What did Hussein Obama say about our military? Something like – the greatest in the world. Proof is always in the doing, not in the BS.
Blue Force Tracker – To trim $22 million from the federal budget, senator nixes program to combat veterans suicides –
12-20-14 The melancholy in the room was already noticeable before I even walked up the stairs to enter the auditorium at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina back in December 2009.I remember hearing the sounds of The London Metropolitan Orchestra playing the main theme to HBO’s Band Of Brothers as I walked into the lobby of the theatre–at the time I thought the music was pouring salt on an open wound but realize today it was quite fitting.
Upon entering the main theatre, I was suddenly taken back by what I saw on the stage that day. An artist had created hand drawn portraits of the dead. The frames of people we knew–brothers we fought with–lined the stage, which were accompanied by the trademark signature that not everyone had come home alive–The Battlefield Cross.
The dog tags dangled from their weapons. I remember the widow’s random screams. The now fatherless children sat with their very young mothers as the battalion chaplain struggled to get through his prepared remarks, the grief was unbearable.
Navy Lieutenant Terry Roberts was the battalion chaplain for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He had been a former enlisted marine, serving in the infantry before becoming an officer in the Navy. He was instantly respected among the marines for his prior experience, but today Roberts could barely utter a word from his eulogy.
“In Afghanistan…excuse me,” he said.
Roberts stops to wipe the tears from his eyes, “In Afghanistan, I carried with me…excuse me,” he stops once more; the physical and emotional anguish can be seen from the back of the room where I am seated.
“In Afghanistan, I carried with me a Betsy Ross style colonial flag. This flag bore a circle, with 13 stars and 13 stripes. Now, when I look at the flag with the 13 stripes–I will always think of our 13 fallen heroes as they now stand together, forever, for all eternity in an unbroken circle. Always forever, flying together as Old Glory takes the breeze.”
Unfortunately, little did any of us in the room know that just four days later, another Marine from the battalion–Corporal Xhacob LaTorre–would perish from the wounds he sustained in Afghanistan 2009, bringing the death toll to 14.
I have reflected about that day in the auditorium frequently, especially while sitting in on the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing at the height of the VA scandal this past summer. Continue here.
Marine Corps Times – Marine vet featured in story about songwriting, PTS found dead
12-30-14 GUILDERLAND, N.Y. — A New York man featured in an Associated Press account of veterans coping with trauma through songwriting was found dead on Sunday, the same day the story was published.Guilderland police Capt. Curtis Cox said Monday the cause of Adan Olid’s death was under investigation and he had no other information about the circumstances, including when the 29-year-old former Marine died. Foul play isn’t suspected. An autopsy was being done Monday, but the cause of death might not be known until toxicology results are available, Cox said.
In November interviews with the AP, Olid spoke eloquently about the feelings he carried after close calls and seeing friends dying during three tours in Iraq. He told of overcoming despair to confront the “ghost-like feeling” of post-traumatic stress disorder after contemplating suicide at the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge and deciding not to jump. Read here.
Military Times – 2015 goal for VA claims backlog appears out of reach
The Veterans Affairs Department boasted another dramatic drop in its backlog of benefits claims in 2014, but will need an extra boost in coming months to meet its goal of zeroing out the payout delays by the end of 2015.The backlog — the number of first-time VA benefits claims unresolved for more than four months — sits at around 245,000 cases, according to departmental data. That’s down more than 160,000 cases in 2014 and more than 250,000 cases since the start of 2013.
But despite that solid progress, VA workers are still not on pace to fully eliminate the backlog by the end of next year, a goal long promised by department officials.
“I think they can get close, but I don’t think they can get to zero,” said Jackie Maffucci, research director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Just looking at the numbers, it’s doubtful.”
After two years of intense focus from lawmakers and critics, attention on the claims backlog has waned since early 2014. Worries about the thousands of veterans waiting for disability payouts were overtaken by worries about lengthy care delays at VA medical centers and data manipulation by department officials, scandals that forced the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. More here.