Two Men Arrested For Stealing From Homeless Veterans

Two Miami men are charged with stealing items meant for homeless veterans that were worth more than $300,000.

The volunteer, Miami director of the non-profit, Florida Veterans Foundation, Antonio Colmenares, 57, was arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on first degree grand theft. Also arrested was Colmenares’ friend, Antonio Sabatier, 60, who did not hold an official position with the organization.

The charges stem from a complaint filed by the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs in March 2015 which was investigated by the FDLE. The two men allegedly had sold 27,000 blankets and 9,700 ready-to-eat meals that were donated to the Florida Veterans Foundation for use by homeless vets.

Money from the sale, according to the FDLE, was deposited into the bank account of a company owned by Sabatier, Nike Management.

The investigation also found that other donated items meant for homeless veterans had been sold for profit. The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s Office assisted in the investigation.

Colmenares and Sabatier are out on a $20,000 bond each after being booked into the Miami-Dade Jail.

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Field Of Honor Recognizes The Fallen From All Eras

A small American Flag is planted in the Field of Honor plaza as the name of each newly fallen service member is read aloud – the ritual now includes those killed in action in previous wars who were recently identified through DNA.

The ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere rarely make the headlines nowadays. Yet, men and women in the United States military continue to serve there and some die there.

Their numbers may be smaller, but those casualties are not overlooked at Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park.

A solitary bulletin board, protected by a glass pane, stands at the entrance of the park’s Field of Honor. It prominently displays the number of service members killed in action.

2,407 – Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
4,460 – Operation Iraqi Freedom
68 – Operation New Dawn (Iraq)

The current military casualty list from October through December 2017 is pinned in the upper left corner.

It is here that the fallen become more than a number.

FH bulletin board

The bulletin board at the entrance to the Field of Honor at Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park.

Every three months, each new name is read aloud in a ceremony. As it’s read, a volunteer steps forward and plants a small American flag in the “Field of Honor”, a stone plaza in a semi-circle that is inscribed with the names of local military killed in action.

It was a blustery, cold January morning as former Navy Chief Walter Raysick addressed the dozens of volunteers, families and veterans at the ceremony. He explained that 86 names had been added to the ritual. They are the names those killed in previous wars but only recently identified through DNA. But many more remain unidentified.

“World war II missing are approximately 72,964 and Korea still missing is 7,715,” Raysick said.

Recognition for the fallen, however belated, is a comfort to many Gold Star families. That’s the designation given to those who have lost an active-duty military member of their family.

FH Lil Sis

Cathy Goldie is a Gold Star family member who volunteers with the Patriot Riders.

“I’m a Gold Star sister myself. And it is an honor to stand for these being honored today,” said Cathy Goldie, her brother was in the Navy during Vietnam and died in a training accident.

Goldie comes to these “Field of Honor” ceremonies as part of the Patriot Riders, a group whose members attend the funerals of veterans, military, and first responders. She said this one is extra special because it recognizes the recently identified military – killed in Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

There ceremony is also an opportunity to salute local Gold Star families.

FH Gold Star Mothers with Yellow Rose

Yellow roses were presented to the Gold Star mothers Barbara Wade, right, and Nitaya Rubado, left, in between is Gold Star father Charles Rubado.

Charles and Nitaya Rubado of Clearwater lost their son, 2LT Charles R. Rubado with the Army Third Calvary Regiment. He was killed in action August 29, 2005.

“When you lose a son like that, it’s devastating and you never go through a day without remembering,” Charles Rubado said. “This lets us know that other people care.”

Also recognized was Barbara Wade of Lakeland, a 27 year Army veteran and a Gold Star mother. Her son, Army SSG Maurice Tucker, was killed in motorcycle accident while serving in Alaska.

FH Barbara Wade Gold Star Mother

Army veteran and Gold Star mother Barbara Wade wears a t-shirt that honors her son.

“I’ve been a Gold Star mom for a year now,” Wade said. “We’re family. We keep saying their name. We keep doing things in their honor.”

That’s the idea behind the Field of Honor – to keep saying the names – to continue to honor the fallen – lest we forget the sacrifice that unites those who died while serving their country.

 

Florida National Guard Deploys To Southwest Asia

FL national guard 3rd 116th

Florida National Guard Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery, participate in range qualifications, March 22, 2013, at Camp Shelby, Miss. (Photo Credit: Spc. Lam Phi Nguyen)

Some 120 guardsmen from the Florida 3rd of the 116th Field Artillery Battalion are deploying overseas to support Operation Spartan Shield, a combined forces contingency operation designed to deter and react to possible threats within Southwest Asia.

The unit will be deployed for an entire year.

In addition to family and friends, Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to attend the deployment ceremony scheduled Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, Joker Marchant Stadium, located at 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland.

Operation Spartan Shield is part of U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Life Is Different For Homeless Veterans In Rural Communities


Homeless veterans and other homeless people live in this encampment near the Saratoga Springs, New York train station.
Sarah Harris / American Homefront

A report from Sarah Harris for the American Homefront Project looks at how homelessness differs for veterans living in rural communities: Rather than living in the streets, they may be couch-surfacing, sleeping in their cars, or camping in the woods.

Downtown Ballston Spa, New York, is full of charming old Victorian houses. But there’s one that’s different from its neighbors: the Vet House.

Fourteen formerly homeless veterans live there. It has a comfy frat house vibe: guitars are propped up in the corners, military flags and posters hang on the walls, the kitchen is overflowing with food.

“It’s cozy,” says Dave, who moved in a couple weeks ago. “All the guys get along. We all cook, clean, look out for each other.” Continue reading

Special Ops Task Force Rebuilds Syrian Bridge In 16 Hours

syrian bridge dec 2017

RAQQAH, SYRIA
12.27.2017
Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Lutz 
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve

The photo above and update below comes directly from U.S. Central Command Special Operations Joint Task Force:

In only 16 hours, a coalition of engineers – working with Syrian partners -erected a steel bridge Dec. 27, 2017, near the village of Hawi al-Hawa, west of Raqqah Province, Syria.

Engineers attached to the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve led the effort. The bridge allows better security to the people of Raqqah and greater humanitarian assistance and relief efforts there.

“The bridge provides much needed access to parts of Raqqah following the destruction to critical infrastructure caused by Daesh,” said the SOJTF-OIR Commanding General, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard. “The bridge will enable the Raqqah Civil Council to increase required humanitarian assistance efforts and will improve vital access by Improvised Explosive Device experts working to reduce threats to citizens.”

Coalition forces continue to train and support the Raqqah Internal Security Force as they ensure security and aid efforts that support citizens.

Field Of Honor Ceremony For Military Killed In Last 3 Months

The Field of Honor where names of the fallen are etched at the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park.

The Veterans Council of Hillsborough County holds a brief ceremony every three months to read aloud the names of the fallen and to mark their contribution and sacrifice in the fight against terrorism. To be recognized on Jan. 13, 2018, are those who were killed in October, November, and December of 2017:

  • Four personnel killed during Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq, Syria and Yemen)
  • Four personnel killed during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (Afghanistan)
  • Three sailors lost in a C-2A Greyhound transport plane in the Philippine Sea
  • Four Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger
  • 74 previously unidentified remains of military members from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam (military personnel formerly listed as missing-in-action now identified through advancements in mitochondrial DNA research).

The tribute also will include law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty.

The ceremony is planned Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N., Tampa, FL.

Plans for the public event include a banner presentation by Blue Star Mothers of Tampa Bay Inc., the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club color guard, Missing Man Formation flyover by Ye Mystic Airkrewe, Gold Star Families, patriotic music by Cody Palmer/VFW Post 8108, and a traditional rifle salute and taps by the Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment 1226 Marine Corps League of Riverview.

Details are available by calling the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum at (813) 744-5502 or (813) 246-3170.

VA Opens Applications For Standardized Veteran ID Card

The veterans group AMVETS distributed this early prototype of the VA’s new veterans ID card in October. The VA has not released a final design, and it’s not clear if the Office Depot logo will appear on the final card.
AMVETS

It might seem a bit surprising – but there is no standardized Identification Card for veterans. Military retirees with 20 years or more service have their own ID card. And veterans who use VA health services have another. But there was no ID card for all veterans – until now.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-R) of Sarasota sponsored the 2015 law that created the Veterans Identification Card to make it easier to officially prove one’s military service. But after more than two years, the VA only just opened the application process this week.

“In my mind and my experience, I think it’s unacceptable that it’s taken two years to do this,” said Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee Veterans Council and a retired Air Force Retired command chief master sergeant.

Several years ago, Hunsinger saw the need for a standardized veteran ID card after watching a homeless vet pull out his tattered discharge form (DD-214) to prove he qualified for services.

“This sheet of paper cannot only become illegible over a period of time and damaged but also can be easily forged,” Hunsinger said.

So, he took the problem and some suggested solutions to his congressman, Buchanan. It took about a year to pass the law that was signed by President Obama in July 2015.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the VA announced it was officially accepting applications for the Veteran Identification Card. But according to the Military Times, the final design of the ID has not been decided and it could take up to two months before delivery.

Veterans can apply for the ID card online go to the bottom of the page and look for Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card.

The new standardized card, however, will not be accepted as proof for VA disability and medical benefits and there’s no guarantee that businesses will accept it as proof for veteran discounts.

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