Iraq Vet Loses Struggle With PTSD

By Debbie Gregory.

Army psychologist Capt. Peter Linnerooth helped many soldiers deal with the demons of PTSD, depression and anger.  Unfortunately, after returning home to Minnesota, he wrestled with the same  PTSD demons as those he counseled, and lost. The wonderful man and officer who helped so many others, was not able to save himself.  Peter Linnerooth  died by his own hand in January, 2013. A fight with his wife, alcohol and a loaded gun proved a tragic combination.

Linnerooth had the magic touch. He was genuinely empathetic. He listened to the soldiers’ stories and comforted them. He was their counselor and their friend. He knew how to sooth soldiers returning from the battlefield, after losing their buddies who were killed by bombs. He comforted medics reliving the horrors of death all around them.

Linnerooth helped soldiers who suffered from nightmares, reliving the horrors they had witnessed. He soothed the heavy hearts of soldiers with insomnia.   He was there for soldiers suffering from PTSD and depression.  When the Iraq war was at it bloodiest, Linnerooth easily put in 60 to 70 hours a week. He carried the pain of those around him on his shoulders. He had the right stuff to help others.

After leaving the military, Linnerooth became a college professor in Minnesota. He continued to counsel veterans in California and Nevada. He always felt that he could have done more to help the troops. At the same time, he struggled with his own demons. He struggled with PTSD, depression and anger.

Linnerooth was always there for others, but in the end, he gave up on himself.  Peter Linnerooth was a devoted father and an admired Army captain. He was 42, but in reality, he was much older.  Working to help others, no matter how much he accomplished , he never felt it was enough. But to the many soldiers who are alive today because of his counsel, it was.  Our sincere condolences to the loved ones of Captain Peter Linnerooth who made a huge difference for so many.  Rest In Peace.

Champions of Change : Dawn Halfaker

By Debbie Gregory.

Military police officer, Army Cpt. Dawn Halfaker was on a three-hour patrol in Iraq, searching for enemy combatants. Near the end of the night, her unit found them – when they drove headfirst into an ambush.

Halfaker, who was in the first vehicle, was hit squarely with a rocket-propelled grenade. The blast severely injured both her and one of her squad leaders. The last thing she remembers of her tour in Iraq is being loaded into a helicopter.

When she awoke she thought she was still on the battlefield. Family and doctors at her bedside had to explain that she was safe, in the hospital and left without one of her arms.

For Halfaker, a 2001 West Point graduate, she lost more than her arm. She lost a career that she loved and worked for.

“I took that all in and looked over and started to understand the severity of the situation. I was in a lot of pain. I really thought my life was over,” she said. “I had a hard time accepting everything they were telling me. I lost my arm, but losing my career was what I felt I had to recover from.”

As Halfaker recovered and began searching for a place in the workforce where she fit, she realized quickly that neither politics nor defense contracting was a good match.

Instead, she created her own company, Halfaker and Associates, and works with civilian and military partners to address national security services such as information technology, program management and acquisition, logistics and infrastructure, among other services. Halfaker serves as chief executive officer.

Before launching her enterprise, Halfaker served as a military liaison to the House Armed Services Committee and advised the committee chair on key Department of Defense legislation and issues. She also worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, specializing in technical consulting for the Defense Sciences Offices.

In the community, Halfaker is a member of several Veteran Service Organizations and is currently President of the Board of Directors for the Wounded Warrior Project. The project aims to create direct programs and services to meet the varied needs of the nation’s wounded service members.

It is a mission that Halfaker doesn’t just believe in, but that she supports through her words, actions and deeds.

“Wounded Warrior Project brings a lot of support to the table,” she said. “They really inspire our wounded war fighters, motivating people to reach new goals. The people at WWP help you figure things out when your whole life has suddenly changed and you’re dealing with your losses.”

Halfaker also spends time working with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Committee for OIF/OEF soldiers and families to improve VA policies and care for veterans who were severely injured in combat and is actively serving on the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee for Veterans Employer Training and Employer Outreach and the Department of Veteran Affairs Readjustment Committee. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for Humana Military Health Systems, ThanksUSA and Paradox Sports.

Women Veteran Hotline

By Debbie Gregory.

The Veteran’s Administration launched new Women Veterans Hotline: 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-829-6636).  This number connects Women Veterans, their families and caregivers to a nationwide call center that responds to questions concerning health care, benefits, services and V.A. resources.

The VA is providing highly-trained telephone agents as part of a program designed to reach more Women Veterans. These VA agents provide accessibility in a private, dignified and sensitive climate that deals with gender-specific issues.
The Veterans Administration recognizes the unique needs of women Veterans.  Over 334,000 women Veterans used VA healthcare in 2012.  The number of women Veterans utilizing VA healthcare has grown from 160,000 back in 2000.  It is interesting that even with number of women veterans that use VA healthcare increasing; only six percent of the total patient population at the VA is women.  This is often due to a lack of knowledge,

The VA provides comprehensive primary care for women Veterans as well as offering services for obstetrics-gynecology, caregiver support, crisis intervention, mental health services.  They also provide emergency and specialty care for homeless women Veterans.  Some of the other services provide disability compensation, home loans, and employment assistance.

According to Irene Trowell-Harris, the Director of the Veteran Administration’s Center for Women Veterans, “Many women who served don’t self-identify as Veterans, therefore they don’t think they qualify for V.A. benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions, so we can serve more Women Veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

The Call Center 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-6636has a 30-day tracking policy on all transfers and referrals to ensure beneficiaries receive the services they need and don’t become waylaid by the system.

Women Veterans may retrieve information, or apply for benefits online at and conduct their health care needs at

Women Veterans have served and often under challenging circumstances.  The VA is working to address their special needs.

Columnist Says “Most Veterans Did Nothing Heroic”

By Debbie Gregory.

A military funeral is a memorial that our nation provides to those who have served our nation when they pass away.  It is the very least we can do for men and women who have make so many sacrifices. This final farewell to comrades is steeped in tradition with a ceremony with a flag-draped casket.  The flag is folded and presented to the family of the deceased service member or Veteran.  This ceremony is usually performed by an Honor Guard detail of not less than two members of the Armed Forces.  The ceremony is concluded with the playing TAPS.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist  Bill McClellan published a very controversial column. One wonder’s if  McClellan’s motive was to create controversy?   McClellan states in his column that only those who have died in battle deserve military burial honors.  He attempts to justify his position by bringing up the precarious financial health of state and federal governments.   McClellan goes so far as to state that “Most Veterans Did Nothing Heroic”.  He goes on to say that they served and that’s all.  He feels it is more than enough to provide a Veteran and their spouse burial plots and headstones at national cemeteries.

We strongly disagree with McClellan and his ill-conceived position on military funerals.

We live in a nation where less than one percent of our population steps up and serves in the military.  Service members place themselves in harm’s way.  They literally write the people of the United States a blank check up to and including their lives.   It doesn’t matter if they died in battle, died of Agent Orange, died from PTSD even decades later, or died of suicide, or died from a non-service related condition or anything else.  This is a benefit that Veterans have they earned.  It should not be taken away under any circumstances after they have done their duty.  Doing so would be breaking a sacred covenant with our Veterans.

Veterans of all eras have gone to war and left their homes and loved ones to defend this nation.  Veterans have allowed us to live in a nation that is safe and where we can prosper.     We are able to live the lives we do in the greatest nation in the world because of the sacrifices of so many who have served in our armed forces and worn our nation’s uniform.

We invite you to send us your comments and opinion on this issue.

President Obama Presents Posthumous Medal of Honor Award

By Debbie Gregory.

In a posthumous ceremony honoring a fallen Korean War chaplain, Captain Emil Kapaun, President Obama presented the veteran’s family with one of the military’s highest decorations for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest, served during the Korean conflict June 1950, until his death on May 23, 1951, in a prisoner of war hospital. The previous awards received by Kapaun’s family are the Bronze Star for Valor, plus the Distinguished Service Cross for his honorable self-sacrifices.

Kapaun, as with most chaplains, followed the creed of sacrificing his well-being for that of his men, and embraced the Marine’s mantra… “Leave no man behind!”

Father Kapaun was deployed to Korea with the Eighth Calvary Regimen, in June 1950. He and his fellow soldiers endured heavy, hostile-fire from North Korean enemy attacks. The chaplain maneuvered through artillery and gunfire to assist the wounded, man-down, with aid, and to elicit comfort for the dying.

His troops retreated, but Kapaun remained behind with the incapacitated, unmovable wounded soldiers. He helped implement a peaceful surrender of wounded troops, plus intervened in the execution of wounded Sergeant Herbert Miller, putting his own life in jeopardy, but staying the death-decision.

Kapaun was a POW from November 02, 1950 until he succumbed in a prison hospital from lack of food and adequate medical attention, and passed away on May 23, 1951.

The Roman Catholic Church honors Kapaun with the “Servant of God’” title. The honor of sainthood is under consideration by the church and is promoted and supported by the Diocese of Wichita.

This is the first time a member of the ministry has been honored with the Medal of Honor.  Those who minister to our troops are courageous men and women often serving in the front lines.  They provide comfort and spiritual fortification to those who serve.  We salute all ministers, chaplains, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders that are making a significant contribution to the well-being of our troops.

Military Connection features the weekly “Adopt A Chaplain” column.

The Debt We Owe Our Veterans

As we remember the tenth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq, we need to consider the toll a decade of war has taken on those who serve.  We live in a nation where less than one percent of the population serve in our nation’s armed forces.  Those who have worn our nation’s uniform are an illustrious group of men and women whose service and sacrifices have enabled us to live the lives we do, in freedom and prosperity.  Our military makes enormous sacrifices, as do military spouses and military families. Service members have written a blank check up to and including their lives.   We must be cognizant of the debt we owe those who have served.   As many of them return and transition back to civilian life, it is not only our honor to help them, but our moral responsibility.   

The best way for us to honor our Veterans and their families is to provide them their American Dream.  We need to provide our Veterans excellent health care,  including mental health services without prejudice or stigma.   Our military Veterans deserve the ability to own their own homes. Homelessness is unacceptable.  Our Veterans deserve the excellent education benefits they have earned,  provided by the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  They should have the opportunity to use their Veteran education benefits to attend Veteran friendly colleges, universities and vocational schools, giving them the opportunity to better their lives and increase their earning power. We need to provide Veterans jobs and outstanding employment opportunities.    Military Veterans bring skills, a superior work ethic, dedication, discipline and honor to the workplace.   Each of us can do something to make a positive difference while helping our transitioning Veterans.  We will also benefit from stepping up for the men and women who have stepped up for us.  We live in the greatest nation in the world. We need to make sure that those who have sacrificed to make it great are priority one, front and center.

Here are a few statistics to keep in mind:

  • More than 6,000 US Troops have been killed since 2001
  • More than 4,400 US Troops died in Iraq
  • More than 1,600 US Troops died in Afghanistan
  • More than 45,000 US Troops have been wounded since 2001
  • More of our Service Members are committing suicide than dying in combat
  • Over 4,000 young veterans have died from suicides, drug overdoses and vehicle crashes
  • Over 2 Million US Troops have been deployed to Iraq & Afghanistan
  • Over 600,000 Veterans have been treated at Veteran Medical facilities
  • About half of our returning Veterans are eligible for some type of disability
  • More than  one-third of those who have served will develop PTSD
  • The Rand Corporation estimates that approximately 320,000 Service Members have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during their deployment.

As a nation, we need to recognize that each Veterans is a link in the unbroken chain of sacrifice.

Debbie Gregory, CEO

Run For The Wall – Ride For Those Who Can’t

(We Ride For Those Who Can’t)
May 15–May 25, 2013

Run For The Wall recognizes the sacrifices and contributions made by all Veterans who have served our nation. Veterans of recent conflicts and those currently on active duty are welcome to join us as we ride for those who cannot. By joining or supporting Run For The Wall, you participate in our mission which is to promote healing among all Veterans, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.

Run For The Wall also known as RFTW or The Run, was started in 1989 as an effort by a couple of Vietnam Veterans who traveled across the heartland of America on motorcycles, talking to local media about the fact that we have many men and women still unaccounted for from all of our wars. The need for this awareness continues, so we maintain this tradition every May. We don’t give political speeches or stage demonstrations. RFTW emphasizes its message by traveling through the United States in a safe and orderly manner. We obey traffic laws and treat all citizens with respect.

The issues of public awareness are only part of the benefit of RFTW. We give all Veterans the opportunity to get their own “Welcome Home” and start the healing process. Everyone who has fought or has friends/loved ones who have fought in a war have their own issues: the welcome home, the good-bye to buddies lost, or just trying to accept coming home alive. Many who participate in RFTW find that whatever they’ve been missing can be found within the RFTW family.

There is a registration fee to participate in RFTW, and everyone pays their own travel expenses. We are a 501(c3) not-for-profit organization which accepts tax-deductible donations. Some meals are donated and others are provided for a small contribution to local citizen organizations. We have generous groups and individuals who, on occasion, have paid for gas and lodging for our participants.

RFTW takes ten days to reach Washington, DC, arriving on Memorial Day weekend. Events scheduled include a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, the RFTW participants’ photo at the Lincoln Memorial, and the walk together to the Vietnam Wall. Many RFTW riders participate in Rolling Thunder’s “Ride For Freedom” on Sunday.

Along our routes RFTW riders visit Veterans Medical Centers, Veterans’ Memorials, Veterans’ Outreach Facilities, VFW’s, American Legion Posts, community centers and schools. We enjoy parades, escorts, and welcome-home receptions from many patriotic Americans. The ages of the participants range from “eight to eighty!” These include: mothers, fathers, grandparents, as well as many Gold Star and Blue Star families. All patriotic Americans, not just Veterans, are welcome to participate in RFTW.

Some people join RFTW and think of it as just another vacation or motorcycle event. After one or two days though, they realize this is something very special. It is unlike anything else they have experienced, and it becomes a MISSION. They become part of the RFTW family whose members come from the United States, Canada, Australia, as well as other countries.

In May 2013, RFTW will celebrate 25 years of helping Veterans and their families. For more detailed information and the exact routes, please visit our website. We invite everyone to come join us.

The official Run For The Wall website is:

WWII Merchant Marine salutes all of the Veterans of World War II. We are losing too many of these heroes. We also need to take a moment and remember the contributions of the Merchant Marines during this war and others. These are brave men and a few women who are too often forgotten or confused with other services. Next time you see a World War II veteran, remember their sacrifices so we have been able to live in the best country in the world.

It has always been a pleasure to be a participant in the Coronado Fourth of July parade due to their acceptance of the Merchant Marine but this year was unique. I felt I had to share the experience with others. The Silvergate chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII has been in many local parades over the past five years I have been its’ president and seldom have we felt so much recognition and patriotism from the spectators.

In other parades I don’t think the spectators really found out who or what the importance of the Merchant Marines was during WWII. Even when we gave a script for announcers to read as we marched past they seldom read the material correctly and they had us as members of the Navy or the Marine Corps or didn’t read the whole script. To my members this was an insult. Because of this action by the announcers and the lack of physical strength of my mariners they had chosen not to participate in parades. Also I believe too many people don’t realize how difficult it is for these elderly men to walk a complete parade route. I have tried many times to inform the public of what these men went through during the war but the newspapers chose not to print it. If we couldn’t get the message of our part in WWII accepted in a parade an article in a newspaper is almost meaningless.

We have always been a small group but due to our advanced age it is even smaller. Most of the men aren’t able to walk the length of a parade. At the last minute I found one member who felt his legs might hold up and would help me carry our banner. Because of all that had happened before in earlier parades it was truly a joy to experience. It was very moving for us to have so many spectators, including men in uniform, get up from where they were sitting and salute or say thank you to our group of four elderly veterans 85 to 90 years of age. It made the two of us that carried our banner the whole mile and a half feel very proud indeed to be so recognized.

When one has witnessed our government choosing not to fully recognize the services of the Merchant Marine during World War II for having delivered over 94% of all the supplies necessary for the success of our country and our allies to win World War II these actions of appreciation and patriotism on the part of parade observers made us feel very proud. We say thank you to all who attended that parade and salute you.

Byron Ayres
President of Silvergate chapter of AMMV