Veterans Affairs

Pictured (L to R) JJ Kelly, VA Delegate Edward T. Scott, VA State Board President Rich Aleksy, and VA State Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin.

On April 24th, I was pleased and honored to have been able to be a part of a presentation by Virginia Delegate Ed Scott to VA State Board President Rich Aleksy and Veterans Affairs Chairman Bill Halpin. The Commonwealth of Virginia has designated March 30th of each year as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day to honor the service and contributions of the Commonwealth’s Vietnam-era veterans. Co-sponsored by Delegate Ed Scott and Virginia State Senator Ed Houck, the bill, which was pushed by brother Halpin, passed unanimously through both houses. Per Delegate Scott at the presentation, this is an unusual occurrence. Thank you brother Halpin and all the Virginia state senators and delegates for this wonderful and appreciated piece of legislation.

I have received a request from one of our brothers for help on pursuing a claim through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during 1957 through 1959. He believes the defoliants used at Gitmo during that period are responsible for the multiple cancers from which he now suffers. No such term such as Agent Orange existed at that time. As an aside, the term Agent Orange probably came from the color of the containers in which it was shipped. Anyway, if anyone has any information relating to use of defoliants at Gitmo during that period, please forward it to me so we can assist this brother in his VA claim.

Congratulations again to Black Jack Kehoe Division for their continuing support of Operation First Response and the Walk for the Wounded at Rose Tree Park, Media, PA, on May 22nd. By the time you read this, that march and its related activities will be history. I plan to join our brothers on that date for an outstanding event to help put a soldier back on his feet. The 2009 walk raised over $150,000. This year’s goal is $175,000. Donations to this wonderful organization can be made at www.operationfirstresponse.org.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.

Veterans Affairs

Members of the AOH attending a fundraiser for the Military Archdiocese. The DC & National AOH have recently donated over $3,000 to support our military priests. (L to R) Gene Bransfield, JJ Kelly, Archbishop Broglio, Mrs. Kelly Rogers, Keith Carney, Kevin Dillon, George Rogers.

Big ideas often start very small. An idea that two young sisters came up with, is changing the lives of many dependents of active duty members in our armed forces. The two sisters, Rachel (10) and Kelsi (8) were on a family vacation in August 2005. They became fascinated with the appeal of treasure hunts. The kids started wondering whether you could use the appeal of treasure hunts to get other kids and their parents to support a national goal. Asked what that goal might be, the girls said they wanted to help the families of military troops. They had already sent care packages from their school and church and they had written letters to soldiers, but they wanted to do more. The treasure hunt idea led to a scholarship program which evolved into ThanksUSA, an acronym for “Treasure Hunt Aiding Needs of Kids and Spouses of those serving the United States of America.” As a result, the two young sisters from northern Virginia, who founded ThanksUSA five years ago, were named in 2009 as two of the five Most Caring young people in America by the Caring Institute, an organization inspired by Mother Theresa’s teachings.

In the past I have endorsed The Wounded Warrior Project and Operation First Response. I now add ThanksUSA to this list. This year the program’s goal is to award 500 scholarships to dependents – children and spouses – of active duty military personnel. ThanksUSA defines active duty U.S. military personnel as those who have served on active duty for at least 180 days since 9/11/01, including all those who have been killed or wounded in action. U.S. military personnel are defined as members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Members of the military reserves who have been activated to full-time duty, and members of the National Guard who have been federalized and who otherwise meet the requirements, are also eligible.

To date, ThanksUSA has awarded over 2000 scholarships worth over $6 million in all fifty states. ThanksUSA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation incorporated in Washington, DC in 2005. As a result, donations are tax-deductible to the extent permissible by law. For information about ThanksUSA, its programs and how to donate, go to http://www.thanksusa.org/main/index.html. Please try to support it, be it at individual or Division/County/State level.

I still encourage you to let me know about brother Hibernians serving on active duty so that we can recognize them in the Honor Roll. And all you veterans: send me your names and email addresses for our veterans’ database.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.