A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Retired)

Greetings, friends. As we commemorate this Veterans Day, it is an honor to be able to visit with you on the Military Connection platform. It is an honor to have worn the uniform of the US Army, as well. I was a Soldier by choice, but an American by the grace of God.

We gather in many places to salute our nation’s Veterans. On the anniversary of Armistice Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our country. We remember the other men & women we’ve served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss, as we contributed to something we considered priceless – the defense of our country. I feel privileged and proud to be part of a group that has done so much for so many.

We remember our battalions, our companies, our ships…our bombers, our tanks, and our cannons. We remember our patrols, our deployments…our battles & our homecomings. We remember our friends, our crews, our units – our first haircut, the mess halls, guard duty – we remember voices – shouting, laughing…and the tears. We, the ones that have served this nation, have these images and sounds and feelings burned into our minds, hearts, and souls…

We remember the brave men and women who have served in places such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill; in the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, the deserts of Africa; the jungles of the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, or Vietnam; the hills of Korea, the sands of Kuwait, the villages of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Wherever and whenever our men & women are called to serve, they go.

For those Veterans who have stood guard in peacetime… to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat — and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – our Veterans have always been there, defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The Veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties since before the American Revolution.

On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas. Where it was once specifically a celebration of the silencing of the guns of World War One, Veterans Day now marks a day when nations around the world pause and observe – with solemn, silent pride – the heroism of those who have served, those who are currently serving, and those who died in our country’s service, in that war and in all others. It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, a celebration of those who made victory possible.  It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in, and fought for, a set of ideals.   

Just as our Veterans chose to serve, I challenge & encourage all of you to volunteer your services to any number of endeavors…your school’s PTO, a local food pantry, or your church…the Little League or the high school feeder team’s Football Club. Service to country is very much like service to community.

Our communities are the fabric of our nation, and every one is a little different. From those communities, our Veterans bring those differences to the defense of our nation. Poor or wealthy, urban or rural…they bond together as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. As our Nation’s sword and shield, our Veterans represent the strength and diversity of our nation.

This includes members of the Reserve Component – our Reservists & National Guardsmen. When serving in a traditional role, not federalized or deployed, these men and women are full-time members of the community. They work in your towns, their families attend your schools, and they commit themselves to the protection of your land and defense of your freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today’s National Guardsmen and Reservists, from all branches of service, are able to transition from the workforce to the fighting force with speed, grace and resiliency.  In this time of what seems like persistent conflict, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. I deployed twice while my sons were in elementary school. I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and children, but I also vividly remember the joy of coming home after a long deployment.

Those of us that have worn the uniform typically have a variety of reasons for having done so. For many, it’s a sense of Duty-Honor-Country, a belief in freedom, and a faith in America’s future. I think that one of the reasons why I served is that, on occasion, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness…visiting with a Tuskegee Airman at a Missouri Veterans Home, or watching history come alive at the airport at 0400 as WWII Veterans gathered for a trip to see our nation’s memorials in Washington, DC, a part of the Honor Flight network.

So, whether it’s chatting with Veterans from WWII or trading war stories with those fresh from today’s battlefields, sometimes I get to shake the hands of some real heroes. That’s just one of reasons why I served, and why I’m proud…I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be a Veteran.

On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have served. The Veterans of today are writing the history books that you, your children and your children’s children will one day study.  

Thank you for taking the time to commemorate this special day in your own way. God bless our Troops, God bless our Veterans…and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

Something New to Celebrate Veterans Day 2018

Something New to Celebrate Veterans Day 2018

By Bonnie Laiderman, CEO Veterans Home Care

Veterans Day 2018, wartime veterans have something to new to celebrate. Sweeping changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s benefit known as “Aid and Attendance” went into effect October 18, 2018. The new changes open the door for more deserving veterans and their surviving spouses.

This benefit has two parts. The first part is a pension for veterans who served a minimum of 90 days active duty with one day during wartime. The pension doesn’t require overseas service or combat duty. The second part is an additional payment for those who require “the aid and attendance” of another. The combined monthly amount of the Pension and Aid and Attendance benefit can be as much as $2,169 for a married veteran.

The benefit has been around for many years, yet it’s often overlooked and under-utilized by those who qualify. Instead, most people are aware of health care offered through the Veterans Health Administration or Compensation offered through the Veterans Benefits Administration for veterans who were disabled or killed while serving their country. Few people realize that a pension exists for those who have limited assets and have non-service-connected disabilities.

To learn more, you can contact a Veteran Service Officer or if you choose to use your funds primarily for home care or adult day care, contact Veterans Home Care® Veterans Home Care is a family-owned company offering the exclusive VetAssist® Program which helps wartime veterans or their surviving spouses access a VA benefit and home care. Our clients are served by our nationwide network of home care providers and our unparalleled expertise with the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit.

We change lives. Our VetAssist clients typically start from little to no awareness of the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit to having assistance with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, light housekeeping and companionship in their own home paid by their military service. Call 888-314-6075 or email info@veteranshomecare.com.

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Veterans Day was originally coined as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. It was a commemoration of the first anniversary of the end of World War 1. It didn’t take long for Congress to recognize the need to make this occasion and annual observance, and legislation was passed in 1926 to formalize that notion. Since then, we have used November 11th to celebrate our Veterans and remember their sacrifices.

My grandfather had served in WWII, but passed away before I had the chance to ask him to share his stories. I also spent most of my childhood in a time of peace. While the Catholic nuns had us practice air raid drills “just to be safe,” the closest I knew to conflict was Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. Even then, aside from yellow ribbons tied to my backpack straps, I really did not understand much about Veterans, soldiers and the sacrifices.

Fast forward to college, and my internship boss was getting married on November 11th. When she gave me the date, she said “yeah – Veterans Day.” Veterans Day? I didn’t question it, but instead looked up the date on my calendar. Sure enough – Veterans Day was a real, observed day on the calendar and I was completely ignorant to it! My only exposure to military anything was knowing a handful of ROTC boys on campus…and the one friend who was active duty and stationed in Italy. I didn’t know any Veterans or know of their stories. Over the next few years, I would begin to learn.

Earlier that year, JB joined the Marines. I met JB through my then boyfriend (who would eventually become my husband), Rich. JB was Rich’s very closest childhood friend. JB slept on the floor of Rich’s hospital room when Rich was in a meningitis-induced coma. JB was his brother from another mother and the bond seemed unbreakable. I met JB right before he left for bootcamp. It was important to Rich that I meet this key person in his life before he packed it up and headed out on his new journey. We met – and it was adoration at first sight.

JB embodied my mind’s vision of what a soldier should be. Strong, muscular – broad shoulders while maintaining kindness and compassion and a simplicity that made his personality so very appealing. With JB – what you saw was what you got. He was real. And he was joining the Marines.

We traveling north for his going away party, and Rich was uncharacteristically somber for most of our trip. No doubt that he had worries. His best friend, who had never ventured out of their home zip code, was embarking on an adventure that would no doubt change his very existence. There might have been some tears in his eyes when he gave JB one last hug before our departure from New Jersey – and our car ride was certainly filled with stories of when Rich and JB were boys.

I wrote to JB every day while he was at Paris Island. I mailed my letters once each week, and they were usually at least 15 pages long. I didn’t know him well – we had only met twice – but I felt the need to *do* something. I was too young to understand it at the time, but this was my introduction to loving someone in the military. The helplessness – the lack of communication. The constant praying. Upon his completion of boot camp, JB told me that it was my weekly diary that I mailed to him that helped push him through.

A few years later when Fox Company 2/1 was on the front line in the first wave of troops on the ground in Iraq, I resorted to my letter writing again. It was the only thing that seemed to help ease my anxiety surrounding the unknown about his deployment.

Fox Company 2/1 went 46 days without access to running water as they marched across the desert theater. We sent them candy and gum for them to distribute to the children they met. We sent them baby wipes and powder and travel deodorant. We wrote more letters. We collected newspapers. We sat at home and watched CNN and MSNBC incessantly. There was a photojournalist imbedded with their unit. We searched the newspaper for images. I will never forget Rich’s reaction to seeing JB’s hand in the newspaper. “It’s his hand! It’s his hand! I know that hand anywhere!” That soldier – covered head to toe with just his hand as the exception, was our proof that JB was still safe.

From the time he left for boot camp, we proudly displayed both the Stars & Stripes and the rich scarlet & gold of the Marine Corps flag. We wore our yellow ribbons and tied them to our trees. I prayed like I have never prayed before. We were fearful of the news yet still addicted to it. We worried. We sat side-by-side on the couch and stared at the TV.

We celebrated when we got the word he was coming home. Rich and I boarded a plane in July 2003 and headed to San Diego to see our soldier.

We stood on base at Camp Pendleton and waited. And waited. And waited. Rich and I were there with JB’s parents, sister and brother-in-law…and the tension of the waiting was getting to us all. I spent some time with a young woman and her baby girl. She wasn’t that much older than I and her daughter had been born while her husband served in Iraq. I was blessed and fortunate as I was with mom and baby when the helicopter carrying dad landed. I was there – just feet away – when the little family was reunited and that brave Marine met his baby girl for the first time.

Helicopters would land on the hill and soldiers would march down. The Raiders were not among them and as the day wore on, our heads and feet ached and our hearts just longed for “our” Marine. Finally, his bus arrived. We waited for him to check in his weapons and head down from the barracks. We cried. We breathed again – for the first time in so long. We held him, never wanting to let go. There were several times when I just took a step back to enjoy the beautiful emotion of the moment. 

Not long after, Rich and I were married. JB was one of our best men – he stood by our side with Rich’s brothers. He toasted us. He danced with me. He wore his dress blues – at our request – as we wanted everyone in attendance to be aware and in awe of his sacrifice.

His journey in the USMC wasn’t mine – but it taught me so very much. In those years, I learned a new level of respect for soldiers and Veterans. I better understood the multitude of sacrifices. Active duty isn’t like watching your kid go off to college – it’s more like saying goodbye in the hopes that you will both live to see tomorrow. It is being so proud to be an American that you are willing to lay your life on the line. It is seeing things and living experiences that change you. Permanently.

It has been 15 years since JB came home from Iraq. He and his time overseas are constantly on my mind. He has taught me so much. JB is now married with children, his active duty days may be long behind him, but he is and will always be a Marine who is true to the Corps.

I made the conscious decision to make sure my children grew up with a healthy respect for military – active duty and Veterans. This country has, in so many ways, become divided. I need them to know that Veterans should be honored because they have done what so many of us cannot do: they have stood in between us and the enemy and said “no – you can’t have them. You need to get through me first.”

We have done little things throughout their lives to make sure the lesson is heard and understood. They stand when they hear the National Anthem, even if it is playing on our TV in our living room. We have sent care packages to soldiers and letter to recovering men and women at Walter Reed. We have talked about and prayed for those who haven’t come home. Most importantly – they know to thank any soldier they can visually identify. LIving in Baltimore, we see men and women in fatigues often. They know to hold that door and say thank you, from the bottom of their hearts, because those fatigues represent so much.  

As a family, we are always looking for ways that we can serve the men and women who serve our country. As I was telling my children about my most recent discovery of Soldiers’ Angels and the Deployed Adoptions Team, they gave me a little lesson on Veterans Day and what they are doing to help support our troops. Their school has adopted a ship in the US Navy and is sending them thank you cards. 1500 thank you cards. My heart swelled as they told me about the notes they wrote and the drawings they were sending. They asked if they could send letters all year, and I told them I would find a way to make that happen.

I will never forget the feelings in my heart as I stood on Camp Pendleton all those years ago. I will never forget the fear and anxiety during JB’s deployment. I can’t imagine how those feelings would be magnified if it had been my spouse or my child that trudged through the desert sands, unable to contact his or her loved ones.

I spent the first 20 years of my life ignorant to the sacrifices made by strangers but in honor of my very existence. It matters not to these dedicated individuals whether I am a liberal hippie democrat or a conservative republican. The color of my skin or my religious beliefs are unimportant. The protect us all equally and without question. And for this, we should be grateful.

My Veterans Day sentiments and memories are dedicated to John A. Baker, JB. The Marine who opened my eyes and my mind to so many things. It was through his friendship that I learned an appreciation of our Military and it is to honor his service that I write this article. 

The Healing Power of Art

The Healing Power of Art

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Art as therapy. If you’ve seen it in action, you know the life-changing effects it can have on our Brothers & Sisters that struggle. For years, art has been shown to improve interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, and boost self-esteem. Clinically speaking, this helps reduce tension and anxiety, which can relieve pain and set a strong foundation for the process of healing or coping with lifelong disabilities. It can also mean relief for PTS and other issues stemming from military service.

For at least one Veteran, the visual arts have long been a format for creative expression, often providing emotional healing, strength, and a sense of purpose. Scott Beaty, a 20-year Navy Submarine Veteran and the founder of Visions for Vets, a small non-profit in St. Louis, Missouri, discovered a way to provide Veteran assistance through teaching and creating art and building strong Veteran camaraderie. As his organization grew, he witnessed his Veteran art students find release from their burdens, express themselves emotionally through creativity, and realize freedom from society’s label of being “disabled.”

“We’ve found that once Veterans have gained confidence in their newly-found, rekindled, or enhanced art skills, they’re ready to serve all over again. Service is at the heart of Visions for Vets and we seek to help Veterans continue the mission through art, building important relationships in their communities and engaging in outreach to bring the power of the healing arts to those in need of peace and joy,” Beaty said.

There’s an emphasis on the power of the visual arts at the national level, as well. As part of the current Presidential Administration, Second Lady Karen Pence uses her national and international platform to shine the light on art therapy. The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have their own platforms in the Creative Forces Network and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network serves the special needs of military patients and veterans who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, as well as their families and caregivers, placing creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical facilities across the country.

Made possible by a unique collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, DoD, the VA, and state arts agencies, Creative Forces is a network of caring people who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of art. The network is made up of creative arts therapists, artists, doctors, military service members, veterans, community leaders and policymakers, helping make a difference on military bases, in hospitals, and at community art centers.

Nationally, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities use the creative arts as an effective rehabilitative therapy to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in local creative arts competitions, culminating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Through a national judging process, first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. The Festival is co-sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. In addition to raising funds for the event, Auxiliary departments provide volunteers who assist with everything from punching meal tickets to stuffing programs to ironing costumes for the stage show.

 

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel

 

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel

 

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Chapels are a common sight in many military communities, but one in particular holds a very special place for many of us that were serving on September 11, 2001.

The Pentagon Memorial Chapel is located at the crash site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Dedicated a year to the day after the event, the chapel is a solemn place for prayer, meditation and reflection. Throughout the week, services for various faiths are held at the chapel and those who come to worship there recognize that it’s a special place, one that symbolizes strength, hope, and rebuilding. The Chapel helps meet the spiritual needs of all major faiths, and is open 24 hours a day for prayer and meditation,

According to the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, the Pentagon Memorial Chapel was the vision of the 3 most senior government civilians and the Chiefs of Chaplains. They, among others, realized that the Pentagon workforce needed a symbol for their recovery.

The point of impact where American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon had become a place where the Pentagon community and other officials came to leave flowers and other symbols of respect and mourning. Rather than return the area to office space, leaders decided to build the Chapel and use the transforming power found in faith to commemorate the events of that tragic day.

One special attribute of the physical space is the Chapel’s memorial windows. Along the wall that faces the outdoor public memorial are four stained-glass windows dedicated to those who perished. Those windows represent one piece of art by Dennis Roberts of IHS Studios and each window has a plaque at the bottom with a dedication to groups who lost friends and comrades that day.

The memorial stained-glass window in the front of the Chapel is designed like the five-sided “Survivor’s Pin,” which was given to the survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. The window links together the five military branches that guard the Nation. The American Bald Eagle is in a vigilant stance, symbolizing the past and present generations of those who defend our country. The flag is displayed upon alternating rays of green and gold, which portray the dark trials and bright triumphs in our history. The Pentagon building represents the undefeated bulwark at the heart of our defenses and the more than 23,000 men and women who contribute to the planning and execution of the defense of our country. The olive branch reveals the national character: always desiring peace but prepared to defend freedom. The two crimson rings total 184 individual pieces of glass, each representing those who lost their lives in the attack.

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

There have been a variety of settlements made to Agent Orange victims since the chemical warfare in Vietnam ceased over 40 years ago. While some settlements had immediate payouts, there may be funds still available, depending on your condition and infliction. The VA is providing assistance, benefits and care for Veterans who have health implications as a result of Agent Orange exposure.

Initially, the Agent Orange Settlement Fund was a result of a class action lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the chemical agents used in the Vietnam War by the Veterans of the war and their families. This fund and lawsuit did not involve the VA or the government in any way.

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for a wide variety of VA benefits. These benefits may include disability benefits for diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. These diseases include:

 

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Additionally, survivors of exposed Veterans and depends may also be eligible for benefits. Fortunately for Veterans, there is no need to prove Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange exposure is presumed if a Veteran was in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 until May 7, 1975. This includes both time on land and time aboard a ship that operated in the Vietnam waterways. Also covered by this presumption are veterans who were in or near the Korean demilitarized zone from April 1, 1968 to August 31, 1971.

Veterans can apply in person at their local office or online: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage. If you need any additional information about your possible disability benefits, please visit the VA’s site: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange.asp.

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

The chemical warfare efforts of Operation Ranch Hand were active for just 10 years of this country’s military history. Those 10 years of active efforts have had nearly 50 years of fallout, and the impact on future generations still remains unknown.

When the military began the chemical warfare airstrikes, the focus was on reducing ground cover utilized by the Viet Cong and Northern Vietnamese troops and destroying crops that would be used for sustenance. US Military, manufacturers and scientists were aware of the dangers that the dioxins posed to the humans and animals exposed, but there wasn’t a pressing concern as the toxins were being used on the enemy. Science overlooked the impact on US military personnel and long term impact on the environment. Air Force researcher Dr. James Clary has been quoted on the subject. “When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to the dioxin contamination in the herbicide. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide.”

As Veterans returned home, they began to report a variety of health issues. Initial reports were primarily skin issues, but the list grew to include type 2 diabetes, miscarriages, birth defects and more.

The VA continually updates its list of afflictions, conditions and diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. This is the most up-to-date list of recognized conditions:

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

In addition to the number of illnesses reported by American Veterans and their families, the list of afflictions that have impacted the Vietnamese continues to grow. Most notable and heartbreaking are the images of children born with severe birth defects. While many assume the impacts ended after the war, in truth, children are still coming into this world with physical and mental handicaps as a result of their grandparents’ exposure to Agent Orange in the 60s.

Globally, we need to be aware of the impact that Agent Orange had on our ecosystem. If genetic abnormalities in humans were caused by exposure and still continue to be prevalent, there is a high likelihood that the dioxin would be found in our food that originated in that area.

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Operation Ranch Hand was the codename for the US program that ordered over 20 million gallons of herbicide to be spread over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during a ten-year span of the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was the most commonly used herbicide. Intended to be the primary agent in the destruction of the forest cover in these countries, it was an extremely powerful herbicide that not only caused the desired deforestation but also has since been known to cause a multitude of devastating conditions for the local people and returning US Soldiers.

Operation Ranch Hand was aggressive chemical warfare designed to reduce food supplies for strategic cover being used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. The over 20 million gallons were spread across nearly 4.5 million acres. While seemingly a strategic win at the time, the fallout would prove to be a blemish on the face of American warfare history.

Operation Ranch Hand utilized six different herbicides. Produced by well-known American manufacturing companies, such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical, the herbicides were marked by colors on their packaging drums and subsequently referred to as those colors – Agent Orange, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Blue, Agent White and Agent Purple. Agent Orange was the most used, most potent and most altered – with four different variations, including Super Orange. Agent Orange and its variations account for almost two-thirds of the herbicide use during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange’s active ingredients caused plants to lose their leaves. TCDD, a type of dioxin, was not an intentional ingredient but instead a byproduct of the manufacturing process. The TCDD found in Agent Orange is the most dangerous and deadly of all dioxins.

It has been nearly 50 years since the US Government stopped using Agent Orange and other herbicides in chemical warfare. Despite the time that has passed, many of those exposed – both Vietnamese and American – still face the physical repercussions and fallout.

 

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

There are many ways to celebrate another trip around the sun. Birthday cake, candles – parties and presents. Retired Army Master Sergeant Polito “Paul” Olivas didn’t think any of the normal fanfare was quite enough. He decided to celebrate his 100th birthday by reliving his glory days – and jumping out of an airplane.

Olivas has spent decades of his life doing just that – he jumped out of a plane over Normandy. Jumped out of another at the Battle of the Bulge and even more in Korea. A Veteran who served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam, he has more than 300 skydive jumps under his belt – though all of them were before his 100th birthday.

At 100 years of age, the 5’2” Veteran, who doesn’t use glasses or hearing aids according to his friends, is already looking forward to his next jump. “After you get to 100 – you get to 101 or 102. I want to do it before I get too old!”

His celebratory century birthday jump was sponsored by the nonprofit Sea Inspiration and Sky Dive Hawaii. The current age record for skydiving is 103. Olivas seems ready and his friends think he is up for the challenge! Stay tuned for August 2021!

Check out the video of the jump here… https://www.stripes.com/news/former-green-beret-who-jumped-on-d-day-celebrates-100th-birthday-with-skydive-1.544989

 

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Prosthetic advances Making soldiers whole

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When discussing military deployment, many often think of two scenarios – the best case and the worst case. Less discussed, however, is the event that a soldier will come home missing a piece of him or herself. While nothing can truly undo the experiences of combat and bodily harm, prosthetic advances are improving every day to help make soldiers feel physically complete again.

The road from the first peg legs and hand hooks to the computerized prosthetic leg began nearly 3,000 years ago. From the ancient Egyptians through the middle Ages to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, there has been a constant evolution that has led to the highly individualized fitting and casting of today’s devices.

One company that is still making a difference today got its start back in 1905 when a bilateral amputee in Ohio used Willow wood as the medium to carve his handmade prosthetic limbs. He founded the Ohio Willow Wood company, which is a pioneer in custom-made prosthetic devices for amputees.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has thrown its support into the development of state-of-the-art prosthetic pieces and innovations. Soldiers who have lost their limbs from IEDs and older veterans who have suffered the same outcome from diabetes and vascular disease are now benefiting from those innovations. The longer veterans can stay mobile, the healthier they will be.

The research, innovations and advancements have undoubtedly helped thousands of veterans – but the benefits have reached beyond the military world. While there are countless civilians who have been able to take advantage of the prosthetic device advances, the uncounted number is perhaps the most staggering: the number of military spouses and families that have benefited from their soldier becoming “whole” once again.