American Veteran News 06.21.16

DECADES LATER, SICKNESS AMONG U.S. AIRMEN AFTER A HYDROGEN BOMB ACCIDENT — TAMPA BAY TIMES — Alarms sounded on U.S. Air Force bases in Spain and officers began packing all the low-ranking troops they could grab onto buses for a secret mission. There were cooks, grocery clerks and even musicians from the Air Force band.

It was a late winter night in 1966 and a fully loaded B-52 bomber on a Cold War nuclear patrol had collided with a refueling jet high over the Spanish coast, freeing four hydrogen bombs that went tumbling toward a farming village called Palomares, a patchwork of small fields and tile-roofed white houses in an out-of-the-way corner of Spain’s rugged southern coast that had changed little since Roman times.

It was one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history, and the United States wanted it cleaned up quickly and quietly. But if the men getting onto buses were told anything about the Air Force’s plan for them to clean up spilled radioactive material, it was usually, “Don’t worry.”

“There was no talk about radiation or plutonium or anything else,” said Frank Thompson, a then 22-year-old trombone player who spent days searching contaminated fields without protective equipment or even a change of clothes. “They told us it was safe, and we were dumb enough, I guess, to believe them.”



VETERAN FORCIBLY DRAGGED FROM AIR FORCE CEREMONY FOR MENTIONING GOD — BREITBART — When a veteran started offering traditional remarks at a military flag-folding ceremony, several uniformed airmen assaulted him, dragging him out of the room because his remarks mentioned God. Now First Liberty Institute lawyers representing retired Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez are demanding that the U.S. Air Force apologize and punish those responsible or face a federal civil-rights lawsuit.



THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON WAR — T&P — Task & Purpose teamed up with former West Point psychology professor and author Lt. Col. Dave Grossman to produce this visual guide to what happens to the mind and body before, during, and after combat.

In 2012, legendary BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner jumped from a helium balloon 24 miles above the Earth to set the record for highest ever free-fall. Red Bull, the sponsor, had poured more than $65 million into the project and employed some of the world’s most eminent scientists and engineers to see it through, but the mission was nearly a complete failure — not because of any technical issues, but because in the months leading up to the jump, Baumgartner had developed a crippling fear of his space suit.

Even under the most extreme circumstances, undesirable emotions can be managed. The sports world realized that a long time ago, which is why today mental training is incorporated into nearly every professional sport. When Baumgartner tried to back out of the jump, Red Bull called in their secret weapon: a renowned performance psychologist named Dr. Michael Gervais, who quickly got the 43-year-old athlete’s anxiety under control. Baumgartner’s fall, which broke the sound barrier, was flawless.



VET GROUPS HIT PENTAGON FOR BID TO LIMIT VETERANS PREFERENCE BENEFIT — MILCOM — Senate lawmakers and even the Defense Department have picked a fight with a group they usually go out of their way not to offend: the nation’s veterans.

The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have come out strong against a Senate bill that would make veterans preference in federal job hiring a one-time benefit, meaning the veteran gets to use it once and that’s it.

The Legion slammed the change in the harshest terms, accusing the Defense Department — which included the change in the National Defense Authorization Act — of betraying the men and women who had served in uniform.

“One would think the agency that produces veterans and service-disabled veterans would have the additional moral obligation to uphold the institution of Veterans Preference,” Legion National Commander Dale Barnett said in letters to senators and representatives. “Instead, the [DoD] turned their backs on their former employees.”

In language less impassioned but no less determined, the VFW released a statement condemning the change.

“Veterans preference is a hand up, not a handout, for those who honorably serve our nation in uniform,” VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. said.

Under current law, veterans may use the preference in the federal job market whenever they apply for a job or promotion. The argument has long been that the years they spent away in uniform put them at a disadvantage to peers who entered federal service early on.



IRAQ, AFGHAN VETS MAY HAVE THEIR OWN AGENT ORANGE — STARS & STRIPES — ROCHESTER, Minn. (Tribune News Service) — They are known as the Agent Orange of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: Massive open-air burn pits at U.S. military bases that billowed the toxic smoke and ash of everything from Styrofoam, metals and plastics to electrical equipment and even human body parts.

The flames were stoked with jet fuel.

One of the most notorious was in Balad, site of the largest and busiest air base operated by the military in Iraq. More than 10 acres in size, the pit burned at all hours and consumed an estimated 100 to 200 tons of waste a day. It was hastily constructed upwind from the base, and its plumes consistently drifted toward the 25,000 troops stationed there.

During two deployments to Balad with the Minnesota Air National Guard, Amie Muller worked and lived next to the pits.

And now, she believes, she is paying the price.



LEGION SLAMS ‘MOUTHPIECE’ VET GROUPS OVER VA HEALTH CARE PLANS — MILCOM — Some of the country’s leading veterans’ service organizations are pressing lawmakers to defy lobbying efforts and legislation that they say will damage veterans’ health care.

In a letter to Congress on Monday morning, The American Legion urged lawmakers not to listen to veterans’ groups that are merely “mouthpieces” for organizations intent on privatizing Department of Veterans Affairs health care, a move that it says will spawn “a host of billion-dollar federal contractors, private medical enterprises and cottage-industry opportunists.”

Though the Legion does not identify the “mouthpieces,” it appears to be taking aim at Concerned Veterans for America, a Koch brothers-linked group that would have the VA overseen by a non-profit government organization while moving more veterans’ health care to the private sector.

Those recommendations, pitched by CVA last year, are included in draft legislation that prompted the Veterans of Foreign Wars to issue an action alert last week warning members that “Politicians, pundits and politically-motivated organizations are using the national crisis in access to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs as justification to dismantle and privatize the VA health care system, with some even proposing that veterans be charged for their service-connected care. The VFW says no!”



SOME VETERANS SUFFER EVEN THOUGH THEY DON’T MEET PTSD CRITERIA — REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN — At least one in five U.S. military veterans who have experienced trauma suffer from depression and similar symptoms, even though they do not meet all the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

That is according to a Yale University-led study published this month in the journal World Registry. The study examined 1,484 U.S. veterans and found that roughly 22 percent of veterans are at greatly elevated risk for depression, suicide or substance abuse, even though they haven’t met the PTSD criteria.

“You have a very large group of people who may be in need of treatment, but are often overlooked in clinical settings,” said Yale clinical psychologist Robert Pietrzak, director of the Translational Psychiatric Epidemiology Laboratory of the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD and senior author of the study.

Locally, there are people and organizations working to make sure veterans know how and where to get treatment for a variety of mental health issues related to their service, not just PTSD.



DON’T MESS WITH THE VETERANS COURT SYSTEM — LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL — In 2008, then-Gov. Jim Gibbons signed a bill creating veterans courts, intended to help veterans facing various misdemeanor charges. They began operating in 2011 in various municipal and justice courts.

But recently, the Clark County district attorney and Henderson city attorney have taken the position that the law gives only the District Courts the authority to hold such proceedings.

Respectfully, they are taking positions contrary to both the law and the intent of our Legislature.

I take this stand as a lawyer and former captain in the U.S. Army who has represented countless numbers of our men and women in uniform who have returned home from combat with emotional scars and trouble adapting to their civilian lives.

Nevada Revised Statute 176A.280 authorized the creation of a program for treatment of veterans and members of the military who have been arrested if they suffer from mental illness, alcohol, drug abuse or post traumatic stress disorder. These are common conditions faced by our veterans from all conflicts, including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and others.

The new law allowed certain veterans to have their criminal cases transferred to a comprehensive treatment program on a case-by-case basis. All participants in veterans courts are required to submit to random drug screens, attend regular counseling sessions and be intensively monitored by the presiding judge for both compliance and rehabilitation. The requirements are harsher than the requirements placed on defendants in almost all of our traditional courts.



BOISE’S VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL VANDALIZED — THE EAGLE — BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Authorities are investigating after Boise’s newly dedicated memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans was vandalized.

Police were at Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday after six medallions were removed from the granite memorial.

The medallions had represented the five branches of the military and the Vietnam Veterans of America. The president of the group’s Treasure Valley chapter, J.D. Poss, estimated the damage at more than $3,300.

Hundreds of people had attended the memorial’s dedication ceremony on May 30. The monument includes the names of 217 Idaho residents who died in Vietnam between 1961 and 1975.



TORCH LIGHTING, HONORING VIETNAM VETS KICKS OFF 2016 WARRIOR GAMES — AFRS — WEST POINT, N.Y. (AFRNS) — The 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games began here when Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, with help from comedian Jon Stewart, lit the official torch during the event’s opening ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy.

“Being selected to light the torch is as much an honor and privilege as competing for Team Army,” Elmlinger said. “Finishing my Warrior Games career as Team Army captain and lighting the torch at the opening ceremony is by far the most amazing experience. It’s humbling to see the support from the (U.S. Army) Warrior Transition Command throughout my time on Team Army, and I graciously thank them for allowing me to participate as torch bearer in this event.”

About 250 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and the United Kingdom armed forces will compete in shooting, archery, cycling, track and field, swimming, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball June 15-21.



WWII VETERANS JOIN IN VIETNAM ERA LAST MAN’S CLUB’S BANQUET — ST PETER HERALD — Howard Hermel and Jack Leverson looked around the American Legion hall on June 18 and Leverson said, “I don’t know many of these people here.”

Hermel and Leverson are two of the three remaining members of the St. Peter WWII Last Man’s Club. The pair were in a room full of younger veterans, holding the Vietnam Era Last Man’s Club’s banquet.

Banquet vice-chair Windy Block said the Vietnam era club started five years ago and it adopted the eight living members of the WWII club. Now, just three remain: Hermel, Leverson and Jim Miller.

In school, Leverson played tenor saxophone. The band played all up and down the coast, Leverson said. “We played in USO clubs,” he said. “At one place, there was more than 2,000 people. We were as good as any band they’ve got now.”

Leverson served in the Navy Air Corps for four years, beginning in 1942. He flew PBM and PBY flying boats or amphibious aircraft in the Atlantic.



93-YEAR-OLD VETERAN RECOGNIZES SELF IN 1938 TIME CAPSULE CLASS PHOTO — AP — STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — A nonagenarian says he was one of the middle school students pictured in a photo found in a time capsule that had been buried for more than 70 years in northeast Ohio.

Strongsville City Schools on Friday said demolition crews dug up a time capsule from 1938 at Center Middle School, about 15 miles southwest of Cleveland.

Rodney Wheller tells WJW-TV his daughter-in-law called him and said a picture with him and all his classmates had been unearthed.

The 93-year-old suburban Cleveland man says he remembers many of his old classmates from the Class of 1940, but lost track of a lot of them after joining the U.S. Army and fighting in World War II.



ITALIAN MAN TO REUNITE WENDELL VETERAN WITH HIS WWII ‘DOG TAGS’ — NEWS & OBSERVER — WENDELL

A metal detector find by an Italian man with an interest in World War II will reunite a Wendell native with the dog tags he lost while serving overseas more than 70 years ago.

Jury Galli searches beach areas near his home in Pisa, about 50 miles west of Florence on the northwest coast of Italy, for artifacts from the war. He has found several sets of servicemen’s “dog tags” with his metal detector, but he has only been able to connect with one owner – Bennie Howard Jr., a Wendell native who now lives in New Bern.

Galli noticed “Wendell” imprinted on the metal tags Howard wore around his neck so he could easily be identified if he fell during the war. Galli correctly deduced that it was the name of a town and contacted Wendell on Facebook.

He talked with Wendell town planner Patrick Reidy who was able to track down Howard in New Bern, where Howard retired.



VA WATCHDOG FINDS HUNDREDS OF APPOINTMENT AND WAIT TIMES INCORRECTLY RECORDED — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — A Veterans Affairs watchdog reported Monday that a Houston, Texas VA Medical Center incorrectly recorded hundreds of appointments and wait times.

An anonymous allegation alerted the Inspector General that leading staff members at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and its associated Community Based Outpatient Clinics were instructing staff to record clinic cancellations as patient cancellations.

It was found that two previous scheduling supervisors and one current director of outpatient clinics were the ones to instruct the staff to record clinic cancellations in this way.

Two hundred twenty-three appointments were recorded incorrectly from July 2014 to June 2015.

Staff rescheduled 42 percent of these appointments beyond 30 days. The average wait time for a rescheduled visit was 81 days, which is 78 days longer than the data shown in the scheduling system.

The VA watchdog found similar issues at this clinic during an inspection in May and June of 2014. According to the Inspector General, the problems persisted due to a “lack of effective training and oversight”.

The Inspector General recommends that the clinic provide staff training, improve scheduling for the inspection of employee practices, and take action when these inspections find shortcomings.



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