WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later

Help capture other WWII Veteran stories


Then-Army Air Forces pilot Warren Halstead flew missions daily out of Coulommiers, France, during World War II. On May 8, 1945, he was at his duty station, on break from dropping supplies and transporting wounded to hospitals in England. The news came in: the war in Europe was over. Seventy-six years later, the retired Air Force colonel still remembers the mixed emotions of Victory in Europe, or V-E, Day.

“My thoughts were just that I did my part to help bring about this day,” Halstead said. “Also, remember, the war was still full on in the Pacific in Japan, so our thoughts were that we were still at war, so V-E Day, although it was important, it was not the end of WWII.”

Then-World War II Army Air Forces pilot Warren Halstead.

D-Day

For the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native, the war had a memorable beginning. His first combat mission came 11 months prior on June 6, 1944, during D-Day.

“Just a few days before D-Day, (Gen. Dwight) Eisenhower visited the Airborne units and pilots designated to drop the paratroopers on D-Day,” Halstead said. “It was very impressive that the commander of all of the Allied Forces wanted to give some words of encouragement before our big mission on D-Day. He knew many of us would not return from our mission. It meant a lot to us to hear words of encouragement from him.”

Halstead’s unit arrived at a training location in Ramsbury, England, in February. They trained constantly from then until June 6. Their training to drop paratroopers consisted of night flying and flying in formation. They also trained on towing gliders stateside before arriving in England.

On D-Day, the 23-year-old piloted his C-47 into the skies in the early hours before daylight. The weather was good upon takeoff, but there were scattered clouds when they arrived in Normandy.

“You could see all of the tracers from the munitions being fired at us from the enemy on the ground,” Halstead said. “They all seemed to be coming right into the cockpit, however, our plane was not hit on that day.”

His mission was to drop the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers no matter what. Flying in groups of three within a larger formation, he safely dropped the paratroopers. The next day, he towed one glider with troops and equipment to Saint Mare Eglise.

Later service

He also flew in Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge, getting hit during both operations. Halstead also flew in Operation Varsity in March 1945. This was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day in one location. He towed two gliders of the 17th Airborne Division at one time across the Rhine River. The enemy shot the rudder of his plane just after he released the gliders. They safely landed.

Following the war, he used the GI Bill to attend the University of Tulsa where he graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Zoology. The Air Force recalled him to active duty during Korea, where he received a Distinguished Flying Cross during a mission flying a B-26 bomber. He retired in 1973, but continued to fly civilian aircraft. He has over 15,000 hours of flying time as a pilot.

Visiting years later

Warren Halstead at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Halstead said visiting those countries he fought over decades later brought several emotions.

“I helped them overcome the terrible regimes they were under,” he said. “I am very happy that these countries are thriving today.”

He said thirty years after the war when he was still on active duty, he took his family to visit Germany.

“The country was thriving then,” he said. “The German economy was thriving, and the Germans were all extremely welcoming to the Americans.”

Remembering now

Halstead hopes Americans mark the day honoring Veterans.

“I think the remembrances that the WWII Memorial Foundation conducts at the WWII Memorial are excellent ways to honor our Veterans,” he said. “Additionally, the recognition ceremonies by the various U.S. military services as well as at Arlington Cemetery are very poignant reminders of the sacrifices we as a nation made for world freedom and democracy.”

Halstead’s daughter said listening to stories from the dwindling World War II Veteran population is important.

“Many Veterans, such as my father, do not talk a lot about their experiences,” Gail Capp said. “Just be there for them and be available and ready to listen when they do want to open up. Finally, go to their reunions. You will hear many stories there.”

Help capture history

More than 16 million men and women served during World War II. Today, there’s less than 390,000 still alive.

The National WWII Museum strives to preserve the legacy and lessons of World War II through the stories of those who experienced the war. They accept Oral Histories and memoirs that people have conducted or printed themselves.

Submit written World War II memoirs or stories for the Museum Library by mail to:

The National WWII Museum

945 Magazine Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

attn: Museum Library

Learn more about the museum’s oral history project at https://www.nationalww2museum.org/oral-history-resources.

The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Learn more at https://www.loc.gov/vets/about.html.

Download a field kit to do interviews at https://www.loc.gov/vets/kitmenu.html.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a former platoon leader seeks to look out for all veterans

Editor’s Note: Christopher Molaro is the Co-Founder/CEO of NeuroFlow. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

I wish I could’ve saved my soldiers.

I was 22 years old when I became a platoon leader overseeing and taking care of 40 soldiers in combat in 2010. At the time, I had only done one tour — 12 months — in Iraq. But many of my soldiers had served four or five tours and had seen much more than I had.

Our job was to drive up and down the International Highway, which connected Kuwait to Iraq, and build relationships with local Iraqi police and sheiks. But we also had to check for improvised explosives, or IEDs.


We didn’t get all of them. In one case, before heading out on a mission, a U.S. envoy truck came careening into our base, half blown to hell and torn to shreds. In the back: three dead bodies. We had missed an IED.

There’s a lot of guilt in seeing something like that, and it can lead to a major symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder called survivor’s remorse. There is a wear on the brain and the body that goes into being in the military, especially for those deployed.

But were you ever to suggest talking to a therapist, you’d be hard-pressed to find many service members who would take you up on it. In the military, getting mental health treatment is viewed as a weakness — which, besides the negative stigma, is just plain wrong. There were soldiers who’d give therapy a try, only to leave after a single session and say, “I don’t feel better. I need to get back to the unit. I need to help out. This is an hour out of my time when I could be spending that with my family.”

And within a few years, there were people in my unit who had attempted suicide. It’s been seven years since I left Iraq, and in that time we’ve lost two people who were in my unit, one of whom I directly oversaw.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Chris Molaro (left) served in Iraq as a liaison to local police and sheiks.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Molaro)

As a platoon leader, I viewed it as my responsibility to take care of our soldiers beyond getting the mission done. But with the news of the suicides came a sense that I had failed as their leader. It was my responsibility to take care of these guys, just like they took care of us.

After I retired from the military in 2015, I went to business school in Philadelphia. It had become my mission to find out how I could make our soldiers know that therapy could actually work for them, if only they would stick with it. Just as you wouldn’t return to your normal, daily routine after breaking an arm and undergoing one session with a physical therapist, neither should you expect to be fully recuperated after one session with a mental health professional.

But, I soon realized, to get soldiers into therapy and keep them there, they needed to see — physically, with their own eyes — the progress they were making.

I read up on research that showed how you can use EEG technology, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to also measure one’s emotions. That was when a light bulb just went off, like, “Holy shit, you could make mental health as black and white as a broken arm.”

That meant therapists could measure and track the progress of patients, objectively. And by doing so, they could fight that negative stigma and give people more hope.

So I developed NeuroFlow. The idea is simple: Give therapists a technology that uses basic and affordable medical supplies, like EEGs or heart rate monitors, to examine the health of their clients. That way, patients could see how their heart races — literally — in real time as they talk about something traumatic. And then, over the course of their sessions, they would be able to see their heart rate slow down and return to a more relaxed state as they healed.

This is my new mission: helping the veteran community. With 20 vets killing themselves in the U.S. every day, there is still a lot of work to be done. So I can’t quite say my mission is complete … yet.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwell on Twitter.

Veterans

Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Not everyone can call themselves a Veteran or knows how it feels to serve his country.


But for those who have, you’ve officially earned the veteran card. Congrats brother, you made it!

Not the so-called “veteran card” isn’t technically referring to the ID card the Department of Veterans Affairs issues you when you register — although you could use that too.

It’s the earned benefits you get when your non-serving compatriots respect the sacrifices you’ve made for your country, then decides to hook you up.

If you’re wondering where you can maybe cash in on these earned royalties, then check these out.

1. Dive Bars…

…especially with ones that have American flags decorating the walls. Dive bars aren’t usually a franchised company and commonly have that homey feeling that treats its customers more personally. What better way to be rewarded than a cold beer on the house?

That’s not such a bad idea.

2. Mom and Pop Shops

You know the businesses that greet you as soon as you walk in and are usually family run, right? With roughly 28 million small businesses located throughout the U.S., and making up approximately 44 percent of the nation’s payroll small businesses thrive on repeat local business.

With 22 million veterans that still call America home, keeping us happy and returning is big business for those little shops.

3. The Police

No one is saying to use this as your only line of defense if you catch a case, but it couldn’t hurt. A lot of policemen patrolling the streets are veterans themselves, so finding a little common ground could humanize you in their eyes.

 

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later

4.  Employers

Plaster the fact that you served on your resume. Add in all the juicy key words like leadership, dedication and goal orientated. You may not have earned the Medal of Honor, but most civilians think having a National Defense ribbon and a Global War on Terrorism sounds pretty badass.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later

 

5. Strip Clubs

Here’s a fun fact. Strippers are just like you and me! Except they probably get paid more.

We’re not saying you should go, but if you do, the closer the location to a military base, the better. Having been all over, I’ve heard you can enjoy discounts on the cover charge, shots and drinks specials, and reserved tables.

 

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later

 

WATM author Tim Kirkpatrick entered the Navy in 2007 as a Hospital Corpsman and deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in the fall of 2010.  Tim now has degrees in both Film Production and Screenwriting. tim0kirkpatrick@gmail.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles

This Army vet is crazy motivated

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

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

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

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

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

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Dust, and where to eat it. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

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

The results were all too typical.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
For a brief moment, things looked promising for Curtis. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

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

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the tobacco industry goes after young vets

According to truth, the smoking rate for military servicemen and women is higher than the average smoking rate – and it’s not a coincidence.


The tobacco industry specifically targets young service members — with a particular concentration on enlistees over officers — because they considered the military to be “less educated,” “part of the wrong crowd,” and having “limited job prospects.”

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
According to a U.S. Department of Defense memo, once they become smokers, members of the military face unique challenges in their battle against tobacco use, including prolonged deployments, cultural pressures, and access to cheap tobacco products. (Image via truth)

In other words, the tobacco industry takes advantage of young troops’ willingness to serve their country, targets them when they’re most vulnerable, and then locks them in to a destructive addiction that not only threatens their mission, but their lives.

The Department of Defense spends more than $1.6 billion each year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalization, and lost days of work.  And it has been estimated that $2.7 billion in Veterans Health Administration health care expenditures are due to the health effects of smoking.

Truth teamed up with Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen and other veterans to fight back by arming smokers and non-smokers with factsand ways to quit. Check out the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6H34Um6-RI
 

If you want to quit smoking, there are many options for you, including a smoking cessation program from TRICARE or this very, very unofficial military manual for quitting smoking and dipping.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Google announces cutting edge program for veteran mental health

Google has long been on the forefront of new advancements in technology and products. Now, they are using their massive platform to support veterans in need.

With America quickly approaching 20 years at war, the needs of her veterans continue to rise. With the added stress of the pandemic, things are at a critical point. Post-traumatic stress diagnosis’ are rising and veteran suicides continue to dominate headlines. Google wanted to do something to combat those numbers and give back to those who served. The company began working with veteran employees as well as outside stakeholders and nonprofits to create a site dedicated to veteran resources.


“Men and women who served should be able to find help when they need it. We hope this website will provide helpful, authoritative information on mental health for veterans and their families,” Jose Castaneda, Google Spokesperson, said. It is with this in mind that the “Serving Veterans” initiative was created.

The site itself will be specifically geared toward veterans and their families. With minimal clicks, the search engine will bring them to the resources that they so desperately need. Google also formatted the site to include personal stories and videos from a broad and diverse group of veterans, which include well-known military leaders. The aim is to demonstrate that seeking help shouldn’t cause hesitation and that recovery through support can happen.

Code of Support Foundation CEO Kristina Kaufmann was thrilled with the program Google created. “The Code of Support Foundation is thrilled to see a global leader in technology like Google prioritize the needs of our nation’s veterans, their caregivers and their families with the launch of the Google for Veterans program,” she said.

The Wounded Warrior Project recently released a survey reporting that COVID-19 has significantly impacted veterans specifically, causing 52 percent to report that their mental health is even worse with the pandemic. The military itself has also stated that suicides have risen by 20 percent in 2020, which can most likely be attributed to the pandemic. All of this was fuel for Google to quickly assemble support for America’s veterans.

Recently, The Bob Woodruff Foundation shared that, “The COVID-19 pandemic creates at least three conditions: emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation and unplanned job or wage loss that could culminate in a “perfect storm,” threatening the mental health of many veterans.”

“We are proud partners in this effect to reach and serve more of those who served our country. This launch represents a shared commitment by Google and Code of Support to ensure veterans and their families can easily find and connect with local community-based resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention at a time when these numbers are rising tragically,” Kaufmann said.

Google has put much of their focus in recent years in serving the military community with tools for transitioning and employment. This appears to be one more way for them to continue its commitment to give back to the 1 percent of America’s population that swears to defend and protect us all. By creating an easily accessible site to help veterans and their families find the support they continue to honor that commitment. One veteran at a time.

Articles

8 steps to evacuate casualties from combat zones

Technically, aeromedical evacuation has been around since World War I, bringing our wounded back home by way of aircraft. Present day, AE is still a critical component to getting injured troops back to safety.


AE crews, medics, and personnel outside the wire are expertly trained to care for combat-related injuries and conditions. With others’ lives on the line, it’s not surprising that the many-step process of evacuating a casualty of war has been refined to achieve the highest survival rate possible.

1. Triage

The injured are first examined by a medic, corpsman, or any medical personnel available to assess injuries. The medical personnel will continue to attend to the wounded until transportation arrives to transfer them to a higher level of care.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Soldiers conduct simulated casualty triage at Forward Operating Base, Solerno, Kandahar. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper)

2. Patient movement

It is of utmost importance to quickly transport the triaged to the nearest hospital or Mobile Air Staging Facility (MASF). The only hardened hospital capable of caring for critical combat-related injuries for a longer period of time is Bagram AB, Afghanistan.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Marines carry their comrade to Huey medevac helicopter. (photo by Stars and Stripes)

The means of transportation for moving a troop to Bagram AB is dependent on where they were injured. If the service member is injured just outside of base, then a Humvee is the obvious choice. If personnel are wounded at a Forward Operating Base, a Huey dust-off mission will be spun up to retrieve casualties.

3. Diagnosis

Once patients are transferred to the hospital, they are stabilized by doctors working in the facility and their diagnosis is entered into a database, called Tra2ces. Tra2ces is relatively new and is one of the sole reasons why the wounded have been tracked so efficiently on their journey from the point of injury to back home with their families.

4. TACC

After patients are successfully entered into the tracking system, the next step is to continue moving back to the States. Tactical Airlift Command and Control (TACC) is responsible for scheduling all planes flying in- and out-of-country.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Lt. Col. John Keagle coordinates a C-17 Globemaster mission to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Justin Brockhoff)

Depending on the injury, patients are categorized and listed in order of priority. In other words, the most critically wounded will top of the list and will typically be sent home first.

5. AEOT

It is the responsibility of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT), specifically the admin mission controller, to assign a medical crew to take care of patients in flight. The crews have strict guidelines and must be current in all of their medical training. There is zero tolerance for sandbagging in this career field.

6. AE medical crews

The AE crew consists of three enlisted medical technicians and two flight nurses. The crews are given all patient information and medical equipment needed before mission take-off.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Master Sgt. Russel Goodwater and Master Sgt. Timothy Starkey assess their checklist for proper protocol during a AE training mission. (photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

In the crew, each member has their own task and they work together to guarantee mission success. After all, they are caring for the most precious cargo — their fellow service members.

7. CASF

Before take-off, patients are moved from the hospital to the flight line. The Casualty Air Staging Facility (CASF) could be considered a tent hospital, located on the flight-line, close to the aircraft. Patients will be moved to the CASF in preparation and set up for the flight that will take them one step closer to home.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
CASF personnel litter carry a patient from an ambulance bus onto C-17 aircraft at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz)

8. Mission launch

After medical and ground personnel load all patients onto the aircraft, they are flown to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where they can get more in-depth medical care for their injuries. Bagram AB simply does not have the extended-care capability to continually treat critically injured patients.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Above, patients have been securely loaded onto a C-17 Loadmaster and await transport to Ramstein AFB.(Photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

After a stay at Ramstein, patients are sent back to home base on another AE flight. All the while, AE medical crews are in the air with their patients, providing them with expert care, comfort, and, if needed, a hand to hold.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
A medical tech holds the hand of a patient during an Aeromedical Evacuation mission transporting patients from Kandahar to Bagram Air Base.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the “slot” position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it’s a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8’s pulled during the demonstration).


The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

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I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.

Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Look at that precision. I’ve seen troops that can’t even walk in formation, let alone fly a supersonic jet three feet away from another supersonic jet.
(Photo by Dirk HansenFlickr)

Also read: This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country — and the US

Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.

“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.

Articles

These athletes are gearing up for the Warrior Games

Sergeant Ryan Major’s life changed forever in a flash and a bang in November 2006.


While deployed in Iraq, the infantry soldier from Baltimore stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs and several fingers on both hands.

Major, now retired, was one of about 70 wounded soldiers and veterans from across the Army who gathered at Fort Bliss the first week of April to compete in the Army Trials.

The event, which was held at Fort Bliss for the third straight year, is used to determine the Army’s team at the upcoming Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event for wounded, injured and ill service members of all branches. This year, the Warrior Games will be held in Chicago June 30 to July 8.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Army Trials for 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (Dept. of Defense News photo by EJ Hersom)

Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.

“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.

Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.

“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.

Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.

During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.

They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.

Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games Bicycling. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom)

Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.

Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.

“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”

Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.

Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.

Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.

“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”

Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.

He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.

Also read: Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

Retired Staff Sgt. Isaac Rios was shot multiple times and was hit by a mortar round during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many veterans, leaving the service and going back to civilian life is a culture shock and even downright scary, Rios said.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Warrior Games. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

Sports, however, helped to give him a new way of looking at life, said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native who represented Fort Bragg, N.C.

“You can’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Rios said.

Sgt. 1st Class Julio Cesar Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass, battles depression and an arthritic hip.

Participating in sports, like archery, gives you something to do and something else to focus on besides the darkness clouding your mind, said Rodriguez, who represented Fort Gordon, Ga.

“It taught me to remove those negative, dark items out of my mind and focus on the present and my way forward in the future,” he said.
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient directed a counterattack his first time in combat

Soon after graduating high school, Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. joined the Marine Corp Platoon Leaders Course, where he learned various military infantry tactics. Once Barnum earned his degree, he was given an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps Reserves and sent to the gritty jungles of Vietnam in 1965.

On December 18, Barnum and the rest of the Marines were patrolling in the Quảng Tín Province of South Vietnam. Unbeknownst to Barnum and his men, as the Marines moved deep into the enemy territory, they were walking into a vicious trap. The Vietnamese troops had dug themselves into the nearby terrain and waiting as nearly three companies of Marines walked by, headed toward a small village.

Then, a firefight broke out, first striking the Marine’s rear position and moving to the front of the patrol as the grunts entered the enemy-infested village. What happened next, no first-timer would ever expect.


WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Barnum takes a moment for a quick photo op while stationed in Vietnam.

The initial attack severely injured the company commander and the radio operator. This deadly wave was Barnum’s first taste of real combat — and his training kicked in immediately. He went and retrieved the radio, calling for heavy fire support.

Barnum also dashed out of his position to recover the company commander and move him to safety. Moments later, Barnum’s commanding officer died in his arms. With all the men looking for guidance, the young Marine knew it was up to him to assume control and direct a counterattack.

After passing out orders, the Marines laid a curtain of gunfire onto the trench line from which the enemy had so much success earlier. Barnum picked up a rocket launcher and fired it three times at the enemy position. That was the signal the attack Hueys needed.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
U.S. troops load up on a Huey during the Vietnam War.

After running out of rockets, the Marine officer directed the Hueys above towards targets to nail — and that’s just what they did. This airborne attack freed up some terrain, allowing the wounded and the dead to be transported out. Although still surrounded by enemy troops, Barnum choreographed each squad as they moved from the hot zone.

In roughly 45 minutes, the men found safety.

1st Lt. Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. was presented with the Medal of Honor on February 27, 1967, surrounded by his fellow Marines at the barracks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

After losing his arm and leg in battle, a Hawaiian soldier being treated at the Naval Medical Center San Diego told his doctors that more than anything else, he wanted to surf again.


Navy Seaman Emily Wallace reacts to a moment free from her severe pain during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. The medically appointed surf therapy helps her to manage her pain and provides her with a reprieve from chronic pain without medications. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Almost 10 years later, the hospital’s surfing clinic staff has assisted more than 1,500 wounded, ill and injured service members from all service branches in their recovery through surfing.

“I remember at the time, I told him we’re going to go surfing but I had no idea how we’re going to go, with him missing an arm and a leg,” said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist with the Health and Wellness department at the medical center, also known as “Balboa.”

Michalewicz-Kragh said she looked for ideas on the internet and eventually called a Brazilian above-the-knee amputee who came to San Diego and assisted Michalewicz-Kragh in training the soldier for five weeks.

The patient started surfing. “And as a result of him going surfing, many other wounded warriors have gone surfing, and it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Today, adaptive surfing is more mainstream, with its third world championship taking place in December in La Jolla, California. Michalewicz-Kragh said when the clinic first started using surfing therapy, she only thought of the physical benefits, such as the cardio ability and strengthening the posterior muscles.

“We ended up realizing the benefit surfing has for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues,” she added. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Finding Fitness, Friends

Surfing is like a medication, and all the side effects are good, Michalewicz-Kragh said. “A person may come here to surf but they end up finding a community,” she explained. “The side effects will be that his fitness level will be better, his cardiovascular ability improves, he gets stronger, and he meets a lot of people. The community integration aspect is really important, so there are many benefits to surfing.”

She said patients don’t need to know how to surf before showing up and they can attend the swim clinic beforehand. “Our goal for the patients as they come to the program is to find out how they can make their life better by surfing and to have the ability to surf and become a better surfer,” she said. “You will not be Kelly Slater after six weeks, and not after 12, but you will have the tools to know how to practice and learn how to surf on your own safely and independently.”

Also Read: Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Beach Yoga

Before surfing, patients can also take yoga classes at the beach, thanks to Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, the Navy medical center’s preventive medicine department head.

“I always check with them at the beginning of class as they check in, where they’re hurting, so I can make sure they focus the class on things that will be beneficial to any particular needs they may have and then ask them afterward,” Christensen said. “I’ve had feedback from some patients who say that this is the only thing they’ve found that helps them feel better, and some who say, ‘I hated yoga, but now I love it,’ so that’s encouraging. It’s a great setting. It’s not me; it’s the beach.”

Christensen said programs such as the surfing clinic are important for wounded warriors. “It gives them hope and confidence, which will help them with their depression if they have it,” she said. “It’s giving them hope that they can get better, confidence in their abilities to do so, and then ability and new skills and new talents.”

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Volunteers

The patients can go through the six-week program twice to learn surfing, and those who transition out of the military and stay in the local area can continue with the program. About 50 surfers — retired firefighters, police officers and military, along with the Del Mar lifeguards — volunteer to work with the patients in the surf therapy clinic.

Former Air Force Sgt. Warren James, a Vietnam veteran, has been volunteering for the past two years. “I’m really good at teaching the beginners,” the former avionics technician said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I can see it’s very effective for the patients.”

James, who repaired radios and radar equipment on F-4, C-130 and C-40 aircraft during his military service, said he enjoys volunteering with service members and fellow veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes. They have injuries, and I didn’t really get injured, so I feel for them,” he said. “I saw a lot of bad things, and I don’t say much about it, but it’s really good to be able to talk to somebody else about it. I know how they feel … I didn’t have PTSD, but I can sense when they do, and it’s really comforting to help them and know that it’s helping me, too.”

Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Surfing clinic participants gain confidence as they make progress in the surfing clinic, he said. “If they had a physical injury, they recover quicker,” he added. “They take less medication. It’s just a really good program.”

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Patients’ Opinions

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Toran Gaal, a bilateral amputee who lives in Valley Center, California, said surfing brings him closer to those he lost in combat. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2011.

“To be in a place like the ocean, it allows me to be closer to those people and feel like I’m lifted up,” Gaal said. “I feel like I’m around them when I’m out there. I feel like they’re around me, watching over me, making sure I’m safe. The ocean allows me to feel close to them, as well as gain relationships with some of the volunteers to be happy.”

The surfing clinic is about surfing and reintegration into the community, Gaal said. “It’s not just about gaining independence and going out and surfing. It’s about reintegration and transitioning,” he said.

Gaal said he and his wife, Lisa, have become friends and family with Bob Bishop, one of the volunteers, with whom they have regular lunches at Bishop’s home.

Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

“It’s just a sense of family for me, and my wife knows that. She knows that when I’m around these people, I come back happier because I enjoy being in their presence and the negativity is not there. They’re all positive influences,” Gaal said.

WWII Veteran recalls V-E Day meaning 76 years later
Volunteer Brianna Phillip helps Navy Seaman Emily Wallace, left, walk into the surf to meet her instructo,r Necia Snow, right, during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Wallace suffers from an illness that causes severe pain, and the medically appointed surf therapy helps to manage her pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Marine Corps Cpl. Leighton Anderson, a Gardena, California, native who was injured during an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash in 2016, said he enjoys the surfing clinic as well.

“I always wanted to learn how to surf, since I’m from California,” Anderson said. “I tried it three times in my life and never did it. I was like, ‘Let me try it through here,’ and then after that, I was hooked. It was pretty sweet. I love it. Everybody’s really nice and supportive.”

Anderson said surfing helps him physically and mentally.

“I had so many barriers, because once I was injured, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I might hurt myself.’ I have a little PTSD, and I didn’t think I would enjoy anything. Once I tried it, I broke down a lot of barriers I had mentally and physically. I had weak tendons in my hand and foot, but with surfing they’re starting to get better. And mentally, it makes me happy. It’s just something everybody should take on.”

“Surfing therapy is amazing,” James said. “The program works, because it keeps them not thinking what they would normally would be thinking when they’re at a medical appointment. But here, we just talk about other things, and that’s why it works.

“It’s different,” he added. “I definitely suggest getting in the water, even if you have no experience at all. Just come to the beach.”

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