Stroy by Emily Longnecker
CARMEL, Ind., } WTHR - More than 40 years ago, the men who fought in the Vietnam War came home to a country where not everyone was happy to see them.
"When I came through the airports, they spit on me and called me all kinds of names and everything else," said Vietnam veteran Richard Leirer.
Years later, the country is saying thank-you to its Vietnam veterans with National Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
"I think it's good and it's long overdue," said veteran Ernest McClendon, who served in Vietnam in the United States Air Force from 1968-69.
Dozens of Vietnam veterans like McClendon gathered at the American Legion in Carmel where they received thanks and appreciation, decades after their service.
"For 40 years, we didn't get welcomed and they didn't say thank you or nothing, so it's great that we can do it now, it may have taken 40 years, but we are doing it now," Leirer added.
Among the guests, Medal of Honor Recipient and Vietnam veteran Sammy Davis.
"To make a day that is dedicated to the Vietnam veterans is excellent," said Davis.
Also, among the veterans were surviving members of a National Guard Unit from Indiana, who served together in Vietnam, D Company, Airborne Rangers, 151st Infantry.
"It's about time," said William "Pappy" Hayes, who was part of the unit.
The recognition of the more than seven million Vietnam veterans across the country comes at a time when the Library of Congress Veterans History Project is collecting and archiving the stories of Vietnam veterans across the country.
By Jennie Amias, Starfish Media Group
Garrett Combs, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan who lives with PTSD, produced and shot these 4 video shorts.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused by a vast array of traumatic events and can take many forms. The stories of the four individuals profiled here illustrate how PTSD’s symptoms and solutions are as varied as the people it affects.
For Roosevelt Ray, it was his experience as a young recruit at Fort Ord in 1971. Ray recounts escalating racial tensions during basic training. An accusation of attempted murder landed Ray in military prison for months. The charges were eventually dropped and Ray was discharged. Although he hadn’t deployed to combat the trauma was there.
Staff Sergeant Sabrina was sexually harassed by her CO during an overseas deployment. When she lodged a complaint she was separated from her unit while the investigation progressed. The military is built in part on the strong bonds between soldiers, and Sabrina felt shunned and betrayed by those she trusted the most, compounding the trauma she was already experiencing.
Robert Vessels always knew he wanted to join the Army, which he did the moment he graduated from high school. Vessels deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq at the height of combat operations. He came home filled with feelings of disillusionment, hopelessness and guilt. He isolated himself in his room, drinking, playing video games, emerging only for meals.
Columbian born Diego Camargo was living the American dream when 9/11 happened. He decided to do something, and after improving his English he joined the Marines in 2003. His career took him through 3 deployments to 5 countries and he came home with PTSD and a host of physical injuries. Camargo’s training was so ingrained that during his 8 years of service he didn’t feel any trauma. He was on automatic pilot, doing what needed to be done. It was only after re-entering civilian life that he noticed feelings of isolation and not belonging.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has many faces and the cure is not one-size-fits-all. Diego Camargo found solace in photography and the adoption of a rescue dog. Robert Vessels solved the isolation problem by packing up his belongings and moving in with an Army buddy. Once that was resolved he was able to go to school and embark on a career. Sabrina is undergoing therapy. She is still struggling, but knows what she needs to do to manage her PTSD. Roosevelt Ray found comfort in his church and community in the National Association of Black Veterans.
INDIANAPOLIS | Associated Press - People who have epilepsy could be treated with a marijuana-derived oil under a bill approved by the Indiana House.
The bill passed the chamber Tuesday on a 98-0 vote. The state Senate previously approved a similar measure.
The American Legion, Department of Indiana recently passed a resolution at their 2017 Mid-Winter Conference encouraging Indiana elected officials to change their stance on medical marijuana, calling for more research and a rescheduling of the drug.
Indiana's legislature has long resisted efforts to allow the use of medicine derived from marijuana, but that appears to have changed this year. Supporters say the bill's approval marks a significant shift after years of medical marijuana-related bills stalling.
The bill would allow the use of cannabidiol oil, which is commonly referred to as CBD. The measure is a far cry from legalizing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
The oil cannot get patients high, but it contains compounds that have been found to lessen the effects of some forms of epilepsy.
Hoosier Legionnaires speak out in support of medical marijuana research to treat PTSD, TBI and depression in veterans.
Story by Jeff Goldberg
BOONVILLE | 44 News WEVV – He has been saving lives for 25 years, the past ten with the St. Mary’s Warrick EMS, and on Saturday he was awarded for his service. David Fitzsimmons was named the St. Mary’s Warrick EMS Person of the Year.
The award was given to a man who has trained generations of paramedics, working closely with students at Ivy Tech where he is a adjunct professor.
The EMS Person of the Year is voted on by his peers and is awarded by the Boonville American Legion.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Wednesday is officially National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
A bill commemorating the day was signed into law by President Trump Tuesday evening.
Tonight I'm proud to sign S. 305, which encourages the display of the U.S. flag on National Vietnam War Veterans Day tomorrow, March 29th.
It encourages the display of American flags and also names March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
The bill was co-authored by Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly.
March 29 is the day the last U.S. soldiers were choppered out of Vietnam in 1973.
Photo Credit: Andrew Craft
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. | The Fayetteville Observer — A 92-year-old North Carolina man has finally received the Purple Heart he earned more than 70 years ago while fighting in Belgium during World War II.
Oscar Davis Jr. was a private assigned as a radio telephone operator when he was knocked down by a large piece of shrapnel during the Battle of the Bulge, according to a Fayetteville Observer report. The radio on Davis' back protected him, but the German artillery barrage knocked down a tree that fell on Davis, injuring his spine.
He was paralyzed from the waist down for three weeks and ultimately rejoined his unit in Germany.
Davis was told long ago that he would receive the honor, but the award paperwork was never signed.
Decades later, he smiled from ear to ear as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright leaned down to pin the Purple Heart to his jacket on Saturday.
"This has been some day," Davis said. "I couldn't believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the Lord."
Friends, family and more than two dozen soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, attended the ceremony.
Wright, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, presided over the event. Davis belonged to the same regiment.
The ceremony was the culmination of nearly two years of work by the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a Harnett County-based volunteer organization that has helped more than 100 veterans receive military awards owed to them.
John Elskamp, executive director of the foundation, said volunteers scoured an archive of war reports to find proof of Davis' injuries.
The Purple Heart was the latest medal the group recovered for Davis. In late 2015, the group helped the World War II veteran to receive the Bronze Star and other medals that were awarded to him in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
Capt. Andrew Hammack, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said Davis is "still one of us."
"He's just not currently reporting for duty," Hammack said.
Story by Kara Kenney
COLUMBUS, Ind., | RTV6 – A Vietnam War veteran is out $2,650 after falling victim to a government imposter scam making the rounds in central Indiana.
Charles Jorgensen, 72, received a phone call from the “Federal Grant Division” notifying him that he’d been selected for a grant.
It seemed plausible to Jorgensen because he had served in the Air Force and spends a lot of time at the VA receiving medical treatment.
So, to cover “processing fees,” he purchased iTunes gift cards and read the numbers to the caller.
“They make it sound good, but then they keep dragging it on and say ‘we need one more payment, we need one more payment,’” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen said his money never arrived.
Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney called the “Federal Grant Division” at (425) 245-5109, but once Kenney started asking questions, they hung up.
Jorgensen said he should have known better.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” said Jorgensen. “I should have realized at the beginning it was phony.”
Jorgensen filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission as well as the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
According to the Indiana Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau, government imposter scams are making the rounds and continue to claim more victims as the scammers pretend to be government agents.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to represent a government agency, just hang up.
“We encourage consumers who receive such calls to call the actual government agency the imposter claimed to represent if they have any questions, or are concerned they may really owe money,” said Corey Elliot, spokesperson for the Indiana Attorney General’s office. “No government agent nor office will ever call you over the phone demanding money.”
Consider it a red flag if someone asks you to wire money, or to go buy debit cards or gift cards.
“Hoosiers should be more cautious than ever before. Whether they are contacted by someone on the phone, confronted in person by someone trying to sell goods or services, or receiving communication via email - it is a good practice to never give any personal, sensitive or private information out to anyone,” said Elliot. “We encourage skepticism. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.”
You can file a complaint at IndianaConsumer.com or call (317) 232-6330 or (800) 382-5516.
Tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to spot this scam:
• The government communicates through the mail, not Facebook. Government agencies normally communicate through the mail, so be very cautious of any unsolicited social media posts, calls, text messages or emails you receive.
• Don't pay any money for a "free" government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a "free" government grant, it isn't really free. A real government agency won't ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded.
• Be wary of look-a-like government agencies. Just because the caller says he's from the "Federal Grants Administration" doesn't mean that he is... or that such an agency exists. When in doubt, do a quick online search.
• Pick up the phone. If you receive a suspicious call or email, call the local government agency to check its legitimacy. Look for the phone number on previous correspondence or the official government website. Don't call the number in the email.
• Don't trust your friends' tastes online. It might not actually be them "liking" or sharing these scam posts. Their account may have been hacked or impersonated.
Story by Deborah Laverty, NWI Times
VALPARAISO, Ind., | Northwest Indiana Times — Chief Petty Officer Arturo Revelo knows first hand the thrill of getting goody-filled care packages from back home while deployed abroad.
Revelo, who heads the Valparaiso-based Navy Recruiting District, Chicago, served in Iraq in 2007 and remembers distinctly the joy of receiving a care package while far from home.
"It means a lot because you feel isolated. It really does mean a lot for the community to show support for us," Revelo said.
Revelo, joined by about 25 U.S. Navy recruits, had the opportunity on Thursday to return that favor by filling and preparing for mailing 50 care packages that will be sent to U.S. Marines serving in Kuwait and other countries.
"The local recruiters try to embrace the community and this is the way we embrace the community," Revelo said of the assistance by him and fellow recruiters.
The filling of the care packages took place at the American Legion, Valparaiso Post 94 with the majority of the items and postage paid for by members there or through such public activities as weekly bingo, Sharon Wyatt said.
Wyatt, American Legion Auxiliary president, said this is the first year the legion has initiated a program called March Into Spring.
"We only began planning about three weeks ago. We kind of went crazy with it," Wyatt said, adding she got the idea from Maryann Maki, an auxiliary member, who approached legion members for assistance with postage to ship out care packages she was sending.
Maki, a Realtor with Century 21 Affiliated, said her company began sending care packages to deployed military a year ago. This year Century 21 Affiliated, which has several offices in the Midwest and Florida, will be sending 125 care packages."On Monday, all the boxes will be shipped out and all will hopefully arrive by Easter or right around Easter," Maki said.
Items in the care packages include toiletries, candy, gum, crackers, lip balm, peanuts and videos. Personal messages from the recruits and American Legion members were also enclosed in the care packages.
Navy Master at Arms 1 James Johnson, who wrote a message on a note tucked inside the care packages, said he remembers receiving a similar box while serving in the Middle East in 2014. His favorite items to receive included beef jerky and sunflower seeds.
"It's an extra boost to get things especially something you haven't had for awhile," Johnson said.
WASHINGTON | Military Times — The number of backlogged veterans benefits claims is rising again.
Veterans Affairs officials insist it’s only a temporary problem, due to an unexpected rise in the number of new cases that flooded into the system over the last few months. They’re confident the 30,000-case increase in the backlog since last fall will be brought back down again in coming weeks.
But to do that, they’re also instituting mandatory overtime for claims processors for the fourth year in a row, a practice that in the past has raised questions about whether VA officials have enough capacity to handle the ever-increasing number of benefits cases.
“It’s a tough decision, and it is just a stopgap measure,” said Willie Clark, deputy under secretary for the Veterans Benefits Administration. “We’ve tried for a more balanced approach in processing all claims, and that lead to an increase in the backlog.”
VA leaders have also asked for (and received) an exemption to the federal hiring freeze for disability claims examiners and other staff to address the issue.
The veterans claims backlog was a major focus of lawmakers and VA critics in the years before the 2014 wait times scandal, but has largely gone unnoticed in recent years as congressional focus shifted to the department’s accountability and health care challenges.
At the peak in early 2013, the number of backlogged claims — first-time benefits cases that took more than four months to process — topped 610,000 cases.
By October 2015, the backlog was down to around 70,000 cases, thanks to a combination of new hires, mandatory overtime and new digital processing of claims. At the time, VA officials said the 70,000-case plateau was likely the lowest they’d ever push the backlog without unnecessarily rushing some claims.
Story by Deonta Larkins
INDIANAPOLIS | The Statehouse File - Legislation to make it easier to identify the spouses of deceased veterans passed out of a House committee Wednesday by a unanimous vote.
Sen. Michael Crider, R- Greenfield, said that Senate Bill 382 would allow a surviving spouse of a veteran to request veteran status on his or her driver’s license or state identification cards.
File photo of an Indiana driver’s license. Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com
The current law only provides that the veteran may have that status on the driver’s license or other identification.
Jim Bauerly, of the Military/Veteran Coalition of Indiana, said his group helped draft the proposed legislation.
Bauerly said there are 469,210 veterans living in Indiana and fewer than 28 percent of veterans in Indiana receive benefits they are entitled to. On average, 38 percent of veterans across the country receive their benefits, which amounts to $2.8 billion annually, he added.
By providing surviving spouses with the ability to gain a veteran designation on their IDs, the state could identify more people eligible for benefits.
In addition, the bill would allow veterans to add the veteran status to their IDs when renewing their driver’s license. Currently, veterans have to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and file a special form in order to receive identification as a veteran.
William Henry of the American Legion, Department of Indiana, also testified in favor of the bill.
Henry said it’s a smart approach that will help organizations like his identify and notify veterans and their surviving spouses of benefits available to them.
Deonta Larkins is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
Together, we change lives for Veterans, their families and their communities.
Tell us Your Story