- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Sgt Shaft:

My name is Carol. My husband, Ralph, died from lung cancer at age 42. He served in the USAF from 1961-1964 as an aircraft mechanic. During 1964, he was sent TDY (on temporary duty status) from the Philippines to Vietnam. Ralph talked about his time in Vietnam often. I did not find out about benefits for spouses/family of military personnel exposed to Agent Orange until a few years ago.

Since that time I have been trying to find proof of “boots on ground” to prove my claim. Nothing shows on his DD214 about Vietnam, but I found a DD215 with the following information, which I have since offered to the military as proof. However, I am still trying to collect evidence to present at my hearing and wonder if you might be able to assist me.

Enclosed with a set of military records I received from St. Louis was a copy of a letter written by Ralph Huey on Aug. 16, 1965 (copy enclosed) to the Air Force Reserve Records Center in Denver. His letter requests recognition for the 83/84 days he spent in Vietnam. He requests in his letter a medal for this service and also a correction to his DD214 to indicate the time spent in Vietnam.

Pursuant to his letter, Ralph received a DD215 (copy enclosed), Correction to DD Form 214, on which he was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and also received a “correction to his military records filed August 16, 1965 by individual.” You will note the date on the DD215 is the exact same date of Ralph’s letter. Ralph asked the USAF for a medal and he got it. He asked for recognition of his time in Vietnam and he got it, all on the DD215.

I feel that this is undeniable proof that the USAF recognized. Thank you in advance for your assistance. I certainly appreciate anything you can offer.

Carol H
Via the Internet

Dear Carol,

Each case is unique, but there are multiple forms of supporting documentation that could be beneficial in cases such as yours.

Since you husband was apparently assigned to a unit and base outside Vietnam and made trips into Vietnam on temporary duty (TDY) status, a search of personnel and finance records might be beneficial. Any form of contemporaneous TDY order, copy of a travel voucher for TDY funds, finance or payroll records showing payment for TDY to Vietnam or other personnel records documenting that your husband was in Vietnam would resolve the issue.

Other personnel records could include performance appraisals discussing the TDY periods or a letter of commendation or appreciation for the duty performed in Vietnam, preferably showing the dates of that service, would be helpful. Additionally, if he was assigned as part of a flight crew of a particular aircraft, flight records of that aircraft could help. Lastly, any unit records, morning reports, daily personnel change reports, etc, may show, by name, the personnel of the unit that were TDY on any given day and the location of that temporary duty.

Shaft notes

Kudos to the Veterans of Foreign Wars for questioning the powers that be concerning the rights of military voters to have their votes count. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act was enacted in 1986 to protect the rights of military service members to vote in federal elections regardless of where they were stationed.

The passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 was meant to provide even greater protections to those serving, their families, and other Americans overseas.

So why after the military absentee voting debacles of the past few elections cycles are a number of states still failing their service members, and why is the Department of Justice more interested in cutting deals than hitting these states where it would hurt — with fines?

Richard L. Eubank, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries, said the problem boils down to accountability and enforcement.

“The law requires absentee ballots to be mailed a minimum of 45 days before a federal election, which should give ample time for standard mail to make a roundtrip from overseas areas,” said Eubank, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Eugene, Ore. “Yet 12 states requested waivers from the Defense Department this year because they were unable to meet the Sept. 18 deadline to mail election material. That is absolutely unacceptable in the year 2010.”

According to the Pew Center on the States, the main problem is federal laws have to be implemented by the states, which in this case results in a patchwork of inconsistent state laws and absentee ballot procedures that are impediments to overseas voters.

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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