Friday, December 13, 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rangers remembered for rescues 45 years later

Mother thanks life-saving rangers with 45 years of poinsettias

Author: Jim Matheny
December 12, 2019
Every December since 1974, Wanneta Johnson has sent a poinsettia to thank rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for saving her son's life.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — At Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) headquarters, employees may differ on how they pronounce poinsettia. But they all agree the large red flower in the lobby each December exemplifies a mother's perennial gratitude for the life-saving work of park rangers.
"The first week of December, every year we look forward to this beautiful poinsettia from Wanneta Johnson. This is 45 years in a row she has sent this to thank our rangers," said GSMNP spokesperson Dana Soehn. "We display this in our park headquarters [lobby] for everyone to enjoy and reflect on the efforts people make."

This year was only the second time Johnson did not drive from her home in the Tri-Cities to deliver the decorative plant in-person. Her mobility is limited now that she is 98 years old.
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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Tyler Girardello decided that Veterans Day was the day he would give up being one

Where were you before he decided to die?

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
December 12, 2019

Tyler Girardello decided that Veterans Day was the day he would give up being one.
PASCO COUNTY, Fla. --- A veteran who died by suicide on Veteran's Day was remembered as a great guy.

Those close to Tyler Girardello say they knew of his inner pain that plagued him since his time in combat with the Army serving in the Middle East.

“He just opened up he said his mind is dark, He attempted suicide in the past," said Chris Hatcher.

But friends had hoped he was getting better.

He was loved around the Trinity community of Pasco County and was most recently working at the Starkey Market.

“Just a great guy willing to help out it seemed like everybody. Which was a beautiful thing about him," said owner Aaron Derksen.

But in the early morning hours on Veteran's Day, a final Facebook post alarmed his friends. They would soon find out, Tyler was gone.
He knew he needed help and had gone to the VA. He was on social media, so it was not as if he did not try to heal.

The trouble with veterans like Tyler is that while they seem to get the fact that veterans are killing themselves, there is very little of the healing getting through to them.

What if Tyler tried to find something hopeful in that last dark day, but only found reference to all the sites and groups raising awareness that other veterans were killing themselves?

Not much hope offered there. And that is the biggest problem out there but too few have noticed it. Too few bothered to know what was real, what had already been done and what was missing in all of this. He had no idea how to heal for real so that his last worst day would end because all other days to come would be better ones. What pisses me off the most is the too few cared to learn a damn thing including what was in the suicide reports they grabbed a headline from.

Reporters suck at their job and never bothered to read any of the reports while they seem all too willing to jump on what they think will be a good story about yet one more fundraising stunt without ever once asking where they money is going on what the hell they are basing their "efforts" on.

As for the government, they just passed yet another bill and pat themselves on their own backs while veterans like Tyler decide they do not want to spend one more day in this country as a veteran.

He deserved to live but what should really get your blood boiling too is that when a veteran commits suicide, they do it after they were willing to die to save someone else! How can any of us find any of this acceptable?

If you still think that any of this is "better than nothing" and that letting veterans know they are killing themselves is a worthy thing to support...MAY GOD FORGIVE YOU FOR NOT BOTHERING TO KNOW WHAT YOU WERE DOING!

Vietnam veteran has not forgotten Spc. Clifford Van Artsdalen

Unaccountable: A Vietnam veteran's 10-year quest to bring his soldier home

Published: December 12, 2019

“I am deeply worried about when the last Vietnam veteran dies — the last man to see a fellow soldier alive, a man like me who gave him an order to go up that trail — who will be left to carry on the mission?”

Spc. Clifford Van Artsdalen, left, plays cards with his fellow platoon members on May 5, 1968, as they await a helicopter shuttle to Hill 352 on Nui Hoac Ridge, South Vietnam. GARY SANNER

Pushing through dense foliage toward the site of the bygone ambush, Michael McDonald-Low felt like he was floating through time.

He had longed for this day, planning thoroughly for the time he would return to this hillside in Vietnam’s Que Son Valley, where many of his infantry company were wounded or killed by a hail of North Vietnamese gunfire on May 11, 1968. The body of one of those soldiers in the platoon he commanded, Spc. Clifford Van Artsdalen, had never been recovered.

That fateful trek was etched like a gravestone inscription in his mind as he retraced his steps during this mission on March 9, 2012, to pinpoint the exact location of Van Artsdalen’s death so that his remains could be found and returned home.

He pressed on to find the split in the trail where he had sent Van Artsdalen and two other soldiers ahead to secure the route.

Soon after finding it, McDonald-Low was joined by the other 11 members of the mission team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the U.S. Defense Department body tasked at that time with finding America’s lost warfighters.

McDonald-Low was confident that this was the exact location where Van Artsdalen was killed, he told Stars and Stripes during a series of interviews about his search. With the location pinpointed — the government for years had been working with an erroneous place and date of his death — the way was finally clear to find and repatriate the soldier’s remains.

Seven years later, nothing has changed. McDonald-Low’s quest to bring him home is no further along than it was then.

And there is little time left.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Denver Police Officer shares story of recovery from PTSD to save others

Police, army veteran opens up about battle with PTSD, mental health struggles

December 10, 2019

Brian Barry is a 36-year veteran of the Denver Police force and army veteran who has used opioids to cope with PTSD. Now, he's sharing his story.

GoFundMe ringleader of homeless veteran story admits guilt!

New Jersey man pleads guilty in GoFundMe scam involving Marine veteran

By: The Associated Press
21 hours ago
“Do your research, and make sure you are donating to a worthwhile cause,” Coffina said.
Mark D'Amico, left, stands with his lawyer, Mark Davis, as he pleads guilty to one count of misappropriating entrusted funds in Burlington County Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. — A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Friday to a state charge stemming from a scheme that raked in more than $400,000 in online donations with a phony story about a homeless man helping a stranded woman.

Mark D’Amico pleaded guilty in state Superior Court in Burlington County to misapplication of entrusted property stemming from the late 2017 scheme.

D’Amico; his ex-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure; and homeless Marine veteran Johnny Bobbitt faced state and federal charges. McClure and Bobbitt have already pleaded guilty to federal and state charges. D’Amico still faces federal wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges.
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Disabled veteran fought for his service dog rights...and all others

‘Service animal’ signs going up at Hillsborough parks after veteran files suit

Tampa Bay Times
By Christopher O'Donnell
Published 4 hours ago

The county recently reached a settlement in the suit that requires posting “service animals are welcome” at all 200 or so of its parks. The county must also ensure that information about service animals is included in annual employee training about accommodations required for disabled people under federal and state law.
Cesar Silva and his 7-year-old service dog Sophia visit Rotary Riverfront Park in Temple Terrace on Tuesday. A disabled Iraq war veteran, Silva takes Sophia with him everywhere but ran into trouble with a park ranger during a 2016 visit to Veteran’s Memorial Park. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
It started with a heated encounter between Cesar Silva, who has disabilities, and a park ranger. Silva helped bring about the same changes at city parks in 2013.

TAMPA — Sophia, a bright eyed 7-year-old German shepherd, is Cesar Silva’s constant companion.

A disabled Army veteran, Silva struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries that affect his balance. Sophia is trained to get help if he falls. She will gently nudge him and distract him when he’s overwhelmed.

Sophia was with Silva when he and partner Samantha Tapia visited Veteran’s Memorial Park and Museum on U.S. 301 in Tampa in May 2016. Their arrival caught the attention of park ranger Roger Cramer who questioned why Silva had parked in a disabled spot and why Sophia, wearing her service dog vest, was not on a leash.

Silva, 38, has a disability symbol on his license plate. He explained that he doesn’t always use a leash because his balance problems put him at risk of falling, an exemption allowed by state law.

That did not satisfy Cramer, according to Silva. As the discussion became heated, Cramer called the couple combative and refused their request for his name and title. Tapia said she felt afraid and called the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
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