Saturday, April 30, 2011

U.S. citizens who claim they were tortured or traumatized by Saddam will get some justice

Iraq approves $400M for Kuwait invasion victims
By Rebecca Santana - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Apr 30, 2011 15:25:58 EDT
BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers approved a controversial $400 million settlement Saturday for Americans who claim they were abused by Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The settlement is part of a deal reached between Baghdad and Washington last year to end years of legal battles by U.S. citizens who claim they were tortured or traumatized, including hundreds held as human shields.

Many Iraqis consider themselves victims of both Saddam’s regime and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and wonder why they should pay money for wrongs committed by the ousted dictator.

Lawmakers approved the settlement by a majority after listening to the foreign and finance ministers as well as the head of the central bank describe why it was necessary, said Abbas al-Bayati of the State of Law political bloc.

Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Othman, said by approving the settlement, Iraq would be protecting itself from more lawsuits in the future that could have been well above the $400 million that was agreed to.

“They explained very well what was the settlement and how it will be negative if we don’t approve it,” he said. “That’s why people were persuaded.”
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Iraq approves $400M for Kuwait invasion victims

Coping with the loss of a husband killed at war

Coping with the loss of a husband killed at war
By David Ariosto, CNN
April 30, 2011 4:49 p.m. EDT
Jeff Ausborn was among 8 U.S. service members killed in a Kabul airport shooting
The attack also left an American contractor dead
Ausborn is survived by his wife, Suzanna, and 5 children

(CNN) -- Suzanna Ausborn first met her husband during a deployment in Kuwait, where their work and friendship in the same Air Force unit would later blossom into a budding romance.

She soon fell in love with Jeff, an only child and Alabama resident. And despite the 19-year veteran's regular deployments halfway around the world, she said they had remained inseparable.

"Jeff is one of the types of people when you meet, you want to be around him all the time," she said. "You never want to be away from him."

But when Suzanna didn't receive a call from her husband earlier this week, she began to worry.

"We talked nearly every day -- that's how I knew something was wrong, I didn't hear from him."
Jeff Ausborn was among eight American service members killed on Wednesday by an Afghan pilot who opened fire at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A U.S. contractor was also killed in a shooting that has since prompted an investigation into the suspected security breach that resulted in the deaths of nine Americans.
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Coping with the loss of a husband killed at war

Chiarelli Lauds Anti-Suicide PSAs

Too many people want to excuse themselves for not wanting to know by saying they can't understand. I was one of them. Before 1982, I didn't want to know what it was like for the Vietnam veterans coming home or what their families were going through. After all, I was raised by a Korean Vet and surrounded by WWII veteran uncles. What could I possibly learn from Vietnam Veterans? I was young when all of it was going on anyway. I didn't want to know until I met a Vietnam Veteran I fell in love with at the age of 23. Vietnam became something very personal to me and I finally opened my eyes to the fact that just because their boots came off and they put on sneakers, where they were stayed with them.

Over the years the biggest thing noticed was these men and women survived combat while someone else was counting on them. No matter how much emotional pain they were in, they stayed and did what they had to do. They got up from a couple of hours of sleep, ready to risk their lives another day. All that happened to them, around them and even because of them, didn't stop them from making sure more of them lived longer than if they had not been there.

I tell the story often of a young Marine back from Iraq crying and apologizing for crying because he was a Marine and wasn't supposed to cry. He did everything he needed to do no matter how much pain he was in. He didn't allow himself to feel it until he was back home and no one else was in danger, except him. He wanted to live.

The other night I got a phone call from a National Guards Mom I hadn't heard from in a couple of years. Her son had tired to commit suicide twice by the time she contacted me. She didn't know what to do any more than she understood what was going on. He was totally lost. He carried the pain of something he had to do, started to think he was evil because all he focused on was what happened, forgetting what came before the end of this event. He needed to see himself through different eyes. Anyway, fast forward to two year later, he got married again, is back in treatment, went back to church and is healing. He's closer to his Mom than ever before because she was willing to do whatever it took to help him. She wanted to understand and it saved his life.

We need to stop making excuses to not care, not want to know, because we lose 18 veterans a day to suicide and we're still losing them to suicide while on active duty. We can't save them all but they are worth fighting for and doing whatever we can to save them. After all, the fact they were willing to die for us shouldn't mean we should let them.

You don't have to know what it was like for them to be a soldier. You just need to understand what it is like for them to be human.

American Forces Press Service

Chiarelli Lauds Anti-Suicide PSAs
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 – Preventing suicide in the military is showing signs of progress, but breaking the social stigma attached to it remains a challenge, the Army vice chief of staff said at the Blue Star Families’ premiere showing of the “I Don’t Know What It’s Like,” public service announcements to help military families fight suicide.

“Making sure the people who need help are willing to take advantage of those programs and services is not something that can be directed from the upper echelons of command,” Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli told an audience of military families, senior military leaders, members of Congress, business and Hollywood celebrities here last night at the American Red Cross Great Hall of Service.

“In the military, we institute policies and [give] orders,” the general said. “But you can’t direct the elimination of this stigma.”

Fighting the stigma, he said, can only be done by those who understand that the symptoms of depression and anxiety, which could lead to suicide, are real and not signs of weakness, and that seeking help is OK, Chiarelli said.

The nonprofit Blue Star Families launched the suicide prevention PSAs in support of military families, with help from several organizations, including The Creative Coalition, comprising members of the arts and entertainment community who take on issues of public importance.

Chiarelli recalled how a Blue Star Families member, Alison Buckholtz, gained attention last year from her opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times when she called on the Defense Department for an outreach program to tackle the growing problem of suicides in the military.

The general credited Buckholtz for raising awareness of the suicide issue.

”The PSAs are the direct result of her call for a public outreach program that will inevitably save lives both inside the military and outside the military,” Chiarelli said.

“[We’re] seeing a reduction in the number of suicides across our forces, including our reserve components,” he said. “Every suicide is one too many. We must continue, and double, our efforts and keep working to expand the accessibility of programs and services to better support those not living or working near a military installation.”

Combating suicide requires total team support, the general said, now and into the future.

“That’s what these public service announcements are about,” Chiarelli said. “There are great support and care programs available, and today, doctors, therapists, behavioral health counselors and members of the clergy are willing to help those struggling with depression, anxiety and other conditions.”

However, professionals cannot help those who avoid seeking help because they feel embarrassed, ashamed or fear it will negatively impact their lives and careers, the general said.

“There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to suffer in silence,” Chiarelli said. “A soldier who is hit and injured by an [improvised explosive device] would never go untreated, and there’s no difference.”

Survivor: War hero reaches out to help Soldiers
Apr 28, 2011

By Dave Larsen, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas -- John McCormick is a survivor. He survived two combat tours in Vietnam and came out a hero. He survived deep depression and suicidal ideations and came out addicted to alcohol. He survived his substance abuse and came out with a message for today's troops who face the same fight he fought himself: You can conquer it all, but you don't have to go it alone.

The 72-year-old retired Army officer, a graduate of West Point's class of 1961 and Corpus Christi resident, visited Fort Hood in March 2011, when national media outlets were reporting a spike in suicides among Soldiers in February.

Later that month, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli held a press conference at the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Division here. With national Alcohol Awareness Month observed in April, the general discussed the correlation between substance abuse and suicide.

"There's no doubt in my mind that there is a correlation between substance abuse, both alcohol and prescription drugs, and suicide," Chiarelli, who has spearheaded the Army's suicide prevention efforts, said March 28. "Suicide is a compulsive act, and when you mix alcohol or some other form of medication with individuals who may have ready access to a firearm you have a lethal combination."

McCormick is living proof of that correlation.

"It really means a lot to me," he said, "if I can help one Soldier by telling my story."
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War hero reaches out to help Soldiers

Friday, April 29, 2011

DoD identifies 8 killed in Kabul shooting

DoD identifies 8 killed in Kabul shooting
By Scott Fontaine - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Apr 29, 2011 14:57:34 EDT
The Pentagon has released the names of the eight airmen killed in Wednesday’s attack at Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

The airmen — seven officers and one NCO — were deployed to help train the nascent Afghan air force. They were killed when a disgruntled Afghan pilot opened fire, killing the airmen and an American contractor.

The airmen killed in the attack were:
Lt. Col. Frank D. Bryant Jr., 37, of Luke Air Force Base, Ariz
Maj. Philip D. Ambard, 44, of Buckley Air Force Base, Colo
Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn, 41, of Randolph Air Force Base, Texas
Maj. David L. Brodeur, 34, of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Master Sgt. Tara R. Brown, 33, of Joint Base Andrews, Md
Capt. Charles A. Ransom, 31, of Midlothian, Va
Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II, 40, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va
Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, 35, of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Capt. Charles A. Ransom, 31, Joint Base Langley-Eustis
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DoD identifies 8 killed in Kabul shooting

Vietnam-era Green Beret finally returns home

Vietnam-era Green Beret finally returns home
By Mitch Weiss - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Apr 29, 2011 13:29:44 EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No one had seen Sgt. 1st Class Donald Shue since he was on a mission in Laos during the Vietnam War in November 1969, so his sister was skeptical when Army officials called a few months ago to say his remains had been found.

“I said, ‘No you didn’t. I don’t believe it. It’s been 42 years. You don’t have any proof of that,’” his sister Betty Jones told The Associated Press. Then they revealed the clue that identified Shue: a Zippo lighter with his name inscribed on it.

Army officials visited her home and showed her the lighter. When she saw it, she broke down and cried.

“That was the most joyful thing I ever looked at. I knew it was Donnie,” she said.

Now, four decades later, the North Carolina soldier is coming home. Thousands are expected to pay their respects this weekend in Concord, where Shue was born, and nearby Kannapolis, where he was raised. Jones, 74, of Kannapolis, called the burial a homecoming.

“We’ve been praying and praying and praying for this day,” Jones said. “This will finally give us some closure.”
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Vietnam-era Green Beret finally returns home

Fort Bragg Staff Sgt. Carson Morris killed in accident

Police ID driver sought in fatal Fayetteville wreck

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Police on Thursday identified a suspect in a weekend wreck in Fayetteville that killed a Fort Bragg soldier.

Carson Morris, 35, was northbound on 71st School Road on a 2006 Suzuki motorcycle on Saturday night when a southbound vehicle attempted to make a left turn on to Old Bunce Road in front of Morris, police said.

Morris, a staff sergeant assigned to the 7th Transportation Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade at Fort Bragg, died at the scene.
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Police ID driver sought in fatal Fayetteville wreck/

Darkhorse Marines tell the story of Sangin, in their own words

The story of Sangin, in their own words
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment gathers today at Camp Pendleton with family and military dignitaries to honor the fallen from their ranks in Sangin, Afghanistan.

During their seven-month tour that ended this month, the battalion helped subdue the deadliest area of the country for international forces. The ritual roll call of names during the memorial ceremony will be answered by silence, but the Marines who gave their lives in the violent outpost coveted by Taliban insurgents and opium traders will be remembered in the annals of the Corps.

Much was written about the 3/5 Marines during their ferocious fight against an entrenched insurgency, when the battalion suffered more casualties than any other in the 10-year war, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Union-Tribune staff writer Gretel C. Kovach and photojournalist Nelvin C. Cepeda spent three weeks on the Sangin front lines with the “Darkhorse” battalion in February and March.

This selection of voices recounts their battle for Sangin — how it was fought, what it meant to them and what it cost.
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The story of Sangin, in their own words

Stress rising in families, but programs can help

MILITARY: Stress rising in families, but programs can help
By RICK ROGERS - For the North County Times
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011
Marine Corps and Navy officials say military families are seeing an uptick in stress-related problems because of multiple deployments, including high levels of anxiety and depression among children.

Kirsten Woodward, director of the Family Programs Division for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, said one of the military's best programs for reducing stress is available at Camp Pendleton.

"The level of distress (among families) is distressing," said Woodward, who spoke at the Combat and Operational Stress Control conference held this week in Mission Valley. The four-day forum brought together military mental health professionals from across the country.

"But there are avenues for help, and the FOCUS program, which has been recognized as a best practice program by the Defense Department, is one of them."

FOCUS stands for Families OverComing Under Stress. The program has been a fixture at Camp Pendleton since 2008. While no figures were available for the North County base, the total number of service members, spouses and others using the program has grown from 20,000 three years ago to 200,000 today.

Woodward said FOCUS has been shown to reduce behavior problems among children by almost 50 percent and emotional issues by nearly 33 percent. It's been so successful that the Army and the Air Force want the program on their bases, too.
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Stress rising in families, but programs can help

Can you see a sniper in this video?

I couldn't.

300 dead vs. royal wedding

UPDATE 4-30-11
Volunteers rush to help after tornadoes
By Ben Smith, Mariano Castillo and Phil Gast, CNN
April 30, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT
NEW: Sunday declared a day of prayer in Alabama
Death toll from South's latest tornado outbreak tweaked to 337
Storms caused at least $2 billion in insured losses, catastrophe expert firm says
Alabama death toll adjusted to 249

(CNN) -- As emergency responders continued to count the dead on Saturday, states pulverized by this week's tornado outbreak encouraged volunteers to help -- but in an orderly way.
In Alabama, where at least 249 people died, a call center is receiving 2,000 to 3,000 calls a day.

Officials working with the United Way are urging people to go to or call 2-1-1 statewide to offer their assistance.

After the search and recovery efforts, people will be needed for months to help with specific tasks, said Jon Mason, director of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

"We're overwhelmed in a positive way by the willingness to help from within the state and the rest of the United States," he said.
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Volunteers rush to help after tornadoes

This morning, every station was covering the royal wedding. It was almost as if the world had stopped. The people surviving the tornadoes were not interested in William and Kate this morning. They were thinking about their family members no longer here and everything else they lost. The death count went up again. The search for more bodies goes on.

Obama to visit Alabama as South reels in tornado aftermath; 300 killed
By the CNN Wire Staff
April 29, 2011 7:39 a.m. EDT

NEW: 35 emergency response teams deployed across Alabama
NEW: Motorists beware, officials say, gas may be hard to find in northern Alabama
Death toll reaches 300 in six southern states
Nearly 1 million customers are without power

Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) -- President Barack Obama plans to visit Alabama on Friday, the hardest-hit of six states ravaged by a series of storms and tornadoes that killed 300 people and left entire neighborhoods in ruins.

The president's scheduled visit is taking place as emergency responders in Alabama and five other states continue to assess the damage wreaked by one of the worst outbreaks of violent weather in the southeastern United States in decades, experts said.

The severe storms and tornadoes pounded the region between late Tuesday and Wednesday. They leveled entire neighborhoods, rendered major roads impassable and left nearly 1 million customers without power.

Alabama suffered the greatest of loss of life with 213 fatalities in 19 counties. The storms also left 34 people dead in Tennessee, 32 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Arkansas since late Tuesday.
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Obama to visit Alabama

Disabled veterans ruled as "incompetent" ripped off

This story makes me sick. A friend of ours served in Vietnam, not once, not twice, but four tours. It took him 19 years to have his PTSD claim approved. After watching his mental state deteriorate over the years and reactions to the increased medications, a guardian being appointed to take care of his money made a lot of sense. He received a huge retroactive check after living off of only social security payments all those years. In his case, making irrational decisions was always a possibility. If his daughter ended up with control over his money, he would have been able to manipulate her into giving into whatever he wanted to do with his money. She's a sweet woman and loves her Dad making saying "no" to him very hard on her.

That's the good part of this Guardianship Act. The bad part is what is included in this article. The guardians are not just paid for taking care of compensation from the VA. They have been getting a percentage of everything!

While the VA says, If the Florida courts appoint a guardian, a 5% commission is permissible under the Florida Uniform Veterans Guardianship Act, a March 2010 Inspector General Audit found VA regional Officers are not consistently taking effective actions to insure the income and estates of incompetent beneficiaries are protected.

And that brings us back to Ed Brewer who is waiting for a guardian because the VA says he is incompetent despite the fact a psychiatrist who works for the VA says Brewer is totally competent, he is aware of his benefits, spending them wisely and doesn't need a guardian.

The other problem is, there are a lot of veterans able to take care of their own money still put into guardianship and this is wrong. Why hasn't the VA been able to correct this outrageous situation? People have been making money off of it for years and it has been easy money for them.

Vets lose benefits as VA covers up mistake

Written by
Mike Deeson

Thousands of veterans who served our country seem to be taken advantage of when it comes to their benefits. It involves vets who have been declared incompetent and are receiving VA benefits.

Meet Ed Brewer who like thousands of Veterans is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Brewer says now that he is old and sick and he needs what he fought for, they are telling him to go to hell.

Republican Congressman Walter Jones from North Carolina in a speech from the House floor told his fellow member if something isn't done about the vets who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the situation is going to get worse.
read more here

Vets lose benefits as VA covers up mistake

Veterans' families suit against Prudential advances

Veterans' families' suit against Prudential advances
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Stephanie Barry, The Republican

SPRINGFIELD – A lawsuit brought by 10 veterans’ families across the country who allege they were cheated by an insurance giant advanced in a federal court in Springfield on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor, who is taking senior, or semi-retired status in August, set a schedule stretching into next year for lawyers for Prudential Insurance Company of America to recover documents dating back to the 1990s stating the policies for paying death benefits to families of fallen soldiers.

The lead plaintiff is Kevin Lucey, of Belchertown, father of a soldier who committed suicide in 2004 when he returned from Iraq. Lucey has been joined by others similarly situated across the nation.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs on Wednesday said that there are potentially 60,000 who may join in the suit to recoup $850 million they allege the insurance company misused by paying woefully low interest rates and holding back lump sum payouts in favor of investing the money.

“They’re investing it in anything they want, to do anything they want,” said plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel King, of Austin, Texas.

The lawsuit claims Prudential reaped more than $100 million by collecting 5.7 percent on interest on deferred policy payments while paying out only 1 percent to families.
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Veterans' families' suit against Prudential advances

Thursday, April 28, 2011

110,000 veterans’ accounts under fiduciary management

Court Rules Against V.A. on Fiduciaries
A federal appeals court has told the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to loosen its grip on benefits decisions for veterans who have been declared incompetent.

The department appoints fiduciaries to manage the benefits of veterans who are no longer able to take care of themselves. There are 110,000 veterans’ accounts under fiduciary management, and the total value is about $3.2 billion.

Veterans’ families have argued in several recent cases that they do not want the financial minders appointed by the department, as an article in The New York Times reported earlier this month.

When families have sued, however, the department has generally argued that while families may have input in the decision to appoint a fiduciary, once the minder is in place the relationship is solely within the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs and is not subject to judicial review.

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington ordered the secretary of Veterans Affairs and his department to take a second look at that argument.
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Court Rules Against V.A. on Fiduciaries

Lake Mary Florida company used to help VA communication

United States Department of Veterans Affairs Adopts F4W Systems

LAKE MARY, Fla., April 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- F4W, Inc. (F4W) announced today that it is providing the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with thirteen of its latest Core communication systems. The systems, which will be placed at VA's twelve Emergency Management Strategic Healthcare Group (EMSHG) regional offices throughout the United States and in the office of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, will provide VA with secure, resilient communications in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies.

"We're very proud to be able to support VA and veterans with our state-of-the-art communications equipment," said Harry Timmons, president of F4W. "We believe that our technology is the best in the marketplace, and will significantly improve VA's ability to respond to hurricanes, earthquakes and other emergency situations."

F4W's communications systems utilize the power and flexibility of the Internet and Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to enable encrypted voice and data connections without the need for additional hardware. The company's systems use any available connection to access the Internet for voice and data connectivity without relying on any single system or communications provider.

Using one of F4W's systems, VA employees will be able to conduct up to twenty simultaneous phone calls over a 3G cellular modem. Every call will be secure, private, and have superior sound quality. The systems VA purchased come in an easily transported kit form so that they can be quickly delivered to individual VA facilities requiring assistance.

Each kit provides voice and data communications across any available network. If normal network infrastructure is unavailable, the kit also contains a broadband satellite system to ensure connectivity beyond the incident site. The kit requires absolutely no technical support to set up and needs only ten to twenty minutes to begin working.
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Department of Veterans Affairs Adopts F4W Systems

Louisiana police officer dies protecting daughter and 2,000 guardsmen activated as storm toll climbs

"In Choctaw County, Miss., a Louisiana police officer was killed Wednesday morning when a towering sweetgum tree fell onto his tent as he shielded his young daughter with his body. The girl wasn’t hurt."

2,000 guardsmen activated as storm toll climbs
The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 28, 2011 7:50:10 EDT
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — About 2,000 Alabama National Guard soldiers were being deployed around the state as dozens of tornadoes wiped out neighborhoods across a wide swath of the South, killing at least 201 people in the deadliest outbreak in nearly 40 years. Officials said Thursday they expected the death toll to rise.

Alabama’s state emergency management agency said it had confirmed 131 deaths, while there were 32 in Mississippi, 16 in Tennessee, 13 in Georgia, eight in Virginia and one in Kentucky.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said it received 137 tornado reports around the regions into Wednesday night.

“We were in the bathroom holding on to each other and holding on to dear life,” said Samantha Nail, who lives in a blue-collar subdivision in the Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove, where the storm slammed heavy pickup trucks into ditches and obliterated tidy brick houses, leaving behind a mess of mattresses, electronics and children’s toys scattered across a grassy plain where dozens used to live. “If it wasn’t for our concrete walls, our home would be gone like the rest of them.”

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2,000 guardsmen activated as storm toll climbs

Good Samaritan Saves Veterans From Burning Home

Good Samaritan Saves Veterans From Burning Home

A Good Samaritan saved seven men from a fiery death by alerting them of the fire.

"We were on our way home from the grocery store when we saw this smoke. We pulled over to see what it was, and their house was on fire. And they had no idea their house was on fire. So we told everyone, got everyone out of the house, and called the fire department," said Jamie Coffman, the Good Samaritan.

Some of the veterans who lived in the home were previously homeless, or recovering from substance abuse.

Everyone inside was able to get out safe.

"I didn't even smell the smoke, nothing, took us all by surprise," said Victor Mejia, one of six veteran's who lived at the group home.

read more here

Good Samaritan Saves Veterans From Burning Home

Missing Vietnam War memorial plaque sold online, found headed to Thailand

Investigation turns up Cumberland memorial plaque for Vietnam veterans

By James Halpin
Staff writer
How exactly a veteran's memorial plaque that had been missing from Fayetteville for years ended up in a crate bound for Thailand remains a mystery.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents recently intercepted the plaque, dedicated to Vietnam servicemen who were missing in action or prisoners of war, at the Port of Long Beach in California, according to the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force.

"It was bought off the Internet," said Suzette Schrump, whose father-in-law's name is among those on the plaque. "We believe it was being sold as a trophy to go back to 'Nam. What a disgrace."
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Investigation turns up Cumberland memorial plaque

New Zealand Veteran confronts fake Vietnam Hero

"That record shows Bateman never left New Zealand as part of his service."
THE SOUTHLAND TIMES GEOFF BATEMAN: Told The Southland Times on Anzac Day that he volunteered for Vietnam in 1968.
Veteran changes Vietnam story
A man masquerading as a Vietnam veteran has confessed to a military record that shows he never served in the conflict after a genuine ex-serviceman paid him a house call today.

The Southland Times tagged along this morning as Graeme Henderson, who served as a warrant officer with 161 Battery in South Vietnam in 1971, knocked on Geoff Bateman's door and asked for an explanation.

Geoff Bateman told the Times on Anzac Day that he volunteered for Vietnam in 1968, the height of the conflict and the peak of anti-war protests.

When pressed for details of his service, he said he would not talk about it the memories were painful and he had "lost mates".

Yesterday he maintained the story when questioned, saying: "Yeah, I was in Vietnam.''

Today, he recanted that, claimed he had never served in the conflict and that he never said he did.

However, his confused wife Urmilla Wati demanded to know why her husband was being questioned.

Her husband had told her throughout their relationship and two-year marriage he had served in the war, she said.
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Veteran changes Vietnam story

72 year young Vietnam era-veteran walking 2,300 miles for others

Vietnam veteran walking 2,300 miles to thank comrades in arms

Written by

Those who say they support American troops and the sacrifices they make for country should walk a mile in Al Slusser's shoes.

Since April 4, the Vietnam War-era Navy veteran has treaded 260-plus miles of U.S. 1, walking north from Key West and bound for Fort Kent, Maine. That might seem an impossible 2,300 miles, but the former principal, who was happily retired in Cottonwood, Ariz., already has completed a cross-country trek that spanned from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

Tuesday afternoon, Slusser gave his feet a rest just outside Cocoa, where he planned to stay the night. He'll head out again this morning on his Great America Walk, dedicated to the honor of all U.S. veterans.

"I just want to thank veterans for their service and show respect to them I think they deserve," the 72-year-old Slusser said. "I'm not raising money, just recognition for their service, what they've done and what they do. They put their lives on hold, their families and dreams, and put their lives on the line for this country."
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Vietnam veteran walking 2,300 miles to thank comrades in arms

San Diego Naval Hospital Treats 15 for ‘Spice’

San Diego Naval Hospital Treats 15 for ‘Spice’

April 27, 2011
Associated Press
SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Naval Medical Center says it admitted 15 sailors over a five-month period last year for use of a synthetic drug that mimics marijuana.

Doctors say side effects of the drug often known as Spice include hallucinations, paranoia and confusion that can become debilitating. The symptoms can often last days.
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San Diego Naval Hospital Treats 15 for ‘Spice’

Post-Vietnam-Era Vets Have Highest Substance Use Rate

Post-Vietnam-Era Vets Have Highest Substance Use Rate

Last Updated: April 27, 2011.

Veterans diagnosed with serious mental illness more likely to have substance use disorder

Substance use rates are highest in war veterans who served in the post-Vietnam era, and in those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and have comorbid diagnoses of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to a study published in the May-June issue of the American Journal on Addictions.

WEDNESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Substance use rates are highest in war veterans who served in the post-Vietnam era (VET), and in those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Iraq and Afghanistan and have comorbid diagnoses of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to a study published in the May-June issue of the American Journal on Addictions.
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Post-Vietnam-Era Vets Have Highest Substance Use Rate

Nonprofit putting wounded from Fort Meade to work

Nonprofit to hire 48 wounded vets
By BEN WEATHERS Staff Writer
Published 04/27/11
The nonprofit group that takes over a multimillion-dollar contract for maintenance services at Fort George G. Meade this summer expects to hire up to 170 people.

While Upper Marlboro-based Melwood may hire many of the men and woman now working for the outgoing contractor, it is looking to add 48 people with special qualifications - veterans wounded in the service of their country.

Melwood CEO Janice Frey-Angel said her group is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Maryland Center for Veteran Education and Training to identify potential candidates. Candidates may have cognitive, mental health and physical disabilities, as well as brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The group also is recruiting the 200 soldiers in Fort Meade's Warrior in Transition unit, which helps servicemen and women return to civilian life, said Fort Meade spokeswoman Mary Doyle.

"Being able to provide veterans with jobs has been one of Melwood's missions," Frey-Angel said. "Being on base, it's a familiar (environment for them) - it's not like taking them out of their comfort zone. In many ways, it gives us the opportunity … to do our job, meet our mission and also help the country."

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Nonprofit to hire 48 wounded vets

173 dead after tornadoes, media spends day on one birth certificate


Southern storms: 'I don't know how anyone survived'
By the CNN Wire Staff
April 28, 2011 5:59 p.m. EDT
NEW: Nearly 1 million customers without power
Death toll nears 200 in Alabama
President Obama calls storms "heartbreaking," will travel to Alabama on Friday
More than 1,100 are people treated at hospitals
Read more about this story from CNN affiliates WBMA-TV and WIAT-TV. Is severe weather affecting you? Share stories, photos and video with iReport.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama (CNN) -- Public and private assistance -- in the form of food, tarps and hugs -- began arriving Thursday in storm-battered Southern communities that lost nearly 300 people and saw once-familiar neighborhoods reduced to piles of debris.
The grim death toll continued to rise across the region, with 284 counted in six states. Nearly 1 million customers were without electricity in seven states.
The vast majority of fatalities occurred in Alabama, where at least 195 people perished, said Gov. Robert Bentley.
read more here
I don't know how anyone survived

Update 3:05
250 die as storms carve up South
More victims are being found after a tornado outbreak that leveled entire neighborhoods and crippled towns in six Southern states. Alabama was hardest hit with 162 dead.


Violent Storms Rip Through 6 Southern States, Kill at Least 200

Storms rip across the South, killing at least 173
By the CNN Wire Staff
April 28, 2011 8:01 a.m. EDT
NEW: Alabama governor: Some University of Alabama students died
The death toll in Alabama skyrockets to 128
Birmingham's mayor says many people are missing and hundreds are injured
"My bathroom is across the street," a resident says

(CNN) -- Daylight illuminated a scene of utter devastation across many areas of the South Thursday, following storms of near-epic proportions that killed as many as 173 people in five states.

The vast majority of fatalities occurred in Alabama, where at least 128 people perished, Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, told CNN Thursday. A breakdown provided by Ardis showed that violent weather claimed lives in 16 Alabama counties. The hardest hit was DeKalb County, where 30 people perished.

Before dawn Thursday, Mississippi emergency management officials also added 14 previously unreported fatalities to the count, increasing the death toll in that state to 32, officials said. At least one person died in both Arkansas and Tennessee and 11 died in Georgia.

Entire neighborhoods were leveled and hundreds of thousands of people were without power.

"This could be one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in the nation's history by the time it's over," CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris said.
read more here
Storms rip across the South, killing at least 173

It is silly season after all when the media has been following around Donald Trump and giving the "birth issue" coverage instead of covering a massive story like this. As Jon Stewart pointed out last night, Trump was taking credit for Obama releasing the "long form" birth certificate and felt as if he had done "something really important" by causing the release when if Trump really cared about this country, he'd take that helicopter to some of these areas hit by tornadoes and actually do something to be proud of since it is because of him no one is giving these states the attention they deserve. These are real lives but Trump turned a non-story into every cable station covering it. They even had to waste time talking about if the coverage is over or not!

Wednesday April 27, 2011

Believe It or Believe It
Obama Releases Long-Form Birth Certificate
Barack Obama expresses his sad disappointment in Americans, and Donald Trump proudly takes credit. (07:18)

Ohio veterans have money waiting for them while they count pocket change

Many Ohio veterans aren't applying for benefits

Posted: Apr 27, 2011
By Dave Dykema - email
By Jonathan Walsh, Reporter

Toledo, OH -
TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Tens-of-thousands of veterans in Ohio are supposed to be getting some money from the state, but so far they haven't applied.

Anyone who served in the Persian Gulf War or Iraq or Afghanistan is eligible for up to $1,500. Families of fallen soldiers could get up to $6,500.

Former Marine Brad Luderman says, "I'm sure there are a lot of people who don't know about it."

Luderman served in Iraq in 2003, 2004, 2005. When he got back he applied for the Ohio Veterans bonus money last October.

"When they first came out with it they said it would be within 8 weeks and here it is 5-6 months later and I still haven't got it," Luderman said. "But I'll get it eventually."

He says he just talked to program reps Tuesday and was told some more paperwork is needed. Despite the delay, he says the application is not hard.
read more here
Many Ohio veterans aren't applying for benefits

Is iPhone a risk to security of deployed troops?

When we talk about not wanting to be tracked by the iPhone, we do it because we don't like to have our privacy challenged. When the owner of an iPhone happens to be in the military, we should be asking if this is putting their lives at risk.

Stop and think about all the programs that are supposed to be secure only to discover they have been hacked because someone else was smarter.

Apple Sued Over iPhone Data Privacy
The disclosure of Unique Device Identifiers associated with Apple's mobile devices represents a privacy law violation, the complaint claims.

By Thomas Claburn InformationWeek
February 01, 2011 02:56 PM
Apple last week was sued in San Jose, Calif., for alleged privacy and state business law violations arising from its disclosure of iPhone device identifiers and personal information.

Plaintiff Anthony Chiu, a resident of Alameda, Calif., claims that Apple knowingly transmits data to third parties that can be used to identify users of Apple's mobile devices, without user consent and in violation of various laws. The legal filing also targets 50 unnamed "John Doe" defendants, raising the possibility that third-party developers of apps that use the data in question could wind up in court.

We spoke with Chris Sather, Product Management for Network Defense at McAfee about McAfee's next generation firewalls that analyze relationships and not protocols.

The case hinges on Apple's use Unique Device Identifiers (UDIDs), serial numbers associated with every mobile device. The complaint states that Apple allows UDIDs to be displayed to application developers and allows downloaded apps to access the user's browsing history whenever the user clicks on an ad or application using his or her mobile device.
read more here
Apple Sued Over iPhone Data Privacy

These are not just personal phones heading into combat with the troops, but they have been handed out to them by the military as a new weapon to help them. What happens if someone hacks into them and finds out where they are if these phones are tracking their every move? If iPhones can track anyone, what about iPods? The troops are using iPod Touch.
Apple’s New Weapon
To help soldiers make sense of data from drones, satellites and ground sensors, the U.S. military now issues the iPod Touch.

Tying the hands of a person who is speaking, the Arab proverb goes, is akin to "tying his tongue." Western soldiers in Iraq know how important gestures can be when communicating with locals. To close, open and close a fist means "light," but just opening a fist means "bomb." One soldier recently home from Iraq once tried to order an Iraqi man to lie down. To get his point across, the soldier had to demonstrate by stretching out in the dirt. Translation software could help, but what's the best way to make it available in the field?

The U.S. military in the past would give a soldier an electronic handheld device, made at great expense specially for the battlefield, with the latest software. But translation is only one of many software applications soldiers now need. The future of "networked warfare" requires each soldier to be linked electronically to other troops as well as to weapons systems and intelligence sources. Making sense of the reams of data from satellites, drones and ground sensors cries out for a handheld device that is both versatile and easy to use. With their intuitive interfaces, Apple devices—the iPod Touch and, to a lesser extent, the iPhone—are becoming the handhelds of choice.

Using a commercial product for such a crucial military role is a break from the past. Compared with devices built to military specifications, iPods are cheap. Apple, after all, has already done the research and manufacturing without taxpayer money. The iPod Touch retails for under $230, whereas a device made specifically for the military can cost far more.
read more here
Apple's New Weapon

As you can see from the Apple site, it looks like the same technology is available. If they can find a lost iPod Touch, then their iPods can be traced as well.

If you lose your iPod touch, help is only a tap away.
Locate your iPod touch on a map.
Apple iPod Touch
People misplace things all the time. Fortunately, if your iPod touch is one of those things, Find My iPod touch can help. It’s a feature that’s part of MobileMe, but now it’s also free on every iPod touch (4th generation) with iOS 4.2 or later.1 Enable Find My iPod touch in Settings. Then if you misplace your iPod touch, you can sign in to from any computer web browser or using the Find My iPhone app on another iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad to display its approximate location on a map.2

They say the reason they need to do this is to track you!
Why Apple and Google need to stalk you

By David Goldman, staff writerApril 28, 2011: 5:18 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Apple, Google and Microsoft have finally cleared up most of the mysteries about how and why the smartphones their software runs store your location information.

Here's the run-down:

Are they tracking you? Sort of. Companies that design smartphone operating systems like Apple, Google, Research In Motion, Microsoft and Nokia all collect current and historical data about your location that, the companies say, is anonymized and can't be traced back to you.

The information that's collected is uploaded to massive databases maintained by the companies. A very small part of those databases are stored on your phone. The information tracked is actually not comprised of your specific locations, but rather the locations of the Wi-Fi network routers and cell towers around you.

What exactly are the companies doing with your data? The information is used for two reasons: To provide a way to locate you if GPS is unavailable, and to more quickly locate a GPS signal when one is around.
read more here
Why Apple and Google need to stalk you

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vietnam Vet's son, Mark Wills, spokesperson for Military Outreach Program

Mark Wills Is New Spokesperson for Military Outreach Program
Posted Apr 27th 2011 8:30AM by Cory Stromblad
Mark Wills has been asked to be the official spokesperson for the 'Crazy Being Home' military outreach program. The singer will kick off the campaign with a performance at the 6th Annual National MilBlog Conference in Washington D.C. on April 29. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield has been confirmed to appear at the conference.

The program was created to raise national awareness for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), two crippling, long-term effects of war service. The organization is a subdivision of the USA Warrior Treatment Today program.

Mark has a personal connection the the cause. His father experienced disabling psychological symptoms after serving in the Vietnam War.

"When my dad returned, he was inexplicably a changed man. The problem was we didn't know what it was or what to do for him," Mark recalls. "Now we know he was suffering from PTSD. It's sad that even still today, too many men and women who sacrificed their lives, go without diagnosis, help or treatment. We're hoping to change that."

read more here
Mark Wills Is New Spokesperson

American GI, nonissue to Americans

Now that President Obama kills birth issue, releases certificate the cable news stations will just go back to focusing on the royal wedding. After that there will probably be another celebrity getting into trouble or one more politician making stupid claims even the average American is insulted by.

Today an Afghan Colonel opens fire, kills 6 US soldiers at airport when they were there trying to train the Afghans to take control over their own security and their own future. These six soldiers, along with the thousands of others dead, have no future other than to have their bodies carried back to the US under a flag. What will the cable "news" stations be focused on? The wedding and the birth issue as one by one talking heads will try one more time to spin the news and talking points their way. Talk radio is just as bad. Is there any wonder why the American public considers the troops and our veterans a nonissue?

Arlington Graves Of Iraq And Afghanistan Vets Digitized By Teen

Arlington Graves Of Iraq And Afghanistan Vets Digitized By Teen
"Richard 'Ricky' Gilleland III — 11th-grader and Junior Future Business Leaders of America computer ace — has succeeded where the Army failed," the Los Angeles Times writes this morning. "He has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington [National Cemetery]. His website,, is a reverent catalog of the fallen, and one young man's response to a scandal of Army mismanagement, mismarked graves and unmarked remains that has rocked this hallowed place for two years."

"It's a tool to help remember people. They can go on and think, 'Wow, look at all these people who gave their lives just so I can walk around,' " 17-year-old Ricky tells the Times. He has focused on the cemetery's Section 60, "where about 700 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, more than anywhere else in the country," the Times says.
read more here
Arlington Graves Of Iraq And Afghanistan Vets Digitized By Teen

Obama kills birth issue, releases certificate

April 27th, 2011

BREAKING: White House releases Obama's birth certificate
By: CNN Political Unit

(CNN) – President Obama released his original birth certificate Wednesday, saying the controversy surrounding the issue had become a "sideshow."
The surprise release follows recent and sustained remarks by businessman Donald Trump, among others, that raised doubts as to whether the president was born in the United States.
“Over the last two and half years, I have watched with amusement. I have been puzzled with the degree with which this thing just kept going,” Obama told reporters Wednesday.
"We are not going to be able to solve are problems if we get distracted by side shows." he added.
read more here
White House releases Obama's birth certificate1

Bachmann settles birth issue

NCIS, police arrest Cleveland murder suspect

NCIS, police arrest Cleveland murder suspect

Written by
Kim Wendel

CLEVELAND -- Police Chief Michael McGrath confirmed the arrest of two men wanted on aggravated murder warrants in the death of Asia Harris, 20, of Parkway Road in Cleveland, on April 11.

McGrath said the two arrested are the victim's husband, Samuel Wilson, 21, of Fallback, California, and Darin M. Brusiter, 25, of Cleveland.

The arrest warrants were issued as the result of an investigation by the Cleveland Division of Police Homicide Unit of the incident at E. 37th Street and Croton Avenue April 11.

Today Wilson was arrested at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, located in San Diego County, California by Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS).

Brusiter was arrested about 5:30 p.m. Monday in the 200 block of Euclid Avenue in Cleveland by Cleveland Division of Police Homicide Detectives.
read more here

NCIS, police arrest Cleveland murder suspect

Afghan Colonel opens fire, kills 6 US soldiers at airport


Nine Americans Killed By Afghan 'Pilot' at Kabul Airport
April 27, 2011
An Afghan wearing the uniform of an Afghan Air Corps pilot opened fire on a group of Americans today, killing nine before he was shot dead.

The Afghan military said the gunman was a 20 year veteran of the Afghan Air Corps and he fired after arguing with the Americans. The Taliban claimed the shooter was an insurgent who impersonated an officer to gain access to the secure area.

The dead included eight U.S military personnel and one American contractor. Five Afghan soldiers were also injured in the violence, most receiving broken bones and cuts, said Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader.
click link above for more of this update

Afghan official: Man opens fire on Americans in Kabul; 6 dead
By Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
April 27, 2011 8:39

The man "was holding the rank of colonel at the time and he had an AK-47 with him. After his bullets were finished, then he was shot to death by armed forces," Mujahid told CNN.

Six Americans are killed, an Afghan official says
The Taliban claims responsibility for the shooting
The militant group says a "suicide attacker" killed 14 people

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- At least six American service members were killed Wednesday when an Afghan military pilot opened fire on international trainers and a "gunfight" ensued at an airport in the Afghan capital, military officials said.

NATO said six International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and a contractor were killed. It did not disclose their nationalities.

The incident -- which occurred at the Afghan national air force compound at North Kabul International Airport -- stemmed from an argument between an Afghan pilot and an international colleague, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had been working with the shooter for some time.

"A 50-year-old man opened fire at armed U.S. military soldiers inside the airport after an argument between them turned serious," said Col. Baha Dur, chief of public relations for the Afghan National Army at Kabul military airport.
read more here
Man opens fire on Americans in Kabul

Armed Forces Family Aid Concert

This part of the story is true.

Armed Forces Family Aid Concert,’ April 29th – May 1st
Posted by Rick Amato Apr 26th 2011
A tremendously important story has gone virtually untold by the media, ignored by our political leaders, and unknown to the American public. Despite the extraordinarily high price they have paid, America’s severely wounded veterans are enduring humiliating financial hardships of epic proportions. Home evictions, utility shutoffs, car repossessions, and foreclosures are commonplace.

“The Armed Forces Family Aid Concert” seeks to benefit those families suffering severe financial hardship.
You can read the rest here Armed Forces Family Aid Concert because I won't post it. It is a blend of truth and spin.

Readers of this blog know that there has never been more done to help veterans with PTSD and it is due to congress finally getting involved. Funding for research and treatment has been at an all time high in the last six years, and that is a good thing, but the above article attempts to portray the congress as being AWOL on PTSD and military families.

There are families suffering right along with the veterans. There are foreclosures piling on more stress and lost incomes. There are over 100,000 claims tied up, turned down or sitting in a pile that belongs to a veteran suffering financially while he/she has to fight to have the claim approved. How do I know this? Because it happened to us.

We spent six years fighting the VA to have my husband's claim approved. Other than the money we needed to pay bills, the denials increased the stress because he felt even more betrayed and all of this added to what PTSD was doing to him and the family. Back in the 90's no one was talking about PTSD or any of this. Families like mine had nowhere to turn to for help so this is a good thing. What would be even better would be for the general public to have some clue about what is going on. This article points that fact out and rightly so. Knowing people care offers more than just support. It offers hope.

Congress has made it easier to prove a PTSD claim and they have also passed a Caregiver's bill to help families of disabled veterans. While this does not stop the suffering, it helps.

The problems families have are enormous but the biggest ones come between wound and compensation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jim Phillips, a World War II veteran, knows what vets need

A hero helping heroes
Jim Phillips, a World War II veteran, knows what vets need

By Ann Sperring

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011
Building the destroyer USS Luce in 1942 took more than nine months. She sank in less than six minutes, a victim of Japanese kamikaze pilots, trapping more than 120 of her crew of 312 men in a blazing coffin.

Commissary Petty Officer Jim Phillips was among the injured who jumped overboard or were blasted by the ship's exploding bombs into a South Pacific sea full of hungry sharks.

“It was just around breakfast when they hit. The Japanese pilots flew their planes into us and in just a few minutes I was in the ocean holding onto some empty aluminum casing to stay afloat,” said Phillips, of Ocala.

In combat situations, he commanded the 20-millimeter cannon at the bow of the ship and his was the last gun to have a chance of blasting a diving plane away.

The force of bursting bombs and his ship's ammunition knocked Phillips out of his shoes. His uniform in tatters, he struggled for survival as salt water washed into his burned body.

“All around me I could hear shipmates pleading for help. The worst part was the sharks attacking,” he recalled. “I would hear a buddy screaming, a lot of thrashing and in a few minutes there was nothing left but bloody water.”

Phillips was rescued after a full day under the blazing sun. At one point, an enemy plane strafed him.
read more here
A hero helping heroes

Catherine Zeta-Jones Was 'Outed' in Bipolar Fight

The National Enquirer has done something no one else ever could, or would. They just told the rest of the population they have no right to privacy at the same time they turned Jones into a shining example of getting help is nothing to be ashamed of. She is the one who stood there after her private life was taken away and then held her head up high talking about mental illness. The only shame here belongs to the National Enquirer.

Michael Douglas Says Catherine Zeta-Jones Was 'Outed' in Bipolar Fight

By Rob Shuter

A raspy-voiced Michael Douglas is speaking out about Catherine Zeta-Jones' battle with bipolar II disorder, telling Oprah Winfrey in an interview airing Tuesday that his actress wife's private struggle with depression was cruelly "outed" by the media.

"I must say, Catherine's being quite open about it because she was outed, you know," he said. "She went to go get some help and some other patient probably in there said, 'Hey, you won't believe who's in here now.' And, so, once that happens, I think she felt [it] best to kind of get out the story."

He is referring to the fact that the National Enquirer first reported that Zeta-Jones was in a mental health facility, which then prompted a statement from the actress hours later.

Michael told the talk show queen why she was reluctant at first to talk about her problems.

"My oldest son is in federal prison, my ex-wife is suing me, and I got cancer. It's kind of hard for the wife to say, 'I'm depressed,'" Michael tells Oprah.

Catherine spent a total of five days in a mental health clinic to get help, leading Michael to tell PEOPLE magazine, "It takes a lot of courage to seek help and I am proud of Catherine for doing something positive about her situation. It's onwards and upwards for us."
read more here
Catherine Zeta-Jones Was 'Outed' in Bipolar Fight

First Lady Aims to Improve Military Families’ Lives with Joining Forces

American Forces Press Service

First Lady Aims to Improve Military Families’ Lives

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama stood tall behind a podium in the White House’s East Room, her husband close at hand, as she addressed a packed audience of high-ranking military and government officials.

Although it was a high-powered crowd, the first lady wasn’t there for the officials or for the star-studded brass. She was there to speak for military families.

As the flashes of hundreds of cameras lit the room, the first lady unveiled an unprecedented initiative intended to draw the entire nation together in support of military families.

This is about “the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much every day,” Obama said. One Marine wife, tightly gripping her husband’s hand, wiped away tears.

The event marked not only the launch of the “Joining Forces” campaign, but also the culmination of a long journey to improve military families’ lives. Over the past two years the first lady, with Dr. Jill Biden at her side, has traveled to bases -- stateside and overseas -– to meet with military spouses and to advocate for funding on their behalf.

“This is the moment that we’ve been working toward for such a very long time,” she said.
For Obama, it’s a journey that began even before her husband took the oath of office. Just over two years ago, she hit the campaign trail and met with working women to discuss the challenges of balancing work and family while “staying sane.”
read more here
First Lady Aims to Improve Military Families’ Lives

Traffic cam captures Iraq Vet on motorcycle being hit

Video: Iraq war veteran on motorcycle gets rear-ended; survives crash
Posted: 8:23 AM
Last Updated: 1 hour and 41 minutes ago

By: Eric Ristow
DALLAS - A soldier returning from Iraq is in good spirits despite being rear-ended by a car in Texas while he was riding his motorcycle. The man lived, and the incident was all caught on video.

A driver slammed into Army Cpl. Zacharie Perez from behind on the Dallas North Tollway as he was on his way home from work.

read more here

Iraq war veteran on motorcycle gets rear-ended

"Hope Unseen" blind soldier and daughter of NY fallen firefighter earn awards

The Christophers' Special Awards to Capt. Scotty Smiley, First Blind Active-Duty Army Officer, and Shannon Hickey, Young Activist for the Homeless

Capt. Smiley, commander of Warrior Transition Unit for ailing or wounded soldiers at West Point, to receive 2011 Christopher Leadership Award; Hickey, 21, founder of ministry serving poor and homeless which was inspired by 9/11 victim, Father Mychal Judge, to get 2011 James Keller Award
NEW YORK, April 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- ( -- Capt. Scotty Smiley, the U.S. Army's first blind active-duty officer, and Shannon Hickey, a 21-year old college student who, at age 11, was inspired to help provide for the poor and homeless by the example of Father Mychal Judge, the New York City Fire Dept. Chaplain killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, will both receive special Awards at the 62nd annual Christopher Awards ceremony in New York City on Thursday, May 19th.

Capt. Smiley, who was nearly killed while leading his platoon on patrol in Iraq in 2005, will receive the Christopher Leadership Award for his exemplary courage and leadership in the face of adversity. He opted not to retire from the Army, as is customary after a life-changing injury, but instead fought to regain his health and went on to command the Warrior Transition Unit for ailing or wounded soldiers at West Point. Hickey will receive the 2011 James Keller Award for founding Mychal's Message, a ministry that serves the poor and homeless, and which has taught many teens about the problem of homelessness in society.

The Christopher Leadership Award recognizes individuals whose work, actions and example serve as a guiding light to those in and out of public life, and inspires others to lead lives that make a difference for the good. This year's winner barely survived the shrapnel and debris that pierced his eyes and brain following a car bomb attack in Iraq. Crushed by the news he would never see again, Captain Smiley at first questioned his faith and his belief in God.

During his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army pressured his wife to follow standard procedure by signing papers that would "medically retire" her husband, since it was accepted wisdom that blind people couldn't serve in the Army. She resisted, believing her husband might still have a future within the Army he loved.

After tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual struggles, Capt. Smiley came to terms with his new reality and successfully fought to stay on active duty. Along with teaching leadership at West Point, he also earned an MBA from Duke University with assistance from his wife and a dedicated tutor, and wrote an autobiography, "Hope Unseen."

With the vast number of American servicemen and women returning from war with serious injuries, his job is of critical importance as is the example he is setting. He remains committed to living a life of service to others and admits his trust in God has been taken to new levels.

read more here
The Christophers' Special Awards

Soldier and veteran suicides, "You don't always see it coming,"

No one sees the bullet coming. It travels too fast. No one sees the bomb planted in a road. It is covered up. Sometimes we can see when a veteran or soldier is in trouble, but sometimes you can't understand how fast they can change or how deeply they are hurting. Sometimes there are signs they are thinking about it. When they give away things they cared about as if they just don't matter anymore. When they seem as if they don't care about anyone in their lives, stop talking about anything in the future as if they have no hope for tomorrow and when you look into their eyes the "life" seems to be gone. Other times, they cover up the pain so well that you may think they are doing better, until the phone call comes or the knock on the door shatters all hope you had for them.

ILLINOIS SPOTLIGHT: Sycamore veteran raises awareness of soldier suicides
CAITLIN MULLEN The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle
First Posted: April 26, 2011

SYCAMORE, Ill. — Laurie Emmer wants everyone to know Clay Hunt's name.

Sycamore resident Emmer, 48, a member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), recently spent time in Washington, D.C., as part of Storm the Hill, where members of IAVA spoke with legislators about their agenda for the year and what they'd like to see addressed through legislation.

It's the second consecutive year Emmer, commander of Sycamore VFW Post 5768, has been chosen to attend. She served more than 23 years in the Army, spending most of her time in the 82nd Airborne Division.

The group spent most of this year's trip focusing on veteran unemployment. But news received on their last day in Washington - of a fellow veteran's suicide - shocked group members and inspired them to change direction.

Hunt, who also was an IAVA member, was a 28-year-old Marine from Houston who served two tours of duty. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder but was an advocate for veterans and remained active with various charity groups. He was the last person his IAVA friends expected to succumb to extreme depression, Emmer said.

Hunt killed himself March 31.

"You don't always see it coming," Emmer said.
read more here
Sycamore veteran raises awareness of soldier suicides

Monday, April 25, 2011

Former Army chaplain in Iraq tries new role at home in Alabama

Former Army chaplain in Iraq tries new role at home in Alabama
JIMMY SMOTHERS The Gadsden Times
First Posted: April 25, 2011
GADSDEN, Ala. — He once was the subject of a television documentary that was broadcast over the Military Channel, and about the same time stories about him were published in some of the nation's larger newspapers. That was three years ago as he was winding up 27 months of duty during several deployments as an Army chaplain to U.S. military forces in Iraq.

Today, he is no longer in the military nor pastors a church, but still has a "flock" in a secular way. "The only "preaching' I do these days is therapy," Chuck Popov said, referring to his therapy group as his congregation.

Popov was a major when he left the service after 15 years. He once was an Army chaplain in the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, known as the Wolfhounds. He recently was back on base at Fort Benning, Ga., where he had once trained for deployment and where he later served as a brigade chaplain. This time he was serving his country in another role, helping military families live with — even if they don't understand — the horrors of war.

Over a period of five years, 2003-2007, Popov said he was deployed "quite often, and never got enough time back home to get it out of my system."

During one 15-month deployment, in one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq at the time, his unit had 18 killed and 300 wounded.

Popov said there were many medics but only one surgeon at the battalion aid station, and one of his duties was to help carry off the dead and write letters home to their families.

He talked about opening the body bag of a young soldier who had been killed and seeing that he was still clutching the cross he wore on a chain around his neck.

"I could just see him saying the rosary and clutching the cross, praying that he wouldn't die," Popov said. "I opened another body bag and the body of a very good friend was staring up at me."
read more here

Former Army chaplain in Iraq tries new role at home in Alabama

U.S. Army Reserve nurse killed in Afghanistan

Jamestown family mourns loss of soldier killed in Afghanistan
By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Mike McClimans of Jamestown was asleep at home when his phone rang just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

“He said to me, ‘Mr. McClimans, I’m Maj. Scott North and I’m outside your door,’ ” McClimans said, his voicing quivering slightly.

McClimans knew what the call meant.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He said, ‘No sir, I’m not.’ ”

North was there to inform him that McClimans’ son, Capt. Joshua McClimans, 30, a registered nurse serving with the U.S. Army Reserve, had been killed in action in Afghanistan.

Capt. McClimans apparently had left his living quarters to begin a 12-hour shift at a hospital when he was shot.
read more here
Jamestown family mourns loss of soldier killed in Afghanistan

Female veterans get their own VFW Post!

Vets start female-focused VFW post
By Matthew Daneman - USA Today
Posted : Monday Apr 25, 2011 6:21:44 EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Marlene Roll is used to standing out in a crowd.

The former Army reservist joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1991 shortly after returning from a deployment in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War. She quickly found that attracting fellow female military veterans to the male-dominated VFW was no easy task.

As Roll rose through the ranks of the VFW, and post after post asked her for advice on attracting female members, she decided maybe a different approach was needed.

“I thought the only way to bring them in was give them a post of their own,” said Roll, chief of staff for the New York state VFW and women veterans chairwoman for the national VFW.

And so, Roll went to work organizing what has become the nation’s only VFW post founded by and targeting the needs of women.

Men often wear their military backgrounds almost literally on their sleeve, with jackets or hats proclaiming their veteran statuses, Roll said.

“But not in the female world. A lot of them didn’t even know they were veterans and eligible for the VFW,” said Roll, 46, of Alden, N.Y. “And a lot of them shifted gears when they came back — ‘I’m a mom, I’m a business woman.’”

The VFW has a membership of 1.6 million, with membership typically being men ages 60 and up, said Jerry Newberry, VFW director of communications.
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Vets start female-focused VFW post

Mother remembers night tornado struck, injured son at Camp Lejeune

Mother remembers night tornado struck, injured son
April 24, 2011 11:38 AM
One moment, Kelsey Salerno had reached into the crib of her 23-month old son Evan to comfort him against a coming storm. The next, she had been hurled away from the crib and buried under sheetrock, and the baby had disappeared.

That is how Salerno, 21, remembers experiencing the April 16 tornado that tore through sections of Camp Lejeune housing, leaving the Salernos’ house a pile of rubble in its wake.

“I was just barely touching (Evan) when it sounded like a freight train,” she said. “I look over and the window is busted. I see the curtain is blowing and there’s glass everywhere, and all of a sudden I get thrown to a corner of the bedroom. I’m tumbling, all of a sudden I’m rolling and rolling and all I see is gray; that’s all that I can see.”

Salerno’s husband, Seaman Jesse Salerno, a corpsman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, had returned from his first deployment in August and was now training for a May deployment in California. High school sweethearts from Charleston, S.C., the Salernos had known that life as a military family would not be easy, but they had never realized one of their greatest trials would come in the form of a Carolina tornado.

“You know, I’ve lived on the coast my whole life,” Kelsey Salerno said. “I know more about hurricanes than anything else. But I never thought I’d have to deal with a tornado.”

But when she was ripped away from her son, instinct was more powerful than experience.
read more here
Mother remembers night tornado struck, injured son

War, Wives and a Near Suicide

Reading this, all I could think about was some friends. The same thing happened to them but we don't want to talk about any of this. We don't want to talk about the fact some of these "Army Wives" spent years in college, got degrees and then discovered none of it does any good when you are tied to military because the person you fell in love with belongs to the government. They go where they are sent for as long as they are told to stay. This means the families go with them. Kids end up in different schools but they are surrounded by other kids with the same stories. For a spouse, jobs are hard to get no matter how much they have to pay back in student loans.

A friend of mine became a lawyer. She was married to a helicopter pilot. She had a couple of kids to take care of but part of her wanted to practice law. Unable to join a firm because they could end up moving with a transfer, she had a lot more to worry about than just his deployments. She had to worry about all of it including her own future.

One of the other things we don't talk about is the other sword hanging over their heads. Like with all marriages, there is always the chance of a spouse falling out of love with them and in love with someone else. When they get divorced they lose all of it. They have to find another place to live and pick up the pieces of their past civilian lives.

My friend ended up divorced and alone to raise her kids. She didn't have many friends outside of military and her family was not close leaving her basically alone wondering what all the years of sacrificing for the military was for.

When you read this story, understand that it happens all the time. It is a serious issue they face all the time.

April 25, 2011, 8:26 AM
War, Wives and a Near Suicide

“If you are reading this, you should know that I am dead,” began the blog of a 27-year-old Army wife named Jessica Harp. “At least I hope I’m dead,” she added. “It would be awful to fail at your own suicide.”

The entry, posted to the blog “(Mis)Adventures of an Army Wife” on April 11, was titled “A Final Goodbye.” Its broad outlines, though not dramatic conclusion, are recognizable to many in the post-9/11 generation of military spouses. In 4,100 words, Ms. Harp chronicled her husband’s severe depression after his unit’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, and her own subsequent depression, for which she sought counseling and medication.

After her husband’s return and their cross-country move to Fort Jackson, S.C., so he could attend an eight-month officers’ course, she was told she could not join the base’s family support group because her husband was only a student there. She tried to put to use her master’s degree in financial counseling, but was told she was unemployable because she would be leaving the area before the year’s end. Her husband’s erratic behavior, coupled with his drinking, convinced her that he was an alcoholic, and she encouraged him to get help.

“The doctor immediately put him on antidepressants and sleeping pills,” she recounts. “And that was it. No counseling. No getting to the root cause of the issue. Just drugs.” She writes that he mixed his prescriptions with alcohol and at times became violent.

As their marriage deteriorated, Ms. Harp realized her husband was involved with another woman. Ms. Harp checked herself into the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, and her husband left her. She felt that the military community, for which she had given up her career and her independence, had abandoned her as well. “I wish he had just died in combat,” she writes. “If he had died, I would have been surrounded with so much support that I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Instead, he has discarded me on the side of the road like a piece of rubbish, and the Army ‘family’ has shrugged its shoulders and said, ‘Well, he doesn’t want you anymore. There’s nothing we can do about it.’ ”
read more here
War, Wives and a Near Suicide

Alligator invites himself into Palmetto home

Off topic but part of life in Florida

Alligator invites himself into Palmetto home

(Photo/Jimmy Pollack) Seeing the gator was quite a shock for homeowner Alexis Dunbar, who had just walked in her front door.
A Manatee County woman got quite a surprise Saturday when she found a 6-foot alligator in her house.

Seeing the gator was quite a shock for homeowner Alexis Dunbar, who had just walked in her front door.

"I look to the right," she said. "And there's an alligator in my guest bedroom."

Dunbar immediately got out of the house, and became concerned for her pets.

see more pictures and read more here
Alligator invites himself into Palmetto home

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Are We Throwing Traumatized Vets in Jail for Calling 911

Why Are We Throwing Traumatized Vets in Jail for Calling 911?
Joe Bangert is being jailed for doing exactly what he was trained to do: calling for backup when he feels threatened.
April 21, 2011

On March 4, 2011, the Honorable J. Thomas Kirkman, addressed the defendant in Barnstable Massachusetts' Second District Court: "Mr. Bangert, I see that you served your country honorably. It's time to do that again. I'm asking you to serve your country honorably again by (spending) nine months in the house of correction." And the gavel came down.

Joe's crime? Calling 911.

Joe Bangert is being punished for doing exactly what he was trained to do: calling for backup when he feels threatened. The problem is that, since September 11, it's not always clear to him whether the threat is coming from outside or inside. His PTSD keeps him constantly on full alert, trying to keep everything and everyone out beyond what vets call the "kiss me/kill me" range.

No question about it: Joe can be a civic nightmare. When he's upset, things get messy, rules get broken. But that should come as no surprise. We have studies going back 100 years connecting wartime experiences with traumatic injuries that lead to criminal behaviors.
read more here
Why Are We Throwing Traumatized Vets in Jail for Calling 911

Don't be fooled by some collecting for veterans

There is the
Disabled Veterans Foundation

Then there is Disabled Veterans National Foundation

This all has people very confused because when they hear Disabled Veterans, they think
The DAV does not dress up in a costume. I call it that because there are people collecting money in uniform but when asked, they say they are not a veteran but paid to collect on streets.

Disabled American Veterans, the DAV known nationally for what they've been doing for disabled veterans since,
"Incorporated in 1931, the Disabled American Veterans National Service Foundation was set up to assist in raising funds for the service initiatives of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) National Organization. The Foundation initially served to ensure that the DAV’s National Service Program and other service initiatives would always be available should the DAV National Organization suffer a downturn in its financial health. Over the years, the Foundation’s role has grown and changed as the times and the needs of veterans and DAV service programs at all levels have changed.

From the outset, the Foundation has continued its identity as a separate nonprofit organization, maintaining its primary focus on direct services for veterans who come home from military service sick or injured. In this way, it has become a strong partner of the DAV in our mission to build better lives for America’s disabled veterans and their families."

It is totally up to you if you want to give to these other groups or not but don't think your giving money to the DAV when it is going to one of the other groups.

Near my home they have been collecting all weekend. One told me he was a disabled vet, then when I asked him "who are you with" he said Disabled American Veterans Foundation but he wasn't. I told him I was with the Auxiliary, then he said, "Oh no, not that one" but this isn't new. If they can give you a fast answer so you'll drop a buck into the bucket, you'll drive away thinking you just donated to the DAV. He was with the Disabled Veterans Foundation. The names are so close that people can't tell them apart but the veterans can. They know how much work the DAV does for them and how long they've been doing it.

Bachmann settles "birth issue" too late for Maj. Gen. Karl Horst

To replace Horst with Lakin. The change of mind of Bachmann came too late when Horst had to approve the sentence of Lakin. Totally embarrassed over this misplaced name.

Because of people like Michele Bachmann getting attention for accusing President Obama of not being a natural born citizen, there were a lot of people paying the price for what this "congresswoman" told them. People like Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin believed it and it cost him his career and freedom.

Military affirms Army birther’s sentence

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Apr 22, 2011 13:49:00 EDT
FORT MEADE, Md. — The commander of the Military District of Washington is affirming the six-month prison sentence of an Army doctor who disobeyed deployment orders because he doubted President Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as commander-in-chief.

A spokeswoman said Friday that Army Maj. Gen. Karl Horst has approved the findings and sentence of Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin’s court-martial in December.

Lakin was sentenced to six months at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for refusing to go to Afghanistan.

In online videos posted on YouTube, Lakin aligned himself with the so-called “birther” movement that questions whether Obama is a natural-born citizen, as the Constitution requires for presidents.

Lakin’s sentence also includes dismissal from the armed services.

Now with the same evidence she had since the beginning about President Obama's place of birth being Hawaii, now she says "it's settled" but it is too late to undo the damage done.