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RockVets Newsletter
February 2021
Volume XIII, Issue 2

 
30th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War

30th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War  
August 2nd, 1990 to February 28th, 1991

In recent memory, the Persian Gulf War has been overshadowed by the more recent conflicts in the Middle East. Unlike the Afghan War and the Iraq War, the Persian Gulf War—consisting of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm—was brief, lasting from August 2nd, 1990 to February 28th, 1991.

While it may have been short in length, for those who participated, the Persian Gulf War had lasting effects. Below, veterans describe in their own words their experiences serving in the conflict, relating how they coped with challenges such as Scud missile alarms, potential chemical weapon attacks, and the harsh desert environment. The voices of female veterans are of particular note: the Persian Gulf War saw the largest deployment of women to a combat theater in American history.   Link to Library of Congress, Veterans History Project: https://www.loc.gov/vets/

From Veterans Administration:
https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/gulf-war/gulf-war-winter-2016/gulf-war-presumptives.asp
For Gulf War Veterans, VA presumes that unexplained symptoms are related to Gulf War service if a Veteran has experienced them for six months or more. The "presumptive" illness(es) must have first appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2021, and be at least 10 percent disabling.

If you are a Gulf War Veteran who may experience a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems, VA presumes that some health conditions were caused by military service. In practical terms, Gulf War Veterans who meet certain criteria don’t have to prove an association between their illness and military service. By assuming a link between symptoms and military service, it can simplify and speed up the application process for benefits.


Gulf War presumptive illnesses

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions.

Fibromyalgia: A condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems.

Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: A group of conditions marked by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional condition refers to an abnormal function of an organ, without a structural alteration in the tissues. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.

Undiagnosed Illnesses: With symptoms that may include but are not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.

Chronic multi-symptom illness
Chronic multi-symptom illness (CMI) describes the presence of symptoms in two or more body systems that last or recur regularly for more than six months. This term was first used in 1998 in the article describing the symptoms of Gulf War Veterans and its use and meaning has evolved over the years. According to the Institute of Medicine, CMI was a general term that applies to a diverse mix of conditions.

Some examples of CMI include:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fibromyalgia
Gulf War Illness
Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you suffer from Chromic multi-symptom illness (CMI) consider reaching out to VA to get help. VA is actively strengthening its support of Veterans with CMI through enhanced recognition, education, and monitoring of their needs. Through an improved system of care and a well-prepared workforce, Veterans with CMI will find the clinical care and additional benefits they need to optimize their health and quality of life.

You can contact the Rockland County Veterans Service Agency at 845-638-5244 to put in a claim for Gulf War Syndrome or file online through the VA at this website:   https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim

Here are a few more links to check out:

The Library of Congress -- Veterans History Project
Experiencing War -- Stories from the Persian Gulf War:  
https://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/ex-war-home.html

U.S Army Website article on 25th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War:
https://www.army.mil/article/162837/first_team_remembers_desert_storm


21 Facts About the Desert Storm War from Military.com:
https://www.military.com/undertheradar/2015/09/21-facts-about-the-first-gulf-war


Gulf War Syndrome Registry:
https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/benefits/registry-exam.asp

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Information

Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Exposures

“Airborne hazard” refers to any sort of contaminant or potentially toxic substance that we are exposed to through the air we breathe. While on active duty, military service members may have been exposed to a variety of airborne hazards including:

  • The smoke and fumes from open burn pits
  • Sand, dust, and particulate matter
  • General air pollution common in certain countries
  • Fuel, aircraft exhaust, and other mechanical fumes
  • Smoke from oil well fires

Photo above is a Map of Southwest Asia with countries highlighted in which burn pits were a common practice.    VA understands that many Veterans are especially concerned about exposure to the smoke and fumes generated by open burn pits.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, open-air combustion of trash and other waste in burn pits was a common practice. Depending on a variety of factors, you may experience health effects related to this exposure. Factors that may indicate you have a greater or lesser risk of short or long-term health effects include:

  • Types of waste burned
  • Proximity, amount of time, and frequency of exposure
  • Wind direction and other weather-related factors
  • Presence of other airborne or environmental hazards in the area

How to Get Care:  
VA health care is available to Veterans who may have been exposed to burn pits or other environmental hazards. If you are concerned about the potential health effects of environmental exposures we encourage you to talk to your health care provider, apply for VA health care, and file a claim for compensation and benefits.

You do not need to file a claim or participate in the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to receive care from VA. Learn more about eligibility for VA health care.
https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/get-care.asp

If you are already enrolled in VA health care, contact your facility’s environmental health coordinator for more information and resources on getting care for environmental exposures.

If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or New Dawn (OND) in Iraq, you can receive free VA health care for up to 5 years after separation.

Researchers, including experts at VA, are actively studying airborne hazards like burn pits and other military environmental exposures. Ongoing research will help us better understand potential long-term health effects and provide you with better care and services.

VA understands that exposure to airborne hazards like burn pits is a serious concern for many Veterans. We strongly encourage all Veterans who are concerned about any kind of hazardous exposure during their military service talk to their health care provider and apply for VA health care.

  • Neurological signs and symptoms, or reduced central nervous system function
  • Signs or symptoms involving the liver, or reduced liver function
  • Cancer (stomach, respiratory, and skin cancer; leukemia; and others)
  • Signs or symptoms involving the upper or lower respiratory system
  • Signs or symptoms involving the kidney, or reduced kidney function
  • Any blood effects (anemia and changes in various cell types)
  • Cardiovascular signs or symptoms
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicity

VA Established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
VA established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) in 2014 to help put data to work for Veterans through research about potential health effects of airborne hazard exposures.  The information gathered from the Registry over the past 7 years might be of help, so please check it out.

By joining the registry, you can provide information to help better understand whether long-term health conditions may be related to these exposures. Even if you have not experienced any symptoms or illnesses you believe are related to exposures during military service, your participation in the registry could help VA provide better care to all Veterans.  
Link for Registry:  https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/registry.asp
National Guard Troops Will Earn Credit for GI Bill

National Guard troops will earn credit for GI Bill for Capitol, inauguration and coronavirus duty

Thousands of National Guard troops who have served on missions to secure the Capitol and presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., as well as the coronavirus pandemic response nationwide, are earning credit toward their Post-9/11 GI bill Benefits, a National Guard leader said this week.

Since the National Guard forces deployed for those missions were activated under federal emergency declarations, they are allowed to count that time toward earning the education benefits. In order to receive the maximum GI Bill, Guard troops must spend at least three years on active duty. After 90 days on active duty, Guard members are eligible for roughly half of those benefits.

Guard troops activated for pandemic response are eligible to accrue benefits because of the March 2020 emergency declaration. Troops who served on inauguration or Capitol security duties earn theirs because of a January 2021 "National Special Security Event" announced for the inauguration.

More than 25,000 Guard troops were activated and sent to the National Capital Region following the assault on the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 and during President Joe Biden's inauguration Jan. 20. Since then, the Defense officials announced that about 5,000 Guard members will stay on duty in the capital through mid-March to defend against potential future violence. That extended stay could mean at least some of the Guard members may reach their 90-day requirement to begin qualifying for education benefits.

Guard members are only eligible to earn the GI Bill when under orders authorized by the president or secretary of defense "for the purpose of responding to a national emergency declared by the president and supported by federal funds," Little said.
To read further:  National Guard and GI Bill Credits

Four Chaplain's Recognition - February 3rd, 1943

Four Chaplain's Recognition - February 3, 1943

On the frigid night of FEBRUARY 3,1943, the over-crowded Allied ship U.S.A.T.Dorchester, carrying 902 servicemen, plowed through the dark, freezing waters near Greenland.


At 1:00am, a Nazi submarine fired a torpedo into the transport's flank, killing many in the explosion and trapping others below deck. It sank in 27 minutes. The two escort ships, Coast Guard cutters Comanche andEscanaba, were able to rescue only 231 survivors. In the chaos of fire, smoke, oil and ammonia, four chaplains calmed sailors and distributed life jackets:   Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist;  Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed;  Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and  Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish.

When there were no more life jackets, the four chaplains ripped off their own and put them on four young men. As the ship went down, survivors floating in rafts could see the four chaplains linking arms and bracing themselves on the slanting deck. They bowed their heads in prayer as they sank to their icy deaths.

Survivor Grady Clark wrote:
"As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything.
The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets."
In 1998, Congress honored them by declaring February 3rd "Four Chaplains Day."

Read more: Four Chaplains Day

Updated VVA Chapter 333 Website

From Roy Tschudy, President of VVA Chapter #333:
I encourage you take a few moments and check out our updated website for VVA Chapter 333. Our new Webmaster Debbie Frank has been updating the site to make it more uniform and colorful. In the picture section there are a few of us from back in our military days, I am sure that Debbie is continuing to add the photos sent to her. If you did send me and/ or Debbie a photo and it is not yet posted, please give Deb a little time to do so. I have no doubt based on her other managed Websites that when completed/updated, it will be first class!  Link to VVA #333 website here:  https://www.vva333.com.  
The VVA website also includes links to the current edition of  the VVA National Magazine as well as our RockVets newsletter.  Thank you Debby!

Long Overdue Justice for Palomares Veterans

Long Overdue Justice for Palomares Veterans
BY RICHARD CURREY - The Veteran - January / February 2021 Issue.  Link to current issue of The Veteran: http://www.vvaveteran.org/41-1/41-1_palomares%20.html

In the March/April 2020 issue of The VVA Veteran we reported on the decades-long quest for benefits by the veterans of the 1966 nuclear cleanup operation in Palomares, Spain. Our initial story closed on a high note: The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) had granted Palomares veterans “class status” in December 2019, a legal distinction enabling them to enjoy the increased leverage of working as a class rather than as individual claimants. This is the first time a group of veteran claimants has been certified as a class on a direct appeal from the VA benefits system.

More good news for this embattled group of veterans came on December 18 last year when the CAVC ordered the VA to “reexamine how it evaluates disability claims of veterans exposed to ionizing radiation in the 1966 nuclear cleanup at Palomares, Spain.”

The CAVC said that the VA had “failed to fulfill its legal responsibility to determine whether the method it uses to assess Palomares veterans’ radiation exposure is scientifically sound.” The Court’s decision upheld the assertion made for many years by Palomares veterans that the Air Force and VA had denied benefits for radiation-linked illnesses to Palomares veterans based on demonstrably unsound science. The CAVC has ordered the VA to review and reassess all Palomares cases currently in the VA appeals process.

At the center of this story is retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. and VVA life member Victor Skaar, now 83. Skaar was a member of the Palomares cleanup team, one of the few deployed to Palomares for the entire 62-day operation. Skaar has been on what he calls “a long road” to establish that radioactive exposures at Palomares are linked to later disease, and that exposed veterans should receive all compensation and benefits they earned as a result of their nuclear cleanup work.

“I’m in the middle of this fight,” Skaar said, “but it’s not just about me. I’m working on behalf of the airmen who were arbitrarily assigned to the cleanup. They were sent into harm’s way but were never told that. They did their duty as ordered and to the best of their abilities. But when they got sick as a result of that duty, the Air Force and VA turned a blind eye.”

A TOXIC MIX
In January 1966 an Air Force B-52 long-range bomber in flight over the coast of Spain—armed with four hydrogen bombs—was involved in a midair collision with a refueling tanker. The B-52’s nuclear payload was released as both aircraft exploded. Three of the bombs landed in and around the village of Palomares.

Fail-safe technology prevented nuclear explosions, but the impact triggered conventional firing mechanisms that ruptured the bombs’ outer casings. A toxic mix of plutonium-laced gas, dust, and particulates spewed over a wide area.

Link to Veterans Administration website about the Palomares incident: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/radiation/sources/palomares.asp

The Story of a Vietnam Veteran:  The Stockdale Paradox


The Story of a Vietnam War Veteran:  
The Stockdale Paradox

September 9, 1965, was a life-changing day for James Stockdale. It was the day that his Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was shot out of the sky, forcing him to eject to save his own life. The North Vietnamese captured the American admiral that day. But little did they know then that they would take in a very, very troublesome prisoner.

They detained Stockdale at the Hỏa Lò Prison, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He soon established communications among the American prisoners of war, and a code of rules to organize the prisoners and boost their morale.

When the abuse of American POWs reached a climax in 1969, Stockdale was selected by his captors as a trophy for their propaganda. Knowing that he wouldn’t be paraded if he was disfigured, he cut his own scalp with a razor and then beat his own face with a wooden stool, foiling his captors’ plans.

After Stockdale found out that several POWs had been tortured to death, he slit his own wrists to show that he would rather die than capitulate to his captors. From that night on, the practice of torturing American POWs stopped in the facility.

Stockdale finally returned home to the United States in 1973 after seven-and-a-half years in prison. In 1976, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

Once, Stockdale had invited Jim Collins, a management scholar, out to lunch. Collins asked Stockdale about how he persevered while in Vietnam.  “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” replied Stockdale. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”  Collins then asked about the kinds of people who didn’t make it out of the Hanoi Hilton. “The optimists,” came the response. And then Stockdale explained.

“Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’  And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

After a moment of silence, Stockdale finished his thought. “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Collins would later codify this into his coaching regime as the “Stockdale paradox” to help business leaders who were facing challenges—which is sound reasoning. After all, if this thinking can help a soldier survive POW camp, there are very few things it can’t help with.
Story taken from The Epoch Times: https://www.theepochtimes.com

New York State Division of Veterans Services

Lifetime Liberty Pass for New York State Veterans.   For further information on this and other benefits for New York State veterans, view this link: https://veterans.ny.gov

Lifetime Liberty Pass for NYS Veterans with disabilities
The Lifetime Liberty Pass benefits includes free vehicle entry to state parks and DEC-operated day-use areas, as well as numerous state boat launch sites, historic sites, arboretums and park preserves; free golf at 28 State Park golf courses; free swimming pool entrance at 36 State Park pools, and discounted camping and cabin rentals at all 119 State Park and DEC campgrounds.

To qualify for the pass, the Veteran must be a resident of New York State and provide State Parks with written certification from the United States Veterans Administration or the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs that the applicant is a wartime Veteran with a 40% or greater service-connected disability as certified by the United States Veterans Administration, or who has at any time been awarded by the Federal government an allowance towards the purchase of an automobile or who is eligible for such an award.

Note: New York State Veterans with disabilities who currently hold a valid Access Pass will be contacted prior to expiration of their pass for updated information to enroll in the Liberty Pass Program, and will no longer have to reapply every four years. Their current valid Access Passes will remain usable until their distinctive Lifetime Liberty Pass is issued.

For more information and to apply for the Liberty Pass, please visit the State Parks website or call 518-474-2324 during normal business hours.  

The more than 760,000 Veterans residing in New York have many reasons to call the state home — two Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, Niagara Falls and the Catskills, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and The Big Apple. You also have many great benefits you can use right now.  For links to benefits for NYS veterans, please refer to this link: https://veterans.ny.gov

Employment Opportunities and Information
Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction of the Veterans Administration:
The link below lists current positions have been announced for the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction (OALC). This is not a complete listing of all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vacancies and may not include all positions announced for OALC. You may access VA recruitment information on the VA Jobs site at this link: https://www.va.gov/jobs/

If you wish copies of announcements listed below, please contact the individual identified in the specific announcement.  Here is the link to the OALC Job Listings:   
https://www.va.gov/oalc/career.asp

Montefiore-Nyack Hospital, Nyack, New York 10960
See link for full listing and information about career opportunities at Nyack Hospital, Nyack, New York.  https://montefiorenyackcareers.org

Good Samaritan Hospital, Suffern, New York.  Good Samaritan Hospital is affiliated with Westchester Medical Center.  See this link for available employment - https://wmchealthjobs.org/search-jobs/

Rockland County Employment Information:
Here is a link to current job openings available in Rockland County
http://rocklandgov.com/departments/personnel/job-opportunities/

Rockland County Veterans' Credits:
http://rocklandgov.com/files/8115/1120/9567/Veterans_Credit_Info.pdf

New York City Civil Service Jobs, Tests, and Results as listed in The Chief:
http://thechiefleader.com/news/civil_service/

MTA Metro-North Railroad has ongoing employment opportunities:
To apply for current jobs with the MTA, please go to the MTA Employment Portal at:  http://web.mta.info/mta/employment/

NYC Green Book Online: The Green Book is the official directory of the City of New York.  An indispensable reference guide for anyone living or working in New York City. Includes detailed listings of agencies. Website: http://a856-gbol.nyc.gov/GBOLWebsite/
Rockland County Marine Corps League

Rockland County Marine Corps League regularly receives donations of handicap assistance equipment for disabled veterans from people who want to help. The donated equipment is available for free to military veterans and their families. The items include the following:


  • Handicap-Accessible van
  • Motorized Wheelchairs
  • Manual Wheelchairs
  • Oxygen Generator
  • Walkers
  • Bath Chairs
  • Transfer Benches
  • Braces
  • Crutches
  • Canes

If you have need of any of this equipment, contact the folks at the Rockland County Marine Corps League - 845-323-8774 or via e-mail: drobin137@icloud.com.
RockVets Newsletter
RockVets is an Outreach program of New York Vets, Inc.,  a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization established in 1992, to advocate for those who have worn the uniform of the U.S. Military, no matter where or when they served.

The volunteers at New York Vets / RockVets publish this monthly e-newsletter.  We welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback. E-mail: NewYorkVets@gmail.com.

We are not affiliated with Rockland County Government nor the Veterans Service Agency of Rockland.

Each month, our newsletter reaches more than 1500 local veterans or those interested in veterans' welfare. Please use this forum to let veterans know of any information, resources, links or events of interest.  Send information to NewYorkVets@gmail.com and feel free to pass this newsletter along to others who may be interested.

Our Mailing Address
New York Vets, Inc. / RockVets
P.O. Box 387
Tomkins Cove, New York 10986                                                           

Pat McGlade
Co-Founder / Director
Email: NewYorkVets@gmail.com
Facebook: www.Rockvets.com