Fall 2013 Evets News

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VA Sec. Eric Shinseki shakes hands with World War II Nisei veteran and Congressional Gold Medal recipient Lorry Nakata in Portland following a ceremonial luncheon held to pay tribute to Oregon's Japanese-American veterans.

In This Issue...

Nisei Soldiers Honored

Cam Nesei

PORTLAND – In recognition of the uniquely challenging circumstances faced by Japanese-Americans (Nisei) who fought in World War II, a Congressional Gold Medal was minted two years ago to honor their service and sacrifice. In late August, that medal went on display at the Portland History Museum along with photos and a memorabilia exhibit from Nisei servicemen and families from that era.

A daylong series of events in downtown Portland on Aug. 24, honored and paid tribute to Oregon’s Japanese-American veterans of World War II which coincided with a visit from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.

Many U.S.-born Japanese volunteered from inside the government mandated detention camps. Some were already serving in uniform. They were assigned into three all-Nisei units and served with distinction receiving more than 18,000 individual honors, even as many of their families were confined to detention camps in the American West.

Shinseki, a retired Army four-star general of Japanese descent, addressed a luncheon crowd on the 24th. "We all have a personal responsibility to share their stories and not let it pass with them," he told the assembly. "To the veterans, thank you for your wonderful example of how to live our lives."

The day before the event, Shinseki spoke at a media event where he was asked about the Nisei’s. He spoke about when he was a youngster growing up in the aftermath of World War II.

"In my community these men were the giants that we all talked about. They’d served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service -- a secret unit nobody knew about until the 1970’s when the files were declassified. Most of us had no idea about the terrific work they did," Shinseki said.

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The secretary added that as a Regiment, the 442nd only existed about three and one half years and were a special unit stood up for World War II. They were primarily Americans of Japanese ancestry commanded by Caucasian officers.

"In that period of time, 21 Medals of Honor were awarded for actions in combat. That’s not to say there were only 21 heroes in that unit," he said, "It just goes to say that was the level that they operated at."

Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Cameron Smith also attended and spent time with many of the Nisei veterans. He called the loyalty, determination and courage of Nisei veterans and their families a true testament to them, especially when many fellow Americans doubted their patriotic resolve.

"These men and their families are an inspiration. They fought and served in battle after battle – earning the highest military decorations – all while their families endured unimaginable discrimination here at home," Smith said.

Photo Caption Top Right:ODVA Director Cameron Smith talks with World War II veterans and Congressional Gold Medal recipients Kaz Ota (left) and Shig Imai (far right) following a ceremonial luncheon in Portland.  Top Left:VA Sec. Eric Shinseki privately speaks with a group of World War II Nisei veterans in Portland to thank them for the determination and service.

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Director's Message

Cameron Smith, Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs

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Raising A Toast To All Those That Led The Way

In the days leading up to and including Veterans’Day, I will have the privilege to connect with Oregon’s veterans at parades, pancake breakfasts, and ceremonies across the state.

It has been four years since I returned from my third and final deployment to Iraq. My journey began when I walked into a Marine Corps recruiting station on September 10, 2001 – less than 24 hours before this country would be unfathomably altered.

By the time I was in basic training, our nation’s war drums were beating with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. When I reported to my first duty station in San Diego, my unit had deployed the week prior. I threw my personal effects into storage and joined them in Al Anbar, Iraq.

When I raised my right hand to serve, I wanted to be tested and part of something larger than myself. Only now do I fully appreciate the depth of history and tradition I joined. Across all generations of veterans, there is a shared bond whether they served stateside or in places like Iwo Jima or Inchon, Khe Sanh or Kandahar, Normandy or Najaf.

My decision to join the Marines also meant that I had enlisted my family to serve. My wife and parents endured the anxiety of three deployments and held down the home front. They taught me that our military families are the backbone of this nation’s forces. While they do not wear the uniform, there is no question they serve with quiet strength and unwavering support.

Now safely at home with a young family of my own, I am keenly aware that we still have thousands deployed in Afghanistan. As we close out the fight overseas, our veterans begin the fight at home to access healthcare, continue their education, and find work with a mission. The wars will end, but the effort to serve our veterans is just beginning.

Do not underestimate or overlook our returning veterans. They have hard-earned skills and are ready to lead here at home. And for those most impacted by their service, understand their tenacious spirit and resiliency. They deserve nothing less than the best in care, resources, and opportunities – not as a charity, but as an investment.

A robust veterans’ benefits system is essential, but we know our veterans and their families will thrive in Oregon only if we develop, nurture, and sustain a community wide effort. Good intentions are not enough. Together, we must take the sea of goodwill that exists for our veterans and turn it into measurable results.

This Veterans Day, I’ll be raising a toast to the new greatest generation of veterans and all those who led the way for us. Please join me in giving thanks to all veterans and those who are still serving around the world. Let us honor them on this day and recommit to partnering together throughout the year to fulfill the sacred trust of caring for all those who have borne the battle.


Affordable Care Act

Does it affect Veteran health Benefits?

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The new Health Insurance Marketplace opened as part of the Affordable Care Act implementation on October 1. While the Affordable Care Act is designed to provide quality and affordable health insurance to people, Veterans Affairs Health Care also remains a viable option for those who qualify for benefits.

The VA’s health program, the Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA), and the Spina Bifida health care program all meet the minimum essential coverage requirements under the new health care law so veterans do not have to take any additional steps to secure health coverage.

With VA health care programs, there is still no enrollment fee, monthly premium, or deductibles. Many veterans will still have no out-of-pocket costs and can still use Medicare, TRICARE, or private insurance under the VA’s program. Those who remain uninsured, including veterans, will have to pay either a flat fee or a percentage of their taxable income depending on which amount is higher starting in 2014.

Enrolled veterans will also receive an informational letter through the mail from VA discussing the details of their current plan. The letter is being used as another means to inform veterans that there is no need to take any additional steps to obtain health insurance to comply with the health care law coverage standards going into effect in January 2014.

VA medical care is rated as one of the best in the country and veterans may apply for VA health care at any time. Most veterans have no out-of-pocket costs. Some veterans may have to pay small copayments for health care or prescription drugs. Currently there are more than 1,700 locations available to get your care. This means your coverage can go with you if you travel or move.

Veterans may also choose to enroll in the Marketplace options provided by the Affordable Care Act that could lower the cost of their health insurance. Uninsured spouses of veterans who do not have access to VA benefits can also enter the Marketplace to access quality health insurance with eligibility for financial assistance.

The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated health care system serving 8.76 million veterans annually. Nationally, 1.3 million non-elderly veterans do not have health insurance which means one in every 10 of those veterans is uninsured.

For more information about your health benefits, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., or Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (EST).

If you are a veteran and currently don’t qualify for VA health care, Cover Oregon is another option for all state residents. Cover Oregon is a new online marketplace where Oregonians can find and purchase health insurance. For more information please visit their website at www.coveroregon.com

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Oregon Nisei Iwasaki survived racism

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Private Art Iwasaki (far right) poses in front of an all-ranks club at Camp Shelby, Miss. In 1943 with other Nisei soldiers from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team before being shipped out for combat duty in Europe.

The third son of a dairy farmer in Hillsboro, Arthur Iwasaki, was part of a large all-American family. The dairy was founded in 1916 by B.Y. (Billy) Iwasaki along with his three sons George, Ike, and Art. The dairy farm would later become a vegetable farm and by the 1930s the family added bedding plants to their garden vegetable and produce business.

When the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, like many other Oregonians, he was ready to serve

"I knew I had to go and didn’t feel any different about entering," Iwasaki remembers.

In early 1942, the draft board sent Iwasaki "greetings" and shipped him to the Presidio in Monterey, California for induction into the Army. During ‘boot camp" at Fort McClellan Alabama, he recalled, "they didn’t seem to treat me any different."

Yet, the Japanese heritage he and other Nisei soldiers had concerned the Army. So much so that they sent them to Fort Thomas, Kentucky where Iwasaki and other Japanese American soldiers had their draft classification changed from 1A (available for immediate service) to 4C (Non-declarant alien). He and the others would remain at that post for approximately two years.

"We were just another prisoner, except we weren’t guarded. When President Roosevelt toured through the camps we were locked up in the motor pool and he couldn’t even see our commander-in-chief. That really bothered me, but we didn’t complain," Iwasaki said.

In 1943, the War Department, in dire need of manpower, reversed its policy and sent recruiters to the relocation camps asking for volunteers to form a new Japanese American combat unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT). Volunteers were also accepted from Hawaii where 12,500 men had volunteered.

The Nisei volunteers were combined with Japanese Americans still in the military and were sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for combat training. Private Iwasaki and other Nisei replacements were transferred back to Alabama to complete basic training for a second time.

Some Nisei also were members of the Military Intelligence Service Civil Censorship Detachment (MIS) in the south Pacific. These Nisei servicemen were attached to other military units to provide translation, interpretation and interrogation services. They were instrumental in deciphering and translating an important captured document that described Japanese plans for a counterattack in the central Pacific.

While the 442nd was being formed and trained, the 1,432 men of the Nisei’s 100th Battalion had entered combat in Italy on Sept. 26, 1943. Their battalion’s officers were Caucasian.

With their combat training now complete, Iwasaki and hundreds of Nisei soldiers assigned to the 100th Battalion were deployed to Europe in August 1944. They landed in Naples, Italy where they joined the newly formed 442nd RCT. Iwasaki was assigned as a radio operator with the 3rd Battalion Headquarters, I Company.

Transported to Marseille, France, the regiment was directed to Epinal, France to join with the 7th Army’s 36th Division. Ordered to capture the town of Bruyeres, the 442nd fought a bitter house-to-house battle and captured more than 200 German soldiers.

Fighting in the Italian campaign bloodied the battalion as it suffered heavy casualties thus earning the nickname "Purple Heart Battalion."

"I learned quickly how to dig a foxhole and to cover it with branches as German artillery fire was exploding in trees overhead," Iwasaki remembered. "Shrapnel injured anyone below who was exposed."

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The unit’s bloodiest battle occurred during the 442nd’s rescue of the "Lost Battalion." The 1st Battalion of the 36th Division had been given the assignment to clear a ridge deep in the Vosages, but had been cut-off by the Germans. A former Texas National Guard unit, the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, had been unable to advance since Oct. 24.

After the regiment’s other two battalions were unable to break through, the 442nd was ordered to rescue the Texans. On his birthday, Oct. 27, Iwasaki was one of those men who became part of some of the fiercest fighting the 442nd would experience in the war.

"It was suicide for us to do that, and it took us about two weeks," Iwasaki said. "You do a lot of things when bullets are flying about that you just don't think about. But as a unit, we didn't want to be embarrassed. We didn’t want to embarrass our family or our ancestry."

While Iwasaki survived the initial assault, he wasn’t there for the rescue. That same day an artillery burst in a tree and sent shrapnel into his back. On his way to a field hospital with two other GI’s, the jeep hit a land mine and blew it off the road. Iwasaki helped both injured soldiers into a ditch. In one day he had earned two Purple Hearts and was later awarded the Bronze Star for his courageous act.

"I never knew what happened to the driver."

The tenacious fighting went from tree to tree, ridge to ridge and through dense woods shrouded with fog and rain. On Oct. 30, the 442nd broke through the German lines rescuing the Lost Battalion and took many losses after storming up Banzai Hill.

The handful of Nisei who were still able to walk, made contact with the Lost Battalion. After the attack, Companies K, L, and I were down to less than 20 men each out of a compliment of 200 when at full strength. Iwasaki was one of only eight soldiers from I Company who was not killed or wounded.

Iwasaki returned home on Thanksgiving Day of 1945. Yet, the units exemplary service and many decorations did not change the attitudes of the general U.S. population about people of Japanese descent after World War II. Japanese American veterans were welcomed home by signs that read "No Japs Allowed" and "No Japs Wanted." Many of these American veterans were denied service in shops, grocery stores and restaurants, and had their homes and property vandalized.

With the war behind him, Iwasaki returned home and began confronting the hatred and discrimination that Nisei veterans and other Japanese Americans faced that had carried over from the war. It didn’t stop him from returning to work at the family’s farm which would later become Iwasaki Bros., Inc. He co-owned the family business -- one of the largest wholesale only growers of bedding plants in the Northwest -- until his retirement in the 1990s.

At age 93, Iwasaki still attends veteran events in the Portland area.

During World War II the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. Nicknamed the Purple Heart Battalion, unit members were awarded 9,400 Purple Heart Medals, of which more than 700 were awarded for fatal wounds.

Soldiers of the 442nd received more than 18,000 medals. The total included 22 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses (19 upgraded to Medals of Honor), 560 Silver Stars (including 28 oak leaf clusters for second awards), 4,000 Bronze Stars (plus, 1,200 oak leaf clusters).


2013 Veterans Day Events

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Click Here For An Up To Date Statewide Veterans Day Event Guide

Veterans Day discounts and specials can be found online at
www.militarybenefits.info/veterans-day-discounts-sales-deals-free-meals..


IRS Education Tax Credit Changes

There have been recent changes to the tax credits for college expenses that can affect veterans taxes when using their education benefits. The American Opportunity tax credit, which expanded and renamed the already-existing Hope scholarship credit, can now be claimed in tax-years 2009 through 2017 for expenses paid for tuition, certain fees and course materials for higher education. The tax credit can also be claimed for expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education instead of just the first two.

Unlike the other education tax credits, the American opportunity tax credit includes expenses for course-related books, supplies and equipment that are not necessarily paid to the educational institution with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It also differs from the Hope scholarship credit because it allows the credit to be claimed for four years of post-secondary education instead of two.

This tax credit is worth up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Also, 40 percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable. This means veterans can get it even if they owe no taxes.

In general, qualified expenses for the education tax credits for veterans include tuition and required fees for the enrollment or attendance at an eligible post-secondary educational institution. To be creditable, the expenses paid during a taxable year must relate to: (1) an academic period that begins in the same taxable year; or (2) an academic period that begins in the first three months of the following taxable year.

The following expenses do not qualify: room and board, transportation, insurance, medical expenses, student fees unless required as a condition of enrollment or attendance, same expenses paid with tax-free educational assistance, same expenses used for any other tax deduction, credit or educational benefit.

For the American opportunity tax credit, qualified expenses have also been expanded to include expenditures for course materials, as well as tuition and required fees. The term "course materials" means books, supplies and equipment needed for a course of study whether or not the materials are purchased from the educational institution as a condition of enrollment or attendance.

Some or all of these expenses will be recorded on Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement. The veteran should receive a Form 1098-T from the educational institution that they attended. If the veteran does not receive a Form 1098-T, they should contact the educational institution and request the form.

Veterans will also be able to reduce their tax liability by one dollar for each dollar of credit for which they are eligible. If the amount of the American opportunity tax credit for which they’re eligible exceeds their tax liability, the excess will be refunded to them up to the lesser of 40 percent of the credit or $1,000.

With these new tax breaks, it is important for veterans to prepare their taxes wisely and make sure they are accurate. The IRS has an educational tax website that can assist veterans with any questions they may have concerning educational tax breaks at www.irs.gov/Credits-&-Deductions


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Veteran's Family Honored In Bend

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Brad and Helen Andre receive a state flag honoring his father's death from ODVA Director Cameron Smith.

BEND -- Brad Andre is the son of a Vietnam veteran who had been missing in action for nearly 44 years. In April, the news he had been waiting for since childhood arrived.

His dad, Major Howard V. Andre, Jr., had been found.

Major Andre and his crew mate, Major James Sizemore, went missing in action in Xiangjhoang Province, Laos during the Vietnam War following an aerial combat mission in 1968. But, in April, his remains were located and soon identified.

On September 23, the Tennessee native was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC next to Sizemore. Brad Andre and his wife Helen attended the services. However, the night before the graveside ceremony, Brad, his sister Nancy and his son Bradley, a U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen 1st Class, placed their POW-MIA bracelets, bearing Major Andre’s name into the casket.

At the request of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, ODVA Director Cameron Smith presented that state’s flag, a commemorative coin and certificate of honor, plus a personal letter from the governor to Brad Andre on Oct. 12.

"I can’t imagine what it would be like to wait for more than 44 years to learn the fate of a parent who was lost during war time," Smith emotionally said before the presentation. With the Tennessee state flag in hand, Smith then turned, kneeled and presented the flag to the Andre’s.

"On behalf of a grateful state and nation, thank you for your father’s service," Smith said. "May God bless you and your family."

Other than to thank Smith, the state of Tennessee and the Military Officer Association of America for hosting the presentation, Brad and Helen Andre were quiet after the ceremony. "This allows us to have closure in dad’s death. It’s still an emotional time. I’m proud of my dad’s service. I still miss him."

Andre’s red metal bracelet had his dad’s name and rank inscribed on it plus "USAF 7-8-69 LAOS" to honor the date of his death during the war. Brad told the Bend Bulletin newspaper that beforehand he had no intention of ever taking the bracelet off.

"I’d worn that same bracelet for 25 years and I wasn’t going to part with it," he said. "Before the funeral my thoughts were not to take it off, but it was kind of neat to do that and before I knew it I’d placed it in there. Even though it’s just symbolic, it’s closure."

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After the presentation in Bend, an unexpected visitor approached the Andre’s and offered his condolences. Retired U.S. Navy Capt. James Main of Portland then rolled up his sleeve to show the couple his Vietnam MIA bracelet bearing the name of Capt. Ronnie Lindstrom that he had been wearing since 1990.

Tearfully Main said, "Ronnie was a high school classmate and his plane was shot down, also in Laos, on January 2, 1970. After hearing that your dad was found, this gives me hope that my guy (MIA veteran) will be located and brought home."

It was on July 8, 1968, that Majors Andre and Sizemore were killed while on an armed night time reconnaissance mission over Laos when their A-26A Invader crashed. In 1993, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic team investigated an aircraft crash site in Laos and recovered wreckage from an A-26. Twice in 2010, the joint teams conducted excavations of the crash site recovering human remains, aircraft wreckage, personal effects and military equipment associated with Majors Andre and Sizemore.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command then identified the pilot’s remains and they were returned to the U.S. for proper burial.

There are more than 1,640 American service members still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. More than 83,000 Americans are still missing or unaccounted for since World War II.

Photo Caption:Maj. Howard V. Andre, Jr. days before he was killed.


Putting Veterans Back To Work

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Today more than ever, there is a concentrated effort across the country to employ veterans not only at the state and federal levels, but in the private sector as well. Both corporate America and the media are embracing veterans and doing their part to support their transition into the civilian workforce.

Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts and they can enter the workforce with identifiable and transferable skills proven in real-world situations. Returning service members bring unique skills and experience to the civilian workforce. Because of their training and their work ethic, many companies report that veterans make excellent employees, with a higher rate of retention.

The first ever national televised show, "Hiring America" is dedicated to jobs and career direction for returning U.S. military veterans, is now being aired across the nation. It is hosted by television news reporter Gigi Stone from Good Morning America and ABC News.

The purpose of the show is to connect U.S. veterans to businesses and organizations that have a focused initiative on hiring military men and women. The show’s format connects vets to employers and CEO’s of companies while also providing great insight and education from some of the top leaders in the country. The show can be currently seen on the Pentagon Network or by going to www.hiringamerica.net.

Federal agencies are also making hiring veterans a priority after the VOW Act of 2011. In one area of the act there is a mandate that requires all federal agencies to have 10 percent of their employees to be veterans by 2014. Each of these agencies have designated a point of contact that is responsible for making sure this mandate is met within their agency. By visiting www.fedshirevets.gov you can connect which each one of these individuals for employment opportunities within their agency.

In Oregon, veterans can contact the Oregon Employment Department’s veteran representatives (DVOP) who specialize in removing hurdles they may have with finding employment. Vet Reps are highly trained individuals that can assist in a number of different areas to get veterans job ready and connected to employers. To connect with any DVOP, visit your local Oregon Worksource center or

go to www.worksourceoregon.org/veterans

Businesses in Oregon have also partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in participating in the "Hiring Our Heroes" job fairs that have been taking place all over the state. These veteran only events are a unique environment where employers that are hiring connect with veterans one on one.

Phil Maas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest manager, said, "The Hiring our Heroes events in Oregon have been a great success. It is a culmination of working with multiple entities in each community and focusing all our efforts on getting veterans hired. Businesses in Oregon have also stepped up to the plate in supporting the events and making a commitment to make veterans part of their own workforce."

Businesses such as Cambia, Home Depot, Safeway, Intel, and Platt Electric have made it a priority to support this initiative. The result has been great connections, often leading to job offers and meaningful employment.

Visit www.hiringourheroes.org to find out more information about Hiring Our Heroes and the next event in your area.

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Wreaths Across America Holiday Honors

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Civil Air Patrol Cadets from the Medford Composite Squadron in Medford Oregon render salutes to at the annual Wreaths Across America event held at Eagle Point National Cemetery in December of 2012.

Bringing a sense of remembrance and respect by placing holiday wreaths on the graves of fallen military service members in national and local cemeteries throughout the United States is the mission of Wreaths Across America (WAA).

A national nonprofit organization founded in 2007, WAA’s mission is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations. The organization has since expanded to include more than 1,000 local volunteer groups in all 50 states representing more than 800 cemeteries, military memorials and other state government locations.

In 2008, and each year since, the U.S. Congress has issued a proclamation in December to officially recognize "Wreaths Across America Day." This year, Sat., Dec. 14, is the recognized day.

Many Oregon volunteers and organizations have been involved with WAA’s holiday initiative since it started in 2007. Volunteers include members of the Oregon Civil Air Patrol, Gold Star Wives Willamette Valley Chapter, Oregon Young Marines, Old Guard Riders, Virgil T. Golden Funeral Services, Rogue Valley Veterans and Community Outreach, and Oregon Boy Scout Troop 870.

This year there are 10 Oregon cemeteries where wreath laying events will take place: Centennial Park, La Pine, Deschutes Memorial Gardens, Bend, Eagle Point National Cemetery, Eagle Point, Hawthorne Memorial Gardens Grants Pass, Hillcrest Memorial Park, Grants Pass, Lane Memorial Gardens, Eugene, Roseburg National Cemetery, Roseburg, Springfield Memorial Gardens, Springfield, West Lawn Memorial Park, Eugene, and Willamette National Cemetery, Portland.

Last year more than 400,000 wreaths were placed at 815 locations across the country. More than 1,200 of those wreaths were laid on the graves of Oregon veterans.

Wreaths Across America also conducts several programs to honor our veterans, including our popular "Thanks a Million" campaign, which distributes thank you cards to people all over the country to share with veterans a simple "thank you" for their service.

If you would like to get involved with this year’s events, go to the WAA national website,
www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

and connect directly with the point of contact for each of the scheduled events in Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be holding a state capital wreath laying ceremony December 9, beginning at 11:30 a.m., at the Capital Medal of Honor Memorials in Salem. For more information please contact Marc Huchette at ODVA at 503-332-0587.


Underage Military Veterans

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          Pvt. Willie L. Paradise, age 16                                        Pvt. Frank Buckles, age 16

Joining the military before the age of consent was once almost commonplace, especially during World War II. Those under the age of 18 would lie or get their parents to verify they were either 18 or give their approval for their son to join.

It has been recorded that many of these underage volunteers were around 16 when they joined and some were as young as 13. As the decades went by, many of these veterans discovered one another. Many joined the ranks of Veterans of Underage Military Service (VUMS) after learning they were free from prosecution for lying about their underage service.

A Coast Guard retiree, Allan Stover, founded the VUMS in 1991. Since then, more than 2,800 veterans have joined.

Oregon veteran and VUMS member Willie Paradise joined the National Guard in 1955 at age 16. "Not all of our members lied about their age. One guy thought he was old enough because his brother said so," Paradise said.

"If you are one of that rare breed, a kid that enlisted underage, you should be very proud," Paradise added. "We once kept it a secret, but now we strongly proclaim it as a badge of honor. VUMS members are living history and their legacy won’t ever be repeated. We are losing members all the time."

This year, VUMS’s oldest member, who had family in Oregon, joined the military at age 16. When Frank Buckles passed away in Feb. 2011, at age 110 he reportedly was the last World War I veteran in the U.S. During World War II, Buckles was captured by Japanese forces while working in the shipping business, and spent three years in the Philippines as a civilian prisoner.

The late Jeremy Michael Boorda, joined the Navy at age of 15.He was a product of an enlisted-to-officer commissioning program in the early 1960s. During his career he went from seaman recruit to admiral. In 1993, he became the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe and at age 56, in 1994, he was assigned as the 25th Chief of Naval Operations.

Jacklyn Lucas joined at 14 and earned the Medal of Honor five days before his 17th birthday. He was the youngest to earn the medal since the Civil War. Jack Vessey joined the National Guard at 16, rose to the rank of general and served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Too Young the Hero" is a movie about Calvin Leon Graham’s life story. He was 12 years old when he enlisted, was a VUMS member and was played by Rick Schroeder in the movie. Also, five books have been published with short autobiographical stories by VUMS members.

Paradise said VUMS needs help locating veterans throughout the U.S. who are not aware of this unique organization and may be interested in joining the group. VUMS meets in Portland on the first Friday each month for lunch at Gregg’s Backyard Grill, 3554 S.E. 82nd Ave., at 10:30 a.m.

For more information: www.oldvums.org

or contact Paradise at paradisewp@juno.com or 503-665-1739.


Marion County Veteran Treatment Court

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Marion County Sheriff Jeff Meyers (left), Marion County Analyst Allycia Weathers (center left), Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day (center right), and Marion County Sheriff Commander Kevin Schultz received the Federal Grant by the Bureau of Justice Assistance grant money funding the Marion County Veterans’ Treatment Court (VTC).

SALEM – Criminal justice involvement and incarceration among American military veterans have long been a national concern. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 10 percent of prison inmates are veterans, of which a majority served during a time of war.

In support of veterans within the justice system in Oregon, the Marion County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) has been awarded a $348,435 Federal Grant by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The award was made following an extensive and competitive application process. Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day said this is directly attributable to the partnership between the Circuit Court, District Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA), various community agencies and veteran peer volunteers.

Veterans Treatment Courts use various partners at the local, state and federal level to reducing repeat offenders and prioritizes treatment over incarceration. These courts allow the community to respond with the intervention, rather than punishment to bring wellness to the veteran defendant.

Nationwide, the incarceration rate of veterans (630 per 100,000) is less than half that of nonveterans (1,390 per 100,000).

That circumstance may be explained largely by age, given that in the general population, veterans are considerably older than nonveterans. A report by U.S. Department of Justice also indicated that like the veteran population as a whole, a majority of incarcerated veterans served during a wartime period and may have mental health issues that contributed to their offense.

ODVA Director Cameron Smith said the new VTC is a solid program, but is not a get out of jail free card.

"These participating veterans must admit guilt and participate in a rigorous program of treatment and community service," Smith said. "There is close judicial supervision of the veteran’s compliance and progress which brings about a higher level of accountability by the veteran and helps to assure their participation in rated VA and Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) services and benefits."

To be considered for the VTC, a veteran must be diagnosed with a treatable substance abuse and/or mental health disorder. Admission decisions are made by a treatment team review incorporating prosecution, defense, probation and VA treatment personnel recommendations.

Marion County’s VTC held its first hearing in Salem on Oct. 26, 2012, in Judge Day’s courtroom.

"This grant will help us to get to the next level of effective intervention in the lives of our service men and women who, because of their experience in the military, develop challenges which unfortunately end up being addressed by the criminal justice system," Day said.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance grant will be disbursed over the next three years through Marion County and will be used to partially staff the court, train personnel, and assist the veteran participants.

To learn more about Marion County’s Veterans Treatment Court, call Elan Lambert, 503-999-9358.


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