Archive for the ‘Veterans’ Category

by jhwygirl

Looks like HD94 candidate goddess Ellie Hill has her campaign website up and running, and it sure looks nice.

She must know a fabulous photographer. The photographs are beautiful (as was her Christmas card photo).

Go check it out. While you’re there, drop her a Jackson….because you know Ellie Hill is a good investment.

She has an expansive working knowledge of veterans issues. So much so, that her work with the Pov was not only discussed in committee by Sen. Jon Tester (who was testifying in a Senate committee on proposed legislation), but members of that committee asked plenty of questions about how an org like the Pov functions. When a respected Senator like Jon Tester testifies on veterans issues and mentions the Missoula Poverello Center as a shining example of an underfunded and overcapacity service provider for veterans, other senators listen.

Montana has more veterans per capita than any other state. Her knowledge in that regards would substantially benefit veterans in terms of addressing legislation.

She also has quite an amount of expertise on social service issues. This is in direct relation to her understanding of veterans issues. She knows what works and what doesnt. What wastes money, and what is effective. With the limited funds available in those regards, it’s important that taxpayers get value for whatever they spend there. Again – Ellie Hill is an asset.

I don’t know all Ellie’s issues – I don’t need to.

What I do know is that veteran’s issues are important to me and they’re important to Montana. Homelessness goes hand in hand there with veteran’s issues, since statistics show nearly 30% can be veterans. Food, shelter, mental and physical health care is all important stuff in those regards. When the legislature is addressing these issues, I know that Ellie Hill is able to address those issues like the professional she is.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread

One extraordinary fish: Benson the carp.

Wednesday or Thursday, Washington Post put out a lengthy piece giving some insight into the current guts of the Senate Finance Committee’s consensus-building version of health care not insurance reform.

How about seeking some consensus with me?!

Some fabulous music coming to town, I have to say: Bob Weir and Rat Dog at the Wilma Aug 26th. If your really adventurous and young at heart and have a portable schedule, you could hit a mini-tour of Dark Star Orchestra, starting at the Spud Drive-In in Driggs, (I can’t think of a more fantastic outdoor venue, it being on the backside of The Tetons and in the shadow of The Grand) next Wednesday…hit the Emerson Theater in Bozeman on Thursday, an then finish it with a Geothermal Jerry Bash at Lolo Hot Springs on both Friday and Saturday.

Honestly? If I think about that one too much, I think my head will explode….

In case you missed it in the news: For the first time in one year, job losses slowed.

It was also a good week for this woman. Wulfgar! is a bit harsh on himself as he breaks down the confirmation vote.

Pogie rails on some local stuff on the City of Helena – apparently the city is taking on a $65,000 per year public information officer. This isn’t keeping one, or even giving one a raise – it’s a whole new position!

He also had a good book review on Edward Royce’s Poverty and Power: A Structural Perspective on American Inequality.

The VA has launched a Veteran’s Justice Outreach Initiative, which, in reading it, seems like a gosh-darn common sense thing to be doing. I hope Missoula is able to grab up some assistance there, which might help out our overtaxed mental health system infrastructure.

There is no line that won’t be crossed in the vicious despicable tactics being used to defeat health reform.

And that’s all she wrote….

Have a nice weekend….

by jhwygirl

Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners approved a measure that will put a one mill levy on the June 2010 ballot to fund the Valley Veterans Service Center.

The center has an annual budget of $39,000, while donations and grants to the non-profit total out at about $26,000. They’ve been struggling for some time, but not for lack of clients – many of whom are not able, or have tremendous difficulty making the trip to Missoula or Helena for services.

Ravalli County has 5,600 veterans. The entire state of Montana has 109,000. There are 23 centers here in Montana that provide services to veterans – two of them are in Missoula.

Ron Skinner, the center’s director, opened the place 3 years ago.

Wow. Think about that challenge. Think about budget – and using that term brings new meaning to the word “budget,” doesn’t it?

Senator Tester is working to bring real funding to the center.

A mill levy is pretty unique to fund a non-profit. That is not lost on some – check out the comments on the story. Should the government be providing the funding? Yep. The government entered into a contract with these service men and women, and they have an obligation to follow through. Does providing additional funding harm? Hell no…but reliance of this sort to provide services to veterans is the obligation of the federal government and all taxpayers.

From the sounds of the comments, and the quotes from the BCC, the one mill levy should have no problem. Hopefully the center can hold on for that long – even if approved, the funding won’t be available until June 2011. At some point, though, the federal government is going to have to realize that not all veterans live in cities and at some point they’re going to have to figure out how to get the services they promised to the people they promised them too.

by jhwygirl

Bunches of good stuff I’ve been reading through for some time now – – -

The Center for the Rocky Mountain West has just released its Spring newsletter. There’s an interesting piece in there on population migration within the U.S.

When Wulfgar! writes that he was thinking of wearing “a flower print dress and my best tea-party bonnet,” you know you better be paying attention. I immediately began planning my trip to Bozeman. Good thing I read the rest of it, otherwise I’da been highly disappointed.

Then he goes after his favorite (Not!) local conservative blogger Andy Hammond with a piece titled “Asplode!

Pogie over at Intelligent Discontent took a jab at Rep. Dennis Rehberg and his hypocritical schizophrenic behavior concerning earmarks. It’s always good to get more clarification on Rehberg.

He also made two strikes with one blow on both the Chair of the Montana Republican Party and Rep. Dennis Rehberg in Is Liane Pronounced Lyin’ – A Pathetic Defense of Dennis Rehberg’s Record.

Ouch!!!

Both Button Valley Press and Will Fish For Work brought Walleye Welfare bill SB425 to my attention. Stop over and give ‘em both a thanks for helping to save an important warm water fishery, along with a move that will ensure our fishing licenses won’t be increasing anytime in the near future.

Also celebrating the death of SB498…The Editor had put one one last scary post on the ills and unanswered questions behind carbon sequestration on Friday morning, and by late morning – early afternoon the bill was effectively killed in committee.

One ugly ugly bill that is sitting on the Governor’s desk, waiting for his signature is SB95 which concerns water quality standards for local municipalities. Politics, Peaks, and Valleys has a great piece over there, SB 95: Bucking Feds & Water Quality Standards. Anyone say “Mmmm, I love nutrient discharge in my water?” What’s shocking about this bill is how it is in direct conflict with federal EPA regulations. Look – legislative audits this past summer demonstrated how woefully inadequate Montana DEQ is acting as the agency responsible for the state’s water quality…why would we sign a law into effect that just continues to perpetrate that which is in violation of federal law?

Although, maybe Montana is better off with the feds taking over DEQ’s water quality division?

The Dead are apparently back out on tour The New York Times has two nice little nostalgic pieces – that one there and this one which is a collection of photographs, including reader submitted.

Matt Kohler has a piece up at Clean Green Sustainable about mountaintop coal removal. It’s a major issue out east – in king coal country West Virginia…which reminded me of something someone brought up the other day: “If all these coal advocates want to tout jobs-jobs-jobs when talking about coal, what about West Virginia? Isn’t that one of the poorest states in the U.S.? What about jobs and money down there?”

James Conner of Flathead Memo is not happy about the state of the CHIP initiative – and the state GOP’s role in the situation. When Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy facilitated that budgetary decision, well…let’s just say James got even more incensed.

No one is, really – and the hypocrisy surrounding that vote to reduce a citizen-backed program is mystifying. Singer points out the hypocrisy of it when transposed on the issue of redistricting, while in another post he points out how there simply isn’t any logic to the way they are coming to this decision.

Me? I see it pretty hypocritical of the Montana GOP to jump out on the Capitol steps and lambaste Democrats on the downfall of society for their pro-choice votes while failing to ensure that an additional 15,000 kids get healthcare and while voting in support of state-sanctioned killing in the death penalty? What kind of respect for life is that?

This one really ticked me off: Army Vet Billed $3,000 for War Wounds. My friend, who was Army, said that the Army should be sued for malpractice.

Bridger Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, of Bozeman, is climbing Mt. Everest and they’ve got a blog up with fabulous stories and photographs. I’ve been following it for weeks.

by jhwygirl

There is a correction in this post, below, for HB75

This post is just for Monday and Tuesday. 105 committee hearings for just those two days. Keep in mind, too, that this is all on the downhill side, too – and I need to remember that also. Floor hearings are becoming all the more important, too. I will be making an effort to get up brief previews as stuff hits the floor. Those will be, please note, don’t-delay, email-or-call-today types of notices.

Last Thursday – and then Friday – were two disappointments – both SB425, the “Walleye Welfare” bill, and SB497, the “it protects protesters from people that are entering health care clinics” bill both passed 2nd and 3rd readings in the Senate – on a nearly party-line vote. These were no-go bills from my perspective – and others – so that they passed is a bad thing.

Is there any good to report out of that? Well, in committee, both bills passed unanamously out of committee – SB425 a 9-0 vote our of Senate Fish & Game, and SB497 a 12-0 vote out of Senate Judiciary. By the time they hit the floor, all of the Democratic committee members – save one on each of those bills – had changed their vote. So while the bills weren’t killed on the floor, clearly there was movement. Is there more good? There’s still another chance at these bills – they’re now in their respective House committees….which means ongoing public comment should continue, and may have an affect. So keep it up.

Now, onto the task at hand, shall we?

Monday has an interesting one – the topic of which we’ve blogged about here previously. Rep. Scott Sales has HB526, which would require the use of regular road salt and prohibit the use of magnesium chloride and calcium chloride on state and county roads. Now..boy. What do you say about this? The bill started out prohibiting salt – and I could see where that was too unspecific, so as originally proposed it has been amended. But amended to prohibit magnesium and calcium chloride? When both are more effective? And road salt is more corrosive? And worse for water quality? What are these people thinking? This is House Appropriations (another crazy place for it – it was originally in House Transportation – and me, I’d love to see this in House Natural Resources) – Samuel Speerschneider the secretary – sspeerschneider@mt.gov.

Here’s another one of those crazy unconstitutional ones: Rep. Joel Boniek has HB246 which would “Exempt(ing) from the federal regulation under the commerce clause of the constitution of the United States a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured and retained in Montana”. Honestly. The lunacy. And the waste of time. Boniek and the rest of the loonies that are proposing this kind of stuff should be embarrassed.

Sen. Jeff Essman has an interesting one: SB348, which would put forth a constitutional amendment to Montanan’s that would result in yearly legislative sessions that would alternate between regular and budgetary. This passed through the Senate overwhelmingly – 42-8. Now – I don’t know what I think about this: On one hand, if ridiculous legislation (like the one above, for example) weren’t getting proposed, maybe there wouldn’t be a need for annual sessions. On the other hand, 90 days has rarely been enough time to get stuff done. The cost of annual sessions – the fiscal note gets away from addressing it all together by basically saying nothing is going to happen until a time period out of our purview – would be significant. Further, we have interim sessions now where real analysis and attempts at bi-partisan agreement are worked out on significant issues. When would that stuff get done? If someone could explain that to me, maybe then I could support it – but as it stands now, we got a 90 day session that essentially focuses on the “regular” stuff like approving proposed bills that affect every day life, water quality, air quality, taxes, etc., and they have nominal hearings that are politically driven, with little substance given to true analysis, whether fiscal or scientific, of the effects. Would Essman’s proposal result in year-after-year of that? No analysis, just politically-driven decisions. If so, hell no. I wish the legislators would consider all that before they go putting forth a constitutional amendment to the voters that would result in a politically-driven decision that would then result in year-after-year of politically-driven decisions.

Sen. Carol C. Juneau wants to regulate the sale of alcoholic energy drinks with SB438. This one passed nicely out of the Senate, and hopefully finds the same support in the House. In House Business & Labor, Santella Baglivo the secretary – sbaglivo@mt.gov.

I’m going to have to split this post, people, so please click Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Of the many things I admire about our Senator Jon Tester is his outspoken advocacy of veteran’s issue, and is ongoing committment to securing funding to ensure that veterans receive the services they deserve – the services they’ve been promised as part of their service to our nation.

Valley Veterans Service Group is a small small nonprofit group which services Bitterroot Valley veterans. They operate on an annual budget of $39,000 a year. Of the 109,000 veterans in Montana, Ravalli County has 5,600. Without Valley Veterans Service Group, Ravalli residents have to drive to Missoula for services.

At a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last Thursday – Tester has a seat on the committee – Sen. Tester reiterated his commitment to rural veterans and mental healthcare. Matthew Kunz testified before the committee at Tester’s behest. Kunz is the stepbrother of Chris Dana, the Helena soldier who committed suicide in March of 2007.

This week, Tester is expected to introduce legislation that will include funding for mental health in rural areas to help serve veterans.

Veterans issues are near and dear to me. Tester spoke extensively of veterans issues during his campaign for office. He’s maintained that commitment. Between him and Senator Baucus, Montana veterans can know that their talk means action – and real results.

by jhwygirl

Note: Well, I’m realizing I screwed up here…this is the Wednesday through Friday schedule folks. With apologies and the appropriate corrections:

I didn’t count ‘em, but just as every other week, there’s a long list of committee hearings this week.

I’ll remind: I only quickly point out the stuff that I’m noticing. If there’s something I’m missing, feel free to add it in the comments or shoot me an email (contact info over there on the right under PAGES.)

On Wednesday we’ve got Sen. Christine Kaufman’s bill that will simplify calculations for certain property tax assistance programs. This clarifies the income levels for married couples, and – importantly – helps out homeowners who are veterans. SB115 has cleared the senate with a unanimous vote. Let’s hope the house is as generous. This is in the House Taxation – Jeff Martin the staffer, jmartin@mt.gov

Also in House Taxation is Missoula Rep. Dave McAlpin’s bill to revise tax code with a new top marginal rate for income tax. HB395 would raise the maximum rate to 7.9% for anyone making more than $250,000. That’s a 1% increase for what was previously a ceiling of $13,900. Seems to me not many Montanans incomes would be affected by this one, considering the median income for a Montana family of 4 is $55,641. Give this bill some love, folks, and contact Jeff Martin the staffer, jmartin@mt.gov

Another veteran friendly bill is Rep. Cynthia Hiner’s proposal to streamline law enforcement certification for veterans that have taken federal and military course equivalents. This one would be a big help to local agencies, and to veterans by lowering training costs while getting veterans back to work quick. Win-win for everyone as I see it. HB293 is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

Rep. Robin Hamilton, of Missoula, has an education friendly bill that would help funnel more money to local districts for capital facilities funding by using certain revenues from timber harvest, mineral royalties and power site rental payments. HB152 is in House Education. This seems like a no-brainer, folks – and alleviates the chance of levys being passed on to Montanans, who (to repeat myself) don’t make much money. Money would not come from the general fund – it’d come from trust land revenues. Very supportable. Jeremy Gersovitz the staffer, jgersovitz@mt.gov

In the senate – still on Wednesday, folks – Sen. David Wanzenried has SB236 which would abolish the death penalty. This one is in Senate Judiciary, Valencia Lane the staffer – vlane@mt.gov

In Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs Sen. Ryan Zinke has proposed a bill, SB192 that would provide unemployment insurance relief for small businesses with 20 or fewer employees. This bill, according to the fiscal note, would have significant local government and long term fiscal impacts. If your concerned about your taxes – local and state – better buck up with an email or phone call on this one. Pat Murdo the staffer pmurdo@mt.gov

Finally hitting to Thursday folks! First off, in the house, we’ve got HB348, proposed by Billings Rep. Dennis Himmelberger which would remove certain exemptions to state law for the registration requirement for lobbyist. I say “GO” on this one. It’s in House State Administration, Sheri Heffelfinger the staffer sheffelfinger@mt.gov

This one’s been talked about quite a bit: Sen. Christine Kaufmann has proposed SB278 which would prohibit use of cell phones. This is in Senate Highways & Tranportation, Tami McGill the staffer tmcgill@mt.gov

Now to Friday: I’ll be interesting to see where HB398 goes – it would increase the authority for the commissioner of political practices. Proposed by Rep. Janna Taylor. This is in House State Administration, Sheri Heffelfinger the staffer sheffelfinger@mt.gov

Another timely one is Rep. Dan Villa’s bill that would revise animal cruelty laws. How many of these are going on? Billings has 2 in the news right now – Butte/Anaconda just finished one, and so did Ravalli. HB349 is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

You mean these guys aren’t regulated?! Rep. Deborah Kottel has proposed HB318 which would add a new section to the Montana Code to regulate bill collectors. Wow. Given the layoffs suffered around the state, I say this is both timely and needed to protect Montana consumers. This is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

Having cleared the Senate, and now in House Business & Labor is Sen. Cliff Larson’s bill to revise Insure Montana, SB135. This one is friendly to small business – the meat-and-potatoes of Montana’s economic sector. It would do a number of things including revise eligibility thresholds for owners, partners and shareholders; clarify the description of credible coverage; and revise funding terms for premium assistance and premium incentive programs. Another VERY SUPPORTABLE bill. Bart Campbell the staffer, bcampbell@mt.gov

So, readers, there’s my truncated version of committee hearings for Wednesday through Friday. Please take a moment to shoot a quick email to the committee staffer with “yea” or “nay” on these bills. Make sure to note the bill number and that you are wanting to provide public comment.

You can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for as many as five legislators or one legislative committee per call. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

The Session Information Desk is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to adjournment on Saturdays.

by jhwygirl

I voraciously read and watched and twittered (tweeted?) the Missoulian trial coverage. As a news addict, and being what it was, it was an unsettling feeling. The coverage – the writing, the video stuff? – was so excellent that I compare my recent addiction to my need to check the news every 5 minutes during the beginning throes of the stockmarket/economic meltdown.

Unsettling because of the content it produced. This link will take you to the entire Missoulian coverage since jury selection.

As if reading my mind – I almost email Tristan Scott, the Missoulian reporter, telling him that the story I wanted to hear was Strahan’s mother’s – he deftly covered Strahan’s testimony, and accompanied it with this video. I’m not sure if the video was done by Tim Akimoff (who I know was doing earlier video, and who gains credit for the photo associated with the above-linked Missoulian article.)

That one story evoked stronger emotions in me than anything I can recall in reading all that I had read about Forrest Clayton Salcido’s murder. His last moments – how it senselessly began – how Salcido had the upper hand initially – how Strahan had tried to intervene when St. Dennis began his stomping – and the callous senseless inhumane way in which it ended. The mother who’s son had come home, drunk bloody and shaken, crying. How she came to pick up the phone and call the police the next day.

Scott’s blog, Cops and Courts, has additional coverage.

Understanding the brutality with which Salcido faced his death, and seeing Strahan’s testimony on video, I find myself struggling with an amount of sympathy for Strahan. Certainly more for his mother. Should I? And yet could it have all had never happened if not for other events earlier in the day?

The local Havre Daily News has provided some coverage too. While difficult to read, Leeds rambling coverage tell us that Strahan’s mother had bought the punks their “double-quart” (from Scott’s coverage) of vodka (from Leeds). (The Havre Daily News has this story, which details St. Dennis’ jailhouse phone call confession, and this one which opens the trial.)

What if?

Also out of Leeds’ story we find that after the initial attack, but before the stomping, Salcido had attempted to leave and Strahan had told St. Dennis “not to follow him.”

Leeds’ rambling run-on style illustrates, if anything, the difficulties Missoula County attorney Van Valkenberg had in pulling out these seemingly minutia-like details.

In the video that accompanies Scott’s report on Strahan’s testimony, you can hear Van Valkenberg go back at Strahan after he testifies that he hadn’t stomped on Salcido – “now, are you aware that there has been a forensic examination done of the toe of your shoe?” and Strahan answers “yes.” Van Valkenberg continues: “.. and are you aware that there is blood at the toe of that shoe?” and Strahan answer “yes.”

The verdict, if the twitter times were right, was sometime after 3 p.m. yesterday. Scott has “raw video” of the verdict being handed to the court by the jurors – and it also includes video of St. Dennis’ reaction.

He seems almost excited about the sentencing.

How you prosecute the crime of what were a man’s last moments in life, how you bring to horrible light its horrible brutality, how a reporter covers it, and how a public defender has to defend it, I can not imagine having to be so immersed in something so utterly utterly horrible. It’s work that must be commended, despite how much I’d rather it not be needed at all.

Forrest Clayton Salcido was given some justice this week. There will be more. Too bad it had to happen at all.

by jhwygirl

One year ago tomorrow December 5th, Forrest Clayton Salcido was brutally stomped to death – murdered – for no excuse other than being somewhere at the wrong time, and encountering the worse of human kind.

Salcido, 56, was a Navy veteran of the Vietnam war. He was known as a kind and gentle soul, who was more comfortable – despite family in the area – braving the elements and shunning the rat race. He had worked for years at the Evans mill after leaving the service, and later MRL when the mill closed.

I had met Forrest, briefly, in mid-October, while home in mid-day for lunch. He was rooting through the dumpsters, collecting aluminum cans – and had huge bags tied to his bike. I waved and said hello, and ran inside and grabbed my recycling cans to give to him. It was a Wednesday. We struck up a conversation. He was pleasant and sociable – and other than the more-than-usual amount of necessities he had tied to his bike, one might never have known he was living on the street. As we parted, I asked him if he collected cans regularly, and he said he did it every Wednesday because (if I remember correctly) Pacific Recycling paid double for aluminum.

So I started collecting the cans at work. I missed the next week, but the following I left them out the back door in the morning, and they were gone when I got home. I mighta got another two batches out there for him – but later there was another that wasn’t picked up.

Forrest was murdered on a Wednesday.

A week later, when I saw this story in the paper, I got sick to my stomach all over. I say all over, because as I had read the coverage of his senseless murder that previous week, I had been sicked to think that someone would meet such a horrible end for nothing other than ‘I’m having a bad day’ reasoning.

But there was his picture. Forrest Clayton Salcido was the guy I had struck up a conversation with just what seemed just a few short weeks ago. I knew then why that bag of cans was still sitting out the door.

Months and months later – maybe it was spring this year? – I found another guy reaching through the dumpsters nearby for aluminum. It was a Wednesday. He’s a military veteran also. Pleasant, sociable – his hobby is race cars. He stops by every Wednesday to bring another veteran who is a neighbor a warm lunch or dinner meal and a visit of conversation. I occasionally take that same neighbor a meal (on the rare occasion I cook something that he can eat – he likes my stew and my chicken and dumplings), but not nearly enough.

I try every week to get my workplace’s cans brought home with me on Tuesdays, and set them out there for my neighbor’s friend to pick up. Remembering Forrest Clayton Salcido reminds me to do it – and for a year now, I don’t think there’s been a Wednesday, whether I get the cans out there or not, that I don’t think of Forrest.

Forrest’s death opened the ugly door to the realities of life that homeless people face amongst our oh-so-civil world. On any given night in Missoula, more than 500 are homeless. A canvas done in 2008 turned up 906 homeless people in Missoula County. Nationally, more than 1 in 4 homeless are military veterans. The VA estimates that 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. 400,000 will be homeless during the course of a year. 11% of Montana’s population are military veterans. Is this how we treat the men who sacrifice so much to defend our freedom? Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke eloquently about just this issue on Veteran’s Day last month. If you didn’t see it then, you should read it now.

His murder also shed some more undesirable light on the ugly violence that is here in Missoula – that many choose or refuse to acknowledge. Salcido’s murderers were an 18-year old Hellgate High senior and a 20-year old friend. What environment – what community – unwittingly fostered a situation that created such monsters? That may be tough to hear – but this paragraph and the paragraph above it are all questions we should be asking ourselves.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I believe I will make a trip down to the bridge tomorrow at darkness and light a candle for Forrest.

by jhwygirl

I mentioned last week that I attended the dedication of the Western Montana Veteran’s Cemetery, and how Lt. Governor John Bohlinger spoke eloquently about war and its impact on soldiers and Americans.

I had a friend request a copy of the speech, and his staff was kind enough to send it. Bohlinger’s words are definitely worthy of remembrance:

Ladies and gentlemen, honorable veterans, and fellow Montanans, thank you for your invitation to share a few words with you today. I come to you today as Montana’s Lt. Governor, but I also come to you bearing another title. It is one that I hold with great pride, as it brings honor to my name, and the life that I have led. The title is that of United States Marine Corps veteran. There are many words that can describe a veteran, but the most prominent is honor. The men and women who wear the uniform of the US Armed Forces live by the words of John F. Kennedy, who said; ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

The lessons I learned in the Marines were the lessons of discipline and commitment. When I learned to submit my will to a greater cause, I discovered that sacrificing the self for the good of the whole, was really no sacrifice at all.

While the tools and strategy of war have changed, the spirit of the American soldier has not. Their commitment to each other and to our country has remained strong as American oak. A deceptive adversary in the Middle East has uncovered a new ugliness in modern warfare. A disregard for innocent human life, and deception, make up the strategy of our opponent’s in Iraq and Afghanistan. The face of war is one not easily forgotten, and life after combat can be an unfamiliar reality for a soldier. We have witnessed increasing numbers in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst the men and women who wear the uniform. It has been said that in war, there are no unwounded soldiers. (José Narosky)

If a soldier returning to the states does not find the network of support needed to reintegrate into society, then we face the possibility of losing that connection indefinitely. Governor Schweitzer testified before congress in Washington DC this year and told them of Chris Dana, a soldier in the Montana National Guard. He told them of the lack of resources available to Chris through the Veterans’ Administration after his tour of duty. He told them of the struggle that Chris endured after returning from deployment, and of the tragic end to Chris Dana’s life. In times of war, casualties and loss of life are inevitable, but the life of Chris Dana was not taken by a stray bullet, or a roadside bomb. It was taken by neglect. Neglect to bring light to an issue that has been repeatedly overlooked for far too long.

I believe that Governor Schweitzer said it best when he stated, “The federal government does a remarkable job of converting a citizen into a warrior; I think they have an equal responsibility converting a warrior back to a citizen.”

With this comes an understanding, that support for our service men and women does not cease at the end of a tour of duty, or even after an honorable discharge. Our soldiers need to be reassured that a post-military career, and life, will permit them to enjoy the American way of life that they so diligently fought to uphold.

Veterans make up 11% of Montana’s population, the highest in the nation. We are known for our patriotism and willingness to serve our country. Governor Schweitzer, myself, and Montana’s Congressional Delegation, will continue work for our veteran community to ensure all resources and support necessary are available to men and women returning from duty.

Seven years ago today, nineteen men of a terrorist network attacked American soil and took innocent American lives. In the eyes of the leaders of al Qaeda the mission was a success. In the eyes of Americans, it was their biggest mistake.

We will never forget the day that American liberty and freedom was attacked. Our American values did not falter in 9/11’s aftermath, but were strengthened. 2,974 people died in the attacks. Another 24 are missing and presumed dead. The overwhelming majority of casualties were innocent civilians, including nationals of over 90 different countries. Let this day serve as a reminder, that there are those in the world that cannot grasp the beauty and merit of a truly free society, and have dedicated their lives to threatening our way of life. But we are Americans, united under the stars and stripes, and we will not allow those who attempt to strike fear into our hearts oppress our American way of life. Our freedoms and our liberties are not granted to us merely by the grace of God, but they are upheld by the great sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Let this day forever remind us of that sacrifice, and to bring the highest honor to our veterans and their families.

To the veterans in attendance today, I say thank you for your service to our country and your people. It is hard to imagine what the United States of America would have endured, and continued to endure, without your service. Thank you. To my fellow Montanans, whether you have family or friends in the Armed Forces or not, I ask you this. Extend your hand of friendship to your veteran community. In one manner or another, volunteer and be a visible means of support, for these are the men and women who stand on guard to preserve the way of life we all enjoy. Do not forget that freedom comes at a price and that we all must share in the cost.

In closing, I will leave you with this thought from Elmer Davis.
~ This nation will remain the land of the free, only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~
Saepius Exertus – Often Tested
Semper Fidelis – Always Faithful
Fraters Infinitas – Brothers Forever

Thank you, God Bless America!

by jhwygirl

I attended the dedication this afternoon of the Western Montana Veteran’s Cemetery. A crowd somewhere between 400 to 500 people attended, of all ages – veterans of all service branches, of many wars, and of all ranks. It was a truly moving event, set with a background of a tragic day in American history.

I missed bringing my camera – and if anyone has pictures, I’d love to post them, so please email me if you have them.

I walked into the service with a friend of mine – a veteran of the Iraq War. We have spoke many times about that war and the war in Afghanistan…and just plain lots of politics in general. As we walked towards the ceremony – running a tad bit late – a cannon shot pierced the air. He was halted, obviously shaken. His reaction lasted longer than I would have expected. While I’ve always recognized his service and sacrifice as something that is an absolute selfless gift to me and all Americans, the affect of that cannon shot was a stark reminder for me of one of the things his service means for him. Every day.

That brief moment won’t be leaving me.

Lt. Governor Bohlinger was the first speaker. He spoke quite eloquently about his service in the Marines – but he did speak at length about Specialist Chris Dana, 23, of Helena. Dana committed suicide in March 2007. His death was a watershed moment for the Montana National Guard, and Montana now has one of the fines mental health support systems, throughout the state, for veterans of all wars. His family speaks openly of Dana’s tragic death.

Bohlinger spoke of the commitment that we – Americans – have to veterans – how it doesn’t stop once they get home, and how it is our responsibility to ensure that even unseen wounds need to have care. Bohlinger pointed out that even today’s dedication of the Veteran’s Cemetery is an example of the commitment that is deserved for those who have served.

There were many speakers – I apologize for not speaking to them all.

A 21-gun salute, taps, and bagpipes closed the ceremony.

by jhwygirl

The shame brought to us by the Bush Administration never ends, does it?

First, a review of some of my outrages – because this isn’t the type of stuff you “move forward” on:
More Shame From the Bush Administration

More Disrespect for the Troops from the Commander-in-Chief

Symbiotic Relationship of Bush Administration and Mainstream Media Has No Bounds

From the VA: Shhh, 1,000 Attempted Suicided Per Month

Before I go further, just imagine the stuff you don’t hear about….

James B. Peake, Secretary for Veteran’s Affairs, has issued a directive that bans non-partisan voter registration drives from federally-financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans.

Peake was nominated by the White House in 2007, and his job is described as “the principal advocate for veterans in the U.S. government.” He graduated from West Point, and served in the Army Infantry Division. He went on to get is medical doctorate degree in 1972, and retired as a Lieutenant General in 2004.

Why would a military guy oversee – in fact, facilitate – impediments to voting for the very veterans he has sworn an oath to protect? Why would he do something like this when voting is one of the very basic of rights the military is there to uphold for the United States? What kind of military guy does this?

Peake is citing the Hatch Act in his defense. The Hatch Act forbids federal workers from engaging in partisan political activity.

Registering voters is NOT a partisan political activity. No matter who is doing the registering.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Robert A. Brady (Pa.) and Bob Filner (Ca.), have sent a letter to Peake, asking him to halt the directive.

Meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Barack Obama (D-IL), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced legislation to require the VA to facilitate voter registration for veterans. Since being introduced on July 22nd, Sens. Rick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) have signed on to S.3308.

I’ve asked this before – but someone please explain to me why something that is in the best interests of everyone, of all veterans – why aren’t there any Republicans signing on to this bill?

Or, put another way, why wouldn’t Republicans want to make sure that veterans can vote?

Please take a moment to contact Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and ask them to support S.3308.

Oh – and don’t forget Representative Dennis Rehberg.

by jhwygirl

My father is a WWII veteran, who served as a Marine in the Pacific theater. He earned a purple heart there, and his service has never been something he’s been able (or willing) to talk much about. The deaths of his fellow Marines – some during the event which earned him his purple heart – always kept his conversation regarding war to a bare minimum. “It’s not glorious, j – not in any way. Don’t make it out to be something it isn’t. War is ugly. Don’t you forget it.” There was a tinge of both anger and sadness in his voice when he told me that. It was when I was in high school. I had gone up in attic and dragged out his Marine clothing, wanting to use his jacket (back then it was ‘cool’). Needless to say, I didn’t get to wear the jacket – I remember his boxing it up and getting it out of the house.

I always felt bad about that, because of the emotion it evoked in my father. He was never very emotional, so seeing it was notable.

If you are reading this and have yet to plan your day – don’t forget the Welcome Home Montana celebration from noon to 6 p.m. today in Caras Park. We blogged about this event previously here. It’s an opportunity to gather together with community members – namely, veterans – and celebrate their service with live music, tributes, and events for children. A Carousel for Missoula will be giving free rides all day.

The celebration is part of a bi-partisan effort to honor local veterans, in part, with extended community support via local businesses. As Dave Budge outlined in this post from Left in the West:

Interestingly, the cross section of people involved in this initiative are as diverse as I’ve ever seen. We have members from the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center to retired military officers to just plain folks who are grateful simply for having those to commit a few years in national service.

When I attended one of the initial organizational meetings I was taken aback when someone – and really not disparagingly – wondered if the involvement of peace activists would cause conflicts. There were two retired officers who quickly jumped up and one said “I didn’t spend two years in combat so we could pick and choose whose opinions we should recognize.”

Simple as that. Everyone in this effort has the same goal.

I’m going to go give my father a call now. After that, I’ll see ya’all down at Caras Park.

by jhwygirl

See it for yourself. Notice the title.

VA email – February 13, 2008

Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) office said statistics provided earlier this year by the VA showed that 790 veterans under VA care attempted suicide in 2007.

790? Talk about fuzzy math.

790 does not equal 12,000. Unless your a tool of the Bush Administration.

That’s nearly 33 attempted suicides by military veterans per day.

Sen. Harkin, Sen. Patty Murray (D- WA) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced legislation Tuesday calling on the VA to track how many veterans commit suicide each year. Currently, VA facilities record the number of suicides and attempted suicides in VA facilities – but do not record how many veterans overall take their own lives.

On Monday, a class action suit brought by veterans groups opened in San Francisco charging a “systemwide breakdown,” citing long delays in receiving disability benefits and flaws in the way discharged soldiers at risk for suicide had been treated.

Kerri J. Childress, a department spokeswoman, said Monday that there were an average of 18 suicides a day among America’s 25 million veterans and that more than a fifth were committed by men and women being treated by Veterans Affairs.

Fuzzy math continues.

So if it’s not mistreatment of living veterans, and it’s not disrespect after they’ve given their lives in service – it’s lies about the reality this illegal war is bring to our sons and daughters, our families – our nation.

Mayor of Mahem, commenting on a previous post, Americans Don’t Know How Many U.S. Soldiers Have Been Killed in Iraq, explained to us the reality he already knows:

…I have a family member that has returned from Iraq in apparent good health, only to find out later that they will never be the same. This is especially disturbing to the son of a Vietnam conflict veteran who has watched a father fight that war over and over again for the last 40 years. The cost to our country for this war will be paid for the next fifty years. Not by those who who gave all, their sacrifice and that of their families is immeasurable. The long term cost of caring for physically injured and mentally effected US servicemen will be a heavy load for US families to carry. Say a prayer tonight for the 19 year old North Dakota farm boy walking through an alley in Bagdad or the twenty six year old sergeant and father of two from Los Angeles on duty in Fallujah.

There is a fire burning in the middle east and the fuel for that fire is our children.

I cry for my nation. I cry for its soldiers.

God Bless.

by jhwygirl

The Jeanette Rankin Peace Center is hosting Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Trent and her latest documentary Soldiers Speak Out at the Roxy Theater tomorrow.

A wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30 p.m., and a Q&A with the filmmaker follows the screening. Suggested donation is $10 ($5 for those living lightly). RSVP at543-3955, or via email at peace@jrpc.org.

A half-hour documentary, Soldiers Speak Out is told entirely from the mouths of American veterans who have been to the Iraqi war and are now opposing it. They discuss how they came to join the military, their experiences in training and in war, and what led them to the point where they decided they could no longer, in good conscience, participate in the war or keep silent.

The film provides a sobering view of the war in Iraq, and sheds light on the growing and anti-war and anti-occupation movement within the military and their families.

On Thursday, Ms. Trent will be at UM’s UC Theater for a presentation of her feature-length award-winning documentary COVERUP: Behind the Iran Contra Affair. Two screening are being held, one at 5:30, and another at 7:30 p.m. Both will be followed by a Q&A session. COVERUP is one of eleven films being brought to UM as part of the Montana Peace & Justice Film Series for Spring 2008.

COVERUP: Behind the Iran Contra Affair exposes several of the most disturbing chapters in the history of U.S. covert foreign policy, and presents a tale of politics, drugs, hostages, weapons, assassinations, covert operations and the ultimate plan to suspend the U.S. Constitution.

Trent’s film was the first to reveal the ‘October Surprise’ hostage deal (the Reagan/Bush campaign deal with Iran to delay the release of the 52 American hostages until after the 1980 election), and is the only film that presents a comprehensive overview of the most important stories suppressed during the Iran Contra hearings.

Ms. Trent’s visit to Missoula is sponsored by Students for Peace and Justice, Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, Associated Students of the University Montana, Film Studies, the History and English Departments, Environmental Studies Program, Women and Gender Studies Program, Davidson Honors College, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and the Empowerment Project, and provide locals and students alike with an excellent opportunity to see some power films and Q&A a seasoned activist who has publically exposed criminal activities in the White House, Pentagon and the CIA.

Barbara Trent has been the target of at least three FBI counter-intelligence operations. Appointed as an Expert Senior Training Specialist for the VISTA Program under Jimmy Carter, Ms. Trent has been decorated with the Gasper Octavio Hernandez Award by the Journalist’s Union in Panama, and is a recipient of the American Humanist Association’s Arts Award for her “courageous advocacy of progressive ideas.”

by jhwygirl

For the second time in as many years, the At-Risk Housing Coalition (ARHC) will hold its annual Project Homeless Connect event on January 31st, 2008.

The At-Risk Housing Coalition was formed by Women’s Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD) in 1993 to initiate a community-wide program to address and bring awareness to our community’s homeless citizens.

On Thursday, Project Homeless Connect will provide a variety of essential services for Missoula’s homeless citizens in one location – services like food, clothing, housing, medical and dental services, mental health counseling, financial services, employment and education, and senior, legal and disability services.

Project Homeless Connect is supported by not only the City of Missoula and Missoula County, but also 50 local agencies and over 150 volunteers.

In conjunction with the event, ARHC will also conduct a survey. Last year the results were shocking:

551 homeless in Missoula
Over half were families with children
33% were employed
53% either rented an apartment or owned a home prior to being homeless
1/2 had lived in Missoula at least 2 years
20% had lived in Missoula all their lives

Veteran’s make up a large portion of homeless people – 25% nationwide. 89% are honorably discharged. 64% served in Vietnam and after, and 67% served 3 or more years in the service. Montana has over 100,000 veterans, ranking 10th per capita in the nation. Needless to say, you can not speak of homelessness without thinking of veterans.

January 31st falls darn near the middle of winter, folks. Those facts are shocking and sad.

Tonight, showing the city’s commitment to addressing homeless issues in Missoula, the Mayor will proclaim this week Homelessness Awareness Week.

If you can offer services or can help with volunteering this Thursday, contact the ARHC coordinator at 258-4650.

by Matt Singer

If you haven’t yet, take five minutes and read Tristan Scott’s deeply moving story about the life and untimely death of Forrest Clayton Salcido, a homeless veteran in Missoula who was viciously murdered a week ago.

The death so far seems to have been the focus more of quiet conversations than of a unified community response. Why? My guess is that the story itself has put a lot of us locals in a state of mild shock. It’s breath-taking in its exposure of how truly evil people can be in their actions.

I can’t promise or reveal much yet, except to say that a bigger community response is now in the works — and that hopefully those of us involved in it can find a way to do justice to Forrest’s life and his tragic death.

In the meantime, the Poverello Center has launched an endowment to help homeless veterans like Forrest.

You can donate online — make sure you specify that your gift is for the endowment.

This was a comment to Rebecca’s post on the gruesome and horrific murder of Forrest Clayton Salcido, a Navy veteran and member of Missoula’s homeless community.

I contacted Ellie Hill, the Executive Director of Missoula’s Poverello Center, and received her permission to repost her comment as a way to promote awareness on the problems veterans face.

Once again, I urge everyone to support the Poverello in any way they can… Donations can be made by clicking here, and those with spare time and tight budgets can volunteer by calling the Poverello’s Volunteer Coordinator, Brady Warren, at 728-1809.

-Jamee Greer

* * *

I knew Forrest Clayton Salcido. He was gentle, and while small in statue, huge in heart. Mr. Salcido was brutally murdered as he desperately tried to flee his attackers. I was so ill this morning that I almost could not leave the house, but here I write from my cluttered desk at the Pov.

1 in 4 homeless people in the United States are veterans (while veterans make up only 11 percent of the general adult population).

Your homeless veterans in Missoula are no different. (And, actually here it may be worse as the State of Montana has the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation.)

At the Poverello Center, Western Montana’s largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen, we serve hundreds and hundreds of homeless vets each year. There are many vets sleeping in our overcrowded bunks each and every night, 365 nights a year. They are men and women from all branches of services and representing many different wars. Elderly and middle aged men are most common. Many folks suffer from mental illness and physical disabilities. Some have only recently lost their jobs or their families. Some have been injured on the job, and they don’t have medical coverage. Their car has broken down. Some are much more down and out. They all have amazing life stories. Their problems are often complex.

At the Pov we are seeing an alarming trend in the number of younger homeless veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, turning to the Poverello Center’s VA sponsored Homeless Vets Program for necessary services, mainstream resources, treatment and job assistance.

I am writing because this trend does not bode well for our future.

Continue Reading »

by Rebecca Schmitz

Two Missoula men were charged Friday with deliberate homicide for allegedly stomping a 56-year-old Navy veteran to death on a walking path, apparently without provocation.

Like many of you, I opened the paper this morning, read the opening sentence of Tristan Scott’s article, and uttered a groan. Mr. Salcido, despite being homeless on occasion, has family here in Missoula. My heart goes out to them today. I’m not even going to try to guess what would cause two moral and mental defectives to murder someone like this; I don’t care. What I care about is that others in Mr. Salcido’s situation have a safe place to go at night. There are a number of shelters here in Missoula and across Montana. Please consider volunteering your time or donating money to one in his name.




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