Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Radio Address by President Bush to the Nation

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of the weekly radio address by President Bush:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, millions of Americans gather with loved ones for Christmas. This is a season of hope and joy. And it is an occasion to remember a humble birth that has helped shape the world for more than two thousand years.

One of the things that makes Christmas special is that it allows us to step back and take stock of what is truly meaningful in our lives. As years pass by, we often forget about the gifts and the parties, but we remember special moments with families and friends.

This year, as you spend time with those you love, I hope you'll also take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces. Every one of them has volunteered to serve our Nation. And with their incredible sacrifices, they preserve the peace and freedom that we celebrate during this season.

This tradition of service is as old as our Nation itself. In 1776, it looked as if America's first Christmas as an independent Nation might also be its last. After a series of crippling defeats by the British, George Washington's army was exhausted and disheartened. With their terms of service expiring in just a few weeks, many soldiers were planning on leaving the army. And it seemed that without a miracle, America's fight for freedom would be doomed.

That miracle took place on Christmas night, 1776. George Washington planned a surprise attack on the enemy forces camped across the Delaware River in Trenton, New Jersey. Under the cover of darkness, he led a few thousand soldiers across the icy waters in the midst of a driving snowstorm. Most generals would not have taken such a risk. But the commitment of Washington and his men was absolute. They headed into battle with a bold password -- "Victory or death."

In a matter of hours, victory was theirs. Morale immediately improved. And the American people began to believe that our Nation possessed the perseverance and courage to protect our liberty. The turnaround that began that night would end with the United States' triumph in the American Revolution -- and the permanent establishment of a free Nation.

Two hundred and thirty-two years have passed since George Washington crossed the Delaware. But on this Christmas, his legacy lives on in the men and women of the United States military. Some of them are spending this holiday helping defend emerging democracies like Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are spending it in lands where we defeated tyranny long ago, such as Germany or Japan. And some of them are spending it stateside, recovering in places like Bethesda National Naval Medical Center or Walter Reed.

Regardless of where they are, our men and women in uniform and the families who support them remind us of a clear lesson: Defending freedom is a full-time job. Our enemies do not take holidays. So the members of our armed forces stand ready to protect our freedom at any hour. For their service, they have the thanks of a grateful Nation -- this Christmas and always.

Thank you for listening.

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The American Revolution That Wouldn't Die

A Moment in American History

The most famous December event involving the American Revolution was Washington's Crossing of the Delaware. It was just six months after the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Revolution was just about lost. The British had invaded New York and completely routed Washington's Army, destroying much of it, and driving the Americans through New Jersey and acorss the Delaward into Pennsylvania.

The British stationed a force of German mecenaries called Hessians in Trenton, on the the New Jersey side of the Delaware, to watch the Americans. Washington decided then and there not to let the Revolution die.

On Christmas night, 1776, he led his ragged, tired, cold and hungry American army back across the Delaware, during a howling nor'easter, to take the Hessians by surprise. The Hessians had been celebrating Christmas and weren't exactly in fighting shape. Washington routed them, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men, and served noticed that the American army was not through yet.

In early 1777, Washington followed up on the victory at Trenton and pretty much took New Jersey back from the enemy. Washington's crossing is seen by many as the turning point of the American Revolution.

It was Christmas 1776, and it was a merry one for the United States.

Susan Sloan
James Waldrop Chapter DAR
Fayetteville, GA

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The National Infantry Museum Unveils Body Sculptures

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, the National Infantry Foundation will unveil a sample of its 50 life size sculptures at Brooklyn's StudioEIS, who for more than 30 years has been creating figures for museums around the world. These life-like figures will soon be placed in the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, scheduled to open March 20, 2009 in Columbus, Georgia.

Each of the museum's 50 life size sculptures is modeled after U.S. Army Soldiers who each had to go through a three-hour-long casting process. "The casting experience was awesome," said Capt. Matthew Makaryk. "The crew that did it was absolutely outstanding."

After the casts are removed, the pieces are assembled, sculpted, and painted. The figures are then dressed in costumes, which are impregnated with foam, given weapons, and treated with a resin coating. Thirty-eight of the body sculptures appear as Infantrymen, while 12 of the sculptures, which are dressed in original, artifact costumes, represent other historic figures. "As a former history teacher and now as an Infantryman I am impressed with the great lengths the foundation is going to portray accurate historical details," said Capt. Robert Peterson.

The 200-acre National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center site includes a parade field, a memorial walk of honor, and an authentic World War II Company Street. Inside the museum are galleries chock full of engaging exhibits with themes highlighting Infantry experiences in military training, Medal of Honor recipients, the OCS training experience, the contributions of Rangers and more. In addition, the museum's 300-seat IMAX Theater will bring giant screen movies to the Columbus, GA region for the first time.

Opening in March 2009, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park, a 200-acre tract linking Columbus, Georgia, and Fort Benning, the Home of the Infantry, is the first world-class site to pay tribute to the U.S. Army Infantryman and those who fight alongside him. As the only interactive Army Museum in the U.S., the museum showcases the contributions of the Infantry Soldier in every war fought by the U.S. by offering immersive participation and engaging visitors in the unique experiences of the Infantry Soldier. The complex also includes the parade field, memorial walk of honor, authentic World War II Company Street and 3-D IMAX Theatre. For more information, visit http://www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com/.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

President Bush Discusses Defense Transformation at West Point

Eisenhower Hall
The United States Military Academy
West Point, New York

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you, General, for your warm welcome. Thank you for inviting me here to West Point. I now know why you're so happy I'm here -- (laughter -- all classes were cancelled. (Applause.)

I had the honor of sitting next to the General and Judy during the game over the weekend. I am disappointed I could not bring the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with me. However, you just get the Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

This is my last visit to a military academy as President, so I thought I would exercise a certain prerogative of office one last time: I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. As always, I always -- I leave it to General Hagenbeck to determine what "minor" means. (Laughter.)

I really am proud to be with you today. I appreciate General Mike Linnington, and his wife Brenda for meeting me. It turns out Brenda was a -- is a 1981 West Point graduate.

I appreciate being here with General Pat Finnegan and Joan. Today on Air Force One, Congressman John Shimkus, 1980 West Point graduate, and Congressman Geoff Davis, 1981 West Point graduate, flew down with me. It's my honor to let them fly on the "big bird." (Laughter.)

There are many honors that come with the presidency, but none higher than serving as Commander-in-Chief in the greatest Armed Forces on Earth. (Applause.) Every one of you is a volunteer. You came to this academy in a time of war, knowing all the risks that come with military service. I want to thank you for making the noble and selfless decision to serve our country. And I will always be grateful to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States military.

As West Point cadets, you're part of a generation that has witnessed extraordinary change in the world. Two decades ago, the Cold War was nearing its end, and the Soviet Union was about to collapse. You were just beginning your lives. About the same time, another threat was quietly gathering. In hidden corners of the world, violent religious extremists were plotting ways to advance their radical aims and their grim ideology. We saw the results in a series of horrifying blows -- the truck bombing of the World Trade Center, the attack of Khobar Towers, the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the strike on the USS Cole.

For many years, America treated these attacks as isolated incidents -- and responded with limited measures. And then came September the 11th, 2001. In the space of a single morning we realized that we were facing a worldwide movement of fanatics pledged to our destruction. We saw that conditions of repression and despair on the other side of the world could bring suffering and death to our own streets.

As a result, America reshaped our approach to national security. Here at home, we hardened our defenses and created the Department of Homeland Security. We gave our national security professionals vital new tools like the Patriot Act and the ability to monitor terrorist communications. We reorganized our intelligence community to better meet the needs of war against these terrorists, including increasing the number of intelligence officers. We deployed aggressive financial measures to freeze their assets and to cut off their money. We launched diplomatic initiatives to pressure our adversaries and attract new partners to our cause.

We also made dramatic changes to both our military strategy and our -- the military itself. We resolved that we would not wait to be attacked again, and so we went on the offense against the terrorists overseas so we never had to face them here at home. We recognized that we needed strong partners at our side, so we helped strengthen the counterterrorism capabilities of our allies. We understood, as I said here at West Point in 2002, "if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long" -- so we made clear that hostile regimes sponsoring terror or pursuing weapons of mass destruction would be held to account.

We concluded that we are engaged in an ideological struggle, so we launched an effort to discredit the hateful vision of the extremists and advance the hopeful alternative of freedom. We saw the urgency of staying a step ahead of our enemies, so we transformed our military both to prevail on the battlefields of today and to meet the threats of tomorrow.

These changes will have a direct impact on your military careers. This morning, I'm going to give you a report on where we stand in each of these areas, and the challenges that lie ahead.

First, within weeks of September the 11th, our Armed Forces began taking the fight to the terrorists around the world -- and we have not stopped. From the Horn of Africa to the islands of Southeast Asia to wherever these thugs hide, we and our allies applied the full range of military and intelligence assets to keep unrelenting pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates. We have severely weakened the terrorists. We've disrupted plots to attack our homeland. We have captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda leaders and operatives in more than two dozen countries -- including the man who mastermind the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The terrorists continue to pose serious challenges, as the world saw in the terrible attack in Mumbai last month. Al Qaeda's top two leaders remain at large. Yet they are facing pressure so intense that the only way they can stay alive is to stay underground. The day will come, the day will come when they receive the justice they deserve. (Applause.)

Second, we've helped key partners and allies strengthen their capabilities in the fight against the terrorists. We've increased intelligence-sharing with friends and allies around the world. We've provided training and support to counterterrorism partners like the Philippines, and Indonesia, and Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. These partners have made enormous contributions in the war on terror. For example, Indonesia has crippled the terrorist group JI. Saudi Arabia has killed or captured hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists. And in Europe, security services have broken up terrorist cells in Germany, in Denmark, in Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

One of the most important challenges we will face, and you will face, in the years ahead is helping our partners assert control over ungoverned spaces. This problem is most pronounced in Pakistan, where areas along the Afghanistan border are home to Taliban and to al Qaeda fighters. The Pakistani government and people understand the threat, because they have been victims of terror themselves. They're working to enforce the law and fight terror in the border areas. And our government is providing strong support for these efforts. And at the same time, we have made it clear to Pakistan -- and to all our partners -- that we will do what is necessary to protect American troops and the American people.

Third, we have made clear that governments that sponsor terror are as guilty as the terrorists -- and will be held to account. After 9/11, we applied the doctrine to Afghanistan. We removed the Taliban from power. We shut down training camps where al Qaeda planned the attacks on our country. We liberated more than 25 million Afghans. Now America and our 25 NATO allies and 17 partner nations are standing with the Afghan people as they defend their free society. The enemy is determined, the terrain is harsh, and the battle is difficult. But our coalition will stay in this fight. We will not let the Taliban or al Qaeda return to power. And Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists. (Applause.)

We also took a hard look at the danger posed by Iraq -- a country that combined support for terror, the development and the use of weapons of mass destruction, violence against its own people, aggression against its neighbors, hostility to the United States, and systematic violation of United Nations resolutions. After seeing the destruction of September the 11th, we concluded that America could not afford to allow a regime with such a threatening and violent record to remain in the heart of the Middle East. So we offered Saddam Hussein a final chance to peacefully resolve the issue. And when he refused, we acted with a coalition of nations to protect our people -- and liberated 25 million Iraqis.

The battle in Iraq has been longer and more difficult than expected. Foreign terrorists, former regime elements, and Iraqi insurgents -- often with outside support -- combined to drive up violence, and bring the country to the verge of chaos. So we adopted a new strategy, and rather than retreating, sent more troops into Baghdad in Iraq. And when the surge met its objective, we began to bring our troops home under a policy of return on success. Last week, Iraq approved two agreements that formalize diplomatic and economic and security ties with America -- and set a framework for the drawdown of American forces as the fight in Iraq nears a successful end.

Fourth, America recognized the only way to defeat the terrorists in the long run is to present an alternative to their hateful ideology. So when we overthrew the dictators in Afghanistan and Iraq, we refused to take the easy option and instill friendly strongmen in their place. Instead, we're doing the tough work of helping democratic societies emerge as examples for people all across the Middle East. We're pressing nations around the world -- including our friends -- to trust their people with greater freedom of speech, and worship, and assembly. We're advancing a broader vision of reform that includes economic prosperity, and quality health care and education, and vibrant civil societies, and women's rights.

The results of these efforts are unfolding slowly and unevenly, but there are encouraging signs. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Lebanon and Pakistan, voters defied the terrorists to cast their ballots in free elections. In places like Iraq's Anbar province, people have seen what life under the Taliban looks like -- and they decided they want no part it -- actually, it was life under al Qaeda looks like.

You know, mothers don't want to raise their child in a neighborhood where thugs run and where thugs brutalize people. People want to live in peace. People want to live in freedom. Muslims from Jordan and Turkey to India and Indonesia have seen their brothers and sisters massacred, and recoiled from the terrorists. And even within the jihadist ranks, religious scholars have begun to criticize al Qaeda and its brutal tactics. In these ideological rejections, we see the beginning of al Qaeda's ultimate demise -- because in the long run, the ideology of hatred and fear cannot possibly compete with the power of hope and freedom. (Applause.)

Finally, we are transforming our military for a new kind of war that we're fighting now, and for wars of tomorrow. This transformation was a top priority for the enterprising leader who served as my first Secretary of Defense -- Donald Rumsfeld. Today, because of his leadership and the leadership of Secretary Bob Gates, we have made our military better trained, better equipped, and better prepared to meet the threats facing America today, and tomorrow, and long in the future.

As part of our transformation effort, we are arming our troops with intelligence, and weapons, and training, and support they need to face an enemy that wages asymmetric battle. See, this enemy hides among the civilian population, and they use terror tactics like roadside bombs to attack our forces, to demoralize local population, and to try to shake the will of the American people.

To defeat this enemy, we have equipped our troops with real-time battlefield intelligence capabilities that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. In Iraq and Afghanistan, troops in the field have used advanced technologies like Global Positioning Systems to direct air strikes that take out the enemy while sparing innocent life. We've expanded America's arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles from fewer than 170 when I took office to more than 6,000 today. We're arming Predator drones. We're using them to stay on the hunt against the terrorists who would do us harm.

We've expanded America's special operations forces. With more forces -- more of these forces on the battlefield, we can respond more quickly to actionable intelligence on the terrorists who are in hiding. Over the past eight years, we have more than doubled funding for special operators. We created the first-ever special operations command within the Marines. We have given the Special Operations Command the lead role in the global war against the terrorists.

In addition to these upgrades in our counterterrorism capabilities, we have placed a new focus on counterinsurgency. The Army has published a new counterinsurgency manual written by a distinguished graduate of this academy: General David Petraeus. The central objectives of this counterinsurgency strategy are to secure the population, and gain support of the people, and train local forces to take the responsibility on their own.

One of the reasons we're meeting these objectives in Iraq is the ability to rapidly deploy brigade combat teams. These teams can join the battle on short notice as organized and cohesive units. With these teams in the fight, our Army is better able to carry out its counterinsurgency objectives -- and better equipped to defeat the enemies we'll face as the 21st century unfolds.

Our counterinsurgency strategy also stresses the importance of following up security gains with real benefits in people's daily lives. To better meet that objective, we created Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs. These teams pair with military personnel civilian experts in areas like economics, and agriculture, and law enforcement, and education. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, these teams are helping local communities create jobs, and deliver basic services, and keep the terrorists from coming back. PRTs bring diplomats, aid workers, and other experts from across the government into the fight -- and we must expand them in the years to come.

To better institutionalize all the changes we've made in recent years, we have transformed the education and training our troops receive. We're taking the lessons we've learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, and teaching them at military academies and training centers across our country. For example, every branch of the military now receives the counterinsurgency training that was once reserved for special operations forces. Here at West Point, you've created a new Combating Terrorism Center that allows you to gain insights from the battles of today and apply them as you lead our military into the future.

In addition to making these changes to help our troops prevail in the war on terror, we've been transforming our military since early 2001 to confront other challenges that may emerge in the decades ahead. For example, we have begun the most sweeping transformation of America's global force posture since the end of World War II. We're shifting troops from Cold War garrisons in Europe and Asia so they can surge more rapidly to troubled spots around the world. We've established new military commands to meet challenges unique to Africa and to support our homeland.

We've invested more than a half a trillion dollars in research and development, so we can build even more advanced capabilities to protect America from the dangers of a new century. We're making our forces more joint and interoperable, so they can cooperate seamlessly across different services and with foreign partners. And to confront an emerging threat to our economy, our defense systems, and individual citizens, the federal government is cooperating closely with the private sector to improve security in cyberspace.

One of the most serious dangers facing our people is the threat of a rogue regime armed with ballistic missiles. In 2001, I announced withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. I did so because it constrained our ability to develop the technologies needed to defend ourselves against the threat of blackmail by rogue states. With these constraints removed, we have developed and deployed new defenses capable of protecting American cities from ballistic missile attack.

This system can now defend America against limited missile attacks from Northeast Asia. Concluded agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to establish missile defense sites on their territories to help protect against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. Because we acted, America now has an initial capability to protect our people from a ballistic missile attack.

As we built new defenses against a missile attack, we also worked with Russia to make historic reductions in offensive nuclear weapons. When these reductions are complete, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile will be at its lowest level since the Eisenhower administration. These reductions are part of a new approach to strategic deterrence that relies on both nuclear and conventional strike forces, as well as strong defenses. We're investing in new technologies that will ensure the long-term safety and security and reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent. This approach sends a clear message to the world: We'll reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons while keeping America's strategic deterrent unchallenged.

With all the actions we've taken these past eight years, we've laid a solid foundation on which future Presidents and future military leaders can build. America's military -- America's military today is stronger, more agile, and better prepared to confront threats to our people than it was eight years ago. In the years ahead, our nation must continue developing the capabilities to take the fight to our enemies across the world. We must stay on the offensive. We must be determined and we must be relentless to do our duty to protect the American people from harm. (Applause.)

We must stand by the friends and allies who are making tough decisions and taking risks to defeat the terrorists. We must keep up the pressure on regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass destruction. We must continue to support dissidents and reformers who are speaking out against extremism and in favor of liberty. We must continue transforming our Armed Forces so that the next generation inherits a military that is capable of keeping the American people safe and advancing the cause of peace. And above all, we must always ensure that our troops have the funds and resources they need to do their jobs, and that their families receive the full support they deserve. (Applause.)

I have great confidence in the future, because I have confidence in you all. Ultimately, the security of our nation depends on the courage of those who wear the uniform. I see that courage in all of you. I thank you for your patriotism. I thank you for your devotion to duty. May God bless you in all your endeavors. May God bless your families. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Establishment of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Beginning at Pearl Harbor with the day of infamy that saw the sinking of the USS ARIZONA and ending on the deck of the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay, many of the key battles of World War II were waged on and near American shores and throughout the Pacific. We must always remember the debt we owe to the members of the Greatest Generation for our liberty. Their gift is an enduring peace that transformed enemies into steadfast allies in the cause of democracy and freedom around the globe.

Americans will never forget the harrowing sacrifices made in the Pacific by soldiers and civilians that began at dawn on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. The surprise attack killed more than 2,000 American military personnel and dozens of civilians and thrust the United States fully into World War II.

America responded and mobilized our forces to fight side-by-side with our allies in the European, Atlantic, and Pacific theaters. The United States Navy engaged in epic sea battles, such as Midway, and our Armed Forces fought extraordinary land battles for the possession of occupied islands. These battles led to significant loss of life for both sides, as well as for the island's native peoples. Battlegrounds such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa are remembered for the heroic sacrifices and valor displayed there.

The conflict raged as far north as the Alaskan territory. The United States ultimately won the encounter in the Aleutian Island chain but not without protracted and costly battles.

There were also sacrifices on the home front. Tens of millions of Americans rallied to support the war effort, often at great personal cost. Men and women of all backgrounds were called upon as industrial workers, volunteers, and civil servants. Many Americans valiantly supported the war effort even as they struggled for their own civil rights.

In commemoration of this pivotal period in our Nation's history, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument adds nine historic sites to our national heritage of monuments and memorials representing various aspects of the war in the Pacific.

Five of those sites are in the Pearl Harbor area, which is the home of both the USS ARIZONA and the USS MISSOURI -- milestones of the Pacific campaign that mark the beginning and the end of the war. The sites in this area include: the USS ARIZONA Memorial and Visitor Center, the USS UTAH Memorial, the USS OKLAHOMA Memorial, the six Chief Petty Officer Bungalows on Ford Island, and mooring quays F6, F7, and F8, which constituted part of Battleship Row. The USS ARIZONA and USS UTAH vessels will not be designated as part of the national monument, but instead will be retained by the Department of Defense (through the Department of the Navy) as the final resting place for those entombed there.

Three sites are located in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. The first is the crash site of a Consolidated B-24D Liberator bomber -- an aircraft of a type that played a highly significant role in World War II -- located on Atka Island. The second is the site of Imperial Japan's occupation of Kiska Island, beginning in June 1942, which marks the northern limit of Imperial Japan's expansion in the Pacific. The Kiska site includes historic relics such as Imperial Japanese coastal and antiaircraft defenses, camps, roads, an airfield, a submarine base, a seaplane base, and other installations, as well as the remains of Allied defenses, including runway facilities and gun batteries.

The third Aleutian designation is on Attu Island, the site of the only land battle fought in North America during World War II. It still retains the scars of the battle: thousands of shell and bomb craters in the tundra; Japanese trenches, foxholes, and gun encampments; American ammunition magazines and dumps; and spent cartridges, shrapnel, and shells located at the scenes of heavy fighting. Attu later served as a base for bombing missions against Japanese holdings.

The last of the nine designations will bring increased understanding of the high price paid by some Americans on the home front. The Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark and nearby Camp Tule Lake in California were both used to house Japanese-Americans relocated from the west coast of the United States. They encompass the original segregation center's stockade, the War Relocation Authority Motor Pool, the Post Engineer's Yard and Motor Pool, a small part of the Military Police Compound, several historic structures used by internees and prisoners of war at Camp Tule Lake, and the sprawling landscape that forms the historic setting.

WHEREAS much of the Federal property within the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is easily accessible to visitors from around the world;

WHEREAS the Secretary of the Interior should be authorized and directed to interpret the broader story of World War II in the Pacific in partnership with the Department of Defense, the States of Hawaii, Alaska, and California, and other governmental and non-profit organizations;

WHEREAS the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument will promote understanding of related resources, encourage continuing research, present interpretive opportunities and programs for visitors to better understand and honor the sacrifices borne by the Greatest Generation, and tell the story from Pearl Harbor to Peace;

WHEREAS section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431) (the "Antiquities Act") authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;

WHEREAS it is in the public interest to preserve the areas described above and on the attached maps as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431), do proclaim that there are hereby set apart and reserved as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument for the purpose of protecting the objects described above, all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States within the boundaries described on the accompanying maps, which are attached and form a part of this proclamation. The Federal lands and interests in land reserved consist of approximately 6,310 acres, which is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of this monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, leasing, or other disposition under the public land laws, including, but not limited to, withdrawal from location, entry, and patent under mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing.

Management of the National Monument

The Secretary of the Interior shall manage the monument through the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, to implement the purposes of this proclamation. The National Park Service shall generally administer the national monument, except that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shall administer the portions of the national monument that are within a national wildlife refuge. The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may prepare an agreement to share, consistent with applicable laws, whatever resources are necessary to properly manage the monument.

For the purposes of preserving, interpreting, and enhancing public understanding and appreciation of the national monument and the broader story of World War II in the Pacific, the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall prepare a management plan within 3 years of the date of this proclamation.

The Secretary of the Interior shall have management responsibility for the monument sites and facilities in Hawaii within the boundaries designated on the accompanying maps to the extent necessary to implement this proclamation, including the responsibility to maintain and repair the Chief Petty Officer Bungalows and other monument facilities. The Department of Defense may retain the authority to control access to those sites. The Department of the Interior through the National Park Service and the Department of the Navy may execute an agreement to provide for the operational needs and responsibilities of each Department in implementing this proclamation.

Armed Forces Actions

1. The prohibitions required by this proclamation shall not restrict activities and exercises of the Armed Forces (including those carried out by the United States Coast Guard).

2. All activities and exercises of the Armed Forces shall be carried out in a manner that avoids, to the extent practicable and consistent with operational requirements, adverse impacts on monument resources and qualities.

3. In the event of threatened or actual destruction of, loss of, or injury to a monument resource or quality resulting from an incident, including but not limited to spills and groundings, caused by a component of the Department of Defense or any other Federal agency, the cognizant component shall promptly coordinate with the Secretary of the Interior for the purpose of taking appropriate actions to respond to and mitigate the harm and, if possible, restore or replace the monument resource or quality.

4. Nothing in this proclamation or any regulation implementing it shall limit or otherwise affect the Armed Forces' discretion to use, maintain, improve, or manage any real property under the administrative control of a Military Department or otherwise limit the availability of such real property for military mission purposes.

The establishment of this monument is subject to valid existing rights.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the national monument shall be the dominant reservation.

Nothing in this proclamation shall alter the authority of any Federal agency to take action in the monument area where otherwise authorized under applicable legal authorities, except as provided by this proclamation.

Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any lands thereof.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flags to Fly Half-Staff in Commemoration of Pearl Harbor Attack

/24-7-- On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, December 7, 1941 initially seemed liked any other sunny day. The US forces stationed there were awake and ready to begin their daily grind. At 6:00 a.m. however, over the horizon, six Japanese carriers were already in the midst of launching the first deadly wave of surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor. A total of 181 Japanese Air Force planes began bombing American ships and military installations on Oahu by around 8:00 a.m., inflicting heavy damage on naval air bases at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, the Marine airfield at Ewa and the Army Air Corps air fields at Wheeler, Bellows and Hickam, as well on the ships moored in Pearl Harbor.

The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted two hours. A total of 320 aircraft were severely damaged, along with twenty-one navy ships. Among the sunken navy ships were the USS West Virginia, The USS Oklahoma and the USS Arizona. The attack also disabled the US Pacific Fleet, and led the United States into World War II. The news of the deadly attacks on Pearl Harbor sent shockwaves across the whole United States, and emboldened every able-bodied American to volunteer into the U.S. Armed Forces. It also united the country behind President Franklin Roosevelt, and completely erased the country's isolationist sentiments.

According to historians, The Pacific Theater in World War II was fought over the largest area of any major conflict in history, and raged over an expanse of land and sea covering an area half the planet's size. The many battles and firefights that raged on each island and beach here evoke stirring images of courage and resilience. History now has names like Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Attu, Midway and Peleliu, Iwo Jima and others etched in its pantheon, allowing future generations to remember the heavy sacrifices made by many to ensure that we remain free from tyranny.

On December 7, all US flags at federal, state and public facilities in the United States will be flown at half-staff, in commemoration of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. This historic day will allow all Americans to remember the infamous attack by Japanese forces on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, as well as celebrate the valor and dedication shown by a brave generation of Americans during the World War II. December 7, 1941, according to US Navy Chief Admiral Michael G. Mullen, was "not just a day of infamy, but in many ways it was a day of discovery for America and for the world. It changed us, it hurt us, but it also made us stronger, as did September 11."

The US Congress, according to Public Law 103 308, has officially designated the seventh day of December as the "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." On this solemn occasion, the nation pays homage to the perseverance and heroism shown by many in the face of extremely overwhelming odds. This holiday allows the nation to commemorate the sacrifices made by the valiant members of the US Armed Forces, as well as to celebrate the victory over the forces of fascism, oppression and isolationism. This day also bodes well for igniting the patriotic spirit in each of us.

Matt Knowlan of www.aflag.com, an expert on flag etiquette further adds that the US flag should be displayed, and waved as well, during national holidays, and also be displayed daily on or near the main building of each public institution. It should also be displayed in or near every polling place on election days, as well as on or near schools during school days.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Veteran's Christmas Tree Ornaments Available in Fayetteville

A Veteran's Christmas Tree is being erected in Fayetteville, Georgia, in front of the American Legion on Main Street. Members of the Frankie Lyle Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy are selling ornaments which will be personalized for American veterans. Veterans may be from the time of the American Revolution up to today.

The tree, decorated in red, white and blue, was donated by the Fayette County Civitan Club. As each individualized ornament is made, a prayer will be said for the veteran and for our country.

Each ornament is $10 and can be ordered from:

Frankie Lyle Chapter No. 2074
Mrs. Linda Robinson
Recorder of Military Service Awards
250 Newhaven Drive
Fayetteville, GA 30215.

Please include the veteran's name, rank, branch of service, and dates served.

If desired, arrangements can be made for your patriot's ornament to be picked up after Christmas.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Interviewed by Internet-Based Purple Heart Radio

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Dr. James Peake used his interview this week with Internet-based Purple Heart Radio to send holiday greetings to service men and women around the world and to the 275,000 employees of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs:

“My message to the men and women serving overseas is one of thanks and appreciation for what they are doing for our country,” Peake said to those serving at home and abroad. “The men and women who serve this nation, putting on the cloth of our country and putting themselves in harm’s way, putting their own personal families a bit on hold while they go to serve their country, are owed a great debt of gratitude….I want them to know that this whole department, Veterans’ Affairs, is really here because of their service and this country’s commitment to making sure that we can care for those who have served this country.”

Peake also praised the work of Purple Heart Services in promoting training and employment opportunities for home-bound disabled veterans.

“I think training and providing employment doesn’t, in this technology-enabled age, have to be distance dependent,” said Peake. “I just commend Purple Heart Services on this approach to being able to provide access to employment, provide access to meaningful engagement. Really, in some ways, it provides access to participation in the community through the leverage of technology.”

Purple Heart Services (PHS) was established by the Purple Heart Service Foundation and combines the Veterans Business Training Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Tech Support and Purple Heart Cars. PHS provides proven training and support systems and solutions for combat wounded and disabled veterans who work from their home as remote agents.

Peake was interviewed by Purple Heart Radio host “Mr. Z,” who is Afshin Zarenejad, a disabled veteran of the 101st Airborne. Peake closed his interview with his thanks and praise for the employees of his department:

“I have had the real privilege of traveling this country from one end to the other, from east to west, from north to south,” Peake said. “Everywhere I go I am proud of the people that absolutely care – not just deliver the care – but truly care for those we serve. I would tell them that I appreciate tremendously the work that they do every single day in making the lives of our veterans better. Because that’s essential what they do every day by their care and compassion and the focus on doing the right thing.”

To hear the interview in its entirety and to learn more about Purple Heart Radio, visit www.PurpleHeartRadio.com

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Video: Original Star-Spangled Banner Debuts in New State-of-the-Art Gallery at the Heart of the National Museum of American History

/PRNewswire/ -- The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will reopen its doors to the public Friday, Nov. 21, providing a new look at the almost 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner--the flag that inspired the national anthem. The museum has constructed a custom-designed display for the flag, which recently underwent an extensive conservation treatment. The gallery is part of a two-year, $85 million renovation of the building's center core, which has dramatically transformed the museum's architecture.

"The Star-Spangled Banner is one of our nation's most treasured objects, a symbol of what this country stands for," said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. "Its new surroundings are part of a strategic plan to ensure the long-term preservation of the flag, to revitalize the museum and help future generations experience what it means to be an American."

The Star-Spangled Banner Preservation Project was made possible by major support from Polo Ralph Lauren. Generous support was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Congress, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the American Express Historic Preservation Fund. The conservation project is part of Save America's Treasures--a public-private partnership administered by the National Park Service and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

"I was honored to be asked to help on the project to preserve the Star-Spangled Banner," said Ralph Lauren. "It has always been an inspiration to me, and I wanted it to continue to be an inspiration for generations to come. I am thrilled to see it displayed in all its glory; a constant symbol of what makes America great--our ideals, our courage and our faith in the future."

The new Star-Spangled Banner Gallery lies at the heart of the museum, the focal point of the dramatic five-story skylit atrium. An architectural representation of a waving flag--made up of 960 reflective tiles--frames the entrance to the gallery. As visitors enter, a companion exhibition sets the scene for a dramatic historic event: the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, when this young nation survived an assault by the British.

A special enclosure, with a 35-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall, will protect the fragile wool and cotton flag while providing maximum visibility to visitors. The chamber's lighting, mechanical, security and fire prevention systems, as well as the table upon which the flag rests and the new gantry (movable bridge) that museum staff will use to inspect the flag, are designed to work together to ensure long-term protection of the flag. The room has separate environmental systems maintaining a constant temperature of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity of 50 percent. All support structures and mechanisms will be hidden from public view so that the flag appears to be suspended in the chamber.

The 30-foot by 34-foot banner will be displayed at a horizontal orientation and, in order to reduce stress to the textile, at a 10-degree angle of elevation. Low light levels will protect the flag, yet are dramatic enough to evoke an atmosphere of the "dawn's early light," similar to what Francis Scott Key experienced Sept. 14, 1814, when he wrote his famous lyrics. The first stanza of the national anthem is projected prominently on the wall above the Star-Spangled Banner. A tactile image of the banner and an interactive projection of the flag allow visitors to investigate key details about the flag, its history and how it was made. Upon leaving the viewing chamber, additional exhibits convey specific stories about the making of the Star-Spangled Banner: its meaning as a family keepsake, the efforts of the Smithsonian to preserve the flag for more than 100 years and how Americans have used the Star-Spangled Banner, both the flag and the song, to express diverse ideas of patriotism and national identity.

For a limited time, the exhibition will also include one of only three signed manuscripts of Key's lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner," on loan from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The construction of the new Star-Spangled Banner Gallery was coordinated with the renovation of the museum itself. The museum contracted with the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and Turner Construction for the overall planning, design and construction. New York-based design firms Chermayeff & Geismar and C&G Partners provided the exhibition design for the new Star-Spangled Banner gallery.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fayetteville DAR Honors Veterans on Veterans Day


The James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution placed a wreath at the Peachtree City Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day. Regent Betty Harrah of Fayetteville stated, "Today is November 11, 2008, Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all the men and women who have served this country from the battlefields of the Revolutionary War to the battlefields of today. Often times we might forget what these soldiers have gone through to ensure the freedoms we have today. Where would we be without their sacrifices."

"They left their families, homes, jobs, farms to serve and protect our country," she continued. "Today marks the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day, November 11, 1919. It was changed to Veterans Day when President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954 to honor all veterans. When we see someone who has served our country, not just on Veterans Day, but every day, be sure and say "Thank You". There is a quote: "If you can read, thank a teacher; if it is in English, thank a veteran". We love you, we respect you and we thank you."

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Sears Invites Americans to Celebrate Veterans Day and Give Back

PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In honor of its long-standing commitment to military servicemen and women on Veterans Day, Sears will kick-off its Heroes at Home Wish Registry today, to fulfill wishes for deserving military families and personnel this holiday season. Sears created the Heroes at Home Wish Registry to help make the wishes of members of the military come true for the holidays and enable Americans to provide a direct 'thank you' to them.

This fall, more than 29,000 active military members registered to participate in the Wish Registry at Sears.com. Sears heard from U.S. Service members around the world -- ranging from one soldier just wishing to spend the holidays with his family, to another wishing for simple items after his family's home was destroyed in a fire. One soldier wrote:

"When I met my wife for the first time it was love, romantic love like in the movies. Army life hasn't been easy on my wife or kids. I'm currently on my third tour in the Middle East. My family has sacrificed so much, and while material things could never replace being home for Christmas, just knowing they had a good one and were smiling on Christmas is a gift enough for me."

"The Heroes at Home Wish Registry enables all Americans to recognize and celebrate the commitment our military makes on behalf of our country everyday," said Don Hamblen, Sears' chief marketing officer. "The stories are touching and show how selfless these military families are and Sears couldn't be more proud to offer a program that helps make their holidays brighter."

The Heroes at Home Wish Registry works similar to a bridal registry. Now through Dec. 24, consumers can go to Sears.com, read the military families' stories, what they're wishing for, and may choose to donate to the Wish Registry. Upon making a donation, consumers can include a note to the families and wish them happy holidays. Donations made to the Wish Registry are not tax deductible and will be used to purchase Sears Gift Cards that will be equally distributed to all registered families, up to a maximum gift card amount of $550 per family. In the event that all registered families receive the maximum amount, all remaining sums will be donated to the United Services Organization (USO).

Sears partnered with the USO to help communicate the Wish Registry to military members, and will also make a $250,000 donation to support USO programs and services around the world. Active service personnel who participate in the Heroes at Home Wish Registry will remain anonymous to ensure compliance with the military's standards of conduct regulations.

Last year, Sears Holdings launched the Heroes at Home program to provide support to service members, veterans and their families through joint efforts with various nonprofit organizations, including Rebuilding Together, Inc. Since the program's inception, Sears Holdings has helped to rebuild or renovate more than 200 homes and has raised more than $5 million through the Heroes at Home program for Rebuilding Together. Coming up Nov. 15, the program will complete one of its many builds in Crestline, CA to assist disabled veteran Jeremy Wiessmiller.

Also on Veterans Day, My Network TV will feature a two-hour Heroes at Home special at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT. Hosted by Howie Long (host of FOX NFL Sunday), the Heroes at Home special introduces viewers to six service members, from California to Connecticut, who share their personal experiences of service in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The military families share their struggles in their daily lives, the challenges they and their loved ones face, and how Sears and MyNetworkTV have helped fulfill some of their holiday wishes, and helped to make their transition back home more seamless.

Chris Strickland, a disabled army veteran from Connecticut, will share how Heroes at Home helped provide modifications throughout his home to make it more accessible for him. (Check local listings for specific channel or visit http://www.mynetworktv.com/. The channel may be listed with MY in front of channel number.)

Sears has actively supported this country's servicemen and women with pride and respect since the company was founded more than a century ago. In 2005, Sears Holdings received the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which publicly recognizes American employers who provide exceptional support to their employees who voluntarily serve the nation in the National Guard and Reserve. In 2006, Sears Holdings also was honored with the Military Officers Association of America's Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of the company's support of associates in the Guard and Reserve and military families nationwide.

To find out more about the Heroes at Home program, make a donation, or to refer a military family or veteran to the home renovation program through Rebuilding Together, visit http://www.sears.com/ or call 1-800-473-4229. Sears Holdings' ongoing commitment to assisting troops and their families includes several recruiting and employment programs, as well as a military pay differential to Sears associates employed (full time) who are reservists serving on active duty. Reservists who are employed full-time are allowed to continue participating in life insurance, medical and dental programs.

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Fayette County WW II Veterans Say “Thanks” on Veterans Day


World War II veterans Calvin Graves (left center) and Gibbs Ramsey (right center) lead the student body in the Pledge of Allegiance along with Gail Sparrow and assistant principal Ron Plauche.

Students at JC Booth Middle School in Peachtree City have worked hard to help some very special veterans. On Veterans Day, some of those who benefitted from their generosity came to the school to say thanks.

Collectively, the student body has raised over $1,400 for Honor Flight Fayette, a nonprofit organization that flies World War II veterans, at no cost, to see their memorial in Washington, DC. The organization is able to provide the free one-day trips through monetary donations that are used to cover the travel costs.

The Booth students have raised enough money to send five veterans to the memorial. Calvin Graves was one of the first veterans sponsored by the school and was part of the inaugural flight on May 14, 2008.

“I was honored to do what I did for my country and I was proud of my service but I have never been more honored than when 70 of us old guys went to see the WW II memorial. Thank you,” Graves said to the nearly 1,000 students who had packed into the gym to see and hear from the veterans they had helped.

Joining Graves was Gibbs Ramsey, the grandfather of the school’s reading teacher, Courtney Bremer. Gibbs, another veteran sponsored by the school, is going on the Honor Flight scheduled for November 12, the day after Veterans Day. He served in the US Navy during the war and said that he had only one regret.

“We had a great time. I enjoyed every minute of it. My only regret is that I didn’t stay in the Navy,” he said.

Former Fayette County teacher Gail Sparrow, who has been instrumental in heading up Honor Flight Fayette, was also in attendance to thank the students for supporting a cause that is near and dear to her heart.

“Your generosity has sponsored five veterans so that they could go and see their memorial. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do for these veterans,” Sparrow said.

Honor Flight Fayette accepts donations from individuals and groups throughout the year. To learn more about the program, visit www.honorflightfayette.com.

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Veteran's Day Comment

Remember America's brave men and women who have willingly given all they had for America for over 232 years. Thank you veterans, past and present, for giving Americans our freedoms.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Atlanta Falcons Players Visit Hospitalized Veterans

Players for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons will visit hospitalized veterans on Veterans Day Tuesday, Nov. 11, at the Atlanta VA medical center, as part of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Celebrity Entertainment Program.

Players are scheduled to visit the hospital at 1 p.m., as a way to honor veterans for serving our nation. They'll be signing autographs, presenting patients with souvenirs, and helping brighten the day for those who have sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom.

The visit by Falcons players to the Atlanta VA medical center, 1670 Clairmont Rd., Decatur, Ga., is part of the team's observance of Veterans Day. The Atlanta Falcons join other NFL teams, Major and Minor League Baseball players, NASCAR drivers, country music stars and others participating in the DAV Celebrity Entertainment program.

"We are proud the Atlanta Falcons are part of our Celebrity Entertainment Program," said DAV National Commander Raymond E. Dempsey. "I know that their visit to the Atlanta VA medical center will bring a great deal of joy to the men and women veterans being treated there. Many of these wonderful veterans rarely get visitors. They have sacrificed a great deal to defend our nation's liberty, and they should get the respect and care they deserve."

The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation's wartime disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families. For more information, visit the organization's Web site at http://www.dav.org/.

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Understanding Patriotism

"Patriotism is easy to understand in America - it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country." -Calvin Coolidge


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Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Veterans Day Message From VA Secretary Dr. James B. Peake

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ninety years ago today, the guns fell silent in Europe. World War I - the "war to end all wars" - was over. Almost five million Americans served during that first modern, mechanized war. Our last living link with them, 107-year-old Army veteran Frank Buckles, observes this Veterans Day at his farm in West Virginia.

It is important, on Veterans Day, for all Americans to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our veterans, from Mr. Buckles to the men and women who recently fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their bravery, their resourcefulness, and their patriotism mark them as our nation's finest citizens.

Since 2001, the President and Congress have provided the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a 98 percent increase in funding, and with the guidance and support to enable VA to honor America's debt to the men and women whose patriotic service and sacrifice have kept our nation free and prosperous; to provide them with medical and financial help when they need it most; and to build and maintain beautiful national cemeteries to perpetuate their memory and their accomplishments.

During this Administration, VA has met the challenge of a new generation of veterans: those tempered by war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who have defended America's interests elsewhere while their comrades served in combat.

The Benefits Delivery at Discharge program serves these separating service members at 154 locations, assisting them to file for VA disability benefits. To further help these men and women, a new insurance benefit is in place to assist them with the costs of living with traumatic injury; life insurance coverage has increased by $100,000; and the time it takes to process requests for education benefits has been reduced from 50 days to less than 20.

One hundred Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been hired to reach out to their fellow veterans throughout the nation and tell them about the benefits and services VA offers. Federal Recovery Coordinators are on board, actively engaged in helping severely injured veterans and their families navigate our system for health care and financial benefits. Our Vet Centers now provide bereavement counseling to families of those who have given their lives in the war against terror, and we've provided health care to nearly 350,000 new veterans -- about 40 percent of all separated war veterans.

Our program to screen all veterans coming to us who served in Iraq and Afghanistan for possible traumatic brain injury is giving us great insight into how best to serve these men and women. Those who screen positive are referred for a comprehensive medical evaluation to confirm the diagnosis, and are quickly and appropriately treated. For those with very severe injuries like brain injury, amputations, visual impairment and burns, we've established Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers in Richmond, Va., Tampa, Fla., Minneapolis, and Palo Alto, Calif., to provide the very finest, state-of-the-art care. They are examples of great cooperation across the continuum of care with the Department of Defense.

While caring for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has been among VA's most important priorities, we continue to provide the full spectrum of care and benefits to our veterans of other eras. Since 2001, we've reduced our average number of days required to completely process a claim from a high of 233 days in 2002 to 162 days today and have reduced the number of disability claims pending from 432,000 in 2002 to 384,500 through a combination of process improvements, increased staffing and improved training. We've placed particular emphasis on adjudicating claims for veterans aged 70 or older. Our home loan guaranty limit has increased from $203,000 to as much as $729,750, providing a better opportunity for veterans who want to own a home. The programs to deal with the issue of veteran homelessness have measurably paid off, reducing the number of homeless veterans by nearly 40 percent from 2001 to 2007.

The number of veterans enrolled in VA health care has increased from 4.8 million to 7.8 million in the past eight years. Their care is provided by the Veterans Health Administration, an organization that excels in the provision of high quality health care, that has set benchmarks in patient satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for seven consecutive years; that has substantially cut waiting times and improved access to care throughout the nation; and that has set, and met, a standard of 24 hours for initial assessment and a 14-day standard for comprehensive assessment of new mental health patients, thanks to more than 4,100 mental health professionals hired in the last five years.

VA leads the nation in the development and use of electronic health records, receiving the coveted "Innovations Award" from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2006. We've laid the groundwork for sharing electronic records with the Department of Defense, launched a web-based application to allow patients and their families to interact with VA physicians over the Internet, and worked hard to set the "gold standard" for health information security to protect the vital personal information veterans entrust to us.

Addressing readjustment needs and rural access, we have announced plans to place at least one Vet Center in every county in which there are 50,000 or more veterans. We are also purchasing fifty "mobile Vet Centers" -- vans which will travel to rural areas throughout the nation to bring Vet Center services to veterans in rural and highly rural areas; we're also in the process of expanding our community-based outpatient clinics to a total of 782, an increase of 100 in five years.

Our National Shrine Program has uplifted the beauty of our cemeteries, and by the end of 2009 six new national cemeteries will have opened for burials, adding to the six cemeteries we have already opened since 2001.

I am proud of this great record of accomplishment, prouder still of the approximately 270,000 men and women of VA who daily fulfill President Lincoln's promise to care for veterans and their families; and proudest to have had the opportunity to serve men and women like Frank Buckles, whose dedicated service to our nation in all its wars has enabled generations of Americans to live their lives in freedom.


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Bald Eagles Named in Honor of Fallen Military Heroes

(BUSINESS WIRE)--As America prepares to remember its military servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) held a special ceremony at its national eagle center to honor eight fallen soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. In memory of these heroes, each of their families was invited to name a breeding bald eagle cared for by the conservation group (http://www.eagles.org).

“The bald eagle is the living symbol of the freedoms these brave men gave their lives to protect,” said AEF Founder and President Al Cecere. “To honor them and their families is truly a privilege for our staff, especially since our nation will soon observe Veteran’s Day.”

During the event on Saturday, the AEF awarded special certificates and medals to each of the participating families. Also, signs bearing the names of the eight soldiers and the eagles named by their families were placed near the entrance of the bird housing/breeding enclosures as a permanent tribute.

The AEF recognized the following East Tennessee soldiers: Army National Guard Sgt. Alfred B. Siler (Duff, TN), Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph D. Hunt (Sweetwater, TN), National Guard Sgt. Paul W. Thomason III (Talbot, TN), Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Morris (Clinton,TN), National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Kennedy (Oak Ridge, TN), Army Sgt. 1st Class James D Connell (Lake City, TN), Marine Lance Cpl. William C. Koprince Jr. (Lenoir City, TN), and Marine Cpl. Rusty L. Washam (Huntsville, TN).

The eagle names selected by the families of the soldiers were: “Volunteer” (Joseph Hunt), “Hero” (Stephen Kennedy), “Honor” (William Koprince Jr.), “Brave Heart” (James Connell), “Faithful” (Rusty Washam), “Peace” (Alfred Siler), “Faithful Spirit” (Daniel Morris), and “Freedom” (Paul Thomason).

The families were also treated to a free-flight demonstration by and photo with the AEF’s trained celebrity bald eagle “Challenger” (http://www.eagles.org/aefsplash/).

The captive non-releasable breeding eagles that were named are housed at the AEF’s Dollywood-based headquarters in Pigeon Forge. The birds were given to the non-profit organization in June 2007 by the San Francisco Zoo.

“Future eaglets hatched by these majestic breeding eagles will be named and released into the wild in honor of other fallen soldiers,” said Cecere.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Veterans Day, 2008

On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States.

From the fields and forests of war-torn Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, brave patriots have protected our Nation's ideals, rescued millions from tyranny, and helped spread freedom around the globe. America's veterans answered the call when asked to protect our Nation from some of the most brutal and ruthless tyrants, terrorists, and militaries the world has ever known. They stood tall in the face of grave danger and enabled our Nation to become the greatest force for freedom in human history. Members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have answered a high calling to serve and have helped secure America at every turn.

Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their quiet courage and exemplary service. We also remember and honor those who laid down their lives in freedom's defense. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. On Veterans Day, we remember these heroes for their valor, their loyalty, and their dedication. Their selfless sacrifices continue to inspire us today as we work to advance peace and extend freedom around the world.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor America's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2008, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 9 through November 15, 2008, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Presidential Elections and Other National Commemorations Make November a Month for Patriotism

PRNewswire/ -- If ever there was a month for patriotism, November is that time. Not only are national elections held every November, with a presidential election held every four years, but other noteworthy patriotic milestones are also commemorated.

Presidential Elections

We start this November with a historical presidential election. Kerry McCoy, President of Arkansas Flag and Banner, wants everyone to get into the electoral spirit. Her business now offers collectible "VOTE Democratic" or "VOTE Republican" shoes by TOM. For every pair sold TOM gives a pair to a needy child. http://tinyurl.com/5qkp7a. More election merchandise is available onsite.

Marine Corps Birthday

November 10th marks the two hundred and thirty-third birthday of the United States Marine Corps, which has been officially celebrated since 1921. Each year Marine Corps Birthday balls are held throughout the country to honor the Marines. Tradition has it that the oldest U.S. Marine present is given the first piece of cake and the second piece is given to the youngest Marine present. Flag and Banner has a lovely selection of gifts for the honorees, as well as patriotic dishes, serving trays and Marine Corps flag kits. http://tinyurl.com/56nqcl

Veterans Day

November 11, Veterans Day, honors all those who have fought in defense of the United States. The day commemorates the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, which ended World War I. To respectfully honor those who serve and have served, Flag and Banner carries special grave markers, license plates, hats and flags. During the month of November, FlagandBanner.com will be offering a 25% discount to all veterans with military ID (in store only). http://tinyurl.com/6qwpt7

Thanksgiving

It was O. Henry who called Thanksgiving " ... the one day that is purely American," and it truly is. From its colonial origins as an autumn harvest feast to the present, it is the day that Americans set aside to give thanks for all manner of things in their lives. Flag and Banner has autumn and Thanksgiving banners and flags that depict this time of year. http://tinyurl.com/6bjtp3

For more information on flags or to purchase patriotic items, visit http://www.flagandbanner.com/.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Honor Flight Fayette at World War II Memorial


Pictured at the Georgia portion of the World War II monument are (l-r) veteran William Jackson, guardian Allen Smith and veteran John Dailey.

On October 8th, Honor Flight Fayette completed its 2nd day trip to Washington, D.C. with a precious cargo of WWII veterans. Because their memorial was completed less than 5 years ago, many veterans felt they would never see it due to medical or financial reasons. Honor Flight Fayette took care of those concerns by covering all expenses for these members of the greatest generation as well as providing guardians and medical assistance for them throughout the day. The guardians each paid their own way and medical personnel raised the money needed through donations.

This 501(c)(3) non-profit organization will not accept any money from the veterans and 100% of money raised is used totally for the trip. There is a board of directors to guide this effort and each one of them, as well as guardians, medical personnel and volunteers, gives generously of their time and talents to keep this project going as we are losing these vets at the rate of over 1,400 each day.

The vets started the day at Fayetteville First United Methodist Church with Chick-fil-A biscuits, had box lunches under tents close to the memorial and finished with a catered meal at the USO facility at Reagan Airport.

Fayetteville First Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Fayetteville provided buses to get everyone to the airport, and the group traveled in comfortable motor coaches around the nation's capitol.

The veterans especially enjoyed the reception they received everywhere they went as crowds of airline employees, travelers and active military personnel greeted them with cheers, hugs and salutes. However, they also were excited to meet Sen. Bob Dole, who was instrumental in getting the WWII monument built and who comes to meet as many honor flight groups from around the country as possible.

"Mail call" on the flight up to D.C. was a favorite also as the veterans read letters written especially to each of them by members of Jo Springer's 5th grade class at Huddleston Elementary school. Many of the vets said they planned to write back to the students and tell them how much their letters meant to them.

If you would like to learn more about this worthwhile organization, be of assistance or donate toward this cause, please check honorflightfayette.org or call 770-719-1024.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pulaski Memorial Day Remembers "Father of American Cavalry"

PP Note: We should all take time and remember America's heroes-- whether it was from the beginnings of our country or today's military. These men and women all are dedicated to the freedom of our country and are willing to sacrifice it all for you and me.

General Pulaski Memorial Day, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On General Pulaski Memorial Day, we celebrate General Casimir Pulaski's selfless dedication to the cause of freedom during the American Revolution.

In our Nation's struggle for independence, brave individuals such as Casimir Pulaski came to our shores and risked their lives to help bring liberty to a new continent. General Pulaski fought first against Russian domination of his Polish homeland and later joined General George Washington's Continental Army. Pulaski's valor in battle and love of freedom earned him the rank of Brigadier General and authority to organize an independent corps of cavalry. Through his skilled leadership and cavalry tactics he became known as the "Father of the American Cavalry." During the siege of Savannah, General Pulaski was mortally wounded, making the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the cause of freedom.

General Pulaski's life exemplifies the courage and determination of the many Polish immigrants who have helped make the United States the greatest Nation on Earth. On General Pulaski Memorial Day, we recognize our time-honored friendship with Poland, and we are reminded of the great price our forefathers paid so that we might live in liberty.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 11, 2008, as General Pulaski Memorial Day. I urge Americans to commemorate this occasion with appropriate activities and ceremonies honoring General Casimir Pulaski and all those who defend our freedom.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hunley Men Remembered

HH Note: The 145th anniversary of the second fateful sinking of this new type of warfare was October 15. This entry was written by the author of Geni-Tales, a genealogy blog on the Fayette Front Page. With permission, we have included here.

The discovery of the Hunley and its crew continues to amaze genealogists, history buffs and the general public. Recently, I visited the Hunley Memorial at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, SC, where our family placed wreaths in memory of all sea faring men who have perished in the service of their country.

It was eerily quiet in the cemetery. We followed the signs to the memorial. While on our way down the long paths, we found many beautiful old tombs from the time of the Civil War. Magnolia Cemetery is the final resting place of many an early Charleston family. You can easily follow the history of the area just by looking at the many names.

It was a surprise to learn the Hunley had three crews which had perished in her history. As the 145th anniversary of the loss of the second crew has just been observed within the last week, I find it fitting to remember the crew.

Horace Hunley was aboard this training mission of the Hunley on October 15, 1863, when it sank. Once again, the Confederacy raised the Hunley from the ocean, only to have it sink again in February 1864.

The story of the Hunley is fascinating. To learn more, click here.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

President Jefferson Visits Fayetteville



The third president of the United States made a surprise visit to the James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution this week. President Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by Tom Robinson, took the ladies back in time to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and to the time of his Presidency.

Thomas Jefferson was not known for his public speaking, but was known for his writings. His most prominent document was his draft of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was one of five men who were selected by the Continental Congress back in 1776 to draft the document to declare the colonies' independence from England. The final vote for independence came on July 4, 1776. The rest is history.

The James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution is chartered in Fayetteville.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Honor Flight Fayette Veterans Witness Sea of Support in Washington



Veterans on the October Honor Flight Fayette trip to see their memorial in Washington, D.C., were greeted by current members of the United States military. Bystanders who heard the veterans were arriving wanted to show their appreciation as well.

The veterans were surprised and visibly moved by the cheering crowd, and many later said that this was one of the highlights of the trip for them. After the war ended, the majority of the soldiers returned home without fanfare to seek jobs and adapt to civilian life, so this recognition may have been delayed but was much appreciated. Unfortunately, we are losing these members of the "Greatest Generation" at the rate of over 1,400 per day.

Honor Flight Fayette is preparing for their 3rd flight on November 12th, which will bring to over 200 the total number of veterans who have been taken to D.C. this year at no charge to them. Funds are raised through contributions from caring and generous businesses and citizens, and 100% of these monies are used for the flights.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Honor Flight Fayette has a board of directors to guide the effort and keep it on track. Board members, guardians and volunteers consider this project a labor of love, dedication and determination, and they donate their time and talents as often as needed to make these flights a success. In fact, guardians pay their own way just to be of service to 2-3 veterans during the entire day trip to insure their safety and enjoyment.

If you would like to be part of this most worthwhile service, obtain more information or make a donation please contact honorflightfayette.org or call 770-719-1024.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Chrysler Foundation Donates $100,000 to the National Infantry Foundation for National Capital Campaign

PRNewswire/ -- The Chrysler Foundation announced today that it donated $100,000 to the National Infantry Foundation, Inc., in support of its capital campaign to construct the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park in Columbus, Ga.

"The Chrysler Foundation is proud to support the National Infantry Foundation as it works to commemorate the extensive history of the Infantry," said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO - Chrysler LLC. "Chrysler has a proud history of supporting the U.S. military, and we are pleased to support this project as part of our 'Honoring Those Who Serve' initiative. This museum and memorial will stand as a reminder of the courage and sacrifice of the Infantry, which has enabled us to enjoy the freedom, the opportunities and the comforts of living in this great nation."

The project is located on a 200-acre site that links Columbus, Ga., and Fort Benning, the Home of the Infantry. It features a 180,000-square-foot museum, six galleries that represent different eras in the Infantry's history, a 2,500-seat stadium for weekly graduations of Infantry Basic Trainees and a 3-D IMAX(R) theatre.

We're proud to have this level of support from one of the nation's leading automotive companies," National Infantry Foundation President MG (Ret.) Jerry White said. "Chrysler and the Infantry have been partners throughout our long history. They have been an essential part of the successes we have enjoyed on battlefields around the world. With this gift they still stand by us today."

The gift continues the Foundation's commitment to our nation's military as part of Chrysler LLC's "Honoring Those Who Serve" military support initiative. Previous recipients of gifts from The Chrysler Foundation include The Gen. Douglas MacArthur Foundation, Operation Gratitude and the Freedom Calls Foundation.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fayetteville DAR Speaks to Inman Elementary about Constitution



James Waldrop Regent Betty Harrah pledges her support to U.S. Constitution with Inman Elementary School Principal Louis Robinson.

Over 200 4th and 5th grade students of Inman Elementary School in Fayetteville recently learned about the U.S. Constitution in a presentation by the James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. After the presentation, the students added their signatures pledging their support of the Constitution to the over 1000 pledges already gathered by the chapter in visits to Fayette County Elementary Schools in September . The U.S. Constitution, the world's oldest document of its kind still in existence, just celebrated 221 years of its framing.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Honor Flight Fayette Day Proclaimed October 8


At their September 25th meeting, the Fayette County Commissioners honored the upcoming and 2nd flight organized by Honor Flight Fayette to send World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., at no charge to them, to visit their memorial and share memories with their comrades in arms from that war.

Plans have been in the works for this trip literally since the return of the inaugural flight of HFF last May. Board members, guardians, medical personnel and volunteers have worked consistently to raise the necessary funds needed to make this trip a memorable one for the veterans, who will be provided with plane tickets, meals, snacks, and motor coach transportation. Also, a guardian will be assigned 2-3 veterans for the day, and their job is to make sure that each and every need of the vets is being met.

The public is encouraged to participate in this exciting day by either seeing the veterans off at 7:00 a.m., or welcoming them back about 10:00 that evening at the Fayetteville First United Methodist Church. The veterans from the May trip were very touched by those who came out to honor them, in their own community, by cheering and waving flags and banners.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization led by a dedicated board of directors, Honor Flight Fayette is committed to this labor of love and determination to take as many veterans as possible as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we are losing these brave men and women at a rate of over 1,400 per day, so time is definitely of the essence. And we must ask ourselves, "at what cost did they secure my freedoms and how can I repay them?"

If you would like to know more about this organization or make a donation toward the next flight, please visit honorflightfayette.org or call 770-719-1024.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Senator Chance Reflects on Constitution and Georgia for Fayetteville DAR

Pictured (l-r) are Georgia Senator Ronnie Chance, Regent Betty Harrah and Linda Robinson.

"I am a servant of the people in your Senate," said Georgia Senator Ronnie Chance as he recently spoke to the James Waldrop Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution on the US Constitution and Georgia government. Senator Chance was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation for his ongoing support of the Constitution in both his personal and government service roles.

On display at the dinner meeting was the 2007 National Award Winning Constitution Week Notebook as well as bells used in the Bells Across America Ceremony. The James Waldrop Chapter DAR is chartered in Fayetteville, GA.

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