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Vets Issues

Monthly Archives: November 2009

By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/28/2009 08:34:39 PM PST

Los Angeles County Area D coordinator Brenda Hunemiller displays a geiger counter from the 50’s which Los Angeles County still has in storage. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Civil Defense program, Hunemiller and other area coordinators are now more concerned about natural disasters. (Photo by David Crane/Staff)

EL MONTE – As Los Angeles County celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Civil Defense program this month, officials have rediscovered remarkable treasure troves of relics from the 1950s.

Among the finds are a massive underground bomb shelter in El Monte now used to store new cars, and storage rooms full of old rations and guidebooks that sound almost quaint today in their tips for nuclear-war survivors.

Another find was military instructions on what to do in case of a coastal invasion of Southern California.

“I found letters in the storeroom from World War II generals to the area coordinators, saying the last stand would take place in the San Gabriel Valley and they would move all the civilians back to the shelter of the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Brenda Hunemiller, an area coordinator for the county’s current disaster management program. “It’s pretty amazing stuff.”

Rummaging through an old Azusa storeroom, Hunemiller recently discovered Civil Defense materials that included a book listing hundreds of fallout and bomb shelters and 55-gallon drums filled with K- and C-rations, medicines and other survival supplies.

In November 1959, 12 cities signed a joint powers agreement with the Board of Supervisors to create the Civil Defense program in case of nuclear attack.

Today, the program has evolved to focus on a variety of potential disasters, such as earthquakes and wildfires.

But despite the move away from preparations for nuclear war, Office of Emergency Management spokesman Ken Kondo said the recent discovery of the Civil Defense supplies and a large fallout shelter in El Monte has renewed interest in the Civil Defense program and the shelters.

Among the hundreds of bomb shelters in the county, officials recently discovered a still-intact one below what is now one of the world’s largest car dealerships. At Penske Longo Lexus in El Monte, customers can pick out their car from inside the former bomb shelter built by a previous business, Kondo said.

“It’s a big and cavernous place,” Kondo said. “It’s gigantic. You could sit several football or soccer fields in there.”

The federal Civil Defense program was created after World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the military was concerned about a potential invasion of the Southern California coastline, Kondo said.

After WWII, many in the government and the public feared a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. In an effort to protect the public, the Federal Civil Defense Administration was created in 1951.

One of the first campaigns emphasized building and designating fallout and bomb shelters.

“We still have those rusting, old air-raid sirens around,” said Joel Bellman, an aide to county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

A fallout shelter sign is still on the wall in the lobby at the county Hall of Records downtown. Underneath the hall and surrounding areas is a labyrinth of underground facilities and tunnels connecting one of the largest government complexes in the nation.

However, most of the fallout shelter signs throughout the county have been taken down over the years.

Since the creation of the Civil Defense program, the OEM has responded to numerous natural disasters, including the 1992 riots, 1994 Northridge Earthquake and numerous wildfires, floods and mudslides.

But even though the “Big One” – an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude or greater – can’t compare to the 10.5 earthquake that destroys Los Angeles in the movie “2012,” Kondo said the film highlights that not only government agencies, but residents too need to prepare for the next catastrophe in the “disaster capital of the world.”

“It showed me we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Kondo said.


Cold War-Era Manual Reveals CIA ‘Magic’

Published on November 27, 2009

by EU News Network

( and OfficialWire)


A Cold War-era CIA manual instructing agents in the arts of deception and stage-style trickery is headed for U.S. book shelves.

“The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception,” written in 1953 by stage magician John Mulholland, includes tips for hiding small objects, handing off documents and spiking food and drinks with “knockout” drops, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Espionage historian Keith Melto and Bob Wallace, a former CIA director, uncovered the manual, the BBC reported Thursday. The new release came from the only surviving copy of Mulholland’s work, they said, and the rest were destroyed by the agency in the 1970s.

“Magic and espionage are kindred spirits,” former deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin writes in the book’s forward. “Mulholland’s writing on delivery of pills, potions and powders was just one example of research carried out back then in fields as diverse as brainwashing and paranormal psychology.”

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A three-month effort to remove hazardous waste and remnants of an old military communications site in Black River-Matheson were completed this week.

“Kempis Mountain, also known as Mid-Canada Line site 070, was … the last link of a chain of Mid-Canada Line communications sites that stretched north to Hudson Bay,” about two kilo-metres from Butler Lake, just south of Matheson, said township mayor Mike Milinkovich.

“Up to now, it was totally fenced in. There were no signs of buildings. All that was left were slabs of concrete where the powerhouse was” and other remnants.

The project was part of a larger effort announced earlier this year by the federal and provincial governments to clean up 16 abandoned Cold War radar sites throughout Northern Ontario.

Kempis Mountain was not a radar facility but a communications site linked to similar sites located north of Cochrane, in Fort Albany and at Cape Henrietta Maria on James Bay.

These were part of a series of early warning detection systems that were developed when there were tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and fears of Moscow launching missiles across the Arctic.

Back around 1957, when the Kempis Mountain site was established, Milinkovich worked as an engineering technologist and helped install and maintain this Matheson-area facility.

This week, he was invited as a township representative to take part in a formal ceremony marking the final stage of its dismantling and removal.

“Unfortunately one of the dangerous legacies left behind at all the sites across Canada including site 070 is an organic chemical compound called polychlorinated biphenyl or as commonly known, PCBs,” Milinkovich explained. “This chemical was commonly used for many years in various types of electrical power equipment installed at all the sites.

“PCBs are classified as persistent organic pollutants meaning PCBs never degrade or disappear but persist in the environment and accumulate in human and animal tissue. The only way to get rid of it from the environment is to remove it and destroy it by various methods at specially-designed facilities. PCBs can cause serious health problems in humans and other mammals such as lowering of the immune system, birth defects, health problems such as cancer and diabetes or a failure by males to reproduce.”

The onsite cleanup operation began Aug. 26.

By the end of the project, a team had removed more than 17,000 tonnes of material from Kempis Mountain.

“This material was trucked to sites in Quebec and other locations in Ontario for proper disposal,” Milinkovich explained. “In total 2,342 samples of soil, leachate, hydrocarbons, concrete, bedrock, PCB wipe tests for nonporous materials and water were tested for contaminates.”

Milinkovich recalled the role site 070 played during the height of the Cold War era.

“Data that was collected by the Mid-Canada Line Doppler Detection Sites (radar sites) was transmitted south from site 070 by land line to the ‘hole’ in North Bay. The ‘hole,’ as it was called, was the colocated headquarters for the northern region of NORAD. The other NORAD headquarters site was located in the Cheyenne Mountains in Colorado. Together, these two sites controlled North American defences against potential threats from the air by analyzing data and information from the northern radar lines to determine if jets had to be scrambled to meet potential threats from attacking forces.”

He said the site provided ample employment for people in the surrounding area.

“During the construction of site 070 and during the years it was manned, people from the Township of Black River-Matheson played a big part.

“The road up Kempis Mountain and the levelling of the site for construction was done primarily by the late Vic Hembruff’s company now called R. J. Lougheed Trucking Ltd. and currently owned by Bob Lindsay. Much of the concrete work and construction was completed by a company called H&D Construction and owned at the time by the late Ernie Dambrowitz and Floyd Hembruff. Sadly this company no longer exists. Many people from the towns of Holtyre, Matheson, Ramore, Shillington and Val Gagne also worked for years at various occupations at the site.”

Having worked on the installation and maintenance of the facility as a young man, Milinkovich said he felt privileged to be formally involved in its final stage.

“I was honoured to be asked to participate in the closing ceremonies to represent the Township of Black River-Matheson and also from a personal perspective as one of the survivors whose site 070 story began 52 years ago. From 1956 to 1961 it was my privilege to have worked on all three radar lines” the U. S.- built Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, the Canadianbuilt and manned Mid- Canada Line (MCL), and the jointly erected Pinetree Line.

“I worked in every province in Canada from the tip of Vancouver Island at Holdberg to Newfoundland and north of the Arctic Circle on Baffin Island. This experience profoundly cemented my deep love and appreciation of this wonderful country of ours at an early age.”

Sunday Dec. 6 Ewa WW-II History "Troop Train" ride

all for Ewa WW-II History "Troop Train" ride tickets before they are all
sold out. There are two train rides, but tickets are going fast.
This is a great family event to spend 90 minutes riding through the Ewa
countryside on a classic WW-II narrow gauge railway that actually carried
many US troops who fought in the Pacific War. Discounts with military ID.

CALL (808) 681-5461 to reserve your Ewa WW-II History "Troop Train" tickets
NOW. The Hawaiian Railway Society Train Museum is a non-profit group located
between Renton Rd. and Roosevelt Avenue and is part of where WW-II in the
Pacific actually started- and strafed by Zeros and Val dive bombers on Dec.
7, 1941




History will be made on Sunday, December 6, 2009.

An historic West Oahu Battlefield- on its way to becoming an officially
recognized National American Battlefield. Military Honor Guards, Rifle
Salute Teams, vintage WW-II vehicles, aircraft and Ewa historic 90 minute
"Troop Train" ride will all help underscore this exciting and colorful West
Oahu History event for the entire family.

Many consider this Ewa battlefield "Ground Zero" – the start of WW-II in the
Pacific. Before Japanese Naval fighters and bombers even reached Pearl
Harbor on December 7, 1941, a fierce air attack was already underway in West

Also of historic note, the famous Hollywood dogfights depicted in the Dec. 7
movies between P-40's and Zeros actually happened over Ewa Field, not over
Pearl Harbor. This was the largest single air battle on December 7, 1941 and
where the US response by Hawaiian Air Force (7th Air Force) aircraft faired
well during the two hour attack. Numerous Japanese planes were shot down by
two intercepting P-40 Warhawks over Ewa Field.

Two Americans of Japanese Ancestry were at last year's Save Ewa Field event
and were eye-witnesses to the early morning Ewa airfield attack. They lived
around the Marine airfield in 1941 and saw what happened as children that
morning. Two Ewa Village civilians were killed by the attack and many others
wounded by flying bullets. Most people on Sunday, December 7 only think
about "Pearl Harbor"- and the West Oahu battle sites mostly forgotten- until

USMC Ewa Field, the site of a major December 7 air attack in the opening
minutes of the Pacific War, was struck by Imperial Japanese Zero fighters
five minutes before the actual bombing attack on Pearl Harbor begin. The
A6M2 Zero was Japan's elite, top-rated fighter in 1941 and out-classed
nearly every American plane the US had then. The Zero fighters were
lightning fast and their pilots highly trained with two years of previous
combat experience in China.

Not since the end of WW-II, after the Ewa Marine Corps Air Station was
closed, absorbed into Barbers Point Naval Air Station, has there ever been
an official ceremony by US Marines to honor the fallen Marines on the actual
battle site, for who died defending the airfield. That will change on
Sunday, December 6, at 10 AM, when US Marines will perform a color guard and
rifle salute ceremony with a bugler playing taps.

All previous ceremonies for the fallen Ewa Field US Marines were held at the
Barbers Point Golf Course, which was once part of the later 1944-45
expansion of the Marine air base, but not the site of the actual 1941
battlefield, which still exists in 1941 bullet marked condition and remains
endangered by development.

The Ewa Field Marine fighter aircraft parking ramp exists today in 1940's
condition, and is now on its way to becoming a recognized National American
Battlefield under a National Park Service grant. This can lead to an
eventual National Park and National Monument- and save the historic WW-II
battlefield forever.

This would be West Oahu's first and only National Park and recognized
national battlefield, similar to Civil War and Revolutionary war
battlefields on the US mainland. Recognized battlefields have served to
create visitor magnets and would really place the West Oahu area on the
national map. WW-II sites are Oahu's number one visitor attractions.

Events being held on Sunday, December 6 include a convoy of WW-II military
vehicles to Ewa Field and special WW-II History "Troop Train" rides
conducted by the Hawaiian Railway Society from their Ewa Station.

The Ewa Train Museum location is very significant in itself in that it is
located at the actual front gate to the 1941 Ewa Marine Corps airfield, and
was strafed by Japanese Zeros. Spent 7.7 mm machinegun cartridges from
Japanese planes could be found everywhere after the battle.

Joel Fujita, now 89 years old and a 442nd combat veteran, remembers a
Japanese Zero swooping down very low, spotting him and his brother on the
roof of their Ewa Village home where they were watching the start of the
attack on nearby Ewa Field.

The Zero pilot waved at them through his open canopy–and then came back by
on a second pass and began strafing the area by the railway tracks and
Marine airfield front gate. Joel later picked up the spent 7.7mm shell
casings from the A6M2 Zero machineguns and still has them today.

Japanese Navy planes literally "hosed' the Ewa area for almost two hours
because it was a major gathering point for the various IJN units that went
over to the Pearl harbor area.
IJN Naval Air units that had unloaded their bombs then had the "free time"
to look for other available strafing targets- and this was usually Ewa
Field- before leaving back to their waiting carriers north of Oahu.

US Army WW-II veteran, Ramsay Hishinuma, was another eye-witness to the
attack on Ewa Field and nearly lost his life from all of the intense fire
and strafing that morning.
He was camping with friends at Hau Bush, a popular local Ewa beach camping

Both Hishinuma and Fujita attended last year's "Save Ewa Field"
Commemoration at the actual airfield battle site on December 7, 2008. Both
are expected to attend again this year on Sunday, December 6 at 10 AM at Ewa

"I vividly remember how close I came to getting killed by Japanese planes,"
Hishinuma said in a later news interview.

"Right above us, at just about tree-top level, we saw a plane with large red
ball insignia on its wings and fuselage chasing a Navy dive-bomber. The
machine-gun bursts from the Japanese plane were intense and ear-shattering.
The Navy pilot was able to get out of his plane before he crashed, and he
parachuted into the entanglement of nearby kiawe trees."

"He looked more than bewildered by the time we approached him and his first
words were 'What the hell is going on?'

Ironically, it took many 1941 military units on Oahu several minutes to
realize that this was not another "drill"- but the real deal.
Finally, as bombs were falling all over Pearl Harbor, Honolulu radio
stations interrupted their Sunday music with the report that "Pearl Harbor
is being bombed, This is NO DRILL".

By that time IJN Zero's were chewing up the US Marine planes at Ewa Field,
and IJN Val dive bombers had jumped incoming Navy SBD aircraft from the USS
Enterprise and were shooting them down along the Ewa coast.

Come out to West Oahu on Sunday, December 6, 2009 and experience some real
history, hear Pearl Harbor historians like Daniel Martinez recount events
and hear veterans re-tell their eye-witness stories.

See the military Honor Guards and Rifle Salute. Experience the emotions of
"Taps" being played at the actual WW-II battlefield for those US servicemen
killed in combat.

View the actual Zero fighter bullet marks in the aircraft ramp and where
Marine fighters burned up and actually melted into the concrete as Marines
fought back armed only with bolt action rifles, 45 pistols and a few
Thompson machineguns.

See the WW-II vehicle convoy, the WW-II aircraft and ride the WW-II Ewa
"History Train" which starts from the original front gate of the Ewa Marine
airfield where some of the very first shots of WW-II in the Pacific were
fired by strafing IJN Zero fighters.


Call for Ewa WW-II History "Troop Train" ride tickets before they are all
sold out. There are two rides, but tickets are going fast.
This is a great family event to spend 90 minutes riding through the Ewa
countryside on a classic WW-II narrow gauge railway that actually carried
many US troops who fought in the Pacific War. Discounts with military ID.

CALL (808) 681-5461 to reserve your Ewa WW-II History "Troop Train" tickets
NOW. The Hawaiian Railway Society Train Museum is a non-profit group located
between Renton Rd. and Roosevelt Avenue and is part of where WW-II in the
Pacific actually started- and heavily strafed by Zeros and Val dive bombers.

You can experience Hawaii's GROUND ZERO – the historic start of WW-II in The
Pacific. You will not likely have a chance like this again soon to get SO
CLOSE to actually see, touch and feel REAL HISTORY! Bring your children and
your cameras for these events.

(Events Release By John Bond, Save Ewa Field  808-685-3045)

By David Robinson
The Evening Times
Fri Nov 20, 2009, 04:47 PM EST

Frankfort, N.Y. –

A small group of residents attended a public hearing Tuesday in the town of Frankfort to witness passage of a local law on tax exemption for military veterans.
But this law signified much more than a tax break.

It served as long-overdue recognition of a forgotten group of men and women that served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Town board members voted to approve a limited tax exemption to veterans of the Cold War, defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991.

After the vote, the seven men applauded in appreciation.
The Frankfort law allows eligible residents exemption from town taxes up to 10 percent of the assessed value of their home, or up to $8,000 in equalized value. Those with disability claims can receive up to 50 percent of the assessed value of their home, not to exceed $40,000.

The exemption becomes effective on the 2010 final assessment roll, officials said.
While the money saved could provide much-needed relief in these difficult economic times, some of the men spoke to the law’s impact beyond just dollars and cents.
“It’s about more than the money,” said John Tucker, of Frankfort, “it’s about making sure the veterans feel like real veterans.”

Several of the men joined Tucker in describing years of being kept from joining groups or being ineligible for certain benefits because they had served in the military during a time not officially classified as a period of war.

It takes a program like the Cold War tax exemption, they said, to start changing people’s attitudes. But like most changes in public perception it is catching on slowly, and many of those that benefit are simply unaware.

The town of Frankfort became just the fourth municipality in Herkimer County, joining the city of Little Falls, village of Ilion and town of Schuyler, to adopt some form of the Cold War exemption.

The city of Little Falls passed a resolution on Nov. 17, 2007, becoming the first municipality in the county to adopt the Cold War exemption, according to Joy Presta, city assessor. For 2009, 10 veterans are currently receiving the exemption at a total equalized value of $66,119, she added.

The county also offers the program, with 75 residents receiving exemptions from county taxes with a total value of $612,004, after multiplying by the latest state equalization rate, according to Mary Ann Barbuto, county Real Property Tax Service Agency director.

There are still Cold War veterans that have no knowledge of the program, however.
When asked if they were aware of the county exemption, several of the men attending Frankfort’s public hearing said they had not heard about the county offering the tax break.

The town of Frankfort does have 10 people signed up for county Cold War exemption benefits and two residents that receive the benefits through the village of Ilion, according to Jim Fresco, town assessor.

Several of those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting gave Fresco contact information, anticipating to submit an application for the county and town tax exemptions.
Tucker feels getting more information to the public is the first step, but making sure more municipalities adopt some form of the resolution is the ultimate goal.
“Hopefully we’ll all get on board in this county,” he said.

Mary Ann Barbuto, county Real Property Tax Service Agency director, provided some details on the Cold War exemption, as well as the Alternate Veterans exemption.
•Each county, city, town and village has the option of deciding whether to grant the Cold War veterans exemption.

• he Cold War exemption authorizes limited exemption from real property taxes for those who rendered military service to the United States during the Cold War (defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991).

•A veteran can not receive both the Cold War exemption and the Alternative Veterans exemption.

•The maximum levels from county taxes on the Cold War program are the reduced 15 percent, which equals a maximum $9,000 for service and maximum $30,000 for disability, both real values accounting for state equalization rates.

•The veteran must have been honorably discharged or released from service. As proof of the dates and character of service, a copy of Form DD 214 or other appropriate evidence should be attached to the application

Cold War Casualty on KFYR-TV

Video will automatically start playing momentarily

Thanks to Gary for sharing this poem with us.

by Gary Jacobson © November 2006

Well, here it is, Thanksgiving in a foxhole…
I’m trying to fathom what thankful presentments fill my soul.
You know, it could be a whole hell of a lot worse
I could be pushin’ up posies ‘stead a here spoutin’ verse.
So I guess most of all, I’m thankful I ain’t yet dead
Laced with bullet holes oozing red
Here in Vietnam, ten thousand miles from home
Sent forth the rotting jungle to roam.

War has reduced my passionate patriotism to stone
Still so abandoned … still so alone
Still bearing pains born in this land of egregious hurt.
To survive it this grunt just keeps on poundin’ dirt.
So pardon me for wish’n for family, hearth and home
‘Stead of walkin’ this park from dawn till dark
Just a might cumbersome.. .
Just a might adventuresome. ..
This blithesome war chuck full o’ shock and awesome.

I guess I’d like to say I’m truly thankful
Heaps more thankful than regretful
Sent where ham and choker C-rats take an awful toll
Leaving spirits kinda sick … kinda droll.
I’d give my left, uh, you know, manhood, the Nam to quicken
Fer a bucket o’ golden Kentucky Fried Chicken.
U’um, I’d like some of that bird finger lick’n good
You better know I would.

In my foxhole, visions of drumsticks float in my head
Remembering feeling good and overfed
Thanksgiving feasts with heaping turkey back in the world
The parties, the girls, the cruising, the girls unfurled
My car, the girls, my mother and apple pie, the girls, my family.
That’s why I’m here, just an armed turkey
Mired in Nam’s fickle state of perplexity
Surviving eternal “move ’em outs” with a grunt’s dexterity.

I’m most thankful for rare nights of relative calm
I laugh and joke with brothers, peace on weary minds a balm
When there’s no bloodshed, no firefight
No Charlie’s comin’ through the wire tonight
Just the routine clamor of interdictive artillery overhead
Reassuring I can snuggle into Nam’s warm ground, my bed
Though in my foxhole repressive fears always abound
Senses acutely attuned to every little sound
Tight so nothing escapes you, in or out-bound.

You see, I’m fighting here for freedom’s bright ray
And they can’t take that away
Though war’s full of conundrums, in this dirty little fray
Where I clearly see man’s hypocrisy and greed
Vile corruption in hatred’s evil seed
For which my brothers for the good fight bleed
So I’m here for them, my brothers, my fellow man
Laboring alongside surviving in the heart of Vietnam.

I’m thankful for good things in this park that abound
Deep dank dark depths of hell in the devil’s compound
True brotherhood forged in this gory battleground
Where men to duty bound, astonish and astound,
Men honor bound, war’s complexities bewilder and confound
In Vietnam, where I lost the boy, but found the man
Mid contentious toil and strife
Roiling, boiling hatreds brewing his carnal life.

I’m thankful to know I’m living
To pay sorrowful homage to the dead and dying
I survived this war’s inhumanity unfurled
Surviving back to this knock down ornery world,
From war’s pack of lies to rise to kiss the skies
Grateful to live through what I’ve seen
That from wars bestial carousel careen
Living with ghosts of brothers and enemies unseen.

Though by the Nam heart-stricken
This ‘ol home-boy can take a lickin’n keep on tickin’
Held in the service of our country
That sent me so far to march with hell’s infantry
Carrying in every deed His ever righteous sword
In the service of our Lord…
Gone for the world to save
Risen from a most foul grave.

I’m grateful for my PTSD
Given with a worlds sweet pain to comfort me
Guiding me back to war’s malignant melee
Once again down in the valley of the shadow reverie
Forever riding bestial iron horses of the infantry
War’s ogres dancing betimes with me
Do-si-doing in and out of the maw of death
Welcome back … grateful to take a peaceful breath…

So chow down on your turkey with humble thanks giving
Grunt, be ever grateful for your living
Grasp your family to your bosom dearly
Know there are men out there, who this night do not rest easy
Who yet hear brave voices whispering in hot war winds breezy
Daily contending with wrong and right
Men, women, this very Thanksgiving night
Valiantly pursuing for the land they love, the eternal fight.
read entire poem here

World War Ones youngest victim

The 26-year-old victim of the First World War

An encounter with an unexploded RAF bomb changed Maité Roël’s life for ever. Robert Fisk finds out what the Great War means to her

Friday, 20 November 2009

Maité Roël is just 26 and she is the youngest victim of the First World War. And when she walks to meet me past the old churchyard in her village of Bovekerke, she limps, ever so slightly, on her left leg, the living ghost of all those mutilated, long-dead men whose memory the world honoured on Armistice Day earlier this month. She even holds a First World War veteran’s card – “mutilée dans la guerre” – and when she shows it to the local railway ticket inspectors for reduced fare train trips, they suspect her – with awful inevitability – of stealing it from dead grandfather or great-grandfather.

But it’s all true. After shaking off – so far – a 10-year addiction to the morphine which Belgian doctors gave her during 29 excruciatingly painful operations on her leg, Maité is now a young mother with a year and a half old baby and, incredibly, a total disinterest in the war that almost killed her. Only an hour before I met Maité, I was listening to the “Last Post” at the Menin Gate, 15 miles away in Ypres. “I know nothing about it,” she says to me with indifference. “I’ve read nothing about it. This month was the first time they ever took me to show me the preserved trenches of the war.”

They are all around her. Bovekerke was in German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, on the very edge of the Allied-held Ypres salient, and so was the military camp at Wetteren near Ghent when a bomber of the newly created RAF, successor to the Royal Flying Corps, dropped a bomb there in 1918. The Germans were already in retreat across France and Belgium, abandoning the terrible battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, pursued by British, French, Empire and newly-arrived American troops, harried by RAF bi-plane fighters and bombers. Those critical last months of the “War to End All Wars” almost did for Maité 17 years ago.
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“We went on a scout camping expedition to Wetteren and I remember now that it was an old military camp,” Maité recalls very slowly. She has tiny dreadlocks that hang down her slim face and a silver ring in her nose – not the usual face of a First World War victim. “It was July 6th, 1992. I knew nothing about war. I remember we all built a fire using bricks round the outside and the other kids starting throwing logs on it. I was tired and so I went a few metres from the fire so I could sleep. Then there was a sudden explosion – I woke up and saw sparks from the explosion. Everyone was running and shouting and I tried to get up and I couldn’t. Everyone was looking at me and I looked down – and I saw that my left leg was hanging by a piece of skin.”

A million British soldiers had experienced this same terror in this same land more than 60 years earlier. But Maité could not understand. She was rushed to the local hospital at Wetteren where there were no specialist surgeons and she had to be rushed by air to Ghent University Hospital. For three hours, she wept and cried in pain before doctors could give her a sedative because the doctors were not sure which medication to administer. “I only started feeling the pain when I saw my leg – and then it never stopped,” she said.

Nor has it stopped now. The doctors took skin and muscles and arteries from thighs and back and ribs to reconstruct her left leg – and saved it after 29 operations in which Maité spent two years in hospital, all of them on morphine. For the next 10 years she was addicted, desperate to detoxicate but still finding the pain unbearable. Maité now has only one artery in each leg. The birth of her child, Damon, and the love of his father, Kurt, helped her, she says, admitting with a smile that she still needs cannabis and alcohol to survive the pain but has been without morphine for a year and five months.

She is now cared for by the Belgian Institute for Veterans’ Affairs and War Victims. The Institute, along with doctors and police officials, quickly realised that the scouts must have picked up the cylindrical RAF bomb, thinking it was a mouldy log – and thrown it on the fire. The explosion blasted the bricks into pieces, one of which almost severed Maité’s left leg. Belgian explosives officers later identified the fragments as those of an RAF bomb – typical of many found over battlefields in the decades that followed the 1918 Armistice – manufactured in 1918 and used during the German retreat. The Wetteren camp was used by the Reichswehr during this period because the town was a major rail centre for German military traffic to the front.

With one of those bitter ironies that war alone can produce, the RAF’s youngest victim – long after both the pilot and his intended targets must have died – turns out to be partly British. Maité’s grandmother, Janette Matthieson, is Scottish and now lives in Ostend, making Maité’s French-speaking mother half-British. Maité now lives on £700 a month, a stipend available to her since she was 16. When she was so grievously hurt, not a single newspaper outside Belgium mentioned her fate.

Belgian authorities are still paying monthly allowances to much older victims of First World War munitions as well as survivors of the Second World War – including Belgian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust – and newly-arrived wounded from Afghanistan. Maité wants to go on a clothes-making course and open a boutique – “I don’t want to work for a boss,” she says as cheerfully as any 1914-18 British soldier with a “Blighty” wound, though she may be more successful than the men who came home in 1918 and found that theirs was not a land fit for heroes.

“I have an ‘051’-coded card from the First World War veterans’ department and when I buy train tickets, they often question me about it,” Maité says. “They think I’ve taken it from an ancestor but it’s completely real. I’m just the youngest victim of that war.”

I ask her why she shows no interest in this terrible period of history which struck her so mercilessly – and so literally – when she was younger. She shrugs her shoulders. So much for the Somme and Verdun and Gallipoli and the nine million military dead of the Great War and the Last Post just down the road in Ypres. But I rather suspect Maité is right. Her boutique and her home-made clothes sound a far better future than an examination of the awful mud upon which her village of Bovekerke was rebuilt after the War to End All Wars.

USS Intrepid Serves Those Who Served With Job Fair


The New York State Department of Labor held a special job fair this week for the state’s veterans.

NY1 Employment reporter Asa Aarons was there and filed the following report.

There was a time when 1,000 military members on line to board the USS Intrepid meant one thing – war. It still does, though now it’s a different combatant, a battle with late mortgages sinking credit, and dwindling grocery supplies.

Today’s military veterans are face to face with the enemy called unemployment.

The New York States Depart of Labor chose the Intrepid for a career fair this week featuring 75 companies offering more than 2,000 jobs.

In the shadows of the world’s fastest, strongest, most aggressive machinery, veterans are donning the new battlefield armor, a business suit and updated resume.

With unemployment at nearly 15 percent for the state’s veterans, soldiers-turned-jobseekers poured in from every area and every era.

“Vets, we paid our dues,” said vet Charise Herbert. “Serving in Iraq, putting my life on the line.”

“I served in the Vietnam War,” said vet Victor Cotto.

Regardless of the era of service or military branch, veterans are known to bring strong qualities to the workplace.

“They are true professionals with a strong work ethic,” said Pedro Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran.

The DOL serves nearly 50,000 veterans each year. At this event, in addition to job matching, the agency hoped to show area vets ways to expand and improve their job-hunting skills.

“We get someone to look at their resume, give them some tips on interviewing skills, and also to let them know where the jobs are,” explained Leo Rosales of the DOL.

“The times are tough now and anything they can do to help anyone find a job is greatly appreciated by everyone,” said job-seeking veteran Lee Drescher.

And, some of the opportunities available at the job fair are practically tailor made for veterans.

“Basically our requirements are 39 college credits,” said New York City Department of Corrections worker Mark Washington. “But if they served two years active in the military with an honorable discharge, it’s equivalent to the 39 college credits. So they don’t have to have the college education.”

The USS Intrepid is one of the world’s most famous docked vessels. With the job fair, it becomes a ship serving those who served, and bringing them from the storm to safe harbor.

Disabled Combat veteran beaten At McDonalds by Employee

     BROOKLYN (CN) – A disabled Army captain who was wounded in Iraq claims McDonald's employees beat him with garbage can lids after he brought his service dog to the restaurant. Luis Montalvan says the attack came as he was photographing the restaurant after he repeatedly complained about the treatment he received there. 

     Montalvan says he became disabled after 17 years in the Army and began using a service dog named Tuesday in November 2008. 

     Montalvan says he was wounded with knives and hand grenades during his first tour of duty in Iraq, and developed post traumatic stress disorder, in addition to his spinal cord damage and brain injury. He was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, according to his federal complaint.

     He says that when he brought his dog Tuesday to McDonald's, the employees told him he had to leave his "pet" outside.

Montalvan replied that Tuesday was a service animal, not a pet, as indicated by the bright red vest the dog wore. He says the employees continued to make him unwelcome and uncomfortable by hovering over him and glaring at him.

He says the rude treatment brought on a panic attack that hurt his performance on final exams at Columbia University, where he is enrolled in a master's program in journalism.

Montalvan says he complained about the treatment he received, and McDonald's area supervisor Claudia Alvarez apologized and said employees would receive training to help disabled customers.

Six weeks later Montalvan says he returned to the McDonald's with Tuesday, but manager Carlos Sala said the dog was not allowed in the restaurant, despite a new sign welcoming service animals.

Montalvan says he explained that service animals are allowed in public restaurants under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Sala said he was a new manager and had not been trained with on the ADA.

 Two days later, Montalvan says returned to the restaurant to find that it had been shut down for health code violations. He says he took some photos of the place, and then unidentified McDonald's employees beat him with garbage can lids, pinching a nerve that forced him to use a neck brace for 8 weeks.

Montalvan seeks punitive damages for ADA violations, discrimination, and assault and battery. He is represented by David Lackowitz with Gersten Savage