Sunday, August 31, 2008

Colorado:Semi-trailer and minivan crash leave 6 dead

Semi, minivan collide, six killed
Originally published 06:57 p.m., August 31, 2008
Updated 07:28 p.m., August 31, 2008
GREELEY — The Colorado State Patrol says a crash between a semitrailer and a minivan in Weld County has killed six family members.

Cpl. Eric Wynn says a woman, two men, a 4-year-old, 6-year-old and 9-month old were killed in the crash around 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

He described the adults as a couple and a brother-in-law. Wynn says the minivan carrying the family was northbound on Weld County Road 49 when it passed a relative’s driveway. The minivan was trying to make a U-turn when it was struck by the northbound semitrailer. The semitrailer driver was injured but was expected to survive.

The victims’ names and hometowns weren’t immediately released.

TV news stars head to New Orleans instead of Republican convention

One more case of "if it bleeds, it leads" when it comes to the media. The stars just have to be the ones to report on this monster heading for New Orleans once more. Why is it they cannot just send in a film crew to cover it instead? Because they know people will be tuned in for news of the damage the storm is leaving behind.

Wouldn't it be great if they paid this much attention to the events that change people's lives the same way? Coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan, the people of both nations, our troops, our wounded, the fallen, the families, none of them are worthy of such coverage yet a storm, well now, that's something they really need to be there for. Plan on up to four days of non-stop coverage of this and then they go away and forget all about it. Forget about the lives of the people who will be forever changed. Forget about the fact they will have lost everything they had, yet again. Forget about what the hurricane will do to all of them as long as they get this story as it happens, that's all that matters. Anderson Cooper on CNN is just about the only one who was interested in finding out what happened to the people after Katrina hit. Let's see if anyone is interested this time or not. Somehow, I doubt it.

TV network news anchors descending on New Orleans
by The Associated Press
Sunday August 31, 2008, 7:55 PM
NEW YORK -- Television networks rapidly shifted focus and personnel away from the Republican national convention to Gulf Coast communities in the path of Hurricane Gustav on Sunday, wondering how much of their political planning will be for naught.

Anchors Katie Couric, Charles Gibson, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith were all going to the New Orleans area for the storm instead of being with Republicans in St. Paul, Minn.

Whether they will be heading north at all depends on the strength of the storm at Monday's expected landfall. President Bush and Vice President Cheney both canceled plans to be at the convention, where they were to be featured Monday, and the GOP was considering other changes to its program.

"We're going to go with the biggest story of the day tomorrow," said Jay Wallace, a news vice president at Fox News Channel, "and right now the biggest story of the day is the storm."

Along with Smith, Fox was sending Geraldo Rivera and at least a dozen crews to the Gulf. Fox had been anticipating a big week in St. Paul; its ratings topped every broadcast and cable network at the 2004 GOP convention.

It's unclear how viewers will respond this time if the storm eclipses the convention as a story.
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Indian flood victims face food shortages

Indian flood victims face food shortages
Story Highlights
Indian flood victims now face food shortages

450,000 families displaced after dam in Nepal broke on August 18

2.7 million people in 1,600 villages might have been affected

Agencies scramble to help, but damaged infrastructure hampers efforts

PURNIA, India (CNN) -- The piercing wails from little lungs fill the air at this makeshift relief camp in Bihar's flood-ravaged Purnia district.

The babies scream for food. Their mothers cradle them in loving arms but cannot soothe the hunger in their bellies.

Food is scarce for the hundreds of people who have sought shelter here. They huddle under tents made from blankets and propped up by bamboo stems.

And when aid workers ration out rice, they quickly devour it.

"We ran for our lives and now we are dying here for food," said Bachni Devi, who arrived at the camp with ten small children and a pregnant daughter in tow.

"We are dying even for clothes. All our animals are also dying."

Government officials say that 450,000 families have been displaced after a dam in Nepal broke on August 18. It breached the eastern embankment of the Kosi River, a waterway that straddles the India-Nepal border.

Water flushed through the breach so forcefully that the river changed course in Bihar, gobbling up thousands of villages and marooning residents on thin strips of dry land in India and Nepal.
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Pets part of the deal this time for Gustav

Sylvania Moore is all smiles as she's assured that she and pet dog Buddy will get out of New Orleans safely as Hurricane Gustav threatens the city Saturday, August 30, 2008. State employee Rena Smith, right, is there to help. (UPI Photo/A.J. Sisco) Slideshow

Presidential campaigns vie for vets’ vote

Presidential campaigns vie for vets’ vote

By Matthew Brown - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Aug 31, 2008 17:21:45 EDT

BILLINGS, Mont. — Retired paratrooper Vernon Kinn liked what he heard when Sen. Barack Obama came to Montana recently with a promise to build more health centers for veterans. That could end the 500-mile, roundtrip drive Kinn faces each time he needs a new hearing aid from Montana’s only VA hospital.

But Kinn, who served two years in Vietnam, was unsure he could turn his back on Republican Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent five years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.

“It’s going to take a lot of thought. After the war, nobody liked us. They spit on us. Now we’ve got to stick together,” said Kinn, 62.

As the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns vie for support from the nation’s 25 million veterans, Kinn illustrates the mixed feelings among some in a crucial voting bloc.
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Kinn has the right to view McCain anyway he wants but in the process, he is giving McCain loyalty he does not deserve because he has not returned it to his fellow veterans. His support of Vietnam veterans and all veterans is just not there but he fully expects to receive it from them while he is always reminding them, after all, he was a POW. What he has done against them, well that shouldn't matter. What he wants to do to them instead of for them, that doesn't seem to matter either, in McCain's mind anyway. The veterans service organizations have failed him for his votes, not for the fact he is a veteran. The problem is, we should expect a lot more out of him because he is a veteran.

Care Not Cash faces lawsuit

Care Not Cash Program faces lawsuit - San Francisco,CA,USA
By Vic Lee
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (KGO) -- A homeless advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Francisco saying its' "Care Not Cash" homeless program discriminates against people with disabilities.

It may be the first lawsuit of its kind.
"The city of San Francisco's homeless population is at least 50 percent disabled and it has been largely ignored," said lawyer Sid Wolinsky.

Wolinsky is referring to Mayor Gavin Newsom's brainchild, the "Care Not Cash" homeless program.
It's a program that gives teh homeless priority reservations for about 350 shelter beds.
Through Care Not Cash, participants on welfare can make a 45-day reservation for a bed and receive case management services as well.
Wolinski says there is a catch. "If you receive disability benefits such as veteran's disability benefits or social security benefits, you are automatically excluded from Care Not Cash," said Wolinski.
Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition for Homelessness supports the lawsuit. She says Care Not Cash is an inefficent use of 300 beds.
"Oftentimes these beds go empty even as they turn away people who try to seek shelters," said Friedenbach.

Louisiana delegation torn between family, duty

updated 10 minutes ago

Louisiana delegation torn between family, duty
Story Highlights
Some Louisiana Republican delegates have already returned home
McCain campaign chartered a flight for delegates to return home
Louisiana state party chairman says McCain has been "extremely helpful"
Louisiana will cast all 47 votes during roll call vote, chairman vows

By Scott J. Anderson Senior Political Producer

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on their state, Louisiana delegates to the Republican National Convention on Sunday were torn between party duty and concern for family back home.

With the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still fresh in their minds, many delegates returned home to help their families or, as elected officials, their communities evacuate, said Louisiana state party chairman Roger F. Villere, Jr.

But the delegates also knew they had a responsibility to Louisiana's Republican voters to cast the state's 47 votes to make sure the party's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, is on the ballot in Louisiana in November.

"We've got a job to do. We're caught in the crossfire," said alternative delegate Donald Moriatry, II of Alexandria, Louisiana, said.

As the delegation was briefed by representatives from the McCain campaign at its hotel in east Minneapolis, Minnesota, delegates called home to talk with family members about evacuation plans and watched as the big, red center of Gustav headed towards New Orleans on cable news channels.

All conversation ceased when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared on the screen to discuss the state's emergency preparations.
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Michael Moore's letter to God about Gustav

Michael, I know your heart is in the right place and you were thinking about James Dobson asking his flock to pray for rain on the Democrats gathered outside for Obama's speech, but Michael and all my Democratic friends out there, this is not something to make light of nor is it an opportunity to challenge God. It was wrong of Dobson to ask God for something bad to happen to other people. What can we expect from a man who indulges in appearing as a pastor when he isn't trained or ordained as one? He has his own interpretation of God and very little knowledge of the love of Christ. Forget about him, let's get back to you.

We all need to pray for the people who are in the path of Gustav.

Pray for the first responders who are waiting to rush in to help anyone in need. They are ready to help people, not political party members, not people based on financial means, not based on religious beliefs, but all of God's children in harms way.

Pray for the National Guards and the Police officers as they try to keep people calm and evacuate them as easily as possible while they leave everything they own behind once more.

Pray all that was promised waiting to help the people in the states watching the sky for Gustav will have that help as promised.

Pray for the elderly who have chosen not to leave.

Pray the Republicans do what they say they will do and turn their convention into a helpful time instead of a time to celebrate.

Pray for this nation to once more become a nation of one out of many where we are all Americans again and in this together.

Michael, use the goodness and talent God blessed you with for good.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Michael Moore's letter to God

Two days after saying that the fact that Hurricane Gustav could hit New Orleans on the same day the Republicans open their national convention was "proof that there is a God in heaven," filmmaker Michael Moore today sought to clarify his remarks with "An Open Letter to God, from Michael Moore," on his Web site.
The text includes:
Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You. Continue reading "Filmmaker Michael Moore expands on Gustav comments" »

Chemical exposure prompts lockdown at 2 St. Louis ERs

Chemical prompts lockdown at 2 St. Louis ERs
Authorities '99 percent' certain material behind scare was nitroaniline
Sun., Aug. 31, 2008
ST. LOUIS - Eight people were sickened Saturday after exposure to a chemical at an Illinois plant, and emergency rooms at two hospitals where they were treated were quarantined.

Authorities were "99 percent" certain the chemical was nitroaniline, a highly toxic material that can cause serious breathing problems and even death.

By late evening, it appeared that no patients or staff at the hospitals were contaminated because of their proximity to the victims.

'Got all over them'

The incident began when a barrel was dropped at Ro-Corp. in East St. Louis. Mehlville Fire Chief Jim Silvernail said the lid popped off the barrel spilling a white powder.

"It's like what would happen if you drop flour — it got all over them," he said.

Three men exposed to the powder drove to St. Anthony's Medical Center in south St. Louis County. Three others went to SSM DePaul Health Center in north St. Louis County. Another went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Silvernail said. It wasn't known where the eighth sought treatment.

All three at DePaul were in fair condition and improving, spokeswoman Jamie Newell said. Details about the conditions of the other five were not immediately known, but Silvernail said at least one at St. Anthony's was "in pretty rough shape."

St. Anthony's and DePaul immediately locked down their emergency rooms.
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Another PTSD soldier with "less than honorable" discharge

Ex-soldier fights for normal life
The Post-Standard - - Syracuse,NY,USA
Sunday, August 31, 2008

David Marr is coming out of a closet filled with demons.

He's talking about being messed up on drugs, being homeless, being divorced from his wife and losing custody of his children. He's also talking about his 20 years of experience in the military and how he turned his life around, finally.

David credits the Rescue Mission and the Department of Veterans Affairs with giving him the help he needed.

"My heart went out to him." Randy Crichlow explains. Randy manages the Mission's independent living program. "We watched him stay with us and stabilize. I'd say he had plenty of issues and a low level of trust when he came to us in November 2007. Now we're fast friends."

David and Randy have an ongoing pingpong tournament at the Mission, even though he checked out in May. David's ahead, 20 to 16 games.

David says he came to the Rescue Mission a broken man, unable to admit it. He'd been kicked out of the Army, after 20 years, because of a cocaine habit. His wife of 17 years, Laura, divorced him. She has custody of their three children - David III, 17, Valerie, 13, and Lauren, 10.

Now he's off drugs, although still taking medication, after a successful rehabilitation program at Canandaigua Veterans Hospital. He's got a place to live, with his girlfriend in Mattydale. His ex lives on the same street and he sees the kids often. His son, David, just started as a freshman at State University College at Oneonta.

And David's a college student himself, about to start the third semester of a program in emergency management at Onondaga Community Collge. He talks about working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and running for office.

We sat under a tree in the front yard of the home where he lives on a quiet street off Malden Road. The tranquility is interrupted occasionally by a speeding car and the roar of a plane out of Hancock Field nearby.

I ask David if the aircraft noise brings back memories of his service in civil affairs (in the 403rd Civil Affairs unit) in Bosnia, North Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Bad economy sends illegal immigrants back to Mexico

With jobs scarce, sales of one-way tickets to Mexico are up
By Saundra Amrhein, Times Staff Writer
In print: Sunday, August 31, 2008

PLANT CITY — On a Wednesday afternoon, in the gravel lot of El Expreso bus depot, Benito Ramos waits with his life packed in several plastic tubs.

After eight years in the United States, he is going home to Hidalgo, Mexico, to his mother and a small concrete block house built with the money earned clearing tables in Tampa restaurants.

"You can't survive like before," said Ramos, 28, standing in front of the clapboard depot building with its low-slung porch filled with passengers and suitcases.

When times were good, Ramos worked 16 hours a day at two restaurants, five days a week. His weekly check was $520. But for months, bosses have slashed his schedule. He was lucky to work six hours a day for two or three days, bringing in just $117 a week.

"It got to the point where you can't pay rent, you can't pay the bills," he said.

A few weeks ago, Ramos bought a bus ticket and joined legions — perhaps thousands — of illegal immigrants going back home.
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Florida:Orange and Osceola Prosecutors Seek Volunteers

Orange-Osceola prosecutors seek volunteers
TONI A. SKALICAN Sentinel Staff Writer
August 31, 2008
The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office has a new strategy for coping with state budget cuts: actively recruiting people to volunteer to help prosecutors.
State Attorney Lawson Lamar on Friday detailed his "Volunteer September" effort, which aims to fill 100 positions with dedicated volunteers in his agency.
Volunteer opportunities include positions in administration, records management, translation, victim advocacy and law internships, Lamar said.People who are interested should call 407-836-1591 or e-mail
Lamar said the effort could save nearly $1 million a year. Volunteers would help the agency save money, and they will learn new things about the state court system, he said.
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Battling stigma as well as mental illness

Battling stigma as well as mental illness

By David Riley/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Aug 30, 2008 @ 10:34 PM

If Cindy had a heart ailment, a doctor might have sat her down and walked her through her options for treatment.

Battling mental illness, she says she was locked in a state hospital and told by a staff member she would be lucky if she ever got out.

If she broke a bone, Cindy might have gotten a cast, crutches and a little patience at home.

Grappling with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse, her husband said she was lazy and her treatment was just "a vacation."

For decades, most health professionals have accepted that mental illnesses are legitimate, serious medical problems. But for many who suffer from them, they often remain a source of shame and ridicule, and for the public, a cause for fear, suspicion or misunderstanding.

"It's just slow for people to realize it's a real illness," said Iris Carroll, director of Programs for People, a Framingham agency that helps people to recover from mental illness and succeed. "I see it definitely changing, but not fast enough."

Four clients at Programs for People, who agreed to speak with the Daily News without giving their full names, say stigma against the mentally ill is alive and well in many aspects of their lives.

Mark, who was hit by a truck in December, says he believes his diagnosis with mental illness led a doctor not to take his wishes seriously and forego surgery he requested on his badly broken leg.

"I didn't have anybody to sign or advocate for me," Mark said.

For Melissa, her struggles with depression and post-traumatic stress cost her ties with most of her family and wreaked havoc with jobs.

"I feel like people don't understand," Melissa said. "I'm labeled like you should get it, or you should have known better, so snap out of it."

Cindy said she was called a "nutcase" when she called her son's school to iron out a problem with a teacher. She said she encountered bias within the mental health system itself, where her own goals often seemed an afterthought to some of the people treating her.

"We want guidance," said Cindy, "but we also want a voice."
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Soldiers with PTSD still need help and support

“As a community, we can make a different in the lives of our returning military,” Douglas said. “But we need to know the signs and symptoms and where to go to get help.”
Soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder still need help, support
By Kevin Barlow

CLINTON -- Soldiers coming home from war today are different from their predecessors, but they still need help and support when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder, experts on the condition said.

“They are younger and have different needs and expectations, It’s a different generation,” said Katherine Edwards, an outreach director for Illiana Health Care System in Danville.

“They are smarter and computer-savvy,” she said. “So, they do research on their medical conditions, and often times can help the doctors with the diagnosis much quicker than previous patients.”

Edwards was among those who spoke to about 50 people last week at a seminar on raising awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Vince Long, commander of the Illinois State Veterans of Foreign Wars and a Lincoln native, compared today’s veterans to the generation that fought in World War II, widely known as “the greatest generation.”

“They have earned that distinction because they saved the world,” he said of the older veterans.
“But I also believe the people who are serving in the military now are the most patriotic people I have ever seen in my life. Let’s not wait 50 years though, to tell them that.”
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Sgt. Jose Nazario ready to get on with life after being acquitted

SEAN DUFRENE / Associated Press
"I just wanted the trial to be over. I feel like a new man now," former Marine Jose Nazario said.

Nazario acquitted in detainee deaths
By Steve Liewer

August 30, 2008

Jose Nazario's days as a househusband appear to be numbered.

The former Marine said he has been jobless and unemployable since Aug. 7, 2007, the day authorities arrested him on charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault. He was accused of participating in the killings of four detainees during one of the Iraq war's ugliest battles.

The agents snapped handcuffs on Nazario's wrists in the sergeants' room at the Riverside Police Department, where he had worked for more than six months as a probationary officer. Released on bond, Nazario has cared for his son, Gabriel, now 2, at the family home in upstate New York while they got by on his wife's small paycheck and the kindness of relatives.

“At one time in your life, you're a war hero and a breadwinner,” said Nazario, 28, who left the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant in 2005. “The next day, you're facing felony charges and you're unemployed. It's devastating.”

On Thursday, a jury of nine women and three men – only one of whom had served in the military – pronounced the verdict Nazario and his family had prayed they would hear: “Not guilty.”

“I just wanted the trial to be over,” Nazario said yesterday. “I feel like a new man now.”

After the trial, some of the jurors told Nazario and his family the same thing.
“I don't think we had any business doing that,” said juror Nicole Peters, who wiped away tears during the reading of the verdict and later hugged Nazario. “I thought it was unfair to us and to him.”

Whooping cough outbreak at Pittsburgh vets clinic

Whooping cough outbreak at Pittsburgh vets clinic

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Medical officials in Pittsburgh say staff members and some patients at a Veterans Affairs hospital are getting preventive treatment for whooping cough after an outbreak was traced to several workers at an outpatient clinic.

Officials said tests confirmed 11 cases of the respiratory bacterial infection among employees at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System facility.

The chief of the VA's infectious disease division, Dr. Robert Muder, says no patients have been found to be ill with the disease but some have been offered antibiotics.

He says the hospital's employees, doctors, interns and medical students are taking a five-day course of antibiotics.

Whooping cough causes severe coughing spells but is not considered a threatening illness in adults.

Two Louisiana War Veterans Homes evacuated with Hurricane Gustav bearing down

Veterans Affairs evacuates two war veterans' homes
Alexandria Town Talk - Alexandria,LA,USA
Gannett Capital Bureau • August 30, 2008

BATON ROUGE -- The Office of Veterans Affairs has begun evacuating the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Reserve and the Southwest Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jennings.

So far, 89 veterans already have been evacuated to the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson from the Reserve home and 22 veterans from Jennings are in the process of evacuating to the Jackson home. In addition, 92 veterans will moved to the Bossier City War Veterans Home from Jennings.

The phone number for the Jackson War Veterans Home is (225) 342-8998; the phone number for the Bossier City home is (318) 741-2763.

Family members are encouraged to contact the two North Louisiana homes, as both homes are maintaining lists of veterans who have evacuated or will be evacuated today.

PTSD on Trial: Treat the wounded and stop sending them to jail

Man wants to start alternative court program for war veterans
BY KATE WARD Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Sunday, August 31, 2008

As a multiple combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, John Bennett has seen the need for post-war treatment first-hand.

"We spend thousands of dollars each year to train these guys to go overseas and fight a war," he said. "Then we bring them back and do very little to integrate them back into society. Some begin self-medicating because of what they've experienced. Their drinking often turns to drug use, which leads to crime."

Bennett hopes to divert troubled vets from the traditional justice system by establishing a court program tailored to their needs. In addition to rehabilitation and treatment, the program would provide vets with the tools needed to lead productive and law-abiding lives through rehabilitative programming, reinforcement and judicial monitoring.

"They stood up for us in war and we need to stand up for them when they return," he said. "Throwing them in jail doesn't help anyone."

A 2007 report conducted by the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors reveals a sizable fraction of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ). About 12 to 20 percent of those returning from Iraq, and about 6 to 11 percent of those returning from Afghanistan, suffer from some degree of PTSD. To date, 52, 375 returnees have been seen in Veteran's Affairs hospitals for PTSD symptoms.

"It's very traumatic, mentally," said Steve Gray, veteran affairs coordinator for Rep. John Boozman's office. "The battle mind that keeps them alive and safe over there is what gets them in trouble here."
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Vets urged to be tested for shrapnel effects

Vets urged to be tested for shrapnel effects
Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, September 1, 2008

Veterans are being warned that they should be tested for the effects of shrapnel being carried in their bodies, CNN reported Friday.

Tens of thousands of active-duty and veteran servicemembers who have been wounded will be notified — CNN did not specify when, or by what body — that they may need to be tested to see whether such metals in their bodies are harmful. Blood and urine would be monitored, according to the report.

"The importance is to be able to determine if the patient has been exposed to elements of toxic concern, Dr. Joseph Centeno, a U.S. Army research scientist, told CNN.

Doctors often leave shrapnel in wounded servicemembers’ bodies rather than subject them to the traumas of additional surgery, CNN noted.

I looked for the link to this but couldn't find it. What I did find was several reports on depleted uranium showing up in blood and urine.

2 men and 2 suicides, one heart, one widow

2 men and 2 suicides; but both had the same transplanted heart - and the same widow
By ALLEN G. BREED | AP National Writer
6:04 PM CDT, August 30, 2008
On an overcast spring morning in southeast Georgia, Sonny Graham drank some coffee and headed out the door for another day in the family landscaping business and to take his 9-year-old stepson to the dentist. But Graham made a detour to the backyard shed that he'd built.

There, the 69-year-old picked up the 12-gauge Remington shotgun he'd taken on so many quail- and dove-hunting trips, pointed the muzzle at the right side of his throat and pulled the trigger.

It was April Fool's Day, almost exactly 13 years since another man's suicide gave Graham a second chance at life.

That man was Terry Cottle. When he ended his life, Graham got his heart.

But it was not just an organ that connected Graham and the 33-year-old donor. Nearly a decade after the transplant, Graham married Cottle's young widow.
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Has to be the strangest story I've ever read.

Gloucester MA Hidden Wounds of War study

Special veterans commission visits Gloucester on Sept. 3
Fri Aug 29, 2008, 04:32 PM EDT

Gloucester -
On Wednesday, Sept. 3, the Special Commission to Study and Investigate the Hidden Wounds of War on Massachusetts Service Members will meet at 11 a.m. at the Major Fred W. Ritvo Veterans’ Center, 12 Emerson Ave., Gloucester.

This is the third meeting of the Legislative Commission, which was established in April of this year. It is charged with examining the mental health effects of war on returning Massachusetts service members.

Findings and recommendations of the Commission will ensure that policy-makers are well informed of the extent to which our veterans are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and ensure that those afflicted by PTSD, as well as their families, receive the treatment and support they deserve.

In order to better understand and document the challenges that geographic location and access to transportation present in access to mental health care, the Commission will be conducting hearings in various parts of the Commonwealth beginning in Gloucester.

The meeting is open to the public.

The public will have opportunities to make oral statements and may submit written comments to the Commission. Service members, veterans, and stakeholders are encouraged to attend and to share their experiences with the Commission.

Scheduled oral testimony will include presentations by:
Coleman Nee, Undersecretary, Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services

James Crosby, Director, Statewide Advocacy for Veterans Empowerment (SAVE)

Dr. Barbara Romberg, President, Give an Hour Program

Dr. Jaine Darwin, Co-Director, Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists (SOFAR)

Open Public Testimony for any service members, veterans & their families and stakeholders

Additional questions can be directed to the Commission at 617-722-2877.

USA Cares Grants More Than $85,000 To Pennsylvania Military Families

Corporate Social Responsibility News

8.29.2008 - 12:12pm ET

CSR News from: USA Cares, Inc.
News Categories: Socially Responsible Investing
CSR - General

USA Cares Grants More Than $85,000 To Pennsylvania Military Families

More than 180 families in financial need helped, eight homes saved
(CSRwire) RADCLIFF, KY. - August 29, 2008 - USA Cares Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military families, has donated more than $85,000 over five years to service members living in Pennsylvania. The grants were used for getting treatment for wounded soldiers, saving homes from foreclosure, and assisting with basic needs during times of serious financial crisis.

Since 2003, these donations saved eight Pennsylvania military families from losing their home to foreclosure, and overall 188 families have received grants. In 2007, 60 requests came in from Pennsylvania. USA Cares has received 68 requests for help in the first seven months of 2008.

"Today's military families are facing a perfect storm: multiple deployments, rising gas and food prices, the sub-prime mortgage mess, and a struggling economy. Coupled with visible and invisible wounds of war, many families can't win this battle without our assistance," Roger Stradley, founder of USA Cares, said. Members of any branch of the military serving post 9/11 and their families can apply for help.

USA Cares has worked with military families since it was founded in 2003. Since then, the organization has responded to over 11,000 requests for help with more than $5 million in direct assistance grants. On the housing front, USA Cares is a recognized leader in mortgage loss prevention assistance for the military. In the future, USA Cares hopes to work with other partners to field a program for post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury victims who lack the financial resources to attend the treatment they need and deserve, ensuring that the service member doesn't have to choose between groceries or treatment.

Nationally, USA Cares receives more than 100 new requests for assistance a week. Dedicated staff and volunteers work through each one with the determination and commitment to assist these families as quickly as possible. "USA Cares is out there actually providing financial assistance to solve these problems – we're not just talking about them," USA Cares Executive Director Bill Nelson said.

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Edinburgh veteran says ""I'd rather have had an arm or a leg blown off," than have PTSD

"I'd rather have had an arm or a leg blown off," he says. "At least people could see that injury. When it comes to mental injuries, they can't. But there's nothing worse than losing your mind."

This must have been said hundreds of thousands of times from Scotland to England, from Australia to Canada, from the Philippines to Philadelphia and all across this nation. Generation to generation in hushed tones as if it were some deep, dark secret that needed to be kept. "Let them think anything they want as long as they don't think I'm crazy" I've heard at least a thousand times. They would rather be thought of as a drunk or a drug addict as long as people saw them as tough, able to take on anything, able to take on anyone. The problem is they can't take on themselves. They can't take on what they brought back from war embedded deep within their souls.

One of the veterans I met when I first started doing this was a Vietnam vet. He didn't drink because he didn't want people to think he was a drunk. He smoked pot instead. He said he didn't want to punch anyone out and the pot kept him calm, "mellowed out" as he put it. He couldn't get through a day without it. Little by little all the signs of PTSD were there but not being able to diagnose him, I had to talk him into seeing a psychologist but first I had to get through to him. He had all the excuses they all use. Until it all began to sink in, nothing was going to convince him that he needed help.

Three divorces didn't give him a clue. It was his wives who were to blame. No contact with his family at all didn't open his eyes. After all, they were never very close anyway. Not being able to keep a job was always someone else's fault.

He didn't get the message until he went to yet another funeral for another Vietnam vet who had committed suicide.

Pretty much, he use the same way to describe what the diagnosis meant to him. He thought he was "nuts" and no one would want anything to do with him. What he eventually found was the more he talked about it, the more friends he had with the same problem. All they years of trying to self medicate to cope were lost years as he thought he was the only one and so did his friends. All the lost years of trying to keep it all inside afraid to let it out left out a lot of people who did in fact care about him and were going through the same thing. They could have been leaning on each other instead of hiding from each other.

The times have not changed enough to get the notion of this being anything to be ashamed of out of their brains. There is no shame in feeling. People who can feel, are sensitive to what others feel can come to times in their lives when all the pain they carry and see others carry begins to eat away at them. Feeling is not something to be ashamed of. Being wounded is nothing to be ashamed of. What there is to be ashamed of is that they still don't feel as if they can open up and admit they need help, they need their friends to lean on and they need someone to help them fight this battle the same way they needed someone to help them battle the enemy they were sent to fight. They didn't do that alone and this enemy requires an army to attack it head on with just as much behind it. This does not know nation. It does not know race. It only knows a human went through trauma and that's all it takes. Is there anything more traumatic than combat? So where is the military in the plans to overtake this enemy?
Jail instead of treatment? Dishonorable discharges for honorable wounded warriors? Claims turned down instead of being approved by the same government who trained, armed and prepared them to go to war? Refusal of admission of responsibility? Would be nice if the governments who send them was equally prepared to take care of them after.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Lost hearts and minds
Published Date: 31 August 2008
By Peter Ross
GAVIN BARCLAY, a 37-year-old former soldier with the horrors and terrors of Iraq clanking around inside his head like a bagful of bad pennies, marches up the mountain known as the Cobbler, untroubled by the gradient and indifferent to the scenery.

Not so long ago, when he was a lance corporal in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he'd train by marching for miles through landscape like this while carrying 25kg of kit. He used to say the only way he would stop was if he dropped down dead, and that relentlessness remains. Barclay just keeps walking and talking, never stopping to glance behind him at Loch Long, the village of Arrochar or the train speeding towards Oban. Yet in another sense, all this man does is look back.

"I'd rather have had an arm or a leg blown off," he says. "At least people could see that injury. When it comes to mental injuries, they can't. But there's nothing worse than losing your mind."

Barclay, who lives in Dalmuir, has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological condition caused by his experiences of combat. He is one of thousands of ex-servicemen and women in the UK who suffer from it, and numbers are increasing all the time as a result of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unique pressures these have put on the military. The threat of roadside bombs and suicide bombers mean soldiers feel under threat constantly. Experts believe it's more challenging psychologically than traditional battles, in which opposing forces lined up against each other. There is also the added pressure of the army being undermanned and overstretched, leading to less time off between deployments than is healthy.
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North Dakota National Guard honors Vietnam veteran

Guard Vietnam vet honored

The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Aug 30, 2008 15:31:56 EDT

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota National Guard has honored the last serving state Army National Guard pilot to have flown in the Vietnam War.

Col. Gerald Heinle of Bismarck has served more than 35 years in the military after enlisting in 1969.

The Guard says Heinle spent a year in Vietnam, piloting almost daily missions from a gunship with the 135th Assault Helicopter Company, and logged more than 1,000 hours of flight time. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and a medal for valor. North Dakota Guard officials say he’s the only serving state Guard member authorized to wear such honors.
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PTSD:Thousands of war veterans locked in British prisons

Thousands of war veterans locked in British prisons
One in 11 prisoners serving time in UK jails is a former member of the armed forces, a new report reveals.

By Ben Leach
Last Updated: 6:26PM BST 30 Aug 2008

War veterans make up around nine per cent of the prison population Photo: GETTY IMAGES

More than 8,000 veterans are currently behind bars, many of whom have served their country in Iraq or Afghanistan, researchers found.

A high proportion of the convicts interviewed in the study had suffered some form of post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving the forces. Often their convictions were for drug- or alcohol-related violence.

Ex-services charities said the findings highlighted the difficulty which many former soldiers face in making the transition to civilian life.

The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), which carried out the research, called on the Government to do more to tackle mental health problems suffered by people who have fought in war zones.

It said that around 24,000 veterans are either in jail, on parole or serving community punishment orders after having been convicted of crimes. They make up around nine per cent of the prison population.

Opposition MPs and charities called the findings another example of ministers breaking the 'military covenant' – the guarantee that soldiers receive fair treatment in return for putting their lives on the line.

They claimed that if the Ministry of Defence properly screened those discharged from the military for mental illnesses, problems could be identified earlier.

NAPO's conclusions are based on the findings of three separate studies: MoD research at HMP Dartmoor, a survey at eight jails by the Veterans in Prison support groups last year, and a series of Home Office research projects between 2001 and 2004.

In addition, probation officers provided case histories of 74 individuals so that researchers could assess the factors that drove ex-services personnel to commit crimes.

The report concludes: "Most of the soldiers who had served in either the Gulf or Afghanistan were suffering from post traumatic stress. Little support or counselling was available on discharge from the forces.

"Virtually all became involved in heavy drinking or drug taking and in consequence involvement in violence offences, sometimes domestically related, happened routinely."
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The UK has the same problem we do, except we have a lot more wounded veterans in jail instead of in treatment.

New Orleans evacuating people and pets this time

Gulf Coast residents flee 'extremely dangerous' Gustav
Story Highlights
NEW: New Orleans mayor "strongly, strongly encouraging everyone in this city to evacuate"
Gustav's winds were nearly 145 mph as it gets ready to slam Cuba
Hurricane center calls Gustav "extremely dangerous"
Thousands flee Gulf Coast; Gustav could hit Monday or Tuesday

BELLE CHASE, Louisiana (CNN) -- As Hurricane Gustav's winds reached up to 145 mph on its predicted path to the U.S. Gulf Coast -- ravaged in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- residents headed inland in droves.

"This makes Gustav an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale," the National Hurricane Center said.

In New Orleans, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, anxiety was high.

"I am strongly, strongly encouraging everyone in this city to evacuate," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said at a news conference Saturday. "Start the process now."

"I'm not sure where I'm going," Margie Hawkins of New Orleans told CNN as she stood outside Union Passenger Terminal, where people were waiting to be transported out of New Orleans.

However, she was not fazed.

"I am confident and positive that the city will arrange a good place," she said, her small dog Bubbles yipping at her feet. Unlike the runup to Katrina, officials are allowing people to take their pets with them.

"My last 24 hours have been somewhat worrisome and very, very prayerful, because this is a very serious threat, and it's a lot of people to get to safe ground or be safe where they are," Hawkins said.
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Proof, some military families are on food stamps by the military

There are way too many people in this country that claim the stories of military families on food stamps is nothing more than "far left fantasy" much as they deny there are homeless veterans. Well, as with the homeless veterans, and the government proving there are homeless veterans, here is one more time when the government once again proves the reality of what some of our troops are going through. They had to change to new cards so that the other people in line wouldn't know who had food stamps instead of ATM cards or credit cards. There are only two kinds of shoppers who can go onto bases. Disabled veterans with 100% disability ratings and military families. This proves they don't make enough money to survive without getting food stamps and it's so wrong there are no words. Maybe the next time you see one of those blogs denying the reality of how we really do "support the troops" in this country, you can tell them they need to read Army Times once in a while to know some facts.

Using food stamps now easier at commissaries

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Aug 29, 2008 16:39:58 EDT

It’s now easier for commissary customers redeeming food stamps to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards — and they have more privacy, too, as all checkout lines now accept these cards just as they do any credit or debit card.

The new checkout system is dubbed the Commissary Advanced Resale Transaction System, or CARTS.

Previously, commissaries had to use stand-alone, state-provided systems to process the benefit cards, and the terminals were installed on only one or two registers. Food stamp benefits are not received overseas.

“On occasion, customers with food-stamp EBT cards found themselves in the wrong line, and we’d have to direct them to use one of the registers with an EBT terminal,” said Gary Hensley, director of the commissary at Fort Benning, Ga., in an announcement from the Defense Commissary Agency. The Fort Benning commissary rang up more than $1.1 million in purchases in the food stamp redemption program in 2007, tops among commissaries.
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Georgia War Veterans Home is closing shutting out 82 veterans

Maybe since they say "support the troops" often enough they can forget about the veterans. After all, the budget demands cuts and they can't expect the federal government to do their job and take care of the veterans who served the entire nation. Well, you really can't considering who is running the federal government right now.

State budget cuts force veterans from home
By Travis Fain -

Eighty-two veterans will need a new place to live soon because a Georgia War Veterans Home facility in Milledgeville is scheduled to close because of state budget cuts.

Other portions of the Wheeler Building will remain open, but veterans in the assisted living unit got letters Friday saying they'll need to move within 90 days. The quarters will close Nov. 30, according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, and staff members are trying to help veterans find new places to live and to make sure they get all the federal benefits they're entitled to.

Some may qualify for other government housing programs, or for a higher level of care at the facility's nursing home, said Dan Holtz, director of health contracting and facilities for the Georgia Department of Veterans Service. But many of the affected veterans will probably have to find their own place or move in with family, Holtz said.

The domiciliary care area slated to close in the Wheeler Building was the only state-run facility of its kind, Holtz said. Veterans live there for free in a retirement-home-type facility, which offers less care and supervision than the full-blown nursing home services the Milledgeville home also offers. It costs the state about $2.7 million a year to operate, though federal funds pushed the total budget to about $4 million a year, Holtz said.

The cuts are part of nearly across-the-board cuts to the state budget, in response to a predicted $1.6 billion difference this year between expected revenues and budgeted spending approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Sonny Perdue this year. Perdue has asked agencies to prepare plans for potential 6 percent, 8 percent and 10 percent cuts in the wake of lower-than-hoped for revenue collections.
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Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (Ret) speech at Democratic Convention

Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (Ret)
Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 07:15 PM
I’m honored to share the stage with those who have served our country with distinction, officers who share my pride and appreciation for our men and women in uniform and their families, veterans who share my commitment to making Barack Obama our commander-in-chief.

I know this stadium is filled with many veterans who have sacrificed for our country. I’d like to ask everyone who has worn the uniform of the United States to please stand and be recognized. Join me in a round of applause in appreciation for their service.

Thank you.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make: until recently, I was a Republican. But you’ll be happy to know that I’m looking forward to voting for Barack Obama in November.Let me tell you about the journey that led me to Mile High. I moved to Congo when I was a year old. My parents were missionary teachers. The first words I learned were in Swahili.

My family had to be evacuated and we ended up as refugees. So I learned at an early age to value freedom and the ideals of America.I am proud to have served in the United States Air Force for over three decades. I’ve served in combat with many who are here tonight. We know what America needs in our next commander-in-chief.In 2005, I was director of strategy, plans, and policy at United States European Command. That’s when I met a leader unlike any I had met before. That’s when I met Barack Obama.

Senator Obama wanted to know what the military was doing in Europe, Eurasia, and Africa and he wanted to know why we were doing it. He asked tough questions, and he didn’t settle for easy answers. It was this same way of thinking that led him to get it right, when he opposed the war in Iraq, when he warned of its consequences. That’s the judgment of a leader.In 2006, I went with Senator Obama to Africa, and experienced firsthand the leadership that America needs. In the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, I saw a leader with the understanding to build new bridges over old divides. That leader is Barack Obama.

In Nairobi, I saw a leader with the courage to confront corruption directly with the president of Kenya. In Chad, I saw a leader who listened to the stories of refugees from Darfur – a leader committed to end that genocide.

In Djibouti, I saw a leader who relaxed with our troops on the basketball court, who won their respect and admiration in discussions around the dinner table, and who appreciates their service.That leader is Barack Obama. Leadership does matter. And we can’t afford four more years of more of the same.When I consider who should be commander-in-chief, I ask four questions.

First, who has the judgment to make the right decisions about when to use force? In his words of caution before the invasion of Iraq, and in his consistent calls for more force against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Barack Obama has shown the judgment to lead.

Second, who grasps the complex threats of the 21st century? Barack Obama understands these challenges. He has a strategy to use all elements of our power to keep America safe.

Third, who has the integrity, vision, values, and patriotism to inspire Americans to serve? I have seen firsthand this man’s capacity to inspire. It is second to none. I know he will inspire a new generation of Americans to serve our country.

And fourth, who has the dedication to take care of our wounded warriors, veterans, and military families? Barack Obama is a friend of our military. He improved care for wounded warriors. He fought to make disability payments fair. He took on the battle against homelessness among our veterans. As president, he will fully fund the VA and make it more effective.This grandson of a soldier who marched in Patton’s army understands America’s sacred trust with those who serve. He will keep it as our commander-in-chief. Yes, leadership does matter.

Our men and women in uniform perform superbly around the globe. We need a commander-in-chief who respects them as our most precious resource.I cannot forget that night in 1996 when terrorists attacked our barracks at Khobar Towers. Nurses and doctors worked frantically to save lives. I remember seeing a para-rescue crewman putting stitches in a patient while a friend held a compress on the corpsman’s forehead to stop his bleeding. Our men and women at Khobar towers made me proud to be in the military, proud to be an American. Nineteen men died that night. Eighteen of them worked for me.

It was a poignant reminder that “life itself is a gift,” and no, freedom is not free.I have served under six commanders-in-chief.

My journey led me here because I know that leadership does matter. That is why I am enthusiastically supporting Barack Obama to be our next president. He is the leader our military needs. He is the leader our country needs.
Thank you, and may God bless America.

Broward deputies Taser mentally ill inmate twice in court

Broward deputies Taser mentally ill inmate twice in court
A Broward circuit judge had ruled the man, 22, was mentally incapable to stand trial
Joel Marino South Florida Sun-Sentinel
10:46 AM EDT, August 30, 2008
FORT LAUDERDALE - Upset by a judge's ruling, a mentally ill defendant asked deputies to let him catch his breath before they carted him from the Broward Circuit Court back to jail on Friday, his lawyer said.

The deputies told him he had to go, according to Assistant Public Defender Anne LeMaster, and when he resisted, they shocked him with a Taser -- twice.

The county's Public Defender's Office says the deputies used excessive force and filed a complaint with the Broward Sheriff's Office. David Jones, 22, the inmate, was handcuffed and shackled, LeMaster said.

"It just seems as though Tasering was not necessary in this case," said Doug Brawley, head of the Public Defender's mental health division.

Jones asked for a brief break after Judge Geoffrey Cohen ruled the inmate was mentally incapable to stand trial and ordered transferred to a state mental hospital, LeMaster said.
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Louisiana National Guard gets ready for Gustav

La. Guard braces for Gustav

Posted : Friday Aug 29, 2008 10:59:44 EDT

About 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard have been put on notice as part of the state’s preparations for a possible Gustav landfall next week.

The soldiers will be pre-staged at several armories so they can be quickly deployed, said Gen. Bennett Landreneau, commander of the Guard. That number could increase to 5,000, if needed, he said.

“Right now, with a storm a possible threat to Louisiana, we have called all of our soldiers in the Army and Air National Guard to be prepared for a possible alert,” said Cpt. Taysha Deaton-Gibbs, Department of Public Affairs Officer. “They know they need to be ready at a moment’s notice.”

No units had been activated as of Wednesday morning, but that could change quickly.

“We are prepping our response vehicles and equipment, so we’ll be able to take immediate action,” Deaton-Gibbs said. “We are being prepared in case further development occurs. Right now, we’re looking at ‘H’ hours. If the storm is to hit Tuesday, that could start tomorrow.”

“H” hours signify when the hurricane would hit and the Guard would be in action.

The Guard will be included in a meeting set today with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
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Gulf coast residents flee Gustav with memories of Katrina

Gulf Coast residents flee deadly Gustav
Thousands of residents hit the road this morning as deadly Hurricane Gustav threatened Cuba and stayed on track to slam into the Gulf Coast sometime late Monday or early Tuesday. The powerful Category 3 storm is raising memories of catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans almost exactly three years ago. full story

Vets for Obama "At the end of the day (McCain) support of veterans has been bankrupt"

Kuniholm pointed out that Obama has raised six times as much money from service members overseas as McCain has, and that his ratings from Disabled American Veterans are much higher. “The McCain campaign can rant however it wants to,” Smith said, “but, when you look at the records, McCain hasn’t been there for veterans. At the end of the day, his support for veterans has been bankrupt.”

Vets For Democrats
by George Packer
September 8, 2008
Last Wednesday, on the morning of Securing America’s Future day at the Democratic National Convention, Jon Kuniholm stood in the lobby of the Pepsi Center—a big man with the face of a studious boy, filling up every inch of a conservative gray suit whose right sleeve ended in a gleaming prosthetic hook. A former Marine captain, Kuniholm still cuts his hair military style, shaved on the sides and short on top. “It makes the conversation shorter,” he said. “Instead of asking, ‘How’d you lose your arm?’ people just say, ‘Iraq?’ ”

On New Year’s Day, 2005, Kuniholm’s right arm below the elbow was shredded by a homemade bomb packed into a can of olive oil, near the Sunni town of Haditha. At the time, he was serving as a platoon leader in a battalion of as few as six hundred and fifty marines, who had been given the impossible mission of trying to control an insurgent-ridden area the size of three counties in his native North Carolina.

Wednesday was Kuniholm’s thirty-seventh birthday, and he was in Denver to vouch for Barack Obama. He and a small group of young men sporting “Veterans for Obama” buttons went out drinking at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. One of them was Richard Smith, a twenty-three-year-old from Florida, with a receding hairline and an air of angry excitement. “Four months ago, I was a buck sergeant in Afghanistan,” Smith said over a pitcher of porter and the noise of a bar band. “And I stood on the stage of the Democratic National Convention tonight? It’s ridiculous.” He was staying at a Motel 6, paying his expenses out of his only source of income, the G.I. Bill—the new version of which, he pointed out, Obama worked hard to pass, while McCain didn’t bother to show up for the vote on it. The subject of a bracelet that Obama wears on his wrist came up. It was given to him by the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. “Here’s the thing—have you heard Obama say that?” Smith said. “Every time John McCain appears before a veterans’ group, he makes a point of noting that he wears the bracelet of an Iraq veteran who was killed.”

Smith grew up poor, with Republican leanings. On Halloween night in 1996, when he was twelve, he went trick-or-treating as Bob Dole. But he enlisted straight out of high school, and his views began to change. “I never agreed with the war in Iraq,” Smith said. “But I didn’t want to serve in this era and not deploy.” In early 2007, he got his wish. “When I got over there, it was almost more of an atrocity that we were still in Afghanistan than that we were in Iraq,” he said. “I’d like to personalize that for you.”
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Montana Havre VA clinic bogged down

Local Headlines:
Havre VA clinic bogged down

(Created: Friday, August 29, 2008 1:06 PM MDT)

Tim Leeds Havre Daily News

The Veterans Affairs Montana Healthcare System has announced that the plans to open a VA clinic in Havre have been delayed while the VA determines the most cost-effective way to open a Havre clinic. Teresa Bell, public affairs officer for VA Montana Healthcare System, said that after the VA received bids to provide services on a contract basis in Havre, the VA decided to review a bid by a local provider and determine whether the clinic should be opened on a contract basis or opened as a separate VA-staffed facility. “Whenever the government enters into a contract arrangement there is a requirement to assure the price is cost effective to the government … ,” Bell said in an e-mail. “Once the analysis is complete VA will go forward with the Havre (clinic).”
Montana’s U. S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said they have been looking into the delay. Both also said they will fight to make sure it does open. “The Havre VA Clinic is a big priority for me, and I have directly contacted VA Montana about this delay.
They say they’re taking a second look at how they want to do the Havre clinic to get the best bang for the buck for Montana’s veterans and taxpayers,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I am frustrated that things have ground to a halt but I have assurances from (Montana VA Healthcare) Director (Joe) Underkofler that the VA remains committed to opening a clinic in Havre sooner rather than later. “As a member of the Senate veterans committee I will keep the VA’s feet to the fire and work to make sure The Havre clinic doesn’t get bogged down in red tape.” Tester added. “Hi-Line vets have waited long enough.” Baucus also said he will fight to make sure the clinic does open. “I’ve made it very clear to the VA that there is a tremendous need for veterans’ health services in Havre and across the Hi-Line,” he said.
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Washington State VA "Blow it up from the inside and blame it on the staff."

Fears for local VA's future aired
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin - Walla-Walla,WA,USA
Local veterans and VA employees met Thursday with a state official and members of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray's staff.

By SHEILA HAGAR of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

A mixture of fear and distrust has replaced the pride and pleasure of serving veterans that employees of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center once had, according to at least one former VA employee.

"It's toxic. That's how I would say it. People who have been there for 20 years are getting notices of 30 days," said James Bernasconi.

Bernasconi was responding to a question from those who had come to Walla Walla to get some answers about the VA's future here.

Bernasconi was surrounded by more than two dozen others who assembled at the National Guard Armory on Thursday afternoon to talk to members of Sen. Patty Murray's staff and John Lee, director of state Department of Veteran Affairs.

The discussion was moderated by Don Schack, commander of Blue Mountain Veterans Coalition.

When asked about employee morale, Bernasconi replied, "It's the worst I've seen ... Max Lewis has no regard for individual employees. They have no idea what's coming."

Bernasconi has a measure of safety several others in the room could only wish for. The budget analyst retired at the beginning of the month after working 33 years for the Walla Walla VA. Also a veteran, he continues to serve as vice president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees union.

It was just over a year ago the mental-health unit at the local VA was considered by some in management to be one of the best in the nation, he explained. Now many believe it to be slated for closure.

Bernasconi believes it began with the arrival of former Director Sharon Helman. "They brought Sharon Helman in to quiet the community," he said. "She had no management skills, but she quieted things down."

Under Helman's reorganization in July 2007, department chiefs were taken out of their positions and departments were left to "intentionally fail," most especially the nursing home, Bernasconi said.

Others spoke of the rapid shut down of the Community Living Center in July, a feat accomplished in three days. A woman who identified herself as a volunteer at the VA told of one man rushed to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland three days after his discharge from the nursing home. "Now he has all these bills and he doesn't know who's going to pay them," she added.

"It seems like a brilliant plan," said veteran Russ Acord. "Blow it up from the inside and blame it on the staff."

Acord, a full-time engineering student, receives medical care at the VA and has friends who work there, he said.

He blames Dennis "Max" Lewis, the Veterans Affairs regional network director, and Helman for "pulling this VA apart as quickly as possible, but they are simply following orders and being paid well to do so.

"Sharon Helman and Max Lewis are brilliant," Acord said. "We shouldn't underestimate them."

Others, many unwilling to identify themselves to the newspaper, spoke of their fears about the VA hospital's future. "Who can I call? Where am I supposed to go?" asked one veteran, who said she has mental-health issues.

And mental health is where money and focus needs to be -- returning soldiers are not going to come home the same, said Roxanne Hinkle of Blue Mountain Veterans Coalition. "They'll have traumatic brain injuries and serious psychiatric issues. We've got to stop the shutting down of that particular area right now."

Civilian psychiatrists don't know how to deal with the problems we have," one veteran noted. "You close that (mental-health unit), you have a bunch of people with psychiatric problems that are pissed off."

Managers with long, commendable work histories have been fired recently as scapegoats, while others have fled the situation by quitting, noted a former employee. And staff members displaced from other areas are being slotted into spots they are not yet qualified for, she said. "This will hurt lives."
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Landstuhl Regional Medial Center has treated over 50,000 wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan

Constructing a tower at the hospital has been talked about for at least 20 years. U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan receive treatment at Landstuhl before flying back to military hospitals in the States. Since 2001, Landstuhl has treated more than 50,000 patients from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Landstuhl to add 5-story inpatient tower
Upgrade will allow hospital to treat troops’ families
By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 30, 2008

LANDSTUHL, Germany — The largest American hospital outside the United States is set for a $405 million upgrade.

Set for completion in 2014, a five-story tower would house inpatients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Landstuhl commander Army Col. Brian Lein received official word Thursday the project had been approved. Construction is slated to begin in fiscal 2011.
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Groups decry DoD ‘betrayal’ of vets

Groups decry DoD ‘betrayal’ of vets

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Aug 29, 2008 16:09:27 EDT

In a letter going out to members of Congress next week, the directors of two major veterans’ groups say the Pentagon’s personnel chief has intentionally withheld benefits from wounded service members.

“We need your immediate assistance to help end the Defense Department’s deliberate, systemic betrayal of every brave American who [dons] the uniform and stands in harm’s way,” states the letter, signed by David Gorman, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, and Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“Sadly, the 2007 Walter Reed scandal, which resulted mostly from poor oversight and inadequate leadership, pales in comparison to what we view as the deliberate manipulation of the law” by David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and his deputies, the letter states.

Kerry Baker, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said Chu sent out a memorandum in March redefining which injuries qualify as “combat-related.”

The definition is important because Section 1646 of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act said service members with combat-related disabilities no longer must pay back any disability retirement severance they receive from the Defense Department before they become eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs, as has been the case under longstanding policy.

The policy affects service members who receive a disability rating of 20 percent or less from the Defense Department, and thus receive a severance payment rather than lifetime disability retirement pay.

Baker said he has seen cases in which, for example, a veteran receives a $30,000 severance payment from the Pentagon, uses it for medical care or education, and then, even if subsequently awarded a full 100 percent disability rating by VA, must pay the $30,000 back first before he can draw any VA compensation.
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MI:Washtenaw County honor guard holds service for Vietnam veteran who died homeless

Washtenaw County honor guard holds service for Vietnam veteran who died homeless
Posted by Tom Gantert
The Ann Arbor News August 28, 2008 17:36PM

Alan Warren | The Ann Arbor News
Ken Rogge of the Washtenaw County Honor Guard presents an American flag to Barbara Sherwood, sister of Robert Baker Jr., during a funeral service for Baker at Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti on Thursday.

"He is a classic example of an individual that was never able to transition back." - Mark Lindke, director of the Washtenaw County Veteran Services, speaking of homeless veteran Robert Baker.

RELATED: Pittsfield Township police find body of homeless man

He died homeless, alone in the woods on a mattress.

Robert N. Baker Jr. was buried Thursday with a brigadier general present and an honor guard that made a rifle salute to the deceased Vietnam veteran.

"Even if this guy dies in the woods alone, we know him and we know what he did," said Mark Lindke, director of the Washtenaw County Veteran Services.

After hearing of Baker's death, Lindke made sure he got a proper military sendoff. Lindke said Baker, whose body was discovered Aug. 18, died of natural causes from heart failure.

"Here is just another casualty of the Vietnam War. It just took a few more years to run its course," Lindke said.

Baker, 64, was buried in the Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti next to his father, Robert N. Baker Sr. Both were sergeants in the U.S. Army. The father, who served in World War II, died in 2005. His son served in the Vietnam War, where he was given a combat infantry badge.

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Military veterans take horse farm tour

Military veterans take horse farm tour
By Jillian Ogawa
PARIS — Willie T. Hunter had just returned home from Vietnam, where he had lost his hearing, permanently, in his left ear, and had narrowly escaped death after being hit by a rocket.

Wearing his U.S. Army uniform, he was pelted by a tomato and a lemon, Hunter recalled, while getting off a plane shortly after his arrival in the states.

"When we came back, we were called baby killers," Hunter said.

It's that experience that motivates Hunter, 64, of Louisville to help veterans who served in recent conflicts in the Middle East.

"I had a bad taste in my mouth for a long time," said Hunter, who served in the Army for 20 years. "I didn't want them to go through what I went through."

On Thursday, Hunter was among the veterans from past conflicts who gathered at Runnymede Farm, a Thoroughbred farm, with veterans currently in the Warrior Transition Battalion in Fort Knox, which helps injured soldiers make the return home or to their unit.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart, a charitable organization, and the Clay family, which owns the farm, invited the veterans on a private tour of the farm as a way to show appreciation for the sacrifices the soldiers made.
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TX:Benefit held for wounded police officer Joe Pyland

Chronicle file
Houston police officer Joe Pyland suffered multiple leg fractures and a fellow officer was killed when they were hit by a car on June 29.
BBQ benefit today for HPD officer injured by car
By RUTH RENDON Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Aug. 29, 2008, 9:16AM

A benefit is set today for a Houston police officer injured in June when a car plowed through barricades on an Interstate 10 access road where he and another officer were working.

The other officer died.

Officer Joe Pyland and his family will be the beneficiaries of the barbecue lunch sponsored by the Texas Association of First Responders.

A Toyota sedan crashed through the construction barriers about 5:30 a.m. on June 29 when Officer Gary Gryder was about to hand off traffic duties to Pyland.

Pyland, 55, fell to the ground and suffered multiple leg fractures. Gryder, 47, died after being dragged alongside the patrol car and thrown several feet.

Pyland, who joined the Houston Police Department in 1980, is assigned to the neighborhood protection unit and also is a police union board member.

The driver of the car, Hung Dasion Truong, 24, remains in the Harris County Jail charged with manslaughter.
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Wave of shootings, fatal stabbings rock city streets

Vivian West (second from right) mourned the death of her son, Troy West, 42, during a vigil last night in the Dorchester park where he was found fatally stabbed Monday. No arrests have been made in the case. (PHOTOS BY TRAVIS DOVE FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
Violence, grief, and disbelief in Dorchester
Wave of shootings, fatal stabbings rock city streets
By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / August 29, 2008

Troy West loved to draw, capturing family members and inanimate objects on his sketching pad. He wrote poems with such flair that his male friends asked him to pen love letters to their girlfriends so they could pass the sweet words off as their own. And he often spent hours listening to his vast music collection, smooth oldies that reminded him of his days growing up in Dorchester.

It was a 42-year life embedded in the arts, a life that was brutally silenced by at least 25 stab wounds. His body was found Monday on a park bench not far from the home he shared with his niece. Police have not made any arrests in the case.

"I never thought anything like this would happen to one of my children," Vivian West, 74, said, sitting in her Dorchester apartment yesterday with other grieving relatives, all trying to sort out the details of funeral arrangements and a peace vigil scheduled for last night at King Street Park, where a passerby discovered her son's body. They were also trying to sort out how such an ending could befall Troy West.
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Divorce stalks Katrina survivors

Divorce stalks Katrina survivors
Story Highlights
Katrina survivor Ricky Murray is trying to save his marriage

Despite heart attack, he's still trying to repair his flood-damaged home

After three years in FEMA trailer, wife is talking about divorce

Pastor says he's busy counseling couples who are stressed out; many split up
By Sean Callebs

(CNN) -- Ricky Murray was having a miserable year long before a storm named Gustav started threatening the Gulf Coast area. Now he's afraid he will lose his family because of a previous hurricane.

It has been three years since Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people when it struck, scouring Mississippi beach towns down to bare sand and rupturing the protective levees around New Orleans, Louisiana.

Eight feet of floodwater left Murray's home in Slidell, Louisiana, uninhabitable. He's been working on the house, but he and his wife and three children have been living in a FEMA trailer.

Murray also lost his job. He recently suffered a heart attack -- brought on in part by stress, according to doctors. But what's really agonizing for him is that his wife of 16 years says she is considering a divorce. Watch their difficult living situation »
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Army calls soldier's injuries accidental, denies Purple Heart

Army calls soldier's injuries accidental
By Chris Roberts / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 08/29/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- Douglas Messer's soldier son, Charles, told his father his wounds -- a concussion, a broken arm and numerous cuts and bruises -- were suffered when his Humvee was rocked by the explosion of a roadside bomb during a combat patrol in Iraq.

Spc. Messer served with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, from Fort Bliss and had deployed with his unit to Mosul, Iraq, in late 2006. On that combat patrol in June 2007, he was manning the Humvee's .50-caliber machine gun.

The paperwork that accompanied him from Iraq through the hospital in Germany and on to Fort Bliss indicated that his wounds were combat-related, the elder Messer said.

Messer was killed Dec. 22 in a single-car accident on Loop 375 in Northeast El Paso as he headed home to see his parents in South Carolina. At his son's funeral, an Army official mentioned a Purple Heart, the father said.

Douglas Messer said he remembers that a Capt. Cleon Windham, with the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion where the younger Messer had been rehabilitating his arm, instructed him on where the medal should be pinned on the memorial flag that had covered his son's casket.

But then, in June, Douglas Messer received a phone call from the Army telling him there would be no Purple Heart.
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Theft of veterans quilt draws ire, tears

Courtesy photo Brenda Thompson and Billy McDaniel stand next to a quilt that was to be raffled on Veterans Day, with all funds to aid veterans locally. Thompson made the quilt for veteran McDaniel, who then donated it to the Sampson County Veterans Council. With hundreds of raffle tickets already sold, and many expressing interest in what veterans service officer Ann Knowles called the “most gorgeous quilt you will ever see,” the quilt was stolen last Thursday.

Theft of veterans quilt draws ire, tears
By Chris Berendt
Sampson Independent - Clinton,NC,USA
Wednesday, August 27, 2008 8:31 AM CDT
CLINTON — Three months of hard work, a gift from one man to his fellow soldiers and money that could possibly go to feed or house a local American veteran in dire need of it were all lost with a simple senseless act in broad daylight last week.

“To me, every veteran, every widow and every active duty service man and woman in Sampson County were vandalized,” said Ann Knowles, service officer for the agency.

She explained that an elaborately-crafted quilt to be raffled off on Veterans Day this year was stolen in the middle of the day Thursday, and money from 700 raffle tickets already sold will now have to be refunded.

“They stole a quilt that had been quilted and donated, and some electronic equipment that can be replaced,” Knowles said. “But you can’t replace the quilt.”
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3 tour Vietnam Veteran chooses victory over disability

Francisco Lopez-de-Victoria, 63, was forced to use a wheelchair after a 2000 back surgery went awry. The Navy retiree, who, served three tours in Vietnam and in Grenada, recently won two medals at the 28th Wheelchair Veterans Games in Omaha, Neb.

Veteran chooses victory over disability
By Jackie Alexander, Times Staff Writer
In print: Friday, August 29, 2008

Sometimes just getting out the door is hard for Francisco Lopez-de-Victoria. His red wheelchair often gets wedged in the narrow frame of his apartment's front door. • "It's almost like jumping a hurdle every morning," the 63-year-old said.

It's a marked change from his earlier life in which he spent more than 25 years in the Navy and played softball internationally.

A simple back procedure in 2000 left him having to use a wheelchair. Now, grass is treacherous. Curbs are insurmountable.

He spent hours in his native Puerto Rico underneath a mango tree, counting crawling ants and slowly trekking the path toward insanity, said his wife, Nereida.

But then his nephew rescued him by introducing him to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, Lopez-de-Victoria said.

The first year he took gold in each sport he played: table tennis, bowling, archery, shot put and weightlifting.

"If it wasn't for the games, I don't know," his wife said. "I think the games are what kept him sane."

Lopez-de-Victoria of Clearwater competed in his fifth National Veterans Wheelchair Games in late July, collecting a gold medal in archery and bronze in bowling.
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Gators run wild in Sanford FL after Tropical Storm Fay

Invasion! Critters run wild in Central Florida after Fay
Flooding has turned wildlife habitats upside down, sending critters outside their typical territories. In the process, humans are having unpleasant -- and sometimes deadly -- encounters with the natural world.

Nuisance-gator trapper Jerry Flynn has four alligators in his truck in Sanford. (Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel)

D.N.C. Veteran Tribute Video

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"D.N.C. Veteran Tribute Video"
Just have to post this video here that played during last night's DNC Convention, and give props to Stephanie Stone. Stephanie had a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy and gave an excellent testimonial (7:03 in the video) in this veteran tribute video, which was produced by Steven Spielberg. Stephanie and I both serve on the Coro National Alumni Board and are alumni of the Coro Fellows Program. She currently is Vice President of Programs and Outreach for Coro Southern California.
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McCain just gave election to Obama on a silver platter

McCain picks Alaska governor as running mate
John McCain has chosen Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket for the White House, a senior McCain campaign official has told CNN. The 44-year-old Palin, now in her first term as governor, is a pioneering figure in Alaska, the first woman and the youngest person to hold the state's top political job.

Palin's term has not been without controversy. A legislative investigation is looking into allegations that Palin fired Alaska's public safety commissioner because he refused to fire the governor's former brother-in-law, a state trooper.

Palin acknowledged that a member of her staff made a call to a trooper in which the staffer suggested he was speaking for the governor.

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Just think of the vision of something happening to the senior senator and Palin becoming president! This is just too stupid to believe. Does McCain have any respect left at all for the Republicans or the American people? No wonder they can't give away 10,000 seats to their convention.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

12 decapitated bodies were found Thursday on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

12 decapitated bodies found in Mexico
12 decapitated bodies found in Mexico
Story Highlights
The heads themselves have not been found, a local official said

Report: Headless corpses stacked on top of one another in a field

The tactic has become more frequent in gangland-style killings

(CNN) -- Twelve decapitated bodies were found Thursday on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, a local official said.

Forensic personnel analyze bodies found in a suburb of Merida, capital of Yucatan state.

Eleven of the bodies were found in Chichi Suarez, and the 12th in Buctzotz, a source with the Yucatan state government told CNN.
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Obama promises to repeat Montana's National Guard PTSD work nation wide

Obama Pledges Nationwide Use of PTSD Program
Eric Newhouse

Great Falls Tribune

Aug 28, 2008
August 28, 2008 - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised Wednesday to expand Montana's pilot program to assess the mental health of combat vets nationwide, if elected.

The Montana National Guard has developed a program to check its soldiers and airmen for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder every six months for the first two years after returning from combat, then once a year thereafter. The program exceeds national standards set by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The pilot program was created in response to the suicide of former Army Spc. Chris Dana of Helena, who shot himself on March 4, 2007, days after being given a less-than-honorable discharge because he could no longer handle attending drills following a tour in Iraq.

"He (Obama) told me he understood why we need to have additional screenings for PTSD," said Matt Kuntz, Dana's stepbrother, who was among a small group invited to meet with Obama on Wednesday in Billings. "And he told me when he is elected president, he will implement Montana's pilot program nationwide."

Kuntz, who recently gave up his job as a lawyer in Helena to advocate for the mentally ill and their families, said he was invited to brief Obama on how Montana had become a national model for assessing the mental health of its combat vets.

Besides the additional screenings, the Montana National Guard has developed crisis response teams that include a chaplain to investigate behavioral problems among its troops, and TriWest Healthcare pays to have four part-time counselors on hand to talk with soldiers and airmen during weekend drills.

After the briefing, Obama spent about 20 minutes telling several hundred veterans and their families that, if elected as president, he will be committed to meeting their needs.
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