VMF Sixth Newsletter

Masthead

August

Newsletter

Vol. 1, No. 6

Greetings from the Co-Editor

Let My People Vote

Hello All Members and Friends,

As your newest Read, White, and Blue co-editor let me introduce myself and then dive, briefly, into what – despite all other news – I think is MOST serious. I was born in the 1950's in Madison, WI a middle-class town, in a middle-class world. I walked to school and had weekly $5 piano lessons. I went to Michigan State University and married at age 21. I have NO idea who, or where I'd be now if that man hadn't walked out of my life one day 3 years later. There I was at 24 with the rug pulled out from under me and I re-calibrated. As you can imagine I have stories for days but I will skip ahead to what matters: YOU.

In the 2018 election my vote – mailed from Greece to Milwaukee – was returned months later. With the “former guy” destroying democracy right and left I sought out support and found Democrats Abroad. However you got here, wherever you are WELCOME! And thank you. I deeply believe every grain of energy and intention contributed to fighting back at those attempting to damage democracy makes a difference.
And the most serious issue today – amidst all the challenges at present? The VOTE. Without it we are literally powerless. With the vote we are successful only in great numbers. If we can't amass those numbers because of disenfranchisement, harassment, challenging regulations, redistricting and state legislatures that get the authority to throw out results ----- we are defeated. End of story.


There are brave, dedicated serious groups working to fight back in many states. Lawyers for multiple organizations are taking anti-democratic regulations to court. (Even the ex-president MAY face the law – we can only hope.) I want to highlight what Texans and some other “good trouble” (Thank you, John Lewis!) people are doing right now. A brief rundown:


May 31: The Texas Democratic lawmakers walked out of session denying a quorum so no vote could be taken on the voting restrictions bill.

July 8: Texas legislators were called back for a special session.

July 12: 51 Democratic Texas legislators left Texas and went to DC, again stalling the Texas legislature from passing a major voter restriction bill.

July 15: Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio lead a group of women in a peaceful protest in the Hart Senate building (DC). They sang protest songs and chanted: Free the vote! End the filibuster! Fight for justice! They were arrested (in under one hour!).

July 19: Over 400 people assembled in Austin, TX for a LET MY PEOPLE VOTE rally held by Texas Impact, an interfaith organization.

Planned for July 27- 31: a “Selma to Montgomery'' march for voting rights. Marchers will walk from Georgetown, TX to Austin (27 miles) to demand that Texas legislators listen! It will be led by The Poor People's Campaign (founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and led now by Reverends William Barber II and Liz Theoharis), Powered by People (founded by Beto O'Rourke) and more civil rights/voting rights organizations.

This IS what democracy looks like. I know this letter will come out when these things have all happened. But that does not mean they are over or done. I urge all of you to support any voting rights efforts you can in your home state or with any group you feel connected to. Various groups like Indivisible are planning events in every congressional district during the August recess period. If you have been active all along, good for you! If not, this is a great time to start! This debate is not yet decided. Congress does not go on recess for a couple weeks yet. If I had my say, they don't deserve vacation till they've done their job and defended all Americans' rights to vote.

Be well,

            Democratically yours, Robin H Rafaelidys (DA Greece)

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AUGUST EVENTS

Antiterrorism Awareness Month

International Peace Month

August 1 - Air Force Day: The Army Air Force was established on this day in 1907 as a part of the Army Signal Corps, but American aviation had a long way to go. The Air Force as we know it was established in the National Security Act of 1947. Click here and here for more history.

August 4 - Coast Guard Birthday: On this date in 1790 Alexander Hamilton created the Revenue Marine by committing treasury funds for 10 cutters. Initially designed to help the nation enforce tariffs, the Coast Guard has become much more, protecting our shores from smugglers and terrorists and being the supreme “rescue at sea” force. For more history and info, Click here.

August 7 - Purple Heart Day: National Purple Heart Day honors the men and women who have been wounded or killed in military service. Initiated in 1782, over 1.8 million service members have been awarded the Purple Heart. Click here for more.

August 8 - Victory over Japan (VJ) Day (1945): On August 15, 1945, 9 days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and 6 days after Nagasaki, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito urged his people to accept a surrender to the Allies in a radio address, saying: “Should we continue to fight it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation but would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization.” The peace treaty was signed on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 which has also been VJ Day. Now it is celebrated each year on the second Monday of August. Click here and here for more information.

August 10 - U.S. Department of Defense Birthday: The Dept. of Defense (DOD) was established on this day in 1949. The War Department, created by Congress in 1789, was dissolved into three branches (Army, Navy, and Air Force) in the National Security Act of 1947 but was reunited (not without dissent) into the DOD two years later. Now the DOD is the nation's largest employer with 3.5 million employees, the Pentagon is the largest building with 17.5 miles of corridors, and the military gets the largest part of the discretionary spending in the annual budget. Click here and here for more information.

August 10 - Agent Orange Awareness Day: Agent Orange was a highly toxic herbicide sprayed in Vietnam from planes (as early as 1961) and even by truck and backpack sprayer in an effort to destroy vegetation and therefore make the “enemy” more visible. Agent Orange contains significant amounts of dioxins which are highly toxic poisons that cause enormous human health problems. This day recognizes the continuing health issues many Vietnam veterans still struggle with. For more Click here and check out this highly rated veterans organization here.

August 14 - Navajo Code Talkers Day: This day was established nationally by former President Reagan in 1982 and designated as a state holiday in Arizona in 2020 by Gov. Ducey. Over 400 Navajo Code Talkers served with the Marines in the Pacific theatre from 1942 to 1945. Not only was their code never broken it was decipherable within seconds of transmission (not hours like other encryptions) making it secure and swift. For more click here, here, and here.

August 16 - National Airborne Day: This day recognizes the brave paratroopers of the Army. President George W. Bush proclaimed this day of recognition in 2002. First formed in 1940, they participated in numerous WWII battles. The last airborne operation, Operation Northern Delay in Iraq, happened in 2003. For more click here.

August 29 - Marine Corps Reserve Birthday: Created on this date in 1916 when former President Woodrow Wilson signed the Naval Appropriations Act, the Marine Corps Reserve has integrated seamlessly with the Marine Corps at all times of need, being a vital force on land, sea and in the air. In WWII the Marines Corps expanded from 15,000 regular duty troops to 485,000. Today the Marine Corps Reserve continues to be, “Ready, Relevant and Responsible.” For more click here.

UPCOMING GLOBAL VMF CAUCUS MEETINGS

The Global VMF Caucus Steering Committee meets every second week. All Democrats Abroad members are welcome to attend. The next two VMF meetings will be Sunday, August 8 as per Rotation B and Sunday, August 29 as per Rotation A.

Here is the login info for the Zoom Meetings:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89614594834


NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Formation of the Democrats Abroad Veteran Deportation and Naturalization Task Force: Democrats Abroad has a new task force that is in formation, and it is recruiting members right now! The committee will be focused on advocacy on issues like veteran deportation and repatriation, naturalization access for veterans and military families, and passing legislation that would achieve these goals. Contact us at [email protected] if you are interested in joining this committee and we will connect you with the formation group!

Creation of a January 6 Select Committee: On June 30th, the House voted to create a January 6 Select Committee. The purpose of the committee is to investigate the assault on the capitol on the day of the certification of the electoral vote count for President. The vote was 222 - 190 with only 2 Republicans voting with the Democrats. The choice to create the select committee followed the failure of a bipartisan national commission in the Senate. It will be headed by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who is also the chair of the Homeland Security Committee. They are expected to hold their first hearing on July 27 which will include testimony from U.S. Capitol Police Officers. The commission has become a point of contention between the parties after House Minority Leader McCarthy pulled all five of his appointments to the commission following Speaker of the House Pelosi’s veto of the selection of Trump allies Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN-3) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4). In Speaker Pelosi’s words,  “the unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.” Over 560 people have now been charged with a variety of crimes for their participation in the riot. For more information, click here, here, and here.

H.R. 2441, the “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act,” becomes law: President Biden signed H.R. 2441 into law on June 30th. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish and maintain three new centers for mental health care for veterans in rural areas and requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study and report on whether the VA has the resources necessary to serve rural veterans’ mental health needs that are more intensive than traditional outpatient therapy. For more detailed information, click here.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) is Progressing on Legacy Appeals: Despite its initial goal to resolve all legacy appeals by 2022, the VA still has about 135,000 cases to clear. That is a significant reduction from 2017, however, when the legacy caseload was over 470,000 cases. For more information, click here.

Senate Resolution Aims to Repeal Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq: A hearing was held by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on July 12 concerning Senate Joint Resolution 10. The bipartisan resolution currently has 26 co-sponsors in the Senate. For more information, click here.

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry: The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to assist veterans in documenting potential exposure and resultant health complications. Service members and veterans who were deployed in the Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990, or who were stationed in Afghanistan or Djibouti on or after September 11, 2001, are eligible to sign up for the registry. This includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Waters of the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea. For more information and to participate, click here and here.

Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona’s latest round of voting restrictions after they had been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act by a federal appeals court. The ruling is expected to significantly impact the burden of proof legal teams must meet to show that voting laws are designed to make it harder for minorities to exercise their right to vote. For more information, click here.

Dueling Infrastructure Visions and Legislation in the Senate: A bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican Senators have agreed on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan over the course of June and July. The plan currently has enough support to overcome a filibuster, but there are major complications. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that the House will not vote on the bipartisan bill if it does not come to the House with another planned $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that would be passed with only Democratic votes. Some Republican Senators have threatened to withdraw support for the bipartisan bill if a reconciliation bill is also considered, and Democratic Senators have fought over the final $3.5 trillion budget for the reconciliation bill. The reconciliation bill would include major Democratic policy goals such as funding to combat climate change, support for the caregiver economy, and potential reversals of the Republican Party’s 2017 corporate tax cuts. On July 21, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer scheduled a procedural vote designed to push the bipartisan group of Senators to complete their negotiations that failed to defeat a filibuster (49-51 with Senator Schumer joining the nays). For more information, click here and here.


ADVOCACY FOR VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES

Were You Denied Veterans’ Benefits Related to a Same-Sex Marriage?:

Many Veterans can Apply for a Discharge Upgrade for Improved Benefits:

  • All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if your discharge was connected to these categories:
    • Mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
    • Sexual assault or harassment during military service (otherwise known as military sexual trauma or MST)
    • Sexual orientation (including under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)
  • Why is this important? A discharge upgrade could affect what veterans benefits you qualify for, if any at all. For instance, an upgrade from an Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge to a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions would give a veteran eligibility for all veterans benefits except the Post-9/11 GI Bill. For more information on discharge types and how they affect your benefits, click here.
  • How do I upgrade my discharge? For more information on how to upgrade your discharge, click here.

We Help Veterans and Military Families Transition to Civilian Life:

  • VA Welcome Kit—updated June 8, 2021 Click here
  • Need a whole year off, a gap year, between the military and civilian life? Click here
  • Veterans Transition Survival Guide: To get your free copy, click here

We Support the Hiring of Veterans:

  • S. Rep. Andy Kim (D, NJ-3) is hiring a New Jersey-based Wounded Warrior fellow, a two-year paid fellowship that is open to honorably discharged veterans released from active duty within the past 5 years who have a 20% or more service-connected disability. Do you know a veteran who would be a good fit? Click here to apply.
  • Job boards and resources for vets:
  • If you know of any veteran employment opportunities or resources, let us know.

We Want To Ensure All Overseas Veterans Have Access To The COVID-19 Vaccine: 

  • The Dept. of Defense (DoD) is delivering vaccines to more than 340 sites around the globe in an effort to vaccinate all eligible DoD beneficiaries. To find out when you can get the vaccine, contact your local U.S. military hospital or clinic here. If your local U.S. military hospital or clinic can’t schedule an appointment for you now, leave your name and contact information and request to be contacted when a vaccine is available for you. Continue to follow your military hospital or clinic's website, news media, or social media to stay informed about vaccine availability and updates.  
  • Walk-in Appointments at the VA: Veterans and spouses can now get walk-in appointments for coronavirus vaccines at VA medical centers. Nearly 3 million veterans and federal workers have received vaccines via the VA in the last five months. For more, click here.
  • Reimbursement through the Foreign Medical Program: Veterans who are living or traveling outside of the United States can receive reimbursement from the VA for their COVID-19 vaccine through the Foreign Medical Program. For more information, click here.
  • Scheduling through the Defense Health Agency Appointing Portal: You can schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination at your local military treatment facility through the Defense Health Agency’s specialized appointing portal here. Note that you will need a DOD-issued ID card to access military treatment facilities.

We Specialize In Helping Veterans and Military Families Vote:

  • Americans living overseas need to request their ballot every year by sending in a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). We recommend that you send in your FPCA as early as possible each year. You will automatically be registered to receive absentee ballots for federal elections in that calendar year as mandated by federal law, and ballots must be sent to you at least 45 days in advance of the election when you register with the FPCA.
  • You can fill out a physical FPCA and mail it, or we recommend you use Vote From Abroad because you can fill out and send your ballot request online and the website comes equipped with many useful resources for voters like information on when elections are taking place, what positions are up for election, and the rules for voting absentee in your state. It’s quick, reliable, and eco-friendly!
  • Deadlines: All states have different deadlines for registration, and ballot return methods can vary from state to state. Make sure to check our State Voting Guide to get all those details correct!

We Assist Veterans and Military Family Members With Voter Registration and GOTV:

  • We welcome volunteers of all stripes--- Get Out The Vote (GOTV)! You can help right away by joining our Phone Banking Team. Our Phone Bankers have been crucial to getting out the vote during the COVID Era and continue to be important as we continue our voter protection advocacy.
  • Democrats Abroad will also be continuing its Global Voting Assistance Program, with certification trainings happening in the fall as well.
  • If you want to help with voter registration on military bases, we are working on a global military GOTV plan. We will have trainings, resources, kits, and recommendations; keep an eye out for them in the fall!
  • Remember, we want YOU to help others get out the vote!

UPCOMING ELECTIONS

Excellent Resources for Election Dates and Information, Click here

Florida’s 20th Congressional District Special Election

Important Details: Primary November 2, 2021, general election January 11, 2022

Registration Deadline: 4 Oct. (Primary)

Online Registration: Yes                 Same-day Registration: No

Early Voting Period: 23 - 30 Oct.

Absentee Ballot Request (Primary): 23 Oct. @ 5 PM EST (received)

Ballot Return Deadline: 2 Nov. @ 7 PM (received if voting from within the U.S., postmarked if voting from outside the U.S., received if voting by fax from outside the U.S.), 12 Nov.  (received if voting from outside the U.S.)

Ohio’s 11th and 15th Congressional Districts Special Elections August 3

Important Details: Primaries are August 3, General Election is Nov. 2

Registration Deadline: July 6 (primary) & Oct. 4 (general)

Online registration: Yes                Same-day registration: No

Early voting starts: Oct. 5

Primary Absentee Voting Deadlines: Aug. 2 (postmarked), Aug. 3 (received if delivered by courier), Aug. 12 (received if delivered by USPS).

Absentee Voting Deadline: Nov. 1 (postmarked) & Nov. 12 (received)

Voter ID: Non-photo ID

Polling place hours: 6:30 am to 7:30 pm

California Gubernatorial Recall Election

Important Details: On September 14, 2021, all California registered voters, including military and overseas voters, are eligible to vote in the election to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.
There will be two questions on the ballot: 
1) Should Governor Newsom be recalled? Yes or No 
2) In the event Gov Newsom is recalled, who do you choose to succeed him as governor?
You must choose from the list of candidates on the ballot and Governor Newsom is not an option.
 **Whether or not you vote to recall Governor Newsom, you should also vote for who you'd want to replace him in the event the recall is successful.**
Online Registration: Yes -- You can register to vote using the California Online Voter registration system (www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration) or go to Vote From Abroad.
Same-Day Registration: Conditional -- only available if you vote in person in California.
Military & Overseas Ballots: Must be transmitted to voters by July 31 to all registered military and overseas voters. If you register to vote after July 31, you should receive your ballot within a few days after your registration form is received. Be sure to check your spam folder and secondary inboxes.
Registration Deadline: August 30. May register by fax, mail (postmark by August 30), or online (requires California State ID).
 
If you don't receive your ballot, contact your Local Election Official (you can find the contact information at www.votefromabroad.org/states/ca) or the Voter Helpdesk at VotefromAbroad.org at [email protected].
Ballot Return Deadline: May return ballot by fax (Sept. 14 at 8 PM California time) or by mail (postmarked by Sept. 14 and received by Sept. 21).

New Jersey General Election

Important Details: New Jersey will hold regularly scheduled elections for Governor, its General Assembly, and its State Senate on Nov 2.

Registration deadline: Oct 3 (ballot sent by mail) or Oct 12 (ballot sent by email/fax). 

Ballot request deadline: Oct 3 (ballot sent by mail) or Oct 29 (ballot sent by email/fax).

Online registration: Yes                  Same-day registration: No

Absentee voting deadline: Nov 2 by 8:00 pm 

Virginia General Election

Important Details: Virginia will hold regularly scheduled elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and its General Assembly on Nov 2.

Registration deadline: Oct 12 (overseas citizens) or Nov 2 (uniformed services and eligible family members).

Ballot request deadline: Oct 22

Online registration: Yes                  Same-day registration: No

Absentee voting deadline: Nov 2 (postmarked) & Nov 5 (received)


WHAT’S CONGRESS UP TO?

Major Legislation Updates (as of July 22):

  • The House Committee on Natural Resources held a second hearing on June 16 on the dueling House bills for Puerto Rico statehood, H.R. 1522 and H.R. 2070.
  • H.R. 983, the “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act”, passed in the House on June 22.
  • S. 1095, the “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act”, passed in the Senate on June 24.
  • H.R. 239, the “Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act”, passed in the House on June 24.
  • H.R. 3385, the “HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act”, passed in the House on June 29.
  • H.R. 2441, the “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act”, passed in the Senate on June 24 and was signed into law by President Biden on June 30.
  • H.R. 3985, the “Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act”, passed in the House (407 - 16) on July 22.

Voting and Statehood Legislation

H.R. 51: The “Washington, D.C. Admission Act” would admit the city of Washington, D.C. into the union as the 51st state and redefine the “Capitol” to a selection of streets and federal buildings where Government business is conducted. Status: Passed in the House on April 22 and received by the Senate.

H.R. 1522 / S. 780: The “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act” would provide for the admission of Puerto Rico as a state following the 2020 statehood referendum where 52.5% of Puerto Rican voters voted for statehood. Status: The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 1522 on June 16. S. 780 was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 16.

H.R. 2070: The “Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act” would direct the Puerto Rican legislature to hold a status convention that would determine a selection of choices for Puerto Rico’s political status (statehood, continue to be a territory, independence, etc) and hold another referendum with the full slate of choices. Ranked choice voting would be authorized for this referendum. Status: Referred to the House Rules Committee on March 18. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on June 16.

H.R. 2358: The “Voter Empowerment Act” takes a comprehensive approach to closing the gaps in voting access and ensuring that every American can participate in the electoral process. Specifically, it would ensure ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military or overseas. Status: Referred to six House Committees on April 5.

H.R. 3646: The “Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act” would direct the President’s team to develop and implement a plan to provide end-to-end electronic voting services for absent uniformed services voters who are deployed or mobilized to locations with limited postal services. Status: Referred to the House Committee on House Administration on May 28.

Veteran Deportation and Military Family Naturalization Legislation

H.R.163: The “Protect Patriot Spouses Act” includes new language to allow eligible veteran spouses who have been removed from or have left the United States to apply for an immigrant visa and return home. Status: Referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship on March 4.

H.R. 1182: The “Veteran Deportation Prevention and Reform Act” would:  

1) require the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to maintain data on potentially removable noncitizen veterans. The Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary would be directed to establish an annual training program for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel on handling noncitizen veterans;

2) direct DHS to establish a Military Family Immigration Advisory Committee that would make recommendations on whether an individual should be granted a stay of removal, deferred action, or parole, or should be removed from the country;

3) provide a streamlined pathway to citizenship for spouses and children of members of the Armed Services through a joint DoD/DHS program; and

4) require DHS to establish a program and application procedure that allows eligible veterans to be admitted as noncitizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. It also directs the Attorney General to reopen removal proceedings concerning any non-citizen veterans and, where appropriate, rescind any orders of removal already issued. 

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services (February 18) and the House Subcommittees on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (March 22) and on Immigration and Citizenship (April 28).

S. 2261: The “Healthcare Opportunities for Patriots in Exile (HOPE) Act” would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow certain non-citizen veterans to be paroled into the United States to receive health care furnished by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

S. 2265: The “Veterans Visa and Protection Act” would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a veterans visa program to permit veterans who have been removed from the United States to return as immigrants. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

S. 2268: The “Immigrant Veterans Eligibility Tracking System (I-VETS) Act” would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify each non-citizen service member or veteran when they apply for an immigration benefit or are placed in an immigration enforcement proceeding. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 24 June.

Criminal Justice Reform

H.R. 983: The “Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act” would establish a new criminal offense for knowingly scheming to defraud an individual of veterans’ benefits. Status: Passed in the House (416 - 5) on June 22. Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on June 23.

H.R. 1491: The “Fair Debt Collection for Servicemembers Act” would prohibit debt collectors (credit card companies, payday lenders, etc.) from telling service members that failure to cooperate with them will result in a reduction of rank, a revocation of security clearance, or military prosecution. Status: Passed in the House on April 20. Referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on April 22.

​​S.1520​​​: The “Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act”​ is a bill to reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military. Status: Referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 29.

Special Immigrant Visa Legislation

​​H.R. 2838​​​​: The “Syrian Partner Protection Act” would provide special immigrant status for Syrian Kurds and other Syrians who partnered with the United States Government in Syria. These individuals include interpreters and others. This program would be similar to the Special Immigrant Visa program that was created for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.​ Status: Referred to House Committees on the Judiciary and on Foreign Affairs on April 26.

H.R. 3385: The “HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act” would waive the requirement for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to complete a medical examination for eligibility in an effort to streamline the process ahead of the planned exit from Afghanistan by September 11th. Status: Passed in the House on June 29. Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on July 12.

H.R. 3985: The “Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act” would amend the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 to expedite the special immigrant visa process for certain applicants from Afghanistan. Status: Passed in the House (407 - 16) on July 22. Received in the Senate.

VA and Veterans Health Care Legislation

H.R. 234: The “Korean American VALOR Act” amends existing laws to treat those members of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces who served as allies to the U.S. in the Vietnam War as veterans of the United States Armed Forces for the purpose of granting them access to healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Status: Pending a vote by the House of Representatives since May 4.

H.R. 239: The “Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act” would prohibit the Dept. of Veterans Affairs from requiring veterans to pay for contraceptives that are required to be covered by health insurance plans without a cost-sharing requirement. Status: Passed in the House (245 - 181) on June 24. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on July 12.

H.R. 475: The “Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act” is legislation that would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ TRICARE until they are 26, mirroring the current provision in private civilian healthcare policies. By extending the policy for young adults in military families, we can relieve the financial burdens brought on by healthcare and ensure they receive quality insurance while they transition into adult life. Status: Referred to the House Armed Services Committee on January 25.

H.R. 958: The “Protecting Moms Who Served Act” would improve maternal health care for veterans and aims to eliminate maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities among veterans. Status: Passed in the House on May 12. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on May 13.

H.R. 1123: The “Veteran Suicide Prevention Act” would require the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to complete a review of veteran suicides during the 5 year period prior to the enactment of the bill. The report will be made publicly available. Status: Referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health on March 22.

S. 771/ H.R. 1948: The “VA Employee Fairness Act” would ensure that the VA’s Title 38 healthcare professionals—including nurses, physicians, dentists, and physician assistants who serve our veterans— have the same workplace rights currently granted to other VA clinicians and federal employees. Status: H.R. 1948 is pending a vote by the House of Representatives since May 4. S. 771 was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on March 16.

H.R. 2441: The “Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act” would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to assess mental health resources available to veterans who live in rural areas and would expand a program designed to serve them. Status: Passed in the House on May 18. Passed in the Senate on June 24. Signed into law by President Biden on June 30.

H.R. 2775: The “VA Quality Health Care Accountability and Transparency Act” would require the VA to make data on patient wait times, effectiveness of care, staffing and vacancy information, and other elements publicly available on a specified VA website. The VA will be responsible for self-auditing the accuracy and completeness of the data presented. Status: Referred to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health on 14 July. A hearing on this bill was held on July 14.

H.R. 3452: The “Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act” would expand the definition of preventive health services and eliminate veterans’ copayments for medication, hospital care, and medical services provided related to preventive care. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 20. A hearing on this bill was held on July 14.

VA Benefits for Burn Pit and Other Toxic Exposures

The following 4 bills would streamline the process for obtaining VA benefits for burn pit and other toxic exposures. Under current law, a veteran who has an illness or disability must establish a direct service connection in order to be eligible for VA benefits. Veterans exposed to burn pits face a cumbersome “burden of proof” to provide enough evidence to establish a direct service connection between their health and burn pit exposure. These bills would remove this burden of proof.

  • H. R. 2372, the “Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act” 
  • S. 437, the “Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act”
  • S. 1188, the “SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act”
  • S. 927, the “Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Act”

Other Important Legislation

H.R. 2093: The “Veterans and Family Information Act” is a bipartisan bill that would direct the Department of Veterans' Affairs to make versions of all of its fact sheets available in the ten most commonly spoken languages in our nation, including Tagalog and Spanish, and also require the Department of Veterans' Affairs to establish a website that provides links to all fact sheets of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and National Cemetery Administration. Status: Passed in the House on June 15. Referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on June 16.

S. 1095: The “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act” would amend Title 38 to allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to disapprove courses of education offered by colleges and universities that do not charge veterans the in-State tuition rate for purposes of the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program. Status: Passed unanimously in the Senate on June 24. Referred to the House on June 28.

S. J. Res. 10: Senate Joint Resolution 10 would repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq. Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 3. A committee hearing was held on July 12.

* * *

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person

or if we wait for some other time.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

We are the change that we seek." 

Barack Obama, February 5, 2008


THE VMF SPOTLIGHT

The Revered Buffalo Soldiers (1866 – 1951)
by Robert Scott, DA Germany

In 1866 The US Congress authorized the Army to create six all Black regiments, two regiments of Black cavalry and four regiments of Black infantry. The regiments of Black Cavalry became the 9th and 10th Colored Cavalry. The four regiments of Infantry were reduced to two, the 24th and 25th Colored Infantry. These four units were to eventually become known as “The Buffalo Soldiers.” No one knows for certain where the name Buffalo Soldier came from but there are two basic theories. One is that the nickname came about because of the soldiers’ dark curly hair resembling the fur on a buffalo so Cheyenne warriors in the winter of 1877 first used the term to refer to Black soldiers. A second theory is that the soldiers fought so valiantly and fiercely that the Native Americans revered them as they did the mighty buffalo. Whatever the reason, the name stuck, and all African American regiments formed in 1866 became known as Buffalo Soldiers. Congress authorized that the military forces were to have a strength of 25,000 men and the Black troops were to make up 10% of that force.

The 9th Cavalry Regiment was formed in New Orleans, Louisiana in August 1866 and after spending the winter organizing and training, they were ordered to deploy to San Antonio, Texas in April 1867. All of the enlisted soldiers in the unit were Black but all of the officers were White and the first commander was Colonel Edward Hatch.

The 10th Cavalry Regiment was based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and was commanded by Colonel Benjamin Grierson. The formation of this unit was a little slower because Col. Grierson wanted more educated men in the regiment and because there was a cholera outbreak in the summer of 1867. In August 1867 the 10th Cavalry was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas to protect the Pacific Railroad which was being constructed at the time.

The Buffalo soldier regiments were mainly used on the Western frontier.  All of these regiments participated in dozens of skirmishes and larger battles in the Native American wars as America became more and more involved with westward expansion. In total 23 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor during those wars. Buffalo Soldiers were also used to protect Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks against wildfires and poachers.  National Park Service records show that Buffalo Soldiers while being billeted at the Presidio Army Post in San Francisco in winter, served as park rangers in the Sierra Nevada during the summer months. All four of the Buffalo Soldier Regiments participated in the Spanish-American War. They fought heroically in the Battle of San Juan Hill, the Battle of El Caney and the Battle of Las Guasimas. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments served in the Philippines in the early 1900s.

During WWI the units were mainly used in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona defending the Mexican border. Both cavalry regiments were integrated into the 2nd Cavalry Division in 1940 where they trained for overseas deployment during WWII. In May 1944 the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were deactivated. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 eliminating racial segregation in the armed forces, and the last all Black units were disbanded during the 1950s.

On March 23, 1907 the United States Military Academy Detachment of Cavalry was changed to a “colored” unit. It had been proposed in 1897 at the “Cavalry and Light Artillery School” at Fort Riley, Kansas that West Point cadets learn their riding skills from the Black noncommissioned officers who were considered the best. A 100-man detachment from the 9th and 10th Cavalry served to teach future officers at West Point riding instructions, mounted drill, and tactics until 1947.

The Black soldiers serving in the peacetime army after the Civil War were skilled and willing participants who distinguished themselves as reflected in a letter by Francis Roe, an officer’s wife writing in 1873. “These ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ are active, intelligent, and resolute men; are perfectly willing to fight the Indians, whenever they may be called upon to do so, and appear to me to be rather superior to the average of white men recruited in time of peace.”

The Buffalo Soldiers are a critical part of American Military History, and they should be fully recognized for all of their accomplishments. There are critics who feel that Black men who were recently freed from bondage, should not have been used as resources for forceful expansionist goals against Native Americans and other minorities! The first Black graduate of West Point, Henry O. Flipper (1877), who was also the first Black officer to serve with the Buffalo Soldiers, did not necessarily agree with those sentiments. He willingly pursued a military career!

On September 6, 2005, Mark Matthews, the oldest surviving Buffalo Soldier, died at the age of 111. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The person who is believed to be last known Buffalo Soldier is John B. Williams and he died at age 98, on 2 March 2021.


FILM RECOMMENDATIONS

“Taking Chance” (2009) is an incredible war film without violence starring Kevin Bacon that tells the true story of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl who volunteered to escort the remains of Chance Phelps, a 19-year old Marine killed in Iraq, to ensure that his fallen brother is laid to rest with the proper respect.

12 John Wayne World War II Movies, Ranked John Wayne became a symbol of American manhood and patriotism over his five-decade career in Hollywood. Always most famous for his westerns, Wayne also made a dozen World War II movies in the two decades after the United States entered the conflict in late 1941. Here

Top 10 Military Films of 2020 Here


SUGGESTION BOX

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 send us articles, poems, research, and anything else VMF-related!

 

Email us at: [email protected]

 


POETRY CORNER 

This month’s poetry corner is a reflection on voting rights. Langston Hughes, a famous African American activist and writer, wrote a short play named “The Ballot and Me” in 1956. Click here to watch a reading of the play. Enjoy!

Please send poetry submissions to: [email protected]


VMF COUNTRY CAUCUSES

Country VMF Caucuses are around the world! To start a VMF Caucus in your country, send us an email here and we will help you navigate the process.

To read up on news and events from the DA France VMF Caucus, click here.

To read up on news and events from the DA Germany VMF Caucus, click here.


BRAIN-ZONE

This month’s puzzle is a word scramble! How many words can YOU make from: YABNOTU?

Simple Version: Create any 3 or more letter word; letters may be used more than once.

Harder Version: Words must be 4 or more letters and ALL words must use the Y. Have fun! Click here for a solution guide.


Co-Editors:

Bob Gould (United Kingdom, VMF Global Co-chair, Military Family)
Anthony “Mike” Nitz (Vietnam, VMF Global Secretary, Veteran)
Robin Rafaelidys (Greece, Military Family)

Editorial Staff:

Kathy Davidson (France, Military Family)
Kee Evans (Guatemala, Military Family)
Tilly Gaillard (France)
Terese Sarno

 

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

 [email protected]

Tribute to Navajo Code Talkers, WWII Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park, Window Rock, AZ, Navajo Nation Capital

Tribute to Navajo Code Talkers, WWII

Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park, Window Rock, AZ, Navajo Nation Capital

Photo by Kee Evans, August 08, 2018