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My Honor Flight

My Honor Flight


Christina White poses with her father (standing), and her two Veteran grandfathers at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

by Christina White, Indianapolis VAMC Pharmacist

Christina White poses with her father (standing), and her two Veteran grandfathers at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Greatest Generation – those who gave so much.  Giving tribute to these sacrifices is a sacred privilege, and the Honor Flight Network recently gave me the opportunity to honor two of my heroes.

Honor Flight Network* is a non-profit organization that honors America’s heroes by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.  Top priority is given to World War II survivors and terminally ill veterans.  The Veterans’ trips are absolutely free while guardians pay a moderate fee.

On June 7, 2011, I took an Honor Flight with my father and my two grandfathers who are both WWII veterans.  We started the morning at 6:00 a.m. at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport with registration, breakfast, and a send-off reception.  Each person received a t-shirt with a phrase on the back that said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”  Cincinnati news crews were there to document the group of 88 Veterans making the trip.  This was the first time either of my grandfathers had flown in many years, so this was even more exciting for them.

Upon landing in Baltimore, we boarded air-conditioned charter buses and traveled to D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima, the Korean War Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.  Each memorial was stunning, but the WWII Memorial was definitely our favorite.  It sits prominently on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and honors the 16 million that served in the U.S. armed forces during that time.  An Honor Flight staff member gave us a tour of the Memorial, explaining the symbolism behind each structure, quote, and sculpture.  The Memorial’s Field of Stars is absolutely breathtaking.  This is a wall that bears 4,000 gold stars representing the more than 400,000 lives lost during World War II.  It was evident that my grandfathers were proud of their Memorial.

Everywhere we went the Veterans were treated like celebrities.  People wanted to shake their hands, take pictures, and thank them for their service.  My grandfathers shared stories of their time in the Army and the Coast Guard.  When we arrived home at 10:00 p.m., we were greeted by a crowd of friends and family holding balloons and signs welcoming the Veterans home.  It was an action-packed day, but the Honor Flight Network takes care of everything, including meals and providing wheelchairs.  They even had paramedics available in case anyone needed medical attention.  Each guardian was paired up with one veteran and we were responsible for their safety, hydration, taking pictures, and ensuring they had fun.  It was an amazing experience and a trip we will always cherish.

 


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Loss of VA Benefits

Loss of VA Benefits: Is It True?

By Terry Bowman June 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

In April of this year I was reading the minutes of the National Veterans Mental Health Council Conference Call (April 13, 2011) and noted a comment by one of the participants. It seems that a Veteran who was a volunteer on the Veterans Mental Health Council at one of the VA Medical Centers had been downgraded on his Service Connected mental health disability because the volunteer work he was doing “showed that he could work.” I began to investigate this issue and discovered more than one Veteran at more than one VA Medical Center location who allegedly had experienced the same. The issue, for a few Veterans, seems to be that they had volunteered in one capacity or another at their VA Medical Center; VA likes for Volunteers to log their volunteer hours and uses the logged hours to give credit to Veterans Service Organizations and when recognizing Veteran volunteers; the affected Veterans were Service Connected with a 100% Unemployable rating for a mental health disability; and,  after performing Volunteer work at their VA Medical Center and logging their volunteer hours, these few Veterans were notified by the Veterans Benefits Administration that their 100% Unemployable status was revoked because their volunteer work was evidence that they were employable.

I have written quite a few letters and sent numerous emails in an attempt to determine if this is a true issue or if it is a bad rumor. Unfortunately, no one in VA has responded. In the meantime, word of this issue has spread to Veterans across the Country. Some Veterans who were serving in VA volunteer positions resigned because they feared their Unemployable rating was in jeopardy.

It would help both VA and Veterans if the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) would issue a response to this issue from a VBA office that is high up in the chain-of-command; a position above the VA Regional Offices. A response from a position above VA Regional Offices is needed so that Veterans can rely on whatever the response is and not be concerned that individual VA Regional Offices might have different interpretations of the issue. A full explanation of the truth or non-truth of the issue, more than just a quote from the applicable law, and one that addresses the specific issue would be most helpful. (I and others have researched and read the applicable law. However, we all know that the law is subject to interpretation).

To clarify, the issue that needs to be addressed by VBA is, “If a Veteran who is 100% Unemployable due to a mental health disability performs volunteer services at a VA facility and logs those volunteer hours, is there any chance at all that VBA would recognize the Veteran’s volunteer service as evidence that the Veteran is employable and would revoke the Veteran’s Unemployable status.”

Terry S. Bowman is a retired Air Force Air Traffic Controller (SMSgt) who served in the U.S. Air Force from September 1960 to October 1981. He served as a Professor in Aviation Management at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois (SIUC). Bowman completed a Doctorate in Administration of Higher Education and, from 1993 to his retirement in 2001, he served as the College of Applied Sciences and Arts’ Director of Off-Campus Academic Programs. He is now fully retired and enjoys working around his land he has established as a National Wildlife Refuge. He also volunteers at his local VA medical center.


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Fun Facts: 4th of July

Fun Facts: 4th of July by the Numbers

Fun Facts: 4th of July by the Numbers

source: census.gov

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million - In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

Source: Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970

311.7 million - The nation's estimated population on this July Fourth.

Source: US Census Population clock

Flags

$3.2 million - In 2010, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($2.8 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.

Source: Foreign Trade Statistics

$486,026 - Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2010. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $256,407 worth.

Source: Foreign Trade Statistics

$302.7 million - Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation's manufacturers, according to the latest published economic census data.

Source: 2007 Economic Census


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Nice Catch!

One-Armed Vet Relishes Moment After Nice Catch

NEW YORK - Michael Kacer had been trying to put together a trip with his nephew, Isaiah, for a while, and something always came up.

It turned out to be worth the wait.

Kacer, a veteran who lost his left arm in a 2008 rocket attack in Afghanistan, is enjoying the spotlight after his terrific catch of a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Friday night attracted national attention.

"Just like a wild roller coaster ride," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Saturday. "Just a thrill."

Kacer, 29, of Scranton, Pa., was watching the game with his 13-year-old nephew when Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson fouled one back and to the right of the visitor's dugout during the first inning. The ball took a big hop and headed toward Kacer, who was sitting in the first row, with a railing separating him from a concrete concourse a few feet below.

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"It was quite a stretch," he said. "I actually didn't think I caught it until I brought it back and realized the ball was in the hat."

Yup, Kacer brought it in and immediately handed the ball over to Isiah, a big Yankees fan who was attending his first major league game. Then he lapped in the praise from the impressed crowd.

"It was amazing," said Isaiah Kacer, who also lives in Scranton. "I figured they would cheer but I didn't think they would get as loud as they did for him."

It was only the beginning.

Video of the great grab quickly showed up on the web, and ESPN showed it on SportsCenter during its top plays segment - a surreal experience that left Kacer almost speechless as he watched with his glowing nephew.

"I was like 'Dude, this is unbelievable,'" said Kacer, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

Kacer is part of a team of wounded veterans in town to participate in Sunday's ninth annual Achilles Hope & Possibility 5 Mile Race through Central Park. The race features about 5,000 able-bodied and disabled runners from all over the world and is the signature event for Achilles International, a nonprofit focused on athletic opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Yankees game was part of a weekend of events for the veterans, who are rehabbing at Walter Reed Medical Center and rode a bus to New York on Friday. The group visited ground zero and the Statue of Liberty on Saturday.

Kacer and his teammates were recognized on the field before New York's 4-2 loss to Colorado on Friday night, receiving a loud ovation from the Bronx crowd of 46,028. Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher and manager Joe Girardi also came out to the mound to extend their best wishes.

"Really great guys," said Kacer, who had his picture taken with Swisher and Girardi.

Isiah Kacer found a spot in the lower level to grab some photos from the stands while his uncle was the on the field, and the two decided to stay in the prime seats until the ticketholders showed up.

That smart move put them in the right place for Granderson's foul popup.

"I thought I was going to catch the ball or go over the railing," said Kacer, who was in the National Guard for 11 years. "One of those two things was going to happen. Fortunately, I caught the ball."


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Female Special Ops

Female Special Operators Now in Combat

Female Special Operators Now in Combat

Army Special Operations Command has deployed its first teams of female Soldiers assigned to commando units in Afghanistan, and military officials are assessing their initial performance in theater as "off the charts."

In a controversial move early this year, the Army created a new avenue for women to serve with front-line combat units in some of the most specialized and covert missions. The so-called "Cultural Support Teams" are attached to Special Forces and Ranger units to interface with the female population to gain vital intelligence and provide social outreach.

"When I send an [SF team] in to follow up on a Taliban hit … wouldn't it be nice to have access to about 50 percent of that target population -- the women?" said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School, which runs the CST program.


"And now we're doing that with huge success," Sacolick said. "They are in Afghanistan right now and the reviews are off the charts. They're doing great."

So far, nearly 30 of the female CST Soldiers are deployed to the war zone, working in villages and towns that the commandos have cleared.

"They're supposed to be used on secure target areas," Sacolick said. "I don't want them fighting their way to a target."

While the Army has assigned women to front-line units in the past during searches of female civilians and detainees, the move by USASOC formalizes what some advocates have been hoping for in terms of opening up combat arms units to women.

The Soldiers assigned to the Cultural Support Teams aren't required to endure all the training of a Ranger or SF trooper, but they do have to learn advanced weapons handling and even fast-roping. Through three separate nine-day assessments so far, the Special Warfare Center and School has about a 50 percent attrition rate, officials say. Those who make it go through a six-week training course that teaches the Soldiers regional culture, intelligence gathering and small-unit combat tactics, officials say.

"I place less emphasis on the immediate physical standards," Sacolick said. "What I don't compromise on is intellect. I'm looking for smart kids."

Though USASOC will consider female Soldiers -- NCOs and junior officers -- from any MOS, they are especially interested in those from healthcare career fields, including nurse midwife (66G8D), as well as military police and military intelligence, according to the perquisites and requirements detailed on the Army Special Operations Command website.

The Special Warfare Center plans to run its next assessment for CST members in early September, officials say.


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