30 December 2008

VA Ramps Up Job Search for Injured Vets

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thirty percent of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are veterans -- the second highest ranking among cabinet departments after the Department of Defense -- and nearly 8 percent of VA employees are service-connected disabled veterans. But the VA intends to increase the number of disabled veterans who obtain employment in its workforce.

"I am proud of this effort," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "VA knows the true quality of our men and women, and we should be a leader in employing them."

Peake said all severely injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be contacted by VA's Veterans Employment Coordination Service to determine their interest in -- and qualifications for -- VA jobs. So far, that office has identified 2,300 severely injured veterans of those wars, of whom 600 expressed interest in VA employment.

The coordination service was established a year ago to recruit veterans into VA, especially those seriously injured in the current wars. It has nine regional coordinators working with local facility human resources offices across the country not only to reach out to potential job candidates but to ensure that local managers know about special authorities available to hire veterans. For example, qualified disabled veterans rated by the Defense Department or VA as having a 30 percent or more service-connected disability can be hired non-competitively.

"Our team is spreading the message that VA is hiring, and we want to hire disabled veterans," said Dennis O. May, director of VA's Veterans Employment Coordination Service.

VA coordinators participate in military career fairs and transition briefings, and partner with veterans organizations, the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service, as well as VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, the Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment and the Army's Warrior Transition Units.

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24 December 2008

Nearly 11,000 Survivors to Receive Retroactive VA Payments by New Years

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has identified nearly 11,000 surviving spouses of deceased veterans who will receive a lump-sum payment before the New Year to correct an error in their VA benefits. Also documented were more than 73,000 who had been previously paid. VA officials are still tracking down eligible survivors.

"I am pleased that our task force working to correct this problem has been able to identify this first group this week," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "We understand the difference these funds can make for these surviving spouses, especially during the holiday season."

Payments will be released to these survivors on Dec. 29. The total value of the payments is about $24 million.

At issue is a 1996 federal law that makes a surviving spouse eligible to receive the veteran's VA compensation or pension benefit for the month of the veteran's death. VA failed to properly implement that law in all cases.

Most likely to have been affected by this problem are surviving spouses who never applied for VA survivors' benefits following the death of a veteran. Eligible for the payment are surviving spouses of veterans who died after Dec. 31, 1996. The Department doesn't have current addresses for many of them, which makes the process of contacting them difficult.

VA has established a special Survivor Call Center (1-800-749-8387) for spouses who believe they may be eligible for this retroactive benefit. The Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Central Standard Time. Inquiries may also be submitted through the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/survivorsbenefit.htm.

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23 December 2008

New Members Appointed to Committee on Women Veterans

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Four new members have been appointed to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women veterans.

"I am pleased to welcome the newest members of this committee to the important job of serving America's women veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "Members of this committee work tirelessly on behalf of women veterans to improve outreach, ensure access to VA benefits and recommend ways in which VA can better meet their needs."

Established in 1983, the advisory committee makes recommendations for administrative and legislative changes. The committee members are appointed to one, two, or three-year terms. The new committee members are:

-- Davy Coke of Poway, Calif., a retired Navy second class petty officer
who served in Vietnam. He currently is a trainer and mentor for new
service members in the aerospace field.
-- Yanira Gomez of Germantown, Md., a former Army medical specialist who
served in Iraq. She is currently serving as national outreach officer
for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
-- Gloria Maser of Alexandria, Va., a colonel in the Army Reserves. She
is a former deputy chief of staff for health affairs with the
Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq. She currently
works for a strategy and technology organization.
-- Barbara Ward of Sacramento, Calif., a former staff nurse in the Air
Force. She currently serves as the deputy secretary for women and
minority veterans affairs in the California Department of Veterans
Affairs.


Women veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the veteran population. There are approximately 1.8 million women veterans. They constitute nearly 8 percent of the total veteran population and about 5 percent of all veterans who use VA health care. VA estimates that by 2020 women veterans will make up 10 percent of the veteran population.

VA has women veterans program managers at VA medical centers and women veterans coordinators at VA regional offices to assist women veterans with health and benefits issues.

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21 December 2008

Chambliss, Inhofe, Sessions, Cornyn, Thune, Martinez Statement on SASC Inquiry into Detainee Treatment

U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, James Inhofe, R-OK, Jeff Sessions, R-AL, John Cornyn, R-TX, John Thune, R-SD, and Mel Martinez, R-FL, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in response to the recently released Executive Summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody.

Throughout our history, even in the gravest of circumstances, the United States has embodied the ideals of individual freedom and liberty. This nation adheres to the principle that all detainees in U.S. custody must be treated humanely and in accordance with applicable law. The fallacious assertion, made in recent newspaper editorials and other media outlets, that illegal treatment of detainees was an intentional or necessary result of administration policy is irresponsible and only serves to aid the propaganda and recruitment efforts of extremists dedicated to the murder of innocents and the destruction of our way of life.

The latest inquiry into detainee treatment by the Senate Armed Services Committee breaks little new ground – merely reiterating the findings of at least 12 previous independent investigations, which reported that certain isolated and limited incidents of detainee abuse occurred in the handling of detainees in U.S. custody. The implication, however, that this abuse was the direct, necessary, or foreseeable result of policy decisions made by senior administration officials is false and without merit. It is counter-productive and potentially dangerous to our men and women in uniform to insinuate that illegal treatment of detainees resulted from official U.S. government policies.

Administration officials sought to comply with requests from the field for effective interrogation techniques within the legal constraints in place at the time. These policies and orders were developed and issued under unprecedented circumstances in which our nation was under the continuous threat of an enemy that does not comply with the established rules of war – wearing no uniform and operating behind the cover of civilians.

While it is well-documented that the guidelines and orders developed by administration and military officials were not followed in a handful of isolated and well-publicized incidents, and that certain techniques were used in areas and by individuals for which they were not authorized, all credible allegations of abuse by U.S. military personnel were and continue to be taken seriously and investigated in painstaking detail. Where applicable, offenders have been charged, tried, and punished under federal law. This commitment to the rule of law permits the United States to operate safe, humane and professional detention facilities for unlawful enemy combatants - many of whom continue to provide valuable information in preventing further terrorist attacks.

The events of September 11, 2001, represent the most horrific violence inflicted on our homeland since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After those terrible attacks, our government faced novel and grave issues of policy while having to address the dangers confronting our country. In good faith, the administration and our military did their utmost to resolve those issues in an effective and lawful way. It is important to remember and reaffirm the honorable public service of those individuals charged with defending the country – both past and present, civilian and military, at the highest levels of government and in the field – who expose themselves every day to criticism and to many kinds of risk in discharging their solemn responsibilities. We regret that relevant facts and the contexts in which policy decisions were made were ignored in the Committee’s report.

While it is often difficult to strike the proper balance between preserving America’s security and upholding our nation’s principles, the facts reveal that the United States is committed to providing security to its people while preserving American ideals.
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Pakistan's Anti-terror Offensive Assists Afghan War Aims, Gates Says

Renewed Pakistani military action targeting al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists lodged in the western part of their country benefits Pakistan and assists in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Public Broadcasting Service interview that aired Dec. 17.

A U.S. government review of the strategy and tactics employed in Afghanistan recognizes "the importance that Pakistan plays in success or failure in Afghanistan and the need for us to work closely with Pakistan and to view Afghanistan more in a regional context than in isolation," Gates told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.

The former Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, ultimately failed to dissuade citizens living in ungoverned areas of western Pakistan from allowing al-Qaida and Taliban militants to cross the border into Afghanistan to launch attacks on U.S., coalition and Afghan security forces. Musharraf resigned Aug. 18.

Meanwhile, the Taliban stepped up their operations in Afghanistan. A new government replaced the one headed by Musharraf, but Pakistani military efforts against militants operating in their country remained uneven, until recently.

The Pakistanis "withdrew from the fight earlier this year, which frankly, gives the Taliban an opportunity to surge into Afghanistan," Gates said.

But, "now the Pakistanis are back in the fight," Gates said. This development, he said, is causing Taliban and al-Qaida members operating in the border region "to watch their backs."

Pakistani forces also are working hard, Gates said, to safeguard the truck convoys that carry military supplies from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Most people don't know that the Pakistanis "have lost several thousand men; soldiers killed in this struggle in the western part of Pakistan," Gates said. "They have been in the fight."

Militants in Pakistan have been implicated in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. This revelation, Gates said, is likely giving the Pakistani government some food for thought as it considers how it should deal with terrorists operating on their soil.

"I think they're beginning to understand that the extremists in ungoverned spaces in their west have become an existential threat to Pakistan," Gates said, "And, I think that's one of the reasons the army is back in the fight, and one of the reasons why I hope that we will be able to work closer together in the future."

Through it all, Pakistan remains a valued friend and ally of the United States, Gates pointed out.

"They have captured and killed more al-Qaida than anybody in the world, except maybe us," Gates said of Pakistan's contributions in support of the war against global terrorism.

Looking ahead, the United States "will clearly be looking for ways to have a stronger partnership with Pakistan," Gates said, "to see if we can help them with some of their economic problems, and at the same time, encourage them to take [more] action in these ungoverned spaces in western Pakistan where the Taliban and al-Qaida and some of these other violent extremists have found sanctuary."

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
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Mullen Stresses Need for Regional Strategy in Central Asia

The overarching strategy for success in Afghanistan must be regional in focus and include not just Afghanistan, but also Pakistan and India, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Dec. 20th.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told a news conference here that leaders in all three countries must figure a way to decrease tensions among them. The chairman is visiting here for meetings with Afghan and U.S. leaders.

The regional strategy here is aimed at addressing long-term problems that increase instability in the region.

The Pakistani and Indian civilian leadership has done significant work to decrease tensions over Kashmir. "In that reduction of tensions, there was an outcome that allowed the Pakistani leadership ... to focus on the west (border with Afghanistan) where they hadn't in the past," Mullen said.

The terror attack in Mumbai increased tension between the two nuclear-armed countries, he said. "In the near term, that might force the Pak leadership to lose interest in the west," Mullen said.

Mullen noted the immediate impact of the attacks, in which "10 terrorists, well-trained, could hold 15 million people hostage for 72 hours and bring two countries with nuclear weapons closer to conflict.

"Thinking about what that means for the future and terrorism and how we're prepared for that is something we're going to have to work our way through," he said. "I don't have all the answers there."

The Mumbai terrorists used a haven in Pakistan to train for the attack. "It was a tactical operation that could have huge strategic effects and it could bring two countries to the brink of nuclear war," Mullen said. "That is something we all need to be mindful of."

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan are an open sore in the fight against terrorism. The area – along the mountainous border with Afghanistan – provides havens for al-Qaida and other terror groups, Mullen said. "We need to keep pressure on them or we can't succeed (in Afghanistan)," he said.

The chairman gave credit to the Pakistani military and the new Pakistani civilian officials for operations they've conducted in recent months. He praised the effort in Baijur, Pakistan, that has put pressure on the terrorists on that side of the border. The Pakistani operations in conjunction with coalition and Afghans operations inside Afghanistan have disrupted insurgents significantly, he said.

"We're not where we need to be," the chairman said. "We need to be coordinated and synchronized on both sides of that border.

"But the Pakistani military has been committed to that and has done that in recent months. It has had a positive impact against the insurgents across that border."

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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Mullen: Security Will Enable Afghanistan to Move Forward

While security is important in Afghanistan, "no amount of troops in any amount of time is going to make this successful in the long run," said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen during a news conference on Dec. 20th.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed in a news conference that the emphasis in Afghanistan must be on the economic and developmental world in the country and the political and governance initiatives.

Mullen arrived back in Afghanistan this afternoon from Kosovo.

Mullen spoke about additional U.S. troops for the region. The commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, has expressed a requirement for additional forces for a long time. The need, Mullen said, is more than just more ground combat forces, to include what he calls "enablers" – medical, engineering, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and other assets.

The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team will deploy here next month.

Mullen said more troops will be sent to Afghanistan in the coming year. The overall requirement is 20,000 more troops in 2009.

"It's not a question of if, but when," he said. "We're looking to available forces to fill this need, and we want to get those forces here as soon as we can."

Mullen said the plan is for the majority of those U.S. forces to arrive by late spring and early summer. "We have had enough forces to be successful in combat. What we haven't had is enough forces to hold the territory we clear," he said. "So the 'clear, hold, build' strategy is the right strategy."

When additional U.S. troops arrive, the violence level will go up initially, because those troops will be in areas that haven't seen protracted operations. "The fight will be tougher because we will be in areas we know we've had to go, but we haven't been able to," he said. The added troops will go to Regional Command East and Regional Command South, where commanders believe the fight will be.

Mullen reiterated the U.S. commitment to the Afghan people. "The mission here is focused in that," he said. "We know the fight is real. We're committed. This isn't just a fight against Taliban extremists. It is a fight for the future of Afghanistan."

The United States will continue to work with NATO allies to generate as many capabilities as they can to assist in the fight.

The trends in Afghanistan need to be reversed from 2008, Mullen said. This year, violent incidents increased and Taliban extremists became more sophisticated and effective.

"They haven't won any battles, but they have certainly increased their level of violence," Mullen said. "We're focused on that and that's why the additional forces are so important: to provide security for the Afghan people so these other areas can be developed."

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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19 December 2008

Military Plans Inauguration Crowd Control




Military planners go over how they plan to cope with the throngs headed to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration. Courtesy Fox News.
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U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule on Priority of Service for Veterans

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) today announced the publication of a final rule on priority of service for veterans and eligible spouses. The new regulations apply to "any workforce preparation, development or delivery program or service that is directly funded, in whole or in part, by the Department of Labor," as provided by the Jobs for Veterans Act (P.L. 107-288), enacted in 2002.

"Priority of service is an important acknowledgment of the sacrifices of the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces," said Charles Ciccolella, assistant secretary of labor for VETS. "The department's strategic vision for priority of service honors veterans and eligible spouses of veterans as our heroes at home, and envisions that the employment and training programs funded by the department, including the workforce investment system, will identify, inform and deliver comprehensive services to veterans and eligible spouses as part of their strategic workforce development activities across the country."

The Veterans' Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-461) followed-up on the Jobs for Veterans Act by requiring the department to issue regulations governing the application of priority of service. The majority of the department's programs to which the new regulations will apply are administered by the Employment and Training Administration.

"Veterans possess unique attributes that enable them to make significant contributions in the workplace," said Ciccolella. "They are an important source of highly skilled and experienced talent and play a key role in regional workforce development strategies."

Implementation of priority of service is designed to provide veterans and eligible spouses with clear entry points into high-growth, high wage civilian jobs and easily accessible post-secondary education and training. The goal is to support their advancement along career pathways that benefit veterans, their families, and regional economies.

The final rules appear in today's Federal Register and can be accessed online at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-30166.pdf.

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18 December 2008

Fayetteville Honors General William J. Livesey

Photo: Mayor Ken Steele, City Council members Paul Oddo, Jr., Al Hovey-King, Mayor Ken Steele, General (Ret) William Livsey, Council members Wilson Price, Walt White and Major General Jack Wheeler.
On 20 November 2008, the City of Fayetteville, Georgia honored General (Retired) William J. Livsey. Mayor Ken Steele read a proclamation from the City, citing the military career of General Livsey, and of the naming of Highway 314 from Georgia State 85 to the Clayton County line in his honor.

Of the 38 general and flag officers produced by North Georgia College and State University (NGCSU) over its 135 year history, General Livsey is the only four star general. General Livsey is a 1952 graduate of NGCSU.

Livsey is a native of Clarkston, Georgia. He is a 1952 graduate of North Georgia College & State University. Years later he served as a trustee for the university foundation. He received his commission as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the Regular Army. He has a Masters degree in Psychology from Vanderbilt University. His military schooling includes the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College where he graduated first in his class, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Army War College.

In May, 1984, and until his retirement on June 30, 1987, Livsey served as Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command/Commander-in-Chief Combined Forces Command/ Commander, United States Forces, Korea/Commanding General Eighth United States Army. Upon retirement, General Livsey and his wife Bena Sue became permanent residents of Fayetteville.
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15 December 2008

VA Urges Vets to Sign Up for Direct Deposits

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Every month, 730,000 veterans or survivors look for their compensation, pension checks or educational assistance payments in their mailboxes. Nearly all receive them, but theft and mail delays cause problems for some veterans, which can be prevented by direct deposits.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is urging those veterans and family members now receiving paper checks to join nearly 3.1 million others whose VA payments are safely deposited electronically.

"VA is teaming up with the Treasury Department in a new campaign to protect government beneficiaries against the theft of funds and of their identities," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "Veterans earned -- and rely on -- the financial support we send them every month. I urge them to help VA ensure they get those funds reliably and safely by signing up for direct deposit."

Peake cited several easy ways to sign up for direct deposit -- calling VA toll-free at (800) 333-1795 or enrolling online at www.GoDirect.org. Veterans, and family members who receive VA payments, also can sign up by contacting a VA regional benefits office or their financial institution. Information about direct deposits will be included in VA's monthly compensation and pension envelopes throughout 2009.

The VA Secretary urged veterans to remember that direct deposits relieve worry about mail delivery being delayed by severe weather or natural disasters. The deposits also eliminate trips to banks or credit unions to deposit checks, while providing immediate access to money at the same time each month.

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14 December 2008

Dave Niebes Participates in The Wreaths Across America Program

The Wreaths Across America program is sponsored annually by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine involving thousands of Christmas wreaths that are donated for placement at Arlington National Cemetery and other military cemeteries across America.

Dave Niebes represented Fayette County (Georgia) Post 105 of The American Legion at Arlington National Cemetery again this year.

He is shown at the grave of Seaman First Class William E. Harris, a World War I Navy veteran from Georgia

During a special ceremony, Christmas wreaths were also placed at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

GFP Note: Wreaths Across America was featured on Fox News Sunday 12/14/08. During the program the owner of the Worcester Wreath Company stated he would like to expand the program to include the placement of wreaths on veterans graves across the country.

This video tells more about the current project. We invite you to find out more and join in the effort:

Each year Worcester Wreath Company donates 5000 wreaths to be placed on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery to honor our Veterans during the holidays. This video was put together by the folks at Worcester Wreath, and President Morrill Worcester - to show why they do it. With images of Arlington, family and friends - this is one visual way of saying thank you - to those who serve, to those we've lost, and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms of this Country.

10 December 2008

Armed Services Committee Republicans Highlight Democrat Plan to Cut Defense Spending by Twenty-Five Percent

Note: this is a month old, right before the election, but it was interesting and we'd overlooked...

Republican members on the House Armed Services Committee today called attention to Democrat plans to cut national defense spending by twenty-five percent—or approximately $150 billion from the $607 billion in defense spending that was enacted in Fiscal Year 2008. While meeting with the South Coast Standard-Times, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, called “for a 25 percent cut in military spending” and stated that “we don’t need all these fancy new weapons.”

Rep. Frank’s comments come on the heels of recent statements by other senior Democrats advocating for a reduction in the planned size of the Army and Marine Corps. In an October 2nd Congressional Quarterly article, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa), the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said “[The Defense Department] is going to have to cut personnel in order to pay for procurement. . . . I don't know that they are going to be able to keep growing the Army.” The Department of Defense has proposed—and Congress has enacted—steps to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 and the Marine Corps by 27,000 over the next five years.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Ranking Republican: “The Democratic leadership has given us a preview of the gutting of national security that would take place under a Democrat presidency. This should give an incentive to every American to ensure that this left-wing assault on America’s national defense, which would be disastrous for America’s troops, does not take place.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA): “Providing for America's national security is the government's main responsibility, and on no single issue is the difference in philosophy between Democrats and Republicans more profound. At a time when our nation finds itself in an epic struggle against terrorism, not to mention the potential threats posed by Iran and Russia—among others—it is the height of irresponsibility to suggest that now is the time to drastically slash defense spending. Our military is still trying to recover from being shortchanged during the Clinton Administration, and while the economic challenges we face as a nation will undoubtedly require difficult decisions, rather than looking to cut wasteful spending and duplicative programs, Democrats are already lining up to whack the Department of Defense. It's clear that the misplaced priorities of Congressional liberals could undermine our nation's security, a fact that must not be lost on the American people as we consider to whom to entrust our nation's highest office.”

Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), Ranking Republican on the Military Personnel Subcommittee: “It is staggering to me that a leader in the Democratic Party would come out and say we need to cut defense spending by 25 percent. In my opinion, it would be unconscionable to repeat the mistakes of the past on the back of nearly a decade of direct combat operations. The current economic conditions will likely demand tough choices—but these choices should not be at the expense of our men and women in uniform.

“We can’t dictate defense requirements through drastic spending cuts. Talking about a 25 percent spending reduction in the defense budget with troops on the ground is reckless and, if enacted, could have immediate and long-term consequences for America and those individuals who risk their lives daily to defend our nation.

“Rather than talking about dramatic spending reductions, we instead need to ensure that our baseline defense spending provides the necessary equipment, materiel, and force protection for our Armed Forces. The risk of not providing adequate funding for the military to defend our nation is too great. Based on Mr. Frank’s reported remarks, it is a very unfortunate risk he is willing to take.”

Rep. Terry Everett (R-AL), Ranking Republican on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee: “To slash our nation’s defense budget at any time would be foolish, but for liberals to ponder such draconian cuts when our country is at war with global terrorism and rogue nations are increasingly embolden to challenge our status in the world, is reckless and irresponsible. It’s clear that Frank and others in the liberal leadership of Congress want to use defense as a cash cow for their dreams of government spending that rivals European socialism. If the radical left succeeds in getting an unchecked governing mandate this fall, this country’s defense could be in jeopardy.”

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Ranking Republican on the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee: “It’s very disappointing, but it won’t be surprising to some people that one of the primary authors of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street and key Democratic Congressional liberal protectors of Fannie Mae would propose a $150 billion cut in military spending. That would be a 25 percent cut in defense spending. A 25 percent cut in defense spending would be grossly irresponsible. A 25 percent cut in defense spending will endanger our troops deployed in harm’s way and America’s national security for years to come. It’s even more astonishing considering that Congressional Democratic leaders want to increase the deficit by spending twice as much, $300 billion, for a second stimulus package of domestic spending.”

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA): “The move by Congressional Democrats to arbitrarily cut $150 billion from national defense spending is both dangerous and irresponsible, especially during a time of war. It sends a horrific message to our enemies and displays a lack of Congressional commitment to our military forces. House Democrats are attempting to minimize the need for critical equipment by calling them 'fancy new weapons,' but it should be made clear that withholding that technology will cost human lives. We cannot mortgage our future for short-term gain.”

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL): “These are dangerous and unprecedented times. We are at war with Islamic fundamentalists and face dangerous enemies abroad. Cutting defense spending at this critical time is one of the most irresponsible proposals I have heard. America must be prepared to fight our current war and prepare for future challenges. Our men and women rely on the best weapon systems and equipment to do their jobs. As lawmakers, we owe it to them to provide the best weapons to protect them as they protect us and our families.

“Democrat plans to gut our Defense Department, especially during a time of war, are irresponsible and dangerous. All Americans should be concerned that a Democrat-controlled Congress will continue to cut needed defense spending and use the money for other non-vital social programs.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): “It is disappointing that Democrats seem fully prepared to push through billions in reckless cuts to our national defense. In the face of our efforts to grow our forces and equip them for the challenges of the 21st century, it is downright irresponsible to drastically cut funding for our military – particularly at a time when our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are deployed in combat overseas. Blanket reductions on such a scale would be a willful disregard for the needs of our troops and for the threats that our nation faces.”

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT): “We're still playing catch-up from the last time a Democrat-controlled Congress made the mistake of drastic cuts to defense spending, so it's absurd to even consider reducing support for our troops and national security right now. The better we fund defense, the more options we have, both militarily and diplomatically. Providing for the common defense is one of our few Constitutional responsibilities, and slashing that support would represent a shirking of that responsibility and put our fighting men and women and our country at risk.”

Rep. John Kline (R-MN): “With the increasing demands being placed on our armed forces, Congressman Frank’s proposal to reduce defense spending by 25 percent represents the height of recklessness. A bipartisan consensus has emerged on the House Armed Services Committee about the need to increase the amount of U.S. military personnel to ease the strain on our military families and help prevent the overuse of our National Guard and Reserve components. It would be nearly impossible to ease this burden on our military personnel and their families if defense spending suffers a massive 25 percent cut.

“We need to continue to support our brave sons and daughters in uniform and ensure we keep our promises to our veterans of today and tomorrow. Slashing defense spending in such dramatic fashion would be reckless and irresponsible.”

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY): "At a time when our country is fighting two wars, the Democrats’ proposed $150 billion defense spending cut would impose unnecessary risk upon our nation's service men and women. One of Congress' top priorities should be supporting the brave patriots who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting our country. These men and women deserve to have all the resources they need delivered to them in a timely and efficient manner. Furthermore, the suggestion that we reduce the size of the Army and the Marine Corps would reverse the necessary increases, achieved in recent years, to the strength of our ground forces who bear the brunt of fighting the war on radical Islam.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO): “To suggest cutting the U.S. defense budget by $150 billion, or one-fourth, is not only irresponsible but shows a blatant disregard for the defense of the United States and the safety of our brave men and women in uniform. As we continue the fight against terror, we cannot afford to put our troops in greater danger by not allowing them the best weapons systems and protective devices possible, and we must always ensure that our military is ready for whatever major conflict may arise. In fact, several of my colleagues and I would propose that defense spending should be increased to meet all of the unfunded needs of each branch of the military.”

09 December 2008

Messages From Our Great American Warriors!

Being separated from our loved ones is difficult at best. Knowing our loved ones are fighting for our country and our freedoms make us proud and fearful for their safety.

During this holiday season, please remember our brave men and women who are fighting for our country. Please remember their families here at home.

We ran across this site where there are greetings from some of our patriots overseas. You just may find someone you know. We did note there was one Fayetteville soldier on the list.

Click here to see the list of soldiers and their greetings to us.


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08 December 2008

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Launches 'Center for Oral History,' an Archive of Soldier Experiences

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Launches 'Center for Oral History,' an Archive of Soldier Experiences, from Oldest Living Vets to Troops Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan

/PRNewswire/ -- The United States Military Academy at West Point, whose graduates are commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army, has launched an ambitious Center for Oral History to serve as a living archive on the experiences of American soldiers in war and peace. The Center aims to be a powerful learning tool for West Point cadets and an important research center for historians, as well as a destination for the public to gain greater understanding of the essential and unique calling of the U.S. soldier.

The Center for Oral History, which is supported entirely by donated funds, will exist largely online, with high-definition video and digital audio files, easing access for everyone from campus cadets to scholars, journalists and interested students half a world away. A preview of the site -- including a 12-minute video with excerpts of soldier interviews -- can be seen by linking here: http://www.westpointcoh.org/.

One of the Center's first projects has been to interview members of West Point's Class of 1967, who, upon graduation, were sent almost immediately to the war in Vietnam. Another has been to interview soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a comprehensive, anecdotal account of those current campaigns. Researchers are also gathering material from veterans of World War II, Vietnam and the so-called "forgotten war" in Korea. By definition, the Center will be a work in perpetual progress, continuously updated as history unfolds.

The objective is to assemble an unrivaled video, audio and text record of military life -- in the field, as well as in the classroom and also the "war room," since the Center hopes to include interviews with senior Pentagon strategists and former Secretaries of Defense and State who have helped shape military and foreign policy.

But its core mission is to capture the personal narratives of those who have lived the military life. As stated on the Center's home page: "Every solider has a story. Here is where the story is told."

In one vivid excerpt, Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, West Point Class of 1989, recalls the explosion in Iraq that cost him both of his legs: "I saw the flash and I heard the boom and I was ejected from the vehicle. It really is almost like time slows down. I can remember being tossed around inside the vehicle and landing on the ground. That's when time went back to normal, as I came to a rolling stop and I saw the vehicle continue forward."

Other early video segments capture testimony of the many competing observations and feelings unique to soldiering. Marshall Carter, West Point Class of 1962, who went on to become chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, remembers being on one of 12 helicopters hit by enemy fire trying to land in a Vietnam combat zone. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Farrell, Class of 1986, recalls facing an insurgent on the streets of Iraq and having to seek permission from a superior officer to "kill this individual to neutralize the threat."

At the same time, interviews dispel any knee-jerk notion of soldiers numb to the moral issues they confront. As one cadet recalls of his own tense confrontation in Iraq, "A big part of my job at that moment is not to freak out -- not to emotionally fall apart." Another admits of his time in combat: "Think about what your moral compass is -- because you will be challenged with situations that are morally, ethically gray."

Early interviews also reveal the unshakable sense of duty that West Point cadets carry into battle. Jim Kimsey, Class of 1962, who later co-founded AOL, describes the feeling: "The best lesson I learned was on the first day I arrived at the Academy. They told me immediately that there were three answers to every question -- 'Yes, sir; No, sir; No excuse, sir.' You were responsible for your own actions. If you're a platoon leader and you're leading your platoon up a hill and you get half your guys killed, and you're writing letters to their mothers about why they died, there's no excuse. You got them killed."

General Petraeus Comments

Among those welcoming the new Center is General David Petraeus, a 1974 graduate of the Academy who recently assumed his new post as Commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) after having served as Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

"Our Army has a proud history, one that is chronicled in innumerable books and films. This Center aims to record our Army's history in a different way, through the personal oral histories of our soldiers captured by thorough, thoughtful interviews," General Petraeus said.

"It is exciting to think what will be preserved for posterity by this endeavor. It will capture moments of introspection by our soldiers, personal recollections of the tragedies and triumphs of combat. I applaud the Center for Oral History's effort to expand our nation's repository of spoken history by recording the experiences of American soldiers from World War II to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This is an exciting prospect."

Bridging the Gap between Soldier and Civilian

"In the best West Point tradition, we hope our recorded interviews will speak directly to the soldiers of tomorrow, preparing them for battlefields they might find themselves on," said the Center's director, Todd Brewster. "They will be a primary source archive for historians -- and just as important, for the general public. Ever since the U.S. instituted a volunteer Army, there has been a growing gap in perspective between soldiers and the public whom they defend and represent. An easily accessible archive of soldiers' stories will go a long way toward reconciling the cultural and occupational divide between soldier and civilian."

Mr. Brewster, a veteran journalist who has written for Time, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Life and The New Republic, has also taught journalism, documentary film and constitutional law at Yale and Wesleyan. He co-wrote, along with the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, the best-selling books In Search of America and The Century, the latter a look at the 20th century through oral histories of Americans both prominent and unsung. He also served as an ABC News senior producer for two award-winning documentary series based upon the books he wrote with Mr. Jennings.

"Imagine if we had had an oral history center in 1802, when West Point was founded and the first class of cadets arrived," Mr. Brewster suggested. "Or if we had one during the Civil War, with stories from the armies of Grant and Lee; or from Pershing in World War I; or Eisenhower and MacArthur."

"Eyewitness accounts are among the most riveting and telling parts of any history, but especially those surrounding armed conflict," he added. "Very few non-soldiers have been through the heat of battle. Soldiers' personal stories are a largely untapped mine of military insight and historical testimony."

Serving as the Center's deputy director is Dr. Patrick Jennings, a military historian and former U.S. Marine who as an Army National Guardsman was deployed as a combat historian on three separate tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan, conducting interviews with hundreds of combat soldiers and officers. Dr. Jennings also served as a field historian for the Army at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Noted Advisory Board Includes Military Scholars, Journalists

The Center has the benefit of a Board of Advisors composed of military scholars, journalists, government officials and filmmakers to help set its agenda, develop new projects and content, and assist with fund-raising.

In addition to a number of tenured and well-published military historians from around the country, board members include Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft, a 1947 West Point graduate whose long government career included serving as National Security Advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush; Rick Atkinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post and author of several major accounts of American wars, including The Long Gray Line and An Army at Dawn; Martha Raddatz, longtime correspondent for ABC News, who covered the Pentagon for National Public Radio and authored The Long Road Home (2007), the account of a surprise attack on the Army's First Calvary Division in Iraq; and Ken Burns, whose opus The Civil War heralded a new standard for multi-part documentaries, which he followed with Baseball, Jazz and The War.

Ken Burns: "Recording Memories of Those Who Were There"

Mr. Burns offered his views on the launch of the Center as a filmmaker who frequently makes use of oral history interviews. "One of the motivations behind my most recent film, The War, was the realization that the World War II generation was passing away. I felt we needed to capture the words of those that fought in that war before it was too late. West Point's new Center for Oral History is a venture inspired by a similar passion for recording the memories of those who were there -- whether 'there' meant Normandy, Saigon, or the streets of Baghdad," Mr. Burns said.

"As this important archive is built, it will stand as poetic testimony to the idea that wars are fought not only by the armies of strong nations, they are also fought by men and women whose stories are rich with the fabric of life," he added. "Oral history is about fear and courage, tragedy and triumph, without it history itself is incomplete."

COH Joins Centers for Terrorism and Study of the Rule of Law

Much of the credit for creating the Center goes to Col. Lance Betros, who took over as head of West Point's history department in 2005 and marshaled resources to secure initial funding and recruited senior faculty to help develop some of the early content.

The COH joins two other Centers of Excellence on the West Point campus -- the Combating Terrorism Center and the Center for the Rule of Law. Each is independently funded and was developed to expand cadets' academic opportunities without adding to the Academy's curricular budget.

"It's a great privilege to formally launch our new oral history initiative as part of the overall program for intellectual and professional development of cadets," Col. Betros said. "West Point is obviously in a unique position to be able to tap into the experiences and insights of America's military leadership, starting with 1,000 or so cadet-lieutenants who graduate from our campus every year. The archive we're creating with our oral histories will span several generations of American soldiering, and in many instances provide the real back stories to headline events from the world's hot spots. These interviews offer a truly rare perspective on our collective history in the making."

Col. Betros added, "We are particularly fortunate in our choice of professionals to lead the Center, including Todd Brewster, a veteran journalist who brings a strong commitment to editorial integrity along with a feel for the individual stories that shape historical events and Patrick Jennings, a distinguished field historian as well as a former Marine and Army Guardsman with operational experience around the world, and Todd, who has managed a number of large-scale documentary projects, has also helped assemble a first-rate advisory board to help us on all aspects of our mission."

Col. Betros noted that the Center arrives as the use of oral history plays an increasing role in mainstream teaching. For instance, Columbia University this fall launched the country's first accredited master's degree program in oral history -- a one-year multi-disciplinary program focused on the "documentation, preservation and interpretation of historical information based on personal experiences."

Revisiting Vietnam War with West Point Class of '67

The Center will develop projects devoted to different aspects of soldiers' lives -- as well as different eras in soldiering. One of the highlights is that compilation of interviews with members of the West Point Class of 1967, young officers who entered active duty at a pivotal time in the Vietnam War and later returned to steer the Army's course on behalf of a nation reeling from social unrest and political scandal.

Other subjects expected to be tackled through the Center's oral histories:

-- Wartime decisions of former Secretaries of Defense, State, and the
Army, along with key members of Congress;
-- The place of religious faith in soldiers' lives;
-- Case studies on insurgency, bioterrorism, the surge in Iraq and other
topical subjects of warfare based on cross-section interviews with
returning troops, military leaders and policy makers;
-- The historic role of athletics among West Point cadets, through
interviews with soldier-athletes and former coaches of the legendary
Army football team and other sports teams, many of whose players went
on to illustrious professional sports careers;
-- Retrospective views on World War I, the Civil War and other major
American conflicts offered by visiting historians and West Point's
faculty;
-- Contemporary social changes as experienced at West Point itself,
through oral histories with the Academy's former superintendents,
deans, commandants, cadets, and others.


Also in the works are publishing and broadcasting projects based on the rich lode of content the Center gathers. Discussions are underway with the renowned Fred Friendly Seminars, whose charged situational debates have been broadcast on PBS. Mr. Brewster is working to develop a Fred Friendly program at West Point to take on the subject of fighting insurgencies, bringing together a hypothetical cast of players ranging from the President and Secretary of Defense to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a policy maven and even a White House press officer.

Offering "Witness to History" Accounts

"There are days that are just gut-wrenchingly hard, and you say, 'Can I make a difference? Why do I keep doing this?' When you look at history, and at people who endured and sacrificed, you say, 'Yes, you can: you can make a difference.' Oral history helps us with that." Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, West Point Class of 1981.

In hoping to draw maximum traffic and general interest users in addition to scholars, the Center will utilize universal search technology so that anyone searching the web for primary source interviews with veterans and soldiers will see links to the West Point content. Like a true archive, the site will have virtual rooms and chapters dedicated to certain subjects and periods in military history, from the Civil War to Vietnam and Iraq. Links to other web sites offering veterans' interviews will also be provided. The oral histories will be integrated into West Point's own curriculum, so that professors can easily draw from interviews as part of their own course materials.

"Our new Center offers so many benefits both on and off campus, allowing our cadets as well as researchers around the world quick access to the witness-to-history accounts of soldiers of all ranks and service branches, as far back as we are able to find and going forward with the march of time," said Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, West Point's superintendent. Gen. Hagenbeck is featured in a twelve-minute video introducing the Center in which he acknowledges his own hard choices in combat: "I've been in situations," he says in an interview, "that have caused me to send lots of soldiers in harm's way."

"Of course, we all have our wish list of hearing from soldiers who would offer fascinating insights on how they coped, how they pressed on, and perhaps where they hesitated," Gen. Hagenbeck continued. "West Point has so had so many distinguished graduates in its 206-year history. I would like to have heard from one of my favorites, Ulysses S. Grant. In the future, our cadets will have the opportunity to hear directly from their peers and their mentors through this rich lode of oral histories."

The Center for Oral History web site is being developed by HUGE, a leading interactive design agency with that has developed online presences for such major brands as JetBlue Airways, IKEA, Warner Music, The Street.com, and Time, Inc.

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04 December 2008

VA Opening 31 New Outpatient Clinics

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Veterans will have easier access to world-class health care under a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plan to open 31 new outpatient clinics in 16 states.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today announced VA will establish new clinics in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

"VA is committed to providing world-class health care to the men and women who have served this nation," Peake said. "These new clinics will bring VA's top-notch care closer to the veterans who have earned it."

With 153 hospitals and about 745 community-based clinics, VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country. VA's medical care budget of more than $41 billion this year will provide health care to about 5.8 million people during nearly 600,000 hospitalizations and more than 62 million outpatient visits.

"Community-based medicine is better medicine," said Dr. Michael Kussman, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "It makes preventative care easier for patients, helps health care professionals have closer relationships with their patients and permits easier follow-ups for patients with chronic health problems."

The community-based outpatient clinics, or CBOCs, will become operational by late 2010, with some opening in 2009. Local VA officials will keep communities and their veterans informed of milestones in the creation of the new CBOCs.

VA's Proposed Sites for New Outpatient Clinics
Alabama -- Monroe County (2010)
Arkansas -- Faulkner County (2010), Pope County (2010)

California -- Lake County (2010), Oakhurst (2010), Susanville (2010), Yuba County (2010)

Florida -- Brandon (2010), Clermont (2010)
Georgia -- Blairsville (2010)
Hawaii -- Leeward (Honolulu, 2010)
Illinois -- Carbondale (2009), Harrisburg (2010), Sterling (2010)
Iowa -- Decorah (2010)
Maryland -- Fort Meade (2010), Montgomery County (2010)

Michigan -- Bad Axe (2010), Cadillac (2010), Cheboygan (2010), Grayling (2010)

Minnesota -- Southern central border (2010), Southwest metro area (exact locations to be determined, 2010)

Mississippi -- Pike County (2010)
Missouri -- Excelsior Springs (2009), Sikeston (2009), Sedalia (2010)
North Carolina -- Edenton-Elizabeth City (2010), Goldsboro (2010)
Pennsylvania -- Cranberry Township (2009)
Vermont -- Brattleboro (2010)

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03 December 2008

National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center: A World-Class Tribute to the Unforgotten Soldier

Imagine waking to the sound of 155 mm Howitzers before dawn…digging a foxhole to sleep in…being wounded in hand-to-hand combat…moving through rough terrain to perform perilous reconnaissance missions. Imagine giving years of your life in service for your country…Now imagine giving up your life for your country. This is the everyday experience of the United States Army Infantryman.

For centuries, the Infantryman has paid the price for American freedom, yet his valor and sacrifice have gone largely unrecognized. For example, it is not widely known that…

· Approximately 80 percent of the U.S. armed forces war dead are represented by the Infantry.
· Infantrymen have earned more than half the 3,467 Medals of Honor awarded.
· No war in the history of the world has been won without Infantry.

Now the Infantryman’s stories of courage, sacrifice and honor have found a home at the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park in Columbus, GA. Opening in March 2009, this is the first world-class site to pay tribute to the U.S. Army Infantryman and those who fight alongside him. No other museum in the country focuses on military history from the perspective of the Infantry.

The new National Infantry Museum takes visitors on an immersive, interactive journey -- as experienced by the Infantryman--through every war fought by the U.S. over the past two centuries-- from the American Revolution to Operation Iraqi Freedom. An easy 90-minute drive from Atlanta, the new National Infantry Museum is a must-see attraction for freedom-loving people around the world. It is the only interactive Army Museum in the U.S. and it engages visitors in the unique experiences of the Infantry Soldier with features such as...

· A museum collection, valued at over $30 million, featuring Hermann Goering’s actual Field Marshal baton; a POW coat and trousers from the Gulf War; actual MIA/KIA telegrams; a Civil War battle drum and more.
· Galleries chock full of engaging exhibits with themes highlighting Infantry experiences in military training, Medal of Honor recipients, the OCS training experience, the contributions of Rangers and more.
· 300-seat IMAX Theater bringing giant screen movies to the Columbus, GA region for the first time.
· Educational exhibits such as “The Last 100 Yards,” which highlights eight defining battles from the 233-year history of the Infantry.
· The “Fort Benning Gallery,” which includes the history of the post, its schools, training and the transformation of men into Soldiers, and a firing range simulator.

The 200-acre museum site is adjacent to historic Fort Benning, known as the “Home of the Infantry.” The famed United States Army Infantry School was established at Fort Benning and, through the years, this institution emerged as the most influential Infantry center in the modern world. The complex also includes the parade field, memorial walk of honor, an authentic World War II Company Street and other attractions. For more information, visit www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com.
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02 December 2008

Enhancement of Regular Refinancing Loans to Veterans

/PRNewswire/ -- The Veteran's Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, Public Law 110-389, was recently signed into law by the President. This law addresses changes to the VA (Veteran's Administration) Loan Guaranty Program of which MoneyLine Lending is a sponsored lender. This bill, in addition to low fixed interest rates, improves and enhances housing benefits for veterans.

"The federal government and the mortgage industry have partnered to assist veteran homeowners who have been negatively impacted by recent changes in the economy, or are concerned about the future," says Steve Gebhardt, Vice President, MoneyLine Lending. "This is an excellent opportunity for veterans to take advantage of saving money." Gebhardt adds, "The average American is carrying $9,200 in credit card debt. This is another way that veterans can take advantage of the benefits that lead to savings offered in this new law."

Effective immediately, the maximum guaranty amount for regular refinancing loans is the same as the maximum guaranty amount for purchase loans. This means that regular refinancing loans are now available for up to 100 percent of the appraised value of a home, an increase from VA's previous threshold of 90 percent. This allows veterans to take full advantage of the true benefits of Homeownership.

"For veterans, this translates to immediate savings and financial freedom." says Gebhardt. "Those who qualify can benefit by lowering their interest rate and eliminating debt. We encourage veterans to take advantage of this newly passed bill for their financial benefit. We can help veterans understand these benefits."

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25 November 2008

U.S. Army to Equip National Guard Unit With Future Combat System Aerial Robots

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Army's commitment to equipping its total force with Future Combat System (FCS) capabilities continues as the first Army National Guard unit -- the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania National Guard begins training next month with the FCS-developed gasoline-powered Micro Air Vehicle (gMAV) prior to the unit's deployment to Iraq in January.

The gMAV is a precursor technology to the FCS program's Class I Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) that will be fielded to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams starting in 2011. The Class I UAV is currently under evualation by Soldiers of the Army's Evaluation Task Force at Fort Bliss, Texas. The gMAV is man packable and provides a hover and stare capability not currently present in either Army or Air Force UAV inventories. Its sensor platform can take still and video imagery, which provides key intelligence for precision targeting and surveillance operations.

The 56th Stryker Brigade will replace elements of the 2/25th Stryker Brigade who have used the gMAV for reconnaissance and convoy protection operations while deployed to Iraq and participated in extensive gMAV testing and evaluation experiments prior to that.

"This fielding is unique as the 56th Stryker Brigade represents the first National Guard Unit to use FCS developed Unmanned Air Vehicles," said Army Major Gregg Dellert, FCS assistant product manager for Micro Air Vehicle and Class I Block Zero Unmanned Air Vehicles. "The 2/25th Stryker Brigade has been using the gMAV for some time now, but we expect to gain new insight from the fresh user perspective the guard unit will bring."

The gMAV started life as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiative but battlefield needs, as stressed by a Joint Operational Needs Statement endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2006, helped put the gMAV in the hands of Soldiers deployed to Iraq. The gMAV has also been successfully used in theater by the Navy as part of a joint task force ordnance explosive disposal unit.

Starting in early December, Dellert will train 10 Guardsmen from 56th Stryker Brigade during a course on gMAV fundamentals and field use. Once deployed, these Soldiers will then be responsible for training gMAV operators. The 56th Stryker Brigade will use 15 gMAVs for reconnaissance and other protection operations. Due to their mission, it is expected that the National Guard Soldiers will find different ways to use the gMAV in theater. "In terms of both the future development of the gMAV and the FCS Class I UAV, having a fresh set of eyes will prove very useful. These National Guard Soldiers will help our FCS developers make sure that future versions of these UAVs will have all capabilities required for robust mission sets."

Future Combat Systems is the cornerstone of the Army's modernization efforts, consisting of a family of new combat vehicles, unmanned aerial and ground systems and unattended ground sensors and munitions all connected by a state-of-the-art network.

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19 November 2008

Understanding The New Veterans Educational Assistance Act

(NAPSI)-For individuals who served on active military duty on or after September 11, 2001, a new piece of legislation can help further education goals-or perhaps create new ones.

The Post−9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post−9/11 GI Bill, provides veterans with financial benefits for any approved program offered by a school that is authorized to grant an associate (or higher) degree.

These questions may help shed light on the subject for people who have recently served or are currently serving in the military, as well as their families:

Q. Am I eligible?

A. You may be eligible if you served at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after September 10, 2001.

You may also be eligible if you were honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001.

Q. When can I receive benefits under the Bill?

A. Post−9/11 GI Bill benefits are payable for training that begins on or after August 1, 2009. No payments can be made under this program for training pursued before that date.

Q. How much will I receive?

A. Based on your length of active-duty service, you may be entitled to a percentage of the following:

4 Cost of tuition and fees, not to exceed the most expensive instate undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education;

4 Monthly housing allowance equal to the basic allowance for housing payable to a military E-5 with dependents. The amount of the housing allowance is based on the ZIP code of the school and is not payable to individuals training at half-time or less or attending distance learning;

4 Yearly books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 per year (paid to you); and

4 A one-time payment of $500 paid to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas.

Q. How many months of assistance can I receive?

A. Generally, you may receive up to 36 months of benefits under the Post−9/11 GI Bill.

Q. How long am I eligible?

A. You will be eligible for benefits for 15 years from your last period of active duty of at least 90 consecutive days.

Q. Can I transfer my entitlement to my dependents?

A. If you are a member of the Armed Forces on August 1, 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) may offer you the opportunity to transfer benefits to your spouse or dependent children. DoD and the military services will issue policy on entitlement to transferability benefit in the coming months.

For up-to-date information on this and other education benefits, visit www.gibill.va.gov.

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Southern Company Recognized as Military-Friendly Employer by G.I. Jobs Magazine

PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Southern Company (NYSE:SO) has been named one of the nation's 50 most "military-friendly" employers for the third consecutive year by G.I. Jobs magazine, the nation's premier career guide for military job-seekers.

The honored companies were selected based on their assets dedicated to military hiring, the strength of their military recruiting efforts and their policies addressing National Guard and reserve service, among other criteria. Approximately 2,500 corporations with annual revenues of at least $1 billion were surveyed for this year's list.

"Southern Company is proud to be recognized by G.I. Jobs for the third consecutive year," said Alan Martin, executive vice president, Southern Company and president & CEO, Southern Company Services. "Military veterans fit well into our company culture because of their strong work ethic, advanced technical skills, adaptability and excellent leadership style -- all qualities we value at Southern Company."

G.I. Jobs helps provide training and career opportunities for veterans and those in transition from military to civilian employment. The 2008 list of military-friendly employers is featured in the December issue of the magazine.

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18 November 2008

Chairman Promises Wounded Warriors They Will be Cared for, Remembered

The United States will not forget the servicemembers who have made incredible sacrifices on the nation's behalf, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the "A Salute to Our Troops" dinner sponsored by United Service Organizations and Microsoft earlier this month in New York.

"I promise you we will never, ever forget," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said told the 25 wounded warriors, their guests and corporate representatives. "You are our inspiration, and we care for you, and we will always care for you."

Nor, Mullen said, would the country forget the families who have stood beside the servicemembers.

"I give equal praise to the family members ... as well as those who sacrificed so much," he added. "You're very special people. You have given more than any of us really know."

Mullen had said earlier that as with many other events where he has the opportunity to interact with servicemembers, he would take away far more from the night than he would give.

Elaine Rogers, president of USO of Metropolitan Washington, echoed that sentiment.

"You all are so incredibly special," she told the wounded warriors during the dinner. "For us to share a day like today with you is the greatest gift that we have."

The wounded warriors -- on a weekend trip from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio -- will have some great experiences to take home, as well.

They arrived Nov. 7 and were warmly welcomed during a reception at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. Hosted by the USO in partnership with Microsoft, the troops were treated to one-on-one time with celebrities such as James Brown, host of CBS television's "The NFL Today," comedian Ben Bailey, actress Carmen Electra, and country music singer-songwriter Stephen Cochran, a former Marine who broke his back in six places when he was ambushed while serving in Afghanistan.

That however, was just the warm-up for the rest of the weekend.

Yesterday, the group began with a chilly, but cheery, boat tour that took them past many historical sites including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Ground Zero. Then it was off to Little Italy for lunch and a brief performance by the USO Liberty Belles.

Despite the threatening weather, the majority of the group elected to attend a scheduled ceremony at Ground Zero after lunch. It was brief and emotional for many, yet still a highlight, for many of the servicemembers.

"It was kind of emotional, because ... that's where it all started -- the wars," said Army Cpl. Taylor Harder. "I've been there before, but I've never actually got to see down inside."

Harder's right foot was shattered in January when a roadside bomb detonated during a route-clearing mission in Iraq. He's currently recovering at Walter Reed.

"This afternoon, being at Ground Zero, that's very emotional," said Army Spc. Catherine Neary. "It's something that I won't forget."

Neary was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring while serving at Camp Victory, Iraq.

The experience of visiting the site where it all began may have been tough for the troops, but the evening was downright fun. With American tenor Roberto Iarussi singing the national anthem and a brief operatic selection and some heartfelt country tunes from Cochran, the evening ended on an "up" note.

Before heading for home, the servicemembers will attend a special performance tomorrow of the Radio City Music Hall's "Christmas Spectacular," featuring the Rockettes. They'll be part of an audience of 5,000 servicemembers and their families invited to the show as a larger piece of USO and Microsoft's "A Salute to Our Troops" weekend.

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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14 November 2008

U.S. Department of Labor Final Rule will Expand FMLA for Military Families and Clarify Rules for Workers and Employers

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor will publish a final rule on Nov. 17 to update its regulations under the 15-year-old Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- a measure that will help workers and their employers better understand their rights and responsibilities, and speed the implementation of a new law that expands FMLA coverage for military family members.

"This final rule, for the first time, gives America's military families special job-protected leave rights to care for brave service men and women who are wounded or injured, and also helps families of members of the National Guard and Reserves manage their affairs when their service member is called up for active duty," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "At the same time, the final rule provides needed clarity about general FMLA rights and obligations for both workers and employers."

"This common sense, balanced rule is the product of a two year-long transparent process involving about 20,000 public comments and reflects the careful consideration of the views of FMLA's stakeholders," said Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration.

Provisions in the final rule call for increased notice obligations for employers so that employees will better understand their FMLA rights, while revising the employee notice rules to minimize workplace disruptions due to unscheduled FMLA absences. The final rule also contains technical changes that reflect decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts.

Featured final rule actions implementing the statutory expansion of FMLA for military families:

Military Caregiver Leave: Implements the requirement to expand FMLA protections for family members caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty. These family members are able to take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

Leave for Qualifying Exigencies for Families of National Guard and Reserves: The law allows families of National Guard and Reserve personnel on active duty to take FMLA job-protected leave to manage their affairs - "qualifying exigencies." The rule defines "qualifying exigencies" as: (1) short-notice deployment (2) military events and related activities (3) childcare and school activities (4) financial and legal arrangements (5) counseling (6) rest and recuperation (7) post-deployment activities and (8) additional activities where the employer and employee agree to the leave.

ADDITIONAL REGULATORY PROVISIONS:

The Ragsdale Decision/Penalties: The updated rule contains technical changes to be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Ragsdale v. Wolverine World Wide Inc. The court ruled that the regulation's so-called "categorical" penalty (requiring an employer to provide 12 additional weeks of FMLA-protected leave after the employee had already taken 30 weeks of leave) was inconsistent with the statutory limit of only 12 weeks of FMLA leave and contrary to the law's remedial requirement that an employee demonstrate individual harm. The new rule removes these penalties and clarifies that if an employee suffers individual harm because the employer did not follow the notification rules, the employer may be liable.

Waiver of Rights: The department has finalized its longstanding position that employees may voluntarily settle their FMLA claims without court or departmental approval. However, prospective waivers of FMLA rights will continue to be prohibited.

Serious Health Condition: While the rule retains the six individual definitions of "serious health condition," it adds guidance on some regulatory matters. First, it clarifies that if an employee is taking leave involving more than three consecutive calendar days of incapacity plus two visits to a health care provider, the two visits must occur within 30 days of the period of incapacity. Second, it defines "periodic visits to a health care provider" for chronic serious health conditions as at least two visits to a health care provider per year.

Light Duty: At least two courts have held that an employee uses up his or her 12-week FMLA leave while on a "light duty" assignment. Under the final rule, time spent in "light duty" work does not count against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement, and the employee's right to job restoration is held in abeyance during the light duty period. If an employee is voluntarily doing light duty work, he or she is not on FMLA leave.

Perfect Attendance Awards: The final rule changes how perfect attendance awards are treated to allow employers to deny a "perfect attendance" award to an employee who does not have perfect attendance because he or she took FMLA leave - but only if the employer treats employees taking non-FMLA leave in an identical way.

Employer Notice Obligations: The final rule consolidates all employer notice requirements into a "one-stop" section of the regulations to clear up some conflicting provisions and time periods. Further, the final rule clarifies and strengthens the employer notice requirements to employees in order that employers will better inform employees about their FMLA rights and obligations, and allow for a smoother exchange of information between employers and employees.

Employee Notice: The final rule modifies the current provision that had been interpreted to allow some employees to notify their employers of their need for FMLA leave up to two full business days after an absence, even if they could provide notice sooner. Under the final rule, the employee must follow the employer's normal and customary call-in procedures, unless there are unusual circumstances.

Medical Certification Process (Content and Clarification): The final rule, which is the result of significant stakeholder feedback (including a September 2007 meeting at the department on "medical certifications"), recognizes the advent of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the applicability of HIPAA's medical privacy rule to communications between employers and employees' health care providers. Responding to concerns about medical privacy, the rule adds a requirement that limits who may contact the health care provider and bans an employee's direct supervisor from making the contact.

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Purple Heart Foundation Makes $75,000 Grant to National Army Museum Capital Campaign

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (MOPHSF) — the Nation’s only veterans service organization dedicated to the service of combat-wounded veterans — announced today that it has made a $75,000 grant to the National Army Museum Capital Campaign to assist the Army Historical Foundation with its development efforts to construct a museum to honor America’s oldest military branch.

“Our mission is to help all veterans and their families, particularly our combat-wounded citizen Soldiers,” said R. Louis Spinelli, first vice president of the MOPHSF, who attended the presentation ceremony held at the Army Historical Foundation’s offices in Arlington, Virginia. “Part of that mission is enhancing the public’s understanding of – and support for – the men and women who are serving as well as the role of their families. The National Army Museum will offer a beautiful and stirring venue for making that goal a reality and we’re pleased to be supporting its development efforts.”

“We think it’s important for people to remember the strong and courageous history of citizen Soldiers serving our military,” said Gregory Bresser, MOPHSF acting executive director. “This is particularly important now, with our country at war. The men and women who are in harm’s way today are all heroes because they wanted to serve, because they volunteered to serve, and because they serve with pride. This museum will be a testament to their efforts.”

“The Purple Heart Foundation is the first veterans service organization to make a major contribution to the Museum project,” said MG John P. Herrling (USA-Ret.), campaign executive director, in accepting the gift. “Veterans are playing a vital role in supporting the museum, and we appreciate their commitment to making it a reality.”

About the National Army Museum and Foundation

The National Army Museum will be a magnificent state-of-the-art facility built to honor America's Soldiers, preserve the history of America's oldest military branch, and educate all American's about the Army's role in our Nation's development.

Fort Belvoir, Virginia, one of the country’s most prominent defense installations, will be home to the new museum, which is scheduled to open its doors to the public in 2013.

The Army Historical Foundation was established in 1983 as a member-based, publicly supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preserving the history and heritage of the American Soldier. The Foundation is not a governmental agency. It depends on funds from memberships, donations, and grants for support.

The Foundation is actively engaged in supporting the National Museum of the United States Army by carrying out a major $200 million Capital Campaign. In 2000, the Secretary of the Army designated the Foundation as its primary partner in the building of the National Museum.

For more information, visit www.armyhistory.org.

About the Purple Heart Service Foundation

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation provides pioneering programs to meet today’s challenges faced by combat-wounded veterans and their families. Among its other activities, the organization provides online job training through its Veterans Business Training Center to disabled and combat-wounded veterans. The VBTC, which uses web-based learning technology to recruit and train qualified veterans for careers in the teleservices industry, maximizes the students’ prior military training and skills for application to the information industry. The VBTC also offers veterans employment opportunities through its Purple Heart Call Center operations which provide teleservices to third parties and to the Foundation.

For more information, visit www.purpleheartfoundation.org.

The Foundation also operates Purple Heart Radio, an Internet radio site dedicated to issues of interest to Purple Heart recipients and the veterans’ community at large. Purple Heart Radio is continuously streaming on the Internet at http://www.purpleheartradio.com.

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13 November 2008

U.S. Army Developed Missile System Aids in Protecting New Class of Navy Ship

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Future Combat Systems Non Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) is poised to play a critical role in protecting the U.S. Navy's newly commissioned Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom as well as enabling its mission to maintain dominance in strategic coastal areas around the world where enemies operate and hide.

The 378-foot Freedom, along with its sister ship, Independence, being built in Mobile Alabama, represents a new class of ship for the Navy and is central in that service's move toward establishing even better battlespace dominance in the littoral (coastline) areas. Freedom is designed to operate quickly in shallow water to counter threats in costal regions, specifically mines, submarines and the fast in-shore attack craft (FIAC) that present a large threat in the littorals. At the core of this counter-FIAC capability is USS Freedom's use of the Future Combat System NLOS-LS.

NLOS-LS is being developed as part of the Army's Future Combat Systems program and will provide Soldiers with a rapidly deployable precision fires delivery system. NLOS-LS capability is one of the first Future Combat Systems components scheduled to be fielded to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams in 2011. The NLOS-LS consists of a rapidly deployable networked container launch unit that houses 15 Precision Attack Missiles. Through the network, NLOS-LS can accept remote mission commands and conduct firing operations without the use of an attendant crew and attack a variety of targets. The unit is platform independent and can quickly be installed on ground, manned and unmanned vehicles.

In the Navy application, four 15-missile NLOS-LS Container Launch Units (CLUs) are integrated together into one 60-missile mission module. Littoral Combat Ships will have weapons zones for up to three mission modules per ship. Therefore, depending on the operation, as many as 180 NLOS-LS Precision Attack Missiles (PAMs) may be available to the ship Captain to counter the FIAC threat. Adapting the NLOS-LS for Navy use represents commitment among military services to ensure warfighting success by continuing to develop the joint warfighting force concept and building jointness in early - in the case of NLOS-LS, at the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of acquisition .

"The U.S. Navy is moving toward using a sea base approach -- being able to deploy and control enough resources from an offshore location that we will not need to rely on a foreign country to establish a base of operations," said NLOS-LS Project Office Navy Liaison Allan Ashley. "NLOS-LS is critical to protecting ownship - the LCS itself -- but is also crucial to a range of counter -FIAC missions in the littorals, including for instance, protecting a portion of the Sea Base, a Marine landing operation, maritime special operations missions, and counter - piracy activities In short, NLOS-LS not only protects our ship and sea base assets but our Marines and Navy SEALS as they go ashore and conduct other operations in the littoral battlespace."

USS Freedom was commissioned Nov. 8 during a ceremony in Wisconsin where she is sponsored by Birgit Smith, the widow of Medal of Honor Awardee Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith who was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Testing to determine the system's ability to track against Fast In-Shore Attack Craft target sets was successfully completed in August in the waters off Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. Those tests provided valuable performance and measurement data on the system's ability to perform in combat. The next test of the system is scheduled for early 2009 and will evaluate NLOS-LS capabilities in a different water environment.

Future Combat Systems is the cornerstone of the Army's modernization efforts, consisting of a family of new combat vehicles, unmanned aerial and ground systems and unattended ground sensors and munitions all connected by a state-of-the-art network.

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12 November 2008

VA Secretary: America Keeps Lincoln's Promise to Veterans

As he prepares to observe his first Veterans Day as Veterans Affairs secretary, Dr. James B. Peake said he believes the United States is living up to Abraham Lincoln's pledge to care for "him who has borne the battle, and his widow and his orphan."

Those words from Lincoln's second inaugural address are inscribed at the entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters here. They serve as a mantra for a VA workforce that provides healthcare to more than 7.5 million veterans and benefits to more than 3.5 million veterans.

Peake said the VA is taking advantage of technology and medical breakthroughs in ways Lincoln would never have dreamed possible . "I think he would be pretty proud," Peake told American Forces Press Service. "He'd say, 'You're fulfilling the promise."

A retired Army lieutenant general, Peake understands the significance of that promise in a way most Americans couldn't. He was wounded twice in battle as an infantry officer during the Vietnam War. His acceptance letter to Cornell University Medical College arrived as he was in the hospital recovering from his wounds.

Following the footsteps laid by his parents -- his father, a medical services officer and his mother -- an Army nurse, Peake attended medical school on an Army scholarship, returned to the Army for his medical internships and residencies and built his career in Army medicine. Ultimately, Peake became the 40th Army surgeon general.

Now Veterans Affairs secretary, Peake said he's gratified by continued support that ensures the VA can continue providing first-class care and benefits for veterans, including those returning from combat.

"Since 2001, the president and Congress have provided the Department of Veterans Affairs with a 98 percent increase in funding, and with the guidance and support to enable VA to honor America's debt to the men and women whose patriotic service and sacrifice have kept our nation free and prosperous," Peake said in his Veterans Day message. Health-care funding alone doubled during the past seven years, he said.

This funding has enabled the VA to reach out to more veterans and provide better, more effective services, he said, listing just a few of many new initiatives. VA hired more new mental-health professionals and expanded its community-based outreach. It opened more Vet Centers and laid plans for more to come. It began putting a fleet of motor coaches into service to take counseling services closer to the veterans who need it.

"We are trying to appropriately leverage technology and the tools to provide access to veterans, no matter where they are," Peake said. "That way, it is not your address that decides whether or not you get your benefits."

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move authorized by the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 signed into law last month, the VA began offering VA-guaranteed home loans to veterans with more expensive and risky subprime mortgages.

Much of the VA's focus has been on care for the 850,000 newest veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA hired transition patient advocates to help severely wounded troops and their families work their way through the transition process and federal recovery coordinators to ensure life-long medical and rehabilitative care services and other benefits for families. More claims processors are on boar d to reduce the backlog in processing disability claims.

Peake called these examples an indication that the VA is on the right track in providing care for what we called "the best educated, best trained, best selected military we have ever had coming back, reentering society...to become the next greatest generation."

He praised the commitment of his staff – 31 percent of them veterans themselves – and called them the spirit that makes every day Veterans Day at the VA. "You see that celebrated when you go to our VA," he said. There's a special level of dedication and commitment here."

Tomorrow, as he attends observances at Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial, then sits down to dinner with patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Peake said he'll feel gratified to see the United States observe the commemoration President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed as Armistice Day in 1919.

He urged all Americans to recognize Veterans Day, either at the 33 major national observances taking place across the country, or in simpler, more private ways that honor veterans and their service. "Participation in Veterans Day can be as simple as putting out the porch flag or reminding youngsters of the story of a relative who served in the military," he said.

Veterans Day is as important today as ever, perhaps even more so, Peake said. With just 1 percent of the U.S. population serving in uniform to protect liberties for the other 99 percent, Veterans Day offers a time to reflect and remember, he said.

"It's important for everybody to realize the debt that we owe those who serve this nation," Peake said. "Without the service of our veterans, we wouldn't have the freedoms we enjoy today...Their bravery, their resourcefulness and their patriotism mark them as our nation's finest citizens."
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