Some of the 'Services' and 'Programs we have available
WE CAN'T DRAG OUR FEET ANYMORE
March 29th, 2020 Veteran Corner by Ronald Verini
As the COVID- 19 (coronavirus- pandemic) continues its increasing death toll our numbers of suicides related to our military also continue its march forward.
As a civilian: When was the last time you cared about a Veteran committing suicide? Or have you ever even thought about it at all? As a Veteran do you know all the places that you might get help? Do you really care about getting help?
Why do we as a community need to be involved in the mental health of our Veterans? What does the availability of drugs (legal and illegal) in our community do with the numbers committing suicide each day? Does the number ‘20’ suicides a day mean anything to you? What is all this talk about? Why should you care?
Does your Church get involved? Does your place you work educate each other about our Veterans and their plight? Does your school really care about our veterans and educate our children about them?
All of these questions have answers. Some of the answers are not what you might want to hear, but they have answers.
I look at organizations such as: ODVA, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, Wounded Warrior Project, VFW, Legion, DAV, AMVETS, VVA, Paralyzed Veterans of America, MOAA, U.S. Armed Forces and the many others and know that many of the questions asked above are answered by these groups. I also realize that the only person that has total control is the Veteran. Others might think they are in control or have the answers but the Veteran is in control or out of control.
I think that this column and those like it might engage the thought of a person or two? It might even get an organization off its butt and try and help. It might even help a Veteran that is on the cusp of committing suicide to think about his or her action and stop and think about what is about to happen. I never know the total results of my column but I do know that if columns like this are not written then folks, in general will continue to put their proverbial head in the sand and not give a d… until it is happing to them, a loved one or a friend.
I was told, the other day that my column about war was over the top and created unease and I should have toned it down. That conversation resulted with this column today hoping to create that same feeling with more people discussing war, the results of war, the horrors of war and the human element.
I think that the men and women that join us at the coffee table each morning at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida know more as a collective group then the millions of dollars spent on a federal level in solving the problems of suicide with our Veterans today. I know for a fact that the coffee table approach has helped many and not only at our table but at tables all across our nation in organizations that I have mentioned above.
I know that our group does not have all the answers, many different approaches to the challenge of suicide helps and if we rely on only one, we will absolutely fail. No one has a lock on this and every one in our community, whether they are pacifists or war mongers, like our military or not, have a stake in the game because it affects our community and its safety. This is one time that I think that different approaches and not a working together in lockstep is a positive thing. I do think that sharing our different ideas with each other with open minds will help if ‘open minds’ are the operative words.
The same mentality of folks dragging their feet in fighting COVID-19 and that death toll brings me back to the question I started this column with: Do you really think you might make a difference moving forward or do you think that everything is status quo and we should stick our heads back in the sand?
“Suicide: The word caught your attention, didn’t it? The truth is suicide catches everyone’s attention. It’s the actions that lead up to suicide that go unnoticed.” Unauthored Quote.
THE IDES OF MARCH
March15, 2020 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Yes folks, this very day (referred to as the ‘Ides of March’) marked a day in the history of the Roman Calendar that celebrated the first full moon of the new year. The early Roman calendars did not number the days of a month, but they counted back from three fixed points in a month.
These points were called: the ‘Nones’ which were about 9 days before the Ides; the ‘Ides’ beingthe middle of the month and then the ‘Kalends’ which represented the end of the month and the beginning of the next.
And, the Romans also marked the ‘Ides of March’ as the deadline for settling debts, along with various religious observances. Seems that we today keep alive the ‘settling debt idea’ with an additional 30-day extension to pay our debt to the “Tax Man”! Many of us today also relate the15th of March to the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, an event very much alive today through William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”.
The death of Caesar was an event that set off a ‘Civil War’, as so many assassinations preceding this and following this have done the same, whether it be ‘civil’ or regional or worldwide.
We all were discussing at the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida these past few daysthat politics and religions have been the predominate underlying causes of conflict, war,
sieges’, death and inhuman activity since the beginning of recorded history. Of course, those
reasons are generally generated by greed, avarice, materialism and desires to dictate control over all things.
Amazing that we can read about battles and wars starting in about 2500 BC, and continuing up to this very day! We should be ashamed as human beings, as to how we treat and what we do and have done to each other! Of course, there is ‘good’ and positive ‘humanitarian efforts’ throughout the world, and thankfully so, or an even greater ‘human disaster’ would be occurring.
So, you ask, just what are the main causes of war? I think with each ‘type’ of war you need to
determine if the decisions being made, are made by ‘rational’ or irrational’ persons. Lets
assume that we have two ‘rational’ persons at the brink of deciding to go to war or not. I would imagine that they each might be asking; what is the cost of this and how will I determine that it is or is not too high? One way to determine that would be that if what we gain actually exceeds the anticipated costs of the conflict, and then if a war does actually occur, then one of the sides has determined that ‘gains are greater than costs’ (again from ‘Rational’ decision makers. The other reason might be (and generally is) a failure in the ‘bargaining’ process to reach mutually advantageous outcomes. As a result of that kind of reasoning, I would venture a guess to confidently say that most wars are caused by ‘irrational’ decision makers.
Looking back over the past 2500 years of wars, conflicts, sieges’, there are a majority of them
that fall within these particular reasons: Economic Gain; Territorial Gain; Religion; Nationalism; Revenge; Revolutionary War; Civil War and Defensive War. And here are listed a few examples of these:
Economic Gain (Taking control of a Country’s wealth): The Anglo-Indian Wars from 1766 to
1849, between the British East India Company and several independent States in India. This
gave Britain an ‘unrestricted’ use and access to all the native natural resources of the Indian
Territorial Gain (Taking control of another Country’s land): The Mexican-American War from
1846 to 1848, between Mexico and the United States. Texas was annexed by the United States but Mexico was still claiming the land belonged to them. The US outfought the Mexicans and retained Texas incorporating it as a state.
Religious Wars (Different Religions fighting each other): The Crusades from 1095 to 1291,
between the Latin Church and Christian Powers in order to expel and retake the Muslim control in the Holy Lands and defend those gains.
“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people
other than your own comes first.” Charles de Gaulle, 1890 to 1970, Brigadier General French
Infantry, Armoured Cavalry, Chair Provisional Government French Republic, Leader of Free
Honoring Our Comrades
March 1st, 2020 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini
I woke up in the dead of night wondering if the mission that my friends went on would be successful and would they all come back safe? As a side note: I had the safety of my unit repairing communication equipment in the protected building around the airfield surrounded by barbwire, sentries, and a distance from the jungle and fight in Vietnam. I was inside the wire. My friends were on a mission outside the wire. My memories are somewhat faded from time except, every once in a while, I flash back and it is as if I was there and my youth returned.
This column today is in Honor of those men/women that fight and spend their time on the battle field in some far-off jungle, desert, city, village or wherever the fight is throughout the world. I know those men that were forced to walk in the many death marches in the World Wars or those that were captured in a jungle somewhere, held prisoner or those men/women that are standing up for our Nation today. Those that are barely mentioned in the news anymore.
I Honor those that have been drenched in chemicals that we dropped in ‘Nam to clear jungles with some of that landing on our own troops, not to mention the innocent families in the fields.
This column today Honors those that have sustained PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and the other issues that war creates (these are NOT just headaches).
This column does not discriminate between the political parties because no party has ever led without a war, conflict or skirmish that has not brought the Horrors of battle home back to our communities. Wounds that we all should take responsibility in helping to heal.
When I see a homeless veteran or a veteran family in need of food, gas card to get to a medical facility or work, I wonder if most civilians understand that these folks in need are the ones that have protected our freedoms. These men/women should be Honored for their service. I am not writing this column to glorify war and the Horrors of war. I feel it is my and your responsibility as citizens to vote the people in government that will use the power of our Nation for the betterment of us with war being a power used as a last resort, not as a knee jerk reaction. When we do have folks that serve, we need to provide services for them when they come back into our communities.
We all have choices in how we spend our discretionary income and just a little given to support those that have sacrificed for our freedom should help those few that have fallen through the cracks. The organizations that support our veterans and their families are numerous in numbers and you should do your home-work and make sure the money given is used for the veterans in need and not wasted. If it is a local group, walk in and see for yourself.
I Honor our U.S. military that had to clean up a nuclear mess in Spain and do it without protective gear and are dying from cancer. Then had to fight for health benefits and are still fighting.
I Honor the thousands of troops that were exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, radioactive fallout then had to and are still fighting with our government for help. For example: a recent article that is posted on the web site for Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida about troops stationed at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) in northern Afghanistan where the DOD was aware of the toxic exposure too our troops and still keep them there. The place was contaminated with asbestos, low-level radioactive depleted uranium. We were there because it was close to al-Qaeda and Taliban targets.
All these troops took an oath to serve and I know that I am horrified that we have placed these veterans in harms way and then have forced them to fight for health benefits.
I Honor our service members that have put and are putting their lives on the line every day and those that we did not warn or protect regarding the dangers or those that have not received the financial support and/or the medical help without having to fight for it.
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." -- Winston Churchill.
M.A.S.H.- Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
February 16, 2020 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Well folks, believe it or not it was this very day in 2006 that the last MASH Unit was decommissioned by the United States Army. How many of us grew up watching Alan Alda and cast bring into our homes and heart the trials and tribulations that a Hospital Medical Unit underwent in their daily operations functioning in a war zone. The stories were always filled with such ‘human and compassionate’ lessons that even today the television series is still being aired every day into our lives and homes. I even remember meeting in many Cities and Towns that I ventured to during my professional career, many who began their medical profession because of watching ‘MASH’ on television.
‘MASH”, which stands for ‘Mobile Army Surgical Hospital’ was first thought of during WWII by Major Vincent Marran, a medic for General Patton’s Third Army, but at that time there was no follow through for an official designation. However, at the end of the Second World War the Director of Surgical Consultants for the US Army Surgeon General’s Office, Dr. Michael DeBakey, a son of Lebanese Immigrants, not only helped develop the MASH Units to bring Doctors closer to the front lines to improve the survival rate of wounded soldiers, he also helped establish the Veteran’s Administration Medical Research System. Dr. DeBakey was honored with the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ in 1969, bestowed by President Lyndon Johnson, and in 1987 Dr. DeBakey was awarded the National Medal of Science, bestowed by President Ronald Regan.
The actual functions and physical layouts of the MASH Units were also used in the early days of the Vietnam War, though early on the Army activated the 44the Medical Brigade to assume control of the quickly growing need for increased capacity and support. ‘MASH’ Units were being converted to ‘MUST’ Units, and ‘Aeromedical’ capability with helicopter ambulance detachments. The “MUST’ designation stands for “Medical Unit, Self-contained, Transportable, equipment. Among the changes affecting medical operations in Vietnam was the replacement of tents and equipment with inflatable double-walled fabric shelters for wards, and turbine engine power packages, called utility packs, which provided electrical power and air conditioning and maintaining internal pressure of the wards. At the beginning of 1965 there were 110 hospital beds in Vietnam and by the end of the year there were 1600 beds. Capacity peaked in 1969 when there were 5,200 beds. The ‘Aeromedical’ capability started with 25 helicopter air ambulances and there were 55 by 1966 and 140 by 1969, and by that time had transported over 206,000 patients.
The MASH units especially played a very important role in the development and use of the “Triage” system. That is the system that allows the caregivers to ‘prioritize the patients wounds and injuries in order to get the ‘severely’ injured to treatment as soon as possible. This system was simplified with ‘color coding’. BLACK = deceased or so severely injured that there was no hope for survival; RED = requires immediate treatment in order to survive; YELLOW = not immediate danger but requires medical care; GREEN = wounds or injuries not completely disabling.
One of our local Doctors, Dr. Davis at St Alphonse here in Ontario, was awarded the ‘Air Force Commendation Medal” for outstanding performance as an Orthopedic Surgeon while deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. Dr. Davis has presented his experiences with a talk and pictures of the incredible work done by these very committed caregivers to our countries military men and women wounded and injured in the battles of war. Thank you, Dr. Davis!
In 2008 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Anthony Villarreal (USMC) life changed when a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving, setting off a secondary explosion from his vehicle’s ammunition. 30% of his body surface was burned, right hand and left fingers had to be amputated. He was in a coma for 3 months and had more than 70 surgeries. Anthony said he is doing fine today with the help of the ‘Wounded Warrior Project”.
“I joined the military because I wanted to give back. What amazes me is how many have given back to me, their time, emotions and wisdom, all because they want to show thanks for my service and sacrifice. We are all in this together. It makes me want to help my country even more.” Anthony Villarreal, USMC
Is there a Positive Side of War?
Feb 2nd, 2020 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Sitting around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida the other day someone brought up the fact that war in all its horrors of the loss of human life, destruction of capital, trade, people suffering, syndromes, people displaced, destruction of the environment and many other revulsions that there is positive that come from war?!
Well I must say the conversation was lively and not what one would say agreeable to all around the table.
The discussion started to talk about how the railroads in Europe grew in the ‘40’s, technological advancements and military spending reduced unemployment here in the USA. Of course, all of this might have occurred in the time of peace but might have been pushed a little faster because of various wars. I personally think that all the advancements were not worth the destruction and heartache it brought.
Single soldiers seem to report a more positive consequence of war vs. the married soldier. With that said the positives were things like, a greater bond with each other, helping other people in countries in their struggles, seeing places I would never imagined, got paid more than at home for the same job, made friends with folks that I would never have imagined, experiencing different cultures and the list went on. I soon realized that ALL these positives that were talked about would have occurred in peace but just at a slower pace and probably at less cost in horror.
I am totally convinced that with every positive I was hearing there was a negative of greater intensities than any positive that was talked about and I am totally convinced that the positives that are brought by war are not, at times, worth the cost of war.
The conversation continues off and on at various tables across our Nation and I am sure that some will never be convinced that ‘War is Hell’ and it should never happen even ‘if’ there is peaceful solution.
I was driving down I-84 the other day and noticed a car in front of me in the fast lane going about 85 MH and another car pass on the right. Do you know that that driver gave a finger to the one passing! I was shocked by this action and it brought home to me that a small infraction of the rules, whether right or wrong, can bring about a response that might have dire consequences if escalated any farther. This occurs with actions by different Nations or groups of peoples around the world and end up in conflicts and wars that are totally unnecessary.
Another positive that we thought about are the organizations that have sprung up to support our Veterans and their families in need. Of course, all that energy devoted to these might be better used to improve other segments of society or developing events that folks are singing ‘Kumbaya’ and throwing rose petals in the air. I know that by now you must be thinking that I have lost ‘it’, and you are probably correct in thinking that, especially since I started this venture of coming up with what I might find positive in War has become exhausting trying to extract positives out of what I see as one of the abominations of mankind.
Administrations come and go and what I understand is, one thing is for sure, we in our community end up picking up the pieces of the consequences of War.
I started this column wanting to write a positive column to start off the year on a good foot. I then thought about ALL the good men and women that come into VAOI and the true hero’s that walk through our doors and sit there every day around the coffee table. I truly believe that these men/women are the good that come from them serving our Country and are the backbone of our freedoms that we are having this very day. Yes, the men and women that have served and the families that support them are the true good and positive that our military and war produces.
P.S. Regarding my report in my column (Our Future-War in Space) last week, veteran Jerry Holliman had his prosthetic legs repossessed two days before Christmas: the VA has stepped up and provided Holliman with the prosthetic’s he needed!
“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Norman Schwarzkopf.
"OUR FUTURE-WAR IN SPACE"
Jan. 19th, 2020 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
The discussions around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida lately has been things like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, hell week in the Army, Navy seals and other interesting topics.
One of the most interesting to me was the militarization of space. I thought that the world leaders would have had enough of this war stuff and might sit down around the coffee table and discuss moving forward with maybe having space as a frontier to forge peace? I certainly was naive to even think that that would happen and was reminded that we are way past the thought of peace in space. We here in the United States have had going back a long way; Strategic Defense Initiative, Project Nike & Nike Zeus and many other programs that were developed, in some cases to protect us from attack by strategic nuclear missiles and other programs to help institutionalize the use of outer space by our military forces. The United States Space Command was created back in 1985, way before todays U.S. Space Force was announced on Dec 20th, 2019 and is now the sixth military branch. So now all those assigned to the Air Force Space Command are officially assigned to the Space Force. You might go to www.spaceforce.mil for some updates.
I am thinking that with Congress and what they have on their plate right now we are a little premature in the seeing new uniforms, patches, a song and a new culture of this service developing overnight. This might look like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy, just maybe the Space Force will be part of the Air Force, but what do I know. I thought by now the world would be tired of war and I got that wrong.
So, what we have today are reconnaissance satellites, anti-satellite weapons, directed-energy weapons, ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, satellites with nuclear detonation detection systems or surveillance-espionage-military communications. We have to look forward to space warfare and ground to space warfare and your good old-fashioned satellites shooting down each other or many other ways of using space and our new frontier.
Remember we are not the only ones that are up there. We have, by far the most satellites in space with China, Russian Federation, Japan, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Germany, France and Luxembourg having some interesting space agendas. Others like Pakistan, North Korea, Nigeria, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Australia, Chile, Bulgaria, Turkey, Mexico and many other countries are actively engaged in space programs.
With veterans that are now talking about Agent Orange, Burn Pits and the challenges of wars that we fought here on earth, do you think that we would expect the same type of fights for our health and support that we are facing today? Or do you think our government will think ahead and make sure that the military that fights in our future will be cared for when they come back from war in a way that will not have our warriors beg for the service they deserve. Or in many cases die, waiting for the care and the recognition of the various diseases caused by things like Agent Orange. I was shocked the other day by an article posted on Facebook for Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida about an article that was reposted from the American Military News- the commentary talked about veteran Jerry Holliman in a veterans home in Mississippi a few days before Christmas, a man came in to repossess his prosthetic legs that replaced the ones he lost from his military service. The case is sad and the confusion with the VA, Medicare and the prosthetic company that made the limbs are a perfect example of the complexity and challenges that our veterans, at times go through after service.
The ’Keeping Our Promises Act is also a perfect example the bureaucratic hoops of time and delays that some of our men/women experience. This legislation adds other diseases such as: prostate cancer, cancer of the urinary bladder, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and other service-connected diseases for veterans exposed to herbicides in Vietnam, way too late for some. Then I find out that the VA is dragging its feet in getting this up and running for our veterans in need.
“A promise that one makes should be or can be considered a promise that one will certainly honor.” A Proverb.
"REALITY OF WAR"
Jan 5th, 2020 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Be forewarned this column is about the reality of war so if you been there you might pass this article up and read something else, this is written for the civilians around us that they might understand. It is descriptive and not nice, insensitive and offensive.
War is not the glorified glamour that is in the movies. It is handling body bags or watching your best friend die or go through the agony of hell. Or it is you scared but motivated enough to make sure your buddy is covered, or else you’re looking at another enemy ready to make sure you are the one not standing.
No matter which war, the smell you’ll never forget, that stench will last the rest of your life. At least it has for me, and I was not a warrior. I was an Air Force guy fixing planes and working on electronic equipment in a bunker on the side of a runway. Trying to make sure that I did my job to the best of my ability.
I would look out at the wire at night and wonder if they would get through or incoming would actually hit their target. I was one of the lucky ones, I came back and I am writing this column about the men and women that faced horrors that most could not imagine.
This column today is to talk about what war really is, about those that stand up for you here back home, so you do not have to do their duty.
I was lucky I had a Hooch Maid to take care of my needs; some did not even have that. Many had to deal with snipers, rockets, mortars, jungle rot and the battle to stay alive.
The bloody pictures in the papers back home were nothing to the real thing on the ground. Today nothing has changed except that there are now different ways to fight but the result is the same, the consequences are the same and shielding the public from these horrors is deceptive.
You might wonder why I talk about Agent Orange, Burn Pits or PTSD in this column from time to time? I talk about these because there are those that don’t understand that we as a nation have to step up and fight for our troops that have served us in battle zones around the world, for they come back with scars that, some times don’t show. They come back to a nation that, generally, doesn’t treat our military members with the same ferocity that sent them to war. Some of our comrades have to fight harder at home to get the care they need. This is not right and that is why so many new organizations have sprung up like Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, IAVA and others added to the list of older ones like the Legion, VFW, etc. to try and pick up the pieces where our nation has fallen down.
War is messy, it’s not a video-game it is real and many of those we send never return to their birthday party, shopping venture, a walk in a neighborhood or a family gathering. Many are still in the jungle or desert or village and remember their experiences: like the IED’s, the families destroyed, the little boy or girl that no longer has a family or future, or the family that no longer has a child, or those disfigured.
I have been told that writing about the bloodshed and trauma can dull emotional understanding. I say that if this is not written about then no true understanding will ever occur. I think that every one in our community and nation should understand what our men/women go though and what happens when they come home. I am not writing this to offend but to hopefully awaken your understanding and move you to involve yourself in the realities war creates. Maybe you will understand a little more about the veterans, military members or families around town and see them in a different light.
These men/women have given much to serve our country. They are hard -working, innovative, smart and you would be foolish not to hire a person that understands the consequences of life and death and that has a military structure and training to make your organization successful.
“My First Wish is to see this plague of mankind, WAR, banished from the earth.” George Washington.
"OUR FREEDOMS AND THE SEASON"
December 22, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
The last time the discussion of politics came up was around the coffee table at VAOI when a new veteran walks in and starts to pontificate about all the bad politicians and how he has been treated. Well come to find out he hasn’t voted since he left the service, wasn’t interested in politics, complained a lot but did not sign up for the VA but had a lot of negative things to say about it!
I guess my first thought was to brush it off as just another curmudgeon going through life and not feed into the rhetoric. Well after a short time the conversation started to make sense as to why he was so hyped and, getting down to the bottom line finding out that he was mistreated after being in combat, was told to suck it up and make due and move on… That stuck with him all these years and I realized that no matter how strong in battle, the smallest thing said at the wrong time could deflate a person and plant a seed that grows over time and becomes a mountain. He was now standing on one side in his world and the rest of us are on the other side or somewhere in-between. There was light because he had the moxie to walk into VAOI and vent. He continued to come in and over time lost his chip on his shoulder and calmed down, signed up for the VA, got help, got a job, stopped complaining about the VA but still griped about politics. This was about 10 years ago that this Veteran walked through our doors and about 8 years ago that he left the area. Yesterday I bumped into him at Home Depot and we caught up on what was going on with our lives. He is still complaining about politics but he now has a nice family, one kid and was in town visiting his brother for the day. Nice getting a chance to catch up with one of our Veterans that happened to stop by, way back when and to know that he is doing fine today!
I think when we try, and don’t judge too hastily and get to know a person a little better we learn something about them but also something about ourselves, at the same time. This chance meeting reminded me as to why I continue to reach out and have an open mind and the patience to listen. I make mistakes and say or do the wrong thing from time to time. I am certainly not perfect and I am not able to help everyone that walks through my door but I give it my best. Elbert Hubbert said: “Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you’ll never be criticized.” Good words to remember.
Only days before Christmas, Hanukah and Holidays for many celebrating in many different ways and forms so I want to remind everyone today is a good time to begin being the person you have always wanted to be! Today is the beginning of the new you: run for office, get a job you love, stop drinking to excess, send your love to those that love you and that you love, take a college course, read a book, take a friend to lunch, do something good for a stranger, take action, stop worrying about others and remember it is never too late for you to be that person.
This little note is for all you civilians out there: The next time you exercise your freedoms of voting, traveling across our nation without worrying about being stopped, worship your own way, your freedom to talk to much (freedom of Speech) stop and think about all of these then thank a Veteran for their willingness to serve our nation and help protect our rights and freedoms. Some are out there right now sacrificing and willing to die for you. Now with that in mind: I wish you ALL a Very Merry Christmas and for my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukah and for all my other friends a very joyous season of holiday spirits in the manner of your choice!!!
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Broken Promises or Ramblings of an ‘Ol Veteran?
December 8, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Back in the 60’s and 70’s when Vietnam was raging on and the hippies were running around with the slogan ‘Make Love Not War’ our nation was divided, a little like it is today in many parts. Back then we sent our men and women to a war zone to fight an enemy far away to an unpopular war. Today we struggle with sending our men and women to various war zones that also have a dividing political pull that has brought about the same type of pull that some say weakens our nation. In both cases our troops are caught in the middle.
Think about the fact that we send these men and women to fight, sacrifice and at times die for us. What do you think those troops are thinking when over there fighting for us and some of us are back here squabbling about weather we are going to abandon the very people that have supported us in fighting in the war zones… I remember the Montagnards and interpreters in Vietnam and now the Kurds in Syria and our interpreters in Afghanistan/Iraq that have helped us in those wars. Now our troops are coming back with some serious problems, get into trouble with the law, go to jail, come out to be deported because they were not a citizen when they served our country. They served us knowing that this also would be a path to citizenship and come to find out the rules have changed and we used them to fight for us and then tossed them out of our country because of a new rule! They come back wounded with PTSD or TBI, have a problem adjusting and instead of helping them with their wounds we turn our back and let them fend for themselves and they make bad choices. We should be helping them not turning our backs on them.
Maybe in all these cases our men and women feel that they have been a pawns in a series of ‘pushes and pulls’ that when they come back that they should not only be treated for the open wounds of war but the invisible wounds of war or the gases/toxic fumes that were all around them on the battlefield…
No wonder some of them gravitate to alternative medication to get over the pain they have, real pain from a IED, or real confusion that has altered his/her mind with PTSD… what ever the reason we are not doing enough.
In ‘Nam it was the lure of marijuana on the battlefields and also the drug of choice for many right here at home with the hippies. Some troops came back smoking it and some never put it down… some went to jail because of it. Today there is a Bill legalizing MJ and if it clears the house, this could permit the VA to recommend use for our Veterans… Crazy world that we put our troops in and we expect them to be ‘normal’ when they come back, is that right?
You might think that I have been rattling on and not getting to a point and you are somewhat correct because I am pulled since I got back from ‘Nam as to why our Country sends our men/women to fight, and forget the consequences of war. Our friends that fought along side of us, and those soldiers that we turned our backs on and then deported them, those invisible scars that are not attended too, our fight for health care from Agent Orange, toxic waste, oil wells, Burning Pits, or just the fact that the rules keep changing and making it more evasive and harder to find help, only continues to confound those who in serving our country return to different sets of rules and definitions than when they signed up.
Just a little side note as where the thoughts for this column started: Yep, we were sitting around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida with a Vietnam, Korean, WWII and Gulf War Veterans talking about their different experiences of service. This is their collective thought about when they came home and were expected to assimilate back into civilian life and all is supposed to be ‘normal’. Right!!!!
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. Alexander Pope, 1688 to 1744, Poet, Satirist, scholar
DO YOU HAVE A STAKE IN THE GAME?
November 24, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
There is an old saying that goes something like this: ‘if you have a stake in the game, you’re going to pay more attention to the game’, therefore you’ll be more involved because you have something invested. And to protect that investment you will want to know what happens if you loose.
Lets say the ‘game’ represents making available to you, specific pathways for you to ‘be able to express yourself ‘, for you to be able to have individual ‘rights’ and ‘liberties’ such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religious beliefs and to know that those individual freedoms are protected by laws and powers that ‘we the people of the United States’ provide through our Federal Government.
Well now, that certainly is quite a ‘game’ and we individually should have a stake in that!!.
So then let me ask you, if you do feel that these individual rights are an important ‘game’ to have a ‘stake in’, to be involved with, then when is the last time that you actually, consciously cared enough to become involved to actively have a ‘stake in the game’? When did you last think about all those who have taken up arms – for you - to protect your freedoms and liberties? When is the last time you were really concerned enough about all those veterans you see, and maybe know, to either thank them for actively participating in the ‘game’ or when did you last do something for those that are now suffering with mental and/or physical wounds? Do you feel good about ‘reaping the benefits’ without having an actual ‘stake’ in them or participating?
A couple of the things brought this subject to mind this last week or so during conversations around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida. There was an exceptional Editorial in our local Argus Observer newspaper the other day about a documentary film, “Homemade”, 6 years in the making, that highlighted the ‘unseen wounds’ of a combat soldier transitioning from the military to civilian life. Also on the same ‘Opinion Page’ a fine article out of the ‘Heritage Foundation’ addressing the ‘generational’ need for understanding the importance of ensuring our military the ability to stop those who would take our freedoms from us. Ensuring our military’s ability to stop those threatening our freedoms, are the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have ‘chosen’ to help protect our rights and freedoms. And how many of us have told them we really appreciate their active stake in the ‘game’? So, just how and what would you do?
Well, the choices are unlimited: you can offer to help a veteran or military family that is temporarily down and out; volunteer an hour or so at a veterans organization; offer to drive a veteran to a Doctor appointment or to go shopping; contribute to those veteran groups that send care packages to Troops deployed in a foreign country; write “Thank You Notes to the Troops” to put in Care packages, or write “Thank You Vets for Your Service Notes” to groups that visit Veterans in Assisted Living homes; especially during this ‘Holiday’ time, visit the Veterans home in Boise; you can always say “Thank You for Your Service” to those vets you see wearing a veteran cap or jacket and to any active military you see wearing a military uniform; write your Congressional Representative to encourage them to support Military and Veteran Assistance Bills.
At the end of the day, you want to know that what you did helped to ‘make a difference’. Veterans and Military folks also want to know that their service and sacrifice were worth something. They need to know from us, that their ‘brothers and sisters in arms’ that they buried, died for a reason and that their sacrifice mattered.
“Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.” President John F. Kennedy; 1917 to 1963; Lieutenant US Navy 1941 to 1945, Commanded Torpedo Boats, Awarded Purple Heart; 35th President of the United States 1961 to 1963 when
Veterans History and Stories Told
November 10, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Every veteran has a story. Some filled with subjects that can never really and completely be talked about, others filled with some of the most hilarious subjects that keep you laughing. Many stories are centered only on wartime service, others deal with the trials and tribulations of military service. The fact is though a ‘lot of stories’ are being told, for it is estimated that in the US the number of men and women that have served in the military from our Revolutionary War 1775 through our present occupations in 2019 number between 40 to 50 million people. Yes, and a lot of untold stories that can never be told, for those that never made it home, who “gave all” to this great country and our freedoms, those number over 1,700,00.
How very important is it then, that we take the time, the effort and the desire to spend hearing, learning and understanding the experiences of those men and women who chose to support our values and freedoms by making the choice to serve our great country. They indeed have much to say in sharing their reasons not only for serving our country, but for how their service has altered or changed their lives. Yes, their reflections bridge the gap between hilarious and those plagued with physical and mental wounds. We can learn a lot by just caring enough to listen and learn. And maybe then if we are moved enough, we might actually take action to assist those that truly need our voice and our help to regain a normalcy and a life in our communities.
For those whose voices that will never again be heard, I list here the history of some of the actions and names of our Oregon “Fallen Heroes”. Since the 1840’s there have been approximately over 6,000 Oregonians that have died fighting for our nation. During the Civil War period, Oregon mustered about 1,800 troops, and of those troops 46 were recorded as Killed in action. During WWI 968 Oregonians died including a pair of brothers, George & William Fallin both KIA in 1918. The National Archives show that between 1939 & 1945 during WWII, that there were 3,757 Oregonians who died of their wounds, died in POW camps, were missing or died in non-combat causes. From 1950 to 1957 during the Korean War, 269 Oregonians died in that conflict, some still missing. Maj. Felix Asla Jr., USAF, from La Grande and Cpl. Dwayne W. Barton, US Army from Wasco County, both remains are still missing.
The Vietnam War 1957 to 1975 there were 709 Oregonians that died in that conflict. Just about every town in Oregon had someone KIA. From Ontario: SGT Frank Mathews, 20; SP4 Ted Sharp, 20; PFC Felipe Villanueva, 22; SP4 Joseph Whitaker, Jr. 20 and others. From Vale: PFC Delos Buxton, 23; CAPT Derald Swift, 29. From Arock: PFC Kelly Davis, 19. From Harper: SGT Gary Friend, 20. From Huntington: CAPT Charles Moore, 37.
Yes, those stories will never fully be told: though their families and relatives generally keep their memories alive by sharing their pride of their service to our country.
Veterans Day reminds us that it is important to ‘hear’ and listen to the stories our veterans have to tell, and it gives us as a community a chance to honor those that have served and that continue to serve our well-being.
Tomorrow, Veterans Day, breakfast for Veterans at the Armory hosted by Argus at 8:30 to 10:30 then lunch for Veterans at VAOI at 11AM to 3PM. Later a film, titled ‘Homemade’ will show at the Reel Theatre at 7:00pm: this is a documentary about the reintegration of a soldier back into civilian life and his battles. After the showing a panel discussion takes place.
Then on Nov 13th (from 1PM to 3PM) join us at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida (180 W. Idaho Ave, Ontario) in Honoring Jerry Haines for his National Volunteer award from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: presented by Major General Garshak- The Adjutant General, Brig. General Schwartz and Chief Master Sergeant Bongiovi. Jerry will also receive the Spirit of Freedom award from Senator Crapo’s office.
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.” John Stuart Mill, 1806 to 1873, Philosopher, Economist
THE VOICES OF VETERANS
October 27, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
Quite a busy time of year upon us now with all the traditional celebrations and of course the inevitable ‘change in time’ loosing another hour in our busy schedules. There are several Veteran Events this fall and here I have listed a few of them. This year the Veterans Day Parade is on Saturday November 2nd starting at 1:00pm proceeding down 4th Ave from Albertsons to Oregon Street. Then on Monday November 4th you are welcome to attend and meet the several Veteran Owners of businesses here in the Western Treasure Valley, this event at the Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida (VAOI) starts with the Greater Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce Lunch at noon and celebrates the activities of National Veterans Small Business Week. On Veterans Day Monday November 11 there are several events. From 11:00am to 3:00pm at the Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida there will be a Potluck Lunch put on by our wonderful volunteers and supporters. Then on Nov. 13th at VAOI there will be a special celebration for Jerry Haines the recipient of the National Hospice volunteer award from 1 to 3 PM.
On Veterans Day at the Reel Theatre in Ontario, Oregon at 7:00pm there will be a special screening of the film “HOMEMADE” dealing with a Marines’ civilian life navigating the PTSD, TBI and addiction problems and its’ affect with his marriage, family and work. There will also be a ‘Panel Discussion’ immediately following the screening. If you live closer to Caldwell, Idaho, there will also be a special screening of the same movie at the Caldwell Luxe Reel Theatre at 7:00pm.
On November 11, Veterans Day, various Ceremonies at your local cemeteries will Honor our local veterans. Check with your local VFW, American Legion, DAV, AMVETS, PVA, Vietnam Veterans of America, IAVA, Military Order of the Purple Heart, MOAA, for scheduled times at the cemeteries.
Recently having a larger amount of veterans coming in to inquire about benefits etc, a discussion came up at the morning coffee table about just how many veterans are there in the good old US of A. We were all thinking it was around 12 to 15 million veterans. Well after some inquiries and googling we discovered that there is a ‘National Center’ for Veteran statistics that places the veteran population in the US now at about 20.5 million. Several reasons as to just why that is an astounding important revelation, because that figure indicates that there are about 50% of our present veteran population that are not affiliated with services rendered by the VA. The VA says they are now serving 9 million veterans, so doing the math there are about 10 to 11 million veterans not taking advantage of services, in one way or another, that they have earned by serving our country. One of the ‘take-aways’ from these figures is that there is no VA support available for close to 50% of our US veteran population. The ability to understand the needs and visions and mission of a population that you only hear from half of them is certainly suspect. So just how do we go about engaging the majority of our military veterans, that we may then have a greater understanding of their and their spouses and families needs in order to produce for and with them ‘life changes’ that are positive and lasting. When you think about it, the incredible ‘diversity’ that is represented by our country’s military personnel transitioning to civilian life, brings to our communities a ‘Treasure Chest’ full of seasoned professionals in any field of endeavor and productivity. This wealth of ‘human resource’ certainly has the ability to set forth not only common goals but sustainable economic growth for them and our communities, our States and our Country. I am hopeful that within the next few decades these actions for our veterans and future veterans can be achieved. Please ponder the ‘time frame’ of my last statement.
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” Douglas MacArthur, 1880 – 1964; Five Star General of the Army; Medal of Honor recipient; 3 Distinguished Service Crosses; 7 Silver Stars; Bronze Star; 2 Purple Hearts.
Preserving Our Freedoms
October 13, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
We were sitting around the coffee table at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida talking about the latest submarine being commissioned and my curiosity got the better of me and this story emerged, so I thought I would share it with you. It is the freedoms of our Nation and prevention of war that makes our military strength so important. My personal opinion.
The year was 1841, and Oregon was still a ‘Territory’ and being explored by the United States Exploring Expedition, which included Brigs and Sloops of the US Navy. At that time there was a rather extensive naval and sea operation along and up the mouth of the Columbia River from Astoria to Fort Vancouver, which housed the Northwest Naval operations of the US Exploring Expeditions. In August of 1841 a Lt. Charles Wilkes purchased the American Brig ‘Thomas H. Perkins’ for US Naval service, in order to house the Officers and crew and equipment of the USS Peacock which had been wrecked on a sandbar in the Columbia River just a month before. The USS Peacock then became the 1st ship to be named ‘USS Oregon’.
There were actually three ships of the US Navy to be named USS OREGON. The aforementioned 1841 USS Oregon, a ‘never-launched’ monitor (small warship) that broke up when being launched, and the 3rd commissioned in 1896 the USS Oregon (BB-3), which was a battleship that saw action in the Spanish-American War.
And now the 4th USS Oregon (SSN-793) a Virginia Class Submarine and the Navy’s newest attack submarine that was christened October 5, 2019 in Groton, Connecticut at the General Dynamic Electric Boat Shipyard. Mrs. Dana Richardson (native of Corvallis, Oregon) and wife of Ret. Admiral John Richardson (past Chief of Naval Operations) christened the nuclear submarine with sparkling wine from Oregon and water from Crater Lake.
The keynote address was delivered by U. S. Rep. Greg Walden, who said the submarine, has the capability to prevent nuclear war. Construction began in 2014 and is the 20th Virginia-class Submarine. The USS Oregon will be joining the fleet in 2020 and the cost is expected to be around the $2.7 Billion dollar mark.
One of the features of this class of submarine is that according to Vice Admiral James Kilby, the Oregon is outfitted with the most modern weapons and sensors, will disappear beneath the waves and never be detected until a time and place of it’s choosing. It “truly represents naval combat power” said Vice Admiral Kilby. Also with the newest design changes this class of submarines will need one less period of maintenance in the shipyard thus they will be able to do more deployment time over their lifespan.
Interesting also to note that there were actually 8 more ships that had names referring to SS Oregon, one ship named USS Oregon City, one ship named USS Oregonian, also a SS Beaver State (T-ACS-10) and believe it or not, one ship of the Confederate States Navy named CSS Oregon.
By the way, Idaho also has a Virginia-Class Submarine named for the state, USS Idaho (SSN-799). Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the name on August 23, 2015 at a ceremony in Idaho.
Then during the War of 1812 the United States Navy purchased a Schooner in 1812 and placed it in service in 1813, named it the USS Ontario (though not named for us here in Ontario, Or) but for its service in the small squadron on Lake Ontario to protect upstate New York from a British and Canadian invasion. A short life for she was sold in 1815. And there was another USS Ontario (AT-13) which was launched in 1912 and served as part of the Atlantic Fleet during WWI, and also during WWII served in the Pacific Fleet. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1946 and sold to a private party.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Ronald Regan – 1911 – 2004, 40th U. S. President, 33rd Governor of California, Actor and Union leader
Congressional Members Booted From VA
September 29, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
“Yes Virginia, there is ‘help’ but sometimes they don’t want you to have it.” Seems an adequate paraphrase on a popular editorial in the New York Sun newspaper on September 21, 1897 which read “Yes Virginia there is a Santa Clause” in reply to her inquiry whether or not that was true. Virginias’ father suggested she write the ‘Sun’ newspaper, because their motto was “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so”. The rest is history!
Right now this ‘paraphrase’ deals with the VA’s commitment to offer assistance to our Veterans through their representatives in both the US Senate and the US House. The Congressional Liaison Services have been available since December 1922 for the Senate and February 1925 for the House and both were brought under administration by the VA in 1930, and remain so today. I will provide the ‘Congressional Liaison Service’ contact information at the bottom of this article.
The importance and urgency of sharing this information stems first of all for our nations veterans to be able to have an accessible contact for our advocacy regarding the services provided by the VA. Right now the Florida congressional delegation is trying to ‘thwart-off’ an ‘eviction’ move by the VA to not allow ‘liaison offices’ in VA hospitals. In 2017 Florida Rep. Brian Mast, an Afghanistan war veteran and former Army Ranger who lost both legs in a 2010 IED explosion, opened the first ever congressional field office inside a VA hospital and now shares that (closet sized) office with other Florida representatives in helping to serve the over 1.5 million Florida veterans using the VA services. The DVR (a division of the VA’s rehabilitation program) served a ‘notice-of-eviction’ to the Florida congressional delegation, to vacate their space by the end of the year. Rep. Mast attributed the ‘eviction’ notice to a very heated exchange between he and VA Secy. Wilkie during a hearing in April, when Rep. Mast was pressing about the three ( 3 ) veterans that took their lives in a five ( 5 ) day period at VA facilities. Rep. Mast later said in an interview “We need to flip that place upside down to change the whole climate of what’s going on there and if the people in charge aren’t willing to do that, then they’re NOT doing the right thing.” He continued saying “there are 435 representatives sitting in the Capitol. Every one of them should be begging to be in those doors and the VA should be begging them to be in there so that we make sure every veteran that walks in there is treated with compassion. Our job is oversight and if they don’t let us in there to do that, then there is a real problem”.
In a letter from the VA dated August 30, 2019, Ramsey Touchberry of Newsweek reported; “the congress members were advised that as of the end of 2019, their staff will no longer be afforded the office space to meet with any constituents, including veterans who seek help to receive proper VA benefits and treatment”
Mr. Touchberry continued to report; “VA Executive in Charge Richard Stone wrote that, because the “office space is for non-clinical purposes” and is “not authorized by law,” acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has determined that all of the departments medical facilities are “no longer to permit the use of those spaces by Members of Congress and their staff.” Rep. Mast, also a Purple Heart recipient and second term congressman said the office is shared between members of his staff and of other lawmakers, taking turns utilizing what is the size of a storage closet, thus allowing his staff to meet personally with more than 500 veterans since starting the outreach.
The assistance and concerns of our Federal representatives here in Oregon has been outstanding! I can personally say that Rep. Greg Walden (202-225-6730), Sen. Ron Wyden (202-224-5244), Sen. Jeff Merkley (202-224-3753) and their staff’s here in Oregon have maintained a consistent contact with the needs and concerns of our Oregon Veterans! To contact Rep. Brian Mast; 202-225-3026
To contact the US House Committee on Veteran Affairs; 202-225-9756,
“ I welcome a scrutiny of my entire record.” Robert Wilkie (see above- VA Secy.).
Ethics: Truth Versus Lies?
September 15, 2019, Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
As our country has just passed a milestone of 18 years of war and death, physical and mental injury, and is now entering into a unknown period of more of the same, many comments and observations from our local veterans around the ‘coffee table’ are becoming questions about “well just why did we used to go to war”, and “weren’t we commanded as troops a bit differently?”. Their answers and conversations often reflect upon the reporting of ‘war correspondents’ such as Ernie Pyle, Edward R. Murrow, Ernest Hemmingway and more recently mentioning Anderson Cooper, Daniel Pearl and James Foley. The reality of a war correspondent (a journalist who covers stories firsthand from a war zone) is certainly not new, for instance around about 400 BC during the Greek Peloponnesian Wars, Thucydides wrote a history of the events he observed as a commander during those wars. Many Generals often quoted the writings of other commanders and war correspondents, General Patton being probably the most famous for those references.
As a person who enlisted for our country and was deployed to a war zone and saw first hand many operations of how war was administered, I now frequently reflect on the comments, observations and meanings of not only the journalists, but those vocal politicians, those ‘think-tank’ analysts, TV and radio commentators, and am still ‘scratching my head’ over some of their perspectives!! I think Bill Moyers, a prominent journalist and former White House Press Secretary was one of a few reporters that had a very unique insight into an assessment of our current era. One of his statements I think sums up some of the problems that our nation is facing: “Terms like ‘Liberty’ and ‘individual freedom’ invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to’ promote the general welfare’ have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the state and the political class that runs it. Yes Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it”, from his “Help” speech in 2007.
Moyers often pointed out that Americas’ international ‘conflicts’ seemed to be based upon the: “failure to embrace a moral vision of America based on the transcendent faith that human beings are more than the sum of their material appetites, our Country is more than an economic machine, and freedom is not license but responsibility”. That quote was from his “For Americas Sake” speech in December 2006, and from his “Power of Democracy” speech in 2007: “Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don’t talk about what Democracy means – what it bestows upon us – the revolutionary idea that isn’t just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency”.
The role of the ‘boots on the ground’ war correspondent has proved to be quite different not only with the area of conflict, but with the progressive innovation of communication equipment and the promotion of various types of journalistic reporting depending on the ‘political/social agenda’ of the company hiring the journalist. What you as an individual read and interpret of a war correspondents’ writings, are generally formed from your own personal viewpoints. The general consensus of most veterans, especially those that were active in war zones, is that the reporting from WWII was probably the most unbiased though the newer concept of ‘embedding’ correspondents with units in the battle zones certainly gives the concerned public a taste of ‘what it is really like’.
By the way: I just read about another Marine imprisoned by ICE after two tours, a bomb blast, traumatic brain injury, trouble with the law and now after being in our country since 3 years old Jose Segovia is facing deportation to El Salvador, a country that he doesn’t know. What did we promise him?
“American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.” Edward R. Murrow, American Journalist, Broadcaster and War Correspondent; 1908 to 1965; attended WSU, Pullman, Wa.
A Local and National Dilemma…
September 1, 2019 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini
Every time I’m out at any of our local events or just going out to the grocery store, I usually stop a veteran I see wearing a military hat to ‘thank’ them for their service, and that usually leads to conversation, or I am stopped by veterans or their family members who have a question that’s on their mind. Those questions, 80 percent of the time, usually have to do with veteran benefits or the lack of knowing where to find assistance to their problems. What is also very interesting are the number of ‘non-military’ folks that stop me to ask why isn’t the VA or somebody, doing something about veteran suicide, homelessness or ‘in-home care’ or addiction problems that our veterans and their families are faced with?
There are so many circumstances that align themselves as to why something is not functioning properly, especially in federal or state Agencies. For instance the US Dept. of Veteran Affairs employs over 375,000 folks and has net program costs of somewhere around $275 Billion dollars, and the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs is supported by a 2 year budget of about $590 Million dollars. No matter how much money is spent or how programs are administered, there will always be some segment of that program that does not totally satisfy the ‘projected outcomes’ to every person enrolled in that program. It may be that ‘all possibilities’ to ensure a positive outcome were not thought of or could not be incorporated the benefit.
For instance, a study here in Oregon which was funded by Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs (ODVA) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), set out to inquire about the types and availability of ‘Behavioral Health Services’ that were offered to the 310,000 plus veterans in Oregon. The main reason for this new study, among others, was that a recent state study on veteran health, wrote Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick, a columnist at the “Register-Guard”, Eugene, Oregon, found “Oregon veterans may be at lower risk for depression or sadness, but they are more likely to die from suicide and opioid overdose than non-veterans”.
This study finds what I just mentioned above and that so many studies reveal, that no matter how ‘all encompassing’ a program is outlined, there are always those participants that will not reap the desired benefit of the ‘mission’ of the program. Ms. Talesnick went on to report; “some of the notable findings include: 1 out of 3 veterans surveyed who felt they needed behavioral health care didn’t seek services because they felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Oregon veterans ages 18 – 34 are at the highest risk for suicide. Lane County has the second highest rate of veteran suicide of all Oregon counties. Specific needs and expectations of veteran subgroups vary in ways that affect how those veterans seek care. Tribal representatives report a need for services that meet cultural needs with an emphasis on a preference for traditional healing methods and peer support as the most important factors in care-seeking behavior for tribal veterans. Sexual harassment and assault impacts service members of all genders, including at least 50% of female veterans. Interviewees reported a need for more community-based, gender-specific options in Oregon, particularly for military sexual trauma.”
Ms. Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick also reported on the studies recommendations to help improve veteran care being: “That OHA, ODVA, and the VA Health Care Systems in Oregon should collaborate to develop a cohesive, well-researched, and targeted education and outreach effort to de-stigmatize behavioral health issues and treatment, OHA and ODVA are taking a statewide tour to learn more from particular communities over the next several months.” To read Ms. Talesnicks’ article “Oregon study finds that number of providers a significant issue for veteran Health”, go to ‘Stars and Stripes’ and select ‘Veterans’, it was published August 24, 2019. Also on the subject of ‘Suicide’ please read the article “A difficult but needed Conversation” by Ms. Leslie Thompson, Editor, Argus Observer, printed August 25, 2019 on the Argus Opinion Page. I would here mention that the continuing progress being made by our ODVA and the VA are certainly improving the care and we hope this progress will continue.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” Juliette Lewis.
Another Perspective on Suicide Prevention
August 18, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
I have personally known a few veterans that have taken their lives in the battle to overcome deep seeded personal emotional problems. Here in our western treasure valley, one young veteran who was so hopeful to help other vets, sadly ended his bright future under insurmountable emotional pressures.
Presented here is a very penetrating article discussing ‘veteran suicide’ by a military widow who lost her husband to suicide in 2005, a Marine Major who was preparing for a second Iraq deployment. Kim Ruocco now holds a master’s degree in clinical social work and has overseen the creation of the ‘TAPS Suicide Model of Support” program emphasizing the best approaches to care for survivors of military suicide.
“We see suicide in the headlines almost every day, most recently with another tragic veteran suicide on a VA medical campus in North Carolina. Recent CDC data shows national suicide rates are higher than they have been in several generations, and our military and veteran communities have suffered disproportionately. In a letter to commanders last week, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David. L. Goldfein reported that 78 airmen have died by suicide so far this year, a rate alarming enough to spur the service to order an Air Force-wide safety-focused “stand down”. Additionally, the far smaller Marine Corps lost 77 of its own to suicide in 2018. Marking a 10-year high. Meanwhile, the Department of Veteran Affairs has reported that veterans from all service branches continue to die by suicide at a rate of roughly 20 every day. What is going on? Allow me to attempt at least a partial response. “
Mrs. Ruocco continues, “One problem is that there is an excessive focus on suicide prevention. The standard response following death by suicide or increasing suicide rates is to double down on prevention efforts: reviewing risk factors, teaching warnings signs, and broadcasting crisis hotlines. Focusing solely on prevention may inadvertently stigmatize survivors, peers and providers with subtle messages of guilt, shame and blame. Highlighting what was missed, or should have been caught, may just reinforce the torment they are already wrestling with. Although prevention efforts are well meaning and part of the process, they do not take into account the devastating impact that suicide has on those exposed. A 2015 report issued by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention cited research that showed survivors of suicide loss are at increased risk of suicide themselves. A separate study conducted the same year by the National Institute of Mental Health found that soldiers belonging to Army Units with five or more suicide attempts in a year, faced double the suicide risk.”
The ‘TAPS” = Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, is a “Model of Support”, a non-profit, life-saving, best practices organization that Mrs. Ruocco helped found and is a vice president of, has assisted countless survivors of ‘military suicide loss’ and bases her recommendations on the compilation of data the organization has compiled, and she continues her article, “Taps is leading the way in a national call to action to do better in responding to suicide, in particular by codifying postvention as a standard industry practice. Postvention is a proactive intervention following a suicide that decreases risk and promotes healing for those exposed to the event.” “The most critical part of that model is the stabilization. Suicides are traumatic events for everyone, but especially for those who witness the deaths, discover the bodies, or provide cleanup at the scenes. According to the 2017 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (or DODSER), approximately 76 percent of military suicides occurred either in the home, the barracks, a friend’s house or the workplace. This statistic highlights how many of our family members and service members are exposed to significant trauma, which can complicate grief and exacerbate existing mental and behavioral health issues in survivors.” To read the full article by Kim Ruocco, log onto the article published in the Military Times: https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2019/08/09/we-can-do-more-suicide-prevention-cannot-be-the-only-strategy/.
“Battling for our Wounded Warriors to have a better tomorrow for what they battled for US yesterday.” Roxanne Ward.
Ways To Honor and Post 9/11 GI Bill
August 4, 2019 Veterans Corner Article by Ronald Verini
“I just wanted something that was going to be permanent and also wanted something that was going to honor our veterans in a unique and different way” said Oceanographer and scuba diving instructor Heyward Mathews in Florida. Mr. Mathews is referring to the “Circle of Heroes” monument which now is comprised of one dozen life-sized statues anchored by 2,000 pound bases underwater in the Gulf of Mexico. There will be 24 concrete statues when finished and those will represent service members of the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, Army and the Air Force. The location is about 10 miles off the Florida Coast at Dunedin Beach and is at a depth of 40 feet, and is part of a 100-foot circle facing a ‘Pentagon’ shaped monument honoring the services with 5 ‘bronze emblems’ on each side of the monument.
Funding for this project was led by Mr. Mathews Uncle, former Congressman David Jolly, R-Fla. The memorial can be visited by either a scuba dive or one can snorkel to view the monument from above. It is also intended to benefit veterans struggling with PTSD, Trauma, TBI and depression. There are also plans for groups of ‘amputee’ veterans and civilians to be led on ‘diving ventures’ through the memorial.
And speaking of honoring our veterans, for those of you who yet were not aware of a local Museum and Library that honors our local and regional veterans, the ‘Sgt. Joshua Brennan Memorial Library and Museum’ is located at 180 W. Idaho Ave, Ontario, Or. And is open Tuesday & Thursday from 10:am to 3:00pm, or available for private viewing by appointment by calling 541-889-1978.
This last couple of weeks I have had not only some local veterans, but also a few calls from around our Northwest area from veterans asking if they qualified for the ‘Post-9/11 GI Bill’. One of the first important facts to know is that your service needs to have started on or after September 10, 2001. And that you needed to have served on ‘active duty’ for at least 90 days (whether or not you are separated now with an honorable discharge, or are still in the military). Important to be aware that the amount of dollars you receive will depend on the amount of time you were on active duty. For quick reference you can log onto this address: https://www.militarytimes.com/education-transition/2019/07/20/gi-bill-benefits-guide/ .
Also please note that in August of 2020 there will be some changes when other portions of the ‘Forever GI Bill will be put into effect. Children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty, on or after 9/11 ‘may’ also be eligible to use the GI Bill to further their education through the Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program. These benefits are available at the 100% level to children between age 18 and 33, and spouses who have not remarried for 15 years after the service members death.
You can apply for GI Bill benefits online (online address: https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/apply.asp) or in person at a VA regional office, for us here in the Western Treasure Valley that would then be at the Boise VA. Or, you can call 1-888-GI BILL and ask the VA to mail an application to you directly. If you are at all nervous about filling out this application well you can also seek assistance at the Admissions office at the school/college that you plan to attend.
Once you apply and are accepted you will receive a certificate of eligibility that acts as proof that your payment will be coming. This is important because it means that your school cannot charge you ‘late charges’ because though the money may not arrive in time it is no fault of yours! This ‘Post-9/11 GI Bill includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for textbooks and supplies.
Also important to consider that this Bill covers all tuition and fees and in-state rates for public colleges and universities, not so for private and ‘for-profit’ schools. Hope this helps some of your questions.
“There’s likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that’s your mission.” Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US Army Retired – born 08/14/1954,
co-founder/Partner, McChrystal Group