American Veteran News 07.19.16

VIETNAM VET WHO RESCUED DOZENS OF US SOLDIERS AWARDED MEDAL OF HONOR — FOX NEWS — Nearly five decades after helping rescue dozens of American soldiers pinned down by enemy fire, a Vietnam War veteran received the nation’s highest military honor for valor on Monday.

Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles of Ypsilanti, Michigan during a ceremony Monday at the White House.

Kettles led helicopter flights carrying reinforcements to U.S. soldiers and evacuated the wounded after they were ambushed in combat operations near Duc Pho in May 1967. Describing how one soldier hung on to a damaged helicopter’s skid, President Obama said you “couldn’t make this up. It’s like a bad Rambo movie.”

Kettles repeatedly returned to a landing zone under heavy fire. He is credited with helping to save 40 soldiers and four members of his unit. During the final evacuation effort, he was advised that eight soldiers had been unable to reach the helicopters, so he returned without benefit of artillery or tactical aircraft support.

The Army said his helicopter was hit by a mortar round that damaged the main rotor blade and shattered both front windshields. Small arms and machine gun fire also raked the helicopter.

A RHODE ISLAND VETERAN’S EXPERIENCE WITH THE CAMP LEJEUNE WATER POLLUTION CRISIS — PROVIDENCE JOURNAL — The Department of Veterans Affairs has determined that several medical conditions are linked to service at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from 1953 to 1987, and veterans with these diseases who were stationed at the sprawling Marine Corps base are eligible for disability compensation.

These diseases, including kidney and liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease and aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes and others are service-connected to consuming and bathing in contaminated drinking water at the Marine base.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said research by health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the risk of developing these illnesses is elevated by exposure to contaminants found in the water at Lejeune, including perchloroethylene, trichlorotheylene, benzene and other volatile organic compounds.

Mike Zannelli, a retired U.S. Marine 1st Sgt. and Greenville resident, recently contacted this column and wanted to share his experiences with the Camp Lejeune water contamination matter and what Marine and VA officials have been developing as a resolution.

Zannelli believes he is one of the first in Rhode Island connected with this case to have completed action necessary for him and his wife to be recognized and supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially in covering medical expenses for her breast cancer. He wishes to share this information with any other veterans or their dependents similarly affected by this crisis who resided on the Camp Lejeune base between 1953 and 1987.

PREVALENCE OF SLEEP DISORDERS AMONG U.S. MILITARY VETERANS ON THE RISE — NATURE WORLD NEWS — A new study revealed that the age-adjusted prevalence of any sleep disorder diagnosis among U.S. military veterans have risen by 600 percent over an 11-year period.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that the age-adjusted prevalence of sleep disorder among U.S. veterans have increase to nearly 6 percent in 2010 from the less than 1 percent in 2000.

For the study, the researchers analyzed a total sample of 9,786,778 veterans seeking care in the Veterans Health Administration system between 2000 and 2010. The researchers accessed the national Veterans Administration Informatics and Computing Infrastructure database for the electronic medical records of the veterans. The then defined the cases using diagnostic codes specified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Among those, 751,502 were diagnosed with at least one sleep disorder. The researchers summarized age-adjusted annual prevalence by sex, race, combat exposure, body mass index, and comorbid diagnoses.

Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder to be diagnosed, with 47 percent of the study sample, followed by insomnia with 26 percent.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when an individual experiences one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These breathing pauses may last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 times or more within an hour.

MORE VETS GET ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT FOR PTSD, BUT NOT ALWAYS EVIDENCE-BASED — NEW ENGLAND PUBLIC RADIO — The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 30 percent of former service members — from the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan — have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They don’t all seek treatment, but among those who do, the VA says 20 to 40 percent don’t get better with the standard regimen of therapy, medication, or both. Increasingly veterans are seeking out alternative mental health care — and much of it untested.

At Soldier On in Pittsfield, Massachusetts — a transitional housing organization for veterans — director Jack Downing has seen hundreds of clients cycle in and out of homelessness, depression, substance abuse and other effects of trauma.

Soldier On offers psychotherapy and anti-depressants to deal with PTSD — the nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety — but Downing says many chronically ill vets don’t stick with the treatment.

“Much of what we do medically just doesn’t work,” Downing says. “We keep doing these things because we don’t know what else to do. As a result of that, we were looking for alternatives that would work.”

SHOULD VETERANS BOYCOTT ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’? — UNDER THE RADAR — We raised questions about the portrayal of veterans in the hit Netflix show Orange in the New Black right after the new season premiered last month. Last week, Air Force veteran Tahlia Burton published a scathing op-ed over at Task & Purpose that called out the show for making the new veteran correctional officers this season’s bad guys.

Veterans groups have been quick to agree with Burton’s assessment. An Associated Press article about the controversy lists responses from several prominent organizations:

MARINE VETERAN WANTS TO CORRECT SPELLING ERROR SET IN STONE — AP — ATHENS, Ala. — Skip Ferguson, a retired U.S. Marine and commandant of the local Marine Corps League, won approval earlier this month to place two new monuments on the Limestone County Courthouse lawn, but he also hopes to fix an existing monument.

The new monuments will recognize the county’s honored dead who fell in combat in Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ferguson has launched a fundraising campaign to garner the $800 to $1,000 needed to pay for them.

But Ferguson has another project on his to-do list: Correcting a spelling error on the nearby Vietnam War monument and adding the names of five fallen servicemen missing from the monument.

The monument lists the names of 19 Limestone County residents who were casualties in the Vietnam War and incorrectly spells Vietnam as “VIEINAM.”

WWII VET STILL TEACHING POOL SAFETY TO KIDS — SPARTANSBURG HERALD-JOURNAL — As the summer sun beat down, Bob Justice took a few steps forward, then hopped into the pool Friday afternoon.

He went under water and simulated the maneuvers used to rescue a person who’s drowning. He’ll be renewing his two-year lifeguard certification soon.

This August will mark Justice’s 15th year hosting a free children’s swim camp at the Spartanburg Shrine Club pool, but it will also mark another milestone.

He’s turning 90.

“COMPLEMENTARY AND INTEGRATIVE HEALTH” AT THE VA: INTEGRATING PSEUDOSCIENCE INTO THE CARE OF VETERANS — SCIENCE-BASED MEDICINE — Today’s topic is the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and its embrace of pseudoscience. VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide care for over 8 million veterans, ranging from the dwindling number of World War II and Korean War veterans to soldiers coming home now from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although there have been problems over the years with VAMCs and the quality of care they provide, including a recent scandal over hiding veterans’ inability to get timely doctor’s appointments at VAMCs, a concerted effort to improve that quality of care over the last couple of decades has yielded fruit so that today the quality of care in VA facilities compares favorably to the private sector. Unfortunately, like the private sector, the VA is also embracing alternative medicine in the form of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or, as its proponents like to call it these days, “integrative medicine,” in order to put a happy label on the “integration” of pseudoscience and quackery with conventional medicine.

Of course, I (and others at SBM) have discussed the intrusion of woo into the military before. For instance, a post I wrote in SBM’s first year of existence discussed Col. (Dr.) Richard Niemtzow, a radiation oncologist by training but also one of the Department of Defense doctors trained as certified acupuncturists, and his advocacy for “battlefield acupuncture.” The form of acupuncture that Col. Niemtzow advocated was auricular acupuncture, which involves inserting tiny needles into the ear and leaving them there until they fall out. He even pioneered a program to train physicians in “battlefield acupuncture” and deploying them to combat zones. Not surprisingly, the evidence base cited in support of such a program was—how do I put this?—underwhelming, but that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the idea and other alternative medicine in the military. Given that my last post on battlefield acupuncture was in 2009, I thought I’d take a look again at the infiltration of “integrative medicine,” including battlefield acupuncture, into the military and the VHA. Unfortunately, unlike Clay Jones’ satirical—or…is it?—piece about robotic acupuncture, this is no joke. It’s really happening.

VETERAN OWNED, OPERATED AND 100% AMERICAN MADE FLAGS — FOX NEWS — In the spirit of patriotism, convention-goers can buy wooden flags handcrafted by combat veterans at the 2016 Republican National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio.

Flags of Valor—a veteran owned and operated company—is one of 22 vendors showcasing their product at this week’s event.

Air Force veteran and President of Flags of Valor Brian Steorts said he got the idea for the company after being injured while deployed. He joined the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo to share his story.

“I went to a rehabilitation program and I didn’t wear my uniform anymore, I’m used to having my flag on my shoulder and so it kind of upset me,” Steorts said. “There was a flag that I found that was actually a beautiful flag, but it wasn’t made in the United States, and so for therapeutic reasons I started making my own and I wanted to make it all with materials made in America.”

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR SIGNS LAW EXPANDING VETERANS DRIVER’S LICENSE DESIGNATION — TIMES-WEEKLY — At the 98th Annual American Legion Department of Illinois Convention in Springfield this week, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2173 to allow National Guard members and reservists to obtain the veteran identifier on their Illinois driver’s license.

The law will take effect immediately.

“Some National Guard members and reservists were concerned when they learned that they did not meet the requirements to receive the veteran identifier on their driver’s license,” said Governor Rauner. “This bill rights that wrong and ensures that they receive the same benefit as active duty veterans, as they, too, have served and worked to protect our freedoms.”

In 2015, the Secretary of State implemented a new law that allowed individuals to have a veteran identifier added to their driver’s license to offer a form of tangible recognition for their service to this country.

MARINE VETERAN HONORS SLAIN POLICE OFFICERS WITH TAPS — T&P — Watch this Marine veteran honor the fallen Baton Rouge officers with Taps.

In the wake of the July 17 shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that left three officers dead and three wounded, a Marine veteran took a moment to honor the fallen officers in a familiar way: by playing Taps.

Duane LeBlanc, a former member of the Marine Corps band, performed this service numerous times before, but this time he was in his front yard, just blocks from where the shooting occurred. Taps is a military bugle call played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and military funerals. According to The Advocate, LeBlanc, a band director at a local school, wanted to “clear his mind” and honor the slain officers after a “surreal” day.

Related: Slain Officer’s Facebook Post: ‘Please Don’t Let Hate Infect Your Heart’ »

After capturing the solemn moment, his wife posted the video to Facebook. Watch it below.

COUPLES LOOK FOR WAYS TO HEAL RELATIONSHIPS, PSYCHOLOGICAL WOUNDS OF WAR AT VIRGINIA RETREAT — stars & stripes — MIDDLEBURG, Va. — They drove or flew here. Some fought along the way, as they do.

Then, the awkward first meeting. Smiles, shifting uncomfortably.

Six couples if you include Adrian and Diana Veseth-Nelson, mentors here to show the others that there is hope. Lucas Lewis is busy, brusque. David Inglish is chatty, finding smoking buddies on the stoop. The two men know each other — and Adrian — intimately. They were at war together.

The rest are mostly strangers. The women attempt to hide their nervousness and keep their secrets — we sleep in separate bedrooms; he no longer lives at home. They wonder whether anyone else is waiting for their partner’s mercury to rise.

They are all here, at this Virginia retreat, to heal. Or to try. Or to do something. Because anything is better than what they have now — one partner traumatized by war, the other overwhelmed by how much falls on them and how little they understand.

“It’s your experience here, nobody else’s,” social worker David Shoots tells the couples in the first session. “The only thing I ask from you: If you are not yet on the road, get on it now. The road is called recovery.”

SERVICE DOGS ‘LIFE-CHANGING’ FOR PENNSYLVANIA VETERANS — WESA — For about a decade after he retired from 26 years of service in the U.S. Army in 2006, Larry Debar didn’t think he needed a service dog to help him in his civilian life in Homer City.

“I thought the dog would benefit someone else other than me,” Debar said.

But seeing a working dog in action on a trip to Florida earlier this year started to change Debar’s mind. At the urging of his wife, Holly, he soon dropped off an application for a free service dog through the Guardian Angels nonprofit program in Williston, Fla.

“It wasn’t but maybe a month or so — it might’ve been sooner — I have a phone call that said I was qualified,” Debar said. “Happiest day of my life.”

Debar is one of six Pennsylvania veterans to receive a free service dog – his, a German Shepherd Dog named Shiloh – from Guardian Angels this year as a result of local fundraising efforts by Veterans Cable Services, Inc. and the Pittsburgh Foundation.

VETERANS SPEAK OUT ABOUT VA PROBLEMS — UNION LEADER — COLEBROOK — Plagued by delays in scheduling visits and paying third-party care providers, the Veterans Choice program is not working as intended, and that failure, as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Veterans Administration officials heard recently, is not being well-received in the North Country.

Part of the 2014 VA reform bill, Veterans Choice was supposed to be a boon for Granite State veterans, especially those who live far from the VA facilities in Manchester and White River Junction, Vt., because it would allow them to receive medical care locally with the VA picking up the cost.

But due to red tape and bureaucracy, Veterans Choice hasn’t always lived up to its promise, and on Friday, during a town-hall meeting at the Indian Stream Health Center here, a standing-room only audience of veterans and their family members let Shaheen and Alfred Montoya, the interim medical director of the White River Junction VA Medical Center, know it in no uncertain terms.

THE INGREDIENTS FOR A POWERFUL ONLINE PROFILE — MILCOM — Social networking follows many of the same principles as in-person networking: Our goal is to be seen as authentic, interesting, approachable, relevant, and engaging. Being visible, findable and active on social networking platforms is about more than setting up a profile and waiting for the phone to ring. A powerful online profile requires thought, focus and maintenance to remain useful.

Your social networking profiles should reflect your experience, interests, career goals, and authentic self. As someone in a military-to-civilian transition, your goal is to make yourself findable and relevant to target audiences online. When creating your online profile, pay attention to:


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