Showing posts with label Minnesota. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Minnesota. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, Peggy Flanagan lost Marine veteran brother to COVID-19

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan says coronavirus killed her Marine brother

Fox News
By Robert Gearty
March 24, 2020
“THIS is why we must #StayHome,” Flanagan wrote. “If you feel fine, that’s great. But please consider the possibility that you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it, and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public. COVID-19 now has a personal connection to me. Please do all you can to prevent one for you.”

A man who died of the coronavirus in Tennessee over the weekend had served in the Marines and was the older brother of Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, Peggy Flanagan.

She shared the sad news in an Instagram post Sunday night, Fox 9 Minneapolis reported.

“To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death,” she wrote. “But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father and husband.”
read it here

Saturday, February 22, 2020

National Guard Soldier did not live to see his son born, but now all can see his love!

Soldier dad added to family pictures, overlooks infant son born after his death

February 21, 2020

PERHAM, Minn. (KVLY/Gray News) - Charles Nord never got to meet his infant son Jack, but in a new family photograph, the late Minnesota National Guard soldier is there overlooking his young family.

In pictures by photographer Sarah Jean, the chief warrant officer is superimposed, proudly looking over this wife Kaley’s shoulder at his newborn son, Jack Charles Nord, and his toddler daughter, Lydia.

Little Jack was born February 11, about two months after his father died in a Dec. 5 Black Hawk helicopter crash near St. Cloud.

The images of Charles Nord were added to a pair of pictures from a recent family photo shoot. Jean had done photo sessions with the family before.
read it here

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"For me, it was just about trying to turn the pain into purpose" after wife died serving near burn pits

Woodbury veteran's legacy lives on through Amie Muller Foundation

River Towns
Written By: Hannah Black
Jan 21st 2020
"For me, it was just about trying to turn the pain into purpose. When you think about ... what the military's done for us as a country, and then we're not taking care of our soldiers and our veterans the way we should, I think for us it's about raising awareness about how we can continue to help these veterans and to give back." Brian Muller

WOODBURY, Minn. — When Minnesota Air National Guard veteran and Woodbury resident Amie Muller died in 2017 after battling pancreatic cancer, her loved ones set out to carry on her legacy.
Amie Muller, 36, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016 and died nine months later. Muller, who served two tours in Iraq, believed her cancer was caused by living next to a massive burn pit while stationed in Balad. Courtesy of Brian Muller

The resulting Amie Muller Foundation was formed to provide financial assistance to military families fighting pancreatic cancer. The foundation will host its second annual Family Fun Day fundraiser Sunday, Jan. 26, at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington. One of two yearly fundraisers the foundation holds, Family Fun Day was started as tribute to Muller's love of family and as a way to include the children — hers, and those of her family and friends — she loved so much.

"Amie was very family-focused, and her kids were everything to her," said Julie Tomaska, Muller's best friend and fellow Minnesota Air National Guard veteran. Muller and Tomaska were in the same unit and did two tours in Iraq together in 2005 and 2007.

Amie Muller and Tomaska had been stationed at Balad Air Base near a giant open-air burn pit. Inside the pit was anything from Styrofoam to plastics and even human body parts, burning 24 hours a day in a fire stoked by jet fuel, the Star Tribune reported in 2016. The burn pit was just one of many used by the U.S. military throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tomaska and Muller's husband, Brian, started planning the foundation shortly after Amie's death. Every couple of months, the foundation's leadership combs through the GoFundMe site in search of military families affected by a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, providing $2,500 to $5,000 in financial aid to each family.
Nearly 200,000 veterans have signed up for the VA's Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. read it here

Friday, January 10, 2020

Minneapolis VA Health Care Center failures connected to a Minnesota veteran’s suicide

Minneapolis VA cited second time for failures in the suicide of a veteran

Star Tribune
By Mary Lynn Smith
JANUARY 10, 2020
Hospital officials say improvements have already been made to stop such tragedies.
For the second time in 16 months, a federal watchdog agency has cited the Minneapolis VA Health Care Center for failures connected to a Minnesota veteran’s suicide.

“I want to die,” the veteran said after he was admitted to the medical center in the spring of 2018. Three days later, a nurse overheard the man talking on the telephone, saying he was going to die in the hospital. “I want you to have the seven acres for all the help you have given me,” the vet told the other person on the line.

Hours later, police responded to a report that a patient had attempted suicide on VA property. Despite CPR, the vet died.

It was the second time within weeks that a veteran had taken his own life at the medical center.
“When someone dies by suicide, there are all kinds of questions about why, and one of the things you learn to tell yourself is that it’s no one’s fault,” she said. “But having a government report in black and white in front of you that says no, actually these things did go wrong in the care of that person, blows that out of the water. It’s devastating to know that someone could have done something that would have given your loved one a better chance at survival.”
read it here

Thursday, September 26, 2019

72-year-old Marine Corps veteran died of "egregious neglect" at Minnesota "Care Center"

Ex-care center owner charged with manslaughter in Marine veteran’s death

The Associated Press
By: Steve Karnowski
September 24, 2019  

The second-degree manslaughter count cited the case of a 72-year-old Marine Corps veteran, identified only as R.M., who died last October of septic shock, an untreated urinary tract infection and other complications resulting from improper medical care and neglect. The investigators said doctors and nurses who treated him at a Duluth hospital just before his death found a “filthy” catheter and a 1-square-foot pressure sore on his tailbone that was draining a “foul smelling liquid,” a wound they said resulted from “utter, complete neglect.”

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s attorney general’s office said Tuesday that it has charged 10 people with 76 criminal counts following an investigation into the death of a 72-year-old man and what it described as egregious neglect of other patients at a northern Minnesota care center.

The most serious charges include racketeering, swindling and manslaughter counts against Theresa Lee Olson, 43, the former owner of the now-closed center, Chappy’s Golden Shores in Hill City. Olson is also accused of bilking the state’s Medicaid program out of nearly $2.2 million. The facility had been the subject of repeated disciplinary and administrative actions by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Human Services, the attorney general’s office said.

“My office is holding these defendants accountable for what we believe we can prove is systematic, intolerable abuse and neglect that in one case led to death, not to mention widespread fraud, theft, and other charges that hurt everyone,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement.
read it here

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Chainsaws, shovels and muscle brought to bear by an Ohio militia

Ohio's militias are armed and ready, with good intent they say

The Plain Dealer
By Brian Albrecht
July 28, 2019
But there are militias that say they support the government and exist to serve as a citizen’s defense force in the historical sense of these groups. Armed, yes, but also prepared and trained to respond to disasters or local community needs.
Members of the Irregulars of Ohio Reserve Militia take a break for a photo with personnel of the Life’s Little Adventures Farm in Wooster, where militia members cleared fallen trees and foliage in May to help the facility that uses rescued animals in therapeutic programs for children, and veterans recovering from PTSD. (Brian Albrecht/The Plain Dealer)
CLEVELAND, Ohio — This is the militia: Men and women clad in camos, carrying semi-automatic rifles, stalking the woodlands, shredding targets, prepping for worst-case scenarios.

And this is the militia: Two militia members arrested and charged in Cincinnati earlier this year for allegedly making bombs; a militia leader arrested and charged with firearms possession by a felon in April after a video showed his group detaining migrants in New Mexico at gunpoint; two members of a Illinois militia pleading guilty in January to bombing a Minnesota mosque; three Kansas militia men convicted last year of plotting to blow up an apartment complex where Somali refugees lived.

And this: Chainsaws, shovels and muscle brought to bear by an Ohio militia to help clean up tornado-ravaged areas of Dayton, and an overgrown farm in Wooster that offers therapeutic programs to treat traumatized families and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The recent history of private militias in Ohio and the United States has been fraught with confrontation and violence.
read it here

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#MissingVeteran Alert Wisconsin

update He has been found!

Green Alert: ‘At risk’ veteran missing in Western Wisconsin

TMJ4 News
By: Marty Hobe
Updated: 23 minutes ago

A Wisconsin veteran suffering from PTSD has been reported missing, triggering the state’s green alert system for at risk veterans.

Shaun Michael Wischmann, 36, of Altoona, Wisconsin has been missing since Monday.

In addition to PTSD, he also suffers from depression. The family thinks he might be traveling to North Dakota and may have a handgun in his possession.

Wischmann was last seen wearing a black button down shirt, jeans and a black jacket. He has a tattoo on his left arm as a memorial to veterans he served with.

He is driving a 2014 Chevy Cruze with a Minnesota license plane with the number 851DV.

Anyone with information about Wischmann’s whereabouts should call Altoona Police at 715-839-6090.
go here for updates

Friday, December 14, 2018

Minnesota soldier committed suicide after assault and cyberbullying

Army Secretary Orders Changes to Policy after Minnesota Soldier's Sexual Assault, Suicide

December 14, 2018
During that time, the documents reveal the 21-year-old suffered from harassment by her attacker and from cyberbullying by fellow soldiers and their spouses.
The Secretary of the U.S. Army has directed staff to update policies regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault who request to be transferred off-base, according to a letter sent to members of Congress from Minnesota.

The letter comes months after a KSTP investigation into the death of Pvt. Nicole Burnham, a solider from Andover, who died by suicide after being sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied.

Army documents obtained by KSTP show it took 82 days to transfer Pvt. Burnham from her base in South Korea after she reported the sexual assault.
read more here

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Marine got apology from publisher for choosing wrong adventure

A Marine's Reaction to a Children's Book Prompts an Apology From the Publisher

New York Times
C. J. Chivers
November 30, 2018
In an article for the Times, a former Marine criticized a “choose your own adventure” children’s book set in Afghanistan. A week later, the book’s publisher wrote to him with an apology.

“The choose-your-adventure format,” he wrote, “felt breezy and cavalier, recklessly presenting a bloody contest between the Taliban and the Marines in a manner largely devoid of consequences. I know what the book did not say. My friends and I killed in Marjah, and Marines in my rifle company lost limbs and lives. No notional exercise in choice will erase the fact that both my battalion and the battalion to our north killed many civilians in the opening days of Operation Moshtarak, when American high-explosive rockets struck occupied Afghan homes. Then, in the end, American plans for the area failed. Today Marjah is again under of the control of the Taliban and warlords.”
At War is a newsletter about the experiences and costs of war with stories from Times reporters and outside voices.

Earlier this month, Zachary Bell, a former Marine rifleman and infantry squad leader, received an unsolicited email from the head of Capstone, a publisher of children’s books in Minnesota.

The New York Times Magazine had just published Bell’s first article for the At War channel, in which he had detailed his reaction this summer to observing his two daughters, ages 8 and 10, reading “War in Afghanistan: An Interactive Modern History Adventure,” a book in Capstone’s You Choose series. The book included a chapter on an operation in 2010 in Marjah, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, in which Bell participated. He watched and listened as they confronted the text’s notional choices, including how to navigate the perilous landscape and whether to fire upon Afghan men who might be snipers — at risk of committing a war crime.
read more here

Friday, November 30, 2018

Vietnam veteran left behind estate for veterans

Montevideo to celebrate major veterans home donation from late veteran's estate

West Central Tribune
Tom Cherveny
November 30, 2018
"This is God working in a mysterious way,'' said Jim Williams of his late brother's donation. Jim said he had mentioned the effort in Montevideo for a veterans home to his brother months ago when his late brother was in the process of developing a trust fund.

Courtesy photos The family of the late Steve Williams, shown here in photos shared by his brother, will make a major donation to the Montevideo Veterans Home. Details will be announced next week.
MONTEVIDEO — A major donation from the family of a late Vietnam veteran is helping make possible the Montevideo Veterans Home, and will be the cause for a special celebration on Dec. 5.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the city of Montevideo will announce the major gift from the family of the late Steve Williams at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the American Legion Club in Montevideo. Jim Williams, his surviving brother, will join them to announce the details of the gift.

Before Steve Williams died unexpectedly, Jim Williams said his brother had set aside his entire estate to the trust fund with instructions to donate the proceeds to a variety of charitable organizations, five of them serving veterans.

Steve Williams' death came as he was in the process of amending the trust to include the Montevideo Veterans Home as a beneficiary. Family members conferred with the five veterans groups, and an agreement was reached with them to make possible the donation that will be announced Wednesday.

Jim Williams said his late brother had been a frugal man and had invested wisely. He had been married only briefly. The surviving family is hoping to make possible the trust fund donations to all of the organizations chosen by Steve Williams before the year's end, with the Montevideo Veterans Home project being the first to be named, said Jim.
read more here

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fire officials are sounding the alarm about PTSD,

Minnesota firefighters grapple with 'silent epidemic' of PTSD
Star Tribune
By Hannah Covington
APRIL 18, 2018
Fire officials are sounding the alarm about PTSD, suicide trends.

The nightmares still sometimes rouse Brian Cristofono from sleep.
Gallery: Brian Cristofono spoke with firefighters from the Brooklyn Center Fire Department after he gave a presentation on his PTSD, Monday, March 26, 2018 in Plymouth, MN. Traumas from being a firefighter, the one he dreamed of as a kid, led to a severe PTSD diagnosis, costing him both his marriage and his work. In his 13 years on the job, three colleagues killed themselves. Twice he put a gun to his own head. Now, Cristofono is sharing his story about the plight firefighters face and the lack of job coverage for those who suffer from PTSD in Minnesota. Nationwide, firefighters are more likely to take their own lives than die in the line of duty. Like other first responders, they're more than twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population. In Minnesota, momentum is slowly building to address these troubling trends, with Cristofono as a leading voice.

Even now, nearly two years after the last calls for help came in, ghosts from his days as a firefighter and paramedic are tough to shake. Babies he couldn’t save. Parents he struggled to comfort. Crash victims beyond reviving.

“They leave scars,” said Cristofono, 42. “The job can really just be a dark look at life.”

Traumas from his job — the one he dreamed of getting as a kid — led to a severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, costing him his marriage and causing him to retire from the St. Paul fire department in 2017. During his 13 years on the job with various departments, three colleagues killed themselves. Twice, Cristofono put a gun to his own head.

Researchers estimate that anywhere from 7 to 37 percent of firefighters have PTSD. A study from Florida State University found that nearly half of firefighters have had suicidal thoughts and that about 1 in 5 have made plans to take their own lives.
read more here

Friday, February 16, 2018

This is what "Choice" did to veterans...choosing dying over debt?

7 Investigates: Veteran: Even after law change, veterans fearing medical debt choosing dying over ER
WSAW 7 News
By Matthew Simon
Feb 15, 2018
"Why would it be so hard to take healthcare reform, strike out the notion veterans don't deserve the same rights as every other American?” Zehrung asked. “You don't have to give me a handout. You don't have to revise the entire Veterans Administration. All you have to do is allow me to buy health insurance and I will pay for it myself."

PITTSVILLE, Wis. (WSAW) – A disabled Pittsville Gulf War veteran says the risk of medical bill debt is still too great to go to his closest ER during an emergency. That’s despite the Veteran Administration recently changing how the agency will pay some non-VA emergency bills.

"This can't take forever and a day,” Jerry Zehrung said. “Because every day this legislation is delayed is another day another veteran has to ask themselves should I go to the ER or should I wait. And some of these decisions, you're not going to convince me, aren't costing veterans their lives."

In January, the VA published their updated non-VA emergency payment rule, known as the Staab rule. It’s named after 85-year-old Minnesota Air Force veteran Richard Stabb, whose $48,000 emergency claim was denied by the VA because Medicare had paid a portion of his bill.

A House Veterans Affairs Committee spokesperson says the Jan. 9, 2018 change only applies to veterans who have extra insurance, and at the same time, are only seeking care for an emergency not associated with a military service injury, like Staab.

The rule change means nothing has changed for veterans like Zehrung, who only have VA provided insurance, or those who think they need emergency help because of an injury received while serving.

“When you have something like this case that comes up, and you have a lot of veterans that get together, and they commingle and they talk, and their spouses talk, and word gets out there's a chilling effect. I’m going to avoid any hospitalization or care unless I'm absolutely on my death bed because I don't want to be saddled with the extra cost of care," Jacqueline Schuh, the lawyer behind the lawsuit that led to the Staab rule’s implementation, said.
read more here

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why did National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran kill Father

Hospitalized veteran with PTSD tells of killing father at Fergus Falls home
Duluth News Tribune
By Robin Huebner
Feb 10, 2018

ST. PETER, Minn. — Inside the fortified quarters of Minnesota's highest-security psychiatric hospital, Dustin Michael Defiel has spent the past year and a half of his life.
Dustin Defiel, 30, is shown at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, Minn., a secure psychiatric hospital, during a recent interview. Randy Cadwell / Forum News Service

The former National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran shot and killed his father, Rick Defiel, on June 1, 2016, in the family's home in Fergus Falls, Minn.

He was found not guilty due to mental deficiency and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.

Defiel, now 30, maintains he is neither of those and doesn't belong at the facility.

He wrote to The Forum newspaper of Fargo-Moorhead stating a desire to tell "my side of the story," one in which he claims he acted in self-defense against a father who used to abuse him, verbally and physically.
read more here

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fort Snelling Veteran Volunteer Received Veterans Voices Award

An army of one: Farmington veteran Marilyn Anderson honored for volunteerism
Farmington Independent
By William Loeffler
Sep 30, 2017

The actions of people like Anderson exemplify mission of Veterans Voices, which is to let them dictate their own narrative, O'Fallon said.
"They say, 'We get trapped into two stories: "You're a hero, thanks for your service," or, 'Oh my God, maybe you're troubled and have PTSD and we don't know how to talk to you,'" he said.
Marilyn Anderson of Farmington (left) was presented with a Veterans Voices Award Sept. 11 at the University of St. Thomas Anderson Student Center in Saint Paul. She is pictured with Humanities Center board member Sakinah Mujahid. Submitted photo courtesy of Minnesota Humanities Center
Army veteran Marilyn Anderson of Farmington was honored with a Veterans Voices Award Sept. 11 at the University of St. Thomas Anderson Student Center in St. Paul.

She is one of 13 legacy veterans in the 40-and-over category to be honored by the Minnesota Humanities Center for their community contributions that extend beyond their military service.

"Everything that she's learned in the military about leadership, teamwork, concern for others, she applies across the whole community in extraordinary ways," Humanities Center president David O'Fallon said.

Anderson works as the education services specialist for the 88th Regional Support Command at Fort Snelling. She has volunteered for Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program, Heritage Village, Ronald McDonald House at the Children's Hospital of Minneapolis, Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots and Feed My Starving Children.
read more here

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nurse charged with stealing pain medication

Nurse charged with stealing pain medication from Minn. VA hospital

Star Tribune
Andy Mannix
September 22, 2017

A nurse at Minnesota’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been charged with regularly stealing pain medications over a six-month period from the hospital last year.
Matthew Leininger, 42, who was fired from the hospital in March, stole drugs such as fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone on more than 70 occasions, according to a criminal complaint filed this week. He told investigators he needed the drugs to cope with mental health issues, according to prosecutors. He faces five counts of felony theft by swindle.
According to a criminal complaint, the medical center uses a machine called Pyxis to dispense drugs to doctors and nurses. Leininger was required to log in with his user identification and provide his fingerprint to obtain the drugs, then enter into a machine which patient will receive the drug and record the dose to be administered. Then the nurse is expected to log in how much was given to the patient or the amount that was wasted.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hundreds Attended Funeral for Amie Muller After Iraq Burn Pits Battle

Hundreds say goodbye to Amie Muller, who sounded alarm over toxic risks for Iraq veterans
Star Tribune
By Mark Brunswick
FEBRUARY 24, 2017

Muller, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 36, worked and lived next to one of the most toxic military burn pits in all of Iraq.
National Guard veteran Amie Muller believed deployments to Iraq caused the cancer that killed her.

She worked and lived next to burn pits that billowed toxic smoke night and day at an air base in northern Iraq. After returning to Minnesota, she began experiencing health problems usually not seen in a woman in her 30s.

Muller died a week ago, nine months after being diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. On Friday, more than 800 of her friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Woodbury to remember the life of the 36-year-old mother of three. A pastor noted her loss was both painful and seemingly incomprehensible.

“I wish there was a simple way to explain what has happened to Amie. Why Amie is gone,” said Pastor Lisa Renlund. “Life truly isn’t that simple. It can get messy. It can feel complicated. It can seem unfair.”

But others also are remembering Muller’s battle to win recognition from the U.S. government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ equivalent of the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange. It took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link the defoliant used in Vietnam to cancer.

Muller first told her story in the Star Tribune last year shortly after she was diagnosed.
In 2005 and in 2007, Muller was deployed to Balad, Iraq, with the Minnesota Air National Guard, embedded with a military intelligence squadron. The burn pit near her living quarters there was one of the most notorious of the more than 230 that were constructed at military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan before their use was restricted in 2009. Items ranging from Styrofoam to metals and plastics to electrical equipment to human body parts were incinerated, the flames stoked with jet fuel.
read more here

Thursday, February 16, 2017

St. Paul Cop Just Couldn't Leave Homeless Veteran Alone...Became His Friend

Skeptical cop befriends homeless veteran
Boyd Huppert
February 15, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Not everyone comes to Xcel Energy Center to feast on hockey. William Tentis comes to get dinner.
Homeless veteran William Tentis and St. Paul police officer Eric Reetz
(Photo: Eric Reetz)
As fans of the Minnesota Wild stream through the arena’s entrances, William has perched himself on a landscaping stone next to the sidewalk.

“Got to get something to eat,” he says softly. “Get food in my belly.”

Most fans walk past, barely acknowledging his presence. A woman stops and pulls a couple of bills from her pocket. “Thank you ma’am,” William tells her sincerely. “God bless.”

William, 64, has been at this awhile. He’s good at it - friendly, humble and unthreatening.

“It's been about five years since I've had a job,” he reveals.

Sir William, as he’s known on the street, tells his story on a small cardboard sign he holds. “Veteran,” it reads. “10 yrs Army.”
read more here

Monday, February 13, 2017

Body of Missing Minnesota National Guard Soldier Found

Body Of Military Member, Joel Costa, Discovered
FOX 21 News
by Dan Hanger
February 12, 2017

DULUTH, Minn – Just before 9 p.m. Sunday, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office notified the media that the body of missing Minnesota National Guard member Joel Costa, 32, had been found.
The discovery happened around 7 p.m. on a rural road just north of Duluth. Costa’s vehicle, comparable to the picture below, was also found at that location, according to authorities.

The cause of death will be determined by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.

No foul play is suspected, according to the Sheriff’s office.
read more here

Monday, January 23, 2017

Homeless Veteran's Heart Warmed By Kindness From Cop!

When a St. Paul cop and a homeless veteran met, grace followed
Twin Cities Pioneer Press
PUBLISHED: January 13, 2017

At first, it was just the man’s sign that caught Eric Reetz’s attention.

“Veteran 10 yrs Army,” William Tentis, 64, had written on a piece of cardboard. “God Bless.”
Reetz talks with Tentis before giving him a challenge coin with his badge number on it. He gives them only to people who’ve been a positive force in his life. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Reetz, who is a sergeant first class in the Minnesota National Guard and a St. Paul police officer, could not just walk by as he headed into the Xcel Energy Center to watch a Minnesota Wild game. They talked briefly and Reetz gave Tentis, who is homeless, a $20 bill.

“I didn’t think that we’d ever cross paths again,” said Reetz, 40.
read more here

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vietnam Veterans: Did you serve with Rob Stevens of Minnesota in 1969?

How a stranger’s generosity helped a desperate Vietnam veteran
By Liz Raines Photojournalist: Ken Kulovany
November 22, 2016

ANCHORAGE – We first introduced you to Robert Stevens in a Problem Solvers piece on Friday. For the last three years, he and his wife, Diane, have been trying to get benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Robert Stevens was exposed to the toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Now, their lives have taken a turn for the better because of one person who saw that story.

When we last met the Stevenses, they were drowning in debt.

“They just turned us into collections because I’ve gotten to a point where there’s so many medical bills for Bob,” Diane Stevens said. “I just can’t do it anymore.”

Robert Stevens believes he was exposed to Agent Orange while making his way through Vietnam after receiving orders to return home to Minnesota on April 1, 1969.

“I had a quadruple bypass,” Robert Stevens explained. “And my heart doctor said it was from Agent Orange.”

In order to get any money from the VA, the Stevens have to prove he stepped foot on Vietnamese soil. However, the VA can’t find his records, so Robert and Diane Stevens are now searching for anyone who might still recognize him from that time.

Diane Stevens posted a cry for help on a reunion page for her husband’s ship, the USS Lynde McCormick. The Stevenses haven’t received a response yet, but someone else in the community was listening to their story.

One KTVA viewer was so moved by the couple’s story that he wanted to give them a check for $3,800.
read more here

A desperate endeavor: Vietnam veteran seeks community’s help getting benefits
By Liz Raines
Photojournalist: Rachel McPherron
November 19, 2016

ANCHORAGE – I first met Rob and Diane Stevens at a Department of Veterans Affairs listening session in September. Diane fought back tears as she told the Alaska VA’s new director, Timothy Ballard, of her and her husband’s now three-year battle to obtain some sort of compensation for Robert’s exposure to Agent Orange.
The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but the heroism of those who served lives on today. The soldiers wear hats now instead of helmets. Robert does so proudly. At the tender age of 17, he joined the U.S. Navy.

“I got to know the guys, the medic,” Robert recalled. “And I was like, ‘I really want to do that.’ And everybody kept telling me, ‘no, you don’t want to do that.'”

Robert spent two years in Vietnam, days he remembers with nostalgia. But there’s one day he’ll never forget: April 1,1969 — his 21st birthday.

“I got handed four sheets of paper and they said ‘your dad’s been in a car accident,'” Robert remembered.

He was sent home to Minnesota to be with his family, but to get there he had to first pass through Vietnam from Vung Tau to Saigon. That’s where Robert’s life changed forever.

“Two helicopters flew over and they dropped this white powder,” Robert said.

That white powder, he believes, was Agent Orange — an herbicide the U.S. Government used to destroy jungles during the war so it could see the enemy. Now the VA recognizes that Agent Orange destroyed a lot more.
read more here