Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Eglin Air Force Base in Florida has opened the first Invisible Wounds Center, which will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions and psychological injuries.

“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible.”

The center will treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from all branches.

Modeled after the Intrepid Spirit Centers, the Invisible Wounds Center will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof to provide treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion. Conventional and complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services will be included in treatment.

Following the opening of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in 2010, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund began building Intrepid Spirit Centers to serve as satellite facilities to extend care to the home base of many of the troops suffering the effects of TBI and PTS. Seven centers are already completed and in operation: Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Camp Pendleton, California. Additional Intrepid Spirit Centers are planned in Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Bliss, Texas.

Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, has confirmed that Eglin Air Force Base has also been selected to receive an Intrepid Spirit Center, which will be the first one at an Air Force installation. The facility has an expected completion date sometime in 2020.

Of Fisher, Hogg said, “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”

Former Green Beret Sets the Record Straight

Former Green Beret Who Inspired Kaepernick’s Infamous Kneel Sets the Record Straight

Former Green Beret Who Inspired Kaepernick’s Infamous Kneel Sets the Record Straight

By Debbie Gregory.

 

San Francisco 49ers’ superfan and former Green Beret Nate Boyer was the one who advised Colin Kaepernick on how best to protest racial inequality.

 

Disappointed by the former quarterback’s decision to sit during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL exhibition game in 2016, Boyer got the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Kaepernick after the former penned an open letter to the NFL star in the Army Times.

 

Kaepernick and his teammate, Eric Reid, met with Boyer in San Diego. Boyer explained to Kaepernick that veterans might feel “you don’t have their perspective and their understanding, just like they don’t have yours.”

Kaepernick asked Boyer if there was another way he could protest. Boyer told him to kneel, rather than sit.

That next game, Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, with Boyer alongside him on the sideline.

Boyer doesn’t believe that he told Kaepernick what to do, rather he offered an alternative.

“What I did was meet with him, make suggestions on different ways to do it after he was already protesting,” said Boyer. “And worked with him to kind of come to a middle ground.”

“He’s not protesting the national anthem. It has become an anthem debate, but that’s not what the protest is about. It’s about racial inequality, police brutality.”

Whether people agree or disagree, Boyer wishes the message hadn’t been intercepted.

“It’s not fair to Colin, it’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to the cause,” he said. “And it’s not good for our country.”

Boyer is involved with a number of charitable causes, including MVP: Merging Vets and Players and Waterboys, L.A.Ram’s Chris Long’s foundation that provides clean well water to East African communities.

Boyer is also working in the film industry, with a special emphasis on telling the stories of veterans.

 

Concern for the VA E-health Project Following Key Resignation

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Concern for the VA E-health Project Following Key Resignation

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Genevieve Morris, chief health information officer of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization stepped down from her role, just one month after taking the job.

The multibillion-dollar overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health records is intended to allow veterans to track their care through the VA, Department of Defense, and private medical providers. The project was a top priority for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Morris cited differences with VA leadership as the reason for her departure.

In her resignation email to the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services, Morris wrote, “Over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that VA’s leadership intends to take the EHR modernization effort in a different direction than we were headed.”

In response, Wilkie thanked Morris for her service and named John Windom to replace Morris. Windom is a recently retired Navy captain, who helped lead the Department of Defense EHR modernization project and the VA negotiations with Cerner over the last year.

“VA will benefit from John’s strong background on this project, as it begins the transition to the new system for the benefit of veterans’ care in the future,” Wilkie said Monday in a statement.

Morris’ email brings to light continued concerns about VA leadership and the influence of what’s been dubbed the ‘Mar-A-Lago Council,’ referring to the three friends of President Trump who have been influencing policies, decisions and personnel changes at the agency.

“It would be a tragedy for the program to be undermined by personality conflicts and bureaucratic power struggles before it even begins in earnest,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) who is chairman of a new congressional subcommittee tasked with overseeing VA technology. “I am dedicated to pursuing a constructive oversight agenda to encourage VA to make the right decisions, but any engagement is difficult without stable leadership.”

Charity Ride Provides Healing For Veterans

Charity Ride Provides Healing For Veterans

Charity Ride Provides Healing For Veterans

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

In 2014, Army Airborne Paratrooper, “Indian” Dave Frey was riding solo to the Sturgis Bike Rally when his path crossed with a fellow Paratrooper from his unit, and they quickly became friends. They talked about fellow veterans that were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and how so many are having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after their war experiences.

Frey and his business partner, Robert Manciero, conceived the idea for a ride that would include “Motorcycle Therapy” and create an adventure of a lifetime for wounded veterans. To get started they needed motorcycles, sidecars to accommodate amputees, and support. The duo contacted Indian Motorcycles and Champion Sidecars, who both jumped onboard, and the Veterans Charity Ride (VCR) to Sturgis hit the road.

In July, 18 wounded warriors departed from Las Vegas and traveled 1600 miles of gorgeous backroads on Indian motorcycles to take part in the 4th Annual VCR to Sturgis. Along the route, entire towns came out to welcome the veterans, treat them to lunch, and celebrate their service and sacrifice.

Frey and his wife Sue offer year-round support services for the veterans that join them on the ride.

Programs include:

WellVet- A nutritional program that helps veterans make healthier choices

VetFam- Gives previous veteran riders and mentors the opportunity to take their family on an all-expense paid four-day retreat at Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, UT.

MotoDono- A tax deductible motorcycle donation program for industry partners and the general public to donate new and used motorcycles and ATVs that are refurbished and modified (when needed) and given to veterans.

SafeVet- A motorcycle safety course that also offers assistance with maintenance, repairs and upgrades to keep riders safe.

TrustedVet- A mentoring program for previous riders to become mentors to the new veterans taking part in the Sturgis ride.

Riders also enjoyed zip-lining, river rafting, horseback riding, off-roading and other activities.

The 2016 ride was what got Army special forces veteran and VCR mentor Keith Helfrich back on a motorcycle. He found that riding relieved his anxiety away and helped him find calm and peace of mind.

“The ride is spectacular and the other veterans, our shared community, is really what this is all about,” said Helfrich. “We’re all in it together, and this ride creates lifelong bonds and friendships.”

To find out more about the Veterans Charity Ride or support their mission, visit https://veteranscharityride.org .

Cancer Claims the Life of the “Ultimate American Airman”

Cancer Claims the Life of the “Ultimate American Airman”

Cancer Claims the Life of the “Ultimate American Airman”

 

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

New Hampshire Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen hope that the Environmental Protection Agency will “understand and address the PFAS contamination problem facing the nation,” especially the perfluorooctanesulfonic acid contamination around the Pease International Tradeport, which was once Pease Air Force Base.

For years, military officials allowed first responders on the base to use firefighting foam that was laced with high amounts of this chemical. The chemicals leaked into the groundwater, and are thought to be responsible for the high incidences of cancer in the area.

“Ultimate American Airman” David Eaton, as his wife Nancy called him, loved his time in the National Guard. Eaton retired in June 2009 after more than 40 years of service, and died of pancreatic cancer just three years later.

Like a growing number of people who served or whose family members served at the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease, Nancy Eaton believes her husband’s exposure to contaminated water at the Guard base and other dangerous chemicals could have contributed to his cancer.

Kendall Brock, a 35-year member of the Guard who worked with David Eaton, died in June 2017 from bladder and prostate cancer. His widow, Doris, said that she believes the chemical exposure and tainted groundwater are to blame.

“I truly believe that that is the cause of not only his, but certainly several other people that I’m very close to who have died of cancers,” Brock said.

She also said among her circle of friends at the base, 62 people have been diagnosed with cancer. “And 39 of those 62 are dead,” she said. “I think that’s just crazy.”

Gary Enos served with the National Guard at Pease for 30 years, retiring in October 2013. Like David Eaton, Enos loved his time in the Air Force. And like Eaton, Enos has been diagnosed with cancer. Enos’s work in aircraft maintenance exposed him to engine oils, carbon remover, paint strippers, jet fuel, and many other chemicals.

Enos, who lives in Gorham, Maine, has been diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer. He too believes there’s an unusually high number of Guardsmen at Pease who have been diagnosed with cancer, and that their exposure, as well as his exposure to the water and the chemicals at Pease, could have caused the cancers

“My whole career I’ve been watching my friends and colleagues die around me,” he said in an interview this week. “When you work with people for 30 years, it becomes a super tight-knit organization. Right from early on in my career, friends and colleagues have been dying of cancer.”

WWII Legend ‘Sgt. Rosie,’ Rosenkrantz Finally Laid to Rest

WWII Legend ‘Sgt. Rosie,’ Rosenkrantz Finally Laid to Rest

 

By Debbie Gregory.

 

After 74 years, Staff Sgt.David “Sgt. Rosie” Rosenkrantz was finally laid to rest just outside of his hometown of Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old legend had been overseas for just three months when he and another paratrooper were mistakenly dropped into an Italian unit. The Italians, 200 of them, surrendered to Rosenkrantz and his fellow soldier.

But on Sept. 28, 1944, just a year after his victory over the Italians, Rosenkrantz was killed by German machine-gun fire during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, a fierce battle recounted in the 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far.”

American troops were unable to recover his body, and Sgt. Rosie was listed as missing for decades.

Inspired by watching Saving Private Ryan, Rosie’s nephew, Dr. Phillip Rosenkrantz began the search for his uncle’s remains.

Canadian, Dutch and American Graves Registration teams had been active in the area when a Canadian team collected remains from the area around Groesbeek and buried them at the Canadian National Cemetery as “unknowns.”

Rosie’s remains were among them.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) disinterred the grave and working with mitochondrial DNA, confirmed the remains Rosie, the son of Russian- Jewish immigrants, the middle child of 11.

At the re-internment in Riverside, CA, more than 30 of Rosenkrantz’s relatives — nieces, nephews, their kids, and their kids — were present. Front and center was Dr. Rosenkrantz.

“My family and I would like to thank all of the people who helped locate our uncle and bring him home to be buried with his four brothers, who were also part of World War II and are buried at Riverside National Cemetery,” said Dr. Rosenkrantz.

Following the playing of “Taps” and the firing of a three-volley salute, the military honor guard folded the flag draped atop Rosenkrantz’s casket and presented it to Dr. Rosenkrantz.

“This is a day I have been hoping for over 20 years,” he said in his eulogy. “We now have some closure.”

Veterans Ask Court to Reinstate Lawsuits over Open Burn Pits

Veterans Ask Court to Reinstate Lawsuits over Open Burn Pits

 

Veterans Ask Court to Reinstate Lawsuits over Open Burn Pits

By Debbie Gregory

During the OEF and OIF wars, government contractors burned up to 227 metric tons of hazardous waste at forward operating bases using jet fuel in large ground pits. Now veterans and their families have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate more than 60 lawsuits against KBR, Inc, a former Halliburton subsidiary, for health issues caused by the toxic burn pits.

The case, which dates back to 2008, consolidated dozens of lawsuits by hundreds of veterans and their families seeking to recover damages

Previously dismissed by U.S. District Judge Roger Titus, his 2017 ruling stated the burn pits were a military decision, not one made by KBR, Inc. He added that federal courts have no power to second-guess the executive branch’s wartime decisions, a precedent known as the political-question doctrine. Titus also held that “sovereign immunity,” which generally shields the federal government from being sued, extends to private contractors supporting the military in a combat zone.

Attorney Susan Burke, representing the servicemembers and families, has asked the 4th Circuit court to reverse Titus’s ruling, allowing the cases to move forward.

Items burned included: batteries, medical waste, amputated body parts, plastics, ammunition, human waste, animal carcasses, rubber, chemicals, & more.

Burke said KBR operated burn pits at 119 locations when it only had permission to use the pits at 18 sites. Warren Harris, KBR’s attorney, said that KBR operated only 31 burn pits, and the remainder of them were operated by the military.

The health issues include lung diseases such as life-threatening constrictive bronchiolitis and cancer, as well as a range of diseases including gastrointestinal disorders and neurological problems. It is believed that at least 12 service members have died from illnesses caused by the burn pits.

For years, veterans’ advocates have been pushing the Veterans Administration (VA) to adopt burn-pit exposure as a presumptive-service connected disability. The VA has denied many of their claims, concluding there is not enough evidence to link burn pits to their illnesses.

 

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

 

Veterans Who Became Billionaires

By Debbie Gregory.

 

A few of their names may sound familiar, and a few may not. But two things that the following men all have in common are that they are billionaires, and they all served in the U.S. Military.

S. Daniel Abraham, Army- As the founder of the Thompson Medical Company, Abraham made his fortune with the product Slimfast, a line of weight loss shakes, bars, snacks, packaged meals, and other dietary supplement foods. The line was sold to Unilever in 2000.

John Paul DeJoria, Navy- Thirty-eight years ago, John Paul DeJoria partnered with his friend Paul Mitchell, to start a company that would support the success of hairdressers and provide luxury hair care at an affordable price. With $700 of their own money, the two grew the product line from two shampoos and one conditioner to a diverse product line that includes styling tools and the largest global cosmetology and barber school franchises.

Charles Dolan, Air Force- Dolan began his successful career by packaging, marketing and distributing sports and industrial films. He went on to found Home Box Office, or HBO as it is more commonly known. He is also the founder of Cablevision.

John Orin Edson, Army- Edson began selling his own racing boats from a parking lot in Seattle, Washington. He eventually bought the rights to Bayliner Marine and developed the company to where it was valuable enough to Brunswick to purchase it for $425 million. Ever since, it’s been smooth sailing for the Army veteran.

David Murdock, Army- Murdock began a career in real estate, acquiring many businesses, including the pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company. Following the death of his third wife from cancer, Murdock has been involved to finding a cure, advancing nutrition, and life extension. He established the Dole Nutrition Institute to advocate the benefits of a plant-based diet to promote health and prevent disease.

 

Senators Back VA Whistleblower’s Claim of Harassment

Senators Back VA Whistleblower’s Claim of Harassment

Senators Back VA Whistleblower’s Claim of Harassment

By Debbie Gregory

Two Republican senators are defending a Department of Veterans Affairs whistle-blower and his claims of retaliation. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said that they were grateful to Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez for coming forward despite extreme personal risk.

The Phoenix VA Medical Center employee helped expose the doctoring of records that resulted in “serious patient waitlist improprieties.”

As a result, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned. But also as a result, Rodriguez was subjected to bullying by his superiors. But then whistle-blowers across the nation started reporting their own VA horrors

“The retaliation allegations included moving the whistleblower to a closet re-purposed as an office without proper air conditioning for almost two years, unlawful access of his medical records, verbal and physical threats of violence and bullying, the vandalizing of his car and an ordered appearance before a review board in an attempt to fire him,” the two senators said.

When the scandal broke in 2014, senior managers at VA facilities were found to have instructed their staffs to deliberately cover up long waits for appointments.

“Sometimes whistleblowers expose matters of life and death, other times they expose harm against the taxpayers, and sometimes they expose all of the above,” Sen Grassley wrote in a release. “Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez of the Phoenix VA deserves praise and gratitude for coming forward about problems that cover all of the above.”

With the Stroke of the Presidential Pen, VA Choice Program is Replaced

With the Stroke of the Presidential Pen, VA Choice Program is Replaced

With the Stroke of the Presidential Pen, VA Choice Program is Replaced

 

By Debbie Gregory

On June 6th, President Donald Trump signed the VA Mission Act, replacing the Veterans Choice Program.

The Mission Act consolidates seven programs. It expands private health care options, expands caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans, and orders the Department of Veterans Affairs to inventory its 1,100+ facilities with a long-term view to downsize.

“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?'”

American Legion spokesman Joe Plenzler said, “The American Legion worked very hard on this legislation with the administration and with Congress.” He added, “We were very pleased that the president signed it, and we look forward to implementing every piece of this legislation as discussed and negotiated.”

“We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider,” said the president.

The bill will address the restrictions in the current caregiver program that provides stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans. The current program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance to veterans of all eras, possibly adding more than 41,000 caregivers.

The price tag for the VA Mission Act has been estimated to be between $52 billion and $55 billion. Members of Congress still haven’t fully figured out how they’ll pay for the Mission Act.

Direct patient care, suicide prevention, medical research, job training and many more vital veterans programs could face cuts in funding in order to pay for care in the community under this new plan.