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VA vows to help hundreds of veterans experiencing homelessness in LA by year’s end

In an effort to reverse a worrisome increase in veterans experiencing homelessness, Veterans Affairs officials are vowing to find stable housing for more than 500 veterans living in the Los Angeles area by the end of the year, starting with those stuck on the infamous “Veterans Row” on the city’s west side.“You run across these…

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VA vows to help hundreds of veterans experiencing homelessness in LA by year’s end

In an effort to reverse a worrisome increase in veterans experiencing homelessness, Veterans Affairs officials are vowing to find stable housing for more than 500 veterans living in the Los Angeles area by the end of the year, starting with those stuck on the infamous “Veterans Row” on the city’s west side.“You run across these phrases in the English language that shouldn’t really exist, and one of those is ‘veterans homelessness,’” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. “It’s outrageous. And while I’m here I’m going to do everything I possibly can to get them help.”McDonough’s vow comes a week after he visited California to survey VA sites in Los Angeles and meet with homeless veterans living in the area.RELATED“Veterans Row” sits just outside the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, with several dozen veterans camped in tents and makeshift shelters. The location has long been a source of concern and frustration for advocates looking for ways to provide help to distressed veterans.McDonough said he spoke to several individuals living there during his visit, including one man who was able to get a hotel room and support services after a short conversation with department staff.The secretary said he hopes to get all of the individuals there more stable housing by the end of the month. County officials have said they intend to clean out the site by Nov. 1.In March, officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their estimates of homelessness in America in 2019, showing that on an average night more than 37,000 veterans are without permanent, safe shelter.That number was up from 2018 and did not include expected increases resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March 2020.In Los Angeles alone, researchers estimated there were nearly 3,700 veterans facing homelessness. While numerous major cities and states have seen sharp decreases in homelessness in recent years, the problem in Los Angeles has remained steady.“Over a third of the homeless veterans across the nation reside within California, with Los Angeles at the epicenter of the challenge,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans.“VA must continue to move quickly to adapt underutilized space on [department] campuses to better serve homeless and other vulnerable populations of veterans, with the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System as a model.”RELATEDIn a statement, members of Congress from California praised the VA announcement. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif. — whose request prompted last week’s trip to Los Angeles — said the move is desperately needed.“I’m grateful that the Secretary took the conversations [with homeless vets in the area] to heart and is following up with VA action when these veterans need it most,” he said. “I know that together we can continue to tackle the biggest problems facing veterans in the Los Angeles area, including the monumental effort to end veteran homelessness.”VA officials are still working on a plan to build hundreds of apartments for homeless veterans on the sprawling West LA VA campus. Planning for that effort has lingered for several years, and is not expected to be completed until early 2022.Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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In the annual football uniform dispute, 2021 Army trumps Navy

Every year, West Point’s Black Knights and the Naval Academy’s Midshipmen duke it out on the football field to fanfare mostly stemming from the rivalry between Naval and Army officers. It’s a weekend that gives service members a good reason to drink, watch sports and argue over which branch is the greatest.But notably for those…

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In the annual football uniform dispute, 2021 Army trumps Navy

Every year, West Point’s Black Knights and the Naval Academy’s Midshipmen duke it out on the football field to fanfare mostly stemming from the rivalry between Naval and Army officers. It’s a weekend that gives service members a good reason to drink, watch sports and argue over which branch is the greatest.But notably for those of us who may be lowly enlisted or non-academy commissioned, the teams unveil new uniforms for the game each year. While some of these get-ups are absolutely magnificent, like the Army’s sexy 2018 black and red alternates, others quite honestly suck (here’s looking at you, 2020).This year, however, both teams stepped up their sartorial game.The Navy, we think, chose to honor the F/A-18 Super Hornets. It’s that or the seafaring branch is paying homage to Top Gun before its springtime sequel release. Frankly, we’re not sure. Either way, the solid dark blue uniforms have pops of patriotism, though the Midshipmen clearly weren’t interested in branching out color-wise. The current roundel, in the form of a white star sandwiched between one red and two white stripes posted on each shoulder, screams Americana, as do the pants with matching red and white stripes down each side. Hooyah.The coolest part of the Midshipmen’s 2021 look is definitely found on their heads and hands (which they’ll need to use in equal measure if they want to beat the Black Knights this year). The helmets feature gold wings earned by Navy pilots, flight officers and aircrew, with a shiny Super Hornet painted on one side.Their gloves read “Fly Navy” and they carry the unit patch for the Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet out of Oceana, Virginia, on their chests.And while those uniforms are snazzy and heavy on Independence Day-styled patriotism, the Army’s uniforms are just… so much more.The Black Knights pay tribute to what has been a rough year for service members and veterans, marking not only the end of the “forever war” in Afghanistan but the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. West Point clearly took those events into consideration when crafting this downright masterpiece of a uniform.Though the ensemble isn’t as in-your-face as the Navy’s, its symbolism is much heavier.Each jersey carries an “Army” patch and a mirror patch emblazoned with the words “De Oppresso Liber,” which is Latin for “from being an oppressed man to being a free one.” It is the motto for Army Special Forces. The jerseys also carry the collar devices — really sticking with that utilities trend — worn by members of the Special Forces, showcasing crossed arrows and the letters “U” and “S.”“United We Stand” replaces the word “Army” found on the back of regular season uniforms.The Army’s helmets also bear the Special Forces crest and crossed arrows, an American flag, and unit insignia for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Night Stalkers. The date of the 2001 terrorist attacks are located front and center.Similar to the way small details are important in any military uniform inspection, the special touches found on the Black Knights’ cleats take the cake this year.On top of each boot is a pentagon-shaped logo with the twin towers of the World Trade Center in red, white and blue. While the Navy’s uniforms are sure to please crowds and a couch-stomping Tom Cruise, the Army’s uniforms, like its formidable 2021 team, command respect.Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master’s candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.

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Positive COVID test prompts National Guard chief to self-isolate

The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Army Gen. Dan Hokanson, tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to a brief Friday afternoon statement.“The Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Dan Hokanson, is working remotely and isolating himself from contact with others, after a positive COVID-19 test this week,” said Guard spokesman Wayne V.…

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Positive COVID test prompts National Guard chief to self-isolate

The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Army Gen. Dan Hokanson, tested positive for COVID-19 this week, according to a brief Friday afternoon statement.“The Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Dan Hokanson, is working remotely and isolating himself from contact with others, after a positive COVID-19 test this week,” said Guard spokesman Wayne V. Hall in the statement. “All other members of the National Guard Bureau staff are continuing with their duties under the existing COVID protocols, and all continue to be tested, as required.”Hall did not immediately respond to follow-up questions sent by Military Times. RELATEDHokanson was appointed to his current position in August 2020, when he received his fourth star.Pentagon data shows that there have been 77 service member deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic. There have been more than 254,000 reported COVID-19 cases among uniformed personnel and 2,291 hospitalizations. Military Times previously reported in mid-November that there have been more than 40,000 COVID-19 cases in the National Guard. In September, the Defense Department implemented a vaccination mandate for all service members. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also issued a memo Nov. 30 stating that Guardsmen who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be eligible for any federal training or pay, which includes monthly drill weekends.Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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‘Toyotas of War’ is the photo archive we never knew we needed

No one can argue that Toyota vehicles are dependable, affordable, and abundant. But ask any veteran of the last 50 years and they’ll tell you these Japanese automobiles are vehicles of war.In fact, there was even a Toyota War fought in the late 80s between Libya and Chad, named thus for the Toyota Hilux and…

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‘Toyotas of War’ is the photo archive we never knew we needed

No one can argue that Toyota vehicles are dependable, affordable, and abundant. But ask any veteran of the last 50 years and they’ll tell you these Japanese automobiles are vehicles of war.In fact, there was even a Toyota War fought in the late 80s between Libya and Chad, named thus for the Toyota Hilux and the Toyota LandCruiser, which the Chadians selected for their durability and mobility in battle.But one man, Chris, 26, has made it his life’s work to chronicle the use of Toyotas in combat through his Instagram page @ToyotasofWar.“While working for a defense company that was building out Toyotas, I become obsessed with learning and gathering as much info on them as possible,” Chris told Military Times. “Part of that process was compiling any photos I came across. Over time, the page morphed into a way for guys and gals to share their own photos and stories of trucks from deployment.”His fascination with the vehicle’s history is what fuels the feed, which he views as a form of photojournalism. Chris compiles the photographs and archives their unique histories.“I believe the page has morphed into a unique combination of car content and photo-based wartime journalism,” he said. “In a social media world, we provide a nice change of pace. The ‘mall crawler’ and ‘overlander’ content is played out. Too many vehicles have turned into a rolling gear catalogue. We like to focus on the vehicles and how they are used.”His favorite part of running the page, Chris said, is when someone converts to being a Toyota-buyer.“I love sharing stories of Toyota reliability and how much abuse they can take,” he said. “I always get a kick out of the DMs saying, ‘Congrats, I will now be buying a Toyota. —Current Nissan owner.’”Toyota’s DNA, he said, is based upon military vehicle designs. The staying power of Toyota from the Korean War through contemporary conflicts, however, comes down to its adaptability.“Reliability and availability,” Chris said. “They work — and when they don’t, parts are widely available. It’s also important to understand the history of Toyota. [The company] received the design for the Model BM truck and the Willys Jeep from the U.S. Army as part of the Korean War effort. Eventually, Toyota’s version of the Jeep morphed into what is known as the modern day ‘LandCruiser.’”And in fact, his favorite Toyota is the 79 series LandCruiser.“As an American, it’s the proverbial ‘forbidden fruit,’” he added.But it’s the white Toyota pickup truck that became somewhat synonymous with the War on Terror. However, according to Chris, it’s more a mix of coincidence and strategy.“Statistically, white cars are popular worldwide,” he noted. “Last numbers I saw, close to 40 percent of the cars sold in the Middle East were color white. White paint stays cooler in the sun (up to 15 degrees cooler), plus they are are easier to maintain visually (don’t show scratches, and have a higher resale value). Tactically — white provides a decent base color that can be masked/camouflaged with mud mix.”And it’s not just pickup trucks, he added. Toyotas of all shapes and sizes are seen in combat around the world.“Vehicles in all forms are used,” he said. “Sedans, vans, scooters, I have even come across a forklift in use.”This was the case on Aug. 29 when the U.S. Defense Department authorized a drone strike after commanders mistakenly thought they found a white Toyota sedan packed with explosives driven by an Islamic State operative. It turns out that the driver was an aid worker transporting water for his family. The hellfire strike killed seven children and three adults.On Nov. 3, the Defense Department announced that it found no misconduct in a review of the drone strike.The review, carried out by Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, found issues of communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target ofn the strike, Military Times previously reported. Ultimately, however, it was concluded that the mistaken strike happened despite prudent measures to prevent civilian deaths.The U.S. is moving now to make financial reparations to the family, and possibly help them seek asylum outside Afghanistan.Chris’ last name was omitted from this story to protect the privacy of the @ToyotasofWar account manager.Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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