Jay Zimmerman got his first BB gun when he was 7, and his first shotgun when he was 10. "Growing up in Appalachia, you look forward to getting your first firearm," he said, "probably more so than your first car." His grandfather taught him to hunt squirrels and quail. Zimmerman, who lives in Elizabethton, Tenn., said pretty much everyone he knows has a gun. It's just part of the culture. "When I went into the military, that culture was reinforced," he said. "Your weapon is almost another appendage. It's part of who you are." Zimmerman served as a medic in the Army in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He served in Bosnia, Africa, and the Middle East. Since he came home, he's struggled with PTSD and depression. It reached a crisis point a few years ago, when his best friend — the guy who had saved his life in a combat zone — killed himself. Zimmerman decided his time was up, too. "I decided that I would have one more birthday with my daughter, one more Christmas with my daughter," he said. "I had devised my own exit strategy for 16 February, 2013." But then he bumped into a woman who used to ride the same school bus when they were kids. His exit date came and went. They're married now. Zimmerman still gets depressed, but now he's a peer counselor at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center in Johnson City, Tenn. He also travels to conferences all over the country, sharing his story with therapists and with other vets, encouraging them to ask for help when they need it. Even today, he explains at these conferences, if he's not doing well, he disassembles his guns and stores them separately from ammunition, so he can't make any rash decisions. And if things get really bad, Zimmerman has a special arrangement with a few friends. Suicide is often an impulsive act. Nearly half the people who survive an attempt say the time between their first thought of suicide and the attempt itself was less than 10 minutes. But the method can mean the difference between life and death: People who take pills have time to change their minds, or may still be alive when discovered. That's not the case with guns. Almost 70 percent of veterans who commit suicide do so with a gun, which prompted President Barack Obama to order the VA to talk to vets about gun safety and storage options like the ones Zimmerman uses. But here's the trouble: Most therapists aren't gun people. They don't know how to talk about guns and so they don't. "One obvious reason for that is that no one has taught them how," explained Megan McCarthy, a psychologist and National Deputy Director in the Office for Suicide Prevention in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. McCarthy was invited to speak recently at a suicide prevention conference in San Francisco, aimed at therapists who work with vets. "How many of you would say you feel really comfortable having a conversation with any of the people you work with about limiting access to all lethal means?" she asked the roomful of therapists. Hardly anyone raised their hand. "OK, so that's why we're here today," she said. Researchers recommend starting with a field trip to a shooting range. There, therapists can learn about different kinds of firearms, as well as gun locks, and get an introduction to gun culture. When counseling vets, therapists have to ask more questions and be less directive, McCarthy said. "We often conceive of ourselves as experts — as people who impart information to clients," she said. But with vets, "it may take time to build trust. Telling them what to do the first time you've met them is probably not going to be a very effective approach." McCarthy presented a case study at the conference: A 28-year old, unmarried Army veteran who fought in Iraq told his VA psychiatrist that he had an argument with his girlfriend last week. He drove to an empty parking lot and sat with his loaded handgun in his lap, intending to kill himself. He didn't do it. A week later, the man told his psychiatrist things were still tense with his girlfriend. But he didn't want to talk about suicide or storing his gun. McCarthy asked the clinicians in the audience what they would do next, if they were this man's psychiatrist. "Why did he not do it? That would be my question," one therapist said. "I would want to see this individual again, within the same week," said another. "I believe in strong intervention." Jay Zimmerman, the former army medic and peer counselor, stood up and explained his different perspective. "Chances are the reason he's not talking to you is because he's afraid he's going to lose his gun that he carries pretty much all the time," Zimmerman said. "My buddies are the same way. We all carry — all the time." A lot of veterans would sometimes rather confide in a fellow vet than someone in a white coat, Zimmerman said. And that was an unusual takeaway for the professional counselors: Sometimes their role is not to intervene at all, but to be a facilitator. To make sure vets have someone to talk to outside the therapy office. This story is part of NPR's reporting partnership with KQED and Kaiser Health News. Visit the Site
From Navy Medicine Live, the official blog of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. In honor of National Nurses Week 2017, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery public affairs office interviewed the Navy’s top nurse, Rear Adm. Tina Davidson, director, Navy Nurse Corps on why she chose a Navy nursing career and what a typical day in the life of a Navy nurse entails.
I first knew my dad, Tom Frame, was different when I was young, but I didn't know exactly how. Every year when he marched in our Memorial Day Parade in Doylestown, Pa., I stood on the side of the road waving my tiny American flag with so much pride. He was my dad, my veteran. As a teenager, I began to learn about his time in Vietnam during the late 1960s. I heard about fallen men, fierce battles and something called post-traumatic stress disorder. I still didn't fully grasp at that time what my father was living with, and it wasn't until my late 20s that I was ready to dive into a project about my dad's PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans have suffered from PTSD, and the effects can last many years. When I began this project in 2014, I knew it would give me insight into my dad and his experiences in his early 20s, when he was fighting in Vietnam. I never anticipated the depth of understanding it would offer me into my mother and her life — standing by a veteran with deep-rooted trauma — and the role PTSD has played in their marriage. The documentary project follows the lives of my father and several other Vietnam veterans from his Army unit, the 1st Battalion, 5th (Mechanized) Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, who served together. The veterans recount a terrible ambush at a rubber plantation in Ben Cui on Aug. 21, 1968. And their wives open up on how PTSD has affected their marriages in the decades since. Click here for the link to NPR's Kara Frame short documentary film, I Will Go Back Tonight, on the battles with PTSD that her father and his Vietnam War comrades have faced in the decades since they served.Visit the Site
Posted on April 16, 2017By Katie Lange
DARRELL JONES BY DARRELL JONES May 29, 2016 at 5:27 PM EDT Here in the Deep South, we start school in August and end the last week of May. The last couple of days of school, I like to talk about Memorial Day and how it differs from Veterans Day. (Veterans Day is a day of thanks to our servicemen and women, while Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for our fallen heroes.) My students are already out of school by Memorial Day, and like most Americans, they look forward to cookouts and family outings and have a pretty cheerful outlook about one of our country’s most somber holidays.teacherslounge Many of my students have grandfathers and great-uncles who lost their lives in combat decades before they were born. But since our country has moved away from the draft and toward an all-volunteer force, fewer and fewer people personally know anyone who has lost their life in service to their country. As retired USAF, I feel it is my duty to explain to them that since our country was founded, over a million service members have lost their lives at war and countless others during peacetime. My students know that I have been to the desert more than a few times and like to ask if I knew anyone who died over there. I tell them that I was an aircraft mechanic, so my friends and I were not outside the walls in combat. In reality, I have lost many friends who were still on active duty when they died. As a crew chief in the USAF, I was there when bombers crashed during training flights, fighter planes went down at airshows and planes crashed in a war zone. Anyone who has ever served is a veteran, and anyone who has served and died whether on active duty or not deserves our thanks on Memorial Day, whether they died in accidents or took their own lives. I met Brett at Loring AFB, Maine, my first duty station. He used to give me rides to work in his beat-up VW Bug; we had to push to get the engine to kick over. Brett was always a cheerful and friendly person, a hard worker and gym rat who studied the Bible. He was the one guy who could bring you bad news and make you laugh hearing it. “Anyone who has served and died whether on active duty or not deserves our thanks on Memorial Day, whether they died in accidents or took their own lives.” — Ret. Technical Sergeant Darrell JonesAs we got transferred and moved around, we lost touch, as it goes in the military. While I was deployed to Europe, our commander called a meeting to let us know that Brett had taken his own life. I felt like a failure that day — not because I thought I could stop him, but because I did not even know he was hurting. I wish I knew why some men and women in uniform are more prone to take their own lives, but I do not. Many point to the high rate of deployments that come from fighting simultaneous wars on two fronts. What I do say to those who ask is that the military has only recently begun to focus on the suicide problem for veterans with an increased emphasis on mental health help. I don’t share these thoughts with my students. Instead, I tell my classes about the history of Memorial Day and how it began as Decoration Day, a time to honor soldiers who died during the Civil War. Some believe the holiday originated in nearby Columbus, Mississippi, with women’s groups leaving flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in 1866. The fact that the holiday has ties to a place nearby makes it even more relatable for my kids. My goal is to show my students the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, without taking the joy away from the holiday. I want them to remember we can honor those who have given their lives for our country and appreciate what they have done while also cherishing the fact that we get to spend the day with friends and family.Visit the Site
April is the Month of the Military Child. Here is a post from the Department of Defense Blog on possible origins of the term Military Brat. Posted on April 13, 2017 by Katie Lange By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity We’ve all heard the term “military brat” before. It pertains to those children who grew up in military families. “Brats” wear the name like a badge of honor, often because of the moves, stressors and cultural experiences that make them more resilient than their civilian counterparts. But outside of the military, the word brat is often considered derogatory. So it made me wonder – where did the term “military brat” originate? To find out, I reached out to the folks at National Defense University Libraries, who did some research for me. It turns out the origin of the term is still pretty unclear, but there are a lot of interesting theories behind it, and most of them originate in Britain. Since we couldn’t find anything definitive, I figured I’d tell you about some of those theories. BRAT Could Stand for ‘British Regiment Attached Traveler’ I first found this theory published in a 2011 blog by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael M. Dunn, who was the president of the Air Force Association at the time. Dunn, who had also been the president of NDU, had asked a researcher to find the origin of the term. One came through, discovering a book published in 1921 that attributed the saying to the British army. It explained “BRAT” as a status standing for British Regiment Attached Traveler, and it was assigned to families who were able to travel abroad with a soldier. Eventually, it just referred to military children. But the term stuck, and was adopted in many places around the world, including in the U.S. While the researchers I spoke to at NDU couldn’t find that particular citation that Dunn mentioned, it’s a pretty interesting story. And other published researchers have also traced the acronym to the phrase British Regiment Attached Traveler. A U.S. Army soldier embraces her daughter during a homecoming ceremony on Pope Army Airfield Green Ramp. Army photo by Sgt. William Begley A U.S. Army soldier embraces her daughter during a homecoming ceremony on Pope Army Airfield Green Ramp. Army photo by Sgt. William Begley Earliest References Were From the 18th Century Dr. Grace Clifton, a professor at Open University in the U.K., has done research with the U.S. Army’s Dr. Becky Powell into the origins of the term. Clifton found reference to a song written in 1707 for a satirical play called “The Recruiting Officer” that described soldier life and that of their dependents. Back then, married soldiers were divided into two categories: the lucky few who were allowed to have their families live in the barracks and be taken care of by regimental funds, and those whose families had to live outside the barracks. The song referenced the latter as being “brats and wives.” The lyrics may have been the first reference to brat in relation to military families. But it also may have referred to any children. So, that’s still a bit of a mystery. A Contraction for ‘Barrack Rat?’ Clifton said the term “barrack rat” was also used at the end of the 18th century in the U.K. when discussing stories about the lives of children in army barracks, so it’s possible that the two words were turned into a contraction to create the term brat. “Barrack rat” also surfaced in “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.” It cited the book “Old Soldier Sahib” written in 1936 by Frank Richards, a British soldier who detailed his experiences while stationed in India and Burma during the early 20th century. In that book, Richards said “children born in barracks were referred to as ‘barrack-rats:’ It was a wonder to me how the poor kids survived the heat, and they were washed-out little things.” Army Brats & Other Ideas Researchers at NDU also told me they were able to trace “Army brat” back to 1942, where it appeared in a military slang publication called “The War Dictionary.” It defined the term specifically in regards to the children of Army officers, and it said the term was one of endearment. Of course, over the years, there have been more guesses. Many often say brat stands for “born rough and tough,” or “born raised and traveled.” Still No Clear-Cut Answer Trent University’s Dr. Jennine Hurl-Eamon has also been researching childhood during the wars of the 18th century. “I must confess that I have come across no archival or early print material as yet that offers a clear indication of how the term ‘brat’ emerged,” she said.Visit the Site
JUDY WOODRUFF: One in five U.S. military personnel serving in combat will suffer some form of PTSD. But it often goes untreated because of the stigma associated with the disorder. Tonight, special correspondent Soledad O’Brien begins our series, War on the Brain. Almost every day, at some point, I would relive the IED attack. It was like I couldn’t turn my mind off, like I was being flooded, like a cyber-attack, reliving that explosion like a broken record. It just kept playing, and I couldn’t stop it. COL. GREG GADSON (RET.), U.S. Army: I remember I was driving, and I opened my window, and I turned my radio up, and I got it to stop. It was like it left an imprint on me, and I didn’t even know where it came from. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Army Colonel Greg Gadson was blown out of his passenger’s seat by a roadside bomb. He was in Baghdad 2007. His physical injuries were so severe, doctors assumed he would suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. But he was too embarrassed to accept it. Why did you find it so hard to really believe that you had post-traumatic stress? COL. GREG GADSON: It wasn’t something that I could identify with. You know, as an athlete, as a — as an officer, as a leader, we’re trained to override pain, to override doubt. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Both his legs were amputated above the knee. He had permanent nerve damage, limited function in his right arm. Gadson underwent 22 surgeries. He was in rehab for 18 months. His abilities greatly diminished from his college glory days. SPORTS ANNOUNCER: Trying to get off the pass, and down he will go. Great defense by Greg Gadson, number 98 of Chesapeake, Virginia. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Gadson played football at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Co-captain and outside linebacker, powering through was in his DNA. SPORTS ANNOUNCER: Greg Gadson right here, he’s got terrific football instincts. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: You’re a football player. You’re a leader. I mean, you’re all these sort of almost stereotypes, right, of like the tough guy in all capital letters. COL. GREG GADSON: Right. And you can say macho if you want to say that. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Yes, OK, I will say macho. I mean, how much did your reluctance to get help was that this macho stereotype was kind of going to stand in the way of that? COL. GREG GADSON: Probably 100 percent of it. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Yes? COL. GREG GADSON: I mean, every tough challenge in my life, I fought through. And that’s what I — and so I was committed to fighting through it again, and without help. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: I was very surprised that of the one in five people who get diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, like, half of them don’t get treatment. COL. GREG GADSON: Right. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: A massive number just do what you did. COL. GREG GADSON: Right. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder sometimes discourages vets from seeking treatment. COL. GREG GADSON: Good boy. Good. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: The VA’s chief mental health consultant is Dr. Harold Kudler DR. HAROLD KUDLER, Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services, Department of Veterans Affairs: The most important thing to remove the stigma from PTSD is for people to talk about it, but, in talking about it, not fall into the stereotypes. For people who have PTSD, they’re at risk for depression, for substance abuse. They’re at high risk for suicide, largely because of the nature of PTSD, to think about the world and yourself in negative terms, and this idea that nothing could ever go right. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: To get to the heart of how stigma hinders treatment, we assembled a panel of veterans who struggle with PTSD, with assistance from the Military Service Initiative of the Bush Institute. They help reintegrate returning veterans. Do you think being visibly wounded made it easier to have post-traumatic stress? SGT. DEWITT OSBORNE (RET.), U.S. Army: Definitely. DREW BARNETT (RET.), Former U.S. Navy SEAL: Absolutely. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Really? Army Sergeant DeWitt Osborne received the Purple Heart for service in Iraq. SGT. DEWITT OSBORNE: I think it’s more acceptable when you have visible wounds. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: It would make sense to us. SGT. DEWITT OSBORNE: It makes sense, all right? Ours is hidden. Doesn’t mean we don’t suffer as much, but it’s hidden. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Kevin Rosenblum served five years in the U.S. army as an infantry officer. CAPT. KEVIN ROSENBLUM (RET.), U.S. Army: As an officer, as a leader, the pressure , both internal and external, to be infallible, to be strong at all times, and never show weakness was there. And I didn’t want to let my soldiers down. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: In his first deployment to Iraq, his unit came under fire. He received treatment for the shrapnel in his right leg, but not for his post-traumatic stress disorder. CAPT. KEVIN ROSENBLUM: I saw a doctor when I got out, as everybody does, and just talked through some things. And he said, yes, I think you have post-traumatic stress. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: What was your reaction? CAPT. KEVIN ROSENBLUM: I guess I just minimized it in my mind and thought that this is the toll of service in war. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Special Agent Drew Barnett, who served with Navy seals in Afghanistan, refused to believe that he had PTSD. DREW BARNETT: During my early training in the Navy, one of our instructors said, you know, hey, guys, it’s better to die than look stupid. Just make sure you don’t do both. And in thinking about that, I realized that is a lot of the mind-set that we have, is, we don’t want to, one, look weak, or we don’t want to be someone who is not dependable. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: And there is Maya Marshall, part of the 15 percent of service members who are female. She left the Army as a sergeant after five years. Shame, she says, kept her from getting help for her symptoms. SGT. MAYA MARSHALL (RET.), U.S. Army: It came from combat, yes, but, OK, you have only been to combat one time. You have only been in the service for this long. I felt that they would be like OK, you’re a female. Just get your feelings out of it, and just toughen up. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: So, you thought maybe you didn’t deserve it? SGT. MAYA MARSHALL: Yes. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: You hadn’t seen enough combat. SGT. MAYA MARSHALL: Yes. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: You hadn’t been in long enough. You’re a girl. SGT. MAYA MARSHALL: Yes. (LAUGHTER) SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Maybe you’re … SGT. MAYA MARSHALL: Maybe my emotions. Maybe it is my emotions. A lot of times, I did say, OK, well, maybe it is my emotions. Maybe I do just need to push those aside and just toughen up and just move forward and drive on. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Photography is Gadson’s passion and therapy. He uses the chair more often than his prosthetics, so he can have the freedom to capture his pictures. You never use the word disorder or the D in disorder. Why not? COL. GREG GADSON: Well, D to me is — it’s a negative label that doesn’t need to be attached. You know, the face post-traumatic stress are those that wear the uniform, less than 1 percent of our population. And so that word can be associated and labeled with all. We all have some level of post-traumatic stress. Does it make us dysfunctional? For most of us, I would say not. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Gadson pushed back hard against his diagnosis, until his wife intervened. KIM GADSON, Wife of Col. Greg Gadson: He threw a number of mental health professionals out of his room when he was in Walter Reed. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: He kicked them out? KIM GADSON: Just kicked them out, or just chewed them up and spit them out like they were nothing. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: What do you think has helped him accept a PTS diagnosis and that he actually needs help? KIM GADSON: I think the fact that it stays with him. It stays with him. He’s gotten treatment. He’s working at moving forward on his life. He’s doing a lot of great things, but every now and then, there’s an episode. There’s something he realizes: I can’t always control this, so I have to keep working at it. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Gadson’s made progress. Despite his injuries, he cycles and occasionally downhill skis. He tours the country making dozens of motivational speeches to soldiers and civilians. WOMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Colonel Greg Gadson. (APPLAUSE) SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Part of his message: Don’t let shame get in the way of getting help. COL. GREG GADSON: For veterans, what I want to say is, look, we’re always out there for each other, but you have got to take the first step. Display the courage, the courage that in some cases that you have displayed in all your entire military career, to go get help. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Soledad O’Brien in Alexandria, Virginia. Click here to watch the PBS NewsHour Piece.Visit the Site
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity March 21, 2017 From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense All comic book fans have heard of ComicCon, the giant convention held in San Diego every year that celebrates the contributions of comics to art and culture. And most of them have probably heard of the Will Eisner award, which is basically the Oscars of the comic world that’s handed out there. What you might not know, however, is that Eisner was drafted into the Army during World War II, and his creativity made a lasting impact on how soldiers learned the do’s and don’ts of their trades. He was so influential that a military comic magazine he created, “P.S. Monthly,” is still being published today. https://youtu.be/oAUJX5yqi5g That was just one of the cartooning genius’ accomplishments, though. Before the war, he created “The Spirit,” a comic superhero that was published innewspapers and comic books for more than a decade. Eisner is also known as one of the fathers of the graphic novel, and he even got to draw Batman once.
Local veteran and Academy Day Coordinator, Kevin Joyce, shares how All Academy Day impacted his life. “Nineteen years ago, I attended an All Academy Day and then later received an appointment to the Naval Academy. That day changed my perspective and ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. I considerate a privilege to help coordinate our event this year and hopefully it will do the same for others.”This will be the 9th consecutive year for the event where every US Military Academy has a graduate speak about the opportunity to receive a world-class education and an opportunity to serve our country. Representatives for all five military academies will be present, including United States Naval Academy, United States Military Academy, United States Air Force Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California By Courtesy Story, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Story from MARINES, the offical website of the United States Marine Corps There is no greater story teller than a veteran of war. However, it is often difficult for them to articulate the things they had seen in a way that the average civilian might understand. Sometimes the story gets lost in the details. Sometimes the humor or significance of a certain situation is lost on the listener. The term “you just had to be there” is far too often an understatement. Damaso Sutis found a friend to share his story. In fact, he found two. Retired Gunnery Sergeant Damaso Sutis began his day boarding a bus heading to Camp Pendleton for the 72nd Battle of Iwo Jima Commemoration Tour. The tour made stops at the Santa Margarita Ranch House and the Mechanized Museum that houses military vehicles past and present. It was here that Sutis met a Camp Pendleton fire captain that happened to be assisting with the tour. Jonathan Charfauros was there at the Mechanized Museum to assist with any of the veteran’s potential health issues. These veterans, although battle hardened and war seasoned, are pushing 90 years old. And those are the “young ones.” Charfauros, standing in the musty-old warehouse amongst old tank-like vehicles and trucks and newer up-armored humvees and light attack vehicles was approached by Sutis. Sutis, proudly wearing his black Iwo Jima Survivor baseball hat and a red silk jacket with multiple military unit patches, asked Charfauros where he was from. “I walked up to this young man in the blue uniform and I asked if he was Guamain, that was my first battle, Guam,” said Sutis. The Battle of Guam was part of the Pacific Campaign to regain Japanese-held strongholds in the Mariana Islands. More than 7,000 Americans were wounded, 3,000 killed in action. Meeting a hero brings out a certain feeling that cannot be replicated. Charfauros smile was infectious; from ear to ear. There were briefs and explanations from tour guides around them. There were other veterans shuffling around the old vehicles. But Charfauros and Sutis did not leave each other’s side. Both gentlemen were engaged to tell their story. Charfauros shook Sutis’ hand and thanked him for his service and sacrifice. He began to tell the veteran about his family’s story, and how he wouldn’t be here had it not been for the 3rd Marine Division liberating Guam. “When I was young, I noticed my grandfather had these scars on his back that he would never tell us kids where they came from,” Charfauros said. “After he passed away I asked my father, and he finally told us what happened. He said when the Japanese occupied Guam, they would use the locals to build their fighting positions and basically do any other labor they needed. Afterwards the Japanese would lock them in bamboo cages, stab them and leave them to die. Had the Naval Corpsman not saved him, I wouldn’t be here today.” Sutis told Charfauros all of his war stories from his time in Guam. Sutis then gave Charfauros one of his challenge coins. The challenge coin in itself is a unique military memento. In the past, service members would carry a challenge coin given to them by someone of higher rank or authority. If a service member was in a bar and had a challenge coin from their sergeant major, another service member could put their commanding officer’s challenge coin down and the lesser of the coins buys the other a drink. Charfauros was given a challenge coin by a Marine veteran. That Marine veteran was retired Gunnery Sgt. Sutis who fought in World War II and is also a Battle of Iwo Jima survivor. Charfauros was proud to receive this honor. He knew the implications of what that coin really meant. Marines just don’t give out these coins whimsically. And the old-timers definitely don’t. As Sutis and Charfauros were sharing their moment, another veteran came by and caught their attention. Gene Bell was also at the Battle of Guam as a young corporal. Bell’s career as a Marine and a police officer has taken him many miles away from the Battle of Guam. Bell thought that he was one of the few, and possibly the only, Marine veteran on the tour who was at the Battle of Guam. Service members that were in during World War II and part of the Battle of Guam are known as the Liberators. It was then that Bell had found another veteran, who was at the same battles. He found another Liberator. However, they were not only on the island together, they even went on the same ship. “Come to find out, we both went overseas on the same tramp steamer,” Sutis said. “Oh, that was a terrible thing!” Bell said. “Terrible thing, absolutely,” Sutis said. “He’s the only other guy I’ve met that was on the same 28th replacement draft going overseas the first time we went to Guam,” said Bell. Although the Battle of Guam was a site of heavy loss, the men were able to recall the good times they had during their deployments and the fulfillment it brought them. Bell was eager to tell Sutis about his stories and Sutis the same. They began to trade each other coins and lapel pins. Inside this warehouse, two war veterans found a sanctuary to tell their stories that otherwise will be forgotten when they pass. These stories included getting drunk on coconut milk and old buddies that did not make it back and how one of the biggest and deadliest battles in our Nation’s history is experience by a 17 year old kid. Bell explained how their company clerk died and his platoon was asked if anyone could type. Bell took three years in high school and that was enough for him to be the new clerk. A story that someone would pass off as a minor detail, but it made both laugh. For a moment, both veterans weren’t in their 90s with their secrets. They were 17 again sharing their stories. The reminiscing was cut short as everyone was rounded up for group photos. But for a few precious moments, reminiscing about their time as Battle of Guam liberators and Iwo Jima survivors, made them happy. Happy to tell their stories. Link to story on Marines website.Visit the Site
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity February 8. 2017 DoDLive, the Department of Defense Blog It’s that time of year where we’re all anxiously looking forward to spring and daylight saving time so we can actually get home from a busy day when it’s still light out. Did you know that the tradition of “springing” forward one hour was once nicknamed “war time?” The idea of daylight saving time originated in New Zealand in the 1800s, although it wasn’t implemented there until 1927. In America, daylight saving time first became a thing on March 19, 1918, when the Standard Time Act was signed into law. It allowed for additional daylight hours to be added into the day to help save energy costs during World War I. The law also established the five time zones that we now know. The part of that law pertaining to daylight saving time was only in effect for about a year and a half, though, before it was repealed due to the war’s end, despite President Woodrow Wilson vetoing the repeal. It wasn’t until World War II began that the issue came up again. In February 1942, Congress implemented a law instating a national daylight saving time to help conserve fuel and “promote national security and defense,” which is why it was nicknamed “war time.” The time zones were even known as that: Eastern War Time, Pacific War Time, etc. But when the war ended in 1945, the law was once again repealed so individual states could establish their own standard time.
One in four adults lives with a mental health condition, yet this common illness often remains hidden behind a wall of secrecy and isolation. Mindful: Exploring Mental Health through Art, the new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach, breaks down societal stigmas and offers an opportunity to encounter and understand mental health through the lens of contemporary craft. Art is also recognized as a Complementary Alternative Medicine to help veterans heal from both visible and invisible wounds of war. Artist and veteran Jesse Albrecht is one of the artists in the exhibit. Jesse Albrecht's bio shares, “At family gatherings I heard bits and pieces about relatives fighting at Tarawa, Pearl Harbor, New Guinea and Vietnam. Joining the National Guard at nineteen--I couldn’t resist any longer the need to understand first-hand what being a soldier was really like. At the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire I majored in ceramics. In 2000 I moved to Iowa City, Iowa, to pursue my MFA in ceramics at the University of Iowa. Transferring National Guard units I was re-classed as a combat medic. I was walking to an advanced life drawing class on September 11th, 2001. Halfway through my MFA I was deployed to Iraq with A Co 109th Area Support Medical Battalion and attached to the 101st Airborne (AirAssault) Division as an emergency medicine Non Commissioned Officer.” “In addition to treating combat and non-combat patients I found myself running many convoys around Mosul and Northern Iraq without the ceramic plates for my body armor that would actually stop bullets. Returning home was a surreal experience and the transition was rough at times. Returning to graduate school allowed art to capture the overwhelming cultural, mental, and physical experience of Iraq. I currently live in Bozeman, Montana. I work in a media inclusive manner . I am in the collaborative art group Paintallica and a hang around of the Combat Paper Project.” Thursday February 16 at 6:30 PM, Albrecht will be giving an exclusive talk about his work as part of Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art exhibition. Albrecht analyzes the historical, cultural, ethical, and contemporary aspects of war. Saturday, February 18, MOCA will host a Master Class with Albrecht. More information at http://www.virginiamoca.org/Visit the Site
January 22, 2017, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
BY KEITH OLIVER, SOLDIERS, DEFENSE MEDIA ACTIVITY From Soldiers: The official Army magazine. June, 2016
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will accept applications from Veterans interested in competing in the 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games beginning Feb. 1. Veterans ages 55 and older and enrolled in VA health care may complete applications online at www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov. Applications will be accepted through March 1. “VA is committed to offer sports and fitness as an integral part of a successful healthcare program, and I encourage every eligible Veteran to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Carla Carmichael, National Veterans Golden Age Games director. “There are significant health benefits to leading an active lifestyle, and in keeping with the Games motto, we want every Veteran to achieve 'Fitness For Life.’” The 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games will take place in Biloxi, Mississippi, May 7-11. Nearly 800 athletes are expected to compete in the national multi-sport competition for senior Veterans, embracing the “Fitness for Life” motto. The event encourages participants to make physical activity a central part of their lives, and supports VA’s comprehensive recreation and rehabilitation therapy programs. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, boccia, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, powerwalk, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, and track and field. Exhibition events include: air pistol, archery, basketball, blind disc golf and pickleball. VA research and clinical experience verify that movement and exercise are important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery and improving overall quality of life. The games encourage participants to continue in local senior events in their home communities and every other year serve as a qualifying event for competition in the National Senior Games. VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System will host this year’s games. The Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System provides care for more than 50,000 Veterans throughout Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. For more information visit www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov and follow VA Adaptive Sports on Twitter at @VAAdaptiveSport or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vaadaptivesports.Visit the Site
The 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Competition began Jan. 1. During January, February and March, Veterans enrolled at VA medical facilities or outpatient clinics are invited to enter their art, music, da nce, drama and creative writing entries into the local competition phase. It’s an exciting time with art exhibits and performances by Veterans occurring across the country. At most facilities, the general public is invited to view the art and watch the performances, having the opportunity to learn about the arts as therapy and congratulate the Veterans for their artistic achievements. With the involvement of VA staff and volunteers, entries are submitted into the local competition. There are a total of 51 categories in the visual arts, divided into fine art, applied art and craft kit sub-divisions. Fine art categories include painting, watercolor, drawing and sculpture. Applied arts categories such as ceramics, woodworking, metalwork and glasswork and craft kits such as model building, needlework and leatherwork offer a variety of options with something for just about every artist. Categories such as Special Recognition-Physical Disability, Special Recognition-Mental Health Challenges and Military Combat Experience focus on the concept of the arts as therapy where an individual uses artistic expression to facilitate successful treatment outcomes. A written narrative from the Veteran or staff person accompanies the entry to describe how the artwork relates to the Veteran’s challenge or experience. The art division overall has the highest number of entries submitted into competition each year. In 2016, there were over 1,600 entries judged during the month of April in the national competition. The music division follows the art division in highest number of entries. Music is divided into vocal and instrumental sub-divisions. Within the music division there are 45 categories that include both solo and group and the categories are separated according to musical style. There is a category for everyone, even a band category and original vocal and original instrumental categories. Judging criteria consists of such areas as stage presence, intonation, rhythm, and interpretation. Writing is a form of creative expression that has become extremely popular and Veterans are entering their original poems, essays and short stories into the creative writing division at an increasing rate each year. Creative writing entries are judged by use of language, originality of topic or idea, creative content, message clarity and overall strength of the composition. The judging criteria are different for entries submitted into the drama division. The focus is more on the performance itself with stage presence, expressiveness and interpretation being scored. Veterans enter solo and group categories within prose, comedy, poetry and interpretive performance. Mime, juggling, magic, puppetry and ventriloquism entries are welcome, as well as multimedia video entries three minutes or less in length created by the Veteran. The dance division offers Veterans the opportunity to prepare dance routines for videotaping and submission into the competition. There are solo and group categories that include ballroom, tap, jazz, ballet, country, folk, cultural, interpretive movement and novelty to name a few. The entries are judged by technique, rhythm, patterns, creativity and interpretation. By March 31, first place-winning entries from local art, music, dance, drama and creative writing competitions are sent on to the national competition level where the top three entries in each category are determined through a judging process. Art entries will be photographed and music, dance and drama entries will be video recorded at the local VA facility, with the assistance of VA staff. Creative writing entries do not need to be video recorded, just the text is submitted to the national level of competition. The national judging is coordinated each year by VA therapists who volunteer to serve as national chairpersons. These dedicated therapists spend countless hours preparing the entries and competition forms received from VA facilities throughout the nation for the judging process. Judges are professionals in their area of artistic expertise and view and score each entry carefully, using established criteria specific to each division. When all of the judging is completed in mid-June, VA staff are notified of the first, second and third place winners from all five divisions. This is an exciting time as Veterans learn the results of the national competition. All of the first place winners from the national art competition are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Some of the gold medal-winning acts from the music, dance and drama divisions are selected for inclusion in the Festival stage show performance, and some of the creative writing gold medal-winners will be invited to attend writing interaction sessions and a writing seminar. Since 1989, the Festival week has been hosted by a different VA facility and location each year and the public is invited to an exhibit of the first place winning artwork and a stage show performance. Through these events, the host community learns of the benefits of the arts in the lives of Veterans and can congratulate them on their artistic accomplishments. Most facilities hold their local competitions in February, so check with your VA facility’s recreation/creative arts therapy departments now. Veterans must work with a staff person from the VA facility where they are enrolled. If you need assistance in identifying a VA staff member from your facility, please contact Amy Kimbler, Program Specialist at (320) 255-6486 or Elizabeth Mackey, National Director at (320) 255-6351. You can visit the website too at www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov for more information. Best wishes to you all and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to showcase your artistic talents!Visit the Site
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity It’s finally 2017, and we’re about to start what will hopefully be a great new year. Here on DoDLive, we’re starting a new weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday” in which we’ll highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the honor of wearing the United States military’s highest medal for valor. The Medal of Honor was first authorized by Congress in December 1861 specifically for the Department of the Navy, but within two months it was adapted for Army recipients as well. The medal is now bestowed on individuals serving in any branch of the armed forces who have performed a personal act of valor above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy force. There are currently three variations of the medal, which you can read more about here. Since January is the first month of the year, we’re going to highlight some of the “firsts” this month. So it’s fitting to start with the very first recipient to ever receive the medal – Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott.
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- In Afghanistan, many Afghan women serve proudly as police officers, but they are often targeted by terrorists for breaking with cultural norms.That's according to 1st Lt. Eva M. Gibbons, who has spent nearly nine months in and around Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, as a member of 3rd Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Hood, Texas. "Part of my job is to mitigate additional risks [that] female police face daily by promoting additional security and safer means for them to travel to and from work," she said. Gibbons is a member of the Task Force Steel Police Advisory Team, whose mission it is to train, advise and assist the Afghan police in "establishing themselves in a coordinated and unified effort." For her part, Gibbons is "dual-hatted," meaning she serves as a training advisor as well as a gender advisor. Her duties involve working with her Afghan counterparts on a daily basis, either during her visits to their places of work or their own visits to her at Operating Base Fenty.
"I work with the Afghan training officer to ensure police receive training before deploying to their units," she said. "[We ensure they] have the necessary materials and facilities to maximize training, and [that] training centers follow the approved curriculum." As a gender advisor, Gibbons said, she works hard to ensure a safe and smooth integration of women into the police force. That involves ensuring the availability of separate training and living facilities for women so that they can avoid violating local customs and religious practices. "I met several strong women willing to work -- despite increased risk for female police," Gibbons said. One of those women is 1st Lt. Yassamin, who works every day at a regional training center as a doctor. A large female training facility is under construction there, and Yassamin is looking forward to its completion. She said she is anxious to inspire other women to join the police. "As our rotation draws to a close, I ... am encouraged by the capable and motivated Afghan officers I have had the opportunity to work with," Gibbons said. "My counterparts listened to and valued advice and shared their own experiences and culture with me." Speaking in her role as a training advisor, she said that it's essential that the Afghan police force is properly trained and equipped and that the police follow an approved curriculum to meet the high standards necessary to provide effective security.
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity From the Department of Defense Blog. By this point in the holiday season, I would hope that most people would have gifts for their loved ones wrapped under the tree or out in the mail already. Though the holidays are almost over, here are some good tips for gifts for service members that a are relatively inexpensive and really useful throughout the year. Classic choices: A pocket knife. A pocket knife is essential for everyday military life, whether you’re opening boxes, cutting ropes, using it as a utensil or MacGyvering your way out of a sticky situation. A nice sports watch. Pick one that’s waterproof, shockproof and durable. G-Shock, Timex, Citizen Eco Drive, Seiko, Bertucci and Momentum are all known to have good military-style watches for less than $100. Good tactical-style sunglasses. Service members working in the field are required to have ballistic lenses that protect from small projectiles and fragments. Each service branch has an authorized protective eyewear list (APEL) where you can find approved brands and styles, including those from Oakley, Smith Optics, ESS and Wiley X. A waterproof, shockproof smartphone case. As we all know, phones are easily breakable, especially if you have to work and train out in the elements. So buying a case that protects your cherished phone is pretty essential. There are lots out there that are waterproof, seal out dirt and dust and can survive drops from several feet. Wireless head/earphones. At some point, we’ve all had our headphones or earbuds knocked off our heads after snagging the annoying wires that attach them to our phones or iPods. But the world of wireless headphones is changing that. Bluetooth-connected headphones are the future (especially now that the iPhone 7 doesn’t even have a headphone jack). Plus, wireless is just easier to deal with when working out. Gift cards. The gift card never goes out of style. Who doesn’t like getting $50 toward their favorite restaurant or store?
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity From the Department of Defense Blog: DoDLive, December 14, 2016. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, many Americans were distrusting and fearful of Japanese-Americans living in the U.S. Fearmongering led to many of those Japanese-Americans being barred from military service, with their draft status changing from “draft eligible” to “enemy alien.” About 110,000 of them were even relocated to internment camps all along the U.S. West Coast.
The Military Intelligence Service was comprised of more than 6,000 Japanese-Americans from Hawaii and the mainland, including several men from the 100th Infantry Battalion who were recruited into the MIS when it was first formed in late 1942. Many of them worked as linguists in the Pacific theater to defeat the country from which their ancestors emigrated. They accompanied reconnaissance patrols, listened for information dropped by loud Japanese soldiers outside defensive perimeters, and they even interpreted enemy commands. These men might be some of the most covert Japanese-Americans to take part in the war effort, largely because their work was classified for more than 30 years. But they were credited with saving thousands of lives, as well as helping bridge the two cultures during the post-war occupation of Japan. Some Japanese-American men attached to the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion pack their bags. Photo courtesy of Elaine Kishinami, from WWII Army veteran Edward Kishinami’s photo collection. The 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, which included nearly 1,000 Japanese-Americans, was tasked with constructing major projects in Hawaii. Known as the “Chowhounds,” the 1399th was activated in April 1944. Over the course of the rest of the war, its soldiers constructed more than 50 vital defense facilities on the island of Oahu, including jungle training villages, ammunition storage pits, the Flying Fortress airfield at Kahuku, and a million-gallon water tank that’s still in use today. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur tried to assign the 1399th to the Philippines twice, but the War Department refused to put them in direct conflict with the Japanese enemy, saying they were too important to Hawaii’s defense. Following the war, the 1399th received many accolades for their contributions and excellent service. These men are considered the unsung heroes of the Japanese-Americans’ contributions to the war efforts. The “Fighting Two Wars” tribute took place Monday, Dec. 5 at 11 a.m. Hawaii time (4 p.m. Eastern Time). For more information, visit the special Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day page on defense.gov. Visit the Site
“Anybody can shoot one rifle, but not everybody can speak Japanese.”
From PBS NewsHour December 7, 2016 HARI SREENIVASAN: As we noted earlier, today marks the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The ensuing battle claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, and triggered U.S. involvement in World War II. An unknown NBC reporter in Honolulu spoke by telephone that day in a dispatch that was broadcast live across the nation. Here’s an excerpt: REPORTER: One, two, three, four. Hello, NBC. Hello, NBC. This is KGU in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am speaking from the roof of the Advertiser Publishing Company building. We have witnessed this morning a distant view of a brief full battle of Pearl Harbor and a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by enemy planes, undoubtedly Japanese. The city of Honolulu has also been attacked, and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours. One of the bombs dropped within 50 feet of KGU tower. It is no joke. It is a real war. Oil still leaks at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Photo by James Martin We cannot estimate yet how much damage has been done, but it has been a very severe attack. And the Navy and Army appear now to have the air and the sea under control.The public of Honolulu has been advised to keep in their homes and await results from the Army and Navy. There has been fierce fighting going on in the air and on the sea. The heavy shooting seems to be — one, two, three, four. Just a moment. We’ll interrupt here. JUDY WOODRUFF: It certainly brings us back to that terrible day. HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, I wonder what it was like to hear that on the radio everywhere. I’m sure it was one of those moments where everyone knew exactly, if they were alive at that point to hear it. JUDY WOODRUFF: Seventy-five years ago this day Click here to listen to the report.Visit the Site
Teresa Stauffer Foster was strolling through a garden near Hawaii’s Tripler Hospital on a quiet Sunday morning when a low-flying plane approached. The pilot waved in her direction, so naturally, the Army nurse waved back. Pearl Harbor nurse Teresa Stauffer in her formal Army attire in the early 1940s. Photo courtesy of Winnie Woll A few minutes later, the attack on Pearl Harbor began. Foster didn’t realize it at the time, but that plane was one of the many Japanese bombers that pulverized U.S. battleships and aircraft. It’s one of many stories remembered by military nurses who survived the attacks on Dec. 7, 1941, although you probably haven’t heard them much. “You hear stories about Pearl Harbor, and they’re all about the men. You hear very few stories about the women,” said Winnie Woll, Foster’s daughter. Woll, 73, is actually named for two of her mom’s best friends from Pearl Harbor, who were also nurses. She now gives lectures to spread the stories of how they were pioneers of their time, having joined the services long before the Women’s Army Corps and the Navy’s Women’s Reserve program (WAVES) were established in 1942.
By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity Military and police dogs spend their lives sniffing out drugs, bombs, booby traps and bad guys. Since the U.S. first started training them in World War I, they’ve saved countless lives and helped in many large-scale missions – even in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. So to honor them this Veterans Day, I wanted to highlight the work one human veteran is doing to give these animals the help they need when their service is over. A military working dog sits atop a tank during a mission. Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook Danny Scheurer spent 11 years as an active-dutye and Army soldier. During a deployment in Iraq in 2005, a military working dog saved his life. Scheurer was eternally grateful, but he found out later that his savior had been put down. He didn’t think that was right, so he vowed to start an organization when he got home that ensured every canine veteran received the same honors and care that humans got. Thus, Save-A-Vet was born. The nonprofit helps rescue military and law enforcement working dogs from being euthanized when their service is done. And in order to help the dogs, the organization actually helps human vets, too. “What happens is we take a dog and we put it on our [nonprofit-owned] secure facility, and then we hire disabled vets to live at the facility and take care of the dogs,” Scheurer said. The human vets get rent-free housing in exchange.
Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet FacebookVisit the Site
Click here to link to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs site. Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound, may be eligible for additional monetary payment. These benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension, and they are not paid without eligibility to Pension. Since Aid and Attendance and Housebound allowances increase the pension amount, people who are not eligible for a basic pension due to excessive income may be eligible for pension at these increased rates. A Veteran or surviving spouse may not receive Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits at the same time.
The Military Health System is highlighting the efforts of Health Affairs Women’s Health working group. Comprised of experts from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, the group addresses health-related concerns, needs and issues affecting a growing body of women both in the military and as they transition to VA. Dr. Cara Krulewitch, director of Women’s Health Medical Ethics & Patient Advocacy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), said the group wants to ensure that there is a comprehensive approach to the health needs of a woman – from entry into the military to status as a veteran. “We will find a better way to identify trends and what’s going on across the life cycle of our soldiers, airmen and seamen,” said Krulewitch. Communication between DoD, VA and the services will allow the group to share data and health perspectives to identify gaps that must be filled. While men’s health is just as important as women’s health, women have specific needs that are different from those of men, she said, including the unique hygiene needs of women in a field environment. “We want to ensure that we’re focusing on both [men’s and women’s health], even in simple things,” said Krulewitch. Contraception is a major topic for the group, but other areas of discussion include cancer screenings and reproductive and gynecological needs. Colonel Nancy Parson, chief of the Army Medicine women’s health service line, said the group is response-oriented based on issues that have come forward from beneficiaries and Congress. In September, experts participated in a live question-and-answer session through Facebook, which allowed the experts to directly address questions and concerns voiced by beneficiaries. “Sometimes we think of the [needs of a] younger soldier, but we’ve gotten some questions recently from some of our older female officers who are asking about things like menopause and urinary retention issues as they get older,” said Parson. This type of feedback can help guide the group’s discussions in the future, she said. Through collaboration with the VA, the group will be able to gain a better understanding of the needs of women transitioning out of service, which will then impact the education and initiatives being provided to women now in the service, said Parson. “We always want to educate people about how to complete preventive care in order to take care of themselves,” said Parson, stressing that they focus on areas to keep service members fit and ready. Officially chartered in June under the Health Executive Committee, the group plans to announce its first set of initiatives in 2017. “Women will have seamless care throughout their entire military experience and career,” said Krulewitch.Visit the Site
November 9, 2013, from the Department of Defense BlogStory by William Selby, Defense Media Activity
“To me, Veterans Day is not just one day; it’s a daily inspiration. It courses through my veins and [is] evident in every beat of my heart. It’s a way of life and a bond of brotherhood found nowhere else on earth.”“It’s being there for your battle buddy when he reaches his hand out. It’s making sure when our service members come home they are well taken care of.” “It’s living my life in honor of those who are not able to and ensuring everything I do is for the benefit and betterment of others. It’s maintaining service even after service.”
“It’s a reminder that we still have brothers, sisters, daughters, mothers, fathers and relatives putting their lives on the line. It’s knowing that once their job is done they have a support system ready and waiting to take care of them, the same way they [have] so selflessly taken care of us.”“It’s a phone call to a battle buddy to make sure they are alright. It’s about getting fellow veterans out and together so they know they are not alone. It’s an email, a text, a visit, just so you know I still got your back.” “It’s an oath that I took promising that I will never leave a fallen soldier behind [and] keeping that oath even after battle. It’s a vision I have for the future of veterans. It’s a mission, movement and determination to make a change in the lives of our veterans. “It’s a family, a unit and a fortress. It’s having each other’s back in the face of adversity. It’s coming out of that adversity stronger than ever.” “It’s my service, it’s your service, it’s those that have come before and those that will come after.”
“Veterans Day is not just a day, it’s a way of life. A life I am proud to live, and a life I dedicate to my family in arms.”“Here’s to us and those like us. We are a breed unlike any other. Stand tall, walk proud and never forget. I’m proud of each and every one of you who [have earned] the title of veteran.” After getting in touch with these old friends and acquaintances, I realized that my generation isn’t all that different from the generations of veterans I’ve spoken to in the past. In fact, Cindy is right; we may say it differently but Veterans Day means the same thing to all of us. It’s a day to honor and respect each other, our brothers and sisters in arms who have fought before and will continue to fight for the Red, White, and Blue.
Posted from the DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense By Tami Begasse, Naval Hospital Jacksonville Public Affairs Naval Hospital Jacksonville is piloting an evocative new treatment modality to improve the emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing of its post-deployed service members. Called Equine-Assisted Therapy, this emerging therapy approach uses horses to help participants experience themselves differently and discover new ways of dealing with difficult situations. Naval Hospital Jacksonville Deployment Health Center Clinical Psychologist Tracy Hejmanowski is collaborating with Licensed Mental Health Counselor StarrLee Heady of PX Equine Enterprises to offer this pilot program to six service members. The 12 sessions have been taking place at a 30-acre facility in Green Cove Springs, Fla. “This form of animal-assisted therapy continues to gain support among mental health professionals as an effective therapeutic approach, addressing a number of mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety, self esteem, post traumatic stress and relational problems,” said Hejmanowski. “Our long-term goal is to combine equine-assisted therapy with other traditional and non-traditional therapies as the basis for an immersive day treatment program we will make available to service members diagnosed with PTSD and post-concussive syndrome.” Animal-assisted therapies recognize that the bond between animals and humans can encourage emotional healing. Developing a relationship with a horse has been shown to help people overcome fears, to problem solve and develop coping techniques, while building trust, respect, confidence and compassion. Rather than riding the horse, equine-based activities are performed on the ground, and include such things as grooming, haltering, leading and overall relating to the horse. During the process of working with the horses, Hejmanowski and Heady and her staff – all certified or trained in the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy – verbally engage with service members to process feelings, behaviors and patterns. The ultimate goal is to build skills such as assertiveness, patience, effective non-verbal communication, confidence in novel or tense situations and better self-control. Heady explains why the use of horses as an adjunct to psychotherapy is so effective. “Horses combine fearfulness and power. They aren’t judgmental, and don’t care what you look like. They mirror human moods, and respond negatively to negative emotions. This helps participants understand that their own behavior can affect others, making it necessary to modify their behavior in order to work successfully with the animal. And only through mutual trust and respect can a human and horse bond,” she said. Something as simple as the size differential between horses and people actually creates an opportunity to overcome fear. Horses can be stubborn or defiant, playful or moody, while exhibiting herd dynamics such as pushing, kicking, biting, squealing, grooming one another and grazing together. These encounters can help people learn about themselves and their own family and friends. As “prey animals” horses’ hypervigilance makes them amazingly sensitive. They pick up on body language, instinctively flee from fear, and some can actually pick up on certain feelings. Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s new intensive day treatment program to help service members with PTSD and post-concussive symptoms is expected to be launched early 2012. Along with the successful equine-assisted therapy, it will bring together other treatment approaches involving creative arts, physical and recreational activities, desensitizing activities, cognitive retraining and group processing – both in traditional and unique settings, such as the National Cemetery and Memorial Wall. Hejmanowski adds, “We know that healing the deeply felt wounds of war to help service members find greater peace of mind happens most meaningfully in an experiential treatment program where participants can heal alongside their comrades.”Visit the Site
Posted by PA2 Diana Honings, Tuesday, September 27, 2016, in the Coast Guard Compass, the official blog of the Coast Guard.In a service of nearly 55,000 active duty, officer, reserve and civilian Coast Guard personnel, only 4 percent are Hispanic-Americans who have chosen to serve our country. We celebrate those currently serving, those who have served in the past and those will serve in the future during National Hispanic Heritage Month – a month in which we pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic-Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. Not too long ago, the Coast Guard brought the past to the present with the commissioning of the 154-foot Fast Response Cutter named after enlisted hero Heriberto Hernandez in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hernandez enlisted in the service in 1965 spending the first three years serving aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bering Strait,Loran Station Saipan, Base Galveston and in the spring of 1968, deploying to Vietnam aboard Coast Guard Cutter Point Cypress. Known by his shipmates as “Eddie,” Hernandez had a formidable presence, according to Alan Dillenbeck, a shipmate aboard Point Cypress. “There was no one who I would have felt more comfortable with watching my back,” said Dillenbeck. “I really don’t know why Ed chose to join the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard in the 60s had little minority representation, but I doubt that was a factor. I think he just wanted to be part of our nation’s struggle at that time.”
Serving alongside 285 Coast Guardsmen patrolling 1,500 miles of the Vietnamese coastline with 16 other patrol boats, Hernandez departed Point Cypress on Dec. 5, 1968, to carry out reconnaissance missions up the river of Rach Nang to locate any Viet Cong presence.Once Hernandez made it back to Point Cypress, he succumbed to his wounds and died surrounded by his shipmates. He was posthumously awarded thePurple Heart Medal and the Bronze Star Medal with the Combat “V” device.Motoring along the river in a 14-foot Boston Whaler, Hernandez, Point Cypress’s executive officer and a visiting Coast Guard officer identified a shoreside bunker manned by Viet Cong and came under intense enemy fire. The small boat was able to evade the ambush, but not before Hernandez and the other two crewmembers were severely wounded. Hernandez was just one of many Hispanic-Americans who influenced the Coast Guard, ultimately enriching the service and nation. The history of Hispanic-Americans in the Coast Guard can be traced as far back as the early 1800s with Hispanic-Americans manning lighthouse stations as keepers and assistant keepers such as Juan Andreu and José A. Ramirez. There are still many who continue to break barriers today. In 1991, Lt. j.g. Katherine Tiongson became the first Latina to command a Coast Guard cutter. In 2006, Ronald J. Rabago was the first Hispanic-American promoted to rear admiral, and in 2009, Rear Admiral Joseph Castillo became the first Hispanic-American to command a Coast Guard district. As a service, we are proud to celebrate the Hispanic-American heritage while we all continue to uphold Service to Nation, Duty to People and Commitment to Excellence. Each Sentinel-class fast response cutter in the Coast Guard’s newest fleet of patrol boats is named after Coast Guard enlisted heroes. They deliver vital capability to the Coast Guard, helping to meet the service’s needs for missions including drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national Visit the Site
By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity September is Suicide Prevention Month. As Dr. Keita Franklin, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, said, “Every suicide is a tragic loss to our nation and those impacted. The family and friends left behind who must deal with the aftermath of the event and put those events in perspective may, in some cases, never know why the service member or veteran took their life.” Suicide can have a ripple effect. My father served in the Air Force briefly. When he got out, his second wife took her life with a shotgun. He never recovered and used the same weapon when I was five. According to studies done at Johns Hopkins Hospital, children from parents who commit suicide are more likely to die by suicide themselves and are more likely to develop psychiatric disorders. In the United States, between 7,000 and 12,000 children lose a parent to suicide, researchers estimate. Organizations like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, offers care for those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the armed forces, whether they died from suicide or from combat. The Struggle Begins When I first joined the Air Force as an enlisted public affairs specialist, I got into trouble for giving alcohol to minors at my technical training school. I felt so guilty that I had put all of our careers in jeopardy that I overdosed on prescription medication and alcohol. Fortunately, I was forced to drink charcoal, and I lived. I felt God must have a purpose for me because I lived through the experience. There are many who get into trouble in the military and feel that they can’t get out of their situation, that suicide may be the only way, but I’m telling you from personal experience, you just have to get through each day. I was able to bounce back and not only earn my stripes back but earn my commission as an officer. Yes, I had to work hard to prove myself, but I did it. Another Test I was tested again almost nine years later when I was sexually assaulted for the second time in my life. I ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder from it and gained 50 pounds within a year. My work performance went down, and my supervisors didn’t help me find the resources I needed, such as a sexual assault response coordinator. Being an officer, I was afraid of the perception of going to mental health, but I started to go anyways and started getting the help I needed. While getting treatment, I was forced out of the Air Force with the reduction in force. Military Suicide & Mental Health Stats The Defense Department reported there were 265 active-duty suicides last year. By contrast, from 2001 through 2007, suicides never exceeded 197. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says nearly one in four active-duty members showed signs of a mental health condition in a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry. Some of these were PTSD, depression and traumatic brain injuries. According to a 2006 study in Military Medicine, 97 percent of service members who sought mental health treatment didn’t experience any negative career impact. The same study showed it’s risky to ignore a mental health condition. If it worsens, a commanding officer can require a mental health evaluation, which is more damaging to your career. Among people who had command-directed evaluations, 39 percent had negative career impact. When seeking mental health care, the care provider will inform you that the Defense Department follows privacy guidelines set down by HIPAA and the Privacy Act. These guidelines ensure the privacy of mental health records. The Department of Veterans Affairs stated that in 2014, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day. I know when I first got out of the Air Force, I felt lost and depressed, like my life was over. My career was everything to me. But I found a way to do what I did in the military in the civilian workforce, I lost most of the weight I gained in the military through running, and I participated in nonprofit organizations to maintain accountability with other veterans. Keys to Survival The key is communication with each other, being there for each other. Know the warning signs: Feelings of hopeless, agitation, being quick to anger, participating in risky behavior, giving into addictive behaviors like drugs or alcohol, and withdrawing from family and friends. If you need help or know someone who needs help, please use the resources available such as the Military/Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or text 838255. Visit the Site
Reposted from NAVY LIVE, the official blog of the US Navy
The name Enterprise is as old as the U.S. Navy. The first Enterprise ship was captured from the British by Benedict Arnold in May 1775. CVN-65 was the eighth ship with the name Enterprise in the history of the U.S. Navy.
The length of the Enterprise in feet, making it the longest ship in history. Over 800 companies provided building supplies, which included 60,923 tons of steel, 1507 tons of aluminum, 230 miles of pipe and tubing and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods.
The number of nuclear reactors aboard Enterprise, which was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The reactors generated more than 200,000 horsepower.
The number of Sailors and Marines who served aboard Enterprise, which had 23 different commanding officers.
Within one year of its commissioning, President John Kennedy dispatched Enterprise to blockade Cuba and prevent the Soviet delivery of missiles to the island.
Enterprise was returning from a long deployment when terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11. Without waiting for orders, Enterprise returned to the Arabian Gulf and later launched one of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The ship expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The number of deployments made by Enterprise, which traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Middle East, and served in nearly every major conflict that occurred during her history.
The number of arrested landings recorded aboard Enterprise as of May 2011, the fourth aircraft carrier to perform such a feat.
Enterprise’s years of active service, which ended December 1, 2012. Enterprise was one of the longest active-duty ships in the history of the Navy.
During CVN-65’s inactivation ceremony on Dec. 1, 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in a video message that the name Enterprise will live on as the officially passed the name to CVN-80, the third Ford class carrier and the ninth ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name.Visit the Site
August 7, 2016, by: Rebecca A. Perron, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Public Affairs PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Healthcare Simulation and Bioskills Training Center (HSBTC) at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) celebrated their 10th anniversary Aug. 31 with an open house that offered visitors the opportunity to watch demonstrations of the simulation equipment, as well as try out many of the trainers themselves. The HSBTC provides state-of-the-art, simulation-based medical training to members of the Armed Forces and the local community. The center provides training programs for each of the 14 graduate medical education programs at NMCP. The center also provides training to sustain skills, improve safety and improve the functionality of teams in all medical disciplines and specialties. "We are so honored today to celebrate 10 years and so proud of what we have achieved during this time," said Navy Cmdr. Michael Spooner, medical director of the center. "This is a big moment, and if you talk to someone in the Simulation Center, you understand how, with a little creativity, you can put together what it takes to enhance the training of people in nursing, in medicine and throughout health care." Simulation offers the learner, regardless of their skill level, an opportunity to get hands-on experience for a specific patient complaint. "There's a lot of benefit for them to train in a safe environment and get the extra practice," said Navy Cmdr. Joy Greer, deputy medical director of the HSBTC. "We can identify potential safety threats and improve the quality care our patients are getting. Our residents really enjoy hands-on learning, and routinely comment that their time spent here is value added." Since it opened in 2006, the center has trained more than 20,000 Department of Defense and civilian healthcare professionals. They now have more than 50 different simulators. This includes task trainers, low- and high-fidelity mannequins, cut suits and the latest in 3D virtual simulation. According to Ret. Capt. James Ritchie, the first medical director of the Sim Center, the idea behind the center was to expand the experiential learning of the trainee. Ritchie reflected on the launch of the center while he attended the celebration. "The idea is to train medical personnel in handling potentially difficult and highly complex situations," Ritchie said. "We started off with some basic mannequins and since then, the equipment gradually accumulated as we were able to access funds and request grants. We also had a gradual accumulation of the different disciplines and the surgical trainers. The SimMan 3G became our core mannequin, and then we acquired the human patient simulator and the combat simulators with the trauma effects." The mannequin-based education that originated with Ritchie in the emergency room grew over the years, and by the time he turned over the reins of the center to Spooner in 2013, the center had been transformed to an entire wing encompassing thousands of square feet. The center now occupies more than 5,700 square feet and includes a Bioskills Training Center that opened in 2015. 2013 also marked a turning point for the vision of the center that started with a simulation symposium. "The symposium for all Navy sites really plugged us into the thought leaders in simulation and helped us set the vision for where we needed to go," Spooner said. "We set out to become an accredited site and that included bringing our nurses on board. In 2015, the center was accredited by the American College of Surgeons. We also recognized the need to base our training on objectives and testing afterward. The training is much more planned and reproducible to maximize our impact and measure that impact." The center offers training remotely on ships and in the field. Most recently, they were on board USS Bataan and USS Iwo Jima and continue to serve their fleet colleagues in operational training. "One of the biggest benefits is the team training, where we can take a medical team or combat team who is skilled in their area of expertise, but have never worked together before," Greer said. "We use simulation to bring them together as a team and it's amazing to see." Since 2013, the staff expanded from eight to 18, including two nurses who focus on curriculum development which allows the center to target specific training needs. "Looking back, I have to say, I'm very proud of what we've achieved," Spooner said. "I have a vision, and my team executes that vision. Our success is because of our insightful people on our staff who are constantly pushing us forward. The beautiful thing is that they are always coming up with ideas and pushing me to think further ahead." Article from Health.Mil, the official website of the Military Health System and the Defense Health Agency.Visit the Site
From the on the Coast Guard All Hands Blog posted by LT Sarah Janaro, Thursday, August 25, 2016 As the buses arrive the anxiety rises, both for parents and kids. The end of summer is the beginning of school, and with that comes nervousness about a school year filled with unknowns. One Coast Guard spouse took matters into her own hands and developed a program to help kids adjust to their schools. Meanwhile, Coastie kids offer advice to each other about how to get the most out of this school year. Erica Parra started the Military Child Buddy Program in an effort to provide a free way for military kids to adjust to new schools. She was selected as the Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard District 5 spouse of the year, in part because of her efforts developing the program. “I created this program to make it easy and free to help military kids ease into their new school environment,” Parra said. “The goal is to have families feel more connected to the school and community and the student feel less stressed about being the new kid once again.” The Buddy Program matches military kids new to a school with military kids who have already been at a school. They are matched by grade and gender through the school itself. Developing the program requires getting approval from the school’s administration to put together a list of military-connected kids and families who are willing to act as support contacts for new kids and families. Then, as the new families come in, the program is offered to them as an option for getting acclimated. In the days before school starts, the kids and their families connect to meet and talk about the school. The documents that come with the program include conversation prompts for the kids, like explaining how lunch works, or sharing what a favorite school event is like. Parra said that her volunteer work in her own three kids’ schools made her recognize the need for a way to connect new students to their peers. She said that while her program focuses on elementary kids, it can be tailored to older kids. However, she said, there is a specific need for younger kids to get help finding their way. “I noticed a widespread perception that younger students adapt easier than their older counterparts,” she said. “In fact the opposite is true. Studies have shown that younger students feel just as much stress at starting a new school as middle and high school students. Younger children are at a disadvantage in their emotional maturity and may be unable to articulate feelings of stress.” Parra said the program can be stood up just about anywhere, as long as there is one volunteer willing to act as a liaison between the school and the participating families. She knows from experience as she and her family recently transferred to Singapore, where her husband is the chief of inspections for Coast Guard Activities Far East and supervisor of the Marine Inspection Detachment. “I want families to know that buddy programs are not just nice-to-haves. They are essential to military students, and there is research that backs this claim up,” she said. “The buddy program needs military parents to start it and run it so our kids can have better, less stressful transitions.”From left to right: (Photo 1) Hunter Gourde, 10, and his brother, Brooks Gourde. Photo courtesy of Brandi Gourde. (Photo 2) Bethany Bilodeau, 5, just started Kindergarten in her new community in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Stacey Bilodeau. (Photo 3) Jeffersonn Cediel, 13, and his brother Jason, 7. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Cediel. Sometimes kids can be the best voices of encouragement for their peers. Several Coastie kids offered their insights on how they prepare for a new school year:
By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity Impressive is the only word I can come up with to describe my impressions of the Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia. I accompanied Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he visited sailors and toured the facilities at the base on the Georgia-Florida border. I have to admit that I haven’t really spent a lot of time with submariners, even though my brother, Paul, served aboard a Polaris missile submarine in the 1960s. Before the visit, my impressions were formed by too many World War II submarine movies and Hunt for Red October. Reality was far better than anything Hollywood could dream up. Dunford went to Kings Bay to study one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad. The triad consists of intercontinental ballistic missiles, manned bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The nuclear triad has been at the heart of U.S. deterrence since World War II. The Trident missile armed ballistic missile submarines are “deterrence afloat,” one sailor said. I can see that. Each Ohio-class submarine carries 24 missiles. Each missile has multiple independent reentry vehicles — meaning they are tipped with thermonuclear warheads. Each warhead could vaporize a city. Maintaining this deterrent is an awesome responsibility, and must be done perfectly. You don’t take shortcuts in working with thermonuclear weapons, and the sailors at the base never take them lightly. During his visit, Dunford toured the USS Alaska – an Ohio-class submarine launched in 1986. The “boat” — yes, that’s what the Navy calls a submarine — is 560-feet long, 42-feet wide and has a draft of 38 feet. Most of it is under the surface. I won’t even describe the process it takes to go through security to get to the sub. It is enough to say that it was the first time in more than 40 years of covering the Defense Department that I felt someone would really shoot me if I pulled out an iPhone. There was no messing with the Navy security personnel. The boat itself is under cover inside “the barn” — a huge structure with cranes and offices and machine shops built over the submarine’s docking space. You go down a spiral staircase to enter the boat. Once inside, it is like you have entered a machine shop. Pipes, electric lines, gauges, hatches and all sorts of unknown machines are crammed into the hull. The only familiar thing I saw when I entered the boat was a treadmill. “We try to stay in shape when we are on patrol,” our guide told me. The treadmill was sort of tucked away amid some unidentifiable machines. I have no idea how you would actually use the running machine underway. Walking down the passageways is an experience. I’m sure the sailors have no problems negotiating these things, but as a fat, old guy, I had trouble. If someone was coming my way, I just plastered myself up against the side of the hall and held my breath. I asked where the 155-man crew lived and our guide said “around the machinery.” He pulled back a curtain to show us a closet-sized room. There were nine bunks in the space. Each sailor had a small space under the bunk to store gear, and there was a small set of cabinets where I suppose you could put one shoe. The galley feeds 155 sailors and is pretty good, said the guide, but there isn’t enough room to swing a cat. They showed us the torpedo room, we went up and down ladders to get to the various decks and they gave us enough of a tour for me to realize just how tough the life aboard one of these boats. We didn’t see the control room or the reactor for security reasons, although Dunford did watch as the crew went through a classified drill in preparation for their next patrol. And that patrol can last for three months. “We make our own oxygen, we distill our own water, we have a nuclear reactor that generates power and moves the boat,” said a senior chief. “The only limiting factor is food for the crew.” The longest patrol the senior chief had been on was 87 days “sun to sun.” A master chief said his longest patrol was 109 days. I would imagine you’d get to know your fellow sailors pretty well on this kind of a schedule. And you better get along with them. The USS Alaska bills itself as “Kodiak Strong” and these young sailors look it. They are bright, adaptable and tough. They shoulder an enormous mission for the United States, and they have to be perfect in that mission. The sailors doing this mission are impressive, if out of sight. The submarine service is also called the Silent Service. It is that line of defense no enemy would want to cross. “I hope we don’t ever need them, but if we do, these guys are ready,” Dunford told the press traveling with him. Jim Garamone is a reporter at U.S. Department of Defense Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!Visit the Site
Hampton Roads is home to over 217,000 veterans and each year 13,000 military personnel leave their respective branches of service and make the transition to civilian life. Though those numbers seem big, today, less than 1% of Americans have served, which is significantly down from 17% who served in World War II, and fewer and fewer civilians personally know someone in the military. What has evolved are often stereotypes of veterans as heroes or individuals struggling with critical issues, such as PTSD. This has led to a greater disconnect between the military and civilians, known as the military-civilian divide. Veterans leaving the military bring with them a world of experiences that most of us cannot comprehend as civilian life and military life can be worlds apart. It is these differences that may contribute to the challenges veterans face and separate the two worlds further when the goal is integration. And, while civilians are openly appreciative and hold military service in high regard, many do not understand how to support veterans as simply citizens, our neighbors. “Thank you for your service,” though well intended and kind, is often the default for reaching out. In an effort to help bridge this divide, WHRO interviewed veterans and civilians, who participated in Armed Services Arts Partnership's 8-week stand up comedy workshop-Comedy Bootcamp, to find the answer, "What is it civilians just don't get?" Through personal interviews, these videos may provide insight that dispels stereotypes, offers new perspectives, and provides possible “ah-ha’ or “ha ha” moments for solutions.Visit the Site
Ryan Goss couldn’t have dreamed of the type of education he would receive in college. After arriving on campus as a sheltered teen, Ryan found himself through the world of improv, humor and veterans. The experience only further solidified itself when he helped launch Comedy Bootcamp, an eight-week course designed to teach military veterans the art of stand-up comedy, while also helping to ease their transition back into civilian life. Veterans Coming Home is an innovative cross-platform public media campaign that bridges America’s military-civilian divide by telling stories, challenging stereotypes and exploring how the values of service and citizenship are powerful connectors for all Americans.Visit the Site
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifty years ago this week, the U.S. began its Rolling Thunder bombing campaign in what was then North Vietnam. It was followed by the landing of the first major combat units in South Vietnam on March 8, 1965. Special correspondent Mike Cerre went back to the site of the initial Marine landing in Da Nang, and met a group of American veterans who have returned to the country to fight a very different battle. MIKE CERRE: As the first major American combat unit deployed to Vietnam in 1965, the Ninth Marine Expeditionary Brigade landed in Da Nang. The Marines landed with only their packs on their backs on a limited mission to protect the strategic air base in Da Nang. The landing was deceptively quick and peaceful. MIKE CERRE: These Marines soon became part of one of the longest and most bitterly contested military campaigns in American history, which would span two decades. Fifty years later, Da Nang’s beaches are a popular resort destination for the Vietnamese and foreigners. It’s also home for a handful of Vietnam veterans, who came back here to live and work on one of the most dangerous legacies of the war, which the Vietnamese refer to as the American war. CHUCK PALAZZO, Vietnam Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps: My name is Chuck Palazzo. The first time I came to Vietnam was in 1970 during the war. I was a U.S. Marine. I had just turned 18 years old and I found myself 8,000 miles away from my home turf of New York. I did have a goal and a dream to come back here at some point and do something positive here in Vietnam and for the Vietnamese people. MANUS CAMPBELL, Vietnam Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps: I’m Manus Campbell. I’m from New Jersey. I’m a former Marine. I served in Vietnam in 1967 and ’68. I moved to Vietnam in 2010. And my organization funds education for disabled children and for victims of unexploded ordnance. MIKE CERRE: I’m Mike Cerre. And like the others, I first came to Vietnam during the war. In 1970 and ’71, I was with the Marines, flying as forward air observer out of Da Nang Air Base. CHUCK PALAZZO: Many of the Agent Orange missions took off and landed at the air base. And much of Agent Orange was stored at the air base for about 10 years. Much of the area right around the perimeter of what is now the airport was contaminated as a result of that. MIKE CERRE: Agent Orange, the defoliant used extensively by the American military during the war, contains dioxin, a dangerous compound believed to cause birth defects and cancers in Vietnamese families and American veterans. CHUCK PALAZZO: Well, the older boy who is laying here, he’s just about incapacitated 100 percent at this point. We’re seeing more and more of the genetic results of Agent Orange. These two boys are third-generation victims. And I see it in our own veterans’ families back in the U.S. The problems have been skipping generations. Grandchildren and now great-grandchildren are being born with problems as a result of the genetic issue with Agent Orange. MIKE CERRE: After a 30-year career as a software developer, a recent divorce and a long struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome, Chuck sold his house and most of his possessions and moved to Da Nang to start a software company, so he could work with a local Vietnamese organization assisting Agent Orange victims. CHUCK PALAZZO: One of my motivations back then, four or five years ago, was to resolve my own issues, as well as to work with the victims. I continue to heal as a result of the work that we do with the Agent Orange victims here. I have no medical or scientific background, but just interacting with kids, I could see that it makes them happy. And it makes me happy, too. I enjoy it. MAN: Hello. MIKE CERRE: Manus Campbell, a retired New Jersey State Trooper, is redirecting his pension and veteran’s disability payments to support special needs children at this day care center near Hoi An. MANUS CAMPBELL: When I learned that, for $60 a month, I can bring a child out of his home, where he’s basically in bed or on the floor watching TV all day, bring him to a school, where he can interact with his own peers, he can realize that he’s not alone in life, that there are other people just like him, and he can develop friends. MIKE CERRE: The Da Nang International Airport, formerly the Da Nang Air Base, remains one of the largest and most toxic Agent Orange sites in Vietnam, with contamination levels 350 times international safety standards. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) Vermont: We spent $100 million to remediate this. We built a state-of-the-art facility. MIKE CERRE: Senator Patrick Leahy is a longtime advocate of funding NGOs helping Vietnam deal with these lethal legacies. He was in Da Nang last year for the inauguration of his three-story oven-like building to cook the dioxin out of the soil, the dangerous compound which has been contaminating the local water and food chain. The U.S. has never agreed to pay Vietnam reparations or the $3 billion in reconstruction funds President Nixon promised during the Paris peace accords that ended the American involvement in Vietnam in 1973. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Here, we have both a moral and a humanitarian reason to be involved. It’s in our long-term best interests to help bring about stability in Vietnam and help Vietnam recover from the ravages of war that never should have occurred. MIKE CERRE: Da Nang’s thatch roof huts and single-story buildings I remember from the war have long since been replaced by one of Vietnam’s most progressive metropolises and a new generation of Vietnamese, who make little, if any reference, to the war. The beaches where the Marines originally landed are now experiencing a new wave, foreign and domestic investors, as a result of its booming economy since the trade embargoes were lifted. Do you really feel accepted here now? I mean, do they know that you were here during the war? CHUCK PALAZZO: They do. Yes, they do. MIKE CERRE: There’s no… CHUCK PALAZZO: There’s no animosity, no — no friction at all. They have all welcomed me with open arms. And they invite me to their homes. We drink beer together. And I feel very comfortable and very much part of the community here. MANUS CAMPBELL: There’s no enemy here anymore. These people don’t care about the war. When you talk about the war, they say, forget it. They don’t want to hear — they don’t want to talk about it, because they want to live for today. Because of my relationship with Vietnam in the past and what happened to me as a 19-year-old during the war shaped my life, to the point where I came back here to do something good for the people. MIKE CERRE: For the PBS NewsHour, Mike Cerre reporting from Da Nang, Vietnam.Visit the Site
Griest was one of the first two women to earn the coveted Army Ranger tab last August. It’s a grueling process that only the best of the best get through, and she was part of the first class in which women were allowed to participate. She’s a pretty well-known figure in the military world at this point, and she just earned another historical first.Griest, who was with the 716th Military Police Battalion, had filed a request to be transferred to infantry, and that was granted Monday – meaning she’s now the first female infantry officer, Army officials said. She also graduated Thursday from the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Her achievements this week are a pretty fitting look to the future, considering Thursday’s graduation happened on National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. That would be a pretty cool moment in history for your kid to see and dream of, don’t you think? It’s certainly one that many people are congratulating her for on Twitter, from Army Public Affairs Chief Malcolm Frost to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. What might be the greatest thing about Griest is that she’s clearly not doing any of this for media attention. She’s kept a low profile since graduating from West Point in 2011 and often declines requests for interviews. She’s just grinding along, make the most of a career that is finally wide open for her. Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened up all military positions to women in December – meaning 220,000 jobs in infantry, armor, and special forces fields that were previously only for men are now open to women. Griest is certainly taking advantage of that opportunity. She seems to be paving the way for a lot of other women, too. According to the Army, it’s approved 22 requests from women to become second lieutenants in the infantry and armor branches after they’re commissioned. 1st Lt. Shaye Haver joined Griest last August in becoming the first women to graduate from Ranger School A third soldier, Maj. Lisa Jaster, graduated in October. Keep up the great work in shattering those glass ceilings, ladies! Click here to watch a video of a 1Lt. Haver and CAPT Griest talk about their experience with a panel of other Rangers. From DoDLive, Department of Defense News Visit the Site
Late last month, VA’s Center for Women Veterans held a special event to salute women Veterans who served during the Vietnam War Commemoration period – the time frame authorized by Congress to recognize all men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of duty assignment location. A panel of four women Vietnam Veterans — three of them VA employees — shared the challenges and triumphs of their personal military experiences from this pivotal time in history. Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz — a U.S. Air Force nurse during the Vietnam War, and currently VA’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning — hosted the event. Schwartz, who served in the Air Force nearly 20 years, said that more than 265,000 women joined the military at a time when many men left the country rather than serve in the military. “In many respects,” she added, “women were like a well-kept secret … they came in thousands to serve their country.” After her own paperwork went through for the Air Force, she received a note from her county’s draft board. “In actuality, they sent me a letter to thank me for volunteering, because they said it would lessen the quota for our county by one man, because I joined. And so from the very beginning, I did not think that women were not as equal to men.” As a flight nurse in Japan, Schwartz and her colleagues received the battle casualties straight from Vietnam. “At that time we didn’t have the super aircraft that we have now,” she explained, “so therefore, people had to come to us, and we would stabilize them for the long journey home … so in many respects, we got to see the casualties of war as they were just beginning to understand what had happened to them. “We’d never seen anything like this … And I had the opportunity to meet some of those Veterans and tell them how the nurses and everybody really tried very hard. It brought out the very best of us, and made me decide that I would never go back to civilian nursing; and I didn’t. I stayed in the military.” Barbara Ward, as an Air Force charge nurse, cared for the seriously wounded troops arriving from the war by MEDEVAC. She now serves as the director of VA’s Center for Minority Veterans. “I was always around Veterans and active-duty military,” she said. “My military friends became my family … I decided my passion and love was for serving Veterans, and so I went to work for the California Department of Veterans Affairs. So, from my perspective, I had the two years that I served in the Air Force … probably one of the highlights of my life, without a doubt. And it certainly well prepared me for being a leader in private industry, throughout my career.” Panelist Karen S. Vartan, R.D.N, M.Ed., currently serves as a program analyst in VA Navigation, Advocacy & Community Engagement. As a U.S. Navy officer coming in at the end of the Vietnam era, she saw many changes. “There was transition in society, in the mores, the culture (and) education,” she said. “So what was in between that created that gigantic shift in just three years?” According to Vartan, as the country’s wartime operations slowed to accommodate peacetime, there were a number of reasons. “People had to adjust in many ways. I think the confluence of the Equal Rights Amendment and the end of the draft and these other changes … just helped really facilitate a very positive spotlight on women and leadership in the services.” Marsha Tansey Four was stationed in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, and is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for her work in Vietnam. She is currently the vice president of Vietnam Veterans of America. “I went into the Army Nurse Corps on the student program,” said Four. “The Army came in and said, ‘You know we got the perfect place for you here. When you graduate, you’re not going to have to look for a job … and you can request one of three assignments that we’ll send you to, never leaving the states unless you request it … and while you’re at school, we’re going to pay you money.’ Let me tell you something. That was real enticing.” Four spent one year in country at the18th Surgical Hospital. “It was a small facility. We had very limited capabilities, (and) only about 15 nurses. We had an emergency room, one medical unit, one post-op unit, and one ICU recovery room. I was assigned to the intensive care recovery room. One nurse and two corpsmen on 12-hour shifts, and usually we would get two days off every two weeks,” she recalled. Four’s service in Vietnam was more than four decades ago, but it still has a strong influence on who she is today. “It was for me the most important year of my life. It was for me, not only the time, but the place I grew up,” she said. “I am who I am because of it. Sometimes that’s positive, and sometimes it isn’t, but I’d like to think in the end … that I can believe that I was a part of something much bigger than myself, and that the things that I did brought help to others, consolation to some, and life for those that had their families put back together.” In closing the celebration, an official pinning ceremony recognized those Veterans in attendance who had served on active duty during the Vietnam Commemoration period. Those eligible Veterans each received a lapel pin with the inscription: “A grateful nation thanks and honors you.”Visit the Site
Does serving your country have to mean serving in the military--or are there other ways to serve? We visited a group of 7th graders at Templeton Middle School in Sussex, Wisconsin to get their take. Video produced by The Kindling Group for Veterans Coming Home.Visit the Site
In 1947 Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., wrote: “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen.” This was post WWII where 17% of Americans served, the highest percentage in our history of individuals serving in a war. During this time, Americans in general were closely connected to the military as many had family and friends who served and they also supported the war in various ways at home. Families were rationing and women worked in factories and shipyards, as represented by Rosie the Riveter. Today, less than 1% of Americans have served, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq. This has led to a greater disconnect between the military and civilians, known as the military-civilian divide. 76% of civilians over 65 say an immediate family member served, the same is only 33% for 19 to 29 year olds. What has evolved are often stereotypes of veterans as heroes or individuals struggling with issues, such as PTSD. As veterans seek to find their place in society as regular citizens, civilians are often not prepared to help with their integration. “Thank you for your service,” though well intended and kind, is often the default for reaching out as most non-military are unaware of how to connect or support. WHRO’s Veterans Coming Home initiative can help provide insight through veterans’ inspiring stories of struggle and triumph and how organizations and resources have helped. These stories can help us all understand how we may start to bridge the divide. Veterans are citizens. For more information go to whro.org/veterans. Photo and Video by Kindling Group.Visit the Site
Laying down one's life for our country is the ultimate sacrifice; it is the definition of heroic. As heroic and honorable as it is, it also creates a profound sense of loss for family members and loved ones. Army wife Donna Engeman shares the story of the day her life changed forever and how she found her voice through helping others as a Gold Star Spouse. The Gold Star first made an appearance during World War I after being placed over a service flag's blue star when a service member was killed in combat. The Gold Star signified the family's pride in the loved one's sacrifice rather than the mourning of their personal loss. Many Gold Star families wear the Gold Star lapel pin to signify their pride. The lapel pin displays a Gold Star with a purple background surrounded by a gold wreath and first made its appearance during World War I. Today, the mission of Gold Star Legacy is to provide support, information, and services to Gold Star family members, to promote events, memorials, and foundations in memory of their loved ones, and to encourage the public to honor and remember our fallen heroes. Watch her story from KLRN in San Antonio, Texas.Visit the Site
This article was originally posted on Defense.gov. For one Larned, Kansas, native, Women’s History Month means more than just honoring the many women in science and the military who set the stage for the women of today and in the future. Lucile Doll Wise, a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP, during World War II, is one of those pioneers. In September 1942, the Army Air Forces needed pilots, so after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Army Air Forces commander Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold established the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS, and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, or WFTD. According to the Air Force Historical Support Division, the WAFS and WFTD merged into a single unit on July 5, 1943. The now-unified group was called the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, with its pilots known as WASPs. “Our mission was to perform flying duties in this country to relieve male pilots for overseas combat service,” Wise said. Call to Serve Wise joined the WASPs in May 1943, and served until they were disbanded in December 1944. “I was thrilled at the prospect of flying the larger and faster military aircraft and at the opportunity to help in the war effort,” she said. Her younger brother enlisted in the Navy just before he graduated from high school in 1943, and he was permitted to graduate before he headed to serve on a ship in the South Pacific. “Of course we were all worried about him,” she said. “He returned safely, but perhaps a bit damaged emotionally.” Wise said she went through the same training as the male cadets, living in barracks under military discipline, learning to march, making beds the Army way and more. “It was a cultural shock, giving up our comfortable homes, nice clothes and social life but we didn’t complain because we were so thrilled to be flying military aircraft,” she said. Mission After graduation, Wise was assigned to the Army Air Forces Weather Service Region in Kansas City, Missouri. “Our first and most important job was probably ferrying aircraft from factories to air bases and points of embarkation. There was an alarming shortage of pilots at the beginning of the war, and we delivered more than 12,000 aircraft in the two years we operated,” she said. “We also performed many other domestic flying duties.” She said they had a Cessna twin engine C-47, a five passenger plane they had flown in training. “It was slow but dependable,” Wise said. “Later, another WASP was assigned there, and we got the larger Beech C-45. Our assignment was to fly the weather officers wherever they needed to go, usually on inspection trips to all of the AF bases in the region and to meetings. My favorite aircraft, and the favorite of most of us, was the AT-6 [Texan], which we flew in advanced training. It was a wonderful plane. I got plenty of flying.” She said when she entered the WASP program, she had 50 hours, and when it disbanded, she had almost 700 flying hours. “When traveling, I usually stayed on base in the nurse’s quarters, although sometimes we stayed in hotels,” Wise said. “One base in Nebraska had no women on base, and the small town had no hotels, so I was given a room in the hospital. Our trips often lasted four or five days, leaving on Monday and spending a day at each air base and returning later in the week. It was a large seven-state region with many air bases.” She said she loved her job. “I loved every minute of it, but it was not easy,” Wise said. “It was hard work, and I came back from trips pretty tired.” The Disbandment Arnold fought to have the WASPs militarized into the Army Air Force, but Congress disbanded them, Wise said, adding that she was disappointed. “We had a handsome uniform and officer privileges, but I really wanted to be militarized and get a commission,” she said. “We were working hard and did not realize that we were making history as the first U.S. women to fly military aircraft.” Recognition at Last For 33 years, the women weren’t allowed to call themselves veterans and their records were classified and sealed from the public. They fought Congress and pushed for publicity. On Nov. 23, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a public law granting former WASPs veteran status with limited benefits. The Air Force graduated its first female pilots that same year. “It was wonderful,” Wise said. “I was living in the D.C. area at the time and helped with the lobbying effort. It was a thrill to attend the hearing and have contacts with Congressmen. It was a great help for a few of us who were without health insurance or in financial trouble to be eligible to be treated at military hospitals.” Life after the Serving Wise said she made great friends and meets up with her fellow WASPs at reunions. “I made some great friends in the WASP program,” she said. “Some of them were from wealthy families, but I did not realize it at the time. We all looked alike in our ‘zoot suits.’ We met often at reunions and other women’s aeronautical meetings. I am grateful for my opportunity to serve, and I believe we all feel the same way. The WASPs went through a unique experience, and we all have a close bond.” Wise said she’s happy to have been a pioneer, and she’s happy to meet women who are currently serving and children who may serve in the future. “I’m so impressed by what women pilots are doing today, especially flying into combat,” she said. “They are doing some great flying and proving once again that women can fly military aircraft as well as men.” She said she tells young women who may be considering the military that “the military is not for everyone, but it offers a great opportunity to young women.”
The Care of our Veterans Twelve years at war takes a toll. Over a decade worth of conflicts on foreign soil have left more than 60,000 physically wounded, 320,000 with traumatic brain injuries, and nearly half a million impacted by invisible wounds like combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, there are untold numbers of brave men and women who have been affected by these wars. They've sacrificed their jobs, health and livelihoods, not in the name of uniformed service, but for the care of the servicemen and women who are no longer able to effectively care for themselves. Today we'll examine the life of the 5.5 million military caregivers providing for the needs of our nation's wounded veterans, and speak with military caregivers from the Hampton Roads community.Visit the Site
We have nearly one-fourth of the nation’s active-duty military personnel stationed here. That means a lot of military personnel and veterans are living in our state. They have given up everything to serve. They have traveled to every corner of the world to help keep the peace. So this should be a no-brainer that our community needs to be supportive of the men and women who sacrifice so much so we can have the freedoms we have. In this week’s blog, we show you just how Hampton Roads is helping our military families that are transitioning from a uniform to business attire. Hampton Roads has long had a commitment to making sure that our military and veterans have an opportunity to find jobs. Here, they really understand that veterans offer a unique source of trained and motivated workers, with proven ability to step into an organization and contribute immediately. On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Ted Constant Center in Norfolk will host a Military Job Fair. It is for transitioning military, veterans and military family members. Sponsored by CivilianJobs, the event hopes to provide the military-experienced candidate effective ways for their experience and skills to be presented to potential employers. But just showing up at a job fair and getting the right person into the right position is not as simple as it may seem. Making the connection between companies and veterans can be challenging. Many companies in this area are plugged into the world of former service members, but veterans need help making these connections. Air Force veteran Michelle Brown knows just how important military job fairs can be. After countless assignments, several deployments, and top-notch training that resulted in 26 years as a team member of an elite organization, she found it difficult to communicate to future employers just how valuable she could be as a member of their team. ‘I’ve attended 2 -3 job fairs since retiring last year. Each one has been somewhat unique. However, many of the companies represented recognized how my military skills translate. And more importantly, they were attracted to the skills, discipline and leadership they have found in military applicants like me.’ She said she left with a sense that they really want to hire the best - our veterans. For those who wish to participate in the event, here are some key tips on getting the most out of this job fair. Show up with a positive attitude. Make sure you do your research of your industry of choice. And make sure your résumé stands out and it is geared for a specific position versus a general résumé. We know that Hampton Roads will continue to showcase companies that support our military. This event will offer national and regional opportunities in Administrative, Aviation, Law Enforcement, Maintenance, Medical, Engineering, Sales and many more. Pre-register here. So job-seekers, put on your best attire and get ready for a an innovative and robust military job fair to help transitioning and retired military personnel find a job that fits! 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. | Ted Constant Center 4320 Hampton Blvd | Norfolk, VA 23529Visit the Site
“The simple act of caring is heroic.” - Edward AlbertIt’s easy to recognize a military service member as a hero. Particularly one like former Marine Chuck Rotenberry, wounded when an IED exploded near him while serving in Afghanistan. But military spouses or family members who take on the role of caring for these service members when they return are often not thought of as heroes. Let’s rethink this. Liz Rotenberry had never pictured her active and able husband being physically unable to take care of himself . Liz noticed within a few weeks of returning that Chuck became more and more withdrawn, couldn’t be around the children and was disconnected. He would disappear and she’d find him in a dark corner of the house angry and upset. She knew something was wrong. Liz has known Chuck since they were 17-years-old. Once they married in 2001, she quickly took on the role of devoted Marine spouse. As Chuck went away for training and deployments and their family grew with four children, Liz took care of everything at home. Even after Chuck returned from his last deployment on July 5, 2011, she moved the family on base the next morning and had their 4th son less than a week later! Each time Chuck returned he seemed a little different. But the transition back into their family was especially taxing after this last deployment. Something was wrong with him and they needed to know what it was. So began the journey that would define Liz as a caregiver. Chuck went to a TBI facility for testing. He began taking medications that were prescribed to help with the headaches and memory loss. Liz became his ‘nurse’ in a sense ensuring he took the several pills he needed each day. Then she happened to see a story on WVEC about a new TBI and PTSD treatment. “Let’s watch just to see what they say, what this is. Maybe it can help,” she said to Chuck. They learned about a new cutting-edge hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment that has successfully helped those suffering with TBI or PTSD symptoms. HBOT as it is called is a medical treatment which enhances the body's natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. She immediately called the contact number as soon as the program ended. Liz organized a fundraising 5K, 'Hearts for Heroes' to raise money to get HBOT treatments to help heal Chuck’s symptoms. They reached their goal of $15,000 and Chuck went on to receive 40 HBOT treatments. Her journey as a caregiver would reshape their family and drive Liz to educate herself on how staggering TBI and PTSD can be for the military member and their family. “The role of the caregiver is extremely difficult. You can only think about getting everyone else through the day. You forget to take care of yourself,” she says. Liz has utilized and joined several VA and caregiver support resources in the area. She has taken advantage of all the counseling, groups and events that are available. VA Caregivers Support is one that she is especially grateful to. Here she met others that were in exact situations dealing with similar issues. “Once I knew I was a caregiver I felt empowered.” Caregiver has become a passion and she continues to get the word out about HBOT and the VA resources available for military members and their families. Chuck continues to get better with Liz by his side. Liz’s act of caregiving is heroic. Visit the Site
Through the efforts of WHRO’s Community Engagement, WHRO/WHRV is embarking on a multi-year veterans initiative that will highlight the struggles and triumphs of returning military, as well as serve as a connection point between service providers and those who need help. Our efforts began with a three part series called “Coming Back with Wes Moore“ which aired on WHRO-TV 15, in May. Another View shares highlights of the series and talks with Christopher Justice, a Navy veteran and addiction therapist, Jaren Hawkins, an Army veteran, former combat engineer and student at ODU, and Yennetta Taylor, an Airforce veteran and student at ODU about their struggles and successes in coming back to America after war.Visit the Site
But why do people serve? Why do they willingly give up their autonomy and risk their lives to fight for their country? Here are some great reasons. We encourage anyone who has served or is continuing to serve their country through the armed forces to download the sheet “Why I Serve (currently in the service) / Why I Served (retired or no longer in service)” and write your reason on the sheet. Then, have someone take a picture of you holding your message and email the picture to us at WHRO so we can proudly display your message of service. Click on the images to read why they served.Visit the Site
Bill Roberts saw joining the army and fighting for his country as a purposeful and honorable endeavor, but he was wholly unprepared for the harsh and brutal reality of guerrilla warfare that he found within the depths of Vietnam’s jungle battleground. His experiences left scars, physical and emotional, that he’s carried with him ever since. On today’s HearSay, he joins us to share his harrowing post-war experiences battling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how his fight to overcome his inner demons has made for a surprisingly hilarious and heart warming memoir. HearSay April 30, 2014Visit the Site
Our favorite veternarian, Dr. Phyllis Neumann, joins us to answer all of your pet health questions on today’s HearSay. We’ll also take a closer look at the complex selection, training, and service of our nation’s military dogs and their handlers with the author of the National Geographic cover story, HERO DOGS A SOLDIER’S BEST FRIEND. HearSay May 29, 2014Visit the Site
Through the efforts of WHRO’s Community Engagement, WHRO/WHRV is embarking on a multi-year veterans initiative that will highlight the struggles and triumphs of returning military, as well as serve as a connection point between service providers and those who need help. Our efforts begin with a three part series called “Coming Back with Wes Moore“ which will air on WHRO-TV 15, Tuesdays in May. Another View shares highlights of the series and talks with Christopher Justice, a Navy veteran and addiction therapist, Jaren Hawkins, an Army veteran, former combat engineer and student at ODU, and Yennetta Taylor, an Airforce veteran and student at ODU about their struggles and successes in coming back to America after war. May 2nd, 2014Visit the Site
By Tommy Furlong and Dr. Paula K. Rauch (Printed with Permission from WBUR. Guest contributors “So, did you ever kill anyone?” It’s not a question you would ask a police officer, but it’s one that many veterans get all the time. Most people have good intentions, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to guide people in what to say and what not to say to a returning veteran. It has become commonplace to say, “Thank you for your service,” but then what? So here, in advance of our most patriotic holiday, is a brief guide for speaking with post-9/11 veterans and their families. We begin with five things not to say, and end with five that maybe you should: 1. I can’t understand why anyone would join the military. Oftentimes, people hear the word “military” and immediately think of warfare. In reality, that is just one of the components. The military puts a lot of its resources toward humanitarian efforts. And if you list almost any civilian job, that same position can be found in the military. So why would someone join the military? They might enjoy the structure. The job security is alluring, as are the benefits. Many young people also choose to serve for educational or economic opportunity, family tradition, seeking a challenge or as a path out of a difficult situation. Serving our nation is an intense and rewarding career choice. So is being a firefighter, a nurse or a surgeon. Different individuals are drawn to different vocations. Choosing military service is one choice — and it’s not a crazy one. Family members often hear “Why did you let him (or her) enlist?” or “I would never let one of my kids join the military.” The suggestion is that loving parents don’t let their children serve in the armed forces. These types of comments leave parents and spouses of veterans feeling isolated and unappreciated because, as any military family knows, when one member serves, the entire family serves. Family members have pride in their service member, but they also live with anxiety during the years of service. But all that aside, most parents don’t get to choose their adult child’s life path — and that includes career, partner and place to live. 2. How could you leave your children? Female veterans probably hear this more, but the judgment that loving parents don’t stay in the military sneaks into comments made to male veterans too. No matter how patriotic a parent is, it is tough to be separated from family — especially children.
Today, there are good treatments available for PTSD. When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of counseling. Research shows it is the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. The VA is providing two forms of cognitive behavioral therapy to Veterans with PTSD: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy. There is a similar kind of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that is used for PTSD. Also, medications have been shown to be effective. A type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD.
by George Decker, Public Affairs Officer, VA National Center for PTSD and Vicky Bippart, Producer/Director, VA National Center for PTSD Although it may sound a little strange at first, these days Joe Duarte finds serenity in combat, as a mixed martial arts fighter. “When I’m in the ring, I’m in complete control of my life,” he said. “It’s when I’m at my peace. It’s my sanctuary. Fighting is my meditation.” Combat was a different experience for Joe in Iraq, though, where he spent two tours of duty and lost a close friend during a convoy patrol. “My life was at risk all the time,” he recalled. “All of us guys in the Army experienced these horrible situations that nobody would ever experience. It changes your life completely. It changes human beings, period. The anger is so overwhelming that it becomes uncontrollable to the point where you end up doing things that you feel you blacked out.” After he came home from Iraq, Joe’s anger would sometimes boil into rage. “Like, I’ve beat up people, I followed someone to their house, I’ve pulled a gun out,” he said. “I’ve chased somebody down on the main freeway, on the 805. I followed a guy that almost hit me into a stop light and kicked the side of his door in. I didn’t even stop to think. But I felt good hurting other people because I was hurting so bad inside that taking it out on somebody else actually made me feel good.” When Joe’s anger started to threaten his marriage, he finally decided—reluctantly—that it was time to get help. “With my wife, I’d get angry over really, really miniscule stuff,” he said. “And she would be, like, ‘This is why you need to go get help.’ And where I’m from, saying I need to go get help is like someone slapping you in the face, you know? I fought with her every single time. And I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t want to accept it.” Joe was diagnosed with PTSD and finally went to VA for treatment. It turned his life around. “When I go home now, it’s completely different from the way I used to be because I’m so much more free mentally,” he said. “I struggle sometimes, you know, get aggravated sometimes. I have the tools now to deal with those issues, and that’s the difference. And now, when I’m happy and I’m sitting at home with my family, it makes me grateful that I went to therapy because I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy those times, you know? “And I think with me sucking my pride up and being able to get therapy really showed what kind of champion I am. Not the belt that I have around my waist, but that I was able to help myself so that I live the rest of my life as a happier man. And I’m still getting better, you know, that’s the great part about it, is that I can still get better.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAqe7WkuTVQ&index=37&list=PLC87C65F04DE484C0 For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem, visit the National Center for PTSD website. Other Helpful Websites
FAQ ABOUT HOMELESS VETERANS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbjRpIRPRSU Who are homeless veterans? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 8% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively. Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Conversely, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone. About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. How many homeless veterans are there? Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 57,849 veterans are homeless on any given night. Approximately 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless in 2010. The number of young homeless veterans is increasing, but only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population. Why are veterans homeless? In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Doesn’t VA take care of homeless veterans? To a certain extent, yes. Each year, VA’s specialized homelessness programs provide health care to almost 150,000 homeless veterans and other services to more than 112,000 veterans. Additionally, more than 40,000 homeless veterans receive compensation or pension benefits each month. Since 1987, VA’s programs for homeless veterans have emphasized collaboration with such community service providers to help expand services to more veterans in crisis. VA, using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured nearly 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds and more than 30,000 permanent beds for homeless veterans throughout the nation. These partnerships are credited with reducing the number of homeless veterans by 70% since 2005. More information about VA homeless programs and initiatives can be found here. What services do veterans need? Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment. What seems to work best? The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves. Government money, while important, is limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities that most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again. What can I do?
Like hundreds of thousands of veterans, Gene Todd’s pain stemmed from two sources -- the injuries he received while serving his country, and the frustration of having to fight for the benefits he rightfully deserved. “I’d been sitting basically in a room angry at the world for about three years! I was mad because I was injured and hurting! For ten years I tried to work with the VA. It was overwhelming. The legalese they use and the volume of paperwork they throw at you, it’s more a gauntlet than assistance.” Gene served as a Navy Mechanic and was part of the Naval Construction Force. Physical training was part of the job, but it also took a toll on Gene. “I had one leg that would swell up horribly when we’d do PT. Before I got out, I was having difficulties with my feet, my back and my legs. I got permission to use the combat swimmers pool to do PT, swimming instead of running because my one leg would swell up over the top of my boot.” But for Gene, getting the job done was much more important than his personal suffering. His thoughts centered on getting back to work, because there was a mission to complete. “But I ached all over. Every so often I’d go to medical. They’d give me some painkillers or muscle relaxers and some time off. But I never felt better.” Finally after 17 years of service, Gene took early retirement. Even 40 percent disabled, he was determined to take care of his family. He finished college and starting teaching, but his injuries and constant pain forced him to eventually stop. All the while, he struggled alone trying to get his VA benefits. Gene’s experience is not unusual. He is one of the escalating number of veterans who’ve waited more than a year for benefits. According to the center for Investigative Reporting, the number of Veterans who wait longer than a year for VA benefits has grown from 11,000 in 2009 to more than 245,000 in December 2013. “Things finally changed one day when my wife came home and said, ‘There’s a woman starting a clinic for veterans. Would you like to talk to her?’ I talked with the young lady, Stacy-Rae Simcox. She was a prior JAG officer, so she had an understanding of what it’s like to be in the military. She did more for me in six months than I had been able to get done in ten years!” Simcox has moved on but the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic continues its mission. Housed in the law school at the College of William and Mary, law students, with help from practicing attorneys, volunteer their services, assisting veterans who need to file claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s not just a great opportunity because of what I was able to learn about practicing law, but also being able to help these veterans with their claims. You really start to take on their causes as your own,” said Aaron Petters, a second year law student. The clinic’s director, Patty Roberts says they receive five to fifteen applications a week. “We are determined that we won’t turn any of them away. If we can’t help them because of our current caseload, we refer them to other service providers.” Since 2008 the clinic has helped hundreds of veterans like Gene.Visit the Site
Written By: Lisa Godley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2_0HZMv2dA American Soldiers had been fighting in World War II for more than a year when Major Charity Adams was told to board a plane heading for Europe, her mission purposely withheld. Her son, Stanley Earley recants that day as his mother laid it out for him. “She and the Adjutant were on the plane and had to open the orders after they were out far enough over seas that they wouldn’t be turning back.” Years earlier, Adams had joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and was in the first class to undergo officer training. With her last name Adams, putting her first on the list, she would go down in history as the first African American officer commissioned. “She went over with six individuals and equipment that was important spare parts and so forth and arrived there I think, December 16th, 1944; which was the same day the Battle of the Bulge started,” he said. Major Charity Adams would assume command of the 6888th Postal Battalion. Their service was desperately needed. The mail delivery to the millions of American soldiers fighting overseas had stagnated and it was affecting morale. Her daughter Judy Earley says it was her mom’s assignment to fix it. “I know when she started at the six triple eight we had no expectations that the job was really going to get done; because they had such a backlog of mail that had not been able to get delivered,” Judy said. The Battalion consisted of more than 800 African American women of different ages and backgrounds. “The thing that I remember more is there was such a variety of occupations; and educational levels. There were women who were career women who had decided to make this change. There were women just starting out; there were teachers and nurses, hair dressers and store clerks. There was just such a variety of people from all walks of life that had decided that they wanted to join the service,” she said. Adams knew they had their work cut out for them, and devised a plan to work her troops in three, eight hour shifts. This was criticized by white male officers who argued that it wasn’t the way they would do it so therefore it wasn’t the way it should be done. Most weren’t accustomed to women in the military and they really had a problem with African American women being a part of the service especially seeing one in charge. “She put everyone on shifts because they worked twenty-four hours. This was apparently against regulations. Commanding Officers really didn’t approve of that way. But using the women to work in shifts, they managed to clear out all that backlogged mail and get it delivered; get everything back on schedule,” Judy explained. “That’s part of her gift of leadership, that she got it organized and got it done much faster than they expected!” said her son Stanley. There was no fanfare when the women returned to the US and their mission accomplished. Her brother, Sr. Bishop John Adams remembers well the pre-civil rights climate when she returned home to Columbia, South Carolina. “The white soldiers had a very difficult time saluting not only this black person but a black woman. And we used to enjoy walking down Main Street in Columbia where all the officers and soldiers operated. And enjoyed, seeing the looks on the faces of many people when they had to salute this black woman.” Adams shared Decades would pass before Major Charity Adams and the women of the 6888th received the recognition they deserved, which included, meeting president Bill Clinton in 1995. Her family says she was extremely pleased when the battalion's work was recognized. But even after her service to the country ended, Charity Adams Earley’s service to her community continued as she served on various boards of colleges, utilities and authorities. Her son says his mother’s acute attention to detail was evident in everything she did. “The great power that she had was that she read everything! She would go into a meeting; she’d know all of the issues, all of the material. And we’d go into a meeting and almost no one has ever done that.” Stanley remembered. Charity Adams Earley passed away in 2002. The Charity Adams Earley Academy for Girls in Dayton, Ohio is named in her honor. Lisa Godley produces Another View which airs on WHRV 89.5 every Friday at noon. The story of the Major Adams and the 6888th aired during the Another View Broadcast on August 15, 2014. Click to listen to program - Another ViewVisit the Site
By Antony Kamps, Public Affairs Specialist Music fills the corridors of the second floor of the Ambulatory Care Clinic building inside the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Veterans walking by stop in their tracks, captivated by the mesmerizing sound of two musicians. “That’s really beautiful,” said one individual as she walked down the hall to the main hospital. Wes Ricks, Navy Veteran, and Ed McNatt, Army Veteran, play every Tuesday and Thursday right outside the Internal Medicine Specialty Clinic. The two recently won gold medals in the National Veterans Creative Arts instrumental category. They will attend the event held in Milwaukee this year, Oct. 27 to Nov. 2. They play the music not just for themselves but for everyone who walks by or who are within earshot. “It’s a lot of fun, it really is, but it’s important because it helps Veterans who are going through tough times,” said Ricks. Ricks plays a Native American flute, or a pentatonic flute and McNatt the guitar. Together they go by the name “We Duce.” They started to play together after meeting last year at a Guitar for Vets group. Guitars for Vets are a non-profit organization founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007. They offer a refined guitar instruction program aimed at providing Veterans struggling with PTSD and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative. “After my wife passed away years ago, I put the guitar down,” said Ricks. “She always sang along while I played and I just felt after she died I couldn’t play anymore without her.” Years went by and Ricks continued to play the flute, but never the guitar. He decided one day it was wrong for him to stop playing the guitar, but it was difficult picking up where he left off. “It’s like riding a bike, when you stop doing it for so long you kind of lose the ability,” Ricks said. He went to a Guitar for Vets class and that’s where he met McNatt. “I started playing the guitar at a young age, mainly because my older brother played,” said McNatt. “He left for the Navy and I missed him so much I picked up his guitar and played because it made me feel closer to him.” Like Ricks, a personal tragedy caused him to stop playing. About 15 years ago McNatt suffered a stroke, and it caused him to forget how to play. Years went by and finally the Phoenix VA Recreation Therapy staff convinced McNatt to join the Guitars for Vets program. “I was an introvert. I never left my house,” said McNatt. “I am so glad they pushed me to join that program. The class got me through and made me leave the introvert lifestyle behind.” Both McNatt and Ricks are now instructors for Guitars for Vets, and McNatt is the event coordinator for the program. They play at local fundraisers for Veterans to help raise money for homeless Veterans. “I love the music in my heart,” said McNatt. “I need to let it out to help heal the wounds of other Veterans like it healed mine.” As an infant, Ricks’ grandfather said he would be famous. Little did Ricks know it would be for playing the flute. “As long as God gives me oxygen I’ll keep playing,” said Ricks. Then they turn back to their music. “We Duce” start to play filling the floor with music once again.Visit the Site
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzIrmJj0ldU Chuck Rotenberry's scars are invisible to the average person, but they are very real to Chuck and his family. Like millions of veterans, Chuck suffers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Chuck was serving in Afghanistan as a military working dog handler in 2011. During a clearance operation his fellow Marine misstepped, causing a hidden IED to explode. The Marine’s legs were blown off and Chuck suffered shrapnel in his neck, face and eardrum. Liz, his wife, knew something was wrong when she’d find her husband in a back room having an emotional breakdown and frustration filling his face as he tried to interact with his four children. Debilitating headaches made it difficult to complete small tasks, and sudden noises were almost unbearable. One day his kids were playing with balloons when one popped. ‘I immediately had to throw up. I couldn’t help it,’ Chuck recalls. Chuck came home with PTSD. Chuck had been to specialists on base and they prescribed an array of pills that had helped. But he still felt like he was ‘carrying a refrigerator on his head and shoulders.’ After hearing about HBOT Treatments provided by Harch Hyperbarics in New Orleans, Liz felt this may be the answer. A scan of his brain confirmed that there were spots that did not have ANY blood flow. The areas where all your emotions and short term memory live were completely dark. HBOT treatments have completely turned things around for Chuck and his family. Chuck was hoping to just get off of at least one pill but now no longer needs any for his headaches. It has brought him back to life. With PTSD there aren’t always visible scars. People don’t understand – invisible wounds are just as serious. Chuck's story is one of many you'll see in the coming months as WHRO and the Center for Public Broadcasting explore "Veterans Coming Home." This project is a public media effort to support veterans in their successful transition to civilian life. For more details on the organizations mentioned in the video: Harch Hyperbarics in New Orleans 5216 LaPalco Blvd | Marrero, LA 70072 504-309-4948 | Online Hampton Roads Hyperbaric Therapy 129 W. Virginia Beach Blvd | Norfolk, VA 23510 757-452-3934 | Email | Online Production Credits Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley Camera: Eric Simon Editor: Brandon Nance, Robert PitmanVisit the Site
By SHALA MARKS of The Recruiter According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans – those who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces any time since September 2001—was 9 percent in 2013. And the jobless rate for all veterans was 6.6 percent. And although the job search can be a challenge for most people, research shows that veterans oftentimes face an extra set of difficulties, especially in the area of discrimination. The bellinghamherald.com reported that in 2013, The Los Angeles Times discovered that “the U.S. Labor Department and Office of Special Counsel accepted 1,430 new cases of alleged criminal job discrimination against National Guard and Reserve veterans. That number compared to 848 in 2001: an increase of more than 60 percent.” And, sadly, a Washington Post article reported that the “biggest offender” when it came to veteran job discrimination in 2011 was the federal government. The article explains: It is against federal law for employers to penalize service members because of their military service. And yet, in some cases, the U.S. government has withdrawn job offers to service members unable to get released from active duty fast enough; in others, service members have been fired after absences. In fiscal 2011, more than 18 percent of the 1,548 complaints of violations of that law involved federal agencies, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The issue with hiring veterans goes back and forth. Some companies worry about veterans having PTSD, while many researchers and psychologists work to dispel the PTSD myth (in relation to it not making a veteran suitable for hire). And still, research shows that veterans haven’t been able to maximize their military skills in civilian jobs—which some employers use against them—while others point out how a veteran’s training makes him/her the perfect job candidate to meet a company’s bottomline. And with all the back and forth about whether or not to hire veterans, I’ve never heard anyone make the case for veterans being the ones to do the hiring—until now. Executive search expert Jason Hanold of Hanold Associates has many years of recruiting experience, and he believes veterans have built a skillset while serving that makes them great for the HR industry and recruiters. Hanold offered to share his insights and four simple yet compelling tips on why more companies shouldn’t look overlook a veteran when seeking to hire a recruiter. Check out Hanold’s thoughts below: While leading teams of corporate recruiters and then teams in retained executive search, I’ve studied traits of some of the best recruiting professionals in the world. Some recruiters are naturally gifted at building relationships, yet they have a flat spot when it comes to assessing candidates with a high degree of rigor. Other recruiters, known for their rigorous assessment capability, often fall down when it comes to building lasting relationships. Veterans (whether officers or enlisted personnel) are proving to be an ideal balance: 1. Meaningful Relationship-Builders:Their lives depended on building trusting relationships. Whether in the trenches or in operations intelligence, they worked as units, in teams, and pushed toward an objective. Authenticity comes to the forefront when lives are at stake. This isn’t about glad-handing but about a deep and real relationship conveyed by the knowledge that you have each other’s back. 2. Strong Interviewers: They’re unflinching when it comes to asking tough questions. I’ve seen great relationship builders overly concerned about being liked by candidates, and it got in the way of great assessment and interviewing. 3. Embrace Ambiguity: Some of us complain about how challenging our jobs are, whether it’s travel demands, hours, or impossible hiring managers. Veterans don’t usually raise those issues. They’ve seen worse and were always paid much less. They’re naturally curious, learn fast, figure out ambiguous situations, and combat training knocks any silver-spoon or corporate naiveté right out of one’s soul. 4. Wise Beyond Years: Whether in executive search or corporate recruiting, we have to be credible with senior hiring managers. The military adds years, if not decades, of wisdom to your life. I’m witnessing our 30-something former Air Force intelligence officer and former Army captain, West Point graduate have meaningful advisory discussions with our client CEOs and CHROs who are a generation or two ahead of them. If you’re proud of how our veterans have served our country, you’ll be equally impressed with how well they swing the pendulum of credibility forward for our recruiting profession. They make for great recruiters.Visit the Site
For the past six years, the Puller Clinic at the College of William and Mary Law School has assisted hundreds of veterans with their disability claims. The story you’re about to see features the Clinic and the tireless efforts of the students and staff who work diligently to make life better for the regions veterans. As part of WHRO’s Veteran’s Initiative, WHRO is engaging the community to help support veterans as they transition to civilian life in Hampton Roads. This story follows two Peninsula men who have utilized the clinic’s services since it opened in 2008. Under the supervision of attorney’s, law students the men have successfully filed and received the benefits that they so rightfully deserve. For more information about the groups listed in this video: Lewis B. Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic William & Mary law School | PO Box 8795 | Williamsburg, VA 23187 757-221-7443 |Online | Email Production Credits Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley Camera: Eric Simon, Chip Johnson Editor: Brandon Nance, Robert PitmanVisit the Site
Flag Lady Inspires Patriotism, Teaches Respect on the 200th Anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner September 11, 2001 changed everything. Thirteen years later, the date serves as a powerful reminder of our ineluctable vulnerability as a nation, and our steadfast resilience in the face of unimaginable atrocities. Our country was violated; however, it was not—under any circumstances—defeated. The American flag hovering defiantly over what would be remembered as Ground Zero, provided a poignant depiction of our collective resolve: Hurt but hopeful. For many Americans, including Stella Waltz, 9/11 renewed her family’s sense of pride in flying the flag. “We often flew the [American] flag from a bracket somewhere on our house, but after that day, we began to fly it daily. Whenever our flags would become faded and worn, we would replace them. The old ones would be folded and tucked away in a drawer because we couldn't bear to toss them out, and we didn't know what else to do with them.” Waltz, a local entrepreneur who owns JES Foundation Repair along with her husband, Jesse Waltz, became overwhelmed as the flags claimed more and more space in their home. “There were drawers full of flags at the house,” she recalled. “I began thinking that Jesse and I couldn't be the only people who 'had this problem'—old flags lying around because the thought of throwing them in the trash was simply not an option.” Always one to be proactive, Waltz suggested using the JES Foundation Repair office in Virginia Beach as a collection site for old flags. And just like that, her new passion was born. She began encouraging local residents to bring their old, tattered flags to the company's headquarters, and she made sure each one received proper retirement. She also learned about different groups that respectfully retired old flags, among them the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts of America, Veterans of Foreign War posts and American Legion groups. “We could see the relief on people’s faces once they handed us their flags. They were noticeably proud about doing the right thing. I felt honored to provide this service.” But she didn’t stop there. “I became markedly interested in information about our flag’s history and flag etiquette. I was drawn to anything related to the flag.” Her growing curiosity was only natural. The daughter of a World War II veteran, Waltz was taught at an early age the importance of handling the flag with respect. As a 19-year-old sailor, her father was among the first wave of troops that stormed the beaches at Normandy. He spent his 20th birthday at Iwo Jima where there was no time to celebrate because they “had an island to capture.” An influential force in her life, the former navy chief would vividly recall moments of sacrifice witnessed during battle. “I remember my parents, who met a few years after the war ended, sharing incredible stories—dad’s experiences with the Navy’s Pacific Campaign and mom’s experiences on the home front.” Her mother spoke of nights where she would pull down blackened window shades “to make it harder for the enemy to find its targets.” Compelling recollections such as these left a lasting impression on Waltz. She has held the flag and those who fought for its sake, in great esteem since childhood. “Our armed forces defend our freedoms and ensure the flag continues to fly. When I see the flag, a powerful feeling surges through me. You don't have to walk in other people's shoes to appreciate and value what they have been through, and in this case—everything they have done for you and your family in the spirit of selflessness.” Proper flag retirement, along with teaching flag history and etiquette, has become a personal mission for Waltz who speaks on the topics for free to local groups and organizations. She does not charge for her services noting her once-hobby turned heartfelt endeavor is a worthy enough pursuit. The history behind the American flag, she says, is often limited in school instruction because teachers have so much in their curriculum, but a wealth of fascinating information exists. “I especially enjoy visiting schools to teach children about the flag and what it truly represents. Most of us know the flag consists of 13 stripes (seven are red, six white) that represent the 13 original colonies and 50 stars for every state in the Union," Waltz stated emphatically. “But our country’s legacy goes well beyond this fact.” A legacy Waltz passionately delves into during her presentations, which can cover anything from flag etiquette to the history of our national anthem. This year marks the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner". Originally named “The Defence of Fort M’Henry”, the words were written by 35-year-old lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key, after a British bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Key, who was being held as a prisoner of war at the time, was so inspired by the American flag flying afterwards that he penned the first of four verses—the words we sing today—on-site. His impassioned lyrics were set to “The Anacreontic Song” (also known as “To Anacreon in Heaven”), a popular tune in Britain as well as the U.S. at the time. Recognized in 1889 for official use by the Army and the Navy and in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, "The Star-Spangled Banner" became our national anthem in 1931 based on a congressional resolution which was signed by President Herbert Hoover. “I think I help fill in the gaps,” Waltz shared. “It’s important that young people and adults who are asked to stand and sing our national anthem know the history and significance of it. What is a rampart? Why is the song timed with a sunrise and speak of a sunset? What does gallantly mean?” Waltz is well-versed in flag protocol including rules for the handling, displaying and retiring of "Old Glory" as specified in the U.S. Code. Although many people do not readily understand how to appropriately interact with the flag, according to Waltz, one thing is for sure, “Our flag should always be given honor and handled with dignity. There are no exceptions.” Her sentiments are representative of many a proud American. Patriotism is palpable as the anniversaries of 9/11 and "The Star-Spangled Banner" are upon us, marking periods of tragedy and triumph. Our broad stripes and bright stars are to be celebrated, and for those interested in going beyond mere symbolism, Stella Waltz is more than ready to deliver an all-American lesson to anyone who wishes to listen. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.jeswork.com/professional-resources/speakers-bureau.aspx.Visit the Site
From U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs My name is Tahitia. I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. This is my story. I served as a Data Systems Technician for four years and was deployed to Afghanistan. My dream has always been to become an archeologist and travel the world. I tried school before, but working three jobs made it impossible to focus on my studies. Now, thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, I am attending the University of Maryland majoring in Anthropology/Archaeology. My tuition is paid in full; I receive a housing allowance and also get money for books. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is making my dream a reality. Through “My Story,” VA is documenting and sharing the personal experiences of Veterans and Servicemembers who’ve advanced their education and training with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which VA has administered since Aug. 1, 2009. Although every experience is unique, a common thread is that brighter futures are possible with the Post-9/11 GI Bill.Visit the Site
Owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed. Dogs can help people feel better by providing companionship. All dog owners, including those who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can experience these benefits. Clinically, there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. Evidence-based therapies and medications for PTSD are supported by research. We encourage you to learn more about these treatments because it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from the few studies on dogs and PTSD that have been done.
Hampton Roads has long had a commitment to making sure that our military and veterans have an opportunity to find jobs. Here, they really understand that veterans offer a unique source of trained and motivated workers, with proven ability to step into an organization and contribute immediately. In July, CivilianJobs is holding a military job fair to help with this transitioning. The event provides the military-experienced candidate effective ways for their experience and skills to be presented to potential employers.
The Virginia International Tattoo – A Scottish Tradition with American Spirit - comes to your home Veteran’s Day - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 8pm.
WHRO and The Virginia Arts Festival have teamed up to bring you the 2014 Virginia International Tattoo, a new one-hour special airing on WHRO TV15 on November 11th. Each year, the Tattoo attracts international participation as eight nations gather and share their unique music, dance and culture.
A signature event of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, the 2014 Tattoo honors our Vietnam War veterans and their families. More than 30,000 people attended the show in April 2014, and now you can see all the wonder and spectacle from your home.
The Virginia International Tattoo is renowned for presenting the traditional sounds of the massed pipes and drums. This special feature also includes military bands, drill teams, veterans and their stories, singers and dancers – all to honor our nation’s heroes.
“This was one of the most exhilarating shows that I ever had the pleasure of watching,” said Edward Foulke, a first time attendee. “Words cannot do justice to the music selections, choreography, lighting, sound, and the overall presentation of the many talented people that put on the show. The pageantry was breath-taking."
Originally created in 1997, the Virginia International Tattoo thrills audiences each spring with an all-new show. More than a performance, the Tattoo is an experience, creating cheers, tears, and standing ovations among the tens of thousands of patrons who travel to Norfolk each year to see this amazing display of music and might.Visit the Site
Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. — Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA
By Shannon Bowman On November 11th – Veterans Day --- O’Connor Brewing Company will host a fundraiser to benefit Dogs on Deployment and honor all veterans. O’Connor Brewing Co. is located at 211 W. 24th Street in Norfolk. On this very special day to honor our veterans and the military community, this will be a great way to celebrate and enjoy a selection of cold local beers and have a great time that will help a local organization that assists local military in keeping their pets during deployments and temporary training. O’Connor Brewing Company regularly hosts fundraisers for local non-profit organizations. On Nov. 11th, from 4-8 p.m., 10 percent of proceeds from the brewery, and proceeds from the raffle will be donated to Dogs on Deployment: Norfolk Chapter. Dogs on Deployment, a national organization to assist all service members in any branch of the military, was founded in 2011 by a dual military couple who were faced with the problem of what to do with their pet when they were deployed at the same time. They founded Dogs on Deployment – a nonprofit organization that assists military members/families in finding temporary homes for their pets when they are deployed overseas or sent to military installations where they cannot take their pets. Pet grants to assist military members with medical treatment for their pets are also available through the organization. In just three years, Dogs on Deployment has grown to include local chapters across the U.S., including Hampton Roads. You are invited to bring your friendly dogs to participate in the event. Several vendors will be onsite including Pibble Nibbles Dog Treats; Southpaw Pet Services; and Happy at Home Professional Pet Care. Raffle prizes will include but not limited to: 2 One Life Fitness 3 Month Memberships; 1 week Daycare Pass at Wags Doggie Daycare; two different pet gift baskets; Redskins Mini-Helmet autographed by Ryan Kerrigan; 1 digital drawing of your pet. In addition to the raffle, O’Connor Brewing Company has activities including corn hole sets; shuffleboard; giant Jenga; and more!!!Visit the Site
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that the “Road to Veterans Day” initiative, announced on September 8th by Secretary Robert A. McDonald, has resulted in significant progress for Veterans over the past 3 months. During that time, VA has taken deliberate actions to improve service delivery for Veterans, rebuild trust, increase accountability and transparency and put the department on the path to long-term excellence and reform. “Over the past three months, we've been taking a hard look at ourselves, listening to Veterans, employees, Veterans organizations, unions, members of Congress, and our other partners. Their insights are shaping our work to chart the path for the future,” said McDonald, who has traveled extensively during his first few months in office, visiting 41 VA facilities in 21 cities while also making 11 recruiting visits to medical schools. “While more work remains, our dedicated employees are making progress to better serve Veterans.” To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson this summer. Through this initiative, VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside of VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units, and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization. Significant improvements have resulted nationally: Scheduling more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. In total, VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million Veteran appointments from June to October 1, 2014.
By Rachel McClain Dogs on Deployment Staff Writer Sometimes, people that stumble upon Dogs on Deployment are so grateful, that they can’t help but become volunteers and advocates for the mission. This is how DoD ended up with two wonderful volunteers, Megan Hibbs and Anthony Vega, an engaged couple who found themselves desperate to find temporary care for their Shepard/Lab mix, Milo. Anthony, serving in the Navy, had just been promoted to Chief Petty Officer (E7). His training meant very long days, sometimes up to 19 hours. Meanwhile, Megan was planning a move from their Virginia home to start school in Wisconsin, in the fall. Anthony and Megan had been together, practically since their first date, after being stationed together aboard the USS Frank in Guam, in 2007. Now that they were planning a brief time apart, they faced the challenge of finding someone to look after Milo. An online search yielded the answer to all their troubles: Dogs on Deployment. They hadn’t heard of the organization before, but decided to take a chance and they published Milo’s profile on the website. Megan said that she was floored by the outpouring of support they received when Milo’s profile quickly had over 1,800 shares on Facebook. Soon enough, they heard from a military family in the area and they set up a meeting at a local park with Mike and Jenna Turner. The meeting went perfectly. The Turner’s children fell in love with Milo, and Megan said she was happy to see that Milo would get extra exercise playing with the Turner’s other two dogs. A week later, Megan and Antony were dropping off Milo, happy they had found the perfect way to take care of Milo, but sad to see him go. A year later, Megan and Anthony are happily reunited, living together in Hampton, Virginia with Milo. Now, they are both volunteers with Dogs on Deployment. “We thought it was wonderful how many people reached out to us – the outpouring of support was amazing. We wanted to give back to the organization so we decided to become volunteers,” Megan said. She added that they also volunteer with a rescue organization and know all too well how many people aren’t aware that there is an alternative to losing their dogs when they are deployed and she wants to get the word out. Megan added, “We also love that military members have one less thing to worry about before, during, and after their deployment, and that they are able to come home to a pet who was loved and cared for while they were unable to. We also love meeting new people who have a similar passion and a love for animals, and most importantly, those who want to help our military members.” Find out more about Dogs on Deployment here or on Facebook. Original material may not be copied or reposted without permission from Dogs on Deployment.Visit the Site
Bryan Zawikowski of the Lucas Group In the last two years, some 135,000 U.S. troops have returned home from Iraq and another 35,000 are expected to return from Afghanistan by 2014. They join roughly 2.5 million Gulf War-era II veterans back in the United States as civilians. As we welcome home these professional and patriotic Americans, we should also welcome these talented men and women into the operational and managerial epicenters of American businesses. Their return is an opportunity for this country to employ proven talent that can lead an economic resurgence. Our veterans delivered distinguished service on a global stage. They overcame cultural, language, and political barriers in foreign lands around the world. Now, they seek an opportunity to apply those powerful skills to the pursuit of domestic business success. Based upon my 18 years of experience placing military veterans in civilian employment, I like their chances. More importantly, I love their potential for American businesses. Some companies—like GE, JPMorgan Chase, Coca-Cola, and FedEx—have already made a commitment to providing that opportunity. Additionally, the "VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011" provides notable tax credits for companies hiring military veterans. The private sector is responding. From small businesses to Fortune 100 giants, U.S. companies are now recognizing what I’ve known all along. U.S. military veterans have skills that many young professionals lack in today’s workforce. They bring intellect, cultural sensitivity, and respect for leadership. They have the fortitude and emotional intelligence to help the U.S. economy improve and thrive from an injection of talent, leadership, work ethic, and achievement. Like those from wars of years past, these returning veterans have literally pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and transition home with the business skills to drive operational and financial success. I understand. I, too, transitioned. And the path I took is one well-traveled. I received my B.S. in Chemistry from the U.S. Air Force Academy. After serving as an ICBM Operations and Standardization Evaluation Officer and earning my Masters in Aeronautical Sciences from Embry-Riddle University, I joined Lucas Group in 1994 as an Account Executive in the Military Transition Division. The firm was founded by a veteran in 1970 to help companies find top talent and help military veterans transition to the civilian workforce after honorably completing their military service. Our work continues today. I’ve personally placed more than 850 qualified military officers and NonCommissioned Officers (NCOs) among the many thousands placed by Lucas Group while working my way up the ranks to Vice President and General Manager of the Military Transition Division. Their success is my success. Their experience is my experience. There are countless instances of veterans flourishing in the business world. But after interviewing, placing, and following the careers of many, I can distill their collective talents into five important attributes:
14% of America's Veterans struggle with depression and the reasons for it are many. Some, like Nik Miller and Laurie Wood, battled with depression after debilitating injuries forced them to transition from the life they'd always known to a brand new way of doing things. The two veterans teamed up with Chuck Conley and Team River Runner where they learned the skills needed to become champion paddlers with a whole new outlook on life. For more information about the groups listed in this video: Team River Runner 123 Paddlehard Dr | Virginia Beach, VA 23455 Online Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley, Brandon Nance Camera: Eric Simon, Chip Johnson Editor: Brandon NanceVisit the Site
WHRO discusses the mission of Blankets for the Homeless, as they go out 4 nights a week delivering 50 blankets and more, to an ignored community. On any given night, the 501(c)(3) provides blankets, coats, hoodies, jeans, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, back packs, tents, tarps, toiletries, etc., & lunches to the homeless. For more information about the groups listed in this video: Blankets for the Homeless 123 Paddlehard Dr | Virginia Beach, VA 23455 757-434543 | Online Production Credits:
Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Brandon Nance Camera: Eric Simon, Brandon Nance Editor: Brandon NanceVisit the Site
When it comes to homeless programs, VA’s policy is “Housing First,” an evidence-based, low-barrier, supportive housing model that emphasizes permanent supportive housing to end homelessness. This Housing First approach contributed to a 33 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans between 2010 and 2014, as measured during annual point-in-time counts. This approach provides Veterans who are experiencing homelessness—particularly those who have been homeless for prolonged periods, and have mental health and/or addictive disorders—with permanent housing, as quickly as possible. There are no prerequisites for receiving housing, instead, permanent housing is provided as the initial service, followed by other services, such as healthcare and employment, based on the Veteran’s needs and preferences. For Veterans in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, the Housing First approach is often provided over a longer period of time to support community-based housing stability. In Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), the principles of Housing First are incorporated into the practice of rapid rehousing. Rapid rehousing is intended for shorter durations than HUD-VASH, but it still places a priority on moving a Veteran or Veteran family experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible. While originally aimed primarily at Veterans experiencing homelessness due to short-term financial crises, SSVF programs across the country have begun to assist single Veterans and families with limited or no income, survivors of domestic violence and those struggling with mental health conditions and addictions. Studies conducted inside and outside of VA have demonstrated that Housing First is both a clinically effective and fiscally efficient model of permanent supported housing that can be implemented successfully in all VA homeless programs. In 2010, 177 homeless Veterans entered a demonstration project comparing Housing First programs to treatment-first programs. The Housing First initiative successfully reduced waiting time from 223 to 35 days, housing retention rates were significantly higher among Housing First tenants, and emergency room use declined significantly among the Housing First cohort. Housing First works, because Veterans are more likely to achieve stability and improved quality of life when the risks, uncertainty and trauma associated with homelessness are removed. Posted with permission from VAntage Point. Vincent Kane, the former Director of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, oversaw various initiatives to promote research and data-driven solutions for Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. Through research, evaluation, dissemination science, and model development efforts, Kane and the team at the VA National Center on Homelessness among Veterans supports a comprehensive set of initiatives designed to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. These activities include collaborating on a research agenda that assesses the current portfolio of services offered to Veterans experiencing homelessness; developing and validating various practice models and program implementation strategies to prevent homelessness and maximize community engagement; and introducing evidence-based practices to VA.Visit the Site
Michael Crockett is one of thousands of servicemen and women who've been asked to leave the military due to downsizing and sequestration. Michael had hoped to dedicate 20 to 30 years of his life to serving his country, but like so many, his dream of retiring from military service will go unfulfilled. For more information about the groups listed in this video: Founding Law Partner 123 Paddlehard Dr | Virginia Beach, VA 23455 888-488-9316 | Online Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley Camera: Eric Simon, Neil Grochmal, Chip Johnson Editor: Brandon NanceVisit the Site
Ensign Hannah Taylor, from Norfolk, Va., serves aboard the USS Cole (DDG 67) currently on assignment in the Mediterranean Sea. Ensign Taylor is one of many who are deployed around the clock and ready to protect and defend America on the world's oceans. She reminds us of the critical mission of the Navy and “why being there matters.” Pictured with her crew, Ensign Taylor directs Sailors to heave away a star messenger line aboard USS Cole (DDG 67) during a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Kanawha (TAO 196) Dec. 14, 2014. Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, homeported in Norfolk, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. “Why being there matters.” On our planet, more than 70 percent of which is covered by water, being there means having the ability to act from the sea. The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there; the world's oceans give the Navy the power to protect America's interests anywhere, and at any time. Your Navy protects and defends America on the world's oceans. Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America's finest young men and women are deployed around the world doing just that. They are there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year. They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America at all times!Visit the Site
Sharaya Martin is one of thousands of veterans who has successfully transitioned from serving her country to serving her community as a volunteer. For so many veterans, the mission to improve the lives of others continues each and everyday through volunteering. For more information on the Samaritan House and domestic violence Samaritan House 2620 Southern Blvd. | Virginia Beach, VA 23452 757-430-2120 | Email | Online Military Connection Center 1016 Student Success Center | Norfolk, VA 23529 757-683-7113 | Email | Online Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley, Robert Pitman Camera: Neil Grochmal Editor: Robert PitmanVisit the Site
While serving his country in Saudi Arabia, Airman Dwayne Parker lost vision in his right eye. Like thousands of our servicemen and women wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dwayne returned home to a life filled with challenges. For Dwayne, frustration and depression soon followed. It wasn't until he got involved with Adaptive Sports that things started to turn around. Now he has his own non-profit to help other wounded warriors learn new skills and gear up for competition. For more information about the groups listed in this video: Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Online Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley, Eric Simon Camera: Eric Simon, Chip Johnson Editor: Eric SimonVisit the Site
Kendall Goodin's transformation from military service to college student had its challenges, but thanks to the Military Connection Center at Old Dominion University, Kendall was able to learn the ins and outs of college life. Kendall now helps other veterans as they transition from active duty to higher education. For more information on the ODU Military Connection Center Military Connection Center 1016 Student Success Center | Norfolk, VA 23529 757-683-7113 (office) | Email | Online Production Credits:
Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley Camera: Wayne Pellenberg Editor: Brandon NanceVisit the Site
Many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so, but some actions can be a sign that a Veteran needs help. Veterans in crisis may show behaviors that indicate a risk of harming themselves. Veterans who are considering suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness, such as:
Military families often have to move, and this transition can sometimes be difficult. Children, in particular, may experience feelings of anxiety or sadness. By expressing a positive attitude and asking your child to participate in the process, you can help her feel more at ease about the changes that may come with relocation.
Click here to read more in Bluegrass Today about how veteran Eddie Ridenour and his organization, Music for the FIGHT! helps other vets suffering from PTSD. NO MORE SUICIDES. Visit the Site
Richard Casper wanted to do something to assist other veterans as they transitioned from service to civilian life, so he founded Creativets. With the help of professional singer/songwriters, Richard uses music and arts as a means of therapy for veterans. Creativets allows veterans to travel to Nashville, as an example, where they share their war time experience with talented musicians, who help them tell their story through song. For more information on CreatiVets CreatiVets Email | Online Production Credits:
Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Eric Simon Camera: Eric Simon Editor: Eric SimonVisit the Site
Dan Hallock's journey took this veteran from drug abuse and homelessness to complete restoration. Dan attributes much of his turn around to his relationship with VetsHouse and Executive Director of the Virginia Beach Program, William "Smitty" Smith. For more information on Vets House P.O. Box 62963 | Virginia Beach, VA 23466 (757) 306-1000 | Email | Online Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley, Robert Pitman Camera: Chip Johnson, Eric Simon Editor: Robert PitmanVisit the Site
The IVMF Voices blog represents a forum for stakeholders in the veterans and military families’ community to share information, express opinions and engage with the ongoing, public dialogue focused on issues and challenges facing veterans in America. Click here to read more.Visit the Site
Denise Watson, staff writer from the Virginian-Pilot, tells the story of yoga instructor Ann Stevens who helps veterans with physical and psychological wounds find peace and comfort. For the full story and pictures, click here. Video and picture credit: Martin Smith-Rodden | The Virginian-PilotVisit the Site
April 22, 8pm ET / 7pm CT join the live #OVEE online screening event featuring the Academy Award nominated documentary LastDaysinVietnam. A special guest appearance by filmmaker Rory Kennedy kicks off a 50-minute preview of the PBS film, which airs on American Experience April 28, 9:00 pm. Chat with a live panel of veterans and Vietnamese Americans from the film that escaped hours before the fall of Saigon 40 years ago. RSVP for the event at http://bit.ly/LastDaysOVEE.Visit the Site
What do Walt Whitman, Mel Brooks, and Johnny Cash all have in common? All three served in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans have penned some of the greatest literary works in American history, brought us to tears of laughter, and produced timeless musical hits. This tradition of artistic excellence continues to this day–both in popular culture and in communities nationwide, including Hampton Roads. The William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement is a student-founded and led organization that provides community-creating, expressive arts programs at no cost to the veterans, services members, and military families of Virginia. The rationale for launching the organization was twofold. First, there are hundreds of thousands of veterans and service members in Hampton Roads, many of whom desire an outlet for expression, development, and community with fellow veterans and military families. Second, with 1% of the population serving in the most recent wars, the William & Mary student body expressed a desire to bridge the civilian-military divide and directly engage with those who sacrificed so much. With over 20 active student volunteers, and initiatives across writing, music, and comedy, the Center is making an impact both on campus and in the local area. Veterans Writing Project and Hampton Roads Veterans Writing Group Every few months, the Center hosts the Veterans Writing Project (VWP) at William & Mary. By the end of the immersive weekend-long seminars, vets, service members, and military families are given the tools and techniques necessary to write their unique military stories. Veterans are also encouraged to join the Hampton Roads Veterans Writing Group (HRVWG), the only writing group for veterans in Virginia. The HRVWG meets twice per month, and in each session, members respond to writing prompts, develop existing pieces, and receive feedback on their work. Between meetings, veterans publish their work on our blog, obtain digital critiques from group members, and deliver readings to the general public. Joe Bruni, a WWII veteran, discusses the importance of veterans’ writing. "Our stories must be told - we are part of our American History. We share our current writings for therapy, but also for emotional knowledge of what war influences and involves so that sacrifices are not in vain, and hopefully, to stop the need for wars." MusiCorps Through a partnership with Walter Reed-based MusiCorps, the Center offers one-on-one music lessons for veterans with combat-related psychological and physical challenges. This is the first initiative to ever partner college students with veterans interested in learning a musical instrument. Over the course of 12 weekly hour-long sessions, student instructors support aspiring vet musicians in learning songs of their choice. Vietnam veteran James Cornish describes his experience as a MusiCorps student. "It seems like just yesterday my helicopter was shot down by enemy gunfire and my co-pilot was killed. I relive it just about every day and suffer greatly with chronic PTSD. My instructor with MusiCorps knows that I am a war veteran and is very considerate in our progress. Man, what a difference it makes when someone has your best interest at hand." Comedy Bootcamp Founded by the William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement, Comedy Bootcamp is the first-ever comedy writing and performing class for veterans. Veteran comics develop and refine their skills throughout eight weekly lessons, during which they receive advice from professional comedy instructors and their fellow classmates. Upon completion of the course, all participating veterans are encouraged to perform a five-minute stand-up set to a live audience. Five weeks into Comedy Bootcamp, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran explains how the program has benefitted her personal life: “My husband keeps saying that I’m so much more pleasant to be around since I started taking the class!” Getting Involved Those interested in becoming involved with the William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement, whether as a veteran participants, volunteers, or donors, are encouraged to contact the organization’s president, Sam Pressler (email@example.com). The Center is growing rapidly and continues to seek out new members for its writing group, musicians for its MusiCorps program, comics for future Comedy Bootcamp classes, and funds to sustain and expand its impact.Visit the Site
May 29, 2015 In a pilot program, the law school's Puller Clinic will host claim consultations, community discussions and topical presentations at local Starbucks. The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School will begin a partnership in June with Starbucks to aid veterans and service members with their benefits claims process and promote community collaboration. The program, “Military Mondays,” will be piloted in coordination with Starbuck’s Armed Forces Network and launched in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia – home to more than half-a-dozen active military bases, upwards of 100,000 active-duty and reserve personnel and thousands of veterans. Services will begin June 29 at the McLaws Circle Starbucks in Williamsburg, Virginia from 1 to 5 p.m. The program will be free to participants. “Military Mondays” will help address the challenges veterans and service members face in the disability claims process, and provide a place for veterans, service members and their families to find community, conversation and information. “The partnership is a natural fit given the Puller Clinic’s dedication to serving those who served, and Starbucks’ express commitment to our men and women in uniform, veterans and their families,” said Professor Patty Roberts, director of the Puller Clinic. “These gatherings have the potential to aid reintegration for those who served, and increase the understanding among civilians of the sacrifices being made by our men and women who bravely serve our country. “ “Military Mondays” will provide veterans with access to pro bono legal advice and counsel regarding veterans venefits from Puller Clinic faculty and students and access to Starbuck’s already developed military community. During any given month, representatives from the Puller Clinic will offer “Claims over Coffee” advice and counsel on two of the Mondays, “For Love of Country Community Conversations” with topical presentations aimed at veterans, service members and their families will be held on the other two Mondays. The Starbucks franchise will provide space and promotion for the events. “Claims over Coffee” will be by appointment at 757-221-7443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those without appointments will be helped as availability allows. A monthly schedule will be available in local Starbucks stores and on the Puller Clinic website.AFN logo The Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN) is part of a company-sponsored program to support Starbucks partners (employees). Unique Turner, president of the Southeast Chapter, noted that AFN’s mission is to support Starbucks military partners, support transitioning military and military families, and create a veteran friendly workplace. The company’s website notes these networks allow partners to connect across issues of common interest and celebrate special achievements. “At Starbucks, we respect and honor our Partners who are veterans and military spouses for their leadership, sacrifice and demonstrated level of commitment to their country,” Turner said. In 2013, Starbucks launched a nationwide initiative to support the military community with a commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2018 and provide support to the communities where those veterans live and work. William & Mary’s Puller Clinic was established in 2008 and provides free legal representation to injured veterans seeking disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans receive pro bono assistance that often includes evaluation and diagnosis by psychological and other medical professionals, and factual and legal investigation and analysis, Roberts said. “This holistic approach results in a comprehensive claims package, fully supported by both factual and medical evidence, and all at no cost to the veteran,” Roberts added. Earlier this year, the Clinic received $245,000 from the Commonwealth of Virginia in its annual budget. The funding will support two and a half staff positions that will enable the Puller Clinic to increase the number of veterans that it can assist. For the Puller Clinic, “Military Mondays” continues a tradition of local and national outreach. The clinic is at the forefront of an effort to encourage law schools nationwide to provide programs focused on serving veterans and service members, Roberts noted, and also works with law firms that want to create pro bono initiatives to help veterans. While the “Military Mondays” pilot initiative will launch in Hampton Roads, both partners hope to expand the program nationwide. “Starbucks is already a demonstrated leader among corporations in their steadfast commitment to our service members and veterans. This is yet one more example of Starbucks’ initiative in embracing creative problem solving to meet the challenges of the public sector with private support. We are grateful to have Starbucks as a partner and eager to incorporate lessons learned during the pilot to plan the next phase of the program,” said Roberts. Click here for more information| Visit the Site
VA begins a new nationwide initiative to increase the number of people and organizations serving Veterans in their communities. It’s called “Summer of Service” and we are asking citizens across the country to join us in serving our nation’s Veterans. “We have made progress over the past year addressing the challenges we face in delivering care and benefits to millions of Veterans and their families,” said Secretary Bob McDonald. “While there is more work to do to honor our sacred commitment to Veterans, we also recognize that VA cannot do it alone. We are asking Americans everywhere to join the Summer of Service and help us give back to those who have given so much to our nation.”Visit the Site
Memorial Day is an opportunity for Americans to remember those who have lost their lives in defense of our country and to offer support to grieving family and loved ones. In 2014, Don Buska, a WWII Veteran and hospice patient from Montana had the chance to travel to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight. He made the journey with his son, visiting the memorials built to honor the sacrifices that he and so many others have made for this nation. During his trip, which was chronicled on video, Buska was able to reflect and remember those he served with who were lost in battle. This journey, made possible by Honor Flight and the hospice that cared for Buska, meant the world to him; just hours after he returned home to Montana, Buska died at the age of 86 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Story and video by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end-of-life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones.Visit the Site
"My personal experience was that I used writing to find the road home when medication, talk therapy, and large amounts of whiskey weren't working. And so I formed the Veterans Writing Project. We give no-cost writing workshops and seminars to veterans, to service members, and to their adult family members because we really want the family members in that circle as well. I've got a little sign up in my office that says, 'Either you control the memory, or the memory controls you,' and I felt like writing was what allowed me to control that memory." More of Ron Capps' story. The Veterans Writing Project, Hampton Roads Veterans Writing Group, and Chrysler Museum of Art are partnering to put on a special D-Day veterans reading event. The reading will take place on Saturday, June 6th at 3:00PM at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, and will feature the work of Ron Capps, founder of the Veterans Writing Project and author of Seriously Not All Right, as well local veterans from the Hampton Roads Veterans Writing Group. We encourage you to come out to the museum, listen to powerful stories from vets of all generations and support the talented veteran artists of Hampton Roads. Admission to the event is free, though donations to the William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement will be accepted both before and after the reading. To reserve tickets, please click here. For more information on Veterans Writing Project (VWP), click here. To connect with the local VWP, click here.Visit the Site
The 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games will feature eight sporting events with approximately 250 athletes representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces. Launched in 2010, the 2015 Warrior Games promote the resiliency and warrior spirit of our wounded, ill, and injured service members, veterans, caregivers, and families. For more information on the 2015 Warrior Games, click here. Click here for the results of the 2015 Games.Visit the Site
Military Times recently updated their new rankings for great places for veterans to live. While in the military, service men and women typically do not have a choice for where they call home. As they leave the military, many remain close to their last assignment and some even relocate back to an earlier station. Per the Military Times, the "first-ever Best for Vets: Places to Live feature, we considered the sorts of military- and veteran-specific culture and services that can lead city vet populations to swell into six figures, as well as economics and livability factors, such as traffic and crime." Click here for the full story and rankings.Visit the Site
Alan Oates was exposed to herbicides, such as Agent Orange, while serving in Vietnam in 1968. Decades after returning home, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and because Congress passed the Agent Orange Act, he's able to receive VA benefits. To understand the predicament of World War II veterans exposed to mustard gas, take a look at what happened to another set of American veterans who were exposed to a different toxic chemical. Last month, NPR reported that some of those World War II vets are still fighting for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs because the agency says they don't have enough proof to substantiate their claims. Alan Oates says that's the same response Vietnam War veterans started receiving from the VA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Click here for more.Visit the Site
Every veteran has a story Writing is therapeutic. It has been used to address an array of issues such as anxiety, depression, anger and trauma and even PTSD. At Veterans Writing Project, their mission is to help veterans, active and reserve service members, and military family members capture their story to help the healing. Experienced writers lead workshops asking questions such as, “Why do we write?” and “What’s different about writing the military experience?” These workshops help veterans tell their stories in an environment of mutual trust and respect. Below is a piece from Veterans Writing Projects online literary journal, 0-Dark-Thirty.
KOKOPO, Papua New Guinea (July 8, 2015) Hospital Corpsman Brandon Butler, from Chesapeake, Virginia, plays soccer with students from the Kokopo Secondary School. The soccer game was part of a community outreach event during Pacific Partnership 2015. The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is in Papua New Guinea for its second mission port of PP15. Pacific Partnership is in its tenth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. Additionally, PP15 has provided critical infrastructure development to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.Visit the Site
By India Pougher Saturday night I heard the unmistakable “pop, pop” of fireworks ring through my neighborhood, a full week before the Fourth of July. It has become almost commonplace for people to shoot off fireworks in the days leading up to the holiday, but it can hold more impact than just a surprise show. On the heels of PTSD awareness month and as the Fourth of July approaches, American combat veterans are calling for courtesy from neighbors using fireworks, as the sound can trigger emotional reactions for combat veterans with PTSD. Hampton Roads residents, in particular, should be sensitive to this issue, as our heavy military presence often means you may have several veteran neighbors. WHRO’s award-winning video series, “Veterans Coming Home,” highlighted the struggle of Chuck Rotenberry, a local military veteran who experienced severe PTSD upon his return home from combat, with loud noises such as fireworks or the sound of a popping balloon evoking particularly painful memories. “They go through a lot, and so you just hope that others can understand that invisible wounds are just as serious,” Rotenberry’s wife says in the video. One solution that has cropped up in front yards and on social media is using signs that read “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” However, many people suggest another solution may be to open a dialog with your neighbors about the issue to ensure that you are being considerate. If you plan to enjoy a backyard fireworks display this year, be courteous toward your veteran neighbors by planning it for the Fourth of July rather than in the days leading up to the holiday. It is the random, unexpected firework explosions that are often the most concerning to combat veterans with PTSD as they can cause symptoms from jumpiness to severe flashbacks. Non-profit organizations like Military with PTSD are offering an opportunity for you to help by donating $10 to go toward the purchase of two signs to be distributed to veterans. As we head into this weekend, it is important to take some time to get to know your neighbors and their concerns about this issue so that everyone can have a pleasant holiday.
The Department of Defense wants military personnel to make healthier choices. To address this, they have launched Operation Live Well (OLW), a program which offers resources to “make the healthy choice become the easy choice.” One area of focus is tobacco-free living as statistics show service members smoke at a higher rate than civilians. To promote this OLW has teamed up with FDA’s The Real Cost campaign. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, contributing to more than 480,000 deaths each year. According to the 2011 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel, service members smoke at a higher rate (24 percent) than their civilian counterparts (18 percent) and service members who identify as heavy smokers often began smoking at 14 years old or younger “We are thrilled about this collaboration with the FDA to help us educate our service members about the monetary and health costs associated with tobacco use,” said Public Health Service Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, program manager for the DHA’s population health program. “This joint effort is a direct result of our participation in the National Prevention Strategy Council, a coalition of 20 federal departments, agencies, and offices.” Click here for the full story from Health.Mil, the official website of the military health system and the Defense Health Agency.Visit the Site
BUENAVENTURA, Colombia (July 16, 2015) Cmdr. Brian King, a native of Norfolk, Va., assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., examines a patient at a medical site established at Coliseo Del Centro during Continuing Promise 2015. Continuing Promise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean. For more information on Continuing Promise, click here. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brittney Cannady/Released)Visit the Site
Out of 32,000 U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members nationwide, Mr. R. Anderson Braswell of Smithfield Flotilla 5-9 received honorable mention as a 2014 National Auxiliarist of the Year (AOY) – one of the highest commendations an auxiliarist can earn for exemplary performance. Rear Admiral Paul F. Thomas announced Braswell’s award along with fellow honorable mention Karen Chapman of Flagstaff, AZ and winner Jacob Thayer of Austin, TX on July 17, 2015. The award parallels the spirit and purpose of the Coast Guard Civilian Employee of the Year (CEOY) and Coast Guard Enlisted Person of the Year (EPOY) award programs to promote, recognize, and reward new member retention and participation in the Auxiliary. Braswell is the 2015 District 5 Southern Region’s Staff Officer for Communication Services (DSO-CS), overseeing the Auxiliary’s online presence throughout Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. He is also an active member of Smithfield Flotilla 5-9, and holds multiple qualifications including Coxswain, Instructor and Vessel Examiner. Last year, Braswell volunteered over 1,200 hours of service to the Coast Guard including more than 100 hours of on-the-water operations. The award also recognizes Braswell for partnering with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to reestablish Smithfield’s local boater safety public education program. In August 2014 he led his crew of Smithfield Auxiliarists to a first-place overall finish at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic District Search and Rescue competition (DSAR) held annually at the Coast Guard’s Yorktown Training Center. Braswell’s efforts to establish Smithfield Flotilla 5-9’s strong web and social media presence, which has garnered national and international recognition for both the Flotilla and the Coast Guard Auxiliary, were also cited in Braswell’s award. Only three auxiliarists are selected for national AOY awards each year. For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and Smithfield’s Flotilla 5-9 visit www.aux59.org.Visit the Site
The Mighty Pen Project The Mighty Pen Project is a new and exciting initiative of the Virginia War Memorial in partnership with Richmond-based bestselling author and teacher, David L. Robbins. In addition to classes being offered this fall in Richmond, the project partnered with the Armed Services Arts Partnership to offer classes in Williamsburg on the campus of the College of William and Mary. The Project will provide writing instruction to veterans for a ten-week seminar called “Words of War.” The class is open to all Virginia veterans at no cost, and will focus on furthering the craft of writing about the experiences of war, the warrior’s life, the home front and the military family. Participants must have access to a computer, printer and an email address to complete homework assignments. Additionally, participants must be able to commit to the 10-week session. Dr. David Coogan, an Associate Professor from Virginia Commonwealth University will be teaching the class in Richmond, and Professor Dr. M. Lee Alexander from the College of William and Mary teaching in Williamsburg. Both of these professionals look forward to meeting the new class participants. Click here to register. Online application due date – Wednesday, August 12, 2015 Participants that are accepted will be notified Tuesday, August 25, 2015.Visit the Site
The first two women to graduate from the Army's elite and grueling 62-day Ranger School said Thursday they were motivated to prove naysayers wrong and also break open the hatch for future generations of women. Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, a military police platoon leader, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, an Apache attack helicopter pilot, spoke for the first time since completing their training at Fort Benning, Ga., a day before they graduate and receive their Ranger tabs. Both women were asked if they had ever thought about quitting. Griest responded she had some low points, especially training in the swamps in Florida. "But I never actually thought anything was going to be too difficult that it was worth leaving the course," she said. Haver, though, was not as confident. "Seriously considering quitting throughout the course? I think I would be crazy to say if I didn't," Haver said. "But the ability to look around to my peers and to see they were sucking just as bad as I was, kept me going." Griest and Haver have been called pioneers and trailblazers. They entered the Ranger School with 17 other women, but they were the only two to complete the training. Griest says she "felt internal pressure" to make it through to the end. Even after times when they were "recycled" — sent back to start a leg of training over with the next class of trainees. "I was thinking really of future generations of women that I would like them to have that opportunity so I had that pressure on myself," Griest said. "And not letting people down that I knew believed in me, people that were supporting me." The two women appeared at the press conference, just as they had throughout their training, with their male Ranger School classmates. Some of the men admitted they were skeptical of the women at first but were won over throughout the demanding training. Some shared stores about how Haver and Griest offered to help carry heavy loads when male soldiers were "too broken" to help. Soon their gender didn't seem to matter. "When we were given resupply and you're given 2,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, the last thing you're caring about is whether or not your Ranger buddy is a man or a woman. Because you're not carrying all 2,000 rounds yourself," said 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski. At one point, Haver admitted she came to the Ranger School with her "guard up," wary of how the men would receive them. "I think the battles that we won were individual. And the fact that at each event we succeeded in, we kind of were winning hearts and minds as we went. But that was more important to us, becoming teammates with our Ranger buddies that we're graduating with tomorrow," Haver said. Though Haver and Griest have completed Ranger School, they are still not eligible to take part in front-line combat. That could change in the near future. As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, a decision on whether to change that policy could come in the fall.Visit the Site
As civilians, many of us only learn about PTSD through what we read and hear in the media. From these occasional stories, we know that many veterans struggle with the demons of this disease, but I now know that most of us will never comprehend the immense challenges that many vets with PTSD face every single day. Recently I had the honor of spending time with Mr. Carlston Jackson, a soft spoken Vietnam War veteran whose stature still projects military. After a quick exchange in which I was told: “You can call me Ray,” we sat down to chat about his experiences. In thoughtfully chosen words mingled with resurfacing emotions, Ray shared his story. Ray was a corporal in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, also known as the "Sky Soldiers,” in Vietnam, in 1970. As often is the case for vets, Ray’s disability determination was an entirely different sort of battle; one that took nearly 30 years before the VA scheduled a hearing. Even though his VA appointed advocate did not arrive, he signed an affidavit and in quiet words told his story about his life with PTSD. At the end, a VA representative hugged him and said, “I am so sorry.” In Ray’s words, combat veterans live in two worlds, the world in their head and the everyday world that most of us would find familiar. On any given day he can find himself back in what he calls “the zone.” For Ray, just seeing a specific type of tree or hearing another vet’s story can trigger a memory or feeling and at once, he’s back in Vietnam. The “zone” follows him everywhere, even his home, affecting his interactions and he doesn’t even realize it. What Ray assumes are casual conversations may elicit a defensive response; he is unaware that he is communicating as if was in combat. He is in the zone. Ray says he is blessed. He is married and his wife has found support from spousal groups who share her dilemma. Though it has brought up hard memories of difficult times, she understands her husband’s behavior is unintentional and has learned to deal with it. Ray explains that his wife and family are his thermometer, he can gauge his progress through them. One day he asked how he was doing and his wife told him that she felt as if he was going to blow up. Surprised and concerned, it took Ray a while to find the courage to ask why she thought this. She responded: because you are trying to do it all by yourself. On the day we spoke Ray became overwhelmed with emotion. Such visual dissonance to see this strong man, who’s humble smile flashes across his face when he speaks, struggle to hold back tears. Ray is in counseling now, which helps him cope. Though his PTSD accompanies him every day, he feels he and other Vietnam War vets are giving back by “walking point.” In combat, a soldier walks point, taking the lead position where he is exposed and vulnerable. His job is to look out for the troop and help new recruits learn by showing them how to look for snipers, booby traps, etc…. Now, Vietnam Vets like Ray are walking point for those coming home from other wars. When we finished talking, I asked Ray if I could take his picture for the article. As he posed, he smiled for the camera and said, “I want to show them happiness, to let them know everything will be alright.” By Nancy Rogan Director of Community Engagement email@example.comVisit the Site
By Catherine Trombley U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Monday, August 3, 2015 In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam. Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim. I've never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change. After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability. When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986. “I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.” In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting. “The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill. “This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.” If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation. If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:
Donnie Dunagan had a secret he kept from his fellow Marines, and initially from his wife when they were dating. Mr. Dunagan was not a just a rugged Marine Major, he was the voice of Disney's beloved Bambi as a child actor. Why did he keep it a secret? As a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, he felt it did not fit the image of a hard-driving commander in a Marine boot camp. Listen to Mr. and Mrs. Dunagan chat about being both Bambi and a Marine. It will make you smile. Photos courtesy of the Dunagan's
At the Veterans Writing Project we believe that every veteran has a story. But we know that some of us need a little help telling that story. So we provide no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their adult family members. We’re also building an archive of writing by members of the military community. We publish a quarterly literary review and an ongoing scroll of writing by our friends on our sister site, O-Dark-Thirty. O-Dark-Thirty is the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project. Launched in May of 2012, it is a platform and hub for writing among veterans and members of the military community.
WHRO invites you to join us October 24, 2015 for a FREE Veterans Town Hall screening of six short videos from our Veterans Coming Home Award Winning Series. Come join us as we o share local veterans’ personal stories of obstacles and triumph to offer inspiration to fellow vets and help the community understand their experiences. The screening will be taped live and aired on WHRO TV 15 in Fall of 2015.
Erik Booker is a seventh-grade teacher in Sumter, S.C. He also happens to be an Army veteran who served in Iraq — just like the father of one of his students last year, Jenna Power. Listen here. So, when Jenna and Erik visited with StoryCorps, Jenna wanted to know more about his experiences — including the most difficult thing he experienced there. "Being separated from my family for that long — you can't even begin to explain that to someone who hasn't experienced something like that," Erik answers. "Were you ever afraid when your dad was deployed?" "Oh yeah," Jenna says. "I was pretty young but I had nightmares about it. And when he missed my birthday, that just — it got me." As an intelligence officer in the Army, Erik was trained in reading body language and, he says, "understand[ing] when people are maybe not telling me the whole truth" — a skill he finds quite useful as a teacher, in a classroom full of middle-schoolers. As for why he decided to become a teacher? "Because I wanted to continue to serve," Erik says — but still, it was a difficult adjustment at first. "I remember walking into the first school dance with flashing lights, loud music, and I found myself flashing right back," he tells Jenna. "It was almost too much for me." Erik tried not to let on to his students that he was a veteran, purposely leaving that fact unmentioned. But Jenna says she could tell right away. "My dad does things a certain way, and you had the same mannerisms and stuff like that — you know, even the way you walked," she says. "It was really weird." Erik recognized something in Jenna, too. He says she was never satisfied with his instructions, or the answers he would give the class. "You always said, 'But wait?' That was my favorite phrase from you: 'But wait?' I want you to ask those questions. Why is it that way? Why do we do things that way?" Erik says. "And to me that's what sets people apart, is that desire to know more — and you do that." "Well, you definitely made a difference in me," Jenna tells him. "So, thank you." Erik, hearing this, has one more word of advice for Jenna: "I am about to cry," he tells her. "That's OK. Real men cry." Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall & Von Diaz. StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
Jeff Anthony is a retired Army Aviator living in Williamsburg, VA. In early October 1965 a small contingent of us from Hampton Roads boarded a bus for Richmond. Most just out of high school, we were on our way to meet a train bound for basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Our ultimate destination: flight training at Fort Wolters, Texas. For many on that bus, there would be no similar trip home. This was not a good time for joining the Army and an even worse time to be a helicopter pilot. Even forty years later, remembering those days is at once sad and comforting. And, each Veterans Day and Memorial Day, I can't help but think about one of those young men. I met Harold Ketner, Jr. (“Buddy”) that day in October when we all boarded the bus to begin our trip to "the Army." He was very shy and very calm, and we made fast friends as exact opposites often do. We had already endured the seemingly endless battery of physical and mental exams, already enlisted, and were now on our way to become teenage helicopter pilots. Back then, a high school diploma, 20/20 vision and the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time gave you a pretty good shot at being accepted to flight school. The next few months together were nothing short of gloriously hysterical. Neither Buddy nor I were what you might call "worldly." When confronted with enormous pressure from a screaming Sergeant and a restroom crowded with extended lines of recruits from all over Virginia, our choice to use the sinks as urinals made complete sense. The idea was an immediate hit with the other recruits, and we all made it to the train on time. The Sergeants were less impressed. To show us just how unimpressed they were, we were all required to memorize our brand-new serial numbers by the time we arrived in South Carolina. Over and over and over and over. Do you know how many times you can repeat something in a couple of hours? Over the next year, Buddy and I spent a lot of time together, laughing, marveling how just how goofy life could be and, on occasion, thinking. We carried sticks around in the dark and bitter cold nights at Ft. Jackson, performing the ritual duties of "fire guard." We drank coffee every morning (both for the first time) just to be accepted by the other soldiers, but always washed it down with at least two glasses of milk. We would mindlessly burn rubber in a friend's "65 Chevelle" until the lights in the barracks came on, then park and sneak back to our rooms. We could never figure out why our flight school comrades got so worked up when the school cadre (whose only mission in life was to make yours miserable) would toss our freshly starched uniforms out the window during wall locker inspection. Buddy and I always thought it was so cool. It was part of the game we actually enjoyed. I guess we were either too young or too stupid to know better. I suspect the latter. Time off for us was an odd mix of activities. A couple of hours spent sitting in the dirt at a drive-in movie in Dothan, Ala., telling lies about our experiences with girls. Drinking far too many Bloody Marys (our first exposure) and nearly missing our Christmas leave flight home. Conjuring up images of what our lives would be like after we finally graduated from flight school. And, as tight as Buddy and I had become, he had no trouble making room for Sandy DeBlasio, my fiancé. In fact, Buddy would be best man at our wedding in September 1966, just before leaving for Vietnam. It would be the last time we saw him. In March 1967, Harold Ketner, Jr. died in the crash of his UH-1 "Huey" helicopter after completing a routine refueling stop. His graveside service was conducted at the Hampton National Cemetery (where his dad would be laid to rest years later). At his closed-casket funeral, and knowing I had orders for Vietnam, Buddy's Mom came to me and begged me, "please don't go there." Like all of us present that day, she knew that the price of this thing we called "duty" had just gone up. Writing about Buddy is particularly tough at this time of year, because it was during the spring and summer months that our friendship became rock-solid. It was then that we experienced so many firsts together. It was then that our dreams about the future started looking like they had a chance of coming true. Fond thoughts of Buddy will always be a part of me, his memory held close forever. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day, I encourage you to stop by the Hampton National Cemetery. If you have avoided going in because you don't know anyone there, I guess you can't say that anymore....Visit the Site
What makes an employer a top veteran employer? Depending on who you ask and what factors you use, you'll get a bunch of different answers. Below is one list, the "35 Most Valuable Employers for Military," compiled by Civilian Job News. They took a look at a variety of companies both large and small in multiple industries. Included with each listing below are links to more information about veteran hiring, as well as current Monster.com job postings for those companies (where available). Another method is to check out companies that are interested in hiring you like those found on Military.com's Veteran Employer Profiles. This list of more than 30 companies isn’t just raw data: each listing will help guide veterans toward securing career and not just a job with a given company. Whatever you choose, we've compiled Civilian Job News' original list for you below. If you've had experiences with these companies, how would you rate them? Are they deserving of being included in this top-35 list? Or are there other companies you've worked with who you think should be included? Sound off below. Amazon: Retailers of books, media, electronics and everything in between. (www.amazon.com, www.linkedin.com/in/militarytalent, www.twitter.com/militarytalent) Current Amazon job postings The Exchange: The Army & Air Force Exchange Service. Been on a base? No explanation needed. (www.shopmyexchange.com/AboutExchange/Careers/careerinfo.htm) BNSF Railway: Operates more than 1000 trains a day on one of the largest freight rail transportation networks in North America. (www.bnsf.com/careers/military) CACI International Inc: Provides professional services and IT solutions needed to prevail in the areas of defense, intelligence, homeland security, and IT modernization and government transformation. (www.caci.com/careers.shtml) Current CACI job postings Capstone Corporation: Customizes the delivery of services and solutions for military and civil operations, enterprise technical requirements and organization and mission support services. (www.capstonecorp.com/) Current Captone job openings CenterPoint Energy: Operates in electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, interstate natural gas pipelines, field services, and competitive natural gas sales and services. (www.centerpointenergy.com/careers) Chesapeake Energy Corporation: Focuses on discovering, acquiring and developing conventional and unconventional natural gas and oil fields onshore in the U.S. (www.chk.com/Careers/Pages/Default.aspx) Cintas: Designs, manufactures and implements corporate identity, uniform programs, and also provides promotional and first aid-safety materials to more than 800,000 businesses. (www.cintas.com/hr/military.asp) Current Cintas job postings Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC): Independent, nonprofit, applied scientific research and development professional services organization provides innovative management and technology-based solutions. (www.ctc.com) Current CTC job postings CSX Transportation: Operates transportation network of about 21,000 route miles of track in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. (www.csx.com -- Also use 888 884 9417, a dedicated number for military.) DaVita, Inc.: Delivers dialysis services in more than 1,500 outpatient clinics. (careers.davita.com) Current DaVita job postings Dollar General: The nation's largest small-box discount retailer, with 9,200 stores in 35 states and nine distribution centers, representing 87,904 employees. (www.dollargeneral.com/Careers) Current Dollar General job postings Fluor Corporation: Fortune 500 company delivers engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance (EPCM), and project management to governments and clients in diverse industries around the world. (www.Fluor.com/careers, www.Fluor.com/military and www.WorkatFluor.com) Current Fluor job postings G4S Secure Solutions (USA): Leading international security solutions group has more than 50,000 employees across the United States and Canada. (www.g4s.com/en/Careers) Current G4S job postings General Electric: Employs more than 10,000 U.S. veterans, and one in 14 GE employees is a veteran. (www.ge.com/military and www.twitter.com/@gehiresheroes) Current GE job postings Halfaker and Associates, LLC: Specializes in information technology, organization and strategy, intelligence and operations, and supply and logistics. (www.halfaker.com/careers.htm) ManTech International Corporation: Provides technologies and solutions for mission-critical national security programs. (www.mantech.com/careers) Current ManTech job postings Navy Federal Credit Union: Armed forces bank serves the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Veterans, and DOD. (www.navyfederal.org) Northrop Grumman: Global security company provides innovative systems, products and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide. (careers.northropgrumman.com) Current Northrop Grumman job postings Paychex, Inc.: provides outsourcing services payroll processing, retirement services, insurance, and human resources. (www.paychex.com) Current Paychex job postings Progressive Insurance Company: Auto insurance provider. (www.progressive.com) Current Progressive Insurance job postings Puget Sound Energy: A regulated utility, providing electric and natural gas service to the Puget Sound region. (www.pse.com/aboutpse/careers/Pages/default.aspx) SAYtr: For officers or senior NCOs who have a background/interest in civil engineering, facilities management, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Force Realignment and Beddown, and similar transitional leadership type work. (www.saytr.com/SAYtr/careers.html) Schlumberger: Oilfield services company supplying technology, information solutions and integrated project management that optimize reservoir performance for customers working in the oil and gas industry. (careers.slb.com) Current Schlumberger job postings Schneider National, Inc.: Specializes in truck driving jobs, and maintenance, warehouse, and office careers. (www.schneiderjobs.com) Current Schneider job postings Sears Holdings Corporation: The merger of Kmart and Sears has resulted in this company, which manages both stores. (www.searsholdings.com/careers) Southern Company: Electricity providers service both regulated and competitive markets across the southeastern United Statess. (www.southerncompany.com/careerinfo/home.aspx) Sprint: High-profile wireline and wireless service provider.(careers.sprint.com) Current Sprint job postings Transocean: Handles offshore drilling, from world water-depth and well-depth drilling records to facilitating revolutionary subsea completions. (www.deepwater.com/fw/main/Career-Center-222.html) Current Transocean job postings United Rentals, Inc.: Equipment rental company has an integrated network of more than 550 rental locations in 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces (www.ur.com/index.php/careers) Current United Rental job postings University of Phoenix: Provides local and long-distance education options. (www.phoenix.edu/about_us/employment.html) Current University of Phoenix job postings URS, Federal Services: Engineering, construction and technical services organization. (www.urscorp.com/Careers) Current URS job postings USAA: Provider of insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. (www.usaa.apply2jobs.com/profext/careers.html) Verizon Communications Inc.: Wireless communications, IP networks, and information and entertainment provider. (www22.verizon.com/jobs/) Current Verizon job postingsS Waste Management, Inc.: Partners with customers and communities to manage and reduce waste from collection to disposal while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy. (www.wm.com/careers/index.jsp) Current Waste Management, Inc. job postingsVisit the Site
October 13, 1775 the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution the led to the start of the United States Navy, then called the Continental Navy. Though disbanded after the American Revolutionary War, pirate threats rising in the Mediterranean led to action by President John Adams and the the Naval Act of 1794 was passed. This was the start of today's U.S. Navy, which at that time had just 6 commissioned frigates. After several significant wars, including the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War in 1846, and combatting piracy in both the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas, the U.S. Navy, though called the Union Navy, joined in the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the Navy had 6,000 men. Today there are over 300,000 men, 271 ships, and 3,700 operational aircraft. Today the Navy historically celebrates its birthday as many of us do, with a cake. However, there are some differences. Their cake is typically cut with a sword as a reminder that they "are a band of warriors, committed to carrying arms so that our nation may live in peace." The first piece of cake is presented to a guest of honor and, by tradition; the second piece is presented to the oldest sailor present, signifying the honor and respect accorded to experience and seniority. Navy, you’ve come a long way and we salute you.Visit the Site
As the youngest in his family, Barry Romo grew up with nephews his age. In fact, one of them, Robert Romo, was just a month younger than him. Barry says that he and Robert were raised like brothers. Both of them served in the Army during the Vietnam War. But only one of them made it home. "I enlisted in the Army, to go to Vietnam, that was my intention. And he didn't want to go in the military but he got drafted anyway," Barry recalls on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "They sent him to Vietnam, and he ended up being in my brigade." Eventually Barry made the rank of first lieutenant — and Robert, as a private first class, begged his uncle to get him out of the field. Barry says he couldn't help. One day, on a return from patrol, Barry says, he got the news: "They told me, 'Your nephew Robert has been killed. He was running to save a friend of his who had been wounded in battle, and he was shot in the throat.' " Because enemy fire was so intense, Barry says, the body couldn't be retrieved for 48 hours — during which time it had to sit out in the sun. A staff sergeant told Barry, "Why don't we seal it permanently? That way your family, they'd remember him as he looked like when he graduated from high school." "Which had been only seven months before," Barry says. He was then told to escort Robert's body home. "I had white gloves on, and a uniform with my medals, but I felt dirty," Barry says. "You know, I thought I was gonna die in Vietnam. But I didn't have to go back there. I had my ticket punched by my nephew's blood." After escorting his nephew's body home, Barry Romo was assigned to a post in the U.S. He couldn't get his nephew out of Vietnam, Barry says, but his nephew got him out of Vietnam. "And I felt that I failed him, I failed my family," Barry says. "I still feel guilty to this day." Produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall. StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.Visit the Site
The Army and Army Reserve can claim the most US presidents – 15. And then way back to State Militias for nine presidents. Six Navy and Navy Reserve Veterans have served as president and then way back again for two from the Continental Army. There were eight future presidents in uniform in World War II and seven in the Civil War. Here’s a tougher-than-usual quiz about some of our presidents who were Veterans. The answers are below along with a link to a White House website with a lot of history about all the presidents.
Get ready Detroit, this July 10th to 14th you are about to be flooded with energetic, enthusiastic, athletes. Why is this unique? They are all senior veterans, age group 55 to 100, competing in games from cycling and basketball to shuffleboard and dominoes. Celebrating its 29th year, the National Veterans Golden Age Games offer sports and recreational competitive events for Veterans 55 years of age and older. It is the largest sports and recreation competition for this age group of military Veterans in the world! The Games continue to serve as a showcase for the rehabilitation value that wellness and fitness provide in the lives of older Americans. This outstanding program has grown from 115 participants its first year to more than 700 in 2010, making it the largest of VA’s six rehabilitation special events. For the past several years, the aging Vietnam Veteran population has entered the Games in greater numbers each year, making up the largest group of competitors by period of service. By age group, the over-70 age categories are now the largest. The National Veterans Golden Age Games are an outgrowth of the historic involvement in geriatric programs by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For many years, VA has put major emphasis on health and fitness with the goal of Veterans living healthier, longer lives. Many of the events began as recreational activities at VA hospitals and nursing home care units across the country. Inspired by the health and fitness movement for America’s senior citizens, the Games extend that concept to our nation’s aging Veterans. A "fountain of youth" for the rapidly aging Veteran population, the Games provide a multi-event sports and therapeutic recreation program for eligible Veterans receiving care at any VA medical facility. It is the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States, and the only national seniors’ program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. This event truly reflects VA's mission – to provide quality programs and health care for America's aging Veteran population. It has become one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the United States and the world. Over the years, competitive events at the National Veterans Golden Age Games have been adapted to meet specific needs of the participants. The Games have separate age groups and gender divisions. Additionally, because many Veterans also face medical challenges, events were added for those who use wheelchairs and those who have visual impairments. To accommodate the varying degrees of physical conditioning, motor and cognitive skills of the participants, basic competition rules were adapted. The modification of rules and use of adaptive equipment in many events allow non-ambulatory and visually impaired Veterans to participate, in separate divisions where needed and with ambulatory and sighted Veterans when possible. This has made the National Veterans Golden Age Games a truly adaptive therapeutic sports competition that has become a model for other local, state and national senior sports events. Click here for more information or to register. Deadline is March 4, 2016. Article excerpts from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.Visit the Site
"Art is a wound turned into light." For service members the transition out of the military and into to civilian life can present significant stress. For combat veterans, this transition can be filled with countless complicated physical and emotional challenges and the statistics are alarming.
Written by:of Military.com
Article from the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Photo credit: Rachel Larue
The oldest female Veteran, the high-spirted, fun-loving, amazing local celebrity, Alyce Dixon, died peacefully in her sleep at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Community Living Center. She was 108 years old.
She is well-known in the community for her elegant sense of style, her long repertoire of eyebrow-raising jokes and very strong opinions. She credits her long life to sharing and caring.“I always shared what little I have, that’s why He let me live so long. I just believe in sharing and giving. If you have a little bit of something and someone else needs it, share,” she said. She was married for a time, but divorced her husband over an $18 grocery bill. He found out she was sending money home to her family and put her on a strict allowance. This didn’t sit wellfor the independent young woman.Dixon was born in 1907, when an American’s average life expectancy was only 47 years. She was born Alice Ellis in Boston. At the age of 16, she changed the spelling of her name to Alyce after seeing a picture show starring actress Alyce Mills. She lived life on her own terms from that day forward. “I found myself a job, an apartment and a roommate. I didn’t need him or his money,” she said. She later joined the military in 1943. She was among one of the first African-American women in the Army. As a member of the Women’s Army Corps, she was stationed in England and France where she played an important role in the postal service as part of the 6888th Battalion. After leaving the Army, she served the government for many years at the Census Bureau and for the Pentagon where she served as a purchasing agent, buying everything from pencils to airplanes. She retired from government service in 1973. At the medical center, she was affectionately called the “Queen Bee” and was known for impeccable dress. She never left her room without fixing her makeup and hair. She always wore stylish clothes and jewelry and sported well-manicured nails. She loved to sit in the medical center Atrium and watch the people. She was disappointed in how young women dress today. “I tell everyone to dress nice for yourself and you’ll feel better, even if you don’t feel good,” she said. “Wear your jewelry, fix your hair. No one has to tell you that you look good…do it for yourself.” She led a long and full life. She has met presidents, the first lady, members of Congress, high-ranking military officers, celebrities and musicians. She also held media interviews with many local and national outlets. According to medical center director, Brian A. Hawkins, MHA, she will be missed, “…especially the caregivers and Veterans of our Community Living Center. She was one-of-a-kind; a strong-willed, funny, wise, giving and feisty WWII Veteran. Her message touched a lot of people.” Visit the Site
On Thursday, January 21, 2016, VA Secretary Bob McDonald appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to discuss VA’s transformation strategy, specifically examining the plan to modernize VA. McDonald took the opportunity to discuss VA’s transformation plan, MyVA. According to the Secretary, “MyVA is about fulfilling the nation’s obligation to those who have served and that they share our vision for VA to become the #1 customer-service agency in the government.” McDonald explained to members of the committee the framework to transform all of VA “by combining functions, simplifying operations, and providing Veterans care and services so that they see VA as MyVA—a world-class, customer-focused, Veteran-centered service organization.” There are five critical MyVA objectives. “We know that VA has significant issues that need to be addressed—so we’re listening to others’ perspectives and investing in our people,” McDonald said. That includes working collaboratively with world-class institutions to capture ideas and best practices, as well as listening to key stakeholders, even those who are critical of VA. A number of military and industry experts have provided their feedback on MyVA and the VA transformation process. “I’m very pleased to see the progress made by VA in the last year and I believe this plan will deliver real change for our nation’s Veterans, ” said Joe Robles, former president and chief executive officer of USAA. Robles, a retired U.S. Army major general, serves as chairman of the MyVA advisory committee. Lourdes Tiglao is also a member of the advisory committee. “The differences I’ve seen each time I visited the VA as a patient have been palpable, and I’m very optimistic in the changes taking place,” she said. “The Veteran-centric model that the VA is adopting through the MyVA initiative is a significant step in the right direction.” DAV’s national legislative director, Joy Ilem, said in a statement delivered to senators, “The Secretary came into VA during a crisis and a low point for the department and we acknowledge his hard work and that of his team to properly assess and lay out a comprehensive plan to improve systemic business practices as well as his dedication to the VA’s core mission of serving veterans and efforts to improve the veterans experience. DAV believes the Secretary’s plan is thoughtful and heading in the right direction. Most importantly it focuses, at its core, on the veteran, as it should.” Teresa Carlson is vice president of the Worldwide Public Sector for Amazon Web Services and sits on the MyVA committee. “The MyVA initiative has made positive strides by putting the focus back on the Veterans. The VA’s transformation is an important step in ensuring that the agency can better serve our Veterans, and their families,” Carlson said. “I have been impressed by the dedication and hard work of the MyVA committee to institute major changes that impact the culture and function of today’s VA in order to proudly serve our Veterans,” said Dr. E. Connie Mariano. Dr. Mariano retired as a rear admiral with the U.S. Navy and served as a White House physician from 1992 to 2001. Army Veteran and West Point graduate Herman Bulls said he was “pleased to see that the MyVA vision lays out a plan for VA to improve its internal operations and interactions with key stakeholders…most importantly, our Veterans. If successful, it will greatly benefit Veterans and their families, employees and our nation.” During the hearing, Secretary McDonald highlighted 12 priorities designed to improve the delivery of timely care and benefits to Veterans – eight focused on Veteran experience and four internal-facing reforms to VA systems. “But make no mistake—all 12 are designed to improve the delivery of timely care and benefits to Veterans,” McDonald explained. From the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, posted by Megan Moloney. A proud military spouse, and daughter and granddaughter of Army and Navy Veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.Visit the Site
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has stood for 33 years, in polished black granite, a somber and moving tribute to over 58,000 men and women killed or missing during the war. Name after name powerfully illustrates the magnitude of the number of lives lost. However, as decades move us further away from the realities of the war, we must keep alive the memories of the individuals who sacrificed for us. To honor them, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is building The Education Center to tell stories of the war and our fallen heroes, unfortunately, too many of our soldiers are missing one personal item to help us remember: a photograph. WHRO realizes the importance of honoring our military and began a movement to engage communities throughout Virginia to find the remaining 554 photographs for the 1,307 Virginian Veterans on The Wall. Since the 2015 launch, over 50 photos have been found and powerful stories uncovered. For information how you can help, go to whro.org/walloffaces. Below is one story of bravery in battle against terrible odds that was submitted by Robert Eugene Williams of Norfolk about his uncle, Marine Corporal Jerry C. Burkhead and the story of Hill 64. CPL Jerry Burkhead was an M-60 Machine-Gun Squad Leader in Weapons Platoon reinforcing 1st Rifle Platoon of Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment (A CO 1/9) in I Corps, the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). The 1/9, the “Walking Dead”, were rapidly moved from Camp Evans and flown in by helicopter to the Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB) on 22JAN68. The 1/9 mission was to protect the southern perimeter of the 26th Marines (reinforced) at the KSCB. At 4:15 a.m. on the foggy morning of 08FEB68 the battle for Hill 64 began with a barrage of mortars, recoilless rifles, satchel charges, RPG’s, automatic weapons, and a determined multi-pronged assault by a reinforced battalion from the 101D Regiment, 325C NVA Division against the "Walking Dead" platoon on Hill 64. The NVA simultaneously fired 100's of mortar shells against the 1/9 perimeter to further isolate Hill 64. The overwhelming attack by the NVA on the waiting 1st Platoon (reinforced) of A CO 1/9 Marines on Hill 64 was to be an example of some of the most brutal combat of the Vietnam War. These foes were locked in savage trench warfare, often hand-to-hand combat. The 1st Platoon (reinforced) of A CO 1/9 Marines held against a numerically superior NVA force on Hill 64. From the United States Marine Corps 1/9 perimeter Alpha Company Commander Captain “MAC” Radcliffe bravely led twenty volunteers from 2 squads of the 2nd Platoon A CO 1/9 to relieve his brave Marines on Hill 64, and systematically clear all remaining NVA early on 08FEB68. CPL Jerry Clark Burkhead was 21 years old as he and his “Brother” Marines fought for each other, Hill 64, A CO 1/9, the “Walking Dead”, the KSCB, I Corps, the RVN, and America with nearly 100% casualties. Sadly, 28 brave Americans were killed in action that foggy morning in 08FEB68 during the Battle for Hill 64. The Battle for Hill 64 was the last all-out attack by the NVA on the KSCB American and Allied Forces during the 77-day siege of the KSCB. All KSCB veterans from 20 January to April 1, 1968, received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against the numerically superior NVA forces. Devotion to duty by A CO 1/9 Marines was exemplified during the Battle of Hill 64 08FEB68.Visit the Site