27 May 2009

Georgia Tech: New Center Aims to Improve Recovery of Soldiers with Severe Injuries

When a soldier is wounded during combat, surgeons must focus on reducing infection and reconstructing damaged bone and tissues. Technologies that could improve the repair and regeneration processes are being developed in research laboratories across the country, but they are not being moved quickly enough into military trauma centers.

Organizers of the recently established Georgia Tech Center for Advanced Bioengineering for Soldier Survivability want to change that.

“The goal of the center is to rapidly move new technologies from the laboratory to patients so that we can improve the quality of life for our veterans as they return from the wars the United States is fighting,” said center director Barbara Boyan, the Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

The center will leverage the expertise of Georgia Tech researchers in musculoskeletal biology and regenerative medicine to quickly move tools that are clinically valuable, safe and effective from laboratories to use in trauma centers. To reduce the amount of time from invention to clinical use, engineers and scientists in the center work in teams that include a clinician with experience in combat medical care and a medical device industry partner.

Support for the center is provided by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research’s Orthopedic Trauma Research Program, the U.S. Department of Defense and industry.

Researchers in the center will initially focus on ways to improve the healing of wounds, segmental bone defects and massive soft tissue defects. Traumatic injuries that affect the arms, legs, head and neck require technologies for treatment at the time of injury and in the ensuing days and months.

“These combat injuries are complicated to treat because they are large and typically infected, so even determining when a soldier should be treated for optimal recovery is a challenge,” said Boyan, who is also the associate dean for research in Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. “It is not known whether a regenerative therapy will be most effective if used immediately following injury or at some later time after scar tissue has been established at the wound site.”

By developing models that accurately reflect the complex aspects of injuries sustained by soldiers in combat, the researchers will be able to test assumptions about when to employ specific strategies and how to ensure their effectiveness. The models must also allow them to examine the use of technologies on both male and female patients, and on complex tissues that consist of nerves, a blood supply and multiple cell types.

“Since the processes of bone, vascular and neural formation are naturally linked during normal tissue development, growth and repair, our approach is to harness this knowledge by developing delivery strategies that present the right biologic cues in the right place at the right time to promote functional regeneration of multiple integrated tissues,” said associate director of the center Robert Guldberg, a professor in Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

To enhance tissue repair and regeneration following a traumatic injury, the researchers are focusing their efforts on stem cells. Even though stem cells have tremendous potential for repairing such defects, effective methods do not yet exist for delivering them to an injury site and of ensuring that they survive and remain at that site long enough to impact the regeneration process.

“Clinicians currently inject stem cells into a vein and hope that the cells will migrate to sites of injury and remain at those sites long enough to participate in the repair process. While some cells certainly do migrate to injury sites, the actual percentage is very small and those that arrive at the site do not remain to engraft with the host tissue,” explained Boyan.

This limited effect may be the result of the injection process, according to Boyan, so researchers in the center are developing ways to protect the cells from damaging forces they might encounter when inserted into the body.

“Studies in our laboratory have shown that when stem cells are encapsulated in microbeads, they can be injected by needle without loss of cell viability and they remain at the injury site for at least two months,” said Boyan.

Protecting the cells during insertion is just the first step toward improved tissue repair. The researchers must also examine whether the stem cells will turn into cells typical of the implanted tissue and if they produce or should be paired with molecules that can enhance the healing of the implanted tissues.

Center researchers are also investigating whether bone marrow-derived stem cells can be used in the body to heal large defects in bone and cartilage if they are inserted in fiber mesh scaffolds and silk sponges during a surgical procedure.

Additional projects in the center include assessing tissue viability, preventing the growth of bone in the soft tissues of the body and improving pre-hospital care of orthopedic injuries. Since effective treatment of traumatic injuries is an important goal for the general public as well as the military population, the researchers also hope to adapt their technologies for use in hospitals.

Other researchers in the center include Ravi Bellamkonda, a professor in the Coulter Department; Andres Garcia, the Woodruff Faculty Fellow in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Robert Taylor, a professor in the Coulter Department and Emory’s Division of Cardiology; Zvi Schwartz, a visiting professor in the Coulter Department; and U.S. Army surgical medicine consultants Michael Yaszemski and David Cohen.

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26 May 2009

'Her War' Podcast Aims to Help Military Wives

When Melissa Seligman's husband left for his second deployment to Iraq, she knew all too well what was expected of her.

"I was expected to be the nice, caring, understanding military wife and mom," Seligman said. "No military wife wants to admit that she is hurt -- and sometimes angry and very fearful -- of being alone when her husband is deployed, ... sometimes for the second or third time. It's very hard. The guilt we feel from these natural emotions often keeps us silent."

Seligman said she hopes her new weekly podcast, "Her War," will help to provide a platform for military wives to openly discuss such anxieties and uncertainties about their husbands' deployments. The podcast, she said, is dedicated to providing military wives with the tools and resources they need to better equip themselves to deal with separation issues.

Weekly discussions will focus not only on hope, understanding and acceptance, but also on denial, anger, bargaining and depression -- feelings that she said often are hidden.

"'Her War' is about honesty," Seligman said. "Military wives can join our discussions and be fully honest about their inner fears and not worry about being judged. The absolute focus of this podcast is to uplift them. I truly believe giving these wives a chance to speak, hear and take charge will empower them. In doing so, we strengthen our soldiers, our marriages and our abilities to mother."

Seligman, with the help of another military wife, Chris Piper, launched the "Her War" podcast last week. The first discussion, which included eight military wives, centered on hope and denial.

"The podcast went really well," said Lucy Brassard, whose husband just returned from Afghanistan. "I was really pleased with the format. I could relate. This is a support group of women who have been there. You can trust them.

"I also liked the anonymity," she continued. "We military wives are often so closed-lipped. We just don't discuss these issues out in the open. When you join the podcast, the only name people know is your screen name. It just makes you feel more comfortable and more relaxed."

This is the type of atmosphere she'd hoped to capture, Piper said.

"I believe military spouses don't feel they have a right to feel a certain way, especially with their spouse in harm's way," she said. "With this podcast, they can learn that they are normal and not alone. We sit here in our homes thinking that we are the only ones that are grieving for our husbands while they are gone. Just knowing that we are having normal feelings and thoughts helps. We can learn to rely on ourselves and each other. We can also learn about other resources that the military provides for dealing with deployments."

Seligman, the author of "The Day After He Left for Iraq," said her inspiration for this podcast came from a military wife who drove three hours to her first book signing.

"She walked into the store carrying the weight of her burden and told me simply, 'I'm a military spouse, too,'" Seligman said. "She fell into my arms and cried. I told her she was not alone. Right then, I knew I wanted to create a tool that would uplift spouses and give them a sense of support and normalcy."

The "Her War" podcast is hosted by Courage Community, a California-based online support group consisting of mental health professionals and volunteers.

"We provide an online network and a lifeline of hope for those looking for peer support, professional help, reconnection to the community or just an understanding friend," Carlana Stone, founder of Courage Community, said. "Melissa is on a passion-driven pursuit, from her own military experiences in life, to empower and uplift military wives. We wanted to be a part of this. Courage Community wants to be an ally for these women."

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

West Point Class of 2009 a Diverse, Impressive Group

Under the grey skies of West Point today, the "Long Grey Line," made up of a diverse and impressive group of graduating cadets, said goodbye to academic studies and turned their sights toward the business of soldiering.

"Four years ago you dropped your son or daughter off on these grounds with no shortage of pride, as well as anxiety, about the famed rigors of the U.S. Military Academy, about the known dangers that come with the profession of arms at this time. said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who delivered the commencement address.

"That pride was well founded, the anxiety hopefully at least partially relieved," he added. "And I thank you for everything you have done to make them the outstanding young people they are," he added.

Outstanding may be an understatement.

The class includes eight Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, a Rhodes Scholar and two East/West Center Fellows. In addition, 28 members of the graduating class earned recognition as Honor Graduates. The award reflects overall excellence in cadet performance, including academic, military and physical.

This year 50 Superintendent's Awards for Excellence were presented to the cadets in the top 5 percent of the class. Another 150 cadets were earned the Superintendent's Award for Achievement, and 172 received recognition for earning a GPA of 3.67.

The class itself is a picture of diversity.

Of the 970 cadets, 144 are women, 63 African Americans, 62 Asian/Pacific Islanders, 74 Hispanics and 15 Native Americans. The majority of the class, which also includes 17 foreign students, were commissioned second lieutenants.

The 17 students represent Afghanistan, Belize, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chad, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Maldives, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Tunisia, and will return to their nations for service.

These graduating cadets represent 78 percent of the cadets who entered West Point in the fall of 2004.

Gates, who lauded the cadets for their courage, commitment and "patriotism of the highest order," also realized the secondary mission of the day. No matter the caliber of the cadets, the after-commencement party is a key tradition. But there was one important piece of business to take care of first.

"To the graduating class of 2009, congratulations!" he said. "Let me dispense with the easy and fun part first, which is, on behalf of our commander in chief, to grant full amnesty for any minor conduct offenses.

"I will leave the definition of "minor" to the superintendent," he chuckled.

The new soldiers will now move on to their first assignments that will make them a part of every unit from infantry to aviation.

When the ceremony concluded Gates pinned second lieutenant's bars on more than a dozen newly minted Army junior officers.

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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21 May 2009

Veterans Fight to Be Remembered

/PRNewswire / -- Today -- days before Memorial Day -- Liberty Legal Institute joins five veterans groups, representing over four million veterans, to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to save the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial from being torn down by the ACLU, the subject of Salazar v. Buono to be heard in The High Court's 2009-2010 term. The coalition is launching a major campaign to draw attention to the case: www.DontTearMeDown.com.

"Our nation is only as secure as we remember those who have given their lives for the freedom that we now have," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute and attorney for the veterans groups. "The issue of saving this veterans memorial is something nearly every American will be interested in."

The seven-foot-tall memorial cross, erected in 1934 by World War I veterans as a war memorial to honor all fallen soldiers, stands in the midst of the 1.6 million-acre Mojave Preserve. The legal case arose when a former National Park Service (NPS) employee living in Oregon sued for the memorial's removal. Following attempts by Congress to designate the memorial as a national memorial and to transfer the land to the VFW, the District Court and Ninth Circuit Court both ruled that the memorial is unconstitutional and must be removed. The court also ordered the memorial covered with a plywood box until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

"A story untold is a story forgotten," said Joe Davis, public affairs director for the VFW. "We must tell the story of our veterans and fallen heroes, and we must keep this veterans memorial."

Henry and Wanda Sandoz, current and longtime caretakers of the memorial agree: "If they were to tear down the memorial which has been there for 75 years, I would lose faith in our government," said Wanda Sandoz. Henry agreed, "It would be sad. It would be so sad." The Sandoz's have been caring for the memorial since 1984 when they promised their friend Rily Bembrey, a WWI veteran, on his death bed, that they would look after the monument. Bembrey was one of many veterans who erected the memorial after relocating to the desert after the war to find physical and emotional healing.

"If the plaintiff is so offended by the possibility of seeing this memorial cross in the desert, will he be offended when he drives by Arlington National Cemetery?" asked Jim Sims, National Senior Vice Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. "It's our opinion that this case is not about a single memorial cross, it is a larger issue of honoring veterans who served and sacrificed for our country."

The American Legion is also concerned about the fate of the memorial. "If you don't think this is not the first domino in a series, you're not paying attention," said Mark Seavey, Assistant National Legislative Director for The Legion. "The cross is emblematic of sacrifice, not religion."

This case is part of a larger trend of assaults on war memorials with religious imagery and all displays with religious symbolism on public property. In addition to the lawsuit against the Mojave Desert War Memorial, the ACLU is suing for the removal of the Mount Soledad Memorial (Paulson v. Abdelnour, et al.). A related case in which the veterans were involved, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, which dealt with donated monuments on public property, was resolved in the Supreme Court earlier this year.

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20 May 2009

Duckworth Takes Charge of VA's Public Affairs and Outreach Programs

/PRNewswire/ -- Tammy Duckworth returned Wednesday to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a key site in her long recovery from wounds suffered in Iraq, to take the oath of office as the chief spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"I am so honored to serve the Obama administration by helping to care for our Veterans," Assistant Secretary Duckworth said. "They are our nation's greatest treasure and deserve the best care available. I fully support Secretary Shinseki as we work to provide that care."

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki presided over the swearing in ceremony as Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard, became VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs. Shinseki stated that "Tammy has traveled a unique path to be here today, a journey far from over with many, many contributions yet to be made."

As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct VA's public affairs programs and its intergovernmental efforts. She also will oversee programs for homeless Veterans and consumer affairs.

Duckworth was an Army helicopter pilot flying combat missions in Iraq in 2004 when she suffered grave injuries when her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, and she lost both legs and partial use of one arm. She spent 13 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Although Walter Reed is not part of the VA's extensive network of medical facilities, Duckworth chose the Army site for her swearing in to recognize the facility's role in her recovery and to encourage other disabled service members and Veterans.

"Walter Reed is where I first saw how effective the DoD-VA partnership in caring for our Veterans can be," she said. "My VA coordinator had an office at Walter Reed, and I saw her on a weekly basis even before I was discharged to VA care."

Duckworth comes to VA from Illinois state government, where she had been director of the state Veterans office in Illinois since 2006.

Her previous managerial experience includes coordinating the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and managing clubs and districts for Rotary International's Asia-Pacific region from 2002 to 2003.

She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii and a master's degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Born in Thailand, she is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who fought in Vietnam. She is married to Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran and National Guard officer, Major Bryan Bowlsbey.

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Lists Top Priorities

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff identified increasing Middle East security, revitalizing U.S. forces and focusing on global challenges as his top priorities in remarks at the Brookings Institution here yesterday.

Detailing his priority list, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen defined the broader Middle East as stretching from Lebanon to Iran and even including parts of South Asia.

Mullen cited the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy President Barack Obama's administration unveiled in March as an example of the regional approach that's needed. "Certainly, our president and the new administration has put together a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "And I felt this was vital -- to focus on the region, not just focus on one country or the other but, in fact, have a comprehensive strategy for the entire region."

The military contribution to security is necessary, Mullen said, but not sufficient. He emphasized the need for increased presence of nonmilitary U.S. agencies, and he called for better resourcing of the State Department and the rest of the American government, which he characterized as increasingly "expeditionary."

"I think it's an absolute priority that we resource our State Department and other agencies to do this, not just for the near term -- and we clearly need those resources in Afghanistan -- but also for the long term," he said.

The chairman said that in Iraq – where roughly 140,000 U.S. troops are deployed – the situation is "fragile" as forces began to draw down in accordance with agreements between Washington and Baghdad.

"And at the same time, we see the strategic growth of required forces in Afghanistan and, again, a focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. Mullen added that like Iraq, security in Afghanistan will depend on its own national security forces gaining momentum and responsibility.

"So [there is a] heavy focus, obviously, in my life and with my staff, in engagement on the broader Middle East. But a lot of what's going on there also applies to other parts of the world," he said.

Another of Mullen's priorities – focusing on the health of U.S. forces – also occupies much of his time, he said.

"There's a resilience in that force, a skip in their step, a capability that is truly extraordinary in its evolution, and really revolution, to become what I believe is the best counterinsurgency force in the world, and in doing so has set a standard about how quickly we can change, given the strategy is put in the right place," he said.

But despite their counterinsurgency progress in Iraq, he said, the U.S. military is under the strain of multiple deployments and combat stress. He said both the Army and Marine Corps are at their newly increased end strength, but that it will take some time before new troops are trained and can relieve current forces.

"Over the next 18 to 24 months, that stress is going to continue," he said. "And then after that, I can start to see a time where dwell time [at home stations between deployments] will increase, and we can start to bring the pressure down, based on what I understand right now."

The chairman also stressed the need to take care of injured troops – including those suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress -- and their families, and to care for the spouses and children of those killed.

"And when I say, 'take care of them,' I really mean take care of them for the rest of their lives," he said. "These are young people who have gone out, done what our country has asked them to do, and they should be well taken care of, not just by the Department of Defense or [Veterans Affairs], but by America -- communities throughout the land, reaching out to these young people, whose dreams haven't changed.

"They want their kids to go to school. They'd like to go to school. And they'd like to own a piece of the rock," he continued. "It's just the path has been altered. And as far as I'm concerned, we owe them that debt."

Mullen said the Defense Department budget should reflect its care for the people who commit to military service.

"We're going through a big debate right now about systems, major acquisition programs, what we should buy for the future," he said. "What we should buy for the future is to make sure we get it right for our people. That's health care, that's housing, that's benefits, that's the compensation package, that's bonuses -- all those kinds of things."

Mullen said his other priority is to make sure the United States is adequately engaged in parts of the world that don't fall under the U.S. Central Command, where American forces are engaged in both Iraq in Afghanistan.

"It's not a small globe," he said. "There are challenges that exist throughout the world, and [I'm] making sure right now, with so many of my forces focused in the Central Command area, that I have enough forces that are engaged in other parts of the world."

The chairman underscored how interwoven the world is – as evidenced by the global financial crisis – and said countries are "very dependent on each other."

"Stability is a key for the future in that regard," he said. "And along those lines, that stability -- again, not unlike Iraq and not unlike Afghanistan -- that stability is going to be a necessary condition, but not sufficient, because we need education development, we need economic development, we need good governance. Those are also key to progress, not [only] in the current conflicts, but progress in the future as well."

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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19 May 2009

3HBCT, 3ID completes Hammer Focus at Fort Benning

Soldiers assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, file off a Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter and seek cover during a training exercise at the Selby Military Operations Urban Terrain Site at Fort Benning, Ga., May 6. The exercise allowed the Soldiers to simulate working with Iraqi security forces to secure the village from extremists.

Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division completed Hammer Focus, the brigade’s largest field training event at Fort Benning, Ga., May 18.

The 30-day event employed all six of the 3rd HBCT’s battalions and allowed them to practice scenarios they may encounter during the brigade’s upcoming rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. and future deployment overseas.
“Hammer Focus is like our Super Bowl,” said 1st Sgt. Quentin Fenderson, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “Since January, we have been going through everything from small-arms qualification, our gunnery tables and company level training exercises. Hammer Focus brings that all together.”

For the new Soldiers just coming to the brigade, Hammer Focus is their first real taste of what being deployed is like, said 1st Sgt. Heath Potteiger, Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.

“All that time in the field isn’t always fun, but I can see how far we have come,” he said. “The improvement has been clear. I saw our guys get better every day we were out there. Hopefully, that will continue to build until we deploy.”

The training, which focused on helping the Soldiers learn to work effectively with Iraqi Security Forces, was different from the training many of the brigade’s veterans had done in the past.
“One of the biggest highlights of the training was gearing our platoon sergeants and platoon leaders to work with the local security forces and let them take the lead,” said 1st Sgt. David Eastabrooks, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “Back in OIF I (Operation Iraqi Freedom), there weren’t any Iraqi security forces. They were all disbanded. The fight has changed.”

Eastabrooks acknowledges that the new way of conducting operations relies more on interacting with other people and letting them do much of the work.

“We are gearing down from a kinetic fight and changing gears to working with imams (religious leaders), village elders, police chiefs and Iraqi colonels. That is a big adjustment for our veterans.”

Fenderson is happy with the way that the training went and is looking forward to the brigade’s NTC rotation.

“I think NTC will go great because of Hammer Focus,” he said. “I believe that about mid-way through NTC everything we are doing now will just be second-nature. I think this battalion, because of the training, is well ahead of where they were last year heading to Iraq.”

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15 May 2009

VA Receives Over 25,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill Applications in First Two Weeks

/PRNewswire / -- Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that VA has received more than 25,000 claims for education benefits during the first two weeks that Veterans and servicemembers could apply online for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"We are very pleased with the tremendous interest in the Post-9/11 GI Bill," Patrick W. Dunne, VA's under secretary for benefits, said. "The number of applications submitted in the first two weeks clearly shows the value and importance of this new benefit for Veterans."

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed by Congress last year, is the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944. It provides eligible individuals with tuition payments to assist them in getting a college education.

Many participants will also receive a housing allowance while they're studying and a stipend for books and supplies. Under the new GI Bill, certain members of the armed forces may transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent children.

With the large numbers of Veterans and servicemembers expected to apply for the new program, VA projects a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in the total number of participants in VA's education programs.

Qualified people will receive a "Certificate of Eligibility" and information about their benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Applicants may expect to receive their certificate within 24 days of submission. Under federal law VA cannot pay benefits until Aug. 1, 2009. The new education benefit is for Veterans, servicemembers, reservists, and National Guard members who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001.

Veterans can also apply online through the GI Bill Web site at www.GIBILL.VA.gov. Additionally, paper applications are accepted at VA regional processing offices located in Muskogee, Okla.; Atlanta; St. Louis; and Buffalo, N.Y. Veterans who apply online and provide a specific e-mail address will receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt of their claims.

The number of education benefits' applications submitted in the first two weeks is more than three times the rate of benefit applications usually received through the Veterans Online Application system (VONAPP). VONAPP is used for all education benefit programs, as well as for submission of applications for VA disability compensation and pension benefits.

As a result of this unprecedented volume, some applicants experienced slow response times or error messages on Friday, May 1. VA immediately increased system capacity, and by Saturday morning, May 2, system performance was fully restored.

"Because of the large number of applications expected to be received, we encourage Veterans interested in attending school this fall to apply early online," Dunne added.

Additional information about the new program and VA's other educational benefit programs can be obtained by visiting VA's Web site or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).

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09 May 2009

Memorial Day - Fayetteville

A traditional Memorial Day Ceremony will be held at the Fayetteville City Cemetery, just west of the Old Courthouse Square on Hwy 54 on Monday, May 25. The one hour ceremony will begin at 1100 and is for all residents of Fayette County. Everyone is encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The event is sponsored by the American Legion Fayette County Post 105. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held across Hwy 85 in the American Legion Log Cabin.

President Obama Outlines His Plan for Missile Defense

/PRNewswire / -- Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) www.missiledefenseadvocacy.org informed the members of MDAA about the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request for missile defense today. In his alert Ellison reviewed the requests, the impacts and then closed his remarks with two critical questions for our nation about the new direction of our missile defense program. His comments are as follows:

"President Barack Obama released the federal budget for 2010 yesterday in Washington D.C., and this was his first major budget release of his Administration setting the precedent for his Presidency. Inside of his $3.4 trillion budget was the Department of Defense's Budget request of $534 billion and the Missile Defense Budget request for $7.8 billion. The Department of Defense budget was increased by $21 billion, a 4% increase from last year while funding going to the Missile Defense Agency budget was decreased by $1.2 billion, a 13% decrease."

"This Administration has reshaped, restructured and redirected missile defense as they make it their own and take full ownership from the former President George W. Bush and the four previous Presidents that have contributed Department of Defense dollars towards missile defense. With an overall $8.2 billion spent on Missile Defense including Army Patriot Missile Defense systems at $400 million for 2010, missile defense still remains a core mission of the Department of Defense and President Barack Obama's Administration."

"The Obama Administration's direction for missile defense focuses on:

- Increasing capability against short and medium range ballistic missiles in regions against rogue nations to protect our forward based armed forces and allies through deploying more THAAD, SM3 missiles and AEGIS BMD Ships as well as developing land based SM3 missile defense systems.

- Developing assent and upper boost phase missile defense capabilities through SM3/ AEGIS development, enhanced THAAD capability, and deploying a Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) constellation.

- Revamping the testing program with an aggressive amount of significant intercept tests, an estimated 37 or so by 2015.

- Holding in place the development of the European Midcourse Radar in the Czech Republic and the 10 Ground based missiles in Poland until 2011 and ratification comes forward by the Czech Republic and Poland on the agreements with the United States.

- Reducing and enhancing the long range ballistic missile protection of the United States homeland to 30 Ground Based Interceptors in Alaska and California from a projected 50 (40 in US and 10 in Poland)."

"After review of the statements made and examination of the budget, there are two questions regarding this new administration's direction and pragmatic approach for the protection of the American people from ballistic missiles.

1. With the increase of ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation from rogue nations since the beginning of this year highlighted by Iran's satellite launch on February 3; Failure of Diplomacy and international sanctions including UN security resolutions to prevent North Korea from launching a long range missile or space vehicle; North Korea's successful 3 staging of a long range missile on April 5; and North Korea's opening up of their nuclear program and Iran's continual uranium enrichment programs - why is the United States not increasing its missile defense resources?

2. As of less than 6 months ago, the United States Department of Defense through the Missile Defense Agency and the Strategic Combat Command had determined that 50 ground based interceptors were required to defend the territory and the homeland of the United States of America from a simultaneous attack of around two dozen or so projected long range ballistic missiles from North Korea and Iran. What has changed in the threat development and proliferation of ballistic missile capability of either North Korea and Iran in the last 6 months to warrant a 40% decrease to 30 ground based interceptors to protect the American Public and their nation?"

"Missile defense is about our nation and the fundamental core protecting our homeland from current and future threats and should always be a high priority . To sacrifice or reduce the long range missile protection of our nation for short and medium range missile defense capabilities should not be the choice; all should be supported."

"It is of strong merit that international leadership for missile defense is and continues to be led by our nation. The threat continues to grow and we cannot afford to be the only country with capabilities to ensure protection, deterrence and dissuasion against rogue nations. The United States is working with 17 nations in the international community and NATO on missile defense as well as developing missile defense systems with more than 6 countries, thus missile defense resources must be able to continue to support these efforts for global protection. A global problem requires a global solution."

"President Barack Obama and his Administration need to have other options than the United Nations, diplomacy, and use of military force, for if not, he will face a world of new nuclear powers that will be driven by lack of missile defense and U.S. deterrence to become nuclear. This is too important for our nation and our world to not allocate the full resources from the U.S. government.

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08 May 2009

Governor Perdue Signs Bills Assisting Children of Military Families

Yesterday Governor Sonny Perdue visited Fort Benning in Columbus to sign Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Sen. Ed Harbison, to ease the transfer and transition for school-aged children of active duty members of the military and House Bill 484, sponsored by Rep. Larry O’Neal, that deems the dependent children of military personnel stationed in Georgia on active duty as residents for the purposes of receiving the HOPE scholarship.

“Our state has a long and proud and history of supporting our nation’s soldiers, and we are truly grateful for the service of our military families,” said Governor Perdue. “These pieces of legislation continue Georgia’s strong support for those serving in our Armed Forces here in Georgia.”

The Governor was joined at the bill signing ceremony by Major General Michael Barbero, Colonel Thomas Macdonald, other members of the military and members of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

“SB 114 makes sure that as military families move into Georgia, their children are not hindered by bureaucratic red tape,” said Sen. Harbison.

“HB 484 expands HOPE eligibility to the children of military personnel stationed in Georgia,” said Rep. O’Neal. “These families have earned the support of our state.”

The Chattahoochee Valley Region will grow by nearly 28,000 new people over the next few years as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act. This robust population growth will bring many new military families to the state, and these bills and other past initiatives will ensure that students seamlessly transfer into Georgia schools.

“Thanks to the tremendous support of Fort Benning, the Columbus legislative delegation, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Governor Perdue, SB 114 & HB 484 are being signed demonstrating another example of the special "public-private partnership" in the Greater Columbus Region,” said Mike Gaymon, President & CEO Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

01 May 2009

VA Accepting Applications for Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

/PRNewswire / -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that Veterans can begin submitting applications online for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"There is no better investment than education," said Tammy Duckworth, VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs. "The Post-9/11 GI Bill will provide new opportunities that are essential to our Veterans, our workforce and our economy."

Veterans, service members, reservists and National Guard members with active duty since Sept. 10, 2001, may be eligible for this benefit. Veterans will remain eligible for benefits for 15 years from the date of last discharge or release from a period of active duty of at least 90 continuous days.

Eligible applicants must have served for an aggregate period of at least 90 days since Sept. 10, 2001, or served at least 30 continuous days on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001, and received a discharge for disability.

Benefit payment rates range from 40 percent of the maximum benefit for a person with at least 90 days, but less than 6 months of aggregate service and up to 100 percent of the benefit for people with at least 36 months of aggregate service or 30 continuous days and a discharge due to a service connected disability. Prospective beneficiaries may apply online through the GI Bill Web site at www.GIBILL.VA.gov.

Qualified Veterans will receive a "Certification of Eligibility" as well as additional information regarding benefits they may qualify for under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which will become effective on Aug. 1, 2009.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, passed by Congress last year, is the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944. It provides eligible applicants with tuition payments to assist them in getting a college education. For many participants, it also provides a housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies.

Information about the new program and VA's other educational benefits can be obtained through www.GIBILL.VA.gov or by calling 1-888-GIBILL1 (1-888-442-4551).

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