VMF February 2022 Newsletter

Masthead

February 2022

Newsletter

Vol. 1, No. 12

    To view in pdf, click here

Hello and Warm Greetings, Veterans and Military Families!

Since our beginning, the Veterans and Military Families Caucus has been focused on advocating for overseas military families, and we have made significant progress recently with reforming the GI Bill. Soon veterans and military families overseas will be able to more easily receive their GI benefits.

We want to build upon these successes and apply the lessons we have learned to improve the Veterans Administration for overseas veterans and military families. Would you be willing to help us? If the VMF Caucus had a magic wand and the power to bring about significant change to the VA, what three (or more) improvements would you suggest? How could the VA be reformed to make life better/easier for you as a vet overseas?

Email your suggestions here: [email protected]

With much appreciation, and democratically yours, 

Bob Gould (Co-Editor, DA-VMF United Kingdom)

 

UPCOMING GLOBAL VMF CAUCUS MEETINGS

The Global VMF Caucus Steering Committee meets once a month. All Democrats Abroad members are welcome to attend. The next VMF meeting will be February 12 using Rotation A.

Here is the login info for the Zoom Meetings:

 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6298521858

To receive the agenda or minutes from our meetings, contact us by emailing us here.

Connect with us on    fb.png twit.png Insta.svg  LinkedIn Logo

FEBRUARY EVENTS

February is Black History Month

In 1926, Black historian, educator and activist Carter G Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week to “extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history”. This initiative became Black History Month from a proposal by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. It was first celebrated there a year later, from January 2 to February 28,1970. More on the origins  For an excellent resource

February 1 National Freedom Day  Richard Robert Wright, Sr., who was born a slave in 1855, founded a high school and a university (now known as Savannah State University), the first black-owned bank in a Northern state (Philadelphia’s Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust), and founded The National Freedom Day Association. He died in 1947 one year before both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a bill to make February 1 a holiday to honor the day in 1865 President Lincoln signed the resolution proposing the 13th Amendment and the end of slavery. The amendment was ratified and added to the constitution on December 6, 1865. For much more go to BLACK THEN.

February 2 Army Nurse Corp Established (1901) Although women, mostly sisters, wives and mothers of soldiers tended the ill and cleaned ‘hospital’ areas in the Revolutionary War, the Spanish Wars and the Civil War, the first women in the army were those established as a Nursing Corp on this date in 1901. By 1918 there were 21,460 nurse “officers” with 10,000 serving overseas. In WWII there were 57,000 Army Nurses. For more click here

February 3 Four Chaplains Day On this date in 1943 a U-Boat torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester while making its way to Greenland. As the boat sank, the four chaplains, one Methodist, one Dutch Reform, one Roman Catholic and one Jewish, administered aid and gave away their life jackets as they stayed aboard the sinking ship, leading those left behind in prayer.

February 4 USO Incorporated 1941 Before WWII President Truman sought to unite the various service agencies that worked in diverse ways with the military. The Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board were combined to become the United Service Organizations, whose mission in general was to: strengthen America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. Click here for more. 

February 12 International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers also known as Red Hand Day, since 2002 has been observed as a day to appeal to governments to work to end the horror of children being forced to fight as soldiers. Ideas for involvement here

February 13-19 National Salute to Veteran Patients Week For Valentine’s Day week, people are encouraged to remember our Veterans who are inpatients, in VA Hospitals or Homes. With COVID 19 restrictions patients are even more cut-off from friends and family. You can participate Here

February 14 Frederick Douglass February 14 is the day we celebrate as the potential birthdate of Frederick Douglass, a world renowned activist and abolitionist. He was born into slavery in 1818 or 1817, but he escaped his bonds as a young man. He went on to fight for the abolishment of slavery, equal rights for Black Americans, and served in multiple high ranking federal positions. Click here for more.

February 15 Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday Susan B. Anthony was an important figure in the women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements of the 1800s. She fought for women’s rights, and, thanks to more than 70 years of activism by Anthony and her allies, the Nineteenth Amendment that extended voting rights to women was ratified in 1920. Click here for more.

February 19 Coast Guard Reserve Birthday The Coast Guard auxiliaries were created on June 23, 1939, and were originally comprised of civilians. On February 19, 1941, Congress formally created the Coast Guard Reserve as a branch of the military. Click here for more. 

February 21 Presidents Day The long history of Presidents Day goes all the way back to the 1880s when Americans celebrated the birthday of President George Washington on February 22. In 1968, Presidents Day was created as a part of an effort to move most holidays to Mondays so that they would create long weekends for laborers around the United States. Today’s Presidents Day celebrates both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12. Click here for more. 

February 23 Iwo Jima Flag Raising (1945) The famous photograph of Marines raising the American Flag at Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima was taken on February 23, 1945 by Joe Rosenthal. The photo won a Pulitzer Prize and became the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Click here for more. 


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Magic Wand: If you haven’t yet, please send us three (or more) suggestions for improving the Veterans Administration. What are three changes in the VA that would make your life better? The VMF Caucus actively advocates for you, and for veterans and family members like you, so let us know what concerns or suggestions you have with the VA so that if we had a magic wand and the power to bring about significant change, it would make an improvement in your life, or the lives of veterans and family members more generally. Send us your suggestions and comments by clicking here

Midterms Matter! Request Your Ballots Today. It is easy when you go to votefromabroad.org. Don’t miss your chance to vote in the 2022 midterm elections! Some states allow you to vote in many local elections. Any vote we can cast to keep believers of “The Big Lie” from county boards, district attorneys, mayors etc, really MATTERS. 

Go to votefromabroad.org to register/request your overseas ballots today. Remember, you need to request your overseas ballots every calendar year--even if you’re already registered to vote, and even if you voted in 2020--otherwise your states are not required to send you ANY ballots. 

The votefromabroad.org site is easy to use. Most voters can fill out the form to their local election official on the website and have it immediately sent. Once you’ve sent it in, remember to confirm that your local election official received and accepted it. You can find their contact details here: votefromabroad.org/states. Here you can also learn what elections you are eligible to vote in and updates on deadlines can be emailed to you. 

Voting in Midterm Elections is SUPER IMPORTANT. There will be 34 U.S. Senators, 435 U.S. Representatives, 46 State legislatures and 36 governors being elected this November 8. Democrats hold 14 trifectas (control of the governor's office and both legislative chambers), Republicans hold 23 trifectas, and 13 states have a divided government. These will be the first elections affected by the 2020 redistricting cycle, which reapportioned state legislatures based on data from the 2020 United States census. State primaries are coming up too, so make sure you’re ready to start voting.

“Raise your hand, then pat yourself on the back if you have registered to vote. It’s easy on votefromabroad.org. I did it today (19 January), and although I had to click the send button 3 times, it worked. In a couple days I will call the county office (Milwaukee, WI) to make sure it was received! You can do it too, and make sure you’re ready to start voting.” - R Rafaelidys

https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Senate_Democratic_Party_primaries,_2022

2022 Democratic primaries by date

Date

State

May 3

May 17

May 24

June 7

June 14

June 28

August 2

August 9

August 13

August 23

September 13

  • New Hampshire

November 8

*North Carolina’s General Assembly has voted to change the primary date to June 7, but the Governor has not signed the bill yet.

Check your state! Make sure you are registered in time to get your primary ballot overseas!!

VMF Caucus Veteran Starts Internship on US House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs:  For the Spring 2022 semester, the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs has an added public servant on its Democratic majority staff who understands and advocates for the veterans-living-abroad perspective. The DA Global Veterans & Military Families Caucus' very own, Michael Ramos, an Australia-based Marine Corps veteran, is now working as a legislative intern on the Committee and is staying busy with veterans policy research, organizing incoming communications, attending congressional hearings, monitoring veterans legislation, receiving briefings from pro-veterans advocates, working on initiatives to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable to veterans and to Congress, and much more. 

"There's no question, this is an amazing opportunity and I'm absolutely making the best of it during these COVID pandemic times. The Committee staff are all extremely helpful and experts in their respective veterans topic sub-fields. I'm honored to work with them on behalf of Chairman Takano, our nation's veterans, survivors and dependents," Ramos stated.

"And although the Committee's mission is to legislate in favor of all veterans, regardless of their party affiliation, I think it's clear to America's overseas veterans community that when they do elect Democrats, they get officials who actually listen to the concerns of veterans and military families first and foremost. For instance, this Democratic-led Congress has worked tirelessly on correcting a major GI Bill problem for overseas student vets that stemmed with the Trump-era. From addressing veterans homelessness to veterans small business loans to veterans having been exposed to toxic burn pits and everything in-between, this Committee is on the ball. And with a First Lady who's doing everything in her power to improve the educational opportunities for our military families with school-aged children, I feel confident in saying there's no doubt that putting Democrats into office means we regularly have something to show for it.

"Still, the VA benefits claims process is too often a difficult and onerous one, and especially so for veterans who live abroad. No matter how much money Congress appropriates to VA or how well a VA program fares in survey data collected, there's always room for improvement. I'm grateful for having a staff seat at the table of this important veterans policy-making body and hope to contribute in every way I can to the Committee."

Upon completion of his internship, Ramos will continue towards achieving his Master's degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne, with a research thesis focused on analyzing the relationship between the U.S. Congress and Americans who live abroad, and how to improve that relationship.


NEWS

Drone-Strike Policy Reform: Eleven Democratic senators and 39 members of the House, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, urged President Biden to overhaul his targeting criteria for drone strikes, citing grave concerns about “repeated civilian casualties arising  from secretive and unaccountable lethal operations.” The letter came a day after The New York Times published newly declassified surveillance footage providing additional details about the final minutes and aftermath of a botched drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August that killed 10 innocent civilians, including 7 children. The letter cited that strike as “emblematic of this systemic failure that has persisted across decades and administrations.”

Shocking But Not Surprising: 254 new laws in 45 states have been passed since the beginning of 2021 that show that in total, about 55 million eligible voters live in states where these changes give them less access to their ballots. Here This has happened because the Supreme Court did not defend parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights bill over the past 40 years was reauthorized FIVE TIMES in the house and senate by overwhelming bipartisan votes, but Republicans voted against it by a 50-49 vote on November 3rd. At this point voting rights are dying, except in the courts. Many state courts have thrown out gerrymandered maps and Marc Elias (God protect and defend him) is leading the charge wherever he has a hope to prove the changes unlawful. Also, TWO groups, Indivisible and Voto Latino have already started campaigns to challenge Kyrsten Sinema in the primaries. Arizona state democrats also voted to censure her. 

January 6 House Select Committee: The committee has been very proactive in January and there have been too many dramatic developments to summarize here. The following newsletters are good sources for keeping up to date and making sense of it all: Heather Cox Richardson, Thom Hartmann and here for Marcy Wheeler’s Emptywheel.

We do know that the committee has held more than 400 interviews including more than one with Bill Barr a major sycophant to Trump when he was Attorney General, but one who retired December 14th, 2021, perhaps covering his rearend, and if he will speak truthfully, could be a very important witness. Ivanka Trump’s testimony was requested in a 9 page letter that laid out a pretty persuasive reason to have her – not just the former President’s daughter but also a member of the Whitehouse staff – come forward voluntarily and truthfully. We shall see. I am also waiting for more information about the “Acting Assistant Intelligence Director” as of October 2, 2021, who is one of the few people who testified to the committee and spoke about it afterwards, in my opinion to put a favorable “spin” on her rendition of the facts.

More Vietnam Vets Now Qualify for Disability Benefits: But it may be years before they see the money because the claims they’re filing have added to the agency’s huge backlog. Vets with certain medical conditions became eligible for “presumptive” VA disability benefits last year. Here


ADVOCACY

Secure Families Initiative: Secure Families Initiative (SFI) is an organization in the U.S. helping veterans and military families. Director Sarah Streyder spoke with our caucus last year, and while some Vets may be adjusting well to moving back to the U.S., others may be struggling with the move or their new duties, and SFI has had some significant "wins” in serving them in 2021:

  • Delivered 7 trucks of snacks to National Guard troops deployed to D.C. in January, as well as thank you notes to some of their families back home.
  • Helping military voters register to vote in super-important elections.
  • Hosting their first-ever Civic Engagement Bootcamp for military partners & family members to enhance their advocacy skills.
  • Consolidating Afghanistan support resources and mobilizing help for a number of evacuation cases.
  • Commemorating the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 with a video about the hidden costs of war on military families.

And they have big plans for 2022, including another National Day of Service project and some midterm voter outreach activities geared toward first-time voters. There are many reasons to be celebrating our connection with SFI, and excited for what goals they have coming next. 

Having Trouble Using Your GI Bill Benefits? Please reach out to us if you or someone you know is having trouble using their GI Bill benefits at a foreign school or university. Student veterans communicating with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from abroad has been a nightmare since VA reorganized internally under the Trump administration, and VA's new requirements for foreign schools to obtain both a U.S. bank account and U.S. Employee ID Number with the IRS has meant student veterans have been unable to use their GI Bill through no fault of their own. We have been in contact with several congressional offices over the past few months, urging every senator and representative to immediately address this issue. GI Bill and/or VR&E educational benefits are EARNED benefits, and we will not rest until VA's policies are changed to work in favor of veterans, servicemembers, and military family members - not against them. Here


HEALTH

In an attempt to make more sense of this bulging section we are creating 3 sections. Due to an encounter one of our co-editors had recently (he’s in California at the moment) with a vet in a hardware store, we are moving Mental Health Resources to the top. The Vietnam vet was wearing a black armband with 22 written on it – standing for the number of veterans committing suicide daily. This is outrageous and it’s unacceptable that it is so unreported. If anyone has a story they wish to share, traumatic or helpful, please submit to [email protected]

The other two sections will be Basic Veteran Health Resources and Special Issues for Retired Veterans Abroad

(give us a little time to get this all arranged! And remember all past editions of the Newsletter are available on the VMF website.)

Mental Health Resources: 

Ensuring Overseas Veterans Have Access To Mental Health Resources: 

  • The Real Warriors Campaign aims to break down the stigma associated with mental health care and encourages service members to reach out for help when they need it. Find articles with support resources, video profiles with service member and veteran stories, and materials to download or order. Here
  • The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members with questions about psychological health topics. Trained mental health consultants can help callers access mental health care and community support resources in their local area. Click on the link or call 1-866-966-1020 for assistance. Here
  • The inTransition Program is a free confidential program that provides specialized coaching and assistance for service members, National Guard members, reservists, veterans, and retirees who need access to mental health care when relocating to another assignment, returning from deployment, transitioning between active duty and reserve component, preparing to leave military service, or any other time they need a new mental health provider, or need a provider for the first time. Click here or call 1-800-424-7877.
  • The Military Crisis Line, text-messaging service, and online chat provide free VA support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all veterans, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. Click here to chat, call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text: 838255.
  • TRICARE offers mental health care to all its enrollees. Click here to find out how and to find other links to mental health providers through the TRICARE network.
  • Military Medical Treatment Facilities often provide mental health services, including integrated behavioral health clinics. Contact your primary care manager to see if this resource is available for you. If it is, you can schedule an appointment the same day. Click here.
  • Military OneSource can provide access to confidential Military Family Life Counselors in your community. Call 1-800-342-9647 or click here.
  • Military OneSource also provides resources so you can manage stress and access benefits and tools that will help you stay strong in body and mind. This page provides access to self-care mobile applications developed within the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and other partners. 
  • Military Health System You can also visit these Health.mil and Tricare.mil web pages for more information.
  • PTSD The VA runs the PTSD Center and it is the foremost resource for research on PTSD For more information check this link.

VA Extension of Presumptive Period for Qualifying Chronic Disabilities 

The VA has extended the presumptive period to Dec. 31, 2026 for qualifying chronic disabilities rated 10% or more resulting from undiagnosed illnesses in Persian Gulf War Veterans to ensure benefits established by Congress are fairly administered. Click here for more details.

Genitourinary and Cardiovascular Regulations in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities The VA announced its changes were made to ensure that these portions of the rating schedule contain current medical terminology and provide detailed and updated criteria for the evaluations. Visit VA benefits here for more information.

Take Advantage of New Resources Through the TRICARE Overseas Program For information, click here

  • MyCare Overseas for a secure and user-friendly Beneficiary App and Portal Click here
  • TOP 2021 Contract Updates: Here
  • Changes to the TRICARE Overseas Program: Here

VA Benefits For Veterans Living Abroad Are Not the Same As For Veterans Living Stateside. The FMP, Foreign Military Program, is a healthcare program run through the US Department of Veterans Affairs for specific veterans who live in or are traveling in a foreign country. These foreign medical services are only available to those with a VA-rated, service-related disability, or a condition that’s related to or aggravates a service-related disability. For information, click here. The disability benefits are listed here. The FMP is managed by the FHA’s Office of Community Care in Denver, Colorado. You can contact the VHA CC at 877-345-8179, or Foreign Medical Program (FMP) VHA Office of Community Care/ P.O. Box 469061, Denver, CO 80246-9061. Applications can also be faxed to 1-303-331-7803.

Veterans who plan on moving abroad or traveling abroad should notify the VA even if they’re unsure of their eligibility status. The application itself is very straightforward and you only need to enter basic information about yourself and your status as a veteran since it will be double-checked against existing records within the VA.All applicants will need to fill out VA Form 10-7959f-1 which can be found online, filled out electronically, and then printed. At this time, there is no way to submit this form electronically. Since the FMP is a separate program from regular VA benefits, you do not have to be part of the VA healthcare system to enroll in the FMP. Some veterans can also become eligible for the program if they are currently part of the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program (part of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) department). 

For a 24-page Guide, click here, for a Claim Form, click here, and for a Fact Sheet, click here.

Have Any Questions About Tricare? Go here for answers to all your Tricare questions.


Transitioning From Military To Civilian Life and JOBS

Are Military Spouse Employment Programs Working? Here

New AARP Job Search ToolKit: The AARP has launched an online job center for veterans, military members and spouses. Click here.  For a video, go here

Jobboard: Transitioning Out of the Military and Looking for a Job? Click here for listings from companies looking for vets.

250,000 Service Members Transition to Civilian Life Each Year. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides information, resources, and tools to service members and their loved ones to help prepare for the move from military to civilian life. Service members begin TAP one year prior to separation, or two years prior to retiring. Watch the video here to see how VA TAP helps service members transition from military to civilian life.

One-Day, In-Person Course Called “VA Benefits and Services”: The VA portion of TAP is a one-day, in-person course called VA Benefits and Services. Led by VA Benefits Advisors, the course helps you understand how to navigate VA and the benefits and services you’ve earned through your military career. The course offers interactive exercises, real examples, and covers topics important to you like family support, disability compensation, education, and health care benefits. Here

Want to Advance Your Career, Start a Business or Further Your Education? Transitioning from military to civilian life is a unique and uncertain time for military members and their families. It’s a time when figuring out what you want to do is just as difficult as figuring out how to do it. Here is one way for veterans and spouses to do both. For a free Find-a-Future program developed by Walmart to serve the veteran community, click here

Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government In 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, which establishes the Veterans Employment Initiative. The Initiative is a strategic approach to helping the men and women who have served our country find employment in the Federal Government. The Executive Order states the Federal Government will help lead by example in promoting veterans’ employment, “creating advocates for veterans’ employment within each federal agency.” All 24 agencies have established a Veterans Employment Program. Contact the U.S. Department of State Veterans Employment Program Manager at [email protected].

The U.S. Department of State’s Veterans Innovation Partnership (VIP): This is a public-private alliance platform serving America’s veterans and separating service members by preparing them for diplomacy and development careers through a one-year fellowship experience. For more information, visit www.vipfellowship.org.

All Federal Jobs: All federal jobs are posted on USAJOBS and linked here. You might be surprised by how easily it is to search quickly for job postings. 


Verdun Battle Country: A WWI Monument and Museum

Contributed by: Tilly Gaillard (DA-VMF, France)

 As part of the centenary travels of the Unknown Soldiers, this past November, a delegation of tomb guards from Arlington Virginia visited the Meuse Argonne cemetery, the biggest American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in Europe. There are over 14,200 tombs. The diversity of men who fought there can be deduced from the names on the crosses; Arny, Fishfanger, Schiavo, Cohen, Moore, Brazaitys, Garrison, Newton, Thomas …. They all died in late 1918, so very close to the end of the War. Most died in the Meuse Argonne Offensive between Sept. 26 and Nov. 11, 1918. 

A good example of French-American cooperation comes from the Meuse-Argonne cemetery where two brothers, Salter and Coleman Clark wore both uniforms; American (Salter) and the French (Coleman). In 1916, before the U.S. was in the War, Colemen joined an Artillery Regiment of the French Foreign Legion and was in Verdun while Salter enlisted in the US army in 1917. Coleman died of wounds, Salter died near Grand Pré. Interestingly, not far away from Meuse-Argonne, there is a German cemetery that even includes graves of Germans of Jewish origin. 

The unique Douaumant Ossuary of Verdun, Meuse contains the bones of 130,000 unknown soldiers. The Battle of Verdun in 1916, lasted 300 days and nights,  300,000 French and Germans died. The monument is 137 meters tall. Thousands of headstones with names of French and German soldiers missing in battle can be found there. The Ossuary tower, a gift from the U.S.,has a view over the Verdun battlefield.

After this visit, I was given an introduction to the Meuse-Argonne region by Jean-Paul de Vries, a Franco-Dutchman who created the 14 - 18 museum in Romagne-sous-Montfacon (pop. 180) nearby the Meuse Argonne cemetery. Lonely Planet once ranked the museum among the best kept secrets of Europe! 

Jean Paul de Vries is on a lifelong peace mission. He seeks to create awareness of the senseless brutality of war. His message: “Everyone is a human being”. Although he was born in The Netherlands (1969), he has known the Romagne region since age 6 when his parents took him camping. There were huge quantities of relics of the Verdun battle lying around. After decades of searching and snooping, 27 years ago he started building the museum that, in what looks like a combination of a converted barn and a flea market, portrays the daily life of soldiers, all soldiers. Paraphernalia and relics, horseshoes, a woman’s shoe, bullets filled with gunpowder, shell casings, even a cap from a wine bottle, fill the one room from floor to ceiling. There are some 30,000 objects collected from within JP’s radius of 5-6 km. 

Photo by Susan Fitoussi

Jean Paul also runs a Dutch sandwicherie and an 8-guest inn. His building is of stone with walls 50 cm thick and an entrance at one end and an exit at the other. It is so easy to protect that he often receives the visit of VIPs, including senators and ambassadors. When Jean-Paul and his 17-yr old son Vincent explore the fields (over 1000 hours!), they inevitably come back with bags full of shrapnel, ammunition shells (60 million were spent during the 1916 battle of Verdun that lasted 300 days), bayonets, and other leftovers from WWI. This is Verdun country. JP calls himself a “collector of dangerous stuff”. Every year there are still casualties; a man recently lost a hand trying to retrieve red copper from a shell (red copper is worth about 84$ a kilo). Copper in the Romagne area from the thousands of shells still lying around, poisons the soils and prevents crops from growing.

The village of Romagne dates back to Roman times. With its templars and 28 magnetic wells; this area is rife with history. A fortress was built here around 1261. 

Speaking about the construction of houses in the area, JP said that German bunkers are used since “you can count on the foundation until eternity”! But digging around bunkers can be dangerous since metal may be sticking out of concrete.

Germans occupied Romagne long enough to build a power station and a railroad, but they never sacked the town. JP has written a book with photos and descriptions called Les Secrets de Romagne: 14 - 18. The museum was funded by donations, sales, and during COVID, a crowdfunding campaign and a small stipend from the French government. For a short video of the area click here.

Contact information:

www.friendsofromagne14-18.com


POETRY CORNER

Kumquats 

by Isa Kocher (DA-VMF, Turkey)

ice cold

at three a.m., 

Cat’s outside: wants to come in

 

ice cold

on the stoop outside, no moon:

snow flurries

 

ice cold

no flies, no insects this year

no fruit this year either

 

ice cold

my tiny green garden

frozen, turning brown

 

ice cold

my one brave green tree

orange kumquats [no joke]

 

ice cold

the moon goes it alone

too cold, too old to go out

 

ice cold hearts

no vote for votes

to save democracy

Please send poetry submissions for the March issue to: [email protected]


PODCASTS, NEWSLETTERS, & SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS

  • GovExec Today is an amazing collection of links to the nitty gritty of what is going on in various government departments. Here is the link.
  • On the podcast front, I listened to all 7 of the series The Line, about the actions and the trial of Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, who faced charges of murder brought to the attention of superiors by members of his Seal team. The series is intense and addresses literally “Where is the line?” Here's a link.
  • This Land is focused on the constant struggles of Native Americans to hold onto the rights they supposedly have retained and is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation. There are two seasons of programs now. Here's a link.
  • A short daily podcast (under ½ hour) that covers the basics of the day with talented hosts who make it a bit lively: What A Day, produced by Crooked Media. Here's a link.
  • Two weekly podcasts I thoroughly enjoy are Prevail, and Clean Up on Aisle 45. Greg Olear, the host of Prevail, is a writer and an excellent interviewer of very interesting and well informed people. A link On Clean Up, Allison Gill and Andrew Torrez (former federal employee/lawyer) really dig into what is going on with the evil messes left by the “former guy” and highlighting all the new and qualified people being added to the Biden administration. A link
  • Two newsletters worth mentioning: Mary Trump, author of Too Much and Never Enough and The Reckoning, one a bit nauseating about the “former guy” her uncle! and the other is excellent but a heavy lift. MSW Media has a book group series on The Reckoning which is a great way to process it. She has now started a Substack and newsletter called The Good In Us. Here's a link which I am hopeful is going to help us fight back with kindness! 

Listen wherever you get your podcasts. Enjoy!


FILM RECOMMENDATION

Lincoln (2012) directed by Steven Spielberg (Netflix). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream. His dream was his spiritual belief in the U.S. as the union of all the people, governed by all the people together, for the sole sake of all the people.

On the anniversary of the birth of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I rewatched Lincoln. Lincoln’s presidency more than anything else in our history created the U.S.A. I know, and the U.S.A. I love and serve.

From Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The Supreme Court (1819) MCCULLOCH v. MARYLAND. Chief Justice John Marshall: 

"The government of the Union … is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.": " supreme within its sphere of action.… It is the government of all; its powers are delegated by all; it represents all, and acts for all."

From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

In the opening scene Lincoln is sitting in a battlefield among common enlisted soldiers while listening to them intently. The young soldiers recite verbatim for the President his Gettysburg Address, that ‘the government of the people by the people for the people’ should not perish from the earth. It’s that very union of the people, governed by the people, for the people, that is the underlying theme throughout the film. 

Throughout the movie, Lincoln again and again explains how the core of the U.S.  is the union of the people. As the movie proceeds we see how he, or we, cannot reconcile slavery with that union of the people, how slavery contradicts our most essential, central reason to exist.

Lincoln is that story of how the Thirteenth Amendment, the end of slavery and its adoption before the war ended is one of the most crucial stories in our U.S.A. history, that defines the US that we know today. And his ultimate purpose on earth..

The movie “Lincoln” is very much the tenth part of Spielberg’s Star Wars Skywalker Saga - with slavery standing in for the dark side of the Force and the evil empire, and the union of the people governed by the people for the people standing in as the Force that defeats the darkness.

Abraham Lincoln himself is this movie’s Obi Wan/Yoda, and Luke Skywalker. His mind and heart and humanity is his lightsaber. He is the Jedi Master.

There are so many stars and superstars in this movie that there are too many to list here: the acting throughout is unimpeachable. These were the people who were living history as we are today, some painfully aware, most painfully unaware of their living in a defining moment of human history for all time. Spielberg brings his most profound understanding of humanity to every frame.

Lincoln, more than any film I know, shows us what’s at stake and what we need to do in 2022 to honor the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why we too are called to live this union of the people governed by the people for the sake of the people.

Let us hold these words true:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Article 99: This movie is pure magnificence. It's about an old-timer vet who's a farmer nowadays, but has to have a surgical heart procedure, so he goes for the first time to his local VA health clinic. As I'm sure you can imagine, what he's expecting vs. the reality of what he gets is just downright glorious.

Medal of Honor:  Here is a new series on Netflix that looks quite good. Honoring service members whose courage merited the awarding of a Medal of Honor, this docudrama series re-creates their inspiring true stories. Here

12 Military Movies To See in 2022 Here

The Lucky One: For a worthy all-family film (maybe on February 14th?), we recommend the 2012 movie "The Lucky One." It's a romance story about an Iraq War Marine who comes across a photo of a beautiful woman while in combat which in turn gives him hope and courage for the rest of his tour. Upon returning to the U.S., he tries to find her and express gratitude to this mysterious woman, while simultaneously battling PTSD and loneliness. View on HBO Max or rent on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes.


BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The Dawn of Everything. A New History of Humanity. 

By David Graeber & David Wengrow

It isn’t every day you get to read a book that upends everything you know about the last 30 thousand years of humanity. In The Dawn of Everything, Graeber and Wingrow, in scholarly but an easy-to-read page turner, spell out a specific comprehensive new paradigm which replaces virtually all the narratives that we have been told about human society up until now. 

The main concept of the science of anthropology is the idea of “culture,” namely the organized consistent body of knowledge, expectation, strategy, and practice that nurtures a human community that every human learns as a member of society. Human societies are the product of ongoing deliberate conscious and unconscious decisions adapting their lives and altering their behavior to meet their needs. The Dawn of Everything shows just how creative, inventive, adaptive, imaginative, adventurous, sometimes outlandish, but nearly always contemplative, reasoned, consensual social systems can be. 

The last 20,000 years of  human history, political science, anthropology, and sociology has maintained a narrative of human society that, despite my every effort to avoid caricature, can be summed up as H. Sapiens having evolved as a species of Paleolithic Flintstone family-based troops of men hunting to provide for their families. This was suddenly followed by the Neolithic Revolution about 10,000 years ago after the retreat of the Ice Age, which brought forth the modern era of the agricultural, trading, urban division of labor civilization and centralized empire, based on largely male dominated administrations and bureaucracies, characterized by ongoing power struggle, violence, and authoritarian systems of control. 

In fact, The Dawn of Everything, in overwhelming scholarly detail, shows that virtually everything about that narrative has been wrong. Actually, for thousands of years before the Neolithic, humans were managing whole ecologies, organizing themselves into area wide social groups, even urban centers, capable of monumental engineering projects, involving long distance trade systems and complex ideologies, and without central authority and without violence. 

It was nearly 4,000 years after the beginning of the Neolithic period when settled agriculture became standard, and even then agricultural societies and large urban areas often existed without centralized authority and without hierarchies and administrations, and yes violence occurred, but so did wholesale centuries of widespread peace.  

When I was in graduate school in the ‘60 -’70s studying anthropology, the paradigm was the concept of Man the Hunter as the biological driver of the evolution of human intelligence, culture, and technology. In the half century or so since, our knowledge has grown tremendously. This has included: satellite imagery mapping ancient cities, highways, and agricultural centers; DNA of human populations; details of diet; fine details of climate. 

Now it is clear that rather than hunting, it was the extensive knowledge of plant and animal ecology, and the planning, production and use of tools, that drove our need for better brains. It was the need to know and the need to take advantage of systems of social reciprocity, of the technologies of social reciprocity, cooking, weaving, tanning, basketry, trapping, decorative arts, music, rhetoric, dramatic production, engineering, social rituals and the understanding of social requirements in extensive exchange systems in every aspect of life, i.e. culture, that was and is the driving force behind the evolution of the human.

That creativity we have always and everywhere primarily applied to creating our systems of social organization and exchange, everything that could be imagined and a lot that cannot be imagined has been tried. Every kind of family. Every kind of economy. We’ve invented our societies. 

In the millennia both before and after the neolithic, large engineering projects involving precise knowledge of astronomy and other natural phenomena are found all over the planet long before what we know of civilization. There were no armies, no overseers, no violence. Communal organization.

The Americas were crucial in the 17th and 18th centuries in the development of European ideas of society. Not just explorers writings, but extensive transcripts of first nations thinkers were extensively read about, known, discussed. The ideas of the first nations about what society is or should be greatly influenced Hobbs, Locke, Rousseau, William Penn, Jefferson, Franklin, Voltaire. The Jesuit records in North America, Franciscan records in Latin America, travelers and scholars writings were printed, translated, read and well known throughout Europe, but this direct influence on USA, American and European political development has all but been erased from our history. 

Central to this influence was the almost universal existence concept that suasion not force, persuasion, talking, engaging each other led to consensus. That force was only rarely appropriate. That communities made their own decisions 

For example, [not mentioned in Graeber and Wengrow], in Oman there is a 3 millennium system of underground aqueducts designed, engineered, and maintained by local communities to carry water from the mountains down to coastal hamlets and towns. Local community  farmers associations owned and operated these community projects which bring water to those  communities entirely through gravitation hydrology. --- no government, no overseers, no hereditary controllers.

Anthropologist Jane Goodale in Tiwi Wives [not the primatologist Jane Goodall] and Warren Shapiro when I was a graduate student published their studies that proved that it is the senior women who own, direct, decide and manage the economies of the Australian first nations, not the men’s social clubs. 

For most of the last 30,000 years, humans have organized and operated and managed whole ecologies and economies successfully without capital, without captains, without military excursions. Through community consensus. 

Authoritarian police systems have also been contrived here and there, but strictly limited with time and function controls, seasonal and rotating authority… group governing boards, restrictions on ownership and no inheritance of power. 

This review is too short to go into the extraordinary variation in social political constructs humans have devised, but the takeaway is that we are not locked into the narrow choice between anarchy and authority, coercion and chaos. Humans are reasonably caring and creative, and cartels, corporations and fearless leaders with bling on their chests have not served humanity well since colonialism took over. Communal, social, consensual systems are the most common and usually the most effective human social systems. 

To listen to an interview with the authors, go to the following Democracy Now! link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDO28CPAPuM


We welcome your input. What's important to you? What are we missing? 

Any VMF experts you would like us to interview in a live webinar? 

Please use the link below to send us articles, poems, research, and anything else that is VMF-related: 

[email protected]


BRAIN-ZONE

Black History Month Knowledge Quiz

Questions:

1.   Out of 19.3 million military veterans in the U. S., what percent are African American?

2.   In what year did Black History Month begin?

3.   What two birthdays were significant in leading February to be selected for Black History Month?

4.   In what year did the first Black U.S. senator take office?

5.   In what year were the first enslaved Africans brought to the U.S.?

6.   In what year did Congress ban the importation of slaves?

7.   Who was the first African American woman to win a Nobel prize for literature?

        a) Wangari Maathai b) Alice Munro c) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf   d) Tonni Morrison

8.   Who was the first person of African origin to win an Oscar?

        a) Hattie McDaniel b) Sidney Poitier c) Jennifer Hudson  d) Louis Gossett Jr.


Answers:

1. 11.4%

2. The observation of Black History Month dates back to 1915, when Carter G. Woodson, now known as the ‘Father of Black History,’ created an organization called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926, Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February.

3. Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12)

4. The first Black U.S. senator was Hiram Revels, who took office in 1870.

5. In 1619 20 enslaved Africans were brought to the U.S. on a Dutch ship.

6. In 1808

7. D) Tonni Morrison, author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula, etc.

8. A) Hattie McDaniel For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar.

 


EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES

To learn about African American Heroes during Black History Month: 

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/history/topic/african-american-heroes

To learn about the NY Times 1619 Project and African American History:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html


Co-Editors:

Bob Gould (UK, Military Family)
Robin H. Rafaelidys (Greece)

Editorial Staff:

Kee Evans (Guatemala, Military Family)
Tilly Gaillard (France)
Isa Kocher (Turkey, Veteran)
Anthony "Mike" Nitz (Vietnam, Veteran)
Terese Sarno (Germany)

To receive the agenda or minutes from our meetings, contact us by emailing

 [email protected] and be sure to

Connect with us on    fb.png twit.png Insta.svg  LinkedInLogo.jpg

 

"The government of the Union is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people.

In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them,

and for their benefit, supreme within its sphere of action. It is the government of all;

its powers are delegated by all; it represents all, and acts for all." 

-- Chief Justice John Marshall