Thursday, July 07, 2011

The fallen

15 US soldiers died last month in the Iraq War. One of them was Sgt Matthew Gallagher. Sean Teehan (Boston Herald) reminds that his loved ones have to deal with both the loss and the military's 'confusion' -- they told the family he died conducting a house sweep and have since backed off of that statement and now state his death is under investigation while insisting it was a 'non-combat death.' Teehan opens with Katie Gallagher, "The 22-year-year-old widow of Army Sgt. Matthew R. Gallagher lay across the flag-draped casket of her husband yesterday, burying her face in her arms before succumbing to sobs." The Cape Cod Times notes, "A funeral Mass is set to begin at 11 a.m. [today] at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in North Falmouth. Burial at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne will follow. Gallagher is the 11th soldier with ties to Cape Cod to die in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2006." Spc Dylan Johnson also died last month. Manny Gamallo (Tulsa World) reports on the 20-year-old's memorial yesterday:

Jeff Johnson told mourners that a few things agitate him in his daily life and that a few things agitated his son, as well - primarily the heat and dust of Iraq.
He said his son has now left him with a valuable lesson - "to ignore the small agitating things and to concentrate on loving your family and friends every day, because none of us will ever know when it is our June 26."
The soldier's mother, Joy Sehl, also spoke to mourners, telling them of her heartbreak but also saying how proud she was of her son.
She read a tribute from one of her son's best friends, Pfc. Anthony Santiago of Placerville, Calif.
Santiago wrote that he had always wanted a little brother and finally got one when Dylan Johnson entered his life.

Last month Iraq War veteran James Keenan apparently took his own life. Elizabeth Dinan (Sea Coast Online) reports he died June 29th ("self-inflicted gunshot wound") and suffered from PTSD which Greg Chabot ("who served in an Army National Guard artillery unit with Keenan") says took his life, "He was one of the younger guys, very squared away and wouldn't hesitate to help another guy out. I don't know if he slipped through the cracks or was overlooked." Sheila Keenan says of her son, "My son, my hero. I'm not angry. I know why. They can't deal with what happened." Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) observes, "In 2010, 301 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard soldiers committed suicide, up from 242 in 2009. In 2008, the military’s suicide rate exceeded that of the general population for the first time ever."

Meanwhile Leroy and Rosie Torres continue to raise awareness of the effects of the burn pits. In Iraq and in Afghanistan, the military and contractors are exposed to burn pits which aren't safe and which are used to burn off everything (including medicines) producing damaging fumes. Leroy Torres is an Iraq War veteran who was exposed while serving. KRIS TV reports:

We last spoke with him in January when the cold air was taking it's toll on his lungs.
Now, he is getting treatment in Denver at the National Jewish Medical Center, but he says the cost for medical bills is also taking its toll.
"Unfortunately, I haven't been successful with the VA. They denied my claim- my reimbursement. All of that was denied," he said.
As Leroy continues fighting for his own health and benefits, his wife Rosie, who we also met back in January, says she is fighting for awareness and help for everyone affected by burn pits.
Last month, she went to Washington DC to meet with legislators.
She says she spoke with local Representative Blake Farenthold, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and more about how to make changes on national policies which she says are preventing these victims from getting adequate care.
Her focus: creating a national registry for burn pit victims.

Evan Bayh proposed a national registry for burn pit victims. He put forward a bill and even appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to testify on behalf of the bill. Senator Jim Webb -- who, months later, would go on to screw over Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange -- blocked the bill from going forward and it died in committee. Bayh elected not to run for re-election and no one else in the Senate has picked up this issue and run with it. Bayh and Senator Byron Dorgan regularly explored and investigated this issue via the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Like Bayh, Dorgan decided not to run for re-election in 2010.

The following community sites -- plus Jane Fonda and -- updated last night and this morning:

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends