American Veteran News 08.09.16

REMAINS OF MARINE KILLED IN WORLD WAR II RETURN HOME TO NEBRASKA DECADES LATER — FOX — GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – The remains of Dale Robert Geddes, a Grand Island native who was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was killed 72 years ago during World War II, have been identified through DNA testing and are coming home.

A graveside service with full military honors is scheduled for Aug. 22, the Independent reported. Geddes’ remains will be buried next to his parents’ in the Grand Island Cemetery.

Geddes died in the Battle of Tarawa, which took place Nov. 20-23, 1943, as American troops fought to capture the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. About 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and another 2,000 wounded. Authorities say Geddes died sometime on the first day of the battle, likely by sniper fire, according to a 1944 newspaper article.

Geddes’ casualty report, which was dated Oct. 18, 1949, said recovery of his remains was “improbable, if not impossible.” One reason is that his remains were buried along with others in an unmarked cemetery on the island, his family was told.

PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR DIES AT 95 — FOX NEWS — RUSH COUNTY, Ind. – A Pearl Harbor survivor from Rushville passed away this week at the age of 95.

Norman Lee Vance was born in New Castle in 1921. He attended New Castle High School, and he was the first freshman in school history to letter in varsity track.

Vance enlisted in the US Navy in 1940 after graduating high school. He was on the USS Pennsylvania BB38 at Pearl Harbor when WWII started, and he survived the attack.

He was awarded many WWII ribbons and 11 battle stars.

After he was discharged, he moved to Rush County. He married Mary Henshaw on May 4, 1944. They had been married 51 years when she passed away on March 13, 1996.

Vance was well-known around Rush County as a manager at Carter-Lanning Paint Store. He retired from the store after 45 years.

He was also a self-taught musician and he played guitar with the Carter Lanning Band for several decades.

Vance will be buried with military honors on August 11.

TAYA KYLE ON GRIEF: ‘YOU CAN’T AVOID IT, AND YOU CAN’T OUTRUN IT’ — T&P — Taya Kyle was married to “American Sniper” Chris Kyle. Here’s how she is doing three years after his death.

In 2001, Taya Studebaker met and fell in love with a Navy SEAL named Chris Kyle. They were married in 2002, as U.S. armed forces became involved in two lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Across four tours in Iraq, her husband became a legend — the deadliest sniper in American history. Despite the dangers of being a Navy SEAL and the hardships of frequent deployment, the couple managed to overcome the odds of military divorce to find happiness in each other. However, after he was honorably discharged, Kyle was murdered by a former Marine named Eddie Ray Routh on Feb. 2, 2013, leaving Taya and their two children behind.

Now, three years later, Task & Purpose caught up with Taya about how she began to move forward thanks to her faith and the knowledge that her husband lives on in the good he brought to the world.

STUDY CONFIRMS A PHYSICAL CORRELATE TO PTSD: “BROWN DUST” IN THE BRAIN — BOING BOING — Since WWI, doctors have speculated that PTSD’s underlying cause was some sort of physical damage caused by blast-waves from bombs, which literally shook loose something important in the brains of sufferers.

Since 2012, neuropathologist Daniel Perl has advocated for this theory: specifically that blast waves caused physical damage at the intersection of the brain’s gray matter and white matter, where microscopic analysis of the brains of former soldiers who suffered from PTSD reveals a “brown dust” of scarring, in regions that are neuroanatomically associated with sleep and cognition.

Unless you believe in souls, all mental processes have physical correlates, so in some ways it’s unsurprising to learn that specific kinds of injuries that reliably lead to specific behaviors have specific physical modes of action. But on the other hand, a long history of “dualism” (the belief that the mind is somehow separate from the brain) has created a split in how we perceive mental illness and “physical” illness, through which mental illness is treated as the expression of problems in the subject’s character and moral fiber. In the case of PTSD (which has previously been called “combat fatigue” and “shell shock”), sufferers have been branded as “shirkers” whose fear of battle drove them to express their symptoms.

Ibolja Cernak is a Bosnian scientist who conducted a study on 1,300 veterans of the Bosnian/Serbian conflict, which confirmed much of Perl’s hypothesis. Adherents of this hypothesis believe that the action of a blast weakens the material connections at their intersections — perhaps by compressing the body and forcing blood into the brain, putting a “shearing load on brain tissues.”

In 2007, Applied Research Associates studied the impact of blasts on military “breacher teams” who blow open doors with small explosive charges, looking particularly at trainers who are repeatedly exposed to blasts, which seemed to confirm the hypothesis as well.

HOW TO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT PTSD — T&P — Talking to your doctor about your mental health can be stressful, but here are some tips to make it a little easier.

Asking for help is never easy and sometimes the hardest part is admitting you need it. When it comes to mental health, it can be especially difficult to talk to a doctor, for fear that he or she isn’t going to understand or just put you on medication and wave you away. If you don’t have a relationship with your doctor, it’s even harder to talk about deeply personal issues with a complete stranger, but that’s not a good reason to avoid seeking help.

If you do need to speak with a doctor about post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s important to do it as soon as possible.

According to the VA’s National Center for PTSD, symptoms are indicated by an answer of “Yes” to any three of the following:

    Have you ever had any experience so upsetting that it gave you nightmares or flashbacks?

    Do you ever go out of your way to avoid situations that remind you of it?

    Are you constantly on edge and do you feel overly watchful or easily startled, even when you know you’re safe?

    Do you feel detached from others or numb to activities and your surroundings?

A more in-depth checklist is provided on the VA website. For those exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Before any doctor’s appointment, make a list of questions about treatment recommendations, for example:

NINE MAJOR VETERANS AFFAIRS FAILURES — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — The Department of Veterans Affairs has never fully recovered from the firestorm of criticism it received after a whistleblower revealed a nationwide scheme to cover up long delays in healthcare in 2014.

The discovery that 110 VA facilities had used secret patient waiting lists to cover up veterans’ long wait times led to the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, but only three employees involved in the manipulation were fired.

More than a half million veterans still must wait at least a month to see a VA doctor, and even when they do manage to get an appointment, the care they receive is not always up to the standards patients expect to see in the private sector.

Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald struck a nerve when he compared VA wait times to wait times at Disney parks in late May. The backlash over his comments drew attention, if only for a moment, back to the shortcomings that have plagued the VA for years.

The following nine recent VA failures offer a glimpse at an agency that sometimes struggles to provide the most basic services to veterans.

SURPRISE INSPECTIONS SHOW VA HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENT SINCE PHOENIX SCANDAL — GOV EXEC — The Veterans Health Administration has improved the quality of and access to health care for vets over the past two years, but the agency’s continuing struggle with hiring and retaining employees is undermining its mission, according to a newly-released report from an outside organization.

“Staffing shortages significantly impacted the organization’s ability to meet veterans’ needs and led to delays in care,” said a Joint Commission survey of 139 VHA facilities and 47 community-based outpatient clinics between October 2014 and September 2015. The Joint Commission, which is a widely-respected independent non-profit that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the country, began conducting surprise surveys of the facilities soon after the 2014 scandal erupted in Phoenix involving patient wait times and access to care. The Veterans Affairs Department asked the Joint Commission to do the review, and provided performance data and other information as benchmarks so surveyors could target VHA’s biggest weaknesses and properly assess the validity of the agency’s statistics. Individual facilities, however, did not know when the Joint Commission planned to pop in for a review.

MONEY STOLEN BY INFAMOUS CON MAN ‘BOBBY THOMPSON’ FINALLY GOES TO VETS — ABC NEWS — Years after donors gave millions to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association – not knowing it was a scam charity preying on wartime sympathies – at least some of that money is finally reaching its intended target.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday his office would be handing a portion of the money seized during the capture of the fugitive scammer known as Bobby Thompson over to the Ohio Military Veterans Legal Assistance Project, which provides legal services to returning service men and women, as part of a $50,000 grant.

“These funds were originally given by generous donors who thought their contributions were going to help our veterans, but most of the money went to line the pockets of a con artist,” DeWine said in a press release late Friday. “As a result of the legal process that convicted Bobby Thompson, my office received some of the remaining funds with the provision that they assist veterans. This grant to the Ohio Military Veterans Legal Assistance Project will ensure the donations serve their original purpose by helping veterans.”

THIS NAVY VETERAN CALLS HIMSELF THE ‘CARETAKER’ OF THE VIETNAM MOVING WALL — THE HERALD — Navy vet Paul Chen says his home is wherever the wall takes him.

During the height of the Vietnam War in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, much was made of young American men dodging the draft to avoid military service.

There were others, such as Paul Chen, who did everything they could to serve their country and enter the fight. Chen joined the Navy in 1974 and left active duty several years later.

Now, he oversees the Vietnam Moving Wall, which has been touring the country for 30-plus years and is calling Hermitage home through Monday morning. The wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The wall visits locations where groups or organizations are willing to sponsor the moving costs and manpower.

This year alone he has visited a dozen locations.

“This is a dream job,’’ he said.

Preferring to call himself the wall’s caretaker, he said his home is wherever the wall takes him. With a little help, Chen saw to it that the Moving Wall was properly erected Thursday on East State Street across from America’s Cemetery.

VIETNAM WAR VETERANS STILL FEELING EFFECTS OF AGENT ORANGE — WBAY — APPLETON, Wis. – It has been several decades since American troops fought in the Vietnam War, but many veterans say they’re still suffering the effects of a chemical used to help level the battlefield.

Local Vietnam veterans say cancer, birth defects and other illnesses have affected generations of their families because of Agent Orange. The dioxin was used by the U.S. Military to kill foliage in Vietnam and Korea so the enemy couldn’t hide.

“In hindsight it did what they wanted it to do, but at what cost?” said John Margowski, who is with the Vietnam Veterans of America. “The cost then verses the cost now, and the cost now is significant.”

Fox Valley Technical College held a town hall presentation about the topic on Saturday. Organizers say they want lawmakers to pass a bill that would fund more Agent Orange research.

Vietnam veteran Don Falk says the presentation was eye-opening.

‘BUDGET-CRUNCHED’ VA HAS 167 INTERIOR DESIGNERS ON STAFF — DAILY CALLER — An army of 167 interior designers work at the Department of Veterans Affairs, picking window blind colors and buying millions of dollars of art each year, an investigation from The Daily Caller News Foundation has found.

The designers’ salaries are not included in recent findings that the VA has spent $16 million on art during the Obama administration. At least a dozen individual pieces of art cost a quarter million dollars or more each. Nearly $700,000 was spent on two sculptures at a hospital for blind veterans, the Palo Alto Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center.

At $100,000 in combined salaries and benefits — many actually make more — the cost of employing those 167 designers would add up to $17 million a year, or $136 million during the eight years of the Obama administration, making the salaries of the people in charge of picking out art dwarf even those art costs.

The list of VA interior designers from 2011 — created by a company seeking to sell to the VA, and spotted online by the Daily Caller News Foundation — shows that virtually every hospital has an interior designer, with some having many. It’s unclear what could possibly keep them busy full-time, considering the bulk of the work would come during major renovations or construction of a new wing.

The 167 designers are spread among the VA’s 75 hospitals and regional offices. The Cleveland hospital has five on staff. The Pittsburgh and Dallas hospitals have three each. The scandal-plagued San Juan, Puerto Rico hospital — which has multiple felons in high-level positions — also has three.

VA DROPS MILLIONS ON DELAYED SOLAR POWER PROJECTS — WASHINGTON FREE BEACON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent more than $408 million to install solar panels on its medical facilities in recent years, despite many of the projects experiencing significant delays and some of the systems not becoming operational at all.

The VA has failed to effectively plan and manage these solar panel projects, resulting in significant delays and additional costs, according to a report released by the agency’s inspector general last week.

The watchdog conducted an audit of 11 of the 15 solar projects awarded between fiscal years 2010 and 2013 that were still in progress as of May last year. The investigation, which was completed in March, found that only two of the 11 solar panel projects were fully completed.

“This occurred because of planning errors, design changes, a lengthy interconnection process, and contractor delays,” the inspector general concluded. “As a result, VA did not increase renewable energy for those solar projects in the time frame planned and incurred additional costs through needed contract modifications.”

VETERAN SURVIVES IED BLAST IN AFGHANISTAN ONLY TO BE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING OUTSIDE FLORIDA HOME — NY DAILY NEWS — He survived a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan and lived through a nasty bomb blast about six years back. Then, earlier this year, Luke Shimer was equally fortunate to survive a harrowing lightning strike.

The veteran from St. Augustine, Fla., remains in rehab where he is doing everything he can to one day be able to walk, eat and breathe on his own.

He opens his eyes to watch the people around him; lifts his head to get his hair cut and, occasionally, mouths hello.

Those are some of the steps Shimer has taken since he was struck on the upper deck of his home on the evening of May 17.

MCCAIN AND VETERANS GROUPS AREN’T ALWAYS ON THE SAME PAGE — S&S — when it comes to questions of how to structure and pay for veterans’ benefits such as health care, McCain and veterans advocacy organizations are at odds at least as often as they are in lock step.

McCain’s is a mixed bag of a legislative record that in any other circumstance might be unremarkable. But as Donald Trump repeatedly pummels the senior Republican senator from Arizona, saying he has "not done a good job for the vets," that record is getting a second look.

In fact, there is an ongoing dispute between veterans groups and the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman over the access that veterans, in the wake of the Veterans Health Administration scandal, have to private doctors. McCain is in favor of more access, while veterans groups are against expanding it too far across the board, fearing such a move would undercut services at the VHA.

That may be why veterans groups have been basically mum when it comes to defending McCain from Trump’s slights, which came after the senator released a statement "deeply" disagreeing with the GOP presidential nominee over his attacks on the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

The senator, who faces a tough reelection battle this year, still supports Trump, even though the GOP standard-bearer has slammed McCain’s record on veterans and initially refused to back him in his primary later this month.

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