Saturday, June 25, 2011

Veterans and the fallen

Spc Micheal Cook is one of 9 US soldiers killed in the Iraq War this month. WMUR reports his wake was today and his funeral will be Monday. John Lynch is the Governor of New Hampshire and his office issued the following yesterday:

For Immediate Release
June 24, 2011 Contact:
Communications Director
Office of the Governor

Governor Lynch Orders Flags to Half-Staff on Monday

CONCORD - Governor John Lynch has directed that flags on all state buildings be lowered to half-staff on Monday, June 27, 2011, to honor Spec. Michael Cook who was killed in action in Iraq on June 6. Cook was a 2003 graduate of Salem High School and will be laid to rest on Monday at the Massachusetts State Veterans Cemetery in Agawam, Mass.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen issued a statement shortly after Cook's death was announced. We noted it then and we'll note it now:

June 8, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen released the following statement in response to reports of the death of Pfc. Michael Cook, formerly of Salem, N.H.:
“My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Pfc. Michael Cook. Like many brave sons and daughters of New Hampshire, he sought to serve his country and protect his fellow Americans, and he did so with honor and courage.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family at this difficult time.”


The above announcement, you would think, would be automatic. But you'd be surprised how few US senators feel the need. One of the 9 soldiers who died this month, for example, is from my state. While Governor Jerry Brown issued a statement, neither of California's two US senators bothered to. While noting US senators, it's important to note that the gold standard was set by Minnesota's Al Franken who not only issued a statement but also attended the funeral this month of his state's fallen.

Like all survivors, Michael Cook's are trying to grieve and make sense out of their loss. Something as simple as an elected official making a public statement can mean so much.

Cook's funeral is Monday and he'll be buried at the Massachusetts State Veterans Cemetery (Agawam, MA).

This week saw the death of US professor Steven Everhart in Iraq. Diana Davis (WSBTV -- link has text and video) reports he had been in Iraq "working on a project to bring a new business curriculum to a Baghdad university." Davis notes Everhart's survivors include three children and his widow Stephanie. She quotes his freind from grad school Joey Smith stating, "Steve is an adventurous guy. He is always taking on challenges that none of the rest of us were willing to take on. He could take the worst of situations and turn it into the best. I never expected to see something like this happen."

Many veterans didn't expect to return to the US and face the struggle that so many have. Unemployment is high among the young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. They also face a VA system where they may or may not receive treatment for PTSD (if they need treatment) -- they do however stand a good chance of being sexually assaulted at the VA as a House hearing this month addressed. Mainly, they try to adjust to the US. Yesterday's snapshot included, "Earlier this month, Aaron Hughes and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War -- Malachi Muncy, Scott Kimball, and Sergio K -- appeared on KOOP's Rag Radio which airs each Friday in Austin (airwaves) and online (live from two p.m. Central time to three). This week, IVAW has posted the audio to the hour long discussion." I want to note Aaron Hughes' comments one more time:

Aaron Hughes: I would -- I would argue that it's not so much the transition home as it is the disconnect. This country isn't at war. The service members are at war. And when service members get home and they realize that there's no one in this entire country that understands that and understands what they've gone through and wants to listen to them, when the media is continually talking about American Idol or some other pop issue instead of dealing with the actual issues -- that we are conducting two occupations currently, that we are conducting operations in Pakistan, that we are conducting operations in Libya and Yemen. We have service members on the ground in all of these countries and those service members are experiencing things and they are doing it as they believe on behalf of their country and their country doesn't even know it. The country doesn't even know what we do. And then we get home. And then there's nothing. There's no way to connect that. And that disconnect, that's the crime and that's the PTSD. That's-that's all of the trauma right there -- is the inability to understand what happened and why no one else understands. In fact, that's actually the definition of trauma: It's an experience that you haven't processed and therefore you can't communicate it. You keep rewinding it in your head. You keep trying to relive it over and over and over again which is why you have nightmares, why you have dreams, why you have anxiety. But you can't because you never actually experienced it the first time. And when you get home, there's no one that's experienced these wars. And that's -- that's where the trauma exists.

A number of veterans are trying to raise awareness of the issues veterans face in the US. One such veteran is Troy Yocum.


(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)

Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He began the walk in April 2010 with the plan of 7,000 miles.

This month, see Frank Lombardi (New York Daily News) report, Troy was in NYC and held a press conference at Modell's Sporting Goods with the company's CEO Mitchell Modell where they announced that in addition to the $200,000 Troy has raised, Modell had raised $260,000 for Troy's cause and "that his 147 stores - and an alliance of other big-name retailers with another 653 stores - will ask their customers at checkout time if they would like to donate $1 to help military families." Allison Ruppino (New Jersey Newsroom) reports:

New Jersey’s Celebrity Magnet Tom Murro attended the Hike for Heroes cocktail fundraiser at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York City on June 15th. The CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, Mitchell Modell, held the event for Iraq War Veteran Troy Yocum.
32-year-old Troy Yocum decided to embark on an incredible journey to help raise awareness and money for military families. The project, which is sponsored by the nonprofit Solder’s Angels, is assisting returning war veterans and their families with medical, housing, and personal problems. Therefore, Yocum, his wife, Mareike, and their two dogs have created a mission to walk 7,800 miles across America in hopes of raising $5 million for their cause. They began the hike on April 17th 2010 and plan to return home September 3, 2011. So far, they have clocked in at 6,400 miles, but have only raised $200,000.
After walking an exhausting 13 months, and being hospitalized twice, the Yocum family was doubtful that their end goal could be reached. That is when Modell stepped in to help the family. He rallied friends and raised an additional $260,000 in three months. During a press conference held on Wednesday, Modell announced he will be asking the customers of his store, along with customers of other big-name retailers, to donate $1 to help military families. This small donation could accumulate to $1 million for the cause.

The following community sites -- plus NPR -- updated yesterday and today:

Ann and Mike's posts are not showing up on the feed. But they have posted. Ann's "3 men, 3 women" continues her daily coverage of the booking on The Diane Rehm Show and Ann also notes some Stevie Nicks coverage while Mike's "Comic Book movies that need to be made" offers the comic he thinks need to be turned into a movie as well as eleven other choices from his readers.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Troops Obama is Withdrawing Have Been Recently Replaced By Allies" (OpEdNews):

President Obama alleges “the tide of war is receding” in Afghanistan, thus allowing him to reduce U.S. forces there by 10,000 this year, but the fact is overall Allied strength has been rising, not falling.

That's because the 10,000 U.S. fighters the president plans to bring home by the end of this year have already been replaced in advance, so to speak, by troop surges of NATO allies and other nations.

What the New York Times June 23rd called President Obama's “Rapid Troop Cuts” is not only hardly “rapid” but is part of an overall strategy for continuing a pointless, illegal, 10-year-long war whose casualty rates are higher than ever!

There are more than 40 countries that have dispatched troops to Afghanistan and a majority of them have increased their forces since July, 2009, according to a nation-by-nation report in the current

The UK, for example, from July, 2009, to June, 2011, increased its troops from 9,000 to 9,500, up 500; Spain from 780 to 1,550, up 770; Germany from 4,050 to 4,800, up 750; Italy from 2,800 to 3,900, up 1,100; Canada, from 2,800 to 3,000, up 200; Czech Republic from 340 to 500, up 160; Bulgaria from 470 to 600, up 130; Poland from 2,000 to 2,500, up 500; Romania, from about 1,000 to 2,000, up 1,000; and France, from 3,100 to 3,900, up 800. No wonder Mr. Obama can make a token withdrawal in force now: he has already largely replaced his announced troop cuts for 2011 with foreign fighters.

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