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SGT. SHAFT: Where can a veteran go to replace lost medals?

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Where can I receive the military medals that I received while serving on active duty.

Ted M.
Via the Internet

Dear Ted:

Replacement medals can be ordered from the National Personnel Records Center. The ordering information can be found on line at http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public/awards-and-decorations.html. The different services have different addresses where to send your request so you must look the information up at this website to determine where your request should be sent.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge salutes BAE Systems and its employees for their holiday season donation of 100 Christmas trees and trimmings to Blue Star Families and the USO of Metropolitan Washington. The event was held at the Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg, MD. Blue Star Families and USO-Metro preselected 100 military families from area bases to receive the trees, stands and decorations. Each family was able to cut down a tree or choose from 50 trees that were precut. The event was by invitation only, and also included complimentary hayrides, craft tables and refreshments.

Kudos to the volunteers who recently placed holiday wreaths at the Department of Veterans Affairs national cemeteries to honor the nation's veterans.

"This generous gesture to remember our veterans at this time of year shows that Americans cherish the service and sacrifice of these heroes," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "The volunteers who turn out for this event show America's heartfelt, true holiday spirit."

At most locations, the Civil Air Patrol organizes wreath-laying ceremonies with assistance from local citizens and veterans service organizations. All 131 VA national cemeteries receive wreaths, one for each military service branch, one for the Merchant Marines and one for prisoners of war and those missing in action.

This is the sixth year that Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine, is distributing wreaths to all VA national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries in a nationwide program called Wreaths Across America. It is the 20th year that the company — which created the program — will send thousands of wreaths to be placed at individual gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and other locations across the country. Company President Morrill Worcester seeks to recognize veterans, active duty military and their families, and his goal is to remind the public to remember veterans and teach children the value of freedom.

Community organizations, school groups and individuals have been purchasing and placing wreaths at veterans cemeteries across the country for several years and hundreds are expected to do so again this week.

For more information about the event at local national and state veterans cemeteries, call the cemetery's administration office, or visit the VA Web site at http://www.cem.va.gov/ or the Wreaths Across America Web site at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.

• Once again I would like to share with my readers the following moving poem which was written many years ago by a Marine in Okinawa. His only request was that people read it. Enjoy a blessed Christmas and a happy new year.

'Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand;
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor
In this one-bedroom home.
The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world the children would play
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry,
"This life is my choice.
"I fight for freedom,
"I don't ask for more,
"My life is: My God,
My country, my Corps."
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn't control it;
I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night's chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, "Carry on Santa,
"It's Christmas Day, all is secure."
One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
"And to all a good night."

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

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