American Legion Department of Florida Commander Art Schwabe has never parachuted out of an airplane before. However, that could all change come May when the department’s 2013-2014 membership numbers are announced. And he may not be jumping alone — Department Adjutant Mike McDaniel may be right behind him.
During the Department of Florida’s convention last summer, Schwabe told Legionnaires that if membership reaches 108 percent, he will parachute out of an airplane — an idea that originated from watching the movie “The Bucket List.” “Sometimes you just have to do fun and crazy things to get people fired up,” Schwabe said. McDaniel, who Schwabe included in the membership challenge “without telling him,” will jump if membership reaches 110 percent.
“I put it out there as a challenge, but I’m not going to do it (jump) just for fun,” Schwabe said. “They have to work for it if I’m going to jump. It’s a challenge to every Legionnaire in Florida.”
Schwabe and McDaniel have enjoyed the excitement the challenge has sparked among Florida Legionnaires, as well as the chatter it has created between the two of them.
“All year we have been bantering around and he (Schwabe) says, ‘110 and go to heaven,’ and I say, ‘109 and stay fine,’” McDaniel said. “He’s been telling (Legion) members that I’m jumping, and I tell them ‘No, no, no. He’s confused.’
“If they hit the magic number, I will jump.” Or, according to T-shirts being circulated around Florida, be pulled out of the plane.
Schwabe and McDaniel have been handing out lime green and orange T-shirts to Legionnaires that show a caricature of McDaniel holding on to a plane saying, “We haven’t validated the @!#@! numbers yet!!!” as Schwabe is trying to pull him from the plane saying, “That’s 110 & you’re jumpin’!!!!”
The airport has been reserved for Schwabe and McDaniel to take flight and jump in May. Now, “it’s a matter of the department getting behind the goal,” Schwabe said. “I’d like to see the adjutant jump as well.”
Please be aware that Veterans may apply for the “Veteran” designation on their driver’s license or Penn DOT issued ID card now. If the License or ID card is not due for renewal then it will cost $13.50 for a duplicate card. If the card is due for renewal then there is no charge for the Veteran designation. There is a self certification of Veteran status that is part of the new application. There is an audit process between Penn DOT and DMVA.
Individuals that served in the Guard or Reserve that did not serve on active duty other than for initial training ARE eligible for the Veteran Designation.
Please distribute this as widely as possible.]]>
Above all, he misses saluting the men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Speaking in Dallas, Bush said he will again take up that cause through his institute for long into the future.
American Legion staff members participated in the Feb. 19 “Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors” summit at the George W. Bush Institute, where the 43rd U.S. president pledged his full support for the nation’s veterans and their families, putting the full strength of his institute behind that promise.
“Many (servicemembers) are coming home and are preparing for new missions as civilians, and I intend to salute these men and women for the rest of my life,” Bush said. “And through the Military Service Initiative, the Bush Institute is going to help. We’re focused, and we’ll be relentless in serving our vets.
“And so a goal of the Military Service Initiative is to help Americans understand how they can support our veterans and empower them to succeed. Support for our troops since 9/11 has been overwhelming, but until now, we haven’t really asked.”
To answer those questions, the former president said that researchers at his institute, working with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, are conducting a study in which veterans and military service organizations are helping their target audiences. The goal of the study is to establish best practices among the more than 46,000 service groups currently active within the United States.
“That’s a huge number, and it’s a great testament to our country’s strong support for veterans, but it can be overwhelming for newly returned veterans looking for help,” Bush said. “And while these organizations have good intentions, I suspect some deliver better results than others.”
Results of the study are expected to be released this fall, while results of the institute’s study on the post-9/11 veteran population are expected to be released this spring. The latter study tracks demographic and employment information, as well as the population’s feelings on the country’s military-civilian divide.
Bush provided a glimpse into the second study. “Eighty-four percent of the veterans say that the American public has ‘little awareness’ of the challenges facing them and their families,” he said. “It turns out most Americans agree: 71 percent of Americans said they do not understand the problems facing our veterans. You might call this a ‘civilian-military divide.’”
Another goal of the study, Bush said, is to help more veterans put their skills to work in the civilian sector. “From our research, we know one problem is that veterans and employers both have a hard time translating military experience,” Bush said. “Our study will help employers understand what veterans have to offer and enable them to tailor their recruitment and hiring efforts. And we’re going to send a broader message: Hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do – it is a smart thing to do. When a résumé says ‘United States military,’ that means you can count on the applicant to be loyal, have good leadership, teamwork skills and discipline. And to an employer, that should mean a lot.”
Bush also cast his vote for removing the term ‘disorder’ from post-traumatic stress disorder. “The real problem with post-traumatic stress is not the condition itself,” he said. “The problem is the stigma surrounding the condition – partly because it is mislabeled as a ‘disorder,’ and partly because many people aren’t aware of treatment options. As most doctors today will tell you: Post-traumatic stress is not a disorder. Post-traumatic stress, or PTS, is an injury that can result from the experience of war. And like other injuries, PTS is treatable.”
Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who worked with First Lady Michelle Obama to create the Joining Forces initiative, praised those who stand behind their loved ones as they serve their country.
“I am always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families,” Biden said. “Our military families have done so much for our country, and each of us can do something in return. That’s why nearly three years ago, First Lady Obama and I created Joining Forces, to encourage all Americans to support and honor our military families. Since that time, America has stepped up in our workplaces, our schools and our communities.”
Biden said civilian employers have realized what hiring a veteran does for its workforce. “Companies big and small are stepping up not just because it’s the patriotic thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. They know that our (servicemembers) are some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees they will ever have.”
Retired U.S. Marines Corps Gen. Peter Pace – who was the first Marine to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – took the stage with Blackstone chairman and CEO Steve Schwarzman. Blackstone has pledged to hire 50,000 veterans and has mobilized its portfolio companies to hire more than 10,000 veterans.
Schwarzman said that hiring veterans is “the moral thing to do,” adding that every U.S. company of significant size can be doing what Blackstone is doing.
Pace called post-9/11 veterans the “leaders of the future… the men and women who our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look to for leadership.”
The summit also included two panels focusing on obstacles faced by veterans and military families, and private and non-profit sector responsibilities and opportunities.
In the first panel, attendees heard from some notable names: retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, now the CEO of One Mind Research; Fisher House chairman/CEO Kenneth Fisher; Student Veterans of America Executive Director D. Wayne Robinson; and John Thiel, the head of Merrill Lynch.
Chiarelli called for more federal funding for brain trauma research, saying that if a private-sector CEO threw the same small amount of money at a multi-million dollar problem, the CEO wouldn’t keep his job very long.
Fisher asked for potential employers to reach out to wounded veterans while they are in the recovery process to start the mentoring process that much earlier. Robinson urged employers to be selfish and ask what the return on investment from hiring veterans is.
Thiel didn’t mince words when talking about his company’s aggressive efforts to hire veterans. “We’re doing this because this is a business opportunity for us, as well as doing the right thing,” he said. “Merrill Lynch has had a 45-year history of hiring veterans very successfully. They transition very well into our roles as advisors to clients with the maturity, the perspective and the leadership they have.”
In the second panel, Jacksonville, Fla., Mayor Alvin Brown said that veterans deserve to come home, get a job and take care of their families and explained mechanisms his city has in place to help with that, including working with companies and businesses in the city on veterans hiring programs. “My goal us to make Jacksonville the most military, veteran city in America,” Brown said.
Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, said there is a need to “cross the chasm to enable all Americans to find ways to support our veterans.” Team Rubicon CEO Jake Wood called veteran integration into the civilian world, the rate of veterans suicide and traumatic brain injuries a “national emergency.” Texas Tech University Chancellor Kent Hance – whose university has increased its student veterans staff personnel from one person to 12 since he arrived – pledged that veterans who set foot on campus with a skill learned during their military service, such as serving as medic, aren’t forced to relearn those skills in the classroom.
And Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven Inc., said one of the main solutions to helping veterans transition is a rather simple one. If we provide jobs (to veterans), the other stuff – it’s going to take a lot of work – it will work itself out,” he said. “I truly believe that.”
Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division Director Verna Jones was one of four Legion staffers at the summit. “I think it was important The American Legion was represented here today because we’re talking about all the issues we work with on a daily basis: employment, education and training, benefits,” she said. “We’re talking about medical care and even their position on post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s important that we get the views of other organizations in the same kind of business that we’re in, and be able to move forward with that information and with what we know from our own results.”
To view video from the summit, click here.]]>
The Department of Veterans Affairs is issuing new Veteran Health Identification Cards (VHICs) to about 4 million veterans and family members enrolled in VA’s health-care system.
The new cards provide a more secure means of identification for veterans due to Social Security numbers and dates of birth no longer contained in the card’s magnetic strips or bar codes. Instead, the cards now display an Electronic Data Interchange Personnel Identifier number as the “member ID” on the front of the card and embedded in the magnetic strip. These numbers will be unique to each cardholder.
While The American Legion understands the need to convert to a more secure ID card system, it is urging the department to ensure that no VA enrollee is denied timely access to health care during the card transfer.
According to VA, mailing of the cards “will begin soon. Because we will be reissuing 4 million cards, we ask for your patience during this time.” A new VHIC will be automatically mailed to veterans who have the old Veteran Identification Card (VIC).
Last September, VA suspended the issuing of VICs to allow time for changing its systems to read the new card. However, VA has continued taking veterans’ requests for cards – the requests have been put on hold but will be produced and issued as soon as the final system changes are ready.
Enrolled veterans who do not have the old VIC may contact their local VA medical center’s enrollment coordinator to arrange to have their pictures taken for the new cards, or they may request a VHIC at their next VA health-care appointment. Veterans must provide proper identification in order to receive the new cards.
To receive VHICs in a timely manner, veterans enrolled in VA should make sure their mailing addresses are correct. To update or confirm an address with VA, call (877) 222-VETS (8387). If the post office is unable to deliver a VHIC, the card will be returned to VA.
While VA regrets the delay in providing veterans their new cards, the cards are not required to receive VA health care. The VHIC is for identification and check-in at VA appointments. It cannot be used as a credit card or an insurance card, and it does not authorize or pay for care at non-VA facilities.]]>
As of Feb. 20, more than 2,500 veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have participated in The American Legion’s online survey that seeks to determine the effectiveness of treatments for these two conditions.
During the Legion’s month-long survey, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report on Feb. 13, “Gulf War and Health: Long-Term Effects of Blast Injuries,” that examines how blast exposure increases the likelihood of developing TBI, PTSD and other long-term health ailments among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The American Legion welcomed IOM’s report as a much-needed study that will help to determine what research is needed in the area of long-term health problems caused by blast injuries.
Dr. Jeff Greenberg of Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), which helped the Legion develop its current survey, said the IOM report “is a critically important document” with findings that indicate “there is precious little information about the effects of blast exposure over the long term.
“This is unsurprising. Blast exposure is a highly complex phenomena. Findings of the report indicate the need for greater resources to address this health challenge.”
Similarly, Greenberg said, the online survey The American Legion and DRC are conducting attempts to address gaps in the scientific understanding of veterans’ health-care experiences who have been exposed to psychological or head trauma.
With the information currently being collected from veterans by the Legion, Greenberg said, “The hope is that this information will lead to a more pronounced understanding of services received, aimed at supporting the goal of improved quality of care and better standardization of care.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requested IOM to conduct the study and is reviewing the report to determine whether any changes to its health-care policies need to be made.
Recommendations for VA from the report include to:
“In the case of veterans with PTSD and TBI,” Greenberg said, “there should be little doubt about the importance of continued research efforts aimed at improving health care, and ultimately long-term health outcomes, for those who have so nobly served this nation. Scientists, practitioners and those who would serve veterans are not at the end of the journey. Rather, there is a long distance to travel.”
Long-term health effects from blast injuries include cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular function, substance-abuse disorders, chronic pain, long-term hearing damage, and muscle or bone impairment such as osteo-arthritis.
Since 2001, about 3,000 servicemembers have been killed and 32,000 have been wounded by blasts from improvised explosive devices.
The American Legion created a committee to research treatments for TBI and PTSD that are being used by VA, DoD and the private sector. It issued a report on its findings and recommendations, “The War Within,” in September 2013.
The Legion’s current online survey is the latest initiative in its continuing research on treatments and therapies for TBI and PTSD.]]>
President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans for conspicuous gallantry, correcting what was in some cases decades of discrimination.
These veterans will be honored for their valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the White House announced late Friday.
Among the recipients will be 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans overlooked previously because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
They will be honored in a ceremony at the White House on March 18.
Each had previously been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award; that award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor in recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.
In 2002, Congress, through the Defense Authorization Act, called for a review of Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran war records from these wars, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.
During the review, records of several white soldiers were also found to display criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor. The 2002 Act was amended to allow these soldiers to be honored with the upgrade — in addition to the Jewish and Hispanic American Soldiers.
Such upgrades are not without precedence; in 1998, Army historians completed a review of the records of Asian-Americans or Native American Pacific Islanders who served during World War II. Former Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii was among those who had his award upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to servicemembers who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
“Justice delayed is better than justice denied,” said Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It is a very welcome effort and show of sensitivity by this administration to seek to redress acts of discrimination, and it is especially laudatory that it relates to our soldiers who fought so bravely on behalf of this country in America’s wars.”
American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger had this reaction to the announcement:.
“Proper recognition of their gallantry above and beyond the call of duty may be overdue, but for whatever reason it has taken so long, their time has now come. I have no reason to doubt that the upgrades are justified and deserving for these soldiers, three of whom from the Vietnam War are alive today, and will certainly represent all that the Medal of Honor means for the rest of their lives and inspire future generations.”]]>
The American Legion wants UC-123 air crews to become eligible for VA disability benefits
The American Legion has announced its support for extending Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits eligibility to veterans who were exposed to aircraft that had previously sprayed Agent Orange over Vietnam.
The Legion’s support is based on a study published Feb. 21 in the scientific journal Environmental Research: “Post-Vietnam Military Herbicide Exposures in UC-123 Agent Orange Spray Aircraft.” The study reports that environmental testing of such aircraft revealed traces of dioxin levels above Department of Defense (DoD) standards for maximum permissible exposure to poisonous chemicals.
U.S. Air Force and VA policies do not currently recognize “dried residues” of herbicide and dioxin as harmful.
Based on recent surface wipes and airborne concentration tests, occupational health researchers have concluded that inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption of dioxin and Agent Orange occurred in crews who came in contact with the spray aircraft after the Vietnam War.
“The Legion is committed to ensuring that veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said. “We will work with Congress and the VA to promptly designate C-123K aircraft as Agent Orange exposure sites, thereby qualifying veterans who worked with these planes to be eligible for Agent Orange-related benefits.”
According to Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman, Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the study “should provide the evidence needed for post-Vietnam veterans to receive the same health treatment as in-country veterans. They need and deserve it.” Stellman is senior author of the study.
The American Legion and Stellman worked together in the early 1980s to prove that adverse health conditions among Vietnam War veterans was linked to Agent Orange exposure, establishing a link that authorizes VA compensation and health care for those veterans.
In 1983, the Legion sponsored an independent study by Columbia University that established the effects of exposure to Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans. Congress received the results of the “American Legion-Columbia University Study of Vietnam-era Veterans” in 1989.
The Legion and Stellman have continued to fight for changes that include, in a 2010 decision, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia among conditions presumed to be connected to Agent Orange. The Legion has also fought to expand eligibility beyond those who served only with “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War, including “blue-water” veterans exposed to the defoliant on U.S. Navy vessels and U.S Air Force crews who handled it.
In August 2012, the Legion passed Resolution 128 to mitigate legal problems for the more than 1,500 veterans who must prove they suffer health problems associated with herbicide exposure.
Click here for a slide show and synopsis of the report.
Report suggests female aviators “may operate aircraft more safely”
Ten out of every 100 Army helicopter pilots are women — but they account for only 3 out of every 100 accidents.
That’s the bottom line in an Army report that, in an effort to study the impact of women on the front lines, compares accident rates of men and women flying Army helicopters from 2002 to 2013.
The revelation is included in Army Major Seneca Peña-Collazo’s report, Women in Combat Arms: A Study of the Global War on Terror, which he published in May while a student at the School of Advanced Military Studies at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.:
This research shows that over a decade of women serving in direct combat alongside their male counterparts, there is no significant stigma or other prohibitive factors that would degrade the effectiveness or lethality of attack aviation units in combat. With technology making warfare increasingly a remote task, the belief that women are unable to effectively perform in direct combat roles is becoming an obsolete paradigm that will fade into obsolescence.]]>
Mark your calendars and save the dates! The Pa American Legion Riders Annual Benefit Ride is scheduled with overnights in Levittown, Brownsville and Titusville. This year’s ride provides an opportunity to explore Pennsylvania with fellow Legion Riders and contribute to The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors. For those unable to ride the 4 full days, the ride will be coming back through Harrisburg on May 16th to pick up additional riders.
You must make your own hotel reservations. May 15th Holiday Inn Levittown (Langhorne) 215-757-4500. May 16th Holiday Inn Uniontown 274-437-2816. May 17th Caboose Motel 814-827-5730 (2nd Hotel to be announced at a later date if needed.)
Highlights of the event are: May 15th: HQ to Levittown Post 960; May 16th: Levittown to Brownsville Post 940 (via Hbg) Lunch at New Cumberland Post 143; May 17th: Brownsville to Titusville Post 368. Lunch at Butler Post 117; May 18th: Titusville to HQ.
Registration will be at HQ at start of the ride. $20 per Rider and $10 per Passenger. If you have any questions or to insure you receive updates, hotel and registration information, please send an email to Charles Oakley or Paul Owens. Like us on facebook at American Legion Riders Pennsylvania to see what’s happening around the Commonwealth.]]>