Showing posts with label St. Augustine FL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Augustine FL. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Marine-Afghanistan Amputee Gets Wheels

Custom-ordered Harley brings ‘freedom’ to disabled St. Augustine veteran
Florida Times Union
By Beth Reese Cravey
Posted February 27, 2017

Brandon Long had wanted a motorcycle since he was a kid.
Salesman John Armstrong hands Brandon Long the keys to his new motorcycle as he walks him through the features of the custom Harley-Davidson the Adamec dealership on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville created for him. Long, 26, a Marine veteran who lives in St. Augustine, ordered a three wheeler configured with hand control to cover the functions normally controlled by the rider's feet.
Photo Bob Self Florida Times Union.
Long thought that dream would go unfulfilled after stepping on an improvised explosive device while on Marine Corps deployment in Afghanistan in December 2010. He said he died — and was resuscitated — eight times, lost both legs and spent two years in physical therapy.

“When I came back injured, I didn’t think I would be able to ride,” Long said.

Still, the dream persisted.

So Long and John Armstrong, a salesman at Adamec Harley-Davidson dealership on Baymeadows Road, spent about a year studying the motorcycle options for a double amputee in a wheelchair. And on Feb. 16, Long, now 26, arrived at the Jacksonville dealership to meet his brand-new Freewheeler, a three-wheeled motorcycle with all custom hand controls.

Long, who had waited a long “two months and two days” for the bike to arrive, was ecstatic.

“It was amazing,” he said last week. “Just absolutely amazing.”
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Monday, August 10, 2015

St. Augustine Gulf War Veteran Among World's Best

St. Augustine wounded veteran uses para-cycling as outlet
Associated Press
Sunday, August 9, 2015

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) - Anyone can exist. Frank Matzke would rather live, and do so abundantly. For years the longtime St. Augustine resident searched for a purpose after a severe brain injury sustained serving in the Gulf War recalibrated his life. He found it in para-cycling.

“My wife found para-cycling,” Matzke said. “I raced with able-bodied individuals and I was hours behind them because of my disabilities. My wife said ‘There has to be something out there for you.’ She did a little homework and found US para-cycling. That was my objective. I found it.” 

The 44-year-old is now one of the best para-cyclists in the world. Matzke competes on the UCI Para-cycling tour and is ranked No. 21 in the world in the Men’s Elite T2-Road classification.

This year alone his quest for competition has taken him to Montreal, Canada, Bilbao, Spain and Germany. In September, he plans to compete in a World Cup race in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Matzke was serving in the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment at Camp Doha, Kuwait on July 11, 1991, when an ammunition depot caught fire and eventually exploded. He took cover in a warehouse, but a piece of shrapnel hit the warehouse and fell on his head.

A reported 52 were injured and there were three secondary fatalities. At the time, the Associated Press noted “one American soldier suffered serious brain damage when shrapnel shattered his skull and that he was not expected to live.”
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Iraq War veteran preserves his stories for Library of Congress

Bomb disposal vet from Iraq War preserves his stories for Library of Congress
Florida Times Union
By Matt Soergel
Posted: July 29, 2013

ST. AUGUSTINE - Tim Fredericksen — tall, muscular, looking every bit the elite ex-military man he once was — leaned forward in an armchair to tell some of his war stories.

He got through the details fine: where he grew up, when he served, the tough training. How it was all he ever wanted to do, how he went to an Army recruiting office the minute he got out of his California high school, how that was the easiest day that recruiter ever had.

Then he told of coming to Iraq for the first time: the U.S. air base under fire as his plane landed, the blazing heat, the unfamiliar sounds of a country at war.

His memories ambushed him. His voice faltered. Tears came.

George McLatchey handed over a box of tissues and turned off the recorder that was capturing those war stories. Fredericksen wiped his eyes. “Sorry about that.”

McLatchey spoke gently in reply. “Tim, you don’t need to apologize.”

Moments later, he turned the recorder back on, and Fredericksen, with a tissue in his hand, started talking again. For 56 minutes, he told his stories — funny ones, sad ones, horrific ones — which will now be preserved for future generations, future historians.
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

St. Augustine Stand Down refits veterans

'Stand down' refits vets, homeless
Posted: August 19, 2012
St. Augustine Record

Saturday’s stand down at the Anastasia Island Elks Lodge provided cots, clothing and a fresh pair of boots to dozens of appreciative veterans.

For veteran Gary Johnson, the stand down provided a chance to give back to people who are going through the same thing he did.

“I’ve seen three or four days with nothing to eat — a week. I’ve been there,” Johnson said.

At least 43 homeless or in-need veterans received assistance through the stand down, which are periodic events that provide haircuts, hot showers, clothing, cots, assistance applying for benefits and answers to legal questions.

The annual stand down also helped more than 80 non-veterans, said Heather Andrews, assistant veterans service officer for St. Johns County.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

'Ride for Heroes' to reach Pendleton on Friday

MILITARY: 'Ride for Heroes' to reach Pendleton on Friday
North County Times

Four recumbent tricycle riders who departed St. Augustine, Fla., in early June for fundraising trip for the Oceanside-based Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund are scheduled to arrive at Camp Pendleton on Friday afternoon.

Three of the participants in the "Ride for Heroes" are former Marines, including a double amputee Afghanistan veteran.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Soldier from St. Augustine found dead at Fort Hood

St. Augustine soldier's death at Fort Hood under investigation
Posted: July 9, 2012
From staff reports

A soldier from St. Augustine was found dead in his house at Fort Hood on Monday.

The circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation, according to a report from Fort Hood.
Pfc. Joshua J. Holley, 26, entered service in February 2010 as an infantryman, the report said.

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Either one of these reporters got the story wrong or there were two deaths at Fort Hood.

Killeen: Fort Hood Releases Name Of Soldier Found Dead At His Home

KILLEEN (July 10, 2012)--Fort Hood officials have released the name of a staff sergeant who was found unresponsive at his home in Killeen on Thursday.

Staff Sergeant Queston Lynn Newell, 35, whose home of record is listed as Killeen, entered active duty service in August 1996 as a mechanized infantryman and served more recently as an air and missile defense crewmember, Fort Hood officials said.

He was assigned to Company D, Warrior Transition Brigade, Fort Hood, since March 2011.
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Iraq Veteran Marine homeless in St. Augustine with Combat PTSD

Last night there wasn't much on TV so we did a pay-per view Big Miracle about whales facing death, trapped beneath the ice in Alaska. A reporter told the story on local news, people knew about the problem, cared enough to try and do something about it. As a filler for national news, the entire country knew about these whales and the people trying help them survive. Then the world knew. They took action to save them.

No one blamed them for ending up the way they did or settled for just letting them die there. No one complained about how much money it would take to save three whales or how much it cost to travel there to tell the story. Sure, greed got involved when some thought it would be great public relations to get involved but in the end, even the greedy CEO managed to care more about the whales than himself.

Wouldn't it be really a big miracle if the same thing happened for our veterans trapped beneath a frozen society allowing them to suffer? How is it people moved heaven and earth to save three whales but we don't do much when veterans end up homeless?

Former Marine on the streets, frustrated with delays in getting help
11:09 PM, Jul 6, 2012
Written by
Mike Lyons

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Former Marine Sgt. Mark Reynolds is a homeless veteran who can often be seen walking through St. Augustine, frustrated his pleas for help are going unanswered.

"I don't like living like this," said 33-year old Reynolds.

Reynolds served in Iraq 14 months and was involved in the seize of Fallujah in 2004 during one of the major battles of the Iraqi war. Now he roams the streets of St. Augustine, dealing with the problems of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"I have some nightmares here and there, sometimes the clarity of thought isn't quite where it should be. I am startled easily, there are a lot of things that are a little bit strange. It's difficult for me to enjoy life the way I used to be able to enjoy life. I don't like crowds or loud places."

Reynolds pitches his tent wherever he can at night, whether it is on a lawn or the woods or wherever he can. He has a part-time job he loves at Home Depot, but the income is just enough for food, a cell phone, and a storage unit for a few belongings, not enough for a roof over his head.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Homes For Our Troops Gunnery Sgt. John Hayes

Homes for our Troops
Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Hayes was on his 4th deployment when he lost both of his legs and suffered life-threatening injuries after stepping on an IED in Sangin, Afghanistan on December 28, 2010. An Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, GySgt Hayes was on a routine mission, when his comrade located an undetonated ordinance. While retracing his steps to return and assist his partner, GySgt Hayes stepped on a buried IED resulting in the traumatic amputations of both of his legs.

During transport out of Afghanistan to Landstuhl, Germany, GySgt Hayes required lifesaving resuscitation multiple times. Once stabilized, he was brought to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center where the long road to recovery began. During his first week in the hospital, Hayes miraculously survived a series of grueling surgeries before a serious infection led to a rare hemi-pelvectomy amputation, leaving Hayes without a leg or pelvis on his left side.

GySgt Hayes has endured over sixty surgeries thus far, and remains at the newly renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for continued treatment and physical therapy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Last Vietnam veteran in Florida Air National Guard retires

Last Vietnam veteran in Florida Air National Guard retires
Written by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
January 8, 2012
Feature Stories
Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles Wisniewski completes 41 years of military service

Florida Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles Wisniewski is the last member of the Florida Air National Guard to have served in the Vietnam conflict. Wisniewski, 59, joined the Air Force in 1971 and served as a weapons technician at Utipoa Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. During his year in Thailand he helped load B-52 bombers flying into Vietnam on bombing missions, including during the famed Operation Linebacker II in late 1972.He had more than 40 years of military service during his career. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2012) – The last Vietnam veteran in the Florida Air National Guard is retiring and ending a more than 40 year military career.

State Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles Wisniewski, who served in Southeast Asia with the U.S. Air Force in 1972-1973, was honored during a retirement ceremony at the Florida National Guard Headquarters Jan. 6.

“Today really marks the end of an era,” said Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr. during the ceremony. “When we say goodbye to (Wisniewski) today, we say goodbye to the last Vietnam veteran in the Florida Air National Guard. That is a milestone.”

Wisniewski, 59, joined the Air Force in 1971 and served as a weapons technician at Utipoa Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. During his year in Thailand he helped load B-52 bombers flying into Vietnam on bombing missions, including during the famed Operation Linebacker II in late 1972.

Titshaw noted that veterans returning home from deployments today experience a much more supportive atmosphere than Vietnam veterans did in the 1960s and 1970s. And although the gesture was nearly 40 years later, the general prompted the audience to give a standing ovation and round of applause to Wisniewski for his service in Southeast Asia.

The adjutant general also presented Wisniewski with a Meritorious Service Medal and the Florida Cross for his service to the Florida National Guard.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bringing Home The Wall in St. Augustine FL

St. Augustine FL Elks welcomed members of Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders while they escorted Bringing Home The Wall.

There were about 300 bikes.

In 2008 I took pictures as one of their Walls was being put together. It takes a lot of work to put all the pieces together and with each panel, prayers and memories flooded into their minds.

Bringing Home the Wall is the creation of Dee Twig. This down sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. was built out of their care for mankind and for the people who served, died and are missing in the Vietnam War. They operate and move the traveling wall memorial at their own expense and through donations that are left by the people that visit it.

It should be noted that because of the size of this wall, it enables them to move it to smaller facilities than the larger scale wall. This allows visits to places like homes for the elderly, VA Hospitals, churches and other buildings where people that would not otherwise be able to ever see The Wall can.

Much like The Virtual Wall® online, a computer setup so that your loved one or friend can be easily located on the tribute. The database holds all of the names that are on the actual wall and will pinpoint which panel display the name you are looking for can be found on Bringing Home The Wall. We can be contacted by phone at 407-433-0015 for information on displaying the wall in your community or email him below for further information.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Casa Monica Hotel Fires Employee for Refusing to Remove American Flag Pin

Florida Hotel Fires Employee for Refusing to Remove American Flag Pin
Published October 16, 2011

A front desk supervisor at a Florida hotel was fired recently when he refused management’s request to remove the American flag pin he was wearing, reports.

Sean May, 26, an employee at Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Fla., has been wearing an American flag pin to work every day for the last two years. Last week, he was told to remove the pin because it violates company policy.

"I've actually gotten probably more compliments about it than any of the service I've actually done at the hotel, which is an interesting concept," May told the station.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Congressman Mica fights for St. Augustine homeless veterans

Mica blames bureaucracy for delays in accreditation
April 19, 2011
U.S. Rep. John L. Mica held an emergency meeting of state VA and other leaders today, April 19th, at 3:30 p.m. in St. Augustine City Hall, where he tells Historic City News Editor Michael Gold that he wants answers regarding the delay in getting proper accreditation for the Clyde E. Lassen State VA Nursing Home.

Mica voiced his concern today to Veterans Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “To resolve this outstanding matter and to prevent any further veterans from being turned away.”

The new Clyde E. Lassen State VA Nursing Home, which opened this past September, will help homeless veterans in the region and will also provide much needed counseling and long-term medical care for those who have served our nation.

“It is a shame that it has taken nearly seven months for the new state VA nursing home in St. Augustine to become fully accredited,” said Mica. “St. Johns County is home to over 17,000 veterans — and growing.”
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Mica blames bureaucracy for delays in accreditation

Friday, July 31, 2009

PTSD on Trial: Nathan James Keyes

Iraq War vet gets 3 years
July 31, 2009

Jamie Keyes held her son's decorated Army jacket Thursday as she told a judge how war changed her boy, hoping for leniency before he was sentenced for shooting at a sport utility vehicle occupied by a man and his 6-year-old daughter on a busy St. Augustine street last summer.

Her son, Nathan James Keyes, had nightmares, suffered from depression and withdrew from family when he came back from Iraq the first time, in July 2004, she said, fighting off tears as she read from a letter to the judge.

When he came back the second time, it was worse.

Every day she's reminded of the "indescribable horrors of war" her son lives with when she sees the bullet hole in her trailer's ceiling from the time he tried to kill himself.

Circuit Judge Wendy Berger said she appreciated Nathan Keyes' military service and agreed that the government did not do enough to help him readjust.

"It doesn't mean, though, that you shouldn't be held accountable," Berger said. "Does it mitigate your sentence? Maybe."

She sentenced Keyes to three years in prison, in the middle of the 18-to-54-month range agreed to in a plea deal, and four years on probation, during which time he will have to get counseling for post-traumatic stress at a center in Kissimmee and take anger management courses.
read more here
Iraq War vet gets 3 years

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Students at St. Johns Academy talked face-to-face with a pilot in Iraq

Students in Ms. Mahan first-grade got to see that Flat Stanley made it to Iraq to visit some soldiers.

Soldier In Iraq Speaks To Local 1st-Grade Class

POSTED: Thursday, April 2, 2009
UPDATED: 8:29 pm EDT April 2, 2009

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A soldier serving the country hundreds of thousands of miles away in Iraq made time for some first-graders in St. Augustine on Thursday.

Students at St. Johns Academy talked face-to-face with a pilot who is overseas. Using a webcam, Lt. Col. Jim Baker told the children about the ups and downs of military life and answered all sorts of questions.

"Do you miss your family?" one student asked.

"Oh yes. That's the one thing about being over here that we agree on, that we miss our family," Baker said.

For the first time, the students got to meet with a helicopter pilot stationed in Iraq. The high-tech visit was conducted via Skype.

"We've got everything from hamburgers and hot dogs, to sandwiches and soup," Baker shared about life overseas.

"It's a good opportunity for us to show our gratitude to him for his sacrifices over there," said first-grade teacher Leah Mahan.
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Soldier In Iraq Speaks To Local 1st-Grade Class