June 2016 Newsletter

Michael O'Day
By Michael O'Day June 4, 2016 01:21

Next Meeting:  June 27, 2016 at 7:00 P.M.                                                                   Issue: June      2016

Published Monthly – Distributed to all members of VVA and AVVA

Chapter 885*

801 Princess Street

Wilmington, North Carolina

Tel: 910-762-4288

Editor:  Mike O’Day (email: mod199th@yahoo.com)

“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

President:  Don Betz

1st Vice president:  Larry Farmer

2nd Vice President:  K. C. Jones

Treasurer:  Bob Doleman

Secretary:  Michael O’Day

Sergeant at Arms:  Thurmond Bethea

Service Officer:  Tony Musolino

Chaplain:  Abdul Shareef

AVVA Chapter Representative: Mary Skov

               *Chapter 885 is a member of the New Hanover County Veterans Council.

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each one of you for your vote of confidence in support of this new group of officers and board members.  As I explained to several of our leaders, I am still employed full time but will make every effort to be supportive of our activities and efforts on behalf of our fellow veterans.  Mack Mitchell is a hard act to follow as he is a true professional and a gentleman with kind words for all. I thank him for his leadership, his team and board members for raising the visibility of Chapter 885!

I would like to challenge us all to seek additional members as Vietnam Veterans are a significant number among our veteran population.  Anyone visiting the VA clinic should reach out to others there and ask them to become members of Chapter 885. Let’s set a membership goal of 200, adding 30 new members during this next year.  We are off to a good start with the Golf Tournament however we need all the help and support we can get.  Please talk it up among your family, friends and churches.  It took me many years to step out of the shadows of Vietnam but when I finally did, I found a “band of brothers”! I regret I didn’t find them sooner!

1st VP’S COMMENTS

Some of you know me, many of you do not. I am humbled by the fact you have elected me to serve you. I spent 20 years in the Army, with my first assignment being the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi as a combat medic, first with the 3/4 CAV and later with Recon Platoon.

I want to give you some information about myself. I am an Ordained Minister; however I am not a pastor. My ministry is to other veterans that suffer from PTSD. I am the North Carolina representative of Project Josiah which is an organization that establishes mutual support groups of combat veterans. I promise the Chapter that I will give this job my best. Like others in the chapter, I am old; I have physical problems, having survived 2 cancers and other problems. But, God willing, I will give it all I have, I don’t know any other way. With God’s help we will work together and make our Chapter a lighthouse for our fellow veterans.

ELECTION RESULTS

All of you are aware that we had our annual elections at our monthly meeting on April 25, 2016.  The new slate of officers and Board members are as follows:

President             Don Betz

1st VP                    Larry Farmer

2nd VP                   KC Jones

Treasurer             Bob Doleman

Secretary             Mike O’Day

Sgt at Arms         Thurmond Bethea

Chaplain              Abdul Shareef

VSO                       Tony Musolino

AVVA Rep            Mary Skov

Board Members:

Mack Mitchell    Past President

Sam Colman

Artie Johnson

Claude Mc Donald

Floyd Palmer

CHAPLAIN’S REPORT

If you know of a death or illness of a chapter member or their family, please notify our Chaplain, Abdul Shareef, and/or the office so that we may provide support to the family and get the information to Chapter members in a timely manner.

SERVICE OFFICER’S COMMENTS

Veteran Proof of Service Letter
A veteran proof of service letter serves as proof of honorable service in the uniformed services.  The letter can be obtained through the upgraded eBenefits premium (free) account access. A YouTube tutorial on how to obtain this premium access is available on the VA VAntage Point Blog.  After upgrading to an eBenefits premium account, follow these instructions to obtain your letter: (1) Log into your account on the eBenefits homepage; (2) at the top of the page under the eBenefits logo, hover your mouse over the “Manage” tab.  In the dropdown that appears below it, click on “Documents and Records;” (3) in the left column on the following page, click on “VA Letters;” (4) at the bottom of the following page, click on “Veteran Proof of Service;” and (5) print. SASC

Passes Omnibus VA Reform Bill
On Thursday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has unanimously passed its omnibus Veterans Affairs reform bill. Highlights of the Veterans First Act include accountability reform to make it easier for the VA secretary to remove bad actors at all levels of the department, the expansion of the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, the strengthening of the Veterans Choice Program and the establishment of a pilot program to address the delays and massive backlog in VA’s disability claims appeals process.

The bill, called Veterans First Act, has the support of many service associations.  VA Committee Chair Sen.  Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) said the $4-billion-plus in program costs will be covered through a series of savings measures, leaving the final bill with a surplus of more than $330 million.  Official Congressional Budget Office scoring of the measure is expected out later this week.

Senators Want New Caregiver Benefits Phased in.
A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multi-billion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans the same robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the Post-9/11 generation.  Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag.  The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Fund Raisers

June – 11th – Rims on the River, Wilmington

June 18th – Blueberry Festival, Burgaw, NC

June 25th – Harris Teeter, Lumina Commons

July 23rd – Harris Teeter, Monkey Junction

July 30 – Piggly Wiggle, Leland

August 13th – Sam’s Club

September 17th – Olde Point Golf & CC, Hampstead, NC

October 15, 16 – Autumn with Topsail, Topsail, NC

November 5th – Sam’s Club

Other

Nov 11th – Veterans Day at the Cemetery, Market St., Wilmington

AVVA

Life Membership

The AVVA National Board of Directors approved new AVVA Life Membership dues as follows:  59 years old and younger $175; 60 years old and older $100.  This is one time it pays to be older.

The following letter was sent out to AVVA members by Mary Skov.  It bears repeating here in the Newsletter so all of us can see it and share in the message.

“Hello All

I wanted to send out a letter to all of the AVVA members re-introducing myself, giving a little background info and an explanation of how I view the VVA Auxiliary.

I am a retired Air Force Veteran, a Desert Storm Vet, the daughter of a Marine (my mom) and a Navy “Devil Doc” Corpsman(my dad).  Members of my family also served in various wars and times and my son is currently serving in the Army Infantry and was awarded his CIB(Combat Infantry Badge, means he was in gunfire) in Afghanistan.  So I have walked both sides of the road of service, both in the service and as a family member.

There may be different types of service but it is all service to our country and so I see Auxiliary members as equals in service & patriotism with those who were at one time Active Duty, Guard or Reserve. Someone may not have raised their hand and given their oath but you cannot tell me a mother/father losing a daughter/son, a child losing a parent, doesn’t also pay a steep price for our freedom.  So I do not see us as “less than”, I see us as serving also.  And I am willing to fight for that view and stand.  So if you want to step up and start a program, do outreach in the community, help out with fund raisers and VVA/AVVA events, either those already in progress or something you, yourself, develop, I will back you.

Our Mission Statement is:   To provide support to Veterans and their families through programs, projects, and education.

That is a very open and broad goal.  And I very much support new ideas and concepts.  So if you want to or already do work with children(say at church/mosque/synagogue/temple) and you want to take an hour and teach them about service also including military service or would like to develop a program for local kids to make and send cards to service members at Christmas( they LOVE that btw) or you might want to do a Navy/Coast Guard “boat race” for kids to help raise money, whatever it is you think of, we can work it out.

-Daphne Smith Hayes would like to start a group that brings lunch for the volunteers at the VVA office.  If you would like to help with that, her phone number is 910-604-0786.

-Debbie Musolino wants to work with Vets and their family members in nursing and retirement homes.  If you are interested in helping with those service options, her contact info is 910-270-9708.

You have skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom that our community desperately needs and we have an open door right now for Veterans in about any group you would like to reach out to.  Many, many Veteran family members are hurting and need help and need the great example you are of surviving and walking through the long journey home.

I will also be contributing to the VVA monthly newsletter with additional info on such things like Veteran suicide, PTSD, benefits for Veteran family members etc.  If you want to come in to the office and find out more about any topic, I would be more than happy to help you find whatever it is you want to research on the computer.

Keeps your eyes and ears open, Veterans and their families are everywhere.

Remember the VVA motto “Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another” So let’s all work to bring everyone home. 

Mary”

HUMOR IN UNIFORM

This month’s story was taken from the web site International Military Forums.  If any of you have stories that you wish to share please let your editor know.

LT’s First Combat Patrol

On my first tour in Iraq in ’04 our old Platoon Leader got promoted and got a new position. We got a very green butter bar fresh from OCS in return. On his first patrol out of the gate he was understandably nervous. We set up in an over watch position on the MSR (main supply route) and watched the civilian traffic go by. After 15 minutes he looks over at me in the loader’s hatch and says “I keep seeing the same car go by every minute or so, I think they’re reconing us, we should prep for action.” I replied “I haven’t see anything sir, where are they?” Almost immediately he says “here they come by again and charged his Ma deuce. I look to where he pointed and asked “Is it the white car with orange quarter panels?” He replied that it was. I said “Sir that’s a taxi, like yellow cabs in NY” and dropped back down the hatch so he wouldn’t see me laughing.

EDITORS COMMENTS

I was wondering what to write this month when a friend sent me the below.  I thought I might have a little fun with “where did that come from?”

Where did the phrase “piss poor” come from, interesting question.  They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot.  Once the pot was full it was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were “piss poor.”  But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, ”they didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be.  Here are some facts about the 1500’s.  Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June.  However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor, hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.  Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, children, and finally the babies.  By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it which gave us the phrase “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Houses had thatched roofs with thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath.  It was the only place for animals to get warm so all the cats and other small animals (including mice and bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence, the saying “It’s raining cats and dog.” There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house which posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. A bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection and that’s how canopy beds came into existence.  The floor was dirt; only the wealthy had something other than dirt which gave rise to the saying “dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet so straw was spread on the floor to keep from slipping.  As the winter wore on, they added more thresh (straw) until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside.  A piece of wood was placed in the entry-way – a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.  Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.  They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat.  They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.  Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.  Hence the rhyme: “peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”  Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off.  It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.”  They would cut off a little to share with their guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.” Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food, causing lead poisoning death.  This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.  Bread was divided according to status: workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf; the family got the middle; and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.” Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky.  The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days.  Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.  They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around to eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up which gives us the custom of “holding a wake.” England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. They would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.  So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie a bell.  Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night – the graveyard shift – to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer.”  Who said history was boring?

THIS MONTH’S BIRTHDAYS

Lee Roberts                       1st

Robert Sommers               2nd

George Nixon                    10th

Harvey Hutchinson           10th

David Dommer                  12th

Robert Barnhill                  15th

George Lee                        17th

Joe McKoy                         19th

Jimmie Long Williams      22nd

Robert Sneiderman          24th

Reid Mendenhall               24th

Owen Melvin                     24th

Tony Musolino                  25th

Richard Gauthier               25th

James Hedgebeth             27th

Elijah Pinkney                    27th

KC Jones                             27th

Happy Birthday to all.

If you do not see your birthday mentioned here please get in touch with the Chapter Secretary, Mike O’Day.

OTHER NEWS

Working at the VA Facility

Pictured above are Artie Johnson and Floyd Palmer, who, along with Mac McDonald, put in time every week volunteering at the VA facility.  K.C. Jones volunteers as well but through a different organization but he still deserves the credit for being there helping other vets. They have been doing it for a while now without any fanfare or recognition, until now.  Just thought all of you should know how these gentlemen spend some of their time giving back to our veteran community.  Thanks guys.

VVA 885 is Having a Golf tournament

On September 17th, VVA 885 is having a golf tournament at Olde Point Golf & CC in Hampstead.  The purpose of the tournament is to raise funds for the Chapter’s Veterans Outreach Program.  We are just getting this off the ground so if you would like to help please contact Mike O’Day at 910-398-8635 or via email at mod199th@yahoo.com.  Currently we are in the process of lining up sponsors for individual holes and/or for the entire event; we are also looking for golfers too.  If you know of anyone interested in any capacity please have them contact Mike.

It looks like this is all going to come together.  In the last few weeks we have started to line up some hole sponsorships and we are starting to hear from the golfing community that they are interested in our event.  To all of you who have been spreading the word, thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work.

Jeff Gordon Chevrolet

It seems the Chapter has some great friends at Jeff Gordon Chevrolet.  Just the other day we got a call from the marketing manager, Mark Santilli, at Jeff Gordon Chevrolet and what he told us was mind blowing.  They are going to help us out at the golf tournament, just a little bit.  They will be sponsoring: a hole-in-one contest with a 2016 Chevy Silverado as the prize; and a $50,000 putting contest.  In addition they are donating two tickets to next year’s Daytona 500 to be used as one of our prizes.  Not sure how we got so lucky but a big thank you to the folks at Jeff Gordon Chevrolet.

Between now and September 17, I suggest that we all start practicing those putts and iron shots, who knows we might get lucky.  If you haven’t signed up yet for the tournament please do so we would not want you to miss out on some fun or the opportunity to try and win some great prizes.

Grounds are looking good.

Thanks to James Hedgebeth (JJ) and Thurmond Bethea the front gardens are looking good.  JJ selected the flowers and the two of them did the planting recently.  Thank you guys for a job well done.

May’s Fund Raisers

On May 14th we had a fund raiser at Sam’s club and we did pretty good.  We actually sold some coffee after we had closed up the trailer, a young couple came by hoping to get some coffee.  Mack lowered the ramp and got the bag of coffee for them.  As usual we had a lot of laughs throughout the day.

The above picture shows the “boys hard at work” and the one below shows someone actually working.  Just kidding fellas thanks for showing up and helping us out.

This was the first fund raiser that we had since Tony Mortillaro installed some shelves in the

trailer.  As you can see from the picture Tony picked a hot day to work.  The shelves provide us with some much needed organization inside the trailer making it easier for us to load and unload the merchandise.  Thanks Tony for a job well done.

Memorial Day Ceremonies

On Monday, May 30, there were memorial ceremonies at both the National Cemetery in Wilmington and at the USS North Carolina Battleship.  Both ceremonies were very moving, each in their own way.  VVA 885 was well represented by both VVA and AVVA members.  Thank you all for attending and honoring those that have passed before us.

VA Might Add More “Presumptive” Illnesses for Vietnam Veterans

By August this year many more thousands of Vietnam War veterans, those suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and even high blood pressure, could learn they will be eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs health benefits and disability compensation. Or perhaps not.

Difficult months of study lie ahead for a working group of senior scientists and health experts that VA Secretary Bob McDonald convened last week, following release of a 10th and final biennial review of evidence of health problems linked to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.

Every review in the series, going back two decades, has been conducted, as Congress mandated, by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academies of Sciences. Its latest review, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014 takes into account medical and scientific literature published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014.

The IOM concludes that the research supports changing the strength of association to herbicide exposure for several ailments. For bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, it found “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association, an upgrade from previous “inadequate or insufficient” evidence.

This latest review looked again at scientific literature on cardiovascular conditions and herbicides. The IOM didn’t upgrade but it did affirm limited and suggestive evidence that hypertension may be linked to herbicides.

This review also considered whether conditions resulting in Parkinson’s-like symptoms, apart from Parkinson’s disease itself, should fall into the same limited or suggestive category of evidence. Yes it should, the IOM concluded, finding “no rational basis” for the current exclusion.

For only the second time, the IOM withdrew an earlier finding of that herbicide exposure may have caused an ailment, in this case spina bifida in children born to Vietnam veterans. For 20 years VA has used a preliminary finding of an association to grant children benefits. The IOM says it no longer believes the evidence merits retaining spina bifida in that category.

On March 9, the same day the IOM briefed senior VA officials on its report, McDonald ordered the VA working group convened to review not only the 1,100-page IOM report but original studies IOM refers to as well as any peer reviews on ailments and herbicides completed since October 2014, which would be research the IOM had considered in its final review.

Dr. Ralph Loren Erickson, chief consultant of post deployment health services for the Veterans Health Administration, is co-chair of the working group. He said the plan is to review carefully all of the studies and the IOM recommendations and then prepare “a response document” to be distributed “throughout our senior leadership, with suggestions and recommendations for action,” before presenting to McDonald for final decisions.

“No question when the [IOM] moves something to a higher category you can bet we will look even more closely at those particular diseases,” Erickson said. “It certainly is not within my purview to make any statement at this point as to how the secretary will decide. In the past there have been things in this (limited or suggestive evidence) category that have become presumptions, and there are things in this category that have not.”

The IOM says “limited or suggestive” means the epidemiological evidence indicates there could be a link between herbicide exposure and increased risk for a health effect. For some ailments, including ischemic heart disease, past VA secretaries used “limited or suggestive evidence” to add diseases to the presumptive list. And yet for others, including hypertension, that same category hasn’t been viewed as enough.

Among provisions of the Agent Orange law Congress allowed to sunset last year was a requirement that the VA secretary take action on IOM recommendations within 60 days. Erickson said the working group hopes to give McDonald what he needs to make decisions on the IOM by late July.

“We feel that if we can move at a pace that gets this all taken care of within about four months, we will be doing well,” he said.

It would be far longer before any veterans or survivors see more or higher disability pay, however. VA rulemaking following a decision to add diseases to the presumptive list involve writing and publishing proposed regulations, collecting and reacting to public comments, and then publishing final regulations, a process that could take more than a year with added delay possible from the change in administrations to occur in January.

Whatever decisions McDonald makes on the IOM recommendations will be “rooted in science” and “evidenced based,” said Erickson.

But doesn’t VA also take account of size of the population affected? For example, hypertension afflicts two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older.

It is true, Erickson said, that Vietnam veterans have moved into their 60s, 70s and 80s and many have chronic diseases of older age.

“Hypertension is one of them,” he said. “And so teasing those things out — [to decide] is it related to this veteran’s age [or] to their being in Vietnam where they were exposed to Agent Orange — sometimes can be difficult.”

Does it finally come down to a judgment call?

“Well, a judgment call based on the evidence,” Erickson said. “The secretary has made it very clear, certainly to me and to others who work on these types of technical working groups; he wants to know what does the science show? What does the evidence show?”

The final decision will be based on “whether the preponderance of the evidence will support a proposal of the new presumption,” Erickson said.

If McDonald does accept IOM recommendations, this review would be the first in six years to result in one or more diseases being added to list of ailments VA presumes are linked to herbicide exposure.

The eligible population would be any veteran who can show they stepped foot in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, including on ships in Vietnam’s inland waterways, also veterans who served in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone any time from April 1, 1968, to Aug 31, 1971.

 

 

 

 

Michael O'Day
By Michael O'Day June 4, 2016 01:21
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