70th Anniversary of D-Day: A Tribute

Dday

The overcast sky was an appropriate omen to the reality of that summer day. The humming of planes resonated loudly. Even if the men could hear one other talking, no one spoke a word. There was a certain understanding of what they would soon face, and their likely last moments would be spent in self-reflection. Though internally overwrought with fear, acceptance of their likely fates and recognition of this just cause gave them some sense of serenity.

The droning engines were soon peppered with loud, intermittent booms. A passive thunder on such an overcast day seemed unsurprising. Through the gray fog, a faint glimpse of the rocky inlays of the shore could be seen, the beach shielded from vision by the tall bulkhead of the boat they occupied.

The booms grew louder and louder. The closer to the shore they came, the harder their hearts pounded. The firing of guns and explosions of bombs paled in comparison to that metronomic thumping in their chests. The distinct smell of gunpowder filled the air, further fueling their inner angst with adrenaline. Water continued to splash inside what felt like a metal coffin. They couldn’t see the channel’s open water next to them, but felt every percussive shock from the shells exploding around them.

And for a brief, fleeting moment, a final calm came over them. Looking up into the gray sky, thousands upon thousands of white parachutes danced in the wind, inching closer to the water and what awaited them on the beach.

The boat came to a sudden halt. The metal doors swung open and in that moment, they stared their own mortality in the face, and defied every basic instinct of self-preservation for the sake of preserving good in the world. Bullets humming by their ears, brothers in arms dropping into the bloodstained water, shells exploding all around, the rocky hills in front of them seemed miles away.

And today, we are grateful.

June 6, 1944 was a defining day in the history of the United States and the entire world. In the face of danger, uncertainty, fear and doubt, nearly 160,000 Allied servicemen stormed the beaches of Normandy to face the German Army head on. They stood in defense of our nation and made sure that good would prevail.

On the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, please recognize what bravery really looks like. It is seen on the aging faces of the Greatest Generation. They are the ones who, against all odds, refused to let evil win, and were willing to give their lives for that cause.

To our World War II veterans, your sacrifices will not be forgotten, and the debt of gratitude owed to you by every American might be impossible to repay.

To our Greatest Generation, we say thank you.

 

Military Appreciation Month – Roy E.

May is Military Appreciation Month, and DVNF encourages everyone to reflect on how important the men and women who have served have been to our safety and freedom. And thanks to your support, we have been able to help so many veterans overcome challenges they often face after leaving the military.

This month, as part of how much we appreciate your commitment to helping veterans, we want to send the actual words of veterans whose lives you have impacted!

Roy E. – 70% Disabled U.S. Army Veteran

RoyE

“The Disabled Veterans National Foundation truly cares about the military veterans. This was very evident from the first contact I had with this organization. The person that assisted me with my case was Mary Moore. I felt like this organization really cared because Mary personally reached out to me spent the time and fully explained the process and everything that should be done clearly.

“Also appreciated was the service each time I called in, was able to get Ms. Moore on the phone, or got a quick response. I am very grateful for this organization and the help they were able to provide with my rent. I was going through a financial hardship due to hospital visits and this organization helped me when other organizations did not so I am very grateful for this. This organization really went above and beyond to provide great customer service and assistance and I thank them for their support.”

In honor of Military Appreciation Month, we encourage you to take part in our effort to help more veterans just like Roy!

DVNF: Veterans’ Mental Health the Most Pressing National Security Issue No One Talks About

Written by: Doug Walker

Our post-9/11 world is a frightening one. An attack of that magnitude has created an uneasy feeling among most Americans.

Fear of the unknown has a tendency to do that.

Today, national security seems to be overshadowing domestic policies. The uprisings in Syria and the Ukraine continue to strain international relations. A war in Afghanistan is winding down, and terrorist hotbeds are still thriving in the Middle East and North Africa. But, there is one domestic issue that remains a major concern that nobody is talking about. And it directly affects our future foreign policy.

It is truly disturbing that the mental health among our veterans is taking a back seat to the partisan politics that garner all the headlines. And mental health among veterans is the most critical issue that is going to affect how we operate as a nation.

A mass murder by a mentally disturbed person always sparks a gun control debate and renews partisan footholds that have crippled our nation’s ability to operate on a practical—or even functional—level. Politics aside, these tragic occasions do remind people that mental health is a major topic of discussion, as it should be.

And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, where is that fervor and outrage at the end of each day when 22 of our men and women who served in the military take their own lives? Why aren’t we discussing that?

When broken down, that is close to one veteran taking his or her life per hour.  That scares me, and should be just as alarming to you.

And many will say, “Well, these individuals voluntarily enlist, knowing that going to combat and PTSD are possible outcomes.” That sounds like a convenient explanation, but the reality is more nebulous.

A recent, massive study conducted by the Army tells a different story. The $65 million study of close to a million soldiers was eye opening. From 2004-2009 the suicide rate of deployed troops nearly doubled.

While that statistic is already unsettling, it’s the suicide rate among non-deployed service members that is the most shocking. During that time period, the suicide rate among non-deployed troops almost tripled.

Suicide infographic

Sure, we can blame the suicide rate of combat troops on post-traumatic stress. But how do we explain the surge in suicides among those who weren’t deployed?

One explanation could be that one in four soldiers has reported some form of psychiatric disorder. Another could be that around one in ten have multiple psychiatric disorders.

In fact, the study revealed that many service members already show predictors of suicidal behavior before they enlist. Conditions such as intermittent explosive disorder are good indicators of potential difficulty. The report also explained that military service has some unique stressors that can trigger mental illness.

Around a third of troops who attempted suicide did so as a result of a mental illness that developed prior to enlistment.

These findings indicate that the US Military and the Department of Veterans Affairs need to do a better job of getting treatment to those with mental illness. The military in particular needs to screen its recruits more closely before admission.

However, Americans shouldn’t just point the finger at these two entities. Some at-risk enlistees will slip through the cracks. And it is harder to get treatment to veterans who won’t acknowledge any type of mental ailment or seek help if they do recognize that something is wrong.

So, why do I say that this is a matter of a national security? Well, if some of our bravest young people are committing suicide at a higher rate than the average American, that is a nightmare scenario. This should concern our leaders to no end, because, as the study explains, mental illness is the leading cause of death among our men and women of the military.

Major depression is five times higher in soldiers as civilians. And according to an author of the study, Dr. Ronald Kessler, the suicide rate of deployed women is 300% higher than women who are not deployed.

Charles Figley, a Tulane University trauma psychologist, added that the Army is asking more of its soldiers today than in the past. He argued that this boosts the need to meet that increased demand and the need to offer more to help these men and women.

Many have stated that families of these service members don’t know what to look for when assessing the mental stability of their loved one. I would say that could be good place to start in addressing this crisis.

This report should be all over the headlines, especially since it isn’t just the active duty troops that are suffering from mental illness. And for those who are undergoing some type of psychiatric illness, it doesn’t just go away once they leave the military.

DVNF is committed to doing more to help veterans who suffer from a mental condition. We want all service members to know that no matter how tough you are, seek help when you need it!

22 veterans are killing themselves every day, and for some despicable reason, that isn’t even a blip on the radar of most people. Let’s shift the conversation, and get something done! We don’t want to have to live in a future absent of the heroes who have laid it all on the line for us.

Doug Walker is the Communications Director for the Disabled Veterans National Foundation. Contact Doug at communications@dvnf.org

Source Articles:

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/inside-story/Insiders/2014/3/4/how-can-the-us-militarycombatmentalillness.html

http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/03/militarys-suicide-rate-much-more-complicated-combat-stress/358796/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/03/suicide-army-rate-soldiers-institute-health/5983545/

http://guardianlv.com/2014/03/suicide-risk-shows-before-military-service/

An Inspirational Visit to a New England Veterans Shelter

Last week, the staff of Disabled Veterans National Foundation had the opportunity to go to Boston and visit the New England Center for Homeless Veterans (NECHV). As long time partners, DVNF and NECHV have teamed up to help hundreds of veterans in need in the New England area.

DVNF recently supplied the shelter with many items such as clothing, snack food, soap, lotion and many other needed items. These items are crucial to the wellbeing of these veterans, as well as to the success of the center.

NECHV is a wonderful organization that helps homeless veterans get back on their feet. Many of these veterans have endured difficult post-military lives coping with poverty, family issues, mental health problems and substance abuse. Among the veterans we visited, a few were eager to talk with DVNF.

Grady (left) continues to help fellow veterans in need.

Grady (left) continues to help fellow veterans in need.

Grady, an Army veteran and former resident of the shelter, is now an employee, giving back to the veterans that he can empathize with.  A big part of Grady’s job is to make sure that the veterans at the center fully utilize the clothing store*, which DVNF has helped to keep stocked over the years.

(*It should be noted that the “clothing store” is what NECHV calls their supply of items that are given to the veterans at the shelter.)

“When veterans walk into the store, they are always grateful for the items that DVNF has been able to send,” Grady told us. “Without these items, many of them would not have clothes to wear. No veteran should be left behind.”

Grady also said that he believes every veteran should have a place to rest his head at night and is thankful that he has the opportunity to show veterans that there is a safe place for them.

Another veteran we spoke with was Jamie. Jamie is an honorably discharged U.S Navy Veteran who is currently a resident at NECHV. Throughout the last couple of years he has overcome many obstacles such as two surgeries, a divorce and alcohol addiction. When asked about his time at the center, he replied, “The center has created a sparkle in my heart. When I came in, I knew something special was here.”

DVNF program coordinator, Ashley poses for a picture with Jamie (right).

DVNF program coordinator, Ashley poses for a picture with Jamie (right).

During his stay at the center, Jamie has created a job for himself. He works in the shelter’s clothing store and sorts the items that are delivered. When he is in the clothing store, he said that he gets to see the expressions on other veterans’ faces, and that they are so thankful for the items DVNF sent.  Not only was he appreciative of the items DVNF was able to send, but was also happy we were able to come to the center and speak with everyone.

One of the last veterans we spoke with was Richard. Richard is an honorably discharged Vietnam veteran and is a current resident at the Center. After serving in the Vietnam War Richard mentioned that he provided services to help other veterans, such as working with local offices.

Ashley talks with Richard (right), a Vietnam Veteran.

Ashley talks with Richard (right), a Vietnam Veteran.

Richard also expressed his gratitude for the items that DVNF has been able to send. He told us that when he shops at the Center’s store, everyone is so excited about the items and it gives veterans a boost of self-esteem.

These are just a few of the great people we were able to speak with at NECHV. Understandably, there were many more veterans who were not as comfortable with us telling their stories as Grady, Jamie and Richard. These individuals have led difficult lives. It  is hard to really understand unless you have experienced it.

When you meet veterans like Grady, everyone should take comfort in knowing that this individual–once a soldier, turned homeless–was able to overcome the greatest of odds. He could have left the shelter and moved on with his life, but instead, he chose to make a living serving the people whose difficulties he understands.

Though DVNF is always committed to serving veterans, opportunities like these, to spend time in a veteran’s world and hear of his triumphs and tragedies, are truly humbling experiences.

This is a great example that shows how your support can be paid forward exponentially!

SSG Ty Carter: Medal of Honor Recipient, True American Hero

SSG Carter receives the Medal of Honor from President Obama.

SSG Carter receives the Medal of Honor from President Obama.

October 3, 2009: a day that will forever stand out in the mind of one brave soldier. More than 300 Taliban swarmed upon 53 U.S. Army troops. Among them was Staff Sgt. Ty Carter.

The sounds of gunshots filled the air, and chaos surrounded the 53 soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating in a dangerous valley of eastern Afghanistan. Carter then saw one of his fellow soldiers hit. Unarmed and unflinching, Carter bounded into action, sprinting across to rescue his downed comrade. He carried his wounded friend over his shoulder to safety through a hail of gunfire.

The shots were raining down upon them from the high mountains that surrounded them. Machine guns, snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar rounds pummeled the outnumbered Army unit. Carter outran the bedlam of shots coming for him so that he could resupply the men he was fighting next to, knowing how crucial this would be to protect them from the Taliban onslaught.

Carter and another soldier made a last stand in a battered armored vehicle, firing back at the enemy, killing those attempting to breach the outpost walls.

All told, that October day ended with 8 American soldiers dead, and another 25 wounded. His unrelenting bravery in the face of certain tragedy earned Staff Sergeant Carter the Medal of Honor. His next fight came in the form of PTSD.

DVNF program staff take a moment to witness the Medal of Honor ceremony.

DVNF program staff take a moment to witness the Medal of Honor ceremony.

The soldier that Carter helped to save ultimately died from the wounds he suffered that day. Another man he fought alongside passed away nearly a year later from a fatal drug overdose. Carter was clearly not the only one who was devastated from the traumatic scenes from that day.

“Let me say it as clearly as I can to any of our troops and veterans who are struggling,” said President Obama during the Medal of Honor ceremony. “Look at this man, look at this soldier, look at this warrior. He is as tough as they come and if he can find the courage and strength to not only seek help, but also speak about it … than so can you.”

Carter sought treatment, and acknowledged that PTSD is not an easy fight, but also recognizes that it is also does not have to be a sentence of misery.

DVNF commends Staff Sergeant Ty Carter: not only for his gallantry and undaunted courage in the face of overwhelming odds, but also for his steadfast commitment to lend a needed voice to fellow servicemen suffering from PTSD. Carter’s bravery and selfless sacrifice perpetuate the American spirit in all of us.

Veteran Stories- Bruce

Bruce N.

Bruce

Life after military service is often a strenuous transition, especially when entering the workforce. Bruce, a combat veteran of the Army, made the transition effectively during a strong economic bubble, but when that bubble burst, things began to sour. He lost his job and entered a new combat zone –finding employment.

“I had an interview with a bank. I thought the interview went well and since I was referred by an employee that I used to work with, I thought I had a good possibility of getting the job,” said Bruce.

Unfortunately, that interview coincided with Standard & Poor’s downgrading the U.S. credit rating, which resulted in a hiring freeze. Bruce was now faced with a financial crisis of his own, and that’s when he turned to DVNF.

“Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude to everyone at the Disabled Veterans National Foundation. When I opened your letter that said you had granted my request for assistance –I was moved to tears…I’ve got to tell you, it takes a lot to touch a combat Vet right in the heart like that!”

DVNF provided Bruce with a grant to help him make a mortgage payment until he was able to find a roommate to help negate the costs.

Veteran Stories – James M.

James M.

James was single father and a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served 8 honorable years. He was a reliable and hard-working employee who had worked with the same construction company for 20 years.

However, James’s job security was in jeopardy when new management bought out his company. Due to his stellar track record, he was allowed to stay with the new company, but drastic changes took effect soon after, and he found himself unemployed—with 4 kids and bills to pay.

“I was surprised at how hard it was to find a job after that. I struggled to pay the bills, and even tried to offer my services as a handyman wherever I could find work,” James said.

James began working part-time as a handyman wherever he could find work, just to try and make ends meet. He finally found a full-time job with a new company, but it was going to take about a month before the company’s new contract was finalized. In the meantime, he was 2 months behind on his rent and desperately needed help.

DVNF helped him with his rent, and he is now back on his feet.

“Being a single parent in this economy is a hard situation to deal with, but I remain positive. Words cannot express how grateful I am to DVNF for this help. I’d like to say thank you, from me and my family. We sincerely appreciate all your help.”

This is just one story of the work DVNF has been doing to help our veterans. This Memorial Day, remember James’s story, and help DVNF continue its mission to serve.