30 January 2008

Isakson Praises Progress of U.S. Troops in Iraq

Recent Overnight Visit to Baghdad Proved There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today spoke on the Senate floor where he praised the progress U.S. troops are making in Iraq, highlighting his recent visit to Iraq this month to meet with Georgia troops.

Isakson visited Iraq on Jan. 5 and 6, 2008, and met with Georgia soldiers in Baghdad. He was able to remain overnight in Baghdad and to walk the streets – both of which had been prohibited during his previous trips in 2006 and 2005. During the trip, Isakson also met with General David Petraeus, Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Isakson said he witnessed firsthand the progress President Bush cited Tuesday night in his State of the Union address.

“The progress that the president described last night is real and it is tangible. Things are changing in Iraq and they're changing better for the Iraqis and for us. We have brought back two groups (of troops), as the president said, we will bring back five more without replacing them this year. Our troop level will be going down. We're going from a combat confrontation to an oversight role in terms of helping and providing logistics to the Iraqis.

“The practical matter is this, whatever mistakes may have been made in the past, whatever differences we may have had, the young men and women of the United States have performed magnificently. General Petraeus has lived up to every single promise of hope that we had for him. In the name and the memory of those tragic loss of life in Iraq, Georgia soldiers like Diego Rincon, Lieutenant Noah Harris, Sergeant Mike Stokely and the other 119, the sacrifice they made has not been in vain, and we are on the doorstep hopefully building a democracy that will last and endure in the Middle East. Hopefully, it will be the first step of many to accomplish the hope of peace, freedom and liberty that we in this country so often take for granted but the rest of the world cherishes.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a locomotive. It is the light of hope for liberty, peace, and freedom because of the sacrifice and endurance of the fine young men and women of the United States military serving in harm's way today in Iraq.”

Senators Urge Changes to Air Force Housing Privatization Oversight and Management Process

This is from back in December, but thought it was worth posting:

Senators Urge Changes to Air Force Housing Privatization Oversight and Management Process

Pryor, Chambliss introduce legislation to require more vigorous process in vetting project bidders, developers and lenders

A bipartisan group of U.S Senators led by Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, and Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne criticizing the Air Force’s oversight of housing privatization projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, and Massachusetts and urged the Air Force to explain how they plan to quickly restore the current failing projects as well as how they will change their privatized housing oversight and management processes. The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, Bill Nelson, D-Florida, Mel Martinez, R-Florida, Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts and John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and is in response to failing privatized housing projects at Little Rock, Moody, Patrick, and Hanscom Air Force Bases in the lawmakers’ home states.

The senators said in the letter, “We are alarmed and extremely disappointed at the level of failure at these four projects, all of which have been under work stoppages for months, are years behind schedule, and are tens of millions of dollars over-budget. The failure of these projects has traumatized the local communities and resulted, in some cases, in lost homes and businesses by persons unable to re-coup their expenses. The failure of these projects also continues to jeopardize the Air Force’s strong relationship with four very supportive local communities, and these situations, if not corrected, will have ramifications far beyond the local businesses that have been directly affected.”

“Due to lax contracting rules, the Air Force awarded a questionable company a multi-million dollar contract to build housing at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Instead of the quality and affordable housing our military families deserve, there are rows of cement floors, unfinished housing and unpaid bills to subcontractors,” Pryor said. “It’s time for the Air Force to take responsibility for its mistakes and prevent these types of problems in the future.”

“I am disappointed that the Air Force was not more proactive in addressing and fixing these projects,” said Chambliss. “The housing privatization process is overseen and managed by the military services, with the Air Force being the proactive agent for the projects in question and determining which projects to pursue, what legal and financial mechanisms to use, which consultants to employ, which project owners and developers to select, as well as being responsible for implementing a centralized oversight program. For this reason, the Air Force is ultimately responsible for the failure of these projects and we expect the Air Force to develop and implement a plan to salvage the housing programs at these four installations and ensure proper oversight is conducted in the future.”

In their letter, the senators highlighted the following conclusions:

1) Either the Air Force did not have adequate mechanisms in place to monitor and ensure adequate performance by the parties to these transactions, or the mechanisms the Air Force relied upon were unsuccessful, or both.

2) In theory, project owners and developers for the projects were accountable to bond-holders, trustee representatives, and third party consultants, but in practice, they were accountable to no one.

3) The sole Air Force representative on site was not a Government employee but a contractor hired by the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment who had no authority and who was not responsible to anyone at the local military installation.

4) The Air Force had no direct control of any financial payments to the developer, and any indirect control or leverage the Air Force may have had was either not exercised or ineffective.

5) The amount of payment and performance bonds for all of these projects was substantially less than is standard in private sector construction and was not sufficient for subcontractors to recoup their expenses in the event of default.

American Eagle Communities, LLC, created under the parent company Carabetta, was awarded a $127 million contract to build 468 new homes and remodel 732 homes by 2011 for the Little Rock Air Force Base. Only 25 homes were completed and occupied, and an estimated 70 concrete slabs were poured before the company stopped construction in May due to unpaid bills. As a result of the company’s financial problems, at least 25 Arkansas subcontractors and suppliers have not been paid and the housing project is now stalled.

The Moody project in Georgia was initiated in March 2004. Carabetta, the Property Manager, created Moody Family Housing, LLC, to be the developer and project owner. 400 new homes were to be constructed and 206 homes were to be remodeled as stated by the terms in the project. To date, only two homes have been completed. The estimated cost of the project has exceeded available funding by $25 million, and the project lenders stopped funding in March 2007 to prevent all funds from being expended.

In a separate action, Senators Pryor and Chambliss will introduce legislation this week to enhance oversight of housing privatization projects. Specifically, the bill:

Mandates that DoD establish and adhere to a robust, effective oversight plan to successfully manage and maintain project performance and schedule.

Requires a more vigorous process in vetting project bidders, developers, and lenders before selecting awardees and approving transactions.

Mandates increased communication between bondholders and DoD to ensure that the bondholders act more rapidly when project performance is inadequate.

Requires DoD to ensure bidders’ guaranteed maximum price proposals are reasonable.
Requires a higher level of bonding to protect the rights of subcontractors and ensure they can re-coup expenses in the event of project default.

Ensures that developers or project owners that create LLC’s to execute specific projects receive unsatisfactory performance ratings if the LLC itself fails to perform according to standards.

“It’s unfortunate that resolving these problems requires an act of Congress, but that’s what it’s come to,” Pryor said. “This legislation establishes the proper oversight and safeguards to prevent the waste of tax dollars in the future.”

“I look forward to hearing from the Air Force regarding how they will change their oversight and management of these projects,” said Chambliss. “I believe that this process can work. But in these cases, it didn’t work, and we need assurances that it will not happen again.”

25 January 2008

U.S. 'Ready, Willing, Able' to Assist Pakistan, Gates Says

Photo: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael Mullen hold a news conference in the Pentagon, Jan. 24, 2008. Photo by R. D. Ward

The United States remains "ready, willing and able" to assist Pakistan and partner with the nation as it takes on al Qaeda, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Pentagon news conference today.

Gates and Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen discussed the situation in Pakistan, saying the Pakistani government now understands the threat extremist groups in the country's federally administered tribal areas pose.

The U.S. military stands ready to provide additional training or to conduct joint operations with the Pakistani military. "We have an ongoing dialogue (with the Pakistanis)," Gates said. "I will just say that in a way, the emergence of this fairly considerable security challenge in Pakistan has really been brought home to the Pakistani government relatively recently, particularly by the tragic assassination of Mrs. (Benazir) Bhutto."

Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, was killed following a political rally Dec. 27.

Al Qaeda has threatened to destabilize Pakistan and has targeted Pakistani leaders, Gates said. U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda has allied with other extremist groups in the border area, the secretary said.

"I think we're all concerned about the re-establishment of al Qaeda safe havens in the border area," Gates said. "And I think it would be unrealistic to assume that all of the planning that they are doing is focused solely on Pakistan. I think it is a continuing threat to Europe as well as to us."

Pakistan's leaders are working through their strategy in the tribal areas. Mullen said that Pakistan is an important U.S. ally in the fight against terror, and America stands ready to provide assistance. "We've had a considerable training program with Pakistan for quite some time," the admiral said. "If there is a desire on the part of the Pakistani armed forces and the Pakistani government to have us assist, we would certainly try to do that."

Still, there is no move afoot for additional U.S. training cadres going into Pakistan, the chairman said. "The dialogue will continue, and the engagement is going to continue," he said.

Pakistan is a sovereign country, and Pakistani leaders will decide if forces from another country are needed in the fight against al Qaeda in the tribal areas, Gates said. "We will continue the dialogue, but we will not do anything without their approval," he said.

According to polls, the vast majority of Pakistanis do not want U.S. military assistance. If the government were to ask for U.S. aid, Pakistani leaders would have to evaluate what that move would mean domestically, Gates said.

Still, operations targeting al Qaeda would not mean vast numbers of American combat troops. "In my way of thinking, we are talking of a small number of U.S. troops, and that is clearly a pretty remote area," he said. "Again, the Pakistani government has to be the judge of this."

Mullen said that any aid would likely be training assistance. "A specific (example) may be helping train them in night operations," he said.

The United States is prepared to look at a range of ways to cooperate with Pakistan, Gates said. "But at this point, it's their nickel, and we await proposals and suggestions from them," he said.

23 January 2008

Defense Department Works to Eliminate Gaps in Medical Care

The trauma care that U.S. servicemembers receive is the best in the world, but the Defense Department must continue to eliminate gaps in the medical process as patients move from DoD facilities to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to private hospitals, a senior Pentagon medical official said.

Dr. Stephen L. Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the military health system's future hinges on how it will become more efficient and how it will be more transparent to patients and families.

The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working closely together to share medical records, Jones said.

"We have been working to ensure we have secure, global reach of electronic health records," he explained. "The DoD and VA records would be integrated so when you saw that health provider in the VA, he would have access to the records from when the patient first entered the system."

Groups appointed to study the system identified the need to fix seams between military and VA medical care, Jones said.

"All of the task forces and commissions said we needed more integration and cooperation between the DoD and VA, and we've made tremendous strides," he said. "Are we where we need to be? No, because health records are a bit more complicated than financial institutions or airlines and such. Many more components have to be included – radiology, nutrition, provider nodes – all of the various aspects that touch you when you are in the health care field."

Record-sharing may be only the beginning, Jones said. "We are looking, for example, at whether it would behoove us to have one in-patient system that would be used by DoD and the VA," he said. "That study is under way now, and we will have recommendations in March."

Another gap that needs to be closed is between government and private-sector health officials, Jones said. Many private health care providers are not as far along as DoD and VA in keeping electronic patient records, he explained, so the records from a beneficiary's visit to a private physician may not make it into his or her military medical record.

"We need to build a system that will allow the folks working with patients and military families access to the records – whether it be DoD, VA, the state or a private institution," Jones said. Private-sector health care providers and the government are working to set information technology standards for health care records, he added.

Improved efficiency in Tricare and other third-party insurance payments is another goal for the military health system, Jones said. He also pointed out that Congress has told the Defense Department to address changes in Tricare cost shares. While private insurance plans are indexed to keep pace with inflation, the cost-share portion of Tricare has not changed since 1996, he explained.

As military medicine moves forward, more and more work is going into how the system treats traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders. The department is moving out on these and other aspects of psychological health, Jones said, and Congress has funded additional research into these disorders. "Exciting things are happening and will happen in that area," he said.

The department has added specialists closer to the front to help warriors with psychological wounds. Jones said the military has come a long way toward eliminating the stigma associated with seeking mental health help, but more needs to be done.

"Let's erase the stigma associated with psychological wounds," he said. "Whether it's a wound to your body or a wound to your mind, it's the same thing. You need to get assistance."

Jones said substandard conditions found at Walter Reed Army Medical Center last year gave the department "a black eye." He noted that the problems at Walter Reed were not in trauma care, but in follow-on care and administrative processes.

"The department has made tremendous strides in trying to improve the care around the wounded warriors and their families," he said.

At the Military Health Services annual conference here next week, Jones will host a discussion on the future of military health care. This year's conference theme is "Caring for America's Heroes." More than 3,000 attendees are expected.

The conference is an attempt to communicate ideas throughout the force, and also provides an opportunity for DoD leaders to get input from the field, Jones said.

But it all begins with people, Jones said, and the nation's wounded warriors are in the best possible hands. From the medics and corpsmen on the ground to the doctors at the combat support hospitals to the specialists at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., all are providing the best trauma care in the world, he said.

"Without that team, without that system, we would not be able to do the job that we are doing," Jones said. Servicemembers who would have died of their injuries in the past are now surviving, thanks to the commitment, training and medical know-how of those personnel, he said.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

20 January 2008

Soldiers Re-enlist to Commemorate 100th Army Reserve Anniversary

Photo: More than 100 Army Reserve soldiers gather at the Al Faw palace at Camp Victory, Iraq, Jan. 18, 2008, to reenlist during a ceremony marking the 100th Anniversary of the Army Reserve. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez

More than 100 mobilized Army Reserve soldiers deployed in Iraq and Kuwait raised their right hands and recited the oath of enlistment in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Army Reserve, in a ceremony here today.

In the grand rotunda of Al Faw Palace here, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, issued the oath of enlistment and remarked on the continued commitment Army Reserve soldiers make in reenlisting.

"In places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines and Latin America, Army reservists are bringing their warrior skills and their civilian trades to the fight," Petraeus (photo) said.

"As everyone here knows," Petraeus told the citizen-soldiers, "that combination is particularly effective in the exceedingly complex environments we face today -- environments that require our troopers to be not just warriors but also diplomats, builders, trainers, advisors, intelligence gatherers, service providers, economic developers and mediators."

"Citizen-soldiers perform these diverse roles expertly, and in so doing, they demonstrate the critical role members of the Army Reserve play in safeguarding freedom at home and defending it abroad," the general added.

"Indeed, I cannot think of a better way to honor the Army Reserve's first century of service than being part of a ceremony where so many great reservists raise their right hands and commit themselves to continue serving our nation," Petraeus said.

During the ceremony, Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve Command, commented on the transformation of the Army Reserve over the past 100 years.

"The Army Reserve was founded in 1908, but I can tell you that the Army Reserve of 2008 is vastly different than the Army Reserve of 1908," Stultz said.

"The Army Reserve today really is an operational force, an integrated part of the Army," Stultz added. "And there's no better way for us to kick off our 100th anniversary year and to symbolize what the Army Reserve today really is than to be able to conduct a re-enlistment ceremony here in Baghdad in the palace with 100 of our Army Reserve soldiers."

For many of the soldiers here today, the opportunity to participate was about more than just re-enlisting for themselves. It was a way to honor the service of those who came before them.

"I'm just one soldier, just one average 'joe,'" said Sgt. Jonathan Britt, a 25-year-old medic from Fayetteville, N.C., mobilized with 535th Military Police Battalion.

"I've only been in for two years, so for 98 years there were people upholding these traditions, and that's one of the reasons for me to re-enlist, to uphold the tradition, honor and integrity behind that -- not for my own personal sake but for those that served before me," Britt said.

Soldiers selected to participate in the commemorative ceremony are a sampling of the more than 1,876 Army Reserve soldiers who have reenlisted over the past 12 months while deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, according to the Army Reserve Retention and Transition Office here. Army Reserve re-enlistments in Iraq and Kuwait reflect approximately 20 percent of all re-enlistments for the Army Reserve worldwide, officials said.

(By Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez, USA Special to American Forces Press Service; Army Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez is assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve Command.)

19 January 2008

VFW Praises President, Congress for Historic Veterans' Funding Increase

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2008--America's largest organization of combat veterans is praising the president and Congress for providing the largest budget increase ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today's request by President Bush adds $3.7 billion to the VA's fiscal 2008 budget, which now totals $6.6 billion more in discretionary funding than last year.

"President Bush and Congress are to be congratulated for this historic boost in funding," said George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J., who leads the 2.3 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

Lisicki said the VFW has long maintained that the true cost of war includes the proper care and treatment of the men and women who serve their country in uniform.

The VA budget increase, part of a fiscal 2008 omnibus package that passed in the House and Senate last month, was endorsed by the veterans' service organization community as well as the vast majority of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. The funding is needed to hire additional mental health counselors, healthcare professionals and claims adjudicators, to continue advanced medical and prosthetic research, and to begin construction and infrastructure improvements.

The VA's discretionary budget has almost doubled under President Bush's tenure, from $23.8 billion in 2002 to $45.5 billion this year. Lisicki said the 91-percent overall increase is due to an aging veterans' population and to an influx of new veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he said it also reflects a solemn commitment by the administration and Congress to care for America's veterans.

"I salute the president and Congress for making this additional funding available, and for their untiring support of military families past and present," he said. "This budget puts veterans first, which will help ensure the VA remains a world-class healthcare system that is accessible and responsive to those who may require a lifetime of care for their physical and mental injuries."

18 January 2008

Troops, Civilian Employees Must Follow Rules for Political Activities

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2008 - As U.S. servicemembers and Defense Department civilians ponder candidates during the election season, they should realize there are limits placed upon their involvement in certain political activities.
Political-related "dos and don'ts" pertaining to military members of all service branches are proscribed within Defense Department Directive 1344.10, titled: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty.

The federal Hatch Act delineates what federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, may or may not do in the political realm.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians may attend political events like meetings and rallies, but military members must only be spectators and not wear their uniforms.

In addition, troops aren't permitted to make public political speeches, serve in any official capacity within political groups, or take part in partisan political campaigns or conventions.

Under Hatch Act rules, government civilians may be active in and speak before political gatherings or serve as officers of political parties or partisan groups. They're also allowed to manage political campaigns, distribute literature (except at work), write political articles, or serve as spokespersons for political parties or candidates.

Military members generally aren't allowed to campaign for political office. Civilians can campaign for office in non-partisan elections. Partisan political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.

Yet, basic rules apply to both military members and government civilians. Neither can use their position in the military or the government to influence or interfere with elections. Servicemembers and federal civilians never can engage in political activity on the job, in a government vehicle, or while wearing an official uniform.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians are not to distribute political literature at work. This also applies to politically partisan electronic mail messages forwarded over the Internet.

Servicemembers and government civilians are encouraged to exercise their right to vote and participate in the democratic process. But, they should know there are rules in place that govern the extent of their involvement in political activities, officials said.

DoD Directive 1344.10
Hatch Act for Federal Employees

17 January 2008

Chambliss Announces $20 Million in Funding for Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced that Congress passed legislation authorizing $20.5 million in funding to expand and upgrade infrastructure needs at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta.

“Our veterans deserve access to the very best medical care and services we can offer, especially at a time when so many of our wounded warriors are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This is great news for veterans in our state who have served our nation with honor. I applaud my colleague, Senator Isakson, for his leadership on the Veterans Affairs Committee and all the members of the Georgia Congressional Delegation for their support for this bill.”

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) introduced the expansion bill which passed the Senate last week. Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill and it goes to the president’s desk for his signature. The funding for this project will improve medical inpatient wards, address accessibility requirements, meet women veterans’ needs, and correct patient privacy issues to help improve the quality of life of our veterans receiving care.

16 January 2008

House Seeks to Expand SBA Programs for Veterans

The House on Wednesday sent the Senate a revised version of legislation to expand Small Business Administration programs for veterans and military reservists. By 406-2, the House accepted some of the changes the Senate made earlier to the bill while making some of its own. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Altmire , D-Pa., would reauthorize SBA programs for veterans and reservists for two years and include $4.4 million...


15 January 2008

First Honor Flight Fayette to go on May 14, 2008

Gail Sparrow, a co-founder of Honor Flight Fayette (HFF), reported the good news that the first flight of WWII Vets to Washington DC is scheduled on May 14, 2008. She said we would assemble near the Fayette County Courthouse, probably in a church parking lot of one of the churches in the area. From that moment on everything is taken care of by HFF until we are returned to this same assembly point. WWII Vets will need no money except for souvenirs that may want to purchase. Gail and Brenda Smith, Publicity Chairperson, attended the regular monthly meeting of VFW Post 9949 on January 10, 2008 at the Gathering Place in Peachtree City.

Among those assembled were 8 VFW Post 9949 members who are WWII Vets and registered to go. There were also 2 members of the Kiwanis Club of Peachtree City Golden K in attendance, who are WWII Vets and delivered their applications to go to Washington. Gail said she had 61 applications from WWII Vets when she came; she received 3 more Vets plus 1 Guardian application. In a Friday conversation Gail said she received 3 more application; there are enough now to fill the first flight. She has EMT's and possibly a Doctor for this first flight. We are flying on commercial flights between Hartsfield and Reagan International Airport. There are a lot of fine details to be worked out. For those of you going or are questioning whether your WWII Vet is able to go I recommend you visit the National site at http://www.honorflight.org/.

There you will find a listing of frequently asked questions that will help you with questions about wheelchairs and oxygen needs as you try to decide if your beloved WWII Vet is able to handle the trip. It will be a very long day probably close to 12 hours or more. Remember there are possible hour + naps on the flights each way. You could also grab a couple of quick naps on the busses. My personal view is that you should send in an application as soon as possible just in case you are ruled able to travel; if you delay you will find yourself way down on a list that will go on the basis of first received, first to go. If your name comes up and you can't go on the next flight, your name will slip down to the top for the succeeding flight. The National site will tell you that over 60 VETS who were signed to go have passed while waiting for their name to come to the top of the list. My guess is that before this first flight leaves there will be a waiting list approaching 300 or more on the Fayette County list.. Gail said she will Post on the local site the list of VETS going on the May 14th flight at http://www.honorflightfayette.org/

This program started in May 2005 and the first group of 12 WWII Vets flew in on 6 small private planes. The trip was just a week before the first anniversary of the WWII Memorial Dedication Ceremony that was held on May 29, 2004. Another document on the National site said 891 had traveled by the end of 2006. In 2007 the goal was to fly 5000 Vets to Washington. Flights are scheduled from mid-April through early November to avoid cold weather and possible flight delays. When the program started only the site in Dayton, Ohio existed. As of now 27 local chapters exist including 3 in Georgia. If the 2007 goal was met about 6000 have been transported. That sounds like a big number and it is, but I calculate that there are around 2,200,000 living WWII Vets today. From my sample of WWII Vets in Post 9949 only about 60% or around 1,300,000 are able and wanting to go. So if you could get the visits up to 100,000 a year, it would take 13 years to get everyone there. One problem is WWII Vets are dying at the rate of 1200 per day or roughly 450,000 a year. The youngest WWII Vets in our Post are 79 years old. A very small % of us will live beyond 95 years. My goal is to celebrate 100 years.

I've included two photos; one showing the Honor Flight Fayette spokespersons (Gail Sparrow and Brenda Smith) in front of the VFW members and our WWII guests. The other is from the national site which shows a group picture of an Honor Flight from some unknown community. If you open it in your photo program and zoom in you will see 19 Vets in wheelchairs and/or power scooters and 35 Vets in two rows behind the handicapped VETS. There is one female Vet in the grouping. Also at the right end of the grouping you will recognize former Senator Bob Dole. Look at the smiles on most of these faces. If you think you can't go and said no to going, look again and say I can make it and I will smile just as these handicapped Vets are doing.

So we have a schedule and a few optimists who say we can and will get the funds from individuals, businesses, service clubs, and entrepreneurs to pay for the free trips. If you want to contribute make your checks to Honor Flight Foudation of Fayette, Inc. a 502(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Donations are 100% deductible. Mail to Honor Flight Foundation of Fayette, Inc., P.O Box 1209, Fayetteville, GA 30214.. VFW Post 9949 voted to donate $2100.00,which would cover about 7 of our WWII Vets who are going. Donations of $35.00 or more will result in your name and your honoree being on the web site and you may make the donation in honor of family members or friends who are unable to visit the memorial.

My Comrades from WWII please make this trip if you possibly can- yes for you who are handicapped and have several health problems it will tire you out but it will be an experience that wont regret.. I bet that most of the 1200 WWII Vets who are dying every day had a fond hope of seeing the Memorial erected to honor and remember their sacrifices that insured the great liberties we all enjoy.

Bob Konrad,

13 January 2008

President Bush Visits Military Personnel and Coalition Forces

THE PRESIDENT: Hoo-ah! (Applause.) Yes, thanks for coming out. (Laughter.) It's good to see you. Command Sergeant Major Harbin, thank you. He's a silver-tongued fox. (Laughter.) Thank you for the introduction, Command Sergeant. I'm honored to be introduced by one of our enlisted personnel. After all, our military is strong because of the sergeant corps of the military. (Applause.)

I'm also proud to be with our officers. I particularly want to thank General Lovelace for his leadership. I'm honored to be with the brave men and women of the Third Army. (Applause.) I also offer greetings to the Marines -- (cheers) -- sailors -- (cheers) -- airmen -- (cheers) -- Coast Guardsmen --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woo-hoo! (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: -- as well as all the Department of Army civilians --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hooray! (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'm here to thank you for your service. I want you to know the American people are mighty proud of you, and so am I. (Applause.) Sorry my wife isn't with me. She was here the other day though. She sends her best. I'm traveling today with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. (Applause.) I just had a meeting with our Ambassador and our Commander on the ground in Iraq. I'm proud to be here with Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus.

Since the Third Army was established at the close of World War I, its soldiers have proven themselves true to their motto, "The Third ... always first." (Applause.) You're the first bunch I've been talking to here on my trip -- first bunch of those wearing the uniform. People say, you looking forward to the trip? I said, one thing I'm really looking forward to is seeing the men and women who represent the United States in our military. The reason I am is -- anxious to be here is because we can't thank you enough, and we can't thank your families enough for doing the hard work necessary to protect the United States of America.

I appreciate what this Third Army did in World War II. I hope you do too, as well. After all, you're members of Patton's own. Played a vital role in the destruction of the Nazi war machine. They helped liberate about 12,000 towns; at least that's according to the history of the Third Army. From their noble ranks came soldiers with some of our nation's highest directors* [sic], including 19 recipients of the Medal of Honor. You are -- a distinguished history, and you're making history yourselves. Sometimes it's hard to forecast what the history pages are going to see when you're right in the midst of it all. Sometimes it's hard to judge how the Third Army will be talked about by future Presidents when you're in the midst of protecting the country, when you're in the midst of dealing in a dangerous region.

But I want to tell you what the history will say. The history will say, it was when you were called upon, you served, and the service you rendered was absolutely necessary to defeat an enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) It will say loud and clear that this military, comprised of brave men and women who sacrificed on behalf of a noble cause called peace -- the men and women of this military understood that we're in an ideological struggle; that we're facing cold-blooded murderers who kill the innocent to achieve their hateful vision of a future.

And they understood, history will show, that those who wore the uniform in the beginning of the 21st century understood a timeless truth that the ideology of -- based upon liberty is necessary for peace; that in this ideological struggle, on the short-term, we will find and bring the enemies to justice, but in the long term, the best way to defeat the ideology of hate is one with an ideology of hope, and that's one with liberty at its fundamental core. (Applause.)

It's hard work that you're doing, but it's necessary work. It's hard to be away from your home, but that's a soldier's life. When you get to emailing your family, you tell them I check in with you. (Laughter.) And you're looking pretty good. (Applause.) It looks like you haven't missed a meal. (Laughter.) But you also tell them that the message I brought was, they're in this fight as well. And the citizens of the United States of America respect our military, and we respect our military families. And this government will make sure that our families have a good life, with good support, when you're deployed overseas.

And so I thank you for what you're doing. There is no doubt in my mind that we will succeed. There is no doubt in my mind when history was written, the final page will say: Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world; that by doing the hard work now, we can look back and say, the United States of America is more secure, and generations of Americans will be able to live in peace.

God bless you, and God bless the United States. (Applause.)

Joint Chiefs chairman tours Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The chief of the U.S. military said Sunday he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he is concerned that worldwide negative publicity about the treatment of terrorist suspects has tarnished America's image.

10 January 2008

An Update on Honor Flight Fayette For All WWII Veterans

Peachtree City VFW Post 9949 invites all WWII Veterans in the area to our regular monthly meeting to receive an update on the status of free day flights to Washington DC to visit the National WWII Memorial. The meeting will be held in the large meeting room in the Gathering Place at 7:00 PM on Thursday January 10, 2008.

The organizers of honor flight fayette, Gail Sparrow and Mark Buckner will provide an update on the program and answer individual questions. This presentation will be first on the agenda. Afterwards Post 9949 Comrades will cover our regular meeting agenda.

All WWII Veterans who served overseas earned eligibility to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.and are cordially invited to visit our meeting and consider joining our Post. No you are not to old to join the VFW. The oldest recruit we have installed was 1 day short of his 93rd birthday. He was undoubtedly our proudest and happiest member in our Post. 37 of our 140 members are WWII Vets.

We have 15 WWII Vets over 85 years and another 22 who are between 79 and 84. We expect to have 20 members visit the Memorial. On Tuesday Gail said she had 61 reservations on hand.

I hope that many of you who are not WWII Vets will contribute funds to this great cause and make it possible for these heroes to visit their memorial in the twilight of their lives.

Bob Konrad, Quartermaster
Peachtree City VFW Post 9949
WWII US Navy Vet

An Introduction

I am Bob Konrad a WWII US Navy Veteran; legally I am Robert J. Konrad and
that's Konrad with a "K". I have been deeply involved in local Veterans
issues since I joined Peachtree City VFW Post 9949 in December 1999 and
particularly since I was elected Quartermaster in April 2000: I hold this
office now and have been reelected each year since 2000. Each year I
author and get published several items related to our VFW Buddy Poppy
distributions that our Posts conducts each year on the Saturdays before
Memorial Day and Veterans Day and items on our Veterans Brick Project.
After observing that there were very few articles about Veterans in the
local papers on or around Veterans Day, I decided the only way to rectify
this was to write and submit items to the local papers. I started this in
2003 and submitted items every year since then. This year because the
Citizen had considerable space reserved for each of the candidates to
write a blog, I realized that my article probably wouldn't get published
and it didn't; I submitted it to Janet and it was published on

Shortly thereafter Janet asked if I would consider writing a Blog on
Military Matters ( I thought I was agreeing to writing Veterans items). I
reported that I accepted and when she sent the title I pleaded that I had
very little involvement with the military life since I served only 105
weeks out of my nearly 82 years. She convinced me I could concentrate on
Veterans items and perhaps my Granddaughter joined the US Air Force in
the summer of 2006 and served a short time in Iraq late this year could
write something.. At our Christmas gathering in Buffala, NY , Danielle's
sister Gabrielle told us she has decided to take a commission in the US
Air Force after her college graduation this summer. Perhaps I will get
either or both of these Graddaughters to write something about their

If you are Retired Military or active in the Military and have items you
would like to submit for publication in this section I would welcome
Bob Konrad