NEWS

Fearing U.S. Abandonment, Kurds Kept Back Channels Open  

Turkish tanks and troops stationed near the Syrian town of Manbij, Syria, on Oct. 15, 2019. Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria on Tuesday, deploying troops to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces.(Ugur Can/DHA via AP)

Turkish tanks and troops stationed near the Syrian town of Manbij, Syria, on October 15, 2019. Russia moved to fill the void left by the U.S. in northern Syria, deploying troops to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces. (Ugur Can/DHA via AP)

 

October 16, 2019 --- The Associated Press | By Matthew Lee and Sarah El Deeb

 

WASHINGTON -- When Syria's Kurdish fighters, America's longtime battlefield allies against the Islamic State, announced over the weekend that they were switching sides and joining up with Damascus and Moscow, it seemed like a moment of geopolitical whiplash.

 

But in fact, the move had been in the works for more than a year. Fearing U.S. abandonment, the Kurds opened a back channel to the Syrian government and the Russians in 2018, and those talks ramped up significantly in recent weeks, American, Kurdish and Russian. "We warned the Kurds that the Americans will ditch them," Russia's ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov said.

 

The switch in allegiances is a stark illustration of how American foes like Russia and Syria are working steadily to fill the vacuum left by President Donald Trump's retreat in the region. It also betrays the anxiety that U.S. allies across the globe now feel in the face of Trump's seemingly impulsive foreign policy decisions, which often come as a surprise to allies and critics alike.

 

Related: The US Troops Leaving Syria Are Headed to Iraq, Kuwait

 

When Trump announced that he was pulling American troops back from northeastern Syria, paving the way for an assault by Turkey, the Kurds knew exactly where to turn. Syria's Kurds have publicly acknowledged courting the Syrian government and its allies over the past year. But much of the back-channel diplomacy, including the most recent talks, happened behind the scenes.

 

Discussions between the Kurds, the Syrian government and Moscow began early last year as the Kurds grew nervous that the Americans would leave them in the lurch, Kurdish officials said. Pulling U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria would leave the Kurds directly in Turkey's line of fire, because the Americans served as something of a buffer between the two sides.

 

The Turks have long been eager for an opportunity to go into Syria and flush out the Kurdish fighters, whom they consider terrorists. Turkey says the group is an offshoot of a Kurdish guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.

 

As Turkey spoiled for a fight, the Kurdish fighters were losing confidence in their alliance with the Americans. For 5 years, the Kurds had fought alongside U.S. soldiers and were vital to defeating the Islamic State group -- something Trump repeatedly touts as a signature achievement of his presidency. After all that, would the Americans really abandon them?

 

Trump sent signals they would, venting regularly about U.S. troops in Syria and wondering why U.S. soldiers were in the Middle East at all. The relationship with the Americans was wobbling. Sensing an opportunity, Moscow reached out to the Kurds and asked them to forgo their alliance with the U.S. Kurdish officials rejected the outreach publicly, saying they were sticking with the Americans.

 

What happened next was a turning point. Turkey launched a military operation -- with the blessing of Russia -- in Afrin, a Kurdish area of northwestern Syria. The Kurds complained that the U.S. was standing by doing nothing while they took hit after hit from Turkey.

 

Afrin has major significance to the Kurds. It's one of the first Kurdish areas to rise up against Syrian President Bashar Assad and back self-rule, a base for senior fighters who pioneered the alliance with the Americans and a key link in their efforts to form a contiguous entity along Turkey's border. The back-channel discussions heated up.

 

In one of the 1st high-level meetings in Russia, a Kurdish delegation flew to Moscow in November 2018, where on the same day a Turkish senior security delegation was present. At the time, Arab newspapers reported that Turkey had proposed a 30-kilometer (19-mile) deep safe zone along the border. Russia argued for a 5 to 9 kilometer (3 to 5 mile) zone, but the Kurdish delegation rejected it.

 

Days after, the same delegation, headed by a Kurdish militia leader, flew to Damascus, where it reportedly met with the Syrian intelligence chief and other senior security officials in the presence of a high-level Russian delegation. The secret meeting was reported by a veteran Syrian reporter at Ashraq al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned newspaper, who said the Kurdish delegation told Damascus they did not want to repeat the Afrin mistake and were ready to show flexibility.

 

The meeting resulted in the first cooperation between the Kurdish group and the Syrian government -- at least in public. And it signaled the fraying ties with the U.S The Kurdish militia invited the Syrian government to send in troops to protect another Kurdish-held area, Manbij, where the U.S. had a presence. The move would have undermined U.S. power and influence in the area, but the Syrians ultimately pulled back, to a Russian base nearby, according to AP journalists who traveled to the area.

 

In December 2018, Trump -- against the advice of his senior policy advisers -- announced that he was going to pull all American troops out of Syria. The surprise announcement prompted the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the counter-ISIS campaign. Even though Trump's national security team managed to delay the withdrawal, the Kurds were concerned enough to expand their contacts with Damascus and Moscow.

 

A U.S. official said the Kurds described it as an insurance policy to guard against Turkey in the event the U.S. left. The official said the Kurds preferred to deal with the United States on military issues and on matters related to civilian governance and reconstruction, but they determined it was unwise to count on support from Washington alone.

 

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. After Mattis and McGurk resigned, senior Kurdish official Ilham Ahmed said the Kurds presented Moscow with a framework for possible talks with Damascus. The plan's 11 points included the recognition of Syria's territorial integrity and the inclusion of Kurdish-led forces within the Syrian army. In return, the Kurds would get a political agreement establishing a decentralized Kurdish state, which would give them some level of self-governance. But the proposal never went anywhere.

 

The deal the Kurds' struck this weekend with Syria and Russia was negotiated in Aleppo and finalized in Damascus, said Razan Hiddo, a senior Kurdish official. Kurdish forces will work side by side with the Syrian army to try to ward off the Turkish offensive, which began swiftly last week after Trump told Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan that U.S. troops would no longer be in the way.

 

Hiddo told the AP that the first part of the agreement will see Syrian forces deploy in the city of Manbij and be followed by Kobani -- a strategic decision to keep the Turkish offensive from expanding west. Another Kurdish official, Badran Ciya Kurd, said the deal applies only to military protection and was forced upon the Kurds once they determined that Trump's decision could not be swayed.

 

"After we found that the U.S. decision is unwavering, we had to look into other options," he said. On Tuesday, the results of the back channel were on clear display: Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, deploying troops to keep apart advancing Syrian government forces and Turkish troops. Syrian troops waved flags after they rolled into Manbij.

 

Trump, meanwhile, has dug in on his decision to pull out the troops, believing it fulfills a key campaign promise and will be a winning issue in the 2020 election, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House. It's not a new issue for the president: He rallied around it in 2016 and, during his term, repeatedly urged bringing the troops home only to be talked out of it by moderating forces like Mattis and his former chief of staff, John Kelly.

 

But those guardrails are gone, and the issue never left Trump's mind. He has told aides that the chants of "Bring them home!" from his rally crowds, including one in Minnesota earlier this month, are evidence that the decision is popular with his base -- a key demographic as he heads into the 2020 election.

 

Russia and Syria, meanwhile, are in a strong position to fill the vacuum left by Trump. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about how both the Syrians and the Kurds were looking for Russia to step in as a mediator. Lavrov made no promises, but said, "We'll see what we can do."

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15 Years After Iraq War's Deadliest Battle, Marines Fight to Save Their Comrades

FILE -- In in this Jan. 1, 2004 file photo, Marine Sgt. Charlie Brown (seated on the truck third from right), a Data Network Specialist with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), deployed to Iraq with the Marines of Weapons Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who took time to pose for a photo during their 2005 deployment in Iraq. Brown is currently serving in Afghanistan on his sixth deployment. ( Katherine Solano/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

In January 1, 2004 file photo, Marine Sergeant (Sgt.) Charlie Brown (seated on truck third from right), a Data Network Specialist with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), deployed to Iraq with the Marines of Weapons Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who took time to pose for a photo during their 2005 deployment in Iraq. Brown is serving in Afghanistan on his 6thdeployment. (Katherine Solano/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

October 14, 2019 --- Military.com | By Gina Harkins

 

They were some of the first Marines to push into Iraq, and now their unit has lost more members to suicide than it did in the war's most ruthless battle. Thirty-five members of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, have died by suicide since 2003. That surpasses the number of Marines the unit lost during the Second Battle of Fallujah, serving as a stark reminder of the wounds still carried by many who fought the war's toughest fights.

 

Operation Phantom Fury, the second chapter of the fight to retake Fallujah from Iraqi insurgents, will forever be known to Marines. It was the service's bloodiest urban combat since the Vietnam War's Hue City, and incredible examples of combat heroism and famous images of brotherhood emerged from the fight.

 

The Wounded Warrior Battalion-West held a ceremony Nov. 12, 2014, to unveil a monument honoring service members wounded during combat. The sculpture is based on the Operation Phantom Fury photograph 'Hell House' of then 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal being carried out of a house by two lance corporals after a fire fight where Kasal sustained injuries. 'The monument is a symbol of camaraderie that's important to Marines, not only in combat but in the healing process as well, ' said Robin Kelleher, president of Hope

The Wounded Warrior Battalion-West held a ceremony November 12, 2014, to unveil a monument honoring service members wounded during combat. The sculpture is based on the Operation Phantom Fury photograph "Hell House" of then 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal being carried out of a house by two lance corporals after a fire fight where Kasal sustained injuries. "The monument is a symbol of camaraderie that's important to Marines, not only in combat but in the healing process as well, " said Robin Kelleher, president of Hope for the Warriors, which contributed to constructing the monument. (Shaltiel Dominguez/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

But 3/1, along with other Marine and Army units who fought in Phantom Fury, faced significant loss. Fallujah has left its mark on every service member who patrolled its streets, according to those who fought there. They're forever linked by gritty combat and heroism -- as well as terrible memories and loss. And that loss has continued to build in the 15 years since the start of the fight.

 

"We've lost more guys to suicide than we lost in the battle now," Jake Edwards, a former combat engineer who fought as a lance corporal in Fallujah. He left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2009. Now a crisis trainer for a Virginia school district, Edwards has been on a mission to bring Phantom Fury vets back together. They need to continue honoring those who didn't make it home, he said, and for those who did, they need to keep their support networks strong.

 

"There's so much that lives with us 15 years later," he said. "If you don't come together and gather, and then healing is limited -- especially with those you bled with." Edwards has spent months raising money and finding sponsors for a Phantom Fury reunion. He didn't want Fallujah vets to have to spend a bunch of cash to be involved, so he got donations and help from the Semper Fi Fund, Azalea Charities, Reunite the Fight and others. The venue, food, beer and shuttle busses to and from a nearby hotel are covered.

 

Jake Edwards, second from right, organized a golf tournament to raise funds for the Phantom Fury reunion he organized 15 years after the Second Battle of Fallujah. Also pictured, from left to right: Alex Gonzales, Jack Crandall, Jonathon Allen, Jon-Paul Grizzle, Ryan Cantore, Adel Abudeyah and Pat O'Donnell. (Courtesy of Jake Edwards)

 

Jake Edwards, second from right, organized a golf tournament to raise funds for the Phantom Fury reunion he organized 15 years after the Second Battle of Fallujah. Also pictured, from left to right: Alex Gonzales, Jack Crandall, Jonathon Allen, Jon-Paul Grizzle, Ryan Cantore, Adel Abudeyah and Pat O'Donnell. (Courtesy of Jake Edwards)

 

More than 250 Marines and soldiers are expected to attend the November 8, 2019 event, exactly 15 years after Marines set out to launch the assault. Attendees will range from 4-star Generals who led the battle to junior enlisted troops who cleared rooms. "You never, ever forget the people that you fought with," said retired Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent, who served as I Marine Expeditionary Force's top-enlisted leader during the battle. "I think that that's the most important thing. It's going to be therapy for those warriors to see those people after all those years."

 

'Stay in Touch with Those Marines'

 

Jeremiah Workman was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism in Operation Phantom Fury. He also tried to take his own life after the battle. Like many who fought in Fallujah, Workman struggled, he said. Fifteen years later, not a day goes by that he doesn't think of the Marines they lost, he said.

 

"I've done lots of therapy, I've done the medication, the counseling," he said. "The suicide rates are extremely high right now. They have been for a long time. And I think it's just important to be able to lean on your family ... and stay in touch with those Marines."

 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Swain, front, a corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and Maj. Jeffrey McCormack, the operations officer for 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, glance over the city of Fallujah from the roof a building, Sept. 17, 2008. The roof of the building was the last place McCormack saw James, Benjamin's brother, alive. (Casey Jones/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Swain, front, a corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and Major Jeffrey McCormack, the Operations Officer for 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, glance over the city of Fallujah from the roof a building, September 17, 2008. The roof of the building was the last place McCormack saw James, Benjamin's brother, alive. (Casey Jones/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

All these years later, Kent is one of the Marines with whom Workman stays in touch. Their relationship, which Workman refers to as like that of a father and son, dates back to a conversation they had on a road in Fallujah. A corporal at the time, Workman led his team into the house where Marines were pinned down by insurgents.

 

The situation was indicative of the challenge troops faced in Fallujah, where enemy fighters -- with caches of weapons -- hid among civilians. Marines like Workman often had to get danger-close to the enemy when called on to clear rooms.

 

Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly, commanding general, Multi National Force-West, cases the colors signifying the transfer of MNF-West's headquarters to Al Asad Air Base. Kelly has ordered Camp Fallujah to close and handed back to the Iraqis in the next few months. More than 8,000 Marines from the camp have been relocated throughout the Anbar province or sent home. (Lindsay Sayres/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Major General John F. Kelly, Commanding General, Multi-National Force (MNF)-West, cases the colors signifying the transfer of MNF-West's headquarters to Al Asad Air Base. Kelly has ordered Camp Fallujah to close and handed back to the Iraqis in the next few months. More than 8,000 Marines from the camp have been relocated throughout the Anbar province or sent home. (Lindsay Sayres/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Workman is credited with repeatedly sprinting up a set of stairs while facing a barrage of small arms fire and grenades to help save Marines. Inside and outside the house, Workman's "heroic actions contributed to the elimination of 24 insurgents," his citation states.

 

Two 21-year-olds, Corporal (Cpl.) Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, were killed inside the house. A third Marine, Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, also 21, was killed by sniper fire on his way to help clear the house. When Workman and his Marines made it out, they were devastated, Kent said.

 

"I just told them to stay focused, you know, that I saw that everybody's hurting because they were," the former top-enlisted Marine said. "They were down, but I said, 'We've got an enemy that's desperate right now. So, we've got to stay in the fight.'"

 

 Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, visits Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, at Observation Post Sina'a in Al Fallujah, Iraq, on Sept. 23, 2007. Kent traveled throughout the Al Anbar province of Iraq meeting with Marines and service members currently deployed with II Marine Expeditionary Force. II MEF is deployed with Multi National Forces-West in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Al Anbar province of Iraq to develop Iraqi security forces, facilitate t

Sgt. Major Carlton W. Kent, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, visits Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, at Observation Post Sina'a in Al Fallujah, Iraq, on September 23, 2007. Kent traveled throughout the Al Anbar province of Iraq meeting with Marines and service members currently deployed with II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

 

II MEF is deployed with MNF-West in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Al Anbar province of Iraq to develop Iraqi security forces, facilitate the development of official rule of law through democratic reforms, and continue the development of a market-based economy centered on Iraqi reconstruction. (Luis Castillo/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

The situation had taken its toll though. Workman detailed his struggles in his book, "Shadow of the Sword: A Marine's Journey of War, Heroism, and Redemption." The Navy Cross recipient recalled drinking heavily and suffering nightmares about that stairway he kept running up in that house. Eventually, he wrote, he tried to take his own life. His family found him in time to stop it.

 

When Kent became the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, he brought Workman onto his staff. He trained with him, helped him focus and said he always told Marines it was OK to ask for help. "If Workman could do it, you can, too," Kent said. "You've got to have trust in other Marines. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness."

 

'The Darkness' Took Over

Edwards had his own struggles after Fallujah. During the height of the fight, he was too anxious to eat. As a combat engineer, he was responsible for helping the grunts breach barriers. He also served as a squad automatic weapon gunner. Edwards didn't leave with 3/1. Instead, he got attached to another infantry battalion and stayed in the city for months.

 

Some of that was rewarding, he said. They were helping to rebuild Fallujah after so much devastation, and they got to see the first attempt at an Iraqi election in 2005.But he also had a lot of time to think about what he'd seen there. The details were so vivid, he said. His plans to make a lateral career move and become a human intelligence Marine began to fade. He started giving up on his career.

 

"I let the darkness and the fears in my life take over," Edwards, who eventually transferred to the Reserve, said. "I had a period of, like, a year or two when I just had zero cares about anything in the world."

 

FILE -- In Dec. 21, 2015 file photo, U.S. Marine Gen. Robert B. Neller, 37th commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, visit Marines with with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. During their visit to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the leaders addressed Marines and sailors on matters concerning the future of the Corps and wis

FILE -- In December 21, 2015 file photo, U.S. Marine General Robert B. Neller, 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Major Ronald Green, 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, visit Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. During their visit to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the leaders addressed Marines and sailors on matters concerning the future of the Corps and wished them all a merry Christmas. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is deployed with a crisis response mission spanning 20 nations of U.S. Central Command. (Rick Hurtado/U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Like Workman, Edwards leaned on his family. His parents and siblings helped, he said, but he began making real progress when his uncle, who'd seen combat in Vietnam, began talking about his own experiences. The two also rode their motorcycles through the mountains. That type of safe haven is what Edwards hopes to provide in next month's reunion. Post-Phantom Fury suicides have hit all the ranks, from enlisted to officer, he said. No one is immune to the stresses of combat.

 

The event will give Marines and other Fallujah veterans a chance to share what's on their minds or ask questions of leadership about what happened there, he said. Former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, who served as Commanding General of MNF-Iraq during the battle will give remarks. Retired Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen)  John Sattler and Kent, who led I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, will also speak.


Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who as a 2-star led 1st Marine Division and the ground-maneuver element in Fallujah, will provide a declassified battle brief. Retired Corporal (Col.) Mike Shupp and Sgt. Major Eduardo Leardo III, who led Regimental Combat Team-1, will also address the crowd. Phantom Fury veterans have until Saturday, October 19, 2019 to register for the reunion.

 

About 500 Fallujah veterans gathered at Camp Pendleton in 2014 to commemorate the battle's 10th reunion. That event was clouded by the Islamic State group's stronghold on the city Marines fought so hard to keep out of the hands of terrorists. That kicked off a year’s long effort to combat ISIS, which ended when the Iraqis retook the city in 2016.

 

Former Commandant General Robert Neller started a reunion website in 2017 in an effort to address suicides. "I ask all Marines to get connected. Find your fellow Marines," he wrote when announcing the website. "Reach out, catch up, and when needed, help others." Workman said the reunion will be cathartic even if Fallujah never comes up. Whether they talk about football or what they've been up to since leaving the Marine Corps, he said it's just important to just be in the same room, honoring their fallen comrades and reminding each other they're there to help.

 

"My plan is to go and meet as many people as I can, since there's going to be several units there, including Army units that were on the ground," Workman said. "If they want to ask for ideas about how to get over the hump or how to get out of a rut in life, I'm more than happy to help anybody while I'm there. "But I think just getting together is going to be powerful for a lot of people."

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WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars is very concerned that the dependent children of U.S. service members and government employees stationed overseas, and who are also legal permanent residents of the U.S., may face difficulty returning to the United States.

The concern arose from an update published Wednesday by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that rescinds a previous policy. The main concern to VFW National Commander William "Doc" Schmitz is that the new USCIS policy specifically targets dependent children of U.S. military personnel and U.S. government employees.

"The big question is why target dependent children?" asks Schmitz. "This has a huge negative impact on the morale of those in the fight, supporting the fight, or who are projecting America's presence around the world," he said. "To intentionally target these children who are born to legal permane...


VFW, Sport Clips Haircuts Surpass $6.4 Million in Scholarships for Veterans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Together with longtime supporter Sport Clips Haircuts, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce its "Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship" program has surpassed awarding $6.4 million in scholarships to more than 1,450 military and student veterans. The latest fall semester award of nearly $762,000 will help to ensure 165 student veterans attending colleges across the country are one step closer to achieving their educational goals.

"Veterans transitioning from military to civilian life face a host of challenges, but together with our friends at Sport Clips we're able to ensure that struggling to finance their last semesters of college isn't one," said VFW National Commander Doc Schmitz.

Established in 2014, the Help A Hero Scholarship program awards service members and veterans with post...


VFW Members and Their Families Are on the Way to Better Hearing Health

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce it is working to restore the sounds of life for VFW members and their families with significant savings on hearing care through its new relationship with Amplifon Hearing Health Care. This newest member benefit is one of several the VFW has recently rolled out, to help ensure its members have the best access to meaningful savings and benefits.

Currently, one in nine Americans suffer from hearing loss, and veterans are even more likely to experience hearing loss due to their military experience and exposure to situations where noise levels easily exceed the threshold where damage starts.

Amplifon is the nation's largest independent provider of hearing health care solutions with a network of over 5,700 credentialed provider locations nationwide, enabling people to obtain hearing care solutions averaging 62% off retail pricing.

"Hearing plays such a vital role in a person's daily life, and too often veterans suffer in...


Applications Open for 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Student Veterans of America (SVA) are now accepting applications from student veterans who are interested in participating in the upcoming 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship program. The fellowship, now in its sixth year, will bring up to 10 student veterans - who must be VFW members - to Washington early next March to meet face-to-face with their members of Congress and senior policy makers.

Student veterans interested in applying for the 2020 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship must complete an application package that includes a 1,500-word or less essay that proposes legislative improvements to one of the following four specific veterans' issues:

  • Student veteran success on campus and beyond;
  • Improving veteran's health care and benefits;
  • Transition from military to civilian life; or
  • Challenges for service members and military families.

The essay proposal should include a discussion of w...


New York Veteran Elected New VFW National Commander

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - William J. "Doc" Schmitz, of Corning, N.Y., has been elected the new leader of the 1.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, a congressionally-chartered veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from all five branches of the armed forces.

Schmitz's election to VFW Commander-in-Chief occurred at the conclusion of the organization's 120th national convention in Orlando, Fla., which drew approximately 10,000 veterans, and military family members.

Each year, VFW members from around the globe representing a myriad of conflicts converge at the event. Their mission during the weeklong convention is to approve new national priorities to guide the organization in its advocacy and business efforts throughout the ensuing year.

Schmitz takes office during a time of great momentum for the organization which recently announced its first increase in membership numbers in 27 years, reached a milestone achievement of more...


VFW National Convention Returns to Orlando

KANSAS CITY, Mo.- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie will be joining more than 10,000 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary at the 120th VFW National Convention as it convenes this Saturday through July 24 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The business sessions are closed to the public, but a free, two-day weekend veterans walk-in claims clinic and four-day health fair are accessible to all veterans, service members and their families in West Hall C-WD1.

"It's been 11 years since our last national convention was held in Orlando, so it is great to be back!" exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, of Alamogordo, N.M., "and we are honored to have two cabinet secretaries join us next week, as well as recognize some very deserving individuals with the VFW's highest national awards," he said.

"We hope to hear Secretary Pompeo address issues, challenges and successes as it pertains t...


VFW Snaps 27 Year Membership Decline

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The 120-year-young Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States just added almost 25,000 members to snap a 27-year decline in membership.

America's largest and oldest war veterans' organization began its new membership year earlier this month with almost 1.165 million members, a million less than its peak in 1992, yet significant nonetheless, according to VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who attributes the growth to the organization being more visible on the national scene as well as in more than 6,000 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and 11 foreign countries.

"The VFW is making a difference in the lives of countless others every day, and thanks to the power of social media and the internet, more people are taking notice and wanting to be part of our team," said Lawrence.

"The internet allows us to share our story of service to others, and social media allows us to engage not only with our members but with potential members,...


VFW Calls for Return of Vietnam War Memorabilia

WASHINGTON - In advance of this weekend's start of the 120th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in Orlando, Fla., the VFW national commander is asking all Vietnam veterans to search through their closets and footlockers for documents that might help Vietnam to determine the fate of an estimated 300,000 missing Vietnamese, and personal effects that might help bring comfort to their families.

"It is important for the Vietnam generation to recognize that the personal connection they have with their memorabilia will not transfer to their descendants, which means such items will either be donated or simply trashed," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "And even though it's been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government's relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away."

Lawrence said VFW senior leaders have traveled back to Vietnam every year ...


VFW Names 2019 Scout of the Year Winners

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the selection of the top three winners of its 2018 - 2019 Scout of the Year scholarship competition.

Enacted in 2001, the Scout of the Year competition was designed to reward eligible members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturing Crew or Sea Scouts who have risen above their peers in exemplifying standout citizenship, patriotism and love of country with college scholarships of up to $5,000.

This year's first-place winner, Elizabeth Bock, was sponsored by VFW Post 3208 in Sierra Madre, Calif. She was selected for her activism with local youth and government programs, dedication to serving others and her work advocating for women's issues and gender equality. As the first-place recipient, Elizabeth will receive a $5,000 college scholarship.

Owen Sumter, sponsored by VFW Post 9675 in Bellevue, Neb., was selected as the second-place winner for his notable community service work, his work supporting the homeless com...


VFW Announces Top Veterans Service Officer

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the selection of Terry "Mike" Eshenbaugh as the VFW Accredited Service Representative of the Year.

Eshenbaugh, who is employed by the Texas Veterans Commission as the VFW Department of Texas service officer, is an integral part of the VFW's worldwide network of more than 2,100 accredited service officers who last year helped more than 526,000 veterans to recoup $8.3 billion in earned disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Accredited means VA accreditation, which allows VFW Service Officers to assist and file VA claims on behalf of veterans and transitioning service members, as well as to provide representation before the Board of Veterans Appeals if needed. The support is free to all honorably discharged veterans and is a continuation of the VFW's "service to others" mission that the organization began one century ago after returning World War I veterans faced the same government neglect as the VFW's foref...


BK Franchisees Kick Off July Fundraiser for the VFW

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) is pleased to announce participating BURGER KING franchisees are set to kick off their summer fundraiser to benefit the VFW's Unmet Needs program.

Starting on July 1, patrons are encouraged to visit any of the nearly 850 participating BURGER KING restaurants located throughout 31 states and donate $1 or more to the VFW's Unmet Needs program upon checkout. Donations will be accepted until the end of the month.

Established in 2004, the Unmet Needs program assists service members and military families experiencing financial hardship by providing financial assistance grants toward basic life necessities like rent, mortgage and utility payments.

Since 2007, BURGER KING franchisees and their customers have contributed more than $6 million to Unme...


Blue Water Navy Act Now Law!

WASHINGTON - The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the president for signing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law last night.

"Tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War and dependent children born with spina bifida due to a parent's toxic exposure will now benefit from this new law," exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, "and the VFW is proud to have helped lead the charge to return these benefits to these deserving veterans and to expand existing benefits to dependent children. We look forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs publishing implementation guidance on their website very soon."

The VFW-championed Blue Water Navy Vietnam ...


SCOTUS Rules on Bladensburg Peace Cross

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision that the World War I memorial in the shape of a 40-foot-tall cross can continue to stand on public land in Maryland. The high court's 7-2 decision in favor of allowing the cross to stand, clarifies the fact that the mere shape of a monument does not create an "Establishment" of religion. Therefore, the nearly 100-year-old memorial will be allowed to stay on public land. The Veterans of Foreign Wars' amicus brief is cited in the opinion.

"The Supreme Court made the right call," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "Today's decision not only protects this memorial outright, but helps to establish a precedent to protect thousands of other veterans' memorials that currently reside on federal, state or municipal land.

"My hat's off to all of the organizations that joined the VFW in filing amicus briefs concerning this case."

...


VFW Urges President to Quickly Sign Blue Water Navy Act

WASHINGTON - The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is urging President Trump to quickly sign into law H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which the Senate passed this evening by unanimous consent. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the VFW-supported legislation on May 14 by a vote of 410-0.

"We salute the entire 116th Congress for ensuring that taking care of veterans remains the most bipartisan and bicameral issue in Washington," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "We now urge the president to quickly sign the bill into law so that tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans can have their disability benefits restored, and well as an expansion of benefits to military dependents, veterans of the Korean DMZ, and those exposed to toxic hazards in Southwest Asia."

Once signed into law, H.R. 299 will restore VA benefits to thousands of so-called Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 aft...


UNTUCKit and NASCAR's Chase Elliott Team Up to Benefit VFW

NEW YORK - UNTUCKit, one of the fastest-growing retail brands in the United States, announced today the launch of the Chase Elliott Limited-Edition Made in America Shirt to support military service members and veterans. Crafted in North Carolina, the shirt features Chase's No. 9 car mark stitched into the sail of a signature UNTUCKit button-down and will be available beginning today for $109 at UNTUCKit.com/ChaseElliott.

The launch of UNTUCKit's Chase Elliott Limited-Edition Made in America Shirt coincides with the industry-wide launch of the NASCAR Salutes campaign from Memorial Day through Independence Day that honors the fallen, first responders, members of the military, and their families.

In honor of the shirt's launch, UNTUCKit is making a donation to the VFW's "Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship" which The Chase Elliott Foundation will match. The Foundation is also making a separate donation to the In...


House Unanimously Passes Blue Water Navy Veterans Act!

WASHINGTON - The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the U.S. House of Representatives for unanimously passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.

"The VFW salutes the united support of the entire House," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "Your vote this evening will positively impact thousands of lives, and it once again proves that taking care of veterans and their families is a nonpartisan issue."

The VFW-supported bill now heads to the Senate. Once signed into law, H.R. 299 will restore VA benefits to thousands of so-called Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after regulatory changes. It will also require the VA to contact those veterans who had filed claims that were later denied. Those veterans could be eligible for retroactive benefits.

The legislation will also mark a victory for other veterans and their families who suffer from conditions related to toxi...


VFW Secures New Eye Care Benefit for Members

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce it is again expanding its member benefit offerings by teaming up with Eyemart Express to offer members and their families a 20 percent discount on prescription eyewear including glasses and sunglasses.

For nearly 30 years, Eyemart Express has been offering unique styles and quality frames with its focus on providing affordable, quality prescription eyewear without compromise. As one of the nation's leading optical retailers, it provides shoppers with the fastest production of glasses in the industry with more than 199 stores nationwide, each equipped with in-store labs for the convenience of same-day glasses.

The VFW and Eyemart Express have made it easy for veterans to enhance their vision and their look. VFW members and their families can visi...


House VA Committee Passes Blue Water Navy Act

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the House Veterans Affairs Committee for unanimously passing H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. The VFW-supported bill, which must still be approved by the full House and Senate before going to the president, would restore VA benefits to thousands of Vietnam veterans, expand inclusive dates to those who served along the Korean DMZ, and benefit children born with spina bifida due to a parent's exposure to Agent Orange-related herbicides in Thailand.

"The VFW salutes the bipartisan leadership of House VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano and Ranking Member Phil Roe for leading this bill through committee," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, "and for following through on their commitment to get this bill passed in the new 116th Congress."

Once passed into law, H.R. 299 will restore VA benefits to tens of thousands of so-called Blue Water Navy veterans who had their disability eligi...


Ace Hardware Honors Fallen Heroes with 1 Million American Flags

OAK BROOK, Ill. - In the true spirit of Memorial Day, Ace Hardware is once again collaborating with the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Ace Hardware is pledging to give out 1 million American flags nationwide on Saturday, May 25. Consumers are encouraged to visit participating Ace stores to receive a free 8" x 12" American flag* on May 25, while a second flag is donated to a local VFW Post to be used for marking and honoring veteran graves this Memorial Day.

"We are proud to again affirm our long-standing commitment to honoring veterans by supporting VFW Posts and local communities," said John Surane, Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer for Ace Hardware. "This Memorial Day, Ace stands with the VFW in honoring the courage of the brave men and women who have sacrificed everything for their country. We applaud the VFW for the incredible support...


VFW Members to Celebrate #ThankBK Week

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliary will be out in force during the week leading up to Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 18, 2019, in effort to show their support and appreciation for BURGER KING franchisees as part of the VFW's third annual #ThankBK Appreciation event.

Since 2007, BURGER KING franchisees and their customers have contributed more than $6 million to the VFW Unmet Needs program, providing vital financial assistance to military families who have fallen on hard times as a result of their service. Since the program's inception in 2004, Unmet Needs has provided more than $11 million in financial grants to nearly 10,000 service members, veterans and their families.

VFW members, and their families and friends are encouraged to stop in, purchase a meal and say "thank you" to the franchise owners, managers and BURGER KING team members for their continued support of the veteran community.

The VFW is als...


Winners of Publications Contest Announced

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The VFW has announced the winners of the 2019 National Publications Contest. Three years ago, the contest changed significantly to encourage more participation. This created two new categories: Best Magazine and Best Feature Article. This year's competition retained those changes.

Two non-VFW-affiliated journalism professionals served as judges for the competition. This is designed to guarantee impartiality and objectivity in the judging. To reiterate, VFW staffers play no part in judging the entries.

The winning publications in each category are:

Best Magazine

Grand Award:
Texas VFW News
Dan West, Editor

Silver Award:
NC VFW The Leader Magazine
Russ Chambers, Editor

Best Feature Article

Grand Award:
"VFW Salutes Service of ...


VFW Celebrates Centennial of Service to Nation's Veterans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On Tuesday, May 7, nearly 200 veterans' service officers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. will converge on Valley Forge, Pa., to receive required continuing education in order to provide the best possible service to America's wounded, ill and injured veterans. They will also recognize the VFW's 100th year of support to service-connected disabled veterans.

"When World War I veterans began returning home in 1919, they encountered the same government neglect as VFW's founders did two decades earlier," explained VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. "At the VFW's national convention in Providence, R.I., that year, this veterans service directorate, as well as a legislative advocacy directorate, were created so that our nation never again forces the families of wounded, ill or injured veterans to pay for their loved one's rehabilitation," he said. "One century later, VFW's worldwide cadre of 2,100 accredited service officers helped more than 526,000 veterans to recoup $8.3 billion ...


VA Recommends Dropping Blue Water Navy Legal Battle

WASHINGTON - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie for saying during congressional testimony yesterday that he would recommend the Justice Department not contest a recent federal court ruling that will benefit some 90,000 so-called Blue Water Navy veterans. His support to move forward potentially paves the way for the return of earned disability benefits that regulatory changes arbitrarily stripped away in 2002.

In Procopio v. Wilkie, Secretary Wilkie was sued by Navy veteran Alfred Procopio Jr., who was denied service connection for prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus because he never stepped foot on dry land or served within Vietnam's inland waterways. Procopio, a life me...


Nation's Top Teachers Selected for VFW Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce the top three teachers selected in its 2019 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award contest.

Each year, the VFW names one teacher from the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8) and high school (9-12) levels to receive the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Established in 1999, the award recognizes our nation's top teachers for their exceptional commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students by promoting civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism in the classroom. The award is named after former VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher.

Bobbie Schamens, a fourth-grade teacher at Meadowview Intermediate School in Sparta, Wisc., was named the elementary school winner for her efforts in recognizing the service and sacrifice of her hometown's military families. Schamens' personal experience as a military spouse has...


VFW's Annual Youth Scholarship Competition Opens

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is now accepting entries for its 2019-20 Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The announcement comes just two weeks after the VFW's 2019 Legislative Conference concluded in Washington, D.C., where the top national winners were recognized.

Dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of America, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen essay competitions help foster patriotism among today's youth. The programs also promote friendly competition and rewards success in the form of some $3 million in scholarships.

This year's theme for both programs challenges students to answer the question, "What Makes America Great?" The Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition is ope...


President Releases FY 2020 Budget Request

WASHINGTON - The president's federal spending plan for fiscal year 2020 adds 30,000 more troops and proposes a 3.1-percent military pay raise. It would also increase the Department of Veterans Affairs overall budget by 9.6 percent to $220.2 billion, which would enable the VA to implement the MISSION Act, strengthen mental health access and treatment programs, increase women's health services, boost electronic health record interoperability with the Defense Department, and support a host of legislative initiatives being championed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

"More money isn't always the solution to every problem, but the lack of it weakens every congressional initiative to improve the VA," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who called the president's budget submission a very good start. "What the VFW now expects from Co...


VFW Concerned With VA MISSION Act Implementation

WASHINGTON - This morning, during testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. called for full congressional oversight over the implementation of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.

The organization made clear its dissatisfaction with the Department of Veterans Affairs' implementation thus far, citing arbitrary and misguided decision-making.

With more than 80 percent of VFW members relying on VA health care, and dedicating more than 10 million volunteer hours annually to supporting their fellow veterans at VA medical facilities, the VFW's views were actively solicited while drafting the legislation, but the organization has not been engaged to ensure its efficient implementation.

"Unlike appeals modernization, VA has elected to largely ignore the views of the nation's largest war veterans' organization when drafting rules to implement the VA MISSION Act," said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, who leads the more than...


VFW Awards National Youth Scholarship Winners

WASHINGTON - Last night the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented $209,000 in scholarships and awards as it named the national winners of its annual Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen youth scholarship competitions. The winners were announced during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2019 VFW Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Together, the VFW's Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen scholarship competitions have helped foster patriotism by challenging middle and high school students to examine our nation's history, its democratic processes, and their roll in America's future based on an annual theme.

More than 40,000 high school students addressed this year's "Why My Vote Matters" theme, and last night Christine Troll was named the Voice of Democracy first-place national winner where she received the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship award and delivered ...


VFW to Deliver Veterans' Voice to Congress

WASHINGTON - More than 500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliary are arriving in the nation's capital this weekend to urge their respective members of Congress to continue improving the programs and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Highlighting the annual legislative conference will be the VFW national commander's testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, and the presentation of two VFW national awards: the VFW Congressional Award to Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and the VFW News Media Award to Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane.

Elected in July 2018 to lead America's largest and oldest major war veterans' organization, VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence is set to pres...


VFW Names 2019 Voice of Democracy State Winners

High school students across the country recorded audio-essays on this year's Voice of Democracy theme: "Why My Vote Matters." We've selected one winner from each state to qualify for the grand prize, a $30,000 scholarship to the college or technical school of their choice. Listen to your state winning essay!...


Lieutenant 'Green Thumb'

After two tours overseas with the Navy - one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan - former Lt. Vincent Grasso returned to his Long Island suburb, ripped up his front lawn and crafted a self-sustaining,
agricultural ecosystem on his tiny 45-foot-by-100-foot lot. Grasso, the deputy mayor of Valley Stream, N.Y., jokes that his neighbors initially thought he was performing some sort of ritualistic pet burial.

A member of VFW Post 1790 in Valley Stream, Grasso served in Iraq in 2006 as a petty officer 1st class working as an intelligence specialist with SEAL Team 5. In 2013, he deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer with the Special Operations Joint Task Force. Grasso is 5-feet-10-inches of pure, distilled sarcasm. He only revealed his true height after repeatedly insisting he was 6-feet-4, explaining, "I loom large."

It's unclear whether his sense of humor was learned in or was merely strengthened by the Navy. Perhaps it came from his mother, who once joked that she would move to Canada during wartime if she ...


VFW Presents Donation to Kansas City Warriors Hockey Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. proudly presented a $12,000 donation to the Kansas City Warriors, the city's new ice hockey team comprised solely of disabled military veterans.

"We've been headquartered in Kansas City for more than 90 years and are happy to help support a hometown team, especially one that provides such a great opportunity for our local veterans to find healing and camaraderie," said VFW Adjutant General Kevin Jones.

The Kansas City Warriors operates under the mentorship of the Minnesota Warriors, a program that works in conjunction with the USA Disabled Hockey Program and a leader in the disabled veteran's hockey community. The teams use the game of hockey to assist veterans with disabilities in building self-confidence and helping them transition back into a mainstream lifestyle they had prior to their injury.

Participation in the Kansas City Warriors program is open to all injured or disabled veterans with a VA rating of 10 percent or highe...


VFW Grant Means More Than Money for Veteran's Family

The McKinney household is a bustling hub of love and activity. Veteran Stormie McKinney of North Carolina and her husband Tyrone, have six children and five dogs. Life has been a mix of happy times and intense trials for McKinney.

Joining the Navy in search of a prosperous career, McKinney achieved the rank of petty officer. However, a terrible sexual assault while she was working in the shipyards in France forever changed her path.

The horrific experience caused McKinney to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS) and she's now on disability. She was paying the family's bills with her checks and getting by, but the loss of her husband's pay put the family in a desperate situation.

McKinney had enough to pay for household expenses, but there wasn't enough left for things like food or clothes for her children. "I couldn't take care of them on my own. If I paid the bills, I couldn't feed my family," she said.

However, during a conversation with an online veteran community chat group, McKinney found ou...


Scholarship Gives Veteran a Chance to Finish College

Andrew Bramsch, 35, of St. Louis, Mo., didn't know what he wanted to do after graduating from high school, but he knew college was not for him. After exploring his options, he felt the military made sense and he enlisted in the Army.

Bramsch served in the Army for almost 11 years in airborne infantry. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Vicenza, Italy. He also spent one year in Iraq and one and a half years in Afghanistan before medically retiring as a sergeant.

As fate would have it, events in Bramsch's military career ended up leading him to college after all. He is now finishing a master's degree in transportation and logistics management with American Public University System.

"I started in logistics in the Army after an injury. I was placed in the arms room and helped with supply. I saw there was a lot of planning and preparation in running a company. After that, I enjoyed being behind the scenes," said Bramsch. "I say that working in logistics means that no one knows what I do, but everyone goes ...


Veterans Groups Say $103 Billion in Funding Needed for FY20

WASHINGTON - In advance of the Administration's budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and advance appropriations for FY 2021, the three coauthors of The Independent Budget (IB) - Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America - today recommend a total of $103.3 billion to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) begins to fully and faithfully implement the VA MISSION Act of 2018, make needed improvements, and is able to timely deliver benefits and services to ill and injured veterans, their families and survivors. This is the first time the IB's recommended budget has topped the $100 billion mark, and represents a 17 percent increase over current FY 2019 funding.

Implementing the VA MISSION Act this fiscal year will require significantly more resources than have been provided through regular appropriations, and is the main reason why medical care ap...


Writing a Story of Hope and Healing With Help From a VSO Friend

Joel Capell sat at a book signing for his new memoir when a man came in and offered him a bit of rope. Capell took it, unsure what it meant. The man explained it represented the hope he found in Capell's book.

"No More Hope and No More Rope," said Capell. "That chapter in the book is one of the lowest points of my life."

The two men talked and cried. Capell was amazed. Not only was he there, but he was helping someone else. It was something he never would've imagined himself possible of years earlier. Capell is grateful for the rope thrown to him during a dark time. It came from the assistance navigating the VA he received, and the encouragement to tell his story, from friend and VFW accredited Veteran Service Officer, Zac Miller.

Capell, of Mount Victory, Ohio, joined the Army 23 years ago to pay for school. He spent most of his time in the National Guard as a combat engineer and has served three tours in the Middle East.

For a while, life seemed good. Capell considered himself bright and ready to take ...


VFW Post Feeds Hungry Veterans

In 2014, Feeding America initiated a Hunger in America national study. It showed that one in five households served by the Feeding America network has at least one member that has served or is currently serving in the military.

In Pennsylvania, that number is higher. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank reported that within its 27 county-service territory, 26 percent of all households receiving assistance have at least one member who served in uniform.

To help combat this problem, in 2015, the food bank initiated MilitaryShare, which offers monthly food distributions at VFW and American Legion posts to veterans. VFW Post 1754 in Huntingdon is one such distribution site.

According to Post 1754 member Reeder Swartz, he has about 25 volunteers each month to distribute the food. In two hours' time, some 120 families are served.

Each family receives eggs, milk, two types of meat, 40 pounds of dry goods, 10 pounds of potatoes, apples, onions and whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are in season.

It costs...


VFW Launches New Mobile Event App

KANSAS CITY, Mo.- The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. has designed a new mobile event app to give attendees the tools needed to make the most out of attending VFW national events.

The new VFW Events app allows for attendees of the VFW's Legislative Conference and National Convention to receive important notifications and reminders throughout the events, gain instant access to the daily agenda, the opportunity to connect with other attendees and more.

The new VFW Events app is available for download at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store by searching "VFW Events." Users who don't have a smart phone or tablet can also access the app Member Service Center Reps Expect Your Call

The VFW's Member Service Center Director Ken Romine has a simple message to convey: "Call us."

Established in 2017, the Member Service Center does more than people realize, and Romine wants his customer service representatives swamped with telephone calls.

According to Melodi Dailey, one of the service center supervisors, customers don't always know to call the center for orders, even if there happens to be a problem with a past order. All questions about VFW Store orders, including returns and exchanges, should go through the service center.

"We do everything in our power to help," Dailey said. "But if by chance we don't have what they need, we help them by locating it on the computer and supply them with the information they need."

The Member Service Center staff also addresses questions about dues and membership and helps members obtain new membership cards. If a member has misplaced an issue of VFW magazine, calling the service center will guarantee you get the issue in the mail.

"W...


The Home Depot Opens Its 2019 Community Impact Grant

The Home Depot has started accepting applications for its 2019 Community Impact Grant. VFW members can receive up to $5,000 to fund repairs or construction projects at their Post building.

While there are no guarantees to being funded, several VFW Posts have been awarded this grant in the past.

Applications are only accepted through Home Depot's online form. Telephone calls, emails or written submissions sent to Home Depot will NOT be accepted, nor will you be able to turn this application in at your local Home Depot store.

New this year, Home Depot now requires a project budget that must be submitted as a Microsoft Excel file. This new requirement is covered in-depth in the guide.

Pay close attention to the Tax ID Instructions. You will use the Employee Identification Number (EIN) of your Post and upload the Post's 501(c)(19) IRS determination letter at the end of the application. If you ca...


Post News

Important Info for Post3348 Members

Army Retention Bonuses

Army Retention Bonuses now up to $52,000

Cyber Command

The U.S. military has discovered that our country is under attack from Cyberspace.

National News

Important info from National VFW

VFW Post 6786 First Site in Innovative Initiative Giving Veterans Access to VA Health Services Close to Home

Andover, Mass. and Kansas City, Mo. (October 16, 2019) - For the first time ever, U.S. veterans will be able to receive U.S. Department of Veteran'...

Getting a Haircut at Sport Clips Haircuts Now Through Veterans Day Can Help A Hero

GEORGETOWN, Texas - Getting a haircut now through Veterans Day will support servic...