Friday, November 11, 2011

Carmona Steps Down as Dover Review Board Chief

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2011 – Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona will step down as leader of an outside panel to review procedures and policies at the Dover Port Mortuary, Del., Pentagon officials announced today.

Carmona, who served as surgeon general under President George W. Bush, is running for senator from Arizona.

“Dr. Carmona notified the department this morning that he is stepping down from the panel,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today in a written statement.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta agreed with Carmona’s decision and promises to name a replacement very soon, Little said. “The secretary believes that the panel’s independent review will strengthen our nation’s commitment to the treatment of America’s fallen heroes and to their families,” the press secretary said. “That’s a sacred obligation.”

The other members of the panel are: Retired Army Gen. Fred Franks, a member of DOD’s health board; Ruth Stonecifer, representative of families supported by the Dover Port Mortuary; Congressman Vic Snyder, a doctor and former Democratic U.S. representative from Arkansas; Garold Huey, a funeral director and embalmer who served in the Navy as enlisted member-embalming technician; Jacquelyn Taylor, executive director of the New England Institute and an internationally recognized leader in funeral service education; and Dr. Bruce Parks, a forensic pathologist.

National Leaders Participate in Vets Day Events

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2011 – Today’s Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Veterans Day event highlighted ceremonies around the country honoring those who served in the armed forces.

President Barack Obama started the day hosting veterans at a White House breakfast in the East Room. Later in the day, he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and spoke at the Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented the Defense Department and U.S. military at the ceremony.

The president will move on to San Diego, where he will sit with sailors aboard the USS Carl Vinson for the Carrier Classic, the kick-off of the NCAA basketball season. The game will feature the University of North Carolina taking on Michigan State.

In New York, military leaders joined hundreds of thousands of spectators in one of the country’s oldest and largest Veterans Day parades. The parade commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 100th anniversary of naval aviation.

Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the nation's most recent Medal of Honor recipient, and Nicholas Oresko, the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, joined the parade. Oresko, an Army veteran, received his award for actions during the Battle of the Bulge. He and Meyer were joined by four Vietnam veteran Medal of Honor recipients: Army Capt. Paul W. Bucha, Army Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall, Army Lt. Col. Alfred Rascon and Army 1st Lt. Brian Thacker.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno were among honorees at the New York parade.

Later today in New York, Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the unveiling of a statue entitled De Oppresso Liber – Free the Oppressed – the motto of Army Special Forces.

Commonly called the Horse Soldiers statue, it commemorates the bravery of Special Forces soldiers who first went into Afghanistan in 2001. The statue shows a Special Forces soldier riding an Afghan mountain pony. It will be displayed at the World Trade Center site.

Most cities and towns in the United States are remembering veterans on this 93rd anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. The guns stopped firing in Europe on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The United States suffered 116,708 service members killed and another 205,690 wounded. Overall, the Great War was responsible for the deaths of more than 16.5 million people.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919.
Although World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars, it didn’t. In 1954, Congress enacted legislation changing the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Panetta Dedicates New Bethesda Military Medical Center

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Nov. 10, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presided over the opening of what he called “a 21st-century place of miracles” here today.

Panetta cut the ribbon of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The hospital is the result of the merging of the now-closed Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center.

“This place performs miracles, it saves lives,” Panetta said of the Bethesda medical facility. “And it renews life for the future.”

The hospital honors Army Maj. Walter Reed, a pioneering bacteriologist and one of the men who found that mosquitoes were the disease vector for yellow fever. It also continues the world-class care that the Bethesda Naval facility has provided since it was founded during World War II.

The combined hospital is a place of healing and miracles, Panetta said. It will service more than 1 million patients from those severely wounded in the nation’s wars, to military families to retirees.

Military personnel deserve a health care system second to none, the secretary said.

“Since 9-11, nearly 47,000 Americans have been wounded in action,” Panetta said. “Many have been dealing bravely with many grievous injuries. At the same time, their brothers and sisters in arms have also been battling cancer, degenerative diseases of one kind or another, psychological challenges of one kind or another.

“Our nation’s wounded, our nation’s ill, our nation’s injured show remarkable fortitude and strength in the face of some huge obstacles,” he continued. “They want nothing more … than to recover and rejoin their units and chart a new path of life in service to this country. In their spirit, we see the very best our country has to offer.”

Since the terrorist attacks on America a decade ago, military medicine has “modernized and expanded,” Panetta said, and in some cases “established innovative new capabilities for those in need.”

The new Walter Reed hospital, he said, has the latest equipment, the best facilities, and some of the most-innovative treatments. But it is the people, he added, who tend to those suffering, make the diagnoses, formulate the care plans, maintain the physical plant, cook the food, dispense the drugs and all the other things that make buildings places of healing that are most important.

The secretary said he knows that all will do their best for those who deserve so much.

“If our military can be judged on how well we fight our nation’s wars then our national character can be judged by how well we treat those who fight for us,” he said.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act mandated the merging of the hospitals. The facility in Bethesda is a tri-service facility staffed by Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. The commander is Navy Dr. (Rear Adm.) Alton L. Stocks.

Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Inspires Fellow Veterans

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2011 – Wounded veterans who come to the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center for their prosthetic care find the clinic there offers more than top-notch medicine.

They also find a compassionate caseworker in Tristan Wyatt, himself a wounded veteran who's lived the to-hell-and-back journey that proves there is life after losing a limb.

Wyatt has worn a prosthetic leg since shortly after an insurgent attack in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2003 left him and two of his six squad mates each without a leg.

As assistant chief of the prosthetics service, Wyatt helps introduce new veterans to the VA’s program. Many, recognizing that he’s overcome many of the same obstacles they now face, look to him for guidance.

“I spend a lot of time with them,” Wyatt said. “And when they do ask, I tell them they’ll have to let go of certain things or come to terms with them to assimilate back into ‘the world back home.’”

Wyatt said severely wounded veterans know that losing a limb will shape many of their life experiences, but tells them the road ahead doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Through trial and error, Wyatt said he learned that getting a new prosthetic leg is about progression -- how to use it, what feels normal and what doesn't. He thought he had to live with the pain he felt, but found that adjustments or even new devices could mitigate the problem.

“When you’re a new user," he tells patients, "you’re not sure how it’s supposed to feel or function or what a normal level of pain or discomfort is.” If it hurts, he said, take the prosthetic off, relax, and look into an adjustment.

But Wyatt's experiences weren't just about learning to use prosthetics.

“There are things I could've done to make my life a lot easier -- things I could have avoided and didn't,” he said. “You want to tell them about things they shouldn't do, but they’re not thinking that way right now.”

Soon after he was injured, Wyatt found he’d lost his passion for snowboarding in the Colorado Rockies because it was frustrating and became a lot of work. With time, he found that he excelled at rowing and kayaking.

Wyatt said leaving the Army was tough. Wyatt was 19 years old, he said, when he enlisted at Fort Carson, Colo., and right away, he knew he’d found his calling. He was just 20 years old when he was injured.

“My biggest hurdle was I couldn't go back to the Army,” Wyatt said. “That’s what I wanted, and I didn't know what I was going to do and didn't necessarily care. I fixated on what it was I couldn't do and lost track of [options].”

Wyatt spent six months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was awarded the Purple Heart right after his arrival while he was still in a wheelchair.

He spent a month fighting a stubborn infection and numerous surgeries that each took more of his thigh than doctors first expected. The physical therapy was grueling and the prosthetic fittings frustrating as he learned to walk again.

“It was difficult because … prosthetics was uncharted territory for everybody," he said. "And we wondered, ‘What’s going to happen from here?’”

Wyatt said he found it easy to isolate himself from people. He spent one Christmas alone, four-wheeling his Jeep on a beach, and increasingly “disappeared” from family during holidays.

Social situations weren’t comfortable for him, either. “I didn't want to see anybody,” he recalled. “The thought of being in a closed environment with a lot of people, having to share things, and being ‘on display’ was something I didn't want.”

Eventually, Wyatt grew tired of living in the past, and discovered that other opportunities did exist. When the VA offered him an entry-level job in 2005 in its new information technology program for veterans, he jumped on it and moved back to Washington.

Once there, he testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, encouraging the expansion of service member assistance programs like the VA's. “My separation from the Army was made a lot smoother than expected because of these people who truly cared and [were] willing to take a chance on a busted soldier,” he told committee members.

After a few years working for the VA, Wyatt applied for the agency's internship to work as a program manager in a prostheses clinic. There, he knew he could make a difference.

“I saw an opportunity where I could maybe go above and beyond in that arena, because of what I’d been through,” he said. “It seemed like a perfect fit and too good to pass up.”

Now on the job three years at San Diego’s VA hospital, Wyatt said he’s recaptured much of the camaraderie he enjoyed in the Army as he bonds with new patients beginning the same journey he started seven years ago.

“It still brings up a lot of emotion to see them because I know what they're going through,” he said.

He shuns the suggestion that he’s an inspiration to new prosthetics patients, but said he hopes they can benefit from his experience.

“There’s only a limited amount of what you can say or do for them, so you feel a little helpless,” he said. “But I hope they take something away from it.”

Wyatt says he’s fortunate to have a job he looks forward to every day. Today he feels he's reached a place in his life where the term “wounded warrior" doesn’t define him anymore.

When he reflects back on all that’s happened over the past seven years, it's a lot to digest, he said. “And it's a good feeling."

His journey back to the "real world," Wyatt said, wasn't without help.

“I’ve been given every opportunity to succeed, so it’s not only on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s a testament to the people of this country and the VA. Look at what they’ve given me -- it’s unbelievable.”

Local New London Children Thank Veterans for their Service to Nation

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine, Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- More than 500 children, service members, veterans, and families celebrated Veterans Day at Charles Barnum Elementary School, Nov. 10.

During the hour-long tribute to veterans in the elementary auditorium, children from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade shared their thanks through songs and essays about their military parents' service and all veterans' sacrifices for the freedom for all.

Capt. Bruce Derenski, commander, Submarine Group 2 representative at General Dynamics Electric Boat spoke at the tribute and discussed his 31 years of service, including a tour as an individual augmentee in Iraq.

"Veterans Day is really an important day to connect with people especially about what this day means, especially with children," said Derenski. "They have given up a lot."

Catherine Hanson, community coordinator, Charles Barnum Elementary School organized this year's Veterans Day tribute and explained her passion for recognizing veterans' service.

"I have a passion for supporting the military and their families," said Hanson.

The Charles Barnum Elementary School chorus also performed during the tribute singing "Thank a Vet." One verse in their song reflects the meaning of Veterans Day, "if you cherish your freedom and love America, thank a vet."

At various other schools in the region, Naval Submarine Base New London Sailors visited with students at Pleasant Valley, Mary Morrison and West Side Middle School.

Paul Kadri, superintendent, Groton Public Schools also attended the Elementary School's tribute and congratulated the school for remembering veterans' sacrifices to defend liberty especially since the majority of students have a parent serving in the military.

"The school has the highest concentration of military families, nearly 90 percent of the children have at least one parent serving in the military," said Kadri.

In addition to honoring veterans, Charles Barnum Elementary School had other reasons to celebrate. Kadri emphasized that for a second year in a row, the school has received 100 percent proficiency in state math exam for students enrolled in third through fifth grades. Kadri encouraged the students to continue their lifelong interest in education.

"Keep that love for reading and math going, you make us proud in Groton," said Kadri.

Kadri, one of several guest speakers, reminded the largely military related audience that veterans are also their mothers and fathers. "District-wide over 20 percent of the children have parents that serve in the military," Kadri said.

U.S. Coast Guard Storekeeper Richard Harris, company chief assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Academy said Veterans Day is like "Thanksgiving for the military."

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day to mark the victorious end of World War I, when the main hostilities were silenced at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Obama Pays Tribute to America’s Veterans

See where Veterans Day started and check out the best World War One books written by real veterans!

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2011 – Once again the sound of “Taps” spilled over the hillside above the Tomb of the Unknowns as President Barack Obama placed a wreath honoring America’s veterans, here today.

The president spoke for the country in honoring veterans and service members on the 93rd anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.

Veterans Affairs Secretary retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who introduced the president at the Memorial Amphitheatre, said no commander-in-chief has done more since President Franklin D. Roosevelt to care for and honor veterans.

On a bright and windy day, Obama took the rostrum and said the veterans of today are part of the thin line connecting American history. “Whether you fought in Salerno or Samara, Khe Sanh or the Korengal, you are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served this country with honor and distinction,” he said. “On behalf of a proud and grateful nation, we thank you.”

The president praised the newest generation of American veterans, noting that since 9/11, more than 3 million young Americans have raised their hands and become part of the armed forces. These men and women, the president said, stepped forward “knowing full well that they could be sent into harm’s way. And in that time, they have served in some of the world’s most dangerous places.”

And they have been effective, he said, citing examples. Their service in Iraq has given the country the chance for a democratic future. “In Afghanistan, they have pushed back the Taliban and decimated al-Qaida and delivered the ultimate justice to Osama bin-Laden,” he said. “In concert with our allies, they have helped end [Moammar] Gadhafi’s brutal dictatorship and returned Libya to its people.”

Their efforts mean the tide of war is receding, the president said. The mission in Iraq will end before the holidays, and withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun. “My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home,” Obama said.

These returning troops have not finished serving, the president said. They understand the American spirit that asks every citizen to play a role.

“So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they have earned, the opportunity they defend and deserve,” he said. “And above all, let us welcome them home as what they are: an integral, essential part of our American family.”

Obama called on business owners to hire veterans and community leaders to invite veterans in and make use of their talents. “Organize your community to make a sustained difference in the life of a veteran because that veteran can make an incredible difference in the life of your community,” the president said.

He urged veterans looking for new ways to serve America to go to, and he urged all Americans to click on to find ways to support veterans and their families.

American service members have worked and fought in remote and dangerous places since 9/11, and now they are coming home, Obama continued. The country needs their service, “because after a decade of war, the nation we now need to build is our own,” he said.

Just as the World War II generation came home from war to build the largest middle class on Earth, “so now will the 9/11 generation play a pivotal role in rebuilding America's opportunity and prosperity in the 21st century,” he said.

This will not be easy, Obama said, and the nation must still deal with new threats. “We’ve got to overcome the cynical voices warning that America's best days are behind us,” he said. “Because if there is anything our veterans teach us, it’s that there is no threat we cannot meet, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.”

America’s best days are still ahead, the president said. “We are a country that does what is necessary for future generations to succeed,” he said. “You, our veterans, fight so our children won’t have to. We build and we invent and we learn so that we will know greater opportunity. America leads so that the next generation here and around the world will know a more hopeful life on this Earth.”

Momsen Sailors, Veterans Honored at Olympic View Middle School

Educate yourself this Veterans Day by seeing the best military books written only by real American armed forces veterans!

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Kyle Steckler, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. NW

MULKILTEO, Wash. (NNS) -- More than 400 people gathered in the gym at Olympic View Middle School to honor Sailors from the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92) and many other veterans in attendance, Nov. 10.

The assembly featured speeches by two retired U.S. Navy officers, as well as performances by Olympic View Middle School's band, choir and orchestra.

"Veterans' Day instills a great sense of pride in my country, that we have been able to maintain our status and that people are willing to volunteer to serve," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Danielle Rivers, one of four Momsen Sailors honored. "When I think of Veterans' Day, I think of other people, so to be asked to come here to be honored today means a lot to me."

Two guest speakers, retired Navy Capt. Rock Roth and retired Navy Cmdr. William Halsey, were asked to speak at the assembly. Halsey chose to highlight the history of Veterans' Day and its forbearer, Armistice Day.

"We really didn't want to focus on war and the killing and death that comes with it", said Halsey. "Instead, we wanted to bring a sense of reflection, remembrance and sacrifice to the students in an attempt to draw them in to what this day is all about."

Cheryl Howe, Olympic View Middle School's parent liaison, said that the school has hosted a Veterans' Day event every year since she started working in the school district.

"Veterans' Day and these assemblies really mean a lot to me because I've had several relatives and friends serve in the military," said Howe. "It really gives the students a chance to see what Veterans' Day is about face-to-face."

Halsey said he hopes one of the things that students take away from the assembly is a sense of the sacrifices military members and their families make every day.

"So many of our youth either don't love history or don't ever get history put into context," said Halsey. "Hopefully today the students take away a little about what we spoke about, about why exactly the poresident goes to Arlington Cemetery and lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans' Day, and that they are taking time to recognize the sacrifices our service members have made."

“Honoring our Nation’s Veterans”

Veterans Day is the day the American people set aside for honoring those, past and present, who’ve served our nation in uniform.

Since our nation’s founding, American service members have stepped forward to safeguard liberty for future generations.  And during the ten years since 9/11, another generation has answered this call to fight and sacrifice on foreign soil.  They have done all that was asked of them and more.  And as a result, on this Veterans Day, we are closer to prevailing in today’s fights.

In Iraq, we are ending our combat presence this year, and Iraqis are now prepared to govern and defend their own country, which will act as a force for stability in a vital region of the world.  In Afghanistan, our men and women are turning back an insurgency and building up Afghan security forces to prevent that country from ever again serving as a sanctuary for al Qaeda or its affiliates to threaten our homeland.  In Libya, our forces supported a NATO operation that protected the Libyan people from a brutal dictator, who will never again be able to threaten his citizens or undermine international security.  And on terrorism, we have significantly weakened Al Qaeda and its allies, decimated their leadership, and kept American safer.

This progress would not be possible without the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and also of the families who love and support them.  I’m delighted that President Obama designated November as Military Family Month, encouraging Americans to do more to recognize and support these great patriots.

This country owes a profound debt to all Veterans, and military families.  In these tough economic times, we’re especially cognizant of our service members transitioning to civilian life, as well as our military spouses.  And we must give them the best possible tools to succeed in professional pursuits.  This week, I had the opportunity to meet with business leaders and press them to do just that – so that we ensure our Veterans will continue to positively impact our country’s future prosperity.

For serving our nation with such bravery and distinction, our Veterans and current service members deserve our country’s profound gratitude – not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day.

Thank you, and may God bless all Americans serving around the world in uniform.

Veteran’s Day with Gracie Versus Dad

Live Tonight:  November 11, 2100 Hours Pacific Time

Some member of our family has served in every branch of the US Military. That’s right, we got ‘em all covered: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – Go Guard! Join us for our own special family Veteran’s Day celebration.

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