Saturday, December 22, 2007

Colorado Springs see's rise in Soldiers arrests since war began

PTSD is not an excuse for bad behavior, but if the troops are NOT able to acceess mental health, then that is troubling, many Commanders and officer and NCO's are not very accepting of PTSD as a real medical problem, they see it as more of a bad character issue, when soldiers seek help for their PTSD symptoms, instead of being diagnosed with PTSD they are being diagnosed with Personality disorders, then the Chain of Command quickly moves to discharge the affected soldiers, which in turns creates veterans that are not eligible for VA medical treatment nor veterans compensation for their disabilites, regardless if they were wounded in combat, many of these men and women who may possibly have Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from being involved or too close to IED or vehicle bombs when they detonate. Many of these soldiers/veterans will ever return to "normal" the way they behaved before combat. Why do people expect veterans to be "normal" combat itself is an abnormal lifestyle, they have been changed by it, I know of no soldiers or veterans not affected permantly by war, are some of them better able to handle it mentally than others of course, while many will be left with a lifetime of demons they carry from their military service.

Number of jailed soldiers jumps in Springs
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December 22, 2007 - 7:11PM

Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly running afoul of the law, bringing the stress of war to Colorado Springs’ streets.

Most of it is small-time stuff.

But some of the allegations against soldiers in the past three years have been serious.

Earlier this month, police said a crime ring of Fort Carson Iraq veterans was responsible for the deaths of two GIs.

The volume of military-related crime off-post is beginning to tax civilian law enforcement authorities. Felony El Paso County jail bookings for service members have jumped from 295 in 2005 to 471 so far this year. During that time, the number of soldiers assigned to the post stayed about the same, around 17,500.

“It doesn’t take a study to know the potential for problems is going to be there,” said Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Jensen, whose agency is girding for issues with nearly 4,000 soldiers due back in the next three weeks. “It’s huge. It affects us from all standpoints. The workload alone is increasing as the population increases.”

Commanders at Fort Carson acknowledge that soldiers coming home from a year in combat often have difficulty fitting into the society they went to Iraq or Afghanistan to defend.

It’s hard to turn off some of the reactions that will save your life in combat, but which will lead to grief in a bar, said Nate Nugin, who oversees Fort Carson training programs for returning soldiers.

“It’s just about understanding they are back and what was necessary for them to do in the theater of operations doesn’t translate well back here,” Nugin said as he oversaw five days of mandatory classes for soldiers who returned last week from Iraq with Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The Army has experienced increases in some types of crime on post that aren’t included in El Paso County statistics.

Last year, for instance, reports of thefts and domestic violence climbed over past years.

This year, commanders point to some promising statistics, including a decline in drunken driving arrests on post to 200 this year — the lowest level since 2004.


Experts say the war can fundamentally change the soldiers sent to fight it.

The El Paso County Public Defender’s Office this year began tracking the number of soldiers it serves and found a disturbing trend among those accused of serious crimes.

“They did not have drug addictions before” the war, said Deputy Public Defender Sheilagh McAteer, who has been seeing more uniforms in her office in recent years. “They had no criminal histories before the war.”

Fort Carson commanders say they consistently remind returning soldiers that bad decisions are easy to make.

“There’s 14 months of testosterone built up,” said Capt. Tom Hanlon, a company commander in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, back from Ramadi, Iraq.

Troops in Iraq live in the most controlled of environments outside the prison system.

Except during combat — when soldiers must make split-second, life-or-death decisions — they have few choices to make. Everything from how they dress to what they eat to how they can spend their free time is decided by the Army, for a year or more.

“You might be able to draw a correlation between someone coming out of prison,” said Colorado Springs police Cmdr. Brian Grady. “We need to help them with re-entry and give them access to the services available in this community.”


The problems are more complex than a few GIs tearing up the bar district on Tejon Street in drunken exuberance.

The Army knows an increasing number of Fort Carson combat veterans are coming home with war-related mental illnesses and brain injuries that can change their behavior.

Fort Carson doctors diagnosed 615 soldiers in 2007 with post-traumatic stress disorder, up from 102 cases in 2003, when soldiers started returning from their first tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the fifth straight year with an increase in the number of soldiers being diagnosed with PTSD.

“You talk to some of these guys and you sense a lot of stress from the PTSD they bring home with them,” said Magistrate Robert Erler, who presides over the El Paso County Domestic Violence Fast Track court. He said there has clearly been an increase in cases of violence involving soldiers.

The Army is still trying to determine how many soldiers suffer brain-damaging concussions caused by insurgent bombs and what the behavioral symptoms might be.

“The war has forced us to realize and understand the parts of the brain that are impacted deals with emotions and impulse control,” McAteer said. The public defender said she frequently sees soldiers with bomb-caused brain injuries.

“This is why we’re seeing more and more domestic violence, child abuse, homicides and drug cases.”


Every soldier at Fort Carson and hundreds of family members have been trained this year to spot signs of PTSD and brain injury. Every returning soldier is repeatedly screened for problems and those who need help get it quickly, commanders say.

“The earlier you can find something, the easier it is to treat,” said Maj. Sean Ryan, 2nd Brigade’s spokesman.

But the Army struggles with undiagnosed PTSD and brain injury cases, because it’s tough for soldiers to admit that something is wrong.

“A lot of times they’re taught as officers and soldiers to be strong and stand firm,” said Colorado Springs police Lt. Fletcher Howard. “We as a society need to say to ourselves, ‘These people have been through a heck of a lot and need help processing what they’ve gone through.’”

Howard oversees a special training program where officers learn how to deal with people who have PTSD issues, among other mental illnesses.

A professional actor comes to the classes and plays an Iraq veteran suffering PTSD.

“We teach our officers to use verbal judo to talk a person down without them, or anyone else, getting hurt,” Howard said.

Most soldiers who are mentally ill or have brain damage remain law-abiding, Fort Carson and police officials said.

And even for mentally ill troops who break the law, there are no free passes.

“We can also see where that becomes a crutch, an excuse for them to act any way without being held responsible,” said police Sgt. Jensen, who heads the CSPD homicide unit that has investigated the most recent soldier-related killings.

Hanlon said his focus is teaching his troops to transition from the day-to-day mentality of war to the long-term thoughts they can allow themselves only back home.

Too much of the trouble, from frivolous spending to drunkenness, comes from soldiers living only for the moment, he said.

“I’m trying to convince them to be patient.”

CONTACT THE WRITERS: 636-0240 or or or 636-0110.


Here are some notable criminal cases involving Iraq war veterans stationed at Fort Carson.

--Colorado Springs police allege two veterans from the same platoon are tied to a crime ring that could be responsible for the homicides of two soldiers. Spc. Kevin Shields was shot to death and his body was found Dec. 1. Pfc. Robert James was also shot to death. His body was found in a car parked in a Lake Avenue bank parking lot in August. The suspects are: Louis Bressler, 24, who was discharged and complained of suffering from PTSD; Pfc. Bruce Bastien Jr., 21; and soldier Kenneth Eastridge, who was an infantry rifleman. Authorities have charged or plan to charge all three with homicide, court records show.
c Former soldier Anthony Marquez, 23, admitted Thursday he shot and killed a 19-year-old Widefield resident and suspected drug dealer Oct. 22, 2006, during a robbery attempt. Marquez’s public defenders attempted to introduce PTSD as a possible defense, but dropped the effort when a judge ruled against them, court records show. According to the plea agreement, Marquez will spend 30 years in prison when he is sentenced in February.
c Pueblo police last month arrested Spc. Olin “Famous” Ferrier, 22, on suspicion of shooting taxi driver David Chance, 52, on Oct. 30. No charges have been filed.
c Former Pfc. Johnathon Klinker, 22, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in July for killing his 7-week-old daughter, Nicolette. Klinker blamed the baby’s October 2006 death, in part, on “war-related stress.”

-- Former Pvt. Timothy Parker of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was convicted by court martial of manslaughter for beating Spc. Piotr Szczypka to death in a November 2005 fight at an apartment complex near the base. Both men had been drinking before Parker hit Szczypka with a fireplace poker, trial testimony showed. Parker was sentenced to seven years in a military prison.

-- Nine days after 2nd Brigade Combat Team Pfc. Stephen S. Sherwood, 35, came home from Iraq in August 2005, he drove to Fort Collins and shot and killed his wife of seven years, Sara E. Sherwood, 30. The soldier, described by his commanders as a hero who fought bravely in Iraq, then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

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This American Legion Post provides Christmas meals

Everyone does meals at Thanksgiving for the homeless and the downtrodden, but come Christmas not so much, here is a story about an American legion group that provides a holday meal for veterans and anyone else that cares to drop in for some fellowship anda good meal SALUTE to the men and women of this American Legion Post.

American Legion Provides Holiday Meal For Community
This article was published on Saturday, December 22, 2007 9:15 PM CST in News
By Pablo Bello
Email this story Print this story Comment on this story Related Photos FAYETTEVILLE -- For June Walden, having Christmas dinner at the Fayetteville American Legion on Saturday was also a reason to get out and be with people.

"I've been coming to the legion for 20 years and this gives me something to do," said Walden, 70, of Fayetteville.

For the past 15 years the American Legion post has provided the annual Christmas feast for veterans and their families, but anyone that needs a meal is welcome, said Rod York, post commander.

"We are expecting to serve 60 or 80 meals today and we couldn't do it without foundations like Tyson and several banks that contribute money," said York.

Every year the legion sees more volunteers during Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. "It's our way of giving back to the community," said York.

The legion also provides other services to veterans such as financial help and scholarships for children of military members and veterans, said York.

Neighbors also came to the celebration, such as Margi Pierce, 82, of Farmington, who said it was the first time she came to the legion. She said she saw an invitation in the paper.

Navy veteran Delynn Mundt of Fayetteville has been a volunteer at the Fayetteville post for three years and one year with the post in Bella Vista.

"I love to help other people whether or not they are less fortunate. We are here for our community and we invite everyone to enjoy our hospitality and food," said Mundt.

She said the legion also provides other services for veterans in distress, such as clothing and visitation while they are in the hospital.

The salon at the legion is rented for parties to collect money to help veterans, said Mundt.

Norma Dickerson, 50 and her mother, Suzie Dickerson of Fayetteville, said they used to come to the legion every year during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"We saw the announcement in the paper and we know they have good food, and we didn't have other plans for Christmas," said Norma.

For more information about the legion call 442-5291.

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Military non combat deaths is the military doing enough?

A Parent's Plea at Christmas
We are dealing with non-hostile combat death in the family. The army ruled it as self-inflicted despite the fact we were in constant contact with him....Greg, something stinks with this noncombat crap going on, and families like us are isolated & left to fend for ourselves."

By Greg Mitchell

(December 22, 2007) -- Putting politics and views on the war aside, it is my holiday wish that the media continue to draw attention to the disturbing number of suicides among our troops in Iraq.

I have been writing about this for over four years. Paul Rieckhoff of Irag and Afghanistan Veterans of America has long been pushing for this also, to no avail. I penned a well-publicized column, partly based on an interview with Paul, a few weeks ago asking when the media would finally focus on this issue -- and I'm grateful that, for whatever reason, there has been a flood of stories from high-level media outlets about this ever since, starting with a two-part CBS News report last month.

Just this week, we have seen (and E & P has covered) a remarkable report in the Army Times about a mutiny among our troops that followed a sergeant’s suicide and other tragic deaths, and an in-depth AP report about a family’s quest to uncover information about the military’s mistreatment of their son, who also killed himself over there.

The official total of suicides in the Iraq stands at 132, but this does not include the many cases still under investigation, others that are likely but not proven, and hundreds of others that have happened on a return home. Just this week comes word of a few more “noncombat” fatalities in Iraq, which often turn out to be self-inflicted.

When I posted about the Army Times story on my blog this week, a comment from a reader turned up there. It comes from the parent of a suicide victim in Iraq. The mother or father is unfortunately “anonymous,” but if you can provide any information or help (while I do my own search), please let me know.

That message:

“We are dealing with non-hostile combat death in the family. The army ruled it as self-inflicted despite the fact we were in constant contact with him. Testimonies of his final hours showed no sign of suicidal tendencies, physical evidence provided was contradicting and circumstantial at best. He was getting out Iraq and the service in less than 4 months.

“I am curious about this medication comment that increases 'the likelihood of suicide ideation/gesture.’ What types of medication could be suspect that would be used for relieving stress and anxiety? Nothing else makes sense and the Army has only released the sparse information that supports their determinations.

“Greg, something stinks with this noncombat crap going on, and families like us are isolated & left to fend for ourselves. The government/Army holds all the cards and resources and know the process in which we have to navigate through to get information and the many ways to be denied. It's a job to them. For us, it's picking up the shattered remains of our lives.”
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Is the Military voting Republican this election cycle? Not so fast

War uneasiness could loosen GOP's hold on military votes
War uneasiness could loosen GOP's hold on voters tied to military
11:12 PM CST on Saturday, December 22, 2007
By DAVID TARRANT / The Dallas Morning News
Look anywhere in Killeen, home to the sprawling Fort Hood army base, and there are patriotic signs like the giant banner that greets shoppers entering the local Wal-Mart: "Fort Hood Texas, Home of America's Hammer!"
But beneath the bravado and bluster you find a more volatile mix of emotions – frustration, anxiety and anger – among military families after five years of war in Iraq.
Also Online
More: Elections coverage
Chart: War taking a toll on voters' choices
As the presidential primaries get under way, disenchantment with the war here and elsewhere is having repercussions: A bloc of voters that has traditionally supported the Republican Party appears to be up for grabs.
"I'm definitely listening to who is saying what," Belinda Larmore said as she sat in the Killeen Mall food court for lunch with her husband, Mike, an Army captain just back from a rotation in Iraq.
Ms. Larmore, 36, a mother of three, ages 5 to 19, grew up in a Republican family and has usually voted that way.
But in the 2008 national election, she is looking over the field carefully for a candidate – Democrat or Republican – who grasps the complex challenges facing a military stretched to the limit, fighting a war "with no end in sight."
She wants to hear candidates address the issues directly affecting the military, such as multiple combat tours and rotations extended beyond the usual 12 months.
"Show me any politician who would be away from his family that long," Ms. Larmore said as her husband sat silently across from her. Capt. Larmore declined to be interviewed but said he generally supported his wife's views.
Ms. Larmore isn't ready to support a quick exit from the war. "A lot of people are saying, 'Let's get out.' But no one is coming up with a solution so that we can leave safely without leaving the people of Iraq high and dry."
'Military moms' key
"Military moms" like Ms. Larmore and other women with relatives in the military are the swing vote in the nation's first presidential primary in New Hampshire Jan. 8, said Jennifer Donahue, a senior political analyst with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm University.
"They're undecided and ambivalent. They have feelings of patriotism and wanting the war to be completed. But they're getting reports home that the troops are very frustrated," Ms. Donahue said.
"This bloc is very unsure as to what the right thing is for the troops. The question they face is whether to vote to limit [the war] or vote to let it play out."
As a voting bloc, active-duty reservists and National Guard members number 2.6 million. About half are married – bringing the number of potential voters in this camp to nearly 4 million.
Now vs. then
A recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll showed that a majority of military families disapproved of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq. That contrasts with polls and surveys taken before the 2004 presidential election, including one by Gallup, which found that veterans overwhelmingly favored Mr. Bush over his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat and a war veteran.
The current Times/Bloomberg poll also found that nearly 70 percent of military households with a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan said that troops in Iraq should either come home right away or within the next year.
That's how Maija Rojas feels.
A former Marine with a husband on his second tour in Iraq, Ms. Rojas, 25, says she'll vote for the candidate "who can get them home the fastest."
Multiple rotations and longer tours have caused problems and "a lot more divorces" among military families, said Ms. Rojas, a mother of two preschoolers.
Sheila Mengel's husband retired after 23 years in the Army, including one tour in Iraq. If the election were held right now, "I'd vote Democrat because I'd like to see the war end," she said.
Ms. Mengel said that Iraq is in a civil war, and that U.S. troops have no business providing security over there. "If the Iraqis want to kill each other, they should handle it themselves."
Others remained supportive of Mr. Bush and his strategy in Iraq.
Sarah Martin, another military spouse, said she wants to "see it through" in Iraq. "I definitely will vote Republican."
Vera Kingsley, a former Marine who served in Iraq in 2004, said the United States can't "leave a country in shambles. The reason we're there is to help them get back on their feet."
Possible signs of shift
Which candidate is best situated to capture the military vote?
If you follow the money, campaign contributions to Democrats have risen sharply since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.
The Democrats' share of military contributions has increased from 23 percent during the 2002 election to 40 percent so far this year, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The top recipients in the presidential race – Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Ron Paul – are both anti-war candidates.
Among Republican candidates for president, only Mr. Paul, a Texas congressman, opposes the war. Of the top three Democratic candidates, Mr. Obama and John Edwards would pull combat troops out of Iraq within 12 months. Hillary Rodham Clinton would withdraw troops but has no set timeline for a full pullout.
A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, released Dec. 4, found that in the key Republican primary state of South Carolina, military veterans and their spouses do not differ much in vote choice from those with no military experience.Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war John McCain actually did slightly better among nonveterans than veterans.
Ms. Donahue, the political analyst in New Hampshire, said that no candidate has clearly emerged as the favorite of veterans and active-duty military in either party.
"There are clearly signs of discontent. But does that shift voting patterns?" said James Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Organizing voters
Signs of discontent are showing up on Internet blogs and with organizations such as VoteVets .org, which supports veterans running for office, and Veterans Against the Iraq War, which has sponsored anti-war demonstrations around the country.
Texas-based Military Spouses for Change was started in May by Carissa Picard, the wife of a Black Hawk pilot based at Fort Hood.
Military spouses tend to shy away from politics, Ms. Picard said. Her group wants to change that by educating voters and highlighting related causes such as wounded-warrior legislation and veterans benefits.
Ms. Picard, who was a practicing lawyer before deciding to stay home with her two young children, said the Iraq war was the impetus for starting Military Spouses for Change.
"What I wanted to do was provide for our spouses a place to go to look at each candidate's plans for Iraq," she said.
The group, which started with eight spouses at Fort Hood, now has 200 members scattered across the country and elsewhere.
The group isn't endorsing any candidate. But in her conversations in the military community, Ms. Picard has found that frustration with the war has created an opening for Democrats.
"A lot of people I've been talking to in the active-duty and veteran community, who have traditionally voted Republican, are considering Democratic candidates because they're very frustrated with the war in Iraq."
Clint Douglas, a former staff sergeant who fought in Afghanistan, said he identifies as a Democrat and sees an opportunity for the party to pick up disenchanted military voters.
"So many military people, families, dependents are sick of this presidency and the wars," he said.
But he thinks the Democrats' perceived weakness on defense issues continues to hurt them among this bloc of voters.
"Why can't Democrats do defense?" said Mr. Douglas, who lives in Chicago and is writing a book about his wartime experience.
University of Texas professor John Sibley Butler, a Vietnam veteran, agrees that Democrats aren't as hawkish on defense issues as Republicans, although he is disappointed that few politicians in either party have military experience.
Perhaps no one knows the predicament facing military families better than Leslae Stewart, who lives in Killeen.
A soldier for eight years before leaving in 2003, Ms. Stewart said her son is getting ready to enlist in the Army and may soon be heading to Iraq.
"I'm tired of this war – enough is enough," she said. But she also supports her son. "It's what he wants to do."
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Favors starting a troop withdrawal but leaving some to fight terrorists, train Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests. Wants to increase regional diplomacy. Has set no timeline for a full withdrawal.
John Edwards
Favors withdrawing 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops immediately, and all within 10 months of taking office. Would prohibit permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq and keep quick-reaction forces outside Iraq.
Barack Obama
Vows to end the war. Would withdraw combat troops by the end of 2008 but leave some troops to protect the U.S. Embassy and attack specific targets.
Rudy Giuliani
Supports President Bush's troop surge. Says U.S. forces must remain until Iraq is stable. Calls for expanding the U.S. Army by at least 10 combat brigades, or 35,000 soldiers.
Mike Huckabee
Opposes withdrawal timetables. Says he's "focused on winning." Backs a regional summit.
John McCain
Supports the troop surge. Wants troops to stay until Iraq's government is stable and secure.
Mitt Romney
Would bring U.S. troops home as soon as possible, but not in a precipitous way that might require them to go back.
Fred Thompson
Wants to maintain the U.S. mission in Iraq as central to the war against Islamic terrorism; would greatly expand the military.
SOURCES: The Associated Press; McClatchy-Tribune

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Email about General Giap is a urban legend no truth
From: xxxxxxxxx Friday, December 21, 2007 4:42 PMTo: undisclosed-recipients:Subject: A Word from General Vo Nguyen Giap
Some of you have been forwarding this hoax around. Here's some news for you..... It's total b/S. Circulating in various forms since the 1990s, this statement attributed to General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam is not authentic,
has never been authentic, and no amount of repetition will make it so.
General Giap on How U.S. Lost the Vietnam War
Netlore Archive: Bogus passage allegedly penned by former North Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap attributes U.S. loss of the Vietnam War to homefront disruption caused by biased media
Description: Emailed quotationCirculating since: Late 1990s (various versions)Status: Inauthentic
Email example contributed by AOL user, Dec. 13, 2007:
Subject: Fwd: From General Giaps Memoirs... General Vo Nguyen Giap. General Giap was a brilliant, highly respected leader of the North Vietnam military. The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi: "What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!" General Giap has published his memoirs and confirmed what most Americans knew. The Vietnam war was not lost in Vietnam -- it was lost at home. The exact same slippery slope, sponsored by the US media, is currently well underway. It exposes the enormous power of a Biased Media to cut out the heart and will of the American public. A truism worthy of note: ....Do not fear the enemy, for they can take only your life. Fear the media far more, for they will destroy your honour.
Comments: Circulating in various forms since the 1990s, this statement attributed to General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam is not authentic, has never been authentic, and no amount of repetition will make it so. The quote surfaced most recently in an anonymous forwarded email (example above) composed in December 2007, days after being mentioned on Rush Limbaugh's website, which in turn cited an October 3, 2007 column by Geoff Metcalf as the source. According to Metcalf, the passage came from "[Giap's] memoirs currently found in the Vietnam War memorial in Hanoi." Rewind to three years and one finds the same passage being used as a weapon against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. It was repeatedly cited in texts inferring a connection between the candidate's antiwar activities during the 1970s and the Communist victory in Vietnam. This example, authored by ex-POW Michael Benge, is typical:
General Vo Nguyen Giap, the North Vietnamese general, the architect of the military campaign that finally drove the U.S. out of South Vietnam in 1975, is cited as crediting Presidential aspirant John Kerry and his VVAW with helping them achieve victory. In Giap's 1985 memoir about the war, he wrote that if it weren't for organizations like Kerry's Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Hanoi would have surrendered to the U.S." Giap was quoted as saying, "What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But, we were elated to notice the media were definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. Yes, we were ready to surrender. You had won!"-- Michael Benge, "Open Letter," Web-posted October 29, 2004 The charge against Kerry was couched in slightly different terms by conservative columnist Greg Lewis, who also made reference to alleged remarks by General Giap:
In the early 1970s, Kerry's group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, was highly visible in the antiwar movement in America. North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap goes to far as to report that Hanoi was considering surrendering to the United States during the early '70s, but that groups such as Kerry's convinced them to stay the course because America was not firm in its resolve. According to Fox News Analyst and decorated Vietnam Veteran Colonel Oliver North, "The Vietnam Veterans Against the War encouraged people to desert, encouraged people to mutiny." North puts it bluntly: "John Kerry has the blood of North American soldiers on his hands."-- Greg Lewis, "Fellow Travelers, Useful Idiots, and Other Innocents," February 19, 2004 I have not been able to find a trace of the alleged Giap quote in any source published prior to 2004. Vietnam War historian: Giap made no such statement According to Clemson University history professor Edwin Moise, General Giap never wrote or stated any such thing. From Moise's comprehensive Vietnam War Bibliography (emphasis added):
Supposedly, General Giap had written in How We Won the War that in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive of 1968, the Communist leaders in Vietnam had been ready to abandon the war, but that a broadcast by Walter Cronkite, declaring the Tet Offensive a Communist victory, persuaded them to change their minds and fight on. This rumor was entirely false. Giap had not mentioned Cronkite, and had not said the Communists had ever considered giving up on the war. Several variants of this rumor appeared in 2004. In these, Giap is supposed to have credited either the American anti-war movement in general, or John Kerry's organization (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) in particular, for persuading the Communist leaders to change their minds and not give up on the war. Giap is sometimes said to have made this statement in How We Won the War, sometimes in an unnamed 1985 memoir. All versions of the rumor are false. Neither in How We Won the War, nor in any other book (the 1985 memoir is entirely imaginary), has Giap mentioned Kerry or Vietnam Veterans Against the War, or said that the Communist leaders had ever considered giving up on the war. In his own words The most relevant statement I could find that is actually attributable to General Giap was uttered in a 1989 interview with Morley Safer, as excerpted in The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia of Quotations by Howard Langer (Greenwood Press, 2005, p. 318):
We paid a high price [during the Ted offensive] but so did you [Americans]... not only in lives and materiel.... Do not forget the war was brought into the living rooms of the American people. ... The most important result of the Ted offensive was it made you de-escalate the bombing, and it brought you to the negotiation table. It was, therefore, a victory.... The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion.
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"Keep on, Keepin' on"Dan Cedusky, Champaign IL "Colonel Dan"See my web site at: your email address when needed by signing in at to other veterans, tell them to Sign up at:

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Friday, December 21, 2007

DOD News Service pulls article on PDO discharges 28 minutes after being posted

Someone released a study that absolved the Army of discharging soldiers on PDO discharges rather than on medical discharges on the grounds of PTSD showing that the Army had only mistakenly misdiagnosed 1.5% of the of the 22.500 soldiers Appears to be a nice CYA documents that most medical community members will not believe let alone the American public ..........

DISORDER DISCHARGES -- "Premature" article claims
DoD's investigation shows 85% of PD discharges
were accurate and only 1.5% were issued in error.

I received the following article on Thursday, December 20 at 12:51pm Pacific from the Armed Forces Press Service.
Then, 28 minutes later, AFPS "pulled" the article and sent this message: "WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 - An American Forces Press Service article titled 'Military Works to Improve Personality Disorder-Based Discharge Process' was distributed prematurely. It has been removed from the DoD Web page. E-mail subscribers, please disregard it. We apologize for the inconvenience."
I waited for over a day to see if they would resend...and what changes, if any, would be made in the article.
The new article hasn't, we go with the old one. If a new article is released, I'll post it for comparison.
This appears to be the "official" word from DoD that they are doing the right thing with personality disorder discharges.
This is not good news and doesn't connect with a simple question: If these people had personality disorders, how did they get into the service in the first place?
For more about veterans and the personality disorder discharge, use the VA Watchdog search here...
"Premature" story WAS here...
Story below:
Military Works to Improve Personality Disorder-Based Discharge Process
By John J. KruzelAmerican Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007 - The military is working to improve the way it implements a policy of discharging troops based on pre-existing personality disorders, Defense Department health officials said today.Several articles in summer 2007 claimed that some 22,500 troops had been discharged -- in some instances, wrongly discharged -- after being diagnosed as having personality disorders. In response, the Defense Department launched a "secondary review."In the ongoing investigation thus far, officials have reconfirmed that 85 percent of servicemembers initially determined to have personality disorders were correctly diagnosed. Roughly 1.5 percent, however, were misdiagnosed, officials said.

"We have looked at most of them, and some, on review, have been incorrect diagnoses," Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told reporters at the Pentagon today.Casscells denied the most inflammatory claim made in the articles: that the military was shirking its responsibility to those affected. "When the articles first came out, the tenor was, 'Military is labeling people (with) personality disorders so they don't have to pay benefits,'" he said. "We did not find any evidence of that."Echoing Casscells' comments, Air Force Col. Joyce Adkins, director of psychological health and strategic operations, defended the policy, but acknowledged possible flaws in implementation.Adkins clarified that a personality disorder does not necessarily bar an individual from serving in the armed forces. "Certainly there are many people who have personality traits that we would characterize as a disorder who have stayed in the military," she said. "It's only when their personality doesn't fit well with the job that they are separated."Moreover, Adkins said a "separation," or discharge, on the basis of a personality disorder can benefit the discharged servicemember because it serves as a "safety valve," freeing the servicemember from further obligation to military service."If you have a job and you don't fit well with that job, you can quit," she said. "In the military, you can't just quit that easily. This is a way to say that this person doesn't fit well with this job and to allow them to pursue other employments."Adkins added that the "large majority" of such discharges occur within the first two years of military service.The difficulty of assessing a dormant personality disorder underscores the complexity of the issue highlighted by media attention and subsequent hearings on Capitol Hill.In most cases, no psychological evaluation can determine whether a personality disorder is apparent at the time of enlistment, as many signs of a latent disorder are undetectable. But despite difficulties in detecting pre-existing personality disorders, Adkins said, the military could improve the way it evaluates servicemembers returning from combat who are suspecting of suffering from such disorders."We are really stepping up on specifying the clinical criteria for what that evaluation should include," she said. "We want to make sure that (misdiagnoses) do not happen, that when a person is supposed to get a thorough evaluation, they do get a thorough evaluation."If you have a clinical condition, such as (post-traumatic stress disorder), major depressive disorder, an anxiety disorder, that certainly is treatable," she continued. "And we want to know if the problems with your behavior are related to one of these treatable conditions ... or if it is related to a personality disorder, which is not easily treated."With regard to inaccurate evaluations, Adkins called it "disturbing to think that that might not be implemented in the way that it was intended." She added that in large systems, like military health care, there are bound to be some issues with "quality control."Adkins said that $900 million appropriated by Congress to increase the number of mental health personnel will help efforts to improve the current process.Casscells lamented troops whose personality disorders become manifest during the course of military service, and emphasized a continuing obligation to these individuals."The military doesn't bring out the best in them, like it does in most people. In their case, it uncovered something else," he said. "There are some people who want to serve but shouldn't serve because it's not the right culture for them."I feel our responsibility is to not blame them for the fact that they wanted to serve," he said.

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"Turdblossom" to get at least 1.5 million for his version of history

Karl Rove Inks $1M-Plus Memoir Deal
By AMY WESTFELDTThe Associated Press Friday, December 21, 2007; 5:58 PM
NEW YORK -- GOP strategist Karl Rove has agreed to write about his years as an adviser to President Bush in a deal worth over $1.5 million with former colleague Mary Matalin's conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, officials said Friday.
Rove, the architect of Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and one of the most influential political advisers of his time, signed the deal with Threshold Editions, the imprint's publisher and executive vice president Louise Burke said.

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"All of us at Threshold are thrilled to publish the book from the man who had the president's ear for two terms," Burke said.
Rove's agent, attorney Robert Barnett, said Threshold was chosen over eight other bidding publishers. Threshold didn't say how much Rove would be paid, but the bidding reached at least $1.5 million, two publishing officials familiar with the bidding told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, a standard industry practice.
Rove said in a statement that the memoir would offer "a candid, careful look" at Bush's presidency and his role in it.
"It will tackle and shed light on important events and big controversies, spell out their implications for America and set the record straight," he said.
Publishers earlier this year had expressed reservations after Rove announced he would write about his White House years, wondering how much he would reveal.

Rove and Bush have known each other for more than 30 years, including Bush's years as Texas governor. Bush nicknamed Rove "the architect" and "boy genius" for successfully plotting two national election strategies and helping strengthen Republican majorities in Congress in 2002 and 2004.
Rove came under scrutiny in a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's name. He testified five times before a federal grand jury, occasionally correcting misstatements made in earlier testimony, but he was never charged with any crime.
The trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of lying and obstructing justice established that Rove was one of the administration officials who leaked the name of the CIA officer, Valerie Plame.
In a more recent controversy, Rove refused to testify before Congress about the firing of U.S. attorneys, citing executive privilege.
Said Matalin, a former adviser to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and Threshold's editor in chief: "Karl was always in a league of his own in the world of electoral politics and he now will literally create a unique genre for historians, policy makers, political junkies and serious readers."
Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

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Congress wants DOD & VA to track suicide,13319,158158,00.html?

Congress Wants Data on Vet Suicides
Associated Press December 13, 2007WASHINGTON - The parents of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide and members of Congress on Dec. 12 questioned why there's not a comprehensive tracking system of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Mike Bowman, of Forreston, Ill., said his son, Spc. Timothy Bowman, 23, is a member of the "unknown fallen" not counted in statistics. His son, a member of the Illinois National Guard, took his own life in 2005 eight months after returning from war. Bowman said he considers his son a "KBA" - killed because of action.
"If the veteran suicide rate is not classified as an epidemic that needs immediate and drastic attention, then the American fighting Soldier needs someone in Washington who thinks it is," Bowman said.
Bowman was one of several witnesses who testified before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on the issue.
Rep. Bob Filner, the committee chairman, questioned why the comprehensive tracking wasn't already being done.
"They don't want to know this, it looks to me," said Filner, D-Calif. "This could be tracked."
Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's deputy chief patient care service officer for mental health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, defended the work being done by his agency to tackle the issue, including implementing a suicide prevention hotline.
"We have a major suicide prevention program, the most comprehensive in the nation," Katz said. Katz questioned why Filner was focusing on the number of suicides instead of looking at treatment programs implemented to help prevent suicide.
Awareness of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was heightened earlier this year when the Army said its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per 100,000 troops - the highest level in 26 years of record-keeping.
The Department of Veterans Affairs tracks the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who commit suicide, but only if they have been discharged from the military.
The Pentagon tracks the number of suicides in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an earlier story, a Pentagon spokeswoman told The Associated Press the military does not keep track of whether active duty troops who took who took their own lives served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In an e-mail on Wednesday, the same spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said, "We track all suicides, I just don't have combat service information readily available."
At least 152 troops have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center, which tracks casualties for the Pentagon.
On Oct. 31, the AP reported that preliminary research from the Department of Veterans Affairs had found that from the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, and the end of 2005, 283 troops who served in the wars who had been discharged from the military had committed suicide. On Wednesday, Katz said the VA's number had been changed to 144 because some of the veterans counted were actually in the active military and not discharged on the day they committed suicide.
Smith said that the military's suicide rate is still lower than that of the general population.
After leaving the military, however, veterans appear to be at greater risk for suicide than those who didn't serve. Earlier this year, researchers at Portland State University in Oregon found male veterans were twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts.
In a report last May, the VA Inspector General said VA officials estimate 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care within the agency and as many as 5,000 per year among all veterans.
"When decision makers do no have reliable data, we must rely on anecdotal evidence," said Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind. "While these may help inform us, it does not help us to develop strategies to diminish the risk and prevent incidents of suicide."
Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

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Sec Gates estimates 100,000 troops in Iraq by election day

While Gates would not put a specific number on Iraq troop levels, he agreed a consistent reduction would leave 10 brigades _ roughly 100,000 troops _ soon after American voters go to the polls for the 2008 presidential elections.
There are currently 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The first brigade that is not being replaced left this month.
Gates said the capacity of Iraqi forces to bear more of the security burden and the ability of the Iraqi government to run the country are the leading factors that will influence how quickly U.S. forces can leave.
"My hope has been that the circumstances on the ground will continue to improve in a way that would _ when General (David) Petraeus and the chiefs and Central Command do their analysis in March _ allow a continuation of the drawdowns at roughly the same pace as the first half of the year."
Gates also criticized Congress' choppy funding for the wars. He said while the Pentagon welcomed the recent appropriation, it is less money than needed.
He said no furlough notices for Defense Department employees will be issued, a possibility that loomed until Congress passed the spending bill. But Gates said that prospect will reappear in a few months unless Congress supplies more money.
He said the military may run out of money by spring. That "requires us to make short term plans and short terms solutions," he said.
"I hope we don't have to have a replay this spring," Gates said.
Paying for the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan in fits and starts undermines military planning and risks the gains made by American troops over the past year, he said during a Pentagon news conference.

Congress recently provided $70 billion for combat operations, only half of what the President requested.


Call my cynical but they haven't talked about getting troops out of Iraq, until now and they recognize that they need to reduce the level of troops involved in the war before we vote. I wonder if Blackwater will be providing more private security forces? You notice the Pentagon never discusses the fact that there more than 120,000 private contractors working for the US government contracts in Iraq and Kuwait to keep the war going.

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CBS News asks is the Army refusing to help soldiers with PTSD

Is The Military Neglecting PTSD Troops?
Veterans' Advocates Say Ignoring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Is A Military-Wide Problem
Comments 51

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2007
Army Spc. Shawn Saunders got an early diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But then the military disagreed. (CBS)
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Helping Troops Deal With PTSD
Harry Smith talks with Dr. Glen Wurglitz, part of a team being deployed to Iraq to assist U.S. troops deal with mental health issues, including post-traumaic stress disorder. Share
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Resources: Veteran Mental Health
Reporter's Notebook: The War Over PTSD. -->

(CBS) Army Spc. Shawn Saunders was proud of his first two tours in Iraq. But midway through his third tour - he snapped. "If I hear loud noises, I get, I'm real, real jumpy,” Saunders told CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier. “I get paranoid." "Distraught, lost, confused..." is how Saunders’ father characterizes his behavior. His parents say his breaking point was watching his best friend die while guarding a checkpoint. "He kept saying, it should have been me, it should have been me," said his mother, Pam Wilson. Texas medic Taylor Burke took Saunders’ turn, and the car blew up. "When he passed, it was like a part of me that's left me, and I haven't been the same since," Saunders said. During home leave from Iraq, Shawn talked of suicide. At Fort Hood, his home base, he asked for help. Instead of treatment, he says he got bureaucracy. "I was basically just trying to find out what was wrong with me, because I was thinking about hurting myself, thinking about hurting other people," he said. His dad took action, flying him to a New York veteran’s hospital. Doctors there diagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Army disagreed. Military police arrested him at the hospital, jailed him and kicked him out. Veterans advocates say it’s a military-wide problem, where symptoms of PTSD - from substance-abuse to rage to suicidal depression - are misdiagnosed or blamed on the troops themselves. These critics point to a 40 percent spike: 22,500 troops who’ve been expelled since 2003, for personality disorder. The military claims these are psychological problems the troops had before joining, that surfaced from combat. Another 5,500 were expelled for “misconduct” like drug abuse - up to 20 percent. It’s an expedient way to replace an ailing soldier quickly. Discharging for a personality disorder takes days, and costs the military nothing. A PTSD discharge can take up to nine months, and treatment can last a lifetime - in severe cases, costing up to $2 million each.
From Kimberly Dozier's Notebook: The War Over PTSD. For resources on veterans mental health, click here.
The soldiers’ record, obtained by CBS News, show the man was first diagnosed with PTSD. But his commander said he “did not see anything really bad,” and ordered the diagnosis changed, to “personality disorder.” The soldier was immediately discharged, with no medical benefits. Shawn Saunders is now fighting to get his PTSD recognized. Dozier asked him: “You’ve got a lot of stuff to go through to get back to normal life, huh?” “I’m gonna try,” Saunders said.

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Army suicides on record rise

DALLAS - The Army says in 2006 soldiers committed suicide at the highest rate in nearly three decades. However, at 109 deaths so far, this year has been even worse.
While the military is taking action and trying to slow the disturbing trend, the answers aren't easy, particularly for grieving parents.
In the case of Spc. Aaron Latimer, of Ennis, the signs were there.
"We could tell he was really depressed," said Richard Latimer, Aaron's father.
During his tour in Iraq, Latimer was suicidal. In fact, Army records show his unit took his weapon away and had soldiers escort him wherever he went for fear that he would take his life.
But on May 9, 2006, just days after his commanders returned his weapon, Latimer put the Army-issued rifle into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
"It's almost like he talked them back into giving it back to him so he could end it," Mr. Latimer said.
Latimer's battle with inner turmoil is not unique. A record number of soldiers have taken their own lives this year.
"We see a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety," said Catherine Orsak, Dallas VA Medical Center.
While suicide rates are lower than the national rate at the Dallas VA Medical Center, longer deployments and the horrors of combat keep mental health officials busy.
"More people are asking for counseling," Orsak said. "More people are asking for more specific services we provide, and our workload has shown that increase."
Orsak said her office has increased its staff by nearly 20 percent to handle the workload, which is part of the military's recent aggressive efforts to halt suicides.
But the efforts are little consolation to parents like the Latimers.
"They think about killing people and breaking things," Mr. Latimer said. "Sometimes, they don't think about the welfare of their own troops."
Mr. Latimer said questions of what lies behind the suicidal thoughts still haunt him.
"I probably will have to go see him on the other side to find out," he said. "I don't think I'm going to understand that in this lifetime."

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Pentagon Group recommends High increases in medical fees for Tricare

In another slap to veterans and military retirees, the Bush Administration is going to again attempt to dramatically raise fees for prescription medicines for generics they want them to pay 15 dollars for generics, this at a time when drug stores, WalMart, Walgreens etc are charging 4 dollars for a months supply, so why should the retirees even want to pay the Army hospitals 15 dolars for the same medicine? This is a apparent attempt to force military retirees to quit using their earned medical benefits from the military and force them into medical plans of their second careers, which most retirees avoid due to having military benfits, is this another way to thank veterans, career veterans no less, DR Chu should be smiling today.

Panel recommends jump in Tricare fees
By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Friday Dec 21, 2007 5:52:09 EST

A Pentagon task force is recommending dramatic increases in pharmacy and health insurance expenses for military families, retirees and their families, arguing that higher fees may not cover rising costs but could have other benefits, including discouraging people from using their earned benefits.
Where a military family member pays $9 for a 30-day supply of a brand-name drug at a retail pharmacy and just $3 if the drug is a generic, the task force wants the fees increased to $25 for brand-name drugs and $15 for generic.
For military retirees and families covered by Tricare Standard, the task force proposes increased enrollment fees that would begin in 2008 at $5 a month and rise to $10 a month by 2010. There is no enrollment fee today. Annual deductibles would be based on the amount of retired pay the family receives, ranging from $350 to $470 in 2008 and ending up at $490 to $960 in 2011. The current family deductible is $300.
The fee and deductible costs could be even higher, because the task force recommends its proposal be adjusted to keep pace with the annual increase in medical costs, which generally runs at two to three times the rate of inflation. As a result, the maximum deductible could be as high as $1,300 if health care costs continue to rise at current rates.
Recommendations from the Task Force on the Future of Military Medical Care are surprising only in that the large increases could be phased in over four or five years in an effort to cushion the blow.
A $10 monthly fee for Tricare for Life is also recommended, an amount the task force admits has no direct bearing on the Pentagon’s expenses for providing medical care but is intended to follow a philosophy that military medical benefits “should be generous, but not free,” according to the task force report.
The Defense Department has been trying for several years to increase Tricare enrollment fees, co-payments and deductibles, as well as co-payments for using retail pharmacies, but has been blocked by Congress. The 2008 defense authorization bill passed by Congress last week included a one-year prohibition on fee increases. President Bush is expected to sign that bill next week. The ban would not prevent the Bush administration from including the fee increases in its 2009 defense budget request.
In its final report, delivered to Defense Secretary Robert Gates early Thursday, the task force said, “Americans everywhere are paying high costs for health care. While military retirees deserve a more generous benefit because of their sacrifices and years of service, relatively modest increases in out-of-pocket costs will not only help stabilize the system and make it more accountable but will also be looked upon as being appropriate by the American taxpayer.”
Medical care costs are becoming a huge part of the annual defense budget. In 2001, medical costs were $19 billion, but in 2007, the defense health care budget was more than $39 billion. The fastest-growing part of the health budget is pharmacy costs, where spending quadrupled between 2000 and 2007, the report said.

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Senators Bond and McCaskill work together to help veterans

These two are extremely partisian politicians fight fiercly for their issues and normally fight the party line, but when it comes to veterans issues there should be NO party lines, and they are working together to try and improve mental health care and treatment for soldiers and veterans, can the rest of Congress learn from this? We can hope the nations veterans deserve the "Promise" that Congress has promised them since wars began and men and women have served this nation.

Senators show us better wayAn amazing thing happened in Missouri politics this week that should grab the attention of voters and politicians all across our state and nation.
Sen. Kit Bond and Sen. Claire McCaskill issued a joint news release.


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For those who don't pay attention much to the polarized nature of politics in Missouri and our nation's capital, this might not seem like such a big deal. But truly it is.
Bond is the dean of Republicans in Missouri. He's been a fierce supporter of the Iraq war effort and an unapologetic backer of President George Bush even during the president's toughest times. Bond backed his friend and fellow Republican Jim Talent in his failed re-election attempt to the U.S. Senate last year. Talent lost in what was at times a nasty race to Democrat McCaskill.
The race was symbolic of everything that is wrong with politics today.
Two smart candidates, two good people, tore at each other with vicious personal attacks. It was ugly and beneath the dignity of both candidates.
And now, mere months later, here are McCaskill and Bond standing above the fray and working together.
This is what statesmanship can be. This is how politicians who have differing philosophies work together for the common good.
The news release this week was on a bill the two Missourians are supporting to protect airline workers from losing their jobs during mergers. It is likely to be of benefit to Missouri workers. But it's hardly the first time Bond and McCaskill have been on the same page. Both have been heavily involved in trying to improve mental health services for our soldiers both while they're in the service and when they return home. Here in southwest Missouri, we've seen firsthand the devastating effects of the war on terror as too many young men and women have returned facing mental demons from the horrors they've seen and experienced.
Mental health professionals and veterans organizations have made it clear that there's a crisis in our country waiting to explode if we don't do more about taking seriously the mental health needs of our veterans. That's what supporting the troops is all about, and even in the context of a divisive political debate over the prosecution of this war, that's an issue that should cross partisan lines.
It doesn't take a Republican or Democrat to be passionate about the quality of care our soldiers receive upon their return to our country. It only takes an American.
And it should give hope to American taxpayers, and particularly those of us in Missouri, that our two U.S. Senators are putting differences aside enough to work together to find common ground.
That's a phrase that Americans should remember: Common ground. It's the title of a new political book by conservative Cal Thomas and liberal Bob Beckel calling on our politicians to end the age of polarization and find those issues upon which philosophical opponents can still agree.
Imagine if the efforts of Bond and McCaskill — two strongwilled politicians who still have plenty of room for disagreement — could catch on in Missouri. Can anybody even dream of the day when Gov. Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon would issue a joint news release?
Heck, their staffs barely return each other's calls.
Bond and McCaskill offer weary voters hope. Disagree when you must — fiercely even. But Americans want leaders who can be adult enough to find common ground when possible. In the Show Me State, that should be the norm. We salute Senators Bond and McCaskill for leading the way.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poisoning the Troops, Again

The Pentagon has a disturbing pattern of withholding information on the impact of chemical/biological weapons and other toxins on US service members. As a result, veterans are often told that their debilitating symptoms are "in their head" and can go decades without receiving medical help.That's not supporting our troops.
A classic example occurred when US forces destroyed a chemical munitions dump in Khamisiyah, Iraq in March 1991. The US Defense Department (DoD) initially denied the dangers but backtracked in 1997 after a UN Special Commission investigation proved that sarin gas had been released during the demolition.
Sarin is a deadly chemical weapon estimated to be over 500 times as toxic as cyanide. Non-lethal doses can create permanent neurological damage and symptoms such as loss of memory, paralysis, seizures and respiratory problems. Turns out that over eight metric tons of sarin were released during the Khamisiyah demolitions.
Previous research has linked sarin with brain cancer, and Freedom of Information Act requests indicate the Pentagon knew that up to 300,000 Desert Storm troops may have suffered from sarin exposure. Yet veterans seeking support were often told that their symptoms had no physical basis.
Just last week, a scientific study using Pentagon data showed a direct correlation between sarin exposure in Gulf War vets and brain damage. Symptoms were found to be exacerbated by the use of bug repellant and a nerve-agent antidote given to roughly 250,000 troops during the Gulf War.
Yet it is doubtful if even now, over 16 years after the Khamisiyah disaster, the DoD will finally face the issue of US-troop sarin exposure.
One obvious reason is money. If the DoD admitted to withholding critical information connected to their medical illnesses, tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of Gulf War veterans could potentially become eligible for compensation.
Second, acknowledging the sarin issue could raise further questions about the Pentagon's 2003 admission of having tested biological/chemical agents on 5,842 service members from 1962-73. In operations called Project 112 and Project SHAD, the Defense Department tested weapons capabilities on troops in six states (Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Utah), Canada and Britain. Many veterans of those operations were not informed for decades and are still fighting for compensation and recognition.
Third, an admission of guilt would weaken the DoD's credibility regarding controversial programs today. For example, the anthrax vaccine is mandatory for military personnel and civilians deploying to "high-threat" areas across the globe, including Iraq and Afghanistan, despite being linked to serious illnesses and even death among US service members. Quite conveniently, the quarterly analysis of medical care data for vaccinated service members was ended in 2002.
So as we honor our service members and veterans this Memorial Day, we must acknowledge the continuing battle many face to receive compensation for exposure to chemical/biological weapons long ago and to avoid potentially harmful vaccines today. Our troops deserve better.Note: Originally published: May 28, 2007


Heather did not even mention the 7120 men used in the chemical weapons and drug experiments at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 thru 1975, they were funded by DOD and the CIA speciifcally thru a DR Sidney Gottlieb of the Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick, in 1952 DR Gottleib had unsupervised control of 6% of the entire Agency budget for establishing the test programs at Fort Detrick, Dugway Utah, Fort Greely Alaska, and Edgewood Arsenal.

The government ignored these men until the fall of 2006 when they began mailing notices from the VA stating that they had just been informed by DOD that we were used in human experiments at Edgewood Arsenal between 1955 thru 1975, and we needed to report to the nearest VA facility for special medical exams, one problem the exams are bogus there are no tests they can do years later let alone decades later to determine exposures. The VA Regional offices then deny claims associated with Edgewood.

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McClatchy news digs into national VA Compensation for PTSD

A study by McClatchy Newspapers have found that disabled veterans are not equally compensated across the nation better to file in New Mexico than Hawaii, or Columbia SC than Atlanta, Ga the awards are higher in the first states and much lower in the second state.Yet a veteran usually has the same expenses regardless of what state they live in. PTSD ratings are a very subjective award and the variances are shown in this article to be very costly for many of this nations disabled veterans. Myself I am a Vietnam Era, and Gulf War veteran, also a veteran of the chemical weapon and drug experiments at Edgewood and I am fortunate to be rated decently, although I still have some issues on appeal at the VA, heart problems, COPD, GERD, skin conditions etc.

Story here...
Story below:
Payments vary greatly for new veterans with mental illnessMcClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON _ Veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with debilitating mental ailments are discovering that their disability payments from the government vary widely depending on where they live, an exclusive McClatchy Newspapers analysis has found.As a result, many of the recent veterans who are getting monthly payments for post-traumatic stress disorder from the Department of Veterans Affairs could lose tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits over their lifetimes.The Bush administration has sought to reassure soldiers that they'll be treated fairly, but veterans in some parts of the country are far more likely to be well compensated than their compatriots elsewhere are, the analysis found.

McClatchy's analysis is based on 3 million disability compensation-claims records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as separate documents that the VA provided. The analysis is the first to examine the issue of state-to-state variations in compensation for those young veterans who have left the military since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001.For veterans, their families and their advocates, the issue of disability compensation is hugely important. Disability checks are now worth up to $2,527 a month for a single veteran with no children. Because they last a lifetime, low payments set now _ when veterans are young _ have a dramatic impact.So far, more than 43,000 recent veterans are on the disability compensation rolls for a range of mental conditions from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression and anxiety. Of those, more than 31,000 have PTSD, which has emerged as one of the signature injuries from the war on terrorism. Given the number of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, that's a fraction of what the total will be.The VA's assessments of those injuries, however, are all over the map.Of the recent veterans processed by the VA office in Albuquerque, N.M., 56 percent have high ratings for PTSD. Of those handled by the office in Fort Harrison, Mont., only 18 percent do, the McClatchy analysis found."There's no reason in the world that a veteran from Ohio should be shortchanged on benefits simply because he is from Ohio," said U.S. Rep. Zack Space, a Democrat from Ohio, where veterans had among the lowest compensation rates in the nation. "And there's no reason a veteran from New Mexico should be getting more benefits simply because he lives in New Mexico."A VA benefits official, Michael Walcoff, said the VA was working to minimize unwarranted variations across the country. Judging a condition such as PTSD, however, can be difficult."This has been an issue we have been concerned about for a while," he said. "We are trying to learn what we can do to minimize the variances."So far, 1.5 million Americans have served in the global war on terrorism, and half of them have left active service and transitioned to veteran status, VA documents show.Those discharged veterans alone already have produced more than 180,000 disability cases, in which veterans are found to have mental or physical ailments linked to their military service. Most already are receiving monthly compensation checks.Among all the ailments that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans now have, PTSD ranks fourth, behind ringing in the ear, back strain and hearing loss. But because it tends to be far more debilitating than those other conditions _ and generates far higher payments _ PTSD is the most important disability to emerge from the recent wars.After years of grumbling by some veterans that they were getting shortchanged, the regional discrepancies became a hot political issue in 2004, after reports by Knight Ridder Newspapers (which McClatchy acquired last year) and others highlighted wide state-to-state swings in the numbers of veterans on compensation rolls and the amounts of their payments.Under prodding from Congress, the VA said it would work to make its decisions more uniform among the more than 50 regional offices that process disability claims.This summer, a new report commissioned by the VA again detailed wide variations in disability payments from state to state. But the VA told Congress that doesn't mean that America's newest veterans are being shortchanged."It is important to understand that the average payments being compared in the (newest) study cover all veterans currently receiving VA disability-compensation benefits, and that the decisions that awarded these benefits have been made over a period of more than 50 years," a top VA benefits official, Ronald Aument, said in his prepared testimony to a congressional committee. "The average payment for compensation recipients is therefore not necessarily reflective of the experience of veterans currently applying for disability compensation benefits."Aument went on to tell the committee that things were looking better. "You should see a narrowing band of variation on the new work coming into the system," he said.The McClatchy analysis found that a recent veteran with PTSD on the rolls in Albuquerque is likely to have a higher payment than a new veteran with PTSD on the rolls in the Montana office.The VA workers who decide PTSD cases determine whether a veteran's ability to function at work is limited a little, a lot or somewhere in between. They examine the frequency of panic attacks and the level of memory loss. The process is subjective, and veterans are placed on a scale that gives them scores _ or "ratings" _ of zero, 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100.McClatchy's analysis found that some regional offices are far more likely to give veterans scores of 50 or 70 while others are far more likely to stick with scores of 10 or 30.Consider the New Mexico and Montana offices, where there are big differences up and down the scale.In Montana, more than three-quarters of veterans have ratings of zero, 10 or 30. In New Mexico, a majority of the veterans have ratings of 50 or 70.On top of that, 6 percent of New Mexico veterans had the highest rating possible _ 100, worth $2,527 a month _ compared with just 1 percent of Montana veterans.Because payments are loaded toward the highest end of the scale _ the difference between the highest rating and the next highest rating is more than $1,000 a month _ the huge gap in ratings has a significant impact on how much the VA is paying, on average, to veterans in different states.Factoring in all mental and physical disabilities, the average payment for recent veterans ranges from a high of $734 a month in the Little Rock, Ark., office to a low of $435 a month in Honolulu.Although they're supposed to follow the same rules, the reality for VA workers in different offices is far different. What generates a high rating in one location may produce a lower one somewhere else."Frankly, it's difficult," the VA's Walcoff said. "There is some subjectivity. It's not as simple as a below-the-knee amputation."Part of that is due to training differences around the country, and part is due to the personalities of individual employees who are handling claims and the different doctors and psychiatrists examining veterans who've applied for compensation.One VA-commissioned study found that local offices often develop their own training material, and that a "major influence" on how people handle cases is the on-the-job training they received from their superiors.That study said that "rating decisions often call for subjective judgments," and "there have been insufficient efforts at the national level to promote consistency across" regional offices."It's generational, but it doesn't end with the old generation," said Space, the Ohio congressman. "Those who routinely and typically undervalue claims teach the new claims evaluators coming in _ and they are going to be teaching those same mistakes."The VA said it was working to train its employees to handle all cases better, particularly those involving PTSD; all workers will undergo PTSD training next year.

PTSD rankings, average payments at VA officesOffice-Percent-Average of cases payment with high for all rating (50+) disabilities or PTSD for recent veterans*Albuquerque, N.M.56%$669 Phoenix51%$597 Little Rock, Ark.48%$734 St. Paul, Minn.46%$557 Providence, R.I.45%$579 Denver 45%$567 Boston 44%$519 Louisville, Ky.44%$580 Salt Lake City 43%$489 Oakland 42%$559 Portland 41%$660 Detroit 39%$536 New Orleans 38%$525 St. Petersburg, Fla .38%$518 Buffalo, N.Y. 37%$523 Chicago 37%$479 Houston36%$609 Columbia, S.C. 35%$564 Newark, N.J. 35%$479 Anchorage 35%$482 Muskogee, Okla.35%$560 Fargo, N.D. 34%$491 Los Angeles 34%$477 Milwaukee 33%$531 Waco, Texas33%$530 Honolulu 33%$435 Seattle 33%$538 San Diego 33%$525 Montgomery, Ala.33%$571 Philadelphia 32%$497 Togus, Maine 32%$661 Baltimore 32%$527 Huntington, W.Va.31%$586 Wichita, Kan. 31%$533 Winston-Salem, N.C. 31%$545 White River Jct., Vt.30%$492 Indianapolis 29%$477 New York 29%$487 Sioux Falls, S.D. 29%$515 Roanoke, Va .27%$538 Nashville, Tenn. 27%$467 Hartford, Conn. 27%$492 Reno 27%$518 Atlanta26%$494 Cleveland 26%$488 Manchester, N.H. 26%$525 Wilmington, Del. 24%$462 Des Moines, Iowa 23%$530 St. Louis 22%$502 Cheyenne, Wyo. 21%$441 Pittsburgh 21%$443 Boise20%$502 Jackson, Miss. 20%$469 Fort Harrison, Mont. 18%$500 Average 35% $528

* McClatchy Newspapers identifies “recent veterans” as those who joined the military after the first Persian Gulf War and were discharged sometime after the Afghanistan war started.

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Operation Second Chance

Dear Supporter,
This holiday season, we all give thanks for what we have in life. But, it's important to remember that many of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are going through some tough times and need your help. Even though tries to advocate for veterans at every turn, we can't do it alone. There are a number of fantastic veterans service organizations and charities which provide a bright spot for so many of our heroes in their moments of need. I would like to introduce you to one such group, and urge you to donate whatever you can afford, so they can continue their tremendous work.
Between now and 12am Tuesday, every dollar that comes in through the link above will go directly to Operation Second Chance - our chance to help another great group during this season of giving.
Operation Second Chance ( is a group that, literally, came to be because of one woman's desire to help our heroes. Cindy McGrew had a friend who was deployed to Iraq with the Stryker Brigade. After finding out a few members of the brigade were injured and heading to Walter Reed, Cindy took it upon herself to go to Walter Reed and visit troops and their families, to see how she could help. She formed some close friendships with families, and pretty soon, word got around and her visits became regular, and she connected with more troops and families who needed help.
Others found out about Cindy and joined her for her trips to Walter Reed. Together, they coordinated efforts to take care of everyday things for the families, like getting groceries and clothes, so they could spend more time with their loved ones. They brought playpens for the young children of the wounded, so parents could put their children down and tend to their injured loved ones. They directed fundraisers and donation drives to put together brown boxes of goodies and essentials, and delivered them to the wounded and their families. Operation Second Chance was born.
Today, Operation Second Chance has broadened its cause. The group's goal is to provide support for the Soldiers and Marines while they are at Walter Reed and then to further assist them when they transition either back to duty or back to civilian life. Even with the larger cause, Cindy and her friends still head to Walter Reed every weekend, to personally assist the wounded and their families.
Many people rightfully wonder if they give to a charity, will that money make it to those in need of help, or go to the pockets of those in charge. Well, when you give to Operation Second Chance, 97 percent of the money you give will go directly to the wounded and their families. Operation Second Chance is a completely volunteer effort.
On behalf of all the veterans and troops, I want to wish you and your family a very healthy and happy holiday season and New Year. We at are so appreciative of all the help you've given to us over the last couple of years. We look forward to keeping in touch with you this coming year and doing some exciting work. Thanks for your support, and again, please take a moment before 12am Tuesday to click here to donate to Operation Second Chance, an amazing charitable group.
Jon SoltzIraq War VeteranChairman,
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Consider supporting the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

What a year. In 2007, IAVA grew faster and accomplished more than ever before. People like you continue to demonstrate that they're committed to making sure our veterans get a fair deal, and the support we've received has been inspiring.
Small donations from supporters like you have added up, and we're two-thirds of the way to our year-end fundraising goal. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today.
Now, as this year draws to a close, I want to give you a very quick look into just two of the many initiatives IAVA has planned for early 2008.
IAVA Issue Reports
As one of our supporters, you know a lot more about the issues facing veterans than most people. Unfortunately, many Americans still don't know much about PTSD, or Traumatic Brain Injuries. One of our main goals has always been to help educate the public about these issues, and in 2008 we're taking a major step towards doing just that.
In January we will officially release the IAVA Issue Reports - authoritative publications on the biggest areas of concern for veterans, including Education, Mental Health, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and VA Health Care. These will serve as comprehensive resources for concerned citizens, journalists, and members of government.
2008 Legislative Agenda
In 2007, we released the first IAVA Legislative Agenda, which laid out concrete steps lawmakers could take to really support troops and veterans, and it was a huge success. The Agenda was the most comprehensive list of veterans' legislative issues available, and we've already seen considerable progress on six of our seven Legislative Priorities. The 2008 version adds some new priorities, including the need to fix the shortage of trained mental health professionals at the VA and a much-needed overhaul of the veterans' disability system.
These are just a few of the things we're working on behind the scenes, and none of it would be possible without your support. Thanks to an amazing outpouring from our supporters, we've updated our year-end fund raising goal to $30,000. To those of you who have already contributed - thank you. If you haven't, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today.
Again, thank you for standing with Iraq and Afghanistan troops and veterans in 2007. Over the next few days, as you're celebrating the holidays, please take a minute to think about the brave men and women currently deployed around the world.

From everyone at IAVA - best wishes for a safe and happy New Year.
Paul Rieckhoff Iraq Veteran Executive Director Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

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General Peake sworn in as 6th Secretary of the DVA Sworn in As VA SecretaryNew Leader Pledges to Look to the Future WASHINGTON (December 20, 2007) - In a ceremony today Dr. James B. Peake,a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and former Army Surgeon General, was sworn in by President George W. Bush as the nation's sixth Secretary of Veterans Affairs."Dr. Peake takes office at a critical moment in the history of thisDepartment," said President Bush. "Our nation is at war - and many new veterans are leaving the battlefield and entering the VA system. This system provides our veterans with the finest care - but the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate."Secretary Peake stressed his commitment to easing the transition of our current generation of returning, combat experienced men and women and of"the opportunity to look to the future of this newest generation of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - getting it right for them and for their families."Peake, who retired in 2004 as a three-star general, is a board-certified thoracic surgeon. His commands included the U.S. Army Medical Command,headquartered at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.; the 44th Medical Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C.; and the 18th Medical Command in Seoul, South Korea. Secretary Peake told those assembled, "You need to know that I believe deeply in the mission; and that I believe in you. I know quite a number of you already. I've seen the ethic, the caring, the compassion, and the technical skills."A native of St. Louis and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Peake attended medical school after serving in Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart. As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Peake assumes leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the second largest cabinet department, with about 250,000 employees and a budget last year exceeding $82 billion. More than 5.5 million veterans are expected to receive care this year in VA's 153 hospitals and 900 clinics. VA also provides disability compensation and pensions to 3.5 million veterans and family members, and operates 125 national cemeteries.

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