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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Important Veterans Legislation Heads to Senate

IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 30, 2012 CONTACT: Amy Mitchell (202) 225-3527

Veterans Legislation Heads to Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the House of Representatives reaffirmed its commitment to America’s veterans by passing H.R. 3670, a bill to require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a law designed to help deployed National Guard and Reserve members return to their civilian jobs after a separation from military service. The House also passed the Servicemember Family Protection Act (H.R. 4201).

H.R. 3670, introduced by Rep. Tim Walz, ensures that TSA hiring practices comply with USERRA. Although TSA currently employs thousands of veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, they are not protected by USERRA. National Guard and Reserve members face greater unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts. Enforcement of USERRA within TSA will conform to the standards applied throughout the rest of the federal government.

“The unemployment rate among our servicemembers is already far too high. Protecting the jobs they already have should be a top priority and I’m pleased the House took action on this common sense bill today,” said Rep. Walz, a 24-year veteran of the National Guard. “We have USERRA protections in place for a reason and this bill simply ensures that the thousands of veterans, Reservists, and members of the National Guard working for TSA are protected as they would be in any other position.”

The Servicemember Family Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Turner, amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and would ensure a servicemember’s deployment, or possible deployment, cannot be used as a factor in child custody determinations. SCRA is intended to relieve servicemembers of certain civil and financial obligations if military service prevents their obligation from being discharged.

“With every deployment, our men and women in uniform live with the constant fear that their custody rights as parents could be in jeopardy due to their service,” said Rep. Turner. “This legislation would ensure that being deployed, or the possibility of deployment is not used against them when child custody decisions are made by the courts.”

Both pieces of legislation now head to the Senate for consideration. They join the ten previously House-passed bills that are pending in the Senate from the first session of the 112th Congress.

“Over the past year and a half, America’s veterans, their families, and survivors, has been where Republicans and Democrats have found common ground to pass meaningful legislation, which has included putting America’s veterans back to work through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “With only six months left this Congress, I hope we can continue to work together and clear the backlog of legislation pending in the Senate before the end of this session. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

For more news from House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, please visit:

http://Veterans.House.Gov

Find us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/HouseVetsAffairs

Follow us on Twitter at: @HouseVetAffairs and on YouTube at: YouTube.com/HouseVetsAffairs

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053012 HVAC Legislation FINAL.pdf

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VA Partnership Aims to House 10,000 Homeless Veterans

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it will collaborate with the "100,000 Homes" campaign and its 117 participating communities to help find permanent housing for 10,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless veterans this year.

"President [Barack] Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among veterans," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a VA news release. "Those who have served this nation as veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope."

According to the 2011 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness among veterans has declined 12 percent since January 2010.

The new initiative is intended to help accomplish Shinseki’s goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015. It will also support the ongoing work of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and a host of state and local organizations working to implement "Opening Doors," the federal plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness.

The 100,000 Homes campaign is a national movement of over 100 communities working together to find permanent homes for 100,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals and families by July 2014.

The new partnership will better integrate the efforts of VA case managers and their local partners by leveraging VA resources and those of participants in the "100,000 Homes" campaign. The campaign’s national support staff, provided by New York-based non-profit Community Solutions, will also work with VA to provide technical assistance to help communities reduce the amount of time necessary to house a single homeless veteran.

As a result, community organizations will be better able to utilize the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program. The program is a coordinated effort by HUD, VA, and local housing agencies to provide permanent housing with case management and other support services for homeless veterans.

The collaboration will also help VA increase the proportion of HUD-VASH vouchers that help house chronic and vulnerable homeless individuals. Research indicates that this approach can successfully end homelessness for vulnerable and chronically homeless veterans while also achieving significant public cost savings. From fiscal years 2008 to 2012, HUD has allocated funding to local public housing authorities to provide over 47,000 housing choice vouchers to homeless veterans.

Volunteers in participating "100,000 Homes" communities will help the VA identify homeless veterans through their registry week process. Registry weeks are community-wide efforts in which volunteers canvass their neighborhoods to survey homeless individuals and gather key information to help VA case managers expedite the housing process.

Support staff will also offer quality improvement training designed to help reduce the amount of time necessary to house a homeless veteran to 90 days or less. Pilot training in Los Angeles and New York City has already helped shave an average of 64 days from the veteran housing process in these communities.

In 2009, Obama and Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Through the homeless veterans’ initiative, VA committed $800 million in fiscal year 2011 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless veterans, including health care, housing, job training, and education.

Biographies:
Eric K. Shinseki
Related Sites:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
News Release

Wounded Warrior Projects denounces General’s Statement

Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) calls on the Department of Defense and the Administration to publicly address the disturbing and highly inappropriate comments made by Major General Dana Pittard that suicide is “an absolutely selfish act” further adding that those soldiers thinking about suicide should “be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us." These comments further compound the already glaring stigma our service members face when dealing with mental health issues. This is exactly this type of attitude that keeps many of our wounded warriors from seeking the help they need and deserve.

Though the statement was later retracted, the silence from the DoD and the Administration speak volumes and discount the great courage it takes for a service member to come forward and admit they are dealing with combat stress or PTSD. We urge the DoD and the Administration to respond with actions.

In fact, our experience has shown us that wounded service men and woman can be even further damaged by sentiments like these expressed from within the DOD system. These brave warriors served our country honorably and many have returned home different people. The invisible wounds of war – traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD – have surpassed the visible as the signature injury in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. WWP has made this a focal point in its mission to honor and empower wounded warriors, and we challenge the DOD and the Administration to immediately reinforce proper attitudes and education on these critical issues. The increase in awareness of this issue will hopefully decrease the stigma attached – stigmas that were only built up by General Pittard’s irresponsible words.

The mental health of this generation of injured veterans is Wounded Warrior Project’s number one priority. Wounded Warrior Project will continue to address those needs through our combat stress recovery program and pursue the necessary steps to encourage a shift in how we think and deal with mental health.

AP IMPACT: Almost half of new vets seek disability

AP Photo

AP Photo/Lisa Krant

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE
AP Chief Medical Writer

America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It’s unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors. Many factors are driving the dramatic increase in claims – the weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and PTSD. Almost one-third have been granted disability so far.

Government officials and some veterans’ advocates say that veterans who might have been able to work with certain disabilities may be more inclined to seek benefits now because they lost jobs or can’t find any. Aggressive outreach and advocacy efforts also have brought more veterans into the system, which must evaluate each claim to see if it is war-related. Payments range from $127 a month for a 10 percent disability to $2,769 for a full one.

As the nation commemorates the more than 6,400 troops who died in post-9/11 wars, the problems of those who survived also draw attention. These new veterans are seeking a level of help the government did not anticipate, and for which there is no special fund set aside to pay.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is mired in backlogged claims, but "our mission is to take care of whatever the population is," said Allison Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary for benefits. "We want them to have what their entitlement is."

The 21 percent who filed claims in previous wars is Hickey’s estimate of an average for Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The VA has details only on the current disability claims being paid to veterans of each war.

The AP spent three months reviewing records and talking with doctors, government officials and former troops to take stock of the new veterans. They are different in many ways from those who fought before them.

More are from the Reserves and National Guard – 28 percent of those filing disability claims – rather than career military. Reserves and National Guard made up a greater percentage of troops in these wars than they did in previous ones. About 31 percent of Guard/Reserve new veterans have filed claims compared to 56 percent of career military ones.

More of the new veterans are women, accounting for 12 percent of those who have sought care through the VA. Women also served in greater numbers in these wars than in the past. Some female veterans are claiming PTSD due to military sexual trauma – a new challenge from a disability rating standpoint, Hickey said.

The new veterans have different types of injuries than previous veterans did. That’s partly because improvised bombs have been the main weapon and because body armor and improved battlefield care allowed many of them to survive wounds that in past wars proved fatal.

"They’re being kept alive at unprecedented rates," said Dr. David Cifu, the VA’s medical rehabilitation chief. More than 95 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived.

Larry Bailey II is an example. After tripping a rooftop bomb in Afghanistan last June, the 26-year-old Marine remembers flying into the air, then fellow troops attending to him.

"I pretty much knew that my legs were gone. My left hand, from what I remember I still had three fingers on it," although they didn’t seem right, Bailey said. "I looked a few times but then they told me to stop looking." Bailey, who is from Zion, Ill., north of Chicago, ended up a triple amputee and expects to get a hand transplant this summer.

He is still transitioning from active duty and is not yet a veteran. Just over half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans eligible for VA care have used it so far.

Of those who have sought VA care:

-More than 1,600 of them lost a limb; many others lost fingers or toes.

-At least 156 are blind, and thousands of others have impaired vision.

-More than 177,000 have hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus – noise or ringing in the ears.

-Thousands are disfigured, as many as 200 of them so badly that they may need face transplants. One-quarter of battlefield injuries requiring evacuation included wounds to the face or jaw, one study found.

"The numbers are pretty staggering," said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has done four face transplants on non-military patients and expects to start doing them soon on veterans.

Others have invisible wounds. More than 400,000 of these new veterans have been treated by the VA for a mental health problem, most commonly, PTSD.

Tens of thousands of veterans suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI – mostly mild concussions from bomb blasts – and doctors don’t know what’s in store for them long-term. Cifu, of the VA, said that roughly 20 percent of active duty troops suffered concussions, but only one-third of them have symptoms lasting beyond a few months.

That’s still a big number, and "it’s very rare that someone has just a single concussion," said David Hovda, director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. Suffering multiple concussions, or one soon after another, raises the risk of long-term problems. A brain injury also makes the brain more susceptible to PTSD, he said.

On a more mundane level, many new veterans have back, shoulder and knee problems, aggravated by carrying heavy packs and wearing the body armor that helped keep them alive. One recent study found that 19 percent required orthopedic surgery consultations and 4 percent needed surgery after returning from combat.

All of this adds up to more disability claims, which for years have been coming in faster than the government can handle them. The average wait to get a new one processed grows longer each month and is now about eight months – time that a frustrated, injured veteran might spend with no income.

More than 560,000 veterans from all wars currently have claims that are backlogged – older than 125 days.

The VA’s benefits chief, Hickey, gave these reasons:

-Sheer volume. Disability claims from all veterans soared from 888,000 in 2008 to 1.3 million in 2011. Last year’s included more than 230,000 new claims from Vietnam veterans and their survivors because of a change in what conditions can be considered related to Agent Orange exposure. Those complex, 50-year-old cases took more than a third of available staff, she said.

-High number of ailments per claim. When a veteran claims 11 to 14 problems, each one requires "due diligence" – a medical evaluation and proof that it is service-related, Hickey said.

-A new mandate to handle the oldest cases first. Because these tend to be the most complex, they have monopolized staff and pushed up average processing time on new claims, she said.

-Outmoded systems. The VA is streamlining and going to electronic records, but for now, "We have 4.4 million case files sitting around 56 regional offices that we have to work with; that slows us down significantly," Hickey said.

Barry Jesinoski, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, called Hickey’s efforts "commendable," but said: "The VA has a long way to go" to meet veterans’ needs. Even before the surge in Agent Orange cases, VA officials "were already at a place that was unacceptable" on backlogged claims, he said.

He and VA officials agree that the economy is motivating some claims. His group helps veterans file them, and he said that sometimes when veterans come in, "We’ll say, `Is your back worse?’ and they’ll say, `No, I just lost my job.’"

Jesinoski does believe these veterans have more mental problems, especially from multiple deployments.

"You just can’t keep sending people into war five, six or seven times and expect that they’re going to come home just fine," he said.

For taxpayers, the ordeal is just beginning. With any war, the cost of caring for veterans rises for several decades and peaks 30 to 40 years later, when diseases of aging are more common, said Harvard economist Linda Bilmes. She estimates the health care and disability costs of the recent wars at $600 billion to $900 billion.

"This is a huge number and there’s no money set aside," she said. "Unless we take steps now into some kind of fund that will grow over time, it’s very plausible many people will feel we can’t afford these benefits we overpromised."

How would that play to these veterans, who all volunteered and now expect the government to keep its end of the bargain?

"The deal was, if you get wounded, we’re going to supply this level of support," Bilmes said. Right now, "there’s a lot of sympathy and a lot of people want to help. But memories are short and times change."

Online:

VA’s Home Page http://www.va.gov/

VA budget, performance: http://www.va.gov/budget/report/

IOM Coming Home report: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record-id12812

Costs of war: http://bit.ly/y5cLsH

Veterans quick facts: http://www.va.gov/vetdata/Quick-Facts.asp

War casualty reports: http://www.defense.gov/news/casualty.pdf

Brain Injury Center: http://www.dvbic.org/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
We know the claims backlog is the biggest issue many Veterans have with VA, and we acknowledge there is much room for improvement. However, the issue is not as simple as it appears. In the piece below, a reporter from the Associated Press takes a look at the root causes for the problem, and VA’s work to break the backlog. –Alex Horton

This was from the VA FB feed. High rates to me are not surprising when you consider the nature of the GWOT and the multiple tours and vets returning to such a poor economy all must factor in skewing the percentages higher than ever before.

Obama: All Americans Must Help Shoulder the Burden of War

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., May 28, 2012 – Binding the wounds of war is the priority for our nation, President Barack Obama said during the Memorial Day observance here today.

Representing all Americans, the president placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and then spoke at the Memorial Amphitheatre.

"Today we come together as Americans to pray, to reflect and to remember these heroes," he said. "But tomorrow this hallowed place will once again belong to a smaller group of visitors … following a well-worn path to a certain spot and kneeling in front of a familiar headstone. You are the family and friends of the fallen."

Those who have lost a loved one "leave a piece of yourselves beneath these trees," the president said. "You, too, call this sanctuary home."

The president noted that for the first time in nine years Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan is winding down, he said, and U.S. troops deployed there will come home. "After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon," he said.

With the war in Iraq over, the president put the scale of the sacrifice in perspective. He spoke of the four Marines who died in a helicopter crash on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin, Capt. Ryan Anthony Beaupre, Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy and Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Watersbey were the first casualties of the war. He then spoke of the last of the nearly 4,500 casualties: Army Spc. David Hickman who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad a month before the last Americans left Iraq in December.

The president spoke about meeting the Hickman family at Fort Bragg, N.C. "Right now, the Hickman’s are beginning a very difficult journey that so many of your families have traveled before them – a journey that more families will take in the months and years ahead," he said.

Obama spoke directly to the families of the fallen and shared what he told the Hickmans: that there is no more wrenching decision as president than sending service members into harm’s way.

"I can promise you that I will never do so unless it is absolutely necessary," he said. "Then when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

Americans need to help the families facing such tragedy, the president said. "As a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that no one should have to bear alone.

"As we honor your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters who have given their last full measure of devotion to this country, we have to ask ourselves how we can support you and your families, and give you some strength."

The best way to help is to remember the sacrifices and to remember the dead as not just a line in the newspaper, but as individuals, Obama said. The country can honor them by meeting its obligations to those who did come home, he added.

"To all our men and women in uniform who are here today, know this: The patriots who rest beneath these hills were fighting for many things – for their families, for their flag – but above all, they were fighting for you," Obama said. "As long as I am president, we will make sure you and your loved ones will receive the benefits you’ve earned and the respect you deserve. America will be there for you."

Related Articles:
Obama: Remember Veterans Past, Present on Memorial Day

For military buglers, taps is always emotional

Taps article JS online
Video
http://www.jsonline.com/multimedia/video/?bcpid=13960334001&bctid=1653738151001

Rifle shots punctuated the silence, followed by the quick ping of ejected brass cartridges landing on pavement.

Three volleys.

Then Doug Gruehn stepped forward. Holding his golden-colored bugle to his lips he blew the plaintive call- its notes more familiar than its words – honoring America’s dead.

Day is done, gone the sun.

Taps.

Inside the funeral home, the body of a 94-year-old man who earned six Bronze Stars in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II lay in a flag-covered casket, his family and friends nearby.

From the hills, from the lake, from the sky.

Gruehn, a member of the Army funeral honors guard in Wisconsin, plays taps several days every week. He estimates he’s played it close to 2,000 times in the last nine years – for men and women who served their country in combat and peace time, in the jungles of Vietnam, the beaches of Normandy, the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan.

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

It’s a simple song, really. Just four notes – G, C, E and then G above the staff, an octave higher than the first G.

For the buglers who play the call, which turns 150 years old in July, it’s more than just a tune.

"It’s a final honor. No matter how many times you do it, it’s the last chance to pay respects," said Gruehn, 66, who played trumpet in the 84th Division band for 24 years. "You won’t find many soldiers waxing eloquent about their feelings for their job. But the trumpet players I know see it as a sacred honor."
‘Lights out’

In July 1862, taps was first played by a bugler with Union troops stationed at Harrison’s Landing, Va., after a battle during the Peninsular Campaign of the Civil War. It wasn’t originally played at funerals. It was simply one of many calls played to signal to troops to do something, in this case to put out their campfires and go to sleep. It’s the opposite of reveille, which is the wake-up call.

Union Gen. Dan Butterfield is credited with the song, which most accounts say he revised from a French bugle call to signify "lights out." A short time later, taps was first used at the funeral of a soldier killed in action in Virginia because his commander worried that firing the traditional three volleys over his grave so close to the enemy would renew fighting.

By the late 1800s, taps became standard at military funerals.

"It’s the hardest 24 notes to play," said Bill Seaman, 54, of Oak Creek, who is Wisconsin state director of Bugles Across America, an organization of volunteer buglers who play taps at the funerals of veterans. "Any person can play taps, but to do so with that much honor and pride, it’s difficult."

About 250 of the 7,000 members of the group are based in Wisconsin. Seaman played taps at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month as part of a mass performance of the call to commemorate the sesquicentennial of taps.

Every active-duty military member or honorably discharged veteran is entitled to two uniformed honor guard members at his or her funeral under federal law. If the family requests it, a firing squad will be sent, often from a local veterans group. But the number of buglers hasn’t kept pace with the large numbers of funerals of World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. Until a few years ago, a recording of taps was often played on a boom box when a live bugler wasn’t available.

Now electronic bugles are often used – an MP3 player inside a ceremonial bugle that plays a recording of taps. Many veterans groups own one and use it when a live bugler is unavailable.

Understandably, some buglers are dismissive of the faux bugle.

"I tell them would you like a recording of the 21-gun salute?" Seaman said. "Oh, no? Well then, why would you want a recording of taps?"

Added Gruehn: "I can see why they’re doing it. They used to use a boom box, which caused them a lot of trouble and glances. But if the (electronic) bugle quits because the batteries are dead, then there are other circumstances you have to explain."
Buglers log miles

Gary Hans, military funeral honors state coordinator, sends half a dozen buglers to as many funerals as he can throughout the state. Among them are buglers in Oshkosh and Green Bay who play in the 132nd Army Band.

With 50 to 60 funerals each week in the state, some of the trumpet players work full-time as funeral honors buglers, said Hans, a retired sergeant major.

Tyler Terrell, 37, a staff sergeant and trumpet player in the Wisconsin National Guard 132nd Army Band, has played taps at funerals full-time for seven or eight years and handles about 250 annually. Once he learns the name, he searches for an online obituary to find out when and where the veteran served. He’s based in Green Bay and handles many funerals in the Fox Valley, but travels as far west as Eau Claire and north to Superior, averaging 1,000 miles a week on the road.

Terrell has played at funerals of active soldiers, including those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have large turnouts. And he plays at funerals of veterans who have no family or friends. All are accorded the same respect.

"It doesn’t happen very often, but I’ve worked at King (Veterans Home) in Waupaca quite a few times. There have been a few times where there’s nobody or one or two people. Those are really sad," said Terrell, who plays a Bach Stradivarius trumpet.

Buglers play taps at military funerals in all kinds of weather. They play in driving rain. They play in snowstorms. They play in 100-degree heat. They play in frigid temperatures.

Terrell uses a plastic mouthpiece; Gruehn tucks his metal mouthpiece in his white glove to keep it warm until he needs to play his Getzen American Heritage model field trumpet. Sometimes horns freeze up in bad weather. Terrell was embarrassed when his trumpet malfunctioned in subzero weather and he couldn’t play a note. He apologized to the veteran’s family.

Occasionally a family requests taps not be played. But that’s rare, said Gary Dierks, program supervisor at the Union Grove veterans cemetery.

"More often what we have is the family doesn’t want the rifle volleys. I’ve had one or two families in the last 10 years out of thousands of funerals who didn’t want taps," Dierks said. "They said it was too emotional."

If the rifle volleys and taps are performed at a cemetery – sometimes they’re outside a funeral home – the bugler normally stands a moderate distance from the bottom right corner of the flag that’s folded from the veteran’s casket. But that can change depending on the setup of the cemetery, said Gruehn, who likes to stand within view of families so they know a live bugler is playing.

Gruehn, Seaman and Terrell often see mourners brought to tears by their music. They said they try to concentrate on playing as perfectly as they can.

But sometimes it’s hard not to notice the tears.

"There are a couple I wish I could get out of my mind," Gruehn said. "I was presenting the flag after playing taps when a young man started sobbing. I could tell he must have loved his father or grandfather very much.

"Another time was for an active-duty service member who had been killed. I was at Wood (Cemetery in Milwaukee), and it was November. It was pouring rain and I was so cold the muscles in my legs stopped working. The father was very, very overcome by emotion. That was hard to see."

More about taps

For more information about the sesquicentennial of taps: www.taps150.org

McHugh: Language Skills Critical to Mission Success

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2012 – Language skills and cultural understanding are critical tools for accomplishing missions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said during a May 21 visit to the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif.

The facility provides resident instruction in 23 languages and two dialects. Students include active duty and reserve component service members from all branches of the armed forces, members of foreign militaries and civilian law enforcement personnel.

McHugh toured the Persian-Farsi school and viewed demonstrations of the educational technologies used in developing and sustaining language skills.

As the Army downsizes, McHugh said, soldiers with language skills will become even more critical to the force’s mission success.

"The relevancy of this program — this entire mission — I think has never been greater," he added. "As our number and our footprint gets smaller, I think we would expect those who remain behind to be more culturally aware, to be more adept at language."

Biographies:
John McHugh

Related Sites:
Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center

Related Articles:
Secretary of the Army Visits DLIFLC
Foreign Language Capabilities Remain a Priority

Memorial Day Message

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington D.C., Monday, May 28, 2012

Real Warriors Campaign

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Thursday, May 24, 2012 www.realwarriors.net
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May is Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health MonthMay is a special month for our nation’s military: it is Military Appreciation Month, and includes Armed Forces Day on May 19th and Memorial Day on May 28th. The Real Warriors Campaign is grateful to America’s service members and veterans, and appreciates the sacrifices they make every day. To express our appreciation, and in keeping with our mission to encourage service members with invisible wounds to seek help and support, we are offering resources especially for the military for Mental Health Month, which is also observed in May.

Encourage the warriors in your life to reach out for support. Send them one of our service-specific e-cards and let them know you care.

Read the psychological health-related articles on our website, including "Psychological Fitness — Keeping Your Mind Fit," which discusses how to develop a healthier mental state. You can also learn about the signs and symptoms of depression and how to treat it, or find out about the warning signs of suicide, as well as what tools and resources service members can use to seek treatment and support.

For information or help locating resources for psychological health, contact the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020 or log onto Real Warriors Live Chat . If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line for service members, veterans and families at 800-273-TALK and press 1.

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Free Mini Brochures
5 Tools That Reinforce Psychological StrengthThe Real Warriors Campaign offers two mini brochures developed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members and veterans with invisible wounds. Five Tools That Reinforce Psychological Strength highlights free, confidential resources that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seven Tools That Reinforce Psychological Strength offers two additional resources geared toward members of the National Guard and reserve.

In support of Mental Health Month, anyone can use the brochures to encourage service members, veterans, National Guardsmen, reservists and military families to access available resources for psychological health concerns. These brochures and other campaign materials can be viewed, downloaded and ordered free-of-charge through our online shopping cart.

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New Articles
Stay Connected With Deployed Parents
Stay Connected With Deployed ParentsIt can be difficult for families to stay in touch or feel connected when a parent is deployed. With the use of online programs, families can maintain regular, private communication. Deployed parents can use online private chats and networks to interact with their children and assist their children with the adjustments associated with having a deployed parent. These sites can reinforce a parent’s bond while away through creative, collaborative activities such as online scrapbooking, artwork and composing music.
Coping With Separation
Coping With SeparationDeployment or mobilization can be particularly challenging for children of National Guardsmen and reservists because they may not have the same community support system and resources that are available to active-duty families that live near or on a military installation. This article discusses ways that members of the National Guard and reserve and their families can help children cope with separation before and during deployment.
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Now Trending on Facebook: How would you help a friend adjusting after deployment?
Do you have advice on how to help a friend adjusting to post-deployment life? Post your tip now on the Real Warriors Campaign Facebook wall. Throughout May, we’ll be welcoming home service members on Facebook and asking you to share tips to help these warriors reintegrate. Check out this advice from fans on helping friends adjust home after combat:

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Give an Hour
The Give an Hour is a nonprofit organization providing free mental health services to U.S. military personnel and their families affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization consists of a network of volunteer mental health providers who donate an hour of their time each week to provide these free services. Recently, Give an Hour was one of five winners honored at the one-year anniversary of the White House’s Joining Forces Community Challenge to support and honor America’s service members and their families. Visit Give an Hour’s website to learn more about the organization’s latest achievement.
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Real Warriors, Real Advice Podcast Series
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IAVA : Go Silent on Memorial Day in Remembrance

IAVA

Sean,

This Memorial Day, go silent for the fallen.

On Monday, IAVA will head to hallowed ground. We’ll unite from Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery to The Presidio overlooking the Pacific to remember all 6,442 Americans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ll rededicate ourselves to support the families they have left behind. And we’ll pause in silence to honor their last full measure of devotion for our country.

Will you go silent for them? Sign the pledge to join IAVA in a national moment of silence at 12:01pm this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day should be a powerful, unified day of remembrance. In our community, our fallen brothers and sisters stand apart for their bravery and sacrifice. They were our battle buddies, our friends and our family—and we will carry their loss for a lifetime.

Pledge to go silent in their memory this Memorial Day. Text "SILENT" to 69866 for a reminder before the moment of silence, and then spread the word to your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

There is power in silence. No matter where you are this Memorial Day gather your friends and family to pause and reflect in honor of all Americans who have given their lives in defense of our country.

Thank you for standing with us.

Paul

Paul Rieckhoff
Founder and Executive Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

PS – Want to join us on the ground this Memorial Day? Bring your friends and family out for local ceremonies from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to San Francisco. Find one near you.