What's New

Browns Canyon National Monument Ribbon Cutting

July 18, 2015

This Saturday July 18th marks the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado. Although the actual designation of the monument was signed by President Barrack Obama in February, the local communities near the headwaters of the Arkansas River wanted to wait until river rafting was in high gear this summer. It is the perfect weather to enjoy the outdoors.

This region is quintessential Rocky Mountain landscape. The crisp white river waters, majestic rock spire formations and fabulous views of the Collegiate Peaks is what Browns Canyon is known for. In fact, Colorado’s wilderness and natural beauty draws in recreational tourism and the increase in quality of life is an attraction for businesses.

It’s a true honor to have the likes of Gov. Hickenlooper, Secretary Sally Jewell, BLM Director Neil Kornze, USFS Director Tidwell, Senator Bennet and former Senator Mark Udall speak at the celebration. Despite work that began by the Friends of Browns Canyon coalition in the 1990s, it has taken our highest levels of leadership to step in and complete the work that almost all of Colorado hoped for.

This new monument will not only be great for Colorado nature enthusiasts and local economy, it is a national treasure for our entire country to enjoy. Brown’s gold medal fishing, adventurous rafting, and scenic hikes will be a benefit for all Americans for generations to come.

Vet Voice Foundation played a significant role organizing military veterans, service members and their families to advocate and express support for the designation by visiting our decision makers in Washington DC, writing emails, submitting articles in local papers and speaking at public events and town halls. When Vet Voice Foundation’s staff member, Garett Reppenhagen, was asked to meet the President in the Oval Office of the White House after the official signing of the monument we couldn’t have been more excited to represent our 450,000 members.

Browns Canyon National Monument’s proximity to military bases like Ft. Carson, The Air Force Academy, and other installations made it a critical area to protect. Our veterans use our public lands to heal from the trauma of war and to spend quality time with their friends and family.

Our veteran volunteers will join the celebration and raft the Arkansas River on Saturday with our special guests, and the incredible conservationists and coalition members, who helped create Browns Canyon National Monument.

Protect the Greater Sage Grouse Habitat

June 12, 2015

Vet Voice Foundation staff member Garett Reppenhagen recently concluded a tour across the western United States visiting crucial sage brush lands that are habitat to the Greater Sage Grouse. During the trip, that included Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, we talked with veterans concerned about the protection of the bird and its home. We were able to coordinate with other conservationists and speak to BLM staff that are dedicated to managing these beautiful landscapes. 

Although it was not the best season to view the Greater Sage Grouse, VVF did get to hike the regions that are vital to the bird’s future. It was remarkable to see the rolling sage brush in a huge section of our nation’s outdoors. It was hard not to get sucked into the romantic legacy of our iconic western back country. These areas have an important story to tell about the native cultures. They hold the geological evidence of the earth’s past. These lands are the majestic backdrops to the settlement of America and our very history. 

The Greater Sage Grouse has been witness to much of the changing development of sage brush territory. It is an important keystone, indicator and umbrella species. An animal we can measure the health of our wild country and the wildlife that lives there. The survival of the Greater Sage Grouse could very well mean the survival of the hunting and ranching heritage of our citizens and the lands we love.

As our civilization grows and needs for infrastructure, natural resources, and developed land increases we threaten the very foundation of the ecosystems that support us. Invasive species and direct human interference to sage brush lands are threatening the existence of the Greater Sage Grouse. There are solutions that have been developed by leading scientists that balance protection of these areas and the wildlife in them with our many uses for our natural resources. Although not perfect, the BLM has just introduced a management plan that is a good effort to take care of the lands we love.

Working with the BLM to improve the plan and make sure we use sensible science based management is the best chance for the Greater Sage Grouse. But, there are still politicians how wish to interfere and play partisan battles with our public lands and risk threatening our wildlife. 

There are senators caving to oil lobbyists, and trying to jam through un-related, anti- conservation legislation that upends years’ worth of collaboration between private landowners and the state/federal governments that are our best chance to avoid the need to list the sage grouse as endangered. It is vital that senators oppose including any efforts to force the sage-grouse into critical national security legislation. 

Please sign on to a growing list of military veterans and supporters that demand we protect the Greater Sage Grouse habitat by working with the BLM and our conservation allies to develop the best management plan possible that balances our land use and the future of these incredible natural areas. 

Female veterans face woefully inadequate care

May 13, 2015

In 2004, then captain – now congresswoman – Tammy Duckworth was piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq when it was shot down. She survived but lost both of her legs. When she awoke, in only a hospital gown, she was supplied with a “comfort kit,” some basics that are given to wounded troops. Included in the kit, besides slippers that she could no longer use, were a pair of men’s jockey shorts. Comfort kits simply weren’t made for women. Just for men. It is a story that perfectly illustrates the multitude of issues facing our women who serve.

Female veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder at twice the rate as male soldiers, and endure higher rates of joblessness and homelessness. And, because women tend to be caregivers themselves, they tend to postpone their own care in deference to the care they provide husbands, children and parents. Further complicating the female soldier’s return from combat to civilian life is that an estimated one in five have suffered sexual trauma.

In September, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) published a study that revealed “America’s nearly 300,000 women Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are put at risk by a system designed for and dominated by male veterans.”

But the problems go deeper than the men’s comfort kits with which Duckworth was presented. According to DAV, one-third of the VA medical centers don’t have a gynecologist on staff and 90 percent of Community Based Outpatient Clinics lack a designated women’s health provider. Thirty-one percent of VA centers cannot provide adequate services for military sexual trauma, yet one in five women veterans seen at VA screen positive for some form of such trauma.

The VA and the Department of Defense have difficulty providing gender-specific peer support, group therapy and specialized inpatient mental health care designed to meet the needs of women. Further, women who have lost limbs are less likely to have a prosthetic that fits properly. As such, while there are far fewer women veteran amputees, they use health care more often than their male counterparts. Several of these women are also now becoming mothers, further complicating their prosthetic and general care needs.

It is worth noting that some improvements have been made under the Obama administration, For instance, each veterans care center now has a Women Veterans Program Manager, whose job it is to start bridging the gap. Additionally, the Women Veterans Health Program was placed under the VA’s Office of Patient Care Services, allowing it to have more impact on the patient-specific care that women receive. It’s a great start, but more must be done.

From better collaboration between the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of coordinating care for women veterans, to family counseling for returning women veterans, to providing child care for veterans, we have no shortage of issues to tackle.

On particularly worthwhile idea, backed by DAV and others, is continued and increased congressional funding for a women veterans’ retreat program run by the department’s Readjustment Counseling Service. This program focuses upon stress reduction, improving coping skills and improving women’s sense of psychological well-being and boasts very high participant improvements in these skill sets.

Veteran on a mission to save outdoor spaces

May 01, 2015

Through the Vet Voice Foundation, Matthew Zedwick and five other veterans took a trip to Washington D.C. in mid-April to meet with Oregon senators and discuss reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
 

On days when his Army uniform was saturated in sweat from the nearly 120-degree temperature in Iraq, Matthew Zedwick would reminisce about the times he spent hiking, camping and fishing with his family back in Oregon.

He wanted nothing more than to hike Saddle Mountain, climb Smith Rock and fish for brook trout in a secluded lake in the Cascades with his uncles.

Thoughts of home helped Zedwick, a Corvallis native who now lives in Astoria, make it through difficult days serving with the Oregon Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry during a yearlong deployment in Iraq in 2004.

“When I was in the desert, I wanted to come home to Oregon. It’s so incredibly beautiful here and it’s home,” Zedwick said. “It’s what we swore to defend and swore to maintain, and it’s something we need to leave our future generations.”

Now back home in Astoria, Zedwick, 34, co-owns the Columbia Veterinary Hospital with his wife, Kristin Zedwick, and serves as an executive officer with the Oregon Army National Guard at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

Vet Voice

He recently found a way to assist his fellow soldiers by joining the Vet Voice Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on helping veterans speak out on national issues, including environmental concerns.

Through Vet Voice, Matthew Zedwick and five other veterans took a trip to Washington, D.C., in mid-April to meet with Oregon senators and discuss reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The fund, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago, expires in September. Congress began considering renewing the fund on Earth Day, April 22.

It benefits parks and monuments across the country, including in Clatsop County. The Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area was formed as part of the fund. Other local beneficiaries are Les Shirley Park in Cannon Beach, city park restrooms and Broadway Park improvements in Seaside, ballfields in Astoria and restroom developments at the Hammond Mooring Basin.

The LWCF is funded by a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalties.

“The senators thought it was incredible a veteran’s organization was in support of the LWCF. That was really a surprise to them,” Zedwick said. “They really enjoyed having the lands and parks as a part of healing and taking care of our troops.”

Healing in the outdoors

Rick Hegdahl, the Pacific Northwest director for the Vet Voice Foundation, said his organization looks at environmental issues such as the LWCF from a veteran’s point of view.

Protecting the outdoors for returning veterans is a new take on supporting the troops, he said.

“Veterans return from war and find a lot of healing from spending time outdoors,” Hegdahl said.

One of the first things Zedwick did when he returned from his deployment in Iraq, was take an outdoor excursion with his cousin to Smith Rock, where they hiked and climbed together.

Being outdoors provided Zedwick an opportunity to re-establish and heal. Such experiences are critical for veterans, Zedwick said, especially for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sometimes, he said, what soldiers need is to break away from society, and get outdoors where they can feel at peace with themselves and share their thoughts and experiences.

“It meant the world to me,” Zedwick said.

‘Doing my job’

Zedwick joined the Oregon Army National Guard in 1998 as a senior in high school in Corvallis. His time in the National Guard has taken him to Germany, Mongolia and around Oregon to help fight forest fires.

On June 13, 2004, in Iraq, Zedwick and other members of the infantry were patrolling a main supply route north of Baghdad when they approached a Land Rover SUV with a bomb planted in it. The SUV exploded and Zedwick threw himself over his squad leader, saving the man’s life.

“I injured myself and continued to give first aid to my buddies, helped evacuate them and went back to pulling security and doing my job,” he said.

His actions that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest military medal for valor. He became the first National Guardsman to receive the Silver Star since World War II.

At the time, Zedwick received recognition for the honor by being featured in the “America’s Army” video game. His likeness was also depicted on an action figure as part of the campaign for the video game.

In 2008, Zedwick and his wife appeared on the TV show “Deal or No Deal,” and won $227,000.

Breaking the ice

While meeting with Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other lawmakers in D.C., Zedwick broke the ice by sharing another interesting fact about his life.

He told the senators about his 1-year-old pet bobcat, Elliot.

Zedwick and his wife, a veterinarian, adopted the 35-pound, female bobcat from outside of Missoula, Mont., and raised it from when it was 3 weeks old. Bobcats are legally bred in Montana and are allowed as pets in Oregon.

“We would stop talking about politics and talked about the bobcat,” he said.

Zedwick went on the D.C. trip with veterans from California, New Mexico, Colorado and Washington.

All indications are the LWCF will be reinstated with bipartisan backing, but the veteran group still wanted to add their voice in support of the fund, and meet with lawmakers face-to-face.

“The folks we took were thrilled to be there and Matt was a joy to be around,” Hegdahl said.

The LWCF is more than just for conservation, Zedwick said, it is also important for hunting and fishing lands found around Astoria, where the Zedwicks plan to raise a family.

“This will always be our home,” Zedwick, who moved to Astoria in 2010, said. “We plan on living in Astoria the rest of our lives.”

Zedwick and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy, on Sept. 10, a day before Patriot Day.

Taking his son camping and fishing on the lands he served to protect is an encouraging thought for Zedwick.

“I want to share those experiences that I had with him. I want him to be able to have something to pass on to his kids,” Zedwick said

Vets Celebrate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument's First Anniversary

May 22, 2015

I was returning from a multi-day sniper mission in Iraq and our team stopped at Ballad Air Base. It was one of the few posts with a theater. I remember standing for the National Anthem before the picture watching scenes like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains, and other landmarks light up the big screen. In the glow of the projector I could see tired dirty soldiers, like myself, look in tearful awe of the majestic beauty of our national treasures. It was then I realized that our identity as Americans were directly connected to our public lands.

I served proudly in the U.S. Armed Forces and I continued to serve my country when I joined the coalition to designate Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as a national monument.

Veterans like myself have joined the effort to protect these landmarks because it preserves part of our national identity and history for future generations. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in fact, is located at the crossroads of New Mexican and American history.

Protecting our public lands honors our shared legacy, protects freedom of access for outdoor recreation, and enhances our economy.

I once swore an oath to defend our way of life as Americans. It is encouraging to see some of our decision makers dedicating themselves to further protect our national heritage by preserving our natural resources.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was designated by President Obama on May 21, 2014, in response to an outpouring of diverse community support that crowned more than a decade of local effort to protect these public lands.

Hispanic leaders, veterans, Native Americans, sportsmen and women, small business owners, local elected officials, faith leaders, conservationists, and others all worked together to support the community-proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Senators Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, and Jeff Bingaman (now retired) responded to the community's call for action and worked for years to protect these public lands by introducing legislation in Congress. Unfortunately, gridlock in Congress could not be overcome. When the community took their case to President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, they responded by holding public meetings and ultimately using the Antiquities Act to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is proof that the vision of fellow military veteran President Theodore Roosevelt is still alive today.

The Antiquities Act is a law that has been used over 140 times by nearly every President since Teddy Roosevelt - eight Republican and eight Democratic - to designate monuments and protect public lands that are unique and important to the American people. It is an extension of American legacy to preserve our natural landscapes for sportsmen, recreationists, and future generations to discover and explore. Protecting and preserving unique public lands and our outdoor and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren are not Republican or Democratic values - these are American values we all share.

But, not all of our politicians are heroes of these American values. The Antiquities Act is under attack by some in Congress who seek to gut the law and take away presidents' ability to establish monuments. Gutting the Antiquities Act would also take away an important tool for communities across the country that are working to manage our public lands and waters in a way that sustains local economies, ensures equitable public access, and enhances the quality of life for our children.

Weakening the Antiquities Act will not only take away the ability of citizens to appeal to the Executive Branch to protect special places, it will also hurt local economies. Many studies have shown that communities near protected public lands see significant increases in tourism, economic activity, and job creation directly related to their monuments or other protected public lands.

I support leaders like Senators Udall and Heinrich that up for the lands we love. All Americans deserve to access and enjoy the public lands that belong to us all and to pass that opportunity along to our children and grandchildren. Generations to come must have the opportunity to learn about the significance of these public lands and the stories they tell of our nation.

Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument is an example of our American identity. Its part of the heart and soul of our great country, and it's worth fighting for.

The Vet Voice Foundation Advocates for the LWCF during Spring Fly-In

May 04, 2015

During the month of April, the Vet Voice Foundation led a group of Veterans from key states to Washington, DC where LWCF, or the Land and Water Conservation Fund has the largest impact. 
 
Led by Managing Director Paul Eaton, Vet Voice Staffers Garett Reppenhagen (CO), Rick Hegdahl(WA) and Steve Dunwoody(CA) and Vet Voice volunteers met with key U.S. Senators, Federal agencies and their staffs, to advocate for full funding of the program. 
 
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The revenues from offshore oil and gas leases are used for this program. Every year, $900 million in royalties are paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) which are then put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

"For Veterans, we depend on these areas to be able to recover from overseas deployments." said Astoria Oregon Vet Voice Volunteer Matt Zedwick. This also includes those suffering from PTSD and other ailments.Yet every year, Congress fails to fund the program at its full level.

The Vet Voice Foundation will continue to advocate with government stakeholders and communities across the nation the importance of LWCF as part of the critical resources needed to help us defend and protect it as part of "the Lands we Love". 
 

Vet Voice Applauds President Obama, Congressional Leaders on Designation of Pullman as National Monument

March 13, 2015

The Vet Voice Foundation applauded  and thanked President Obama, Senators Kirk, Durbin, Congressmen Kinzinger, Shock and Rodney Davis for their bi-partisan efforts to designate the area of Pullman, Illinois a National Monument. Pullman commemorates several key moments in African American and labor history. Designed as a planned community for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a railroad car manufacturer best known for its “sleeping car,” Pullman first became synonymous with the nascent labor movement in the 1890s, when federal troops clashed with striking workers.

In the 1920s, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded in the area as an independent union, with the aim of fighting to secure livable wages and better working conditions for porters. The company fought the union fiercely, but in part due to the struggle of the Brotherhood and other groups, the labor movement became an impossible-to-ignore force on a national stage. In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed by Congress, barring company-sponsored unions and guaranteeing workers the right to organize. The Brotherhood also planted the seeds of the mid-20th century civil rights movement, underscoring the importance of protest and fighting for the (sadly oft-ignored) American ideal that all men are created equal.

For its role in these seismic social shifts, Pullman has enjoyed “landmark” status for decades, as local communities and historians worked to raise its profile on a broader stage. In recent years, the neighborhood has even become a popular bipartisan cause. In addition to saluting an important chapter in American history, national monument standing is expected to bring a much-needed economic boost to the community, potentially supporting hundreds of jobs and eventually generating $40 million in sustained economic output.
 
The Vet voice applauds the designation of this monument for the opportunities for Veterans and their families for employment and enjoyment it will provide, as well as to the general public. 

Vet Voice Foundation Applauds the Introduction of the California Desert and Conservation Act of 2015

February 09, 2015

The Vet Voice Foundation proudly applauds the introduction of the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015 (CDCRA) by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Baraba Boxer (CA) today. We support protecting these lands for all Americans, including our national network of 500,000 Veterans and their families. The added protections to these public lands will ensure access to them for generations to come. 

Protected and accessible public lands also provide places of repose for Veterans and their families, particularly Veterans who are recovering from overseas deployments and often from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and others ailments that can result from battle. Experiencing the peace and serenity of the outdoors has been proven to be beneficial to Veterans with these conditions.

Over the last year, our organization has brought attention to the importance of further protecting these public lands. Last fall, the Vet Voice Foundation led a group of Veterans to the Mojave National Preserve. Veterans hiked in the Kelso Sand Dunes and camped out overnight. The quiet space of the outdoors and physical exercise was lauded by everyone, and helped them to find peace of mind.  A video of our trip can be seen here:

Recently, 22 generals and admirals, many who served in California desert, signed on to a letter of support for the CDCRA. 50 Veterans who live in the California desert region signed onto an additional letter encouraging Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Paul Cook to work together in passing the CDCRA through Congress. 

We appreciate Senator Feinstein’s efforts on the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, and will look forward to continuing to lending our support the in any way we can to help ensure its passage! 

Vet Voice Foundation announces addition of Major General (Ret.) Paul D. Eaton as Managing Director

January 12, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – The non-partisan Vet Voice Foundation is announcing the appointment of Major General (Ret.) Paul Eaton as Managing Director, today.  Eaton will assume his new role, leading day-to-day operations of the organization, immediately. 

“I am extremely pleased to be joining such a strong voice for veterans, like the Vet Voice Foundation,” said Eaton.  “Their work on issues that are important to veterans, but usually haven’t included the voice of the veteran, is ground-breaking.  Their work on conservation and protection of public lands, especially, returns a veteran’s voice to the issue that has been missing since Teddy Roosevelt.” 

“We couldn’t have been more fortunate than this,” said Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq War Veteran and Rocky Mountain West Coordinator for the Vet Voice Foundation.  “General Eaton is one of the most respected military leaders in recent history, and one of the fiercest advocates for veterans, since his retirement from the Army.  To have him come aboard, and help guide this organization, is a real holiday gift.” 

While the Vet Voice Foundation has undertaken action on a wide range of issues, from voting rights to reduction of world-wide nuclear arsenals, it perhaps is best known for its work on conservation.  

For example, the group recently has undertaken a major effort in support of the designation of Browns Canyon, in Colorado, to be named a national monument, rallying veterans to appear at public events and hearings on the issue.  Browns Canyon is located near several U.S. military bases, including Ft. Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Protecting Browns Canyon as a national monument would permanently protect these national public lands – a popular year-round recreation area – and ensure that service members and veterans could have access to the outdoors, can heal from the trauma of war, and reconnect with family.   Previously, the group successful worked for designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico, and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California. 

Eaton, however, noted that he’s looking forward to forging new paths on a host of new issues that the organization will be involved with, as it expands its reach in the coming years. 

“There is true growth potential for the Vet Voice Foundation, and I’m looking forward to moving the ball forward on even more issues, and helping the group expand its reach,” Eaton said.  “So, stay tuned.” 

Major General (Ret.) Paul Eaton served more than 30 years in the United States Army, including combat and post-combat assignments in Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia. As a major general he was assigned to Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as Commanding General of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT), where he designed, manned, trained and equipped the Iraqi armed forces for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the security forces for the Interior Ministry. Prior to that assignment, he commanded the Army’s Infantry Center and was Chief of Infantry for the Army. Eaton has appeared on a number of news and commentary programs including Face the Nation, Hardball and all major networks.  During the 2008 campaign season, he advised candidates for both congressional and presidential campaigns.  For the past five years, he served as a senior advisor to the National Security Network.   Additionally, Eaton has recently participated with the Department of Energy in non-proliferation work. He holds a bachelor’s degree from West Point and a master’s in French Political Science from Middlebury College. He is married to PJ, has two sons and a daughter, all soldiers. 

Founded in 2009, the mission of Vet Voice Foundation is to mobilize veterans to become leaders in our nation's democracy through participation in the civic and democratic process. VVF seeks to harness the energy and drive of the dedicated men and women who have fought for their country, and put it to work at home and in their communities on the important issues they face, such as health care, jobs, the environment, and housing.

 

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Veterans Rally for Browns Canyon National Monument

December 22, 2014

Salida, CO – The non-partisan Vet Voice Foundation joined an estimated 500 people who turned out for a meeting in Salida, Colorado to support Browns Canyon as the next national monument.  Five military veterans had the opportunity to have their opinions heard by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis and Colorado Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Bob Randall.  

In addition to the veterans who spoke there were many more veterans, service members and military family members who attended and urged the President to use executive order, under the Antiquities Act, to protect Browns Canyon. Every president but one since the passing of the Antiquities Act of 1906, by war veteran and conservationist Teddy Roosevelt, has used the act to create national monuments. 

Iraq veteran Gary Reppenhagen, said Browns Canyon is a place where veterans can go to alleviate the effects of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the proximity to Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy makes it an ideal place for veterans to go that is away from the distractions that come with living in a populated area. 

Grant Wideman, Air Force veteran, explained that healing from war trauma in the outdoors works. He told the audience that we should not destroy our wilderness through development. 

“When I look at the beauty nature provides, I do not see dollar signs,” he said. 

However, according to local rafting companies and outfitters, the rafting industry alone brought in over $55 million in 2013. That does not include support in small business for the growing outdoor recreation interest. 

“It proves that you can still value and preserve the lands we love and support the economy,” said Vet Voice’s Reppenhagen.  “Our veterans will continue to push to create Browns Canyon National Monument to protect the region for veterans to heal and share with their friends and family for generation to come.”

The Vet Voice Foundation Celebrates Twenty Years of the California Desert Protection Act.

November 17, 2014

It's now been 20 years since passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (CDPA). This landmark piece of legislation enlarged and re-designated Joshua Tree and Death Valley as national parks, established the Mojave National Preserve, and established 69 wilderness areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the California desert. In total, the California Desert Protection Act increased protection for 8.6 million acres of the California desert.

To celebrate, the Vet Voice Foundation sponsored a trip for a group of Veterans to travel to the Mojave National Preserve to hike and have an overnight camp out.Starting with a brief stop at Mojave Fest, a gathering of local residents, artistic and non-profit organizations held at the Historic Kelso Depot to celebrate the CDPA, the Vets continued on to the Kelso Sand Dunes, one of the most popular hiking sites at the Preserve. The Kelso Sand Dunes are the largest areas of sand deposits in the Mojave Desert, and are comprised of 5 sets of stacked dunes, the tallest reaching 650 feet tall. 

Two Vets, Carlos Simenthal and Steve Dunwoody, California Vet Voice Director,took on the challenge of climbing the tallest one and succeeded!

"Once we reached the top, you could see everything around us. We were even above the birds!" said Carlos Simenthal, a Navy Veteran and native of Victorville, California. "If I had to sum up this experience in one word..." he was asked, "tranquility."

"So many Veterans benefit from being in the outdoors and reconnecting with nature and themselves, particularly those with PTSD." said Steve Dunwoody, "That's another great aspect of what this is all about." 

Following the hike in Kelso Dunes, the Veterans went on to the Hole-In-the-Wall campsite to set up tents, get a fire going and prepare dinner. "We told campfire stories and roasted marshmallows over the fire. It was great to be out and away from the city and experience something I've never done before. I'm glad there are areas like the Mojave National Preserve to give this opportunity to Vets," remarked Joseph Luu, an Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran of the U.S. Army. 

You can see a video and pictures from the trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdM4fKE26kw

Land and Water Conservation Fund's 50th Anniversary Celebration

October 27, 2014

The following is a speech Sen. Murray gave at the Land and Water Conservation Fund's 50th anniversary celebration held in Seattle this past week. Many environmental organizations were represented icluding the Vet Voice Foundation. 

VVF WA and OR director Rick Hegdahl thanked Senator Murray for her leadership as a co-sponsor of S-338 which would bring full funding to the LWCF. That would consequently support projects and jobs in Washington by preservation of existing open spaces, including even local city parks and to purchase private lands that have created a patchwork in our National Parks throughout the west and the nation as a whole.

As Senator Murray mentioned in her remarks, this is a legacy that we should be proud to work for and pass on to future generations.


Senator Murray transcript, 10/21/14

Thank you, Peter and thank you to each and every one of you for the tremendous commitment you have to the heart and soul and passion of Washington state which is to allow every single person no matter their ability or where they live the opportunity to go out and love the state so much like I think all of us do and to really use our state in really great ways. So, I really appreciate all of the great work you do.

It’s really an honor to be here with Congressman Dicks. We don’t call him former – he still wanders the halls in Washington DC. There is no better champion than Norm and I will tell you that he and I spent many years across the capital – he in the house and I in the senate – working to make sure we kept funds like this [LWCF] together. We would not be here without his commitment and his work with this issue saving it from ashes time and time again.

And our partners in the state, Steve [Tharinger]. We have great legislators. Larry here at the county council; my bipartisan help in the house, Congressman Reichert and his office who are here today.

Nobody does this on their own. You do it with a broad group of people from a lot of different walks of life, but we all do this all do this because we know it’s not just about buying land or preserving land, it really is about making sure there are great jobs and economic opportunities in both rural communities and cities. It is a broad coalition like that that will help us get this reauthorized, and not just reauthorized, but with a funding stream that is permanent. That to me is a really important goal.

Senator Jackson was so wise in getting this done in the beginning and I want to thank him and his daughter who is here this evening.

That foresight was so important and fast forward to today where a lot of people talk a good game, but they never put the money into it. And we all know that is what’s really going to matter into the future. We will not pass this without a lot of people working extremely hard and I know that’s what all the groups here are invested in and are going to help us once we get past this little election here. We will be counting and calling on all of you.

To me this is a matter of passing something on. I just had a brand new granddaughter two weeks ago and I want her to be able talk about the legacy she inherited and carry that on into the future. We will be able to do that if we can reauthorize this funding. Thank you for your tremendous help and support.

The Vet Voice Foundation Celebrates San Gabriel Mountains Designation

October 15, 2014

California has a new national monument! On October 10th, 2014, President Obama completed what we've all been waiting on, by signing an Executive Order proclaiming the San Gabriel Mountains to be a national monument. The Vet Voice Foundation was on hand in the beautiful setting of Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA to witness and celebrate with others this remarkable moment in history.

Joining President Obama on stage for the signing was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, as well as U.S. Representatives Judy Chu, Janet Napolitano and Adam Schiff of California, as well as a host of conservationists and supporters, including Daniel Rossman of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition. 

The national monument designation is just the beginning of what will be more work to create projects to enhance the mountains and provide greater access.“Veterans, active military and their families depend on these public lands,” said Steve Dunwoody, Los Angeles-based Program Director for the Vet Voice Foundation. “The President’s protection of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument will bring new attention and resources to these public lands, enhancing access, visitor services and opportunities for recreation for veterans – and all local residents. At the Vet Voice Foundation, we're proud to have helped advocate for it's protection." 

A recent Vet Voice Foundation poll of veterans in Western states shows that a 75 percent majority of post-9/11 veterans favor the Federal government protecting public lands by designating them as national parks, monuments, or wilderness, including 56 percent who strongly favor.

The Vet Voice Foundation Supports the "Warrior Hike"

October 13, 2014

In 2012, after returning home from three combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Warrior Hike founder Sean Gobin hiked all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking, Sean created the “Walk Off The War” Program which is designed to support veterans transitioning from their military service by thru-hiking America’s National Scenic Trails.

The Vet Voice Foundation in coordination with Warrior Hike, recently met up with two Iraq and Afghanistan veterans just north of he Canadian border as they finished 'Walking off the War'. 

Tom Bielecki (L)  of Alto Michigan and Shawn White (R) of Olympia, Washington just walked the entire 2650 mile length of the Pacific Crest Trail which stretches from the Mexico border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington. Beginning their trek on April 13th, they experienced a wide variety of environments in our national public lands from bare rocky desert to forested snow covered mountain ranges. 

Far from the war, they were able to spend time recovering both physically and mentally as they spent their days walking. They hiked an average of 20 miles per day in the quest for their own answers to the issues that troubled them.

Vet Voice Foundation Washington and Oregon Program Manager Rick Hegdahl, met the two hikers in Manning Park B.C. and delivered them to Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass for the annual American Long Distance Hikers Association-West gathering. Letters of congratulations from WA Senator Patty Murray were presented via the Vet Voice Foundation to the hikers to acknowledge their efforts and to welcome them back from their adventure.

The Vet Voice Foundation is excited to build our relationship with Warrior Hike and look forward to next year's 'Walk off the War'. To find out more about Warrior Hike, go here:

 http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2014/09/29/veterans---hike---pacific-crest-trail/16453975/
 

The Vet Voice Foundation Completes Its DC Summer "Fly-In"

September 25, 2014

In the Summer of 2014 eleven military veteran staff members and volunteers from Vet Voice Foundation flew to Washington DC to convince decision makers to fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund and to protect more public lands throughout the western United States. 

The meetings included sitting down with White House Counsel on Environmental Quality and Department of Interior to discuss the many outdoor events VVF has organized throughout the year to help more service members, veterans and their families to access the outdoors and discover the healing benefits of our nation’s public lands.

The team of veterans thanked the Administration, and Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall, for the hard effort that led to the declaration of Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico. Vet Voice Foundation was a critical organization that raised awareness of the massive community support the monument. VVF’s many projects was winning the support of nearly seventy retired General Officers

Each group of veterans focused on speaking to their Senators and Representatives about specific monument campaigns in their states like San Gabriel Mountains in California, Browns Canyon in Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. These vets were excited for the opportunity to sit down with their elected officials and staff members to work on moving the lands they love into a designated park, wilderness area, or monument. 

VVVF wants to thank the continued service of the diverse super volunteers that gave up their vacation time, family time, and college studies to join us in DC to support the important mission of defending our outdoors so future generations can enjoy our public lands.

The Vet Voice Foundation Attends the Annual NASDVA Conference in San Diego

September 25, 2014

The Vet Voice Foundation, represented by California Director Steve Dunwoody attended the Annual Conference of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA) which took place September 17, at the Marriott Hotel  in San Diego, CAl. 
 
The conference is the annual meeting of those designated to oversee Veterans issues in their state, representing each one across the country. This provides them with an opportunity to address commonly shared issues, from Veterans benefits to health and homelessness. The conference included a host of attendees from the private, non-profit and public sectors, including U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. 
 
Steve Dunwoody of the Vet Voice Foundation was given an opportunity to discuss the organization, and its chief involvements in the conservation of public lands. Veteran Director attendees at the conference valued the presentation...", Steve remarked following the event "They saw value in the additional role the Vet Voice Foundation plays in improving Veteran's health by engaging them in outdoor hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities." 
 
Since this years event was held in California, Peter Gravett, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, an appointee of Governor Jerry Brown, hosted the event and had an opportunity to hear more about the Vet Voice Foundation's work. 

The Vet Voice Foundation participates in Wilderness Week panel in Washington, DC

September 25, 2014

The Vet Voice Foundation, represented by California Director Steve Dunwoody, participated in a special panel focused on Veterans for "Wilderness Week", on September 16th in Washington, DC. 
 
The panel took place at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, and included Mike Quigley of The Wilderness Society and Paul Anderson of Huts for Vets. The attendees included a wide assortment of Congressional staffers, conservation groups and activists from across the country. 
 
Panelists discussed and provided presentations on how their organizations worked to involve Veterans in wilderness and conservation issues, immediately followed with questions from the audience. "The panel was a great opportunity to speak about the unique voice for conservation and wilderness we provide to members on both sides of the aisle.", remarked Steve following the event, "It also was good to join with others on the panel in agreeing that getting Veterans engaged in conservation and in the wilderness, helps those who were in combat recover from the traumas of war."
 
 

 

Vet Voice Foundation Praises USDA Town Hall about San Gabriel Mountains

September 05, 2014

On August 26th, the Vet Voice Foundation attended and turned out support for an event in Baldwin Park about the future of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The public meeting, was led by USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and included Rep. Judy Chu, and took place from4-7:30 p.m. at the Baldwin Park Performing Arts Center. 

“I’m so glad USDA has come to Los Angeles to hear from veterans and the community about protecting the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Steve Dunwoody, Los Angeles-based Program Director for the Vet Voice Foundation. “We really appreciate the leadership and attention being paid by USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to the needs of the community and the importance of improving visitor services in the San Gabriel Mountains.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Chu introduced legislation to protect the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers and ensure access for all. Recognizing the slow pace of Congress, the Congresswoman last week announced her support for a National Monument designation on a c

In July, Dunwoody and 12 members of the Vet Voice Foundation visited Washington, D.C., to speak with policy-makers about the need to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains.

 “Veterans, active military and their families depend on these public lands – just as all Angelenos do – for recreation and a break from our harried lives,” Dunwoody added. “We were happy the community will join us tonight in telling the Forest Service and the White House that we support a San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.”


Vet Voice Foundation Tours Californian Desert

September 05, 2014

This week California Vet Voice Director and members of The Wilderness Society and Wildlands Conservancy toured the Mojave Trails National Monument and areas around Joshua Tree National Park. The purpose of the visit was to get a better understanding of the areas that are included in the upcoming California Desert Protection Act, which Dianne Feinstein will be sponsoring this year. 
 



Twenty years ago this fall, the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) enlarged and re-designated Joshua Tree and Death Valley national monuments as national parks, established Mojave National Preserve, and designated 69 new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wilderness areas totaling 3.57 million acres. In total, between BLM lands transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) and lands managed by the NPS, BLM, and other federal agencies being given wilderness or other designations, the CDPA dramatically increased the level of protection for over 8.6 million acres of the California desert. For these reasons, the CDPA is widely regarded as one of our nation's most important place-based, public lands conservation laws.

The Vet Voice Foundation is proud to support the continued protection of the desert for people to enjoy for years to come. "I recently had the opportunity to tour the Mojave Trails National Monument and areas around Joshua Tree National Park.", said Steve Dunwoody, Iraq War Vet and California Director for the Vet Voice Foundation. "The scenic views of the beauty and peaceful solitude were indescribable. In addition to the wilderness we saw there. These and other areas of the desert need protection, as Veterans we strongly believe in protecting our country and our lands."



Vet Voice Foundation Welcomes Steve Dunwoody to the Team

June 30, 2014

Steve Dunwoody joins VoteVets.org as the new Director of the Vet Voice Foundation's work in California. He is an Iraq War Veteran and advocate for the environment, energy independence and a number of important causes. As the California Director, Steve will be responsible for mobilizing veterans in California around important issues related to the conservation of public lands and monuments, in addition to being a strong advocate for a number of other issues important to the Vote Vets mission. 

As a former Obama Administration appointee in the Department of Energy and the White House, Steve has helped champion many of the major agenda items on the Administrations' program for a clean and sustainable future. In 2012 he helped launch "Troops to Energy Jobs" a program sponsored by the Department of Energy with private and non-profit sector partners, which was aimed at training Veterans for jobs in the public utility field. He served as Department spokesman for the program. 

A graduate of Kent State University, Steve resides in Los Angeles, California. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan. Steve was inspired to move to California because of its natural beauty, diversity of its people and endless possibility. He is committed to keeping California at the forefront of the environmental and conservation movement. 

Military Veterans: Border Patrol Activities Unhindered by New Monument Refute Rep. Bishop’s Claim that Monument Poses Security Threat

May 20, 2014

 

Las Cruces, New Mexico – Veterans are strongly refuting unfounded claims by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) that the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will increase illegal border crossings or hinder Customs and Border Patrol efforts in this area. These criticisms are intended to incite fear and are not supported by the facts. 

Prior to the broadly supported national monument designation, Senators Udall and Heinrich and the Department of Interior worked with the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Border Patrol, to ensure that the ability to conduct law enforcement activities in the National Monument would be unimpeded. 

The reality is that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument designation retains U.S. Border Patrol’s current access to public lands within and around the monument boundary. Law enforcement activities will continue and be unaffected. 

“The current wild character of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks has led to extremely low rates of illegal border crossing activity. Simply put, this is not a problem area for illegal border crossings,” said Garett Reppenhagen, regional coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation and a U.S. Army veteran who served as a cavalry scout sniper in Kosovo and Iraq. “Representative Bishop’s conflating  of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks with areas where illegal border crossing has been a problem, such as parts of Arizona, is misleading and shows he hasn’t done his homework about the area in question. Rather than couching his ideological opposition to land protection within false claims about border security, Rep. Bishop should spend some time familiarizing himself with the facts.” 

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Teresa station of Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector apprehended only 13 illegal immigrants south of the Potrillo Mountains in Fiscal Year 2009, an area it patrols. This was 0.1 percent of the 14,999 total apprehensions in the El Paso Sector, which covers the entire state of New Mexico and the two western most counties in Texas, and only 0.002 percent of the apprehensions along the entire U.S. Southwest Border. 

Additionally, apprehensions in the El Paso Sector have declined by 26 percent from 2009 to 2013.

“If the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks were an attractive area for illegal border crossing or smuggling, those activities would already be going on. But with current Border Patrol measures in place, this area is nearly impenetrable,” said Las Cruces resident Peter Ossorio, a retired Army Field Artillery and Tactical Intelligence Officer and retired Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted drug smugglers in southern New Mexico for eight years. “Instead of being scared off by baseless claims about border security, I am delighted that President Obama has protected these public lands, which will benefit our quality of life, our economy, and future generations.” 

“President Obama deserves congratulations for responding to local communities and protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument,” said Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson. “This designation will stimulate the local economy, preserve our history, and protect a beautiful part of our nation -- while allowing Border Patrol to continue doing their job keeping these public lands among the most secure along the Southwest border.”

 

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Release: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Region National Monument Designation Honors Veterans, Military History of the Region

May 19, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Veterans today are celebrating news that President Barack Obama will use his executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region as a National Monument on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

Located within the newly designated monument are sites that are significant to the history of the United States military, including 24 large bull’s-eyes that made up the Deming aerial bombing targets. The targets were used to train Army Air Corps pilots during World War II.

Bernie Digman of Las Cruces, a Vietnam Era veteran and member and volunteer for the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation, applauded President Obama’s efforts saying that permanent protection of the area will preserve an important part of our nation’s history.

“Having served this country, I have a special affinity for the places located within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region that help tell the story of our nation’s military history,” Mr. Digman said. “The region’s new monument status ensures that these places will be protected and maintained so future generations can visit them and learn about the sacrifices of our military personnel.”

Reagan Sullivan, another local U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq said: “When Americans are fighting overseas, we are fighting for our rights and freedoms and for American soil. This includes our public lands – the special places we want to return to, take our children to, and enjoy. We did not fight to see out special and wild places overrun with development, trash and vandalism. These are places where our nation’s warriors – especially those carrying the burden of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – can heal and enjoy peace and nature in their backyard.”

Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steve Anderson, who served 31 years in the U.S. Army, also supported the news of the new national monument.

"Congratulations to President Obama for protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. This designation will stimulate the local economy, preserve our history, and protect a beautiful part of our nation -- while allowing Border Patrol to continue doing their job keeping our public lands among the most secure along the Southwest border."

Today’s announcement begins the fruitful ending for the community’s decade-long effort to protect the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. Following the lead of former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico’s current U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation calling for the creation of the national monument in December. This was followed by a visit from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in late January and the president’s expected signing of the National Monument proclamation this coming Wednesday.

“The veterans’ community sincerely thanks President Obama for taking action to protect a place that is so important to New Mexicans,” said Garett Reppenhagen, Regional Coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation.

 

Vet Voice Foundation Speaks at Browns Canyon Event

December 04, 2013

Just before a massive snow storm descended on the Colorado high country on Tuesday December 3rd, 2013, Senator Mark Udall addressed a crowd assembled at Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting. He explained the hard work and attention to detail that went into crafting a proposal to make Colorado's Browns Canyon in the Arkansas River Valley a national monument and wilderness area.

The drafted bill, set to be introduced in the Senate the following week, was altered numerous times to satisfy all the local stakeholders, from ranchers to ATV enthusiasts. Eventually the final version will protect over 22,000 acres of beautiful landscape, habitat, and recreational areas. Brown's Canyon has breathtaking views of the Collegiate Peaks and some of the most used white water rafting regions in the country.

Other speakers followed the Senator, explaining how the designation would improve the local economy and help keep their community treasure clean and preserved. However, the final speaker was Vet Voice Foundation's Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator and OIF veteran Garett Reppenhagen, who explained how access to public lands, like Pike National Forest, helped him survive his transition from being a US Army sniper to civilian life.

He explained that the proximity to military bases, like Ft. Carson and the Air Force Academy, allow service members and veterans gain easy access to the outdoors, heal from the trauma of war and rebond with family members after long deployments. There is a strong history in land conservation in the Armed Forces, and according to a recent poll commissioned by Vet Voice Foundation,a overwhelming majority of veterans favor protection land and clean water by designating new national monuments, wilderness areas, and national parks. They value the need to defend our heritage for future generations.

Our members are excited to hear the news that the Browns Canyon proposal is moving forward, and are encouraged to see the local veteran groups like Rivers of Recovery, Veterans Expedition and the veteran members of Friends of Browns Canyon join Vet Voice Foundation and the rest of the community to see this vital outdoors area protected. 

Public News Service: Colorado Veterans Fight to Protect Public Lands

November 12, 2013

DENVER - While this Veterans Day recognizes men and women who have served the United States around the world, a group of veterans is working to protect the land here at home. Army veteran Garett Reppenhagen of Colorado Springs is a member of the Vet Voice Foundation and Rocky Mountain West coordinator for the group.

He'll travel to Washington next week to speak out about preserving the public lands he sees as vital to the country's quality of life. "They're the lands that I love, so when I swore an oath to defend the United States and the Constitution, that included the land and the legacy that we have," he declared.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently offered her first agenda-setting statements on conservation. She said she's concerned that Congress has not passed any conservation bills in the last three years, and said she and the President are willing to work around Congress if it fails to act.

Tuesday, Vet Voice is to publish a poll of veterans in Western states on their opinions on parks and public lands issues. According to Reppenhagen, places like Colorado's Dinosaur National Monument and Browns Canyon give him and other veterans a chance to recuperate and spend time with their families. "I love the outdoors. Just getting into our public lands has helped me heal and survive basically, the traumas and rigors of my war experience," he said. "It's how I spend time with my friends and family."

Members of the Vet Voice Foundation, including Reppenhagen, will be in Washington on Nov. 18 to visit Congressmen and White House staff members. Secretary Jewell also said she's concerned about the government shutdown's negative effects on national parks, and emphasized the importance of fully funding the nation's Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Denver Post: Sweeping Colorado elections bill clears first hurdle before House committee

April 20, 2013

 


Colorado could change the way America votes, but first the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act has to make its way through the Colorado statehouse. And that’s going to be a tall order. The ground-breaking proposal would send mail ballots to every voter, allow Election Day registration and put all the counties on a real-time statewide database that supporters say would weed out cheaters who try to vote twice.

The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle Monday evening when it passed the House’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee by a 7-4 party line vote, after more than seven and a half hours of testimony from dozens of public officials and otherwise private individuals on each side. it now moves to the House appropriations committee.

Opponents say the change isn’t needed for a state with strong voter participation, while it increases the chances of voter fraud. Same-day registration won’t provide enough time to weed out cheaters, say Republicans aligned against the bill, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Those promoting the changes said the bill is uniquely Colorado, and the state could take the lead nationally on making elections more convenient to voters. They are confident other states will follow — because voters like mail voting (74 percent in Colorado last November), while preserving in-person voting at a few early voting centers, and, eventually, saving millions of dollars for counties.

“We’ve managed to, I believe, put together a bill that I think is a model for the nation,” Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, one of the bill’s sponsors, told The Denver Post editorial board before Monday afternoon’s hearing.

Garett Reppenhagen of Colorado Springs, the Rocky Mountain West coordinator for the Vet Voice Foundation, said service members need as many options to register and vote as possible. He said military members fight for the right to vote, and increasing access is an important goal.

“if you vote for this bill you will be honoring the service of those who put on the uniform and made the decision to serve,” he told the committee.

 

Vote Vets Foundation in Taos County

April 15, 2013

Vet Voice Foundation staff joined veterans from Taos County in celebrating the recent national monument designation of Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico. As one of our nation’s newest national monuments, Rio Grande del Norte also serves as a gift to the veterans of New Mexico and our nation. VVF member Larry Sanchez, a county commissioner from Taos County stated, “With our veterans returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, places such as these are here to assist with their recuperation. Lands such as RGDN are here for our veterans to find peace from their time at war and recreate with family and friends.”

VVF toured the newly protected areas of RGDN on Monday, April 8. VVF was joined by a member of Senator Tom Udall’s staff and Taos County officials as well as several veterans from the region. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance assisted VVF with staging this tour and served as a guide.

Another piece of good news associated with the recent monument designation is the economic impact it will have. Rio Grande del Norte will also serve as a driver for the local economy in northern New Mexico.

A recent study by BBC Research and Consulting found that the increase in tourism resulting from a national monument designation could inject $15 million into the local economy. This would create upwards of 279 jobs. With the unemployment rate high among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans this is welcome news for those living in the region.

Lawrence Vargas, a Vietnam-era veteran and member of VVF’s New Mexico Steering Committee said, “This is a big win for veterans, not only the protection of our natural resources but the economic impact that is associated with it. Having a national monument in the area will help boost the economy. This is good news for veterans in the Taos area.”

VVF was proud to be involved in the campaign to see Rio Grande del Norte designated a national monument. Our veterans and staff would like to offer thanks to President Obama, Senators Bingaman (Ret.), Udall, Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Lujan for their efforts in making the dream of an RGDN National Monument become a reality.

 

Dedication of the San Juan Islands National Monument

April 04, 2013

Vet Voice Foundation board member Rick Hegdahl was invited to be the guest of Sally and Tom Reeve and the local folks on Lopez Island this past Monday April 1st, to celebrate the dedication of the San Juan Islands National Monument. Attending the dedication and speaking to the standing-room only crowd at the Anacortes Senior Center were outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Maria Cantwell and Reps Rick Larsen (WA-06) and Suzan DelBene (WA-01). San Juan County Council members Bob Jarman, Rick Hughes and Jamie Stephens were also on hand. The beautiful new official sign for the monument was also revealed.

One highlight of the dedication was when the government officials were upstaged by two teen members of the community who impressed the crowd with their short but heartfelt thanks to the community and leadership for their accomplishments.

Hegdahl was fortunate to have the ear of Sec. Salazar for a few moments and thanked him for his efforts on public lands issues and also shared the vision of the Vet Voice Foundation. Rick emphasized the Foundation's desire to see full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in order for National Parks and Monuments to be well cared for, so that all citizens of the world would continue to share in the wonders of the beautiful Washington outdoors.

Hegdahl also thanked Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Rick Larson (WA-06) for their efforts at the national level in support of their home state.

After the dedication of the monument, VIP's gathered at the Anacortes ferry terminal for a scenic ride across Puget Sound to Lopez Island.

After a short drive south across this scenic rural island the guests all assembled at Agate Beach Park for the tour guided by local activists and members of the community who worked for years to make this monument a reality.

Some braved the chilly waters, tempered by balmy spring weather, in tandem kayaks for tours of the water surrounding the monument. Others took off on foot to explore the beauty of this small but critical part of the San Juan Islands legacy. Those on the water were careful not to disturb the many harbor seals they came upon sunning themselves on the rocky outcroppings of Iceberg Point.

After returning to Agate Park the group continued on to the community center in Lopez for a standing-room only potluck that featured many wonderful dishes from the local citizens.

Everyone was encouraged to sign beautiful scenic prints of the surrounding areas that were thank you gifts to the leaders who guided the designation to it's fruition.

The attendees seemed to thoroughly enjoy their excursion and all seemed very proud of Washington State's new San Juan Islands National Monument.

Groups Say SoCal Natural Treasure Deserves Protection

April 01, 2013

LOS ANGELES - Some California groups are hoping to get the attention of Congress following President Obama's recent designation of five new national monuments. A diverse coalition of organizations is seeking permanent protection for the San Gabriel Mountains and their rivers. 

Mario Rivas, a member of Vet Voice Foundation and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, said the forest helps in his recovery after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

"It's a climb, metaphorically," he said. "Once you're in location for combat you're ready. When you come back you can't just jump off that hill, you're gonna crash. You don't always land on both feet and these places offer that stepping stone."

The San Gabriel Mountains and rivers are the LA region's largest recreation back yard for fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities. Over the years, funding cuts have left the forest with missing or damaged trail signs, outdated bathrooms, little visitor information and programs, and too few rangers to oversee an area that is three times larger than New York City.

A bill to protect this forest was introduced in the last Congress, but according to Rivas, it unfortunately died.

"This last Congress was the first Congress since World War II that has not protected a single new acre of public land as a national park, national recreation area or national monument or wilderness area."

Local Congresswoman Judy Chu supports designating the forest as a national recreation area to improve and protect the mountains. Once the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study is complete, she said, she'll work with the communities involved and listen to everyone's comments in order to help ensure that the final plan reflects the communities' priorities.

Rio Grande del Norte: A Gift for the Veterans and Military Families of New Mexico

March 25, 2013

 

This week, President Obama once again demonstrated his commitment to protecting our public lands with the designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico. This designation marks the fifth time during his tenure that President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to safeguard our nation's public lands. The designation of Rio Grande del Norte was widely supported among sportsmen, community leaders and local residents who have been working for years to see this public land, perched in Taos and Rio Arriba counties, preserved for future generations.

In August of 2012, Taos County Commissioner Larry Sanchez, a member of the Vet Voice Foundation's New Mexico Steering Committee, helped draft an eloquent letter to President Obama -- co-signed by 19 other Taos County veterans -- on why it is important to protect these lands. Commissioner Sanchez, a Vietnam-era Veteran, understood fully the importance that these lands play not only to the future of New Mexico but also for the Veteran community. In a personal conversation I had with him he emphatically told me, "With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, our Veterans need these lands to find a place to recuperate and find peace. I want President Obama to know the intrinsic value these lands hold to America's heroes."

Commissioner Sanchez also did more than write a letter to the president. He personally went to Washington, D.C. in September on behalf of the Vet Voice Foundation to advocate for a Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. His voice and leadership were crucial on this issue with both the administration and New Mexico's lawmakers.

The Vet Voice Foundation is an organization that works throughout the western United States to involve Veterans in the effort to raise awareness of the need to protect public lands. I have served as the organization's Program Director since 2009.

In safeguarding the public lands of Rio Grande del Norte, many vital interests will be served. First, Rio Grande del Norte is a mecca for outdoor recreation. Hikers, hunters, rafters, campers, kayakers, rock climbers and anglers not only from New Mexico but also all across our great nation frequent the area. These activities benefit the local economy, and a national monument designation will increase these benefits. A recent study by BBC Research & Consulting found that the tourism increase resulting from a national monument designation could boost the local economy by $15 million and create 279 new jobs.

New Mexico's natural environment is also a big winner here. Rio Grande del Norte is home to a remarkable blend of wildlife habitat such as pronghorn antelope, elk, cougar, bighorn sheep and bobcat. The area also boasts some of the best elk, deer and antelope hunting in all of North America while the Rio Grande and Red River offer an amazing trout fishing experience.

Rio Grande del Norte also serves as a critical watershed for New Mexico and the surrounding region. Much of the state and surrounding areas receive a substantial amount of their water supply from the Rio Grande. These waters also provide irrigation for millions of acres of farmland. Through the designation of a national monument, these wildlife habitats and water supplies will be protected in perpetuity.

This is a big win for the people of New Mexico and our nation. And it isn't the only win this week for Veterans.

In Washington State, President Obama protected the public lands of the majestic San Juan Islands as a national monument, a place Iraqi Freedom Veteran Rick Hegdahl spoke up to protect. The president also protected our military history by designating the historic home of Colonel Charles Young in Ohio a national monument. Born into slavery and only the third African American to graduate from West Point, Colonel Young overcame all odds to become the highest-ranking African-American officer in the U.S. Army.

Protecting our public lands and cultural heritage at places such as these can play a role in the recovery of our men and women as they return home from war. No one can doubt the spiritual connection that exists between nature and those seeking solace. As Veterans, we fought for these lands overseas and it is important that we now defend them at home. Through the efforts of Commissioner Sanchez, Rick Hegdahl and others, these lands will always be here for America's Veterans.

 

VetVoice Foundation Interviewed About Sec. of the Interiors Work in Colorado

January 22, 2013

VetVoice Foundation's Garett Reppenhagen was interviewed by the Public News Service about Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and land conservation in Colorado.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Protecting Rio Grande del Norte - Interior Secretary Visits Taos

December 17, 2012

On December 15th, 2012 VVF New Mexico Steering Committee Member Larry Sanchez, a County Commissioner from Taos County County, New Mexico met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a meeting to discuss the future of lands known as the Rio Grande del Norte.

Secretary Salazar was in Taos on this day to meet with local community leaders to discuss permanent protection of these lands. Commissioner Sanchez spoke eloquently on behalf of VVF on protecting these lands for future generations as well as their value to the Veteran's community.

We wish to thank Commissioner Sanchez for his tireless advocacy on behalf of New Mexico's public lands his and support of VVF.

Veterans Cheer Designation of Chimney Rock As A National Monument

September 21, 2012

The Vet Voice Foundation, is cheering President Obama's designation of Chimney Rock National Park as a National Monument - a move that will protect over 4700 acres in Colorado.  The Vet Voice Foundation recently organized a trip to Washington for veterans to meet with individual Congressmen and Senators to stress the importance of the designation.

Click here to read our press release.

 

Veteran's Editorial on Berryessa Snow Mountain

September 20, 2012

The Davis Enterprise published an editorial from Lawson Stuart, a U.S. Air Force reservist and a member of the Vet Voice Foundation.

 

Vet Voice Foundation member Jonathan Ervin visits The Bodie Hills

June 05, 2012

Vet Voice Foundation member Johnathon Ervin visits The Bodie Hills in California and discusses why these lands are important to the Veterans community and future generations. In 2010, The Bodie Hills were threatened with legislation that would have opened the area up to mining. VVF, and our veterans responded. Watch the video here:

 

Memorial Day - Vet Voice Member's Letter to the Editor Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle

June 01, 2012

Vet Voice Foundation's Tyler Johnson had his letter to the editor - "Montana's special places a great asset to veterans" was published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Memorial Day.  

Click here to read Tyler's letter to the editor.

VVF on Huffington Post

May 20, 2012

Our Program Director, Mark Starr, recently wrote a blog post for Huffington Post about the free annual passes to parks for all active-duty military and their families.  

Click here to read the article on Huffington Post.

Success! President Obama Designates Fort Ord as a National Monument

April 20, 2012

Vet Voice Foundation thanks President Obama for designating Ft. Ord a Soldiers National Monument. The installation, which closed in 1994 has a long and storied tradition serving our nation from World War I through the end of the Cold War. Now, a piece of Army folklore, it is the second National Monument to be designated by President Obama. 

Click here to read our press release.

Click here to read the Politco post about the National Monument designation.

 

VetVoice Foundation Op-Ed in The Seattle Times

March 28, 2012

Click here to read the editorial by Rick Hegdahl that was published in The Seattle Times.

 

Vet Voice Foundation meets with President Obama

March 07, 2012

On Friday, March 2, 2012, Mark Star, Program Director for Vet Voice Foundation, attended a meeting with President Obama at the White House Conference on Conservation to discuss designating Ft. Ord a National Monument.

 

 

Veterans Discuss the Importance of Public Lands

March 05, 2012

Vet Voice Foundation has been working to share the stories of veterans on the importance of preserving public lands.  These are lands that veterans enjoy, and depend on after their time in war.  These lands are under threat from development, and must be protected.  We'll be adding videos right here with our veterans on this important issue. 

Veterans Discuss the Importance of Public Lands and Preserving Fort Ord

February 29, 2012

Vet Voice Foundation has been working to share the stories of veterans on the importance of preserving public lands.  Over 1200 people have signed our petition to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, urging them to support National Monument status for Fort Ord.

Check out these interview with some of our veterans on this important issue.

Keith Jeffries

Vitali Mostovoj

Mario Rivas

Huffington Post: Gun Sales To Terrorist Suspects Would Be Halted By Bill Backed By Veterans

February 28, 2012

Huffington Post published this article about veterans supporting the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act.  The article features quotes from some of our veterans.

WASHINGTON -- Under current U.S. law, there are several ways a person can fail the background check required to purchase a gun. Being on the FBI's terrorist watch list is not one of them.

A group of military veterans is hoping to fix that problem by reviving a long-stalled bill, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. The proposed law would allow the FBI to block gun sales to people on the watch list, closing what the veterans call the "terror gap."

"This is common-sense legislation that does not infringe on a gun-owner's rights, and will protect our troops and our nation," said Vet Voice Foundation in a press release. The group, founded by veteran and progressive activist Jon Soltz, recently formed a new working group to rally veterans and ramp up pressure on Congress to prohibit such gun sales.

The working group is led by Ruben Gallego and Jackie Rodgers, both veterans and gun owners. Gallego, a former Marine infantryman and now a Democratic member of the Arizona legislature, argued that closing the gap was a smart move. "You wouldn't allow a known terrorist to get an airplane," he said. "Why are we are going to allow known terrorists to go pick up weapons?"

Both men said they were motivated by the threat to men and women in uniform, who have been targeted by shooting attacks over the past few years. In addition to shootings at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, that same year a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., was fired upon. Terrorist suspects also attempted to purchase weapons to attack Fort Dix, N.J., in 2007.

Rodgers, who served in the Army, said that veterans are uniquely placed to understand the issue. "A lot of veterans are gun owners," said Rodgers, who served in the Army. "And if you have veteran gun owners supporting this, they are speaking from both sides, from an understanding of being a gun owner and from an understanding of the potential of terrorism."

A 2011 report by the Government Accounting Office found that from February 2004 to February 2010, "individuals on the terrorist watch list were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times; 1,119 (about 91 percent) of these transactions were allowed to proceed because no prohibiting information was found."

Gallego said that such numbers represent "a clear and present danger."

For years, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) has introduced legislation in Congress to close the watch list loophole without success. "It goes to committee and just sits there," he told the New York Daily News in 2009. "It's been going on for a while."

Two years later, King is still waiting. He resubmitted the bill to the House in early 2011, with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) submitting legislation to the Senate. But last year, as in 2009, the legislation never emerged from committee. Vet Voice plans to pressure members of Congress who voted against the bill in committee, a group that includes Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who represents Fort Hood in his district.

Gallego believes that the inaction stems from a lack of information rather than widespread opposition. "A lot of congressmen just aren't well educated on the subject matter. I think they think this is some kind of anomaly, but it is a real threat," he said.

Gun lobbyists, however, disagree. The National Rifle Assocation is adamantly opposed to the law. The group posted a fact sheet online in April 2011 saying that the bill was "aimed primarily at law-abiding American gun owners." The NRA said that such gun owners could be in jeopardy of jail time if they were mistakenly or arbitrarily placed on the watch list. "Ninety-five percent of watchlisted persons are already prohibited from acquiring firearms in the U.S., because they are not U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens," they wrote.

An NRA spokesman confirmed to The Huffington Post that his organization's position has not changed since last year.

But some of the group's members appear to back the the proposal. In a 2009 poll of NRA members conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 82 percent said they would support measures to prevent those on the watch list from buying firearms. "If you look at prohibiting terrorists from buying guns, requiring background checks at gun shows, or other issues, you find widespread support for these measures," said pollster Frank Luntz, who ran the survey.

Gallego and Rodgers are both former NRA members. While they both left the group over disagreements with some of its positions, neither was surprised that most gun owners would agree with them on the terror gap. "NRA members are great Americans," Gallego said. "And they want to see the country protected as much as anybody else."

 

 

Fort Ord in Stars and Stripes

February 27, 2012

More great coverage on protecting Fort Ord.  Starts and Stripes has published a guest column from one of our veterans, Vitali Mostovoj, on protecting Fort Ord.

Click here to read the entire article.

Over 1000 Petition Signatures to Senators Feinstein and Boxer Backing National Monument Status for Fort Ord

February 23, 2012

Today we delivered 1200 petition signatures to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, urging them to support National Monument status for Fort Ord.

"Recently, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Fort Ord in Monterey, and expressed an interest in exploring ways to protect this historic site.  As a veteran of the Iraq War, I strongly support the designation of Ft. Ord as a Soldiers National Monument, as do thousands of others," said Mark Starr, Program Director for the Vet Voice Foundation, and an Iraq War Veteran.

Check out this video from Vitali Mostovoj, a 25 year Air Force Veteran, who lives in California.  In the video, he talks about the importance of Fort Ord to him as a veteran, and a Californian, and makes a personal appeal to the Senators.

 

Vet Voice Foundation Joins New Initiative to Employ America's Veterans - America Wants You.

February 21, 2012

Read our Huffington Post piece on it, here.

 

Our Western Leadership Conference A Success!

January 30, 2012

On January 21st and 22nd - Vet Voice Foundation met with a group of Veterans who traveled to Denver, CO for our first Western Leaders Conference.

Attendees heard from Jon Soltz, who had just returned from a deployment to Iraq, attended a media training and listened to a representative from the Mayor Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition that seeks to prevent individuals on the FBI’s Terror Watch List from acquiring guns to commit terrorist attacks.

 

ThinkProgress on Fort Ord

January 19, 2012

Click here to read the entire article.

The Vet Voice Foundation and a group of California veterans noted in a letter to Secretary Salazar that:

A National Monument designation will serve as a reminder of the triumphs and sacrifices that have shaped the United States and honor the legacy of the millions of soldiers who trained on these lands.

 

 

Veterans to Gather in Denver for 2012 Western Leaders Conference

January 05, 2012

The Vet Voice Foundation will hold the 2012 Western Leaders Conference in Denver, Colorado, on the 21st and 22nd of January. As part of our ongoing mission to engage Veterans in their communities, we will be providing training to Veterans from Western States on how to become compelling spokespersons for issues that are important to our community. While this training is useful on a broad spectrum of Veterans issues, our conference will focus on the preservation of outdoor opportunities for Veterans and their families, an issue our foundation will be heavily involved with in the coming year.

Our foundation became involved with environmental issues as part of our advocacy to proliferate domestic renewable energy technology in order to provide greater security for our nation. As we spoke to our nationwide grassroots network of Veterans, we heard stories of the importance of outdoor recreation to our communities and our families. Veterans served this great nation because of their love for it, including its natural beauty. When Veterans return home, they use these lands to reconnect with their families and gain peace from the stresses of combat.  However, current legislation in Congress threatens both the funding to maintain these lands and seeks to sell many of them to the highest private bidder.

Our conference will include a social event on the evening of January 21st where we will provide dinner and an opportunity to build camaraderie with fellow Vets who are also volunteering to further our mission.  The following morning, we will begin with a breakfast address by our Chairman, Jon Soltz, who returned from a deployment to Iraq just last month.  Following breakfast, our spokesperson training will commence and last until the afternoon. Lunch will be provided and will include an address from a representative of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition that seeks to prevent individuals on the FBI’s Terror Watch List from acquiring guns to commit terrorist attacks.

Salt Lake City's Deseret News Published Op-Ed from Our Veteran

December 06, 2011

On Saturday, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, published a great Op-Ed by Vet Voice Foundation member and veteran John Forsman.  Click here to read the entire article.

Great Op-Ed in the Ventura County Star

October 11, 2011

Click here to check out this great op-ed from Veteran Vitali Mostovoj that was published in the Ventura County Star.

Check out Vet Voice Foundation on TV

September 16, 2011

Bakersfield's ABC affiliate KERO 23 was there as our Mark Starr delievered petition signatures to Congressman McCarthy.

Petition to Protect California Desert

September 09, 2011

The deserts of Southern California attract visitors each year from all over the world. This has also equated into millions of dollars of revenue from tourism. Senator Feinstein's bill would create two new national monuments. This will add to the robust tourism economy that already exists in the region. The bill will also ensure that already disturbed land will be considered for renewable energy projects first thus preserving our most scenic areas.

Click here to sign our petition supporting Senator Feinstein's bill

 

VVF meets Student Veterans of America

September 09, 2011

In June, VVF staff attended the Student Veterans of America's National Leadership summit in Madison, WI. This event is SVA's annual conference of chapter leaders to discuss ways of furthering their chapters' goals. VVF was able to forge new relationships with leaders of the veterans community from many colleges and universities, such as University of Arizona, University of California-Los Angeles and City College of San Francisco.

Also in June, VVF attended the Colorado SVA conference was held in Denver. VVF met with SVA members from more than 10 Colorado high learning institutions, as well as members of outside organizations such as the American Legion, VFW and Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs.

Vet Voice Foundation in The Sun

August 19, 2011

This month, on behalf of Vet Voice Foundation, Iraq & Afghanistan War Veteran Joshua Bunce, wrote an Op-Ed for The Sun (San Bernadino, CA). He wrote about vital land preservation efforts in Southern California. Learn more about the issue, and read his entire piece, here.

Veteran Rick Reyes Advocates for the Protection of Public Lands

June 07, 2011

Rick Reyes is a US Marine Corps veterans who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan wrote an editorial for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune about protecting the San Gabriel Mountains.  You can read his editorial here.  Public News Service intervied Reyes about protecting public lands, listen to the interview here.

VVF and General Anderson Visit the Vestas Blades Plant in Colorado

February 21, 2011

Last week Brig. Gen. Stephen Anderson (Ret.) and Vet Voice Foundation's Richard Allen Smith visited the Vestas Blades plant in Windsor, CO, Colorado State University in Fort Collins,CO and the Abound Solar manufacturing facility in Longmont, CO. 

Here are some photos from our visit to the Vestas Blades plant where we were joined by veterans Dennis Hicks and Nick Killen, who work at the facility

Visit to Vestes

 

 

 

VVF meets with Congressman Matheson To Talk About Proposed Wilderness Designations in UT

February 20, 2011

VVF met with Congressman Matheson at his Salt Lake City District Office to talk about proposed Wilderness designations in Southeastern Utah.

Vet Voice Foundation partners with Student Veterans of America

January 04, 2011

With so many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and attending college, education issues are a priority in our community. The Vet Voice Foundation is proud to partner with Student Veterans of America and recently attended their national conference at Georgetown University to promote our work and evaluate the issues facing veterans as they seek to further their education. We look forward to continuing this partnership and advocating for continued educational opportunities for Veterans and their families.

Clean Energy & Climate Change: Education and Awareness

May 09, 2010

As veterans of this generation you have seen the clear and present threat that our national dependence on foreign oil creates.  Furthermore, the recent Quadrennial Defense Review the Department of Defense listed climate change as one of the primary threats facing the United States.  This campaign is spreading awareness of these issues in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.   

Bi-Partisan Poll of Iraq & Afghanistan Vets

March 15, 2010



 To:    Vet Voice Foundation
 From:   Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, Inc.
 Re:  Results From Recent Research among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans on Don't Ask, Don't Tell*
 Date:    March 15, 2010

A recent survey conducted among military personnel who served in the Afghanistan or Iraq wars shows that by six points Iraq and Afghanistan veterans under age 35 lean toward favoring allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly (41% favor to 35% oppose) while veterans over age 35 lean toward opposing by five points (31% favor, 36% oppose).  This recent bipartisan survey, conducted among service members in the United States, in many ways runs counter to the idea being asserted by many, that service members and the military cannot handle this change and are unwilling to do so,  There is widespread agreement among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on three core principles: that veterans are comfortable around gay and lesbian people, that being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service members' ability to perform their duties, and that, ultimately, these veterans would find it acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly. 

  • Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service member's ability to perform their duties. Overall, 60% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans agree with that statement, including 42% who strongly agree. Only 29% disagree. Two-thirds of those veterans under age 35 agree (66%) with that statement, including almost half (47%) who strongly agree. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over age 35 also agree (57% agree, 40% strongly). Agreement also extends across the branches of service, including 64% of Air Force veterans, 59% of Army and Marines veterans, and 58% of Navy veterans. It is clear from a policy standpoint that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service member's ability to perform their duties.
  • An overwhelming majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say it is personally acceptable to them if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military. Seven in ten (73%) say it is acceptable, including 42% who say it would be acceptable and 31% who would find it acceptable even though they would not like it. Only a quarter (25%) would find it unacceptable. Generational differences exist here as well, but they are not as dramatic as conventional wisdom might indicate. Forty-seven percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans under age 35 find it acceptable and would like the policy change and another 30% find it acceptable and do not like it, for a total of 77% who find it personally acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military. Seventy percent of veterans over age 35 would find it acceptable and only a quarter would find it unacceptable (26%).
    • In total, 81% of those in the Air Force, 78% of those in the Navy, 67% of those in the Army, and 68% of those in the Marines would find it acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military. Half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from the Navy (54%), half of those from the Air Force (50%), and a plurality of those from the Army (37%) find it acceptable without reservations; and while the Marines are less accepting without reservation (25%), a plurality would find it acceptable but would not like it (43%).
  • The notion that today's military members are uncomfortable around gay and lesbian people is unfounded; the data prove it is untrue. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians. Seven in ten Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (73%) are personally comfortable, including 37% who are very comfortable. Only a quarter (23%) is uncomfortable, and hardly anyone is very uncomfortable (only 7%). Notably, younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are more comfortable overall (80%) and show increased intensity around the issue (41% are very comfortable). Older Iraq and Afghanistan veterans also express comfort (69% overall, 35% very comfortable) but even among older veterans, very few are very uncomfortable in the presence of gay and lesbian people (only 7%). At least seven in ten veterans who served in Iraq of Afghanistan from across the branches say they are comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians: Air Force 78%, Navy 73%, Army 70%, and Marines 69%.

As mentioned, younger veterans lean toward favoring allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly while older veterans lean toward opposing the change, but there is little intensity in either direction.  It is just simply not a burning issue that overwhelms these veterans' lives.  Thirty-four percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans favor allowing openly gay and lesbian women to serve in the military, 36% oppose it, and another third (30%) are not sure (28%) or do not know (2%).  A quarter is strongly in favor of allowing gay and lesbian people to serve, and 29% are strongly opposed.  By six points, veterans under age 35 favor open service (41% favor, 35% oppose) including 28% who strongly favor it; while by a similar five points, veterans over age 35 oppose it (31% favor, 36% oppose).  By twelve points veterans in the Air Force favor allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly, while those in the Navy (+1) and Army (-4) split.  Veterans from the Marines are against it (-17). 

In summary, an overwhelming majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are comfortable around gay and lesbian people, believe that being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service member's ability to perform their duties, and would find it acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military.  Any notion that ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would disrupt the military or that service members would be unwilling to meet the change is debunked. 

View the poll (PDF) here


* Methods:  Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers.  The survey reached a total of 510 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and/or Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).   The survey was conducted February 8-23, 2010.  Telephone numbers for the sample were generated randomly from a military sample and a radius sample drawn from military bases in the United States.  The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

Land We Love

April 30, 2009

The Vet Voice Foundation is working to mobilize veterans in southern California to support the protection of desert lands. Protection of America’s pristine lands is not just an environmental issue; it is a matter of patriotism. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt expanded publicly protected lands, the care of America’s beautiful, undeveloped lands has been part of what makes this nation great. Veterans care about the protection of the land they love – including our natural wonders. They’re ready to get involved.

Antiquities Act preserves Reach and other important places

June 22, 2015

One hundred and nine years ago this month, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, allowing Presidents of the United States to designate existing public lands as national monuments when they have outstanding historic or scientific value.

One day and 94 years later on June 9, 2000, the Hanford Reach National Monument was created by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act to protect outstanding biological values along the Columbia River and the historic contributions of Hanford to World War II.

In addition to encompassing the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States, Hanford Reach reflects our region’s role in U.S. history. Plutonium reactors stand along the river, remnants of World War II and the Cold War. Plutonium from the B Reactor fueled the atomic bomb that the U.S. military released on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

Last year, Congress voted to give the monument an additional level of protection and recognition for its historic value by designating part of Hanford Reach as the Manhattan Project National Park. Efforts are already underway to plan and build interpretive sites to educate visitors about the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb, and Hanford’s contributions.

Tri-Citians contributed in ways big and small to helping win the war, and a memorial and educational opportunities are a fitting way to ensure this is never forgotten. Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray were important leaders in this effort.

As a veteran, I am grateful that our leaders have seen fit to protect this area and memorialize this piece of our nation’s history, including all of the people who contributed to the Manhattan Project, military and civilian.

Presidents throughout history have used the Antiquities Act to protect places of historic military significance, including President Lincoln’s cottage where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. President George H.W. Bush called upon the Antiquities Act when he designated the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Presidents from both parties have used the Act to protect or expand seven different military forts around the country.

The act has been used by 16 different presidents -- eight Democrats and eight Republicans. While currently all eyes are on President Obama regarding his past and future use of the Antiquities Act, I found the thoughtful actions taken by Republican presidents to be particularly noteworthy and worthy of recognition: Statute of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Lewis and Clark, African Burial Ground, and Washington state’s very own Mount Olympus (now Olympic National Park) were all conserved for future generations.

Many veterans, including me, have adjusted from military to civilian life by seeking solace in the outdoors. Public lands, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, are the best way to access the outdoors. Our Columbia River provides outstanding fishing opportunities, and provides a place where everyone can spend time alone or with friends and family and leave their worries behind even if just for a few hours.

Whether you are a veteran or civilian, historian or angler, wildlife watcher or hunter, the Hanford Reach National Monument has something for everyone. Hanford Reach National Monument supports employment for 178,000 people, according to Headwaters Economics. Statewide, outdoor recreation on public lands in Washington yields $10 billion in annual expenditures, according to a 2015 study by Earth Economics.

During this anniversary of both the Antiquities Act itself and of the designation of Hanford Reach as a national monument, I reflect on the significant contributions Tri-Citians made to winning World War II. I am also proud of our country’s robust and varied tools for memorializing those contributions – tools such as the Antiquities Act. In the future, I hope presidents will continue to have the ability to designate places for all Americans to access public lands and get outside, and also learn about our nation’s history.

Rick Hegdahl is the Pacific Northwest Director for the Vet Voice Foundation and an Iraq War veteran. He is committed to protecting public lands for all to enjoy and providing a platform for veterans to serve after the uniform.

Antiquities Act preserves Reach and other important places

June 22, 2015

One hundred and nine years ago this month, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, allowing Presidents of the United States to designate existing public lands as national monuments when they have outstanding historic or scientific value.

One day and 94 years later on June 9, 2000, the Hanford Reach National Monument was created by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act to protect outstanding biological values along the Columbia River and the historic contributions of Hanford to World War II.

In addition to encompassing the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States, Hanford Reach reflects our region’s role in U.S. history. Plutonium reactors stand along the river, remnants of World War II and the Cold War. Plutonium from the B Reactor fueled the atomic bomb that the U.S. military released on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

Last year, Congress voted to give the monument an additional level of protection and recognition for its historic value by designating part of Hanford Reach as the Manhattan Project National Park. Efforts are already underway to plan and build interpretive sites to educate visitors about the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb, and Hanford’s contributions.

Tri-Citians contributed in ways big and small to helping win the war, and a memorial and educational opportunities are a fitting way to ensure this is never forgotten. Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray were important leaders in this effort.

As a veteran, I am grateful that our leaders have seen fit to protect this area and memorialize this piece of our nation’s history, including all of the people who contributed to the Manhattan Project, military and civilian.

Presidents throughout history have used the Antiquities Act to protect places of historic military significance, including President Lincoln’s cottage where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. President George H.W. Bush called upon the Antiquities Act when he designated the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Presidents from both parties have used the Act to protect or expand seven different military forts around the country.

The act has been used by 16 different presidents -- eight Democrats and eight Republicans. While currently all eyes are on President Obama regarding his past and future use of the Antiquities Act, I found the thoughtful actions taken by Republican presidents to be particularly noteworthy and worthy of recognition: Statute of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Lewis and Clark, African Burial Ground, and Washington state’s very own Mount Olympus (now Olympic National Park) were all conserved for future generations.

Many veterans, including me, have adjusted from military to civilian life by seeking solace in the outdoors. Public lands, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, are the best way to access the outdoors. Our Columbia River provides outstanding fishing opportunities, and provides a place where everyone can spend time alone or with friends and family and leave their worries behind even if just for a few hours.

Whether you are a veteran or civilian, historian or angler, wildlife watcher or hunter, the Hanford Reach National Monument has something for everyone. Hanford Reach National Monument supports employment for 178,000 people, according to Headwaters Economics. Statewide, outdoor recreation on public lands in Washington yields $10 billion in annual expenditures, according to a 2015 study by Earth Economics.

During this anniversary of both the Antiquities Act itself and of the designation of Hanford Reach as a national monument, I reflect on the significant contributions Tri-Citians made to winning World War II. I am also proud of our country’s robust and varied tools for memorializing those contributions – tools such as the Antiquities Act. In the future, I hope presidents will continue to have the ability to designate places for all Americans to access public lands and get outside, and also learn about our nation’s history.

Rick Hegdahl is the Pacific Northwest Director for the Vet Voice Foundation and an Iraq War veteran. He is committed to protecting public lands for all to enjoy and providing a platform for veterans to serve after the uniform.

Copy of Antiquities Act preserves Reach and other important places

June 22, 2015

One hundred and nine years ago this month, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, allowing Presidents of the United States to designate existing public lands as national monuments when they have outstanding historic or scientific value.

One day and 94 years later on June 9, 2000, the Hanford Reach National Monument was created by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act to protect outstanding biological values along the Columbia River and the historic contributions of Hanford to World War II.

In addition to encompassing the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States, Hanford Reach reflects our region’s role in U.S. history. Plutonium reactors stand along the river, remnants of World War II and the Cold War. Plutonium from the B Reactor fueled the atomic bomb that the U.S. military released on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

Last year, Congress voted to give the monument an additional level of protection and recognition for its historic value by designating part of Hanford Reach as the Manhattan Project National Park. Efforts are already underway to plan and build interpretive sites to educate visitors about the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb, and Hanford’s contributions.

Tri-Citians contributed in ways big and small to helping win the war, and a memorial and educational opportunities are a fitting way to ensure this is never forgotten. Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray were important leaders in this effort.

As a veteran, I am grateful that our leaders have seen fit to protect this area and memorialize this piece of our nation’s history, including all of the people who contributed to the Manhattan Project, military and civilian.

Presidents throughout history have used the Antiquities Act to protect places of historic military significance, including President Lincoln’s cottage where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. President George H.W. Bush called upon the Antiquities Act when he designated the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Presidents from both parties have used the Act to protect or expand seven different military forts around the country.

The act has been used by 16 different presidents -- eight Democrats and eight Republicans. While currently all eyes are on President Obama regarding his past and future use of the Antiquities Act, I found the thoughtful actions taken by Republican presidents to be particularly noteworthy and worthy of recognition: Statute of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Lewis and Clark, African Burial Ground, and Washington state’s very own Mount Olympus (now Olympic National Park) were all conserved for future generations.

Many veterans, including me, have adjusted from military to civilian life by seeking solace in the outdoors. Public lands, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, are the best way to access the outdoors. Our Columbia River provides outstanding fishing opportunities, and provides a place where everyone can spend time alone or with friends and family and leave their worries behind even if just for a few hours.

Whether you are a veteran or civilian, historian or angler, wildlife watcher or hunter, the Hanford Reach National Monument has something for everyone. Hanford Reach National Monument supports employment for 178,000 people, according to Headwaters Economics. Statewide, outdoor recreation on public lands in Washington yields $10 billion in annual expenditures, according to a 2015 study by Earth Economics.

During this anniversary of both the Antiquities Act itself and of the designation of Hanford Reach as a national monument, I reflect on the significant contributions Tri-Citians made to winning World War II. I am also proud of our country’s robust and varied tools for memorializing those contributions – tools such as the Antiquities Act. In the future, I hope presidents will continue to have the ability to designate places for all Americans to access public lands and get outside, and also learn about our nation’s history.

Rick Hegdahl is the Pacific Northwest Director for the Vet Voice Foundation and an Iraq War veteran. He is committed to protecting public lands for all to enjoy and providing a platform for veterans to serve after the uniform.

Copy of Antiquities Act preserves Reach and other important places [2]

June 22, 2015

One hundred and nine years ago this month, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, allowing Presidents of the United States to designate existing public lands as national monuments when they have outstanding historic or scientific value.

One day and 94 years later on June 9, 2000, the Hanford Reach National Monument was created by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act to protect outstanding biological values along the Columbia River and the historic contributions of Hanford to World War II.

In addition to encompassing the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States, Hanford Reach reflects our region’s role in U.S. history. Plutonium reactors stand along the river, remnants of World War II and the Cold War. Plutonium from the B Reactor fueled the atomic bomb that the U.S. military released on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.

Last year, Congress voted to give the monument an additional level of protection and recognition for its historic value by designating part of Hanford Reach as the Manhattan Project National Park. Efforts are already underway to plan and build interpretive sites to educate visitors about the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb, and Hanford’s contributions.

Tri-Citians contributed in ways big and small to helping win the war, and a memorial and educational opportunities are a fitting way to ensure this is never forgotten. Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray were important leaders in this effort.

As a veteran, I am grateful that our leaders have seen fit to protect this area and memorialize this piece of our nation’s history, including all of the people who contributed to the Manhattan Project, military and civilian.

Presidents throughout history have used the Antiquities Act to protect places of historic military significance, including President Lincoln’s cottage where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. President George H.W. Bush called upon the Antiquities Act when he designated the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Presidents from both parties have used the Act to protect or expand seven different military forts around the country.

The act has been used by 16 different presidents -- eight Democrats and eight Republicans. While currently all eyes are on President Obama regarding his past and future use of the Antiquities Act, I found the thoughtful actions taken by Republican presidents to be particularly noteworthy and worthy of recognition: Statute of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Lewis and Clark, African Burial Ground, and Washington state’s very own Mount Olympus (now Olympic National Park) were all conserved for future generations.

Many veterans, including me, have adjusted from military to civilian life by seeking solace in the outdoors. Public lands, like the Hanford Reach National Monument, are the best way to access the outdoors. Our Columbia River provides outstanding fishing opportunities, and provides a place where everyone can spend time alone or with friends and family and leave their worries behind even if just for a few hours.

Whether you are a veteran or civilian, historian or angler, wildlife watcher or hunter, the Hanford Reach National Monument has something for everyone. Hanford Reach National Monument supports employment for 178,000 people, according to Headwaters Economics. Statewide, outdoor recreation on public lands in Washington yields $10 billion in annual expenditures, according to a 2015 study by Earth Economics.

During this anniversary of both the Antiquities Act itself and of the designation of Hanford Reach as a national monument, I reflect on the significant contributions Tri-Citians made to winning World War II. I am also proud of our country’s robust and varied tools for memorializing those contributions – tools such as the Antiquities Act. In the future, I hope presidents will continue to have the ability to designate places for all Americans to access public lands and get outside, and also learn about our nation’s history.

Rick Hegdahl is the Pacific Northwest Director for the Vet Voice Foundation and an Iraq War veteran. He is committed to protecting public lands for all to enjoy and providing a platform for veterans to serve after the uniform.

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