- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I’m interested in purchasing a copy of George Skypeck’s “Assured Victory” painting. Are there any prints still left, and how much do they cost?

Please let me know the details for ordering.

Thanks so much,
Kevin S.
Via the Internet

Dear Kevin:

George Skypeck generously donated hundreds of his “Assured Victory” prints to the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF). A copy can be obtained for a $100 tax-deductible contribution to BAVF. These donations will go to helping the wounded and their families at Bethesda Naval Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Contact me for additional information.

The original painting is on public display loan to Arlington National Cemetery’s Visitor Center. It depicts the September 11 terrorist attacks and the heroism and gallantry of the police, firefighters and Pentagon employees on that day — and of the American military forces fighting the war on terrorism worldwide.

The main centerpieces are the famous Statue of Liberty in New York City’s harbor and the Armed Freedom statue, which rests atop the U.S. Capitol dome and overlooks the Pentagon. The symbols define the American sense of spirit, duty and compassion and represent the Twin Sisters of Victory. Below them is a purple and black mourning ribbon that becomes the purple and white ribbon of the Purple Heart Medal, with other medals being represented.

A special thanks to the Pitney Bowes Corp. for agreeing to mail the prints to the generous donors.

Shaft notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is increasing its support to caregivers with a new, toll-free telephone line for the caregivers of veterans of all eras.

“The families and loved ones who care for severely injured veterans deserve the highest level of support,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “At VA, we consider them important partners in our efforts to care for and rehabilitate our nation’s heroes.”

The National Caregiver Support Line — 855/260-3274 — will serve as the primary resource and referral center to assist caregivers, veterans and others seeking caregiver information.

The line unofficially started Feb. 1, and in its first week logged nearly 600 calls, including 134 referrals to local VA caregiver support coordinators and 233 calls from caregivers themselves.

“VA has been providing support for the caregivers of veterans for more than seven decades,” Shinseki added. “We already have more than two dozen successful programs, policies and services that support the caregivers of veterans of all ages.”

The support line will provide information regarding new caregiver benefits, referrals to local caregiver support coordinators as well as emotional support to those concerned with their ability to provide care to loved ones who are veterans.

The National Caregiver Support Line will be open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Eastern time; and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time. Licensed VA social workers and health technicians will staff the support line.

Local caregiver support coordinators are available to assist veterans and their caregivers to understand and apply for VA’s many caregiver benefits. VA also features a Web page, www.caregiver.va.gov, with general information on other caregiver support programs available through VA and the community.

Access to the National Caregiver Support Line was also identified as a significant need in a November 2010 study on caregivers of veterans published by the National Alliance for Caregiving.

• The VA has also announced the creation of a new Office of Tribal Government Relations to ensure the more than 200,000 veterans who are American Indians, Alaska natives, Hawaiian natives, or work at Alaska native corporations, receive the VA benefits they have earned.

“There is a long, distinguished tradition of military service among tribal peoples,” Mr. Shinseki said. “VA is committed to providing these veterans with the full range of VA programs, as befits their service to our nation.”

About 200,000 veterans are represented by the 800 tribal governments officially recognized by the United States. Although the VA has long provided benefits to veterans in tribal lands, the new office will further strengthen and expand that relationship.

Stephanie Elaine Birdwell, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma, has been selected as the office’s first director. A former social worker, she has spent nearly 15 years working on tribal issues with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, most recently, the Bureau of Indian Education.

She will oversee a six-person office responsible for “establishing, maintaining and coordinating a nation-to-nation, federal-tribal relationship,” according to a VA briefing.

The office has a charter that officially extends to veterans who are American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Native Corporations.????

• Suicide rates in the military continue to cause concern, and a new public service announcement being filmed this week by members of the Creative Coalition, aims to help service members, veterans and their families reach out for help.

Using the arts as a powerful vehicle to create public awareness, the Creative Coalition was asked to take on the project by Blue Star Families (BSF), Health Net and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

The Creative Coalition will begin shooting the public service announcement (PSA) campaign this week in Park City, Utah, during the upcoming Film Festival week. The spot, with the theme “I don’t know what it’s like…” will be directed by actor Tim Daly and feature celebrities reminding service members and their families that they are not alone, and that help is available.

“Suicide is a community issue, not just a military issue. This public service announcement sends an important message — which is that the American people care about our service members and want those in trouble to get help,” said Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of TAPS, who recently served as the co-chair of the Department of Defense Task Force on Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.

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.

• Sgt. Shaft can be reached at .

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