By Larry Jasper

U.S. military veterans have a new memorial 40-feet beneath the ocean’s surface where they can reflect on their service. The first underwater military

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla. (U.S. Army/Video still by Bill Mills)

monument is located just ten miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida. The Circle of Heroes Veterans’ Memorial, opened August 5 with a ceremony debuting a dozen life-size statues depicting U.S. military personnel from all branches of service.

Eventually the memorial site will include 24 life-size concrete statues of men and women from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps., and Navy, according to Brighter Future Florida, a nonprofit group raising donations for the memorial.

The memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2020. All of the statues will surround a center monument featuring five bronze emblems representing each service.

“The Circle of Heroes will be a premier international diving destination and will also serve as a place where veterans with physical and mental injuries can heal,” the website states.

The JWV Department of Florida, in conjunction with Rabbi Elson of the Jewish Welfare Board are planning to dive the memorial in January. If you would like to join the dive, contact Larry Jasper at lmjasper@reagan.com.

Volume 73. Number 3. 2019

By Greg Byrne

The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. held its 124th National Convention in Richmond, Virginia, while the JWV Ladies Auxiliary met for their 91st National Convention. Delegates from around the country gathered from August 18-23 to hear from speakers, participate in workshops, and conduct the business of the organization.

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Byrne gave the keynote address and updated members on current initiatives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He spoke about a period of transformation happening at the VA with four priorities set by Secretary Robert Wilkie. The priorities include improving customer service, implementing the VA Mission Act, systems modernization, and collaborating with the Department of Defense (DOD) to implement an electronic medical records system. Secretary Byrne said the Mission Act has offered veterans choice in their healthcare decisions by allowing them to seek care in their communities when their nearest VA facility is too far away or doesn’t offer a service. He also highlighted the importance of the collaboration between the VA and DOD to give caregivers a complete view of a patient’s medical history, beginning with their initial exam in boot camp.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Paul Becker reflected on his 30 years of service as a Naval Intelligence Officer. A member of Commodore Levy Post 380 in Annapolis, Maryland, Becker spoke about leadership and how his Jewish faith inspired him to serve.

Rabbi Irv Elson, Director of the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB), spoke to the convention about an exciting new collaboration between the JWB and JWV. The Jews in Green Weekend will bring together Jewish military personnel for fellowship, to share resources, and to build a community, so that when these Jews leave the military, we’ll be able to connect them with their local JWV post or JCC.

Major General Baruch Levy, formerly of Tzevet, the Israel Defense Forces veterans’ organization, gave a briefing on the current situation in Israel and outlined some of his country’s many achievements. Israel is at the center of advancements in medicine and technology, and ranks among the happiest nations in the world. He noted that Jewish Americans should take pride in Israel’s achievements because the unity between the State of Israel and the Jewish American community has been of great importance to Israel’s success.

The Military Coalition President Jack DuTeil continued the discussion on Israel by talking about his experience on this year’s Allied Veterans Mission to Israel. He described the Mission as “the trip of a lifetime.” The trip left him with a lasting appreciation for the people of Israel and the importance of the Israeli/American alliance in the region.

In addition to hearing from speakers, delegates participated in workshops where they could learn skills to help lead their posts and departments when they returned home. Past Department Commander Alan Paley of the Department of Florida and Post Commander Steven Krant of Post 256 in Dallas led a session on leadership, where they discussed best practices for department and post management. The workshop was well-received, and plans are in place for a follow-up session at NEC in February.

A fundraising session led by Lauren Gross of Global Impact provided attendees with fundraising strategies to help support their echelons’ programs. More information on this session can be found in the Membership section of this issue.

The Resolutions Committee met several times to consider proposed resolutions to bring to the convention floor for a vote. Twenty of these proposals were approved at the convention and will be part of JWV’s legislative priorities for the coming year. A complete list of the resolutions passed at convention can be found on our website.

Delegates also considered several proposed amendments to the National Constitution and Bylaws. After a review by the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, the convention approved two constitutional amendments and one amendment to the bylaws. Further explanation of these changes can be found in National Commander Harvey Weiner’s article in this issue.

The final event of the convention was the National Commander’s Banquet honoring outgoing National Commander Barry Schneider. During his term, Schneider travelled more than 71,000 miles and visited members in 22 state. The evening concluded with the installation of the new National Commander, Harvey Weiner of the Department of Massachusetts.

Thank you to all who participated in this year’s convention, and we hope to see you next August in Jacksonville, Florida.

Volume 73. Number 3. 2019

By Cara Rinkoff

A new project launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs will honor all 3.7 million veterans buried in VA cemeteries across the country. The Veterans Legacy Memorial is a digital platform with individual memorial pages. The site went online on August 14. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says this project “enhances the onsite national cemetery experience and extends the experience to those who otherwise are unable to physically visit the cemetery. The public can use the site to search for Veterans, find their burial site, and read basic details of their life and military service. Eventually, the VA hopes families will have the opportunity to add photos and share memories on the memorial pages. For more information about the Veterans Legacy Memorial, visit https://www.va.gov/remember.

Volume 73. Number 3. 2019

By David W. Hamon, Veterans Service Organizations & Military Director, U.S. WWI Centennial Commission

The U.S. National World War I Centennial Commission continues to make good progress on building a National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C. In April of this year the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) in Washington gave its final approval for the design of the memorial. You can find the latest design information, including a computer generated image of the memorial in Pershing Park, which will be the future home of the memorial, as well as the interpretation center, a statue of General Pershing, and more at www.ww1cc.org/memorial.

In September, the Commission hopes the CFA will approve the final design features of the park itself, including lighting, landscaping, accessibility, and other infrastructure. Those elements would be funded and maintained by the U.S. Park Service within the Department of the Interior. The Commission hopes to officially break ground in October. Sabine Howard, the world famous sculptor, has started creating clay armatures of the first seven figures on the memorial. These completed items will be shipped to a special foundry in the United Kingdom where they will be cast in bronze

If your Post or Department is interested in becoming an official American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Memorial Corps Chapter/Organization by making a donation to help build the memorial, the Commission will send you a special engraved certificate. Remember the Doughboys! Please don’t let their service and sacrifice go unrecognized.

Volume 73. Number 3. 2019

By Harrison Heller

HBO has a fairly new documentary series titled VICE. Each hour-long episode features 1 or 2 stories that do not get much coverage in the mainstream news. Their most notable episode was their report on the ‘Unite the Right’ march in Charlottesville, VA. This event brought America’s ugly side back to the surface with torch carrying white supremacists and neo-Nazis chanting “Blood and soil,” “white lives matter,” and “Jews will not replace us,” as well as the reemergence of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

Since the events in Charlottesville, there have been two high-profile anti-Semitic attacks, the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and the attack at the Chabad in Poway, CA. Two African Americans were gunned down outside a Kroger grocery store after the shooter attempted to get into an African American church in Louisville, KY. In a ten-day span, three African American churches were burned down in Louisiana. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), 40 people died at the hands of “alt-right killers” in 2018, compared to 17 in 2017. As of 2018, the SPLC has tracked a record high 1,020 hate groups operating in the United States. This is the fourth straight year with a 30% increase.

There are some people in these groups who experience a change of heart and realize that hate leads you down an even darker path, and they want to escape. TM Garret, a former skinhead and Klansman, said, “Hate is a fulltime job. 24/7 paranoia.” Some of these people have literally worn their hate and ideology on their sleeves and bare them on their hearts. Romey Muns, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, said, “Seeing all the hate tattoos I have on me…it’s embarrassing.”

In early May, I came across a YouTube video from Vice entitled Covering Up Racist Tattoos: Erasing the Hate. The video featured the story of a campaign called “Erase the Hate” that provides free tattoo cover-ups for former gang members and hate/extremist group members. The program was started by TM Garret in August 2017 at Sickside Tattoos in Horn Lake, MS. Since the program started, they have expanded to several studios in 6 states and have given cover-ups to 100-150 people.

Approximately 70% are gang tattoo cover-ups and 30% are hate tattoo cover-ups. Upon viewing this video, I reached out to TM and Sickside Tattoos about wanting to learn more about this program. One of JWV’s cornerstones is to combat anti-Semitism and hate, and this is a real-life example of that and the ultimate change of heart, as well as a true second chance. I heard back from TM almost instantaneously. He and I arranged a night where we could talk about his experience and learn more about the “Erase the Hate” campaign. Everything in TM’s life was a lead-up to this campaign and prepared him to become the leader and champion for those wanting to escape the movement.

The way most people get involved with hate/extremist groups is falling into a cycle of validating beliefs, rooted in fear and distrust, and finding likeminded people. This is no different than TM’s story. I wanted to learn more about the “Erase the Hate” campaign, and in order to learn that, I had to know the inspiration, the spark that lit the fire and became a beacon of hope to escape.

During our conversation, TM told me the story of how he got involved in the white supremacist movement and how he rose through the ranks. TM was born and raised in small, conservative town in southern Germany of approximately 500 people. As he was growing up he described himself as a bit of a loner and was constantly bullied. He eventually found a way to get the attention he so craved, and that was through telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes with a group of several kids. TM got a sense of gratification, so he kept on telling jokes. Through the attention that the jokes gave him, he became known as the “Nazi Kid.” He hated the nickname and hated the label, but the bullying suddenly stopped.

In middle school he was handed a tape from a friend that had hard rock music. The music featured lyrics and themes that were very familiar to TM. Themes of being misunderstood, being Nazis “but they weren’t,” and nationalism. With each new tape he received, the music became harder, and messages became more of white supremacy and hate. At the same time, he started taking on the image of a skinhead. TM became self-radicalized through the music and was indoctrinated by age 15. In 1997 he formed a band that featured music about pride, saving the country, saving the white race, and wanting to ban immigrants and “kick out all the foreigners.” The only black person he knew at the time was an African American girl, whose father was an American serviceman stationed in Germany. That was when he heard the N-word the very first time – out of the mouth of the same kid who gave TM the cassette tape.

In the late 1990’s TM was asked to join a German Ku Klux Klan group, but it was not what he had expected. The internet became a huge recruiting tool for white supremacist groups and allowed them to communicate with ease. As TM’s doubts about the group grew, he was encouraged by a klavern in Mississippi to open a new KKK group in Germany.

In 2000, he flew to Mississippi and was inducted at a cross-burning ceremony. He flew back home as the Grand Dragon for the Realm of Germany and Imperial Representative for Europe. TM was convinced that, “it was not about hate, it was about love for our own race. But at the end, it was about hate.”

As we spoke about the ideology of the German KKK, TM told me that the German far-right was more Pagan, a person “can’t be anti-Semitic and Christian at the same time. Jesus was Jewish.” He told me that the blood drop in the middle of the KKK emblem represented the blood of Jesus Christ, and this whole concept confused him. For TM, the identity part became much more important in his new group and the racism became far less important. This caused a lot of infighting within the new organization, between TM and other members.

In the Fall of 2002 the police and government began to knock on the doors of members, and informed them they were being investigated. TM contacted a trusted member and told him that he was resigning and that he wanted to disconnect. TM and his family moved about 100 miles away, where they rented a place owned by a Turkish Muslim landlord.

After settling-in, TM was asked by the landlord if he could help him with some IT work. TM was broke and looking for work, so he accepted the offer. Several months prior, he says that he would have never taken the job. Since the job was taking longer than expected, the landlord made some Turkish tea and pancakes. TM refused at first because maybe he touched the food. He later thought that it could be rude in the Turkish culture to refuse the food. He believed that if he refused, that the landlord would turn into a Muslim terrorist or something horrible would happen. So, he took a bite and a cup of tea. This went on for months and months. TM later decided to not take the money, he wanted to help and be a good neighbor.

One day, the landlord invited TM over for dinner with his family. It was baked chicken, oven fries, and fish soup. TM laughed and told me that he hates fish soup. The fish soup was put in front of him, and he paused. He was afraid to reject the food, as judgmental thoughts raced through his mind. He built up the courage and said to his landlord, “I can’t eat it. I don’t like fish soup.” The landlord’s wife smiled, took it away, and brought him some chicken. TM was amazed and tried to comprehend what happened. “What had just happened here? I was sitting here so judgmental expecting the bad stereotypical reaction that I was taught, and it did not happen.”

In 2012, TM was 10 years removed from the white supremacist movement and he had moved to Memphis, TN. There he opened a music studio. In 2016, TM became involved in civil and human rights. It was the time when police brutality hit the media and Black Lives Matter was launched. TM realized that there was still a gap between the black and white communities, and everybody was now protesting. After the protests, everybody would go home and think they’ve done enough. He did not agree and thought more must be done to bridge “gaps that were created by racism, ignorance, and hate.” As part of these initiatives, TM started the non-profit C.H.A.N.G.E (Care, Hope, Awareness, Need, Give, Education), along with Pastor Ray Johnson, a former member of the Bloods street gang.

In 2017, TM paired-up with Sickside Tattoo Studio shop manager, Drew Darby, and owner, Jack Flores, to form Erase the Hate. TM once had a strong desire to remove the tattoos that reminded him of his past, and the people at Sickside knew other people in TM’s position. They now work together to combat hate and help those who are trying to erase their past by providing gang and racist tattoo cover-ups for free.

On May 3, 2018, TM was featured in a short film by Chapman University titled, Rewired. The film tells this same story of TM’s journey in the white supremacist movement. He was invited to the screening at the university after which he visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. After visiting a full-size replica of a gas chamber from a Nazi concentration camp, he decided he wanted to interact more with the Jewish community. He soon became involved with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, where he continues to speak. After the largest anti-Semitic attack in United States history at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, PA, this cemented his further involvement with the Jewish community. Later this year, TM will be speaking at Alpha Epsilon Pi’s 106th Convention in Alexandria, VA, during a pre-convention session on the Tikun Olam track. He has also spoken at multiple Jewish day schools.

At the end of our conversation, TM told me his birth name, Achim. A former skinhead and Klansman was born with a Hebrew name.

If you know anyone, or if a friend or family member knows anyone, who is trying to escape the white supremacist movement or a street gang, please contact TM Garret at info@changememphis.org or text 662.671.2470 to get help.

To learn more about TM, the Erase the Hate campaign, and to see videos about the program, visit www.tmgarret.com

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

By Jack Du Teil

JWV’s Mission to Israel program is specifically designed to give non-Jewish veteran community leaders an opportunity to experience Israel first-hand so that they will see that Israel is America’s friend in the Middle East and our partner for peace in the region. Allied veterans return from Israel with a better understanding on aspects of the State of Israel’s security and so will use their new perspective to advocate on Israel’s behalf.
This year, Jack Du Teil, President of The Military Coalition and Executive Director of the United States Army Warrant Officers Association was selected to particiapte. His story is below.

Between March 31 and April 10, 2019, The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV) conducted its 2019 Mission to Israel. An annual event, the mission was led by JWV National Commander Barry Schneider (Maj [Ret], USAF) and also included 3 other non-Jewish members of other veteran organizations.

I was fortunate enough to have been included in this adventure as a guest of this great organization. It turned out to be one of the most impactful trips I will likely ever make in my life, and I will be eternally grateful to the leadership of JWV for this incredible opportunity.

Visiting Israel only solidified my long-held belief that it is our nation’s most important, loyal ally in that entire region of the world. And the loyalty Israel demonstrates toward the USA is not just diplomatic at the leadership level – it is heartfelt by their citizenry.

There are many reasons for this, but at its core I believe this is directly related to the compulsory military service performed by the vast majority of Israelis as they become adults. By virtue of it – unlike American youths – they are made acutely aware of the constant threats to their liberty, by belligerent neighbors on every physical border.

Israel is very good at teaching the vast history of the Jewish people to its youngsters. Moreover, of necessity, they are also made acutely aware of the relatively short – and utterly miraculous – history of the modern State of Israel, and the hard lessons associated therewith.

Of Survival and Triumph

On our first full day in Israel, we visited Independence Hall, where David Ben Gurion – first prime minister of Israel – announced the nation’s declaration of independence on 14 May 1948. We also met with officials from Tzevet, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) veterans organization. Tzevet’s Chairman, Major General Dr. Baruch Levy, provided us with an unclassified but quite thorough national security briefing.

Later that day, we visited the Haganah Museum. Tracing its roots to as early as 1907, the Haganah was formally organized in 1921, as an underground Jewish paramilitary organization during the British Mandate of Palestine (1921–48). With an eventual strength of 30,000 fighters it became the core of the IDF, following the United Nations’ approval of the partition of Palestine and Israel’s declaration of independence.

We also visited a secret ammunition factory set up underneath a kibbutz, called Givat Hakibbutzim. Code named the “Ayalon Institute,” the factory was manned by 45 Haganah boys and girls – between the ages of 14 and 18 – who manufactured millions of rounds of ammunition. Its secret was so closely guarded that even the other members of the kibbutz had no idea of its existence.

Within 24 hours of declaring independence, Israel was attacked not only by Palestinians, but also its other Arab neighbors. Had it not been for the foresight and bravery of the Haganah (and the ammunition manufactured at the Ayalon Institute), Israel would have quickly lost its war of independence.

At the Latroun Armored Corps Memorial Center

Our group also visited Armored Corps Memorial and Museum at the strategically crucial location of Latrun, Israel (captured from the Jordanians during the Six Day War of 1967). There, together with National Commander Schneider, I was honored to lay a wreath at the Wall of Remembrance, bearing the names of more than 5,000 Israeli casualties from Israel’s wars, dating back to 1948.

As solemn an occasion as this was, the most sobering place we visited was Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum. It was so engrossing and personally impactful, that our wonderful tour guides – IDF LTC (Ret) Ronit Nachman and her son Amit – had to retrieve me, so I would not miss the bus. To me, Yad Vashem is not something you can describe – it can only be experienced…and never forgotten.

So Often Miscast…

Far too often many in the American media seem to portray Israelis as “occupiers,” and pillory them as unreasonable negotiators, responsible for chronic unrest with the Palestinians. These arguments are vacuous, and born of the complete ignorance (or duplicity) of those making them.

Many point to Israel’s refusal to negotiate agreements using a “land for peace” approach. Not only do the historical events of the past century belie the potential success of such concessions, but one only needs to visit places like Latrun, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights to understand why they are simply strategically impossible to make (and it shouldn’t take a military genius to realize it).

And so, ignoring the unlikelihood of Israel ever successfully negotiating real peace, with an entity still constitutionally committed to the extermination of its people, Israelis are often portrayed as the bad guys in the media, and even (shamefully so) by elected officials in our country!

In fact, Israelis – as a people – are not only quite compassionate, but they are some of the most prolific contributors to the collective good of humankind. We visited two institutions on our trip, which underscore these points.

The first was the Galilee Medical Center (and level-one trauma center) at Nahariya, near the Syrian border. In the lobby you see a glass display case, containing a Katyusha rocket that once struck the hospital.

This was the perfect prelude to a tour we took of the underground facilities later built – a carbon copy of the facilities upstairs. Fully equipped, including foodstuffs and a sophisticated ventilation system, it can accommodate the medical staff and patients within one hour after notification of an attack.

At the height of the Syrian civil war’s refugee crisis, media pundits were quick to report Israeli refusal to accept refugees (out of legitimate security concerns). What they neglected to report was how more than 4,000 of the most horrifically wounded casualties of that conflict had been treated at this and other Israeli hospital facilities.

With the approval of Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, the wounded and their immediate families were accommodated, at Israeli government expense, during the patients’ courses of treatment. As a Christian, the words “turning the other cheek” come to my mind….

Our group also visited the Weizmann Institute of Science, one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary basic research institutions in the natural and exact sciences. It is named for Dr. Haim Weizmann, the first president of the State of Israel and founder of the institute, and has a long history of investigation and discovery, rooted in a mission of advancing science for the benefit of humanity.

One only needs to do an internet search on the words “Israeli Inventions” to be amazed at the contributions the citizens of this small, young nation have made to medicine, science, technology, and even to the everyday lives of human beings across the planet.

Just the other day, I even discovered that the Waze application I use to navigate in my car was first developed and popularized by the Israeli company Waze Mobile. I would have loved to hear that story on the evening news.

Caretakers of Our Collective History

As a tidbit of autobiographical data, I happen to be a Christian. But my grandfather was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, and I fell in love with my best friend and Jewish wife of 31 years.

From this perspective, I was awestricken by the degree to which Israelis have become the archeologists, caretakers, and guardians of so much of our collective history. Regardless of faith association they regard the excavation, preservation and protection of historical sites and artifacts in this land – so rich with ancient artifacts – as a national imperative.

Because of this, in Capernaum I was able to stand in the ruins of a temple where Jesus preached, and view the foundation of Saint Peter’s house. I visited Masada and viewed the excavated and partially reconstructed palace fortress, built by King Herod, where hundreds of Jews grimly chose suicide over falling into Roman hands. And that afternoon, I floated in the Dead Sea.
In Jerusalem, I prayed at the Western Wall. I touched the spot where Jesus lay in his manger (in the Church of the Nativity), walked the stations of the cross, and touched the slab on which his crucified body was anointed at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. At Mount Zion, we visited King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper.

These are just a few of the places we visited. But were it not for Israel’s commitment to the discovery and preservation of history – and its partnership with the Vatican and numerous other religious, national organizations and institutions – this would not be possible. Many sites would still be buried.

Conclusions

At the beginning of this article I stated my belief in the importance of Israel as a key ally of the United States. Visiting the country, and interacting with its people only strengthened this belief. But I came away with a few more impressions.
By and large, the Israeli people are far more pro-American than they are portrayed in our country. This is not because they need America’s help to survive – to the contrary, they have been doing a spectacular job of this on their own, and indeed thriving.

The Israelis appreciate the alliance they have with us, for the same reasons we should reciprocate these feelings. The value in this alliance goes well beyond the obvious strategic, military rationale. Israel’s value as a partner is evident on many fronts, to include economics, science, agricultural development, and culture.

Finally, I would like to once again thank JWV for this incredible opportunity. I would also like to thank each and every one of the wonderful people in our group, for being part of the “trip of a lifetime.”

All photos courtesy of Michael Kapin.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, met with PNC Norman Rosenshein at JWV Headquarters on Friday, June 14, and spoke about his views on serving veterans. Secretary Wilkie and PNC Rosenshein were joined by National Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth and Veterans Treatment Court judge, Halee Weinstein. Judge Weinstein is a long-time friend of Secretary Wilkie and joined him on a tour of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.

Secretary Wilkie’s grandfather and father were combat veterans, his father being an Army Lieutenant Colonel. The Secretary himself is an Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel. He is a graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, the Air Command and Staff College, the United States War College, and the Joint Forces Staff College. Secretary Wilkie’s extensive military background and experience make him uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Secretary Wilkie is committed to changing the culture within the VA to make it more accountable and responsive to the needs of veterans. In the past, some senior leaders have exhibited a pattern of mismanagement and lack of integrity. Issues such as falsified waiting time reports, dirty and missing medical equipment and supplies, and other problems that compromised patient safety are now being addressed.

Secretary Wilkie has brought many military people to the VA. His Chief of Staff is a former Air Force Colonel. He appointed a Senior Enlisted Advisor, which the VA has not had since the days of Omar Bradley. These military personnel will help fix the culture at the VA. Leadership will improve.

The newly passed VA Mission Act was the next issue to be discussed. The Mission Act improves the ability of the VA to provide the healthcare veterans need, when and where they need it. It gives veterans the option to seek care in their communities. “It will also put veterans at the center of their care, and offer options, including expanded tele-help and urgent care, so they can find the balance in the system that’s right for them,” said Secretary Wilkie. The Secretary pointed out that there has been a decline in the number of veterans asking to go outside of the VA for their treatment.

Secretary Wilkie is committed to establishing an electronic medical record for all veterans. He sees the creation of a combined DoD/VA medical records as one of his major goals. This record would be available at all physicians appointments.
The Secretary said the greatest problem affecting veterans are mental health issues. Poor mental health is attributable to suicide and addiction. Vietnam veterans are the largest contingent of those needing mental health care. We need a real deep national conversation on mental health.

Right now, veteran suicides occur at the rate of over 20 deaths a day. Secretary Wilkie said his approach is to take the stigma away from getting needed care for mental health issues. Military personnel are often reluctant to seek this type of care for fear that doing so will negatively impact their military career.

Another issue that affects military and veterans is loneliness. Technology and social media give people the illusion of social connectivity, but many people report feelings of isolation. People today often view other people as text messages, not as people. Military personnel lack sufficient contact with others, often because they have become used to texting. Face to face communication, or at least speaking directly to someone would ease some of the feelings of loneliness.

Secretary Wilkie said, “We have lost the ability to be civil.” In the past, opposing politicians would meet informally with each other and have a civil, even friendly conversation, about a divisive issue. Genuine friendships existed between those on opposite sides of an issue. Politicians could talk with each other, but not today.
“I just presented to the Congress a $220 billion budget,” said the Secretary. That is the largest budget in the history of the Department. It will enable the VA to provide many of the services that veterans need.

JWV appreciates that Secretary Wilkie demonstrate the leadership skills needed to accomplish the VA’s important agenda. We enjoyed his visit to our headquarters and we look forward to working with the Secretary and his staff.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

COL Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Ret.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference 2019 took place March 24-26, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The AIPAC Conference is the largest gathering of American’s pro-Israel community. Through keynote speeches by American and Israeli leaders and educational sessions, Policy Conference delegates participate in the full scale of pro-Israel activism (reference AIPAC Dashboard: March 28, 2019).

The Jewish War Veterans was there, as AIPAC implemented a U.S. military veteran’s outreach component with breakout sessions, special sessions, and receptions directed to and for U.S. military veterans. Sessions included: Veterans in Politics, Veterans Outreach Welcome Reception, On the Front Lines: Veterans Fighting for a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship; Veteran Freshman: From One Front Line to Another, etc. There were over 18,000 participants at AIPAC and at each one of these veterans’ related sessions the room was full to overflowing with 100 plus veterans in attendance.

When I asked the AIPAC veterans outreach coordinator how many conference participants are U.S. military veterans he didn’t know, but the number is estimated to be in the thousands. AIPAC leaders are now developing a method to have the veterans self-identify when they register. At the veteran receptions the majority of attendees are under 40 years old and very few are members of JWV.

I attended all of the veterans’ related sessions and had an opportunity to talk with many veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq during the last 18 years of war and counting. There were a couple of reasons why they attend AIPAC including support of Israel from generation to generation (grandparents and parents to veteran) and because AIPAC has sent U.S. veterans (Jewish and non-Jewish) to Israel using AIPAC Foundation funding. These veterans interact with Israel Defense Force that have similar combat experiences and post-war recovery treatments, some said that as a result of increased Anti-Semitism in the U.S. it’s time for Jewish veterans to stand up and talk about our unique reasons for serving and what actions we think should be taken to combat Anti-Semitism. In addition, another important reason veterans attend AIPAC is because it’s an opportunity for them to talk to each other about being Jewish while fighting in a war.

AIPAC had fantastic speakers: The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Ambassador David Friedman, United States Ambassador to Israel; The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States; Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader; and many other Democrats, Republicans, and foreign government leaders.

Whenever possible I spoke to the veterans about the benefits to joining JWV and how we can provide similar opportunities to AIPAC. The response was not always positive because some of the veterans had tried to participate at Post levels and were turned off by the bureaucracy and the stagnant leadership. However, I think that all of the reasons given to attend AIPAC can be met by JWV at all echelons, by our Afghanistan and Iraq Committee, internet Post, and Jewish Warriors Post #4.

The mission of AIPAC is to support Israel and they have a vision of using veterans unique outlook to accomplish this mission. I strongly recommend that the Jewish War Veteran leadership send several members to AIPAC 2020 and throughout the year join AIPAC in their outreach to U.S. military veterans. This JWV-AIPAC effort could be a major source for JWV membership and accomplishing our mission of support to Israel, the U.S. military, and veterans.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By COL Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Retired

There is a battle in the Washington D.C. political world and parts of the Pentagon about establishing an independent armed military service for U.S. command of space. This battle over establishing the “Space Force” involves: politics, costs, benefits, and the risks of creating a brand-new service taking resources away from the current military services.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein are in favor of establishment of a Space Force as long as is done right. President Trump has directed that a “detailed” feasibility study on creating a Space Force be completed and submitted to him within the next few months. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan is leading a task force that is developing plans to form a Department of the Space Force from mostly the Air Force, with smaller pieces coming from the Army and Navy.

In September 1918, Army Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell led approximately 1,500 Allied aircraft in one of the first large scale air to ground attacks in history at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, France. What COL Mitchell knew and others later realized was that warfare had forever changed and air superiority would play a pivotal role in all future conflicts. World War II proved this to be true, and 29 years later in 1947, Congress passed the National Security Act, creating the U.S. Air Force.

A century later it is time for the U.S. to build a modern and adaptive force capable of protecting our nation from current, emerging, and future threats in space. Our enemies are continuously seeking new ways to challenge our security. Russia, China, Iran, France, Great Britain, Israel, India, to name a few countries have already established a separate “Space Command” military branch. Our military’s ability to defend our interest and guarantee our access to space is a critical national security priority and it is in danger.

At a recent public meeting in D.C. high ranking officials from the Department of Defense, State Department, National Reconnaissance Office, and NASA weighed in on the Space Force proposal – no voices opposing the issue were heard and several specific recommendations on implementation were presented. Speakers at the meeting included Kevin McLaughlin, a three-star general who was deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command during the Obama administration. Lt Gen McLaughlin stressed the need for DoD to create U.S. Space Command as a unified independent military branch. It is imperative that we develop and maintain our technological security and advantage in space. Our way of life depends on technological security and advantage in space, from instantaneous global communications to GPS signals for timing and navigation that enable transportation, commerce, and banking.

While some challenges remain, I support the establishment of a Space Command and the vision it holds to provide our men and women in uniform the resources and authority they need to develop and maintain U.S. military superiority in space. I am confident that the sixth branch of our armed forces will be led by dedicated Americans committed to protecting our freedom in space.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By Ben Kane

A high-quality education, a decent paying job, a life that one can be happy with and proud of. These are things that everyone wants. For veterans, however, it’s what they’ve earned.

In late March, the non-profit organization Veterans Education Success hosted a meeting be-tween numerous veteran’s organizations—including Jewish War Veterans, and Thomas Corbett, Air Force veteran and disillusioned former president of an ITT Technical Institute campus. The purpose of the meeting was to make the numerous veterans’ affairs groups in attendance aware of the predatory methods employed by for-profit educational institutions. If any of their veteran members were targeted by these institutions in the past or are targeted in the future, these organizations now have additional knowledge and resources they can employ to help victims recover.

If you watched enough TV in the early 2000s, you might recall some commercials for ITT Technical Institute. The commercials of this “institute of higher learning” featured your standard middle class, middle American pursuing the American dream and looking for a brighter future and a means to care for their family. The commercials made enticing offers that promoted the vision that a degree from ITT was a calling card to a brighter, more rewarding future.

But ITT Technical Institute was a for-profit college, and an exceptionally predatory one at that. ITT Tech corporate targeted people from all walks of life but was especially zealous in its targeting of members in the veteran community. Thousands of veterans sought the fulfilling educational programs that ITT Tech seemed to offer and used their GI bills to make sure they were able to receive what ITT Tech was offering. Thanks to federal grants and loans, a sizeable number of the student body was lower class or of a military background.

The intention of ITT Tech and other similar predatory for-profit schools was never to give students a high-quality education, but rather to siphon as much money out of them as they could. The cost was higher than advertised, the adjunct professors could hardly be relied upon to be knowledge-able in the subject they taught, school credits could not be transferred, and since anyone could attend ITT Tech if they had a pulse and a GED, the degrees became largely worthless. In addition, the extraordinarily high cost of the school meant that many had to take out loans to afford it, putting in financial peril many of those who assumed they would be virtually guaranteed a high paying job when they graduated. One of the ways ITT Tech and other predatory educational institutions reveals its despera-tion for tuition payment is an excessive persistence to enroll a student. If loans need to be taken for the student to be able to afford enrollment, then so be it. These institutions will do anything they can to get potential students to sign on the dotted line, and excessive persistence on the part of an educational institution should be considered a red flag.

The scheme didn’t last forever, and pressure from the government and from angry current and former students eventually caused the bankruptcy of ITT Tech in 2016, and the $500 million student debt relief settlement in 2018. It is worth noting that even in its death throes, ITT Tech’s incompetence and utter disregard for its students and employees was palpable. Initially promising that all students still enrolled at the time of bankruptcy would be able to complete their education, students, teachers, even administrators of campuses found the doors of those campuses permanently locked with no warning.
ITT Tech was and is no more. However, for-profit “educational institutions” still exist, still prey on unsuspecting students, and may soon see a growth in numbers due to the Trump administrations plans to weaken protections for students.

Fortunately for the veteran community, there are organizations dedicated to helping those who have fallen victim to predatory targeting by for-profit education institutions. If you believe that you or someone you know has been predatorily targeted by a for-profit institution due to your military status, or to get information on student loan forgiveness programs, don’t hesitate to contact one of the many non-profits like JWV and the Veterans Education Success that can and want to help you.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019