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1. US military’s alcohol-soaked culture taking toll on servicemembers. One Marine sergeant said drinking and partying in the barracks isn’t quite as obvious now. Marines know they will be punished if they get caught drinking underage or drinking hard liquor in the barracks. But that doesn’t mean the drinking has stopped.
2. Troops give coal to needy S. Koreans for cooking, heating. Unlike the bags of charcoal that Americans use in their barbeque grills, these cylindrical briquettes are about the size of coffee cans. They are used by some Korean families to cook and heat their homes.
3. Gold Star mother feels betrayed, not ready for the truth, so she waits. Peggy Buryj thinks she knows the name of an American soldier who killed her son, Jesse, in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq on May 5, 2004. But knowing that has not brought her comfort. Instead, she has concluded there’s nothing she can do about it.
4. Calif. veterans with PTSD cast a line for a better life with fly-fishing. Maureen Brown’s eyes dance when she recalls “the beauty” of catching her first rainbow trout. The retired Army nurse will never forget it because, as she reeled in the 24-inch fish two years ago, her exhilaration for a moment broke the mental shackles of her post-traumatic stress disorder.
5. Though faded, flag bears 45 years of soldiers’ bonds. A war-torn Vietnam-era battle flag with thousands of miles of travel and decades of service and sacrifice interwoven with its stars and stripes is making a return to Hawaii from Afghanistan — before heading back to the country next year.
6. Veterans return to Vietnam for charity, reflection. In November, for the second time in six years, members of the Vietnam Veterans of Diablo Valley embarked on a trip to Vietnam to distribute wheelchairs to those in need. And for the second time in six years, it was difficult to tell which group got the most from the experience.
7. Man seeks more answers about his ‘hero’ dad who died in WWII. It was the day after Christmas, 1944, and two soldiers brought a Western Union telegram to George Kinley’s door. Their brief message was much like thousands of others hand-delivered to homes nationwide that year, expressing “deep regret” a soldier, his father, was killed in combat. George Kinley was 6 years old at the time.
8. Over The Fiscal Cliff: How Hard A Landing? AP “Efforts to save the nation from going over a year-end ‘fiscal cliff’ were in disarray as lawmakers fled the Capitol for their Christmas break.” The AP adds, “If the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, budget cuts of 8 percent or 9 percent would hit most of the federal government, touching all sorts of things from agriculture to law enforcement and the military to weather forecasting. A few areas, such as Social Security benefits, Veterans Affairs and some programs for the poor, are exempt.”
9. Bill Ensures Proper Burial For All Vets. Florida Today “Local veterans say they are pleased a bill passed the US Senate last week and likely will become law – a measure that would ensure veterans with no resources or family to make funeral arrangements would be given proper burials.” The “Dignified Burial and Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act, sponsored by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, along with the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Patty Murray, D- Wash., and ranking member Richard Burr, R-N.C., was introduced in May after a WWII veteran was found buried in a cardboard box at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.” Florida Today adds, “While the closest to Brevard is the Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell, the VA recently announced that it purchased 318 acres off US 1 in Scottsmoor for a new national cemetery.”
10. VA Cuts Pension Eligibility Red Tape. Minneapolis Star Tribune “The Department of Veterans Affairs is cutting red tape for veterans by eliminating the need to complete” the Eligibility Verification Report (EVR), an “annual report that verifies their eligibility for pension benefits.” Staff members “that had been processing EVRs” are now “expected to turn their attention to the backlog of compensation claims…that has bedeviled the agency.” The Star Tribune notes, “VA Secretary Eric Shinseki earlier this year pledged to reduce the backlog to 125 days by 2015.” Birmingham (AL) News In a news release, Shinseki said, “By working together, we have cut red tape for veterans and will help ensure these brave men and women get the benefits they have earned and deserve.”
Have You Heard?
From the VA Community Living Center at Cheyenne, Wyo. to the Texas Veterans Health Care Systems, VA staff, volunteers and communities bring holiday cheer to America’s Veterans during the 2012 holiday season. Read the full story…