American Veteran News 06.07.16

VIETNAM WAR AIRMAN’S DEATH RE-EXAMINED AFTER DECADES OF CONTROVERSY — S&S — WASHINGTON — The Air Force closed the case on Sgt. Joseph Matejov when his surveillance aircraft went down at the end of the Vietnam War.

The missing airman was deemed killed in the fiery crash, and more than two decades later a group gravestone was installed at Arlington National Cemetery. A single casket containing bone fragments recovered in Laos was lowered into the ground at the 1996 funeral for Matejov and seven fellow Air Force crewmembers.

Officially, it was the end of the military’s accounting.

But the funeral did not bury the controversy over the downed aircraft, call sign Baron 52. The case’s long history is riddled with doubts and disagreements within the Pentagon, intelligence community and Congress over whether Matejov died that night in 1973.

Now, the Air Force and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency are re-examining the incident after decades of pressure from Matejov’s family and could change his status from killed to missing in action. A decision could be made within weeks.

The airmen’s nine siblings, who have pushed for the change,  in February presented evidence to the accounting agency of Air Force conjecture over the crash circumstances and a radio intercept about potential American captives. The evidence, spanning 43 years and compiled by the family, contains declassified documents and was shared with Stars and Stripes.

“MIA is not closure, though it is better than this travesty that exists in the file to this day,” said his younger brother John Matejov, who is a retired Marine officer. “We shouldn’t have to fight for that.”

REMAINS OF NEW YORK SAILOR KILLED AT PEARL HARBOR IDENTIFIED — AP — SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The remains of a central New York sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 75 years ago have been identified and will be buried in his hometown.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Alfred Wells of Syracuse was aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma when the Japanese launched their surprise attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

The Oklahoma was hit multiple times and capsized, killing Wells and more than 400 other sailors. The Navy spent nearly three years recovering all the remains and burying them in cemeteries in Hawaii.

Wells’ remains were among those disinterred last year and recently identified through DNA analysis.

Wells was 17 when he joined the Navy in 1927. He’ll be buried Saturday at the Onondaga County Veterans Cemetery in Syracuse.

HALF MILLION VETERANS WAITING OVER 30 DAYS FOR VA CARE — WASHINGTON FREE BEACON — The number of veterans waiting more than 30 days for care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities has climbed past half a million.

The most recent data on pending appointments released by the VA last week shows that nearly 506,000 veterans currently seeking care at agency medical centers have waited more than a month for appointments, an increase of more than 10,000 in just two weeks and 23,000 in one month.

The new numbers, which survey pending appointments as of May 15, cast light on the agency’s continuing struggle to reduce waits and offer timely care to the nation’s veterans.

The VA aimed to schedule veterans’ appointments in 14 days or less before it was revealed in 2014 that staffers were keeping secret lists to conceal long waits for care. Since then, the agency has relaxed its target to 30 days.

FEARING LOSS OF THEIR JOBS, FEDERAL WORKERS UNION WARNS OF PRIVATIZED VETERANS HEALTH CARE — LA CROSSE TRIBUNE, WIS. — A commission studying health care is just one vote shy of endorsing a privatized Department of Veterans Affairs, a gathering of veterans and VA employees in Tomah, Wis., was told Friday.

The American Federation of Government Employees local that represents workers at the Tomah VA medical center organized the town hall meeting to warn that the “national VA system is under attack.”

“Many members of Congress, some presidential candidates and commissions are calling for the reduction and, in some cases, the total elimination of VA health care,” said Wisconsin Disabled Veterans of America legislative director Al Labelle.

MISS USA, AN ARMY RESERVIST, TO FIGHT FOR VETERANS — ARMY TIMES — LAS VEGAS — The newly crowned Miss USA is a 26-year-old Army officer from the District of Columbia who gave perhaps the strongest answer of the night when asked about women in combat.

“As a woman in the United States Army, I think … we are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I’m powerful, I am dedicated,” Deshauna Barber said. “Gender does not limit us in the United States.”

The winner of Sunday’s 2016 Miss USA competition held at the T-Mobile Arena off the Las Vegas Strip will go on to compete in the Miss Universe contest.

Barber is the first-ever military member to win Miss USA. In a press conference following the event, the 26-year-old lieutenant from Northeast DC said she plans to take a break from the Army Reserves and had already discussed with superiors the possibility of going inactive for a couple of years should she win the title. She said she currently serves two days per month.

OFFICIALS MULL PUSH FOR VA HOSPITAL — RECORD EAGLE — TRAVERSE CITY — Neal Horning once had to drive 150 miles to pick up his glasses from the Saginaw Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Horning, a Long Lake Township resident who serves as the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition’s vice president, receives medical care through the VA and makes those lengthy trips a few times a year. He said other times his U.S. Army retirement affords him insurance that lets him seek medical care outside the VA system.

“Some of the things I’ve had done up here, because I would’ve had to go to Ann Arbor, and that’s just too far,” he said.

But Horning and other local veterans could leave those long trips, long waits and complicated arrangements behind if Grand Traverse County officials focused on economic development can successfully draw a VA hospital to the area.

It’s an effort county Administrator Tom Menzel stressed still is in the “infant stages.” He said it stemmed from Dave Mikowski, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Traverse City native who Menzel tapped to work for $1 a month on a larger effort to drum up economic development in the area.

RED CROSS LOOKS TO FILL GAP IN VETERANS’ EMERGENCY FINANCIAL NEEDS — ARMY TIMES — The American Red Cross is testing the idea of providing financial assistance to veterans who don’t qualify for help through military agencies.

When a veteran has left the military before retirement, he or she isn’t eligible for financial assistance through the military relief societies — Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, and Air Force Aid Society. The Red Cross is examining how it might fill that gap, said Kevin Boleyn, director of the organization’s Hero Care Network.

The network includes Red Cross emergency call centers, financial assistance and referrals to other organizations in communities. It is creating a national registry of services for veterans and working on a system where trained case workers can use the registry to connect those in need to the appropriate agencies.

WORLD WAR II VETERAN REMEMBERED FOR HIS DEDICATION TO THE AMERICAN FLAG — ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — ORANGE – Beloved resident and World War II veteran Richard “Dick” Meadows, who died last year, is remembered by many for his love of the nation’s flag.

At 6 p.m. on June 14, Flag Day, the retirement community Kirkwood Orange will dedicate its community flagpole to Meadows’ memory in recognition of both his defense of the flag and his advocacy for respecting it.

Meadows lived with his wife, Winnie, at Kirkwood Orange for about five months before his death at 91 on Oct. 7, but in that short time he made a big difference in how the community presented its flag.

When Meadows arrived at Kirkwood, one of the first things he did was ask why the flagpole just outside his room was bare. Putting a flag up and taking it down each day takes effort, but after fighting for freedom in Saipan, Tarawa, Tinian and Okinawa during WWII, Meadows wasn’t about to see a pole go without a flag.

Each morning, Meadows went out to raise Old Glory at Kirkwood, eventually pushing to get a light installed so it could stay flying through the night. (Flag etiquette calls for a flag to be illuminated if it is up during the night.)

LONG ORDEAL FOR SEATTLE WORKER WHO EXPOSED VETERAN’S FRAUD — AP — SEATTLE — A federal employee in Seattle helped expose a fraud in which an Army veteran lied his way to a Purple Heart and hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits.

Her reward?

The agency Cristina Jackson works for repeatedly tried to punish her for what it said were violations of the man’s privacy, according to an AP review of hundreds of pages of personnel and investigative records.

U.S. Commerce Department officials proposed suspending her for at least a month — even as they reached one of two settlements with the veteran. Darryl Lee Wright was paid for skipped work and legal fees he incurred complaining about a hostile work environment.

They tried to downgrade Jackson’s annual rating, then proposed a shorter suspension.

VETS, FAMILIES REMEMBER NORMANDY D-DAY LANDINGS, 72 YEARS ON — FOX NEWS — Proud veterans in their 90s and families of fallen soldiers Monday are commemorating the D-Day invasion of Normandy 72 years ago that helped the Allies defeat Hitler in World War II.

They’re holding small ceremonies and moments of remembrance along the wide beaches and cliffs where thousands of U.S., British, Canadian and French troops landed as dawn was breaking June 6, 1944. It was a pivotal moment in the war.

“The allied army, more specifically, the American Army, they came to liberate, not to conquer,” Denis van den Brink, communications officer of the city of Carentan, France, told DVIDS.

“That says it all, for the very first time in the history of mankind, they came to fight, die, win, victory, and then go home,” he added. “That’s the one and only example in the history of mankind and we had all these foreign soldiers coming and dying and to fight for our land and then to free our land and then instead of staying they just went away.”

USING DOD SKILLBRIDGE TO RECRUIT QUALIFIED VETERANS — MILCOM — Employers often turn to veterans for their sense of discipline, timeliness, and dedication to mission accomplishment. The government may provide tax credits to companies that hire veterans, and in many ways hiring a veteran can be a good business decision.

With this in mind, employers would do well to put the extra energy into their recruitment strategies when it comes to bringing highly qualified veterans on board. One way to recruit veterans early in the separation process is to offer training opportunities through the DoD SkillBridge program.

VOICES FROM THE PAST, LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE — AFNS — If walls could talk, and pictures are worth a thousand words, the Air Force’s Art Gallery’s new exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War could tell the story of a generation of service men and women who served during the conflict.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III hosted a ceremony dedicating the new Vietnam Art Exhibit in the Pentagon and thanked members of that conflict with a commemorative pin May 26.

“These 26 images represent the more than 58,000 U.S. military members who lost their lives in Vietnam,” Welsh said. “They serve as a living legacy to those who were held prisoner, and they speak for the 114 heroes who died in captivity. They all returned with honor.”

Surrounded by Vietnam veterans, service members and civilians, Welsh spoke on how the Vietnam War fundamentally changed the way the military approached warfare.

After Vietnam, the military took a hard look at what went well and what didn’t, to include development of combat systems, training and recruiting, as well as the way the military built the joint force.

VA PICKS WOMAN WHO DISMISSED SCANDAL FOR YEARS AS THE PERSON TO FIX THE SCANDAL — DAILY CALLER — Victoria Brahm, the executive assigned by the Department of Veterans Affairs to fix its troubled Tomah, Wisconsin, hospital, once “astounded” a colleague by discarding credible complaints of wrongdoing at the facility, well before abuse of veterans exploded into a national scandal.

In a newly-released sworn deposition, the regional office’s deputy director, Renee Oshinski, said that before the scandal broke, Brahm — then the regional VA office’s nurse executive — had been given a mountain of evidence of opiate abuse at Tomah, and somehow concluded that there was no truth to any of it.

“I was astounded that they were all unsubstantiated,” Oshinski told investigators from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “With the number of things here, I would have thought there would have been some partially substantiated or whatever. I mean, just based on the number, that it’s not a normal response that we would have.”

The Tomah hospital has been called “Candy Land” because its chief of staff, David Houlihan, gave out painkillers at wildly atypical rates in an apparent attempt to sedate veterans rather than treat their underlying conditions. They were referred to as “zombies,” and some died of an overdose while in the hospital’s care.

THE LAST OF THE BOYS OF POINTE DU HOC: THE RANGERS OF DOG COMPANY WHO ACCOMPLISHED D-DAY’S TOUGHEST MISSION — BREITBART — It was the toughest mission of D-Day. Allied plans called for 225 Rangers, including Dog Company, to land on a tiny beach, scale the ten-story-high cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, France, under a torrent of enemy fire, and destroy the most dangerous gun battery threatening the American portion of the invasion.

It was a suicide mission.

Allied headquarters projected Ranger casualties would top seventy percent. One intelligence officer remarked, “It can’t be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff.”

Atop Pointe du Hoc, the Germans had constructed a massive fortress. They considered the position largely impregnable from a seaborne attack, thanks to the ninety-foot cliffs. Nevertheless, they had placed artillery shells suspended by wires—precursors to today’s IEDs (improvised explosive devices)—along the cliff faces as an added defense against a seaborne assault. German machine guns and anti-aircraft guns could also hit the beach at the base of the cliffs, where any attacking craft would be forced to land. The fortifications made land-borne and parachute attacks similarly difficult: heavy minefields, machine gun nests, bunkers, and barbed wire rendered an overland attack without armor practically impossible. The only possible Allied route of attack was a frontal assault.

Pointe du Hoc’s formidable defenses guarded six 155 mm artillery pieces. With a potential range of 25,000 yards (14 miles), the guns could reach both Omaha and Utah Beaches and even a portion of the landing beaches in the British zone. The German battery also threatened the Allied naval armada carrying the invasion forces. Of the twenty-two guns the Germans had at their disposal within the First Army’s landing zone at Normandy, those at Pointe du Hoc were “the most formidable.” Destroying them would be “the most dangerous mission of D-Day,” and it was critical to the success of the invasion.

OBAMA WARNS AGAINST PRIVATIZING THE VA — T&P — During a visit to the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the president flatly stated he opposed privatizing the VA.

As efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs continue, there’s an ongoing debate about the best way to fix a system mired in bureaucracy and haunted by past scandal. While some argue in favor of VA privatization, either in part or in full, others and most recently, the president, are in favor of continued VA reform.

“The notion of dismantling the VA system would be a mistake,” said President Barack Obama during a June 2 exclusive interview with The Colorado Springs Gazette. “If you look at, for example, VA health care, there have been challenges getting people into the system. Once they are in, they are extremely satisfied and the quality of care is very high.”

The president said attempts to privatize the VA would delay the progress his administration has made toward modernizing the department.

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