Showing posts with label Air Force. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Air Force. Show all posts

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Jonathan Pears was killed by lingering ignorance of what PTSD is

If a veteran being shot and killed by police after being called by a family because he was in crisis, doesn't bother you, you are not thinking. If they have PTSD and need help, but end up being killed, the rest of us don't stand a chance either. 

There are millions of American joining the PTSD club every year and none of us want to belong to it, but when we are not getting the help we need when we are in crisis, it doesn't make the news. When veterans are killed, it does. 

Veterans do, and always have had my heart. I got into working with veterans 40 years ago and have not stopped, even though now my efforts are for everyone struggling after surviving. I am one of them. 

When you read the following story about Jonathan Pears being killed by police officers after his family tried to get him help, understand that it could be you or someone you love this happens to. If the police still don't understand how to respond to someone in mental health crisis, even with so many officers dealing with PTSD, the rest of us can very well end up with the same fate. We survive what happens to us and then, too many cannot survive what comes afterwards. We've been doing this for far too long to still be losing so many lives out of lingering ignorance.

Family of veteran with PTSD killed by Alabama deputy wants answers, new body camera law

Associzated Press
Published: Mar. 30, 2022
Born into a military family, Jonathan Pears had served first as an airman and then as a contractor in Afghanistan. When he returned, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, according to his father, retired Air Force Col. Andy Pears.
Andy and Mary Pears stand with a photo of their son by the memorial to him in the front yard of their home in Elmore County, Ala., on Nov. 5, 2021. Thirty-two-year-old Jonathan Pears was shot and killed by deputies on July 28, 2021. The couple said their son, a military veteran suffered PTSD and depression after returning from Afghanistan, and they called 911 seeking help for him during a mental health crisis. The Elmore County Sheriff's Office said Pears was holding a large knife and refused commands to drop it. His parents maintain deputies were a safe distance away and did not have to shoot their son. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)AP
When Mary Pears called 911 because her veteran son who had PTSD appeared to be having a mental health crisis, she had hoped to get him help and keep everyone safe.

Within minutes, 32-year-old Jonathan Pears was dead, fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in the front yard of his parents’ Alabama home.

“I wanted someone to talk him down. I wanted someone to come help us to get him calmed down. I absolutely did not want them to kill my son, nor did I ever think that would happen,” Mary Pears said.

The tragic end to their call for help didn’t have to happen, the family said. Now, they want changes in how officers respond to a mental health crisis and have filed a lawsuit accusing the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office of using excessive force.
read more here

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

580 Service Members Die by Suicide in 2020

580 Service Members Die by Suicide in 2020, New Pentagon Report Says

Air Force Times
By Greg Hadley
Sept. 30, 2021
Fliers are on display during the Suicide Explained and Suicide Intervention training inside the Bay Breeze Event Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Sept. 17, 2021. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue.
Five hundred and eighty service members died by suicide in 2020, the Pentagon announced Sept. 30, when the Defense Department released its annual suicide report.

Those 580 deaths mark the most the DOD has recorded in at least five years, with the Active-duty component accounting for 384, the Reserve for 77, and the National Guard for 119. In the Air Force, 81 Active-duty members, 12 Reservists, and 16 Air National Guard members committed suicide in calendar year 2020, according to the report.

“The findings are troubling. Suicide rates among our service members and military families are still too high, and the trends are not going in the right direction,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “This is a paramount challenge for our department. We must redouble our efforts to provide all of our people with the care and the resources they need, to reduce stigmas and barriers to care, and to ensure that our community uses simple safety measures and precautions to reduce the risk of future tragedies.”

While the total numbers increased, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office found that the rate of suicides per 100,000 individuals did not increase by a statistically significant margin from 2019 to 2020, assuaging some fears that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a surge.
read more here

As bad as that sounds for last year, the truth is, the military suicides have been averaging 500 a year since 2012.
While reporters are unable to add in the "reserve component" meaning National Guard and Reservists, that is the truth. 

Year after year, they make excuses and make promises as to how serious they are taking the deaths of service members because of their service. Year after year, the numbers prove whatever leaders are paying attention to, they are clearly not paying attention to what the men and women service actually need.

Considering the civilian world has not been able to bring down the numbers, yet the general public seems fixated on veterans committing suicide, ignoring the suicides of those who committed suicide while serving, it is unlikely anything will change for anyone.

Considering what happened at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. When I posted about three suicides at Fort Drum it was like a dagger to hope that someday, they will finally understand how what leadership has been doing has failed. 

'What are we missing?' Fort Drum seeks answers in wake of successive suicides

By Brian Dwyer
Fort Drum
Sep. 30, 2021

Three recent suicides of soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, which has the lowest suicide rate of any division in the Army, has served as a wake-up call for leaders.

“We’re doing, for a lack of better words, mental gymnastics to think 'what are we missing?' ” 10th Mountain Division Command Sergeant Major Mario Terenas said upon learning three soldiers took their own lives.

Tenth Mountain Division officials were adamant that the days of stigma, being fearful to ask for help with mental health, were gone. Officials also discussed the highest priority the division places on ensuring soldiers get that help they ask for. So when the calls came in two weeks ago for three suicides in three days, it was a massive wake-up call.

“Put simply, suicide is the military in a crisis,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told reporters Thursday.

In her eyes, Gillibrand says more needs to be done regarding mental health stigma within the military. She’s pushing for passage of the Brandon Act, named after a sailor who three years ago took his own life after being bullied by a superior.

The act would trigger help for a military member without alerting those who could retaliate or impact a career. It had been placed in the House's version of the fiscal 2021 Defense Policy bill, but was removed during final deliberations.

“Our service members make sacrifices that we can never forget. It is our obligation to ensure that adequate resources are devoted to taking care of them, our veterans and their families,” Gillibrand said.
read more here

A wake up call they have said they have been hearing for decades! Members of Congress in the last 20 years have done nothing meaning full. All they have done is repeat what didn't work before, spend more money and get their names on Bills, while the troops get their names on gravestones. Nothing more than putting words together for press releases, while families get a pressed, folded flag at the funeral of someone who didn't need to end up there. 

Families still say they don't know what to do to help other families not face the same outcome. How could they when the government, all the way from Congress to the leadership of every branch don't know what to do? How could anyone know what they need to hear, if no one is remember what they already heard for the last 4 decades as Vietnam veterans, Gulf War Veterans and the War on Terror veterans have testified over and over again to members of Congress and Brass?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant holding review of justice system

Chief Wright: ‘I am George Floyd,’ promises review of Air Force justice system

Air Force Times
Stephen Losey
June 2, 2020
“Who am I? I am a Black man who happens to be Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I am George Floyd...I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice.” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright posted a lengthy and passionate thread on Twitter about police brutality and the deaths of black men like George Floyd Monday night. (Air Force)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright on Monday announced an independent review of the service’s justice system after a series of scathing reports that showed it disproportionately punishes young black airmen.

And in a lengthy, passionate Twitter thread posted as the nation continued to be roiled by protests and fury over racism, police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd and other black men at the hands of police, Chief Wright — who is the second black man in history to be the Air Force’s top enlisted leader — invoked several of their names and expressed solidarity with them.
read it here

Monday, June 1, 2020

2 Airmen dead after shooting at Grand Forks

Shooting at Grand Forks Air Force Base leaves two airmen dead

Military Times
Stephen Losey
June 1, 2020

Two active-duty airmen from the 319th Reconnaissance Wing are dead after an early-morning shooting at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota Monday. (Airman 1st Class Brody Katka/Air Force)
Two active-duty airmen from the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota are dead after an early-morning shooting at the base.

The base said in a release that the shooting happened at about 4:30 a.m., and that emergency services at the base responded to the scene. Grand Forks said the situation is “contained,” and that there is not believed to be any further risk to personnel.
read it here

Thursday, May 7, 2020

93 year old Air Force veteran picked up hitchhiking to get Hershey bar to split with girlfriend!

Air Force veteran, 93, hitchhikes to store for Hershey bars, says he and girlfriend split one ‘every night’

MAY 7, 2020

Mike, a retired Air Force veteran, also told Farmer that he met his girlfriend Doris — or ‘Do,’ as he calls her — at a senior dance about 20 years ago. He added that Doris didn’t know he was doing this, and “probably hasn’t even started looking for me” yet.

Rich Farmer said he picked up Mike, 93, after he saw the elderly gentleman hitchhiking in the road near a senior living community. (Rich Farmer)

LAKE SAN MARCOS, Calif. — A 93-year-old Air Force veteran in California was so intent on procuring Hershey bars for his girlfriend that he sneaked away from their senior community and hitchhiked to the local 99-cent store.

The man, identified only as Mike, said he splits a Hershey bar with his girlfriend Doris every night, but he’s been having trouble getting to the store amid the coronavirus health crisis. On Monday, April 27, however, he tried his luck with hitchhiking, only for local resident Rich Farmer to stop and pick him up.

“I was going home for lunch at about 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon,” said Farmer, a real estate broker in Lake San Marcos, in an interview with Fox News. “When I turned a corner to go up the hill to my house, I saw an elderly gentleman about four feet into the street.”

Farmer said he couldn’t ignore Mike, who quickly stuck his thumb out as Farmer drove by. Farmer swung a U-turn and rolled down his window to ask if the elderly gentleman needed any help.
read it here

Friday, April 24, 2020

Veteran lost battle with COVID-19, and what honored by Nurse who was also a veteran

Florida Nurse Pays Tribute to Fellow Fallen Veteran Who Died of Coronavirus: 'My Heart Was Broken'

By Robyn Merrett
April 22, 2020
“My heart was broken and saddened when a veteran lost his life to this deadly virus.” Marc Kagan


A Florida nurse stepped in to give a fallen veteran a proper send off after the retired military personnel died of coronavirus earlier this month.

On Monday, Manatee Memorial Hospital shared a photo on Facebook of the touching moment, which shows nurse Marc Kagan saluting the late veteran, whose body was covered by a white cloth.

Of the moment, Kagan, a fellow veteran himself, explained in a statement shared by the hospital that he felt it was his “duty” to honor the late veteran.

“I’m an RN, a retired USAF officer (Flight Nurse) and a retired Firefighter/Deputy Sheriff/Paramedic. I work presently as a Cath Lab nurse and recently doing scanning of hospital personnel going in and out of the COVID-19 Unit.”

Kagan shared, “My heart was broken and saddened when a veteran lost his life to this deadly virus.”

“He didn’t get the military send off with a flag over his brave body. It was with my duty and honor to salute this brave American,” Kagan added.
read it here

Friday, April 10, 2020

34 Air Force personnel have died by suicide as of March 31

Air Force sees small dip in suicides compared to same period last year

Air Force Times
Diana Stancy Correll
April 4, 2020
Of those who have died by suicide this year, 30 were male and four were female. Twenty were enlisted personnel, eight were officers and six were Air Force civilians.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright announced a one-day stand down to discuss resiliency and suicide prevention in a video released Aug. 1, 2019. (DVIDS)
The Air Force saw a small drop in total force suicides for the first quarter of 2020 when measured against this point of the year in 2019, according to the service.

The Air Force reported a total of 34 Air Force personnel have died by suicide as of March 31, including 20 active duty airmen. That number is down from the 41 suicides the Air Force reported across the entire force the end of March last year, officials said.
read it here

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Disabled Korean War Air Force veteran being kicked out of rehab...during COVID-19


FOX 46 gets results for Air Force veteran almost kicked out of rehab center

CORNELIUS, N.C. - An elderly Korean War veteran set to be kicked out of his rehab center Thursday, despite a statewide stay-at-home order, can now stay put, thanks to FOX 46.

“Thank you FOX 46 for helping,” said the Air Force veteran’s granddaughter, Kelly Wimmer. “It has meant the world to us.” read it here

Elderly veteran to be kicked out of rehab facility, improperly, despite COVID-19

FOX 46 Charlotte
By Matt Grant
April 1, 2020
Hummel, 88, a Korean War veteran, was transferred at the beginning of March from Lake Norman Regional Medical Center to Autumn Care in Cornelius to recover from pneumonia, Wimmer said. The Air Force veteran and lung cancer survivor is an amputee and confined to a wheelchair. Unless something changes, Gorman says her dad will be discharged on Thursday, April 2.

CORNELIUS, N.C. - Despite North Carolina being under a 'Stay-at-Home' order, an elderly veteran in poor health is about to be kicked out of his rehabilitation facility in the middle of a global pandemic because of an insurance payment dispute.

“It’s been hard,” Andrea Gorman, the daughter of Sanford Hummel, said in tears.
read it here

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Jan Brown of Boardman, AMVETS first female National Commander told congress the truth!

National leader of AMVETS from Boardman appeals to Congress for help

The Vindicator
March 1, 2020
In her remarks to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Brown said: “If we had spent $9 billion this year showing veterans how to live lives worth living, our veterans would be in a lot better position. Instead, we have built a hard to manage mental health conglomerate, with associations and unions who put their needs first.

WASHINGTON — Jan Brown of Boardman, AMVETS first female national commander, told members of Congress about failures in addressing veterans’ mental health and suicides, and urged money be spent on alternative programs.

Brown said she spoke to the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee last week, and felt her message was well-received.

“This was my one opportunity to tell Congress what I thought and have it on record. A couple of them came up and actually thanked me,” said Brown. “The questions and comments I got apparently hit home.”

Veteran service organizations testify annually before both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees, notifying Congress of their veteran-related priorities.

These organizations urged action to prevent more suicide deaths, to care for increasing veterans ill and dying of toxic exposure and traumatic brain injuries, and to provide equal care for a growing number of women veterans.

AMVETS last summer elected Brown, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant, to serve as the organization’s 2019-2020 national commander.
read it here

Exactly what we have been saying all along and so glad someone like her is saying it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tyler Reeb: "his courage and strength should inspire us to do better"

How many veterans do we have to lose before we actually do better?

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
February 4, 2020

Why do I still believe we will do the right thing to stop men and women, who risked their lives to save others, will finally risk their pride to save themselves? Because I have seen it happen too often to dismiss what is possible.

Air Force Suicides went up last year. "The U.S. Air Force says 137 airmen across the active duty, Guard and Reserve died by suicide in 2019, a 33% increase over the previous year." The annual report released last year for 2018, showed that suicides have gone up to the highest on record.
Col. Michael A. Miller, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, reportedly commented that "killing yourself is a chickenshit way to go" during a 1.2 mile "resiliency day" run with personnel...
The problem is, leaders like him are part of the problem itself! "Marine colonel calls suicide ‘shameful,' cites ‘godless age’ and calls on Marines to ‘read some scripture’"
Since the start of Gen. Robert Neller’s tenure as commandant in 2015, nearly 224 Marines have ended their own lives. That’s more Marines than an entire rifle company, he noted in a recent two-page letter on mental wellness.

In 2018, 354 active and reserve Marines attempted suicide, and 77 Marines died, numbers that are greater, Neller wrote “than any previous year recorded."

In his letter to the entire Corps, posted via Twitter in May, Neller called on Marines to address “collective mental wellness," spiritual fitness and to seek help to combat the suicide epidemic across the Corps.
Those messages have been delivered at the same time the Department of Defense has been publicly saying the troops need to seek help without fear.... and kicking out far too many who needed help, the wrong message has gotten through.

But they are not alone with that type of thinking. It has been happening for decades because "leaders" refuse to learn about what PTSD is and what it does. They cannot accept that the men and women they command valued the lives of others so much so, they were willing to die for their sake, but could not risk their pride to admit they needed help to stay alive. These "leaders" cannot even recognized they have supported silence instead of encouraging service members to #BreakTheSilence so they can heal the wound of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We should know the end of this month how many were discharged without honoring their service.
Now, according to court documents, the timeline for the documents to again be visible is clear: at least 90 percent of the pre-April 2019 Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard decisions will be reposted on the website by Jan. 31, as will all Army decisions from 2009 to April 2019. By Feb. 14, the remaining Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard decisions will be reposted, and by Feb. 28, all Army decisions prior to 2009 will be reposted.

And by March 31, the services, including the Coast Guard, will repost all decisions through Dec. 31, 2019.

But I do still believe that one day, we will arrive at a time and place where no one will ever be ashamed of PTSD, especially when it was caused by their heroism. I believe because of these leaders.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller
"Marines are in a fight to save their fellow comrades, and they must approach that fight with the same intensity they apply to other battles," he added. In the nearly four years Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has led the Marine Corps, the service has lost a rifle company-worth of Marines to suicide, and he says it's time to have a frank conversation about what's causing that.
"Let me be clear up front, there is zero shame in admitting one's struggles in life -- trauma, shame, guilt or uncertainty about the future -- and asking for help," he said in a two-page letter about mental illness addressed to Marines, sailors and their families.

Blumenthal to bring uncle of Marine who committed suicide to State of the Union

The Day
By Julia Bergman Day staff writer
February 03. 2020
"Our nation has abjectly failed to provide the care our heroes need to fight these invisible wounds — mental health services to diagnose and treat them effectively. The loss of Tyler Reeb as well as his courage and strength should inspire us to do better." U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal
The uncle of a Marine Staff Sergeant Tyler Reeb, who died by suicide last fall October following multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be the guest of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., at the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Tyler Reeb, a decorated Marine Corps sniper who grew up in New Canaan, died in October. He led more than 100 combat missions against the Taliban, according to a news release from Blumenthal's office. His uncle, Christopher Reeb of Weston, will represent the family at the State of the Union.

"Our nation has abjectly failed to provide the care our heroes need to fight these invisible wounds — mental health services to diagnose and treat them effectively," Blumenthal said in a statement. "The loss of Tyler Reeb as well as his courage and strength should inspire us to do better."

Last week, the U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee approved legislation, authored by Blumenthal, that would establish targets to evaluate the efficacy of the VA's mental health and suicide prevention outreach campaigns and would create a process to oversee these campaigns.

The proposal adopts several recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report publicly released in December 2018, which found the VA's suicide prevention outreach activities had "dropped off in 2017 and 2018, and the office responsible for these activities lacked consistent leadership."
read it here

When you read about Tyler Reeb in days to come, think about what you just learned and then ask yourself what you can do to deliver the message to others, that Tyler Reeb should have heard.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Air Force Suicides broke record in 2019

UPDATE From Dayton Daily News
Photos of military suicide statistics leaked to social media last week have been confirmed by military officials, a national defense industry publication says. The photo on Facebook shows total “Force” suicides of 136 individuals for calender year 2019.“Officials confirmed the number last week after the latest statistics appeared on social media,” a recent story says.

Air Force suicides set a record in 2019

San Antonio Express
Sig Christenson
February 1, 2020
More than 800 trainees paraded during the Air Force Basic Military Training Graduation held at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in this 2019 file photo. Recent data show that the Air Force set a record for suicides last year.Photo: Bob Owen /Staff photographer

The Air Force set a record for suicides in 2019, a stark reminder that a Pentagon all but invincible on the battlefield has struggled to protect its troops from themselves.

There were at least 112 suspected and confirmed suicides among active-duty, reserve and Air National Guard personnel last year. That was a 40 percent jump from the year before and the highest total since the Air Force began tracking suicides in 2003.
read it here

Remind me again why anyone would support raising suicide awareness instead of healing awareness? #BreakTheSilence and #TakeBackYourLife

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf of Hudson, New Hampshire, one of two killed in plane crash

NH Airman Among 2 Killed in Afghanistan Plane Crash

NBC 10 Boston
Published 2 hours ago

A wreckage of a U.S. military aircraft that crashed in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, is seen Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.

A New Hampshire man was one of two airmen killed when an Air Force plane crashed in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has confirmed.

U.S. forces recovered the service members' remains Tuesday from the site of a plane crash in Afghanistan the day before. Wednesday, the deceased were identified as 30-year-old Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf of Hudson, New Hampshire, and 46-year-old Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss of Yigo, Guam.

Phaneuf was assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Voss was assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. Both men were on board the U.S. Bombardier E-11A aircraft that went down Monday in Ghazni Province.
read it here

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Ret. Lt. Col. John Andersen decided to #BreakTheSilence so others would seek help to heal

'Eating at me from the inside out': After suffering silently for 15 years, Alaska vet encourages others to seek help for mental health challenges

By Beth Verge
Dec 31, 2019
Ret. Lt. Col. John Andersen, a 21-year veteran of the military who served in various capacities, including as an Air Force pilot based at Eielson Air Force Base and with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, is one of them.
ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - If you are a veteran in crisis, or are concerned about one, you can connect with the veterans crisis line by dialing (800) 273-8255. You can also text the number 838255 or chat online by clicking here.

The great state of Alaska boasts the highest percentage of veterans in the entire United States. About one of every three people in the Last Frontier is either military or a dependent, according to the Alaska Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We have a high amount of veterans in our state," said Sen. Dan Sullivan, (R) Alaska, "which is great, but we also have one of the highest rates of suicide. We need to recognize these are wounds of war, just like being shot is.

"It's a broader issue," the U.S. Marine Corps Reservist added. "It's not necessarily resources, but it's the stigma."

As such, with that grand force of servicemen and women spread across the state comes an often hidden ailment faced by tens of thousands of people each and every day: post-combat mental health challenges.
read it here

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Stolen Valor: Air Force veteran convicted for PTSD and wounds that did not happen

Air Force veteran sentenced for fake PTSD, Purple Heart claims

Fayetteville Observer
By Rachael Riley
Staff writer
Posted Dec 21, 2019
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office said the VA Office of the Inspector General reviewed Winquist’s service records and interviewed fellow service members, which showed that the incident he claimed happened did not occur. Officials said Winquist deployed to Iraq for one month and was assigned as a firefighter to the base.

He received VA compensation for a false claim.
The claim read like countless Veterans Affairs claims and Purple Heart awards.

In 2014, Air Force Veteran Bryan Paul Winquist, now 39, submitted paperwork to the VA seeking compensation related to what he said was post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a 2003 improvised explosive device attack in Balad, Iraq.

The claim detailed that Winquist was shot in the left shoulder during a small arms firefight, which lasted between 25 to 45 minutes and caused two casualties and four injuries.

Except there was no firefight, and Winquist was not injured or involved in an attack, VA investigators wrote in legal documents three years after the claim and $37,500 in VA disability compensation later.

U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced Winquist’s sentence for the false claims earlier this month.
read it here

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Jennifer Kepner served as an Air Force Medic in Iraq in 2006, killed by cancer caused by burn pits

President Trump signs Rep. Ruiz’s burn pits, law enforcement mental health bill into law

News Channel 3
By Jesus Reyes
December 20, 2019
Kepner lost her battle to cancer on October 16, 2017. She was 39 years old and left behind a husband and two young children. After her passing, her husband continued her fight to end burn pits.
President Donald Trump signed three of local Congressman Raul Ruiz's bills into law, including legislation to stop burn pits and improve mental health services for local law enforcement.

On Friday, Trump signed the bipartisan, $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act into law. The NDAA included two pieces of Ruiz's legislation aiming to end the use of toxic military burn pits.

Burn pits were used as the main way to get rid of waste and garbage on American military bases during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, hundreds of tons of waste were burned each day including plastics, Styrofoam, petroleum products, human waste, and other items.

Many service members and veterans exposed to burn pits ended up suffering from pulmonary issues, insomnia, cancer, and rare illnesses.

An independent registry by Burn Pits 360, a veteran organization whose goal it is to end burn pits, reveals that over 6,000 veterans have been exposed to toxic airborne chemicals and fumes generated by open air burn pits.

Ruiz's legislation calls on the Department of Defense to produce and implement a plan to phase out the use of burn pits and provide a comprehensive list of all locations where the toxic burn pits have been used.

One local veteran affected by burn pits was at the forefront of highlighting the dangers of the practice years ago.

Cathedral City resident Jennifer Kepner served as an Air Force Medic in Iraq in 2006. She told News Channel 3's John White in Sept. 2017, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016. read it here

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Suicide awareness did not save their lives

Did all the "suicide awareness save any of these lives?

They risked their lives to save other people. Isn't it time we actually noticed that fact instead of dismissing what happens to them when they cannot save their own lives or find the help they need?

Veterans raise awareness about mental health after Dyess airman takes own life

KTXC 12 News
by Daniela Ibarra
December 2nd 2019
“He was depressed," said Blair's friend Tim Ringhoffer. "He was angry at times about the lack of help.“ His friends believe the suicide could have been avoided.
ABILENE, Texas — The friends of a Dyess airman who committed suicide after a standoff with Abilene police are trying to raise awareness about mental health.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Ryan Blair took his own life Saturday after he was shot by an Abilene police officer.

Blair's friends said they will miss his warm, fun to be around personality. But behind his smile, Blair's friends said he was hurting.
read it here

‘We are heartbroken:’ Elm Grove police mourn 19-year veteran who died by suicide at police department

FOX 6 News
NOVEMBER 26, 2019
ELM GROVE — Elm Grove police on Tuesday, Nov. 26 posted a heartfelt message on social media, mourning the loss of a 19-year veteran of the Elm Grove Police Department, who died by suicide at the department in the early morning hours of Monday, Nov. 25.

Police identified the officer as Sgt. Joseph Ipavec, described as “a leader in our department and in our community.”

Sgt. Ipavec mentored new officers in his role as a field training officer and certified firearms instructor, police said. He represented the department as the Citizen Police Academy’s liaison.
read it here

Orange City police sergeant shoots herself in suicide on Daytona Beach, officials said

News Journal
By Patricio G. Balona
Posted Nov 20, 2019

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that is investigating the death, said the Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue and Daytona Beach police received information that an off-duty Orange City police officer possibly committed suicide on the beach.

An Orange City police sergeant shot and killed herself on Daytona Beach on Tuesday night leaving her longtime colleagues grieving, officials said.
“She was a very happy person, always laughing with everyone here at the department,” said Orange City police Lt. Jason Samspell. “There was no indication that she had any type of illness or stress. We are all shocked by her death.”

Authorities said that 12-year veteran Sgt. Kelly Jo Brubaker, 49, shot and killed herself on the beach near SunSplash Park about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Dispatchers said on Tuesday night that a woman, who the police department on Wednesday confirmed was Brubaker, was pulled out of the surf with a gunshot wound to the head.
read it here

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Offutt Air Force Base Servicemember and Spouse Found Dead

2 dead in shooting near Offutt identified as active-duty service member, spouse

Omaha World Herald
By Kevin Cole and Jessica Wade / World-Herald staff writers
1 hr ago

Offutt Air Force Base officials have confirmed that two people died Saturday night in a shooting in a base community.
An active-duty service member from Offutt and their spouse died, a spokesman for the Air Force base said Sunday. The bodies were discovered about 8:15 p.m. in Rising View, Offutt’s privatized housing area in Bellevue.

Law enforcement officials from Offutt and Sarpy County responded to a call from the home, the spokesman said. The names of the deceased are being held pending notification of the next of kin.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment at Offutt is leading the investigation. A post on the Offutt-based 55th Wing's Facebook page by Col. Gavin P. Marks, commander of the wing, confirmed the deaths.
read it here

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Vietnam Veteran inspires after being imprisoned as POW

‘We made it:’ Local Vietnam veteran shares his POW story

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer: Briana Harvath
September 20, 2019

1,882 days; five and a half years. That’s how long Vietnam veteran Wayne Smith was a prisoner of war.

“We were in pretty bad shape, we certainly were,” said Smith.

He shared his story with us and dozens of people at Punta Gorda’s Military Heritage Museum.

The Air Force captain’s aircraft got shot down in 1968, just hours after this photo.

Now, he’s detailing his time in solitary confinement when communication was rare, but crucial.

“We used to break our knuckles by tapping on the walls and someone found out that actually, you could put the cup up against the wall, yell through it, and the other guy could listen to the other side,” said Smith.

Captured one warehouse over: prisoner of war survivor, Senator John McCain.

“We talked about anything,” said Smith. “It was important to stay in touch with each other.”

For two years, his family didn’t know if he was alive. Then, a released POW remembered his name.

“One of the things we thought was so important, any time we could, we would pass along names so in case someone made out, then we would tell the families,” said Smith.

Released during Operation Homecoming in 1973, the Naples man has shared his experience with people all over Southwest Florida.

A story, at one point, he didn’t know if he’d ever tell.

“We made it. And we survived because of each other,” he said.
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Monday, September 23, 2019

Evicted-Paralyzed veteran, lost everything and then his community supplied love

Disabled veteran loses his possessions in a curbside fire after his eviction

WWMT Newschannel 3
September 17th 2019
Summey said the community was also quick to offer help, after he posted a picture of the burned belongings on social media. "Pretty amazing, within minutes hundreds of messages people wanting to know what they could do to help," Summey said.
STURGIS, Mich. (WWMT) — The contents of his apartment were stacked on the curbside, but before a disabled veteran who once called Quail Run II his home could move the belongings, someone doused the pile with gasoline and lit a match.

"I seen him, he was sitting in his chair. He didn't want to leave his stuff. I can understand, that's all your possessions," said Clint Parsons, who lives near the apartment complex.

Parsons said the gentleman, a U.S. Air Force veteran, told him his rent hadn't been paid in almost a year, even though he had a caregiver who was supposed to be handling his affairs.

According to Disability Attorneys of Michigan in 2015 there were 82,952 homeless people in Michigan, and 5,291 of those were veterans.

St. Joseph County Veterans' Affairs Director Stoney Summey said the county's transitional housing program provided secure, safe housing to 28 veterans throughout the first nine months of 2019.

Summey said the veteran who was evicted from Quail Run II on Friday, is paralyzed, and now brings to six the number of homeless veterans in St. Joseph County.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Airman killed in parachute jump loved his country and his job

Airman who died in parachuting accident ‘loved his country and his job,’ family says

Published: September 16, 2019
Staff Sgt. Adam K. Erickson, 29, was killed on Sept. 10 during a training accident on a routine military proficiency jump, Edwards Air Force Base said in a release last week.
An airman killed in a parachuting accident last week was an enlisted leader of the Air Force’s parachute-testing team and a combat veteran who had deployed to the Middle East in support of personnel recovery efforts.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Erickson was killed during a military training parachute operation in Perris, California, Sept. 10, 2019. GOFUNDME
Staff Sgt. Adam K. Erickson, 29, was killed on Sept. 10 during a training accident on a routine military proficiency jump, Edwards Air Force Base said in a release last week.

He was assigned to the California base’s 412th Test Wing and had served with the Joint Personnel Recovery Center in Qatar in 2016. More recently, he had served earlier this year as a jumpmaster and operations liaison in Romania, where the Air Force is deployed as part of the mission to deter Russian aggression in Europe.

At Edwards, Erickson was the noncommissioned officer in charge of test parachutist program operations, the base said on its Facebook page, sharing a GoFundMe campaign started by the airman’s sister.
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