- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have a couple of questions:

• I’m pretty sure that Arlington National Cemetery allows the use of urns for veterans who have been cremated. Right?

• How does one get a Form 214?

Many thanks. Keep up the good work.

William Alex F, 97th Division

Dear Bill:

Arlington National Cemetery allows the use of urns. Urns being placed in the columbarium must be of a size that will fit into the dimensions of 10 inches wide, 13 inches high and 18 inches deep. Cremated remains also can be interred (ground burial).

Veterans and next of kin can request a free copy of the DD214 from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) online request system (www. archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs), by mail or by fax. Requests by mail can be submitted by completing a Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, available online (at www.archives .gov/research/order/standard-form-180.pdf) or by submitting a letter to the NPRC requesting a copy of the DD214. Veterans and next of kin also can submit a request in writing to their local VA Regional Office for a copy from the claims file, if applicable.

Hard-copy requests can be faxed to the NPRC at 314/801-9195 or mailed to the following address: National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.

If the DD214 is requested for a burial in a national cemetery operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the cemetery staff will work directly with the NPRC to obtain the required records for the service.

Shaft notes

• The Veterans’ Affairs economic opportunity subcommittee recently heard testimony on a number of bills aimed at improving education benefits for active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve forces.

Department of Veterans Affairs education and training benefits provide veterans and surviving dependents with the opportunity to improve their vocational and financial status. The original GI Bill is credited with helping millions of veterans achieve the American dream of homeownership and raising the economic standing of the entire nation after World War II.

A Shaft attaboy to Rep. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican, for his support and reiteration of his long-standing concern that only about 70 percent of eligible veterans take advantage of the benefit they have earned. He noted that many veterans who do not utilize the GI Bill fail to do so because they are unaware of the types of education and training that are available. Mr. Boozman also expressed resolve to make education benefits more flexible as a means to increase use by members of the Guard and Reserves.

“Members of the National Guard and Reserves are no longer weekend warriors. They continue to serve a front-line role in the war on terrorism. I hope we can find a way to improve their benefits in a way that reflects their expanded contribution to our nation’s defense,” Mr. Boozman said. “Doing so will benefit individual members of the Guard and Reserve, and our nation as a whole.”

• The American Film Foundation recently announced that 10 percent of each ticket for Academy Award-winning director Terry Sanders’ new documentary, “Fighting for Life,” will go to the Bob Woodruff Family Fund, a charity that assists those injured while serving in the United States Armed Forces. “Fighting for Life” is a different movie about war, a real life “M*A*S*H” for our times about the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines. The film will open in New York on March 7 with expansion to other cities to follow.

“Fighting for Life” interweaves stories of military doctors, nurses and medics, working with skill, compassion and dedication amid the vortex of the Iraq war; wounded soldiers and Marines reacting with courage, dignity and determination to survive and to heal; and students at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, the “West Point” of military medicine, on their journey toward becoming career military physicians. The film also follows 21-year-old Army Spc. Crystal Davis from Iraq to Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center as she fights to recover and “bounce back” from the loss of a leg.

The Bob Woodruff Family Fund was founded by the family of journalist Bob Woodruff, who was nearly killed in early 2006 by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The fund places special emphasis on the “hidden signature injuries” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — traumatic brain injury and combat stress injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

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 e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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