Friday, July 08, 2011

Troy Yocum and veterans issues


(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. For a year and three months, he's been hiking to raise awareness.

Kristyn Bellino (Worcester Telegram & Gazette) reports Troy Yocum stopped in Worcester yesterday:

Mr. Yocum has raised more than $480,000 to date for military families in need. He has only 1,000 miles left to the circuitous trek, which began in Louisville, headed west to California and then headed back east.
“While being deployed in Iraq, I got a very serious email from a friend (who is) also a veteran, that his job at home laid off thousands of employees, including himself. He reached out to me asking for help, and I thought raising awareness across the country would be the best way to do it,” Mr. Yocum said.
He also said that in his research to find sponsorships and charities to help him, he discovered that military unemployment and suicide were issues among returning veterans.

Troy wears Merrell hiking boots, a company that showed support for the hike from the start. More recently Modell's Sporting Goods and CEO Mitchell Modell have learned of Troy's hike and raised over $260,000 for Troy's cause. In addition, shoppers at Modell's Sporting Goods have the option of donating at check out to Troy's hike. Melissa Toupin (NECN -- link has text and video) reports his journey has taken approximately 35 million steps.

This week the White House announced that after over a year of thinking about it, they had decided to change the policy and will begin sending condolence letters to the survivors of US military members who take their own lives in combat zones. This change does nothing for the veterans who take their own lives -- in fact, that number isn't even officially tracked by the government. Though the policy would not have resulted in receiving a letter, Joyce and Kevin Lucey have done more to raise the issue of suicide than the military -- they've spoken out on the issue since their 23-year-old son, Iraq War veteran Jeff Lucey, took his own life, they've testified before Congress, they've raised the issue whenever and wherever possible. Today Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) explains what happened when Jeff Lucey attempted to get treatment from the VA:

"Here you have a [Marine] struggling to try to take his next breath, and they were demanding the [discharge papers] and they were demanding he travel approximately 30 to 40 miles away from our home [for treatment]," Kevin Lucey said.
On the night of June 21, after once again threatening suicide and talking by phone with a VA counselor, Jeff approached his father. He asked if he could sit on his lap the way he had done so often as a child.
"We rocked for about 45 minutes and then he went to his room," the father said.
The next day, Kevin Lucey found the body of his son in the basement of the house, his neck bound with a garden hose, dangling from the beams in the ceiling.
Next to the body was a shrine with Jeff's dog tags, two dogs tags of Iraqi soldiers his son claimed to have killed, several family photos arranged in a semicircle, a photo of his platoon in the middle and three notes.
"He once again was in my lap as I was cutting him down from the beams," the dad said.
Amazingly, the name of Jeff Lucey will never appear in any casualty roll of these dreadful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts that have gone on for far too long, and have cost our nation far more than our politicians have the courage to admit.

Mike Clary (Florida Sun Sentinel via Los Angeles Times) covers the issue of veterans suicides and focuses on Iraq War veteran Ben Mericle who served nearly 30 years in the military and the steps Mericle took to find help. The VA's suicide hot line is 1-800-273-TALK.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "9th Circuit Shows Leadership" went up yesterday, noting that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did what Barack said he'd do but, years later, still hadn't gotten around to doing: end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

9th circuit shows leadership

Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reports on the court's decision and the reaction to the decision overseas:

“I’m ecstatic,” said one soldier stationed in Baghdad, adding that he planned to meet Thursday night at a military coffee shop with other gay soldiers to celebrate.
“We won’t be loud or obnoxious, but we will show solidarity and resolve,” the soldier said by e-mail, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the ban remains in effect.
Military officials in Iraq said Thursday that the approximately 47,000 troops deployed here had completed training courses on schedule. But when asked, one official said there was no way of knowing how many courses had been conducted in Iraq, suggesting only that there had been many.
At Bagram air base in Afghanistan, an Air Force staff sergeant who also requested anonymity said the court decision would probably add to the confusion about the end of the policy.
“A lot of people thought it all ended back in December and thought we were done,” the staff sergeant said in an interview. “People are frustrated. They’re waiting and thinking, ‘It’ll be any week now,’ and they’d just like it to get done.”

Last night, the following community sites -- plus and Jane Fonda -- updated:

Mike updated last night as well and not only is his site not being read by the feed currently, when I go to pull up the page it says it can't be displayed in Explorer, I can pull it up in Google Chrome and his post from last night is "It's us."

And lastly, Louis B. Zimmer has a new book out, The Vietnam War Debate: Hans J. Morenthau and the Attempt to Halt the Drift into Disaster (Lexington Books). International law expert and legal professor Francis A. Boyle notes:

Hans Morgenthau was my teacher, mentor and friend. He recommended me for my law professorship. It was my great honor and distinct pleasure to have studied with Morgenthau while he was heroically leading the forces of opposition to the genocidal Vietnam War at great personal cost to himself and his family. Morgenthau’s stellar example of brilliance in the service of courage, integrity and principles has inspired and motivated me now for over four decades. After reading Zimmer’s compelling book, Morgenthau will do the same for you. Zimmer vividly brings back to life Morgenthau, his epic battle against the Vietnam War, and those tumultuous and tragic events that shaped my generation and determined the destinies of two nations only now beginning to reconcile -- a volte-face preternaturally predicted by Morgenthau during the darkest days of the wars. This book is required reading for all those seeking to pursue peace with justice in today’s increasingly troubled and endangered world. Humanity desperately needs more like Morgenthau in order to survive. Zimmer explains why. A real tour de force of engaged historical research and scholarship.

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