Category Archives: National Security

UNDERSERVED: Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster

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By far more than anyone else, United States Marines and their supporters have reacted to and commented on this solemn, snow-shrouded image that I posted on Facebook mere hours ago. It’s an anecdotal truth for this author that those in and around the USMC are quick, respectful, and openly compassionate when it comes to honoring the noble dead. Collectively, the kind of fight that our Marines take to America’s enemies is a lot different than that we ask of our airmen. So, WTF? The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

Here’s an excerpt from the following March 2016 report as accessed online 21 December 2018:
Swords to Plowshares, in conjunction with National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School have published Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.

Complete report available at:

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the veteran has less than a General discharge, the VA creates obstacles to getting health care, benefits, homeless resources and other services. Most of these veterans are simply turned away. Congress never meant for eligibility to be so exclusive, it intended that only veterans who served dishonorably be denied access. The VA’s own discretionary policies unnecessarily deny hundreds of thousands veterans benefits, who are often those most in need of the VA’s support. These former service members are more likely to have mental health disabilities and twice as likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless and to be involved with the criminal justice system.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT

  • Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force
  • Current era service members are excluded at higher rates than other eras– more than twice the rate for Vietnam Era veterans and nearly four times the rate for World War II Era veterans
  • Mental health and combat have little effect on eligibility
  • 3 out of 4 veterans with bad-paper discharges who served in combat and who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are denied eligibility by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

.  .  .

(Excerpted from p. 12 and following)

VA Regulations Result in Unequal Exclusion Rates Between Branches

The historically unprecedented exclusion rate today
is due almost enti rely to the VA’s discretionary choice
to presume ineligibility for veterans who received
administrative Other Than Honorable discharges.
That choice deprives tens of thousands of veterans of
needed care, despite the fact that their service would
not be considered “Dishonorable”—and was not
deemed Dishonorable by the military. What is more, significant disparities exist among the administrative separati on practices of the various service branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each has its own separation regulations and policies. Moreover, within each branch, different units and commands may implement those regulations and policies in a different manner. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive disparate treatment: one may be retained, another may be discharged under General conditions, another discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions.

This is due to different leadership styles, not differences in degrees of “dishonor.” A report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on discharge characterization documented the range of discharge practices and ascribed disparities to differences in leadership and management styles rather than a measurable difference in “honor” or “character.” The GAO compared Marines and Airmen with the same misconduct, service length, and performance history, and found that the Air Force was thirteen times more likely to give a discharge Under Honorable conditions than the Marine Corps.

Because the VA presumptively excludes veterans
with non-punitive Other Than Honorable discharges,
this discrepancy results in significant differences
in VA eligibility. For service members with equivalent conduct histories, Airmen are 13 times more
likely than Marines to be deemed presumptively
eligible—and recognized as a “veteran”—by the VA.
This results in significant differences in aggregate.
Whereas 98% of veterans who have served in the Air
Force since 2001 can access the VA when they leave
the service, only 88% of Marines from the period are
presumptively recognized as “veterans” by the VA.
(See Table K.9). The VA has effectively decided that
Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

This disparity provides a potent reminder for why Congress decided to exclude only veterans who received or should have received a Dishonorable discharge by Court-Martial. Although there are wide discrepancies among services in their administrative discharge practices, the service branches are remarkably similar in how they use punitive discharges. Congress specifically noted that the discretion given to commanders for administrative separations can result in unfair outcomes, and gave veterans the benefit of the doubt by only excluding those who received or deserved a Dishonorable discharge by court-martial. Because the VA’s regulations have presumptively excluded all veterans with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges, the VA is failing to act in accordance with Congress’s decision.
Eligibility Decisions Fail To Adequately Consider Mental Health Conditions that May Have Contributed to Discharge.

Overall, the VA’s COD regulations prevent consideration—except in narrow and specifi c circumstances—of facts that Congress intended the VA to take into account: mitigating factors, extenuating circum-
stances, and positive facts. As one example, the VA’s regulations provide little room for consideration
of whether any mental health condition explains
or mitigates the conduct that led to the veteran’s
bad-paper discharge. It is deeply unfair—and contrary to Congress’s intent—to exclude veterans from basic veteran services for behavior that is symptomatic of mental health conditions that may be related to their service.

It is well established that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, operational stress, and other mental health conditions can lead to behavioral changes. In some cases, military commanders incorrectly attribute those behaviors to bad character, rather than as signs of distress and disease. Indeed, a 2010 study of Marines who deployed to Iraq found that those who were diagnosed with PTSD were eleven times more likely to be discharged for misconduct and eight times more likely to be discharged for substance abuse than Marines without a PTSD diagnosis.

Yet, the VA’s regulati ons contain only one narrow
provision related to mental health: misconduct
leading to discharge may be overlooked if the veteran
was “insane” at the time of the misconduct leading
to discharge. The VA’s definition of “insanity” is
antiquated—out of step with the practices of modern
psychology and psychiatry, which no longer deem
people “insane.” . . .

Eligibility Decisions Do Not Consider Whether the Veteran Served In Combat or Other Hardship Conditions

Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Among additional expert analyses of what bad paper discharges do to those who’ve served and their families is:

“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg (2017)
Paper (pdf)
https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2017/bad-papers-invisible-and-increasing-costs-war-excluded-veterans

In a forthcoming article, this author points to another problem facing those with bad paper discharges:

“Veterans with bad paper discharges can get screwed all the way around. Not only are they often – but not always – excluded from VA services and healthcare, they “may be excluded from access to community resources also; many community programs follow the eligibility requirements set by the VA.”
Research Review: Underserved, How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans With Bad Paper. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org/blog May 3, 2016
https://iava.org/blogs/research-review-underserved-how-the-va-wrongfully-excludes￾veterans-with-bad-paper/

BAD PAPER UPDATE

Veterans may sue over discharges they say were result of untreated mental health problems

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/veterans_may_sue_over_discharges_they_say_were_result_of_untreated_mental_h

48,000* paths to homelessness?

The Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm recently testified that there are more than 48,000 state and federal “collateral consequences” in the United States. These “hidden costs” of criminal convictions ar exactly what I was talking about when I wrote this on STRIFEBLOG in August:
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“You do the best you can, though, because you swore you would and because the outcome of a criminal case – regardless of whether a client goes to prison – frequently inflicts significant consequences on the lives and fortunes of not just your client but also your client’s family. A criminal conviction, the criminal record that follows it, and any collateral consequences from the conviction, e.g., loss of professional license, reduction in amount of VA disability compensation, termination of VA pension payments, deportation, denial of access to public housing and federal student aid, etc., can hurt and even destroy families.”

 

Collateral Consequences: Protecting Public Safety or Encouraging Recidivism

“Since most ex-offenders—millions of them—at some point will be released from custody and return to our communities, it is important that we do everything we can to encourage them to become productive, law-abiding members of society and that we not put too many impediments, in the form of excessive collateral consequences, in their way that will hinder their efforts.

“More attention must be paid to this issue to avoid these dangerous and counterproductive results. In a time of intense polarization, this is one of the few issues people can rally around and find common ground. If people are pushed into the corner and denied opportunities for gainful employment and a stable environment for too long, they will have little choice but to recidivate. It is not in anybody’s best interest to relegate the formally incarcerated to a backwater of second-class citizenship status.”

John Malcolm. Vice President, Institute for Constitutional Government, Heritage Foundation.

https://www.heritage.org/testimony/collateral-consequences-protecting-public-safety-or-encouraging-recidivism-0

*TITLE OF POST includes “48,000” in an effort to keep the message clear. Far too many of those 48,000 can shatter a family and thrust moms and dads and kids into homelessness but certainly not all of them.

2018 ARMY-NAVY game: “This game is the only game, where everyone on the field playing, is willing to sacrifice everything, put their life on the line, and die for everyone watching.”

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Feature image: West Point’s uniforms for last Saturday’s 2018 Army-Navy football game were a tribute to the “Big RedOne,” the Army’s First Division, which helped turn the tide during World War I. Image courtesy U.S. Military Academy. Image and article accessed at businessinsider.com 10 December 2018.

 

The Army and the Navy are the best of friends in the world 364-1/2 days a year, but on one Saturday afternoon, we’re the worst of enemies.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Army_Navy_Game_1942_play at USNA image accompanies 2018 American Heritage article by Sally Mott Freeman. cropped. 455 x 275

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 1942 Army-Navy game was played in Annapolis rather than Philadelphia due to the travel restrictions. Third- and Fourth-year Navy midshipmen were ordered to sit behind the Army bench and cheer for the opposing team in place of West Point cadets who couldn’t attend. Nimitz Library Digital CollectionsSally Mott Freeman. The Strangest Army-Navy Game Ever Played? 63(1) American Heritage (2018). Accessed online 10 December 2018.  https://americannotice.home.blog/2018/07/08/the-strangest-army-navy-game-ever-played-by-sally-mott-freeman/

 

Memorials to West Point grads KIA Cullum Hall at US Military Academy. 434 x 275

Memorial plaques to West Point graduates killed in action. Cullum Hall, U.S. Military Academy

 

“There’s always something special when the service academies play each other that’s not in any other game. This is not a regular game and everyone involved knows it.”

Roger Staubach, Heisman Trophy Winner, Navy quarterback, Vietnam veteran, and Dallas Cowboy

 

 

The title of this blogpost comes from a new essay by Gavin Jernigan, [who] “was a member of the Navy Football team from 2012-2016. He graduated from Annapolis in 2016 and commissioned as a Marine Corps Aviator.” The following excerpt is from his essay, “Army-Navy Football: What the game means to America”:

Donald Preston Tillar III KIA, plaque at West Point memorializes his service, Image accompanies Greg Bruno. War_s Grim Reality Hits West Point. Times Herald-Record. 197 x 275The players of both sides of the ball demonstrate a quality that is slowly slipping as a primary characteristic of our country: sacrifice. Every single Midshipmen or Cadet playing in the game could have played football at another college and had even the slightest chance to play in the NFL. With incredible academic requirements to be accepted to and graduate from a service academy like West Point or Annapolis, any of these players could have earned academic scholarships at other schools and found a great job outside of the military after college. Instead, their 17-year old self made the biggest decision of their life to attend a service academy and serve their country.

These young men forego the stereotypical college life in order to study hard, learn their profession, and prepare themselves to lead young men and women in the military. All this is done for love of country.

Following graduation, the Cadets of Army West Point will commission as Second Lieutenants in the United States Army. For the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy, they will either commission as Second Lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps or as Ensigns in the United States Navy. Both service requirements last a minimum of five years.

During these five years, many of them will be sent to every corner of the world, away from their friends and family, to spread peace on behalf of American diplomacy. Today they play a football game in front of millions. Tomorrow, they stand in front of citizens of countries around the globe representing the United States of America.

https://www.againstallenemies.com/2018/12/7/18130113/army-navy-football-what-the-game-means-to-america-black-knights-midshipmen-niumatalolo-monken

The author, Gavin Jernigan, was a member of the Navy Football team from 2012-2016. He graduated from Annapolis in 2016 and commissioned as a Marine Corps Aviator.

 

USNA. Virtual Memorial Hall operated by Run to Honor. accesseed as npg.si.edu on 10 December 2018. 233 x 300The USNA Virtual Memorial Hall exists to perpetuate the memory of alumni of the United States Naval Academy who have died in service to their country. As President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which

 

 

Following is excerpted from the Capt. Elizabeth Kealey’s obituary at the U.S. Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall (Even though Capt. Kealey did not play in any of the Army Navy games during her tenure at Annapolis, she’s featured here because what Gavin Jernigan – a fellow Marine aviator – writes applies to men as well as women who attend the U.S. military service academies).

2005_Kealey_LB. USNA image. 222 x 300When Marine Capt. Elizabeth Kealey returned from a deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, she showed her mom, Chris Kealey-Thompson, photographs of her helicopter covered in bullet holes.

“She was like, ’No big deal, Mom,’” said Ms. Kealey-Thompson of Salisbury, N.C.

That probably really was no big deal for a young woman who wanted to pursue only the toughest challenges life could toss her way. The mentality that drove her decisions, according to her mom, was, “I’m going to go into the Marines because that’s the hardest branch of the military, and I’m going to fly helicopters because that’s the hardest thing to do.”

Capt. Kealey, 32, originally of Indiana, Pa., died Friday in California from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash while conducting routine flight operations at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

She anticipated resigning her commission after 10 years in the military in the summer, after which she wanted to go to graduate school and become a physics teacher.

The nonchalant attitude regarding her heroic actions came from her late father, Walter, who finished his military career as an Army colonel and then worked as a liaison officer for the U.S. Military Academy. Ms. Kealey-Thompson said the pair agreed that as a member of the armed forces, “You do your job, you do it well, and you don’t brag about it.”

https://usnamemorialhall.org/index.php/ELIZABETH_KEALEY,_MAJ,_USMC

 

1997_McGreevy_LB. USNA virtual memorial hall 212 x 275

 

 

Lieutenant Michael M. McGreevy graduated from the Naval Academy and went on to become members of the SEALs, one of the elite fighting forces in the world.

Lieutenant McGreevy, who was the Naval Academy class of 1997’s secretary, not only was popular, but also displayed scholarly aptitude, friends said. While in high school in Portville, New York, Lieutenant McGreevy wanted to take state Regents exam in German – only his school didn’t offer the language. He bought German books and taught himself so well, he passed the exam.

Gary Swetland, Lieutenant McGreevy’s former high school track coach, recalled the young man as one of the most determined people he ever met. He said Lieutenant McGreevy would run more than 3 miles to school each morning, to be there by 6 a.m. so that he could get in a session of strength building before classes started.

“He grew from a thin-as-a-rail, somewhat awkward teen, to an absolute physical stud of a man,” said Mr. Swetland, who kept in touch with McGreevy and attended his graduation from the Naval Academy. “You felt compelled to stand and salute” when he entered a room, Mr. Swetland said.

Military friends of McGreevy described him as the embodiment of American ideals. “Hold him up as high as you can – he was a great American and a great person,” said Marine Captain Aaron Shelley of San Diego, California, McGreevy’s friend and freshman year roommate at the academy. “He did well in everything I saw him do – at the same time, he was very, very humble about it and was always ready to help others.”

McGreevy finished first in his SEAL class.

He had been in Afghanistan since early April and is survived by his wife, Laura, and 14-month-old daughter, Molly, his mother Patricia Mackin and father Michael McGreevy Sr.

“He died doing what he always wanted to do,” said former Marine Captain. Thomas Wagner, McGreevy’s classmate at the academy and the president of the Class of 1997.

https://usnamemorialhall.org/index.php/MICHAEL_M._MCGREEVY,_JR.,_LT,_USN

mmmcgreevy-gravesite-photo-february-2006. 275 x 206

Killed in the same combat operation with Lt. McGreevy were the following soldiers and sailors:

Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio. 
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota. 
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida 
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana 
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee 
Major Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut 
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia 
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida. 
All of these soldiers were assigned to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia

Sailors killed were:

Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, Louisiana 
Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, New Hampshire 
Lieutenant Commander Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, California 
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Oregon 
Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Florida. 
Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nevada 
Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, West Virginia

A Department of Defense press release explains that “[a]ll 16 were killed while conducting combat operations when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard crashed in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province on June 28, 2005.”

http://arlingtoncemetery.net/mmmcgreevyjr.htm

 

U. S. Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall:

https://usnamemorialhall.org/index.php/USNA_Virtual_Memorial_Hall

“The USNA Virtual Memorial Hall exists to perpetuate the memory of
alumni of the United States Naval Academy who have died in service to
their country. As President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address,
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the
unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly
advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task
remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased
devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of
devotion.”

 

Feature image accompanies article by Greg Bruno: War’s Grim Reality Hits West Point. Times Herald-Record recordonline.com 7 January 2007 

https://www.recordonline.com/article/20070107/NEWS/701070346

 

 

charles-photo-lawlibrary-150-x-200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

Veterans’ Treatment Court allows career Army sergeant to include yoga in five-year plan

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Following is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Nikki Prodromos

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

“My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.

“Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!”

Following description of a yoga class at Ft. Campbell is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Michael, MSG – U.S. ARMY VETERAN WITH 17 YEARS IN SERVICE

“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.”

Per Connected Warriors:

“The Connected Warriors mission is to empower Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through Trauma-Conscious Yoga.”

“Thanks to our synergistic partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Connected Warriors is at the forefront of clinical studies on yoga’s positive effects. Out of every dollar we raise, 92¢ cents goes into our programs in 9 countries worldwide, 24 states, and Washington D.C.”

 

Two Vietnam veterans talk about the Connected Warriors program in 2011 South Florida article re former sex crimes and homicide prosecutor who left to teach yoga full time:

“I always thought that yoga had something to do with meditation, but I didn’t know it was so strenuous,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Hodge Jr., 66, a Lauderhill retiree. He said a weekly class with Frankel has helped him sleep through the night for the first time in 40 years.

“This is not a sissy thing, you know,” Hodge said.

Fellow Vietnam veteran Tom Turnberger, 63, a former Marine, praised Frankel’s non-critical manner. “He goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome,” said Turnberger, of Plantation. “He said he appreciates what we’ve done as veterans, and that is not something those of us who served in Vietnam heard a lot.

“I don’t know how this works, but it gives me a sense of calm,” he added. “I’ve been searching for this.”

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/health/fl-xpm-2011-08-03-fl-yoga-for-vets-20110730-story.html

 

Feature image accessed 4 December 2018 at https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

“On hubcaps, cigars, and prayers: reflections on the National Cathedral.”

It was during the dark hours, more than a few winters ago, that a friend who works on Capitol Hill took me to the National Cathedral. The air was crisp with a bit of a bite.

Against a blood-red sky, pale light shrouded the Gothic church atop Mount Saint Albans in Northwest D.C. Its spires reached toward Heaven while the cruciform house of prayer slumbered a little less than two football fields deep.

Because the grand doors that front Wisconsin Avenue were locked, my Tennessee friend and I went looking for another way in.

In the cloaking darkness, we met a sculptor-in-residence who told us arcane facts about the nation’s cathedral, his craft, and how he’d landed one of the coolest jobs a modern sculptor can get. Anywhere.

We also found an unlocked door to a plain and simple chapel just large enough for 4 or 5 pilgrims. A lone hubcap from a car that had been new decades earlier rested against the front wall below a Judeo-Christian themed relief. We rested our cigars outside and went in to pray.

World_War_I_veteran_Joseph_Ambrose,_86,_at_the_dedication_day_parade_for_the_Vietnam_Veterans_Memorial_in_1982. 200 x 300
World War I veteran Joseph Ambrose attends the dedication parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, killed in the Korean War

It was the very first American president who envisaged a house of worship in the new nation’s capital city. The National Park Service explains that descriptions of President Washington’s disclosed plans for the “City of Washington, in the district of Columbia,” published January 4, 1792, included land for “[a] church intended for national purposes, …, assigned to the special use of no particular sect or denomination, but equally open to all.”

The Cathedral’s “foundation stone was set on Sept. 29, 1907 by president Theodore Roosevelt,” reports cathedral.org. And “[e]ighty-three years later, on Sept. 29, 1990, President George H.W. Bush was present to witness the final stone on the cathedral set in place.” Washingtonian noted in 2007 that the cross-shaped structure stretches “more than 500 feet long from west to east and rising to a height of 301 feet, it’s the world’s sixth-largest cathedral.”

As the timeline at the Cathedral’s website explains, “[t]he dream of a national cathedral dates to the earliest days of the United States, when President George Washington and architect Pierre L’Enfant imagined a ‘great church for national purposes.’”

The Cathedral was established by authority of an 1893 Congressional charter to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia. Congress has designated the shrine a “National House of Prayer.”

In times of war and times of peace, the Cathedral has fulfilled its purpose.

“It’s the site of memorial services for presidents and other prominent figures,” notes Washingtonian, “most recently Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It hosted interfaith services after September 11, 2001, after Hurricane Katrina, and for the hostages in Iran in 1980.”

 

United-States-Marine corporal on medevac helicopter in Afghanistan. The Guardian. multi source image 300 x 230 cropped
U.S. Marine Cpl aboard Medevac helicopter in Afghanistan. Multi-source image courtesy The Guardian

During World War II, Americans gathered at the Cathedral to offer prayers. And during a 2004 tribute that drew 150,000 to the National Mall and saw the dedication of the National World War II Memorial, an interfaith service was held at the Cathedral to remember “those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.” President George H.W. Bush, retired U.S. Army General John W. Vessey, and retired U.S. Marine Corps General P.X. Kelley were among those who honored the dead.

We’ve gathered at the corner of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues to mourn those we lost to the Vietnam War. And three months ago we honored the life and service of an American warrior whose nation’s life was forever changed by the captivity and torture that he endured during more than five years of captivity in the “Hanoi Hilton.”   

Times such as these are important for a nation. And Dr. Edward Madigan, a former resident historian at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Lecturer in history at the University of London, explains that these moments don’t have to be about politics or “glorifying” war: “As an act of community remembrance, or a simple expression of solidarity with our ancestors, the commemoration of war is not necessarily political. The millions of British people who wear poppies every year in the weeks before Remembrance Sunday are not making political statements by so doing. Nor are they retrospectively endorsing or honouring the First World War, or any war since. What they are doing – at least on the face of it – is honouring the dead. . . .”

Cathedral leadership’s decision in 2016 to remove two flag images from windows sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and their removal last year of stained-glass windows that honored Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson leave them open to the charge that they’re playing favorites among Americans who’ve fought and died in America’s wars. As NPR reported, “[t]he facility’s leadership says the decision came after long deliberations on an important question: “Are these windows, installed in 1953, an appropriate part of the sacred fabric of a spiritual home for the nation?” 

A roll-of-honor for service members, a war memorial chapel, and a Veterans Day service and concert next month, are among ways the Cathedral still honors current and past military service members.

Bringing the Nation Together

Presidents both Republican and Democrat have chosen the National Cathedral as the place to offer prayers that the nation come together after victories earned in political cage fights: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald ReaganGeorge H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Combat-wounded veterans and U.S. senators John McCain and Daniel Inouye, Navy combat veteran and first man on the moon Neil Armstrong; and former first ladies Edith Bolling Galt Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt are among those paid homage at the Cathedral by a nation whose independence General George Washington knew would forever exact a high price.

The last time that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a Sunday sermon, it was at the Cathedral. Four days later, he would be gunned down in Memphis.

Graham Meyer writes that, “The cathedral welcomes 700,000 to 800,000 visitors each year, many of them tourists who come not entirely for a religious experience but also to see the gargoyles and the moon rock. They often wander up and down the aisles while services are being held.”

Officially, Washington National Cathedral is the “Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington”. And it’s the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It’s also the seat of the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Washington. 

To the extent that the American part of the Anglican Communion holds the National Cathedral in trust for the American People, it’s good thing. But it’s also a humbling thing. Washington National Cathedral is, after all, a national treasure. 

 

 

 

The feature image is one of 13 that appear, along with diagrams, tables, map and text detailing all aspects of official activities related to honoring Dwight David Eisenhower, General of the Army and thirty-fourth President of the United States.  The chapter is one of 29 in B.C. Mossman and M.W. Stark. The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funerals 1921 – 1969. Department of the Army. Washington 1991. The link below is to the full volume, which contains similar details following the passing of, among others, President John F. Kennedy, Former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Army General George C. Marshall, and Former Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg.

The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funeral, 1921-1969

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

Worthless meds and destroyed documents make reuniting homeless veterans and their children in foster care even harder

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s a new excerpt from my forthcoming article about traumatized foster children who, as members of America’s armed forces, serve with honor and distinction. It’s also about traumatized military families struggling to keep their own kids from being removed from the home, perhaps never to return.

As an assistant district attorney tasked with deciding which kids to ask the judge to remove from their homes, I had a hand in saving some lives. I’m certain of it. But I’m also quite sure that I made mistakes. Errors that spell-check could never catch and which can’t be fixed with word-processing software. Wrong decisions for which others would pay a high price.”

. . .

Discussing why homelessness makes it even harder to reunite families will be left for another day. But here are two examples:

Even if one is eligible for, and takes advantage of, VA services, it’s exceptionally hard to protect from theft, time, and the elements the medications needed to strengthen or stabilize a parent so that he can get and keep work and secure a place for the family to live. Kaiser-Permanente tells those who have to take insulin, “Take steps to store your insulin correctly, or it might not work.” Some of those steps? “Keep your insulin away from heat and light. Any insulin that you don’t store in the refrigerator should be kept as cool as possible (between 56°F and 80°F.); never let your insulin freeze. If your insulin freezes, don’t use it, even after it’s thawed.”83 Other medications must also be refrigerated if they’re to do any good. Certain long-term antipsychotic medications are among those.84 At least in the communities that I’m familiar with, refrigeration facilities for these folks don’t exist.

Military – think DD214 – and other documents also get stolen or weather-beaten to the point that they’re no good. But it’s documents like these that rough-sleeping parents need if they are to take advantage of housing and other services that child welfare requires before returning their kids. A church in my community offers to protect critical documents for those on the streets and then makes copies when they’re needed to apply for a job, enroll their kids in school, or for other reasons”

[end of excerpt]

 

dogtags of warriors KIA. Helmund Province. image accessed via Google images 2018 200 x 301

One view from the streets: Homeless ID Project (Phoenix, Arizona)

During a month living on the streets in 1987, the founder of Phoenix, Arizona’s Homeless ID Project learned that “the lack of personal identification documents was a serious impediment, preventing the homeless from accessing services to aid them in regaining their self-sufficiency.” 

https://azhomeless.org/about-us.html

The Phoenix charity explains why documents are necessary, their process for helping folks get them, and the Homeless ID project’s document safe-keeping service at https://azhomeless.org/about-us-299083.html

Some examples of the kinds of information available at Homeless ID Project’s website:

A state I.D. is essential for ending homelessness. You need an I.D. to get a job or secure housing and to access services like food stamps and medical insurance. Without an I.D., you are unlikely to find permanent employment or gain admission to school. You may also run the risk of being arrested. You are encouraged to obtain an Arizona I.D. as soon as possible. [. . .]

Why might I need a birth certificate?

If you’ve never had an Arizona I.D. before, you will need a birth certificate as a first step to obtaining a state I.D. if no other form of primary documentation can be obtained. You may also need a birth certificate when applying for Medical Insurance or a housing program.

What kind of identifying documents will I need to obtain a birth certificate?

Everything about the process of applying for your birth certificate depends on the state where you were born. If you were born in:

– Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, or West Virginia: you do not need any I.D. to apply.

– Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin: you need a valid Arizona I.D. card that lists your current address, where you would like your birth certificate sent.

All other states require a valid state ID, with no address requirements.

I was born in a state that requires I.D. to apply for a birth certificate, but I don’t have any I.D.. What do I do?

If you don’t have a state I.D., there may be other solutions, depending on the state where you were born. If you were born in:

– Arkansas, Cook County (IL), D.C., Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York City, North Carolina, Oklahoma: We can send a letter on your behalf. Some of these states require documents accompanying the letter; for example, Oklahoma requires a piece of mail in your name, Florida asks for any document with your name on it, and Mississippi wants a copy of your Human Services I.D..

– Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York City, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, or Wyoming: We can notarize the application if you have a witness with a valid state ID who can attest to your identity. A few states have odd exceptions. Georgia allows an Employee I.D.. Idaho will take a DOC ID. Illinois (except Cook County) will accept two forms of non-state ID. Pennsylvania will take a letter from a case manager at a shelter. New York  and New York City requires two letters sent to the same address within 6 months for NY and 60 days for New York City.

For all other states, there is no currently accepted alternative to a valid state I.D.. We will work with you on a case-by-case basis and do our best to find a solution.

My minor children need their birth certificates. Can I apply for them?
Yes, you can apply for your minor child’s birth certificate if you are the parent (name must be on birth certificate) or legal guardian. The same identification rules apply as if you were requesting a copy of your own birth certificate; you will need a copy of your state I.D. or an accepted alternative, depending on the state.

I am worried about my birth certificate being lost or stolen. What should I do?
We strongly encourage you to store your birth certificate in our office. We have a secure, fire-proof safe where you may store your birth certificate, Social Security card, or State I.D. to prevent loss, theft, or damage. You can retrieve your documents at any time during normal business hours, without waiting in line.​

For more info from the Homeless ID Project: https://azhomeless.org/about-us-299083.html

 

dd-214-sample-form-separation-document. image courtesy militarybenefits.info accessed via Google images 10 Oct 2018. 225 x 297There are a number of ways veterans, next-of-kin and authorized representatives can obtain a copy of the DD-214 form.  In most cases the process takes 3-4 weeks.  The DD-214 form is often needed for a job application, VA Loan, medical benefits, association membership, a veteran’s funeral benefit, school enrollment, reenlistment or proof of service for the many businesses offering military discounts.

https://militarybenefits.info/how-to-get-dd-214-copy/

Read more: https://militarybenefits.info/how-to-get-dd-214-copy/#ixzz5Tb0anYf1

 

Feature Image: Phoenix, Arizona USA. Image accessed at Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport via Google images on 10 October 2018.

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client – a combat-haunted Vietnam veteran – asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide, urge an American Soldier and a U.S. Marine

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

allcallsigns.org graphic 263 x 182 accessed google images 4 September 2018A QUICK WORD FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND RE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS THIS POST: “We’re shit at talking. It’s time to change that. All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. “

 

“Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide.”

[Please note: since this opinion piece came out last year, the VA has clarified that its reported veteran suicide data include, and have included, active-duty, guard, and reserve in addition to separated veterans (June 2018).]

The following is an excerpt from a 27 September 2017 opinion piece by a couple of veterans who know what they’re talking about:

Paula Broadwell is the director of the Think Broader Foundation, a co-host of On Point Women Warrior Writing Workshops, and an Army veteran.

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an assistant professor of Public Health at Charleston Southern University and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran

. . .

“Of the 40,000 veteran organizations offering services, a minute number have proposed these programs and even fewer have offered funding for existing initiatives. Even the big national non-profits that are focused on veteran support initiatives have a dearth of programs that are exclusive to women. Corporations who might support these programs seem unmoved by the statistics. We’ve been told frequently and verbatim by corporate funding entities that “they have sponsored their woman’s event for the year.”  Checking the box isn’t going to save female veterans lives any more than simply tweeting about the problem does.

“Improving access to women-specific programming matters for many reasons, not in the least because opening up in group therapy sessions with men who may have dismissed women’s service or even been perpetrators of harassment or assault can be difficult if not impossible, so many women opt out of co-ed programming and therapy altogether.”

“Earlier this year, Paula co-hosted with fellow service women a “women warriors writing workshop” in Tampa, Fla. The published mission was to provide skills training to aspiring female veteran historians, memoirists, novelists, and op-ed writers. Our implied mission, however, was to help create small tribe and provide mental health support for our sisters in need.

“Besides learning of their valor, adventures and inevitable mishaps along the way, several common issues surfaced in our discussions:

  1. Most women said they had never been a room with all female veterans in the past.
  2. Many women, including one of the authors of this column, had experienced depression or suicide ideation following some trauma in life but had avoided seeking VA help.
  3. All of them were eager for support and connectivity but many were challenged to find it in their civilian lives.
  4. Many of us feel our voices don’t matter; just look at the Army Chief of Staff’s recent recommended reading list (one of 115 authors is a woman, despite the plethora of excellent literature by female academics and historians.)”

[end of excerpt]

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/352728-dont-abandon-americas-female-veterans-to-staggering-risk-of-suicide#

These experts urge:

And to our sisters in arms, please reach out if you need help.

“If you or someone you know is at immediate risk for suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.”

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/education/signs-of-crisis

 

union-jack-with-royal-crest-250 x 147A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

 

 

Depression-DNI-SFW_0 image with Forces Radio story re allcallsigns.org 800 x 450

The following is taken verbatim from online content to accompany a 4 September 2018 broadcast on Forces Network BFBS Radio (this image accompanies the story.)

https://www.forces.net/radio/all-call-signs-veterans-fighting-your-mental-health

A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

The former soldiers’ battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) inspired them to set up a new peer to peer chat support network to help those struggling with mental health.

All Call Signs co-founders Steven James and Dan Arnold both served with The Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and created All Call Signs amid concerns over high waiting times for mental health services and a growing number of veteran suicides.

In the audio clip below Forces Radio BFBS Aldershot’s Natasha Reneaux caught up with the friends and first spoke to Steven to find out about the tri-service support network.
“We’ve got 60 plus users at the moment who are all ex-military, have all been in the same shoes as the people that are calling in.

“They understand the language; they’ve been in the same places so they get it.”

The ethos and mission statement of All Call Signs is “camaraderie in the face of adversity, whether in uniform or out.”

All Call Signs isn’t like a call centre. When someone clicks the Chat Now button you’re automatically connected to a volunteer via WhatsApp.

The volunteers have all served so understand what life is really like in the military.
“Once you’ve made that connection, you’ve got someone to chat to whenever you just need a pick me up…

“You can check up on each other and make sure you’re doing OK.”

However, this isn’t just a text service. The initial contact via WhatsApp can develop into a phone or video call, whatever the user feels most comfortable with.

It’s not just a service you can find on WhatsApp.

All Call Signs launched their Beacon, an AI-powered geo-location search assistance app in September which is already being embraced and used by the military community they are here to help.

The aim is for people to subscribe to Beacon on Facebook Messenger so that if a vulnerable member of the military community goes missing they will be sent an alert.
“Getting boots on the ground in response to an at risk person going off the radar can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“Our hope is that Beacon will prevent a lot of the misinformation and confusion that has hindered search efforts in the past.”

All Call Signs is designed to complement and not replace what’s already available for veterans.

Dan and Steve were increasingly becoming aware of suicides within the veteran community and felt like something more needed to be done to support the vulnerable members of their military family.

“There’s fantastic support out there with agencies like Combat Stress, The Royal British Legion and Hague Housing.

If you want to volunteer your time or are interested in looking after your mental health visit http://www.allcallsigns.org

https://allcallsigns.org/

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative that will continue to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam