Heroic Soldier Dies Rescuing Neighbors from Bronx Fire


By Debbie Gregory.

A decorated Army National Guard soldier died of smoke inhalation while attempting to rescue his neighbors from December’s deadly apartment building fire in the Bronx, New York.

Private Emmanuel Mensah went back into the building twice to rescue neighbors. But he did not make it out alive.

“He’s always had that nature that I’m going to help people,” sister Vanessa Mensah said.

The 28-year-old Mensah immigrated to the Bronx from Ghana five years ago, and had just graduated from boot camp. He was home for the holidays.

“His heroism exemplifies the best of our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Rest in peace.”

A child playing with a kitchen stove started the fire, which quickly spread through the 29-unit building. The fire killed at least 12 people, including four children.

Mensah, who had been awarded a medal for marksmanship, had been planning to become a military policeman.

“When he came here he just said, ‘Dad, I want to join the Army,’ ” recalled Kwabena Mensah, Emmanuel’s father.“At first I didn’t agree with him, but I decided that’s his choice.”

Mensah’s uncle, Twun Bredu, said before firefighters arrived, his nephew saved his roommate’s family of six.

Private Mensah was found in Apartment 15, his uncle said, but he lived in Apartment 11, with a friend of his father’s, who was at home with his wife and four children.

Rather than letting them go out the front door, Mensah pulled them back into the room. Bredu said the family made their way out through a fire escape, a move that saved their lives, as Mensah started helping other people.

In addition to Emmanuel Mensah, 11 others lost their lives.

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.

New Credit Card Rate-Limit Rules in Effect


By Debbie Gregory.

The Federal Military Lending Act credit card rules took effect in October was enacted to add consumer protections for service members and their dependents.

Defense Department rules on new credit cards issued to service members and their dependents specify that interest rates cannot exceed an annual percentage rate of 36 percent. Since most credit cards issued offer interest rates well below the 36 percent rate cap, the rules probably won’t impact many military consumers.

But the rule was put in to play to thwart payday lenders who prey on the military community. There was the potential that some predatory credit cards could evolve in the future.

“As it will become more difficult for payday lenders to continue to make loans to service members, there was the chance payday lenders could try to evolve their products to become credit card products,” said Christopher Peterson, a professor of law at the University of Utah, who has conducted research on payday lending and effects on the military community.

Predatory lenders have been very resourceful in their attempts to take advantage of military members and their  families. So for the last several years, the DoD has been working to keep in front of them.

Many unscrupulous lenders salivate over the prospect of lending to people with financial immaturity and a steady income, such as young adults who have just started a four-year enlistment.

In October, 2016, the DoD implemented expanded rules to include all types of consumer credit, such as overdraft lines of credit, deposit advance loans and installment loans extended to active-duty members and their dependents.

It is important to remember that the rule only applies to new credit cards obtained since the rule went into effect. Service members with questions about the rule or who think that a new card doesn’t comply with the rules can see their judge advocate general for legal advice.

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.

Women Veterans Rock

vet of the day

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the appointment of a new chairwoman and four new members to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises the VA Secretary on issues and programs of importance to women Veterans, their families and caregivers.

“As VA continues to work toward modernization, the committee’s guidance will assist the department in meeting the important and evolving needs of women Veterans,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “The new chairwoman and new appointees’ deep and broad perspectives are invaluable in anticipating these needs.”

Established in 1983, the committee provides policy and legislative recommendations to the Secretary.

Current member Octavia Harris, a retired U.S. Navy command master chief petty officer from San Antonio, Texas, is appointed as the new chairwoman of the committee.  The following are new members of the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans:

  • Moses McIntosh, of Hephzibah, Georgia, is a retired U.S. Army chief warrant officer and immediate past national commander of the Disabled American Veterans, where he served as the official spokesman and provided leadership to the National Executive Committee.
  • Yareli Mendoza, of Iowa City, Iowa, is a U.S. Air Force Veteran. She is pursuing a doctorate of philosophy degree in higher education and student affairs, with a specialization in higher education administration and policy.
  • Keronica Richardson, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is a U.S. Army Veteran with deployments in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. She serves as the assistant director for Women and Minority Veterans Outreach at the American Legion.
  • Wanda Wright, of Tempe, Arizona, is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, currently serving as the director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, where she is a state cabinet member, providing leadership and direction for administering benefits and services to Veterans and their dependents.

In addition, committee members Dr. Kailyn Bobb, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, from Plumas Lake, California, and Commander Janet West, of the U.S. Navy, are reappointed for an additional term.

For information about VA’s benefits and services for women Veterans, visit www.va.gov/womenvet or contact the Women Veterans Call Center at 855-829-6636.  The call center is available to address concerns of women Veterans, their families and caregivers from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (EST), and Saturday, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (EST).

Army Promises Medical Care for Test Subjects


By Debbie Gregory.

Decades after the U.S. Army used soldiers to test the effects of potent chemical and biological warfare agents – including some prohibited by the Geneva Protocol – it has begun notifying veterans that they may be eligible for government-paid medical care for related injuries and illnesses.

The Army is notifying veterans that they may be eligible to receive medical care if they participated in U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing from 1942 to 1975 and have an injury or disease that they believe was proximately caused by their participation.

While thousands of U.S. veterans won a 2009 class action suit filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America against The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army over being used in the testing, the group’s attorneys say the service branch is falling short of meeting its obligations. The Army is also withholding details veterans are seeking about what agents they were exposed to.

Testing programs with names like Project MKULTRA, Project Bluebird and Project Artichoke exposed military personnel to a variety of substances including psychoactive drugs and irritants such as mustard gas.

The Army tested over 100 “biological and chemical warfare/threat agents and substances, as well as medications, vaccines, and other chemical and biological agent countermeasures,” said MEDCOM Public Affairs Chief Maria L. Tolleson.

According to now-declassified records on many of the programs, soldiers who participated were required to sign oaths of secrecy and received no formal documentation that would prove their involvement.

The Army says its Medical Command is conducting “an exhaustive search” for veterans who may have been research subjects “so that no individual who may benefit from medical care is inadvertently omitted.”

To apply, eligible Veterans must: (1) have a DD214 or the equivalent; (2) have served as a volunteer medical research subject in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program from 1942 to 1975; and (3) have a diagnosed medical condition they believe to be a direct result of their participation in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program. For more information, visit the Army Medicine website.

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.

Price Tag of President’s Military Buildup- An Extra $638 Billion

troop buildup

By Debbie Gregory.

President Trump’s ambitious plan to rebuild America’s overstretched military would cost $683 billion more than current spending plans over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Congressional Budget Office is a federal agency within the legislative branch of the United States government that provides budget and economic information to Congress.

President Trump came into office pledging the largest defense spending spree since the administration of Ronald Reagan — assuring the troops that they would see “beautiful new planes and beautiful new equipment.”

More missile defense systems, an upgraded nuclear arsenal and hundreds of additional fighter aircraft were also on the president’s wish list.

The budget for President Trump’s goals for the military would be more than 20 percent larger than peak spending during the 1980s.

The buildup’s projected 10 percent manpower increase (an additional 237,000 troops), its addition of 20 percent more naval vessels, and its increased purchases of other new weapons, adds up to a 12 percent increase over the Obama administration’s plans for defense spending over the same period.

For the Air Force, rising costs result primarily from existing plans to replace aging weapon systems and increased purchases of the F- 35A to allow the Air Force field five additional fighter squadrons.

The projections were based on administration documents, congressional testimony and the 2018 budget request’s five-year plan. The administration is due to produce a 2019 budget request and its National Defense Strategy, which will likely add more clarity.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in congressional testimony earlier this year the buildup would begin in 2019.

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.