First American Killed in Syria Combat


By Debbie Gregory.

The first American servicemember to lose his life in Syria has been identified as 42-year-old sailor Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton.

Chief Dayton was assigned to a bomb-disposal unit based in Virginia Beach, and was killed by an improvised bomb in northern Syria. He was killed in Ayn Issa, a town halfway between Raqqa and the Turkish border.

Dayton was returned to the U.S. Sunday night in a dignified transfer at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base.

The U.S. has been in the region to assist in organizing an offensive against the Islamic State. American warplanes have been bombing targets inside Syria to aid tens of thousands of militia fighters as they try to expel the Islamic State from Raqqa.

More than 300 members of the United States Special Operations Forces are also in Syria to help recruit, train and advise the Kurdish and Arab fighters who are trying to retake the city.

Chief Dayton was serving with Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two.

Chief Dayton enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 17, 1993, and received 19 awards, including the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, seven Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy “E” Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, two Iraq Campaign Medals, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Dayton’s death is a reminder as to how volatile and deadly the campaign against ISIS is.

We at join a grateful nation in offering our deepest condolences and sympathies to Chief Dayton’s family, loved ones and friends.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

St. Bonaventure University- A Great School for Veterans, A Great Place to Work


St. Bonaventure University (SBU) has long valued military veterans as an integral part of their campus community. Their new Student Veterans Center is staffed by two full-time employees, one full- time director, one full-time assistant director, and a half-time VISTA worker dedicated solely to the needs of veterans and their dependents as they transition from military to academic life. In addition, the University has had a chapter of the National Student Veterans Association.

The values SBU cherishes — discovery, community inclusiveness, service, and respect for the dignity and worth of each individual- — create a supportive, respectful environment for students, faculty and staff members. Situated in the peaceful surroundings of the Allegheny Mountains, the Main Campus offers the traditional program format. The second site, located on the Hilbert College Campus in Hamburg, NY, offers the weekend course format.

As the school expands to meet the needs of all their students, some employment opportunities have presented.

The School of Education has two tenure-track positions for Counselor Education at the Assistant or Associate Professor rank beginning fall 2017, and applications for these positions are invited.

One position is for a faculty member specializing in School Counseling and one is for Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  This position will include teaching master’s level courses in online, hybrid and face to face formats. Individuals from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply

Candidates must have: (1) an earned doctorate in Counselor Education is required and preference will be given to CACREP program graduates; (2) licensure as a professional counselor and/or certification as a professional school counselor; (3) experience as a school counselor or clinical mental health counselor;  (4) university teaching experience;  (5) expertise in online teaching and learning.

The successful candidate will teach graduate courses and advise students in the School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs.  Experience in addictions, multicultural counseling, diagnosis and treatment, research, and/or assessment is preferred.  Candidates should demonstrate excellence in teaching, the ability to work collaboratively with others, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Scholarly activity leading to publication in peer-reviewed journals is expected, as well as presentations at counseling conferences.   Experience with accreditation is a plus.  One successful candidate may serve as Program Director.

Candidates should submit curriculum vitae, letter of application, three letters of reference, and a sample of scholarly work via email to:  Dr. Nancy Casey, Interim Dean, School of Education; at [email protected]

St. Bonaventure University is an Equal Opportunity Employer, committed to fostering diversity in its faculty, staff and student body, and strongly encourages applications from the entire spectrum of a diverse community. In light of its commitment to create and maintain a safe learning and working environment, employment with St. Bonaventure University requires successful completion of a background screening. Unless otherwise provided by law, a criminal record will not automatically disqualify an individual from employment.

Combat Veteran with PTSD Sues Airline For Not Being Allowed to Fly With Service Dog


By Debbie Gregory.

Decorated Army veteran Lisa McCombs, who suffers from PTSD,  says flying the friendly skies with her service dog,  Jake, has always been easy.

But that changed a year ago, when she and Jake, a Labrador retriever, were barred from boarding an American Airlines flight, in spite of the fact that Jake was wearing his service vest and was properly documented. McCombs has decided to sue the airline.

McCombs relies on Jake to calm her anxiety and panic before it overwhelms her.

Her lawsuit alleges that while she waited to board her flight, an airline agent approached her and asked “in a condescending tone, ‘ummm, are you going to fly with that?’” the suit states.

For the next 48-hours, McCombs says she was repeatedly interrogated, stressed and humiliated, causing her mental health to suffer.

After missing her scheduled flight,  McCombs said that she was “verbally assaulted” by two agents who loudly demanded, in “rapid succession,” that she tell them the nature of her disability and explain how her service dog helps.

Their conduct implied that McCombs was falsifying her disability, the suit claims, adding that their tone was so harsh that strangers began scolding the agents and trying to comfort McCombs.

“I have PTSD, look at me, I’m an anxious mess!” McCombs replied, according to the suit filed in federal court. “He’s my service dog! I don’t understand why I’m being treated like this!”

The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that PTSD afflicts 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of veterans of the war in Iraq.

According to the lawsuit, McCombs “was emotionally crushed and humiliated by the conduct of (American’s) agents, who discriminated against her because of her disability and publicly shamed her.”

The suit alleges negligence, breach of contract and violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and asks American Airlines to compensate McCombs for her airline tickets, legal fees and medical treatment.

Army officials say McCombs enlisted in 2005 and did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the time she was honorably discharged, in 2009, she had reached the rank of captain, according to military records. McCombs received multiple awards for service, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the NATO Afghanistan Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The Transportation Department requires that all U.S. airlines allow passengers to fly with their service animals in the cabin, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Suicides of Older Troops Rare, and Rarely Addressed


By Debbie Gregory.

Maj. Gen. John Rossi was days away from taking command of Army Space and Missile Command. Instead, on July 31st , he was found dead, and his death was ruled a suicide.

Rossi, 55, was the commanding general for the Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He had relinquished command at Fort Sill earlier in July.

Rossi served in Iraq, Southwest Asia, Korea, Germany and several postings in the United States, according to his Army biography. The 1983 West Point graduate was commissioned as an air defense artillery officer.

“Maj. Gen. Rossi was a respected leader, valiant warrior and trusted friend who gave more than 33 years of service to this nation,” the Army said in a statement.

The Pentagon’s most recent yearly data found 269 active-duty troops and 169 reserve and National Guard members were found to have killed themselves in 2014, according to its Suicide Event Report. While the number climbed from 2013, the services saw a reduction from 2012, in which 321 active-duty troops died by suicide.

This serves as a painful reminder that older servicemembers should not be overlooked in the military’s efforts to curb suicide. Two active-duty troops aged 50-54 committed suicide in 2014, according to the Pentagon report.

“While we have focused our attention on young people — who make up the bulk of our force, and for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death nationwide — the most recent data shows middle-aged Americans are the fastest-growing, at-risk population. Suicide knows no common race or age, gender or position,” the Army release on Rossi’s death stated.

Two-thirds of all veterans who committed suicide in 2014 were 50 years old or older, according to Department of Veterans Affairs data released this year, which also revised the number of 22 veteran suicides per day to 20 due to more comprehensive data.

He is survived by his wife Liz, his three children and one grandchild.

“To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately…compassionate and confidential assistance is available,” Rossi’s family said.

Troops and veterans can reach VA’s Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1, text 838255, or through a chat service at the Crisis Line homepage.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Most Private Sector Doctors Unprepared to Treat Veterans


By Debbie Gregory.

While many veterans get some health care from private doctors, those doctors often fall short when it comes to identifying service-related illness.

Jeffrey L. Brown, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College who also teaches at Weill Cornell Medicine, said, “While everybody seems to be mostly focused on the health care that veterans are getting at the VA, it sort of went unnoticed that 80 percent of veterans get most of their health care from civilian providers.”

According to a 2015 government survey of health and health care use, about 40 percent of veterans get some health care from the VA, but only about 20 percent of all veterans rely totally on the VA.

Dr. Brown, a retired U.S. Army medic, read a New York Times article that alerted him to his possible Agent Orange exposure. The carcinogenic defoliant that was used to kill thick plant growth and expose hiding Vietnamese fighters also exposed U.S. servicemembers to  serious illness such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Brown learned of the risk from a newspaper, not his doctor. This prompted him to educate physicians about service-specific ailments.

“The biggest deficiency: Most health care providers don’t ask patients as they come through the door if they’ve ever served in the military,” the pediatrician said.

Service-related issues also could affect women’s health, especially when it comes to bearing and delivering children, according to Dr. Brown.

Pediatricians also seldom are trained to identify psychological and learning problems among veterans’ children related to their parents’ service or the effects after returning from deployment, he said.

“Unless you speak up and say you are a veteran or your spouse is a veteran, the issue might not even come to light,” said Richard R. Silbert, M.D., a psychiatrist and senior medical director for the Community Care Behavioral Health Organization.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Carter Announces Plans for the Pentagon to Launch Chief Innovation Officer Post


By Debbie Gregory.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is poised to drive innovation forward for the Pentagon, which includes the creation of a new chief innovation officer position.

Referring to companies such as IBM, Intel and Google, Carter said, “Many different organizations have recently embraced this position, and also started to regularly run these kinds of innovation tournaments and competitions…and it’s time we did as well, to help incentivize our people to come up with innovative ideas and approaches.”

In addition to the creation of that spot, Carter said the Pentagon will launch targeted recruiting initiatives to increase recruitment of computer scientists and software engineers.

“We’ll do this through targeted recruiting initiatives ranging from our Reserve Officer Training Corps to our civilian Scholarship For Service program that’s intended to help build the next generation of DoD science and technology leaders, with the goal of making computer science a core competency of the Department of Defense,” Carter said.

Carter also feels that the Pentagon needs to do a better job recruiting on college campuses.

Carter has placed a great deal of emphasis on innovation. The department is going to invest broadly in machine learning, including the creation of a “virtual center of excellence” that Carter said “establishes stretch goals and incentivizes academy and commercial technology companies [that] have been making significant strides.”

“Going forward, I’m confident that the logic behind everything I’m talking about today will be self-evident to future defense secretaries, as will the value of these efforts — but they also need to have the momentum and institutional foundation to keep going under their own steam and continue to thrive,” he said. “We must ensure they can keep leading the way and keep disrupting, challenging and inspiring the rest of the Defense Department to change for the better.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Volunteers Wanted for PTSD Study of Treatment Some Call a “Miracle”

sgb study

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon is funding a treatment study that could be a life-saver for those suffering from PTSD.

The treatment utilizes an injection of a local anesthetic next to a bundle of nerves in the neck. So far, it has eased post-traumatic stress symptoms in some patients in as little as 30 minutes with dramatic, lasting results.

The stellate ganglion block could revolutionize the way PTSD is viewed and treated, according to doctors familiar with the experimental procedure.

“It has the potential to be a huge game changer for many, many affected people with PTSD, whether from combat, sexual assault or other trauma,” said Col. James Lynch, command surgeon for U.S. Special Operations Command Africa in Stuttgart.

The block is offered as treatment for PTSD at a handful of Army hospitals, including Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, but still lacks clinical evidence of success.

The Pentagon study could change that.

RTI International, a research institute in Raleigh, N.C., received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Defense Department to conduct the trial.

Enrollment for the study began about five months ago. Researchers are hoping to get at least 240 active-duty military volunteers by the time the study concludes next year in November.

The study is open to active-duty servicemembers who have been diagnosed with PTSD or think they might have PTSD. The source of PTSD can be any traumatic experience, not just combat.

In an effort to increase enrollment, the study was recently opened to servicemembers being treated for psychological or behavioral health issues, LRMC officials said. Volunteers can receive up to $115 for the time they spend participating in the study.

Volunteers receive two injections, two weeks apart. One in three receive a placebo of saline solution instead of the active treatment. The injection takes 10-15 minutes.

For more information, visit or call Russ Peeler, Study Site Coordinator at 800 334-8571, ext. 28359.

This Double-Amputee Veteran ‘Stood’ For The National Anthem

Christian Brown

By Debbie Gregory.

Marine veterans Christian Brown and Nick DelCampo have been close friends since they joined the Marines in 2009.

In 2012, while on their second deployment, Brown stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while leading his squad on foot in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Both of his legs were blown off- one above the knee, the other below the hip. He also lost part of his right index finger.

After Brown’s injury, and throughout his recovery, the two stayed in touch, and in late October of this year, they met up for a wounded veterans deer-hunting trip in Pennsylvania.

While in the area, the two Marine vets were offered tickets to a Steelers and Patriots football game on Oct. 23. When they arrived, they both received signed jersey’s belonging to the Steelers’ offensive tackle Alejandro “Ali” Villanueva, himself a former Army Ranger.

“When I was standing for the pledge, to me, that was a respectful thing to do today with the defiance in the government, toward police officers, and pretty much toward everything that’s good,” Brown said.

DelCampo captured the moment in a photo that has now gone viral. The caption reads:

“This is my best friend, a silver star recipient who lost both his legs from an IED in Afghanistan. We went on two combat deployments together and he’s been my right hand man since day one in the Marine Corps. Regardless of his injuries, standing on what’s left of his legs for the National Anthem. I understand that our government needs some serious change and there is real race problem that needs to be fixed. The American flag is a symbol of freedom, liberty and human rights. It is a symbol of our home and all that we believe in. A symbol men and women rally behind, whether on our shores or foreign shores. “

And just in case anyone concludes that Brown’s Silver Star is a result of that fateful day in 2012- it’s not.

The Silver Star Medal was awarded to Brown for his actions while leading his squad during a foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on Dec. 7, 2011, when then LCpl. Brown and his squad came under fire from several positions by insurgents.  Brown led his squad in a counterattack against the attackers.

After one of his squad members was critically wounded and the initial landing zone was deemed unsafe for the medical helicopter because of gunfire, Brown organized his Marines to secure another landing zone. He then carried the wounded Marine almost 1,000 feet under enemy fire to the helicopter. After safely evacuating the victim, he and his squad were able to fight the insurgents off.

“Somebody’s got to be an example, whether it’s favorable and people like it or not, I’m going to stand for what I think is right and that’s just the way it is.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Peterson AFB Discharges Water with Toxic Chemicals


By Debbie Gregory.

Peterson Air Force Base has confirmed that more than 150,000 gallons of water tainted with toxic chemicals were released into the Colorado Springs Utilities sewer system last week.

The release of the Air Force firefighting chemicals came from a holding tank that was designed to corral the firefighting chemicals at a Peterson training area. It was discovered during a routine inspection.

The contamination of wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain has left thousands of residents scrambling for bottled water, even though the contaminated water was not drinking water, but rather wastewater.

The chemical in the water is a perfluorinated compound, a substance that the Environmental Protection Agency warns can cause ailments including liver and kidney damage and may trigger cancer.

All the water flowing to homes supplied by the Security and Fountain water systems now comes from the Pueblo Reservoir — meaning that this spill should not affect those communities.

“The Air Force has demonstrated its commitment to identifying and addressing (perfluorinated compound) contamination at Peterson Air Force Base and facilities nationwide,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said.

The gaffe is the latest in a string of incidents involving PFC-contaminated water from the base. Nearby well water consumers noticed an elevated level of the chemical compound in water earlier in 2016.

Peterson Air Force Base spent $4.3 million to filter and provide drinking water to those who had been affected.

An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the discharge, said Col. Doug Schiess, who commands Peterson’s 21st Space Wing. They are also working to ensure no future mistakes are allowed to transpire.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Study Reveals Veteran Suicide Risk Highest in the First Year Home


By Debbie Gregory.

A new study may open doors to more effective treatment for veterans as they move from active-duty to life after the military, especially in light of the fact that Veterans may be more likely to commit suicide during the first year after they leave the military than after more time passes.

A new study at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, lead by study author Yu-Chu Shen, revealed that compared to those on active duty in the military, veterans out of the service for up to three months were 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide. Veterans who had left the service from three to 12 months earlier had almost triple the suicide odds of current members of the military.

The study didn’t examine why the suicide risk was lower during deployment than afterwards. But it’s possible service members benefited from the positive psychological impact of belonging to a group with a shared mission during deployment, Shen said, then had more time to contemplate any negative feelings about their experiences when they were no longer on the mission.

“Family members and community can be proactive to reach out to veterans if they recently experienced stressful events – not just limited to the stressful events we can capture in the data such as divorce or separation from the military,” said Shen.

Overall, there were 4,492 suicides in the study population.

In the Lancet Psychiatry, researchers reported that the strongest predictors of suicide were current or past diagnoses of self-inflicted injuries, major depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or other mental health conditions.

Compared with service members who were never deployed, those who were currently deployed had a 50 percent lower risk of suicide, the study found.

However, in the first quarter following deployment, service members had a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than their peers who didn’t experience deployment.

The study doctors and researchers hope to lower the biggest barrier to veterans receiving the care they need when they get home, and that’s the stigma surrounding asking for help in the first place.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.