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Rural Mental Health Bill Becomes Law

Last Wednesday, the President signed into law VFW-supported S.1468, the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021. Sgt. Brandon Ketchum served in the Marine Corps, completing tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In his first tour alone, he cleared 92 roadside bombs in 7 months – service that earned him a Combat Action Ribbon. In 2016, Sgt. Ketchum died by suicide after he was denied access to mental health services at a VA facility in Iowa, related to his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. This law will require VA to report an assessment of health needs for rural and highly rural veterans and provide an account of VA’s outpatient mental health care, residential programs, and VA’s Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) program cost savings.

National Park Access for Veterans Bill Introduced

On Thursday, Rep. Miller-Meeks introduced the VFW-supported Veterans in Parks Act, which would provide free access to national parks and public lands for service members, veterans, and their families. This bill would codify the existing benefits of the annual America the Beautiful Pass, ensuring that those who qualify for the pass would have a lifetime of free access to more than 2,000 of our nation’s parks and federal recreation areas.

Women Veterans Needed for Million Veteran Program

The world’s largest medical research biobank, Million Veteran Program, is seeking women veterans. There are 2 million women veterans in the United States, but only 75,000 have participated in the Million Veteran Program so far. In general, women are often under-represented in biomedical research which can leave gender-specific health questions unanswered. By contributing a blood sample to the biobank, women veterans can help ensure that the research is more comprehensive.

Blood Donation Need Still Critical

The American Red Cross currently has a severe shortage alert in regards to life-saving blood products. Hospital demand continues to outpace donations, so the Red Cross strongly urges healthy, eligible individuals who are feeling well to give blood, platelets, or plasma to help maintain a sufficient supply for those battling COVID-19, cancers, and other infections, or trauma victims. Those who donate July 7-31, 2021, will receive a $10 Amazon gift card via email and be automatically entered for a chance to win gas for a year. Please schedule an appointment using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling (800) RED-CROSS.

POW/MIA Update

Marine Corps Sgt. Donald D. Stoddard, 22, of Boulder, Colorado, was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Stoddard died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. He was buried June 26, 2021, in his hometown.

Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Alphard S. Owsley, 23, of Paris, Kentucky, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried Aug. 5, 2021, in his hometown.

Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class George L. Paradis, 23, of Yelm, Washington, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on Oct. 7, 2021, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class George M. Gooch, 22, of Laclede, Missouri, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried Oct. 9, 2021, in his hometown.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. J.L. Hancock, 21, was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Hancock died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. Interment services are pending.

Army Cpl. Walter A. Smead, 24, was a member of Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950, after his unit was attacked by enemy forces as they attempted to withdraw near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.

 

– Charles Castelluccio

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