by Jere Beery
In early October of last year a team from Operation Firing For Effect (OFFE) traveled to Key West Florida to assist Retired U.S. Army veteran Ernest Pridemore in his divorce hearing. Unable to locate an attorney willing to fight to protect his veteran’s benefits, Pridemore was forced to represent himself. The OFFE team was there to help him prepare his case in an effort to protect his veteran’s disability compensation from being used as a divisible asset in his divorce.
Protection of veteran’s disability benefits in divorce cases has become a hot topic over the past few years. Many divorce court judges wrongfully calculate veteran’s disability compensation as ‘income’ and award alimony and support based on this veterans benefit. Federal law prohibits such attachment under any legal process whatsoever, however most state judges ignore this Federal protection and abuse these benefits in their rulings. This has resulted in great hardship among our disabled veterans and created situations where the disabled and ill veteran can no longer afford to care for themselves. In many of these cases the veteran becomes homeless and even suicidal.
Even though Mr. Pridemore did an excellent job of representing himself, and in spite of testimony provided by 3 OFFE representatives, Judge Mark Jones ruled in his ex-wife’s favor. Although the Pridemore’s were not married at the time of Mr. Pridemore’s military service, Judge Jones awarded Mrs. Pridemore half of Mr. Pridemore’s military retirement, half of his VA disability, and half of his Social Security Disability. Ernest Pridemore is appealing his case.
The primary objective of the OFFE team was to provide documentation and testimony concerning the protection of veteran’s disability compensation as stipulated by USC, Title 38. However, statements made by the opposing attorney in open court alerted the OFFE team to an entirely different aspect to the issue.
Attorney David L. Manz of Marathon, Florida represented Mrs. Pridemore. At one point during the 3 day hearing Mr. Manz complained to the judge that he and his client were intimidated by the military uniforms in the court room. At another point in the hearing, in support of a restraining order which had been placed on Mr. Pridemore by Mrs. Pridemore, Manz implied that all military veterans were subject to spousal abuse and domestic violence by virtue of their military training, which aggressively teaches them to kill and destroy. Civil Court Judge Mark Jones did not strike Manz’s statement and it was allowed into the hearing transcript.
This anti-military statement by attorney Manz is apparently nothing new in such cases. OFFE has received dozens of complaints from active duty personnel and veterans. Every day in courtrooms nationwide military veterans and active duty personnel are having their service in the United States Armed Forces used against them in legal proceedings. OFFE is monitoring several cases where this underhanded tactic has been successfully used in divorce settlements and child custody cases. Veterans and military personnel are losing custody and parental rights based on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ratings and overseas deployment obligations.
The twisted logic behind these unjust court rulings is; a PTSD diagnosis implies emotional instability and irrational behavior, and an extended tour of duty overseas indicates a lack of contact and involvement with one’s child or children. Both of these strategies are being used against military persons from winning custody or even visitation with their child or children. In fact, in a few cases where a parent ‘voluntarily’ and ‘willingly’ joined the military after the birth of a child, they are being accused of intentional abandonment. All of these factors can be used against veterans and military personnel (male or female) who are going through a divorce and who are seeking custody of their child or children.
Divorce court judges are even awarding alimony and support based on the possibility that a veteran will receive disability compensation in the future. In other words, before a disabled veteran receives a disability rating and compensation, their ex-spouse has been awarded half of this money. This strategy used by divorce attorneys reaches an all time low and only proves that divorce lawyers will sink to any despicable level to win a case for their client. After all, the more money they win for their client, the more money their client will have to pay them with. Attorneys have a vested interest in attacking a person’s military service and disability benefits.
This issue is at the heart of a Rally taking place at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 5th of this year. The Rally “Operation Protect Our Veterans and Their Children” is supported by OFFE and is spearheaded by rally coordinator Julie Harris. Mrs. Harris is an OFFE Director of Operations for the state of Texas. For more information on the Texas Rally, contact Julie Harris at; [email protected],com, or call Gene Simes at (585)986-7322. Remember; If you do nothing you can expect nothing to change
Although Jere Beery only served 4 years in the U.S. Navy, he has an impressive military history. Twenty-seven months of that service was in the combat waters of Vietnam. His first duty station in 1965 was aboard the USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY, (LST-1167) as a Seaman. The WESTCHESTER COUNTY was involved in many operations within the combat waters of South Vietnam and received many awards and accolades for her service. The WESTCHESTER COUNTY was the recipient of 15 Battle Stars for her 19 years of service. LST-1167 was one of only 3 ships of her type to earn 15 Battle Stars (out of over 1200 LSTs built since before WWII).
Beery’s second duty station in 1967 was with the legendary PBRs of the Brown Water Navy. As a volunteer, Beery saw combat on a fairly routine basis with this elite group and their high-speed patrol craft. On March 1, 1968, Beery’s patrol was ambushed by a sizeable force of NVA and Viet Cong. The boat Beery was aboard took two direct RPG hits to her starboard side badly wounding four members of the boat’s crew. Seaman Beery was the most severely wounded and not expected to live. The first RPG had exploded right where Beery was standing as he manned his 50 caliber machine gun. To this day, Beery contributes his survival to the life-saving actions of his patrol officer, LT. RICHARD GODBEHERE and his other crew members. Beery spent the next year and a half hospitalized and recovering from his wounds. THE GODBEHERE PATROL
On November 1, 1968, while Jere Beery was recuperating at NAS Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida, USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY was attacked on the My Tho river. At 03:22 in the morning two very large mines were detonated on the ship’s starboard side. 25 men were killed, 17 were the ship’s crew. Several of the men killed that morning were friends and former shipmates of Beery’s. This incident has gone down in history as the greatest loss of life by the U.S. Navy in a single attack during the entire Vietnam War. USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY
In mid-1969, Jere Beery was medically retired from the Navy. His service record reflects 1 Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts, and 5 military campaigns in Vietnam. Beery was also rated totally and permanently disabled by the Veterans Administration.
Over the years since Vietnam, Jere Beery has attempted to do some things many thought impossible for someone with physical injuries such as his. During the early 80s, Jere Beery, as a member of the Screen Actors Guild pursued a brief career in the motion picture business as an actor. Beery landed a few small parts in a number of movies and television programs. On several occasions, to the amazement of many, Beery even executed his own stunts.
In 1986, Jere Beery gave up his career in the movies to crusade for his fellow veterans. Since that time, veteran’s rights advocate Jere Beery has been a noted driving force in the Veteran’s Rights Movement and effort to improve services for our veterans. Beery’s efforts have been extremely well documented and many articles have been written about his quest. A few of these articles can be found on this page. You can also type the words “Jere Beery” into any search engine to find out more about Beery’s efforts. www.google.com
Jere Beery’s multifaceted story is truly an amazing one. From his survival in Vietnam to risking additional injury executing stunts in the motion pictures, to fighting to protect the benefits earned by our troops, Jere Beery has forged his own trail and continues to amaze and baffle many.
– Place and Date of Birth: Orlando, Fl – 03/13/48
– Raised: St. Augustine, Fl
– Place & Date Enlistment: Jacksonville, Fl – 05/20/65
– Branch of Service: U.S. Navy
– Highest Rate/Rank: E4/PO3/Signalman Third Class
– Duty Stations: USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY, LST-1167 and TF116, River Patrol Force, River Section – 511, (PBRs), Binh Thuy, RSVN
– Date of Discharge: 5/14/69
– Type of Discharge: Honorable, Medically Retired
– VA Rating: 100% Totally and Permanently Disabled
Military Awards and Medals:
– 1 Bronze Star – w/combat “V” Citation
– 3 Purple Hearts – (1/5/68, 2/14/68, 3/1/68)
– Vietnam Service Medal – w/1 Silver Star – (5 military campaigns in-country, RSVN)
– Republic Of Vietnam Campaign Medal – w/1960 device
– Combat Action Ribbon
– Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon
– Presidential Unit Commendation Ribbon
– National Defense Medal
– Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation – Gallantry Cross Medal Color, w/Palm
– Republic Of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation – Civil Actions Medal, First Class Color, w/Palm
– River Patrol Craft Training, (PBR), Mare Island, CA
– Special Weapons Training, Mare Island, CA
– J.E.S.T. (Jungle Environmental Survivor Training) – Cubi Point, Philippines
– S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape Training) – Whidbey Island, Washington State
– Vietnamese Language – Mare Island, CA.
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