The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stop Loss Pay Deadline Extended AGAIN

Yesterday Congress once again extended the Stop Loss Special Pay deadline to March 4, 2011.

Stars & Stripes reported that the Pentagon's Defense Finance and Accounting Service has only received claims from 71,000 eligible veterans, compared to nearly 145,000 who are eligible to receive the special benefit.

AMVETS leaders continue to urge all potentially eligible veterans who served after 9/11 to apply for the benefit, which is worth $500 for each month a service member was extended beyond his or her original contract under the controversial Stop Loss program.

This is the fourth time that the deadline has been extended and the Pentagon estimates that the average benefit for eligible troops is about $3,500.

As of the time this story was published, the Pentagon had removed its Special Stop Loss Pay Web site, www.defense.gov/stoploss. In the interim, the Pentagon's Office of Reserve Affairs offers all the pertinent contact information to apply for the benefit by Clicking Here.

American Veteran will continue to follow this story as it develops into the new year.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Big Weekend For American Veterans: G.I. Bill Fixes and DADT

This weekend proved to be historic for American veterans, with the passage of a bill to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, or DADT, and the passage of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010.

This morning, AMVETS issued its reaction to the repeal of DADT, calling for the Pentagon to work responsibly in implementing a new policy that will ensure continued mission success and equitable service for all patriotic Americans.

AMVETS reiterated concerns over the impact of a drastic policy shift on kinetic operations and urged the Pentagon to work pragmatically to properly implement a new, mission-centric policy.

This weekend also marked the passage of critical fixes for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill through the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, offering more equitable benefits for today's student veterans, closing loopholes for National Guard soldiers who served on active duty stateside, and opening up benefits for veterans seeking non-degree accreditation programs.

AMVETS leaders applauded the passage of the bill, which many analysts believed would die with the current Congress. AMVETS has consistently advocated for these improvements as outlined in both the 2010 and 2011 legislative priorities books available on the "Legislative" page at www.amvets.org.

AMVETS has testified in support of the legislation since its infancy and also sent letters to legislators voicing support to the bill, such as last week's letter urging House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) to support the bill.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign both bills into law this week. American Veteran will continue to follow each of these stories. Check back regularly for updates.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AMVETS Supports G.I. Bill Fixes

Yesterday, AMVETS Acting Legislative Director Christina Roof sent a letter to House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) voicing AMVETS' support for legislation to improve the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Here is a copy of Roof's letter:

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, or S. 3447, passed the Senate last week and could be considered by the House prior to the closing of the lame duck session of Congress on Friday.

The bill was conceived by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Legislative Director Patrick Campbell, and received staunch support from the nation's other leading veterans' advocates, including AMVETS.

AMVETS has called for many of the bill's provisions--such as expanding eligibility to National Guard members who served under Title 32 orders, creating a more equitable tuition and fees reimbursement process, and opening educational options to include apprenticeships, certificate and other non-degree programs--in both the 2010 and 2011 Legislative Priorities books, available on the AMVETS National Web site.

The House is scheduled to consider the bill today, and Roof said that she hopes the bill will pass, ensuring equitable G.I. Bill benefits for today's war fighters.

American Veteran will continue to follow this bill closely. Check back regularly for updates, as Congress considers this critical series of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill updates.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bradley Manning, Wikileaks, Berkeley and Hypocrisy

Please read my thoughts on the Bradley Manning situation, but also please feel free to take the poll or leave your comments:

Do you believe Bradley Manning should be hailed or jailed for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks?
  
pollcode.com free polls

Yesterday, I spoke with Fox News on a recent proposal by the Berkeley, Calif., City Council to hail disgraced soldier Bradley Manning as a hero for allegedly leaking more than 250,000 classified documents to the self-proclaimed watchdog Web site Wikileaks.

In response to the proposal I labeled Manning a traitor with blood on his hands for our Afghan allies sought out by the Taliban as a result of the leak.

Though Manning has not been convicted, he bragged in online chats to reformed hacker Adrian Lamo that he had copied the files to expose what he perceived as wrongdoing by the American government. Regardless of what Manning perceived to be his benevolent purposes, copying the files was a crime and distributing them for use against the United States was treason.

Manning's security breach was indiscriminate. He didn't simply target documents he had reviewed or thought contained questionable actions; he copied everything he could get his hands on and blindly turned it over to a subversive anti-American group without consideration for the contents.

Since the leaks, American lives in the combat zone have been compromised, American diplomatic ties have been weakened, and allies have been killed. Immediately following the irresponsible publishing of documents related to Afghanistan--a country in which Manning had never set foot--the Taliban began to scrub records for names of informants to, as Newsweek reported, hunt down and "punish" them.

Whether Manning thought he was serving a greater good, the wet-behind-the-ears private severely violated the terms of his security clearance and utterly disgraced the U.S. Army uniform he had volunteered to wear on one short year before. He has given aide and comfort to enemies of the United States, which, to me, makes Manning a traitor.

Though I certainly do not pity the boy who now sits in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico awaiting his Article 32 hearing, I do feel he may have been manipulated by a greater enemy of the United States, Wikileaks and its ego-maniacal front man Julian Assange.

What's curious to me about Wikileaks and the operations of self-proclaimed activist-journalist Assange is that he and his company rely on similar security protocols and secret operations which they rail against in the U.S. government.

For example, the paranoid Assange would routinely change his appearance and travel under aliases and Wikileaks continues to conceal its operational infrastructure, boasts military-grade encryption and even distributed a failsafe code should Assange or the Web site be compromised. I must ask Assange that if such protocols are critical to his success, wouldn't it follow that similar protocols would be necessary in government operations to ensure security and success in an unstable world?

We all have secrets. How would you feel if every candid, private moment of your life was available for public consumption? (I've seen the indignation on Facebook each time the site's security settings are updated, so I know we'd all be at the very least perturbed.)

But keep in mind, we're not simply talking about publicizing gossip, we're talking about classified exchanges critical to preserving national interests. When I was enlisted in the U.S. Army, I sat through briefings on the nuts and bolts of the classification process. It's serious business.

Classification levels do not exist to propagate some nebulous sweeping government conspiracy. They exist to protect lives; the lives of covert informants, the lives of American service members, and, most importantly, the lives of American citizens.

For American interests, the information stolen and distributed by Manning was not Top Secret in nature. Though some of the information is salacious--such as candid diplomatic cables--the information may not directly compromise national security. Unfortunately, for our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the consequences from some of the leaked information have been dire, as indicated by the Newsweek story.

It's very confusing to me why anyone could hail Manning or Assange as cult heroes, as these pariahs and their supporters launch cyber attacks on entities that disagree with their tactics. (Seems hypocritical that cyberterrorists would seek to silence dissenting ideas in the name of "free speech.")

This whole situation is appalling; and Berkeley, in particular, should be ashamed for openly endorsing such ridiculous and dangerous behavior. It’s tragic that the same rights and liberties afforded to Berkeley’s citizens through the sacrifices of our service members and veterans can be manipulated and exploited for such an absurd purpose.

AMVETS has tangled with the bastion of ultraliberal thought in the past, when Past National Commander J.P. Brown III stood up for the Marine Corps recruiters being harassed by the city. The Berkeley City Council ultimately rejected the proposal to tell the Marines they were unwelcome in the city. Hopefully in this instance city counselors will once again act reasonably and reject Bradley Manning as their hero.

-Ryan

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

AMVETS Reflects on Pearl Harbor


This afternoon, AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling laid a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This year's somber event coincided with the original time of the attacks in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

Sixty-nine years ago today the Japanese Empire launched a brutal attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor.

The attack, which drew the United States into the Pacific Theatre of World War II, claimed the lives of more than 2,400 American servicemen--1,200 of whom remain entombed within the sunken USS Arizona in Hawaii.

Born out of WWII, AMVETS played a critical role in commissioning the memorial that now stands over the wreckage of the USS Arizona. AMVETS also helped to finance maintenance of the USS Arizona Memorial in the 1980s.

AMVETS National Headquarters also plays host to artifacts from the USS Arizona, which are housed in a special room dedicated to the sailors and Marines killed in the attack. The room contains an original inscription plaque from the memorial in Hawaii and a section of anchor from the USS Arizona.

This morning, Hotop shot a quick video in the USS Arizona Room at AMVETS National Headquarters discussing the significance of Pearl Harbor Day:



Hotop said it was important for AMVETS to remember the sacrifices of those who perished at Pearl Harbor and the men and women who went on to ensure American victory in the theaters of WWII.

AMVETS posts and departments around the country also played host to services honoring the sacrifices of American service men and women at Pearl Harbor.

AMVETS leaders continually say that remembering days such as Pearl Harbor Day are critical to preserving the legacy of our nation's bravest--particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice on Dec. 7, 1941.

AMVETS leaders are already planning to be on hand at the memorial for next year's 70th anniversary of the attacks for a special ceremony in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor and those who went on to fight and win the war in the Pacific.

(Photo: AMVETS National Commander Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Kreiling lay a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns this afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Jay Agg.)

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Fall NEC Highlights: Camp Hope, Healing Heroes, Riders & Sons

This weekend AMVETS hosted its fall meeting of the AMVETS National Executive Committee at the Hilton Washington Dulles Hotel in Herndon, Va. Representatives from the six AMVETS national districts and 48 departments came together to tend to the regular business of the organization.

Below is video from AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop's NEC report, calling for support to his national program, Camp Hope, the wounded warrior outdoor retreat in Hotop's home state of Missouri founded by Gold Star father William White in honor of his fallen son, Marine Pfc. Christopher Neal White.



In addition to the requisite reports from each organizational leader, AMVETS heard from leaders across the AMVETS family of organizations.

AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary Past National President Patty Piening presented a $25,000 check to AMVETS Healing Heroes, the national project for her term in office last year.

AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling also introduced her national program for the coming year, Sharing & Caring, which she discusses in the fall issue of American Veteran.

AMVETS Riders National President Victor "Dutch" Stivason asked for the NEC's support in applying uniform standards for the fledgling Riders organization to ensure compliance with the Confederation of Clubs, or CoC, the sanctioning body for motorcycle riding groups.

Sons of AMVETS National Commander Robert Hammett and AMVETS Department of California Commander Charles Ramos signed the charter for the new Sons of AMVETS squadron at California AMVETS Post No. 113.

Finally, AMVETS welcomed other special guests, Choice Hotels, University of Phoenix and the pilot veterans' benefits IT solution, TurboVet.

TurboVet is a web-based data exchange system designed by Stratizon which could enable VA, claims service officers, and veterans to easily process benefits claims, potentially replacing the cumbersome paper-based process. The commonwealth of Virginia and AMVETS Department of Virginia are working closely with Stratizon on the implementation of TurboVet, learning how to best integrate the data-exchange system with the current VA claims process.

University of Phoenix, which currently offers $350,000 in scholarships to veterans and their families through its partnership with AMVETS, also announced an additional ten percent tuition discount for AMVETS members.

Choice Hotels, an AMVETS partner which offers room discount rates for AMVETS members, also discussed potential entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans interested in the hospitality industry.

(Images: Top: Nebraska NEC Representative Albert Christner delivers his report to the floor of the AMVETS Fall NEC. Middle: Past National Commander Jimmy T. Smith accepts the $25,000 donation to AMVETS Healing Heroes from Past National President Piening. Bottom Right: AMVETS Riders President Stivason discusses the proposed uniform standards while Cmdr. Hotop display's Stivason's regulation Riders vest. Bottom Left: Sons of AMVETS National Commander Hammett and AMVETS Department of California Commander Ramos review the new charter for the Sons squadron at Post 113. Photos by Ryan Gallucci.)

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Monday, December 6, 2010

AMVETS National Commander Visits Far East Allies

This fall, AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop and AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary National President Dee Kreiling made their annual visit to American troops stationed in South Korea and met with allied leadership from South Korea and the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Hotop and Kreiling's visit to the Korean Peninsula came at a critical time, as tensions between the communist north and the allied south have come to a head in recent weeks.

Hotop said that from his visit with troops serving along the demilitarized zone, that American troops were on constant vigil, but remained upbeat about their mission.

While in South Korea, Korean Veterans Association (KVA) Chairman Park Se-Hwan, a retired Korean Army general, presented Hotop with a certificate of honorary membership in KVA for his efforts to foster international cooperation with the allied veterans' group.

Next, Hotop and Kreiling visited long-time allies in Taiwan to coincide with the nation's Veterans Day. Hotop delivered remarks prior to touring facilities that play an integral role in Taiwanese veteran support initiatives, alongside Kreiling.

On the return from the Far East, the AMVETS delegation stopped in Hawaii to visit with American troops stationed at Schofield Barracks and to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

AMVETS played an integral role in fund-raising, construction, renovation and maintenance of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

(Photos: Top: Cmdr. Hotop and President Kreiling meet with leaders from the Korean Veterans Commission in Seoul, South Korea. Bottom: Cmdr. Hotop receives his honorary membership to KVA while touring the Far East. Photos courtesy of KVA.)

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Friday, December 3, 2010

American Veteran Introduces Video Blogging

American Veteran finally has its hands on a minicam to start video blogging! Here's our first entry. We'll be bringing you more updates from this weekend's meeting of the AMVETS National Executive Committee at the Hilton Washington Dulles in Herndon, Va.



As always, let us know what you think and check back regularly for updates.

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UPDATE: Stop Loss Pay Deadline Extended AGAIN

Here's the latest countdown to the deadline:

Last night, Congress passed legislation once again extending the deadline for Stop Loss Special Pay benefits until midnight, Dec. 18.

Many eligible veterans still have not claimed their $500-per-month benefit for involuntary extension after 9/11, which could be worth up to $3,500 or more, according to the Pentagon.

AMVETS encourages all potentially-eligible Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to apply for the benefit. To learn more about Stop Loss Special Pay, Click Here.

For more about Stop Loss Special Pay extensions, check out Military Times' coverage by Clicking Here.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

One More Day to Collect Stop Loss Pay

Tomorrow, Dec. 3, is the last day for eligible Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans to claim Special Stop Loss Pay benefits from the Department of Defense. To apply for benefits, Click Here.

The benefit, authorized by Congress, entitles all personnel held under the military's stop loss policy after 9/11 to $500 per month for each month of their mandatory extension of service. Pentagon analysts believe the average benefit is about $3,500.

The original deadline was Oct. 21, but Congress extended it to Dec. 3 after most of the money remained unclaimed. The Pentagon also sent out letters to all personnel they believed would be eligible for the payment and President Barack Obama filmed a message encouraging all potentially eligible veterans to apply.

Veterans contacted AMVETS about the certificate verification prompts on the Pentagon's Special Stop Loss Pay Web sites, voicing concerns that their personal information could be compromised on the internet. The Army, Navy and Air Force have since remedied the system, creating a more user-friendly portal for eligible veterans to apply. However, the Marine Corps Web site still prompts applicants to accept a security certificate exception. Marines who wish to apply online should simply add the exception to their Web browser to access the secure system.

AMVETS leaders encourage all potentially-eligible service members and veterans to apply for the benefit. Pentagon officials have indicated that all applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3.

(Image: Screengrab of the U.S. Army Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Web site, https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil.. Countdown clock created using OnePlusYou. www.oneplusyou.com)

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Fall Issue of American Veteran Now Online

The latest issue of American Veteran magazine is now available online. To read the fall 2010 issue, Click Here.

In the latest issue, we sit down for an exclusive interview with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, where the secretary shares his charge to transform VA into a 21st century institution capable of efficiently meeting the needs of veterans and their dependents which, surprisingly, still date back to the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln first commissioned his Veterans Administration.

We also discuss the 2010 AMVETS Symposium for 21st Century Veterans, which took place at the 66th annual AMVETS National Convention in Louisville last summer, bringing together 50 veterans of the current conflicts to candidly discuss issues critical to their generation. Stay tuned to American Veteran Online for updates on the imminent symposium report, highlighting this summer's findings.

This fall, we also cover the AMVETS Department of Missouri's POW/MIA Recognition Day festivities alongside one of America's most storied Major League Baseball franchises, the St. Louis Cardinals. The day's event was hosted to raise funds for Missouri's POW/MIA museum project.

In a special From the Front, American Veteran also highlights Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who recently became the first living Medal of Honor recipient in the Global War on Terror.

This fall, we also launched two new sections we hope you will enjoy--"Forward Observer," a by-the-numbers look at critical veterans' issues and "National Archive," which delves into the 60-plus years of the National AMVET and American Veteran magazine to bring you critical stories on veterans' issues from the past, tying them into current issues facing our nation's military and veterans' communities.

We also highlight the AMVETS Department of Virginia's role in this summer's Run For The Wall, which stopped off at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., before proceeding to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In "Keeping Posted," you can also read about the great work of AMVETS in Indiana, Illinois, California, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

As always, we're eager to hear your thoughts and see the great work going on at AMVETS posts and departments around the country, so keep your letters, stories and photos coming, so we can consider them for future issues of the magazine.

(Photos: Top: VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki sits down with American Veteran magazine at his office in Washington, D.C. Photo by Luis Jimenez. Middle: AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop, American Ex-POWs St. Louis Chapter President Paul Dillon, and former POW Richmond P. "Red" Dillon stand for the National Anthem at Busch Stadium on National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Photo by Ryan Gallucci. Bottom: A Run for the Wall road guard directs riders at the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia, just one of the historic sites visited on the cross-country ride. Photo by Jay Agg.)

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta Presented Medal of Honor

This afternoon, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will be presented with the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a special ceremony at the White House. To view live video of the ceremony, Click Here.



Giunta was selected to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Oct. 25, 2007, while serving as a specialist with Battle Company, 2nd Battalion from the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan.

Giunta is the first living Medal of Honor recipient from the Global War on Terror.

American Veteran highlights Giunta, his actions and his thoughts on the nation's highest honor for combat valor in the fall issue of American Veteran magazine, which is on its way to mailboxes across the country today.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AMVETS Hosts 24th Spirit of America Youth Conference

Last weekend AMVETS hosted its 24th annual Spirit of America Youth Conference at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. Ninety-one high school students from across the country attended the annual four-day conference, which highlights the workings of American government, the judicial system, and tenets of freedom.

The weekend's events kicked off with a seminar on the foundations of American liberty hosted by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson reenactors and a constitutional law seminar, where students learned hands-on about the rights and freedoms afforded through our nation's governing document.

Students also participated in a Medal of Honor workshop hosted by retired Army Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

On Saturday, participants ventured into nearby Philadelphia to tour colonial landmarks such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Court and the Betsy Ross House. Students also visited the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, where teams participated in a mock trial.

On Sunday morning, Junior ROTC students participating in the conference led their fellow participants in a flag ceremony.

Participants for the conference are often selected through the competitive AMVETS Americanism Essay Contest. First place department winners of the 9th grade essay contest receive an all-expense paid trip to the seminar. AMVETS posts and departments from around the country also have the opportunity to sponsor additional students between 10th and 12th grade who have exhibited exemplary conduct to participate in the conference.

(Photos: Top: Alexander Hamilton explains the founding fathers' vision to Spirit of America Youth Conference participants at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. Middle: Students apply the weekend's lessons in a mock trial at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center. Bottom: JROTC cadets lead their fellow conference participants in a flag ceremony at Freedoms Foundation. Photos by Beryl Love.)

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Monday, November 8, 2010

This Week at American Veteran: Veterans Day

This week at American Veteran, we will be preparing for Veterans Day--one of our nation's most revered holidays to our diverse veterans community. On Thursday, remember to thank a veteran (or as many veterans as you can) for their service to our nation.

Wednesday also marks the 235th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Below is the annual greeting from Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton W. Kent:



AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop will return from his Far East trip this week and join leaders from the nation's other leading veterans' groups at the White House for a special breakfast on the Veterans Day holiday. Later in the day, AMVETS leaders will make their way to Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremony to honor America's war heroes and to lay a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

This week, AMVETS will also continue to develop its legislative agenda for 2011, highlighting issues ranging from the VA claims backlog to polytraumatic brain injuries and the unique issues facing female service members and veterans. The new legislative agenda will be available before the new Congress comes to order in January.

As AMVETS continues to develop its report from this summer's Symposium for 21st Century Veterans, several issues have been wrapped into the broader legislative agenda to better serve veterans past and present.

AMVETS posts and departments around the country will also host Veterans Day events to honor America's heroes. We encourage all posts and departments to submit any photos or stories you may have from this year's Veterans Day so that we may highlight it on this blog and in the pages of American Veteran magazine.

Speaking of American Veteran magazine, be on the look-out for the must-anticipated fall issue in your mailboxes shortly. This fall, we sit down with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to discuss his ongoing mission to transform VA into a 21st century, veteran-centric institution.

Last weekend, AMVETS also hosted its annual weekend retreat at Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where high school students who exemplified themselves through the AMVETS Americanism program came together to learn about American government, the founding fathers, and the principals that make our nation great. Students also had the opportunity to visit historic landmarks around nearby Philadelphia, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We will bring you highlights in the coming days.

As always, we're eager to hear from you, so please feel free to comment on any of our posts and submit photos and stories that we can share on this blog.

To our fellow veterans and service members, happy Veterans Day and thank you for your sacrifices, past and present, in defense of our nation.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pundits Wrong on Slashing Military Benefits

On Monday, CNBC interviewed two defense analysts asking "What if?" the military trimmed its health care budget during these lean economic times. What followed was a misleading dialogue over how the military currently cares for those in uniform and what our military men and women rely upon once they leave the service.

Mackenzie Eaglen of the Heritage Foundation never served in the military and Todd Harrison of CSBA Budget Studies served a brief stint in the Air Force Reserve. Both pundits have made a career of analyzing military decision-making and military budget processes, often generating sound discussion on where the military should invest its resources. Unfortunately, both have recently set their sights on slashing benefits for the brave men and women tasked with fighting our nation's wars. Keep scrolling for AMVETS' reaction. Here is the CNBC video:













Both pundits miss the point that all active duty military retirees are in fact veterans. Today, when our nation's military men and women are at war, they are proposing increases in TRICARE premiums and privatization of military retirement pensions as a cost-saving measure.

For years AMVETS and its partners on the Military Coalition, or TMC, have opposed TRICARE increases and the privatization of pensions. AMVETS believes this would be a slap in the face to America's military retirees. Now more than ever military men and women deserve the best health care available, including those who have made a career of defending our nation.

In the video, Eaglen bases her analysis of retirement benefits off of the pension and entitlements offered to a retired colonel--a rank many military retirees will never attain. In fact, most military retirees in the officer corps top out around O-5, or lieutenant colonel, with enlisted personnel often plateauing around E-7 or E-8. Particularly for enlisted retirees, the robust benefits offered through military retirement are not only deserved, but certainly needed. Even though second careers after military service are certainly possible, viable job-placement is not a given, particularly in a poor economy.

Harrison also asserts that pensions are not a viable retention benefit for the military, which is far from the truth. Throughout the ranks of AMVETS, many military retirees discuss their hard-earned pensions as the primary impetus in choosing to remain on active duty. Plus, it would be wholly inappropriate for the government to change the game for those currently working toward a military pension and for retirees that have already paid their debt in service to the military.

In the upcoming issue of American Veteran magazine, we hear from a military retiree who was concerned about his local base closing and its impact on the retirement benefits he relies on. Decisions to cut military retirement benefits have a real impact on people who selflessly sacrificed the prime of their lives to serve a greater good. As President Abraham Lincoln said, caring for our nation's veterans is a "sacred trust."

In the video, Harrison purports that the Department of Veterans Affairs is solely tasked with caring for wounded warriors. This completely misses the point. Wounded warriors who are medically retired for their injuries, such as lost limbs or severe traumatic brain injuries, are entitled to military health care for life. Should our wounded warriors also have to foot the bill for their life-altering wartime injuries? Plus, today's newer retirees often encounter myriad service-connected issues that would encourage them to take advantage of a TRICARE option.

Both Harrison and Eaglen point to skyrocketing military health care costs over the last decade and propose that service members should bear some of the burden. AMVETS knows that these costs have increased primarily because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and much like the third-party billing proposal for VA service connected injuries, a proposal to impose higher premiums on American war fighters is a morally repugnant cost-cutting proposal.

AMVETS leaders vehemently oppose increases in TRICARE premiums during a time of war and any manipulation of military pensions. Should these proposals go beyond cable news punditry, AMVETS and its partner veteran and military organizations will do everything in their power to halt such misguided proposals.

As both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and New York Times columnist Bob Herbert pointed out, America is divorced from its military--viewing the wars as a distant abstraction. Harrison and Eaglen's off-base analysis of today's military health care system is only the latest example of this widening gap between those who serve in harm's way and those who judge from the sidelines.

This lack of understanding of military culture and particularly military health care demonstrates the kind of disconnect between much of America's civilian population and the scant one percent of Americans brave enough to fight today's wars.

America must not dishonor its military men and women, which is why proposals like Eaglen's and Harrison's should never have even made it to the airwaves.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Army Names Soldier/NCO of the Year; First Female Soldier Honored

Yesterday the Army named Staff Sgt. Christopher McDougal Non-commissioned Officer, or NCO, of the Year and Sgt. Sherri Gallagher Soldier of the Year for 2010.

Gallagher, a motor transportation operator assigned to TRADOC's Marksmanship Unit at Ft. Benning, Ga., is the first female to earn the honor. McDougall, a military policeman stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, is a decorated combat veteran of Iraq.

The Army selects its Soldier and NCO of the Year through the U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition each October, which tests soldiering skills among nominees from 12 Army commands. The competition is in its ninth year.

The winners were announced by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual awards banquet on Oct. 25.

To learn more about the competition, Click Here.

To learn more about this year's winners, Click Here.

(Photo: Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Soldier of the Year Sgt. Sherri Gallagher, NCO of the Year Staff Sgt. Christopher McDougall, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston at this year's AUSA awards banquet. U.S. Army photo by Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown.)

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Monday, October 18, 2010

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran, we're putting the finishing touches on the fall issue of American Veteran magazine. Thank you to each of the posts and departments that submitted content for consideration in Keeping Posted. Keep it coming. If we run out of space in the magazine, we're eager to share photos and stories on this blog.

The AMVETS National Legislative Department is also in the final stages of preparing the report from this summer's AMVETS Symposium for 21st Century Veterans. With recent legislation and policy changes within the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Legislative Directory Ray Kelley has had to adjust fire on the report and recommendations. This is good news, considering that some of the recommendations made at this summer's symposium have already resonated with leaders in Washington, such as calls for equity in care for female veterans and increased access to mental health counseling for veterans' family members. American Veteran Online will keep you posted on the publication date for the final symposium report.

AMVETS legislative team is also currently compiling the 2011 AMVETS Legislative Agenda, which will be available on the AMVETS National Web site by Veterans Day. AMVETS' top legislative priorities are based on critical issues within the veterans' community and the national resolutions as voted on by AMVETS members at each year's national convention. Last year's legislative agenda proved to be exceedingly popular among AMVETS leaders across the country and national policy leaders in Washington, which is why AMVETS is expanding on the concept for 2011. Check back on Veterans Day to learn about this year's top priorities and AMVETS' proposed solutions.

Next, AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop is scheduled to leave for his Far East tour on Thursday. Hotop will visit with American troops stationed on the Korean peninsula, visit with leaders from the allied Republic of China (Taiwan) and their Veterans Affairs Commission, with a final stop scheduled at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, which AMVETS helped to finance and refurbish. We will bring you highlights of this annual tour.

As always, we're eager to hear from you, our readers. The recent posting on the malicious COLA hoax proved to be our most popular blog posting to date. Thank you for your comments. As a result, we will post the accurate COLA charts for 2011 this week. We will continue to bring you timely information on veterans' issues, so please keep the comments coming.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

COLA Hoax: Benefits Will Not Double in 2011

Over the last few weeks, a chain e-mail started to circulate in military and veterans' circles, purporting that this year's increases in compensation for service-connected disabled veterans would nearly double. However, the e-mail is a hoax.

The e-mail included a mock version of a Congressional bill, H.R. 4667, which was rife with errors. The text included a chart outlining how the rates would supposedly increase "to bring monies in line to the America[sic] middle class." Here is a copy of the phony bill:

The four-page text contains multiple inconsistencies ranging from the type font to erroneous capitalization and syntax errors such as "disable veterans" and "be low." The bill also claims to be from the first session of the 111th Congress, which ended on Dec. 4, 2009.

Recently, Congress did pass a version of H.R. 4667 that will increase COLA rates for 2011 keeping with the standard percentage increases in Social Security taking effect on Dec. 1, 2010. To view a copy of the bill, which is now Public Law 111-247, Click Here.

The hoax bill was forwarded to AMVETS National Headquarters by an AMVETS National Service Officer in Georgia who was suspicious of the e-mail's content, after receiving it from a client. Other service officers soon started to receive similar inquiries into the validity of the e-mail.

AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley quickly discovered that the e-mail was fake and AMVETS National Service Department informed service officers in the field, providing each of them with the accurate bill to properly inform the veterans they serve.

Stars & Stripes Rumor Doctor also caught wind of the e-mail and published findings on the hoax.

AMVETS leaders supported the real version of H.R. 4667, which ensures veterans' service-connected compensation will increase for 2011, accounting for perpetual increases in the cost of living.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Snyder v. Hateful Church Arguments Today in Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments on behalf of Gold Star Father Albert Snyder and the hateful Kansas church that pickets military funerals, in an effort to rule whether military families have a right to peaceful funeral proceedings for their fallen loved ones.

The church, which we refuse to identify on this blog, has made headlines across the country for picketing the funerals of fallen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, brandishing signs with inflammatory, hateful rhetoric against American service members.

Snyder, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, was killed in Iraq in 2006, originally sued the church's pastor for $17 million after the group disrupted the Snyder funeral in Maryland.

Courts originally ruled in favor of Snyder, but the decision was overturned upon appeal and Snyder was ordered to pay court costs for the church. Fortunately for Snyder, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on the case for this session.

According to Stars & Stripes, Snyder's lawyers will argue that free speech rights do not extend to harassing private citizens.

Meanwhile, the church argues that they have the constitutionally-protected right to convey their message that God is punishing American service members for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

Media watchdogs have sided with the church out of fear that a decision in favor of Snyder could create a slippery slope limiting the kinds of speech protected by the constitution.

However, AMVETS leaders continue to argue that intrusions such as the funeral protests also violate grieving families' first amendment rights to freely practice their religion and honor their fallen loved ones in a peaceful, dignified manner.

"What this radical church has done is abhorrent and cannot simply be viewed in the context of preserving First Amendment rights," said AMVETS Past National Commander Duane J. Miskulin when news of the appeal broke. "Our grieving Gold Star families deserve only the utmost respect when mourning the loss of their loved ones. AMVETS hopes that the Supreme Court will agree that picketing military funerals violates the personal rights of a grieving family."

Legislators with military experience, like Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and John Boccieri (D-Ohio) even stepped in, expressing to the Supreme Court that the right to free speech must end where the privacy of a mourning family begins.

In the past, Supreme Court rulings have established reasonable parameters on speech, offering equal protections for the rights of private citizens. AMVETS leaders urge the court to rule in a similar fashion on this issue, ensuring that grieving military families are protected during their most vulnerable hours.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

UPDATE: Stop Loss Pay Deadline Extended


Yesterday, Congress passed a deadline extension to special stop loss payments for service members held beyond their military obligation between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30 2009. Now all claims for special stop loss pay must be received by the individual service no later than Dec. 3, 2010.

The benefits offers $500 a month for every month of involuntary extension and the Pentagon believes the average benefit to eligible service members is close to $3,500.

The original deadline of Oct. 21 was approaching quickly and the Pentagon reported that only a small percentage of eligible veterans had applied for the benefit.

With such abysmal claim numbers, the White House stepped into action, publishing a video from President Barack Obama clarifying the benefit and encouraging eligible veterans to apply as soon as possible.

AMVETS had also put out a call-to-action on American Veteran online and through post and department leadership across the country.

With the deadline extension, the process to claim stop loss special pay has not changed. Veterans who believe they are eligible should visit the Pentagon's official stop loss special pay Web site by Clicking Here.

On the Web site, veterans can find detailed instructions and service-specific contact information to apply for the benefit. Eligible veterans must submit a signed DD Form 2944 and proof-of-service, such as a DD-214 or DD-215 to receive payment.

If you believe you are eligible for this benefit, apply today. If you know a veteran who may be eligible, spread the word.

American Veteran will continue to follow the Pentagon's processing of special stop loss pay. Check back regularly for updates.

(Countdown clock created using OnePlusYou. www.oneplusyou.com)

Below is the White House video, encouraging eligible veterans to apply for special stop loss pay:



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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Live from Capitol Hill: AMVETS to Testify on VA Contractor Compliance

This afternoon AMVETS National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof will testify before the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to discuss federal contractor compliance and, particularly, the state of VA oversight on contracts for veteran-owned small businesses.

To view live video of this afternoon's hearing, Click Here.

To view a list of this morning's witnesses and to read their prepared statements, Click Here.

Prior to joining AMVETS, Roof served as a small business consultant, bringing a wealth of knowledge on small business administration and contract compliance to her post at AMVETS.

Over the last two years, Roof has established herself as a subject matter expert on veteran-owned small businesses, or VOSBs, and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, or SDVOSBs, and VA's contracting processes.

During her testimony, Roof plans to discuss persistent shortcomings in the validation process for VOSBs and SDVOSBs and shortcomings in auditing, which have created a system rife for fraud within VA contracting.

Roof will also call on VA and Congress to establish more stringent rules and penalties for small businesses claiming veteran-owned status to ensure that truly veteran-owned small businesses receive the preferences in contracting they deserve.

Roof will also call on Congress to establish a centralized federal database for VOSBs and SDVOSBs to allow different departments to share information on small businesses eligible to execute federal contracts set aside for veterans.

Given the recent economic crisis and abysmal veteran unemployment statistics, Roof says that small businesses owners' efforts to exploit the system through dubious means like "rent-a-vet" are tantamount to stealing jobs from eligible veterans, and she hopes that Congress and VA will take the necessary steps to ensure contractor compliance and contract delivery moving forward.

American Veteran will continue to follow this story closely as it develops. Check back regularly for updates.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Live from Capitol Hill: AMVETS Discusses Tinnitus with House Caucus

Yesterday afternoon, AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley will take part in the House Invisibile Wounds Caucus roundtable discussion on tinnitus, a common invisible wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan most commonly associated with ringing in the ears.

Many veterans who have served in the conflict suffer from the condition which results from continued exposure to loud noises and stress such as explosions and gun shots. Today, tinnitus is the most common service-connected condition for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the roundtable, hosted by Reps. Harry Teague (D-N.M.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), experts pointed out the common misconception that tinnitus is an inner ear condition, but it is in fact a neurological condition that can be exacerbated by conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kelley, who personally has dealt with the condition, described his experiences with tinnitus and expressed frustration that though it is his lowest-rated service-connected condition, it is the only one for which he has no viable treatment option.

"There's no cure," Kelley said. "Tinnitus is my lowest rating, yet it is something that I have no relief from and no strategies to deal with."

Today, VA spends more on service-connected compensation for tinnitus than it invests in research on treating the condition. Kelley and the other veterans advocates who participated in the roundtable called on Congress and VA to increase the funding for cutting-edge research on the condition in an effort to develop a viable treatment option.

The caucus plans to continue to the discussion on tinnitus and American Veteran will continue to follow the issue as it develops. Check back regularly for updates.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran we will recap last week's VSO/MSO summit at VA central office in Washington, D.C., where leaders from the nation's top veterans' service and member service organizations gathered to discuss VA's current initiatives to better serve the veterans' community.

We will also follow AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley and National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof to Capitol Hill, where they will sit in on the House Invisible Wounds Caucus roundtable to discuss tinnitus in today's returning service members. Tinnitus is commonly exhibited by ringing in the ears experienced by service members exposed to excessive noise, gun shots and explosions in the combat zone.

American Veteran will also follow this week's hearing in the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will deliver testimony on VA's plan to implement the latest Agent Orange presumptive service-connected conditions, which AMVETS has expressed its support for in the past. Should Congress approve VA's proposed guidelines, more than 150,000 Vietnam veterans could be eligible to receive VA care and compensation for the new presumptive conditions.

This week, AMVETS leaders will also check back in with the Department of Education which is expected to start making decisions on grant awards for student-veteran "centers of excellence" by next Tuesday, Sept. 28. AMVETS has championed the effort to commission such federal grants over the last three years and the department has solicited grant applications throughout the summer.

This week we will also bring you highlights of recent 9/11 and National POW/MIA Recognition Day observances from AMVETS posts and departments around the country. If you have a story you would like us to highlight here on the blog or in the pages of American Veteran magazine, please send them along. And, as always, please feel free to comment on our stories.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

AMVETS Reacts to VA and Prudential SGLI Story

Yesterday, Bloomberg News published a scathing indictment of VA's contract with the insurance company Prudential to deliver Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, or SGLI, benefits to surviving spouses who lost their loved ones in combat.

Bloomberg asserted that VA skirted its responsibilities to deliver a lump sum of cash to grieving spouses by automatically enrolling spouses in Prudential Alliance Accounts. However, VA documents show that VA was transparent on these accounts with SGLI recipients from day one.

AMVETS obtained a copy of the form letter VA uses to explain SGLI payments, which we have included below.

Spouses or loved ones who receive SGLI payments are immediately informed that they have full access to the lump sum payment, but that VA has established a secure account, offering an easier option for grieving loved ones, as outlined in section (A) of the letter. For many types of life insurance policies, this is today's industry standard.

A New York Times story from 2008 discussed the struggles some military widows can face when coping with the loss of a loved and the sudden, unexpected influx of their loved one's life insurance payment. The Times story discussed how many surviving spouses--particularly young widows--attempt to fill the void in their lives with material possessions, quickly winding up in debt.

AMVETS believes VA's contract with Prudential establishing the Alliance Accounts was a good faith, transparent effort to help surviving spouses during the grieving process. As part of VA's contract with Prudential, spouses also have access to free financial counseling, which only 10 spouses had taken advantage of when the Times published its story.

Information for those enrolled in SGLI is readily available on the VA Web site in a 2009 VA handbook explaining the lump sum payment option and Alliance Accounts.

AMVETS leaders have also spoken with military surviving spouses using the current SGLI system who have not encountered major problems in receiving their entitlement.

The Bloomberg story also cited the potential interest Prudential gained by keeping SGLI funds in its general account, while only passing along a .5 percent interest rate to its Alliance Account holders, which include SGLI recipients. Once again, AMVETS leaders disagree with Bloomberg's skewed figures, considering that many personal checking accounts do not offer any significant interest, compared to the Alliance Account option.

This afternoon, CNN reported that VA will continue its partnership with Prudential, but also step up efforts to inform members of the military and their spouses of how the program is implemented.

American Veteran will continue to monitor this issue, as the Pentagon and Congress have called for investigations into the Prudential contract. However, at first glance, AMVETS leaders believe that VA has done nothing disingenuous in this situation, but actually sought to look out for the best interest of surviving spouses coping with a tremendous loss.

(Image: First page of a draft letter for SGLI beneficiaries explaining the lump sum payment procedure and Alliance accounts.)

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Monday, September 13, 2010

This Week at American Veteran

This week at American Veteran, we will recap the weekend's acknowledgments of 9/11 by AMVETS posts and departments around the country, including National Commander Jerry Hotop's remarks on 9/11 in Illinois.

We will also follow AMVETS National Legislative Department to Capitol Hill as the House Committees on Veterans Affairs reconvenes to hear testimony on personality disorder discharges, Post-9/11 G.I. Bill implementation, VA claims processor training, and pending veterans' legislation.

AMVETS leaders will also participate in this week's summit of veterans organizations and military organizations hosted by VA.

AMVETS National Legislative Department also continues to compile the 2010 symposium report from the recent AMVETS Symposium for 21st Century Veterans hosted at the national convention in Louisville, Ky.

This Friday, American Veteran will also follow Cmdr. Hotop back to his home state of Missouri where he will participate in the St. Louis Cardinals salute to America's POW/MIA in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Friday, Sept. 17.

AMVETS leaders in Washington will also be on hand Friday at the Pentagon for the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' ceremony honoring America's POW/MIA.

As always, please let us know what you think by commenting on this blog, and if you have photos or stories that you would like us to share, please send us an e-mail.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Cmdr. Hotop Remembers 9/11

Tomorrow morning AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop will join the AMVETS Department of Illinois for their 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, where Hotop will deliver his remarks on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that thrust the United States into the Global War on Terror. Here is Hotop's prepared statement on 9/11:

"Nine years ago today, many of us in this great nation awoke to the horror of American Airlines flight 11 crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Later, many of our worst fears were realized when three more planes were hijacked to be used as weapons against our peaceful nation. The attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the failed attempt in rural Pennsylvania began a new era in American history. This era is marked by a new kind of patriotism our nation has never known. Instead of the fear and hopelessness the terrorists of 9/11 hoped to plant, courage and valor have grown.

"Instead of hatred and instability, America has grown more compassionate and stronger. We have rebuilt and regained our strength. But through this renewal and growth, we must not let the images of the crashed planes, falling buildings and burning countryside fade from our memories.

"So, today we remember the morning of September 11, 2001, and the atrocities that were carried out on our soil.

"We must constantly remind ourselves of the bravery and heroism that was demonstrated by the flight attendants, pilots, and passengers aboard those hijacked aircraft. We remember great courage of the firefighters and police who came from across the nation to assist those in their time of need.

"Today, we should say a special prayer for those families who have lost a loved one and have spent the last five years learning to live day to day with this tragedy. We remember their pain, and today we will grieve with them. We will not let the memory of so many Americans be forgotten.

"And despite all of the dreadful memories we remember on this day, we should also stand proudly as Americans. We are proud to have remained firm in our beliefs and in our patriotism even in the face of terrorism.

"It is important for us to remember that today we are a nation at war. We must make a concerted effort to remember and honor those who carry out our noble mission: the brave service men and women who are fighting for our freedom across the globe, like Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, who we learned yesterday will be the first living service member in the Global War on Terror to be honored with the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

"Much in the way Giunta and his fellow paratroopers thwarted a kidnapping attempt and suppressed a Taliban onslaught in the mountains of Afghanistan, we must all remain vigilant in our fight against those who would take away the freedoms for which so many veterans have fought. We must not back down, give up or run away. We must remain firm in our support of American troops at home and abroad and never forget their daily sacrifices. After all, it is these brave individuals who have preserved the freedoms that Osama Bin Laden and his thugs sought to destroy.

"We should say a special 'thank you' to these members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and reserves who continue to defend our nation.

"America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

"Please join me as we observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives and those whose lives were forever changed on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001."

(Image: A New York City firefighter calls for additional rescue workers in the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center on Sept. 15, 2001. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Preston Keres, released.)

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BREAKING: Living Afghanistan Vet to Receive Medal of Honor

This morning, the White House announced that Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan in 2007. Giunta will be the first living recipient of the nation's highest combat award for valor from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama spoke with Giunta yesterday, informing the soldier that he will receive the medal.

Giunta was selected to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on Oct. 25, 2007, while serving as a specialist with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion from the 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan.

According to the White House, when Giunta's squad was ambushed, insurgents split his team into two groups. In the firefight, Giunta successfully pulled a comrade back to cover, while continuing to engage the enemy.

While attempting to reconnect with his squad, Giunta noticed insurgents carrying away a wounded soldier. Giunta killed one of the potential captors and wounded the other, freeing the soldier, to whom he then rendered aid. Giunta then reconnected with his squad, which continued to provide security, defeating the ambush.

Over the last two years, AMVETS has questioned Pentagon leaders on why no living recipients had been selected for the Medal of Honor through nearly a decade of combat in support of the Global War on Terror.

AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop said he was proud to see that the President will honor Giunta, adding to the ranks of living American heroes, keeping with traditions of the Medal of Honor dating back to the Civil War.

Giunta and Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller are the latest soldiers to earn the Medal of Honor for their actions in Afghanistan. Miller, who will receive the medal posthumously, will be honored at the White House in a special ceremony on Oct. 6, where family members will accept the medal from the President.

This morning, Stars & Stripes published a letter from Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, expressing pride in their son for his actions, which helped to protect his team and a team of Afghan Army soldiers. To read more about Miller's award, Click Here.

(Image: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving in Afghanistan as a specialist in 2007.)

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