- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

Can you explain to me why my father’s dog tag has two holes in it — top and bottom — instead of what “we” usually see, which are Army dog tags with a hole at the top to be worn around the neck with a chain?

Thanks ever so much,
Barbara A.
Austin, Texas

Dear Barbara:

My sources tell me that two-holed dog tags were used by the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy from around 1917 through World War II. The oval tags first came into use around 1917.

The P1917 was used by the Navy and seagoing Marines (Marines serving on ships) during World War I and the between wars period. Information on them was handwritten and acid-etched, including a fingerprint on the reverse.

The P1940 came into use just before World War II, and information was usually machine-stamped into them. Stocks of P1917’s were often used up.

A commercial company now produces machine-made replicas made of aluminum and cut to shape using an original blank as a guide. The tags are sought by WWII U.S. living history enthusiasts and re-enactors. Information on these tags is available from http://www.ww2rationtechnologies.com/ww2tag.html.

Sets of two tags were worn on a white cotton cord in boot camp. Later in the field, they were worn with the cord dyed green, or worn on a boot lace, dog tag chain or plastic-covered cable.

Custom-printed (marked) dog tags contain the following information:

• First line — Your last name;
• Second line — The first initial of your first and middle names;
• Third line — Your serial number and religion (C=Catholic; P=Protestant & H=Hebrew);
• Fourth line — Your blood type (There was no blood factoring, positive or negative, in WWII);
• Fifth line — Date of your tetanus shot;
• Sixth line — Service you are in (USMC, USMCR (reserve), USN or USNR).

Following WWII, the Navy adopted the traditional dog tags used by the U.S. Army and Air Force.

Shaft notes

• Congratulations to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) who recently received the 2011 “Outstanding Legislator Award” from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). The AUSA is honoring Ms. Murray with this award for her work on veterans’ employment issues and her continuing support for service members and their families.

Last week, House Army Caucus Co-Chairman John Carter (R-TX), helped celebrate the U.S. Army’s 236th birthday in the U.S. Capitol, along with Army, Congressional, and Administration officials. Mr. Carter, who represents the Fort Hood, Texas, area in Congress, says the whole nation should celebrate the event, as the United States would not exist without the Army.

“We have the world’s greatest Constitution and individual liberties, but they would not exist without the sacrifice in blood, sweat, tears and lives of the United States Army over the last 236 years,” Mr. Carter said. “Our warriors have paid the price in full to win and preserve our freedoms for over two centuries, and as we celebrate the anniversary of their founding, we also celebrate the continued protection of our nation and freedoms.”

Mr. Carter said in addition to recognizing the soldiers of the Army, the day should also be a celebration of their families, who sacrifice so much in supporting the service of their family member.

“Throughout our history, from Valley Forge to Afghanistan and Iraq, the triumph of our Army on the field of battle has been matched by the sacrifices of their spouses, children, and parents who stand by while their loved one defends the rest of us. To the soldiers of our Army past and present and their families, the people of the United States gratefully wish you all a very Happy 236th Birthday.”

• The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently heard testimony concerning the apparent disconnect between Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health programs and disability compensation in helping veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war. Witnesses were called to bring forth a diversity of suggestions to better assist veterans seeking mental health treatment, while examining the coordination of that treatment between the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) towards a goal of recovery and wellness.

“I felt ashamed of needing help, especially when there were others more deserving. Plus, why would I get help when my VA checks went straight into the bank. At the VA, I was another number in a revolving door,” stated Daniel Hanson, a Marine Corps veteran, before the committee. “At the program I checked myself into, Minnesota Team Challenge, I was a person, and they wanted to see me get better.”

Mr. Hanson served in Iraq where his unit lost 35 Marines. When he returned home, he began to experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, heightened by the suicide of close friends and his brother, also a Marine. Mr. Hanson turned to the VA for help, but found no incentive in receiving outpatient treatment. He checked himself into a full-time private, inpatient facility in Minnesota, where he spent 15 months. Today, he is married, has children, and works as an advocate for fellow veterans suffering from mental trauma.

The committee is currently exploring the concept of a holistic approach to mental health treatment at the VA, incorporating incentives, family support counseling, and education and employment benefits customized to each veteran’s needs.

“On one hand, we have a medical system that boasts of evidence-based therapies, improved access and high quality of care. On the other, we have data from VA indicating that veterans with mental illness only get progressively worse. There is something very wrong with this situation,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “We need to move beyond numbers that simply tell us how many veterans use the system and get at the fundamental question of whether they are on a road to leading full, productive lives. It is our duty at this committee to ask these tough questions and find solutions.”

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.