For the eight years before entering USMA, I lived at West Point, most of the time in the Lusk housing area. The night before I entered, I swam in Lusk Reservoir, like my older brother had done. Totally unauthorized, of course. I forgot that something called “The Sound and Light Show” was going to be held that evening. So, about two minutes into my swim, there was a lot of light in the sky, and I rushed to shore before somebody like the MP’s saw me. In the morning, my best friend from Highland Falls High School drove onto post, picked me up and drove me to Central Area. As many know, I never made it to the Swearing-In Ceremony because my trousers were way too tight, I almost passed out, and I was dragged to the hospital. So, only five of the six West Point-based New Cadets were there.
By Bob Jannarone
My first experience with Mike Krzyzewski was as a Company mate the first two years, before I was shuttled off to a new Company. The first plebe year re-sectioning for English class was alphabetical by last name. There were “J” and “K” names in my section. The instructor wanted to make sure he said everyone’s name correctly, and when he came to Mike, he asked how to pronounce it. After the instructor tried several times, he said, “I’ll just call you Mike,” and he did.
My parents and younger brother and two sisters were avid Army sports fans, as was I. My parents went to Mike’s wedding, and all of us followed his playing and coaching career both at WP and Duke. I enjoyed watching him make 11 points in an Army-Navy game. The best as a coach was the 104-103 Duke over Kentucky in overtime in 1992.
In 1978, living near Rochester, NY where I worked, I was surprised to get a phone call from Mike. At that time, Mike was coach of the Army team. It was the opening game of the season, and Army was going to play the University of Rochester on their court. Mike said he was sure we would win, anyway, “But, Bobby, can you get a scouting report for Rochester? We don’t know anything about them.” I said I would see what I could do. That afternoon, scouting reports for all the local teams were in the afternoon paper, so I sent it to West Point. Mike sent me a ticket and Army won by 20 points. Mike spoke briefly to me and many local high school coaches he knew, too, as he walked to the locker room after the game.
Years later, in the early 90s, Duke was playing in a tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I was working for West Point Admissions and was taking a plane to a Winter By-Invitation meeting in the mid-west. Arriving at Newark Airport with plenty of time to spare, I strolled through the area. At a gate that was otherwise unoccupied, there was Mike talking into a microphone, responding to questions for a weekly radio program called “This Week in the ACC.” I sat way off to the side, and when the taping was over, Mike came over for a nice chat.
by Bob Jannarone
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
We lived in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York in 2001. We had retired over a year before from our jobs at West Point and were looking forward to our first Elderhostel* program in about two weeks, in Philadelphia; and a tour of a riverboat that was to dock at West Point, thinking we might want to go on it sometime.
Linda and I were having a leisurely breakfast, listening to a local radio station that had trivia questions for which I won a prize almost every month, when the phone rang. It was our daughter Barbie, calling from the Rochester, New York area. She told us that one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City had been hit by a plane. So, we went to the den and turned on the TV. Soon we saw that the second tower had been hit.
We knew that we were watching history in the making. Soon I had several thoughts. The first was that I had been there many times, taking the train from Salisbury Mills/Cornwall and then the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train from Hoboken, New Jersey into the city one Friday every month and getting off at the World Trade Center stop. From there, I went to 26 Broadway (the Federal Building) to my post as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee as an Army Reservist for the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers. Later, I didn’t have to walk as far, as I was assigned to the North Atlantic Division Headquarters, just across the street north of the World Trade Center. Sometimes I ate lunch in the Customs House cafeteria at 1 World Trade Center.
My boss (another Army Reservist) at Division Headquarters had been scheduled to have his monthly duty there in 1993 when a bomb had been set off in the parking lot underneath the World Trade Center. He had his plans changed the day before that. He usually parked his car there, so he avoided that disaster. I wondered if there had been some damage to the Post Office building where Division was housed at this time. There was, it turned out. Division moved to Fort Hamilton not long after that.
My next thought was for my brother, Jack, a United Air Lines pilot. I called many times, sometimes not getting through, sometimes with no answer. It wasn’t until late the next day that he answered the phone by saying, “I’m home, I’m safe.” **
My wife’s mother and her sister, who lived near us, had been visited by her cousin and his wife for the last several days. We had the four over for dinner the night before. The cousin was flying back to Atlanta that morning. He saw that the first tower had been hit while on his way to Newark Airport. When he found out that all flights were canceled, he had to rent a car and drive to Atlanta.
That night there was an impromptu gathering at St. Thomas Church. It was packed just like Easter and Christmas. Would that it always were so.
We knew that one of the Folk Group members worked at the World Trade Center. On Sunday, we found out that he had car trouble on the 11th and didn’t go to work. We also found out that a fireman who lived in Cornwall had died at one of the towers. His funeral Mass was a St. Thomas, attended by at least a hundred firefighters in full regalia. There is a memorial bench at the traffic circle in Cornwall, “Lest We Forget.”
About ten days later, having had word from Eldershostel that the program would still take place, we took a train into New York. When we got to the subway and Penn Station, we saw hundreds of missing persons signs plastered on every wall.
We also saw Army National Guardsmen with rifles and Amtrak Police everywhere.
We took the train to Wilmington, Delaware, then a rental car to Ocean City, Maryland, where we stayed with one of Linda’s friends from her youth. In those two cities, everything seemed to be business as usual.
At the Elderhostel program in Philadelphia a few days later, very few people had canceled. When we got back to New York City, we tried to enter the subway, but people were streaming up the stairs. There had been yet another bomb scare, as apparently there had been every day for three weeks. There had also been bomb threats daily at the Empire State Building.
Soon after we got home, we got a call from the riverboat cruise line. The ship was not going to be allowed to dock at West Point but would instead dock at Bear Mountain. We went, and were very impressed, and now have cruised with them several times.
Did we learn anything from September 11? We have read several books by Jonathan Cahn, showing our relationship to ancient Israel, and how we, like they, have turned our back on God. The events of September 11 are only a warning. According to him, our leaders have only spoken of defiance. But unless we repent and turn back to God, we will suffer the same fate.
* Elderhostel was a low-cost educational program using college dorms for adults 55+.
** It turns out that Jack was on standby waiting to be called back to flying. As we know that call didn’t come for some days while aircraft was grounded around the country. Instead, Jack went up to the Air National Guard base at Stewart Field in Newburgh. It was a staging ground for emergency responders moving into the World Trade Center site. Jack asked what he could do to help; he was sent to the Mess Hall to peel apples for cobbler for lunch dessert and later worked in the serving line where he could talk to the first responders and even a Forest Service crew from Oregon there to help.
by Bob Jannarone
While I may think I have always been scrupulously honest, I must admit that I have a mischievous streak in me. That might have come from a record my parents and us kids listened to in the 1950s. Tom Lehrer was a Harvard math professor, but on the side, he composed and sang songs about people who did, let us say, strange things.
I think my father must have told my mother about my refusal to submit a false Morning Report when I commanded an Engineer Construction Company at Fort Benning, Georgia. That is the subject of another story https://thedaysforward.com/defining-moment-1972/ For a few months after I left command, I was farmed out to the Post Engineers while I finished an M.B.A. program before reporting to the Engineer Advanced Course. Home on leave at West Point that Easter, I brought my mail with me as I left the post. I had a bill from BankAmericard—now VISA. My bill was probably less than $100. When I opened it, there was also another bill in the envelope, for some other person. Obviously, it was a mistake. The bill was for just over $3,000. So, I asked my mother if I could borrow $3,000, and showed her the bill, but I covered up the name on the bill. When she asked why I had run up such a debt, I made up an on-the-fly a story about how as a Company Commander I had purchased a TV, a stereo and sound equipment and furniture for my Company’s Day Room, writing a check for zero dollars but saying I had enclosed the full amount each month. Now I had been found out. My younger sisters were hearing this, too. They all were aghast.
I was horrified that they seemed to actually believe this ridiculous story. In a way, I was also annoyed. Then, I showed them the name and address on the invoice, and then wrote to BankAmericard telling them that they had sent someone else’s bill along with mine, and that they shouldn’t penalize him because he didn’t have his bill to pay.
Some years later I hurriedly wrote a check for $300 to a mutual fund account. I wrote it on a Saturday and put it in our mailbox, and it was picked up a few minutes later. The next Saturday, the mutual fund responded that they had credited my account $10,000. I called them immediately, but the person on duty on a Saturday said I had to talk to someone during the regular workweek for something like that. So, I did, and I called again a month later, and again a month after that. When I got my checking account statement and cancelled checks, I found that I had not signed the check, but it was cashed for the $300. Finally, I got a notice that the mutual fund had taken the extra $9,700 plus earnings out of the account.
Not long after that, I deposited a check in an ATM machine after business hours. Out came the receipt and two twenty-dollar bills. I called the bank the next morning, told them what happened and asked them to deduct that money from my checking account. I got a very nice letter from the bank, which I still have, thanking me for my honesty.
My young daughter found a watch one time when we were swimming in Lake Ontario. She wanted to keep it, but I told her that it belonged to someone else, so we should turn it in to the lost-and-found. Unfortunately, after a week, one of the lifeguards took it for himself. When I complained about that, it was returned to the lost-and-found box, but it was never given to my daughter. No one but the person who lost it will ever know where it was lost, but my daughter knows my stand on the issue.
Then, there’s the Internal Revenue Service. I had to file an amended return for 2015 because my military retired pay for November and December of that year, all of 2016 and eight months of 2017 had just been declared non-taxable because I had contracted prostate cancer from exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam. I was getting Veterans Administration compensation, which is also non-taxable, starting in November of 2015. It took a long time, but the Army confirmed that it was combat related. So, my Army Retirement pay had been converted to Combat Related Special Compensation, which is not taxed, based on the same date of my VA compensation. I kept getting that until December of 2018. Since my pay is based on mostly Army Reserve service, it was less than VA compensation, so all of it was now non-taxable. Knowing that the money I paid each month into a Survivor Benefit Plan for my wife was already not taxed, I asked for a refund on taxes paid on the balance for those two months. The IRS gave me back money based on the full amount of my pay for those two months. I’m sure it’s not often that a taxpayer wants to give back some money to the IRS. It is also somewhat complicated, as it was only in the first year that this was an issue. I wrote them explaining that they had given me back money that had never been taxed in the first place. After more than two years of back and forth letters with them, I finally spoke to someone from the IRS, who claimed he understood, but said that the amount of money was within their tolerance, so thanks for the honesty, I’ll put a note in your file, but you can forget about it. The IRS was not going to want the money back.
But once again, the whole truth had been won.**
**Guiding principles from the The West Point Cadet Prayer
O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural. Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of All. Amen.
A number of my classmates and I have diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange* in Viet Nam. I urge those who were wounded and those have those diseases to pay special attention, because most of them are missing out on a great benefit.
Like my father, all three of his sons were in the military. Dad, USMA ’38, served 35 years on active duty. A World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater, he was on the second plane into Japan after the surrender. He was in Viet Nam for only a few days, touring the South Vietnamese Military Academy when he was the Dean of the Academic Board. When a sniper fired at those in his jeep, Major Dave Palmer, who accompanied him, fired at the sniper. Dad credits him with saving his life. Palmer wrote the Military Art pamphlet, “Revolution in America” that we used as cadets. Palmer later became the Superintendent. Dad died at the VA Hospital in Montrose, NY. My mother could not take care of him any longer, as Alzheimer’s Disease took its toll. I’m not aware that he had any VA compensation, but they were there for him at the end.
My older brother Jack, USMA ’65, served 22 years in the Air Force. He was in Viet Nam around the same time I was, ’70 to ’71. Near the time of his retirement, Hodgkin’s lymphoma was first detected, but not treated. Since he was still on active duty at the time, after a lot of effort on his part, the Air Force took responsibility. The VA declared him 100% disabled for a time, but then downgraded him to below 50% after a while. When he applied, he had to agree that the amount of his military retired pay up to the amount of VA compensation had to be waived. So, in those days, the late 1980s, some of his paychecks were taxable, and some (VA) were not. I’m not sure of the numbers, but, for example, if he were getting $2500 a month retired pay from the Air Force, and the VA compensation were $1500, he was still getting $2500 a month, but only $1000 was taxed. Over time, the treatments he received for Hodgkin’s disease caused other problems, so he has been evaluated numerous times by the VA, and his rating has been changed several times. Still, he like many others, is not very happy with the VA because it seems like they are always trying to downgrade his application, often defying their own rules for achieving a particular rating.
The laws relating to Concurrent Receipt of Disability Pay (CRDP), which is taxable, and a newer Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) which is not taxed, and the amounts that are tax free have changed several times in the past fifteen or so years. Those who were able to have CRDP (taxable) were very happy because they could now get all of their retired pay plus the non-taxable VA compensation.
Several years later when CRSC came into being, Jack found out and applied for CRSC through the Air Force. It took the Air Force fewer than two months to approve his request. They notified Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). So now, as he describes it, he gets Military Retired Pay (taxable) and CRSC (non-taxable), both from DFAS, and VA compensation (non-taxable). The CRSC amount is the same as his VA amount.
I am the second son, but I’m going to treat my younger brother next. Dick turned down his appointment to USMA, opting instead for an ROTC Scholarship to Princeton. He served over six years, mostly in Germany, before embarking on a career in sales, mostly jet aircraft to other countries. He was never in a combat zone, so when he got prostate cancer, and ultimately died from it, there was never a question of VA compensation.
I had a stroke the day my brother died. I have aphasia. For a while, I couldn’t write, do math, figure anything out. I’m still not right, and that is my most serious health problem, but it has nothing to do with my military career. But since my brother died from prostate cancer, my urologist kept a close eye on me. When I had symptoms, he was right on it, and a surgeon removed my prostate.
I had 5 years active duty and 28 years in the Army Reserve. So, I got military retirement pay at age 60, based on 11 equivalent years of active duty. I went to the Pennsylvania Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to apply for VA compensation. One thing they asked was what my military retired pay amount was. I’m not sure why. They filled out the paperwork, and after a few months I got a lot of (to my mind, confusing) letters, ultimately saying I got VA compensation starting the first of the month after I submitted paperwork and I didn’t owe anything to DFAS. My only complaint with VA is they didn’t notify me about downgrading my rating several years later, so I had no chance to respond.
I met my older brother almost a year to the day after I filed for VA compensation. He was coming from Highland Falls to visit his son who lives near me, in Lancaster, PA. I was going to rendezvous with my daughter and grandkids in the Poconos. So, we met at a diner halfway. He asked if I got CRSC. I didn’t know. When I got home, I saw that I had CRDP, which is the first step. Looking at what I got from Pennsylvania DVA, I saw that I should have applied for CRSC after the first series of letters. They gave me the number for DFAS. So, I called DFAS. They told me I needed to contact my service—in my case, the Army.
I got a number from DFAS for US Army Human Resources Command (HRC). The person answering said to do it online. There was a problem with the software, so I couldn’t download it. A software engineer here was finally able to give me a form that I could write on. I filled it out, and nine months later got the approval. Get that – nine months later.
So, the next month, DFAS gave me a new Retiree Account Statement that said I had no taxable income. My Gross Pay was less that VA compensation, so all of it was now non-taxable. Until that time, monthly payments to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) were taken from Gross Pay, (and therefore were not taxed) along with Income Tax Withholding, to result in Net Pay. There was no provision for DFAS to take money from CRSC to pay for SBP, so I was billed monthly for SBP. But after about six months there was a new provision signed into law that said DFAS could do so, and they did. But they gave me a form to show how much of my income should be adjusted for those payments.
So, you folks who are in this situation, that is, those who have a Military Pension and have a wound or a condition caused by exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam, should apply to HRC online. In the search box next to the login box in the upper right, type in “Apply for CRSC.” It will tell you what to do. Fill out DD Form 2860 (the download problem is now fixed) and wait. Hopefully that wait is not as long as mine.
But there’s more. Again, laws keep changing. When my brother first filed amended IRS returns because some of his income that had been taxed was declared non-taxable, he referred to an IRS Ruling 78-161, known as the Strickland Decision. He was not aware of CRDP, so he was very concerned that I was getting both VA compensation and my whole military gross pay. He searched for more than a month, so did I, about what paperwork was required to file an amended return for me. Online search was not helpful. The VA didn’t know. Neither did American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association, or Military Officers Association of America. The Pennsylvania DVA told me I definitely could not do it.
But you can. Finally, my brother found it. I told the Pennsylvania DVA, and they responded with thanks, and said all their service officers would have this information to pass on to those who applied for VA benefits with them. I also wrote the American Legion, telling them that their service officers should get that training, but got no response.
Once you get your approval from HRC, which will say that you get CRSC from the date of your VA compensation, you can amend your returns for the last five years, if you need to. You can just go the IRS website and in the search box type in “Special Tax Considerations for Veterans” and you will see the two situations involved. My brother had the first situation as his VA compensation kept changing. Mine, and probably yours, will be the second, where you have CRDP and have now been approved for CRSC.
In my case, I was approved for CRSC in August of 2017, based on my VA approval date of 1 November 2015. I filled out 1040Xs for 2015 and 2016 right away. I had to wait until 2017 taxes were submitted the usual way before I was allowed to file an amended return for that year. In each case, it took another nine months or more to collect my refund. I got back around $15,000 altogether.
For 2015, the IRS gave me back more than they were supposed to. There’s more about that in another story about honesty. It’s so sad that people know just one little part of the whole, and when confronted with a pretty unique situation, can’t reason it out.
*Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide the U.S. military used to clear leaves and vegetation for military operations mainly during the Vietnam War.