American Veteran News 07.02.16

HOMELESS VETERAN RECEIVES HONOR YEARS AFTER DEATH — VALLEY STAR — RAYMONDVILLE — For years, no one in town knew Kent Karl Kauten’s real name.

They just knew him as Gregory, a bearded homeless man who pushed a shopping cart along the streets.

Then, three years ago, upon his death, some of the mystery behind his life began unraveling.

When it turned out Kauten was a Navy veteran, this heavily Mexican-American community gave him a full military burial.

Today, veterans will unveil a granite stone at his grave in a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Raymondville Memorial Park.

“It’s exhilarating but there’s sadness because of his demise,” said George Solis, Precinct 2’s justice of the peace who serves as commander of the local American Legion post.

104-YEAR-OLD VET PLANNING PEARL HARBOR ANNIVERSARY VISIT — SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — On Monday afternoon, America’s oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran, 104-year-old Ray Chavez, will ride as a VIP guest in Rancho Bernardo’s “Spirit of the Fourth” parade.

But it’s another ride in December that the Navy veteran from Poway said he’s most looking forward to. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and — with the hope of continued good health and the help of supportive donors — Chavez will fly back to Hawaii for the commemoration.

The Rotary Club of Poway-Scripps and Personally Fit, the Rancho Bernardo gym where Chavez works out twice a week, are raising money to send Chavez and other local Pearl Harbor vets to Oahu for the anniversary. The “Pearl Flight” campaign will kick off Monday at the “Spirit of the Fourth” community fair, where the Rotary club will be hosting a booth.

Club president Pauline Getz said she’d be “tickled purple and pink” if she could raise $20,000 for the project. She said there are about 18 or 19 Pearl Harbor veterans in San Diego County, but only about six who are well enough to travel. So far, three veterans, including Chavez, have expressed an interest in traveling. Because of their age and fragile health, Getz said each man will be invited to travel with a caregiver on first-class, refundable tickets.

“I think it’s important to do this because it’s important to them,” Getz said. “It’s a recognition of their service in one of the most horrific things that ever happened on American soil. When you care about other people, you care about helping them do things that are fulfilling to them.”

ALABAMA VETERAN FINALLY GETTING MEDAL FOR WWII SERVICE — AP — ATHENS, Ala. — More than 70 years after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, a north Alabama veteran will receive a long-awaited honor.

On Saturday morning at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives, Pfc. Robert L. Thompson will be awarded the Bronze Star. Thompson earned the medal by virtue of having been an infantryman during World War II, but never received it.

Presenting the medal will be Albert J. Fitzgerald, civilian aide to the Army secretary. The Huntsville-based Patriot Support Corps will act as color guard and will be dressed in WWII-era uniforms.

Ed Kennedy, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has been working behind the scenes to ensure Thompson’s service to his country doesn’t go unrecognized. Kennedy became familiar with Thompson’s story through his neighbor, who is Thompson’s nephew. Kennedy was interested in learning more about Thompson’s military history, so the neighbor provided Kennedy with a copy of Thompson’s discharge records. Those records indicated a number of medals and awards for Thompson, but not acceptance of the Bronze Star.

A TOXIC LEGACY: HAS AGENT ORANGE HURT THE CHILDREN OF VIETNAM VETS? — PRO PUBLICA — On June 30 at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Barbara Jordan Conference Center, ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot are pleased to host a convening of Vietnam veterans and their children, medical experts, attorneys and other guests to explore common health conditions in the descendants of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange; the scant research on those conditions; and, if there is a link to the toxic herbicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ responsibility in caring for impacted children and grandchildren of veterans. After the discussion, Virginian-Pilot and ProPublica reporters will record interviews with veterans and their children as part of their joint investigation on the subject.

WHAT IS TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AND WHAT DOES IT DO? — CALIFORNIAN — In this column I would like to discuss the topic of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): What it is, how it can happen, who it happens to, and other related topics. Additionally, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced a change that I would like to cover as well.

TBIs may result from a blow or jolt to the head or when an object penetrates the brain, and can cause a change in consciousness, feeling disoriented or confused, and in some situations, coma. A person may also suffer some memory loss surrounding the time immediately before or after the TBI-causing event. Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI.

TBIs can result from an object striking the head (such as a bat while playing ball or the dashboard or steering wheel during a car accident); veterans commonly get TBIs when shrapnel from nearby blasts or explosions hit them.

With regard to the frequency of TBIs, males generally outnumber females by a 2:1 margin. TBIs can occur rather frequently to military members in blast injuries suffered during active combat.

The severity of a TBI ranges from mild (e.g., a brief disorientation or loss of consciousness; a.k.a. a concussion) to severe (e.g., an extended loss of consciousness or penetrating brain injury); it’s determined at the time of injury and is based on:

    Length of the loss of consciousness
    Length of memory loss or disorientation
    The individual’s responsiveness following the injury (i.e., whether they can follow commands)

TBIs cause many difficulties, including changes in behavior as well as physical and mental abilities. TBI side effects include headaches, dizziness, problems walking, fatigue, irritability, memory problems, and trouble paying attention and concentrating; these changes often relate to the severity of the injury.

VA OPPOSES BILL AIMED AT HELPING VETS IN MUSTARD GAS EXPERIMENTS — THE HILL — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pushed back Wednesday against a proposal aimed at making it easier for World War II veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas in U.S. military experiments to get medical benefits.

The VA argues that the plan could unintentionally expand coverage to all WWII veterans.

“We fully support delivering benefits to veterans and survivors as quickly as possible,” David McLenachen, deputy undersecretary for disability assistance, told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

But he said the bill at issue “would create presumption of full-bodied mustard gas exposure and resulting service connection for every World War II veteran who files a claim for related disability benefits.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) issued a report earlier this year saying that veterans exposed to mustard gas by the U.S. have been unfairly denied benefits and introduced legislation to combat the issue.

Her bill would mandate a review of previously denied claims, lower the bar to get the benefits, revamp the VA’s application and adjudication process and mandate an investigation by the VA and Pentagon to determine what went wrong with the process.

Specifically, the bill would mandate that during the review of previous claims, the VA must presume a veteran was exposed to mustard gas until proved otherwise.

During World War II, the military exposed about 60,000 service members to mustard gas and another chemical agent called lewisite in an effort to test protective equipment. The classified tests were unsealed in 1975.

VA FIRES FIRST NEGLIGENT OFFICIALS IN 18 MONTHS — WEEKLY STANDARD — The Department of Veterans’ Affairs fired three senior officials from the Phoenix VA health care system Wednesday, marking the first dismissals linked to the mismanagement in Arizona since the system’s director was ousted in November 2014.

Associate director Lance Robinson, chief of Health Administration Service Brad Curry, and hospital chief of staff Dr. Darren Deering were all removed for negligent performance and failure to provide effective oversight for properly scheduled appointments, according to a news release from the department.

“We have an obligation to Veterans and the American people to take appropriate accountability actions as supported by evidence,” Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said. “While this process took far too long, the evidence supports these removals and sets the stage for moving forward.”

The VA proposed the staffers’ termination in March, and Wednesday’s announcement formalized the dismissals.

LAWMAKERS PUSH VETERANS AFFAIRS TO REEVALUATE CONTRACTS FOR MEDICAL DISABILITY EXAMINATIONS — PR NEWSWIRE — Veterans Evaluation Services (VES), a national and international provider of medical disability examination (MDE) services for veterans, announced that U.S. lawmakers have called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reevaluate contracts that lack proper competition, which could slow down the delivery of disability benefits for veterans.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) individually wrote to the VA to highlight that several recently awarded contracts, which were to be made to two separate companies to ensure competition, were actually awarded to QTC and VetFed, which are “essentially one entity,” Flores wrote.

VA awarded 12 contracts in March, totaling $6.8 billion for the enterprise-wide Medical Disability Examination Program under its Public Law 104-275, aiming for a major step forward in improving the disability examinations experience for veterans. Two firms in each district would be awarded these contracts and each would receive a guaranteed 35 percent of the MDEs in that district. QTC and VetFed received the majority of the awards, though VetFed refers its evaluations to QTC, negating competition, Poe wrote in his letter. QTC is a unit of Lockheed Martin.

SEEBEES BUILD FOR DISABLED SAILOR — JACKSONVILLE.COM — Nine Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 Detachment answered the call for help from a retired sailor in his time of need.

C.J. Bagocius, a former U.S. Navy airman, needed help getting in and out of his home, and the Seabees, along with Home Depot and volunteers from HandsOn Jacksonville, stepped up.

“I have the utmost appreciation and give thanks to everyone involved in this project,” Bagocius said. “It has bettered my life in ways I cannot explain.”

The Seabees took down an existing wheelchair ramp, built another one and a deck and boardwalk. They also constructed concrete sidewalks from the ramp to the driveway. The previous walkways were made of dirt and made it difficult for the wheelchair-confined vet to get in and out of his home.

WASHINGTON FLUMMOXED OVER FEDERAL CONFEDERATE FLAG DISPLAYS — WSOC — WASHINGTON — A year after South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds, official Washington is struggling with further restrictions on the flag’s display on federal property, including in the U.S. Capitol complex.

The National Park Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army have longstanding guidelines for its cemeteries that permit display of the Confederate flag one or two days a year. This is particularly true in Southern states that celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, giving descendants of Southern soldiers the chance to use the flag to commemorate their ancestors.

Last week, Republicans quietly dumped a provision preventing the flag from being flown over mass graves of Confederate soldiers from broader legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs. Flag displays would still have been allowed over the graves of individual soldiers.

The move angered Democrats, especially since both House Republicans and Democrats had voted in May for the provision. Further complicating the issue is that the flag provision had been combined with an overall bill to fund the fight against the Zika virus.

“Republicans even used this … listen to this one — to block the prohibition of Confederate flags on federal facilities,” said top Senate Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada.

TRANSGENDER SAN ANTONIO VETERANS HOPE FOR MORE BENEFITS — KENS — The Pentagon has lifted the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the military and announced that it will pay for current members of the armed forces to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

In San Antonio, Military City USA, transgender veterans hope the ruling will mean more medical benefits for them.

Antonia Celeste Padilla is still legally a man, but her Department of Veterans Affairs ID card identifies her as a woman.

Padilla joined the U.S. Air Force in 1978.

“I joined primarily because I was an Air Force brat,” Padilla said. “My dad had been a lifer in the military and I thought, ‘Hey, this will be a good thing for me to do because it will make a man out of me.’”

After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, being stationed at Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico, and another four years, she felt like she didn’t fit in. Padilla left the military and started her transition in her mid-40s.

In her day, being openly transgender in the military would have meant being discharged. She’s grateful that a younger generation of transgender Americans don’t have to sacrifice a military career for their gender identity.

NAVY VET DEFRAUDS VA, SAYS GOVERNMENT ‘WRONGED HIM’ — LAGNIAPPE — A Navy veteran told investigators he believed the “U.S. government had wronged” him when asked why he had taken thousands of dollars in undue compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Arthur McCants, III, a 68-year-old resident of Eight Mile, was convicted and sentenced recently for what authorities described as a four-year scheme to “pad” his travel voucher claim forms in order to claim undue mileage.

McCants, who served in the U.S. Navy as a communications officer from 1972-1977, was officially charged and convicted of theft of government funds. As a veteran, McCants is entitled to travel benefits during his visits to the Veterans Health Administration.

However, federal prosecutors say McCants used a fake address to falsely claim $43,580.34 in additional mileage compensation, filing nearly 1,000 fictitious travel claims between January 3, 2011 and January 9, 2015.

According to McCants’ statements to authorities, “he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he felt that the U.S. Government had wronged him, also.”

THE BRAVEST CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR — UNDER THE RADAR — Desmond Doss was the only American soldier in World War II to fight on the front lines without a weapon. A devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss was granted conscientious objector status but still served as an Army medic for the 77th Infantry Division.

During fighting on Okinawa on May 5, 1945, Doss and 75 wounded men were trapped on top of the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment. Doss ignored bursts of shells and artillery fire and tended to his injured comrades, lowering wounded soldiers carefully with ropes to the base of the escarpment. During the battle, he was wounded by a grenade and hit by snipers. For his bravery, Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge tells the Desmond Doss in a new movie starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Mel Gibson. It’s due in theaters on November 4th and we’ve got the first look at the movie’s poster.

We’ll have more coverage of the movie as the release date gets closer.

OPTIONS FOR MISSED VA LOAN PAYMENTS — MILCOM — Most of us are familiar with the VA loan, which offers great terms and benefits for past and present members of the military. The loan doesn’t require a down payment, doesn’t tack on mortgage insurance and keeps closing costs low. There are many other benefits too, and it’s a great resource for members of the military who want to purchase a home. What’s discussed less frequently are the steps that homeowners should take when they have difficulty repaying their VA loans. That’s what we’re talking about today, in collaboration with episode 4 of the Hope Now military podcast series.

NSA MID-SOUTH CHIEF PETTY OFFICERS COMMEMORATE THE VIETNAM WAR, HONOR VETERANS — US NAVY — MEMPHIS, Tenn. (NNS) — The Chief Petty Officer Association of Naval Support Activity (NSA) held a Vietnam War commemoration ceremony at Overton Park Veterans Plaza in Memphis, Tenn., June 30.

“This is our small way of thanking and honoring veterans of the Vietnam War, including those who were prisoners of war, missing in action, and killed in action,” said NSA Mid-South Command Master Chief Marilyn Kennard.

“While we honor and remember those who never came home, we are forever grateful for the contributions of those who did,” she added. “So many who returned from the Vietnam War continued to serve their nation through supporting each other and future generations of American veterans. Their lasting impact on veteran care and support is something all of us in uniform are grateful for today.”

‘LOW HANGING FRUIT’ BRINGS STORY OF HOMELESS FEMALE VETERANS TO THE STAGE — HOODLINE — Robin Bradford first learned about homeless women veterans in 2012 when she stumbled across a Huffington Post article. According to the article, the number of homeless women veterans had more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, rising from 1,380 to 3,328 individuals. Bradford was “disgusted,” learning that the increase in the number of women veterans experiencing homelessness was nearly 100 percent higher than the increase seen in their male peers. “I just found that very shameful,” said Bradford.

In 2013, driven by her new-found awareness on this alarming trend, and her subsequent research, Bradford, an award-winning writer, director, and producer, wrote the play Low Hanging Fruit. The performance — directed by Louis Parnell and presented by 3Girls Theatre Company — portrays the lives of four homeless women veterans struggling to survive on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

MEMORIAL STONE HONORS DESERT STORM VETS — MY GUIDON — It took 25 years, but the veterans of Desert Storm were recognized with a stone reflecting that conflict during a ceremony in Memorial Grove Friday.

The monument, one of several marking the contributions of Soldiers in various conflicts supported by Army engineer, chemical and military police service members, is the latest addition to the grove.

“We were honored to provide a ceremony that reflected the respect we hold for our veterans who carried the torch during an era that brought our might in the Persian Gulf,” said Lt. Col. Jacqueline Reini, 5th Engineer Battalion commander.

“The victory in 1991 was won and carried on the backs of great Americans who deserve nothing but the best we can deliver when we honor them,” Reini said.

A GENERATION OF VETERANS IS OUT OF THE MILITARY AND LOOKING FOR WORK — SEATTLE TIMES — AS MOST OF US got ready for bed on the night of March 19, 2003, Nicole Gadson got ready for war.

Halfway around the world in Kuwait, Gadson was at the wheel of a Humvee as part of the Stryker Brigade combat team that would soon lead the invasion of neighboring Iraq to topple the government of Saddam Hussein.

It was a strange turn of events for the New York City native, who now lives in Snohomish County.

After growing disenchanted with studying accounting in college, Gadson signed up for the Army in January 2001. On the morning of Sept. 11 that year, she was half asleep in physical training on base in Pierce County when news came about the terror attack on the World Trade Center back home.

Watching events unfold on a TV in the gym, she thought of friends and family who might be in harm’s way in New York.

And she realized one other thing.

“I knew we were going to war,” Gadson says.

SOLDIER HELPED LIBERATE LUXEMBOURG — HERALD TRIBUNE — Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Ernie Jelinek of Three Oaks, Michigan, was drafted in the Army at age 21. He was assigned to the 5th Armored Division, 10th Tank Battalion and was part of General Patton’s “Ghosts.” Jelinek participated in the Battle of the Bulge, landed on Utah Beach, and helped liberate Luxembourg during World War II. Now 96 and a retired Army captain and dairy farmer, Jelinek lives in Sarasota’s Bent Tree Golf and Country Club.

‘I was involved in the D-Day invasion as part of the force that landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, and I fought until the capture of Berlin in May 1945. I also took part in the Battle of the Bulge. My battalion entered the battle with 54 tanks but, in 5½ days, we were down to just five tanks. We were sleeping in foxholes and anything we could find. The weather was cold and we were sleeping in sleeping bags.

Then, I was 24 and an Army captain when I was involved in the liberation of Luxembourg from the Germans. It was four years since they had their own rule. When they saw the American tanks rolling into the capital city, they were as happy as they could be. They were handing us bottles of wine as we were coming through town and some of them were holding American flags. It was just a grand finale. It was indescribable.

COMMUNITY GATHERS AT UNCLAIMED VETERAN’S FUNERAL — KTTS — When word got out that a Vietnam veteran was going to be laid to rest in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery – Fort Leonard Wood without any Family present, the Fort Leonard Wood community rallied and became his extended Family to pay tribute and honors to their fallen comrade June 29.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class James Matisheck recently passed away at the Rolla Manor Care Center in Rolla, Missouri, and repeated attempts to contact his Family resulted in no response, but the community stepped up and became his “Family.”

It turned out that Matisheck’s Family is considerably larger than one might suspect as it was standing room only in the committal service shelter during his funeral service. There were Soldiers, veterans and community members in attendance. Most in attendance did not even know his name. That did not matter.

Matisheck served in the United States Army from the fall of 1965 to the summer of 1988. Several attempts were made by the Pulaski County Administrator Loretta Rouse to contact Matisheck’s Family but she was never able to get a response. Rouse had to move ahead with making arrangements for Matisheck’s funeral service.


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