VA, DoD open sleep center to treat veterans, active duty with PTSD (Kileen Daily Herald)
Some of the clinic beds in the Central Texas Sleep Center look more like bedrooms than something one would find at a medical facility. The center, a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Department venture, officially opened its doors Friday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The reason we went into this joint venture is because there was such a backlog of active-duty soldiers that had sleep disorders and needed sleep studies done,” said retired Lt. Col. Kevin Duffy, the center’s administrator, explaining that many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma-related sleep disorders. An initiative that began in 2002, Duffy said the high demand among veterans and active-duty soldiers drove the joint effort between the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood and the Temple-based Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. Duffy said the $5.2 million in federal funds required to build the center was received in 2008. Construction on the 16-bed facility started in fall 2013, he said. In addition to the sleeping rooms, the facility contains administrative rooms and a control room, where physicians and technicians monitor breathing, heart rate and other vital signs, he said.
For every veteran, also thank a spouse or a loved one (The Oregonian)
Mom, Patricia Anne (Johnson) Monroe, is ending her life on earth this weekend; peacefully in a comfortable and loving extended care home in Everett, Wash., with our sister at her side. Her passing isn’t particularly noteworthy for anyone outside her wide circle of family and friends (what few are left. She’s 93) and, like most mothers and fathers, she’ll have a long fact-filled obituary chronicling a life well-lived. But not here. It’s more important to note in this week of veterans’ observances her (and that of all those like her) extraordinary accomplishment as a career service spouse. Mostly wives, but some husbands, military spouses are largely over-looked yet vital contributors to our nation’s freedom. They stand quietly, resolutely, in the shadows of statues and gravestones.
Program helps veterans through the words of Shakespeare (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Achilles stared down Hector. The two warriors warily circled each other, verbally flexing their muscles in a war of words. The scene comes late in Shakespeare’s play “Troilus and Cressida,” and Chris Nickrant (Achilles) and Jeff Peterson (Hector) had not memorized the lines where their characters boast how they will kill each other. But on Sunday the Vietnam War veterans were Shakespearean actors for the day, acting out the emotional scene at Milwaukee’s Veterans Affairs hospital through an innovative program that pairs professional actors and directors with veterans to perform scenes from Shakespeare plays. Called Feast of Crispian after the rallying cry in “Henry V,” the program helps veterans overcoming trauma, emotional issues, substance abuse or difficulties reintegrating into society through the words of Shakespeare. Many participants learn of the program while undergoing treatment at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center or from friends, or they see a flier and decide to check out the three-day free workshop. “I fell in love with it,” said Nickrant, who served in the Air Force from 1970-’74. “It has enabled me to feel more self-confident. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you finish.” Professional actors stand next to the veterans, feeding them the lines, giving definitions of tough words and asking questions to help them with emotions they should be feeling. The technique removes the stress of reading a difficult passage, so veterans can concentrate on the words.
Veterans build camaraderie, show talent at shootout (Tampa Bay Times)
Joel Tavera, a U.S. Army sergeant, braced the butt of his M4 carbine against his right shoulder and leveled the rifle. He couldn’t see his targets, though, because he is blind. Tavera, 27, served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. One morning while returning from a mission, Tavera’s armored truck was hit by a missile. The explosion killed three men and left Tavera with burns on more than 60 percent of his body. Shrapnel pierced his body, some striking his brain. His right leg below the knee and the fingertips on his right hand were amputated, and he was left blind. Despite his injuries, Tavera competed Saturday in the third annual Military Heroes Top Shot competition at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office training facility in Lithia, Fla. He was one of 20 wounded or retired veterans to compete in the six-round shootout in which participants hit targets near and far with handguns and assault rifles. The event was a fundraiser for Black Dagger Military Hunt Club Inc., a nonprofit that coordinates hunting, fishing and shooting outings for veterans, and for HCSO Charities Inc., which raises money and contributes to local charities.
Michigan court helps veterans cope with problems (Detroit Free Press)
Corey Gagnon knows the sounds and sights of war. It’s the bullets whizzing by his head or the whir of a helicopter the 30-year-old Navy veteran experienced during two tours in Iraq. In 2008, he thought his discharge and readjustment to civilian life would be tough, but not difficult. He was wrong. “I came home and started drinking,” said Gagnon of Wayne. “It was the only way to sleep at night. … I loved being home with (my family), but it was difficult to put up with the frustrating stuff. I would yell, scream at my wife. We’d argue all the time.” The fights led to a divorce, and the drinking landed Gagnon in jail for drunken driving after he was arrested in Livingston County. “The service never told me you’re going to come home and it will be hard to deal with the kids or wife,” he said. According to Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, about 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans came home with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and national statistics show in 2004 that one in 10 inmates served in the military, which means that about 200,000 veterans were behind bars. To help, Michigan currently has 20 veterans treatment courts — more than any other state, according to the Michigan Supreme Court — that promote sobriety, recovery and stability by offering alternative consequences and specialized treatment to former and current military service members who come into contact with the judicial system.
10 large charities that support U.S. veterans (CNBC)
As the year draws to a close, there are no shortage of charities and other philanthropic organizations seeking financial support. Yet before the holiday distractions take hold, donors use this time of the year to remember the sacrifices made by the men and women serving in the U.S. military, and to support causes that help them when they return home. One of the most important aspects to investigate before giving to a veterans’ charity—or any charitable organization—is how much of the money donated actually goes to the cause being supported, and how much is earmarked for administrative expenses. Several services—such as Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Watch—provide information about a charity’s functions, finances, and management. These three services happen to be free, although others charge both the site user and the charity to be rated. Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing for Charity Navigator, says at least 75 percent of donations should go toward programs. “If a charity’s financials show that just pennies on the dollar are going towards the programs they support, that’s a red flag and you should probably direct your donations somewhere else,” she says. Check the article for the 10 large charities rated.
Ex-Army colonel honored as Veteran of the Year (Albany Times-Union)
A self-described poor country boy from the Deep South received a special honor from New York veterans on Saturday. Charles R. Johnson, 82, who grew up in Mississippi and led soldiers in Vietnam between 1963 and 1971, rising to the rank of colonel, was named Veteran of the Year during a ceremony in the New York State Military Museum. The Association of the U.S. Army and Friends of the Military Museum selected Johnson as New York’s distinguished veteran of 2014. Former military personnel, including U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, presented Johnson the special recognition as his family looked on. The 1955 West Point graduate, who came to the Capital Region in 1999, said the experience humbled him. After the ceremony, he recalled a line that a queen from Greece told him years ago. “There’s no greater feeling of self-satisfaction than to serve your country and know you served it well,” he said.