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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Cold War Soviet Missile Tracker Sunk for Artificial Reef

By Michael Haskins May 28, 2009 12:00am

SHROUDED by smoke from detonated explosives, a former World War Two US
troop ship was sunk off the Florida Keys to become a massive
artificial reef that authorities hope can revive the local economy and
environment. After the controlled explosive charges were set off, it
took only three minutes for the rust-streaked 523-foot (159 metre),
17,000-ton gray bulk of the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg to slip below
the surface. It sank 140 feet (43 meters) to settle on the sandy
bottom, seven miles off Key West on the southern tip of Florida.

The sinking turned the wartime relic, which also was used by the U.S.
Air Force to track Soviet missile launches during the Cold War and
still carried its big tracking dish, into one of the world's biggest
intentionally sunk artificial reefs.

Local officials and businessmen are hoping that in its new resting
place the Vandenberg will provide a boon to both the marine
environment and the local economy, which has felt the squeeze of the
global economic recession.

They expected the wreck would be an immediate underwater draw for
divers, while at the same time attracting fish, corals and other sea
creatures and so relieving the pressure on Key West's natural reefs
caused by diving, boating and fishing. "Divers like wrecks, fish like
wrecks. The Vandenberg will have a great profile underwater," said
Sheri Lohr, a retired dive shop owner involved in the Vandenberg
sinking project. "The economy's going to benefit … We expect dive
shops to be out here within a few days," she said. Before it was
sunk, the Vandenberg was cleansed of contaminants, such as asbestos,
wiring, paint and other potentially toxic substances and debris, to
prevent it from damaging the ecology of the ocean floor in its new

Supporters of the artificial reef project hope the new underwater
attraction can generate up to $8 million annually in tourism-related
sales for Key West, as the wreck lures divers of all ages and skills
to explore its hulk and infrastructure. "The sinking of the
Vandenberg is the best thing to happen in Key West in years … it
will definitely be a big help for the businesses on Duval Street (the
city's main tourist boulevard)," Key West City Commissioner and local
businessman Mark Rossi said. Reefmakers, the Moorestown, New Jersey,
company involved in the sinking has said most of the funding for the
$6 million project is coming from Florida Keys government sources,
including the region's tourism council.

The US Maritime Administration also is making a contribution. In
2006, the US Navy sunk the retired aircraft carrier Oriskany, an
888-foot (271-metre), 32,000-ton combat veteran of the Korean and
Vietnam wars, off Pensacola in the Gulf of Mexico to make the world's
largest intentionally created artificial reef.


VA Web Site Helps College Counselors Aid Veterans

VA Web Site Helps College Counselors Aid Veterans

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2009) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
launched a new Web site to strengthen the connection between college and
university mental health professionals and the Veterans of the Iraq and
Afghanistan conflicts now studying on their campuses.

"Many of our newest Veterans are beginning their post-service lives by
furthering their educations," said Dr. Gerald M. Cross, VA's acting
under secretary for health. "This initiative is designed to ensure that
colleges and universities are able to assist with any special mental
health needs they may have."

The Web site,, features recommended
training for college and university counselors, with online modules
including "Operation SAVE" for suicide prevention, "PTSD 101" and
"Helping Students Who Drink Too Much." It also will feature a resource
list that will be updated regularly.

Although the Web site is designed primarily for counselors, it also
serves as a resource for Veteran-students who wish to learn more about
the challenges they may face in adjusting to their lives after leaving
the military.

"We hope counselors and our returning Veterans find this site helpful
and easy to use," Cross said. "As the site grows, we expect it will
become an increasingly valuable resource."

The new site is one of several Web-based tools VA has developed to
assist Veterans in dealing with mental health issues. Others include a
guide for families of military members returning from deployment and
information about a suicide prevention hotline for Veterans.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Renews Vow to Improve Veterans Treatment

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senator from New York
Posted: May 25, 2009 01:03 PM

Read More: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Honoring Veterans, Kirsten
Gillibrand, Memorial Day, Pro-Vets, Veterans, Veterans Administration,
Politics News

​ Today, as we honor America's fallen soldiers, I ask you to join
me in renewing our commitment to the men and women who have served our
nation in the Armed Forces.

When I ran for Congress, I was clear about my opposition to the War in
Iraq. But while I did not agree with President Bush 's policies, I
worked hard in Congress to provide our servicemembers and returning
veterans with the health care and educational opportunities they

Now I am renewing those efforts in the U.S. Senate. Last week I
introduced legislation called PRO-VETS, to require the Veterans
Administration to seek out and provide our returning heroes with
information on the benefits they have earned. It will eliminate
red-tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks, and require timely responses
from the VA to all those who inquire about the benefits for which they
are eligible. I was shocked to find out the following statistics from
my home state of New York: •

While there are 237,302 veterans in New York City ,

181,360 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 121,183 veterans in Western New York ,

87,217 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 85,401 veterans in Central New York ,

61,220 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 54,360 veterans in the Southern Tier ,

39,277 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 92,549 veterans in the Capital Region ,

71,571 are not receiving VA health care benefits. •

While there are 46,762 veterans in the North Country ,

35,085 are not receiving VA health care benefits.

My legislation would close the gap between what our veterans are
eligible for and what they are receiving.

As I say in the news piece below, this is about shifting the focus of
the VA to become pro-active, not reactive.

While the US government provides our veterans with many benefits, I
believe there is much more still to be done to fulfill our promise to
those who risk their lives for our country. •

We need to expand health benefits to include treatment of autism for
children of retired and active duty servicemembers. •

We need to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell to allow our soldiers to serve
openly and honestly, regardless of sexual orientation. •

We need to expand access to healthcare for veterans and their
families, including universal pre-natal care. •

We need to provide incentives to businesses in order to expand the
opportunities available to our veterans upon their return to civilian
life. In the meantime, it is my hope that my PRO-VETS bill, once
passed and signed into law, will at least help veterans take advantage
of the benefits that do exist.

For me, this bill is my small way of saying thanks to our brave
veterans for their service to our country.

I encourage you all to join me in honoring our veterans and service
personnel, not just today but every day.

They and their families have earned our thanks and our support.

VA Studies Advanced Prosthetic Arm

VA Studies Advanced Prosthetic Arm

New Mobility for Veterans, Service Members, Other Americans


WASHINGTON (May 27, 2009) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
announced a three-year study of an advanced artificial arm that easily
allows those with severe limb loss to pick up a key or hold a pencil.


"This arm is a high-tech example of how VA researchers are continually
modernizing the materials, design, and clinical use of artificial limbs
to meet Veterans' lifestyle and medical needs," says Dr. Joel
Kupersmith, VA's Chief Research and Development Officer.


In collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA), the study marks the first large-scale testing of the arm, which
allows those who have lost a limb up to their shoulder joint to perform
movements while reaching over their head, a previously impossible
maneuver for people with a prosthetic arm.


The study is under the direction of Dr. Linda Resnik at the Providence,
R.I., VA Medical Center.  Veterans fitted with the arm will provide
feedback to guide engineers in refining the prototype, before it is
commercialized and also made available through the VA health care


A unique feature of the advanced arm is its control system, which works
almost like a foot-operated joystick.  An array of sensors embedded in a
shoe allows users to maneuver the arm by putting pressure on different
parts of the foot.  The current version uses wires to relay the signals
to the arm, but future versions will be wireless.


The arm can also be adapted to work with other control systems,
including myoelectric switches, which are wired to residual nerves and
muscles in the upper body and respond to movement impulses from the
brain, shoulder joysticks or other conventional inputs.


Frederick Downs Jr., director of VA's Prosthetic and Sensory Aids
Service who lost his left arm during combat in Vietnam, said he was
"brought to tears" recently when the prosthetic arm allowed him to
smoothly bring a water bottle to his mouth and drink.  "Learning to use
the controls is not difficult," he said, due in part to a sensor in the
artificial hand that sends a vibration signal that tells how strong the
grip is.  A stronger grip causes more vibration.


VA prosthetics research also includes vision and hearing aids,
wheelchairs and propulsion aids, devices to help people with brain
injuries to become mobile, and adaptive equipment for automobiles and
homes — "everything that's necessary to help Veterans regain their
mobility and independence," said Downs.

Thanks to the Soldiers Who Served During Vietnam

VFW received the following letter from SFC Stewart, sent May 23, 2009

I would just like to say thank you so very much to all the organizations that have supported this program with your contributions. It means so much that so many go out of their way daily to show us, the Soldiers, how much they appreciate the sacrifice that we give daily for our nation.

I’m so glad to be a part of this generation to see how our country has truly changed from the Vietnam era. I can’t even begin to imagine how it was for those Soldiers and how they were treated after going through some of the things that they had to endure.

So often I’ve been in uniform and many who’ve served during the Vietnam era have come up to me and said thanks for serving. I take my hat off to them and say thanks to them for all they’ve done to pave the way. I believe because of what they endured, I’m blessed and able to receive so many blessings like a free phone call, today.

By no means do I take it for granted when the recorded tells me this call is free, thanks to whatever organization that contributed during that time. I think it’s a great program that SPAWAR has set up and I’m truly grateful for it. Again for what it’s worth, I owe my gratitude to the Soldiers of the Vietnam era for all the benefits I’m able to receive today. Thanks to all of you for all you’ve done, do, and all you continue to do.

God Bless You

SFC Stewart

(Deployed to Iraq)

American Cold War Veterans on the Today Show NBC Vietnam Wall Memorial Day

ACWV Dr Bob Kamansky and Scot L’Ecuyer wash the wall ( See them in Video at end Saluting the Wall in Reflection)

Space Command official tweets on GPS

Space Command official tweets on GPS

An Air Force Space Command official hosted a tweet forum on the Global
Positioning System from 2 to 3 p.m., May 20.Col. Dave Buckman, AFSPC
command lead for position, navigation and timing, responded to fellow
tweeter's questions on GPS and clarified some points that came out of
the recent Government Accountability Office's report on potential
challenges the GPS system faces in the future.The session was the
first time AFSPC officials have used their Twitter page,, for a scheduled two-way forum. The site
launched in April. more..

Support the Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)

Support the Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)

Dear Sean ,Today is Memorial Day, and for those of us who served, and
the families of those who were lost in war, it is a solemn day.We
honor those who gave their lives in defense of the United States.
While is primarily made up of veterans from 21st century
service, we’re immensely respectful of those who served with honor and
made the ultimate sacrifice in generations past, and remember we owe
our lives to them and their heroism.And, while we honor those who lost
their lives, it is also a time to remember that the families of the
fallen are still alive, with a unique set of challenges that only
those who lost someone in war could ever know.  And, there are
families who have a loved one serving, who worry for them every day.

Congressman  John Boccieri, an Iraq war veteran who PAC
supported in his election, has introduced legislation guaranteeing
that Blue Star Families and Gold Star Families (those who lost a loved
one) can put a service flag in their windows in any residential
property, without limitation.  This bill just makes common sense.

We’re supporting his Blue Star/Gold Star Flag Act of 2009 (H.R. 2546)
and are asking you to take today to join us in our petition to
Congress to immediately pass the bill.


Let’s  use this Memorial Day to make sure that as we honor those who
gave their lives, we also make a commitment allow all military
families to properly honor their loved ones, too.

Sincerely,Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran
And Brandon, Peter, Brian and the entire team

WASHINGTON (May 22, 2009) – From parades to somber ceremonies and a
moment of silence, Americans will recall the sacrifices of military
members who paid the ultimate price for freedom on Memorial Day, Monday,
May 25.

“From May 23 to May 30, commemorative events at VA national cemeteries
will present a sacred responsibility for employees and volunteers to
honor these greatest of American heroes,” said Steve Muro, VA’s acting
under secretary for memorial affairs. “Since the birth of Memorial Day
in 1866, national cemeteries have been the most visible expression of
our country’s gratitude for their service.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue its annual
tradition of hosting services at most of its national cemeteries and
many other facilities nationwide. The programs, which are the focus of
Memorial Day events in many communities, honor the service of deceased
Veterans and people who die on active duty.

For the dates and times of Memorial Day programs at VA national
cemeteries, visit .

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at VA’s
national cemeteries, with color guards, readings, bands and choir
performances. The events will honor about one million men and women who
died in wartime periods, including about 655,000 battle deaths.

Some national cemetery observances are unique. At VA’s most active
cemetery, in Riverside, Calif., volunteers have been reading aloud —
since Armed Forces Day, May 17 — the names of more than 150,000
Veterans buried there, and are expected to continue at least until the
Memorial Day program. In one-hour shifts around the clock, 500
volunteers – two to four at a time — alternate reading the names.

The Dayton, Ohio, National Cemetery will host members of Veterans
organizations on the weekend before Memorial Day who will display 400
donated burial flags along the main road. The cemetery also expects
2,000 children and youths, many from Scout troops, to decorate more than
40,000 graves on the weekend in two hours.

VA’s 128 national cemeteries include 13 that opened in the last 10
years. Another 3 cemeteries are under development. VA currently
maintains 18,000 acres where 2.9 million gravesites are located. By
2010, Veterans’ burial space is expected to be available to 90 percent
of Veterans within 75 miles of where they live.

Information about Memorial Day, including its history, can be found at

VA is a cosponsor with the White House Commission on Remembrance of an
annual Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m., Eastern time, nationwide on
Memorial Day, a time to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of America’s
fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans. Many
institutions will announce a pause in their activities — from sporting
events to public facilities — to call the nation together in a common
bond of silence.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day when the tradition of
decorating Civil War graves began. It still brings loved ones to the
graves of the deceased, often with flowers as grave decorations.
Decorations honoring Veterans buried in national cemeteries are American
flags — either individual small ones on each grave, usually placed by
volunteers, or “avenues of flags” flanking both sides of the cemetery
main entrance road. Often these flags are the burial flags donated by
next of kin of Veterans buried in the cemetery.

Secretary Shinseki Announces $215 Million in Projects for Rural Veterans

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2009) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hasprovided $215 million in competitive funding to improve servicesspecifically designed for Veterans in rural and highly rural areas.

“This funding signals a substantial expansion of services addressing thehealth care needs of our rural Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans AffairsEric Shinseki said. “These funds will allow VA to establish newoutpatient clinics, expand collaborations with federal and communitypartners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, exploreinnovative uses of technology, and fund pilot programs.”

The selection process was competitive and transparent. VeteransIntegrated Service Networks (VISNs), VA’s regional health care networks,and Veterans Health Administration program offices were allowed tosubmit up to eight proposed projects each. These proposals wereprioritized and then sent to the Office of Rural Health (ORH), wherethey were evaluated based on, methodology, feasibility and intendedimpact on rural Veterans.

After careful review, ORH selected 74 programs, many of which wereeither national in scope or affected multiple states. Program officesvalidated these proposals to ensure that projects and programs wereconsistent with the VA mission, strategic direction, program standards,and did not duplicate existing efforts.

The new funding is part of an ambitious VA program to improve access andquality of health care — both physical and mental — for Veterans ingeographically rural areas, with an emphasis on the use of the latesttechnologies, recruitment and retention of a well-educated and trainedhealth care workforce, and collaborations with non-VA rural healthcommunity partners.

To address the unique issues facing rural Veterans, the Departmentcreated an Office of Rural Health in February 2007. In the past twoyears, VA formed a 16-member national committee to advise on issuesaffecting rural veterans, opened three Veterans Rural Health ResourceCenters to study rural Veteran issues, rolled out four new mobile healthclinics to serve 24 predominately rural counties, announced 10 new ruraloutreach clinics to be opened in 2009.