70th Anniversary of D-Day

clock May 30, 2014 18:10 by author Admin

Several years ago, children visiting the U.S. Capitol were asked about the meaning of Memorial Day.  Many responded that Memorial Day was the day that the pool opened.  As a parent, this answer doesn’t particularly surprise me—nor does it particularly worry me.  Childhood should be about pools, picnics, and play.  But as adults, it is important that we honor our veterans, because as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “A nation that does not honor its heroes will soon have no heroes to honor.”  On June 6th, the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, we have the chance to honor veterans of WWII, the deadliest conflict in human history, for their role in defending freedom.

Seventy years ago, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany.  2,500 Americans lost their lives in the first 11 hours of fighting, but by the end of the day the Allies had gained a foot-hold in France and began marching across Europe to defeat Hitler.  Over 209,000 Allied troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the Battle of Normandy.  The casualty rate was lower than expected, given that the Allies were attacking straight into the teeth of fortified positions, but every husband, uncle, brother, and son killed was precious to this nation. 

Some of the most moving D-Day commemorations are conducted by the people of Normandy.  Last week, a friend, Dr. Holly Walton-Buchanan, visited Normandy and experienced first-hand the gratitude of the French who have not forgotten our role in their liberation, or forgotten the 60,000 American soldiers laid to rest in French soil. She went expecting to be informed; she left profoundly moved by the magnitude of our national sacrifice and by the appreciation of those liberated, as symbolized by a memorial she visited in the town of Ste. Mere Eglise.  The memorial honors the 15,000 U.S. forces parachuted into Normandy to protect the western flank around the town.  As the paratroopers fell, the night sky was lit up by burning buildings, illuminating their descent.  The parachute of one solider, Private John Steele, got caught on a church steeple. Hanging there for hours, Steele was eventually captured by the Germans.  He later escaped and rejoined his unit.  If you have not seen the retelling of this event in the 1962 movie, “The Longest Day,” I recommend it; the movie may help you come closer to understanding the horror, confusion, and sacrifice of America’s finest on D-Day. Today a uniformed mannequin hangs from a parachute on the steeple, in honor of the American liberators. 

The number of living U.S. veterans who fought in France is in sharp decline, and many of them will not see the next D-Day Anniversary. Now is the time to seek out and thank these veterans for their service—before it is too late to personally express your gratitude for all they have done for this country, and for the world.




Honoring the fallen and remembering the families

clock May 5, 2014 21:41 by author Admin

Several years ago I came home from a two week military training exercise — an exercise to prepare my unit for yet another overseas deployment. As I arrived home very late at night, I greeted my husband and then quietly went upstairs to bed so as not to awaken my children. The next morning I was jarred from my sleep by the incessant ringing of the phone.  

I groped around blindly for the receiver, but by the time I picked it up, my 3-year-old son Noah had already answered it from the downstairs phone in the living room. I listened as the caller asked, “Is your mother there?” My son quickly responded in his high, little man’s voice: “She doesn’t live here very much!” His words struck me like a swift stone to the chest; until that moment, I hadn’t thought much about the impact my frequent absences had on my kids.

I often think about my son’s words on that long-ago morning, but they have special meaning for me in May when we observe Memorial Day. Memorial Day — or Decoration Day, as it was then called — was established after the Civil War to commemorate those who died in battle. The Americans we remember fought for their homes against vastly superior British forces; they fought brother against brother over dearly held principals in our Civil War. They fought in the trenches of France, on the bluffs of Normandy, in the icy mountains of Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, on the Arabian peninsula, and in support of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions too numerous to list. They did so not because they loved war, but for a higher purpose — to protect our nation and preserve our freedom.

Americans are profoundly indebted to all those who have given their lives defending us; that is why this day has been singled out. We must also, however, remember the sacrifices of the families and friends these warriors left behind. My son accurately said that Mommy “doesn’t live here very much.” As a result of my military duties, I missed many of his important firsts, to include his first word, his first birthday party, and his first snowfall. He is lucky, though. Sons and daughters of our nation’s fallen heroes would give anything to say that their parent “doesn’t live here very much.” Instead they have to say, “Daddy (or Mommy) doesn’t live here anymore.”

On this Memorial Day (Monday, May 26), remember that our freedom will be preserved only if Americans continue to answer the call — and prove ourselves worthy to be free. In whatever capacity we serve, may we always be worthy of the sacrifice of America’s heroes. During Memorial day, visit a military cemetery. Walk among the headstones of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and intrepid Coastguard men and women who died much too young so that we may all live free. And listen to, offer a hug to, or just be there for, those left behind.

Sent to the commander’s office over sagebrush

clock May 5, 2014 21:38 by author Admin

When someone thanks me for serving in the military, it means a lot to me. However, I often find myself feeling a bit guilty when people express gratitude for what they believe to be a life of hardship and sacrifice. And make no mistake; there are times when service to our nation means sacrifice, hardship, danger and for some of our nations’ warriors — death.

But for many veterans, myself included, life in the military was often rewarding, exciting and life-changing in a very positive way. Those who have not been in the military but serve their communities in other ways; as teachers, first-responders, volunteers, etc., understand how helping others can bring great joy and satisfaction. So, while I usually take the opportunity in this column to discuss matters of significant importance to the veterans community, today I would like to share a personal story that illustrates a “lighter side” of the military experience.

Once upon a time, my pride in being a Nevadan almost got me in some serious legal trouble! Many years ago I was stationed in Germany as a military police woman. As a young Soldier stationed far from home I missed the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the high mountain desert. A friend was traveling back to Nevada on vacation and asked if he could send me anything. I asked for one thing — that he send me a piece of sagebrush. A few weeks later I was called to my commander’s office where surrounding his desk were my supervisors and a criminal investigator. The commander handed me an unopened letter that had been intercepted by the mail room clerk.

When held to the light, the letter appeared to contain a greenish-brown vegetable substance. I knew immediately he suspected that someone had sent me marijuana. When I tried to explain that the letter contained sagebrush, it was clear that no one believed me. After several tests were conducted proving that the material was NOT marijuana, my commander asked me why in the heck (not exactly his phrase) did I have someone send me sagebrush — what was I thinking? I answered that you had to be from Nevada to understand. I never again asked anyone to send me sagebrush, but I also never stopped longing for the sights and smells of home; the sunsets, the sage, the pines, and the wet willow tang along Nevada’s desert rivers.

Kat Miller is the director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Nevada Appeal Article for 01-28-2014

clock January 29, 2014 20:29 by author Admin


Nevada Appeal Article
Kat Miller

Lately, I get a lot of questions regarding the Governor’s drive to build a Veterans Nursing Home in Northern Nevada.  Let me share with you the status of this initiative. During the 2013 Legislative Session, Governor Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 505, which appropriated funding for the design through construction documents phase for a Northern Nevada Veterans Home. This design will tell us exactly what we need to seek for construction in the next legislative session.  We have a grant application in with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that would cover two-thirds of the cost, with Nevada funding the remaining one third of the costs.    If approved, construction could occur as early as January 2016, but more likely in 2017. 

So, why build a Veterans Nursing home in Northern Nevada?  There are over 80,000 veterans in Northern Nevada and many are in need of skilled nursing care or will need such care in the future.  A state veterans home provides high quality care at lower than average costs.  While we do have a Veterans Nursing Home in Boulder City, there is no corresponding facility to serve veterans living in Northern Nevada.  Of note, Nevada state law required that after the Veterans Home in Boulder City was built, the next home to be built would be located in Northern Nevada.

The concept calls for a 96 bed facility, providing 24-hour skilled nursing care to veterans and their spouses.   The campus would create a residential atmosphere with small community groupings. When searching for potential sites, we considered the following criteria; the home must serve the greatest number of veterans possible, be close to a VA hospital to minimize stress associated with travel to medical appointments, be close to recreational activities, be close to the homes of family and friends, and have a strong local community support base.  With these criteria in mind, we are considering placing this facility at the Northern end of the Northern Nevada Mental Health Campus, bordered by Kietzke Lane and Galletti Way in Reno.  There were also great site possibilities in Carson City but the need to place the facility in proximity of a VA Hospital to best support medical needs became the overriding factor. 

The Nevada State Public Works Division released a request for proposal for a construction manager to assist with design and future construction.  The submission deadline was 3 February and many quality proposals were received and are under consideration.  To make sure that a future facility meets the needs of veterans in Northern Nevada, Director Caleb Cage of the Governor’s Office of Military and Veterans Policy held two public convenings in January to solicit public input regarding specific nursing home needs.  This input will help the project architect, Van Woert Biggotti Architects of Reno, design the facility.

When we build this home, our veterans will have a state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility that they can truly call “home,” a place where they can live with other patriots with whom they share a common identity and sense of community. 



House Passes Three Veterans-related Bills

clock May 22, 2013 08:41 by author Caleb Cage

From the Governor's Office in Washington, DC:

H.R. 1412, which passed 416-0, would reduce the amount that veterans receive for on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs from 85 percent to 75 percent of the wage the job actually pays. The legislation is a response to concerns that setting the wage rate to 85 percent was preventing potential employers from participating in on-the-job training programs. The bill also authorizes all federal agencies to participate in on-the-job training programs.

An amended H.R. 1344, which passed 413-0, would update the 2005 Wounded Warriors Screening Program and direct the Transportation Security Administration to further develop and implement expedited screening procedures for wounded and disabled service members, veterans and their families.

H.R. 570, passed by voice vote, would provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans.

For more information on these bills, click here.

About the Author

Kat Miller is the Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Colonel (U.S. Army, Retired) Katherine Miller was raised in Reno and served 34 years in the United States Army.  Starting as an enlisted soldier, she culminated her military service with assignments as a military police brigade commander serving in the United States and in Afghanistan; and as the Commander of the Department of Defense’s largest correctional organization.

After retiring she taught college at the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada, Reno. She served as the Deputy Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services prior to accepting appointment as the Director.

Her education includes a Master’s of Science Degree from the U.S. Army War College and a Master’s of Public Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago

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