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.

 

New Video: Wounded Warriors Appreciate Your Support!

DVNF recently attended the Marine Corps Trials in San Diego so we could support the wounded warrior athletes competing at the event.

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DVNF CEO, Joe VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret.) poses for a photo with a wounded warrior.

We went to the event as an outreach opportunity to interact with these wounded veterans and to let them know about our programs and services and that we have a supportive base of donors who appreciate all of their sacrifices!

DVNF provided the wounded warrior participants with care kits, towels, bedding materials and water. But that wasn’t all! We also gave $10,000 worth of Visa gift cards to express our sincere appreciation for the inspiration they provide to so many, and to also help out with any expenses during the Trials.

They seem to have appreciated this outpouring of support, and thanked both DVNF and our donors for backing their efforts in the Marine Corps Trials in this video:

Thanks to all who have contributed to DVNF and the veterans we serve! This event was so incredible that we plan to attend the Warrior Games this September in Colorado Springs. Donate today and help us to continue support these heroes!

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/

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Women Vets

This March, DVNF is celebrating Women’s History Month. Their service was overlooked for decades, but they have been an integral force in our military’s operations.

We cannot thank them enough for all they have done, and want them to know how truly important they are, and have always been, to the functioning of the U.S. Military.

So, here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about women veterans!

womenfacts

DVNF Welcomes GySgt Guillermo Tejada to Board of Directors

Please join me in welcoming Gunnery Sergeant Guillermo “TJ” Tejada to the DVNF Board of Directors!

GySgt Tejada has been a Marine since 1998. He served a tour in Iraq in 2003, and was later deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. On Veterans Day, 2010, TJ lost both of his legs in an IED explosion. Today, he continues his treatment in the Wounded Warrior Detachment in San Antonio, TX.

He will bring a fresh perspective to the direction of DVNF, and will help us better address the needs of veterans we help. We are thrilled to have him aboard and are grateful for his tremendous sacrifices for our country!

Welcome, Gunny!

Joseph VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret)
CEO
DVNF

Biography, GySgt Guillermo Tejada

GySgt Tejada (left) with SgtMaj VanFonda

GySgt Tejada (left) with SgtMaj VanFonda

GySgt Tejada is currently assigned to the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment Detachment at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.

GySgt Tejada was born in El Salvador on 20 April 1980.   At age four he came to the United States and completed grade school in Los Angeles, CA.  At fifteen years of age his family moved to North Hollywood, California were he graduated from Jack London High School in June of 1998.  After graduation GySgt Tejada enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.   He attended MCRD training in March of 1999.  After graduation he reported to the School of Infantry where he began his MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) training as a Basic Rifleman.

Following Basic School and the Infantry Course, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion 5th Marines. In August of 2000 his unit was deployed to the state of Idaho to assist in Operation Wildfire.  The Marines of 3/5 assisted in fighting the wildfires that were burning out of control near the city of Salmon Challis. In January of 2002 his unit once again deployed to Okinawa, Japan on the 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). In January of 2003 he deployed to Kuwait to await orders in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). On March 19th his unit crossed the Iraqi border where they engaged in combat operations. He returned from Iraq on 22 July 2003.  In March of 2004 he successfully completed Sergeants Course at the Marine Corps University in Camp Pendleton, California.

In February 2005 GySgt Tejada was selected for recruiting school.  He attended Recruiting School West in April of 2005.  Upon graduation he reported to Recruiting Station Phoenix where he served a successful 3 year tour as canvassing recruiter in West Phoenix.

In April of 2008 GySgt Tejada was reassigned to 3/5 where he served as Platoon Sergeant for 1st platoon of India Company. In August 2008 he attended Infantry Unit Leaders Course formerly known as Platoon Sergeants Course.  In January of 2009 GySgt Tejada deployed with 3/5 to Okinawa Japan to again be part of the 31st MEU. He returned from Japan in August of 2009. Once back 3/5 began training for a deployment to Afghanistan.

In September of 2010 GySgt Tejada deployed to Afghanistan in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit’s area of operation was the city of Sangin Valley in the Helmand Province where Taliban fighters and sympathizers were rampant. GySgt Tejada’s platoon was assigned to work both southern and northern green zones; the southern area was known to have a large amount of IEDs and heavily populated with Taliban fighters.

On 11 November 2010 GySgt Tejada was on a recon patrol in the southern green zone in order to find possible landing zones to extract any casualties sustained in that area. Once GySgt Tejada had identified the possible landing zone the patrol began to head back to the Forward Operating Base. While returning back to base GySgt Tejada was seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device.

He sustained very serious injuries to include loss of both legs, grade 3 concussion, ruptured eardrum, major trauma below the waist area, and injuries to his left arm and hand. The Corpsman on sight applied tourniquets to both legs, and the Marines immediately began evacuating him to the possible Landing Zone.  GySgt Tejada’s patrol came under heavy enemy fire preventing an Air extract. The Marines returned fire and began calling for fire and air support. After a brief moment the patrol was then reinforced by the reactionary force that quickly made its way to Marines under fire. The tenacity of the Marines of 1st platoon eventually destroyed and repelled the enemy allowing the Marines to conduct a foot evacuation back to the Forward Operating Base 1 kilometer away. Even though the evacuation took more than an hour, GySgt Tejada critically wounded stayed conscious and kept fighting for his life. He finally lost consciousness as he was being flown to the surgical unit in Afghanistan.

GySgt Tejada was stabilized at the surgical unit in Afghanistan and then flown to Landstuhl, Germany where he received critical care. On 16 November 2010 he was transferred to Bethesda Medical Center where he underwent multiple surgeries. After recovering from his surgeries, GySgt Tejada was transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego California where he continued rehabilitation. GySgt Tejada is currently part of the San Antonio Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Detachment and continues to get his care at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

GySgt Tejada Decorations and Awards include:

Combat Action Ribbon (2)
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Meritorious Mast
Navy Unit Commendation (3)
Bronze Star Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (4)
Presidential Unit Citation-Navy
Certificate of Commendation (2)
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (3)
National Defense Service MedalNavy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Purple Heart
Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon

GySgt Tejeda is married to Veronica; they have 4 children. Desiree the oldest is16 years old; Guillermo Jr. is 10 years old; Aracely is 6 years old; and their niece Marisol is 16 years old.

DVNF CEO Discusses Various Forms of Compensation

DVNF CEO Joe VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret) reaches out to our returning veterans of OEF/OIF/OND:

“Coming home can be exciting, but also difficult for many service members. As I began my transition from the military I realized I didn’t have all the answers, however I knew where to look! Not knowing isn’t the problem our American veterans face, it’s not asking the questions needed for a seamless transition into veteran status. This is what I loved about being a Marine–sharing knowledge. Marines build upon each others’ experience regardless of rank, and I will continue to share information that can be helpful to all veterans.”
 
Joe VanFonda (SgtMaj Ret)
CEO
DVNF
DID YOU KNOW?

You can claim various types of disabilities for service connection. These are in addition to any disease, mental condition or chronic condition caused or aggravated by your service.

Compensation particulars

For full information see a VBA representative or visit  Compensation and Pension Service

Compensation benefits cannot be paid in conjunction with severance pay. However, concurrent payment for combat disabilities and disabilities rated at 50% or more in addition to payments from PRL are authorized.

  • Compensation is tax free
  • Additional Special Monthly Compensation added for loss of limb, organ, etc.
  • Concurrent retired pay, previously prohibited, now being phased in
  • Disabilities are rated from 0% to 100%
  • VA rating is independent of any military rating
  • Payments begin with 10% rating
  • Additional allowance for dependents with 30% or higher rating

Compensation – Some related benefits (if eligible)

  • VA health care for all rated service-connected conditions
  • Vocational rehabilitation & employment services
  • Life insurance
  • Federal employment preference
  • VA loan funding fee waived
  • Annual clothing allowance
  • Specially adapted homes
  • Automobile grant  and adaptive equipment
  • Military commissary & exchange privileges

How to Apply

  • Contact the VA by calling 1-800-827-1000
  • More info here: VA Benefits

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.