Newsletter Articles

VFW Sets the Record Straight on Decision Ready Claims

On Dec. 14, VA sent veterans an email promising they would receive claim decisions in 30 days by working with organizations like the VFW through the Decision Ready Claims (DRC) process. To set the record straight, VFW National Veterans Service Director Ryan Gallucci put together a video explaining why the 30- day promise is misleading, and what the DRC process really means for veterans seeking to access their earned benefits. Gallucci also joined CBS Radio’s Connecting Vets on Friday morning to spread the word on how this program really works and why veterans need to have a candid conversation with their accredited VFW Service Officer about whether or not DRC is right for them. Watch the video.

Youth Essayists to be Feted at January Post meeting

Voice of Democracy WINNER Olivia Olson; RUNNER-UP Lara Wahid Olivia is once again also the District 1 winner and will represent Post 8870 and District 1 at the Department competition in Spokane later this month.

Patriot’s Pen WINNER Mohuwa Wahid (No Patriot’s Pen runner-up)

Youth Essay 5th grade WINNER Cole Harris; RUNNER-UP Nikolas Lopez

Youth Essay 4th grade WINNER Sara Ambachew; RUNNER-UP Brianna Reyes

We are very proud of all of the young people who entered and will feature photos and further details in the February newsletter.

Remains Of 132 American Marines Found on Tarawa

by Dan Doyle

Remains Of 132 American Marines Found on Tarawa

Painting depicting the Tarawa landings

This is one of those stories that are weighted down with melancholy. It has equal parts of sadness, joy, and closure in it. It began 72 years ago on the sandy beaches of the small South Pacific atoll of Tarawa. Over a period of only three days (November 20-23, 1943) the battle for that tiny atoll would become one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.

The small atoll of Tarawa had a garrison of 4,500 Japanese soldiers. They had dug in and heavily fortified the island against such an attack and would put up a fierce defense of it when the Marines began to land. 18,000 Marines and Navy Corpsmen were sent ashore to take the island on November 20th. As with so many military endeavors, things happened that were not prepared for.

It was low tide when the Navy landing craft approached the beach and, they became grounded on the reefs off shore. The Japanese raked them with heavy machine-gun fire. (My uncle was a Navy driver on one of those landing craft.) The Marines waded ashore through hundreds of yards of chest deep waters and withering machine-gun fire, to be met on the beach with brutal hand-to-hand combat.

In the course of those three days, 990 Marines and 30 Navy Corpsman and LCI drivers were killed in action, but the Marines were able to take the island. 520 were listed as MIA. A private group called History Flight, based out of Marathon, Florida, has used ground penetrating radar to find the remains of some 139 missing Marines. On July 26, 2015, History Flight brought 36 of them on the first leg of their return home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The identification process continues under the auspices of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. When the identifications are completed, the Marine Corps will return the remains to their families. A military ceremony was held there to mark their return on Sunday, July 28th, 2015.


No One Does More for Veterans: Counting the Ways

The following table of statistics from VFW Natonal illustrates how the nearly 2 million members of VFW make a difference. There is much of which VFW members may be proud.

Your editor did a little arithmetic with these stats and the results gives Post 8870 good reason to be particularly proud of itself.

Dividng the $12 million dollars raised through the “Buddy Poppy” program nationally by the total number of Posts (6,380) results in an average of $ 1,880 per post for the year. You and I, Comrades, raised well over $ 25,000 in 2017, or thirteen times the national average!

Well Done! 

Some Thought on the Ending of the Vietnam War

by Fred Apgar 

Some Thought on the Ending of the Vietnam War

While Visiting Vietnam & Laos, Fred made a friend of a former enemy.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Vietnam Peace Accords. The Accords were signed on 27 January 1973, but it would take two more agonizingly long years before the last Americans were evacuated from Saigon as the North Vietnamese were rolling through the streets of Saigon and breaking through the gates of the American embassy. There were, of course, many legacies of the Vietnam War, but the definitive history of the Vietnam War is yet to be written.

More than forty years later, our view of the war is only slightly clearer. We will probably never be able to identify our nation’s self-interest in that conflict, nor will we ever be able to attach meaning to the overwhelming loss of blood and treasure. Unfortunately, those college professors, whose left-wing ideology crafted the anti-war sentiment at home, are using the same rhetoric to write the historical perspective of the Vietnam War. Similarly, politicians and decision-makers, whose ineptitude prolonged hostilities, project themselves as objective observers.

My perspective is that the men and women in the enlisted ranks and the junior officers did everything that was asked of them. We followed the chain of command, adhered to military discipline, and committed ourselves to our assigned missions. We trusted our military and civilian leaders to provide us with a mission that was in our nation’s best interest, for which we, in return, did our jobs and risked our lives.

The real failures were the Colonels and Generals. They permitted unrealistic competition between the military branches and placed daily statistics ahead of meaningful tactical and strategic operations and missions. By failing to challenge the military’s civilian leadership and our country’s political leaders, they let us down. It was their responsibility to protect us by demanding reasonable rules to prosecute the war and tasking assignments that adhered to logical and rational military doctrine. A foreign policy that sought to minimize the risk of antagonizing Russian and Chinese feelings gave us Rules of Engagement that clearly resulted in the unnecessary loss of American lives.

Since we were never truly committed to victory, we should have never risked defeat. That was the immorality of the Vietnam War.

( VFW Post 8870 Past Commander Fred Apgar has moved away, but he stays in touch and shares his thoughts with us from time to time.)

Events on the Horizon

Staff Meetings: 9:00 AM, First Tues., American Legion Hall, 117 6th Ave. S., Edmonds

Post Meetings: Third Wed., American Legion Hall; Dinner at 5:00 PM ($5) Meeting at 6:00 PM

VFW/Legion Christmas Party, Sat. Dec. 9

Start at noon, dinner at 12:30

Regular December Post Meeting Cancelled

Please Bring at least 1 canned meat and/ or soup to support Veterans in need and a new, unwrapped toy for our toy drive.


Our next regular Post meeting will be on Wed. January 17, 2018


John Shelton, VFW Post 8870 Guard, Featured in Edmonds Beacon

John Shelton, VFW Post 8870 Guard, Featured in Edmonds BeaconIn the November 16th issue of the Edmonds Beacon, the photo at left and a story about John Shelton’s Vietnam War experience appeared, which read in part: 

“Sometimes, amid the red, white and blue celebration of soldiers on Veterans Day, we can forget what many of these grizzled old men actually did. 

They killed. Many vets are used to the first questions lobbed their way – How many people did you kill in the war? Most don’t want to talk about that. Then there’s Shelton, a Marine sent to Vietnam in 1959 before, he said, “they even knew there was a war.” Shelton was a sniper. He was 19. When it was all over, Shelton said he had 78 confirmed kills in the Vietnam War. “ 

Post 8870 Past Commander Jim Blossey feels that the Beacon story emphasizes the wrong aspect of the job of a Marine sniper and submits the following to corrects the record:

We are very grateful to editor Brian Soergel and the Edmonds Beacon for all the thoughtful coverage they give to our local VFW veterans and military veterans in general.

The Veterans Day just past provides a good example. While we held a brief ceremony at the new Edmonds Veterans Plaza, editor Soergel was standing in the crowd during a sopping November rainstorm. He interviewed one of our more active members, took a nice photo of him and placed them both on the front page of his paper. We are very grateful.

But at this point there is an important note that needs to be made.

The veteran he interviewed, John Shelton, was severely wounded in Vietnam and has been confined to wheelchair ever since. John was a Marine Corps sniper and he was very good at his job. 

No one wants to kill another human being—not unless they are some sort of a psychopath—and you won’t find many of those people qualifying for today’s military. War is and always has been a dirty, messy, and highly undesirable job. It is not a game; it is not a matter of who has the highest score; it is a matter of who survives.

In the American military, soldiers go about their deadly job while trying to avoid being killed themselves. Sometimes even more importantly they do everything in their power to protect their comrades and buddies from being killed.

That is the job of the sniper—to prevent the enemy from killing or injuring your friends. Which brings us back to the killing question. What should be asked of a combat sniper is not how many people he has killed but how many lives have been saved by neutralizing an adversary intent upon killing your comrades.

The number of lives saved is, unfortunately, a question that no one can answer. In John Shelton’s case they must have numbered in the hundreds, perhaps even the thousands. His job was to eliminate threats to his comrades. His weapon and his skills were tools that he was able to utilize to protect those comrades. John and others like him are not life takers, they are life savers.

As a postscript, John Shelton, prior to entering the Marines, was a star high school running back with a four-year scholarship to UCLA. Instead he chose to serve his country, was sent to Vietnam and wound up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. There would be no football career for John, but he still had his scholarship. So he went to UCLA and four years later emerged with a baccalaureate degree in psychology. He went on to earn a masters degree and ultimately a PhD in behavioral psychology and became Dr. John Shelton. He had a long and successful practice ministering to thousands of patients and, undoubtedly, saving many more lives.

So again, on behalf of Edmonds Post 8870 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, I would like to thank Brian Soergel and the Edmonds Beacon for their continued coverage. And, personally, I would like to thank Dr. John Shelton for his service to our nation. May you always be remembered as one who saved lives…on the battlefield and at home.


James Blossey Past Commander

Veterans Remembered

Veterans Remembered

Post member Ron Clyborne provided this photo which includes his father, shown among the crew of his WWII bomber before his last mission. Clyborne senior is the man at far right in the top row.

An Alumnus of Virginia Military Institute (VMI), 2nd Lt. Clarence A. (“CA”) Clyborne , served in WWII as a bombardier with the 9th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group, 10th Air Force.

Clyborne died in a Japanese POW camp in late Dec. 1943 of injuries sustained upon landing after parachuting from his B-24 Liberator. The bomber was hit by enemy fire and crashed during a mission to the Insein rail yards (Rangoon) Burma on 1 Dec. 1943.

His remains have never been recovered. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing in the Manila American cemetery and as of 2017 in the Edmonds Veterans Plaza Memorial Garden.

If you have such photos you would like to share, we would be happy to publish them in future newsletters.

Lives Of Vietnam Veterans Threatened By A Tiny Killer


Some of the hundreds of Vietnam War veterans who have suffered from cholangiocarcinoma, (Phto by AP)

Some of the hundreds of Vietnam War veterans who have
suffered from cholangiocarcinoma, (Phto by AP)

According to a story on CBS News Baltimore, there is yet another silent killer besides Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans to be concerned about; a parasite called a fluke worm that can live for decades in a person’s without symptoms. When symptoms do show, it may be too late.

One gets this fluke worm by eating raw or undercooked fish. Apparently this disease is endemic to rivers in Vietnam. It is said that these flukes effect up to 25 million people worldwide.

Preserved liver fluke parasites (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Preserved liver fluke parasites
(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

According to the CBS Baltimore piece, the disease “can be treated easily and effectively with a handful of pills if caught early on,” if not it can develop into a deadly form of cancer that affects the bile duct. When symptoms do occur they are most evident in the form of severe pain. When this happens, the patient may have only months yet to live.

A study was conducted by Seoul National University in South Korea of 50 Vietnam veteran volunteers at the Northport VA Medical Center in New York. Of the 50 blood samples given by these volunteers, nearly 20 percent of them came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies.

If Vietnam veterans remember eating raw or undercooked fish while in Vietnam, get this checked out. Over the last 15 years some 700 veterans were found to have the rare bile duct cancer. Of these about half did not file claims for benefits, because they did not know that it was related to their time in Vietnam.

Now that this disease has been discovered to have clear links to Vietnam, there should be no having to “fight” for the benefits that belong to all whose health has been affected by this disease because of their service in Vietnam. This goes for the various illnesses that are connected to the defoliant Agent Orange too. We need Congress and the VA to pick up the ball on this before it is too late. We served our country. Now it’s time for our country to take up its responsibilities toward those of us who have been negatively affected by these diseases that are directly related to that service.

Preserved liver fluke parasites (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) Some of the hundreds of Vietnam War veterans who have suffered from cholangiocarcinoma, (Phto by AP) 


VA Releases Veteran Suicide Statistics by State

Report show state, age, gender and most common method.


WASHINGTON (Sept.15, 2017) the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released findings from its analysis of Veteran suicide data for 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The release is part of VA’s comprehensive examination of more than 55 million records, from 1979 to 2014, which will be used to develop and evaluate suicide prevention programs across every state.

The new data include Veteran suicide rates and overall suicide rates by state, age group, and gender and list the most common suicide methods. Analysis of this information will help VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention gain insight into high-risk populations and share that information with community-based health care providers and partners, continuing to expand the network of support for Veterans.

Among VA findings: Findings show there is variability across the nation in the rates and numbers of deaths by suicide among Veterans. Overall, the Veteran rates mirror those of the general population in the geographic region, with the highest rates in Western states. While we see higher rates of suicide in some states with smaller populations, most Veteran suicides are still in the heaviest populated areas.

The suicide rate among middle-age and older adult Veterans remains high. In 2014, approximately 65 percent of all Veterans who died by suicide were age 50 or older.

After adjusting for differences in age and sex, risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among Veterans when compared to U.S. non-Veteran adults. After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 19 percent higher among male Veterans when compared to U.S. non-Veteran adult men. After adjusting for differences in age, risk for suicide was 2.5 times higher among female Veterans when compared to U.S. non-Veteran adult women.

“These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “I am committed to reducing Veteran suicides through support and education. We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”

Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at, or text to 838255.