Can Condo Association Force Vet to Give Up Support Dog?

Robert  Brady

By Debbie Gregory.

The federal government will look into whether 70-year-old  Vietnam veteran Robert L. Brady will have to give up Bane, the mixed-breed sidekick that his psychologist deemed as an emotional support dog.

Brady filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after a judicial arbitrator determined the dog exceeded the homeowners association weight limit by six pounds.

Evicting animals based on their weight is “senseless” because size doesn’t predict whether a dog will attack someone. It is also difficult to predict what a puppy will weigh by the time they reach adulthood, which is already too late.

HUD will consider whether the case violates fair-housing laws by forcing the widower to surrender the animal despite Orlando Veteran Administration psychologist Matthew Waesche’s recommendation that Brady keep the dog.

“The reason I don’t want to lose him is that he keeps my mind off the war and everything. He’s just a wonderful companion,” said the widower, who retired last year from working as a theme-park bus driver. “My life would be lost without a good companion and that’s why I’m doing all I can to keep from having to get rid of him.”

Waesche wrote in an October 2015 letter that Brady was under his care and that the dog appears to help keep his owner’s mental health issues in remission.

Unlike service dogs trained to assist disabled people with daily tasks, emotional support animals don’t require training. They can be any species and require no certification to assist owners who have psychological disabilities.

“The real crux of our concerns are the HUD fair-housing issues and we’re hopeful it takes its course the way we want it to,” said Orlando attorney Jonathan Paul, who represents Brady.

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.

Mattis: General Purpose Forces Easing Special Forces Workload

special forces

By Debbie Gregory.

In an effort to ease the strain on the overworked U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has devised a plan to shift some mission responsibilities to the conventional forces.

Last year, SoCom forces, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, deployed to 149 countries around the world. This record-setting number of deployments comes as American commandos are battling a plethora of terror groups in wars and conflicts that stretch from Africa to the Middle East to Asia.

The breakneck pace at which the United States deploys its special operations forces to conflict zones has been unsustainable, prompting Mattis to take advantage of the “common capabilities” the conventional forces have developed.

“I mean, there was a time when the only people who ran drones were the Special Forces,” Mattis said, but the use of drones is now widespread in the conventional force.

Mattis said that what he called “general purpose” troops are already taking on roles normally performed by the Special Forces in some geographic areas.

The Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB) have trained at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Military Training Adviser Academy and will likely deploy to Afghanistan in the spring.

The Academy offers unique instruction to the NCOs and officers, who learn about the social aspects and cultures of their partner nations, how to work with interpreters, and “the art of negotiation.”

To fill the SFABs, the Army is looking for high-performance Soldiers with a “propensity to learn.” Soldiers must score at least 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test, with 80 in each category.

Eventually, the Army will have five active SFABs and one in the National Guard. Initially, two will focus on the Middle East, with the additional SFABs concentrating on the Pacific, Africa and possibly Europe.

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.

Army General Loses Promotion after Calling Congressional Staffer “Sweetheart”

gonsalves

By Debbie Gregory.

In today’s sexual misconduct climate, those in a position of power should choose their words carefully.

This is a lesson that Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves has learned the hard way, even though the offense he has been charged with occurred during an October 2016 meeting at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Gonsalves’ nomination for a third star is in limbo after it was determined that he disrespected one of Congressman Jim Langevin’s female staff members by calling her “sweetheart.” Gonsalves’ is also accused of making sarcastic and unprofessional remarks. At least ten people besides the female staffer were present.

Gonsalves apparently took issue with the female congressional staffer’s young age and her political affiliation. A male staffer who was present described Gonsalves’remarks as “sexist, inappropriate and unprofessional.”

The Army Command Policy requires treating others with “dignity and respect,” and the Army Inspector General has recommended that appropriate action be taken, which includes formally withdrawing Gonsalves’ nomination.

Gonsalves, who was considered to be in contention to serve as the next head of U.S. Army Europe, is now serving as a “special assistant to the commanding general, III Corps.” The Army declined to detail what the future holds for the major general.

Although Gonsalves testified that he did not refer to (the female staffer) as ‘sweetheart’ during the meeting, the evidence did not support his recollection,” according to the Inspector General’s report.

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.

Special Forces Save Lives with Freeze-dried Blood Plasma

freeze dried

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. military’s special operations troops are now carrying a new tool into combat to potentially save lives.

All of their first-aid kits now contain freeze-dried blood plasma that can prevent wounded troops from bleeding to death on the battlefield.

Plasma is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent, and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.

Plasma helps clot blood and can prevent badly wounded troops from bleeding to death on the battlefield.

The blood product is initially frozen and then dehydrated to remove liquid, turning it into a powder. It requires no refrigeration and can be used on wounds within minutes, after adding water.

The French-made product is lighter and smaller in volume than other blood products, and because it does not need to be frozen or kept fresh, it can be carried on long missions, or even deep into enemy territory. The plasma is made from volunteer donors and has a shelf life of about two years.

The U.S. is using the French product while Teleflex Inc. is waiting to win approval from the FDA. Teleflex plans to buy its donated plasma from blood banks and produce enough for the armed services and civilian emergency rooms.

This year will mark the first time the U.S military since will use the substance across the board since World War II.

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.

DNA Wanted from Veterans Who Served in Korea

1016-007

By Debbie Gregory.

The international adoption of Korean children began in 1953. Comprised mostly of mixed race children, some 200,000 Korean children were surrendered to orphanages, with more than 50% of those adoptees being sent to the United States.  Most of the mixed race children were born to Korean women and American or UN soldiers.

Now the non-profit 325 Kamra is on a mission to build a DNA database to help South Korean adoptees find their birth parents, including U.S. military veterans, by offering free DNA kits to all veterans and their descendants.

Many of these children were the product of a thriving sex industry both during the 1950-53 Korean War and after it ended while fulfilling peace-keeping duties.

The mixed-race children were shunned by society and denied Korean citizenship, which could only be passed on by the fathers.

Sarah Savidakis, the president of 325 Kamra, tested her DNA through a commercial genealogy service and identified a first cousin, once removed. The relative helped her identify and connect with a half-brother and half-sister. She learned that her father — who was of Scottish and Irish descent — had passed away in 2014.

Savidakis and the other mixed-race co-founders of 325 Kamra seek to collect DNA, medical histories and genealogical information from potential birth families; to provide kits to adoptees; and to help them reunite.

DNA testing kits are free to all Korean adoptees and every military veteran who served on the divided peninsula or their descendants.

Kits have been donated by Thomas Park Clement, a mixed-race adoptee and founder and president of medical device company Mectra Labs. Clement has pledged to provide $1 million worth of DNA kits to the Korean adoptee community. As part of his efforts, he has provided kits to Korean adoptees in the United States as well as to U.S. veterans of the Korean War.

The popularity of over-the-counter DNA testing kits sold by by Ancestry.com and 23andMe have been instrumental in the success of the program.

Veterans who wish to receive a DNA kit may contact 325Kamra via their website at www.325kamra.org or email the following information to [email protected]:

Name and mailing address (no PO boxes)

Name of servicemember

Branch of service of servicemember

Dates servicemember was in Korea

Rank of servicemember

Unit servicemember was attached to in Korea

Photo of servicemember in uniform if possible

If the servicemember is unavailable to test, siblings and children may test on their behalf

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.

Military Women Protest in Support of the #MeToo Movement

metoo

By Debbie Gregory.

January 8, 2018 was a momentous date in the lives of a group of military sexual assault survivors, as the #MeToo movement spread from politics to Hollywood to the media and finally to the military.

With messages such as “Denial is not a policy” and “Veterans demand reform,” protesters stood their ground as they demanded that the Pentagon take increased action to stop sexual assaults in the military.

Within the ranks of the male-dominated U.S. military, a culture of sexual assault, harassment and retaliation for those who come forward remains pervasive. But just as heavyweights in the aforementioned industries have fallen, so too is it time for all military personnel, from the highly decorated to the peers to be held accountable.

The Pentagon estimates that for the last three years, more than 18,000 sexual assaults have taken place, although the number is grossly below the actual number since two-thirds of victims don’t report. Convictions are rare.

While Army Col. Rob Manning said there was “zero tolerance” for sexual assault or harassment in the military, the reality is that the misogynistic military culture puts military sexual assault cases in the hands of commanders, which is akin to having the fox guard the henhouse.

Attorney Monica Medina, who faced career retaliation after rebuffing the advances of a senior office while in the Army, helped draft protections for women in the military who were assaulted, including ensuring that victims have a lawyer and removing certain cases from the chain of command.

Of course, there are men who have also been victimized by military sexual assault, and the movement is for their benefit as well. But their numbers are nowhere near the 80% of female troops who have experienced some sort of sexual harassment.

“Women in service to their nation deserve better,” Medina said.

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.

 

Vietnam Veteran, Wrongfully Convicted of Double Murder, Plans to Work With Veterans

craig+coley

By Debbie Gregory.

Navy veteran Craig Coley was wrongfully convicted of a double murder on Veterans Day in 1978. The son of a Los Angeles police officer, Coley, now 70-years-old, has been exonerated and released from prison, and will continue to serve his fellow veterans.

Coley, who created a veterans organization while incarcerated, said that’s what veterans do: they help each other.

CA Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Coley after DNA evidence proved that Coley was innocent of the slaying of his ex-girlfriend Rhonda Wicht, 24, and her son, Donald Wicht, 4.

Coley, the son of a Los Angeles Police Department officer, had maintained his innocence since his arrest. It was his first brush with the law in his life. Coley had served several deployments to Vietnam aboard the USS Enterprise, and had also served on the USS Bainbridge and the USS Bon Homme Richard.

During his incarceration, Coley volunteered, served as an officer with the Veterans Affairs organization in the prison, and belonged to Veterans Embracing Troops, raising money for Blue Star/Gold Star Mothers to send care packages to fellow veterans.

He is a participant and mentor for the bible study group with the college program; he earned his Associates degree in Theology, his certificate as a Biblical Counselor, and in 2017 received his Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies while starting on his Master’s degree.

In 1989, Detective Mike Bender came across Coley’s case and immediately saw red flags.

“His whole case was a series of mistakes,” said Bender, a now-retired Simi Valley police detective who worked for almost 30 years to right the wrong.

Bender has taken Coley under his wing to help him navigate a very changed world from the one Coley left behind. Bender has created a GoFundMe page for Coley that has raised over $20,000.

Coley is also receiving assistance from Army Sgt. Maj. Jesse Acosta, the president of a nonprofit organization called Thank-A-Vet. Acosta, who was wounded in a 2006 mortar attack on an Iraqi base, lost his eyesight and suffered a traumatic brain injury, visited the prison to share his story and speak about service dogs. He has been helping Coley navigate the Department of Veterans Affairs. Acosta’s advocacy has inspired Coley to serve his fellow veterans.

“Nobody understands a veteran like another veteran,” Coley said.

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.

Memberships in Veteran Service Organizations on the Decline

legion

By Debbie Gregory.

There appears to be a lack of interest from younger veterans when it comes to joining legacy groups like the AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

Membership is certainly on the decline with the deaths of WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans, and as their membership ages and declines, these organizations need young bloods to maintain the political clout they have built up, and they need to be able to “pass the torch” in order to maintain the ground they have gained.

According to the VFW and American Legion, only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join their organizations have done so. Don’t these veterans want to be around other veterans?

Of course they do. So why aren’t veterans from more recent conflicts signing up like their parents and grandparents did?

Perhaps the transitioning servicemembers of the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram generation are gravitating towards the groups that they perceive to be a better fit, such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Mission Continues, and Team Rubicon.

Let’s face it, when most young people think of these groups, they don’t picture many of their peers being present.

So what should the legacy organizations do to reach out and attract younger veterans? First of all, they can communicate via email, vs. snail mail. They can make sure that they are as welcoming to female veterans as they are to male veterans.

Perhaps an updated look with a few flat screen televisions and a fresh coat of paint is in order. They can host events that will attract the younger crowd; out with the Bingo night and in with college fairs, career days, and veteran service officer Q&As.

“A lot of these kids really don’t know what the VFW is,” said one VFW Commander, Robert Webber.

Webber said VFW members reach out to newer/younger veterans every time there is a function or they are out in public.

“We explain to them that we are a family-oriented group and we try to help them,” Webber said. “We have a service officer that can help them with paperwork and medical problems.”

If veterans’ organizations like the VFW and the American Legion want to survive the next twenty years, they need to prioritize women, present a united front pulling from the entire population of veterans and tackle charitable efforts together.

Perhaps if they all joined forces as one group, they would have enough experienced officers, personnel, and funding to tackle their biggest issues. Nobody would be left out of the discussion and everyone would have the ability to help.

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.

 

Revamped Shipping Containers Provide Shelter for the Homeless

Hope on Alvarado

By Debbie Gregory.

First there was Potter’s Field, a $6.7 million project that recycled shipping containers to create permanent supportive housing for veterans in Orange County. Building on that success, Los Angeles County has planned a shipping-container apartment complex utilizing “Cargotecture” to repurpose the workhorse cargo container.

The L.A. development will be called “Hope on Alvarado”, a five story, 84-unit building with containers provided by GrowthPoint, which also provided the modified shipping containers for Potter’s Lane.

In addition to four stories of studio and one-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 400 to 480 square feet, the development will also have space for parking bicycles, parking for social service workers, and meeting rooms.

Repurposing the containers for housing is due in part to the steel containers’ strength and lower building expenses, including labor. Modifications to the containers include removing doors and parts of the exterior metal skin and adding floor-to-ceiling windows and interior fixtures and finishes.

GrowthPoint says their containers — used once for a shipment — are 106 times stronger than building codes require and can resist weathering for 100 years.

Containers will be trucked to the construction site, lifted and stacked into place by a crane, and then welded together.

Potter’s Lane cost $6.7 million and was paid for with federal, state and local dollars, donations, and money from American Family Housing, the nonprofit behind the project.

Hope on Alvarado will be funded entirely through private equity, according to FlyAwayHomes, a company that was founded to help end homelessness sustainably by building permanent supportive housing without dependence on government funding or charitable donations – using social impact equity or other private funding methods.

“If we can prove we can do this with private money, people will be much more willing to invest in it,” said Kevin Hirai, chief operations officer at FlyAway.

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.

Air Force Signs $26.3 million Contact with Lockheed Martin to Arm Jets With Lasers

Lance

By Debbie Gregory.

If Lockheed Martin is able to deliver on its laser weapon system in development, the U.S. Air Force may boast a fleet of fighter jets that can shoot lasers from a small, compact cannon.

As part of the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE program ) the $26.3 million contract with the Air Force Research Lab should result in a weapon system that is not only compact, but also light enough to be mounted on fighter jets.

Currently, most of these systems are limited to ground and sea use due to their weight and size. Such is the case for the ground vehicle–mounted system that Lockheed Martin just delivered to the U.S. Army that can burn through tanks and knock mortars out of the sky.

Lockheed Martin will be adapting the system it developed for the Army to address the challenge of self-protection against ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

The program’s work will be divided among three subsystems: the Shield Turret Research in Aero Effects (Strafe) includes the beam control system; the Laser Pod Research and Development (LPRD) will power and cool the laser on the fighter jet; and finally, the LANCE laser itself.

“The ability of a helicopter or bomber or fighter jet to shoot down or sufficiently damage or distract an incoming missile could allow them to operate in places they haven’t been able to operate recently,” said military analyst Peter Singer.

Raytheon became the first company to destroy a target with a laser fired from a helicopter at White Sands Missile Range when an Apache AH-64 shot a truck from more than a mile away. Raytheon is also building a laser-firing, drone-killing dune buggy. Boeing has its own anti-drone laser cannon.

Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin plans to test a high-energy laser weapon mounted on a fighter jet by 2021.