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9/11 Reflections: Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

911rohlfing

For me, as for many of us, the morning of September 11, 2001 started off like any other. It was a beautiful day in St. Charles, Missouri. My wife & I had one young son & one on the way. An Army guy, I was a traditional National Guardsman and a small business owner with about 1,000 things going on at any given time.

I was in the process of taking my son to daycare when I first heard news of the attack. As I started the car & turned on the radio, it was the only news on every station. The second plane had already made impact by the time I tuned in. I recall that news reports were relaying some concern over a few other commercial airliners that weren’t communicating with air traffic control, with the talk of scrambling military fighter jets. I prayed that those pilots wouldn’t be placed in the position of having to shoot down a commercial airliner.

I hadn’t left the driveway yet, and I looked in the rearview mirror at my young son, sitting in his car seat. I remember having that sinking feeling that so much of our world had just forever changed. I knew our military world had just changed, too, but I doubt anyone could have predicted how much. As a member of a Field Artillery battalion’s operations staff, there were exercises in the coming training year that I was helping to prepare for, and the artilleryman in me knew we were going to have to ‘adjust fire’ regarding our yearly training plan. I figured that our combat arms unit, part of the Missouri Army National Guard, would deploy…it was just a matter of time.

And deploy we did, just like the rest of the Active and Reserve Components. We deployed more than once, and to various parts of the world. I was already a combat Vet – I deployed with the 1st Infantry Division to Operation Desert Storm a decade earlier, while on active duty – but I didn’t have a young family back then. Sitting in that driveway, looking at my young son & thinking of the one we had on the way, I was worried for their safety & the world they were going to grow up in.

Fast forward to 2017. I hung up the uniform for good last summer, and a bittersweet day it was. I imagine the events of 9/11 – and the subsequent training, unique duty positions, and deployments –  altered what would have been a shorter military career. Like many of my colleagues, I’ve missed years of family time. I’ve lost Brothers & Sisters to combat and to suicide. I’ve forged some incredible friendships and witnessed some awesome things through a multinational lens. These 17 years have come and gone with blinding speed, and it seems like the next time I turn around, it will be the 25th or 50th anniversary of that fateful day. But I know, beyond all doubt, that we will never forget…

-Alan Rohlfing, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired)

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

 

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

By Debbie Gregory.

 

A few of their names may sound familiar, and a few may not. But two things that the following men all have in common are that they are billionaires, and they all served in the U.S. Military.

S. Daniel Abraham, Army- As the founder of the Thompson Medical Company, Abraham made his fortune with the product Slimfast, a line of weight loss shakes, bars, snacks, packaged meals, and other dietary supplement foods. The line was sold to Unilever in 2000.

John Paul DeJoria, Navy- Thirty-eight years ago, John Paul DeJoria partnered with his friend Paul Mitchell, to start a company that would support the success of hairdressers and provide luxury hair care at an affordable price. With $700 of their own money, the two grew the product line from two shampoos and one conditioner to a diverse product line that includes styling tools and the largest global cosmetology and barber school franchises.

Charles Dolan, Air Force- Dolan began his successful career by packaging, marketing and distributing sports and industrial films. He went on to found Home Box Office, or HBO as it is more commonly known. He is also the founder of Cablevision.

John Orin Edson, Army- Edson began selling his own racing boats from a parking lot in Seattle, Washington. He eventually bought the rights to Bayliner Marine and developed the company to where it was valuable enough to Brunswick to purchase it for $425 million. Ever since, it’s been smooth sailing for the Army veteran.

David Murdock, Army- Murdock began a career in real estate, acquiring many businesses, including the pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company. Following the death of his third wife from cancer, Murdock has been involved to finding a cure, advancing nutrition, and life extension. He established the Dole Nutrition Institute to advocate the benefits of a plant-based diet to promote health and prevent disease.

 

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

Vietnam Veteran Works to Reunite Families with Their Fallen Heroes

By Debbie Gregory

Army veteran Johnie Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), has spent much of the last 30 years helping reunite families with their fallen heroes.

The DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing military personnel to their families and the nation.

A few years after serving in Vietnam, Webb was assigned to the Central Identification Laboratory and he was tasked with locating the remains of fellow servicemembers who never made it home.

Then, in 1985, Webb was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam to search for the remains of the victims of a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi.

Today, the DPAA teams work with the Vietnamese government as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.

The agency’s mission has expanded to include recovery efforts from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.

Now 72 years old, Webb’s main role is to keep families and veterans service organizations up to date on DPAA’s efforts.

This is important since a site can take months or even years to excavate, and if the tedious process should reveal human remains, it can take even longer to identify them.

On June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recommitted to recovering and immediately repatriating the remains of prisoners of war and soldiers declared missing in action during the Korean War as part of a denuclearization agreement signed in Singapore.

In a statement signed by both leaders, the countries agreed to the recovery of the remains and the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Nearly 7,800 American troops remain unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war in the Korean Peninsula. About 5,300 were lost in North Korea.

Military Memories Wanted by Library Of Congress

MilitaryMemories

Your Military Memories Wanted by Library Of Congress  

 The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of military veterans from World War I through the present.  The VHP also collects oral histories and memorabilia of military members who died in service from Gold Star Family members.

In addition to audio and video recorded interviews with veterans and family members, the VHP accepts memoirs and collections of original photographs, letters, diaries, maps and other historical documents from veterans who served in the military from World War I through the present.

The VHP relies on individuals and organizations to contribute veterans’ stories to their collection.

For more information:  http://www.loc.gov/vets/

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

Attention Medically Discharged Veterans – You May be Missing Out on Rating Upgrade

By Debbie Gregory

The Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) was legislated by Congress and implemented by the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure the accuracy and fairness of combined disability ratings of 20% or less assigned to service members who were discharged between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009.

The review gives a veteran a second look at a disability process and corrects any errors that the service may have made, which may result in either a modification to their assigned rating or disability retirement.  

When a servicemember receives full medical retirement, they are eligible for health care and a stipend for the rest of their life. A 30 percent rating or higher gives the veteran retiree status, which includes a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And a review by PDBR cannot hurt a veteran’s existing rating. Those who apply but are not granted a review or a change in status can still continue receiving services from the VA.

The top three medical conditions that result in a favorable recommendation are back ailments, arthritis, and mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress.

So far, only 19,000 veterans have applied, although it is estimated that some 71,000 veterans are eligible for at least a disability rating review. If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

The majority of applicants, some 70 percent, have been Army, 20 percent are Navy/Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force, and less than one percent Coast Guard.

The process does require patience, as the wait for a decision can be lengthy, but in the long run, the process can be a game-changer for disabled veterans and their family members.

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

Push To Improve TAP Program Endorsed by Veteran Service Organizations

By Debbie Gregory.

Life after military service can be a smooth transition for some, but for many servicemembers, the struggle is real. That’s why there is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which aims to get servicemembers ready for their next step in their lives, be it education, employment or entrepreneurship.

TAP reform has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill in recent months. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, introduced The Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018, named for a friend of the congressman’s who committed suicide.

Mulder retired from the Navy in January 2017 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a US Navy SEAL. He was a highly decorated combat veteran with numerous awards throughout multiple overseas deployments. His awards included three Bronze Stars with Valor.

“If we do a better job equipping our servicemen and women on the front end of their transition, we can reduce the number of veterans who struggle with unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of intervention,” said Arrington.

The legislation, if passed, would specifically restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose specific career-oriented tracks that best suit their post-service plans and would require them to take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation.

Furthermore, it would also authorize a five-year pilot program that would provide matching grant funds to community providers that offer wraparound transition services to veterans and transitioning servicemembers.

Finally, the bill would restructure five days of TAP to devote one day for service-specific training, another for employment preparation, two for the service member’s track of choice — either employment, higher education, career and technical training, or entrepreneurship — and the last for a briefing on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

The bill has support from Student Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Transition Assistance Program is a joint program administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

National Security Concerns Cited for School Ban

By Debbie Gregory.

 

The University of Management and Technology (UMT), long an educational destination for active-duty military members, has lost tuition assistance (TA) reimbursement from the government.

 

Tuition Assistance is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its members.

 

UMT has been on probationary status since January due to what the Department of Defense (DoD) termed “national security concerns.”

 

In December 2012, the FBI made two very public raids of UMT and the northern Virginia home of university president Yanping Chen Frame and its academic dean, her husband J. Davidson Frame.

 

“UMT was disappointed that the Department of Defense suspended its participation in the Tuition Assistance program before UMT had any notice or opportunity to respond,” Dean Frame said in a statement.

Since military-affiliated students make up the majority of the student population, this could impact the school’s future.

A school spokesperson said in a  statement that the school is working to resolve the issue and hopes to be reinstated into the TA program as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it “is committed to working with active duty military students to explore other avenues for funding their ongoing educational programs.”

Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a DoD spokeswoman, said DoD counselors are available, in person or over the phone, to discuss students’ options with them — whether it be transferring to a new institution or pausing their studies.

Tuition assistance will cover tuition, as well as course-specific fees such as laboratory fees or online course fees. The benefit does not cover books and course materials, flight training fees, repeating a course, or continuing education units, which may be covered by other funding opportunities.

 

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

At 112 years old, Richard Overton is the country’s oldest living veteran.

He was born on May 11, 1906 in Bastrop County, Texas. In 1942, he volunteered for military service after the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Overton is a Veteran of Iwo Jima, and also spent time in Hawaii, Guam and Palau. He left the Army in October, 1945, after the unconditional surrender by the Japanese.

Overton served as a member of the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion.  

After the war, Overton returned to Texas, where he briefly sold furniture, before going to work in the state’s Treasurer’s Office.

Overton lives in East Austin, in a house that he built himself. He has been a bit of a celebrity in the Veteran Community, heralded as being the oldest Vet in the nation.

Overton revealed that his secret to living so long is a moderate daily dose of whiskey and cigars. He admits to a spoonful of whiskey in his morning coffee, and puffing (but not inhaling) cigars, as a part of his regular regiment. But he admits that he mostly credits his longevity to keeping out of trouble.

Overton made it through the battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most horrific battles of all time, and then survived the rest of the war. It would be safe to assume that he had seen enough trouble in his life time to be able to recognize it, and be allowed to stay away from it.

Overton recently flew in a private jet to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he received a private tour and met former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

His 112th birthday bash was hosted by Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm and featured music by DJ Kay Cali.

So here’s to Richard Overton and his great ability to endure as a soldier, as a person, and as an inspiration.

 

VA TO Host Baby Showers for Veterans Welcoming New Babies

MCbabyshower

VA TO Host Baby Showers for Veterans Welcoming New Babies

by Debbie Gregory

In conjunction with a number of national organizations, the Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting the first nationwide baby shower for veterans and caregivers welcoming new babies in 2018.

Partners who provided valuable and generous contributions to the success of the baby showers include:
• The Elizabeth Dole Foundation
• Philips
• Veterans Canteen Service
• The American Legion
• The Carrying On Project
• Burt’s Bees Baby
• The Red Cross
• The Veterans of Foreign Wars
• Halo
• First Quality Enterprises

Sixty VA medical centers across the U.S. will host the event, which run from May 5th to the 16th, which will celebrate the joyous occasion with more than 2,400 new parents and parents-to- be. While open to both male and female veterans welcoming babies this year, the idea is to put a spotlight on the key services that the VA offers women.
Attendees will receive two new baby packages with useful gifts for parents-to-be. Besides providing helpful resources for veteran caregivers provided by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, kits will include baby products from Philips, as well as a diaper bag, hair brush and comb set, bib, layette, blanket, hat, and toiletries.
A number of bigger ticket items, including car seats and cribs, will be given out at each shower. If you would like to sponsor a kit for a deserving veteran family, just $50 will allow you to purchase a new baby kit to be distributed at a local Baby Shower. The sweet and sensible new baby package contains a variety of useful baby products. The kit includes:

A Peekaboo diaper bag
Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo, lotion, and baby powder
Mint color 30″x 40″ waffle cotton receiving blanket, white 2 ply 100% cotton infant beanie
Four pack of baby wash cloths
Silicone bib

100% cotton infant layette

Baby brush and comb set

Go to https://www.promoplace.com/205353/stores/Babyshower to purchase a gift that says,
“Thank you for your service” and congratulations from a grateful nation.

VA to Pay Iowa Veteran $550,000 Settlement Over Treatment

porter

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has paid a Vietnam veteran $550,000 to settle his allegation that because of a three-year delay in treatment, he suffered life-shortening heart damage.

Air Force veteran John Porter, 68, of Greenfield, Iowa sued the VA in federal court in after he says VA staff overlooked a test result showing his heart was failing.

“After I’m done paying my lawyers and expenses, I’m not going to be rich,” said Porter. “It’s more of a moral victory than the money.”

According to the lawsuit, Porter presented at the emergency room of the Des Moines VA hospital in October 2011 after feeling tightness in his chest. Tests revealed that he might have heart problems. Follow-up test three weeks later showed his heart was functioning at less than half of normal levels, indicating heart failure, but Porter was not advised of the findings, according to the lawsuit.

Porter only discovered the results three years later after seeing doctors at an Arizona VA hospital, where Porter had gone in 2014 after again experiencing severe chest pain. It was only then that the 2011 test results were given to Porter.

Porter’s lawsuit cited a cardiologist at the Des Moines VA who later wrote that the oversight kept Porter from seeing a cardiologist promptly and that because of the three-year delay, “I doubt there will be much progress made” in treating Porter.

Porter said that he didn’t place the blame on the facility, instead pointing to communication breakdowns at the facility.

“The Des Moines VA is full of knowledgeable, caring and competent people,” Porter said.

While the Department of Justice attorneys representing the VA acknowledged the 2011 test and that the test was not acted on, they denied negligence by VA staff.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.