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Monthly Archives: January 2008

ACWV Visits Naval Historical Center 1 Jan 25 2008

Photobucket

Enclosed is grip-and-grin photo. Names (Left to right) for our group are Frank Tims, Ernie Gallo, Scott L’Ecuyer, and Jerald Terwilliger.
Correction: one name missing. The guy in the middle.

He is:

Edward J. Marolda, Ph.D
Senior Historian
Chief, Histories and Archives Division
Naval Historical Center

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Veterans groups push for reform of disabled veterans benefits

by Elizabeth Gibson
Jan 24, 2008

WASHINGTON — Veterans groups Thursday added their support to recommendations calling for modernization of a system that determines what benefits disabled veterans receive relative to severity of their wounds.

Now, the vets said, they want to see some action and enforcement from the government on recommendations made by the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.

“You’ve got the riffle, squeeze the trigger,” Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Representatives from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion said they like the ideas of updating the rankings that match benefits to disabilities.

They also want extra compensation beyond health care for the impact that wounds could have on quality of life of veterans.

But they expressed reservations about mandatory check-ups every two years for veterans already getting compensation.

“A lot of veterans would view these reviews as an attempt to take away their benefits,” said Gerald Manar, deputy director of the VFW’s national veterans service.

Researching for the commission, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommended case by case determinations of whether veterans need follow-up exams.

However, the benefits commission felt that required reevaluations for some types of disabilities, particularly mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, would ensure that those needing regular check-ups didn’t slip through the cracks, said retired Lt. Gen. James Scott.

Scott, chairman of the commission, said, “It seems to me if you don’t reevaluate, you won’t know how the treatment is doing.”

The commission also recommended basing benefits on a sliding scale to determine the degree to which different disabilities detract from a veteran’s quality of life. The veterans groups said this was a worthy idea but would require more research to find a way to measure how much an amputation versus post-traumatic stress disorder would affect quality of life.

Several of the commission’s recommendations stretch back to previous panels meeting more than 50 years ago. The Veterans Disabilities Benefits Commission report, released last October with 113 recommendations, should be sufficient to get started and set deadlines for action, leader of veterans groups said.

Thirty-five percent of disability ratings have not been updated since 1945, according to the Institute of Medicine.

“Despite the fact that the disability system was already outdated more than five decades ago there have been no fundamental reforms,” Sen. Richard Burr R-N.C. said at the hearing. “It is a failure of a highest magnitude if we don’t provide these heroes who have sacrificed so much for their country with the benefits and services they need and deserve.”

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Elk Grove man remembers the Pueblo



http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=122653

It’s the reason Rick Rogala spent 1968 as a captive in North Korea, enduring beatings and paltry prison meals of gummy rice and turnips served in a water pail.

For the Elk Grove Village man, the Navy spy ship USS Pueblo is both the source of nightmares — and pride.

He won his freedom after 11 months, but the USS Pueblo still stands prisoner 40 years after its capture. Tethered on the Taedong River in Pyongyang, the only commissioned U.S. Navy ship in foreign hands is promoted as a trophy celebrating the communist nation’s Cold War conquest.

One sailor was killed and the surviving 82 crew members held as prisoners when torpedo boats and airplanes attacked on Jan. 23, 1968.

Remembering the Pueblo

Rogala, who was 20 years old when captured, not only wants the public to “Remember the Pueblo,” a catchphrase coined at the time in a push for the U.S. to broker freedom for the crew, but he is championing the ship’s return.

“I know we’re dealing with a country that’s hard to talk to, but 40 years later it’s time,” Rogala said.

He wants to bring the ship back to showcase at a museum in Pueblo, Colo., for which the ship is named, and honor the legacy of the sacrifice of the crew members. An anonymous donor a few years ago gave the veterans property to house the ship
.

Rogala hopes to present the Pueblo story without the taint of propaganda he says will overshadow its legacy as long as it’s moored in North Korea.

Cold War prisoners

While the North Korean government says the capture was justified as the Pueblo had crossed into their waters, U.S. officials say the ship never trespassed.

Forty years later, there is no dispute that the Pueblo was dispatched to monitor ship movements and intercept messages.

“We were there to collect intelligence, but we were in international waters, so it’s fair play,” Rogala said.

He had joined the Naval Reserves rather than be drafted to serve in the Army during the Vietnam War. He left his Niles home to report to San Diego to ship out on the Pueblo in fall 1967.

After a month in Japan, the Pueblo ventured toward North Korea.

As far as Rogala knew, this was a “non-risk mission.” He wasn’t trained in communications intelligence, but he knew there were officers aboard with those skills.

The events of midday Jan. 23 four decades ago steered the Pueblo’s fate into more dangerous waters about 15 miles off the coast of North Korea on the Sea of Japan.

Torpedo boats and airplanes descended on the ship as sailors rushed to dump sensitive material overboard in an effort to protect military secrets. The Pueblo carried two machine guns, but neither was mounted.

“It was a really scary episode. Bullets flying over your head,” said Rogala, who was working as a mess cook during the attack.

Amid the barrage of bullets, the captain decided to surrender and allow the North Koreans aboard, Rogala recalls.

It was a decision that led to intense criticism of Pueblo Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, who endured savage torture until the crew’s release on Dec. 23, 1968. He faced the potential of a court martial for surrendering without firing a shot.

Blame followed the Pueblo survivors back home but Rogala himself blames the U.S. Navy, saying “they should have prepared us better” for such a risky spy mission.

Rogala and his shipmates were blindfolded, strip-searched and taken off the ship by gangplank to board a bus after the siege.

When his captors vowed the sailors would be OK if they obeyed their rules, Rogala didn’t believe them.

Nightmare begins North Korean soldiers piled the 82 crewmembers into a train for an overnight trip, then stopped in the freezing cold and forced the prisoners off the train for what they saw as a photo opportunity.

“For a while there, I thought it was the end,” Rogala said, pausing from time to time as his eyes seemed to rove to a distant place. “I still have nightmares.”

They were taken to a building the Pueblo crew dubbed “the barn,” and packed into rooms, with eight bunking with Rogala.

Despite the threat of death by firing squad, Rogala only offered his name, rank, service number and date of birth.

The Pueblo’s six officers were separated and faced the harshest torture. The North Koreans “knew that they would know more, so they got the worst of the beatings,” Rogala said.

He suffered his most severe beating during what came to be known as Hell Week.

The North Korean soldiers had discovered that the captive sailors flashing an obscene gesture weren’t extending the “Hawaiian good luck sign” as the sailors told them.

“I got a blow to the face where my teeth were loose, and I was kicked to get back up,” Rogala said. “I must have given them the wrong answer because I got another blow to the head. I could wiggle my teeth and everything. It was unbelievable.”

A year ‘wiped off’

Americans who lived through 1968 have vivid memories of that tumultuous year: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the Tet offensive in Vietnam, and the Democratic convention in Chicago.

Rogala had to hear about these events from his captors. To him, it all sounded like propaganda.

“It’s a year of my life just wiped off,” he said.

Crew members would get about 15 minutes a day to go outside. They could write letters home, but their captors monitored their words.

Rogala recalls sending a letter to his parents in Niles, trying to communicate in a code that all was not well. He told them to say “hello” to an uncle who had died.

The prisoners also were allowed to play cards in the evening for an hour. Sometimes they would write lyrics to songs.

“Thank God we were with other people that would say, ‘We’re going to get out,’ ” Rogala said. “Some were lifting others up.”

Freedom’s price

Freedom for the Pueblo crew came after a grueling 11 months when the United States agreed to apologize. Once the crew was freed, the U.S. government reneged.

It wasn’t until 1989 that Rogala and his shipmates earned prisoner of war designation, an upgrade from their “detainees” status.

Now, the hope of returning the USS Pueblo home motivates 60-year-old Rogala. He has reached out to congressional and state representatives for help but he hasn’t found support yet.

The plight of the USS Pueblo continues to expose the wounds of the Cold War.

While North Korea and the United States have made progress in resolving the dispute over its nuclear program that led President Bush to describe its regime as part of the axis of evil, normal relations seem elusive.

In recent years, North Korea has tried to use the Pueblo as a bargaining chip, offering to return the ship in exchange for a visit from a prominent U.S. official.

U.S. Navy officials didn’t return calls for comment on chances of the ship’s return.

The ship in Pyongyang is used as a tourist attraction where visitors can view the Pueblo’s encryption machines and radio equipment as North Korean tour guides relay the story of its capture.

North Korean officials used Wednesday’s anniversary of the capture to say the United States should remember the “bitter lesson” of the Pueblo.

“The incident was a product of the U.S. gangster-like policy of aggression,” the nation said in a statement.

For Rogala, that points up the need for the ship’s return. He and the other Pueblo survivors will meet this fall at a reunion, sharing stories and calling for the ship’s release.

“I need to put this behind me totally,” he said. “It will never be final in my mind until the ship comes back.”

The truth about Russia’s military “resurgence”

By all indications, the Russian military has enjoyed a revival of sorts in recent years. 2007 was an especially notable year in this respect. In April, Russia completed construction of a strategic submarine of a new class, the first since the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Despite a string of unsuccessful flight tests, the military has continued to develop a new sea-launched missile for these submarines. In May and December, the Rocket Forces tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with multiple warheads. In August, President Vladimir Putin made a point to personally announce that he ordered strategic bombers to return to the Cold-War practice of conducting regular long-range patrol flights. The list goes on–Russia has been upgrading its network of early warning radars, plans to resume producing strategic bombers, and is considering developing another new ICBM. In October, Putin called Russia’s plans to modernize its strategic forces no less than “grandiose.”

Because it serves as a vestige of superpower status, many Russians look at such a “resurgence” with pride. Naturally, the buildup concerns the West, which also views it in Cold War terms, even though the scale is nowhere near that of Soviet deployments. Whatever the reaction, there seems to be consensus that the credit for this mini-renaissance belongs to the current Russian leadership and to Putin personally. This partly explains Putin’s high-approval ratings in Russia and his recent selection as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

But upon closer inspection, a different story emerges. It’s a story of weak leadership, not one of strength. Instead of leading a resurgence, the current Russian leadership has given the military and defense industry a free hand in setting national security policy and uncritically accepted their narrow view of the world and its problems. Just like the Soviet Union during the Cold War, today’s Russia has little control over its military-industrial complex. And since the military-industrial complex can only build missiles, submarines, and bombers, it’s not surprising that Russia’s security threats are now defined to require missiles, submarines, and bombers. The result is that the discussion of security issues in Russia is dominated by paranoid scenarios involving the United States destroying Russian missiles in a surprise attack and alarmist projections of how U.S. missile defense will affect Moscow’s “strategic balance.”

It’s hardly surprising that the military-industrial complex is pushing the “resurgence” agenda–generals always fight the last war. There’s little doubt that they will convince the government to keep its number of missiles and submarines at a “respectable” level. Or that the military will be able to maintain these missiles at a reasonable degree of readiness. With a strong economy, Russia can certainly afford strategic forces that would be considered impressive by Cold-War standards. But these standards are irrelevant today and the strategic forces designed to fight the Cold War are useless when it comes to the security threats that exist today. Therefore, this “grandiose resurgence” will eventually prove unnecessary, expensive, and dangerous.

Article

ST. PAUL (AP) ―
Gordon Kirk, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8854, was the only veteran in St. Paul’s last remaining VFW club one recent afternoon.

The 84-year-old walked by his post’s war memorabilia and a case packed with sports trophies from the 1960s. The post once boasted two generals among its members.

“We had some wonderful times here,” Kirk murmured.

But those memories, like the VFW, are passing into history. Kirk is planning to sell the building as soon as he can find a buyer.

Minnesota’s capital city once had about 15 VFW halls. Post 8854’s will be the last to close, making all nine of the city’s remaining VFW posts homeless. They now meet in places like community centers or libraries.

The number of VFW posts is dropping across the country as well. An estimated 1,500 World War II veterans die each day. Membership has dropped about 17 percent since 1992 to 1.8 million members.

Minnesota loses about six VFW posts a year and now has 268, down by one-third from the peak. Minneapolis, which once had about 13, is down to one.

Some posts have been able to buck the trend, however, by successfully recruiting veterans of the Vietnam and Middle East conflicts with a simple strategy — just asking them to join.

“If we look for veterans, we find them,” said Lee Ulferts, commander of Post 3915 in Brooklyn Park. Since he took over in 2001, the post has more than doubled membership to 600.

In contrast to the VFW, the American Legion is growing. Some attribute that to the variety of services it offers. The Legion should soon rebound to the 3 million-member peak it achieved in the early 1990s, officials said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars was formed in 1899 as a network of fraternal service clubs, comparable to Rotary or Lions clubs. Membership swelled after World War II, with about 10,000 posts operating thousands of halls.

Ulferts said membership also surged in the 1970s, when the children of World War II veterans began leaving home, giving their parents more time to volunteer.

But Ulferts, a Vietnam veteran, said the VFW, along with the rest of America, belittled Vietnam veterans for fighting in a losing war, instead of welcoming them.

“The VFW lost a generation,” Ulferts said. “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

Smoking bans have also hurt the clubs, post leaders said, as have changing attitudes about drinking.

“It’s a whole change of culture,” Ulferts said.

Membership in Post 1678, near Taylors Falls, has shrunk to 14, and the post will be dissolved this year.

Commander Leland Rivard, 83, said monthly meetings draw perhaps seven old men who sit around a table in a meeting room. He said he’s lucky to get three members willing to participate in honor guard ceremonies.

“We can’t get anyone to join the post any more,” Rivard said. “As time moves on, we forget.”

The impending closing of St. Paul’s last VFW hall upsets Zenus Bell, who has volunteered to work in its kitchen up to 20 hours a week for the past 10 years.

“There are some old men who come here, and this is all they have,” said Bell, wiping a countertop.

Of the six patrons on hand that afternoon, none was a veteran. They watched TV, drank and teased each other — “Go back to your nursing home!” “Sit up straight!” — as the bartender listlessly nibbled on french fries. No veterans came in, but a mother did. She ordered macaroni and cheese for her two children.

“These men deserve more,” Bell said. “They get no grants, no nothing. They fight for their country and they have nothing?”

STAY VIGILANT!

TIME TO GEAR UP FOR A RENEWED EFFORT ON A COLD WAR MEDAL!
GET YOUR SENATORS TO CO-SPONSOR S.1097, THE COLD WAR MEDAL ACT OF 2007!
GET PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO PUBLICLY COMMIT TO SUPPORTING COLD WAR MEDAL!

We are grateful to those legislators who supported a Cold War Medal, especially Representative Robert Andrews of New Jersey, and Senators Clinton, Collins, and Lincoln. Ask Your senators to join them in co sponsorship of S.1097, the COLD WAR MEDAL ACT OF 2007 (the legislation is before the Senate Armed Services Committee).

Senator Listings

State Rep. Robert E. Belfanti Jr., D-Montour County, reminds veterans they are eligible for a Cold War Recognition Certificate.

From TimesLeader.com
NE P.A.

News for veterans

LUZERNE COUNTY: State Rep. Robert E. Belfanti Jr., D-Montour County, reminds veterans of the U.S. military and some civilian employees of the U.S. government who served during the Cold War (Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991) that they are eligible for a Cold War Recognition Certificate.

As part of the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress authorized the Department of Defense to award a Cold War Recognition Certificate to honor U.S. military personnel and civilian employees who served the nation during the Cold War.

Anyone who served in either a military or civilian capacity with the War, Navy or Defense departments is eligible. Eligible military and civilian personnel can receive the certificate free of charge. Relatives of deceased military and civilian employees of the U.S. government can apply on their behalf.

Details about how to request a certificate and what supporting documentation is needed are available on Belfanti’s legislative Web site at www.pahouse.com/Belfanti.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 0061-08
January 24, 2008


Soldier Missing from Korean War is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
He is Pfc. Billy M. MacLeod, U.S. Army, of Cheboygan, Mich. He was buried Saturday in Cheboygan.
Representatives from the Army met with MacLeod’s next-of-kin to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the secretary of the Army.
MacLeod was a member of Company B, 32nd Infantry Regiment, then making up part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, operating along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. From Nov. 27-Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces overran the U.S. positions, forcing their southward withdrawal. Regimental records compiled after the battle indicate that MacLeod was killed in action on Nov. 28, 1950.
Between 2002 and 2005, three joint U.S.-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), excavated an area with two mass graves on the eastern shore of the Chosin Reservoir. They were believed to be burial sites of U.S. soldiers from the 31st RCT. The teams found human remains and other material evidence. Analysis of the remains subsequently led to the identifications of eight individuals, including MacLeod.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in the identification of MacLeod’s remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) opposes legislation that will permit attorneys to charge claimants for veterans benefits a fee for preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim in the administrative claims process of the Department of Veterans Affairs more…

Paper Document ImageRead Letter to Chairman Buyer (pdf)
Paper Document ImageDownload Petition to Repeal Legislation Authorizing Attorneys to Charge Veterans (pdf)
Paper Document ImageDownload DAV Resolution No. 199 (pdf)
Paper Document ImageRead News Release

Veterans groups push for reform of disabled veterans benefits

by Elizabeth Gibson
Jan 24, 2008

WASHINGTON — Veterans groups Thursday added their support to recommendations calling for modernization of a system that determines what benefits disabled veterans receive relative to severity of their wounds.

Now, the vets said, they want to see some action and enforcement from the government on recommendations made by the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.

“You’ve got the riffle, squeeze the trigger,” Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Representatives from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion said they like the ideas of updating the rankings that match benefits to disabilities.

They also want extra compensation beyond health care for the impact that wounds could have on quality of life of veterans.

But they expressed reservations about mandatory check-ups every two years for veterans already getting compensation.

“A lot of veterans would view these reviews as an attempt to take away their benefits,” said Gerald Manar, deputy director of the VFW’s national veterans service.

Researching for the commission, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommended case by case determinations of whether veterans need follow-up exams.

However, the benefits commission felt that required reevaluations for some types of disabilities, particularly mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, would ensure that those needing regular check-ups didn’t slip through the cracks, said retired Lt. Gen. James Scott.

Scott, chairman of the commission, said, “It seems to me if you don’t reevaluate, you won’t know how the treatment is doing.”

The commission also recommended basing benefits on a sliding scale to determine the degree to which different disabilities detract from a veteran’s quality of life. The veterans groups said this was a worthy idea but would require more research to find a way to measure how much an amputation versus post-traumatic stress disorder would affect quality of life.

Several of the commission’s recommendations stretch back to previous panels meeting more than 50 years ago. The Veterans Disabilities Benefits Commission report, released last October with 113 recommendations, should be sufficient to get started and set deadlines for action, leader of veterans groups said.

Thirty-five percent of disability ratings have not been updated since 1945, according to the Institute of Medicine.

“Despite the fact that the disability system was already outdated more than five decades ago there have been no fundamental reforms,” Sen. Richard Burr R-N.C. said at the hearing. “It is a failure of a highest magnitude if we don’t provide these heroes who have sacrificed so much for their country with the benefits and services they need and deserve.”

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