American Veteran News 08.01.16

US DOD GRANTS $11.5M TO STUDY LUNG DISEASES IN MIDDLE EAST WAR VETS — LDN — Thanks to $11.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Defense, researchers from the National Jewish Health respiratory treatment center in Denver will study why veterans who were deployed to the Middle East (Southwest Asia) experience increased rates of lung disease; and they will test potential treatments.

The contributions, through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, will study 100 of the veterans with lung disease.

“Warfighters deployed to Southwest Asia suffer a baffling array of lung diseases at almost twice the rate of veterans deployed elsewhere,” Dr. Greg Downey, principal investigator and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health, said in a news release. “We will combine clinical information and biological samples from previously deployed veterans with cell culture and animal studies to evaluate how two distinct biological pathways may contribute to lung disease. We will also test experimental medications that target the two pathways.”

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who raised awareness about the research at National Jewish Health, said he could think of no organization more deserving of the funding or better equipped to conduct the studies.

WWII VETERANS SEEK PRESIDENTIAL HONOR — WITH HELP FROM IRAQ VETS — S&S — More than 70 years after North Carolina National Guard members returned from World War II, surviving veterans are hoping their unit can still get a presidential honor for its heroism and sacrifices.

The 30th Infantry Division, known as “Old Hickory,” included National Guardsmen from North Carolina and several other states. It was among eight divisions recommended in 1946 for the Presidential Unit Citation. But the citation was never awarded, thanks to what’s been described as a “paperwork logjam.”

Now the veterans are trying once more, with help from a much younger generation: Iraq War veterans who now lead the 30th Infantry Division Association, which held its 70th annual reunion this weekend in Raleigh.

HISTORIAN RACES AGAINST TIME TO LEARN ABOUT MAINE WWII SOLDIERS BURIED IN BELGIUM — BANGOR DAILY NEWS — A New Hampshire mom and avid historian is hoping that people in the Pine Tree State can help her win what she calls a race against time to learn as much as possible about the 54 World War II soldiers from Maine who are buried or memorialized at an American cemetery in Belgium.

“It’s a big undertaking,” Aimee Fogg of Gilford, New Hampshire, said Friday of the project to document the Maine soldiers. “When I do find family members, a lot of the time the families don’t even know who these men are. I’m dealing with the second generation now, and they’re trying their best to help me based on the memories of what they’d been told. Sometimes when I do locate a widow or a sister, I have to deal with the effects of time on their memories. And when I do find families, I’m quite ecstatic. I often tell them that no detail is insignificant.”

NEW HOPE OF FINDING VIETNAM WAR PILOT’S BURIAL SITE — WATERLOO-CEDAR FALLS COURIER, IOWA — (Tribune News Service) — Nancy Whitford Eger was 11 when her father, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lawrence William Whitford Jr. of Cedar Falls, a reconnaissance pilot, went missing in action over Laos during the Vietnam War on Nov. 2, 1969.

Nearly a half century later, she has received word her father’s crash and burial sites may have been discovered. She is the only surviving family member. Her brother, mother and grandparents and an uncle are deceased. Her grandfather, L.W. “Mon” Whitford, was a longtime University of Northern Iowa baseball coach.

The answers she’s been waiting decades for now seem so close, yet so far. A couple of challenges remain: cooperation with the Laotian government and funding for the military agency charged with finding his remains, along with several hundred Americans still missing in Laos.

A breakthough may be possible. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Laos in September.

COLO. NONPROFIT HELPS VETERANS HEAL WHILE ASSISTING DISABLED PEOPLE — The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) — The suicides started two years after Erin Dreis’ unit returned home from Afghanistan.

The South Dakota National Guard 200th Engineer Company lost Jake Longbrake in May 2014, and Benjamin Kraft – who was on the firing team Dreis led – died six months later. Dreis also lost a close friend in the following few months.

She became reckless.

“I isolated myself, desperately wanted to deploy again in hopes that I could feel like I belonged and that I was understood,” Dreis said. “I felt like my life was slipping through my fingers.”

Dreis is a board member for a new nonprofit, Peace of Adventure, that’s meant to give veterans renewed purpose and a team of support. The organization pairs them with disabled civilians and sends them on nature expeditions. Veterans are tasked with keeping their civilians safe, while the civilians rise above their disabilities.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 military veterans commit suicide each day.

“Until that number is zero, I don’t think we’re doing enough,” said Kyle Thomas, Peace of Adventure executive director.

AGING PUERTO RICAN VETERANS HONORED AS HEROES IN HARTFORD — HARTFOR COURANT — HARTFORD — It took decades to be recognized, but a group of Puerto Rican military veterans were honored Saturday outside the state Capitol for their valiant service to their country.

Known as the Borinqueneers, the veterans served in segregated units in the U.S. Army during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Based mainly on the efforts of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the veterans eventually were honored with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal. The national ceremony was held in Washington D.C. in April.

Like the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the Puerto Rican veterans suffered discrimination decades ago before finally receiving praise and the same prestigious medal as their other military colleagues.

Joe Pickard of Wethersfield, who served in the Korean War in 1951 and 1952, and other veterans traveled to the Capitol to receive a bronze replica of the Congressional medal from Blumenthal, a citation from Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, and congratulations from state veterans Commissioner Sean Connolly.

Now 87, Pickard said the fighting in Korea was “very difficult” in a war zone that was intense.

“I don’t even want to remember,” Pickard said in an interview before the ceremony. “It was not easy, but we are back here in one piece — thank God.”

WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO PRIVATIZE VA HEALTH CARE — NEWS BLAZE — America loves its veterans. We have multiple holidays devoted to remembering their services and thanking their sacrifices, and we reward veterans for their devotion to our country with various lifelong benefits. Unfortunately, one of those benefits, health care, has become more of an annoyance – even a hazard – than an advantage.

Health care provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a reputation for substandard service that borders on dangerous. As a result, many critics suggest the best option is to privatize the system. But how will privatization remedy VA health care, and how could America possibly make such a change?

In 2014, Americans began hearing about systemic problems within the VA health care system. In more than 110 VA facilities, veterans were grossly neglected; not only were most veterans unable to secure either primary or specialty appointments within 14 days (the goal for VA centers as established in 2011) but at least 120,000 vets were forced to wait months or years without treatment, suffering pain and disease – and for 40 vets, death.

As the story developed, the nation learned that the VA’s problems were the result of widespread corruption inside the organization. Staff at VA facilities falsified appointment information to hide the untenable wait times, and VA leaders supported inappropriate behavior tacitly. Dozens of whistleblowers came forward during the scandal with tales about patient negligence, mistreatment, and harassment; the same whistleblowers said their attempts to inform managers and directors resulted only in punishment and termination.

Ultimately, Washington pledged to reform the VA. Several heads within the organization were forced out, including the top health official and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Several institutions, including the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the White House, launched investigations into the cause of the crisis, and some of those investigations are still ongoing.

IWO JIMA VETERAN DIDN’T SHARE MUCH ABOUT WAR — SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE — Steve Read says that he never heard his father swear — except on the rare occasion when he talked about his World War II experiences.

“War is hell,” Lester Read, of Plymouth, would say.

And that’s often about all he shared on the subject. “Dad said that war wasn’t worth talking about,” Steve says. “He said he dealt with it, did what he had to do and was happy he had — in the hopes that others like me wouldn’t ever have to do the same.”

A longtime Plymouth businessman and lifelong humanitarian, Lester entered heaven earlier this month at the age of 90 after seeing his share of hell as an 18-year-old. He was part of the crucial assault on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima — one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. military history.

“I remember listening to him talk to someone about how he dug a foxhole on Mount Suribachi with a spoon,” says Steve Read, a retired teacher-coach at LaVille High School. “He said that he saw the radio operator in his 5th Tank Battalion shot in the head while they were side-by-side.”

For three days, he and his fellow Marines were pinned down by enemy fire. He and others in his unit were eventually ordered to advance up near the top of Mount Suribachi to look for possible tank routes. When Lester’s lieutenant asked for five volunteers to try to reach the summit, he raised his hand.

LAS VEGAS NAVY VETERAN FIRST IN THE WORLD TO RECEIVE REVOLUTIONARY BLADDER CANCER TREATMENT — VEGAS INC — May 20, 2016, was a landmark day for many, including those devoted to treating cancer, the Las Vegas medical community and a local Navy veteran.

That Friday in May marked the first time in more than 30 years that people with a certain type of bladder cancer had access to a new Food and Drug Administration-approved drug. Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada administered the very first dosage of this now commercially available treatment at their Central Valley clinic.

Tecentriq (atezolizumab) was developed specifically for people with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) who have disease progression during or following platinum-based chemotherapy. Tecentriq is also for those whose disease has worsened within 12 months of receiving platinum-based chemotherapy before or after surgery. In many instances, bladder cancer, which can also arise in the urethra, ureter and/or renal pelvis, can metastasize to the lungs, bones, liver or lymph nodes.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 76,960 Americans will be diagnosed with a form of bladder cancer this year and more than 16,000 Americans will die from the disease.

VETERANS AND SUPPORTERS BUILD GLASS AMERICAN FLAG — CBS PITTSBURGH — PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On Saturday, six military veterans and 80 non-veterans gathered to create a glass mosaic American Flag.

50 by 100 inches, the mosaic brought people together at the Pittsburgh Glass Center to “learn about freedom,” the American flag and the practice of glass work.

According to a press release the goal of creating the flag was, in part, to “inform youth and other residents about their veteran neighbors and to honor and remember all the men and women who have fought for our country.”

Those who attended were able to take a piece of the mosaic home.

THE COUNT OF UNION AND CONFEDERATE CIVIL WAR VETERANS REMAINS CHALLENGING PART II: TWO, NEW CONFEDERATE VETERANS — ALLEY NEWSPAPER — During the American Civil War 1861-1864, every few weeks to every few months depending on the unit, usually at the company level, soldiers’ names were recorded on muster rolls. Beginning in the 1880s General Ainsworth’s staff in the Department of the Army indexed these records originally to determine who was eligible for a pension. His staff wrote a card for every time a soldier’s name appeared on a muster roll. When Ainsworth’s staff finished the Compiled Military Service records, each soldier’s file usually had many cards representing each time the soldier’s name appeared on a muster roll.

One type of card, the General Index Card listed the soldier’s name, the soldier’s rank at the time of enlistment from the first card and the date the soldier left the service with the soldier’s final rank from the last card. These General Index cards form the basis for the Soldier names in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System.

When Ainsworth’s staff completed the project, there were 6.3 million General Index Cards for the soldiers – both Union and Confederate – who had served during the American Civil War. Historians have determined that approximately 3.5 million soldiers actually fought in the War. A soldier serving in more than one regiment, serving under two names, or spelling variations resulted in the fact that there are 6.3 million General Index Cards for 3.5 million soldiers. Data from all 6.3 million cards is in the CWSS.

This is one of the first sources used when we are trying to identify our veterans at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery.

By TIMOTHY McCALL, Guest Writer

There are two confirmed Confederate Civil War veterans buried at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery. One, Isaac Breathed, having only recently been identified. What were these veterans doing so far from home? Read on…

VA’S ENHANCED-USE LEASE PROGRAM PROVIDES ONCE-HOMELESS VETERANS WITH A NEW LEASE ON LIFE — VA — When U.S. Navy Veteran Judy Ganino was homeless, she often went days or weeks without having a conversation or any personal interactions.

Now, her days are filled with deep discussion and lively banter with neighbors at the Upper Post Veterans Community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is where Ganino lives today, alongside some 57 Veteran residents in an apartment complex made possible by VA’s Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) program, operated by the Office of Asset Enterprise Management.

“I’m just very amazed that I talk to people every day,” Ganino said. “It’s just so amazing and so wonderful.”
Giving property a greater purpose

Ganino is just one Veteran among many being touched by the EUL program, a “portfolio management tool” that VA deploys to revitalize underused VA properties—and change the lives of thousands of formerly homeless Veterans.

The EUL program enables VA to solve two issues: affordable, permanent housing for homeless Veterans and their families and the surplus of idle or underused VA property in communities across the United States.

Image of a VA-leased apartment buildingThe EUL program allows VA to lease its property to the private sector for approved supportive housing and related projects for Veterans who do not have safe, stable housing. Ganino’s apartment building, for instance, sits on a previously vacant VA site that predates even the incorporation of the state of Minnesota.

EUL projects must provide Veterans with a well-rounded and integrated experience, and so in addition to supportive housing, VA’s EUL partners often offer Veterans services such as job training, financial management, haircuts, computer and laundry facilities, fitness centers and more. Veterans and their families are prioritized for EUL developments, which are also convenient to VA health care facilities.

OBAMA TO CITE PROGRESS ON VETERANS’ ISSUES IN MONDAY SPEECH — FOX — In a valedictory address to veterans, President Obama will argue Monday that getting ex-military members the health care and benefits they’ve earned is a national promise that “can’t be broken.” And he’ll tout administration progress on reducing homelessness among veterans.

Obama will also announce that the administration is halfway toward building a massive database on veterans’ health when he addresses the annual convention of the Disabled American Veterans service organization Monday in Atlanta.


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