Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

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On March 19, 2003, President George Bush launched the invasion of Iraq. Nearly 4,500 service members were killed in more than the almost nine years of war. Almost 30,000 were wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died – troops and civilians – as the U.S. deposed Saddam’s regime and beat down an insurgency backed by al-Qaeda terrorists and sectarian revenge killings that threatened to destroy the country.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the U.S. declared an end to the Iraq War. The last convoy of American troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011. After almost nine years, around 110 vehicles and 500 solders left Iraq under the cover of darkness.

Honoring Vietnam War-era Veterans

Veterans who are eligible are invited to join the office of U.S. Sen. Toomey, Sen. Hutchinson, Rep. Lee James and the Venango County Veterans Affairs Officer at 10 a.m. Monday, March 26. The ceremony will be held at VFW Post 1835, 415 9th St. in Franklin. To be eligible for the lapel pin, the recipient must be a living United States veteran who served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces at any time from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of service location. Robert DeSousa, who serves as Sen. Toomey’s state director and as a colonel in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, will attend on behalf of the senator and will serve as master of ceremonies. A representative from Sen. Hutchinson office and Rep. Lee James will be attending. Eligible veterans are urged to call Sen. Hutchinson’s office at (814) 677-6345 or email @ idanzer@pasen.gov. Please provide your name, branch of service, rank, number of guests attending and a contact number. Registration for the event will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the ceremony beginning at 10 a.m.

Hearing on Proposed Changes to Arlington National Cemetery Eligibility

On Thursday, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel held a hearing to discuss the rapidly shrinking number of in-ground grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). VFW National Legislative Service Deputy Director John Towles delivered testimony that advocated for making the eligibility requirements for ANC commensurate with VA’s National Cemetery Administration, and offered support to the proposed “Southern Expansion.” The expansion would give ANC more than 38,000 additional in-ground burial sites. This combination would extend the life of the cemetery through 2074. However, additional land acquisition would be necessary beyond that date. Towles suggested that in addition to the “Southern Expansion,” the Department of the Army would be well served to consider using excess land at the Soldiers Home National Cemetery, which is adjacent to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., and would provide an additional 80,000-120,000 grave sites.

VFW Attends VA Caregiver Meeting

Members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs met with the VFW and other veterans service organizations last week to discuss VA’s caregiver program. The discussion focused on legislation to expand the program to veterans who served prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and on ways to improve the program.

VA to Provide Adoption Reimbursement

Veterans who lost their ability to reproduce due to a service-connected disability may now be eligible reimbursement of adoption-related expenses through VA. Last year, VA was authorized to begin providing coverage for assisted reproductive technology, which has primarily been focused on in vitro fertilization, and will now use this authority to provide reimbursement for covered veterans who adopt.

POW/MIA Update

Navy Radioman 3rd Class Howard V. Keffer was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William W. Shank, a P-38 pilot, was assigned to the 338th Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group, 66th Fighter Wing, 8th Fighter Command. During WWII. Interment services are pending.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Herman W. Mulligan was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division. During WWII. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.

– Charles Castelluccio