How Military Serivice Has Changed My Life

Members of the American Legion have many common bonds, and the Legion would like to hear from you about the nature of those common threads. A passion for community service, patriotic voices, and a bent toward caring about national security. From the trenches of France to the sands of Afghanistan we all have a common bond of having served our nation in time of need.
No one who served in the Military comes out unchanged, be it a two year hitch or a 20 year career.
The American Legion wants to know in 200 words or less how your service in the Armed Forces impacted your life. Was it the discipline,the teamwork, the mission oriented life, or simple fellowship that colored your life today.
Send you submissions to’ “” or snail mail to;
American Legion Magazine
PO Box 1055
Indianapolis,IN. 46206

We can also have some fun on this post by hearing from our readers about your Military experience. Would you want your children to serve in the Armed Forces?

Job Well Done
Job Well Done

Update on Agent Orange

I say, God bless the work of VVA and its diligent band of advocates. Without these tireless men and women, the doors may well have never opened for like kind claims.
Institute of Medicine (IOM) releases Agent Orange research results


July 24, 2009

No. 09-24

Mokie Porter

VVA to VA: Don’t Wait for Us to Die: Grant Association to Agent Orange Exposure For Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Hypertension

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – After reviewing scientific studies of the past few years, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has determined there is “limited or suggestive evidence” of an association between Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease with exposure to Agent Orange.

“We thank the IOM for their efforts and applaud them for their conclusions,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “Now, we urge the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to immediately make Vietnam veterans with either of these conditions eligible for disability compensation as well as health care, and we will petition him to do precisely this.

“We also urge the Secretary to reconsider hypertension, which the IOM, in its 2006 report concerning Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange, also found elevated evidence of an association,” Rowan said.

“We do believe that the IOM must focus on what we consider to be the very real association between a veteran’s exposure while serving in Southeast Asia and the birth defects, learning disabilities, and cancers, not only in his children but in his grandchildren as well,” Rowan said. “We continue to get far too many calls from the children of veterans who wonder if their father’s experiences in Vietnam-and along the demilitarized zone in Korea in 1968 and 1969-has any connection with their health issues and now those of their children.

“Let’s not wait until we die, and for our children to be forgotten,” Rowan said. “The time for real action is now.”

More On Lou Gehrigs Disease/ALS/ Widows Benefits

SEE NOTE IN PARAGRAPH 4. In all my years as a Veterans Benefits Counselor, I have never had a experience of fulfillment and joy like the last 72 hours.

The article I posted about the new VA findings regarding the now service-connected aspect of ALS and the consequent benefits that can be gained by the widows, resulted in calls from California, Arkansas, Texas, New York. and Florida from the spouses of now deceased veterans who passed on from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The sense of completion and use of talents has never been as rewarding as it has been to direct these women to the proper channels to get those benefits. I am overwhelmed at the power and reach of the Internet. If there are others, I can be reached at 520-808-3907. God speed to the widows.

Notice to all readers. I am a disabled Veteran myself, and have become a bit overwhelmed with the volume of calls to my cell phone. I love helping, but this is a bit much for one ole Marine. I have now answered 144 calls and loved talking to all of you fine folks. Yet I am going to request of any future callers to try the following first, and then call or email me with any problems you may have.

Call the VA line at 1-800-827-1000 and waltz through the voice promptings to Disability Benefits, then hit ‘0’ for an operator and they will answer in your area. Tell them you want a package for widows, DIC benefits for ALS/ Lou Gehrigs’ Disease,and they will get a package to you right away. It is self explanatory. I would then take the claim package to a local American Legion and have them submit it for you, as you then have a local advocate to check on the status your claim.

Should you have problems, you can email me at “”

God Bless you all. Mike Brewer/USMC

Last Call/ All Hands On Deck for Arizona Combat Veterans

Tomorrow night, Saturday the 25th at Hotel Congress 6-10pm is our benefit concert supporting the Returning Veteran Program at the Merritt Retreat Center. The band “Still Cruisin” accompanied by the “Shere Delites” are performing for us. Veterans are free. Donations accepted for Merritt Center 501-C-3. See “”
What was once known as shell shock and now as Post Traumatic Stress, has come to the foreground in recent years as veterans of war transition to civilian life. We have learned much about this gap of time that can be critical to the quality of life of the veteran. The Merritt Center four week basic training for recovery and healing was designed with great care and compassion by one woman named Betty Merritt.
The Merritt Center and Lodge is a non-profit retreat center in Star Valley, Payson, Az. It was founded in 1987 by Betty for individual or group renewal and empowerment skills. In talking to veteran friends Betty learned that “combat is nasty stuff.’ Her dream was to ease the pain and anguish of these men and women and prevent the self destructive behavior that families witnessed in the Vietnam Veteran who was seldom welcomed in polite company. The program is spread over several months and attempts to provide new structures of self and a release from the traumatic triggers and residual symptoms of combat stress. The staff are all volunteers and provide their services gratis to the vets. From professional therapists to the cooks, everyone is a volunteer. The family like setting and the freedom of the forest creates a perfect, safe setting to simply let go. The validation and trust that comes with a group of vets who all have one thing in common is the source of a level of healing that cannot be found in a traditional setting. Having been involved in the program as a graduate, and now as a Mentor for 3 years, I can attest to the efficacy of this very unique and sacred place.
With a spiritual focus the participants are able to look at what brings them solace as they drop some of the triggers that loop them into the “fight or flight” syndrome, that frequently lead to vocational and marital problems.
While the program was designed for the OEF/OIF and Afghan veteran, it was discovered that there was still some healing to be done in the general veteran population. Which is to say that the participants are coming from all wars. One evening we had 5 wars around the supper table! Where in American history has that ever occurred? It is quite clear that the effects of war are timeless and have no respect for rank or position in life. To have that experience with a band of brothers is simply transforming.
The Returning Veterans Program costs the Merritt Center approximately $150 for each of the 4 weekends. With the help of the volunteers and private donations the retreat remains free to any combat veteran of any war. We hope to keep it that way forever.
There is also a program for Women that will include the wives of the military. The woman’s program just completed their second retreat.
The dates for the Men’ Retreat beginning in 2010 are; January 15-17. March 5-7. May 14-16. July 9-11.
The dates for the Women’s Retreat are: Feb. 5-7. April 16-18. June 4-6. July 30th-Aug 1st.

Call for application at 928-474-4268. or email “”

The famous thousand yard stare
The famous thousand yard stare

Online Support for Wives

A support group for women.
A support group for women.
The veteran community has access to numerous programs for veterans struggling with post traumatic stress. Help is available through many channels for veterans, veterans’ caregivers, and veterans’ families. Children are getting a lot of attention these days, and deservedly so. Changes in Mom or Dad when they arrive home can be overwhelming. The person closest to the vet, the one directly in the path of the fire – the spouse – is sadly the one with the fewest resources for support.

No one but another spouse really understands. Friends and family quickly lose patience, both with the veteran, and with the spouse who struggles to hang onto the relationship.

To the women out there who need an understanding friend, who need to feel that they are not alone, I recommend visiting an online support group founded in 2001. Administrators at our local VA hospital and Vet Center refer women to this group. Just this morning, I heard of a woman who was given the web address by her doctor in Texas.

It’s a great site. You really are not alone.

Once A Marine Always A Marine

There is a new Detachment of the Marine Corps League that has formed in Marana, Az. The Nighthawk 72 Detachment. Commandant Don LaVetter 520-623-7471

“Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, the Marines don’t have that problem” President Ronald Reagan.
Go to “” to examine the fine programs that the League offers. They meet the 3rd Wednesday of the month, currently at Roma Cafe on Ina near Old Father. Semper Fi. MicMarine

One Veterans Take on Obama's Birth Certificate

PrideFor starters, I sure hope this adolescent poppycock does not get milked for the balance of the summer. And by adolescent, I do mean the content of the question, which will be settled soon, but the way it plays out in the media, and the cottage industry and frenzy it creates in the minds of already marginally sane ideologues.
With that as a preface, I say that if Obama is not a citizen of the USA, then we have to be gravely concerned about the skill set of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and INS, as all of these agencies are mandated to vet a United States Senator prior to their taking the Oath of Office. If he ain’t the real McCoy than he is bringing down four agencies in the process. Fat chance.
The indolence of the major media in not knowing or addressing this fact of process and protocol is a story in itself.
Media indolence, however, is abound. In the 2000 Presidential election there was story flying across America about how overseas ballots were not “postmarked,” and therefore invalid. Americans bought this poppycock too. As a one time contributor to the Stars and Stripes I can tell you with certainty that correspondence from men and women at war is not postmarked and never has been since WWl, It comes by way of the Armed Forces Postal System and is frequently not dated. No media outlet reported this simple truth and milked the story and lathered the people of this fine land for months.
If you take this country of origin issue to its extreme than George Washington’s Presidency should be annulled as we was not a citizen of the United States. He was born in a British Colony. Mitt Romney’ father was born in Mexico, John McCain in Panama, and Barry Goldwaters birth place was questioned. So what’s for breakfast?
And why in the world anyone thinks a Birth Certificate is sacrosanct is beyond reason. Have you ever been in to an OB.GYN ward when a child is born? They will write in the name of the parents you tell them to write. No one asks for ID! Doctors will pre-sign the Birth Certificate leaving the fathers name blank. And someone thinks that these un-notarized documents are some form of Divine Edict?
The newspaper announcements of a child’s birth are equally valid as they name time,and place. There are three announcements of Obama’s birth in local papers in Hawaii. I suppose those news outlets were part of some grand conspiracy that is tied into the predictions of Nostradamus! My word, lets bring back the Lacey Petersen Trial for the summer.
Get some professional genealogists on the evening news and close the case. Hard to do when you have to fill 24/ 7 cable news for Mr. Murdoch. I think I will hang with the Tucson Citizen bloggers myself. No one here is taking any “527” money.

VA Document Addressing Lou Gehrig's Disease ALS and Recent Findings
I received many calls today regarding this issue. I hope this helps answer some of the questions. If not feel free to call my hot line 520-540-7000 or VA line 1-800-827-1000

September 23, 2008

VA Secretary Establishes ALS as a Presumptive Compensable Illness
Cites Association between Military Service and Later Development of ALS
WASHINGTON – Veterans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly-needed support for themselves and their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the military.
“Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general population, and it was appropriate to take action,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said.
Secretary Peake based his decision primarily on a November 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the association between active-duty service and ALS.
“We are extremely grateful to Secretary Peake, Congressman Henry Brown and Senator Lindsey Graham for standing on the side of veterans with ALS across the country,” said Gary Leo, president and CEO of The ALS Association. “Thanks to their leadership, veterans with ALS will receive the benefits and care they need, when they need them. Thanks to their efforts, no veteran with ALS will ever be left behind.”
The report, titled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of the Scientific Literature, analyzed numerous previous studies on the issue and concluded that “there is limited and suggestive evidence of an association between military service and later development of ALS.”
“ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, once it is diagnosed,” the Secretary explained. “There simply isn’t time to develop the evidence needed to support compensation claims before many veterans become seriously ill. My decision will make those claims much easier to process, and for them and their families to receive the compensation they have earned through their service to our nation.”
– More –
New Regulation on ALS Presumptive 2/2/2/2

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neuromuscular disease that affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people of all races and ethnicities in the United States, is often relentlessly progressive, and is almost always fatal.
ALS causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle activity. Currently, the cause of ALS is unknown, and there is no effective treatment.
The new interim final regulation applies to all applications for benefits received by VA on or after September 23, 2008, or that are pending before VA, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, or the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on that date.
VA will work to identify and contact veterans with ALS, including those whose claims for ALS were previously denied, through direct mailings and other outreach programs.
To view the entire regulation published in the Federal Register today, go to: For more information on VA’s disability compensation program, go to or contact 1-800-827-1000.

# # #

For the latest news releases and other information, visit VA on the Internet at

To receive e-mail copies of news releases, subscribe to VA’s list server at:

The Vietnam Veteran of Today

Semper Fi
Semper Fi

“We were soldiers once and young.” We were patriots against the wind. Our leaders were three-legged stools. Our pictures were not pretty. Our story had no plot. Our hope was ephemeral and we were shunned by our own. Some did not recover. Was this a test? Was this some metaphysical trial by fire to prepare us for a new order of things? Is it not possible that the travails of the Vietnam Veteran were akin to the friction that creates diamonds? Is is not possible that our dark night of the soul and survival through times of absolute chaos and calamity has by some accident of history prepared us to be one of the most compassionate and collective moral leaders our nation has ever known?
As a band of brothers and sisters, Vietnam Veterans are a damn formidable force. We are an extended family fused with a brotherly love and an uncommon sense of justice without prejudice.
Vietnam Veterans are one of the most inclusive and culturally diverse corporate bodies in our land. Very much to the contrary of popular media are families have been emboldened and enriched by our service in the Armed Forces and a tour of duty in the Vietnam theater. Cliche as it may be, “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.”
How ironic that these rare psychological survival skills, gained without volition, during a time when we were shamed, have become the ingredients of a brand of leadership that may lead us out of an abyss created by the current elected. How poignantly ironic that we arise now from the apocalyptic and nihilistic experience of the jungle to provide light and levity to a seriously polarized world.

Claim Process for Veterans with Service Connected Disabilities

Never ForgetIn grateful recognition of their dedication and sacrifice, the United States, through the Veterans Administration has provided its former service women and men with compensation and pension programs designed to assist disabled veterans and their dependents.

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service connected. Disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of veterans dependents, and is paid monthly. Veterans with severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation. The benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax. For additional eligibility questions visit the Web site at

The application process begins with locating and producing the veterans DD-214, known as the Discharge summary. It is advisable to then locate an accredited Service Officer with one of the Veterans fraternal organizations, eg, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Purple Heart Association, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America. Most all States also have State and County Veterans Affairs offices that will assist in the claim process.
The next step is to request form SRF-180 to gather all of your medical and in-service records. Your service officer will have these or they can be found at You can also call 1-800-827-1000 and the VA will start your claim over the phone.

The veteran will then complete V A Form 21-22 granting power of attorney to the claimant’s representative, and V A Form 21-4142 giving consent to release all records to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is not advisable to file a claim without assistance of an accredited veteran service officer. Many of the fraternal organizations have volunteer service officers who can guide the veterans through the forms process. While it may cause some anxiety, it is really a rather simple and straightforward process. The Veterans Administration has excelled at streamlining the process.

The next form contains the primary request of the veteran. It is VA Form 21-526. Application for Compensation and Pension. This is followed by V A Form 21-4138 which is the Statement in Support of Claim. It is advised to seek help from a skilled counselor as you fill this out in your own words. It means telling a story that may be hard to recall or to place in narrative form. It is often helpful to speak to a battle buddy who has completed this process.

Once the VA has awarded service connection for PTSD, it will then review the most current clinical evidence of record to determine how the severity of your symptoms impairs your social and industrial capacity, meaning your ability to find and retain gainful employment. The VA has a schedule of rating disabilities located in Title 38 C F R. Part 4.

The VA has adopted the criteria established in the DSM-lV as the basis for rating PTSD. There is also a diagnostic matrix called the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale that if used to determine your level of impairment. You can share this with your medical care provider who can prepare a report or opinion letter for submission to the VA describing your full spectrum of symptoms.

Rest assured that many good men and women have navigated this process to discover a great deal of contentment in their transition to civilian life.

Having a support system is of vital importance. The Vet Centers around the nation provide that support and validation of your experiences. They provide re-adjustment counseling to any veteran who served in the military in any theatre of combat operation during any period of war or any area where hostilities occurred. These small community-based facilities provide a holistic mix of counseling and community social services, such as referrals to programs like the ones offered at the Merritt Center.

The Merritt Center has a volunteer service officer who serves as a mentor to attendees in the workshops. Michael Patrick Brewer/USMC/ 520-360-6933 email: Hot line 520-540-7000