Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

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.