An American Veteran and Hero: John McCain

To honor Senator John McCain, a true American hero, patriot and icon, MilitaryConnection.com is publishing his last statement.

 

“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes – liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people – brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

‘Fellow Americans’ – that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

If you have any personal stories that relate to Senator McCain, please send them to info@militaryconnection.com.

 

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill, Including 2.6% Troop Pay Raise

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill

Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill, Including 2.6% Troop Pay Raise

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

During the signing at Fort Drum, the president invited members of the 10th Mountain’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team to gather round him for a photo opportunity.

Like most prior NDAAs, this year’s authorization is the product of a relatively bipartisan legislative process and received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The 2.6 percent pay increase would be the biggest for the military in nine years. Estimates are that the pay raise will translate into about $670 more annually for junior enlisted troops and about $1,300 more for senior enlisted and junior officers.

It also funds new purchases of aircraft, ships and weapons. And it increases the size of our service branches: the Army’s end strength will grow by about 4,000, the Navy’s by 7,500, the Air Force by 4,000, and the Marine Corps by about 100. It also increases funding for training and readiness.

The NDAA also requires the DoD to carry out an annual education campaign to inform those who may be eligible to enroll in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. And it requires a study on the feasibility of phasing out the use of open burn pits.

Other allowances include:

  • $7.6B for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
  • $85M for UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters.
  • Funds the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range stealth B-21 bomber.
  • Funds 13 new Navy ships to include $1.56B for three littoral combat ships, the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, six icebreakers, and a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
  • $225.3M for Stryker A1 combat vehicles and supports efforts to modernize the Army’s armored combat vehicles.
  • Additional assistance to military spouses seeking employment by enhancing the My Career Advancement program.
  • Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to provide training tailored to servicemembers’ post-separation plans.
  • Resources for victims of military sexual trauma as part of pre-separation counseling.
  • Providing active duty and reserve personnel an “authoritative assessment of their earned GI Bill benefits” prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization.

Making a Difference- Profiles of Some Immigrant Service Members

Making a Difference- Profiles of Some Immigrant Service Members

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

As a nation founded by immigrants, the U.S. has long drawn its strength through the diversity of its citizens. Many of these immigrants have served this country as part of the one percent in the military. Here are just a few:

After fleeing war-torn Nicaragua, 1st Lt. Lizamara Bedolla now serves as an Army nurse at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Surgical Ward at Fort Bliss. “The Army has taught me a lot about tolerance, self-awareness, patience and has opened my eyes to the different people that are all over this country and abroad.”

Although Staff Sgt. Tamba Benjamin wanted to join the Army or Marines, he joined the Air Force to appease his mother. He came to the U.S. from Monrovia, Liberia, via Freetown, Sierra Leone, when he was nine, escaping civil war. Currently assigned to the 407th Expeditionary Comptroller Squadron, Benjamin said, “Living in another country is like sleeping in someone else’s home — you take care of the home.”

It took Pfc. Fortytwo Chotper seven years to make it to the United States from Sudan via a Kenyan refugee camp. He joined the Iowa Army National Guard’s 1168th Transportation Company, not to get his citizenship. “I was just doing it to give thanks to the United States for bringing me here from the refugee camp.” Chotper’s 1168 TC team and Iowa Air National Guard Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Randy Greenwood joined Chotper at the U.S. District Courthouse in Des Moines in their dress uniforms to watch their brother take the oath of citizenship.

Already a citizen, Staff Sgt. Fadi Chreim, a 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations dispatch chief, joined the Air Force reserve to give back to his adoptive homeland.  “ Part of me wanted to put on that uniform just to say ‘thank you.’”

In March 2017, Pvt. Maria Daume, originally from  Siberia, Russia became the first female Marine to join the infantry through its traditional training pipeline at the age of 18, joining the Fleet Marine Force as a mortarman.

Senior Airman Mina Fawzi of the 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron was born in Cairo, Egypt, and joined the Air Force to support his family.

Mohammad Nadir worked as an interpreter for U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan, and is now a Marine. “I told my family I was going to come to America and become a Marine, so I did,” Nadir said.

Staff Sgt. Eric Piime, a boom operator in 121 Air Refueling Wing, Ohio Air National Guard. Piime, a native of Ghana, enlisted in the Air Force as “the ultimate way of giving back” to his adopted country.

 

PTSD: Treatment through Art

PTSD: Treatment through Art

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

A trend that has swept the country over the past three years might have more value than you think! Coloring books, once looked at as an entertainment medium for children, have expanded to a new market: adults in need of a break. Adult Coloring Books come in a variety of images – from intricate mandala designs to floral patterns and more. According to Psychology Today, Carl Jung used coloring as a therapy technique in his practices a century ago. His methods have matured and we now know even more about the human brain and the positive impact of simple coloring in the lines.

Though it may seem like a child’s activity, coloring actually increases our focus and intellectual acuity. Coloring can help simplify the process of problem solving. It can alleviate stress and help relax those with anxiety.

According to the American Art Therapy Association, utilizing art in treatment sessions for PTSD sufferers can help relieve much of the trauma surrounding the memories. Veterans are often able to express these dark and terrifying memories through imagery when verbalization of the time proves impossible.

Art therapy encourages veterans to “talk about it” without saying a word. Art therapy offers a means of expression and possibly even resolution for veterans who might find their reality unspeakable.

As with any traumatic event, the greatest success stories often belong to those who employ a multifaceted therapeutic approach. While art therapy might not be right for every veteran suffering from PTSD, many will find themselves benefiting from the art therapy relaxation techniques. Military personnel with PTSD who have used art therapy have reported a reduced level of anxiety, better control over mood disorders often associated with PTSD, a reduction in disruptive behaviors that prohibit daily functioning, an increased ability to verbalize and then resolve traumatic events and an overall increase in self esteem.

Any PTSD sufferer or treatment specialist will tell you that it is a complex disorder. The complexity of the disorder deserves a multifaceted approach and art therapy is proving to be a valid and successful method.

Android Users Can Get Going with VA’s MOVE Weight Loss App

Android Users Can Get Going with VA's MOVE Weight Loss App

 

Android Users Can Get Going with VA’s MOVE Weight Loss App

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Android users can finally take advantage of an app that has long been available to iOS users.

The VA’s MOVE! weight loss app is now available across both device platforms.

MOVE!  is a 19-week weight management app that guides users to achieve success  by monitoring, tracking, and receiving feedback regarding their progress with weight, diet, and exercise goals.

Supported by the VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the app can be used by itself or in conjunction with treatment and coaching by the VA healthcare team at all VA Medical Centers and many VA Community-based Outpatient Clinics.

MOVE!’s core ideas—encouraging healthy eating behavior, increasing physical activity, and promoting even small weight losses—are easy to follow and based on the latest in nutrition science.

The app offers:

  • Self-Management Guides – providing weight management strategies using videos, worksheets, games, and other tools.
  • Weight, Diet, and Physical Activity Diaries – for progress tracking.
  • Goals and Progress components – for setting physical activity, diet, and weight loss SMART goals while offering summaries and progress reports.
  • How to Solve Problems – resources to overcome barriers.
  • The ability to share your progress and challenge your friends

The Move! website features some success stories that are truly amazing. Challenges aren’t just limited to overcoming obesity and obesity-related diseases. Other challenges address alcohol, cancer, asthma, depression, injuries, PTSD, and thyroid issues.

The MOVE! Program is designed for both men and women, and for Veterans of all ability levels, but only Veterans receiving care from VA can enroll in MOVE! For more information, visit the VA online at www.move.va.gov.

Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army

Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army

Active-Duty End Strength Above 500,000 Top Priority for Army

 

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Major modernization reforms are underway in the Army to create leaner and faster processes. In fact, modernization and adding more active-duty, Guard and Reserve soldiers are among the Army’s top priorities for 2020, according to Army Secretary Mark Esper.

Although Secretary Esper is the civilian head of the Army, he has considerable experience on the ground. A graduate of West Point, he deployed to Operation Desert Storm, and was part of the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

“For me, the big picture is continued support from Congress in regard to our modernizations initiatives, particularly the stand-up of Army Futures Command,” Esper said. “The second is improving the capacity and capability of the Army, and that means continuing to grow end strength.”

Secretary Esper’s objectives, in his own words:

“We must grow the regular Army above 500,000 soldiers with associated growth in the Guard and Reserve. And we must recruit and retain the very best.”

“We must ensure adequate quantities of Infantry, Armor, Engineers, Air Defense, Field Artillery…Our units from Brigade through Corps must also be able to conduct sustained ground and air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and cyber operations. And we must have aviation combat support and robust logistics available to all formations.”

“We must be focused on high-intensity conflict, again, in urban terrain, under persistent surveillance, and in electronically degraded environments. It must incorporate battlefield innovation and continuous movement to frustrate enemy observation and intelligence collection. And it must include combined arms maneuver with the joint force, as well as our allies and partners.”

“We have identified six modernization priorities; I am sure you’ve heard of them. They are in order: First, long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air and missile defense, and the one closest to my heart, soldier lethality.”

“We must reform our outdated personnel system to one that develops smart, thoughtful, innovative leaders of character who are comfortable with complexity and are capable of operating from the tactical up to the strategic level.”

 

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

Cyber Officer Rank Flexibility Timely in Response to Threats from Iran and Russian

By Debbie Gregory

The United States Navy announced the intention to bring cyber officers in at mid-grade officer levels to ensure that the branch recruits and retains the best cyber officers. The service secretaries can take advantage of new authorities recently granted by Congress that allow them to do so.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said that these officers need the flexibility to move between the Navy or Marine Corps and the private sector without hurting their chances of promotion to secure their interest in staying in the service.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has allowed for the easing of requirements, like moving officers out of the military if they did not receive a promotion within a certain timeframe, and allowing for officers to be promoted faster.

“You have to have an active offense to have a great defense,” Spencer said. “Cyber is not one or the other. It’s a continuum and it’s a process because, to stay current in defense, you have to know what’s going on in offense.”

He added that the changes could help recruit and retain officers in other important communities, such as medical personnel and pilots.

The need for improved cyberwar intel is critical at this juncture of the United States history. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that there is “no question” that Russia is the “most aggressive foreign actor,” in its ongoing efforts to undermine American democracy.

On another front, the U.S. could also face cyberattacks from Iran in retaliation for the re-imposition of sanctions by President Trump, which the administration says was done to prevent its aggression, denying it the funds it needs to finance terrorism, its missile program and forces in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

“Iran’s cyber activities against the world have been the most consequential, costly and aggressive in the history of the internet, more so than Russia,” said Norm Roule, former Iran manager for the office of the Director of National Intelligence. “The Iranians are destructive cyber operators.”

“While we have no specific threats, we have seen an increase in chatter related to Iranian threat activity over the past several weeks,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, a cyber threat intelligence company, which has predicted that the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement would provoke a cyber response from the Iranian government.

Moriuchi anticipated that businesses most at risk include banks and financial services, government departments, critical infrastructure providers, and oil and energy.

Veterans Can Qualify for Increased Disability due to TBI

Veterans Can Qualify for Increased Disability due to TBI

 

Veterans Can Qualify for Increased Disability due to TBI

 

By Debbie Gregory

Over the last several years, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been thrust into the forefront of the consciousness of the medical community and the general public. This is in large part due to recent combat operations and subsequent recognition of this potentially “silent injury.”

Traumatic brain injury is characterized by both physical and psychological impairments, and oftentimes, veterans suffer from residual effects of TBI. In those cases, the VA may not recognize those residual symptoms as being caused by traumatic brain injury, and this creates a limitation on the benefits a veteran can receive.

There has been a big increase in the number of veterans and servicemembers being diagnosed with TBI. Issues caused by TBI include cognitive deficits, speech, language, sensory, perceptual, vision, hearing, smell, taste, and emotional, social and physical changes.

TBI symptoms may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Depression or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Difficulty speaking or slurring words
  • Difficulty walking or loss of coordination
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tingling or numbness of the arms and legs

Individuals with a history of TBI often receive a rating and compensation for “disability”. In order for a veteran to receive the highest overall rating due to TBI, he or she should file a claim for every symptom caused by TBI and classify it as secondary to TBI, not just the overall diagnosis of TBI.

For veterans who have already filed a claim for general TBI, they should file each unrated symptom as a new claim and state that each TBI symptom is “secondary to TBI.”  

Veterans who believe that the VA has underrated their conditions should get a second opinion from an accredited attorney or a veteran’s service officer.  If this is done less than one year after the rating decision is issued, the veteran may be able to appeal the decision to maximize the backpay.

Is Using Smart Drugs to Help the Military a Good Idea?

Is Using Smart Drugs to Help the Military a Good Idea

Is Using Smart Drugs to Help the Military a Good Idea?

By Debbie Gregory

You may have never heard of nootropics, but these so-called “smart drugs” could help our servicemembers by improving cognitive and executive functions that could lead to an increase in intelligence.

Nootropics and smart drugs are natural or synthetic substances that can be taken to improve mental performance in healthy people.

Militaries throughout the world have used or are using drugs to improve performance of soldiers by suppressing hunger, increasing the ability to sustain effort without food, increasing and lengthening wakefulness and concentration, suppressing fear, reducing empathy, and improving reflexes and memory recall.

The word nootropic was coined in 1972 by a Romanian psychologist and chemist, Corneliu E. Giurgea, from the Greek words for “mind” and “bend” or “turn.”

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It’s naturally found in coffee, cocoa, tea, kola nuts and guarana and added to many sodas, energy drinks and medications.

Probably the most well-known and effective prescription smart drug is Adderall. It is used as a treatment for ADHD and has been shown to increase motivation in individuals.

Alpha GPC and Racetams, sold over the counter, have shown potential enhancements in long-term memory, spatial memory, and working memory.  The neuropeptide Noopept has the potential to enhance discipline, memory, learning, and focus. It is similar to the Racetams family of smart drugs, yet more powerful.

In the United States military, modafinil has been approved for use on certain Air Force missions, and it is being investigated for other uses. As of November 2012, modafinil is the only drug approved by the Air Force as a “go pill” for fatigue management.

Synthetic nootropic supplements like Noopept and piracetam are widely available, but research on their effectiveness in healthy adults is lacking.

Many natural nootropics are used in alternative medicine, but their effects are typically more subtle and slower acting. They’re sometimes taken in combination to boost their effectiveness.

The use of nootropics and smart drugs is on the rise in today’s society, but more research is needed to better understand their benefits.

 

States Join FTC to Target Fraudulent Military Charities

States Join FTC to Target Fraudulent Military Charities

 

States Join FTC to Target Fraudulent Military Charities

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Many charities do a great job supporting our nation’s military and veterans, but there are some charities that exploit donor generosity. Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has joined forces with the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to educate consumers so that they can make better choices with their donated funds.

Operation Donate with Honor is a nationwide law enforcement and education initiative to stop veteran-related charity fraud. Charity regulators from 70 offices, including every state, Washington D.C., Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, joined the FTC in this initiative, announcing more than 100 law enforcement actions targeting veteran-related charities and fundraisers. This unprecedented cooperative effort signals that charity scammers who prey on Americans’ patriotism and generosity should beware…law enforcement is watching – and taking action.

“Not only do fraudulent charities steal money from patriotic Americans, they also discourage contributors from donating to real Veterans’ charities,” said Peter O’Rourke, Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

To make sure you donate wisely, it’s a good idea to do your research, ask questions, be careful how you pay, and watch out for scammers and spoofers.

For more information on Operation Donate with Honor, along with details of two complaints filed against organizations as part of the initiative, visit www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2018/07/operation-donate-honor-law-enforcers-unite-challenge.