Friday, November 24, 2017

Army Career Lasted 16 More Years Thanks to VA

Veteran completes Army career thanks to rehab at Tampa VA

VAntager Point
Department of Veterans Affairs
November 20, 2017

When Patrick Stamm woke up at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, his first thoughts were, “What’s going on?”

Tampa VA occupational therapist Kerri Martin works with Army Veteran Patrick Stamm during his recent reevaluation at the hospital.
He didn’t know it at the time, but he’d suffered major injuries – including a traumatic brain injury – after falling four stories from a hotel balcony in Hawaii on Labor Day Weekend 1996. He’d been celebrating his reenlistment in the Army when the accident happened, and spent the next 40 days in a coma before waking up in Tampa.
While most people would be grateful just waking up at all after a four-story fall, that wasn’t enough for Stamm. With the help of the Tampa’s rehabilitation and therapy programs, the soldier recovered enough that he was able to remain in the Army and complete 16 more years as a military intelligence specialist, including two deployments to Iraq, a stint as an instructor and going back on jump status as a paratrooper, before retiring in 2012.
Stamm was an infantryman and Ranger during his first enlistment, but realized after getting out of the Army that he missed it. He eventually reenlisted and was stationed in Hawaii.
“We were celebrating my being back in the Army and I fell from the fourth floor of the Hale Koa Hotel and Resort,” Stamm said. “I don’t remember exactly what happened, but my fall was broken by the air conditioning unit for the kitchen.  That’s how they found me.  They said something’s wrong with the AC or something, so they went out to check and there I was.”

Firefighters Saving Lives, Except Their Own

East County Magazine
By Miriam Raftery
November 22, 2017 

Most are young or in the prime of life; 228 were between age 17 and 30, 265 were  age 31 to 40, 269 were age 41 to 50, and 190 were age 51 to 60.  Firefighters in their  60s and 70s accounted for 48 and 30 suicides respectively, and 49 were of unknown age. 

(San Diego’s East County) – Last year, 69 firefighters in the U.S. died in the line of duty, the National Fire Protection Association reports. But far more  -- 139 – took their own lives.
So far this year, 86 firefighters have been lost through suicide—including Cal Fire Captain Ryan Mitchell, who killed himself at the Pine Valley Bridge in San Diego’s East County earlier this month.
Jeff Dill, CEO and founder of the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance ( , is determined to save firefighters’ lives  through special workshops designed by a firefighter, for a firefighter.
The workshops are offered to fire departments across the nation. They focus on behavioral health awareness, suicide prevention, and making resources available to help firefighters and their families.  
“Five years ago, no one was taking down these names and numbers,” says Dill,  a retired battalion chief who got his masters degree in counseling in Illinois and has since done research to compile data on firefighter suicides, then went on to create programs to help prevent such tragedies.
Since 1880, when the earliest known suicide occurred (a fire chief in Auburn, New York), at least 1,078 firefighters have killed themselves.  Sixty of those deaths were in California, the fifth highest rate in the nation after Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, the FFBHA reports.
read more here

In 2008, I received and award from the IFO for my work as a Chaplain. That was topped off only by hearing this video, intended for National Guard and Reservists, was helping police officers and firefighters.

When we can understand regular folks surviving trauma, it shouldn't be hard to understand when someone risks their lives on a daily basis to end up suffering for what they are willing to do for the rest of us.

They wouldn't be wounded if they didn't care enough to endure all of it for our sake!

USO Gave Homestyle Thanksgiving to Marine Families

USO serves up a taste of home for Thanksgiving
Jacksonville Daily News
By Jannette Pippin
Daily News Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2017
The event, they said, helps bring the comfort of home to military personnel and their families. It was the first year for volunteering for retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Rademacher of Greenville, who worked the serving line.

Marine Sgt. Ian King, left, and Sgt. Bryce Duis, center, were served dessert by volunteer Vickie Walker during the USO Jacksonville Center Thanksgiving Dinner. Jannette Pippin/The Daily News

The welcome mat at the entrance of the USO center in downtown Jacksonville reads “Home Away From Home” and for many that was the case as they gathered for food and fellowship at the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

The USO was prepared to feed 2,000 or more military personnel and their families, serving up the traditional Thanksgiving Day meals of turkey, ham and all the fixings.

Trinity Monbeck arrived early with her mother, Tricia Dodds, and two sons, Colby, 2, and Luke, 11 months. Absent was her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. Charles Monbeck, who is deployed overseas for nine months.

“He is the cook in the family and since he’s gone on deployment, we decided we’d come here,” Monbeck said.

While some families had a loved one who was deployed others in attendance included young Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune and far from their home towns.

Marine Pfc. Alex Gutzmer, a member of the Single Marine Program, brought along Pfc. Demond Patton of Alabama and Pfc. Dante Hall of Missouri to ensure they enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal and fellowship with others.

Gutzmer, who is from Wisconsin, said the USO served up a great meal and they appreciate having a place to come to enjoy the holiday.
read more here

Camp Lejeune Marines Homesyle Thanksgiving

Fairfield Harbour continues tradition of feeding Marines at Camp Lejeune

WCTI 12 News
Stephanie Brown
Jason O. Boyd
November 23, 2017

The Obers said they love sharing a space at their table. The Marines said it's nice to spend the holidays with people who make them feel at home.

FAIRFIELD HARBOUR, Craven County - It's a tradition that started in 2006 and was still going strong Thursday.
Families at Fairfield Harbour opened their doors, hearts and dinner tables for Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune. There were 110 Marines that got off buses and, for the first time in a long time for many, got to enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving this year.
It's how they've started Thanksgiving in Fairfield Harbour for the past nine years.
"When we lived in Pennsylvania, we had a lot of people, a lot of family, and I always had a full table," said Mary Ann Ober. "When we moved to North Carolina, we didn't have as much family and we still enjoyed the holiday, so we decided we would invite someone that wasn't going to spend time with their family."
This year, they're joined by Austin Sampson and Mikel Harden. It's Mike's first Thanksgiving from home.
"I can handle it, it's easier to understand knowing that my family knows why I'm not with them," Harden said.

Camp Pendleton Marines Homestyle Thanksgiving With Seniors

Marines find a home for the holiday at Murrieta senior community
The Press Enterprise
Shane Newell
November 23, 2017

“It’s a marvelous feeling you have to have them here,” said Sharon Boll, the Murrieta resident who organized this year’s event. “It’s the first time they’ve been away from home on a holiday like that.”

US Marine Pfc. Ryan Nguyen, 18, from St. Louis Missouri digs into the turkey during Thanksgiving dinner at Murrieta resident Sharon Boll home, Boll hosted three Marines and 27 neighbors at her home for Thanksgiving in Murrieta Thursday, November 23, 2017. FRANK BELLINO, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG

They may not have spent the holiday at home, but 55 Camp Pendleton Marines got all the comforts of a homemade feast on Thanksgiving in Murrieta.
read more here 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

After WWII Love Lasted Two Lifetimes

WWII Veteran Couple Married for Seven Decades Dies on the Same Day 
Jason Duaine Hahn 
November 22, 2017
Two lovebirds who married each other after serving in World War II passed away within hours of each other last month, after sharing one last nap together just days before.
Isabell Whitney and Preble Staver put their love story on hold when the United States entered World War II. The two sweethearts met during a blind date in Philadelphia before they signed up to help the Allies in their efforts—Isabell as a nurse in the Navy stationed in Maryland and Preble as a Marine, who earned a Bronze Star during his tenure. Five months after the war concluded, Isabell and Preble reunited and married on February 15, 1946, the beginning of a more than 70-year-long union.
“They were great people. Mom really taught me that you can’t change another person but you can change your attitude towards them. Dad was a bit of a prickly pear!” Laurie Staver Clinton, 62, one of the couple’s five children, tells PEOPLE. “Dad was the strict one. Mom tried to be strict, but we knew what we could get away with her. It was pretty much a father rules the roost sort of thing.”
read more here

Disabled Navy Veteran Left to Die by Hit and Run Driver

Navy veteran struck, killed in hit-and-run along East Hammer Lane
Joe Goldeen
November 22, 2017
STOCKTON — A 58-year-old disabled Navy veteran was struck and killed Tuesday evening on East Hammer Lane by a motorist who fled the scene without stopping, police and a family member reported.
The man was riding a bicycle and crossing Hammer southbound at Lan Ark Drive about 6:15 p.m. when he was hit by a black vehicle that sped away to the east, according to police. A surveillance photo has been released showing the car that authorities believe is responsible.
Medics were called to the scene and pronounced the victim deceased.
Tina Thayer, who described herself as the victim’s best friend and former common-law wife, identified him as David Allen Wright, a Stockton resident who spent most of his life in Manteca with roots in Indianapolis.
“That’s just who he was. He was a great man who helped everybody. He loved God. He was a Christian man,” Thayer said.

After Losing Limbs, Veteran Got Life Back

After he lost his limbs, Dave Riley found a new purpose for his life
Michelle Matthews
November 23, 2017 
"It was my missing ingredient," he says. The DAV "exposed me to adrenaline again," and gave him his life back.

Dave Riley
Dave Riley works on a stack of walnut boxes in the 
workshop behind his house in Semmes, Ala. 
(Facebook photo) 
Every morning, Yvonne Riley helps Dave, her husband of 30 years, get himself together. Literally.
Before they leave the bedroom of their home in Semmes, Yvonne helps him brush his teeth, she shaves his face and she helps him put on his prosthetic arms and legs and get dressed. By now, she has the process down pat. She's been doing this for the past 20 years.
In 1997, Dave and Yvonne had taken their family - they have two daughters and a son - on a rare vacation to Dauphin Island. Dave remembers opening the door to their camper after they arrived. He felt the wind blowing on his face, and he felt something else, he says: "an impending feeling of doom."
By the time he woke up the next morning, his body was going into septic shock. A tall, strong Coast Guard rescue swimmer and emergency medical technician, Dave had contracted a bacterial infection that was trying to kill him. One of the doctors treating him told Yvonne he wasn't going to make it.
He spent the next 30 days in a medically induced coma, with Yvonne making all his medical decisions for him - including the amputation both of his arms below the elbows and his legs below the knee. He was hospitalized for two more months.
He sold his woodworking tools. He got rid of his boat and his trailer. "I didn't think I'd need them anymore," he says.
read more here 

Sgt. La David Johnson's Family Got News Reports on Remains?

Lawmaker: Family Learned of Soldier's Remains from News Reports
by Richard Sisk
22 Nov 2017

A Florida congresswoman charged Tuesday that the family of Sgt. La David Johnson learned from news reports that more of his remains had been found in Niger.
U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger. (U.S. Army photo)

A U.S. official told ABC News that the family had been notified, but Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, said, "It is a shame for any Gold Star Family to go through the pain and agony of learning about their son's last moments on TV."

Wilson, a close Johnson family friend who was a mentor to the soldier, told reporters, "He left a Gold Star Family and to learn about his final moments on TV and in the newspaper is a shame for this nation," NBC News reported.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters last month that his "first priority" was to make sure any information on the Oct. 4 ambush in which Johnson and three other soldiers were killed would go to the families before it was made public.
read more here

When Heartache Turns To Action

Turning Heartache Into Action
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
November 23, 2017

More and more families are coming out and talking about the heartbreaking loss of losing someone who survived combat to suicide. 

There was a time in our history when it was happening but spoken about only to those closest to the family. To everyone else, they simply died suddenly.

It happened in our family. When my husband's nephew, also a Vietnam veteran, gave up on his next day being any better, he chose to end his story on earth.

One of the hardest topics for me to post about is the loss because of grieving that does not end. For me, it was a lot of guilt, and still is, because I was supposed to know everything I needed to know to help him heal. What I never figured out, was how to get him to listen.

The reason I do what I do is simple. It is all too personal. Living with PTSD is hard. I know what it does to the veteran, and I know what it does to the family. Living after someone has taken their own life instead of using their extra time after combat to fight to heal, is also personal.

While I do grieve, I also see the flip side of suicide. It breaks my heart that far too many never see the possibilities their lives still hold within them, trapped beneath the pain.

My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and he is living a better life than even we imagined. Sure it is a struggle. As with most veterans, it is a battle of not just survival, but a battle to take their lives back.

So, that is my heartache and why I do this.

Today, I want to try to focus on what I am grateful for. One of the things I appreciate most is when families turn their own, personal heartache into action for the sake of others.

It isn't easy taking that personal pain and making it public, but it is harder for most to simply do nothing.

Joshua Omvig's parents decided to take their heartache to Congress. Clay Hunt's family went to Congress. They turned heartache into action, hoping Congress would not just listen, but figure out what to do. 

They should have changed what didn't work and do whatever it took to make sure they figured out what would work. The problem is, as more and more stepped forward, Congress sat back on what was easy for them to do. Both of those veterans have suicide prevention bills in their names.

Here are some stories of others turning heartache into action.

The heartache

Texas: Grieving Army mom raises awareness about PTSD after loss of son AUSTIN - A Central Texas woman grieves the loss of her soldier son who died earlier this year after a struggle with PTSD. 
Sergeant Preston Hartley joined the Army after 9/11 in a show of patriotism, but after returning from his second tour in Iraq in 2010, his mom, Lynn, said he came back changed. He was with the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood.

"He did not feel like he knew where home was anymore, he was lost as to what he was supposed to do now," Lynn said.

He felt lost, experienced increasing anxiety, and he did perimeter checks at night around the house. Preston told his family he left a piece of himself back in the Middle East.
And the action
Lynn now has a memorial fund set up in his memory that helps veterans with PTSD work with therapy dogs. Lynn said it can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to train and house service dogs.

The heartache

WICHITA, KanA Kansas veteran commits suicide five days after the birth of his little girl, and the men he served with are ready to take action.The people who knew Norman Worden call him a hero, a loving father and husband. He was a man who would die for the brothers he served with in Iraq. But on the inside, Norman was fighting a battle few can understand. 
“He felt he was unworthy and didn't deserve a lot of things. I would say he was a hero and he would tell me I’m far from that. I'm not a hero,” says his wife Jordahn.It was a feeling that despite his many attempts to get help, would lead Norman to take his life inside his Larned home. He leaves behind his wife, three boys and a newborn daughter. “Right before his suicide, it was surprising to me. I thought he was doing well and was excited about our daughter, like there were no signs of anything,” says Jordahn fighting back tears. 
The men he served with in the 714th on two tours in Iraq are asking how many more like Norman have to die before something else is done.
The action
They call it “Operation Sunrise” and say it’s way to bring veterans together to lean on each other for more support.They not only want to create more reunions for veterans but also provide support to get them there. Their goal is eventually to create a non-profit to help.“Seeing his brothers was important. 
Those reunions helped him. I think that's why it's important for us to get together and look forward to getting together,” says Jarvis. 

The heartache

Scars run deep for war vets returning home

Ryan Terrana went to war at 19-years-old. First in Iraq in 2007. Then in Afghanistan in 2008. He was part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, a light infantry unit on the front lines facing combat.
The action
"You don't want to lose a single person in combat, but it comes to be expected. You're going to war. You don't ever expect to lose more back home." 
Terrana admits he has self-medicated with alcohol, but says he'll continue to receive help for his PTSD through the VA and he relies on loved ones for support. 
"They know when it's serious and they drop everything."  
Recently, he and the remaining fellow marines from his unit came together for a reunion. They stay connected through Facebook, sometimes sharing news about losses, but now more aware when a guy may need help and when it's time to reach out. 
"We just have this terrible cycle that I hope stops," Terrana said. "It has slowed down." 
And then there are the countless stories of others, all around the country, sharing their heartache but doing so much more to help others prevent their own tragedy.