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

Friday, December 28, 2012

Recollections of Gen. Schwarzkopf

By Retired Air Force Col. Greg Eanes
Penhook, Va.
Past Public Relations Officer, AMVETS Department of Virginia
AMVETS Collinsville Post #35, Virginia

The death of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf has surfaced an emotional well to a time over 20 years ago when I was a young Air Force Capt. serving as the Escape and Evasion (E&E) Intelligence Officer on the Special Operations Command-Central (SOCCENT) staff during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, now commonly referred to now as Gulf War I.

I saw Gen. Schwarzkopf twice during the war and once afterwards. He came for a command visit shortly after SOCCENT established its headquarters at King Fahd International Airport, outside of Daharan, Saudi Arabia in August 1990. I had never worked for him before and had no prior knowledge of this man. He came through and shook hands with a few of the command staff. He was very quiet and made no speeches or pep talks. He reminded some of us, in his appearance, of NBC’s Today Show weatherman Willard Scott. The visit was uneventful and admittedly I was not overly impressed at that time. That would soon change.

Around November, I was on a coordination visit to his headquarters in Riyadh. I stopped to visit Air Force Capt. Fritz Baier, an old friend, who was working with Iraqi Air Defense threats and periodically briefing ‘the Bear,’ as Gen. Schwarzkopf came to be known. While walking with Fritz to the main operations-intelligence center, we saw ‘the Bear’ with his security detail leaving and walking at a fast clip toward, what I inferred, another meeting to coordinate the details of the forthcoming liberation of Kuwait. There was a singleness of purpose and commitment in his face this time. He was all business and one could tell that he was 'in command,' detailing directions to one of his staff officers as they walked. I knew at that time I had a unique, momentary snapshot of a historical figure, during a historical event and I relished the moment. Seldom do we have such opportunities.

SOCCENT staff was scheduled to brief ‘the Bear’ just after Christmas. I was to brief him on our E&E activities, including our re-introduction of the ‘Blood Chit’, a World War II-era E&E tool that was phased out after Vietnam. We did a dry run in anticipation of his visit, but his trip was cancelled at the last minute. Just before combat operations started, he signed the ‘Blood Chit’ authorization.

Gen. Schwarzkopf was part of a triumvirate of our wartime leaders – the others being President George H.W. Bush and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. We had great faith and a soldier's love for all three men. During the first phase of Air and Special Forces operations, we eagerly tuned in to his daily press briefings. It was through these televised briefings that we came to better know this man. His uncanny briefing skills and an adept handling of the press endeared him to his troops and the nation. We came to love him as our ‘Eisenhower.’ Our conflict was a war of liberation of a people who were suffering under the occupation of a modern fascist regime. Our staff included our World War II allies: British and Australian forces. For many of us, it was a ‘great crusade’ akin to the liberation of Western Europe in World War II. The Kuwaiti Government in Exile and Kuwait Resistance (with whom we worked) even designated the day of victory as ‘V-G Day’ or Victory in the Gulf Day. When we finally entered Kuwait City, crowds greeted us as we witnessed scenes reminiscent of the newsreel images of the 1944 liberation of Paris. It was exhilarating. The campaign was a textbook operation.

Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American" was Gen. Schwarzkopf's favorite song.  It was played by him and other subordinate commanders when they announced the start of the liberation of Kuwait to their staff members.  It was a time when we were all 'proud to be an American' and Gen. Schwarzkopf was partially responsible.

I last saw Gen. Schwarzkopf at a bookstore in Washington, D.C., after his memoir was published in 1992. Fritz and I went to get a copy. We stood in line to get it autographed. We were both in uniform. The bookstore folks stated that Gen. Schwarzkopf would not pose for photos due to time limitations. We passed our camera to a bystander to take our photo as we were at the table. ‘The Bear’ seemed very happy to see ‘his troops’ and took the time to ask us questions about what we did in the war. When he saw the camera, he stopped everything to stand and pose with us for a photo. He was very gracious and appreciative of our service. That too was a moment to remember. I am honored to have served in his command.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Georgia AMVETS Provide Thanksgiving Dinner Baskets to Needy Families

VALDOSTA, Ga. — Georgia AMVETS Post 607 of Valdosta, Ga., was able to provide Thanksgiving dinner baskets to 67 families in need on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, through its Thanksgiving basket giveaway campaign.

While AMVETS served 100 applicants for holiday meal assistance in 2011, the numbers this year still represent a success to organizer Post 607 Second Vice Commander Rena Crawford, who believes in one of the main pillars of AMVETS: service to one's community.

“With the economic times the way they are, we are realizing a lot of people don’t have enough food to feed their families," said Crawford. "As veterans we wanted to do something to give back to the community."

AMVETS Post 607 managed to raise about $1,500  to purchase the meals for the charity. The organization ran a boot donation drive in the Inner Perimeter Road Wal-Mart parking lot, earning more than $900 during Veterans Day weekend. The Moody Air Force Base Commissary donated $100 for the charity, and a raffle for two liquor baskets raised another $120. The remaining donations came from individual members and organizational funds.

The dinners included a basket of turkey, collard greens, dressing, cranberry sauce and canned yams. Volunteers delivered 25 of the 67 boxes, and the remaining 42 were picked up on-site between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. by approved applicants. Needy families were asked to fill out applications for the donated meals to gauge if they qualified for assistance through AMVETS.

Those who qualified were notified of their approval, and asked to provide identification when they picked up the dinners, unless they were delivered by an AMVETS member. More than 40 volunteers, including a large number of veterans and active-duty service members, helped to give away and deliver the Thanksgiving meals.

With the basket giveaway complete, AMVETS now turns its attention to its annual Children’s Christmas Party on Dec. 22, when the organization will give away 100 bicycles, as well as offer food to visitors and escort Santa Claus on a fire truck.

 “It’s the holiday season, which is supposed to be the time when you put away the negative and focus on those who need something, and to realize what you’re thankful for,” said Crawford.

Photos: Top: AMVETS members and volunteers prepare Thanksgiving baskets. Bottom: AMVETS Department of Georgia Second Vice Commander Bryon Dublin, AMVETS member Nerma Dave, AMVETS Post 607 Second Vice Commander Rena Crawford and AMVETS Post 607 Commander Dennis Williams help check in families at the Thanksgiving basket giveaway on Nov. 20, 2012. Photos courtesy of Frederick L. Bates.

About AMVETS:   
A leader since 1944 in pre­serv­ing the free­doms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS pro­vides sup­port for vet­er­ans and the active mil­i­tary in procur­ing their earned enti­tle­ments, as well as com­mu­nity ser­vice and leg­isla­tive reform that enhances the qual­ity of life for this nation’s cit­i­zens and vet­er­ans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered vet­er­ans’ ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions in the United States, and includes mem­bers from each branch of the mil­i­tary, includ­ing the National Guard and Reserve. To learn more, visit

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WhatsMyM3: A New Mental Health App

Nearing the end of 2012, all branches of the military are reporting record numbers of annual suicides among service members. Currently, 2012 has been the worst year for military suicides since the Department of Defense began tracking statistics in 2001. As of Nov. 11, 2012, the Pentagon has recorded 323 confirmed and reported suicide cases, surpassing the all-time high record of 310 in 2009. Out of the 323 cases, the Army accounted for 168, while the remainder consisted of 53 sailors, 56 airmen, and 46 Marines. These alarming statistics have prompted the DoD and other veteran's agencies, including VA, to launch programs and awareness campaigns targeting active duty service members and veterans.

“The issue of veteran’s health and mental health, particularly those returning from active duty is of critical importance,” said WhatsMyM3 Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gerald Hurowitz. “The epidemic of suicides and the surveyed prevalence of PTSD, depression and related mental health and addictive disorders underscores the fact that mental health conditions are the signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

To address the need for mental health screening among the military community, the WhatsMyM3 application screens and tracks a service member’s health number, which is similar to numbers used to track cholesterol, heart disease or body mass index. With 29 questions and only taking approximately three minutes, the WhatsMyM3 screening is simple to complete and helps the user identify possible risks of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD.  

One of the unique features of this application is that the screen responses entered by an individual can be accessed by a designated health care professional if the user gives permission. This helps facilitate discussions between the patient and physician. Also, the patent has the ability to record progress on a bi-weekly basis, permitting their health care provider to gain insight into their mood, triggers, and possible side effects of medicine. The designated doctor may access a patient’s results and progress reports through a hard copy, fax or a secure online site. 

WhatsMyM3 is available for veterans and service members to download on iTunes for iPhone or iPad users, or Google Play for Android users. The pre-screening test can also be taken online at:

Photo: Screenshots of the WhatsMyM3 application.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Department of Labor: Salute to Veterans Event

On Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, Secretary of the Department of Labor Hilda L. Solis hosted a Salute to Veterans Event at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Salute to Veterans event focused on the initiatives to decrease the number of unemployed veterans and present opportunities to the men and women who served our country. 

“We currently employ more than 3,000 veterans, including more than 400 in managerial positions,” Solis said in her opening remarks. “Last month, the unemployment rate for our veterans fell to 6.3 percent, well below the national average.” While the national average for veteran unemployment has decreased, the number of 18 to 24-year old veterans who are without employment remains higher than their civilian counterparts. Solis went on to praise the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to encourage civilian employers to hire veterans.

“We’ve hosted more than 330 hiring fairs in 49 states. These fairs already have helped more than 10,000 veterans and their spouses find jobs,” said Solis in regards to the Department of Labor and Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. “Through our Jobs for Veterans state grant program, we’ve funded 2,000 veterans employment specialists in communities across the country.”

Following Solis’ remarks, a panel discussion on the experiences of veterans and why employers should hire veterans was led by Deputy Assistant of Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service Ismael Ortiz Jr. The panel included: retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, Army veteran and Director of “Got Your 6” Chris Marvin, Navy reservist and head of Goodwill Industries’ Veterans and Military Family Services James Lander, Air Force veteran and Department of Labor employee Miguel Cumbo, and Air Force veteran and federal contractor Chauntay Green.

The panel discussed topics ranging from the challenges young veterans face when transitioning into the civilian workforce to the qualities veterans should emphasize when interviewing for a job. The panel allowed audience members to see the different perspectives from both employers and veterans and how the issue of unemployment affects both parties.

For more information on the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, visit:

Photos: Top: Secretary Solis discusses veteran unemployment at the Department of Labor's Salute to Veterans event on Nov. 15, 2012. Bottom: Army veteran and Director of “Got Your 6” Chris Marvin and Navy reservist and head of Goodwill Industries’ Veterans and Military Family Services Program James Lander talk about the benefits of hiring veterans. Photos by Brittany Barry. 

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Friday, November 9, 2012

New Patriotic Video Celebrates Veterans

This Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, we celebrate Veterans Day and recognize many of the men and women who often are ignored and forgotten. Through parades, celebrations, free dinners at local restaurants and wreath presentations at veteran monuments, veterans are honored and their sacrifices and dedication to our country are highlighted.

Dominique and Donelle Hargrove of Richmond, Va., are joining with thousands of people this weekend to thank veterans from all eras and ensure their contributions to our country are not forgotten. One of the hottest, up and coming Christian gospel acts, the Hargrove brothers have created a new music video to honor everyone who has worn the uniform, including first responders, police officers, and firefighters. Known as Da Twins, the two Virginia residents hope to spread their message of appreciating all who serve our country and encourage people of all ages to thank local service members.

Both men recognize that often the sacrifices of military men and women and their families go unnoticed after they return home from war and attempt to reintegrate into civilian society. By creating a song and video specifically tailored to honor service members, Da Twins hope to support veterans, veteran groups like AMVETS, and their families.

This Veterans Day, AMVETS will be present at various ceremonies in the Washington, D.C., area. Today and every day, we thank you for your service as a member of our Armed Forces and will continue to fight for your benefits and rights as a military veteran.

To view their video, titled “1 Nation,” click here.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

SMU Undergrad Vet Connects with Upper Classman Daughter

DALLAS (SMU) – When SMU senior Amie Kromis leaves her Political Communication seminar in Dallas Hall, her father is waiting outside the door for her. U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Kromis isn’t just there to spend some time with his daughter – he is on his way to class himself.

Thomas transferred to SMU this fall as a junior combining credits from undergraduate courses he took while in the Marine Corps. A career Marine, Thomas served 21 years in numerous countries, including Japan, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Norway.

“We didn’t have the traditional father-daughter relationship when Amie was growing up,” Thomas says. He and Amie’s mother divorced early in Amie’s life so Amie lived with her mother in Nashville, Tenn., while Thomas’ military duties took him all over the world.

“Whenever we wanted to see each other it took a lot of work and it took a lot of money,” he says.

Despite the physical distance, Thomas was a part of Amie’s life. “He always sent letters from countries he visited and thought of clever souvenirs,” Amie says. “He sent bottles of sand from all the countries in the Middle East.”

Amie began attending SMU in 2009, the same year Thomas retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Dallas.

“I still wasn’t able to spend much time with her, because she is just so involved,” Thomas says. But when he received the admission letter from SMU in 2012, he knew that would change. Thomas is one of 170 veterans attending SMU. He receives G.I. Bill benefits along with the SMU Opportunity Award and the Tuition Equalization Grant.

Amie is a resident assistant at Boaz Hall, an SMU ambassador, a moderator for the Tate Lecture Series and recently received the All University John L. Freehafer Award for demonstrating an interest in student life, activities and government.

Thomas also maintains a packed schedule. The applied physiology and sport management major works full-time as head of personal training at Life Time Fitness in nearby Flower Mound and attends class on his two days off.

“I call him Mr. Superman,” Amie says. “Whenever I feel like I need to complain about schoolwork, I think of my dad and feel humbled. Everything that he has gone through, and he is still pursuing this degree.”

This fall, Amie took on another campus role – passing along to her father SMU insight about professors and courses.

“It was so exciting to share my academic experience with him,” Amie says. “I suggested he enroll in a class with one of my favorite professors, Rita Kirk.”

Thomas and Amie walk together on Tuesdays and Thursdays across the main quad until they part ways toward their respective classes.

“Just the ability to go have dinner together on a weekday… it’s a big deal,” Thomas says. “I don’t take this relationship for granted.”


SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

Story and photos courtesy of: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Independent Budget: Critical Issues Available

The Independent Budget is drafted each year by four of the nation’s premier veterans service organizations: AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the VFW. Created by veterans for veterans, the Independent Budget is a comprehensive budget and policy document intended to provide Congress with recommendations for the budget cycle and a long-range vision for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This fall, the co-authors of the Independent Budget released the critical issues for the 2014 fiscal year. Serving as a reference, the Critical Issues Report allows VA, veterans, the public, the administration, and Congress to examine the five important concerns facing the veterans' community today.

The five critical issues are:

·      Protection of the VA health-care and benefits systems in a time of fiscal restraint
·      Successfully completing reform of the benefits claims-processing system
·      Transition, employment, and education for today’s veterans
·      The continuing challenge for caring for war veterans
·      Maintaining VA’s critical infrastructure

These five issues will serve as the foundation for the larger Independent Budget, which will be available in early 2013.

To read more about the Independent Budget’s critical issues, visit:

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Veterans Take Precaution: Meningitis Outbreak

The outbreak of fungal meningitis has claimed the lives of 20 individuals and caused 250 Americans to become ill. This epidemic is associated with products originating from the New England Compounding Center (NECC). The NECC is a Massachusetts based company that produces compound pharmaceutical products. Unlike many drugs, compounding medications are exempt from FDA regulation. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that these medications are not new drugs and therefore do not need additional regulations.

While many compound medications are not harmful, veterans should be cautious. Various VA Medical Centers provide compound medications to patients, and recently VA has revealed that they purchased $20,000 in products from NECC and $900,000 from Ameridose, a related company, over the past three years. Veterans enrolled in services at VA medical centers and who have recently received meningitis vaccinations have an increased risk of exposure to the contaminated products. The U.S. Army Medical Command and Ameridose signed a contract in June 2012 to provide pharmaceutical products for a pediatric intensive care unit in Tripler Medical Center in Honolulu. The contract would provide the Hawaii facility with drugs on an as-needed basis. Currently, Ameridose has halted production of medication and NECC has recalled all of its products.

In response to the outbreak, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is conducting inquiries at NECC and has requested records and documents from the pharmacy. Members of Congress are petitioning for increased regulation of compound medications, including requiring doctors to inform patients of the differences between compound and FDA-approved products.

“To better ensure the safe production of these medications, we also urge you to require that these compound products be clearly labeled as such,” wrote Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sanford Bishop, Jr., D-Ga., in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. “Patients expect their medications and products used in the health care setting to be safe, effective, and overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.”

If you have received a meningitis vaccination recently, please check with your provider to ensure that NECC products were not used during your visit. For more information, please contact your primary care team at your local VA facility.  

(Photo: Senior Airman Anthony Velez, 332nd Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, pieces together a trauma kit. Photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, courtesy of U.S. Air Force.)

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Issue of American Veteran Now Online

The latest issue of American Veteran magazine is now available online. To read the Fall 2012 issue, Click Here.

In the latest issue, we sit down for an exclusive interview with Army veteran J.R. Martinez, winner of Season 13 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Martinez discusses how he overcame his injuries during his first deployment to Iraq, the message he wants to send to the public, and how employers can help veterans find jobs.
We also discuss how veterans, especially younger service members, are finding it difficult to find employment. Mentioning stigmas and obstacles that many veterans face, American Veteran suggests many resources, including eight organizations who target veterans for employment or training opportunities. Go to for more information on the companies mentioned in the Fall 2012 edition.

This fall, Kevin Stone, an American Veteran magazine correspondent and AMVETS member, travelled to London with his service dog Mambo to cover the 2012 Paralympic Games. Capturing amazing moments in Paralympic history, Stone gives readers an inside look from the perspective of a veteran and military athlete.

American Veteran also highlighted an important issue within the military community, military sexual trauma, by presenting a harsh look at the statistics and first hand accounts of how sexual assault victims are treated within the military chain of command.

In “Keeping Posted,” you can also read about the great work of AMVETS in Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and California.

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: J.R. Martinez addresses a crowd. Photo courtesy of J.R. Martinez. Middle: Veterans involved with Veterans Green Jobs participate in a conservation training program that will prepare them for employment within the green jobs sector. Photo courtesy of Veterans Green Jobs. Bottom: Kevin Stone and Mambo during a brief break at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Photo courtesy of Kevin Stone.) 

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First Annual Ms. Veteran America Competition

The first annual Ms. Veteran America competition was held on Oct. 7, 2012 at the Pentagon Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Va. Contestants were selected from three judging rounds held in Arlington, Va.; Austin, Texas; and Irvine, Calif. Out of hundreds of women who auditioned, 37 were selected to compete in the competition. The judges represented a variety of personalities, from American Veteran magazine contributor Vernice Armor and Under Secretary of Benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs Brigadier General Allison Hickey to Miss Virginia USA 2011 Nikki Poteet. Adding to the star power, Sue Downes, the first female double amputee from Afghanistan, and Donnell Rawlings, an actor and Air Force veteran, hosted the event. Special guests included 2012 Paralympian medalist Angela Madsen and the 16th Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent.

All 37 contestants graced the stage in evening dresses and the top 10 women were announced and preceded to perform in the talent competition. Judges selected the top 10 contestants based on the ability to answer military questions, beauty, and their stage presence. The top ten contestants included: Heidi Amato, Ann Curtis, Tyra Everett, Denyse Gordon, Mary Ann Hotaling, Gladys Hughes, Keia Mays, Kimberly Miller, Alyse Partridge, and Stephanie Way. From reciting monologues to singing, the top 10 women brought smiles and laughs to the judges and entire audience. Denyse Gordon, an Air Force Reserve veteran, was crowned Miss Veteran America 2012, after advancing from the talent round to the final question interview. As her talent, she performed a flapper style dance routine in an old Army uniform. Stephanie Way, a former member of the Army National Guard, received first runner-up. Gladys Hughes, a World War II Coast Guard veteran and crowd favorite, was second runner-up.

While the Ms. Veteran America competition focused on celebrating women who have served our country, the competition also functioned as a fundraiser for Final Salute Inc., an organization that provides housing and aid to homeless female veterans and their children. As female veteran homelessness continues to increase as the homeless male veteran population decreases, this problem needs to be addressed by opening shelters that cater specifically to the needs of military sexual trauma victims, women suffering with PTSD, and women with children. Final Salute, Inc., has opened transitory homes in Fairfax, Va., and is currently building a new home in Alexandria, Va., that will be opening on Veterans Day 2012. To raise money, the contestants petitioned for donations from friends, family, and social media followers, and gained a significant following after Hughes appeared on Fox News and explained the purpose and importance of the Ms. Veteran America competition. As of today, Oct. 10, 2012, they raised $30,892 to help female veterans stay off the street.

(Photos: Top: Denyse Gordon was crowned the first Ms. Veteran America. Middle: The judges score contestants on their talent competition. Bottom: Gordon prepares for her dance routine at the Ms. Veteran America pageant. Photos by Melissa Golden)

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Update from the National Cemetery Administration

Yesterday, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, Deputy Under Secretary for Field Programs Glenn Powers and Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Ronald Walters, members of the National Cemetery Administration, met with the AMVETS Legislation team and members of the VFW to discuss updates and progress being made on NCA projects. Currently, more than 80 percent of deceased veterans are buried at a national or state veterans’ cemetery within 75 miles of the veteran’s home. The NCA’s goal is to increase this number to 95 percent by 2015. To accomplish this, the NCA has continued to identify geographic areas with a large veteran population who do not have access to a national or state veterans’ cemetery. The NCA has selected sites and will be moving forward to create five national, five urban, and eight rural veterans’ cemeteries.

The eight rural veterans’ cemeteries are a component of VA’s new Rural Initiative plan. These new burial grounds will serve veterans in the areas of Fargo, N.D.; Rhinelander, Wis.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Laurel, Mont.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Cedar City, Utah; Calais, Maine; and Elko, Nev. This one initiative will allow 136,000 veterans and their dependents to access burial services that were previously unavailable. 

In addition to new cemeteries, the NCA has moved forward with numerous green initiatives to maximize their efforts to reserve resources. Memorial walls have been constructed at many sites to conserve land for ground interments. In Massachusetts, wind turbines have been installed to provide power to the burial site. These turbines cover 95 percent of the utility costs for the cemetery, thereby allowing the NCA to focus resources on other projects.

The NCA is currently working on a memorial affairs redesign. They intended to replace their current IT system and add new features that will aid cemetery visitors. They hope to include maps of cemeteries and grave site locators that will be available to smartphone users. These features will allow loved ones to easily navigate a veterans’ cemetery.

After the discovery of mismarked and unmarked graves in Arlington National Cemetery in 2011, the NCA has begun an audit to ensure that all headstones correspond with the correct grave. In phase one of this process, the NCA specifically targeted areas where headstones were removed for realignment to prevent sinking. Out of the 1.6 million burial plots reviewed during this phase, the NCA found 243 errors. Presently conducting phase two, the NCA is checking every discrepancy reported by cemetery directors. This phase will be completed in December 2012. 

To prevent graves from being mismarked, the NCA has instituted new policies, including preventing the headstone from leaving the grave during a realignment process. Instead of being placed on a palate with other headstones, the marker will be placed on top of the grave, ensuring it does not move from the cemetery. Also, new markers will be placed on top of a concrete foundation. This new foundation decreases the likelihood of markers sinking into the ground, thereby eliminating the need for realignment.

Today, the NCA employs more veterans than any other government agency, more than 75 percent of its workforce, and continues to expand training and employment opportunities for veterans. Starting on Oct. 22, 2012, a group of 30 homeless veterans will begin a yearlong internship and upon completion will be offered a position as a cemetery caretaker. The individuals will begin their training in St. Louis for a week, and then finish the instruction at a local cemetery. The NCA’s goal is to train all caretakers and standardize practices throughout the NCA.

The NCA is expanding outreach in the coming year to rural communities who may not have access to a national or state veterans’ cemetery. By utilizing an outreach van, the NCA will provide information on memorial benefits at veteran-focused conventions and community events. The NCA is also speaking with specific veteran communities who have special burial needs, such as Native American veterans. This will enable the NCA to address all burial needs and better serve veterans and their families.

(Photos: Top: National Cemetery Administration logo. Middle: Deputy Under Secretary for Field Programs Glenn Powers and Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Ronald Walters talk with AMVETS Executive Director Stewart Hickey and AMVETS National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto)

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Friday, September 28, 2012

This Week in AMVETS National Legislative Department

By Nathan Bullock

While Congress has recessed, we continue to work hard and stay busy fighting for you in Washington, D.C. This past Friday, we attended two government briefings to learn what is being done in two different realms of veterans’ issues.

We started the day with a briefing for VSOs on mental health programs offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. There are an enormous amount of resources being provided and developed to reach out to veterans and their families covering a wide range of mental health issues.

Some of the highlighted ones included: the Veterans Crisis Line ( which offers confidential help to veterans and their families, and multiple new smart phone apps such as PTSD Coach which can all be downloaded on your smart phone:

Another Web resource is which allows you to privately explore information and shows true stories of veterans who overcame challenges.
We heard a presentation from a peer support associate about the great work they are doing in many VA health centers and hospitals around the country. We were also given a preview of a new website that will compile a number of resources related to veterans in the workplace run by Dr. Sarah Landes.  We will post the link as soon as it is officially up and running.

We also attended the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Affairs. This is a semi-annual briefing attended by VSOs and other concerned groups who work specifically on issues pertaining to POW/MIA service members. We learned a great deal about the current issues facing the DPMO throughout the world from Korea to Europe to Southeast Asia. In many cases, it is difficult for them to continue their efforts due to geopolitical restrictions in places such as North Korea and Laos.

Another important aspect that was highlighted at this meeting was the need for organizations such as AMVETS to keep this office and the government at large accountable to our veterans and citizens. We must, by our voices and presence, push them to fulfill their promises and the mission they are tasked to carry out on our behalf. We joined other organizations in raising pointed questions that let the Deputy Assistant Secretary know how seriously we take these matters. He thanked us for the pressure this community provides to make sure they are doing the job right.

These meetings were great reminders that it is not just we at National Headquarters who were in the room, but all of you throughout the country who are giving us the strength and ability to represent you and your views and apply pressure on our public officials to make sure they continue to work effectively for us all. 

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Veterans Crisis Line: Suicide Prevention Month

 Stand by Them:
Show Your Support for Veterans During Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, an important reminder that you can make a difference in the life of a Veteran every month and every day. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs organizations and individuals across the country to educate their communities about the signs of suicide risk and raise awareness about the free, confidential support available from the Veterans Crisis Line. To accomplish this mission, VA encourages veterans’ communities, friends, and family members to get involved, learn more, and help spread the word to promote mental health and prevent veteran suicide.

A critical step in preventing suicide is learning to recognize warning signs. Although many at-risk veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves, there are behaviors that could indicate that a veteran needs support. In addition to talking about suicide or hurting oneself, some signs that a veteran may be at risk for suicide include engaging in risky behaviors, withdrawing from family and friends, and feeling hopeless, anxious, and angry. To learn about additional signs that someone may be at risk, go to  

If a veteran you know exhibits any of these signs, trained professionals—many of them veterans themselves—at the Veterans Crisis Line can help. Just call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at, or text to 838255 for free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 640,000 calls and made more than 23,000 life-saving rescues. In 2009, an anonymous online chat service was added, which has helped more than 50,000 people. In November 2011, the Veterans Crisis Line introduced a text messaging service to provide another way for veterans to connect with round-the-clock support. Qualified and caring VA responders are also able to provide referrals to local VA services and aid veterans in getting fast-tracked mental health care within VA.

Every American can help prevent veteran suicide. During National Suicide Prevention Month, stand by our veterans and their loved ones. Spread the word about the Veterans Crisis Line and help make sure that all veterans know that confidential support is only a call, click, or text away. Go to to take the Suicide Prevention Month pledge and learn how you can educate yourself and those around you about suicide risk and the Veterans Crisis Line.

You can also visit to download free Suicide Prevention Month materials, including posters and flyers that you can print and distribute in your community; online ads in a variety of sizes and formats to display on your website; and, free, ready-to-go content for your Facebook page, Twitter feed, newsletters, or other print materials.

Our veterans stood by us. Now let’s stand by them. Together, we can make sure they get the support they earned and deserve.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Convention Update: Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

The following names were nominated for National Officer Positions:
Various NSF Trustee positions: PNC Duane Miskulin, PNC Jerry Hotop, PNC J.P. Brown III, PNC John Sisler, PNC Jimmy T. Smith
National Judge Advocate: Joseph Sulzer
National Provost Marshal: Art Majors
National Finance Officer: William Noltner, Harold Chapman, John Cooper, and Donald Stream
National Second Vice Commander: Bill Clark and Larry Via
National First Vice Commander: John Mitchell
National Commander: Cleve Geer

Air Force Reserve Capt. Nicole Mitchell spoke to AMVETS leaders and members at the 68th Annual AMVETS National Convention on Thursday, Aug. 9. Mitchell was a meteorologist with the Weather Channel before she was terminated after disputes regarding her commitment to her military service. The Weather Channel executives claimed Mitchell’s military service interfered with her ability to successfully work at the television station.
Mitchell discussed how numerous veterans encounter harassment in the civilian workforce for serving in the military. These Reservists often hide their military service for fear that this part of their lives could negatively impact their career.
“No one should ever have to hide their military service,” said Mitchell. “No one should have to face harassment for serving one’s country or choose between military service and a career.” Mitchell joined the military when she was 17 and has currently served for more than 20 years in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Mitchell, who comes from a military family, talked about how she refused to compromise her military service and thanked AMVETS members for supporting active duty service members and veterans in their fight against veteran discrimination.
“No one should have to be put in this situation for serving their county,” said Mitchell. She is currently pursuing a lawsuit against the Weather Channel for unrightfully terminating her, claiming the NBC Company violated the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood, Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the Army Reserve, touched upon programs that are being offered to help service members transition from military service to the civilian workforce. Thurgood touched upon the Yellow Ribbon program, Soldiers For Life program, and Heroes For Hire. Heroes For Hire provides assistance to transitioning military personnel and their spouses. Many service members have difficulty translating their skills in a resume and finding a job to support their families. Heroes For Hire provides resources to service members and asks businesses to hire veterans.
“The military does two things,” said Maj.Gen. Thurgood. “It grows leaders and delivers results.” Thurgood encouraged AMVETS to support initiatives like Heroes For Hire and the Yellow Ribbon program in order to ensure service members are counted as valuable assets in the civilian workforce.
(Photos: Top: Capt. Nicole Mitchell, USAFR, shakes hands with AMVETS National Commander Gary L. Fry after delivering remarks today on the floor of the 68th Annual AMVETS National Convention in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bottom: Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood addresses AMVETS members at the 68th Annual AMVETS National Convention.  Photos by Brittany Barry)

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