drafted into federal service to be sent off to fight in Europe for World War I. Interesting because lately around the ‘coffee and conversation’ table, the subject of the ‘draft’ has been coming up a lot, especially since I was appointed to serve on the local Selective Service Board of the State of Oregon.
After War was declared in April of 1917 President Wilson called all National Guard Units into federal service under the ‘Militia clause’ of the US Constitution. It is ‘Article 1, section 8, clause 15 of the US Constitution that enables the shifting from States’ power to Federal power: “Congress shall have the power… to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”
Most of these units mobilized at their local armories or in State military camps, and they began actively recruiting up to full wartime strength while conducting local patrols to defend against suspected German Saboteurs. However to circumvent any potential legal encumbrance, the Army’s Judge Advocate General determined it necessary to ‘draft’ each guardsman into federal service, thus freeing him up for overseas service. And on this very day in 1917, just over 379,000 Guardsmen were drafted. The size of our military force during WWI would top out at over 4 million, though the brunt of the fighting in the trenches was borne by the drafted Guardsmen (12 0f the 29 divisions that saw combat were from the Guard). There were 116,000 that died in service, and 204,000 wounded.
There were 9.7 Million soldiers killed in WWI, due to the unprecedented firepower brought to the battlefield, as a result WWI Troops were the first to be diagnosed with “Shell Shock”. The term “Shell Shock” first appeared in a British Medical Journal in 1915 just 6 months after the beginning of the war. The symptoms of 3 different soldiers each exposed to exploding shells were remarkably similar and so very similar to today’s definitions of PTSD.
The overall treatment of all veterans returning from WWI was more than grim. Veterans had put their lives on the line for their country, but most generally were treated as less than citizens upon their return home. Soldiers were provided a discharge allowance of $60 at the end of the war. The “War Risk Insurance Act Amendments of 2017” established rehabilitation and vocational training for veterans with dismemberment, sight, hearing and other permanent disabilities.
Those who returned home in the 1920’s petitioned Congress for some sort of compensation for lost wages, and Congress answered with certificates (or Bonuses) for payments that were not payable until 1945. Figure that one out!!? Interimly there was the great depression and in 1932 the WWI Vets marched on Washington demanding cash payments. There were somewhere between 25,000 to 40,000 veterans participating in the march and encampments, which became known as the “Bonus Expeditionary Forces”. Hoover was President and did all he could to roust and remove the veterans from lobbying for compensation. It was very ugly, the vets were attacked with tear gas, rifle fire, bayonets, machine guns, tanks. MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton all tried to perform damage control, but Hoover was not moving. As a result Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected the next President by a landslide!! He then established the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which created over 25,000 jobs for Veterans and other Americans. A note: in 1936 Congress authorized early payments of the bonuses and by June 1937 the VA had certified as ‘paid’ about 3.5 million applications from WWI veterans for settlement of their certificates.
Speaking to the veterans camping and demonstrating in Washington DC: “I never saw such fine Americanism as exhibited by you people. You have just as much right to have a lobby here as any steel corporation. Makes me so damn mad, a whole lot of people speak of you as tramps. By God, they didn’t speak of you as tramps in 1917 and 18.” Retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler