- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I need to renew my dependent ID and would like to know if there is somewhere near Harrison, Ark., we can go. I am aware of Little Rock AFB and an armory in Fayetteville, Ark. Also, there is Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Of these three locations, Fayetteville is the closest that we know of; however, we were wondering if there was somewhere a bit closer. Thank you very much.

Arkansas Spouse
Via the Internet

Dear Arkansas Spouse:

According to the Department of Defense (DoD) RAPIDS website, the Fayetteville Armory at 61 miles is the closest ID-card-issuing facility to the town of Harrison, Ark. Next closest is at NOSC Springfield, Mo., which is 69 miles.

Staff notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs is publishing a proposed regulation in the Federal Register that would change its rules to add five diagnosable illnesses that are secondary to service-connected Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“We must always decide veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available, and we will,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence that ensure they receive benefits earned through their service to the country.”

VA proposes to add a new subsection to its adjudication regulation by revising 38 CFR 3.310 to state that if a veteran who has a service-connected TBI also has one of the five illnesses, then the illness will be considered service-connected as secondary to the TBI.

Service connection under the proposed rule depends in part upon the severity of the TBI (mild, moderate or severe) and the period of time between the injury and onset of the secondary illness. However, the proposed rule also clarifies that it does not preclude a veteran from establishing direct service connection even if those time and severity standards are not met. It also defines the terms mild, moderate and severe, consistent with DoD guidelines.

VA’s decision is based on a report by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Gulf War and Health, Volume 7: Long-Term Consequences of TBI.” In its report, the IOM’s Committee on Gulf War and Health concluded that “sufficient evidence of a causal relationship” — the IOM’s highest evidentiary standard — existed between moderate or severe levels of TBI and diagnosed unprovoked seizures.

The IOM found “sufficient evidence of an association” between moderate or severe levels of TBI and Parkinsonism; dementias (which VA understands to include presenile dementia of the Alzheimer type and post-traumatic dementia); depression (which also was associated with mild TBI); and diseases of hormone deficiency that may result from hypothalamo-pituitary changes.

Specific information about the Defense and Veteran Brain Injury Center is available at https://www.dvbic.org/. Information about Gulf War and VA’s services and programs are available at https://www.publicheath.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/index.asp.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program (MVP) recently enrolled its 100,000th volunteer research participant, and now stands at more than 110,000 enrollees, marking a major milestone in the nearly 90-year history of VA research.

“MVP is a truly historic effort, in terms of both VA research and medical research in general,” Mr. Shinseki said. “Veterans nationwide are helping to create a database that has the potential to help millions around the country — veteran and non-veteran alike. They are continuing to serve the nation well beyond the time they stopped wearing the uniform.”

• Once again I would like to share with my readers the following moving poem that was written many years ago by a Marine in Okinawa. His only request was that people read it. Enjoy a blessed Christmas and a happy new year.

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand;
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary;
I found the home of a soldier,
Once I could see clearly.
The soldier lay sleeping,
Silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor
In this one-bedroom home.
The face was so gentle,
The room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.
Soon round the world the children would play
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry,
“This life is my choice.
“I fight for freedom,
“I don’t ask for more,
“My life is: My God,
My country, my Corps.”
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn’t control it;
I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still
And we both shivered
From the cold night’s chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on Santa,
“It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”
One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
“Merry Christmas my friend,
“And to all a good night.”

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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