Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Veterans Twice As Likely to Take Their Own Lives

Blumenthal, Murphy meet with VA, mental health officials in West Haven on vet suicides
New Haven Register
By Mark Zaretsky
POSTED: 09/26/14
WEST HAVEN

And veterans “are twice as likely to take their lives” compared to “non-vets of the same age,” Blumenthal said. “Quite frankly, this nation needs to do better.”

Major J. Alvarado, director of the Connecticut Army National Guard Medical Detachment’s Behavioral Health Team (back to camera), talks about veterans’ suicides to, from left, VA Connecticut Healthcare System Director Gerald Culliton, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Mark Zaretsky — New Haven Register
Connecticut has one of the lowest rates of veterans committing suicide in the nation, “but any number above zero is unacceptable,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a host of VA officials Friday at a roundtable on the subject.

But for reasons we don’t yet know, “there is a problem with suicide in our military” that goes beyond just veterans, said Blumenthal, a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

How big a problem?

The suicide rate among present and former members of the military “is twice as high” as the rate among people who have never served in the military, he said.
read more here

11 Million coming to Florida for homeless veterans

Jacksonville gets $5 million to help homeless vets
Author: News4Jax.com Staff
Published On: Sep 30 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, announced Tuesday that the Veteran Administration is making a $5 million grant to the city of Jacksonville and the Emergency Services and  Homeless Coalition of Jacksonville Inc.

The VA is also making a $6 million grant to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.

The grants are part of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program to serve homeless veterans.

SSVF grantees provide supportive services to very low-income veterans and their families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. The grant requires that service providers do outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and providing or coordinating efforts to obtain needed entitlements and other community services.
read more here

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
VA Announces New Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness

Initiative Targets 70,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families in High Need Communities

WASHINGTON – In addition to the $300 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program grant awards announced on August 11, 2014 serving 115,000 Veterans and their family members, today Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the award of $207 million in SSVF grants that will help an additional 70,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 82 non-profit agencies and include “surge” funding for 56 high need communities.

During the brief history of this program, VA has helped tens of thousands of Veterans exit homelessness and prevented just as many from becoming homeless. The “surge” funding will enable VA to strategically target resources to high need communities where there are significant numbers of Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

Under the SSVF program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in – or transitioning to – permanent housing. Those community organizations provide a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible very low income Veteran families (those making less than 50 percent of the area median income). The grants announced today will fund the fourth year of the SSVF program.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to using evidence based approaches such as SSVF to prevent homelessness and produce successful outcomes for Veterans and their families,” McDonald said. “This is a program that works, because it allows VA staff and local homeless service providers to work together to address the unique challenges that make it difficult for some Veterans and their families to remain stably housed.”

Under the terms of the SSVF grants, homeless providers offer Veterans and their family members outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and assistance in receiving other public benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs. In the first 2 years of SSVF operations (through FY 2013), nearly 100,000 Veterans and their family members received direct assistance to exit homelessness or maintain permanent housing, including over 25,000 children.

“With the addition of these crucial resources, communities across the country continue a historic drive to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans,” said Laura Green Zeilinger, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The SSVF program gives Veterans and their families the rapid assistance they need to remain in permanent housing or get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible.”

In 2009, President Obama announced the federal government’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The SSVF grants are intended to help accomplish that goal. According to the 2014 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, homelessness among Veterans has declined 33 percent since 2010.

Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed more than $1 billion in FY 2014 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, housing, job training, and education.

More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless. Details about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program are online at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

Soldier’s Heart: Remembering Jacob George,

Please keep in mind that there are many other veterans with the same feelings and were against being sent into Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot dismiss their pain simply because we do not agree with any of them. If we ignore them, then we will insure what happened when Vietnam veterans came home shall be repeated. As with them, regret now does little good to erase the pain we inflicted on them.
Soldier’s Heart: Remembering Jacob George, Afghan War Vet Turned Peace Activist Who Took Own Life
Democracy Now
September 29, 2014

We air a remembrance of Jacob George, an Afghanistan War veteran and peace activist who took his own life on September 17. He was 32 years old. George co-founded the Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

George was also a musician who biked around the country playing music for peace, a campaign he called "A Ride Till the End." In 2012, at the NATO summit in Chicago, he was among the veterans who hurled their military medals toward the summit gates in an act of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

George spoke openly about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and with getting Veterans Affairs counselors to understand what he saw as a "moral injury" from his time in Afghanistan.

In a storybook that accompanied his musical album "Soldier’s Heart," George wrote: "A wise medicine woman from Arkansas once told me that grief is pain trying to leave the body. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, it gets stuck. But once you grieve, the body can heal itself. I won’t lie, some of this stuff is heavy. But telling my story is a part of my healing process. And it’s not just veterans who need to heal: all of us need to heal from war and the roster of ailments produced by a nation at war." Hear George playing the banjo and singing his song, "Soldier’s Heart."
read more here

Quadriplegic Iraq Veteran Jay Briseno Celebrated with Lee Greenwood

The highlight was that Lee Greenwood sang to him!
Quadriplegic Veteran Jay Briseno Welcomed to New Home
NBC Washington
By Chris Gordon
September 29, 2014

Wounded veteran Jay Briseno was welcomed to his new Manassas home with much deserved fanfare Monday. Briseno was injured in 2003 while serving in Iraq. He was shot at point-blank range, left semi-conscious and later deemed quadriplegic.

Though many years have passed, he still required 24/7 care from parents Joe and Eva -- something that may become a little easier inside his brand-new home.
read more here


Military Taught Joshua R. Pallotta to Put Uniform On, Not How to Take it Off

Mourners honor Afghanistan veteran who suffered PTSD
Burlington Free Press
Sam Hemingway
Free Press Staff Writer
September 29, 2014
"Josh took his own life," the Rev. Lisette D. Baxter told the gathering Monday morning at Ira Allen Chapel on the University of Vermont campus. "I think we ought to say that out loud ... and not whisper it so it's a secret among us."
Left, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, gives his condolences to Gregory Pallotta and his wife, Valerie, following the funeral for their son, Joshua Pallotta, a member of Alpha Company, who took his life after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
(Photo: RYAN MERCER/FREE PRESS )
Tom Perry, coach of the Colchester High School football team, looked out at the hundreds of mourners Monday at Vermont Army National Guard Pfc. Joshua R. Pallotta's funeral.

"Close your eyes for a moment," Perry said.

Nearly everyone did.

Perry told them to conjure up their warmest memories of Pallotta. Perry said for him, the memory would be of Pallotta, an offensive lineman, in a football practice uniform.

"That face, that sly half smile of his," Perry said. "That's the Josh I see. That's the one I will choose to remember."

Mostly, though, sorrow filled the room as family, friends and brothers-in-arms honored the fun-loving, sensitive man who came back from the 2010 Vermont Army National Guard deployment to Afghanistan struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

A week ago, those struggles cost Pallotta, 25, his life.
Their son's obituary made a direct reference to his post-combat struggle. The couple, speaking with a reporter after the funeral, said their son was proud to serve his country, but the military needs to do more for soldiers who come home with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

"There's a song he posted on his Facebook page," Valerie Pallotta said of her son. "One line is 'They teach me how to put a uniform on, but they don't teach me how to take it off.' "
read more here

Lake Nona VA Hospital Made Elderly Veterans Sick?

Veterans contract Legionnaires' disease from VA facility's water
News 96.5.com
September 29, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. — News 96.5 learned three elderly veterans contracted a dangerous bacteria after moving in to a new Veterans Affairs facility in Lake Nona.

The veterans were diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease in July, and Health Department officials believe the bacteria was likely lingering in the water. One of the victims died after contracting the disease, but it was not the cause of death, officials said.

The Orlando Veterans Affairs Community Center opened in December, and it's the only part of the behind-schedule hospital project that's finished.

"It's isolated to this facility. Good news of it is two patients did recover. Unfortuantely one person did pass away, but that person had underlying health conditions," said Dain Weister, with the Orange County Health Department.
read more here

Monday, September 29, 2014

Marine Gives Six Reasons Why He's Happier He Went to War

Why ’6 Reasons I’m Happier Because I Went to War’ went viral
The Washington Post
Dan Lamothe
September 29, 2014

It’s counter-intuitive: Why would combat veterans who risk their lives repeatedly, experience gruesome events and witness their fellow service members die be happy that they went to war?

And yet that’s exactly what Marine veteran John Walters reflects on in a new post on LinkedIn that has gone viral. Tens of thousands of readers have shared the piece, titled “6 Reasons I’m Happier Because I Went to War.” Many of them say they also served in the military and relate to what he shared.

The post was first published last week. Walters, a marketing manager with Shell, wrote that he has been asked regularly whether he is glad he deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and usually surprises people when he tells them that the answer, enthusiastically, is yes.

“Naturally wartime and combat are associated with sadness and devastation,” wrote Walters, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant. “War affects millions of innocent people and [post-traumatic stress disorder] afflicts service men and women with crippling effects. I’m not immune to all the negative fallout of being a Marine during wartime, but many lessons I learned as a Marine make me a happier person.”
read more here


Eight years of my life was spent enlisted in the US Marine Corps. I was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq and Helmand Province, Afghanistan. One of the most frequent questions I am asked about my service is, "Are you glad you did it?" It surprises most people when I respond with an enthusiastic YES. Naturally wartime and combat are associated with sadness and devastation. War affects millions of innocent people and PTSD afflicts service men and women with crippling effects. I'm not immune to all the negative fallout of being a Marine during wartime, but many lessons I learned as a Marine make me a happier person. Here are a few: (Note I use the term Marine, but it could be exchanged for soldier, seaman, airman, or any other service member.)

Go here to read the reasons
6 Reasons I'm Happier Because I Went to War

PTSD Healers Get Help to Heal Themselves

On a personal note speaking as one with over 30 years of doing it. It does hurt. It does drain my soul. It makes me cry. Causes nightmares and many sleepless nights. You know what though, what I get back in return when their lives turn around makes it all worth it.

I also have good support to do it. I know I can pick up the phone anytime I need to and be able to vent when things get too hard. The hardest thing was admitting I needed help since I am the "helper" of these magnificent veterans and families. Facing that made it easier to explain to them why it was more than ok for them to need help too.

Put it this way. Do you think less of them because they need help? Then why do you expect to not need it for yourself?

Richmond workshop to assist ‘forgotten heroes’ who suffer after helping PTSD victims
Richmond Standard
by Mike Aldax
September 29, 2014

The forgotten heroes who tirelessly work with the victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will have an opportunity to receive help for their own stress through a workshop in Richmond next month.

Healers 4 Helpers, a collaboration between nonprofits Perfectly Babies foundation and Sister 4 Sister, will hold two classes Nov. 21 -22 at the Barrett Avenue Christian Church at 3701 Barrett Ave.

The first day’s workshop helps helpers identify and reduce symptoms of compassion fatigue, while the second day’s workshop offers an in-depth look at assessing and treating secondary traumatic stress reaction.
read more here

Atlanta Veteran Shot At During Attempted Carjacking

Gunfire narrowly misses veteran during attempted carjacking
WSB TV 2 Atlanta
September 28, 2014

ATLANTA — A local veteran, who just returned home from war, is now dodging gunfire in his own neighborhood.

Jonathan Knight has been shot at before. The veteran spent five and a half years in the military. But he never thought he'd put that training to use while sitting in his car behind the building where he works in northwest Atlanta.

Knight says he wasn't willing to let his brand new Ford Mustang go without a fight.

He says he was sitting in his car listening to music around 6 p.m. Sunday when two men in a blue Jeep Grand Cherokee approached.

“The driver asked me for directions. So I attempted to tell him and he pretended not to hear me, so he pulled up right next to me, very close. I could tell he was trying to block me off,” said Knight.
read more here

Missoula State VA office cuts back rural outreach effort

There is what the Department of Veterans Affairs does on a national level and then there is what the states do. This is one of those cases.
Missoula VA office cuts back rural outreach effort
Missoulian
Martin Kidston
September 27, 2014
“We’re advertising the position, but since it’s a state job, the hiring process is very slow,” Blanche said. “We were able to do our outreach for September, but we’re giving vets notice about October. I’m hoping to have a position filled by the end of the year.”

A lack of staffing at an outreach program operated by the Montana Veterans Affairs Division has prompted the Missoula office to scale back its rural outreach efforts until the issue is resolved.

Roxanne Blanche, the regional services officer for the Montana VA’s Missoula office, said she is now the only employee available to meet veterans across a large western swath of the state.

“What we’re doing is asking vets to give us a call and file for medical benefits,” said Blanche. “Since I don’t have the staffing, those vets in outlying areas, if they live too far away, will have to schedule a phone appointment.” The number to call is 542-2501.
read more here

VA Mail Asked Veteran to Send His Own Death Certificate, Bills Widow for 59 Cents

There is not enough room to put all that went wrong for this widow in the headline,,,,,it gets worse. He didn't cancel him appointment either.
After death, VA persists to collect 59 cents
The News Journal
William H. McMichael
September 29, 2014

AVONDALE, Pa. – The first letter addressed to the late David Perry arrived five weeks after he died at home June 5.

Sent from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the envelope was to be opened "by addressee only." Perry's wife Helena opened it anyway.

"You remain eligible to receive (VA) health benefits," it read. A handwritten yellow sticky note added, "Please provide copy of death certificate."

Helena thought she'd notified VA. Regardless, she said, "It's kind of hard for him to open it when he's not here – and even harder for him to send the death certificate."

Several days later, a VA billing statement addressed to David Perry arrived. Helena opened that one too.

Her late husband, it seemed, owes the government 59 cents.

"So if it's not paid by October the 11th, I'm going to have additional – or he will have additional charges on his 59 cents," she said. "So I did call and talk to them, and informed them again that he was dead, and I just didn't think he would be able to pay it."
read more here

Shooting at Orlando VA Medical Center

UPDATE

Man shoots himself outside Orlando VA Clinic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Few details have been released after a man shot himself outside an Orlando Veterans Affairs clinic.

The shooting happened Monday morning at the VA clinic off Raymond Street in Baldwin Park.

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affair will not identify the man or comment on what may have led to the incident.

Witnesses at the VA clinic told Channel 9 the victim seemed frustrated as he left the clinic.

"He was pissed off prior to shooting himself. He left and he was frustrated with the system," said Benjamin Rivera.

Rivera was waiting for his appointment when he heard the gunshot. He said the highly criticized and backlogged VA system can sometimes take a toll on veterans.
read more here

Shooting in VA clinic parking lot self-inflicted
Orlando Sentinel
By Tiffany Walden
Staff Writer
September 29, 2014

Authorities are investigating after an apparent self-inflicted shooting in the parking lot of the VA clinic in Orlando this morning.

The person's condition and identity are unknown.

The clinic, also known as Orlando VA Medical Center, is at 5201 Raymond Street.

"At approximately 11:15 a.m. today an unidentified person apparently shot themself in the parking lot at the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Baldwin," Heather Frebe, public affairs officer at the facility, said in an email.
read more here

Honor Flight Veterans Greeted by Crowd at Sanford Airport

War vets return from Honor Flight to D.C.
13 News Orlando
September 28, 2014

ORLANDO
War veterans got a warm welcome-back Saturday night from loved ones.

The community gathered at the Orlando Sanford International Airport to greet the vets as they returned from Washington.

The vets were on an all day trip on Honor Flight; where the goal is to honor America's veterans for their sacrifices.

They are taken to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials.
read more here

Vietnam Veteran Finally Receives Silver Star Earned 48 Years Ago

Vietnam veteran receives Silver Star 48 years later
WBIR NBC News
Kendall Morris
September 29, 2014


(WBIR- Gatlinburg) A Vietnam War veteran received the Silver Star Sunday for his heroic actions in heavy combat 48 years ago.

Former Army Sgt. Larry F. Freeman of Pulaski, Virginia accepted the honor, the United States' third highest military decoration for valor, in front of family and friends at the River Terrace Resort and Convention Center in Gatlinburg. It's the place he and his fellow veterans have reunited for more than a decade.

"It's just a real honor for me to know Larry and help get this award for him after 48 years," Lt. Col. Howard Lavy, U.S. Army (Ret), said about his fellow member of the 1st Bn, 27th Infantry Regiment.

Freeman said Lt. Peter Schnizer, his platoon leader, first nominated him for the award in 1966. But the original recommendation for the Silver Star was never formally submitted due to an administrative oversight.

Schnizer found the award packet in 2005, Freeman said, and began pursuing the award on his behalf. And though Schnizer died in 2012, Lt. Col. Lavy continued to pursue the Silver Star for Freeman.

"It brings great closure not only to Larry, but to the other gentleman in our platoon that are surviving because we're finally able to see him recognized for what he did to help save not only us but other members of the platoon," Lavy said.
read more here

PTSD Veterans Moving to Colorado for Cannabis Relief

Colorado cannabis giveaway attracts about 1,000 veterans
Nearly 1,000 veterans stopped by a Colorado Springs hotel to learn about cannabis as an alternative to the plethora of prescription medication they take to subside pain from injuries and post-traumatic stress syndrome sustained during war.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
BY NICOLE HENSLEY
Published: Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marijuana seeds were just one of the items given away for free to Colorado veterans seeking alternative medication to treat physical and mental trauma.

The Saturday event attracted about 1,000 veterans to a Colorado Springs hotel to get a taste of cannabis products such as cookies in lieu of pills, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper.

“It isn’t going to hurt them as much as the prescription drugs,” Roger Martin, an Army veteran and director of Operation Grow4Vets, the nonprofit responsible for organizing the event, told the Gazette. “I just need something to take the pain away during the day.”

Nearly 20% of soldiers are coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, according to Veteran’s Affairs statistics. That number is even higher for those who served in Vietnam, which 30% of the veterans also suffer from the anxiety disorder.
read more here

Mexican Court to Consider Marine's PTSD on Gun Charges

Psychiatrist to examine Andrew Tahmooressi to determine whether he has PTSD
FOX News
By Dan Gallo
Published September 29, 2014

The trial of former Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi on gun charges in Mexico will take a new turn this week, one that will move the focus to the defendant's health.

A prosecution psychiatrist will be sworn in at Tijuana federal court Monday, empowering him to interview Tahmooressi to determine whether he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After being sworn in, the psychiatrist is expected to travel to the Tecate prison where Tahmooressi has been held for the last 6 months so he can make his own conclusions about whether Tahmooressi suffers from PTSD.

Tahmooressi attorney Fernando Benitez tells Fox News that the psychiatrist could interview Tahmooressi either on Monday afternoon or Tuesday. Benitez is optimistic that the psychiatrist will come to the same conclusion that the defense has: That Tahmooressi suffers from PTSD and cannot receive treatment for it in Mexico.

“There's no scientific way for him not to concur,” Benitez said Sunday. “He would have to find a completely different person to diverge from that diagnosis.”
read more here

Drone Pilots go from carnage to dinner table

Drone operators return to combat amid growing research they can suffer emotional strain, PTSD
Associated Press
Article by: JULIE WATSON
September 29, 2014
Then they might analyze the carnage and damage from bombings before driving home to eat dinner with their families and maybe play soccer with their children — a jarring shift that may contribute to stress, mental health experts say.

SAN DIEGO — President Barack Obama has assured Americans he opposes sending U.S. ground troops to crush Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria — well aware the country is not ready to return to the battlefield with its war wounded still recovering from a decade of conflict.

But airmen have been sent back into combat in the region with the focus on airstrikes, divided between fighter pilots and drone operators.

While drone operators are not physically in harm's way — they do their work at computer terminals in darkened rooms far from the actual battlefield — growing research is finding they too can suffer some of the emotional strains of war that ground forces face.

"It can be as impactful for these guys as someone in a foxhole," said Air Force spokesman Tom Kimball.
The Bush and Obama administrations have both used the 2001 authorization of force against al-Qaida to justify drone strikes against terror targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, drone operators pulled long shifts at U.S. bases, watching full-motion video across multiple screens. Some would follow the daily life of locals for months to assess threats before an airstrike was ordered.
read more here

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Weekend proves homeless veterans matter a lot

Hundreds of homeless vets get help in Orlando
Orlando Sentinel
By Caitlin Dineen
September 27, 2014

Tufts of salt-and-pepper hair fell past Michael Clancy's blue eyes and landed on his shoulders and the floor space around him.

Clancy, who turned 54 Friday, was one of more than 300 homeless veterans in the Orlando region looking for help Saturday.

Haircuts were just one of the eight types of services available at the annual Orlando Veterans Stand Down, which first started in 2008. The daylong event took place at the Downtown Orlando Recreational Center on North Parramore Avenue.

"My next haircut will be the next Stand Down," said the Navy veteran, who sat wrapped in a black salon cape with the toes of his blue-and-gray sneakers poking out.

The Stand Down was sponsored by the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center and partner agencies. Providing wraparound services is crucial to battling homelessness among veterans in Orlando and Central Florida, said VA officials.

"The combat field is a little bit different," said Ken Mueller, coordinator of health care for homeless veterans with the Orlando VA. "It's not the combat of war, but combat of the street."
read more here

"Stand down" helps homeless veterans get back up
KBOI 2 News Idaho
By Jacqulyn Powell
Published: Sep 27, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Around 200 of the Treasure Valley's homeless veterans got special care at Boise's Homeless Veteran Stand Down. The vets were given food, clothes, medical care, showers, haircuts and other gear they need for the winter.

In combat, the phrase "stand down" means a quick time to rest and get refitted before heading out to battle.

"The Homeless Veterans Stand Down is for homeless veterans that are struggling, that could use a little rest, some medical care, some basic needs and some gear to help them prepare for the winter," said John Porch, who works at Boise's Department of Veterans Affairs and serves as committee chair for the Homeless Veterans Stand Down.

At the event, struggling vets were offered heavy coats, boots and warm clothes. They were also given sleeping bags and sleeping mats to help keep them warm and dry over the next few months. All of it was retired military gear.

"I was in the Army for 12 years as an airborne infantryman, so I'm very familiar with all of this stuff," said Dough Strand, a homeless vet. "The military wouldn't let us keep any of it. But it's nice to get it now, because I need it now."
read more here


Homeless Veterans Get Help At “Stand Down” Event In Cherry Hill
CBS Philly
Hadas Kuznits
September 27, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of homeless veterans took advantage of the services provided at this year’s “Stand Down” event Friday at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill.

The goal of Stand Down 2014 is to help homeless U.S. war veterans re-enter mainstream society.

“They come through and they get a medical screening here, they get access to social services here.” says Jim Maher, chairman of Stand Down in South Jersey. “We give them a meal, we give them clothing, a haircut if they want, they get eyeglasses.”

Maher says while they provide services to take care of the veterans’ physical needs…

“It’s really important that they get the medical aspect of what they do,” he says, “and the social services.”
read more here

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington

Grit and granite: A monument to disabled veterans
Philly.com
Edward Colimore, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Sunday, September 28, 2014
"The country has finally separated the disdain for what politicians do with the military and the service member who sacrifices himself for his country," he said. "Our country loves the soldier and hates the war; that's a positive evolution."

At one point during the chaos and carnage of D-Day, the USS Frankford sailed so close to Omaha Beach that it scraped bottom.

The destroyer's big guns blasted German machine-gun positions and helped pinned-down GIs advance on June 6, 1944, when all seemed lost.

Tom Potts, then a teenager from Moorestown, was manning an antiaircraft gun on the Frankford's deck amid the cacophony of fire - and lost most of his hearing that day 70 years ago.

After numerous surgeries and hearing aids, the now-89-year-old from Upper Pittsgrove, Salem County, still has trouble following conversations and is among four million disabled service members who returned home with the lingering effects of war.

Next Sunday, all of them will be honored with the dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington.

The 2.4-acre triangular site - across from the U.S. Botanic Garden and about 1,000 feet from the Capitol - uses granite and glass to communicate the strength and vulnerability of service members. read more here

Also some more on this story

Actor Gary Sinise champions disabled veterans' memorial
AUGUST 24, 2014

Sinise tells "Face the Nation" about his involvement with the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which is nearing completion.

Vietnam veterans overdue welcome home

Lost Homecoming gives Vietnam veterans overdue welcome home
Sun Herald
BY PATRICK OCHS
September 27, 2014
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD
Vietnam veteran Paul Norvel attends Pass Christian's Vietnam Veterans Homecoming and Appreciation event on Saturday at War Memorial Park. At left, veterans salute during the singing of the National Anthem. The event recognized Vietnam veterans around the Coast and paid tribute to their sacrifices and contributions while serving their country.

PASS CHRISTIAN -- Russell Nichols spent 11 months, 20 days and six hours in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps. When he returned home, he was spat on, cussed at and called things like baby killer and murderer.

He wasn't alone. Many of his fellow soldiers were shown anything but respect.

With yellow ribbons wrapped tightly around the trees and a row of American flags flapping in the breeze, South Mississippi turned out Saturday at War Memorial Park to give Nichols and 70-plus other Vietnam veterans the proper homecoming they never received 40 years ago.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," state Sen. Philip Moran told the assembled veterans, many proudly wearing clothing from their military branch.

"Because of the times, you did not come home and brag about your bravery. You did not brag about what you had done for us," former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said. "You kept it to yourself. I think ceremonies like this give us the opportunity to recognize your bravery, to thank you."
read more here

Scenes from Lost Homecoming ceremony honoring Vietnam vets

You Don't Have to Fight PTSD Alone

Combat PTSD: Don't Fight Your Own Inner Struggle Alone
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 28, 2014

Most veterans have no problem with the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They know what PTSD means and why they ended up being changed by their military service. They know it is a price they paid for risking their lives for their military brothers. They made peace with all of it including the fact they can never be cured of it. What they could not reverse, they learned how to cope with it enough to take the power away from it.

They still have nightmares and flashbacks, but they happen less often growing weaker over time. They still have the same stressors setting them off but know how to recover faster. Their mind calendar still remembers anniversary dates but they see those days coming ahead of time. Able to prepare for the sadness of the event days in combat, they are no longer freaked out when they come.

They no longer isolate as if they have a reason to hide or are not worth being helped. They sought out other veterans, joined their "family" groups, found support and understanding after finally giving up on "fitting in" with people who will never be able to understand them. Life got better.

For others, well, they don't understand PTSD, so it is very hard to accept the words behind the letters PTSD. Put those letters to these words.

Painful Transition from Stressful Deployments.


While you may think changing the term is necessary to remove the stigma, you're wrong. You could call it anything you want but it is still what it is and there is nothing to be ashamed of having it. That is if you really understand what it is and where it came from. Came from? Yes, you didn't do it to yourself and it isn't something you were born with. It hit you. It hits roughly a third of combat veterans from one degree to another because it comes in different levels.

It also hits at different times. Most of the time you may not even be aware of when it started. Since combat comes with multiple traumatic events, it is often one on top of another. Sometimes you are able to shove it into the back of your mind, filling your days with other things leaving you no time to acknowledge the pain during the day and so exhausted at the end of the day, you pass out. Maybe you drink to cover up what your nerves are doing or to stop being agitated. All this just allows PTSD to fester and feed off your spirit robbing you of joyous emotions.

If you are so busy covering up what is painful, how can you find time to enjoy life?

Have you thought "Nobody cares" about you?

An Iraq veteran in Whitehouse Texas felt that way. He tried to commit suicide one night on a road near Lake Tyler. When Police Officer Sgt. Shawn Johnson found him covered in blood, the event was recorded by dashcam video.
On the video, the officers can be heard talking with the man and asking him why he wanted to end his life. When he tells them he feels nobody cares about him they respond, "We care. If we didn't care we wouldn't be here, right?"

He had used a broken beer bottle to cut himself and was losing a lot of blood.

"(We) went and spoke with him and as I was talking with him, he moved his arm and then I could actually see blood start, you know, coming out rather quickly," Johnson recalled.

Minutes went by as they, along with Tyler police officers, awaited EMS.

It isn't that nobody cares. Plenty of people do. You just haven't met them yet. Think about it this way. You know there are billionaires and millionaires in this country. Have you met any? Does that mean they don't exist? No, they are very real. They just haven't been where you were. Same thing with people caring about what happens to you. They care without even knowing your name.

Suicides tied to military service are horrible. All suicides are however when they come after a man or woman has managed to survive combat cannot survive being home, that screams a multitude of sins committed against them.

The sins did not belong to them but all of us.

Marine Clay Hunt committed suicide after doing everything right on his part. He went to the VA, became an advocate for other veterans. He didn't stop there. He became part of TEAM Rubicon going out on missions following natural disasters.
Although he battled post-traumatic stress disorder, he had 'turned his life around' and thrown himself into charity work and lobbying.

His mother, Susan Selke, told CNN: 'In my mind he is a casualty of war. But he died here instead of over there. He died as a result of his war experience. There is no doubt in my mind.' His death will not be counted as an official military suicide by the Pentagon, because he left the Marines in 2009.

Doctor needs to explain what comes after seeking help when so many have been failed. The military fails them then turns around claiming year after year what they are doing is working. Ok then, why are there so many still committing suicides just as the number of enlisted goes down as well? Why have the number of veterans committing suicide increasing?

They say peer support works best and that is very true but what they don't say is too often the "peer" has no clue what PTSD is or what can help, who can help or how to get any of it beyond a waiting line at the VA and a pocket full of pills.

There are things that do work but the first one is far too often the most ignored one.
Spirituality Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it's about participating in organized religion: going to church, synagogue, a mosque, etc. For others, it's more personal: Some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks.

Research shows that even skeptics can't stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. As the brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally look for patterns, and then seek out meaning in those patterns. And the phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it.

Humans can't help but ask big questions—the instinct seems wired in our minds.

It isn't up to anyone to judge if you need to be forgiven or not. That is your own inner struggle just as much as if you need to forgive someone else. Often there is nothing you did wrong but you may believe you did.
Survivor guilt is very powerful.
High on that list of emotions is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home-- survivor guilt being perhaps the kind most familiar to us. In war, standing here rather than there can save your life but cost a buddy his. It's flukish luck, but you feel responsible. The guilt begins an endless loop of counterfactuals-thoughts that you could have or should have done otherwise, though in fact you did nothing wrong. The feelings are, of course, not restricted to the battlefield. But given the magnitude of loss in war, they hang heavy there and are pervasive. And they raise the question of just how irrational those feelings are, and if they aren't, of what is the basis of their reasonableness.

Start with that. Asking why you are still here is the beginning but it shouldn't be the end. If you do not ask yourself the basic questions, you will not make peace with the guilt you feel.

Be honest. Think about what happened. Where were you, what were you doing and what else was happening?

Often a veteran will say "I should have been watching him" when the truth is, they were watching where the bullets were coming from and trying to stop them from coming. Reality sucks but the reality is humans cannot look everywhere at the same time.

Whatever happened, think about it all the way. Even if you come to the conclusion you could have done something differently, which happens a lot, that shouldn't be the answer you settle for. The big question is, would it have changed anything?

"I would have jumped in front of the bullet and saved him" comes out a lot. Unless you had ESP and super human reactions, that really wasn't a possibility.

Thinking you were responsible only shows how deeply you cared.

The very fact you are hurting now proves you cared then and now. Evil people don't give a damn about anyone but themselves. Folks joining the military need to care. You wouldn't have joined if you didn't care in the first place and cared a hell of alot more than your friends did when they decided to just do what they wanted to for their own sake.

That is the biggest reason why you feel as if you don't fit in with them anymore. You don't but if you think about it, you never really did or they would have joined too. You were different then and different now as a veteran. That is a big key in healing. You are not different from other veterans no matter what war they fought in.


You are not as alone as you think you are. You just haven't found them yet. Use the internet for veterans groups in your area. Try the established groups like the DAV, VFW, American Legion and all the others.

Here's the link for local chapters of the DAV Getting involved in your local DAV Chapter is one of the many ways you can reach out to fellow veterans in your community.
DAV Chapter members usually meet monthly to network and discuss issues of importance to veterans and the organization. Legislation, volunteer efforts and community projects are among the topics discussed, as well as upcoming events and activities. Chapters often hold formal ritual ceremonies in which new members are inducted into the organization.

Link to local Posts of the VFW
WE KNOW WHAT'S IMPORTANT
OUR MISSION:To foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military, and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans.

OUR VISION: Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.

OUR CORE VALUES:

Always put the interests of our members first
Treat donors as partners in our cause
Promote patriotism
Honor military service
Ensure the care of veterans and their families
Serve our communities
Promote a positive image of the VFW
Respect the diversity of veteran opinions

Link to Post of the American Legion
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans.

If you Google "Veteran Support Groups" you'll find 10,700,000 results. They all care. They all know what you are going through because they did too.

The older veterans faced not fitting back in with people they knew after Vietnam. What made it worse for them was that they didn't even fit in with other veterans. They were totally isolated but that wasn't the end of their story. They ended up heading all the groups above. If you think they won't get what you are dealing with, think about what they came home to.

Here is the link to Vietnam Veterans of America for local chapters.
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families.

By the late 1970s, it was clear the established veterans groups had failed to make a priority of the issues of concern to Vietnam veterans. As a result, a vacuum existed within the nation's legislative and public agenda. In January 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists came to Washington, D.C., searching for allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of Vietnam veterans. VVA, initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, began its work. At the end of its first year of operation in 1979, the total assets were $46,506.

"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."

You are not alone and you are worthy of living a better life than you are right now.
You are not alone!

A single bullet ended the 5 hour standoff after years of service

Veterans Surviving Combat Unable to Survive Police?
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 28, 2014

There have been far too many cases across the country of Police vs Veterans leaving veterans dead instead of helped and police officers struggling after pulling the trigger.

Police in Las Cruces New Mexico have just identified the officer who shot Army Sgt. William Smith. A single bullet ended the 5 hour standoff.
We can keep asking why it is happening but the answer is already right in front of us.
Smith's father said he'd have moments of uncontrollable fits of anger. ABC-7 spoke with a doctor with the Ft. Bliss restoration and resilience center, she says one of the very first steps in treatment is recognizing that you have PTSD.

The doctor said it's not a one size diagnosis, it's like cancer, there's different treatments, different levels of severity. The treatments are not easy, there is no magic pill, she added.

What good does it do to acknowledge you have PTSD when you do not get what you need to heal it? Do they ever answer that question?

In July a Kentucky National Guardsman Justin Neil Davis was killed after going for help.
Germantown Police describe scene that led up to vet's shooting death
Members of GPD’s Crisis Intervention Team got to the park at 9:50 p.m. but, despite their attempt to talk with Davis over a loudspeaker and by cellphone, he threatened to shoot at them and “made statements about killing himself.” He asked them to turn off their bright lights.

Then Davis pointed the barrel of the rifle out the passenger side window toward police. Three officers opened fire, hitting Davis multiple times.

When the ambulance got to the park at 10:05 p.m., he was dead.

Davis, a veteran of the Kentucky National Guard, had served two tours in Iraq, the most recent ending in 2012, according to guard records.

Before his fatal encounter with police, Davis struggled with alcohol abuse and was released from a 30-day rehabilitation program in September, according to divorce papers filed by his wife in October. His father, a Navy veteran, died in February. By March, Davis was without a job.

Vallandinghan said Davis had an appointment at the Memphis VA Medical Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to have an MRI on his back, and that while he was there, told VA staff he was having suicidal thoughts.

After leaving, Vallandinghan said, he texted friends and family to say goodbye.

Jacinto Zavala, was killed by police in Colorado at the age of 21. "Possibly" suicidal Iraq war veteran dead after officer-involved shooting in Wichita, KS and the list goes on all over the country and all over years of veterans being told what the first step is without any followup.

But it isn't just young veterans being failed. It happens to older veterans too.

It happened in 2011
A 50-year-old Gresham man who was killed in a confrontation with police was a career serviceman who spent the last two years trying to raise money and respect for veterans.

Anthony L. McDowell, an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves and the founder of a nonprofit supporting veterans, was killed outside his home in the 24000 block of Southeast Oak Street in Gresham on Monday evening.

Officer John Rasmussen, spokesman for Gresham police, said McDowell's wife, Teresa, called police right before 7 p.m., saying her husband was suicidal.

"Prior to our arrival, a family member had already taken a weapon away from him," Rasmussen said. "He did rearm himself with a rifle."

Two Portland police officers fired 12 gunshots at Thomas Higginbotham on Jan. 2 when they say the homeless man inside an abandoned Southeast Portland car wash walked toward them holding a knife with an 8-inch blade.

Higginbotham, 67, was struck 10 times and died from wounds to the chest and abdomen, according to grand jury records released Friday
It happened in 2010
A Baldwin police officer shot Edward Zevola Sr., 61, at his home Tuesday night on Songo Street, a quiet hilltop enclave of two-story homes and swimming pools above Streets Run Road.

Police said Zevola's wife called them about 9 p.m. to say the two argued and Zevola threatened her with a gun. She told police she feared he was suicidal or willing to kill someone.

Scott said Zevola was in and out of psychiatric treatment at the VA hospital for the past year.

What is worse is that it has been happening for decades. It is still happening during a time when there has never been more claims made about what is being done to help them. Astonishing.

PTSD May Be Added To New Jersey Medical Marijuana List

If our Federal Government would approve it, then maybe the VA would step up as well.
Bill to Add PTSD to New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program Filed in Assembly
The Daily Chronic
By Scott Gacek
September 27, 2014
Studies conducted in Israel — where medical marijuana was allowed beginning in 2005, and has since become a dominant leader in medical marijuana research fueled by Israel’s strong research sector in medicine and technology, have found that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is “safe and well tolerated by patients with chronic PTSD.”

TRENTON, NJ — A bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in New Jersey was filed Monday.

The bill, Assembly Bill 3726, is sponsored by Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) and Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union).

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually, including many military veterans returning from combat as well as victims of violent crimes, such as rape.

To date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

“[We] have long hoped that PTSD would be the first condition that would be added to qualify for marijuana therapy in New Jersey,” said Ken Wolski, Executive Director for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.
“PTSD is poorly managed by traditional pharmacologic intervention–22 veterans commit suicide every day here in the U.S.”

“Our veterans deserve the best healthcare available and that includes marijuana therapy,” Wolski added.

“CMMNJ is committed to efforts to add PTSD and other mental and emotional conditions to the New Jersey list of qualifying conditions ASAP.” read more here

Saturday, September 27, 2014

YMCA Urban Warriors Pairs Veterans with Kids

War Vets, Kids Scarred by Gangs Help Each Other
CHICAGO
By SHARON COHEN AP National Writer
Sep 27, 2014

Jorge Maya sat in a circle at his neighborhood YMCA, a sturdy Afghanistan vet listening to a group of teenage boys scarred by gang violence.

There was Sammy, 16, who could describe the times he'd dodged gunfire, once ducking behind a tree.

Anderson, 17, who'd been around gangs most of his life. By his teens, he was carrying knives and bricks for protection.

And 14-year-old Fernando, who was just 12 when a pistol-wielding kid killed his friend.

Maya's own story was much the same. He'd grown up on the same streets, faced the same dangers, known the same temptations. He'd escaped Little Village, the largely Mexican community that had been home. He eventually joined the Army, trading one violent place for another, a war zone far away. And when he returned, he felt lost.

Now he was at the Y, sitting with other Afghanistan and Iraq vets and these teens, the two groups bound by a history of violence and trauma — on distant battlefields, nearby street corners or both.

They were the first class of a new YMCA-sponsored pilot program, Urban Warriors. For a dozen Saturdays, the two generations opened their hearts and minds, the vets finding new purpose after the war, the kids drawing guidance from mentors who understood their lives.

"I told them I've been through tough times," Maya says. "I've been shot. I dropped out of high school. I'd say, 'Look man, you can do something different with yourself. If I can do it, you can, too.'... There is hope."
read more here

Navy Veteran has "home for life" because people cared

Navy veteran in danger of becoming homeless allowed to keep his home
WXYZ News
Jane Park
Sep 26, 2014

HAMBURG TOWNSHIP - Ross Dahlberg admits his Hamburg Township home is too big for one person. But he says he wouldn't want to be anywhere else - it's the home he shared with his wife until the divorce two years ago.

"I cry a lot. I miss her," Dahlberg said.

The split was tough on him. He eventually fell behind on mortgage payments and being in and out of the hospital didn't help.

In March, Dahlberg's home was foreclosed and sold at a sheriff's auction.

Friday, Sept. 26 would have been the end of the six-month redemption period. Dahlberg and his beloved dog, Schatz, would have been out on the streets.

The story takes a turn with Josh Parish, a veterans benefits counselor with the Livingston County Veterans Services department. He gets many calls for help, but the one he got from Dahlberg six months ago was different.
read more here

Watchfire Burns for the Missing

Watchfire Burns for those Missing in Action
Ithaca.com
By Chris Hooker
September 27, 2014
Remembering the Missing
ROTC members from three colleges showed up to light the symbolic beacon for missing soldiers on the shore of Cayuga Lake.

A bonfire burned brightly Friday night at Myers Point Park in Lansing, but to veterans everywhere, it was something much more symbolic.

Last week, September 19, the Finger Lakes Chapter #377 of the Vietnam Veterans of America held their 24th Annual Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Watch Fire at 7 p.m. The watch fire was held in commemoration of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The watch fire is an enormous bonfire that can be seen from afar, and especially across the lake from Myers Point Park. The watch fire aspect of National POW/MIA Recognition Day is not just a Lansing thing, as cities and towns all of America honor those who are still listed as a prisoner of war and missing in action in the same way.

"It’s the recognition of MIAs and POWs," said organizer Danny Baker, of Vietnam Veterans of America. "There are still people missing from Vietnam, Korea, World War II, Korea and Afghanistan. It’s just a way to bring attention that there are still people missing, so politicians won’t forget."
read more here

Firefighters and Vietnam Veteran Rush to Save People Trapped by Fire

Huntsville firefighters, Vietnam veteran rescue residents trapped in apartment fire
Al.com
By Jonathan Grass
September 26, 2014
Huntsville firefighters rescued two people from an upstairs unit when a fire broke out at Redbrick Square Apartments on Friday. Some residents fled the building by jumping from the upstairs windows.
(Jonathan Grass/jgrass@al.com)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A fire in a north Huntsville apartment complex left residents fleeing the building anyway they could, even if that meant through the second story windows. When two of those residents didn't get out, firefighters went in and pulled them to safety.

Fire crews arrived at Redbrick Square Apartments at 2216 North Memorial Parkway at about 6 p.m. to find heavy smoke coming from a downstairs unit. That smoke traveled the halls throughout the building. Huntsville Fire and Rescue spokesman Capt. Frank McKenzie said everyone had gotten out at that point except two women in the unit directly above the one on fire.


A neighbor in the complex came to the rescue of another woman trying to escape to the ground below. Billy Smith said he smelled the smoke and followed it to the building where his friend lived. He saw his friend had already made it out safe but a woman was trying to get down to the ground. The Vietnam veteran said he grabbed her legs and helped her down.
read more here

VIDEO: US troops sent to advise Afghan forces drawn into firefight

VIDEO: US troops sent to advise Afghan forces drawn into firefight
Stars and Stripes
By Jad Sleiman
Published: September 26, 2014

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Earlier this month, Dragon Troop returned to Combat Outpost Kherwar, which was turned over to the Afghan National Army in 2011, to help coordinate a major clearance operation against Taliban forces in the area.

They were the first American soldiers to set foot in this remote corner of Logar province in more than three years. Deployed to support an Afghan battalion, they did not intend to engage in combat. The Taliban, however, had other plans for them.

When early success against the militants left the Afghans with more territory than they could control, Gen. Abdul Raziq asked the Americans to cover for the last days of the mission.

The Americans agreed to help, and their advise-and-assist mission quickly turned to open combat.

“Our role wasn’t really to fight,” said Lt. Graham Hennig, a platoon leader with Dragon Troop. “It just so happened that the fight crept it’s way up to us.”
read more here

Marine's Best Friend Lost Limb to Save Him

A Marine's Best Friend
Parade
SEPTEMBER 27, 2014

Military dogs are often our troops’ first line of defense, sniffing out hidden bombs in some of the most dangerous places on earth. This excerpt from the new book Top Dog by Maria Goodavage recalls the ­sacrifice and bravery of a smart German Shepherd–­Belgian Malinois mix, who led Special Forces ­soldiers onto a battlefield in Afghanistan’s Helmand River valley in March of 2012. But it also captures the loyalty and trust that develop between a dog and her handler and the deep, loving bond that lasts a lifetime.
Rod never left Lucca's side as she recovered from surgery.
(Courtesy of Juan Rodgriguez)
Marine Cpl. Juan “Rod” Rodriguez crunched across the dry farm field, his right hand resting on the M4 rifle strapped to his chest. He kept clear of the path that meandered through hard clumps of dirt that looked nothing like the rich soil of his New England roots. The road less traveled—ideally, no road at all—was the safest from homemade bombs sowed by the Taliban.

Rod watched his dog Lucca, who was 30 feet ahead, inspecting for IEDs. Unlike much of the agricultural land around here, this field was barren. In the distance, a compound, a tree line, some worn-down mountains.

Rod could see Lucca trotting with a purpose, nose down, tail up. She was an old pro at the business of sniffing IEDs off leash. “Good girl, Mama Lucca,” he said under his breath.

Lucca Bear. Lucca Pie. Bearcat Jones. Mama Lucca. The Special Forces ­soldiers Rod was working with had come to know Lucca by all the terms of endearment she had inspired during her career. She had led more than 400 missions, and no one had been hurt by an IED when they were with her.

Mama Lucca was the name that had stuck lately. She was the only one that the Green Berets felt comfortable hugging after a tough day. The maternal moniker was a natural fit.
A cloud of gray smoke erupted before Rod heard the explosion. “No!” Rod shouted, squeezing his helmet between his hands. Radios around him buzzed into a frenzy, but he didn’t hear words. As the curtain of debris curled away, he could see Lucca had dragged herself up and was standing, dazed, alive. Rod dashed toward her, not thinking about IEDs that might be between them. Lucca could take only a few steps before Rod swept her up in his arms.

A History of Canines in Combat
When called, these tail-wagging warriors ­became battlefield heroes

Sgt. Stubby served through 17 battles in World War I, leading medics to the wounded and saving his regiment from a gas attack. He made the front page of newspapers back home when he caught a German spy literally by the seat of his pants.

Smoky, a Yorkie discovered in a foxhole in New Guinea during World War II, accompanied Cpl. William A. Wynne (often riding in his backpack) for nearly two years through the South Pacific. When Wynne was hospitalized, Smoky lifted the spirits of other patients and even went on rounds. She’s considered the first therapy dog.

Nemo protected his handler, Robert Thorneburg, during a fight with Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Despite a gunshot wound and an injury that would lead to the loss of his eye, the 85-pound German Shepherd crawled on top of his injured handler until help ­arrived.
read more here

Georgia Korean War Veteran Had to Prove He's Not Dead Yet

VA declares living Korean War veteran dead, stops benefits: report
William Maroney, of Henry County, Ga., needed his medical insurance more than ever after his wife of 65 years died and his health took a turn for the worse. But Veterans Affairs declared the 82-year-old grandfather dead instead, which reportedly halted the benefits until his family brought their woes to the media.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
BY MICHAEL WALSH
September 26, 2014

A Korean War veteran's much-need disability benefits and medical insurance were cut off when he was inexplicably declared dead, his family said.

William Maroney, 82, is still alive but not doing well and needs coverage while he is bound to his bed at a nursing home in Henry County, Ga., WSB-TV reported.

His health deteriorated after his wife of 65 years passed away on June 9 but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs thought he died, according to his granddaughter Bridgett Maroney.

"They think he's dead. They told me this man is deceased," Maroney told the local ABC affiliate. "I said,

'No ma'am, he is not deceased, he is sitting right here in front of me.'"
"I called a hundred different numbers, (and) everybody rerouted me to other numbers and stuff," she said.

So she contacted WSB-TV who ran a story on the mix-up Thursday night. Afterward, the Veterans Affairs' Atlanta regional office sent a statement to the station saying that the issue has been resolved.
read more here

Marine facing involuntary manslaughter charges

New Info: Marine charged in fatal April shooting at Camp Lejeune gates
WNCT News
By WNCT STAFF
Sep 26, 2014

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A Camp Lejeune Marine has been charged in the apparent negligent shooting by another Marine aboard Camp Lejeune in April.

9 On Your Side reported back then that Lance Cpl. Mark Boterf, 21, was killed after being shot while guarding the bases' gates.

Lieutenant Adam Flores at Camp Lejeune now confirms that Lance Cpl. Brandon Little is facing involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty charges in Boterf's death.

Flores tells us Little is a field artillery cannoneer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment. He has awards including the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
read more here
Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Happily Ever After Marines Marry on Battleship

Marines marry on historic Battleship Texas
Wedding almost didn't happen after bride suffered hip injury in boot camp
Click2Houston
Author: Keith Garvin, Anchor/Reporter
Published On: Sep 26 2014

LA PORTE, Texas
The setting: The historic Battleship Texas on the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. The occasion: A wedding complete with an arch on the bow of the ship. Oh, and don't forget the beaming mother of the bride.

"I'm very happy and Kasey's awesome and she's really happy," said the bride's mother, Linda Hann. "You know, that's what we want for our kids."

Lance Cpl. Kasey Graham, from Tarkington Prairie in Liberty County, met his bride, Pvt. Mallory Curtner of Conroe, at a local Marine recruiting station earlier this year.
read more here
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Veterans Victimized by Congressional Ambivalence

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 27, 2014

Why do we keep asking why instead of "why not" when things go wrong. We have a huge problem with settling for the obviously easy answers.

The headline over at the Houston Chronicle "White House intruder seen as victim of Iraq war" is a great example of that. The story of Omar Gonzalez captured national attention because he was filmed hoping over the fence at the White House, outrunning Secret Service and dogs. What most people missed was that he has PTSD, is an amputee and happens to be a homeless veteran.

Sig Christenson wrote "Those close to Gonzalez, veterans and experts familiar with the effect on troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan say Gonzalez likely is a casualty of war. Thousands of veterans suffer post-traumatic stress, and experts have said not enough is being done to help them." What Christenson didn't seem able to explain was why he put "victim" in the title.

Gonzalez is not a "victim of war" but is a survivor of it.

No veteran is a "victim" of anything other than when they are victimized by Congressional ambivalence.

Ambivalence: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action

They have sunk to a new low when they decided to leave Washington when we are yet again on the brink of war in Iraq and Syria hanging like the Sword of Damocles. They did a lot of talking over the years as everything got worse. They also did a lot of spending on stupid stuff that really didn't work. They just kept writing the checks to fund FUBAR like Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and "Resilience Training" no one seemed able to show one single shred of proof it worked before they bought it. It was a research project to give school aged kids a better self image of themselves.
RAND Corp told Congress they had better pay attention to PTSD Afghanistan and Iraq veterans in 2008.
RAND researchers extrapolated from a survey they conducted of 1,965 vets to conclude that nearly 300,000 service members and vets of Iraq and Afghanistan were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — PTSD — or major depression. Filner told the pair of researchers, who summarized their findings for his committee, that their work probably understated the problem.

In 2013 RAND issued the most damaging report of all. The "programs" didn't work.

List of Resilience Programs Reviewed by RAND
Christenson wrote that "A little more than 1.8 million troops have served in one or both theaters of war, and 60 percent of the war veterans have received VA health care since 2002. They were screened upon returning from the war zone, having face-to-face interviews with health-care providers, but troops still must disclose their concerns." but here is the truth on that.
Since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, about 2.5 million members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and related Reserve and National Guard units have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to Department of Defense data. Of those, more than a third were deployed more than once.

That report from March of 2013 also stated
"As of last September, more than 1.6 million military members who’d been deployed in what’s classified as the global war on terror – in Iraq and Afghanistan, primarily – had transitioned to veteran status, VA records show. Of those, about 1 million were from active-duty service and about 675,000 from Reserve or guard deployments.

And of those, about 670,000 veterans have been awarded disability status connected to their military service. Another 100,000 have their initial claims pending, according to a November VA analysis.

As for screenings, the don't really do that either. The Senate Armed Services Committee held hearing after hearing with the Joint Vice Chiefs of Staff and were told that they were doing pre-deployment screenings.
The GAO Report Mental Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Screening Efforts Implemented, but Consistent Pre-Deployment Medical Record Review Policies Needed" but the Generals admitted that while they were doing pre-deployment screenings, they were not doing post-deployment screenings. The excuse was they did not have enough time or mental health workers. They also stated they were getting too many "false-positive" results.
This is what they were talking about in 2010, four years ago.

The military leaders have attempted time and time again to point the finger at the troops instead of what they were doing to them. Nice trick if people settled for their response however the truth has been out there for years. Too many people made the choice to ignore the obvious.

People keep wondering why there are so many suicides but the question asked by those among us paying attention is, "Why aren't there more of them?"

Actually there are many more.

The DOD no longer has to count the ones we call veterans. Once they are out of the military, they are not an issue for the DOD, not that it mattered when they were. They fall under the Department of Veterans Affairs.

When the "22 veteran suicides a day" is quoted the edited portion is, 21 states were part of the study leaving out California, Texas and Florida and is only an average of the participating states. The numbers came from certificates of death and not from the VA. Within the VA database among the 4 million veterans they treat, there are an additional 1,000 a month attempting suicide. While most seem to only want to see this happening among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans the bitter truth is that 78% of the suicides are 50 and older.

The numbers are only a fraction of what we will never know for sure. The only people with the right numbers are the families. Most of them still feel as if they have something to be ashamed of, so they don't talk publicly about what happened.

That's all the bad parts. There is still another "why not" question we keep missing. Why have so many not committed suicide and found what they needed to heal?

Most veterans with PTSD do not commit suicide. They were finally able to see within themselves the healing property of truth. They had no evil intention when they decided to join and risk their lives. They didn't risk their lives for any other reason than a deep devotion to those they served with.
Sure we can settle for "their country needed them" but the truth is, we needed all of them to retain the freedom obtained by those who risked all in the 1700's and long before as members of the National Guards called the Minute Men

They paid a price because they cared so deeply feeling the events more extremely. They used that same strength of emotions within them to heal then managed to yet again push past their own pain to help other veterans.

Some get to witness this all the time when attending veterans events or spending time with groups. While far too many veterans seem to seek nothing more than "fitting" back in with people who will never understand them, more seek to return to the brotherhood of those bonded to battle. There is no judgement or shame among them. They are understood by other veterans. They are support by those who share the experience of what others simply write about. The least we can do for these men and women is taking the time to get it right.