- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

It’s time for another letter to Sgt. Shaft from the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). Here’s an update and a renewed urging for all readers to make an opportunity to visit one or more overseas American military cemeteries.

These commemorative shrines, where American war dead are buried or memorialized on walls of the missing, provide a vivid and stark reminder that the USA has, time and again, gone to the aid of foreign countries whose freedoms were stripped away by invading armies.

Normandy, France; Cambridge, England; Margraten, Netherlands; Ardennes, Belgium; Luxembourg; Meuse-Argonne, France; Florence, Italy; Tunis, Tunisia; and Manila in the Philippines are some of the 24 U.S. cemeteries abroad that attest to America’s expenditure of blood and treasure to preserve our freedoms and restore the freedoms of others. All we ever asked for in return were those little plots of ground where we buried our dead.

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Gen. John J. Pershing was the first chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission. He wrote that, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” With the passage of years, fewer Americans have a direct link to those buried in our overseas cemeteries.

To honor Gen. Pershing’s vision, ABMC initiated two new programs. Through our “outreach” program we hope to encourage millions of American and foreign citizens to visit these splendid overseas sites, which inspire patriotism, evoke gratitude and teach important lessons of history to all who visit.

As the world wars recede further in time, our mission increasingly requires visitor education.

Through our “interpretive” program, using enriched content on our Web site and enhanced visitor services at our cemeteries, we will perpetuate the stories of service and sacrifice for generations without personal experience of those important chapters in world history. All this is good for America!

So, Sgt. Shaft, I want to urge your readers to go see these cemeteries, if they can. They should first visit our Web site at www.abmc.gov for more information, including films, pamphlets and a new interactive program that follows the progress of U.S. and Allied divisions from D-Day to the liberation of Paris - either way, America gains and everyone learns.

Help us to keep Gen. Pershing’s promise to the families of our war dead, that “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”


J.W. Nicholson, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Ret)

Secretary, ABMC

Dear General:

Thanks for this very special update. I urge all those who are able, to visit these sacred grounds. I also suggest that parents, and educators encourage our youngsters to visit your Web site to remind them that freedom is not free.

Shaft notes

Congratulations to Rick Jones, legislative director of the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS), on his election as co-chairman of the newly formed Alliance for Military and Overseas Voting Rights. The alliance, composed of several military and veterans organizations like NAUS, formed to ensure that our military men and women, most of whom are stationed outside their home states, including hundreds of thousands deployed overseas, are afforded their right to vote and to ensure their votes are counted.

“Complaints and problems surrounding the absentee votes of our service members during the 2008 elections raised new concerns about the rights of America’s Warriors to exercise the freedoms they are pledged to protect,” Mr. Jones said. “Military voters must have the information, time and assistance necessary to complete and return absentee ballots - and they must be counted,” he added.

Among alliance goals is state adoption of standardized procedures for registering military and overseas voters and for counting their cast ballots. The alliance is also asking Congress and the states to expand programs to find secure and convenient technological solutions that will aid military and overseas absentee voters. In addition, the alliance is seeking congressional hearings concerning reform of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

I was happy to attend the American Legion National Commander’s Public Relations Luncheon, which honored writer, actor and television personality Ben Stein, who received the Legion’s annual Public Relations Award.

Mr. Stein was recognized for his outspoken championship of our troops, as embodied in his excellent 2007 book, “The Real Stars: In Today’s America, Who Are the True Heroes?” Ben’s book, as its title implies, wittily debunks the “stardom” of Hollywood personalities and holds up in their place our true stars, the men and women in uniform who defend our way of life.

Congratulations to good friend and fellow Marine combat veteran Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, who was recently honored with the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s (MOPH) Special Leadership Award in recognition of both his work to create a new post- 9/11 GI Bill and his role as advocate for America´s men and women in uniform.

Mr. Webb is a two-time Purple Heart recipient. Each year, MOPH pays special recognition to one member of Congress who best demonstrates inspirational leadership and distinguished service to the nation´s veterans.

“I am honored to receive this top leadership award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart,” said Mr. Webb. “As someone who grew up in and around the military, who had the privilege of serving and whose son and son-in-law still serve today, I take very seriously our continuing commitment to our nation´s veterans and our active duty service members.

“I am particularly proud that the Post-9/11 GI Bill that I introduced became law last year. With this legislation, we were able to affirmatively recognize the service of the newest generation of veterans with educational benefits that will truly give them the opportunity for a first-class future.”

• 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 [email protected]

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