Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News
1. Shinseki’s “Good News” Hailed On Reduction In Homeless Veterans. The Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch (12/11) editorializes that homelessness “is a timeless issue, but most Americans became more conscious of the problem in the 1970s, as homeless populations became more visible in urban areas.” It adds, “The good news is that new strategies are emerging to help reduce that population, including more access to permanent housing and improved, sustained counseling. Moreover the Department of Veterans Affairs has targeted billions in recent years for the vets that make up part of that chronic population. This month, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki reported that the number of homeless veterans has dropped 18 percent over the last two years:”
2. Shinseki Hails Wreaths Across America Commemorative Events. In a Business Wire release (12/11), the Department of Veterans Affais announces that “Thousands of red-bowed wreaths will decorate Veterans’ graves and memorials across the country on Saturday, Dec. 11, when volunteers place them at 131 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries, state Veterans cemeteries, and at Arlington National Cemetery and memorial sites.” A statement from VA Secretary Shinseki called the series of tributes “one of the most beautiful events repeated across the country as thousands of volunteers honor our Nation’s heroes.” He added, ” “It is inspiring to see the volunteers show their respect and gratitude for the Veterans who served our Nation.” Last year, the fifth annual Wreaths Across America events drew over 100,000 participants contributing about 161,000 wreaths, most of which were donated by individuals, groups and businesses. The program was created by the Worcester Wreath Company of Maine, which is donating at elast seven wreaths to every VA national cememtery.
CNN (12/11, Liptak) reports, “Solemn rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery were adorned with holiday decorations Saturday morning, as hundreds of volunteers laid wreaths on the gravesites of America’s fallen troops. The event coincided with 550 similar wreath-laying ceremonies across the country. The effort was organized by Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit group that 19 years ago began laying wreaths at Arlington, located in northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington. Three tractor-trailer trucks carried 24,000 wreaths, which were made from branches of Maine balsam trees and adorned with red velour bows.”
South Carolina Now (12/11, Drucker) reports, “Cold temperatures and steady rain couldn’t stop more than 200 people from all over South Carolina from honoring veterans at the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Florence National Cemetery. The annual event honors those who have served and are serving in the military by placing holiday wreaths on veterans’ graves at 131 National Cemeteries across the country.”
The Auburn (NY) Citizen (12/11, Baker, 10K) reports, “A crowd of veterans, families and patriots gathered in the Auburn Veterans Memorial Park Saturday for a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the US armed service personnel who died in the line of duty or are listed as missing in action. The ceremony began at precisely noon to coincide with ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and thousands of other sites across the country. … At the peak of the ceremony, seven wreaths were placed in the park to commemorate the men and women who served in each of the branches of the US military — the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines — and those listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.” WSYR-TV Syracuse, NY) (12/11) also reports the story,
Wreaths Across America Honors Those Who Served Their Country. The Palm Beach (FL) Post (12/11, Graulich, 127K) reports, “Wreaths Across America began 19 years ago when Maine based-Worcester Wreath Company started a tradition. Members of the company placed wreaths on headstones of veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. By 2007, the idea had become so big around the country that the Worcesters formed the nonprofit group Wreaths Across America. In 2008, Congress declared the second Saturday in December National Wreaths Across America Day. In Florida, 23 cemeteries celebrated Wreaths Across America Saturday including three in Palm Beach County.”
Wreath Ceremony Memorializes Service Members. The Somerset County (PA) Daily American (12/12, Wojcik) reports, “Flight 93 National Memorial, the American Legion and the Civil Air Patrol collaborated with Wreaths Across America to recognize the courage and sacrifice of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 who gave their lives Sept. 11, 2001 and the 25 million men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The ceremony took place at the temporary memorial site.”
Wreaths Across America Honor Soldiers In Biloxi National Cemetery. WLOX-TV Biloxi (12/11, Vowell) reports, “On the hallowed grounds of the Biloxi National Cemetery, more than 18,000 soldiers are laid to rest. Though they are gone, they are far from forgotten. Each year, the simple act of laying a wreath on a grave is practiced throughout the county to honor fallen soldiers as a part of Wreaths Across America. While the practice began in Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America has grown into a national day of remembrance, and extends right here to Biloxi.”
Wreaths Across America Remembers Veterans At Holidays. The Monroe (MI) Evening News (12/11, Kisonas) reports, “James and Becky Hario stood arm-in-arm in front of the wreath that was placed before the War on Terror Memorial at Veterans Park and thought of their son. Pfc. Eric Hario, an Army Ranger, was only 19 years old when he was shot and killed in action during a mission in Afghanistan last year. His and 10 other names are etched on the memorial. ‘It’s been a rough week,’ Mrs. Hario said. ‘It was Eric’s birthday Thursday. He would have been 21.'”
Wreaths Across America Reaches Bloomington. MSNBC.com (12/11) reports, “‘We don’t have a national cemetery here, but we do have this lovely memorial, so we thought this would be an appropriate place to do it,’ said Terry Edmunds, a Vietnam Veteran. The Statefarm Military Affinity Group has sponsored and hosted the service at Bloomington’s Miller Park for the past five years. Retired Army Sgt Edmunds says Saturday morning’s bad weather only helps him emphasize the importance of being here.”
Volunteers Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery. Associated Press (12/11) reports, “Volunteers are placing about 500 holiday wreaths on veterans’ graves at Fort Logan National Cemetery as part of the national Wreaths Across America program. About 150 volunteers will place the wreaths at Fort Logan on Saturday. Nationwide, the wreaths will be set up at more than 130 state and national cemeteries and memorial sites.”
1,100 Wreaths Laid At Veterans Cemetery. The website of KREX-TV Grand Junction, CO (12/11, Dzenitis) reports, “In Grand Junction, more than a thousand wreaths were laid at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado. More than 400 national and state veterans cemeteries participated, including Arlington National Ceremony. Organizers in Grand Junction say they raised $17,000 dollars through donations, made by individuals and businesses, to make the event happen.”
Departed Veterans Remembered In Wreath Ceremony. The Contra Costa (CA) Times (12/11, Modesti, 175K) reports, “A white-haired man escorted by Civil Air Patrol cadets carried a wreath to one of seven easels arrayed before silent onlookers, then removed his Merchant Marines cap and dropped his chin onto his stars-and-stripes tie, pausing in contemplation. … The occasion was the fifth annual Wreaths Across America Day event at the Veterans Administration Cemetery in Los Angeles, one of more than 500 such ceremonies held simultaneously Saturday in the United States and abroad.”
Volunteers Honor Asheville-Area’s Fallen Soldiers During Wreaths Across America Program. The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times (12/12, Rodriguez) reports, “The only sound Saturday was the snapping of the flags as a small group of people bowed their heads and observed a minute of silence in honor of the community’s fallen heroes. More than 50 volunteers, families and military representatives participated in a short but heartfelt service to honor veterans and fallen soldiers at the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery. The event was part of the national Wreaths Across America program, where sponsors buy wreaths to lay on the graves of fallen service members.”
Idahoans Gather to Remember Fallen Veterans, Lay Wreaths on Their Graves. The website of KIVI-TV Boise, ID (12/11) reports, “Max Becker met some of his best friends in the US Army. A lot of those best friends were killed fighting by his side in Korea, where Becker served from 1951-1952. Nearly 60 years later, Becker spent Saturday at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to honor the memory of throes fallen comrades. A memory, he says, that’s always with him.”
Woodlawn, Bath Cemeteries Observe National Event Honoring Service Members. The Ithaca (NY) Journal (12/11, Murray, 14K) reports, “People gathered at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira and the Bath National Cemetery on Saturday for ceremonies that were part of the national Wreaths Across America event. The two Southern Tier sites were among 450 locations across the United States where wreaths were placed to honor those who have served and those who continue to serve in the armed forces.”
Volunteers Place Wreaths On Graves Saturday At Bath National Cemetery. The Corning (NY) Leader (12/12, Clark) reports, “The brief ceremony at the National Cemetery Saturday in Bath had one simple message. ‘We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you,’ Steuben County American Legion Commander Padraic O’Hare said after dozens of veterans and citizens lay 300 wreaths on tombstones near the cemetery’s monument.”
Volunteers Bring Holiday Green To Veterans’ Cemetery. The Glen Falls (NY) Post Star (12/11, Toscano, 28K) reports, “The long gray gardens of stone at the Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery were dotted with color Saturday morning as several hundred volunteers placed green wreaths with red ribbons at veterans’ graves as part of the Wreaths Across America project. Now in its fifth year locally, the event was pioneered by Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Anita Martin.”
Fort Bliss Wreaths: Vets Get Holiday Tributes. The El Paso Times (12/11, Ybarra, 72K) reports, “Those buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery will not be forgotten this holiday season. Their service and sacrifice will be honored today during a ceremony in partnership with Wreaths Across America, an organization that places holiday wreaths on the graves of service members across the country.”
Remembering The Fallen. The Lebanon (PA) Daily News (12/11, Long, 19K) reports, “Hundreds of people gathered at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery on Saturday for a pair of ceremonies designed to honor the fallen — one employing wreaths and the other, quiet candlelight.” Participants “laid more than 1,900 wreaths, 800 more than they did last year.”
Wreaths Placed At East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery. The Knoxville News (TN) Sentinel (12/12, Armstrong, 105K) reports, “Veterans were among the group gathered Saturday morning at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike to place 350 Christmas wreaths on grave markers as a part of Wreaths Across America. The national program is an effort to decorate 131 Department of Veterans Affairs national cemeteries, state Veteran cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery and other memorial sites.”
Remembering The Sacrifices Of Veterans. The Asbury Park Press (12/11, Vosseller, 122K) reports, “The sacrifice made by area veterans was honored at noon Saturday during wreath-laying ceremonies, part of the national annual Wreaths Across America program, held at several locations in Ocean and Monmouth counties.”
Volunteers Lay Wreaths At Ky. Veterans Cemetery. The Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle (12/11, Lowary, 19K) reports that the “national Wreaths Across America event came to Clarksville and Western Kentucky today, and thousands of veterans’ headstones were decorated with Christmas wreaths by hundreds of volunteers. Last year only 300 wreaths were purchased to lay at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West where some 1,200 veterans and their spouses are buried. Thanks to the help of Hazel Morrison and the E.A.G.L.E.S. chapter of the Gold Star Wives, the project reached new heights this year.”
3. Kasich Taps Former POW Moe As Veterans Chief. The Bucyrus (OH) Telegraph Forum (12/10, Giessler) reports that a Lancaster native and former prisoner of war “will be responsible for ensuring veterans throughout the state get the help they need. Retired Air Force Col. Thomas Moe was appointed director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services on Tuesday.
Gov.-elect John Kasich made the announcement at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1380 in Lancaster.” There, Kasich “read Moe’s accomplishments and accolades to the crowd, which include two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, two Purple Hearts, seven air medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.” He also “read a portion of an essay, ‘Pure Torture,’ published in Notre Dame Magazine, in which Moe writes about his experiences as a POW.” A Vietnam fighter pilot, Moe was held in a POW camp known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” He retired as director of the Fairfield County Emergency Management Agency in 2006.
HAVE YOU HEARD?
DOD has extended the deadline for eligible Veterans and service members and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) to December 18. VA has worked with DOD for the past year to let Veterans know about this program to compensate military members whose service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries are required to submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status. When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible. A majority of those eligible have separated from the military and DOD is asking VA’s help in notifying them of the program’s new deadline. To apply, or for more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, Veterans should be directed to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.
4. State Legislator Seeks To Name Bridge After War Hero. The Wayne (PA) Independent (12/11, Zwick) reports that the chairwoman of Pennsylvania’s tate Veterans Affairs committee “plans to name an area bridge after a local war hero who fought in three major wars of the 20th century. Pending approval of the state senate, a sign will be placed on the Church Street Bridge in honor of Brigadier General Richard J. Tallman, who lost his life in Vietnam in 1972. State Sen. Lisa Baker (R) said honoring a local hero by naming a bridge for him or her is common.”
5. Senator Seeks To Move Juvenile Detention Facility To Walter Reed Site. The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette (12/10, Hill, 42K) reports that MD Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin “has proposed moving a troubled youth detention facility in Laurel to Washington, D.C., where its overseeing agency is based. Cardin (D) of Pikesville is considering submitting an amendment to the proposed National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3454, that would relocate the New Beginnings Youth Development Center from Laurel to the current location of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky said Friday. Walter Reed is scheduled to close next year, and 62 acres of the 113-acre campus would come into District control for possible development.”
6. VA To Pilot Digital Record Transfer System. According to the lead “News In Brief” item for American Medical News (12/13), the Department of Veterans Affairs is “starting a pilot program aimed at reducing the time it takes to receive medical records from private physicians to speed disability claims decisions.” The agency has “contracted a third party that will collect the medical records from private physicians, then scan them into a digital format,” after which time the records will “be sent to the VA doctor through a secure network.”
7. Access To Care Eliminates Racial Outcome Disparities In Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. MedPage Today (12/11, Neale) reports, “When barriers to care are removed, previously observed racial disparities in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) outcomes are not seen, researchers found. In fact, in a study of Veterans Affairs medical centers, black patients had a significantly lower risk of dying during follow-up than their white counterparts,” according to new report presented to the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology. A retrospective examination of patients in the VA Central Cancer Registry sought to identiy whether previously seen racial disparities in outcome with the disease were result of the care received or of tumor biology.
8. Cemetery Work Is Ahead Of Schedule. The Charleston, West Virginia-based MetroNews (12/13) reports, “Work on the new $14 million Donel Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Southern West Virginia is already several months ahead of schedule.” Support for the project comes in part from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which provided “$14 million,” the “largest sum ever awarded for a state cemetery.”
9. Advocates Push Cause Of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination In Congress. The Lakeland (FL) Ledger (12/12, White, 57K) reported, “Legal options are limited for those who suspect they have been harmed by tainted water at Camp Lejeune,” because a “Supreme Court ruling restricts the ability of military members to pursue damage claims against the federal government.” After noting that some members of Congress, including US Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), “have taken up the issue,” the Ledger pointed out that while Hagan “co-sponsored a bill last year that would have extended Veterans Administration health benefits to veterans and family members who lived at Camp Lejeune between 1950 and 1985,” the “bill remains stuck in the Veteran Affairs committee.” The Ledger went to say Hagan “inserted a provision into last year’s National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the Department of the Navy from dismissing claims related to Camp Lejeune before a scientific report comes out next year.”
A separate Ledger (12/12, White) story noted, “Six current or former Polk County residents have been drawn together by their shared connection to Camp Lejeune.” Five are “coping with frightening illnesses,” while “sixth lost her mother to gastric cancer. Mike Partain, a…leading advocate on Camp Lejeune, got in touch with the others after they posted their stories on an activist website, ‘The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.'”
10. Veteran Runs Afoul Of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Law. MLive.com /Jackson (M) Citizzen Patriot (12/11, Salisbury) reports, “First, it was post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by his service in the Vietnam War. Then came two bouts with throat cancer, which left him without a voice box. Now, 61-year-old Gary Muntz has a new ailment — lymphoma, a slow-moving cancer of the lymph nodes. He speaks only with the aid of a mechanical device pressed tightly to his neck. Long periods outside his home require a wheelchair, and he often cannot sleep. Marijuana helps.” But after finding that Muntz had 13 marijuana plants in his home, and was authorized under Michigan’s medical marijuana law to use but not grow the substance, the local prosecutor charged Muntz with a felony drug crime.
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