- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Would you please publish my invitation and encouragement to all armed services personnel and their families, active and retired, to make it a point to visit one or more of our American cemeteries when traveling in Europe, Tunis, Manila, Mexico City or Panama? These uniquely splendid memorials to our war dead buried overseas inspire patriotism, evoke gratitude and teach history. They are the best-cared-for cemeteries in the world and an enduring tribute to the competence, courage and sacrifice of those buried there.

For vivid previews of what can be seen and the history contained within American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries and memorials, your readers should visit our Web site at www.abmc.gov. Those who visit our cemeteries will be glad they went and will forever remember these magnificent tributes to American opposition to tyranny and injustice.

Sincerely,

J.W. Nicholson

Retired brigadier general

Secretary

Dear Gen. Nicholson:

As you know, one of the best-kept secrets of the American Battle Monuments Commission is the Suresnes American Cemetery on the slope of Mount Valerien in Paris. There’s a suburban electric train every 15 minutes to the Suresnes Station. On arrival at the Suresnes Station, visitors should take the Hospital Foch exit, turn right, go up the slope to Boulevard Washington, turn right and proceed about 200 yards to the cemetery entrance. Thomas Jefferson visited the site when he was ambassador to France, and the cemetery itself was dedicated by President Wilson on Memorial Day 1919. During World War II, the Germans executed more than 4,500 political prisoners and Resistance fighters on Mount Valerien. The World War II section was dedicated by Gen. George C. Marshall in 1952.

Shaft notes

• The 2007 edition of the Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents is now online. This annually updated desk reference covering federal benefits programs for veterans and their families is available at www1.va.gov/OPA/vadocs/current_benefits.asp and www1.va.gov/opa/feature/index.asp.

• The Sarge joins American Legion National Commander Paul A. Morin in voicing support for the Total Force Educational Assistance Enhancement and Integration Act of 2007. The bill modernizes the Montgomery GI Bill to more effectively support armed forces recruiting, retention and readjustment after service. It also better reflects a “total force” concept that ensures members of our reserves and National Guard receive educational benefits that match their increased service to the nation.

“The American Legion played an active role in the draft and enactment of the original GI Bill of Rights [the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944],” Mr. Morin said. “When our young men and women returned from World War II to protect our freedom, we fought to take care of them. Today, our country needs to once again ensure that those who volunteer to go in harm’s way are able to enjoy the liberty that they fight so hard to protect.”

Mr. Morin explained that active-duty service members have up to 10 years after their separation of service to use their Montgomery GI Bill benefits, while members of the Guard and reserves must forfeit all of the educational benefits they have earned once they separate. Those who have served in the Guard and reserves and activated to duty in the global war on terror are having their benefits unfairly terminated once they complete their term of service.

“Today’s National Guard and reserve members are so busy training and deploying that they have little time to actually use their MGIB benefits,” Mr. Morin said. “Their ability to use the benefits while serving is curtailed because of repeated deployments and denied entirely once they finish their service.”

The Total Force Educational Assistance Enhancement and Integration Act of 2007 would establish one program with one set of rules that would eliminate inconsistent and inequitable structuring of benefits by combining both Selected Reserve programs (1606 and 1607 of Title 10) under the same umbrella as the active-duty program (Title 38). It also would provide a cleaner, simpler arrangement of GI Bill benefit levels with standardized tiers of eligibility.

Unlike active-duty benefits that are paid by the Veterans Affairs through mandatory funding, both reserve programs are funded out of annual discretionary pay and benefits accounts through the Department of Defense. When Congress has increased active-duty benefits under Title 38, traditionally proportionate action has not been taken to raise the rates for the reserve programs.

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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