Saturday, September 24, 2016

Orlando Scores Zero on Homeless Veterans in a Good Way

Homeless Vet Count: Tampa 180 - Orlando 0
September 23, 2016

It was six years ago when President Barack Obama vowed to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. Nearly a year later, that hasn't happened.

But there have been successes. Two states, Virginia and Connecticut, and dozens of cities like Orlando are considered to be at “functional zero” having ended chronic homelessness among veterans. That means homeless veterans have an immediate system of housing and services at their disposal.

Bob McDonald, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, visited Florida this week to congratulate Orlando on their success and to help push Tampa to that final goal of no veterans living on the streets.

McDonald got a personal tour of Bernie Godette’s one-bedroom, fully furnished apartment at Haley Park Apartments in Tampa. After six years of being homeless, he delights in having a home with features like an icemaker and clothes washer and dryer.

“It ain’t always been this way,” Godette told McDonald. “I’ve been sleeping in tents, in the woods, in my car, sleeping at bus stations, sleeping in homeless shelters, sleeping in missions. So, God has really blessed me.”
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Airman Receiving Silver Star for Bravery in Afghanistan

Airman to receive Silver Star for watery heroism, battlefield bravery in Afghanistan
Air Force Times
By: Stephen Losey
September 23, 2016

"By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Airman Hutchins has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force," the citation said.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A tactical air control party airman will be honored with the Silver Star for a dangerous and watery rescue of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, and charging a Taliban position in a subsequent battle two days later.

Then-Airman 1st Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman, was deployed to Afghanistan in November 2009, serving alongside soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, in a speech Tuesday at the Air Force Association's Air Space Cyber conference. Hutchins and the soldiers were on the west bank of the Murghab River one cold morning, watching a resupply airdrop of cargo containers when one fell off-target and splashed down in the river, Carlisle said.

Two soldiers jumped in to recover it, Carlisle said, but misjudged how fast the river was flowing and were quickly pulled downriver. Hutchins sprang into action, Carlisle said. He stripped off his armor, helmet and other gear that would weigh him down, and dove in after them.
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Five Dead After Gunman Opens Fire At Mall

Washington shooting gunman hunted by police after deadly mall rampage
CBS News
September 24, 2016

BURLINGTON, Wash. -- Police searched Saturday for a gunman authorities said opened fire in the makeup department of a Macy’s store at a mall north of Seattle, killing five people before fleeing toward an interstate on foot.

An image capture from surveillance video shows the gunman in a deadly mall shooting in Burlington, Washington, on Sept. 23, 2016. WASHINGTON STATE PATROL
People fled, customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after gunshots rang out just after 7 p.m. Friday at the Cascade Mall. A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area for a rifle-carrying man.

“We are still actively looking for the shooter,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis said at a news conference. “Stay indoors, stay secure.”

Francis said police were seeking a Hispanic man wearing black and armed with a “hunting-type” rifle last seen walking toward Interstate 5.
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Tom Arnold Thinks Mental Illness is a Choice?

Tom Arnold Opens Up About Nephew's Tragic Suicide: 'People Who Are Suicidal Shouldn't Be Able to Buy a Gun'
Cathy Free
September 23, 2016

"My nephew was a sweet, good-hearted kid, but he was sad and angry after the Army sent him home early with an honorary discharge because of issues revolving around a suicide attempt," Arnold, 57, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
Tom Arnold
Spencer Arnold, a 24-year-old Army veteran who came home from Iraq with chronic depression, decided on impulse last May that he'd had enough. After a phone argument with his girlfriend, he picked up one of the five loaded guns he'd recently purchased and kept on his nightstand, and shot himself in the head in his Iowa City, Iowa, apartment.

Now Spencer's uncle, actor and comedian Tom Arnold, is speaking out about the tragedy during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, hoping to rally people to get behind tighter gun control laws and prevent those with mental illness from purchasing firearms.

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This is the part that really gets me upset. "Where I come from, mental illness is shameful and a choice" WTF? Did he really say that? Mental illness is not a choice but as long as people like him are this uninformed it will remain something to be ashamed of instead of treated. Want to know why the stigma is so strong? Read the rest of the article.

Arnold's brother did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. 

"He and the rest of my family are outraged at me for speaking out about this," Arnold tells PEOPLE, "because in their minds, suicide is something that you don't discuss publicly. Where I come from, mental illness is shameful and a choice."

Another Fort Hood Solider Found Dead of Gunshot Wound

Soldier found dead in Texas identified as Bellevue native
By Source: Fort Hood Public Affairs Office
Sep 21, 2016

FORT HOOD, Texas A soldier killed by an apparent gunshot wound in Killeen, Texas has been identified as a Bellevue native.

Fort Hood officials identified him as Pvt. Nathan Joshua Berg, 20. He was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound Sept. 17 in Killeen, Texas.

Pvt. Berg, whose home of record is listed as Bellevue, Nebraska, entered active-duty military service in May 2016 as an combat engineer. He was assigned to Reception Detachment, United States Army Garrison, Fort Hood, Texas, since September 2016.
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Ground Zero Responder Turned Away From Hospital Because of PTSD Service Dog?

Ground Zero Worker Turned Away from Hospital When He Brings Service Dog
NBC New York

By Lori Bordonaro
September 23, 2016

Hazan later told NBC 4 New York, "At a mental health care facility, it makes it an egregious violation of human rights."
A ground zero first responder suffering post-traumatic stress disorder was turned away from a New York City hospital when he tried to bring his service dog to a therapy session, he says. Fifteen years after responding to ground zero, former New Jersey EMT Jamie Hazan had finally gotten the perfect prescription for his post-traumatic stress disorder: Bernie, a service dog.

He takes Bernie nearly everywhere, including doctors appointments. But when Hazan arrived at New York State Psychiatric Institute hospital in Washington Heights for his therapy session Tuesday, he was told Bernie wasn't welcome.

Hazan began recording the exchange on his cellphone.
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Tennessee Family Struggles to Bring Son's Body Home After Suicide

Tennessee family raising money to fly deceased veteran’s body from Springfield to Memphis
The Register-Guard
By Elon Glucklich
SEPT. 22, 2016

SPRINGFIELD — A mother in Tennessee hopes the public can help raise money to fly her military veteran son’s body home, after he committed suicide in Springfield last weekend.

Taylor Lee Odom
Pfc. Taylor Lee Odom, 23, hanged himself Saturday, his mother, Jenniffer Palazola-Herrin, said. After being injured during training in the U.S. Army, he was medically retired from the military in July 2015. He moved to Springfield five months ago to study automotive technology at Lane Community College under the GI Bill.

Odom had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for four years, Palazola-Herrin said, stemming from a traumatic brain injury he received in a training accident at Fort Carson in Colorado.

In the 2012 accident, Odom was thrown from a Humvee and partly crushed as it rolled on him, local news reports said at the time.

Even as he slowly recovered, Odom suffered from symptoms related to his PTSD, Palazola-Herrin said, speaking from her home in Memphis.

He attempted suicide before, she said, and care was subpar at the Memphis-area Veterans Affairs hospitals where they sought help.
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Camp Pendleton Suicide Awareness Walk With Over 1,000 Side by Side

Marines, sailors march for suicide awareness
OC Register
Erika I Ritchie
Staff Writer
Sept. 23, 2016

‘Suicide didn’t take away my husband’s pain, it just transferred the pain to those that loved him.’
More than a 1,000 Marines and sailors take part in Camp Pendleton's second annual Suicide Awareness Walk. The event was held at the base on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Camp Pendleton.)
CAMP PENDLETON – Chad Robichaux, a Force Recon Marine and former MMA fighter, spoke to Marines and sailors Friday about the military lives lost to war and the far greater number of military lives lost to suicide.

“I was thinking about how as a young Recon Marine I’d respond to a suicide pep talk,” said Robichaux. “I’d probably be a little arrogant and not want to listen. But I’ve been on the other side of it. After eight deployments to Afghanistan in the special operations community, I know that’s one extreme. The other is just military service and the stress it brings. Military life will change you 100 percent. The change will be either for the worse or the better, that’s up to you.”

Robichaux now runs the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, dedicated to curtailing the high veteran suicide rate and helping American military and their families suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He spoke at the seaside base as part of the second annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk.

“We lost 6,882 in combat since 9/11,” he said “But the more significant number is the 22 lives a day from suicide. Since 9/11 we’ve lost 120,000 to suicide. We learn to push through in our mission but sometimes, we can’t push through in our personal lives.”

Robichaux relayed the story of a Marine wife he recently counseled. Her husband had shot himself standing in the street surrounded by police. The last thing he said to police was, “Tell my wife, I’m doing this for her,” Robichaux said.

“She later told me, ‘Suicide didn’t take away my husband’s pain, it just transferred the pain to those that loved him.’”
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Vietnam Veteran Has Faith to Help Fight PTSD

Pet Tales: Vietnam veteran is thankful for his 'Faith'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Linda Wilson Fuoco
September 24, 2016

Forty-seven years after Bill Fennell fought with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, he still suffers from the invisible wounds and scars of post-traumatic stress disorder. He has nightmares, anxiety in crowds and daytime panic attacks that make him reluctant to leave his house in Carnegie.

But everything is better since Faith entered his life in June.

Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette
Faith is a Guardian Angel Service Dog that belongs to Bill Fennell
of Carnegie. Mr. Fennell served in the U.S. Marine Coprs in Vietnam.
Mr. Fennell, 67, says he is a man of faith — with a lower case “f”. Faith — with a capital “F” — is a German shepherd who was bred, trained and named at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc. in Williston, Fla.

“My wife, Debra, and I were praying for a good dog,” Mr. Fennell. “God winked at us, and I got a dog named Faith. She is everything I could ask for.”

Faith gets along well with the family cats, Cisco Kid, Rocky and Sheba.

Mr. Fennell, a retired postal worker, says he sleeps better because Faith, 4, “senses when I’m having a nightmare.”

The dog lies on his chest and licks his hand, and he is soothed into a restful sleep.

Faith’s need to be walked and exercised forces her companion out of the house. “I have trouble meeting people, but now they come up to me to ask about my dog.”

He’s happy to tell them about Faith but sorry to tell them they can’t pet her because she’s working.

It takes one to two years and $22,000 to raise and custom-train a dog to meet the specific needs of a veteran. Faith was funded by Life Changing Service Dogs for Veterans, a collaborative effort between Veterans Cable Services in Bethel Park and Guardian Angels.

Anthony Accamando of Eighty Four, Washington County, is a Marine veteran who founded the Life Changing group. Since November 2015, the organization has raised $176,000 for eight dogs placed with Western Pennsylvania veterans. They hope to fund a total of 11 dogs by Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.
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First All Female Veteran Honor Flight Brings Women Together

First all-women Veterans’ Honor Flight from Columbus visits D.C. war memorials
Department Veterans Affairs

Jennifer Sardam
September 21, 2016

“Most times, women were not wanted overseas unless you had a nurse’s degree, and you could take care [of] or nurture the men that were injured,” said Dorothy “Dottie” Wolfe, who served in the Marine Corps, Marine Corps Reserve and Air National Guard. “But I served, and I was proud to have served. I would have gone had they sent me, under any situation. That’s what you signed the contract for, and I knew it.”
Honor Flights from across the country bring Veterans to Washington, D.C., several times a week.

But Sept. 10, the Honor Flight Columbus organization out of Ohio sent the group’s first all-women Veterans’ Honor Flight to the nation’s capital. While there, 81 women—Veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War—visited their respective monuments.

The trip to Washington kicked off with a hosted event at the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, and included stops at a number of sites: the Iwo Jima Memorial, the U.S. Air Force Memorial and the memorials for World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught—one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history—was among those who greeted the group at the WIMSA Memorial; in 1966, she was also the first woman to deploy with an Air Force bomber wing.

“It means so much to see this group of women come in and see what the memorial means to them, because it does mean something to them,” said Vaught. “It is seeing their service to our country paid tribute to by the nation. And yet with it all, there comes laughter and joy, and that’s the way it ought to be about serving our country.”

As the pioneers of their times, these women blazed a path that until then was only traveled for men. And yet despite their contributions, they weren’t so readily accepted as equals.

“My career field was supposed to be aerospace jet mechanic,” said retired Air Force Veteran Phyllis Collins, who goes by the nickname “Sunshine.”

“And the guys didn’t like me there … I was supposed to be working on a dead battery. They hooked it up, and I got zapped,” she said. “So I changed my career field real fast. I became a military cop.”
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