VFW testifies and supports programs, legislation

Important Date in April

The Air Force Reserve will celebrate 69 years on April 14. Since the formal establishment in April 14, 1948, the Reserve has amassed a rich heritage with heroic accounts of responding to disasters, humanitarian aid and conflicts. The mission of the Air Force Reserve is to Fly, Fight & Win … in air, space and cyberspace.

Easter is April 16. Also called Pascha (Greek/Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, Easter is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion.

VFW Applauds Choice program Extension and Improvement

Last Wednesday, Congress passed S. 544, which would authorize VA to use the $10 billion Congress intended to go toward providing veterans care in their communities when they are not able to receive timely access to care at VA health care facilities. S. 544 would also improve the Choice Program by addressing two issues the VFW has identified and asked Congress to fix. “While this bill is an important step, Congress still has a long way to go,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. “Congress must still act on a permanent replacement for the Choice Program, one that consolidates VA’s community care authorities, as well as integrates the best aspects of the VA system with available health care capabilities in the community, both public and private. Congress must also act on legislation to improve VA’s ability to construct and lease facilities; hire, retain and discipline employees; and improve its health processes and systems to ensure veterans have timely access to high quality care,” he explained.

VFW Testifies on Veterans Crisis Line

Last Tuesday, the VFW testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs about the recent Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s report on the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). The panel discussed how VA is working to address the issues with the VCL. VFW Legislative Associate Kayda Keleher called on VA to focus on the quality of service the VCL provides veterans.

VFW Testifies on Veterans Legislation

Last Wednesday, VFW Associate Director Patrick Murray testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on seven bills being considered by the subcommittee. The VFW supported all seven bills discussed, in particular the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act which would expand Agent Orange related presumptive conditions to Blue Water Navy veterans; the American Heroes COLA Act, which would add an automatic trigger for annual COLA increases; and the Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, which would require VA to accept private medical evidence when veterans submit disability compensation claims.

President Authorizes Gulf War Memorial Location

President Trump signed into law the resolution for the location of a national memorial dedicated to those who served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The memorial will be in Washington, D.C., in the area commonly known as the National Mall and will be within walking distance of many other memorials that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It will be built with private donations before being turned over to the U.S. Park Service and the VFW has committed to donating $500,000 in support of the construction of this memorial.

MIA/POW Update

Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

Marine Corps Pfc. James O. Whitehurst, 20, of Ashford, Ala., will be buried April 12, in Cowarts, Ala. Whitehurst was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Whitehurst’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Whitehurst was killed on the first day of the battle.

Army Master Sgt. Joseph Durakovich, 30, of Gary, Ind., will be buried in April in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Durakovich was a member of Company G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. His unit was attacked by Chinese forces while establishing a defensive position in Pongmyong-ni east of Kuni-ri, North Korea, on Nov. 28, 1950. After the battle, Durakovich could not be accounted for and was reported missing in action.

Navy Seaman 1st Class George A. Coke was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Coke was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending.

Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Fred M. Jones was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Interment services are pending.

Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Ewart T. Sconiers served as a bombardier on the B-17F Flying Fortress with the 414th Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group. On Oct. 21, 1942, his plane was severely damaged during a mission to bomb the German U-boat pens at Lorient, France. The crew parachuted safely and were rescued from the water, only to be turned over to German forces as prisoners of war. Sconiers was transferred to Stalag Luft II in present-day Zagan, Poland, where he remained until 1944. He was reported deceased on Jan. 24, 1944. Interment services are pending.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Jack J. Fox was assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Fox’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Interment services are pending. Interment services are pending.

Army Pfc. Reece Gass served with Company E, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division. On Jan. 14, 1945, tanks from Gass’ unit began a three-pronged advance against enemy forces moving toward Cherain, Belgium. Gass was declared deceased after his tank was hit by enemy fire. Interment services are pending.

Army Cpl. Daniel F. Kelly was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. In late November 1950 his unit was ordered to advance as part of an offensive push to drive the North Koreans to the Yalu River. Kelly was declared missing on Nov. 26, 1950. Interment services are pending.

Army Cpl. Freddie L. Henson served with Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. He was reported missing as of Dec. 6, 1950. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio