Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94 - We Are The Mighty
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Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94

Seven decades ago, Army 1st Lt. Ralph Puckett knew his outnumbered Ranger Company had to defend a hill in northern Korea against hundreds of determined Chinese infantry.

In below-freezing temperatures, Puckett led the men of the 8th Ranger Company to repel five enemy assaults against their perimeter on Hill 205. He was wounded three times but still managed to call in artillery on the enemy shortly after the position was overrun.

For his bravery on Nov. 25-26, 1950, President Joe Biden will upgrade the 94-year-old retired colonel’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.

Biden called Puckett at home in Columbus, Georgia, on Friday to tell him of his decision to approve the award, John Lock, a retired Army officer who began petitioning the service in 2003 for reconsideration of Puckett’s actions, told the Post. Lock confirmed this to Military.com Monday.Advertisement

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett stands alongside troops as they prepare to start a foot march during the 2021 David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition (BRC) on Fort Benning, Ga., April 16, 2021. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Henry Villarama)

Puckett led his 51 Rangers and 9 South Korean soldiers across 800 yards of frozen rice paddies to seize the enemy-held “Hill 205” on Nov. 25, he described in an oral history project on witnesstowar.org.

“We came under mortar and machine gun fire as soon as we jumped off the tanks which had carried us from behind [another] hill out onto the rice paddy,” Puckett recalled.

During this operation, he “deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire” so his men could spot the weapons’ locations, according to Puckett’s Distinguished Service Cross citation.

Once the company seized the hill, the unit immediately prepared to defend against enemy counterattack from any direction.

“We always defended 360 degrees because we were always alone,” Puckett said in the oral history. “Tonight was to be no different; the closest U.S. Army unit was over a mile away, so we’ve got to look after ourselves.

“We were hit by a mortar barrage and automatic weapons fire and, shortly thereafter, a shower of hand grenades,” he said. “I called in artillery, got artillery … and that stopped the assault.”

The Rangers took casualties, including Puckett, who was wounded in his right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through “four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back,” according to his citation.

Puckett’s Rangers put up a stiff fight, but he also credited the artillery support they received.

“It saved our necks. … We were getting more and more pressure; we had more and more people wounded,” Puckett said.

At roughly 2:30 a.m. Nov. 26, the Chinese bugles again blasted through the darkness.

“I ran back to my foxhole and called for artillery, but the artillery officer said, ‘I can’t give it to you,'” Puckett said. “They were firing another mission. I said, ‘We have got to have it. … We are under great pressure. We are crumbling. We are being overrun.'”

Puckett was hit a third time and could no longer move.

Realizing that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind, according to the citation.

“Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety,” it adds.

At the bottom of the hill, three tanks had come up but could not attack the enemy on the steep incline, Puckett recalled.

“I called for an artillery concentration with … white phosphorus and high explosive on top of the hill,” said Puckett, who was then loaded on the tanks and taken for medical care.

Following the Korean War, Puckett served for two years in the U.S. Army Infantry School Ranger Department. He would go on to earn a second Distinguished Service Cross while serving in the Vietnam War. His other decorations and awards include two Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Commendation Medal, 10 Air Medals, and five Purple Hearts, according to his Association of the United States Army bio.

Over the years, Puckett, who retired in 1971, also became a respected mentor and “honorary colonel” for the 75th Ranger Regiment, according to the Post.

Puckett’s wife, Jean, told the paper that she hopes Puckett, who has health problems, will be able to receive the Medal of Honor.

“He is not the one who has been pushing it. It has been John and our immediate family, who want him to be able to receive it personally if he is going to be awarded that medal,” she told the Post, describing how her husband “felt the Distinguished Service Cross was honor enough.”

During the oral history, Puckett said he is still amazed that his small unit was able to stand against such a large force that night in Korea.

“How did that very small group do so well against what was officially estimated to be several hundred enemy soldiers?” Puckett asked. “They were highly skilled and physically, mentally, morally tough. Good training is the basis for success; without it, you’re not going to make it.”

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

popular

This Marine vet went streaking for the most veteran reason possible

If you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, Friday, July 27, was a miserable night. The Astros suffered a humiliating 11-2 defeat on their home field, Minute Maid Park, at the hands of their same-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. But by the game’s end, nobody was talking about the 9-run deficit. Instead, they were talking about a Marine Corps veteran — and true American hero — dropped trow and ran across the field at the game’s conclusion, wearing only a pair of Ol’ Glory silkies and shoes.

Chris White, a Houston native and president of Freedom Hard, took to the field in front of 42,592 baseball fans in a display that would bring a tear of joy to any red, white, and blue-blooded American. He made it all the way across the outfield, dodging security guards who were no match for his skill. White eventually put his hands up, surrendering after earning the love and admiration of the country.


In case you’ve missed this beautiful display of patriotism, here’s the video:

All joking aside, Chris White’s Freedom Hard is a veteran owned and operated company that uses humor (like the now-infamous streak) to raise awareness of issues within the veteran community. When he was interviewed by Houston’s KPRC 2, he opened up about his motivations.

The streaking, as hilarious as it was, gave him a soap box to briefly stand on and speak to the world about a deadly serious issue that affects many veterans: suicide.

“If I can make you laugh for at least five minutes, then you’re not thinking about that dark space you could potentially be in,” he said. “If I can gear it toward patriotism, to me, I consider that the Holy Grail.”
Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94

You bring credit upon the Corps, the military community, and the United States of America.

(Freedom Hard)

A GoFundMe campaign was started in his honor (to post his bail) and it quickly raised 0.00. Instead of using cash, he donated every last cent to Camp4Heroes, a North Carolina resort that provides a tranquil environment for struggling veterans to enjoy nature.

Every aspect of Freedom Hard is geared towards giving back to the veteran community. A dollar of every sale is directly donated to the buyer’s choice of a non-profit organization supporting veterans.

We salute you, Chris White.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 66 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How you can get all of your old award and service documents

Most veterans look forward to that beautiful DD-214, the discharge form from active duty. Whether you’re a long-timer looking forward to retirement, a one-termer just waiting to get out and go to college or back to the civilian workforce, or a reservist or National Guardsman looking to end an active duty stint, the 214 is your ticket out.


But it’s not just a ticket, it’s also the primary record of everything you did while on active duty. It’s the document you use to prove where you served, what awards you earned, and more. But there are a couple potential problems.

First, what if your DD-214 isn’t perfect? What if things are missing? After all, the DD-214 is usually the last piece of paper an active duty service members needs to get their ticket home or back to their reserve component. If a couple missing pieces of text on the DD-214 are all that’s standing between the dude getting out and his trip to Florida for college and drinks, he may ignore the discrepancy and get on the road.

But if a DD-214 is incomplete or gets lost (oh, yeah, you’ve never lost a piece of paper. Congratulations), there’s a way to replace them, and it’s probably not the office you would expect.

The U.S. National Archives, the place that maintains a bunch of photos of the D-Day landings and the Declaration of Independence, also receives copies of most service records. If your admin shop processed it and it should go in your OMPF—the official military personnel file, there’s a decent chance the National Archives has a copy of it.

That NATO Medal you got in Afghanistan but lost the 638 while re-deploying home? The orders sending you to and from Korea? And, most importantly, the DD-214 from when you got out? Yup, there’s a solid chance the National Archives has a copy of it even though you lost it in literally your first barracks move after you got your copy.

And they’re happy to send you those records whether it’s for nostalgia or for proving a medical claim at the VA or just to back up your bar claims.

But you most likely don’t live near the National Archives, so how do you get your hands on it? Well, you can write them a letter including your complete name from your service records (so, whatever your legal name was while in the military), branch of service, social security number, service numbers, date of bi—

Uh, a lot. They want you to put a lot in the letter. But there’s also an online service where you just fill out a web form with all the info that would be in the letter. Since you’re reading this article on the internet, we’re going to assume that would be easier for you. (If the letter is easier for you, the required information is available here.)

Everyone who prefers to submit their request online can access eVetRecs, an online tool that looks like it was coded in 1994 but seems to work fine. Just fill out the online form and wait for the sweet military records to show up at your house.

But you will, likely, be waiting a little while. The National Personnel Records Center says it receives about 4,000-5,000 requests per day. When everything you’re looking for is in one spot and easy to get to, they can typically respond within 10 days. This is especially true if you just need a DD-214 that already exists.

But if your records were hit by the 1973 Fire, are older records, or just got spread to the winds by some crazy, rare error, then it could take six months or more to get your documents to you.

There is a carve-out for emergencies. Their examples are surgeries, funerals, and following natural disasters when the veteran or their next of kin needs end of service documents to get certain benefits. Those requests have to be made by phone or fax.

Veterans

Dogs create healing space for veterans

After 20 years of government service, Terry Henry battled chronic and debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, opioid addiction, and multiple suicide attempts. Just when he thought all hope was lost, a Golden Retriever named ADDIE changed everything.

“ADDIE was the first service dog to come in and quite literally save my life, on more than one occasion. ADDIE gave me a purpose to live,” Henry said.

It all started when Henry’s daughter, Kyria, became passionate about training Golden Retrievers as a young child, eventually creating the non-profit paws4people® in 1999. Since that time, the organization has trained and placed over 1,200 assistance dogs.

Accredited by Assistance Dogs International, paws4people® is focused on training psychiatric service dogs for children and veterans battling invisible wounds. Currently, it maintains 450 active client / dog teams. One of the things that sets the organization apart is how it purposefully seeks out the more severe cases.

The team and their dogs work with veterans teaching them how to Control, Regulate, and Mitigate® their symptoms through K9-centric exposure-based Intervention Transfer Training™ utilizing licensed therapists as part of the training team.

In the beginning, Henry was one of those cases. He would gladly help Kyria drive around as she brought her therapeutic dogs to nursing homes and schools, but he was not OK.

“I went down into the hole in the ’90s with depression and anxiety,” he explained.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94

Henry was open in sharing that he became addicted to opioids and that he attempted suicide on three occasions. Thankfully, Kyria’s business grew to the point where she needed more hands-on help, and Henry found himself training and handling one of the dogs. He shared that although he was training her, ADDIE ended up training him. She was able to alert him and bring him back during episodes of stress and depression — effectively saving his life.

In 2009, they began placing service dogs with veterans. The expansion into this untapped community resulted in the successful rehabilitation of countless veterans and service members. The approach was formally recognized as K9-centric Post-Traumatic Growth® and the concept of ADDIE’S Way was born.

ADDIE’S Way is an 11-acre state-of-the-art facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, that paws4people® believes will transform lives. While still under construction, there are big plans in place for an early summer opening.

The facility will have a commercial kitchen and dormitory-style rooms for clients of the program. Puppies are birthed and trained in the facility’s Puppy Development Center. The puppies play a critical role during the initial phase of the ADDIE’S Way 24-week program, by encouraging clients to reconnect with their emotions. During phase two of the program, clients work with a shelter rescue dog teaching them basic obedience skills so they can be adopted out into the community, thus saving the dog’s life.

In the last phase, clients are paired with their own psychiatric service dog. It is during this phase of extensive training that the client learns how to utilize their psychiatric service dog to Control, Regulate, and Mitigate® their symptom set.

“We go through a matching process to determine which dog responds best to each client. Every person has a unique disposition based on their current symptoms and coping mechanisms, so it is important to let the dogs choose the person they respond best to,” Henry explained.

“Once the connection begins to take effect, the psychiatric service dog becomes an important tool the client learns to work with. We also teach the veteran how to ‘talk’ to their dogs. Often, the dog proves to be more effective than talk therapy alone. We are finding that moral injury connected with the veteran’s PTSD is also being effectively addressed by our program. And of course, veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma are becoming a large percentage of our client base,” Henry continued.

The dogs are placed nation-wide. One of the reasons for establishing the campus is to support those in need far beyond the Carolina borders. Those who receive a psychiatric service dog are involved with paws4people® for life. They are required to re-certify their dog each year and the team will ensure that veterans are using their dogs to continue their path of K9-centric Post-Traumatic Growth®.

Henry wishes that he had a place like ADDIES’ Way that he could have gone to back in the 90s. That is why he has worked so hard and so long to create such a place. Although he still suffers from depression, night terrors, and flashbacks even 30 years later, he’s simultaneously thriving – and that’s exactly what post traumatic growth means.

While paws4people® doesn’t claim to be the cure, it is an effective and extraordinary tool for veterans to use on their journey of post-traumatic growth.

Visit www.paws4people.org to learn more about its programs and resources.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Veterans

Mattis spent Veterans Day with fallen warriors in Arlington National Cemetery

On Veterans Day 2017, U.S. Army veteran David Brown was walking around an area of Arlington National Cemetery that was far removed from the holiday crowd of tourists and volunteers. He came across an older man walking alone among the tombstones in Section 60 – where those killed in action in the Global War on Terror are laid to rest.


The man was Secretary of Defense (and retired Marine Corps General) James Mattis.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
(Courtesy of David Brown, used by permission)

There were no cameras or news reporters walking with the retired general. He was dressed respectfully in a black tie and jacket, walking through the rows of graves. As Brown put it, “Defense Secretary James Mattis spent his Veterans Day with the recent fallen.”

Brown then watched Mattis as he spoke with others visiting Section 60. Mattis listened to the stories of those visiting their lost loved ones. And overheard an exchange between the general and a Gold Star Father.

“An old man visiting his Marine son’s grave told Mattis that he was his boy’s hero; the Warrior Monk smiled sadly and said that the old man’s son was one of his.”

Brown snapped a selfie with the secretary and posted it to his Facebook page. The comments on the photo were full of stories of personal encounters with Mattis and love for the general and his long history of  supporting American troops.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery is where the recent fallen in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere are interred.

Comments ranged from “General Mattis is a national treasure and we are very lucky that he remains in service to the United States of America,” to “THAT IS F**KING COOL AS SH*T BRO!!!” – a testament to the wide respect the General earned in both his time in the Marine Corps to his service as SECDEF.

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Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO

The Gary Sinise Foundation announced that Dr. Mike Thirtle has been named as the organization’s next chief executive officer. Established in 2011 by award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, the Gary Sinise Foundation’s mission is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. The Foundation achieves its mission through programs and initiatives designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.

Gary Sinise has been leading the Foundation since its inception 10 years ago, growing the organization exponentially and consistently exceeding its annual goals. As the Foundation’s chairman, Sinise and the Board of Directors selected Thirtle to lead the Gary Sinise Foundation as the organization expands and ascends to new levels of delivering on Sinise’s commitment to serve and honor our nation’s heroes and their loved ones.

“As the Gary Sinise Foundation enters our second decade, it is my great pleasure to announce our new Chief Executive Officer, Mike Thirtle,” said Sinise. “With over 20 years of military service, 12 years at the RAND Corporation, and 7 years as president and CEO of the nonprofit Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Mike brings tremendous experience to GSF, and I am looking forward to working with him on the GSF mission of service for our defenders and their families.”

Thirtle — who will officially assume the role on July 12 — joins the Foundation with a passion for serving others and a broad background in philanthropy, non-profit leadership, strategy and policy analysis, business consulting, higher education, and military service. He will report directly to the Board of Directors and will lead the day-to-day programs of the Foundation.

“I am deeply honored to serve Gary, the Board, and the staff at the Gary Sinise Foundation as we support the millions of defenders, veterans, first responders, and their families across our nation — the true heroes and guardians of our freedom,” said Thirtle, an Air Force veteran. “It is because of their sacrifices that we enjoy the fruits of freedom and for which we are all grateful. My wife, Juli, and I look forward to being part of the Gary Sinise Foundation family and supporting Gary and this amazing cause.”

Retired Air Force Gen. Robin Rand will continue to serve as CEO until Thirtle assumes the position of CEO on July 12. Sinise recruited Rand in 2018 for the position of CEO after he ended a long career of active-duty service in the Air Force, retiring as a four-star general. He was selected by Sinise for the role given his deep understanding of the needs of the military and veteran community and his passionate desire to give back, which Sinise felt were crucial to elevate the Foundation and further its mission.

Sinise praised Rand’s contributions saying, “I am extremely grateful to Gen. Robin Rand for his leadership of the Foundation these past 2-and-a-half years beginning in October of 2018. We have certainly faced tremendous challenges during this time, especially with the 2020 global pandemic, yet under Robin’s leadership, the Foundation has continued to excel, sailing full speed ahead with tremendous growth throughout this period. He is a gifted leader and a good friend. On behalf of all of us at the Foundation, I thank him for his dedication and time with GSF, and especially for his 40 years of service to our country in the United States Air Force.”

Rand shared his reflections, saying, “The mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation is so noble, and it has been a tremendous honor to serve at the GSF for the past 33 months. I’m forever grateful.”


This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

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

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Colonel who helped capture Saddam could be next Secretary of the Army

While the selection of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense drew a lot of attention, there are some other nominations at the Pentagon that are waiting in the wings — the service secretaries.


There is a Secretary of the Army, a Secretary of the Navy (who also is responsible for the Marine Corps, and depending on the situation, the Coast Guard), and a Secretary of the Air Force.

According to a report by the Washington Post, retired Army Col. James Hickey, is the front-runner to be Secretary of the Army. Hickey is best known as the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which executed Operation “Red Dawn,” the mission that lead to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

For the last two years, Hickey, who served multiple tours in Iraq, has been the senior advisor to the Senate Armed Services Committee. His awards include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Photo: US Army

Hickey’s main competition for Army secretary is Van Hipp, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican party who has served in a number of positions in the Pentagon.

According to his LinkedIn.com profile, Hipp has been chairman of American Defense International, Inc. since 1995.

There are two U.S. congressmen being considered for SECNAV, including Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, the current chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Forbes, who was defeated for a ninth term in the House of Representatives in the 2016 Republican primary by Scott Taylor, a retired Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and who founded the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, Inc., faces competition from Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer, according to his House web page.

Hunter, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, succeeded his father, Duncan L. Hunter, a Vietnam veteran who served 14 terms in the House of Representatives.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine is considered a likely possibility to serve as Secretary of the Air Force.

According to his campaign website, Bridenstine is a former naval aviator who flew the F/A-18 Hornet and E-2 Hawkeye in his naval service, then transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, where he flies the MC-12, an aircraft that specializes in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

Bridenstine was first elected to the House in 2012.

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This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

Articles

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.”

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
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.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94
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

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

Army Ranger legend to receive Medal of Honor at 94

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

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