Wounded Times


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Deputy Rudy Mirelez Remains in Critical Condition

Mariposa deputy injured in shootout identified
Family of injured deputy issues brief statement; requests privacy
Merced Sun Star
Sun-Star staff
October 4, 2015

A Mariposa County deputy sheriff shot in a gunfight last week, allegedly with a Merced man, was identified Sunday.

Deputy Rudy Mirelez, 39, remained in critical condition Sunday at a Modesto hospital, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Officials said Mirelez is expected to “undergo many more surgeries on his road to recovery.”

In a brief statement issued Sunday, Mirelez’s wife, Christine, thanked the sheriff’s offices of both Mariposa and Stanislaus counties for the “round-the-clock support for Rudy” and the outpouring of community support since the incident Thursday morning.

“Rudy’s recovery is our biggest concern and we would like to ask for your continued thoughts and prayers and request that you respect our privacy as we continue to process this tragic event and support our husband and father,” Christine Mirelez said in the statement.

Brian Ballasch, 35, of Merced, has been accused of shooting at four deputies, including Mirelez, around 6 a.m. Thursday on Highway 49, south of Mariposa. Ballasch has been described by deputies as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He also was wounded during the incident and is expected to recover.

He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer.
read more here

Too many lives shattered

Congress Underfund the VA By Nearly $1 billion, Again

Look up how many times this has happened in the past.

"If they can afford to pay for wars, they can afford to pay for the treatment after the wars," says Garry Augustine, with Disabled American Veterans. DAV and other private veterans' organizations draw up their own "independent budget" for the Department of Veterans Affairs every year. "We've been saying it every year for the last 10 years in our independent budget, that the funding is not sufficient to sustain the demand," Augustine says.
Tester, Daines disagree on Veterans Affairs funding bill
Independent Record
October 02, 2015

MISSOULA -- Montana’s two U.S. senators criticized a proposed Veterans Affairs funding bill this week, with Republican Steve Daines accusing Democrats of blocking the bill, while Democrat Jon Tester said the measure would underfund the VA by nearly $1 billion.

While both senators have worked to improve VA care for Montana veterans and have introduced needed reforms to the system, they have differing views on funding the agency -- a debate that's tied in part to budget caps proposed by the GOP leadership.

Daines said the latest legislation includes a record $163.8 billion in funding for the VA. He said the figure marks an increase of $4.6 billion.

“This legislation contains numerous important provisions to address Montana veterans’ long-standing concerns and it would be shameful to see these much-needed reforms fall victim to Democrats’ obstructionism,” Daines said.

Tester, however, has urged his colleagues to oppose the VA funding bill, saying it underfunds veteran care by nearly $1 billion and would undermine VA reforms passed by Congress a year ago.

Earlier this year, Tester offered an amendment to increase funding for the VA to a level that better reflected what department officials said was needed to carry out veteran care.

His amendment failed on a 16-14 party-line vote, with all 16 Republicans voting against it.
read more here

Yochi Dreazen War Correspondents Battle With PTSD

The path not taken: A war correspondent’s struggle with PTSD
Boston Globe
By Yochi Dreazen
OCTOBER 02, 2015
I had full-blown PTSD, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I was a war correspondent; I was a tough guy. Tough guys, I believed, didn’t need help.
Journalists scrambled behind US Marines practicing squad rushes in northern Kuwait in 2003.
Yochi Dreazen is the managing editor of Foreign Policy. His book “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War,” from which this essay is adapted, will be reissued in paperback on Oct. 6.

I WANTED TO be a war correspondent from the day I entered journalism. In 2003, with American troops massing in the Middle East, I got my chance. I left for Iraq that spring, drawn, like so many of my colleagues, by the excitement and danger of covering a war. I wrote about the invasion, flew back to the United States for a couple of months, and then went back to Baghdad in August to help open The Wall Street Journal’s bureau there. I lived in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and, after that, went back every few months to do combat embeds with the troops fighting what had by that point become a full-on civil war.

I saw dead and dying Americans; I saw dead and dying Iraqis. I was interviewing a tribal sheikh in southern Iraq once when my translator stepped away to take a phone call, sat back down, and told me that there had just been a major suicide bombing in the nearby city of Karbalah that had killed dozens of Iranian pilgrims, including a large number of children. In Karbalah, I watched a chador-clad woman slowly make her way up and down each row of corpses, pulling back every sheet, until she found the shattered body of her son. At the sight, she let out a scream and then collapsed to the ground. I will never forget the sound of that mother’s grief.
I returned from that trip, and from all of my others to the war zones, far different than when I had left. The war was changing me, hardening me. I felt flashes of pure rage when someone ran into me on the basketball court or cut me off on the road. I chose tables at restaurants that were as far from the front doors and windows as possible, in case a bomb went off outside. I would wake up whenever there was a sound in my bedroom and then be unable to fall back asleep. In some of my dreams, loved ones died. In some, I did. I had full-blown PTSD, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. I was a war correspondent; I was a tough guy. Tough guys, I believed, didn’t need help.
read more here

Health and Human Services Spent $2 Million Spin PTSD Veterans

State representative asks funding agency for more information about $2.2 million PTSD study 
Dallas Morning News
Sue Ambrose
Published: October 2, 2015
Cerebrum Health Centers is an Irving chiropractic clinic that received more than $2 million in state funds to conduct PTSD research on veterans.
A member of a Texas House investigations committee has asked for more information about how the state vetted a $2.2 million project to try to treat post traumatic stress disorder in veterans using a spinning chair.

In a letter to the head of the Health and Human Services Commission, State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, said the state’s decision “to spend over $2 million on an unproven treatment… with little to no oversight by the state, is deeply concerning.” 

A spokesman said HHSC will respond to Turner. “We will attempt to address every facet of his inquiry as best we can,” said HHSC spokesman Enrique Marquez. “We will absolutely be responsive to Rep. Turner’s inquiries early next week.”

The Dallas Morning News and KXAS-TV (NBC5) published a joint investigation into the state project last month. The study took place at an Irving clinic now known as Cerebrum Health Centers. According to state records, it treated about 140 veterans with PTSD by trying to stimulate the brain’s balance system. The treatment included spinning the veterans upside down in a chair.
read more here

Too Many Lives Have Been Shattered After More Efforts Have Failed

When Do We Change The Outcome For Veterans?
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 4, 2015

There is a price being paid all over this country just because what is easy to say is being supported and promoted as fact yet the truth has a heartbreaking complexity that goes far beyond what can be cut down to a slogan. The collateral damage is all due to our collective ignorance. We hear about the "problem" and turn around to write checks but never manage to wonder where all that money went. I'd love to see an "awareness" charity fit this into their fundraising Tweet or Facebook post.
"Department of Defense has had increased suicides after "prevention training" then turned around to boot out 140,000 leaving the discharged with no help at all, betrayed others with PTSD treating them like slackers while telling the public they care, and then Congress betrayed even more by not taking responsibility for all the money they spent, laws they passed, rules they wrote because they could turn around and blame the VA when they in fact had jurisdiction over and then folks saw charities making millions off "awareness" raising and jumped on the bandwagon making suffering of veterans a way to make money leaving them without help so they could fact off with law enforcement officials all over the country to the point where communities had to come up with Veterans Courts to try to keep veterans out of jail and get them the help all the others failed to provide."

In 2013 NPR reported "The most recent statistics on incarcerated veterans from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) are almost 10 years old. In 2004, 10% of the State prisoners reported prior service in the U.S. Military. 140,000 were being held in prisons nationwide, 62% reported having an Honorable Discharge. A majority of veterans in State (54%) and Federal (64%) reported they served during a wartime period. At that point in time veterans of the Iraq-Afghanistan era comprised 4% of incarcerated veterans in both State and Federal prison."

Yep, it's that bad. Just to prove the point, when all the reporters were finally talking about suicides tied to the military and PTSD, Congress decided to start spending money. No, not just over the last decade or so but back in the 70's. Vietnam veterans pushed for all of it yet after all these years what was learned was forgotten and so have the Vietnam veterans been forgotten. They are the majority of the suicides but hey, why tell the truth on that simple fact?

As for current news, the DOD reported that there were 99 suicides in 2006 and was the highest number of suicides in 26 years. So Congress decided to do something about it but didn't matter to any of them what they did made it worse. More committed suicide even as less were serving with the end of wars.
Over the first six months of 2015, 130 active-duty troops took their own lives, along with 89 reserve members and 56 National Guardsmen. In the second quarter, the reserve component experienced 47 suicides and the National Guard, 27.
As for the VA, "The analysis found that the actual number of estimated suicides per day among veterans has remained relatively stable, ranging from 20 per day in 2000 to 18 per day in 2007 and 22 per day in 2009 and 2010, the latest estimates available, according to a report on the study released Friday. The rate of suicide among veterans who use VA health care services has remained steady in recent years, at about 36 per 100,000.The analysis found that the actual number of estimated suicides per day among veterans has remained relatively stable, ranging from 20 per day in 2000 to 18 per day in 2007 and 22 per day in 2009 and 2010, the latest estimates available, according to a report on the study released Friday. The rate of suicide among veterans who use VA health care services has remained steady in recent years, at about 36 per 100,000."

Yet even that report came from limited data. At least you can see that when more "efforts" were made, there were more suicides but WTF no one shows any sign of changing a damn thing they got wrong already.

How about we take a look at another missed number in all the talk about the price being paid by those who risked their lives for this country? I was reading about another veteran in crisis facing off with law enforcement officers and wondering who is being held accountable for failing veterans in the first place? A Deputy was shot in the face by a veteran with PTSD. The veteran is now facing charges.

Local Shooting Starts Conversation About PTSD was the headline but the news begins with the false conversation of "22 Veterans Commit Suicide Everyday."

How do you begin a conversation with bad information? How to you boil any of this down to a soundbite as if it will ever change anything?

This is what happened in California but keep in mind it is happening all over the country.
Mariposa deputy shot in morning shootout
Your Central Valley News
By Patrick Nelson
Published 10/02 2015

Mariposa, Calif.
The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office is asking for prayers after one of their own was shot in the face during a shootout with a suspect early Thursday morning. The deputy remains in critical condition. 35-year-old Brian Ballasch of Merced is being charged with shooting the officer.

While this shooting happened in a small community it's impacting anyone who puts on a law enforcement badge for a living.

The Fresno Sheriff's Office is just one of many agencies offering their support for the critically injured officer.

Just a day after the Merced Police Department was warned about former Marine Brian Ballasch struggling with post traumatic stress disorder he had a run in with Mariposa deputies.

After ramming his vehicle into deputies trying to stop him on Highway 49 near Mariposa investigators say he got out and started shooting a .45 caliber pistol hitting a deputy in the face and upper body who is now fighting for his life in a Madesto hospital.

Officials are visibly shaken by the incident

"One deputy... I'm sorry... a ten year veteran of the office, a father, a husband, a friend was struck at least twice," Kristie Mitchell of the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office said fighting back tears.

Ballasch was also shot in the shootout, but will be ok. He is being held for the attempted murder of a peace officer. The three other deputies involved in the shootout have been placed on administrative leave which is standard protocol as California Highway Patrol is investigating
read more here

These are other just from 2015
Magoffin County Sheriff's Deputies and Kentucky State Police, went to serve an arrest warrant on Vietnam War Veteran, Carter Castle.

MARICOPA, Ariz. --- An Arizona military veteran died after a confrontation with police in his neighborhood south of Phoenix Sunday afternoon. The widow of 32-year-old Johnathan Guillory says her husband struggled for many years with post-traumatic stress, brought on by a combat deployment in Iraq. He also spent time as a contract worker in Afghanistan.

On the balcony of his second-story apartment in U.S. Air Force dress blue uniform, Francis “Frank” Lamantia Spivey stood with an assault rifle pushed up to his chin just after midnight Feb. 25.

Police said William Dean Poole, 52, had told the hotline he planned to kill himself and not to send anyone to his home because it would not end well. When officers arrived at about 5:25 p.m., Buie said Poole was sitting on a lawnmower and fired multiple shots at police first. The officers returned fire, killing Poole.

Glendale police fatally shot Joe Tassinari in March 2015 outside his home near 67th and Peoria avenues. An officer said Tassinari, who was suspected of displaying a firearm at a woman earlier that night, did not obey commands and made a threatening move by reaching for his waistband. Dallas and neighbors said Tassinari typically kept a gun on him in one of his back pockets.

Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old US air force veteran, was shot dead on 9 March at his apartment complex outside Atlanta. Police officers had been responding to a 911 call for an episode during which Hill was not wearing clothes, crawling on the ground and banging on his neighbors’ doors.

An as-yet-unidentified officer shot and killed Brian Babb, a 49-year-old former captain in the Oregon Army National Guard, after Higgins called police to Babb’s west Eugene home because he was suicidal and told Higgins he had fired a gun in his home.

At least two Victoria police officers were placed on administrative leave Sunday after fatally shooting a 25-year-old man outside of his home. Brandon Lawrence, was an Afghanistan veteran.

Standoff on 1-35 With Texas Veteran Ends With Help, Police confirmed he was a veteran and took him to the hospital. Investigators were waiting Saturday afternoon to talk to doctors and decide whether to file charges, Dickson said.

A army spokesperson has released the name of the Soldier found dead by Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department SWAT Wednesday in the Century at Fenwick Apartments in the Berwick area. The Soldier was Spc. Roobelson Viciere, 30, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery.

Boise Police Department On average, Boise police officers encounter approximately one veteran per week facing a crisis and in need of assistance, and officers are provided the opportunity to aid in referring the veteran to one of the network partners. These interactions demonstrate the value of the program, and that its objective is being met.

Wade Allen Baker, 44, of Clyde, alone in the church when law enforcement crews arrived. The man exchanged gunfire with the officers, she said.

Barry Sutton was a civilian contractor, working with DynCorp International. He was helping to train police officers in Afghanistan as part of NATO's resolute Support Mission, according to the Floyd County Sheriff's Office. Sutton was one of 12 people who died after a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy traveling through a crowded neighborhood. "Barry was a solid career officer, Floyd County Police Department SWAT veteran and deputy,"

Mr. McGranahan had served two tours of duty in Iraq, been wounded in the back, and awarded a Purple Heart. The woman, Shirley Mowery, said her grandson suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, but was not capable of hurting anyone. Toledo police have identified Donald McGranahan II as the main taken in custody after a standoff with police in West Toledo today.

An Ormond Beach father and husband was additionally charged Thursday with attempted second-degree murder after his wife described to police a horrific night of "PTSD rage." Before barricading himself in his house for seven hours on Wednesday, Kevin Hamilton attacked his wife, threatened to kill his family and shoot himself in front of his crying 4-year-old son, police reports state.

Keep in mind that I cannot find all the reports, so there are a lot missing from this list. There were many more news reports about veterans on trial for standoffs from other years during this year like the one going on in Tampa Florida
Matthew Buendia changed after his third deployment to Afghanistan and that when he came home, the former Marine became a recluse. "He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," said Swanson, "A lot of those doctors were giving Matthew different types of medications. He was taking very severe stuff." Buendia is accused of shooting Hillsborough County deputy Lyonelle De Veaux during a domestic dispute in October 2011. The deputy survived the shooting.

This isn't even factoring in the number of questionable suicides like accidents that are actually on purpose or drug overdoses that may or may not have been on purpose. Families are still wondering what the purpose of all this "awareness" actually produced to spare other families from suffering the same deadly outcomes.

Too many lives have been shattered because veterans are still unable to find the help they need to heal from where they were sent. So when will someone be held accountable for this failure that spreads from the DOD to our communities? When do we actually do something to change the outcome? How do we get there when all the nonsensical "awareness" raising fails to not only tell the truth but trivializes this massive suffering down to a convenient soundbite of "22 a day" just because it is easier than reporting the facts?

Vietnam Veteran Searches For Woman Who Saved Him From Suicide 42 Years Ago

Suicidal army veteran seeks beautiful stranger who saved his life - 42 years later
Mirror UK
3 OCT 2015
Wracked with guilt over his actions during the Vietnam War, the veteran said the woman had "breathed life into his lungs"

A Vietnam War veteran has written an impassioned plea to trace the "beautiful" woman who saved his life 42 years ago.

He fell deeply in love with the stranger when they shared a coffee and chat on New Year's Eve in 1972.

At the time the pilot was ready to kill himself claiming to have flown four B-52 sorties dropping 48 bombs, before being discharged.

Sadly, the woman left without leaving a number and he returned EVERY day to the same place without ever seeing her again.

Now his heartfelt letter on Boston's Craigslist to reunite with her has gone viral.

After spending a depressing day "trudging through the rain" his life changed when on the way back to his "barren apartment" he came across the woman.

"You were wearing a teal ball gown, which appeared to me both regal and ridiculous," he writes.
Now an "old man", he wants to trace woman on Craiglist 'Missed Connections' site and Facebook .

Ending the letter, he tells woman: "You breathed your spirit into my lungs one rainy afternoon, and you can't possibly imagine my gratitude."
read more here

Saturday, October 3, 2015

El Paso Veterans Court Gets Patriotism Award

El Paso Veterans Court receives state recognition for treatment services
KFOX 14 News
Crystal Price
Fri, Oct 02 2015
In addition to the veteran cases, they also work with other organizations to hold events such as the annual Stand Down. Through this event, they go out in the community and offer showers, meals, and clothes for homeless veterans.
EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso Veterans Treatment Court program has received state recognition for the services they provide in the community.

The Texas Veterans Commission recently presented the El Paso specialty court with the Patriotism Award.

The court program offers treatment to veterans who get in trouble with the law, opposed to sending them straight to jail.

Through grants from the Office of the Governor, the program offers treatment to veterans who may suffer from substance abuse or mental health illnesses.

Angie Juarez Barill, judge for the 346th District Court, started the program three years ago. "We saw so many of our men and women veterans and so many active military coming through our court system," Barill said. "So we knew we had to do something about it."

Through this 18-month program, veterans are able to receive counseling and the court assists scheduling VA appointments.

Since the program started the El Paso Veteran's Court has had 50 veterans graduate from the program.

However, Barill said they have had more than 250 veterans who have applied. Barill said these individuals were turned away because they could not prove they had a combat-related illness.
read more here

Members of Congress Shocked About VA When They Were There All Along?

VA audit: Overworked Seattle office didn’t read mail, told veterans they’d lose benefits
The News Tribune
Staff writer
October 2, 2015

Dozens of West Coast military veterans incorrectly received letters indicating they’d lose unemployment benefits after an overworked Department of Veterans Affairs office in Seattle lost track of records the veterans had submitted, according to a VA Inspector General report released this week.

The mail audit stemmed from a complaint that suggested about 1,000 pieces of unread mail from veterans were being stored indefinitely in a yellow bucket without a response from employees assigned to evaluate benefits claims.

In some cases, the complaint alleged, veterans were told they’d lose unemployment benefits because they had not returned information to the office in a timely manner even though they had met their deadlines.

The unemployment benefits are given to veterans who can’t hold a job because of a service-connected disability.

Auditors who visited the Seattle office in April did not find a bucket loaded with unread letters, as had been alleged in the complaint. However, they did talk to employees who were familiar with it and called it the “yellow bucket project.”

They also took a sampling of 132 employment questionnaires and determined that a fifth of the veterans had been sent letters indicating a reduction or cancellation of benefits, even though they’d mailed forms that should have allowed them to continue receiving money.
read more here

WOW seems really shocking! That is until you are reminded of how long all of this has been going on.

These came out in 2012
VA office stacked 37,000 files on cabinets after running out of storage
NBC News
Tuesday Aug 14, 2012
Staff at the office began having trouble storing files in 2005 when that location, as part of a national initiative, started collecting and processing disability claims prior to a service member's discharge. The office was one of two regional centers in the country to handle such cases, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Staff tried to transfer or retire 50,000 files in recent years, as well request more storage space. The office was denied extra room because of a lack of money and few external storage options.
Veterans Wait for Benefits as Claims Pile Up
New York Times
SEPT. 27, 2012
Numbers tell the story. Last year, veterans filed more than 1.3 million claims, double the number in 2001. Despite having added nearly 4,000 new workers since 2008, the agency did not keep pace, completing less than 80 percent of its inventory.

This year, the agency has already completed more than one million claims for the third consecutive year. Yet it is still taking about eight months to process the average claim, two months longer than a decade ago. As of Monday, 890,000 pension and compensation claims were pending.
But as you can see, that didn't end the wait for veterans.
Answers demanded after vets’ disability claims found in cabinet
San Francisco Chronicle
By Vivian Ho
April 21, 2015

One number will hang over a congressional hearing Wednesday looking into mismanagement at a U.S. Veterans Affairs regional office in Oakland: 13,184.

That’s the number of compensation and disability claims that were found in 2012, wrongfully stashed in a filing cabinet — some dating to the mid-1990s and many unprocessed. But what the number represents remains the source of fierce debate.

Back in 2008 members of Congress were "shocked" and said they were doing something about it. Oh but that was when there were 879,291 VA claims in the backlog.
The Senate version also includes an amendment that offers $50 million to speed up the processing of disability claims. It would pay for pilot programs to reduce the average waiting time -- which currently is six months -- for rulings on claims.

As of March, the VA reported 879,291 claims were in backlog from the same time last year.

Cullinan says, “This is just the first step in the VA funding process. It gives broad outlines of spending for the Department which the Appropriations Subcommittees will use to find specific amounts and tasks within the VA. The process is not complete until the president signs the Appropriations Bill.” The Federal government’s 2009 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2008.
Around the same time contractors were taking over processing claims, like Lockheed Martin as in this report from Army Times
And of the original 133,057 potentially eligible veterans, 8,763 died before their cases could be reviewed for retroactive payments, according to the report.
In February, the backlog was said to be “more than 39,000” cases. Jonas said she had been assured that the backlog would be cleared by April. That did not happen, according to the subcommittee report, because Lockheed Martin, the contractor hired in July 2006 to compute the complex retroactive pay awards, had difficulty making the computations fast enough to eliminate the backlog quickly. The complexity of the computations also hindered Lockheed Martin’s ability to develop software to automate the process.
Murray was asking about VA's response to suicides back in 2008
In asking Peake about what the VA is doing to reach out to struggling veterans who may not know about VA resources available to them, Murray referenced a VA study that found that Guard or Reserve members accounted for 53 percent of the veteran suicides from 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, through the end of 2005. The study was made public yesterday in an Associated Press story.

As you can find more on your own with a simple Google search result, nothing should shock members of congress anymore since most of them have been there all along.

Religious Freedom Fight On Marine Base

'God Bless The Military' Sign Sparks Religious Freedom Fight On Marine Base
If the sign isn't removed, a group demands more signs, including one saying, "There is no god...We have each other."
HuffPost Hawaii
Chris D'Angelo
Associate Editor
October 1, 2015

A large sign was erected on a Hawaii military base in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with the message, "God bless the military, their families and the civilians who work with them."

Now, 14 years later, a nonprofit religious rights group is demanding it be removed, claiming it violates the Constitution.
"For now, at least, the sign is still there. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation followed up its initial demand with a second on Wednesday -- saying that if the sign is not removed, six more signs should be erected to satisfy Jewish, Muslim, Norse Religious Faith, atheist, agnostic, humanist, secularist, Hindu and Wiccan U.S. Marine clients.

The additional signs, as depicted in the photo illustration below, would contain the same message, but start with "Yehweh bless," "Allah bless," "Odin bless," "Vishnu bless" and "Goddess bless." Another would begin, "There is no god to bless" and end with "We have each other."

The Marine complainants, according to the Marine Corps Times, include at least 21 Protestants, while it was "not immediately clear how many of them are Vikings."
read more here

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller "I buried three women in Iraq"

New Marine commandant: ‘Personally insulting’ to talk about women in combat
Washington Post
Thomas Gibbons
October 2, 2015
“The Marines who were a part of the GCITF did a great a job…they worked their tails off,” said Neller. “The people that made it to the end deserve our gratitude for their discipline and strength and fortitude to make it to the end.”
Newly instated Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller made some pointed comments regarding women in combat Thursday, following a public back and forth between the Marine Corps and the Secretary of the Navy over whether the Marine Corps would allow women into previously closed ground combat roles.

“This has nothing to do about women in combat,” Neller said to a theater full of Marines at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia.“I buried three women in Iraq in 2006 and they died alongside 311 men.”

“To me its personally insulting to talk about women in combat. Women have been in combat,” he added.

Neller was dismissing the idea that including women in combat was anything new, and he made sure to point out that the debate was about women being directly assigned to positions in ground combat units such as the infantry.
read more here

Female Blue Angel Forgotten About by San Diego Union Tribune

It appears San Diego Union Tribune can't use their own records when they reported the "first woman to wear Blue Angels" back in 2010 and it was Navy Lt. Cmdr. Amy Redditt Tomlinson
First woman to wear Blue Angels number
San Diego Union Tribune
By Jeanette Steele
Sept. 30, 2010

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Amy Redditt Tomlinson, Blue Angels No. 8, grew up knowing how to pronounce Batiquitos Lagoon and where to find the best North County surf breaks.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Amy Tomlinson — U.S. Navy

She was a Carlsbad girl and a 1996 graduate of San Dieguito High School.

She’s also the first woman ever to wear a Blue Angels number, one of eight coveted positions on the Navy’s elite flying team.
Just no words other than WTF were they thinking?
Marine woman flies Blue Angels to new heights
First female pilot on team performs this weekend at Miramar Air Show
San Diego Union Tribune
By Gretel C. Kovach
Oct. 1, 2015
Higgins downplays her fame as the “Lady Blue Angel.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m a celebrity. No way. I’m a Marine,” she said in an interview before the San Diego show.
Marine Capt. Katie Higginsis the first female pilot with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, or Blue Angels. The Severna Park, Md., native, is now the newest pilot of "Fat Albert," a C-130 Hercules flown by the Blue Angels. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz/Released)
Becoming the first woman to perform as a Blue Angels pilot has definitely been a high point for Capt. Katie Higgins. It is an honor to wear the famous blue and gold flight suit, she said, but it might surprise some people to learn that it hasn’t been the pinnacle of her career as a Marine aviator.

Higgins will be sitting in the left seat of the cockpit this weekend when she makes her debut at the Miramar Air Show, serving as flight commander of the team’s “Fat Albert” C-130 support plane. During more than 50 performances across the country so far this year, she has been mobbed by fans who appreciate how she #flieslikeagirl with the Blue Angels. read more here
The Thunderbirds were ahead of the Blue Angels back in 2005
Capt. Nicole "Fifi" Malachowski at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. She's the first female demonstration pilot on a U.S. military high performance jet team, the Thunderbirds. [USAF photo ]
June 17, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron,"Thunderbirds," have announced their new pilots for the 2006 demonstration season which includes the first female demonstration pilot in the 52 year history of the Thunderbirds.

Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho Responds to Media Manipulation Charge

3-stars respond to allegations of media manipulation
Army Times
By Kevin Lilley, Staff writer
October 1, 2015
"The primary purpose of the FOIA act is to find out what the government is up to,” Hodes said. “Nowhere does it say the government should be spinning what they’re up to. … The facts speak for themselves.”

The three-star generals at the center of a recent New York Times piece that alleges the service attempted to manipulate media coverage of medical issues have taken issue with the reporting — specifically, the Army's reporting.

In statements to the newspaper and to Army Times, both Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army's surgeon general, and Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, found fault with the Army-produced executive summary of their Sept. 17 meeting at the Pentagon. That summary was leaked to The New York Times, which quoted from the material in its Tuesday report.

Per the summary, Horoho recommended that Caslen not provide the newspaper with West Point concussion statistics requested under the Freedom of Information Act until her office published a related article that would include some of the data. She relayed an account of a prior media FOIA request where coverage was softened by a media event days before the data release.

"Timing is everything with this stuff," the summary reads.
Through a spokesman, Horoho denied ever advising anyone to delay the FOIA request. Caslen, in a statement initially provided to The New York Times and excerpted in the initial report, said "a member of my staff inaccurately portrayed my discussion with Lt. Gen. Horoho" and took responsibility for allowing the document to be "distributed without my review." read more here
Report Alleges Army Surgeon General Tried to Cover Up Concussion Data

Camp Pendleton Marines Honor Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers return to the Blue Diamond 
Story by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan
October 2, 2015
Major Gen. Daniel O’Donohue, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, pays respect to retired Navajo Code Talkers during a tour with the Navajo Nation aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 28, 2015. Navajo Code Talkers were first put into action during World War II in early 1942 to establish an undecipherable code which could be used in combat environments to communicate sensitive information. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan/RELEASED)
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Retired Marines who served as Navajo Code Talkers during World War II and members of the Navajo Nation visited the 1st Marine Division during a tour aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Sept. 28, 2015.

Marines with the division hosted a ceremony to honor the code talkers for their pivotal service World War II.

“It’s an honor to have you here today,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue, the commanding general of the division. “The Navajo nation provided a duty that no one else could at that time. You humble us by returning to the division. The sacrifices you made we can’t even imagine and your legacy and your spirit live on.”

Navajo Code Talkers were first put into action in early 1942 to establish an undecipherable code, which could be used in combat environments to communicate sensitive information.

The Navajo code was selected because of its difficulty and obscurity and was deciphered by enemies of that time. This allowed commanders to issue out commands securely in the heat of battle against the imperial Japanese enemies. The code remained secret until it was declassified in 1968.
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They FInally FIgured Out Pentagon Suicide Prevention Office in Disarray

Report: Pentagon suicide prevention office in disarray
Military Times
By Patricia Kime, Staff writer
October 2, 2015

The Pentagon’s suicide prevention office lacks clear guidance and authority to develop and execute effective programs, leaving a vacuum that the military services filled with their own, often inconsistent programs, a new Defense Department Inspector General report says.
Defense Suicide Prevention Office logo
(Photo: Defense Department)
The Defense Suicide Prevention Office, or DSPO, was established in 2011 to develop and implement suicide prevention policies, programs and surveillance across the force, with any eye toward promoting resilience, mental fitness and suicide awareness and prevention.

But from its inception, the office had a confusing governing structure and alignment of responsibilities under different committees within the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, resulting in “less than effective DoD strategic oversight" that hampered implementation of suicide prevention programs, according to the report released Wednesday.
According to Pentagon data, 130 active-duty troops died by suicide from January through June this year, along with 89 reserve members and 56 National Guard members.

Last year, 273 active-duty personnel, 170 reservists and 91 Guardsmen took their own lives.

Military suicides rose steadily from 2006 to 2009 before leveling off for two years. They then increased sharply in 2012, peaking at a high of 321 active-duty, 192 reserve and 130 Guard deaths.
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Military suicides remain constant despite Pentagon efforts
Stars and Stripes
By Heath Druzin
Published: October 2, 2015

WASHINGTON — Despite an ongoing Pentagon campaign to combat suicide, the numbers of troops who killed themselves held steady in the first half of 2015, with active duty numbers down and reserve numbers up over the same period last year, according to the most recent Department of Defense statistics.

The Defense Department quarterly statistics, released Wednesday, show 219 troops took their lives in the first half of this year, as compared to 223 in the first half of 2014. Military suicides are down 8 percent from the first half of 2013, when there were 238.

For this year, the number of suicides breaks down to 130 among active duty troops and 89 among the Reserves and National Guard. That represents a 9 percent drop for active duty troops and a 10 percent rise for reserve troops over the same period last year.
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Why? How about you start with Comprehensive Soldier Fitness? Suicides went up after this started. How did they expect telling soldiers they could train their brains to be mentally tough would work when that meant they were weak if they suffered? It fed the stigma. Plus add in another fact that there are less serving since 2012 and you'll begin to understand how huge this issue is. Veteran suicides went up for OEF and OIF generation as well. They are triple their civilian peer rate. They were trained to suffer in silence too!

Getting Back to Basics For PTSD Veterans

There was a group raising awareness on PTSD when hardly no one else was doing it. They really were not as interested in talking about the problem as much as they were trying to lead the way to living a better life and healing. It began in Seattle Washington with a simple act of kindness from a Police Officer names Bill Landreth. After all, he was a veteran too and understood what the minority of the population faced.

Bill was noticing he was arresting more and more of his fellow veterans and decided to do something about it. He met them in coffee shops, then in small groups. Veterans understood veterans and it was the best way for them to get help. They got it from each other much like they depended on each other to stay alive in combat. It was 1984 and Point Man International Ministries began with a simple fact. Veterans should help other veterans and their families should help other families in small groups.

Bill passed away and Chuck Dean expanded the vision as well as the mission of Point Man.
Chuck Dean, publisher of a Veterans self help newspaper, Reveille, had a vision for the ministry and developed it into a system of small groups across the USA for the purpose of mutual support and fellowship. These groups are known as Outposts. Worldwide there are hundreds of Outposts and Homefront groups serving the families of veterans.
Down Range: To Iraq and Back 1st Edition
by Bridget C. Cantrell (Author), Chuck Dean (Author)
There are some things people don’t get over easily pain from the past is one of them.

Trauma changes people: It changes values, priorities, worldviews, and most of all …it changes how we relate to others.

Painful, life-threatening experiences take people beyond the normal day-to-day life, leaving them stuck behind defensive walls that keep them from re-entering the world they have always known as “home”.  So how does it happen? How do we lose the loving closeness with those around us? And better yet, how do we re-gain what pain has robbed us of? "Down Range” is not only a book explaining war trauma, it is required reading for anyone seriously interested about how to make healthy transitions from war to peace. Bridget C. Cantrell, Ph.D. and Vietnam veteran, Chuck Dean have joined forces to present this vital information and resource manual for both returning troops and their loved ones. Here you will find answers, explanations, and insights as to why so many combat veterans suffer from flashbacks, depression, fits of rage, nightmares, anxiety, emotional numbing, and other troubling aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Anyway, that is why I am part of Point Man. Over 30 years of living with and researching PTSD, this group is one of the best things going, or should I say, still going on.

Raising awareness constantly grates on my nerves. What are they trying to raise awareness of? The problem? Veterans already know all about that. They know why they take their own lives far better than anyone else ever could. They know all the problems that pound them down but what they don't know is how to heal and find help to get back up again. Point Man is there for that, and honestly, there because it works. This is PTSD basic training and so is what the Tucson VA seems to be doing. Getting back to the basic idea of veterans helping veterans and helping them.
Veterans helping veterans are key to VA mental health care
Tucson Now News
By Barbara Grijalva
Oct 02, 2015

"The VA says veterans who have sought and benefited from mental health treatment are role models and mentors, showing other veterans there is hope, and helping remove the stigma some associate with seeking care." Dewayne Raulerson
"Been there. Done that."

It can be something we say to brush someone off.

But when it's one military veteran talking with another veteran who needs mental health treatment, it can be a lifeline.

In conjunction with next week's Mental Illness Awareness Week, the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System held it's annual Mental Health Recovery Fair on Friday, Oct. 2.

The fair is intended to highlight services available for veterans, but what's considered most important is hearing from the veterans themselves.

Lisa Conrad is an Air Force veteran and a patient and volunteer at the VA in Tucson.

"I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I was also diagnosed with depression," Conrad said.

But Friday, Conrad was performing on stage, playing the ukulele and singing at the VA event.
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Tucson News Now That is just an example of what is needed. Bill was a Vietnam veteran and so is Chuck. That generation came home and fought for everything done on PTSD. That's how long all of this has been going on so it is ever more heartbreaking to see what is happening today. There has never been a time like this with everyone talking about PTSD, raising money to "raise awareness" yet all of these "efforts" are producing more tragic outcomes. The simple basics were replaced by publicity seekers trying to get attention for themselves. Just take a look on Facebook and see what I mean. These veterans don't need quick answers, they need real ones. They don't need a Tweet in response to what they are going through, they need hours of our undivided attention.

Some Veteran Centers are linking up with Point Man because they do really know what veterans need to know. They can heal!

Healing PTSD has to be in 3 parts, mind-body-spirit. The last part is the worst part to leave out. PTSD hits where emotions live. Most folks believe that is also the place where the soul lives. Leave out healing the soul and veterans just get by. Heal the soul and you heal not just one life but many.

Veterans have one goal when they begin to heal. They want to help other veterans get out of the minefield in their mind so they stop sacrificing their futures to pain.