March 29, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. March 29 was chosen as National Vietnam War Veterans Day because on March 29, 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam. The last unit was elements of MACV’s Infantry security Force (Special Guard), actually special couriers. Over 58,200 servicemembers were killed in the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty. The youngest was 16 years old, while the oldest killed in action was 62. 240 soldiers received the Medal Of Honor for their efforts on the battlefield.
Senate Bill to Crack Down on Claims Sharks
Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced the VFW-supported Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding VA Benefits Act, known as the GUARD VA Benefits Act. Reintroduced in this Congress, the bipartisan legislation would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees for helping veterans file claims for VA disability compensation benefits. These companies are incentivized to operate outside of the law due to the lack of penalties. Cracking down on Claim Sharks is one of the VFW’s top legislative priorities for the 118th Congress.
VA Budget Released
The President’s budget request for fiscal year 2024 has been released and includes many increases for VA. Some notable inclusions are additional resources for health care, benefits, and national cemeteries. “The VFW is encouraged by the Administration’s recently released budget as it seeks to provide the necessary resources for VA to provide earned essential care and benefits to millions of veterans across the country,” said VFW Washington Office Executive Director Ryan Gallucci. “This includes commitments our nation has made to toxic-exposed veterans through the historic PACT Act. The VFW still has concerns about the under prioritization of certain elements within the budget such as infrastructure and the funding mechanism for toxic exposure care. But we look forward to working with our partners in Congress and the Administration to make sure these outliers are rectified to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans.”
Electronic Health Record Hearing
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held an oversight hearing on the future path of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) system. Chairman Jon Tester stated, “All options are on the table except one. I’m not going to abandon the effort to modernize VA’s records.” The EHRM has had various challenges since it was first rolled out in 2020 at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. The VFW is aware and is working with the Administration and Congress to implement this much-needed health record upgrade.
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John F. Minogue, 24, of Richfield, California, was assigned to the 328th Bombardment Squadron, 93rd Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force. On Aug. 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator bomber on which Minogue was the co-pilot was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed during Operation Tidal Wave. He will be buried April 20, 2023, in Fullerton, California.
Navy Chief Machinist’s Mate Ralph A. Derrington, 42, of Columbus, Ohio, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. He will be buried June 20, 2023, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu.
Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William B. Montgomery, 24, of Ford City, Pennsylvania, was assigned to the 844th Bombardment Squadron, 489th Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force. On June 22, 1944, Montgomery was piloting a B-24H Liberator that was struck by anti-aircraft after a bombing raid on a German airfield in Saint-Cyr-l’École, near Versailles, France. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on a date yet to be determined.
Army Tech Sgt. Matthew L. McKeon, 25, of Euclid, California, was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. His unit was engaged in battle with German forces near Hürtgen, Germany. He will be buried in San Diego, California, on date yet to be determined.
Army Pfc. Harry J. Hartmann, Jr., 19, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, was a member of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division, when he was reported missing in action on Nov. 2, 1950, during fighting near Unsan, North Korea. He will be buried in Mays Landing, New Jersey, on a date yet to be determined.
Navy Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Anthony Di Petta, 24, of Nutley, New Jersey, was assigned to the Navy Torpedo Squadron 20, USS Enterprise. On Sept. 10, 1944, Di Petta and two other crew members took off on a mission to conduct air strikes against enemy targets in Malakal Naval District, Palau Islands. A burial date and location are pending.
Navy Aviation Radioman First Class Wilbur A. Mitts, 24, was the Aviation Radioman assigned to the Navy Torpedo Squadron 20, USS Enterprise. On Sept. 10, 1944, Mitts and two other crew members took off on a mission to conduct air strikes against enemy targets in Malakal Naval District, Palau Islands. His remains were not immediately recovered.
Till next week, praying for all service members.
– Charles Castelluccio