Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Veterans Day Honors Service, Sacrifice

Read about real veterans' experiences and the sacrifices they made in the best military books written by the veterans.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2011 – Until the 1960s, veterans groups used the red poppy as the symbol of Veterans Day. In Great Britain, it still is.

The symbol comes from a poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian doctor John M. McCrae in 1915.

The first two verses of McCrae’s three-verse poem read:

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”

McCrae tended to the first victims of a German chemical attack on the British line at the Belgian town of Ypres during World War I.

The fields of Flanders, where some of the most horrific battles occurred, are now dotted with cemeteries filled with the war dead. If you fly across France and Belgium, you can still see the remains of the trench systems of the war.

The Great War of 1914 to 1918, called the first modern global conflict, was an enormous divide for the world. Millions of service members died in the conflict. Millions more civilians were also killed or died of disease.

It truly was a world war. Troops fought in Turkey, the Balkans, East Africa and the Middle East as well as in Russia and France. The war caused the Russian czar to fall and allowed Vladimir Lenin to build what would become the Soviet Union.

On Nov. 11, 1918, that war came to an end. At 11 a.m. the shooting stopped. A war that saw 20,000 British "Tommies" die in 20 minutes at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was over. The war that saw 1,384,000 French "poilus" die, ended in the trenches that extended from Switzerland to the Belgian coast. Americans, who joined the war in 1917, lost more than 100,000 soldiers in the fighting.

The Germans had signed an armistice with the allies and to the generations of The Great War, Nov. 11 remains Armistice Day. For decades, veterans sold paper poppies to raise money for memorials and for the families of those who died in the war.

But The Great War was not, as President Woodrow Wilson hoped, "the war to end all wars." World War II rose from its ashes, and millions more died to stop the mad dreams of dictators from 1939 to 1945. The U.S. Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans after more blood was spilled during the Korean conflict to halt aggression.

Congress moved Veterans Day, along with most other federal holidays, to be celebrated on the closest Monday to the traditional date. But soon Congress reversed itself on Veterans Day because of public pressure to honor the powerful symbolism of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

This year, national observance of “11-11-11,” will include a presidential wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery and ceremonies around the country.

Along with two world wars and Korea, Americans and their allies have fought and died in Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places.

Today, the United States' armed forces confront enemies around the world. U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen defend freedom on station wherever, whenever they are called.

Those serving in the military today are ensuring that they do not ignore the final verse of McCrae's poem:

"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

Editor’s Note: This is a slightly revised version of a story initial published by the American Forces Press Service in 2005.

MCPON Sends Veterans Day Message

Special from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick D. West

See the best United States Navy books for more inspiring Navy history.

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West released the following Veterans Day message to the Fleet Nov. 9.

Veterans, Shipmates and Navy Families,

On Veterans Day we pay tribute to all who have served and sacrificed in defense of our nation. Veterans Day was first celebrated in 1919 as 'Armistice Day' as a way to remember the sacrifices that men and women made during World War I. In 1954, it evolved into 'Veterans Day' in order to honor all American veterans from all wars.

Since our country's beginning, there have been men and women willing to fight to guarantee the freedoms that we hold so dear. It is that attitude of 'service before self' and 'the choice to serve' that we honor and celebrate. From the American Revolutionary War to our current Overseas Contingency Operations, our veterans have honorably served and sacrificed throughout the world when our nation called.

Our veterans represent the best of America coming from every background and every walk of life. They represent the rich tapestry of our nation and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is with eternal gratitude that we take the time this day and everyday to honor the memory of our fallen while bringing alongside and thanking those heroes still among us.

Each day I'm grateful for the efforts and sacrifices you make in support of our great Navy and our nation; whether deployed at sea, on the ground or here at home where all of our loved ones enjoy the liberties your sacrifices preserve. These efforts and the challenges you are willing to face ensure we continue to enjoy the freedoms we have been afforded by the veterans who went before us.

Thank you veterans and thank you to the service members in uniform today, many in harm's way, for your continued service to our great nation.

Happy Veterans Day and HOOYAH!

Very Respectfully,


USS Harry S. Truman Commanding Officer Dies Unexpectedly

From Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The commanding officer of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) died suddenly Nov. 8 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Capt. Tushar Tembe was departing the ship at approximately 10 a.m. when he collapsed.

The ship's medical response team provided immediate medical assistance until Tembe could be transported to Bons Secours Maryview Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead. The cause of death has not been determined.

"We offer our sincere condolences to Capt. Tembe's wife and children, his family and the Truman crew. They are in our thoughts and our prayers as we deal with this tragic loss. Capt. Tembe served the Navy and our nation honorably and with great distinction. We honor his outstanding contributions to our nation," said Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

Tembe, 49, a naval aviator, assumed command of Truman last August. He was born in Bombay, India and came to the United States as a child and later graduated from Texas Tech University. After receiving his Wings of Gold, Tembe flew a variety of aircraft including the F/A-18 Hornet. His many assignments included a tour as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the "Golden Warriors" at NAS Oceana, Va.

Tembe is survived by his wife and two sons.

Planning for a memorial service and funeral arrangements is ongoing.

The ship's executive officer, Capt. Craig Clapperton, has temporarily assumed command.

Harry S. Truman is undergoing repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.

Wisconsin Guard troops get realistic Kosovo training in Germany

By Lynn Davis
U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs

HOHENFELS, Germany - Crowd control, roadblocks and high tensions have recently become part of the daily scene for NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Fortunately for the next KFOR rotation, that's also the scene at U.S. Army Europe's Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany. Expert planners and observer controllers (OCs) have made it a number one priority to ensure National Guard Soldiers from more than 10 states - including approximately 180 from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade - are ready to face the current situation.

"We sent several OCs from different teams over to Kosovo to observe the latest [tactics, techniques and procedures] and understand the operational environment there," said Capt. John Denney, an OC at JMRC.

That information is then given to scenario writers who develop the events that Soldiers will be challenged with during their training, Denney said. National Guard Soldiers make up the U.S. element of KFOR 15, and they noticed JMRC's efforts to make training as realistic as possible right away.

"Early on in our training, the focus was on a relatively steady state and calm environment in Kosovo," said the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Col. Jeffrey Liethen, KFOR 15 commander. "Things have drastically changed. It's very obvious that the training program here at Hohenfels has been modified to replicate what is actually going on in Kosovo right now so that will definitely be a help in us conducting our mission."

A group of Georgia National Guard Soldiers stack behind a wall during the cordon and search lane at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. National Guard Soldiers from several states - including the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade - are part of the KFOR 15 rotation preparing to deploy to Kosovo in the upcoming months. U.S. Army photo by Lynn Davis

The Guard Soldiers also have the unique opportunity to train with partner nations they will work alongside during their deployment.

"Anytime that we have the opportunity to train with our multinational partners is a huge benefit for both understanding how they operate and understanding the idiosyncrasies of their doctrine compared to ours," Liethen said. "Just being able to communicate with those that speak a language foreign to ours is a big benefit."

Another advantage is the prior deployments and skills set these Guard Soldiers bring to the table that will aid them in the KFOR mission.

"What we are hoping to do is take a lot of the experience these Soldiers already have out of Iraq or Afghanistan," Denney said. "We use those basics they have used and put a Kosovo polish on it specific to the deployment they are going to be seeing here shortly."

The transfer of authority to KFOR 15 is scheduled for December, where these Soldiers will have a chance to implement the training they've received and further the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
The 157th will serve as the brigade headquarters unit for Multi-National Battle Group East, also referred to as Task Force Falcon. There it will oversee operations for the entire Multi-National Battle Group-East, which also includes units from Armenia, Greece, Poland, Turkey, Romania and the Ukraine.

Military Continues to Face Challenges in Mental Health, Suicides

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Military Continues to Face Challenges in Mental Health, Suicides

The U.S. military continues to face many challenges when it comes to mental health care for both their active duty personnel in the field, and when soldiers return home to inadequate care.

The numbers are staggering. In July 2011, 33 active and reserve component service members died as a result of suicide — a record high month. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 18 veterans die by suicide each and every day.

While the military has worked hard to focus on the problem in recent years, the new report released by the Center for a New American Security suggests it still has a long way to go.

Part of the problem remains staffing levels, which are still inadequate to meet the needs of most VAs:

Also cited as problematic is a shortage of mental health care providers to treat both active duty troops and veterans. Research by the VA has found that suicide rates decreased by 3.6 deaths per 100,000 in seven regions where staff numbers increased to levels recommended in the 2008 Veterans Health Administration Handbook.

Sixteen regions are still not manned to these levels, the report says. In addition, the Army has filled only 80 percent of its psychiatrist positions and 88 percent of its social work and behavioral health nurse jobs.

Given the current economy and so many people looking for work, it’s odd the military hasn’t been able to staff up to recommended levels across the board.

Nearly half of all suicides in the Army are caused by drug or alcohol overdose. But about 14 percent of active soldiers in the Army are on an opiate medication for pain — the exact same medication that’s ripe for abuse and use as a suicide method.

And while the report commends recent progress on changing the attitude toward mental health issues in the military, it’s clear we still have a long way to go:

[The report] raps the “prevailing wisdom” in the military that suicides are not linked directly to deployments to war.

While an estimated 31 percent of Army suicides are associated with factors that can be traced back prior to enlistment, recent reports have shown that soldiers who have deployed are more likely to die by suicide.

Talk about burying one’s head in the sand… How could the two not be related? Astounding.

Last, because of the ongoing stigma connected to admitting to mental health problems while serving in the military, most personnel are reluctant to volunteer information about their own concerns:

The report also finds flaws in the mental-health screening process following deployment, in which troops are asked to fill out a health-assessment form that asks questions about their physical and psychological status. A 2008 study found that when Army soldiers completed an anonymous survey, their reported rates of depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts and interest in receiving care were two to four times higher than the responses on the official forms.

The CNAS researchers said that many returning troops lie—and are encouraged to lie—for fear that if they admit to mental health problems, they will not be allowed to go home.

Such assessments also follow military personnel throughout their career, affecting their career advancement and forward movement.

The report isn’t entirely negative. It notes that while the percentage of service members seeking help has improved — from 36 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in 2010 — “the stigmatization of mental health care remains an issue.”

The solutions are fairly simple:

  • Fully fund to recommended staffing levels all mental health professions in both active military and veterans’ roles.
  • Acknowledge the connection between increased suicidal ideation and other mental health concerns with serving in combat roles.
  • Increase health record privacy protections and disconnect a person’s military health record from their formal personnel evaluations, so that admitting and seeking treatment for a mental health concern doesn’t negatively impact a person’s career. If this cannot be done, then:
  • Support and fully fund the use of external mental health services for a soldier once stateside, with complete patient privacy rights for such treatment.
  • Support greater use of peer-to-peer programs that seek to lessen the stigma associated with mental health concerns.

Read the full article here: New Report: U.S. Losing The Battle Against Military Suicides

Read the full report here: Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide