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

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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 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, 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 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 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

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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

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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 (

“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” (

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.


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