Navy Sponsors Essay Contest


By Debbie Gregory.

The Sea Services have a rich history, and there is much to be learned from history on multiple battles, strategies, tactics, leadership, values and traditions.   To this end, the U.S. Navy is sponsoring an essay contest. Essay topics can include the study of the history of the United States Navy as well as any other historical, maritime history that relates to maritime strategy.  The history of the United States Navy is divided into two major periods: the “Old Navy”, a small but respected force of sailing ships that was also notable for innovation in the use of ironclads during the American Civil War.  The second major period is the “New Navy”, the result of a modernization effort that began in the 1880s and made it the largest in the world by the 1920s. The United States Navy states that October 13, 1775 is the date of its official establishment, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy. The essay contest is open to both professional and amateur historians, and should relate in some way to establishing and maintaining maritime superiority in today’s environment.  The essay should provide readers with a lesson learned from history that can be applied to today.

The contest is a coordinated effort between the United States Naval Institute, the United States Naval Academy, the Naval War College, the Naval Heritage History Command, and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

The goal is to inspire insight and dialog from across the widest spectrum of academic, operational, military and civilian personnel both from within the Naval Services and those with a sincere interest in the history of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Submissions cannot exceed 3,500 words (excluding footnotes/endnotes/sources), nor can an entry contain the author’s name. So, a separate attachment including a biography and complete contact information is required. Submission packages should be emailed to [email protected] with the subject heading ‘CNO 2017 Naval History Essay Contest’ no later than June 30, 2017. For more information visit the U.S. Naval Institute website or contact Fred Rainbow at (410) 295-1092.

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.

Shulkin Wants To Extend Choice and More


By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is urging Congress to act quickly to temporarily extend a troubled program aimed at widening Veterans’ access to private-sector health care.  Secretary Shulkin pointed to the growing demand for medical treatment outside the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shulkin intends to test new screening criteria over the next several months. One “model” under consideration is to give Veterans with service-connected injuries or ailments priority to use Choice over Veterans seeking care for conditions unrelated to service.

“He’s looking at Service-Connected Disabled Veterans to be given this option first because he thinks the American public looks at those Veterans as being most worthy of getting the best treatment possible,” said one executive of a major veteran organization who Shulkin had briefed on tentative Choice reform plans.

Shulkin, a physician who previously served as VA’s top health official in the Obama administration, says Congress must hurry to extend the Choice Plan beyond its August 7th expiration date, or the VA will lose nearly $1 billion leftover in that account.

Shulkin told Veteran groups that he would prefer that Choice stay free to all patients. But if co-pays are needed to contain costs, they might be applied based on whether Veterans have Service-Connected conditions.

He acknowledged that an average of 20 Veterans a day take their own lives, and 14 of the 20 are not enrolled in VA Health Care. Many are combat Veterans denied VA access because of the character of their discharge. Some received the “bad paper” because of misconduct due to Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injurywhich perhaps their service branch failed to diagnose or to recognize. But Shulkin confirmed that the VA will grant access to urgent mental healthcare to otherwise ineligible Veterans, those who received other-than-honorable discharges.

Shulkin also stated his support of expanding its comprehensive Caregiver program to severely combat-disabled Veterans from pre-9/11 wars.

“I believe we are going to save money by not institutionalizing people when family members decide they can no longer provide care,” Shulkin said.

Shulkin also said that in regards to service dogs for Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress who feel that a canine companion would help their recovery, he won’t wait for findings of ongoing study to support this theory.

“It will be another three years before we obtain the results and I’m not willing to wait, because there are people out there today suffering,” Shulkin said.

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.



Facilities Maintenance Backlog at $10.8 Billion


By Debbie Gregory.

The number of military facilities that are so poorly maintained that they now meet the Pentagon’s definition of “failing” has steadily been on the rise. The maintenance backlog for Army facilities alone has grown substantially, rising from approximately $7 billion to $10.8 billion in just the last year.

Army experts guestimate that it will take a decade of sustained funding in order to repair and upgrade barracks, office buildings, airfields, training areas, roads and numerous other types of facilities.

Since the 2011 Budget Control Act set caps on Defense expenditures, facility upkeep has been among the lowest spending priorities.

Facility sustainment is just one function that will be forced to compete with others in the operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts. O&M Appropriation Funds cover the cost of operating and maintaining equipment at a state of readiness, paying for everything from combat training and ammunition to health care and civilian payroll.  Even within the small subset of O&M dollars that makes up the Army’s facilities budget, most funds are going toward activities the Army deems most vital to current military operations.

“Because of inadequate funding, right now, what we’re doing is prioritizing those infrastructures and services that directly correlate to readiness,” said Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham, the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. Bingham serves as the principal adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Army for Installation Management, Facilities Investments, Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Family Support Programs.

“We find ourselves looking at operations and training facilities, depot maintenance and production facilities, other types of facilities that directly impact readiness,” Bingham said. “That’s how we’re prioritizing.”

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of operations and training said the service does not expect to achieve “full spectrum” readiness until sometime between 2021 and 2023.

The Defense Department and Congress have jointly decided to defer facility maintenance for several consecutive years.

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.


Generals Oppose Bill That Provides Mentally Ill Veterans Easy Gun Access


By Debbie Gregory.

A coalition of retired admirals and generals are protesting “irresponsible and dangerous” legislation they say that would put mentally ill veterans in harm’s way by providing them easy access to firearms.

The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from reporting veterans’ records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after they’ve been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs because of a disabling mental disorder.

In a letter, members of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense wrote:

The bill you are debating comes at a time when an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day, two-thirds of whom do so by using a firearm. We know that non-deployed veterans are at a 61 percent higher risk of suicide compared to the American civilian population, and deployed veterans are at a 41 percent higher risk. When vulnerable veterans have access to firearms, they can do harm not only to themselves but also to family members and loved ones. The impact of these tragedies is felt in communities across our nation.”

The coalition is a national initiative launched by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and her husband Mark Kelly, a Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut. The letter is signed by fourteen veterans representing all branches of the military.

The National Rifle Association, which is backing the bill, says it protects veterans from having their rights “arbitrarily revoked by a government bureaucrat.”

But the actual language of the bill remains vague, without defining what constitutes mentally incapacitated or mentally incompetent. The bill “prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”

What do you think?   Is opposing this common sense or taking away rights?

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.

Immigrants Who Served In US Military Fight Deportation Orders

p1By Debbie Gregory.

Immigrants serving in the United States military have deep historical roots. Non-citizens have fought with the United States Armed forces since the Revolutionary War, and offer greater racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity than citizen recruits. This diversity is particularly valuable given the military’s increasingly global agenda.

But now, the futures of those immigrants who have served and their families are in question.

Gold Star mother Olivia Segura grasped the box containing the flag that draped the coffin of her daughter, Ashley Sietsema, who was killed in November, 2007 while serving in Kuwait.
Ashley Sietsema’s father is under a deportation order.

Segura, other veterans and veterans’ families met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hoping for exemptions from deportation for veterans who are legal permanent residents and their families, particularly for Gold Star families, families of military personnel killed in action.

Although President Trump has emphasized his focus is on deporting “criminals” he has vastly expanded the definition of what constitutes a criminal.

Some of the veterans being deported are legal permanent residents who become deportable after they committed a crime categorized as a felony under immigration law or because a conviction from their past emerged.
For many of these deported veterans, home is a place called the Bunker, a Tijuana support house for US military veterans, who have nowhere else to go when they land back in Mexico.

Veterans are subject to the same laws as everyone else when it comes to immigration. Anyone with a green card can be deported when they commit crimes. “Because they served the United States they do generate some sympathy from points of view that may not be generally pro-immigrant. But the fact is, the law is very much stacked against them.

According to advocates for immigrant veterans, soldiers who are legal permanent residents are not always connected with the naturalization process or even made aware of it. For some, their service does little to help their families remain in the United States.

We want to know what you think about this issue so please comment.

Veteran Who Warned of ‘Burn Pit’ Hazards Dies


By Debbie Gregory.

National Guard veteran Amie Muller succumbed to pancreatic cancer last month.  She believed it was a result of deployments to Iraq and exposure to burn pits.

Burn pits produced billowing toxic smoke night and day at an air base in northern Iraq. After returning to Minnesota, she began experiencing health problems usually not seen in a woman of age.  Muller was thirty-six and died nine months after being diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer.

Muller battled to win recognition from the United States government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ equivalent of the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange.

In an interview last August, Muller spoke about the frustrations of a life put on hold. Fatigued from chemotherapy and complications from medical procedures, she also talked about getting the word out about what she believed is the burn pits’ toxic legacy.

“It’s kind of like what you’d imagine what hospice would feel like, where you are just waiting and waiting and you don’t have any energy,” she said. “But I want to make sure other people are getting their voices heard, too.”

The burn pit near her living quarters was one of the most notorious of the more than 230 that were constructed at military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan before their use was restricted in 2009.  Materials including metals, Styrofoam, rubber and medical waste stoked with jet fuel were burned in an open pit daily.

Muller was easily fatigued after returning home and began to wonder whether a host of ailments from migraines to fibromyalgia were connected to her military service at Balad.

Julie Tomaska, who deployed with Muller in 2005 and 2007 also suffered from chronic fatigue, headaches and digestive problems. Her disability claim with the VA was approved with a diagnosis of “environmental exposures.”

United States Senators Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced bipartisan legislation, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act that would create a center of excellence within the VA to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and to treat veterans who become sick after exposure.

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.

Former Camp Lejeune Veterans Affected By Tainted Water Can Apply for Disability

Camp Lejeune

By Debbie Gregory.

Former service members exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune over a 35-year period can now apply for Veterans Disability Benefits, under a new federal rule.

For decades, complaints blamed on the water at Lejeune, including serious ailments such as cancers, infertility, neurobehavioral effects, and deaths, have plagued the base. The Marine Corps has said the contamination was unintentional, occurring when federal law didn’t limit toxins in drinking water.

The move is expected to affect as many as 900,000 veterans and cost more than $2 billion over the next five years.

In a statement, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin called the move “a demonstration of our commitment to care for those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service.”

It comes after years of lawsuits and lobbying by veterans groups who said tens of thousands of troops and their families were exposed to unhealthy levels of contaminants from leaky fuel tanks and other chemical sources while serving at the North Carolina base from the early 1950s to the late 1980s.

In 2012, Congress passed a bill that was signed into law by then-President Obama extending free VA medical care to affected veterans and their families. But veterans were not automatically provided disability aid or survivor benefits.

The disability benefits may supplement VA health care already being provided to eligible veterans who were stationed at the Marine base for at least 30 cumulative days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987. Veterans will have to submit evidence of their diagnoses and service information.

The new rule covers active duty, Reserve and National Guard members who developed one of the eight diseases: leukemia; aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes); bladder cancer; kidney cancer; liver cancer; multiple myeloma; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and Parkinson’s disease.

Veterans have a year to file the benefits claims, and if approved will receive payouts from their date of filing.

Tell Us What You Think About This  New Benefit

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Mattis Withdraws Patterson for DoD Undersecretary of Policy


By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has withdrawn retired senior diplomat Anne Patterson as his choice for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy after the White House indicated unwillingness to fight what it said would be a battle for Senate confirmation.

Mattis did so after Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex ) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark), two key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed strong opposition to Patterson’s selection.

The senators were strongly opposed to Patterson’s nomination because she served as United States ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported an elected government with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that was ultimately overthrown by the Egyptian military.

“I believe that political appointees in the foreign policy and national security arena need to reflect the president’s priorities, and Obama administration officials who helped implement the Obama willful blindness to radical Islamic terrorism and active appeasement of the Muslim Brotherhood do not reflect those commitments,” said Cruz.

Cruz praised Mattis as “a strong and serious leader with decades of experience defending this country,” and said he was “hopeful that the foreign policy and national security team assembled at the Defense Department and throughout this nation will demonstrate the same clear-eyed realism and seriousness of resolve that is needed to keep this country safe.”

Mattis’s acquiescence to Patterson’s withdrawal came after he fought and won a major battle with the White House to remove Iraq from the list of majority Muslim countries whose citizens are barred from U.S. entry under Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that they haven’t moved forward with these nominees,” McCain said. “You can’t expect [Mattis] to run the entire show.”

Asked to comment on the Patterson news, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) said Cotton and Cruz “can do what they want to do, but a principle that has been followed for five administrations is let the people surround themselves with the people who let them operate most effectively.

“I know Anne Patterson very well, I knew her when she was ambassador to Egypt. I think she is very talented,” McCain said.

As of now, Mattis represents the only Senate confirmed spot at the Pentagon, where over 50 spots remain open.

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.

VA To Provide Mental Health Care To Veterans with Less Than Honorable Discharges


By Debbie Gregory.

More than a half-million Veterans with other-than-honorable discharges will begin receiving mental health care services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We are going to go and start providing mental health care to those with other-than-honorable discharges,” VA Secretary David Shulkin testified to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I don’t want to wait. We want to start doing that.”

Shulkin said he had the authority to start providing the care without legislation and credited Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo for “changing my whole view of this.”

Coffman has reintroduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Health Care Act, which would allow the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and urgent mental health services to veterans at risk of suicide or harming others, regardless of an other-than-honorable discharge.

In addition to providing care to veterans with bad paper, the VA secretary also announced his plan to hire approximately 1,000 more mental health care providers..

After the hearing, Shulkin said he’s working to notify medical centers about providing mental health care services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges, and that he’d like to implement a program sometime in the next few months.

“So many veterans we see are disconnected from our system, and that’s the frustration,” he said. “We want to do as much as we can.”

Shulkin is also working with educators, researchers and other health care systems to determine other actions the VA can take. He said he will go to Congress soon with more proposals.

VA officials said they expect to finalize plans for rolling out the program in early summer. Shulkin intends to consult with members of Congress, veterans service organizations and the Pentagon on the best way forward.

Discharges that are other-than-honorable, including a “general” discharge, are known as “bad paper” and can prevent veterans from receiving federal benefits, such as health care, disability payments, education and housing assistance.

Note from Debbie Gregory and

Please pass the word to those you know who need help and can now obtain these important mental health benefits.   Please tell us what you think and share any comments regarding this important issue.

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.

Nude Photo-Sharing Scandal


By Debbie Gregory.

A large group of active-duty Marines are under investigation for sharing nude photos of female troops without their consent. And as the scandal widens, the Marine Corps’ commandant has stepped in with an official statement, calling on the victims to come forward.

“These allegations themselves, they undermine everything that we stand for as a Marine Corps and as Marines: discipline, honor, professionalism and respect and trust amongst each other,” said Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller.

Neller said the number of known victims identified is less than 10 so far. “But we would encourage anybody else who believes they’ve been involved in this to come forward… I’m going to ask them [victims] to trust us,” he added, while admitting that he understands this could be “a bit of a reach for them right now.”

The scandal, which was made public by reporter Thomas James Brennan of Reveal News, originally implicated Marines belonging to a Facebook group called Marines United who were sharing images of naked female service members, identifying them by name, rank and duty station.

Active-duty Marines involved in the photo-sharing ring can be charged with violating UCMJ Article 134, general misconduct, for enlisted troops, and Article 133, conduct unbecoming, for officers.

“We claim that being a Marine is a special title, and something that you earn,” Neller said. “There is honor here. But there is no honor in denigrating a fellow Marine in any way, shape or form.”

New reports suggest other services may face similar problems. A message board on another website has become a forum for posting the photos of female service members of all branches.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis responded with a message to those under his command:

“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”

Mattis added, “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.” encourages any service member who believes they are a victim to come forward as soon as possible.

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.