Overseeing about 360,000 employees, Wilkie, 55, will lead the second-largest department in the federal government.

Robert Wilkie was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 24 to be the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Overseeing about 360,000 employees, Wilkie, 55, leads the second-largest department in the federal government.

President Donald Trump on May 18 had nominated Robert Wilkie to head the department. Wilkie has been serving as the acting secretary since the president fired David Shulkin, the previous head of the VA.

In his previous job at the Pentagon as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Wilkie played a key role in the administration’s ban on transgender service members. He recommended to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that transgender people be allowed to serve only if they do so "in their biological sex." Mattis later made similar recommendations to Trump.

Trump had previously nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson as VA chief, but Jackson withdrew from consideration after questions arose about his conduct in the White House medical office. Former colleagues accused him of overprescribing medications and being "abusive" toward employees.

The heads of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, its chairman, Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and ranking member Jon Tester,  D-Mont., both said they have strong working relationships with Wilkie. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praised the president’s pick and said he believes Wilkie would be an "effective" secretary.

Ponaganset High plans fundraiser

Ponaganset High School will host a golf tournament fundraiser to benefit veterans’ activities, including the annual Wreaths Across America event in early December and the Vietnam Moving Wall replica, which will be set up on the school campus from Nov. 1 to 5. Both are valuable tools to educate American youth and the public. Wreaths Across America places Christmas wreaths on all graves in Arlington National Cemetery and will have a local observance at Ponaganset High School in early December, and the Moving Wall replica reminds us all about the important lessons from the Vietnam War.

The fundraiser golf tournament will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22, commencing with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m., at the Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam, Connecticut. A luncheon will be served at 11:30 a.m. and a dinner will follow the golf action.

Individual golfers are invited to play and will be assigned to a foursome in either the open, coed, or players-over-60 divisions. Make your reservations now. The $120 fee covers golf, cart, souvenir bag and lunch and dinner. Major sponsorships are available for $500 and tee sponsorships are also available. The latter are a cost-effective way to promote your business at $75 each and show your support. Veteran recognition, memorial and active duty signs cost $50.

For more information or to reserve a spot for yourself or your foursome or arrange a sponsorship by Sept. 1, call Steven Placella at (401) 255-3478 or send him an email at splacella@cox.net or call Linda LaFazia at (401) 233-2564. For more information on Wreaths Across America or the Vietnam War Moving Wall events, call Ponaganset High School at (401) 710-7500.

VFW honors three Rhode Islanders

The national Veterans of Foreign Wars recently recognized three Rhode Islander members with "All-American" status due to their having met requirements for exceptional leadership, membership growth and strong support of VFW core programs. They include Bill Siano, of Bradford, as a Department of Rhode Island commander, one of only 21 worldwide to earn this title; David Ainslie, of North Kingstown, as Post 152 commander; and Robert Mason as District 3 commander. VFW national commander Keith Harman said: "They are all fine examples of VFW leadership. Their hard work and dedication to the mission and values of our organization have rightly earned them this great honor."

Tourney to benefit

T.F. Green military lounge

The Rhode Island Military Organization has scheduled its second annual golf tournament for Monday, Aug. 20, as its major fundraiser for its group activities and to support the military lounge at T. F. Green Airport in Warwick.

Action starts at 8:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at Triggs Memorial Golf Course, 1533 Chalkstone Ave., Providence. Fees of $125 per player or $500 per foursome cover 18 holes of golf, cart, range balls and the typical golf tourney on-course contests. A special prize will be given for the best dressed or best themed foursome. The format is a team best-ball scramble followed by a tailgate barbecue with steak tips, chicken, salad, beans, cornbread and potato. Tee sponsorships are available for $100 and raffles and a 50/50 drawing will be held. You can reserve today by calling Chuck Pollock at (401) 569-2800, Mike Butler at (401) 640-4668 or Tim Howe at (401) 215-0632.


— Veterans of Foreign Wars: Gatchell Post 306 Auxiliary, 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, 171 Fountain St., Pawtucket; Post 916, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, 155 High St., South Kingstown; Lymansville Memorial Post 10011, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, 354 Fruit Hill Ave., North Providence; Smithfield Memorial Post 2929, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, 47 Farnum Pike, Smithfield. An officer training session for all new incoming officers will be conducted on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon at Johnson Gilchrist Goff Post, 172 Washington St., Warwick.

— U.S. Submarine Veterans Rhode Island Base, 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16, R.I. Aviation Hall of Fame building, 6854 Post Rd., North Kingstown, and all submariners are welcome.

— Send veterans’ meeting and news items to George W. Reilly at VeteransColumn@gmail.com.