The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Amidst the ongoing debate about whether female troops should be allowed to serve in combat positions, these women proved that girls have guts by earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.


1. Amelia Earhart

 

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Photo of Amelia Earhart in flight cap and goggles as she awaits word as to whether she would be among those who were flying across the Atlantic in 1928.

Amelia Earhart was an early pioneer for women in aviation. She became famous for her numerous achievements in flight, and, unfortunately, for her mysterious disappearance in 1937 while attempting a circumnavigation of the earth.

In 1932, she gained notoriety when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This flight also garnered her a Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress — the first for a women and the first for a civilian.

2. 1st Lt. Aleda Lutz

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Picture of Aleda E. Lutz, courtesy of her family.

Aleda Lutz served as a flight nurse aboard C-47 Medevac aircraft during WWII. In 196 missions, Lutz evacuated and treated some 3,500 casualties and was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters for her service.

On Nov. 1, 1944, Lutz flew on her last mission, evacuating wounded soldiers from the fighting in France, when her plane crashed in a storm. Lutz was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “outstanding proficiency and selfless devotion to duty.”

She is also believed to have been the first woman killed in action in WWII.

3. 1st Lt. Roberta S. Ross

Roberta Ross also served as a flight nurse in World War II. Her service took her to Asia where she flew “the hump”, completing over 100 missions. For her efforts, she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

4. Col. Jacqueline Cochran

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Jackie Cochran standing on the wing of her F-86 whilst talking to Chuck Yeager and Canadair’s chief test pilot Bill Longhurst. (Photo courtesy Air Force Flight Test Center History Office)

Jacqueline Cochran was a pioneer for women’s military aviation. Cochran had numerous accomplishments and firsts throughout her illustrious career.

During WWII, she flew aircraft between America and Europe and later directed all Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs).

She was the first woman to break the speed of sound, the first woman to take off and land from an aircraft carrier, and the first woman to exceed Mach 2.

For her exceptional skills and record-breaking flying Cochran was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses during her career.

5. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Vice President Richard Cheney presents the Distinguished Flying Cross to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill in a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. on Oct. 16, 2006. (Photo via U.S. Army)

In March 2006, Lori Hill was flying Kiowa helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. She would be the first woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor when she provided close air support to American troops engaged with the enemy.

Despite heavy fire, Hill made multiple gun runs against insurgents. On her final pass her helicopter received a hit from an RPG which damaged her instruments.

As she banked away, machine gun fire riddled the bottom of her aircraft and struck her in the foot. She managed to limp the damaged aircraft back to a nearby FOB, saving her aircraft and crew.

6. Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Mary Hegar, sitting in the cockpit like the bad ass she is. (Photo courtesy of MJHegard.com)

Mary Jennings Hegar would become only the second woman to ever receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

While flying a medevac mission, Hegar’s Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by insurgents and she was wounded in a well-executed trap. According to an interview with NPR, she climbed on the skids of a Kiowa helicopter that landed to extract her and, despite her wounds, provided cover fire with her M4 while the aircraft flew off.

For her efforts, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor and the Purple Heart.

7. Sgt. Julia Bringloe

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Flight Medic Julia Bringloe. (Photo via U.S. Army)

Julia Bringloe was serving as a flight medic on a medevac crew when American and Afghan forces launched Operation Hammer Down in the Pech River Valley. Almost immediately, the units involved started taking casualties, and Bringloe and the rest of her dustoff crew were flying into fierce enemy fire.

While extracting one soldier of many she would rescue over the course of three days, Bringloe’s leg was broken. While ascending a 150-foot lift on a cable with her patient, she had swung into a tree. She refused to quit, however, and over the next 60 hours rescued fourteen soldiers from the battlefield.

Bringloe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, as were both pilots of her helicopter. The crew chief received an Air Medal with Valor and their efforts were named the Air/Sea Rescue of the Year by the Army Aviation Association of America.

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Here’s what you need to know about chaplains

Army chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.


The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin presents a quilt to Spc. Zowie Sprague during a battlefield circulation visit in Taji, Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. The quilt was hand-made by a family from a small town in Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cesar E. Leon)

The Army’s Chaplain Corps provides counseling for soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief, or psychological trauma. Army chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted soldier known as a chaplain assistant.
Together, they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team.

Related: What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care,” said Army Maj. James S. Kim, the chaplain for the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

“Caregiver” is a term that can be given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.

“I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with,” Kim said. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling.”

Compassion Fatigue

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Army Chaplain. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF)

UMT’s are empathetic to soldiers’ personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue.

UMT’s need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their soldiers.

Also read: The surprising link between spirituality and performance

“It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can’t do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith,” said Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, the chaplain assistant for the 1st Sustainment Command UMT.

The Army Chaplain Corps provides responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support provided can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression.

Chaplains have been an integral part of the armed forces since 1775, when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army.

Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations.

They also provide soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and provide counseling and moral support for soldiers in need.

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This Army vet is crazy motivated

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  Former NFL player and Army Veteran Daniel Rodriguez seeks out battlefields.

Enlisting after the untimely death of his father, Rodriguez served grueling deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, survived heavy action and the loss of comrades, and returned stateside with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star — all by age 19.

Battling PTSD, Rodriguez reinvented himself as a college football player, joining the Clemson University team and eventually going on to play pro with the St. Louis Rams. Continuing to master the improbable, he wrote a bestselling autobiography about his experience entitled “Rise: A soldier, a dream and a promise kept.”

And now he’s reinventing himself again, having just signed to play pro soccer in Europe. You might think you’re motivated, but sorry, not like this dude.

“If I had any one of my friends that could be here today that were killed, what excuse would they make to not want to be with their loved one, to not want to be productive, to not want to do something one more day if they had the opportunity to.”

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Dust, and where to eat it. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Rodriguez invited Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to spend a day with him on the off-season training pitch, a battlefield that would soon test the limits of Curtis’ athletic prowess. Not content to merely survive a session in the sh*t in Rodriguez Boot Camp, Curtis attempted to recapture some manhood by asserting his prerogative to throw down the now familiar Oscar Mike Challenge.

The results were all too typical.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
For a brief moment, things looked promising for Curtis. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Rodriguez shows Curtis how to put some twinkle in his toes and where he can shove his “spinning cartwheel block” in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

Articles

Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.


What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.

“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.

Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:

“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”

Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.

Check out this Marine Corps Recruiting video to hear from Corps’ finest on who they think makes tougher Marines.

YouTube, Marine Corps Recruiting

Veterans

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

He encourages Veterans to stay busy, have a hobby


The government sent John Barbazon’s next of kin two telegrams in 1966. The first regretted to inform them that their son had been killed in action. The second said he was improving.

A member of the 101st Airborne, Barbazon (pictured above) was part of a squad that spent most of their time on the move, up and down mountains – and rarely in the company of other units.

Barbazon’s carved chess pieces.

“We just got orders and kept going from one place to another,” he said, sitting at a workbench in a shop at the back of his four-acre property.

Barbazon isn’t entirely still. He continues to move from one place to the next as he recalls his experience in Vietnam.

“I got shot and I was lying on the ground, my right arm mostly gone. I stick this finger in a sucking chest wound right here to stop the bleeding,” he said, holding up a thick index finger and jamming it into a space just below his right shoulder.

Each time he repeats the motion, the finger hits the same spot, to the same wound.

“I was on the ground,” he continued. “My cousin called out to me, told me to crawl to him. I crawled thirty to forty feet to a medic. I found out later my cousin had died in a car wreck. He wasn’t even there but if I hadn’t seen him call to me, I would have died right there, bled to death.”

Cussed out medic in Cajun

Soon after reaching the medic, he was placed in a body bag being mistaken as having been killed in action. The medics carrying him dropped him.

Later, one of the medics visited Barbazon in the field hospital.

“He (the medic) said that if I had died, I’d have gone to hell because I called him things he’d never heard of, in Cajun. I was cussing him out for dropping me.”

“I’ve been a very lucky person.”

Barbazon laughs at the memory now, but he spent a month in the field hospital before being shipped to California, where surgeries saved his arm and leg. Now he walks with a slight limp, but he doesn’t let it do more than slow his walking speed.

Happy and busy

“I hadn’t talked about Vietnam until eight or 10 years ago. I was in Ocala, Florida, at the VA hospital, and I was talking to a doctor I’d been seeing. She said, ‘John, I need you to talk to a friend of mine.’ So she takes me to a psychiatrist. And I’m glad.

“A lot of Veterans need to do this. I found out things I was doing that I was doing in Vietnam, like carrying a knife in my pocket for protection and going to the top row in a movie theater with my back against the wall. I was on guard too much and needed to relax.

“Talking to the psychiatrist was the best thing I’ve done, and I talked to him for about four years. Now I know I was really dysfunctional and didn’t realize it. Veterans today, they need to get out and find out. They need to talk to somebody and they have to listen.

“He told me, you’re not cured. I’m not going to cure you. I’m just going to make you aware of what you’re doing so you can be more relaxed. That’s why I enjoy doing this woodworking and that’s why I say Veterans need to talk to somebody – and they need to get a hobby.”

There’s something they can do

“If they are sitting home disabled, there’s something they can do. I don’t care if it’s going fishing. You’ve got to do something,” Barbazon said.

Barbazon’s sister has the telegrams, and he has a house full of delicately cut artwork that will soon include a dome clock that he’s spent the last six months working on for six hours a day.

“I’m very lucky. I’ve been a lucky person.”

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Throughout military history, the gear our ground troops wear has depended on different aspects, for instance: the available technology, budget, and the weather (for the most part).


The needs of the mission and the environment determine what gear our infantrymen haul on their backs, around their waists, and even what they stuff into their many cargo pockets.

But the endgame of the mission always remains the same — win the war at all cost.

Related: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Today, the modern battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted our military to change what our troops take with them. “SAPI” plates (Small Arms Protective Insert) were added to help protect the service members vital organs from small arms fire.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
All that gear adds up. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

Travel back in time where medieval Knights wore several layers and different types of heavy body armor to protect themselves from sharp swinging swords to the accurately shot arrows. These fearless men would spend countless hours training while cloaked in their protective garments, acclimating their bodies for war.

Fast forward to the rice patties of Vietnam where Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers bravely left the wire typically sporting only their thin layered green t-shirts due to the constant humidity of the jungle while still toting pounds of extras.

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

One 155-pound TV show host wanted to experience just how heavy the gear of an American GI in Vietnam was. So after donning the full Vietnam War style combat load — complete with ammo, an M-16 rifle, an individual medical bag, and 2 quarts of water — the TV show host’s total weight amounted to just under 235 solid pounds of gear. It was an 80-pound difference.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see this TV show host play grunt for an afternoon.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How vet-owned Sword & Plough is repurposing military gear for a mission of peace

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the Bright-eyed Hope Machine in your squadron:

~ a bag from the brand that’s turning military surplus into vet success 
The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Emily and Betsy Nuñez — sisters and co-founders of Sword Plough — represent the kind of entrepreneurial venn diagram that a truly bipartisan American government would engineer in a lab to ensure a Better Tomorrow.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Sisters, on a bit of a mission…

Growing up at West Point with their father, a 30-year Army veteran, Emily and Betsy were inculcated from an early age with the military life. Emily was one of only three students at Middlebury College in ROTC and would go on to serve on active duty as an intelligence officer with 10th Special Forces Group.

She would also be one of the first women to attend Ranger School.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

At the same time, she and Betsy were laying the groundwork for a classic millennial start-up, a sustainable bags and accessories company dedicated to repurposing materials and people for the betterment of all. Since 2013, they’ve been operating at the energetic epicenter of 21st century feminism, social entrepreneurship, sustainable business modelling and post-9/11 veteran affairs.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

But if there’s one anecdote from the early days of Sword Plough that, above all others, may have foretold the relentless success the company has enjoyed since its founding, it’s this one, from Emily:

Well, just before launching on Kickstarter, we did another business plan competition…at the Harvard Business School, their Pitch for Change Competition. And I got leave from the Army to attend the contest. It was just an amazing experience. We pitched to the audience and the judges and we won first place and the Audience Choice Award, which was just incredible. [But] we almost actually didn’t even have the chance to do the pitch because there was a blizzard that weekend [in Boston] and we were having a really hard time finding a cab…so we ended up hitching a ride with a snow plow…

Uh…hold please. I grew up in New England. Snow plows stop for no one. How did you pull that off?

I sprinted up to him. I was wearing high heels and a dress and I just told him…”We only have 20 minutes to get to Harvard Business School to pitch our idea to repurpose military surplus into bags and to work with veteran American manufacturers and donate part of our profits to veteran organizations!” [H]e waved us in and gave us a ride. It was a pretty lucky moment…

Was luck really the deciding factor? I doubt it. Faced with such a hyper-specific onslaught of enthusiasm, purpose, brains, and brass, what snow plow man — no matter how grizzled — could say no? Who among us would be so gripped with frozen-hearted pessimism that he’d turn such a pitch aside? It’s unimaginable.

The Nuñez sisters have created a recipe that is impossible to deny. Their products are excellent, unique, and sustainable. Their company is staffed by veterans at every level. Their profits are charitably apportioned. Their eyes are on the horizon and their mission is to serve.

**Now till midnight on Tuesday, November 28th, Sword Plough is offering 20% off sitewide with the discount code BLACKFRIDAY**

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company  dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

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Robert Wilkie is confirmed as new VA secretary

The Senate by a vote of 86-9 confirmed Robert Wilkie on July 23, 2018, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a move to bring stability to a department Republicans and Democrats suggested has been in turmoil over political infighting and low morale.

The vote for Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, an Air Force Reserve colonel with long experience at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, capped a tumultuous four months at the VA marked by ongoing leadership shuffles since President Donald Trump fired former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.


In a sign of continuing questions about the direction of the VA, the Senate’s action in confirming the new secretary — normally a bipartisan event — featured opposition votes.

The vote to confirm Shulkin in 2017 was 100-0 to head a department serving nine million veterans annually with a budget of more than 0 billion and a workforce of more than 350,000.

The “no” votes came from eight Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders in early July 2018 cast the first opposition ballot in memory for a VA secretary nominee in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee vote that sent the nomination to the floor.

Sanders at the time said he was voting more in protest of Trump than he was to Wilkie’s qualifications, saying he feared that Trump and political appointees within the VA would use the recently passed VA Mission Act as a vehicle to press for the “privatization” of VA health care.

In the floor debate leading up to the vote, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said he is confident Wilkie can “re-establish the non-partisan approach to serving our veterans” at the VA, a possible reference to political infighting at the department.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who voted for Wilkie, was more direct. “We’ve got political forces at play inside the VA. That’s very unfortunate,” said the committee’s ranking member. “When Mr. Wilkie becomes secretary, he has to see that this stops.”

In his stormy departure from the VA, Shulkin said he was the victim of “subversion” by Trump political appointees within the VA and at the White House.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the committee, said, “We know Robert Wilkie is the real deal,” and he will now have the opportunity “to fix the problems that we have” at the VA.

“This is the opportunity to do the changes of a lifetime,” Isakson said but repeated a warning he gave Wilkie at his confirmation hearing: “You will have no excuses.”

Shulkin’s firing initially led Trump to nominate Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit, to head the VA.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson

In an embarrassment to the administration, Jackson withdrew his name over allegations — never proven — that he mishandled prescriptions at the White House medical unit and may have been drunk on duty.

Following Jackson’s withdrawal, Wilkie was moved over from the Pentagon to become acting secretary at the VA. In his time as acting secretary, Wilkie noted the political turmoil and low morale at the department. He said he wanted the staff “talking to each other, not at each other.”

When Trump surprised him by nominating him to the full-time position, Wilkie had to step down as acting secretary to avoid violating a provision of the U.S. Code barring acting secretaries from nomination to cabinet positions.

Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who had been chief of staff at the VA, was moved up to the acting secretary’s position. O’Rourke has since clashed with VA Inspector General Michael Missal over access to whistleblower complaint data.

The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) supported Wilkie’s nomination despite initial reservations that expansion of community health care options for veterans could lead to privatization.

In a statement after the vote, Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million-member American Legion, said in a statement, “I congratulate Mr. Robert Wilkie on his Senate confirmation to be the 10th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the health care, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” she added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.


Cash was born J.R. Cash and was raised in a hardscrabble family in Arkansas. He was forced to begin working at the age of 5 and he began playing and writing his own songs at the age of 12 after one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

At the age of 18 in 1950, J.R. Cash joined the Air Force and was forced to change his name to John. He rose through the ranks and served as a Morse code operator. He spent much of his time quickly decoding communications between Soviet officials.

On March 3, 1953, he was a staff sergeant manning his post in Landsberg, Germany, when a surprising message beeped into his ears. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, who had suffered from ill health for years, had died.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

The leader of Russia had suffered a massive heart attack that day and died quickly.

The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.

The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
Johnny Cash as a newly signed musician at Sun Records in 1955. (Photo: Sun Records. Public Domain)

Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.

He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.

Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA and AMVETS partner up to help ‘at-risk’ veterans

In August 2018, VA and American Veterans (AMVETS) announced a partnership to expand ongoing veteran suicide prevention efforts and establish intervention programs for at-risk veterans.

The partnership followed a January 2018 executive order signed by President Trump that directed the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to collaborate by providing mental health and suicide prevention resources to transitioning service members, and veterans during the first 12 months after their separation from service.


“VA and AMVETS are working together to identify and eliminate the barriers veterans face in accessing health care, enroll more at-risk veterans into the VA health care system, and provide training for those who work with veterans so that intervention begins once warning signs are identified,” said VA National Director of Suicide Prevention Dr. Keita Franklin.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

The partnership’s keystone program is AMVETS’ HEAL, which stands for health care, evaluation, advocacy, and legislation. HEAL’s team of experienced clinical experts intervene directly on behalf of service members, veterans and their families and caregivers to help them access high-quality health care, including mental health and specialized services, for conditions including traumatic brain injury, polytrauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. AMVETS offers HEAL’s free services to anyone rather than exclusively to its members.

This example of expanded outreach is directly aligned with VA’s public health approach to veteran suicide, defined in the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, released in 2018. This approach looks beyond supporting the individual to involving peers, family members, and the community.

When it comes to preventing suicide, there is no wrong door to care. That’s why the VA-AMVETS partnership also provides processes for VA to refer veterans for HEAL services and vice versa. This collaboration will bring lifesaving resources directly to more veterans and their families and caregivers, even if the veteran in need is not seeking health care in the VA system.

HEAL support services can be accessed via the toll-free number, 1-833 VET-HEAL (1-833-838-4325), or by email at VETHEAL@amvets.org.

To learn about the resources available for Veterans and how you can #BeThere for a Veteran as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.

Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.

After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said. 

Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”

They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues. 

Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”

With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”

Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said. 

Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter. 

To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA releases new findings on the connection between TBI and dementia

VA and the Kristine Yaffe Lab at the University of California, San Francisco, have taken a new approach to understanding the association of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — with and without loss of consciousness (LOC) — with dementia among veterans. Their recent study, one of the largest in the United States, included 178,779 veterans in the VA health care system who were diagnosed with various levels of TBI severity.

The study found that TBI with and without LOC are both associated with a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even mild TBI without LOC was associated with more than a twofold increase in the risk of a dementia diagnosis.

The study was part of the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC), a federally funded research project devised to address the long-term effects of mild TBI in military service members and veterans. CENC is jointly funded by VA and the Department of Defense.


TBI overview

TBI is a complex physiological condition that can arise when a brain experiences trauma, either directly or indirectly, during any of a variety of moderate to catastrophic events. TBI has been researched and studied in-depth by some of the world’s leading neurologists, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists and other leading mental health experts. Their goal is to develop treatments, tools and resources to help those affected by TBI return to their previous, or close to their previous, quality of life and cognitive ability. TBI among veterans is a key focus area of VA physical and mental health care, and VA conducts research every day to help unravel the intricacies of TBI’s symptoms and effects.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

In the past 10 years, researchers and clinicians have confirmed that TBI may be a risk factor for dementia, but they have yet to determine why. Some professionals think dementia may be related to the injury itself, while others believe that head trauma may cause toxic and abnormal proteins associated with dementia to build up over time.

Advice for veterans experiencing symptoms of TBI

Evaluation by a physician is critical to help identify and address symptoms of TBI. TBI can be difficult to diagnose because it has many causes, such as motor vehicle collisions, sports-related injuries and falls. Among veterans, TBI may be caused by a single event, such as an IED blast, but also may occur over time as a result of repetitive jolts to the head or neck. If you have had a recent head injury, or if you had a head injury in the past and are concerned about recent changes in your memory, consult your physician for a screening.

During a TBI evaluation, you and your doctor will discuss what caused your injury and ways to deal with any physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and headaches. You also will explore how these symptoms affect your daily life. Your doctor may recommend counseling to help you learn ways to manage the effects of TBI. Because a TBI can affect the way the brain functions, medications may be needed or changed to assist in recovery and coping.

The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

To learn more about TBI symptoms and treatment for veterans, visit VA’s mental health page on TBI or go to MakeTheConnection.net, which features videos of veterans talking about their experience with TBI.

Understanding dementia risk factors

Although there is a slightly elevated risk for dementia among those who have experienced TBI, that does not mean everyone with TBI is at risk. TBI is only one of many risk factors for dementia, including genetic markers, that are being studied. No matter what risk factors you may have, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, monitor your heart health and try to remain mentally and physically active.

The future of TBI and dementia research

The VA health care system recognizes that more research is needed to further understand and provide the best health care to veterans with TBI. This study suggests that veterans with TBI — in particular, older veterans — should be monitored and screened at regular intervals for any signs of memory changes. Research collaboration among VA, universities and national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health will continue to expand our knowledge of TBI and related conditions and opportunities to prevent and treat them.

About the VISN 21 MIRECC

VA’s VISN 21 MIRECC is committed to improving the clinical care of veterans with dementia and with post-traumatic stress disorder through the development of innovative clinical, research and educational programs. This center’s approach is to identify risk factors for cognitive decline in older veterans and to develop and implement novel countermeasures to minimize this decline.

For more information on VISN 21, visit www.mirecc.va.gov/mirecc/visn21.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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