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News Story

June 2017 News from MOAA

Dateline: 6/22/2017

Arlington National Cemetery Holds Roundtable on Capacity Plans
Representatives from the military community met with members of the Arlington National Cemetery Advisory Committee in an open roundtable discussion to review the final report on the future of the nation's most revered cemetery. 

According to the report, the only way to keep Arlington open for veterans well into the future is to limit eligibility. The report also lays out options for acquiring new land and looks at different ways to use the land currently available. 

The committee was tasked with identifying and analyzing potential options. It has yet to indicate a preferred course of action.

The meeting was the first opportunity to bring veteran service organizations, military service organizations, congressional staff, and cemetery administrators together in a public forum focused on the capacity dilemma. The conversation focused on which options from the report are most feasible, tenable, and achievable over different time spans. 

MOAA has held firm for many years against disenfranchising the currently eligible population, a sentiment reflected by other organizations and repeatedly mentioned at the roundtable meeting. All options for further physical expansion should be pursued before we begin turning away older veterans who planned for interment at Arlington. 

Many representatives of other associations expressed similar discontent with changing burial eligibility standards. 

Attendees agreed a widely shared survey could help inform the committee of people's opinions on how to move forward. 

MOAA applauds this effort to engage individuals with even an inkling of interest in Arlington. It will provide an opportunity for all servicemembers, spouses, family members, and others to make a direct contribution to the discussion. 

MOAA will help prepare the survey to make sure the information collected accurately reflects opinions on how Arlington's capacity issue ought to be handled. Survey results will be the next step in determining the best path forward, so it is important for all interested parties to participate. 

MOAA carried out its own survey this past fall, and the results were quite informative. Arlington isn't going to last forever, and our survey participants expressed a degree of acceptance and understanding that when the grounds are full, they're full. 

There's no singular reason people want Arlington to be their final resting place. Some want to be part of the rich history of the location, to continue a sense of military connection, or want the ceremony of interment. 

However, the vast majority of respondents said eligibility changes should not be considered as a first option - particularly if retirees are excluded. 

Engaging the veteran and military communities on this issue is the right thing to do, and MOAA was pleased with the opportunity to speak openly and publicly about the effects of potential changes. With the report complete, it is encouraging that representatives of the veteran community are being included in discussions leading up to a formal recommendation.

Advice for Grandparents Planning a Multigenerational Vacation
Pam Wear of Chico, Calif., always has loved to travel. As a former Army brat, she has great memories of her journeys all over the world. “But when we got grandchildren, we really hit the road,” she said. 

Wear is one of a growing number of seniors who are choosing to vacation with their extended family to places near and far. Moo Bishop of Thomson Family Adventures says multigenerational, or intergenerational, travel has been on the upswing for many years and shows no sign of slowing down. The company offers different types of vacations suitable for every family, like traveling with older children or the multi-sports adventure for athletic families. Destinations are assigned a difficulty rating to help the family gauge what’s suitable — the Kilimanjaro climb rates a high five!

There are many reasons for this emerging travel trend. The baby boomer generation is not shying away from travel in retirement and often has the funds to pick up the tab for the entire trip. Some desire to share a piece of family history, perhaps even dining at the same Parisian restaurant where Grandpa asked Grandma for her hand in marriage. Others seek new adventures and prefer destinations the family’s never been.

“If the family likes to be together, why not go someplace new?” says Bishop. “Everyone’s on equal terms, learning something new together and creating totally new conversations and memories. “

No matter the destination, it’s ultimately about sharing experiences with the family. It’s hard to find a place on the top of everyone’s list, so Bishop suggests if the grandparents are paying, they get to choose. Or if the trip is honoring Uncle Ted’s 40th birthday, then he gets to choose. PANKS (professional aunts with no kids) often treat their nieces or nephews to trips and let them decide “the where.”  It’s important to ensure that whatever destination is selected has activities everyone can enjoy.

Here are some tips for the oldest generation to help make the most of your intergenerational trip.

Don’t go it alone. Wear took care of all the logistics for her first trip to London with the grandkids. Although she called the trip a “super success,” she now turns to Thomson Family Adventures to coordinate all her travel plans, which allows her to focus on the joys of the trip and not worry about reservations and itineraries. 

Ditch the parents. One-on-one time with the grandkids is rare, so why not leave the sandwich generation at home? This new travel niche of grandparents traveling solely with their grandchildren is growing by leaps and bounds. Grandparents often treat a grandchild to a trip as a rite of passage of sorts, such as when each grandchild turns a certain age or graduates high school. 

Who’s the boss? A challenge with many families is that there often are numerous sets of parents who think they know what’s best, not to mention older children who want to have their say as well. Guided tours or all-inclusive trips can take the hassle out of making endless decisions day in and day out about where to go and what to do. “Grammy’s not in charge — the guide is — so we can all relax and enjoy,” says Wear.

Take a chance — or not. Some activities might be a tad bit too adventurous for the oldest and youngest members. Wear’s family trip to Thailand included zip-lining on the longest, highest line in the world. Although Wear decided to take the plunge by herself (ensuring wonderful stories for years to come), the activity was structured so that all age groups could ride the tram up to the top of the zip line and share the experience of being in the treetops together. Those who took a pass on the zip line took the tram back down while the others zipped their way to the bottom.

Build up the anticipation. Encouraging the whole family to research the trip beforehand gets everyone exciting about going and manages expectations. Wear suggests sending a list of age-appropriate books (like Jane Goodall’s children’s books) to the grandkids. She also sends out an email with all the details of the trip about a month before the departure date, so there are no surprises. 


4 Vietnam POWs Share Lessons Learned
More than 750 American servicemembers — the majority of them officers — were taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of four of those servicemembers and how they made the most of their lives in the years that followed.  

Air Force 1st Lt. Leon “Lee” Ellis

Ellis was captured when his F-4 Phantom was shot down during an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam Nov. 7, 1967. During the two-week trek to Hanoi, he almost was killed by angry locals and was strafed and bombed by American planes. 

Ellis found himself at Hoa Lò Prison (more commonly known as the “Hanoi Hilton”), where he stayed for nine months before being transferred to Camp Faith in Son Tay, North Vietnam. Two years later, he returned to Hoa Lò Prison and was released March 14, 1973. Ellis worked as a flight instructor, then as a flight commander at Moody AFB, Ga. Because of his exemplary performance as a POW, he received an early promotion to major.

After 25 years of service, Ellis retired from the Air Force to be closer to his parents and went into business for himself. He wrote the book Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton, and today he works as a leadership consultant, trainer, and coach.

“My experience as a POW settled me down and matured me,” Ellis says. “I became more serious about the world and more committed to doing the right thing. That has served me well over the years. To be the person you want to be, you have to have courage. Lean into the pain of your doubts and fears to do what you know is right, to do your duty, and you’ll always come out ahead.”                   

Army Col. Harold “Hal” Kushner

Kushner was a flight surgeon with the 1st Cavalry Division when the helicopter in which he was riding crashed into a mountain near Duc Pho, South Vietnam, Nov. 30, 1967. Kushner survived with several broken bones, severe burns, and bullet wounds received when M-60 rounds popped off as the helicopter burned. The rest of the crew perished.

Kushner was captured by the Viet Cong a few days after the crash and marched for weeks to a small prison camp in the mountains, where 10 of his fellow prisoners eventually died. From there, Kushner and 11 other prisoners were sent to a camp in Hanoi called the Plantation. Later, Kushner was transferred to Hoa Lò Prison, where he experienced threats and abuse. 

Kushner was released March 16, 1973, retired from the Army in 1985, and went on to establish a successful ophthalmology practice. “I feel very fortunate that I came through this crisis with some physical scars but no mental scars,” he says. “I’m not proud I was captured, but I am very proud of the way I have behaved since I came back. I just went back to work and tried to set a good example for my employees and family. I haven’t made my captivity a big deal; it was just an unfortunate bump in the road of my life.”

Navy Capt. Giles Norrington

Norrington was on his 22nd combat reconnaissance mission when his RA-5C Vigilante was hit by antiaircraft artillery May 5, 1968. He and his navigator, Dick Tangeman, ejected and were captured within a few minutes of each other. Following three days at a small prison camp near Vinh, North Vietnam, Norrington was transferred to Hanoi, where he experienced several weeks of interrogation and brutality.

The brutality eased a bit with the death of Ho Chi Minh in September 1969, and life in the prison became “a live-and-let-live situation,” Norrington says, though his captors continued to pressure him to engage in anti-American propaganda, which he resisted.

Norrington was released March 14, 1973. He served two tours in the Pentagon and a couple of commands, including the naval base at Diego Garcia, and retired from the Navy in 1988. “What I experienced as a POW prepared me for life afterward,” Norrington says. “There was no hardship that could come my way that was worse.”

Among the lessons Norrington learned during his time as a POW was he and his comrades could be remarkably resilient. “There were those who were captured who had not received [POW] training, and yet they still distinguished themselves,” he says.

Air Force Col. Robert Certain

Certain’s B-52 bomber was hit by a surface-to-air missile during a raid over North Vietnam Dec. 18, 1972. He quickly was captured and transported first to Hoa Lò Prison and then to the Plantation, where he was presented to the International Press Corps. “I was on the front page of the Washington Post the next day,” Certain reports. From there, he was returned to Hoa Lò Prison.

A man of deep faith, Certain actively ministered to others in the prison camp. He returned home March 29, 1973, and followed his dream of becoming an Episcopal priest. Certain left active duty in 1977 and served as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., until retiring from the Air Force in 1999. Certain also was associate for pastoral care at St. Barnabas on the Desert Episcopal Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., and rector at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif.

“I came out of the POW experience knowing I could face adversity and uncertainty and do well,” Certain says. “It also gave me greater insight that was particularly helpful as a clergyman: how people deal with adversity, how they deal with being imprisoned — with life not being in their control — and how people can work with that to survive and prosper.”

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