Thursday, January 19, 2017

Iraq Veteran Has Big Case of Puppy Love

Palm Harbor veteran, puppies take care of one another
Bobby Lewis
January 18, 2017

Will Blanchard whipped out a pet carrier and a smile and chuckle.
“This is my new army,” he said with a group of adorable puppies yapping in the background.

The Palm Harbor transplant, by way of Chicago, is happy to have a purpose again. It took a while to find it, but his volunteer role at the Suncoast Animal League has become his calling.

“His work ethic has not changed,” said SAL executive director Rick Chaboudy. “He’s one of the hardest working.”

It’s Blanchard's nature.

His great-grandfather served in WWI. Both of his grandfathers fought in the Korean War. When he graduated from Palm Harbor University High in 2003 he, naturally, entered the military, too.

It just didn’t end well.

“I was in the Army and over in Iraq from November ‘06 to January ’08,” he recalled. “I lost a lot of buddies. Saw the terrors of war and it messed with me quite a bit.”

Since becoming retired from the military, Blanchard searched for activities to fill his day and keep his mind off his service experiences. His body is a living memorial to the friends he’s lost - his back is covered with tattooed names of 11 friends who died alongside him in service.

He needed a distraction and found it in four-legged friends.
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Combat Wounded Vietnam Veteran Gives Encouragement No Matter What

Temple: Vietnam veteran shares words of encouragement
KWTX 10 News
By Kristen Victorin
Jan 18, 2017
Bill Wedekind. (Photo by Kristen Victorin)

TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) An injured Vietnam veteran shared his story Wednesday at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System’s Domiciliary in Temple.

Bill Wedekind lost both his hands and eyes at age 18 from an IED accident in Vietnam.

In 1969 and 1973 he underwent two Krukenberg amputations, in which the distal ends of his forearms were used to create a forklike stump between the radius and the ulna.

When Wedekind returned, his grandmother suggested he follow in her footsteps as a ceramicist.

Almost 50 years later, he still enjoys throwing pottery and hopes to inspire others in the process.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Combat PTSD Veteran Tells How VA Saved His LIfe

Veteran says VA saved his life
Leavenworth Times
January 18, 2017
"We are all kind of our own special society. You don't have to give your whole story to explain it (to other veterans)." James Trumble
James Trumble sits on a bench outside of the domicillary at the Eisenhower VA Medical Center, reflecting on his military experiences and how the V has helped him deal with post traumatic stress disorder
Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, James Trumble said he always wanted to join the Army. He remembers playing Army as a youngster.

"What little kid didn't play Army?" he said.

Trumble enlisted in the Army at the age of 24. In 2007, he was deployed near Baghdad, Iraq. It didn't take long before he was in the fight.

On his first mission, Trumble earned his combat infantryman badge as a result of a firefight.

"That kind of started PTSD for me," he said.

He said that in his first five months in Iraq, he was engaged in more than 20 firefights. He said those experiences and more led to his developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Combat is so unexpected," he said. "I don't know what is normal or what isn't. It was enough to affect me."

Trumble served for a little more than three years in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007-08 as part of the 101st Airborne, 1st 502nd infantry.
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Will President Obama Pardon Incarcerated PTSD Veterans Too?

Vietnam group asks Obama to pardon veterans
The Hill
"We hope that President Obama, in the final hours of his Presidency, will do right by his troops by helping bad-paper vets with PTSD," Rowan said. "We cannot wait another four or eight years for an outgoing President to take action to help the most vulnerable veterans in the country."

A veterans service organization is asking President Obama to pardon veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who received a less-than-honorable discharge after the president commuted the prison sentence for former Army soldier Chelsea Manning.

"As pardons are being issued to people who have been convicted of serious felonies, veterans who served their country in combat wait to be offered the same clemency," said John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America.

With four days left in office, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was commuting Manning's sentence, in addition to 208 others, and pardoning 64 individuals.
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Vietnam Veteran MOH Sammy Davis Attending Inaugurations Since 1969

Meet the Army Veteran Who’s Never Missed an Inauguration Day Since Nixon
NBC News
January 18, 2017
It doesn't matter whether he voted for that person or not, Davis said, he goes to each ceremony out of a "sense of duty — an obligation I feel in my soul."
"I didn't die for my country," he said, "but I'm living for it."

On each Inauguration Day, decorated Vietnam veteran Sammy Lee Davis is furnished with a front-row seat to history.

Davis, a Medal of Honor recipient, has been an eyewitness to every American president taking the oath of office since Richard Nixon's first swearing-in on a cold January afternoon in 1969. Davis is returning to Washington this week and says he is eager to watch Donald Trump become the next president of the United States — marking his 14th ceremony he will get to experience first-hand.

"How unique it is to have that privilege," said Davis, 70, who calls everyone "sir" or "ma'am" and lives outside a tiny Indiana community called Freedom, where he keeps framed programs from each inauguration he's attended.

While a particular president might inspire a trek to the nation's capital for such a revered event — President Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009 beckoned an estimated 1.8 million spectators — the desire to go is different for Davis.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Florida Lawmakers Push Alternative PTSD Treatment for Veterans

Florida lawmakers working to get veterans access to alternative treatments such as acupuncture
Action News Jax
by: Michael Yoshida
Jan 17, 2017

There’s a push to make it easier for Florida veterans to get access to “alternative treatments” for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other injuries.
The treatments include things like acupuncture, equine therapy, music therapy and meditation.

They're included in two bills introduced by Florida lawmakers.There’s a push to make it easier for Florida veterans to get access to “alternative treatments” for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other injuries.

The treatments include things like acupuncture, equine therapy, music therapy and meditation.

Action News Jax spoke with veterans who are already benefiting from this form of treatment.

“You know it took me years to even talk about my problems,” said Army veteran Chad Childers.

Childers, an Army Ranger, was medically discharged after deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I tried to cope with my issues by drinking and ended up out on the streets,” Childers said.

Childers eventually found his way to the Five Star Veterans Center.

“When they first brought up doing art therapy, I’m like 'uh, what’s this cheeseball stuff? I’m not, you know, in elementary school anymore,' but I went to it and I actually had a great time,” Childers said.
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Fascinating Numbers on Department of Veterans Affairs

VA by the numbers: Has the department made progress?
Military Times
By: Leo Shane III
January 16, 2017

If Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin is confirmed as the next VA Secretary, he’ll take on a broader profile than just the medical aspects of the department.

Here’s a look at some key facts and figures on where the department stands today, based on current officials’ own statistics and assessments of operations since current VA Secretary Bob McDonald took office in August 2014.

** The VA budget totals $176.9 billion for fiscal 2017, almost twice the budget total when Obama took office in fiscal 2009 ($93.7 billion) and almost four times the total when the war in Afghanistan began in fiscal 2001 ($48.7 billion).

Of the 2017 total, roughly $77.4 billion is set aside for discretionary programs, and the rest for disability, medical and education benefits, along with other mandatory spending.
On the list,
2009 7.8 million veterans in VA system.
2016 9 million veterans in the VA system.

2009 277,000 VA employees.
2016 365,000 VA employees.

2009 265,000 100% Disabled veterans.
2016 542,000 100% Disabled veterans.
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