A ‘Welcome Home’ Event Celebrates Vietnam Veterans

By Patrick Groves  |  2016-04-18

The City of Rancho Cordova honored about 100 Vietnam veterans at the April 4th city council meeting. Photo courtesy City of Rancho Cordova

The war in Vietnam was a nightmare for most, but its memory brought together veterans in the Rancho Cordova City Hall where they finally received the “welcome home” not extended to them during the conflict.

The City of Rancho Cordova honored about 100 Vietnam veterans at the April 4th city council meeting. The city became partners of the United States Vietnam War Commemoration program launched in 2008 by an act of Congress. The Commemoration has honored Vietnam veterans since 2012 and will continue until Veterans Day 2025. The Commemoration and its partners honor veterans who served between 1955 to 1975, the timeframe of the Vietnam War.

“It brought back a lot of emotions and I had a hard time keeping it together up there,” said Jerry Hayes, a United States Air Force veteran who served between 1969 and 1973.

Hayes, 64, said public sentiment toward veterans has changed greatly since his tour of duty. While he remained stateside during his service, he had run-ins with people against the war. Once during a seven hour flight layover he considered changing out of his uniform into civilian clothes to prevent being targeted.

“I couldn’t believe how people were jeering at us as we got off the plane,” he said.

He said his favorite memories from the war were his down time, like watching the sunset from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Wash, while he was stationed at McCord Field Air Force base.

“The pressure cooker of the war was enough to drive anyone insane,” he said.

The city currently has a two year partnership with the Commemoration, from 2015 to 2017. The partnership entails two events per year must be dedicated to Vietnam War veterans, said Stacy Delaney, an Air Force veteran in the city manager’s office.

“When Vietnam veterans returned from the war — in California or elsewhere — I think they did not receive the recognition they deserved,” Delaney said. “What we were hoping for with this event is to say ‘welcome home.’ ”

A little more than 3,000 Vietnam veterans live in Rancho Cordova, according to U.S. Census estimates. In Sacramento County there are a total of about 90,000 veterans including those who served during Vietnam, according to CalVet.

City Councilman Robert McGarvey, a former Vietnam serviceman himself, presented each veteran with a lapel pin designed by the Commemoration. The pin features an eagle representing courage, honor and dedicated service and other recognizable symbols on the front and the message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” on the back.

“I think the generation who didn’t really honor veterans and called them ‘baby killers’ kind of grew up,” McGarvey said. “I think when we had the Gulf War in ’91 people started paying more attention to veterans.”

McGarvey said he makes a point to represent the needs of veterans living in Rancho Cordova through his position on the city council. He served in the Air Force between 1965 and 1967.

“It takes a while to get these things done, but it’s worth it,” he said.

Marilyn “Sue” Mellow, 70, was another Air Force veteran honored at the meeting. Mellow said the ceremony made her proud to be a member of the Rancho Cordova community, where she has lived for the past 30 years.

“I thought it was an extremely nice gesture,” she said. “I’m very proud of that pin and on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other special occasions I’ll be wearing it.”

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Rancho Cordova Recognizes Vietnam Veterans

Source: City of Rancho Cordova  |  2016-03-22

Did you serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from November 1, 1955 to May 15th, 1975? If your answer is yes, then the City of Rancho Cordova wants to hear from you!

The City will be recognizing veterans who served during the Vietnam War at the Rancho Cordova City Council Meeting on Monday, April 4th. Each Veteran will receive a special Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin from the Rancho Cordova City Council as part of The U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration, of which the City is a proud partner.

Nine million Americans served during the Vietnam War period and 7.2 million are still living. Due to its military history, Rancho Cordova wanted to be a part of honoring these veterans in our community.

“This recognition should have been done a long time ago,” said Council Member Robert J. McGarvey who is leading the effort. “We want to let Vietnam veterans and their families know that we appreciate their service and sacrifice to our nation.”

If you would like to be recognized or have questions, please contact Delisa Verdun in the City Manager’s Office at (916) 851-8809 by Friday, April 1st.

Community members are invited to the ceremony on Monday, April 4th at 5:30 p.m. at Rancho Cordova City Hall, 2729 Prospect Park Drive.

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Veterans Healing by Writing War Stories

Story and photos by Steve Liddick  |  2016-03-18

Veteran writing program Co-Director Indigo Moor works with Emtt Hawkins, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War, to express his feelings about his experiences.

A character in John Steinbeck’s classic novel “East of Eden” had suffered unimaginable pain and loss in his life. He was asked how he could live with those memories. He said, “I forget by remembering.”

That concept is being applied to a small Sacramento area group of veterans of America’s wars. A writing workshop doubles as a support group to help each to offset the trauma of battle by giving them a way to confront the demons they continue to carry with them.

Rancho Cordova Library Branch Supervisor Jill Stockinger coordinates the writing program that is funded by a four-year state and federal grant. She said veterans returning from war are an “underserved population,” and those who still suffer the effects of war can benefit by writing. Therapeutic, of course, but the hope is that it will be enjoyable, as well. “Self-expression is a positive experience,” she said. “We encourage veterans to express themselves to help them adjust to civilian life.”

Seated around a table in a quiet room in the library, five veterans gathered to write of their experiences among others who will understand what they have gone through.

Local writer, poet, and CSUS and Sacramento City College English professor Bob Stanley is co-director of the group in the first of what will be four Wednesday evening sessions at the library. The remaining three sessions are: March 30th, April 20th, and May 18th. Veterans of all branches and all eras are welcome, even if they were not able to attend the first session.

“The main focus of the group will be to get words down on paper,” Bob Stanley said. Any subject, any form. No rules or pressure came with the exercise. Each was encouraged to express what they feel and put it in words.

Co-Director Indigo Moor is a poet, screenwriter, and author as well as a U.S. Navy veteran of Desert Storm. Moor read from the published works of several war veterans who had poured out their feelings as free verse poetry. One of those works was a poignant retelling of the poet’s visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Judging from the reaction of those present, the words were resonating with them as well.

Another author wrote obscurely of things he heard, saw, and felt on a night patrol in Vietnam, but which each of the veterans present easily interpreted as a soldier waiting for the enemy to come at him from the darkness. Not knowing was as damaging to the psyche as combat itself.

At one point Moor asked those present to close their eyes and envision that “one moment that defines the [war] experience” for them. He urged the men to use the sights and sounds of their experiences in the writing exercise, “use the senses that keep us interested,” he said. Rather than a blow-by-blow account of what happened, he asked that they call upon their feelings and condense them onto paper.

Some who attended are still burdened by what happened to them in their war. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Daniel Gomez served four tours in Vietnam. Gomez was wounded twice and continues to suffer the health effects of the injuries, exposure to Agent Orange defoliant, and malaria. When asked why he was attending the workshop, he said, “To figure out why the hell I’m still here.” His war may have ended four decades ago, but it is still as fresh in his mind as yesterday.

The five men who attended the gathering represented different branches of the service: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, as well as different wars: Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

Carmichael resident Bob Pacholik is an author of some renown. He was a U.S. Army combat photographer in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. His book “Night Flares: Six Tales of the Vietnam War,” chronicles the war and honors the men and women who served in it.

Most of those present were there for the therapeutic value writing might offer. Some of the men said they hoped to continue to write beyond the program. Emmett Hawkins served in the U.S. Air Force in Korea. Among other subjects he is interested in religion and history.

For each of the veterans who took part in the Rancho Cordova writing workshop, the object was to reduce their experience down to its essence to help them to better understand what happened to them.

Poetry: a large idea, written small.

For additional information about the veterans writing project, check out www.saclibrary.org and click on “events.” Also, the library information line number is (916) 264-2920.

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Veterans Seek Alternative Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress

Brandpoint  |  2016-03-01

(BPT) - Most people can’t imagine being terrified by the sound of a fork falling and hitting the ground. They don’t understand how someone cannot sleep because the fear of recurring nightmares keeps them awake. They’ve never experienced anxiety that turns everyday tasks into impossible chores.

But for thousands of American veterans, these are just a few symptoms that can make their lives unbearable. And while millions are aware of the condition they suffer from - post-traumatic stress or PTS - few are able to grasp the severity of the condition, and medical science is a long way from understanding the neurological causes of PTS.

In the news, stories of PTS tend to focus on bureaucratic mishandling, ineffective medications that have severe side effects and the general tragedy of those who are afflicted. However, there is also a side of the story that has to do with hope, strength and love. While a single cure has not yet been discovered for PTS, there are many instances of veterans finding peace and a path to recovery through some non-conventional - and often controversial - means.

Equine therapy

The greatest challenge for many who suffer from PTS is to rebuild relationships with other people. Many have found that a powerful way to lessen the anger and hypersensitivity that often prevents them from enjoying normal relationships is through caring for horses. Grooming, feeding, cleaning the pen and riding the animals helps those who suffer from PTS to return to the trusting and nurturing emotions they learned to suppress due to the stress of combat.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese practice of pushing pins into specific points on a patient’s body has gained widespread acceptance for a variety of medical and psychological purposes. The idea behind the practice is to heal and restore balance between various systems of the body. Though there is no conclusive evidence that acupuncture can help in all situations, several studies and many veterans report long term benefits in recovering mental stability.

Bariatric oxygen treatment

This treatment involves a patient entering a pressurized oxygen chamber for about 90 minutes, during which time they can read, watch TV or even take a nap. The theory is by increasing the oxygen levels in the body’s tissues and red blood cells, it will speed the body's natural healing capabilities and repair neurological damage. Though the treatment is still experimental, many have claimed this treatment is a miracle, and several studies have confirmed its benefits. The Purple Heart Foundation has invested money to make this therapy more readily available to veterans.

Medical marijuana

Perhaps the most controversial therapy on the list, there is a fine line between PTS patients being treated with marijuana and abusing marijuana. Nonetheless, as veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, more tales of the benefits of medical marijuana began to emerge, leading many advocates in both state and federal governments to push for more research and availability.

Meditation

Meditation comes in many different forms, but the idea is the same: to create a quiet space in your mind through focusing on something as simple as your breath. Achieving the deep level of relaxation allows many veterans to begin to sort out their traumatic experiences. By no means is it a cure, but results from countless veterans and studies show meditation to be an important part of the healing process.

Because PTS is such a complicated condition that arises from experiences that are unique to each veteran, there may be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cure. What this means is that each person needs to be treated as an individual, and have a range of treatment options available.

The Purple Heart Foundation is dedicated to doing just that. Through investing in research for therapies such as bariatric oxygen treatment, as well as supporting state-of-the-art programs like the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Fort Hood, the organization is helping veterans live a full and rich life in the country they fought for.

To learn more about how your donation to the Purple Heart Foundation can help veterans with PTS, visit www.purpleheartfoundation.org.

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Entrepreneurs Find Opportunity After the Military in Key Cities

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-10

(BPT) - John Lentini carefully considered his career options after leaving the Navy. He decided to leverage the leadership skills fostered in the military by starting a business in Asheville, North Carolina, specializing in search-engine optimization.

“I had the infrastructure to do it, and there wasn’t a lot of competition,” says Lentini, owner of AshevilleSEO.org. “In Asheville, people like to support local things.”

Lentini’s example supports the findings in a recent list that named Asheville as the best place in the United States for veteran entrepreneurs.

Military transition experts with USAA and an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation called Hiring Our Heroes commissioned the list. They worked with researchers from Sperling’s BestPlaces and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University to come up with a list of 10 metro areas with a strong veteran-owned and small business environment.

They analyzed more than 400 metropolitan areas by criteria such as veteran-owned businesses per capita, small businesses per capita and overall economic stability. Cities in Florida and North Carolina dominated the list.

“This list identifies the top places for those veterans who want to use their discipline and determination to start and grow a small business,” says Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes.

Geographic location choices are very important for service members entering the civilian workforce, especially those wanting to start their own business, Eversole says.

That’s certainly the case for Brian McCarthy, CEO of Always Home, a real estate company specializing in concierge services for landlords and absentee homeowners. Always Home is based in Sarasota, Florida, which ranks No. 2 on the list of Best Places for Veteran Entrepreneurs.

“We have about 70,000 veterans in Sarasota County and surrounding areas, including 14,000 military officers,” says McCarthy, who served in the Navy. “It’s very veteran friendly with lots of activities for veterans. When you have that type of support, it makes it easy.”

This list provides a snapshot of places where starting a small business could make sense. For instance, it excludes areas with a median cost of living of more than 20 percent above the national average.

It also aligns with the post-separation help service members learn about through the military transition assistance program from the U.S. Department of Defense. USAA also offers the military separation assessment tool to help give veterans a starting point from which to plan their next steps.

Lentini, the Asheville business owner, gives simple advice whenever he meets with others transitioning away from military life.

“Use whatever resources you can get your hands on,” Lentini says. “And don’t be shy about telling customers you’re a veteran. It helps.”

The full entrepreneurship list includes:

  1. Asheville, North Carolina
  2. Sarasota, Florida
  3. West Palm Beach, Florida
  4. Staunton, Virginia
  5. Prescott, Arizona
  6. Wilmington, North Carolina
  7. Missoula, Montana
  8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Oklahoma City
  10. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
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Phase 1 of Veterans Village Scheduled for Completion

Story and photos by Margaret Snider  |  2016-02-09

Construction on Mather Veterans Village Phase 1 is now slated for April completion rather than February, due primarily to the addition of a gray water recapture system.  The water will be used to irrigate onsite landscaping.

Mather Veterans Village, located on the former Mather Air Force Base, has been in the works for at least ten years, and Phase 1 is now approaching fruition. Anyone driving by the Veterans Village, located only a block from the VA Hospital in Mather, can clearly see the L-shaped building that houses Phase 1’s 50 permanent housing units.

“If you haven’t had a chance to drop by and see the progress that’s been made, please do so,” said city council member and former Mayor Robert McGarvey, speaking at the Rancho Cordova Library recently.  “It’s really going forward, and we’re looking forward to getting this done.”

First scheduled for February, Phase 1’s completion date has been moved to April. “The reason it has been delayed a little is that we have added a gray water recapture system,” said Reed Flory, reinvestment and housing opportunities manager for the City of Rancho Cordova. “The water will be used to irrigate on-site landscaping.”

Rick Sprague, a regional vice president with Mercy Housing California, expects new residents to begin moving in between April 1 and April 15 of this year. “Once the project receives its Certificate of Occupancy, anticipated end of March/very early April, occupancy by residents will begin immediately.”

As for how the qualifying veterans will be located, Sprague said, that process is being coordinated and organized by Veterans Resource Centers of America.  Interested veterans may contact VRC directly at their office at 7270 East Southgate Dr., Sacramento, or call (916) 393-8387.

Phase 2, Flory said, will be scheduled once Phase 1 is complete. It is possible, however, that work on Phase 2 and possibly even Phase 3 could begin by the end of this year. Phase 2 includes 48 transitional beds to be located on the second floor of the old officers’ quarters, and Phase 3 will be the construction of 50 more permanent housing units in another L-shaped building similar to the unit now approaching completion.

The City of Rancho Cordova, in a related subject, is searching for a location for all of the veteran organizations to come together, someplace stable where files can be kept, phone calls received, and meetings held. “We don’t really have a headquarters,” McGarvey said. “Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and all the rest of them, there is no place really for them to go.”

In addition, McGarvey said that many cities have a plaque, a wall, or a monument that lists names of local veterans. Rancho Cordova does not currently have anything of that sort. “That’s something I’m going to be working on this coming year and ahead,” McGarvey said.

Mather Veterans Village, McGarvey said, is a joint project of the Veterans Administration, Sacramento County, the City of Rancho Cordova, Mercy Housing, and “three or four other veteran organizations who have been helping us with this and are all part of this thing.”

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Veterans: Are You Missing Out On Key Benefits?

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-14

(BPT) - There are currently 19.6 million veterans in the United States. These hard working men and women have access to a variety of programs and benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during active duty and retirement - yet many are not taking full advantage. Why?

One reason is that the VA system can be difficult to navigate. That’s where the Military Order of the Purple Heart National Service Officers can help. NSOs are accredited veteran representatives located at VA regional offices, medical centers or clinics, and military bases throughout the country. Guidance from these experts can make all the difference for veterans of all ages.

In 2014, National Service Officers helped over 19,000 veterans get over 300 million dollars in lifetime benefits from the VA.

“My job is to get them [veterans] the most compensation I possibly can within the guidelines, but I also want to take care of them,” says Sandra Ripe of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Program. “I always encourage them to go to the VA and get enrolled.”

Ripe says a main piece of her job is making veterans comfortable so they can start talking about their experiences. “We talk and figure out what’s going on. Often they don’t think of certain things or don’t realize issues they may be having are combat related, such as tinnitus,” she says.

While veterans can file claims on their own, Ripe doesn’t recommend it. NSOs are experts who not only have ongoing training in the legislation, regulations and precedents, they have relationships within the veteran community they can leverage.

“If I get a really tough case, I can go to appeals at the VA and ask how to put it in, and they will help me, because wording is very important,” Sandra says.

Her primary goal is to put the fully developed claim in correctly the first time with all the proper documentation and evidence to back it up. If submitted incorrectly and a claim has to go into the appeals system, it can take 2-3 years to be resolved opposed to the 4.5 month average a first-time claim takes to make its way through the system.

This complex and time-consuming process is why many veterans miss out on important benefits. The Military Order of the Purple Heart National Service Program, which is funded by the Purple Heart Foundation, assists all veterans who are trying to navigate programs and obtain benefits through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. In addition to health and wellness programs, these benefits include:

  • Compensation and pension
  • Veteran’s preference housing
  • Education
  • Employment services
  • Job training
  • Death and burial benefits

Another function of the program is the National Appeals Office in Washington D.C., where expert professional representation is provided to veterans whose claims have been denied at the regional office. This program is one of the few Veteran Service Organizations eligible to take selected cases to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

This Veterans Day, celebrate the service men and women in your life by ensuring they are getting the benefits they deserve. NSOs are available to be advisors and confidants to veterans who struggle to speak openly to friends and family about their time in the service as well as current struggles. They help veterans get the care they need and the benefits they deserve.

Consider making a tax-deductible, nonprofit donation to the Purple Heart Foundation to help support this important program. Visit www.purpleheartfoundation.org to find out how easy it is to help.

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