- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

How can I obtain a copy of the “Assured Victory” print? I hope they are still available.

Jacqueline K.
Via the Internet

Dear Jacqueline:

This beautiful print titled “Assured Victory,” by artist George L. Skypeck, has been printed, signed and numbered in a limited edition of only 500 copies with all proceeds (unlike other people who only give a tiny percentage of the selling price of $100) going to help our wounded troops casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and their families through the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. You can contact Sgt. Shaft for details at sgtshaft@bavf.org. Sgt. Shaft is president of the foundation, which is made up of all volunteers and with no paid staff.

Shaft notes

• A sad farewell to Col. Marv Harris who passed away on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, in Alexandria, Va., after an extended illness. Colonel Harris, 67, served as Director of Public Relations for the Military Officers Association of America since 1996.

Col. Harris was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and was commissioned in the United States Air Force in August 1966. For the next 29 years, he served in a variety of positions including Chief of Air Force Media Relations and Deputy Director of Air Force Public Affairs in the Pentagon. His last Air Force position before his retirement in 1996 was Deputy Director of American Forces Information Service in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). From 1978 to 1980, he served the President of the United Sates as a White House Military Social Aide.

Col. Harris was the son of Herschel and Ethel Lee Harris of Dallas, Texas. He graduated from Principia College, Elsah, Illinois, in 1966. He subsequently earned master’s degrees in business from Eastern New Mexico University, Clovis, New Mexico, and in Public Relations from American University in Washington D.C. He was a graduate of Armed Forces Staff College and the Air War College, and was nationally accredited by the Public Relations Society of America. He was a lifelong member of the Christian Science Church. Col. Harris is survived by his mother, Ethel Lee Harris of Alexandria, Va.

• The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity recently began oversight to ensure that the new VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 is being implemented with the intent of the law intact and that the Departments of Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are collaborating to execute the law.

“I can’t stress enough that the proper implementation of this law is extremely critical, and as such I want to put both agencies on notice that this will be this subcommittee’s top priority in the next session of Congress,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. “We need to identify any obstacles now so that our veterans can take full advantage of this jobs law.”

The major provision of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is the temporary extension of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to eligible veterans to receive up to one year of training at a community college or technical school for in-demand occupations. Eligible veterans would have to be between the age of 35 and 60, be unemployed, and not have eligibility for other VA education programs.

During the hearing, VA officials cited challenges, including the aggressive timeline, set by Congress due to the high unemployment rates experienced by veterans, to implement the programs in the law.

Members of the subcommittee were also concerned about how DoL and VA will reach out to ensure unemployed veterans are aware of the new programs, and how veterans can receive updates from VA on the law’s implementation process.

• Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Tim Walz, D-Minn, and Bill Owens, D-N.Y., have introduced legislation to expand job protection for members of our Armed Forces. The bill, H.R. 3670, requires the Transportation Security Administration to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA guarantees that employees in both the public and private sector who are called to active duty can keep their jobs when they come home.

“When our National Guard and reservists are called to duty, it is our duty to ensure that they have the peace of mind of knowing that their jobs are secure when they return,” said Mr. Bilirakis, who is vice chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “This legislation is a necessary step in supporting those who sign on to protect our nation and ensure our freedoms.”

“The unemployment rate among our service members is already far too high. Protecting the jobs they already have should be a top priority,” said Mr. Walz, who is a 24 year veteran of the Army National Guard. “The TSA employs thousands of veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard who should not have to worry about losing their jobs when called to active duty. They have earned and deserve this simple protection. This bill ensures Transportation Security Officers will keep their jobs when called to keep our nation safe.”

“A critical part of the obligation we have to support the troops includes ensuring a stable economic condition when they return from military service,” Mr. Owens said. “When Americans are deployed with the Armed Forces, they should not have to worry that they might be fired simply for being away on duty. This bipartisan legislation protects the jobs of American service members by ensuring that a call to serve doesn’t amount to a pink slip for officers of the Transportation Security Administration.”

The bill also has the support of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Retired Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, president of the MOAA, applauded the introduction of the Reemployment Rights bill for National Guard and Reserve members employed by the Transportation Security Agency.

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.