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O7 Florida Hispanic Yearbook, FLHY Invitation


Service in Iraq: Just How Risky?


Arlington National Cemetery


VHA Information Letter 10-2006-010, Potential Health Effects Among Veterans Involved in Military Chemical Warfare Agents Experiments Conducted from 1955 to 1975


VHA Handbook 1170.1, Accreditation of Veterans Health Administration Rehabilitation Programs



Released Testimony: Privacy: Preventing and Responding to Improper Disclosures of Personal Information




Veterans History Project (VHP)


Purchased Health Care Services Procedures Handbook


VHA Directive 2006-037 approved for distribution



U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project



Agent Orange - Court of Appeals - August 16, 2006


August 10, 2006 - Statement by the Hispanic War Veterans of America about today's Senate event on protecting Vet's Data


Unquiet Minority


Police Holding Three in Connection With VA Computer Theft


statement by HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY MICHAEL CHERTOFF announcing a change to the nation’s threat level for the aviation sector


Our Veterans' Missing Medals


National Symposium for Young Veterans


Puerto Rico Plight


HR 4992 - Veterans Medicare Assistance Act - Medicare Coverage for Veterans at VA Hospitals


DD 214 Now Online for Veterans


It's official, DD-214's are NOW Online.


Airborne Chaplains Corp Oldest in Military


DoD identifies Corps’ third woman KIA































Service in Iraq: Just How Risky?

Washington Post Article

By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell

Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21


The consequences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for U.S. forces are being documented by the Defense Department with an exceptional degree of openness and transparency. Its daily and cumulative counts of deaths receive a great deal of publicity. But deaths alone don't indicate the risk for an individual. For this purpose, the number of deaths must be compared with the number of individuals exposed to the risk of death. The Defense Department has supplied us with appropriate data on exposure, and we take advantage of it to provide the first profile of military mortality in Iraq.

Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 "person-years" in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.


How does this rate compare with that in other groups? One meaningful comparison is to the civilian population of the United States. That rate was 8.42 per 1,000 in 2003, more than twice that for military personnel in Iraq.


The comparison is imperfect, of course, because a much higher fraction of the American population is elderly and subject to higher death rates from degenerative diseases. The death rate for U.S. men ages 18 to 39 in 2003 was 1.53 per 1,000 -- 39 percent of that of troops in Iraq. But one can also find something equivalent to combat conditions on home soil. The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.


The death rate of American troops in Vietnam was 5.6 times that observed in Iraq. Part of the reduction in the death rate is attributable to improvements in military medicine and such things as the use of body armor. These have reduced the ratio of deaths to wounds from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq. Some other factors to be considered:


Branch of service: Marines are paying the highest toll in Iraq. Their death rate is more than double that of the Army, 10 times higher than that of the Navy and 20 times higher than for the Air Force. In fact, those in the Navy and Air Force have substantially lower death rates than civilian men ages 20 to 34.

Among the Marines, there is in effect no difference in the mortality risks for members on active duty and those in the reserve. In the Army, on the other hand, reservists have 33 percent of the death rate of those in active service because they are not assigned to combat positions. Members of the Army National Guard are intermediate in assignments and in mortality.


Rank: In both the Army and the Marines, enlisted personnel have 40 percent higher mortality than officers. The excess mortality of enlisted soldiers is diminished by the high mortality of the lowest-ranking officers, lieutenants, who are typically the leaders of combat patrols. Lieutenants have the highest mortality of any rank in the Army, 19 percent higher than all Army troops combined. Marine Corps lieutenants have 11 percent higher mortality than all Marines. But the single highest-mortality group in any service consists of lance corporals in the Marines, whose death risk is 3.3 times that of all troops in Iraq.


Age, sex , race and ethnicity: In contrast to the civilian population, mortality rates decline precipitously with age. Troops ages 17 to 19 have a death risk 4.6 times that of those 50 and older. Differences in rank by age undoubtedly contribute to this pattern, and so do differences in branch of service. Sixty-five percent of Marine deployments to Iraq were of those age 24 or younger, compared with only 39 percent of Army deployments. Women are not assigned to combat specialties in Iraq, although they do see enemy fire; their death rate is 18 percent that of men.


Identifying racial and ethnic differences in mortality is not straightforward because the Defense Department uses a different classification system for deaths than for deployments. Nevertheless, all attempts we have made to reconcile the two systems reach the same conclusion: Hispanics have a death risk about 20 percent higher than non-Hispanics, and blacks have a death risk about 30 to 40 percent lower than that of non-blacks. That low death rate appears to result from an overrepresentation of blacks in low-risk categories: For example, 19 percent of blacks in Iraq are women, compared with 9 percent of non-blacks, while 7 percent of blacks in Iraq are Marines, compared with 13 percent of non-blacks.


Other casualties: The number of wounded in Iraq through March 31, 2006, was 7.5 times the number of dead; the rate at which wounds are incurred was one per 33 troops per year. We do not have the same information about the characteristics of those wounded as we have about those killed. But given the overwhelming importance of hostile encounters in both wounds and deaths, it is likely that variations in the risk of being wounded are quite similar to those presented here.


Samuel H. Preston is the Frederick J. Warren professor of demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Emily Buzzell is a student in the Health and Societies Program at Penn.



Veterans History Project (VHP)


The Library of Congress is collecting oral/written histories from our
veterans.  A PDF of their brochure can be viewed by clicking on this link VHP_bro_update8_March_27_2006.pdf


I'll be doing a number of veterans' groups this Fall and I plan to tell them about the Veterans' History Project and hand out the printed brochures so that they can tell their stories and be included.  I think this is an important project and worth our involvement with very little effort on our part.  If you want printed brochures, please contact Jeffrey Lofton and he'll be happy to send them.

Jeffrey Lofton, APR
Public Affairs Specialist, Veterans History Project
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20540-4615
Tel: 202-707-6432
Fax: 202-252-2046



U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project



Since 1999, the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin has captured the untold stories of this WWII generation. Altogether, the project videotaped more than five hundred interviews throughout the country and in Puerto Rico and Mexico.


This volume features summaries of the interviews and photographs of the individuals. Among the people included are Mexican American civil rights leaders such as Pete Tijerina and Albert Armendariz of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Virgilio Roel of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Others are community leaders such as Pete and Elena Gallego of Alpine, Texas, and military leaders such as Colonel Hank Cervantes and flying ace Richard Candelaria.


Women who served in the military are also included. There are academic trailblazers, too, such as Frank Bonilla, who became a major figure in Puerto Rican studies. And there are a few Latinos who describe serving in segregated "colored" units during the war, as their physical features placed them in African American communities.


Overall, the vast majority of the men and women interviewed in A Legacy Greater Than Words led private lives, and their stories chronicle the everyday existence of Latinos in the 1930s and 1940s—stories that generally have been omitted from historical accounts of either the Great Depression or World War II.


Reviews on " A Legacy Greater than Words".


It's summaries of most of our interviews, with thumbnail photos of most interview subjects. There are 20 chapters and subchapters with lengthy historical intros, featuring quotes from our interviews. We didn't stint on paper, used a more expensive paper so that it would reproduce better, and a better binding, so it would last. There are only paperbacks and they're available for $30 donations-- plus $5 if we need to ship it. We wish we could give them all away free, but it took us a small chunk of change to produce it -- We worked on it since last spring, through the summer, the fall and over Christmas break, we had 5 people plowing away to square away the zillions of details, like DOB, names of spouses, children, units, etc. So, in producing the book, we also added to the accuracy and detail within our files. It's self-published, but UT Press is distributing it.

We are hoping some folks might buy multiple copies. Carlos Velez-Ibanez, at ASU, in fact, just bought his first 50 copies.  So, for your single or multiple copies, send us a check and we'll send you the book/s. If you want them inscribed, let us know what you want the inscription to say.

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Journalism
University of Texas at Austin
1 University Station A1000
Austin, Texas, 78712


A Legacy Greater than Words is a book that should be read and available in all libraries and used as a reader in Chicano/Latino Studies classes. Thanks to the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project the contributions and sacrifices of our WWII Chicano/Latino veterans are now well documented and available to the public. The book is timely given the current immigration debate and debacle in our nation. I encourage you to purchase the book.


Gus Chavez

Former Director (retired)

Office of EOP & Ethnic Affairs

San Diego State University



Agent Orange - Court of Appeals

August 16, 2006


The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims recently held that VA regulations defining who had service in Vietnam for the purpose of establishing a presumption to exposure to herbicides (e.g. Agent Orange) were too restrictive.  Consequently, those who served in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia or on Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam may be eligible for service connection of certain cancers, including lung and prostate cancer, as well as Type 2 Diabetes.


Veterans who were previously denied service connection for a presumptive disability should reopen their claim with the VA.  Those who have a presumptive disability should apply immediately for service connection.

Those who receive service connection for any disability are entitled to free

treatment for that condition at any VA medical facility and may be entitled

to a monthly payment from the VA.”


Refer to Haas vs. Nicholson No. 04-0491 Decided August 16, 2006



Unquiet Minority

August 1, 2006
By Karen Rutzick


Hispanics hold a smaller percentage of jobs in federal agencies than in the private sector, and they're not happy.


At Gilbert Sandate's [from Newton Kansas - aws] retirement celebration of a three-decade career in federal service, Democratic Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a fellow Texan, rose to make a speech. In Sandate, he said, the Library of Congress was not only losing an accomplished employee, but a rare breed in the federal government: an executive of Hispanic origin. Gonzalez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' task force on the census and civil rights, announced at the May 23 party that he and several other representatives have asked the Government Accountability Office to find out just why the Sandates of government are so uncommon.


The numbers are clear, even if the reasons for them are not. According to the Office of Personnel Management's most recent figures, in "Hispanic Employment Program Statistical Report, February 2006" Hispanics comprise 7.4 percent of the federal workforce compared with 12.6 percent of the general workforce - a five percentage-point gap. They are the only minority that is underrepresented. At the executive level, the problem is even more pronounced. Hispanics account for only 3.5 percent of senior-level federal employees and 4.6 percent of GS-13 to GS-15 managers.


Sandate spent 20 years bottlenecked as a GS-15. He applied, unsuccessfully, for about 30 Senior Executive Service positions, and bounced from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to the Internal Revenue Service to the Transportation Department and finally to the Library of Congress in an effort to move up. He left government as the library's director of workforce diversity


"Reaching the SES level is without question the hardest thing imaginable," says Sandate, who has held a number of leadership roles in groups promoting Hispanic em-ployment in government and is chairman of the Coalition for Fairness for Hispanics in Government. "I had so many doors slammed in my face, generally because there was always someone, ostensibly at least, better qualified."


Their scarcity at the top of government is alarming Hispanics. "Candidly, the federal government and government service has always been the door to opportunity for minorities," Gonzalez says. "We know that, and that is a historical fact. Hispanics can't really lag behind in what should be the widest and most open door. I guess the crux of it really is, wait a minute, this is probably where we have the greatest opportunity to come into the great middle class of America."


A lack of Hispanics where decisions about the allocation of federal dollars are made has repercussions beyond missed job opportunities, according to another attendee at Sandate's send-off. Jose Osegueda, an executive at the Agriculture Department, is president of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives. "Those decisions are more than likely being made without our input, our voice and our recommendations," Osegueda says. "We think our community will continue to have limited access to education, health care and social services" without increased Hispanic federal representation.


Survival Issue


As the Hispanic population rapidly grows - census data has Hispanics making up a quarter of the population by 2050 - the federal-civilian gap could widen. "What does it mean when you have 50 percent of the kids in Texas and 50 percent of the kids in California who are Latino in the first grade, and you have less than 3 percent representation in the Department of Education? A lack of awareness of the bilingual, bicultural issues that are facing America," says Harry Pachon, professor of public policy at the University of Southern California and a former federal employee.


OPM puts Hispanic representation in the Education Department at 4.2 percent for fiscal 2005, down slightly from the year before. Data supporting Osegueda's and Pachon's claims about funding allocation remains largely anecdotal, yet potent in the community. "Government jobs in particular are very important to our community because the government has control of the purse strings," says Brent A. Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "We end up losing out on all the federal grants and opportunities that are there for the entire country." LULAC, the largest Hispanic organization in the country and one that deals with every Hispanic issue from immigration reform to civil rights, runs an annual training institute to encourage Hispanic federal job seekers.


Sandate's career illustrates the importance of having a presence in government. When he began working at the Library of Congress in 2002, he noticed that the Veterans History Project included testimony from few Hispanic veterans - a group, Sandate says, that has earned more Congressional Medals of Honor - 39 - than any other identifiable ethnic minority and that accounts for 13 percent of the casualties in Iraq.


"There had never been any effort to reach out to the Hispanic veteran community to try to include some of those histories in the American archives," Sandate says. "We were able to connect that program staff with some of the key Hispanic organizations." As a Hispanic executive, Sandate was there to observe the problem and had the power to fix it.


Public-private Hispanic employment disparity has caught the attention of human resources thinkers outside the Hispanic community, too. As baby boomers retire and Hispanics' numbers boom, agencies will need them, says Max Stier, president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service in Washington. "When you consider that [the Hispanic] talent cohort is growing very quickly, this is vital for the future of the federal government," he says. "If the federal government is going to get the talent it needs, it needs to recruit the talent that exists."


Sean Clayton, an African American who chairs the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, echoes Stier. "It's . . a survival issue, although not just the survival of a community but the survival of the nation," he says. "If you look at where the job growth is taking place and who is going to be in the workforce of the future, you are definitely going to see that one out of four new hires [is] going to be Hispanic within the next 40 years."


Keep at It


Richard Nixon was the first to address the relative dearth of Hispanics in government with his 1970 Sixteen-Point Program for the Spanish-Speaking. President Bill Clinton created an interagency task force on Hispanic federal employment in the 1990s. And yet, in 2006, the gap remains.


Demographic shifts, however, including the impending retirement wave and Hispanic population growth, have given solution-makers hope. Gonzalez's GAO report, due out at the end of July, is just one of several new looks at the issue. The Merit Systems Protection Board is initiating a set of studies on federal diversity, including focus groups and statistical surveys, and Hispanic representation is on the list. "We are concerned with why Hispanics are really the primary underrepresented group in the country," says John Crum, MSPB deputy director. "Why is that occurring? We don't really know. We may or may not get an answer. When you start this research, you don't always know what you'll find."


But Crum and his staff have some hypotheses that, if proved true, could guide a shift in how agencies approach Hispanic recruitment. One has to do with the average age of an employee hired into federal service: 35. "We think there may be assessment issues," Crum says. "The government may reward training and experience too much. Hispanics tend to be younger on average . . . does that make them less capable to do the job? Not necessarily. We may not be getting at a person's potential, but really how old they are."


In May, Stier's group released a report on rethinking college campus recruitment for federal jobs. One of the targets was Hispanics, and one of the target institutions was the University of New Mexico, picked for its high percentage of Hispanic students. The Partnership for Public Service found that of white, Asian, black and Hispanic students surveyed, Hispanics showed the highest interest in government careers, with 51 percent indicating they were "extremely" or "very interested." At the same time, they were the least knowledgeable about government opportunities, with 62 percent rated "not knowledgeable."

"There is a huge opportunity that has not been realized," Stier says.


Sandate says he had such difficulty rising in government because there were no Hispanic executives to mentor him. He has mentored about 100 up-and-coming Hispanic federal employees, calling them on the phone two or three times a week to check in. One of them became the first Hispanic, and bilingual, administrative law judge in the Social Security Administration's Office of Appeals. Sandate's son works for the Forest Service.


Not Everyone Agrees


"What we need is a comprehensive strategy developed by OPM to say that [under-representation] is an issue of concern," says Pachon, the USC professor. LULAC's Wilkes says OPM, which leads the Clinton-initiated task force and is responsible for guiding agencies' Hispanic recruitment initiatives, should demand accountability from agencies.


"I think that you had folks out there that basically were trying to go through these process objectives instead of talking about results," Wilkes says. They say, " 'Hey, we went to that LULAC conference and exhibited, we got 600 applications.' None of them got jobs, but we don't say that. 'We took a Spanish ad out in a Spanish magazine.' They talk about all the great things they're doing other than the fact there is no progress in closing the gap. You can show yourself looking busy, but [you are] really just treading water."


Legally, there is only so much OPM can do, says Antonio San Martin Jr., a lawyer in the general counsel's office who coordinates OPM's interaction with many Hispanic advocacy groups. Policies aimed at specific goals, such as parity with the civilian labor force, are not legal. "I can't show up to a conference with 50 jobs in my pocket and give them out to the people there as door prizes," San Martin says. "What we can give them is the information, the accessibility, the opportunity, the encouragement to know they will be treated fairly by the federal government. They will be treated fairly on the merits."


A June GAO report (GAO-06-214) on the intertwined roles of OPM and EEOC in guiding federal workplace diversity found managers had mixed opinions of OPM's guidance on the Hispanic issue. Forty-three percent received zero feedback from OPM on their agency's Hispanic employment initiatives. Of those who heard from the agency, only about 7 percent found the information very useful and 11 percent somewhat useful.


Not everyone believes OPM should do more. Curt Levey, a private attorney, was involved in a 2002 reverse discrimination lawsuit against the Housing and Urban Development Department. He argued HUD was discriminating against whites in order to increase minority representation, even though there was no evidence of actual discrimination against the minority groups. "The fact that the numbers are not proportionate to the population does not mean there is anything wrong," Levey says. "Different subgroups of people, whether divided by gender or race, gravitate toward different professions in different proportions. So to assume that there is something that needs to be remedied is often a fallacy."


Parity might not even be a realistic goal. Federal jobs require U.S. citizenship, something not every Hispanic working in the private sector has or needs. And many federal jobs require higher levels of education than are common among Hispanics, 57 percent of whom had high school diplomas and 11 percent of whom held bachelor's degrees, according to the 2000 census.


You can't slice it simply by race, says Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Washington think tank opposed to race-based preferences. "Let's suppose that the problem is that the people who have not been in the United States for as long a period of time are, for whatever reason, less likely to apply to the federal government," Clegg says, "and a disproportionate number of Hispanics are recent immigrants. Then what the federal government should do is not reach out to Hispanics qua Hispanics; what they should be doing is reaching out to recent immigrants. There are obviously lots of recent immigrants who aren't Hispanic."


The National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, Osegueda's group, thinks otherwise, and they are not waiting around for OPM to close the gap. "What are we doing ourselves?" asks Al Gallegos, president of the Washington chapter of the association. "Not just going out there complaining. We're trying to be proactive."


The association is developing a workshop, scheduled to be rolled out in November. Current Hispanic SES members will lead it in their own agencies to help lower-level Hispanics rise to the executive corps. The workshop will focus on qualifications necessary to achieve SES positions and will help participants plan years in advance to get into the executive ranks.


The National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers is taking things into its own hands, too. The group started the annual Hispanic Youth Symposium, which this year will host 550 high school students for three days at sites in California, Maryland and Washington. A joint effort with funding from corporations such as Kaiser Permanente and BB&T bank, its aim is to plant the seeds of federal service early. "We first [have] got to build a legacy of education for these students, ensuring that they believe in college," says Jeffrey Vargas, an Energy Department employee and former head of the council. "And then provide the bridge between education and careers."


Some of the innovation comes from within agencies. The Social Security Administration has 12.5 percent Hispanic representation, right on par with the private sector, and 7.9 percent in the SES. What's the SSA's secret? Felicita Sola-Carter, assistant deputy commissioner for human resources and the first female Puerto Rican senior executive in the agency, says it is leadership commitment, workforce planning, aggressive recruitment and a business case hinged on diversity. "We set out to represent the public we serve," Sola-Carter says. "That really has been our mantra."


SSA seeks employees fluent in Spanish to eliminate the need to hire translators, making the agency more efficient. Sola-Carter says Hispanic employees also have community connections, which help in reaching out to customers. SSA uses field offices as recruitment tools and its Hispanic employees as recruiters. The agency also has a Hispanic advisory council that meets periodically to suggest how to better serve this group. SSA actively recruits on college campuses with heavy Hispanic representation such as California State University at Los Angeles, and engages in national ad campaigns.


Sola-Carter, who began her career in 1971 in an SSA field office in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, says, "We have come a long way from occasionally showing up at a college fair with a few handouts and a few applications for employment."


Much of the rest of government still is catching up.


7.4% of the federal workforce is Hispanic

3.5% of senior-level federal employees are Hispanic

12.6% of the general workforce is Hispanic

12.5% of employees at the Social Security Administration are Hispanic

13% of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq were Hispanic

39 Hispanics have earned Congressional Medals of Honor


©2006 by National Journal Group Inc. All rights reserved.


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Police Holding Three in Connection With VA Computer Theft

By Karin Brulliard and Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 5, 2006; 5:06 PM


Three people are in the custody of Montgomery County police in connection with the May theft of computer equipment from the home of a Veterans Administration analyst in Aspen Hill that contained the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of millions of current and former service members.


The three -- two Rockville 19-year-olds and a minor who was not identified -- also stole jewelry and cash from the analyst's home, and had no idea they had such sensitive information from the computer and hard drive, Montgomery police said today. The theft was the largest information security breach in government history.


"As far as we can determine, this was a random burglary," Police Chief Thomas Manger said at an afternoon news conference. "They did not know what they had."


Police identified the two adults under arrest as Jesus Alex Pineda, 19, of the 13000 block of Grenoble Drive and Christian Brian Montano, 19, of the 13100 block of Grenoble Drive. Pineda has been charged with first degree burglary and theft over $500. Montano faces those charges, as well as conspiracy to commit burglary and theft.


Both were arrested last night at a McDonald's restaurant, police said. The juvenile, whose arrest in the case is pending, was already jailed on another charge. Police did not release any information about him.


Manger said the case was solved with the help of a tip called in to the FBI, which passed on the information to Montgomery police. The trio are suspects in at least five other burglaries, he said.


The computer equipment was recovered on June 28 when the person who had the laptop contacted U.S. Park Police after seeing news accounts and notices of a $50,000 reward offered by Montgomery County police. Federal authorities said then that the sensitive personal information of 26.5 million veterans and military personnel apparently had not been accessed.


Police have not yet distributed the reward.



statement by HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY MICHAEL CHERTOFF announcing a change to the nation’s threat level for the aviation sector

Press Office

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Press Release

August 10, 2006

Contact: DHS Press Office, 202-282-8010



The Department of Homeland Security is taking immediate steps to increase security measures in the aviation sector in coordination with heightened security precautions in the United Kingdom.  Over the last few hours, British authorities have arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a substantial plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States.  Currently, there is no indication, however, of plotting within the United States. We believe that these arrests have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted.


For that reason, the United States Government has raised the nation’s threat level to Severe, or Red, for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States. This adjustment reflects the Critical, or highest, alert level that has been implemented in the United Kingdom. To defend further against any remaining threat from this plot, we will also raise the threat level to High, or Orange, for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States. Consistent with these higher threat levels, the Transportation Security Administration is coordinating with federal partners, airport authorities and commercial airlines on expanding the intensity of existing security requirements.  Due to the nature of the threat revealed by this investigation, we are prohibiting any liquids, including beverages, hair gels, and lotions from being carried on the airplane. This determination will be constantly evaluated and updated when circumstances warrant. These changes will take effect at 4:00 AM local time across the country.  Travelers should also anticipate additional security measures within the airport and at screening checkpoints.


These measures will continue to assure that our aviation system remains safe and secure.  Travelers should go about their plans confidently, while maintaining vigilance in their surroundings and exercising patience with screening and security officials.


The United States and the United Kingdom are fully united and resolute in this effort and in our ongoing efforts to secure our respective homelands.



Our Veterans' Missing Medals


August 8, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Pinehurst, N.C.


Captain Brian Chontosh is the kind of soldier who, in years past, would have received a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue.


As a young lieutenant in 2003, he and his platoon were ambushed near Baghdad. Machine gun fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades spewed from every direction. Lieutenant Chontosh ordered his Humvee directly into an enemy machine-gun position, where his gunner destroyed the nest. He then advanced on a trench, where he exited his vehicle and scattered enemy fighters. After his ammunition was depleted, he twice picked up an enemy's rifle and continued.


By the time the smoke cleared, Lieutenant Chontosh had killed more than 20 insurgents and saved the lives of dozens in his platoon. For his incredible courage, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest award given to Marines.


Second highest?


For reasons I can't fathom, the Pentagon top brass don't feel that our heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan are especially meritorious. President Bush has yet to award a single Medal of Honor to a living veteran of combat in either place. (Only one has been given posthumously.)


During the Vietnam War, 245 Medals of Honor were awarded. If President Bush awarded the medals at roughly the same rate for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than two dozen would have been bestowed by now.

When I called the Department of Defense to inquire, a public affairs officer said he wondered whether our fighting style might be less risky today than it was in Vietnam. How lame. Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has been brutal, and many of our troops have performed with incredible valor. Anyone remember Falluja?


This is more than an issue of justice denied. Tales of courage inspire present and future warriors. They certainly motivated my service in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Today, two of my four sons are good bets to join the Marines or Special Forces. I don't want them to look to my generation for heroes, but to their contemporaries.


I hope President Bush will order a review of heroic acts performed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of our freedom. Not another minute should be lost in bestowing honors that are overdue.


Joseph A. Kinney is writing a book on the making of America's soldiers.



National Symposium for Young Veterans


To address these problems of servicemembers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and their families, AMVETS is hosting the National Symposium for the Needs of Young Veterans, which is planned for October 18-22, 2006 in Chicago, Ill. The symposium will bring together a diverse and representative group of veterans to discuss how to ensure a system of earned benefits that is both adequate and relevant to the needs of younger veterans. Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi will co-chair the symposium. For more information, visit www.veteransnationalsymposium.org.



Puerto Rico Plight

The Washington Times

By Lawrence A. Hunter
Published August 2, 2006


Congress struggles over what to do about illegal aliens coming to the United States from Mexico and Central America. Yet a huge problem within the Hispanic branch of our own American family is overlooked. Four million American citizens of Hispanic origin struggle in Puerto Rico under circumstances that can only be described as totally un-American. The Institute for Policy Innovation described this in a report three years ago ("Leave No State or Territory Behind"). The Brookings Institution is publishing a book with virtually the same findings.


People born in Puerto Rico are American citizens with U.S. passports who have all the rights of citizenship, including dying for their country in the American military -- all the rights that is except the right of electing voting Members of Congress or voting for the president. Few "mainlanders" recognize the U.S. has a colony, which they can visit without a passport and whose residents may freely come to the mainland to visit, work or live permanently without presenting a passport, obtaining a visa or a green card or going through customs.


Between 1950 and the mid-1970s, Puerto Rico was considered by many a showpiece of economic growth and educational advancement. Since then, however, Puerto Rico's economy has been stagnant, its standard of living has lagged, and the educational system has deteriorated. Unemployment persists at 11 percent, and labor force participation (60 percent) is less than two-thirds the rate in the States, much lower than any member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including Mexico (82 percent).


Nearly half of Puerto Rico's residents still live below the U.S. poverty line, and the gap in income relative to the mainland continues to widen.


The Brookings book and the IPI report constitute a consensus among economists. Puerto Rico's lack of prosperity derives from flawed tax policy and a bloated welfare state stimulated and perpetuated not only by the government of Puerto Rico but also by very smart tax lawyers who designed fatally flawed tax policy for the U.S. government, which benefited large multinational firms with territorial tax credits but barely benefited the people of Puerto Rico.


While the strategy did attract multinationals to Puerto Rico and demonstrated for the relatively few hired how productive the Puerto Rican people can be, the strategy ultimately backfired. It was immensely costly to the Federal Treasury -- on the order of $2.67 in tax benefits received for every dollar of labor compensation paid -- and not only distorted Puerto Rico's local politics, by making the tax incentive dependent upon Puerto Rico's continued territorial status, but also distorted the structure of production and employment in Puerto Rico. Big multinational companies got large tax credits, often for income attributed to Puerto Rico but produced by activities in the States, resulting in very few jobs or small-business opportunities for Puerto Rico residents. As a result, 4 million people born in Puerto Rico now live in the States where they can find a job and vote.


Special tax breaks also exacerbated a willful blindness in Washington of the urgent need to resolve the status debate. Is Puerto Rico to become a state, remain a territory or gain independence as a sovereign nation? The Bush administration is to be commended for its recognition of the festering political-status issue in its recent recommendations for Congress to establish a formal process of Puerto Rico self-determination to resolve permanent status in a timely fashion.


In 1996, with a generous 10-year phase-out period, Congress repealed those tax credits, and the multinational firms have remained on the island. But the history of corporate welfare had created an economic strategy with one pillar -- perpetual dependency. In this regard, Puerto Rico's economic problems are not unique and are only compounded by the uncertain status situation.


This is why a new economic strategy is required for Puerto Rico, one that incorporates wise federal policies rather than handouts; that encourages Puerto Rico to get its welfare state under control. Members of Congress should read the Brookings Book and IPI report and, at a minimum, create national enterprise zones including Puerto Rico. That would make it possible for these American citizens to climb the ladder of prosperity and achieve the American Dream.


Companion national enterprise zone bills including Puerto Rico were introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, in the last Congress. And Puerto Rico's newly elected nonvoting Member of the House, Luis Fortuno, introduced similar legislation (H.R. 2182) in this Congress.


National enterprise zones provide a practical way to get tax policy right, easing regulations and establishing incentives for private capital and enterprise to invest and flourish in these lagging sectors of America, whether on the mainland or on that little corner island of America 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida.


Lawrence A. Hunter is a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Innovation and former staff director of the congressional Joint Economic Committee.




HR 4992 - Veterans Medicare Assistance Act - Medicare Coverage for Veterans at VA Hospitals


Under current law, Medicare-eligible veterans are not allowed to use Medicare coverage at local VA hospitals. Instead, they are forced to decide between receiving medical care at a VA hospital without being able to use Medicare to help them make their bill payments, or using Medicare at a non-VA hospital and losing the personalized veterans’ care of a VA hospital. 


On March 16, 2006, Rep. Sue Kelly (NY) introduced HR 4992, the Veterans Medicare Assistance Act, that would provide Medicare eligible veterans with Medicare Subvention -- the right to use Medicare benefits to help pay their bills at local VA hospitals.


"Veterans pay into Medicare for most of their lives, yet the law prohibits them from using Medicare benefits at a VA hospital later in life," Kelly said.  "VA hospitals specialize in treating veterans’ needs, and veterans should not be forced to choose between cost and comfort. Veterans should be eligible for the same Medicare benefits at a VA hospital that they would have at any other hospital."


"The federal government needs to keep the promises made to veterans and ease their financial burden by providing Medicare benefits at VA hospitals," Kelly said.  "Veterans have remarkably served our country, and in return they should have every health care option available to them. They should not be forced to make unfair and complicated financial decisions about their quality of health care."




DD 214 Now Online for Veterans


The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided the following website for veterans to gain access their DD-214 online: vetrecs.archives.gov. This may be particularly helpful when a veteran needs a copy of his DD-214 for employment purposes. NPRC is working to make it easier for veterans with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents from their military files. Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members may now use a new online military personnel records system to request documents. Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete the Standard Form 180, which can be downloaded from the online web site. Because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized. The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center's mailroom processing time.



It's official, DD-214's are NOW Online.


The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided the following website for veterans to gain

access to their DD-214s online: http://vetrecs.archives.gov/


This may be particularly helpful when a veteran needs a copy of his DD-214 for employment purposes. NPRC is working to make it easier for veterans with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents from their military files. Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members may now use a new online military personnel records system to request documents.


Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete the Standard Form 180, which can be downloaded from the online web site. Because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized. The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center's mailroom processing time.


Airborne Chaplains Corp Oldest in Military


August 1, 2006
Filed at 4:42 a.m. ET


FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) -- They look like the other soldiers, but the Army's airborne chaplains are noncombatants who carry camo-clad Bibles instead of weapons when it's time to leap from aircraft onto the battlefield.


Chaplains were authorized for the Army by the Continental Congress in 1775, making the Army Chaplains Corps the oldest in the American military. Today, chaplains are paired with well-armed enlisted soldiers in a Unit Ministry Team, or UMT, as they walk a line between the military and a supreme being.


On Monday, about 50 chaplains and their assistants from airborne units jumped from the ramps of C-130 aircraft with 350 other soldiers at a sandy drop zone deep inside the huge Fort Bragg post. Many of the other chaplains based at Bragg didn't make the jump because they were deployed or preparing to deploy.


''Soldiers regardless of their faith background have a deep respect for the unit ministry team -- the chaplain and chaplain's assistant -- because they see them as their pastors on the battlefield,'' Sgt. Maj. Stephen Stott, 44, the senior chaplain's assistant for the 18th Airborne Corps, said last week.


Stott said chaplain teams spend much of their time prior to a deployment preparing soldiers for the harsh reality of military life.


Across the Army, there are 2,600 active-duty chaplains and assistants and the same number of National Guard and Reserve members, said Lt. Col. Randall Dolinger at the Army's Office of Chief of Chaplains. The number includes Special Operations, but the service doesn't talk about them, he said.


No chaplains have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but one was severely wounded. More than 200 denominations have had chaplains in the Army, but Protestant are the most prevalent.


The daily life of a chaplain in a combat zone can be dangerous: Lt. Col. Jerry Powell, a nondenominational minister from Kansas City, was ambushed while riding in a convoy to conduct a memorial service in Iraq for a member of the civilian police force in Baghdad.


''It was just part of doing ministry,'' Powell said. ''Gunfire exchanged, we kept moving. It's a whole lot different from getting caught in a traffic jam (at home) while doing ministry.''


Col. Pat Hash, chief chaplain for the 18th Airborne Corps and a former Special Operations chaplain in Iraq and Afghanistan, said military chaplains are different from those in civilian churches because they are with soldiers ''out on the ranges and jumping out of airplanes.''


A former infantry officer who went to a Southern Baptist seminary, Hash said there is no conflict between ministry and combat. Soldiers have a job to do and ''we're there to walk alongside those soldiers as they face some of the challenges and turmoil of life,'' he said.


Chaplains don't seek converts but they rarely see a committed atheist during combat, Hash said.


''It's interesting how people, even though they say they're atheists, are drawn to some type of faith when they have to face stressful and difficult situations like war will bring,'' he said.



DoD identifies Corps’ third woman KIA


The third female Marine to be killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom died April 8, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.


Lance Cpl. Juana Navarro Arellano, 24, of Ceres, Calif., died from wounds she received while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.


According to a Defense Department release, Navarro was assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, which is based in Okinawa, Japan.


In June 2005, Cpl. Ramona Valdez and Lance Cpl. Holly Charette, who were assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, were killed by a car bomb in Fallujah. Before Navarro’s death, Valdez and Charette had been the only female Marines killed in Iraq since U.S. forces entered the country in March 2003, a Pentagon spokesman said.




Forwarded by Kevin Secor, VSO Liaison, Office of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.


An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information on veterans.  This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way. http://www.vaservices.org/us/index.html


VAS may be gaining access to military personnel through their close resemblance to the VA name and seal.  Our Legal Counsel has requested that we coordinate with DoD to inform military installations, particularly mobilization sites, of this group and their lack of affiliation or endorsement by VA to provide any services.


In addition, GC requests that if you have any examples of VAS acts that violate chapter 59 of Title 38 United States Code, such as VAS employees assisting veterans in the preparation and presentation of claims for benefits, please pass any additional information to Mr.Daugherty at the address below.


Michael G. Daugherty

Staff Attorney

Department of Veterans Affairs

Office of General Counsel (022G2)





Articles  in July 2006 - Click on an article to access it



Lawsuit Not the Answer in VA Security Breach Says American Legion


VA’s Mansfield:  No need for credit monitoring services


Laptop with sensitive Agriculture Department info stolen from car


Michaud Requests Investigation of VA's Efforts to Treat Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury


Texas Family Loses Both Sons to War 




Hispanic Population Has Grown More Numerous Than Asian- and African-Americans in 26 of the 50 States


Iraqi Tells Gold Star Mothers Their Sacrifice Not in Vain


VA Services Continues at Walla Walla


VA Deputy Secretary Mansfield Honored by DAV

“Disabled Vet of the Year” Honor Goes to VA’s Second-in-Command


U.S. urged to apologize for 1930s deportations














Lawsuit Not the Answer in VA Security Breach Says American Legion
6/7/2006 4:27 PM
To:  National Desk Contacts:  Ramona Joyce, 202‑263‑2982 or 202‑445‑1161 (cell) or Joe March, 317‑630‑1253 or 317‑748‑1926 (cell) both of the American Legion


INDIANAPOLIS, June 7 /U.S. Newswire/ – American Legion National Commander Thomas L. Bock today said he is encouraged that Congress and the administration are scrutinizing the lapse in procedure that led to the largest information security breach in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  However, the leader of the world’s largest veterans organization added that, “VA must do everything possible to ensure that the personal information of America’s veterans, Active Duty, Guard and Reserve personnel is never stored, packaged or transferred in a method that will allow such an enormous loss to result from the lapse in judgment of a single VA employee.”


“The loss of more than 26 million veterans records to include spouses, Active Duty, Guard and Reserve members, is an inexcusable betrayal of trust,” Bock said.  “However, we must now allow the office of the VA Inspector General, the FBI, the Attorney General’s office and Congress to resolve this issue while at the same time taking steps to ensure that the 26 million veterans and active servicemembers who are on the stolen list do not suffer further anguish as a result of criminal activity.”


While a few veterans’ organizations may believe that filing suit against VA will help veterans, Commander Bock urges patience in allowing the existing offices of oversight to complete their analysis of this situation.  “The Executive and Legislative branches of our government are working toward a fair and expeditious resolution to this matter.  Dragging the Judicial branch into this by filing a lawsuit will only impede the process” added Bock.  “It is unlikely that the threat of a lawsuit against the VA would act as a catalyst for the speedier recovery of the lost information.  Neither would it expedite the passing of legislation that would compensate veterans for the cost of monitoring and protecting their current credit ratings and personal accounts or for those who may become victims of identity theft.


Bock further stressed the importance of a swift resolution to this issue by avoiding the inevitable delays and unfair rulings that often result from class action suits.  “The outcome of the Agent Orange class action settlement should serve as a reminder that judicial oversight isn’t always the best remedy,” said Bock.  “This historic case did not equate to fair compensation for veterans exposed to Agent Orange.  Out of about 105,000 claims received, 52,000 totally disabled veterans or their survivors received payments averaging approximately $3,800.  This certainly didn’t cover the health care for these severely disabled veterans.  However, the lawyers who split the $9.2 million granted by Judge Weinstein weren’t complaining.”


In addition to a fair and expeditious resolution to this breach of security at VA, Bock also called for a complete review of IT security government‑wide.  “I am sure that VA isn’t the only agency within our government that needs to overhaul its IT security protocol.  I urge the President to review each agency to ensure that the personal information of all Americans is secure.”


VA’s Mansfield:  No need for credit monitoring services
July 18, 2006

By Rick Maze

Times staff writer


The Department of Veterans Affairs sees no need to provide credit monitoring services to service members and veterans because officials are fairly confident that nobody made copies of the personal data of more than 28 million people that was stolen in the May 3 theft of computer equipment from a VA employee’s home.


Gordon H. Mansfield, the VA’s deputy secretary, told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Tuesday that recovery of the stolen equipment makes a lot of proposed legislation unnecessary.  “The FBI has concluded with a high degree of confidence that, based upon its forensic examination and other evidence developed during its investigation, the veterans’ data were not accessed or compromised prior to their recovery,” Mansfield said.  “That development has eliminated the need for much of what is proposed in the legislation, and while we understand the concerns that engendered these eight bills, we do not support their enactment.”


For example, Mansfield doesn’t support the Veterans’ Identity Protection Act, H.R. 5455, that would require the VA to notify people whenever personal information is lost, to provide one year of free credit monitoring and free credit reports over two years.  The recovery of the data, which law enforcement officials said appears to be uncompromised, eliminated the need to offer credit monitoring or additional free credit reports at this time,” he said.


Veterans concerned about their credit can get a free copy of their credit report once every year, he said.


One idea Mansfield does support is a provision of the Veterans Identity Security Act of 2006, H.R. 5467, which creates criminal penalties for disclosing without authority any personal information about veterans.  The new criminal offense would apply to VA employees, volunteers and contractors who could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment for selling or attempting to sell personal information for personal gain or trying to harm someone.Mansfield said the VA would work with the House committee on details for the provision.




Laptop with sensitive Agriculture Department info stolen from car

July 18, 2006



There’s another case of someone stealing a federal government computer with personal information on it.


This time it’s a laptop swiped from the car of an Agriculture Department worker in Kansas.  The names, addresses and Social Security numbers of about 350 employees may have been accessed before the machine was returned to a meat plant.  A department spokesman says someone had obviously rummaged through the case the laptop was in.


The affected employees and state contractors work on federal meat grading programs in 30 states and the nation’s capital.


Back in May, burglars stole a laptop from the home of a Veterans Affairs worker.  Although it was later recovered without personal data being copied, it touched off concern for more than 26 (m) million veterans and active troops.


Copyright 2006 Associated Press.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Michaud Requests Investigation of VA's Efforts to Treat Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury


WASHINGTON – Representative Michael Michaud (D-ME), the Ranking Democratic Member of the Health Subcommittee of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative arm, to conduct a comprehensive study of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) efforts to identify and treat veterans with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).


"Many of our troops who survive the blasts from improvised explosive devices are at risk of brain damage.  With thousands of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk of TBI, this injury may be the silent signature wound of this war," said Michaud.


Servicemembers who sustain a closed head injury may have a mild TBI, which may not be readily identified by medical professionals, veterans, or their families.  Mild TBI symptoms, including slower or confused thinking, memory loss, and mood changes, may not be evident for months or years after the initial injury.


Michaud's request for the GAO study came after newspaper reports that researchers screening returning troops found that 10% suffered at least one minor brain injury during combat, which may go undiagnosed because troops have no visible wounds.


In addition, the congressionally created VA Committee on the Care of Severely Chronically Mentally Ill Veterans has identified that the VA needs to develop resources to identify and treat returning veterans who have brain injury.  The Committee recommended significant initiatives to address the needs of veterans with TBI.


VA's Inspector General recently issued a report that gave the VA mixed reviews for its treatment of severely and moderately brain-injured veterans.  VA's case management of veterans care and support for families dealing with a brain-injured veteran were inconsistent.


Michaud's request asks GAO to determine how the VA ensures that veterans who have experienced a mild TBI are identified and treated when they seek care at VA medical facilities, how the VA provides the needed education and support for families caring for veterans with TBI, and the obstacles to identifying veterans with mild TBI.


[GAO letter attached, see 7-25-06 Letter to GAO pdf.]



Texas Family Loses Both Sons to War

The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 26, 2006; 10:07 PM



LUBBOCK, Texas -- Less than two years ago, Roy Velez got the worst news a father could get: His oldest son was dead, killed during combat in Iraq.


This week, his pain only deepened with news that his youngest son had died in Afghanistan.
Military officials notified the Velez family Tuesday of the death of Army Spc. Andrew Velez, 22. His brother, Army Cpl. Jose A. Velez, 23, died in November 2004 in Fallujah when his unit came under fire while clearing an enemy stronghold.


"I can't be angry. I feel like my heart's been pulled out," Roy Velez said Tuesday. "We've done what the Lord allowed us to do for our country.


"The family lost its only sons; there is one daughter.


The military does not have a regulation prohibiting the deployment of family members at the same time. But families can request that relatives return home if one is killed or disabled.


After his brother's death, the military gave Andrew Velez the option of not returning to combat, Roy Velez said. But Andrew Velez told his father he wanted to return to fight, his father said.


"You always do it for your buddy next to you," Roy Velez recalled his younger son saying.


Roy Velez last talked to Andrew Velez on the phone Saturday. His son told him he'd had "six close calls" as they tracked Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and that he was tired.


He was scheduled to return for 10 days of leave during the last week of August. "He said, 'Daddy, I'll see you in August,'" Roy Velez said.


Andrew Velez joined the Army about five years ago. He graduated in 2002 from Estacado High School in Lubbock. During his school years, he wrestled, played football and basketball and ran track. He also loved playing golf.


His older brother, Jose, joined the Army after graduating from the same high school in 2000 and hoped to attend medical school one day. He played football and was an honor student.


After his death, Jose Velez was awarded two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and a Silver Star. But burglars stole them all from his parents' home in June.


On Monday, the medals were replaced, thanks to the assistance of U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Roy Velez said. "And today at 12:30 I learned my other son was killed in action," he said late Tuesday.

Andrew Velez's survivors include his wife, Veronica Velez; a daughter, Jasmine Jade, 5; and two sons, Jordan Davis, 3, and Jacob Andrew, 2.


© 2006 The Associated Press







On Tuesday July 11, 2006 ,as applause broke out from the crowd of more than 400, the Friends of the El Dorado County Veterans Monument lead by Founder, Richard W. Buchanan NC, dug up the first shovels of dirt ending a ten year effort by veterans and supporters to make the El Dorado County Veterans Monument a reality. Dedication date has been scheduled for Veterans Day, November 11, 2006. Among the guests of honor will be, Paul"Pete" McCloskey NC, Tom Johnson Secretary California Department of Veterans Affairs, members of the Legion of Valor of the U.S.A., and numerous House and Senate members.


Monument History; "The El Dorado County Veterans Monument was first envisioned by former United States Marine, Richard W. Buchanan during the Vietnam War. On May 24, 1968, as 27th Marines moved against well-entrenched enemy forces during the battle of Le Bac (1), Buchanan witnessed numerous examples of the American fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty by his fellow Marines, and Corpsmen. He vowed that their dedication, and the dedication and sacrifices of other men and women of our Armed Forces would not be forgotten.


 The vision was shared with architect, LCDR Peter Wolfe USCG (RET), in 1997, and "Friends of the Veterans Monument", was formed.


 The Monument site overlooks the Sierra-Nevada Mountains in Placerville, California, and will occupy most of the 2 acre site.


The Monument components will include; the 140' monument wall made of stone. Monument Plaza, which will seat 500, and include eleven flag poles honoring our Armed Forces ,Veterans Administration, POW, Veterans Organizations, California, and the Stars and Stripes of the United States of America. The 150' long entrance, "Walk of Honor", will be graced by a 400lb. bronze American eagle, followed by the 30' diameter, "Circle of Honor", where most of the 1000 engraved bricks honoring our American Veterans will be displayed. The Circle of Honors base will be an engraved map of the world with bronze pegs calling attention to areas in the world where our armed Forces have served the cause of freedom.


This monument will be an significant addition to monuments across our nation, and appropriately symbolizes the freedoms, institutions, and way of life that our veterans have gallantly sacrificed to protect.


The El Dorado County Veterans Monuments theme;




Richard W. Buchanan NC

Founder, EDC Veterans Monument


Friends of the Veterans Monument;

Co-Founder, LCDR Peter Wolfe, Chaplain-Lt. Col. Tim Thompson USA, Major General John Collens, USAF (RET), William "Bill" Cathcart DSC, Don Donaldson,USN(RET),  William "Bill"Schultz, USN (RET), Jim Denmark USAF (RET), Lanny Langston USN, Col. Gergory Etzel AFC




Hispanic Population Has Grown More Numerous Than Asian- and African-Americans in 26 of the 50 States - Hispanic Population Truly a National Presence


July 13, 2006

Tomás Rivera Policy Institute



July 12, 2006 (Los Angeles, CA) - Hispanics now outnumber African- and Asian-Americans in 26 of the 50 states, according to a Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) analysis of the 2004 census. While California and Texas still possess more than 50 percent of the nation's Hispanic population, southern states from North Carolina to Arkansas have seen phenomenal Hispanic population growth. (See Table 1.)


"The dispersion of the Latino community from its traditional ports of entry, such as California, New York and Florida, has been occurring for some time but has really accelerated in the past decade," stated Harry P. Pachon, President of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute and Professor of Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

In 1970, according to TRPI census analysis, Hispanics were the largest ethnic minority in comparison to African- and Asian-Americans in nine states. In 1990, that number grew to 11 states; in 2000 Hispanics were the largest ethnic minority in 23 states; and now, at mid-decade, the figure has grown to 26 states. (See Table 2.)


"The dispersion of the Hispanic community throughout the country means that Hispanic community issues are no longer single state or regional issues.  Hispanic issues are now national issues," continued Pachon.


According to Institute researchers, a variety of factors account for this national dispersion, including employment opportunities, lower housing values, and informal social and familial networks.


About TRPI
Founded in 1985, the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute advances critical, insightful thinking on key issues affecting Latino communities through objective, policy-relevant research and its implications, for the betterment of the nation.  TRPI is an affiliated research unit of the University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and is associated with the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University. To learn more about the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, visit the Institute's website at


Table 1.


Table 2.




Iraqi Tells Gold Star Mothers Their Sacrifice Not in Vain
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service


HOLMDEL, N.J., July 10, 2006 – More than 40 American Gold Star Mothers and their guests from around the country came together here yesterday to honor the children they’ve lost in the country’s conflicts.


The ceremony, held at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial here, included a roll call honoring servicemembers from World War I through the global war on terrorism.  Mothers who lost children in Vietnam and the global war on terrorism, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, placed wreaths near the center of the memorial.


Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, Iraq’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, served as keynote speaker and thanked the mothers for the sacrifices their sons and daughters have made for his country.


“We were a country without hope,” Istrabadi said.  “The intervention of the United States in my country has been a lifeline for us.  It has restored hope for us that our future will be very different from our past.”


Hearing laughter in Iraq’s streets again and no longer feeling the need to cringe when admitting their heritage is part of what America’s intervention has given back to his country, he said.


“These are not small things.  These are things for which this country, and you as individuals and your children, have earned our tremendous gratitude,” Istrabadi said.  “Words of thanks truly seem to me to be insufficient to convey to you the thanks of a country, a grateful nation, which has lingered too long under tyranny.”


Iraq’s gratitude to the United States and the families who have sacrificed personally “will be eternal,” he said.


While Istrabadi spoke directly to events in Iraq, his message resonated with all the Gold Star Mothers:  Their children did not die in vain.


Among those inspired by his words was Renate DeAngelis, a New York Gold Star Mother delegate who lost her son, 22-year-old Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher W. DeAngelis, when the U.S.S. Stark was attacked on May 17, 1987.  He was one of 37 killed when the Iraqis hit the guided-missile frigate with two missiles during the Iran-Iraq War.


“It was absolutely beautiful,” DeAngelis said of yesterday’s ceremony.  “(It was) very moving.”


DeAngelis, who has lived with her grief for more than 19 years, said older Gold Star Mothers help those with more recent losses deal with their grief.  “With the younger mothers, it’s too new,” she said.


All participants in yesterday’s ceremony got the opportunity to acknowledge a friend or family member who died while serving the nation.


The visit to the memorial began with a viewing of “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” a short movie dedicated to Gold Star Mothers.


The group will conduct its annual business meeting today and tomorrow in Mount Laurel, N.J.


VA Services Continues at Walla Walla

Friday, July 07, 2006 05:53 PM Eastern Standard Time


VA Services to Continue at Walla Walla, Washington


WASHINGTON (July 7, 2006) – Veterans in the Walla Walla, Wash., area will be receiving a new, state-of-the-art outpatient facility for primary care, specialty care and mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, announced today while visiting Walla Walla.


"Walla Walla veterans will get a modern outpatient facility that continues the high quality of care they receive from VA,” Nicholson said. “Veterans and their families can rest assured that a new world-class outpatient facility will be established.”


Nicholson said the new facility will be located on the Walla Walla campus.  As suggested by a local advisory panel, VA plans to use of the rest of the campus for housing and other services for veterans.


“I want to thank the local advisory panel and the many leaders for their helpful input, including the Washington congressional delegation, veterans groups, state and local leaders, other stakeholders and VA employees,” Nicholson added.

Nicholson was joined at today's announcement about Walla Walla by Rep. Cathy McMorris and Max Lewis, director of the VA regional office responsible for Walla Walla.  Lewis will oversee establishment of the new facility.


VA will work in partnership with local officials, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments to develop innovative ways to provide nursing home care, residential rehabilitation, inpatient health care and inpatient mental health services in Walla Walla, although not necessarily on the VA campus.


Nicholson noted the Walla Walla complex first opened in 1929 -- 10 years after the end of World War I and 12 years before the start of World War II.  No major improvements have been made on the campus in 50 years.


The Walla Walla decision was made after a study was completed that has been in progress since 2004 to upgrade health care facilities across the country that serve veterans. 




VA Deputy Secretary Mansfield Honored by DAV

“Disabled Vet of the Year” Honor Goes to VA’s Second-in-Command


July 3, 2006



WASHINGTON -- Citing a quarter-century’s advocacy for all veterans and his dedication to improving the lives of those injured during military service, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have named Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H. Mansfield as DAV’s “Disabled Veteran of the Year.”


“Gordon Mansfield has had a profound impact upon all veterans, but especially disabled veterans,” said the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “His knowledge, tenacity and skillful advocacy have improved the lives not just of disabled veterans, but all Americans with disabilities.”


Mansfield, the chief operating officer and second in command at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is scheduled to receive DAV’s top honor August 12 at the group’s national convention in Chicago.  DAV has 1.3 million members.


Mansfield was shot and suffered a spinal injury during the Tet Offensive of February 1968.  His decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.


During his recovery, he earned a law degree from the University of Miami and began legal practice in Ocala, Fla., where he helped found a DAV chapter in Marion County, Fla.


In 1981, he accepted the first of several positions with the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), culminating as the group’s executive director from 1993 to 2001.  His time with PVA was interrupted by a four-year tour as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Mansfield was instrumental in elevating VA to a cabinet-level department, creating the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.


#   #   #



U.S. urged to apologize for 1930s deportations
By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY


His father and oldest sister were farming sugar beets in the fields of Hamilton, Mont., and his mother was cooking tortillas when 6-year-old Ignacio Piña saw plainclothes authorities burst into his home.


"They came in with guns and told us to get out," recalls Piña, 81, a retired railroad worker in Bakersfield, Calif., of the 1931 raid. "They didn't let us take anything," not even a trunk that held birth certificates proving that he and his five siblings were U.S.-born citizens.


The family was thrown into a jail for 10 days before being sent by train to Mexico. Piña says he spent 16 years of "pure hell" there before acquiring papers of his Utah birth and returning to the USA.


The deportation of Piña's family tells an almost-forgotten story of a 1930s anti-immigrant campaign. Tens of thousands, and possibly more than 400,000, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were pressured * through raids and job denials * to leave the USA during the Depression, according to a USA TODAY review of documents and interviews with historians and deportees. Many, mostly children, were U.S. citizens.


Related story: Some stories hard to get in history books


If their tales seem incredible, a newspaper analysis of the history textbooks used most in U.S. middle and high schools may explain why: Little has been written about the exodus, often called "the repatriation."


That may soon change. As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on bills that would either help illegal workers become legal residents or boost enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, an effort to address deportations that happened 70 years ago has gained traction:


On Thursday, Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., plans to introduce a bill in the U.S. House that calls for a commission to study the "deportation and coerced emigration" of U.S. citizens and legal residents. The panel would also recommend remedies that could include reparations. "An apology should be made," she says.


Co-sponsor Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., says history may repeat itself. He says a new House bill that makes being an illegal immigrant a felony could prompt a "massive deportation of U.S. citizens," many of them U.S.-born children leaving with their parents.


"We have safeguards to ensure people aren't deported who shouldn't be," says Jeff Lungren, GOP spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, adding the new House bill retains those safeguards.


In January, California became the first state to enact a bill that apologizes to Latino families for the 1930s civil rights violations. It declined to approve the sort of reparations the U.S. Congress provided in 1988 for Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.


Democratic state Sen. Joe Dunn, a self-described "Irish white guy from Minnesota" who sponsored the state bill, is now pushing a measure to require students be taught about the 1930s emigration. He says as many as 2 million people of Mexican ancestry were coerced into leaving, 60% of them U.S. citizens.


In October, a group of deportees and their relatives, known as los repatriados, will host a conference in Detroit on the topic. Organizer Helen Herrada, whose father was deported, has conducted 100 oral histories and produced a documentary. She says many sent to Mexico felt "humiliated" and didn't want to talk about it. "They just don't want it to happen again."


No precise figures exist on how many of those deported in the 1930s were illegal immigrants. Since many of those harassed left on their own, and their journeys were not officially recorded, there are also no exact figures on the total number who departed.


At least 345,839 people went to Mexico from 1930 to 1935, with 1931 as the peak year, says a 1936 dispatch from the U.S. Consulate General in Mexico City.


"It was a racial removal program," says Mae Ngai, an immigration history expert at the University of Chicago, adding people of Mexican ancestry were targeted.


However, Americans in the 1930s were "really hurting," says Otis Graham, history professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  One in four workers were unemployed and many families hungry. Deporting illegal residents was not an "outrageous idea," Graham says. "Don't lose the context."


A pressure campaign


In the early 1900s, Mexicans poured into the USA, welcomed by U.S. factory and farm owners who needed their labor. Until entry rules tightened in 1924, they simply paid a nickel to cross the border and get visas for legal residency.


"The vast majority were here legally, because it was so easy to enter legally," says Kevin Johnson, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.


They spread out across the nation. They sharecropped in California, Texas and Louisiana, harvested sugar beets in Montana and Minnesota, laid railroad tracks in Kansas, mined coal in Utah and Oklahoma, packed meat in Chicago and assembled cars in Detroit.


By 1930, the U.S. Census counted 1.42 million people of Mexican ancestry, and 805,535 of them were U.S. born, up from 700,541 in 1920.


Change came in 1929, as the stock market and U.S. economy crashed. That year, U.S. officials tightened visa rules, reducing legal immigration from Mexico to a trickle. They also discussed what to do with those already in the USA.


"The government undertook a program that coerced people to leave," says Layla Razavi, policy analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). "It was really a hostile environment." She says federal officials in the Hoover administration, like local-level officials, made no distinction between people of Mexican ancestry who were in the USA legally and those who weren't.


"The document trail is shocking," says Dunn, whose staff spent two years researching the topic after he read the 1995 book Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez.











Articles in June 2006  - Click on an article to access it


Secretary Nicholson Announces VA to Provide Free Credit Monitoring


Management structure contributed to VA data breach, observers say


Secretary Nicholson Provides Update on Stolen Data Incident VA’s Investigation Providing New Details about Information Potentially involved


Citizens Flag Alliance Statement on Defeat of Flag Amendment by the U.S. Senate














Secretary Nicholson Announces VA to Provide Free Credit Monitoring


June 21, 2006

WASHINGTON – As part of the continuing efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to protect and assist those potentially affected by the recent data theft that occurred at an employee’s Maryland home, Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson today announced that VA will provide one year of free credit monitoring to people whose sensitive personal information may have been stolen in the incident.


“VA continues to take aggressive steps to protect and assist people who may be potentially affected by this data theft,” said Nicholson.  “VA has conducted extensive market research on available credit monitoring solutions, and has been working diligently to determine how VA can best serve those whose information was stolen. 


“Free credit monitoring will help safeguard those who may be affected, and will provide them with the peace of mind they deserve,” he added. 


The Secretary said VA has no reason to believe the perpetrators who committed this burglary were targeting the data, and Federal investigators believe that it is unlikely that identity theft has resulted from the data theft.


This week, VA will solicit bids from qualified companies to provide a comprehensive credit monitoring solution.  VA will ask these companies to provide expedited proposals and to be prepared to implement them rapidly once they are under contract.


After VA hires a credit monitoring company, the Department will send a detailed letter to people whose sensitive personal information may have been included in the stolen data.  This letter will explain credit monitoring and how eligible people can enroll or “opt-in” for the services.  The Department expects to have the services in place and the letters mailed by mid-August.


Secretary Nicholson also announced VA is soliciting bids to hire a company that provides data-breach analysis, which will look for possible misuse of the stolen VA data.  The analysis would help measure the risk of the data loss, identify suspicious misuse of identity information and expedite full assistance to affected people.


As part of VA’s efforts to prevent such an incident from happening again, Secretary Nicholson previously announced a series of personnel changes in the Office of Policy and Planning, where the breach occurred; the hiring of former Maricopa County (Ariz.) prosecutor Richard Romley as a Special Advisor for Information Security; the expedited completion of Cyber Security Awareness Training and Privacy Awareness Training for all VA employees; that an inventory be taken of all positions requiring access to sensitive VA data by June 30, 2006, to ensure that only those employees who need such access to do their jobs have it; that every laptop in VA undergo a security review to ensure that all security and virus software is current, including the immediate removal of any unauthorized information or software; and that VA facilities across the country – every hospital, Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), regional office, national cemetery, field office and VA’s Central Office – observe Security Awareness Week beginning June 26.


People who believe they may be affected by the data theft can go to www.firstgov.gov for more information.  VA also continues to operate a call center that people can contact to get information about this incident and learn more about consumer-identity protections.  That toll free number is 1-800-FED INFO (1-800-333-4636).  The call center is operating from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (EDT), Monday-Saturday as long as it is needed.  

#   #   #



Management structure contributed to VA data breach, observers say
June 7,2006

By Daniel Pulliam



As the scope of the Veterans Affairs Department’s data breach continues to expand, former agency information technology officials say the catastrophe possibly could have been avoided with a better IT management structure.


Robert McFarland, who stepped down as the VA’s chief information officer before the May 3 theft of sensitive records from a VA career IT specialist’s home, said the database containing the personal information on veterans and active duty military personnel fell outside the direct control of the CIO office.


This setup, in which the department’s IT systems and databases are dispersed across its three divisions, is on schedule to be changed, McFarland said, though that won’t happen overnight.


“You have these databases out there without any access controls or notifications for when duplications are made ... access is free and open,” he said.  “As bad a hit as the agency is taking right now, it is moving in the right direction.”


Technology management at the VA has been a source of contention on Capitol Hill and within the department.


The department’s “federated” IT management model, adopted last year, gives the CIO office line item budget control, but critics, including House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, R Ind., argue that the department needs to move toward a “centralized model.”


Bruce Brody, vice president for information security at the Reston, Va based market research firm INPUT and associate deputy assistant secretary for cyber and information security at the VA from 2001 to 2004, said during his time, the CIO office could issue agencywide policies but lacked enforcement power.


“He had no authority,” Brody said.  “He could not shut down systems or cut off funds.  If you centralize authority, at least for security, there is a better chance you will get a handle on this stuff.”


But Brody said the data breach is being treated more as a physical security issue than a cybersecurity problem, because the employee walked out of the agency’s offices with the data.  According to the VA, the employee had been taking sensitive records home unauthorized for three years.


The House Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from VA Secretary James Nicholson and other government officials Thursday regarding the security of personal data in the government.


Committee Staff Director Dave Marin said Rep. Tom Davis, R Va., chairman of the panel, is troubled that information from the VA on the content of the data continues to evolve.

A chronology of the data breach obtained by Government Executive shows that Michael H. McLendon, deputy assistant secretary for policy, who resigned last week, knew of the incident less than an hour after the GS‑14 employee discovered the break‑in.  The employee immediately notified his office of the possible data loss, which then notified McLendon.


Nicholson was not notified until nearly two weeks later, on May 16.  Veterans and lawmakers were informed of the breach on May22.


While the VA has received approval to shift $25 million from its fiscal 2006 funding to support a toll‑free number for veterans to call for information, the overall cost of the breach is likely to rise.


Vietnam Veterans of America, along with four other national veteran organizations and several individual veterans, has filed a class‑action lawsuit that seeks a $1,000 award for each veteran who can show harm due to the breach.  VA officials said Tuesday there are no indications that the stolen information has been used to commit identity theft.


The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks an injunction that would prevent VA from altering any data storage system and prohibit any use of any such system until a court‑appointed panel of experts determines how to implement adequate safeguards.


Secretary Nicholson Provides Update on Stolen Data Incident

VA’s Investigation Providing New Details about Information Potentially Involved


June 3, 2006


(WASHINGTON) – In its ongoing efforts to better determine what information was contained in a duplicate database stolen from a VA employee’s home last month, VA has hired its own independent data forensic experts to analyze the original data, Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson announced today.


“I have made it clear since learning of this incident that, as soon as VA learns any new information, the Department has a duty to immediately inform those potentially affected,” said Secretary Nicholson.  “VA continues to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into this incident, and those efforts are providing additional details about the nature of the data that may be involved.”


VA has received no reports that the stolen data has been used for fraudulent purposes, but is providing an update out of an abundance of caution.


VA has learned through its ongoing analysis of the data stolen on up to 26.5 million individuals, and in discussions with the Department of Defense, that private information – the names, Social Security Numbers and dates of birth – on certain National Guard and Reserve personnel who are on at least their second federalized active duty call-up could potentially be included.  The number of those potentially affected is believed to be between 10,000 and 20,000.


Additionally, private information – the names, Social Security Numbers and dates of birth – on some active duty U.S. Navy personnel may be involved.   This could potentially include members of the U.S. Navy who remain on active duty and completed their first enlistment term prior to 1991.  Working with the Department of Defense, VA has determined this group likely consists of between 25,000 and 30,000 individuals.


This happened because these individuals were issued a “DD-214” – or a separation from active service notification – by the Department of Defense upon completion of their first enlistments.  This triggered an automatic notification to VA that these individuals were no longer on active duty.  Subsequent to VA receiving the initial DD-214 these individuals re-enlisted for another term of active duty, meaning their information could still be in VA’s data files.


“VA will continue to work with the Department of Defense, other government agencies, members of Congress, and other stakeholders to inform and help protect those potentially impacted,” said Secretary Nicholson.


VA is working with the Department of Defense to match data and verify, to the greatest extent possible, those potentially affected.  Individualized notification letters are being sent to those whose personal information may have been included among the stolen data.


VA currently has no evidence that suggests full-time active duty personnel from the other military branches of service are affected.


VA began investigating the possibility personal information of some active duty, National Guard and reservist personnel may be involved after examining, with the Department of Defense, the process by which VA is notified by the military branches of an individual’s change in duty status – or being issued a DD-214.  


Those who believe they may be affected can continue to go to www.firstgov.gov for more information on this matter.  VA also continues to operate a call center that individuals can contact to get information about this incident and learn more about consumer-identity protections.  That toll free number is 1-800-FED INFO.  The call center is operating from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (EDT), Monday-Saturday as long as it is needed. 




Citizens Flag Alliance Statement on Defeat of Flag Amendment by the U.S. Senate


WASHINGTON (June 27, 2006) - The leader of the organization that spearheaded the movement for passage of the flag amendment since 1994 provided the following statement in light of the defeat of Sen. Joint Res. 12:


“Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans that want our flag protected, the U.S. Senate has ignored the people they represent. Some Senators claimed that there are more pressing matters to attend to; however, it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.


While we are disappointed that the flag amendment did not pass in the Senate, the Citizens Flag Alliance, representing 147 organization and over 20 million members, remains committed to returning the right of the people to protect our flag.”


Major General Patrick H. Brady, USA (Ret.)
Chairman of the Board
The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc.















Articles in  May 2006  - Click on an article to access it


Population Representation in the Military Services
Fiscal Year 2004


Latinos enlisting in record numbers


Filipino Veterans Disappointed with $500K VA Grant,


Helping service members find a new home


Vietnam POW exhibit opens at Air Force museum 












Population Representation in the Military Services
Fiscal Year 2004
May 2006







Latinos enlisting in record numbers
Despite opposition to the Iraq war, pride motivates many to sign up for military duty

Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 15, 2006


Amalia Avila never supported the war. But after her first son, Victor Gonzalez, told her he wanted to join the Marines, she felt a mixture of fear, concern and, finally, pride.

"This war makes no sense to me," Avila said last week in her Watsonville home. "I'd ask him why he wanted to go, and he'd just say his brothers needed his help. ... But when Victor did get into the Marines, when that day came, I was so proud of him."


Avila paused to allow her tears. "It was a beautiful day." It was also one of the last days Avila saw her son. Gonzalez, 19, who was born in Salinas shortly after Avila arrived in the United States from Mexico, served a little more than a month in Anbar province before he was killed by a roadside mortar explosion in October 2003.


The discord between Avila's unsettled feelings toward the war and her son's sacrifice reflects a growing paradox within the Latino community. A majority of Latinos believe the troops should come home as soon as possible, according to Pew Hispanic Center surveys, yet enlistment of Latinos has steadily risen in the past decade.


According to the Department of Defense, in 2004, the most recent year of confirmed data, Latinos made up 13 percent of new recruits. This is an all-time high, nearly twice the percentage of 10 years earlier.


Latinos' presence in the military still does not match their 17 percent share of the overall population ages 18 to 24. And African Americans continue to be overrepresented in the military, making up about 18 percent of active duty personnel but only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Nonetheless, the absolute number of Latinos entering the armed forces continues to grow.


"The dichotomy is this," said Steven Ybarra, a member of the nonprofit political advocacy group Latinos for America, "on the one hand, our children view serving in the military as showing they are part of this community; while on the other, their grandparents and parents have seen this all before.


"But within the Latino family unit," Ybarra added, "maybe more than others, there's a value system where the parents will look at their son and say, 'Hijo, you're a man now. You're going to do what you're going to do, and I will respect that' -- even if it means going to war."


Historically, Latinos have been underrepresented in the military, said Beth Asch, a senior economist at the Rand National Defense Research Institute who has studied Latino recruitment trends. An informal theory held that the rising number of Latino enlistments during the 1990s and early part of this decade simply mirrored a rise in the group's overall population.


"Their growth in population was fast," Asch said. "Their growth in the military was faster." Latinos accounted for about 17.5 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 in 2000, while 13.7 percent were African American, 61.6 percent were non-Hispanic white and 4.1 percent were Asian American. The reasons Latinos are drawn to the military vary, Asch said.


Carlos Montes, an organizer with Latinos Against the War in Los Angeles, cites a variety of reasons: aggressive recruiters who prey on youth; the enticement of skipping the usual five years that legal permanent residents must wait before applying for citizenship; the immigrant's desire to assimilate.


"When you're young and naive you see a guy show up on campus, all dressed up, promising things you don't have," Montes said. "That kind of influence, especially in the barrio, can be greater than even a parent's words."


Curtis Gilroy, director of accession policy for the office of the secretary of defense, said that in a national youth poll conducted last year, Latinos ages 18-24 simply showed a "higher propensity to serve" than other ethnic groups.


Gilroy said a full 25 percent of Latino respondents answered the question, "How likely is it that you'll be serving in the military in the next few years?" by marking the box "definitely" or "probably likely." Meanwhile, only 16 percent of African Americans and just 11 percent of whites showed the same interest.


"We just don't know why that is," Gilroy said. "We don't try and get behind the numbers too much."


On the ground in San Jose, Army recruiter Sgt. Brian Ditzler recently fashioned a theory behind the numbers. Ditzler, who was raised by his mother in Corozal, Puerto Rico, and speaks fluent Spanish, staffed a booth during the city's Cinco de Mayo festival. He said of the 22 recruits he enlisted last year, 15 were Latino.


"The remarkable thing that is consistent with Latinos is the sense of pride," Ditzler said. "More than any other group, they have a deep sense of pride about serving for this country."


By comparison, Ditzler observed that his Asian American enlistees were more interested in job-training skills, while African Americans spoke of college tuition as the trade-off. Whites, the recruiter observed, were most intrigued by the "sense of adventure" the Army provided.


"So, knowing that Latinos were focused more on pride," Ditzler added, "that's the thing I'm going to show them: how they can make themselves and their families proud."


For more empirical evidence, researchers such as Asch are just now beginning to examine the results from field studies. Already consistent with Ditzler's observations, Asch said recent post-enlistment surveys indicate Latinos noted "patriotism" and "service to country" as the top two reasons for joining, as well as "duty" and "honor."


Still, according to a Department of Defense poll conducted last year that was aimed at tracking the influences that lead a civilian to enlist, Latino parents were more likely than their African American counterparts to recommend military service to their children as a way to fight the war on terrorism.

"It's a conundrum, for sure," Asch said of the results.


When Orlando Mayorga, a 24-year-old in Antioch, told his mother he wanted to join the Army, he said she was happy for him. Mayorga, who is still awaiting a call for active duty, makes his living cleaning buildings in the East Bay. Born in Nicaragua, he migrated to the United States and obtained an alien resident card as a teenager, he said.


Mayorga enlisted to take advantage of President Bush's decision after Sept. 11 to speed the citizenship process for green card holders who enlist. "The first reason is for citizenship," Mayorga said flatly. "I don't have a second or third reason," he said.


Mayorga's father and three brothers still live in their native Nicaragua, and a sister lives in Costa Rica, he said. After his four-year service, Mayorga will be awarded full citizenship. If he dies while in the Army, citizenship is awarded posthumously.

Despite the risk, Mayorga said family discussions about his enlistment have focused only on what he stands to gain. Even though he signed up to obtain citizenship, his family is proud of his choice.


"My grandfather is proud that I'll be serving," Mayorga said. "My mother is, my father is. My whole family is."


Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez, was killed in Iraq in 2003, said he felt a reluctance to discuss the casualty risk with his son, who had been a citizen since he was 15.


Suarez said Jesus enlisted only after a recruiter told him a year's commitment in the Marines would lead to a job as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Since his son's death, Suarez has become a counter-recruitment activist and recently participated in the immigration protests in Los Angeles. The combination of the rising Latino death toll, Suarez said, and the recent proposed immigration legislation has only stirred more contentious feelings within him.


"I feel it twice," Suarez said. "First it's: 'My son served this country in the military and died,' and now: 'They're attacking the parents with this legislation.' On one end of the school campus, they want our sons to enlist. On the other, they want us out of the country.

"When my son told me he wanted to join, I said, 'No, no, no!' " Suarez added. "I never believed in this war, but I believed in him."


Of the more than 2,400 U.S. casualties in Iraq since 2003, 270 have been Latino, according to the Department of Defense.


Jesse Martinez, 19, was killed after his vehicle crashed in Tal Afar, Iraq, in 2004. Jan Martinez described her son as a couch potato before he joined, the kind of teenager who, "didn't have a smile on his face most of the time."


As they watched the events of Sept. 11 on television from their Tracy home, mother and son had different responses.


Martinez said she sensed a war was coming. She did not favor it, she said, nor could she disagree with the action, either. Her son, meanwhile, felt compelled to join the Marines.


"I asked him to wait a little while," she recalled. "I asked him to let things blow over, because I knew things could get worse.


"But once he signed up, he started smiling. He felt good about himself. It gave him a sense of purpose."
After her son's death, Martinez said she still felt ambivalent about the war.
"There are good things and bad things that have come from this," she said. "One of the bad things is that kids die. ... But you still got to be proud of them."


©2006 San Francisco Chronicle



Filipino Veterans Disappointed with $500K VA Grant,

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc.
News Release 5/5/06   Contact: Eric Lachica 202 246-1998

Actions Planned in May and June



MANILA (May 5, 2006) - Filipino World War II veterans leaders had mixed feelings about the recent 3-day visit of US Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.


On Saturday afternoon April 29, Nicholson paid a courtesy call on Philippine President Gloria Arroyo at the Malacanang Palace. There he announced the forthcoming US VA medical grant-in-aid of $500,000 to the Philippine Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC).


In the evening, he socialized with 100 veteran leaders and Philippine Government officials at a reception held at the US Ambassador Kristie Kenney's home.


"We thanked Nicholson. We also asked him to support hearings on our equity bills in the US congress. We were disappointed when he replied that it was up to the congress to decide," said Franco Arcebal, 82, vice-president of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, a Washington-based advocacy. "Nicholson passed the buck despite his earlier praises on the courage and sacrifices of the Filipino soldiers who fought for America in WWII," Arcebal added.


According to Arcebal, Philippine government officials he talked with seemed disappointed that Nicholson only announced the $500K grant - half of the expected annual $1 Million grant-in-aid that they had received over the past three years.


At the reception, local leaders from the American Legion, the Veterans Federation (VFP), and the Philippine Veterans Legion (PVL) approached Nicholson. Mariano Eslao, 86, adjutant of the American Legion Philippine Department, hand delivered to Nicholson a copy of their recent annual conference resolution in Clark Airbase. It urged Nicholson and Kenney to recommend hearings on their equity pension bills, S. 146 and H.R. 4574.


On Monday morning May 1 under tight security, Nicholson and Kenney toured the VMMC hospital with hospital officials and Philippine Ambassador Albert Del Rosariio. They inspected the $3 Million worth in earlier donated new equipment and repairs. The aging facility was gifted by the American People in 1955. Currently, about 18,000 surviving WWII veterans, in addition to their sickly dependents and Philippine military retirees, avail of the VMMC services.

Arcebal who was visiting from Los Angeles and his fellow veteran leaders in Manila plan to meet with Ambassador Kenney and the VA regional director at the US Embassy to follow up their requests. They will embark on a media campaign on the unkept American promises to the former US soldiers.




The coalition is also planning action forums in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento on weekend of May 13-16 to mobilize their supporters in preparation for their June 8-9 Action Days in Washington DC.

They are also expected to meet soon with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to follow-up his December 8, 2005 letter to President Bush urging support for their bill: the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and the $200 monthly pension proposal of Rep. Lane Evans (D-Illinois), the retiring ranking Democratic member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.



Helping service members find a new home

 By Linda McIntosh


May 6, 2006


CAMP PENDLETON – Carlos Vasquez served six years in the Marine Corps and 15 years in the Naval Reserve.


He started a second career in real estate six years ago. Now he wants to help other bilingual service members move into civilian jobs. During the job fair at Camp Pendleton last month, Vasquez talked about a new education and training program called Welcome Home GI. Vasquez is one of its first graduates in the San Diego area.


The Web-based program prepares service men and women who speak Spanish and English for jobs in mortgage banking. The program is a joint effort by the Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac and the Hispanic War Veterans of America, along with other sponsoring partners.


“A lot of bilingual veterans come back from Iraq with a disability or demoralized, which makes it hard to find a job. This is a way to help,” said Jess Quintero, president of Hispanic War Veterans of America. It's also a way to bring more bilingual speakers into the mortgage banking industry to help Latino home buyers.


The program kicked off two years ago and word is getting around to bases throughout the United States. So far more than 300 service members are registered in the program across the country, and 50 Marines signed up at Camp Pendleton last month during the job fair. The program is geared to areas like San Diego where there is a large Latino population living near military installations.


“The field is wide open as more Spanish-speaking people are planning for home ownership,” said Vasquez, a loan officer for the Integrated Lending Group. For Vasquez, who had a background in real estate, the program brought home the technical side of loans.


“I learned the terminology to work between lender and buyer and how to get the right kind of credit report to get a loan for a buyer,” Vasquez said. Vasquez finished the program in one month, but participants have eight months to complete five online courses in one of four career tracks.


These include an overview of mortgage banking, mortgage loan production and administration and commercial and multifamily mortgage banking. Welcome Home GI is coordinated through CampusMBA, the educational arm of the Mortgage Bankers Association.


“We appreciate the sacrifice of our service members and want to give them a foot in the door when they transition out of the military,” said Brook Ostrander, manager of programs and administration for the Mortgage Bankers Association. The program is open to veterans, military service members and their families.


“This gave me a chance to build a second career and it put me in a helping position,” Vasquez said.


For information about the program, see www.welcomehomegi.org



Vietnam POW exhibit opens at Air Force museum 

Release No. 5-03-06
May 17, 2006


DAYTON, Ohio (AFPN) -- Visitors can get a rare glimpse into the lives of prisoners of war through a dramatic new exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.


The exhibit, titled "Return with Honor: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia," located in the museum's Modern Flight Gallery, is now open to the public.


Visitors enter the exhibit next to a reproduced doorway to the "Hanoi Hilton," the name given by Americans to Hoa Lo Prison. Photographs, videos, dioramas and artifacts tell the story of prisoner torture, political exploitation, filthy living conditions and endless attempts at communist indoctrination.


Visitors can look inside re-created, life-size prison cells for an up-close picture of POW living conditions. Several artifacts, including handmade games, rings, cigarette cases and clothing that were created by the prisoners during their confinement, also are on display.


"We are extremely honored to have an exhibit that pays tribute to the courage and bravery exemplified by these POWs," said museum director Charles D. Metcalf. "The POW story is one that ignites emotion and this exhibit will give visitors a greater understanding of the inhumane conditions the POWs endured."


The exhibit also features a Son Tay prison camp rescue raid display. Although the raiders in November 1970 found that the prison camp did not hold any POWs, the raid proved a success in other ways. A daring raid so close to Hanoi showed that the United States had the will to carry out exceptional operations to ensure POW well-being. POW morale soared on account of the raid.


The exhibit also highlights the story of U.S. forces' final combat in Southeast Asia, which occurred in May 1975 when the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez was seized by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge navy while it was in international waters. Featured in this display are a life ring from the Mayaguez and a beret worn by one of the pararescuemen who participated in the operation.


The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day).


Admission to the museum and parking are free. For more information about this and other exhibits at the museum, please call (937) 255-3286, Ext. 302.  Also, visit the web site at http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/.



















Articles in April 2006  - Click on an article to access it


NEOF selected to manage financial service programs for Veterans




War heroine, 93, gets her wings at last


Non-Citizens in Today’s Military: Final Report


New Fisher House Dedicated at VA's Palo Alto Facility


P-40 Pilot Laid To Rest With International Honors


VA MESSAGE for 4-21-2006 - HAVE YOU HEARD?


















NEOF selected to manage financial service programs for Veterans


WASHINGTON, DC (April 10, 2006) – The National Economic Opportunity Fund (NEOF) has entered into an agreement with The Veterans Corporation (TVC) to develop a small business and micro loan program for Veterans and Service Disabled Veterans.  Under this unique program, TVC members and Veterans will have access to the type of financing that makes all the difference in the first stages of business development.


According to Walt Blackwell, President & CEO of TVC, “The vast majority of calls we receive at TVC are from Veterans who need funding to begin or grow a business.  With this new program, we are addressing that need head-on.”


Recent studies have shown that Veterans and Service-Disabled Veterans do not have adequate access to capital. These studies emphasized that providing Veterans, particularly Service Disabled Veterans, with access to capital would significantly impact new job creation in the United States.  As a community development entity, NEOF is dedicated to bringing jobs and economic growth to distressed communities across the country. By partnering with TVC, NEOF will be able to align the interests of Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran business owners with the goals of the communities they serve.


According to James Mingey, President & CEO of NEOF, “In my experience, Veterans and Service-Disabled Veterans have made some of the best entrepreneurs.  This program will be an excellent way to maximize their considerable skills.”

In addition to the small business and micro loan program, NEOF will work with TVC to develop a portfolio of financial products and services such as credit cards, commercial bank loans, business consulting services, and investments that will be available to TVC Members.


The National Veterans Business Development Corporation, doing business as The Veterans Corporation, is a Federally-chartered 501(c)(3) organization that was created by Public Law 106-50, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999. This Act recognized that America “has done too little to assist Veterans…in playing a greater role in the economy of the United States". The Corporation is charged with creating and enhancing entrepreneurial business opportunities for Veterans, including Service-Disabled Veterans.


The National Economic Opportunity Fund is a community development financial intermediary, which has developed a specialized, public-private franchise model focused on accelerating economic development by working with Women, Minority, and Service Disabled Veteran Owned businesses. To accomplish this goal, NEOF has aligned local community development interests with the forces of national advocates such as the Business Roundtable, the Metropolitan Business Collaborative, the Minority Business Roundtable, and the National Community Reinvestment Corporation. For more information about NEOF, please visit our new web site at www.neof.com or contact: Chris Baily -Community Investment Banker, Marketing and Brand Development cbaily@neof.com (917) 304-3822





Veterans enrolled for VA health care are guaranteed various privacy rights under Federal law and regulations, including the right to a notice of privacy practices, i.e. how VA may use or disclose their personal health information. VA’s privacy practices are detailed in the VA Notice of Privacy Practices, IB 10-163, issued by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in April 2003. All veterans enrolled for health care have a right to a copy that notice, which informs veterans what VA can do with their personal health information. The Notice also advises enrolled veterans of their rights to know when and to whom their health information may have been disclosed; how to request access to or receive a copy of their health information on file with VHA; how to request an amendment to correct inaccurate information on file; and how to file a privacy complaint. The VA Notice of Privacy Practices, IB 10-163, may be obtained from the Internet at http://www1.va.gov/Health_Benefits or writing the VHA Privacy Office (19F2), 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420.


Kevin Secor - Veterans Service Organizations Liaison, Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC



War heroine, 93, gets her wings at last
By Colin Randall, in Paris


For a real-life Charlotte Gray who risked death to serve Britain, the discreet ceremony in France yesterday was a sign that it may never be too late for your country to say thank you.



Pearl Cornioley with her wings: 'This is a woman whom it is impossible to meet and not admire'



Pearl Witherington, who was denied the Military Cross because she was a woman, had already sent back the MBE offered in recognition of her perilous wartime exploits in Churchill's secret army, the Special Operations Executive or SOE.


Being a woman had not saved the former Air Ministry typist from having a bounty of one million francs placed on her head by the Nazis. A civilian honour was of no interest to someone who had effectively commanded 1,500 French resistance fighters.


But yesterday, at the age of 91 and 63 years after she made what a parachute instructor calls an "almost recklessly low" jump from 300ft into unfamiliar territory behind enemy lines, she finally collected her parachute wings.


Now known as Pearl Cornioley, the widow of a resistance fighter she married after the Second World War, she felt she should have received her wings to mark her parachute training before the drop into occupied France in 1943.


To her intense annoyance, her case was overlooked, probably because of the highly secretive nature of the SOE and official reluctance to admit that women had undertaken such dangerous roles.


Her cause was not fully taken up until 2002, when Sqn Ldr Rhys Cowsill, an RAF parachute jump instructor, saw her in a television interview and travelled to France to meet her.


"This is a woman whom it is impossible to meet and not admire," Sqn Ldr Cowsill said yesterday, after joining Major Jack Lemmon of the Parachute Regiment to present the wings at the retirement home where Mrs Cornioley lives in Chateauvieux.


"She was very brave, which is obvious from what she did, but also exceptionally determined, putting herself through training that was certainly not to be undertaken by just anyone and, in those days, was quite remarkable for a woman."


Still spirited despite "a few rusty spare parts", Mrs Cornioley said she was "thrilled" to have received belated acknowledgement.


"I didn't refuse the MBE because I considered it an insult," she said. "I didn't do anything during the war in the hope of having decorations. But put it like this: if you are going to do the job at all, do it properly. The MBE was a civilian award."


Mrs Cornioley was born in Paris to English parents and worked at the British embassy. When the war began, she escaped to England and put her fluent French to use after joining what she did not realize at the time was the SOE.

She was dropped from an RAF Halifax near Chateauroux, in the southern Loire, and joined the "Wrestler" resistance group of maquis fighters until France's liberation. She went on to marry her wartime fiancé, Henri Cornioley.


Her story was published in 1997 with the title Pauline, her French codename, and bears many similarities to the fictional character Charlotte Gray created by Sebastian Faulks and later turned into a film.

Mrs Cornioley said she remembered her SOE service clearly, though she had no recollection of fearing that each day might be her last.


"When you ask me to recall perilous or uncomfortable events, it all depends what you mean by danger and discomfort," she said. "We knew we risked capture and that our training had prepared us to hold out and keep quiet come what may for 48 hours to let others get out.


"I trusted myself to be able to do that if the need arose.


"The most awful things I remember are actually travelling by unheated trains in that bitter winter of 1943/1944.


"I blended in as much as I could. I'd carry plenty of pro-German newspapers and as I was fairly tall and had plaits like Germans, I didn't look French. In any event, nobody ever interrogated me.


"Dangerous? I'll say it was. But I have never regretted my experience. It made me very open-minded and added great richness to my life."


Don Touhig, the minister with responsibility for veterans, said he was delighted that Mrs Cornioley's long wait for her wings was over and praised her "outstanding bravery in the face of extreme dangers throughout the war".


"Not only does it take great courage to make a parachute drop, but doing so alone, into hostile territory at the height of a vicious war is all the more exceptional," he said.

"It is clear her determination and selfless commitment were exemplary and contributed in no small measure to the overall success gained by the Allies."



Non-Citizens in Today’s Military: Final Report
April 2005






New Fisher House Dedicated at VA's Palo Alto Facility


April 19, 2006






WASHINGTON – Life just got easier for the families of veterans recovering at the Palo Alto Healthcare System, thanks to the dedication today of a new Fisher House at the facility operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Families will be able to receive free lodging at the Fisher House to be near their loved ones during lengthy recoveries.

"This new Fisher House will help us bring those families closer to their loved ones at a time when they most need it," said Gordon Mansfield, VA's Deputy Secretary.

Mansfield took part in a ceremony today transferring ownership of the Fisher House, which was built by donated money, to VA, which will maintain and operate it at no cost to its residents. 

This is the 34th Fisher House built by the Fisher House Foundation and the first one on the West Coast.  At least one Fisher House is located at every major military medical center and seven VA medical centers.  Palo Alto will make the eighth VA Fisher House. 

Mansfield noted that many families travel long distances to be with their loved ones, especially the veterans of the Global War on Terror, during their rehabilitation in Palo Alto’s polytrauma center. 

But the facility's other programs will also benefit from the new Fisher House.  These programs -- hospice and palliative care, spinal cord injury, organ transplant, post traumatic stress disorder, blind rehabilitation and traumatic brain injury -- are highly specialized and family members play an important role in the recovery of their loved ones. 


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P-40 Pilot Laid To Rest With International Honors

Mon, 17 Apr '06


Pilot's Burial Resolves Two Mysteries


It’s not every day that delegates from China attend a lieutenant’s funeral in North Carolina, or that four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly overhead in a missing-man formation, or 300 people show up without having ever met the Air Force pilot. Even a congressman made an appearance.


But 2nd Lt. Robert Upchurch wasn’t just any pilot. Although his death remained a mystery for 61 years, his memory stayed alive -- in two countries -- that entire time.  Lieutenant Upchurch was a P-40 Warhawk pilot with the Flying Tigers. They protected the Chinese by fighting along its Burma border during World War II.


On Oct. 6, 1944, the lieutenant took off from Kanchow, China, on his first mission with the Flying Tigers. After completing the strafing mission, they started home. They flew into bad weather en route.  First Lt. Robert Gibeault, a fellow pilot, said in an official report that he had last seen Lieutenant Upchurch climbing through overcast skies dangerously close to some mountains. The rest of the flight turned back and tried a different route than the one attempted by Lieutenant Gibeault and Lieutenant Upchurch. Later, Chinese officials reported a plane had crashed and burned at Shang Pau Has, and that pilot and plane identification was impossible.


Since there was no means of identification, the Army Air Force wasn’t certain it was Lieutenant Upchurch and listed him as missing in action.


In 1945, eight months after the fatal crash, Flying Tigers Chaplain Albert Buckley wrote a disheartening letter to the lieutenant’s parents.  “I believe it is only right to tell you that the outlook is not at all favorable or encouraging, particularly in view of the fact that your son has been missing since last October,” the chaplain wrote. “It has been our experience that when a pilot lands safely in free China, even though he might be injured, we receive notification from the Chinese in a comparatively short time. Such a report has never been received on your loving son.”  In October 1945, the Army Air Force presumed Lieutenant Upchurch dead.


The Chinese Side Of The Story


Meanwhile, in Guidong County of the Hunan Province in China, villagers buried the pilot in Chinese tradition, wrapping him in a red cloth and setting off firecrackers, according to a Chinese newspaper report.


Although the villagers never knew the identity of the pilot they buried, they never forgot him.


“Over the past 60 years, the people of Guidong County, have quietly watched and tended the grave of Lieutenant Upchurch, who has been a hero commanding their highest respect and a symbol in their mind for everlasting pursuit of peace,” said Haung Renzhun, a representative from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Hunan Provincial Government.


Mr. Renzhun said that every year during “Tomb-Sweeping Day,” local students and citizens voluntarily came to pay their respects and lay wreaths and flowers at the tomb of the unknown pilot. The grave was well-maintained until May 2005, the date they discovered his identity.

Pilot’s Identity Revealed


In May 2005, a task force from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii conducted investigation operations in three Chinese provinces for about 30 days.  World War II left more than 78,000 MIAs, many of those in the Pacific, and the team was investigating four of them.


At what is now Santi Park in Guidong County, team members recovered possible human remains, personal effects and life support equipment. The monument there simply read “American Pilot.”


Later that year, the task force identified his remains by comparing them to DNA samples collected from the Upchurch family that remained, which were mostly second-generation nephews and nieces.


After 61 years, the Upchurch family finally learned of the whereabouts of their uncle, and the people of Hunan Province discovered the name of their hero.  “Moore County of North Carolina was where this great fighter grew up, and my hometown, Guidong County of Hunan Province, was where he rested in peace for decades,” Mr. Renzhun said during Lieutenant Upchurch’s funeral on April 8 in High Falls, N.C.


“Lieutenant Upchurch is one of the bravest American pilots and a hero in the worldwide war against fascism,” Mr. Renzhun said. “He assisted the Chinese people in the fight against the Japanese and sacrificed his young and precious life. On behalf of the 67 million people of Hunan Province … our government wishes to take this opportunity to pay high tribute to Lieutenant Upchurch.”


North Carolina Governor Michael Easley wrote in a letter to the family: “Lieutenant Upchurch gave his life for his country and is a true hero. Without hesitation, he fought to preserve and defend the ideals for which this great nation stands.”


In the end, the Chinese lost a hero, while High Falls buried one. [ANN Salutes Master Sgt. Orville F. Desjarlais Jr., AFPN]


ANN Note: One of the true hallmarks of a great society is that they never forget their heroes... and Lt. Upchurch's sacrifice is one that should always be remembered. Godspeed, Lieutenant.--Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C.

FMI: www.af.mil


Ann Mills Griffiths, Executive Director, National League of POW/MIA Families

1005 North Glebe Road, Suite 170, Arlington, VA 22201

(PH) 703-465-7432 (FX) 703-465-7433



VA MESSAGE for 4-21-2006 - HAVE YOU HEARD?


Employees from the San Francisco VA Medical Center and former Viet Nam War veterans recently traveled to Vietnam to support children who bear the burden of a war they never saw. The Vietnamese Children’s Wheelchair and Prosthetics Group presented the first of what the group hopes will be thousands of wheelchairs to a school that takes care of children affected by Agent Orange and parents of disabled children in Bac Ninh Province. Corbin Cherry, retired San Francisco VA chaplain and decorated Vietnam veteran, founded the fundraising group after a trip to Vietnam a few years ago that drew his attention to children suffering the long-lasting effects of the Vietnam War – injury and disability from unexploded ordinance and land mines and the lingering contamination of Agent Orange.


He also found that though a manufacturer in Vietnam could produce a wheel chair for only $80, it was a luxury few families could afford. Upon his return, Cherry proceeded to create a tax exempt organization to raise funds for the project and contacted a cadre of fellow Vietnam veterans and VA employees to get things started. By December, they had raised enough money for 175 wheel chairs and in January they were on their way to Vietnam.


The team includes Jim Thompson, a computer analyst at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and Linda Hudock, a VHA Support Service Center employee based at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.


Kevin Secor, Veterans Service Organizations Liaison, Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Washington, DC




USA TODAY reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, some provided by Dunn and MALDEF and others found at the National Archives. They cite officials saying the deportations lawfully focused on illegal immigrants while the exodus of legal residents was voluntary. Yet they suggest people of Mexican ancestry faced varying forms of harassment and intimidation:


Raids. Officials staged well-publicized raids in public places. On Feb. 26, 1931, immigration officials suddenly closed off La Placita, a square in Los Angeles, and questioned the roughly 400 people there about their legal status.


Updated 4/5/2006 6:57 AM By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY See photos and full article at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-04-04-1930s-deportees-cover_x.htm


The raids "created a climate of fear and anxiety" and prompted many Mexicans to leave voluntarily, says Balderrama, professor of Chicano studies and history at California State University, Los Angeles.


In a June 1931 memo to superiors, Walter Carr, Los Angeles district director of immigration, said "thousands upon thousands of Mexican aliens" have been "literally scared out of Southern California."


Some of them came from hospitals and needed medical care en route to Mexico, immigrant inspector Harry Yeager wrote in a November 1932 letter.


The Wickersham Commission, an 11-member panel created by President Hoover, said in a May 1931 report that immigration inspectors made "checkups" of boarding houses, restaurants and pool rooms without "warrants of any kind." Labor Secretary William Doak responded that the "checkups" occurred very rarely.


Jobs withheld. Prodded by labor unions, states and private companies barred non-citizens from some jobs, Balderrama says.


"We need their jobs for needy citizens," C.P. Visel of the Los Angeles Citizens Committee for Coordination of Unemployment Relief wrote in a 1931 telegram. In a March 1931 letter to Doak, Visel applauded U.S. officials for the "exodus of aliens deportable and otherwise who have been scared out of the community."


Emilia Castenada, 79, recalls coming home from school in 1935 in Los Angeles and hearing her father say he was being deported because "there was no work for Mexicans." She says her father, a stonemason, was a legal resident who owned property. A U.S. citizen who spoke little Spanish, she left the USA with her brother and father, who was never allowed back.


"The jobs were given to the white Americans, not the Mexicans," says Carlos DeAnda Guerra, 77, a retired furniture upholsterer in Carpinteria, Calif. He says his parents entered the USA legally in 1917 but were denied jobs.

He, his mother and five U.S.-born siblings were deported in 1931, while his father, who then went into hiding, stayed to pick oranges.


"The slogan has gone out over the city (Los Angeles) and is being adhered to * 'Employ no Mexican while a white man is unemployed,' " wrote George Clements, manager of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce's agriculture department, in a memo to his boss Arthur Arnoll. He said the Mexicans'legal status was not a factor: "It is a question of pigment, not a question of citizenship or right."


Public aid threatened. County welfare offices threatened to withhold the public aid of many Mexican-Americans, Ngai says. Memos show they also offered to pay for trips to Mexico but sometimes failed to provide adequate food. An immigration inspector reported in a November 1932 memo that no provisions were made for 78 children on a train. Their only sustenance: a few ounces of milk daily.  Most of those leaving were told they could return to the USA whenever they wanted, wrote Clements in an August 1931 letter. "This is a grave mistake, because it is not the truth." He reported each was given a card that made their return impossible, because it showed they were "county charities."  Even those born in the USA, he wrote, wouldn't be able to return unless they had a birth certificate or similar proof.


Forced departures. Some of the deportees who were moved by train or car had guards to ensure they left the USA and others were sent south on a "closed-body school bus" or "Mexican gun boat," memos show.


"Those who tried to say 'no' ended up in the physical deportation category," Dunn says, adding they were taken in squad cars to train stations.


Mexican-Americans recall other pressure tactics. Arthur Herrada, 81, a retired Ford engineer in Huron, Ohio, says his father, who was a legal U.S. resident, was threatened with deportation if he didn't join the U.S. Army.


His father enlisted.  'We weren't welcome'"It was an injustice that shouldn't have happened," says Jose Lopez, 79, a retired Ford worker in Detroit. He says his father came to the USA legally but couldn't find his papers in 1931 and was deported. To keep the family together, his mother took her six U.S.-born children to Mexico, where they often survived on one meal a day. Lopez welcomes a U.S. apology.


So does Guerra, the retired upholsterer, whose voice still cracks with emotion when he talks about how deportation tore his family apart. "I'm very resentful. I don't trust the government at all," says Guerra, who later served in the U.S. military.


Piña says his entire family got typhoid fever in Mexico and his father, who had worked in Utah coal mines, died of black lung disease in 1935. "My mother was left destitute, with six of us, in a country we knew nothing about," he says. They lived in the slums of Mexico City, where his formal education ended in sixth grade. "We were misfits there. We weren't welcome."


"The Depression was very bad here. You can imagine how hard it was in Mexico," says Piña, who proudly notes the advanced college degrees of each of his four U.S.-raised sons. "You can't put 16 years of pure hell out of your mind."




For Immediate Release

April 4, 2006



Washington, D.C.—The Harley-Davidson Foundation has doubled its support for The Wall That Heals, bringing its total donation for 2006 to $50,000, announced Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which operates the mobile exhibit.


The Wall That Heals is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. This traveling exhibit enables many thousands of Americans to have the educational, emotional and healing experience of The Wall in their own communities.


A national sponsor of The Wall That Heals since 2001, the Harley-Davidson Foundation has, in years past, contributed $25,000 a year to help defray the many expenses involved in operating this traveling exhibit. However, normal wear and tear has made it necessary to replace the replica. So, for 2006, Harley-Davidson has doubled its contribution, donating an extra $25,000 to help pay for construction of the new traveling wall.


“We salute Harley-Davidson Motor Company for its long-standing commitment to America’s Vietnam veterans,” said Scruggs. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is grateful to the company and to the people who use Harley-Davidson products for helping the Memorial Fund continue our mission of education and healing.”


The Wall That Heals also features a Traveling Museum and Information Center. The Museum chronicles the Vietnam War era and the unique healing power of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, while the Information Center serves as a venue for people to learn about friends and loved ones lost in the war.


The new Wall That Heals will be unveiled on the Lenior-Rhyne College campus in Hickory, N.C., on April 6-9. For a complete 2006 tour schedule, click here.


Contact: Lisa Gough at (202) 393-0090, ext.109 for more information related to this press release




















Articles in March 2006 - Click on an article to access it


Cesar Chavez Breakfast brings out the Best


Veterans Legislation


VA Forms Committee to Advise on Genomic Medicine


VA Secretary Makes First Visit to Puerto Rico




Winners of the Sixty-Third Annual Pictures of the Year International Competition




Mortgage lending biz recruiting Hispanics


















Cesar Chavez Breakfast brings out the Best

By Carolyn Dryer



Frank Balkcom, Glendale Police Lieutenant and Past Maricopa and Arizona State President of the National Latino Peace Officers Association, holds up his honorary high school diploma from Glendale High School. Balkcom received the Diversity Award presented by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce


Attendees at the Cesar Chavez Breakfast hosted March 31 by the Glendale Chamber Foundation, were not disappointed by the rousing message: diversity.


Keynote speaker Art Othon reminded the audience that although Chavez came from humble beginnings, he did not let the fact that he worked in the fields with his hands keep his mind and heart from growing. In spite of the fact he attended 37 schools before graduating from eighth grade at the age of 15, Chavez, who became a migrant worker at the time, soon became passionate about education.


In 1962, he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers Union. His last union activity was April 22, 1993, when he defended a lawsuit against lettuce workers in Yuma.


During the breakfast, the Glendale Chamber Foundation presented the Cesar Chavez Foundation with a $5,000 check. Local police officer Frank Balkcom received the Diversity Award for his service to others and the community. Balkcom retired after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Glendale Union High School District Superintendent Vernon Jacobs also awarded Balkcom with an honorary Glendale High School diploma. Balkcom said he learned tolerance and the need for equality as a Marine and considers it a privilege to serve the community.


“We must not forget Cesar Chavez's work for justice, dignity and equality for all people from all walks of live,” he said.



Veterans Legislation


H.R.4992 (introduced March 16, 2006): To provide for Medicare reimbursement for health care services provided to Medicare-eligible veterans in facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Veterans' Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Sponsor: Representative Sue W. Kelly [NY-19]


H.R.5007 (introduced March 16, 2006): To require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health services in languages other than English, as needed, for veterans and family members with limited English proficiency, to expand the scope of mental health services provided to family members of veterans, and for other purposes was referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sponsor: Representative Hilda L. Solis [CA-32]


S.2415 (introduced March 15, 2006): A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to increase burial benefits for veterans, and for other purposes was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sponsor: Senator Barbaras A. Mikulski [MD]


S.2416 (introduced March 15, 2006): A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the scope of programs of education for which accelerated payments of educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill may be used, and for other purposes was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sponsor: Senator Conrad R. Burns [MT]


S.2419 (introduced March 15, 2006): A bill to ensure the proper remembrance of Vietnam veterans and the Vietnam War by providing a deadline for the designation of a visitor center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sponsor: Senator Ted Stevens [AK]





VA Forms Committee to Advise on Genomic Medicine


March 16, 2006




WASHINGTON – Continuing the leadership role of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in medical research benefiting all Americans, the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, today announced formation of a committee of internationally recognized scientists and veterans' advocates to advise the Department on emerging issues in genomic medicine.


The new Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee will help the Department establish policies for using genetic information to optimize medical care of veterans and to enhance development of tests and treatments for diseases particularly relevant to veterans.


"As medical practice incorporates the advances of science, we must harness VA's triple mission of health care, research and training to bring these advances to the veterans we serve," Nicholson said.  "Part of the job of these respected advisors is to help us push forward, but to do so thoughtfully and compassionately, mindful of ethical and privacy issues."


The nine-member committee will be chaired by Dr. Wayne W. Grody, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.  The committee is expected to meet up to three times annually, but its first meeting has not yet been scheduled.


"VA is moving to a model of care in which care is tailored specifically to the needs and challenges of individual patients," said Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "Genomic medicine will help us move from providing medicine that is preventative to medicine that is predictive."


Advisory Committee


The committee is being asked to recommend policies to gather and use both genetic and other medical information for medical care and research.  In this regard, it will help lay the groundwork for future development of a comprehensive genomic medicine program for VA.

A copy of the membership of the Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee is attached.



VA Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee


Wayne W. Grody, M.D., PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  He also directs the UCLA Molecular Pathology Laboratory.


Mouin J. Khoury, M.D., director of the Center for Disease Control's Office of Genomics and Disease Prevention in the Department of Health and Human Services.


Francis Collins, M.D., PhD, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he oversees the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium.


Michael S. Watson, PhD, executive director of the American College of Medical Genetics.  He also is an adjunct professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis.


Col. Brion C. Smith, U.S. Army Dental Corps, director of the Department of Defense DNA Registry and DNA Identification Laboratory.


Annette K. Taylor, PhD, president, laboratory director and sole owner of Kimball Genetics of Denver.

Wylie Burke, M.D., PhD, professor and chair, Department of Medical History and Ethics at the University of Washington.  She is also an adjunct professor of medicine and epidemiology and an associate member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.


Margaret McGovern, M.D., PhD, professor in human genetics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


David Gorman, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans Washington Headquarters.



VA Secretary Makes First Visit to Puerto Rico

Cabinet Head Meets Veterans, Staff


March 17, 2006





WASHINGTON – Historic budget increases and a medical system that leads the health care industry are allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to meet its commitments to the veterans of Puerto Rico, said the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, during his first trip to the island since taking office 13 months ago.


In meetings with VA staff and veterans at the San Juan Regional Office and medical center March 17, Nicholson highlighted VA's record-setting budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and the Department's new initiative to combat obesity and diabetes among veterans.


"Puerto Rican veterans have been important contributors to the nation's defense," said Nicholson. "VA is committed to honoring their service by providing world-class medical care and other valuable veterans benefits."


In February, Nicholson announced a landmark VA budget proposal of $80.6 billion for fiscal year 2007.  If enacted, the budget request will result in a 69 percent increase in the VA spending since fiscal year 2001, allowing the Department to meet the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan along with those of veterans from earlier conflicts.


Nicholson noted that Puerto Rican veterans are expected to benefit from VA's newly-launched drive against obesity and diabetes.  About 29 percent of Puerto Rico veterans have diabetes, significantly more than the 20 percent rate among all veterans and much higher than the 7 percent rate for the general U.S. population.


Puerto Rico  2/2/2/2


This year, VA expects to spend about $870 million to serve Puerto Rico's 130,000 veterans.  VA maintains a major medical center in San Juan, satellite clinics in Ponce and Mayaguez and community-based outpatient clinics in Arecibo, Guayama, St. Thomas and St. Croix, plus Vets Centers, benefits offices and a national cemetery.


VA is nearing the end of a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary.  On July 21, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed an executive order uniting in one organization – the Veterans Administration – a number of veterans programs.  The Veterans Administration became the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989.

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Recruiting Hispanics: The Marine Corps Experience

30 March, 2004

Published 2005 by the RAND Corporation


An ongoing concern of Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the armed services is the social representation of the military, particularly of active duty accessions. Hispanics are a growing segment of the youth population yet have been underrepresented historically among military accessions.


The widely cited reason is their below-average rate of graduation from high school and the services’ preference for diploma graduate recruits. But other less-studied factors may contribute. These other possible factors may include lack of language proficiency as reflected in their applicant aptitude test scores, fertility choices, health factors such as obesity, and involvement in risky activities such as the use of illegal drugs. These factors could adversely affect the ability of some Hispanic youth to meet service enlistment standards. The RAND Corporation project “Hispanic Youth in the United States and the Factors Affecting Their Enlistment” is conducting an analysis of the factors that lead to the underrepresentation of Hispanic youth in the military. This documented briefing summarizes interim results from the research effort’s first year. First, it highlights the various enlistments standards recruits must meet in each branch of service. Then using available data on American young adults, it summarizes the degree to which Hispanic youth qualify for service relative to youth who are members of other racial and ethnic groups.


This documented briefing is intended for individuals interested in military recruiting and in the population representation of personnel in the armed forces.


Read the Documented Briefing: http://www.rand.org/pubs/documented_briefings/DB484/


Winners of the Sixty-Third Annual Pictures of the Year International Competition




This year’s pictures were judged between February 19 through March 8, 2006. The competition was sponsored by Missouri School of Journalism with support from MSNBC.com. 


This year’s judges were: Nina Berman, Redux / Freelance, Cathaleen Curtiss, Director of Photography, America Online Michel duCille, Senior Photographer, The Washington Post, Denis Finley, Editor, The Virginian-Pilot, Kathleen Hennessy, Deputy Director of Photography, The San Francisco Chronicle, Boyzell Hosey, Director of Photography, The St. Petersburg Times, Eliane Laffont, Editorial Director Hachette Filipacchi Media, Bill Luster, Senior Photographer, The Courier-Journal, Peter Menzel, Freelance, Kathy Moran, Illustrations Editor, National Geographic, George Olson, Freelance, Janet Reeves, Director of Photography, The Rocky Mountain News.


First Place


First Place - Todd Heisler The Rocky Mountain News


When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. During the arrival of another Marine's casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows?


They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said. "They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."


Second Place



Second Place - Todd Heisler The Rocky Mountain News


The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag.


Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of 'Cat,' and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. "I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have done..........



A Brief History of POYi


POYi began as a photographic contest in the spring of 1944 in Columbia, Missouri, when the Missouri School of Journalism sponsored its "First Annual Fifty-Print Exhibition" contest. Its stated purpose was, "to pay tribute to those press photographers and newspapers which, despite tremendous war-time difficulties, are doing a splendid job; to provide an opportunity for photographers of the nation to meet in open competition; and to compile and preserve...a collection of the best in current, home-front press pictures."


In 2001 the Pictures of the Year International Endowment fund was established so as to provide a firm financial footing as POYi increasingly becomes a center for research and discussion and education.




March 30, 2006

By Karen Rutzick


There are three Rs in the federal workplace that spell extra earnings potential for employees: recruitment, retention and relocation.


In each area agencies can offer employees bonuses to help meet staffing needs. Who is eligible for the awards and how big can they be? Individual agencies make their own arrangements on a case-by-case basis, but as with almost everything in the federal arena, there are boundaries and regulations.


The Office of Personnel Management, which administers pay and benefits regulations for the government, issued a new set of Q&As last week to clarify the rules.


Assuming you're already a federal employee and not looking to change locations, retention bonuses may be the most intriguing. OPM defines retention bonuses as "an incentive an agency may pay to a current employee if the agency determines that the unusually high or unique qualifications of the employee or a special need of the agency for the employee's services make it essential to retain the employee."


Most employees would like to describe themselves as uniquely qualified and essential, but OPM provides specific factors that agencies must take into account when deciding to use the authority:


·                     Labor market, including the availability of candidates who could replace you with minimal training.

·                     Success of recent recruitment efforts for similar positions.

·                     Desirability of the job, including work environment and geographic location.

·                     Salaries typically paid outside the federal government for comparable jobs.

·                     Importance of the job in achieving the agency's mission.


Agencies can pay retention bonuses to individuals or to a category of employees, which can be defined by grade level, assignment to a special project or location.

An agency official who is at least one level higher than the employee slated to receive the incentive must approve the award. The agency must document, in writing, the basis for singling out the employee or employee group as essential, as well as the individual's or group's likelihood of leaving federal service.


Workers who are awarded a retention bonus can receive up to 25 percent of their base pay. When an entire category of employees is chosen, the ceiling is 10 percent. With OPM approval, however, the cap can be raised to 50 percent for both groups. OPM grants that exception if it determines the agency has a critical need.


The extra money can be doled out in a lump sum after completion of an agreed upon period of service, or by installments in synch with the pay periods. OPM advises agencies that a service agreement is required in most cases for retention bonuses. That agreement should include dates of the service period, for which there is no set time requirement.



Mortgage lending biz recruiting Hispanics

Adolfo Pesquera

Express-News Business Writer

The San Antonio Express-News

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Last week, marine surveyor Adolfo Ramirez was on the Mississippi River on a civilian contract to assist in the removal of casino barges that sank during Hurricane Katrina.


On Wednesday, the recently retired Coast Guard captain will be in Live Oak to encourage Spanish-speaking job fair visitors who are leaving the military to do what he's planning to do - get into the mortgage lending industry.


Ramirez is a graduate and proponent of Welcome Home, a free training program initiated by the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Hispanic War Veterans of America.  It began two years ago to help men and women leaving the military by recruiting them for careers in mortgage lending, servicing and collections administration, or commercial and multifamily banking.


"I was trying to find a job that would be interesting and let me stay in the

Latino community," Ramirez said.


Ramirez, 52, was the Coast Guard's National Minority Outreach Program director. He completed the program to get home to San Antonio but still stay active in something that met a need for Spanish speakers.


As the fifth-largest Hispanic market in the nation and a city with a large military community, San Antonio is seen as a critical place by the industry, both as a consumer market and a place to find officers willing to go to other critical- need markets.


Those who complete the Web-based courses - they have eight months to do so - receive a certificate and enter a national employment database.


Normally, a loan officer position requires a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field. But students can go through the program and get into residential lending without a degree. The job involves gathering and verifying a client's financial history, determining creditworthiness and giving advice on the most appropriate loan.


Being a loan officer requires some sales skills. To attract business, officers build relationships with real estate agents.  And the job requires basic computer and good communication skills.


Dan Thoms, vice president for education and business development at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said the need for bilingual loan officers is especially great.  About 400 students are taking online courses worldwide today, he said, "but I really believe we should be in the thousands."


Julio Rivera, a San Antonio real estate broker and owner of Ultima Rea Estate Services, said agents see deals fall through time and again.  Because many Spanish speakers are suspicious of the process.


"Traditionally, they don't like to disclose a lot of information when they get into the loan process," Rivera said. "And loan officers pretty much want to know your life story.


"We've conducted studies on how Latinos react," Rivera said. "We have to try very hard to reassure folks it's OK to disclose financial information.  They need to feel that the loan officer is being honest. A lot of these folks have been taken advantage of, even by people who spoke their own language."


The Hispanic population is projected to create more than $100 billion in mortgages over the next five years. But the shortage of officers is hindering the industry from achieving that potential.


The program was initially targeted for active military and veterans. In an attempt to accelerate recruitment, it was expanded in October to include their family members.


"There are spouses stuck in military base housing," Thoms said.  "They are eager to work. They don't know what to do. This is an opportunity for them to learn a new profession."


Corporate participants that are hiring through the program include GMAC Mortgage, US Bank, Citimortgage, BB&T Mortgage and Freddie Mac, Thoms said.


For Ramirez, the program is unbeatable. He said not many industries provide a free education for a job that in a short time can pay more than $50,000 in base salary and commissions.


"It gives you a shot that you wouldn't get otherwise," he said.












Articles in February 2006 Click on an article to access it



Reporting Additional Servicemember Demographics Could Enhance Congressional Oversight


Annual Demographic Profile of the Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard







Reporting Additional Servicemember Demographics Could Enhance Congressional Oversight


As agreed with your offices, this report addressed three questions: (1) What are the demographic characteristics of servicemembers, and how do they compare to those of similarly aged and educated civilians in the U.S. workforce? (2) How well are the services meeting their recruitment goals, and what influences whether or not individuals join the military? (3) What are the demographic characteristics of servicemembers who remained in the military in fiscal years 2000, 2002, and 2004? You also asked us to examine the demographic characteristics of servicemembers who died or were wounded in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.


Annual Demographic Profile of the Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard
FY 2005













Articles in January 2006 - Click on an article to access it


Reporting Additional Servicemember Demographics Could Enhance Congressional Oversight - GAO-05-952


Senate Panel Approves Gonzales on a Party-Line Vote

Veterans Daily News Summary

VA Awards Grant for Montana State Veterans Cemetery

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VA Secretary Nominee Says He's Prepared for Daunting Task

Senate confirms Gutierrez as Commerce Secretary

POW/MIA Update



















Reporting Additional Servicemember Demographics Could Enhance Congressional Oversight - GAO-05-952


As agreed with your offices, this report addressed three questions: (1) What are the demographic characteristics of servicemembers, and how do they compare to those of similarly aged and educated civilians in the U.S. workforce? (2) How well are the services meeting their recruitment goals, and what influences whether or not individuals join the military? (3) What are the demographic characteristics of servicemembers who remained in the military in fiscal years 2000, 2002, and 2004? You also asked us to examine the demographic characteristics of servicemembers who died or were wounded in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.


Click this link to access Annual Demographic Profile of the Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard FY 2005





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