- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Do you have a suggested contact person at Walter Reed or Bethesda medical centers for persons or organizations interested in contributing to the needs of the wounded and injured being treated there, especially those evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan?

God bless America.

Warm regards,

Dale H

Dear Dale:

My nutty buddy Jim Mayer suggests you contact Aster Black, American Red Cross station manager, at 202/782-6362.

Also for your information, the No. 1 request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn’t pay long-distance phone charges, and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays.

Really support our troops. Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center

Walter Reed Medical Center

6900 Georgia Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

They say they need an “endless” supply of these — any amount is greatly appreciated. Many of the discount warehouse stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, etc., have good prices on phone cards.

Shaft notes

c The Sarge echoes the words of Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, in his praise of departing VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi.

“Secretary Anthony Principi has been a highly effective and successful leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Mr. Smith said.

“Over the past four years Secretary Principi forged a true partnership between the administration, Congress, and veterans across the country,” the congressman said. “He leaves behind him a legacy of improvement and reform that has set VA on a course to serve veterans more effectively and more compassionately in the future.”

And welcome aboard to Jim Nicholson, whom President Bush recently chose as his nominee to replace Mr. Principi.

“Jim Nicholson is a patriot, a man of deep conviction, who has answered his country’s call many times,” Mr. Bush said of his nominee, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who has been ambassador to the Vatican since August 2001.

“Jim has worked with the Vatican to advance many vital foreign policy goals, including fighting poverty, hunger, AIDS, expanding religious liberty around the world and ending the brutal practice of human trafficking,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Nicholson credited “the opportunities that my country gave me as a cadet at West Point and as a soldier. These experiences have defined my life, shaped my abilities and my desire to serve.”

“Our military is the pride of our country; we can’t pay them enough to do the things that we ask of them — the sacrifices, the separations, the heroics,” he said. “They answer the call for one reason: Their country needs them. Our country depends on them and they have never, ever let us down. We must not let them down either.”

Mr. Nicholson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and also received a master’s degree in public policy from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Denver.

He spent eight years as a paratrooper and Army Ranger in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star. He also served 22 years in the Army Reserves, retiring with the rank of colonel.

The Sarge also hopes that Mr. Nicholson and lawmakers in Congress will support HR 5250 and S 2903.

The Congress passed Tricare for Life, a new program to guarantee lifelong health care for military retirees and their families. This legislation assured hundreds of thousands of military families free, government-sponsored health care services. HR 5250 and S 2903 would extend the same kind of guarantee to the remainder of America’s veterans, to assure their continued access to the VA health care system.

I urge all members of Congress to actively support this vital legislation, which will guarantee adequate health care funding for our nation’s veterans.

• Congratulations to a good friend, former Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, Mississippi Democrat. Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi and the retired 15-term lawmaker recently cut the ribbon on a conference hall bearing his name at VA headquarters.

Mr. Principi praised Mr. Montgomery as “a beloved, respected, dedicated and productive advocate for service members and veterans.” Mr. Montgomery is the author of the post-Vietnam educational program that bears his name — the Montgomery GI Bill.

A veteran of 30 years in Congress, 13 as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Mr. Montgomery was also a major general in the Mississippi National Guard.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C., 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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