David Tenenbaum is an Air Force veteran and the founder of Honor Media. Honor Media is a nonprofit production company, digital agency, and consulting firm dedicated to helping veteran organizations tell their stories to clients, donors, and other stakeholders. Tenenbaum’s success is a tribute to the memory of his father. His father is also the reason he joined the military.
Tenenbaum’s father was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after being liberated from Dachau by American GIs. Tenenbaum explains that joining the military was his way, “to repay that favor of what the U.S. did.”
He spent six years in the Air Force. After he separated from the military he had no transition plan. So, he returned to something that he had always enjoyed as a kid: motorcycles.
The company he started provided motorcycles and parts and services to racers and race enthusiasts. It was called Ben Jacob Design. The company was named in honor of Tenenbaum’s father. As he tells it, “Ben in Hebrew is son of. Jacob is my father’s name”.
In retrospect, Tenenbaum admits that what he had attempted to do was build a business out of his hobby. Still, he sank his life savings into it. And sank is the operative word. The business failed.
Having borrowed heavily to start the company and keep it afloat, Tenenbaum saw his credit score plummet. He was living in the company’s shop, trying to pay down its debts, and thinking, “where do I go from here?”
When revenue stopped coming in, he began to dismantle the business piece by piece. He ripped stickers off of motorcycles. He sold his tools. Tenenbaum shut down Ben Jacob Design. It was at that point that he, “went through another transition.”
Tenenbaum was learning what he could do and what he could not do. And he questioned what his own value was as a veteran. He returned home, reconnected with his mother, and began resolving his predicament. Through it all, his veteran identify held steadfast. He could not leave it behind.
Tenenbaum’s inner strength led him to launch Honor Media. He attributes its success to the lessons learned from his failed business. He relies on financial partners, advisors, and a board of directors to make it work. Another key to making it work is service. In essence, Tenenbaum’s greatest lesson is the value of service.
His journey from the military through the private sector into a role working with fellow veterans taught Tenenbaum something important about his value and purpose. That value and purpose is in serving others. In that he discovered the greatest expression of honoring his father.
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.
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.
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.
A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:59pm PDT
Kugler was getting ready to graduate college on the GI Bill in 2015 when he heard the news that Bella had bone cancer. A May 2015 amputation of Bella’s front left leg bought her some time, but veterinarians were still pessimistic about her chances. That’s when Kugler decided that he wanted to give her a proper send-off.
“I just was kind of looking at her, and just imagining her being gone when I came home from work,” he told WATM. “I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s take off for a little while.'”
Since that decision, Bella and Kugler have been traveling together around the country. Like Kugler, Bella loves being in nature.
“We were in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York,” Kugler said. “That has been some of our best nature time together during this period. … Our hikes in the Adirondacks are probably some of my favorite times that we’ve had together, like near Lake Placid.”
Bella, who Kugler adopted in 2007 with his then-wife, is great with people and is known for enthusiastically greeting almost anyone she meets.
“Bella’s still very independent,” Kugler said. “She wants to meet new people, but she’s also just very curious about how they smell, if they have food for her. ‘You got food? Who’s got food? Do you have food for me?’ She gets a little spoiled.”
This has allowed Kugler to meet and help encourage people he wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.
“We meet a little girl in a wheelchair that just falls in love with Bella before she even realizes that she has three legs. Bella stands up, and the girl is like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s like me,’ ” Kugler said.
As Kugler describes it, he and Bella are just, “Out exploring the world with my dog, and encouraging people to get outside and drop their social barriers and their boundaries, to just live on this tiny blue speck together as one.”
While Bella has done brilliantly on their trip, staying active and outgoing despite her cancer, Kugler says that traveling with Bella has helped him nearly as much as it has helped her.
“When I’m with her, and I’m paying attention to her, I’m outside myself, and I’m focusing on giving her the best life, I feel at that point in time that I am the best version of myself,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I like really spending time with her and doing our thing.”
Kugler is overjoyed that Bella has been able to fight for so long and has helped so many people, but he keeps people updated on her progress in his Instagram feed where he acknowledges that Bella is still facing death.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.
As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide the best mental health care access possible, VA is reminding veterans that it offers all veterans same-day access to emergency mental health care at any VA health care facility across the country.
“Providing same-day 24/7 access to mental health crisis intervention and support for veterans, service members and their families is our top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.”
VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the national leader in making high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources available to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.
Additionally, VA has developed the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which reflects the department’s vision for a coordinated effort to prevent suicide among all service members and veterans. This strategy maintains VA’s focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also adopting a broad public health approach to suicide prevention.
VA has supported numerous veterans and has the capacity to assist more. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, 1.7 million veterans received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health services. These patients received more than 84,000 psychiatric hospital stays, about 41,700 residential stays and more than 21 million outpatient encounters.
Nationally, in the first quarter of FY 2019, 90% of new patients completed an appointment in a mental health clinic within 30 days of scheduling an appointment, and 96.8% of established patients completed a mental health appointment within 30 days of the day they requested. For FY 2018, 48% of initial, in-person Primary Care — Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter. During the first quarter of FY 2019, 51% of initial, in-person PC-MHI encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter.
Veterans in crisis – or those concerned about one – should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.
Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.
Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.
The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.
Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.
“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”
The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.
“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”
In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.
Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.
Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.
“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.
The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.
“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.
The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.
The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.
“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”
There are many famous people who served in the United States Military. Some were drafted, some had the choice between jail or service, and some felt the call and volunteered.
From World War II to 9/11 and beyond, these celebrities served their country before they became famous — except for Elvis. Elvis was always a star.
Note: There are some celebrities who are already well known for their military service (like everyone’s favorite Gunny, R. Lee Ermey). You won’t see them on this list, since our goal was to point out celebrities whose military service isn’t as well known.
In no particular order, these are ten awesome celebrities who served in the U.S. Armed Forces:
Rob Riggle served in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he went through Officer Candidate School. Though he originally had the intention of becoming a pilot, he realized that he wanted to pursue comedy, so he became a Public Affairs Officer instead. After his Active Duty service commitment was complete, he transitioned into the reserves, where he served for 14 more while doing comedy and acting full time.
Riggle served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan during his time in service. Now retired, he continues to help the veteran community through initiatives like his Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic, a veteran-celebrity golf tournament that raises money and awareness for veteran non-profits, like Semper Fi Fund, an organization that assists service members and their families.
Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
(Photo by Bob Sandberg)
2. Jackie Robinson, United States Army
Jackie Robinson was drafted to the United States Army in 1942, where he was assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit before applying to Officer Candidate School. His application was delayed due to the color of his skin, but, after protests by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, he was accepted. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in January, 1943.
In August, 1944, he faced court-martial for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, a segregated location known for its racism.
On July 6, 1944, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. Angry from the way he was treated and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait for the MPs in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.
He was charged with two accounts of insubordination. His defense would win out, however, and Robinson was freed. He medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle and went on to become the first African American to play Major League Baseball.
It looks like a mug shot, but that’s an OG CAC picture on the left.
3. Bea Arthur, United States Marine Corps
The late Bea Arthur served as a truck driver in the U.S. Marine Corps. She enlisted into the Women’s Reservists during World War II at the age of 21 under her maiden name, Bernice Frankel. A handwritten letter of hers states,
“I was supposed to start work yesterday, but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was join.”
She was stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. She was honorably discharged after the war at the rank of Staff Sergeant. She would marry a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, and go on to have a successful career in the arts.
Any fan of Arthur’s incisive Dorothy on Golden Girls won’t be surprised to hear that Arthur’s enlistment interviewer described her as “argumentative” and “officious — but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”
4. Bob Ross, United States Air Force
Robert Norman Ross, better known as the friendly painter Bob Ross, enlisted in the Air Force at age 18 and went on to serve for 20 years. While stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Florida-native Ross saw snow and mountains for the first time, which would influence his serene landscape choices as he began his prolific painting career.
It might be surprising to know that while in the Air Force, Ross became a Drill Instructor.
“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”
True to his word, he developed The Joy of Painting, his famous program where he taught others to paint with an uplifting and soft-spoken demeanor that has become famous around the world.
5. Adam Driver, U.S. Marine Corps
Adam Driver, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became an infantry mortarman after the 9/11 attacks. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s (eighty-ones) Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines and was training for his first deployment when he sustained an injury that would result in a medical discharge.
After his service, Driver founded a non-profit organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff, and their families around the world free of charge with the intention of bridging the divide between civilians and the military.
Of his military career, Driver once said, “In the military, you learn the essence of people. You see so many examples of self-sacrifice and moral courage. In the rest of life you don’t get that many opportunities to be sure of your friends.”
6. Montel Williams, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy
Talk show host Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marines Corps after high school and completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, before going to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twentynine Palms, California. After impressing his superiors with his leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Newport, Rhode Island. He was then accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Upon graduation, he became a cryptologic officer for the United States Navy. He served in Guam before transferring to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian for a year before putting his linguistic skills to use for the National Security Agency. He served aboard submarines for three years before he decided to separate from the military and pursue public and motivational speaking full time.
Elvis Presley inventing ‘Blue Steel’ during his military service in Germany.
7. Elvis Presley, United States Army
After one deferment to complete the film King Creole, Elvis Aron Presley reported for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Hood on March 24, 1958, where he was assigned to the Second Armored Division’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ unit. His induction was a major event that attracted fans and media attention.
After basic, Presley sailed to Europe aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. By March, 1960, Sergeant Presley finished his military commitment and received an honorable discharge from active duty.
Reflecting on his service, Presley once told Armed Forces Radio and Television that he was determined to go to any limits to prove himself — and he did, though his career as an artist was never too far from reach. Shortly after returning to the United States, he shot the film G-I Blues, a musical comedy where Presley played a tank crewman with a singing career.
8. Jimi Hendrix, United States Army
Jimi Hendrix, one of rock’s greatest guitar players, served a brief, thirteen-month stint with the famed U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles” — just a few years before his epic rise to rockstardom in the late 60s. Hendrix wanted to enlist as a musician but had no formal music training, so he opted for the 101st Airborne Division.
Months after joining the Screaming Eagles, life as a paratrooper began to wear on Hendrix’s morale. He was constantly reprimanded for dereliction of duties.
Jimi just wanted to play his guitar. His days as a paratrooper came to an end on his 26th jump when he broke his ankle.
Hendrix began exploring the Fort Campbell area nightlife before venturing down to nearby Nashville where he began jamming with local bluesmen. It was in that vibrant music scene that he met fellow service member and bassist Billy Cox. In September, 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, Hendrix and Cox formed a band called the King Kasuals, but it was later in New York City where Hendrix would catch the break that would help him become the rockstar he’s remembered as today.
9. Kurt Vonnegut, United States Army
Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. In 1944, then-Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work – until the city was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.
Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become one of the most famous PTSD flashback stories and one of the most banned books of all-time.
Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.
He chose to separate from the Army to pursue a music career instead, but served in the Tennessee National Guard when he needed to make ends meet. It was during that time when he infamously stole a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s lawn, a bold move that would pay off when Cash, a fellow veteran, recorded Kristofferson’s song and began an epic musical friendship.
In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.
From the day the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was erected in 1982, it has brought closure and healing to veterans who visit the solemn site. And millions of people visit “The Wall” each year.
How can a memorial bring the same feeling of remembrance and gratitude to those who can’t make the trip to Washington every year? The answer is to bring the wall to them.
Now, the Virtual Wall, a website that archives the names of the 58,300 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War — the names depicted on The Wall — gives veterans and curious visitors the chance to search for specific people from anywhere in the world.
There’s more to the Virtual Wall than searching for veterans by name, though. To safeguard American history and preserve local history, the Virtual Wall allows people to browse and search the names by state and city. More importantly, visitors can read about each individual’s death, often see a photo, and read more about their awards and decorations.
The Virtual Wall allows visitors to leave photos, memories, poems — basically anything to remember the fallen. It also allows others to see and read those personal memorials.
Each name on the pages of The Virtual Wall leads to a memorial, written by someone who had a personal connection to the man or woman remembered.
While The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Washington’s National Mall is operated by the National Parks Service, the Virtual Wall is a creation of private citizens who thought a virtual version of the memorial was a good idea.
It looks a little dated (it was first launched in 1997), but the site is maintained for free, by Integration, Incorporated, a Batavia, N.Y.-based corporation and from “the pockets of three veteran volunteers.”
He’s making a gear list. He’s checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s boot or grunt. Gunny Clause is coming on base. So stand at ease, kiddos.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he’s a Devil Dog. First appearing in WWI Marine encampments throughout the Forests of Argonne in France, Gunny Claus’ new mission is to be there for the kids of Marines in harms way.
Each year, he comes throughout the month of December leading up to his big day. Gunny Claus’ “No Kid Left Behind at Christmas” mission has brought him to nearly every Marine Base, USO, and Veteran Hospital where you’ll find Marines and their children. To date, the 1st Reindeer Division out of Marine Corps Base North Pole have met with well over 100,000 children since 2002.
(We have a soft spot in our hearts for Marine Santas at We Are The Mighty.)
The details of his shall-we-call-them “Dress Reds” are very significant as well. Each stripe on his sleeve represents every four years Marines have been in a major conflict since WWI. On his chest are the victory medals for every conflict Marines have fought on Christmas.
“Being a part of something so small made it worth it to me because the family members and the kids need a little more,” said Gunny to the Camp Legune Globe. “Just being able to be a part of that, making sure that the kids get a present and get a chance to see Gunny Claus, seeing their smiles especially if their family member is deployed, we want to be able to give that to them as well.”
Gunny Claus works very closely with another yule-tide Marine tradition, the Toys for Tots.
For more information on him, the 1st Reindeer Division, or his schedule, please visit www.gunnyclaus.org
Members of the military who have long been barred by law from collecting damages from the federal government for injuries off the battlefield will finally be able to do so after Congress stepped in to amend the law.
The legislation represents progress for injured service members – but still limits who among them may press for damages.
Up until the end of World War II, the U.S. government enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” a vestige of British rule when “the king could do no wrong” and the government could not be sued.
But in 1946, faced with the prospect of World War II veterans returning from the front only to be hit and killed in an accident on base, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act. Congress felt that it was only fair to allow people to recover damages for personal injury from the government when the government was negligent or irresponsible about caring for people’s safety.
There were exceptions. Certainly Congress could not allow a soldier – or his family – to sue the government if, due to the orders of a superior officer, he were wounded or killed in battle. So the Federal Tort Claims Act prohibited suits by soldiers or sailors injured due to wartime combatant activities.
But later rulings limited servicemembers’ rights even more, in ways not suggested by the language of the act.
The first of these was a case filed by the surviving family members of a soldier. Lt. Rudolph Feres was a decorated World War II veteran who had parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. He survived that battle and others through the end of the war only to return to the U.S. and die in a barracks fire caused, according to his wife, by the explosion of a boiler known to be faulty.
Feres’ widow also claimed that no fire guard had been posted on the fateful night. Joined to the case were two soldiers who claimed malpractice by army surgeons.
The court decided that the existing benefits scheme for military deaths and injuries was ample and denied the claims. To the further chagrin of the Feres family, the controversial ruling took on the name the “Feres Doctrine.”
Cases sustaining Feres expressed the concern that allowing civilian courts to intervene in cases of this type would interfere with military discipline. Thus, the court declared that soldiers could not sue the government for damages for negligently caused injuries “incident to service,” even if they did not involve combat.
All of these rulings meant that anyone who had the misfortune of getting hurt while on active duty, even if it wasn’t in combat, could never sue for damages – while if the same person had gotten hurt on the job as a civilian, they would have had that right.
This disfavored treatment for servicemen was underscored in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, during which families of civilian crew members were able to file lawsuits against the government, but the family of the pilot who was a Navy captain on active duty could not.
The Feres Doctrine were therefore seen by many as unfair. Others, like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized Feres because of its departure from the plain language of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which limits the exclusion to wartime “combatant activities.” Still others believe that Feres fails to hold the military accountable for the kind of mistakes for which others are required to pay damages.
The Feres Doctrine nevertheless has continued to hold sway, with the Supreme Court refusing to reconsider the doctrine as recently as May 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent from the court’s denial of certiorari in that case, Daniel v. United States, paraphrased Justice Scalia in stating that “Feres was wrongly decided and heartily deserves the widespread, almost universal criticism it has received.”
In 1950, speaking for the Supreme Court in the Feres case, Justice Robert Jackson admitted, “If we misinterpret the Act, at least Congress possesses a ready remedy.” That “ready remedy” finally came almost seventy years later, due to the persistence of a soldier suffering from terminal cancer.
Green Beret goes to Congress
Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal is a former Green Beret and wounded Iraq veteran whose military health providers missed a 3-centimeter mass in one of his lungs on a CT scan.
After military physicians repeatedly attributed his health problems to asthma or pneumonia, Sgt. Stayskal learned from a civilian pulmonologist that he actually had stage 4 lung cancer. Sgt. Stayskal continues to receive treatment for his cancer, although he says it is deemed incurable.
But Sgt. Stayskal was barred by Feres from pursuing a malpractice case in court.
So Stayskal enlisted the support of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, who introduced a bill to allow current and former service personnel to bring medical malpractice claims against government health providers.
A compromise version of the bill was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020. Adding the bill into a “must-pass” piece of defense legislation assured its passage. It was passed by both houses of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Trump signed the measure into law on Dec. 20, 2019.
Cup only half-full
The new law does not cover everyone. A lawsuit like the original Feres case, by the survivors of someone who perished in a barracks fire, would still not be allowed. That’s because the legislation only allows claims by those who allege to have been victims of medical malpractice by military health care providers.
And claims cannot be brought in federal court, as is normally the case under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Rather, they must be pursued through a Defense Department administrative procedure under regulations that the Department of Defense is required to draft.
Research suggests that most claimants don’t care whether their cases are decided through a court, an administrative procedure or even mediation. Rather, they care about having a respectful hearing in which a third party has carefully considered their views, concerns and evidence.
Those who worked to pass this legislation will likely scrutinize the Defense Department’s regulations and procedures to see whether such a forum has been provided.
Consider the values that military service instills. Honor. Purpose. Prestige. Service members wake up with a daily mission to embody those values and while on active duty, they are provided the means and the circumstances to do so.
But when they leave the service, does the drive to live by military values diminish? Veterans across the country will assure you, it does not. That’s why the transition back to civilian life is such a hot topic. Finding a new outlet for warrior values is a bear that every veteran has to wrestle and tame.
So what if there was a school whose founding mission was to teach returning veterans the skills necessary to put those values to work? As it turns out, that school exists. It’s the Culinary Institute of America and it was founded to teach returning WWII vets the fighting arts of gourmet cooking.
The troops, lined up for inspection. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Hyde Park, NY, to get a first hand taste of daily operations at CIA.
It sure beats latrine duty. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
What he found there was an atmosphere of rigor, discipline, and sky high expectations — in other words, a culinary boot camp. And why not? A busy kitchen is its own kind of battlefield and cooks are the troops who serve there. At CIA, students, including notable veterans, learn what it takes to become a new generation of American chefs.
Army Capt. Rebecca Murga had the same goals as anyone else at gear turn-in after deployment: get rid of this sh*t and get back home. But she made a rookie mistake when she left Afghanistan without double-checking her gear against her clothing list.
That’s how she ended up at the Central Issue Facility with a desperate need to go home and no Gore-Tex. And since Army property values never match civilian price points, she’s left with the option of paying hundreds of dollars or weaving a Gore-Tex from cobwebs and unicorn dreams.
Anyone who has dealt with DoD civilians knows that it’s a recipe for frustration, but Murga manages to smooth talk her way through the facility only to find herself faced with something worse.
See how Murga’s conscience clouds her homecoming in the No Sh*t There I Was episode embedded at the top.
One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.
Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.
Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.
Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.
As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.