- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I received an email that said that when the flag is presented to the family at a burial of a veteran, the words of presentation say: “…..on behalf of the Secretary of Defense.”

Is this true? I am shocked that the words no longer state “On behalf of the President of the United States.

John M.
Via the Internet

Dear John:

Hogwash. This is a rumor being spread on the Internet to discredit the current Commander-in-Chief. No truth to it.

Shaft notes

• Participants in an online survey sponsored by the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) strongly oppose proposals to “civilianize” the current military retirement system. More than 1,700 current and former service members offered their perspectives on recent recommendations posed by the Defense Business Board (DBB) to do away with the current military retirement program and implement a system similar to a 401(k) retirement benefit.

Current retirement benefits are available to military members who serve for 20 years or more, and nearly 95 percent of survey respondents said that’s the benefit that would have the most appeal if they were joining the service today. More than 80 percent of active duty and Reserve component respondents said they would shorten their term of service if the retirement benefit were changed to reflect the recommendations made in the DBB’s “Modernizing the Military Retirement System” report.

Respondents from the active duty, Reserve, retiree and veteran communities overwhelmingly predict that the DBB proposals would be bad for military recruiting and retention. More than 83 percent of participants believed fewer people would join the military and serve shorter terms if a 401(k)-type benefit were instituted. More than 89 percent believed delaying retirement benefits to until age 60 or 65 would have a similar effect on recruiting and retention.

“Military service is unique, with inherently higher risks and required sacrifice than those borne by private-sector employees,” said Joe Barnes, FRA’s national executive director. “Military retirement benefits should reflect the enormous commitment shipmates and others make when they serve a career in the military, and FRA strongly opposes the civilianization of military benefits. We believe the DBB plan would compromise the value of military retirement and negatively impact military recruiting, retention, morale and ultimately, readiness.”

FRA will share survey results with members of the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and its Senate counterpart, as well as with leaders within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security – ensuring these key decision-makers understand the enlisted perspective. The association also invites current and former service members and their families to share their concerns with their elected officials via FRA’s Action Center at www.fra.org/retire.

• The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. in urging the Senate to pass S. 1527 to authorize the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines of World War II. Its companion bill passed unanimously in the House earlier this week.

“The Montford Point Marines paved the way for future generations of African Americans to proudly call themselves United States Marines,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass. “And just like the Army’s Buffalo Soldiers and the Air Force’s Tuskegee Airmen, they must be properly recognized for their service, their sacrifice, and most especially for their perseverance to overcome the racial challenges of the time to help our nation fight and win World War II.”

The House bill, H.R. 2447, was introduced in July by Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat, and had garnered 308 bipartisan cosponsors before Tuesday’s 422-0 vote. S. 1527 was introduced in September by Sen. Kay Hagan, North Carolina Democrat, and currently has 27 bipartisan cosponsors, but the bill was referred for action to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. It has yet to exit the committee. Cmdr. DeNoyer wants S. 1527 brought to a vote when the Senate reconvenes next week.

The history of Montford Point is rooted in pride and prejudice, according to the Montfort Point Marines Association. President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened up the military services to recruit blacks in 1941, but it still took a 1942 presidential directive to give them the opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. Instead of going to established training facilities on Parris Island, S.C., or in San Diego, Calif., a segregated boot camp called Montford Point was created next to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where 20,000 black Marines would eventually be trained between 1942 and 1949.

In a July 30 speech in Atlanta before the Montford Point Marines Association, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said their story and struggle for equality and acceptance in the Corps did not end when they left Montford Point; rather, it had just begun, because they were not allowed to become infantrymen or to serve in other mainstream military occupational specialties.

Their courage under fire and fidelity to fellow Marines, regardless of skin color, began to erode the cruel and false generational stereotype within the Corps that blacks could not, and would not, fight in the face of danger. This led Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, who had observed the courage of black Marines in hand-to-hand combat on Saipan, to say “The experiment with the Negro Marines is over. They are Marines … period!”

As the Marine Corps prepares for its 236th birthday on Nov. 10, the VFW national commander said there could be no more fitting tribute than for the Senate to announce beforehand that they, too, agree that the Montford Point Marines should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“This is about properly honoring a group of patriotic Americans who battled an enemy abroad and racism at home,” said Cmdr. DeNoyer, who is now asking his 2 million VFW and Auxiliary members to urge their U.S. senators to pass S. 1527. “This recognition is long overdue, and with the VFW’s support, we hope it soon becomes reality.”

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 email [email protected].

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