American Veteran News 03.23.16


MORE THAN 7 DECADES LATER, VETERAN GETS OVERDUE MEDALS — MILCOM — CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — More than seven decades after surviving a plane crash during World War II, a 90-year-old Missouri veteran finally has his medals.

The Southeast Missourian reports that Clifford Heinrich received five long-overdue medals Monday during a ceremony in Cape Girardeau. Among the medals was the Purple Heart.

“These medals were all for my crew,” Heinrich said after the program.

Heinrich, a 19-year-old Air Corps tail gunner, was the only survivor on Dec. 23, 1944 when his 10-member crew’s B-17 crashed over southwest England while returning from a bombing mission. Heinrich suffered a fractured skull and severe injury to his foot. He spent 14 months in a hospital.

He can’t recall the crash because of the head injury.

His medals never reached him after his convalescence. Dave Hitt, a Cape Girardeau veteran, arranged for the medal bestowment through U.S. Sen Roy Blunt’s office.

Just before Christmas 1944, orders were issued to bomb the small town of Gemund, Germany. The Nazis were using the town as a transportation and communications hub. The American plane crashed while returning to a Royal Air Force base in England.

Severe weather may have contributed to the plane crash, but the exact cause remains unknown, said James Bass, another World War II veteran who spoke at the program. The crash occurred in dense fog.

A nurse named Lt. Megan Lewis saw and heard the plane go down. She raised an alarm, and by the time she and other first responders found the wreckage, several crew members already were dead or dying, said her daughter, Diane Gomersall, who traveled from England to attend Heinrich’s medal bestowment.

Lewis was the one who pulled Heinrich from the plane and helped stabilize him at the hospital.

VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION CHIEF SUSPENDED IN RELOCATION SCAM — FOX NEWS — WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is suspending the head of the Veterans Benefits Administration for allowing two lower-ranking officials to manipulate the agency’s hiring system for their own gain. Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says acting VBA chief Danny Pummill will be suspended without pay for 15 days for his role in a relocation scam that has roiled the agency for months. Pummill failed to exercise proper oversight as Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens forced lower-ranking managers to accept job transfers and then stepped into the vacant positions themselves, keeping their senior-level pay while reducing their responsibilities, Gibson said Tuesday. Pummill is one of VA’s five highest-ranking officials and leads VBA’s employees across 56 regional offices nationwide that provide compensation and pension benefits, life insurance, home loans and other services to millions of veterans. Under VA rules, Pummill can appeal his suspension to an independent arbiter.

VETERANS ARE USING POT TO ERASE PTSD, DESPITE SCANT RESEARCH — FOX NEWS — A growing number of states are weighing whether to legalize marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. But for many veterans, the debate is already over. They’re increasingly using cannabis even though it remains illegal in most states and is unapproved by the Department of Veterans Affairs because major studies have yet to show it is effective against PTSD. While the research has been contradictory and limited, some former members of the military say pot helps them manage their anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. Prescription drugs such as Klonopin and Zoloft weren’t effective or left them feeling like zombies, some say.

EVEN MORE SUICIDAL VETS ELOPED FROM PHOENIX FACILITY, VA TRIES TO DODGE FINDINGS — DAILY CALLER — A newly-uncovered report from the Department of Veterans Affairs reveals that suicidal veterans fled the Phoenix VA and likely the emergency department, as well, even though management insisted that losing troubled veterans from the ED had ceased entirely. In a past report, officially finished June 17, 2015 and made public March 16, the VA admitted that although 10 suicidal veterans had wandered out of the facility, not a single suicidal veteran had eloped from the emergency department since February 15, 2015. The newly-released report added that no suicidal veterans had eloped from the emergency department up to February 9, 2016. Elopement is defined by the VA National Center for Patient Safety as a patient who knows that he or she cannot leave but does so anyway.

VA WORKER GETS JOB BACK DESPITE ARMED ROBBERY CHARGE — DAILY CALLER — A Department of Veterans Affairs employee in Puerto Rico was fired after being arrested for armed robbery, but her union quickly got her reinstated — despite a guilty plea — by pointing out that management’s labor relations negotiator is a registered sex offender, and the hospital’s director was once arrested and found with painkiller drugs. The incident illustrates how union-backed civil service rules that rely on precedent combine with VA’s past failures to discipline problem employees of all ranks to keep convicted criminals on its payroll.

HOUSE PASSES BILL TO ALLOW FEMALE PILOTS’ ASHES AT ARLINGTON — MILCOM — WASHINGTON — The House has passed legislation to allow female World War II pilots known as WASPs to continue placing their ashes at Arlington National Cemetery. Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 385-0 to approve the bill sponsored by an Arizona Republican, congresswoman Martha McSally, herself a retired Air Force fighter pilot. The WASPs served in a special unit called Women Airforce Service Pilots. They flew noncombat missions to free up male pilots for combat. During the war, the women were considered civilians. But since 1977, federal law has granted them status as veterans. They had been eligible since 2002 to have their ashes placed at Arlington with military honors. But the Army ruled last year that the WASPs never should have been allowed in and revoked their eligibility. McSally’s bill reverses that decision.


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