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Monthly Archives: May 2011

A MEMORIAL DAY MESSAGE FROM VA SEC. SHINSEKI

 

(May 30, 2011) Today, we pay homage to those who placed themselves on
the Altar of Freedom for love of country.  Memorial Day is a time for
remembrance, reflection, and respect-for honoring the men and women who
gave their lives in service to the Nation.

On the last Monday of May each year, we observe moments of silence and
moments of tribute to acknowledge the sacrifices by these brave few for
principles greater than self.  In answering their calls to duty-at
Tarawa and Normandy, Seoul and Chosin, the Ia Drang and Khe Sanh, and at
Baghdad and Mosul, the Shahe' Kot, Korengal, and Marja, or any of a host
of other crossroads of conflict-these American men and women stood their
ground, held back the dark forces of oppression and destruction, and
advanced our founding principles, ideals, beliefs, and values about the
right of self-determination.  They cherished liberty and loved freedom
enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life.

Many lie in final rest in our national cemeteries.  Whether at
Gettysburg, one of our country's first national cemeteries, or at
Washington Crossing, our most recent dedication, each VA national
cemetery is a sacred place of honor befitting the great deeds and
sacrifices of the Fallen.

More than 3.7 million Americans-Veterans of every war and conflict, from
our Revolution to the Global War on Terror-have been laid to rest in
these hallowed shrines.  The quiet serenity, pristine nature, and strict
adherence to time-honored Service traditions make our cemeteries the
healing places where families and friends can remember and honor those
who gave, in President Lincoln's words, "the last full measure of
devotion."

This Memorial Day, a Nation at war prays for peace and the safe return
of our sons and daughters, even as it exacts justice from those who
trampled our most cherished principles.  Now, as then, in addition to
our prayers for peace, we pray for the families of the Fallen.  And we
pray for the Almighty's continued blessings on this great and wonderful
country of ours.

VA Honors Military Sacrifice on Memorial Day

 

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2011)- From parades to somber ceremonies and moments
of silence, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, Americans will honor the
sacrifices of military men and women who paid the ultimate price in
their service to our nation.

"The fallen warriors we honor on Memorial Day cherished liberty and
freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  "We owe them
eternal gratitude and we must pass those sentiments on to future
generations."

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will continue a tradition of
hosting ceremonies at its national cemeteries and other facilities
nationwide.  Many of the programs are the centerpiece of Memorial Day
events in their communities, honoring deceased Veterans and military
members.

President Obama will speak at Arlington National Cemetery with VA Deputy
Secretary W. Scott Gould in attendance.

Secretary Shinseki will deliver the keynote address at a Memorial Day
ceremony at Fort Richardson National Cemetery in Alaska, emphasizing
VA's goal of improving service to Veterans in rural areas.  VA's Acting
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Steve Muro, will speak at the
dedication of a new state Veterans cemetery in Newton, Miss. The
Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery was constructed with a VA grant
of nearly $7 million. VA's Assistant Secretary for Public and
Intergovernmental Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, will lay a wreath at the
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, then speak at the Hawaii
State Veterans Ceremony.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at VA's
national cemeteries, with color guards, readings, bands and choir
performances.  Events will honor more than one million men and women who
died in military service during wartime, including more than 655,000
battle deaths.

At Rock Island National Cemetery in Illinois, Rep. Bobby Schilling will
present the son of a deceased World War I veteran with his father's
Silver Star certificate.

Riders with the Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle Club of Albuquerque, N.M.,
will arrive at Santa Fe National Cemetery May 28 to lay a wreath at its
memorial recognizing the unknown soldiers, women and children who died
at the nearby site of the Army's Fort Craig in the late 1800s. Many of
the Fort Craig remains, including Buffalo Soldiers, were reburied in
1976 at other military cemeteries. Three Buffalo Soldiers were later
identified and laid to rest in marked graves at Santa Fe National
Cemetery. Buffalo Soldiers served in African American regiments that
were given that name by the Indian tribes they fought and impressed with
their bravery.

On May 29, at Riverside National Cemetery in Southern California –VA's
busiest — volunteers will read aloud the names of more than 5,000
people who were buried there since last year's Memorial Day.

VA maintains more than three million gravesites at its 131 national
cemeteries.  In 2010, VA conducted more than 111,800 burials in its
national cemeteries.  The number of annual interments is expected to
increase over the next two years.  This year's budget for VA national
cemetery operation and construction is nearly $446 million.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day when the tradition of
decorating Civil War graves began in 1866.  It still brings loved ones
to the graves of the deceased, often with flowers as grave decorations.
To honor Veterans buried in national cemeteries, VA staff and volunteers
typically place 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.

For the dates and times of Memorial Day weekend programs at VA national
cemeteries, visit www.cem.va.gov.

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Remember, Honor Those Fallen This Memorial Day

 
Posted by Capt. Paul S. Hammer, DCoE director on May 27, 2011
 
Capt. Paul S. Hammer, DCoE director
 
Memorial Day developed out of Decoration Day, a tradition of decorating the graves of the fallen from the Civil War. As history marched on, the day became a day to remember the fallen from all wars, not just the Civil War. It officially became Memorial Day after World War II.
 
Now, we mark Memorial Day as the start of summer, the newest blockbuster action movies start to come out, we think of graduations, vacations and summer travel plans, car races, picnics and golf tournaments.
 
But perhaps we should take time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who made all this fun possible, and to remember those they left behind who will forever be affected by their loss.
 
The pain and grief at the loss of a loved one fades with time, but it is never forgotten. Nor should it be for the rest of us who live comfortably because of the sacrifices of those who have gone before.
 
So, enjoy the next big blockbuster action flick, have fun and eat hot dogs at the picnic, get revved up at the car races, enjoy the ball game. But, when they ask you to stand to sing the national anthem or pause for a moment of silence to honor those who have died in defense of our country, linger for a quiet moment to honor them. Think about all those flags in all those cemeteries around our country and all the lives they represent.
 
Remember who they are, what they did and what they died for. Don’t ever forget.
 
Director
CAPT. Paul S. Hammer,
MC, USN
 

ADDABBO: SENATE PASSES PRE-MEMORIAL DAY BILLS HONORING SERVICE OF VETERANS, PAST AND CURRENT

 

Bills Provide Additional Entitlements; Senator Reminds Residents to Be Mindful of Memorial Day

 

 

Queens, NY, May 26, 2011NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens), ranking member of the Senate’s Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee, today announced the passage of several bills before the New York State Senate in honor of all the brave men and women who decided to protect and serve the United States during non-combat and combat instances. The ten bills, comprising the Senate’s Active List for Wednesday, May 25th, would build upon the Senate’s ongoing commitment to increased recognition and respect for veterans and their families. Addabbo voted in favor of all the veteran military bills, including a bill (S.2497) that would require the executive director of the office of real property services to create a list of documents in support of a veteran’s eligibility when applying for real property tax exemptions. The proposed law would make it easier for veterans to apply for real property tax exemptions. With the exception of S.656, all bills now await passage by the Assembly before going to Governor Andrew A. Cuomo for signature.  The ten bills included:

 

Bill S.2497, cited above.

 

Bill S.656, authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation to designate additional fishing events as rehabilitation for armed forces veterans or active members with need for veterans or active duty members to obtain fishing licenses.

 

Bill S.3192, establishing a mechanism for parents or guardians who find themselves deployed for short term military service to appoint a short term military guardian for their child or children during service.

 

Bill S.3222, permitting municipalities to enact a local law to grant additional combat veteran exemptions to persons not discharged from their subsequent service.

 

Bill S.5337, prohibiting the unauthorized use of the names and images of members of the armed forces or organized militia of New York.

 

Bill S.3228, preventing the court from using deployment and military status as a detrimental factor in determining custody.

 

Bill S.193, allowing honorably discharged veterans certified as having a 40% or greater service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime sportsman license for a twenty dollar fee.

 

Bill S.824, providing qualified veterans with a certified disability access by a float plane to appropriate lands under the Department of Environmental Conservation’s jurisdiction.

 

Bill S.4569, which extends two previous military law sections, allowing for rental of armories for non-military use when available and transporting monies from those armory rentals back into the armories state wide to cover operating costs.

 

Bill S.3684, amending the definition of naval militia to conform with federal law and legally recognize the naval militia as the naval forces of the state of New York.

 

Senator Addabbo stated, “As we approach Memorial Day, the Senate is doing its part to honor veterans and remain mindful of their service to our country. Since the 19th century, the United States has honored the legacies of these brave individuals and proclaimed Memorial Day to be a significant day to acknowledge those that did not make it home.”  Addabbo noted by advancing these bills, the legislature would ensure military-family privacies, the entitlement of additional benefits, an expansion of recreational activities with fewer restrictions, and support in custodial matters. 

 

“New York was the first state to recognize Memorial Day in 1873, and today as we remain mindful of those veterans who have left us, we cannot forget our current service men and woman who have served, are serving, and who have provided countless hours of service to defend our freedoms,” concluded Addabbo.

 

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Judy Close, Press Secretary
NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.
15th Senate District – Satellite Office
66-85  73rd Place
Middle Village, NY   11379
Ph:  718-497-1630
Fax: 718-497-1761
nyssenatejc@gmail.com

Nike sites helped keep West PA area safe during Cold War

http://www.yourmurrysville.com/node/11803/

While the Cold War might be just a chapter in history books today, more than 50 years ago, a Soviet air attack was a real threat for those living in Pittsburgh.

"In the Pittsburgh area, it was full of industry, so it would be a target," said Thomas White, archivist at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and an adjunct history lecturer.

The United States government took steps to ensure that the Pittsburgh area was well protected against a Soviet air attack with the strategic placement of 12 air-defense sites throughout Allegheny, Westmoreland and Washington counties. Today, the former Nike missile sites around Pittsburgh are abandoned or repurposed, but veterans hope people remember the history of the sites and those who served.

"It's part of our history and part of what the Army has done in terms of its mission in defending this country," said James Young, 70, of Carnegie, who served in the Army and National Guard at several Nike sites. "In my case, in the case of all these Nike people, this is what we did, this is our contribution.

"I know the Cold War is probably archaic stuff anymore, but I still feel a great deal of pride in what I did, in what all these men did," he said. "It was a big deal back in those days."

There were about 22.7 million veterans in the United States as of September 2010, and almost 1 million of them were living in Pennsylvania, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. On Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, Americans pause to honor those who died while serving their country.

While many men and women served during wars that were fought and are being fought overseas, some men, such as Young, served closer to home.

Bill Lowe, 69, who served in the Army and was stationed at the Dorseyville site in Indiana Township, said he hopes people make an effort to remember their country's history and that days such as Memorial Day are more than an excuse for a three-day weekend and a picnic.

"I don't want the thanks for myself, but I think as a nation, if we don't honor those who serve, who have given up a part of their life, to be free and have those weekend picnics … if we don't pause one day a year or two days … to remember those people, we're poorer for that," Lowe said.

During the Cold War, Pittsburgh was a hotbed of resources. The city produced steel during World War II, and the industry continued to expand through the 1960s. Pittsburgh also was emerging as a leader in technology, with Westinghouse Electric Co. involved in the development of nuclear reactors. The Soviet Union proved it had nuclear capabilities when it detonated its own atomic bomb in 1949, and the country's long-range bomber planes — taking off from air bases at the Chukchi and the Kola peninsulas — could reach any city in the continental United States.

"The way the industries were laid out in the river valley, it was set up more for precision bombing … and certainly, it would be easy to see a steel factory at night," White said of Pittsburgh.

Against this backdrop, the federal government chose to establish an air-defense system in the Pittsburgh region to protect against a possible attack by the Soviet Union.

Gun battalions

In the early years of Pittsburgh's air-defense system, three gun battalions staffed anti-aircraft artillery sites surrounding the city.

In 1952, the Army and Army Corps of Engineers chose 12 suburban sites that each would house four 90 mm anti-aircraft guns. These large guns were capable of firing at a range of about 11 miles and to an altitude of about 34,000 feet.

The Pittsburgh sites were chosen and established so quickly that the men had to live in tents during the winter of 1952-53 and monitored the skies through ground observations from hilltops and skyscrapers, while the Corps installed radar systems, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

"The primary responsibility for the air defense was the Air Force," said Tom Koedel of Ross Township, retired Ross police chief and a local historian.

"The anti-aircraft guns were considered the last line of defense. … We counted on the Air Force, so there may only be a few ‘leakers.'"

However, the United States was perfecting technology that made the gun battalions less effective and deactivated all of them by 1958.

Nike missile sites

The Nike Project was introduced to Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s.

The project was an anti-aircraft missile system developed by the Army and named after the Greek goddess of victory. The 12 sites were located throughout Pittsburgh's countryside.

Each site consisted of two locations — a control site for the radar and a launch site to house the missiles — which were located just miles from each other and staffed by Army personnel and National Guard units. In the North Hills, launch sites were located in Ohio Township, near Avonworth High School; in North Park, at the location of the Allegheny County Police and Fire Academy; and in Indiana Township, off of Route 910 and near Rock Airport of Pittsburgh.

The Nike sites cost about $1 million each, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, and included three underground missile silos and attached personnel shelters with 7-foot cinder-block walls and thick blast doors to withstand shock waves from firing the missiles. The sites also supported test buildings, generator buildings, administrative buildings and barracks.

Young served active duty working in missile maintenance. After he served his three years, he joined the National Guard and earned the rank of warrant officer as a systems repair technician.

In the early 1960s, Young was stationed at Rural Ridge and then the North Park launch site as a missile assembly technician with the National Guard on a Mobilization Day Unit, or M-Day Unit, which shadowed its full-time counterparts. He worked in the launching area running electronic checks with a Douglas electrical test set.

When a battery was on "hot status" the missiles would be brought to the surface from the underground bunkers and then were directed from the control sites.

The control sites housed three types of radars: the acquisition radar, which located the target; the target-tracking radar, used for tracking the plane; and missile- tracking radar to track the fired missile.

Lowe, of Rochester, N.Y., had just graduated from high school in Bloomsburg, when he enlisted in the Army and was stationed at the control site in Dorseyville.  Lowe served as an acquisition operator and was responsible for locating the target.

At the height of the Cold War, there was a mentality that the United States could be attacked at any time, Lowe said, so the Nike sites frequently ran tests and drills, sometimes in conjunction with the pilots stationed at the local Air National Guard, so the men were prepared in case of a real attack.

"We ran simulated attacks," Lowe said. "We would be graded on how well we did, as well as the bomber crews on how well they evaded us."

Tests could run two to three days straight. Men stationed at the Nike sites also had to be prepared for unannounced visits from "Missile Master." Missile Master, located near Oakdale, in Collier Township, was the headquarters for the 31st Artillery Brigade and all the Pittsburgh sites.

"The Missile Master team landed in a helicopter and said, ‘You have X minutes to fire a missile,'" Lowe said.

"We would hit the klaxon (alarm), and everyone on duty for that day had to get their butts up there. They graded us on everything we did in the process of getting ready to fire."

About 100 men were stationed at each launch and control location, and during their downtime, the servicemen would spend time in the day room, where there was a television and pool table. Lowe and a fellow serviceman would pull out their guitars and an amplifier and play music from The Ventures.

"It was good duty," Young said. "It was unique. The sites were on a mission 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It was a real-world mission.

"We felt there was that possibility of the Russians, (they) had that bomber capability, so we capitalized on that by trying to be ready for whatever the enemy might want to send at us. It was a matter of not wanting to be caught unaware like we were, for example, at Pearl Harbor."

Soon, the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, with a range of 3,500 miles, made aircraft attacks less of a threat, and by 1974, all of the Pittsburgh area Nike sites were decommissioned.

"One of my favorite lines I use … ‘I defended Pittsburgh for a year and a half, and I must have done a good job because it was never attacked,'" Lowe said.

On this Memorial Day, Lowe hopes people remember all those who served.

"We need to honor those who serve us and give unselfishly, to those who give their time and their lives," he said.

"It's a gift to the people, and it would be nice if someone sent a thank-you card."

Designation and Location
   The Pittsburgh area was well protected against the threat of a Soviet air attack during the Cold War with the strategic placement of 12 Nike missile sites in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Washington counties. Each site consisted of two locations: a control site for the radar and a launch site to house the missiles.

PI-02: Rural Ridge
PI-03: Dorsyville/Indianola
PI-25: Murrysville/Monroeville
PI-36: Irwin
PI-37: Cowansburg/Herminie
PI-42: Elizabeth
PI-43: Elrama
PI-52: Finleyville
PI-62: Bridgeville/Bryant
PI-71: Coraopolis/Beacon
PI-92: Bryant/North Park
PI-93: West View
PI-70DC: Oakdale *
 
*  Oakdale “Missile Master” Army Air-Defense Command Post Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 31st Brigade.

VA Announces Disaster Assistance After Tornado Outbreaks

Help Available for Veterans in Joplin, Mo.

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced today that special disaster assistance may be available to
Veterans with VA-guaranteed home loans who have been affected by recent
tornados in Missouri.

"We will to do everything we can to help Veterans and their families get
through this difficult time," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki.  "We urge Veterans to use VA resources available to help them
recover from this disaster."

VA strongly encourages mortgage companies not to initiate any new
foreclosures in the disaster areas for a period of 90 days.  The agency
also encourages mortgage companies that service VA-guaranteed home loans
to extend every possible forbearance to borrowers who are in distress
through no fault of their own.  This includes suspension of reporting to
credit bureaus and waiving late charges for affected borrowers.

Veterans should contact their insurance company as soon as possible to
file claims for losses.  At the same time, they need to contact their
mortgage companies to let them know their circumstances.

Veterans should also start the FEMA disaster application process as soon
as possible by calling 1-800-621-3362.  Low interest loans, cash grants,
and housing assistance may be available from agencies associated with
the disaster recovery effort.

VA has information available on its web site
(www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans

) that provides basic guidance on options
veterans should consider following a major disaster.  Veterans may also
contact their nearest VA Regional Loan Center at 1-877-827-3702.

For updated information on eligible counties, visit the "Are you a
disaster survivor?" section on the FEMA website at
http://www.fema.gov/index.shtm.

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