Photos from the Branson Reunion Posted

Photos from the Branson reunion have been posted on the “Media” page.  For the life of me, I can’t believe I managed to miss snapping a pic of Eddie Young. I know was there.  I saw him right after all the pics were snapped by the photographer (we couldn’t find him before all the pics were snapped).  I photoshopped him into a couple of pics that I know he should have been in using a photo we took of him at the Reno reunion.

I know there were a a bunch of folks snapping pics throughout the reunion.  If any of you can send me copies of your pics or links to where you might have uploaded them online, I’ll include them in the Branson Reunion album.

I scanned a number of pics from Vietnam that some of the guys brought.  I haven’t had a chance yet to go through all of them and get them prettied up.  But, as I get them web-ready, I’ll be posting them in the next day or three.  So, stop back by in a couple of days and you should see a few more collections on the “Media” page.

Reunion Registration Deadline 17 May 2013

To assure we can accurately forecast and pay in advance for the number of banquet meals on Saturday night, and the amount of  h’orderves that will be needed for Friday evening’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, we’ll need to receive your reunion reservations by May 17th.

If you haven’t registered already, To register to attend, you need to do TWO things.  You need to register for a room with the hotel, and you need to send your reunion registration fee(s) to Roger Rock.

  1. CLICK HERE to register online for your room(s) at the Radisson. Or — call the Radisson directly (800) 395-7046, but don’t forget to use our GROUP CODE: 70ENG when making your reservations
  2. Print and complete the reunion registration form, write your check to cover the registration fees for each participant ($75 each), and mail both the registration form and your check to Roger Rock (address on the registration form)

Any and all 70th Engineers from ANY era are welcome to attend.

Register to Attend the 2013 Reunion

Reunion registration forms for the June 7-9-2013 reunion will go out in email this weekend. And, for those who do not have an email address, they’ll also be going out in USPS. The Registration fee for EACH attendee will be $75.  That fee will cover the meet ‘n’ greet on Friday evening, and the banquet meal on Saturday evening.  To get the price down, we’ve opted not to hire a professional photographer and will be taking our own digital photos throughout the event.  We’ll post all the photos out to the website after the reunion for folks to download. Folks who do not have internet connections will be able to order/purchase a CD or DVD of the photos (that will be mailed subsequent to the reunion).

Roger Rock will need to receive your reunion registration form and registration fees by no later than May 17th to be able to confirm meal counts and pre-pay the hotel for those meals per our contract.  That means folks who’ll be attending will need to get their registration fees in the mail by no later than May 10th to ensure Roger receives them in time to reserve the correct number of meals and pay that bill.

The Reunion Registration and Hotel Room Registration are two separate processes.  Please note that you’ll need to make your room reservations directly with the hotel.  You can do that by calling the Radisson Hotel-Branson:  (800) 395-7046.  Don’t forget to use your Group Code: 70ENGR to get our preferred room rates:

  • King/Double – $89 … ~$99.33 after taxes
  • Leisure Suite – $129 … ~$143.97 after taxes
  • Presidential Suite – $169 … ~$188.61 after taxes

Please note that the above room rates apply not just for June 7-9, 2013, but also apply both immediately before and after the event, from June 4th through June 12th.  So … if you’d like to extend your stay and enjoy the surrounding area or a show or two, you’ll be able to do that at more affordable rates than you’d be able to get on your own.

Branson, MO is known as a music haven, and the Radisson Hotel–Branson offers a prime location in the theater district – ideal for guests who want to take in toe-tapping shows. The city also offers a variety of shopping, golf, historic and natural attractions, and is just minutes from Branson Landing and Silver Dollar City Theme Park. Our concierge can help procure tickets to many of the local shows and attractions, and we offer great hotel packages as well.

Guest rooms and suites feature complimentary high-speed, wireless Internet access, 37″ TVs and more. They also offer rooms featuring Sleep Number Beds, allowing you to adjust the firmness of your mattress to your exact level of comfort.

Hotel services/ facilities include a heated indoor/outdoor pool (so bring your swimsuits), wireless Internet access (not just in your room but in public areas as well), whirlpool, sauna, full-service concierge desk, Fitness Center and a Business Center. Plus, the hotel is “pet-friendly.” There is, however, a $30 pet fee assessed for your stay.

Social Security Earnings for Veterans

 

SPECIAL EXTRA EARNINGS FOR MILITARY SERVICE
From the Social Security Web Site www.ssa.gov/retire/military
Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.

Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for your military service from 1957 through 2001 can be credited to your record for Social Security purposes. These extra earnings credits may help you qualify for Social Security or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit. Special extra earnings credits are granted for periods of active duty or active duty for training. Special extra earnings credits are not granted for inactive duty training. If your active military service occurred:

  • From 1957 through 1967, SSA will add the extra credits to your record when you apply for Social Security benefits.
  • From 1968 through 2001, you do not need to do anything to receive these extra credits. The credits were automatically added to your record.
How You Get Credit For Special Extra Earnings 
The information that follows applies only to active duty military service earnings from 1957 through 2001.
Here’s how the special extra earnings are credited on your record:
  • Service in 1957 through 1977—You are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.
  • Service in 1978 through 2001—For every $300 in active duty basic pay, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, and didn’t complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with Social Security for details.
  • Note: Change in special military service credits. In January 2002, Public Law 107-117, the Defense Appropriations Act, stopped the special extra earnings that have been credited to military service personnel. Military service in calendar year 2002 and future years no longer qualifies for these special extra earnings credits.
Please share this with anyone who’s had active duty service prior to January 2002 and planning for retirement. In a nutshell it boils down to this: You qualify for a higher social security payment because of your military service, for active duty any time from 1957 through 2001 (the program was done away with in January 2002). Up to $1,200 per year of earnings credit is credited at time of application – which can make a substantial difference in social security monthly payments upon your retirement.
You must bring your DD-214 to the Social Security Office – and you must ask for this benefit to receive it! Go to this Social Security website: http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/military.htm.
This is something to put in your files for when you apply for Social Security own the road.  It is NOT just for retirees, BUT anyone who has served on active duty prior to January 2002.
FYI – this benefit is not automatic, you must ask for it!

 

Agent Orange Exposure

From my eMail Inbox this morning:

ATTN:  All State Council Presidents

At the Agent Orange & Other Toxic Exposure Cmte meeting and then again at the Govt Affairs Cmte meeting in Silver Spring last week we were presented with extraordinary documents that were once classified and now reveal the federal governments across agency effort to deny any causal relationship between the exposure to Agent Orange (at any level) with veteran illnesses, disabilities, and tragically the impact on the progeny of Vietnam Veterans.

I am forwarding these documents to every State Council President and begging each of you to send these documents to every Vietnam Veteran in your state including all of your chapters, officers, and their families.

If every Vietnam Veteran reads these reports and comes to understand the magnitude of their findings – we can raise our voices once again to Congress, the President, and the VA and Dept of Defense – that we have been systematically and purposefully lied to for decades – and our children have suffered as a result.

We would also like to have this shared with every State Director of Veterans Affairs so that each state is informed and activated.  The medical costs of the disabilities of so many Vietnam Veterans and their progeny are an economic and social impact in every state.  We hope that every State Legislature will take up this cause and pass state resolutions calling for Congress to act.

These documents have been verified and confirmed by others who participated in this work.

We are now on the hunt for additional documents and materials referenced in this report that are essential to our case.

If you have any questions regarding this material, please contact the VVA office and/or Herb Worthington/Chairman of the Agent Orange and Other Toxic Exposures national  cmte for VVA.  He is and will remain the point man on this mission.

We now have DRAFT legislation that we are finalizing that will go to our champions on the Hill.  Once that is ready we will again send this out to every Vietnam Veteran and their families and ask them to immediately contact their members of Congress and insist it be passed and fully implemented.

Ric Davidge, Chairman, Govt Affairs Cmte
907 229 5328

Attachments:

Clifford Hull

In November, as a remembrance for Veteran’s Day, The Augusta Chronicle honored three veterans from Vietnam. One of those Veterans was Clifford Hull who served with the 70th Engineers in 1967-68. Clifford earned a Bronze Star for his service while in Vietnam.

Here’s an excerpt from that article about Clifford:

Clifford Hull:  Sergeant’s experience helped him lead

Clifford Hull had earned his sergeant stripes by the time he deployed into combat for the first time. But he very nearly served in war as a private.

Three of his brothers were fighting in Korea by the time Hull was old enough to enlist in 1952, so he wasn’t deployed there. Instead, Hull was sent to Cold War-era Europe, where he joined a garrison of American troops intent on stopping the Soviets. He finally got his shot at combat in 1967, when he deployed to Vietnam with the 70th Engineer Battalion. His promise to his wife and five kids to return home was not made idly. One of his brothers remains missing in action from Korea.

“Being that long in the military, I knew there was a possibility of not coming back,” Hull said. “But I knew if I paid attention to my training and did my duty I would come back.”

“Doing his duty” brought him home and earned him three Bronze Stars – including one for valor – and three Army Commendation Medals. But it wasn’t without risks.

The enemy knew Hull by name.

“Sgt. Hull,” they called over a public address system somewhere in the dense jungle. Then they addressed his troops, harassing them as they labored over the construction of a long steel runway.
“B Company: You may build it, but we will blow it up.”

It was a hallmark scene of Vietnam. The unseen enemy had spies in every village who knew everything about the U.S. troops, including their leaders’ names. Hull wasn’t fazed by the harassment. He leaned in and told his men in a stage whisper: “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get those” guys.

That was Hull’s first tour, from 1967 to 1968, when he was building combat outposts and sweeping 30 miles of road every day for mines. It was also on his first tour that he earned his first Bronze Star, this one with a “V” device for valor. On Oct. 9, 1967, a radio message was broadcast from a work party under attack about two miles from his position. Hull jumped into a jeep and drove straight to their position, stopping only to alert an armor unit to follow him. He found nine soldiers hugging the ground and out of ammunition in a densely vegetated gully. Hull immediately opened fire with the gun mounted on his jeep, and the enemy responded with a hail of gunfire so fierce that the antenna was stripped off the vehicle.

He matched their attack for a spell, but by the time the armor division arrived, Hull was down to one bullet, his bayonet and a hand grenade.
Nevertheless, “due to the quick reaction, courage and outstanding leadership of Staff Sergeant Hull, no … friendly casualties were sustained,” his commendation reads. For Hull, this was not heroism but duty.

“If I did not go back, it would be on my conscience for the rest of my life,” Hull said. “You had no choice but to go back and help somebody.”
Hull returned home from that tour without a scratch, but the Army wasn’t through with him. After a short stint as a drill sergeant at Fort Gordon, he was to go back to Vietnam, this time as an adviser. “

As We Celebrate Memorial Day

This weekend many of us will join with friends and love ones to honor our brave men and women in uniform.

Since our nation’s founding, many have given their lives in service to our flag and our country.  On Memorial Day we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Having served our nation in a time of war, we join with all Americans in thanking our troops and all other veterans and military families for their service and commitment to our great country.

We wish all a very Happy Memorial Day to you and to your family.  Remember that we wouldn’t be the land of the free if we weren’t the home of the brave.

VVA Seeks President’s Help to Study Dow’s Dioxin Corn Seed

Vietnam Veterans of America Press Release | May 23, 2012 
The following is the text of a letter sent earlier today by John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), to President Barack Obama.

“Your obvious concern and efforts on behalf of the health and well-being of America’s veterans and military families, and the overall health of our nation, are very much appreciated by Vietnam Veterans of America. This is why VVA seeks your immediate assistance in staying the deregulation of Dow Agro science’s much ballyhooed 2,4-D-resistant corn seed until an environmental impact study can be conducted and its subsequent results evaluated by scientists who are not affiliated with Dow Agro science.

“To date, no fewer than seven environmental statutes bear on the registration and deregulation of this crop, bred to withstand high levels of herbicides, including 2,4-D, technically known as a chlorinated phenoxy acid in ester form, which comprised what was commonly called Agent Orange, known for the orange stripe around the 55-gallon drums in which this insidious defoliant was stored and shipped during the Vietnam War.

Although there is a lot that science has learned about the effects of dioxin on the human organism, there is still a lot that science has yet to learn. We do know, for instance, the dioxin builds up in the soft fatty tissue, where it remains for years and can do considerable damage. Now, Dow and Monsanto wish to release genetically modified corn that has increased resistance to 2,4-D. What will this mean to Vietnamvets, who have already been exposed to this chemical through our military service? To our progeny? We believe there has been little serious epidemiological investigation by the VA or the CDC or the NIH into this very real issue. To add insult to potential injury, Dow’s naming of this weed-control method “Enlist” is, unintended or not, a slap at all Vietnamveterans.

 “The USDA did perform an environmental assessment on this seed and concluded that its deregulation would have no “significant” impact on the environment. We disagree. We submitted formal comments regarding this issue in a letter on April 27, 2012, to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Given what we know, we have major concerns about the effects on biodiversity, human health, cumulative environmental impacts, and the security of the world’s food supply.      

“The increased use of 2,4-D could significantly harm the economic interests of farmers who grow broadleaf crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and grapes, which are damaged by 2,4-D. The potential for cross-pollination and destruction of other varieties of corn and other crops has not been seriously addressed in the environmental assessment, although it is a factor in whether or not this corn is a plant pest and can itself be considered a noxious weed because of its impacts on other plant species. Dow has also acknowledged that its ultimate goal for its new variety of corn is to eventually seize the market. Should this come to pass, USDA fails to address how increased use of Dow’s product could then impact human health.

“Democracy and free markets cannot exist without an informed citizenry. We have not been provided with enough information to make intelligent decisions regarding the protection of other plants, human health, and the security of the world’s food supply if Dow’s petition moves forward. USDA’s APHIS program has prepared an environmental assessment that raises more questions than it answers, and raises concerns of significant impacts to the future of our crops, our world food supply, and our natural environment. NEPA and the CEQ require an environmental impact statement be prepared under 40 C.F.R. § 1508. We are not calling for a complete ban of this new product at this time. We are simply not willing to be lied to or withheld information from again. Vietnam veterans were lied to about our exposure to chemicals which claimed many lives long after our troops left Southeast Asia.

“Mr. President, at the time when we honor veterans who have laid the ultimate sacrifice upon the altar of freedom, we ask that you honor the public trust and continue to regulate Dow’s product until the USDA performs a proper environmental impact statement on this major federal action and opens the process to appropriate public involvement.

“We thank you for all you have done for veterans and our families, and for active-duty troops and their families.”
 

Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veteran’s service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

Accessing VA & DoD Information is Getting Easier

May 21, 2012 by Rob Reynolds

It’s great to see how access is changing since the end of my service with the 82ndAirborne Division and U.S. Army Special Forces when a parachute accident ended my military career. Ever since then, I’ve had to learn how to navigate VA. While I now work for VA, I’m still just like many of you. When I got out of the service, I didn’t have a clue about VA or how to navigate the system. Anyone who has ever served in the military knows a bit about the concept of “hurry up and wait.” My experience as a service-connected disabled Veteran trying to access benefits was no different. But I’m here to tell you, I believe VA is changing and while it is not perfect, we’re stepping up to give you the service and support that you have earned and deserve.

For years now I’ve listened to my fellow Veterans, service members and their families talk about VA and ask, “Why can’t the process be easier and less cumbersome?” or, “When is VA going to modernize and improve customer service?” People want better, easier and faster access to services and benefits.  Yet as much as I’ve heard some people complain, I’ve also met a ton of folks who still don’t know anything about VA and the benefits they are entitled to. There are more than 22 million Veterans in the US and yet only 8 million currently use VA in some form. We know that 73 percent of Veterans who do use VA want to connect via online, but many still don’t know about what online resources the VA offers.

VA has been working hard as part of our Veterans Relationship Management (VRM) initiative to fundamentally transform your access to VA benefits and services.  A big part of this effort is the eBenefits web portal.  eBenefits is a joint VA & DoD initiative that gives Veterans, service members and their family members free, 24/7 access to more than 41 VA & DoD-related self-service features, with more coming each quarter. eBenefits is the single online source for lifelong access to VA & DoD benefits information. More than 1.4 million users are now registered on eBenefits, but we need to ensure all of our fellow veterans are registered.

Now I realize eBenefits is not perfect, but I also know firsthand that the access and capabilities now being provided didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. There are also a lot of dedicated folks working hard every day many that are also fellow Veterans and Disabled Veterans to try and give us what we need and have been asking for.

I know the biggest complaint we still get is about how hard it is to find out about the status of your claims. You should know that nine thousand people are checking their claims status every month on eBenefits. Are you one of them? Do you know that with eBenefits you can submit your benefits claim electronically, monitor VA benefits payments, view scheduled VA appointments, get a civil service preference letter for federal hiring and much more?

I know that many Vets and transitioning service members are looking for jobs and soon you’ll be able to search for jobs within the VA, receive employment counseling, and apply for VA Compensation Benefits using a wizard style tool. We’ve also just launched a new feature to streamline the eBenefits registration process and make verifying your identity easier.  You can now obtain your premium account all on-line using the registration wizard, which means you no longer have to visit a VA Regional Office or call the 1-800 number that is hard to get through and why I like the on-line ability with additional features getting delivered every quarter.  We’re constantly listening to your feedback to improve the site and give you more of what you want and need.

Now yes, I work for VA, but this isn’t just about doing my job. For those that know me, I live it every day. I want to make sure you don’t have to go through the same things I did all those years ago.  eBenefits is the easier way to connect with VA & DoD, and once you register, you have an account for life.  Go to the eBenefits home page, check it out and register for your free, personalized eBenefits account today. I’m registered and I hope you will take the time to register as well.  I need your help in making sure our fellow comrades are aware, so please pass the word.

Rob Reynolds is service-connected disabled Veteran and the Director of Benefits Assistance Service at the Veterans Benefits Administration.