September 30, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
Is there a method to confirm the award of 1988 International Peace Prize Medal through any military networks…such as the American Legion, VFW, or Post-Korean War Service Veterans? I served in Korea from 1986 – 1988 on the DMZ Border.

Kenny
US Army

Dear Kenny,
There is no mention of this award-decoration in Army regulations, Army study guides or DoD policies. It does not appear to be approved recognition for U.S. forces.

Shaft Notes
The Sarge dittos American Legion National Commander Michael D. Helm who said U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria this week amplify our nation’s need to protect the Department of Defense from drastic budget cuts and force reductions. “The air-strike strategy is certainly an effective way to kill the enemy and destroy its war-fighting capabilities, at least in the short term,” Helm said. “But the large-scale use of high-tech missiles is expensive. Launching 1,000 Tomahawks is going to cost DoD about $1.5 billion, and the Pentagon has already said this week’s air strikes are only the beginning. Also, lasting security and protection against resurgence of this army of terrorists can only be attained through complete military superiority, including ground forces.” Costs of the air campaign in Syria are currently being covered by the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which has about $85 billion through fiscal 2014. “But if these air strikes continue for months or years — and with more budget cuts kicking in from sequestration — then funding this war is going to be a serious issue,” Helm said. “The American Legion wants Congress to avoid any further cuts to the defense budget and to properly fund combat operations against ISIS, Khorasan and other militant Islamic groups, by air, sea and land. These threats must be annihilated, and now is not the time to shortchange DoD on funding necessary to conduct critical military operations in the ongoing war on terrorism.” The first air strike by U.S. and Arab allies happened in the early hours of Sept. 23, Syria time. Two days later, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby commented to CNN about fighting the Islamic militants. “I think we are in this for a matter of years. We are steeling ourselves for that period of time.”

Ending sequestration again topped the list of critical issues for the fall legislative conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

“In the six months of forced sequestration last year, all military training was virtually eliminated in order to support the war effort,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud, who arrives this weekend along with more than 70 members of the VFW Legislative Committee, who will be meeting with every member of Congress or their staffs next week.

“The forced sequester meant planes didn’t fly, ships didn’t sail and ground troops didn’t train, all because Congress can’t reach a budget compromise,” he said. “We are a nation still at war in Afghanistan, with thousands of troops stationed in hot spots elsewhere, and now we’re fighting a new evil called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The absolute last thing our troops need to worry about is the budget uncertainty that Congress created and only Congress can end. The failure of Congress to end the sequester, or to pass an on-time defense budget, is having a perilous impact on a Defense Department that, despite appearances, is very worried about its ability to respond to a new contingency tasking elsewhere in our troubled world,” said Stroud.

Regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VFW will also deliver to Congress a new report on the state of VA health care, entitled “Hurry Up and Wait,” which analyzed the past four months of VFW outreach efforts — phone, email, town hall meetings, and personal surveys — that enabled more than 1,600 veterans in all 50 states to share their VA health care experiences. The report includes 12 specific recommendations to improve the state of VA care and restore veterans’ confidence in the system, as well as the VFW’s expectations for how VA must implement the new provisions included in the recently-passed Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act.

Another issue is to update the VFW’s congressional charter, which was signed in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when the military was comprised almost entirely of men. The two wording changes — replacing men with veterans, and widows with surviving spouses — is supported by two companion bills, S. 2782 and H.R. 5441.

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