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Walpole, Massachusetts

PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 12, 2016) Seaman Apprentice Sashira Martinez-Alfonso, from Walpole, Massachusetts, drops a float coat into the forward boatswain locker to perform maintenance prior to use aboard the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol in the Philippine Sea supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Lee/Released)

Brockton, Massachusetts

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 7, 2016) Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Kevin Flansburg, from Brockton, Mass., attaches chains to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, to secure it to the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20). Green Bay, part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne/Released)

POW patriot passes as his untold story of valor and dedication comes to light

Former WWII prisoner of war, Clarence Bramley, passes away the day after the release of 'Unwavering Valor', which details his experiences.

SPRINGVILLE, Utah -In April, 1942, Clarence Bramley was among the more than 60,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war who survived the Bataan Death March. He spent several months aboard a Japanese "hell ship" before finally being relocated to a forced labor camp in Japan where he spent the duration of the war.

As the war drew to a close, the camp was discovered by Allied bombers, who dropped in lifesaving supplies via parachute. On the day before the armistice, Bramley stayed up all night to stitch together an American flag using scraps of colored parachute fabric he had scavenged after the supply drops.

This selfless act of patriotism from a young man who had every reason to be discouraged, fearful, and bitter, is a remarkable story of American resilience that speaks to our beliefs in the principles of freedom, hope, and justice.

The morning of February 10, 2015, Clarence Bramley passed away, one day after the book detailing his inspiring experiences, "Unwavering Valor," was released. As part of "The Greatest Generation," Bramley's struggle as a POW is an interesting case study into understanding the uniquely American values that helped define our country and the world.

About 'Unwavering Valor'
Researched and written by retired judge William T. Garner, "Unwavering Valor" details the harrowing experiences of Clarence Bramley and the patriotism and belief that kept him alive. Through the Bataan Death March, prison camps in the Philippines and Taiwan, months aboard a Japanese hell ship, and years imprisoned in a forced labor camp in Kosaka, Japan, Clarence Bramley never gave up.

Now his powerful, gripping true story of survival and hope comes to light in this fascinating read. Guaranteed to remind you to have faith in yourself, in your country, and in the values for which it stands.

Tripwire Operations Group LLC Provides Industry-Leading Training in Security Solutions and Explosive Products for First Responders

GETTYSBURG, Pa.- On March 6, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a project to find out just what level of military equipment and tactics/training local police departments have obtained in recent years.

ACLU affiliates in 23 states simultaneously filed more than 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas, the release said.

Clearly, not everyone is on board with what critics call the "militarization" of local police.

Ryan Morris, owner of Tripwire Operations Group in Gettysburg, thinks those critics are missing the point.

"I have been a police officer for 18 years," said Morris, who founded his company in 2005. "Law enforcement gets state and federal grants to help them protect the jurisdictions they serve."

He said bomb-sniffing dogs, military-style weaponry and armored vehicles are simply reflections of the time, he said.

"Countless incidents over recent years, have pointed to the need for the training and resources necessary for the police to do their jobs."

The consensus of various sources point to one incident that launched the "militarization" of local police departments, a shoot-out between two bank robbers and the Los Angeles Police Department on Feb. 28, 1997.

"The North Hollywood Shootout," as it came to be known, put two criminals carrying a number of illegal automatic weapons and wearing armor up against a numerically superior force of police whose handguns and shotguns and Kevlar armor were outmatched in every way.

In 44 minutes, the two men, Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Matasareanu fired approximately 1100 rounds, compared to about 650 fired by all of the police combined.

At the end of that time, both gunmen were dead, but 11 police officers and seven civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and other property were damaged or destroyed. Even today, 17 years later, it is considered one of the longest and bloodiest events in police history.

Seven months later, the Department of Defense gave 600 surplus M16s to the LAPD, and the trend toward putting a more military face on local police departments was born.

In short, today's police departments, even in small areas, are not the bucolic example set in 1950s and 1960s television.

The ACLU was motivated by some apparent abuses of some of that special know-how and heavy weaponry. Among items of concern listed on its website are:

Confused after throwing a deafening and blinding "flash-bang" into a home, police mistakenly shot and killed a sleeping seven-year-old;

Police in North Dakota borrowed a $154 million Predator drone from Homeland Security to arrest a family who refused to return six cows that wandered onto their farm;

A county sheriff's department in South Carolina has an armored personnel carrier dubbed "The Peacemaker" which can shoot weapons that the U.S. military specifically refrains from using on people;

Police in Arkansas announced plans to patrol streets wearing full SWAT gear and carrying AR-15 assault rifles;

New Hampshire police received federal funds for a counter-attack vehicle, asking "what red-blooded American cop isn't going to be excited about getting a toy like this?"

Drone manufacturers may offer police remote controlled drones with weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas;

Morris said most problems may be avoided through proper training.

Tripwire Operations Group can be found in a not-very-imposing building on the Baltimore Pike outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It would be accurate to say most people in the immediate area have never heard of them. The company keeps a low profile generally except for the police and military communities. Deputy Harry McKinney of the Chester County Sheriff's office said that is a good thing.

"The right people know about them," he said.

Tripwire has a very specialized clientele.

"Our capabilities statement is simple," Morris wrote on the company's website. ( "We are first responders dedicated to first responders. We believe the most highly trained create a safer America. We prepare military and first responders to protect our country by providing products, training, services and relationships that together no one else provides."

The website's graphics look like the cover art to one of those combat computer games. Tripwire is no game.

"We're all either police or military background," Morris said.

He said the company has nine full-time employees. The website also says the company has also recruited a number of "Federal agents, retired bomb squad personnel, retired police officers, military personnel and some active state and local police officers" as part of their law enforcement training network.

"We're growing," Morris said in a recent telephone interview. "We all have law enforcement and military backgrounds. We do our instructing all over the country.

We're teaching cutting edge courses no one else is instructing. We also sell firearms and explosives," he said.

To date, Tripwire has trained more than 10,000 first responders in dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive recognition alone.

The firm's capabilities range from the sale and export of explosive products, to firearm sales, cutting edge training for law enforcement and military personnel to providing special effects pyrotechnics for the motion picture industry.

Tripwire's trainers combine more than a century's worth of experience in law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, HazMat, SWAT and Special Response Teams, corporate security and bomb squads. Tripwire's K9 division provides live explosive training materials in a training kit specifically designed for the purpose, and provides advanced certification programs for Federal, State and Local K9 teams.

The main focus of the company, however, is on the real-life drama of fighting crime and terroristic threats.

Morris, himself a former bomb squad commander, said he "felt there was an unmet need for training. We initially offered 31 different classes, and that was our start. We now offer over 60 different classes."

Tripwire provides training in a number of areas, including security solutions, and explosive products sold to help train responders and bomb detection dogs using the smells of the real thing.

In a testimonial on the Tripwire site, a deputy with the Chester County Sheriff's Office wrote: "Thank you very much for the handlers' course and the K9 Explosive kit we ordered. Our K9 unit could not be more pleased with this product and your company. Your course was very well put together and squared away. Your experience and knowledge of explosives was impressive and very professional. I would personally recommend you to anyone in the K9 community. Thanks again for the very personal treatment and we look forward to training together in the future." Chester County Deputy Harry McKinney and Sheriff Carolyn B. Welsh said they have relied on Tripwire's capabilities repeatedly for a number of years.

Welsh said members of her department have attended some training seminars in Adams County, hosted by Adams County Sheriff James Muller.

"Tripwire has given us...numerous bomb training classes. We have used them for training for a good while," Muller said. "On top of that, they donated our bomb dog, Leggie, to us. She came fully trained. If we were to have bought her, she would have cost from $8000 to $15,000. They were also instrumental in getting a dog for Chief (Michael) Woods in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania"

"I was in the Marine Corps," Muller said. "I went to demolition school while I was in, so I knew a little bit about demolition, I think they really know their stuff."

The kudos on the website don't stop with those from Adams and Chester counties' law enforcement communities. Similar praise came in from the Baltimore County Police Department and others.

"We're doing things that nobody else is doing. It's not IF it's going to happen, it's WHEN and we want to help prepare our first responders to be ready," he said.

New Rates Released for Veterans Pension

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a tax-free, supplemental pension to qualifying wartime veterans and their families. To be eligible, veterans must have limited income and assets, and they generally must have a period of service that includes at least one day on active duty during wartime and 90 days total active duty time. Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980 generally must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty. Also, veterans must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
In addition to these basic service requirements, to be eligible, a veteran must be:

Age 65 or older, or
Totally and permanently disabled, or
A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, or
Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or
Receiving Supplemental Security Income
Monthly benefit

A veteran who qualifies for the pension will receive a monthly benefit check. The amount he or she receives depends upon the veteran's marital status, whether the veteran has dependent children, whether the veteran is able to care for himself or herself, and the veteran's countable family income and net worth.

A veteran with countable family income exceeding the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) as set by Congress will not be eligible for pension benefits. Otherwise, the MAPR is reduced, dollar-for-dollar, by countable income, with the difference paid monthly to the veteran or eligible survivor. Uninsured medical expenses paid by a veteran that exceed 5 percent of the MAPR may reduce the family countable income and increase the pension benefit. The latest MAPR rates, effective December 1, 2014, are available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website,

Example: Based on rates effective December 1, 2014, the MAPR for a veteran with a spouse (who is not a veteran) is $16,851. If that veteran had countable family income of $10,500, and uninsured medical expenses of $4,000, the veteran would be eligible to receive a monthly pension of $792, calculated as follows:

$16,851 x .05 = $842 (5% of MAPR)
$4,000 - $842 = $3,158 (medical expenses that exceed 5% of MAPR)
$10,500 - $3,158 = $7,342 (countable income reduced by medical expenses that exceed 5% of MAPR)
$16,851 - $7,342 = $9,509/12 = $792 (MAPR reduced by countable income, paid monthly)

Veterans and survivors, who are eligible for a pension and require the assistance of another person to perform functions of everyday living or are housebound, may receive an additional monthly payment through Aid and Attendance (A&A) or housebound allowances. The A&A and housebound benefits are also subject to a MAPR.


Exhibition featuring more than 70 portraits by
the famed photographer opens April 1

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia will be the only US venue to feature Richard Avedon: Family Affairs, from the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The exhibition, which opens on April 1, presents a compelling collective historical portrait of American cultural and political life during the late 1960s and 1970s.

Richard Avedon was born to a Jewish family (his father was a Russian-born immigrant and his mother from New York) in 1923. Working until his death in 2004, he shaped America’s image of beauty, celebrity, and politics for over a half century. Famous at an early age, he was well-known for challenging conventions and exploring the boundaries between high art and social commentary. Family Affairs features two monumental projects by Avedon, both illustrating his highly innovative approach to portrait photography. The first is a set of four group portraits, including a massive mural of the iconic beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his family and three additional portraits shown at a smaller scale ― Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory, The Chicago Seven, and The Mission Council. The second is a series of 69 portraits entitled “The Family” that Avedon created after being commissioned by Rolling Stone to cover the 1976 presidential election. Foregoing traditional photojournalism for the assignment, Avedon used his Deardorff 8 x 10” camera to create arresting black and white portraits of each of his subjects. Avedon created a visual essay on the nature of American politics at the moment when it was most conspicuous. Though his “family members” have no biological ties (with the exception of Ted and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy), they are alike in that they all hold positions of power and influence. “The Family” includes the ’76 presidential candidates (Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford); A.M. Rosenthal, managing editor of the New York Times, famous for publishing the Pentagon Papers; and W. Mark Felt, later revealed to be “Deep Throat.” Avedon’s subjects also included others at the epicenter of the events and movements of the time (and some who still are today)—including governors, senators, congressmen/women, and a wide swath of varied government officials (Bella Abzug, Jerry Brown, George H.W. Bush, Barbara Jordan, Edward Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Daniel Moynihan, and Donald Rumsfeld, to name a few), media moguls and journalists (Katharine Graham, I.F. Stone), labor leaders/activists (Cesar Chavez, Ralph Nader, A Philip Randolph), philanthropists (Walter Annenberg), and many more.

“We are thrilled to be showing Richard Avedon: Family Affairs at NMAJH,” says Dr. Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections at NMAJH.

“Family Affairs documents a time of extraordinary political and social change in American history by one of the most significant photographers working in the second half of the 20th century. ‘The Family’ component of the exhibition, given its focus on political power in the days leading up to the 1976 election, seems particularly well-suited for exhibition in Philadelphia, the country’s epicenter for the bicentennial celebrations. And as the country prepares for a presidential election in 2016, the portraits evoke comparisons between the nature of political leadership then and now.”

To allow visitors to see “The Family” as it was originally published, NMAJH will provide multiple original copies of the Rolling Stone issue for visitors to flip through, as well as an electronic version that will be delivered via touchscreen. In addition, the Museum will install a photo booth in the middle of the exhibition where visitors can create their own portraits and share them via social media, encouraging them to ponder the meaning of “portrait photography” in the age of the selfie, while creating a visual representation of NMAJH’s own family of visitors. Complementing the exhibition will be a full slate of education and public programs, including themed tours, a special family guide, a class about the intersection of photography and Jewish identity, and much more. The full schedule of related programs will be announced in early spring.

Richard Avedon: Family Affairs is based on 2014 exhibition organized by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and features works from its collection. The Museum is also grateful to the Gagosian Gallery and the Avedon Foundation for their cooperation. Special thanks to the Avedon Foundation for loaning additional works to the exhibition.

Major support for Richard Avedon: Family Affairs has been provided by The Director’s Fund and Lynne and Harold Honickman.

Additional support has been provided by Macy’s, The Abstraction Fund, Annette Y. and Jack M. Friedland, the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, and Gwen and Alan Goodman.


BOSTON—Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) today announced that the Senate has passed the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2015 budget. The budget recommends $36.38 billion in spending, and builds on many of the priorities articulated in the Ways and Means budget released last week.

“Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, in his final budget as chairman, has again demonstrated our commitment to the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth and our top priority of building a budget that is fiscally responsible for the taxpayers of Massachusetts,” said Pacheco, who serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I could not be more proud of my classmate for his dedication to addressing our society’s most pressing issues and I will miss the common sense leadership he has supplied our legislature for the past several decades. I am proud of the investments the fiscal 2015 budget makes in local aid and in Taunton State Hospital. I am also pleased cities and towns will get Chapter 70 funding to assist them through the coming year. I hope our Conference Committee will maintain a strong position on these issues, particularly relative to the mental health funding in this budget.”

“This is a fiscally responsible budget which makes prudent long term spending decisions and invests in needed state services,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “It makes investments in our cities and towns and in important services for our neediest citizens, while maintaining the fiscal responsibility that’s produced the highest bond rating in the history of the Commonwealth.”

The hallmark of this Senate budget continues to be many of the notable policy initiatives included in the Senate Ways and Means budget released last week:
• Fully funding the Special Education Circuit breaker for the 3rd year in a row
• 90% funding reimbursements for Regional School transportation costs
• $70M for the state’s low income housing voucher program
• $17.5M to expand access to early education for low income families
• $18M to support new substance abuse prevention and treatment programs; and
• $39M in new supports for child welfare.

Over the past few days, the Senate considered 948 amendments which have amplified and improved many of the themes included in the Senate Ways and Means Budget. Major floor actions include:
• $34M to support hospitals around the state
• $23.8M in rate reserves for child care, human service and elder service workers
• $16M in enhanced rates for nursing homes serving MassHealth clients
• $3.7M to enhance the state’s technology supporting the Prescription Monitoring Program
• $2.5M in new funding for the Shannon Grant program, for a total funding level of $9M
• $2.4M in funding increases for the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and
• $2.2M in new staff funding at the Department of Children and Families.

In addition to spending, the Senate also adopted a number of important policy initiatives:
• Tax amnesty provision that is expected to generate $35M in new revenue in FY 2015
• Expansion of the state’s “Bottle Bill” which devotes new ongoing revenue to the Community Preservation Act and the Brownfields Redevelopment Trust
• Reform and modernization of the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program which enables the Commonwealth’s small and family farm owners to compete in an evolving economic landscape.

The budget will now go to a Conference Committee for reconciliation with the budget passed by the House of Representatives last month.


BOSTON—State Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) is pleased to announce the Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday adopted an amendment to its fiscal 2015 budget plan that will designate May as “Blue Star Mothers Month” in Massachusetts.

Pacheco initially filed the amendment as legislation in a previous session and in 2013 with cosponsor Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia A. Haddad (D-Somerset), calling on the governor to issue a proclamation every May observing “Blue Star Mothers Month” to honor the history and contributions of Blue Star Mothers of America. The legislation awaits a third reading in the House of Representatives after it was reported favorably from the committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and was passed in the Senate.

Blue Star Mothers of America is a nonpolitical military service organization chartered by Congress that supports the mothers of servicemen and women, promotes patriotism and organizes projects to support troops and veterans.

“I am pleased the Senate has again voiced support for the mothers in the Commonwealth who have raised children to protect our country and who serve the United States at home by supporting our troops every day of the year,” Pacheco said. “I am hopeful the House of Representatives will echo that support, so a year from now, we will finally be able to honor these mothers when May is designated as ‘Blue Star Mothers Month’ in Massachusetts.”

Let’s Serve Veterans as Well as They Have Served Us


By Daniel M. Dellinger





During the recent government shutdown many numbers were thrown around. But there is one number that stands out and it has nothing to do with the debate over the federal budget.

More than one a day. That is how many members of our active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve forces have committed suicide over the last year. Simply put, we are losing more servicemembers by their own hands than we are by the enemy in Afghanistan.

Only those who experienced firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why most of these young men and women feel compelled to take such drastic and permanent measures.

As Veterans Day ceremonies and parades occur throughout the country, it is important that we commit ourselves to do everything possible to prevent these needless and tragic deaths.

We are their friends, their family, their co-workers and their neighbors. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans. There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say, “Thank you for what you have done for our country.”

If he is showing signs of unhappiness or depression, encourage him to seek help through the VA immediately. If she has had difficulty obtaining the benefits that she is entitled to, let her know that The American Legion has thousands of trained service officers nationwide that will help her navigate the bureaucracy free of charge.

And if that veteran has made the Supreme Sacrifice, remember the price that has been paid for our freedom and offer your support to the loved ones left behind.

But Veterans Day is a time to honor not just those who have fought for us in battle, but, in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who served in our nation’s Armed Forces since our founding more than 237 years ago.

Not all veterans have seen war, but a common bond that they share is an oath in which they expressed their willingness to die defending this nation.

Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Navy aircraft carrier, the Coast Guard cutter, the Air Force fighter squadron or the Army soldier on patrol.  Or they have heard the words that recently retired General James Mattis shared with his Marines: “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

While we should all be grateful for the remarkable advancements made in military medicine and prosthetics, the fighting spirit and inspirational stories of our veterans are not due to technology.

These traits come from the heart.

And many of these veterans are women, such as Army Chief Warrant Officer Lori Hill. While piloting her helicopter over Iraq in 2006, she maneuvered her chopper to draw enemy gunfire away from another helicopter and provide suppressive fire for troops on the ground. Despite flying a damaged aircraft and suffering injuries, she landed the helicopter safely, saving her crew. For her actions, she became the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Women are major contributors to our military presence in Afghanistan and many have given their lives in the War on Terrorism. The American Legion recently issued a report calling upon VA to improve its response to the unique needs of women veterans. The VA and military health systems need to adequately treat breast and cervical cancer as well as trauma that resulted from domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault. America is home to more than 1.2 million women veterans and they deserve our support.

In the poem “Tommy,” the great writer Rudyard Kipling lamented over the rude treatment a British soldier received at a pub.  Writing in classical old English, Kipling compared the abuse with the more favorable treatment that “Tommy” receives by the public during war.

“For it’s Tommy this, an ‘ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’

But it’s ‘Savior of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!”

Let us always treat our 23 million veterans as the saviors of our country that they are. Even when the guns are no longer shooting.

IRS Website Explains Tax Provisions of the Health Care Law;

Provides Guide to Online Resources
IRS Health Care Tax Tip 2013-01

The IRS has launched a new Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions website at to educate individuals and businesses on how the health care law may affect them. The new home page has three sections, which explain the tax benefits and responsibilities for individuals and families, employers, and other organizations, with links and information for each group. The site provides information about tax provisions that are in effect now and those that will go into effect in 2014 and beyond.

Topics include premium tax credits for individuals, new benefits and responsibilities for employers, and tax provisions for insurers, tax-exempt organizations and certain other business types.

Visitors to the new site will find information about the law and its provisions, legal guidance, the latest news, frequently asked questions and links to additional resources.

Several other federal agencies have a role in implementing the health care law, including the Department of Health and Human Services, which has primary responsibility. To help locate additional online resources from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration, the IRS has issued a new Web-based flyer - Healthcare Law Online Resources (Publication 5093).

Visit for more information regarding the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Financial Planning Association™ of MA Pro Bono Military Program volunteers feted at recognition ceremony

BOSTON, MA, …Members of the Pro Bono Military Program of the Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts (FPA MA) were honored at a recent Volunteer Recognition Dinner for their service to the Massachusetts National Guard’s Free Income Tax Program.

The National Guard Free Income Tax program offers free income tax assistance and asset building opportunities for military members, veterans, retirees and their families at many locations throughout the Commonwealth. During the time that the FPA of MA has been involved with the program, its members have comprised 50% of the total volunteer force.

Since January of 2012, the group of 15 pro bono volunteers in the FPA of MA Pro Bono Military Program has supported 32 financial readiness events, completed 1390 volunteer hours and held 108 1-1 counseling sessions with members of the military, veterans and their families. Furthermore, over the past three years, FPA of MA involvement with the Free Income Tax Program has resulted in a total of 4,517 completed tax returns, representing $753,000 preparation fees saved and refunds totaling $6.1 million.

“We commend our Pro Bono Military Program volunteers for donating their time and expertise to service members and their families,” said Peter Jaworski, CFP, President of the FPA of MA. “Many in the military face long deployments and having a financial plan in place once home can help to eliminate some of the stress they and their families may face; we are proud to participate in a program that means so much to so many people.”

FPA MA members serving on the Pro Bono Military are: Debra Antel of Sagamore Beach; Kristin Beanie of Westborough; Larry Cohen of Danvers; Hal Estabrook of Bridgewater; Erica Feldblum of Boston; Jessie Foster of Boston; Jonathan Harrington of Walpole; Judith Henry of Shrewsbury; Steve Hibbard of Weston; Mike Hourigan of Needham; Austin Poirier of Waltham; Dick Power of Walpole; Beth Rogers of Danvers; Dave Santoro of North Attleboro; and David Welch of Wellesley. Non-members participating include Peter Cornell, Lisa Cunningham and Alan Melanson.

Commander welcomes home returning vets

INDIANAPOLIS -- American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz responded to President Obama's State of the Union Address Tuesday with a word of welcome to 34,000 troops the president said would be coming home from Afghanistan this year.

"American Legion service officers stand ready to support our men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and help them understand their VA benefits. American Legion-sponsored job fairs and business workshops await their return, offering opportunities to convert military experience into successful careers. American Legion posts and individual members are available for those who come home wondering where to turn for camaraderie and support. That is what we do. It is who we are."

Koutz said he looks forward to meeting with President Obama later this month to discuss specific ways The American Legion can help DoD, VA, veterans and their families make the adjustment to postwar lives.

"No one does more than The American Legion to help returning veterans," Koutz said. "This organization was built on that very concept. As the president has said in past speeches, there is no reason the returning veterans of the Global War on Terrorism cannot drive the U.S. economy forward, as it did after the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 -- which The American Legion authored as World War II was ending -- and build another half-century of U.S. economic prosperity."

Veterans can and will be essential to the U.S. economic recovery, Koutz explained. "There was no doubt from the State of the Union Address that our nation's highest priority is the improvement of our economy. Veterans have proven in the past that they can be the catalysts.

“The American Legion is dedicated to convincing employers, many of whom already know, that veterans can once again lead our nation to a new era of economic performance and hope. We look forward to working with VA and DoD to ease the transition process, provide our newest generation of veterans with the support they need, and rebuild our economy as a nation. It is really the least we can do for those who have stood strong against the threat of terrorism and kept it from our shores for over a decade."

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