Chicago fundraiser ‘Ruck March’ supports veterans in need

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Veterans at the Ruck March

By , Fox 32

With Memorial Day around the corner, one Chicago veterans group is preparing for their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The daily average of veterans who die by suicide has dropped, but the pandemic put a huge dent in services.

The big event later this month aims to show veterans they are not alone.

The Chicago Veterans Ruck March is 17 miles and raises money for veterans in need — 17 miles representing how many veterans die each day from suicide.

“The Ruck March is basically bringing awareness and it’s also giving soldiers a therapeutic value that they can wear their lost soldiers picture, they can do it in their honor,” said Carlos Vega, Veteran Outreach and Events Coordinator. “And also bring awareness that PTSD is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”

For eight years, the organization Chicago Veterans has hosted 300 community events in 45 Chicagoland communities.

“This is all about keeping us together as a team. One team, one fight. We’re all fighting one mission. We’re all battling ourselves,” said Army veteran Armando Vega, Organizer of Veterans in Recovery.

Vega has been sober for more than eight years. Through Chicago Veterans, he launched the Veterans in Recovery program. Money from the fundraiser helps keep the program going.

“It’s all about paying it forward, helping others and ain’t nothing better than helping another brother or sister veteran,” Vega said.

Click here to read the full article on Fox 32.

PTSD nearly killed him, now USMC Vet uses it to help fellow warriors

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Cole Lyle with service dog Kaya

After serving in the Marines for six years, including a tour in Afghanistan, Cole Lyle returned home and suffered severe PTSD, social isolation, and difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.

In his own words, “Coming home really was just the lowest point in my life, and I was two pounds of trigger pull away from being one of the statistics – a veteran’s suicide statistic – if it had not been for another Marine that intervened.”

Determined to overcome his struggles, Cole requested a service dog from the VA to provide emotional support. However, after months of waiting, the VA denied his request. Cole then paid over $10,000 out of his own pocket to secure his famous service dog, Kaya, who has become his constant companion and best friend.

Now serving as the Executive Director of Mission Roll Call, Cole is dedicated to advocating on Capitol Hill for the 18 million veterans across the U.S. and to ending veteran suicide through holistic care, community integration, and greater access to quality healthcare.

Visit Mission Roll Call for more information.

Landing a job was no fluke

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Steven Culp headshot

By Camille Cates, DAV

Steven Culp turned 18 only nine days after 9/11. “I felt the call to serve immediately after that event,” said Culp.

He served six years in the Navy as an electronic warfare technician and a cryptologic technician.

After his enlistment, Culp enrolled in college and earned a degree in engineering. But his wartime service had changed him, and after seeking help from the VA, he was enrolled in their Veteran Readiness and Employment program.

That’s when he discovered DAV job fairs.

“At the job fair, there was just about every profession you could think of: engineering; software; technicians for electronics, mechanics or engines; law enforcement. There are opportunities for just about everything there,” said Culp. “With the skills that are built in the military, there is something for every veteran.”

Though he had interviewed with several companies, there was one in particular with whom Culp wanted to connect.

“I was first introduced to Fluke when I was on active duty in the Navy. I used their multimeters for all kinds of tests around the shop, making sure our gear was in spec and working correctly,” he said. “When I saw their logo at the job fair, I went over and spoke with them. Turns out the two gentlemen there recruiting were former Navy. They took a look at my resume and my experience and they said, ‘Can you start on Monday?’”

Culp accepted a position as a service engineer with Fluke Corp., a maker of industrial testing and diagnostic equipment.

“Steven’s story is an excellent example of securing meaningful employment through participation in a DAV job fair,” said DAV National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “Separating service members, veterans and their spouses should take the time to check out our employment resources at jobs.dav.org.”

“They can find everything from our full schedule of in-person and virtual job fairs to resources for entrepreneurs.”

DAV job fairs and employment resources provide veterans and their spouses with the prospect of an exciting career path.

“This opportunity means the world to me,” he said. “It’s truly a second chance. I’m eternally grateful to the VA and DAV for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

Read the article originally posted on dav.org.

VA to pay for all emergency mental health care

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Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.

Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.

“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:

-Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
-Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
-Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
-Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.

Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

-Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.

Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.

Source: VA.gov

Cheeriodicals: Team Building That Matters

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cheeriodicals team building group holding magazines

Cheeriodicals recently delivered  personalized cheer-up duffel bags containing patriotic and convenience items to VA Hospitals, which included our current issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine.

About Cheeriodicals
Cheeriodicals provides a one-of-a-kind corporate team building experience focused on corporate social responsibility. Our Team Building that Matters concept is a turnkey, meaningful celebration on a local and national level.

We flawlessly execute an impactful, user-friendly event to unite your team while ultimately making a difference for those who could use a dose of cheer.

For more information about Cheeriodicals visit, https://cheeriodicals.com/

The Power of Adaptive Sports

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U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston in wheelchair smiling with amputed leg and other leg in a cast

By Kellie Speed

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston never could have imagined he would lose his left leg here in the States after returning home from being deployed. While the accident certainly changed his life, his impressive outlook has him proving nothing is impossible.

“After I got back from deployment, we were moving into a new house when I was loading a mattress onto the truck and it fell off,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “Just as I was picking it back up, someone hit me. When I was hit, I thought the vehicle hit my funny bone which was why my leg was numb.

When they got me into the back of the ambulance, they gave me some meds for the pain. I was upset and hangry at the time because I had just ordered Domino’s. When I heard someone say, ‘left leg amputation,’ that’s when it hit me.”

Despite his injury, the U.S. Virgin Islands native has not only found many reasons to be grateful, but also push himself to incredible limits.

“As a Marine, we go from being active and physical specimens and being the best at everything to being reduced to having a caretaker,” Hairston said. “I had to fight to get back to my old self. When I was injured, I had another reason to be glad I joined the Marine Corps. I had a phone call with my Colonel at the time and I was sent to Walter Reed. They have the best adaptive program in the Department of Defense. When I was there, I told them I wanted to go to the Paralympics.”

Now holding the title of the first para-cyclist in Virgin Islands history and being the only hand cyclist in the Marine Corps to win at the 2022 Warrior Games was “the greatest feeling in my entire Marine Corps career,” he said. “Hearing guys in other branches saying ‘there’s a guy killing it in cycling’ or ‘watch out for that Marine’ was incredible. When I was injured, my physical and occupational therapists told me that even though I lost a leg, they kept reinforcing that I can still do what I did before; I just needed to figure out how to do it now. I was able to prove to myself that I can still be active and take a walk with my wife (a Marine helicopter pilot) or play with my dogs and being able to compete really helped me with my recovery.”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston para-cycling in formation with others

Hairston first competed in a four-mile race in Central Park. “It was the first time that I felt like myself,” he said. “As a Marine, we have to win everything, but I came in third place. That gave me the Paralympics bug. I have done a few marathons now in hand cycling and am getting ready to do three more.”

With two gold medals for cycling, a silver medal in archery and silver and bronze awards for track to his credit, Hairston’s continued determination to succeed has reinforced he is still the same specimen he was when he joined the military — just a little bit different now.

Hairston created a nonprofit called Salvage Life with the goal of inspiring others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a focus on veteran and disabled communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Knowing that people back home are disabled and not able to get the same support that I had here in the states was the reason I started the nonprofit,” he said. “As I continue in my recovery, I was able to host the first adaptive sports clinic in the Virgin Islands just before Warrior Games. I showed guys how to shoot archery and wanted to show people that you can make things work for someone with a disability. After my injury, I said if I can help just one person, it would be a success. I got to help eight people; that’s the best part of it.”

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) : Victories for Veterans

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DAV victories PSA

Give a Minute to Support Victories for Veterans. America’s veterans are on their most important tour—the tour of their lives. DAV, a leading nonprofit, is helping more than 1 million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

While serving in Vietnam, a grenade took Michael Naranjo’s eyesight. His fingers became his new way of seeing. Starting with a lump of clay, he learned to create objects of beauty with his hands. Today, he’s a successful sculptor. Each year, DAV helps more than a million veterans like Michael in life-changing ways — helping them to get the benefits they’ve earned.

Support more Victories for Veterans®. GO TO DAV.ORG

Veteran PTSD Recovery with the Invictus Foundation

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Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient. Psychological therapy for war veteran, PTSD

Veteran PTSD Recovery – The Invictus Foundation is [at] the forefront of efforts to help veterans, active-duty service members and their families suffering the terrible effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and an array of behavioral health issues stemming from their experience in the crucible of war. TBI, PTSD and behavioral health issues afflict hundreds of thousands of people who have selflessly served in defense of our nation,” states Peter Whalen, founder and CEO of the Invictus Foundation.

To address this urgent need, the Invictus Foundation plans to build a series of eight specially-designed regional treatment centers of excellence (COEs) with the naming convention Invictus Foundation Centers of Excellence for TBI & Behavioral Health. These nationwide Veteran PTSD Recovery centers will serve veterans, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety personnel and the community. They will receive the most advanced and proven care to address the complex symptoms of TBI, PTSD and an array of other behavioral health issues to return people to their activities of daily living within a new normal brought about by their experience in war and other psychological trauma.

Healing mind. Cropped shot of middle aged military man during therapy session with psychologist. Soldier suffering from depression, psychological trauma. PTSD conceptPatients at the centers will come from a diverse and inclusive subset of the community population they serve. These subsets will be rank-ordered preferentially, starting with veterans and their families, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety officers and community members. Patients will receive comprehensive, interdisciplinary and individually tailored evaluations and treatment during Veteran PTSD Recovery.

Each Invictus Center will incorporate a variety of specialties: neurology, neuropsychology, audiology, ophthalmology, speech pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, family therapy, plus art and music therapy. They will also have physiatrists, psychiatrists and psychologists and offer orthotics and prosthetics.

The first Invictus Foundation Center of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health will be constructed in the Seattle area, with its opening planned for the summer of 2025.

Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient“The philanthrocapitalism fundraising model often referred to as a social funding model, will be utilized for the capital construction campaign. It is a model used by the Bill Gates Foundation and Bill Ackman’s Pershing Foundation, to name but a few. Investors have a choice of investing for purely philanthropic reasons or an adjusted rate of return on investment, given their affinity for the vision and mission of the Invictus Centers for Veteran PTSD Recovery. The philanthrocapitalism model will be harnessed with a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) governance that will allow investors to realize gains through the real estate the Invictus Centers are built upon as well,” states Mr. Whalen.

The Invictus Foundation’s capital construction campaign efforts will be supported and overseen by the Vice-Chairs of the Invictus Foundation Board of Directors, Wayne Ross and Bryan Hoddle. Mr. Ross has an expert knowledge base in developing partnerships in the oil and gas industry. In contrast, Mr. Hoddle has a specialist knowledge base in consulting with military and veterans’ organizations on the treatment of injured soldiers and veterans with Veteran PTSD Recovery. He is often referred to as the Soldier’s Coach. For more information or a prospectus on the Invictus Foundation’s Centers of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health, please

email info@invictusfoundation.org.

 

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

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A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.

Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.

 

The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:

  • Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • North Carolina National Guard
  • Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
  • Camp Humphreys, South Korea

By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.

“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”

To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.

Source: Department of Defense

Man’s Best Friend Reduces PTSD Symptoms

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Man Hugging his service dog

According to a new review of evidence-based studies, military veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from reduced symptoms and enhanced trauma treatments when they partner with assistance dogs and help with their training.

Seven scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found a long-term reduction in symptoms.

Chris Diefenthaler standing with his PTSD service dog
Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence and boosting well-being, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.”

Eleven assistance dog programs across the U.S. including eight accredited by ADI — participated in the studies carried out by behavioral scientists, military psychologists, public health experts and social workers. Researchers reported that “veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but [they also] experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.”

One study found “a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms…participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life.” In another study, researchers working with veterans being treated for chronic severe combat trauma used eye-tracking technology to measure the psychological effect of training a young assistance dog. The more time veterans spent in close contact with the dog, the less time they spent looking at threatening imagery, and they paid more attention to “pleasant” images.

In four studies that utilized control groups, symptoms of the assistance dog participants were reduced more than those of the control group, and few improvements were found in the treatment-only comparison groups.

“The scientific evidence is conclusive,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of ADI member Warrior Canine Connection. “These seven scientific examinations provide the long-awaited evidence that assistance dogs are both popular and effective at reducing trauma symptoms and improving the quality of life for our veterans. They also indicate that partnering with an assistance dog can enhance the perception of standard trauma treatment. PTSD is projected to remain a chronic and debilitating condition for thousands of veterans. It is imperative that assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD be fully integrated into military and veteran trauma care.”

Source: Assistance Dogs International

‘A True Profile in Courage’

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Celebrity and former Army Ranger Noah Galloway poses for a portrait during the Tough Mudder's

By Kellie Speed

If ever there was a true profile in courage that is Noah Galloway’s story to tell.

While the U.S. Army veteran lost both his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee to an IED attack during Operation Iraqi Freedom, that hasn’t stopped him from pushing his own limits becoming a nationwide inspiration as a result.

Although his injuries certainly posed many unforeseen challenges and his life was forever changed, the Purple Heart recipient believes now he is mentally and physically stronger than ever.

“My mother always told me to join the military, but I never joined until I wanted to,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I told her if something happens, I chose this. I’ll never forget that conversation. When I got injured and I went through my depression that was the worst shape I had ever been in in my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself and that was a reflection of my whole life — I wasn’t being a good father; I wasn’t being a good husband or anything. It was my children who were the motivation for me to get back and start taking care of myself.

The first thing I did was change the way I was eating then I joined a 24-hour gym because I was embarrassed, and I think a lot of people can relate to that if they have never been into fitness. It’s hard to walk into a gym for the first time. I would go in at 2:00 in the morning because there were no books, magazines or anything on the internet that told you how to work out missing an arm and a leg. Actually, I would say that was a benefit because it motivated me, and I had to figure it out. I kind of fed off of that and I have met amputees from all over the world who told me they have seen my videos and pictures and that’s how they got into fitness. For me, that’s pure motivation to know that something I did inspired them, and it drives me to just keep wanting to do more and more. Getting back into shape was so critical with my recovery in accepting myself.”

In 2014, the Alabama native became the first amputee veteran to appear on the cover of Men’s Health. “When I was in the military, I used to say I wanted to be on the cover of Men’s Health because fitness has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old,” he said. After earning the magazine’s “Ultimate Guy” title, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and later became a finalist on Dancing With The Stars.

Noah Galloway Book Signing For
Noah Galloway attends his book signing for “Living With No Excuses” at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/FilmMagic)

“Once I went on Ellen, things just took off,” he told us. “As soon as that episode aired, I got phone calls from Survivor, which I was excited about, but I couldn’t do that because I have three kids who were young at the time, so I turned it down. When Dancing With The Stars called, I told them I had no dancing experience and had to stay in Alabama. They didn’t even hesitate. They said they would send a dancer to Birmingham where we would rehearse then they would fly me back and forth to LA for the live show. Then, I didn’t think I’d last long, but halfway through the season, I was still there. The fifth week, I did a dance to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” and I did a one-arm lift and I got a standing ovation from all of the judges and the studio audience; it was incredible. I had veterans start reaching out to me, and that changed everything. But I didn’t become a better dancer.”

On September 16, Galloway’s No Excuses Charitable Fund is hosting their second annual charity golf tournament at Timberline Golf Club in Calera, Ala. with proceeds this year benefitting Homes for Our Troops.

“I know there are people who are more inspirational, but people reach out to me and say they got into fitness because of me,” Galloway said. “To know that you have done something, even if it’s for one person to improve their life, is just so motivating.”

To check out his book, Living With No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of An American Soldier, visit noahgalloway.com.

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