Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

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.