Homeless Vets Update 70 ► Small Decrease in 2014 Governmentwide efforts to help homeless veterans pulled about 2,000 individuals off the streets from 2014 to 2015, according to new estimates released this week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. White House officials spun that statistic as continuing a five-year decline in homeless veterans numbers, proof that they’re making progress on the problem. President Obama this week praised government efforts as helping “tens of thousands of our veterans get off the streets.” But the small change in the yearly estimates makes the administration’s pledge to end veterans homelessness by the start of 2016 appear all but impossible, and potentially many years away.
The annual point-in-time count, conducted in January, shows there are about 48,000 homeless veterans across the country. That’s down from the 50,000 in the January 2014 count, but a smaller drop than the 5,000 veterans taken off the streets in each of the previous three years. Officials estimate the number was just under 75,000 in 2010, when the White House announced its national campaign to solve the problem. Since the latest count was conducted in January, officials in a number of major metropolitan areas — including Houston, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Salt Lake City — announced they have “effectively” ended veterans homelessness by putting in place enough assistance programs and shelters to quickly house any veterans in financial distress.
A VA volunteer talks to a homeless veteran during January's point-in-time count.
On Veterans Day, Virginia officials announced theirs had become the first state to end veterans homelessness statewide. That progress may be reflected in the 2016 point-in-time count, to be conducted in two months. But federal officials in recent months incorrectly predicted significant progress in this year’s figures, and will not release the next estimates until fall 2016. The full point-in-time count — which includes national homelessness figures and challenges — will be released in coming days. HUD officials downplayed the smaller annual reduction in homeless veterans numbers and said they are pleased that efforts are helping individuals get stable housing. “We have collaborated with partners in the private and philanthropic sectors, and every level of government, to put us on a path to achieve that goal," Jennifer Ho, HUD senior adviser on housing and services, said in a statement. “We’ve enlisted more than 850 state and local officials to commit to this effort, successfully housed more than 101,000 veterans through the HUD-VASH program, and reduced the number of unsheltered homeless veterans by 50 percent," she said. "We know how to solve this problem and communities across the country have shown us it can be done.”
Baylee Crone, executive director for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, called the small decrease in the national estimate concerning, but said she doesn’t believe it reflects a slowdown in progress in helping vulnerable veterans. “The numbers that really matter to us right now are the community-level ones,” she said. “What you can’t see in the [point-in-time] count are the new systems that have been put in place and the speed veterans have going from homeless to housing.” Crone said better community level coordination and new federal funding tools have resulted in significant decreases in local estimates that the coalition tracks, and went on to say she's pleased with the progress officials have seen since 2010 and in just the last year alone. “Still, the [point-in-time] count needs to keep going down,” she said. “Obviously, 48,000 homeless veterans is still way too high.” [Source: MilitaryTimes | Leo Shane | November 13, 2015 ++]
Stolen Valor ► Reported 15115 thru 151130 Years of pretending he was a federal law enforcement agent and Army Special Ops sergeant who earned the Purple Heart medal ended 19 NOV when a South Florida man admitted his deceit in federal court. Simon Emilio Zablah, 28, who lived in Broward County, pleaded guilty to two counts of impersonating a federal officer and one count of credit card fraud. Records show Zablah went AWOL from the U.S. Army less than two weeks after he enlisted in January 2005. He was discharged later that year on "other than honorable conditions," prosecutors said. Investigators from the FBI and U.S. Department of Defense said Zablah embarked on a complicated life of deception, convincing many people he had survived being wounded in action and earned the prestigious Purple Heart.
Investigators said he told many people he was a military veteran and a law enforcement agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He also claimed to be working on a top-secret classified mission as a member of the U.S. Department of Defense's Special Ops forces. Zablah frequently wore a military uniform, festooned with honors and badges, that got him special treatment, including free meals from some restaurants, according to court records. Agents found a fabricated card in his wallet that identified him as a Special Ops sergeant. Authorities said he posted comments and photographs on social media websites that indicated he was a decorated military veteran and masqueraded as a war hero who had earned multiple military honors and a Combat Action Badge. He left for work each day dressed in shirts that bore the words "FEDERAL AGENT" and often wore tactical law enforcement and military equipment, according to court records.
Handcuffed, shackled and dressed in dark blue jail scrubs, Zablah politely answered U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins' questions Thursday in federal court in West Palm Beach. "Guilty, Your Honor," Zablah replied three times in response to each charge. The maximum punishment for the offenses is 16 years in federal prison, but the prosecution and defense have agreed to recommend Zablah serve a year and a day in prison and receive mental health treatment. Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley will make the final decision when he sentences Zablah early next year. Zablah's lawyer Assistant Federal Public Defender Neison Marks declined to comment Thursday, but he previously said in court that Zablah has suffered from emotional and psychological problems for years and knows he needs counseling and mental health treatment.
Zablah admitted he pretended he was a U.S. Special Ops sergeant to get out of a $205 speeding ticket in April in Hollywood. The officer who stopped him gave him a written warning instead of a ticket because he showed the officer a fake military card. He also admitted he lied and claimed he was a U.S. Army Reserve officer in April 2013 to help get him a job as a call representative with a Plantation uniform supply company in 2013. "ln fact, l was a soldier in the United States Army from January 13, 2005 through January 25, 2005, at which time I deserted ... l received no awards or medals from the United States Army. I have never been in any way associated with United States Special Operations, the United States Army Reserve or any other branch of the United States military. I have also never been employed as or otherwise associated with any type of law enforcement, state or federal," according to the written plea agreement Zablah signed. Zablah also admitted he used a credit card number he obtained from a customer of the Plantation company in August 2013 to make six fraudulent purchases, totaling $3,669. The items he bought included a computer and were shipped to the Fort Lauderdale address where he lived at the time. The company fired him.
Investigators began looking into Zablah's activities after his July arrest on a state domestic violence charge in July. Hollywood police arrested him after his pregnant girlfriend said he tried to strangle her during an argument in the apartment they shared. He was released on bail with an electronic monitor while the state charge was pending. A month later, Zablah cut off his electronic monitor and fled to El Salvador after federal agents tried to question him about the impersonation allegations. Though he is a U.S. citizen who was born in New York, authorities said he later told some people he was planning to return to South Florida, perhaps by being smuggled through Mexico. He was arrested Oct. 21 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when authorities learned he had booked a return flight from El Salvador, prosecutor Carolyn Bell said. Zablah agreed to plead guilty less than a month later.
Authorities who searched his home and found military awards, body armor, military uniforms, hydration packs and other military equipment and a collection of Airsoft rifles and pistols, which authorities say look like genuine firearms but fire pellets and other projectiles at non-lethal speeds that can cause injury. Before he fled, Zablah was living with a roommate he met on a Facebook group for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court records. If Zablah pleads guilty to the state charge in the next few weeks or months, prosecutors will recommend he serve his punishments for all the offenses at the same time. [Source: Sun-Sentinel | Paula Mcmahon | November 20, 2015 ++]
Vet Documentaries ► PBS Florida Links Florida Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) have created a website where the individual PBS stations have contributed & posted their military documentaries. Below are the links:
Serve and Protect : Stories From WWII - "From a small senior community near St. Augustine, Florida over 30 veterans came together to share their stories at www.floridastoriesofservice.org/serve-and-protect-stories-from-wwii/.
Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice, and Courage -"NE Florida Vietnam veterans contributed their tender, often hurt feelings to shape this project. The Vietnam veterans were not like the WWII or Korean War veterans we had worked with on our previous documentaries. The Vietnam veterans were more actively involved in watching, suggesting and directing us to tell their true stories. What emerged shows the veterans to be just like you and me. They fought in an unpopular war and yet returned home to lead normal and successful lives. They could be and are your neighbors, friends and relatives. View at www.floridastoriesofservice.org/vietnam-service-sacrifice-and-courage/ Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom –This documentary compares the stories of four American servicemen through their time as prisoners of war in three major 20th century conflicts; World War II, Korea and the Vietnam war. Their stories are supported by archival motion pictures and photographs obtained at the US National Archives as well as through sketches and memorabilia collected by each of the men. Their stories are less about atrocity than they are about the survival of the human spirit and the camaraderie that helped each man survive years of incarceration. Each story at www.floridastoriesofservice.org/prisoners-of-war-stolen-freedom/ is followed by spectacular recounts of their days of release. Korea : Forgotten War, Remembered Heroes -"This special documentary spotlights the stories of five First Coast Korean War Veterans. Refer to www.floridastoriesofservice.org/korea-forgotten-war-remembered-heroes/.
Unleashing the Underdogs: The Ks For Warriors Story - “This documentary highlights a unique program that pairs dogs and veterans in a training program, and ultimately as companions, to show appreciation and assist in healing of PTSD. Refer to www.floridastoriesofservice.org/unleashing-the-underdogs-the-ks-for-warriors-story/.
[Source: Florida’s WJCT News | Michael Rothfeld | November 24, 2015 ++]
Vet Data Source ► www.veteransdata.info Did you know that of the nation’s more than 22 million veterans, the largest populations live in California, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania? But those aren’t the states with highest percentage of veterans. That status belongs to Alaska, Montana, Maine, Virginia and Wyoming. And if you delve into veterans by county, you’ll find that a disproportionate number live in rural areas, where incomes are lower, according to the Housing Assistance Council, which has developed a new online database tool to look at how veterans are faring in their communities. While veterans in Maryland, Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., have the highest median incomes -- ranging from $70,516 to $80,733 -- Washington’s veterans also have the country’s highest poverty rate at 10.4 percent, and 10.1 percent of its veterans are unemployed.
These are just a few of the facts that the interactive database contains. The site, www.veteransdata.info , was developed using data from a wide range of sources, with support from JPMorgan Chase. The interactive map provides data about veterans in every U.S. county, including demographic and economic indicators, housing characteristics, homeless rates and population numbers. It also offers a fact sheet for each state, providing details on population, proportion, prevalence by county, median income, poverty levels, unemployment, disability, housing facts and more.
“Often, we seem to lack useful and complete details on the status of American veterans,” HAC Executive Director Moises Loza said in a statement. “These new resources will help.” [Source: Stars & Stripes | Dianna Cahn | November 19, 2015 ++]
Veterans in the United States
Quick data snapshots by state
Veteran PopulationVietnam Era VeteransIncomeHousing ProblemsVA LendingVeteran Homelessness
WGU Salute To Veterans ► 50 New Scholarships Offered Western Governors University is accepting applications for its new WGU Salute To Veterans Scholarship. The nonprofit, online university created the scholarship to financially assist veterans and their spouses, who return to school for their bachelor’s and master's degrees. The scholarship is valued at up to $2,500 per student and will be applied at the rate of $625 per six-month term and be renewable for up to four terms. WGU reports tuition costs about $3,000 per term for the majority of its programs. Applications will be accepted through 31 JAN at www.wgu.edu/veterans . WGU will award up to 50 scholarships to new students nationwide. Information on military scholarships available for active-duty personnel and their families is available at www.wgu.edu/militaryappreciation. [Source: Pensacola NewsJournal | November 18, 2015 ++]
Vet Cemetery Hawaii Update 04 ► Construction Stopped at Maui Veterans Construction is stopped on improvements to Maui Veterans Cemetery after the project was found to conflict with the National Historic Preservation Act. The Maui News reports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is pursuing a historic analysis to gauge the potential impact work on the area could have on the neighboring Makawao Cemetery. State Deputy Attorney General Amanda Weston says construction can resume when the veterans affairs department complies with the preservation act. The $6 million project would improve and expand Maui County's only veterans' cemetery, where available burial sites are becoming scarce.
Weston said there are fewer than four dozen available burial sites. There were 14 burials in October. "We're very concerned about the lack of space, and we're eager to start construction as soon as we are able to so that we will not run out of burial space for the veterans and their families," she said. A lawsuit filed by the Makawao Cemetery Association in October said some improvements would damage the area's historic nature. Last week, the group asked for a temporary restraining order to stop work on a shared lot. Association attorney Isaac Hall says the group is happy construction is on hold. "We were having difficulties getting them to stop," Hal said. "They were taking the position that lot one, which is used in common, saying, 'That's our property and we'll do whatever we want with it.' We're hoping, with the preservation act, that they'll start taking more seriously our claims that they need to mitigate some of the impacts their project would have on Makawao Cemetery." [Source: The Associated Press | November 15, 2015 ++]
Retiree Appreciation Days ►As of 28 NOV 2015 Retiree Appreciation Days (RADs) are designed with you in mind. They're a great source of the latest information for retirees and Family members in your area. RADs vary from installation to installation, but, in general, they provide an opportunity to renew acquaintances, listen to guest speakers, renew ID Cards, get medical checkups, and various other services. Some RADs include special events such as dinners or golf tournaments. Due to budget constraints, some RADs may be cancelled or rescheduled. Also, scheduled appearances of DFAS representatives may not be possible. If you plan to travel long distances to attend a RAD, before traveling, you should call the sponsoring RSO to ensure the RAD will held as scheduled and, if applicable, whether or not DFAS reps will be available. The current schedule is provided in the attachment to this Bulletin titled, “Retiree Activity\Appreciation Days (RAD) Schedule”. Note that this schedule has been expanded to include dates for retiree\veterans related events such as town hall meetings, resource fairs, stand downs, etc. For more information call the phone numbers of the Retirement Services Officer (RSO) sponsoring the RAD as indicated in the attachment. An up-to-date list of Retiree Appreciation Days can always be accessed online at:
[Source: RAD List Manager | Milton Bell | November 28, 2015 ++]
Vet Hiring Fairs ► 1 DEC thru 31 Jan 2016 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s (USCC) Hiring Our Heroes program employment workshops are available in conjunction with hundreds of their hiring fairs. These workshops are designed to help veterans and military spouses and include resume writing, interview skills, and one-on-one mentoring. For details of each you should click on the city next to the date in the below list. To participate, sign up for the workshop in addition to registering (if indicated) for the hiring fairs which are shown below for the next month. For more information about the USCC Hiring Our Heroes Program, Military Spouse Program, Transition Assistance, GE Employment Workshops, Resume Engine, etc. visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website at http://www.hiringourheroes.org/hiringourheroes/events .
Virtual Job FairDetailsRegister
Cleveland, OH - Cleveland Hiring Expo with Cleveland CavaliersDetailsRegister
January 25 - 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
Austin, TX - Austin Hiring FairDetailsRegister
January 27 - 8:30 am to 1:30 pm
[Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Assn November 26, 2015 ++]
WWII Vets 95 ► Hudson~Frank This is a war story. It's also a love story. It's a story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl -- not once, but twice, over the expanse of 72 years. Frank Hudson was a good-looking young Texan in the U.S. Army Air Force. He came to Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls in 1943 for training during World War II. He received physical conditioning and training in English and mathematics. He also fell in love. Evelyn Louise Rekers was a pretty, petite waitress from Janesville. "She worked in a cafe in downtown Cedar Falls," Hudson, now 93, recalls. Her family called her Evelyn. "I liked 'Louise' better, so that's what I called her,'" he said. He liked more than her name. For her, it was mutual. "Before long, we got married," Frank said. But Frank was in the service, and Uncle Sam came calling. "We'd been married 10 days when I went overseas," Frank said.
He went to Europe. He was assigned to the 570th Bomb Squadron of the 390th Bomb Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. He was assigned to the crew of B-17G bomber 7041, nicknamed "Ain't Misbehavin'." He was crew engineer and top turret gunner. The crew flew 24 combat missions. The 24th, over Merseberg, Germany, on Nov. 30, 1944, proved fateful. Their plane was shot down. Three of the bombers' four engines failed. Three of Frank's crew went down with the plane and were killed. One fell to his death, his parachute improperly fastened. Another was killed on the ground by angry German farmers with pitchforks. Back home, Louise and Frank's folks in Texas received letters informing them he was missing in action. "The War Department sent her a telegram that said I was MIA, and that was all they told her," he said. "She didn't know whether I was alive or not." She and Frank's family would not learn his fate until the war ended months later.
It was a long wait and a long ordeal for Frank. After bailing out, Frank's parachute and that of a crewmate snagged in evergreen trees; they dangled high off the ground. They worked themselves loose and dropped to the snow-covered earth. Frank landed on a large log in a snowdrift and severely jarred his back and legs. It has factored in his disabilities today. They eluded capture for a time, scrambling several miles up a shallow stream to avoid leaving any scent for the hounds of pursuing German patrols to pick up. Exhausted after a day, they leaned up against a tree and fell asleep. When they awoke, an armed German soldier patrolling on a bicycle was approaching them. He captured them and escorted them to a truck of German Luftwaffe ground troops. Frank was a prisoner of war in the Stalag Luft I and Stalag Luft IV prison camps in Kefide, Germany, near the Lithuanian border. There were 10,000 Allied prisoners in the two camps. He lost 60 pounds in six months in captivity on a meager diet mainly of potatoes and rutabagas. Conditions were harsh. "The commander at Stalag Luft IV was a little red-haired German captain, meaner than a snake " Frank said. "His right-hand man was a big German sergeant, great big guy" prisoners called "Big Stupe," short for stupid. "He's the one who did all the dirty work, beat you around. He wasn't sharp, but he was big and tough. He was his enforcer."
But the prisoners had hope. They assembled a contraband makeshift radio from parts gathered through food parleys with the camp guards. They picked up British BBC broadcasts and heard news of the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazis' failed last major offensive in the West. They knew the tide had turned. In May, Frank was at Stalag Luft I when it was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. Frank recalled the Russian commander, Marshal Georgy Zhukov, rode into camp in a 1933 American Chevrolet sedan, a young woman on either side of him, and ordered music and vodka for a celebration that lasted through the night. Soviet troops procured livestock from the German countryside for the liberated prisoners to butcher for food. The Soviets escorted the liberated prisoners west to the Elbe River where the Red Army had linked up with the U.S. and other Allied troops. The Stalag Luft IV camp commandant and "Big Stupe" were murdered by vengeful British prisoners. There was a long trip home, via B-17s and train to Camp Lucky Strike, a repatriation camp in France, where Frank shook hands with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower who met with the liberated POWs. Then there was a long trans-Atlantic Liberty ship ride home.
In mid-summer 1945, Louise and Frank's folks finally received word he was alive. Frank and Louise were reunited in July 1945. They bought a service station in Lubbock, Texas, with another couple. They sold it after a year, and Frank and Louise came to Waterloo. He tried a couple of different jobs, the last as a driver for the WCF&N Railway. "I had lots of trouble from the war, had a hard time holding a job," Frank said. "I told her (Louise) I was going back in the service. She said 'I'm not going,'" Frank recalled. After the long wait during her husband's disappearance, she would have nothing of it. "So we divorced," he said. "She married another old boy, I married another old gal and we lived with those people for over 40 years." Frank signed up in the Air Force in 1948 and made a career of it, retiring in 1967 as a senior master sergeant. He served in Japan and Germany and had many assignments stateside. He passed on a combat tour in Korea. "I'd had enough of that" during World War II, he said.
After leaving the military, he worked another 14 years for the Texas highway department before retiring. Then came hard times. Frank's second wife was near death in the early 1990s. He received a call. It was Louise, now widowed from her second husband. "She said 'I'm single and I weigh 103.' Her first words," Frank recalled, his eyes gleaming. "At that time my second wife had Alzheimer's and cancer real bad and was not expected to live a couple of months." She died in April 1992. The wartime lovers, now widower and widow, became husband and wife again. Frank and Louise were remarried July 4, 1992, at First Baptist Church in Waterloo. Frank wanted to live in Lubbock. Louise preferred Waterloo. They compromised. They lived in Waterloo. This time, love prevailed. They were married 22 years -- until cancer and Alzheimer's took Louise Sept. 2. But she left her husband a gift. Her granddaughter, DeAirra Dutler, formerly of Waterloo and now of Iowa City, cared for Louise through her illness.
Now DeAirra cares for Frank, who uses a walker, enabling him to remain at home. She is his primary caregiver; he adores her. "Best in the world. I ain't trading her off for nothing," Frank said. Frank wants to complete one more aerial mission. He hopes to make an Honor Flight from the Waterloo Regional Airport to Washington, D.C., in September to see the National World War II Memorial. Many have been urging Frank to make the trip for quite some time, urging DeAirra to coax him into it. Frank's ready now. He would not go on such a trip before. He was not going to leave Louise's side, ever again. He never did. [Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier | bPat Kinney | June 09, 2015 ++]