Ask the Chief: guilt or innocence depends on whom the axe falls?

Arsonist. A disgruntled sailor. Traitor. These are the thoughts that went through my mind, as a Navy veteran, when I first heard of the sailor who allegedly set the USS Bon Homme Richard on fire. But the facts do not seem to bear this out in a military courtroom. A military judge presiding over that sailor’s courts-martial found him not guilty today. The Navy failed to prove that this seaman who had dropped out of SEAL training, and was assigned to the Deck Division on the BHR, was responsible for the fire.

Scuttlebutt seemed to suggest that he was guilty before trial, but scuttlebutt has been wrong about a lot of thing. Sadly, does it seem that the Navy, like many in the public, academia, government, and media, began with a plausible conclusion and proceeded to find evidence to support the conclusion. Could someone have stored flammable batteries or fuels inconsistent with current safety precautions? Did firefighting teams note which areas were not effectively protected with shipboard or pierside foam or pressurized ff mains? Did investigators focus on one suspect to the exclusion of more factors? It certainly is a lot tidier to find a young man guilty of the willful destruction of a warship, than to determine that crew training, shipyard planners, supervisory personnel, and the senior authority of the Naval District were derelict, or at best, naïve as to the level of preparedness military and civilian personnel had to respond to emergencies. What steps is the Navy taking to prevent such casualties in the future?

Veterans and Addiction

If you or a loved one is, or has been in the military, and has a substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder (SUD, AUD), there are specific resources available to help begin recovery. A Florida-based center, Boca Recovery Center, reached out to Truths, Half-Truths and Sea Stories, to share that message.

As a group, veterans often struggle with addiction. Substance use disorders and substance abuse are fairly common among those who have served in the military. To help veterans learn more, we’ve created an in-depth guide that includes contributing factors and assistance available for those suffering from substance abuse.

Click here for information.

Ed. -Please let us know if our Resource Page has been helpful. It will allow us to better serve fellow veterans and their families.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Twenty-one years ago today, in the early hours of a late summer morning, evil attempted to destroy the American ideal. They thought by striking symbols, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House, they would succeed in their endeavor. They were wrong. Three thousand men and women, airline passengers and crew, working people, First Responders and members of the Armed Forces perished that day. Instead of fear, the terrorists ignited resolve, beginning first with the passengers in the plane above Shanksville, Pennsylvania who opposed them. Though perishing, the passengers halted the attack on one of Al Qaeda’s targets. Like the surprise attack of Imperial Japan sixty years earlier, a “sleeping giant” was awakened. Before the towers collapsed, Americans (whatever their actual citizenship) demonstrated this evil “holy” war was a failed attempt. Heroism, courage and sacrifice emerged that day.

Men and women rushed into the burning buildings to save others, and some perished in doing so. In the ensuing months, fatherless and motherless children, widows and widowers, neighbors and strangers were comforted. The World these terrorists hated, put aside their differences, then united in crushing the safe haven in Afghanistan and sending its leaders to prison or to hell. Twenty years later, most Americans living today have at least one family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor who served in the military after September 11th, some of whom returning with the scars of war. Though collective memory of nations fade, governments equivocate, and old ways persist, veterans still remind us of duty and responsibility of the defended. Ordinary citizens support, encourage, and volunteer to assist the injured, homeless, addicted, and refugee. Though many who have come of age in the two decades since question the purpose of the sacrifices in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, this day should be remembered and honored.

Embrace those who lost a loved one on that day. Put aside any differences in race, politics, religion, economic condition or gender. Thank a member of law enforcement, firemen, veterans and Active Duty service members for their dedication. Get to know your neighbor. Praise your God for peace and love. Most importantly, teach your children respect, honor, courage, and selflessness.

Were you exposed to toxics while at Camp Lejeune, NC Marine Base?

Between 1953 and 1987, toxics leached into drinking water at Camp Lejeune, NC. How many potential victims, active duty Marines and other military members, civilian workers, and family members may have become victims, injured, ill or died as a result of exposure? One of the chemicals that this article references is something I am intimately familiar. Early in my career in the US Navy, I frequently cleaned electro-mechanical parts in 1,1,1- trichloroethylene, getting it on my skin and breathing in fumes. This cleanser, a few years later, ceased being used.

A law firm in New York reached out to us recently. I have decided to publish their brief about Camp Lejeune toxic exposure, as a public service to my readers. I have received, nor shall I accept, any compensation as a result of publishing this information. Do your research, and let others know who may have been exposed to these contaminants.

Here is the Veterans Administration page describing symptoms / illnesses identified with exposure to contaminants at Camp Lejeune.

If you feel that ailments or illness you or a loved one now suffer, or may develop in future, might have a link to time spent at Camp Lejeune, get screened by the VA and /or private physicians, to provide support for any compensation claim through the Veterans Administration.

Ask the Chief: a necessary skill for the self-employed

A skill that anyone with something to protect, whether consumer or a business owner, is developing shrewd thinking. Most understand that identity or intellectual property theft occurs through phishing in email and hidden code in compromised websites. However, old fashioned schemes to separate the unwary from their income, disguised as personal or business “services”, are no less successful a lot of the time.

An emailed newsletter from the California Office of Attorney General this week reported charges being filed against a man who defrauded veterans’ families with false college tuition waivers, for which he charged $500, netting him about $500,000. But this is far from the only scam that victimizes veteran and non-veteran alike. This afternoon, my mom n’ pop small business received a fairly sophisticated mailing (arriving by Postal Service) that wanted to assist my business with filing a California form – for $150 – that I have routinely filed, free of charge, with the state. This scam sends an official-looking form warning of the consequences of not filing required documentation, and is populated with the publicly-available information on your business, to confuse a novice business owner. Of course, this scammer assumes that small business people would react without having the experience to know that these things do not require a third-party’s assistance. But then the scammer knows that he or she only needs a few among thousands of new business owners to send them the fee, to enrich themselves.

The State of California’s OAG has been prosecuting perpetrators of this sort of scam for more than a decade. Apparently, this is some sort of mass mailing. However, any criminal who intends to defraud a military veteran should be forewarned. We have all been subject to the just-off-base” hucksters who have sold our young military men and women everything from revolving contract gym memberships, multi-level marketing schemes, herbal remedies, and vehicle-service contracts. A year or more into our enlistment, we all become a bit more shrewd in discerning what we are getting for our hard-earned pay. Most veterans have various sage wisdom (or cynicism) that all come down to “I may have been born at night, but not last night. Get lost!”

Keeping your identity, finances, and personal information secure, and especially when you are in business for yourself (and cannot afford Wall Street attorneys). It is a full-time occupation. While I would toss this obvious nonsense in the trash, I will instead forward this to the Attorney General as the website indicated. I’m perhaps too cynical about taxes, fees, and business. While this is California, I will imagine that there are thousand of other mailings in mailboxes or en route at this time..

Ask the Chief: is public health, like national security, a responsibility of Government?

It is the summer of 2022 and our household managed to stave off COVID until early July. In spite of the furor of a pandemic since late 2019, we maintained a ‘common sense’ approach to wearing masks and being vaccinated. Small measures to mitigate the effect to our business, employees and clients. Since we perform services for a large number of people, requiring all parties to wear masks has also helped us dodge cold and flu viruses. But not entirely safe. Catching the latest strain of COVID was both annoying and caused breathing difficulty that lingered long after we tested negative for COVID. Were we not vaccinated I can only imagine how severe it might have been?

Whether the issues are public safety, the economy, food and product safety, or infrastructure (transportation, roads, etc), most citizens and most consumers are supportive of oversight that leads to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. But are government mandates to mitigate the spread of a virulent disease appropriate? Is public health in the purview of a constitutional government? And if so, which is the most appropriate agent – each local community, county, state or federal? Volumes could and have been written on these topics. Social media is overflowing with commentary on rights, wrongs, opinions, and conspiracies on these things.

As a military veteran, we were required to submit to vaccinations for everything from tuberculosis to anthrax. This was one of the measures to maintain a disease-resistant fighting force in areas our forces operated. And our nation was a party to international agreements on a whole host of topics that benefited one another. More than seventy years ago, the international community made health one of its responsibilities. Every few years a disease like the Swine Flu or Bird Flu, Ebola or SARS COVID-II, and infestations of insects, parasites, plants and animals are transmitted globally through international travelers and trade. Without governmental oversight, the response to an outbreak of disease, parasites, or organisms affecting local populations would neither have the resources nor experience to respond appropriately.

Have you encountered a “pension poacher”?

Every day many of us receive a call or email from a scammer intent on stealing our hard-earned savings, benefits or property. The Veterans Administration is warning military pensioners to be vigilant for unsolicited contact by pleasant-sounding people who intend to fleece us.

Highlights of their article:

To avoid being a victim to these tactics, here are some helpful tips to remember when protecting yourself from fraud:

Be suspicious if someone offers to shift your assets around to qualify for VA pension. You may be required to repay benefits to the government. 

NEVER share eBenefits, VA.gov, or other VA login credentials with anyone.

VA does not threaten or take adverse actions such as jail or lawsuits on claimants. If in doubt, call VA directly at 1-800-827-1000.

To report suspected activity, please contact the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) by calling 1-800-488-8244. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting http://www.consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.

Ask the Chief: California’s veterans’ benefits enhancement

On the day Americans celebrate our Independence, we all should recognize and thank our military service personnel including those currently serving and veterans. As a veteran and Navy retiree, and a small business owner, I am mindful that many of my peers may not be as fortunate as I have been in my military and civilian careers. And as I grow older, healthcare is becoming a more significant concern. Many of our older veterans with health issues may not have a support network to learn how to obtain federal and state medical services they are afforded due to their military service. For Medi-Cal -eligible seniors who are veterans, California assists them in obtaining pensions, prescriptions, and other services they may be qualified to receive. In turn, this enables California to allocate more resources to Medi-Cal recipients who are not veterans. In California, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Services project. More information and contacts to begin the process, is available here.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

folding clothes and other lost habits

A popular video that still makes the rounds on the Internet, a now-retired Admiral and Commander of Naval Special Warfare (SEAL), shared that your best days begin by making your bed. Today, I read a post on Facebook from the Naval History and Heritage command which reminded me of my early Navy days. It has a series of illustrations of how a Sailor’s uniforms were folded so they would fit in a seabag. Folding precisely was necessary to fit in the minimum space provided (shipboard life has exacting space for each member). While many of us had parents who modeled that sort of self-discipline of making your bed, folding your clothes, taking out your laundry to be washed and dried, and other household chores growing up, many did not. But the military service branches, when we all entered recruit training, would change us all into the sort that had an eye for detail, precision in our activities, and ability to stow our military uniforms and personal effects in the space we were given.

More than two decades have passed since I was part of a shipboard crew, and half that since I last wore the uniform. While the attention to detail and attitude about priorities and performance may still be part of my DNA, sadly other habits have gotten sloppier. No sharp creases in my skivvies, nor do my belongings neatly fit in my much larger “coffin locker” (the small storage space below each sailor’s bunk aboard ship) closets and a 5 -drawer dresser. Linens on my made-up bed would never bounce a quarter, nor do I take 3-minute showers (spray to wet, soap down, spray to rinse, get dressed). I do not stencil my underwear, nor do I fastidiously clean floors, walls, showers to Navy standards. While standards have been stretched over the years, the habits of nearly 30 years do result in frequent “field days”. And I still have Army, Navy and Marine veterans who may visit from time to time. Informal inspections can happen at any time (and my spouse keeps me mindful that a clean home is an inviting home) so I am well-stocked with cleaning agents.

Memorial Day history

Honoring the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who died in defense of the United States is why Monday, May 30th, is special. Honoring our dead has nothing to do with the commercialism and nonchalant ‘day off’ that has co-opted so many ‘holy-days’. And it is not to honor living service members nor veterans whom we thank on Veterans Day, though as a veteran I do remember both living and the dead. As the years pass, the sacrifice of many lives in past conflicts is no less a time to remember than for the generation coming of age today. More than fifteen thousand American military and contractors (many of whom were former military) were killed in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East between 9/11 and 2021’s exit from Afghanistan.

From an article published on Snopes.com, and sourced from historian research, the earliest remembrance day for war dead was held on May 1, 1865 when former slaves in Charleston, SC reburied 257 Union soldiers who had been interred in a mass grave at the former Confederate prison camp. They gave them all proper burial and then held a parade in gratitude for their service. In 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, designated May 30th as Decoration Day, placing flowers on the graves of war dead. In the 1960s, the governor of New York state, followed by President Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, New York as the original founder of Memorial day. (Whom and where the original day of remembrance began in the US is still debated.) Waterloo had been honoring war dead annually since 1866. Scholars can debate where and when Memorial Day began – there are accounts from groups in the old South that honored both Union and Confederate war dead since the 1860s, but the Federal Government established Memorial Day, with a holiday in 1971. As we in the United States enjoy gatherings or time to relax during the Memorial Day weekend, please pause to reflect on those military members who gave their all for us.

A visit with Paws for Purple Hearts

Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy

One of the tenets of military service is from the battlefield. “Leave no one behind”. As a veteran, I believe that extends to those who have come home with physical and emotional wounds. Statistics from the VA, state that up to 30 per cent of Vietnam Veterans have experienced Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) in their lifetime, and from 11 to 20 percent of Gulf War and Iraq-Afghanistan veterans have PTSD in any given year. More than 400,000 veterans have had at least one Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). For the last few decades transformative support has grown through individuals and groups who help veterans adjust to life with these cognitive conditions, trauma from sexual violence and harassment, loss of limbs or other injuries suffered in the line of duty.

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