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


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.

No Shortage of Acts of Heroism from Military, Veterans and First Responders

route 91

By Debbie Gregory.

We often hear of heroic deeds performed by members of the military, veterans and first responders, not only when they are on the job, but also when they are in “civilian mode.”

At the Route 91 concert shooting, there were numerous acts of bravery and self-sacrifice. Eyewitness Russell Bleck said, “Thank God it was at a country concert, there were so many ex-military there. You saw these men jump into action, their training … not even in uniform. I didn’t see a single one taking cover, these guys were just running directly into the danger zone.”

Iraq war veteran Colin Donohue guided people to safety and started caring for the injured, in spite of not having any formal medical training.

Marine Austin Cox ran toward the gunfire and saved the life of a perfect stranger, Katrina Hannah, who was shot in the neck and shoulder. Austin picked her up and made a run for it – getting her safely to the hospital.

Tom McIntosh, who was severely bleeding in the back of a pickup truck, owes his life to James Lawson’s Army Reserves training as an EMT. The makeshift tourniquet on McIntosh’s leg was failing him. “I walked up there and he was actively bleeding,” Lawson said, noting that the belt was in the wrong spot. “I adjusted the belt, got it up there where it should be, tightened it down, stopped the bleeding, hung out there for 10-15 minutes and some savior in a pickup truck asked if we needed a ride. We said, ‘Yeah’ and threw them all in the bed of a pickup truck and we took off the hospital.” The move saved McIntosh’s life. “I wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “I’m very thankful that James was there to help me.”

Renee Cesario met Marine Brendan Kelly just two hours before Jason Aldean took the stage. The pair were dancing near the front of the stage when the shots began to ring out. “Before I knew what was going on, Brendan tackled me down to the ground and covered me from the fire.” In-between rounds, the pair ran for safety — with Brendan leading the way. When Renee’s family thanked Brendan for saving her life, his response? “Absolutely, that’s what we do, take care of our own and those around us. Glad I could be there for her in that crazy time.”

Marine veteran Taylor Winston commandeered a utility truck he found with the keys in it, and over the course of two trips, ferried some 30 people to the hospital. The only reason he didn’t make a third trip was because emergency crews were on scene at that point. “I think a lot of my training in the military helped me in the situation,” Winston said.  And he brushed off the title of “hero,” as heroes often do.

And on a personal note, my assistant’s daughter, Aria James, who I’ve known since she was nine years old, was at the concert with her boyfriend, Navy veteran Reed Broschart. Like many other men there, Reed’s military training kicked in, and he guided Aria to safety, physically covering her on the ground each time shots were being fired.

To these brave men, and the countless others who put personal safety aside to help others, thank you.

Thank You.


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.

Navy Veteran Facing a New Battle


By Debbie Gregory.

They say it takes a village. And we are hoping that those of you who honor our servicemembers for their service and sacrifices will close ranks to help a veteran in need.

Navy veteran Aaron Robinson is battling cancer. Not just any cancer, but Glioblastoma Multiform, the most malignant and aggressive form of glial brain tumors. Medically speaking, there is no cure. But the 40 year old husband, father, and business owner is not giving up. With his biggest cheerleader, wife Jennifer, by his side, Aaron (who served 1993-1997under the last name Roof) has already endured two craniotomies, which confirmed his stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme and his stage 3 anaplastic astrocytoma.


Following the removal of two golf-ball sized tumors, and after weighing all of their options, the family has decided to pursue treatment at the Hope4Cancer clinic with Dr. Tony Jimenez and his team. Aaron will receive in-house treatment for 3-6 weeks, with the hope that the non-toxic therapies offered will allow Aaron’s body to fight the cancer cells while maintaining the integrity of his healthy cells.

Of course, this type of disruption in daily life is hard for anyone, let alone a self-employed couple with two children under the age of 15. Thankfully, family members are rallying to help when and where they can, especially with childcare while Aaron and Jennifer are away. But all of this comes with a huge financial impact. And that’s where you come in.

We hope you will take a minute to visit the YouCaring crowdfunding web page, and make a contribution. You might think what you can afford won’t make a difference. But if enough people with the same thought make a contribution, the impact is real.

Thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated, and knowing that they have the support of a village will be of great comfort to this wonderful family.

Military Connection: Iraq Vets To Get Relief: By Debbie Gregory

Chemical AgentsLate in October, the Defense Department announced that it will provide medical examinations and long-term health monitoring to service members who were exposed to chemical warfare agents in Iraq.

Over the last several years, an increasing number of Iraq Veterans have come forward with health complaints as a result of exposure and inadequate treatment. To date, neither the Pentagon, nor any of the service branches have released a full list of chemical weapons recoveries and exposures.

A review ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel found that the military did not follow its own healthcare protocol during the initial care of many patients, and did not establish a means for following the exposed patients’ health over time, as the guidelines required.

Medical officials from the Army said that in the early months of 2015, the military will begin conducting medical exams for soldiers exposed to chemical agents. It is estimated that approximately 25 members from the Army and the Navy have been affected by chemical agents due to their service in Iraq.

Previously, the events involving their exposure to the chemical agents had been kept under wraps. Nearly all of the incidents of exposure involved the discovery or demolition of stockpiles of rusted and corroded ordinance. Missiles and bombs, some utilizing mustard gas and other chemical agents, were hidden by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, and found by U.S. forces. There was a fear that insurgent groups in Iraq would look for and discover more hidden stockpiles of chemical weapons.

The discovery and acknowledgement of the exposures may be late, but going forward, it will help these Veterans apply for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. By acknowledging the exposure, the Veterans will be able to link their current health problems to their service, making it easier to get approved for disability benefits and medical treatment.

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Military Connection: Iraq Vets To Get Relief: By Debbie Gregory