The Continuing Story

•October 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

The VA jumped in to try to right the problems faced by thousands of veterans who switched over to the “Post-911 GI Bill” who then experienced delays in getting their money. This is now called the VA GI Bill Emergency Payment process, and it pays out a $3000 advance to anyone enrolled in college with post-911 active duty service. Unfortunately, it sounds like it can be hard to get banks to take the emergency checks.

Rock, meet hard place.

I’m so glad I didn’t switch over this year.

In the time I save not having to worry about my GI Bill coming through, I read. I’ve got Children of Dust coming in the mail. Children is Ali Eteraz’s autobiography, tracing his journey from Pakistan to America and back again. I’m looking forward to it- I got to meet Ali at the Blogworld Expo back in 2007, and I followed his blog at http://alieteraz.com/ until he shut it down. (There’s still a collection of links to his articles there, though.) He’s a sharp guy, and I’m looking forward to reading his book.

George Nickel is still in jail. The Idaho Veteran’s Network benefit is on the calender for 5pm on Saturday, Oct. 17th. If you’re in the Boise area, swing by the Eastside Tavern at 610 E. Boise Av. for food and drink specials and a raffle with some sweet donated prizes. Monies raised will be put towards George’s defense, as well as TBI awareness in Idaho.

Et tu, VA?

•September 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

The Washington Times reports that thousands of veterans have been approved for GI Bill funds but have not received their money:

The Veterans Affairs Department blamed a backlog of claims filed for GI Bill education benefits that has left veterans who counted on the money for tuition and books scrambling to make ends meet.
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Out of more than 277,000 veterans who have filed for the college tuition benefits this semester, more than 200,000 claims have been processed and approved, but fewer than 11 percent of the veterans have received the funding, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

My benefits are fine. Of course, I filed well in advance of the beginning of the semester, and I chose to stick with my old Chapter 1607 for another year rather than switching to the new Post-911 GI Bill that was supposed to be so great but wasn’t really all that great. I’m betting that’s where the problem happened: there was a new GI Bill chapter on the books, and they weren’t prepared to help the vets who wanted it. I’m even more glad I didn’t switch over this year.

Roundup

•September 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Department of Defense may soon be releasing a comprehensive policy for social media. This would most likely include blogging, as well as Facebook and other social networking sites.

ROBERTS: And what is the current Pentagon policy on social media?

Mr. FLOYD: It currently doesn’t exist. Right now, there is no policy on working with or in social networking sites or media. It’s currently under review. It’s on course to be finished within about two weeks, or at the end of the month, it’s supposed to be done, presented to the leadership and a decision made. And that decision is supposed to be pushed out to all the combatant commands and all the people in the Defense Department soon after.

The entire segment is interesting. I’d never even heard of this, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit:

Mr. SHACHTMAN: …and to other things. But the funny thing about the military policy is that it’s really contradictory. And that’s why the review, like the one Price has been talking about, is so important. For example, not only was – were many bases blocking YouTube because it took up too much bandwidth, they’re also blocking the Defense Department’s own answer to YouTube, which is a low bandwidth, totally secure, safe, no-bad-stuff version called TroopTube. They were blocking both YouTube and this military alternative. So, it just goes to show that, you know, when the military’s blocking its own video-sharing site, we need a cleaner policy.

I’m hopeful that the policy, once it is established, will allow Acute Politics to continue posting the next time I find myself in a combat zone. That likely won’t be for some time yet, but I’m still a part of the military, and there are still two wars being fought.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot. I recently received copy of Racing Toward Armageddon, by Michael Baigent. I found most of the book familiar (it’s often a rehash of previous dire warnings about apocalyptic cults). I grew up in a religious home; I’ve always disliked religious fundamentalism, and this book re-enforced that. Still, there’s not a lot new here.
I also flipped through The Audacity of Help: Obama’s Economic Plan and the Remaking of America, by John Wasik. Despite the title, the author remains fairly apolitical, which I like. Wasik examines the campaign promises of the President, the proposed legislation, and the bills that Congress actually passed. He then explores who benefits and who loses in each piece of legislation. It’s not for everyone, but the author seems to have actually read through the legislation. Maybe we should send him to Congress.

Staff Sergeant George Nickel is still sitting in jail. For those of you who asked about his dog, Spike is safe in the care of family friends. George will appear in court today for a second hearing- I won’t be able to go, but I’ll post an update afterwards.

The Idaho Veterans Network has been great throughout all of this. They have continued to raise money for a legal defense fund, and they will soon be putting on a charity auction for that fund. I know that there have been some guns donated for the auction by fellow veterans, and it sounds like there may be some other large ticket items as well. When I find out a firm date for the auction, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, if you would like to send George a letter of support, shoot an email to me at acutepolitics at gmail dot com and I’ll bundle them for forwarding on to him.

Badger Update

•August 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last week you read about SSG George Nickel. You know who he is and what he’s been through. Many of you emailed and commented, asking what you could do to help.

The people from the Idaho Veterans Network have established the George Nickel Fund. This fund will go to pay the legal fees and costs that Staff Sergeant Nickel will incur.

You can make your donation at any Wells Fargo Bank or you can send it to the branch where the fund was established.

George G. Nickel Fund
Idaho Veterans Network Corporation
c/o Wells Fargo Bank
Idaho Center Branch
5607 E. Franklin Road
Nampa, Idaho 83687

Badger’s Forward is Back!

•August 2, 2009 • 3 Comments

Long-time readers here remember Badger 6, my Company Commander while I was in Iraq. He extended for 6 months in Iraq after I left, and quit blogging on his return. Well, he’s got more to offer us, and you can visit him at the updated address:

badgersix-lwh.blogspot.com

Shadows of the War

•July 31, 2009 • 29 Comments

I was driving late Tuesday night, heading home from seeing some friends. The lights were soundless as they came up behind me. I’d had a beer, and I pulled over and worried for a moment as the lights carried on past me into the night. Ahead of me, more lights flew by soundlessly, then more. As I pulled to the curb in front of my house, the first siren split the humid night air, and yet another set of lights burned down the road.

Let’s go back to 2006 and meet George Nickel. He’s been in the US Army a long time- he was a private in the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry back when the Tropic Thunder division still had an Air Assault regiment. When I met him, he’d already left the Army and come back to join the Army Reserve with friends of his from his work at Idaho’s State Penitentiary. He’s given this country of ours a lot. On February 8th, 2007, on a narrow road outside of Karma, Iraq, Staff Sergeant Nickel, USAR, very nearly gave it all. He was the lone survivor from the explosion of one of the largest IEDs ever placed in Iraq- his 12 ton bomb-resistant vehicle was thrown above the tops of the 10-foot high reeds that lined the road. Three other good men died- the truck’s gunner, just a foot away, was blown from the turret and died before he hit the ground. The sergeant riding shotgun was even closer to George- he too died instantly. The driver was the furthest from the point where the blast penetrated the armored hull- he lived long enough for a medivac helicopter to arrive, but he died en route to the combat hospital in Fallujah. George Nickel was separated from death by mere inches. Nearly every bone on the right side of his body was broken, and shrapnel from the blast tore his flesh.

George was a private man. He was the sort to get married to a woman, and only tell his best friends, the ones he had rejoined the Army with, when they noticed the ring he was wearing. Everyone who deploys overseas has a contact number on file, so if the worst happens, the military can begin the process of alerting loved ones of their service member’s death or injury. George gave the Army a number that he knew his wife wouldn’t answer, trusting his friends to tell her before the Army found her. In the end, that was exactly how it happened.

He arrived from Germany at Walter Reed Army Medical Center just after the neglect scandal broke there. There wasn’t enough room for him; the administration there wanted to send him home to continue his rehabilitation therapy. He was on canes then- his house was in the woods of Idaho, an hour from the nearest VA rehab facility, and definitely not handicap accessible. Instead, he was housed in one of the old hotels nearby that the Army had rented out to house the overflow of wounded warriors from Walter Reed. A cab took him to his temporary home- another wounded veteran helped him carry his meager belongings upstairs. He ate from care packages rather than trust the meal service. He finally came home to stay in Boise on July 4th, 2008.

Fast forward to July 28th, 2009. Boise’s finest are running towards the sound of guns, and at the end they find George, still running toward the sound of his own guns. Towards his own demons. He’s lost his dog, and he’s searching the nearby apartments for the pup. A bullet into the lock. A boot into the door. Staff Sergeant Nickel is searching buildings, clearing rooms just like he did in Iraq. Suddenly there’s bright lights and a voice yelling “Police! Put your hands up!” He doesn’t. They start shooting, and he takes cover. Suddenly the war has come home for everyone, not just George. Trouble is, this is America and not Iraq, and in America we like to pretend that soldiers are GI Joes- like they’re heroes who never need our help. George is in a new world now- one where he is the ‘perp’ and not the hero, but in this new world he still needs our help more than ever.

Edit: I rearranged the wording a bit in a couple spots and clarified a couple points.

Welcome, Diggers, B5 readers, and everyone coming in off of other blogs and twitter!
If you haven’t read the reporting on this in the Idaho Statesman, go to these stories, read them, and leave a comment:
Mystery still surrounds Iraq vet’s clash with Boise police
Armed Iraq veteran charged in apartment shooting in Boise
Man shot at by Boise police Tuesday night is an Iraq war veteran

If you like, go ahead and leave your thoughts on this quote from the BPD chief:

“This is bizarre behavior,” Masterson said Wednesday. “I don’t know what would push people to that (level of) desperation.”

Digg my article

SOFA – Step II

•June 30, 2009 • 9 Comments

Last fall, coalition forces began to turn over major military bases in Iraq to the Iraqi Security Forces.

Today marks the second major step towards fulfilling our obligations under the Status of Forces Agreement that has all combat troops out of Iraq by 2011. Today, the last bases inside the cities of Iraq will be turned over or closed. Today is one step closer to a free and sovereign Iraq.


It is not a day without trepidation.
Many Iraqis worry that the security forces will be up to the task of securing their safety. Some most likely worry that the simmering crisis in Iran will boil over, and refugees will spill over into an Iraq just barely beginning to come out of a al-qaeda inflamed sectarian crisis.

If you pray, pray for the people of Iraq, that peace and freedom may come quickly.