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Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

Happy 112th Birthday Richard Overton – America’s Oldest WWII Veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

At 112 years old, Richard Overton is the country’s oldest living veteran.

He was born on May 11, 1906 in Bastrop County, Texas. In 1942, he volunteered for military service after the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Overton is a Veteran of Iwo Jima, and also spent time in Hawaii, Guam and Palau. He left the Army in October, 1945, after the unconditional surrender by the Japanese.

Overton served as a member of the Army’s 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion.  

After the war, Overton returned to Texas, where he briefly sold furniture, before going to work in the state’s Treasurer’s Office.

Overton lives in East Austin, in a house that he built himself. He has been a bit of a celebrity in the Veteran Community, heralded as being the oldest Vet in the nation.

Overton revealed that his secret to living so long is a moderate daily dose of whiskey and cigars. He admits to a spoonful of whiskey in his morning coffee, and puffing (but not inhaling) cigars, as a part of his regular regiment. But he admits that he mostly credits his longevity to keeping out of trouble.

Overton made it through the battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most horrific battles of all time, and then survived the rest of the war. It would be safe to assume that he had seen enough trouble in his life time to be able to recognize it, and be allowed to stay away from it.

Overton recently flew in a private jet to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he received a private tour and met former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

His 112th birthday bash was hosted by Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm and featured music by DJ Kay Cali.

So here’s to Richard Overton and his great ability to endure as a soldier, as a person, and as an inspiration.

 

VA TO Host Baby Showers for Veterans Welcoming New Babies

MCbabyshower

VA TO Host Baby Showers for Veterans Welcoming New Babies

by Debbie Gregory

In conjunction with a number of national organizations, the Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting the first nationwide baby shower for veterans and caregivers welcoming new babies in 2018.

Partners who provided valuable and generous contributions to the success of the baby showers include:
• The Elizabeth Dole Foundation
• Philips
• Veterans Canteen Service
• The American Legion
• The Carrying On Project
• Burt’s Bees Baby
• The Red Cross
• The Veterans of Foreign Wars
• Halo
• First Quality Enterprises

Sixty VA medical centers across the U.S. will host the event, which run from May 5th to the 16th, which will celebrate the joyous occasion with more than 2,400 new parents and parents-to- be. While open to both male and female veterans welcoming babies this year, the idea is to put a spotlight on the key services that the VA offers women.
Attendees will receive two new baby packages with useful gifts for parents-to-be. Besides providing helpful resources for veteran caregivers provided by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, kits will include baby products from Philips, as well as a diaper bag, hair brush and comb set, bib, layette, blanket, hat, and toiletries.
A number of bigger ticket items, including car seats and cribs, will be given out at each shower. If you would like to sponsor a kit for a deserving veteran family, just $50 will allow you to purchase a new baby kit to be distributed at a local Baby Shower. The sweet and sensible new baby package contains a variety of useful baby products. The kit includes:

A Peekaboo diaper bag
Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo, lotion, and baby powder
Mint color 30″x 40″ waffle cotton receiving blanket, white 2 ply 100% cotton infant beanie
Four pack of baby wash cloths
Silicone bib

100% cotton infant layette

Baby brush and comb set

Go to https://www.promoplace.com/205353/stores/Babyshower to purchase a gift that says,
“Thank you for your service” and congratulations from a grateful nation.

VA to Pay Iowa Veteran $550,000 Settlement Over Treatment

porter

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has paid a Vietnam veteran $550,000 to settle his allegation that because of a three-year delay in treatment, he suffered life-shortening heart damage.

Air Force veteran John Porter, 68, of Greenfield, Iowa sued the VA in federal court in after he says VA staff overlooked a test result showing his heart was failing.

“After I’m done paying my lawyers and expenses, I’m not going to be rich,” said Porter. “It’s more of a moral victory than the money.”

According to the lawsuit, Porter presented at the emergency room of the Des Moines VA hospital in October 2011 after feeling tightness in his chest. Tests revealed that he might have heart problems. Follow-up test three weeks later showed his heart was functioning at less than half of normal levels, indicating heart failure, but Porter was not advised of the findings, according to the lawsuit.

Porter only discovered the results three years later after seeing doctors at an Arizona VA hospital, where Porter had gone in 2014 after again experiencing severe chest pain. It was only then that the 2011 test results were given to Porter.

Porter’s lawsuit cited a cardiologist at the Des Moines VA who later wrote that the oversight kept Porter from seeing a cardiologist promptly and that because of the three-year delay, “I doubt there will be much progress made” in treating Porter.

Porter said that he didn’t place the blame on the facility, instead pointing to communication breakdowns at the facility.

“The Des Moines VA is full of knowledgeable, caring and competent people,” Porter said.

While the Department of Justice attorneys representing the VA acknowledged the 2011 test and that the test was not acted on, they denied negligence by VA staff.

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.

Hanging Out with Another Veteran Can be the Best Therapy

veteran buddies

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s long been referred to as a band of brothers, and more recently, a band of brothers and sisters. While not related by blood, the same concept remains: watch out for each other. It’s a kinship that’s often forged under the worst of circumstances.

For that reason, veteran organizations are encouraging veterans to build trusting relationships and support each other. That’s why the VA offers employment to veterans as peer specialists.

A Peer Specialist is a person with a mental health and/or co-occurring condition, who has been trained and certified to help others with these conditions, identify and achieve specific life and recovery goals.

A Peer Specialist is a person who is actively engaged in his/her own recovery, and who volunteers or is hired to provide peer support services to others engaged in mental health treatment.

Veterans are a natural resource when it comes to supporting fellow veterans in need. That’s not to say that civilian care for veterans isn’t valuable as well. But there’s something to be said for walking in another’s shoes. Understanding the unique culture shared by military members and their families can be a daunting task for Americans who have not experienced the military lifestyle.

Post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD) is a major concern, as it can lead to a host of other issues, including alcohol abuse, drug abuse, homelessness, unemployment, violence, and even suicide.

Veteran peer support shows promise in addressing mental health issues.

Given the large numbers of veterans returning from multiple deployments, the value of incorporating veteran peers into health care teams makes perfect sense, especially when you consider other factors such as  a shortage of trained behavioral health providers, long wait times for treatment,  and stigma felt by veterans regarding seeking help.

Although civilians can never truly understand what war is like, we can honor all veterans by ensuring that we as a society do what we can to help them achieve the American Dream.

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.

Thousands Respond to Terminally Ill Veteran’s Dying Request

lee hernandez

By Debbie Gregory.

An Army veteran with a terminal illness has a final wish that we can all help with.

Lee Hernandez suffers from a debilitating condition that was deemed terminal after three brain surgeries failed to identify the cause.

One day, Lee asked his wife and caregiver, Ernestine Hernandez, to hold onto his phone “in case someone calls.” After nearly two hours with no calls, Lee told her, “I guess no one wants to talk to me.”

Ernestine contacted the advocacy groups Caregivers of Wounded Warriors and the Arizona Veterans Forum with a request for phone calls and texts of good wishes that she could pass on to her husband.

Currently on Hospice care, the 47 year-old’s dying wish is to hear from you.

The July 11th Facebook post on the Arizona Veterans Forum page went viral. In just a matter of days, Lee received more than 100,000 texts and calls from well-wishers.

Family friend Susan Frawley, also a veteran caregiver to her Marine veteran husband, started the Facebook page Team Lee!!! American Hero Support Group, to assist the couple.

Because the multiple strokes have left Lee blind, Ernestine reads the messages to him.

In addition to the Facebook page, Frawley created a GoFundMe campaign on July 16 to raise money for Lee and Ernestine to travel and enjoy the time he has left, and the campaign has nearly reached its $3,000 goal.

People who want to call or text Lee should reach out in the evening hours, ideally between 2pm and 6pm Arizona time. Ernestine said that is when Lee is the most alert, despite heavy pain medication. The phone number is 210-632-6778.

“Thank you everyone for your calls and support. I am trying to give him the best life I am able to with the help of my mom,” Ernestine 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.

Bill Dana, ‘Jose Jimenez’ Comedian and WWII Vet, Dies at 92

bill dana

By Debbie Gregory.

Many knew Bill Dana as “José Jiménez” the popular character he created on The Steve Allen Show in the 1950s and continued to perform throughout his career. Dana died June 15th at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 92.

Born William Szathmary and a Massachusetts native of Hungarian-Jewish descent, Dana first appeared as Mexican immigrant Jimenez in a 1959 edition of “The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, where he also worked as an Emmy-nominated head writer.

Many people don’t know is that in addition to being a successful writer, author, cartoonist, producer, director, recording artist, inventor and stand-up comedian, Dana was also an Army veteran..

Dana enlisted at age 18, and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal in WWII.

He attended college on the GI Bill, and began his career as an NBC page.

On Garry Moore’s variety T.V. show, Dana appeared as Jose the Astronaut.

Dana and his alter ego became part of U.S space history on May 5, 1961, when  the first words spoken to Alan Shepard after liftoff from fellow Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton on the ground were: “O.K., José, you’re on your way. ”

Dana said he got the idea for the José Jiménez character and the accent after talking with a Puerto Rican local while on vacation years earlier.

Dana’s “José Jiménez” was initially embraced by the Latino community. But changing standards and criticisms of stereotyping in the late 1960s forced him to retire the character.

“It was people I met in this country who would tell me ‘Boy, shore love it when you play the dumb Mexican’ that made me want to drop the character,” Dana said in a 1970 interview.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Evelyn Shular.

Donations in his name may be made to the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College.

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.

Two of America’s Finest Tragically Lose Their Lives

tragedy

By Debbie Gregory.

Two men, both of whom served their country, one a veteran and one an active duty servicemember, lost their lives just days apart, both under tragic circumstances.

On Friday, May 26th, Army veteran Ricky Best was stabbed when he stood up to Jeremy Joseph Christian in defense of a girl wearing a hijab and her friend, as Christian launched a slur-filled diatribe at the two aboard a MAX Green Line train in Oregon.

Then on Sunday, May 28th, a tragic parachute malfunction sent a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL parachute team plunging into the Hudson River.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Remington J. Peters was taking part in a performance with the elite Leap Frogs skydiving demonstration team during New York Fleet Week.  He landed in the river near Liberty State Park in New Jersey, and was pulled out of the water by the Coast Guard. Peters was sent to the Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The Navy is continuing to investigate the accident.

Best, a 23-year retired Army veteran, died on the train from stab wounds inflicted by Christian. Two other men, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, were also stabbed. Namkai-Meche later died at the hospital. Fletcher is expected to recover.  The three men tried to talk Christian down from his agitated state.

According to the Navy Special Warfare Center, Peters had completed two combat deployments and had more than 900 parachute jumps. He enlisted in September, 2009, and arrived in Coronado, CA shortly after recruit and preliminary training in Illinois.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of these two men who proudly served their country. We thank them both for their service, their bravery and their sacrifices.

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.

VA to Recognize Tribal Organizations as Veteran Representatives

native vets

By Debbie Gregory.

On July 20, 2016, the VA issued a proposed rule to amend part 14 of title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, to provide for the recognition of tribal organizations that are established and funded by tribal governments. The amendment would allow representatives of the organizations to assist Native American veterans and their families in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their VA benefit claims.

Native Americans serve in the military among the highest rate, per capita, compared to other groups.

For more than a year, the VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations (OTGR) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) have worked together to implement this rule change.

“This rule is a positive step forward for Indian Country and VA,” said Reyn Leno, Vietnam Veteran and chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.  “For decades, tribes with accredited facilities have been able to provide quality services to our Native American Veterans and Veterans alike. The piece that was missing was the ability to provide assistance on VA benefit claims. This rule recognizes the unique relationship our tribes have with our federal government and Veterans in some of our most rural communities. No Veteran should have to drive hundreds of miles to receive care they could be eligible to receive next door at a tribal facility. The ability to credential tribal employees as VSOs will also help to further extend services to Native Veterans in a culturally appropriate manner. I applaud the rule and VA for their due diligence on this matter.”

Receiving VA accreditation is not an easy process, as the VA must ensure that all accredited VSOs can provide long-term, quality representation.  As such, tribal organizations must meet the same stringent requirements as national and state VSOs. OTGR can assist with tribal applications before they are sent to OGC, which makes the final approval.

The VA invites all interested tribal organizations to consider beginning the process of becoming a VSO. For more information, visit https://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp.

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.

Family Fights for Veteran’s Recovery

maynor

By Debbie Gregory.

On October 25th, a heartbreaking post appeared on Angela Tuckett’s Facebook page, addressed to the Hampton VA Medical Staff.

“My Father is retired Chief Msgt Roger Maynor, room 419A, he was transferred to your hospital on Friday Night from McGuire veterans hospital. We were told that he was here temporarily for a rehab treatment for 3 weeks and would then be transferred back to McGuire for further treatment. But this morning we are told that he is being sent to a nursing facility to basically just lay in a bed.”

Maynor, 63, retired from the Air Force after serving 30 years, including being stationed at Langley AFB. He was doing volunteer work in 2014 in a remote section of the Philippines when he fell from a ladder and sustained a major brain injury.

The family’s struggle to arrange Maynor’s care has involved two long years, thousands of miles, nearly $50,000 and a bureaucratic mess with the Veterans Administration.

Although Maynor has been comatose since the injury, daughter Teri Vick sadi, “We know he’s in there. We talked to him, he nodded his head at me.”

The cost of a special medical flight to get him back to the U.S. was $45,000. His family learned it was not covered by insurance. They appealed to lawmakers, the military, and the VA, but were denied any financial help. Maynor remained in the Philippines for two years.

Maynor’s family was finally able to raise the money for the flight and he was transported to Richmond McGuire Veterans Medical Center, a pioneer in the VA medical system for a brain injury therapy known as emerging consciousness.

Emerging consciousness therapy aims to keep the body as healthy as possible, so that the patients injured brain will be more receptive to stimulation.

However, after getting a discouraging prognosis, Richmond doctors told the family that Maynor had to be transferred to Hampton.

But following the Facebook post, doctors told the family that Maynor would be sent back to the Richmond VAMC to get the vital therapy.

Maynor’s family says they’re grateful that the VA is giving him a fighting chance.

“We’re not going to a nursing home,” Michelle Maynor said. “We brought him all this way. We paid all this money — for help. Not to be shoved under a rug and forgotten. That’s our fear – getting lost in the system. We’re not going to let that happen.

Daughter Teri gave a special shout out to our friends at Fisher House. She said, “The Fisher House has not only been an island in the storm, it’s been like finding a resort when all you needed was a bed and a shower. Maybe a little dignity if at all possible. We are eternally grateful for the hospitality offered by the Fisher House while we endure this long journey ahead. We feel just that much more human. I know that others have and will continue to receive this blessing.”

We second that, and send our best wishes to this family.

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.

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.