Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2018

Baird Asher from Air Force, to homeless veteran, to discovered artist

Homeless Air Force veteran and street artist receives national attention after stranger buys his work

Deborah Wrigley
October 11, 2018

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As cars travel over a creek on a Katy Freeway service road, yards beneath out of view, a homeless vet applies paint to plywood, creating art.

It is where Baird Asher has lived for two months after he caught a ride to Houston from New Orleans, where he was a street artist. As an Air Force veteran who was an aircraft mechanic, "I can put an engine together," he said, but his real calling is his art.

"I'm an artist, and this is what I do," he said. "I don't necessarily refuse to do anything else, but this is what God gave me the talent to do."

Technically, Asher is homeless.

"I live under a highway bridge," he said with a laugh. But he needed the kindness of strangers to eat.

Two days ago, he was standing at an intersection with a sign that read, "Hungry Vet." That caught the eye of Suzanne Coppola, who was stopped at the light. At his feet was one of his paintings. It got Coppola's attention.

"I parked illegally and talked to him," she said. "He had an amazing story, and he's an amazing artist and I put it on my Facebook page, asking the creative community if we could do something for him."

The response amazed Coppola.

"I have artists contacting me about ideas they have for him, and a gallery owner from Dallas, who also has a gallery in Miami, asked to buy all his paintings," she said.
read more here

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Veteran with PTSD gets probation after flight meltdown

Man pleads guilty to threatening airline crew on flight to New Orleans | The Times-Picayune
By Laura McKnight
September 14, 2018

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Thursday (Sept. 13) in a New Orleans federal court to interfering with an airline crew after he drunkenly threatened the plane's captain and crew during a flight last fall from Chicago to New Orleans, court records show.

Joel Michael Bane, 39, also struck two local law-enforcement officers who had boarded the plane upon its arrival in New Orleans to escort Bane off the aircraft, according to a factual basis for Bane's plea agreement.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo set sentencing for Dec. 13.
Flying off into the sunset as a flight departs to the north from Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, La. Tuesday, September 15, 2015. (Photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune) ((Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.c)
An airport worker described Bane as "very large and very muscular" and warned law-enforcement that "four or five officers would be needed to remove the passenger from the plane," according to court records.

DeSalvo said that his client, a military veteran diagnosed with PTSD, was reacting in accordance with his training.

"It was just a very unfortunate situation where I think there was a lack of communication, and Mr. Bane was suffering from PTSD from six tours in the Middle East," DeSalvo said, adding that Bane's PTSD has been deemed "a total and permanent disability."
Bane faced up to 20 years in prison for the conviction, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. But he will receive no prison time and be ordered to probation as part of a plea agreement, defense attorney Frank DeSalvo said Friday. DeSalvo said the incident was caused by miscommunication and compounded by his client's post-traumatic stress disorder.

The disturbance, caught at least partially on cellphone video, occurred Oct. 13 as Southwest Airlines Flight 208 neared Louis Armstrong International Airport.
read more here

Friday, July 6, 2018

Call to help Iraq Veteran, left him beaten

Army vet sues St. Tammany sheriff, deputies over alleged beating, possible brain injury
The New Orleans Advocate
JUL 6, 2018

On Jan. 21, Cambre posted on social media that he was struggling. When friends began calling him, he didn't answer the phone, prompting someone to call the Pearl River police and request a check on his welfare. Jessica Picasso, a Pearl River officer, and a paramedic with St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 11 responded to the call, the suit says, and tried to convince Cambre to go to the hospital.
Army veteran Chris Cambre, who says he was beaten by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies during a welfare check in January, is shown the following day with a facial laceration.
Photo provided by Chris Cambre
Chris Cambre, an Iraq War veteran who claims he was severely beaten by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office deputies in January, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated by excessive use of force and an unauthorized search of his Pearl River home.

The suit, filed Thursday, names Sheriff Randy Smith and five deputies individually. But it also names Smith in his official capacity, alleging he showed deliberate indifference to civil rights by failing to adequately train officers and commanders or discipline them. It also accuses the Sheriff's Office of covering up misconduct.

The suit alleges that the same culture at the Sheriff's Office and such violations existed before Smith took office two years ago.
The situation changed, according to the lawsuit, when the Sheriff's Office sent deputies at the request of Assistant Fire Chief Matt Parrish. A Pearl River incident report, not cited in the lawsuit, says Parrish had instructed a dispatcher to send backup because of Cambre's military training and prior comments he had made about committing "suicide by cop."

When deputies arrived at Cambre's trailer home they had their rifles drawn, the suit says, but they secured them in Picasso's police unit after Cambre showed that he was not armed.

None of the deputies asked Picasso to brief them or asked her if Cambre was being aggressive, the suit alleges.
Cambre was taken to a local hospital by an ambulance, but none of the deputies accompanied him, the suit says, even though Picasso told them she was the only officer on duty in Pearl River that night. 
read more here

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FBI Investigating Police Beating Iraq Veteran With PTSD

FBI investigating beating of Iraq War veteran in Pearl River
Author: Katie Moore
April 11, 2018

The Pearl River officer said the deputies shot Cambre with a Taser, then proceeded to beat him with a retractable police baton.

The federal probe into the beating of a Pearl River veteran has entered a new phase with FBI agents interviewing members of the Pearl River Police Department this week.
Pearl River Police Chief JJ Jennings confirmed federal agents interviewed him, his Deputy Chief and the officer who initially conducted a welfare check on U.S. Army veteran Chris Cambre, 48.

Cambre suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, from his year of service in the Iraq War.

As WWL-TV and partner newspaper the New Orleans Advocate first reported, in January, a Pearl River Police Officer went to check on Cambre at the request of his friends after he posted that he was "struggling" having a bad night on Facebook. But the night got much worse for Cambre after five St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputies arrived.

The Pearl River officer said the deputies shot Cambre with a Taser, then proceeded to beat him with a retractable police baton.
read more here

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DAV Veteran of the Year, Iraq Veteran-Doctor With PTSD

Brookfield doctor Kenneth Lee honored as Disabled Veteran of the Year
Brookfield Elm Grove Now
Geoff Bruce
August 8, 2017

CITY OF BROOKFIELD – Veteran, doctor, proud father of two and now the 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.

The lifetime accomplishments of Dr. Kenneth K. Lee continue to accumulate. The longtime city of Brookfield resident was recognized in New Orleans by Disabled American Veterans with the award July 29.
(Photo: Submitted photo by Emily Kask/DAV)

“The Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year has been around for many years here at DAV and each year we select the most deserving veteran,” DAV National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst said. “What we’re looking for is individuals who have overcome a severe obstacle in their lives from military service.”

Lee, a native of South Korea, was deployed to Iraq as the commander of the Army’s Company B, 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, but was injured in 2004 by a suicide car bomber. Lee suffered an open head traumatic brain injury and severe shrapnel wounds to his legs. He was evacuated back to the U.S. and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Everyone kind of works towards a certain goal in their life to make a difference in what you do,” Lee said. “You don’t do it to get an award, but you do it to make things happen.”

Prior to his deployment, Lee worked as a rehabilitation specialist at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Despite that experience, his own recovery was much harder than he expected.

“Coming back from Iraq, it was more difficult than I imagined," Lee said. "As a physician, I thought I could handle a lot of stuff, but it turned out to be not. There were a lot of challenges at home both dealing with family and everything else.”

Lee, 52, credits his own patients, fellow veterans and especially his family with helping him to get through that difficult period.
read more here

Friday, March 10, 2017

CBS to shoot pilot

"We will follow these men as they train, plan and execute some of the most dangerous, high-stakes missions our country can ask of them, (and) as they also work to preserve the delicate balance of their lives at home," an unofficial synopsis reads.
CBS to shoot pilot episode for planned Navy SEAL drama in New Orleans
The Times-Picayune
By Mike Scott,
March 09, 2017

Word is still out on whether the locally shot CBS series "NCIS: New Orleans" will return for a fourth season, but the network appears poised to come back to the Crescent City for a Navy-based drama one way or the other. Paperwork was recently filed with the state to film the pilot episode for an untitled CBS drama about a team of Navy SEALs in New Orleans this spring.

The series would follow the lives of members of SEAL Team Six, one of the most elite SEAL teams, as they train for and are deployed on a series of dangerous missions. Production on the pilot is expected to begin in mid-March.

According to Deadline, the announced cast so far includes A.J. Buckley ("CSI: NY"), as a skilled but self-destructive member of the team; Max Theriot ("Bates Motel"), as a cocky but secretly insecure millennial SEAL; and Neil Brown Jr. ("Straight Outta Compton"), as the longest-tenured member of the team.
read more here

Friday, December 25, 2015

Homeless Veteran Lost All Except Hope From a Christmas Tree

Homeless man with Christmas tree forced to move from expressway after group of men take donations
By Jennifer Crockett
Dec 24, 2015
John said it’s better to donate to local homeless service centers, rather than drop off donations, where homeless men and women live. But the best help, he said, is simply giving a smile or taking a second to say hello.
NEW ORLEANS —Two weeks ago, WDSU met John, a homeless veteran living under the Pontchartrain Expressway. The Christmas tree he had bought and set up outside of his tent had been thrown away that morning by city sanitation workers.

The day after the first report aired, viewers stepped in and donated new trees, decorations, even gifts, including clothing and food. But those donations ended up turning John’s tree into a target, forcing him to seek shelter elsewhere.

“It was a very sad moment,” said John, describing what lead to his decision to move.

On Thursday, John said a group of five men swarmed his tree.

“I heard some commotion by the Christmas tree. A lady was there with her husband,” he said.

The couple dropped off about 20 packages, which were immediately stolen by the group of men.

“I don't even know what was in them. It's really sad,” he said.

All he could do was sit back and watch.
for happier ending read more here

Monday, August 3, 2015

Army Specialist Caleb Collins Died Trying To Save Friends

Selfless Soldier St. Aug Alum Remembered As A Hero
Eyewitness News WWLTV
Thanh Truong
August 2, 2015

NEW ORLEANS -- The funeral for a local soldier who died while trying to save a fellow service member from drowning in Hawaii is now set for next week.

Caleb Collins was assigned to the Army's 25th Infantry Division, but before that, he was a member of the St. Augustine Purple Knights, a high school his father says helped mold his son into a soldier ready to sacrifice.

With children, you hope they'll grow up to do great things.

"It's very common for them to say, 'When I grow up, I want to be like my dad.' Well, isn't a blessing that I get to say I want to be like my son," Ernest Collins.

It's been less than a week since Ernest Collins lost his only son. On July 25, Army specialist Caleb Collins was with friends taking pictures near the eastern shoreline on the island of Oahu. That's when a massive wave rolled in, knocking one of his friends into the water. Caleb immediately dove in.

"He had actually reached his friend, and the two of them were actually making their way back to safety, when a second huge wave came in and swallowed them up," said Ernest Collins.

Their bodies were found the next day.
read more here

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Vietnam MOH Raymond "Mike'' Clausen Not Forgotten

Ponchatoula war veteran spearheads memorial to honor Medal of Honor recipient, TV station reports
The Times-Picayune
By Bob Warren,
May 09, 2015
It always bothered Phil Monteleone of Ponchatoula that his buddy Raymond "Mike'' Clausen never got a hero's funeral when he died in 2004.

After all, Clausen, a Marine, had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in Vietnam.

So Monteleone, himself a Vietnam veteran who became good friends with Clausen when both military men came home to Ponchatoula, did something about it.

He raised money to erect a memorial to his pal, WGNO TV in New Orleans reports.
read more here
Raymond Clausen, Medal of Honor, Vietnam War
Medal of Honor: Oral Histories

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Talking About War Helped WWII Veteran Come To Terms

Keep in mind that when WWII veterans came home, they didn't talk about PTSD but others knew they were living with "shell shock."

If you want an eye opener on war from Providing For the Casualties of War The American Experience Through World War II

And The Army Nurse Corps in World War II
Visit to WWII Museum in New Orleans an eye-opener
Watertown Daily Times

In the darkness of the theater, the numbers appear. They come at you, really, daring you to absorb them:
Soviet Union, 24,000,000
China, 20,000,000
Poland, 5,600,000
Japan, 3,100,000
U.S.A., 518,000
Germany, 8,800,000

These are the number of dead, by country, in World War II. A total of 65 million, more than all other wars to that point combined.

Another exhibit gives visitors a sobering taste of submarine warfare with the interactive “Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience.”

And “Beyond All Boundaries,” the much-praised film that is a centerpiece of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, slaps you into awareness. Awareness of a reality that, as the “Greatest Generation” veterans slip away, we are in danger of forgetting.

The movie, narrated by Tom Hanks, its executive producer, is in “4-D.” The 3-D is accomplished without needing those special glasses, and the fourth D reaches into the audience — wind blows, the theater’s seats shake, smoke billows. The movie, like the museum, wants to engage all generations; that’s why you need that extra “D” these days.
Right next to the Higgins display was a long metal table, and near the far end sat two men, one sporting military medals, the other with a gray, unruly beard. Behind the man with the medals was a sign: “I was there! Meet Forrest Villarrubia, USMC, WWII veteran. Pacific Theater.”

Both men were veterans, willing to answer questions, or welcome other veterans, to the museum. On the table beside them was a photo of a man who had just died. I asked them about Thomas Blakey.

Blakey was an Army paratrooper who landed behind enemy lines early on D-Day to capture and hold a bridge to keep Germans from sending reinforcements to Utah Beach.

He was 94 when he died, Villarrubia said. He had logged 15,000 hours as a volunteer at the museum.

They didn’t tell me that Blakey had been one of the legions of veterans who had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. It was something you didn’t talk about at the time.

Blakey was haunted by what he saw behind enemy lines and was only finally able to drive away the ghosts when he became a volunteer.

Sharing his stories. Talking about the war, in all its aspects, helped him come to terms with the past.
read more here

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fake Marine Gamer Expert in "Snipeing" at Sniper School

Fake US Marine/disabled Vet unmasked by US Marines
Live Leak

This is a re-edit to include multiple parts originally posted by Vince Bania.

New Orleans - A Gamestop employee was recently scrutinized by Vince Bania and a fellow US Marine after their suspicions were aroused over his military service record: "My buddy and I decided to visit my local Gamestop. We found a game, went up to the counter to complete the transaction. Searching through my wallet for the exact change, the guy at the register happened to catch a glimpse of my military id. He says "I have one of those too."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vietnam Era Veteran, Alone and Homeless in Life, Honored After Death

Homeless Army veteran from St. Tammany laid to rest with full military honors
The Times Picayune
Kim Chatelain
November 14,2014
Staff Sgt. Matthew Buenrostro completes the flag folding ceremony during the memorial tribute to Pfc. Patrick Higgins at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Slidell, Louisiana on Friday, November 14, 2014. Higgins served during the Vietnam era and was homeless when he died. His fellow veterans and local officials bestowed upon him the Louisiana Veteran's medal and gave the former serviceman a noble burial.
(Photo by Julia Kumari Drapkin, | The Times-Picayune)

On a cool, lustrous day at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery near Slidell, military and civilian dignitaries gathered with pomp and patriotism to pay tribute to the somewhat mysterious life of Patrick Joseph Higgins, an Army veteran whose body was never claimed after his death on June 26, 2011, at age 61.

Because he is believed to have been from St. Tammany Parish and because his family could not be located, Higgins' ashes were eventually turned over to the St. Tammany Parish President's Veteran and Military Affairs Advisory Council, which spearheaded the ceremony.

"Today, you are his family," Ted Krumm, a retired Navy commander and director of the veterans cemetery, told the gathering at the service for Higgins. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, the Northshore Honor Guard and representatives from several veteran and military organizations were involved in the ceremony.

Higgins was a private first class in the Army during the Vietnam era. He was born on Sept. 11, 1949. Other than that, Krumm said little is known about the Army veteran or his death because his family could not be located. His remains were retained by a local funeral home for many months in hopes of someone claiming them. No one did.

When it was discovered that Higgins had served in the military, various veterans groups got involved, determining that he had been honorably discharged in the 1970s.
read more here

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sean Payton Foundation Donated PTSD Service Dog and Love to Veteran

When we talk about PTSD service dogs, they give unconditional love and that, that is something you just can't forget.
Sean Payton meets service dog he donated to La. vet
Mike Hoss
Eyewitness News
November 17, 2014

NEW ORLEANS -- It's less than an hour before kickoff Sunday, and outside the Saints locker room military veteran Erick Scott and his service dog Gumbo are waiting for a very important hand shake and thank you with Saints head coach Sean Payton.

Gumbo is a rescue dog trained by K-9's for warriors to help veterans like Scott cope with post traumatic stress disorder.

Scott got Gumbo because of a donation by Payton's Foundation, and this weekend he got to say thank you in person.

"It's one thing to say thank you in an email," Scott said. "You can say thank you through posts and all that, but to actually then shake his hand, explain to him what it really means, not just what he's heard or what he thinks.
read more here

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New Orleans VA Regional Office Half Right on Claims

New report: New Orleans VA Regional Office made mistakes in 42 of 90 disability claims
By Bruce Alpert,
July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The New Orleans Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office didn't accurately process 42 of the 90 disability claims reviewed by the department's inspector general, according to a report released Thursday.

The office's director said the facility has an overall accuracy rate of 92 percent for the 12-month period ending in June, 2014, and 97.9 percent over the last three months.

In the "most significant underpayment, the New Orleans office reduced a veteran's compensation for prostate cancer based on remission of the condition. But, the report said the veteran provided medical evidence to show the cancer was still active, meaning no reduction in monthly benefits was justified. As a result of the error, VA underpaid the veteran $3,734 over two months.

In another case, the inspector general's report said, the New Orleans regional office's staff used a "personal interpretation" of medical evidence to determine disability for lung cancer. It should have "used the results provided by the examining physician," the audit said.

The third case cited by the audit covers a veteran suffering from headaches. The report said VA staff sought to reduce the veteran's disability rating, but that the medical evaluation showed no change in the severity of the veteran's headaches, meaning no reduction was warranted.
read more here

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Orleans Officer convicted of burning body seeks new trial

Officer convicted of burning Henry Glover's body asks judge for new trial
The Times-Picayune
By Juliet Linderman,
December 16, 2013

As one officer has walked free following a retrial in the post-Hurricane Katrina shooting of Henry Glover, another is making new arguments in an effort to get his case before a new jury.

Former New Orleans Police officer Gregory McRae, who is serving a prison term after his 2010 conviction for burning Glover's lifeless body in a car left on the Algiers levee, has asked a judge for a new trial, saying he has newly discovered information -- both about McRae's own psychological state and conduct of federal prosecutors -- that warrants a redo.

McRae made his latest bid while David Warren, the ex-NOPD officer who shot Glover on Sept. 2, 2005 outside an Algiers strip mall, was on trial for the second time this month. A jury acquitted Warren of all charges last Wednesday.

McRae's defense attorney Michael Fawer said in court papers filed this month that his client recently saw for the first time pretrial services report issued in February 2011 for, which says McRae was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he threw roadside flares into the car carrying Glover's wounded body and left it to burn on the Algiers levee.
read more here

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

WWII veteran cried when sent away from museum with plane he flew in it

Tearful WWII veteran turned away from Ohio museum
Associated Press
October 2, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio — An 88-year-old veteran who traveled to Ohio from New York to see the plane he flew in during World War II has been turned away because of the partial federal government shutdown.

The Dayton Daily News ( ) reports Joe McGrain of Rochester, N.Y., went to the National Museum of the United States Air Force on Tuesday to see the B-26 he flew in as a bombardier and navigator in Europe.

He also wanted to show the aircraft to his wife and two sons, who came from New Orleans and Washington for the trip. But with museum staff on furlough because of the shutdown, the McGrains were turned away.
read more here

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Military brass living lifestyles of rich and famous

Admiral's housing problems cause ruckus in Naples

Report questions costs of villas and mansions for military’s top brass
Tribune Washington Bureau
David S. Cloud
Published: July 21, 2013

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortress-like headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area’s swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The cost to the government? $160,000 a year, plus $402,000 for renovations and security improvements now underway.

Casa Sur is one of hundreds of high-end homes, villas and mansions where senior generals and admirals are billeted, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force four-star who commands NATO, gets a 15,000-square-foot, 19th century chateau in Belgium. Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, head of Marine Forces Reserve, enjoys a 19th century plantation house in New Orleans listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and their deputies inhabit historic quarters in and around Washington — all staffed with chefs, drivers, gardeners and security teams.

The perks for top military brass, a Pentagon tradition, are under increasing scrutiny in Congress at a time when budget reductions and the mandatory spending cuts known as the sequester have forced the Pentagon to cut services, close facilities, cancel training and missions, and furlough 680,000 civilian workers.
read more here

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iraq veteran shot by police died in New Orleans Hospital

St. Tammany deputies fatally shoot Iraqi war veteran during armed confrontation
The Times-Picayune
on March 09, 2013

St. Tammany Parish sheriff's deputies fatally shot an Iraqi war veteran Friday night after he allegedly ignored their command to drop his gun during a domestic disturbance, St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said in a news release. Jason Glover, 32, of Abita Springs died Saturday morning, Strain said.

The deputies were called out to Glover's residence at 28260 Louisiana 435 about 11 p.m. Glover's girlfriend had called 911 and reported that Glover had threatened to kill her and that he was armed with a handgun, Strain said. When deputies arrived at the house, they found the 32-year-old sitting in his car outside the house.

As Glover got out of the car, deputies saw he had a handgun. He allegedly ignored their repeated calls to drop his gun.

Glover instead raised the gun and pointed it directly at one of the deputies, Strain said. The deputy fired at Glover, striking him twice.

Glover was transported to the Interim LSU Public Hospital in New Orleans, where he was reported to be on life support Friday night but died Saturday.

"This is truly a tragic situation," Strain said. "Since his return from Iraq, this young man has struggled greatly to adjust and to recover from his experience. Sadly, he and his family were ultimately unable to find the help he truly needed. Today, the thoughts and prayers of the Sheriff's Office go out to this family during their very difficult time."
read more here

Iraq war veteran's death raises issue of post-traumatic stress
By Naomi Martin,
The Times-Picayune
on March 09, 2013

Probably no one will ever know what thoughts were going through Iraqi war veteran Jason Glover’s head when he allegedly pointed a handgun at a St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputy Friday night. Fearing for his life, the deputy shot and killed Glover.

Hearing of the incident on Saturday, however, several military veterans said they suspect Glover knew what he was doing.

“He wanted to do it, but he didn’t want to pull the trigger himself,” said Andrew O’Brien, a 24-year-old Iraqi war veteran who attempted suicide two years ago by swallowing a bottle of pills. “Thank God I didn’t have a gun or I would’ve done that.”

After returning from Iraq, Glover had struggled “greatly” to reintegrate into civilian society, St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said in a statement. “Sadly, he and his family were ultimately unable to find the help he truly needed.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder, whether diagnosed or not, is common among military veterans. An average of 22 veterans -- and one active-duty soldier — take their own lives each day, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
read more here

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Marine Sea Knight pilot risked all to stop carnage

40 years after sniper Mark Essex, Marine pilot is proud he helped stop the carnage
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
The Times-Picayune
January 05, 2013

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Charles H. "Chuck" Pitman, the branch's former Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation, was at Veterans Memorial Park in Pensacola, Fla., on January 2, 2013. Forty years ago, on Jan. 7, 1973, Pitman volunteered to pilot a Sea Knight helicopter and helped police stop Mark Essex, the Howard Johnson's sniper in New Orleans, risking his life and his career.
(Photo by Michael Spooneybarger, | The Times-Picayune contributor)
Like most other residents of New Orleans, Marine helicopter pilot Charles H. "Chuck" Pitman watched the television in horror on Jan. 7, 1973, as authorities tried to stop a sniper or snipers who had invaded the Downtown Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge that morning and fatally shot seven people, including three police officers. Shots rang out from various spots in the 17-story hotel, making police think there was more than one gunman, but the cops eventually contained the killer or killers to the roof.

Though cornered, whoever was on the hotel roof was out of the NOPD's reach. Disturbed, Pitman -- at the time a 37-year-old lieutenant colonel in charge of a Marine air unit stationed in Belle Chasse -- thought, "We've got to do something. Those people need help out there."

So Pitman did do something. He flew a Marine helicopter to the hotel on Loyola Avenue and helped police officers, some of them on board the chopper, kill 23-year-old Mark Essex, who investigators determined was the sole sniper. In doing so, however, Pitman placed his career with the Marines in jeopardy.

Four decades later, many New Orleanians are still thankful for Pitman's actions on the day Essex terrorized the city. "Without that helicopter and without his piloting, it would've been a lot worse," Moon Landrieu, New Orleans' mayor at the time, said recently. "The city owes him a debt of gratitude."
read more here

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Man on trial for stabbing Marine 7 times in fatal attack

Marine's accused murderer claims self-defense, his girlfriend testifies against him
By Claire Galofaro
The Times-Picayune
December 05, 2012

As Melvin Clay fled the French Quarter after stabbing a decorated Marine seven times on a street corner, he sideswiped a car parked a block away. The exterior cap of Clay's side-view mirror popped off, and he did not stop to collect it.

That mirror cap, a seemingly small piece of evidence found by detectives, was the only thing that would, a month later, connect Clay to the crime.

That Clay stabbed 23-year-old Sgt. Ryan Lekosky around 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2010 is not in question at his second-degree murder trial this week. He admits that he did. Only he claims self-defense -- that he was first attacked by Lekosky's wife. Frightened when her Marine husband intervened, he used his knife as a last resort.

"This is not a murder. This is not a manslaughter," his attorney, John Thomas, said in his opening statement Wednesday. "This is a man fighting for his life."

But prosecutors painted a very different picture of the moments leading up to the fatal stabbing.

Lekosky, a Texas native assigned to the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, had been to the Marine Corps Ball at the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street. He was walking around 3:30 a.m. with his wife near the corner of Iberville and Dauphine streets.

Clay, prosecutors said, hung out his window as he drove by the couple and shouted obscenities at Lekosky's wife. Clay put his car in park, despite a growing line of traffic behind him, and got out. He pushed the woman onto the sidewalk. The Marine, clad in his dress blues, helped his wife get up, then wedged his body between his wife and the stranger. In return, prosecutors say, Clay stabbed him seven times -- once in the cheek, another in the back and several more times in the chest.
read more here