Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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29 APRIL 2006 - 2

National Military Appreciation Month     Care Packages for HMLA 169     2005 VA Healthcare Statistics      The National Memorial Day Parade      Paralyzed Veterans Fishing Boat       NATIONAL ANTHEM WORDS AND ORIGIN     Bonjour Vietnam      Push to cut VA Benefits     Boycott Hilton for Fran O'Brien's      


National Military Appreciation Month

May 2006 is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM).  It is the 8th annual nationwide event to honor, remember, recognize and appreciate our military, those who have served, those currently serving and their families.  It is also the month of Memorial Day recognizing those who died in service to our nation.  May is also Military History Month. 

McDonalds Air And Sea Show / Fleet Week USA officially kicks off National Military Appreciation Month in Fort Lauderdale May 6 and 7. 

NMAM information will appear in Parade Magazine the last Sunday in April.  Visit their web site at to see the various events planned around the country.

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Care Packages for HMLA 169

Maj Steven R Girard

Attn: Any Marine

HMLA 169

Unit 42055

FPO AP 96426-2055  

22 Mar 2006

First, Thanks to everyone who is supporting our troops. Our unit is a Light Utility (UH-1N) and Attack (AH-1W) helicopter squadron based at Camp Pendleton, CA. Our mission is to provide air support to our ground troops - typically this is done with both precision munitions and close-in gun and rocket support.

We are stationed near Fallujah, Iraq. We live in "cans", which resemble metal shipping containers. The "cans" have 220V electricity but no plumbing so we have a few "comfort" trailers with toilets/showers/sinks. We will be deployed during the hottest part of the year, so we would request drink mixes to mix with the bottled water since drinking about 1-1/2 to 2 gallons of water a day gets to be very bland. Request basic hygiene items, books, magazines, calling cards (AT&T), and snack type foods.

I would also request items such as blank CDs and DVDs - we are participating in a program called United Through Reading, which allows Marines to sit in front of a digital video camera and read to their child or other special child in their life. Cameras are provided but the DVDs are not. Children's books would also be welcome so that a comprehensive children's library can be established. Letter writing materials would be appreciated as well. Other items that would be appreciated would be items that remind us of home - the "cans" are brand new and completely bare except for a bed, small closet and an overhead light. Anything such as posters, pictures, etc. to remind us of home would be great. Things such as hangers, double sided tape (to hang up things), magnets, and mirrors (currently none in the comfort trailers so it makes it difficult to shave) would help. Other comfort items would be things such as playing cards, poker chips (for fun of course), dominoes, board games, etc.

Once again, I would like to say thank you to all of the people who continue to support our troops. Even the smallest of items are appreciated and make a difference!

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2005 VA Healthcare Statistics 

32% of all VA patients are Service Connected

68% of all VA patients have no Service Connected disabilities

84% of veterans Service Connected at 50-100% received care from VA

58% of veterans Service Connected at 30-40% received care from VA

41% of veterans Service Connected at 10-20% received care from VA

42% of the cost of VA health care is provided for Service Connected veterans

58% of the cost of VA health care is provided for Non Service Connected veterans

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The National Memorial Day Parade

Sponsored by:      

America Supports You

The White House Commission on Remembrance

World War II Veterans Committee


The parade starts at noon on Monday, May 29, 2006 on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.  It will be covered by Washington area television stations and broadcast on radio and the Pentagon Channel, which goes world-wide.  Last year, the parade was covered by 200 papers including the Washington Times and the Washington Post.


This will be only the third National Memorial Day Parade since before World War II. The focus of this parade is tribute to our Veterans and war dead from Valley Forge to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The Pentagon has designated the 2006 event to honor returning troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.   President Bush has been invited to attend.


Mackie Christenson, Parade Coordinator, has requested a good representation of Korean War veterans.  Veterans are solicited to participate in the parade. 


The website is  For information, contact Mackie at (202)408-0944 X 227 or by email at [email protected]

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Paralyzed Veterans of America's Fishing Boat at MacDill AFB Marina (Tampa)


Veterans who use wheelchairs and their families may have the free use of a pontoon fishing boat at the MacDill AFB Marina in Tampa. Just pay for the gas. The 24' 'Miss Beverly' is equipped with a wheelchair ramp, a 75 HP Mercury outboard motor and has additional safety features for mobility-impaired individuals. Volunteers are available to meet and greet and escort users through the MacDill Entry Gate and pilot the boat.  For boat reservations, call the Marina at: (813) 828-4983.  For a list of volunteers and their phone numbers, call the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter in Tampa at: (813) 935-6540.


This boat was donated to MacDill by the Paralyzed Veterans of America. MacDill maintains the boat and allows veterans and active duty personnel to use the boat, free of charge. The only criteria for free use is that one or more members of the boating party MUST have a mobility impairment, i.e., must be a wheelchair-user.

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Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about the four stanzas of our national anthem. However brief, this well-circulated piece is an eye opener from the dearly departed doctor. Al French sent it................


All Four Stanzas 

By Isaac Asimov 

Introductory Note.  Unless you're already well acquainted with our "national anthem," this interesting piece by the late Isaac Asimov will be an eye-opener.  It was for me.  It's especially appropriate at a time when there is much talk of tossing out this difficult-to-sing and difficult-to-comprehend old song in favor of something that better suits Ray Charles' voice.  You'll understand the song much better after you read Mr. Asimov's explanation.--Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor.

 I have a weakness -- I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem. The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time. 

 I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem -- all four stanzas. This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting. "Thanks, Herb," I said. "That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff." 

 I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas. Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before -- or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem. 

More recently, while conducting a seminar, I told my students the story of the anthem and sang all four stanzas.  Again there was a wild ovation and prolonged applause. And again, it was the anthem and not me. 

So now let me tell you how it came to be written. 

In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas We were in the right. For two years, we held off the British, even though we were still a rather weak country. Great Britain was in a life and death struggle with Napoleon. In fact, just as the United States declared war, Napoleon marched off to invade Russia. If he won, as everyone expected, he would control Europe, and Great Britain would be isolated. It was no time for her to be involved in an American war. 

At first, our seamen proved better than the British. After we won a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, the American commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, sent the message, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." However, the weight of the British navy beat down our ships eventually. New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession. 

Meanwhile, Napoleon was beaten in Russia and in 1814 was forced to abdicate. Great Britain now turned its attention to the United States, launching a three-pronged attack. 

The northern prong was to come down Lake Champlain toward New York and seize parts of New England. 

The southern prong was to go up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west. 

The central prong was to head for the mid-Atlantic states and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York. If Baltimore was taken, the nation, which still hugged the Atlantic coast, could be split in two. The fate of the United States, then, rested to a large extent on the success or failure of the central prong. 

The British reached the American coast, and on August 24, 1814, took Washington, D.C. Then they moved up the Chesapeake Bay toward Baltimore. On September 12, they arrived and found 1,000 men in Fort McHenry, whose guns controlled the harbor. If the British wished to take Baltimore, they would have to take the fort. 

On one of the British ships was an aged physician, William Beanes, who had been arrested in Maryland and brought along as a prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and friend of the physician, had come to the ship to negotiate his release.  The British captain was willing, but the two Americans would have to wait. It was now the night of September 13, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to start. 

 As twilight deepened, Key and Beanes saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Through the night, they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. They knew the fort was resisting and the American flag was still flying. But toward morning the bombardment ceased, and a dread silence fell. Either Fort McHenry had surrendered and the British flag flew above it, or the bombardment had failed and the American flag still flew. 

As dawn began to brighten the eastern sky, Key and Beanes stared out at the fort, trying to see which flag flew over it. He and the physician must have asked each other over and over, "Can you see the flag?" 

After it was all finished, Key wrote a four stanza poem telling the events of the night. Called "The Defense of Fort McHenry," it was published in newspapers and swept the nation. Someone noted that the words fit an old English tune called, "To Anacreon in Heaven" -- a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range. For obvious reasons, Key's work became known as "The Star Spangled Banner," and in 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States. 

Now that you know the story, here are the words. Presumably, the old doctor is speaking. This is what he asks Key: 


Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there. Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? 

"Ramparts," in case you don't know, are the protective walls or other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question. The second gives an answer: 

On the shore, dimly seen thro' the mist of the deep, Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep. As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream 'Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave! 

"The towering steep" is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission a failure. In the third stanza, I feel Key allows himself to gloat over the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably was in no mood to act otherwise

During World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies, this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is: 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has washed out their foul footstep's pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave, And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling: 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation, Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven - rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, for our cause is just, And this be our motto --"In God is our trust." And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears. And don't let anyone ever take it away. 

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Bonjour Vietnam

You HAVE to go to this website and watch this presentation. This isn't the Vietnam I remember! (But I sure would like to see it now).  Hard to believe we fought and died here.... 

Please pass this on to any Vietnam vet you know. They'll want to bookmark it and go back for more "tours."   Beautiful Pictures and Music don't forget to turn on your speakers.

Click on this link. The pictures and song are really beautiful. 

Bonjour Vietnam

Thanks to Jim Mackin

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Push to cut Benefits for Vets who get VA and Social Security Compensation

SHORT HEAD:   Push to cut VA Benefits 

by Larry Scott 

Vets’ Commission Chair, General Terry Scott wants to study if vets should get VA compensation and Social Security disability at the same time with the aim of reducing benefits.  In an unconstitutional move, he asks Congress to interpret its own law so he would have the power to launch study.

The next step in dismantling veterans’ benefits could be a payment reduction, known as an offset, for veterans receiving disability compensation and Social Security.

The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission (VDBC) was established by Public Law 108-136 and signed into being by President Bush in November 2003.  The VDBC’s charter states they are to study “whether a veteran’s disability or death should be compensated” and at what level if any.

Since the VDBC was first established it was obvious to veterans and veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) that the Commission had one thing in mind and that was cutting veterans’ benefits.  The VDBC is made up of 13 political appointees.  Four were appointed by Democratic Members of Congress, four more by Republican Members and the other five by President Bush.  The VDBC is truly a 9-4 politically-stacked deck even though they like to refer to themselves as bipartisan.  The legality of the VDBC has been questioned by some VSOs.  

As the VDBC’s meetings progressed, veterans began to notice a “secretive” quality to the workings of the Commission.  Last fall the VDBC issued a list of questions they would study.  They asked for input and gave veterans just a few days, over a Holiday weekend, to respond.  The questions signaled the direction of the VDBC.  One question was:  “Does the disability benefit provided affect a veteran’s incentive to work?”

Now, “secretive” has taken on a new meaning.  In a recent editorial written by Arthur H. Wilson, National Adjutant for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) we find:  “Optimism was in short supply at the Commission’s March 16-17 meeting as some of its members maneuvered to authorize collecting data about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits paid to veterans who also receive VA disability compensation. That was done with a view toward an offset [reduction] of disability insurance if the veteran receives disability compensation from the VA.”

Wilson continues:  “A move to sidestep proper procedures and hold a secret ballot on the matter was postponed, but the issue is expected to resurface at the commission’s meeting in May.  If so, it could lay the groundwork for cutting or eliminating veterans’ benefits as a way of saving the government money.  The idea that disability compensation is some kind of income security or welfare program cheapens the service and sacrifice of disabled veterans. That kind of thinking might also open the door to cutting off VA compensation when a disabled veteran becomes eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.  Veterans’ benefits are separate and distinct from Social Security, so receiving payments under both programs is not dual compensation for the same disability, as some have tried to argue.”

It appears the VDBC is about evenly split on the idea of studying the SSDI issue.  But the Chairman, retired Army Lt. General Terry Scott, is adamant about getting this on the agenda and wants the power to move forward.  And, he wants the help of Congress to push his agenda.  Scott has taken the liberty of writing to Congress asking them to interpret their own law that established the VDBC.

This presents a problem.  It is unconstitutional for Congress to interpret its own laws.  Congress passes laws and the courts interpret them.  But, this hasn’t stopped General Scott.  

In an email to the House and Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, General Scott writes:  “Some Commissioners believe that this charge [the VDBC’s charter] should be interpreted broadly to mean all related benefits received by disabled veterans under the laws of the United States to include…SSDI payments…the Chairman would appreciate clarification of the intent of Congress in writing or in person during the next Commission public meeting May 19, 2006”

General Scott’s unconstitutional request has raised major concerns among the VSOs.  Christopher J. Clay, General Counsel for the DAV, has written to the four Chairmen involved.  In part, Clay’s letter states:  “…[General Scott’s] request, if honored…would violate one of the fundamental principles which have guided the government of the United States for more than 200 years.  That principle is the separation of powers…Congress exercises the sole power to enact laws while the Judicial and Executive Branches have the power to say what those laws mean…neither a committee of either the House or Senate nor the full Congress may interpret a statute after it is enacted, without passing a new law…The DAV is unaware of any precedent for the congressional interpretations requested by the Commission Chairman.  If the Committee responds to the Chairman’s inquiry, it will set a precedent that the courts are no longer the sole arbiters of disputes over our laws.”

Now, veterans play the waiting game.  Will any of the four Congressional Committees respond to General Scott’s request and interpret their own law?  Will General Scott get enough votes from VDBC members to push ahead with his idea to study a Social Security offset (reduction) for veterans’ disability compensation?  We will know by May 19.

But, what we don’t have to wait for is the fact that General Terry Scott and other members of the VDBC want to cut veterans’ benefits and will try to hold secret votes and try to get Congress to, unconstitutionally, interpret its own laws.

General Scott must be reminded that veterans’ disability compensation is not welfare.  It is not to be confused with welfare.  It is not to be confused with any other sort of compensation.  Veterans receive disability compensation because they earned it.  Many earned it on the field of battle.  They don’t deserve to lose it in a Commission hearing. 

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Boycott Hilton for Fran O'Brien's

As a veteran Marine, I think anything that affects my American heritage is hardly petty, and is very much my business.

It comes to mind that the folks at Hilton Hotels, Inc. can be influenced if their "business decision" on the Fran O'Brien lease results in another "business decision" made by others that adversely affects their bottom any way. i.e. I attended a reunion of Marine aviators at the Pensacola Hilton not so long ago. Were that same reunion in the planning stages today I would urge it to be postponed pending the outcome of the Fran O'Brien lease, or held at a different location altogether. I prefer the latter in fact, just to be sure Hilton understands that "business decisions"

are made every day by people who, like Hilton, are jus`out for their own best interests.

In that regard, there absolutely "must" be some 2006/2007 military reunions in the planning stages right now that include Hilton facilities. I would urge them, each and all, to canvass their membership for a decision as to whether to go forward with plans that include any Hilton facility, at least until the Fran O'Brien lease matter is finalized. I would further urge that Hilton, Inc and the particular Hilton facility involved, be immediately notified that all plans are tenuous and dependent on Hilton's decision regarding the Fran O'Brien lease.

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