Bill Harding: Take a moment to give thanks this holiday

Happy Thanksgiving

As we sit at our holiday table today, surrounded by family and friends with all the trimmings, we enjoy the bounty this country provides. Even in our current economic chaos, we still are more fortunate than half the world.

As you give "thanks" in whatever fashion, stop and pause to think of our servicemen and women around the world who are protecting our way of life while promoting freedom and democracy in other countries seeking those values.

As we sit in comfort, stuff ourselves until we burst and then watch the tube until we can handle a piece of pie or two, there are others watching the horizon for signs of the enemy and a possible surprise attack. They are the ones to whom we owe our comfortable status.

Historical veteran/national dates

Dec. 7 - Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day*

Dec. 8 - War declared on Japan, 1941

Dec. 10 - Treaty of Paris signed, ending Spanish-American war, 1898

Dec. 11 - Germany & Italy declare war on the US, 1941

Dec. 13 - Saddam Hussein captured, 2003

Dec. 15 - Bill of Rights day

Dec. 16 - Germans launch Battle of Bulge offensive

* Reminder: U.S. flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Dec. 7 for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Post 4265 Christmas Party is Dec. 15

VFW Post 4265 and Ladies Auxiliary are hosting their annual Christmas party for VFW Post members and spouses, and members of the Auxiliary and guests.

The party starts at 6 p.m. at the Post HQ, 419 E. Victory Way.

The meat, non-alcoholic beverages and table service will be provided. Members and their guests are asked to bring potluck items, such as vegetable dishes, salads and desserts or Christmas treats. There will be a gift exchange ($5 to 10 a person) labeled as a men's or women's gift, and there will be an open bar.

All members and widows of past members are encouraged to attend. Transportation can be provided. Please call the Post at 824-7145.

Challenges for veterans returning to college

Here is a copy of an e-mail I received this week. The information, which is depressing, at the least, comes from a conference held in Billings, Mont., and sent to employers in the Montana region regarding combat veterans returning from Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF). Their letter follows without any editing.

"A couple of weeks ago I sent a note out only to Montana employees telling them about a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) conference that was held earlier this week in Billings figuring most employees in the rest of the region could not travel to Montana to attend.

The conference was very good, and the folks at Veterans Upward Bound and Montana State University-Billings who sponsored the event through a grant have posted the handouts and PowerPoint presentations on http://vubmt.com/conference/index.php for you. I'm pleased that I can share this information with you. If you have trouble downloading and printing the files and would like to have copies of any of them, please e-mail me and I would be happy to send you copies.

Here are some startling facts:

• Since October 2001 there has been 1.74 million men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and 280,000 redeployed a second or third tour

• 89% reported being ambushed or attacked

• 93% reported being shot at

• 86% reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed

With those astounding figures, one in three Iraq veterans have suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major depression or generalized anxiety. One in six Afghanistan veterans have suffered from PTSD, major depression or generalized anxiety. And there are many unreported cases due to the stigma perceived. These numbers include only Iraq and Afghanistan and we all know all the wars our Veterans have been through but these numbers were not calculated till the 1980's. More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and just under half of Vietnam female veterans have experienced clinically serious stress reaction symptoms. Gulf War estimates are as high as 8%. And of course there are many more wars prior to 1980 that our veterans suffered from these same symptoms but never talked about it.

Hope this information is helpful to you veterans and your families in our region. As always, we thank each and every one of you veterans for your service to our country!"

Great idea for sending Christmas cards

While addressing your Christmas cards this year, why not take one and send it to this address: A Recovering American Soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

Sending holiday mail to troops overseas

The U.S. Postal Service recommends doing it ASAP.

All holiday mail for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan should be mailed by Dec. 4 to arrive before Christmas. The USPS is running articles in the Daily Press "Local" feature regarding their services and deadlines. Read them and comply so that our young service men and women know that public support still exists for their sacrifices on our behalf.

American Legion Christmas raffle

American Legion Post 62 is running a Christmas raffle for a 42-inch Sanyo HD TV.

The drawing will be held Dec. 20 at the bingo session at the Elks Club. Winner does not need to be present.

Ticket sales have been limited to 750 chances for this raffle. Tickets can be obtained from any member or the Post. Call 824-3625.

Washington, D.C., trip for WWII veterans

Still looking for WWII veterans to go to Washington, D.C., this spring. Also looking for sponsors to help defray the costs of this program out of Grand Junction's airport.

If you have questions, or need an application, contact my office from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For information on these programs and/or other veterans' benefits, call or stop in the Moffat County VSO office at 480 Barclay St. (west of the Bank of Colorado parking lot).

Call 970-824-3246 or use the fax 970-824-7108. Our e-mail address is veterans@moffatcounty.net.

The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Other times can be arranged by appointment only.

Bring a copy of your separation papers (DD-214) for application for VA programs and for filing at our office.

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