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DECATUR, TX –  Twisted X Boots retail locations throughout the United States will be raising money in support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States from Memorial Day through Independence Day.    Twisted X will donate $1 per pair of shoes and $2 per pair of boots bought from its VFW Patriotic Collection back to the VFW. In addition, the company will also promote the VFW “Buddy Poppy” program at participating western retailers during the campaign. All donations will be used by the VFW to extend its vital support and assistance programs to more veterans, service members and their families.   “We are happy to donate to the VFW on our own, because it is a very dear cause to me,” said Prasad Reddy, President and CEO of Twisted X, “but we wanted the stores to also be able to participate in the Buddy Poppy program, because it will give them local engagement within their communities.”    In addition, retailers will have the option of selling the VFW’s “The U.S. Constitution and Fascinating Facts About It” booklets in their locations ($3.95 value).   To date, Twisted X has raised more than $50,000 for the VFW. Reddy presented the first check during the 116th VFW National Convention in 2015. The reason for Reddy’s reverence for the VFW? “When I became a citizen in 1980,” says Reddy, “after I took the oath as a citizen with the judge, I stepped out of the court hall and was greeted by VFW members who welcomed me to America as a citizen and gave me an American Flag and the Constitution booklet.” For more information or images for the retail program, footwear or any of the participating organizations, please visit the Twisted X Facebook page or contact Amber Vanwy. About Twisted X  Founded in 2005, Twisted X Brands proudly celebrates more than ten years of delivering handcrafted, design-patented comfortable footwear to its growing customer base of men, women and children. Primarily focused on core western boot styles, the company recently has added an extensive line of comfort casual footwear and licensed accessories to its portfolio. Find out more at www.twistedxboots.com.   Contact: Amber Vanwy, Director of Marketing, 740.504.8880, avanwy@twistedxboots.com
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- President Barack Obama is opposing suggestions the government privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve health care veterans receive. In an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette (http://tinyurl.com/hsu4k7p ), the president said his administration has made progress modernizing the VA and providing veterans with more timely health care following criticism over wait times. Privatizing the agency would delay that progress, he said. The administration came under fire when it was disclosed that secret wait lists were uncovered at a VA health care system in Arizona amid reports that several veterans had died waiting for health care. Government investigations found significant system failures. "The notion of dismantling the VA system would be a mistake," Obama told The Gazette during an interview on Thursday that was published Sunday. "If you look at, for example, VA health care, there have been challenges getting people into the system. Once they are in, they are extremely satisfied and the quality of care is very high." Obama said during his last term in office, he will continue to work on issues plaguing the Veterans Administration. "It's a big ocean liner, and on any given day, given how far-flung the agency is, we're still seeing problems crop up that we have to correct. I think the main message is that we've still got a lot of work to do. It's an all-hands-on-deck process." Obama appointed a new VA secretary in 2014 after Eric Shinseki resigned. Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, took his place. "I think Secretary McDonald has done a terrific job," the president said. "Since there's only eight months left in my administration, he's got all the way until then to run through the tape." U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, agreed with Obama that total privatization would be a mistake, but he said veterans need more options, including private care. To cope with the problems, Obama signed the Veterans Access to Care Act that requires the VA to contract with private providers when a clinic isn't within 40 miles of the veteran seeking care or the wait time for care is more than 30 days.
Vietnam Veteran Mike Doherty, once a patient at the Pittsburgh VA, now runs the clothing program there. PHOTO BY BILL GEORGE, PITTSBURGH VA HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.     Mike Doherty had a good job driving a truck for a vending machine company. He had a wife and two beautiful daughters; a nice house in a pleasant neighborhood. “I had it all,” he said. “Then it all went away.”DownhillDoherty, a Navy Veteran who served in Vietnam, said things started going downhill after he injured his back at work.“It seemed like I was constantly on pain medication,” he said. “All the medication led to my addiction to painkillers, and to alcohol. I was killing myself, and I was destroying my family. I ended up losing everything: my wife and kids, my job, my house.” The Vietnam vet, then in his mid-50s, found himself sleeping on a friend’s couch.“My friend was a Vietnam vet, like me, and he wanted to help me out,” Doherty said. “I slept on his couch for a year. But even your best friend’s hospitality wears out eventually. Finally one day he said to me, ‘You need help. I’m driving you to the VA.’ And that’s what he did. He drove me to the VA hospital in Pittsburgh.”He added: “My friend’s gone now; he died of throat cancer a few years ago, but he’s the one who gave me the kick in the ass I needed. He was a good friend.”Getting it RightDoherty said he was pleasantly surprised by how he was treated by staff at the Pittsburgh VA’s Highland Drive Campus.“I was apprehensive going in there, but they didn’t judge me,” he said. “They told me they were going to help me. They said, ‘We’ll get it right. We’ll get it right.’ I remember them telling me that over and over.”The Navy Veteran said one VA nurse in particular stands out in his mind.“She was one of the first people I met there,” he said. “She’s a saint. Her name is Mary Francis Pilarski, and she always had a smile. I don’t know how she was able to smile all the time. I remember her because she was just so helpful. She was always there for me.”Green AcresDoherty said it wasn’t long before he was transferred to the Pittsburgh VA’s transitional housing unit in Cowansville, Pa. "It seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “It’s way out in the country, surrounded by farms and cows. It used to be a women’s prison. I guess that’s why my room had a steel door and no windows. But you know what? It was a step up for me. I had been sleeping on someone’s couch and now I had my own room.” Doherty said not all of his fellow patients at Cowansville appreciated the rural aspects of their new environment.“I was raised on a farm, so this felt like I had come home,” he said. “But some of the Veterans couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It’s not for everyone. But I liked it. That’s why I stayed there for two years.” Doherty said volunteers from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) would drive him and his fellow patients from Cowansville to the Pittsburgh VA’s Center for the Treatment of Addictive Diseases. “We were there every day from 9 to 3,” he explained. “I think I liked group therapy the best. You got to see how other people ended up being in the position they’re in. It gave you some perspective. It made you feel like you weren’t so alone.”Troy PolamaluAll that was 10 years ago. Today Doherty has his own apartment, a black cat named Troy Polamalu (after the former Pittsburgh Steelers’ strong safety), and a classic 1985 Crown Victoria he uses to get around in. Most importantly, he has his two daughters back in his life. “I just tried to progress a little bit at a time, as best I could.” “They turned out great,” he beamed. “I missed out on some of their birthdays and dance recitals when they were growing up, and I have no one to blame for that but me. But they turned out good. One just turned 19 and the other just turned 22.”He added: “I feel lucky I was given a chance. That’s why the VA is so important to me. They gave me a chance, and I’m grateful to them. So now I’m trying to give back. That’s why I’ve spent the last 10 years volunteering here at the VA.” Doherty said that 10 years ago the Pittsburgh VA had no formal clothing program, so he decided to start one.“I know what it’s like to show up here with nothing,” he said. “I look at some of these Vets and I say to myself, ‘That was me.’ They don’t have decent clothes or shoes or a winter coat. Now, whatever item of clothing you need –socks, underwear, anything—we can get it for you. I can’t hold your hand once you leave here, but I can make sure you have proper clothes on your back. I reach out to the VFW, the Purple Heart organization, the American Legion, places like that. They give us all the clothes we need. ”He continued: “Some of the homeless Vets I’ve given clothes to work here now. They’re VA employees. That gives me a good feeling.”The Vietnam Vet, who will soon turn 65, said helping his fellow Veterans is what keeps him going.“It’s what gets me up at 3 o’clock every morning,” he smiled. “I’m here every day handing out clothes. I’m here on holidays. I’m here on Christmas Eve.”   By Tom Cramer
As the years roll by since they made their world-changing invasion of France, World War II veterans continue to come back to Normandy where the Allied invasion of June 1944 broke the Axis grip on western Europe and ultimately led to victory in World War II. And each year, among the veterans, are some returning for the first time since they fought here. One such veteran is 93-year-old Ralph Ticcioni of Milwaukee, Wis. The glider-trained member of the 82nd Airborne Division was in Ste. Mere-Eglise Thursday as ceremonies kicked off to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day assault that began Europe’s liberation from Nazi Germany. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected something like this,” said Ticcioni, who was on a family vacation in Europe and penciled in a visit to Normandy June 2 as part of his plan. The last time he was in Normandy, he explained, “I was scared. Pandemonium is a good word to use for it.” He was the lone World War II veteran at wreath-laying ceremonies Thursday to remember the events at Ste. Mere-Eglise, first French town liberated in the invasion. At monuments to honor the service of the town’s D-Day mayor, Alexandre Renaud, and the sacrifices of fallen airborne soldiers who jumped behind enemy lines ahead of the beach assaults of June 6, 1944, wreaths were laid, speeches were given, and visitors lined up to get Ticcioni’s autograph. Among the speakers at the town-square monument to airborne casualties was U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray who described the invasion of Normandy as “a tapestry of stories. The list of tales from that day will go on forever.” Ticcioni’s story is typical of the airborne assault that began about an hour into June 6, 1944. He descended through the blustery night sky about five miles from his objective, Ste. Mere-Eglise, and fought through the countryside to the town, which U.S. forces secured just before daylight. He was 22 on the day of the mission. “I didn’t think I would make 23,” he said. Thousands of American troops lost their lives fighting in the days and weeks that followed, a painful memory for the Wisconsin veteran who remembers the postwar challenge of reconciling all he witnessed in combat. “You learn to adjust,” he said. “You realize that life is for the living. We did what we came to do. We never realized what the results would be. Right was on our side. That’s why we won.” Ticcioni saw the results firsthand as French residents and other visitors surrounded the ceremonies, which included a service in the 12th century church on the town square, to express gratitude to the Allied liberators of World War II. “It hits you right here,” Ticcioni said, pressing his right hand over his heart. Following the ceremonies, hundreds of veterans and active-duty Army and Navy personnel gathered for a reception at the Ste. Mere-Eglise city hall where others who fought in World War II soon appeared, joining Ticcioni as the weekend of commemoration kicked off. The 82nd Airborne Division Choir and a U.S. Navy band provided music for Thursday’s activities in Ste. Mere-Eglise. American Legion member Ray Shearer of Indianapolis placed wreaths on behalf of the largest organization of wartime veterans in the United States. Shearer, a member of the American Overseas Memorial Day Association that coordinates Memorial Day events at cemeteries and monuments in Europe each year, will be joined by American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett and American Legion Auxiliary National President Sharon Conatser for ceremonies and remembrances at the Normandy American Cemetery, Pointe du Hoc and Utah Beach as part of the commander’s official visit to the Department of France. By Jeff Stoffer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department is siding with a legal argument by a fired Department of Veterans Affairs official at the center of a nationwide scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and secret lists covering up the delays. Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, is suing the VA to win back her old job. Helman argues in court papers that a key portion of a 2014 law passed in response to the wait-time scandal is unconstitutional and denies her an important step to appeal her firing. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Congress that the Justice Department has decided not to contest that element of Helman's challenge, essentially agreeing with her legal position. Still, the Justice Department will continue fighting against Helman's reinstatement, Lynch said. "I note that the scope of this decision is narrow" and the Justice Department "will continue to defend the vast bulk of the statute," Lynch wrote this week to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Helman is serving two years' probation for failing to disclose more than $19,000 in gifts she received while supervising the Phoenix hospital where whistleblowers revealed veterans on secret waiting lists faced scheduling delays of up to a year. As many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the hospital, according to an investigation by the VA's office of inspector general. McCarthy and other Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the attorney general's failure to defend the 2014 law could make it easier for Helman - a convicted felon - to get back her job. "When Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act, a key provision allowed for incompetent and indifferent executives whose inaction allowed veterans to die to be more easily fired," McCarthy said in a statement. "Now, even after the president signed this provision into law, his administration is refusing to defend this measure of accountability. This decision by the Obama administration puts our veterans at further risk. " Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said Lynch's decision was "reckless" and "remarkably hypocritical given the fact that President Obama enthusiastically supported this law." The effect of Lynch's action is clear, said Miller, R-Fla.: "It undermines very modest reforms to our broken civil service system supported in 2014 by the president and an overwhelming majority of Congress." Helman was fired in November 2014, seven months after the wait-time scandal came to light. The scandal led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a $16 billion law overhauling the labyrinthine veterans' health care system and making it easier to fire VA employees accused of wrongdoing. The inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. Similar problems were soon discovered nationwide. Intentional misconduct was substantiated in 51 of 77 completed investigations into scheduling problems and wait-time manipulation, the inspector general's office said in a February report. Problems at the VA have affected tens of thousands of veterans and prompted an outcry in Congress that continues as lawmakers and agency leaders struggle over how to improve the agency. VA Secretary Robert McDonald sparked widespread outrage last week when he compared long wait times at VA health sites to waiting in line at Disney theme parks. McDonald later said he regretted the remark, which lawmakers called insulting and inappropriate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the attorney general's decision in the Helman case "shameful" and said it contradicts a statement Obama made when he signed the VA reform law in August 2014. "If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period," Obama said at a signing ceremony at a Virginia military base. Lynch's decision "not only undermines the law that Congress passed and the president supported, but it sends a clear message that for President Obama and Attorney General Lynch, the sanctity of a federal bureaucrat's job is far more important than the health and well-being of our veterans," McCain said. Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas said the department believes Helman's firing was proper, but a provision in the 2014 law that gives "an administrative judge final and unreviewable discretion to determine if the removal was lawful violates the U.S. Constitution." The department will continue "vigorously protecting the rights and interests of our service members and veterans," Navas added.
An evening of networking and professional development designed to provide those who have served and their families the opportunity to meet industry professionals, hiring managers, executives, and resource specialists. Three designated halls will cater to the needs of transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and spouses interested in networking with executives, mentors, hiring managers, and resource specialists in the following three arenas: military-friendly companies, aerospace careers, and entrepreneurship. Welcome and keynote speaker is Bill Kraus, co-owner of Mission BBQ. Read Bio Top Military-Friendly Employers: Candidates can network in the Space Race Hall with representatives from the top military-friendly companies from a variety of industries.  Aerospace Careers: The America by Air Hall will provide candidates the opportunity to meet and network with representatives and executives from aerospace organizations and companies looking to fill positions and provide resources. Exploring Entrepreneurship: Thinking about starting a business, already own one, or exploring franchise opportunities? Join us in the Pioneers of Flight Hall to network with successful veteran business owners and resource specialists and to learn more about ownership, growth, and taking your idea and career to the next level. Limited Capacity! Invitation Only!* This event is free for candidates *This is an invitation-only event. If you did not receive an invitation, please email career@moaa.org to request one. You may be contacted by a MOAA representative if there are questions or if additional information is required to process your request.  View a video of last year's event   Employers/Exhibitors, for more information on the event options and to RSVP go here.       EVENT AGENDA   Event Time                      Description                                 Speakers   6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.        Check-In                                      Bill Krause Mission BBQ   7:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.        MOAA Welcome and Keynote                                          *Open to the first 500 attendees              7:55 p.m. - 8:25 p.m.        TOP MILITARY-FRIENDLY EMPLOYERS SESSION/SPACE RACE HALL   Which Business Sector is Right For You? Thinking about a career in the government, private, or nonprofit sector? This panel session will provide information and advice to help you make an informed decision about your next career move.                                            IMAX theater   8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.        ENTREPRENEURSHIP SESSION/PIONEERS OF FLIGHT HALL Be Your Own Boss! Exploring Entrepreneurship Panel Learn from an expert panel of veteran entrepreneurs, franchise owners, and resource specialists about business ownership! What to expect: You will hear from other veterans about how they made their business a success, listen to expert advice from resource specialists, learn what it takes to go into business for yourself, and get answers to your questions and network with the experts.                                           Einstein Planetarium   9:05 p.m. - 9:35 p.m.        AEROSPACE INDUSTRY SESSION/AMERICA BY AIR Career Opportunities in the Aerospace Industry Why work in the aerospace industry? Attend this session for an update on the current job market, which companies/organizations are hiring, and tips for landing the career of your dreams!                                           Einstein Planetarium   10:00 p.m.                         Event Ends                                                      EVENT SPEAKERS   Bill Krause - Mission BBQ          
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of the Veterans Legacy Program to memorialize Veterans’ service and sacrifice through public educational programming.  The program uses the rich resources found throughout VA national cemeteries, Soldiers’ lots and monument sites. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the program yesterday during a Memorial Day ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.  “The Veterans Legacy Program is meant to bring to life the stories of Veterans buried in VA national cemeteries through lesson plans, interactive maps and video vignettes,” said Secretary McDonald. “Behind every marker is a story—a story of what it meant to be a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman at a particular moment in time. Our goal is to ensure that our nation does not forget their stories and their sacrifice.”  Using online educational products such as lesson plans, interactive maps and short video vignettes, VA, through the Veterans Legacy Program, will engage the general public, students and educators.  VA launched this initiative earlier this year at two pilot sites: Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina and Riverside National Cemetery in California. Over the next several years, online educational products and programs will be developed for all VA national cemeteries.      VA has also formed a partnership with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to co-sponsor a “Teachers Institute,” a workshop for educators who will conduct research at VA and ABMC cemeteries. Information about the program may be found at www.cem.va.gov/cem/legacy/. More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s 133 national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve, and maintain 100 Veterans cemeteries in 47 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service. In 2015, VA honored more than 353,000 Veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries. Information on VA burial benefits is available from local VA national cemetery offices at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000.  For more information about the history of VA national cemeteries, visit www.cem.va.gov/history. Blogs about the Veterans Legacy Program may be found at:  www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/26511/va-launches-veterans-legacy-program/  andwww.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/28031/veterans-stories-not-just-stories-americas-history/.  ###    
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill on Tuesday rolled out legislation aimed at helping World War II veterans she said were exposed to mustard gas by the military, a practice a daughter of one Missouri veteran said led to chronic health issues for her father. McCaskill's bill would require the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department to reconsider disability benefits denied to those who claimed the testing caused health problems. McCaskill's office said the military tested the effects of mustard gas and the blister agent lewisite on about 60,000 veterans by the end of WWII. McCaskill's staff estimates a couple hundred participants could still be alive. Those tested were sworn to secrecy until 1991, and McCaskill said some have since struggled to receive compensation for health issues caused by exposure. The Democratic senator said the VA has denied about 90 percent of claims. The legislation also would require the VA and the Pentagon create a new policy to process future benefit claims related to mustard agents. An emailed statement from the VA sent Tuesday by spokesman James Hutton said the agency recognizes that full body mustard gas exposure might have caused disabilities. The VA plans to send letters in June to veterans who participated in testing and their families with a number to call for help. "VA is committed to identifying, locating, and fairly compensating all WWII Veterans who developed disabilities because they were exposed to mustard gas, whether through DoD testing or on the battlefields abroad," the statement read. But the agency's ability to do that, it says, is hampered by incomplete records of test subjects and the fact that records from the time were primarily paper-based. McCaskill said Congress "should've done more, sooner." She said her bill will help even though it's unclear how many veterans it could impact. Among those are 89-year-old Arla Harrell, a WWII veteran from Missouri and the bill's namesake. Harrell had mustard agents dabbed on his skin and was placed in a gas chamber without protections in southwestern Missouri's Camp Crowder after he enlisted in the Army in 1945, his daughter Beverly Howe said. Howe said her father was told that if he agreed to mustard-gas testing his health care would be covered for the rest of his life. She said he's since had lung issues and skin cancer, which she said are linked to mustard-gas exposure. Howe said he was denied disability claims for at least the fourth time in April. Howe said the legislation comes too late for many veterans but said it still could help some. "My dad is probably not going to get, if any benefits, much benefits," Howe said. "But my dad at least has been recognized." McCaskill's staff said she plans to introduce the bill after the Senate returns next week.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Memorials to veterans in a Los Angeles neighborhood and a town in Kentucky, as well as a Civil War veterans cemetery in Virginia, were damaged as the nation prepares to mark Memorial Day, officials said. A Vietnam War memorial in the Venice area of Los Angeles has been extensively defaced by graffiti. The vandalism occurred sometime during the past week, KCAL/KCBS-TV (http://cbsloc.al/1RAa3mg) reported. The homespun memorial painted on a block-long wall on Pacific Avenue lists the names of American service members missing in action or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. News of the vandalism came as another veterans-related memorial was reported damaged in Henderson, Kentucky. Police say a Memorial Day cross display there that honors the names of 5,000 veterans of conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War has been damaged by a driver who plowed through the crosses early Saturday. In Virginia, the Petersburg National Battlefield has apparently has been looted, the National Park Service said. Numerous excavations were found at the Civil War battlefield last week, Jeffrey Olson, and agency spokesman, said in a news release Friday. Petersburg National Battlefield is a 2,700-acre park marks where more than 1,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died fighting during the Siege of Petersburg 151 years ago. In Los Angeles' Venice neighborhood, the wall for missing veterans has been tagged previously, but the latest vandalism covers the bottom half of the memorial for much of its length. To George Francisco, vice president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, it's not just graffiti. "It's a desecration. I mean it's very simple. There's no sort of other way around it, said Francisco, who also runs a nonprofit called Veterans Foundation Inc. "I've known the sacrifices these people made in an incredibly unpopular war. So to continue the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans is somewhat shocking, somewhat shocking and quite sad," Francisco said. Painted by a Vietnam veteran and dedicated in 1992, it declares, "You are not forgotten" and states the number of missing as 2,273. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the number of unaccounted-for Americans was listed at 2,646 in 1973. About half were those missing in action, and the others were those killed in action but the body was not recovered. Since then, the remains of more than 1,000 American have been identified and returned and about 1,600 have still not been accounted for, although efforts continue. In Henderson, Kentucky, Jennifer Richmond, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department, said the community is devastated and working frantically to repair and replace the crosses that were put on display for a Memorial Day ceremony in Central Park. She said a 27-year-old local man drove straight through the cross display in the Henderson park, about 130 miles west of Louisville, just before 6 a.m. Saturday, but investigators don't know if it was deliberate. Anthony Burrus has been charged with criminal mischief in the first degree and leaving the scene of an accident. Online jail records do not list an attorney for Burrus.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Trump told a Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation's military veterans. "We're not going to allow that to happen any longer," Trump told supporters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Dedicated to remembering prisoners of war and those missing in action, the crowd cheered - a sign, perhaps, that some veterans groups are stepping past their anger over Trump's comments last year in which he said he likes "people who weren't captured" in wars. That had been a dig at Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had been captured and held for more than five years during the Vietnam War. Trump claimed that McCain was a "war hero because he was captured." Trump has refused to apologize to McCain. Many veterans groups were furious, but since then Trump has worked to try to repair the damage. He frequently honors veterans at his rallies and he has come out with a plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also held a fundraiser for veterans' causes in place of an Iowa debate that he skipped. Still, Trump, who avoided the draft through a series of deferments, drew scrutiny for not immediately distributing the $6 million he'd claimed to raise, including $1 million he'd pledged himself. He is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday to announce the name of the charities selected to receive the money. On Sunday, Trump also vowed to "knock the hell out of" the Islamic State group by building a bigger and better military and by cutting wait times for veterans needing medical care. "If there's a wait, we're going to give the right for those people to go to a private doctor or even a public doctor and get themselves taken care of and we're going to pay the bill," he said. Trump has a loyal following with bikers, who frequently attend his rallies, where they sometimes clash with Trump protesters. Among those eager to hear Trump speak was Louis Naymik, 52, of Clarksburg, Maryland, who said he served in the Ohio Army National Guard for four years. "There's history in the air here," he said. "We're living in historic times in our country today with the election and the choosing of a new president. And I just wanted to give honor to those who have fallen and sacrificed their lives for our country." Naymik, who works in radiology, was wearing a Trump shirt and said he had been a supporter since the day Trump announced his candidacy "What I like about Trump is that he is one of us. He's not a politician," he said, adding that Trump would bring the country back to its old values, put American citizens first and honor its veterans. BY JILL COLVIN