Friday, April 25, 2008

Parents of dead GI sue anti-war shirt maker

By Paul Davenport - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 24, 2008 11:58:06 EDT

PHOENIX — The parents of a Tennessee soldier killed in Iraq are suing an Arizona online merchant who included their son’s name on anti-war shirts that list names of troops killed in the war.

The lawsuit filed by Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville, Tenn., accuses Dan Frazier of Flagstaff of intentionally inflicting emotional harm by including Spc. Brandon Michael Read’s name on casualty lists printed on “Bush lied — They died” T-shirts without permission and by ignoring a demand to remove their son’s name.

The suit seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks that Frazier be permanently barred from using Brandon Read’s name.

Frazier’s free-speech rights ended when he used Brandon Read’s name for profit and any reasonable person would consider Frazier’s actions outrageous, said the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tennessee.

Read, a 21-year-old member of the Army Reserve, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq on Sept. 6, 2004.

The family’s attorney, Francis X. Santore Jr. of Greeneville, said local court rules prohibited him and his clients from discussing the case beyond a statement in which the parents discussed their son and asked to be left alone while they let the courts “resolve this highly personal situation.”

Frazier did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

However, his company’s Web site says it continues to sell the shirts despite laws passed by Arizona and other states “because we believe the message is important.”

The Arizona law was enacted last year, making it a misdemeanor to use dead soldiers’ names for commercial purposes without permission.

The law’s criminal section was put on hold by a federal judge in Phoenix pending a final ruling on a challenge filed by Frazier on First Amendment grounds.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake acknowledged that Frazier’s use of the names of casualties may increase the hurt of loved ones but said the shirts are political speech.

Though the law permits Frazier to use casualties’ names if he obtains permission from designated family members, that amounts to a flat prohibition “given the difficulty and cost of finding, contacting and obtaining consent from the soldiers’ numerous representatives,” Wake said.

Several states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, have enacted similar laws.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Construction begins on USS Jason Dunham

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Apr 21, 2008 7:57:14 EDT

A lot has changed for the parents of the late Cpl. Jason Dunham since he died in 2004, after saving two other Marines by throwing himself on an insurgent’s grenade in Karabilah, Iraq.

They visited the White House, where President Bush presented Dunham’s parents with his Medal of Honor on Jan. 11, 2007. They witnessed the naming of the post office in their hometown of Scio, N.Y., in his honor.

And they watched as their three other children continued to grow up, with one getting married, another starting college and the third becoming a teenager.

On April 11, Dan and Debra Dunham honored their hero son again, traveling to Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, to help as their two sets of initials were ceremonially welded into the keel of the future Navy destroyer Jason Dunham. The ceremony took place three days short of the fourth anniversary of the blast that claimed the Marine’s life.

“Even though we lost him and it still hurts, there’s a lot of pride,” said Debra Dunham, from her home after the ceremony. “The gift that he gave his brothers was truly that, a gift.”

The ship bearing Dunham’s name, DDG 109, will be an Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer. One of two boats awarded to Bath in a $953 million contract, it will stretch 511 feet long, with room for 380 service members.

Deb Dunham, the ship’s sponsor, said the visit to Bath was uplifting, though she wishes dearly her Marine son could have lived past 22 and attended himself.

“The Marine Corps is a very tight and warm family, but Bath Iron Works had the same feel to it,” she said. “We went away with a sense of commitment and pride and warmth from what they’re doing.”

That warmth remains strong between the Dunham family and the late corporal’s comrades in Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. Several are in touch regularly, including the two other Marines who sustained serious injuries in the blast, Deb Dunham said.

Sgt. William Hampton, a lance corporal when Dunham died, got married and now has a baby girl. Kelly Miller, a private first class at the time, left the Corps and is in college, Deb Dunham said.

“I think it’d be fair to say we’ve adopted them into the family,” Dunham said of Kilo Company. “There’s not a guy that I couldn’t call, and they’d drop what they were doing and come and help us out.”

Several Marines recently offered her husband good-natured advice when they learned Dunham’s little sister, Katelyn, 15, had her first boyfriend, Deb Dunham said. The suggestion: Leave a gun in plain view to let him know who’s boss.

“They’re just as protective of my daughter as they would be of their sisters,” the mother said with a laugh. “They gave Dan a lot of suggestions to let her new boyfriend know that she had more brothers than he was probably aware of.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Seaman acts to aid man in peril

Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, April 19, 2008

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A USS Kitty Hawk sailor was recognized this week for jumping onto train tracks to rescue a Japanese man who was having a seizure.

Seaman Phillip Simmons was waiting for his train at Yokosuka’s Kenritsu Daigaku station April 8 when he saw a Japanese man start shaking, according to a Navy release.

The man fell off the platform and onto the tracks below, Simmons said in the release.

“I saw him start shaking, and start to lose his balance,” Simmons is quoted as saying in the release. “Another Japanese man tried to catch him, but he fell over into the tracks, so I jumped down to him and tried to get him up.”

Simmons pulled the man to safety with help from other people at the station, the release said. The volunteers then pulled Simmons off the tracks just seconds before the train arrived, he said.

“I could see the train coming and just kept thinking, ‘Oh [no], I need to get back up,’” Simmons said in the release.

Once back on the platform, Simmons continued to care for the man, who continued to suffer seizures, while a station attendant called an ambulance, he said. When the man came out of the seizure, he tried to run from the people trying to restrain him, Simmons said.

Another sailor, Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Dennis, witnessed this and was quoted in the release as saying, “Simmons was just trying to keep him calm.”

“If Simmons wasn’t there that morning, that guy would be dead,” Dennis said. “He’s not the type of person to stand by and watch if someone needs help.”

After a Japanese official confirmed Simmons’ story — the incident caused the sailor to arrive late for work in the enlisted barber shop — Simmons’ chain of command nominated the sailor for an award based on his actions.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Packing Party

Please join us for our packing party Saturday, April 12th at 1:00pm at the Elk's Lodge located at the intersection of 34th Street and Milwaukee Ave.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

First Osprey squadron in Iraq to return home

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 9, 2008 15:52:24 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The towering billboard says it all.

“Welcome Home VMM-263,” it reads. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, the first MV-22 Osprey squadron sent into the fight, is coming back home to Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. The squadron, pictured in a massive photo stretched across the billboard less than a mile from the air station’s main gate, is wrapping up a seven-month deployment at Al Asad air base in Iraq.

Cpl. Brandon Gale, a New River public affairs officer, confirmed Wednesday that the squadron is returning, though he did not have an exact homecoming date.

The 12 aircraft the squadron operated will remain in Iraq, said Maj. Eric Dent, a Headquarters Marine Corps public affairs officer. Ten Ospreys sailed on an amphibious assault ship to get to Iraq last fall, with two additional tiltrotors joining the squadron last month.

Leaving assault support aircraft in the field and rotating aircrews and their support is fairly routine, he said.

The squadron will be replaced by VMM-162. About 175 members of that squadron deployed to Iraq late last month, Gale said.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Life insurance premiums to drop July 1

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 8, 2008 9:59:59 EDT

Troops will pay less for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance as of July 1, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which manages the program.

Monthly payments for the maximum coverage of $400,000 will decrease by $2, to $26 from $28. The additional $1 per month for severe traumatic injury coverage remains the same.

SGLI coverage is available in multiples of $50,000, up to the maximum of $400,000.

The change will not affect Family SGLI premiums, which decreased two years ago.

However, premiums for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance for veterans ages 30 to 64 will decrease from 4 percent to 12 percent, also July 1. That age group makes up about 85 percent of the population insured under the program, which is available for those who want to convert their policies from SGLI to VGLI after leaving service.

Officials said the VGLI premium rates for those under age 30 “are already competitive.”

VGLI rates vary by age of the policyholder. New rates and charts will be available on the VA’s insurance Web site in the near future, but information was not immediately available about when the site will be updated.

VGLI coverage is available in multiples of $10,000 up to the amount of SGLI coverage a service member had before separating.

SGLI premiums, currently 7 cents per $1,000 of coverage, will decrease to 6.5 cents per $1,000. The reduction is possible because claims for non-combat deaths have dropped, and investment earnings on money held in the program has increased, officials said.

The reduction in VGLI rates is a result of fewer claims being filed, they said.

“The reduction in SGLI premiums makes life insurance even more affordable for today’s men and women in uniform,” Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, said in a prepared statement. “Lower VGLI premiums will allow more veterans to provide this low-cost financial security to their families.”

SGLI rates increased two years ago from 6.5 cents to 7 cents per $1,000 because the amount of premiums being collected was not enough to cover the cost of peacetime claims. The cost of wartime SGLI claims is paid by the services, not through premiums paid by service members.

More than 2.4 million people participate in the SGLI program, and another 433,000 in VGLI.

Peake said the premium reductions should result in increased program participation, and with increased enrollment, VA may be able to reduce rates further in the future.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Video site offers historical military films

By Seamus O’Connor - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Mar 31, 2008 6:43:08 EDT

The military has used motion pictures for training and entertainment since the dawn of the medium. Now the age of YouTube has brought a Web site dedicated to the sharing and preservation of military films from World War I to the present.

Http:// is the brainchild of retired Air Force Capt. John Corry, who served as a combat cameraman from 1986 to 1990. Corry was involved in the production of numerous military documentary shows for the History Channel after he left the service. In creating each show, Corry made copies of hundreds of old military films, transferring film reels and other former standards onto Beta SP tapes, the longtime broadcast standard.

“These are very engrossing to people that have never seen them before, especially the old ones, the World War II films,” Corry said. “They really take you right back.”

With the onset of widespread Internet access, Corry said, he began “fantasizing” about an online archive of all the films he had collected over the years, a conduit for sharing them with the world.

That dream became a reality Thursday with the launch of the site. Corry and a small staff in Los Angeles spent most of the last year converting the Beta tapes into digital files, then uploading them to the site.

There are about 650 films available on the site, and Corry says he has another 1,200 films digitized that he will upload as he’s able. The films are categorized by time period and subject matter, including a section of formerly classified materials. Some of the films are gory, including the execution of German Gen. Anton Dostler, while others are entertaining for their primitive perspectives on topics like sexual diseases and foreign cultures.

Corry said that the military continues to offer him its full cooperation, and he continues to add modern and historical films to his collection.

In its first day, Corry said, the site got about 1,000 hits, with viewers staying on for an average of 14 minutes.

“Ideally, we’d like to hook up with a bigger portal” like AOL as a future revenue source, Corry said. For the time being, he is counting on press releases and word of mouth to generate traffic for the site. Corry also hopes to allow for downloading and embedding of the movies on separate sites, but doesn’t yet have the bandwidth, he said.