Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Marked by Veterans

Battleship Row, as seen by Japanese pilot during the attack.

Battleship Row, as seen by Japanese pilot during the attack.

Two of the nation’s oldest veterans – who fought in the Pacific 70 years ago – were among those in attendance at Pearl Harbor  to mark the Japanese attack  Dec. 7, 1941.

Stars and Stripes reporter Leo Shane III writes:

It’s a heartwarming photo op, but also a sign of the nation’s fading ties to the Greatest Generation and a warning to the Sept. 11 generation that the mantra of “never forget” grows more difficult as the years pass.

The veterans — Richard Overton and Elmer Hill — weren’t at the attack in Hawaii, but passed through the ruined Navy base later on their way to the fight. They survived kamikaze planes and sluggish, island-clearing combat to return home and build new lives in separate parts of Texas.

An aerial view during the Pearl Harbor attack.

An aerial view during the Pearl Harbor attack.

President Barack Obama signed a proclamation for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day which reads in part:
In remembrance of Pearl Harbor and to defend our Nation against future attacks, scores of young Americans enlisted in the United States military. In battle after battle, our troops fought with courage and honor. They took the Pacific theater island by island, and eventually swept through Europe, liberating nations as they progressed. Because of their extraordinary valor, America emerged from this test as we always do — stronger than ever before.

We also celebrate those who served and sacrificed on the home front — from families who grew Victory Gardens or donated to the war effort to women who joined the assembly line alongside workers of every background and realized their own power to build a brighter world. Together, our Greatest Generation overcame the Great Depression, and built the largest middle class and strongest economy in history.

You can read the full proclamation here.

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Photos: Army Capt. Swenson Medal of Honor Ceremony

President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson. Photo from PBS News Hour web stream.

President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson. Photo from PBS News Hour web stream.

Here are photos from the White House ceremony less than an hour ago (2:10 p.m. Oct. 15, 2013) where Army Capt. William Swenson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. A quote from the citation marking his valor under fire and in the heat of battle:

“In seven hours of continuous fighting, Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy’s main effort, multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades, his unit, his country, and his endangered Afghan partners. Displaying conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his own life and well beyond the call of duty, Swenson would be a most deserving recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The still photos were captured from the live web broadcast of the ceremony by the PBS News Hour.

During the ceremony, President Obama asked the team of Army soldiers and Marines who took part in the battle to stand - acknowledging their contributions to the fight.

During the ceremony, President Obama asked the team of Army soldiers and Marines who took part in the battle to stand – acknowledging their contributions to the fight.

 

Former Army Capt. William Swenson captured by the cameras as the citation chronicling his valor is read. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream.

Former Army Capt. William Swenson captured by the cameras as the citation chronicling his valor is read. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream.

A close-up of the Medal of Honor after it was awarded to former Capt. Swenson - note the trail of a tear down his right cheek. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream broadcast.

A close-up of the Medal of Honor after it was awarded to former Capt. Swenson – note the trail of a tear down the right side of his face and lip. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream broadcast.

 

A New 9-11 Video from the Department of Defense

The Department of Defense released this video in remembrance of the September 11, 2001 attacks and to honor those killed then and afterward fighting terrorism.

 

The Department of Defense has planned two events commemorating the attack at the Pentagon 12 years ago.

 

The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attack. Photo credit: Department of Defense

The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attack. Photo credit: Department of Defense

A private memorial observance with President Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is planned at the Pentagon Memorial for the family members of those killed during the 2001 terrorist attacks. The ceremony will include brief remarks, the laying of a  wreath and a moment of silence. The event will be also televised and streamed live via the Pentagon Channel and www.pentagonchannel.mil.

A courtyard remembrance ceremony is set at 1 p.m. at the Pentagon’s Center Courtyard with Washington Headquarters Service’s Director of Administration and Management Michael Rhodes, Hagel and  Dempsey who will speak. This ceremony is for the staff and general community at the Pentagon and it too will be streamed  via the Pentagon Channel and www.pentagonchannel.mil.

Obama: VA Disability Claims Backlog Is Shrinking

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama acknowledged the obvious when addressing the Disabled American Veterans gathering Saturday in Orlando. He noted that there’s still a backlog of benefits claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, it’s just under 500,000 claims according to the Associated Press. And that’s smaller than the 611,000 claims backlog in March.

“Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress,” Obama said. “So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking.”

A claim is considered “backlogged” if it’s been in the system for four months.

The president also unveiled a  national plan for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Senate and House Differ on How to Clear VA Claims Backlog

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (L) with Sen. Bernie Sanders (R), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (L) with Sen. Bernie Sanders (R), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Last week, Florida Cong. Jeff Miller, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called for the formation of a task force to investigate the huge backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But his senate counterpart thinks such a move is unnecessary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Independent chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is cited in the Washington Post:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), said a presidential panel, which has been pushed by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, would likely not help solve the problem, which he said has already been studied thoroughly.

“You bring these people together for 18 more hearings, and in the real world, that slows down the progress you’re making,” Sanders said.

Sanders made his comments during an interview taped Thursday for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”

The VA has a backlog of more than 830,000 disability benefits claims and a vast majority (about two-thirds) have been waiting more than four months for action.

Sanders did call on President Barack Obama to resolve the disagreement between the VA and the Department of Defense over what electronic system to use for medical records that will be compatible with the DoD and VA.

Really? One hopes that for the good of the active-duty and veteran alike that the two departments make that compatibility a priority.

Vets, VA Well Represented Among Paralympians, Olympians

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, delivers remarks to the 2012 United States Olympic and Paralympic Teams, Sept. 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Veterans and an employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs were among the more than 400 U.S. Paralympians and Olympians celebrated at the White House last week.

“The Olympian in me is just so proud to be here, the federal employee in me is just like through the roof,” said Natalie Dell, a member of the U.S. Olympic Rowing team and an employee with the VA.

The gathering was on the White House lawn. It gave the athletes a chance to talk with and even get a hug from President Obama, Vice President Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama. A video even caught Olympic diver David Boudia letting the president try on his gold medal.

The front row was saved for the Paralympians in wheelchairs. Mrs. Obama walked down the line shaking hands and talking with the athletes including Scott Winkler, a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in track & field and an Iraq War Veteran.

“I have a motto: if you believe you can achieve,” said Winkler. “And, if you want anything in life, if you believe in it hard enough you can achieve those goals like we have.”

To Vietnam Veterans: “You Did Your Job, Welcome Home”

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are joined at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall by Rose Marie Sabo-Brown, the widow of Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., U.S. Army, during the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War commemoration ceremony in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This is for all the Vietnam Veterans. I am a bit tardy posting the commemorative event marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

In his speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, President Barack Obama noted the occasion with this message to Vietnam Veterans: “You did your job … Welcome home, welcome home.”

The “Wall” – as it became known – helped to begin the healing of the nation, Veterans and civilians after the divisive and controversial war.

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