Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Veterans’ Medallion Available for Order

Veterans’ Medallion Available for Order

New Option for Marking Veterans’ Graves in Private Cemeteries

WASHINGTON (June 29, 2010) – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced today that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is offering bronze medallions to attach to existing, privately purchased headstones or markers, signifying a deceased's status as a Veteran.

“For Veterans not buried in a national or state Veterans cemetery, or those without a government grave marker, VA is pleased to offer this option that highlights their service and sacrifices for our country,” said Secretary Shinseki.

The new item can be furnished instead of a traditional government headstone or marker for Veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

Under federal law, eligible Veterans buried in a private cemetery are entitled to either a government-furnished grave marker or the new medallion, but not both. Veterans buried in a national or state Veterans cemetery will receive a government headstone or marker of the standard design authorized at that cemetery.

The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1 ½ inches in width. Each bronze medallion features the image of a folded burial flag adorned with laurels and is inscribed with the word “Veteran” at the top and the branch of service at the bottom.

Next of kin will receive the medallion, along with a kit that will allow the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the medallion to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

More information about VA-furnished headstones, markers and medallions can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmtype.asp .

VA is currently developing an application form for ordering the medallion. Until it is available, applicants may use the form for ordering government headstones and markers, VA Form 40-1330. Instructions on how to apply for a medallion are found on the VA Web site at www.cem.va.gov/hm_hm.asp .

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or grave marker.

The new medallions will be available only to Veterans buried in private cemeteries without a government headstone or marker. Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment.

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than 3 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict -- from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are buried in VA’s national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA Web site on the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 1-800-827-1000.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day Message

Greetings from the Grand du Maryland

As Voyagers we have sworn to keep Memorial Day sacred. Thanks to both
Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing and The American Legion over eighty
years ago the American Overseas Memorial Day Association was founded
"... to remember and honor the memory of those who gave their lives in
World Wars I and II, and whose final resting places are in American
Military Cemeteries or in isolated graves in local cemeteries in
Europe." To honor Gen Pershing support, La Societe will salute
General Pershing on Sunday at 2pm (or about) at his grave site in

This Monday, your 40 & 8 will be at Arlington National Cemetery
presenting U.S. Flags to everyone who enters the cemetary. After
Memorial Day addresses are given by the Vice President of the
United States Joe Biden (not the first time a President has not made
the address, 2007 Pres Bush was in Texas) and the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chef de Chemin de Fer Gerald
"Jerry" Brady and La Presidente Nationale are invited to
present a wreath at the tomb of the Unknowns. A national
moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. Another
tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from
dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on
each grave site at National Cemeteries.

In addition to remembrances, Memorial Day is also used as a time for
picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and sporting events. One of the
longest-standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, an
auto race which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since
1911. The Coca-Cola 600 has been held later the same day since 1961.

If you want to see a patriotic concert go see The National Memorial
Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol.
The concert is broadcast on PBS and NPR. Music is performed, and
respect is paid to the men and women who gave their lives for their
country. A little hint ot avoid the crowds, there is normally a
rehearsal the day before, that is less crowed.

Keep in mind as we salute our fallen comrades many more Americans view
Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer. We as Voyagers
need to keep the real reason for memorial day sacred. Where you
chapeaux or 40&8 shirt out on Memorial Day to show you support for the
real reason it is a holiday.

May God Bless you and your family and may your weekend be safe. Until
we meet again.
Etiam Servans!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Combat Deaths in Iraq


December was the first month in which no US troops were killed in combat in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, said it was a significant milestone that demonstrated how violence in the country had diminished.

2009 was also the least violent for US troops in Iraq, with 149 losing their lives, compared with 314 in 2008.

In total, 4,371 US military personnel have died since the invasion, according to the Iraq coalition casualty count.

On Friday, Gen Odierno attended a ceremony at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad marking the change of his command's name from Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) to US Forces-Iraq (USF-I).

"Today, when I fly over Baghdad, I see hope, with bright lights and busy traffic" Gen Ray Odierno, US Forces-Iraq (USF-I)

The all-US contingent of 110,000 troops will now focus on "advising and assisting" Iraqi security forces before combat forces are pulled out by 31 August and ahead of a complete withdrawal by 2011.

"In 2006, when I flew over Baghdad, I remember looking down on a city cloaked by darkness and gripped in fear," Gen Odierno said.

Insurgent attacks have dropped from more than 200 a day two years ago to approximately 15 a day, according to Gen David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, who also attended Friday's ceremony.

Between 94,939 and 103,588 civilians have been killed in attacks in Iraq since 2003, according to the monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

RX Refilled at National Naval Medical Center

Following the Grande's Thanksgiving meal, I decided that we should return to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda during the Christmas hiatus. We again showered them with kindness, this time we prescribed chicken fingers and sides. The Grand Chef was assisted by many members of his family and Sous Chef de Chemin de Fer Pat Beamer, who was in town for the holidays.

The patients and their families took their plates and went through the buffet line set up in the center of the 5th floor. Everyone was pleased with the awesome chicken fingers, potato salad and cole slaw from Selby's Market in Poolesville. Food was also taken by volunteers, many of the Family members who were there to assist the patients who were restricted or unable to leave their beds in the ward. The small amount of leftover food was packed and preserved to be used at the discretion of the families.

Chef de Gare Bob Ouellette was again the prime mover in putting together the treat for patients and their families, whose only other choice for food on weekends is a dash to the local fast food emporiums.

More than one family member showed their appreciation to Chef Bob and Sous Chef de Chemin de Fer Pat who enjoyed talking with many of the patients. They assisted with food line duties and words of appreciation and encouragement for Marines and Naval personnel during the two hour visit.
Grand Chef de Gare Bob Ouellette and Sous Chef de Chemin de Fer Pat Beamer where assisted my many of GC Bob's family members. The Grand Chef's family included his wife, Cathy, President of ALA Unit 247 and their sons who are Voyagers from VL265: Bob Jr., living in SC where he attends college and serves as a PFC in the SCANG; SPC Joe Ouellette currently assigned to FT Carson, CO and his finance PO2 April Clift, who is assigned to Naval Hospital Corps School, in Great Lakes, IL; TSgt Jason Kuhn, their nephew, a Legionnaire Post 295, he is currently assigned to NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Innovative Program Helps Troubled Veterans Turn Lives Around

By Donna Miles American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2005 – A unique center here is helping troubled veterans turn their lives around by providing a military-style program designed to help them beat addictions, develop career skills, land jobs, find homes, and become productive citizens.

The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, MCVET for short, offers an ambitious array of programs aimed at getting veterans back on their feet and into the mainstream sober, drug-free and self-sufficient. Military service provides the common thread behind the program. All "students," as participants are called, are veterans, as well as 75 percent of the staff.

The result is a program that puts heavy emphasis on the structure its students once embraced. "In many cases, the military was the last structure in their lives," said retired Army Col. Charles Williams, the center's executive director.

Williams and the rest of the MCVET staff are convinced that a return to that structure is the best way for troubled vets to begin their recovery. So from the day they enter the program, living in open-bay-style dormitories with beds sporting hospital corners and shoes placed "dress-right-dress" beneath their bunks, students re-enter the disciplined world many said goodbye to when they left the military. And just like in the military, they advance to leadership positions in the program and enjoy perks like semiprivate rooms as they make progress.
Darvis Tabrizi, who entered the MCVET program in August 2004, said the structure was exactly what he needed to deal with the alcohol and drug addiction that got him thrown out of the Navy in 2003 and ultimately left him jobless, homeless and estranged from his family.

"I needed to be grounded and I needed to be structured, and this place gave me that," Tabrizi said.

"It provided a foundation and a structured process to guide me," agreed Ezekiel Pankey, who went through the program nine years ago and now conducts outreach to tell other veterans who might need it about the program.

But MCVET is far more than a boot camp. Students tap into a wide array of services as they confront their demons and move forward. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides medical services and psychological counseling critical in overcoming drug and alcohol addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological difficulties. The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides housing assistance to the veterans, many of them homeless when they enter the program. The Department of Labor funds job training.
"It all comes together here," Williams said. "We are taking our students from dependence to independence."

Much of the program's emphasis is on education, with the schedule of activities revolving around classes that range from confronting addictions to developing life skills to help them cope on the "outside."

While MCVET offers all the tools needed for troubled vets to move on with their lives, the most important predictor of success comes from the students themselves.

"You have to give 100 percent and really want to be here," Tabrizi said. "This place works, but only if you want it to work."

"This is not a place to hibernate," Williams said. "It's a place to get your life together, and that takes hard work and a genuine commitment."
Just two months into the program, Crystal Showell, a 10-year member of the Coast Guard who is struggling to overcome drug and alcohol addiction, said she feels well on the way to a new start. She's attending mandatory classes that she said have taught her more about herself and her addictions in 60 days than she picked up during four years of college.

"I want to learn to live clean and sober and be strong enough when I leave here so I don't need that crutch anymore," the former petty officer said.

As they tackle these basics, students also begin focusing on what's ahead in their careers.
"We're not looking to simply get these people jobs. We want them to have a skill that provides them a career that pays a living wage, not a minimum wage," Williams said. "We don't want any of our people going to McDonald's unless they're eating or managing the place."
Getting to that point doesn't happen overnight, Williams acknowledged. Students can stay in the MCVET program for as long as five years, advancing from one phase to another as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

"You can't take a person who's been on drugs 10 years and rehabilitate them in 30 days," he said. "It takes time to do this."

Even after students have completed the program, gotten a job and moved into their own homes, the staff keeps in touch with them to see how they're doing and catch them if they begin backsliding.

If there's one lesson Andre Walters learned since coming to MCVET 18 months ago, it's that past mistakes don't have to become a lifetime pattern. "There's a sense of fulfillment, of satisfaction in knowing that you don't have to be a quitter and give up just because you made mistakes in the past," he said. "You can turn things around, and you do that here through teamwork and camaraderie and hard work."

A year into the program, Tabrizi is putting his life back together. He's "clean" and has re-established his relationship with his family. He's got a job at the MCVET front desk and is sharpening his computer skills as he prepares to return to school. A former Navy aviation machinist mate, Tabrizi is looking forward to studying helicopter mechanics at the University of the District of Columbia this spring and has already been promised a job at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, maintaining helicopters for the medevac crews.
Looking back, Tabrizi said he'd never have been able to make the turnaround he's experienced without the MCVET staff and program. "I just wanted a way out, and I found it here," he said. "The staff here gave me hope and made me want to do it, and they taught me to be a better person."

Williams, who helped establish the MCVET program 11 years ago, said he's confident it's made a huge difference in the lives of the 5,000 students who've participated in the program so far.
"We don't say we've saved every one of them," he said. "But of those who stay 30 days, seven out of 10 will return to their families as productive citizens with jobs."

Jeffrey Kendrick, a retired Air Force master sergeant who's director of operations at MCVET, said the staff "gets swept up" in the gratification of helping veterans jump-start their lives.
"It's a very rewarding experience, because you see that your work actually pays off in the end," he said. "The staff is this program's greatest strength. It's not just a job. We believe in what we do here."

Rheebe Bryant, a retired soldier who's now a drug and alcohol counselor at MCVET, said the program provides a unique opportunity to serve men and women who have served their country. "The satisfaction here is helping other veterans," she said. "At the end of the day, you know that you've helped someone."

Related Sites:Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grand du Maryland Statement on the Fort Hood Tragedy

My first thought on hearing the news today was that I was glad my son, a Soldier at FT Hood was ok. My next thought was the anguish that the families of the victims. One can understand casualties in a war zone, but on base, your home, it is unconscionable that the soldiers wound be injured at home. During the coverage, a Mother was interviewed, she was talking to her daughter when her daughter said she had to go and hung up. Hours later, she was contacted by the ER Doc who was assisting her daughter.

The Department of Defense has many resources for those who need assistance with PTSD and other issues. How could one of those that we trust to help with caring for these soldiers who have been through so much be the instrument of their death.

The Forty and Eight, Grand du Maryland would like to extend our condolences to the victims and families of those immediately affected. We would also like to extend our support to the 71,000 Troops and families assigned, living and working on Ft Hood.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Did Weapons Fail U.S. Troops During Afghanistan Assault?

An interesting theory presented here. I have fired the M-16 so much that the barrel turned red hot. The M-60 operators would change barrels because they became so hot they were not safe to operate. Bottom line, either more troops on the ground to fire or weapons with a hire rate of fire. ~ Bob O

WASHINGTON — In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

Despite the military's insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.

A week ago, eight U.S. troops were killed at a base near Kamdesh, a town near Wanat. There's no immediate evidence of weapons failures at Kamdesh, but the circumstances were eerily similar to the Wanat battle: insurgents stormed an isolated stronghold manned by American forces stretched thin by the demands of war.

Army Col. Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, said a review of the battle at Kamdesh is under way. "It is too early to make any assumptions regarding what did or didn't work correctly," he said.

Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren't new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading critic of the M4, said Thursday the Army needs to move quickly to acquire a combat rifle suited for the extreme conditions U.S. troops are fighting in.

U.S. special operations forces, with their own acquisition budget and the latitude to buy gear the other military branches can't, already are replacing their M4s with a new rifle.

"The M4 has served us well but it's not as good as it needs to be," Coburn said.
Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that buys soldier gear. Still, the rifle is continually being improved to make it even more reliable and lethal.

Fuller said he's received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said.

The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn't been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet.

Cubbison's study is based on an earlier Army investigation and interviews with soldiers who survived the attack at Wanat. He describes a well-coordinated attack by a highly skilled enemy that unleashed a withering barrage with AK-47 automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic, which allows hundreds of bullets to be fired a minute.

The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

Cpl. Jonathan Ayers and Spc. Chris McKaig were firing their M4s from a position the soldiers called the "Crow's Nest." The pair would pop up together from cover, fire half a dozen rounds and then drop back down.

On one of these trips up, Ayers was killed instantly by an enemy round. McKaig soon had problems with his M4, which carries a 30-round magazine.

"My weapon was overheating," McKaig said, according to Cubbison's report. "I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn't charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down."

The soldiers also had trouble with their M249 machine guns, a larger weapon than the M4 that can shoot up to 750 rounds per minute.

Cpl. Jason Bogar fired approximately 600 rounds from his M-249 before the weapon overheated and jammed the weapon.

Bogar was killed during the firefight, but no one saw how he died, according to the report.