May 24, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Are you aware of any scholarship programs available to the children of veterans?

Dennis L
Via the internet

Dear Dennis
Children and spouses of America’s Armed Forces will once again be able to apply for valuable post-secondary education scholarships from ThanksUSA, the national non-profit organization dedicated to thanking U.S. troops through the gift of education. Now in its eleventh year, ThanksUSA invites eligible individuals to apply online at beginning April 1 through May 15, 2016.

“ThanksUSA has supported the educational dreams of almost 3,700 scholarship recipients from across the country over more than a decade,” said ThanksUSA CEO and Chairman Bob Okun in announcing the new application season. “Advancing the career aspirations of the children and spouses of our troops who sacrifice so much reflects the gratitude of all Americans.”

ThanksUSA founders and sisters Rachel and Kelsi Okun appeared on CBS News in December in celebration of reaching 10 years of providing need-based scholarships for the families of active duty military personnel. Over more than a decade, ThanksUSA has given military family members nearly 3,700 scholarships of $3,000 each, for a total of more than $11 million. In 2015, approximately 500 applications were submitted by the families of the fallen and wounded who are given special consideration, and almost 2,000 applications by other military families.

Among past scholarship recipients is Army dependent Joshua Neal who is studying to become a radiation oncologist after losing his sister Sarah to Ewing’s Sarcoma.

“Though I face years of education ahead, I know that I will be able to assist other families affected by cancer, and I am grateful to ThankUSA for that opportunity,” says Neal, who is a junior at Duke University. “Ultimately, I intend to use the world-class education that I receive to make a difference in the lives of all those who are fighting this terrible disease.”

ThanksUSA scholars are able to enhance those efforts and their own career opportunities by using the charity’s new Alumni & Friends network, which includes exclusive networking events, a private discussion forum, and access to an alumni directory.

Children and spouses of America’s Armed Forces can find applications, eligibility requirements and more information at

Shaft Notes
An Atlanta television station, Marine Corps Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will receive The American Legion’s Fourth Estate Award during the organization’s 98th National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 1.

The Fourth Estate Award has been presented annually by The American Legion since 1958 for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism. Nominations in 2016 were considered in three categories: broadcast, print and new media (Internet).

Taking top honor in the broadcast category is NBC-affiliate WXIA. The station’s chief investigative reporter Brendan Keefe is being recognized for the 10-part series, “911: Lost on the Line.” The 2015 series revealed a serious communications problem between 911 dispatch centers and cell phone callers. The glitch had deadly consequences when Shanell Anderson, a 31-year-old woman drowned in a sinking car while calling 911. While cell phone towers are able to pinpoint locations, the dispatch centers are sometimes unable to receive that information in a timely manner. Keefe’s reporting has encouraged software developers to launch new applications, Georgia legislators to demand answers and the Federal Communications Commission to call for 9/11 improvements.

“Inside the Gender Experiment,” by Marine Corps Times reporter Hope Seck was selected for the print category. The newspaper took an up-close look at the impact the recent requirement to open new combat jobs to female Marines would have in the close-knit community of Marine Corps infantry. Seck, who now works for the website, was one of only four reporters granted access to the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force at Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C. Not only did the series feature candid opinions and personal stories of those impacted, but it included compelling statistic and data pertaining to the physical challenges and success rates of those undergoing infantry training. Elements of the series have been published in USA Today and cited by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ellen Gabler captured the new media award for her four-part investigative series “Hidden Errors.” The series reported that medical laboratories across the nation are not following basic policies and procedures designed to ensure the accuracy of test results. It included the story of Michael Patterson, who split from his family after a paternity test indicated that he was not the father of his girlfriend’s child. Years later, it was revealed that the laboratory was wrong and that he was indeed the father of their girl. Another couple in Louisiana lost a newborn son because a routine lab test did not show an easily-treatable condition. The many examples shown in both the print and web editions of “Hidden Errors” sparked a powerful reaction in the laboratory community and spurred training efforts, policy reviews and discussions among federal regulators and industry leaders.

“These outstanding works of journalism not only stand far above normal media reporting, but each has also resulted in an outcome that has positively impacted the lives of people and issues. These committed journalists have devoted long, hard hours into investigating, researching, writing and producing masterful reports that have truly made a difference,” said Dale Barnett, national commander of the 2.2 million member American Legion.

“I will be honored to present each of them with our highest recognition of journalistic accomplishment, The American Legion Fourth Estate Award in Cincinnati this summer,” Barnett said. “They are a credit to their field.”

Previous winners of the award include CNN, CBS, USA Today, ABC News, C-SPAN, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Life Magazine, among others.


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