American Veteran News 05.27.16

NAVY CROSS CITATION DESCRIBES SEAL NICOLAS CHECQUE’S FINAL MOMENTS — MILCOM — A Navy SEAL killed during a 2012 rescue of an American hostage in Afghanistan demonstrated “unhesitant commitment” and “undaunted courage” during his final moments, according to a Navy Cross medal citation newly obtained by Military.com.

Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque’s posthumous receipt of the military’s second-highest combat honor had never been publicly announced until his teammate, Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers Jr., was presented with the Medal of Honor in February. Both men were part of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as SEAL Team Six, when they conducted a high-stakes night raid Dec. 8, 2012 to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph, a civilian doctor and director of a charitable organization, who had been taken hostage by the Taliban days before.

While Byers received the military’s highest honor for aggressively disabling enemy attackers while shielding the doctor with his own body, Checque, 28, was the first member of the team to charge the enemy compound.

According to his citation, which has never previously been publicly released, Checque led the team as it approached the compound where Joseph was being held. Aerial surveillance alerted the SEALs to an active guard outside the building, making the team’s approach even more risky.



MEMPHIS BELLE’ GUNNER REVISITS ENGLAND, DIES AT BATTLE OF BRITAIN BUNKER — STARS & STRIPES — U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him stepping foot back in the country.

The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain earlier this month. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk.

He served there with the 96th Bomb Group in 1945 as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, flying eight combat missions over Germany during the spring of the war’s final year. On four of these missions, his plane came under heavy fire. One almost proved catastrophic, and the plane returned to base with holes dotting its wings.

One of the aircraft on which he served as a gunner was the Memphis Belle, the first heavy bomber to complete its tour by flying 25 missions with its crew intact. It went on to have a post-war career raising morale and money for the U.S. Army. Writes historian John Buescher of the warplane:



VIETNAM WAR HERO, 50 YEARS LATER, STILL FEELING ‘PAIN AT THE LOSS’ OF HIS SOLDIERS — FOX NEWS — Ramon “Tony” Nadal can forget a lot of things in his life, but even the passage of half a century has not dulled the memory of three scorching days in the jungles of Southeast Asia during one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War.

A mission to hunt down North Vietnamese troops who had attacked a military base in their area turned into a fight for survival as Nadal and his fellow soldiers quickly found themselves outnumbered 2,400 to 192. At least 79 men died as the Americans desperately fought their way out of the jungle in what would become known as the Battle of LZ X-Ray, one of the first major clashes in a war that would drag on into the next decade.

“I was ready to give my life for my soldiers,” said the retired U.S. Army colonel in a new short film released by AARP Studios for Memorial Day.



VA ANNOUNCES NEW TBI EXAMS — KARE — WASHINGTON, D.C. – Responding to disclosures that it used unqualified doctors to diagnose traumatic brain injuries, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced plans to offer new TBI exams to nearly 25,000 veterans nationwide.

“It was a systemic national problem that we’ve identified that we are working to fix now,” David McLenachen, the VA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Disability Assistance, told KARE 11 during an interview in Washington Wednesday afternoon.

McLenachen said the VA has identified 40 different locations across the country where improper brain injury exams were done. They include facilities in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

VA officials said they weren’t yet able to provide an exact breakdown of how many veterans were involved at each location.



VETERAN OF WWII AND KOREA RECALLS HIS SEA STORIES — THE SAN BERNADINO SUN — Rudy Rodriguez was just 18 in May 1945 when he boarded the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in Pearl Harbor, heading east for the waning days of the War in the Pacific.

That deployment lasted five months as the nearly 900-foot aircraft carrier, one of the biggest in the Navy, launched its 97 aircraft from the coastal waters of Japan to drop bombs on enemy planes on the Japanese mainland.

He returned a hero with a Unit Citation Commendation battle ribbon — as well as five other ribbons.

Now, 72 years later, Rudy is the Hancock’s last surviving World War II crew member.

Memories of the war are forever etched in his mind.

He is still haunted by those deadly kamikaze attacks, the suicide bombings by enemy pilots.



WWII VETERAN WHO DIED IN BATTLE RETURNED TO IRON RANGE — WDIO — Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne operation during WWII until that point. September 23, 1944, John Sersha was one of the brave men who rode a glider into enemy territory in the Netherlands. Just days later, he was killed by the Germans. The Allies lost the battle, but ultimately, won the war.

Sersha was at first presumed MIA, and then presumed killed in action. His remains were not found until 1948, and by then, were unidentifiable. He was buried in an American military cemetery in Belgium. The young man from West Eveleth was only 20 years old at the time of his death.

Dick Lohry was just 11 months old when his uncle died. “But I feel like I have a connection. Most cousins would say that. When I spent time at Grandma’s house, there was his foot locker there. His picture as well. Grandma spoke of him, and I know she really missed him.”

Lohry has spent the past decade doing research, writing letters, and asking the government for help in bringing Sersha home. And finally, the remains from Belgium were disinterred, the DNA tested, and the body identified as Private Sersha. It was flown to the cities earlier this week.

“I’m relieved and excited. We’re going to have a full military funeral and honors on Saturday,” Lohry said.

“I did this initially to help my children remember John and his sacrifice. I’m glad we were successful.”



THIS IS THE REAL THREAT POSED BY HACKED MEDICAL DEVICES AT VA — NEXTGOV — As the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs work to make the digital medical records that each manages for some 10 million beneficiaries compatible, they face an unassuming foe.

Medical devices in their hospitals are vulnerable to malware that could allow attackers to compromise all that patient health data.

In fact, it’s more likely someone will hack a drug infusion pump to break into a connected health records system, than to give you an overdose, says VA’s top medical device security official.

While there have been harrowing demonstrations of how to manipulate a pump or pacemaker, those attacks are unlikely to play out in reality anytime soon.

The here-and-now danger is the “advanced persistent threat” that piggybacks off a vulnerability in a medical device linked to a hospital’s electronic health record network, Lynette Sherrill, VA deputy director of health information security, tells Nextgov.



‘GLORY’ SOLDIER AT REST IN FORGOTTEN AFRICAN-AMERICAN CEMETERY — USA TODAY — RYE, N.Y. — The white marble gravestone of Samuel Bell looks like something you might find in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Until recently, it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to visit.

Bell was a soldier in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first black military units of the Union Army during the Civil War — the one chronicled in the 1989 movie, Glory.

Uncovering a painful past for African Americans, one headstone at a time

Bell is buried near one the more prominent monuments in the Rye African American Cemetery, a slice of American history not easy to find, but worth uncovering. It offers a glimpse into the history of some Westchester inhabitants who lived, worked and served their country during the 19th and 20th centuries.



VIETNAM VET CLAIMS GUARDS AT EL PASO VA CLINIC USED “EXCESSIVE FORCE” AGAINST HIM — KVIA — EL PASO, Texas — Jose Oliva, 71, went to the El Paso Veterans Affairs Clinic for a check up. But what happened that afternoon still has him shaken up three months later.

Oliva says he was attempting to enter the VA clinic. But his interaction with the guards went horribly wrong leaving him in cuffs and, he says, with injuries.

“You know, they could have killed me,” Oliva said.

Oliva, a Vietnam vet, said he’s had shoulder and throat surgery after what happened at the VA clinic on Feb. 16.

“Just to spend one year in a combat zone, and lucky to survive, I never, ever came to being hurt so much as I did on this day,” Oliva said.



VA WOULD JOIN 21 STATES ALREADY LIFTING NURSE PRACTITIONER HURDLES — FORBES — A proposal by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to give active and veteran U.S. military personnel direct access to advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, comes as an increasing number of states eliminate similar hurdles for patients who want easier access to primary care.

The VA is proposing to amend its medical regulations to “permit full practice authority of all VA advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) when they are acting within the scope of their VA employment.” More than 20 states have made similar moves to provide patients direct access to nurse practitioners by allowing them to practice independently and without doctor supervision. Even more states are considering such legislation.

“This rule making would increase veterans’ access to VA healthcare by expanding the pool of qualified healthcare professionals who are authorized to provide primary healthcare and other related healthcare services to the full extent of their education, training and certification, without the clinical supervision of physicians,” the VA said in its proposal, which will be subject to a two-month public comment period.



CAN THE VA SOLVE ITS PROBLEM OF MISTAKENLY DECLARING VETS DECEASED? — CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR — The US Department of Veterans Affairs is beset by yet another problem, it emerged Wednesday, having wrongfully declared thousands of veterans dead over the past few years, resulting in their benefits being cut off.

The systemic error has affected more than 4,000 veterans, according to correspondence between the VA and the office of Rep. David Jolly (R) of Florida, and although the department points out that this represents only a tiny proportion of their clients, it concedes that for those impacted, the experience can be traumatic.

The VA is a gargantuan department, facing myriad challenges, and while it has taken steps to address this particular issue, it remains unclear how successful those efforts will be.



OUTRAGEOUS REMARK BY VETERAN AFFAIRS BOSS IS A SYMPTOM OF A STILL-AILING AGENCY — OBSERVER — On Monday, Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald compared the outrageous wait times that our veterans must wait for military care to the wait times at a Disney amusement park.

“The days to an appointment is really not what we should be measuring, we should be measuring the veterans’ satisfaction. When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?”

The reaction was instant and intense, with critics of the mismanagement-plagued agency pouncing and Sen. Roy Blunt calling for Mr. McDonald’s resignation, just two years after his predecessor was forced out over the agency’s incompetence.

Dale Barnett, the American Legion National Commander put a fine point on it. “People don’t die while waiting to go on Space Mountain,” and Vietnam vet and former POW Sen. John McCain called the comparison “outrageous and completely inappropriate.”

Those are strong words, but Mr. McDonald’s comparison was so repugnant and disrespectful that it actually defies description.



AMERICAN VETERANS’ ORGANIZATIONS ESTABLISHED IN LARGE PART AFTER CIVIL WAR — DEERFIELD VALLEY NEWS — VERMONT- More than veterans of any previous war, Civil War veterans helped establish America’s tradition of fraternal veterans’ organizations.

Surviving veterans of America’s Civil War felt a real need to commiserate with each other about their war experiences – perhaps to put the horror of battle in a new perspective of shared grief punctuated by deep comradeship. It was these types of feelings that led to the formation of America’s first great servicemen’s organization. It was composed of former Union Army soldiers and known as the Grand Army of the Republic. Their motto was “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty.”



VETERANS REFLECT ON IMPORTANCE, BEAUTY OF BLUE ANGELS — MILCOM — The crowd was restless for Fat Albert.

It was just after 2 p.m. Wednesday and the sun was beating down on hundreds of people. Spider-man Popsicles melted in kids’ hands and dogs hid under bushes for the shade.

But with a sudden, thunder-like noise, the crowd perked up. Fat Albert came out of the corner of the sky and flew across the Severn River.

“Mommy,” one boy said as Fat Albert made its ascent into the sky, “Are they going to heaven?”

The Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, performed above the Severn River Wednesday afternoon.



INDICTMENT: SEX OFFENDER USED VET’S STOLEN ID AT WEST PALM VA — PALM BEACH POST — RIVIERA BEACH — “T.M.” enrolled for health care at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center last September and, thanks to his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, received nearly $70,000 of treatment free of cost.

The problem, federal investigators say: The guy who got the medical care wasn’t T.M. — just someone using T.M.’s name, social security number and a fake VA identity card.

And in April federal prosecutors charged Roy Underwood, 57, also known as Roy Fritts, with theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft. Underwood was detained and is awaiting trial, pending a competency test.

His defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Panayotta Augustin-Birch declined comment on the case Wednesday.



ROLLING THUNDER RIDES INTO D.C. FOR THE 29TH TIME — WASHINGTON TIMES — Listen. It’s the collective roar of motorcycles on a mission, their faithful riders on the same route to the same cause: to draw public attention to the needs of military veterans, and the unanswered question surrounding prisoners of war and those still missing in action.



MOBILE HEALTH CLINIC FOR VETS ON DISPLAY — WASHINGTON TIMES — When thousands of patriotic motorcyclists arrive in the nation’s capital for the annual Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” over Memorial Day weekend, another wheeled vehicle will be in the mix.



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