Photos of Vietnam Heroes Needed for Inclusion in The Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC - The people of the state of Iowa suffered greatly in the Vietnam War, sacrificing 853 service-men and women in combat. The Vietnam Memorial Fund's (VVMF) mission to honor these heroes continues with the National Call for Photos, a movement to collect photos of the more than 58,000 service-members inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, DC. When collected, all photos will be displayed for generations to come at The Education Center at The Wall, a place on our National Mall where our military heroes' stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

With the support of schools, volunteers, friends, and family from around the country, VVMF has collected more than 25,000 pictures to date, but only 283 from the state of Iowa.

The task is far from complete. Generous support from volunteers, fellow service-members, family, and friends is still needed in order to gather the remaining 570 photos necessary to honor our heroes from Iowa for display at The Education Center.

With a groundbreaking planned for November 2012, The Education Center at The Wall is a multi-million dollar, state-of- the-art visitor's center and learning facility to be built on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans and the Lincoln Memorials. Visitors will better understand the profound impact the Vietnam War had their friends and family members, their home towns, and the Nation. The Education Center will feature the faces and stories of the 58,272 men and women on "The Wall," honoring those who fell in Vietnam, those who fought and returned, as well as the friends and families of all who served. For more information, visit

"Iowa suffered greatly in the Vietnam War," said Jan C. Scruggs, Founder and President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF).  "The Education Center at The Wall will allow Americans to put faces with the names of brave men and women who lost their lives, fostering their appreciation and respect for generations to come."

VVMF urges the citizens of Iowa to assist the National Call for Photos by submitting photographs of fallen service-members and generously supporting the Education Center, ensuring that the sacrifices of our military heroes are never forgotten.

About the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund ( is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War.

Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building the Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that will help visitors discover the stories of those named on The Wall and celebrate the values embodied by all service members who served in all of America's wars.

Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, as well as a traveling Wall replica that honors our nation's veterans.

Support the Education Center at The Wall by visiting, calling 866-990-WALL, or by texting "WALL" to 2022.

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. (02/01/2012)(readMedia)-- The 126th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) at Scott Air Force Base was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from Aug. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2011.

During this period, the 126 SFS provided global coverage to continue the war fighting effort. Through numerous deployments and home-station efforts, the squadron embodied the Total Force concept.

"Our Security Forces Squadron continues to perform in an outstanding fashion," said Col. Rick Nyalka, of Marine, 126th Mission Support Group Commander. "Whether it is at Scott Air Force Base or while deployed, they always perform at the highest levels. I am very proud of our Security Forces members. They have demonstrated that they are truly deserving of this prestigious award!"

Members also served as true citizen-Airmen by volunteering countless hours in both local and deployed communities. In addition, squadron members were recognized with awards for home-station and deployment excellence.

"I could not be more proud of the men and women of the 126th Security Forces Squadron," said Lt. Col. John Bryk, of Mokena, 126th Security Forces Squadron Commander. "This is the finest group of non-commissioned officers and Airmen that I have had the opportunity to serve with during my 28-year career in the Air National Guard. The dedication and commitment they display on a daily basis is amazing."

In addition to deployments and community support, the squadron was recognized during each of its most recent compliance and readiness inspections. The squadron received an excellent rating with zero findings during the Aug. 2009 Air Mobility Command Unit Compliance Inspection. Additionally, the squadron was most recently rated outstanding for providing flawless security during a June 2011 Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection.

The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award was authorized by Department of the Air Force General Order 1, Jan. 6, 1954. It is awarded by the Secretary of the Air Force to units which are distinguished by exceptionally meritorious service or outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units.

The services include : performance of exceptionally meritorious service, accomplishment of a specific outstanding achievement of national or international significance, combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or military operations involving conflict with or exposure to hostile actions by an opposing foreign force.

Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 

Washington, DC - On Thursday February 2nd, 2012, at the request of Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01), two Iowans testified before the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity about lowering the rate of unemployment for the National Guard.  Braley is the highest-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

Iowa National Guard Adjunct General Timothy Orr tesitified alongside Dick Rue, the state chair of the Iowa Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), about their experience helping veterans return to work when they come home from a deployment.

Last October, Braley brought the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to Waterloo for a field hearing on veterans job creation.

Feb. 4 Ceremony Planned at Camp Lincoln in Springfield for Unit Recently Returned from Afghanistan

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/01/2012)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Feb. 4 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony will be at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield at 10 a.m.

Soldiers of BEST (Bilateral Embedded Staff Team) A7 returned in October after being mobilized in January 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They joined the Polish Land Forces before arriving in Afghanistan and worked as a joint unit during the course of the mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

The team provided operational, intelligence, logistical, communications, engineering and planning support to the ninth rotation of Polish Forces to Afghanistan. The task force it supported was composed of almost 4,000 Polish and U.S. forces assisting more than 9,000 Afghan security forces in one of the largest provinces in eastern Afghanistan.

The team completed several ongoing construction projects designed to improve the safety and expand the reach of all security forces in the Ghazni Province.

The Soldiers also established development and transition programs for several of the less violent districts.

Most of the team participated in convoy and combat operations supporting Polish and Afghan Forces.

The Freedom Salute Campaign program is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American Flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice. The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are required to notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m. Feb. 3 or they will not be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.

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Nation's Premier Combatives Training Prepares Soldiers for the Unexpected in Combat

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/26/2012)(readMedia)-- A group of spectators gathered staring intently, clenching their teeth, pumping their fists in the air, and yelling as they encircle two warriors standing toe to toe; knowing that it will soon be their turn to step inside the circle. Those gathered were cheering for their fellow Soldier to take down his/her attacker by successfully completing a clench and ending the barrage of punches.

A total of 22 Soldiers from Iowa and Illinois National Guard units came to the Illinois Military Academy (IMA) at Camp Lincoln in Springfield Jan. 23 to 27 to receive instruction in one of the premier combatives locations in the country. The goal is to become level one certified within the Modern Army Combatives Program.

"We were the first National Guard site to hold a level-three combatives program class outside of United States Army Combatives School (USACS) at Fort Benning, Ga.," said Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Luca of Carrollton with 935th Aviation Support Battalion in Chicago, working for the Modern Army Combatives Program. "No other National Guard unit has ever done that. I know not too many Regional Training Institutes have a combatives program."

The Illinois Army National Guard Modern Army Combatives Program is conducted at the IMA and can provide housing, food, and combatives training at one site. In addition to the first-class facilities, the instructors, which include Staff Sgt. Steven Owen of Moline, Staff Sgt. Nick Grant of Caseyville, Sgt. First Class Robert Fehrholz of Springfield, Staff Sgt. Jae Russell of Springfield, Staff Sgt. Josh Lipa of Mount Zion, Sgt. Bernard Dickneite of Mount Vernon and Luca. Many of these Soldiers are award winning and have won several combatives tournaments themselves.

The Modern Army Combatives Program is in response to the ever-changing environment that Soldiers have found themselves in while in combat.

"We have found through reports that Soldiers go into a room and if their weapon misfires they don't know what to do," said Luca. "Or sometimes they are doing detainee operations and the detainee tries to go after them and they are not real sure what to do."

Life on the battlefield changes, which means techniques used by our military must adapt.

"The old hand-to-hand that we used to learn is not conducive to what is going on in the battlefield," said Fehrholz, a recruiter in the Recruiting and Retention Command and combatives instructor. "We are trying to teach them how to keep someone controlled, detain them, and get a dominant body position on them so they can hold them until backup shows up."

This has become such an important initiative that the Army has made learning it mandatory.

"The Army demands that there will be a level-one certified Soldier in each platoon, one level- two certified Soldier in each company, one level-three certified s Soldier in each battalion, and one level-four certified Soldier in each brigade," said Luca. "It's a pyramid training structure that guarantees that Soldiers are getting trained on combatives."

With that structure in place the Army can validate that collective learning is taking place. This training ensures that each Soldier can handle themselves in the midst of combat; ultimately instilling confidence.

"One of the things this combatives program does is instill confidence in Soldier; especially those who have never been punched or done ground grappling," said Luca. "They have a sense of confidence when they come into those situations. They know that, in the instance where this might happen, they have these skills to rely on and are not just fighting blind."

"It did give me confidence," said Spc. Katie A. Kastel of Bourbonnais with Company E, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Joliet. "I had all these big instructors telling me even though I was little that I did a really good job. It makes me want to go back to my unit and teach others what I learned. I encourage other smaller people out there not to be afraid. I think it's something every Soldier needs to know."

Story by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Waterloo, IA - Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after learning of the death of US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Travis Riddick of Centreville, Iowa, in Afghanistan:

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Riddick family.  I am grateful for Master Sgt. Riddick's service and commitment to our country.  He made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the country he loved.  I urge Iowans to keep the Riddick family in their thoughts during this difficult time."


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PEORIA, IL (01/23/2012)(readMedia)-- Members of the Illinois Air National Guard's 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria are scheduled to return home Monday after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom since early November 2011. Approximately 90 members of the 182nd Airlift Wing were activated in early November and deployed with three C-130 aircraft to Afghanistan. Around 20 of the members will be returning Monday evening to the Airlift Wing. Most of the returning members are aircrew who have been flying C-130 missions within the Afghanistan Theater of Operations. Approximately 70 members and three C-130's still remain deployed and are scheduled to return in the spring.

The 182nd Airlift Wing flies the C-130 aircraft which is primarily used to transport cargo, personnel and aeromedical evacuees. Since Sept. 11, 2001 the 182nd Airlift Wing has deployed more than 1,500 members to support operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Many of the wing's members have deployed numerous times. The wing has flown more than 12,500 hours in direct support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and tactical air controllers have controlled over 15,000 close air support sorties, many in support of "Troops in Contact." Additionally, the wing houses various mission support units that have provided base operating support, supply chain logistics, combat air support control and combat communications while deployed. This deployment cycle is one of many in the wing's history of supporting Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

The members are expected to return at between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., Monday, January 23, to the 182nd Airlift Wing located in Peoria.

Jan. 20 - 29: 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan to Deliver Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation Message National Vice
Commander Milton G. Heifner to join in visits to VA hospitals in Illinois

For Immediate Release BLOOMINGTON, Ill./EWORLDWIRE/Jan. 18, 2012 --- Among the issues to be spotlighted during the 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan through the state are veterans' healthcare and Medicare reimbursement, maintenance and operations of Arlington National Cemetery, and the women veterans' program.  This year's forum continues the theme of "Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation" and will focus on delivering key updates to military service personnel about issues that directly impact them, and to attract new members to the Legion's active base. In recent weeks, the American Legion Department of Illinois was joined by the Illinois State Senate with its endorsement of an initiative to create a centralized communications channel centered on veterans - Veterans Special Programs American National Network , also known as V-SPANN.  Community outreach efforts kick off Friday, Jan. 20, 2011, in Viola and will proceed through the state during a week-long state tour.

Statewide visits to V.A. clinics will feature National Vice Commander Milton G. Heifner, along with state and local leaders. Heifner was elected during the closing session of the 93nd National Convention in Milwaukee in September 2011; he has held many leadership positions at the post, department and national levels. A U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War era, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1992. Previous positions he has held include branch manager of Brenton State Bank in Woodward and agent for Erickson Insurance in Granger, Iowa.  A complete and comprehensive schedule is available at (  

Friday (Jan. 20)  Milan (309-787-4149)  Rock Falls (815-626-3862) North Chicago (847-336-4767)

Saturday (Jan. 21) Wooddale (630-238-1205)  DeKalb (815-756-4551)  Dwight (815-674-3107)

Sunday (Jan. 22)  Chicago (773-330-5219) FDR Post 923 (773-278-0093) Giles Post 87 (773-363-2920) Calumet City 330 (708-862-8665)

Jan. 23-26: State Veterans Homes Visits  Thursday (Jan. 26)  Fairfield (618-847-5161) Friday (Jan. 27)  Benton (618-438-0861) Newton (618-783-2622) Litchfield (217-324-6213) Saturday (Jan. 28)  Alton (618-462-2644)  Bluffs (217-584-1770)  Cuba (309-785-5456)  Sunday (Jan. 29)  Delevan (309-244-7591)  Farmer City (309-928-3055)  Hoopston (217-283-6312)  

Since its founding in 1919 and subsequent Congressional Charter, The American Legion organization has operated unlike any other, exerting a  compelling influence on national leaders on issues of global significance. Legion operations enhance the lives of military families struggling through wartime and economic sacrifices. Members serve the community by building homes for disabled veterans, raising money for scholarships, coaching baseball teams, adopting military units, fighting to protect and enhance veterans' benefits, promoting wholesome youth activities and much more.

National Vice Commander Heifner stated, "This is an unprecedented time in our nation's history, with so many in need - our veterans especially need our help, and we have a moral obligation to support them. I invite everyone to join us in our annual family membership caravan at a post near you."  

To learn more about how to get involved and support the activities of the American Legion, visit ( or (

Belleville Workshop Gets Public Involved in Helping Servicemembers After They Return from Deployment; Story by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BELLEVILLE, IL (01/17/2012)(readMedia)-- Military counselors, Illinois National Guard members and counseling professionals from across central Illinois met at Lindenwood University in Belleville for the pilot program to help servicemembers following deployment. The Illinois National Guard partnered with the East St. Louis Vet Center and St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center for the program.

The Jan. 13 workshop was designed by the National Guard's Service Member and Family Support Services to educate civilian counselors on the realities of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt affecting military members and their families.

The new workshop is part of Lindenwood University's Professional and School Counseling Continuing Education Program. Ken Kubicek, division chair of the Education and Counseling Division at Lindenwood and a Vietnam veteran, said professional counselors in Illinois must have continuous education to keep their licenses, and many have begun looking for military-specific education to meet the needs of returning veterans and their families.

"It was hard to believe that this presentation was a pilot program," said Kubicek. "It was very well-prepared and polished."

More than 1.9 million servicemembers have been deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom and an estimated 30 percent have or will have psychological injuries.

Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said the Department of Veterans Affairs needs assistance and educating civilian counselors and local communities will ensure help is rapidly available to servicemembers and their families.

"Many people ask me, 'What can I do to help?'" said Enyart. "And the fact that 40 professionals came [to the workshop] despite weather shows that this country values their veterans."

Eric Murray, chief of Service Member and Family Support Services for the Illinois National Guard, organized the workshop. He said he feels good about the pilot program and will follow up with the attendees to see how they are applying the workshop's material professionally and improve the program.

"The community reaching out to us to host shows how eager people are to help and support service members." said Murray. "They understand that being home from theater does not mean troops are done needing help."

During her lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt, Illinois National Guard Director of Psychological Health, Juliann Steinbeigle, described military mental health issues as injuries, not illnesses. Guy Spooner, registered nurse and case manager at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said working with veterans can be challenging because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, which the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to erase.

"[Mental health professionals] need to look [veterans] in the eye and tell them, 'You're normal. You're having a normal response to an abnormal problem.'" said Spooner.

The Coast Guard was cited by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as a government-wide leader in diversity and inclusion best practices during 2011. That designation was earned through the hard work of the men and women in the Coast Guard's Office of Diversity.

"I'm very proud of the work we've done," said diversity outreach manager Donna Walker-Ross, a Coast Guard civilian employee. "One of our best practices is the Diversity Outreach Board.  We used the board as a team to evaluate programs and events and to align initiatives while promoting the commandant's diversity strategy.  Then, we developed and carried out a national strategy that has increased the Coast Guard's presence in communities and organizations."

The Office of Diversity developed the Coast Guard's Diversity Strategic Plan with five goals: To assure a diverse workforce through all-hands commitment with leadership accountability; fully utilize communication and focus groups to improve the workforce cultural climate; expand outreach to achieve access opportunity for underrepresented populations; ensure equitable hiring and career opportunity for all employees; and optimize training and education to enhance diversity management and leadership skill sets. Achievement of these goals is what has led to the success of the program.

The commitment with leadership accountability resulted in 42 flag officers and senior executive service members participating in national outreach events as attendees or speakers. That effort is in line with Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp's guiding principle of "Respect our shipmates," which holds leaders at all levels accountable to keeping a workplace climate of equity. That principle also fosters an environment where every individual has the opportunity to prosper and advance their careers.

The Office of Diversity staff also took an active role to improve the workforce cultural climate.  Among their efforts was participation in 165 national outreach events in 2011 to communicate the commandant's diversity message to all levels in the Coast Guard; establishment of a Coast Guard-wide Asian-American mentoring network; and expansion of the use of audience response technology throughout the Coast Guard to enhance the effectiveness of its diversity training.

Expanding outreach to underrepresented populations increased significantly in 2011.  For example, the Coast Guard had worked for several years building relationships with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the Society of American Indian Government Employees to reach out to tribal colleges and universities. This year, those efforts culminated with the Coast Guard  being listed as one of the top achievers among the Department of Homeland Security component agencies in support of Native American initiatives in the Annual Performance Report on Executive Agency Actions to Assist Tribal Colleges and Universities.

An effective management tool for the Coast Guard's Office of Diversity is the Executive Outreach Management System, a database that collects and organizes information about outreach efforts. This database allows easy access to information on what outreach has been conducted, what is scheduled and what comments were received at events.  Review of the data prevents duplicative efforts and provides background information for new board members to study. It can produce several different reports on events, outreach personnel and results of event participation, allowing the Diversity Office personnel to more efficiently manage the time and effort put into their programs.  It also helps compile the best practices inclusion reports, which describe what a federal agency did each year for diversity improvement.

The Coast Guard worked to provide professional development tools and mentoring as a means to retain a highly-skilled and diverse workforce and to ensure equitable hiring and career opportunities for all employees. Adapting to the digital information environment and the technology used by "digital natives," the Coast Guard Academy established an online mentoring forum for cadets where they interact with senior, active-duty members. Initiatives for civilian employees include a modular, Web-based mentoring program in the Learning Management System.  An afloat working group was established for sea-going service members to identify and address diversity issues specific to the afloat community.

Every new Coast Guard employee received the Coast Guard's updated diversity and inclusion briefing at the new employee and leadership development program orientations to underscore the value of workforce diversity and the benefits of inclusion, equity and respect for all personnel, their talents, experiences and abilities.  The Coast Guard also successfully conducted diversity and inclusion training at six major leadership forums.  This training, which underscores the value of workforce diversity, provided senior leadership with the tools necessary to carry out the Commandant's Diversity Strategic Plan.

The Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Defense and other service branches partner with affinity groups and organizations annually to host national civil rights award ceremonies recognizing active-duty and civilian personnel for their accomplishments in civil/human rights, race relations, equal opportunity and affirmative action.

This year's Coast Guard award recipients were nominated for their work in assisting the Coast Guard workforce, community involvement, contributions to public service, overcoming discrimination, supporting civil rights for all Americans and promoting a positive understanding of the armed forces among all members of the U.S. military and civilian population.

The awards are listed in the order of their presentation throughout 2011:

  • National Image, Inc., Meritorious Service Award:  Lt. Yamaris Barril, 9th Coast Guard District, Cleveland, Ohio, and Jose Velazques of the Coast Guard Personnel Service Command, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
  • Federal Asian Pacific American Council Meritorious Service Award:  Lt. Charlene Forgue, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., and Lt. Andrew Taylor, 17th Coast Guard District, Juneau, Alaska.
  • Society of American Indian Government Employees Meritorious Service Award:  Petty Officer 2nd Class Franklin Pine, Marine Safety Laboratory, New London, Conn.
  • Civil Rights Service Provider of the Year Award:  Lt. Gregory Spruill of Pacific Area Command, Alameda, Calif.
  • Federally Employed Women Military Meritorious Award:  Chief Warrant Officer Eneida Bull, Sector Miami, Fla.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award: 
    Lt. Deon Scott of Sector San Francisco, Calif.
  • Blacks In Government Meritorious Service Award:  Curtis Odom, Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and Lt. j.g. Michael Johnson of Air Station Savannah, Ga.
  • National Organization for Mexican American Rights Meritorious Service Award:  Gloria Potocek, Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and Chief Petty Officer Carlos Gonzalez of Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.
  • Latina Symposium Distinguished Service Award: Lt. Cmdr. Angelina Hidalgo of Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif., and Nadine Santiago of Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C.