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Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide

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DoD Launching Initiative to Get to #KnowYourMil Better

From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense By Katie Lange Defense Media Activity Here at the Department of Defense, we’re about to launch a new initiative called This Is Your Military. It’s a push for the general public to get to know their service members a little better – a lot better, actually. There are many misconceptions about military life floating around, so we’d like to clear some of them up. So if you start seeing #knowyourmil hashtags popping up on social media and you’re curious as to why, this can help explain it.

What, Exactly, Is the Initiative?

While the public knows the U.S. military is the most elite and lethal fighting force in the world, there’s innovation and resilience in serving, too, and it’s important for Americans to know why the military is relevant to them. This Is Your Military is an official DoD outreach initiative that looks to deepen America’s understanding of the military. The goal is to bridge the civilian-military divide.

There’s a Civilian-Military Divide?

Yes. The military has been an all-volunteer force for decades, with fewer than 1 percent of Americans currently serving. That has led to a natural disconnect. People are having fewer direct interactions with service members. They’re not having direct conversations and getting to know the people who are serving. This initiative will expand awareness and deepen their understanding of those people and what they do. “The wider that civilian-military divide grows, the more it threatens the viability and sustainability of that all-volunteer force that protects our nation,” said Amber Smith, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach. Smith was an Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot in the 101st Airborne Division who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that she’s transitioned back to civilian life, she knows the importance of both sides understanding each other.

The Civilian-Military Divide Has Led to Misconceptions:

The U.S. military is a force for good and positivity around the globe, but it’s not always characterized as such in the media and in Hollywood portrayals. Those are often perceptions of the military that the services themselves don’t have a voice in. And even if they’re a seemingly small misconception, they can be a big deal to people. “We’ve seen with our own internal DoD research where people think everyone has to live on a military base. People think that they are lonely and not allowed to have a family. Some people think you can’t have a dog, or you have to leave them if you move, and you have to wear your uniform on the weekends or when you’re off duty,” Smith said. READ MORE: Common Myths About Military Life A lot of people are familiar with the negatives that come with service, but there are a lot of positives, too, like the work ethic, professionalism and family life. The DoD wants to highlight those. “Jobs that exist in the civilian sector — most of them exist in the military, too. We have broadcast journalists. We have chefs. We have all sorts of career options outside of what most people think of the military,” Smith said.

Who Is This Initiative Aimed At?

While those who are being recruited into the military are mostly millennials at this point, the initiative is aimed at anyone who can influence someone’s perception of the military, and this includes parents. While older generations tend to have a closer connection to those who’ve served because of past wars, their knowledge of the military is what initially gets passed down to their children. “They’re the ones talking to their kids about service to the nation, so they’re influencers, as well,” Smith said. “They should all be concerned about the future of the military and how it’s there to ensure safety and security for future generations.”

How Will This Initiative Change Perceptions?

Through social media and videos, the DoD is looking to start a conversation. We want to reach an audience we’re not used to talking to – those who don’t know the military basics – to tell service members’ stories, what their jobs are and why they chose to serve. It’s a way to get service members and civilians talking about how we’re all connected. Click here to link to DoDLive.

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The Challenge Coin Tradition: Do You Know How It Started?

By Katie Lange Defense Media Activity From DoDLive the official blog of the Department of Defense If you’ve been in the military or worked for the Defense Department, you know what a challenge coin is. They’ve been an American military tradition for a century, meant to instill unit pride, improve esprit de corps and reward hard work and excellence. The coins represent anything from a small unit to the offices of top leaders, such as the defense secretary. There are also coins made for special events, anniversaries and even nonmilitary leaders. Many service members and veterans proudly display challenge coins at their desks or homes, showing off the many missions they’ve been on, the top leaders they’ve met and the units for which they’ve worked. But how did this tradition get started? I was curious, so I checked with the National Defense University, Pentagon librarians and historians, as well as those with the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Naval History and Heritage Command. Those institutions couldn’t find any written records, probably because the challenge coin tradition didn’t start as an officially sanctioned activity. So I dove into the modern-day oral histories of the world – also known as the internet – to see what I could find.

The Most Common Myth

The most well-known story that the internet produced linked the challenge coin tradition back to World War I. As the U.S. started building up its Army Air Service, many men volunteered to serve. One of those men was a wealthy lieutenant who wanted to give each member of his unit a memento, so he ordered several coin-sized bronze medallions to be made. The lieutenant put his own medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck. A short time later, his plane was shot down over Germany. He survived but was captured by a German patrol, who took all of his identifiable items so he would have no way to identify himself if he escaped. What they didn’t take was the small pouch with the medallion. The lieutenant was taken to a small town near the front lines of the war. Despite his lack of ID, he managed to find some civilian clothing and escaped anyway, eventually stumbling into a French outpost. Wary of anyone not in uniform, the French soldiers didn’t recognize his accent and immediately assumed he was an enemy. They initially planned to execute him, since they couldn’t ID him. But the lieutenant, remembering he still had the small pouch around his neck, pulled out the coin to show the soldiers his unit’s insignia. One of the Frenchmen recognized that insignia, so he was spared. Instead of being executed, the lieutenant was given a bottle of wine, probably as a form of reparation for his initial treatment. When he finally made it back to his squadron, it became a tradition for all service members to carry a unit-emblazoned coin at all times, just in case.

Not Everyone Believes That Depiction

While that story sounds cool, Air Force Historical Research Agency archivist Barry Spink isn’t buying it. He said he’d been told in the 1990s that the tradition started in Vietnam, when an Army infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantrymen away by forcing “outsiders” to buy drinks for the whole bar if they couldn’t prove they had been in combat. The “proof” started with enemy bullets, then got a little out of control with grenades, rockets and unexploded ordnance. So a coin-sized item emblazoned with the unit’s insignia became the accepted form of proof. This tradition – now known as a coin check – continues today, hence it being called a “challenge” coin.

One More Possibility

Spink also sent me an article called “Coining a Tradition” that was printed in a 1994 edition of Soldiers Magazine. It offered a similar version of the Vietnam story, the World War I tale and one other option, which dates back to the early 1960s: “A member of the 11th Special Forces Group took old coins, had them overstamped with a different emblem, then presented them to unit members, according to Roxanne Merritt, curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C. A former commander of the 10th SFG picked up on the idea, becoming the first to mint a unit coin for the U.S. military unit. The 10th group remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the mid-1980s, Merritt said, when ‘an explosion took place and everybody started minting coins.’” So if you’ve ever wondered how the challenge coin came about, you can take your pick of which story to believe! Click here to see access DodLive.

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Vets walk 2,700 miles to call attention to post-war trauma

Vet Walking PTSDAfter returning from the Iraq War, veteran Tom Voss struggled with PTSD and “moral injury,” the grief of doing something that goes against one’s beliefs. The film “Almost Sunrise” documents Voss’s attempt to call attention to these issues as he walked halfway across the U.S with fellow veteran Anthony Anderson. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson spoke with Voss about his experience and the film, which aired on POV in November. MEGAN THOMPSON: The documentary “Almost Sunrise” begins with the story of Tom Voss. He joined the Army in 2003, at 19 years old, and spent a year fighting in Iraq, where he witnessed the deaths of fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians. TOM VOSS: There was a kid in the backseat. A lifeless ragdoll that they pull out of the car. I will never be able to forget his face. MEGAN THOMPSON: After returning home to Wisconsin in 2006, Voss took college classes and got a job. But he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. TOM VOSS: Having trouble with sleep. Started isolating myself, using alcohol to self-medicate. MEGAN THOMPSON: Voss also had difficulty coming to terms with his participation in a war whose mission, for him, was far from clear. TOM VOSS: What we thought we were fighting for was to bring democracy to Iraq. That changed to, winning hearts and minds of the people to – I mean, it just kept getting tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. So at one point you’re just like, what are we doing? What’s the purpose? MEGAN THOMPSON: The film explores “moral injury” – a condition that Voss grappled with. TOM VOSS: Moral injury is more of grief, guilt, shame– was I justified in what I did? MEGAN THOMPSON: Therapy and medication didn’t help, and after years of depression, Voss thought about suicide. In 2013, to clear his head, Voss came up with the idea of taking a very long walk — 27-hundred miles from Wisconsin to California. His friend and fellow Iraq War veteran Anthony Anderson agreed to join him. “Almost Sunrise” chronicles Voss and Anderson’s five-month journey across the Great Plains and through the Southwest. Their goal was to raise awareness about the struggles of returning veterans like them. TOM VOSS: 22 vets a day are killing themselves. MEGAN THOMPSON: All while trying to get a handle on their own memories of war. Michael Collins directed the film. MICHAEL COLLINS: We didn’t want it to just be another film about post-traumatic stress, you know, kind of perpetuating this stereotype, honestly, that you know we have, that soldiers come back, and they’re broken, or they’re just heroes. And I was very excited, because I saw immediately how open Tom and Anthony were about the complexity of their experience. MEGAN THOMPSON: Collins and his crew would join Voss and Anderson for a couple weeks at a time…and then would leave them alone. MICHAEL COLLINS: They were going to be walking across the country in a big part of that was to be a little bit isolated. And I didn’t want to get in the way of that. WOMAN: They’re coming down the road! MAN: How about some marching music! MEGAN THOMPSON: Along the way, total strangers fed and housed the two veterans. TOM VOSS: I think a lot of veterans have trust issues coming home. So for us coming and seeing the outpouring of help from the civilian population and people who have no idea who we are as people, just opening their doors and letting us in. I mean it was just amazing for us. WOMAN: Oh, I see him! There he is! There’s daddy! MEGAN THOMPSON: The veterans finally reached Los Angeles. But Voss continued to struggle. He eventually found relief after learning meditation and breathing techniques. MEGAN THOMPSON: How are you doing now? TOM VOSS: I’m doing well, I’m doing well. MEGAN THOMPSON: Voss now advocates for the Veterans Administration to offer alternative therapies, like meditation and yoga. And he gives talks about the issues raised by the film, which has screened some 300 times since its debut last year. TOM VOSS: For me it is totally worth it to put my story out there so that people can really see the veteran experience and a lot of family members are gaining a better understanding of what their loved one has gone through if they’re not open to talking about it. Click here to watch PBS NewsHour video.

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AF Reservist enables WWII vet to fly once more

From DodLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense. November 20, 2017 By J.M. Eddins Jr.
In the summer of 2008, on a lush grass field in Bealeton, Virginia, Sue Tucker Brander approached the blue and yellow plane of her new friend, civilian pilot and Air Force Reservist David Brown. In her hand was a framed black and white photograph. The photo showed a young man wearing a leather helmet and goggles in the rear cockpit of a biplane, his head down performing his preflight checks. At the bottom of the frame was written “Al Tucker, First Solo -1942.” Brander pointed to Brown’s plane and said, “You know, my Daddy used to fly a plane just like that.”
Maj. Al Tucker Jr. of the 71st Fighter Squadron in the cockpit of an F-86 Sabre in the early 1950s. (courtesy photo)
David Brown had been enthralled with airplanes since he was a kid in the 1960s and 70s being driven around Fauquier County, Virginia in his parents’ Buick LeSabre. He cannot remember a time when he was not dreaming of following his father into the U.S. Air Force and becoming a pilot. However, the aircraft that originally lifted his head into the clouds were not sleek jet fighters making vertical takeoffs in full afterburner or even the airliners he saw arriving or departing from nearby Dulles International Airport.
An Air Force Reserve First Sergeant from Joint Base Andrews and a 96 year old World War II veteran start a friendship centered around a 70 year old biplane. These two Airmen share their stories about how this aircraft shaped their merging destinies. (Video // Pete Ising)
The planes that first caught his eye from the back seat of that Buick were just pictures on a roadside billboard firmly attached to the ground along Route 29. It was a scene of planes made of wood and cloth, no hydraulics, no canopies, no missiles, no computer chips. French Nieuport biplanes tangled in mortal combat with German Fokker tri-planes at ranges so close the pilots could shoot at each other with pistols from the cockpit. These aircraft were designed at a time when most people in the U.S. still did not own a car and television was something in a science fiction tale. The billboard was promoting performances of The Flying Circus Airshow at a grass-field aerodrome in nearby Bealeton, Virginia. At the age of 14, Brown’s Boy Scout Troop had a campout in a field adjacent to the aerodrome. It was on that weekend in 1974 that he paid $12 to a World War II veteran, Norm Moore, to go for a ride in Moore’s blue and yellow PT-17 Stearman biplane. Brown lifted skyward and never came back down. He began hanging around the field at age 15 and was put to work on the ground crew, selling tickets, cutting the grass or whatever else needed to be done. Little did Brown know that his first ride in a Stearman was not a steppingstone to future fighter-jock glory, but the first glimpse of his destiny.
First Sgt. David Brown, Air Force Reserve, leans on his PT-17 Stearman bi-plane in his hanger at Warrenton-Fauquier Airport in Warrenton, Va., Jul. 20, 2017. Brown has been flying since he was a teenager and began working at the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Va. (Photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.)
The PT-17 Stearman would have a pivotal role in the life of another Airman, decades before Brown was even born. Albert Tucker Jr. was the son of an infantry officer stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1930s. As an officer’s son, the young boy had the run of the base, including the small grass airfield lined with U.S. Army Air Corps biplanes. Tucker would hang around the field like a squadron mascot until one of the pilots gave him a ride. Tucker too, would never come back down. As a teenager, he pestered his father endlessly about learning to fly, but was rebuffed each time. “He said, ‘It’s all right son. You can do any darn thing you want. Any crazy thing you want to do, but only when you’re old enough to make your own decision. We won’t talk about it now.’ It was a requirement that I go to college first,” said Tucker. “That being the case, I said I might as well make it the army college, West Point.” Al Jr. would follow his father into the Army in 1940, but not in his exact footsteps. For Tucker, soldiering in the mud with the infantry was not nearly as attractive as flying above them.


Al Tucker Jr. as a West Point cadet in 1942. COURTESY PHOTO
“West Point taught me a lot of drill, stand up straight, don’t look around, right face, left face, to the rear, march, all this stuff. I didn’t enjoy that at all,” said Tucker. “I sailed through flight training because I had been flying and sailing my whole life; it’s the same science. It was ordinarily a four-year course. We made it in three. I graduated in 1943 and I flew over my graduation parade, looking down on it. I did not have to march… that was great.” The plane he flew over that parade was a PT-17 Stearman. For Tucker, the biplane would be a steppingstone to fighter-jock glory, but he too was destined to loop back to where he began.
David Brown participates in the show's closing flyover in his PT-17 Stearman biplane at the Flying Circus Aerodrome and Airshow in Bealeton, Va., Jul. 30, 2017. (Photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.)
In 1978, Brown entered the Air Force ROTC program at East Carolina University with dreams of taking the stick of the new F-15 or F-16. He was already well into private pilot training, having soloed in a Cessna 150 the previous year. He would get his private pilot’s license in 1979. Now a pilot in the civilian world, the 20-year-old cadet began studying in 1980 to achieve the same goal in the military. Unfortunately, no amount of desire, determination or cramming could prepare him for his first exam. That test did not involve rudders, ailerons and aerodynamics, but retinas, corneas and lenses. It was taken not in the schoolhouse, but in an optometrist’s office. It was a test he would fail. “When I went for my flight physical in 1980, I did not have the 20/20 vision required. I also missed a navigator’s slot because I could not see 20/70 uncorrected,” said Brown. While his fighter-jock dream was gone, he still wanted to serve his country and accepted a two-year scholarship from Strategic Air Command to serve his four years as a nuclear missileer.


uniformed man standing in hall
Air Force Lt. David Brown during his active duty days in the 1980s as a missileer. (COURTESY PHOTO)
 Yet the desire to fly for a living was too strong and Brown left active duty in 1986 to accumulate flight hours and ratings in more advanced civilian aircraft as well as become a certified flight instructor. He hoped to become a full-time commercial pilot.
That dream too died; not the victim of less-than-perfect eyesight, but rather less-than-perfect economics. “I had gotten a job managing highway inspections for (the Virginia Department of Transportation) and was going to do that until I could crack the airlines, but the only flight hours I could get were part time with no benefits. I had a wife and kids and a mortgage to pay,” said Brown. “So we talked it over and I decided to finish out my career with VDOT and that would give me time on the weekends to do flight instruction and start giving rides at the Flying Circus and try to build up that business.” In the 1987, Brown returned to the grass field in Bealeton, got checked out in another pilot’s PT-17 Stearman and began performing in Flying Circus shows and giving rides to paying customers. For all his dreams of a career in the cockpits of modern jets, his aviation destiny echoed the very beginnings of manned flight.

People gathered around a sign at an airshow

Spectators gather to buy an airplane ride in a Stearman biplane after the show at the Flying Circus Aerodrome and Airshow in Bealeton, Va., Jul. 30, 2017.  (PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.) 
In the 1920s and 1930s, pilots, many veterans of World War I, would buy surplus military biplanes and fly them over small towns, performing aerobatics, until they drew a crowd below. Then they would land on a farm field and sell rides in their flying machines to the swarm of locals. Those pilots were called Barnstormers. The loop Brown had begun as a teenager in the 1970s with his first ride in a Stearman closed in 2002 when he bought his own PT-17, painted in the blue and yellow of the U.S. Army Air Corps, and began giving rides to paying customers. The barnstormer’s customer was now a barnstormer himself, flying from the very same airfield. The same airfield where Sue Tucker Brander would show him that black and white photograph.
A photograph of Al Tucker Jr., preparing to takeoff for his first solo flight in a PT-17 Stearman at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1942, adorns to wall of the hanger of First Sgt. David Brown, Air Force Reserve, at Warrenton-Fauquier Airport in Warrenton, Va., Jul. 20, 2017. (Photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.)
With World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, Lt. Al Tucker Jr. spent 1943 bouncing around different U.S. Army airfields in California training in fighter aircraft alongside his West Point classmate Lt. Robin Olds. When not in the cockpits of their sleek new P-38 twin-engine fighters, the two were inseparable. After months of training, and 1944 fast approaching, Tucker and Olds had seen just about enough of southern California.
“We had gone through training in the P-38 four times and we were still not able to get overseas. There was a war on!” said Tucker. “So Robin and I decided to go to headquarters and find a sergeant who could get our squadron out of there and into the war. We found a nice old sergeant, he could have been our dad. We told him our trouble. He said, ‘you gentlemen just sit here.’ When he came back, he had orders for myself and my friend Robin Olds and 10 other names in our squadron. So 12 of us got overseas orders right there from that sergeant.”
Olds and Tucker would fly their P-38s on escort missions for bombers over Europe, including raids on Berlin, with the 434th Fighter Squadron. They would also patrol the skies over Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944. Having survived Nazi flak and fighters for 22 missions, Tucker’s war would end on mission 23. With Eighth Air Force bombers grounded due to bad weather over the English airfields, the P-38s of the 434th FS were loaned out to the Ninth Air Force for a tactical bombing raid on a railroad bridge about 50 miles northeast of Paris. “We had not trained to drop bombs, but it didn’t worry me, because I’d seen it in the newsreels. Looked easy to me,” said Tucker. “But, I got hit on my run. The shot went right through the front of the right engine, but I still had a good left engine. I finished my dive, and just let my bombs go.” With the prop of his right engine bent forward, the drag made steering the P-38 nearly impossible. At low altitude Tucker managed to get the fighter pointed roughly towards England. As he approached the French coast he noticed a ridgeline before him that seemed to be covered with a line of fence posts. As he neared, he discovered the fence posts were actually more German anti-aircraft guns. “I had all the power the left engine would give me, but the torque was causing the airplane to go sideways. I couldn’t really steer it. I could just go forward that way, but I kept it going as best I could. Unfortunately, I slid right up over top of one of those gun positions,” said Tucker. “They shot a hole right up through the fuel tank on my right side. That was the fuel I was saving to get me over the English Channel. Anyway, that set the airplane on fire. I felt the heat. I could see the glare. So I thought I’d better get out of the airplane before it burns up. But I was too low to bail out. All I could do was take all the power off, land straight ahead as best I could. “When I got down, I ran where I saw a bunch of bushes, but just in a couple minutes, a platoon of Germans found me. They pointed their guns at me. One of them said, ‘For you, the war is over. Put up your hands’. So, I put up my hands.” After spending a week in a jail in Lilles, France, Tucker was moved by train to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Stalag Luft 1, a German Luftwaffe (Air Force) prison near Hamburg. It was one of the last prison camps to be liberated by the Russian Army after Germany’s surrender in the spring of 1945. Tucker spent the next few months in Europe ferrying P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs to collection areas for decommissioning, before boarding a ship back to the U.S. Waiting for him when he disembarked near New York was a message from his squadron-mate Robin Olds. “I landed where all of us would be reentering the United States. There was a message for me there from Robin Olds telling me to hurry and come to meet him in Philadelphia because he had tickets for me for the Army-Navy game,” said Tucker. “I was delighted, and that’s the first time I ever saw Army beat Navy. Three years I’d been in West Point and in three years, I never saw Army win.” The next year, 1946, Olds, who claimed 12 aerial victories during World War II, saw to it that his friend Tucker joined him at March Field in Riverside, California as a member of the first squadron to fly the USAAF’s first jet-powered fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star.

a man stands in front of an airplane

Albert Tucker Jr. stands in front of a P-80 Shooting Star, the first jet-powered fighter aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, in 1948. Tucker performed formation aerobatics with his friend Col. Robin Olds at the Cleveland Air Races which, some believe, led U.S. Air Force generals to form an official USAF flight demonstration team, which would later become The Thunderbirds. (COURTESY PHOTO)
The two immediately began flying formation aerobatics together in the new powerful aircraft. “Oh boy, the first jet! Man, that was fun,” said Tucker. “Well, he and I had often flown formation aerobatics together, the two of us, in whatever we were flying at the time. But with this jet, man, what you could do. The general came out and watched Olds and me and this third classmate do the formation aerobatics that we had just been having fun with. That did it. The whole brand new fighter wing was ordered to fly out to the Cleveland Air Races that year.” It was there that Olds and Tucker performed their aerobatic routine before an awestruck crowd that included more than a few generals from Washington, D.C. It was a performance that would ignite interest in the creation of a flight demonstration team when the fledgling U.S. Air Force separated from the U.S. Army in 1947 as its own branch of the military. It was an idea that came to fruition in 1953 with the formation of the 3600th Air Demonstration Team, which would come to be known as the “Thunderbirds.” Olds and Tucker would remain in tight formation as members of the first USAF-Royal Air Force Exchange Program flying Gloster Meteor jet fighters in the RAF’s flight demonstration team. Then they both went on to fly F-86 Sabres before Tucker went on to posts that included command of an air defense radar squadron and chief of manpower, Tactical Air Command, before retiring from the Air Force as a colonel. Olds would remain in the cockpit and continue a storied combat career culminating in four more air-to-air victories during the Vietnam War. He would retire a brigadier general. While the two pilots remained fast friends, it was not without some good-natured needling. After a squadron reunion, Olds invited Tucker’s daughter Sue to come skiing at his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Upon her return home, Tucker received a beautifully worded letter in which Olds jokingly asked for Tucker’s blessing to marry his daughter. Tucker politely refused stating that he was sure Olds would make a great husband for his daughter, but he could not stand the thought of Olds calling him “Daddy.”
Al Tucker Jr., 96, takes the controls from the front cockpit of the PT-17 Stearman biplane owned by First Sgt. David Brown, U.S. Air Force Reserve, at the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Va., Jul. 30, 2017. Brown's PT-17 is the same model in which Tucker trained at West Point in 1942 before going on to fly P-38 fighter aircraft over Europe with the U.S. Army Air Corps 434th Fighter Squadron during WWII with his friend, then Lt., Robin Olds. The two have been flying together for nearly 10 years. (Photo // Pete Ising)
Sue Tucker Brander began volunteering at the Flying Circus in 2008, working in the snack bar. There she met David Brown with his PT-17 and immediately knew that he had to meet her 86-year-old dad, Al Tucker Jr. “I had a photo of Dad in a Stearman, checking the magnetos before his first solo at West Point in 1942,” said Brander. “I showed it to Dave Brown and he was eager to meet Dad. When I told Dad he should come up to see the show… he wasn’t eager to come. He had seen all those planes before, but he accepted my invitation to humor me, I think. When the planes taxied to the fence wing tip to wing tip, it was all over for Dad.” Brown invited the 86-year-old Tucker, who had not been in a cockpit for years, for a ride in his Stearman. Tucker climbed unaided into the front cockpit and strapped on his helmet and goggles just like in 1942. Brown taxied the plane onto the field. Then told Tucker the aircraft was his. “Golly man, Dave let me take it off. Do anything you like. Fly it around. Flew it around. Do aerobatics. Did aerobatics,” said Tucker. “I got in a flight pattern (for landing) the way I saw him do it. I figured he was going to take over when the time came, but he didn’t say a thing. I carefully flew over the trees and pulled back the throttle and dove down, but he didn’t get on the controls. I figured I’m going to land it if he doesn’t take over. So, I landed it. I made a perfect landing.” Tucker was hooked all over again. After a military career that had taken him from combat in the skies over Europe during World War II, to flying the Air Force’s first jets and giving birth to the idea of an Air Force flight demonstration team, Tucker completed his own loop back to where it all started; the cockpit of a PT-17 Stearman. It also was the beginning of another friendship with a talented Airman. “We started scheduling flights outside of the Flying Circus,” said Brown. “He would come over to Warrenton Airport. We’d go up for half hour, 45 minutes, or an hour. We’d go out and shoot some landings, we would go fly some aerobatics and he just fell in love with flying the airplane again.” For Brown, developing a friendship with a fellow Airman who helped write the history of the U.S. Air Force has become one of the greatest gifts from flying the Stearman.


2 men talking over dinner
Al Tucker Jr.'s talks with First Sgt. David Brown, Air Force Reserve, over dinner at a restaurant near Brown's hanger at Warrenton-Fauquier Airport in Warrenton Va., Jul. 28, 2017. Tucker, now 96, regularly makes the trip from Lexington, Va., to fly Brown's PT-17 Stearman biplane, the same model in which Tucker trained in 1942 before going on to fly P-38 fighter aircraft over Europe with the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII with his friend, then Lt. Robin Olds.  (PHOTO BY J.M. EDDINS JR.) 
“The fact that I can now speak with a veteran who flew this plane in World War II and gain his perspective on things is just priceless… When I met Al he was very humble, very calm guy and we really didn’t talk a lot about what he did in World War II until, as we were flying, the stories started coming out,” said Brown. “We would go to lunch or we would have time afterwards and he would tell me a little bit more about it. Then I found out how fascinating his story really is. He started coming out and flying with me on every birthday. Now that’s become a tradition. We commemorate Al’s birthday flying the Stearman.” Tucker has his own locker in Brown’s hangar at Warrenton Airport where Brown, a certified flight instructor, enters each flight in Tucker’s extensive flight log. The latest aircraft entry in that logbook for 2017 is the same as the very first entry in Tucker’s logbook from 1942: PT-17. “I’m very happy that I can bring Al back to flying again. He had all but given it up,” said Brown. “It’s been eight years that we’ve been flying together, this has really been rejuvenating for Al, keeping him excited. Flying the same aircraft that he learned to fly in and soloed in 1942. That’s the joy of this aircraft; reuniting pilots.” Brown has also taken the opportunity to expose young Airmen he supervises to a man that embodies the very beginnings of the Air Force story. “We recently had a young lady come to the Flying Circus who was an Airman. She got a ride in my airplane and I took her over and introduced her to Al,” said Brown. “She got to talk to him. Most everyone has the same reaction when they talk to Al. They just talk about how wonderful and genuine he is and what a great experience it is talking to someone with his history. I just think we’re very lucky to have guys like him who are still with us and telling these stories.”

a man and woman look up at the sky

Al Tucker Jr. and his daughter, Sue Tucker Brander, watch David Brown perform aerobatics in his PT-17 Stearman biplane at the Flying Circus Aerodrome and Airshow in Bealeton, Va., Jul. 30, 2017.  (PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.) 
Those young Airmen, and the Airmen he supervises at the 459th Operations Support Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, also benefit from hearing the story of perseverance by another Airman. When the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia was completed in 2006, generals wanted the flyover at the dedication ceremony to reflect the full history of the U.S. Air Force. They wanted the flyover led by a PT-17 Stearman. And so, on Oct. 14, 2006, First Sergeant David Brown, U.S. Air Force Reserve, finally flew his first official mission as an Air Force pilot and helped write a small piece of Air Force history. Click here to see story on DODLive.

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Marine Turned ‘Star Wars’ Actor Wants Service Members to Try Theater

From DoD Live, the official blog of the Department of Defense By Yolanda R. Arrington DoD News, Defense Media Activity Actor and Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver connects with the audience as he performs a monologue from Sam Shepard’s play, “Curse of the Starving Class,” during the Arts in the Armed Forces performance at the Grafenwoehr Performing Arts Center in Germany, Dec. 18, 2013. Adam Driver served nearly three years in the Marine Corps before an injury ended his military career. Soon after, Driver caught the acting bug and now he wants other service members to try their hands at theater. Driver, who joined the Marine Corps after the Sept. 11 attacks, founded the Arts in the Armed Forcesorganization to provide theater programming for active duty service members, veterans and their families. In celebration of the organization’s tenth anniversary, Driver launched a playwriting award to recognize emerging talent within the U.S. military. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize and an AITAF-produced reading of their work next year. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, of “Topdog/Underdog” fame, will serve as the head judge. Parks grew up in a military family. In addition to the prize money, this award will connect the winner with the theater community and give the service member or veteran access to various developmental resources to help them succeed. Submissions will be accepted through March 1, 2018. Visit AITAF for submission guidelines. You can catch Driver’s latest film, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

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How to Help Out Your Troops This Holiday Season

By Katie Lange Defense Media Activity From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense

Write letters or send cards to the troops:

Sending service members a letter and message of support is a great, simple idea. While the DoD can’t disclose the names or addresses of service members due to privacy and security concerns, many organizations collect letters and cards to include with their shipments to the troops. Here’s a list of some of them. Many social media sites also offer people the opportunity to send greetings online.

Donate an item or care package:

The DoD has also compiled a list of some organizations that send care packages to troops. Check them out here. NOTE: You cannot donate funds or items directly to the DoD. There’s also the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, although those donations don’t necessarily go to military families.

Other ways to donate:

Within the DoD, there’s also the Combined Federal Campaign. It’s the world’s largest and most successful yearly workplace charity campaign. Pledges made by federal civilian and military donors support eligible nonprofit organizations that provide health and human service benefits all over the world. The charities are reviewed yearly to make sure they’re actually providing the services they claim to be, and they’re also reviewed for public and financial accountability. The charities are required to disclose the percentage of funds spent on administrative and fundraising purposes, which helps people deciding who they want to donate to. To find a local campaign in your area and to get a list of charities or pledge forms, click here. Good luck, and have a wonderful holiday season!

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Sailors Aren’t Born. They’re Forged.

Forged Over the past 45 years, the Navy has lacked a consistent brand message. This has created difficulties in educating potential recruits about the Navy’s mission and benefits, bringing knowledge to the general public, and in building internal pride among Sailors. After two years of development, a defined brand platform has been established for America’s Navy. In marketing terms, a brand platform is the central theme or internal “North Star” around which the external messaging is oriented. The core platform of Power to go Beyond and its key idea of harnessing the transformative power of the sea form the foundation of our new messaging. A tagline is the external and outward facing message that conveys the idea of the platform. For the Navy, an effective tagline needed to: originate from Sailors, inform and inspire, be unique to the Navy, and authentically represent the Navy experience. Forged by the Sea. This idea represents the aspirational outcome of every Sailor’s journey in uniform. It conveys the notion that every Sailor is shaped and strengthened into a more capable version of themselves. It also describes the Navy as a team that has been forged, tempered and toughened over 242 years of maritime dominance. Most importantly, it acknowledges the Navy’s unique and fundamental relationship with the sea. “Forged by the Sea” was tested among active duty Sailors, veterans, potential recruits and influencers to validate its integrity and authenticity. This direction also gave life to several very distinct commercial films.  The recruit films were developed to speak directly to potential recruits about the vast array of opportunities in the Navy, and what they could gain personally from the experience.  The brand film at the top of the page was created to educate potential recruits and the general public about the breadth of the Navy’s mission. For an in-depth look at the process behind the new brand’s development. Forged1              

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Veterans Affairs exploring idea of merging health system with Pentagon

Veterans enews PentagonNov 17, 2017 12:53 PM EST PBS NewsHour Report

WASHINGTON — As part of its effort to expand private health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring the possibility of merging its health system with the Pentagon’s, a cost-saving measure that veterans groups say could threaten the viability of VA hospitals and clinics. VA spokesman Curt Cashour called the plan a potential “game-changer” that would “provide better care for veterans at a lower cost to taxpayers,” but he provided no specific details. Griffin Anderson, a spokesman for the Democrats on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the proposal — developed without input from Congress — would amount to a merger of the VA’s Choice and the military’s TRICARE private health care programs. Committee Democrats independently confirmed the discussions involved TRICARE. News of the plan stirred alarm from veterans groups, who said they had not been consulted, even as VA urges a long-term legislative fix for Choice by year’s end. Health care experts also expressed surprise that VA would consider a TRICARE merger to provide private care for millions of active-duty troops, military retirees and veterans. The two departments generally serve very different patient groups —older, sicker veterans treated by VA and generally healthier service members, retirees and their families covered by TRICARE. TRICARE is insurance that is paid by the government, but uses private doctors and hospitals. The VA provides most of its care via medical centers and clinics owned and run by the federal government, though veterans can also see private doctors through VA’s Choice program with referrals by VA if appointments aren’t readily available. “My overarching concern is these are very dramatic changes in the way health care is delivered to veterans,” said Carrie Farmer, a senior policy researcher on military care at Rand Corp., who has conducted wide-ranging research for VA. “There haven’t been studies on what the consequences are in terms of both costs and quality of care.” Navy Commander Sarah Higgins, a Pentagon spokeswoman, confirmed it was exploring with VA “many possible opportunities to strengthen and streamline the health of our service members and veterans.” She declined to comment on specifics “unless and until there is something to announce.” In its statement to The Associated Press, Cashour explained that VA Secretary David Shulkin was working with the White House and the Pentagon to explore “the general concept” of integrating VA and Pentagon health care, building upon an already planned merger of electronic health care records between VA and the Pentagon. Because Shulkin has said an overhaul of VA’s electronic medical records won’t be completed for another seven to eight years, an effort such as a TRICARE merger couldn’t likely happen before then. “This is part of the president’s efforts to transform how government works and is precisely the type of businesslike, commonsense approach that rarely exists in Washington,” Cashour said. At least four of the nation’s largest veterans’ organizations — The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans — called a TRICARE merger a likely “non-starter” if it sought to transform VA care into an insurance plan. “VA is a health care provider and the VFW would oppose any effort to erode the system specifically created to serve the health care needs of our nation’s veterans by reducing VA’s role to a payer of care for veterans,” said Bob Wallace, executive director of VFW’s Washington office. Louis Celli, director of veterans’ affairs and rehabilitation for The American Legion, said any attempts to outsource services away from VA medical centers and clinics would be financially unsustainable and likely shift costs unfairly onto veterans with service-connected disabilities. He noted something similar occurred with TRICARE — military retirees were promised free care from military base hospitals. But then TRICARE began offering insurance to use private-sector care and TRICARE beneficiary co-pays are now rising. “The precedent the TRICARE model sets is not something we would accept on the VA side,” Celli said. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump pledged to fix VA by expanding access to private doctors. In July, he promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.” More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector. Some groups have drawn political battle lines, with the left-leaning VoteVets and the American Federation of Government Employees warning of privatization and Concerned Veterans for America, backed by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers, pledging a well-funded campaign to give veterans wide freedom to see private doctors. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the quiet discussions to integrate TRICARE with VA’s Choice were evidence “the White House was taking steps to force unprecedented numbers of veterans into the private sector for their care.” “The fact that the Trump administration has been having these secret conversations behind the backs of Congress and our nation’s veterans is absolutely unacceptable,” said Walz, the highest-ranking enlisted service member to serve in Congress. He called for an immediate public explanation “without delay.” A spokeswoman for Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the House committee, said he planned to continue proceeding with his bipartisan legislative plan to fix Choice without integrating TRICARE.

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6 Women Veterans Recall Their Military Service: ‘It Was Just The Thing To Do’

November 11, 20177:01 AM ET
There are more than 21 million military veterans in the country, according to a 2016 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 2 million of those are women. In commemoration of Veterans Day, NPR spoke with six women veterans living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., to find out what their service means to them. Here are their stories.
Rosebud Archer, a veteran of the Navy and Army, served from 1952-1993. She earned a Good Conduct Medal while serving in the Navy.
Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
  Rosebud Archer, Navy and Army Growing up in New Jersey, Rosebud Archer had a nickname: the "Little Mayor of Plainfield." She was well known for her community involvement in that city, where she went to the local nursery once a week to read to children and helped plan outdoor youth programs at City Hall. The octogenarian recalls her mother emphasizing to her and her siblings that it was their job to help people who were less fortunate than they were. That directive came from a widow who worked 16 hours a day to provide for her six children after their father suffered a heart attack and died. Archer was 8 when she lost her dad. The inherited sense of duty coupled with her family connection to the military (her uncles and brothers served) led Archer to join the Navy, where she earned a Good Conduct Medal. She served from 1952-56, during which she traveled and performed with a naval entertainment troupe, worked in a photography lab, helped in the education office and eventually became a flight attendant. She later joined the Army, where she became a master sergeant and served until 1993.
"When I got a promotion, nobody wanted to take my job," Archer recalled. "They said, 'Wow, we didn't know you had to do all of this' ... and I was doing it all by myself."
Emmy Lu Daly worked at a naval supply depot in Clearfield, Utah, from 1944-46.
Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
Emmy Lu Daly, Navy Emmy Lu Daly spent two years in the Navy surrounded by ship parts, but she never saw a ship. Or the ocean, for that matter. She worked at a naval supply depot in Clearfield, Utah, checking inventory and shipping out materials during and after World War II. She joined the Navy at 21, largely because everyone else around her was doing something to help the war cause. She wanted to contribute, too. She trained to be a yeoman, or Navy secretary, but she never did do clerical work, which she says she didn't mind. When the war ended and she left the military, she attended school on the GI Bill. She went on to work as a legal secretary, then got into the insurance business. While living in the Armed Forces Retirement Home, she has met a number of people who spent their lives in the military, and the weight of their service and sacrifice strikes her. "A whole lot of the people here are career people, people who've been in it, and I'm humbled before them with my two years," she said. "And I've only been here six months, and I'm deeply grateful to be here. I've learned a whole lot at 94."
Muriel Kupersmith worked as a secretary in the Marine Corps from 1944-46. She was tasked with notifying families when servicemen were killed in action. Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
Muriel Kupersmith, Marine Corps It was one of the most difficult jobs she has ever done. Muriel Kupersmith, now 94, worked as a secretary during World War II. She was tasked with sending letters to notify the families of servicemen killed in action and going through their personal belongings before sending them back to loved ones. "At first, it was quite difficult," she said. "I cried a lot. I wasn't supposed to cry, but I couldn't help it." While working in that role, Kupersmith found out that her then-fiancé was injured on Okinawa and would be returning on a medical ship. But he never arrived; she received notice at work that he had died en route. That was her doomsday, she said. "Everybody was very kind to me, everybody was very understanding, but it took me a while to get over it," she said. "That was many years ago, and a lot of things I've forgotten, but I can't forget that." Kupersmith eventually married and had a son. Right after she delivered him, with her mother in the room, they suddenly heard the "Marines' Hymn" playing on the radio. "It sounds unreal, but my mother was there, and she said to me, 'Now you have a little Marine.' "
Norma Rambow joined the Marine Corps in 1943. She spent two years working in a mess hall where she cooked for women Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
Norma Rambow, Marine Corps "It was just the thing to do." Norma Rambow, now 94, saw no option other than joining the military after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. She said she would have reported for duty the day after the attack on the American naval base, but at 18, she wasn't old enough. Almost two years later, when she was eligible, she quit her factory job and joined the Marine Corps in 1943. She spent the next two years working in a mess hall where she cooked for women Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. "I had just been an Indiana farm girl, and to visit with all the women from all over the country, it was special," she said. She left the service shortly after the war, in November 1945, and went back to school, but adjusting to life after service was difficult. She couldn't quite connect with her classmates like she could with women in the Marines. She had lived side by side in barracks with those women; they had all endured the same female sergeant barking at them at boot camp; they leaned on each other when they were homesick. Many of Rambow's female classmates couldn't relate. "The girls were much younger, and they were just ordinary girls. They hadn't been away from home. We just felt different," she said. "It was difficult to get back in civilian life, it really was."
Catharine Deitch spent a year serving in Calcutta, India, with the Women's Army Corps. Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
Catharine Deitch, Army Catharine Deitch's husband used to joke that he was the first husband ever to watch his wife go to war. And that's just what he did. From a train platform in Ashburg, Pa., he saluted her as she disappeared down the track. "He went in later, but this was all so new, and my orders came right away, and I was gone." It was 1942, and everyone was stepping up to serve in any way he or she could. "When you see our country being bombed, and you're told you'll be captives and all that stuff, it makes everyone patriotic," the 97-year-old said. Deitch joined the Women's Army Corps and traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., and Boston before she was stationed in Calcutta, India, for a year. Traveling was one of the best parts about serving, she said. She got to see the world while helping protect her country. "When you're an adventurer and you don't know what lies ahead, you're willing to take on anything if it's in the defense of your country." Plus, she was proud to wear the uniform, which came with perks. Deitch, who became a master sergeant, remembers how wearing her Army uniform got her free admission into movie theaters in Boston. "When you're serving, everyone respects you," she said.
Helen Sadowski traveled all over the country while serving in the Navy for 20 years. Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
Helen Sadowski, Navy Helen Sadowski wanted to see more of the world. She grew up in a small town in southern New Jersey and had spent some time in Philadelphia (or "the big city," as she calls it), but she wanted more from life than what her small town could offer (which, in her words, was nothing). So when she strolled past a Navy recruitment center in Camden, N.J., one day, she saw her opportunity. "I went home that night, and my mom had life insurance policies for all the kids ... and I told her I needed the number for my life insurance policy, and she said 'What in the world do you need that for?' and I said, 'I joined the Navy today,' and she flipped," Sadowski recalls, laughing. "But it was the best thing I did, joining the Navy." Sadowski, now 89, attended yeoman school in San Diego, where she learned how to do clerical work for the Navy. She served for 20 years and became a petty officer 1st class. Her days mostly revolved around typewriters, carbon copies and stencils, but she got to travel across the country while doing it. She worked in San Francisco ("Sin City"), the Great Lakes, Newport, R.I., and was stationed at Pearl Harbor before Hawaii became a state. She still keeps in contact with some of the people she was stationed with, Sadowski said. That's one of the best parts about service — the friendships that come out of it. "The camaraderie — you can't beat the camaraderie." Click here to link to the NPR story.

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Once Military, Always Military: Vets Continue Camaraderie in Retirement

  Military life often sticks with you long after your service ends, so for the veterans who get to live at an Armed Forces Retirement Home, their situation is a blessing – they have lots to do, get good care and can continue sharing camaraderie with others who served. Ahead of Veterans Day this year, I thought I’d swing by the one in Washington, D.C., to chat with some of its residents.

An Armed Forces Retirement Home?

First off, if you didn’t know there was an Armed Forces Retirement Home, there are actually two. There’s the D.C. campus, and one in Gulfport, Mississippi. Both have been around for a really long time. You can find out more about their interesting history here. When I first got to the D.C. campus, I was introduced to a table of vets who were eating breakfast. They didn’t mind me interrupting, and they weren’t shy – making jokes and picking on each other the same way rowdy service members do now. “You’re new here, but you’re not new,” 89-year-old Helen Sadowski said to a new resident sitting near her. The jokes continued for a bit, but then one by one, they all got up to get on with their days. I shadowed a few of them, and they all had some fun stories to tell.

Ken Faller: Submariner Turned Woodworker

First, I went with Navy veteran Ken Faller to the woodshop. Yes, there’s a woodshop at the home, right next to the bowling alley. Trust me when I say there’s plenty to do. Faller’s been at the home for nine years, so he’s what you could call a “veteran veteran.” Inside his woodshop, there was a heavy scent of wood shavings. Drills and saws sat idle, while several unfinished chairs waited to be worked on. Frank Sinatra played in the background as Faller began staining one of them. He told me a little bit about the active-duty sailors who occasionally come to visit.
Navy veteran Ken Faller. All Hands photo
“Every year, we have a lot of new crew chiefs come over, and we haze them a little bit,” he joked. “It’s nice to see them. They’re so young! I don’t ever remember being that young.” Faller joined the Navy in 1959 and served for 23 years, mostly as a submariner. He was shipped to Vietnam twice in that time. In 1978, he was one of only three Navy chiefs to have been able to attend the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, which helps develop enlisted leaders. He retired as a master chief in 1983, still loving everything about his profession. “I had so many good moments, I just can’t pick out one and say, ‘That’s it,’” Faller said. “My naval career as a whole I cherished.” When it comes to Veterans Day, his best memory is from 2011. “I was part of a four-person group that went over to Chelsea in England. It was Remembrance Day there, so we celebrated Remembrance Day and Veterans Day at the same time. It was very neat,” he said of the British holiday that’s equivalent to our Memorial Day. Each year on Nov. 11, he attends Veterans Day ceremonies and occasionally visits Arlington National Cemetery. “It’s meaningful to many people. … I had a few buddies that were fallen in Vietnam. I remember them. Then there’s just the people you met over 20 plus years and you lost contact – you think about them on that day,” he said.

Sheldon Shorthouse: The ‘Mayor’ of the Home

When I left Faller, I made a pit stop at the home’s bar, the Defender’s Inn – not for a drink, but to chat with 63-year-old Army veteran Sheldon Shorthouse, who runs the bar. Shorthouse might be the busiest man at the home. He’s only been there for two years but he’s already won the elected position of Resident Advisory Committee chairman, which pretty much means he’s the mayor. Or at least, that’s what he told former President Barack Obama during a visit last year. “I went through the chow line and introduced myself to him. I figured he wouldn’t know what a RAC chairman was, but he does know what a mayor is, so I just told him I was the elected mayor,” Shorthouse explained. When Obama was leaving, Shorthouse decided to jump in line to shake the president’s hand one more time. “He just looked at me,” the vet said. “He stopped, called for his photographer to come over, puts his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘I want my picture with the mayor!’”
President Barack Obama gets a photo with Army veteran Sheldon Shorthouse at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., Nov. 23, 2016. Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Shorthouse joined the Army in 1974, just after the Vietnam War draft ended. He was a military police officer and was stationed all over during his 20 years of service, including in Holland, where he learned all about various cultures through his British and German counterparts. He said what he cherished most about his military service are the friends he made. “I still maintain one contact with a gentleman who was the best man at my wedding in Holland. He was a security policeman in the Air Force,” he said.

Helen Sadowski: Paving the Way for Women

For New Jersey native Helen Sadowski, the 20 years she spent in the Navy were the “best thing she did.” The service got her out of her small town and led to some amazing experiences. Helen joined in 1952, a few years after women were allowed to enlist outside of war time. Her career took her to California’s Treasure Island — where she ate the same meals as court-martialed prisoners – then to her favorite duty station, Pearl Harbor. “Hawaii wasn’t a state yet. It was real pristine at that time,” the 89-year-old said. She got to see many of the memorials that had been erected since the 1941 Japanese attacks. “You could see the shadows and the bubbles coming up [from the USS Arizona]. It was really very moving.”
Navy veteran Helen Sadowski. DoD photo by Katie Lange
Nowadays, she spends her time volunteering at the home and hanging with fellow residents. I left Sadowski and the home as the residents were gearing up for an Oktoberfest party that afternoon. “Are you coming?” they all wanted to know. My answer was an unfortunate no – I had to get going. But after all of their years of military service, I was very happy to see they were living it up in retirement!

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Medal of Honor Goes to Vietnam Vet Who Saved Dozens in 4 Days

By Katie Lange Defense Media Activity 1/22/17 from DODLive, the official Department of Defense Blog This articleis part of a 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 U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. This week we’re highlighting a special Medal of Honor recipient, who received the coveted honor this week. Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose received the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 23 to commemorate his heroic actions during a four-day mission known as Operation Tailwind during the Vietnam War.

Early Life

Born during the post-World War II “Baby Boom,” Rose grew up in an era surrounded by military veterans. So in April 1947, the Huntsville, Alabama, native decided he needed to serve, too, and enlisted in the Army. Within a year and a half, he graduated from Special Forces training as a medic. By 1970, Rose had been assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. His service would be put to the ultimate test, as he and many other U.S. troops were sent into neighboring Laos. The goal was for them to engage North Vietnamese troops in Laos to keep them from returning to the bigger fight back in Vietnam.

Cool Under Fire

On Sept. 11, 1970, then-Sgt. Rose was responsible for 136 men who were inserted about 44 miles into the Laos jungle. They soon came under fire from waves of enemies, and the fighting didn’t let up for four days as Rose and his group marched deeper into enemy territory. As men in his group began to fall, Rose was there to help them, even if it meant he had to run into harm’s way. He shot at the enemy in order to get the fallen back to safety, crawled from position to position, and encouraged and helped direct the fire of inexperienced Vietnamese and paramilitary troops fighting on the Americans’ side. Rose was wounded several times, but most severely on the mission’s second day. He had pulled a wounded soldier back to safety when a rocket-propelled grenade landed nearby, spraying him with shrapnel in his back, leg and foot, which was severely crippled. But despite his pain, he continued on with his mission, hobbling around on a stick for a crutch, ignoring his own painful injuries so he could treat the wounded. At one point, Rose risked his life to help injured soldiers into a hovering helicopter, but the enemy’s fire targeted the chopper, and it had to abort the rescue. It crashed a few miles away. By the last day of the mission, more than half of Rose’s company had been wounded, and they were surrounded by more North Vietnamese troops than they could handle. They had to evacuate. But setting up a landing zone perimeter was difficult under fire, and many more men fell. Rose continued to retrieve each man and treat him, despite his pain and the fact that he was completely exposed to the enemy. As the extraction helicopters came in, Rose stayed on the outside perimeter to repel the continuous enemy assault. When he finally jumped on the last leaving chopper, enemy soldiers were within 50 meters of him.

Rescued, But Not Out of the Woods

At about 4,500 feet in the air, the helicopter was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and Rose heard the engine stop. But before the chopper crashed, in typical Rose fashion, he saved the life of a Marine door gunner who had been hit in the neck after takeoff. Rose was thrown from the aircraft just before it hit the ground. Dazed but OK, he crawled back to the fuel-leaking helicopter to move the injured men inside out of the way of a possible explosion. He kept giving aid until another helicopter came for them. Even after he returned to base, Rose refused to get treatment until his men were tended to first.

The Impact of His Effort

There were a lot of men wounded over that four-day mission, and only three died. Yet, thanks to Rose, the lives of up to 70 men were saved. His devotion, professionalism and extreme courage under fire reflected great credit upon him. That’s why he’s receiving the Medal of Honor. Rose will be the 18th Vietnam veteran from the 5th Special Forces Group to receive the nation’s highest honor for valor. Eight of them have been awarded posthumously.

Post-War Life

After his recovery, Rose continued his Army career. He spent time in Panama before attending Officer Candidate School, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 1973. He went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before retiring as an Army captain in May 1987. Rose worked in the manufacturing industry before he permanently retired in 2010. He and his wife, Margaret, have three adult children and two grandchildren. The Army hero said he was excited to receive the Medal of Honor, but he insisted it was earned by all the men in his group. “That medal, to me, recognizes finally the service of all the men in all those years that served in MACSOG [Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group]. It’s a collective medal from my perspective,” he told the Army News Service. The medal, he added, represents “all the courage and honor and dedication to duty that those men served.” Thank you for your selfless devotion, Capt. Rose, and congratulations on this honor! Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!

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From IVF to twins, a wounded vet and wife lean on each other

IVF Photo by Kirsten Leah Bitzer Two years ago, what this couple wanted most was to start a family, but daunting physical and financial challenges stood in their way. William Brangham revisits Jason and Rachel Hallett, who struggled with the aftereffects of a grievous war injury as well as a ban by the VA on health coverage for in vitro fertilization, to see how their long journey to parenthood was captured by a photographer. Read the Full Transcript Judy Woodruff: But, first, we return to a story we first told you about in 2015, about a young couple trying to overcome the scars of war. William Brangham brings us up to date. William Brangham: Two years ago, we went to Colorado to tell the story of a badly-wounded young Marine veteran and his wife. They wanted to start a family. But, as you will see, the challenges facing them, both physical and financial, were daunting. Sure, all newlyweds face challenges, but Jason and Rachel Hallett have more than most. Jason is a triple amputee. Back in 2010, as a 19-year-old Marine, he lost two legs and one arm when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. Jason Hallett: When 9/11 and everything happened, I was — I had a little bit of interest to join the military. But, as soon as that happened, it just became — everything was circling around me joining the military.  William Brangham: After his injury, Jason had multiple surgeries at various U.S. military facilities. He hadn’t been in touch with Rachel since they dated back in the eighth grade, but, in the hospital, he looked her up on Facebook. Rachel Hallett: He sends me this friend request a couple years after I had kind of given up. And when I saw what had happened, I just started crying. I messaged him right away and I was, like, well, we have got a lot to catch up on. William Brangham: Facebook led to phone calls, which led to a visit, and then a wedding day. When we first met them, they were living in Windsor, Colorado. Jason was studying to be a certified financial planner. Rachel baby-sat local kids to make extra money, but her full-time job really was caring for Jason. She got a small stipend from the VA for that work. What the Halletts wanted most was to start a family, but there was a problem.  Rachel Hallett: There’s tons of shrapnel everywhere throughout his body. William Brangham: Still in your body today? Jason Hallett: Yes. So, basically, one of the pieces had actually connected itself to one of my testicles. And so I now have to take testosterone injections basically to get me back to normal. And with that, one of the side effects is, it basically kills the sperm off. William Brangham: In order to conceive a child, the Halletts’ only option was to try IVF, in vitro fertilization. IVF is expensive. It typically costs about $12,000 to $13,000 per try, and the first try often doesn’t work, so the bills can stack up. But unlike all the other medical treatment related to Jason’s war injuries, the VA doesn’t cover IVF for wounded vets, so the Halletts were paying for this themselves. In 1992, Congress passed a law that led to the VA banning IVF coverage. There were concerns over costs, which are estimated to be about $500 million over five years. There were also reports that anti-abortion groups who disapprove of IVF didn’t want it funded. What that meant was that, for the estimated 1, 800 veterans like Jason, they also have to spend tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to get pregnant and start a family. Democratic Senator Patty Murray wanted that to change. She authored a bill that would lift the IVF ban. But, for years, her efforts had been blocked.  Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash.: To me, when someone goes off to fight a war for us, a man or a woman, we have an obligation as the country to make them whole again, as whole as we can.  Jason Hallett: It’s very angering. And it brings a lot of resentment towards my active service and stuff. I don’t regret joining the Marine Corps. But the simple fact is that they told us that we’d be taken care of us if we got injured. And I guarantee that, if it was a congressman’s kid or them themselves that wanted IVF, and they had to go through the same process and the same hoops, that they would be doing everything they can to make it happen. Rachel Hallett: It’s hard to know that he would protect them and he would give up all of this for them, and they will not take just a little bit of time to try to fix this issue that we are having. William Brangham: When we left, the Halletts had just begun the first of their costly fertility treatments. So, that was the end of 2015. Since then, Senator Murray’s bill still hasn’t come up for a vote, but last December, Congress did authorize the VA to pay for in vitro services for wounded vets for a two-year period. This fix didn’t occur in time to help Jason and Rachel Hallett. As you will see, soon after we left, a young photographer picked up their story and has been documenting their life ever since. Kirsten Leah Bitzer was taking intro to photography at college, and she had an idea for her class project. The idea came from her mom. She was a nurse at an IVF center, and she had told Kirsten about the tough time couples often go through when they’re trying to conceive a child. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: I said, can you please find me a couple who might be interested in allowing me to tag along for their story? William Brangham: Jason and Rachel Hallett, who were just a few weeks into their IVF process at the same clinic, said yes. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: I was asking them to be involved in the most intimate — one of the most intimate things people can go through. And normal able-bodied couples who are dealing with infertility have enough insecurities and difficulties that they’re dealing with already, but when you’re dealing with a triple amputee as well and his caregiver, it’s a whole other level of sensitivity training, honestly. William Brangham: Kirsten followed Jason and Rachel through the ups and downs of the whole in vitro process, and its many different medical procedures. She also went with them for many of Jason’s visits to various VA hospitals for his ongoing care. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: I had been to the prosthetic fittings with them. The meeting just before they left for the Marine Corps Ball, it was supposed to be a final thing, because he was insisting that he would stand all night long at the Marine Corps Ball. With his bone grown and everything, because he was still so young, his bones were still growing so much, his bones would poke through the skin and create these open wounds that were just rubbing against the prosthetics. The prosthetist was supposed to kind of mold it out in those spots for him to be able to stand and walk around all night. And it wasn’t. And so he had to use his old ones. And he still did it. And… William Brangham: Even though that’s incredibly painful. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: Yes. He was miserable. I mean, he was in excruciating pain. William Brangham: This was the Marine Corps Ball. It’s the annual event to celebrate the founding of the Corps. This one was in California, and Jason was a guest of honor. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: He was born to be a Marine. He would tell you that. He always knew he wanted to be a Marine. There’s this brotherhood. And it’s nothing that anybody else in civilization can provide for him. And so I wanted to witness that and try to document that. William Brangham: After the ball, back home in Colorado, Jason started his new job as a financial adviser. And the two of them continued their efforts to finally get pregnant and grow their family. After rounds of different hormone shots and egg retrievals, two of their fertilized embryos were transferred into Rachel’s womb, hoping that at least one would take. IVF often takes multiple tries, but not this time. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: The day that they got the news that they were pregnant, she played it on speakerphone in the car. I was lucky that I even got any photos in focus, because I couldn’t see. I was crying silently. I didn’t want to ruin the moment for them, but I was just like, oh, this is happening. Everything kind of settled down after she stopped playing it. And she looked back and me and was just like, you’re crying. And I said, I know. How can I not? I’m a human. William Brangham: And it turned out that both embryos had implanted. Jason and Rachel were going to have twins. Kirsten says that, at first, she worried that for a young couple who already had challenges, suddenly doubling the size of their family could be too much. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: Before I really knew them, I was thinking, this is a tall order for one woman, honestly. She’s the caregiver for Jason already. William Brangham: To him, right. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: I mean, you have to be a strong person to go into it knowing how much more difficult everything will be. I have every — every reason to be confident in their ability to just be capable, which is an interesting word to use for Jason, I guess, because you look at him and you think he’s handicapped. But, in this situation, it’s — they have everything they need. William Brangham: On her due date, Rachel labored for nearly 17 grueling hours before doctors finally decided she needed a C-section. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: I mean, there were so many difficulties. They couldn’t get the epidural needle in between her vertebrae because she was so huge, she couldn’t bend forward. And she was screaming. And Jason was as calm and as strong as anybody could have possibly been. He was saying things like, this is everything we have wanted. This is everything we have wanted. You know that you’re strong enough to do this. The strength shown between the two of them in that situation was monumental. There’s always this, if you’re falling down, I will pick you up. If you need to lean on me, I will hold onto you, in a literal sense, in a metaphorical sense. And that’s what I took from the year-and-a-half of photographing them in so many situations. William Brangham: After a short stint in the neonatal intensive care unit, Jason Jr. came home. Same with his twin sister, Marina. They’re both well and healthy and doing just fine. Kirsten Leah Bitzer: When I first started this project, I was thinking, so, it’s finished when they have the babies. I realized that their story is never over. I want to be there to take photos when the babies graduate from high school or college and when they get married. Luckily, they are open to that, and I have been invited to be a part of such an amazing story. Click here to watch full video.

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A Retired Marine And A Photojournalist Confront War’s ‘Invisible Injuries’

After Marine Sgt. Thomas ("TJ") Brennan was hit by the blast from a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2010, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to recall much of his immediate past — including, at times, the name of his own daughter. "When I got blown up, it erased a lot of my memories," Brennan says. Brennan began therapies to address his TBI. He used the 200 letters he had exchanged with his wife to put together a broad narrative of his time at war. When it came to the grenade blast itself, Brennan pieced together the sequence of events surrounding his injury with the help of Finbarr O'Reilly, a photographer who had embedded with Brennan's unit in Afghanistan. "I have the whole sequence documented of him," O'Reilly says. "One of the things I ... [photographed] was this Afghan national policeman who fired the rocket that ultimately went astray and blew up very close to TJ, knocking him unconscious ... and the explosion afterwards, and the guys who went to recover TJ."

On why O'Reilly pursued photojournalism and how much of it is about the thrill of adventure Finbarr O'Reilly: I think, on some level, if we're entirely honest with ourselves as photographers, yes, we do want adventure. We do seek out that thrill. The fact that that impulse matches with something that is considered a noble calling — truth-telling, or photojournalism as a profession — these are all worthy things to do, but it does draw people, such as myself, who did go in search of things that would give us a sense of purpose and meaning that was matched by our desire for adventure or for thrills. Initially at least. When I started out I did want to have an interesting life. I did want to be in places where things were happening. I had traveled, after university, through east and Central Africa down to South Africa. And this is in 1994 — as the Rwandan genocide was beginning to happen — and then I was in South Africa when Mandela was elected. These were very intense experiences for me as a young individual, and I wanted to keep experiencing those kinds of things, and journalism seemed like the best way to do that.
Photographer Finbarr O'Reilly says he was drawn to Afghanistan's "rugged, cinematic desert landscape." Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters/Viking
On photographing the explosion that left TJ with a traumatic brain injury O'Reilly: My job in these situations is first of all not to get in the way of what's happening, while also trying to remain safe myself. So I was very focused on my role while these guys were focused on theirs. So I would just photograph things unfolding. On what it is like to live with a traumatic brain injury You know what you're supposed to be doing. You're telling yourself what you're supposed to be doing. And your fingers are working, but something's not connecting. And the emotion and the fear that I felt in that moment and knowing that I had a difficult time recalling my own daughter's name just an hour ago at the hospital — like, that was really scary. There are times now where I have [what] I call ... "bad brain days," and that first day in the hospital was one of my first bad brain days that I had. On returning to his squad and suffering from residual symptoms of his TBI
Now retired from the Marines, TJ Brennan is a regular contributor to The New York Times' At War blog. He is also the founder of The War Horse, a nonprofit online newsroom covering the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo by Cindy Shepers/Viking
Brennan: The majority of traumatic brain injuries, they leave residuals. But not everyone experiences residual symptoms of their traumatic brain injury, so I thought that I was going to be OK when I went back out to my guys. And then, when it came time to me doing [what] I call ... the basics of being a Marine infantryman — having my squad's identification numbers memorized, having their blood types memorized ... when I went back and I started doing my precombat checks and precombat inspections, I was having a hard time remembering those. That's a real, "Oh, crap" moment, when you're responsible for 15 lives. But I didn't want to be labeled as a malingerer for saying I was having issues. Because, for me — my TBI — the symptoms manifest in a very physical way for me. But they're very invisible to a lot of people, so it's easy for people to discount invisible injuries. Brennan: I ignored getting help for far too long. One of the main reasons why I wanted to write the book was because I understand how it feels to feel alone, like you're the only veteran or service member going through an issue. It feels like you're surrounded by extremely strong people who are wearing the same uniform that you are, and you don't want to let them down. And that's a lot of why I couldn't bring myself to get help. On deciding to be open about his own PTSD after a leader in the battalion gathered the unit to criticize a fellow Marine for having PTSD Brennan: There was somebody in the battalion who was bitching [about] ... pulling the PTSD "punk card." And that was a symbolic moment to me, because it was [about] the stigma toward mental health treatment in action — whether it was 100 percent directed at me or not. I immediately [felt like I] had been labeled a piece of broken gear. ... That's probably the best thing that could have happened to me in hindsight, because I knew it was either I walk back inside and say, "I'm not getting help, and I'm going to deploy back to Afghanistan with these guys in seven months" or "I need to steel my resolve and go down the road of getting help, because I just need to accept that my career is over." I want to make one thing clear: The opinion that that "leader" showed that day, that's not representative of every Marine. That's not representative of every service member. On helping another retired Marine through his writing Brennan: What means the most to me was, after I wrote about my suicide attempt for The New York Times — I think it was 2013 — I had a Marine veteran reach out to me. He called me on my office line while I was working at The Daily News in North Carolina. He really didn't tell me too much other than the fact that he was an Iraqi immigrant that later joined up and served as a linguist during the wars. When he came home, his family disowned him. And it had probably been about seven or 10 days after the story had published, but he told me that he Googled "painless, quick suicide" or some sort of Google search about how to kill himself painlessly and not leave a big mess for his family. And the SEO — the search engine optimization — for The New York Times story made that the first thing that popped up [in his online search]. And he called me to tell me that my story renewed his commitment to stay alive. Lauren Krenzel and Mooj Zadie produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Deborah Franklin adapted it for the Web.

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Years after silently combating sexual trauma, female veterans seek help

procella_3_1170 Sheila Procella joined the Air Force in 1974 to “see the Earth,” she said. She enlisted at the tail end of the Vietnam War, shortly after graduating from high school. Although she never left her home state of Texas during eight years of service, her office job proved to be its own battlefield. “Some of us actually went to war, some of us had war right here in the States, going to work every day knowing we are going to be harassed,” said Procella, now 62 and living in Plano, Texas. At the time, fewer than 3 percent of service members were women. Procella recalled the daily barrage of sexual comments, gestures and men grabbing her inappropriately. And one of her superiors made it clear that her hopes of moving up the career ladder were dependent on having sex with him. “He was kind of discreet about the way he put it, but his one advance and my one acceptance of his advance led to my promotion,” Procella said. At the time, Procella, who served in the Air Force until 1979 and then went on to the Texas Air National Guard until 1982, accepted the common belief that reporting the incidents would be bad for her career. “It definitely wasn’t talked about, you definitely did not report your superiors for any kind of harassment,” she explained. “At the time that it happens you sweep it away like you’re going to be OK.” But it wasn’t OK, and after her military career, Procella found herself dependent on alcohol and drugs to cope. Eventually, she came to associate her deep depression, anxiety and panic attacks with the harassment and assaults during her military service. Procella, who had also experienced childhood sexual abuse, was diagnosed with military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2014, nearly three decades after her service. Today she has a 70 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are many others like Procella, who served decades ago, but are just coming to terms with their experience. Midlife Awareness2015 study published by the American Psychological Association asked 327 female veterans in Southern California about their experiences with sexual trauma. They divided the respondents into two groups — those who served before the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and those in uniform afterward. Nearly half of those in the earlier group reported sexual contact against their will during their military service. In the later group, reports of unwanted sexual contact dropped to 30 percent. A majority of those who reported sexual abuse met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis, the researchers said. And a study published last year in the journal Women’s Health Issues found that women ages 45-54 reported more sexual harassment and assault while in the military than other age groups. “I was struck by the idea that it wasn’t just younger women,” said Carolyn Gibson, a women’s health research fellow at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and co-author of that study. The research also found that the association between sexual trauma and its negative effects on health — such as cardiovascular disease, substance abuse and other physical and mental illnesses — was most pronounced among female veterans ages 45-64. Gibson said these effects may be exacerbated among women in midlife because there was less awareness around the issue when they were in uniform and they felt compelled to bear the stress alone. Midlife is also a time of great change for women, Gibson explained, both physically and emotionally, which could lead them to come forward about sexual trauma after their service ended. “As people go through periods of transition, then those symptoms tend to pick up a lot more,” she said. More of the veterans who are younger now, she added, may go public about their struggles with sexual trauma when they enter this phase of life 10 to 15 years down the road. Battle For Recognition The Veterans Health Administration coined the term “military sexual trauma” in 2004, and today about 25 percent of women and 1.5 percent of men who use VA health services have the diagnosis, according to the VA. The symptoms are closely associated with PTSD and put individuals at an increased risk for other mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. But getting a disability claim based on military sexual trauma can be a long and complicated battle. A 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that disability claims related to sexual trauma during military service used to be far less likely to be approved than PTSD claims from other sources. In 2010, 46 percent of all claims related to non-sexual trauma were approved by the Veterans Benefits Administration, while 28 percent of those related to military sexual trauma were, GAO said. By 2013, half of the sexual abuse claims and 55 percent of PTSD claims were approved. The GAO and veterans groups say the increase came after the VA mandated training on military sexual trauma for employees processing claims at regional centers and for health professionals providing the veterans’ evaluations. The VA has added resources specifically for women in recent years, even separate entrances for women at some counseling facilities. Still, it’s a challenge to get women through the door to receive help. According to a 2015 VA report on barriers to women’s health care, only 19 percent of female veterans used VA services. “During the Vietnam era, a lot of veterans who came back had a hard time getting into the VA, especially women — they were put off by the VA for several years,” said Pam Maercklein, who coordinates women’s health care for the Texas Veterans Commission and is an Air Force veteran. “Now the VA, especially here in Texas, is doing a fairly good job of gender-specific treatment.” Anna Baker, the manager of the commission’s women’s program, said women who are now middle-aged were forgotten when it came to treatment for sexual trauma at the time of their service and afterward. “We’ve had several nurses who served in Vietnam who are just now coming out, who are saying that for so many years they just suppressed it,” Baker said, “and they’re just now starting to have those conversations and deal with those issues that are causing them anguish.” While there’s a tendency to associate PTSD with military combat, a 2015 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that women who served in Vietnam had increased odds of PTSD. The effect, the report found, “appears to be associated with wartime exposures, especially sexual discrimination or harassment and job performance pressures.” Delia Esparza, a psychiatric mental health nurse with the Vet Center in Austin, Texas, has been helping veterans — women and men — deal with sexual trauma for more than 22 years. The Austin Vet Center is one of 300 community facilities across the country that provide veterans (and family members) with free individual and group counseling, in addition to other readjustment services. Esparza said that even with increased attention to military sexual trauma, many of the problems that Procella and other veterans experienced persist. Among them: Women especially feel stigmatized for speaking out. She recalled that when she first started practicing she had a female client who was a veteran from World War II. “She was very troubled by this whole thing,” Esparza said of the veteran, who was then in her 70s, “and when she talked about it she became very tearful. “It stays with you.” Click here for PBS NewsHour report.

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Agent Orange puts a new generation at risk in Vietnam

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, two young Americans who shared a sense of service made two very different decisions: one joined the Marine Corps and one went to Saigon to help war orphans. Decades later, they share a common mission to help victims of illnesses caused by exposure to Agent Orange from the war. JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how two men hear and are driven by the echoes of their time in Vietnam, one a Marine combat veteran, the other a conscientious objector who went to help the people of that country. They are bound together now, working to help a new generation terribly affected by a war that ended before they were born. Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports. MIKE CERRE, Special Correspondent: At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968… ANNOUNCER: Before the parade, mass draft card burning was urged. MIKE CERRE: … and the protests against it that divided the country, two young Americans made very different decisions that would make Vietnam parts of their lives for the next 50 years. LARRY VETTER, Vietnam Veteran: After I graduated from Texas A&M, I went to the Marine Corps basic school. And then, when I got out of that, in a few months later, we were off to Vietnam. DICK HUGHES, Conscientious Objector: I was just wrapping up my acting studies at Boston University, and, at that time I was pretty concerned about the war, upset by the war. So, I decided to do two things, that I would go down and take my physical in for the draft, but I would refuse induction. MIKE CERRE: Larry Vetter, the volunteer, ended up serving two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine infantry and recon officer, much of the time on the front lines. LARRY VETTER: You believed all that you were being told and what you read, and you were pretty gung-ho about going over and serving your country. And that’s what we all did. MAN: If you’re concerned about something, you do something out it. The way I do things is, you go right to the center of the problem and where it’s happening. MIKE CERRE: Dick Hughes, the draft refuser, ended up in Vietnam that summer of ’68 as well by paying his own way to Saigon in search of some kind of alternative service he could do. Confronted by bands of street children orphaned by the war on his first day in country, he helped them find food and safe shelter with money from cashing in his return plane ticket. Dubbed the Shoeshine Boys Project, it grew into eight safe houses Dick ran in Saigon and Da Nang until after the war ended. DICK HUGHES: Are you a Saigon cowboy. You a Saigon V.C.? These kids slept in the streets, shined shoes and watched people’s motorbikes and things like that to have money to live. And I think, over the course of seven years, probably in the area of 2,500 children went through the project. LARRY VETTER: A person being a conscientious objector, I think that’s perfectly valid. At that time, I would have said something more like, well, find a way you can serve your country, and if you don’t want to be in the military, maybe you can be in something else. MIKE CERRE: Two Americans with very different perspectives on the Vietnam War and a sense of service in the ’60s now find themselves on a common mission, the battle against Agent Orange, the dangerous legacy left over from the war that continues to plague another generation of Vietnamese. LARRY VETTER: I got diagnosed with a cancer that was listed on the VA list as being caused by Agent Orange. And so that was one of the reasons why I asked to meet people in Vietnam that had Agent Orange diseases. MIKE CERRE: Most American tourists passing through Da Nang don’t know it’s been one of Vietnam’s most contaminated Agent Orange sites, with dioxin levels in some areas 350 times international safety standards. Nor did I when I was flying out of the Da Nang Air Base as a Marine aviator in the ’70s. The Agent Orange defoliant was used during the war originally to make enemy positions more visible from the air. While it was stored in Da Nang and other air bases, it leaked into the surrounding areas, and is believed to have contaminated local water sources, according to a study done by Canadian scientists. LARRY VETTER: In this area next to the airport, you have people whose dioxin levels in their blood are 100 times the safe levels, and you have women whose breast milk is four times the safe levels. MIKE CERRE: Originally stationed in Da Nang during the war, Larry moved here in 2012 after recovering from prostate cancer, one of the many presumed Agent Orange-related illnesses. Nearly 250,000 American veterans are being compensated for Agent Orange. He’s using his veterans disability benefits to help two Vietnamese brothers severely crippled by those presumed Agent Orange illnesses. Toan (ph), age 25, has been in intensive care for the past two years, no longer able to move or swallow on his own. LARRY VETTER: By the age of 8, he was seriously showing symptoms, stumbling, not having the strength to pull himself up. They saw some American doctors. The American doctors told them that they thought it was likely a disease caused by Agent Orange. MIKE CERRE: The family Larry is helping camps outside on the hospital’s walkway, because Vietnamese families are responsible for feeding and bathing their hospitalized relatives. LARRY VETTER: The mother, Hoa (ph), really works very hard trying to hold the family together. Her husband is paraplegic, two boys quadriplegic. I guess I feel a little bit of national guilt for what we did here in Vietnam to so many people. I need to, just in my own little way, try to help. MIKE CERRE: The Agent Orange problem has also drawn Dick Hughes back to Vietnam, where some of his former Shoeshine Boys are helping him work with another generation of children still at risk from the war. DICK HUGHES: We decided to form a thing called Loose Cannons and try to get some assistance to people in Vietnam who had been exposed to dioxin and who needed some help. Most people think Agent Orange was something that happened in the war. They don’t realize that the byproduct of Agent Orange, dioxin, is still in the soil, in the vegetation and the fish, and that people today are being born with deformities and illnesses. It’s also being passed down in the genes. The Red Cross estimates there’s three million people in Vietnam today suffering with Agent Orange. And it wouldn’t take so much, really, to help them, but they are a constituency very far away. MIKE CERRE: While Larry tries to generate support for his and other Agent Orange families through his children of war social media campaign, Dick has taken his Loose Cannons advocacy mission to Washington to persuade legislators to include funding for Agent Orange victims assistance programs in the Defense Department’s budget. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse first met Dick in Saigon in 1972 while visiting a Shoeshine Boys house with his father, who was serving there as the deputy U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. DICK HUGHES: It is like a circle. We started off on different sides of it, but now we ended up at the same place. MAN: I think it’s interesting that those who served in Vietnam in different ways have come together to help in solving the last of the wounds of the Vietnam War. MIKE CERRE: For the PBS NewsHour, Mike Cerre, Da Nang, Vietnam. Editor’s note: We learned the day after this story aired that one of the young men featured, Nghia La, died yesterday morning. His family, including a brother who is also suffering from a disability likely caused by the lingering effects of Agent Orange, has been supported for years by Army veteran Larry Vetter, also featured in the story. Nghia La was just 22 years old.  

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Suicide among veterans highest in western U.S., rural areas

BY HOPE YEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS  September 16, 2017 at 9:27 AM EDT
The sign of the Department of Veteran Affairs is seen in front of the headquarters building in Washington WASHINGTON — Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas, according to new government data that show wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors. The figures released Friday are the first-ever Department of Veterans Affairs data on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. Veterans in big chunks of those states must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center. The suicide rates in those four states stood at 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, far above the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4. The overall rate in the West was 45.5. All other regions of the country had rates below the national rate. Other states with high veteran suicide rates, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, had greater levels of prescription drug use, including opioids. A VA study last year found veterans who received the highest doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide compared to those receiving the lowest doses. The latest VA data also reaffirmed sharp demographic differences: Women veterans are at much greater risk, with their suicide rate 2.5 times higher than for female civilians. Among men, the risk was 19 percent higher among veterans compared to civilians. As a whole, older veterans make up most military suicides — roughly 65 percent were age 50 or older.
“This report is huge,” said Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist who studies suicide for the RAND Corp. He noted that the suicide rate is higher for veterans than non-veterans in every single state by at least 1.5 times, suggesting unique problems faced by former service members. “No state is immune.” Ramchand said it was hard to pinpoint specific causes behind veteran suicide but likely involved factors more prevalent in rural areas, such as social isolation, limited health care access, gun ownership and opioid addiction. Nationally, 70 percent of the veterans who take their lives had not previously been connected to VA care. “This requires closer investigation into why suicide rates by veteran status are higher, including the role that opiates play,” Ramchand said. The dataset offers more detailed breakdowns on national figures released last year, which found that 20 veterans a day committed suicide. The numbers come from the largest study undertaken of veterans’ records by the VA, part of a government effort to uncover fresh information about where to direct resources and identify veterans most at-risk. The department has been examining ways to boost suicide prevention efforts. “These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin. “This is a national public health issue.” Shulkin, who has worked to provide same-day mental health care at VA medical centers, recently expanded emergency mental care to veterans with other than honorable discharges. The department is also boosting its suicide hotline and expanding telehealth options. Ret. Army Sgt. Shawn Jones, executive director of Stop Soldier Suicide, said veterans suicide is an issue that needs greater awareness to provide community support for those in need. Transitioning back to civilian life can be difficult for active-duty members who may return home with physical and mental conditions and feel unable to open up to friends or families. As a result, some veterans can feel overwhelmed by daily challenges of finding a job, buying a home and supporting a family. “It can be tough because the military is a close-knit community and you have that familial feel,” Jones said. “As you transition out, you tend to lose that a little bit and feel like an island onto yourself.” The attention on veteran suicide comes at a time when the VA has reported a huge upswing in veterans seeking medical care as they have returned from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Veterans’ groups say the latest data may raise questions about the department’s push to expand private-sector care. “Veterans often have more complex injuries,” said Allison Jaslow, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, citing limitations if civilian doctors don’t understand the unique challenges of the veterans’ population. If doctors don’t ask the right questions to a veteran complaining of back pain, for instance, they may prescribe opioids not realizing the veteran was also suffering PTSD or brain injury after being blown up in a humvee, said Jaslow, a former Army captain. Expanding private-sector care and stemming veterans’ suicide are priorities of President Donald Trump. In a statement this week as part of Suicide Prevention Month, Trump said the U.S. “must do more” to help mentally troubled veterans.

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Remembering a father lost to Vietnam by doing good

Bike Vietnam   JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the legacy of the Vietnam War and a story of one woman whose pilot father was shot down over neighboring Laos. She went on a mission to find the place he died and some measure of comfort. A new film lays out her odyssey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Special correspondent Mike Cerre, a Vietnam veteran himself, reports. REBECCA RUSCH, Firefighter: I don’t have any of my own personal memories of my dad. I mean, he left when I was very young. We have very few photos, really just one or two of me with him as a baby. MIKE CERRE, Special correspondent: Rebecca Rusch’s father, Steve, was shot down in Laos in 1972 while flying a bombing mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the end of the Vietnam War.  He was listed as MIA, missing in action, most of her life. REBECCA RUSCH: This is my remembrance. This is my dad’s crash coordinates, the place really where my life changed. There are the military navigation coordinates that we received years ago. And it’s also a remembrance that he’s still a part of my life. MIKE CERRE: Rebecca, an Idaho firefighter and endurance mountain bike racer, has spent most of her life wondering about what happened to the father she never had a chance to know. He left for Vietnam when she was only 3 years old. REBECCA RUSCH: I’m attached to Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the rest of my life. And I have been attached through my dad my entire life. I just hadn’t really — hadn’t really recognized the depth of it until now.  There’s a place I have been avoiding for a long time. It’s been in my thoughts for more than 40 years. What happened there long ago set me on this path. MIKE CERRE: Rebecca rode nearly 1,200 miles, the length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to visit her father’s crash site, both as a memorial tribute to him and for some possible closure to her family’s Vietnam experience the past 45 years. Her journey, along with a Vietnamese mountain bike racer, was documented in the theatrical film “Blood Road.” REBECCA RUSCH: They call it Blood Road because so many people died there, and countless Americans, countless Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian. And knowing that we were going to travel that path of history, but also that path of death, was very somber. There was trepidation about what we were going to find in the jungle, but also this deep sense of remorse and sadness for what this trail represented. MIKE CERRE: This critical network of roads, trails and footpaths through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was used by the North Vietnamese to move troops and supplies to fight in South Vietnam. It was heavily bombed by the Americans. REBECCA RUSCH: I really didn’t expect to see so many bomb craters and the land to still be pockmarked with representation of the devastation that happened there. I didn’t expect to see so many physical remnants of the war while we were riding. And this included a boat that we took that was a fuel fuselage from an F-4 Phantom, the same plane that my dad flew. MIKE CERRE: She also didn’t expect to be greeted so warmly by villagers once they understood her family’s connection to the decade-long bombing campaign that claimed many of their family members. REBECCA RUSCH: If someone had come to my house, and her had been dropping bombs on my family, and she came and knocked on my door, would I be as open and welcoming and say, come on in, I want to help you on your mission? Sadly, I don’t think that I would be that open. And it was — it’s a big lesson to take from them on forgiveness and getting past the painful history. MIKE CERRE: The son of the villager who saw her father’s plane crash in 1972 took her to the site in the jungle where his father buried her father, next to a large tree. REBECCA RUSCH: Picking around in the dirt with his machete, he actually found parts of the plane. Finding those pieces and actual remnants made it very real and made it, you know, that this really is the place where dad was. And that’s his gravestone for me. MIKE CERRE: There’s very few pictures of you and him. REBECCA RUSCH: Yes, this is — this is the one. MIKE CERRE: Instead of closure, Rebecca’s journey opened a new chapter in her Vietnam War history, one inspired by how her fathered signed off one of his last letters home to his family. REBECCA RUSCH: “I love the flying in the airplane, but I don’t really like the job. Regardless of any opinions I have of this war or any other, I try to rationalize and say it has to be done, but I can’t see any reason why. If anything should happen to me, please don’t let me die. Be good. Steve.” MIKE CERRE: Rebecca has gone back to Laos since her initial ride to keep her father’s memory alive, as well as those of the local casualties of the war, whose numbers continue to grow, due to UXOs, the unexploded ordnance that is still injuring another generation of Lao. REBECCA RUSCH: Two of the fingers were cut off. MIKE CERRE: The United States government estimates that 20 to 30 percent of the bombs dropped here didn’t go off as designed. As a result, there may be tens of millions of unexploded ordnance littered around the landscape. REBECCA RUSCH: So, this one is safe? MAN: Yes, it’s safe. It’s safe too. REBECCA RUSCH: This is one safe too? MIKE CERRE: To help pay for the clearing of the land of this dangerous legacy of the war, Rebecca is working with local artisans and the New York jewelry company Article 22 on recycling metal from UXOs and parts of downed aircraft like her father’s. A portion of the sales goes to UXO cleanup. REBECCA RUSCH: The bracelets, I have had engraved with in my dad’s handwriting the way that he signed his letters home, the words, “Be good.” And on the opposite side in my handwriting is the Lao translation of “Be good.” And, really, it does represent a combining of the two cultures and my trip over there. The bracelet is not just about my dad or my story or even one person. It’s — you know, there are millions who lost their lives there. And we can look back at our history and be embarrassed or devastated by it or ashamed by it, but then it’s up to us to actually do something to create a better future. And that’s what’s happening with my trips back and my partnership with Article 22. And taking mountain bike groups back there is. I feel a responsibility to be part of the change. Click here to watch PBS NewsHour video.  

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Back-to-School Goals: Topping an Interview with Defense Sec. Mattis

7 Things to Know About the Teen Who Scored a One-on-One With DoD’s Senior Leader

By Katie Lange, DoD News, Defense Media Activity From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense As our kids get set to return to school, we always hope they do big things – get straight A’s, make the soccer team, get a part in the school play, or get a one-on-one interview with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. OK, so that last example = not so standard. At all. But it really happened over Memorial Day weekend to one Washington state high schooler who managed to snag Mattis’ personal cellphone number, asked him for an interview, and actually got one. The story made the rounds all over the news, including here, because it was such a big deal. I got to talk with Teddy Fischer, the 17-year-old Mercer Island High School student behind the story, as well as fellow newspaper staff writer Jane Gormley, who Fischer went to for help with making it happen. As they get set to return to school this fall (Gormley will be attending Washington University), I figured now would be a good time to tell a few of the more surprising details of how this cool experience came about.

Fischer didn’t have any real plans when he first contacted Mattis

If you haven’t read the original story, Fischer scored Mattis’ number after an article accidentally published a photo of Mattis’ bodyguard carrying papers with his number on it. Fischer wrote it down, but he didn’t really plan to do anything with it. “I recorded a funny video of myself just calling it with my reaction to his voicemail. And then I told one of my friends, Grady … kind of as a joke. We were debating what to text him. We were going to send him jokes or something,” Fischer said.

He kind of fudged the truth in his initial text

Fischer didn’t go with jokes, but instead chose a nicely crafted message … that wasn’t exactly legit. “When I texted him, I said I was doing an upcoming article on foreign policy, which was not true,” the soon-to-be junior said. “I asked if he could contribute to that.”

Mattis actually called him back FOUR times

The first call Fischer got from Mattis came when the teen was in journalism class. He had saved Mattis’ number as “Jim M” in his phone, and that’s what showed up on the display. “He was expecting to do the interview right there,” Fischer said of Mattis. Unfortunately, he had to ask the secretary to call at another time since he was in class — and because he hadn’t prepared questions, since he never thought Mattis would actually get in touch. The second time Mattis called, Fischer had just gotten home from school. “He was really polite. He asked how school was and stuff like that,” Fischer said. But they had to reschedule yet again. “Our questions hadn’t been approved by our advisor, so that was embarrassing to have to say, ‘I can’t.’” On Memorial Day, Mattis called twice. Teddy missed the first call. “I was devastated,” Fischer said. “But then he called again. That’s when the interview happened.”

The interview and story-writing were a team effort

Fischer asked Gormley and their journalism teacher for help in coming up with questions. Thankfully, Fischer had been paying attention to current events, especially foreign policy. “I check the news every day,” he said. “Seeing the headlines and seeing what’s going on in the world – the questions I asked were ones I was curious about.” While his questions were more about policy, Gormley’s were about the “human” side of things; specifically, how what Mattis does affects high schoolers. “We had about 10 minutes of questions, so Teddy did a really great job when Mattis was ready to keep going [after 10 minutes] to come up with a lot of the questions on the spot,” Gormley said.

The article increased their school newspaper’s website pageviews … by about 100,000%

Pageviews – the number of times visitors to your site look at a certain page – aren’t exactly high for the school’s online newspaper, The Islander, on a regular basis. “A good article would get 100 or 200 views,” Gormley said. “We’ve never broken 1,000 on anything.” “I could probably count on my fingers how many people go onto that site in the summer,” Fischer joked. The Mattis article changed that quickly. “I’ve been looking at our analytics, and they’re up, like, 100,000 percent,” Gormley said. The transcript of the interview had nearly 223,000 pageviews when I talked to them in July, while the two articles combined were at about 25,000. Article 1 | Article 2

Mattis exceeded their expectations

“He’s incredibly smart, knows what he’s talking about, incredibly experienced, very respectful, and understands that students and high schoolers can be just as intelligent as most adults,” Fischer said. “He treated us with absolute respect and seriousness, even though we were a high school newspaper.” “When Teddy was asking him some of his military policy-related questions, Mattis would often return to education,” Gormley said. “It’s not what I would have thought a Marine would talk about. It was really cool to hear that from him.”

They never got to publicly thank the defense secretary

While their articles turned into a whirlwind 15 minutes of fame for them, they never really got to give Mattis a public thank you. Most TV interviews they did ended before they had a chance. “We really wanted to thank Secretary Mattis for giving Teddy this opportunity,” Gormley said. “I just wanted to make sure he hears that from all of us at the Islander,” Fischer said. So there you go. If you’re trying to scoop a big interview while still in high school, or college for that matter, this is a good template on how to make it happen!

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Rural veterans face long paths to health care

PBS NewHour
BY JEN FIFIELD, STATELINE  August 7, 2017 at 12:32 PM EDT
Lynn Graham sits on his porch in Redwater, Texas, after returning from an appointment at the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center, which is 85 miles from his home. The VA is testing new programs to ensure that veterans in rural areas get health care. © The Pew Charitable Trusts Lynn Graham sits on his porch in Redwater, Texas, after returning from an appointment at the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center, which is 85 miles from his home. The VA is testing new programs to ensure that veterans in rural areas get health care. © The Pew Charitable Trusts
REDWATER, Texas — On this long drive, across two state lines and endless fields of corn and cattle, Lynn Graham thinks about how it may be the quality of life, not the quantity, that matters.
Graham, 55, has stage 4 liver and colon cancer. It is an 85-mile drive, cutting through Arkansas on mostly country roads, to the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he is being treated. For this appointment, the Air Force veteran borrowed his mother’s car and is driving himself. But his second round of chemotherapy is supposed to start next week, and he doesn’t know how he will get there. He’s starting to think, since the chemo may not work anyway, it’s not worth the stress. Graham has struggled to find rides to his appointments since June, when a temporary program funded by the VA and run by Volunteers of America North Louisiana ended. For the last two years, the program picked up a handful of veterans at a time from all across rural Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana and shuttled them in a van to medical appointments. Demand was high, and now the veterans are calling Congress to let them know they want it back. “Everything was going along perfectly,” Graham said. “It was like the answer to my prayers. And then I found out they were ending it. I was devastated.” While long drives and limited access to health care are familiar burdens for many rural residents, the problem is particularly acute for veterans in those areas. They are far older than other rural residents, and far more likely to be disabled, meaning more of them are in need of medical care. And there are a lot of them—one in four veterans lives in rural areas, compared to one in five adults in the general population, according to 2015 census data.
For decades, officials who work with veterans have sympathized with rural residents like Graham, but have had little to offer. Now, by testing new ideas through pilot programs like the van rides provided by Volunteers of America North Louisiana, the VA is developing models and spreading them across the country to get more rural veterans the health care they need. VA expansion Just 20 miles from where the dirt road to Graham’s driveway begins, in Texarkana, there’s a VA outpatient clinic. But the clinic doesn’t provide chemotherapy. It, like many local clinics for veterans, provides basic physical and mental health care, but not emergency care or some specialized services. While there is a general lack of doctors and hospitals in rural areas, the situation is even worse for veterans who rely on the VA, said John Hoellwarth, a spokesperson for American Veterans, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization. In recent years, the VA has set up more community-based clinics, and the Obama administration created a program, called Choice, that allows non-VA clinicians to serve rural veterans and receive reimbursement from the VA. But the problem persists. Many rural veterans rely on a combination of VA health insurance and other forms of insurance, such as private insurance, Medicaid (the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled), or Medicare (federal health program for the elderly), according to census data. The number of veterans enrolled in Medicaid increased by about 340,000 under the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis by Families USA, a nonprofit that advocates for high-quality, affordable health care. For veterans in rural areas, “Medicaid could mean the difference between them getting care, and them not getting care,” said Andrea Callow, Families USA associate director of Medicaid initiatives. To improve care for rural veterans, the VA needs to expand both the services it provides and the services it pays others to provide, said Margaret Puccinelli, chairwoman of the Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. “Because of the geographic isolation for many vets that are eligible, you have to approach it as creatively as possible,” Puccinelli said. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to fund the Choice program for another six months, which would allow lawmakers more time to agree on changes to the program. The bill now goes to the Senate. The program, which is open to veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital or who face long wait times, has been plagued with problems from the start, including difficulty for veterans trying to make appointments, and long wait times for reimbursement.
“Medicaid could mean the difference between them getting care, and them not getting care”
New approaches The Volunteers of America North Louisiana program was one of five to receive $2 million from 2014 to 2016 from the VA Office of Rural Health, which develops models for care that can be replicated nationwide. The idea of shuttling veterans to and from their appointments is not new. The VA has had a transportation program for decades, under which Disabled American Veterans donates vans to the VA that volunteers use to take veterans to medical appointments. But the Volunteers of America North Louisiana program was different: It used paid drivers, picked rural veterans up at their homes, and transported veterans in wheelchairs, which the other program does not do. Graham tried using the Disabled American Veterans program in his area. But the pickup location is in Texarkana, and Graham said rides weren’t available at the times he needed them. Volunteers of America North Louisiana knew there was a need, but it was overwhelmed by the response, said Gary Jaynes, the organization’s director of veteran services. In the two years the program was running, it provided 2,229 rides to veterans, logging nearly 300,000 miles and saving veterans nearly $400,000 in travel expenditures, Jaynes said. Most of the Office of Rural Health’s $250 million budget for programs goes to rolling out promising models in local VA clinics. A few approaches that have stuck include using home-based rehabilitation for veterans who have heart attacks, and using telehealth for patients with HIV or multiple sclerosis. Like Volunteers of America North Louisiana, the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors received a $2 million grant. The Nebraska nonprofit used its money to place 10 coordinators in local health departments to spread the word about services available to veterans and teach health workers how to find veterans in need of help. The Nebraska program ended up referring about 600 veterans to services in and out of the VA, and created a statewide network of people working toward the same purpose, said Teri Clark, the project’s director. “We didn’t reach just a couple veterans,” Clark said. “Instead, we changed the system.” Telehealth expansion On the way to the VA, just before crossing into Louisiana, Graham gets the hiccups. His cancer exhausts him, and makes it hard for him to digest food. He rubs his chest, recalling a time he had to drive himself home from chemotherapy. “I got the cold sweats,” he said, as Texas ranches flew by outside the car window. “I got sick as soon as I pulled up in the yard.” The VA knows that providing telehealth to rural veterans makes many long trips unnecessary. Telehealth makes veterans healthier, reducing hospital admissions by 35 percent, and saves them money — about $2,000 per patient each year, according to a 2014 VA study. In addition to driving veterans to appointments, the Volunteers of America bought a telehealth van equipped with communications equipment and broadband internet, which is used to see patients across state lines. Graham now feels too sick and tired to work, but he used to be a chef. He cooked at the convention center and a cafe in Shreveport. Then he was kitchen manager at a seafood restaurant in Texarkana. He laughs remembering all the energy he had at opening day in 2013, as he ran around trying to feed a hundred guests at once, with food orders stuffed in his shirt pocket. A couple years later, he was raking leaves and he got dizzy. When he got to the hospital, they found his cancer. He quit his job, sold his truck and signed up for Medicaid. On his rides with Volunteers of America North Louisiana, Graham bonded with his drivers and fellow riders. Veterans appreciated the program so much that they started calling their representatives in Congress. Now, clinic officials plan to meet with Jaynes and congressmen to discuss ways to keep the services in operation. Thomas Klobucar, acting director of the Office of Rural Health, said his office is still evaluating the results of the Volunteers of America North Louisiana program, and will report to Congress by October on its findings.
 This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. You can view the original report on its website.

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73 years later, WWII veteran returns a fallen soldier’s family keepsake

returen flagA 93-year-old World War II veteran traveled more than 5,000 miles from his Montana home this month to return a treasured keepsake to a grateful Japanese family. The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains. JULIA GRIFFIN: Warm temperatures and rainy skies greeted Marvin Strombo as he returned to Japan this week for the first time in 73 years. During the war, Strombo served as an elite sniper scouter with the 2nd Marine Division. Alone on the Japanese line during the 1944 invasion of Saipan, he came across the body of a dead Japanese soldier. MARVIN STROMBO, World War II Veteran: I saw a Japanese soldier laying there. And I knew he was an officer because he had a sword on. JULIA GRIFFIN: But Strombo also noticed something else, a customary flag the soldier carried, known as a yosegaki hinomaru, that bore 180 signatures of his family and village members. Strombo knew such flags were given to departing soldiers as a symbol of good luck and support. MARVIN STROMBO: I finally realized, if I didn’t take it, somebody else would have, and it would be lost forever. So, the only way I could do that, as I reached out to take the flag, I made a promise to him that, someday, I would try to return it. JULIA GRIFFIN: For decades, the soldier’s identity remained unknown, until five years ago, when Strombo reached out to the Obon Society, a nonprofit that coordinates the return of battlefield souvenirs. The group identified the soldier as Sadao Yasue, of Higashishirakawa, Japan. And on Tuesday, Strombo made good on his promise to return the ancestral heirloom, during an emotional ceremony with Yasue’s surviving brother and two sisters. MARVIN STROMBO: It was a very emotional moment, really. I saw that the older sister — her holding that flag about broke my heart. And I have fulfilled a promise, which I’m happy about. I could see that it made them quite happy. So, I guess that’s the main thing. JULIA GRIFFIN: The poignant event between one-time enemies and now friends coincided with the Japanese Obon holiday, when families return to their hometowns to remember departed loved ones. Julia Griffin, for the PBS NewsHour. Click here to watch the full report.

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Veterans Affairs launches pilot program with CVS to reduce wait times for veteran care

BY HOPE YEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS  April 18, 2017 at 11:49 AM EDT
People walk outside a CVS store in Pasadena, California. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters WASHINGTON — Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans. The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times. Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times. Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress. “Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.” “Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said. The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.” Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data. Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed. The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, Calif., a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it is pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful. CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia. “We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.
From PBS NewsHour The Rundown.

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For Veterans Mustard-Gassed In Secret Tests, Help Now Sits On President’s Desk

 August 3, 2017 Colin Dwyer
In this 1945 image, test subjects enter a gas chamber for a U.S. military experiment that will expose them to mustard gas.
Courtesy of Edgewood Arsenal
Decades after the U.S. government exposed service members to chemical weapons in secret experiments, lawmakers have advanced a measure intended to make it easier for those World War II veterans to obtain compensation. The bill, known as the Arla Harrell Act, advanced to President Trump's desk after Senate approval Wednesday. "When a Missouri veteran is mistreated, I take it personally — and I'll take the fight to anyone, anywhere, to make it right," Sen. Claire McCaskill said in a statement, referring to the namesake of the bill she sponsored. The Missouri Democrat named the bill for one of her constituents, a veteran who says he was one of the 60,000 American test subjects exposed to mustard gas and lewisite agents by the U.S. government during the war. "After all these years," McCaskill added, "it's frankly less about the benefits that Arla deserves, and will now receive — it's about recognizing what he sacrificed for this country, and that he and his family deserve to hear three simple words from their government. We believe you." The move comes more than two years after an NPR investigation revealed the Department of Veterans Affairs had broken its promise to seek out and compensate those men who had incurred permanent injuries from mustard gas testing. Now declassified, that long-secret program sought to determine the effects of certain chemical weapons, often by separating the test subjects by race.

Read NPR's Investigation

Of the 4,000 men the department had sought to locate — the men who were exposed to the most extreme experiments — officials said they found and attempted to reach only 610 in the span of more than two decades. NPR Investigations Research Librarian Barbara Van Woerkom found roughly 1,200 individuals in the span of two months. And among the veterans who did apply for compensation, the VA also "routinely denied claims from veterans who qualified," Caitlin Dickerson reported for NPR. McCaskill introduced the Arla Harrell Act twice — both last year and again at the start of this year, when the new Congress gathered in January. But it was not until the measure was appended to a veterans-benefits package that it made an appreciable move forward.
These photographs, taken at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., show the forearms of several test subjects after they were exposed to nitrogen mustard and lewisite agents during World War II.  Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory
Now part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, which was passed by the Senate on Wednesday, the measure to reconsider "previously denied claims for disability compensation" now sits on Trump's desk, one signature away from becoming law. The proposed change is similar to a 1991 law that facilitated claims by Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. In that situation, as with the secret mustard gas tests, veterans struggled to provide the VA with enough evidence to qualify for compensation. "I'm delighted that this got passed by Congress," Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters Thursday. "We are deeply appreciative of the 400 or so veterans that we believe have been waiting too long to be recognized for what they deserve. This is really what allows the VA to be able to move forward in doing the right thing."

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Five Navy Medicine Moments in June 2017 [Photos]

From Navy Medicine Live, the official Blog of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Navy and Medicins

Every day, more than 63,000 Navy Medicine personnel are operating forward around the world, providing agile, rapid health care support to the Navy and Marine Corps. Saving lives wherever our forces operate is what we do, be it above the sea, on the sea, below the sea or on the battlefield. The following photos depict important events and our medical professionals at work during June 2017.

CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune held a ribbon cutting ceremony renaming the hospital to Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, June 27, 2017. Capt. James Hancock, commanding officer and former commanding officers and their representatives, together cut the ribbon signifying the official name change. Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune has undergone a transformation over the last several years adding new services and expanding other areas enabling the medical center to provide quality care to the warfighter, their families and veterans. Through these advancements, NMCCL is honored to provide patient-centered care to our family of 63,000 beneficiaries. (U.S. Navy photo by William Townsend/Released)
PITTSBURGH – (June 19, 2017) Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery met with Congressman Tim Murphy, who is also a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, during Pittsburgh Navy Week to discuss matters of mutual interest. Faison, along with Sailors from across the Navy participated in as many as 100 outreach events coordinated with corporate, civic, government, education, media, veterans, community service and diversity organizations in Pittsburgh. These efforts allow the Pittsburgh community to get up close and personal with the people who make up the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy Photo by Capt. Brenda Malone)
170616-N-GM597-005 Portsmouth, Va. (June 16, 2017) Cmdr. Cecilia Brown and Lt. Christopher Maliken display their residency completion certificates after the graduation ceremony that celebrated their completion of the four-year Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. NMCP’s program is one of three that the Navy offers and is the longest residency of any of the dental specialties. (U.S. Navy photo by Rebecca A. Perron/released)
SAN ANTONIO (June 13, 2017) Members of the Basic Medical Technician and Corpsman Program Choir perform at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month celebration. LGBT Pride month is celebrated annually in the month of June to recognize the impact LGBT individuals have had on history. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary J. Ward/Released)
SOLOMON SEA (June 21, 2017) Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Patrick Barnes, center, applies a simulated abdominal wound onto Seaman Apprentice Alex Ponce prior to a mass casualty drill aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The ship and its expeditionary strike group are operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Sykes/Released)

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Military Widows Find Hope And Understanding Together

Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday February 4, 2017 AM ET Gloria Hillard In the kitchen of a vacation rental in southern California, family pictures form a collage on the refrigerator. On closer inspection the photos are of multiple families, and many of the women in the photos are sitting together around the kitchen table nearby. The photos are from their weddings or pictures of children. This is a typical, makeshift family scrapbook at an American Widow Project retreat. During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the women seeking help from the group were young, with husbands who had been killed in combat. Today the widows contacting the organization are older, and their husbands aren't dying abroad — they're dying on American soil. "I have to say, I haven't genuinely laughed as much as I've laughed with these ladies, and shared things that ... that I know that they understand," says Erin Murzyn. At 43 years old, Murzyn wondered if she would be the oldest widow, and on the first day of the retreat she was nervous. "A lot of widows, military widows are young," Murzyn says. "[I thought] am I going to be the only suicide widow? Like, is everyone else going to be KIA?" She wasn't the oldest or the only widow whose husband killed himself, rather than being killed in action. Group facilitator Erin Dructor says she started noticing a trend a couple years ago when the majority of women contacting the nonprofit reported they had lost their husbands to suicide or terminal illness. "Each event is about 70 percent non-combat [widows]," she says.

During American Widow Project retreats, the widows create a makeshift family scrapbook with photos of their families. Gloria Hillard for NPR
Dructor got involved with the American Widow Project a decade ago after her husband, Army Sgt. Blake Stephens, was killed in Iraq. Back then, she says, the women's stories often began the same way: With two uniformed men in the driveway or on the porch. "Now, it's almost like the widows are finding their husbands, or family members are finding their husbands," Dructor says. In Murzyn's case it was her brother who told her that her husband, retired Marine Master Sgt. Russell Murzyn, had committed suicide. He was 44. "He did leave a letter and he put in the letter that his head hurt so bad," Murzyn says. "And he didn't feel he could be fixed." Russell had served two tours in Iraq and was being treated by the VA when he died. His widow says she didn't realized how bad things had become — that he was a wonderful new father and kept his feelings inside to protect those he loved. "Russell was that Marine that other Marines looked up to," Murzyn says. "He was the guy that they went to with problems." "I was pretty tore up one night and I — just crying, sobbing, or whatever — and I went online searching for military widow communities," Much says. Her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jason Much died of brain cancer in July. He was 44. When he was diagnosed she asked him "Sweetie, what do you want to do? If we have a year, what do you want to do? Do you want to travel the world?" " 'He's like 'Really? — I've been all over the world. I want to stay home and watch football,' " she says. "The inspiration I get hearing their stories — and they can talk about their late husbands and laugh, and tell stories, and cry, and that's helping me." Much says. "I have hope. That's the word — I have hope." And hope is what Much is taking with her from this retreat. After a few months in the RV, she's now thinking it might be time to put down roots — and start looking for a new home.

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Nationwide effort gives homeless veterans an honorable burial

Homeless vets   July 2, 2017 PBS NewHour Report MITCHELL RILEY: On a bright Saturday morning, Organizers from the Southern Arizona Missing in America Project, along with military personnel, Veterans groups, law enforcement officers, and private citizens, gather at the Adair Funeral Home in northwest Tucson. Pima County Detective Shaun Pfund is the law enforcement liaison. SHAUN PFUND: This is about you. The Missing in America Project was a creation of a vet who believed that no veteran should go without honorable burial…and our intent is always to locate, identify, and recover veterans. MITCHELL RILEY: Over the past six years, 255 veterans have been laid to rest through this effort in southern Arizona. Statewide, the number is more than 430. Nationwide, more than 3,100 vets have been identified and interred with military honors. SHAUN PFUND: It’s a very emotional thing, because I acknowledge the person who has sacrificed so much for me. OFFICER AT PODIUM: As we ride today, please have your angels spread their wings of protection and keep us all safe. MITCHELL RILEY: The cremated remains of these 29 homeless or impoverished veterans are driven by motorcade 25 miles to be interred at a veterans’ cemetery in Marana, Arizona. MITCHELL RILEY: The Missing in America Project finds remains by working with mortuaries, funeral homes, Veterans groups, and state agencies. After determining the remains are of a veteran with an honorable discharge, the Project cares for them in this way. SHAUN PFUND: I have come once again to honor and acknowledge the men and women who have honorably served our nation in a time of war and in a time of peace. MITCHELL RILEY: Some recovered veterans served as far back as World War Two. Others as recently as Iraq and Afghanistan. Pima County covers the cost of cremations. The Adair Funeral Home donates the engraved urns. OFFICER AT PODIUM: Luckett, James H, U.S. Army Vietnam…Carter, John R., U.S. Army, Cold War. SHAUN PFUND: For they fell not upon the battlefields of this world but within our neighborhoods and city streets…unidentified, marginalized and forgotten, destined to fade away without a word, a tribute or recognition of their respective service to our nation … I say to everyone here within the sound of my voice and beyond, you are not forgotten. MITCHELL RILEY: The next ceremony for the southern Arizona Missing in America Project is scheduled for October. Organizers have already confirmed the remains of 12 more veterans to be honored. Click here to watch PBS NewHour report.

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Navy Warrior Games Athletes: Adaptive Sports – Life Changing and Lifesaving

Team Navy They're among 39 athletes who are competing on behalf of Team Navy in the annual Department of Defense Warrior Games – an event that introduces wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans to Paralympic-style sports. Approximately 225 service members and veterans from the U.S. military, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia are competing. The Navy, in partnership with the city of Chicago, is hosting this year's event, which marks the first time the DoD Warrior Games have been held off a military installation. The Games demonstrate the incredible potential of wounded warriors through competitive sports and provides a tremendous healing power for athletes. The competition provides a means to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect of those who serve their country. Team Navy is comprised of athletes from Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor, the Navy's sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guard members, providing resources and support to their families.  

CHICAGO (July 3, 2017) Information Systems Technician 1st Class Pou Pou participates in the archery portion for Team Navy during the 2017 Warrior Games at McCormick Place in Chicago. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker/Released
  For more information about Team Navy, visit


About Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program

The mission of the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program is to deliver year-round competitive and recreation opportunities for wounded, ill or seriously injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. Adaptive sports — athletic activities that are modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals — are essential to the recuperation of our wounded warriors. All enrollees in Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor are encouraged to make athletics a key component of their recovery and rehabilitation plans. The proven and lasting benefits of adaptive sports and reconditioning activities include higher self-esteem, lower stress levels and fewer secondary medical conditions. Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor hosts a series of adaptive athletic reconditioning camps, provides information relative to recreational opportunities and facilitates enrollees’ participation in the annual Department of Defense Warrior Games. Non-medical care managers and recovery care coordinators, along with the transition coordinators, are encouraged to brief all recovering and transitioning service members about adaptive sports opportunities. Once registered for the sports program, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen are provided with information on all athletic opportunities, including the annual trials where athletes can compete for a spot on Team Navy in the DoD Warrior Games. Participants in the trials include active-duty service members and veterans with upper-body, lower-body and spinal cord injuries; serious illnesses; traumatic brain injuries; amputations; visual impairment; and post-traumatic stress disorder. Athletes possessing professionalism, team spirit and the best qualifying times and/or scores are selected to compete on Team Navy in the DoD Warrior Games. The DoD Warrior Games represent the culmination of participation in structured adaptive sports and reconditioning activities of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans throughout their recovery by encouraging participation in physical and cognitive activities, inspiring physical fitness, mental strength and peer support, and encouraging new opportunities for growth and achievement.

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2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games

This past week ended the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games.  Below is an article by Vice Admiral Mary Jackson, commander, Navy Installations Command, about the the heroes of the games who are not just the athletes but the spouses, family, caregivers, and supporters. Click here for more information and the results the 2017 DoD Warrior Games. By Vice Adm. Mary Jackson Commander, Navy Installations Command May 12, 2017 While the Warrior Games are primarily focused on the athletes and their challenging experiences and inspiring accomplishments, we also acknowledge and recognize the tremendous dedication and support of the “hidden heroes” – spouses, family and caregivers who have made their own sacrifices to help our warrior athletes with their recovery and athletic successes.

Ida Malone, left, helps her husband, Navy Chief Petty Officer Averill Malone, stretch before bicycling during the Navy’s training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games at Ventura County Naval Station Port Hueneme in Oxnard, Calif., May 31, 2015. Ida is also a caregiver for her husband, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom/Released)
Ida Malone, left, helps her husband, Navy Chief Petty Officer Averill Malone, stretch before bicycling during the Navy’s training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games at Ventura County Naval Station Port Hueneme in Oxnard, Calif., May 31, 2015. Ida is also a caregiver for her husband, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom/Released)
Every year on May 12th is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we honor our Wounded Warriors’ loved ones who partner and make their own sacrifices on the path of recovery. For our warrior athletes, our hidden heroes put forth a tremendous amount of effort behind the scenes, day-in and day-out, to support the growth and progress of their loved one’s spiritual and physical healing. Transition is not easy, but these individuals are the co-pilots who make the voyage possible and so much smoother. Families and caregivers are an essential element in an athlete’s recovery and rehabilitation, and they are an important part of the DoD’s adaptive sports program, which provides reconditioning activities and competitive athletic opportunities to all wounded, ill and injured service members to improve their physical and mental quality of life throughout the continuum of recovery and transition. Our hidden heroes provide support, encouragement and motivation on a regular basis. In turn, athletes motivate their families, caregivers and teammates, and inspire their communities. We are thankful to Fisher House Foundation, one of the 2017 Warrior Games presenting sponsors, for supporting our hidden heroes. Fisher House is our family program sponsor and is directly supporting the logistics for athletes’ families to attend the Warrior Games.
Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson’s son helps his father out of a tight spot while on a bike ride for the Navy’s wounded warrior training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, May 30, 2015. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom/Released)
Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson’s son helps his father out of a tight spot while on a bike ride for the Navy’s wounded warrior training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games along the Pacific Coast Highway in California, May 30, 2015. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom/Released)
To spouses and loved ones of our military members and of our wounded, ill or injured warriors, we say, “Thank you” for all you do. We are humbled by your commitment and dedication to serving your nation in this important role. For more information about the DoD’s adaptive sports program visit, For more information about the Warrior Games, please visit and be sure to “like” and follow the games on Facebook

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Volunteer ‘Doughboy’ Team Works to Bring WWI MIAs Home

Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are still about 82,540 U.S. service members considered missing in action since World War II began. But that agency doesn’t account for the more than 4,400 still missing from World War I. Thanks to the efforts of several volunteers, the records of these men are slowly being unearthed, and more men who served 100 years ago are being identified. Historian Robert Laplander, known for his research and writings on the “Lost Battalion” of the Great War, started to search for World War I Army Pvt. Eugene Michael McGrath after someone found battle remnants in 2005 at the site of the Lost Battalion’s last stand. “Among the stuff was a dog tag. It was to one of the guys in the Lost Battalion who was missing in action,” Laplander said, referring to McGrath. “We decided to see if we could figure out what happened to him.” And thus began the Doughboy MIA Project. Laplander recruited several volunteer researchers, archivists and historians to help search for McGrath’s files. Over the years, word got out of their efforts, and they began to look for other fallen World War I service members. “We have technology today that they didn’t have back then: deep-penetration metal detectors, ground penetrating radar, spatial imaging – all that kind of stuff,” Laplander said. In 2015, Laplander was contacted by someone at the WWI Centennial Commission and asked to highlight their efforts on the centennial’s website. Their page,, has since grown by leaps and bounds.

The Process

“Between 1919 and 1932, when searchers went out after the war, the Army made every effort to try to find these men and identify the remains they had recovered that were unknown,” Laplander said. “But they had a small team, a lot to do – the Graves Registration Service handled 80,000 burials after the war – and they did the whole thing with paper forms and shoeboxes full of index cards.” Since many of those files have disappeared or are sparse and kept all over the world, it’s a long and tedious process. “It’s [often] sitting at a desk looking through boxes. During one case, we went through 200 boxes of burial cards … in four days. We looked at every single card,” Laplander said. Their searches always begin by checking the official list of missing service members to see if they can chronicle their last moves. For those who aren’t missing or lost at sea, they first check through 2,300 burial case files, found at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. “They can take you in all kinds of directions,” Laplander said. “For McGrath, I pulled his [burial] file, and then we decided to pull the file of the guys buried next to him, one on each side, and there was more information in those.” The search for McGrath’s final resting place continues (learn more about that journey here), but the team recently had success in honoring Navy sailor Herbert H. Renshaw.

A Tribute A Century in the Making

Renshaw joined the Navy in 1914, just after his 17th birthday. The U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, and he was unfortunately a quick casualty. Renshaw was on the USS Ozark, a sub-tender, on its first out-of-harbor mission on May 22, 1917, when he lost his life. “They hit heavy weather that afternoon. The sea was very rough. He was on the deck of the ship signaling back to another ship, and he was washed overboard,” Laplander said. Now is probably a good time to let you know that, after the war, U.S. lawmakers decided to create American cemeteries overseas, since so many men had died. The names of anyone who was lost at sea, missing or buried in an unmarked grave were carved into walls or tablets at each cemetery. Renshaw’s name should have been added to one of those walls – but it wasn’t, and it took nearly 100 years before anyone noticed. The person who did was Salisbury University professor Dr. Stephen Gehnrich, who was researching Marylanders killed in the war. He came across Renshaw’s name on a Navy burial file and learned details of his death through old newspaper articles. But Gehnrich noticed Renshaw wasn’t on the official list given to the American Battle Monuments Commission, which is in charge of U.S. military cemeteries and memorials. So he contacted Laplander. Together, the pair did more research and discovered that Renshaw’s name had, for whatever reason, been left off the lists provided to the AMBC by the Naval and War Departments. “In the naval register of sailors and Marines that were lost during WWI, his name is listed. But … his name wasn’t engraved at any of our cemeteries,” said Tim Nosal, the ABMC’s chief of external affairs. So, the Doughboys petitioned in April to get his named added. Three days later, the ABMC agreed. “It was pretty clear based on what they sent us,” Nosal said. So a former Army colonel with the ABMC made the decision – Renshaw’s name would be added at Brookwood American Cemetery in England, where the majority of naval casualties are listed. “After 100 years, he’ll be remembered,” Laplander said.

Why It’s Important

One question Laplander always gets: One hundred years later, why do this? “The answer is the same always – why not? The first World War was the very first time we sent a major expeditionary force overseas to fight on foreign shores – not for land, not for wealth, but for an ideal,” Laplander said. “If we stand the chance of giving somebody a grave, why wouldn’t we?” His team is working on identifying a few other missing men, including a soldier who had been buried by a chaplain. In a file, they found a description the chaplain gave of the burial area, as well as a set of coordinates he had given officials in 1926. “Our ground team overseas managed to find the area, and I believe we’ve found the trench where this guy was buried,” Laplander said. To his team, their tagline, “A man is only missing if he’s forgotten,” is crucial to their cause. “Even if we don’t recover any more remains or identify anybody else, we’ve got people thinking about these guys,” Laplander said. Remembrance, even so many years later, is how it should be for those who gave up everything for the rest of us.

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‘Combat Medicine:’ Afghanistan Vet Seeks To Help Others Through Hip-Hop

After a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, Doc Todd suffered from PTSD. With his new album Combat Medicine, he hopes to show other veterans that they're not alone. ZoomWorks Photography/Courtesy of Doc Todd
There is no one sure way to reach combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or substance abuse. But a new hip-hop album called Combat Medicine, released Wednesday, might help. It was written and performed by George "Mik" Todd, who goes by the name Doc Todd. He's a former Fleet Marine Force corpsman — essentially a combat medic — who served alongside the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. Todd's style is tough and direct in a way that only one veteran can be to another.
Doc Todd YouTube
Take those bottles out, dog and pour 'em in the sink. Take the needles out of your arm And the gun away from your forehead. It's time, man. You've been through enough pain. Stand up. It's time to stand back up.
Todd says the song is about empowerment, "about taking charge of your life, taking charge of your transition" from the combat zone to civilian life. In his own transition, Doc Todd went through many of the issues other veterans face: shame, isolation, self-abuse. For Todd, it began in 2009 after he was in a large and dangerous battle in Afghanistan. Many of his friends were seriously wounded. His roommate was killed. Todd was medically evacuated to Germany after he fell seriously ill with pneumonia. "That tore me up so bad, because I felt like I was alienated from the guys I served with," Todd recalls. "I felt like there was an asterisk next to my deployment. I felt like it would've been better if I got shot because that would've been more heroic."
George "Mik" Todd seen here in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in July 2009. He served with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines.
Courtesy of Doc Todd
Todd says it took him several years before he got help for his PTSD. He was depressed and started drinking heavily. Eventually, he realized what he needed to be doing was helping other veterans. With savings from his job as a money manager and help from his wife, he was able to quit his job. He'd been making music since he was a teenager. Now, he wanted to use his music to help veterans heal. And he had plenty of material for his lyrics.
The struggle is real Found a feast And lost a soul Eventually my drinking It got out of control There in darkness, I roamed Struggling to find home See Suddenly death didn't Feel so Alone
In the video for "Not Alone," a young veteran gets out of bed and immediately reaches for the bottle. That scenario is all too real, says former Marine Zach Ludwig who served with Todd in Afghanistan and is now working through his own PTSD. "He knows what to say and how to say it," Ludwig says, pointing to Todd's combat experience. "What the man says is just blunt force truth." Todd says facing the truth, no matter how difficult, can do more to help veterans than "coddling" them. His mission with Combat Medicine is to show vets they're not alone and to urge them to get help. "We have to be responsible for empowering our own lives. And it doesn't really help when the overwhelming narrative is victimization and brokenness," he says.  

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Column: Veterans may be overlooking job opportunities in IT sector

By Eileen Trauth, The Conversation
May 22, 2017 at 1:37 PM EDT
Veterans and service members on the job hunt. Office of Congressman Mike Quigley Military veterans have a higher unemployment rate than nonveterans, according to federal statistics. One reason may be that when veterans seek civilian jobs, they often face stereotypes from hiring managers. But another set of stereotypes may come into play as well: Veterans fall prey to their own preconceptions about certain types of jobs, and miss out on promising opportunities. Research I conducted with K.D. Joshi from Washington State University found that many veterans are well-qualified for work in the information technology sector – a wide and diverse range of computer- and communications-related jobs. But large numbers of veterans hold stereotypes that discourage them from seeking IT employment, depriving companies of skilled employees and veterans of meaningful and rewarding work. Fortunately, this problem can be corrected, and relatively easily, if veterans and those who serve them work together. What kinds of jobs do veterans have?

Veterans have the skills

We wanted to understand what influenced the decisions of military veterans with various types of disabilities about whether to pursue IT careers in civilian life after their time in uniform. To begin, with the help of retired Marine lieutenant colonel Kimberly Graham, now a job-training consultant, and veterans affairs offices at four universities, we asked 297 military service members and veterans, all with disabilities, a series of open-ended questions about post-military careers. Some of them were searching for work, while others were either still in the service or in college – but would be looking for jobs upon completion. Our questions included whether they had ever considered a career in information technology, and their thoughts about how their disabilities affect their interest in pursuing an IT career. We also asked them how they thought their military training and experiences might help or hinder their success if they did get an IT-related job. We learned that these veterans had many skills and abilities that would serve them well in various IT fields. The military is good at teaching people about leadership, management, problem solving, teamwork and handling stressful situations.

Some positive views

But we also found that they had stereotypes about what kinds of jobs were available. Some of the respondents were interested in IT work, either since their youth or as a result of their military experience. For example, one told us, “I am currently working in military intelligence. I plan to work in cyber intelligence after leaving the military.” Still others had begun to consider a career in IT as a result of their disabilities, telling us, “It is a good field for people with hearing disability,” “I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder with panic. It is easier to interact with a computer than with people,” and “It is less strenuous than [my former job of] being a construction electrician.” What industries do veterans work in?

Many negative views

Many of the people we questioned revealed stereotypes about IT work. “I would rather work with people,” one respondent told us. This reflects the misconception that IT professionals sit in front of computer screens all day and do not interact with people. That is true of some jobs, but not all of them. Many IT workers interact with customers to understand their needs, help people with research questions and technology malfunctions, or design systems to enhance user experiences. Others told us they thought IT work required long hours or skills with complex computer-programming languages – or even that they worried IT jobs would be outsourced or sent overseas, putting American workers back on the job search. Those are real concerns, but neither exclusive to IT work nor applicable to all jobs in the field.Another respondent told us, “It is not something I consider myself gifted enough at to pursue.” This represents a common theme running through research about groups of people who are underrepresented in IT fields, like women, African-Americans and people with disabilities. Many people told us they thought they needed to have a lot of formal education or be a technical whiz or possess some other sort of superstar qualities to work in IT. That simply isn’t true. The wide variety of IT jobs means there’s work for people of almost any interest and ability.

Other misconceptions

Several respondents didn’t know they could have IT careers in the business world. One told us, for example, “I worked in supply chain for 10 years and have business courses; I would have to get a different education to enter the IT field.” My own university, Penn State, among many others, offers courses in project management and enterprise architecture. Those are IT-related subjects that respondents didn’t identify with IT work. Many American business schools, again including Penn State’s, have information systems departments that teach supply chain management. Beyond their stereotypes and misconceptions, some of the people we interviewed did not recognize that much of their knowledge and experience from military service would transfer well to IT. “I would enjoy an IT career but I have too much experience in leadership and management to switch a career to IT,” one person told us, apparently not realizing almost every field needs people who can lead and manage others.

What to do now?

For more than 30 years, I’ve been studying what effects technological advances have on the skills and knowledge needed by IT workers. It pains me to see stereotypes standing in the way of rewarding careers in IT. Fortunately, this problem is relatively easy to address, if different units in a university work together. Veterans and disabilities offices need to make sure that military service members and veterans with disabilities are aware of the range of career opportunities available to them, including in IT. University career counselors need to help these students identify their transferable skills. Of course, that assumes the advisers and counselors know enough about the IT field themselves. That is where academics come in. Information technology professors need to educate their students, but also their colleagues across their universities. In particular, faculty need to share their knowledge of marketable skills and career opportunities as widely as they can. Through a coordinated effort, we can break down barriers to IT careers one stereotype at a time. Eileen Trauth, Professor of Information Sciences & Technology, and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Pennsylvania State University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Military Units: How Each Service Is Organized

By Katie Lange From DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense First posted May 17, 2017 oD News, Defense Media Activity If you’re in the military, it’s a pretty safe bet that you know how your service branch is organized. But each service is different, and if you work in a joint-service atmosphere, it might help you to know each branch’s chain of command. Or you might just be a civilian who wants to know what a soldier means when he says, “I’m with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.” Because, let’s be honest – that’s a lot harder to decipher than a civilian saying, “I work on the account management team.” So if you’re not sure what the unit organization is for each Department of Defense service, here’s a cheat sheet for you.


U.S. Army soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division stand in formation at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Army photo by Zoe Garbarino Units from the bottom to the top: Team: Usually made up of four soldiers. Squad/Section: Consists of about 10 soldiers. A staff sergeant is in charge. Platoon: Consists of a few squads and up to a few dozen soldiers. Run by a lieutenant. Company: Commanded by a captain and consists of 3-4 platoons. There are anywhere from a few dozen soldiers to nearly 200. Battalion: Consists of 4-6 companies and can include up to about 1,000 soldiers. Commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Brigade: Consists of a few battalions and anywhere from 3,000-5,000 soldiers. A colonel is in command. Some battalions are organized into regiments instead of brigades. The armored cavalry, Rangers and Special Forces are examples of this. Division: Run by a major general, divisions are made up of 3-4 brigades and include between 10,000-15,000 soldiers. Corps: These include 2-5 divisions with anywhere between 20,000-45,000 soldiers. A lieutenant general is in command. Field Army: This consists of two or more corps and is run by a general. There are currently four field armies, each with a different mission. Usually, the number of the field army is spelled out (example – Third Army). Army Group: Consists of 4-5 field armies and between 400,000 and 1 million soldiers. They’re commanded by a general and are considered self-sufficient for indefinite periods. They’re usually responsible for a particular geographic area. To differentiate them from a field army, Army groups are usually written with Arabic numerals (example – 12th Army Group) Army Region: These are only used in times of large-scale war, such as World War II. They usually consist of three or more field armies.


Marines with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment stand in formation. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Mesa While the U.S. Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy, its command structure is similar to the Army, except it follows the “rule of three.” Fire team: Includes three Marines and a team leader, usually a corporal. Squad: Three teams are assigned here. Platoon: Consists of three squads. Commanded by a lieutenant. Company/Battery: Includes three or more platoons. Commanded by a captain. Battalion: Three or more companies. Commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Battalions are the lowest command level to have a headquarters staff element. Three battalions form a Regiment. Three regiments make up a Marine Division. Four Marine divisions make up the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps’ leader, the commandant, reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy. There are also Marine Expeditionary Forces: There are three MEFs, and each is normally formed by a ground combat element, aviation combat element and a logistics combat element. And then there are Aircraft Wings made up of:
  • Squadrons: These are made of flying and nonflying units that have up to two-dozen aircraft and are about the size equivalent of a battalion.
  • Groups: Formed of three or more squadrons, these are equivalent to a regiment.
  • Wings: Formed from three groups, they’re equivalent to a division.


Lt. Col. Aaron Redfern, 75th Fighter Squadron commander, climbs in an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Air Force photo by Andrea Jenkins Air Force structure is a bit of a mix of what you’ve already read above. Section: Formed of two or more airmen (also known as an “element” in basic training). Flight: There are three types of flights: numbered, alpha and functional. They can be made up of individual airmen or sections. Squadron: Consists of two or more flights. It’s the lowest level of command with a headquarters element and is usually identified by number and function (example – 1st Reconnaissance Squadron). Usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Group: Made up of two or more squadrons whose functions are similar to what the group is named (example – Medical Group). They are usually commanded by a colonel and mostly take on the number of the wing to which they’re assigned. Wing: Two or more groups form wings. There are two types — composite and objective — and there’s only one wing assigned to a base. Usually they are commanded by a brigadier general. Numbered Air Force: These are mostly assigned during war time and are usually assigned geographically (example – 7th Air Force). Major Command: This is where wings usually report — to MAJCOM. They’re organized two ways: by mission if it’s in the continental U.S. (example – Global Strike or Space commands) or by region if it’s outside the continental U.S. (example – Pacific Air Forces, where all wings in the Pacific region would report). MAJCOMs report directly to Air Force Headquarters.


U.S. Navy chief petty officers assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance stand in formation. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Will Gaskill Everything above was pretty straightforward. The Navy’s structural organization? Not so much. Unlike the other branches, there are two chains of command in the Navy: Operational, which carries out specific missions such as operations and exercises (aka- execution); and Administrative, which takes care of personnel, education and training, repairs, supply chains, etc. (aka- readiness). The two chains sometimes overlap, and depending on where you’re assigned, you might be part of both.


The Secretary of Defense can issue orders directly to the nine combatant commands, which are joint forces. The combatant commanders then issue Navy-related orders to their naval subordinates, component commanders who carry out operations that fall in that COCOM’s area of responsibility. There are currently four component commands: Pacific Fleet, Naval Forces Europe, Naval Forces Central Command and Fleet Forces Command. The component commanders have operational control over one or more of the numbered fleets. The numbered fleet commanders are vice admirals who command the ships, submarines and aircraft that are assigned to them. There are six active fleets in the Navy, but they’re mostly too large for carrying out a specific operation, while individual ships, submarines, etc., are mostly too small for the task. So to carry out an order, the fleets can be divided into task forces, then task groups, then smaller task units and, if needed, task elements. Some fleets also have specifically grouped ships, like a carrier group, an expeditionary group, or a strike group. When it comes to individual vessels, their operations are divided into departments, which can be broken into divisions. Sometimes smaller work centers are then formed. If you’re in an aviation unit, you’re part of a squadron that’s part of an air wing that’s attached to a ship. That means you board the ship for drills, exercises and deployments, but otherwise, your home is a naval air station. Then there are the Naval Construction Battalions (aka- SeaBees). They’re like the construction crew of the Navy and very similar to engineers in the Army. They build bases, roadways, airstrips and anything else that’s needed. Since they’re primarily land-based, their structure is more like that of the Army and Marine Corps. Remember how I said there were two naval chains of command? Well, all that was just the first. Don’t forget about the second:


In the Department of the Navy, there is the civilian Secretary of the Navy and the military head known as the Chief of Naval Operations. The CNO is a four-star admiral who deals with all administrative matters and has several admirals, subordinate commanders and other staff working under him. These people help oversee specific functions within the Navy. Then there are various commands: Shore commands: These fall directly under the CNO. They are on-shore installations and facilities that support the fleets’ operating forces (ships, subs, etc.) with repairs, fuel, ammunition, training and medical help, among other things. The Office of Naval Intelligence, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center are examples of shore commands. Systems commands: These oversee technical requirements of the Navy. There are five: Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Air Systems Command, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Naval Supply Systems Command, and Naval Facilities Engineering Command. Type commands: For personnel, training and repairs issues, two of the Navy’s fleets – Pacific and Atlantic – are broken down further, with each having a command based on type: the Naval Surface Force, Naval Submarine Force, and Naval Air Force. The commanders of each of those coordinate to make sure their resources and procedures are compatible so it’s easier for sailors to transfer from coast to coast or command to command. Under the type commands are further breakdowns: Groups and ship squadrons or air wings. Whew. That’s a lot, I know. To help, here’s an example of how it could work for an individual sailor: You’ve been assigned to a destroyer. That means you’re basically assigned two different chains of command. Administratively, your immediate supervisor would likely be the commander of a squadron or air wing, followed by the group commander and then either the type, system or shore command. As you do your duties, you would also be assigned to the fleet that corresponds with your home port. This will always remain the same as long as you’re assigned to that ship, sub, etc. Operationally, things change when you deploy. You essentially leave your home port’s fleet and transfer into the fleet that corresponds with your ship’s new AOR. You then follow that operational chain of command, all the way up to the combatant commanders. If a mission comes up, your destroyer may be assigned to a task force, group, etc., to accomplish the task. Once it’s complete, your ship will continue on its routine schedule. Still confused? You’re not alone. In fact, in the Bluejacket’s Manual that is essential for all sailors, one of the first things it says is, “Before trying to understand how the U.S. Navy is organized, you should be forewarned that it is complicated.” So if you still have questions, you might want to reach out to any sailors you know to have them explain it! Click here for a link to DoDLive.

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Veteran Teaches Therapists How To Talk About Gun Safety When Suicide’s A Risk

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.

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Advice From A Vet On The ‘Rude Awakening’ Of Transition To Civilian Life

After 23 years, Cameron Cook (left) is leaving the service. Jarrad Turner (right) left in 2010. Courtesy of Cameron Cook/Courtesy of Jarrad Turner
When you're facing a major life change, it helps to talk to someone who has already been through it. All Things Considered is connecting people on either side of a shared experience, and they're letting us eavesdrop on their conversations in our series Been There. Cameron Cook signed up for the U.S. Army in 1994, three days after his high school graduation, and that's been his life ever since. The job took him to Germany, Macedonia and Albania. He did combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cameron says it came with a sense of purpose, camaraderie, and excitement. "It's just been something new every day, every month, every year," he says. "Whether it was a new job skill, go get a new piece of equipment. It's like Christmas every week in the Army." That's all about to change. Cameron is retiring. That means adjusting to a civilian life without the built-in brotherhood and mission of the service. It also means giving up the routines that have structured his days for more than two decades. He remembers, on his first day as a veteran, waking up, putting on his military physical training gear without even realizing it and walking out of his house — only to find out that he was the only person out on his block. "For me it was a rude awakening," he tells Cameron, "because I kind of had the mentality of, OK, slackers, get up! I was like, you're wasting time! We've got stuff to execute upon."

Advice from Jarrad Turner

On learning to slow down When I got out, my son — so he was 4. You know, being 4, he was still in dad's arms, you know. And kind of just falling asleep on the couch with him is one of the things that started to break some of those old patterns. You know I'm looking at my kids, and I'm like, I'm looking at my family, I don't want to lose this precious time. So, it's like just chill out. On dealing with civilians well-meaning but unwelcome questions I don't think that they do it intentionally. You know, a lot of times they're just trying to help out. But, when you start telling them, because you're trying to help them get a better understanding, and you say, "Well, when you're in boots, you know, you're in that big dust bowl and you lose people, unfortunately that body goes somewhere else and you still got a mission on," a lot of them just don't get that. And it can frustrate you, but I just kind of take it from a place that look, they just don't understand. They're trying to get a better understanding of it. So, when I can talk about it I talk about it, and when I can't I just can't. On building a support system Having a support system that you can trust — family, your bros, veterans' organizations — that is truly the reason that I'm still here. I buried my tenth soldier to suicide, Dec. 24, we buried him. I mean, to this day it still hurts. But, I would say, there's gonna come times in your life now that you just need to be brutally honest with people. Whether it's pain, whether it's memories, whether it's life, there's a time when this stuff can come back on you. And, if you're willing to just talk about it, and understanding that it doesn't necessarily have a rhyme or reason to it, you'll be good.

Share Your Experience

Are you about to undergo a major life change, like start your own business or enter a retirement home? Or have you gone through a big change already? All Things Considered invites you to share your experience, either to ask questions or pass on your own lessons learned. Email us at, with "Been There" in the subject line.

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Top Navy Nurse Describes a ‘Typical Day’ in Navy Medicine

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. 

Rear Adm. Tina Davidson, official U.S. Navy photo
Rear Adm. Tina Davidson, official U.S. Navy photo
Q1. Why did you choose to become a Navy nurse? Davidson: After graduating St. Louis University School of Nursing, I worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. We had a great team of doctors and nurses and we were extremely proud of the care we delivered. However, there was something missing for me. I felt the need to step out of my comfort zone, even if only for a couple of years. After looking at a variety of options, I decided to join the United States Navy with the plan to return to St. Louis after I completed my three year obligation. I was so nervous, but my biggest motivation at the time was to live in San Diego by the beach and I liked the Navy uniforms. It didn’t take long for me to realize what an honor and privilege it was to care for America’s warfighters and their families. Three years turned into more than 30 years and now I have so many fond memories of my time in the Navy. I can’t imagine a different career. Q2. What is the most memorable moment in your career as a Navy nurse? Davidson: I can’t point to one specific memorable moment that stands out above all the rest. What does stand out is all of the wonderful, talented and dedicated people I had the pleasure to serve with over the years. Specifically, teaching and working alongside our hospital corpsmen. The responsibility these young men and women bear on their shoulders is amazing. Corpsmen often work in the fleet and the field in isolation and often in austere environments. It is an honor to see them blossom in their personal and professional development often going on to become officers in Navy Medicine. It is no wonder the Hospital Corps is the most decorated rate in the Navy. I had phenomenal corpsmen when I served as the ship’s nurse aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). I am so proud of them and all our corpsmen.
Hospital Corpsmen assigned to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8 assist Dutch EOD divers during casualty exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2015.
Hospital Corpsmen assigned to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 assist Dutch EOD divers during casualty exercise during exercise Baltic Operations 2015.
Q3. Who inspired your career as a Navy nurse? Davidson: My dad served as a Marine and I always enjoyed hearing his stories of camaraderie and adventure. My uncle was also a Marine who was injured while in Iwo Jima and he had some interesting stories of the Navy nurses who took care of him over the months he spent in Navy hospitals. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my grandfather who passed away when I was just a child, served in the Navy. I believe I was meant to find my way to the Navy and the Navy Nurse Corps. I enjoyed my work as a civilian nurse, but serving as a Navy nurse took it to a whole other level of personal and professional satisfaction. Q4. How would you describe a typical day as a Navy nurse? Davidson: There is no typical day. That is what’s so great about being a Navy nurse. Navy nurses are versatile and care for our warfighters and their families in a multitude of environments, from shipboard, to the field with Marines, as flight nurses, to serving in academic positions teaching corpsmen as well as other nurses. We also have nurses in staff jobs and executive medicine. Regardless of where we serve, we are leaders at every level and committed to lifelong learning.
Cmdr. Dennis Spence, a nurse anesthetist aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), along with a local nursing student, interacts with a Filipino child to determine his viability for surgery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Hank Gettys/Released)
Cmdr. Dennis Spence, a nurse anesthetist aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), along with a local nursing student, interacts with a Filipino child to determine his viability for surgery.
Q5. What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming a Navy nurse? Davidson: Join the Navy!!! Don’t worry if you are nervous or unsure, that is okay. Whether you decide to stay in for one tour or several, you will be all the better for taking the oath, putting on the uniform and serving those who are so deserving. The Navy Nurse Corps has many opportunities to offer not only in assignments all over the country, but overseas as well.  

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A Daughter Explores Her Father’s PTSD, From Vietnam Until Today

PTSD articleI 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.

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One of the Last ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Earned His Medal of Honor In Korea

Posted on by Katie Lange

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity This blog is part of a 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 U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. The next honoree in our blog series was a member of the U.S. Army’s all-black 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, one of the last segregated units to engage in combat. This came during the Korean War, which also became the first war since the American Revolution to see black soldiers fighting alongside white soldiers in the same units. Army Sgt. Cornelius Charlton. Army photo Months before the 24th IR was deactivated, though, 21-year-old Sgt. Cornelius Charlton gave his last full measure of devotion to the country. Charlton was raised in southern West Virginia, but his family eventually moved to the Bronx, New York City. In 1946, he graduated from high school there and immediately enlisted into the Army, just at the end of World War II. Charlton was initially assigned to an engineering unit, but he requested and received a transfer into Company C, an infantry unit that was part of the 24th IR. He was one of the last of the “Buffalo Soldiers.” Charlton earned his Medal of Honor during Operation Piledriver, a major battle in Korea that was aimed at pushing North Korean and Chinese troops out of the south. On June 2, 1951, Charlton’s platoon was attacking a hill that was heavily defended by Chinese infantrymen and mortars near the village of Chipo-ri, northeast of Seoul. His unit’s leader was injured and had to be evacuated, so Charlton assumed command and rallied the troops to continue the assault. Using a rifle and grenades, Charlton managed to destroy two hostile positions and kill six enemy soldiers before his unit got pinned down on the hill they were attacking. He tried to push the men forward, but they were driven back again by heavy grenade fire. Charlton suffered a serious chest wound during that time, but he wouldn’t give in. He refused medical attention and instead led a third charge up the hill, which took them to the crest of the ridge. The platoon then spotted the Chinese bunker that was firing the mortars from the far side of the hill, so Charlton again urged them forward to destroy it. He went ahead of the rest of the soldiers and raked the position with bullets, destroying two Chinese machine guns and forcing back its defenders. But he was hit by a second grenade during the charge – an injury that proved fatal. Charlton was credited with saving many of the soldiers in his platoon. His courage, leadership and self-sacrifice earned him the Medal of Honor, which he posthumously received in early 1952. He was one of only two black men to receive the award for actions performed during the Korean War. The Korean War was both the last armed conflict to see segregated units and the first since the Revolutionary War to see black and white soldiers fighting side-by-side in the same units. Army photo Charlton also earned the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal and many other citations during his military career. But it took many years for him to get a proper burial. According to congressional records, Charlton’s body was returned to the U.S. and buried in his mother’s family plot, not at Arlington National Cemetery, where Medal of Honor recipients are usually interred. There was some controversy over why that happened: the Army said it was due to “administrative oversight,” but his family believed it had to do with race. Decades later, in 1990, Charlton’s remains were reinterred at the American Legion Cemetery in Beckley, West Virginia. He was reinterred in 2008 to his final resting place and appropriate location – Arlington National Cemetery. Thank you, Sgt. Charlton, for your devotion to cause and country!

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How I Answer My Students’ Tough Questions about Military Service

Darrell JonesDARRELL 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.   Darrell Jones2 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.  

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‘Military Brat:’ Do You Know Where The Term Comes From?

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. growing-up-faster_slidePosted 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.    

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The Stigma that Stops Veterans from Getting Help for PTSD

PTSD3JUDY 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. PTSD2   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.

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Vet’s Post-Army Career Highlights Resilience of Female Vets

Women’s History Month Exhibits Bring More Recognition to Female Combat Vets

By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity Female veterans aren’t always recognized like their male counterparts are, in civilian society or when they’re looking for the help they’ve earned. ”We hear about women going into [Veterans Affairs hospitals], and male veteran patients assume they’re just wives or daughters or sisters of veterans instead of being the veterans themselves,” said Kayla Williams, the director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans. “Occasionally, even VA employees will ask if they’re there with their husbands.” The center is working to remedy that, and Williams – who knows the struggle – is leading the charge. An Army vet herself, Williams served from 2000-2005 as an Arabic linguist and spent a year in Iraq during the initial invasion. She eventually left the Army to take care of her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Brian McGough, who was seriously injured during deployment. During that journey of recovery, she realized how differently female war vets were treated. A smiling Kayla Williams on her return home from a deployment in Iraq. Photo courtesy of Kayla Williams More Recognition Needed “We would go out to get beers to celebrate coming home alive, and the bartender would say, ‘Hey, somebody buy these guys a round,’ and the patrons would take him very literally,” Williams said. “The assumption was that only the guys were combat vets.” It was that sense of invisibility that made the transition back more difficult for her and other female soldiers, so she used her GI Bill for graduate school and became an advocate on behalf of military women and wounded warriors. Instead of focusing on the challenges that female vets face, Williams said she wanted to highlight their successes – like the fact that female vets are more likely to use their GI Bill and more apt to graduate than male vets. “Women who come back to their communities after service are strong, resilient and come back with leadership and technical skills with lots to give,” Williams said. Highlighting Thriving Female Vets To get more VA providers and male vets to recognize that, the Center for Women Veterans is honoring the creativity and resilience of female vets and active-duty women this Women’s History Month. The VA worked with the nonprofit Veterans Artist Program to find female veterans and active-duty service members who had also become artists. More than 120 women submitted nearly 400 works of art for the 2017 Woman Veterans Art Exhibit. The artists were narrowed down to the top 10, and their profiles and artwork have been displayed at VA Medical Centers around the country. The exhibits show that women can thrive after combat or any traumatic experience. “All of these women are so brave and strong and just wonderful examples of the resilience of women veterans and all our veterans,” Williams said. Here’s a little more about those ladies. You can find out more about their artwork, where that work is featured and who the runners-up were on the Woman Veterans Art Exhibit website. Victoria Bryers: Victoria Bryers and her winning artwork. Victoria Bryers joined the U.S. Coast Guard the first year women were accepted for active duty. Three years later, in 1977, she was one of the first women to be stationed on a combat ship. She went on to serve in the Coast Guard Reserve for 30 years. In her retirement, Bryers is completing her master’s degree in art education and is working on a project to honor women who died on active duty. Pamela Corwin: Pamela Corwin and her wildlife-related artwork. Pamela Corwin served six years in the Army, most of it specializing in the Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program. She was also a fitness and health noncommissioned officer. Nowadays, she’s a wildlife and fisheries biologist and is working to restore historical American shad spawning runs that have been affected by dams and changes to rivers in South Carolina. “She’s a tremendous example for other young women who are thinking about going into a non-traditional career field,” Williams said. Amy Forsythe: Amy Forsythe and her winning photo. Amy Forsythe is a Marine Corps veteran who served four combat tours as an enlisted military journalist. She covered operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and her work was often aired on major news networks. Forsythe continues to serve as a Navy Reserve public affairs officer as the bureau chief of Defense Media Activity in Guam. Natalie Lopez: Natalie Lopez and her painting. Natalie Lopez is currently a staff sergeant in the Air Force. She served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was once a military training instructor and is a top 10 percent designated marksman. During her spare time, Lopez is also getting her degree in art therapy and is volunteering at art centers to help veterans suffering from PTSD. Cara Myhre: Cara Myhre and her art. Cara Myhre served as a cryptologic Arabic linguist in the Army and Army Reserves for 12 years, which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She started doing art to cope with a traumatic experience. Since then, she used her GI Bill to get a degree in fine arts and psychology in order to help others, including fellow veterans, do the same. Debra Russell: Debra Russell Debra Russell spent more than 14 years in the Navy before being medically discharged. She dealt with some trauma during her military career, so now she’s working on degrees in both graphic design and mental health counseling. Deveon Sudduth: Retired Army Lt. Col. Deveon Sudduth and her photo. Deveon Sudduth spent 37 years in the Army. Her first 12 were enlisted before she went to Officer Candidate School in the 1990s. She served two tours of duty in Iraq before retiring in 2016 as a lieutenant colonel. She loved her military life and has said she wants to help veterans as much as she can. “When I look at that [photo], I feel like I must have seen that exact image when I was in Iraq. It really resonated with me,” Williams said. Laura Taylor: Laura Taylor and her drawing of a Pearl Harbor survivor. Laura Taylor was a fighter jet mechanic and plane captain during her Navy career. Upon leaving the service, she got a degree in visual communications and has since become a graphic designer with a passion for creating and teaching art. Her love for military life is reflected in her work. Stacey Thompson: Stacey Thompson and her art. Stacey Thompson served in the Marine Corps for two years. She’s a disabled vet who also takes full-time care of her husband, a retired gunnery sergeant. Her art helps share her story of survival from military sexual trauma, and she spends her time as an advocate and motivational speaker. Lindsay Zike: Lindsay Zike and her winning metal-work design. Lindsay Zike was a military brat who served in the Navy for seven years. When she got out in 2008, she randomly took a ceramics class, which led to a passion for clay and metal-working. Since then, she’s earned two degrees in fine arts. Her travels while in the Navy inspired much of her professional work. Congrats to all of these women, and thank you for your service! Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter! Click here to link to the original article on DoDLive.

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This WWII-Era Cartoonist’s Legacy Still Helps Soldiers Today

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. 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.

A Unique Training Perspective

For anyone in the military who operates any kind of machinery – a tank, a rifle or whatever – you’ve likely been told to read a clunky, boring technical manual to figure out how it works. The language in those manuals can be daunting for many, especially during Eisner’s day. “Back in the 1940 and ‘50s, when soldiers enlisted into the Army or were drafted, they barely had a fifth grade reading level,” said Army 1st Sgt. Richard Bernard, the garrison first sergeant at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. A photo of Will Eisner in uniform, along with his Aberdeen Proving Ground identification button. DoD photo by Katie Lange During World War II, Eisner was stationed at APG. He worked for the post newspaper and drew comics for training. After a promotion to warrant officer, he helped develop a preventative maintenance magazine called “Army Motors” and drew characters that helped soldiers take better care of their equipment. He was then assigned to the Pentagon, where he worked until 1945. After WWII ended, Eisner formed the American Visuals Corporation to produce educational materials for the government and military. But during the Korean War, the Army wanted an even simpler way to explain maintenance issues to the troops. Leaders needed something to grab soldiers’ attention. “Everybody read comics back in the day. It was actually the highest form of reading at that time,” Bernard said. Left: a copy of a 1968 issue of PS Monthly; Right: The popular character Joe Dope from "Army Motors." So in 1951, Eisner stepped up to the challenge, and P.S. Monthly was born. “He understood that maintenance wasn’t being done like it should have been done, and he figured out the reason why – soldiers who were coming into the Army didn’t understand what the manual said,” Bernard explained. “So, he chose to break it down on their level.” P.S. Monthly is called that because it’s considered a “postscript” to official Army publications. It was the first of its kind and quickly became the most distributed comic magazine worldwide, providing entertainment to a captive audience, as well as helping soldiers maintain their equipment and retain information on a higher level. Eisner was even sent into combat zones like Korea and Vietnam to research material for the magazine. A copy of a more recent version of P.S. Monthly. DoD photo by Katie Lange Eisner eventually moved on from his Army work to write graphic novels and pursue other interests, but P.S. Monthly continued to be produced by the Army Materiel Command. “I remember reading it when I first came in in 1995,” Bernard said. “I looked forward to that P.S. Monthly Magazine coming out.” Eisner died in 2005 at age 87. He would have turned 100 this month. Coincidentally, Aberdeen Proving Ground is also celebrating its centennial this year, so post leaders decided to set up an exhibit in honor of Eisner’s work at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore. Along with P.S. Monthly covers, there are photos of Eisner in uniform and several pieces of his rarely-seen art. Some of Will Eisner's work and personal items are on display at Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore through October 2017.

Going Digital

While P.S. Monthly’s aesthetics have largely gone unchanged over the decades, the magazine’s current editor just announced a major shift — the magazine will be going digital in June, complete with a mobile app that will include videos and other resources. And while P.S. Monthly is aimed at an Army audience, all service branches may find it useful. PS Monthly in its current form. DoD photo by Katie Lange “There is a lot of equipment that we kind of co-cross, like the weapons systems we use – the M-16, A4 – it’s the same. They use the same rifle, the same pistol. … A majority of the equipment is relatively the same,” Bernard said. By the end of his career, Eisner had written more than two-dozen graphic novels, including his first, “A Contract With God,” and a retelling of “Moby Dick.” “The Spirit” was recreated over the years, too, and is even part of a new DC Comics series. And of course, there’s still P.S. Monthly. So if you’re struggling with that big technical manual you were handed, maybe check out some of the magazine’s archives or the new digital editions. You might find that Eisner’s legacy can help you master your trade! Click here to link to DoDLive site.

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All Academy Day Comes to Hampton Roads

Academy Day2 This year, the All Military Academy Day will take place at Tidewater community College, in Virginia Beach.

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.
Who should attend: 8th to 11th-grade students (and parents) interested in pursuing an appointment to one of the Nation’s Service Academies and/or NROTC/ROTC Scholarship. All welcome! Where: Tidewater Community College (Student Center), 1700 College Crescent, Virginia Beach, VA 23453 Program: Presentations by representatives starting at 10:00 AM, followed by individual questions and answers. Presenters: Representation from Congressional Offices, Service Academies, and ROTC units.
Each of these schools has a rich history and have graduated distinguished leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, and Robert Kiyosaki—just to name a few.  All of the Academies offer a full scholarship for all of their students (valued at an average of $400k per student).

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Vet Voices

Veteran’s Voices Town Hall Episode 1

Vet Voices

Each year roughly 13,000 military personnel who call Hampton Roads home, leave their respective branches of service and transition into civilian life. For the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, coming home can be a difficult adjustment. In Part 1 of WHRO’s Veterans Voices Town Hall we showcase the stories of Veterans determined to overcome challenges like getting their VA benefits and military downsizing. We also delve into the challenges facing our women veterans – all before a studio audience.  
In Part 2 of WHRO’s Veterans Voices Town Hall, airing Monday, December 14th at 9:00 PM, we’ll look at challenges so many veterans face.  Challenges like PTSD, homelessness, and depression. See their stories and learn how they’ve overcome.

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Vet Voices

Veteran’s Voices Town Hall: Episode 2

Vet VoicesEach year roughly 13,000 military personnel who call Hampton Roads home, leave their respective branches of service and transition into civilian life. For the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, coming home can be a difficult adjustment.In Part 2 of WHRO’s Veterans Voices Town Hall we showcase the stories of Veterans determined to heal.  Learn how vets over come homelessness and addiction, struggle with PTSD and alternate therapies, how injured veterans overcome physical challenges with adaptive sports  – all before a studio audience.

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Hacksaw ridge

10 Oscar-Winning Movies That Are Military-Minded

  The World War II film “Hacksaw Ridge,” which details the life and legacy of U.S. Army Pvt. Desmond Doss, was one of nine movies up for best picture at this year's 89th Academy Awards. It was up for five other Oscars this year and won in two categories. Doss was a unique soldier. Despite being a pacifist, he enlisted as an Army medic during World War II, and his heroic actions in battle changed the minds of those who were skeptical of his patriotism. Doss became the first Medal of Honor recipient to earn the award without firing a shot. Movies about real-life military stories have always been big draws at the box office, and they’ve won a lot of Oscars, too. Here are 10 other great military films that have won the coveted award.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930):

all quiet on the western front If you’ve heard of or seen this movie, kudos to you since it was made long before most of our parents were born. This American-made movie follows the life of a young German soldier who enlists in World War I but, after seeing the horrors of war, is left disillusioned. The film is not about heroism, but about drudgery and futility and the chasm between the concept of war and what it’s really like. “All Quiet on the Western Front” won two of six Oscars it was nominated for in 1930, including best picture and best director.

The Longest Day (1962):

Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox This film depicted the events that happened on D-Day in World War II through icon stars such as John Wayne, Sean Connery and Richard Burton. The three-hour movie was nominated for five Oscars in 1963, including best picture. It won for best visual effects and best cinematography.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970):

tora-tora-tora There have been many on-screen depictions of the Pearl Harbor attacks in the 75 years since America was thrust into World War II. “Tora! Tora! Tora!” was perhaps one of the most acclaimed, having been told from the Japanese and American sides. “Tora” was a Japanese radio code word for “lightning attack,” which indicated the surprise with which the Japanese attacked Oahu. The film won an Oscar in 1971 for best visual effects and received four other nominations.

Platoon (1986):

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Starring big names like Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker, this Vietnam War-era drama follows a naive young American as he goes into combat, where he has a near-psychological meltdown and finds he’s facing not one but two battles – with the enemy and within his unit. “Platoon” won four of the eight 1987 Oscars it was nominated for, including best picture and director.

Saving Private Ryan (1998):

Image courtesy of Dreamworks While this World War II drama doesn’t necessarily depict a real-life event, it is one of the most well-known among anyone under 40. With stars like Tom Hanks and Matt Damon carrying it, “Saving Private Ryan” follows several U.S. soldiers who put their lives on the line to find a fellow paratrooper whose siblings have all been killed in action. This war film was nominated for 11 Oscars in 1999, five of which it won: Best director, cinematography, film editing, sound mixing and sound editing. It missed out on the nod for best picture and best actor.

U-571 (2000):

Universal Studios This World War II drama focuses on the battles below the sea. Several Navy submariners manage to masquerade themselves as Nazis to infiltrate a German U-boat in an effort to capture Hitler’s “unbreakable” code-making machine, Enigma. “U-571” won an Oscar for best sound editing in 2001. It was also nominated for best sound mixing.

Black Hawk Down (2001):

black hawk down This war movie was based off a best-selling novel and a true story about a near-disastrous mission in the 1990s by Special Operations forces who were sent into Mogadishu to capture two criminals. Somali gunmen shot down two U.S. helicopters during the operation, which led to a rescue mission for any survivors. “Black Hawk Down” won two of four Oscars for which it was nominated in 2002 – best film editing and best sound mixing.

Pearl Harbor (2001):

pearl harbor movie poster This film clearly wasn’t the first to depict the tragedy at Pearl Harbor, but it had an all-star cast and a tale that not only depicted the horror of that day, but it mixed in a love story as well. The cinematography and special effects also helped bring the story to life. “Pearl Harbor” was up for three Oscars in 2002. It won for best sound editing.

The Hurt Locker (2008):

Image via This drama is one of the most critically acclaimed to have come out of the War on Terror. It follows the lives of several Army explosive ordnance disposal technicians in Iraq who are charged with disarming bombs amid the violent conflicts of the Iraq War. “The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Oscars in 2010 and won six of them, including for best picture and best director, the first ever awarded to a female director, Kathryn Bigelow.

American Sniper (2014):

Photo courtesy of This Clint Eastwood-directed movie depicts the life of decorated Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who became a legend for saved countless lives over four tours of duty during the Iraq War. But his story became a tragedy when he returned back home and tried to help a fellow veteran. “American Sniper” won the 2015 Academy Award for best sound editing. It was nominated for five more, including best picture and best actor.
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Damaso Sutis and Gene E. Bell  reminisce about their experiences during World War II. Camp Pendleton hosted a tour for Iwo Jima veterans,commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Keely M. Dwyer/Released)


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.” Damaso Sutis and Gene E. Bell  reminisce about their experiences during World War II. Camp Pendleton hosted a tour for Iwo Jima veterans,commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Keely M. Dwyer/Released) 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.

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Daylight Saving Time Was Once Known As ‘War Time’

By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity February 8. 2017 DoDLive, the Department of Defense Blog Saving daylightIt’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.

In 1918, Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns the Ohio Clock at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., forward for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder (NY), William Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) look on. In 1918, Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns the Ohio Clock at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., forward for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder (NY), William Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) look on.
For the next two decades, there were no set rules for daylight saving time, which caused a lot of confusion for the transportation and broadcast industries. That changed for good in 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act that set a national standard time that permanently superseded local times. It established daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. Portions of the law have been changed a few times since, including to the dates when the “spring” forward and “fall” back happen. The current policy was implemented by President George W. Bush in 2005, extending daylight saving time by a few weeks. It now starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. While daylight saving time is a federal mandate, states can opt out of it by passing a state law. Hawaii and Arizona don’t observe it, though the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona does. Most American territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam, don’t observe it, either.

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Veteran’s Art in New Local Exhibit at Virginia MOCA

Albrecht   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.”   Albrecht2 “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

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Vietnam’s First MoH Recipient Dodged Mortars, Grenades to Save Many

mohPosted on by Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity

This blog is part of a weekly series from the DODLive, the Department of Defense online blog, called “Medal of Honor Monday” in which they highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the honor of wearing the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor. Army Capt. Roger Donlon is a notable Medal of Honor recipient for a few reasons. Not only was he the first American to earn the medal for actions taken in Vietnam, but he was also one of the few – if not only – service members to have had a bounty on his head when he returned to the battlefield. Army Capt. Roger Donlon. Army photo Donlon’s desire to be in the military pretty much started at birth. The Saugerties, New York, native’s father served in World War I, and all four of his brothers were military. Eye issues kept him out of the Air Force, which was his original goal. Instead, he studied for two years at West Point, but decided to drop out and enlist immediately into the Army. He eventually graduated from Officer Candidate School and was assigned to the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group in 1963. Donlon was the commanding officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-726 at Camp Nam Dong in Vietnam on July 6, 1964, when hundreds of Vietcong (South Vietnamese supporters of communism) tried to overrun the installation. The attack started around 2 a.m., just as Donlon was finishing a guard shift. He entered the camp’s mess hall and was knocked down by a mortar that hit the roof.  He jumped up and ran to the main gate to make sure it hadn’t been breached. Within a few minutes, he was able to kill three bomb-clad Vietcong fighters. He was also injured by two more mortar rounds that had impacts so strong they blew his boots off. During the next five hours, Donlon’s courage was unending as he crawled from defensive position to defensive position hurling grenades at the enemy, directing firing operations and making sure parts of the camp that hadn’t been overrun were protected. Some of the highlights of his actions were:
  • Marshaling up troops to get much-need ammunition out of a bunker that caught fire.
  • Reaching a 60 mm mortar gun pit and helping nearly all of the injured men there withdraw to safety, despite suffering a severe stomach wound of his own.
  • As he dragged a team sergeant from the pit, he was hit by another mortar that wounded his left shoulder. The sergeant was killed.
  • Despite his many wounds, Donlon then carried the abandoned 60 mm mortar gun to a safer location, where he found and treated three wounded Chinese fighters who were on America’s side (known as Nungs).
  • He then went back to the gun pit to get the mortar’s ammunition. In doing so, he was hit yet again, this time in the leg by a hand grenade.
Donlon and his men were able to keep the enemy at bay until daylight, when the Vietcong retreated back to the jungle, leaving behind weapons, grenades and many of their dead. Donlon continued to help treat the wounded until Marine reinforcements arrived to evacuate his team by helicopter. Donlon’s actions inspired not just his men, but the friendly Vietnamese defenders, as well. Donlon received the Medal of Honor on Dec. 5, 1964, from President Lyndon Johnson. All of the survivors of his A-726 team were present, and Donlon made it clear that the medal belonged to them, too. Donlon’s service didn’t end there, though. He had wanted to go back into combat, but for many years, the Pentagon didn’t allow him because the Vietcong had put a bounty on his head. In 1972, he was approved to return to Vietnam for a second tour of duty. Donlon retired in 1988 as a colonel after spending 32 years in the Army. He currently lives in Kansas. Click here to link to original article on DODLive.

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Col. David Oeschger, director of the Army's Wounded Warrior Program, called family and faith his two main keys to recovery following "eating a wall" during a suicide attack in Afghanistan. He also commended hospital staff in Germany and a new found tool: adaptive sports and conditioning.  (Photo courtesy the Oeschger family)

AW2 Commandar Talks Adaptive Sports

BY KEITH OLIVER, SOLDIERS, DEFENSE MEDIA ACTIVITY From Soldiers: The official Army magazine. June, 2016

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Director, Col. David Oeschger, is himself a Purple Heart recipient and said he benefitted greatly from adaptive sports. (Photo by Andrew Wakeford, used with permission) Soldiers spoke recently with the Director of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, Col. David S. Oeschger, one of the key members of the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, about his service, his wounds and how adaptive sports are helping Soldiers and veterans heal. What are your duties and responsibilities? I have the great honor of being the director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (AW2).  My program executes non-clinical advocacy for the Army’s seriously wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and veterans – and for their families and caregivers. We have 210 professional, highly capable advocates positioned both CONUS and across the world. They are incredible and they interface directly with our 20,000-plus clients to assist them with their myriad, complex life issues. What led you to join the Army, including any family or other personal influencers. My father, Colonel Oren Oeschger, U.S. Army (retired) is probably the greatest reason why I joined this incredible profession. From my his service in Vietnam to his almost 30-year commitment and dedication to the airborne community and the Army as a whole – how could my brother and I do anything but follow in his footsteps?  My brother, Colonel Mike Oeschger, is now the DIVARTY (division artillery) commander for the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson and our children are either in the Army or seriously considering it as a career. Why tanks? The Army in its infinite wisdom selected the Armor Corps for me, and I could not have been happier with the choice. The Armor/Cav community is a truly special breed of warriors that can fight and win mounted or dismounted – never failing to accomplish the mission or care for its Soldiers. Besides, I bring a quality perspective to any family gatherings as an airborne Ranger tanker capable of expertly countering any airborne Ranger esprit de corps BS my father or brother might be espousing. We have heard you speak of wounds or conditions that are not visible.  Please explain. Every soldier out here did not necessarily receive his or her wounds in combat, nor is every wound, injury or illness readily recognizable. Wounded, ill, and/or injured Soldiers and veterans are all well represented on the various service teams in the Warrior Games. The Department of Defense is universally dedicated to ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect as they go through their healing process and then rejoin their units or transition well into the civilian world. And we appreciate that our teams are being made up of a greater number of athletes with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury – conditions which are receiving the focus they deserve. Our many athletes in these categories say there is a growing awareness that these are the defining injuries of our generation. Col. David Oeschger, director of the Army's Wounded Warrior Program, called family and faith his two main keys to recovery following "eating a wall" during a suicide attack in Afghanistan. He also commended hospital staff in Germany and a new found tool: adaptive sports and conditioning.  (Photo courtesy the Oeschger family) You have direct experience with seen and unseen wounds. Can you talk about that? In July 2011, my men and I were helping to counter a Taliban push to kill the Uruzghan Province Governor, Police Chief and other influential leaders. After a multiple hour firefight, two suicide bombers ignited their vests on my men as they attempted to clear the target building. The blasts blew my Soldiers from the building causing severe injuries but fortunately none were killed and all would make fantastic recoveries. I, unfortunately, took the brunt of the blasts based on my positioning outside the building. The concussive blast damage and the hundreds of pounds of debris caused massive internal injuries and breakages involving my back, pelvis, ribs and lungs. I had minutes to live and my Soldiers used that time wisely to treat and transport me to the Role 1 medical facility at Tarin Kot. I am alive today because of the incredible actions of my Soldiers and the life-saving techniques and commitment to mission executed by the military medical personnel in Tarin Kot, Kandahar, Kabul, Landstuhl and Walter Reed. Obviously, your experiences – especially your recovery – have informed your leadership philosophy. Can you talk about that? Because of the incredible advances in military medicine, my new normal is entirely acceptable. I might be shy a lung and run like Quasimodo, but I was given another chance to be an even better father, husband, brother, son, Soldier and leader. I am always optimistic and I am completely dedicated to ensuring programs like this one uphold a nation’s promise to its seriously wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. I never miss a chance to talk with Soldiers and their families and remind them they are serving and fighting for an Army that has responsibly created and maintained these types of programs that will care for them if they are ever injured.  Where do you see adaptive reconditioning sports heading? I have seen the power of AR and sports, and how they bring wounded, ill or injured Soldiers out of their shells. The more Soldiers get exposed to this type of activity in the recovery process, the better chance they will have of succeeding as they transition back to the force or into the civilian world. It is real easy to start feeling sorry for oneself when undergoing recovery for injuries or treatment for a long-term illness. AR counters this by providing a task and purpose. It may be command directed at first, but for most it becomes a way of life. The various services and the VA use adaptive reconditioning in about the same manner to achieve the same positive, life changing results. There are definitive synergies that could be gained if the DOD and VA merged their yearly capstone AR events: Valor Games and Warrior Games. What thoughts would you like to leave us with? If you are fortunate enough to witness the resilience of the Warrior Games athletes it will change your life. Watching a triple amputee swim 50 meters while gasping for air and straining to get the slightest bit of propulsion puts your issues and challenges into perspective. And the simple fact is, the athlete does not put out this kind of effort for your benefit, but to finish the race – a first-rate lesson in how to live. Read about how the U.S. Army’s elite adaptive sports athlete’s began their journeys to the 2016 DoD Warrior Games:

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Applications to be accepted for 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games

NVGAG_body_imageThe 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 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. NVGAG_93 YO vet 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 and follow VA Adaptive Sports on Twitter at @VAAdaptiveSport or on Facebook at  

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National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival kicks Off

Vet ARts Fest2 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. Vet ARts Fest3 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 for more information. Best wishes to you all and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to showcase your artistic talents!  

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1st ‘Medal of Honor Monday’ Focuses on First-Ever Recipient

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.

Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott

Parrott was born on July 17, 1843, in Fairfield County, Ohio. He enlisted in the Army as part of Company K, 33rd Ohio Voluntary Infantry, during the Civil War. Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott. Photo courtesy of In April 1862, Parrot and nearly two-dozen other volunteers were given orders to go deep into enemy territory and destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta. Once they reached the Atlanta area, the Union soldiers hopped on a train heading north. When the train stopped at Big Shanty, Georgia, the passengers and crew got off for breakfast, but the raiders stayed on and began their covert mission by uncoupling the engine, fuel car and three boxcars and steaming out of the station. The raiders gained a little bit of distance and were able to damage a few bridges, but it wasn’t long before Confederate soldiers got ahold of another train and were hot on their trail. The Union soldiers uncoupled more of the stolen cars to slow their pursuers, but the move was to little effect. Eventually, the train ran out of fuel near the Georgia-Tennessee border, and all of the Union soldiers tried to get away on foot. They were all captured, including Parrott. Parrott was eventually returned to the Union in a prisoner exchange in March 1863. For his part in the raid, he was awarded the very first Medal of Honor that same month, with five of his comrades receiving the same distinction shortly thereafter. So that’s the story of the very first Medal of Honor recipient! In the more than 150 years since then, 3,498 service members of all different backgrounds and branches have earned the medal, including 88 African-Americans, 59 Hispanic-Americans, 33 Asian-Americans and 32 Native Americans. Only one woman has received the distinction, while nine unknown soldiers have earned it. Nineteen people have the extremely rare distinction of earning it twice.  

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Lt Gibbons

Meet Your Army: 1st Lt. Gibbons is looking after Afghan police women

By David VergunDecember 27, 2016
Lt Gibbons"I met several strong women willing to work despite increased risk for female police," 1st Lt. Eva Gibbons said. The woman on the left, 1LT Yassamin, works every day at a regional training center as a doctor and is anxious to inspire other women to join the police. A large female training facility is under construction at this location and Yassamin looks forward to its completion and introduction of more women to the police force. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of 1st Lt. Eva M. Gibbons).

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. This photograph of  1st Lt. Eva Gibbons and her son  was taken by her father as she left for Officer Candidate School. "I first left New Hampshire and my family for 9 weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in the fall of 2014.  I graduated just in time for winter block leave and had to report to OCS by 2 January.  Leaving again for another four months after being home for only two weeks was difficult but I knew the temporary separation was a small price to pay for the service of both my family and country," she said.
This photograph of 1st Lt. Eva Gibbons and her son was taken by her father as she left for Officer Candidate School. "I first left New Hampshire and my family for 9 weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in the fall of 2014. I graduated just in time for winter block leave and had to report to OCS by 2 January. Leaving again for another four months after being home for only two weeks was difficult but I knew the temporary separation was a small price to pay for the service of both my family and country," she said. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of 1st Lt. Eva M.

GibbonsSpeaking 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.

"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." 1st Lt. Eva M. Gibbons as an advisor in Afghanistan with the training team's  Jon Washburn and an Afghan officer, following lunch provided by the Afghan police.  "Hospitality plays a large role in Afghan culture and is instrumental in establishing good rapport," she said.
1st Lt. Eva M. Gibbons as an advisor in Afghanistan with the training team's Jon Washburn and an Afghan officer, following lunch provided by the Afghan police. "Hospitality plays a large role in Afghan culture and is instrumental in establishing good rapport," she said. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of 1st Lt. Eva M. Gibbons)
Q&A Q: What's been the most unusual experience you had in Afghanistan? A: Getting to understand the customs of the Afghans, which are very different than our own. For example, I had to learn to be patient. The Army mentality is "bottom line up front," which is not the way with Afghans. They expect friendly banter and hesitate to discuss business until a certain level of rapport has been established over several meetings. Q: So is that something you found challenging? A: At first, but now I look forward to returning to Fort Hood and applying the patience and open-mindedness I learned from my experiences in Afghanistan to my next assignment. Q: What's been the most difficult thing for you during your rotation? A: The separation from my 4-year-old son, Stephane, and my husband, August, who are waiting for me at Fort Hood, Texas. My husband has supported me throughout my Army career. The hardships of family members and loved ones left behind during training and deployments are often overlooked and go unappreciated by those unfamiliar with the sacrifice. I will always be grateful for their support and sacrifices, allowing me not only to serve my country but also others through my advising. Q: Are you glad you joined the Army? A: I grew up in a military family, with service members scattered throughout our family tree, and am excited to continue the tradition of taking pride in one's country. My father, Jeffrey Gibbons, is a retired Army sergeant major. I tried my hand at a civilian job after graduating from the University of New Hampshire, but it did not suit me. So in 2016 I applied to and was accepted to Officer Candidate School. The Army has given me a career with more meaning, sense of purpose and duty. Q: Can you tell me about your military occupational specialty? A: At the time of my graduation from OCS, combat MOSs were limited for women, prompting my selection of a field artillery branch detail. I fell in love with field artillery during my time at the Basic Officer Leader Course and was excited to take the role of an assistant squadron fire direction officer upon arriving at Steel Squadron in Fort Hood. Working as the squadron FDO allowed me to appreciate the amount of coordination and planning required to execute even small operations. After about seven months at the unit, we deployed to Afghanistan. Q: Tell me about the people you serve with. A: The support and encouragement from peers can motivate you through obstacles you never thought you could overcome. As an officer, it is imperative to encourage close bonds of trust and support among your troops. I am grateful to those who showed me the importance of strong friendships and unrestrained dedication to teamwork. Q: Tell me a little bit about growing up in New Hampshire. I am from a small town in New Hampshire. While growing up there, my family members deployed many times. Welcoming them home safely each time was such a blessing. It didn't occur to me then that it would soon be my turn to be in their shoes returning home to be greeted by my own family. I couldn't be prouder to follow in their steps. (Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)

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Do’s & Don’ts of Holiday Shopping for Service Members

By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity From the Department of Defense Blog. deployment-gifts 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. Army Spc. Brian Thompson puts on his protective eyewear before a quick reaction force mission. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood 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. Courtesy photo Gift cards. The gift card never goes out of style. Who doesn’t like getting $50 toward their favorite restaurant or store?

If they’re deployed or will soon be deploying:

A lightweight personal cooking stove. These are basically thermoses with propane tanks, stands and (sometimes) auto-igniters. They boil water quickly, which is useful whether you’re making coffee, prepping an MRE or just need some warm water to shave with. The propane tanks that go with them are usually inexpensive and last for several months. Some good brands to check out include JetBoil and MSR WindBurner, and they’re usually under $100. Courtesy photo A video streaming subscription. Video streaming services can be an entertainment-providing lifesaver for service members on a ship or in a remote location who don’t have much to do during their down time. Even though services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix are pretty inexpensive, having that monthly payment covered for the next year is always a nice gift. Other lightweight entertainment. Playing cards, dominos or magazines that pertain to a service member’s interests (like working out or sports) are always a welcome choice. Photo courtesy of A USB-cable-powered fan. A lot of service members get deployed to warm climates, so keeping cool is important. USB-powered fans are a great, affordable choice for a gift. They can be plugged into a laptop, portable charger or other device to charge instead of needing a wall plug, and many of them are also battery-powered. The service member who tipped me off to this gift said there was a pretty big line of people who wanted to take it when he was finished with it! Food. Believe it or not, some of the best care packages you can send include Ramen noodles, dehydrated meals (like ones you’d buy to go camping) and beef jerky (only the GOOD beef jerky, I’ve been informed). And though your service member might have a sweet tooth, don’t send chocolate – it’ll likely melt (although Tootsie Rolls will survive, so they’re a good replacement). Courtesy photo Individual packets of hot sauces. It sounds silly, but according to several service members I talked to, they’re a lifesaver when it comes to spicing up MREs. You can buy them in bulk on Amazon or just about anywhere online for between $5 and $20. Toiletries. For service members deployed to warm climates, you can never send enough foot powder, deodorant and baby powder to help with unwanted odors and chafing. Battery-operated electric razors are also useful, as are body washes and fingernail and toenail clippers. The basics are always useful. Photos. Service members miss their family and friends when they’re away, so sending them some newer photos is always a great idea. Also, get them laminated if you can. They’ll hold up better!


A lot of service members would be happy with the items mentioned above. Something they wouldn’t be thrilled to get, though? Service branch-affiliated gear. Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey speaks with soldiers of U.S. Army Central after joining them on an esprit de corps run on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jared Crain While you might feel cool wearing something that says “Navy” or “Marine,” service members from every branch already have tons of that garb that they have to wear all the time. So getting them yet another piece of clothing, accessory or blanket that reminds them of what they do day-in and day-out is just going to be a let-down. Similarly, if they’re deployed to the Middle East (or anywhere else where there’s a lot of sand), don’t get them anything beige. Between the location and their uniform, they see enough of that color. Try something a little more vibrant! Hopefully these choices give you a little better idea of what you can buy for your favorite service members. Now stop procrastinating and get it done! Follow the Department of Defense on Facebook and Twitter!

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World War II veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion toured a C-17 Globemaster III June 25 at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.  Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing hosted the tour.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Kristen M. Higgins)

Japanese-Americans Were Vital to the WWII War Effort

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.

World War II veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion toured a C-17 Globemaster III at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing hosted the tour. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kristen M. Higgins World War II veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion toured a C-17 Globemaster III at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing hosted the tour. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kristen M. Higgins.
  But many Japanese-Americans still wanted to fight for America, and despite many obstacles, they were eventually able to do so. Those brave soldiers – who weren’t widely appreciated at the time – are being honored during this week’s Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary commemorations in a ceremony called “Fighting Two Wars.”

Who Does This Event Honor?

Americans with Japanese ancestry were eventually able to overcome the mistrust and join four U.S. military units – the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which were segregated, as well as the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.  
Members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442d Regimental Combat Team, in bivouac prior to moving to the front in France, Oct. 7, 1944. Army photo Members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442d Regimental Combat Team, in bivouac prior to moving to the front in France, Oct. 7, 1944. Army photo.

How They Helped the War Effort

The 100th Infantry Battalion was the first all-Japanese-American fighting unit in U.S. military history. It was formed after Hawaii’s military governor, Army Lt. Gen. Delos Emmons, gathered several pre-war Japanese-American draftees and sent them to combat infantry training in the summer of 1942. The battalion joined combat in North Africa in June 1943. A few months later, it was sent to Italy, where its soldiers saw fierce combat, earning the nickname “the Purple Heart Battalion” because of the high casualty rate. They would eventually join up with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  
Two color guards and color bearers of the Japanese-American 442d Combat Team stand at attention while their citations are read. They are standing on ground in the Bruyeres area of France, where many of their comrades fell. Army photo Two color guards and color bearers of the Japanese-American 442d Combat Team stand at attention while their citations are read. They are standing on ground in the Bruyeres area of France, where many of their comrades fell. Army photo
  While anti-Japanese fears were rampant in 1942, Army Col. Moses Pettigrew and several other military leaders believed Japanese-Americans would be excellent combat soldiers, so they fought to start a Japanese-American combat unit. President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally approved its creation in February 1943. The unit, which became the 442nd, fought in southern France and Germany after joining up with the 100th Infantry Battalion in Italy in June 1944. It was able to liberate Bruyeres and Biffontaine in southern France, rescue a U.S. battalion that had become cut off from its division, and help an African-American unit drive the Germans from northern Italy. Because of the 442nd RCT’s success, the draft was reinstated in the internment camps back home, and several other battalions and companies were incorporated into it, including the 100th Infantry Battalion. Due to its size and length of service, the 442nd RCT became the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the U.S. More than 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 Purple Hearts and nine Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, while 21 men received the Medal of Honor.
Nisei linguists were second-generation Japanese Americans who often served behind enemy lines during World War II. They translated captured enemy documents, interrogated Japanese prisoners of war, intercepted communications, persuaded Japanese militia to surrender, collected information and sabotaged enemy operations. Courtesy photo Nisei linguists were second-generation Japanese Americans who often served behind enemy lines during World War II. They translated captured enemy documents, interrogated Japanese prisoners of war, intercepted communications, persuaded Japanese militia to surrender, collected information and sabotaged enemy operations. Courtesy photo.

“Anybody can shoot one rifle, but not everybody can speak Japanese.”

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 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  

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Pearl Harbor

PBS NewsHour: Hear the breaking News Report from Pearl Harbor, 75 Years Later

From PBS NewsHour December 7, 2016 Pearl Harbor 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 MartinOil 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.

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Rarely Told Pearl Harbor Stories of Female Military Nurses

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 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.

Rules for Military Women

When Woll’s mother joined, there were stringent rules for the women who wanted to enlist. “The women had to be single. The minute they were married, they were out the door,” Woll said, noting that the need for more nurses eventually led to a rule change. “In 1943, that was the first time you could marry and still legally be in the military – until you had your first child. Then you’re out again.” Foster was sent to Pearl Harbor six months before the attacks. On the morning of Dec. 7, she was walking with other nurses who had finished their shifts when that plane flew past. “The man was waving at them. And you know what you do in a situation like that – you wave back, because you don’t really realize what’s happening,” Woll said. They did quickly after that, though, and were ordered back to their units. Woll said the nurses got to work helping patients who were carted in, often marking their foreheads with lipstick to help with triage. “If it was somebody they couldn’t save, they had to put them off to the side and go on and work with whoever they could.” Tripler General Hospital around the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacks. U.S. Army photo Tripler General Hospital around the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacks. U.S. Army photo

Keeping the Past in the Past 

In today’s era of connectivity, where people tend to post their experiences to social media constantly, it’s hard to imagine a time when people didn’t overtly share their thoughts and feelings. But the World War II generation is well-known for that stoicism, with many of them never discussing what they went through. “It traumatized them to the point where they didn’t want to share what happened. They just wanted to forget it,” Woll said. She has made it her mission to give a voice to the stories of the Pearl Harbor nurses, one of which was uncovered only by accident.

A Fluke Finding

Ann Danyo (Willgrube) during her Navy Nurse Corps days. Photo courtesy of Joe Danyo Ann Danyo (Willgrube) during her Navy Nurse Corps days. Photo courtesy of Joe Danyo In the letter, Willgrube talked about being “the envy of all the nurses” because she was assigned to the Solace – a cushy assignment – only 18 months after enlisting. The ship arrived in Pearl Harbor in late October 1941 and was docked at Ford Island near several of the battleships. All was going well until 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, when Willgrube was jarred awake by what she initially thought was a boiler explosion. Smoke, Explosions and Shaking Ship The USS Solace played an integral role in helping survivors during the Pearl Harbor attacks, as well as many other campaigns throughout the South Pacific during World War II. Photo courtesy of Joe Danyo The USS Solace played an integral role in helping survivors during the Pearl Harbor attacks, as well as many other campaigns throughout the South Pacific during World War II. Photo courtesy of Joe Danyo “The ship shook, and everyone ran out on deck to see what happened. I looked out the porthole in my room and saw smoke pouring out of the [USS] Arizona. The next minute, our chief nurse burst into the room and told me to dress quickly and report to the quarterdeck for duty because the Japs were bombing us,” Willgrube wrote. The Solace’s nurses worked around the clock that day to care for more than 130 patients who were brought aboard, 70 percent of whom were burn victims. She said they were too busy to worry about the roar of the guns, the shaking of the ship and the planes flying overhead. The surprise attack destroyed the Arizona, Oklahoma and Utah, and damaged several other U.S. ships and aircraft. More than 2,400 people were killed – half of whom had been on the Arizona, which still sits at the bottom of Pearl Harbor to this day. It was the worst attack America had ever seen, but Willgrube said it took days to realize how bad it actually was. “We were so thankful that the Japanese did not realize how they crippled us, because they could have taken over the islands had they known the truth,” Willgrube wrote.

Passing the Memories On

As for why Willgrube finally decided to share her story? So America remains prepared to defend itself. “We never had disaster drills, yet when we realized that we were actually at war, every person on board that ship seemed to know instinctively what to do,” Willgrube said. “It simply proves how important discipline in the military is – it not only saves lives but wins wars, too.” Willgrube was one of the first women to become a Navy shellback, one of many firsts that she would be part of over the years. “When I entered the Navy, nurses had no specific rank but enjoyed the privileges of officers. In 1942, we received relative rank, and in 1947, we were classified as Nurse Corps with the same rank and privileges as the other officers,” Willgrube wrote. After 27 years of service, she retired as a commander and married retired Medical Services Corps Cmdr. Wayne Willgrube, who was also aboard the Solace during the Pearl Harbor attacks. Willgrube died in 1988 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. She had some pretty interesting stories to tell in her letter, including about rumors that ran rampant directly after the attacks. Winnie Woll, a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors group, with her mother, Army nurse Teresa Stauffer Foster, during a prior Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony. Photo courtesy of Winnie Woll Winnie Woll, a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors group, with her mother, Army nurse Teresa Stauffer Foster, during a return visit to Hawaii in 1992. Photo courtesy of Winnie Woll Woll shared the details of a few other nurses’ experiences, too, including a love story, a returned Purple Heart, and one involving Gen. George Patton. You can check those out here. As the Greatest Generation continues to dwindle, who knows how many amazing stories have been lost to time. That’s why it’s up to us and people like Woll and Danyo to share as many of these stories as we can. So if you have a family story to share, make sure you tell it to anyone willing to listen! By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity Story from Department of Defense Blog: DoDLive.  

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Veterans Help K-9 Counterparts After Their Service Ends

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 FacebookA 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.  

The dogs

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Kosechata and Petty Officer 2nd Class Rex, a military working dog, conduct force protection training at a storage facility at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Nov. 1, 2016. The Military Working Dog Unit regularly conducts training with dogs and handlers to promote readiness. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam A. TuckerNavy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Kosechata and Petty Officer 2nd Class Rex, a military working dog, conduct force protection training at a storage facility at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Nov. 1, 2016. The Military Working Dog Unit regularly conducts training with dogs and handlers to promote readiness. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam A. Tucker The canine veterans involved have special needs and issues that they developed during their careers, either during training or at work. But they’re great animals, Scheurer said, and they’re actually pretty easy to “decommission” – or retrain for civilian life. “For example, a military dog goes to [Joint Base San Antonio] Lackland and gets trained for Iraq, then gets shipped to Iraq and is a Navy explosive ordnance disposal dog. Typical Navy deployments are 6-8 months. That means it’s getting a new handler every 6-8 months. So when we get the dog, we’re just a new handler for it,” Scheurer explained. “The difference is we’re the first handler who lets the dog sleep outside of a kennel … and play whenever they want.”  
PADDY Paddy, a retired EOD Dog, loves playing with his toy balls! Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook Take Paddy, who’s been living with Danny since January. The English springer spaniel is a retired State Department canine who spent four years working as an EOD dog at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. He did a great job, but for reasons Danny couldn’t say, he was scheduled to be put down when his service was over. Thankfully, one of his handlers and the kennel master convinced State Department officials to give him to Save-A-Vet. “He is phenomenal,” Scheurer said. “He’s got about 150 balls everywhere. He constantly has one in his mouth. He’ll hide them under the pillows. He’s the friendliest dog we’ve ever had.” Paddy, a retired EOD Dog, loves playing with his toy balls! Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook  
The Veterans Staff Sgt. Kristen Smith, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group K-9 handler, gives verbal positive reinforcement to her explosives-detection military working dog, Cezar. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dilia AyalaStaff Sgt. Kristen Smith, 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group K-9 handler, gives verbal positive reinforcement to her explosives-detection military working dog, Cezar. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala The vets involved in the program are former military, law enforcement or first responders who are disabled or have fallen on hard times. They have to have a full-time job or go to school full-time while maintaining at least a C average to be eligible for the program. They also have to have been medically or honorably discharged. The program helps them get back on their feet financially, and it gives them structure. “It’s not a free hand out,” Scheurer said. “You wake up at 6 a.m. and take care of my dog. …. If it’s not being fed at 6 a.m., you’re fired.” “There are set times that they eat and they go outside, and if you defer from it, trust me, there are definitely consequences,” said Bob Sutalski, a vet who takes care of Laky, a former sheriff’s dog, and Zander, a retired Massachusetts State Police canine. Sutalski spent 13 years in the Army Reserve and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan before getting out in 2014. Within a few months, he was introduced to Laky and Zander.
Meet Laky Laky, a retired Baltimore County, Md., sheriff's dog (left), and Zander, a retired Massachusetts State Police K9, take a snooze after playing in the snow. Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet FacebookLaky, a retired Baltimore County, Md., sheriff’s dog (left), and Zander, a retired Massachusetts State Police K9, take a snooze after playing in the snow. Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook “I sat down on the couch, and they both sat next to me,” Sutalski said. He ended up being just the right fit for them. “Zander is always by my side, no matter what I do. He plays fetch, he plays Frisbee, he does everything – he kind of fell right into retirement.” It’s been a little more work for Laky, who’s more jumpy. Sutalski told me about one time when Laky slept in the same bed as another human vet. “I told the guy, … ‘If you’re going to sleep in the bed with this dog, you’ve got to realize you can’t move very suddenly.’ Well, he sneezed or something in the middle of the night. Laky woke up right next to him and growled in his face, and the guy kind of screamed like a little girl,” Sutalski said.

Spoiled Every DayPhoto courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook So, do the canines get any special treats for Veterans Day? Nope – mainly because they’re already spoiled, Scheurer said. Take Nero, a bacon-loving former bomb dog, for example. “Every day on the way to work, we would have a couple select firemen and cops and construction workers – they would stop by the veteran’s house in the morning and bring that dog bacon,” he said. “Every day.” If you’re curious, Save-A-Vet does NOT adopt dogs out – only the MWD Working Dog Program out of Lackland AFB can do that. But Scheurer and the other vets’ efforts are certainly giving these canine heroes a fulfilling retirement!

Photo courtesy of Save-A-Vet Facebook

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Help for Senior Vets and Spouses for Care Costs: Aid & Attendance Pension

VA logoAid & Attendance and Housebound

NOTE: As with many programs, updates and changes can occur.  Always check to make sure you understand the current guidelines.  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.

Aid & Attendance (A&A)

The Aid & Attendance (A&A) increased monthly pension amount may be added to your monthly pension amount if you meet one of the following conditions:
  • You require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment
  • You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities requires that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
  • Your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less


This increased monthly pension amount may be added to your monthly pension amount when you are substantially confined to your immediate premises because of permanent disability.

How to Apply

You may apply for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits by writing to the Pension Management Center (PMC) that serves your state. You may also visit your local regional benefit office to file your request. You can locate your local regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator. You should include copies of any evidence, preferably a report from an attending physician validating the need for Aid and Attendance or Housebound type care.
  •  The report should be in sufficient detail to determine whether there is disease or injury producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to dress and undress, to feed oneself, to attend to sanitary needs, and to keep oneself ordinarily clean and presentable.
  • Whether the claim is for Aid and Attendance or Housebound, the report should indicate how well the applicant gets around, where the applicant goes, and what he or she is able to do during a typical day. In addition, it is necessary to determine whether the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.

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Collaboration Between DoD, VA Aims to Improve Initiatives for Women’s Health

Womens Health Initiatives_1The 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.

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Veterans Day: What It Means to Us

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Story by William Selby, Defense Media Activity
As Veterans Day approaches my thoughts turn to the nation’s vets whose service has helped ensure American freedom for over 200 years. In my personal life and in my career, I’ve typically reached out to vets from previous generations to learn about their experiences and honor them on this very special day. This year, I spent time pondering the fact that my generation has veterans of our own now. Actually, I am one. I decided I wanted to know what being a veteran meant to my peers and how our generation is taking on this identity. With this curiosity in mind, I reached out to a few Iraq and Afghanistan vets that I knew, to find out what they had to say about being a veteran. I caught up with my best friend, an Air Force veteran named Chris, whose last name I can’t use for security reasons, this past week. Chris joined the Air Force in 2001 after he made a promise to himself that if he hadn’t become a police officer by then, he would join the Air Force. Graphic: Department of the Air Force official seal (U.S. Defense Department graphic/Released) “My intent was to enter the Air Force as an Intelligence Analyst and gain valuable experience and a Top Secret security clearance, which would hopefully propel me into a career in law enforcement. I separated from the Air Force in 2005 with four years’ experience in intelligence analysis, as well as a Top Secret clearance. My time in the Air Force influenced me to stick with the Intelligence Community versus a career in Law Enforcement.” “Being a veteran means a great deal to me,” he said. “The experience I gained and the life-lessons I learned in the Air Force were invaluable. While I am not certain where I would be in life had I not enlisted in the Air Force, I am certain I am in a better place personally and professionally for having joined. I can say confidently that enlisting in the USAF changed my life for the better and set me up for success in my future.” I’ve yet to speak with someone who joined the military that did not come out a better person. Chris is no different and neither am I. Both of us enlisted with specific goals in mind and regardless of whether we took the path we thought we would, we still reached them. After talking with Chris I started thinking about all of the other people I know who have served. I thought about Cindy Carr, an acquaintance of mine, because from time-to-time I’ve seen her posts on social media about the military and how much she supports it. Until I spoke with her though, I had no idea why.
Photo: Cindy Carr, Army Reserve military police officer, shoots at targets during target practice. (Cindy Carr courtesy photo) Cindy was a military police officer who served as an Army reservist for eight years. She told me the reason she became a soldier was due to a family legacy. “Several people in my family were service members,” she said. “My great-grandfather and grandfather were in the Army Air Corps, my father served in the Army during Vietnam, my brother was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne and I have cousins who served in the Army and Marine Corps.” Cindy was proud to say she was the first female in her family who served. I asked her what being a veteran meant to her and she gave a profound response. It’s a family,” she said. “It’s an honor to be part of that family. We all have one thing in common and that’s the love of our country and we are all willing to fight for that.” Cindy’s statement spoke to me on many levels because I share that sentiment. We all join for an assortment of reasons, but one thing we share in common is our love for our country. Later that night, I reached out to an old friend whom I haven’t spoken to in probably 10 years. Carlos Garcia is an Army veteran who served from 2003 to 2011. If there’s one thing anyone needs to know about Carlos it’s that he’s a man with many interests, but only one love…helping fellow veterans. I asked him the same question I asked Cindy and Chris earlier that day, “What does being a veteran mean to you?” Even though he was thousands of miles away, passion could be felt in his inspiring and heartfelt answer. Here’s what he had to say: U.S. Army veteran Carlos Garcia. Courtesy photo
“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.

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Why homecoming can be particularly hard for female veterans

forgottenvets-320x196GWEN IFILL: After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, many veterans face an uphill battle finding work in civilian life. There’s been an increase in efforts to help ease their transition, but one segment of the veteran population is often overlooked. Special correspondent Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reports. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Katrina Holley finds satisfaction in bringing order to people’s lives. KATRINA HOLLEY, Air Force Veteran: Ever since I was in the fourth grade, I loved cleaning the house. I can remember vacuuming before I would leave for school. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Her attention to detail is just one of the skills she honed during 11 years in the Air Force. Holley’s small business in Hillsborough, North Carolina, cleaning homes calls on some of those skills, but for years she’s sought a civilian career that better values her military experience, a background that often catches her clients off guard. KATRINA HOLLEY: Oh, my goodness. Well, I think so often people are surprised because they don’t think about female veterans. We are coming more into the light in 2014 and 2015 and after Iraq, of course. But I think that it is interesting, because it adds such diversity to your life. That experience is something that I value, value so highly. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: The transition to a civilian career may be most problematic for female veterans like Holley, who face the greatest challenge in the job market. Female veteran unemployment rates now are higher than civilian women’s, and a full 20 percent above their male veteran counterparts. More than 150,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet veteran services have not fully caught up with women’s needs. Even those vets who do seek help once they return to civilian life often find the support they need is not yet there. A pilot program here in North Carolina backed by computer maker Lenovo and run by the nonprofit Dress for Success hopes to help change that. It aims to help female veterans look and feel their best in job interviews. For Holley, Dress for Success is a chance to get a new uniform for a new mission. KATRINA HOLLEY: Yes, I love it. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Dress for Success launched this program by organizing a roundtable to understand these former service members’ needs. WOMAN: The more information you share with us, the better we will be able to develop programs that fit your needs. And that’s really what this conversation is all about. TENITA SOLANTO, Navy Veteran: The most difficult was just trying to translate what you did in the military to the English — you would work on all this big equipment, radar, satellites, and then you get out here and everyone is like, what is that? I don’t know. LAURA PARKINSON, Air Force Veteran: I did have one person who hired me because when she found out I made bombs, she was like, that is cool. (LAUGHTER) LAURA PARKINSON: And that is how I got started working as a lobbyist and doing the job I am today. But it was because this one woman thought it was neat. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Some of these veterans who have successfully made the shift to civilian life now help mentor other women. They know the road back can be rough. GLENDA CLARE, Navy Veteran: They are not making enough money. They are not finding the jobs they need. Their skills are not translatable, or they don’t know how to translate them. And some of them are kind of shell-shocked. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: At another gathering of female veterans near Washington, D.C., the bond of a sisterhood formed in service is just as strong. But these women have something other than years in uniform in common. All have been homeless after struggling to find work. ANNA SALANIKA, Navy Veteran: That first two to three years after getting out was the worst. I was scared to tell people, yes, I just got out of the military, because I didn’t know if it was — that’s the reason why they weren’t hiring me, because they felt like I probably had, like, PTSD or something. It was just — it was so hard. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Four years ago, Jas Boothe founded Final Salute, which offers housing and services to women vets. An Army veteran, Boothe lived out of her car after being diagnosed with cancer and losing her home in Hurricane Katrina. She says America is failing its female veterans. JAS BOOTHE, Army veteran: I raised my right hand and I took an oath to never leave a fallen comrade. This is why I am doing this. There’s no celebrity or anything involved in me doing this. But I am doing this in response to the lack of the American people being involved. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Demand for rooms at Final Salute far outstrips what Boothe can provide. Female veterans are at least twice as likely to be homeless as women who never wore a uniform. Anna Salanika is a Navy veteran who found herself trapped in a marriage filled with violence and abuse. ANNA SALANIKA: And I tried to hold a lifestyle by myself, tried to handle my apartment, tried to take care of the kids, just tried to do everything independently, GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: She lived out of her car before finding a haven here. Salanika now works full-time and takes a full college course load as she fights to get back on track. ANNA SALANIKA: Life is good, but if it wasn’t for Jas and Final Salute, I don’t know where I would be right now. WOMAN: This is the living room we spent our nights in when I moved here, because my room is just back here. She spent a lot of days sitting on this sofa watching cartoons. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Final Salute was Chiquita’s only home before heading to war. So you deployed to serve America in Afghanistan from a house for homeless veterans? WOMAN: I did. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: So you were homeless the evening before you deployed? WOMAN: Boots on the ground from here to training. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Boothe says the solution cannot just be left to the military. JAS BOOTHE: It wasn’t the military’s job to teach me how to be a civilian. America is supposed to welcome me with open arms and help me incorporate back into civilian society. The Army did their part. The Navy did their part. The other services did their part. It’s America that is not doing their part. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: In North Carolina, that push to help women veterans succeed in the civilian world continues. For Holley, who is feeling ready to tackle the challenge of growing her business, a new suit is just part of a new start. KATRINA HOLLEY: And now I just feel part of something bigger, part of something important, part of something that is motivating and supporting and nurturing. And those are important things to me. GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: For PBS NewsHour, I’m Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. To watch the video click here.  

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equine therapy

Medical Monday: Equine Therapy

Posted from the DoDLive, the official blog of the Department of Defense By Tami Begasse, Naval Hospital Jacksonville Public Affairs equine therapyNaval 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.”

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Honoring Coast Guard’s Past and Present: Heriberto Hernandez

hernandez1-167x300In 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, DillenbeckHernandez1968-300x229to 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.   FRC-560x280Each 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

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Vet Who Survived Suicide Attempt Shares Keys to Recovery

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 Prevention 2014 v2 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.

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These are the Voyages of the U.S. Navy’s Enterprise

Reposted from NAVY LIVE, the official blog of the US Navy

For some people, Enterprise is the ship that comes to mind when they think about the U.S. Navy.

However, for fans of the TV show Star Trek – Trekkies, Enterprise is synonymous with the fictional starship by the same name and “its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

September 8, 2016 marked the 50th year of the show's premiere.  Here, 50 years after the show’s premiere, we’re looking back at our Enterprise by the numbers.


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 first Enterprise originally belonged to the British and cruised on Lake Champlain to supply their posts in Canada. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans on May 10, 1775, it became the object of desire in the mind of Benedict Arnold who realized he would not have control of Lake Champlain until its capture.


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.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)


The number of nuclear reactors aboard Enterprise, which was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The reactors generated more than 200,000 horsepower.

At sea aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Nov. 5, 2001-- Sailors aboard USS Enterprise spell out "E = MC2x40" on the carrier's flight deck to mark forty years of U.S. Naval nuclear power as ship and crew return home from a Mediterranean Sea Arand abian Gulf deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Enterprise currently in dry dock at the Naval Shipyards in Norfolk, Va. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Douglass M. Pearlman. (RELEASED)


The number of Sailors and Marines who served aboard Enterprise, which had 23 different commanding officers.

NORFOLK (Nov. 30, 2012) Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Eric Young reenlists on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nick C. Scott/Released)


Within one year of its commissioning, President John Kennedy dispatched Enterprise to blockade Cuba and prevent the Soviet delivery of missiles to the island.

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2013) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Gulf. Enterprise was one of several ships that participated in Operation Praying Mantis, which was launched after the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine on April 14, 1988. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Todd Cichonowicz/Released)


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.

At sea aboard USS Enterprise (Oct. 18, 2001) -- U.S. Navy sailors inspect AGM-65 "Maverick" air-to-surface tactical missiles on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Apprentice Lance H. Mayhew Jr. (RELEASED)


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.

NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise's return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)


The number of arrested landings recorded aboard Enterprise as of May 2011, the fourth aircraft carrier to perform such a feat.

ARABIAN SEA (May 24, 2011) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 makes the 400,000th arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex R. Forster/Released)


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.

NORFOLK (Dec. 1, 2012) Guests observe the inactivation ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise was commissioned Nov. 25, 1961 as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ceremony marks the end of her 51 years of service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua E. Walters/Released)


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.

Graphic of ships named Enterprise

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Healthcare Simulation and Bioskills Training Center

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s Simulation Center Celebrates 10 Years of Training

Healthcare Simulation and Bioskills Training CenterAugust 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.

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purple-military buddies

From the Homefront: Working Together to Eliminate Anxiety About the New School Year

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.” purple-military buddiesThe 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. Coast guardSometimes 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:

  • Think about the good things that might happen: new friends, new teachers, maybe a new playground.  Caroline Smith, 8, daughter of Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey and Maggie Smith, will be reminding herself of all of the potential at her new school this year. Her family recently transferred from Long Island, New York, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  • If you’re dreading going back to school, try to remind yourself of the fun you had the last year. And have a “last hurrah” where you have fun. Jeffersonn Cediel, age 13. He is the son of Petty Officer First Class Jeffersonn and Stephanie Cediel
  • If you’re nervous, just do your work. After a few weeks, you probably won’t be nervous anymore. Jason Cediel, age 7.
  • You will not be the only new student in school, and you will find a friend. Hunter Gourd, 10, son of Chief Petty Officer Jeremy and Brandi Gourde.
  • All kids get nervous about starting a new grade, not just military kids. Brooks Gourde, 9.
  • Have fun! Succinct advice from Bethany Bilodeau, 5, who in the span of one week moved with her family to Hawaii and started Kindergarten. She is the daughter of Petty Officer Second Class Jeremy and Stacey Bilodeau.
Madelyn Vaeth, 13, daughter of Chief Petty Officer Anthony and Tiffany Vaeth, recently moved with her family from Florida to Washington State. She offers a teenager’s perspective on getting ready for the new school year. She said:
  • Whether it’s a new state, country, or even just a new city in the same state it’s always nerve-racking for some kids to go to a new school or just entering a new grade. So here’s some advice to help you out –  
    • Don’t worry too much about what other people think of you.
    • Don’t make a lot of friends who don’t know the real you. Make two or three, or even just one, who by the time you move considers you more of a sibling than a friend. 
    • Don’t put up with other people’s drama because it’s not worth it.
    • Stand up for yourself and others. 
    • Have fun and surround yourself with people who make you forget that you’re moving in three to four years. 
    • And finally, what my dad calls Life’s Rule, “Be cool, and don’t be a jerk.”
Erica Parra developed a Buddy program for military kids to help them adjust and thrive at new schools. Photo courtesy of Erica Parra. Erica Parra developed a Buddy program for military kids to help them adjust and thrive at new schools. Photo courtesy of Erica Parra  

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Senior Enlisted Advisor to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, receive a demonstration of the submarine training from students of the Trident Training Facility at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, Ga., May 20, 2016.  (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen/Released)

Life on a Ballistic Missile Sub

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. Navy Rear Adm. Randy Crites, commander, Submarine Group Ten; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford converse on the USS Alaska, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., May 20, 2016. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen 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. Navy Vice Adm. Terry J. Benedict, director of the Naval Strategic Systems, briefs Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. JoeDunford, at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., May 20, 2016. DoD photo by D. Myles CullenAnd 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!

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Veterans Coming Home: Military Mondays

WB TB MBHampton 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.      

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Veterans Coming Home | Ryan Goss: From Student to Teacher

RyanRyan 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.

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Vets return to VN

50 Years On, Veterans Find Healing by Returning to Vietnam to Help

Vets return to VNJUDY 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.

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Nat Guard

National Guard Members Struggle To Keep Civilian Careers

Nat GuardSoldiers in the National Guard live in two worlds: They can be sent to war in a crisis, but they have to support themselves and their families with civilian jobs. In San Diego, Christopher Avila, 23, has been in the guard for three years. His commitment to the guard is one weekend a month and two weeks of training in the summer. But he says that's seldom how it works out in practice. "On paper they say one weekend a month, which is what you tell your employers," he says.  "And sometimes the employer will have trouble with even one weekend a month.  That's because it's like, 'Hey, I have to work around scheduling, we have to shift that weekend around, just so you can have the day off.'" Weekends often can turn into four days, Avila says — and because he's an IT specialist, he often gets called up for extra training on new technology. He had a job with a civilian company where he was able to use his IT skills, but he got called to do guard training two weekends in a row — and then, there was another commitment. "Then I had to go for two weeks for training in Fort Hood for some new stuff my unit was getting, and when I came back, they came to the conclusion they had to let me go because I wasn't meeting their quota," Avila says. "Companies have to find a way around letting people go sometimes, so they don't get in trouble." Companies that hire people in the National Guard can't legally fire them for fulfilling their guard commitment, but Avila says others in his unit also have found themselves out of a job after going on one too many military training sessions. Avila found another job — at T-Shirt Mart — using his graphic design skills. One of his managers, Arthur Nava, says they're willing to work around Avila's training schedule.
Christopher Avila, a National Guardsman, works with a customer in March during a shift at T-Shirt Mart in Point Loma, Calif. He says he lost an IT job because the guard needed him for two straight weekends, followed quickly by two weeks of training on new equipment.
Christopher Avila, a National Guardsman, works with a customer in March during a shift at T-Shirt Mart in Point Loma, Calif. He says he lost an IT job because the guard needed him for two straight weekends, followed quickly by two weeks of training on new equipment. Beverley Woodworth/KPBS
"I'd say at least 30 to 40 percent of our customers are military here in San Diego," Nava says. "We do have a good understanding of what it means to be in the military, and we try to help those people out as much as we can." For those in the National Guard, it's more difficult than if you're a veteran to get hired — veterans don't have to ask for the time off active guardsmen do, and employers earn federal tax credits by hiring them, unlike members of the National Guard who have not been deployed. And deployments for two-week trainings or state emergencies typically addressed by the guard — such as a wildfire — don't count. Also, guard members who have been on active duty for less than three years only get partial post-Sept. 11 benefits. Some states, including California, will provide some extra educational benefits to guardsmen. Avila says he hopes to be deployed to Iraq in October; if he serves a year, he can qualify for 60 percent of the post-9/11 benefits. That could lead to a better-paying job in IT, but he would still need to find an employer who was willing to let him go on frequent trainings and be ready to serve if there's a state-level crisis. Trying To Build A Career Finding a job is hard enough, but building a career is even more difficult for people serving in the guard. Rida Sihab Mansor, 32, is a staff sergeant who's served eight years as a linguist and translator for the Army National Guard. He deployed for one year of combat duty in Iraq which earned him the decorations on his dress uniform. "I've got 13 medals," he says. "This is my bronze star. That's the highest. This is my Army achievement ribbon, anti-terrorism, and this is the National Guard one."
Rida Sihab Mansour, a staff sergeant in the National Guard, stands with the uniform he wears when he serves on the honor guard at military funerals. He says he's positive that his guard commitments are making it more difficult to build a career.
Rida Sihab Mansour, a staff sergeant in the National Guard, stands with the uniform he wears when he serves on the honor guard at military funerals. He says he's positive that his guard commitments are making it more difficult to build a career. Katie Schoolov/KPBS
Because Mansour served as a full-time recruiter for two years, as well as being deployed, he qualified for the GI Bill and is finishing a degree in security management. But that has not been enough to get his foot on the career ladder. "I've applied everywhere, and I've got a pretty good resume," he says. "I've even applied to a couple of security companies and I've seen them hire the guy next to me who didn't even know how to fill out an application. They didn't hire me. And I'm going for a bachelor's degree within that field." When asked if he thinks his commitment to the guard is what's making it so difficult to build a career, he says: "I didn't at first, but I'm positive it does right now." Mansour earns a little money — about $100 a day — serving on the honor guard at military funerals. He says he enjoys the days when he can put on the uniform and serve. "I love it," he says. "I'm very proud of being part of that team. It's a really beautiful ceremony, and we train to be perfect at it." Mansour will soon have a degree in security management, and his deployment history qualifies him as a vet. He bought a condo — taking advantage of a VA loan — but now he has a mortgage to pay, so he still needs to find a career with an employer who is willing to let him go on frequent training and be ready to serve if there's a state-level crisis, or a federal deployment. Mansour plans to stay in the guard for 20 years, earning retirement benefits. At least that's something, he says, even if the civilian world doesn't offer him any security. Click here to watch video. Story from NPR Morning Edition.

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Ramiro Gonzales and Son - THE HOMEFRONT

Sebastian Junger on PTSD: ‘It’s coming home that’s actually the trauma’

PTSD-coming homeWe might think we have a basic understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD: Soldiers in battle see things they'd like to forget, but years later combat memories come back to haunt them. That's the received wisdom.
 But perhaps we have it all wrong. Maybe it's not the reminders of the fighting that cause post-traumatic stress so much as the void ex-combatants face when they leave the community of soldiers behind.
That's how journalist Sebastian Junger understands the anxieties of many former fighters, a topic he explored in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair. "Weirdly, it's coming home that's actually the trauma," Junger says. "They come back from a very intimate, personal experience in their platoon, sleeping in groups, doing everything in groups. We basically evolved as a species to live out our lives like that." According to Junger, the rates of long-term, chronic PTSD seem to be determined not so much by what happened in the war, but by whether soldiers feel alienated once they return home and whether their community shares what he calls an "intuitive understanding of the conflict." That "shared public meaning," Junger argues, is something Native Americam tribal fighters often had in centuries past. "If you come back to a cohesive, tightly-knit society — to a communal existence with other people — it really mitigates the effects of trauma," Junger argues. And in modern society, he says, one place you can find that is in Israel. Soldiers there face about a one percent chance of developing long-term post-traumatic stress, according to Junger, compared to the 20 percent risk faced by American soldiers. Junger has made many trips to Afghanistan, including a year when he was embedded with an Army platoon in the notoriously dangerous Korengal Valley in the country's east. Two months after one of those visits, he experienced a panic attack in a New York subway. As a train approached the platform, he found himself pressed up against a metal column in terror. "I felt out of control and besieged by chaotic forces," Junger says. "There were too many people, everything was too loud. The train was going too fast. I somehow thought the train was going to jump the rails and kill me. It was completely irrational and I knew it was irrational." It was only in hindsight that Junger recognized the incident as post-traumatic stress. He says he's gotten over that sort of trauma, but some soldiers never do. Others who have experienced combat dearly miss the camaraderie of that time, and Junger wasn't surprised to learn why many former fighters think they have trouble sleeping after they return home. "Even though they're safe in their bedroom in their suburb, they actually feel more in danger than they did in Afghanistan," he says, "because in Afghanistan they were sleeping in a big group of heavily armed men and that actually felt safer." Junger says it took him a few years to come to grips with his own experience in combat. And he laments the lack of vocabulary to describe the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life. "They actually need a new word," he says. "Something like 'alienation disorder' or 're-entry disorder.'" Junger’s perspective that "PTSD isn't so much about witnessing combat but about the transition home” is a bit controversial, so we asked veterans for their reactions to his views. "Someone who believes that has never lived a flashback or gone through hours of hyper-alertness," says Jared Johnson, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. "Everything from driving at night, staring at the side of the road searching for IEDs or walking through crowded rooms searching for people's eyes and constantly reaching for your weapon — these are not symptoms of just transitioning home. They are from living your life in a combat zone. " Julie Wilkinson says the emphasis on coming home doesn't match her experience, either. She served as a US Army military policewoman. "I am a fully functioning citizen in society. And a successful student and wife — that is to say I have transitioned quite well. However, these aspects do not stop the anxiety or the flashbacks or the nightmares." US Army Cpt. Patrick Stallings was more open to Junger's perspective. "I believe the most difficult part of dealing with PTSD begins at home, when the social support network you have overseas begins to unwind. The soldiers that you spent day in and day out with — and you trusted them with your life — and then you go your own way, and you're back with your family. That's when you're forced and confronted with whatever emotional trouble you have, and there's a lot of complicated feelings that you have to start dealing with." Mark, a US Army sergeant during the Gulf War, said "the horror of the images of war" is a substantial factor. "The nightmares especially play a huge part in many ways — lack of sleep, even the fear of going to sleep because I knew the nightmares would come, so I don't agree with him completely," he said. "One thing that bothered me the most at first was walking around without a weapon. I felt naked and vulnerable even though I knew in my head normal life in the world didn't require me to be armed, it took a long time before I lost the anxiety associated with going about unarmed." Aaron from California, who served in the US Navy, points to roots for PTSD long before deployment. "We are broken in boot camp and retrained to be killing soldiers that follow orders and to follow a certain way of life. Now you want us to forget what we've been doing. Some can, some cannot. But we all suffer to some extent. It's like releasing prisoners without any job training and expecting them to just automatically change their prison mindset." Several vets who preferred to remain anonymous found some grains of truth in Junger's perspective. "I think society plays a huge role on how much PTSD effects vets. When a vet comes home to see everyone going about their business without a care in the world, especially the war they sent us to, it becomes difficult to rationalize why you went in the first place," one wrote. And another: "When a soldier returns and realizes that his/her sacrifice was for a population that is indifferent and a government that has betrayed his loyalty, the whole thing spirals into the toilet."   This story is based on a radio interview by Joyce Hackel (follow) . Listen to the full interview on Public Radio International.

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Capt. Kristen Griest smiles at friends and family as she waits with her U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 to graduate at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez/ Released)

Army Ranger Kristen Griest Keeps Shattering Glass Ceilings

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.

Capt. Kristen Griest smiles at friends and family as she waits with her U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 to graduate at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez/ Released)
Capt. Kristen Griest smiles at friends and family as she waits with her U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 to graduate at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez/ Released)
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

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Women Vietnam Veterans Share Experiences During Commemoration Event

CWV-ProgramLate 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. Image of Dr. SchartzDr. 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.” Image of Barbara WardBarbara 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.”   Formal uniform Karen S. VartanPanelist 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.”   Image of Four-MarshaMarsha 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.”  

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What Does it Mean to Serve Your Country?

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.

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Soldiers are Citizens

  VCHIIIn 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 Photo and Video by Kindling Group.

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Honor their Legacy and Support the Families

A3_IMCOM_Gold-Star-Wives-Day_002_v1_wLaying 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.

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WASP photo

Female World War II pilot proud to be a WASP

This article was originally posted on 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.”

Shannon Collins is a writer for DoD News at Defense Medica Activity in Fort Meade, Maryland. She is an U.S. Air Force Veteran. This article was originally posted on, (Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDoDNews)

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The Care of Our Veterans: HearSay with Cathy Lewis

4096974009_bd36b9c8f6_oThe 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.    

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How a Local Job Fair Can Help Those in Transition from the Military

Dept+Veterans+Affairs+Hosts+Job+Fair+Military+C8OAx8qYdRplWe 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. civiliancareersHampton 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 23529  

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The Simple Act: A Story of a Caregiver

By Michelle Brown

“The simple act of caring is heroic.” - Edward Albert

the-careIt’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.

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Coming Back: Another View

comingback_img1Through 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.    

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Dogs Miss Their Soldiers Too

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Here is Why They Served

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.

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HearSay with Cathy Lewis: Beyond Medals of Valor

ptsdBill 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, 2014

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HearSay with Cathy Lewis: Pet Health and Hero Dogs

militarydogOur 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, 2014

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Another View: Coming Back

maxresdefaultThrough 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, 2014

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‘Did You Ever Kill Anyone?’ 5 Things Not To Say To A Veteran

By Tommy Furlong and Dr. Paula K. Rauch (Printed with Permission from WBUR. Guest contributors UStroopsAfganistan-620x413“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. 5883003_f520Oftentimes, 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? soldierchild-ts300Female 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.

This isn’t a question posed in order to understand a complex and often painful choice; it is a thinly veiled criticism.
This isn’t a question posed in order to understand a complex and often painful choice; it is a thinly veiled criticism. But here is why a loving parent can make this tough choice: The opportunity to further education and to provide economic security for one’s family often attracts people to the military or keeps them re-upping. The salary and benefits are often better than what is available elsewhere. It is a huge problem that our returning veterans are re-entering the work force during a tough economic period. Many of the skills learned during years of service aren’t recognized by civilian employers. The focus should not be on why parents choose to serve, but why they aren’t guaranteed comparable jobs when they separate from service. 3. But really — did you kill anyone? This comes up all the time. It’s often the very first question that pops out after sharing that one is a veteran. In TV shows, movies or video games, killing and blood may seem exciting. In war, death, injury and destruction are complicated, troubling experiences that may involve friends, combatants, civilians or children. The person asking has no way of knowing what a veteran’s personal experiences have been and really, has no business asking. Talking about these experiences may be very upsetting for the veteran, but the person who asks the question is also rarely prepared to hear and absorb what would be said if the veteran tried to express the realities of war. 4. Do you have PTSD? June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month, and it is often in the media. Maybe because of that, people are desensitized and think that it is OK to ask if a veteran does in fact have PTSD. It’s not okay to ask. This is a personal question about what could be a veteran’s medical, emotional or traumatic experience. The question is inappropriate and presumptuous. Many veterans bristle at the reaction of “well-wishers” who presume them to be traumatized or damaged. Most veterans — even those living with injuries, visible or invisible — are proud and grateful for their years of service. 5. Thank you for your service, but …(insert political belief here) ptsdWhen it comes to respecting veterans, it isn’t about politics. The veteran sitting next to you did not set the U.S. policy for Iraq or Afghanistan. He or she may or may not have agreed with it. Regardless, as a service member it was a duty to implement the strategies of our country’s political and military leadership. The fact of serving does not make a veteran any more interested in your political beliefs…and maybe less interested. This goes for family members of those who serve, too. Espousing political “wisdom” to anyone you don’t know well is likely to be unwelcome anywhere, but there is an added offense in preaching to those who have made very personal sacrifices and have very personal experiences. What to say: 1. Welcome back! What has the transition home been like for you? 2. I’d be interested in hearing about your service, but I am not sure if you would want to talk about it or if this is a good time? 3. What do you think is the hardest stuff for those of us who haven’t served (or don’t have a family member who has served) to understand? Not all veterans have served in harm’s way, but they’ve all been through training and done one or several different jobs. Often, veterans have served in several different places and not infrequently outside of the U.S. They may have served in the Amy, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or National Guard. A career may include active duty and Guard or Reserve time. Each branch, being on active duty or being a civilian soldier is associated with its own deployment types, separations from family and friends, and reintegration times. There is a lot to learn about a veteran’s experience and about the experiences of their family members through their service. The veteran or family member can decide which aspects of this rich experience to share with you — or not. 4. What kind of work did you do in the service? How has your job search been going and can I help? Many returning veterans are already working in communities across our country. They are police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, teachers, construction workers, business owners and more. But there are also returning veterans who are struggling to find a job or enter a new career that matches their skills. By understanding the work that a veteran did while in the service, you could be the one to help make an important personal connection that links an unemployed veteran to an open job. 5. Transitions can be hard. Would you like to come over for lunch, join us to watch a game or come with me to the gym? Do you and your spouse want an evening out? I’d be happy to babysit. Sometimes people imagine that after the relief of a safe return home, veterans and their family members are all set. But reintegration is an intense time and community support can be really helpful. Showing your support by doing something helpful or inclusive is more meaningful than just saying “Thank you for your service”. Dr. Paula Rauch (MGH)   Dr. Paula K. Rauch is the program director of the family team for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.       Tommy Furlong (on right, courtesy.) Tommy Furlong is the associate director of outreach for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Infantryman who served in Afghanistan.  

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Treatment of PTSD

PTSD-Compensation-ImageToday, 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.

Types of cognitive behavioral therapy

What is cognitive therapy?

In cognitive therapy, your therapist helps you understand and change how you think about your trauma and its aftermath. Your goal is to understand how certain thoughts about your trauma cause you stress and make your symptoms worse. You will learn to identify thoughts about the world and yourself that are making you feel afraid or upset. With the help of your therapist, you will learn to replace these thoughts with more accurate and less distressing thoughts. You will also learn ways to cope with feelings such as anger, guilt, and fear. After a traumatic event, you might blame yourself for things you couldn't have changed. For example, a soldier may feel guilty about decisions he or she had to make during war. Cognitive therapy, a type of CBT, helps you understand that the traumatic event you lived through was not your fault.

What is exposure therapy?

In exposure therapy your goal is to have less fear about your memories. It is based on the idea that people learn to fear thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of a past traumatic event. By talking about your trauma repeatedly with a therapist, you'll learn to get control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You'll learn that you do not have to be afraid of your memories. This may be hard at first. It might seem strange to think about stressful things on purpose. But over time, you'll feel less overwhelmed. With the help of your therapist, you can change how you react to the stressful memories. Talking in a place where you feel secure makes this easier. You may focus on memories that are less upsetting before talking about worse ones. This is called "desensitization," and it allows you to deal with bad memories a little bit at a time. Your therapist also may ask you to remember a lot of bad memories at once. This is called "flooding," and it helps you learn not to feel overwhelmed. You also may practice different ways to relax when you're having a stressful memory. Breathing exercises are sometimes used for this.

What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another type of therapy for PTSD. Like other kinds of counseling, it can help change how you react to memories of your trauma. While thinking of or talking about your memories, you'll focus on other stimuli like eye movements, hand taps, and sounds. For example, your therapist will move his or her hand, and you'll follow this movement with your eyes. Experts are still learning how EMDR works, and there is disagreement about whether eye movements are a necessary part of the treatment.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medicine. These can help you feel less sad and worried. They appear to be helpful, and for some people they are very effective. SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (such as Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Chemicals in your brain affect the way you feel. For example, when you have depression you may not have enough of a chemical called serotonin. SSRIs raise the level of serotonin in your brain. There are other medications that have been used with some success. Talk to your doctor about which medications are right for you.

Other types of treatment

Some other kinds of counseling may be helpful in your recovery. However, more evidence is needed to support these types of treatment for PTSD.

Group therapy

Many people want to talk about their trauma with others who have had similar experiences. In group therapy, you talk with a group of people who also have been through a trauma and who have PTSD. Sharing your story with others may help you feel more comfortable talking about your trauma. This can help you cope with your symptoms, memories, and other parts of your life. Group therapy helps you build relationships with others who understand what you've been through. You learn to deal with emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, rage, and fear. Sharing with the group also can help you build self-confidence and trust. You'll learn to focus on your present life, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the past.

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy

In this type of therapy, you learn ways of dealing with emotional conflicts caused by your trauma. This therapy helps you understand how your past affects the way you feel now. Your therapist can help you:
  • Identify what triggers your stressful memories and other symptoms
  • Find ways to cope with intense feelings about the past
  • Become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, so you can change your reactions to them
  • Raise your self-esteem

Family therapy

PTSD can affect your whole family. Your kids or your partner may not understand why you get angry sometimes, or why you're under so much stress. They may feel scared, guilty, or even angry about your condition. Family therapy is a type of counseling that involves your whole family. A therapist helps you and your family to communicate, maintain good relationships, and cope with tough emotions. Your family can learn more about PTSD and how it is treated. In family therapy, each person can express his or her fears and concerns. It's important to be honest about your feelings and to listen to others. You can talk about your PTSD symptoms and what triggers them. You also can discuss the important parts of your treatment and recovery. By doing this, your family will be better prepared to help you. You may consider having individual therapy for your PTSD symptoms and family therapy to help you with your relationships.

How long does treatment last?

CBT treatment for PTSD often lasts for three to six months. Other types of treatment for PTSD can last longer. If you have other mental health problems as well as PTSD, treatment may last for one to two years or longer.

What if someone has PTSD and another disorder? Is the treatment different?

It is very common to have PTSD at that same time as another mental health problem. Depression, alcohol or drug abuse problems, panic disorder, and anxiety disorders often occur along with PTSD. In many cases, the PTSD treatments described above will also help with the other disorders. The best treatment results occur when both PTSD and the other problems are treated together rather than one after the other.

What will we work on in therapy?

When you begin therapy, you and your therapist should decide together what goals you hope to reach in therapy. Not every person with PTSD will have the same treatment goals. For instance, you might focus on:
  • Reducing your PTSD symptoms
  • Learning the best way to live with your symptoms
  • Learning how to cope with other problems associated with PTSD, like feeling less guilt or sadness, improving relationships at work, or communicating with friends and family
Your therapist should help you decide which of these goals seems most important to you, and he or she should discuss with you which goals might take a long time to achieve.

What can I expect from my therapist?

Your therapist should help you decide which of these goals seems most important to you, and he or she should discuss with you which goals might take a long time to achieve. The two of you should agree at the beginning that this plan makes sense for you. You should also agree on what you will do if it does not seem to be working. If you have any questions about the treatment, your therapist should be able to answer them. You should feel comfortable with your therapist and feel you are working as a team to tackle your problems. It can be difficult to talk about painful situations in your life, or about traumatic experiences that you've had. Feelings that emerge during therapy can be scary and challenging. Talking with your therapist about the process of therapy, and about your hopes and fears in regards to therapy, will help make therapy successful. If you do not like your therapist or feel that the therapist is not helping you, it might be helpful to talk with another professional. In most cases, you should tell your therapist that you are seeking a second opinion.

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In the ring, I’m in complete control. Fighting is my meditation.

by George Decker, Public Affairs Officer, VA National Center for PTSD and Vicky Bippart, Producer/Director, VA National Center for PTSD 20140721_PTSD-Boxer-DuarteAlthough 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.” 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


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The Truth About Homeless Veterans

FAQ ABOUT HOMELESS VETERANS 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. gty_veteran_dm_120320_wblogRoughly 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. logo_horizWhat can I do?

  • Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran service providers. Contact your mayor’s office for a list of providers, or search the NCHV database.
  • Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
  • Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
  • Make a donation to your local homeless veteran service provider.
  • Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.
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Veterans’ Success At Home: More Than Just Landing Any Job

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311630405-1180The federal government has spent billions helping veterans get the training and education they need to re-enter the civilian workforce. Despite the effort, the unemployment rate for vets remains higher than the national average. Aside from dealing with the psychological transition, veterans also have to navigate how to transfer their military skills into civilian ones. A study published in March says it is the first to track degree-completion rates for veterans who have used certain federal education programs. "It was a surprise when I first started of how little we know of student veterans and their accomplishments," says Chris Cate, author of the Student Veterans of America study. "This is the first time we've been able to properly identify both student veterans and be able to match them up with academic outcomes," he says. The study has been criticized for not incorporating data from for-profit institutions. But for now, it is the only study there is. Cate says they are establishing a baseline. Researchers found that slightly more than half of the veterans surveyed ended up with a post-secondary degree or certificate, about the same or better than their civilian counterparts (though veterans do tend to take longer to complete the degrees). Business, firefighting, security and health care were the most popular fields. "Amongst our veterans who have gone back to school for both bachelor's and master's degrees ... almost 50 percent [are] pursuing business degrees," says Derek Bennett, the chief of staff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "I think because it's the most utilitarian." In fields like firefighting and security work, there are certifications that can transfer directly from military service. They also provide a way to continue to give back to the community, an important theme Bennett sees among veterans returning to the workforce. Still, the requirements for these jobs differ from the ones in war zones. "A combat medic who wants to be an EMT often has trouble getting proper accreditation from municipalities," he says. "Just because you performed medical trauma response on the battlefields doesn't mean you're qualified to work in Dallas as an EMT." From Combat To Classroom Sgt. Eric Strand is still working on that transition. He served in the military for about 14 years and did three deployments to Iraq during that time. Strand says he was a high school dropout with few prospects when he joined the Army in 1999. He joined the Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, and became a medic. It was in Baghdad in 2005 where he put a lot of that medical training to use. "We were in a small camp kinda in the middle Baghdad, and people would bring their casualties to us," Strand says. "So I would see quite a few patients who had been injured by explosives, pretty much any way you can imagine people being injured by a bomb." Strand became an expert in treating combat injuries. He says around his third trip to Iraq he was getting burnt out and unsure if he had the personality to be a full-time medical practitioner or deal with the day-to-day demands of being a doctor. After a big firefight that killed a friend of Strand's and injured the other medic on the team, he ended up dealing with a lot of injuries on his own. Months later, when he visited the other medic at Walter Reed, he was given some encouraging words that made him reconsider his future. As Strand recalls, the medic told him, "I'm really glad it was you that day and I think you did a wonderful job." "That was the day I decided maybe I can do this medicine thing and I started exploring how I could get into medical school," Strand says. Strand asked to be reassigned to Fort Bragg, where he could train young medics while he finished his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina. At the same time, a program was starting up at UNC where Special Forces medic instructors were working at the burn center. "We started getting mentorship in professional medicine and learning how to go through the application process [and] learning how to integrate into medical and academic culture," he says. With the help of that and another UNC program specifically for veterans, Strand finished his undergrad degree, got a high score on his Medical College Admission Test and is just a couple weeks away from finishing his first year of medical school. He says there's a lot to adjust to when it comes to non-combat medicine. "Special Forces training is a mile wide and an inch deep. We have to know a little about a lot," he says. "So kind of diving into the depth of what's there, you start really appreciating how wonderful and beautiful the human organism is." The Struggle Remains For Many Eric Strand represents the dream: He enters the Army as a high school dropout and leaves on track to become a doctor. Though some of the guys he served with have been able to find government or security contracting jobs, for many it's been a struggle. "Unfortunately, a lot of people feel like they're kinda shortchanged when it comes to their experiences ... and trying to get some kind of credit for it," he says. "That's kind of the ongoing struggle of veterans, to say, 'I've invested this entire large period of my life into this career and I don't have a lot to show for it that I can put on paper.' " Bennett of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says that many veterans end up taking jobs well below their skill levels. He says a question that hasn't been sufficiently answered is: Are the jobs veterans are getting appropriate? "It's one thing to get a job as an investment banker at JP Morgan, it's another thing to get a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart," Bennett says. Researchers like Cate are starting to gather the data that will help determine how much the government's investment in education is paying off in actual jobs for veterans. Veterans' groups say there's no time to lose. As troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan, applicants for federal education money will increase, and in today's budget environment, it will be difficult to ask for billions more if there's no evidence the program really works.
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Gene Todd 1

Clinic at William and Mary Law School Offers Legal Help for Veterans

Gene Todd 1Like 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. 41-college-of-william-and-mary“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.

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Charity Adams and 6888th Postal Battalion

Written By: Lisa Godley   MajAdams.3American 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. MajAdams.5The 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 View  

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Veterans Play for Fun, and To Heal

By Antony Kamps, Public Affairs Specialist Wes_Ricks_and_Ed_McNatt3Music 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.

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Chuck Rotenberry

Veterans Coming Home: Chuck Rotenberry | WHRO 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 Pitman

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4 Reasons Veterans Make Great Recruiters

By SHALA MARKS of The Recruiter Army-conscripts-during-an-interview-300x257According 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 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.

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Veterans Coming Home: Puller Clinic – Assisting Veterans With Their Disability Claims | WHRO

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 Pitman

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Stella Waltz - Flag Lady Pic 1

Virginia Beach Flag Lady Inspires Patriotism

Stella Waltz - Flag Lady Pic 2Flag 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 or visit

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My Story: How Others use GI Bill

From U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tahitiaMy 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.

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dog 1

Dogs and PTSD

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.

What are the emotional benefits of having a dog?

service-dogsDogs can make great pets. Having a dog as a pet can benefit anyone who likes dogs, including people with PTSD. For example, dogs:
  • Help bring out feelings of love.
  • Are good companions.
  • Take orders well when trained. This can be very comfortable for a Servicemember or Veteran who was used to giving orders in the military.
  • Are fun and can help reduce stress.
  • Are a good reason to get out of the house, spend time outdoors, and meet new people.

Recovering from PTSD

Recovering from PTSD is a process. Evidence-based treatments for PTSD help people do things they have been avoiding because of their PTSD, such as standing close to a stranger or going into a building without scanning it for danger first. Evidence-based treatments can also help people feel better. Dogs can help you deal with some parts of living with PTSD, but they are not a substitute for effective PTSD treatment. Although people with PTSD who have a service dog for a physical disability or emotional support dog may feel comforted by the animal, there is some chance they may continue to believe that they cannot do certain things on their own. For example, if the dog keeps strangers from coming too close, the owner will not have a chance to learn that they can handle this situation without the dog. Becoming dependent on a dog can get in the way of the recovery process for PTSD. Based on what we know from research, evidence-based treatment provides the best chance of recovery from PTSD.

Service dogs and emotional support dogs

Service dogs

A service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure. Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:
  • Do things that are different from natural dog behavior
  • Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability
  • Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner's disability
Because the handler depends on the service dog's help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.

Emotional support dogs

An emotional support animal is a pet that helps an owner with a mental health condition. Emotional support dogs help owners feel better by giving friendship and companionship. These dogs are also called comfort dogs or support dogs. An emotional support dog does not need special training. Generally, a regular pet can be an emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes a letter saying that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog's help for his or her health or treatment. In most states, emotional support dogs do not have special permission to go to all public places like service dogs do. But, emotional support dogs are sometimes allowed special consideration. For example, the owner may be able to get permission to have an emotional support pet in a house or apartment that does not normally allow dogs. Or, the owner may be able to get permission to fly on a plane together with the dog. To get special permissions, the dog owner needs to show a provider's letter to the landlord or airline. Sometimes, the landlord or airline will also want to see information about the provider, such as a copy of their professional license.

What do I need to know about dogs and PTSD?

Pets, service animals, and emotional support dogs need owners who can provide for them. Dogs require constant attention and care. It is a good idea to discuss getting a dog with your doctor or family before making the decision. If you have PTSD and are worried that it may be hard for you to provide a safe, caring home for a dog, it may be good to wait until after you get treatment for your PTSD and feel better. You may already have a dog that helps you feel better or do things you would not otherwise do. But learning more about evidence-based PTSD treatments is important. Unlike people who work with service dogs because they have permanent disabilities (like blindness or seizure disorders), people with PTSD can get better with treatment. If you are looking for a service dog or emotional support dog, we recommend you carefully research any organizations you contact. You should only get a dog if you are confident it is well trained. The organization should be able to answer any questions you have.

VA and service dogs

Research is underway to better understand if dogs can provide a disability service for persons with PTSD. VA has started a research study to determine if there are things a dog can do for a Veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a Service Dog for PTSD. The study is expected to take several years to complete. The National Center for PTSD is not involved in this study, but we will provide results when they become available. Currently, VA does not provide service dogs for physical or mental health conditions, including PTSD. VA does provide veterinary care for service dogs that are deemed medically necessary for the rehabilitation or restorative care plan of Veterans with permanent physical impairments. If research supports the use of service dogs for PTSD, VA will provide veterinary care for such dogs.

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Civilian Jobs

Veterans Coming Home:

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. provides the following services:

  • Post your resume to present your background and skills to the top military-friendly employers
  • Apply for job opportunities directly online
  • Attend a job fair at one of our nationwide locations
  • Review articles and advice at our Career Information Center - you will find a link to an online version of our job seeker publication as well as other valuable resources including information related to careers, job searching, relocation, transition assistance and more
  • Gain potential referral opportunities to our affiliates - candidates indicating specific skills may benefit from a recruiting specialist handling your transition or career change
  • Benefit from our unequalled customer service for all candidates
  • Backed by more than 15 years of military-placement experience from parent company Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI), the largest military-focused placement firm in the U.S. For more information about the groups listed in this video: CivilianJobs 866-801-4418 | Online   Production Credits Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Lisa Godley Camera: Eric Simon, Brandon Nance Editor: Brandon Nance

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The Virginia International Tattoo – A Scottish Tradition with American Spirit

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.

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Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on 'Chopped,' a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network. PHOTO COMPLIMENTS OF THE WARRIOR TRANSITION COMMAND COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION - See more at:

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

By Tom Cramer, VA Staff Writer of US Department of Veterans Affairs
  Picture this: one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own. The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show. This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan. But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first. Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.” Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life. “It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.” “It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it. I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 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

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.” “We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added. “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids. She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle. So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.” At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture. She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her — a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off. My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.” “We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.” Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center. “We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression — a lot of different things.” “We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.” “Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house. He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.”

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.” At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture. Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate. “It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.” “Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now. He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business. He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.” “My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said. And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen. “A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained. “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans — one from the Navy and two from the Army — to bring home the $10,000 cash prize. “I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly. “It’s a pretty cool competition.” But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help. “They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.” His wife Jamie agreed. “They didn’t just help us survive,” she said. “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now. We’ve been incredibly blessed.” To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit - See more at:

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O’Connor Brewing Co. Fundraiser to Honor Veterans and Military Pets!

By Shannon Bowman   dogs     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!!!

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Progress on the “Road to Veterans Day” Sets Conditions for Long-Term Reform at VA

roadWASHINGTON – 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.

  • Reducing the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent.
  • Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician.
  • Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year.
On his second day at VA, Secretary McDonald addressed all employees via Video Teleconference, where he directed each employee to reaffirm the mission and core values of the Department.  All senior leaders were responsible for ensuring this was carried out in all facilities across the country, and this re-affirmation has been confirmed.  Moving forward, this will happen each year on the anniversary of VA becoming a Cabinet-level agency, and a new award program has been initiated to highlight employees who truly embody VA’s ICARE values – Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.  The first nominations for this new incentive program will be accepted in January 2015. Over the past three months, VA has focused on identifying the scope of the problems facing the department and taking significant actions to correct deficiencies, to include holding employees accountable.  Since June 2014, VA has proposed disciplinary action against more than 40 employees nationwide related to data manipulation or patient care.  VA is also working diligently to cooperate with the over 100 investigations currently being undertaken by the VA Inspector General, the Justice Department, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). On October 3rd, OSC certified VA under their Whistleblower Protection Certification Program after VA worked to achieve compliance and protect employees who identify or report problems from unlawful retaliation. VA also worked closely with OSC to successfully resolve whistleblower retaliation complaints filed by three individuals from the VA Phoenix Health Care System.  The Department’s transparency is critical in rebuilding the public’s trust.  VA has posted data online on a regular basis since the beginning of June showing the number of appointments on waiting lists and the average wait times at each medical center across the country. Additionally, each medical center and benefits office has conducted a town hall with Veterans and the public to collect feedback. These town halls will continue at each facility every three months. As we march forward on the “Road to Veterans Day,” we recognize that VA needs significant reforms to meet the expectations of Veterans well past Veterans Day. VA is reviewing options to reorganize the department for success, guided by ideas and initiatives from Veterans, employees, and all of our stakeholders. This reorganization will be known as “MyVA” and is designed to provide Veterans with a seamless, integrated, and responsive customer service experience—whether they arrive at VA digitally, by phone, or in person. Another component of the “Road to Veterans Day” initiative that will continue past Veterans Day is the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) “Blueprint for Excellence,” which lays out strategies for transformation to improve the performance of VA health care now —making it more Veteran-centric by putting Veterans in control of their VA experience. Long-term reform of VA also means making sure VA has the medical professionals we need to best care for our patients, which is why Secretary McDonald launched a national recruiting effort in August, visiting medical schools in an effort to bring the best and brightest to work at VA. On September 17th, VA announced an increase in the salary pay scale for VA doctors and dentists to aid in recruiting and retention. As part of the “Road to Veterans Day,” Secretary McDonald has reaffirmed VA’s homelessness program and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Claims Transformation Strategy.   VA remains committed to working with its federal, state and local partners to end homelessness among Veterans, which has been reduced by 33% since 2010. With the backlog of disability claims reduced by 60% since its peak in March of 2013, VA is also on track to eliminate the backlog in 2015 and will continue to expand online claim-submission capability in all programs. “VA exists to serve our Nation’s Veterans and their families. I'm convinced that our comprehensive reforms will enable us to better meet the needs of our Veterans because we will be looking at everything we do through their eyes. We owe them nothing less,” McDonald said.

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Veterans Coming Home: Valor Has No Gender | WHRO

 "Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan - patriots whose sacrifices show that valor has no gender." President Barack Obama, Jan. 24, 2013. Nancy Lacore, USN Reservist and mother of six embarks on a 160 mile run, honoring the 160 US military women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more information about the groups mentioned in this video: Wounded Wear 1220 Executive Blvd. | Chesapeake VA 23320 757-773-8079 | Email | Online Women in Military Service Dept. 560 | Washington, DC 20042-0560 703-533-1155 | Email | Online   Production Credits: Executive Producer: Lisa Godley Producer: Eric Simon Camera: Eric Simon, Brandon Nance, Neil Grochmal, Chip Johnson Editor: Eric Simon

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Virginia Moves to End Veteran Homelessness by the End of 2015

~Communities across the state engage in the 100 Day Challenge to house veterans experiencing homelessness~

110530011804_homeless_veterans-640September 24th marked the kickoff of the statewide 100 Day Challenge to house veterans experiencing homelessness. On any given night, 617 veterans in Virginia are homeless based on the 2014 Point-In-Time Count, a survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons. Understanding the gravity of this situation, Governor Terry McAuliffe and mayors from Alexandria, Hampton, Richmond, Petersburg, Salem, Roanoke, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News signed the Mayors Challenge. The initiative is designed to encourage community leaders to collaborate on strategies targeting veteran homelessness. “Together, we can be a force for positive change,” said Governor McAuliffe, one of only five state executives to sign the Mayors Challenge. “We must renew our commitment to better serve our veterans in every community across the Commonwealth. Our labors on their behalf pale compared to the sacrifices these men and women have made in service to our country.” This 100 Day Challenge is a step toward ending veteran homelessness by the end of December 2015. It follows a two-day Boot Camp in which community partners from Roanoke, Richmond and Hampton Roads teamed up to create local goals based on unique challenges that each community is experiencing in housing veterans faster.  The initiative was sponsored by the Governor’s Homeless Coordinating Council, the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. The National League of Cities also has been an active partner in encouraging local leader participation in the Challenge. “This important effort will significantly strengthen Virginia's ability to end veteran homelessness,” said Brandi Jancaitis, Executive Director of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services/Virginia Wounded Warrior Program. “The Boot Camp and 100 Day Challenge highlight the importance of collaboration on federal, state and local levels to tackle this challenge.   In the past two days, communities set concrete goals, and the 100 Day Challenge puts urgency behind these goals and our Governor's commitment to end homelessness for veterans in the Commonwealth.” The 100 Day Challenge is an opportunity for members of local, state, and federal governments, as well as nonprofits, charities, and faith-based organizations, to join together in teams to implement strategies that have been proven effective in ending homelessness in communities across Virginia and the nation. The Housing First model is one of the adopted approaches. It focuses on providing housing for the most chronically homeless veterans, then connecting them with additional resources to retain their housing. These resources include case management, health care, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and job training. This was a primary strategy used by Phoenix, Arizona, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Leaders of the two cities announced early this year that they have ended chronic veteran homelessness in their communities. Another key to their success was the deployment of navigation teams into the communities to work directly with veterans and obtain any documentation they may need to obtain housing. Once housed, veterans are linked to additional resources and provided with what they need to create a stable lifestyle and remain in housing. “The 100 Day Challenge is an acknowledgement of the need to bolster our efforts and establish clear, sharp goals for ending veteran homelessness without delay,”said John Harvey, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. Bill Hazel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, added, “The swift, enthusiastic response by communities across the state gives me confidence. We can meet this important goal and eradicate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.” “Bold leadership at the state and local levels will ensure that veterans affected by homelessness have an opportunity to live in stable housing,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “This should be a minimal expectation in our society. Our veterans have earned it.” “Ending homelessness among veterans in Virginia is a goal that is within our reach,” said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. “We have the political and community will to do this. It is the right thing to do to house veterans who have served our country. It also makes economic sense, as housing vulnerable veterans is generally less expensive than keeping them in homelessness.” The Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Richmond metro area communities, in partnership with the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, have rigorously evaluated their current systems and created a plan to efficiently house as many veterans as they can in the next 100 days. Through this effort, they will also be eliminating the duplication of processes, challenging groups to look at this issue in a new way, and moving veterans into housing first while connecting them to services more quickly.  This collaboration of local, state and federal efforts is a pivotal movement that will push Virginia closer to becoming the first state to reach the federal goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. These local communities are continuously searching to create partnerships with individuals, organizations and landlords who want to contribute to the lives of the men and women who have protected our freedom. About Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness: A statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for increased resources and implementation of best practice strategies, such as the Housing First model, to prevent and end homelessness.  About Department of Veteran Services (DVS): ( The Virginia Department of Veterans Services operates 23 benefit services offices where representatives assist veterans and their family members in filing claims for federal veterans benefits.  Among other services, DVS operates two long-term care facilities offering nursing and domiciliary care for veterans, and also provides veterans with direct linkages to needed services including behavioral healthcare, veteran’s benefits, housing, employment and other public and private assistance programs.    

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Giving Back to the Dogs on Deployment Community

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 photoAnthony 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. IMG_1632A 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.

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Five Important Attributes Military Leaders Bring to Business

Bryan Zawikowski of the Lucas Group 7778259_f520In 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:

  • Mature Leadership
  • Adaptable Problem-Solving
  • Accountable Resourcefulness
  • Confident Decisiveness
  • Responsible Discipline
Some businesspeople may not recognize the transcendent talent that shines through in so many of our veterans. According to a report from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a New York-based nonprofit association, 61 percent of employers recently surveyed said they don’t believe they have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members offer.” Now is the time for companies to understand and carefully consider these attributes. “Just think about the skills these veterans acquire at a very young age: the leadership they’ve earned, the technology they’ve mastered, the ability to adapt to changing circumstance that you can’t learn in the classroom,” said President Barack Obama. “This is exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility every American business should be competing to attract.” Mature Leadership There is a leadership and maturity void swiftly and silently hitting our nation’s workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers will retire every day for the next 18 years. For those that remain in the workforce, there may be a tendency to continue doing what has worked well over a long career. But the global economy demands decisive action. Change is a requirement to survival, and U.S. companies need leaders, not just managers, moving forward. Few, if any, industries compel maturity better than the military. Military leaders learn on day one that they are responsible for their own actions and the actions of each and every colleague. Such demands forge strong ties, and in 2008, US News & World Report named U.S. Junior Military Officers as “America’s Best Leaders”. They did so because military officers and Non-Commissioned Officers lead their troops under often extraordinary circumstances. But they also boast a host of skills, including effective communication, the importance of sound strategy and creative action, and a keen understanding of the consequences of failure. Few jobs require the management of chaos—and leadership through it—more than military action. No matter how they enter service, military leaders emerge as supremely responsible, dedicated, and mature adults. Scott Selle, President of Fairchild Controls Corporation, personifies this type of leadership. A Navy veteran, Scott was a nuclear submarine officer in San Diego and Pearl Harbor, achieving the rank of lieutenant. After his sea duty, he became Deputy Director of Tactical Training for cruise missile and submarine warfare on the staff of the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet Training Command. His maturity and impressive leadership capabilities allowed him to progress rapidly through the management ranks at AlliedSignal and Honeywell before ultimately becoming President of Fairchild Controls—a subsidiary of EADS North America and a manufacturer of aerospace and defense systems. Fairchild is a company that demands intelligent leadership. Scott delivers it. Adaptable Problem-Solving Like a military operation, business rarely moves in a predictable and steady fashion. As competition becomes global and markets dynamic, business leaders need skills that differ from years past. Strategic planning is important. But dynamic decision-making is now the norm. Experience and longevity can be advantageous, but problem-solving and adaptability are paramount. From my innumerable conversations with executives, it’s readily apparent that they’re looking for future employees with critical thinking and problem solving skills. Veterans fit that requirement extremely well. Military conflict and the delivery of humanitarian aid move swiftly. Those leading it must continuously acquire, process, and act upon new information. Decisions often come in minutes, not weeks. Officers and NCOs have extensive leadership and execution skills. They’re accustomed to working in a fast-paced environment. They’re responsible for mission success and troop training in both military and technical operations. From a highly secretive reconnaissance mission in Yemen to the mobilization of 20,000 U.S. troops to restore Japan from the ravages of the 2011 tsunami, military leaders must know their limits and capabilities, and utilize the resources at hand to accomplish the mission. Their ability to navigate new or unexpected events is ideal preparation for excelling in the competition of global business.   Mark Lipscomb appreciates adaptability. After receiving a B.S. from Vanderbilt University, Mark served more than four years in the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer before leaving the Navy for the civilian workforce. In 1998, we placed Mark at Stryker—one of the world’s leading medical technology companies—as a Production Supervisor. He was quickly promoted to Business Unit Manager. He showed his talent and adaptability working across a broad spectrum of functional areas, including Operations, Human Resources, and Marketing—and is now serving as Stryker’s VP of Human Resources for Global Endoscopy. His adaptability was put to the test when Mark led the integration of a software company into the Stryker operational fabric. The companies’ cultures were exceedingly divergent but Stryker made retaining the technological talent of the acquired company Mark’s top priority. Throughout the integration, he drew heavily upon his military experience. He stepped outside of his corporate view and managed the integration from the perspective of the new employees. He appreciated the issues they faced, worked diligently to be responsive to them, listened to their perspectives on the integration, and ultimately retained the vast majority of the talent that Stryker needed to gain a notable edge in the medical imaging marketplace. Mission accomplished. Accountable Resourcefulness Do more with less. It’s an almost universal business mantra. Budgets are cut but lofty goals remain, and many executives struggle with how to deal with the former and accomplish the latter. Some make do. Others make excuses. The former survive. The latter move on. Doing more with less is ingrained in the military. Excess is a luxury in overseas operations. Officers are imbued with resourcefulness, and every soldier is responsible for the lives of their comrades. Whatever they have is what they’ll use to accomplish the mission, whether it’s securing a village in Afghanistan or restoring an airport devastated by the Pacific tsunami. Military officers and NCOs combine resourcefulness, entrepreneurial talent, exceptional teamwork, and the ultimate in accountability into a single package. They make no excuses. They lead. What they are asked to do, often at a very young age, makes corporate work pale in comparison. They have life and death responsibilities—to themselves and their colleagues. They often work with people with whom they share few cultural norms to accomplish shared goals like infrastructure improvement, transportation assistance, personal protection, and regional safety. As Joe Klein wrote in a story on Afghan and Iraqi veterans in an August TIME magazine story: “Any given rifle company Captain had to be, in effect, the mayor of a town in Iraq or Afghanistan—and had to develop political skills like the ability to deal with local shuras (councils of elders), the ability to find out from the local population what sort of construction projects they favored, the ability to put people to work on those projects with minimum fuss…as well as the ability to make important decisions under incredible pressure.” They’re responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment and possess stellar technical skills, hands-on experience, and a drive to succeed under any circumstance. While their skills in sales, project management, or technical support may not jump from a resume, military leaders have accomplished globally what few businesspeople have ever been asked to achieve. Consider a resourceful veteran like Doug Roberts. Doug enlisted in the Navy in 1978 and was “Sailor of the Year” for Atlantic Fleet in 1982. Leveraging his military benefits and available education programs, Doug earned an Engineering degree in 1990 and was commissioned an Ensign. Following his retirement in 1998, Doug joined John Deere as a Maintenance Manager and was soon promoted to Business Unit Leader. Doug served brief stints running business units at the John Deere De Moines Works before being promoted to Factory Manager for a John Deere manufacturing facility in the Netherlands. Doug’s resourcefulness was renowned within the organization. He managed Deere’s Country Operations in China before returning to Moline as the Global Director of the Combine (a machine designed to harvest certain crops) product line with direct responsibility for 10 combine locations globally. That’s resourcefulness. Confident Decisiveness There’s something about Hollywood’s portrayal of combat that continues to engage generation after generation. Perhaps the most compelling element is the depiction of soldiers and their leaders overcoming enormous odds. From “The Bridge on the River Kwai” to “Saving Private Ryan”, their successful missions keep us glued to the screen and resonate emotionally in our hearts. The ability of military leaders to overcome, move onward, and accomplish the seemingly impossible is what makes them heroic on screen…and in real life. They don’t hold back in battle or business. Confidence is imperative in both. There may be no workforce in the world more decisive or confident than military officers. Their extensive training and experience foster a mindset that persists through mission completion. The difficulty of a challenge doesn’t diminish their confidence because they’ve existed in a culture that demands a winning approach. This winning psychology readily translates to the business world—from a sales rep’s cold calls to a plant manager’s crisis response. That confidence helps companies achieve admirable goals. Mark Lipscomb is decisive. When Stryker initiated a “coordinated decentralization” process, Mark was a key player. The goal was to streamline decision-making, pushing it down into the organization to increase responsiveness, confidence, and decisiveness. Mark ensured its success. He emphasized action items after every meeting and continually pushed for decisions, not future planning sessions. He held himself and his teams accountable for smart decisions and the entire company benefitted. Mark, other military leaders within Stryker (we’ve placed more than 250 veterans there since 1996), and the company culture were key factors in Stryker being selected for “Great by Choice: Uncertainty Chaos and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All”, a new book by business expert Jim Collins. In it, he recognizes Stryker as a company that beat their industry performance indices by a factor of 10 over a 15 year period despite unfavorable market conditions and uncertainty. Decisiveness makes a difference. Responsible Discipline Everyone in the military is responsible for some aspect of the mission. Preparation for it and detailed reviews upon its completion ensure that decisions are analyzed and accountability mandated. Mistakes are quickly corrected, solid decisions are lauded, and continuous learning is mandatory. Military leaders have responsibility ingrained and are supremely capable of exercising intelligent and ethical leadership in any area of business. Contrast that with the current state of American business. Wall Street’s practices are drawing SEC scrutiny and Main Street criticism. Whether or not laws were violated, the taint is strong and the mores taught in American business schools are under fire. By contrast, the Air Force Academy taught my classmates and me about ethics and collective responsibility. We had high standards for academic coursework, athletic competition, military studies, and preparation. We also followed a strict Honor Code guided by these words: "We Will Not Lie, Steal or Cheat, Nor Tolerate Among Us Anyone Who Does". That Code captures the essence of discipline and responsibility at the USAF Academy and throughout the military. Those words remain core imperatives long after the Academy. I lived by them then and I live by them now. There are no shortcuts to success. Today’s military veterans are among the most talented, skilled, and seasoned professionals in the business market. Mark, Doug, and Scott are impressive examples of that talent. They bring proficient, globally competitive experience to their new civilian missions. They are impressive but not unique. American businesses continue to seek qualified, capable and ethical executives, from mid-management to the C-Suite. They can find the talent they need in the board room, on the shop floor, and throughout the organization in our veterans coming home from far-off lands. Business leaders simply need to probe a little deeper. Encourage military veterans to explain what they did, how they did it, and how they can put those skills and experiences to work for you. Carefully consider how their experience can achieve your business objectives. It will be a smart investment of time and resources. The benefits they bring to business are not hard to imagine. Our military veterans reflect what makes America proud; America great; and America a shining leader for the entire world. They’re coming home now. Welcome them back with pride and an opportunity. It’s in your best interest.  

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Veterans Coming Home: Team River Runner | WHRO

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 Nance

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Blankets for the Homeless

Veterans Coming Home: Blankets For The Homeless | WHRO

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 Nance

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Housing First: Veteran centered care helping to end Veteran homelessness

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, Director, National Homeless Center _thumbVincent 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.

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Veterans Coming Home: Involuntary Separation | WHRO

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 Nance

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“Why Being There Matters” – Ensign Hannah Taylor

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!    

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Veterans Coming Home: Volunteer To Serve | WHRO

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 Pitman

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Veterans Coming Home: Dwayne Parker Learning to Adapt | WHRO

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 Simon

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ODU Military Connection

Veterans Coming Home: ODU Military Connection Center | WHRO

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 Nance

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Learn to Recognize the Signs of Suicide

suicideMany 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:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
  • Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
  • Feelings of failure or decreased performance
  • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
  • Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
  • Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems
Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:
  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
  • Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is showing any of the above warning signs, please call the Veterans Crisis Line , chat online , or send a text message today.

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Relocation for Military Families

Military-Family-with-Moving-BoxesMilitary 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.

Breaking the News

  • When telling your child about the move, treat it as a special announcement. Make sure all of your family members are sitting down together, and tell them that you have exciting news about a "new family adventure."
  • Tell your child that this is an opportunity to make more friends. You can say, "It’s difficult to say good-bye to friends. But the good news is, soon you’re going to have even more friends, and you can still keep in touch with your old friends, no matter where you are."
  • If you notice that your child is feeling anxious or upset, give him the language to explain how he’s feeling. You might say, "I notice that you’ve been frowning a lot today. Are you feeling sad or nervous about being in a new place?" Let him know that it’s okay to have big feelings about the move, and talk about things you can do to help him feel better, such as draw a picture for his new room or play his favorite game.
  • Do some research (online, at a library, and/or in person) about the place you are moving to so you’ll be prepared to answer questions your child may have. This will also help you and your child feel less nervous about what to expect.

Preparing for the Move

  • To help make packing more exciting, encourage your child to help by decorating each of his boxes with markers and stickers. That way, when you arrive at your new home, you’ll know which boxes are his and can unpack those first.
  • Positive reinforcement helps to build your child’s confidence and remind him that he is loved and supported. You can say, "I like how helpful you’re being by packing up your toys and books" or "You’re being a great big brother by helping Sara pack her things for the move."
  • Allow your child to bring a few of her favorite items along with her in her backpack, so she’ll have something comforting at hand during the journey.
  • Go for a walk around your house and neighborhood with your child and say good-bye to important people and places. Take a picture at some of his favorite places, such as the neighborhood playground, to help him remember them after the move.
  • Create good-bye cards to give to friends. Include your new address, as well as your e-mail so that it’s easy to stay connected.


  • Discuss how you’re going to get to your new home (by plane, car, etc.). If you are going to pass anything exciting on the way, be sure to tell him so he has something to look forward to seeing.
  • If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break from unpacking and do something fun together as a family. Healthy outings (such as a walk or bike ride) are a great way to get a fresh perspective and regroup as a family. Or for a shorter break, try putting on music and dancing around the room.
  • A few hours in the car or on a plane can feel like days to a young child. Play an exciting game to help her focus on something fun. Create "I Spy" challenges to play with your child during the journey, such as "Find a dog on the street" or "Spot a red suitcase at the airport."

Settling In

  • Together with your child, unpack her room first, allowing her to choose where to put special items. Then unpack a room where the family can spend time together, such as the living room. Put up family pictures to remind your child of the many people who care about her. Involving your child during the unpacking process will help her feel that she’s an important part of the move.
  • Be patient if your child is sad or behaving differently than usual, such as clinging to you or being resistant at bedtime. It may take some time, but with your love and support, you can help your child adjust to his new environment.
  • Maintain family routines, such as Friday Family Game Night or Taco Tuesday, as much as possible to help your child know what to expect. Also try creating new traditions to celebrate being in a different place together. For example, at dinner, each of you might describe the high points of your day, or on Sunday afternoons you can gather for a story hour.
  • Have fun exploring your new community together once you’ve arrived. Go for a walk and discover the closest parks and playgrounds, and talk about places that look interesting to your child and that she would like to go back to and explore, such as a mini-golf course or zoo.
  • Set aside a time to catch up with friends and family and put it on the calendar so your child can look forward to it. Remind your child that those you love are always reachable by phone, e-mail, letters, or video chat.
  • Help your child make new friends by practicing with dolls or puppets. Act out a scenario with language he might use to approach a new friend. You can say, "Hi, my name is ___. What’s yours?" Encourage your child to think about the qualities of a good friend. Ask, "What does a good friend do?"

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Music for the Fight – Free Lessons for Veterans

music_4_the_fightFor veterans who have served our country, the struggles of transitioning to civilian life can seem insurmountable.  Tragically, for some, suicide was the result.

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.

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A New and Improved VA Prescription Label

20150126_Prescription-LabelVA has changed the format of your VA prescription label to make the most important information more visible. Click here for more information.    

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Veterans Coming Home: Creativets | WHRO

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 Simon


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Veterans Coming Home: Vetshouse | WHRO

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 Pitman

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IVMF logo4

IVMF Blog for Veterans

IVMF logo4The 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.

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Warriors experience hard-earned peace with yoga

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-Pilot

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Last Days in Vietnam-Special Online Preview

LDVietnamApril 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

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comedy troupe

Veterans Heal through the Stage or Pen and Paper

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 ( 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.

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W&M Starbucks

William and Mary Puller Clinic Partners with Starbucks for Veterans Outreach

W&M Starbucksby Suzanne SeurattanMay 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 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

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Summer of Service

VA Summer of Service: Volunteer to Serve Our Veterans

Summer of ServiceVA 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.”

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Don Honor Flight

Memorial Day is an Opportunity for Americans to Remember

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). Don Honor Flight             Story and video by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizationthe 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.

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CAPS - Vets writing

Army Officer and Diplomat Starts Veterans Writing Project

CAPS - Vets writing"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.

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Daniel Reichwein2

Veterans Writing Project: Daniel Reichwein

Daniel Reichwein, an Army veteran, is a member of the William and Mary Center for Veterans Engagement.  As part of the center, many veterans participate in a national program called Veterans Writing Project.  Below is a very moving story Mr. Reichwein wrote about the time he was homeless.

The William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement is a student-led organization that offers community-creating, expressive arts programs at no cost to veterans, service members, and military families. The program celebrates the work of  inspiring veteran writers, musicians, comedians, and student volunteers.

Man CrDaniel Reichwein2ying and Loofahs Daniel Reichwien

There was a moment when it became clear to me that there would be no alternatives to homelessness – no godly or benevolent intervention, fairy tale potion for my financial problems, or contingency assets.  I had not paid my rent in two months, no income, an empty bank account, no parents, no family to move in with, no friends, and possessed very little in valuables.  This moment of recognition has been the most shameful and one of the loneliest I have ever felt. I was ashamed because allowing one’s self to become homeless is failure as a human being, failure to house, feed, clean, and take care of yourself – things even an animal does naturally.  I grew up in negligent foster care and then was raised by an abusive adoptive family that I later renounced, so I was used to not having family and even gained a sense of pride through its independence.  But, just imagine the isolation I felt when I needed someone the most and had no one. These feelings manifested during my last appointment with a therapist I was seeing for what I later learned was post-traumatic stress disorder.  Up to this point, I had been able to delay life on the streets with a credit card and some rent money from my aunt.  With these resources now gone, I was out of money for food and knew that I would have to leave my apartment soon. I had always been an emotionally stoic person and was taught by my adoptive father, a former drill sergeant for the Marines, that a sleight of emotion was unacceptable.  However, this didn’t keep me from man crying when confronted with the inevitability of becoming homeless.  My definition of “man cry” is a wide range of emotions:  defiance, irony, strength, anger, and pain that stave off genuine, but inevitable tears with a feeling of acceptance concluding this temporary emotional breakdown.  For the best example, watch Denzel Washington’s Oscar winning non-verbal acting in the flogging scene of Glory, a fantastic Civil War movie. I said, “I can’t believe this is happening” as the tears subsided.  Ever since I was a kid, I had this storybook progression of my life in mind, something that I developed as a personal mechanism to maintain a positive mindset while growing up in a bad environment.  I had also been gifted with superior intelligence and natural talents that allowed me to first attend college when I was 15, write simple English class assignments my teachers recommended publishing, and have a choice of several full, college scholarships after high school graduation. According to my storybook life, I was supposed to continue excelling in academics, not be poor anymore, fall in love with a princess, and fulfill my sense of self-purpose by doing something noble and important with my life.  There were no chapters about mental illness or becoming homeless, and I was overwhelmed with disappointment thinking about all the things I could, would, and should have done. After about five minutes, I was emotionally ready to face this new challenge with strength and assured myself I would finish my education, have a successful, fulfilling career, and find that princess in the future.  I was given a resource list of local places where you could eat for free and thanked the therapist for her support.  Now I just needed to figure out a place to sleep, which I soon learned is the most important and most difficultly obtained need when you’re homeless because very few social support organizations provide housing. When the landlord knocked on my door the first two times. I pretended I wasn’t there, but after this emotional breakdown, I had the courage to face him.  I apologized and told him that I would be out by the end of the month.  Due to his own generosity or out of respect for me saving him the confrontation of eviction, the man let me store my belongings in a utility closet of the house indefinitely, which was of immeasurable benefit because carrying around anything more than about 25 pounds all the time is quite strenuous when walking is your primary means of transportation. As I prepared for my April 30th exit date, I set aside a huge, black duffel bag with the U.S. Army logo that I bought while going through Basic Combat Training.  In it, I packed several changes of non-winter clothing, two business casual outfits with my Class A oxfords for job interviews, a full set of toiletries including my sonic toothbrush, Norelco trimmer, exfoliating loofa, face wash, and alpha hydroxy facial peel.  I also packed a set of eating utensils, multivitamins, two large envelope with important documents, my laptop, Logitech laser mouse, a towel set for showering at the local university gym, the DVDs for two of the best films ever made, Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction, mobile phone, and my dog tags as a remembrance of the only accomplishment I had made in recent years.  This is what remained of a young man who once aspired to be a fashion model, soldier, and academic prodigy. Now as I recollect this list, I suppress the laughter of naivety.  This was a simple shoulder duffel bag with a loaded weight of almost 40 pounds, not exactly ideal for a homeless pedestrian.  The inner plastic lining of the bag began crumbling and the shoulder strap broke after two months – Army Strong, hooah?  I ended up being homeless much longer than the few months I thought it would last, and the lack of winter clothes became a serious health hazard in the cold, fall seasons of Indiana.  My best dress shirt and pants were stolen by another homeless person while at a shelter, though the Class As proved to be very useful when I lent them to another homeless man who used them to get a job. Most of my hygiene items were lost when the owners of the temporarily vacated building I was living in put locks on all the entrances, and a loofa attached to the handle of a giant duffel bag to dry out was a real head-turner in the homeless community.  My computer was a boon for its utility, a curse for a procrastinating techie, and a great weapon to combat boredom, of which there is plenty when you are limited to hanging out in public areas such as libraries, parks, and food courts every day.  And I’m afraid Andy Dufresne, the main character in the movie Shawshank Redemption, was lost to the “warden” of a Christian mission shelter, who clearly didn’t appreciate good filmmaking. My first encounter while homeless surprisingly turned out to be quite flattering.  The cashier of the Subway, which provided my first meal as a homeless person, had a crush on me and made small talk, asking if I was a graduate student.  I went along with it.  On a day when I literally had no idea where I would sleep that nightp, a little flattery provided comfort that the cold, parking garage, which served as my first bed, would never bestow.

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Memories of Vietnam: a Virginian-Pilot Online Veterans Tribute

VPilot Mem of VNThis year writers from the Virginian-Pilot sat down with 58 Vietnam veterans and asked them to share their stories.  The result has been a captivating and revealing look at the war through the lens of Hampton Roads Veterans and their families.

Click here for access to Virginian-Pilot Online and the full story.   (Photos by Stephen M. Katz. Videos by Hyunsoo Leo Kim. Tara McDaniel, production assistant. Virginia-Pilot Online website produced, designed and developed by C.K. Hickey | The Virginian-Pilot) WHRO thanks staff at Virginian-Pilot Online for permission to share these incredible stories.

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2015 Warrior Games- Army Wins the Chairman’s Cup!

WG resultsThe 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.

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Virginia Beach – Great place to live for Vets!

VABMilitary 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.

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Can The Agent Orange Act Help Veterans Exposed To Mustard Gas?

UntitledAlan 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.

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Every Veteran has a Story

VWP pic1Every 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.

Fishing in Falluja

The beach was soft and sandy. The white sand seemed very clean this day and the breeze was blowing off shore. The shallow waters were particularly green and quiet. Further out, the deeper blue waters had white caps blowing sideways. Tom carried his rod and a bag he used for fishing with his lures and leaders, extra line and a netted bag just in case he would catch something today. The continuing dream of a fishermen: ‘Today I’ll catch a big one, a keeper.” He parked in the lot across from the beach, recognizing three or four of the cars that were already there: Mark’s big green pick up, Pat’s red panel truck and Victor’s silver Honda. His friends were already down at the water’s edge casting out into the deeper blue water of the bay. There was a sandy path over the dune, and steps leading down to the beach. Tom walked down to the shallow water. He took off his shoes and rolled up his pants’ legs. He tried putting his toes in the water first. It wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was reasonably warm. He tried a little farther, up to his shins. It felt nice. He waved to Pat and Victor down the beach and went back to his bag and rod. Stripers were supposed to like warm water better than cold. In fact, they would migrate south in the fall as the water temperature grew colder. If there were any fish, they would probably stay near the surface. The deeper water would be colder. So, he chose a lure that would stay at or near the surface; a ‘popper’ that would jump and splash like bait fish do. Always try to think like a fish, he told himself, and he secured the lure to the line. His first cast was not very good. Something was stuck on the reel. He reeled his lure back. Probably just some sticky salt from the last time he had been fishing. He leaned back with his rod behind him, and then pivoted like a football quarterback, and snapped his wrist forward to the water. The lure sailed high, high and out to the deep blue water with the white caps. That’s more like it, he thought. He retrieved the lure by reeling slowly and pulling the line to one side or the other. He could see the lure jumping on the water surface, forty, fifty yards out. He reeled at a constant speed so those stripers would believe his lure was a tasty treat. As he reeled he enjoyed the sun’s light on his back. A bad day fishing is better than a good day doing anything else, he remembered the bumper sticker. He cast again, and again, and again, reeling in and doing his very best imitation of a bait fish. Popping. Jumping. Hopping side to side. He thought he might have had a nibble, but his lure came back with a clump of seaweed instead. After fifteen minutes, he grabbed his rod and his bag and walked down the beach towards the big rock jetty. Sometimes fish liked to hang out around the rocks, because little fish liked to hide in the rocks. He walked past Victor and Pat, “how’re they biting?’ “Nothing here,” called Pat. “Maybe further out in the deep water.” “I’m gonna try the jetty,” Tom said. He walked out onto the rocks on the jetty as far as the rocks were flat. He didn’t want to try his luck too much. The sun was beating down and everything was getting hot. He turned to face the sun for a moment. He felt odd. Something was happening. He heard the noise. It was a crashing mechanical noise, but it was the noise of many machines spread out in the sand. When he turned again, the water had gone. He was atop a group of rocks, with sand in all directions. It was brown sand with pebbles and stones in it. Where did the beach go? He looked for Pat and Victor. There was a sand colored Humvee a hundred yards away. The noise grew louder and seemed nearer. A scout vehicle appeared at the top of the sand dune, and a chopper flying low came over as well. This was crazy. In seconds, a dozen tracked personnel carriers and Humvees crested the dune and moved forward. A second dozen were right behind. Tom looked for his fishing rod but it was gone. His M-16 was in his hand, his helmet and flak vest were on and he was responsible for guiding the armored vehicles toward the city’s walls. He waved them forward with parallel hands pointed at the minarets and the crumbled remains of the ancient city. Twenty tanks reached the dune and spread out across the crest. The sun was hotter by the moment. It seemed to be getting bigger. It turned from bright yellow to an ash-orange color, and then it seemed to expand and grow a pillar beneath. It looked like a mushroom cloud, although Tom had never seen an atomic weapon in use, he knew that’s what it was. He just knew. They, the army on the sand, were waiting for the shock wave. It was coming. The war had changed. Tom slumped to the ground and hid behind a boulder. He didn’t want to be destroyed by the blast. “Tom, Tom,” someone called. He was hunched beneath his bed. “Tom. You’re having a dream.” This was no regular nightmare. It was as real as could be. He was back in Iraq. He was fishing in the Bay. His friends wanted to help but they couldn’t. They couldn’t get to him. Not in time. “Tom, you’re okay. You’re home.” His mother tried to pull him from the floor. His dad watched and shook his head. He had cried too many times with his son. “Goddamned war,” was all he said. Wade Sayer is a Vietnam Veteran. He has recently completed his third novel, titled The Marys. He learned Vietnamese language skills at the Defense Language Institute in California, and served with the 101st Airborne Division from 1967 through 1968. His novel details some events that happened that year, or at least might have happened. He has helped veterans on Cape Cod, where he lives with his wife, to write about their experiences during or after their service.

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KOKOPO, Papua New Guinea (July 8, 2015) Hospitalman 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. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde/ RELEASED)

Chesapeake Navy Corpsman Gives Back

KOKOPO, Papua New Guinea (July 8, 2015) Hospitalman 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. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde/ RELEASED)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.  

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Consider your veteran neighbors this Fourth of July

By Indi1509067_878304615550359_3465218978356955779_na 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.

Photo courtesy of the Military with PTSD organization.

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The DOD Wants a Healthy Military: Reduce Tobacco Use

OLWThe 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.  

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Norfolk Native Participates in Navy’s “Continuing Promise”

Cmdr. Brian KingBUENAVENTURA, 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)

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Smithfield’s Braswell Named a National Auxiliarist of the Year

Auxiliarist CGOut 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

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The Mighty Pen Project – Veterans Writing Initiative

Writing Project LogosThe 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.

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First Female Army Rangers Thought Of ‘Future Generations Of Women’

TRangershe 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.      

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He’s Still Walking Point

September Dimensions - Ray2As 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

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VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 Agent Orange claims

C-123By 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:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.
  • You can also complete a Disability Benefit Questionnaire with the help of your doctor
If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

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Meet Major Bambi

Domajor bambinnie 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

Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn

NPR StoryCorps JULY 31, 2015 4:46 AM ET Donnie Dunagan is a hard-nosed Marine, a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War who served for a quarter-century. First drafted in the '50s and subsequently promoted 13 times in 21 years — a Corps record at the time, he recalls — Dunagan found the Marines a perfect fit. That is, so long as he could keep a secret. A dark reminder of the past Dunagan left behind still lurked unspoken: He was Bambi. As a kid, Dunagan did a brief stint as a child actor, and he was tapped by Walt Disney to be the voice of the lead in the 1942 Bambi, the now-classic animated film about a young deer learning about life in the forest. And not one of his fellow Marines knew. "No chance!" Dunagan, now 80, tells his wife, Dana, on a recent visit with StoryCorps in San Angelo, Texas. "I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people's minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly."
Now, imagine the man who was once Bambi as a commander in a Marine Corps boot camp, responsible for hundreds of recruits. Dunagan didn't want his recruits drawing any connections, mocking him or calling him "Maj. Bambi." So, he kept his mouth shut. Of course, it got out eventually. Decades later, a Marine whom Dunagan had worked for several times, twice in combat, called him into his office in the early morning about a month before the two of them retired. "I go in his office and he says, 'Dunagan! I want you to audit the auditors,' " Dunagan recalls. Swamped with other duties, Dunagan respectfully asked him: "General, when do you think I'm going to have time to do that?" And, finally, the nightmare he'd harbored for years came true. "He looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. There's a big, red, top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere that had my name on it. He pats this folder, looks me in the eye and says, 'You will audit the auditors. Won't you, Maj. Bambi?' " When Dana asks him how his life is different from the way he might have imagined, Dunagan points out that all the wounds he suffered in service, all the honors he's earned along the way, still haven't changed a thing. "I have some holes in my body that God didn't put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time," he says. "But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House, it wouldn't make any difference — it's Bambi that's so dear to people." No matter how he tried to escape it, that voice from his past always found him. "But I love it now — when people realize, 'This old jerk, he's still alive and was Bambi.' And I wouldn't take anything for it, not a darn thing for it." visit

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The U.S. Declared War On Veteran Homelessness — And It Actually Could Win

This is a tale of two cities. In New Orleans, there are signs of hope that veteran homelessness can be solved. But Los Angeles presents a very different picture.
Under the deafening highway noise of the Pontchartrain Expressway in central city New Orleans, Ronald Engberson, 54, beds down for the night. Engberson got out of the Marines in 1979, plagued even back then by problems with drugs and alcohol. He says that's mostly the reason he's been homeless the past 10 years. "My longest stretch sober was 14 months," he says. "Being out there on the streets, it's tough." About 50,000 vets are homeless in America. In 2009, then-Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that all of them would have housing by this year. At the time, even inside the VA that goal was considered aspirational at best. But last year, cities across the country said it was looking achievable. New Orleans was the first to declare, in January, that the city had done it. So if New Orleans has zero homeless vets, why was there a Marine sleeping under the expressway? It's called "functional zero," according to Melissa Haley, director of supportive services at Volunteers of America in New Orleans. ronald_072815_engberson_dg09_22630923_slide-00e2b1a779e7a8e8bc979a5a7541a155d7bd7d8e-s2400-c85"Homelessness is a continuous process. There's a veteran right now who is in a home who could very well be homeless tomorrow," she says. "Functional zero is defined as having a process and the resources in place where we can immediately house a veteran." So if a vet loses a job today, misses the rent and gets evicted in New Orleans, the city can get him or her housed within a month. Haley says it's often faster; they got Marine Corps veteran Ronald Engberson housed in one day. A Volunteers of America caseworker, DaVaughn Phillips, met Engberson under the expressway and started asking him questions from a survey. When he heard Engberson's name, he looked down at a list on his clipboard. "Mr. Engberson, we've been looking for you!" Phillips said. "When you said Ronald Engberson, I'm almost about to get up and shout!" Nonprofits, the New Orleans VA and the mayor's office now coordinate to keep one constantly updated list of homeless veterans. Because Engberson was on the list, his military record had already been confirmed, and Phillips could get him into an apartment. The next morning Phillips met Engberson by the expressway overpass and took him to a modest, clean apartment. First thing Engberson did was shave off his ragged beard. "Last night I was under the bridge," Engberson said. "I'm thankful I'm inside. I have AC, don't have to deal with the rain, the lightning, people walking up on you all the time." New Orleans went from 470 homeless vets in 2011 to functional zero today, using what are now considered best practices — such as the master list — and powered by a huge cash injection from Washington. Nationwide, spending on homeless vets is up 300 percent since President Obama took office, hitting near $1.5 billion last year. That tracks with a reduction in homeless vets by about a third.

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Veteran’s Writing Project Posts Local Veteran’s Work

AVWPt 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.


by Jeff Drifmeyer (On the occasion of the return of soldiers of the Army’s 3rd ACR to the cold plains of Ft. Hood, TX, 0200 hrs., Saturday, 10 Jan, 2009.) Flood lights illuminate a ‘ghost formation’ of duffle bags, Adjacent a small mountain of backpacks and rucksacks await, Hard to imagine, our beloved soldiers endured 15 months with only what they could carry. Inside, the old gym had seen many a big game, but never looked better. Walls covered floor to ceiling, all manner of signs, posters, and banners of proud kid’s work. Happy messages; ‘love you,’ ‘welcome home,’ and ‘thank you,’ in red, white and blue. The DJ didn’t have to hype the crowd. ‘Born-in-the USA’ blaring! Spouses, children, parents, grandparents, friends, relatives –all anxiously wait. After 15 long, hard months, the countdown of days, now down to minutes… “They’re here!” the announcer suddenly proclaims. In they file, proud and orderly, onto the gym floor, in formation, and.., the whole place explodes with raucous JOY! Welcome home beloved soldiers, Land of the free, Because You Are the Brave! Finally, my daughter is safely home from war. Thanks be to GOD. After “winning” the first draft lottery (circa 1969), Jeff Drifmeyer joined theUSMCR and served six years in aviation support. After graduateschool he joined the Army Medical Service Corps and served for 20 more years. His oldest daughter returned safely after 15 months with 3rd ACR in Mosul. Jeff has self- published two books, a military thriller on bioterrorism and a work of narrated non-fiction, “Civil War Comes Home.” He appreciates the growth and support of the Hampton Roads Veterans Writing Group.    .

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Happy 70th Birthday Slinky! How did a children’s toy start in the military?

slinky2August 30th was the 70th anniversary of the Slinky. Happy birthday, Slinky!

From DoDLive By Katie Lange DoD News, Defense Media Activity
OK, so maybe it’s not the most interesting of birthdays to celebrate, but believe it or not, the creation and stability of the Slinky over the decades just goes to show the ingenuity of our military members. Yes, someone in the military came up with the Slinky — a naval engineer, in fact. Richard James, a 30-year-old from Havertown, Pennsylvania, created it, and he did so accidentally. According to the Slinky website, James was working at Philadelphia’s Cramp Shipyard in 1943, testing horsepower for battleships, when a torsion spring used in a testing meter fell off his desk and tumbled across the floor. Instead of just thinking, “I guess I have to pick that up,” James was instead amused and thought, “Hmm…. I think I can make a toy out of this.” According to a 1948 newspaper article, James took the spring home to entertain his son, who tested its bounce on the family’s stairs. When neighborhood kids grew interested, James began experimenting with the formula that allowed the spring to walk. He created a machine that coiled 80 feet of wire into a two-inch spiral, according to the Toy Hall of Fame, which inducted the Slinky in 2000. James’ wife, Betty, helped him name his invention Slinky because the word meant “stealthy, sleek and sinuous” in the dictionary. In 1945, the James’ company, James Industries, got a $500 loan to pay a manufacturer to make a few hundred Slinkys so they could sell them at stores in Philadelphia. It did not go well at first. No one had heard of the Slinky, so no one bought it. But the Jameses eventually got the Gimbels department store to let them demonstrate their walkable coil just before Christmas, and to their surprise, people loved it! All 400 Slinkys that were on display that first day sold out in about 90 minutes. Business boomed through the 1950s until 1960, when James left his wife to move to South America to join what she considered to be a cult. He left her with their six children and the Slinky business. Instead of giving up on it, Betty moved it to her hometown of Hollidaysburg in western Pennsylvania and came up with the now-iconic jingle in which “Everyone knows it’s Slinky!” Over the decades, more Slinky products were added, including plastic Slinkys, giant Slinkys, glow-in-the-dark Slinkys and the ever-popular Slinky Dog. Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold, according to the website. The famous toy was even honored on a commemorative postage stamp, and who doesn’t remember its cameo in the 1995 sequel, “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls?” While Slinky was sold to another company in 1998, it remains one of America’s most recognized toys. I, personally, could never get my Slinky to go down more than a couple of steps at a time. But I had one to entertain me, and apparently so did just about everyone else in America. So if you’re looking for a simplistic toy for your kids this year that was military made, perhaps give that oldie but goodie a try!  

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Veterans Voices: FREE Veteran’s Town Hall Screening

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.

  • Valor Has No Gender/Honoring fallen women in the military
  • Puller Clinic/Assisting Veterans with their disability claims
  • Involuntary Separation/One vet’s struggles when asked to leave the military
  • Chuck Rotenberry/PTSD and an alternative therapy
  • Team River Runner/Disabled vets find motivation and a new outlook
  • Vetshouse/Helping homeless vets get back on track
Each video is followed by a panel discussion that includes experts and vets from the videos. This Town Hall will be filmed live and aired on WHRO TV 15 in fall of 2015. FREE to attend (registration is required to reserve a seat)! Space is limited so sign up today! Click here for more information and to register!  There will be a break between taping and lunch will be provided. Friends and families are most welcome. If you know of any veterans or current military, please share this information with them. LeCore Vethouse Crockett Chuck Rotenberry          

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Real men cry

Iraq Veteran Offers Heartfelt Lesson for his Student: “Real Men Cry.”

Erik Booker isReal men cry 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

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Summer Without Buddy

VNW4Jeff 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....

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