Showing posts with label Ocala Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ocala Florida. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Florida Veteran fired after being prescribed medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder?

UPDATE School Board to pay suspended combat veteran

The School Board on Tuesday conducted a financial rescue mission of Mike Hickman, a Belleview High School dean and combat veteran who was suspended without pay two weeks ago after testing positive for medically prescribed marijuana.
Most board members said during Tuesday’s meeting that they made a mistake when suspending Hickman without pay. They thought he would be suspended with pay, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Thanks to Tuesday’s decision, Hickman now is on paid leave status while the administrative law process plays out. He will be paid retroactively to Jan. 14

Superintendent Heidi Maier has recommended that Hickman be fired for violating School Board policy. Hickman hurt his shoulder while breaking up a fight at Belleview High. He went to the district’s worker compensation doctor, who reported to the district that he tested positive for cannabinoids. That is considered a violation of the school system’s zero tolerance alcohol and drug-free workplace policy, which was established by the board.
read it here

Military veteran fired from school for medical marijuana use
By Joe Callahan
January 15, 2020
Mike Hickman, a former Belleview High School dean who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1990s, was prescribed medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Before Mike Hickman was named Belleview High School’s student services manager, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Little did the aspiring assistant principal know that he would have to wage another battle, nearly 30 years later, to protect his name and livelihood.

On Tuesday, the School Board upheld the firing of Hickman, 50, after he tested positive for marijuana that he was legally prescribed to help with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The story began on Nov. 5, when Hickman injured his shoulder at Belleview High while breaking up a student fight. He went to the district’s worker compensation doctor, who is required to administer a urinalysis as part of the treatment.

The doctor reported to the School District that Hickman tested positive for cannabinoids, which is a violation of the school system’s zero tolerance alcohol and drug-free workplace policy, as established by the School Board.

Hickman was devastated when he learned Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier recommended his firing, he said Wednesday morning. After all, he just spent $10,000 to obtain a master’s degree to enter the assistant principal’s hiring pool with aspirations of one day becoming a principal.
read it here

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

“There is no doubt that my time in the Marion County Veteran’s Treatment Court saved my life

In Ocala, special court for veterans learns more about PTSD

Ocala Star Banner
Joe Callahan
March 5, 2019
“There is no doubt that my time in the Marion County Veteran’s Treatment Court saved my life,” White said on Tuesday after he listened to a PTSD seminar organized by Marion County Veteran’s Treatment Court.

Sgt. Jason White, an Ocala native, had just retired from the U.S. Marine Corp in 2014 after serving 10 years and two tours in Iraq.

White, 33, who was in the Florida foster care system as a child, arrived home to his wife of five years and his 5-year-old daughter, both of whom were strangers due to his service, White shared on Tuesday.

White has been battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ever since he returned home.

When he returned home, he had many tell-tale stressors. Besides childhood trauma from his time in foster care, he stressed about being a husband to a wife he had never lived with and a father to a child he barely knew.

Those struggles led him down a dark road, he noted. Erratic behavior and substance abuse led to a divorce, which he said devastated him.

All that changed a couple of years ago. An incident with his ex-wife led him to court on a misdemeanor charge and subsequently into the open arms of officials with the Marion County Veteran’s Treatment Court.

White says treatment court, founded nearly seven years ago, provided the headlights to help steer him off that long, winding dark road.

Today, he has joint custody of his daughter and now helps veterans as a Florida outreach coordinator for the PTSD Foundation of America.
read more here

Friday, April 20, 2018

Vietnam Veteran Carries Memorial of Lost Lives

Vietnam vet’s tattoo honors lost comrades
Ocala Star Banner
By Andy Fillmore / Correspondent
Posted Apr 20, 2018

Collie said he has post traumatic stress disorder and continues to have flashbacks about horrific sights in the war, from Vietnamese children wired with hand grenades approaching American troops to “eight hour snakes” that hung from trees in the jungle and caused death within eight hours if you were bitten. He said sometimes even smells have been known to trigger PTSD, like a match bringing back memories of the scent of gunpowder.
“The tattoo is a memorial to my brothers and sisters who never came home,” said John Collie.

Vietnam War veteran John Collie carries an ever-present reminder of his lost comrades.

Collie, 66, has a tattoo that covers his back and depicts four Vietnam-era Huey helicopters, a POW camp tower, a silhouette of a prisoner of war and sharpened cane poles piercing a suspended skull. Flowing tattooed script across his shoulder blades reads “Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.”

“The tattoo is a memorial to my brothers and sisters who never came home,” said Collie, adding that the “masterpiece” was done by artist Brian Adams and took four hours to complete in one sitting

Collie served with the 173rd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War for 18 months after boot camp in 1971. He said he left most of his military connected papers and decorations for his service at the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall when the memorial was on display in St. Petersburg.
read more here

Friday, June 30, 2017

Ocala Missing Veteran Alert Walked Away from VA Clinic

Update: Missing, endangered veteran found dead

Law enforcement officials said Friday afternoon that a missing 21-year-old U.S. Navy veteran was found dead near the vehicle he had been driving.

OPD seeks help finding missing, endangered veteran
Ocala Star Banner
Austin L Miller
June 30, 2017

Ocala Police Department officers are asking for the public’s assistance in finding a 21-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who is considered missing and endangered.

Mac McKeon, the father of Mark Raymond McKeon Jr., said Friday that his son checked himself out of the Veterans Administration Clinic in Gainesville against doctors advice on Monday. He said his son called and told him he knew it was a bad idea to leave.
McKeon said that after his son left the facility, he visited a friend and talked with several other people. He said his son lives with his sister and her husband in the 2000 block of Southwest Ninth Road in Ocala. He said his son left the home on Wednesday, which was the last time anyone has seen or heard from him.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Papa Ward, Pastor to Homeless Veterans Died on Christmas Day

The man who gave hope dies on the greatest day of hope
Daily Commercial
Tom McNiff
December 30, 2015
Papa Ward, the pastor of Logos Christian Fellowship church in Leesburg, died Christmas day. Those who knew him best say it was fitting that Ward, who brought hope to so many, died on Christ's birthday -- celebrated in the Christian faith as a day of hope.
Papa Chris Ward
Gary Kadow, Pastor Chris Ward, and Deb and Bob Peters pose for a photo on the day after Thanksgiving, a day spent worming with homeless people in the Ocala National Forest.
Long before there was a Project SOS, a veterans aid organization that, in part, helps homeless veterans living in the Ocala National Forest, there was Chris Ward.

The one-time Army Airborne Ranger, who became a minister after leaving the service, had been tromping across the pine needles and through the thickets of the forest looking for campgrounds where homeless veterans retreated to wrestle in solitude with the demons they brought back from the battlefield.

He brought them food, fresh water, clothing, blankets -- anything to soften their rugged day-to-day existence. But most of all, he brought something most people couldn't. He brought understanding, the kind of understanding that only another combat veteran could offer.
read more here

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Homeless Veterans Buried With Honor

Homeless veterans buried with honors 
Ocala Star Banner
Andy Fillmore
July 24, 2015
Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner Members of the U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club and the Patriot Guard Riders of Florida lead the casket of Raymond J. Nowicki to a burial ceremony during the Homeless Veterans Burial Program at Forest Lawn Funeral Home on South Pine Avenue south of Ocala, Fla. on Friday, July 24, 2015. Two burial ceremonies were held by Veterans Services for Marion County for two homeless veterans, Raymond J. Nowicki, 82, who served in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955 and Ross Clyde Walls, 63, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1993. Both veterans will be buried in Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell....
OCALA - Two honorably discharged veterans, both homeless and indigent, were honored with military honors Friday at Forest Lawn Memory Gardens prior to their burial at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Individual ceremonies were held for Raymond Nowicki, 82, a U.S. Army veteran who died June 1, and U.S. Navy veteran Ross Walls, 63, who died on May 21. The deaths were not connected. This is the eighth year local partners have conducted such ceremonies. This was the first time the group conducted two on the same day.

Nowicki served in the Army from Aug. 3, 1953, through Aug. 3, 1955.

Walls was in the Navy 22 years, from Dec. 15, 1970, to Jan. 31, 1993. read more here

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ocala WWII Veteran Died After VA Benefits Restored

WWII veteran Joseph Desario dies shortly after benefits restored 
Ocala Star Banner
April Warren
May 1, 2015
Joseph Desario as a top turret
gunner during WWII.

In October 2013, World War II veteran Joseph Desario applied for an increase in his disability benefits.

The VA, instead, slashed the 91-year-old man’s monthly compensation for bilateral hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder by about $600.

Desario began fighting to have his benefits reinstated. On April 14, more than a year later, the VA sent a letter to his attorney saying it had reinstated his benefits, with retroactive reimbursement.

While the news was good, it was a little too late. Desario died April 24, a little more than a week after receiving the news.

Desario had been hospitalized with congestive heart failure and end-stage heart and renal failure, according to family members.

“His heart just stopped,” said his daughter, Mary Lynn Miraglia.

She said before he died, however, he had been told, and understood, that his benefits had been restored.

“It made his day, it really did,” Miraglia said.
read more here

WWII Veteran Improved According to VA, Actually Clinically Deaf

Sunday, April 5, 2015

WWII Veteran Improved According to VA, Actually Clinically Deaf

You know the commercial with "Can you hear me now?" Well that is all I can think about because apparently the VA didn't hear this WWII veteran when they cut his disability until a reporter got involved in the story and then suddenly, they seem to have heard him loud and clear.
WWII vet, 91, struggles with VA lag
By April Warren Staff writer
Published: Saturday, April 4, 2015
"Sullivan said she was first contacted by the VA on Friday, the day after the Star-Banner contacted the VA to inquire about Desario’s case. She said a VA official told her it will now order more tests for Desario."

Joseph DeSario, 90, who was a top turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator during World War II points to the spot just below where he was positioned in the bomber in a painting at his home in Marion Woods Senior Living in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.
Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner

The 2½ years Joseph Desario spent in the military during World War II have remained with him forever.

Desario, 91, can still recall with detail his work as a top turret gunner on 30 missions aboard the B-24 Liberator, a four-engine bomber. He was stationed behind the pilot, but between the roaring engines, operating twin .50 caliber machine guns over Europe.

Desario survived two plane crashes, which later led to the replacement of both his knees.

Upon his honorable discharge in 1945, Desario was given a certification of disability. In recent years, he received an overall combined disability evaluation rating of 80 percent, which took into account two service connected disabilities: post-traumatic stress disorder and bilateral hearing loss.

“The noise was tremendous all the time,” Desario’s daughter, Mary Lynn Miraglia, said of the gun noise, blasts around the planes and lack of protective earwear.

In October 2013, Desario applied for an increase in compensation in the individual unemployability category. Instead, his benefits were cut by about $600 a month when test results indicated an improvement in his hearing.

The result later was refuted by a clinical audiologist who said her evaluation found Desario to be legally deaf.
read more here

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vietnam Veteran Fatal Motorcycle Accident Hours After Helping Others

Motorcycle crash victim was Vietnam veteran devoted to community service
Ocala Star Banner
By Austin L. Miller Staff writer
Published: Thursday, January 22, 2015
Hours before the accident, Whittier said, they talked about the next fundraiser for Veterans Helping Veterans. Harrison served on the organization's board of directors and helped with children's programs. In 2014, Harrison helped raise roughly $130,000 through a golf tournament.
Donald M. Harrison Jr., the motorcyclist killed Wednesday in a crash on North U.S. 441, was a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran involved in local charities.
Donald Harrison
Photo courtesy of Mike Sizemore

Harrison's friends described the 64-year-old retiree as a generous man who helped raise money for the nonprofit Veterans Helping Veterans and other causes.

Harrison died after the 2011 Harley-Davidson he was riding was hit by a 2002 Ford Escape as the SUV was attempting to cross U.S. 441, according to the Ocala Police Department. The other driver, Charles E. Griffin, stopped nearby at the intersection of U.S. 441 and Northwest 22nd Street.

The impact sent both Harrison and his motorcycle into a ditch. Richard Donahue, a U.S. Navy corpsman driving by, stopped and, with an Ocala police officer, performed CPR on Harrison until emergency medical personnel arrived.
read more here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ocala Politician Attacked PTSD Iraq Veteran Online

Marion County government official belittles veteran for PTSD
Ocala Post
By Michael LaTulipe
September 10, 2014
Marcel "Butch" Verrando
(This is who he attacked)
Matychak did what no veteran should have to do by detailing in part what his job was in the military and what he saw.

“Butch, I saw death, such military personnel burned in their vehicles to blown body parts, having prisoners of war throwing pee and crap at me, to having a 8 year old Iraqi girl died on me to the CSH (Combat Support Hospital), getting shot at, having a vehicle blow up, and much more. My job was Combat Firefighter/Medic [sic].”

James Hoyne at 9:13 p.m. added an anonymous comment from a veteran who served with Matychak. “I would tread lightly before I embarrass you on your little political hi horse thread. I served with Sam in Iraq and I was there when windows were blown out, mortars exploding all around us, doors blown shut, and the military calling frantically for the fire dept to come assist in the middle of a fire fight that was the largest since falluja. I was there with Sam so I can deff vouch for him. You sir don’t have a clue, and quite frankly I don’t even know how you are involved in politics. Don’t question his PTSD because I have it as well [sic].”

Ocala, Florida — Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that can be very debilitating and even result in the death of the individual afflicted. This condition not only disproportionally affects soldiers, but also firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and law enforcement officers.

Marcel “Butch” Verrando, who currently serves the citizens of Marion County as a member of the Fire Advisory Board (appointment by Commissioner Stan McClain) and a former candidate for Marion County Commissioner, attacked a U.S. military veteran and former volunteer firefighter for Marion County Fire Rescue for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on an online forum.

On Aug. 12, 2014, at 1:55 p.m., Verrando created a post on Marion County Political Forum, moderated by community activist Stan Hanson via Facebook, beginning with, “We have another Union sell out.”

U.S. military veteran (worked for the military in providing fire and EMS to troops in Iraq) Samuel J. Matychak III responded to the thread talking about his support for a candidate because of their “mutual stance on public safety.” Verrando responded on Aug. 12 at 4:32 p.m. with, “Hey at least I’m not crazy!”
read more here

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ocala Veterans Center Welcomed Changed

Ocala Vet Center relocates
Venue offers free services for combat veterans
Ocala Star Banner
Joe Callahan
Staff Writer
June 19, 2014

Vietnam veteran Nick Lomanjino smiled broadly as he sat in the lobby of the new Ocala Vet Center operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Lomanjino, 65, is a client at the center, which offers combat veterans and their families readjustment services, which include mental health and family and career counseling. The disabled veteran said he was in awe of the remodeled 2,200-square-foot facility, which was unveiled to the public Thursday morning during an open house.

The former 700-square-foot Ocala Vet Center, at 612 SW First Ave., opened in 2010 in the back of a Marion County Fire Rescue emergency medical services station just east of U.S. 441.

"The other site was actually depressing," Lomanjino said. "Though I am glad we had the other vet center, this is much better. This one looks professional, just like the professionals who work here."

The new center is in leased quarters in a business complex at 3300 SW 34th Ave., Suite 140, just north of State Road 200.

It is one of 300 vet centers established around the world since 1979 when Congress approved the counseling concept for Vietnam veterans. The service has since expanded to include all combat veterans.

Ocala was picked as a site for its central location. Sarita Figueroa, the regional manager of 42 vet centers in the Southeastern United States, said Thursday it took four years for the VA to find a location that met strict federal government guidelines. In the case of the Ocala center, the sticking point was that the VA required a five-year lease.
Marion veterans
The Ocala Vet Center serves combat veterans in Marion and Citrus counties, and those living in The Villages. For information about services offered, call 237-1947.
Marion County
Combat vets: 34,300
Overall vets: 45,745

Citrus County
Combat vets: 9,511
Overall vets: 26,022

The Villages
Combat vets: 7,826
Overall vets: 10,676

Combat vets: 61,637
Combat vets: 82,433
read more here
Last entry error, they must have meant to type overall vets

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Vietnam Veteran says "Our patriotism has never waned."

Vietnam War vet uses Internet to connect and share stories with comrades
By Andy Fillmore
Published: Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vietnam War veteran Scott Henry has a special connection with artist Lee Teter's work "Vietnam Reflections," which hangs in his home.

The picture depicts a man in civilian clothes, deep in emotion, leaning on the outside of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with a vision of a squad of combat weary soldiers staring back at him. A soldier inside the wall appears to put his hand up to meet that of the visitor.

"It's very emotional to visit the wall. I have three friends from my hometown on it," said Henry, 67, who regularly visits the memorial.

Henry was with the III Marine Amphibious Force, 3rd Military Police Battalion, Delta Company Armed Forces Police in Da Nang, Vietnam, in 1968 and 1969.

He said he was greeted with a nasty homecoming in San Francisco, where insults like "baby killer" were hurled at him as the 21-year-old Navy veteran traveled to his native Winneconne, Wisconsin, where he received a warm welcome.

"We all came back and put the Vietnam War far from our consciousness. As we've grown older we are looking back."

"Our patriotism has never waned," he said.
read more here

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ocala-based 351st Military Police Company Sent Off By Hundreds

Hundreds wish Ocala-based soldiers going to Afghanistan well
By Andy Fillmore
Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014
Spc Daryl Robinson and his son Derrick spend a moment during the public farewell for the 351st MP company at the Ocala Marion County Veterans Memorial Park Saturday May 10, 2014. Families and friends of the unit gathered to wish them a public farewell before they deploy to Fort Bliss Texas for training then Afghanistan.
Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
OCALA -- About 800 well-wishers gathered at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Park Saturday for a deployment ceremony for the Ocala-based 351st Military Police Company as the 150-soldier, Ocala-based unit heads for a yearlong stint in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Amid cheers and tears, the three-platoon unit entered the park, marching to “The Army Song” played by the Kingdom of the Sun Band.

Company commander Capt. Douglas Worstell, 42, of Orlando, on his fifth deployment, addressed the crowd about the 351st, which he has nicknamed “The Outlaws.”

“I promise no soldier will go on a mission without the proper training or equipment. We have been entrusted with your loved ones,” he said.
read more here

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Trooper Chelsea Renee Richard killed in line of duty

FHP trooper, tow-truck driver killed in multicar crash on I-75 near Ocala
Orlando Sentinel
By Kevin P. Connolly and Desiree Stennett, Staff Writers
May 3, 2014

A nine-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol and a tow-truck driver were killed in a crash Saturday on Interstate 75 near Ocala.

Trooper Chelsea Renee Richard, 30, stopped near mile marker 341 on southbound I-75 at 1:40 p.m. after two cars crashed in the area. Both cars were pulled off the highway onto the shoulder.

About 20 minutes later, as Richard was talking with the tow-truck driver, John Duggan, 57, of Levy County, another multi-vehicle crash happened in the same area.

After a seven-vehicle pileup, the driver of a southbound pickup traveled onto the east shoulder where the trooper stood with Duggan and a third man, George Robert Phillip, 52, of Ocala.

The pickup struck Richard, Duggan and Phillip. Both Richard, an Ocala resident who had a 4-year-old son, and Duggan were killed at the scene. Phillip remained in critical conditon at Ocala Regional Hospital late Saturday.
read more here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Over 100 Army Reserve MPs heading to Afghanistan

Ocala-based Army Reserve unit heading to Afghanistan
Ocala Star Banner
By Bill Thompson
Staff writer
Published: Monday, April 28, 2014

As the U.S. mission in Afghanistan winds down, more than 100 soldiers from the Ocala-based 351st Military Police Company are gearing up for another tour.

Capt. Douglas Worstell said he will be leading the unit on a deployment to an area near Bagram as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Worstell said he could not reveal many details about the Army Reserve unit's mission during its yearlong stint on active duty, which begins on May 8, when the troops are expected to report to Ocala.

They will leave soon afterward for Fort Bliss, Texas, for additional training prior to being shipped to Afghanistan, Worstell said.

A community ceremony marking the unit's return to duty will be held on May 10.

The event is set for 10 a.m. at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park, 2601 E. Fort King St., Ocala.
read more here

Monday, March 24, 2014

WW II, Korean and Vietnam Army veteran beaten to death

Veteran beaten with a pipe dies
Ocala Star Banner
By Austin L. Miller
Staff writer
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014

An 87-year-old war veteran beaten earlier this past week with a pipe and a sledgehammer has died. His 55-year-old son is accused of the killing.

Ocala police and family members said Ralph T. Croskey, a World War II, Korean and Vietnam U.S. Army veteran, passed away on Saturday morning at Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Allen Croskey, one of Croskey's three children, was charged with attempted murder Wednesday afternoon after authorities had gone to Ralph Croskey's southwest Ocala residence after receiving a call about a disturbance. Those charges have been elevated to second-degree murder since Ralph Croskey's death.

Ralph T. Croskey was an executive member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
read more here

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ocala Marine shot in the back has community standing behind him

Groups rally to plan dinner for wounded Marine
Ocala Star Banner
By Andy Fillmore
February 5, 2014

Lance Cpl. David Garrett Burgess, wounded in December while serving with the U. S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, will be honored Saturday with an official “welcome home” fundraising dinner to benefit him and his wife Emily, and their son Joseph.

Burgess remains on active duty and is recuperating at home in Ocala until he returns to Camp Le Jeune.

“I'm not 100 percent, but I'm alright. I'm looking forward to Saturday. It should be a good time and good food,” he said.

Burgess, 19, a native of Ocala and a 2012 graduate of Vanguard High School, was shot in the back during a firefight on Dec. 4 in Helmand Province. He was first evacuated to Germany and then spent almost a month at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He still is undergoing physical therapy and nursing a broken ankle.

Burgess, a member of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, Bravo Company, is the recipient of the Purple Heart Award.

“It's amazing what people have done, and the support of the military,” he said.

His mother, Mary Burgess, of Jacksonville, said she wanted to thank the community for the “heartfelt outpouring” of concern and support for her son.
If you go
What: Benefit dinner for Lance Cpl. David Burgess
When: 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8
Where: Mojo's Grille, 506 S. Pine Ave., Ocala
Cost: $20, includes dinner and soft drink
Contact: 572-3982 or
read more here

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Combat wounded Iraq veteran and family see new home

Veteran, family get first look at donated home
Bank and foundation team up to provide houses
By Carlos E. Medina
Published: Monday, November 25, 2013

The last 12 years have tested Jamie and Della Whitaker.

Jamie Whitaker survived three tours in Iraq and just as many IED attacks. Badly wounded in one, Whitaker struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also suffered a series of heart attacks starting in 2011, which required bypass surgery and a defibrillator.

All the while, Della Whitaker has worked hard to keep their three children, including the youngest, Jonathan “Zeke,” who has autism, safe and healthy. She also has cared for her husband as he deals with his health issues. The family of five have done it while living in a 900-square-foot apartment in Georgia. Jamie Whitaker grew up in Lake City.

On Monday, the family arrived in Ocala to see, for the first time, their new 1,700-square-foot house, donated to them by Bank of America through the Military Warriors Support Foundation.

“We’re home,” said Della, as she hugged Jaime upon entering the house.
read more here

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ocala veteran recalls World War II

Local veteran recalls World War II
Ocala Star Banner
By Andy Fillmore
Published: Saturday, November 2, 2013

While Ray Baker moved from England across France in the days following D-Day on June 6, 1944, his family back home thought he was lost in action.

"Our barracks were bombed and we had a good number of casualties. My family heard of the attack and thought I was put down. I couldn't contact them," said Baker, who lives with his wife, Jean, in western Marion County.

Although injured and hospitalized with a perforated ear drum, for which he received his first Purple Heart, Baker survived the bombing and rejoined the Allied drive across Europe two days after D-Day.

Baker was injured again while driving a weapons carrier near the front lines in France. The vehicle hit a land mine and threw him over the open top. He lost many of his front upper teeth. He received a second Purple Heart for those injuries.

Baker's son, Steve Dixon, 64, said the account of that explosion was the only episode "dad ever told me about the war."

Dixon himself received the Purple Heart Award during the Vietnam War.
read more here

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Agencies serving homeless veterans say it is difficult to count them

Agencies serving county’s homeless say population is difficult to count
Ocala Star Banner
By Andy Fillmore
Published: Saturday, October 26, 2013

The number of homeless veterans living in Marion County varies depending on who you ask.

Art Skelton, a veteran of the Vietnam War, disagrees with the figures published by the Marion County Homeless Council.

The council’s January “Point In Time” census indicates a total of 503 people countywide were considered homeless. Of those, 120, or 23 percent, served in the military.

“The numbers on homeless veterans are way wrong. Many vets live in the (Ocala National) Forest. I was living in the woods near Citra until the Veterans Administration got me in here because of the veteran program,” said Skelton, a Marine Corps veteran who is living at the Salvation Army Center of Hope.

Dan Horton, executive director of the Marion County Homeless Council, said the numbers of homeless overall are likely up to “double.”

The council’s information coordinator, Thom Thomas, who went into the field to make some of the counts, said the figures are probably low.

“For the in-town counts, we appreciate the help of the Ocala Police Department, but the homeless persons probably shied away from them,” Thomas said.
read more here