Wednesday, February 29, 2012

VA working to improve call center responses

VA working to improve call center responses
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 29, 2012 13:00:43 EST
The Veterans Affairs Department has implemented new call center procedures to make sure more veterans get through to someone who can help them.

Questioned during a Wednesday hearing on long-standing complaints about getting help with benefits by phone, Allison Hickey, VA undersecretary for benefits, said two initiatives are under way to make improvements.

Since December, VA has offered people placed on hold the opportunity to get a call back rather than remaining on hold, Hickey said. This can be a call returned immediately or a scheduled call if a veteran is unable to wait by a phone, she said. Ninety-two percent of people choose a call back, and the number of so-called “dropped calls,” when a caller hangs up before anyone answers, has been reduced by 30 percent, she said.

In a second initiative deployed just this week, Hickey said the people answering phones have been given access to more information. There are 13 different VA databases available on the computer desktops of call center staff, improving the odds that they can find an answer for a veteran, she said.
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Disposal of 9/11 remains based on ’02 DoD memo

Disposal of 9/11 remains based on ’02 DoD memo
By Jeff Schogol - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 29, 2012 14:46:06 EST
The Air Force sought to explain on Wednesday how remains of victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon were lost by the Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and ended up in a landfill.

The revelation was part of a report from an independent panel led by retired Army Gen. John Abizaid that reviewed operations at Dover after whistle-blowers triggered investigations into mishandling of remains there.

A Defense Department memo from March 2002 said that unidentified remains from the Pentagon that was mixed with rubble should be incinerated and disposed of as medical waste, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told reporters Wednesday.

At least some of the remains found at the Pentagon were handled by the Port Mortuary at Dover, he said.
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Veterans in Albany talk about PTSD and being less than 1%

We always seem to hear a lot about the "1%" when it comes to rich people but never seem to notice there is another "1%" no one seems to talk about at all, including the rich guys running for the office of Commander-in-Chief.

Public hearing for Veterans
By: YNN Staff

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Senators Roy McDonald and Lee Zeldin hosted a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder hearing for Veterans to help create programs for those suffering from mental health disorders on Wednesday.

The public gathered at the Capitol to hear Veterans share their war experiences, and the experiences of those whose lives have been lost after returning home from war due to mental illness.

Veterans said while some of them are lucky enough to return home without any physical injuries, mental illnesses are often over looked.

One veteran said returning home to Saratoga County where less than one percent of the population serves was difficult with limited resources and people who can relate to his situation.
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Lifting the veil on military suicides starts with getting report right

A third of military suicides told of plans to die

Associated Press

"About 46 percent had been seen at a military treatment facility sometime in the 90 days before death. The treatment services include physical and behavioral health, substance abuse, family advocacy and chaplains."
Ok, now that you see what was already known, now we get a piece that tells a different story.

Lifting the veil on military suicides
By Jeremy Schwartz
Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 11:43 AM

The The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, which holds a trove of interesting information and statistics about war injuries and deaths, today released the results of a comprehensive study that looked at visits to doctors or clinics in the weeks preceding a suicide or possible suicide attempt or self-injury. Researchers reached some results that should increase our understanding of the record suicide numbers plaguing the military in recent years:
A very small percentage of service members who sought medical help went to a mental health specialist before suicide or suicide attempt. And the majority of service members (55 percent) did not see a doctor in the 30 days prior to suicide.
Of the troops who committed suicide and sought medical treatment, few visited mental health professionals. Only 4.4 percent sought general mental health help, 2.9 percent sought psychiatric help and 2 percent sought psychological help. About 5 percent sought substance abuse help.
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Wounded Fort Drum Soldier Partly Blames Battalion for His Crimes

Wounded Fort Drum Soldier Partly Blames Battalion for His Crimes
Story Published: Feb 28, 2012

Last June, Sergeant Albert Languet III pleaded guilty in connection with two robberies at Kinney Drugs in the Seaway Plaza just outside of Watertown.

He was sentenced to five years probation.

Languet says his Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Battalion is partly to blame for his crimes.

"It was mayhem. My life was mayhem," he said.

A traumatic brain injury suffered during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan landed Languet in the Warrior Transition Battalion.

Languet says he was with the unit for just a few months before he became addicted to pain killers.

"I couldn't go to the unit and say, 'I have an addiction problem. I need to go to rehab,'" he said.

Languet says he was afraid he would be kicked out of the Army if word got out that he was hooked.
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Fort Drum Official Says 'Wounded Warrior' Problems Have Been Solved
Story Published: Feb 29, 2012

The officer in charge of Fort Drum's medical services says that when local military officials saw a report critical of the post's "wounded warrior" programs, it was like a punch in the gut.
Fort Drum MEDDAC Commander Col. Mark Thompson was live on 7 News This Morning Wednesday. Click on the picture to see the whole interview.

The good news, Thompson said, is that the problems pointed out in the report from the Department of Defense's Inspector General's (IG) office have now been corrected.

The report was critical of the way soldier's were treated in Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Battalion, which is supposed to rehabilitate wounded soldiers so they can return to their regular units.

The official report was released in September, but Fort Drum officials saw a draft in July and "it was a bit of a punch in the gut in terms of what we want to see our unit doing and how we're treating our soldiers," Thompson said.
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Veterans' Affairs claim backlog at 800,000

Veterans' Affairs claim backlog at 800,000
Published: Feb. 28, 2012 at 9:35 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Disabled American Veterans testified Tuesday in Washington that the Veterans' Affairs claims backlog has grown to 800,000 pending cases.

Donald L. Samuels, national commander of the DAV, told the joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees, said the growing VA claims backlog with 800,000 pending claims and he expressed concern for the burgeoning VA bureaucracy.

VA aims to get better data on vet suicide rates

This is one of the facts I keep pointing out when we talk about suicide numbers
VA knows when a veteran in its care commits suicide, but only 6 million of the nation’s 22 million veterans are enrolled in VA health services.

VA aims to get better data on vet suicide rates
By Patricia Kime - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Feb 28, 2012 17:56:51 EST
Better data on suicide rates among veterans could be available by summer under an agreement forged between Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and 49 states.

The figure often noted in press reports and analyses — an average of 18 veteran suicides each day — is derived from information available from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which receives input from 18 states, and other sources.

VA now has a commitment from 49 state governments to furnish statistics on veterans’ deaths in their states to the department, said Jan Kemp, VA’s National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention.
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Heal the soul and you'll heal PTSD

Heal the soul and you'll heal PTSD
Chaplain Kathie

There is no cure for PTSD for one simple reason. There is no "cure" to what happened in the past. There is no reset button to push to undo what you regret today. Or is there?

When it comes to combat and PTSD there are a lot of regrets flooding in the minds of the men and women we send to fight. If a friend dies, "it should have been me" or "I should have done this or that and he'd still be here" along with a list of what ifs. If they ended up killing civilians, which happens in war more often than not, regrets are fed by guilt.

Wars are unclean. It is not just "bad guys" that get killed. Good guys get killed. Civilians get killed and hospitals fill up with humans from every walk of life all fighting to stay alive.

The most powerful image they have in their minds is the last one. It is trapped in time. Everything that happened before that moment is a blur. Clearing the events leading up that moment is vital in resetting the damage done by PTSD.

The revisions provide examples of symptoms that result from moral hazards: "I am bad," "I've lost my soul forever," and "the world is completely dangerous."

That is a quote from the following article. It's pretty powerful considering that is the number one thing that troubles the veterans I talk to all the time. They believe they have become evil because that was all they saw in those horrifying moments. Buildings and homes being destroyed by bombs, bombs blowing up in the road, fires, dead bodies, body parts scattered, kids toys laying on the ground near a bloody pool and the screams join in with the images trapped in their minds.

A young National Guardsman returned home after recovering from wounds obtained in Iraq. Every time he looked at his wife and small sons, he was haunted by the family he killed in a car that wouldn't stop. That image wouldn't go away. It was so powerful it blocked out everything that happened before it and what came after it. To him, he did an evil thing almost as if he intended to kill that family. What he was not able to remember was that he did everything humanly possible to avoid it.

He was on a Humvee one night when a car was approaching too fast. Suicide car bombers had taken out a lot of US soldiers before this night. He wasn't sure who was in the car but positive he needed to get that car to stop. He threw rocks. Fired warning shots into the air. Screamed. Prayed. Tried to fire at the tires. The car wouldn't back off. He opened fire on the car. It stopped. When they went to check on the occupants, it was a family. For whatever reason, the Dad decided he was not going to stop.

He tried after that to rationalize what happened and ran the what ifs around in his brain until the same response came with each question he asked himself. It was his fault. He did an evil thing. That caused him to lose everything. He got divorced, lost his job and home. He slept on the couches of friends able to take him in. By the time I was contacted, he tried for the second time to end his pain by committing suicide. Once he was able to look at everything that happened that day, along with the fact that he joined the Guard to help people, he was able to see himself as he really was. A man willing to die for the sake of someone else. He made peace with that horrible night and then was able to find peace with himself. He is not "cured" of what happened while he was in Iraq but he has healed. He was able to forgive himself.

I've talked to several veterans able to believe they are forgiven by God because of Christ but still unable to forgive themselves for what they had to do, for what they saw and even for what they believe they caused.

A Marine was sick one night and recovering when he was supposed to go out on patrol. Another Marine took his place. That Marine was killed that night. When another Marine friend came to tell the first Marine what happened, he snapped and blamed the third Marine for coming back alive. The first Marine was so filled with guilt that blaming himself wasn't good enough. He had to find others to blame. The third Marine ended up feeling guilty because he began to believe it was his fault that he lived. Both suffered for what they thought they caused.

Combat PTSD is a wound to the soul and has to be healed from the inside to heal what is outside. It is reversing the trauma. Trauma comes into the soldier and healing has to begin at the source. The soul.

That is what Point Man International Ministries does. The veterans in Point Man take on the healing of the veterans from the inside and get them to not only understand they are forgiven by God but help them to be able to forgive themselves for whatever they feel they need to be forgiven for. They do it because it worked for them and since 1984, they have seen the power of healing the veteran. This is spiritual healing first and last. It is not about one denomination over another or hitting someone in the head with a Bible telling them they are going to hell unless they convert. It is about helping them to do the hardest thing of all. Forgiving themselves.

For thirty years, this has been my life because it is a part of my life. I didn't serve in the military. My Dad did. My uncles did. My husband did in Vietnam and he's the reason I do what I do. He is also the reason why I know that helping them to see themselves as "not evil" is vital to healing them. Point Man took me in a couple of years ago even though I did not serve mainly because of how long I've been doing this but there is no way I can measure up to these veterans who have been there and done that. I can only understand what they went through to a point but will never know what it is like to have been where they went.

Over the last few years scientist have been studying the damage done by guilt. There is mental illness people are born with and then there is PTSD which is only caused by an outside traumatic force out of their control. Addressing guilt is the first step to hitting the rest button.
Modern wars changing the way PTSD is diagnosed
USA Today
Published: February 28, 2012

Psychiatrists studying the feelings of guilt or shame associated with close combat say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are influencing changes in the "bible" of psychiatry in the USA.

The section of the American Psychiatric Association's manual for diagnosing mental illnesses that outlines the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder — an illness afflicting 15 percent to 20 percent of returning combat veterans — is being expanded to include symptoms of persistent and reoccurring guilt or shame.

"We've seen … thousands of young men and women coming ho me terribly impaired emotionally by the war, and it certainly has gotten us thinking about what the consequences are (of combat)," says David Spiegel, a member of the association's working group that is rewriting the PTSD section.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has treated more than 200,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for PTSD.
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Woman charged with burning 'The Senator' says she did it 'to use illegal drugs'

Woman charged with burning 'The Senator' says she did it 'to use illegal drugs'
By Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel
11:16 p.m. EST, February 28, 2012

A woman on Tuesday was charged with setting a fire that burned The Senator, one of the world's oldest cypress trees -- and she told authorities she did it because she was wanted light to see the drugs she was doing, investigators said.

Two witnesses identified Sara Barnes, 26, as the person who set the fire, authorities said.

Barnes took photos of the flames with her cellphone and told one of the witnesses that she started it, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said.

"She did not call the Fire Department or 911 to report the fire," said Sterling Ivey, an agriculture-department spokesman.

The tree, which had twigs and branches piled at the base, burned quickly.
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The Senator, 3,500 year old tree falls due to fire

Missing Florida Fireman: Suspect Charged With Murder of Jerry Perdomo

Missing Florida Fireman: Suspect Charged With Murder
Feb. 28, 2012

The man identified as a person interest in the disappearance of Florida firefighter Jerry Perdomo was arrested and charged with murder today, police in Maine said.

Daniel Porter, 24, and his girlfriend, Cheyanne Nowak, are believed to be the last people who saw Perdomo, a husband and father of two who went missing 12 days ago shortly after he traveled in a rental car up the East Coast to visit a friend.

Maine State Police, assisted by Bangor Police, arrested Porter Tuesday at a home in Jackson, Maine, that was rented by Porter's father, according to a news release by the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Police had been testing evidence removed Saturday from the house in Jackson, believed to be the last place Perdomo was seen, according to the Department of Public Safety.

"The work being done at the lab will hopefully give us some of the answers to our questions," Christopher Coleman of the Maine State Police said. "At this point, we remain hopeful, but as days go on, we have to be realistic. We do suspect foul play was involved."

A friend of Perdomo's told Orlando, Fla., ABC affiliate WFTV that Perdomo went to Bangor, Maine, to sell prescription pills, and that he'd mentioned someone named "Daniel" previously.
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Body of missing firefighter Jerry Perdomo found in Maine woods
Feb. 29, 2012
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — The body of Seminole County firefighter Jerry Perdomo, 31, has been found, according to WFTV reporter Jeff Deal who was at the scene. Maine officials positively identified the body as Perdomo's late Wednesday afternoon.

Perdomo's body was discovered in the woods in Monroe, Maine.
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Pentagon to review how military handles PTSD cases after Madigan scandal

Pentagon to review how military handles PTSD cases
February 28, 2012
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked for a review of how the military diagnoses post-traumatic stress order, in the wake of a controversy surrounding a Madigan Army medical center team that screened soldiers for PTSD.

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked for a Pentagon review of how the military diagnoses post-traumatic stress disorder, a request triggered by controversy surrounding a Madigan Army Medical Center forensic psychiatric team that screened soldiers for PTSD.

Soldiers at Madigan complained that they were improperly stripped of the PTSD diagnoses that would have qualified them for a medical retirement benefit.

That prompted a recent review by a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center team that reinstated six of 12 PTSD diagnoses.
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Jurist, War Hero, Prosecutor ‘Buck’ Compton Dead at 90

Jurist, War Hero, Prosecutor ‘Buck’ Compton Dead at 90

By a MetNews Staff Writer

Retired Court of Appeal Justice Lynn “Buck” Compton of this district’s Div. Two has died at age 90.

Compton passed away Saturday evening at his home in Burlington, Wash. Both a small, private memorial service and a larger public one will be held at a later date, writer Marcus Brotherton wrote on his website.

A veteran of the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, Compton was a first lieutenant in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division—made famous in the Stephen Ambrose book and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” Brotherton helped Compton write “Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After the Band of Brothers,” published four years ago.

Brotherton wrote on his site:
“I was so greatly honored to have met this man, to speak with him on many occasions, to have participated in the writing of his book, and to travel with him to several shows and signings around the country.

“I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Compton, who took his nickname during elementary school—he once explained that he liked it because it rhymed with “Truck,” as in Truck Hannah, a baseball player with the Los Angeles Angels whom Compton admired—was a Los Angeles native. He took prelaw courses at UCLA, where he played football and baseball—he was a teammate of Jackie Robinson on the 1943 Rose Bowl team—and graduated in 1943 before joining the service.

In one battle depicted in the “Band of Brothers” television series, the assault on Brécourt Manor, Compton and others assaulted a German battery firing on Utah Beach, disabling the guns and forcing the Germans to flee. Compton was awarded the Silver Star, one of several decorations he earned during the war, including the Purple Heart and the French Croix de guerre with palm.
In 1944, Compton was shot while participating in Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ ill-fated attempt to seize a number of bridges in Holland and cross the Rhine River into Germany. He recovered sufficiently to rejoin Easy Company in time for the Battle of the Bulge.

Discharged from active service in 1946—he served in the Army and later Air Force reserves prior to retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1970—he turned down a chance to play minor league baseball and joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He attended Loyola Law School while working as an LAPD detective and was admitted to the State Bar in 1949.

He remained with the LAPD until 1951, when he accepted an offer to become a deputy district attorney. Serving under four district attorneys, he became chief deputy under Evelle Younger in 1966 and headed the three-man prosecution team that won the conviction of Sirhan Sirhan for the 1968 murder of Robert Kennedy.
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Vietnam veteran killed by speeding car while dumpster diving

Middleburg man killed near supermarket trash bin was Army veteran

Tragic end to search for food, items to repair.
Posted: February 27, 2012
By William Browning
MIDDLEBURG - He spent a handful of nights each week diving into garbage bins, looking for discarded items. Appliances he could repair and sell, food he could eat or pass around.

He left home Saturday evening to do just that but never made it back.

Authorities pronounced Harry Collins dead beside a supermarket trash bin about 6:30 p.m. The 68-year-old Vietnam veteran was behind the Winn-Dixie at 8560 Argyle Forest Blvd. when a car slammed into a Dumpster. That container bumped into a second one, which hit Collins, throwing him into the air, police said.

The car was being driven at a high rate of speed by 18-year-old Josh Caban. Police said he swerved to miss a store employee emptying trash moments before the collision.

Blake Sercu, a Winn-Dixie employee, was also struck but his injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

Harry Collins, a Kentucky native, had 16 brothers and sisters. He joined the Army and spent nearly two decades in the military, serving in Vietnam before marrying, settling in Germany and leaving the Armed Forces.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Mexico National Guardsman arrested in fatal shooting

Guardsman arrested in fatal shooting
The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Feb 27, 2012 10:35:22 EST
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque police have arrested a member of the National Guard following a fatal shooting. Anthony Baldonado was arrested on suspicion of murder following a shooting Saturday that left one man dead. Baldonado appeared in court Sunday.

New Mexico Guard officials tell KOB-TV that the 22-year-old Baldonado recently returned from a deployment in Kosovo.
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Bobby Norman wins gold at Wounded Warriors trials, swam with one arm

Bobby Norman wins gold at Wounded Warriors trials
By Matt Montgomery
Posted Feb 27, 2012

Robert "Bobby" Norman from Dale, took first place in the swimming competition, Feb. 21, at the Wounded Warriors 2012 Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton , Calif.. His gold medal guarantees him a trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. at the end of April for the Wounded Warriors Games.
Shawnee resident and United States Marine Corps Sgt. Bobby Norman recently won the gold medal in the 50-meter free-style swimming event for the Wounded Warriors trials last week at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif. He will be competing the first week of May in the Wounded Warriors competition in Colorado Springs, Colo., where all of the branches of the United States military will face-off and compete head-to-head.

Norman was born in California, but moved to Oklahoma and grew up in Dale, where he played baseball for the Pirates and won a couple of state championships along the way.

After graduating high school, he decided to fall into the footsteps of his father and grandfather and enlist in the United States military. He said he chose the Marine Corps because that was considered by many to be the toughest branch of the military, and according to him, he is the type of person who believes in doing something that is going to challenge him and make him work hard for something.

Norman was in a motorcycle accident Aug. 12, 2007 that left his left arm paralyzed. After several nerve graphs, where they look nerves from the back of each of his legs to try to replace the damaged ones in his arms, no progress was being made and his arm was still immobile. He eventually made the decision to have his left arm amputated below the elbow in August 2011.

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Once homeless, a U.S. veteran reaches out to others

Once homeless, a U.S. veteran reaches out to others

Reported by: Dan Ball

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- They fight for our country but for some U.S. Veterans the battle continues after they get home as they try to survive life on the streets.
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Guilty plea in death of Fort Bragg medic

Guilty plea in death of local medic

The second Fort Bragg soldier charged in the 2010 Iraq death of a Fredericksburg-area medic will plead guilty.

The Fayetteville Observer on Monday reported that Spc. Nicholas Bailey would enter a plea March 9 to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Spc. Morganne McBeth. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and allowances.

McBeth, 19, who grew up in Spotsylvania County, died in July 2010 at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq.
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Female Afghanistan War veteran honored with gift of home

War veteran honored with gift of home
Monday, February 27, 2012
Erik Barajas
More: Bio, E-mail, Facebook, News Team

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- An Afghanistan war veteran who lost her leg during an insurgent attack nearly two years ago is back on her feet and helping other wounded veterans. On Monday, she was the focus of attention as she was honored and awarded for her sacrifice, with a house warming party like no other.

Sgt. Kendra Coleman saw her new home for the first time, with our cameras rolling. She arrived at her new home amid much pomp and circumstance.

On May 11, 2010, an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan took Sgt. Coleman's leg.

Former presidential candidate Ross Perot, Sr. depicts the next moments.

He read, "'I knew I was hit,' she said. 'I reached down to my left leg pocket to grab my tourniquet, my pocket wasn't there, just the remaining pieces of what had been my left leg.'"

Her fellow battle buddies were able to save her. And her little brother then called himself up to duty, dropping everything he was doing to help her rehab.
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Gay marine homecoming sealed with a kiss

Gay marine homecoming sealed with a kiss

Posted: Feb 27, 2012

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) – A kiss is still a kiss, right?

Sgt. Brandon Morgan and his partner embrace after returning from a recent deployment. Photo Credit: Gay Marines Facebook Page
A Kaneohe couple wasn't planning on becoming famous or making splashy headlines, but the pair's happy homecoming has done just that.

In 1945, an impromptu kiss in Times Square New York for V-J Day - between a sailor and a nurse - chronicled a generation. In 2012, it's another kiss that could be changing one.

Last Wednesday, during a routine homecoming at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, 25 year old Sergeant Brandon Morgan jumped into the waiting arms of his new boyfriend, Dalan Wells. The image - framed by the American flag - is going viral and getting thousands of Facebook comments nationwide.

"We've known each other for four years, but we only just started going out this last deployment," explains Morgan. "And I've known how I've felt about him - ever since we've met but had to keep it down."

"Down" because it's only been six months since the Don't ask, Don't tell law was repealed. Without it, the couple says they'd likely have reunited with a simple handshake.

"Apparently this photo has been dubbed 'The Kiss Seen or Heard ‘Round the World' and is breaking barriers," says Morgan. "People feel more confident to live their own life and be truthful to who they know they are."
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Monday, February 27, 2012

2 Dating Websites Sued Over Fallen Soldier’s Photo In Ads

2 Dating Websites Sued Over Soldier’s Photo In Ads
February 27, 2012
DALLAS (AP/CBSDFW.COM) - Two dating websites are being sued for allegedly using a fallen soldier’s photo in their ads “Military Men Searching for Love.”

The parents of Army Lt. Peter Burks, who grew up in Collin County, have sued and They say his photo was used in ads without their permission.

“I went through there and saw it with my own eyes, there is my sons picture military man looking for love. And I clicked through and was invited to sign up at,” said Burks’ father Allen Burks.
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Family and Friends pay their final respects to Westfield Marine

Family and Friends pay their final respects to Westfield Marine Corporal Christopher Arzola

By Scott Coen
Posted 30 minutes ago
WESTFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — On a crisp, gray Monday morning friends and family of Marine Corporal Christopher Arzola paid their final respects to a young Maine who died in a Valentine’s Day car accident near Camp Pendleton, California.

A threatened protest by the Westboro Baptist Church never materialized on Monday, but the specter of the visit gave a handful of young veterans, along with members of the Westfield State University community, a chance to say goodbye.

“Faculty and staff united with the veterans groups here today,” said Professor of Psychology Robert Hayes. “A human shield to any type of hate that might show up and make this uncomfortable for the family that’s mourning this very tragic loss.”

Large in numbers and galvanized in spirit, close to a hundred members of the Westfield State University community marched up Broad Street to pay their final respects to Marine Corporal Christopher Arzola.
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Marine veteran hopes his memoirs will help others

Marine veteran hopes his memoirs will help others, speaks at FSCJ Tuesday
Van Winkle will be giving a lecture on his book, 'Soft Spots,' at South Campus.
Posted: February 27, 2012
By Anthony DeFeo

Like scores of other veterans, Clint Van Winkle couldn’t stop waging the war inside his head.
After serving as one of the first troops on the ground in the Iraq War, he knew something wasn’t right from the first night he was home.

“Pretty early on, from the first night home, when I was away from the Marines,” said Van Winkle, “it didn’t feel right.”

His memoir, “Soft Spots,” chronicles his wartime experiences and the struggles he experienced after his return home.

It tells a personal tale of how war can affect a person and how difficult it can be for a veteran to seek help.

Van Winkle will be giving a lecture about his book at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s South Campus on Tuesday. The event is at 7 p.m. in the Wilson Center Theater and will be followed by a book signing.
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Soft Spots continues to get rave reviews

Van Winkle offers view of PTSD

Canada's Afghan war vets struggle to find support

Away from the big bases, Afghan war vets struggle to find support

FEBRUARY 27, 2012

WINDSOR, Ont. — It wasn't until his best friend, Stefan Jankowski, 25, killed himself that calls for help from a young Windsor, Ont., Afghan veteran began to get noticed.

"Right away, I had people knocking on my door, making sure I was still alive," said "Sam Smith," recalling the tragic day last summer.

"I was probably weeks away from what happened to Stefan," said the 23-year-old who, like Jankowski, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, upon his return from Kandahar.

Smith, who was a corporal, asked that his real name not be used, explaining he doesn't want to jeopardize the assistance he's getting from Veterans Affairs Canada.

Traumatic memories, including having a friend die in his arms, left Jankowski addicted to PTSD drugs and plagued by hallucinations and nightmares.

He was discharged after run-ins with the law and going AWOL from CFB Petawawa. Jankowski was on a waiting list for out-of-town help with his mental health issues when he died.

His family says the military had "washed their hands of him" after he returned.
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Iraq veteran hit by train, killed at Lake Lewisville

Iraq veteran hit by train, killed at Lake Lewisville
Posted Sunday, Feb. 26, 20121


An Army recruiter and Iraq veteran was killed Saturday and his wife was critically injured when they were hit by a commuter train as they walked on a trestle bridge over Lake Lewisville, authorities said Sunday.

The victim, Sgt. Bryan Joseph Geuea, 32, of Hickory Creek, was a recruiter in Denton and was a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq. He died at Plano Medical Center soon after arrival.

His wife, Ashley McCraw Geuea, 22, was in critical condition at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
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Fort Bragg soldier with combat-related medical problems kicked out of Army

Ex-Bragg soldier with combat-related medical problems kicked out of Army
Feb 26, 2012
By Greg Barnes
Staff writer
Contributed photo by Will Baxter
Spc. Devin Johnson, injured in the thights by shrapnel during a firefight with the Taliban in Charkh, Afghanistan, is given emergency medical treatment during his deployment in 2009.

Devin Johnson got out of Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion and the Army in December. A failed drug test and a litany of health problems caused by war saw to that.

The former 10th Mountain Division marksman said he has never used cocaine, but one Army drug screening out of more than 70 came back positive. He believes a legal drug he had been taking mimicked the cocaine.

"I never done it in my life," Johnson said. "I think they were just trying to find something to get on me."

Johnson, who is 23, faced a court-martial and lost. He said he was demoted from specialist to private, stripped of pay and put in a brig in Charleston, S.C., for 30 days.

Shortly after his release from the prison, Johnson said, he was told to gather his belongings. He was leaving the Army on a general discharge under honorable conditions after spending more than two years in Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion.

Now, two Purple Hearts later, Johnson lives with a friend in South Carolina and fights his health problems virtually alone. He said he has stopped taking his medications because he cannot get more until at least April, when he is scheduled for his first appointment with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I'm just sitting around in pain now," Johnson said.
read more here

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Public memorial to be held for slain state trooper and Gulf War veteran

Public memorial to be held for slain state trooper
By Associated Press Published: Feb 26, 2012
SEATTLE (AP) - The Washington State Patrol on Saturday released details of an upcoming memorial service for a trooper killed during a traffic stop in Kitsap County, while the man's family remembered him as a committed law enforcement officer.

State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said the service for Trooper Tony Radulescu is set for 1 p.m. Thursday at the ShoWare Center arena in Kent. He said the public is welcome to attend.

Also Saturday, the trooper's family spoke publicly for the first time since the slaying.

Radulescu's son Erick said during a news conference in Bremerton that his father was "everything" to him.

"He was a hero. He was the biggest role model in my life. He was really my best friend," the 22-year-old Army medic said. "At least he got to go doing what he loved to do."
The 44-year-old Tony Radulescu of Port Orchard was born in Romania, served in the Army during the Gulf War and was a trooper for 16 years. His ability to speak Romanian, Spanish and Korean made him an unofficial translator for the county's law enforcement agencies.
read more here

Navy town on high alert as FBI joins search for serial killer

Navy town on high alert as FBI joins search for serial killer
By Michelle Esteban Published: Feb 25, 2012

BREMERTON, Wash. - The FBI is helping Bremerton police try to find a suspected serial killer there, the KOMO 4 Problem Solvers have learned.

The city, home to a Navy base and shipyard, is on high alert after two women were murdered - police say - at the hands of one man.

In a state that has been home to a number of serial killers, residents are understandably on edge.

• Ted Bundy confessed to 30 murders - and investigators believe the number is much higher.

• Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, murdered as many as 71 women.

• Sniper John Allen Muhammed targeted victims from a hidden compartment in his car, claiming 21 victims.

• And Spokane's Robert Yates pleaded guilty to murdering 15 women.

All of them began their killing sprees in our state.

Now comes word that a serial killer targeting and terrorizing the residents of Bremerton has been on the prowl since May 2011.
read more here

7 U.S. service members wounded in protest over burned Qurans

U.S. service members wounded in protest over burned Qurans
From Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
updated 11:20 AM EST, Sun February 26, 2012
NEW: Clinton: The violence is "out of hand"
NEW: France is withdrawing public officials temporarily for their safety
1 protester dead, 7 U.S. service members and 16 police are wounded when a protest turns violent

The gunman in Saturday's shooting has been identified as Abdul Saboor, an Afghan official says
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A protest over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base turned violent Sunday, leaving a protester dead and several U.S. service members and police wounded, officials said.

The violence in northern Kunduz province came a day after a gunman killed two U.S. military officers inside the highly secured Afghanistan Ministry of Interior.

U.S. officials have said the burning of the Muslim holy books was inadvertent.

The demonstration Sunday -- the sixth day of protests -- began peacefully, said Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini. But it soon turned violent as demonstrators attacked the police chief's office and a U.S. military site.
read more here

Famed Monfort Point Marines celebrated at Cherry Point

Famed Monfort Point Marines celebrated at Cherry Point
February 25, 2012
Distinguished as having planted the seed that led to civil rights for all Americans, the Montford Point Marines were honored Friday at Cherry Point.

From 1942 to 1949, about 20,000 African-Americans were trained to be Marines at a segregated camp known as Montford Point at Camp Lejeune.

“African-American men were willing to give their lives for their country at a time when they still were subjected to lynching and racism in their communities without the protection of their own government. In other words they fought to protect the government that did not fight to protect them,” said L. Shannon Sabsook, president of Cherry Point Chapter No. 36 of the Montford Point Marine Association, who was the main speaker at the event held in the base theater.

While no original Montford Point Marines were able to attend, their legacy was celebrated as having been a major turning point in integration of the Marine Corps and all of the armed services.
read more here

This is one of them I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. Charles O. Foreman

Secaucus Vet Center had over 4,000 visits last year

Treating war trauma
Local center helps veterans readjust to society
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer

“If you have been to war, it sticks with you forever,” said David Cathcart last week. A veteran of the Vietnam War with the 173rd Airborne, Cathcart knows from experience what it is like to go to battle and face challenges upon return. He provides individual counseling to veterans returning from war at a local Vet Center located on Meadowlands Parkway in Secaucus.

“It doesn’t matter what background you are from. Somebody is shooting at you and it is going to change you [and] it is up to us to make sure that those changes don’t remain permanent,” he said.

Part of Veterans Affairs, the Vet Center program was established in 1979 to provide free and confidential readjustment services to veterans and their families. The Secaucus Vet Center had over 4,000 visits last year between family and individual counseling sessions combined.
read more here

Complaints about Warrior Transition Battalion also found at Fort Drum

Complaints about Warrior Transition Battalion also found at Fort Drum
Feb 26, 2012
By Greg Barnes
Staff writer

A recent federal review of a program for wounded soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y., uncovered serious shortcomings that echo allegations made by soldiers in Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion.

Among the many deficiencies cited in the Sept. 30 report, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Defense found that soldiers and staff in Fort Drum's Warrior Transition Battalion perceived the unit as a "dumping ground" for problem soldiers.

According to the report, the battalion's staff indicated that less than 20 percent of Fort Drum units ever contacted wounded soldiers, and usually only when they tried to retrieve or account for equipment. That reinforced a "fire and forget" mentality among wounded soldiers that eroded morale and stunted desire to return to active service, the report said.

The report also uncovered concerns that the battalion's physically wounded and mentally impaired soldiers were being overmedicated, partly because of a lack of communication and controls. The report quotes one command team member as saying, "half of the warriors are 'stoned' on psychotropic drugs."
read more here

Today started out so good but went right downhill after that

Today started out so good but went right downhill after that

by Chaplain Kathie

Today started out so good. The first article I read was about a Marine hitting a slot machine for $2.9 million dollars. What made this story even greater was the fact Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt had just agreed to donate bone marrow so that someone else could live. It went downhill right after that.

I opened an email with a comment on a blog post that needed approval. A child of one of these veterans, Group gives three veterans honor burials they deserve didn't think "Dad" deserved it. This broke my heart because it reminded me of the years growing up with my Dad, a Korean War veteran/alcoholic/abuser, until he stopped drinking when I was 13. By the grace of God he stopped and never touched another drop again. He tried to make up for all the harm he did but while I was able to forgive him, the rest of my family didn't. Maybe it's because of him that when I met my husband, I wanted to understand him and thus, opened the door to understand veterans with PTSD. Had I not been able to forgive my Dad, things would have been a lot different and I doubt very much I would have cared much about our veterans today.

When you consider that less than 10% of the population of America can call themselves a "veteran" most of the American people forget all about them and treat them just like anyone else, expecting them to be just like everyone else. How could they understand them if they never really knew any personally?

Well that takes me to this post about a WWII veteran, 86-year-old Aaron Brantley, beaten over his car while pumping gas and left with a broken leg by the carjacker. He had to crawl for help but everyone just got on with their own business, walking right past him. It's all on video for the world to see how little some people care.

Hope was lifted as I read about a Vietnam veteran, Rev. Bill Roscoe, moving mountains to help the homeless veterans but that good feeling soon eroded when I read about Fort Hood soldiers having to turn to food pantries to feed their families. It is not the first time I read about military families on food stamps and having to rely on donations to eat but I thought those days were long gone. Considering how the Republicans running for office keep talking about cutting the debt, you'd think only lazy people were looking for help. The last thing you'd think is that our troops are in need of it. After all, when the email came screaming with the headline about Obama cutting combat pay along with military pay, it never once mentioned that the pay is actually done by congress and not the president. Where is all the screaming about the fact these families ARE GOING HUNGRY?

This morning is one more reason why I avoid politics all together and have little use for the emails coming from both sides. All of them want to say they are right, patriotic, care about the troops and veterans, but when you get to the bottom line, it's easy to see that they have an agenda and it is not about what they pretend it is.

The media is another thorn in my side. I don't watch FOX and I don't watch MSNBC. CNN seemed to be more balanced when it came to reporting "news" but they have been more focused on what is happening in Syria than what is happening right here, right now. Tracking reports for this blog across the country, there are less and less reports coming from CNN about any of this. If they are not talking about the people wanting to be the next Commander-in-Chief, they are talking about other countries. I thought that was what CNN International was for?

When I go out to film local events there is one question on everyone's mind. They want to know why the media didn't show up. When I read over a hundred news reports a day, I wonder the same thing. These reports come from stations across the country but if you don't live there, you'd never know what the big story is.

If you get emails from friends saying they care about the troops and our veterans but never once mention anything you're reading on this blog, wonder how much they really do care if they don't know any of this.

Fayetteville convoy welcomes home Iraq war veterans

Fayetteville convoy welcomes home Iraq war veterans
Feb 26, 2012
By Drew Brooks
Staff writer
Staff photo by James Robinson
Vehicles participating in the Ride to Freedom to honor Iraq veterans go down Robeson Street on Saturday on the way to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.
A string of nearly 100 vehicles convoyed across Fayetteville on Saturday as a way for locals to welcome home veterans of the Iraq war.

The convoy, dubbed the "Ride to Freedom" by organizers, left the John D. Fuller Recreation Center on Old Bunce Road after noon and arrived at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum eight miles later.

The ride was organized by the Fayetteville nonprofit organization GOTDAD, after local celebrations of Iraq war veterans failed to materialize once the conflict ended in December.
read more here

Fort Hood families have to use food pantries?

Fort Hood soldiers fight to make ends meet
Large families, low pay, injuries and predatory loans mean some military families depend on food pantries.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Feb. 25, 2012

KILLEEN — As the sun rises on a chilly winter morning, the line grows longer outside the Killeen Food Care Center next to the railroad tracks on the eastern edge of downtown. Sprinkled throughout the expanding crowd of more than 100 are what some might consider a surprising sight: uniformed soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, waiting to fill bags with about 10 days' worth of canned meats, cereal and fresh vegetables.

"I got the information from two other soldiers," said Sgt. Sandy Cornet, 28, who recently returned from Iraq and was waiting in the line with her husband and two of their five children. "It's a lot of them that come here, but they change their clothes because I guess it's embarrassing. A lot don't like to ask for help."

Over the past decade, an all-volunteer military force has shouldered the entire burden of frequent deployments into the war zone, spending months away from families and risking injury and death. But back at home, the harsh reality for a largely unseen population of soldiers and military families has been a spot in a food line, food stamps and a daily struggle to make ends meet.

An American-Statesman analysis of Fort Hood and national numbers shows that American service members are feeling the same economic pain as the rest of the country: They are using federal entitlements in growing numbers, seeking millions of dollars in emergency relief and receiving regular food assistance.

At Fort Hood, the military's busiest deployment hub to Iraq over the past decade and home to as many as 50,000 soldiers, an on-post food pantry has served nearly 5,000 military families since 2008. Food stamp usage at on-post commissaries has ballooned from about $285,000 in 2001 to $1.4 million last year, according to the Defense Commissary Agency . Those numbers include soldiers, family members, reservists and retirees.
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Carjackers break leg of WWII veteran and no one stops to help him

World War II veteran, 86, forced to crawl to gas station after carjackers broke his leg - and NO ONE stopped to help
26th February 2012

A World War II veteran was forced to drag himself from a gas station pump to the check out after a carjacker broke his leg - while people walked past.

Not one pedestrian or driver helped 86-year-old Aaron Brantley after he was attacked at a BP station in Fairfield, Michigan while filling up his car.

Mr Brantley, who was driving home after bible study, was knocked to the ground by a man who then stole his vehicle, leaving him writhing in pain.

Surveillance footage captures the elderly man's failed attempts to stand. For two minutes, he is seen dragging himself across the forecourt.

As he nears the gas station, cars come and go but drivers fail to get out to assist the struggling man. At least four people are captured walking past.

read more here

Your invisible neighbors: If you don’t see them, you’re not looking

Your invisible neighbors: If you don’t see them, you’re not looking ...
February 26, 2012
By Vickie Holbrook

If you want to tell the story of homelessness, you must do two things. Spend two nights in a shelter as reporter Nate Green did. And talk to Rev. Bill Roscoe.

We did both, and more, as the newsroom embarked on this project.

Could Nate stay overnight at the Lighthouse Rescue Mission? We didn’t want to take a bed away from someone and we would pay our own way.

Would people open up to a reporter and talk about why they don’t have a home? Would they share their stories?

Director Chris Ellison was pretty sure men would open up.

Nate starts his story today with a first-person account. It will give you an insight few have.
The Lighthouse is an affiliate of Boise Rescue Mission Ministries.
Most people know Roscoe as Rev. Bill. I think he’s the “Godfather” of Treasure Valley’s homeless. Reporter Tabitha Simenc wrote an in-depth piece on Roscoe for today’s Community section.

As I toured the facility, Roscoe showed me the room that’s being prepared for homeless veterans.
“Are you a veteran?” I asked.

“Yes! I’m a self-described deranged Vietnam vet.”

He enlisted in the Army in 1969 and served in 70-71 as a combat engineer, five months as an infantryman in as a radio operator and squad leader.

When he came home, he received word that his father had cancer.

“He lived for five months and I was devastated by his suffering and death. I was also then responsible for my mom and younger sister. I drank a lot and upon discharge from the Army, I really became a violent, unruly man. I was not a Christian when I was in Vietnam.

“Looking back 40 years, it is clear that I had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
It’s no wonder that Roscoe understands the homeless — especially the addicted — so well and why the gospel is such a strong tool.

“My conversion to Christianity was the beginning of my recovery, but even now, I know that certain things, situations and even music can get my mind going back to some very unhappy memories. So, as the Bible tells us, I guard my mind, and do my best to stay focused on those things that are true, praise worthy and godly. I do not have ‘daily struggles,’ or live with white knuckles, and I do give God the praise and glory for restoring my mind.

“I’ll never forget Vietnam or the heroes I was privileged to know and serve with. My personal problems might have all been avoided if I had stayed sober.”
read more here

Marine ready to donate bone marrow wins $2.9 million on slot machine

Marine Credits Karma for $2.9 Million Jackpot

LAS VEGAS February 26, 2012
Marine Cpl. Alexander Degenhardt is crediting karma for landing a $2.9 million progressive slot jackpot in Las Vegas.

Degenhardt was accepted as a bone marrow donor to an anonymous patient only a couple of days before hitting the jackpot Sunday at the Bellagio, the Las Vegas Sun reported (
"They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it because it's kind of painful, but what's a little pain if it will save someone's life?" Degenhardt said. "I look at this jackpot as kind of good karma for that."

Degenhardt, 26, said he plans to continue his career with the Marines and go through with the bone marrow donation, which is expected to occur in the next six months after extensive testing.
read more here

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Charlotte Motor Speedway Holds Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration

Charlotte Motor Speedway Holds Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration
1:27 PM, Feb 24, 2012

Written by
WFMY News 2

Washington, DC -- The entire delegation of North Carolina's representatives in the United States Congress encouraged all Vietnam veterans, their families and friends, and all North Carolinians on Friday to reserve their free tickets to the "Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration," an event to honor veterans of the Vietnam War taking place at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The event will be hosted by the USO and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway.
read more here

Troops' Pay Raises May be Whittled Down

Troops' Pay Raises May be Whittled Down
February 21, 2012
Stars and Stripes
by Leo Shane
WASHINGTON — Troops could see their lowest pay raises in four decades — far below what their civilian peers will get — if proposed changes are made in the way military raises are calculated.

Since 1999, defense officials have tied the annual military pay raise to the Employment Cost Index, the Department of Labor’s calculation in the rise in private sector wages. Military raises for 2013 and 2014 would be tied to the ECI but separated from the index in 2015, dropping to a flat 0.5 percent rate. That would be the lowest annual pay increase troops have seen since the start of the all-volunteer military in 1973.

In 2016, the rate would rise to 1 percent, not linked to the ECI. In 2017, it’d be 1.5 percent, regardless of private-sector rates.

For a mid-career enlisted servicemember, for example, the raise would be more than $1,000 a year less under the new formula. For most officers with 10 years’ experience, it’s $2,000 less a year.
Pentagon officials said last week that the plans are only tentative. The pay raises will not be official until Congress approves them each year.

But they said they’re making the plans public now to “give time for military personnel to accommodate these changes.” And unless the Defense Department sees dramatic changes in its budget realities, the lower pay raises will be needed to help rein in personnel costs and reach almost $500 billion in savings over the next decade.
read more here

Iraq vet with PTSD finds new life at sea

Mass. Iraq vet with PTSD finds new life at sea
By Jay Lindsay
Associated Press
February 25, 2012

BOSTON—The danger he faced in Iraq was constant, and that's reflected in how Erick Valiente remembers the M-16 rifle he took on patrol.

"That was my right hand, pretty much," said the former Marine infantryman. "I don't think I ever let go of that weapon."

The rifle is gone, but Valiente still carries burdens from his service that complicate his civilian life, including post-traumatic stress disorder and a restlessness that made finding work difficult.

That is, until a friend who works for U.S. Sen. John Kerry mentioned an opening for a swordfish boat crewman.

This month, Valiente returned from his first trip, a three-week stint 700 miles east of the Bahamas.

In an interview from Florida, where the Iron Lady docked for a few days, Valiente described grueling work days and the perils of landing a thrashing, big game fish. The challenges of the job are exactly why boat owner Tim Malley went to Kerry's office looking for references to military veterans seeking work.

Malley knew Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were struggling to find jobs, and figured they'd have the needed endurance and discipline.

"My motives were both selfish, in that I wanted a good reliable, strong crew member, but also to do some good for some people that had done so much for us, put their lives on the line for us," said Malley, chief executive of Boston Sword & Tuna.
read more here

2 US soldiers shot inside Afghan ministry building after Quran burning


Pentagon Identifies Americans Killed in Kabul Shooting
Feb. 27, 2012
The Pentagon has confirmed the identity of the second American high-ranking Army officer who was killed in a shooting inside Afghanistan's Interior Ministry as Maj. Robert Marchanti of Baltimore, Maryland.

Afghan police believe the shooting, which occurred in one of the most secure government complexes in the country and also took the life of Lt. Col. John Loftis of Paducah, Kentucky, was carried out by a 25-year-old Afghan police officer. The incident, in addition to widespread protests, was believed to be part of a violent reaction to the U.S. military's admission it had burned some copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
read more here

2 soldiers shot inside Afghan ministry building
By Amir Shah and Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Feb 25, 2012 9:19:20 EST

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two U.S. service members were shot dead Saturday by another Westerner inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, officials said, a statement later contradicted by a NATO official.

The attack came as tensions between the Afghans and the Americans are high following the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at a U.S. base that sparked days of deadly protests. But Afghan officials said Saturday’s shooting did not involve any Afghans. A NATO spokesman later added that the man who shot the Americans was not a Westerner.

Instead, they said, another international adviser turned his gun on two Americans, two Afghan officials said, speaking anonymously to discuss a NATO incident. One of the officials noted that the shooting occurred inside a secure room at the ministry that Afghan staff do not have access to.

A U.S. official in Washington confirmed that the two killed were American and that they were killed by “an assailant,” without giving further information about the attacker. The official spoke anonymously to discuss information that had not been publicly released.
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VA Fast Track process rife with gaps for possible fraud, OIG says

VA Fast Track process rife with gaps for possible fraud, OIG says
By Alice Lipowicz
Feb 24, 2012
The Veterans Affairs Department’s “Fast Track” disability claims process introduced in October 2010 is riddled with opportunities for fraud and immediate action should be taken to strengthen controls over the process, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General.

The VA rushed the new process into place and has begun making monthly payments to claimants without verifying basic information such as the veterans’ addresses and bank accounts, Belinda Finn, assistant inspector general for audits and investigations, wrote in the Feb. 23 report.

The current Fast Track process also does not require the VA to verify whether the information submitted by physicians is authentic and unaltered, the report said.

The chief means of fraud protection under the current process is to verify information in about 100 cases per month or 1,200 a year—but those reviews only occur after payments have started and do not prevent fraud from occurring, Finn wrote.
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Iraq War vet can’t get Social Security card

Iraq War vet can’t get Social Security card
February 24, 2012, by Deven Swartz and Mitch Carr
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Kevin Christoffersen served in Iraq for the U.S. military, but he said he can’t prove he’s an American citizen due to government bureaucracy.

Christofferson calls himself Russian by birth and American by choice. His parents adopted him from Russia when he was five, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1994.

About a year ago, he went to apply for a Social Security card and a driver’s license, but he couldn’t get either.

He has a copy of the certificate of citizenship, but that’s actually where the problem lies.
“We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents,” said Patti Patterson with the Social Security Administration.
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Sean Duvall may be getting the help he asked for all along

Hearing scheduled for suicidal veteran charged with federal weapons violations
By Laurence Hammack | The Roanoke Times

Sean Duvall may be getting the help he asked for all along.

Last summer, when the Navy veteran was depressed and on the verge of suicide, he called a toll-free help line — only to be charged later with possessing a homemade gun he was carrying at the time.

After his attorney made an impassioned argument that the charges violate the trust Duvall placed in the confidential help line for veterans, prosecutors appear to be reconsidering the case.

A motion filed today in U.S. District Court in Roanoke asks that the case against Duvall be continued for six months. His trial had been set for March 19.
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Another veteran arrested after calling for help

Utah senate kills veterans tuition bill

Senate kills veteran tuition bill
The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 24 2012
SB44 • Sen. Luz Robles saw her bill that would have extended tuition benefits to military veterans fail Friday in the Utah Senate on a 14-11 vote, leaving the Salt Lake City Democrat incredulous and bewildered after the measure had sailed through previous votes.

“I don’t understand what happened,” Robles said. “I’m in shock.”

The measure, SB44, passed its committee unanimously and its second reading — where senators often debate legislation — 26-1. It would’ve allowed for the state to fund a gap between federal funds military veterans apply for when attempting to obtain a bachelor’s degree at the university level.
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Military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops

Branding a Soldier With ‘Personality Disorder’
Published: February 24, 2012

Capt. Susan Carlson was not a typical recruit when she volunteered for the Army in 2006 at the age of 50. But the Army desperately needed behavioral health professionals like her, so it signed her up.

Though she was, by her own account, “not a strong soldier,” she received excellent job reviews at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she counseled prisoners. But last year, Captain Carlson, a social worker, was deployed to Afghanistan with the Colorado National Guard and everything fell apart.

After a soldier complained that she had made sexually suggestive remarks, she was suspended from her counseling duties and sent to an Army psychiatrist for evaluation. His findings were shattering: She had, he said in a report, a personality disorder, a diagnosis that the military has used to discharge thousands of troops. She was sent home.

She disputed the diagnosis, but it was not until months later that she found what seemed powerful ammunition buried in her medical file, portions of which she provided to The New York Times. “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder,” a document signed by the psychiatrist said.

Veterans’ advocates say Captain Carlson stumbled upon evidence of something they had long suspected but had struggled to prove: that military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops.

“Her records suggest an attempt by her commander to influence medical professionals,” said Michael J. Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School and director of its Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

Since 2001, the military has discharged at least 31,000 service members because of personality disorder, a family of disorders broadly characterized by inflexible “maladaptive” behavior that can impair performance and relationships.
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Alleged AWOL Fort Hood Solider Holds Father Hostage In Oklahoma

Alleged AWOL Fort Hood Solider Holds Father Hostage In Oklahoma

Posted: Feb 24, 2012
(KCEN)- An apparent AWOL soldier from Fort Hood is now wanted in Oklahoma after allegedly holding his father hostage.

NBC affiliate KTEN-TV in Oklahoma tell us that John Daniel Burden, who is believed to be a Fort Hood solider went to his father's home in Lone Grove, Okla. and pulled a gun on him.
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Sgt. 1st Class Christopher David Atkinson died after gunshot wound at Fort Hood

Soldier from Lakeside dies of gunshot wound at Fort Hood, Texas

Officials at Fort Hood in Texas have released the name of a soldier from Lakeside who died of injuries from a gunshot wound earlier this week.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher David Atkinson, 33, died Thursday in Temple, Texas. He suffered the gunshot wound Monday at Fort Hood.
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Marine reservists come home to cheers, hugs

Marine reservists come home to cheers, hugs
Unit arrives at Wright-Patt after deployment in Afghanistan.

By Kelli Wynn, Staff Writer
February 24, 2012
WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Tim Buckman stood holding an American flag and wearing a big grin as he waited for his son, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Edward Buckman, to get off the charter bus.
“Very, very excited. He’s been gone for almost a year,” Buckman said.

Sgt. Buckman, 28, was one of 39 Marine reservists with Military Police Company Charley who arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Friday morning after a deployment in Afghanistan.

“They were attached to Combat Logistics Battalion 6 out of Camp LeJeune in North Carolina,” said USMC Capt. Jason Schrage, the inspector and instructor for the military company. “They were sent to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and conducted security missions. Mainly convoy security missions.”
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Sgt. Joshua Born, one of two soldiers killed over Quran burning

Soldier with Southern Illinois Family Killed in Afghanistan
By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Jared Roberts
Story Created: Feb 24, 2012
OLIVE BRANCH -- Joshua Born was one of two American soldiers killed amidst angry riots, sparked by the burning of Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. The Florida native leaves behind a 22-year-old widow in Olive Branch.

Joshua and Megan Born first connected online on a site for sports cars.

"They were both Mazda RX8 fanatics," said Megan's mother Cindy Parker. "They just got to be really good friends."

Once they met in person, the young couple's love of cars quickly grew into a love for eachother.

"When she went down to meet his parents in Florida...she went to visit and I told her 'don't come back talking about getting married,'" siad Parker. "And she did."

In June 2010, just a few months after meeting, Josh and Megan were married at a beach wedding in Georgia.
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Cpl. Timothy "T.J." John Conrad Jr. one of two soldiers killed over Quran burning

Soldier with ties to Newport News is killed in Afghanistan

By Hugh Lessig
February 24, 2012
Cpl. Timothy John Conrad Jr., better known as "T.J.," would have celebrated his 23rd birthday on March 6. He was killed by an Afghan soldier or a man dressed in Afghan military fatigues, who then fled the scene.

A soldier with ties to Newport News was one of two American service members killed Thursday in Afghanistan during protests over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, family members confirmed.

Cpl. Timothy John Conrad Jr., better known as "T.J.," would have celebrated his 23rd birthday on March 6. He was killed by an Afghan soldier or a man dressed in Afghan military fatigues, who then fled the scene.

Conrad's wife, Holly, and their 7-month-old son, Bentley, live in Georgia where T.J. was stationed.

"He was a dedicated dad and husband," said Meland. "He joked a lot – a really funny guy. He had a lot of energy."

Conrad was looking forward to a promotion to sergeant and planned on re-enlisting for a move to Fort Eustis so he could be closer to his family, Meland said. He had deployed in January – his first to Afghanistan — with the 549th MP Company out of Fort Stewart, Ga.
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Fort Hood Soldiers React to Riots in Afghanistan after Quran burning

Fort Hood Soldiers React to Riots in Afghanistan

Posted: Feb 24, 2012
By Sophia Stamas

The death toll rises in Afghanistan as riots continue.

That's after the burning of Qurans and other religious texts at a U.S. military base there on Tuesday.

So far two American soldiers and at least 13 Afghan civilians have been killed.

On Fort Hood some soldiers are worried it will provoke more attacks from extremists, and other's are say it might undo some of the progress that's been made over there.

A fourth day of violence continues in Afghanistan, after what the Defense Department calls an unintentional burning of Qurans at Bagram Airbase.

WO1 Arnold Pearson is back at Fort Hood after serving in Afghanistan.

He says whether this will undermine progress will depend on how Afghan officials react.

"If they're looking for an excuse to have the U.S. take a step back or get out of the country, then they'll use it in that way, but if they want to proceed forward and continue to receive our assistance, then they'll be able to move past this," said Warrant Officer Pearson.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Master Chief Petty Officer Richard D. Lamoureux of Florida going to White House

White House announces attendees at dinner honoring Iraq veterans
Published: February 24, 2012

WASHINGTON – The White House has announced the 78 servicemembers invited to a dinner next Wednesday honoring veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Troops were selected by a committee of the Defense Department’s senior enlisted members, said Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Wilson, the Pentagon’s public affairs chief.

“This is the beginning of a thank you.” Wilson said. “We wanted to make sure the entire country was represented.

“So all states and territories, all ranks, all services, all backgrounds – the point of it was that in the East Room that night, that that room would look like the America that served on the battlefield in Iraq.”

Florida: Master Chief Petty Officer Richard D. Lamoureux; Navy
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Veterans accounted for a stunning 373 of Nevada's suicides in 2010

Veterans suicide rate: The war at home
By J. Patrick Coolican
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

We know that suicide is a terrible problem in Nevada, with a rate 50 percent higher than the national average. Among military veterans and especially young veterans, however, it’s a crisis, according to new data from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

From 2008 to 2010, the Nevada veteran suicide rate was 2.5 times higher than the rate for all Nevadans and nearly quadruple the national nonveteran suicide rate.

In 2010, suicide accounted for more than a quarter of deaths among veterans 24 and younger.

All told, of the 1,545 Nevada suicides between 2008-2010, veterans accounted for a stunning 373 of them, or nearly a quarter.

The explanation: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a brutal toll on our young men and women. And they have come home to a bad economy and communities that are often clueless about what veterans have experienced or how to help them.

“Those high numbers are reflective of a decade of war and the impact that has on those who have been asked to serve in that war,” said Luana Ritch, a veteran and public health expert who compiled the data for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

There’s no great repository of data that tracks veterans’ health, other than the Department of Veterans Affairs. But many veterans aren’t in the VA system. And veterans’ death certificates sometimes neglect to mention military service.
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Baylor University student film features veteran's struggle with PTSD

Student film features struggles with PTSD
February 24, 2012

By Rob Bradfield
Staff Writer

In an upcoming film, Baylor students are picking up the story of some soldiers where war movies like “Jarhead” and “The Hurt Locker” end.

Written and directed by Waco senior Ben Palich, “To Depart Indefinitely” is the story of a soldier’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Palich will begin filming in early March and plans on premiering the film at Baylor’s Black Glasses Film Festival on April 28.

The film is based on the true story of a friend of Palich’s older brother who had trouble adjusting after coming home from a tour of duty. Palich said the personal connection is what drew him to the subject matter.

“We tried to make it more about his coming home and trying to readjust to society,” Palich said.
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Chaplains comfort families after Marine helicopter crash

Chaplains comfort families after Marine crash


CAMP PENDLETON – Within hours of Wednesday's nighttime midair collision between two Marine Corps helicopters over a remote section of the California desert, chaplains gathered — dress uniforms in hand — to give news to the families and to provide spiritual support to fellow Marines.

The crash which happened at 8:45 p.m. killed seven Marines. Two were aboard an AH-1W Cobra and the rest were in a UH-1 Huey utility helicopter when the crash occurred near the Chocolate Mountains along the California-Arizona border. Six Marines were stationed at Camp Pendleton and were part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, one Marine was from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

In the minutes and hours after the collision, word spread quickly. Many in the Air Wing knew there was something wrong and chaplains and Casualty Assistance Call Officers or CACO's — specially trained Marines who work as liaisons between military and families — worked quickly to begin notification of the next of kin.

"This is a dynamic, very tight-knit wing," said U.S. Navy Capt. Irving Elson, the Aircraft Wing's senior chaplain. The tragedy didn't just happen to the squadron, it happened to the Marine Corps, it happened to the nation and it happened to us."
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Midair helicopter collision kills 7 Marines

Veterans missing out on benefits as backlog slows claims

Congressmen: Veterans missing out on benefits as backlog slows claims at Detroit Benefit Center
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012
By Jonathan Oosting

U.S. Reps. Hansen Clarke and Dan Benishek are crossing party lines to help Michigan veterans suffering as a result of a substantial request backlog at the Detroit Benefit Center.

Clarke, a Detroit Democrat, and Benishek, a Republican representing parts of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, met with officials today at the Veterans Affairs regional office in the McNamara Federal Building, which processes benefit requests from veterans around the state.

An influx in vets returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with aging Vietnam veterans developing symptoms later in life as a result of chemical warfare, has created a backlog of benefit requests around the nation.
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Washington State Trooper killed at traffic stop

Wash. trooper killed at traffic stop; suspect, ex-con, commits suicide as SWAT team closes in

By Associated Press, Published: February 23

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — A Washington State Patrol trooper was gunned down at a traffic stop early Thursday, and the suspect — an ex-con with a history of antagonizing police — killed himself as a tactical team closed in on the home where he was hiding, authorities said.

The 28-year-old suspect, Joshua Jearl Blake, had served time for drugs, assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, and kicking out the window of a police car, among other things, court records show. He was the registered owner of a pickup truck that Trooper Tony Radulescu pulled over just before he was shot to death early Thursday.
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Fort Hood soldier dies from gunshot wound on post

Death of a Fort Hood soldier

Fort Hood Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, Texas - Fort Hood officials have released the name of a soldier who died Feb. 22 in Temple, Texas, from injuries suffered from a gunshot wound Feb. 20 at Fort Hood.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher David Atkinson, 33, whose home of record is listed as Lakeside, Mont., joined the military in April 1998 as an infantryman. He arrived at Fort Hood in January 2005. His last assignment here was with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Hood since September 2009.

Atkinson deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from December 2005 to November 2006 and from June 2008 to May 2009.
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Texas Today: Fort Hood identifies two dead soldiers
Posted On: Thursday, Feb. 23 2012
FORT HOOD — Post officials released the name of two soldiers who died this week.

Spc. Sharod Ahkeim Carroll, 31, of Philadelphia, Pa., died Tuesday in Killeen, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

He entered active-duty service in March 2003 as a cable system installer and arrived at Fort Hood's former 4th Infantry Division in July 2009. His last assignment was with 62nd Expeditionary Support Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, since January.

Carroll deployed to from July 2003 to April 2004; November 2005 to November 2006; November 2007 to February 2009; and April 2011 to August 2011.

Carroll's awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon and Army Service Ribbon.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher David Atkinson died Wednesday in Temple from injuries suffered from a gunshot wound Sunday at Fort Hood.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

PTSD and TBI veterans don't seem to get better

They Don’t Seem to Get Better…
February 23, 2012

That might be one conclusion to be drawn from this wrenching chart in a new Congressional Budget Office report on how the Department of Veterans Affairs is handling wounded troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The chart shows that nearly all the troops afflicted with both ailments remain under the VA’s care after four years of care. In contrast, only 42% of the troops seeking VA care with neither diagnosis were still under VA care after four years’ treatment.

Vets suffering from PTSD and/or TBI are likely treated longer because “those patients might have had more clinically complicated conditions that took longer to resolve. In addition, those patients’ more intensive initial use of services might have predisposed them to continue pursuing care,” the study says. “Because of their conditions, moreover, some patients could also have had limited opportunities for employment, a common source of alternative health care options.”
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