- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My buddy Mike recently passed away. He served with the Merchant Marines during World War II. Is he eligible to be interred at the Arlington Cemetery Columbarium?

John C.


Dear John:

Public Law 95-202 established civilian employees and contractors who fall under wartime service to be entitled to veterans’ benefits. This includes oceangoing American Merchant Marines who served from December 7, 1941, to Aug. 15, 1945. At Arlington National Cemetery, their entitlement is inurnment in the Arlington National Cemetery Columbarium.

These qualifying veterans are also entitled to burial in a Veterans Affairs cemetery.

Shaft Notes

The Sarge was proud to attend the grand opening of the new home of the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania Inc. (VLP) in Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. Members of the public were welcome to attend and to tour the new facility.

VLP was founded in 1982 by Vietnam-era veterans to provide job training and placement to veterans and their families. Since that time, the VLP has grown tremendously and has provided thousands of veterans and their families with career services, as well as housing for homeless veterans, counseling and education. VLP provides service to veterans throughout Western Pennsylvania, with satellite offices in Johnstown, Altoona and Beaver County.

Since moving into their new building Aug. 1, the staff and board have been working hard to create a one-stop resource center for veterans. The new facility will include a computer lab for training and job searching, a meeting room for education, an examination room for dental and health screening, as well as a library and other amenities. Veterans and their family members that need help will be able to access all of these services for free.

I was also pleased to attend the special boat ride for veterans sponsored by Sharing and Caring Inc., an organization representing nearly 20 veterans groups in the Pittsburgh area. During a four-day period in September, disabled veterans, with the help of volunteers, sailed for three hours on a riverboat cruise aboard Gateway Clipper Fleet’s “Majestic.”

The veterans were greeted with live music and refreshments. Then on board, there was more entertainment, a hot buffet lunch, prizes, dancing, clowns, gifts, renewing old friendships and a memorial service.

• The Sarge is once again looking forward to joining fellow members of the National Press Club, other journalists and guests for the Nov. 7 club luncheon. This event will feature remarks from the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Hagee. I am sure he will pay tribute to our Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and those warriors who have made the supreme sacrifice.

Gen. Hagee graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968 with a bachelor of science degree in engineering. He also holds a master of science degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and a master of arts in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He is a graduate of the Command and Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College.

Gen. Hagee’s recent staff assignments include senior military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, Washington; executive assistant to the director of central intelligence (1995-96); deputy director of operations, headquarters, U.S. European Command (1996-98); and director for strategic plans and policy, U.S. Pacific Command (1999-2000).

For more information about the luncheon, contact Pat Nelson at 202/662-7500.

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 [email protected]

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