50th Anniversary Of The Vietnam War Observances

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The National Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy: VA Blog

The National Vietnam War Veterans Day is March 29 with the 50th anniversary being observed this year. Hundreds of commemorative events are listed nationwide. Some Tampa Bay remembrances are listed below.

TAMPA – Green Beret and decorated Vietnam Veteran Bill “Hawk” Albracht tops the special plans for the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park ceremony remembering those who served in the war. The observance begins Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 10 a.m. at the park, 3602 Highway 301, Tampa, FL.

The presentations will include remembrances of Gold Medal Recipients, War Dogs and “The Last Patrol” presentation. Veterans and civilians are invited for a morning of reverence and camaraderie.

ST. PETERSBURG – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will observe National Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Day throughout the week of March 26 – 30, 2018,

Vietnam Veterans will have the opportunity to receive a special commemorative lapel pin at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, the Lee County Healthcare Center, and the Community Based Outpatient Clinics located in Bradenton, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Saint Petersburg, Sarasota and Sebring. Living U.S. Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location are eligible to receive one pin. Proof of service is not required. Former service members can simply identify as a Vietnam Veteran to receive a pin.

  • March 26 – 30, 2018 (All Week) | 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Pins will be available for pickup at the primary check-in desks at all CBOCs and at the main volunteer/welcome desk located on the first floor of the Lee County Healthcare Center.
  • Monday, March 26, 2018 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. VA and MyVA Community Engagement Board leaders will distribute pins at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center’s Lakeside Clinic (building 102), Veterans Canteen (building 1), primary entrances of the hospital building (building 100), and mental health center (building 111).
  • Thursday, March 29, 2018 | 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pins will be distributed at the Bay Pines Fisher House open house event. The house is located on the campus of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.

TAMPA – At a commemoration ceremony, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) will honor Vietnam War Veterans and hand out commemorative lapel pins Tuesday, March 27th at 10 a.m. at the Hillsborough Veterans Resource Center, 3602 Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL. Open to family and friends. If you plan to participate contact Dewayne L. Mallory at Dewayne.Mallory@mail.house.gov .

Patriot Plaza at night Steven Brooke - September

Patriot Plaza at night. Photo by Steven Brooke courtesy of The Patterson Foundation.

SARASOTA – Retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the featured speaker at a celebration of Vietnam Veterans set Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. at Patriot Plaza, Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL. Music will be provided by the First Brass of Sarasota along with contributions from Alpha Company Vietnam Brotherhood and Military Officers of America, Sarasota Chapter. Contact Ellwood Schiffman bandw@comcast.net for details.

 

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Transition Help Without The DoD PowerPoint Slides

Soldiers line up to check in for the CivilianJobs.com job fair sponsored by the Fort Campbell, Ky., Army Career and Alumni Program office. Hundreds of transitioning service members, veterans, and their family members took part in the event.

My thanks to Barrett Bogue, Student Veterans of America vice president of Public Relations and Digital Engagement, for passing along a new website focused on transitioning service members.

While the issues covered in Rebootcamp may sound similar to the TAP classes you sat through, don’t worry – there’s no “death by PowerPoint” here. The site includes edutainment videos, informative how-tos, custom tools, and inspirational stories about veterans.

Education, employment and entrepreneurship are the cornerstones of the new site, Rebootcamp, produced by the Military Times. The strength of the website; the many partners that contribute.

A huge chunk — maybe even a majority — of the information, advice and other content that you’ll see comes from more than a dozen partners, spanning veterans service organizations, government agencies and the private sector.

A few of the recommended articles:

Another resource to check out, Project Transition USA, a non-profit organization that shows service members how to use LinkedIn to help transitioning military find meaningful careers in the civilian world.

75 Employers At Military Spouses, Veterans Job Expo

PHOTO COURTESY: Visit Tampa Bay

In addition to the job opportunities – military spouses and veterans who register prior to the event will have a chance to win free tickets to the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Ottawa Senators hockey game.

The Hiring Our Heroes Expo is scheduled Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL.

However, doors open at 9 a.m. for those interested in the free, Career Connections employment workshop to help build your resume and translate military skills into civilian skills. There are additional resources for connecting with veteran-friendly employers, digital networking and job search techniques.

Expo sponsors, in addition to the Lightning, are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Lockheed Martin and USAA. Employers range from large, national companies to smaller, regional businesses.

Since 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has helped hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment through more than 1,100 job fairs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and on military installations overseas.

VA Faces Challenges Expanding Mental Health Care


Army veteran Phillip Faustman sifts through his belongings at a San Diego homeless shelter. Faustman says he attempted suicide three times in two and a half years.
Christopher Maue / KPBS

The following is a report from Steve Walsh, my colleague at the American Homefront Project, reporting on military life and veterans issues.

The Veterans Health Administration is planning to make mental health care more available to help reduce veteran suicide. But veterans advocates worry about the impact on the already strained VA health system.

A recent government study concluded that the majority of veterans who commit suicide are not enrolled in VA mental health care.

Phillip Faustman almost became a part of that statistic. Faustman, who is gay, joined the Army in 2012 after the end of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy, which barred gay and lesbian troops from serving openly in the military.

“I waited for the repeal, so I joined the Army to prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.

While in the military, he suffered sexual trauma that led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Discouraged, he left the military in 2015, he said.

“When I first got out, I was alone, and no one was really helping me,” he said. “So I had my suicide attempt.”

Periodically homeless, Faustman did not turn to the VA, in part because he found the enrollment process daunting.

That’s a common problem among new veterans, only forty percent of whom receive VA mental health coverage. Many are discouraged from seeking care because of a complicated process to determine their eligibility. Veterans may have to prove, for instance, that their mental health need is connected to their service.

Without treatment, Faustman attempted suicide three times in less than three years. Continue reading

18 Veterans Ready To Skate, Ski And Curl Their Way To Gold

USA Paralympian Jen Lee in goal. Photo courtesy: US Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics flame is extinguished – but that doesn’t end the quest of U.S. athletes for gold.

Opening Friday, March 9, at the same South Korean venue, Team USA will field 74 athletes to compete in the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

And one quarter, 18, of those athletes are veterans and active-duty military.

And, as a confessed hockey fan, I’m proud to say a third of veterans are playong on the USA sled hockey team:

Thanks to the work of Mike Molina, a VA public affairs specialist, and VAntage Point author Mei-Mei Chun-Moy, a VA intern, you can meet all 18 of the veterans on Team USA competing in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.

You can read their story in VAntage Point, the official blog of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And you also can follow the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games here.

Looking To Help Veterans Exposed To Open Burn Pits

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Sharing an update for veterans exposed to the burn pits while serving in Iraq. The  story on proposed congressional action is by my fellow journalist Howard Altman, Tampa Bay Times.

For years, tens of thousands of veterans suffering from their exposure to the burning of toxins in military trash pits across Afghanistan and Iraq sought official acknowledgement of a connection between the smoke and their health issues.

Their long march for recognition is gaining some traction.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the Tarpon Springs Republican, is developing legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to assume that certain diseases arise from burn pit exposure when it makes decisions on compensating veterans. The legislation mirrors connections formally established to the defoliant Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War.

Read Altman’s full update here.

Add your name to the VA Burn Pit Registry.

Learn more about proposed legislation, H.R. 1279,  that would establish a VA center of excellence in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.

Evidence Of Housing Discrimination Against Veterans

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Quil Lawrence, NPR Veterans Correspondent. Photo by David Gilkey/NPR

The following audio is a report by Quil Lawrence from National Public Radio.

It had long been suspected.

There was even anecdotal evidence.

But it wasn’t until the Washington state attorney general set up a “sting” that officials had proof that landlords were discriminating against veterans using federal housing vouchers.

The HUD vouchers were part of the Department of Veterans Affairs effort to end homelessness among veterans.

But because of the high cost of housing and the unwillingness of landlords to accept vouchers, Lawrence reports that homelessness increased last year.

You can listen to his NPR report here.

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