Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Vietnam Veteran and Author Announces Book Signing at Welcome Home 2011

Author, John Podlaski, will be selling and signing his book, Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel at Welcome Home 2011 in Chicago June 17-19 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel. Vietnam vets and anyone who has been a young soldier in any war will relate to this unique story. It is also an opportunity for civilians to understand why many soldiers were "different" upon their return.

Sterling Heights, MI, June 08, 2011 --( Famed author, John Podlaski will be signing his book, Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel, in Chicago, IL. at “Welcome Home 2011.” This weekend event (June 17-19) will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the most historic event that Vietnam Veterans ever experienced, namely the 1986 Chicago Welcome Home Parade. The Palmer House Hilton Hotel is designated the official Headquarters for Welcome Home 2011 - hosting various organization reunions, banquets and providing a centralized vendor and book signing area. This author did participate in that parade, long ago, and is looking forward to returning to Chicago for this once in a lifetime event.

Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel, published in 2010, is not just another 420-page book about this unpopular war. Instead, this unique work views the war solely through the eyes of a single new arrival, called a “Cherry,” as he moves through all the emotions that go through an indoctrination into war. "This author has come closer than 99% of existing Vietnam Veteran memoirs in duplicating the vicarious experience of what it was like to be a naive, scared, eighteen-year-old 'FNG' during America’s participation in the Vietnam War," cited Bernie Weisz, Vietnam War Historian and Professional Book Reviewer. Once the Cherries have engaged the enemy and witness death firsthand, a life changing transition occurs. "Podlaski draws you into his story, making it feel as if you are right there with his characters on patrol," said Jeff Miller, Author of War Remains. You get to know Polack, Doc, Sixpack, Wild Bill, Scout and Nung and soon feel a kinship that bonds this small group together. "The reader identifies with the fear, awe, drama, and sorrow, witnessing the bravery and sometimes laughter in their humor," wrote Jerry Kunnath, Author. In Vietnam, battles were not only fought against enemy soldiers – personal battles occurred daily as these teenagers had to fend off the many crawling, flying and scurrying insects, rats, snakes, spiders and other creatures living within these dense jungles. Some were magnificent – most were deadly. During this rite of passage, many Cherry soldiers eventually became skilled leaders and combat veterans – providing they survived.

Mr. Podlaski will have a supply of books available for your purchasing convenience, a personal note and signature on the inside cover is included. If you are unable to attend this special event, unsigned editions of Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel can be purchased on line in both e-book and printed format at these fine book stores:;; (B&N); and Please visit the author’s blog to learn more about this great book and what others are saying.

Guam Sailors Donate Time, Caring to Special Olympics

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Corwin Colbert, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas Public Affairs

HAGATNA, Guam (NNS) -- Naval Base Guam (NBG) Sailors volunteered at the Special Olympics Guam Aquatics Competition at the Hagatna swimming pool June 4.

According to Chief Navy Counselor (SW/AW) John Jeffries, NBG Special Olympics volunteer coordinator, Sailors also dedicated time spanning more than two months to help the athletes prepare for the event.

"We had ten weeks of practices where our military volunteers come out and helped with practices to get them prepared for this event," he said. "Today, we got here early – setting up and making sure everything runs smoothly."

Master-at-Arms Seaman Recruit Brian Morgan, NBG Security, said he enjoyed volunteering and doing his part to make the event a success.

"I am trying to help out much as possible so the kids can concentrate on competing," he said.

As part of the opening ceremony, NBG Commanding Officer Capt. Richard Wood, led the Special Olympics Athlete Oath. Wood said he was honored to be invited and was proud of the military efforts.

Throughout the day, 37 athletes competed for gold medals in various events including the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard aquajog, and 50-yard breast stroke.

"It is a real honor to come out here and be the guest speaker and say the oath here today," Wood said. "Ever since I've been here, I have been really impressed with the military's and community's commitment to working together. It's one of many ways that the community and the military work together in making Guam a better place."

Mark Wessling, a Special Olympics Guam board member, agreed with Wood and complimented the military on their continued support.

"The military has helped not only with this event but every event we run," Wessling said. "They provide many volunteers, logistic support as well as command support. The military has been a real vibrant part of the local Special Olympics."

The next Special Olympics Guam competition will be the bowling event, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22. Those interested in volunteering or coaching athletes should contact the Special Olympics Guam committee before the coaches' orientation Aug. 6. Practices for the bowling event will begin Aug. 13. Service members who want to volunteer can contact Jeffries at 339-2287.

VA Facility in West Los Angeles Abandons Homeless Veterans

Lawsuit Challenges VA’s Misuse of Land Given to House Injured Vets

(Los Angeles)- Four homeless veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disabilities today sued Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and the director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System for misusing the VA campus in West Los Angeles. They filed suit on behalf of other severely disabled homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area. Vietnam Veterans of America joined the four individuals as plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in U.S District Court for the Central District of California.

The land on which the VA campus now sits was deeded to the United States in 1888 for the specific purpose of providing a home for disabled veterans, which it did for nearly 80 years. But the VA has eliminated permanent housing for disabled veterans, many of whom now literally sleep outside its walls, and it now leases portions of the property to private companies, such as a rental car business and Sodexho Marriott for a laundry facility. The VA has not publicly disclosed how much it is being paid for these private deals, which now cover almost 30 percent of the 387-acre campus, or where the money from them is going.

“War can take a serious toll, both physical and emotional, and it is shameful when our wounded warriors return home and are left to live on our streets,” said former Adjutant General of the California National Guard, Maj. General Paul Monroe. “California has an incredible campus that was given to the U.S. government to permanently house our disabled vets. It’s past time we stopped renting it out to private companies and started using it to house and care for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

“It’s a scandal that the Department of Veterans Affairs is not using this land for the sole benefit of disabled veterans,” Mark Rosenbaum, Chief Counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “This is VA-Gate, because the VA could quite literally end veteran homelessness in Los Angeles if this land were used as it was intended.”

The suit also contends that the VA’s benefits program discriminates against veterans with severe mental disabilities. A robust body of research has established that homeless individuals with severe mental disabilities cannot access necessary medical and mental services without stable living conditions combined with supportive treatment services. Although the VA has recognized the importance of such supportive housing for seriously disabled homeless veterans, it has refused to offer them to Plaintiffs and other disabled veterans in Los Angeles and around the country.

“This lawsuit exposes the truth of how the VA’s policies exclude veterans with serious mental disabilities,” said Melissa Tyner, a staff attorney with Inner City Law Center’s Homeless Veterans Project. “Rather than honoring their sacrifice, VA policies deny access to needed services. As a result, many veterans become homeless.”

Los Angeles is the capital of homeless veterans in the United States. There are an estimated 107,000 homeless veterans nationwide, and by conservative estimates 8,200 live in the Greater Los Angeles area.

“Four presidential administrations have continued to allow the injustice of encroaching on land deeded solely for the purpose of caring for our nation’s disabled veterans. This lawsuit gives us the opportunity to restore integrity to this bequest and allow homeless and disabled veterans to live out their years with dignity,” said John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America.

“If our nation’s laws are enforced, soldiers who risked their lives on the battlefield won’t be condemned to live in dumpsters or under freeways while land donated to house them is used instead to house a rental car company and a laundry facility for luxury hotels,” said Laurence Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School and the nation’s preeminent constitutional scholar.

A descendant of the family that donated the land to the government is also a plaintiff in the suit. Plaintiffs and their attorneys are also calling for congressional hearings to investigate the misuse of the West Los Angeles Campus and the VA’s failure to ensure its benefits programs are accessible to seriously disabled veterans.

In addition to the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs and their attorneys are calling for congressional hearings to investigate the misuse of the West Los Angeles Campus and the VA’s failure to ensure its benefits programs are accessible to seriously disabled veterans. The misuse of the West Los Angeles campus is documented in detail in a Position Paper issued in January 2011 by the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation led by artist Lauren Bon, entitled “Preserving a Home for Veterans.”

“The missing link to ensure disabled veterans are helped is on-campus supportive housing. That is what this lawsuit hopes to remedy,” said Ron Olson, of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Plaintiffs are represented by Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor; Ronald Olson, of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; Arnold & Porter LLP; Inner City Law Center; Gary Blasi, a UCLA law professor; Massey & Gail LLP; and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

NICoE Symposium Focuses on In-Theater Service Member Psychological Care

By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications

“The conversation today is of people [coming] together around a common purpose. We’re doing what only a few years ago many thought not possible—helping [service members] achieve restoration and recovery.”
 - Rear Adm. Karen Flaherty, Navy Deputy Surgeon General

The conversation at a National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) symposium titled “Accelerating Advancements in the Prevention and Treatment of Combat and Operational Stress and Related Comorbidities,” brought together premiere experts in military psychological health to discuss how to advance the in-theater care of service members and the significance of educating line leadership June 3, 2011, in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Miguel Roberts, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), clinical guidelines chief of the psychological health directorate, presented “DCoE Psychological Health In-theater Protocol Discussion,” addressing policy and clinical practice guidelines for psychological first aid. Roberts also highlighted symptoms line leaders need to look for using the IDOCARE model of care: insomnia, depression, operational readiness, lack of concentration, anger, removed behavior and event avoidance.

“Given the complexity [of service member psychological health], we find that there is a vital need for training line leaders to identify service members who should be monitored and screened using IDOCARE,” Roberts said.

Sleep was the focus during Dr. Fred Turek’s, Northwestern University, presentation on “Current In-theater Approaches: Sleep Hygiene.” Experts discussed the common tendency for service members to drink high-energy, caffeinated beverages to keep awake while often having anxiety-induced insomnia.

“After a traumatic event, sleep is often disrupted which may contribute to or accelerate the development and progression of changes in behavior,” said Turek. “Disruptive sleep is a consequence of the event, but then it has a negative effect on psychological health.”

Navy Capt. Robert Koffman and Air Force Maj. Joshua Morganstein presented on critical incidents on the battlefield, and how leaders need to look for behavioral changes after a traumatic event, such as a convoy attack or death of a service member.

Other topics of the symposium included pain management, in-theater psychiatry and suicide prevention.

As the symposium came to a close, experts agreed on the importance of sharing expert knowledge on psychological health with line leaders to take action.

"This symposium brought together some of the best in military and civilian medicine to address these pressing concerns and the importance of line leaders in maintaining the psychological health of our service members,” said Navy Capt. Paul Hammer, DCoE director. “It’s important that conversations of these types continue to expand and foster change."

101-Year-Old Patient Receives Surgery Aboard Comfort

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Scott Wojciechowski, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

TUMACO, Colombia (NNS) -- Personnel embarked aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) performed a cataract removal surgery on a 101-year-old woman while anchored off the coast of Tumaco, Colombia, June 6.

Irene Becerra, a native of Araño, Colombia, arrived at the Escuela Max Seídel medical site, June 4, complaining of a headache and loss of sight in her left eye, which the Continuing Promise 2011 (CP11) medical team later determined was caused by a cataract.

Lt. Cmdr. Francine Worthington, the patient administration department head aboard Comfort, performed Becerra's initial screening.

"When I first met Irene, she immediately greeted me with her radiant smile and comforting hands," said Worthington. "Initially, I didn't even know she was 101. When asked what the secret to her longevity was, she told me, 'God's blessing'."

Shortly after her surgical screening with Worthington, Becerra was approved for cataract removal surgery.

"I was nervous at first," said Luz Becerra, the daughter of Becerra, of the trip out to Comfort. "We left it all up to God, but with the wonderful flight crew and medical staff, the flight was calm," she added.

Becerra received her surgery aboard Comfort the morning of June 6. After a two-hour surgery and a recovery period, Becerra, the oldest surgical patient for the CP11 team to date, will soon gain vision from her left eye.

"I want to thank God, the medical staff aboard Comfort, and everyone else involved in making this procedure possible," said Becerra.

Worthington said that she was honored to help Becerra throughout the screening process, which led to her undergoing the life-changing surgery. She added that this surgery is representative of the United States' commitment to the people of Colombia.

"A smile is the beginning of love, and works of love are works of peace," said Worthington. "The partnership begins one person at a time. Ms. Becerra represents the beauty of the Colombian people."

COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Today in the Department of Defense, Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III delivers remarks at 8 a.m. EDT on "The Future of War" at the Center for Strategic and International Studies 2nd annual Global Security Forum, Willard InterContinental Hotel, Washington, D.C.  Credentialed members of the media who would like to attend must RSVP to

This Day in Naval History - June 07

From the Navy News Service

1819 - Lt. John White on merchant ship Franklin, anchored off Vung Tau, is first U.S. naval officer to visit Vietnam.
1917 - U.S. subchasers arrive at Corfu for anti-submarine patrols.
1942 - Battle of Midway ends with loss of USS Yorktown (CV 5).
1944 - Construction of artificial harbors and sheltered anchorages begins off Normandy coast.
1991 - Joint Task Force Sea Angel ends relief operations in Bangladesh after Cyclone Marian.