* Erie VA to Hold POW/MIA Ceremony: The Erie VAMC will hold their annual POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony to honor our nation’s most revered heroes, those that have served under the worst of conditions, sacrificing their freedoms so that our country may know true liberty. During the ceremony, local former POWs are given time to share their own stories and experiences of captivity. The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at the Erie VA 2nd floor conference room. For more information, call Behavioral Health at (814) 860-2038.
* Annual 24 Hour Vigil & Ride For Freedom: Veterans of the Vietnam War Post #52 will be holding a 24-hour Vigil & Candle Lighting Ceremony, starting at 8 p.m. Friday. It will be at the Crawford County Veterans Memorial at Diamond Park in Meadville. The ceremony honors POW/MIAs from all wars.
* Ride For Freedom XV: Ride for Freedon XV will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, and is sponsored by Veterans Welcome Home Association. Staging will take place at Walt’s Tavern, State Highway 618 in Conneaut Lake. Registration begins at noon. The ride promptly leaves at 3 p.m. and is a slow uninterrupted ride from Conneaut Lake to Diamond Park in Meadville. A service will be held after the ride. This is a memorial ride with a police escort to honor those that are still listed as POW/MIA. For more information, call Phil Davis at (814) 282-9737.
* VFW Calls on Members to Take Action: Congress has failed to pass a bill that would properly fund veterans’ health care and benefits. If Congress does not pass this important bill before Sept. 30, 2016, veterans will be denied the care and benefits they have earned and deserve. Take action – tell Congress to prioritize veterans and properly fund VA programs.
* Presumptive Disability Compensation for Camp Lejeune Veterans: Last week, the VA issued a proposed final rule to establish presumptive disability compensation eligibility for veterans who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune during the period beginning Aug. 1, 1953, and ending on Dec. 31, 1987. To be eligible, veterans must have served in Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 cumulative days during the specified dates and have a diagnosis of kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, liver cancer, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, or aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes.
This proposed rule would apply to claims received by VA on or after the date of publication, pending review of the comments received and publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The rule would not apply retroactively. A veteran whose claim was denied before the final rule is published must file a new claim to obtain a new determination of entitlement under the final regulation.
* Direct Scheduling for Audiology and Optometry Appointments: On Thursday, VA announced it would eliminate a primary care referral requirement for veterans seeking appointments with audiologists or optometrists. The Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling Initiative is being piloted throughout the country and is expected to be fully operational within all VA Medical Centers by the end of 2016.
* Join #ExploreVA Facebook Chat: VA and American Women Veterans will host an #ExploreVA Facebook chat on Sept. 16, centered on suicide prevention for women vets. Representatives from VA will discuss how women veterans, service members and their families can use VA benefits and services to manage stress, treat conditions and access resources dedicated to suicide prevention. During the chat, participants will learn how to spot warning signs of suicide and what you can do to help; where to find VA mental health and suicide prevention resources, services and treatment options; and how to determine VA eligibility and apply for VA health care benefits. This event is part of the #ExploreVA From Service to Success online event series showcasing how veterans and their families are using VA benefits to earn degrees, start careers, buy homes, stay healthy and do much more in life after the military. You will need a Facebook account to participate. Register at explore.va.gov/events.
* MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of nine Americans who had been missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Returning home for burial with full military honors are: * Marine Pvt. Frank F. Penna, 24, will be buried Sept. 17 in his hometown of Canastota, N.Y. Penna was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Penna died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. * Army Cpl. Larry M. Dunn, 18, will be buried Sept. 17 in his hometown of Cullman, Alabama. On Dec. 1, 1950, Dunn was a member of Company B, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was fighting through a roadblock that was heavily defended by enemy forces near Sonchu, North Korea. He was declared missing after the battle. * Air Force Maj. Dean A. Klenda, 25, of Marion, Kansas, will be buried Sept. 17 in Pilsen, Kansas, exactly 51 years after he went missing. On Sept. 17, 1965, Klenda was piloting an F-105D Thunderchief when it was shot down by enemy fire while on an attack mission west of Hanoi in Son La Province, Vietnam. He reportedly was able to eject from the aircraft, but failed to separate himself from the ejection seat. He was assigned to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing. * Marine Pfc. Nicholas J. Cancilla, of Blair, Pa., was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Cancilla died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. * Marine Pfc. James S. Smith, of Amite, Miss., was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Smith died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. * Army Cpl. Vernon D. Presswood, 20, of Perry, Ill., was a member of Heavy Mortar Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, as one of approximately 2,500 American and 700 South Korean soldiers assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, which was attacked by an overwhelming Chinese force east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Presswood would be reported missing on Dec. 2, 1950. Interment services are pending. * Marine Pfc. John W. MacDonald, from Boston, was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, MacDonald died on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. * Marine Sgt. James J. Hubert, of Duluth, Minn., was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Hubert died on the second day of battle, Nov. 21, 1943. Interment services are pending. * Marine Pfc. Ben H. Gore, 20, of Hopkinsville, Ky., was assigned to Special Weapons Group, 2nd Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Gore died of his wounds on Nov. 25, 1943. Interment services are pending.
Till next week, praying for all service members.
— Charles Castelluccio