Monday, May 20, 2019

Four widowed Police Officer's wives speak to #BreakTheSilence

Widows Of Police Suicide Speak Out

May 18, 2019
Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday

More police officers now die by suicide than in the line of duty. NPR's Scott Simon talks with the widows of four officers who took their own lives about losing their husbands to suicide.

There is a suicide crisis in the United States. We're going to talk about it frankly, and our story may disturb some listeners. If you feel you're in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.

The national suicide rate has increased by nearly 30 percent since 1999 in this blessed America. There are now more than twice as many suicides in the United States as homicides. Many involve drugs, drinking or depression, losing a job, a loved one, or stress. But experts say there is no one, two or 10 causes.

We have a story today to begin a series of reports about some of the people touched by suicide.
SIMON: Seven Chicago police officers have taken their own lives in the past 12 months. Father Brandt goes out to crime scenes and station houses if officers feel the need to talk to a priest, if not a therapist. Across the country, at least 159 officers died by suicide in 2018.

Kristen Clifford's husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn't responding to her text messages, so she drove home.

Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son's second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.

Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.

Nicole Rikard had recently married Officer John Rikard of the Asheville, N.C., police. He was a recovering alcoholic, but he drank the night he took his life. She got a phone call from one of his lieutenants.
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Veteran saving lives because PTSD service dog saved his

Vet-founded Companions for Heroes has saved 3,300+ from suicide with shelter animal program

American Military News
May 20, 2019
"I got pissed at God,” Sharpe told American Military News of his friend’s suicide
Jason Sturm and "Sassy" paired by Companions For Heroes. (Companions for Heroes/Facebook)
Veteran suicide is no stranger to David Sharpe, an Air Force veteran and founder of Companions for Heroes, a nonprofit that helps American heroes by providing them a trained service animal rescued from a shelter, free of charge.

Losing his own two close friends to suicide and nearly taking his own life set him on a mission to reach struggling veterans like himself nearly 10 years ago.

Sharpe was struggling with the death of his friends and incidents during his Middle East deployments with the U.S. Air Force Security Forces, which included coming face to face with a Taliban sympathizer’s weapon.
“I got a 45 pistol, charged it and put the barrel in my mouth, as I’m squeezing the trigger, my rescue Pit bull walked through the door,” he explained.
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Mom of "Lone Soldier" "No other soldier should come back in a casket


Jerusalem Post Israel News
MAY 20, 2019
But the annual State Comptroller report has found major deficiencies in how the military deals with lone soldiers whose needs the IDF has not fully examined.

"No other soldier should come back in a casket."

When Michaela (Mica) Levit joined the Israeli military in November of 2017, her parents knew she was going to be a fighter, but last week she was found dead outside her base in central Israel.

“We knew she wasn’t going to go anywhere else in the army,” her mother Orit Levit told The Jerusalem Post. “She told us she wasn’t going to Israel to be a secretary, she wanted to be a fighter. We knew that if she was going, she wouldn’t do anything else.”

Levit described her daughter as “full of life, positive and happy,” as someone who was always encouraging and supporting her friends in times of need and the life of the party and “glue of the group” during the happier moments.

“She loved everyone, she never had bad word to say... She was so good to her family, never wanted us to worry, to disappoint us. She was an angel.”

What happened “wasn’t anything we expected of her,” Orit said.

“I never felt she was isolated in Israel, she had the support of extended family. She had so many invitations and she told me 'Mum, sometimes I feel bad that I want to stay home on the weekends.’”

And it wasn’t only family, Orit said. “A lot of her friends are sending condolences and [saying] that their hearts are broken and that they will never meet another person like her... She had a community.”

Orit’s middle child, Mica, moved to Israel in June 2017 and settled at Kibbutz Kinneret, where she took ulpan classes before joining the IDF through the Garin Tzabar program in November, drafting into the mixed Caracal combat battalion. She had just moved to an apartment with other lone soldiers in Hadera and was going through the army’s team leader training course (Course Makim) when she took her life.
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This is what a "Lone Soldier" is
LONE SOLDIERSA “lone soldier” is a soldier in the IDF with no family in Israel to support him or her: a new immigrant, a volunteer from abroad, an orphan or an individual from a broken home.

Every day tens of thousands of soldiers are defending the State of Israel and its citizens. These soldiers regularly spend weekends and holidays at home where their parents provide for all of their needs: food, laundry, and even a hug. Challenges for a lone soldier arise when he or she leaves base. While Israeli-born lone soldiers have their families to return home to, lone soldiers are left to fend for themselves while on leave from the army. This can be once a month, or every weekend, depending on where they serve and what part of training they are in. For more than 7,000 lone soldiers, there is no immediate family in Israel to support them. Though highly motivated and proud to serve, when on leave, many of them struggle with basic needs that a family would solve.

Family searching for answers after US-born IDF lone soldier dies by suicide


CIA Stars should not be defined by how they died

A CIA suicide sparks hard questions about the agency’s Memorial Wall

The Washington Post
By Ian Shapira
May 19, 2019

The CIA Memorial Wall in the main lobby of the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., pays tribute to operatives who “gave their lives in the service of their country.” (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

She had spent the year in Afghanistan targeting senior al-Qaeda and Taliban members from one of the CIA’s most important bases.

Ranya Abdelsayed was less than 48 hours away from returning to the United States in 2013 when a colleague found her body in her bed at the agency’s Gecko Firebase in Kandahar. At 34, she had shot herself in the head.

The next year, Abdelsayed was honored with a black star on the CIA’s vaunted Memorial Wall, which pays tribute to members of the CIA who, its inscription reads, “gave their lives in the service of their country.”

On Tuesday, the CIA will hold its annual ceremony to recognize the fallen, unveiling new stars on the increasingly crowded wall. But not everyone agrees that Abdelsayed — one of at least 19 CIA deaths in Afghanistan during the longest war in U.S. history — deserved that honor. Of the 129 men and women given stars, she is the only one to have died by suicide.

Nicholas Dujmovic, a longtime CIA historian who retired in 2016, said that Abdelsayed’s inclusion violates the agency’s own criteria — and that her star “must absolutely come off the wall.”

The famed memorial, he said, is reserved for deaths that are “of an inspirational or heroic character” or are the result of enemy actions or hazardous conditions. But, in addition to Abdelsayed’s, some stars have been awarded to operatives who died in airplane or vehicle accidents that had no connection with the dangers of their assignments.

“There’s been an erosion of understanding in CIA leadership for at least two decades about what the wall is for and who is it that we’re commemorating,” said Dujmovic, who has researched multiple agency deaths to see whether they meet the criteria for inclusion on the wall. “Now we have a suicide star on the wall. That’s not what the wall is for. Suicide is a great tragedy, of course. But the purpose of the wall is not to show compassion to the family. It’s to show who in our community is worthy of this honor.”
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Worthy of this honor? Is that really what he said in denying inclusion of this star for a woman who faithfully served the CIA? 

He also said that the wall was to show "compassion" to the family but seems to think that her family should not be worthy of compassion.

If they had "an inspirational or heroic character" during their service, shouldn't they be worthy...for their service and not be defined by how they died?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day
Among the many military holidays celebrated each year is Armed Forces Day. Celebrated the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day falls during Military Appreciation Month and joins Memorial Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) as another May military-themed holiday.

The History of Armed Forces Day
On Aug. 31, 1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the armed forces under one agency -- the Department of Defense.

In a speech announcing the creation of the day, President Truman "praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas." He said, "It is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace."

In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Truman stated:

"Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America's defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, toward the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense."
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Smithsonian not living up to honoring all Native American Veterans?

Why won't the Smithsonian agree to honor all Native American veterans in its new memorial?

The Hill

To be perfectly clear, individuals who serve in the USPHS and NOAA are veterans under federal law, entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof. They draw military pay and benefits, serve alongside their armed colleagues during our country’s wars, and are entitled to burial in Virginia cemeteries. They have served our country proudly for more than 100 years in NOAA’s case and for more than 125 years in the case of the USPHS.

The Smithsonian Institution is about make a huge mistake by creating a Native American Veterans Memorial that will omit certain Native American veterans.

The Smithsonian plans to construct this memorial on the National Mall, with groundbreaking scheduled for September 2019. It’s a wonderful idea — one that is long overdue.

Congress passed legislation in 1994 allowing the national monument to be built, and it took 24 years — until June 2018 — for the Smithsonian to agree to a memorial design. The design, which can be found on the Smithsonian website, consists of a series of concentric circles, which the Smithsonian says represent a “Warrior’s Circle of Honor.” The designer is Native American veteran Harvey Pratt, and it is a handsome design, indeed.

There is only one problem with it. It includes only the seals of the five armed forces, omitting the seals of both the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Veterans who earned their status by service in these two smallest of the seven federal uniformed services are understandably upset by this omission. We, meaning a non-profit organization that represents the officers in the USPHS, have called this omission to the Smithsonian’s attention, and our concerns have been summarily dismissed.

The reason offered by the Smithsonian reflects the narrowest possible interpretation of the 1994 law, which was clearly intended to honor all Native American veterans. In a letter to retired USPHS Rear Adm. George Blue Spruce, the first Native American dentist in our country’s history, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton explained his reasoning: “The enabling legislation ... only references ‘Armed Forces.'
In September 2018, 26 member organizations of The Military Coalition, a group headquartered in Alexandria, Va., sent a letter to congressional leadership. The organizations whose signatures are on the letter represent all five of the armed forces, and also include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The letter cites the words of then-Rep. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), principal House sponsor of the 1994 law, who closed his remarks on the floor of the House when he introduced HR 2135, “with the hope that all our colleagues will join us in honoring our Native American veterans.”
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Friday, May 17, 2019

I am ready to fight the enemy of PTSD.

Tomorrow Watch Fire starts burning hope

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
May 17, 2019

What started out as an opportunity to go and film this, plus the Watch Fire, ended up being much more than I planned on. Tomorrow I will be speaking at a ceremony to honor members of the Armed Forces. 

All week I have been trying to figure out what I should talk about. With 37 years crammed into my brain, there were too many topics to choose from.

I decided the one topic that does not get enough attention are military/veteran families.
Suicides keep increasing even though it is the hot topic of the decade. While it seems as if everyone is trying to change the outcome, the facts prove that they have gotten it wrong. 

I'll have to start out with the bad news. Suicide Awareness will not prevent them from happening. We have a decade of data to prove that.

Current military numbers are at a ten year high, including member of Special Forces. While the number of known veterans committing suicide have remained in the 20s since 1999, the percentage has gone up.
All this proves that raising awareness does not prevent them in the military community or in the civilian population.

Suicides are at the highest rate in decades, CDC report shows
According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. Put another way, the suicide rate was 14 people in every 100,000 — up 33 percent from 10.5 people per 100,000 in 1999.

The suicide rate is at a 50-year peak, according to the AP. The new data shows that there were 2,000 more deaths from suicide last year than in 2016, the year when suicide became the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth-leading cause for middle-aged Americans.
The thing is, it is also up in the veterans community, current military, law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders.

For civilians, most of them were dealing with some kind of mental health issue, and it was the same for those who respond to everyone else. The one thing that everyone had in common was, the simple fact they lost hope that one more day would make a difference in their life to make living worth it. They lost hope because we failed to give it back to them.

When you consider that PTSD plays a huge part in all of this, that should be the place where we begin to change the outcome.

As long as the people in charge of making the decisions and funding "efforts" keep asking the same questions to the same people, they will continue to support what has proven to have failed.

If we are going to change the outcome, we need to change what we put into it. The best place for that to begin is in our own homes.

Part of what I do is track news and government reports from around the country, as well as internationally. Over the last decade, it has gotten worse while raising awareness about numbers has prevented healing awareness from reaching those in need of hearing it.

Point Man understood this back in 1984 when they established Out Post for veterans and Home Fronts for families. We are on the front lines and that is where healing begins. So how did a Seattle Police Officer figure all this out way back then? Simple, he came back from Vietnam and knew what he needed, so it was an easy thing for him to understand other veterans. 

It was understood that veteran belong with veterans, in small groups, much like the units they served in to receive true peer support. 

Families needed it too!

We know them better than anyone else and that is why it grieves me so much to hear a family member say that they did not know how much pain someone they loved was feeling or what to do to help them.

We need to be made aware of the power families do have to change the outcome, especially for those who serve others.

The event tomorrow is in Tarpon Springs Florida. Thinking about what the topic should be, I was reminded of the Spartan women and what their job was. 

When the warriors were out fighting battles, it was the job of the Spartan women to take care of their families, crops and livestock. It was also their job to defend the homeland from invaders.

They were highly educated and trained to do battle with any enemy coming to their home front.

We need to be ready to fight this battle when they come home to us. Prepare our minds to get into gear while telling our emotions to take a nap when necessary. To know when to take something personally and when it is coming from a place of pain instead of anger.

We need to be able to wisely pick our battles with those we love, as well as when it is time to walk away and chill out.

We need to know when we need to just listen, and when it is time to communicate what they need to hear.

We need to see them though the eyes of our hearts that fell in love with them...and know that all the qualities they had, are all still there.

We need to prepare for battle the same way they prepared to fight the nations battles on other shores as well as within our communities as responders.

We need to be like minded but the only way to become ready to fight for those we love, is to stop listening to what failed long enough so we can start to hear what worked for other families.
I am Spartan
I am ready to fight the enemy of PTSD.
I will defend my home front from any and all invaders.
I will learn what I need to understand.
I will train for what I need to do.
I will ask for support as willingly as I offer it to others.
I am Spartan and my greatest power lives for those I love.
#BreakTheSilence and #TakeBackYourLife

There will be more of what needs to be heard but necessary if we really want to change the outcome, we have to change what we are putting into it!

If you want to know how you can learn the easier way what this battle is like and how to win it, you can read part of my life here.

Rachael Ray surprised Gulf War veteran for service dog program

Rachael Ray surprises Glassboro vet who started service dog program for other vets

Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Carol Comegno
May 16, 2019
Ray stunned Eberle, a Desert Storm veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, with the $7,000 needed to finish the Paws Healing Heroes training facility on a Williamstown farm. The money comes courtesy of Petmate, which also provided 100 leashes and collars for the program.

GLASSBORO – TV star Rachael Ray shocked U.S. Army veteran Mark Eberle of Glassboro when her staff called to invite him and his service dog Batman to be special guests on a show segment set to air Friday

When Eberle arrived at the studio recently for taping of the "Rachael Ray Show," she had even more surprises. Ray showered him with gifts for helping other veterans through his nonprofit Paws Healing Heroes, a program to rescue, train and provide service dogs to disabled veterans in need like himself.
go here for video

Did the VA home loan program rip you off too?

KARE 11 Investigates: Whistleblowers say veterans are owed millions

Author: A.J. Lagoe and Steve Eckert May 15, 2019
“This report demonstrates that VA inappropriately collected approximately $150,901,534 on 47,588 loans since 2006.”

Top VA officials failed to alert veterans nationwide about more than $150 million in refunds due on their VA home loans.

ST PAUL, Minn — Thousands of disabled veterans nationwide are due millions of dollars in refunds on VA backed home loans, according to internal Department of Veterans Affairs records obtained by KARE 11.

Despite internal warnings dating back to 2014, VA whistleblowers tell KARE 11 that top officials failed to alert veterans about refunds they are owed.

“It’s not right,” one VA whistleblower told KARE 11. “These people are owed money and they don’t even know it.”

KARE 11 agreed not to disclose the identities of the whistleblowers because they were not authorized to comment publicly about the internal VA documents KARE 11 obtained.

The nationwide problem was detailed in an internal 2014 report labeled “Funding Fee Payment Analysis” summarizing research done by employees at the VA’s Regional Loan Center in St. Paul.
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