Friday, April 24, 2009

What do we do when it is over?

Look around your town and you will see Blue Star Banners in the windows of families and businesses. What does this banner stand for? The Blue Star Banner lets others know that a family member in the home is proudly serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The more stars, the more family members in the service.

As Americans we do our best to support the troops during overseas contingency operations, such as OIF, OEF, and the Blue Star Service Banner tradition reminds every one of us that war touches every neighborhood in our land.

It is easy to support our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We send care packages full of cookies, shampoos, lotions, DVDs and many more comfort items. The hard part is what we do for their families while they are deployed and for that soldier when they come home. When our soldier (I use soldier to refer to all services) comes home, what do we do… we have a big party. After the party comes the hard part of reintegration into the world. (The ‘world’ is somewhere that the soldier isn’t at the time, i.e., two guys in Iraq talking about getting back to the world: the United States).

Our career ends, we say goodbye to comrades or worse yet leave parts of ourselves behind. What do we do…with our military identity behind us? As a serviceman in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard, we served proudly. If we needed support, we knew who to turn to. It was all there for us, the Commanders and Sergeants ensuring that we have what we need and are paying our bills. There are Medics and Chaplains to heal our bodies and souls. And in the service we rely on comrades, for whom we would lay down our lives. Then after a ceremony and party …it is over. Our friends that we see every day are gone; we have crossed over to the other side and now a new mission.

For soldiers and especially whether National Guard or Reserve, it can be a very abrupt welcome home from the high war pace of 20 hour days to the dismal 2 hour commute of work. How can we help them cope? At the end of WWI, LTC Theodore Roosevelt Jr had a desire to raise morale. He convinced General Pershing that they should create an association to help wounded comrade and their spouses and children. 90 years later, The American Legion is Still Serving America. We are there to provide financial assistance, outreach and support and each year nationally The American Legion donates millions of dollars and countless hours to programs such as the Special Olympics, Children’s Miracle Network, and Scouting of all types. (To see more American Legion programs visit

In each conflict since WWI, veterans have reached out to the newer veterans, for a time during Vietnam older veterans did not know how to help returning soldiers. The silent problems are the most difficult to deal with. Most of us can remember our fathers going down to the Legion, Elks or other Lodges to have a drink with the boys. They did this to help cope with what they had experienced. At the time, that was the accepted way to deal with their problems. During Vietnam some veterans turned to drugs and alcohol to wash away unsettling memories. No one sat around at home and talked to their wives about seeing a friend die in front of them, they just bottled it up.

Today more injured soldiers are returning from the battlefield through advances in modern medicine. On 9 April 2003, one Marine on his second tour in Iraq was the victim of an ambush resulting in losing both hands to an RPG blast that also punctured his femoral artery. Thanks to modern medicine, less than 2 weeks later he was sitting up in bed in Walter Reed and beginning to move around. Legion Post 295 Gaithersburg MD, started a program called Operation Provide Comfort. We worked to get the word out that the soldiers needed supplies that the Government is prohibited from buying, i.e. pants, shoes, socks and underwear. Operation Provide Comfort supplied needed items at the right time. Now there are countless programs doing the same as many more seriously wounded are making their way home. They continue to need our help. This can come in many ways: being there for them, helping them get a warrior dog for assistance, assistance with finding work, reasonable living accommodation or with furthering their education. Another way is financial aid to help them get back on their feet. We’re limited financially from such things as buying a home or a car for a soldier. Getting wounded is not akin to hitting the lottery. Providing funds to adapt a home or vehicle to a soldier’s disability is certainly in line with out programs. We need to help these soldiers get acclimated back into civilian life, providing guidance and in some cases, yes financial assistance to put them on track.

Just as I was working on this message, I received word that a young family needs to pay for a new transmission for their vehicle. They are being charged $3500 for the second time in 8 months. Just 8 months ago the replaced the transmission with a new one for $3600. Can you say ripoff? And they do not have the funds to pay for it. Their story, Johnny (not his real name) is in the Maryland National Guard and Mary (alias as well) was regular Navy when they met. The got married after they both completed their tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, moved to Maryland to start a family. They now have a 2 year old child. They cannot afford daycare so only he is working and not making much, she is looking for employment. The family turned to the Army Emergency Relief and was turned down because he was not serving on active duty. They have already borrowed thousands from their parents and there is no more. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial American Legion Post 295 is able to donate $200 at this time to assist them and is working on more.

Although I never went into combat, my specialty was terrorist devices. I was a Bomb (EOD) Technician with the US Army. I was fortunate to travel to locations like Jerusalem, Cairo and parts of Africa. Much of my service was performed in the Washington DC area providing bomb disposal support and supporting Presidential and VIP missions throughout the world. Everyday of my career was worth it, even if I was bitching at the time. On the last day of June 1998, I took off my uniform for the last time, no ceremony, no parade, just over.

I was motivated by a desire to serve those still on active duty as well as those who had come before me. I could use my skills to serve, by volunteering with the American Legion. As time went on, I was elected to positions of more authority, but what drew me to want to participate is one of the lines of the Preamble to the Legion’s Constitution, “We sanctify our comradeship, by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” I encourage everyone who reads this to volunteer to assist all veterans, especially those who are living alone, those who are homeless, and don’t get care packages. You can do this by joining with almost 3 million Legionnaires in The American Legion, as a member (veteran) a Son of the American Legion or as an American Legion Auxiliary member. Together we can continue to make a difference.

Still Serving America!

Bob Ouellette
Commander American Legion Post 295 Gaithersburg MD or
Commander, Montgomery County Council, The American Legion Department of Maryland

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wait, What! VFW agrees with Threat Assessment

(Bob Ouellette) The problem is that this assessment will cause every citizen to be distrustfull of our returning veterans and destroy the support for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. So am I to beleive the assessment of DHS then we have 25 million right wing extremenists in the United States. I doubt it. As members of the American Legion we vow to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, just as every serviceman or woman also pledges when they enlisted or are sworn in.
The VFW basically agreed with DHS ..... DHS Report Was a Threat Assessment, Not AccusationWashington, D.C., April 15, 2009- The leader of the nation's largest combat veterans' organization said a leaked government document that mentions disgruntled military veterans as potential security threats should have been worded differently, but he takes no issue with the document's purpose: to assess possible threats to the safety and security of the United States."A government that does not assess internal and external security threats would be negligent of a critical public responsibility," said Glen M. Gardner Jr., the national commander of the 2.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

The following (as edited) comes from a highly placed US Army intelligence officer on what is intelligence.

A common problem with so-called “intelligence” is believing that someone reporting something makes it true. That’s called “single source reporting.” The VFW states that the DNS report is just an “assessment.” Intelligence that is worth its salt means when you assess something there must be multiple reports alluding to a trend. A trend is what is being sought. In this case, there is no trend indicating that returning service people are allying themselves with rightwing extremist groups. There is one documented case since the 1990s, and that is McVeigh. So, in the absence of a conclusive trend, we have no “assessment.” Therefore, what we are left with is an opinion. It may be one person’s opinion or it may be a dozen people’s opinion, we don’t know because no evidence is cited in this report. That’s why ground commanders who deal with intelligence always question the multiple sources of their information to ensure accuracy, which provides what is called “ground truth,” which, in turn, provides them with “situational awareness,” that they can depend on. That’s why ground commanders, whose decisions often determine whether people live or die, are very careful to avoid making decisions based on “single sources,” opinions or undocumented “facts.” This is what happens when people do not understand their doctrine and policies and take people for their word and not do the required research and analysis.

The American Legion Commander Responds to DHS Secretary


The American Legion Commander Responds to DHS Secretary

INDIANAPOLIS (April 16, 2009) -- American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein issued the following statement today:

“I am glad that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has apologized for the language used in the report about ‘Rightwing Extremism.’ I look forward to meeting with her next week, putting this behind us and discussing critical issues involving Homeland Security and The American Legion.”

- 30 –

Homeland security chief apologizes to veterans groups

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized Thursday after veterans groups were offended by a department report about right-wing extremism.

The report said extremist groups may try to attract veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also said extremists also may use the recession and the election of the nation's first African-American president to recruit members.

The American Legion was among those who objected to the report's mention of veterans.

"I think it is important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are," the American Legion <> 's national commander, David K. Rehbein, said in a letter to Napolitano.

Napolitano apologized on CNN on Thursday morning.

"I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment, so I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended," she told CNN's "American Morning."

She said the report was an assessment -- not an accusation -- and said she would meet with leaders of veterans groups next week.

She noted that the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which bills itself as the nation's largest combat veterans group, defended the report.

Glen M. Gardner Jr., the national commander of the 2.2 million-member VFW, said the assessment "should have been worded differently" but served a vital purpose.

"A government that does not assess internal and external security threats would be negligent of a critical public responsibility," he said in a statement.

The report mentioned numerous factors that could strengthen right-wing extremists, including anger over illegal immigration and the poor economy.

Yet it was the section on veterans that caused controversy among conservative politicians and some veterans. It said "the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks." It cited Timothy McVeigh, who returned from military service and went on to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1995.

"Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation's uniform during wartime," wrote Rehbein, the American Legion commander. "To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical 'disgruntled military veteran' is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam."

The report, which was prepared in coordination with the FBI, was published last week. It was distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement officials. Mainstream media outlets picked up the story after it was reported by conservative bloggers.

Though the nine-page report said it had "no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," it said real-estate foreclosures, unemployment and tight credit "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."

The report compared the current climate with that of the 1990s, saying a recession, criticism over outsourcing of jobs, and a perceived threat to U.S. power at that time fueled a "resurgence" of right-wing extremism <> .

However, it said, "Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years."

It warned that the groups may use proposed restrictions on firearms and the debate on immigration as recruiting tools, and said the groups may try to reach out to veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh decried the report on Tuesday, saying, "There is not one instance they can cite as evidence where any of these right-wing groups have done anything," according to a transcript of his remarks on his Web site.

"You have a report from Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security <> , portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong Il," he said, referring to the leader of North Korea.

Michael Savage, another conservative commentator, also criticized the report.

"What does Big Sis say these right-wingers are concerned about?" he wrote on his Web site, referring to Napolitano.

"Illegal aliens, the increasing power of the federal government, gun grabs, abortion and the loss of U.S. national sovereignty. In other words, anyone who is worried about preserving our borders, language, and culture is on Big Sis' watch list."

In a written statement Wednesday, Napolitano <> said the agency is on "the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs."

She said she was "briefed" on the general topic, which "struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution."

Napolitano said in her statement that she will tell Rehbein face-to-face that the Department of Homeland Security honors veterans and employs thousands of them, including Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute.

The Obama administration in January issued a warning about left-wing extremists. Both reports were initiated during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

Joe March
Director of Public Relations
The American Legion National Hqs.
700 N. Pennsylvania
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Office: (317) 630-1253
Fax: (317) 630-1368
Cell: (317) 748-1926