3 Ways to Join Tampa’s Run for the Fallen this Weekend

R4F 2014 stdRun, walk, rally or volunteer and join the more than 3,000 already registered to participate in the 7th Annual Run for the Fallen Tampa Bay sponsored by the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association. Register here.

Ways to participate:

The Memorial Bike Rally honoring Gold Star Families is set Saturday, September 20, 2014. The rally point is American Legion Post 148, 7040 U.S. Highway 301, Riverview. Kickstands are up at 4:30 p.m. The destination is the Candlelight Vigil at Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 U.S. 301, Tampa.

The Candlelight Vigil Ceremony is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 U.S. 301, Tampa. Prior to the ceremony, you can visit the Florida Fallen Memorial and barbecue dinners will be available for purchase between 5:30-7 p.m.

The Bike/Walk/Run for the Fallen is Sunday, September 21, 2014, at Veterans Memorial Park, 3602 U.S. 301, Tampa. Late registration will still be available from 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. A ceremony acknowledging the Gold Star families is at 9 a.m. Immediately afterward, the 10K, 5K and 1 mile events will begin.

For R4F questions or additional information contact  MarineFamilies.R4F@gmail.com.

Remembering Prisoners,Those Who Never Came Home

Source: wikimedia.org

Source: wikimedia.org

Today, September 19, 2014, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. By the numbers from the Department of Defense:

  • 1,641 personnel are missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War
  • More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War.
So, take a moment to honor those who remain missing and those who suffered starvation, isolation, fear, and uncertainty, during captivity.

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg Returns to Haley VA

 Dr. Steven Scott, director of the Polytrauma Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital, talks with his former patient, Army Ranger Cory Remsburg. Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media


Dr. Steven Scott, director of the Polytrauma Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital, talks with his former patient, Army Ranger Cory Remsburg.
Bobbie O’Brien WUSF Public Media

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain.

He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley.

More than 800 patients have come through the polytrauma system according to Haley Chief of Staff Dr. Edward Cutolo, but he remembers Remsburg.

“He’s not a hard one to forget. He was very ill when he came here, very ill,” Cutolo said.

And Remsburg has not forgotten them, the therapists, nurses and doctors.

He returned this year with one goal in mind, to walk, unassisted to Dr. Steven Scott, director of the Haley Polytrauma Center.

Trailed closely by his stepmother, Annie Remsburg, Cory Remsburg successfully navigated about a 10-foot stretch, unaided, and was greeted with a handshake from Dr. Scott and applause from onlookers.

“One of the things that’s so interesting about Cory’s story is he was told by so many, so many people said he couldn’t do things. ‘You’re not going to walk, you’re not going to do this. You know what I mean,’” Scott said. “So, Cory always said, ‘Yes, I’m going to, yes I can.’”

Cory Remsburg responds slowly, “Being a Ranger, I had the mental part down. It’s the physical part I’m learning to overcome.”

His speech is labored because he had to learn to speak all over again. That’s just one of many things he’s had to overcome: dozens of surgeries, blindness in his right eye, a partially paralyzed left side.

He was in a coma more than three months. The treatments and people at Haley brought him back.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-R), on the left, made a special trip to meet Army Ranger Cory Remsburg (right) and his father, Craig Remsburg (center) when they visited the medical staff at Haley.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-R), on the left, made a special trip to meet Army Ranger Cory Remsburg (right) and his father, Craig Remsburg (center) when they visited the medical staff at Haley.

Craig Remsburg, credits a combination of ‘the man above’, Haley’s Emerging Consciousness Program, family and familiarity for bringing his son back.

“We knew that he loved vanilla extract, so we would burn that aroma. We would play Scrubs, he loved Scrubs. So, we had that playing always on a reel,” Craig Remsburg said.

There was no great awakening like in a movie. Instead, it was gradual and took a lot of hard work every day for two years.

As soon as Cory could eat solid food, Dr. Scott would sneak him two Boston Cream doughnuts each morning as incentive.  And even though Cory now lives in Arizona – Dr. Scott is still motivating his prized patient.

He asked Cory for his goals which are to walk independently for a sustainable distance and then run.

“That’s what I hoped you would say. I’ll give you a third,” Dr. Scott said. “Run up hill. Alright? The reason why you run uphill is because the view is better.”

At that suggestion, Cory smiled, held up his large cup of coffee as a toast affirming his new goals and said, “He knows me.”

You can listen to the story which is part of he WUSF Veterans Coming Home project on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Dr. Steven Scott (left) shows off the Haley Trauma Center's treadmill pool to former patient Cory Remsburg (center) and his dad, Craig Remsburg.

Dr. Steven Scott (left) shows off the Haley Trauma Center’s treadmill pool to former patient Cory Remsburg (center) and his dad, Craig Remsburg.

MacDill Military Gives President Rousing Welcome

President Obama speaking to 1,200 service members at MacDill Air Force Base, Sept. 17, 2014. Photo credit: USMC Sgt. Frederick Coleman, US Central Command.

President Obama speaking to 1,200 service members at MacDill Air Force Base, Sept. 17, 2014. Photo credit: USMC Sgt. Frederick Coleman, US Central Command.

The pride of “wearing the uniform” was clear and present inside the MacDill Air Force Base sports center Wednesday where 1,200 service members from all branches crowded together to hear President Barack Obama.

Most were dressed in the everyday, camo uniform. They greeted the president with an enthusiasm that belied the rainy, gray skies outside.

President Obama talked directly to the men and women. He said he came to thank them for their sacrifice and for their commitment to the country.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Tanika Belfield appreciated the personal message in his speech.

Tech Sgt. Tanika Belfield liked the personal nature of the president's speech.

Tech Sgt. Tanika Belfield liked the personal nature of the president’s speech.

“The thing that stood out to me most is him making sure to speak of those who were wounded and that he knows that he’s in a room of people who have lost friends,” Belfield said.

The president told the troops he would not send them back to Iraq, but Belfield said she’s ready to go if called to Iraq.

“That has to remain fluid as the threats change and intel changes,” Belfield said. “We’re briefed and we’re prepared and we’re ready.”

Captain Darrell Rievs has served in the Air Force 26 years and has been deployed countless times throughout the U.S. In all that time, this was the first time he’d been in the same room with the president.

Air Force Capt. Darrell Rievs has served 26 years and been deployed numerous times, yet is ready to go again if needed.

Air Force Capt. Darrell Rievs has served 26 years and been deployed numerous times, yet is ready to go again if needed.

“It’s a great honor and very encouraging to the troops that he stopped by,” Rievs said.

He was pleased to hear the president refer to the military’s upcoming role in the fight against Ebola in Africa. And Rievs said he is willing to deploy again if needed.

“It’s just an honor to wear the uniform. If duty calls, I’m there,” Rievs said.

After meeting with the troops, President Obama visited Tinker Elementary School on base. He chatted with first graders and one asked if he fought in the Civil War.

“No, I was born in 1961.”

President Obama speaking to first graders at Tinker Elementary School on MacDill AFB. Photo credit: pool

President Obama speaking to first graders at Tinker Elementary School on MacDill AFB. Photo credit: pool

In Ms. Slagal’s class, the president shook hands with every student and admired the spikey haircut of one boy.

A little boy raised his hand and then, when the president called on him, couldn’t remember what he was going to say.

“That happens to me all the time,” President Obama said. “I think I have a good point, and then…. the press makes fun of me.”

The president spent the morning touring U.S. Central Command and discussing strategy with CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin and his staff. They are responsible for 20 countries in the Middle East, South and Central Asia including Iraq and Syria where the Islamic State group has seized territories.

The U.S. House has passed legislation allowing the president to arm and train Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State militants. But some Democrats are concerned that the strategy will backfire. But even without the support of dozens of Democrats, the proposal won House approval Wednesday. The Senate is expected to approve it Thursday.

Deployed Troops at Risk of Accidents Back Home

 A U.S. military cargo truck bypasses a charred vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb while moving building materials to Forward Operating Base Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Nov. 24, 2009. Credit U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg


A U.S. military cargo truck bypasses a charred vehicle destroyed by a roadside bomb while moving building materials to Forward Operating Base Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Nov. 24, 2009.
Credit U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisebet Freeburg

Evasive driving maneuvers like speeding and sudden lane changes are a must for troops driving in dangerous environments where there may be roadside bombs, like Afghanistan.

But the driving habits that can save a soldier’s life when deployed can cause an accident and maybe death when the soldier returns home.

A 2012 study, by the insurance company USAA, showed that deployed military members have a 13 percent higher risk of being in an accident after returning stateside.

There are other risk factors for at-fault accidents according to the USAA Returning Warriors Driving Safety Report 2012:

  • Army Veterans accidents increased 23 percent; Marines 12.5 percent; Navy 3 percent and Air Force 2 percent.
  • Drivers younger than 22 are more at risk (a 25 percent increase) while those over 29 have a 7.5 percent increase
  • Drivers with 3 or more deployments are most at risk with a 36 percent increase in at-fault accidents; 2 deployments saw 27 percent increased; 1 deployment had a 12 percent increase.

The insurance company that only serves military and their families created an online survey for members returning from deployment. It has a dual purpose, to gather additional data about risk factors and to alert combat veterans of the driving dangers and offer safety tips such as:

  • Don’t start out driving at night or in heavy traffic
  • Plan out your route ahead of time
  • Avoid things that might cause you concern like narrow roads

The online assessment asks simple questions and is short according to John Bird, a retired Navy admiral and senior vice president for military affairs at USAA. He quelled any concerns that the data would be used against the driver.

“I will tell you our whole company business is built on trust. We absolutely are not using this data to raise rates or to affect policies for those military members,” Bird said. “In sharp contrast, we’re using this data as we do so much data across all insurance areas to go toward prevention.”

Additionally, USAA is offering a $25 incentive to a spouse or military member who has recently returned from at least a six month deployment to take the survey.

So far Bird says they’ve had more than 30 percent of USAA members participate. The company estimates that about 5,000 of its members return monthly.

Help Greet Returning WWII Veterans

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. Courtesy the National Parks.

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. Courtesy the National Parks.

If you live in the Tampa Bay region and have an hour to spend this evening, head to the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

Honor Flight of West Central Florida has sponsored 80 WWII veterans for a day-long visit to Washington D.C. memorials as a way to honor their service.Part of the celebration is a public “hero’s welcome home.”

The welcome home celebration is open to the public and free. Gather at the baggage claim area by 8 p.m.

To date, the West Coast Honor Flight organization has sponsored 1256 veterans’ visits to the nation’s capital and veteran memorials. The next flight is Sept. 30, 2014 out of Lakeland.

For more information contact info@HonorFlightWCF.org.

New VA Secretary Gives His Cell Number to Change Culture

VA Secretary Bob McDonald

VA Secretary Bob McDonald

Have you ever heard of a cabinet member giving out his personal cell phone and email?

That’s exactly what the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald did to a room full of reporters during a news conference in Washington D.C. according to the Stars and Stripes.

While McDonald – who corrected a reporter who referred to him as Mr. Secretary by saying, “I’m Bob, really” — may be a little easier to reach now, the effectiveness of a 90-day plan he unveiled to fix a badly-broken program VA health care system is likely how veterans and observers will assess the beginning of his tenure.

McDonald is trying to make the VA culture more veteran centric. His initiative “Road to Veterans Day” focuses on reforming the department over the next 90 days.

He said there are three steps to the reform: regaining the trust of veterans, improving service to veterans and developing long-term excellence in the system.

You can read the secretary’s full comments here.

McDonald acknowledged there are currently more than 100 investigations into cases at VA facilities by the VA and outside agencies.

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