This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

Bobby Fair had seen his share of danger while serving as a U.S. Marine. The former infantryman who also served on AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles, though, never imagined that his warrior training would come in handy at college.


When a suspected Somali-born jihadist used a car and knife to carry out his attack at Ohio State University, the college’s Buckeye Alert system sent out the warning very quickly. Fair would recall his training kicking in.

“A light bulb clicked in my head and I said, ‘Hey this room needs to be secured right now. We need to get a barricade up. All the students that are not being used in the barricade need to get off to the side of the classroom, completely away from all the windows,’ ” Fair told ABC News.

Fair lead other classmates in barricading the door – which had no lock – with chairs and desks. Once that was done, he ensured that the students in that classroom stuck together.

“You could just see on my fellow students’ faces the tension, the stress and everything while it was going on. It was so confusing. We didn’t have the slightest clue what was going on out there,” Fair told ABC, noting that in this situation, staying put was the best course of action.

“Every situation is going to be different, but in my best opinion the best route to go is to hide, remain out of sight, out of mind,” he told Fox 28 in Columbus. “I hope this actually gets people thinking ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter where you are. Terrorist attacks can happen.’ We are in a very pivotal time in the day and age we live in and you can’t rule out that there is always somebody out there that wants to hurt you. Unfortunately, it is just the world we live in.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Vietnam vet’s long lost dog tag resurfaced in Hurricane Irma debris

After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”


Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.

The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.

“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Wikimedia Commons photo by Linda Makiej.

Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.

“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”

Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.

Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Chain of events

William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.

Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.

That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.

On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Logo for Disabled American Veterans.

It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.

The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”

Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.

Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Photo from Flickr user Jamie.

Home again

At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.

The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.

When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.

She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
A Coast Guard flood punt team assists with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. USCG courtesy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Matthews.

She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.

She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”

She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.

“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.

At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.

“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”

Tag trek

Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.

So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment slides his hand down a pair of dog tags as he hangs them upon the pedestal on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg.

It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.

Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.

Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.

George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”

The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

A 52-year-old former Navy SEAL is starting his freshman year at Yale

Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.


This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.

If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.

“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.

Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.

He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.

“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”

In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

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

MIGHTY MONEY

What are allowances and why do you get them?

Next to base pay, allowances are the most important part in the breakdown of your paycheck. They are funds paid to the service member to provide for specific needs that are not directly provided for by the military – for example, clothing and housing — and they are generally not considered taxable income.


This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

BAS:

Basic allowance for subsistence, or BAS, is intended to partly compensate the service member for the cost of food. These allowances are not intended to compensate the service member for the cost of feeding dependents.

Who: All service members, though service members utilizing the chow hall, deployed, or attending schools/training may not receive BAS as it is directly applied to chow halls or MREs (meals ready to eat).

How much: Officers rate $246.24 per month, enlisted personnel rate $357.55 per month.

BAH:

Basic allowance for housing, or BAH, like BAS, is intended to compensate the service member for the cost of housing.

Who: Service members who do not reside in military quarters or on-installation housing.

How much: BAH differs by duty station and rank. Additionally, there are several different types of BAH that impact the exact amount the service member receives.

BAH with dependents will be higher than BAH without dependents.

Partial BAH is paid to service members who live in government quarters without dependents.

BAH reserve component/transit (BAH RC/T) is for service members who fall within certain parameters that wouldn’t generally receive BAH (i.e. a reservist activated for less than 30 days or a service member stationed somewhere with no previous BAH rate set up, generally overseas).

BAH-differential (BAH-Diff) is authorized for service members who pay child support but don’t necessarily have a dependent living with them (this amount is determined by subtracting the amount of BAH without dependents from that of BAH with dependents).

BAH can be determined here.

Clothing:

There are several types of clothing allowances: initial, cash clothing replacement, extra clothing, and military clothing maintenance.

Initial:

Who: Officers and enlisted alike rate an initial clothing allowance.

How much: The allowance is directly applied to the bill when uniforms are issued.

Cash clothing replacement:

Who: Enlisted personnel yearly in the anniversary month of the service member’s enlistment.

How much: Varies by rank.

Extra clothing:

Who: Any service member in a situation where additional uniforms or specific civilian attire is necessary in order to perform duties (i.e. detachment commanders at an embassy require suits).

How much: For civilian attire, this amount ranges from $287.45 to $862.35 and depends on whether it’s the initial payment, and for how long the service member is going to be in the position.

Military clothing maintenance:

Who: All service members during and after 3 years of active duty.

How much: Varies.

Dislocation:

Dislocation Allowance, or DLA, is intended to partly reimburse service members for the cost of relocating due to orders or evacuation.

Who: All service members regardless of whether the member has dependents; except for National Guard members and reserve members who are reporting to or leaving active duty unless the member is activated for longer than 20 weeks at one location and is authorized to receive PCS allowances and have family members accompanying.

How much: Varies depending on rank and dependent status.

FSA:

Family separation allowance, or FSA, is paid to service members who have dependents and are given unaccompanied orders for more than 30 continuous days.

Who: All service members.

How much: $250 per month.

FSSA:

Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, or FSSA, is program designed to help military families contending with issues or demands that cannot be met by current military allowances.

Who: All service members who meet the criteria.

How much: Varies.

Veterans

Nine ways Veterans are using telehealth right now

VA is leading the way in telehealth innovation so Veterans can access care when and where they need it. Telehealth makes it easier for Veterans to connect with their VA care team from the home, clinic, hospital and other convenient locations.

When is telehealth right for a Veteran? Perhaps the Veteran lives far away from the closest VA Medical Center and would prefer to save on gas and the hassle of navigating traffic. Or they may feel safer or just more comfortable having their appointment from home.

Here are nine ways Veterans across the country are using telehealth as part of their VA care plan:

1. Primary care

Routine appointments with a primary care physician can often be conducted virtually. Video visits enable the VA provider to see the Veteran just as if they were in the exam room. And some Veterans can relay information such as heart rate and blood pressure from home monitoring devices.

With these telehealth technologies, Veterans can receive physicals and screenings – for conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and depression – from any location with an internet connection.

2. Follow-up visits

While the first visit after sustaining an injury or infection might require a trip to the clinic, the follow-up appointments might not. Many VA providers can conduct virtual follow-up visits to assess progress or suggest changes to treatment – all while the Veteran stays home to rest and recover.

Many visits for routine purposes and follow ups won’t need to be in person any longer (US Navy photo/ Petty Officer 1st Class Chad Hallford)

3. Management of chronic health conditions

VA providers can monitor and treat high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic illnesses through telehealth, which gives them a more accurate picture of a Veteran’s health.

More Veterans are using telehealth to meet with their health care provider.

And this 89-year-old Veteran in Illinois who monitors his high blood pressure from home appreciates the extra time he can spend with his family.

4. Test results

VA providers and Veterans can discuss test results and subsequent recommendations through video visits rather than phone calls. Connecting face-to-face over video – even when miles apart – can help Veterans actively engage in their treatment plans and help providers know when Veterans need additional support.

Veterans can also use their Premium My HealtheVet Premium account to access test results through Blue Button and Secure Messaging.

5. Care for common illnesses and ailments

With telehealth, Veterans can get help with common issues such as allergies, colds and flu. They can also use video visits to show VA providers skin issues. Those issues include rashes and moles and receive their recommendations on the spot.

With any of these common issues, the provider may diagnose and prescribe a treatment right away. They may also recommend remote patient monitoring, which is also conducted conveniently through telehealth.

telehealth
Image courtesy of va.gov

6. Mental health care

Using telehealth technologies, VA mental health providers can screen and treat Veterans for anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. By combining real-time, interactive video visits with therapists and free VA mental health apps, telehealth connects Veterans to the mental health resources they need.

7. Nutrition education

Food choices can affect health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. By connecting with nutritionists through videoconferencing, Veterans and their families can receive personalized nutrition education and counseling and make changes to improve their health.

(U.S. Army photo)

8. General rehabilitation

Physical and occupational therapists can treat Veterans using telehealth technology and VA Video Connect. These tools let them stay safely at home. Please read about how a retired colonel with numerous injuries and chronic pain was so impressed with the telephysical therapy that he wrote a glowing letter to his medical center’s director.

9. Group visits

VA Video Connect and other telehealth technologies enable groups of people to receive care together. Group video visits are typical in mental health care, nutrition education, rehabilitation and general health education. Some Veterans, especially those living in remote areas, turn to these group sessions to reduce social isolation.

And VA chaplains often hold video visits to connect sick Veterans with family members living in different locations.

Ask your provider if telehealth is a good fit

Remember, Veterans should always consult their VA provider to see if telehealth is a good fit for their health care needs. Some telehealth programs may not be available in all locations.

To learn about telehealth options in your area, visit telehealth.va.gov and reach out to your health care team at your local VA Medical Center.


-This article originally appeared on blogs.va.gov. Follow the Veterans Affairs Department on Facebook.

-Feature image: DOD photo by Marcy Sanchez

Articles

This girl invited the PJ who saved her during Katrina to a high school dance

On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


And for a decade after that, they lost touch.

At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Left: Master Sgt. Mike Maroney embraces 3-year-old LeShay Brown after rescuing her and her family from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Right: Mahroney and 13-year-old Brown reunite after a 10-year search by Maroney to find the girl who’s smile and hug helped him through the difficulties of the rescue effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First class Veronica Pierce/Warner Brothers photo/Erica Parise)

The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.

The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.

In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.

Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students
Master Sgt. Mike Maroney (middle), LaShay Brown (left) and Diane Perkins pose together for a photo during a reunion in Waveland, Mississippi. (USAF photo)

“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.

LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

popular

A missing Airman’s remains were identified after 74 years

Captain Lawrence Dickson was just 24 when his red-tailed P-51 Mustang fighter was downed in 1944. He was an African-American fighter pilot, trained at the Army’s famed Tuskegee Army Airfield. Of the more than 1,000 black pilots trained at Tuskegee’s segregated flying school, Dickson was one of 27 to go missing in action over Nazi-occupied Europe. Presumed dead, his remains went missing for more than 70 years.

Dickson was leading an escort for a photo reconnaissance mission that day, taking off from an Allied airfield in Italy, bound for Prague. But Dickson’s plane began to have engine trouble. No sooner did the pilot radio his squadron about the issue did his wingman report Dickson clearing the canopy of his fighter to bail out, according to the Washington Post. He made the jump at 26,000 feet.

No wreckage or parachute evidence was ever found.


Before taking off for the last time on Dec. 23, 1944, Lawrence Dickson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Since it was his 68th mission, he was just two shy of getting to go back to the U.S. for leave from the war. Considering the war in Europe would end less than six months later, he very likely would have survived.

In August, 2017, a team of researchers in the Austrian Alps came across the wreckage of a P-51 Mustang and some human remains. They contacted the U.S. Army. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency analyst Joshua Frank found a crash site similar to Dickson’s listed in captured Nazi downed aircraft records. The DoD agency tested the DNA of the body found at the site against those of his now-75-year-old daughter, Marla Andrews.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

Lawrence E. Dickson (second left), pictured in 1942 with other airmen at Tuskegee Army Army Air Field.

It was a match.

Sadly, Dickson’s wife Phyllis did not live to the see his remains repatriated to the United States. All she was ever told was that his body was nonrecoverable in 1949. But his daughter Marla still decorates her home with photos of her heroic father, his training certificates, and his medal citations.

She also keeps the letter from her father’s wingman, written 50 years after the war’s end.

“The act of writing to you so many years after … brings to me a sadness. And yet I hope it will bring you a moment of peaceful remembrance of a loving father whom you lost.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

VA is partnering with four technology organizations — CaringBridge, IBM, Objective Zero Foundation, and RallyPoint — that share VA’s commitment to preventing veteran suicide. These organizations are working with VA to promote social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources using mobile applications and online platforms.

“Partnerships are a vital component of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which we are implementing at the national, state, and local levels,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention, for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans nationwide and across the globe, reaching even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care. To do that, we are working closely with dozens of important partners across sectors to expand our reach beyond VA facility walls, to deliver care and support to at-risk veterans wherever they live, work, and thrive.”


As identified in the national strategy, engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. While each of our technology partners offers their own unique services, they all use technology to help service members and veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

CaringBridge

CaringBridge is a global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during any health journey through the use of free personal websites. A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, veterans, their caregivers and families during any health journey including mental health and substance use. While enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge also allows its users to conduct personal fundraisers. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ to directly focus on the needs of Service members, veterans, caregivers and their families is now available.

IBM

IBM and VA launched a collaborative suicide prevention program to develop an innovative mobile application currently under development titled GRIT (Getting Results In Transition). GRIT demonstrates how the real-time and consistent collection of personalized data can help service members and veterans understand and strengthen their emotional well-being and resiliency — particularly during the transition from active duty to civilian life. GRIT allows users to create a digital self and gain personal insight into their personality baseline, provides access to a digital assistant powered by IBM Watson, helps to build a squad of social connection and offers employment matching and fulfillment capabilities using IBM Watson Employment Manager among other resources to support the transition out of the military.

Objective Zero Foundation

Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. The Objective Zero mobile application connects service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to peer support through videoconferencing, voice calls, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Volunteer ambassadors sign up for the application, receive training including VA’s own A.V.E. training “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite,”— course to then be on the receiving end of those in need of connecting. Objective Zero aims to be more upstream than the Veterans Crisis Line and allows service members, veterans their families and caregivers to both volunteer and connect to others when they need it most. You can download the free Objective Zero mobile application at https://www.objectivezero.org/app.

This Marine vet acted quickly when a terrorist attacked Ohio State students

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RallyPoint

RallyPoint is a social networking company designed to gather service members and veterans connect with each other, discuss military life, share information and exchange stories. The platform is now open for families, caregivers and federal employees of service members and veterans. Users can build out their own professional network, share resources, connect with other members of the military and veterans in a safe, secure social media environment. Career opportunities and resources, active community discussions and increasing social connectedness with over 1 million users is free, ready and available at www.rallypoint.com/.

“VA will not stop working to prevent veteran suicide, but we can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “VA’s partnerships in the technology sector enhance social connectedness and expand the reach of VA’s suicide prevention resources through these technology platforms. We are working with partners in the technology space and other sectors to ensure we reach all Veterans with lifesaving resources and support.”

The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that all veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it — regardless of their discharge status. To learn about the resources available for veterans and how you can #BeThere 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.

Articles

That time James Howard took on 30 German fighters

Long before that fateful day in January 1944, James Howard was a man of action. After graduating college in 1937 with the intention of becoming a doctor he instead joined the Navy and became a pilot.


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Colonel James H. Howard, Jan. 1945. (U.S. Army Air Forces)

After just two years in the fleet Howard left the Navy and joined many other American aviators in Asia to become a part of the famed Flying Tigers. While fighting in Asia Howard flew 56 combat missions becoming a squadron commander and being credited with the destruction of six Japanese planes.

Howard then left the Flying Tigers in July 1942 when the unit was disbanded and returned to the United States. Wanting to get back in the war he joined the United States Army Air Corps and was commissioned as a Captain.

By 1943, he had been promoted to Major and put in command of the 356th Fighter Squadron based in England. His unit flew its first mission on Dec. 1, 1943, escorting bombers over Europe. Armed with the new P-51B Mustangs, this was an entirely different mission than Howard had ever flown, but his previous experiences would soon prove useful.

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P-51B Mustang. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

During the winter of 1943-44, the Eighth Air Force was working hard to establish air superiority over Europe before the upcoming invasion in the summer. This meant that heavy bombers had to strike aircraft manufacturing deep inside German territory.

For most of 1943, this had been accomplished without fighter escort over the target. Heavy losses had scaled back the number of bombing raids to Germany. But the arrival of Howard’s 356th Fighter Squadron and other Mustang outfits meant the missions could resume.

On Jan. 11, 1944, Howard was flight lead for his entire fighter group, the 354th, leading his own squadron as well as two others to protect bombers striking aircraft factories at Oschersleben and Halberstadt.

The plan called for Howard’s P-51’s to pick up the Eighth Air Forces bombers — 525 B-17’s and 138 B-24’s — after their initial escort of P-47’s and P-38’s had to turn back. They would then cover the bombers over the target and again hand off the escort to a new group of short range fighters as the P-51’s returned to base.

Also read: The 7 most intense air battles in aviation history

When the 354th Fighter Group rendezvoused with the bombers they had already completed their bombing run. However, they were being swarmed by some 500 German fighters according to an Eighth Air Force estimate.

Approaching from the rear of the formation, Howard directed fighters to different parts of the formation as his element made its way towards the lead bombers.

Almost immediately, Howard’s fighters found themselves attacked, and as they engaged the Germans, Howard soon found himself all alone heading towards the lead bomber group.

That group, the 401st, was on its 14th combat mission and had seen plenty of action. None of them, however, had ever seen anything like the display Howard was about to put on.

As Howard approached the group, he saw that they were heavily engaged by some 30 German fighters. Although only a lone fighter, Howard was undeterred; as he put it, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

Howard quickly jumped a German twin-engine fighter and sent it earthward. He then spotted an FW 190 coming up underneath him and dispatched it too. “I nearly ran into his canopy,” Howard said, “as he threw it off to bail out.”

After two quick kills, Howard started to circle back to find the rest of his formation. As he did so, he spotted an Me 109 moving in on the bombers. The German spotted him too and took evasive action.

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A captured Fw 190A. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

A turning dogfight ensued. The German tried to dive away but Howard’s P-51 was up for the challenge. A short burst from his .50 caliber machine guns sent the Messerschmitt down in flames.

As Howard returned to altitude with the bombers he engaged more fighters. According to his own reports he probably destroyed two further fighters. According to the bomber crews that number was more like four or five.

Howard was “all over the wing, across it and around it,” the lead bomber pilot reported “for sheer guts and determination, it was the greatest exhibition I’ve ever seen. They can’t give that boy a big enough award.”

Indeed Howard was determined. For over half an hour he fought alone against the swarm of German fighters. When his ammunition was exhausted he simply dove at the Germans in the hopes of driving them off — often times it worked.

Finally, low on fuel, Howard waved his wings to the bombers and departed with a few straggling P-51’s that were still in the area.

The thankful bomber crews had dubbed Howard a “One-man Air Force” while war correspondent Andy Rooney called his feat “the greatest fighter pilot story of World War II.”

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Howard receives the Medal of Honor. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Forces)

For his efforts that day, Howard received the Medal of Honor, the only fighter pilot in the European theatre to be so awarded. He was officially credited with four enemy aircraft shot down that day. He would later add two more, becoming an ace.

In 1945 he was promoted to Colonel and would eventually retire as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve in 1966.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea snubs Trump on returning Korean War dead

North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.

When Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018 under the stated aim of denuclearizing the rogue state, Trump didn’t get many concrete promises out of Pyongyang.

But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”


“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “

But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.

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Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?

After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.

Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.

Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.

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North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.

(KCNA)

North Korea sticking it to Trump

North Korea’s latest snub follows Kim Jong Un electing to go to a potato farm rather than meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean media bashing the US’s stance on denuclearization as “gangster-like.”

While Trump likely played up the demand by living US parents of Korean War veterans for their remains, returing the bodies would undoubtedly improve relations and build trust.

Kim has not agreed to take any steps towards denuclearization, and there’s ample signs that North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear weapons.

But Kim did agree to bring back the bodies. Sending the bodies back would demonstrate that North Korea can be trusted to some degree, and cost Pyongyang nothing in terms of military posture.

North Korea called for a US general to negotiate with them the return of the remains of US soldiers as soon as July 15, 2018, Yonhap reported.

If North Korea drags its feet on making good on an explicit promises to deliver a symbolic and kind gesture, it doesn’t bode well for the larger goal of denuclearization.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Veterans

Veterans to help plant 10 million trees

Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Corey Read said conservation and military service share common values. The Marine veteran and farmer is part of a new initiative to reduce pollution in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams by planting 10 million trees across the state by 2025.  

The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, brings together a variety of nonprofit organizations, individuals, and agencies to address polluted water. The goal is to stabilize stream banks, improve soil quality, reduce flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife. 

“You go overseas and serve in a combat zone and then you come home and see there are other ways to serve your country and community,” Read said.  

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Read and his wife, Esther, are the owners of Shupp Hill Farms, a 100-acre cattle farm located in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Since taking over the family business in 2019, Read continues to explore innovative solutions to keep his family’s third-generation farm successful. 

One of those solutions is conservation. His approach is to bring farming “back to the basics” through regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming methods.  

“As part of our approach, we wanted to do the right thing on our farm, such as fencing off trees and waterways that are part of the Chesapeake,” Read said. 

The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles. It encompasses parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and contains more than 100,000 streams and waterways and impacts 18 million people. 

The program is a great fit for members of the state’s Veteran Farming Project, says Director Mimi Thomas-Brooker. The organization is a grassroots network made up of veterans, military members, and spouses who farm and operate agribusinesses. 

“Veterans and military members who farm in Pennsylvania strive to be good stewards of their land. They respect soil health, clean air, and clean water — this effort will provide a resource to them to conserve the natural resources on their farms.”

“A lot of our farms want to plant more trees . . . because it’s the right thing to do but there is a cost factor there. That’s why this is a great match,” Thomas-Brooker said.  

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According to Read, farming is something that veterans like and sustainability appeals to this new generation of veteran-farmers. 

“It’s a very close community; there’s a huge support network there and you kind of feel like you have a purpose. And I think, serving overseas you have a purpose. Farming gives you that community purpose again,” Read said.  

There are many reasons to plant 10 million trees but Thomas-Brooker says the top goal is to provide healthy soil and clean water for everyone. 

“Trees are instrumental in an urban setting for cooling things off . . . They help clean the air but their root systems, especially near streams are super important to keeping drinking water clean and keeping sediment out of the stream,” she said.  

According to the project’s founders, planting 10 million trees will reduce 4.6 million pounds of nitrogen, 22.2 million pounds of sediment, and 43,000 pounds of phosphorus across the state. These changes will help boost recreational activities, increase farm activity, and make the region healthier. 

Back on Read’s farm, these initiatives will come to fruition in the spring once the ground thaws. He’s currently working with a consultant to determine the best tree species for his property. In the meantime, he’s taken land out of use, including wetland areas, ponds, and a stream traditionally used to water animals.  

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Working with the 10 Million Trees Project, a 35-50 foot buffer will be created with what he is calling a “natural park setting along the water.” The trees will be a natural filtration system that will prevent the animals from polluting the waterways with waste. Taking this land out of use comes at a cost to the farm, but Read believes it is worth it in the long run for the farm’s sustainability, the health of the region, and the watershed.  

“When I was going through officer training with the Guard, they asked me, ‘Where did you get your values from?’ I always go back to farming. I’ve always been drawn to the hard work aspect of it.

“There’s no more central tie to the community than farms,” he said. “Farms are such an integral part; they are the life force of a community. I want to continue to give back and I think the way to continue to do that is through the farm,” Read concluded.  

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

Articles

This storied American brand is helping vets get into their homes — literally

Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.


With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.

But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.

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Sears celebrity designer Ty Pennington (third from right) with Sears and Rebuilding Together volunteers look on as a veteran resident is the first to use an accessibility ramp built by the Sears Heroes at Home for the Holidays program at the Open Hearts Residential Living Center for veterans in Decatur, Ga., founded by U.S. Army veteran Missy Melvin. As part of its long-standing commitment to supporting veterans and military families, Sears brought back its Heroes at Home program for the holiday season to immediately assist in building dozens of wheelchair accessibility ramps at the homes of low-income veterans before Christmas. (PRNewsFoto/Sears, Roebuck and Co.)

This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.

According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.

“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”

See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.

Sears continues to raise funds for Heroes at Home in-store and online through the sale of limited-edition products, including a Kenmore patriotic washer/dryer pair, a Heroes at Home Christmas ornament and a Craftsman hat.  For more information, visit sears.com/heroesathome.

 

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