Veterans Good News for May 18

Veterans Good News for May 18

Good news for veteransUniversity of Minnesota trains new nurses to tend to veterans (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
When newly minted nurse Samantha Woehrle sees a patient for something as simple as a headache, she’ll know to ask if the person sitting across from her has ever been in an explosion or exposed to Agent Orange. It may not be the usual line of questioning in the waiting room. But it makes sense if the patient is a veteran. For the first time, the University of Minnesota School of Nursing is graduating a group of nurses skilled in tending to the health needs of the nation’s veterans. Woehrle and 19 other nurses who received their diplomas last week are specially trained to understand veterans’ complex medical demands, from post-traumatic stress disorder to conditions specific to the war being fought. They are joining the workforce at a critical time for veterans and for the Department of Veterans Affairs, one the largest health care providers in the world. In the next five years, 40 percent of the VA health care workforce will become eligible for regular retirement, with 23 percent projected to actually retire. The average age of a VA nurse is 49. At the Minneapolis facility alone, a quarter of its 936 direct care nurses are currently eligible for some form of retirement. A recent Veterans Affairs study on its own workplace warns: “The need for workers is immense and continues to increase. Demand for the services of top health care talent has intensified as the country’s population has aged and public budgets have shrunk, making it more difficult to hire and train more personnel.” But there is more to it than that. “It’s really to infuse this knowledge base in the health care professional world,” said Elaine Darst, one of the co-directors of the U program. “There’s a very big emphasis on learning about veterans and what the needs of veterans are.” Woehrle was one of the first students chosen for the program and admits she didn’t know what to expect. But the number of opportunities offered to the VA students turned out to be far more expansive than for others in her class. There was also more time to talk about care plans and disease processes with faculty, she said. Now, she said she plans to apply for a position with the VA hospital. In addition, she said the training broadened her understanding. “I have more of an appreciation for the military, because sometimes my generation can get pulled away from it,” she said. “It brings us more in touch with the history of our country.”

Troops, veterans honored at Armed Forces Day ceremony (
As the last notes of “Taps” echoed off the stones of the Tomb of the Unknowns today, service members representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and veterans from World War II and the Korean War slowly dropped their salutes. Tour groups of people visiting Arlington National Cemetery witnessed the changing of the guard, followed by honor guards from each of the service branches marching up in file and rendering honors as the colors were posted. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was joined by all five senior enlisted service advisors in a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb to mark the 65th annual Armed Forces Day. Afterward, the U.S. Army Concert Band performed patriotic music at a free concert. The wreath will be on display for the day at the Tomb of the Unknowns to honor those who gave the last full measure, “but Armed Forces Day honors all service members past and present,” Battaglia said. “We celebrate Armed Forces Day with the fallen,” the sergeant major said. “What better place for us to thank those who played such an integral role in protecting America’s freedom and liberty? Like many national burial grounds across the globe, here are harbored and housed America’s heroes, the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have, for more than 240 years, proudly and courageously worn the cloth of our nation,” he said. “At Arlington today, we are encircled by those brave and courageous men and women, past and present, active, reserve and National Guard, living veterans and our fallen, all who have proudly served and continue to serve our country,” Battaglia said.

Veterans bring boot camp training to the board room (New York Post)
Nick Lopez and Ethan Israel are entrenched in the front lines on a daily basis with eight comrades. But instead of battles, Lopez, an Army sergeant, and Israel, an Army infantryman, tackle software. Deployed in corporate platoons in the Financial District at EmblemHealth since July 2013, the pair attended a boot camp through the program V.E.T.S. (which stands for Vocation, Education and Training for Service members) at the Midtown-based consulting firm Sharp Decisions before beginning their mission to the health benefits and wellness company. As a quality assurance team leader, Lopez says the four-to-six-week-long boot camp, which was founded in 2013, has equipped him with specific IT training, thanks to working closely with trainers who were experienced in that field. “We learned things that you only pick up while doing the job,” says Lopez, a 32-year-old Bronx resident. Plus, it was beneficial learning what a civilian boss may expect from you versus your commanding officer. “In the military, socializing or becoming familiar with a commanding officer is a no-go,” he says. At Sharp Decisions and in the business world, however, he says he’s encouraged to speak up and voice his opinions. For Israel, in addition to building camaraderie with colleagues, the boot camp taught him about methodology of software testing, database query languages, and other programming and testing skills — all of which are “absolutely critical to work in software testing,” according to the 26-year-old Bushwick resident. Sharp Decisions CEO and V.E.T.S. founder Karen Ross says the program is aimed at helping post-9/11 veterans transition to the civilian workforce in such fields such as quality assurance, software testing, business analysis and project management. Ross launched the initiative after noticing the high unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans. She saw companies hiring veterans and other companies training veterans — but didn’t see anyone doing both. “Our model was to combine those two things to find a way to really help vets earn a career,” she explains.

Accenture to hire 5,000 veterans nationwide (San Antonio Business Journal)
Accenture has set a goal of hiring 5,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses over the next five years, adding to the more than 1,000 former members of the Armed Forces currently employed now, the company said Monday. San Antonio is one of the cities that will be hiring veterans. The company set up a website for veterans to apply ( Jason Butler, a former Army captain who joined Accenture last year, said the military provided him with the right coaching and opportunities of leading thousands of soldiers and civilians that prepared him to manage more than 100 people at his job at Accenture in San Antonio. New York-based Acccenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with 323,000 employees with clients in more than 120 countries.

Veterans get the chance to show off their creative sides (New York Post)
When Adrienne Brammer served as an Air Force sergeant for 14 years, until 2012, her role as a broadcast journalist sent her everywhere from Italy to Korea and Iceland. The 35-year-old East Orange, NJ, resident would write news and commercials and host a morning radio show, and off-hours she would perform in military community theater productions of “Grease” and “Chicago.” “I’d have a radio show in the morning, and later that night I’d go to the community center and rehearse dance steps for three hours with the cast,” she says. Technically, catching the acting bug was her initial reason for joining the military. She always loved channeling her inner thespian, but didn’t think studying it at 18 years old was possible. Her four older brothers also joined the military; it was her only path, having not pursued any scholarships. But now, she can “finally” focus on cultivating her passion. Brammer’s studying acting at Marymount Manhattan College and performing a monologue during a free showcase on Saturday. It’s hosted by the Society of Artistic Veterans, a nonprofit providing education and opportunities for veterans pursuing artistic careers, including photography, jewelry, painting, music and comedy. “SocArtVets is like a family that looks out for each other,” she says, adding that she’s made best friends through the organization, which she heard about from two fellow veteran acting friends also attending Marymount. “At least one of us is going to be there for you.”

Oklahoma veterans diverted from prison through therapy, treatment (KFOR-Oklahoma City)
There are more than 330,000 veterans in Oklahoma. Transition back to civilian life is a difficult one for a number of veterans each year. There is an alternative for vets who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. E4 Specialist Todd Steffens did a nine-month tour in Afghanistan. He came back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addicted to meth, and eventually earned a 72-day ‘tour’ in the Canadian County Jail. The charge: drugs. “He went overseas and everything changed,” said Todd Steffens’ wife, Shauna. Steffens signed up to risk it all. He trained and sacrificed and fought, and when he came home, something was different. He was different. “You get used to being on that hair trigger every day,” said Steffens. “It’s hard getting transitioned back.” It was a  similar story for Senior Airman Kelly King. The U.S. Air Force left her with PTSD, military sexual trauma, and severe anxiety. Then, after her honorable medical discharge, King got a criminal charge for forgery. “I was so happily married. Had two kids. Everything looked perfect… until I ended up in jail,” King remembered. “It was really tough the few hours I was in jail and my world crashed down.” They are enrolled in the Oklahoma County Veterans Diversion Program, one-of-a-kind, self-help, group-therapy treatment. The program is intense; a year or more of weekly sessions with a huge pay-off for those who graduate. The veterans meet every Friday at the Oklahoma County Courthouse. When they commit to getting healthy, their criminal charges are erased. Oklahoma County DA David Prater launched the program three years ago, keeping hundreds of vets out of prison. It is not a hand out. It’s a hand up. “It’s a way for veterans to come here, get their honor back, and be able to still be contributing members to society like they want,” said Sergeant Chuck Loughlin.
Also: Texas county debuts veterans court, takes on 3 cases (

Veterans receive Quilts of Valor in moving ceremony (Quad City Times)
Tears, tributes and testimonies wove a fabric of emotion and honor Sunday afternoon for 35 veterans who received Quilts of Valor at a stirring ceremony in Davenport, Iowa. The standing-room-only crowd applauded when veterans from various eras, including the Korean War and World War II, accepted handmade quilts created by volunteers in the Quilts of Valor program. After the ceremony, a veterans enjoyed a reception. Among the recipients:

• World War II veteran Alvis Taylor, of Davenport, who also is a Pearl Harbor veteran, received a quilt. His wife, Sharon Taylor, said her husband was “overwhelmed” by the ceremony and teared up during “Amazing Grace.”

• Larry Makoben, of Bettendorf was a Navy Corpsman who served from 1960 to 1964. “Words can’t describe it,” he said of the ceremony. “I’ve had lots of hugs.” Makoben said he was unaware of the program until he received the letter that informed him he would receive a quilt. “This is really an honor,” he said.

• Albert Kirk, of Davenport, said the event was a surprise. “People put a lot of love into what they’re doing here,” said the Vietnam veteran who completed two tours. He said he ended up being a “forward observer for the artillery units” — in other words, he was a sniper.

• Mike Peppers, Santa’s special assistant in the Quad-Cities, served in Vietnam as part of the “Fighting 4th” Infantry Division. “I played Santa Claus in Vietnam,” he said, while tears rolled down his face. “We brought in kids from the villages. We would have Christmas all the time for them … you can have Christmas every day of the year.” He said soldiers would give the orphan children some of the gifts that their families had sent to them.

Locally, Quilts of Valor has about 25 volunteers, including members of the Mississippi Valley Quilters Guild. Nationwide, the foundation has about 10,000 volunteers, said Terry Austin, of Moline, Quad-City area representative for the organization.

Teen raises $29,000 for Eagle Scout project to honor veterans (
A teenage Boy Scout’s idea to honor veterans from Dauphin Borough, Pa., and Middle Paxton Twp., Pa., came to fruition Saturday at a monument unveiling. Trevor Drawbaugh, 17, raised $29,000 for his Eagle Scout project — a granite monument to local veterans of the past, present and future. More than 300 people gathered at the Dauphin Borough town square Saturday afternoon for the unveiling of the memorial to veterans. “By doing this I hope I touched the hearts of veterans around this area … and show them that everyone appreciates what they do and I appreciate what they do,” Trevor said. Pointing to the example set by his father, grandfather and other veterans of the U.S. Armed forces, Trevor expressed pride for being able get a memorial erected for his heroes. He is set to leave for basic training for the U.S. Marines in October. Jack Dalton, Trevor’s scoutmaster when he began the project, said he was impressed with how well thought out the memorial project was, noting that Trevor was so willing to go above and beyond some of the typical Eagle Scout candidates. He added that only about 3 percent of all Boy Scouts get to the point of becoming an Eagle Scout. “It puts a lump in my throat that a young man of Trevor’s age would do this project,” Dalton said. “It’s heartening to see. I think that’s why I stay involved with the Boy Scouts.” Trevor received recognition from the borough, the Dauphin-Middle Paxton Historical Society, and members of the Vietnam Veterans of America — Capital Chapter 542 Michael J. Novosel Medal of Honor, who also donated to the project. Allen Welch, president of the VVA 542, said it’s important for people to come and visit the monument, which is a living monument to all veterans.