Website shows status of American vets

Did you know that of the nation’s more than 22 million veterans, the largest populations live in California, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania?

But those aren’t the states with highest percentage of veterans. That status belongs to Alaska, Montana, Maine, Virginia and Wyoming. And if you delve into veterans by county, you’ll find that a disproportionate number live in rural areas, where incomes are lower, according to the Housing Assistance Council, which has developed a new online database tool to look at how veterans are faring in their communities.

Elmo in the Army? Sesame Street website reaches out to military families

Sesame Street character Cookie Monster waves to children at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, Aug. 9, 2014, during the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families. The puppet troupe will now be featured on a website designed to help preschoolers adjust to life in military families.

Don’t be surprised if you hear the Sesame Street puppets break into a chorus of, “You’re in the Army now, Mr. Elmo!”

Sesame Workshop and the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology announced Friday the launch of a website designed for military families that features many of show’s familiar characters. The site is mobile friendly and can be easily accessed from cell phones and tablets.

Soldiers take a walk to recharge their batteries

It could be light years away or coming soon to an Army shop near you.

The Army is testing backpacks that self-generate power while troops are on the move, potentially eliminating the need for big clunky batteries that are used to power everything from night-vision goggles to radios.

Irvine, Calif. is judged best place for veterans to live in US

Rafael Lopez, left, and his wife, Jacqueline, step out of a model home at Trevi and Amelia luxury homes on Nov. 21, 2014 in the Orchard Hills community in Irvine, Calif.

The most livable city in America for veterans is Irvine, Calif., while Detroit holds the bottom position out of the nation’s 100 most populous cities, according to an analysis published for Veterans Day by the financial web site WalletHub.

Three Texas cities were in the top 10 places to live for the country’s 21 million veterans: El Paso (6), Austin (9) and Lubbock (10). Two Florida cities, Miami and its suburb Hialeah, were at the bottom of the heap at 96 and 98, respectively.

A day of free assistance with VA entitlements, claims, benefits

Troops and veterans in the Washington, D.C.,area who need help with Department of Veterans Affairs entitlements, benefits and claims can get free professional counseling and assistance Sept. 19 in Reston, Va.

The American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association and Disabled American Veterans will host the annual Mobile Service Office that day,and DAV service officers will be on hand to offer one-on-one assistance.

MOH recipient Hershel Williams recalls end of WWII as time of elation ... and relief

When World War II finally ended 70 years ago this week, Hershel Williams recalls that he and his fellow Marines on Guam were "absolutely elated, because the word was that the Japanese were going to surrender. We would not have to make that next campaign."

That "next campaign" was one that Williams didn't expect to survive.

Williams had already taken part in the bloody battle of Iwo Jima in early 1945, and would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions there. When he got to Guam, the Marines "started a new training system.

"Previous to our return from Iwo, we trained constantly for jungle warfare. When we returned, they had built some false-fronted buildings to simulate a street. They'd put up false walls with a door, a window, that sort of thing, because [in] our next campaign, somebody knew we were going to be in a city, not in a jungle. We began training: How do you street fight? How do you approach a house? How do you go through a window?"

In a phone interview from his West Virginia home on Thursday, Williams said the Marines on Guam "thought we were going to Tokyo. As far as we were concerned, that was Japan. It didn't have anything else. There were no other names or anything else, Tokyo was Japan. So we're going to Tokyo.

"Well, we found out after the war was over, they had a campaign scheduled where [the Marines] would go under a program called Olympic — that was the code name — and [on November 1] we were going to attack the island of Kyushu. That was our next goal. So we would have been in a place where we would've had no option but to kill women and children. Because they had been trained by the Japanese to protect their homeland with any kind of a weapon that they had. So, according to historians, if we had had to go to Japan, [all the armed forces] would've had a million casualties.

Over the years a debate has continued about whether atomic bombs should have been used against Japan, but the way Williams sees it, "the bomb no doubt saved my life."

"The celebration that we had on Guam on August 7th after the bomb was dropped on the 6th, was unreal. We jumped up and down, we screamed, we yelled, we fired weapons into the air. It was chaotic. Because we felt that was going to be the end of the war. I don't know why we felt that, but we did. When they dropped the one on the 8th, we didn't go as wild. We went wild, but not quite as wild as we did on the 6th."

And when word of the surrender finally arrived, "I was just absolutely thrilled that I was going to get to come home. I didn't care when or what or how."

It also represented a reacquaintance with the rest of the world. Until the final days of the war, "none of us had personal radios, we weren't permitted to have them. The only information we got was through the Armed Forces Network. Usually had one radio, and it was usually in the first sergeant's office. We were not getting any newspapers, or any bulletins, or any radio information at all as to what was going on in the world. Everything was secret.

"After the bomb was dropped, we could have lights in our tents at night."

On visit to Bushes’ home, former presidents prompt wounded vet to propose

Tyler Jeffries and his fiancee, Lauren Lilly.

It was a rare opportunity for retired Army Spc. Tyler Jeffries, in more ways than one.

Jeffries and other wounded veterans — all featured in the book “Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed” — were invited to visit the famed Bush family summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine. Former President George H. W. Bush wrote the foreword to the book, which discusses mothers helping their sons recover from combat injuries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

England police try odd (actually even) approach to crime fighting

RAF MILDENHALL, England — How odd.

Citing dwindling budgets, police with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit played a numbers game with victims of attempted burglaries in Leicestershire County.

VA getting the word out on successes, challenges

Department of Veterans Affairs stories will be popping up everywhere this week as the beleaguered agency rolls out a nationwide outreach effort to highlight reform efforts in the wake of a crisis in veterans’ health care.

Roughly one year after former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald took over as VA secretary in the midst of a scandal, the VA has instructed directors of its medical centers, regional offices and cemeteries to reach out to local media to tell their stories.