American Veteran News 06.10.16

THE LONG ROAD HOME FOR VETERANS WITH PTSD — MOUNTAIN EXPRESS — “I still don’t celebrate Christmas anymore,” reveals Vietnam veteran Alan Brett. It was 5 a.m. on Christmas Day when he was wounded, and now, the holiday means he gets depressed, uncomfortable and “bitchy.” “I made it hard for my kids, growing up,” says Brett, who’ll be a presenter for an upcoming post-traumatic stress disorder town hall at A-B Tech sponsored by the N.C. chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America (see box, “Get the Facts”). “We had Christmas, but it wasn’t a pleasant one. After my kids grew up and left, I stopped celebrating Christmas. It’s just easier.”

North Carolina is home to some 775,000 veterans; about 110,000 live in the 23 western counties, including roughly 20,000 in Buncombe County. Veterans, particularly those with PTSD, often face stigma, obstacles to gaining employment, troubled home lives, a propensity for substance abuse and self-imposed isolation to avoid potential triggers. More than 2 in 10 vets with PTSD have a substance abuse disorder, and 1 out of 10 vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has such issues, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Like war, PTSD is nothing new, but it’s had as many names as misconceptions. Variously known as “soldier’s heart,” “shell shock,” “combat fatigue” and “delayed stress response syndrome,” it’s been a moving target. The American Psychiatric Association didn’t recognize the diagnosis until 1980, leaving many people stuck wondering what was wrong with them.

VA LAUNCHES VETERANS LEGACY PROGRAM — HOMETOWN FOCUS — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of the Veterans Legacy Program to memorialize veterans’ service and sacrifice through public educational programming. The program uses the rich resources found throughout VA national cemeteries, soldiers’ lots and monument sites.

“The Veterans Legacy Program is meant to bring to life the stories of veterans buried in VA national cemeteries through lesson plans, interactive maps and video vignettes,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “Behind every marker is a story – a story of what it meant to be a soldier, sailor, airman, marine and coast guardsman at a particular moment in time. Our goal is to ensure that our nation does not forget their stories and their sacrifice.”

Using online educational products such as lesson plans, interactive maps and short video vignettes, VA, through the Veterans Legacy Program, will engage the general public, students and educators. VA launched this initiative earlier this year at two pilot sites: Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina and Riverside National Cemetery in California. Over the next several years, online educational products and programs will be developed for all VA national cemeteries.

NEVER FORGOTTEN: WWII SAILOR’S REMAINS RETURNING HOME TO NY — AP — ALBANY, N.Y. — Alfred Wells wasn’t supposed to be on board the USS Oklahoma the morning the Japanese launched their surprise attack on U.S. warships and military bases in Hawaii.

By the time the bombing was over, the Oklahoma had capsized at its berth in Pearl Harbor, entombing the bodies of more than 400 servicemen, including Wells, who was standing watch on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, in place of another sailor who wanted to go ashore for the day.

This weekend, nearly 75 years after he was killed in the attack that drew the United States into World War II, Wells’ remains will be laid to rest in a veterans’ cemetery in his upstate New York hometown. Despite the passing of the decades and the deaths of most of his immediate family, Wells wasn’t forgotten by his relatives.

“His name never left the lips of the family,” said the sailor’s 78-year-old nephew, Wayne Konseck, whose mother was one of Wells’ five sisters

LIBERTY SURVIVORS SAY US STILL DOWNPLAYS ISRAEL’S ATTACK ON SHIP — MILCOM — Nearly a half century after the USS Liberty — a lightly armed American spy ship — was almost sunk by Israeli air and sea forces during the Six Day War, survivors say the U.S. still prefers to avoid dealing with what happened and identifying who attacked the ship.

Strafed by machine-gun fire, hit by napalm and torpedoed over the course of the 75-minute attack, the Liberty has one of the most highly decorated crews in American naval history.

Out of that single action came one Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, a dozen Silver Stars, 20 Bronze Stars for valor, nine Navy Commendation Medals, more than 200 Purple Hearts and a Presidential Unit Citation.

But even when the ship is remembered, as it was last month with a rededication of carillon bells at Naval Station Norfolk’s chapel, an important part of Liberty’s story is avoided: It was attacked by Israel.

“It’s probably political,” said Terry McFarland, a Liberty survivor who organized a memorial service held Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

VIETNAM VETERANS RECEIVE OVERDUE HONOR — COLUMBUS TELEGRAM — Those are the days when six members of his infantry platoon were killed while fighting in southern Vietnam.

The Columbus man wanted to read their names again, touch the wall and say a few words about the good and bad times they shared as young men serving in the war.

“You get close to these guys,” said Drum, 65. “You’re with them 24 hours a day. It’s rough when something happens.”

Drum, who spent nearly a year stationed around Saigon after entering the Army six months after his high school graduation, was one of more than 500 combat veterans from Nebraska who flew to Washington, D.C., on Monday as part of a Vietnam War honor flight organized by Bill and Evonne Williams of Patriotic Productions.

Although he had made the trip before with his family, Drum said visiting the memorial with other veterans was a special moment.

“I thought it would be a good experience, just to go out there with a bunch of other veterans,” the Columbus native said. “You all went through the same thing.”

NEW PROGRAM REUNITES FILIPINO WORLD WAR II VETS WITH FAMILY — SUN STAR — WASHINGTON — Rudolpho “Rudy” Panaglima was just 13 when he joined his father in a Filipino guerrilla unit that worked in secret with the US Army during World War II.

His youth helped Panaglima sneak past Japanese forces as a courier and scout, bringing back information, food and medicine to US soldiers in the mountains of the Philippines, near his home in Cagayan.

Panaglima was among more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought with the United States during World War II, including at least 60,000 who were killed. After the war ended, President Harry Truman signed laws that stripped away promises of benefits and citizenship for Panaglima and other Filipino veterans.

Now 70 years later, Panaglima and other veterans are winning some of their benefits back. The veterans received lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law, and as this week are eligible to be reunited in the US with relatives living in the Philippines.

VETERANS SEEK ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS TO POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS — JOHNSON COUNTY GRAPHIC — (BPT) – Most people can’t imagine being terrified by the sound of a fork falling and hitting the ground. They don’t understand how someone cannot sleep because the fear of recurring nightmares keeps them awake. They’ve never experienced anxiety that turns everyday tasks into impossible chores.

But for thousands of American veterans, these are just a few symptoms that can make their lives unbearable. And while millions are aware of the condition they suffer from — post-traumatic stress or PTS — few are able to grasp the severity of the condition, and medical science is a long way from understanding the neurological causes of PTS.

In the news, stories of PTS tend to focus on bureaucratic mishandling, ineffective medications that have severe side effects and the general tragedy of those who are afflicted. However, there is also a side of the story that has to do with hope, strength and love. While a single cure has not yet been discovered for PTS, there are many instances of veterans finding peace and a path to recovery through some non-conventional — and often controversial — means.

UPCOMING DAYTON, OHIO JOB FAIR OPEN TO VETERANS — DAYTON DAILY NEWS — Veterans are invited to an upcoming job fair, hosted by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and RecruitMilitary.

More than 400 veterans are expected to participate, the organizations said in a release. There will be national, regional and local job opportunities, as well as entrepreneurial and educational offerings.

The free event will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 23 at the Dayton Convention Center, East Fifth and Main streets, downtown Dayton.

“RecruitMilitary job fairs maintain a track record of helping veterans find meaningful employment,” Peter Gudmundsson, RecruitMilitary president and chief executive, said in his organization’s release. “Last year, 56.3 percent of veteran job seekers expected to secure an interview as a result of their participation in a RecruitMilitary job fair and employers were expected to extend as many as 38,700 interviews and more than 12,000 job offers.”

WORLD WAR II SKY COMBAT REVISITED — BLUE RIDGE NOW — First-hand accounts of World War II stories become more of a rarity with the passing years. Increasingly few of us are available to describe this country’s wartime mobilization to combat that cataclysmic threat to the survival of the civilized world as we know it.

To say the least, Billy Welch played his part. He was one of those young men in the early 1940s who sought to find a place in the nation’s marshalling of military resources to defeat the Nazi menace. Since early childhood he had an urgent yearning for the excitement and required fortitude of flight. As a teenager, learning to fly was his most dominant vision of a satisfying life.

Military service was a family tradition. His father enlisted as a private in the first world war, rising to the rank of sergeant and then to a medal-decorated battlefield commissioned officer. His role models were the Wright Brothers, Wiley Post and Charles Lindberg among other aviation notables.

FEW THINGS BRING TOGETHER VETS AND CIVILIANS LIKE MISERY OF CROSSFIT — T&P — There’s nothing like camaraderie forged through shared discomfort to bring together military and civilian populations.

On the morning of Memorial Day, I found myself soaked in sweat, laying flat on my stomach, head-pounding, arms shaking as I closed in on finishing the prescribed 200 push-ups. I was not alone. Surrounding me in the austere and sweltering warehouse-like gym were a few dozen people, all battling the heat to labor through hundreds of push-ups, pull-ups and air squats, bookended by mile-long runs.

Who were these people, and why were they spending what could be a lazy holiday morning putting themselves through an experience that certainly did not appear to be enjoyable – given the grunts, curses, rivers of sweat, and variety of tortured grimaces? It was not a random assembly of masochists — well, perhaps a few were — but rather was a group of CrossFit enthusiasts participating in the Memorial Day Murph, an annual tradition in which CrossFitters across the country put themselves through an especially grueling workout to honor the life and sacrifice of Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael Murphy.

ARE THERE ANY MILITARY SPOUSE RETIREMENT BENEFITS? — MILCOM — Military retirement often marks the end of a long road.

As a military spouse, you’ve put in months of waiting on your service member to come home from long trainings or deployment, all while holding down your home and taking care of your family. You’ve battled career challenges for yourself, planning disasters, cross-country moves and everything Murphy’s Law could throw at you.

But other than the long-sought break from the challenges of military life, what’s in military retirement for you? Although your service member is who put on the uniform every day, military retirement isn’t without perks for military spouses or ways that you can still benefit from the community.

And while all of the benefits available to you are by virtue of your spouse’s service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of them.

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