The Obama administration insists it’s routine for officials to send out letters informing veterans that an unidentified “report” indicates they may be declared incompetent and consequently stripped of their Second Amendment rights.
It’s the same administration that in 2009 warned that “returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists.”
The 2009 report, from the Department of Homeland Security, was called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It also said Obama’s governmental managers were “concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”
So when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of veterans began receiving letters like the one dispatched from the Portland, Ore., office of the Department of Veterans Affairs, alarm bells went off.
WND reported only days ago that a veteran in Oregon received a letter informing him of “a report from Portland VA Medical Center on December 3, 2012.”
Evidence already in
The letter warned the vet that “evidence indicates that you are not able to handle your VA benefit payments because of a physical or mental condition.”
“We propose to rate you incompetent for VA purposes. This means we must decide if you are able to handle your VA benefit payments. We will base our decision on all the evidence we already have including any other evidence you sent to us.”
Completion of the incompetency determination would mean a “fiduciary” would be appointed to manage the veteran’s payments.
The VA also warned: “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both.”
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. — This is the place that receives the most attention on Memorial Day, though it is but one of 141 national cemeteries in the United States and 24 others located on foreign soil. Many of our countrymen will observe this “last Monday in May” holiday with travel, shopping and picnics. But those who take the time to visit one of these hallowed grounds will have an unforgettable experience.
These are the final resting places for more than 3 million Americans who served in our armed forces — as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines — including the nearly 5,500 who have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A visit to one of these quiet memorials is a tribute to those who made history by wearing our nation’s uniform and taking up arms to preserve our liberty and free tens of millions of others from tyranny. In words written on stone markers, these places tell the story of who we are as a people.
Regardless of when they served, all interred in these cemeteries sacrificed the comforts of home and absented themselves from the warmth and affection of loved ones. Since 1776, more than 1.5 million Americans have lost their lives while in uniform.
At countless funerals and memorial services for those who lost their lives in the service of our country, I hear the question, “Why is such a good young person taken from us in the prime of life?” Plato, the Greek philosopher, apparently sought to resolve the issue by observing, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” I prefer to take my solace in the words of Jesus to the Apostle John: “Father, I will that those you have given me, be with me where I am.”
My sojourns to this “Sacred Ground,” as Tom Ruck calls our national cemeteries in the title of his magnificent book, remind me that among those here are veterans who served with my father and all of my uncles in the conflagration of World War II. Only a handful of those 16.5 million from that “greatest generation” remain. Others resting in these consecrated places were tested just five years later in our first fight against despotic communism — on the Korean Peninsula. They braved stifling heat, mind-numbing cold and an enemy that often outnumbered them 10 to one.
Here are headstones of those who served in the decade between Korea and Vietnam. More than 12 millions young Americans donned military uniforms in what was called “the cold war.” It was only cold for those who didn’t have to fight in it. They served on land, air and sea in lonely outposts, dusty camps, along barbed wire barriers in foreign lands, on guard against those who would have done us harm if they had the chance.
Between 1964 and 1975, more than 7 million young Americans were committed to the bloody contest in Southeast Asia. The names of 58,267 who died from that fight are on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial — some of them were my Marines and my brother’s soldiers. Headstones in cemeteries all across this land testify to more of their selfless sacrifice — and serve as a reminder that the victory denied in that war should never happen again.
In the three-and-a-half decades since Vietnam, not a single year has passed without Americans in uniform being committed to hostile action somewhere around the globe — including Grenada, Beirut, Panama, the Balkans and Kuwait. We are not a warlike people. But for more than two centuries, ours has been the only nation on earth willing to consistently send its sons and daughters into harm’s way — not for gold or oil or colonial conquest, but to offer others the hope of liberty.
Since Sept. 11, that great legacy has been borne by volunteers serving in the shadows of the Hindu Kush, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the Persian Gulf and on anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean. These young Americans are engaged against a merciless enemy who has proven repeatedly that there is no atrocity beneath them — and that they will do whatever it takes to kill as many of our countrymen as possible.
Those now in uniform deserve our thanks, for no nation has ever had a better military force than the one we have today. And no accolade to those presently in our country’s service is greater than honoring the veterans who preceded them on Memorial Day.
His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson – although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lance Cpl. Wilson was not there in the terminal that afternoon; at age 24 and newly married, he had been killed in Afghanistan on March 22 by a roadside bomb. A coincidence of overbooked flights led our lives to intersect for perhaps an hour, one I will never forget.
I did not meet his family that day at the airport, either, although we were there together that evening at the gate, among the crowd hoping to board the oversold flight. I did not know that I had a boarding pass and they did not. I did not know they were trying to get home to hold his funeral, having journeyed to Dover, Del., to meet his casket upon its arrival from Afghanistan.
I also did not know that they already had been stuck for most of the day in another airport because of other oversold flights. But I did not need to know this to realize what they were going through as the event unfolded and to understand the larger cause for it. No matter how we as a nation have relearned the lesson forgotten during Vietnam – that our military men and women and their families deserve all the support we can give them – despite our nation’s fighting two wars in this decade, it is all too easy for most of us to live our lives without having the very great human cost of those wars ever intrude.
But it did intrude heartbreakingly that day at the airport gate. It began simply enough, with the usual call for volunteers: Anyone willing to take a later flight would receive a $500 flight voucher. Then came the announcement none of us was prepared to hear. There was, the airline representative said, a family on their way home from meeting their son’s body as it returned from Afghanistan, and they needed seats on the flight. And there they were, standing beside her, looking at us, waiting to see what we would decide. It wasn’t a hard decision for me; my plans were easily adjusted. I volunteered, as did two women whom I later learned sacrificed important personal plans.
But we three were not enough: Six were needed. So we stood there watching the family – dignified and mute, weighed with grief and fatigue – as the airline representative repeatedly called for assistance for this dead soldier’s family. No one else stepped forward. The calls for volunteers may have lasted only 20 or 30 minutes, but it seemed hours. It was almost unbearable to watch, yet to look away was to see the more than 100 other witnesses to this tragedy who were not moved to help. Then it did become unbearable when, in a voice laced with desperation and tears, the airline representative pleaded, “This young man gave his life for our country, can’t any of you give your seats so his family can get home?” Those words hung in the air. Finally, enough volunteers stepped forward.
I had trouble sleeping that night; I could not get out of my mind the image of the family or the voice pleading for them.When I met my fellow volunteers the next morning at the airport, I found I was not alone. One had gone home and cried, and another had awakened at 3 a.m.; all of us were angry and ashamed that our fellow passengers had not rushed to aid this soldier’s family and consequently had forced them to be on public display in their grief. We worried that this indifference to their son’s sacrifice added to their sorrow.
It turned out my destination was his hometown, so I was able to learn his name and more. I learned he had been a talented graffiti artist and had married his sweetheart, Hannah, the day before he deployed to Afghanistan. They planned a big wedding with family and friends for after he returned home. I learned how proud he was to become a Marine in January 2009. I learned that he and his fellow Marines liked to give the candy they received from home to Afghan children. In sum, I learned that he was the kind of honorable, patriotic young person we want defending our country and how great our loss is that he had to give his life in doing so.
I posted a message to his family on the online condolence book. I told them I was sorry for what they went through in trying to see their son’s body home, but because of it, many more people were going to have heard of Justin and his dedication to his country: I was going to tell everyone I knew about what I had witnessed and tell them his name. And I have.
I thought that was enough, until I received a thank-you note from Lance Cpl. Wilson’s father-in-law.It was a completely humbling experience; he wrote that he was glad I had been able to learn about Justin, and he wanted me to know that Justin “served knowing the risks, but felt it was his obligation and privilege to serve his country.” At that moment, I realized that in this day of an all-volunteer military and a distant war that touches so few of our lives directly, more people should hear the story of Lance Cpl. Wilson and his family.
I’ve thought a lot about what happened that day in the airport, and I choose to believe my fellow passengers were not unfeeling in the face of a soldier’s death and a family’s tragedy. They were just caught off guard – they were totally unprepared to confront the fierce consequences of the war in Afghanistan on their way to Palm Beach on a sunny afternoon.And I believe it was for this reason that people did not rush to the podium to volunteer their seats. It was not that they did not want to, and it was not that they did not think it was the right thing to do. Rather, it was because they were busy trying to assimilate this unexpected confrontation with the irrevocable cost of war and to figure out how to fit doing the right thing into their plans – to fit it into their lives not previously touched by this war. In the end, enough of us figured out how to do the right thing, and it turned out as well as such a painful situation could.
But still I wonder: Barring some momentous personal event that necessitated a seat on that flight, how could any of us even have hesitated? How could we have stopped to weigh any inconvenience to our plans against the sacrifice Lance Cpl. Wilson and his family had made for our country? In such circumstances, it is not a question of recognizing the right thing to do; we should know it is the only thing to do.
From what I have learned of him, in his short life, Lance Cpl. Wilson created a legacy of courage and patriotism that will not be forgotten by those who knew him. I hope there’s a greater legacy as well. I hope through this account of his family’s struggle to see him home, if ever again the war intrudes unbidden on my life or yours, we will know what we must do, and in their honor, and for all those who serve and sacrifice, we will do it.
Colleen M. Getz works in the NATO policy office of the Department of Defense.
This Memorial Day weekend, my family will pack into the SUV and make the journey to the Gettysburg battlefields. Our little ones haven’t been there yet, and with their two history-buff uncles in town, it seems like a relevant activity to undertake.
Basically, we are a military family. Even my youngest son was born seven years ago on May 30th, the official Memorial Day. One relative or another in our direct family line has served in every war, conflict and dust-up in our nation’s history.
One uncle traveling with us volunteered for the Army during the Vietnam War. Despite being the grandson of one of the ranking officers at Bataan in World War II, he served in the enlisted ranks.
On one trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a few years ago, while looking at the book of names provided to locate them on the panels, several tears began to fall down his cheeks.
Brushing them aside, he quietly told me that it wasn’t the names that were on the wall that had so deeply affected him, but the names that he didn’t find — the friends who had been whisked away by medical transport with grave injuries, who had unbeknownst to him, survived. The tears came from joy and relief upon learning of lives that were not cut short.
While in Gettysburg, we will look for a particular monument to the Army of Tennessee that our great, great-grandfather served with for a majority of the Civil War. David Absolom Knox started out with Company E of the 5th Arkansas Regiment on June 24, 1861, under the command of “Old Pat Cleyborn,” according to family notes, but then was sworn into the Army of Tennessee in the fall of 1861. A portrait of him proudly wearing his Civil War medal some 40 years later has a home on my mantelpiece.
At some point this weekend, we will make the pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s grandfather. Robert C. Donald was a Master Sgt. in the Green Berets and served in WWII, Korea and three tours in Vietnam.
On his final tour in Vietnam, 52 year old “Top” Donald, who had been awarded multiple Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts during his lifetime career, was killed in action at Pleiku on February 17, 1967, leaving a wife and nine children to mourn his untimely passing.
My own father served in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in both the Pacific and the European theaters during World War II, a fact that most of his closest lifetime friends knew nothing of until his funeral in 2003.
We knew of the profound impact of his service from just the glimpse he would give us into those years every once in a while, not to mention the ever-present loaded gun he kept under his bed until the day he died.
My husband, a disabled veteran, served as a Cavalry Scout in the Army. And he has multiple cousins currently serving or just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Happily, one cousin is due to return in the next week to his wife and newborn baby.
And what kind of a country is he returning to? America is now a nation with a commander in chief—while the nation is fighting two wars– who will not take the time to pay his respects at Arlington National Cemetary on Memorial Day to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
What does this say to those who are currently serving in a dangerous conflict around the world? The White House casually announced that President Obama will stop by a veterans cemetery in Chicago, but that really isn’t Arlington National Cemetery, a symbol recognized worldwide of America’s ever-vigilant fight against tyranny and for liberty.
Perhaps we should be thankful that Obama isn’t merely driving by the cemetery and tossing a wreath out of his limousine window given his track record of snubbing the military. As one of the few American Presidents who has not worn his nation’s uniform, we shouldn’t be surprised that he would nominate a Supreme Court Justice who has not served in the military, but is replacing the last Supreme Court Justice who has. Although Justice Stevens was of a decidedly liberal bent, he did have the “life experience” of a distinguished military career like so many millions of his fellow Americans.
Elena Kagan was outright hostile to military recruiters who dared to venture onto the Harvard Law School campus while she was the dean. As Ed Whelan wrote in Bench Memos on May 14, 2010, “…Kagan treated military recruiters worse than she treated the high-powered law firms that were donating their expensive legal services to anti-American terrorists.”
Quite a statement about the dean of a law school that historically has had a proud tradition of military service. As one of the nation’s first universities, Harvard students served with distinction throughout our early history.
But as time has passed and political correctness has firmly taken root, Harvard has gone from housing an extraordinary number of Medal of Honor winners in a variety of armed conflicts, to providing some of this nation’s best and brightest to serve in the most dangerous situations in the OSS in World War II, to not allowing even the ROTC to establish a chapter on campus, and ensuring that a military recruiter has to hack through an enormous mountain of red tape.
The Harvard Veterans Association (www.harvardveterans.org) proudly lists the history of exemplary military service by Harvard students and graduates from King Philips War of 1675 to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One cannot help but note a correlation between a Harvard organization welcoming to the armed forces and the noteworthy number of students who joined up to serve their nation. The opposite is true as well. With the rise in liberal opposition on campuses to the Vietnam War and the Clinton-established “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, student participation has dwindled.
The HVA posts a telling article from May 20, 2008, by William McGurn entitled “Why Harvard Hates the Military” in which McGurn bemoans the purposeful lack of attendance of military commissioning ceremonies by recent Harvard deans, writing, “And whether you are for the war in Iraq or against it, for gays in the military or against them, we should be able to honor these good men and women [who wear the uniform] publicly [at a commissioning ceremony at graduation], and without embarrassment.”
Clearly during Elena Kagan’s tenure at Harvard, she advanced the shunning of all things military even if it was in direct conflict with federal law. The Kagan policy on military recruiting on campus was in direct violation with the Solomon Amendment, a federal law that should have superseded any of her considerations of Harvard Law School policy.
But as Stuart Taylor wrote aptly described in his National Journal column on May 15, 2010, “Kagan’s World is a legal academic complex oozing politically correct bias, moral vanity, detachment from the real world, and a cynical view of the law as meaning whatever you can manipulate it to mean.”
In other words, my much-prayed for cousins, one who survived being shot down while piloting his Apache helicopter in Iraq and the other, soon to arrive home from a rough winter in the Afghanistan mountains, are coming home to a president who cannot be bothered to pay his respects at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day while our military is fighting and dying abroad. For an added kick in the teeth, he nominates a non-veteran to replace the last veteran on the Supreme Court.
While Elena Kagan is busily molding the Constitution like a toddler with a new handful of Playdoh, our servicemen and women around the world will continue to sacrifice everything to protect and preserve the Constitution and the liberties it affords to these very citizens who hold them in contempt.
Military families everywhere have much to grieve for this Memorial Day.
Kay Daly is president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary.
A Wisconsin Army veteran — who faced eviction this week for flying the American flag — will now be allowed to keep the flag up for as long as he wants.
Under mounting nationwide protest, Charlie Price, 28, of Oshkosh, Wis., and officials at Midwest Realty Management struck a “mutual agreement” that allows the veteran to continue displaying the patriotic symbol, according to a statement posted on the company’s website on Thursday.
Price and his wife, Dawn, 27, were previously told they had to remove the flag — which hangs in a window inside the couple’s apartment — by Saturday or face eviction due to a company policy that bans the display of flags, banners and political or religious materials.
“It means the world to me,” Price told FoxNews.com. “The way it happened wasn’t the right way because the staff members were getting threatened and we didn’t want any violence out of this, but I’m glad we did come to a compromise.”
Randy Rich, the apartment complex’s property manager, told FoxNews.com that Midwest Realty Management received nearly 4,000 e-mails and thousands of phone calls in connection to the controversy.
“A few were questioning our policies and were civil in nature,” Rich wrote in an e-mail. “However, most were filled with profanity and demeaning statements. Hundreds contained threats to our property, our employees and their families.”
Rich said a Facebook page created by Dawn Price contained personal information of some employees at the apartment complex that led to harassing messages. The company has asked her to remove that information since it “has no bearing on this situation or her goal of changing the current flag legislation,” Rich’s e-mail continued.
“I will be putting a boycott on your rentals,” one message reportedly read. “I will be telling anyone and everyone I know not to rent from you.”
Another reportedly read: “You are going to evict someone for displaying an American flag on Memorial Day? Shame on you for dishonoring a veteran.”
A Facebook group created by Dawn Price, “Freedom to Display the American Flag,” had roughly 2,000 members on Wednesday. As of early Friday, that number had grown to more than 44,000.
Price, who served tours of duty as a combat engineer in Iraq and Kosovo from 2000 to 2008, said he’ll now work on amending the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states no “condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association” may stop someone from flying the American flag. The law, however, does not apply to renters.
“I never thought it would be an issue,” Price said, especially since the flag was inside his apartment. “It’s a holiday when we should be able to show all of our pride and the respect for the people who fought for it, from the Civil War all the way to today.”
In a statement posted on its website on Thursday, Midwest Realty Management apologized to Price and all U.S. veterans.
“It was never our intention to hurt the Prices or disrespect what Mr. Price and all veterans have sacrificed for each and every one of us,” the statement reads.
The company will now revise its policy to allow residents to “honor America” and display the flag in a manner similar to the Prices, who have hung the symbol in their apartment since Veterans Day.
“Again we apologize to the Prices and anyone else who was offended by our actions,” the statement continued. “It is our sincere hope that our apology will be accepted and the changes we are making will be beneficial to our company and our residents.”
Price’s wife, Dawn, told FoxNews.com earlier this week that she began decorating their apartment last year to honor his eight years of service. An American flag topped off the display, she said.
“I knew it made Charlie really proud to see that,” Dawn Price said on Tuesday. “And this isn’t something new. This has been up for quite some time now.”
Veterans’ groups were furious at the realtors’ initial refusal to allow the flag to fly.
“As a veteran, it sickens me that the Dawn and Charlie Price’s building management company would imply that the American flag could be construed as offensive by their residents,” Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AMVETS, told FoxNews.com on Tuesday. “We’re talking about our most revered national symbol. This is insulting to anyone who has defended our flag honorably, like Charlie Price.”
Charlie Price said he wanted to thank everyone who contacted him and his wife since the controversy began last week when they were told they had to remove the flag or face eviction.
“I would like to thank all the supporters out there,” he said. “We’re looking to do this the right way. Right now, we’re concentrating on amending [the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005] so everyone can show their pride in their country.”
Congress is headed toward landmark votes on whether to allow gays to serve openly in the military
The House of Representatives was expected to vote as early as Thursday on a proposal by Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat who served in the Iraq war, that would repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The legislation — a compromise struck with the White House and agreed to by the Defense Department — would give the military as much time as it wants before lifting the ban.
Under the bill, the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must first certify that the new policy won’t hurt the military’s ability to fight.
“We need to get this done, and we need to get it done now,” said Murphy.
Also as early as Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee was expected to take up an identical measure, proposed by Sens. Carl Levin, a Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, an Independent.
As in the House, the Senate provision would be tucked into a broader bill that is expected to win broad support authorizing hundreds of billions of dollars for the troops.
Supporters said this week the Senate panel had enough votes to pass the bill after key holdouts announced they would swing behind it.
Nelson said a provision in the billing giving the military the power to decide on the details of implementing the policy was key to his support because it “removes politics from the process” and ensures repeal is “consistent with military readiness and effectiveness.”
Advocates hoped the momentum in the Senate would carry over to the House, where several conservative Democrats threatened to oppose the massive defense spending bill if it included the repeal provision.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he supports repeal but would prefer that Congress wait to vote until he can talk to the troops and chart a path forward. A study he ordered is due on Dec. 1.
“With Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
The service chiefs this week urged the panel not to vote until the Pentagon could complete a survey of military personnel on the issue.
“The value of surveying the thoughts of Marines and their families is that it signals to my Marines that their opinions matter,” Marine Commandant James Conway wrote in a letter to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s top Republican.
An Army veteran in Wisconsin will be allowed to display an American flag until Memorial Day, but the symbol honoring his service in Iraq and Kosovo must come down next Tuesday, his wife told FoxNews.com.
Dawn Price, 27, of Oshkosh, Wis., said she received a call from officials at Midwest Realty Management early Wednesday indicating that she and her husband, Charlie, would be allowed to continue flying the American flag they’ve had in their window for months through the holiday weekend. The couple had previously been told they had to remove the flag by Saturday or face eviction due to a company policy that bans the display of flags, banners and political or religious materials.
“It’s basically an extension so we can fly the flag on Memorial Day,” Price told FoxNews.com. “It does need to come down after that.”
Charlie Price, 28, served tours of duty as a combat engineer in Iraq and Kosovo, his wife said. To honor his eight years of service, she began decorating their apartment during Veterans Day in November. An American flag topped off the display, she said.
“I knew it made Charlie really proud to see that,” she said. “And this isn’t something new. This has been up for quite some time now.”
Veterans’ groups were furious at the realtors’ refusal to allow the flag to fly.
“As a veteran, it sickens me that the Dawn and Charlie Price’s building management company would imply that the American flag could be construed as offensive by their residents,” said Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AmVets.
“We’re talking about our most revered national symbol. This is insulting to anyone who has defended our flag honorably, like Charlie Price.”
Dawn Price said she now works to amend the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, which states no “condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association” may stop someone from flying the American flag. The law, however, does not apply to renters.
“This has been eating at us since Friday,” she said. ‘The best way to fight this isn’t getting an eviction and going after these people in court. That’s just going to cost us a lot of time, energy and money.”
Instead, Dawn Price said she either intends to place a curtain between the flag and the apartment window to block it from onlookers or will move it to a rear balcony come next week.
“We don’t want to fight the eviction,” she said. “We know we’d lose.”
Officials at Midwest Realty Management, which manages Brookside Apartments, where the Prices live, did not return several messages seeking comment. In a statement to the Oshkosh Northwestern, company officials said the policy was established to provide a consistent living environment for all residents.
“This policy was developed to insure that we are fair to everyone as we have many residents from diverse backgrounds,” the statement read. “By having a blanket policy of neutrality we have found that we are less likely to offend anyone and the aesthetic qualities of our apartment communities are maintained.”
Despite the brief reprieve, Dawn Price said her husband is disappointed by the flag flap.
“He actually sees it as a slap in the face to his service,” she said. “He’s pretty upset about it, especially right around Memorial Day.”
A Facebook group created by Dawn Price, “Freedom to Display the American Flag,” had roughly 2,000 members as of Wednesday.
“As a father of a son [who] is currently serving in Iraq this blackens my heart!!!!” read one comment. “These men and women sign a blank check up to and including their life!”