VA, lenders, nonprofits mobilize to help veterans on home front (Los Angeles Times)
There are fewer military boots on the ground overseas, but here at home there have been major campaigns in the housing market this year directed at veterans. Not only has the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA home-loan program gained significant market share compared with competing private and government mortgage options, but big banks and mortgage companies have stepped up efforts to help returning veterans obtain decent and affordable housing, including by giving them hundreds of homes free of charge. The VA’s home-purchase financing program is now at record levels. New loans to buy houses have more than doubled since 2007. Since 2011, when VA-backed mortgages represented about 3% of total home-purchase mortgage activity, they’ve soared to roughly a 7% share, according to the Mortgage Bankers Assn. For sales of newly built homes, the VA share is much larger — it was 14.5% in September compared with a 16.7% share for the other major federal housing finance program, the Federal Housing Administration.
Veterans, former MLB players gather for pheasant hunt (Topeka Capital-Journal)
Wounded veterans, along with current and former members of several professional baseball teams, spent Sunday morning in the natural grass of the Kansas prairie during the first Wounded Warrior Pheasant Hunt. “I sat for three months thinking on it and then I said ‘I am going to take some veterans hunting,’ ” hunt organizer Jacob Edwards said after the Sunday morning hunt, which was filmed as a part of the award for the Pursuit Channel. Edwards and former Pheasants Forever national board member Ed Holland, of Bucyrus, brought the two groups together. “We got to talking and (Holland) got some former Royals to come out,” Edwards said. Even though the hunt was filmed, Edwards said that isn’t what Sunday was centered around. For him, giving the veterans a good experience was the main goal. During the hunt, Edwards said the veterans were paired up with several celebrities, including former Kansas City Royals Tom Burgmeier — a left-handed relief pitcher with the team from 1969-73 — and Ed Hearn — a catcher with the team from 1987-88 and a member of the New York Mets’ 1986 World Series team — along with Mark Clear, who finished his career with the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Texas VA band helps veterans deal with PTSD, realities of life (Killeen Daily Herald)
The delight on Dennis Roberts’ face as he played the drums during a practice session of the VA band last week was a sight to behold. Roberts’ eyes would close as his head swayed back and forth and he kept the beat for the ensemble. He seemed to be filled with joy. Made up a two vocalists, two guitarists, a saxophonist and two drummers, with Bridgett Holmes, Temple VA music therapist, on the piano, the group was practicing Christmas music for the first time this year. When Kevin Henderson took over the drums while the band played “Under the Boardwalk,” a song that garnered it a third place in the annual National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, Roberts took the opportunity to go out to his car and bring back a jingle stick so he could contribute in the song. Henderson has been a drummer with the band for about two years. He served in the Army during the Gulf War. He has post-traumatic stress disorder and the music occupies his mind and his time. “It gets me out of the house, out of that box I placed myself in,” he said. As he struggled with PTSD, he shied away from being with other people, but the band changed that, Henderson said. Each of the band members is dealing with some problem, he said, and it’s nice to be able to be open with acquaintances.
Woman fights to get lost sailors on Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall (Navy Times)
It has been 45 years since 74 American sailors died when their ship was cut in two by an Australian carrier off the coast of Vietnam. Their names aren’t on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. It’s an oversight a young Cedar Falls woman has made it her mission to rectify. Hannah Ackerman, a Cedar Falls High School graduate now attending Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, has won history awards for her presentations on two naval disasters. One is the loss of Waterloo’s five Sullivan brothers during World War II. The other is the “missing 74” of the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans during the Vietnam War. They were killed in a collision with the HMAS Melbourne June 3, 1969, during a training exercise. If Ackerman has anything to say about it, the missing 74 will be missing no more from the wall. And she’s had plenty to say on the subject. Only the names of soldiers killed by enemy fire and in the war zone are included on the wall. But the sailors aboard the Evans did support combat troops and were headed back to the war zone before the accident occurred. “So a difference of about 100 miles keeps them from being honored,” Ackerman said. “And there are no boundary lines for heroes, I say.”
New Jersey considers providing more services for women veterans (Newsworks)
Legislation in the wings could mean women veterans in New Jersey will have an easier time getting the services they need. The Assembly’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has advanced a measure to provide travel assistance to veterans so they can get to treatment and counseling programs. Barbara Kim-Hagemann, who leads the New Jersey VFW women’s veterans committee, said female veterans need more services. “Women are really neglected. They’re kind of combined with the men,” she said. “We need different issues addressed and taken care of, such as child care for the women, job fairs for the women, counseling for the children, these kids need to get some counseling for mommy readjusting.”
Service dogs compete in inspiring race-inside-the-race at Marine Corps Marathon (USA Today)
Before tens of thousands of people took off to run 26.2 miles at the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, a group of four-legged heroes kicked off the day with a 2K run for ‘Dogs of War’, which honors and brings attention to service dogs for members of the military and veterans. The dogs are trained to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries suffered overseas. Jason Haag, who came back from the last of his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010, said he found himself, like many veterans facing an unending spiral of PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. He tried talk therapy. Acupuncture. But nothing worked until one day he googled ‘therapy dogs’. Seven months later, he brought home Axle, who helps him when he’s stressed, having nightmares or flashbacks and anxiety attacks. “Just to be able to come back into society is what he does for me,” he said. “He watches my back, he covers me, he basically takes the place of those Marines that I had before, which is invaluable.” The walk/run on Sunday was hosted by Jim and Lindsey Stanek, whose non-profit organization ‘Paws and Stripes’ is going to be featured on an upcoming A&E documentary series.
‘Cherish your life and persevere,’ former POW Jessica Lynch tells audience (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Delivering a message of perseverance, former POW Jessica Lynch on Sunday addressed more than 100 people in a Baptist church near Pittsburgh. More than 10 years ago, Lynch was a private first class in the Army when her military convoy was ambushed in Iraq. Eleven soldiers were killed, and six were taken prisoner. A petite, personable blonde, Lynch, 31, spoke as part of the church’s annual veterans program. In the years since the attack, Lynch earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Virginia University. Now a motivational speaker and substitute teacher, Lynch also has acted in two films for Christian filmmaker Jason Campbell. “Perseverance is my life motto. … Cherish your life and persevere. I know I’m not the only person in this room who’s had to deal with a struggle,” she said. She thanked the veterans present. “Your service to our country means just as much as mine,” she said.
Original Tuskegee airman receives the honor of her lifetime (WSAV-Savannah)
World War II veterans are known to be ‘The Greatest Generation’ of Americans. It’s been 70 years since WWII, but a veteran in the Coastal Empire received the honor of her lifetime on Saturday. Sgt. Amelia Jones, 95, was jacketed as a Tuskegee Airman at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Ga. Sgt. Jones was born on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, in 1919. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Hunter Army Airfield in 1943, and served her country during WWII, in the 99th Pursuit Squadron based at Godman Army Air Field in Kentucky under then-Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. On October 25, 2014, she was finally recognized as a Tuskegee Airman. “Thank you,” Jones repeated, in tears, to a group of children who applauded her entrance into the museum. It was a moment nearly 70 years in the making. “[It’s] good to see the babies out to see me today. Oh, I’m so proud. I’m happy,” Jones said.