- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am the widow of a deceased military, and I am eligible for the military ID. I have been renewing it periodically. There are two possible locations near Dallas, Texas, where I live where I can renew my ID card. However, when I call, no one ever answers.

I live about 25 miles away from either the 300 Sustainment Brigade in Grand Prairie or the 807th Medical Command in Seagoville, Texas. I do not want to drive there and find it closed. How do I find out when they are open?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

Josette T.
Via the Internet

Dear Josette:

I suggest you call the Grand Prairie Armed Forces Center at 972/343-4399; or the 300 Sustainment Brigade at 972/343-4126 or 972/343-4287.

Shaft notes

• A recent letter sent from the Office of Management and Budget to the General Accountability Office officially exempts the Department of Veterans Affairs from mandatory budget cuts should sequestration occur.

The letter, signed by OMB Deputy General Counsel Steven D. Aitken to Julia C. Matta, GAO assistant general counsel for Appropriations and Budget, clearly states that “all programs administered by the VA, including veterans’ medical care, are exempt from sequestration.”

“Disabled veterans can breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that VA programs are exempt from sequestration,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, national commander of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its auxiliaries.

“This decision means the health-care plans and programs the VA currently provides to millions of disabled veterans will continue unabated, as will claims processing and veterans’ burial benefits,” he said. “Protecting the VA is exactly what President Obama told me he would do during a meeting in the Oval Office in March, and now he has come through for America’s veterans and survivors. It’s a great day to be a veterans’ advocate.”

• On the eve of Memorial Day, a star-studded line-up will grace the stage for one of PBS’ highest-rated programs, the 2012 National Memorial Day Concert.

The multi-award-winning television event has truly become an American tradition, honoring the service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform, their families at home and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The concert will feature riveting performances from some of the world’s biggest stars. In addition, acclaimed actors will present personal stories of love and sacrifice submitted by viewers through the concert’s “Virtual Wall of Remembrance.”

The National Memorial Day Concert will air live in HD on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, May 27, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET before an audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

The program is co-hosted for the seventh year by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna of “Criminal Minds” and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise “CSI: New York” — two acclaimed actors who have dedicated themselves to veterans’ causes and supporting our troops in active service.

They will be joined by an all-star line-up including: distinguished American leader Colin L. Powell; the multiplatinum rock band Daughtry; nine-time Grammy award-winner, singer and songwriter Natalie Cole; country music superstar Trace Adkins; acclaimed film and television actress Selma Blair; Emmy, Oscar and Tony award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn; Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor and Vietnam veteran Dennis Franz; and world renowned tenor Russell Watson in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly.

Consistently one of the highest-rated programs on PBS over the past decade, the National Memorial Day Concert became the No. 3 top-rated program in prime time on PBS during the 2010-2011 season with a 3.6 Nielsen rating, reaching more than 8 million viewers.

Featured stories in the National Memorial Day Concert will include:

* A heartfelt welcome home to our troops who have been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan;
* The poignant story of a young widow who lost her husband in Afghanistan;
* A segment profiling the heroic and brave efforts of veterans from all wars; and
* A closer look at the plight of homeless American veterans.

“Each year on the eve of Memorial Day, we gather at the U.S. Capitol to share the real stories of fallen and wounded heroes, their families and their combat buddies as a way to remember, to grieve and begin to heal,” Mr. Mantegna said. “Every one of your stories of remembrance is important to us. We are honored to be able to share these moving tributes from our loyal viewers as we remember the sacrifices made by so many to preserve our freedoms.”

The U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff will also participate in the event along with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, the Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

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.