- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Red Hat Mission was declassified in 1991. The shipments of 55 gallon drums were being shipped to Johnston Atoll from Okinawa. Some of these containers spilled over on the shipments exposing the soldiers and most will never know what caused their illnesses.

Not only were the soldiers exposed to Agent Orange, but they were also exposed to radiation poisoning from several nuclear explosions including the spraying of chemicals. The Army sent over 247 Soldiers in the Red Hat Mission in July 1971, 55 have died from the ages of 48 to 62 years old, 22 in one year.

The Defense Department failed to inform of the plutonium stored just 300 yards from the barracks that also included the saturation of asbestos within the confines.

These soldiers were given physicals in July 1971, and there was no follow-up after the mission nor has there been any follow-up to the current date as to their exposure?

A Survivor of Johnston Atoll

Dear Survivor:

Thanks for your missive regarding the health concerns for you and your buddies associated with your service in the Pacific. I urge the VA, Department of Defense, and the appropriate House and Senate committees to investigate your allegations.

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I work on the PBS National Memorial Day Concert that, for more than two decades, has been a memorial service for our nation. Every year, the program features poignant stories (presented by celebrated actors) of real people who have lost their lives or been wounded in America’s conflicts and delves into the impact these tragedies have had on their families. These segments are punctuated by powerful performances from acclaimed musical artists.

The 2011 concert is no exception.

Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna return to co-host the concert for the sixth consecutive year and are joined by distinguished American leader Colin L. Powell (Ret.); American Idol winner Kris Allen; Academy and Emmy Award-winning actors Forest Whitaker and Dianne Wiest; King of the Blues B.B. King; classical superstar Hayley Westenra; America’s beloved tenor Daniel Rodriguez, the New York city policeman who united the country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (and additional talent to be named soon).

Personally, I am very moved by the story of a woman, Michelle Baugh whose father was killed in Vietnam shortly after she was born. She struggled for years to learn about the father she never met and returned to Vietnam with a vet, who was with her father when he died, to follow in his footsteps. I thought this might make an excellent item for your column.

Additional segments will include:

• The first national welcome home to our troops who have been serving in Iraq.
• A 10-year commemoration of Sept. 11.
• A tribute to our World War II veterans 70 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Best regards,

Karen Baratz,
Publicist for the National Memorial Day Concert

Dear Karen:

Each year veterans, their families as well as all Americans look forward to this Memorial tribute.

Shaft notes

• Congratulations to Dr. Robert Jesse, principal deputy under secretary for health for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who has been honored by a leading professional association for his work to improve emergency cardiac care.

“We are proud to see Dr. Jesse recognized for his service and honored that he continues a long legacy of VA physicians standing at the forefront of modern health care,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. “I can think of no one who deserves this award more than Dr. Jesse.”

The award was presented by the Society of Chest Pain Centers, best known as a grassroots effort to bring emergency physicians together to improve early cardiac care. Raymond D. Bahr Award of Excellence is given to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary excellence, vision and leadership in advancing health care. The group said Dr. Jesse’s work in developing an innovative risk-based triage protocol for patients has contributed significantly to the field of cardiac medicine.

“I am delighted to receive this award,” Dr. Jesse said. “To be recognized for contributing to improving cardiac care is truly humbling, and I am honored to be counted among other outstanding Bahr Award recipients.”

Dr. Jesse was honored at an award ceremony on May 4 at the 14th Congress of Chest Pain Centers in Miami. The award was presented by the officers of the executive committee of the society.

• The National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS), a national military advocacy organization, has added higher education as a member benefit in an effort to draw younger members to the organization.

A new online higher education partnership between NAUS and Excelsior College, a nonprofit, accredited distance education college in Albany, N.Y., provides NAUS members with access to
reduced tuition and fees for associate and bachelor’s degree programs. In addition, the education agreement benefits extend to NAUS members’ spouses who wish to begin or complete their
college education.

Excelsior College serves 30,000 students around the country and the world. Approximately 10,000 of Excelsior’s students are active duty members of the military and veterans.

“We’re pleased to partner with Excelsior and offer our members and prospective members a great way to save money on pursing their educational goals,” said NAUS President Bill Matz,
who is a retired major general in the Army. “This is particularly important to our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, who are facing a tough job market as they retire from the military or complete their
enlistments.”

Excelsior College President Dr. John Ebersole, a Vietnam-era veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, commended NAUS for its vision in recognizing the value of education as it reaches out to
prospective members.

For more information on the National Association for Uniformed Services, write to: 5535 Hempstead Way, Springfield, VA 22151-4094; call 703-750-1342 or 1-800-842-3451; email naus@naus.org; or visit the website www.NAUS.org.

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.