Tuesday, October 19, 2010

87-Year-Old Veteran Volunteers 30 Hours a Week

Some know him as the "Popcorn Man." All know him as a friendly face they look forward to seeing.

At 87, Charles Wilson is a spry, cheerful World War II Veteran who arrives at every morning to volunteer at his hometown VA Medical Center in Saginaw, Michigan. Wilson has been a helping hand to VA patients and staff for the past 29 years.

In 1976, Wilson was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After surgery, his doctors predicted that he would lose the use of his voice. "I wasn't supposed to be able to talk, but I surprised them," said Wilson.

The Veteran's successful recovery inspired him to start volunteering at the VA periodically, and he began working a regular 30-hour week in 1981.

"I wanted to give back because the VA did such a good job saving my life and it didn't cost me anything."

Just the Man for the Job

Working primarily as a patient escort, Wilson zips around on his Amigo electric cart delivering documents and snacks around the medical center. He often makes and delivers popcorn, earning him the nickname, "Popcorn Man."

Wilson enjoys his job and has fun driving the halls. "I get to go around and see all the pretty nurses" said Wilson with a chuckle. "It keeps my ego up."

His favorite part of the job is getting to see friendly, familiar faces around the VA. He also values the job as a good way to keep himself busy.

Patients and VA staff look forward to seeing Wilson's smiling face every day. Sometimes, he'll share some interesting tales about his time in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army field artillery in Germany and was just outside Berlin when German troops surrendered to the Allies.

"This Man is a Walking Miracle"

Wilson, nicknamed "The Popcorn Man," arrives at daily to make fresh coffee and popcorn.
Carrie Seward, VA Voluntary Services Manager in Saginaw, calls Wilson a "walking miracle." In addition to his unexpected recovery from cancer, Wilson had two strokes, but went straight back to work once he recovered.

"Charlie comes to work in all weather. We get a good share of snow here, but he still makes it into work every morning," said Seward.

Wilson's six-hour daily schedule is not his only weekly commitment. He is an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1859 and is part of the Honor Guard for local military funerals.

Wilson, whose wife is deceased, lives on his own, completely independent. "I'm still in charge of all my housework — I do my own laundry," he stated with pride.

Last summer, Governor Jennifer Granholm gave a special commendation to Wilson when he reached 22,000 hours of volunteer time. He is now up to 23,500 and counting.

"If anyone is interested in volunteering at the VA, I'd tell them to check it out and be sensible. You've got to commit to it, but it's a good thing to do."

By Megan Tyson, VA Staff Writer

This Day in Naval History - Oct. 19

From the Navy News Service

1843 - Capt. Robert Stockton on Princeton, the first screw-propelled naval steamer, challenges British merchant ship Great Western to a race off New York, which Princeton won easily.
1915 - Submarine Base at New London, Conn is established.
1944 - Secretary of the Navy orders African-American women accepted into the Naval Reserve.
1987 - Iranian oil-drilling platform used for military purposes is destroyed.

"Rosie the Riveter" Turned Soldier Salutes Women Veterans at Cincinnati

The Cincinnati VA Medical Center celebrated Veterans Day this year with a special event saluting women Veterans from conflicts past and present.

The Cincinnati facility, where 99 staff members are women Veterans, hosted the special activities as a special tribute to those women who have served their county in times of war and peace.

At a dinner hosted by the medical center, the staff heard an inspiring address by Dr. Lynn Ashley, a World War II woman Veteran and educator, facilitator, and consultant, who praised the work of women Veterans and reflected on the vital work they do today in all areas of government service.

Dr. Ashley's career provides a unique perspective on the roles women Veterans have held throughout American history.

Hers is a colorful story, which begins 65 years ago:

Gas Mask Day

It was a Wednesday, gas mask day, at Carlsbad Army Air Corps Base in Carlsbad, N.M. The base teemed with new recruits and among them was Marilyn Haynes. Years later she would become Lynn Ashley, Ph.D, but in 1944, she was simply a 23-year-old clerk typist in the Women's Army Corps (WAC).

"Back then, we had gas mask day because the mindset was that we could be overrun by Japanese or Germans at any time," said Ashley. "We had to wear gas masks all day, no matter what we did."

That particular Wednesday was Ashley's lucky day. Because pilots and bombardiers stationed at the base were paid per flight, they were eager to take to the skies as often as possible, but they had to have observers in the plane to verify their flight. A captain asked Ashley if she would be his observer. She had never been on a plane before, and even better, she wouldn't have to wear a gas mask, so she immediately agreed.

Ashley was watching the cacti and the rocks whizzing past far below when the pilot noticed something was wrong with the bomb bay doors.

"He told me to take the controls while he checked the doors," said Ashley. "And he said, 'All you have to do is keep the wings level with the horizon.' I was looking at the mountains in front of me and thinking, 'How on earth am I going to do this?'"

What could she do but follow orders? Ten minutes later, the pilot returned to his seat, eyed the controls, and told a shaken Ashley she had only climbed 1,000 feet, so she "didn't do too badly."

From Rivets to Mission Logistics

Ashley, who had been working as a riveter at a Chicago defense plant the year before, enlisted in the WAC to support her brother's military service. Another reason for her enlistment had to do with the union moving into the plant and her being a bit, well, opinionated. "I was a little outspoken about it," she admitted. "And it looked like if I didn't leave, they'd ask me to. So I left and joined the Army. I thought it would get me overseas."

It got her as far as Georgia for six weeks of basic training, which included 238 hours of clerical training, learning about the organization of the Army along with touch typing, company records and reports, military discipline, personnel administration and finance.

After basic training, Ashley was assigned to the New Mexico airbase, where she was promoted to a corporal.

She worked "on the line" at the tarmac where aircraft pulled up for inspection and repair. It took Ashley 30 minutes to walk from her barracks to the office, bracing herself against the sandstorms that sometimes swept the airbase. Ashley's job was to figure out the mechanical logistics of missions, developing training schedules, determining which aircraft were available for exercises, and tracking the number of planes needed for each mission.

"You Just Did Your Job"

Looking back 65 years later, Ashley said she didn't experience any difficulties as a woman in the military. "It was just like working any place else. You just did your job and went home each evening," she said. "I was never aware of a lot of things that women in the military are going through now, being challenged physically, morally, and sexually."

Ashley is very involved in supporting today's military women. She's a member of an all-women's American Legion Post, assists deployed soldiers and their families in a military support group, and is on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.

"When I returned from war, I wasn't treated any differently as a Veteran, but you have to realize that there were hundreds and hundreds of us back then," said Ashley. "Now, some people don't realize there's a war going on and it's sad. It's my mission to do everything I can to try and educate people that we need to support the people who are over there."

By Stephanie Strauss, VA Staff Writer

NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic Contract Specialist Honored

From Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- A Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Mid-Atlantic contract specialist was recognized by two national groups for his assistance with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Contract Management Support (CMS) training program Oct. 8.

Charles Spicer received an award from NIB and the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind at their annual training conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

NIB approached Spicer in 2009 when the organization discovered the need for a compatibility software adjustment while creating a training program to help the blind and visually impaired pursue careers in contract management.

"I advised NIB that Window-Eyes may be a solution to the problems," said Spicer. "I set up my laptop computer in our conference room and demonstrated how a blind person accesses and uses PD2 [Procurement Desktop Defense]."

When Spicer worked with the Army, he used a software program called Job Access With Speech (JAWS) with PD2, a contract writing software system, to perform his contract specialist duties. However, after a minor upgrade to PD2, JAWS no longer functioned with the PD2 system and he lost speech output.

Then, when Spicer began working with the Navy in 2009 and PD2 was accessed through the Citrix server, he again encountered the same compatibility issues. Using Window-Eyes, a screen-reading program that allows the user to hear what is on the screen by using key strokes, helped him gain access to the tools he needed to do his job.

Spicer's collaborations with NIB's CMS training program has allowed NIB to continue its mission to provide high-growth career opportunities in contract management for skilled blind and visually impaired professionals.

"Thanks to Charles' efforts getting screen-reading software installed on Navy central servers, NIB was able to provide a prototype example to the rest of the Department of Defense and the Army for eventual enterprise-wide approvals for assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired," said Douglas Goist, NIB CMS Assistive Technology coordinator.

Spicer's award coincides with National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is recognized in October to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.

Training Pilot Builds Reserve Skills for Logistic Support Representative Apprentices

By Lt. j.g. Michelle Tobias, Commander, Fleet and Industrial Supply Centers (COMFISCS) Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Commander, Fleet and Industrial Supply Centers (COMFISCS) conducted a Logistics Support Representative (LSR) Apprentice training pilot Sept. 13-17 for 29 Navy Reserve Component (RC) Sailors.

The week-long logistics course, held at Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC) San Diego, was created to make Selected Reservists (SELRES) "board ready" when they report to their assigned FISC location. Training SELRES as LSRs enables them to provide capability to their supported FISC during annual training periods or when needed.

The first of its kind training included information on the COMFISCS organization and its partner sites, as well as Logistics Support Center (LSC) operations, husbanding fundamentals, and the unique role of the worldwide FISC network of logistics professionals.

LSC program director Bill Cording spoke with the students about the future of the LSR program and how RC Sailors might support global logistics during future annual training periods and mobilizations.

Course participants received hands-on training on One Touch Support (OTS), a single integrated Web-based interface for the Navy's integrated supply system. Familiarity with OTS will prepare SELRES for work at an LSC during annual training (AT) periods or mobilization.

Students learned about the afloat supply departments during tours hosted by USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Bunker Hill (CG 52). This opportunity was a highlight for many students, particularly those who had never been aboard a ship.

"One of the most useful things was when we learned about each [supply] department's interaction with the LSR," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Alan Coburn.

The chance to see the fleet side of logistics support was an invaluable opportunity for them to better understand a ship's potential needs and limitations.

"We also learned about the storage capacity on the ship," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Christopher Eastin. "It was really good to see the effect of a certain number of pallets on a small ship."

Tours of FISC San Diego and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) showed students what happens behind the scenes as goods and materials are received from vendors and prepared for delivery to the ships. Understanding the role an LSR plays between DLA and the ships on the waterfront was significant for the students, many of whom had never seen or worked with DLA during previous drill weekends or AT.

Training additional SELRES to step into the LSR role is of critical significance as global logistics grows in increasing importance around the globe. Students agreed that the course was a tremendous learning opportunity and demonstrated the concept of the reserves as a force multiplier.

"I wish I had [OTS] access and LSR training before I went to Jacksonville (Fla.) to assist with the Haiti relief efforts," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Felix Jordan

For more information about the pilot LSR Apprentice course or future LSR courses, please contact Lt. j.g. Michelle Tobias at michelle.tobias@navy.mil or Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Cliff Dumpit at clifford.dumpit@navy.mil.>
COMFISCS provides an array of integrated global logistics and contracting services to Navy and Joint operational units across all warfare enterprises.

COMFISCS is responsible for facilitating best business practices and efficiencies across the seven FISCs headquartered in San Diego, Calif.; Norfolk, Va.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Yokosuka, Japan; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Bremerton (Puget Sound), Wash.; and Sigonella, Italy; and for optimizing the performance of base supply functions and standardizing levels of service across 11 regions and 70 Navy installations.

Comprised of more than 5,700 military and civilian logistics professionals, contractors and foreign nationals, COMFISCS operates as a single cohesive team providing global logistics services from 110 locations worldwide.

A component of the Naval Supply Systems Command, headquartered in Mechanicsburg, Pa., COMFISCS is part of a worldwide logistics network of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel providing combat capability through logistics.

USA Cares Partners with Rock Star Comic Book Artist Dave Dorman for Project 52

RADCLIFF, KY- October 14, 2010-USA Cares is pleased to announce a partnership with #1 Star Wars artist and Eisner Award-winning illustrator Dave Dorman on Project 52, which is raising money for financially challenged post-9/11 military and their families.

Dorman, the son of USAF Lieutenant Colonel Jack Dorman, first announced his intention on his blog October 1, 2010, his 52nd birthday, to paint 52 paintings to "give back" to USA Cares' military families. "I know firsthand what it means to live the life of a family whose parent is an active duty military member. I want to ease the financial burden of those families who today are going through what I did," Dorman said. Said Dorman's Director of Social Media Jacob K. Young, "Through Project 52, we're seeing Dave Dorman capturing pivotal moments in our American history on canvas. These paintings will hang in the Smithsonian one day, and the crowd funding fans are the elites making this happen, five dollars at a time."

Dorman is "crowd funding" this passion project through http://www.indiegogo.com/Project-52. Donors are being asked to give the

-Project 52 Supporter: $5 - Donor or the person of their choice will
be listed in the Project 52 fine art book.
-Dedicated Supporter: $25 - Donor may honor the special person or
soldier in their life with a two-line dedication in the Project 52 fine art book.
-Bronze Level Donor: $50 - Donor will receive a signed copy of the
Project 52 regular retail edition fine art book.
-Silver Level Donor: $100 - Donor will receive a signed, dedicated
copy of the Project 52 Limited Edition version of the fine art book.
-Gold Level Donor: $250 - Donor will receive a signed, numbered copy
of the Project 52 Limited Edition Lithograph on acid-free, archival paper. This can be personalized if they choose, as well as a signed copy of the Limited Edition fine art book.
-Platinum Level Donor: $1000 - The first 52 donors who give at the
Platinum Level will receive one of the actual Project 52 Paintings plus the fine art limited edition lithograph, autographed, as well as a signed, Limited Edition fine art hardcover book.

Dorman's goal is to raise $52,000, to enable him to complete the paintings, as well as cover production costs for printing the books and lithographs. Dorman is donating 50% of all book and lithograph sales to USA Cares. Dorman has already designated 20% of his new career retrospective art book, ROLLING

About USA Cares
USA Cares is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that helps post-9/11 military and their families with basic needs, assists veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families and works to prevent private military home foreclosures and evictions. In seven years, USA Cares has received over 24,000 requests and responded with more than $7 million in grants. Military families anywhere in America can apply for assistance through the USA Cares web site, http://www.usacares.org/ or by calling 1-800-773-0387.

About Dave Dorman
Dave Dorman is an Eisner award-winning illustrator who has been working as a professional artist since 1979.  He is best known for his photo-realistic renderings of action and fantasy subjects. For more information on Project 52 visithttp://www.indiegogo.com/Project-52 or contact Dorman's publicist: denise@writebrainmedia.com or call USA Cares at 1.800.773.0387. For more information on Dave Dorman visit http://www.davedorman.com/.

A Marine's Promise at Iwo Jima — 60 Years On

Troy Bowling, 83, arrives at work in the dark. The halls of the Lexington, KY, VA Medical Center are quiet at , but Bowling knows an army of volunteers, inpatients, and staff members will surge through the building once the sun rises. They'll need coffee, 200 cups' worth, so he wastes no time in busying himself at the coffeemaker.

A Purple Heart recipient and World War II Veteran, Bowling volunteers at the medical center five days a week. As the coffee brews, he unlocks the door of the Voluntary Service office, flips on the lights, switches on the computer, and begins to compile volunteer data, an integral task that keeps the Voluntary Service office organized and humming.

It's a full day, seven hours in all, filled with filing, processing new volunteers, and assembling packages of personal care items to make new hospital inpatients more comfortable. Sometimes Bowling travels to Veteran organizations to speak about volunteering and to recruit new volunteers for Lexington.

He is done by and leaves to visit his wife at a nursing home.

Sixty Years and 65,350 Hours

What keeps Bowling motivated to volunteer day after day? Without a pause, he replies, "It keeps me alive. It keeps my body moving and my mind operating. It's done more for me than anything in the world."

He's humble. Bowling has volunteered for the VA and other Veterans' organizations for nearly 60 years, racking up more than 65,350 volunteer hours. Sometimes people don't find out he's a Veteran or about his harrowing military experience for years since he simply shows up to work, day after day, and gives selflessly.

"Troy is a remarkable individual," said Greg Anderson, Chief of Voluntary Service at VA Lexington. "He's well-respected and loved. He is an icon at the hospital."

Anderson nominated Bowling for a prestigious prize, the George H. Seal Memorial Award, which is presented by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. Bowling won. "His sense of dedication is truly exceptional," said Anderson. "I thought it would be a great way to honor someone who had served, who came close to losing his life."

Left for Dead, Another Chance at Life

Bowling joined the U.S. Marines at 17. At 19, he nearly died on the beach at Iwo Jima. Bowling, unconscious, was reported as killed in action. He had been shot in the chest and lost so much blood that he appeared lifeless. For hours, he lay bleeding on the sand until a combat photographer noticed him weakly stirring and called for a medical team to evacuate him to a landing craft.

Medics were treating Bowling's wounds on the ship when he heard faint cheers outside. Marines had taken control of Mt. Suribachi, celebrating their victory with a flag-raising that is now immortalized in the famous Joe Rosenthal photograph.

"I asked the chaplain to take me topside to see, and he did," said Bowling. "At that sight I knew that we were going to take that island. It was a great moment."

Representatives from the DAV came to visit Bowling as he recuperated in a VA hospital when he was back in the States. He saw how the organization was helping other Vets, so once he regained his strength, he asked how he could assist them.

Bowling meets with Voluntary Service staff. Photo by Earl Raglin, Lexington VAMC.
"You're Helping Somebody. Now That's a Great Feeling."

The DAV trained him to be a service officer and for the next 38 years, he helped Veterans and widows file claims for VA benefits. Later, he became involved with special recreation activities.

Bowling rose through the ranks to become the State Commander for the Kentucky DAV. "I've held probably every position in the state," Bowling laughs.

Bowling volunteered in these positions as he worked full-time for the United States Postal Service until his retirement almost 20 years ago. Since then, he's volunteered at VA Lexington in the Voluntary Service office.

"People still thank me after all these years," said Bowling. "I don't always remember their names, but they'll see me and holler at me. You realize you're helping somebody. Now that's a great feeling."

"We've had a steady stream of people who come in or call, all looking for Troy," said Anderson. "It's hard to imagine how many Vets he's helped in the claims process and how many volunteers he's recruited over the years.

"Probably no one else here is more respected," he added. "People know Troy is particularly committed to Veterans because he isn't receiving a salary. Volunteering is his way of paying back."

Sixty-five years ago, Bowling swore that if he survived Iwo Jima, he would dedicate himself to helping other Veterans. He still carries the bullet next to his spine, a physical testament to the promise that he keeps every day.

"I was saved for a reason," said Bowling.

By Stephanie Strauss, VA Staff Writer

"Forgotten Women" of Valley Forge

Book About “Forgotten Women” at Valley Forge Is Subject of Discussion
“Following the Drum” Is Story of Encampment During Winter of 1777-78

"Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment" (Potomac Books, 2009) is the untold story of the women – from those on society’s lowest rungs to the women of the upper class – who spent the winter of 1777-78 with the Continental Army at Valley Forge, Pa.

Author Nancy K. Loane will discuss and sign her book on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building,
101 Independence Ave S.E., Washington, D.C.
The event, a Books & Beyond program sponsored by the Center for the Book, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Many of the camp women were soldiers’ wives who worked as the army’s washerwomen, nurses, cooks or seamstresses. Though these women’s written correspondence is scarce, author Loane uses sources such as issued military orders, pension depositions after the war and soldiers’ descriptions to bring these women to life.

Other women were part of the "numerous and splendid" audience who enjoyed the camp theater and had their portraits painted by Charles Willson Peale. They were not subject to the harsh conditions of camp life, and they came and went as they and their husbands, George Washington’s generals and advisers, saw fit.

Nancy K. Loane, who lives in Valley Forge, is a former seasonal ranger at the Valley Forge National Historical Park and has studied more than 500 Revolutionary War-era diaries, journals, letters, orderly books and records, many of them at the Library of Congress.

Her book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.