Veterans GOODNEWS for Feb. 3

Veterans GOODNEWS for Feb. 3

Good news for veteransThe 10 best jobs for veterans in 2015 (Forbes)
Many veterans returning to the U.S. from stints overseas have years of job experience under their belts, yet they feel daunted by the challenges of making the transition into the civilian workforce. Often they’ve put in five, ten or more years in the field but they don’t have college degrees. While they may have driven heavy equipment, supervised troops, worked as medics or programmed computers, they’re not sure how to apply those skills in the civilian world. Most veterans are more qualified than they realize for well-paying jobs, ranging from software engineer (median salary $85,400) to industrial engineering technician ($50,900). At the same time, says Lee, many employers don’t realize that vets are great job candidates. “There’s a real perception among employers that veterans are difficult to hire,” he says. But the contrary is the case, he insists. Veterans are often more qualified than civilians if they are matched with the right jobs.

New wheelchair gives paralyzed veterans a chance to stand on their own (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
The pan sizzles as Army vet John Christensen separates an egg over a pool of butter. He pivots his wheels, propels his chair to the cupboard and stretches for the salt shaker. He’s back to the stovetop before the egg burns. “It’s my first time cooking and standing in 32 years.” The Minneapolis VA hospital has revamped the traditional standing wheelchair to help make paralyzed veterans more functional in everyday life. Having had this vision of a more mobile chair nearly a decade ago, its creator has finally seen a workable prototype come to life. “For years I’ve felt so frustrated because my patients who could benefit from standing didn’t have the ability to move once they stood up,” said Dr. Gary Goldish, the hospital’s director of extended care and rehabilitation. With help from a team of biomedical engineers, Goldish modified a wheelchair already on the market by adding a drive wheel that allows the push rim to rise so patients can reach it when they stand, Goldish explained. Whether working in an assembly line, painting a living room, or reaching for a book, “the chair moves with the patient and gives them full functionality like we have when we stand,” according to Goldish. In existing models, patients who can’t reach the push rim in the standing position are forced to sit before they can boost the chair and move themselves to a new location. “They’re just hard to get going,” Christensen said. The VA’s design also keeps the chair’s four wheels on the ground at all times, providing more stability — and much more maneuverability.

Philanthropist gives Florida veterans center $352,000 (
A new veterans mental health counseling initiative is under way at Jacksonville’s Five Star Veterans Center, boosted by $352,000 from philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver. The program will serve veterans who live at Five Star, a group rehabilitation center that focuses on homeless, post-9/11 veterans. The initiative is a collaboration between the center, the University of North Florida’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and the North Carolina-based NBCC Foundation, which supports counseling programs for underserved populations. The goal is to help veterans “suffering from the less visible wounds” of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, said Greg Frazier, president of the Frazier Group, a local nonprofit development firm that represents the center and the foundation. Those veterans’ “counseling needs are intensive and require more frequent appointments than are generally available through existing channels,” said Frazier. Andrew King, director of the UNF Counseling Center, said having counselors trained in veterans’ specialized needs is key. “These conditions that occur in combat zones are very intense,” he said. “It is a fairly intense type of treatment.”

Veterans at Fresno VA receive POW medals (The Fresno Bee)
Wild Bill Begley has seen and endured things no one should. Begley, who served as a senior master sergeant in the Air Force from 1941 to 1961, was a prisoner of war during World War II after his plane was shot down. He is also a survivor of the 60-mile Bataan Death March in the Philippines, where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers were forced to march to Japanese prison camps. Many were denied food and water along the way. Those who collapsed were killed. Begley, 93, saw soldiers beheaded. He was tortured, beaten unconscious and used for slave labor. He survived on watery soup, snakes, lizards and monkeys. “It was a horrible planet at that time,” said Begley’s wife, Lenora. Now, 70 years after Begley was liberated, he and three other veterans who live at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Fresno were finally recognized for their time as prisoners of war. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3225 in Clovis and the hospital organized a short ceremony Monday morning to present Prisoner of War medals to the four men. The other honorees were: Sgt. Jennings Brown, Sgt. George Dillard and Staff Sgt. Thomas W. Richardson. “It’s past due,” Lenora Begley said. “He deserves it.”

After 3rd Iraq deployment, veteran finds help in program called FOCUS (The Washington Post)
When Jose Perez left the Army in 2007, he struggled to connect with his three kids. He’d just returned, wounded, from his third deployment to Iraq, and he felt emotionally distant and detached from his children. Things were especially rough with his oldest son, who was then 9 years old. “He felt like I’d chosen something else over him,” Perez says. After seeing a flier at a veterans center in Chino, Calif., Perez enrolled in Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS), a program that aims to build resilience and prevent the psychological problems that can stem from military life. The FOCUS program consists of eight sessions, beginning with a psychological health assessment of the family using a standardized questionnaire. “Very often, something comes to light that the parents weren’t aware of,” says psychiatrist Patricia Lester, director of the Nathanson Family Resilience Center at UCLA and the lead researcher behind the program. “They might be focusing on the child who is acting out and not notice that their other child is really depressed.” If this screening shows that a child or parent is at risk for anxiety or depression, the finding is immediately discussed with the family and, if necessary, the relevant family member is given a referral for treatment. The initial assessment doesn’t just check for signs of trouble, Lester says, it also identifies strengths that a family can learn to use when they are needed. One of the program’s most powerful elements, Lester says, is the narrative that families construct. Working together, family members create a graphic timeline of events that includes reassignments, deployments, difficult experiences that happened during deployment, and homecomings.

Program at Louisville VA hospital ensures ‘no veteran dies alone’ (WDRB-Louisville)
The basis of a national mission is that ‘no veteran should die alone.’ Volunteers are needed to come and sit with veterans during the final hours of their life at Louisville’s VA Hospital. On Saturday, Air Force Veteran and avid University of Louisville fan, Tim Webb got the visit of his lifetime from U of L football players Will Gardner, Jimmie Terry and Colin Holba, along with Kentucky Female Veteran of the Year Lindsay Gargotta. “As soon as those three players walked in the door, he sat up in bed, he was smiling. They handed him a U of L football that was autographed. It just made his life, he has a short time left and it was what he wanted at the end,” said Renee Finnegan, a volunteer at the hospital. She said the players got something out of the visit, too. “I asked them, how does that feel that someone is dying and they want you to come visit them? The three young men were really, really taken by it.” You do not have to be a football star to change someone’s life. Army veteran Renee Finnegan visits dying vets regularly. “I started three years ago, and I love it. Some of my friends think that’s weird but I love it,” Finnegan explained. “I love being able to make a veteran feel better, even if it’s just holding their hand. That they know that somebody is there with them.”

Marine veteran who lost leg in combat to climb Mount Everest (New York Post)
Iraq and Afghanistan vet Charlie Linville lost his leg to an IED, but the Marine is determined to stand on top of the world by climbing Mount Everest. Marine Staff Sgt. Linville enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006, served multiple tours and trained in disarming IEDs. He was struck by an explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, which resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee, the loss of two fingers, a severe spinal injury and moderate traumatic brain injury. But now, the married father of two, 29, is training to climb Everest with the Heroes Project in the spring. A Kickstarter campaign will finance filming his ascent. The Boise, Idaho, native told Page Six, “This is not about myself. It is to inspire other veterans and amputees to get up and accomplish their goals and have a meaningful life.” Quoting the Oscar nominated film “The Imitation Game” — about Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Enigma code in WWII — Linville added, “This is to show everyone that veterans, and particularly those who were wounded, are capable of so much. To quote the movie, ‘Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.’ ”