Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

15 June 2015

No more whining!

   Hello, I'd like to apologize for my absence in writing this blog but I've been busy doing stuff.  As some of you may know, I'm involved in a group that holds candlelight vigils to promote awareness of Veteran suicide called Shining the Light on 22.  I've also been busy by creating a benefit for local organizations that are actually helping Veterans in Northeast PA.  The benefit is called Together We Can Save Lives and it will be held on June 27th, which is National PTSD Awareness Day.  The name of the event is, of course, a nod to my blogging friend A Vet with PTSD.  And yes, I did ask him for permission to use the name.  And I thank him for all of his support. 
   If you have never tried putting together a benefit, let me tell you.  It takes boots on the ground, a couple dozen ink cartridges, and a lot of prayers.  Does it sound like I'm whining right now?  Well, in all actuality, I'm not.
   See, a wise man, possibly my old platoon sgt from the mortar platoon, once said, "If you complain about something and don't offer a solution, it's called whining."  The more I think about it, that sounds more like an FDC chief I know from the same mortar platoon.  He probably said that just before he booted a field telephone out of the back of the FDC track cause it wasn't working.  Ya really gotta love infantry solutions.
   Well, my solution to all the complaining I've done about the VA and nothing being done by the politicians in the beltway is to do "something".  I have put together (OK, still putting together) a benefit for two organizations that actually help our Veterans.
   Hunts for Healing is a group based out of Laceyville, PA.  They do some freaking amazing work with Veterans suffering from PTSD and other injuries.  They are an all volunteer group and they actually own the land they use for their programs.  I'm a big supporter of alternative treatments and HFH fits that bill to a T. 
   St. Francis Commons is a new homeless shelter in downtown Scranton, PA for homeless male Veterans.  More than just a shelter, they are a 2 year "program" that offers counseling and other programs with the goal of having the Veteran become self sufficient and able to have a job and housing of their own at the end of the program.  The minimal staff is paid, but they volunteer a lot of their time to help the Vets there.  Oh yeah, and the VA actually refers homeless Vets to the program, so there's one in the positive column for the VA.  The rest of the program is funded by Catholic Social Services.  I don't know but if you take off your Obama prescribed rose colored glasses, you can see that social service organizations like CSS are harder tasked than almost ever before.  The need for financial help, and help in general, is great during this time of Obamacare and Obamaphones.
   Anyway, I don't really want to get political in an area that is about as blue as you can get.  I want to help my brother and sister Veterans.  This is they way I'm doing it.  A benefit event that includes entertainment (let me give a big HOOAH to Krypton DJs and Ron Schoonover) and food.  Have you ever really tried to get free food for an event?  Like I said lots of legwork.  I want to thank Sibio's, Minooka Bakery, The Penalty Box, Buona Pizza, and Joyce's CafĂ© (Home of the Minooka Notre Dame fan club--yeah I know, this coming from a fan of Da U).  I'm hopeful there will be more food donors as well. 
   As long as I am doling out thank yous, a big thank you to the Sons of the American Legion Squadrom 665 out of Dickson City, and Friends of the Forgotten NEPA Wing.  HOOAH to both.  Tradesmen International, VFW 3451, and Schoonover eye care also get salutes too.  Without any of these groups, this benefit would be dead in the water.  Legwork is about the only thing cheap about putting on a benefit.
   Ah yes, then there is the basket raffles.  Wow, did I not know all of the places there are that will donate gift cards, etc. for basket raffles.  Once again, lots of legwork, lots of donation letters and W9's.  I'm constantly carrying donation letters around with me as I'm driving around NEPA.  It's very gratifying that almost everywhere I go it's a yes, but its the legwork that takes a toll.  Working a full time job, little league games, other events with the family.  I'm not complaining, mind you, but it is just a lot of legwork.  And I've got a limited group of about 6 people helping.  That includes my wife, who has more than lived up to the terms "best friend", "my safety blanket", and about a dozen other terms that I can't think of right now. 
   Both Hunts for Healing and St. Francis Commons will be at the event with information on what they do, as well as Mission 22.  I'm hoping to get other groups, once again its legwork.  The term not enough hours in the day sure rings a bell for me.
   Right now, I'm focusing on PR and selling tickets.  If you are local to NEPA or want just want to go to the benefit, I'd love to have you.  Give me a call (570)498-0923.  Tickets, of course, will be available the day of the event at the Dante Literary Society (1916 Prospect Ave., Scranton, PA).

06 April 2015

EOM End of Mission

   EOM. Commonly in military lingo that signals End Of Mission.  It means that you've stopped mortaring the crap out of a hilltop or other military objective, basically because our side now "owns" that piece of real estate, or its just been bombed back to the stone age.  When it comes to the national tragedy that is Veteran suicide, I'd love to record EOM, but I can't.  The sad fact is, today and everyday, on average, 22 Veterans will commit suicide.  I mentioned above that this is a national tragedy, its a tragedy you don't hear enough about.  That is because, in the majority of the media, suicides are not reported as news stories and the names of the Vets are not "superstar" famous. 
   Our country, in fact the world, seems to be consumed with what ever the Kardasians are doing or where Kanye West is hanging out.  Today is the opening day for Major League baseball.  Imagine if Derek Jeter, Justin Verlander, David Ortiz, Zach Greinke and 18 other Major League all stars committed suicide tomorrow.  I'm sure facebook and the twittersphere would have their names trending for days!  That's because you know their names if you follow baseball.  Thousands of people wear their jerseys.  But the entire country doesn't follow our Military the way they follow professional sports.  It's just a sad reality.  You can serve in a hellhole for a year, watch your buddies get wounded or killed, and when you come home, maybe there is someone besides your family waiting for you at the airport.  Meanwhile, someone can throw a fastball 98 miles per hour, and they get all the glory.  It sucks.
   Start at 1.  Of course, if you're reading this, maybe you are thinking to yourself "How can we stop 22 Veterans from committing suicide?"  If you are thinking that, you're looking at the big picture.  We're trained to look at it that way.  The truth is the only way to end Veteran suicide is going to start with you and me.  So, lets think about how we can stop just one suicide.  It's the small approach. 
   In some studies, Veterans feel they don't have anything in common with civilians.  The normal dude on the street has never been in a war zone.  They've never had to jump out of bed and get in a shelter or man a defensive position during a mortar strike on your FOB (Forward Operating Base).  Hell, most people on the street think a FOB is what you put your car keys on!  So, Veterans feel distant.  And, in truth, a lot of civilians feel that way too.  Most of the time, when someone knows I served in the Military, the first question they ask is "Where did you serve?" or "What unit were you in?"  That is normally the extent of the conversation.  It's a normal first question.  But there is no follow up to it.  If a Vet says Iraq or Vietnam the normal civilian isn't going to ask for more details.  Fear of bringing back bad memories is probably the most basic reason.  But, again, there is no connection.  Instead, you can say something like "I bet you were glad to get back home to hot and cold running water" or you can ask, "What was the first thing you did when you were home?" 
   Trust me, I am definitely not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but the key to stopping suicide, whether its a Veteran or any suicide, is a conversation.   A Vet with PTSD came up with a great idea called "Telephone A Vet Tuesdays", the point is to talk to a Veteran that you might otherwise not call.  A five minute phone call could make all the difference in someone's day. 
   Combat effective.  To be an effective combat unit you need to be able to do three things: shoot, move and communicate.  A friend of mine named Mike was a commo guy in the national guard.  He used to say Communication was the King of battle because, if you don't know where the battle is, you're not in the battle.  Mike was always really cool.  We came back home from Bosnia.  We drilled at different units and I lost touch with him.  Then, I found out he killed himself.  I wasn't his best friend but, in the back of my head, I've always wondered if I stayed in touch, would he still be around.  I'll never know.  I do know this, I will keep in touch with my friends who I served with.  For a long time, I kept a low profile.  When I retired from the national guard, I kept to myself.  I lost all touch with guys who were in my fire team, guys who were in my unit.  That's over.  I will keep in touch with my Brothers-in-Arms from now on. It's all about communication.  It's the main key to The Spartan Pledge.  If you are a Veteran, or even if you're still serving in the Military, you need to take the Spartan Pledge.
   Anyway, the next time you see someone wearing a Military baseball cap start a conversation.  Bring the conversation back to normal everyday things that everyone has in common (in Northeast Pennsylvania you can definitely have a 30 minute conversation on potholes while standing in line at the local Walmart).  You're probably not going to be put on his or her Christmas card list, but you've made a Veteran feel involved in something local. 
   Local is the key.  There is a community page on facebook called Light up the night 22 Veterans which promotes candlelight vigils on the 22nd of every month to raise awareness of Veteran suicide.  In Northeast PA I have started an event for April 22nd called Shining the Light on 22.  I'm going to have a candlelight vigil at the flagpole of my county courthouse.  Now, you don't have to get all public like that, but you can hold a candlelight vigil on the 22nd at your church or a local park.  Invite some of your friends.  Next month, have them invite just one friend of theirs to join you again for a vigil to end Veteran suicide.  Let them know stopping Veteran suicide starts with each and every one of us.  If people ask you what you're doing, let them know too.  One great online resource about Veteran suicide is the Mission 22 website.  Please check it out.
   The only way to win a battle is to engage the enemy.  Our enemy is Veteran suicide.  If you engage a Veteran in conversation, you're winning the battle.
That is all.

30 March 2015

Going Down Range

  Down range.  It's a term used by the military to signify some place that's dangerous.  Whether it's a war zone or a flood zone, it is some dangerous place where your personal safety is anything but secure.  That's where we're going in this post.  But it's not the reader's personal security that is unsafe, it's the personal safety of Veterans who have given a little or a lot for this country.  We're going to the VA.  So grab your vest, make sure all the ballistic plates are in it.  We're moving out!
   Reloading!  In my last blog post, I ranted a little (OK, a lot) about the VA pushing pills on Veterans at Veteran Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs).  On 26 March, Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, called on the VA to end the "all too common practice" of over prescribing opioid drugs throughout the VA healthcare system.  In the midst of the "Candy Land" investigation at the Tomah, WI VAMC, I salute Sen. Isakson for calling on the VA to end their practice of "over prescribing" meds that are prevalent in the VA healthcare system.  Indeed, today (30 March), Congressional hearings are being held in Tomah about the serious problems found at that VAMC.  If any of those senators and house representatives are reading my blog, I just want them to know they are at the very tip of the painkiller iceberg.  But, don't worry.  It's a very big plateau at the top of VA opioid iceberg, because you could go to just about ANY VAMC and probably find the same over prescription of opioid drugs to Veterans.  As I said in Report from the LP/OP, the VA mainly treats just about anything with pills.  In a world where alternative therapies is growing by leaps and bounds, the VA is holding on strong to the "a pill a day" approach in medicine.  Actually, probably more like 10-20 pills a day. A report estimates 50percent of VA patients who suffer from chronic pain abuse painkillers.  And the problem is worse when you consider most Vets have private doctors too.
   In the age of Obamacare, it is more than likely a Veteran could be treated for Military related illnesses or wounds, while also seeing a private or family doctor as well.  According to a news story by the Connecticut Mirror, the VA doesn't share their prescription records with individual states.  Not only that, but they don't share their records with family doctors.  This gets into the huge problem of interactions between medications that can prove deadly.  At a hearing by the Senate VA Committee John Daigh, a representative of the VA's office of Inspector General, testified the VA wasn't following its own policies and procedures in several areas, including evaluations of patients with take home opioids.  "Not following their own policies and procedures."  Where have we heard that before? Hmm.  Well, just about any-freaking-where in the Obama administration, but definitely we have heard that before in regards to the VA scandal of 2014!  And, just like I did in my last post, I will again remind my dear readers that the VA scandal is not over!!!!  This "candy Land" investigation is just another facet of the VA scandal.  The benefits and compensation problems should rear their head again soon, just like they came to light almost a year ago, shortly after the wait time scandal broke national news from the Phoenix VAMC. 
   It is all the same VA Scandal.  A scandal that began in the 1960's and 1970's when an influx of Vietnam Veterans caused the VA to go on life support.  But no one noticed that the plug was already pulled on that life support system.  That's because that life support was money.  Federal tax dollars that no one ever thought about when the draft was going on.  Those same tax dollars weren't thought of during any war since Vietnam.  Sure, you can allocate money for the Department of Defense.  But the congress and the president never think long term.  They will pass and sign a bill to ramp up production of weapons.  But, they don't pass a bill to fund the VA for all of the soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and coat guardsmen that they are sending into harm's way.   And I'm not just talking about funding for the VA healthcare system, but for the benefits and compensation as well.  Every aspect of the Department of Veteran Affairs is in disarray.  It hasn't happened overnight and it won't get fixed tomorrow.  We need to start fixing it. We The People need to start telling our elected politicians that they need to vote to fix the VA.  Like, really fix it, not just a band aid on a gushing puncture wound.  We need to delve into alternative "pill free" medicine and alternative  therapies.  We need to look at the benefit and compensation issues and start down a fiscal path that will help alleviate those problems.  We need to modernize the VAMCs themselves and do it "within budget".  We need to modernize the 1980s computer systems in the entire VA and make them compatible with other federal agencies (like the DoD for one).
   Trust me, I am all for the "boots on the ground" approach (I am Infantry remember) and I believe we have to lead from the front, but, before we send another kid down range to protect the freedoms we all hold dear, we need to make sure we will be able to take care of them when they are a Veteran of the United States of America.


Dealing with PTSD...for kids.  Veterans deal with PTSD in various ways.  For the most part, other adults know kinda sorta what PTSD is.  Partially, why I write this blog is to promote awareness of PTSD.  But how do children deal with a father or mother that has PTSD?  Do they even know why a parent is acting differently?  That problem faces a lot of Veteran families. 
   Seth Kastle knows all about this dilemma.  He is a Veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.  A retired First Sergeant, Kastle has two children.  And, he's struggled with PTSD for 10 years.  Describing PTSD as "not nice.  not pretty," especially for children, Seth wrote a book to let his children know that he loves them no matter what he has gone through in the Global War on Terror..  "Why is Dad so mad?" is a book written for children who have a parent with PTSD.
   "I wrote this book so I could explain it to my kids," Kastle said, "I want them to know its not their fault."
   Another book Kastle has penned, titled "Why is Mom so mad?" should be out in early July.  A book that Seth consulted with Veteran moms while writing.  "Why is Dad so mad?" is available on Amazon.
That is all.


Remember this Tuesday and every Tuesday is Telephone A Veteran Tuesday A phone call can make all the difference sometimes.  Also check out the latest blogs from A Vet With PTSD.

23 March 2015

Report from the LP/OP

   A Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP) can give you vital information in the field.  Usually on the front line (if not a little bit over the front lines) an LP/OP sees real time troop movements by the enemy and is also close enough to those enemy troops to hear what they are saying. LP/OPs can warn you of an enemy moving towards your Assembly Area (AA), and that's valuable insight when lives hang in the balance on the battlefield.  Of course, I imagine drones are all the rage.  But you can see and/or hear a drone.  Good soldiers in an LP/OP, you won't see or hear. 
   Of course, when you come back home and are standing in line (figuratively) at the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) you may be able to get the information about the same time its being put out.  The VA Scandal is not over.  Never has been.  And, it won't be for a while.  Not exactly news.  But its what I'm reporting to you today. 
   The recent news about wait times at the Los Angeles VAMC are just one example.  To me, its almost unbelievable that CNN is somewhat shocked that wait times still exist at VAMCs.  I mean, its almost like they just abandoned their LP/OP after Shinseki was fired and Congress passed the VA Choice Act.  Oh, that's right, they did.  "Nothing new to see here.  Move along." That's what the editors for the media say. 
   News isn't really new.  In some ways, there is nothing "new".  Veterans are still waiting longer than they should for treatment or an appointment.  That's been happening, so its not really new, right?  Also, (NEWS FLASH) the VA still basically treats stuff with pills and shrinks.  Do you want to see the VA's pill treatment philosophy on steroids (pardon the really bad pun)?  Just look toward the VAMC at Tomah, WI.  The place is nicknamed "Candyland" for crying out loud!  But, that's not new.  In 2012 a study by the VA on service animals helping Veterans with PTSD was put on hold (not for the first time either).  In 2014, after almost 2 years, the study program was reopened.  As of the date this blog post is published, the VA is not using service animals.  That is to say, they are not paying for a widespread program to help Veterans with PTSD or TBI with the use of service animals.  But if you want a pill in just about any color (the blue pills aren't those blue pills you're thinking of), I am pretty damn sure there is a VAMC who is willing to give you a prescription for at least one or four of them!    I would find it hard to believe that if you look hard enough, there isn't a picture of a VAMC somewhere online when you want to find out how to lead from behind! 
   Also, according to a recent press release, the cost to replace one VAMC in Denver has skyrocketed from $328 million to $1.73 Billion (yeah, with a capital B).  One VA Medical Center.  Are they using the freaking $3,000 hammers the government purchased back in the 1990's? 
   Of course, the VA is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to Veterans care.  Thankfully.  Private groups like Chili Off The Grid and Operation: Light Of Hope are picking up the slack the VA is doling out by the mile.  According to an article in The Wall Street Journal alternative treatments are working.  While you're reading that article check out when it was published.  Almost a year ago, during the height of the (then news to the news media) VA wait time scandal.  And STILL the VA is popping pills as (pretty much) its only widespread treatment for PSD and TBI, along with a helluva lot of other things!  This has got to change!
   Change would be news, right?  Hopefully, that change starts with a meeting by the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs meeting on 24 March 2015.  The meeting, taking place at the Russell Senate Office Building at 2:30 p.m. is to discuss a possible change to the distance criteria for the VA Choice program, something I discussed in my post Why We Fight. Also, with over 2,000 Veterans waiting for an appointment in L.A., its time to find out why the VA Choice program has dismal number of Veterans using it.  Could it be that the money in the VA Choice program is being eyed as a "slush" fund for other VA programs (did I mention they like giving out scripts for drugs?) that bureaucrats think need to be funded more? 
   Oh, wait, here's some more change for you.  Back when Robert McDonald took over as Secretary for the Dept. of Veteran Affairs (back in 2014), he created the MyVA board to help get some new ideas into the VA.  One Veteran from Syracuse University, Michael Haynie has been appointed to what is now (in 2015) being called the new advisory board called MyVA. 


   Helping Veterans.  As many of you are aware, I'm all for doing stuff to help Veterans.  One of my main issues is PTSD and TBI.  June is PTSD awareness month, capped off with June 27th being PTSD awareness day.  I am in the midst of preparing an event for that day, and the whole month.  I'm asking that you the reader also start preparing to do something to heighten the awareness of PTSD, TBI, or other issues our Veterans face on a daily basis.  Veteran homelessness, Veteran suicide are two of the many things you can bring to the eye of the public.  You can stage a vigil, write a letter to the editor, or volunteer at groups that help Veterans and their families. 
   Also, remember that tomorrow is Telephone A Veteran Tuesday a fantastic idea brought to us by my fellow blogger A Vet With PTSD.
That is all.

16 March 2015

Time On Target

   Time on Target (TOT) is a military term used by artillery and mortars.  It is basically the coordinated fire of numerous units of artillery "cannons" (a unit of "cannons" is usually comprised of 4-6 guns and are called a battery) I use the parenthesis because the artillery doesn't actually use cannons anymore, they are pretty much all self propelled weapon systems now. Well, anyway TOT is when a number of batteries fire rounds at the same target, with the timing taken in to account so that all rounds (say 20 or so 155mm shells) land at the same time on the same target. It's as close to vaporization of a target as the Army gets.
   Well, for this TOT I want to emphasize the "time" part.  Basically because it is time that is against all Veterans.  You see, a while back I wrote a post called Fruit Salad.  It was a blog about why we needed the Clay Hunt SAV Act to become law.  Since then, it has become law.  But, during my preparation for writing the blog, I came across a link on the VA website that didn't work.  That was back in January.  Well, just last week I finally got a response.  It has been referred to "the appropriate personnel" according to the email I received.  That post was published 28 JAN 15.  So, about a month later I get a response that it has been handled.  The link in question doesn't even exist now.  I'm guessing they are fixing it? But, basically a month and a couple days.  How is that for Time on Target?  It reminds me of the phrase "Close enough for government work".  In reality, a military TOT mission is considered a success if all rounds reach the target within seconds of each other.  Seconds! Not months! And, of course, President Obama finally visited the Phoenix VAMC, how is that for Time on Target?  He drove right by it a couple weeks ago.  But, I know he really cares about Veterans, just cuz he says he does!  Because campaign promises are made to be broken, especially when it involves the care of Veterans! 
   Getting back to the email from the VA, probably the only good part of the email was I was given a toll free phone number for the VA's Health Resource Center.  the number is 877-222-8287.  I would suggest that if you have a question about anything on the VA's medical website, that you call that number which is open from 0700 -1900 hours Central time Monday through Friday and 0900-1530 hrs. on Saturdays, central time.  Hopefully, it'll take them less time to answer your question.  Hopefully.


   A Light of Hope.  I sometimes think I am too negative.  kinda like a drill sergeant doling out push ups like one of those Mardi Gras or St. Patty's Day floats throwing candy to children.  Well, in all actuality, I like to be positive.  Through this blog I have found numerous groups that are helping our Veterans.  These are private groups, not associated with the VA or, in most cases, any government entity at all.
   One of these groups is Operation Light of Hope.  Monica, who runs Op Light of Hope, started the organization in October.  She's based out of the Louisiana area and her "lights" of hope focus on "alternative medicine" therapies.  The daughter of a Vietnam USMC Veteran (and husband to a Marine Veteran of the Gulf War) Monica says she started the Light of Hope network because "It's always in my heart." 
   Light of Hope concentrates on proven therapies like stress management and counseling services, as well as reiki, yoga, art/music therapy, and even EMDR/biofeedback.  While Monica has some names of providers who she has worked with, when she gets a call or message from a Vet that is out of her area, she finds new people who are always willing to help.  "We call people up and we say 'we have a Veteran in your area'."  The treatments are usually free or at reduced cost to the Veteran. 
   Monica will find out what types of services the Veteran is looking for and then she will call alternative medicine providers local to the Veteran in need.  Monica says the response from the alternative medicine community has been fantastic.  "It's an easy reach out," Monica says, noting a lot of people are really willing to go that extra mile to help our Veteran community.  And once she does reach out, her mission becomes about making the Veteran feel comfortable.  "It's about making that initial contact," Monica explains, "so when they show up somewhere, someone already knows their name."
   Aside from the wellness support opportunities for Veterans, Operation Light of Hope also offers enrichment opportunities to help Veterans with PTSD or TBI actively engage in their communities.  These opportunities help open the door for Veterans to feel valued and supported while, at the same time, benefitting their local communities.  Some examples of the enrichment opportunities include museums, non film theatres and sport events.  Along with volunteer outreach, the groups Monica calls on are always willing to help Veterans feel safe and, perhaps best of all, valued in their own area. 
   Additionally, Light of Hope also educates people about Veteran suicide and Veteran homelessness. 
If you are a Veteran who is looking for help with PTSD, TBI, or other areas please feel free to reach Operation Light of Hope:

phone:  (985)705-8900
twitter: OperationLOH
instagram: Operation_LOH


   Justice for Kody.  Finally, this isn't really related to the U.S. Military or our Veterans.  This is about justice.  Justice for the killer of Kody Quinn Williams.  Kody was a 19-year-old who was killed by an as yet unnamed hit and run driver near Cloverdale, CA.  The driver/murderer has never come forward.  This happened in February of 2009.  For six years, his family and friends have dealt with this.  Its time to find the killer.  Please check the link to the blog and, if you know anything (ANY thing) please contact the authorities.  I'm a father myself.  I cannot imagine the pain this family feels.  I just want it to end, in some part, by the killer having their day in court. 
That is all.

02 March 2015

Why We Fight

   I've been doing more research on the VA Choice Card Program.  In one of my previous posts I pointed out that VA Secretary McDonald and Pres. Obama want to cut funding for the VA Choice Card Program, a program that is temporary in nature.  When the funding runs out, its over.  But that's only part of the problem with the Choice cards.

   One of the problems is the "40 mile" stipulation.  A Veteran must live outside of 40 miles to get pre approval for outside VA care.  That 40 mile limitation is in nautical miles.  In other words, "As the crow flies".  It doesn't take into account that a Veteran might have to drive 42 miles using paved roads such as interstates, streets, highways, etc.  For some Veterans and their families this is a problem.  Another point is that the mileage is measured to the nearest VA, whether they can administer specialized care or not.  So, you may have to see a specialist which isn't at the nearest VA medical center, but you wont be allowed to use a choice card, even though the specialist may be at another VAMC 100 miles away or more!  A group of U.S. Senators has sent Sec. McDonald a letter to redress the problems with the distance part of the VA Choice cards.  McDonald does indeed have the ability to change the calculations for the mileage requirements, if he wants to.  If the VA Choice program wasn't just smoke and mirrors to alleviate another "scandal" for the Obama administration, and the VA in general. 
   In opening remarks during the Senate hearing on the VA's fiscal year 2016 budget, Sen. Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, said, "We need to make (Veterans Choice Act) work to address the problems the VA healthcare has experienced and get healthcare to our Veterans in the most timely and seamless way we can..."  Isakson, who served in the Georgia Air National Guard, has also called the President's proposed cuts to the Veterans Choice Act a "disservice to our nation's Veterans". 
   He's right.  It is a disservice and it also looks like a way for the VA to get more funding for other programs while terminating a program that is being underutilized.  For a lot of politicians, the question is, is the VA actually promoting the Choice program or just giving it "the old college try"? 
   Concerned Veterans for America has recently issued a report on how they see the VA's overall medical program being fixed.  It involves turning VA Healthcare into a non profit organization, something McDonald is against.  McDonald claims dismantling the VA medical wing isn't the way to reform the VA.  I say, and I think we should all say, prove it.  Promote the Choice program so that more than 27,000 Veterans want to use it or can use it.  Change the mileage calculations.  Don't set up the Choice program for failure and then take out all of its money.  The VA needs reform in all areas.  Now.


   Part of the problem with the VA, no matter what part you are talking about (benefits, medical, etc.), is why they do it.  The title of this post is "Why We Fight".  We are talking about Veterans of the U.S. Military.  For the better part of 50 years, the U.S. Armed Forces is something you choose to do.  A lot of Vets will tell you the reason why they served is because of what they had at home.  Their family.  The freedoms we enjoy in the USA.  It's not to go "and kill the yellow man" as the song says.  It's what is behind you that you serve.  The day I enlisted was one of the proudest days of my life.  Finishing Basic Training and being promoted to sergeant are as dear memories to me as the first time I held either of my children or getting married to my wife. 
   But, you have to wonder if that is what motivates VA employees.  They are dealing with men and women who, at one point in their lives, wrote a blank check to this country to defend, serve and protect American citizens and our way of life.  Does a bureaucrat actually feel that way when he is determining if a Veteran qualifies for some VA program?  I'm an Oath Keeper.  The day I retired from the Military wasn't my last day of service to my country.  It's why I write this blog.  Because someone has to make everyone aware that there are Veterans out  there that have suffered tremendous wounds (some physical, some mental) while serving this country.  There are Veterans who won't go back to the VA after some contracted provider almost broke a needle off in their spine while administering a drug.  There are Veterans out there that the VA says are "disabled" but Social Security has the gall to say they can still work because they can sit at a desk for a couple hours.  There are Veterans who cant drive for an hour when the VA looks at "how the crow flies".  This is why we fight!  This is why the VA has to be reformed.  The antiquated bureaucracy have to change.  Its not the 1950's anymore.  Also, the employees cannot think they are safe behind union membership if they screw up.  Sometimes, when they screw up, it means life or death! 
   "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan" is the motto of the VA.  Everyone that works at the VA should have that in their mind when they go to work every single day.  And if they don't "live up" to that motto, they can go to McDonalds and flip burgers.  Of course, the paycheck won't be the same.  But, then again, what the VA is supposed to do, is worth a helluva lot more than flipping burgers.  Our Veterans deserve the best care.  Our Veterans, right now and for sometime now, haven't been getting the best care.  That has to change.  Veterans served to protect and defend the freedoms a lot of people take for granted.  We shouldn't take our Veterans for granted.  EVER.
That is all.

24 February 2015

Running password

   In Infantry combat Operations, sometimes it useful to have a running password.  It is normally a one word password (lets say Romeo) followed by the number in your unit or squad.  Lets say your team is moving back to your base when they come under fire.  you would radio your predicament to your base and beat feet toward your base.  You would then use a "running password" when you got to the entrance to your base, "Romeo 5!" Then the team leader waits with the base sentry as your team passes.  After the fifth man through the wire, its open season on anyone else trying to gain entry into your fire base.  It can also be used under less harrowing circumstances, like a really freaking dark night with no moonlight whatsoever.  Well, it's a dark night for Veterans.  It started with the VA scandal, decades ago, and it continues to this day. 
   First off, I want to make everyone aware of a bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) on 13 February 2015.  The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act  aims to include Veterans of naval and coast guard ships that did not enter inland water areas of Vietnam.  These ships, usually a destroyer class ship or larger, may have had contact with the dioxins now known as Agent Orange. A 2002 study for the Royal Australian Navy (see citation 19 for the full study) brings to light the fact that when you desalinate water contaminated with Agent Orange, it actually concentrates the dioxins.  So, when you take into account that almost all of these ships desalinated water for use to power their engines and as fresh water for the crew (cooking, bathing, drinking, etc.) you have a lot of "Blue Water Navy" Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The kick-in-the-pants is, these Veterans are not recognized by the VA as having any contact with Agent Orange because they didn't step foot onto land in Vietnam. (more on this below)
   For the past three Congressional sessions (that would be 6 years by my count), nothing has been done.  The above link for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act is actually the text and summary from last Congress's Blue Water Veterans Act, which died in subcommittee in the House. (The link is there because it is the same text to the current HR 969 but the summary for HR 969 hasn't been put up on the Congressional server as of the original date of publication for this blog).  Now, you have to ask why the bill didn't go anywhere.  It had over 218 co sponsors in the house.  That's a helluva lot of politicians all agreeing on something.  The problem is, there was no "score" from the Congressional Budget Office.  That "score" is basically the price that will have to be paid to make the bill into a law.  Remember, it was the "price" of the Clay Hunt SAV Act that made Sen. Coburn block its passing the Senate last year.  The fear has always been that the "score" from the CBO would be too high and the question would be "Where are we gonna get this money from?" 
   John Paul Rossie is the Executive Director of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. He said "It looks like things are much more in our favor," regarding a CBO score during this Congressional period.  Part of the reason for a lower score is the fact that a report on the Da Nang Harbor may be accepted by the VA, eliminating a lot of the Blue Water Veterans from the cost of the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act.  This would mean the cost of the bill would go down significantly.  Hopefully, it will be passed.  In that regard, I would like to ask all of my readers to contact your representative in the House and let them know you would like them to co sponsor HR 969 The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.  A partner bill may soon be introduced in the Senate.  I will let you know of any news of that as soon as I have the information.
   Before I close on this subject, any Veteran that served on a ship during the Vietnam War, in the waters that are being discussed here, please consider the diseases caused by Agent Orange for Veterans and their offspring.  In my opinion, the legal issues surrounding Agent Orange are murky enough that all of the water involved is all brown water.  Different cancers and other diseases all could have been caused by Agent Orange.  I am not even sure if Agent Orange really worked in its mission of defoliating the triple canopy jungles of Vietnam, but it did a hell of a job on our Vietnam Veterans.


   It seems that VA Secretary Robert McDonald and (former?) NBC news anchor Brian Williams need to start a new 12 step group.  They could call it Misremembering Anonymous.  I am, of course, referring to McDonald's claims of being in a Special Forces unit.  To be clear, McDonald did graduate Ranger School, so he was "tabbed", but he never served a single minute in a Ranger Battalion.  He was with a CBS news crew!  More importantly, he was helping with a homeless count in Los Angeles, where Veteran homelessness is a big problem.  The lasting impression from this little "misremembering" should stay with the Veteran homeless population across the United States.  Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee, has said he is "disappointed" in McDonald's statements.  Rep. Mike Coffman, who McDonald infamously asked "What have you done" during VA budget hearings, has said Sec. McDonald has a job to do, mainly clean up the VA.  Coffman has said he hopes the media doesn't fixate on McDonald's misrememberings, but instead remains focused on cleaning up the VA.  Senator Johnny Isakson, chairman of the SenateVeteran Affairs Committee hassaid, "Secretary McDonald made a mistake of the heart, not the head.  He has apologized for it, and I accept his apology."
   If he doesn't, then we have to make sure they are honest and correct in their statements.  Don't tell me you've fired "hundreds" of VA employees when in reality its less than a dozen.  Don't tell me you were a special forces operator!  Just get rid of the problem culture in the VA and make sure the goal of the VA, to treat our Veterans with the care and dignity they deserve, is met!  McDonald was made secretary to end the VA scandal and to make it work.  So far, not much has been done.  With the signing into law of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, hopefully some real progress will be realized.  The VA needs to work.  Anyone that thinks ISIS will be defeated without an American casualty is vastly delusional.  We will fight wars in the future.  We will have Veterans that need care.  We, the people, will make sure the government never NEVER forgets that last statement.
That is all.


Thanks to Fox News and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association of facts used during this blog.

Read these blogs!  I do and I think you'll enjoy them too.
A Vet with PTSD's blog
Old Marine's blog
American Duckie's blog
Boston Red Thoughts blogOK the last one might only interest you if you like baseball and the Boston Red Sox, but its a great blog!

Call a Veteran that you know.  Talk to them.  Maybe have a coffee together.  It could make a big difference.

16 February 2015

Use of Force

   The President of the United States has (finally) gone to Congress with a request for authorization for a use of military force against a group of muslim religious fanatics known as the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, muslim cockroaches, etc).  It is a request he doesn't have to make.  It is also a request he has no bloody will to carry out.  The last sentence is my opinion, although it is a widely held opinion among people who don't think of the current president is the best thing since sliced bread.  In order to give you my reasoning for that opinion, let's take a look at the definition of force.

force: noun. coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence.

   This is the definition that President Obama is thinking of in his mind.  I can almost guarantee that.  I figure he is just glossing over the word "use" and just sees the phrase "threat of violence."  In his mind, I'm sure that is enough to make a bunch of muslim cockroaches cower in fear and disband to the nearest rock quarry.  Maybe, in his childhood, it was always the threat of violence that made him do things.  I don't know, mainly because his past is one of the best kept secrets known to mankind.  But, from his request for the use of force to destroy ISIS, one can only come to the assertion that the threat of violence is what he believes will destroy a growing group of muslim extremists.  I can say this because all he wants to do is continue with an air war that hasn't stopped ISIS.  We've been bombing ISIS positions since August 2014.  Yet, according to Obama's own National Counterterrorism Director Nicholas Rasmussen, ISIS continues to grow in size of their manpower and physical territory.  So, it goes to figure that Obama's use of force doesn't request the use of ground forces.  Nor does it have an exit strategy, but that's a tenet of almost any politician who has never worn a military uniform.  O yeah, it does talk about using special forces here and there, but that isn't ground forces.  Special forces, the way they are meant to be used, do not constitute "ground forces".  Ground forces take, by force, an objective (town, hilltop, etc.) and hold it.  Usually, during the "hold it" part, they continue to search out enemy combatants, weapon caches, etc.  No offense to fighter pilots, but they don't hold anything when it comes to a physical, geographical location.  Neither does a drone. 
   Just days after their captured pilot was burned alive by these inhuman cockroaches, Jordan bombed the crap out of a Syrian city called Raqqa, which is thought to be the de facto capitol of ISIS.  But ISIS is still in Raqqa.  That's because we don't have ground troops to hold any piece of land that we bomb.  You can bomb the bejesus out of anything.  Until you have ground troops go in and take physical control of an area, it isn't yours and you can't say you know the enemy is gone.  And, you damn sure can't say you've defeated someone until you know they are gone. 
   A couple of days ago, on twitter, I had a running conversation with someone I can only describe as a totally out of touch pacifist.  This person claimed that she just wanted peace.  That's fine, everyone wants peace.  I told her, though, that peace has to be a two way street.  In other words, peace can only happen when all sides want peace.  Otherwise, it sucks and you're going to get run over.  ISIS wants pieces, not peace.  They don't want to coexist with Christians, Buddhists, or any other religion.  They want you to bow down in the name of islam.  That is what we are up against.  Religious fanatics pure and simple. 
   If the above seems political then maybe it is.  But, if you want to win a war, if you want to destroy a group of religious fanatics, then you need do it the right way.  If you fight, you need to fight to win, its the only way to fight a war. 


   Now, also a couple of days ago VA Secretary Robert McDonald was in front of the House of Representatives justifying the VA budget for Fiscal Year 2016.  During his testimony, he had a rather pointed conversation with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO). Coffman is an Iraq War Veteran.  During the exchange, which basically centered on an over budget and behind schedule VA hospital in Denver, McDonald asked Coffman (keep in mind Coffman is a Veteran) "What have you done?"
   Now, I don't think I have ever defended McDonald.  I have said in past blog posts that we should give him a chance.  This exchange, along with the fact that McDonald claims to be for the financial gutting of the VA Choice card program, is just about the end of his chance with me.  By that, I mean that, since McDonald is a government outsider, I had hopes he might bring true change to the culture of the Department of Veteran Affairs.  I now realize if there is going to be change it is going to be brought about by groups like IAVA, The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and AMVETS. These groups have proven their ability to get the ear of politicians and get legislation passed to improve the care of our Veterans.  Keep in mind groups like Wounded Warrior Project and others are great too.  But, when it comes to getting legislative action done, the Vets groups are getting the job done.  We have to work with these groups to achieve the change that our Veterans need and deserve. 
In the meantime, please feel free to go to the Department of Veteran Affairs facebook page or their twitter account and tell them what you have done, either as a Veteran of the United States Military or as a supporter of Veterans who deserve better care from a bureaucracy that is mismanaged.  Please use #WhatHaveUDone when letting them know our Veterans deserve the best care we can give them.
That is all.

Thanks to articles by Fox News and The Washington Post


If you are a Veteran please take the The Spartan Pledge. If you are thinking about suicide please call the Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. 

If you want to put an end to 22 Veterans committing suicide everyday, then please consider Telephone A Veteran Tuesdays and call at least one Veteran that you know and just talk to them.  This is a project put together by my friend A Vet with PTSD.  he's the one that got me into blogging, and I thank him for it.  

09 February 2015

Back to the Chow Hall

   The Clay Hunt SAV Act has passed and, some breaking news here, the president will sign the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act into law at a public ceremony in the East Room on Thursday.  To all of those who called/emailed all the politicians, to everyone that called into a radio talk show or wrote a letter to the editor to talk about the Clay Hunt bill, I salute you.  This will help to alleviate the epidemic that is Veteran suicide by making care easier to obtain at the VA or even on the web.  Like I say about my blog posts, if it saves one Veteran, it has done its job. And, we will be able to tell if its working because another part of Clay Hunt SAV calls for monitoring and reviewing the VA's efforts in suicide prevention.  It should also help to bring more qualified doctors to the VA by offering partial student loan repayment for doctors that join the VA.  Hopefully that part of Clay Hunt SAV will alleviate the backlog that is still plaguing the VA to this day. 

   Of course, the battle is won, but the war rages on when you talk about Veteran suicide, Veteran homelessness, and, overall, the VA.  The scandal is not over.  All over the country there is still a backlog on both medical and financial claims for the VA.  Although several senators are currently working on an update of a bill to monitor and help reduce further the claims backlog, another bill that was passed and signed into law by Pres. Obama, is currently on the chopping block in the 2016 Federal budget.
   The Veterans Choice Program is under the budget ax wielded by the President.  In his 2016 fiscal budget, he wants to "reallocate" some of the $10 million put into the Choice Card program last year.  VA Sec. Robert McDonald defends the cuts and even claims responsibility for the reallocation of funds.  In the Washington Times article it is stated that many politicians in Congress have problems with the "cuts". 
    The overall budget for the VA has increased and provides more money for, among other things, traditional "brick & mortar" VA centers, mental health treatment, and "telehealth"technologies, possibly to be used for Veterans who are already using the Choice Card. 
   Overall, the Choice card program has its flaws.  There is more red tape involved in the program than trying to get a drone for Jordan to fight ISIS.  And that's just one of the flaws.  Of course, red tape is usually an added bonus when it comes to governmental programs.  To read another example how red tape is clogging up the VA's arteries read this blog post from A Vet With PTSD.   
   In the House of Representatives, a bill that would help the VA get back bonuses and other monetary awards to VA employees is stalled.  Remember, this is a republican controlled house.  Yet, House Resolution 280 has only been introduced.  A couple of weeks ago from the date this post will be published.  It has been attacked as being a "union busting" bill by some democrats.  Well, if they aren't doing their job, the VA employees shouldn't be getting bonuses.  That's my opinion.  Its also my opinion that if they don't do their job they should be fired or sent to work in the middle east or any country that ends in -stan.  Once again, just my opinion.


   A local branch of the Friends of the Forgotten is working to memorialize the residents of Lackawanna County who died while fighting the Korean War. They're working with Marywood University and are still in need of funding for the project, which is slated for its debut the Saturday after Memorial Day 2015. 

   Also, the Friends of Connors Park in Scranton, PA is going to be unveiling a Veterans Monument on Memorial Day this year.  To raise funds they are conducting a paver program where you memorialize a Veteran in a walkway that will lead to the monument.

   Finally, June is PTSD Awareness month.  I want to really get the word out about PTSD and the treatments that are (and aren't) being used by the VA to treat PTSD.  If you have any ideas (I've already got some) please let me know by shooting me an email at  
   I will share my ideas as soon as I can concrete them a little bit more. 

   If you are a Veteran in a bad place, please remember to take The Spartan Pledge.  And if you know a Veteran is in crisis please call the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 or you can text them by texting 838255.  You can reach them on computer by going to the Veterans Crisis Line.
That is all.


Thanks to Times Warner Cable News, Politics PA, The Washington Times, The Military Times, Stars & Stripes, PA Homepage for their informative articles. 

28 January 2015

Fruit Salad

   Fruit salad.  No, don't worry, I'm not talking about Michelle Obama's student lunch menu.  Although, on second thought, fruit salad is tasty (and nutritious I think) so it probably isn't recommended for school students.  But, once again I'm not talking about something you eat.  No, instead I'm talking about what military members refer to for the medals they wear when in their dress uniforms.  I'm going to tie this in to the Clay Hunt SAV Act and why it needs to be passed by the senate and signed by the president. 
   As you all know by now, my main objective right now is to ensure the Clay Hunt SAV Act becomes reality.  After seeing it held up by one vote in December, I'm going with a full court press now.  So, I looked at what Clay Hunt SAV actually will do for Veterans.  The main points of the act are listed by IAVA here. When you look at it, you would think a lot of this is common sense.  Of course, government doesn't really use a lot of common sense (I know...shocking) so, that's part of the reason why Clay Hunt needs to be passed.  For instance, one of the parts of the Clay Hunt SAV Act is to provide a one stop, interactive website of available resources.  Now, everyone knows the internet is a fantastic resource for grouping things together to make a "one stop" or "one click" website where you can find all the information about a topic.  Lets make that topic Veteran suicide prevention.  The VA could easily list all their different programs, along with other non governmental organization programs, on one website. They could even use the same site for Department of Defense for active duty Military.  Sounds easy enough, especially if its already supposed to be that way. 
   Yeah, that's right, there is already supposed to be a "one stop" link/webpage for the VA for mental health, to include suicide prevention, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). 
   According to the Interagency Task Force on Military and Veteran Mental Health 2013 Annual Report, one of their recommendations was to create a "one stop" resource for Veterans and Active Duty Military personnel.  That was just a recommendation though.  That's why we need Clay Hunt SAV Act passed and signed into law.  Then, it isn't a recommendation.  Its something that has to be done.  And, let me tell you, it needs to be done.  I decided to search for programs by the VA on suicide prevention.  I stopped looking at web pages after four different pages had totally different VA programs (including programs for homeless Veterans, suicide prevention, PTSD, TBI, etc).  The most comprehensive (and we're stretching the definition of comprehensive) was actually a Health and Human Services (HHS) page.  I found this page while perusing the Interagency Task Force on Military and Veteran Mental Health 2013 Annual Report. I found a link in the report for the website, which was "HHS launched to provide a one-stop source for information and resources on mental health issues for Veterans and the general public."  The basic problem with this approach is its too general.  The average citizen of the United States doesn't deal with the memory of watching a friend get blown to hell.  The average taxpayer doesn't worry about the same thing Veterans with PTSD worry about because they (the average taxpayer) have never been in a situation that has turned deadly in seconds flat.  I know because there is only 1% of the U.S. citizens who have dealt with these issues.  They are our Military service members and our Veterans.  Sorry, one size fits all doesn't work in this situation. Veterans need specialized care, especially specialized mental health care.  That's why we have the VA, right? 
   Now, that's one reason why the Clay Hunt Suicide prevention for American Veterans Act has to be passed.  Now, onto the fruit salad.
   The reference to fruit salad for medals is because they are usually bright, multi colored thingies.  They even have one for graduating Basic Combat Training.  I used to refuse to wear it because, as I told my platoon sergeant who wanted to know why I wasn't wearing my dress greens properly, "I'm wearing the uniform, I don't need a medal, I know I graduated Basic."  Well, anyway, the point is that a lot of awards and medals in the military are for the purpose of just making the "fruit salad" look good for soldiers with one 1 stripe on their shoulder. 
   Well, its a governmental thing too.  While reading the interagency report it stated "DoD, VA and HHS have on-going successful national campaigns which focus on overcoming the negative attitudes associated with mental health and substance use concerns and seeking treatment."  It then went on to state that one of their "successful" multi media programs won three awards in 2013.  Another public awareness campaign garnered 50 awards.  Awards look good but, if this is what the government is basing success on, then I would rather they throw out all their "fruit salad" for just one Veteran who they saved.  No where in any of the reports I read did I see any statistics on how the "Real Warriors" or "make the Connection" ad campaign saved any lives.  They look good.  I have some of the real warriors literature.  It's high quality stuff.  I don't know if any of it has ever made a difference to a service member contemplating suicide.  I know they have used NASCAR drivers and actors for "Make the Connection" ads but, unless you have a "one stop" website, how many connections does a Veteran have to make to get help?   All good points to bring up to your senators when you call them to tell them to pass S 167 (the Clay Hunt SAV Act).  
That is all.

19 January 2015


   The call on the radio was loud and clear.  "Bravo 52, SITREP."  I'd heard it many times before.  Actually it seemed like 5 seconds ago. SITREP means literally situation report.  In this case, our 25mm main gun on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle had jammed.  As far as the last time I heard the tower call for a SITREP, I was right, it was 5 seconds ago.  My Gunner closed the door to the 25mm chain gun and said, "We're up." This indicated that the jam was corrected and the gun was now operational.
   "Tower, this is Bravo 52, we're up. Ready to continue the table," I said into the microphone.  We were doing a Bradley Gunnery Table, part of qualification for gunner and Bradley Commanders.  Our main gun had malfunctioned and we were now ready to continue with the gunnery qualification table.  This wasn't the first time I had been asked for a SITREP and it wouldn't be the last. 

   Here is the current SITREP on the Clay Hunt SAV Act, Senate Bill 167.  It was introduced last week by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  It has 18 co-sponsors and has been read twice on the Senate floor and has been referred to the Veteran Affairs Committee.  That is where we are at.  The Clay Hunt SAV Act has been here in the senate before.  It was shot down by a no vote of one senator.  Sen. Coburn has since retired.  But that's all recent history.  Let's get to the down and dirty, as the saying goes.
    I am asking that my readers (and anyone else you can talk to) call the members of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee.  Clicking on the committee link will bring you to a page I created with phone numbers and D.C. addresses for the committee members.  To contact them by email you have to go to their individual senate profile pages and fill in a form to email them.  You can find their email pages here.  I have recently contacted the D.C. office of Sen. Johnny Isakson, the chairman of the committee, and it is one of his priorities to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act.  I want to make sure that all of the members of the Veteran Affairs Committee know that We The People want it passed as well.  The Clay Hunt SAV Act was passed in the House of Representatives as House Resolution 203.  In the senate it is Senate Bill 167.  I would ask that all keep up the pressure on our elected officials, it seems to be the only way to get stuff done.  In the mortars, this is what we would call Fire For Effect (FFE).  Once a mortar platoon or artillery battery has positioned its rounds to where the forward observer (FO) wants them, the FO calls for FFE, and then all tubes/guns fire. When I find out the vote will happen in the senate, you can expect one more FFE.  Until then, please mention the Clay Hunt SAV Act as much as you can on social media and also see if your local media will pick up the story as well.  As usual, the more this is in the public eye, the better.
   One last point, FFE isn't to be confused with Final Protective Fire(FPF) where all rounds are expended on a target that has been predetermined.  The figurative FPF for our call/email mission will be once the Clay Hunt SAV Act is passed by the senate and sent to the White House for President Obama to sign it into law.  Stay tuned for that.
That is all.   

13 January 2015

Service & Support

   The Clay Hunt SAV Act is alive and well in the 114th Congress.  It passed the House of Representatives yesterday, 12 JAN 2015.  403 votes in favor, 0 against!  Out-freaking-standing, as my old Drill Sergeant would say.  Actually he would have worked in at least 2 explenatives.  Partly because that's what Drill Sgts do and partly because he would've been in this spot before and know the outcome could come drastically different than intended.  We, of course, have been here before.  Just about a month ago, the Clay Hunt SAV Act passed in the House.  It then died because of one vote against it.  The full story is here.  Just like my old Drill would've probably guessed, it got shot down by a politician.  In this case, a senator.
   We are going to make sure the Senate gets it right this time.  House Resolution 203 (the nomenclature for the Clay Hunt SAV Act in the Senate) is in committee right now.  The Veterans Affairs committee is headed by Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.  After talking to a member of his staff, I found out H.R. 203 will come up for vote on the Senate floor probably some time this week, although they couldn't give me a definitive day.  That's fine with me, it just means I get to call them every single day! Once again, out-freaking-standing!  Using this Senate contact list any of my readers should be able to find their Senators' phone number and/or email address and contact them to let them know "We the People" want this passed.
   Now, normally, a Joe (a member of the U.S. Military, I'm not trying to be sexist or anything) doesn't really get too much intel on what it is they are doing.  As long as it's a lawful order, an enlisted man or woman usually does it.  But this is what the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act means:
  • Directs the Secretary of the VA to conduct an at least annual evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention programs in the VA. This evaluation would be done by an objective "third party".
  • Provide funds to make a centralized "one click" resource on the internet detailing all of the mental health care programs available to Veterans.
  • A loan repayment program for certain psychiatrists in the VA.  This is a pilot program and the selected psychiatrists would have to stay with the VA for a certain period of time to participate.
  • A program to help Veterans that are transitioning from active duty to civilian life and to help improve access for Veterans to mental health programs.
  • The Secretary would also be able to collaborate more effectively with non profit, non governmental (meaning in no way shape or form a VA entity) mental health groups.  This would more effectively help the groups and the VA work on the same level.
  • Extends eligibility for military members who were discharged for released between 2009-2011and did not enroll in VA care programs.
   A summary of H.R. 203 can be found here.
   So that is it, in a nutshell.  Please call/email your senators and let them know that this bill needs to be passed.  Currently, on average, 22 Veterans commit suicide everyday.  If these Veterans had the name recognition like Peyton Manning or Derek Jeter or Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie it would be national news.  The outcry from the public would be huge.  Look at the suicide of Robin Williams.  Any suicide is tragic.  It's a loss that is catastrophic.  But no one knows the names of the Veterans who commit suicide.  Except their friends and family.  the military and Veterans are the true 1%.  The 1% who has, at one point in time or another, written a blank check for this country.  Some have signed that check in their own blood.  We have to make sure that, once they return home, that "life" check is cashed only when "natural causes" or "old age" can be written on the back with the signatures of a grateful country. 
Please join me for a twitter storm on Wednesday from 8-9 pm.  Please feel free to mention your senator's twitter account.  Use #ClayHunt and #VeteransLivesMatter. We need to get the word out and make sure this bill winds up on the President's desk.
That is all.


An organization is putting in a Veterans Memorial and a much needed flag pole in a park that is by my house.  They have an idea of having bricks with the names of Veterans, living or deceased, (or any patriotic message you wish) to lead the way from the park's entrance sidewalk to the memorial.  It is a fund raiser to help secure the money for the memorial.  I am asking that, if you can, please check out the Veterans Memorial page on my blogsite and buy a brick to help support this cause.  Thank you.