May 24, 2011 -- Operation Gratitude today announced that in commemoration of the anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's passing, Michael Reagan, members of his family and representatives of the Reagan Legacy Foundation will join hundreds of volunteers at the California Army National Guard armory on Sunday, June 5, to assemble care packages for the 5,000 crew members deployed aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, named in honor of the 40th President of the United States. Care packages will also be assembled and shipped to the crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Preble and guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, both currently serving in the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

"During this patriotic time of year -- between Memorial Day and the 4th of July -- we are honored to support the brave men and women of the U.S. Military serving on the namesake ship of a legendary leader, President Ronald Reagan," said Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude. "All of us at Operation Gratitude are inspired by the service of these great Americans and hope our care packages will in some small way express to the Sailors and Marines our feelings of enormous respect and appreciation." 

The USS Ronald Reagan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin B. Gray.)

Christened on March 4, 2001, by former First Lady Nancy Reagan, USS Ronald Reagan deployed from its homeport of San Diego in February. In March, USS Ronald Reagan and others in its Strike Group were the first to arrive and provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the Japanese people affected by the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

"My family and I can think of no better way to honor the memory of my father than to be with prideful Americans who are volunteering their time to send a special gift of thanks from home to our deployed heroes," said Michael Reagan. Michael and his wife Colleen are regular visitors on board USS Ronald Reagan.

During the formal Program scheduled for 11:30am, Victory Motorcycles' External Relations Manager, Robert Pandya, will present the Motorcycle gifted in Operation Gratitude's 600,000th care package. That milestone package was delivered on Christmas day by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, to an infantryman of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment who at the time was serving a seven-month deployment in the deadly Sangin district of Aghanistan's Helmand province. The 3/5, also known as the "Dark Horse Battalion," experienced heavy combat throughout the deployment, with 25 of its men killed and more than 150 wounded. The 600,000th package recipient, along with his 3/5 comrades, returned to Camp Pendleton in April. The Marine, who received the package containing symbolic keys to the bike, will join the Operation Gratitude volunteers and guests at the armory on Sunday June 5 to receive the Victory Vegas 8-Ball Motorcycle, generously donated by Victory Motorcycles.

The media and members of the public (aged 12 years and older) are invited to attend the day's activities.

WHAT: Operation Gratitude Volunteers assemble Care Packages for the Crew of USS Ronald Reagan, USS Preble and USS Chancellorsville; Presentation of Victory Motorcycle to Marine Corporal

WHEN: Sunday June 5, 2011
           Care Package Assembly starts at 9 a.m.
           Program and Presentation will occur: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: California National Guard Armory
             17330 Victory Boulevard
             Van Nuys, CA 91406
             Corner of Victory and Louise; parking available on adjacent lot

May 24, 2011 -- Operation Gratitude today announced that on Sunday, June 5 a Marine infantryman recently returned from Afghanistan will be given the Victory Vegas 8-Ball Motorcycle promised in the organization's milestone 600,000th Care Package assembled in December, 2010.

 

The milestone package was delivered on Christmas day by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, to a Lance Corporal with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, who at the time was serving a seven-month deployment in the deadly Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province.  The name of the Marine who received the 600,000th care package will be revealed at the event on June 5.

Marine1

L-R: Sgt.Maj. Kent, Lt.Col. Morris, LCpl., Gen. Amos in Sangin, AFG; 12/25/10

 

The 3/5, also known as "Dark Horse Battalion," experienced heavy combat throughout the deployment, with 25 of its men killed and more than 150 wounded. The 600,000th package recipient, along with his 3/5 comrades, returned to Camp Pendleton in April. The Marine, who received the package containing symbolic keys attached to a letter describing the bike, was recently promoted to Corporal and will join the Operation Gratitude volunteers and guests at the armory to receive the motorcycle generously donated by Victory Motorcycles.

 

Victory Motorcycles' External Relations Manager, Robert Pandya, will make the presentation. Pandya believes the motorcycle is a symbol of thanks to the men and women who serve in all branches of the Military.

 

"Victory Motorcycles is proud to be part of the 600,000th Operation Gratitude package," said Pandya, adding, "While our motorcycle represents the chance to explore the freedoms of the open road,

it is the hard work and sacrifices of our troops around the world and at home that give everyone in America that opportunity."

 

Among the guests at the California Army National Guard armory on June 5, the anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's passing, will be Michael Reagan, members of his family and representatives of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. They will join hundreds of volunteers at the armory to assemble care packages for the 5,000 crew members deployed aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, named in honor of the 40th President of the United States. Care packages will also be assembled and shipped to the crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Preble and guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, both currently serving in the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

 

The media and members of the public (aged 12 years and older) are invited to attend the day's activities.


WHAT:
Marine Corporal receives Victory Vegas 8-Ball Motorcycle and Operation Gratitude Volunteers assemble Care Packages for the Crew of USS Ronald Reagan, USS Preble and the USS Chancellorsville

WHEN: Sunday June 5, 2011
Care Package Assembly starts at 9 a.m.
Program and Motorcycle Presentation will occur: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

 

WHERE: California National Guard Armory
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Corner of Victory and Louise; parking available on adjacent lot

Washington, DC - Today, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Congressman Bruce Braley's bill, the Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act, as part of a larger legislative package. This bipartisan bill willextend a grant program to help injured and disabled veterans retrofit theirhomes after they return from combat. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

"Today is a very important day for many young men and women who return from combat with severe life-altering injuries and find that the fight is far from over," said Rep. Braley. "Veterans like Andrew Connolly return to a completely new life - with new, special needs. I'm very proud that today the House unanimously voted to ensure that these brave veterans have the support they need to adjust to their new lives, reach their full potential, and feel comfortable in their homes."

 

The Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act is named after Andrew Connolly of Dubuque - a constituent of Rep. Braley's who returned from Iraq with a tumor in his spine and is now restricted to a wheelchair. With Rep. Braley's help, Connolly was able to get a grant that allowed him to move into a wheelchair-accessible home.

Earlier this month, Connolly testified on veterans' housing grant programs in front of Rep. Braley's Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

A video of Connolly's testimony is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3haDUPFAPvo

A video of Rep. Braley's commentary is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYKuJ-BRqdE

Both files are available to be downloaded here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21501138/Braley-Connolly-Video.zip

High-resolution photos from Connolly's testimony are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/repbraley/5684184385/in/set-72157626640156192/

# # #

Nearly 440 Illinois National Guard Soldiers Return from a Yearlong Deployment; Story by Spc. Chasity Johnson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office

MILAN, IL (05/15/2011)(readMedia)-- The Illinois Army National Guard held ceremonies May 14 in Milan, Galesburg and Macomb, to welcome home approximately 440 Soldiers who spent a year serving in Sinai, Egypt.

The sky was overcast, rain was drizzling and the temperature was approximately 50 degrees, but that didn't discourage family, friends and supporters of the servicemembers from attending the outdoor event in Milan.

"I'm so excited to see my son that I can hardly stand it," said Debbie England of Milan, mother of 1st Lt. Drew England of Milan, with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan.

"We are so proud of him and what he does," said England, as she stood smiling in the rain surrounded by members of her family who were holding colorful signs in honor of their Soldier's arrival home. "We're excited to welcome him back."

The Soldiers mobilized in May 2010 as a part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), the international peacekeeping force oversees the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

"My Soldiers were observing, reporting and verifying the compliance of the treaty," said Lt. Col. Maurice Rochelle of Flossmoor, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery commander.

A sergeant in the 123rd said he enjoyed the opportunity to serve overseas with Soldiers he enlisted during his time as a recruiter, but he he wasn't prepared for the emotional toll the separation from his family would have on him.

"It was really hard being away from my family," said Master Sgt. Brian Habel of Milan, with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan. "I never knew how hard it was on other people who have deployed until I did it myself. Being greeted by my family at this ceremony is all I could have asked for."

Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti of Springfield, the Assistant Adjutant General-Army, Illinois National Guard, was in attendance at the ceremony in Milan to greet Soldiers and their families.

"Every time I participate in a welcome home ceremony it makes me proud to see all of the families come together," said Celletti. "It didn't matter that it was a rainy, cloudy day. The families were overjoyed as they greeted their families."

Washington, DC - May 13, 2011 - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) introduced a bill to help veterans who return from combat and are facing foreclosure stay in their homes. The Protecting Veterans' Homes Act would protect veterans from being foreclosed upon by banks and would give returning soldiers time to get their finances in order after long deployments.

"Our veterans often return from combat only to face new challenges," said Rep. Braley. "Whether it's an injury or a financial crisis caused by long deployments and time off from their civilian jobs, our veterans deserve to know that we're standing up for them. This bill will give our soldiers enough time to get back on their feet and get their finances in order before being kicked out of their homes. This is the least we can do for the brave men and women who serve this country."

Currently, similar protections for veterans are set to expire in December of 2012. Rep. Braley's bill would make these protections permanent and would extend the grace period from nine months to a full year for veterans returning from deployments.

###

Homecoming Ceremony Set for May 14 for Units in Milan, Galesburg and Macomb

MILAN , IL (05/11/2011)(readMedia)-- Approximately 440 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers who served in Sinai, Egypt assisting with the 1979 Egypt and Israel peace treaty agreement, will return to Illinois this weekend. A homecoming ceremony for units with 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment in Milan will take place at 10:00 a.m. May 14 at armories in Milan, Galesburg and Macomb.

The Soldiers mobilized in May 2010 as part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). The international peacekeeping force oversees the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. For three decades the MFO has carried out its mission and has proven successful. The desire of peace on the part of both Israel and Egypt, combined with the effectiveness of the MFO, has resulted in a durable and lasting state of peace between the two nations.

"Our Soldiers did an outstanding job accomplishing their mission," said Lt. Col. Maurice Rochelle of Flossmoor, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery commander. "There were no major accidents, incidents or casualties during our deployment and we succeeded in every facet of our mission. I am proud of the work these Soldiers have done representing Illinois and their families should be proud of them as well."

The Milan-based 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment includes the Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan; Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan; Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Milan; Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Macomb and Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Galesburg.

This is the first time the battalion has deployed as a single unit. While the mobilization included units from northwest Illinois, Soldiers are from all areas of Illinois.

WASHINGTON, DC- Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation today that would authorize the establishment of a memorial in Washington, DC, to recognize African American patriots who fought for the United States during the Revolutionary War.

According to the Daughters of the American Revolution, over 5,000 African Americans, including over 800 from Connecticut, served as soldiers or sailors for the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.

This bill was inspired by the work of Maurice Barboza, a Connecticut native who, after discovering that a distant relative of his had fought for the American forces, has passionately fought for these patriots to receive the recognition they deserve.  Barboza has also founded the National Mall Liberty Fund, DC, a private nonprofit organization that will be entirely responsible for raising the funds needed to construct the memorial in Washington.

The legislation was previously introduced in the 111th Congress by former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), along with Senator Grassley.

Grassley co-sponsored similar legislation more than two decades ago.  During the 1980s, a group of young Iowans helped organize an initial push for such a memorial.  An African American Revolutionary War patriot named Cato Mead who originally was from Connecticut spent his final years in Southeast Iowa, and there is a monument dedicated to Mead in the Montrose Cemetery in Lee County, Iowa.

"The important role that many African Americans played during the Revolutionary War is too often overlooked," Lieberman said.  "This memorial will honor these patriots' sacrifice and ensure that this important part of our nation's history is not forgotten."

"The nation's capital is an appropriate place to honor the part that African Americans played in the American revolution," Grassley said.  "A memorial will broaden Americans' understand of the diversity of the patriots who helped to secure America's independence," Grassley said.

###

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a requester of a Government Accountability Office report released today that found that the Department of Veterans Affairs has inadequate procedures to protect the safety of veterans who receive care using medical equipment and supplies at Veterans Affairs' hospitals.  Grassley made the following comment on the report, which is available here.

"We were all reminded over the weekend how military men and women risk their lives to protect our safety and freedom.  The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to step up training and institute new procedures to make sure medical equipment is sanitized and used the way it's supposed to be.  The agency has a double duty to take care of veterans' health care and make sure medical practices aren't putting veterans' lives at risk."

Washington, DC - (May 2, 2011) Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to review current Department of Defense policies that deal with sexual assault and domestic violence and use his authority to implement provisions of Braley's recently introduced Holley Lynn James Act.

"Military studies and news reports suggest that therate of sexual assault in the military is unconscionably high, and that as many as one in three military women experience sexual assault during their career in the service. That's unacceptable," said Rep. Braley. "I want to make sure the President recognizes the need to address this crisis, to ensure that charges of sexual assault and domestic violence are treated seriously, and that the rights of victims are protected."

Last month, Rep. Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act to improve the oversight of sexual assault and domestic violence policy in the military. The bipartisan bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Rep. Braley who was killed by her husband while both were in the service. James had filed complaints against her husband, who was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night he murdered her.

Reports from the Government Accountability Office suggest that the Department of Defense still has difficulty in tracking and reporting domestic violence cases and has inconsistent practices in addressing these cases.

Rep. Braley also recently introduced the bi-partisan Support for Survivors Act that would require the military to preserve records connected with cases of sexual trauma and assault.

A copy of Rep. Braley's letter is available here: http://braley.house.gov/images/stories/PDF/Braley.Obama.Letter.05022011.pdf

###

Introduces Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act

Washington, DC - (May 2, 2011) Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) introduced abill to help injured and disabled veterans retrofit their homes after they return from combat. The Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act is named after Andrew Connolly of Dubuque - a constituent of Rep. Braley's who returned from Iraq with a tumor in his spine and is now restricted to a wheelchair. With Rep. Braley's help, Connolly was able to get a grant to move into a home that allowed him to get around in a wheelchair.

"Our soldiers deserve our support on and off the battlefield," said Rep. Braley. "For many young men and women who return from combat with severe life-altering injuries, the fight is far from over. Veterans like Andrew return to a completely new life - with new, special needs. We must ensure that they have the support they need to adjust to their new lives and feel comfortable in their homes."

Many veterans face severe injuries and have special needs after they return fromcombat. Rep. Braley's bill extends a crucial program that helps veterans adapt and modify the homes where they reside to meet these special needs.

Tomorrow, Connolly will testify on veterans' housing grant programs in front of Rep. Braley's Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

# # #

Pages