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'Now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away' WASHINGTON – In advance of this weekend’s start of the 120th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in Orlando, Fla., the VFW national commander is asking all Vietnam veterans to search through their closets and footlockers for documents that might help Vietnam to determine the fate of an estimated 300,000 missing Vietnamese, and personal effects that might help bring comfort to their families. “It is important for the Vietnam generation to recognize that the personal connection they have with their memorabilia will not transfer to their descendants, which means such items will either be donated or simply trashed,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “And even though it’s been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away.” Lawrence said VFW senior leaders have traveled back to Vietnam every year since 1991 to help U.S. government efforts to account for missing and unaccounted-for servicemen and civilians, a number that currently totals 1,588 Americans (1,246 in Vietnam, 287 in Laos, 48 in Cambodia, and 7 in Chinese territorial waters). He said it is important for the VFW to maintain a “vet-to-vet” relationship with these countries from a non-bureaucrat, nonpolitician perspective, and he said it was critical for the VFW and military family organizations – specifically the National League of POW/MIA Families – to continue to put a human face on a humanitarian mission that transcends politics. “This call to action is the result of numerous requests for assistance from Vietnamese veterans organizations,” he stressed. “Being requested are personal effects, such as wallets, family photos and personal letters, as well as detailed battle maps or burial locations, anything that might help Vietnam to recover its own missing. No weapons, please!” Vietnam veterans can hand deliver their memorabilia to representatives from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency who will be attending the VFW National Convention in Orlando. They will turn over the artifacts to appropriate Vietnamese officials. Vietnam veterans can also share personal battlefield accounts with the DPAA representatives. Such firsthand information has led U.S. investigation and recovery teams to successfully search in locations not previously recorded by military after-action reports. Vietnam veterans unable to attend the convention can mail their memorabilia to:VFW Washington OfficeAttention: Public Affairs200 Maryland Avenue, NEWashington, DC 20002 Items collected by the VFW Washington Office will be turned over to DPAA.
WASHINGTON – More than 600 military Veterans from across the country, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are in Louisville, Kentucky this week to compete in the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (Wheelchair Games) being held July 11-16.   The Wheelchair Games, co-presented each year by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), is a multi-event sports rehabilitation program. The games are open to U.S. military Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological disorders, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers. “The Wheelchair Games showcase the athletic ability and competitive spirit of our nation’s Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Competition through sports and recreation plays an important role in the rehabilitation journey and these games exemplify VA’s commitment to supporting Veterans who are  navigating recovery and rehabilitation to achieve active, independent lives.” VA research and clinical experience have shown that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery and improving overall quality of life.  For many injured Veterans, the Wheelchair Games provides their first exposure to wheelchair athletics. Veterans have the opportunity to compete in 20 different events throughout the week including archery, billiards, bowling, cycling, track, field, quad rugby, wheelchair basketball and more.  “Every year, our members look forward to this event for the adaptive sports competition and the chance to reconnect with peers,” said David Zurfluh, a disabled Air Force Veteran and national president of PVA, who himself will compete this week. “The PVA mission is to ensure Veterans with disabilities have the same life experiences as everyone else, and co-hosting this event certainly delivers on that mission.” The opening ceremonies were held on Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) – the venue for many of the week’s competitive events. The annual Kids Day event for local children with disabilities will take place at 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, at KICC. All events are free and open to the public - no tickets are required.   For a complete schedule of events and additional information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games visit wheelchairgames.org.  People can follow #NVWG on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for videos and photos from the event.
Few living people can remember a world prior to The American Legion. Anthony Mancinelli is one of them. A Legionnaire from Post 1796 in New Windsor, N.Y., Mancinelli celebrated his eighth birthday almost two weeks before the organization’s initial caucus more than a century ago. Born on March 2, 1911, near Naples, Italy, Mancinelli lived in Europe during the duration of World War I. He moved to the United States in 1919. Today, the 108-year-old is not only remarkably healthy, he continues to work fulltime as a barber at Fantastic Cuts in New Windsor. He is currently recognized as the “world’s oldest working barber” by Guinness World Records. He most likely is the world’s most experienced as well, giving his first haircut when Warren G. Harding lived in the White House, 97 years ago. “I first cut hair when I was 11. By 12, I was a full-fledged barber,” he said. During World War II, Mancinelli was tasked as a company barber and supply technician. “The Army drafted me in 1944 and stationed me at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was ready to go overseas, my name was called out and they said, ‘You’re not going with us, you’re the only married person and you have two children,'” recalls Mancinelli, who was 33 at the time. “In `45, the war was over and they sent me home.” When he owned his own barbershop in Newburgh, N.Y., he built a loyal customer base that continues to seek his services. “He gave the best haircut,” said Ed Schlobohm, who has been a customer of Mancinelli for 40 years. “He does it the right way. He talks to you and makes you feel comfortable while you’re getting a haircut. In a short period of time, you’re finished and you’re out the door.” Mancinelli’s son knows a 75-year-old who would regularly receive haircuts from Anthony since he was a young boy. “He doesn’t do it now because he doesn’t have any hair,” said Bobby Mancinelli, 82. The younger Mancinelli has been driving his father to his daily shifts at the salon since he stopped driving in December at age 107. “He said, ‘My license is still good until 2021.’ I said, ‘Whose car you going to drive? You don’t have insurance. You don’t have a car!'” he recalled, half admiringly and half incredulous. The older Mancinelli attributes his longevity to “clean living” and his work ethic. “I never thought I’d reach this age to tell you the truth…People say, ‘You’re 108 and you still work?’ I like to work. If I stayed home, I’d get old fast.” Post 1796 Commander Tracey Lanthier recognizes the significance of having the world’s oldest barber in his post. The post held an official celebration for Mancinelli’s 108th birthday party and featured him as the grand marshal for the community’s Memorial Day parade. Mancinelli, however, is not the only World War II veteran belonging to the post, according to Lanthier. “I have one World War II veteran who is 96 and one who’s 93. They’re the young ones!” Son Bobby, who served as the Post 1796 commander nine times, believes his father’s slender build has contributed to his long life. “My father jokes and says he stays thin because he eats thin spaghetti,” Bobby said. “My mother passed away 15 years ago and I figured he was going to be gone. He said, ‘I have to be working. I can’t just sit around.' And he’s been doing it ever since.” “He just loves his job,” added Jeannie Nagrinelli, a receptionist at the salon. “He’s amazing. Everybody loves him.” After being recognized by Guinness, media interest and international attention about New York’s most famous barber grew exponentially. Bobby believes the world is finally seeing the father that he has known and admired his entire life. “He’s a great man but he’s tough. And stubborn. And independent. He never took a pill in his entire life.” As far as Mancinelli’s Army superiors who kept him stateside during the war, Mancinelli can no longer ask them if his advanced age at the time played a factor. They have been dead for years.
(Stars & Stripes) U.S. Special Operations Command is not launching an all-out assault on carbs in a war of nutrition. Word that the Pentagon was set to mandate a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet for servicemembers spread like spilled avocado oil across the internet last week, with some respected outlets repeating the claim. From the Pizza Hut in Bagram, Afghanistan, to the Subway at Eielson Air Force Base in North Pole, Alaska, no facility would be safe — if the premise of the reports was true. It was not, Army Maj. Tony Mayne, a spokesman for the command, told Stars and Stripes via email. “USSOCOM does not envision a scenario that would mandate adherence to a particular diet for its operators,” Mayne said. The basis for the now disputed story was a May speech by SOCOM’s science and technology director, Lisa Sanders, in which she touted the potential benefits the diet would hold for the military, such as allowing divers to stay underwater longer. The stories drew inaccurate conclusions from Sanders’ comments, Mayne said in response to a Stars and Stripes query. Sanders had said that the Defense Department can’t require troops to eat a certain way, even if a dietary change could increase their performance. Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, right, speaks with recruits during pizza night for graduating divisions at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., May 30, 2019. U.S. Special Operations Command has denied a recent report that said there were plans to ban foods like pizza and mandate a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet for servicemembers.AMANDA S. KITCHNER/U.S. NAVY “I don’t have the authority to tell people — swimmers, submariners, etc ... — that they’re going to get themselves in ketosis so they can stay in the water longer,” Sanders told the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla., in the May speech, according to the Washington Times. The diet must also be tailored to each individual, E. Paul Zehr, a neuroscientist and professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, told Business Insider, which accurately reported on Sanders’ speech in June. Crafting diets for the armed forces’ 1.3 million active duty troops and some 800,000 in the selected reserve would be an obstacle to across-the-board implementation. How the diet works By depriving the body of the carbohydrates it normally uses to fuel cell activity, a ketogenic diet aims to put the body in a metabolic state that taps fat stores for energy. When only fat is available to the body, it’s converted into fatty acids and then into compounds called ketones, which can be used as fuel. The diet, developed to reduce epileptic seizures in children, has gained wide popularity in recent years for an entirely different reason: its promise of rapid weight loss without giving up fatty foods like bacon. But the diet has reputed downsides, including some that would likely affect troop morale. For instance, in addition to depriving troops of the sugary and starchy foods many of them love, the diet has been reported to cause bad breath and other smelly nuisances. Nutritionists caution that not only is weight loss on the keto diet often short-lived, but achieving ketosis requires sticking to severe restrictions on carbohydrates. Eating just two medium-sized apples in a day could bust the limit. Too much protein can also hamper efforts to reach the desired ketogenic state and even minor dietary lapses can cause setbacks.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Service in June celebrated a decade of the VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) Program, which supports service members, Veterans and eligible dependents as they complete their education and obtain viable careers. The VSOC program, which provides dedicated vocational rehabilitation counselors on VSOC school locations to support eligible students, began as a pilot initiative at the University of South Florida in 2009, and, since then, has expanded to support 104 schools across the country. “VA is committed to ensuring eligible beneficiaries have the opportunity to achieve their career objectives,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The VSOC program is a great example of how VA is delivering on that commitment.” VSOC assists participants by helping to guide their career paths, reach educational and career targets and access their VA benefits. Last year, the VSOC program assisted over 44,000 participants in pursuit of their educational goals through on-campus benefits assistance and counseling. For more information on the VSOC program, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/vsoc.asp.
July 4 marks the celebration of America’s beginning   KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As Americans celebrate Independence Day with their families, friends and communities, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is encouraging everyone to take time and remember all of the Americans who have helped preserve our freedom and given us reason to defend that freedom for all future generations.  The America we know today was born from great leaders – brave men and women who despite the dangers took up the fight for a better way of life. And after eight long years with more than 4,400 lost, and nearly 6,200 injured, that way of life – the American way – was realized. Today, 243 years later the United States’ most dedicated patriots continue to pay the cost of our independence.  The VFW honors all of the brave men and women of the armed forces who have sacrificed greatly to secure our freedom. Their service and sacrifice has allowed us the very opportunity to celebrate today. To each of America’s service members and veterans, we thank you for your service. 
On June 26, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a Senate resolution honoring The American Legion’s 100th anniversary of serving veterans, their families and communities. Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a resolution designating August 23-29 as "American Legion Week" to coincide with the Legion's 100th anniversary convention in its home city of Indianapolis. In a press release, Braun said, “The American Legion has been a cornerstone of American life from the local to the federal level since the beginning, and serves as a constant reminder of the enormous contributions America’s armed service members have made to enrich our nation during and after their military service. Indiana is proud to be home for the American Legion, and I'm proud to congratulate them on 100 years of service." Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also praised the organization. “For generations the American Legion has played an undeniable role in strengthening the veteran community,” he said. “Since its inception, The American Legion has provided support to veterans and their families in Montana and across the country by helping them navigate the VA system to get the care and benefits they earned. During American Legion Week, we celebrate their accomplishments, honor their 100 years of service, and thank them for their continued advocacy.” Praise also was offered by Brown. “Throughout the decades, The American Legion has remained dedicated to veterans and their families who have served and sacrificed so much for our country,” he said. “I’m proud to honor The American Legion on their 100 year anniversary of serving veterans of the armed forces, their families and our communities.” Young, lead sponsor of The American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act, said, “For 100 years, the American Legion has advocated for our veterans. As an American Legion member myself, I can attest to the important work the Legion does to improve the lives of veterans across America. That’s why I was proud to help create The American Legion 100th Anniversary commemorative coin, and it’s why I’m proud to help introduce a resolution celebrating this milestone.” U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who represents Indianapolis, is expected to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “The strong civic spirit found in Indianapolis is largely thanks to the enduring presence of the American Legion, which is headquartered here,” Carson said in a press release. “For 100 years, it has set an example of patriotism and service that has strengthened our community and many more across the nation. I’m pleased to congratulate the American Legion on its centennial, and honored to lead the resolution celebrating this milestone in the House of Representatives.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently revised its directives permitting religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities to protect religious liberty for Veterans and families while ensuring inclusivity and nondiscrimination. The move aims to simplify and clarify the department’s policies governing religious symbols, and spiritual and pastoral care, which have been interpreted inconsistently at various VA facilities in recent years, resulting in unfortunate incidents that interrupted certain displays. Effective July 3, these changes will help ensure that patrons within VA have access to religious literature and symbols at chapels as requested and protect representations of faith in publicly accessible displays at facilities throughout the department. “We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These important changes will bring simplicity and clarity to our policies governing religious and spiritual symbols, helping ensure we are consistently complying with the First Amendment to the U.S.Constitution at thousands of facilities across the department.”  The new policies will:  Allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities. Allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during their treatment at VA. Allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles. This includes the following values: a display that follows in the longstanding tradition of monuments, symbols and practices; respect and tolerance of differing views; and endeavors to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination.
This month marks 75 years since Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (VFW) Future VFW Commander-in-Chief Bernard W. “Pat” Kearney was determined to make sure the original GI Bill came to a vote in May 1944. Kearney, then a representative of New York’s 32nd District, knew the salvation of the bill was in the hands of Rep. Frank Gibson, of Georgia. But there was a problem. Gibson was not in D.C., and nobody knew where he was. Kearney, a WWI veteran, was traveling at the time and had to return to Washington by 10 a.m. the next morning. Kearney ordered his staff to notify Gibson by telephone in Douglas, Ga., but the Georgia congressman could not be reached. VFW officials are present as President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the GI Bill of Rights into law on June 22, 1944. VFW was instrumental in ensuring the bill’s passage 75 years ago and continues to work today to make improvements to veterans’ educational benefits. VFW file photo. Calls went out to radio stations asking for on-air pleas to locate the congressman. Georgia State Police monitored roadways, but throughout the day and into the night, Gibson was nowhere to be found.   At 11 p.m., the missing representative pulled into his driveway and heard the telephone ringing incessantly. The voice at the other end briefed him about the situation and told him to get ready to return to Washington. He arrived in D.C. at 6:37 a.m. the following morning. By 10 a.m., he entered the House conference room and said: “I’m here to lick anyone who tries to hold up the GI Bill of Rights. Americans are dying in Normandy — I’m going to expose anyone who doesn’t vote for the GI Bill.” It was then, that the House unanimously approved S. 1767 (the Senate had previously approved it unanimously). On June 22, 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law. But the accomplishment wasn’t without hurdles. The American Legion and the VFW differed in their approach to what became known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill of Rights. Fearing a single package of benefits would never make it through Congress, VFW favored handling various benefits one at a time and routing them through separate congressional committees. At VFW’s national encampment in 1943, Resolution 374 was adopted, calling for the nation to “provide college or trade education at government expense for those veterans of World War I and those veterans whose education was interrupted, interfered with, or delayed by war service.” Sen. Bennett Champ Clark (D-Mo.) sponsored the proposal — the first education bill put forth by a veterans organization. Meanwhile, the American Legion crafted its own legislation — an omnibus bill that included every benefit believed was due to WWII vets. Omar Ketchum, then-VFW National Legislative Service director, and others feared that the broad scope of educational benefits that the Legion proposed would consume funds needed for other types of compensation. Rep. John Rankin (D-Miss.) balked and the GI Bill stalled in committee. After further weeks of wrangling over the educational provision, the bill was ready to be reported out of the seven-man House committee — but only if they could resolve the controversy over the unemployment section. And this is how Gibson’s frantic trek back to Washington began. The vote was 3-to-3 by committee members. Gibson, the seventh member, had gone home. He left Rankin to cast his proxy ballot in favor of having veterans job placement overseen by a board headed by VA. On June 8, the committee voted again, but Rankin refused to cast Gibson’s proxy and the issue was deadlocked. While the VFW was “instrumental” in establishing the original GI Bill, Patrick Murray, VFW’s current National Legislative Service deputy director, said the organization has led the way in making improvements to veterans’ educational benefits. “Whether it was the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, or now the Forever GI Bill, the VFW has been at the forefront in making sure our service members and veterans receive the educational benefits they earned,” Murray said. “The VFW will continue to make certain VA education benefits continue to be protected and enhanced so future generations can achieve their post military educational goals as millions of veterans have done for the past 75 years.” This article is featured in the 2019 June/July issue of VFW magazine, and was written by Kari Williams, associate editor for VFW magazine.  
WASHINGTON — As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and White House initiative to curb Veteran suicide, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Joe Grogan will launch a cabinet-level task force June 17 to develop a national roadmap.  The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy.  Efforts supporting the development of the roadmap are already well under way and are on target for the March 2020 delivery to the White House.  “This is a call to action,” Wilkie said. “In order to decrease the rate of Veteran suicide, we need to engage our local and community partners in addition to leveraging the resources of the departments. We need an all-hands on-deck approach to preserve the lives of our Veterans who have served our country. As such, I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder and president of Give an Hour, has agreed to serve as executive director of the critical PREVENTS work. Dr. Van Dahlen is widely recognized for changing the culture surrounding mental health and suicide and is an expert and thought leader in large-system change. We are proud to have her leading this effort.”   On March 5,  President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order (EO) titled “National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Suicide.” The EO directed the Secretary of VA and the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council to co-chair and stand up an interagency task force to develop a plan implementing a roadmap for the prevention of Veteran suicide at the national and community level.  As part of the effort to ensure the broadest stakeholder input in the development of the national research strategy, the task force is releasing a Request for Information (RFI) to gather feedback on how to improve research and the use of research to radically reduce Veteran suicide. Input may be provided at www.research.va.gov/PREVENTS.  “In signing this Executive Order, President Trump demonstrated that once again he is putting a high priority on the needs of our Veterans,” Grogan said. “Through the standup of a collaborative task force, the development and implementation of a public health approach and enhanced research, we will increase our efforts to prevent Veteran suicide with the aspirational goal of zero Veteran suicides.”  To learn more about VA’s suicide prevention resources and programs, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.  Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.  Media covering this issue can download VA’s Safe Messaging Best Practices fact sheet or visit www.ReportingOnSuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.