BOB WIENBERG PRESENTATION
Weinberg of the Hill Country Veterans Council recalls his eight months in Stalag
Luft III and other German prison camps during World War II with a mixture of
pain and humor:
"When our B-24 was shot down, I was captured by some Hitler Youth, really mean-looking kids who had never known anything but what they heard from Hitler. They took me from one village to another and made me stand up against a wall in the town square so that people could spit on me and throw rocks at me. I had shrapnel in the left leg from the 20-millimeter shells that hit our plane, and I passed out in the third village. "When the Hitler Youth turned me over to the German Army, they took the shrapnel out as best they could, but they didn't have much in the way of medicine and they didn't have any cloth bandages at all. The bandages were made of paper. "Under the Geneva Convention, all I had to tell the Germans was my name, rank and serial number - Which I did. When they tried to get me to say more, I just laughed. That made them mad, and their getting mad made me laugh harder. The more I laughed, the madder they got, and the madder they got, the more I laughed - until they put me back into solitary (confinement)".
After days of interrogation, Weinberg and other prisoners were packed into freight cars for a three-day train-ride to a prison camp in what is now Poland. "The Germans didn't bother to mark the cars with red crosses, " he recalls, "so our own planes strafed us because they didn't know the cars had prisoners in them, " In the camp, "They gave us bread made half from wheat and half from sawdust and other stuff from the sawmill floor. You had to be careful chewing, because your toothpick was already, in the bread".
The 'coffee and tea' were made from ground-up acorns - really awful stuff. We were so thankful for the chocolate and real tea that were in the parcels we got from the Red Cross. In fact, 1 wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for the Red Cross".
Weinberg was shot down Aug. 24, 1944, during his 44th mission as a navigator on B-24 heavy bombers. He and an estimated 80,000 other prisoners were freed April 29, 1945, by U.S. troops which had fought their way across France, Belgium, Holland and Germany after the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944,
After a career in the clothing business, Weinberg and his wife, Nina, moved to Kerrville, where they are volunteers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and are active in other civic work.
Joseph Benham for the Hill Country Veterans Council
Take out a one dollar bill and look at it.
The one dollar bill you're looking at first came off the presses in 1957 in its present design. This so-called paper money is in fact a cotton and linen blend, with red and blue minute silk fibers running
through it. It is actually material.
We've all washed it without it falling apart. A special blend of ink is used, the contents we will never know. It is overprinted with symbols and then it is starched to make it water resistant and pressed to give it that nice crisp look.
If you look on the front of the bill, you will see the United States Treasury Seal.
On the top you will see the scales for the balance -a balanced budget.
In the center you have a carpenter's T-square, a tool used for an even cut. Underneath is the Key to the ~United States Treasury.~
That's all pretty easy to figure out, but what is on the back of that dollar bill is something we should all know. If you turn the bill over, you will see two circles.
Both circles, together, comprise the Great Seal of the United States.
The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved. If you look at the left hand circle, you will see a Pyramid. Notice the face is lighted and the western side is dark.
This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the West or decided what we could do for Western Civilization. The Pyramid is uncapped, again signifying that we were not even close to being finished. Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, and ancient symbol for divinity. It was Franklin's belief that one man couldn't do it alone, but a group of
men, with the help of God, could do anything.
"IN GOD WE TRUST" is on this currency. The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means "God has favored our undertaking." The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means "a new order has begun."
At the base of the pyramid is the Roman Numeral for 1776.
If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is on every National Cemetery in the United States. It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery and is the centerpiece of most hero's monuments. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the ~President of the United States~ and it is always
visible whenever he speaks, yet no one knows what the symbols mean.
The Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol for victory for two reasons:
First, he is not afraid of a storm; he is strong and he is smart enough to soar above it.
Secondly, he wears no material crown. We had just broken from the King of England. Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This country can now stand on Its own.
At the top of that shield you have a white bar signifying congress, a unifying factor. We were coming together as one nation. In the Eagle's beak you will read, "E PLURIBUS UNUM", meaning "one nation from many people." Above the Eagle you have thirteen stars
representing the thirteen original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one.
Notice what the Eagle holds in his talons.
He holds an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.
They say that the number 13 is an unlucky number. This is almost a worldwide belief. You will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. But, think about this:
13 original colonies,
13 signers of the Declaration of Independence,
13 stripes on our flag,
13 steps on the Pyramid,
13 letters in the Latin above,
13 letters in "E PLURIBUS UNUM",
13 stars above the Eagle,
13 plumes of feathers on each span of the Eagle's wing,
13 bars on that shield,
13 leaves on the olive branch,
13 fruits, and if you look closely, 13 arrows.
And for minorities: the 13th Amendment.
Why don't we know this?"
Your children don't know this and their history teachers don't know this.
Too many veterans have given up too much to ever let the meaning fade.
Many veterans remember coming home to an America that didn't care.
Too many veterans never came home at all.
Tell everyone what is on the back of the one dollar bill and what it stands for, because nobody else will!
MEN IN BRONZE
12, 1922, on a Pima reservation in Arizona, an American hero was born. He
became a Marine at 19, and later was sent to fight in the Pacific Theater of
World War II. On February 23, 1945, he found himself with four other Marines
and a sailor on top of Mt. Suribuchi on Iwo Jima; Johnny Cash sang about
what happened next in his 1964 hit "The
Ballad of Ira Hayes":
"There they battled up Iwo Jima's hill/Two hundred and fifty men/But only twenty-seven lived to walk back down again/And when the fight was over/And when Old Glory raised/Among the men who held it high/Was the
Indian, Ira Hayes."
Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer-prize-winning snapshot of that moment became the basis for the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, which was officially dedicated on November 11, 1954. Two months after the dedication, back on the Pima reservation, Ira Hayes was found dead at 33, never having been able to cope with his post-war adulation and a fatal descent into alcoholism. Check out:
Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, Ron Powers. Iwo Jima: Monuments, Memories, and the American Hero by Karal Ann
Marling, John Wetenhall. American Battle Monuments: A Guide to Military Cemeteries and Monuments Maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission edited by Elizabeth Nishiura. Extraordinary American Indians by Susan Avery and Linda Skinner. Native North American Biography edited by Sharon Malinowski, Simon Glickman.
Inscriptions of a Nation:
Collected Quotations From Washington
WHAT IS A VET?
You can't tell just by looking. What is a vet?
Jan 2, 2001
An old controversy over
radiation hazards to servicemen will become one of the top issues
confronting Anthony Principi as he enters his confirmation hearings for
Secretary of Veterans Affairs next month, the acting VA chief warns.
Stars and Stripes Answerman:
Jan 12, 2001
By John E. Howell
Stars and Stripes Veterans' Advocate
Have you heard about the recently enacted Veterans' Claims Assistance Act of 2000? This law is a major step forward, but each veteran must understand that there are limits to it and limits in the way the VA is implementing it.
The legislation eliminated a requirement for a well-grounded claim before the VA has a duty to assist
you with your claim. That is a major step forward.
Guidelines issued Dec. 14, 2000, by Robert Epley, directorof the VA Compensation and Pension Service, provide procedures for the VA to follow.
There are positive aspects here. For example, when the VA requests records from a federal department or agency, the statute requires "[the VA] to continue our attempts to obtain these records until we obtain them or until it is reasonably certain that the records do not exist, or that further efforts by VA to obtain them would be
futile. ... We must receive a response from [the person in charge of the records] before assuming we have met our duty to assist."
Good! However, there is always a "however." There are some items of concern as well.
If your claim was denied as not well-grounded between July 14, 1999, and Nov. 9, 2000, the VA will re-adjudicate your claim "as if the denial or dismissal had not been made."
Good! However: "[A] claim will not be re-adjudicated unless a request for re-adjudication is filed by the claimant ... no later than two years from November 9, 2000;" and "We are not required to initiate a special review to locate and re-adjudicate claims denied as not well grounded during this period in the absence of a timely request by the claimant."
That second condition is very important! The VA agrees they will reopen these claims, but only if you bring it to their attention before Nov. 9, 2002. Therefore, all veterans who have had their claims denied because they were not well-grounded should find their paperwork and see what date their claims were denied! If the denial was after July 14, 1999, contact the VA immediately and ask them to
reconsider it under the Veterans' Claims Assistance Act.
Don't wait--do it now, or you may lose an important opportunity!
Once the VA has reopened your claim, your file must contain:
"Competent medical evidence that the claimant has a current disability, or competent evidence that
the claimant has persistent or recurrent symptoms of disability. The veteran is not competent to
provide this information unless he/she is a doctor. You can describe symptoms, but the veteran is not.. competent to diagnose his or her own medical condition or offer a medical opinion...."
The VA will not help you satisfy this requirement. (No change here; this is the same as the first step
of the well-grounded claims test.) "Supporting evidence from service records or other sources that the claimant suffered an event(s), injury or disease in service that may be associated
with the claimant's current disability or symptoms of disability." But: The file does not contain "sufficient medical evidence for us to make a decision on the claim."
At that point, the VA will provide a medical examination. Actually, this third provision is understandable because they are trying to conserve scarce medical resources before ruling on your
claim. They can still deny your claim if your file does not contain items 1 and 2.
Remember that you must still provide competent medical evidence of your current disability. They
won't "assist" you with that.
The VA will continue to develop their rules, and the courts will review their procedures. But remember, just because VA has a duty to assist does not mean they will do it all for you. You must be an active participant and follow up on your claim. If you neglect this duty, your claim may be
denied and you won't understand why.
John E. Howell, a retired Air Force colonel
and attorney in Washington, D.C., can be reached at
jhowell @sperdutolaw .com .
Dick Cheney Salutes Veterans
Jan. 20, 2001 -- In a break from tradition, DickCheney changed the ceremony
offering a salute to an incoming vice president. Far better, he said, to
offer a salute of his own. On the eve of the inauguration, the vice
president-elect saluted America's veterans at George Washington University
Smith Center here. He told the veterans his years as defense secretary were
the most rewarding of his public life. "It is sometimes said that heroes are
hard to find," he noted. "But I never heard that said around the Pentagon."
Those who would understand the meaning of duty, honor and country, need look
no further than the nearest veteran of America's armed forces." The United
States is a peaceful nation and its people are reluctant warriors, Cheney
told the veterans. "We take up arms only to protect our country, to throw
back tyranny and to defend the cause of freedom," he said. "At times the
price has run high and never higher than in the last century with so many
conflicts." After acknowledging Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell,
Defense Secretary-designee Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary William Cohen,
and others in the front row, Cheney paid tribute to the nearly 100 Medal of
Honor recipients in the audience. "When you meet one of them," he said,
"remember the moment... foryou have just met one of the bravest men in our
nation's history." After a nearly two-hour tribute of poignant tales of
heroism, patrioticmusic and expressions of gratitude and pride, excitement
among the several thousand veterans and family members ratcheted even higher
when Cheney made a pledge to the military. Of the many duties the president
and vice president were about to assume, he said, "none is greater than
preparing the military for the challenges and the dangers to come." "We will
give them training that is thorough and missions that areclear," he vowed.
"We will give them the kind of military
where men and women are proud to serve and proud to stay. We will give them the respect they have earned and the support they deserve." "All of this begins in less than 24 hours, when the Chief Justice administers the oath of office to the man I now present, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush." Just for a moment, there was a hush -- as if everyone in the crowd was saying, 'Huh? What did he say?' Then it registered. They realized the president-elect was making a surprise appearance. Carol Rascon, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Al Rascon, called the moment, "electric." Whistles, cheers, and applause burst from the crowd. From the stadium seats to the right and left, came a thundering rumble of stomping feet. Secret Service agents cleared the way as George "Dubya" entered stage right. "I'm certainly glad the vice president-to-be invited me" Bush said in amusement when the hoopla subsided. "It does not
surprise me,however, that he turned the tribute that was supposed to be to him to honor somebody else. That's why I picked him to be the vice president. He is a decent, honorable man." Referring to the Medal of Honor recipients and other heroes in the audience, Bush said, "There are thousands of Americans who when called are willing to serve a cause greater than self. What an honor to be here." Acknowledging those in the front row, Bush saluted his newly designated national defense team. "I believe, in all due respect to other presidents -- one whom I happen to know quite well -- that I believe the national security team that I put together is the best in our nation's history, led by Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld." "I look forward to hearing their opinions. I look forward to their advice. I look forward to doing what is right to make the world more peaceful." Gladly noting active duty generals in the crowd, Bush stressed what he sees as the armed forces' over arching mission -- to be prepared,trained and ready to fight and win wars, and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. "In order to keep the peace our military must be strong, morale must be high," he said. Then, like Cheney, the president-elect made his pledge to the military. "We will make sure our soldiers are well paid and well housed," he vowed. "We will make sure our soldiers are well trained." Bush then pointed out Tony Principi, on tap to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, who was also sitting in the front row. "In order to make sure that morale is high with those who wear the uniform today, we must keep our commitment to those who wore the uniform in the past," Bush said. "We will make sure promises made to our veterans will be promises kept." "In less than 24 hours I have the highest honor and that's to become the commander-in-chief of the greatest nation in the
world,"he said. "I accept that honor with pride. I accept that honor with purpose. Thank you for having me. And may God bless America." Several thousand veterans and family members attended the event emceed by Gerald McRaney, of television's "Major Dad." Actress Connie Stevens, who noted she's entertained G.I.s for five decades, sang "God Bless America." Actor and former Marine Robert Conrad, former Senator and World War II veteran Bob Dole, and Senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain paid tribute to the men and women of the military past and present. A Holocaust survivor, a woman whose fiance died in Vietnam, and a policeman whose life was saved by a National Guardsman spoke of how the American military members touched their lives. A video tribute highlighted the sacrifices of those who served in the nation's wars. Veterans and family members throughout the crowd wiped away silent tears as Congresswoman Heather Wilson, an Air Force Academy graduate, paid homage to the POWs and those missing inaction. Cheney summed up the remarks of all when he said that all who have served the military have one thing in common. "In our country's hour of need, they answered the call. They gave America the best years of their lives. . . and they stood ready to give life itself." (Source: American Forces Press Service)
PRINCIPI PROMISES 'TOP
TO BOTTOM' SHAKEUP
Jan 22, 2001
VA Secretary-designate Anthony J. Principi has promised a friendly Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he will be an activist, examining from "top to bottom" the agency's sluggish claims processing system, its health care system and
its use of information technology.
"If I leave this town with VBA's [Veterans Benefits Administration] problems still under study, I will count my tour as a failure," he testified on Jan. 18.
Principi endorsed a controversial proposal for the VA and the Defense Department to jointly procure medical supplies, telling the panel that the move--which the VA currently opposes--would save the federal government
nearly $500 million a year.
The controversy stems from apparent rivalries between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Last year the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that the VA's procurement system was costing taxpayers as
much as $300 million a year. The GAO report was prepared at the request of the House Veterans Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee.
But John Ogden, the VA's director of pharmacy services, said last month that the VA already receives substantial discounts. He recently said that pooling would necessitate changing patients' prescriptions "just because we wanted a
joint contract. What if an adverse event occurred?"
Principi discounted those concerns, saying that the two agencies' failure to pool prescription drug requirements is costly and prevents the government from receiving discounts from pharmaceutical companies through volume purchases of
commonly prescribed drugs.
Testifying on what he called the VA's "information technology problems," Principi said the department has spent billions of dollars on new data-processing technology but to little effect. "Frankly, I do not see improvements proportional to
the resources consumed," he said.
Principi's criticism flew in the face of Acting VA Secretary Hershel W. Gober's recent praise for the VA's technological prowess.
When the VA received one of Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Awards for its new computer information system, Gober declared: "The honor for the Compensation and Pension Record Interchange [CAPRI] system brings the
number of Hammer Awards that VA has received to 170. VA is once again recognized as a nationwide leader in good management. The potential for improved service to veterans that this system gives us is enormous."
Also, in an editorial quickly embraced by Gober, The New England Journal of Medicine last month called the VA health care system "a laudable success." It said the VA is providing care at more sites to more veterans with fewer
employees than five years ago, while becoming "an industry leader in such areas as patient safety,
the computerization of medical records, preventative screenings and
"VA has an outstanding system that continues to improve to meet the unique health care needs of veterans," VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite recently said. "It is a model system for the health care industry and
worthy of preservation."
The VA operates 173 medical centers, 134 nursing homes and more than 600 community clinics that treated 600,000 inpatients last year and provided for 36.4 million outpatient visits.
'I Will Be Decisive'
Principi testified: "I do not intend to come to Washington to conduct seminars. I intend to make decisions and to act on them. Those who know me know that I will be decisive. I will act boldly. But I will not act impulsively."
Last year, as chairman of the Congressional Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance, Principi delivered a set of costly recommendations including a proposal that the government pay four years' tuition at
any college in the United States for anyone who has served a four-year active duty tour in the military.
He also concluded, in the commission's final report to Congress, "The programs administered by the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) are not effective in placing veterans in suitable jobs.
Those programs must be completely overhauled.
"The recently separated veterans, who by definition are mature, disciplined, drug-fee, teamwork-oriented individuals, should have a higher unemployment rate than non-veterans the same age "
Despite their qualifications, Principi said, finding civilian jobs is not easy for returning veterans. Almost 20 percent of those aged 20 to 24 are unemployed--a rate higher than their non-veteran counterparts, he said.
'It's not working'
"We found that to be totally unacceptable," Principi continued. "This cohort of people spent four, eight, 12 years in the military--whatever it might be--and now leaving the service should have a higher employment rate. Instead,
service members have difficulty finding suitable employment.
"We spend an awful lot of money in this country--almost $200 million a year through the Department of Labor -assisting these young men and women to get jobs. Obviously, it's not working and the system needs to be reformed
immediately," he said.
During the first Bush administration, Principi became the VA's first deputy secretary after the department was elevated to Cabinet status and later ran the agency as acting secretary.
Principi, a decorated Vietnam veteran, spoke of the years during which the VA denied claims from veterans that the defoliant Agent Orange had ruined their health.
As acting VA secretary during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he ordered the creation of a registry to track the medical condition of Gulf War veterans. Principi said it took months, and ultimately congressional legislation, to establish
Principi said he has learned from such experiences.
In a preview of his promised activist management style, Principi pledged: "I am not interested in abstract theories of veterans benefits. I want hands-on, practical solutions. I will not want to hear that problems are intractable because of the language of the law."
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