Civil Liberties Organization Sues on Behalf of Marine Jailed, Committed to VA Psychiatric Ward for Facebook PostPosted by Jason Van Steenwyk
The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving civil liberties, has filed suit against the Government on behalf of a Marine veteran who was jailed and then involuntarily committed to a VA psychiatric hospital for posts he wrote on his Facebook page.
According to the Rutherford Institute, a team of police, FBI agents and Secret Service personnel came to the home of Brandon Raub, then 26, near Richmond, Virginia, and asked to speak with him about the content he was posting on his Facebook account. He had been posting a lot of song lyrics, politics content, and items that suggested that the U.S. Government itself had masterminded the attacks on 9/11. For example, he posted a photograph of the damage to the Pentagon in the aftermath of the attack, with the caption, “where’s the plane?,” suggesting that the Pentagon was struck by a missile, not by a passenger jet.
Again, according to the Rutherford Institute and contemporary news accounts, the agents asked him to step outside, and without explanation nor charges, nor did they read him his rights at the time of the arrest, part of which was captured on cell phone video.
Raub was taken to the police station, and from there transported to the psychiatric ward of a local VA Medical Center, where he was held against his will until he received a hearing. Virginia law allows physicians to hold individuals in psychiatric institutions involuntarily for a period of time if they believe they may be a danger to themselves or other people. A magistrate reviews the involuntary hold in a few days to ensure that there is a rational legal basis for the hold.
Meanwhile, his mother, Cathleen Thomas, was able to get on Facebook herself to generate publicity and get attorneys to work on Raub’s behalf.
Raub received a hearing before the magistrate four days after his arrest, on August 20th. At that hearing, law enforcement officers told the magistrate that his controversial Facebook posts were the sole reason for the hold. Among the posts that law enforcement found troubling were the lines, “sharpen up my axe and I’m back/ it’s time to sever heads.” This post and others in that vein had caused others who saw the Facebook posts to report him to authorities. Raub countered that his posts were actually song lyrics, or dialogue from an online card game, and law enforcement officials were reading them out of context. The axe quote above is indeed from the lyrics to a song called “Bring Me Down” from a band called Swollen Member. However, the judge ruled against Raub, and ordered him to be held involuntarily for another 30 days. Officials also ordered him transferred to a facility some three hours away from his legal team and his family.
At that point, Raub’s attorneys, provided to him by the Rutherford Institute, appealed to the court system for his release. On August 23rd, a judge threw the case out, ruling that there was no factual basis to detain Raub, and ordered him released immediately.
The judge found that the paperwork used to send police to Raub’s door contained “no facts,” that Raub was not informed of the reason for his detention as required by law, and that the charging sheet contained a signature but not even an allegation of a crime. The affidavit detaining Raub, the judge ruled, was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”
Raub, with the support of the Rutherford Institute is now suing the government for false imprisonment, denial of due process and unlawful search and seizure. He filed the suit last week, personally suing Daniel Bowen and Russell Granderson, both Chesterfield County law enforcement officers, as well as Michael Campbell, a licensed psychotherapist, and social worker Lloyd Chaser and LaTarsha Mason, according to the Chesterfield Observer.
Among the complaints: The therapist who advocated detaining Raub had not even met him.
The complaint also alleges that a special Department of Homeland Security program, called Operation Vigilant Eagle, contributed to Raub’s unlawful incarceration. Vigilant Eagle is ostensibly intended to help law enforcement prevent ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks. However, the DHS put special emphasis on returning Afghanistan and Iran veterans as potential risks for terrorist attacks.
A word from a VA case manager can still cause you to lose your 2nd Amendment rights. While a variety of gun control amendments failed to pass cloture in the Senate on Wednesday, the Senate also failed to pass legislation that would have prohibited Veterans Administration bureaucrats from stripping certain veterans of the right to own firearms without a court order from a judge or magistrate declaring the veteran to be a danger to himself or others.
The legislation in question was a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 649, the so-called “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which was introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). According to Senator Burr, at least 149,000 veterans have had their 2nd amendment rights stripped from them, simply because they had a fiduciary appointed for them to manage their financial affairs.
“Depriving someone of a Constitutional right is a serious action, and veterans should be afforded the same treatment under the law as all other American citizens,” Burr said in a press release. “This legislation would protect the rights of veterans and their families by ensuring that only a proper judicial authority is able to determine who is referred to NICS. Our veterans took an oath to uphold the Constitution and they deserve to enjoy the rights they fought so hard to protect.”
The VA had recently testified that they wanted to retain the ability to strip veterans of their right to own firearms unilaterally, without a court order or review. The VA defended the practice to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, arguing that there is a process in place for veterans challenging the decision to appeal to get their rights restored. “VA has relief procedures in place, and we are fully committed to continuing to conduct these procedures in a timely and effective manger to fully protect the rights of our beneficiaries,” VA says. “Any person determined by a lawful authority to lack the mental capacity to manage his or her own affairs is subject to the same prohibition.”
However, according to Senator Burr, only 200 veterans have challenged the revocation of their rights, and only six have done so successfully.
The VA’s position doesn’t hold water. First of all, they are begging the question. There is no reason to accept the VA’s assumption that a cub-scout caseworker in the VA bureaucracy, acting without any kind of review from either a magistrate, judge or even a medical professional, is in any sense a “lawful authority.”
Second, constitutional rights are God-given. They are not there for the executive branch to unilaterally revoke without any burden of proof that the veteran is a danger. The VA is trying to put the onus of proof on the veteran, rather than on the government to show why society at large has a compelling interest in revoking the citizen’s constitutional rights. The VA’s attitude flips the centuries old tradition of civil liberties and due process of law on its head.
Eleven Senators co-sponsored the Burr legislation: Senators Boozman (R-AR), Wicker (R-MS), Risch (R-ID), Moran (R-KS), Chambliss (R-GA), Roberts (R-KS), Thune (R-SD), Enzi (R-WY), Vitter (R-LA), Crapo (R-ID), and Inhofe (R-OK) are cosponsors of the legislation. The measure got a majority of Senators to vote in favor – the final vote was 56-44 – Senate rules require 60 votes to break cloture and receive a final up-or-down vote.
In addition to broad Republican support, the amendment also received support from these Democrats and Independents: Joe Donnelley (Indiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Jon Tester (Montana) and Max Baucus (Montana).
According to reporting from The Hill, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) expressed strong opposition to the amendment, calling it “ridiculous” because there were some veterans who had had their 2nd amendment rights revoked for a good reason.
A similar bill, sponsored by Representative Jeff Miller, the current Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is alive in the House of Representatives.
When John McCain was shot down, grievously injured and bayonetted by his North Vietnamese captors, they didn’t expect him to survive for long. And they didn’t care… until they realized who he was. Lieutenant John McCain was the son of a prominent U.S. Navy Admiral. As such, John McCain was possibly a valuable asset to the communist regime – and so they made sure he got enough medical care to pull through.
Once he did, the North Vietnamese were ferocious in their attempts to use him to score a propaganda coup. They beat and tortured him severely in an attempt to get him to sign a confession of war crimes (they succeeded, on one occasion – an incident which McCain regretted for the rest of his life). They also tried to get McCain to accept an early release, despite a longstanding code that the first prisoners captured would be the first released in any prisoner swap or furlough. The North Vietnamese knew that if McCain took an early release, they could use the fact that McCain was the son of one of the most powerful admirals in the Navy to undermine morale among military troops.
Propaganda was important to the North Vietnamese, as it was to fascist and communist forebears in Nazi Germany, Maoist China and the Stalinist USSR. Communist officials in North Vietnam were happy to have Jane Fonda, the young daughter of an American movie icon – as an honored guest and willing stooge for their own propaganda ministries. They even gave Fonda a chance to read a radio propaganda address for U.S. troops in 1972.
I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural coop, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well.
In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me- the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country.
I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam- these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters.
Fast forward to 2013. The producers of CBS’s The Amazing Race have issued an apology to veterans’ groups for offending them with a recent broadcast. Amazing Race is a reality television show in which teams of two competitors race through the streets of foreign cities searching for clues to bring them toward the finish line, decided to produce a segment in Vietnam. The country is still run by a communist totalitarian regime – and like their forebears in 1972, they were quick to seize the opportunity. Race competitors and camera crews were forced to sit through the same kind of pro-communist dog-and-pony musical revues that so captivated Jane Fonda four decades ago.
You can see a minute-long segment from the show here. In fact, I insist that you see it… and pay attention to the young contestants’ grinning reaction to it.
The result was a PR and propaganda coup for the communist North Vietnamese regime and the Ho Chi Minh personality cult – and our 20-something contestants – some of them may have been in their 30s but not much older than that – were apparently wholly unaware of what was happening.
How could this have happened?
Consider: Some of these contestants in their mid-20s today were not even born until the mid-1980s. They were well under 10 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union collapsed. They have no personal memory of Flight 007 being downed by a Russian fighter jet over Sakhalin Island. They have no memory of the collapse of the Ceausescu government in Romania, nor any knowledge of the hatred the people had for his corrupt, totalitarian regime. They may have heard of My Lai, but not of the Hue massacres committed by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars. They have no memory of the wanton slaughter of the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia. They have no memory of nuclear blast drills in school. All of this knowledge would have had to come from their parents (who themselves were probably too young to have fought in Viet Nam).
Where people in their 40s (like me) saw Red Dawn in theaters when it came out, and at least recognized the Russians and Red Chinese and their satellite states as the most existential threat to America in generations (even if we didn’t quite buy the jingoism in the movie’s premise), we could at least figure out who the bad guys were.
They certainly weren’t getting anything approaching Cold War history in school, though. History teachers tend to struggle to get through World War Two before the school year ends. If the Cold War is covered at all, it’s a May and June afterthought, with childrens’ thoughts already turning to signing each others’ yearbooks in class and comparing summer vacation plans.
Educators today, meanwhile, are actually quoting Mao approvingly in Government publications. There were Mao Tse Tung Christmas ornaments hung on the White House Christmas tree in 2009. The President also appointed a Green Energy Czar, Van Jones, who was a member, in the 1990s, of a socialist collective called STORM, short for Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement.
Most people in Middle America are able to get some Cold War history around the dinner table in their childhoods from older relatives. But remember where our media is headquartered: New York City – in a state that’s dead last in the number of military veterans per capita.
The fact is that few of the 20- and 30-something production assistance that actually put these shows together day-to-day have any educational or cultural frame of reference to grasp the significance of Communist iconography or recognize its propaganda. This is true enough today across the country – but it’s especially true among the generally affluent Northeastern kids who self-select to become CBS production employees.
Well, we expect that of very young people. That is why we have older, more experienced executives around who can take a broader view of activities going on in their organizations. You would think the show’s executive producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, would have flagged the program and at least re-edited it to omit the offensive stage show and the trip to the B-52 memorial, or make some insertion to recognize what had happened in Hanoi. He himself is the son of German-Jewish immigrants – so you would think he would have some cultural sensitivity to the idea that people are sensitive to careless portrayals of history.
He also lives in West Los Angeles, now, with his family – which has a lot of Russian immigrants and until time took them from us, a large number of Jewish holocaust survivors.
Furthermore, Bruckheimer is also the executive producer who gave us the excellent movie Blackhawk Down.
Les Moonves, the head of CBS, has no military experience. He’s New York media, all the way.
So CBS was in the wrong, yes. But they didn’t cause this offense on purpose. Nor did the young contestants grooving and laughing at the stage production – sung in a language they couldn’t understand. This happened because younger Americans have a historical blind spot. And we have tolerated it. We tolerate it every time we see evidence of Red chic on college campuses. We tolerate it every time we let Che Guevara t-shirts go unremarked upon and unchallenged.
So what are your thoughts on the actions of the Amazing Race and CBS? Were these intentional insults or a result of the education our younger generation has received? Tell us your thoughts below.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it won’t comply with a new New York state law that requires mental health providers to report to authorities any patients they believe may be at risk of harming themselves or other people. According to a VA spokesperson, there are already federal laws protecting the privacy of veterans’ treatment records, and they take precedence over any state law.
The State of New York has recently passed a law that requires mental health professionals to report the names of any patient whom they believe may be likely to harm themselves or someone else. Civil liberties advocates had criticized the measure, saying that the law could be used to deprive veterans of their 2nd amendment right to keep and bear firearms. Some patient advocates also argued that the measure would possibly dissuade veterans from seeking counseling or other mental health care.
The Veterans Administration still refers veterans who have been deemed incapable of handling their own financial affairs to the federal firearms database, and which states have access too, and veterans could be denied a firearms permit on that basis. But the VA does not pass that information on to state authorities.
The law, the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (also called the ‘SAFE Act’) authorizes NY authorities to revoke gun permits from individuals who have been reported by their mental health professionals, and even authorizes gun confiscation.
The measure was due to take effect on Saturday.
It is not clear how the VA policy will apply to independent contractors treating veterans under VA contracts. An email to the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking clarification on this point was not returned.
Among its other provisions, the SAFE Act bans the acquisition or importation of any magazine with a capacity of more than seven rounds of ammunition. 10-round magazines previously owned by New York residents can be retained, but cannot be loaded with more than seven rounds.
The law also authorizes New York law enforcement officials to confiscate firearms without a court order or warrant, if they have probable cause to believe an individual is mentally unstable.
Any New York resident who owns a magazine that was legal prior to the 1994 assault weapons ban, such as a 20-round or 30-round AR-15 magazine, must sell or transfer those magazines out of state, or turn them in to law enforcement officials.
The law would effectively criminalize an law enforcement officer in the state who carries a firearm with more than seven bullets. The law has no law enforcement exemption. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office is working on pushing an amendment to the law crafting a law enforcement exemption. But the Governor signed the law without one, anyway.
Last month, the Governor announced that his prosecutors would not deem law enforcement officials to be in violation of the law if they carried magazines loaded with more than seven rounds. There is no language authorizing the governor to do so within the law, however.
The SAFE Act is facing some legal hurdles – including a warning from the New York Supreme Court. The Court has notified the Governor’s office that the State of New York must show that the law does not violate the state constitution, or the court will impose an injunction on the enforcement of the law on April 29th.
The unemployment rate among post 9/11 military veterans has soared, according to the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for GWOT veterans, is up to 11.7 percent – a sharp increase from the 9.9 percent figure in December, and an even bigger increase from the 9.1 percent unemployment rate the same cohort posted just a year ago. The jobless rate for these individuals is also much higher than it is for the nation as a whole, which is 7.9 percent.
The overall jobless rate also increased in the February jobs report, from 7.7 percent, according to the Bureau.
The unemployment rate among women veterans of the Global War on Terror – 17.5 percent — is significantly higher than the unemployment rate among men, which is 10.1 percent. The unemployment rate among women GWOT veterans actually fell slightly, though, while unemployment among male GWOT vets increased from 7.7 to 10.5 percent over the same period.
Why are Women Veterans Lagging Men in the Labor Market?
As with so many things, the answer is, it’s complicated.
First, the data show clearly that women are far less likely to leave the service and enter the labor force than men. The labor force participation among women post-9/11 veterans is 70.4 percent – down from 72 percent the prior year. This is substantially below the male participation rate of 83.7 percent. Women are more likely to pursue other options besides employment, including stay-at-home motherhood, becoming full-time students, or self-employment not captured in unemployment statistics.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, women are also significantly more likely to be collecting benefits for a service-related disability rated at 50 percent or more than men. Of the population of women receiving VA disability compensation, 34.5 percent of them are rated at 50 percent or higher, compared to 26.2 percent of men.
A Darwinian analyst might hypothesize that the difference between male and female unemployment rates in this demographic is a function of biology: A woman in this age group who has recently left the service and is not in the work force is still an acceptable mate for many men. Few women, however, would select a jobless male veteran as an acceptable mate.
Men, in short, work because women demand it.
Women are also three times more likely to be single parents than men (11 percent to 4 percent), according to the California Department of Research (citing a 2010 study from the National Center on Family Homelessness.) Furthermore, women in the military are far more likely to divorce than men.
John E. Pickens, executive director of a Veterans Plus, has another explanation: Women don’t carry the same warrior panache in the public eye. “”Typically, folks look at male veterans returning as warriors who we need to honor, and say we need to do what we can for these warriors. Women, unfortunately, don’t carry home that same mantel as a warrior,” says Pickens.
Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics began using an updated population model put together by the Veterans Administration. It is possible that the new statistical model includes more veterans who had previously been excluded from the count, and that these newly-included veterans are more likely to be homeless. However, it was not apparent from the BLS release how much of an effect the new statistical model had.
Also, since the sample of GWOT veterans is relatively small, compared to the population as a whole, the unemployment rate among this sample tends to be more volatile, as well.
If you are a big-shot journalist and liberal-leaning TV personality, the District of Attorney issues you a get-out-of-jail free card. If you’re a wounded warrior or veteran, not so much.
David Gregory hosts Meet the Press, a Sunday news and issues talk show that airs on NBC. In the wake of the Newtown school massacre last month, Gregory interviewed Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, on camera. During the course of the interview, in which Gregory attacked LaPierre’s suggestion that we take steps to provide schools with armed security or allow teachers to carry weapons, Gregory produced a 30 round AR-15 or M-16 magazine and waived it around on camera.
In so doing, Gregory, whose own children attend a Quaker school protected by armed guards, was committing a crime: The mere possession of high-capacity magazines within the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine, or up to 1 year in prison.
The Washington D.C. Metro Police Department investigated the alleged violation, and found that the violation of the law was clear. They then referred the matter to Washington D.C.’s Attorney General, Irvin B. Nathan – who evoked prosecutorial discretion and declined to take Gregory to court.
Nathan’s opinion: Gregory didn’t really pose a threat.
Here is the statement, issued at close of business on a Friday, from the Office of the Attorney General:
“OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.”
Unfortunately for the rest of us, people who don’t have high-profile TV shows and don’t send their kids to school with the President don’t get the same leeway from the District of Columbia.
David Gregory’s wife Beth Wilkinson poses with family friend D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan at a theater fundraiser in 2011.
SPC Adam Meckler
SPC Adam Meckler, an Army medic, hadn’t been off of active duty for a month when he was handcuffed, arrested, and frogmarched off to jail by Washington D.C. police. Why? He was going through a security checkpoint at the VFW, according to the Washington Times, and the X-Ray identified a few forgotten rounds of ammunition in his medic bag he had used on countless shooting ranges.
No weapon – just the ammunition.
The Washington D.C. Attorney General considers a medic and veteran a threat, and is vigorously prosecuting him, but not David Gregory.
From the Washington Times story:
The federal police officer asked Spc. Meckler if he knew that ammunition was illegal in the District. He said he did not. The officer replied that it was and began to read his Miranda Rights. Spc. Meckler said he interrupted to ask, “Am I really going to be arrested for this?’” The officer confirmed he was.
The D.C. attorney general’s spokesman, Ted Gest, told me that prosecution for unregistered ammunition is “common.”
Ultimately, Meckler – who didn’t have money or connections like David Gregory, pled guilty to one count of possession of unregistered ammunition. He got 30 days unsupervised probation, paid a $100 fine and was forced to make another $100 “donation” to a fund for victims of violent crime.
According to the Washington Times reporting, Meckler’s case wasn’t unusual: “There were 594 arrests for unregistered ammunition in 2011, according to MPD, but of those, only 64 of those were the top charge.”
The “top charge” means that the possession of the unregistered ammunition was the most serious offense these citizens were accused of.
That’s 64 Americans that didn’t receive the benefit of prosecutorial discretion from the AG.
Only one of them sends his kids to school with the President’s to our knowledge: David Gregory.
Additionally, at least 115 people were arrested in Washington D.C. for possession of an unregistered magazine. The Attorney General prosecuted 15 of them.
The Attorney General’s office even brags that they have a history of “aggressively prosecuting” the possession of magazines with capacities greater than ten rounds when circumstances warrant.
Lt. Augustine Kim
Augustine Kim, a lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard is another veteran who was prosecuted for violating gun laws in Washington, D.C. He also doesn’t send his children to school with the Obamas. He was wounded in combat while serving as a tank platoon leader, and had to spend weeks at Landstuhl and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for reconstructive surgery on his face.
In the summer of 2010, after getting discharged from Walter Reed, he wanted to pick up some of his personally-owned weapons at his parents’ home in New Jersey and take them back to Charleston, South Carolina.
On the way back south, he wanted to stop at Walter Reed again to visit some of his wounded buddies. His firearms were stowed in the trunk, inaccessible, in accordance with federal firearms transportation guidelines.
Washington D.C. Metro Police officers stopped him and asked to search his vehicle. Kim consented to the search, thinking he was innocent. The District of Columbia sees this wounded warrior as a criminal. Not David Gregory. Lieutenant Kim. And treated him as such.
His attorney was able to convince prosecutors to reduce charges, allowing him to plead guilty to one misdemeanor. However, South Carolina congressmen had to browbeat District of Columbia officials for months to get them to return Kim’s firearms to him.
The Washington Times also details the case of James Brinkley, another Army veteran who was arrested and charged in Washington D.C., specifically for possession of high-capacity magazines – the exact same thing Gregory was doing on camera (I keep citing the Washington Times because The Washington Post is AWOL on these stories).
From the Washington Times:
Unlike Mr. Gregory, Mr. Brinkley followed the police orders by placing his Glock 22 in a box with a big padlock in the trunk of his Dodge Charger. The two ordinary, 15-round magazines were not in the gun, and he did not have any ammunition with him.
As he was dropping off his family at 11 a.m. on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Brinkley stopped to ask a Secret Service officer whether his wife could take the baby’s car seat into the White House. The officer saw Mr. Brinkley had an empty holster, which kicked off a traffic stop that ended in a search of the Charger’s trunk. Mr. Brinkley was booked on two counts of “high capacity” magazine possession (these are ordinary magazines nearly everywhere else in the country) and one count of possessing an unregistered gun.
Despite the evidence Mr. Brinkley had been legally transporting the gun, his attorney Richard Gardiner said the D.C. Office of the Attorney General “wouldn’t drop it.” This is the same office now showing apparent reluctance to charge Mr. Gregory.
No word yet on where Mr. Brinkley’s children go to school. But we’re betting it’s not Sidwell Friends.
Brinkley chose to go to trial – where he won. All the firearms charges were dropped, and all the DC Metro Police had on him at the end of it was a traffic ticket.
Jamison Koehler, a defense attorney who takes firearms cases in the District of Columbia, relates a case here of a severely wounded veteran who was sentenced to six months’ probation for possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of unregistered ammunition in his own home.
Want to sound off on the state of gun owndership and gun control laws? Here’s your chance to give your opinion. Comments are open.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars continues to seek donations to assist members of the military and veterans who were affected by the ravages of Hurricane Sandy at the beginning of this month.
Any surpluses collected will be held in reserve against the next natural disaster severely affecting the veteran or military population.
You can donate online here, or donate by mail to the following address:
406 W 34th St.
Kansas City, MO 64111
You can obtain further information or donate via telephone by dialing (800) 963-3180.
A time to honor our former and current service members, Veterans Day was originally set aside as an American holiday to commemorate the ending of World War I on November 11, 1918. Originally called “Armistice Day,” November 11, 1938 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace, and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.”
In the years that followed, American soldiers served in the Second World War and the Korean War. The 83rd U.S. Congress changed the Act of 1938, replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” at the suggestion of veterans’ service organizations. When it was approved in June of 1954, November 11 became Veterans Day: A day to honor American veterans, living and deceased, who served our country in all wars.
The distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is one that many Americans struggle with, according to the VA. Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor military service members who died in service or as a result of war-inflicted injuries. The Veterans Day holiday is set aside to thank and honor both living and deceased veterans who served honorably in war or in peace.
Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs hosts a national celebration ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as several other regional ceremonies across the country. The national service begins each November 11 at 11 a.m. by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A parade of colors by veterans’ organizations progresses the service into the Memorial Amphitheater, where typically there are remarks by dignitaries to honor and thank all those who served and serve in the United States Armed Forces.
Over the past few years, a program launched by the History Channel has garnered popularity: Take a Vet to School Day created to bridge veterans and students across the country. Schools are encouraged to invite veterans to visit, share their stories, and receive thanks for their service. These events provide a unique way for students to hear real stories from real veterans, express their gratitude and show support. The veterans’ stories help connect generations and help young people learn about the past.
Whether or not you know someone who is serving or has served, taking time to honor and remember veterans is something that demonstrates respect for their service to our nation. Below are some ways that you can celebrate veterans this November 11.
Visit a Battleground: Most battleground memorials are managed by the National Park Service, and offer thoughtful, often poignant insights into the lives and circumstances of the people involved. There are battle sites in nearly every state, and they offer a variety of opportunities to teach children of all ages about history, war, and the sacrifices of veterans and their families.
Communicating With the Troops: Send a soldier a care package to say thank you. This is a wonderful way to show appreciation and to bring them a little bit of the comforts of home.
Learn Flag Etiquette: Far too often, our flag is displayed incorrectly or goes neglected, which is something that most veterans find offensive and disrespectful. One of the simplest ways to honor a veteran is to be respectful to the United States flag. Read about proper treatment, care, hanging and flying of our flag and teach your child proper flag protocol.
Volunteer at a VA hospital: If you have a VA hospital in your community, call them or stop by to find out what kind of volunteer opportunities they have available. Whether you can spend an hour a week or several hours a day, any amount of time you can devote to serving those who have served us is a fantastic way to honor our nation’s veterans.
This November 11, take time to reflect on the heroic men and women who have fought to secure the freedom we enjoy today. Whether you participate in a formal ceremony or simply say “thank you” to a uniformed service member, show them that their sacrifices are not taken for granted.
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.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went head to head this month on opposing pages in VFW Magazine – the official print magazine of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The editors of VFW posed the same set of questions to both candidates. Most of the responses from both sides were pretty bland, consisting of nice language but few specifics. However, there were a few salient points, where both men distinguished themselves from one another. Here is a ‘hot wash’ of the candidates’ positions on important issues concerning veterans. You can read the piece in its entirety here.
On partial privatization and vouchers
“There are instances where the targeted use of fee-basis care can be a tool for extending VA’s ability to care for veterans, in remote rural or in hard-to-fill specialties. But our first responsibility should be strengthening VA, and as long as I’m President, I will not allow VA health care to be turned into a voucher system, subject to the whims of the insurance market.”
“Private care may have a role in that the existing network of private providers in the military’s TRICARE system can be an excellent optional supplement to VA, but it cannot be a replacement for the VA program…
…With veteran suicide rates and mental stress soaring, we must consider offering veterans optional access to private providers already available through the TRICARE system to supplement the VA system of care.”
On Increases and Cuts in the Defense Budget
“We need a military that is more agile, with cutting-edge technology and capabilities and we need to focus more on emerging regions like Asia. And my proposed budget grows defense spending every year after 2013 – albeit at a slower rate as we wind down the wars. My balanced plan to get our fiscal house in order over the long run includes less in defense reductions than recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission.”
“I would increase the naval shipbuilding rate from 9 to 15 per year, improve force structure throughout the services and increase the number of active-duty troops by 100,000… there are savings to be found in the Pentagon’s civilian workforce that can be put toward our fighting men and women and the equipment they need.”
On protecting Retirement Benefits
“I am committed to providing sustainable retiree benefits to our military personnel, and I strongly support protecting the retirement benefits of those who currently serve by grandfathering their benefits.”
“I will not propose TRICARE fee increases or cuts to military benefits especially while the size of the federal budget is exploding. Time and again, we have seen that efforts to balance the budget on the backs of the military end up costing more, not just in treasure, but in blood.”
What do you think? Are they blowing smoke? Sound off in the comment section!