Author : s-e-davidson-parker

Which is Truly the Best Service to Join?

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Navy not quite natty enough? Air Force a bit too forceful? Finding excuses for postponing your enlistment because you are totally confused on which branch of service to join?

Be confused no more! Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the way to finally determine which branch of service is for you. Hope it all shakes loose for you…


Air Force


Army


Coast Guard


Marine Corps


Navy


Happy Friday, everyone. We hope you have a shakin’ weekend!

Vet Creates Own Path with G.I. Bill Benefits

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Robert E. Lee did it in order to map the “impassible” Pedregal during the Mexican-American War.

George S. Patton did it in order to take Messina Palermo (oh, those garbled messages…).

fire fighters in trainingAnd now it’s Emmett Middaugh’s turn. It took a year of phone calls, paperwork, and determination, but Emmett Middaugh and the Forest Grove (Oregon) Fire and Rescue created the first on-the-job (OJT) training program in Oregon for students interested in firefighting that allow them to collect VA educational and training benefits.

Emmett Middaugh is studying full time for two associate degrees, fire protection and EMT-paramedics, while also volunteering for a 24-hour shift every three days at Forest Grove Fire and Rescue. That doesn’t leave much time for paying employment. By developing an approved program with the VA, student/volunteer fire fighters are eligible for not just benefits during school terms; if they continue volunteering (now an OJT program), veterans may be eligible for additional (non-school term) benefits through the VA.

Middaugh is the only person in the Oregon program so far. However, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry Brad Avakian is hoping to use this program as a template for other military-to-civil service transition programs in Oregon, as well as sharing these types of programs across the nation.

So what does that mean for you? It means the VA is willing to listen to ideas by veterans that can assist veterans. As the cliché goes, “the sky’s the limit.” Contact your local VA office as well as your school’s office of veterans’ services to see just how to proceed and who to speak with to make your program dreams a reality.

Selective Service System Going Away?

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

selective serviceUnder the loud roar of sequestration and the thundering of the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, Congress is quietly talking about the possibility of dismantling the Selective Service System. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) are in the process of creating a bill that would eradicate the Selective Service System and consequently, the possibility of a modern conscription. As of mid-March, 2013, the potential bill had not been introduced to the floor of the House.

The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 created the Selective Service System and peacetime draft. The draft ended in 1973 but the registration requirement remained. Young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years are required to register for possible conscription under penalty of law. With 17 million men in its database, the Selective Service System, an independent agency under the Executive branch, has a 2013 budget of $24 million and 130 employees.

In January 2013 then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the ban on female soldiers in combat positions was going to be lifted. Critics have questioned the timing and motive of this bill coming rather quickly after the lifting of the combat ban.

In addition, critics question the bill in terms of national security. While the armed forces have been an all-volunteer service since 1973, Selective Service Director Lawrence Romo calls the agency “an inexpensive insurance policy.” Others counter with the fact that the registration requirement was not in effect from 1975 until 1980 (when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan). Through the Soviet Afghan invasion and two Gulf Wars the U.S. military has maintained its health, strength, and viability. They also counter by pointing out the record numbers of voluntary enlistments immediately following the events of 9-11.

Until the formal presentation of the bill and adoption into law, all young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years old living in the United States must register with the Selective Services. U.S. male citizens living outside of the United States must also register. Online registration is quick and easy. Not registering limits your ability to receive student financial aid, get a federal job, participate in federal job training, or become a United States citizen. Prosecution and jail time is also a possibility, although it has not occurred since 1986.

 

First Same-Sex Spouse Burial at a National Cemetery Approved

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

First same-sex VA burialOn January 29th, 2013, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki approved the first ever same-sex spouse burial at a national cemetery. Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Linda Campbell will now be able to intern the ashes of her spouse, Nancy Lynchild, who died of metastatic breast cancer on December 22nd, 2012, at the Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon. Services are being planned.

Shinseki’s approval comes on the heels of Department of Defense Leon Panetta’s announcement to extend several benefits to same-sex spouses of military members. Benefits that were not extended to same-sex couples were housing allowances, on-base housing, health care, and burial benefits. Campbell had actually requested a waiver from Shinseki for burial benefits in May 2012 when making burial plans with Lynchild, and then again shortly after Lynchild’s death in December 2012, both dates before Panetta’s announcement.

Congress struck down the years-long policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” regarding the sexual orientation of military members in 2010. However, this policy only applied to the Department of Defense and not the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines a marriage as between one man and one woman, is still federal law.

Campbell was active duty Air Force for four years, followed by many years in the Oregon Air National Guard then the Air Force Reserves, where she retired in 1994. She and Lynchild had tried on several occasions to legalize their twenty-plus year relationship, including registering as domestic partners twice, marrying in Multnomah County, Oregon in 2004, and marrying again in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010.

Campbell had two advocates assisting her in the push for burial benefits; Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry, and Senator Jeff Merkley. Nonveteran same-sex spouses cannot be buried in a national cemetery as long as DOMA stands. However, Avakian found a small portion of Section 6 of the laws regarding burial that states burial in a national cemetery can happen with “such other persons or classes of persons as may be designated by the Secretary.” Both Senator Merkley and Commissioner Avakian wrote multiple letters to the Veterans Affairs Offices, advocating for such a “designation by the Secretary.” In addition, Avakian’s office believed the policy was in violation of civil rights laws and was planning to challenge the policy in court should the burial not be approved.

Shinseki approved Lynchild’s burial based “in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the veteran and the individual.”

Nancy Lynchild’s ashes will be interned with the ashes of Joyce and Gordon Campbell, Linda’s parents. There is one spot left at the site, reserved for Linda.

Adopt-A-Hero

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Adopt a hero In 2004, 12-year-old Ryan Rust faced his grandfather’s deployment overseas by sending grandpa 13 care packages over the course of a year. Then he thought about all those other Marines who may not have been fortunate enough to have someone to send them a letter or care package, and Adopt-A-Marine was born. Then Adopt-A- Sailor, Airman, Coast Guard, and Soldier came along, all consolidated under the website Adopt-A-Hero.

Adopt-A-Hero (AAH) directly links together service members who wish to be “adopted” with individuals and families who wish to “adopt.” Acting as an intermediary, AAH maintains a list of service members waiting to be adopted and matches them with volunteers who agree to send letters and care packages on a regular basis. Volunteers then send their items directly to their overseas service members.

If you are a service member, you, you and your family, or you and your platoon can register here to “be adopted.” If you would like to adopt a service member, register here. AAH takes approximately one week to link sponsors and adoptees.

Adopt-A-Hero simply asks both sponsors and adoptees to let the organization know if either party can no longer participate, to make sure as many heroes and volunteers are linked together as possible at all times. They don’t act as intermediaries on the mailing front; they simply link troops with sponsors.

Nine years later, Ryan and his family continue to run this non-profit organization without accepting any donations. Over 100,000 individuals and families have volunteered their time and energy in helping over 2000 service members receive more than 62,000 pieces of mail (both letters and care packages). That’s 62,000 smiles.

Ryan, now a young adult, races trucks in NASCAR and uses his visibility to help promote Adopt-A-Hero.  The Rust Family nor any of the numerous volunteers have accepted any pay; all donations and sponsorships go directly to maintaining the troop database and advertising.

Those 62,000 smiles? All started by one 12-year-old missing his grandpa. Why don’t you make the smile count 62,001?

Alderaan to Be the Only Casualty, if Obama Gets His Way

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Death Star a no-goIn a blow to Star Wars dorks everywhere, the Obama administration has officially rejected a citizen petition to build the Death Star. Public response has been limited, “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” It is rumored that the now defunct petition will be encased in carbonite before being archived. However, an anonymous source close to the situation states that “always in motion is the future,” alluding to the possibility of future episodes action.

The petition, uploaded to the White House webpage We the People; Your Voice in our Government, requests the development and construction of the iconic Star Wars “star” for job creation and national defense. Uploaded on November 12, 2012, by a man only identified on the web page as John D. of Longmont, Colorado, over 34,000 people quickly signed the petition.

Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget and not a “stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder” as earlier reported, lists several reasons why the White House will not pursue building the Death Star in his official response. They include costs, estimated to be $850,000,000,000,000,000; the fact that the Obama administration “does not support blowing up planets”; and ultimately, “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?” Good point.

In this time of potential sequestration, adding more debt is not fiscally responsible. We owe too much to China and the Outer Rim, both of which have questionable human alien rights records. Comments from Outer Rim fiscal collections representative Boba Fett were limited.

And anyway, it’s more important to get Utopia Planitia fleet yard up before the next class from Star Fleet Academy graduates.

Photo credit: AtlantaBlackStar.com

Brides Across America

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military brideIt’s a common story throughout the services; a couple discovers a deployment in their near future and push their wedding date up, often times having a very small ceremony with a judge or the base chaplain. Meaningful, but not quite the romantic ideal that many couples envision. Then life generally gets in the way, especially in terms of finances, and a formal wedding is forgotten.

Brides Across America wants to help. It provides wedding dresses for military brides with a two basic considerations; deployment and time. Eligible brides must be:

  • Planning a wedding within the next 18 months or have gotten married in the past five years without a formal ceremony,

and

  • One of you was deployed to qualifying area within the next 18 months (for future weddings) or past five years (if already married).

Qualifying deployment areas are Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Bahrain, and Libya.

Bridal gowns are new, samples, or gently used, in the most recent of styles and by well known designers. Depending on donations, veils, tiaras, jewelry, and other accessories may also be available. What is not available is alterations; brides must pay for these on their own. Each bride may choose one wedding gown.

Bridal salons across the country are hosting these shows throughout the year; however, not every state is represented (a full list of stores is located on the right side of the home page). Pre-registration is required; there are a limited number of gowns available at each show. If your salon is fully booked, you are put on a notification list for the next give away.

Bring with you your military identification or driver’s license and deployment papers that list time and location of deployment. Entrance to the show is $20 per bride, which is fully tax deductable. This fee goes toward fundraising for another military assistance group, Patriot Rovers, matching formerly abandoned dogs that are now trained for ADA assistance to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, free of charge.

There are a few general rules of thumb when attending a bridal event, especially a non-profit bridal event.

  • Don’t bring everybody. One, possibly two people, but not the entire entourage. It’s going to be a bit crowded.
  • Get there when it first starts. It’s a first come, first serve environment. You’ll have a larger selection.
  • Wear comfortable, easy-on, easy-off clothes. Sweats are good, as are leggings.
  • Have patience. These stores are doing this for free. Granted, many hope to make side sales, but they are donating their employees, time, and square footage for a good cause. They may be a bit slower than they usually are because of the sheer number of brides.
  • If you don’t find something you like, don’t feel guilty. Walking away empty handed is better than having a dress you loathe. Another bride will love it.

Brides Across America is a 2012 Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalist, White House initiative to help support programs that support the military and their families. Financial donations to Brides Across America, as well as donations of lightly used bridal gowns and accessories, may be made here.

TRICARE Prime Users Take Another Hit

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

TRICARE Prime gets cutIn another cost-cutting effort, those who are on TRICARE Prime will see another big change on April 1st, 2013, starting in parts of the Western Region. Retirees and their dependents who live more than 40 miles from a military medical treatment facility will be forced off TRICARE Prime and moved to TRICARE Standard. It’s estimated that approximately 30,000 veterans and their families will be affected in Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nevada; and Springfield, MO. (Patients within 100 miles of a primary care provider may stay on it providing they sign an access waiver and there is network capability.)

Three problems are at the heart of the manner: an increase of out-of-pocket cost for our veterans; the distance that many veterans will have to drive in predominately rural areas to access medical services; and the lack and timing of public announcements made to inform beneficiaries of the changes.

TRICARE Prime is based on a health maintenance organization (HMO) model. Beneficiaries pay an enrollment fee but have a set (low) cost out-of-pocket per medical service (doctor visit, prescription, x-rays, etc.). TRICARE Standard is an indemnity, or straight fee-for-services, program. While there is no enrollment fee, beneficiaries pay a percentage of their doctor’s charges. (TRICARE Prime Remote is not available to retirees.) The concern comes from retirees living on a fixed income who will end paying a higher percentage (and higher dollar amount) of their overall income for their medical needs on Standard than they would on Prime.

Retiree living in largely rural states with few active-duty military bases will take the brunt of the change. Those beneficiaries who cannot find doctors who take Standard or pay the higher fees associated with this change or may find themselves driving longer distances to find health care. This could mean several hours in many instances; not appealing in a wellness check scenario, and definitely not when one is ill.

Communication from the Pentagon regarding this issue has been rather sparse. Although plans for revamping TRICARE Prime have been in the works since 2007, no formal announcements have been made. Neither will the Pentagon confirm the number of retirees affected, answer letters from Congressional members asking the Department of Defense to detail the new plans as well as projected outcomes, or respond to inquiries from the press regarding this matter.

The five areas of the Western region will not be alone for long. TRICARE’s Northern and Southern Regions (and is guessed, the rest of the Western region) will switch its Prime members to Standard as of October 1st, 2013. This brings the grand total to 171,000 beneficiaries affected in the United States.

Greg Walden (D-OR), Mark Amondei (R-NV), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) have sponsored H.R. 6635, also known as the TRICARE Protection Act. This bipartisan bill seeks to allow affected beneficiaries to switch to TRICARE Prime Remote for two years giving them access to the same benefits and additional time to prepare for the switch to Standard, to have the military spearhead the efforts to help find retirees new doctors, and to study and report the economic and service affects on the beneficiaries. It went to the House Armed Service Committee December 5th, 2012. Unfortunately, it is not expected to pass. In this time of “going off the fiscal cliff,” finding additional savings to offset the bill for a program that seemingly has already been “fixed” does not hold much sway in Washington.

Women Veterans Services

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

female veteransFrom the WACs, WAVEs, SPARs, WASPs, BAMs of World War II to the modern citizen soldier serving next to service men in combat situations, women play an important part in America’s modern military. Consisting of approximately 15-percent of 2012’s active duty armed forces and 20-percent of reserve forces, these women come out of military service with distinctive and unique needs that may not be met with current Veterans Affairs (VA) services, particularly in the medical arena.

Historically, the military service has been part-and-parcel a male endeavor, and the services available to veterans have reflected this. However, with women entering the armed services in increasing percentages, there are currently about two million women veterans, the fastest growing group tract by the VA.

Issues regarding VA medical care and female veterans include inequalities in services between male and female patients; lack of consistency in services to those who have experienced a sexual assault;  lack of provider knowledge in gender-specific medical and psychological care; and  lack of awareness of services  and service advocacy for female veterans, just to name a few. Additionally, female veterans access other VA benefits such as employment training and education in far fewer numbers than male veterans.

The VA has been and continues to actively try to remedy this situation. In 2012, the Women’s Health Care Services Office became the “go to” point for female veterans, bringing together primary care, specialty care, and mental health under one umbrella for better collaboration, communication, and service delivery. (This reorganization builds on the blocks set in place by the 1988 Women’s Veterans Health Care Program.)

The 2012 Women Veterans Task Force Report outlined several areas the VA has improved on, including but not limited to:

  • More women accessing services;
  • A higher percentage of patients, compared to their civilian counterparts, that receiving regular breast and cervical cancer screenings;
  • The development of the Military Sexual Trauma Support Team; and
  • The creation of Women Veteran’s Coordinators to provide outreach and advocacy.

However, they report there are still multiple issues needing to be resolved.

  • Continuing gender-based gaps in service and care;
  • Significant lack of female veterans applying headstone or marker burial benefits;
  • Homeless outreach, programs, and resources are almost all male-oriented;
  • The need to develop access to child-care services; and
  • There is still a disparity between the percentages of male veterans that access overall services versus female veterans.

 

 

If you are a female veteran, first and foremost you must become your own best advocate. After enrolling for your veterans’ benefits, find your region’s Women’s Veterans Coordinator (WVC) to answer any questions and to help guide you through the medical system. (Find your region here; from that link you can discover where medical services are provided and from there which center and/or clinic have a WVC.) Don’t forget that the VA goes beyond medical care and administering G.I. Bill benefits; check here to discover more about life insurance, home loans, vocational rehabilitation, and other programs available to eligible veterans.

Improvements in the VA benefits system for female veterans, medical and otherwise, will improve the VA system for all veterans. The need for childcare access and resources, while stereotypically considered to be a woman’s issue, is needed by both parents, male and female. Improved public relations and communications, while targeting women, will also make more men to be aware of and use their benefits. A healthier, better trained, and better educated veteran demographic will help improve the economy.

Most of all, they’ve earned it. Men and women alike.

G.I. Film Festival Hollywood — Reel Stories about Real Heroes

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

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The G.I. Film Festival Hollywood was held over Veterans Day weekend, from November 9th through November 11th, at the Los Angeles Film School. Proceeds from the opening event benefited the Semper Fi Fund and the G.I. Film Festival.

The G.I. Film Festival, a non-profit organization, began in response to a lack of accurate portrayal of military life in movies. Co-founder Laura Law-Millett, a United States Military Academy graduate with 18 years of active duty experience, began this program with her husband Brandon Millett, a communication consultant, to honor the experience and stories of our service men and women. The mission is “preserving the success and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film and television.”

Films represent multiple categories, from historical fiction to documentary and from gritty combat to the return home. Many are full length, others are shorts. Some films of note in 2012 include:

  • Patriot Guard Riders: Soldier Down, Kickstands Up, a documentary regarding the civilian motorcycle organization that honors fallen soldiers by providing a motorcade that shields the soldiers’ families from hate groups that attend funerals;
  • No Wine Left Behind, chronicling the story of veteran owned and operated Lavish Laines Winery, started when U.S. Marine Sergeant Josh Laine could not find a civilian job upon returning home from the Iraqi War; and
  • 8:46, which follows several characters and story lines to an intersection at that fateful time on September 11th, 2001.

First premiering in 2007, this festival has rapidly gained praise and acclaim from both the military and film communities. Many of these films are also featured at other notable film festivals across the world, including but not limited to DOC NYC, DocUtah, and the International Historical and Military Films Festival (Poland). Several films also make it to the small screen, notably the Military Channel and the Pentagon Channel in the United States and PRIME in the Commonwealth countries.

I encourage everyone who has the chance to attend the event at least once. If you can’t attend, though, you can still support the organization and its filmmakers in several ways. Some films are available for purchase or in video-on-demand format. Donate directly to the G.I.F.F. and support its continuing mission of honoring our service members.

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