Veterans: Made in the USA (Forbes)
Commentary: “America has been making veterans for 239 years. The U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marine were born in 1775. The Coast Guard was founded in 1790. The Air Force, the youngest of the services, has been around since 1947 (although the Air Force existed as the Army Air Force beginning in 1941). These are the men and women who racked up one of the most amazing records of success in the history of the world: The American Revolution, The American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and most recently the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that’s only a partial list. The American military has responded to emergencies world wide like the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Our military has served all over this planet. (And in space, too — the vast majority of the early astronauts were in the military while serving in NASA.) There are never enough words to say a proper “thank you” to those who’ve served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
WWII veterans keep giving their time, volunteering at VA hospitals (Tampa Bay Times)
On average, an American World War II veteran dies every three minutes. Another one will be gone by the time you finish reading this story. The men and women who defeated Hitler and Tojo can’t beat Father Time, and their ranks are thinning at the rate of 413 per day. But in the Tampa Bay area, some of these oldest soldiers are still contributing to the cause in their own way: They volunteer at local veterans hospitals.’ Among them are Charles Logsdon, 85, who watched an atomic bomb go off; Bob Stanton, 92, who has bits of German shrapnel in his body; Mary Millett, 91, who boiled needles at a Naval hospital; and Walter Skelton, 90, who survived a kamikaze attack on his aircraft carrier. They are volunteer patient escorts at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, formerly called Bay Pines. They push patients around in wheelchairs, taking them to medical clinics or physical therapy sessions. They provide a bit of company and conversation, and help patients navigate the medical center’s sprawling, maze-like campus.
Wounded Iraq War soldier works to prevent veteran suicides (New York Daily News)
Retired Army Capt. James Van Thatch knows that every day is Veterans Day. He was badly wounded twice in Iraq. These days he’s on a new tour of duty back home as a first responder trying to reduce the alarming number of veterans committing suicide. “Every 65 minutes, one of my fellow veterans commits suicide,” he says. “Twenty-two a day. It’s my duty as a veteran to try to save some of them.” Last week, Van Thatch saved one. “I’d met him at a speaking engagement,” he says. “He seemed troubled. I gave him my card. I told him to call me if he needed help. This troubled veteran called me a few days later. He was about 35, having suicidal thoughts. I asked why. He said he’d been working for a U.S. attorney’s office in New York. A fellow vet had made a serious blunder on the job. This vet who called me had tried to help a fellow vet. But it turned out the mistake the first vet made was a crime. And by trying to help him rectify it, he’d jeopardized himself.” The suicidal vet told Van Thatch he was forced to resign or face stiffer consequences. “Unemployed, he soon lost his apartment,” says Van Thatch. “Homeless for trying to help a fellow vet, after serving his nation in a foreign war. He felt lost, alienated, hopeless. So I calmed him down by telling him about my own background.”
Therapy dogs help veterans soldier on (ABC News)
After finishing three tours of duty in Iraq, Jim Stanek was grateful to head home with all his limbs intact. But a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder made it difficult to live a normal life. “I didn’t want to socialize, I had a terrible memory and my anxiety through the roof,” he recalled. The only thing that seemed to help the 36-year-old New Mexico native calm his nerves was being around a friend’s therapy dog. So in May of 2010, he and his wife Lindsey decided to train his 5-year-old rescue mutt, Sarge, for therapy work. The Staneks quickly learned that it can take up to two years and $60,000 to train a therapy dog properly — big obstacles they felt, for any veteran who might benefit from having a canine partner to help cope with the psychological and physical wounds of war. They decided to start Paws and Stripes, a non-profit that matches up therapy dogs with veterans.
Veterans find real respect on Disneyland’s Main Street, USA (Orange County Register)
Sharon Peterson’s eyes welled up. Standing in the middle of Disneyland’s Town Square, the 46-year-old Costa Mesa resident looked up at an American flag, gently waving as it was lowered from the sunset sky. With her right hand over her heart, Peterson soaked in the Disneyland Band’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” mouthing the national anthem’s words and rocking side to side with its slow, steady beat. She thought about her father, Army veteran Fred Morse, who served in the Korean War. She thought about her older brother, Bill Morse, also an Army veteran. And she thought about a nephew, Brian Morse, a Marine who just returned home from Afghanistan. In front of Peterson, in Disneyland’s Town Square, near the podium with the flagpole, a group of U.S. veterans stood at attention, in salute. That’s when the tears began to fall. “This is intense,” Peterson said. “This is such an important part of Main Street. This is the fiber of what we are built on. It’s like fireworks. It’s the Pledge of Allegiance, Dapper Dans and Mickey Mouse.” Every afternoon just before sunset, Disneyland celebrates the lowering of the American flag. Disney’s Flag Retreat Ceremony is equal parts patriotism, tradition and respect for the nation’s flag – and the park’s way of honoring veterans who have served our country – all set against a backdrop of old Americana and Mickey Mouse.
How one nonprofit is helping veterans serve again, at home (Forbes)
After eight years of military service flying Blackhawk helicopters for the U.S. Army around the globe, Spencer Kympton felt something was missing when he came home. He had the skills to transition into corporate life—he earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and then took a job at McKinsey & Company—but he didn’t have a mission. “Any way that I spun it to myself, it always came back to increasing profits for another organization—and that wasn’t something that I found fulfilling,” he said. Searching for more meaningful work, Kympton left McKinsey to join Teach for America, a job that felt more fulfilling because he could connect to both community and national needs. Then something happened that changed his life again. In 2009, one of Kympton’s best friends from West Point, who had followed a similar post-military career path to business school and the corporate world, decided to return to the army. On the outside, like Kympton and thousands of other veterans, he seemed to have successfully transitioned to corporate and civilian life. On the inside, however, something was missing. He, too, missed public service. “I think he just felt disconnected from this sense of purpose and meaning,” Kympton said. His friend was deployed to Iraq and, three weeks later, was killed when an insurgent detonated a bomb in a public market in Baghdad. His friend’s experience hit home. Kympton decided he wanted to help veterans transition to civilian life by finding other ways to serve.
21 programs helping veterans through farming (Christian Science Monitor)
This Veteran’s Day, Food Tank brings you 21 organizations from around the world that are working to help veterans heal their wounds through farming and agriculture. These organizations are working to improve the lives of veterans and create a sustainable food system by educating veterans to be sustainable vegetable producers, providing job and skills training, and helping families rebuild their lives after civil war. In the United States alone, there are 19.6 million veterans. According to the Independent Voter Network, approximately 3.6 million veterans have a service-related disability, 7.6 percent of veterans are unemployed, and veterans make up 13 percent of the adult homeless population. The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans finds that 1.4 million more are at risk of homelessness due to poverty and lack of support. Additionally, up to 20 percent of Iraqi War veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have suffered from PTSD at some point in their life. Fortunately, farming can have a positive impact on the lives of veterans around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gardens offer many benefits for both physical and mental health. Not only do they provide healthy food, but they also help people to engage in physical activity, build marketable skills, improve social well-being, and decrease violence in neighborhoods.
Veterans in ‘Urban Warriors’ seek to help youth (Chicago Sun-Times)
Commentary: “Jorge Maya and Rafael P. Rodriguez sat across from me one evening last week — the former a 34-year-old Army combat veteran and the other an 18-year-old draftee in Chicago’s street gang wars. Maya once walked in Rafael’s shoes. The question before us was whether the younger man will ever get an opportunity to walk in Maya’s. It’s not so much a matter of going into the military service, although he tells me “it would be nice to serve my country” at some point. What he’d really like is to survive, then serve, his Little Village neighborhood, the same often dangerous place that produced Maya. “Even if I don’t go [into the military], I’m going to assume I’m a hood veteran,” Rafael said. “It would be a great opportunity. Everybody would like to have a role model.” The YMCA of Greater Chicago has brought these two “hood veterans” together with others like them and dubbed them Urban Warriors. With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a common denominator, it has proved a good fit. Urban Warriors is a mentoring program, one of many in the city but unique in its pairing of military veterans with troubled youth who also know what it’s like to dodge a bullet.