A Holiday Story For The Troops

Okay, I know, Christmas is over and the Malls are jammed with forgetfulness.  Like me forgetting to open emails from pals like this one who sends really good stories. What a wonderful nation we have of big hearted folks who just never make the news.  Well they are making my news today.

Here is some good news…..

Here’s a ‘today’ Yule story that occurred 3 weeks ago ~ AND NOW, in time for the holidays, I bring you the best Christmas story you never heard.

It started last Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. “We have to let them know we care,” Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3.

The cool part is, they created their own train line to do it. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains. Bennett Levin – native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I commish – is one of them.

He has three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard. One car, the elegant Pennsylvania , carried John F. Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and ’62. Later, it carried his brother Bobby’s body to D. C. for burial. “That’s a lot of history for one car,” says Bennett.

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levin’s could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D. C. and Bethesda , in Maryland . “We wanted to give them a first-class experience,” says Bennett. “Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats – real hero treatment.”

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed’s commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone:

No press on the trip, lest the soldiers’ day of pampering devolve into a media circus.

No politicians either, because, says Bennett, “I didn’t want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op”

And no Pentagon suits on board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax.

The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. “I had to actually make this thing happen,” he laughs.

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country – these people tend to know each other – into lending their vehicles for the day. The name of their temporary train? The Liberty Limited.

Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D. C. – where they’d be coupled together for the round-trip ride to Philly – then back to their owners later.

Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train to Lincoln Financial Field, for the game.

A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game – on the 50-yard line – and lunch in a hospitality suite.

And corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees:

From Woolrich, stadium blankets. From Wal-Mart, digital cameras. From Nikon, field glasses. From GEAR, down jackets.

There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member.

The Marines, though, declined the offer. “They voted not to take guests with them, so they could take more Marines,” says Levin, choking up at the memory.

Bennett’s an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he’d react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D. C.’s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. “They made it easy to be with them,” he says. “They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They’re so full of life and determination.”

At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army’s lopsided loss to Navy could deflate the group’s rollicking mood.

Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal – heroes get hungry, says Levin – before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda . “The day was spectacular,” says Levin. “It was all about these kids. It was awesome to be part of it.”

The most poignant moment for the Levin’s was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang them the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station.

“One of the guys was blind, but he said, ‘I can’t see you, but man, you must be  beautiful!’ ” says Bennett. “I got a lump so big in my throat, I couldn’t even answer him.”

It’s been three weeks, but the Levin’s and their guests are still feeling the day’s love. “My Christmas came early,” says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. “I can’t describe the feeling in the air.” Maybe it was hope.

As one guest wrote in a thank-you note to Bennett and Vivian, “The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all – whatever the future may bring.”

God bless the Levin’s.

And bless the troops, every one.


Miniature Trains To Showcase at VA Hosptital/ Dan Marries KOLD

Dan Marries is just tops in my book. He is always doing stuff for vets. Thanks Dan for the story

Miniature trains sure to dazzle

Posted: Dec 27, 2010 8:40 PM PST Monday, December 27, 2010 11:40 PM EST Updated: Dec 27, 2010 8:40 PM PST Monday, December 27, 2010 11:40 PM EST

Source: Tucson Garden Railway Society Source: Tucson Garden Railway Society

Click image to enlarge

Posted by Dan Marries – email

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – All aboard! There’s something special about trains especially miniature locomotives. Just ask Willis Fagg, VP of the Tucson Garden Railway Society, “most little kids like trains and some people never grow up,” he says with a chuckle.

Tucson Garden Railway Society is holding its annual holiday-themed model train show Tuesday  through Thursday at the VA Medical Center on South Sixth Avenue.

The event, open to the public, features replicas spanning more than 100 years of railroad history, “we’ve got a lot of different scenery modules, from Indian villages to Mexican villages, and a town module with trolleys and we’ll be running steam and diesel engines,” explains Fagg.

The show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to noon Thursday in the VA’s auditorium.

Merry Christmas From Marine Anthony Adams/ Veteran to Veteran

This man is my pal. He is a Purple Heart recipient, having served with the 2/4 Marines in Vietnam. We are both graduates of the Merritt Retreat Center Program For Combat Veterans

Vet to Vet
Veteran to Veteran
When a  Veteran leaves the ‘job’ and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased, and others, who may have already retired, wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind, because we already know.
1. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times.2. We know in the Military life there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet.

3. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know how the very bearing of the man  speaks of what he was and in his heart still is.

These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the Military world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing.

Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the ‘job’ and merely being allowed to leave ‘active’ duty.

So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

NOW! Civilian Friends vs. Veteran Friends Comparisons

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Get upset if you’re too busy to talk to them for a week.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are glad to see you after years, and will happily carry on the same conversation you were having the last time you met.
—————————— ———————
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have cried with you.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Keep your stuff so long they forget it’s yours.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Borrow your stuff for a few days then give it back.
—————————— ——————-
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Know a few things about you.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will leave you behind if that’s what the crowd is doing.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will stand by you no matter what the crowd does.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Are for a while.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are for life.
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have shared a few experiences…
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have shared a lifetime of experiences no citizen could ever dream of…
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will take your drink away when they think you’ve had enough.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will look at you stumbling all over the place and say, ‘You better drink the rest of that before you spill it!’ Then carry you home safely and put you to bed…
——————————– ——————–
CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will ignore this.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will forward this.
A veteran – whether active duty, retired, served one hitch, or  reserve- is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The Government of the  United States  of America ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life’.
From one Veteran to another, it’s an honor to be in your company.
Thank you and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

This Just In: Senator Alan Simpson Rides Again With Unmatched Arrogance

Sent to me by one of our readers. Just had to post it as is. Too precious to add editorial comment…but…. I am sure the this will rile the tribal emotions of all the combat veterans out there who know that Alan Simpson left the Army after one year of service for some very mysterious reasons. This is the man who thought that Vietnam Veterans should not file for Agent Orange disabilities because, in his words, “I do not think the Vietnam Veteran has done enough for his country.”  The Scarlett letter just got changed to Orange. Sweet Jesus this man is deranged.
Truth to power originates with the author of the email.

The Flag does not fly because of the wind that blows it,
The Flag flies because each soldiers last breath blows by it!

From: jriley@charter.net
Sent: 12/22/2010 2:39:27 P.M. US Mountain Standard Time
Subj: [Fwd: Comment from a “greedy” Montana senior (YOu may want to widen your screen)]

Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2010 09:58:32 -0500

Uh … something tells me this guy might be a bit pissed.

Senator Alan Simpson Calls Seniors ‘Greediest Generation’

Therefore this, from a man in Montana ….who – like the rest of us –
has just about had enough

Hey Alan,

Let’s get a few things straight…

1.      As a career politician, you have been on the public dole for

2.      I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I
was 15 years old. I am now 63)

3.      My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other
Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for
decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give
OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus
bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme
that would have made Bernie Madoff proud…

4.      Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk
pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors
nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age
65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission is proposing to move
the goalposts YET AGAIN…

5.      I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into
Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of
the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy
to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the

6.      I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income
taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet
again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so
profligately that you just kept on spendingeven after you ran out of
money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to
pay of YOUR debt…

To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on
your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for

1.      How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers
during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2.      At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career,
and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the
American taxpayers?

3.      How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health

4.      What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you
proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual,
have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators who are
“greedy”. It is you and they who have bankrupted America and stolen the
American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for
what? Votes. That’s right, sir. You and yours have
bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic
political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know

And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.

Gulf War Illness Gets Its Due With VA Research

Approximately 697.000 men and women served in various operations during Desert Shield and Desert Storm between August 1990  and June 1991. While the war was short lived, the chronic medical symptoms are not.

A Gulf War Illness Task Force, wisely formed so as to prevent litigation, has discovered that nearly a quarter of these veterans of war have reported chronic fatigue, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, cognitive dysfunction, sleep interruptions, persistent headaches, skin disorders, lung problems and chronic mood disorders. This cluster of symptoms are now known as “Gulf War Veteran’ Illness”  The task force states that there research with these veterans will continue for the next three to five years.

A preliminary finding is that the reported illnesses are not the result of  mental health issues, but the by product of exposure to environmental toxins.

Publicly, no one mentions depleted uranium exposure, yet we know that it is included in the research. We also know that a team of soldiers who returned to Kuwait to clean up the Bradley tanks from DU, all became gravely ill.

To some this an Agent Orange Deja Vu. But again, we must give some credit to the new regime at the VA, they are not trying to hide, as they did with Agent Orange.

The VA has approved $2.8 million for research into treatments for these illnesses.

Continue to hold these soldiers in your prayers. With wars going on in 6 countries, with our troops, these Desert Storm warriors are kind of forgotten.

New Rule Will Help Veterans Exposed To Agent Orange

Many heartfelt thanks go to General Shinseki, the current head of the Veterans Administration for his efforts to once and for all address the languishing needs of Vietnam era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange some 40 years ago.

Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving in Vietnam and other support areas will now have fewer obstacles to quality health care and their entitled disability compensation.  It’s about time.  The new rule has amended and expanded the list of health problems the VA will presume to be related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures. Two new maladies have been added and one new category.

For Vietnam Veterans, the VA is adding Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic heart disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, such as hairy cell leukemia.

Thousands of Vietnam Veterans have died of these illnesses in the past three decades.  See the movie, “Unnatural Causes,” with the late John Ritter for a moving narrative of the real saga of Agent Orange and the governments efforts to deny its existence. This film was made in 1986. A real sleeper.

Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who exhibit a “presumed,” illness don’t have to provide evidence of the service connected medical issues. Any veteran who served in Vietnam from January 9,1962 to May 7, 1975, are now presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.

Thanks to the Vietnam Veterans of America in their relentless diligence and battery of tenacious attorney’s, justice is having its day. One of the most beneficial aspects of these decade long efforts is the now fair treatment of Gulf War Syndrome.

The pity is that so many World War ll veterans were not granted the fund of knowledge to deal with asbestos on Navy ships or the health problems for those that attended ABC School; Atomic Biological and Chemical Warfare School. I know one veteran who has been suffering since 1962 from chemical exposure aboard ship in that year.

It was only in September of 2008, that widows of veterans who died of Lou Geherigs Disease; ALS, were granted survivor benefits.  Yet, in a positive light, we may be the only nation on earth that does so.

For information on how to file a claim, go to “www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/AO/claimherbicide.htm”

God speed for these families and deep consolation to the families who preceded us.

Veteran Veritas on combat veteran retreat to assist recently returning war vets

Veteran Veritas Blog will be on “Special Ops” for the next 11 days.  I and a unique collection of combat veterans will be gathering at the Merritt Retreat Center in  Payson, Arizona to brain storm some approaches for addressing the increasing ranks of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who are struggling with transition issues.

Attending will be former Army, Marine and Air Force officers, and a handful of us NCO’s. All with former combat duty.

The Merritt Center program for returning veterans is one of the most unique in the nation..and it is free! See, MerrittCenter.org

This Camp David style round-table is open to any and all suggestions about reducing the suicide rate and easing the way back into polite society after 3-5 deployments in a combat theater.  Our nation has not seen such an intense level of service to country in 60 years.

Leave your comments and suggestions here or at the Merritt Center website. No one is paid at the Merritt Center. It exists solely on philanthropy.  If you see it in your heart to donate to this one-of-a-kind program, call Betty Merritt for an overview of the Veterans Program.  1-800-414-9880 or 928-474-4268.

This would be called supporting the troops as “only the dead know the end of war.”  –Plato

Veterans In Office

Veterans in Office Update 03: At the start of the 111th Congress of 2009-2010, only 25% of U.S.

senators and 21.6% of U.S. representatives had served at least some period in military uniform (active duty, Guard,

or Reserve). That percentage has been declining steadily since it peaked at 74% for the House (1969-70) and 78%

for the Senate (1977-78). The decline will continue when the newly minted 112th Congress takes office next year.

In the new Senate, there will be 25 vets, including four military retirees – the same figures as the 111th Congress.

Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Scott Brown (R-MA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are currently serving National Guard

or Reserve members. In the House, a whopping 98 seats turned over. Among incoming freshmen, 22 are veterans,

including four military retirees. Rep Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Reps-elect Tim Griffin (R-AR), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL),

Steven Palazzo (R-MS), and Joe Heck (R-NV) are currently serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The new House

will have a total of 87 veterans (20% of voting members), including 10 military retirees — down from 94 vets at the

start of the 111th Congress. [Source: MOAA Leg Up 24 Nov 2010 ++]

VA Handbook Update 01: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is piloting new, personalized

Veterans Health Benefits Handbooks.  The handbooks are tailored to provide enrolled Veterans with the most

relevant health benefits information based on their own specific eligibility.  In essence, each handbook will be

written for the individual Veteran. “These handbooks will give Veterans everything they need to know and leave out

everything that doesn’t apply to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Our Veterans will now

have a comprehensive, easy to understand roadmap to the medical benefits they earned with their service.” In

addition to highlighting each Veteran’s specific health benefits, the handbook also provides contact information for

the Veteran’s preferred local facility, ways to schedule personal appointments, guidelines for communicating

treatment needs and an explanation of the Veteran’s responsibilities, such as copayments when applicable.

“Enhancing access isn’t just about expanding the kinds of services VA provides. It also includes making sure we do

everything we can to ensure Veterans have a clear understanding of the benefits available to them so they can make

full use of the services they have earned,” Shinseki said. The new handbooks will initially be available only to

certain Veterans in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., areas.  Following the pilot phase, full implementation is

scheduled to begin in the fall of 2011 for across the county. For additional information, go to

http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility or call VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387). [Source: VA News Release 18 Nov 2010


God Bless
Jose M. Garcia PNC
National Deputy Service Officer
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

Prayer Request

Hi there,   Help!

We are asking everyone to say a prayer for “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan & they have lost 9 marines in 4 days. IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE the message spread if more could pass it on.

Semper Fi, God Bless America and

God Bless the United States Marine Corps…

Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever

Claire Fitzgerald, Chaplain

Marine Corp

Lawrence (Larry) M. Wojtowicz

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. By Karl Marlantes. Published by Atlantic Monthly Press

When my Gunnery Sgt. pal Ron suggested, or should I say commanded me, in “WTF” language, to get my namby pamby fanny to the local library and check out a copy of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, like the good jar head that I am I followed orders and reserved a copy that afternoon. Three days later I borrowed a CD player from my daughter having never owned one. I still read books. The next day I dove headlong into my first ever audio book.

For the next two weeks I was transported to Vietnam on a daily basis–firefights, ambushes, night patrols, listening posts, c-rations, permanently wet socks, 70lb of gear, boots that sort of fit, an M-16, bandoleers and a bad attitude, for 562 pages of the most riveting narrative of war I have ever encountered.

Very little was changed from an actual month in combat for a Marine Company, save the real names of the Units and the exact locations. No matter, so few of us can remember much of what we did anyhow, at least not until Matterhorn and Karl Marlantes delivered us there with sights, sounds, smells, dark humor and language, only known to a grunt, that is as real as this mornings breakfast.

There is no grunt alive who has experienced enemy mortars and AK-47 bullets breezing by that cannot testify to the exhilarating detail of this novel.

The recipient of the Navy Cross, Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and ten air medals, tells reviewers that it took him 30 years and an original manuscript of 1600 pages to complete the work that no publisher would touch for its length.  While Marlantes writes like the late Norman Mailer, no reader will sit for that long with one book, not even War and Peace.  One may say that it took many of us 30 years to be able to read a novel like this of any length. Particularly one that is so close to home.

Author Marlantes  leads us into the jungles of Vietnam in 1969, by way of his fictionalized Lt. Waino Mellas. The Marine Company’s mission is to secure the hilltop Matterhorn. Through incessant monsoons, mud that does not move, tigers, leeches and monkeys the Marines discover themselves to be completely surrounded and out-manned by a fully equipped and backed, ready to rock and roll, North Vietnamese Regiment. The whole scene is very reminiscent of the well known area known as the Rockpile, south of the DMZ and near the Laotian border. I was about 20 miles south of this battle torn area with our very own NVA Regiment to play with.

The battle for Matterhorn that ensues is the gruesome plot of the novel. This assuredly autobiographical portrayal, by way of fiction, is as close to the real Nam as one can be.

The pure mettle of a couple of platoons of Marines who led an assault against fortified bunkers packed with an extraordinarily well trained and armed enemy affords some of the most spellbinding narrative of any war novel to date. The narrator so aptly captures the horror, agony and casualties that follow,with an omniscient point of view-internal dialogue and all, that I can still call these men by name  as if they were here.  In fact in recent phone conversations with Gunny Ron we have referred to the characters in Matterhorn as if they were fellow Marines.  I say, like the motto of Vassar girls, “it all relates.”

The Navy Cross citation for Marlantes reads:

“His heroic actions and resolute determination inspired all who observed him and were instrumental in a decisive rout with minimal casualties. By his courage, aggressive fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger, First Lieutenant Marlantes upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

Karl, it was worth waiting 41 years to grasp what we really did on a daily basis. I am ready to hear it now. I hope my family and friends are too.

Merry Christmas Sir!  Today is the anniversary of Operation Meade River in Quang Nam Province.  I lost my memory there. You sir, gave it back.

Reader, be sure to get the audio version along with a copy of the book that includes a 31 page glossary of saucy language, military terms and Vietnamese slang.