No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers' care to return to intended use - We Are The Mighty
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No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
The prime real estate has been used for everything from a parking lot for buses to posh wine tastings, but not for veteran care, at least in recent decades. (FoxNews.com)


More than a century after a mining magnate and a wealthy socialite deeded 400 acres in Los Angeles for the care of old soldiers, the property hosts wine tastings, a college baseball stadium, a commercial laundry, golf course and several other enterprises that have nothing to do with wounded warriors — but that injustice soon could be corrected.

Following a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless veterans and the descendants of Arcadia de Baker, the wealthy widow of two powerful landowners, a plan to return the valuable parcel to the service of veterans is due next month. The Department of Veterans Affairs, working with a specially appointed committee, will honor the intentions of Baker and John Percival Jones, a silver baron, one-time U.S. senator from Nevada and founder of Santa Monica, when they left the land to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1888.

“The misuse of the West Los Angeles campus is particularly offensive because of that donation,” David Sapp, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, told FoxNews.com.

While the property did serve as a refuge for tens of thousands of veterans scarred in battles ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War, something changed in the 1970s. There was no shortage of wounded veterans, yet the VA emptied out the sprawling grounds known as the West Los Angeles Campus and began renting property out for all sorts of uses that had nothing to do with veteran care.

“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans. It was a different era with different wounds but that goal should remain exactly the same.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                    – Jim Strickland, VAWatchdog.org

“Not only were the local VA officials not using the land to house homeless vets, but they were actually affirmatively misusing the property by entering into these private-use agreements that had nothing to do with healthcare, housing or otherwise serving veterans,” said Sapp.

Critics believe the land’s prime location in the tony Brentwood area, nestled by the Santa Monica Mountains and neighboring Beverly Hills, played a role in the ouster of veterans. While a mental health facility may have been perceived as detrimental to soaring property values, Sapp said it also was in part due to the VA’s move away from operating permanent housing for veterans.

The ACLU sued the VA in 2011, and, earlier this year, forced the government agency to restore the land to its intended use. VA Secretary Bob McDonald declined to pursue an appeal, despite pressure from third parties including UCLA, whose baseball stadium occupies 20 acres.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Arcadia de Baker, (l.), and John Percival Jones, (r.), intended for the 400 acres they deeded to benefit veterans.

Although the VA has not revealed any accounting, critics estimate the VA reaped as much as $40 million over the decades leasing the land out for such uses as a hotel laundry facility, storage for a movie studio, car rental companies, oil companies and a parking lot for public school buses. The rolling acreage also has hosted everything from golf tournaments and musical performances to wine-tasting and gala benefits.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles – the nation’s largest population of homeless and veterans with disabilities – has grown to an estimated 8,000.

The legal settlement involved the establishment of a specialized team of residents, veteran service organizations and elected officials to develop a master re-development plan. Out of that, the nonprofit organization called Vets Advocacy was formed to partner with the West LA VA chapter and ensure veterans’ voices were heard.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Golfers use the rolling hills, but veterans have been out since the 1970s. (FoxNews.com)

They’re still in need of input and ideas – thus both veterans and civilians are being urged to participate in Vets Advocacy’s online survey “VA the Right Way.” A deadline has been set for this coming Oct. 15, in which representatives will present a preliminary proposal subject to public comment.

Some former service members have called for a center specializing in issues pertaining to female veterans, and others have proposed a reintegration center and “one-stop shop” for all needs and questions. Alternate suggestions have included long-term and sustainable veteran housing, a work center for disabled veteran-owned businesses and even a holistic center in which a veteran doesn’t necessarily need to be sick, but can visit with friends and family.

Richard Valdez, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient appointed liaison for the major Veteran Service Organizations on the project, stressed that the intended outcome is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all veterans, and meeting long-term needs as demographics change.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
UCLA’s baseball team plays in a stadium on 20 acres of land that was set aside for veterans. (UCLA.edu)

In a town hall meeting to address veteran homelessness in Long Beach last week, McDonald, who took the leadership role in July 2014, reaffirmed his commitment to ending veteran homelessness in LA.

“This is a top priority for us. We can’t do this from Washington alone,” McDonald said, adding that various local partnerships and veteran voices were a necessity.

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately offer comment on past or future land-use plans. But Jim Strickland, founder of advocacy group VAWatchdog.org, said the whole debacle comes as no surprise.

“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans,” he said. “It was a different era with different wounds, but that goal should remain exactly the same.”

More from FoxNews.com:

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Cold War-era weaponry in pictures

 

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Here’s the trailer for “Dunkirk,” the first war film from the guy who directed “The Dark Knight”

Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops.


Related: This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.

“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.

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Paul Revere’s midnight ride wasn’t as amazing as these other 5

Paul Revere is the most famous of the riders who conducted midnight rides but while he deserves praise for his patriotism throughout the struggle for independence, his 16-mile midnight ride was actually pretty tame compared to what other riders in the war experienced.


A 16-year-old girl rode 40 miles and rallied 400-men. Another rider rescued Thomas Jefferson, other signers of the Declaration of Independence, and many members of the Virginia legislature.

So, here are 6 of the most famous and badass people who conducted rides during the Revolution:

1. Paul Revere, the most famous of the riders

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
See other important tweets from military history.

See other important tweets from military history.

Paul Revere got most of his fame from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. While the poem makes it sound like Revere conducted an epic, all-night ride, he actually only made it 16 miles before he was caught by Redcoats and had his horse confiscated. He did manage to warn most of the people between Boston and Lexington though.

2. Jack Jouett rescued so many leaders, including Thomas Jefferson

In Jun. 1781, Jack Jouett was eavesdropping on some British soldiers when they mentioned a plan to capture Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and most the Virginia General Assembly. Jouett flagged this as a major party foul and rode 40 miles through the dark to warn the Revolutionary leaders, allowing them to escape capture.

3. Sybil Luddington raised 400 militiamen and earned Washington’s praise

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: Public Domain/Anthony22

Sybil Ludington was the 16-year-old daughter of a militia colonel when the British attacked nearby Danbury. Sybil rode out into the countryside to rally her father’s troops and got 400 militiamen ready to fend off the British Army, saving the town. She continued to conduct rides for much of the war. Gen. George Washington praised her for her contributions to the Colonial effort.

4. Samuel Prescott got word through to Concord when Paul Revere was captured

Local doctor Samuel Prescott was headed home from visiting his fiancee when he ran into Revere and William Dawes who were headed from Lexington to Concord. Prescott volunteered to ride with them and was the only one who managed to escape the British patrol and make it to Concord. The militiamen clashed with the British there later that day, holding the Redcoats at a bridge and killing 14.

5. William Dawes, the other rider with Paul Revere

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: Public Domain

William Dawes and Revere left at about the same time from Boston but took a different route. Dawes barely made it out of the city before it was locked down. He later rejoined Revere at Lexington but managed to escape the British when Revere did not.

6. Israel Bissell (may have) ridden 345 miles in 5 days to warn people across 5 states

The legend of Israel Bissell states that he was recruited by a militia colonel on Apr. 19, 1775 to take word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord to Hartford, Connecticut. The brave rider then supposedly rode another four days through another three states for a total of 345 miles.

Recent historical inquiries have found evidence that Israel Bissell may have actually been Isaac Bissell who rode from Boston to Hartford. While this still would be an impressive 100-mile ride, it’s not exactly a five-day marathon. Other cities on the route may have gotten word from the normal postal system which would’ve carried the message forward as important news.

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5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

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This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

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This is why you don’t pretend to be blind to collect benefits

He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.


Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.

In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Justice may be blind, but Billy J. Alumbaugh is not. Photo from public domain.

His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.

Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.

After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.

She was sentenced to a year of probation.

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The first version of the Marine Corps’ Harrier crashed a lot

In the late 1960s the United States Marine Corps fell in love with the idea of an attack airplane that could take-off and land vertically. In theory, that airplane could be based very close to the action on the battlefield because it wouldn’t need a long runway to operate, and that short range would allow for quick close air support response times.


A couple of senior-ranking Marine pilots went to England to take a test flight in the British Harrier, and they were impressed enough to convince the Pentagon budgeteers to buy the service 110 of them. Since DoD had a thing about foreign-built hardware, they came up with a special arrangement where the airplanes were manufactured in England and assembled in America.

Starting in 1971, Marine Corps AV-8A Harrier squadrons were stood up at Yuma and Cherry Point. Because of the unique flight characteristics, only the best pilots were accepted for Harrier training. Unfortunately, in too many cases no amount of stick-and-rudder talent was enough to make up for an airplane that was poorly designed and overly ambitious, performance-wise, for the technology of the day.

Marine Air lost 55 AV-8As between 1971 and 1982. The Harrier had a Class A mishap (over $1 million in damage or aircraft destroyed) rate of 39 per 100,000 flight hours — the worst in modern military aviation history by far. Some of the mishaps were due to the inherently dangerous aspects of the attack mission — like dropping bombs in a steep dive and flying close to the ground in mountainous terrain — but about half of them happened in the vertical flight regime, the thing that made the Harrier unique.

The Harrier’s vectored thrust is what gives it the ability to take-off and land vertically and hover like a helicopter. Unlike the Harrier II that has a computer interface that prevents the pilot from accidently commanding the nozzles in a way that would throw the airplane out of balance, the first version of the jump jet required that the pilot manually adjust each throttle precisely to maintain a hover or to launch or land vertically. The result was an airplane that pilots described as “unforgiving” and that other tactical jet communities labeled as a “widow maker.”

Now watch this awesome documentary about the Harrier:

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The Army is taking social security numbers off of dog tags, but no worries: China has them on file

After more than 40 years without a change, Army dog tags will have the Social Security numbers replaced with a random 10-digit Department of Defense identification number.


No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: US Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal

The change comes six months after the Office of Personnel Management admitted that 21.5 million people, mostly federal and military employees, had their Social Security Numbers stolen by Chinese hackers. The OPM and the DoD established a service for monitoring the credit of people affected by the hack.

The new DoD identification numbers are being slowly implemented across the military as an attempt to prevent identity theft. The numbers are randomly generated as they are assigned.

New ID cards already carry the DoD number instead of a Social Security number and TRICARE is switching soon, according to an Army spokesman.

No Chinese hackers were available to comment on how this will affect their bulk data collections. It will certainly reduce their ability to collect them one at a time.

Learn more about the change at Army.mil.

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Russia wants to develop search-and-rescue robots for the Arctic

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use


As Russia focuses on militarizing its Arctic region, the Kremlin is trying to develop military technology needed to operate in one of the world’s harshest environments. Russian military planners are now setting their sights on the development of Arctic rescue robots.

Admiral Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy, has called for the development and construction of “Arctic underwater search and rescue robots,” Newsweek reports citing Itar-Tass, a state-owned Russian media organization. The robots would be designed to withstand difficult Arctic conditions and cold temperatures.

“We have formulated our requirements and set the task for manufacturers to create both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles, which can be used to provide search and rescue support with proper effectiveness in the harsh conditions of the Arctic seas,” Chirkov said.

The robots would be kept aboard Russian icebreakers and other maritime vessels to assist in search-and-rescue missions. They would save human rescuers from having to operate in waters whose temperates average a chilly (and deadly) 28-29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chirkov’s urging for robot development coincides with Russia’s Arctic militarization push and the Kremlin’s efforts to develop autonomous robotic technology. In January, Russia premiered a prototype for a robotic biker, proof that Russia was interested in developing humanoid robots with possible military applications.

Russia’s new military doctrine designates the Arctic as one of three geopolitical areas that could serve as strategic beachheads. To achieve this goal, Moscow has increasingly deployed advanced weaponry along its northern coast, created a unified military command for the region, and planned a construction blitz through the region that would include a series of ports, airfields, and military bases.

Moscow has also announced that it plans on sending a drone fleet to the eastern reaches of the Arctic region.

Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.

Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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6 things to know about the VA home loan

The Veterans Affairs home loan can be incredibly confusing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information found on the VA website. So we have broken it down into six basic questions for you: who, what, when, where, why, and how?


*As always, when making decisions that impact your personal finances, make sure you’re sitting down with a financial advisor. Most banks have financial advisors on staff who are always willing to work with customers.

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Veterans Affairs employs assessors and appraisers to ensure that each home purchased by service members is priced correctly.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Glassey, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

1. Who:

Lendee eligibility is determined by service status:

Active duty personnel must have served a minimum of 90 continuous days to be eligible

Reserve or guard members must:

  • have six years of service in the selected reserve or National Guard, and
  • be discharged honorably, or
  • have been placed on the retired list, or
  • have been transferred to Standby Reserve or to an element of Ready Reserve (other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable), or
  • still be servicing in the Selected Reserve

Spouses can be eligible as well.

2. What:

The VA home loan program is a benefit for eligible service members and veterans to help them in the process of becoming homeowners by guaranteeing them the ability to acquire a loan through a private lender.

Utilizing the VA home loan, lendees do not make a down payment and are not required to pay monthly mortgage insurance, though they are required to pay a funding fee. This fee varies by lender, depends on the loan amount, and can change depending on the type of loan, your service situation, whether you are a first time or return lendee, and whether you opt to make a down payment.

The fee may be financed through the loan or paid for out of pocket, but must be paid by the close of the sale.

The fee for returning lendees and for National Guard and members of the reserve pay a slightly higher fee.

The fee may also be waived if you are:

  • a veteran receiving compensation for a service related disability, or
  • a veteran who would be eligible to receive compensation for a service related disability but does not because you are receiving retirement or active duty pay, or
  • are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service related disability.

3. When:

Lendees may utilize the loan program during or after honorable active duty service, or after six years of select reserve or National Guard service.

4. Where:

Eligible lendees may use the VA home loan in any of the 50 states or United States territories

5. Why:

Veterans Affairs helps service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses to purchase a home. The VA home loan itself does not come from the VA, but rather through participating lenders, i.e. banks and mortgage companies. With VA guaranteeing the lendee a certain amount for the loan, lenders are able to provide more favorable terms.

6. How:

Eligible lendees should talk to their lending institution as each institution has its own requirements for how to acquire the loan.

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Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use
Photo: American Sniper/ IMDb


When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.

the boys i mean are not refined

they go with girls who buck and bite

I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.

It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife.  It tells what war is like for all the wives.

I do mean wives.

I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.

That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.

But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.

one hangs a hat upon her tit

one carves a cross on her behind

they do not give a s— for wit

the boys i mean are not refined

These are the people we sacrifice to save.

My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.

A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.

Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.

We signed on for this war together.

We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.

It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.

In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.

the boys i mean are not refined

they cannot chat of that and this

they do not give a fart for art

they kill like you would take a piss

I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.

I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.

I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.

In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.

“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”

I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.

The movie didn’t show what came next.

The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.

The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.

That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”

“When,” not “if.”

She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.

“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.

the boys i mean are not refined

they shake the mountains when they dance

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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How prison saved this Army veteran

Army veteran Kenneth Carter wasn’t going to stop dealing or using drugs and alcohol, until prison forced him to. Rather than just bide his time behind bars, he used it to build a future he could be proud of. Now he’s helping others do the same. 

On April 6, 2021 Carter shared in a LinkedIn post that he was four years sober. He hoped to inspire others by detailing his experience and sharing his truth, thinking maybe a few people would like the posting. Instead, over a half a million people responded with likes and it led to almost 50,000 comments. 

Carter was in prison for two and a half years for trafficking cocaine. After being set up by someone he knew and dealing to an undercover police officer, you’d think it would have been the worst experience of his life. Instead, prison saved him. But his story and road to prison was long. 

“My mom was in the Army and that’s what made me want to join. I heard all of the stories about her driving trucks, in the Army and wanted to do it too,” Carter said. “Immediately after highschool I joined and was in it before I even graduated. I was in basic training when 9/11 happened, that was really rough.” 

He deployed to Kuwait for a year after graduating boot camp. Although Carter said he witnessed friends being impacted by serving in a combat environment, he didn’t think he was. Overtime, he noticed some changes in his own personality and behavior which he realized were connected to his time as a soldier. But he wouldn’t connect those dots until it was too late. 

When Carter left the Army, he started driving trucks for civilian companies. Before the military, he wasn’t much of a drinker, he said. But slowly he found himself reaching for alcohol more and more. A tragic accident would make it even worse.

Carter had forgotten his lunch at home one day, so he drove back to get it. On his way down the road he passed a man on a bicycle as he was making his way through a construction zone. Carter passed him, eventually making a right turn to get on his route. Unbeknownst to him, that man on the bicycle had sped him to try to pass him at the same time. The bicyclist hit the truck and lost his life.

Carter said he’s never shared that part of his story before, until now.

“It haunted me. I started thinking about what I could have done. I had to speak to the family and the children of the man. It was really rough,” he explained. 

Traumatized after the death of the bicyclist, he quit his job and began drinking even more. “It was six days a week. There was a guy who offered me coke [cocaine], saying it would balance me out. I ended up trying it and it was very addictive and it led me to wanting to sell it,” Carter shared. 

Five years later, he would be caught selling to the undercover officer. Despite facing charges and being out on bond for a year, Carter said he kept doing drugs and drinking. “Nothing phased me until I went to prison,” he explained. His time behind bars would lead to deep reflection and the recognition he didn’t like who he had become. 

Through processing it all, Carter would come to realize there were moments in his life which led to the prison cell. His mother was a proud soldier but when she went to serve, she had to leave her children with her mother, their grandmother. “There were four of us kids and she abused me constantly,” he explained. “I try to forget about it, really I was just suppressing it.”

The military has long been an escape for many individuals hoping to create a better life than what was waiting for them as a civilian. A 2018 RAND study of the Army found around 25 percent of soldiers joined for pay, benefits and around 22 percent joined to leave a negative environment. 

When Carter found himself behind those bars, he did everything he could to feel because for so long, his emotions had been shut off. The avoidance and boxing of emotions is common in trauma survivors. “I went into my cell and looked at the mirror, which was just metal. I looked myself dead in the eyes and I had to see myself…I felt embarrassed,” he said. “I shed a few tears because it hurt, deeply.”

He spent the rest of his time in jail building a company. Two months after he left prison, he officially launched Ameriton Freight and Logistics. When he looks back on the past year and a half since walking out a free man, he sees more work to be done. “I am not satisfied because I want to be further but I am happy where I am at,” Carter said. 

Carter never shared his experience of abuse, until now. As a child he was taught there was no help out there and if there was, not to trust it. 

“Being black…we always said, Black people don’t do therapy. It just doesn’t happen. There’s a stigma against it. ‘Why do you need to talk to a white person about your problems, they don’t understand.’,” Carter explained. He’s found himself mentoring a lot of men and youth of color for that very reason, helping them by sharing his story and experiences.  

As Carter looks back on his traumatic childhood, military service and his subsequent fall from grace, he’s grateful. The experiences, both good and bad, have shaped him into who he is today and it’s a person he can joyfully look at in the mirror and see reflecting back at him. Carter hopes his story will inspire others to begin their own journey of sobriety and healing, too.

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Watch one of the baddest A-10 pilots ever land after being hit by a missile

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.


Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.

The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.

This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7JM82fa5ZY
 

Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.

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