VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs expects a surge of compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., but nothing compared to the “tidal wave” of cases that came out of the Agent Orange class-action suit.
After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions.
A final hurdle to the compensation process emerged with the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his order blocking new federal regulations, which appeared to override rules approved in the last days of President Barack Obama’s administration.
However, the office of Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said last week, “The White House has granted an exemption. This means the Camp Lejeune regulation will go into effect on March 14, 2017, as scheduled.”
All of the Lejeune claims initially will be handled by the VA’s Louisville, Ky., Regional Office (RO), Thomas Murphy, VA’s acting undersecretary for benefits, said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) subcommittee hearing last week.
“Ideally, we want to keep them in the one RO” in Louisville, where a Center of Excellence has been set up to deal with presumptive claims, Murphy said. “But if they can’t handle the volume, we’re going to have to train another and expand it, so we’ll have to keep a very close eye on that.”
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A Marine radar intercept officer missing nearly 48 years after he was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War has been accounted for after his remains were found last year, the Bergen Record reports.
The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J. (left in photo) were identified through DNA tests conducted by the Defense Pow/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, the paper reported Friday.
Ryan’s plane crashed on a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border on May 11, 1969, the day before his son’s first birthday.
“I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that’s what my mom told me,” Michael Ryan, 48 told the paper. “What she didn’t tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she’d see his face again.”
His aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued.
Ryan was also shot down in 1968 over the Gulf of Tonkin but he survived that crash.
According to the Record, military investigators went to the Laos crash site in 1990 and found his plane seat.
Investigators visited the site on six other occasions from May 2012 to January 2016 to look for remains.
A lab identified the remains as Ryan’s and notified Michael last month.
The next day Ryan’s widow Judith was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.
“I don’t know, it’s strange to me,” Michael told the paper. “We’ve waited 48 years for this. And now I’m looking up at God and saying, ‘Can you give this woman a week to celebrate?'”
Billy Ryan will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, the eve of the crash anniversary.
Much more about Ryan and his family can be found at the site below: http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2017/02/24/garden-state-mind-missing-action-nearly-50-years-bogota-marine-comes-home/97424752/
By LtCol Mike Christy
Knight is excitingly portrayed by actor Matthew McConaughey. His first wife, Serena, is played by Keri Russell and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as his Negro wife Rachel. Several photographs from the movie appear in this presentation.
Newton Knight was born in November 1837, near the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi, a region romantically described in 1841 by the historian J.F.H. Claiborne as a “land of milk and honey.” The landscape was dominated by virgin longleaf pines. Wolves and panthers still roamed the land. He married Serena Turner in 1858, and the two established a small farm just across the county line in Jasper County.
Knight, an American farmer, soldier and southern Unionist, was best known as the leader of the Knight Company, a band of Confederate army deserters that turned against the Confederacy during the Civil War. Local legends state that Knight and his men attempted to form the “Free State of Jones” in the area around Jones County, Mississippi, at the height of the war, though the exact nature of the Knight Company’s opposition to the Confederate government is disputed. After the war, Knight aided Mississippi’s Reconstruction government.
Knight has long been a controversial figure. Historians and descendants disagree over his motives and actions, with some arguing he was a noble and pious individual who refused to fight for a cause in which he did not believe, while others have portrayed him as a manipulative outlaw. This controversy was fueled in part by Knight’s postwar marriage to a freed slave, which effectively established a small mixed-race community in southeastern Mississippi. The marriage would have been considered illegal as Mississippi banned interracial marriages except from 1870 to 1880 during the Reconstruction era.
Newton was a grandson of John “Jackie” Knight (1773-1861), one of Jones County’s largest slaveholders. Newton’s father, Albert (1799-1862), however, did not own any slaves, and was the only child of Jackie Knight who did not inherit any slaves. Newton, likewise, did not own any slaves. Some say he was morally opposed to the institution due to his Primitive Baptist beliefs. As a staunch Primitive Baptist, Newton also forswore alcohol, unlike his father and grandfather. He was probably taught to read and write by his mother.
Knight, like many Jones Countians, was opposed to secession. The county elected John H. Powell, the “cooperation” (anti-secession) candidate, to represent them at Mississippi’s secession convention in January 1861. Powell voted against secession on the first ballot, but under pressure, switched his vote on the second ballot, joining the majority in voting to secede from the Union. In an interview many years later, Knight suggested many Jones Countians, unaware of how few options they had, felt betrayed by Powell.
Knight enlisted in the Confederate Army in July, 1861. He was given a furlough in January 1862, however, to return home and tend to his ailing father. In May 1862, Knight, along with a number of friends and neighbors, enlisted in Company F of the 7th Battalion, as they preferred to serve together in the same company, rather than with strangers.
Throughout the summer and fall of 1862, a number of factors prompted desertions by Jones Countians serving in the Confederate Army. One factor was the lack of food and supplies in the aftermath of the Siege of Corinth. Another involved reports of poor conditions back home, as small farms deteriorated from neglect. Knight was enraged when he received word that Confederate authorities had seized his family’s horse. However, many believe Knight’s principal reason for desertion was his outrage over the Confederate government’s passing of the Twenty Negro Law. This act allowed wealthy plantation owners to avoid military service if they owned twenty slaves or more. An additional family member was exempted from service for each additional twenty slaves owned. Knight had also received word that his brother-in-law, Morgan, who had become the head of the family in Knight’s absence, was abusing Knight’s children. Morgan’s identity has since been lost, but he is thought to be Morgan Lines, a day laborer and convicted murderer.
Knight was reported AWOL in October 1862. He later defended his desertion, arguing, “If they had a right to conscript me when I didn’t want to fight the Union, I had a right to quit when I got ready.” After returning home having deserted in the retreat following the defeat at Corinth, Knight, according to relatives, shot and killed Morgan.
In early 1863, Knight was arrested and jailed, and possibly tortured, by Confederate authorities for desertion. His homestead and farm were destroyed, leaving his family destitute.
As the ranks of deserters swelled in the aftermath of the Siege of Vicksburg, Confederate authorities began receiving reports that deserters in the Jones County area were looting and burning houses. A local quartermaster, Capt. W. J. Bryant, reported that “The deserters have overrun and taken possession of the country, in many cases exiling the good and loyal citizens or shooting them in cold blood on their own door-sills.”
Gen. Braxton Bragg dispatched Maj. Amos McLemore to Jones County to investigate and round up deserters and stragglers. On October 5, 1863, McLemore was shot and killed in the Ellisville home of Amos Deason, and Knight was believed to have pulled the trigger.
On October 13, 1863, the Knight Company, as it was called, a band of guerillas from Jones County and the adjacent counties of Jasper, Covington, Perry and Smith, was organized to protect the area from Confederate authorities. Knight was elected “Captain” of the company, which included many of his relatives and neighbors. The company’s main hideout, known as “Devils Den,” was located along the Leaf River at the Jones-Covington county line. Local women and slaves provided food and other aid to the men. Women blew cattle horns to signal the approach of Confederate authorities. From late 1863 to early 1865, the Knight Company allegedly fought fourteen skirmishes with Confederate forces. One skirmish took place on December 23, 1863, at the home of Sally Parker, a Knight Company supporter, leaving one Confederate soldier dead and two badly wounded.
During this same period, Knight led a raid into Paulding, where he and his men captured five wagonloads of corn, which they distributed among the local population. The company harassed Confederate officials, with numerous tax collectors, conscript officers, and other officials being reported killed in early 1864. In March 1864, the Jones County court clerk notified the governor that guerillas had made tax collections in the county all but impossible. A letter dated February 13, 1864 from a Union scout addressed to Maj. Gen. John M. Palmer of the Union Army was discovered in 2016 by a historian working in the National Archives. It estimates the Knight Company’s numbers to be as high as 600 and confirms their intention to join up with the Union Army. The exact number is still a matter of debate, in light of an interview Knight gave after the war stating, “There was about 125 of us, never any more.”
By the spring of 1864, the Confederate government in the county had been effectively overthrown. Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk wrote Confederate President Jefferson Davis on March 21, 1864, describing the conditions in Jones County. Polk stated that the band of deserters were “in open rebellion, defiant at the outset, proclaiming themselves âSouthern Yankees,’ and resolved to resist by force of arms all efforts to capture them.” On March 29, 1864, Confederate Capt. Wirt Thomson wrote James Seddon, Confederate Secretary of War, claiming the Knight Company had captured Ellisville and raised the U.S. flag over the courthouse in Jones County. He further reported, “The country is entirely at their mercy.” Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman received a letter from a local group declaring its independence from the Confederacy. In July 1864, the Natchez Courier reported that Jones County had seceded from the Confederacy.
Gen. Polk initially responded to the actions of the Knight Company by sending a contingent under Col. Henry Maury into the area in February 1864. Maury reported he had cleared the area, but noted the deserters had threatened to obtain “Yankee aid” and return. Shortly afterward, Polk dispatched a veteran contingent of soldiers led by Col. Robert Lowry, a future governor who would later describe Knight as an “ignorant and uneducated man.” Using bloodhounds to track down guerillas in the swamps, Lowry rounded up and executed ten members of the Knight Company, including Newton’s cousins, Benjamin Franklin Knight and Sil Coleman. Newton Knight, however, evaded capture. He later stated his company had unsuccessfully attempted to break through Confederate lines to join the Union Army.
By April 1865 the Confederate rebellion had been crushed and the American Civil War was finally over. Mississippi was occupied by Federal troops sent to maintain order and to protect the civil rights of former slaves. Capt. Newton Knight was called into service by the United States Army as a commissioner in charge of distributing thousands of pounds of food to the poor and starving people in the Jones County area. Knight also led a raid that liberated several children who were still being held in slavery in a nearby county. Like many Southern Unionists, he supported the Republican Party, namely the Reconstruction administration of Governor Adelbert Ames. As conflict mounted between white neo-Confederate resistance (the Ku Klux Klan) and the Republican Reconstruction government, Ames appointed Knight as Colonel of the First Infantry Regiment of Jasper County, an otherwise all black regiment defending against Klan activity.
In 1870, Knight petitioned the federal government for compensation for several members of the Knight Company, including the ten who had been executed by Lowry in 1864. He provided sworn statements from several individuals attesting to his loyalty to the Union, including a local judge and a state senate candidate. But the federal Court of Claims ruled that “the evidence fails to support the allegation of the petition that the Jones County Scouts were organized for military service in behalf of United States or that they were in sentiment and feeling throughout the war loyal to the Government of the United States.”
At great personal danger, Knight became a strong supporter of the Republican Party. In 1872, he was appointed as a deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District to help maintain the fragile democracy.
In the statewide elections of 1875, however, violence and election fraud kept most blacks and Republicans from voting. Democratic candidates committed to “white rule” were swept into office. White terrorists shot out the windows of the Governor’s Mansion to intimidate Republican Gov. Adelbert Ames, Ames pleaded for federal troops to help keep order, but President Ulysses S. Grant refused. Ames tried organizing a state militia to protect the voting process. But the tide had already turned against Republican rule in Mississippi, and Ames was forced to resign. He lamented that blacks “are to be returned to a condition of serfdom – an era of second slavery.” Blacks could not vote freely in Mississippi again for nearly 100 years.
By the mid-1870s, Knight had separated from his wife, Serena, and married Rachel, a woman formerly enslaved by his grandfather. During the same period, Knight’s son, Mat, married Rachel’s daughter, Fannie, and Knight’s daughter, Molly, married Rachel’s son, Jeff. Newton and Rachel Knight had several children before her death in 1889. Newton Knight died on February 16, 1922 at the age of 84. Under the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, it was a crime for whites and blacks to be buried in the same cemetery. Yet even in death, Knight was defiant. He left careful instructions for his funeral and was buried on a high ridge overlooking his old farmstead in a simple pine box beside Rachel, who had died in 1889. The inscription on his tombstone reads, “He Lived for Others.”
Much has been written about Newton Knight-some pro, others con, a few balanced. In 1935, Knight’s son, Thomas Jefferson “Tom” Knight, published a book about his father, “The Life and Activities of Captain Newton Knight.” Tom Knight portrayed his father as a Civil War – era Robin Hood who refused to fight for a cause with which he did not agree. The book noticeably omits Newton Knight’s post-war marriage to Rachel.
The 1942 James H. Street novel, “Tap Roots,” is loosely based on the Knight Company’s actions. Though the book is a work of fiction, the novel’s protagonist, Hoab Dabney, was inspired by Newton Knight. The book was the basis of the 1948 film, “Tap Roots,” which was directed by George Marshall, and starred Van Heflin and Susan Hayward.
In 1951, Knight’s grandniece, Ethel Knight, published “The Echo of the Black Horn,” a scathing denunciation of Knight and the Knight Company. Dedicating the book to the Confederate veterans of Jones County, Ethel Knight portrayed Newton as a backward, ignorant, murderous traitor. She argued that most members of the Knight Company were not Unionists, but had been manipulated by Knight into joining his cause.
In 2003, historian Victoria Bynum’s book “The Free State of Jones” was published by the University of North Carolina Press. This book provides a broader view of the Knight Company, taking into account the economic, religious and genealogical factors that helped shape the views of Civil War-era residents of the Jones County area. Bynum provides numerous examples of Knight stating his pro-Union sentiments after the war, and notes the influence of the staunchly pro-Union Collins family, many of whom were members of the Knight Company. She also brings to light the many women and slaves who provided assistance to Knight and his men.
In 2009, Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer published “The State of Jones,” which elaborates on Knight’s pro-Union sympathies and presents evidence that his views on race played a significant role in his actions during and after the war.
Shortly after purchasing the Louisiana territory from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered an expedition to explore and map the newly acquired territory and establish an American presence before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it. The campaign’s secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area’s plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Native American tribes. To lead the expedition of U.S. Army volunteers, Jefferson chose his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, an intelligent and literate man who also possessed skills as a frontiersman. Lewis in turn solicited the help of Second Lieutenant William Clark, whose abilities as draftsman and frontiersman were even stronger.
Lewis and Clark’s expedition began on May 21, 1804 when they and 33 soldiers and others departed from their camp near St. Louis, Missouri. The first portion of the expedition followed the route of the Missouri River during which they passed through places such as present-day Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska.
As the expedition crossed the Bitterroot Mountains along the border of Montana and Idaho, a party of six hunters led by Clark went ahead of the main body searching for wild game and other foodstuff. Near the western end of the Lolo Trail, the group came across a small camp of Nez Perce. Having a long association with French trappers and missionaries, the Nez Perce – many who had converted to Catholicism – welcomed the American explorers, treating then with generosity and respect. They also resupplied and aided the Army expedition.
After staying with the friendly Indians for days, the explorers continued their journey by boat to the Pacific. Horses were left with the friendly Indians to care for until the explorers returned. Faithful to the trust, the Indians returned the horses to the Americans without serious difficulty.
Unfortunately, like many other western tribes, this original goodwill would change due to westward movement of European Americans and the discovery of gold on traditional Indian lands.
For the Nez Perce tribes, it was when prospectors found gold on their reservation in 1860. This discovery led to a rush of settlement on the tribe’s ancestral lands. Tensions inevitable grew as the settlers appropriated traditional native lands and prospectors searched for gold with no regards toward their nomadic lifestyle.
Realizing a serious problem was growing between the friendly Nez Perce and the European Americanbelieving it was their Manifest Destiny (which held that the U.S. was destined to expand from coast to coast), the U.S. government took the same action they had done repeatedly when it came to relationships with the Indians: instead of forcing the white settlers to leave, the government’s solution was to reduce the land on which the Indians could live, forcing them into smaller and smaller reservations.
Like Indian tribes throughout America, the Nez Perce did not have one chief in charge of the entire tribe. Instead there were many Chiefs who were each leaders of small bands of Indians.
When the United States tried to reduce the Nez Perce tribe’s land, they negotiated mostly with the Chiefs that were on their side. This led to the Nez Perce spitting into two groups: one side – the farmers and livestock herders – accepted the coerced relocation to a reservation. The non-treaty group refused to give up their ancestral homeland in Idaho and Oregon and continued living in the tradition they had been doing for hundreds of years.
The non-treaty Nez Perce suffered many injustices at the hands of settlers and prospectors, but out of fear of reprisal from the militarily superior Americans, Chief Joseph of the Wallowa band never allowed any violence against them, instead making many concessions in hopes of securing peace.
In 1873, Chief Joseph negotiated with the federal government to ensure his people could stay on their land in the Wallowa Valley. But in 1877, the government reversed its policy, and Brig. General Oliver Howard threatened to attack if the Wallowa band did not relocate to the Idaho Reservation with the other Nez Perce. Joseph reluctantly agreed.
The day following the council, Chiefs Joseph, White Bird, and Looking Glass all accompanied Howard to look at different areas. Howard offered them a plot of land that was inhabited by whites and Native Americans, promising to clear out the current residents. Joseph and his chieftains refused, adhering to their tribal tradition of not taking what did not belong to them.
Unable to find any suitable uninhabited land on the reservation, Howard informed Joseph that his people had 30 days to collect their livestock and move to the reservation or face a war they could not win.
On July 29, 1918, field nurse Linnie Leckrone jumped on a truck headed for the front as part of Gas and Shock Team 134 in the battle of Chateau-Thierry northeast of Paris during the Great War. As German artillery rained down, she tended the wounded. For her “conspicuous gallantry in action,” Leckrone was awarded what was then called the Citation Star in a certificate signed by Gen. John (Black Jack) Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.
She was one of only three women to earn the Citation Star in World War I, but she left the service before she received the award. She was also unaware that the Army in 1932 made recipients of the Citation Star eligible for the new Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor.
Her courageous service was finally recognized posthumously on July 31, 2007 at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va. when her daughter Mary Jane Bolles Reed accepted a Silver Star in her place.
An unknown number of women received the Silver Star in World War II. In 1944, four Army nurses serving in Italy – First Lieutenant Mary Roberts, Second Lieutenant Elaine Roe, Second Lieutenant Rita Virginia Rourke, and Second Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth (posthumous) – became the first women recipients of the Silver Star since World War I. All were cited for their bravery in evacuating the 33rd Field Hospital at Anzio, Italy on February 10, 1944.
The first woman soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star – and the first ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat – was Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester.
Hester’s military career began in April 2001 when the 19 year old from Bowling Green, Kentucky enlisted in the Army Nation Guard. As she was awaiting notification on where and when she would to go to basic training, the 9/11 terrorists crashed commercial airliners in the Trade Center and the Pentagon. When she was at basic training, she and the other recruits were told by the drill sergeants that they would be the ones to go to war. That happened in July 2004 when she received orders for Iraq.
After arriving in Iraq, her unit – the 617th Military Police Company Kentucky Army National Guard unit out of Richmond, Kentucky – took up the task of providing security to truck convoys.
On Mar. 20, 2005 just south of Baghdad, the squad was shadowing a 30-truck supply convoy. As convoy slid by Salman Pak, Iraq, the squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy Nein, came on the phone to report the insurgents had attacked one of the vehicles ahead. The Humvees immediately sped up and raced down the length of the convoy on the shoulder of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route.
As Raven-42 swung into action, the gunners on each Humvee started laying down suppressing fire with an M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, a Mk. 19 40 mm grenade launcher, and an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The insurgents were using a pair of dry irrigation ditches parallel to the road as an expedient trench line. From behind effective cover, they began directing fire at the MPs using Kalashnikov automatic rifles, belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
One of the Humvees was struck by an RPG, wounding the three soldiers inside. In the rear vehicle, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein dismounted and dashed toward a nearby berm as the enemy’s bullets sliced the air around him. Five-foot-four Hester followed him. From the cover of the berm, the two opened fire with their Colt M4s. Hester also had an M203 Grenade Launcher and pumped out several 40 mm high explosive rounds. Other team members were either treating the wounded, or firing one of the mounted crew-served weapons. The two MPs treating the wounded on the ground behind the rear Humvee then came under sniper fire as the skirmish continued to escalate. Both soldiers responded by firing toward the farmhouse where the sniper was hiding.
With the fire of the .50-cal. machine gun and the SAW beginning to thump away at the enemy’s flank, Nein and Hester laid down a continuous volume of fire at the 10 insurgents in the closest ditch. Since their ammunition supply would run out long before a relief force could get to them, the two had only one real option: attack.
Vehicle-mounted weapons forced the enemy to keep down their heads while Nein and Hester rushed forward tossing grenades and firing their M4s. Swiftly moving down ditch, the two MPs overwhelmed the enemy. In that assault, Hester killed three insurgents.
At the end of the 30-minute long engagement, the battlefield was found littered with 24 dead and six wounded insurgents. One unwounded Iraqi was taken prisoner after apparently feigning injury in order to avoid the battle. In addition to that, the MPs collected an impressive haul of weapons and ammunition: 22 Kalashnikov rifles, six rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 16 rockets, 13 RPK-type light machine guns, insurgents with her M4 Carbine and a fourth with a 40 mm HE round from her M203 three PKM belt-fed machine guns, 40 hand grenades, and a mountain of small arms ammunition – 123 loaded AK magazines and 25,000 rounds of belted 7.62x54r for the PKMs.
Sergeants Hester and Nein were both awarded the Silver Star. Sgt. Nein’s was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.
Also awarded the Silver Star in this ambush was platoon combat medic Specialist Jason Mike, who took up and simultaneously fired an M4 carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun in defense of his comrades.
Hester took a brief break from the U.S. Army in 2009, and worked as a civilian law enforcement officer in a Nashville, Tennessee suburb. However, she returned to the military a short while later, in late 2010.