100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Proves age is not a barrier to telehealth


People often think that new technologies are for the young. But a 100-year old Veteran in Florida has proven otherwise. Dr. Joseph Belshe, a World War II Veteran Air Force medical officer, has used VA telehealth technology for almost two years to receive care from VA.

Belshe incorporated telehealth into his care thanks to Kimberly Braswell, a nurse practitioner in the cardiology unit at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. As a part of his cardiac care, Belshe meets with Braswell for routine appointments to review diagnostics related to his medication.

Belshe gets diagnostic tests done at his local primary care annex. The provider uploads the test results to Belshe’s VA Electronic Health Record so Braswell can review it. He then meets with Braswell through VA Video Connect, a VA app that enables Veterans and their VA providers to conduct secure, real-time video visits through a smartphone, computer or tablet.

“So convenient… really quite simple”

Through his VA-issued iPad, Belshe receives email reminders about his upcoming telehealth appointments. On the day of an appointment, he receives an email with a link to open his appointment on VA Video Connect.

“VA has made it so convenient for me. It is really quite simple,” he said.

VA Video Connect has also eliminated the need for Belshe to make 80-mile round trips from his home in Lakeland to Tampa for his appointments with Braswell. Of that added convenience, Belshe said, “My time is important to me. So the ability to avoid fighting traffic, I love it.”

Telehealth appointments have become important to everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Belshe was using VA Video Connect for about a year before the pandemic started.

Reliability adds a layer of confidence

“Dr. Belshe is really an early adopter,” said Braswell. “While many people had to adjust their normal routines for social distancing, he was able to continue on the same schedule. I think that reliability added a layer of confidence and peace of mind for him, knowing that his medications and care wouldn’t be interrupted.”

Braswell says her day is always a little brighter when she meets with Belshe. She sees many Veterans through VA Video Connect. And they appreciate the opportunity to connect through video rather than a phone call. “Age is not a barrier to accessing virtual care.”

Belshe agreed. “Being able to have that face-to-face visualization and speak directly has been enjoyable. I think more Veterans should try it even if they don’t have experience with technology.”

For more information on VA telehealth, visit the VA Telehealth Services website and read VA’s Connecting Veterans to Telehealth Care fact sheet.

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

popular

These are the Navy’s rules for being buried at sea

It may seem like an antiquated practice, but to many of our nation’s sailors, it’s a rite of passage. After bidding a beloved Navy veteran “fair winds and following seas,” you can have their remains interred on the seas they loved so much. The Navy will absolutely take care of this for you. There are just a few simple rules.


It’s true the Navy still performs this solemn ritual on its ships, but only while the ships are deployed — this means that, sadly, family members of the deceased cannot be present. But the commanding officer who performs the ceremony will inform the family of the time, date, latitude, and longitude once the body has been committed to the deep.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
(U.S. Navy)

 

Burial at Sea Ceremony

The uniform is the Uniform of the Day for all attending personnel. If a chaplain of the appropriate faith is not available, the service will be conducted by the commanding officer or designated officer.

The service is as follows:

  • Station firing squad, casket bearers, and bugler.
  • Officer’s call. Pass the word “All hands bury the dead” (the ships should be stopped, if practicable, and colors displayed at half-mast).
  • Assembly.
  • Adjutant’s call (Call to Attention).
  • Bring the massed formation to Parade Rest.
  • Burial service.
    • The Scripture (Parade Rest).
    • The Prayers (Parade Rest, heads bowed).
    • The Committal (Attention, Hand Salute).
    • The Benediction (Parade Rest, heads bowed).
  • Fire three volleys (Attention, Hand Salute).
  • Taps. Close up colors. Resume course and speed at the last note of Taps (Hand Salute).
  • Encasing of the flag (Attention).
  • Retreat (resume normal duties).

Officers in the funeral procession and casket bearers may wear the mourning band on the left arm.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
(U.S. Navy)

 

Performing the Burial at Sea

The chaplain performs only the religious parts of the ceremony. Everything else is performed by the ship’s officers and crew. Casketed remains are covered with the national ensign, with the union placed at the head and over the left shoulder. Six to eight casket bearers will carry the remains, feet-first, with its place cleared on deck.

During the prayers, the deck is at parade rest, heads bowed. Once the religious parts are over, the crew is called to attention.

The company executes a hand salute until the remains are secured with feet overboard and at right angles to the launching. A Chief Petty Officer takes charge of the seven-man firing party and the Chief Master-at-Arms will command the burial party until the flag is folded and presented to the commanding officer.

It’s between the prayers and benediction that the remains are committed to the open sea. The three volleys are then fired as the crew salutes.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Neil Armstrong’s burial at sea. (U.S. Navy)

 

Who is eligible to be buried at sea?

All active duty members of the uniformed services of the United States are eligible for burial at sea. So are retired and honorably discharged veterans. Marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command and dependent family members of all of the above are eligible as well.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
(U.S. Navy)

 

How to be buried at sea

Once the individual has died, contact the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office at 1-866-787-0081 to request more information about Burial at Sea. You will need a copy of the person’s death certificate, a burial transit permit or cremation certificate, and their related discharge papers. The DD-214 will suffice. These, along with the Burial at Sea request form, are all you need.

Everything you need to know about being buried at sea

  • Every burial requires a flag (except for dependents). If you send your own flag to your loved one’s service, it will be returned to you. If you don’t, the Navy will provide one, but you won’t get to keep it.
  • Cremated remains must be in an urn (no stopping at Ralph’s) which must be sent to the point of embarkation with the paperwork necessary. You must use the Post Office with tracking and signature on delivery to ensure the urn’s arrival.
  • For full, casketed remains, you are responsible for shipping your loved one to the point of embarkation, along with the paperwork and burial flag. The start and end points for this transaction should be coordinated through transferring and receiving funeral homes.

All other questions should be sent to the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs office at 1-866-787-0081.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most recent Korean War remains are close to a final ID

In defusing tensions between the United States and North Korea in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un returned the remains of 55 allied troops, kept by the North for the previous 65 years or more. Almost 7,700 members of the United States Military remain unidentified from the Korean War, which killed more than 36,000.


North Korea returned the remains in July 2018 after a historic summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. It was a first for a sitting President to meet the reclusive leader of North Korea and a first for the North Korean dictator to meet with a non-Chinese foreign leader outside of the Hermit Kingdom.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Transfer cases, containing the remains of what are believed to be U.S. service members lost in the Korean War, line a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

Unidentified remains were transferred from the United Nations Command in South Korea to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the team that manages the repatriation of American war dead, identifies them, and ensures they are returned to their families for a proper burial. They were received in an “honorable carry” ceremony in Hawaii.

The only personal item returned by North Korea that could identify any of the remains was the dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. It was the first of such returns since President George W. Bush halted the cooperation with North Korea in 2005.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

An honor guard detail of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command personnel conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

DPAA’s mission is to search for, find, and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable.

The recently recovered remains have been mostly identified. The lab responsible is still finalizing the process and doing one last quality check before telling the families of the fallen. Master Sgt. McDaniel’s family has already received his dog tags, along with the hope that their long-lost father is among the honored dead on their way home. Only three others have been positively identified thus far.

Trump and Kim are expected to meet again in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 heavy-hitter predictions on who will win the 2017 Army-Navy Game

We Are The Mighty is on the ground in Philadelphia with USAA at the Army-Navy Game. Down in “Military Alley,” some of the game’s alums and VIPs stopped by WATM to talk football, catch us up on their work, and – of course – give their predictions for who will win one of the oldest rivalries in college football.


1. Rob Riggle, Marine Corps Veteran / Actor

Army and Navy are coming into today’s game with winning records. And since both teams bested the Air Force Academy Falcons this season, the winner will go home with the coveted Commander-In-Chief Trophy and wins a trip to the White House.

2. Roger Staubach, Navy Veteran and 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner

Navy currently has 15 trophy wins, compared to Army’s six. The last time the Black Knights took the prize back to West Point, they met then-President Bill Clinton on their trip to the White House.

That was 1996.

3. Vice Adm. Walter Carter, 62nd Naval Academy Superintendent,

Army is coming off an upset win in last year’s game and no matter who wins today, both teams are bowl game-bound.

Navy could host the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Military Bowl, while it looks like Army could meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Both games would be in January.

4. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, 59th West Point Superintendent

The 118th Army-Navy Game features a number of heavy-hitting players to watch, including both quarterbacks: Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Navy’s Malcolm Perry. Both players are sure to have a decisive impact on the outcome of today’s game.

5. Rick Neuheisel, CBS Sports College Football Analyst

Going into today’s game, Navy looks to stop Army from extending last year’s win to a two game streak. The all time series has Navy with 60 wins and Army with 50. The teams also tied seven separate times.

A tie is an unlikely outcome of today’s game.

6. Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project

Even though the tough talk is fierce and the rivalry doubly so, the two teams take part in a number of joint traditions, both before and after the game. The two schools’ glee clubs join together to sing the National Anthem before the game and will sing each other’s alma mater after the game.

7. Vince “Invincible” Papale, NFL Legend Travis Manion Foundation Supporter

Both teams will join to sing each other’s alma mater, but the big question is who will sing first. The winner of the game will serenade the losing team’s fans in the stands with their alma mater. Then they jointly turn to the winning team’s fans to sing the winner’s alma mater.

The goal is to “sing second.”

8. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Dawkins

The Army-Navy game’s importance in NCAA athletics has declined over the years, but its importance to the nation and to those who serve has definitely not. Army hasn’t been the AP National Champion since 1945 and Navy’s only championship was won in 1926.

9. Boo Corrigan Director of Athletics, West Point

The game continues to exemplify the often-misunderstood rivalries between the branches of the Armed Forces of the United States: taking the smack talk to the very brink of good taste while remaining polite – and always remembering that in the end, they’re all on the same team.

10. Andrew Brennan, Army Veteran Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation Founder

Articles

A deceased veteran was reportedly abandoned in shower for 9 hours

Staff at the Bay Pines Veterans Healthcare System left a deceased veteran in a shower room for over nine hours, increasing the risk of decomposition.


That is among the findings of a 24-page report issued by investigators into the incident, news outlets say.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

According to reports from the Tampa Bay Times and Fox13News.com, documentation concerning the post-mortem care was falsified to cover up the incident.

The report, heavily redacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to confidentiality rules, revealed massive failures in the incident.

Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel told the Tampa Bay Times “appropriate personnel action was taken” in addition to carrying out a combination of retraining staff and changing procedures. The report, while heavily redacted to protect the confidentiality of the staff who allegedy left the deceased veteran lying around for nine hours, did list the procedures that should have been followed.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
(Photo: VA)

In a lengthier statement released to Fox13news.com, an unidentified spokesperson with the VA hospital noted, “As reflected in the outcomes of our thorough internal reviews, it was found that some staff did not follow post mortem care procedures. We view this finding unacceptable, and have taken appropriate action to mitigate reoccurrence in the future.”

The staff will be retained, sign a written commitment to maintain VA core values and nurses will be on staff to make sure the procedures are followed, the official said.

“We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit,” the official said.

In a stinging statement on the incident also delivered to Fox13news.com, Florida Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis said, “I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability.”

“Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran,” Bilirakis added. “The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.”

popular

5 veteran nonprofits to watch in 2020

While on active duty, service to country and others is given but once the uniform comes off it can be much harder to find meaning and impactful way to help others. Members of the organizations listed below don’t have that problem. There are many nonprofits that support active-duty, veterans and their families and we have identified five organizations that are finding new and innovative ways to help our community.


Here are 5 organizations that should be on your radar in 2020.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Activities at the VFWC.

Veteran Family Wellness Center

UCLA Veteran Family Wellness Center

Located on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, CA, the Veteran Family Wellness Center is a partnership between the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. It offers family-focused services to all veterans and their families, no matter what, whether that means helping couples reconnect or guiding families to reach their goals as they navigate the unique situations of veteran life.

Whatever a veteran’s or family situation, they have the resources to take care of them and assist them in overcoming their circumstances, providing the tools they need to move forward. Plus, by bringing in the rest of the family—whether it’s kids who are caught up in the difficulty of transition (going from the military brat lifestyle back to civilian can be tough too!) or a spouse taking on a caregiver role—VFWC is able to create the best environment for vets and their families.

And their team is a combination of veterans and skilled counseling personnel, so they bring a unique knowledge of both difficulties veteran families can face as well as how to improve them. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can even request a free Lyft ride to visit the center.
100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Green Beret Foundation

Green Beret Foundation

Specific to the Army, the Green Beret Foundation assists the Green Beret community and its families, giving them support during transition, injury, or difficulties sustained from numerous deployments. When a Green Beret is injured, the Foundation is there to support him monetarily, physically, and emotionally, and they stay there through his recovery and beyond.

Additionally, they are there to assist their families as well, which they consider to be the foundation of the community. This ranges from supporting Gold Star families, to the wives and caregivers of surviving Green Berets, to offering scholarships to their dependents. And once a Green Beret chooses to transition from active duty, the Green Beret Foundation is there to offer personalized assistance, understanding that no two Green Berets are alike.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White visiting with elementary school students.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

The nonprofit arm of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Foundation focuses on educating the American public about the meaning of the Medal: courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment. Those who receive the Medal of Honor embody these values, and the Foundation is committed to making sure those they served understand what they did to wear it.

It’s an important task for other reasons; the history surrounding the actions of Medal of Honor recipients is a significant part of American history, and the Medal of Honor Foundation works to make sure none of it is lost, capturing these stories in writing and through interviews with the recipients. They also bring recipients to speak at elementary schools, teaching the next generation of Americans about the values that the Medal represents. This captured history is then exhibited at kiosks in museums around the country so that no one has to travel too far to learn about these values and actions.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

A Force Blue volunteer carries a piece of coral for conservation.

Force Blue

Force Blue

On the surface, Force Blue is about helping veterans through marine conservation, but just like diving, there’s a lot more below the surface. When Special Operations vets transition out of service, they can find themselves without a purpose—their missions are over. Force Blue gives them a new mission, which creates a different sense or purpose; former combat divers can now put their toolset in that area to use in the area of underwater conservation.

A common complaint from veterans is losing their feeling of service, but Force Blue transforms service into an atmosphere of “caring, cooperation and positive change with the power to restore lives and restore the planet.” In addition, they’ve also offered response services after hurricanes. Plus, diving in paradise—their missions involve coral reefs and sea turtle populations, in locations like the Cayman Islands and the Gulf Coast—is therapeutic all by itself.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

The Darby Project

Darby Project

Like Green Berets, Army Rangers are a unique and tightknit community of service members, and the Darby Project—named for the first commander of the newly formed 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942, Colonel William O. Darby. The Darby Project maintains the principles that Colonel Darby established within the Battalion: high standards and discipline, which the Darby Project strives to uphold within its own services.

These services supports Rangers all the way through their transition to veteran life. Their primary focus is facilitating Rangers creating civilian lifestyles filled with hope and purpose, which they achieve through fitness programs and other events, as well as maintaining their sense of community among one another. Since a primary aspect of being an Army Ranger is leadership within the military, the Darby Project empowers Ranger veterans to lead within their communities as civilians as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can community engagement prevent veteran suicides?

Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.

One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.


Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.

Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.

Dr. Jason Chen

Veterans Affairs

Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts

“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.

“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”

Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority

Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.

VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.

Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.

“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”

Working with communities

Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.

“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”

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

Articles

This is how a vet can go from a battlefield to a pit crew

Veterans often wonder what to do when they leave the military. Sometimes finding the right job can be tough, but for some, perhaps motor sports may be an option, if not as a career, then as a way to help recover from the invisible wounds of war.


According to Racer.com and USA Today, a number of efforts to encourage veterans to get involved in various types of auto racing have emerged recently. One is MilitaryToMotorsports.com, a venture from Andretti Autosports. The Andrettis are one of the biggest names in the auto-racing world, and this team has won the Indianapolis 500 four times, captured four IndyCar championships, plus two X-Games Gold Medals.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Auto racing legend Mario Andretti observes flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a visit to the ship as part of the centennial celebration of the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts.

According to the MilitarytoMotorsports.com site, veterans can apply to be anything from a motor transport driver (perfect for folks who drove a HEMTT in their service) to a machinist to hospitality staff to being on a pit crew. In other words, the job you did in the military could have a lot of applications in helping an IndyCar driver win the next Indianapolis 500!

The chairman of Military to Motorsports is Navy veteran David Tilton, whose lengthy career included a tour on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) and a tour with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He retired after a back injury in 2003, and first became involved with Andretti Autosports in 2015.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, May 17 at the 167th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard phtoo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

“I am very excited to be part of the launch of the Military to Motorsports Program with Andretti Autosport,” said Tilton. “This program will give well-deserved military personnel the opportunity to utilize their skills and discipline, gained during their service, as part of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.”

NASCAR is not being left out, as a number of NASCAR drivers and teams have become involved with Hope for the Warriors, a Veterans Service Organization founded in 2006. According to USA Today, the drivers and team invite veterans like ex-Marine Ryan Harshman, a combat-wounded vet, to races.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird at a NASCAR race. (DOD photo)

“NASCAR events can be very organically therapeutic. If you can challenge somebody’s hesitations by putting them in an environment like that where they’re very excited to be there, it helps. They are distracted from the chaos, but the chaos is actually helping to ease the PTSD and the noise issues and so forth,” Hope for the Warriors President Robin Kelleher told USA Today Sports.

Today, Harshman is working at an outdoor store, and remains involved with the charity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam Veteran’s 49-year-old memories of his canine partner

Mick never forgot his best friend from Vietnam – a dog named Hobo.

Kim “Mick” Michalowski still talks about his K-9 partner from 49 years ago, but only had one photo to remember his buddy. That is, until last week, when he reconnected on Facebook with an Air Force friend who sent him photos of Hobo he had kept all these years.


“When I got these photos, it was one of the best days for me,” Michalowski said. “I’m not going to say it was the best day of my life because I have three children, a beautiful wife and grandchildren. But it just uplifted my spirits so much.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Kim “Mick” Michalowski and Hobo in Vietnam.

“You can ask my wife. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk about Hobo in the 46 years we’ve been married. Probably not a day goes by I don’t tell someone about Hobo.”

Pictured above are Kim Michalowski and his wife Yolanda at the dog memorial he helped build in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Michalowski joined the Air Force in 1970.

“We had no way of knowing what would happen or what we would get into. I still remember that last moment, getting on the plane. I was looking back at my dad, thinking I would never see him again. It’s one of the few times I saw my dad cry.”

Jumped at the chance to be a K-9 handler

Michalowski was a security policeman originally stationed at Phu Cat Air Base. He moved to Cam Rhan Bay Air Base, where he jumped at the chance to become a K-9 handler.

Hobo, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled with his new partner.

“It took three and a half days for him to let me come into his kennel. He would jump at the gate, growling and snarling and stuff and would not let me in. I was finally able to get him muzzled and get him out. It took two more days to be able to get him to work with me.

“I still have scars on both my arms where he bit me, one on my left arm and another on my right wrist. One was from playing around and the other was me learning to be more careful.”

They became inseparable after that, patrolling the perimeter of Cam Rhan Bay Air Base.

“We literally spent 11 to 12 hours a day together patrolling. When we got off, it was another four hours taking care of him, checking for ticks, feeding him and making sure he had plenty of water. My shift would end at 0600, but I wouldn’t get back to my bunk until 10 o’clock.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Ted Kozikowski and his K-9 partner, Congo, in Vietnam.

Read his mail to Hobo

“I used to read my letters to my dog. Just having that ability to have someone to reach down and grab around the neck put me at ease. During the day I’d go back to the kennel to play with him.”

Michalowski had some close calls with incoming rounds, but Hobo always made him feel better.

“I always felt safer with Hobo. He was going to do his job and detect something before I would.”

Then it was time to go stateside.

“Up until my dad died, that was the worst day of my life. That dog was special to me. I took him out to the yard to work him around the obstacle course. I just hugged him real tight around the neck. I told him I loved him and was going to miss him.”

Michalowski separated from the Air Force as a sergeant in 1974, then joined the Army Reserve in 1977, retiring as a command sergeant major.

But he never forgot Hobo.

About five years ago, he helped raise money for a K-9 memorial in Menomonee Falls. There, he talked about his partner from so many decades ago. And then he was scrolling through a K-9 Facebook page and saw a familiar face.

That was Ted Kozikowski. “It blew me away,” Kozikowski said. “I remembered him right away. Veterans, we always want to go back to that stability in our life, whether we liked the military or not. It was an anchor of self-discipline and a camaraderie I’ve never experienced in the civilian world.”

Family sent dog biscuits from the states

In Vietnam, they were known as the “Skis” – easier that way when there are two Polish troops in the unit. “I was Ski and Michalowski was Ski 2,” Kozikowski says.

Like his buddy, Ski 2, he had an abiding love for his K-9 partner, Congo.

“That dog was a member of my family. My parents and my brother and sisters loved him too,” Kozikowski said. “My care packages from home went from cookies to dog biscuits. There was not a thing that dog didn’t know about me and my personal life. He knew me better than my family.”

The two have talked back and forth on Facebook, and Ted was happy to share photos of Hobo with his buddy.

“I’m glad to do that. Those dogs meant everything to us,” he said.

Michalowski shares the sentiment. “What do they call that term for dogs in heaven? The rainbow bridge? Hobo, he’ll be waiting for me.”

Michalowski receives his health care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

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


Articles

This is how one Marine earned a Navy Cross fighting in the ‘Punchbowl’

Intense firefights, mortar attacks, and rough terrain were just some of the many threats the Marines faced as they battled their way across the 38th Parallel of the Korean War.


In the fall of 1951, the infantrymen of 3rd Battalion 5th Marines dealt with overwhelming odds as they occupied an extinct volcano known as the “Punchbowl” located in the Taebaek Mountains.

While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Salvatore Naimo’s boot camp graduation photo. (Source: Salvatore Naimo)

Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.

Related: These ax murders along the DMZ almost started another Korean War

As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.

After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Salvatore Naimo in Korea. (Source: Salvatore Naimo)

Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.

Also Read: The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.

More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled vets and retirees will get the biggest raise in 7 years

Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.

It is the biggest Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) increase in seven years, equaling as much as $369 a month for those at the top of the retirement pay charts.


Each year military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities, VA Compensation and Pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Retirement pay increase

Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)

Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.

VA disability increase

Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.

Other federal retirees and beneficiaries

Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.

For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.

Largest COLA bump in years

This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.

The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.

In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.

Keep up with military pay updates

Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.

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

Veterans

This legendary Ranger will receive the Medal of Honor at 94

Col. Ralph Puckett is a regular around Fort Benning and the surrounding Columbus area. As the Honorary Colonel for the 75th Ranger Regiment, he serves as a mentor and leader to today’s Rangers. He often speaks at graduations and other functions at Fort Benning and is an Honorary Instructor at The Infantry School. However, Puckett is slated to receive an honor higher than any other in the nation.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Puckett as a captain in 1952 (Puckett Family)

On April 30, around 5PM, Puckett received a call from President Biden informing him that he is to be the latest recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Puckett was previously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroic actions during the Korean War. Thanks to years of campaigning by retired Army officer John Lock and endorsements from influential figures like Senator John McCain, Gen. Joseph Votel, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Puckett’s award has finally been upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Puckett graduated from West Point in 1949 and commissioned as an infantry officer. When he deployed to Japan, he volunteered for the new experimental Ranger unit. However, there were no platoons available at the time. Determined to be a part of the Rangers, Puckett he said he would gladly serve as a squad leader or even a rifleman. The unit’s commander, Lt. Col. John H. McGee, was so impressed by Puckett’s determination that he gave him command of a company. On October 11, 1950, Puckett and his Eighth Army Ranger Company entered the Korean War.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
The Eighth Ranger Company in Korea (U.S. Army)

Building the reputation of the Rangers, Puckett’s company conducted both day and nighttime raids in Korea. The Rangers spearheaded the 25th Infantry Division’s push north and cut off retreating North Korean forces. However, their most trying task came with China’s sudden entry into the war.

On November 25, Puckett led his men across an open field against heavy Chinese fire and captured Hill 205. The strategic terrain feature overlooked the vital Chongchon River. However, the 51 Rangers were left isolated with the nearest friendly unit over a mile away. With enemy forces closing in all around them, Puckett coordinated artillery strikes to maintain their defensive perimeter. As the enemy grew closer, so too did Puckett’s artillery calls.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Puckett scrolls a Ranger at a RASP graduation in 2010 (U.S. Army)

At 10PM, a Chinese mortar attack opened up for a full-scale infantry charge. Six waves of troops attacked the Rangers for four and a half hours. Puckett moved between foxholes, drawing fire and organizing his company’s defense of the hill. As the fighting deteriorated to hand-to-hand combat, he was forced to call for danger close artillery fire. Wounded by a grenade and two mortar strikes, Puckett’s situation was grim. “I had been wounded three times by then, and I was lying there in my foxhole unable to do anything,” he recalled. “I could see three Chinese about 15 yards away from me, and they were bayoneting or shooting some of my wounded Rangers who were in the foxholes.”

With his position overrun, Puckett ordered his men to retreat and abandon him. However, Pfcs. David L. Pollock and Billy G. Walls ignored Puckett’s order and evacuated him down the hill to safety. Puckett was hospitalized for a year as he recovered from his wounds that night. “Then First Lieutenant Puckett’s actions on Hill 205 in 1950 exemplified personal bravery beyond the call of duty, risking his own life as he drew enemy fire so his men could locate, engage, and destroy an enemy machinegun nest and kill a sniper,” Gen. Votel wrote of Puckett’s actions in a letter to the Army supporting Puckett’s nomination.

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth
Puckett’s command photo as a colonel (U.S. Army)

While recovering in the states, Puckett met his future wife, Jean, in the hospital. Together, they have two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren. Puckett went on to command the Mountain Ranger Division and the 10th Special Forces Group’s B and C teams in Germany. He also served as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. It was during that command that he led another all-night defense and earned a second Distinguished Service Cross. During his career, he also earned two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars with V device for valor, and five Purple Hearts. Puckett retired in 1971 after 22 years of service.

The official upgrade of Puckett’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor is a long-overdue justice for those that have campaigned on his behalf. Still, Puckett remains humble “He is not the one who has been pushing it. It has been John [Lock] and our immediate family.” Puckett’s wife, Jean, said. “He felt the Distinguished Service Cross was honor enough.” The Pucketts hope to be able to visit the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.


Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

You are more thoughtful and creative.

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information