Has War Become A Second Class Citizen?

It never ceases to amaze myself and my combat veteran pals, how we as a nation have become so adept at marginalizing and distancing ourselves from war during mid-term elections. It is as if there are parallel nations.  The machinations of the Tea Party are serving as a marvelous distraction from the real reason we have such deficit spending…. it is called war folks.
Please note that I have no commentary on the necessity of the use of our Armed Forces. I simply want to drive home the point that speaking of budget deficits and blaming political parties is like sending a pregnant woman to weight watchers.  Lets start to get real after this election. Lets get as real as war, and stop all campaigning and use the the money to solve some intractable problems, like re-tooling for a global economy and designing an economic model that is not dictated by the greed of Wall Street. That would be the “real” way to support the troops. Give them something to come home to other than a nation overpaid lobbyists and professional whiners.  The soldiers want a democracy not an auction. MB
Mr. Wood is one of the best journalists out there lending real perspective sans the spins.
Chief Military Correspondent
In its coming session, Congress will decide whether to pay for another year of military operations in Afghanistan — with likely casualties of a thousand or more American battle dead — or cut war funding to force President Obama to start withdrawing troops.
Congress will decide how much treatment soldiers will get for blast injury and whether they deserve a pay raise. It will decide how many protective armored trucks the troops will get, and the quality of their body armor. It will repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” or let the courts decide. It will judge how much compensation and other benefits a double-amputee veteran will receive. It will have to reconcile all this spending with its campaign promises to cut government and the deficit.
If there’s a major terror attack on the United States, the president may order retaliation or other actions. But Congress will decide whether to sustain military operations if they are ordered against, say, Iran, or inside Pakistan.
afghanistan warAs the nation goes about selecting its next Congress, are voters and the candidates (and their annoying campaign ads) pretty much ignoring all these issues?
Did the little piggy cry wee wee wee all the way home?
In the midst of hot conflicts engaging more than 150,000 deployed military personnel and simmering military crises in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, nearly everybody’s giving war a big yawn.
Those yellow-ribbon car magnets boasting of support for the troops have faded. Fewer soldiers and Marines trudging home through airports get thanked for their service these days, and when they do get thanked, the troops say it’s just an awkward encounter they’d prefer to avoid.
Even the Code Pink protesters who used to disrupt war hearings on Capitol Hill have turned elsewhere, most recently to the Gulf oil spill.
One reason is that most of the public hasn’t had a personal stake in the war. Less than 1 percent of Americans agree to active-duty service and far fewer than that have actually seen combat.
No major war in American history has been fought with a smaller percentage of Americans in uniform. And less than a dozen members of Congress, at last count, had children serving in the military.
“For most Americans the wars remain an abstraction,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused recently. He said war has become “a distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally,” and he added with a touch of bitterness that military service is seen as “something for other people to do.”
Ordinarily, though, at least some Americans get passionate about war and register their emotions on Election Day. In 1916 a strong antiwar movement, together with the suffragettes, isolationists and others, forced President Wilson to campaign on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War.”
Wilson won, but his victory may have laid the foundations for today’s massive cynicism about elections: Within 90 days of his re-election as an antiwar president, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war, and the United States leapt into the jaws of World War I. Of the 4.7 million Americans who served, 53,000 were killed in battle and 200,000 came home wounded (not counting those with post-traumatic stress syndrome, or as they dismissed it then, “shell shock.”)
Midterm elections generally turn more on domestic issues than on war. One exception was 1954. With Republicans in power, the country, weary of the Korean war which ended a year earlier, voted in the Democrats who seized both the House and Senate and held on for decades, relinquishing the House only in 1994. During the most heated antiwar passions of the Vietnam conflict, Republicans gained in the midterms of 1966 and Democrats did so in 1970, but the war ground on with little congressional interference. (Even the conventional wisdom that Congress eventually cut off funding for the war, abandoning the South Vietnamese to its enemies, has been exposed as a myth.)
This year, issues of war have been “swamped” by voter concerns about jobs, debt and health care, observed Richard Kohn, professor of history, peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina. And those are domestic issues in which Congress has a more obvious role anyway, he added.
Where war makes itself felt in this midterm is “in the dog that didn’t bark,” Kohn said. President Obama’s West Point speech last December essentially plotted a withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan, with a temporary “surge” of forces in Afghanistan and a date to begin the withdrawal of troops.
“That satisfied both the right, that said you’ve got to prosecute the war — and the base of his party, which wants to withdraw,” Kohn said.
True enough: conservative columnist Fred Barnes, who can rarely find even a mild epithet for Democrats, sent Obama a “love bomb” in the Weekly Standard after the West Point speech, and even Sarah Palin endorsed the president’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. Liberals were slightly disappointed but supportive.
So thoroughly did Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy preempt protest that the GOP’s Pledge to America, which attacks the administration from every conceivable angle, fails to mention either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Finally, of course, most Americans seem to have given up on Afghanistan. Why get passionate about it if the war is a lost cause?
However invisible the war is for now, it may explode once the campaign is over and the winners begin to take their seats. Awaiting House members and senators is the $700 billion Pentagon budget bill, which may come up as early as the lame duck session in November (three new senators will be seated immediately because they are filling vacancies in Illinois, Delaware and West Virginia).
That will be the first test of the determination of many candidates actually to cut the federal budget, eliminate waste and reduce the budget deficit, as they have promised. But even among the budget-cutters there is disagreement: On one end of that spectrum is Rand Paul, GOP Senate candidate from Kentucky, a libertarian skeptic of foreign involvement who believes the great threat is on the U.S. borders. On the other: Sen. John McCain and other traditional Republicans who support a strong U.S. presence in the world and consistently vote to appropriate the money to support it.
Later next year Congress likely will grapple with potential troop reductions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. All American military personnel in Iraq are due to be withdrawn at the end of 2011, unless a joint U.S.-Iraq agreement is modified — a step Congress surely would want to review. In Afghanistan, Obama is likely to begin withdrawing some troops in July.
In both cases the decision belongs to the White House, but Congress could interfere, for instance, by tampering with the flow of money.
Either way, there’s no indication in this election year that the new Congress will take such an activist role, said John Isaacs, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, a liberal think tank in Washington.
“The mood on military issues is ambivalence,” he said. “I don’t think the public cares.”
Filed Under: Afghanistan, Iraq

Voting Advice From Veteran Veritas

Not  being one who is  in favor of one issue decisions in the political arena, I will suspend my value system for a few weeks, with one  caveat… anyone who is in favor of privatizing the VA, should first be examined by a Psychiatrist and secondly should be  drafted in the Army.     Who are those nuts?  Angle, McCain, Joe Miller, et al. Read the small print folks, these people are NOT  patriots. They are a living “Trojan Horse.”

Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Bill Passes Congress

I do not know of an Administration in recent times that has done so much for veterans. Sometimes policy does trump personality.

Became Public Law No: 111-275 [Text, PDF]


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised his colleagues for supporting a comprehensive veterans’ benefits package now headed to the White House for President Obama’s consideration.  If signed into law, this bill will expand insurance options for disabled veterans, upgrade compensation benefits and employment protections, authorize VA construction projects, and allow VA to keep using private physicians to quickly and accurately provide veterans with disability evaluations.

“I commend my colleagues for supporting this bill to upgrade the benefits that veterans have earned through their honorable service.  I look forward to President Obama signing this important measure into law,” said Akaka, a key sponsor of this legislation. The Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (H.R. 3219, as amended), includes the following:

• Raises an automobile assistance benefit for disabled veterans from $11,000 to $18,900.
• Authorizes federal grants to provide job training, counseling, placement, and childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
• Substantially increases the maximum levels of supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans, as well as Veterans’ Group Life Insurance and Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance.
• Provides retroactive Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance benefits for troops who were traumatically injured between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of where their injury occurred.
• Clarifies that the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits wage discrimination against members of the Armed Forces.

H.R. 3219 passed the House September 30th, 2010, after clearing the Senate on Tuesday, September 28.  The bill was signed into law on October 13th, 2010 by President Obama.   A detailed summary of the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 is available here: LINK

The full text of the bill, as amended by the Senate, is available here: LINK


September 30, 2010

Good People Doing Good Work For Disabled Veterans

Since the Main Stream Media in partnership with the Tea Party have become the epitome of  the late Spirow Agnews’  “nabobs of negativity,” I thought I would throw up a few positive things about America and the good people of this nation who are kind to each other every day.

Twenty-five percent of the patients served by the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center make use of a volunteer transportation network that provides rides to and from the hospital. A donation by the Ford Motor Company will ensure that program will continue.

Ford has donated two new vehicles for use in the Disabled American Veterans program. In Marion Monday, Marion Ford hosted officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the DAV chapters for the presentation of an accessible van.

“The (transportation network) put 440,000 miles on these vans last year,” said Paul Bockelman, director of the Marion VA. “We’re glad to have the opportunity … to get patients safely to their healthcare.”

At the ceremony, Brad Poole of Marion Ford presented the title for a new E350 van from Ford Motor Company to the DAV. DAV officials then presented keys to the van to Bockelman. The local veterans group is one of seven in the nation to receive a new van this year.

Over 150 volunteer DAV members drive more than 10,000 veterans to appointments at the hospital, Bockelman said.

Illinois DAV Commander Johnnie Baylark said the gift reflects the Ford Motor Company’s commitment to the veterans.

“From the start, they have always shown great interest in the DAV’s mission of service and transportation for our veterans,” Baylark said.

In addition to the passenger van donated to the Illinois DAV, a new Ford Explorer SUV was given to the Indiana DAV at a ceremony at Vogler Ford in Carbondale. Both DAV units serve Marion VA patients.

Marion Ford presented food and refreshments to veterans attending the ceremonies.

Ford’s contribution to the DAV amounts to more than $200,000. Ford’s partnership with the DAV began in 1922 when Henry Ford organized a cross-country caravan of 50 Model T Fords to take disabled veterans to their convention in San Francisco.

The DAV Transportation Network volunteer drivers use the vehicles to take sick and disabled veterans to VA medical centers for care. Since 1996, Ford Motor Co. has donated 148 vans, worth more than $3.5 million, to the DAV Transportation Network.

Submitted by the Daily Republican in Marion, Illinios.

Canadian Veterans Protest

When is the last time there was an organized protest to express dissatisfaction with our VA Medical Care and the VA Disability Rating system? Or maybe I should say, when was the first one?

It was after WWI when our soldiers could not get their reparation monies, and they marched on Washington in mass, and we actually shot upon by our own National Guard!

We have come along way baby! And I am not so sure we know how good we have it compared to other nations who send troops into harms way. And someone thinks the VA should be privatized?  I say draft them!

Canada’s treatment of disabled veterans will be the focus of a protest at the War Memorial in downtown St. John’s, just a few days before Remembrance Day.

The Nov. 6 demonstration is part of Veterans National Day of Protest.

‘What’s coming to light is the government is not taking care of them, and really to me it’s been the same old story since the First World War.’—Jeff Rose-Martland

Writer Jeff Rose-Martland, who is organizing the St. John’s protest, said he is outraged that Canadian veterans do not receive the benefits that they need.

“As Canadians I think we all just kind of expect, well you know, they signed up with the government, the government’s going to take care of them and everything is going to be fine,” Rose-Martland told CBC News.

“What’s coming to light is the government is not taking care of them, and really to me it’s been the same old story since the First World War.”

Rose-Martland, who is spearheading an online campaign called Our Duty, is not a veteran himself, but has felt motivated to work on their behalf. The Nov. 6 protest is scheduled at start at 11 a.m.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2010/10/21/veterans-benefits-protest-101.html#ixzz134f5MKBw

Today Is the Deadline For Back Pay For Stop-Loss Payments

Last fall the Congress ordered the Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay program for eligible veterans and service members to receive up to $3500 of back pay. Only 38% of all those eligible have applied. October 21st is the deadline.

The formula for these payments is $500 for every month they were retained on active duty after 9/11 for national security reasons.

89,836 members of the Armed Forces were were forced to stay on active duty. 55,ooo have have filed claims and $212 million has been paid out.  There are no conditions attached to these claims other than the extended duty. If you know of someone who experienced this, and has not filed yet, please tell them to do so by midnight tonight with their respective military branches.

Suicide Third Leading Cause of Death For Soldiers

Knowing full well that war and sex are the two leading indicators for repression, is it not possible that our Society needs to heal before the soldier?  Can anyone take a crack at why there is such an exponential increase in lives being taken by the savage god of suicide? What is going on in that soldiers mind moments before the decision to end their life? How do we intervene in those private moments?
Chief Military Correspondent
The U.S. Army, under the accumulating stress of nine years at war, is suffering an alarming spurt of drug abuse, crime and suicide that is going unchecked, according to an internal study that depicts an Army in crisis.

A small but growing number of soldiers who perform credibly in combat turn to high-risk behavior, including drug abuse, drunken driving, motorcycle street-racing, petty crime and domestic violence, once they return home.

As a result, more soldiers are dying by drug overdose, accident, murder and suicide than in combat. Suicide is now the third-leading cause of death for soldiers.

“Simply stated, we are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy,” concludes the extraordinary internal Army investigation commissioned by Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.

The study also found that across the Army, leaders have lost visibility and accountability over their soldiers, in many cases unaware that soldiers under their command had abused drugs, committed crimes or even previously tried to commit suicide. Drug testing is done only sporadically, the study found, and there are no central repositories for criminal data.

That same themes are reflected dramatically in the case of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade of Fort Lewis, Washington, who are charged with the wanton murder of Afghan civilians in Kandahar last spring. Questions have been raised about how their commanders could have missed such warning signs as drug abuse — some of the soldiers were allegedly smoking hashish in their rooms — that might have led them to look deeper.

No one suggests that such aberrant and ugly crimes can be traced just to the effects of stress. But as Chiarelli acknowledged, the indications of problems within the Army are “troubling.”

And the pressure is unrelenting. Over the next 12 months the Army plans to pull about 66,000 soldiers away from their homes and families and send them into combat in Afghanistan, many for the second or third time. There, these soldiers will replace troops just finishing their 12-month tours.

In all, about 200,000 soldiers will deploy in the coming year in routine rotations to maintain Army forces in South Korea, Kosovo, the Sinai, Iraq and elsewhere. The 45,000 soldiers currently assigned to duty in Iraq are due to be withdrawn by December 2011, unless a revised U.S.-Iraqi agreement enables American trainers and advisers to stay longer, as is likely.

And in Afghanistan, unless President Barack Obama authorizes a major troop reduction next summer, which seems unlikely, planned troop rotations will continue to maintain the 69,000 soldiers in that country. (Roughly 31,000 Marines, Navy and Air Force personnel also serve in Afghanistan.)

Even though some troops have been withdrawn from Iraq, the Army is still straining to fill its overseas commitments.

“The reality is that in the active-duty force, we have very few units in the ‘available’ pool who aren’t heading somewhere,” said Brig. Gen. Peter C. Bayer, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Army operations staff. “It should come as no secret,” he added, “that when you run at the pace we’re on, it comes at a cost.”

Those are mostly hidden behind the Army’s “can-do” ethos and the stoic heroism of its soldiers and families. Desertion and AWOL rates, for instance, are no higher now than during the peacetime years of the1990s, and retention numbers, which measure re-enlistments, are surpassing the Army’s goals.

But behind those simple measures is a darker reality.

Today, more than 100,000 soldiers are on prescribed anti-anxiety medication, and 40,000 are thought by the Army to be using drugs illicitly. Misdemeanor offenses are rising by 5,000 cases a year.

With the pressing need for manpower, the Army has retained more than 25,000 soldiers who would otherwise have been discharged for misbehavior, including 1,000 soldiers with two or more felony convictions.

The most at-risk soldiers are the Army’s youngest, buffeted by leaving home, struggling through basic training, adjusting to their first unit and deploying, all normally within two years. They lack the toughening and resiliency of older soldiers, and often haven’t been in a unit long enough to develop strong ties with other soldiers and leaders.

Among the growing number of Army suicides — which soared past the civilian rate in 2008 and reached a record 239 last year — most are soldiers with less than 24 months in the service. About one third of the Army’s suicides are soldiers who had never deployed even once.

In addition to suicides, the Army recorded 107 fatal accidents among its active-duty soldiers, and 50 murders, an ugly toll of 345 active-duty, non-combat deaths, about 100 more than were killed in combat in 2009.

Much of the stress soldiers endure could be alleviated by time away from combat. But soldiers of all ranks, the Army investigation found, don’t have enough time at home between deployments to recover. “Each time I come back it takes longer to return to what my family and friends regard as normal,” said Bayer, who completed three combat tours in Iraq and now works at the Pentagon. “I’d come home wound tight, and it’s a cumulative effect.”

In fact, it takes 24 to 36 months to return to “normal” from the high intensity of combat, the Army said — while most soldiers are at their home base for 18 months or less between deployments.

“This is uncharted territory,” said Robert Scales, a retired major general, historian, and former commandant of the Army War College. “We have no experiential data to tell us why anything causes emotional collapse after such enormous strain … In some units, it’s not about how many trips to the ‘sand box’ soldiers have made but the emotional wearing that comes from uncertainty and an overbearing sense of foreboding that all too often accompanies units as they deploy multiple times.”

“Frankly,” said Scales, a decorated combat officer who has studied the performance of small infantry units, “I am amazed that the Army and Marine Corps have held together for so long.”

The Army has had an aggressive anti-suicide program under way for some time, and has now begun tackling other problems it has identified. Chief among them: given the hectic pace of training and deployments, commanders often fail to keep track of soldiers who are developing problems and engaging in high-risk behavior. There is no Army-wide database for drunken-driving citations or misdemeanor offenses, for instance.

The Army has tightened its screening of recruits to weed out those with fragile personalities. But already, 75 percent of American teenagers aren’t eligible for the Army because they are overweight or have other physical disabilities, can’t pass the entrance exam, or they have a criminal record. And Army recruiters are prevented by law from asking for recruits’ medical records.

Senior officers acknowledge that all these problems are likely to haunt the Army as long as the pace of deployments remains so high.

“The good news,” Chiarelli observed this summer, “is that soldiers are seeking behavioral health care in record numbers.”

Filed Under: Afghanistan, Military, Iraq

Southern Arizona Health Care System Media Advisory

Myself and my Marine pal David Powell, the author of, “My Tour in Hell,” were presenters at one of these workshops. The VA in Tucson does a spectacular job with these highly informative and helpful seminars. I wish one family member of every combat veterans family could attend.

Oct. 20, 2010

WHAT: *Working with Arizona Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families:  A workshop designed to share practical information about military culture and the needs and concerns of service members, veterans and military families. Topics include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain Injury and the impact on individuals and their families. *Please view attachment for full description and agenda.

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Friday , Nov. 5, 2010

Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System
R. E. Lindsey Jr. Auditorium
3601 S. 6th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85723

Behavioral health providers, social workers, educators, first responders, primary care providers, and other allied health and social service providers who may provide services to service members, veterans, and military families.

For more information and to register, go to www.gvahec.org <http://www.gvahec.org> .

This program is being offered by The Greater Valley Area Health Education Center (GVAHEC) in partnership with the South East Arizona Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC), Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF), and Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System.

Media Contact:
Ellen Owens-Summo
Greater Valley Area Health Education Center
480-288-8260 ext. 103

Press Release/ Pin Ups For Vets

Ok, ok, I know that a big hunk of the Armed Forces are women. Maybe they will slip Governor Arnold in the calendar.  The mission and purpose of the calendar seems to be pure.  And I must say, the women of the 40’s are much more intriguing than the anorexic models of today.

LOS ANGELES— The Veterans’ favorite pin-up girl is back ! Pin-Ups for Vets, an award-winning non-profit, today announces the release of their 2011 calendar. Available for pre-order on pinupsforvets.com, the calendar features Pin-Ups for Vets creator, Gina Elise, posing in the style of a sultry 1940’s pin-up girl. Calendars can also be ordered on the website for hospitalized Veterans and deployed troops.   The proceeds from the sales go to improve health care at VA and military hospitals.   The deployed troops have flown 8 flags in honor of this project.

The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar is a volunteer effort started by Elise in 2006.   Elise delivers the donated calendars across the U.S., visiting Veterans in VA and military hospitals, spreading cheer and nostalgia, and thanking our Nation’s heroes for their service to our country.   Elise visits the hospitalized Veterans decked out as a 1940’s pin-up girl. Beyond visiting Veterans hospitalized in the States, Elise takes care to send hundreds of the Pin-Ups for Vets calendars to troops stationed overseas, complete with personal messages of gratitude.   These calendar gifts have greatly served to boost morale.

“The Pin-Ups for Vets project gives me the opportunity to visit and brighten the day of our hospitalized Veterans who are often bedridden for months at a time with few or no visitors,” said Elise. “These hospital visits allow me to not only bring smiles to our service members of today, but to also pay homage to World War II veterans, like my Grandfather Lou, and to our Vets from all generations who served our country.”

Pin-Ups for Vets’ newest fund-raising effort is entering the “Pepsi Refresh Grant” contest. The contest, that rewards the programs with the most votes, runs until October 31st. Elise would use the $50,000 grand prize to travel to visit hospitalized Vets, at their bedsides—in all fifty states!   She is working hard to get supporters to vote for the project.

To support Pin-Ups for Vets, in the “Pepsi Refresh Grant” contest, the public can vote once a day, each day on www.pepsirefresh.com/votepinupsforvets, or by texting 103020 to PEPSI (73774).

Gina Elise is currently searching for a corporate or private sponsor to fund her “Pin-Ups For Vets VA and Military Hospital Tour” across the U.S.   “Many of our ill Veterans openly weep.   The are overcome with emotion during these bedside visits that bring conversation, appreciation, donated calendar gifts, and a hug and a salute from a nostalgic pin-up girl !” says Elise.   “My goal is to honor and thank as many of our Veterans as I can.   I am hoping to find a tour sponsor so I can keep visiting and thanking our Vets. ”

For additional information on Pin-Ups for Vets and to learn how to buy a calendar for a hospitalized Veteran or deployed service member, please go to:  www.pinupsforvets.com


Congress Flunks on Veteran Advocacy

Dear Mike,

Did your representatives make the grade?

IAVA Action Fund just released its 2010 Congressional Report Card – and we want you to be the first to check it out. This critical tool shows who in Congress took action for new veterans and who was full of hot air.

The grades are not good. The Report Card shows just how little Congress accomplished for Iraq and Afghanistan vets this year. Out of 535 legislators, only 20 legislators earned an A+, and more than a third of Congress earned Ds and Fs.

Check here to see if your Senators and Representative made the D List or the Dean’s List.

Congress showed promise for vets in the first half of this session, but by the second half, everything went downhill.

They failed to achieve real reform in our three most critical areas: improving the outdated VA disability claims process, upgrading the Post-9/11 GI Bill and helping vets find jobs in a tough economy.

As we head into the midterm elections, Americans must hold Congress accountable for their voting record. Vets can’t wait for the gridlock to clear in Washington. IAVA Action Fund is keeping our nation’s lawmakers honest, and ensuring that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remain a priority on Capitol Hill. This is what the Report Card is all about.