Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Veterans Affairs Caregiver Selective "Support"

VA’s caregiver program losing top official at a critical moment

Military Times
By: Leo Shane III
March 20, 2019

The Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program is about to lose its top official as concerns mount about delays to a planned expansion of the benefit later this year.
Ida Malone checks on her husband, Navy Chief Petty Officer Averill Malone, before a training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games at Ventura County Naval Station Port Hueneme in Oxnard, Calif. June 3, 2015. (EJ Hersom/Defense Department)

Department officials confirmed Tuesday that Meg Kabat, director of the program, will leave that post on April 3 “to pursue private-sector employment opportunities.” The move leaves another key leadership void at the department, although VA staff downplayed those concerns.

“The National Caregiver Support Program Office is staffed by dedicated and knowledgeable employees who will ensure the efforts Meg led continue without interruption,” Veterans Health Administration Chief of Staff Larry Connell said in a statement. “VA plans to name Meg’s replacement in the near future.”
The expansion could grant monthly stipends to more than 41,000 veteran families in coming years, more than doubling the current number of stipend recipients. Under legislation passed last summer, the department is scheduled to phase in the payouts over two years after the IT certification takes place.

Veterans groups have expressed alarm over current program operations, noting that staffing and support levels for the workload today aren’t enough.
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Vietnam veteran honored by Red Cross for giving "Vittles for Vets"

Vietnam veteran who feeds fellow veterans named 2019 Red Cross Military Hero

WSLS NBC 10 News
Lindsey Ward
March 19, 2019

Our 2019 Red Cross Military Hero is a Vietnam veteran now helping other vets with one of life's basics: food.
You could say Bill McCann is surrounded by veterans.

When he's at home he helps his 95-year-old father-in-law who fought in World War II, pass the time with a puzzle.

But when McCann's out and about he's most likely volunteering with his nonprofit, Vittles for Vets.

“What we do is we issue $50 food gift cards to veterans who qualify for the program and to qualify you must be other than dishonorably discharged, you must be alcohol - and drug-free, and you must be living at or below federal guidelines for poverty,” McCann, he Red Cross Military Hero Award honoree, said.

Giving out these gift cards to veterans stemmed from a conversation with a homeless vet back in 2014.

“I took him to lunch in the cafeteria at the VA, gave him a $50 gift card to a supermarket and this big guy grabbed my hand and started crying and that was the very second Vittles for Vets was born,” McCann said.

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Tender moment when blindfolded son hears Dad's voice

Soldier surprises son with tearful homecoming during Taekwondo practice

March 19, 2019

LEBANON, Tenn. (WTHR) - A soldier posed as a sparring partner to surprise his young son in a tear-jerking homecoming surprise.
Nine-year-old Luca Cesternino had a blindfold on as he sparred during his Taekwondo class near Nashville Monday night. He had no idea his partner was his dad.

Once Tennessee Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Rob Cesternino called his son by his nickname, the boy stopped, asked "Daddy?" and ripped his blindfold off.

After seeing his father, Luca jumped into his arms for a tearful reunion.

SSG Cesternino was home after spending ten months serving in Jordan and southern Syria. He came home a few days earlier than Luca expected, setting the stage for the big surprise.

go here if video does not load because it is one that you'll be happy you watched.

Giving up or living it up with PTSD?

PTSD Patrol Highway Construction

Wounded Times and PTSD Patrol
Kathie Costos
March 20, 2019

There is movement going on right now on the road to healing but it has not made it onto every road map yet.

The movement is driving away from the long line of frustrating road blocks (suicide awareness) and onto the freeway (healing awareness) more people are getting on.
A couple of years ago, a group of us were talking about how all the suicide awareness was not only blocking hope, it was pushing too many into the dead ending. Facts back that one up. If you doubt that, here are some things you need to know.

Military suicides, all branches, 10 year high.

Known veteran suicides, percentages increased over the last 20 years, while population of veterans decreased.

Police Officer suicides increased.

Firefighter suicides increased.

All you have to do is read Wounded Times and know, we have the proof. If not, then you can GPS (Google portable search) it and find it for yourself. Type what you want to know, and then click the "News" tab, since that search produces the most current news reports.

It was time to change the conversation with my first book published in 2002, then in 2006, when I put up some of the first videos on PTSD. Back then it was easier to get the truth out because the roads were not blocked by traffic jams.

So, having little faith in social media to verify anything, we knew the only way to change the outcome, was to change the conversation.

Everyone can understand the vehicles they drive, how they control where they go and how they get there. They also know that someone had to clear the road before anyone got on it. Some of the best experts cleared the way when I was learning how to drive on this road back in 1983. I just had to learn how to navigate on it.

It is the same with the vehicle you live in. You actually control where you go and how you get there. You decide if you want to stay parked right where you are, or just coast downhill in neutral.

Popular Mechanics Mike Allen wrote about this notion.

"I get mail. I've said, on the record, many times, that it's a bad idea to coast downhill or up to a stop sign in neutral. It's unsafe. You need to be able to use the accelerator to avoid an unexpected road hazard; cars don't handle well in neutral during sharp cornering maneuvers when the engine isn't connected to the drivetrain. So why on earth would you put the transmission in neutral—whether on manual or automatic—when coasting? Apparently there are a lot of people out there who think they are saving gas by doing so. They're wrong."
That is what the Suicide Awareness groups have been doing for a very long time without being aware of how unsafe it actually is.

All of us, at one time or another, have had to endure construction aggravation when highways are being changed to improve driving conditions. Between the year they start and the year the finish, there is an increase in the number of accidents...and traffic jams. 

Living in Florida, I work near I-4 in Maitland, subjected to the I-4 -Ultimate Project. At least once a week, there is a traffic helicopter hovering above due to a bad accident, along with daily blares of sirens from emergency vehicles rushing to help.

Anyway, after all these years, the idea of PTSD Patrol came up as a way to clear all the stuff out of the way so veterans could heal...and it has been lighting spark plugs to empower creative thought.

The key is to help them learn how to drive the rest of their lives the right way.

We are giving them their lessons, so they can learn how their vehicles work. Then explain what PTSD is, is not and how to #TakeBackYourLife.

With that, they have a learners' permit, so they can experience the control of their "vehicle" and how to handle road hazards.

They learn how to navigate to the mechanics who can properly maintain their "vehicles" (mind body and spirit) and be empowered to become a master of their own journey.

So, which do you think will work the best? Having them hear about how others gave up or how to switch gears and live it up?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Vietnam Veterans of America, among others, targeted by online trolls

House VA Committee Looks into Trolls Targeting Veterans Groups

MARCH 18, 2019
Someone’s spreading misinformation to veterans and their families and Congress wants to know who.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., launched an investigation this month into who’s impersonating veterans service organizations to target service members, veterans, their families and the American public.

“Our veterans served in uniform to guard against threats to our democracy just like those posed by these internet bots and trolls intent on sowing division and spreading misinformation,” Takano said in a statement. “Congress has a responsibility to stamp out these anonymous individuals and protect our country from threats foreign and domestic.”

The committee is looking into reports of campaigns that impersonate veterans and VSOs to share misleading content or fabricated “news” about military issues and ultimately cause confusion or inspire fear amongst veterans and their families. A committee staffer told Nextgov that they’re currently in the fact-finding stage of the investigation and plan to soon hold stakeholder meetings on the issue.

Today’s technological landscape has made it easy for instigators to use tools such as email and social media to influence voting behaviors or trick Americans into sharing their most sensitive personal data.

Kristofer Goldsmith, a veteran who served on the frontlines in Iraq before smartphones and social media were ubiquitous, has been tracking and combatting trolls and foreign adversaries targeting Vietnam Veterans of America, a congressionally-chartered VSO, since August 2017. He said the work is more important now than it has ever been.

“I’m really glad that Chairman Takano recognizes that too, because I feel like we’ve been screaming from the rooftops and until now no one has really heard us,” Goldsmith said.
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Eglin Air Force Base supporting Airman after 3 year old son was murdered

Eglin Air Force Base community rallies around airman after her son's murder

The Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: March 18, 2019

EGLIN AFB (Tribune News Service) — The full range of Eglin Air Force Base resources are being marshaled around a relatively new airman whose husband killed their 3-year-old son and then attempted to kill himself last Friday.

Airman 1st Class Darrelly Franken, 38, had been assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, but was reassigned to Eglin AFB in December, in the wake of Hurricane Michael, according to Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland. The October hurricane scored a direct hit on Tyndall as it roared across the eastern Florida panhandle on Oct. 10, all but destroying the installation.

Bourland wasn't certain in a Monday interview, but said he believed the home where Franken and her husband, 61-year-old Frederick Franken, had lived with their young son, Frederick Franken Jr., while stationed at Tyndall was destroyed by the hurricane.

On the afternoon of March 15, Darelly Franken arrived at the family's home to find her husband and son on the floor. Shortly afterward, Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies responded to the residence, according to witnesses. Details of the incident have not yet been released by the Sheriff's Office.

The child was pronounced dead at the scene, and the medical examiner's office was scheduled to perform an autopsy on Monday.

Frederick Franken was listed in critical condition at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center on Friday, and had improved to fair condition as of Monday morning, according to hospital spokeswoman Denise Kendust. Frederick Franken is not in military service, Bourland said.
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Airman killed while trying to stop robbery

Airman Shot and Killed While Trying to Stop Armed Robbery

Portland Press Herald, Maine
By Dennis Hoey
18 Mar 2019

A Westbrook native serving in the Air Force was shot and killed Friday night in Arkansas while trying to stop an armed robbery at a convenience store, authorities said.

North Little Rock police said Shawn Mckeough Jr. was killed while trying to stop a robbery at a Valero Big Red convenience store and gas station.
Shawn Mckeough Jr. Photo courtesy NewsCenter Maine
The 23-year-old Mckeough, who graduated from Westbrook High School in 2014, was a senior airman with the Air Force. Police said he was an on active duty and stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

“As a result of the investigation, detectives have learned that two armed suspects entered the location in an attempt to rob the business. The victim in this incident attempted to stop the armed robbery and was fatally shot,” the police department said in a statement Sunday.

The shooting occurred around 11:30 p.m. Friday. Mckeough was pronounced dead at the scene. He apparently was a customer at the time of the robbery.

Sgt. Amy Cooper, spokesman for the North Little Rock Police Department, said in a telephone interview Sunday night that the two robbers – one of whom appears to be a man based on surveillance camera footage – remain at large. The police department is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to their capture.
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Celebs4Vets helping veterans hear welcome home

Celebrities Help Build Homes for Veterans in SCV with Homes 4 Families

MAR 18, 2019

Homes 4 Families hosted its third Celebs4Vets Build at the Veteran Enriched Neighborhood off Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita on Saturday.

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit empowers low-income veterans and their families to enter the middle class by providing them with affordable housing and holistic services that build resiliency, self-sufficiency and economic growth.

More than 30 celebrities and other entertainment industry professionals picked up hammers and paint brushes and poured concrete to build homes, including stars from YouTube Red’s “Cobra Kai” and CBS’ “SEAL Team,” among many others.

Celebs4Vets is a membership-based group comprised of representatives of the entertainment industry who subscribe to the Homes 4 Families mission and lend their support by participating in H4F activities, events, and programs.

The Celebs4Vets Build provided members with the opportunity to help build some of the remaining 9 of 78 homes for low-income veterans and their families in Santa Clarita before H4F moves on to build another 56 veteran homes in Palmdale.

Celebrities each rolled up their sleeves to spend the day painting homes, doing finish carpentry, and pouring concrete driveways while also calling upon their fans to sponsor their efforts, raising money for their building supplies and materials.

“The Celebs4Vets members are truly making a difference in the lives of these low-income military families,” said Donna Deutchman, Homes 4 Families president and CEO. “Their passion for helping those that served our country is evident in every dollar they raise, every nail they hammer, and every wheelbarrow of concrete they mix.”

The participants included: John Ross Bowie (Speechless); “SEAL Team” cast members Toni Trucks and Judd Lormand; “Cobra Kai” cast members Tanner Buchanan, William Zabka, Mary Mouser, Xolo Mariduena and Jacob Bertrand; Johnathan Fernandez (“Lethal Weapon”); Phillip P. Keene (“Major Crimes); Noah Emmerich (“The Americans”); Drew Powell (“Gotham”); Tate Ellington (“The Brave”); Natacha Karam (“The Brave”); Edwin Hodge (“Mayans M.C.”); Reed Diamond (“The Purge”); Amy Paffrath (“Entertainment Tonight”); Drew Seeley (“Max and Wrigley”); Anna Konkle (“PEN15”); Sean Maguire (“Once Upon a Time”); Grace Kaufman (“Man with a Plan”); Bella Shepard (“A Girl Named Jo”); Reid Miller (“Play by Play”); Rod Man (“Last Comic Standing”); Al Coronel (“Bosch”); Matt Micucci (“Life is Boring”); and ‘Cobra Kai “writers Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz and Josh Heald.
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Cold Case Murder of U.S. Navy Seaman Apprentice

Pamela Cahanes cold case: Cigarette butt, cotton swab, dental floss led to arrest in 34-year-old homicide

Orlando Sentinel
Michael Williams
March 18, 2019
Her body was found early the next morning, in the yard of an abandoned home near Sanford. She was badly beaten and unclothed except for a pair of white underwear. Her uniform was found nearby. There was about $100 in cash in her pocket.

Pamela Cahanes, left, and Thomas Garner (Seminole County Sheriff's Office)
For three days in early February, Thomas Lewis Garner was being watched at his apartment in Jacksonville.

Garner, a dental hygienist, had led an unexceptional life for most of his 59 years. But advancements in DNA technology, along with the proliferation of family genealogy databases, led authorities to consider him a suspect in the slaying of Pamela Cahanes, the 25-year-old U.S. Navy seaman apprentice who was found beaten, strangled and dumped in an overgrown Seminole County lot in 1984.

An arrest affidavit unsealed since Garner’s arrest Wednesday reveals the methods law enforcement used to solve Cahanes’ killing.

All investigators needed to close the 34-year-old cold case was a sample of Garner’s DNA to compare to evidence found on Cahanes’ body. Their chance came Feb. 8, when he was seen walking out of his 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment and throwing a trash bag in the complex’s garbage compactor.
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Vietnam veteran, Pastor tends to all veterans in Holiday

Holiday pastor serves fellow veterans, invites all to spring festival

Tampa Bay Times
Ernie and Regina Bullock
By Sarah Whitman
Times Correspondent
Published March 12

Ernie Bullock served nearly two tours in Vietnam, and survived the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The former U.S. Marine, who also served with the Air Force, returned from war in 1970 a changed and broken man.

He has since dedicated his life to counseling and serving veterans.

Bullock works at the Veterans Hospital in Sarasota and as an associate pastor at Holiday Community Fellowship Church in Pasco. He leads the church’s veteran outreach, a chapter of Point Man International Ministries.

Bullock joined the organization in the 1990s when he became a Christian and led a chapter in New York before moving to Florida two years ago.

The outreach will host a free Spring Festival at Holiday Community Fellowship Church, 5144 Sunray Drive, from noon to 4 p.m. on March 16. Families are invited to come meet firefighters, members of law enforcement and veterans, play games and participate in youth activities. Veterans and their families will serve as volunteers.

“It is essential for children and others to meet veterans and law enforcement and emergency responders,” Bullock said. “People of all ages need to understand these men and women care for others and rise to the call of duty every time they walk through the doors at work. Some of these people have given up their lives to save someone else.”

Last year, about 150 people attended the festival. About 25 volunteers helped organize the second annual event. Many participate in Point Man’s meet-ups at church.

The members form a community with common histories and purpose, Bullock said.

Bullock ministers often to veterans struggling to reconcile their experiences with daily life.

“Many veterans get stuck in grief, but also many are stuck in anger,” Bullock said. “I believe the worst of the anger should be dealt with in therapy groups in VA hospitals. However, churches have a role in recovery, too.”
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