Bill to Extend Health Care Benefits to Camp Lejeune Veterans and Families

Congressional negotiators have taken a big leap in expanding veterans’ health care by proposing Veterans Affairs Department treatment for veterans and dependents exposed to contaminated well water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.   Up to 750,000 people — Navy and Marine Corps members and their families — may have been exposed to water found to be contaminated by carcinogens from the 1950s into the 1980s.   North Carolina lawmakers have been pushing for years for the federal government to cover health costs for people who were exposed, but there have been sharp disagreements about who should be responsible: the Defense Department, which owned the base, or VA, which covers service-connected illness, injury and disability.   This is a big step because VA provides very little health care for dependents, concentrating on veterans rather than their families. But it is not unprecedented.   Those covered must have lived or worked on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from Jan. 1, 1957 through Dec. 31, 1987.   VA ends up with responsibility under terms of a compromise reached June 21 between members of the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees on a comprehensive veterans bill made up of provisions that have passed at least one of the committees over the past two years.   The compromise bill is expected to pass the Senate as early as next week and could be on its way to the White House by the Fourth of July, according to congressional staffers.   The agreement is a victory for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who has been pushing the veterans affairs committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee to get help for the former Lejeune residents.   “I am pleased this legislation has moved further than ever before, and I am hopeful it will receive the attention of the full Senate very soon,” Burr said. “The Marines, sailors, and their families who were affected by exposures to toxic water at Camp Lejeune deserve this care, and I hope this bill will finally pass so we can provide it for them.”   It’s also a victory Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman, and for Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., her House counterpart, for reaching a compromise that sweeps up a large pack of abandoned legislation.   In a statement, Miller said the comprehensive bill, HR 1627, is the result of months of compromise.   “This bill includes nearly 50 provisions, which combines House-passed legislation and Senate Committee-reported bills,” he said, adding that veterans organizations also provided input.   He called it a “fiscally responsible” bill that “will not cost the taxpayer an extra dime.” Costs are covered by extensions of fees on veterans home loans and other adjustments. Full details were not yet available on offsets, but congressional aides who worked on the compromise said no benefits are cut and no services are canceled to pay for any of the provisions in the bill.   Among them:   • Allow waiver of copays for veterans receiving telehealth and telemedicine visits, a change aimed at encouraging veterans who live far from a VA clinic or hospital to use the service.   • Require comprehensive reporting and tracking of sexual assaults and safety problems, an idea taken from a bill sponsored in 2011 by Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., after unreported or underreported sexual assaults were discovered on VA property, including in hospitals.   • Allow service dogs, when trained by an accredited agency or organization, onto any VA-owned or -controlled property.   • Permanently authorize adjustable-rate mortgages and hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages under the VA home loan program, options that might be especially attractive to home buyers because of low mortgage interest rates.   • Make VA-backed loans available to some surviving spouses. This would apply to survivors of a totally disabled veteran who had been receiving disability compensation for at least 10 years or who died within five years of leaving active duty. It also would apply to survivors of former prisoners of war who had been totally disabled for at least one year prior to their deaths.   • Codify in law the prohibition against reserving gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and prohibit more than one gravesite from being provided to a veteran or service member.   IMPORTANT NOTICE! This email message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution of this electronic information and/or any attachment is prohibited. If you have received this email message in error, please notify the sender immediately and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.




Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history — that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, ‘Where are you guys from?’

I told him that we were from Wisconsin. ‘Hey, I’m a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.’

(It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, DC, but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.)

When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night.)

‘My name is James Bradley and I’m from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I wrote a book called ‘Flags of Our Fathers’. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me.

‘Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called ‘War.’ But it didn’t turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don’t say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old – and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it.

(He pointed to the statue) ‘You see this next guy? That’s Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene’s helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph…a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

‘The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank… Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the ‘old man’ because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn’t say, ‘Let’s go kill some Japanese’ or ‘Let’s die for our country’ He knew he was talking to little boys.. Instead he would say, ‘You do what I say, and I’ll get you home to your mothers.’

‘The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, ‘You’re a hero’ He told reporters, ‘How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?’

So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken).

‘The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky. A fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, ‘Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.’ Yes, he was a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother’s farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

‘The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite’s producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say ‘No, I’m sorry, sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back.’ My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell ‘s soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn’t want to talk to the press.

‘You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn’t see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, ’cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain.

‘When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, ‘I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.’

‘So that’s the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.’

Suddenly, the monument wasn’t just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.

We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice.

Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism and all the wars in-between that sacrifice was made for our freedom…please pray for our troops.

Remember to pray praises for this great country of ours and also….please pray for our troops still in murderous places around the world.

STOP and thank God for being alive and being free due to someone else’s sacrifice.

God Bless You and God Bless America.

REMINDER: Everyday that you can wake up free, it’s going to be a great day.

One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is . . that if you look at the statue very closely and count the number of ‘hands’ raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God.

Great story – worth your time – worth every American’s time. Please pass it on.    

Marine Aviation Centennial Celebration

The Marines will be landing at the Aviation Museum of NH starting on July 13, 14 and 15 to celebrate the Centennial of Marine Aviation.  The Museum will play host  to the Marine Corps League which has agreed to take the lead and be the major planner of the events starting with that weekend.


The Planning group is looking for assistance from  Marines who are NH residents  for their support by their presence and for artifacts and memorabilia to be exhibited on temporary loan for a period of about two months from that date.


We are specifically looking for help in the display and presentation of the Harrier, Osprey and certain types of Helicopters.  The theme will be by era’s e.g.  WWI, WWII, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam, Cold Was into the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  If any of you know of Marines that are not members of NH Marine Corps. League  that would interested in helping please spread the word.


Tentative plans are to have display tables in the museum with individuals explaining the features of the specific aircrafts they were involved in primarily on Saturday the 14th with certain non staffed static displays DVD’s & VCR’s on Sundays the 15th.


The Centennial Celebration will also extend into Saturday August 11th when the family of Colonel Louis L. Frank has arranged to have a vintage F4U Corsair flown on to the airport to be on staticdisplay at the Museum in his memory.


Lot of happenings in July and August to honor the Marines in Aviation through the years and if any can offer assistance of some kind especially for the starting on the  July dates.  So if you can volunteer some help in some way please contact:  Frank Diekmann, Chair via e-mail at, of at 82 Newfane St., Bedford, NH., 03110, Phone 603-472-4988. Semper Fi.