- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I’d like to get my complete service records — especially my medical records, in particular from my time on Guadalcanal, Okinawa and Guam and after my time stateside. Is there anywhere I could write? I would pay for the time and paperwork involved.

Yours truly,

Allen P.

U.S. Marine Corps

Dear Allen:

I have asked good friend Dick Schneider of the Non Commissioned Officers Association and he has agreed to snail mail you a DD Form 180.

You could also start the process of securing information from military-service records at the following Internet address: www.archives.gov/facilities/mo/st_louis/military_personnel_records/standard_form_180.html

This page will walk you through the entire process. And the good news for you and other readers is that if the requester is either the veteran or the next of kin of the veteran, the request can be made online and sent electronically. That can greatly facilitate the request.

This page also provides the opportunity to download a copy of the SF 180 and to submit the request in writing by normal mail processes.

The referenced Internet site is extremely user-friendly, providing complete information.

Should you desire to download a copy of the SF 180, all instructions are provided on the form along with the mailing address appropriate for your branch of service.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to celebrating America’s 55th Presidential Inaugural and saluting President Bush.

The president and vice president, I am sure, will be proud once again to visit the Veterans Inaugural Ball, a “Salute to Heroes,” which will be attended by the 80 living Medal of Honor recipients.

In 1953, President Eisenhower and first lady Mamie Eisenhower attended the first “Salute to Heroes.” Safeguarding freedom was a theme of Mr. Eisenhower’s inaugural address as U.S. troops were still fighting in Korea. He said: “Patriotism means equipped forces and a prepared citizenry. Moral stamina means more energy and more productivity, on the farm and in the factory. Love of liberty means the guarding of every resource that makes freedom possible — from the sanctity of our families and the wealth of our soil to the genius of our scientists.”

This prestigious inaugural event will take place the evening of Jan. 20 and will be attended by 1,200 guests.

• The Sarge salutes the Department of Veterans Affairs for its new research initiative, creating “biohybrid” limbs that use human tissue and Space Age technology to assist amputees. The project is the result of a $7.2 million grant by VA to establish a special research center in Rhode Island.

“Helping our combat-disabled veterans recover from their wounds is among VA’s highest responsibilities,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. “This grant allows us to bring cutting-edge science to help these wounded heroes.”

The five-year grant will fund the new Center for Restorative and Regenerative Medicine, to be operated jointly by the Providence VA Medical Center, Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .

Scientists hope to create “biohybrid” limbs that will use regenerated tissue, lengthened bone, titanium prosthetics and implantable sensors that allow amputees to use nerves and brain signals to move arms or legs. The aim is to give amputees — particularly war veterans — better mobility and control of their limbs and to reduce the discomfort and infections common with current prosthetics.

According to a recent Senate report, body armor and improvements in casualty care have contributed to the lowest “died-of-wounds” rate in military history. However, the report says more surviving soldiers from the Iraq war have lost arms or legs. Historically, 3 percent of soldiers wounded in action required some amputation, but the number in Iraq is 6 percent, according to the report.

“VA has been a leader in prosthetics and limb-loss research throughout its history,” said Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, VA’s acting undersecretary for health. “This new center continues that tradition. It will help veterans and all Americans who have lost limbs to have greater mobility, greater function and greater independence than previously possible.”

Dr. Roy Aaron, director of the center at VA Providence, said biohybrid limbs will maximize amputees’ existing tissue and bone. Surgery that lengthens bone will be coupled with tissue-engineering techniques to speed healing. The goal is to make bones longer to improve the fit of prosthetics and to make bones stronger to reduce fractures.

Anyone who has lost a limb — owing to injuries or diseases such as diabetes and bone cancer — will be eligible to enroll in clinical trials.

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

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