Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions

Kinesiotherapy (KT) is a rehab profession that provides therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions to improve well-being and functional abilities. It has been used to help Veterans on an ongoing basis since WWII. Today, VA is the single largest employer of kinesiotherapists (KTs), treating more than 100,000 Veterans in Fiscal Year 2019.

During recent challenges, KTs quickly shifted necessary outpatient evaluations and treatments to virtual care. This ensured Veterans’ safety while also providing specialized rehabilitation for inpatient Veterans requiring extended physical reconditioning.

KTs across the VA health care system today are educated and specialty trained at the undergraduate and graduate level. They support the complex needs of the Veteran population by focusing on skilled rehabilitation, improved function and quality of life.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Todd Keanan, registered kinesiotherapist and certified driver rehabilitation specialist, uses VA Video Connect (VVC) virtual technology to evaluate Veterans living in Jacksonville to recommend adaptive driving equipment for a new vehicle. It saves Veterans costly travel time. (2019 photo)

Their unique holistic approach involves the Veteran as well as their family and caregivers. They emphasize the psychological, as well as physical, benefits of therapeutic exercise within acute, post-acute, outpatient and home-based rehabilitation services. They also provide health and wellness coaching, disease prevention and comprehensive whole health practices.

In use since World War II

KT first was used during WWII when KTs implemented whole health therapy to accelerate the return of soldiers to active duty within physical reconditioning units established by the U.S. Armed Forces.

Pictured above, Abraham Hancock, registered KT and certified driver rehabilitation specialist at the Tampa VA, oversees the KT driver rehabilitation clinic’s simulator. It provides the Veteran and the clinician feedback before progressing to on-the-road instruction with adaptive driving equipment. (2019 photo)

Determination for appropriateness for driver rehabilitation evaluations utilizing VA Video Connect (VVC) technology is always made on case-by-case basis. When the Veteran is well known to the therapist from previous on-road assessments and the Veteran’s Primary Care Physician has documented medical clearance with no cognitive, visual or physical changes that would require a face to face evaluation, the Veteran is a good candidate for VVC.

Observing drivers with Video Connect

Using VVC, Keanan can observe Veterans transfer safely into their vehicles. He sees them stow their wheelchairs and demonstrate basic operational controls (such as making turns and using gas/brake) in a parked position.

The Veteran does not have to come in-person to the VA hospital for the KT Driver Rehabilitation Clinic outpatient appointment to make recommendations for the same adaptive equipment to be placed in a new vehicle. This also applies to the final fittings and inspections once the adaptive equipment was installed.

VA celebrates the profession of Kinesiotherapy and the KTs who are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our service members and Veterans.

For more information on VA KT, please visit www.rehab.va.gov/KT/ and inquire about KT services within your local VA facility Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.


“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”

Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.

The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.

“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”

Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.

“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.

“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”

When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.

The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”

Veterans

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

If you have professional goals of influencing people and impacting your organization at its highest level, you owe it to yourself to learn about organizational leadership. Everyone has had to deal with a toxic leader who didn’t understand how to communicate, motivate and create change. Not only does ineffective leadership directly affects the morale of an environment, but it directly impacts the esprit de corps. That means that a toxic leader not only sabotages their own chances of success but everyone else around them too.

As a member of the military community, you know firsthand how vital it is to have strong leaders who understand how to communicate with people. The essential skills and mindsets of the world’s strongest leaders all have four things in common.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader can solve problems and make decisions quickly and for the best benefit of the organization. These leaders know how to communicate and listen critically. They also understand the benefit of team building and peer development, including developing leadership potential in others. All good leaders have an eye toward the future, on the lookout for new opportunities and new chances at innovation.

Organizational leadership is the management approach to setting goals for an entire organization while motivating individuals to meet those goals. As a member of the military community, this is part of your everyday life. Whether you’re active duty, a veteran, or a military spouse, you know that goal setting and motivation are equal parts in what it takes to become successful.

Where are leaders found?

Leaders are everywhere – from company CEOs to unit non-commissioned officers to teachers in classrooms, department heads and even head coaches. All of these people share a commonality – they’re organized into a unit for some end. The leader is the person who’s responsible for directing or guiding that group. The best leaders are those who can structure the inputs of others to produce organizational outputs. Translation: a good leader values the members of their team, listens to advice and then make decisions based on sound judgment.

Members in the military community aren’t strangers to leadership, but it takes more than wearing a uniform to become a good leader. You have to be people-oriented to be a successful leader, and for that, you need to have the right training.

How does a degree in Organizational Leadership help?

Earning a degree in Organizational Leadership will help you develop the skills that employers look for most. As a member of the military community, you already know that teamwork, sound judgment, having the ability to solve complex problems and using decision-making skills are part and parcel of any good leader. Studying Organizational Leadership at Penn State allows you to broaden those skills to include how to use evidence appropriately, exercise influence, and use conflict management and communication skills.

Take a deep dive into both the managerial and supervisory behavior of successful leaders from around the world to gain insight into the layered nature of what it means to lead from the top. Our Organizational Leadership program is designed specifically for the military community to help you develop the skills you need to lead from the top.

When you enroll in our World Campus Organizational Leadership program, you have the opportunity to explore what it means to be a leader from both a social-scientific perspective and an operational perspective. Developing foundational knowledge from both sides of the house allows you to expand on your current leadership skills and broaden your professional horizons.

Build your leadership skills with an online degree and never have to worry about finding a way to fit campus time into your schedule. As a valued member of America’s military community, we know that you have a choice when it comes to how you pursue your education. That’s why Penn State is pleased to offer our Organizational Leadership bachelor’s degree program entirely online. We offer both a BS and a BA to best meet your needs.

Penn State is nationally recognized for our wide array of online bachelor’s degrees. We offer a diverse curriculum with foundational courses in communication, economics and labor and employment relations to help you develop the operational leadership skills you need to take your career to the next level.

We’ve been helping members of the military community achieve their educational dreams since 1865. To date, our Penn State World Campus includes more than 5,000 military student learners. Penn State is a proud and active member of the Council on College and Military Educators, and has been recognized through several military-specific awards and rankings.

Whether you’re ready to transition back to civilian life or just looking to advance your education, our Organizational Leadership program offers exactly what you need. Find out more here.

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

Articles

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

Articles

This Marine just retired after 54 years of service

In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.


One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant addresses guests during his retirement ceremony, at the Camp Courtney Theater, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.

“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant retired Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”

He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.

“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”

And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?

“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”

Semper fi, Marine, and well done.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Workshops for Warriors started with a handful of wounded service members in a 400-sqaure foot garage. Twelve years later it’s poised to become the world’s largest training facility for advanced manufacturing.

Despite the meteoric growth, founder and CEO Hernán Luis y Prado said he’d never had an interest in manufacturing. The 15-year Navy veteran had planned a 40-year career. This changed in 2008 when he started visiting National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he saw wounded warriors dealing with terrible conditions. He described service members living in tunnels while waiting for hospital rooms in facilities that weren’t designed for a sudden influx of survivors.


“These Marines that were used to jumping out of helicopters were just languishing in bed for days after days just waiting for physical therapy that came once a week,” Prado said. “And the docs that would come by every week and say ‘hey next week you’re going home.’ And that would go on for 30, 40, 50 weeks. That was just soul crushing.”

The final straw came during a trip to the local mall where Prado ran into a friend he’d served with in Iraq. Since they’d last seen each other, Prado’s friend had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs.

“Here I was — tough guy, combat vet, and my legs literally melted underneath me,” Prado said. “I grabbed my wife as I sank to the deck and I said ‘we’re going to sell everything. We’ve got to do something.’ My wife, to her eternal credit, said, ‘yes we are.’ I loved the Navy and I would’ve stayed there forever. But I had to do something. I was so tired of seeing my friends dying of suicide and just being lost. These are guys that I had served with and they were hyper-capable, hyper-competent. All the sudden they would just be hollowed–out versions of themselves that were drifting aimlessly into the shadows.”

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions

Prado speaks with students.

Prado started what would eventually become Workshops for Warriors by inviting service members receiving treatment in Bethesda to his home to hang out. He said they loved to tinker in his garage. This got him thinking about next steps. Most of the service members being treated in Bethesda were only there for four to six months. This ruled out apprenticeships which can take up to 10,000 hours to complete, he said, and college degrees which can take years. Professional credentials, on the other hand, are stackable and portable, he added.

Next, Prado developed partnerships with multiple U.S. manufacturers to get the equipment, supplies and instructors. As a lieutenant in the Navy he didn’t make enough to cover the costs.

“Fortunately, we got some incredible companies that donated time, tools, software and connected us with other people,” Prado said. “Little-by-little we started moving forward.”

Prado’s next move was to take his last Navy assignment in San Diego, California. He said he did this because more people leave the service there – 17,000 a year – than anywhere else in the country.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions

Machining students.

The current Workshops for Warriors facility takes up three city blocks in San Diego and includes housing and dining facilities for students. A 8 million expansion is slated for next year.

Since 2008, 760 veterans and transitioning service members have graduated from Workshops For Warriors. Prado said 95% of the program’s graduates receive job placements with an average salary of ,000 a year.

Courses are open to honorably discharged veterans and transitioning service members who are within six months of separation. Students take four-month courses in advanced manufacturing, welding fabrication or machine repair. The ,000 tuition can be covered by the G.I. Bill. For those who don’t have access to the G.I Bill, scholarships are available, Prado said.

Each course is coupled with opportunities to gain nationally recognized credentials in welding, machining, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing and more. Programs are accredited through the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education, American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Prado said most students have between four and eight written job offers prior to graduation. The only shortcoming he sees in his program is its capacity for students. Workshops for Warriors currently has the ability to teach 162 students per year. But the organization receives seven to ten times that many applications, according to Prado.

To deal with this, there are plans in the works for a train the trainer program and eventual expansion into other locations throughout the country.

Prado said Workshops for Warriors is almost as beneficial to manufacturers as it is to veterans and transitioning service members.

“You have no idea how desperate employers are for properly–trained machinery repair technicians,” he said.

Prado said there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled labor. That number is projected to rise to 4.8 million over the next ten years.

“If you couple that with the fact that the median age of manufacturing workers today is 57 years old, in 10 years, who is going to build our ships, our aircraft, our bridges, our buildings,” Prado asked. “We cannot allow our manufacturing capability and our economic resiliency to be outsourced to China.”

Service members or honorably discharged veterans can apply for entry at https://wfw.org/.

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


Veterans

Dad’s military service a key to son’s NBA success

For a birthday present for his son years ago, Charles Smith bought a basketball arcade-style game where the hoop moves forward and backward, increasing the degree of difficulty. Every game ended the same way — with Jalen Smith losing, then crying — a fact riddled with irony now that Jalen was a first-round draft pick for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. 

When his father, a retired chief petty officer in the Navy, received a phone call informing him that Jalen was boarding a plane en route to starting his professional career, Jalen didn’t shed a tear.

The same could not be said for Charles.

“I know all the hard work he put into it,’’ the elder Smith said.

The Phoenix Suns drafted Jalen, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward, with the 10th overall pick in November. He played two seasons at the University of Maryland and won’t turn 21 until March. Jalen (3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds per game) has appeared in four of the Suns’ 16 games at the time of reporting.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions

His father’s military service rubbed off on Jalen.

“[It made me] more responsible for myself, more accountable and made sure that I respect elders and I am living the life that he raised me to live,’’ Jalen said.

Charles, 47, entered the Navy out of high school.

He has fond memories of watching Army-Navy football games with his uncle, Arthur Lee Smith, a master chief petty officer in the Navy, as a child. Charles was captivated about the stories that his uncle told about his service.

Charles served 23 years, and as he moved from station to station, his wife, Orletha, and two children remained on the East Coast. 

“There’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to give your maximum effort,’’ Jalen said of the biggest lesson that he learned from his father. “That’s something I kept with me my whole life.’’

When the elder Smith was away, Jalen helped around the house. He made sure the doors were locked. He did not go to bed until his mother and younger sister were tucked away for the night.

Even when his father returned home, Jalen took his duties seriously.

“I was like, ‘No, daddy’s home now so you can go back to being Jalen the little kid,’’’ said Charles, now an engineering inspector. “He took on big responsibilities at a very young age.’’

One way the Smiths bonded was through basketball.

Charles, who is 6 feet tall, was a huge fan of former Maryland standouts Len Bias and Keith Gatlin. He played a little in high school but mainly was a rec-league player. Once they graduated from pop-a-shot games, the Smiths took their one-on-one battles to the court. 

“I could beat him eight, nine times, and he’d still want to play again,’’ Charles said. “His will to win and finally to beat me, there was no telling him he wasn’t eventually going to do that.’’

Jalen finally prevailed when he was a sophomore in high school. 

They split four games that day. Charles recalled that Jalen should have won them all, except he coaxed his son to shoot outside more instead of working the ball closer to the hoop, where Jalen’s height was a distinct advantage.

“After that, I played him one more time,’’ Charles said.

On that occasion, Charles’ wife bet him $100 that he couldn’t score a point off their son. A point? Charles managed that but never received the money.

Now he has a lot more as he sees Jalen happy and living out a lifetime goal.

“It’s been a new adventure,’’ Jalen said. “It was my first time being on the West Coast, getting accustomed to a whole new area and a whole new team that I never met before. It’s a very interesting thing, and I know it’s going to take time to get fully accustomed to everything.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far.’’

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New VA appeals process is starting and it looks promising

Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.


Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.

This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

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

Veterans

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

He encourages Veterans to stay busy, have a hobby


The government sent John Barbazon’s next of kin two telegrams in 1966. The first regretted to inform them that their son had been killed in action. The second said he was improving.

A member of the 101st Airborne, Barbazon (pictured above) was part of a squad that spent most of their time on the move, up and down mountains – and rarely in the company of other units.

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Barbazon’s carved chess pieces.

“We just got orders and kept going from one place to another,” he said, sitting at a workbench in a shop at the back of his four-acre property.

Barbazon isn’t entirely still. He continues to move from one place to the next as he recalls his experience in Vietnam.

“I got shot and I was lying on the ground, my right arm mostly gone. I stick this finger in a sucking chest wound right here to stop the bleeding,” he said, holding up a thick index finger and jamming it into a space just below his right shoulder.

Each time he repeats the motion, the finger hits the same spot, to the same wound.

“I was on the ground,” he continued. “My cousin called out to me, told me to crawl to him. I crawled thirty to forty feet to a medic. I found out later my cousin had died in a car wreck. He wasn’t even there but if I hadn’t seen him call to me, I would have died right there, bled to death.”

Cussed out medic in Cajun

Soon after reaching the medic, he was placed in a body bag being mistaken as having been killed in action. The medics carrying him dropped him.

Later, one of the medics visited Barbazon in the field hospital.

“He (the medic) said that if I had died, I’d have gone to hell because I called him things he’d never heard of, in Cajun. I was cussing him out for dropping me.”

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
“I’ve been a very lucky person.”

Barbazon laughs at the memory now, but he spent a month in the field hospital before being shipped to California, where surgeries saved his arm and leg. Now he walks with a slight limp, but he doesn’t let it do more than slow his walking speed.

Happy and busy

“I hadn’t talked about Vietnam until eight or 10 years ago. I was in Ocala, Florida, at the VA hospital, and I was talking to a doctor I’d been seeing. She said, ‘John, I need you to talk to a friend of mine.’ So she takes me to a psychiatrist. And I’m glad.

“A lot of Veterans need to do this. I found out things I was doing that I was doing in Vietnam, like carrying a knife in my pocket for protection and going to the top row in a movie theater with my back against the wall. I was on guard too much and needed to relax.

“Talking to the psychiatrist was the best thing I’ve done, and I talked to him for about four years. Now I know I was really dysfunctional and didn’t realize it. Veterans today, they need to get out and find out. They need to talk to somebody and they have to listen.

“He told me, you’re not cured. I’m not going to cure you. I’m just going to make you aware of what you’re doing so you can be more relaxed. That’s why I enjoy doing this woodworking and that’s why I say Veterans need to talk to somebody – and they need to get a hobby.”

There’s something they can do

“If they are sitting home disabled, there’s something they can do. I don’t care if it’s going fishing. You’ve got to do something,” Barbazon said.

Barbazon’s sister has the telegrams, and he has a house full of delicately cut artwork that will soon include a dome clock that he’s spent the last six months working on for six hours a day.

“I’m very lucky. I’ve been a lucky person.”

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

Articles

This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper head shot

On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.


He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.

“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”

Related: This is how a military death can affect generations of families

Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.

“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.

The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.

He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.

He now shares his wisdom and life-saving resiliency lessons he learned in the Corps with all Americans via his “Veteran Calendar” and uses a portion of the proceeds to support the Semper Fi Fund, The Medal of Honor Foundation, and The PenFed Foundation.

Watch Constantine tell his incredible story in this TED Talk video:

Justin Constantine, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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


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

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

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

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

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

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

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is looking for LA veterans to share their stories

The Veterans Affairs Make the Connection team is looking for veterans who want to share their stories about seeking support for mental health challenges and take part in a national mental health campaign.


The same obstacles that may, at first, seem insurmountable to an individual are much less daunting when faced by a team. More than 500 veterans and military family members have already stepped up to be that team for their brothers and sisters by sharing their stories in videos on MakeTheConnection.net, a mental health website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 


 

Make the Connection helps veterans and their loved ones realize that reaching out for support and seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength, and thousands of veterans have found help to overcome their challenges.

 


 

The Make the Connection team will be conducting more on-camera interviews in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, and is looking for veterans who want to share their stories about seeking help and overcoming mental health and other challenges. Veterans who participate in the video shoot will receive a stipend to offset their expenses for time and travel. When the videos are posted on the Make the Connection website, only the first names of participants are used.

 


 

Since its launch six years ago, the Make the Connection campaign has spread positive stories about veteran mental health via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Veterans featured on the website and in social media have served across all branches of service in every U.S. conflict, from WWII to today. They also represent the full diversity of the military community. Each veteran has coped with conditions, such as addiction, anxiety, depression, serious mental illness, PTSD, and the effects of military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury.

Veterans who want to tell their stories to help fellow veterans like them can email their name, phone number, and email address to outreach@maketheconnection.net or call our outreach team directly at 1-323-813-1426.

To learn more, please visit Make the Connection.

Articles

Watch the Hyundai Super Bowl commercial that connected vets and their families

Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.


The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.

While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.

Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.

“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.

Check out the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7n-GxJBw1k
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