VFW Denounces Lone GOP Senator Holding Up Bill For 'Blue Water' Navy Vietnam Vets

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The Veterans of Foreign Wars didn't mince words in its denunciation of Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday, who the group said had "obstructed" a bill for offshore Navy Vietnam Veterans suffering from illnesses stemming from Agent Orange exposure.


"My disappointment with Senator Enzi's obstruction is beyond measure, because what he did was fail to take care of forgotten veterans who were exposed to toxic substances, and he failed to take care of their children who sadly inherited a toxic legacy," VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement.

"The VFW nor its members will forget this."

The bill, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, or H.R. 299, would extend eligibility for health care and disability benefits to service members who served aboard ships off the Vietnam coast. It had received backing from the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America, which said in a joint statement in September that it provides "long-delayed justice" to aging veterans who "continue to suffer and die from illnesses that have already been legally and scientifically linked to Agent Orange exposure."

The bill passed the House 382-0 in June, but when it came up for unanimous consent in the Senate, Enzi raised his objection.

“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA. They’re having a lot of problems, anyway," Enzi said, according to Stars & Stripes.

“There’s clearly more work to do just on figuring out the spending and administration of this and the deficit impacts this bill will have."

The VFW, however, wasn't buying the cost argument: "If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded, ill or injured," Lawrence said in his statement.

In its joint statement, the veterans' groups cited a 2016 report from The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), which said, "it is generally acknowledged that estuarine waters became contaminated with Herbicides and dioxin as a result of shoreline spraying and runoff from spraying on land, particularly in heavily sprayed areas that experienced frequent flooding" while adding that there was no scientific basis for discriminating between veterans exposed to the toxin on land or at sea.

And as ProPublica wrote in 2015:

The chemicals — whether from runoff, leakage or dumping — could have ended up in the rivers and harbors, which flowed out to U.S. ships at sea. The Navy ships sucked in seawater and distilled it for use, possibly exposing thousands of sailors to the chemical dioxin.

A 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine found that this process not only would have left the chemical in desalinated water, but would have enriched it by 10 times. Smith says while he doesn’t think he came into direct contact with Agent Orange like many ground troops and Vietnamese, he believes that he and his fellow sailors drank and showered in contaminated water.

Although Vietnam veterans who served on land during the war are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, about 52,000 served offshore and are not currently eligible for that presumption. The Congressional Budget Office estimated roughly 30,000 of those veterans were still alive and, if the bill passed, would be eligible for disability compensation and survivors' benefits would be given to their families, costing the government about $1.1 billion over the next 10 years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still save the bill if he schedules a vote before the 115th Congress finishes out its term within the next few days. The next Congress will have to start from scratch if it doesn't pass this year.

US Air Force

On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.

Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.

In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.

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(U.S. Army/Pvt. Stephen Peters)

With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.

After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.

Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.

McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Andrew Ochoa)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.

They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.

It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

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(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.

Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.

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