War veterans go back to Vietnam in search of closure (CBS News)
Though Thursday will mark 40 years since America’s war in Vietnam ended, for many who fought there, closure has been hard to find. CBS News recently traveled back to Vietnam with veterans looking to find meaning in the war they fought. Larry Thon was among the veterans participating in a tour of land that was once a warzone. On Hill 52, Thon’s battlefield memories flooded back to a Marine first lieutenant in 1968 on a hill thick with dust churned up by helicopters. “You know we had a job to do, that’s the way we looked at it and we did our job but I think the toll that it took on the people of this country was pretty severe,” said Thon. Being back in Vietnam helped Thon write an end to a searing chapter in his life. “I thought if I could see it under, in a different time frame it would just help me feel better about the whole thing,” said Thon. “I see a very prosperous country. At the end of the day that is what you would hope to see.” Vietnam veteran and retired Marine Colonel Dave Wall led the tour. He volunteered knowing he would be sent to Vietnam. Wall told me the experience is cathartic for some of the men. “Many of them are not psychiatrist type issues, many are just a desire to share something with somebody that you can’t share with back home,” said Wall. “Just get it out, absolutely get it out. And you have seen the interaction. They are sharing their maps, they are sharing their stories. My father served there, my brother served here. It kind of makes that whole trip worthwhile.”
40 years later, Vietnam vets search for lost loves (Tampa Bay Times)
The girls walk up and down the bar-lined street in Ho Chi Minh City, enticing male tourists to come in, come in, sit down, have a drink. Next door to the Caphe Da Lat 244 one recent night, a Vietnam veteran named Jim Reischl watches this scene unfold impassively, taking a drink out of a sweaty beer. Hard to believe it now, but more than four decades ago, a night just like this one changed his life. He was a 21-year-old Air Force sergeant from St. Joseph, Minn., a virgin, who had been in Vietnam three months before his buddies at Tan Son Nhut Air Base finally persuaded him to head into town and have some fun. That night, he met a bar girl named Linh Hoa and bought her a cup of tea. She was a sex worker. She spoke little English. She had a cascade of long hair that fell all the way down her back. He was smitten. After nearly a lifetime had passed, he found himself back in Vietnam, the first of four trips he would take hoping to find her. All this time later, he has never been able to forget something she said shortly before he was due to ship out on the Fourth of July 1970. “She told me she was pregnant,” he recalls. “Was she telling me the truth? I don’t know. At that moment, she said she wanted to come back to America with me.” He didn’t believe her at the time. He thought maybe she was trying to trap him into taking her to the United States, something his military trainers had warned him about. But nearly 45 years, two failed marriages and some Agent Orange-related health problems later, he can’t stop thinking about what she said. “I want her to tell me whether it’s true or not. Is there a child involved here? That’s what I want to find out,” he says. Reischl, 67, a retired cartographer, is not the only soldier who has turned up in Vietnam looking for his lost love in recent years, according to Brian Hjort, a Danish man who runs a volunteer website to help reunite solders with their Vietnamese girlfriends — and their children — called FatherFounded.org. Dozens have reached out to Hjort for help just in the past few years as their time has begun to wane. During the years American servicemen were posted to Vietnam before the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) 40 years ago this month, their liaisons with local women produced an estimated 100,000 children. Many of those children were able to immigrate with their close family members after a special act of Congress passed in 1987, but hundreds remain in Vietnam.
Wisconsin governor urges hospitals to hire veterans (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Gov. Scott Walker is encouraging Wisconsin’s hospitals to hire veterans as well as people with disabilities. Walker made the pitch Tuesday during a speech to more than 1,000 people at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s Advocacy Day event in Madison. Walker says as the state’s unemployment rate drops, it becomes harder to fill vacant positions. He says hospitals should do the patriotic thing and hire veterans, who he says are loyal workers. Walker also says hospitals would be well-served to hire people with mental and physical disabilities. He says, “We can’t afford to have anybody on the sidelines.”
Sponsor replaces custom bikes stolen from wounded vets (KSWB-San Diego)
A healthcare business replaced 16 custom bicycles that were stolen last month from a wounded veteran’s organization in a ceremonty on the USS Midway Tuesday morning. United Healthcare presented Ride 2 Recovery with a new fleet of bikes to replace the 16 that were stolen at the end of March. They will be used by Ride 2 Recovery’s Project HERO program. Earlier this month, United Healthcare donated $50,000 to the non-profit veterans organization. United Healthcare has served as Ride 2 Recovery’s title sponsor for six years, providing financial, in-kind and volunteer support to help injured veterans. Ride 2 Recovery’s Project HERO (Health Exercise Rehabilitation Opportunity) programs are based at local Veterans’ Affairs and military installations. They provide injured veterans with year-round cycling training. There are 70 Project HERO programs across the country.
Veterans help other veterans keep their pets (MyFoxAtlanta.com)
Two veterans and their dogs are traveling 6,000 miles across the country to raise awareness for a special program. It’s called “Operation Keep Your Spanky.” The goal is to provide veterans who have fallen on hard times the resources to continue to care for their pets. Program founder Dan Spangler was injured in Iraq, and when he returned, he said his dog “Spanky” helped him through some very tough times. Spangler and another veteran, Joe Trainor, were in Atlanta today, talking about the program. The two men expect the journey to take about 30 days to complete. For more information, like how to get involved, go to the “Operation Keep your Spanky” Facebook page.
89-year-old vet wins big with touchdown at Kansas Alumni Game (The Huffington Post)
An 89-year-old former University of Kansas football player has gained fresh fame after making a touchdown run during an alumni scrimmage. Bryan Sperry was all grins Saturday as he jogged toward the Memorial Stadium end zone during the scrimmage before Kansas’ annual spring football game, The Kansas City Star reported. His decades-younger opponents intentionally missed repeated tackles before showering him with congratulatory hugs and pats on the back. “That was fun,” the Pittsburg resident said. “I didn’t know if I could run.” Sperry was 17 years old when he first left home to play football at Kansas State, but World War II interrupted his schooling. The process of returning soldiers home by boat after the war took months, so the military sent Sperry to a university in England to wait. While there, he says, he played 13 games on a team that was a mix of professionals, college players and high school graduates with limited football experience. Upon returning home in February 1946, he headed for a tryout, mostly for veterans, held by then-Kansas football coach George Sauer. He played “end” while at Kansas — offense and defense, Sperry said: “Well, we played both ways in those days.” The Jayhawks finished 7-2-1 in 1946 and in 1947, with a team captained by KU legends Otto Schnellbacher and Don Fambrough, the Jayhawks went 8-1-2, their only loss coming to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Sperry finished his career in 1948. “There aren’t many people that are lettermen of both KU and K-State,” Sperry said. With his playing days behind him, he spent decades as a high school football coach and math instructor at Pittsburg State.
Equine therapy helping Orlando veterans (WESH-Orlando)
You might not know it just by looking at him, but Lance Cpl. Chris Brooking has only recently returned from the battlefield. Sometimes the scars of war can be seen and other times completely hidden. Brooking’s wounds weren’t only the visible kind. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. “I couldn’t bring myself to even walking around the neighborhood, constantly being on guard, on high alert, crazy uncomfortable,” he said. The recipient of a Purple Heart after being injured in Afghanistan, Brooking wasn’t the same when he came home. “I was very uncomfortable in every day situations,” he said. “Whenever I talked with him, I felt I had to walk on eggshells, because sometimes anything I said would set him off,” said his wife, Katie Brooking. Katie suggested Chris visit S.A.D.L.E.S., a place she visited when she was stressed out as a child. “PTSD is an injury. It’s not a disorder. It’s an injury,” psychotherapist Cher Myers said. Myers has been using horses to help people find their comfort zone for years. Horses won’t respond properly if someone’s stressed. “The horse is able to say, ‘Let’s get comfortable in your skin, and I can help you do that. Watch me, I’ll teach you,’” she said. Charlie Kersey, a Vietnam veteran who now assists at the ranch, was astonished at what the experience did for him. “Knowing that they were reading my feelings, and I would think now, ‘How do I act with people if a horse is reacting to me like this?’ And so I had to change, and I became a better person because of it,” Kersey said.
Orlando launches mortgage-free housing development for vets (The Orlando Sentinel)
It’s just a stretch of sparse grass in Parramore, but in the months to come it will be the site of a three-bedroom, two-bath house that Army veteran Keon Madison and his family will call home. It’ll be energy efficient, environmentally friendly, architecturally chic and — its most attractive feature — virtually free. Madison will have no mortgage. In a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Madison, his family, local real-estate agents and Orlando city officials will celebrate the start of construction for Heroes’ Commons at Jefferson Park — the region’s first urban-housing development for military veterans who are struggling financially. Madison’s home, scheduled to be finished by year’s end, will be the first of a half-dozen on neighboring lots, land donated by the city of Orlando. “I think we can all agree that these veterans and their families have sacrificed enough,” said Beverly Evans, chairwoman of Florida Real Estate Foundation, the charitable arm of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. “Our dream is to build these six mortgage-free homes for six honorably discharged veterans so they can become homeowners.” Madison, a 28-year-old father of four, will be the first. When he returned from duty in 2012, he found a job, but not one that paid enough to cover putting his children in day care. So he stayed home with them while his wife worked as a restaurant manager. “When they told us we were selected, a huge weight was just lifted off me because we had been struggling for so long,” said Madison, a former truck driver who graduated from Dr. Phillips High School. “We finally had some stability.” Unlike other charitable efforts to build homes for veterans in the suburbs, Heroes’ Commons is intentionally in the city’s urban core. In part, Evans said, that’s to give them a sense of coming home. “Maybe if there had been something like Heroes’ Commons when I returned as a disabled veteran — with no degree, no skills — things would have been different for me,” said Orlando city Commissioner Regina Hill, who grew up only two blocks from the project. Hill turned her life around after a felony drug arrest and spending time as a single mom on welfare. “I believe in this project. I believe it will give our veterans the solid foundation they need to do great things.”
US envoy, WWII veterans lay flowers to Spirit of Elbe Monument in Moscow (Sputnik News)
US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft and WWII veterans laid flowers on Tuesday at the Spirit of Elbe memorial in Moscow to commemorate the meeting of Soviet and American troops in summer 1945. On April 25, 1945, Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe, near the town of Torgau in Germany, a key milestone in the end of the Second World War. The meeting marked that Americans advancing from the West and Soviets advancing from the East has successfully cut Nazi Germany in two. Participants of the historical encounter of the Soviet and American troops on the River Elbe, Ivan Mozgovenko and Frank Cohn, attended Tuesday’s ceremony. Moscow government representatives and US military officials also attended the event. The ceremony took place as part of the Victory Day celebrations in Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Russia will be holding its annual Victory Day parade on May 9. Some 26 state leaders have confirmed their intention to visit Moscow and join the celebrations in 2015.