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.

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Bay Pines VA Helping Military Sexual Trauma Survivors

Art therapy is one of the many recreational therapies offered to veterans at the Bay Pines VA military sexual trauma program for veterans.

The Department of Defense estimates 14,900 service members experienced some kind of sexual assault in 2016 – its most recent report. But because of the stigma – many wait decades before they get help – usually from the VA.

So it’s no surprise, the average age is 45 for women and 50 for men for veterans entering the Bay Pines VA Center for Sexual Trauma Services in St. Petersburg.

The delay seeking treatment is in part due to the increased level of power and control associated with military sexual trauma said Jessica Keith, a clinical psychologist and manager of the Bay Pines sexual trauma center.

“The perpetrators are often someone in the command line, someone with power. And power not only to ruin someone’s career, to impact their standing in the military,” Keith said. “We also have to remember these are people with weapons who are trained to use them. So, it can be terrifying when you’re sexually traumatized in the military.” Continue reading

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.

 

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.

2017 Tampa Bay Veterans Day Events

The James A. Haley VA Medical Center 2016 Veterans Day Parade.

You can find Veterans Day events celebrated in the nationwide at the Department of Veterans Affairs website. And you can find a listing of dates and times for the ceremonies at National Cemeteries for all the states here.

Listed below are special ceremonies throughout the Tampa Bay region, Florida and the nation that will recognize the sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently active-duty.

Friday, Nov. 10, 2017

PASCO COUNTY SCHOOLS – 9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – A 4th annual district wide Veterans Day Ceremony with patriotic songs, flag demonstrations and featuring Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corely will honor veterans and encourage students to participate in the Vote in Honor of a Veteran program. The event is at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge,11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. Supervisor of Elections Outreach Ambassadors also will conduct voter registration drives at all high schools once the Veterans Day Ceremony concludes.

TAMPA JAMES A. HALEY VA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The 10th Annual Veterans Day ceremony and parade will commemorate the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, which is celebrating 30 years. A brief ceremony is set at the Fisher House followed by the parade on the medical center grounds, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa.  Free and open to the public . More than 40 veteran and civic groups will march in the parade which includes several Gasparilla Krewes and a Santa Claus Drill Team. A performance by the University of South Florida Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity is planned before the parade.  And afterward, Operation Helping Hand and Lupton’s are sponsoring a cookout.

HILLSBOROUGH COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Dale Mabry Campus – noon – Those who have served will be commemorated during a ceremony scheduled at the campus flag pole in the courtyard.

242nd MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION – 2 p.m. – The Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment of the Marine Corps League invites all area Marines active, retired and former to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps at American Legion Post 148, 7240 US Highway 301, Riverview. The event begins at 2 p.m. with a reading of the 13th Commandant, General Lejeune’s, birthday message at 6 p.m., the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn and the cutting of the birthday cake.  Call 813-672-1778 for details.

NEW PORT RICHEY FREEDOM FEST – 5 p.m. – The two-day Freedom Fest kicks-off at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St., New Port Richey, with a dinner for invited Veterans and other dignitaries. There will be live entertainment, a kid’s zone, food and beer sales through a variety of vendors that will be open to the public.

Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017

FLORIDA STATE PARKS – Entry into all state parks is free to veterans and the general public as a tribute to Veterans Day. Here’s an interactive map to locate the state parks nearest you: https://www.floridastateparks.org/interactive-map

ST. PETERSBURG VETERANS AWARDS – 8 a.m. – Honored Veterans” is the theme for the fourth annual Veterans Day Celebration in Williams Park, corner of Fourth Street and First Avenue North, St. Petersburg.  Honored veterans for 2017 are Carrie W. Nero and Charles Claybaker. The event is free and open to the public.

OLD GLORY RELAY – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – You can watch the final leg of a journey of one flag that has traveled for 62 days and more than 4,600 miles. It’s the fourth iteration of Team Red, White & Blue’s cross-country run featuring hundreds of veterans from all branches and eras of service. In total, over 70 teams walked, ran and cycled carrying the American Flag from Seattle on September 11th to finish in Tampa on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th. That final Tampa leg starts in Citrus Park, moves south along County Road 576 eventually connecting to the Veterans Memorial Trail and down almost to MacDill AFB before turning onto Bayshore Boulevard, traveling north to downtown Tampa then east along Channelside Drive toward Brandon where the final destination is Westfield Brandon Mall for a retreat and celebration.

SARASOTA PARADE – 10 a.m. – The Sarasota Veterans’ Day Parade, with the theme “We Can Do It!” The phrase, made famous by the fictional icon Rosie the Riveter, represented the contributions of thousands of women both in the military and at home during World War II. This year’s parade and ceremony will honor those women. The parade opens at Main Street and Osprey Avenue and proceeds down Main to J. D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream. A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. after the parade ends.

CLEARWATER VETERANS DAY DEDICATION & CEREMONY – 10:30 a.m. – Hosted by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, the event features a tribute to Navy SEAL Danny Dietz and the dedication of State Road 60 as a Purple Heart Trail. The ceremony is at Crest Lake Park, 201 S. Glenwood Ave., Clearwater. Former Congressman David Jolly will host the event, which features speaker Cindy Dietz, a Gold Star Mother of Navy SEAL Danny Dietz, who died during a firefight in Afghanistan. Capt. Ward Sandlin, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos will also make remarks. The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to be a symbolic national network of roadways to commemorate and honor all men and women who were wounded or killed in combat while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The ceremony will also include a fly-over by the U.S. Coast Guard, entertainment and food.

AVON PARK VETERANS DAY PROGRAM – 11 a.m. – American Legion Post 69 is holding a Veterans Day ceremony to honor all those who have served in the United States Military. It’s a chance to learn about the history of Veterans Day. Post 69 is situated on almost five acres, 1301 W. Bell St., Avon Park, and sponsors the local police K-8 unit as well as the high school JROTC. Larry Roberts is service officer (850)718-7773.

BAY PINES VA CEREMONY – 11 AM – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System  will host its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the courtyard of buildings 2 and 37 on the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd, St. Petersburg.  The event is open to all veterans, their families and friends and the general public. Highlights include guest speaker U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Ret.) John Kirby, who now works as a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, local VA leaders and U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13). Musical performances by the Keswick Christian School Choir; a special parade of colors by local Veteran Service Organizations and the playing of taps. A shuttle service will be available to provide transportation from parking lots to the ceremony area.

BUSHNELL FLORIDA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 11 AM – A Veterans Day Ceremony is planned in the Assembly Area. Seating is limited, so you’re encouraged to bring chairs or blankets. Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL.

HILLSBOROUGH VETERANS MEMORIAL CEREMONY  – 11 a.m. – The 53rd Annual Veterans Day of Remembrance ceremony has the theme of “Honoring America’s Veterans,” and feature speakers Col. S. Troy Pananon, Vice Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base; Col. Jim Waurishuk, USAF, Retired; There will be a POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony, rifle salute, and taps. And JROTC students from several high schools will perform exhibition drills. The event at the Veterans Memorial Park and LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 N. U.S. Highway 301, Tampa. The tribue is free and open to the public. Visitors may bring lawn chairs, enjoy patriotic music, and stay for refreshments following the ceremony.

TEMPLE TERRACE VETERAN EVENT – 11 a.m. – The City of Temple Terrace will observe Veterans Day during the Temple Terrace Arts and Crafts Festival, hosted by the Temple Terrace Arts Council at Newly-Woodmont Park, 407 Woodmont Ave.

SARASOTA NATIONAL CEMETERY – 3 p.m. – A Veterans’ Day ceremony is planned at Patriot Plaza. The service honors the men and women who have served our country and are serving us today. There will be ample seating and parking. Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota.

VETERANS ART CENTER TAMPA BAY – Noon – 4 p.m. – “The Art of Remembrance”  is an event scheduled to honor veterans and first responders through art, music and community. The VACTB is located at 6798 Crosswinds Drive North, B106, St. Petersburg.

BOK TOWER VETERANS CONCERT – 1 & 3 p.m. – Two Veteran’s Day Carillon Concerts – a musical salute of gratitude by carillonneur Geert D’hollander – is open to the public. It’s free admission for military veterans and active-duty with a valid ID.

NEW PORT RICHEY PARADE & THROW DOWN  – 3 p.m. & 6 p.m. – It’s the first ever Veterans Day Parade for the city of New Port Richey that begins at Sims Park, Grand Blvd & Bank St.,  led by a fly-over of veteran aircraft.  Following the parade, the Veterans Alternative’s 3rd Annual Boxing Throw-Down will take place at 6 p.m. The Boxing Throw-Down is a separate, ticketed event, and tickets can be purchased through Veterans Alternative. Vendors, live music, entertainment, and family activities are also planned.

CARROLLWOOD VETERANS CONCERT & MOVIE – 4 p.m. – A Veteran’s Day Concert & Movie in the park, presented by the Carrollwood Village HOAs, starts with a free concert and is followed with festivities and the showing of the movie “Hollywood Canteen” at 6 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Rd., Tampa.

BRANDON OLD GLORY PARADE – 5:00-8:00 p.m. – A parade and celebration welcoming Team RWB is planned at the Westfield Brandon Mall, 459 Brandon Town Center Dr., Brandon. Highlights include live entertainment with special MC Roxanne Wilder, Q105 Radio, Military Exhibits, Health & Fitness Demonstrations. Family Crafts & Activities, Food & Beverage Sampling, Interactive Art Display & Photo Opportunities and giveaways.

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Sunday – Nov. 12, 2017

FLORIDA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ART  – 2 p.m. – “Florida and World War II” is the topic of this Veterans Day Weekend lecture by Gary Mormino, PhD. The FMoPA is located at 400 N. Ashley Drive, Cube 200, Tampa. There will be free admission to all veterans and their families as well as museum members on Saturday and Sunday. Non-members are asked to give a donation.

ST. PETERSBURG CONCERT HONORS VETERANS – 7 p.m. Una Voce, the Gay Men’s Chorus, honors veterans with a performance of the “Testament of Freedom” at the Palladium, 253 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg. Admission is free for veterans and those with military ID for Sunday.  Tickets are available at www.mypalladium.org.

 

Monday – Nov. 13, 2017

BAY PINES VETERANS TOWN HALL – 4-6 p.m. – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) and St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, will host a Veterans town hall meeting in the J.C. Cobb room located on the first floor of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center (building 100) located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines. VA leaders will provide updates. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

 

Free Offerings and Discounts for Veterans & Active-Duty Military

RESTAURANTS – From Applebee’s to Village Inn – Military.Com has a full, national listing of restaurants offering free meals or discounts to veterans and active-duty military on Nov. 11, 2017 Veterans Day. A list of Retail Deals and Discounts is available here.

ATTRACTIONS & MUSEUMS – Several museums and local attractions are offering free admission to military personnel from active-duty to retired veterans and discounts for additional guests and family.

 

World War I Veterans Remembered With Wreaths

American gunners battle through the Argonne Forest.
(NARA, 111-SC-95980)

I had an interview this morning at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA on a topic far removed from the United States’ entry into World War I.

But I couldn’t help but reflect on the 100th anniversary of the day the U.S. officially entered that global conflict in 1917. At the VA, I passed by the bus stop where two WWII veterans were waiting for a ride. They were easily identified by their ball caps declaring their veteran status.

I over heard one veteran say to the other, “Well they’re about to get back in it again over there, from what I hear.”

I can only speculate that the veteran was referring to Syria or somewhere else on the globe. But it reminded me that the subtitle to World War I was “The war to end all wars.” That’s a variation of an H.G. Wells’ article according to Mental Floss.com:

… the British futurist writer H.G. Wells wrote in an article titled “The War That Will End War,” published in The Daily News on August 14, 1914. Commonly cited as “the war to end all wars” or a similar variant, the phrase was quickly adopted as a slogan to explain British and later American participation in the war…

But no matter the war, there will always be veterans and casualties. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration is hosting wreath-laying ceremonies the week of April 6 to commemorate the 353,082 World War I Veterans interred in VA sites across the country. A list, by state, of the ceremonies planned at National Cemeteries is available here.

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war on the German Empire. When the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, more than 2 million Americans had served.

West Point Women Reflect On Marines’ Nude Photo Scandal


Laura Westley and Carol Barkalow are both West Point graduates and authors of memoires about their military experiences.
Bobbie O’Brien / WUSF Public Media

The recent scandal over Marines sharing nude photos of female Marines online hasn’t demoralized some women veterans. Two female West Point graduates from Florida refuse to let it overshadow recent gains women have made in the military. And they have some ideas on how to prevent similar incidents.

The United States Military Academy at West Point didn’t even accept women in their ranks until 1976. Carol Barkalow was in that first class. She graduated in 1980 and served 22 years in the Army.

Barkalow remembers how female cadets were hazed and harassed back then. But she said women have made progress since, even in light of the nude photos.

“There is some good news with this, even though what they did was horrible,” Barkalow said. “Now, we have the social media and the interest to try at last to get the military to understand that we are a vital part of this force. We are never going away and some very basic things have to change within our military.”

West Point has come a long way over the last 40 years, she said. It now has a female dean of students and female commandant.

“But what we have to have – we have to have women, general officers admirals in every rank in each of the services. So much so that, when you walk in a room, it’s not just one woman, it’s not just two women, it’s a number of women sitting at the table and have the ability to influence our future,” Barkalow said.

Barkalow, who lives in Pinellas County, is friends with 2001 West Point graduate Laura Westley, who grew up in New Port Richey. Continue reading

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