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Monthly Archives: May 2010

On Memorial Day, we honor them. On July 23, we will honor their families.

Honor our nation's fallen Heroes by honoring the families they left behind.

The 2010 Weekend of Remembrance will be the largest-ever gathering of the families of the Fallen.

We need your help to make this weekend happen.

Please join us by sponsoring a family today. A donation of $10, $20, or $50 is a small sacrifice for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Sponsor a Family

2010 Weekend of Remembrance


Obama: Memorial Day Honors Sacrifices

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2010 – Memorial Day is a time for Americans to remember and honor the ultimate sacrifices made by past and present generations of U.S. servicemembers, President Barack Obama said yesterday during his weekly address to the nation.

Each year on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, America honors all of its citizens who've worn a military uniform, Obama said. Yet, Memorial Day is something different, he said.

"On this day," Obama said, "we honor not just those who've worn this country's uniform, but the men and women who've died in its service; who've laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who've given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America.

"These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same," said the president, who tomorrow will provide Memorial Day remarks at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill.

From the Revolutionary War to the present day, generations of Americans have been willing to take up arms – and die, if necessary – in order to preserve the nation's freedoms, Obama said.

"That commitment – that willingness to lay down their lives so we might inherit the blessings of this nation – is what we honor today," Obama said. "But on this Memorial Day, as on every day, we are called to honor their ultimate sacrifice with more than words. We are called to honor them with deeds."

America also honors its fallen warriors, he said, by supporting the surviving family members who must carry on after their loved ones have passed.

"We are called to honor them by doing our part for the loved ones our fallen heroes have left behind and looking after our military families," Obama said. "By making sure the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely. By making sure veterans have the care and assistance they need.

"In short," he continued, "by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country – and their families – as well as they have served us."

Obama recalled a post-Civil War incident that occurred April 25, 1866, when a group of women in Columbus, Miss., visited a local cemetery to place flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers who had died during the Battle of Shiloh.

As the women placed the flowers, he said, they noticed that a nearby group of Union soldier graves was bare of flowers.

"But no one had come to visit those [Union] graves, or place a flower there," Obama said. The women, he said, then "decided to lay a few stems for those men, too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American."

A few years later, he said, a group of Civil War veterans established what eventually became Memorial Day, picking a date when the spring flowers are in bloom.

"So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest," Obama said.

Related Sites:
President's Weekly Address

Memorial Day 2010

Dear Sean,

What's more important: honoring the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice or the winner of American Idol?

Memorial Day is right around the corner, but judging by what's being talked about on Facebook and Twitter, you might guess people are more interested in reality TV than in real heroes.

On Monday, everyone's thoughts should be focused on the men and women who gave their lives while defending our country. Can you take a minute to make Memorial Day the topic that everyone is talking about? Post a message to Twitter or Facebook or send an email to your friends and family asking them to honor the day's purpose.

Your message can be simple, but it's incredibly important: ask your friends and family to promise to reflect on the sacrifice and bravery of those who lost their lives while serving our country. Click here to get started.

You can also watch a great documentary on Arlington National Cemetery and find out more about what IAVA is doing on Memorial Day.

By spreading the word, you'll help us ensure that Monday's true meaning isn't lost during trips to the beach or BBQs. Click here and take a minute to help make sure Americans are talking about the real heroes.

Thank you for standing with us.



Paul Rieckhoff
Executive Director and Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Memorial Day to Remain Sacred Holiday Thanks to VFW Member

“Memorial Day is not a day for celebration.  We are supposed to show respect and gratitude for our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” states Mike Esmond, a VFW member and Vietnam War veteran. 

…………………………………………………………….……....In recent years, Esmond has been appalled to see fireworks being sold at his local Winn Dixie and Wal-Mart stores in the days leading up to Memorial Day.  He decided something needed to be done to stop the “celebration” of this day. 

“Over the years, Memorial Day seems to have lost its meaning.  I think the younger generation is losing sight of what the holiday is truly for,” Esmond said, “If we don’t teach these young folks the true meaning of Memorial Day, who will?”

Esmond decided to start writing letters to the Wal-Marts and Winn Dixies of the U.S. explaining the importance of the holiday and what a disgrace it is to him and other veterans, to sell fireworks in “celebration” of a day that should be observed with honor and remembrance of those that gave their lives for this country. 

At first, the stores’ representatives responded to the letters by explaining that they have a responsibility to provide their customers with the products they want to purchase, but Esmond and other veterans who joined in on the campaign were not taking no for an answer.  The letters continued to pour in and eventually, Esmond and his fellow veterans’ efforts were rewarded.  

It was a long battle, but through Esmond’s letter writing campaign, beginning this year, no fireworks will be sold at any Wal-Mart or Winn Dixie in the United States until after the Memorial Day holiday. In fact, Wal-Mart even thanked Esmond for his persistence and guidance on the matter.

“If we don’t remember where we came from, how can we know how to move forward?” Esmond concluded, “We need to remember the past and those sacrifices people made.”

Obama at West Point

24 May 2010

President Barack Obama praised the 2010 graduates of West Point, saying they represent the commitment and virtues that have served America so well throughout history.

Des Moines Set to Host National Veterans Golden Age Games 24th Year of VA-Sponsored Sports Competition

Des Moines Set to Host National Veterans Golden Age Games
24th Year of VA-Sponsored Sports Competition

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2010) – Hundreds of Veterans from around the nation
will make their way to Des Moines, Iowa, May 26-31 to compete in the
24th National Veterans Golden Age Games, the largest annual sports
competition of its kind in the world.

"This extraordinary event is a true testament to the competitive spirit
and will of our nation's Veterans," said John R. Gingrich, chief of
staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, who will attend the game's
opening ceremonies.  "I am thrilled that this premier sporting event for
senior Veterans is being held in Des Moines this year, the heartland of
America.  I know our competitors will again demonstrate that age is not
a deterrent to an active, rewarding life."

Also attending the games is VA Assistant Secretary L. Tammy Duckworth,
who will give remarks at the closing ceremonies on May 31.

Events at the National Veterans Golden Age Games are open to all U.S.
military Veterans age 55 or older who receive care at a VA medical
facility.  The games give participants the opportunity to compete in
ambulatory, visually-impaired and wheelchair divisions, according to
their ages.  Events include swimming, cycling, bowling, croquet, air
rifle, golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot-put, among
several others.

The games are designed to improve the quality of life for older
Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and
disabilities.  Through a partnership with the National Senior Games
Association, which is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the event
serves as a qualifier for participants in the National Senior Games,
which take place every two years.

The Golden Age Games are co-sponsored by VA, Help Hospitalized Veterans
(HHV) and the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS).  This year's event is
hosted by the VA Central Iowa Healthcare System in Des Moines and the
Sierra Pacific Healthcare System in Mare Island, Calif.

"Help Hospitalized Veterans is extremely proud to again serve as a
national co-sponsor of the games," said Mike Lynch, HHV president and
CEO.  "The Golden Age Games are an example of VA's commitment to cutting
edge rehabilitative techniques through sports and social medicine.
Veterans who participate have life-changing experiences, which will
enhance their wellness and quality of life."

"The Golden Age Games have proven to be an event promoting the health of
older Veterans, unmatched by any other," said Marilyn Iverson, director
of the Veterans Canteen Service. "The athletes who participate
demonstrate the spirit of competition, friendship and a commitment to an
active, rewarding lifestyle.  This spirit not only helps to prevent
illness, it strengthens the heart and rejuvenates the soul of all who
witness and attend this inspiring event."

The majority of the competitive events for the Golden Age Games will be
held at Hy-Vee Hall, with opening and closing ceremonies taking place at
Veterans Memorial Arena.  The opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. on
Wednesday, May 26.  The competition commences with golf on Thursday, May
27, at 8 a.m., at Blank Golf Course.  Closing ceremonies will be held at
7 p.m. on Monday, May 31, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Taking place over the Memorial Day holiday weekend this year, the Games
present an excellent opportunity to remember the contributions of
America's older Veterans.  For more information about the National
Veterans Golden Age Games, log onto the game's Web site at

The widely anticipated memoir of legendary ace and Cold Warrior American fighter pilot, Robin Olds

The widely anticipated memoir of legendary ace American fighter pilot, Robin Olds

Robin Olds was a larger-than-life hero with a towering personality. A graduate of West Point and an inductee in the National College Football Hall of Fame for his All-American performance for Army, Olds was one of the toughest college football players at the time. In WWII, Olds quickly became a top fighter pilot and squadron commander by the age of 22—and an ace with 12 aerial victories.

But it was in Vietnam where the man became a legend. He arrived in 1966 to find a dejected group of pilots and motivated them by placing himself on the flight schedule under officers junior to himself, then challenging them to train him properly because he would soon be leading them. Proving he wasn’t a WWII retread, he led the wing with aggressiveness, scoring another four confirmed kills, becoming a rare triple ace.

Olds (who retired a brigadier general and died in 2007) was a unique individual whose personal story is one of the most eagerly anticipated military books of the year.

Colonel Olds  with Satan's Angels Colonel Olds (first row, third from left) with the 8th TFW Satan’s Angels squadron. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
Colonel Olds waving After downing a MiG, Colonel Olds with the May 4, 1967 mission flight members

robin olds waving Colonel Olds waving to the troops after his final mission September 1967. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
robin olds finger The famous Robin Olds “finger” at the final mission celebration in the Ubon officers club. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
robin olds  debriefing the staff Debriefing the Chiefs of Staff after the meeting with LBJ. (Department of Defense Photo)
robin olds scat phantom SCAT XXVII comes home to rest at the National Air Force Museum in 1988, its battle scars honorably intact. Robin insisted the museum not repair or clean his Phantom. (Air Force Museum Photo)

DPC Fact Sheet The Obama Administration Is Leading a Tough, Smart Fight to Confront Global Terrorist Threats and Keep America Safe

The Obama Administration Is Leading a Tough, Smart Fight to Confront Global Terrorist Threats and Keep America Safe

The Obama Administration, in partnership with Congress, has put in place comprehensive counterterrorism strategy to keep America safe and confront al Qaeda and other global terrorist threats.  Through a strong interagency approach at home and a more aggressive, multilateral approach around the world, the Administration has disrupted numerous terrorist plots against our homeland, brought dozens of terrorist suspects to justice, begun to reverse the Taliban momentum in Afghanistan, significantly disrupted al Qaeda operations, and taken out some of the world’s most wanted terrorist leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other strategic regions.

Using an Aggressive Interagency Approach, the Obama Administration has Vigilantly Defended America at Home

The Administration has committed to using every national security weapon in our arsenal to counter terrorist threats to our homeland – turning to the most effective and appropriate tool to respond to each threat.  As Attorney General Holder recently asserted, “…we are at war against a dangerous, intelligent, and adaptable enemy.  Our goal in this war, as in others, is to win.  Victory means defeating the enemy without damaging the fundamental principles on which our nation was founded.  To do that, we must use every weapon at our disposal.  Those weapons include direct military action, military justice, intelligence, diplomacy, and civilian law enforcement.  Each of these weapons has virtues and strengths, and we use each of them in the appropriate situations.”[1]

The Administration has disrupted several terrorist plots on our homeland, including what counterterrorism officials have termed the most serious threat against the United States since 9/11.  In partnership with U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement officials, the Obama Administration has effectively prevented and disrupted numerous plots inside the United States, including a near-operational plan to attack the subway system in New York City as well as several other plots against U.S. military personnel, federal buildings, and innocent American civilians.

The Administration has brought dozens of terrorist suspects to justice, incapacitating some of the most dangerous terrorists with links to al Qaeda and other extremist groups.  The Obama Administration has successfully brought to justice dozens of suspected terrorists, including Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani national who attempted to kill U.S. military service members fighting in Afghanistan; Najibullah Zazi, linked with al Qaeda and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the United States; and David Headley, the Pakistani-American charged for his role in terrorist plots, including the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.  In 2009, more than 30 individuals charged with terrorism violations were successfully prosecuted or sentenced in federal court – more than in any year since 2001.[2]

The Administration has substantially improved human intelligence collection doctrine and tactics, enabling our counterterrorism officials to better connect the dots and stay ahead of our adversaries.   President Obama has worked in partnership with military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials to bolster our human intelligence collection capabilities and streamline the way in which terrorist threats are identified, pursued, and analyzed.  The Administration has put in place a more effective and integrated approach to facilitate the collection of reliable and actionable intelligence on al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations which has helped to disrupt plots and prevent future attacks.  It established a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), bringing together experts from across the law enforcement and intelligence communities to carry out strategic interrogations of high-value targets.  The HIG has already participated in successful interrogations of terrorism suspects, including would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.  As a result of these steps, the Administration has been able to successfully elicit critical, actionable intelligence on terrorist threats to our country and its interests:  suspects have provided key intelligence on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups as well as terrorist operations and plots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula, the United States and Europe.[3]

The Administration has worked to ensure that our military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials have all the resources and tools they need to keep America safe.  The Obama Administration has provided significant funding increases in support of counterterrorism activities in the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our country is as prepared as it can be to defend against both domestic and global threats.

The Administration has continually honed our strategy in the face of evolving threats and changing realities on the ground.  The Obama Administration has worked to revise, hone, and review its counterterrorism procedures to combat an evolving threat from al Qaeda, its affiliates and sympathizers.  The Administration is continually reviewing our security system to incorporate best practices, identify shortfalls, and advance concrete steps to address any deficiencies.  It  has adopted reforms to improve our intelligence community’s ability to gather, share and effectively act on intelligence; strengthen our homeland defense technologies and procedures; and improve the capacity of law enforcement to keep the American people safe.[4]

Using a Comprehensive, Integrated Counterterrorism Strategy, the Administration has Significantly Disrupted al Qaeda’s Operational Capacity and Diminished the Terrorist Threat

The Administration has built new partnerships and expanded cooperation with key allies around the world to disrupt and dismantle al Qaeda and other global terrorist networks.  The Obama Administration has worked to strengthen ties with traditional allies and build new partnerships with other nations around the world to achieve the common objective of eliminating global terrorism – working through bilateral and multilateral channels, including important UN entities, the G8, and numerous other regional organizations whose counterterrorism ambitions had been left untapped for years.  In effect, it has bolstered international resolve against terrorist threats and built an effective international coalition to combat terrorism not just in Afghanistan, but to address emerging threats emanating from Yemen, Somalia, and other parts of the world.[5]

The Administration is beginning to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Following years of neglect and ad hoc policies in the region, the Obama Administration has put in place a fully-resourced, comprehensive plan to integrate military, civilian, and intelligence resources toward a clear and narrowly defined goal: “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”  In recent weeks, General McChrystal, Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton and other leading national security officials have reported that we are beginning to make progress in turning the tide against the Taliban insurgency and building the framework for long-term security in Afghanistan.

The Administration has taken out some of the most wanted terrorists across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Indonesia, and other parts of the world.  As part of its comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, the Administration has stepped up the use of targeted strikes and raids against key Taliban, al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist leaders.  This strategy has proven effective in taking out dozens of al Qaeda leaders and high-level terrorist operatives across the world, including: Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban killed in Pakistan in August 2009; Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and a close ally of Al Qaeda, killed in the Taliban-controlled South Waziristan in September 2009; Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, leader of al Qaeda in East Africa (AQEA), killed in September 2009; Noordin Muhammad Top, a leading figure in the South Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyya, killed in September 2009 in Indonesia; Adbul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy and military commander captured in Pakistan in February 2010; and Hussein al Yemeni, a senior al Qaeda commander alleged to have played a central role in the December attack on the CIA base in Khost Province, killed in March 2010; and Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, senior leaders of al Qaeda Iraq, killed in April 2010.

The Administration has targeted the core of the al Qaeda organization, killing at least 20 senior operatives and hundreds of militants in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.  The Administration has adopted an aggressive and focused use of surgical missile strikes against al Qaeda terrorists operating in ungoverned areas along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan – considered by our Intelligence Community to be the core of the al Qaeda organization and the most dangerous component of the al Qaeda network.  According to media reports, more than 50 so-called surgical strikes were launched in the region in 2009 and 24 strikes have been reported so far in 2010 – a considerable increase from the 36 attacks conducted in 2008 and the total of nine strikes conducted throughout 2004-7.  This approach has proven effective for pressuring al Qaeda’s leadership and weakening its operational capacity: according to analysis from the New America Foundation, predator drone strikes have killed at least 393 and, as many as 666 militants in Pakistan since January 2009, including at least 20 senior operatives.[6]

The Administration’s aggressive efforts have placed unprecedented pressure on al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan and significantly weakened their ability to plan sophisticated operations.

·         CIA Director Panetta has assessed that counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have al Qaeda “on the run.”  Director Panetta recently described the impact of increasingly aggressive attacks against al Qaeda in the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, stating that “Those operations are seriously disrupting al-Qaeda… It’s pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling.  And that we really do have them on the run.”[7]

   * U.S. commanders say that Pakistani offensives against Taliban strongholds have placed an unprecedented strain on the Taliban and helped stem the flow of militants into Afghanistan.  Major General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of NATO ISAF in eastern Afghanistan, recently described the impact of stepped-up Pakistani operations against the Taliban, stating “I think overall the effects that we see is that it is putting a strain on our common enemy… We know that they are having more difficulty with their supplies, their finances, their leadership.”  Further, he noted that Pakistani and NATO action along the Afghan-Pakistan border has led to a real decline in Taliban activity there.[8]

[1] S. Con.Res. 13.

[2] P.L. 111-117; Senate Appropriations Committee, FY10 Consolidated Appropriations Bill: Milcon/VA Summary, 12/8/09.

[3] P.L. 110-161; P.L. 110-329, Senate Appropriations Committee, Summary of FY 2009 Milcon VA Appropriations, 9/24/08.

[4] Senator Akaka, Press Release, 3/8/10; Office of Management and Budget, Fact Sheet on the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011: Department of Veterans Affairs.

[5] P.L. 111-163; Senator Akaka, Press Release, 5/5/10.

[6] P.L. 111-81; Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Press Release, 8/7/2009; Remarks by President Obama, 10/22/09.

[7] S. 728 (Passed as Senate Amendment 2654 to H.R. 1037); Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Press Release, 10/7/09.

[8] P.L. 111-16.

[9] P.L. 111-37; Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Press Release, 6/11/09.


On Your Side: Senate Democrats Continue Our Ongoing Commitment to Honoring the Service of Our Nation's Veterans

Bert Mizusawa for Congress

Bert Mizusawa for Congress Listen to the campaign's new radio ad online:

Man steals Military medals from Veterans
Affairs home

PORT CHAROTTE, Fla. – It’s a story that has some local veterans at a loss for words. A man stole a dozen military service medals from a veterans home.

Early Friday morning, someone at the Veterans Affairs in Port Charlotte noticed a suspicious man inside. A short time later, they noticed open drawers, and realized the man was a burglar. Deputies quickly tracked down a man matching the description – 26 year old Mitchell Pearson – and on him, found several stolen Military/Service medals, including a Purple Heart.

“He kept changing his story,” Bob Carpenter of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said. “First one, he went to the V.A. at 3 in the morning to read the Bible. The next time, he said he was retrieving medals from his grandfather.”

Pearson even said he was there for research. Finally, detectives say Pearson confessed to stealing the medals, an act that deeply upsets local veterans.

“To lose medals because some because some person decided they wanted to take them to scrap them…it’s totally unconscionable,” veteran Walter Rash said.

Pearson is charged with Burglary and Grand Theft. He’s being held in the Charlotte County Jail without bond.