Kirk Alkire is not a medical professional in any sense. But the emotional moments he has witnessed atop mountain peaks in Alaska prove to him that climbing in honor of fallen service members is therapeutic. One Gold Star father spoke of his deceased son, a Marine, for the first time in more than 15 years as he hiked to the summit. “This poor guy has been carrying this around, bottled up, since 2002, and we had no idea,” said Alkire, who led a mission to name an Alaskan mountain peak after Gold Star families. “We just figured this is who he is, and this is how he talks about [his son].” VFW Life member Kirk Alkire displays a Gold Star flag atop Gold Star Peak, about 30 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, alongside his dog, Hatcher Jack. Alkire belongs to VFW Post 9785 in Eagle River, Alaska. He lost five members of his battalion while serving in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Kirk Alkire. Alkire, a Life member of VFW Post 9785 in Eagle River, Alaska, said it wasn’t the people who caused this father to open up. “We were just a vehicle that got him there,” Alkire said. “But the process, the climb and then reaching the summit and seeing all the wonderful stuff that’s there… It’s a powerful thing. And, like I said, I have no certifications in mental health or anything, but I can tell you that these mountains — this mountain in particular — absolutely heals.”A GOLD STAR CONNECTIONAlkire, who served in Iraq from 2006-07 with the 2nd Bn., 377th Parachute Field Arty Regt., 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Div., as a fire and battery 1st sergeant, said the idea to name a mountain peak came to him about two years ago while reaching the summit of Mount POW/MIA, which sits north of his home in Eagle River. It was after the deaths of his fellow soldiers during his last deployment that Mount POW/MIA took on a “completely new meaning.” On Jan. 20, 2007, insurgents attacked Alkire’s unit in Karbala. “They killed one of my guys instantly, then took four others hostage, or prisoner,” Alkire said. “[The insurgents] took them out into the Iraqi countryside as we were giving chase, and they knew we were on to them. So they pulled over, took my guys out of the vehicle and executed them on the side of the road.” The men who were taken prisoner — Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, Spc. Johnathan B. Chism and Pfc. Shawn P. Falter — received the POW medal. Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, who was killed instantly, received the Silver Star. When Alkire returned to Alaska, he climbed Mount POW/MIA again. It was while standing atop the summit that day about a year and a half ago that he decided to do more for “his Gold Stars,” the five men who died in Iraq. “I’m very connected to my Gold Stars from this incident, as well as many other Gold Stars,” Alkire said. “I just thought that I needed to do more. I came up with the idea that naming an unnamed peak right next to [Mount POW/MIA] to honor them — all of them — would be appropriate.”THE NAMING PROCESSSelecting a neighboring peak to Mount POW/MIA — which is about 30 miles north of Anchorage — had a “much more special meaning” to Alkire. This was partially because relatives of missing or unidentified service members can become Gold Star families due to “advanced technology” that identifies remains. It is important for a mountain peak to honor Gold Star families, according to Alkire, because “no one has given more” to the nation than they have. “Whatever I had to go through to do this in signatures and talking to politicians is nothing,” Alkire said. “It’s just nothing compared to what they have gone through, the sacrifices they have made.” Alkire had to garner “public support,” which could come in the form of news articles, petitions and resolutions, as part of the naming process through the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. He started gathering information in June 2017 and had his first hearing in December 2017. “By the time it was done, I had a couple thousand signatures from all over the country,” Alkire said. After receiving approval in Alaska, the naming request was forwarded to Washington, D.C. A unanimous vote in favor of the new moniker came on Feb. 8. “From there, it just started picking up so much more traction, which led to us starting a nonprofit that is geared toward helping veterans and survivors reach the summit,” Alkire said. “Not only just the summit because it’s not just about climbing Gold Star Peak, but just getting veterans and survivors out in nature to honor and remember our fallen in an attempt to bring healing to all.”A ‘LIBERATING’ EXPERIENCEAs of August, Alkire and a team of guides have taken more than 120 Gold Star families and veterans to the summit. The 23 hikes have covered 82,000 vertical feet. “Every single time we reach the summit,” Alkire said, “it’s a powerful moment for that person, that survivor.” Sy Bulaong-Ramirez, who currently is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, hiked to the Gold Star Peak in June to honor her husband, Sgt. Reyes Ramirez. He died June 17, 2006, in Ramadi, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device went off near his Humvee. He was 23 years old, and served with the 40th Engineer Battalion out of Baumholder, Germany. Reyes is buried in Texas, and Bulaong-Ramirez said she has “never really had a place to go” to remember him. Though Bulaong-Ramirez said she did not know what to expect on the two-and-a-half-hour hike, it was “inviting” to remember her husband. “It’s my first time hiking, my first time ever doing anything that has anything to do with Gold Star [events],” Bulaong-Ramirez said. “I had always been nervous, always had anxiety to go to any kind of event.” The whole experience was “liberating,” according to Bulaong-Ramirez. And when she reached the top of Gold Star Peak, she felt “a bit closer to heaven.” “I really felt that there was healing that took place during my time of the hike,” Bulaong-Ramirez said. “And the fact that at the end of the hike, I felt like I’m going to go back again, as if I’m going to go back and visit my spouse again.” The hike also served as an “icebreaker” for Bulaong-Ramirez and “breached” the denial she has felt since her husband’s death. “I’ve been pretty much a hermit ever since the event, and this one is the only [activity] that really motivated me to go do something,” Bulaong-Ramirez said. “That’s a really big deal for me.” The next leg of Alkire’s mission is to have a Gold Star monument built at the summit of Gold Star Peak and another at a location for “non-climbers.” For more information about Gold Star Peak, visit www.goldstarpeak.org. This article is featured in the November/December 2018 issue of VFW magazine, and was written by Kari Williams, associate editor, VFW magazine.
MCLEAN, Va., Nov. 7, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Military.com is showcasing Veterans Day Discounts again this year with one of the most comprehensive lists available of over 100 restaurants, retailers, travel and recreation organizations seeking to show their appreciation for service members, veterans, retirees and their families. Veterans and military personnel should keep in mind that most businesses require proof of military service, which can include a Veterans Administration Universal Access Card, Military I.D., DD-214 (discharge papers) and Veterans Service Organization Card (VSO's include groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion). In some cases, businesses will accept a picture of the veteran in uniform. Dining and restaurant offers include leading national chains like Applebee's which is offering a free meal from a select menu, and California Pizza Kitchen which is offering a free entree. Other great offers from restaurants include Cracker Barrel, Denny's, Chipotle, and Chevy's. All restaurant offerings are listed on the Military.com Veterans Day Discounts center. Dining isn't the only way to take advantage of Veterans Day discounts. Many retailers and travel and recreationdestinations are also offering discounts. Home Depot, which offers a year-round 10 percent discount to active duty and retirees, is extending that discount to all veterans on Veterans Day. Target is offering a 10 percent discount to active duty military, veterans, and their spouse and/or dependent children November 4-12, and Goodyear is offering all active and retired military members free "Checks for Vets," plus up to 10 percent off tires from November 9-11. Carnival Cruise Line is offering up to $50 onboard credit per stateroom, a complimentary two-category upgrade, and 50 percent reduced deposits, and the Army Corps of Engineers will waive day use fees at its more than 2,800 USACE-operated recreation areas nationwide in observance of Veterans Day, November 11 and 12. The World of Coca-Cola always offers free admission to veterans and military, but is extending the offer and providing half price tickets to friends and family from November 2-12. Knott's Berry Farm is also offering free admission, as is the Harley-Davidson Museum. In addition to these special offers, some businesses and organizations are also offering programs to help give back to the military and veteran community. Those wishing to take advantage of these great offers should note that not all franchise locations participate in their national chain's Veterans Day programs –customers are encouraged to contact their nearest establishment to make sure they are willing to honor the discount at that location. Military.com also features a list of Veterans Day events. About Military.comMilitary.com is the nation's largest military and veteran online news and membership organization serving active duty personnel, reservists, guard members, retirees, veterans, family members, defense workers and those considering military careers. Military.com enables Americans with military affinity to access their benefits, advance their careers, enjoy military discounts, and stay connected for life. Military.com is a business unit of Monster Worldwide Inc. More information is available at www.military.com. Links:Military.com FacebookMilitary.com TwitterMilitary.com Press Center SOURCE Military.com Related Links http://www.military.com
(From Stars & Stripes) WASHINGTON – Military veterans running as first-time Democratic candidates helped fuel the large swell of voter turnout in Tuesday’s midterm elections that led to their party’s takeover of the House of Representatives. At least six candidates pulled upsets or won open seats, allowing Democrats to claim victory in the lower chamber of Congress. By Wednesday morning, The Associated Press said Democrats looked to control the House by 219 to 193 seats, with nearly two dozen races yet to be decided. “I think it’s pretty clear now that veterans are the reason that Democrats are going to take back the House,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of progressive political organization VoteVets. “It’s definitely a great night for veterans who are Democrats.” Many veterans ran in high-profile races such as Republican Reps. Martha McSally and Duncan Hunter, who are part of a traditional Republican block of candidates running in district and statewide races. But others were part of a new generation of Democratic politicians with military experience. With Honor saw 17 of nearly 40 Republican and Democratic candidates who they endorsed claim victories by Wednesday morning. Several races were still too close to call even hours after polls closed. “We need leaders on both sides who will put country first,” said Rye Barcott, Marine Corps veteran and co-founder of With Honor, a super PAC group. “The problems we are taking on – hyper-partisanship, dysfunction in Congress, and the decline of veterans in public office – are debilitating to our country.” All 435 seats in the House and 35 of the Senate’s 100 seats were up for grabs in Tuesday’s elections. The winning veterans include incumbents such as Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who have made their mark in short tenures in Congress. Others, such as Democrats Elaine Luria of Virginia and Max Rose of New York ousted incumbents in upsets Tuesday to win their first terms as House lawmakers. In an overnight reversal, The Associated Press and others cancelled their call that Republican Rep. Will Hurd would win Texas’ 23rd District, reporting Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran, was leading in the voting. In one of the midterm elections more controversial races, Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and incumbent from California, won his district while facing 60 criminal charges. Despite Hunter being saddled with claims of misusing $250,000 in campaign funds, he defeated his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar for a seat that he took in 2009 after his father retired from office. At least six other races featured two veterans facing off. In Florida, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, an Army veteran, and the state’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy veteran, were headed for a potential recount despite Nelson’s camp having conceded earlier. In Massachusetts, Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran, won re-election to a third term against Republican Joseph Schneider, a former Green Beret. This year’s increase in veteran candidates follows dwindling representation of former servicemembers in Congress for several decades. Their percentage fell from peaks of 81 percent in the Senate in 1975 and 75.2 percent in the House in 1969 to recent lows of 20 percent or less by 2015, according to the most recent figures from Pew Research Center. More vets, more bipartisanship With some pundits pointing to the dwindling ranks of veterans as contributing to toxic partisanship on Capitol Hill, the hope is now that more former servicemembers in Congress could reverse that trend. Of the 200 House candidates tracked by With Honor, 102 were Republicans, 61 were Democrats with the remainder third party and write-in candidates, said With Honor spokeswoman Ellen Zeng. The group endorsed 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats. “We hope a critical mass of these With Honor candidates can help fix our broken politics,” Zeng said. Lawmakers will be taking on a long to-do list for defense matters when the new Congress convenes in January. The fate of an ongoing military buildup, war and deployment oversight and decisions on who can enlist in the service will be directed by lawmakers in Washington for the coming two years. In addition, President Donald Trump’s growing demands for the military — from expansions in overseas war operations to surprise efforts to install budget cuts to plans to deploy about 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border — could also come under additional congressional scrutiny. This, as Pentagon officials are slated in January to roll out two proposed fiscal year 2020 budgets: a $733 billion plan that would stay on track with a military expansion and a $700 billion plan that would undo much of its initiatives from the last two years. Lawmakers will also contend with budget caps that would otherwise keep defense spending to $576 billion for the 2020 fiscal year. The new Congress also might have to contend with several costly Trump plans to create a “Space Force” as a new military service and a military parade through the streets of Washington that was put on hold until 2019. There’s also ongoing debate over whether transgender personnel and certain immigrants should be eligible to serve in the military. By early Wednesday, while several media outlets had called House control for the Democrats, control of the Senate remained with Republicans. Military veterans see easy wins, upsets Several military veterans who won re-election bids were especially vocal on the role of the military in their previous, short tenures on Capitol Hill. And in several cases, their wins could be considered upsets. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., won the seat for his state’s newly drawn 17th District on Tuesday with only months in Congress after a close, upset win in a March special election. Lamb won that previous race for the state’s 18th Congressional District, a traditionally Republican stronghold, by less than 700 votes. With Tuesday’s win, Lamb ousted sitting Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represented the state’s 12th District since 2013. Gallagher, a Marine Corps veteran who won a second term in Wisconsin’s 8th District, made headlines during his first term for criticizing Trump, and particularly the roll out of the president’s travel ban last year. Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and Iraq War veteran, was elected to his third term in the House on Tuesday, defeating Green Party candidate Gary Swing. Gallego, an outspoken Trump critic, faced no Republican challenger for Arizona's District 7. Gallego has said publicly that he’s considering vying for a Senate seat, possibly during the 2020 special election for the remainder of John McCain’s term. McCain, an outspoken Republican senator from Arizona, died in August. In Delaware, incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, a Navy veteran, fended off Republican Robert Arlett, a Naval Reserve veteran. In Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, Republican Rep. Mike Bost declared victory over Democrat Brendan Kelly, a Navy veteran. In Pennsylvania’s 10th District, Republican Rep. Scott Perry, an active member of the state’s National Guard, won over Democrat George Scott, an Army veteran. And in Colorado’s 6th District, Iraq War veteran and Democrat Jason Crow upset another veteran, Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican who was seeking a sixth term in the House. Crow is a former Army Ranger and first-time political candidate. During the campaign, he criticized Coffman’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. The 6th District is home to Aurora, where a 2012 mass shooting took place at a movie theater. In the Houston area, Republican Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, won a first term in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Crenshaw unwittingly drew national attention this past weekend when he was the subject of a joke on “Saturday Night Live” for his war injury. Crenshaw, who saw five deployments, was hit by a bomb blast during a mission in Afghanistan that destroyed his right eye. Crenshaw now wears an eye patch that became an iconic symbol in his campaign. “I think we’re doing well, we’re excited,” Crenshaw told a Houston crowd late Tuesday ahead of the official results. Of the SNL joke, “I’m from the SEAL team, we don’t really get offended.” This, as Greg Pence, a Republican, Marine Corps veteran and older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, won a House seat in Indiana’s 6th District by a large margin. Some veterans lose, others await results In the race to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona, McSally, an Air Force veteran, remained in a tight race with her opponent, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, by early Wednesday. In New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, Navy veteran Eddie Edwards, a Republican, lost his race. Edwards, a former police chief, lost to state lawmaker Andy Sanborn. Democrats Amy McGrath of Kentucky and Randy “Ironstache” Bryce of Wisconsin, an Army veteran, drew national buzz in their congressional bids but fell in their races Tuesday to win first terms as House lawmakers. Though McGrath lost her fight, she impressed election watchers with how close the veteran Marine fighter pilot came to pulling an upset. “This race was never supposed to be competitive and McGrath ran on a background of being an independent,” Zeng said. “She only lost by (about) 3 points.” Female vets draw buzz, then upsets In New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, veteran Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherill, a Democrat, beat her opponent, Jay Webber, a Republican state assemblyman. The two were vying to fill the seat for retiring Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who held the seat for 12 terms. Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran, won a first term for Pennsylvania’s 6th District while Luria pulled an upset in Virginia’s 2nd District. And Air Force veteran Mary Jennings “M.J.” Hegar, a Democrat, lost in a tight race with incumbent Republican Rep. John Carter in Texas' 31st District, a deeply conservative swath Trump won in 2016. Luria, Sherill, Houlahan and other female military veterans running for office are part of a new, energizing movement, political watchers said. “These amazing women leaders are part of the changing face of the military who have attracted attention because of their willingness to shatter every ceiling first in the military and then in politics,” Dan Helmer, vice chair of progressive political organization VoteVets, said ahead of Tuesday’s election. “These strong women military leaders have captured the attention of the whole country and it’s not a surprise.” firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @cgrisales email@example.comTwitter: @nikkiwentling
As Veterans Day approaches, American Legion posts and Legion Family members across the nation are preparing to both host and participate in events in their communities. Some will participate in bell ringing, while others will sponsor or march in parades. And in Iowa, an American Legion post is hosting a benefit concert featuring songs from the World War I era. American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad will have a busy Veterans Day in the nation’s capital. He’ll attend an 11 a.m. wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and ceremony inside the Memorial Amphitheater that will include a parade of colors by veterans' organizations and remarks from dignitaries. And that afternoon he’ll attend an observance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The following is a brief, state-by-state sampling of what American Legion posts and their Legion Family units, squadrons and chapters will be being this weekend to honor the nation’s veterans. Arizona • The 99th annual Tucson Veterans Day Parade will take place Nov. 12, with the theme, “Celebration of Armistice Day.” Morgan McDermott Legion Post 7 sponsors the event with the city of Tucson. The parade will begin after opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. and features five grand marshals, all veterans of World War II. The parade begins downtown at West Alameda Street and Granada Avenue. For more information, go to http://www.tucsonveteransdayparade.org/. • Also on Nov. 12 in Tucson, the Arizona History Museum, 949 E. Second St., will show a one-hour documentary, “Arizona Heroes of World War I,” every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The film commemorates both the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and the 100th anniversary of the founding of The American Legion. The film includes 100-year-old historical footage from the National Archives and is sponsored by the Department of Arizona and endorsed by the United States World War I Centennial Commission. Viewing is free for anyone coming to just see the film; there is an admission charge to see the museum although veterans get into the museum for free. For more information about the documentary, visit http://www.arizonaheroesofww1.com/. Colorado • In Loveland, American Legion Post 15 will team up with VFW Post 41 and the community in celebrating Veterans Day the same way it has since 1920: ringing bells throughout the city beginning at 4 a.m. Afterward at Loveland Burial Park, local Boy Scouts and volunteers will raise more than 50 20-foot poles with flags that have draped the caskets of veterans, lining the cemetery’s road. American Legion and VFW Auxiliary members will prepare a community breakfast, a parade takes place, and vendors and veterans service organizations set up booths throughout the city. An afternoon ceremony takes place at Dwayne Webster Veterans Memorial Park. • In Colorado Springs, American Legion Post 5 members will lay a wreath at the city’s Medal of Honor monument, as well as one at the gravesite of Medal of Honor recipient Floyd Lindstrom. Both wreath layings will be streamed live here. Connecticut In Bristol. American Legion Seicheprey Post 2 will start with its monthly breakfast at the post and then join others in taking part in “Bells of Peace" at 11 a.m. A meal will follow at the post, and at 6 p.m. the post’s Auxiliary unit will conduct a lumination on the street leading to the post. Florida • American Legion Post 273 in Madeira Beach will take part in a “Bells of Peace” event. • Legionnaires from throughout Florida’s District 15 will take part in a special ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa. District 15 Public Relations Chairman Patricia Anne Delgado will have a table set up to hand out poppies and special cards made by children for veterans. Illinois American Legion Auxiliary Unit 578 in Bunker Hill is hosting a free chicken and dumpling dinner for all local veterans. The unit also will have a Quilts of Valor presentation before the dinner for two Legionnaires. Indiana In Indianapolis — the city with the second-most memorials dedicated to veterans, behind only Washington, D.C. — a service and parade will be held to honor Veterans Day on Nov. 10. A service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Indiana War Memorial. Afterward, American Legion members will be well represented in the annual downtown parade. Iowa • Highland Park American Legion Post 374 in Des Moines is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and the founding of The American Legion by hosting a benefit concert. About a dozen songs from the World War I era, such as “Over There”, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” will be performed, as well as each of the five military service branch songs. Those in attendance will have their own songbook to take home as souvenirs. The free concert will be held Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. at Post 374, 3712 2nd Ave., Des Moines. Donations will be accepted to support the Puppy Jake Foundation – a nonprofit in Des Moines that trains and provides service dogs for veterans. • American Legion Post 653 in Denver is having a Veterans Day program at the local high school on the morning of Nov. 12, and a free dinner and program at the post that evening. • American Legion Post 298 in Marion will conduct an honor guard presentation a Hy-Vee supermarket that feeds veterans for free, also at a local cemetery before taking part in a ceremony at the post. Kentucky American Legion Post 49 in Lebanon is hosting a Veterans Day ceremony at the National Cemetery in Lebanon. A reception will follow the ceremony at the post. Missouri American Legion Post 434 is co-sponsoring a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 9 at the X Center. Nebraska American Legion Post 7 in Alliance is participating in a parade and is co-sponsoring a veterans luncheon. Nevada American Legion Post 149 is using Veterans Day to host a food drive to stock the shelves of the local Fisher House. New Jersey The church of The American Legion's first national commander, Franklin D’Olier, will toll "Bells of Peace" on Nov. 11 as part of the commemorations related to the World War One Centennial. St. Mary's Episcopal in Burlington will begin ringing its bells at 11 a.m. local time when the fighting stopped a century ago. D'Olier, who died in 1953, is buried in the St. Mary's church yard in his hometown of Burlington. New Mexico American Legion Post 69 in Albuquerque will celebrate Veterans Day with an open house for everyone in our community and a free luncheon for all veterans. New York • Thousands of veterans and their families will gather Nov. 10 at the New York State Fairgrounds for the annual CNY Veterans Expo and Parade in Syracuse. The theme for this year’s event: The American Legion’s 100th anniversary. Prominently featured will be American Legion traveling exhibits highlighting the organization’s first century of accomplishments and its role in bringing to life and continuing to improve the GI Bill over the years. The expo runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Admission and parking are free of charge. • Smith-Warren Post 367 in Scottsville will honor Vietnam veterans with a ceremony and lunch on Veterans Day. The post will give out 38 Vietnam commemorative lapel pins, certificates and locally produced commemorative challenge coins to all who served during the Vietnam War; two will be given to spouses of deceased Vietnam Veterans, while two will be given to families of Vietnam veterans killed in action in Vietnam. Post 367 also will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I, as well as honor two local residents killed in action during World War I. Approximately 80 American Legion Family and community members will attend the ceremony and lunch. Oklahoma American Legion Post 131 in Skiatook is joining with the local VFW post to conduct a Veterans Day parade, as well as provide a lunch for veterans, on Nov. 10. Oregon American Legion Post and Auxiliary Unit 24 in Milton-Freewater will serve a free breakfast open to the community and take part in a Veterans Day parade. Pennsylvania American Legion Post 790 in Smithton is hosting its second annual Veterans Day Dinner at the Smithton Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall for local veterans and their families. The guest speaker will be U.S. Army Maj. Frank Kostik Jr., who is stationed in Military District Washington, Judge Advocate General. Virginia American Legion Hopewell Memorial Post 146 in Hopewell is joining with VFW Post 637 and the city of Hopewell to conduct Veterans Day observances that include a special ceremony and memorial service honoring all veterans at City Point National Cemetery. The ceremony will pay special tribute to the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, the official end of World War I, and all those who served in the war. Post 146 will host an open house lunch after the ceremony, and a parade will follow at 3 p.m. to honor all veterans. Post 146’s entire American Legion Family worked together on the planning, construction and operation of the World War I commemorative float. And at 7 p.m., a special patriotic concert will be presented in the city' historic Beacon Theater and will feature music by the Greater Richmond Chorus of Sweet Adelines International. Washington, D.C. At 10 a.m. on Nov. 11, an interfaith worship service at Washington National Cathedral will honor the sacrifices of the 4.7 million Americans who served in World War I, as well as the role the U.S. military has played in defending liberty around the world for the past century. At 11 a.m., the centennial hour of the Armistice, the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the Cathedral will lead Bells of Peace, a national tolling of bells in remembrance. The public is welcome. The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission is conducting a “First Look” program between Nov. 8-12 at the site of the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C. The Memorial site will be open to the public each day beginning with a presentation of colors at 8 a.m. and concluding with taps at sunset daily. The “First Look Pavilion” will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for guests to see the memorial model, learn where the memorial will be constructed, and find out how to support the project. The “First Look” program also includes several events found here. If your post is hosting a Veterans Day event, please share on The American Legion's web page, www.legiontown.org.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – This Saturday marks the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Experts at improvising, adapting and overcoming, the men and women who become Marines share a special spirit and connection as part of the “Few and the Proud.” Seeped in rich traditions and hallmark valor, the Marines have fought in every American armed conflict dating back to 1775. Known for their tenacious fighting spirit and their unwillingness to accept defeat, the standard of excellence U.S. Marines achieve and the motto by which they live – Semper Fidelis – have made them an international symbol of honor and pride. The more than 1.6 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary wish the men and women of the United States Marine Corps a very happy 243rd birthday, and thank you for your continued service and bravery in duty to our country. Oorah!
The American Legion began with a vision that has withstood the test of time. That vision was to strengthen America by improving the lives of veterans and their families, fighting for an effective system of defense, building community pride in our national identity and giving young people a foundation for future success. The Legion’s founders had no idea how the century would unfold after their wartime service. No one at the time could have imagined that nuclear-powered aircraft carriers the size of cities would prowl the seas in the decades ahead. Jet aircraft, atomic bombs, night-vision goggles and aerial drones were pulp-fiction fantasies, as were television, satellites and the Internet. Future developments were unknowable then, as they are today at the cusp of a second American Legion century. Yet the central elements of the founding vision – veterans, defense, patriotism and youth – continue to prove essential to national strength. Such was the genius that gave America the GI Bill, VA health care, a flag code, modern reserve forces and youth programs that promote justice, freedom, democracy, discipline and sportsmanship. Team 100 is my theme because it’s our centennial year. But it is not a flashy slogan meant to come and go after membership target dates are hit. Team 100 is a concept to draw on our timeless principles, reload and fire them into a second century of service to community, state and nation. They apply today, as much as ever. Regardless if a combat veteran came home blinded from mustard gas in France or brain-injured by an IED in Afghanistan, The American Legion is needed to step in and fight on his or her behalf, provide comfort and assistance in the transition to a new and changed life. If not the Legion, who else can be nearly as effective? Our nation is strongest when the military is properly trained, resourced and respected. The American Legion has worked tirelessly to elevate the honorable nature of military service, and argued to build a defense system that can just as capably rescue tsunami victims in Japan as it can stop terrorists in Iraq. Who can call for military strength with more integrity than those of us who have worn the uniform? Young people succeed when mentors help them become productive citizens, contributors and leaders. This belief has produced tens of thousands of public servants, from homeless-shelter volunteers to top elected officials. If not us, who provides American Legion youth programs of the future? The pride and indivisibility represented by the colors of our country, a flag that had unclear and largely unfollowed rules of respect prior to The American Legion, is a lesson we, as veterans, are uniquely qualified to deliver. If not us, who stands for our flag and all it means? And in times of natural disaster, we who know the value of calm teamwork in emergencies are well suited to advance recovery. Team 100 is not an end. It’s a new beginning that must be guided and populated by others like us, veterans of a new generation, as we all once were, who believe in the importance of a strong America.
Minneapolis VA researchers found that opioid pain medication might not be the powerful “wonder drug” many people believe it to be. Published in March by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a study by the group of researchers did not support the use of opioids for chronic back, hip or knee pain relief. The study, featured in the JAMA article “Effect of Opioid vs. Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients with Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial,” was conducted from June 2013 to December 2015. Researchers randomly selected 240 patients from 62 VA primary care clinics in the Minneapolis area. Results showed that opioid pain medication treatment was “not superior” to treatment with nonopioids. It also showed that while there wasn’t a “significant difference” in pain-related function between the two groups, pain intensity was “significantly better” in the nonopioid patients over the 12-month period. “Our study contributes long-term evidence on the benefit side of the equation — we found no advantages to opioids that would outweigh their greater risk of serious harm,” said Dr. Erin Krebs, a Minneapolis VA physician and lead author of the study. “The results should reassure clinicians that following current guidelines is not likely to result in undertreatment of pain.” However, one limitation of the study noted in the JAMA article was patients who have “physiological opioid dependence” because of “ongoing opioid use” were excluded from the study. Patients for the study were selected by searching the electronic health record for back, hip or knee pain diagnoses during a previous primary care visit. The patient ages ranged from 21 to 80 years old, with the average age being about 58 years old. Only 32 of the 240 patients were women. Researchers then randomly assigned patients to take opioids or nonopioid painkillers. Among the opioid medications tested were hydrocodone/acetaminophen (generic Vicodin), oxycodone or fentanyl. Nonopioid medication included acetaminophen (generic Tylenol), ibuprofen and prescriptions for nerve or muscle pain. For the study, Krebs said the researchers compared opioids to nonopioid medications because it “seemed to be the most direct and relevant comparison,” adding that a head-to-head comparison of nondrug therapies would not be quite as useful because medications and nondrug therapies are “typically combined in clinical practice.” According to VA research from 2011, veterans are twice as likely than their nonveteran counterparts to die from an accidental opioid overdose, with most deaths happening because of prescription medication. In 2012, however, VA and Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines discouraged physicians from prescribing opioids to patients with chronic pain. The guidelines recommend that opioids only be used if other treatments do not work for the patient. About 30 percent of the U.S. adult population is reported to have chronic pain. But the rate for veterans who have served in the Middle East, according to an April statement from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, is almost 60 percent. More than 50 percent of older veterans in the VA health care system also live with chronic pain, he said. Last year, President Donald Trump declared the country’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency. VA, DoD and other departments now are partnering on a research program to combat the crisis. This year, VA began to increase awareness about the risks of opioid medications by publicly posting data on the frequency of prescriptions being prescribed to it patients. In 2016, 42,249 people died because of overdoses from opioids — prescription and illegal drugs — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the leading cause of death for people younger than 50 years old in the U.S. that year, according to The New York Times. This article is featured in the 2018 October issue of VFW magazine, and was written by Dave Spiva, senior writer, VFW magazine.
“I want to thank everyone at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Sport Clips for giving me the opportunity for a second chance at an education" - Veteran Nikolay Maltsev The first time Maltsev attended college, he quickly realized he wasn’t prepared for this life change without real-world experience. “I went to the Army recruiter and decided to get some hands-on training as a wheeled vehicle mechanic to get another view of the world. I spent time in South Korea, Fort Riley and Kuwait.” While serving active duty in Kuwait, Maltsev began planning ahead for future educational opportunities and searching for financial aid. He stumbled upon the VFW’s “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship” and filled out an application. Maltsev is thankful for the second opportunity to pursue a degree in economics at the State University of New York at Albany. “My passion has been ignited to study economics … in my opinion it is the best way to learn how the world works theoretically and practically. I truly want to know and think like the great minds in this field.” Even though he isn’t a VFW member yet, Maltsev intends to join in the future. “I plan to contribute everything I can to the VFW’s mission of serving veterans, the military and their communities.” “The VFW’s investment in me will not be forgotten or wasted, which is why I work so hard to complete my college education,” Maltsev concluded. “I urge all student veterans to try harder and aim higher. I wish them success in everything they undertake.”
By Jack Monahan for the Legion I returned on Sept. 25 from a six-day visit to the Lorraine region of France, where the major battles that ended World War I were fought by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) of the U.S. Army in 1918. I was honored and privileged to participate in a number of events, visits and ceremonies marking the centennial of the major U.S. engagements at Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, and to meet with numerous local officials and dignitaries, as well as with many American soldiers – from general officers to privates – who were there for the commemorations. My first visit on Thursday, Sept. 20 – a visit which for me was a matter of personal duty – was to the town of Seicheprey to meet with the mayor, Gerard André. The town was the scene of a horrific battle in April 1918, one of the first fought by the AEF, which resulted in the deaths of 84 Connecticut soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th “Yankee” Division. It is a place which still resonates in Connecticut history and is sacred to the memory of those who died. The town has a beautiful monument to the French and American soldiers. It also has a granite fountain with a bronze plaque inscribed with a dedication to the Connecticut soldiers, donated by the citizens of Connecticut to the village. It is a point of pride for the mayor and the residents and is meticulously maintained. The next day, Friday, Sept. 21, I toured the battlefield at Verdun, scene of the horrific 1916 battle, including the fortress at Douaumont, the battlefield museum, and the memorial and ossuary, where the skeletal remains of the thousands of soldiers killed in the battle who could not be identified are deposited. I also visited Verdun City Hall, met the mayor and visited the city’s “Hall of Honor,” where artifacts and historically significant documents of the city are displayed. Among the displayed artifacts is a treasured Certificate of Appreciation and Friendship from The American Legion, given to the citizens of Verdun by National Commander Howard P. Savage during his visit there in 1927. I also visited the impressive American memorials at Montfaucon and Montsec. Saturday, Sept. 22, was devoted to the commemoration of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the first fully American engagement of the war. The day commenced with a ceremony in the town of Thiaucourt. A wreath-laying ceremony was led by local dignitaries. A French army band and a troop unit from the local logistics regiment participated, as well as a substantial U.S. contingent, including the 1st Infantry Division’s “Doughboy” Color Guard, a contingent of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen, as well as a marching contingent of soldiers bearing the flags of all the U.S. divisions that fought in Lorraine in World War I. Following the ceremony in town, the entire contingent – including French veterans carrying their unit colors – and local residents marched from the town to the American cemetery at Saint-Mihiel. A memorial ceremony was conducted there on a bright sunlit day. The graves of the 4,100 soldiers buried there had each been marked with both a French and a U.S. flag. Many graves had pictures or documents posted as well. Hundreds attended the solemn and beautifully fitting ceremony, including local citizens, officials and dignitaries. Large contingents of U.S. Armed Forces personnel and French soldiers participated. The U.S. Navy European Command band played, as well as a French army band. U.S. Gen. Scaparrotti, commander, U.S. European Command, and French Gen. Lillo, corps commander, gave remarks. A flyover by U.S. F-15 fighter jets in “Missing Man” formation occurred. Wreaths were laid by the senior officials. I had the honor to lay a wreath on behalf of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. I was profoundly moved by the entire scene and ceremony, a display which demonstrated beyond any doubt that the deeds of the Americans who fought and died for liberty in 1918 are not forgotten, neither by us nor by the French people. Sunday, Sept. 23, was devoted to the commemoration of the Battle of Meuse-Argonne. During the day’s 24 hours, the names of the more than 14,000 soldiers buried there were read. I attended a ceremony at the American cemetery, the largest of the World War I U.S. cemeteries, in the afternoon. A similar ceremony to that at Saint-Mihiel was held, though due to a driving rain, the ceremony had to be moved inside to the cemetery chapel. The chapel is decorated with stained glass windows depicting the unit crests of all the U.S. Army divisions that participated. That evening candles were placed on the graves, and the reading of names continued through the night. That morning, I had participated in a visit to the Argonne Forest, where an incredible trail through the battlefield area has been laid out by the French National Forests Office to commemorate the Americans. The trail system project was among the most moving things I observed during my visit, not least because of the massive expenditure in resources and time that had been devoted to it, but also because the project had clearly been one that came from the hearts of those who envisioned it. It was conceived by Daniel Georges, a forest warden for nearly 40 years and supervisor of the national forests in the Argonne. A highlight of the trail system is a space where 1,700 trees have been planted in the shape of the 1st Division “Big Red One” insignia. Douglas firs and sequoias for the shield, and red oaks in the shape of the Big Red One, pay homage to the 1,700 soldiers of the division who died in those woods in October 1918. I was deeply moved by the events I attended, and by the interactions I experienced with both French and Americans over the course of my visit to Lorraine. It was the experience of a lifetime. I was proud to have had the opportunity of representing the United States and The American Legion at the events in France commemorating the historic battles of Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. It was a powerful reminder to me of the sacrifices made by the doughboys during the crucible of battle – and of the powerful forces, both good and terrifying, which would shape the values and attitudes they would later imprint upon the organization they would create, The American Legion. Jack Monahan, a member of Post 18 in Essex, Conn., is The American Legion’s representative on the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, and serves on the Legion’s National Finance Commission.
Combat veterans can’t always leave behind what they saw and experienced on the battlefield when they return to the civilian world. While some ease back into their old lives with minimal problems, many suffer from post-traumatic-stress syndrome so severe that they need professional help to overcome both it and the depression that often accompanies it. For some, that means seeking relief from their condition through one of the many ketamine centers that have opened in recent years throughout the United States. At these centers, doctors administer ketamine infusions to treat such conditions as PTSD, depression, anxiety, OCD and chronic pain. Extremely good effect is found at stopping suicidality thoughts. “Some researchers have called the drug the most important discovery in half a century," says Aimee Cabo Nikolov, administrator of the Ketamine Medical Clinic (www.ketaminemedicalclinic.com) in Miami , a division of the Neurosciences Medical Clinic. Nikolov, who operates the clinic with her husband, Boris, and a team of medical professionals, says about 35 percent of the patients the clinic sees are military veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. Nikolov, who has a background in nursing, has dealt with her own PTSD issues, though hers were caused by childhood abuse issues rather than combat. Like the clinic’s patients, she found ketamine to be a helpful ally in battling mental health problems. “Ketamine infusions have lifted a lot of my own depression,” she says. It’s only fairly recently that ketamine became popular as a drug for battling such troubling mental-health conditions as PTSD and depression. Originally, ketamine was developed as an anesthetic in the early 1960s, but it wasn’t long before people began using it as a recreational drug that was known on the streets as Special K. It’s still used as an anesthetic, but over time some in the medical profession began to realize it could be used to treat depression and PTSD. Studies have shown that Ketamine infusion can produce significant and rapid reduction in the severity of PTSD symptoms. Just what is PTSD? Here’s what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says: The cause and symptoms. PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after going through some sort of trauma, such as experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Some symptoms include reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, having more negative feelings and beliefs, and feeling jittery or always on the alert. Trauma’s effects. Trauma is actually fairly common and doesn’t always lead to PTSD. About 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience at least one trauma in their lives, the VA reports. For women, trauma is more likely to be the result of sexual assault and child sexual abuse. For men, it’s more likely to be because of accidents, physical assault, combat or a disaster. Prevalence of PTSD. About 7 to 8 percent of people have PTSD at some point in their lives, and about 8 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD in any given year. Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD. About 10 percent of women will have PTSD, compared with about 4 percent of men. Nikolov says that patients at the Ketamine Medical Clinic receive treatment that is individualized for their specific situation. Generally, though, that means six to eight initial ketamine infusions two times a week. That’s followed by boosters, which can be one infusion every two to six weeks. “Ketamine has been described as rapid-fire treatment for depression,” Nikolov says. “For many veterans suffering from PTSD, ketamine is providing hope after other kinds of treatment didn’t give them the results they needed.” About Aimee Cabo Nikolov Aimee Cabo Nikolov is administrator of the Ketamine Medical Clinic in Miami (www.ketaminemedicalclinic.com). She is also president and owner of IMIC Inc., a medical research company. Nikolov has a bachelor of science degree in nursing and is also the author of Love is the Answer, God is the Cure. She and her husband, Dr. Boris Nikolov, have three children, Danielle, Sean and Michelle.