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News stories tagged with "veterans"

Anti-war group kicks off national tour in Watertown

An anti-war group is kicking off a national tour of Army bases this weekend in Watertown. Concerts tomorrow and a Sunday barbecue are the main events, but organizers say this tour is meant to help soldiers navigate the federal government's health care system. Members of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War say they're starting their tour of U.S. Army bases near Fort Drum because it's home to the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed unit in the U.S. Army. Kristofer Goldsmith is one of the organizers of this weekend's events. He was a sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division. After his tour of duty in Iraq he joined the anti-war group. He spoke with Jonathan Brown about the "State of the Union" base tour. Goldsmith says the name reflects the Iraq War's stature, particularly among soldiers, as the biggest problem with the state of the union.  Go to full article

Preview: ?Welcome Home Jenny Sutter?

Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake offers a new play this summer that explores war, recovery, acceptance and hope. "Welcome Home Jenny Sutter" opens next Tuesday night and continues through the end of August. Jenny Sutter is home from Iraq. She's a 30-year-old Marine, minus her lower right leg, with a mind filled with horrific memories. The play's been called a tender, funny and important story of a female veteran struggling to return to civilian life. Todd Moe talks with director Anita Montgomery and Fiona Christie, who portrays Jenny Sutter.  Go to full article

Vet group faults Drum mental health services

A veterans group says the Army is still failing to provide 10th Mountain Division soldiers with adequate mental health services at Fort Drum more than six years after the start of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report, titled "Fort Drum: A Great Burden, Inadequate Assistance." is from the Washington, D.C.-based Veterans for America. It cites under-staffing, reliance on questionnaires to identify soldiers who need treatment, and leadership's indifference to soldiers' claims of post traumatic stress disorder. The report also said repeated, lengthy and unpredictable deployments have taken a toll on all the Army's divisions, but most especially Ft. Drum's 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams. The report says some soldiers wait up to two months before a first appointment. It concludes that care for returning soldiers at Fort Drum is woefully inadequate.

Veterans for America, formerly known as Vietnam Veterans of America, was founded by former Marine Bobby Muller. According to Sen. Hillary Clinton, the group based the report on interviews with a dozen Fort Drum soldiers and mental health providers. Clinton said the problem must be addressed urgently. In a statement, she said she's looking forward to "the cooperation and support of the Army in this process." Army officials at Ft. Drum had no immediate comment on the report.  Go to full article

Army Surgeon General says VA may help disability paperwork

There's another development in the story of VA help for Ft. Drum soldiers who are filing disability claims. Last week, NPR reporter Ari Shapiro reported the Army had told Veterans Administration counselors last year not to help soldiers with paperwork that determines the scope of benefits they receive after discharge. In later stories the Army surgeon general denied the Army had interfered. Last evening and this morning, NPR reports the Army Surgeon General says there was a misunderstanding. He told NPR he was mistaken when he denied the Army had told the VA not to help injured soldiers at Fort Drum challenge their disability ratings.

Eric Schoomaker says the VA assistance is fine with him. In fact, he said, the VA counselors practices at Ft. Drum were among the best the Army has seen. And he told NPR soldiers who feel they were "disadvantaged" by the change of practice should speak out. You can hear Ari Shapiro's story at the link below.  Go to full article
Tom and Nellie Coakley with Tom Brokaw
Tom and Nellie Coakley with Tom Brokaw

Canton couple remembers Vietnam

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the socially and politically significant year, 1968. Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw's latest book, Boom! - Voices of the '60s, explores the pivotal events of the 1960s. A Canton couple is among the Vietnam veterans profiled in the book. In a moving chapter, Tom and Nellie Coakley talk about their experiences in Vietnam and how the war changed their lives. The Coakleys met at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital while Tom was recovering from battle injuries and Nellie was a nurse. Nellie told Todd Moe she'd always wanted to be an army nurse and volunteered to go to Vietnam.  Go to full article

PTSD, Pt.4: A war trauma counselor

This week we've been reporting on the struggles of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in getting help with combat trauma. Today we get a window inside their world from one of the North Country's most respected experts. Nellie Coakley is a Vietnam veteran. She relies on her own experience in her work as a war trauma counselor. She's worked out the region's Vet Center since the 1980s. Vet Centers were created to give an alternative to Vietnam vets who didn't trust the standard VA channels. Coakley counsels an increasing number of Iraq and Afghanistan vets, and she sees a similar mistrust. She says the American public needs to do more to understand post-traumatic stress disorder and help veterans re-enter society. The trouble is, soldiers coming home with PTSD find they can't leave their warrior training behind. For them, Coakley told David Sommerstein, combat is life-changing.  Go to full article

PTSD at Ft. Drum, pt.2: A soldier speaks out

If you hear one complaint from soldiers about how the Army handles post-traumatic stress disorder, it's about a bureaucracy that doesn't seem to care. The military officially recognized PTSD as a medical illness almost 30 years ago. Yet soldiers still complain of not getting the help they need. Mountains of paperwork, a backlog of claims, a shortage of licensed psychologists, and a dearth of scientific research all get in the way. In part two of our series on treating PTSD at Fort Drum, David Sommerstein has the story of one soldier who says Fort Drum's mental health system failed him again and again.

CORRECTION TO ORIGINAL STORY: This story first reported that the military requires three letters from commanders documenting that a soldier was in a traumatic combat situation. A Fort Drum spokesman e-mailed to say that one letter is required. The audio has been changed accordingly.  Go to full article

Rural America shoulders the burden of war

On Veterans Day, small towns across the North Country honored their soldiers, especially those soldiers who've died in America's wars. There is fresh evidence this week that rural Americans are paying a disproportionately heavy price in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new study found, when adjusted for population, rural Vermont's sacrifice has been nearly three times higher than the average urban community. According to the Associated Press, 26 Vermonters have died so far in the two wars. William O'Hare compiled the fact sheet on small town soldiers. He's a visiting scholar at the Carsey Institute, a think-tank based at the University of New Hampshire that looks at rural issues.  Go to full article
Jim Goodwin, age 97, taught a generation of military climbers
Jim Goodwin, age 97, taught a generation of military climbers

Memories: Adirondack mountaineer fights with 10th Mtn. in Italy

The 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum has one of the most storied histories of any unit in the U.S. Army. During the Italian campaign of World War II, the 10th's soldiers were famous for scaling cliffs to attack German positions that had been viewed as impregnable. Jim Goodwin, from Keene Valley, grew up climbing and skiing in the Adirondacks and in the 1940s he was one of the pioneers of American mountaineering. When the 10th Mountain Division was being formed, Goodwin was recruited to help train the soldiers. He later served with the unit as a medic during the fighting in northern Italy. Goodwin is ninety-seven years old now, a retired schoolteacher. He sat down with Brian Mann to talk about his experience at war.  Go to full article

Clinton: help for Iraq's "signature wound"

New York Senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton travels to Fort Drum this afternoon. The Democrat will meet privately with 10th Mountain Division commanders and a group of soldiers. The visit will cap a day of appearances at VA Hospitals in Syracuse and Canandaigua. Clinton is promoting a package of bills aimed at improving health care for veterans. The proposal is co-sponsored by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. It would work to improve detection and treatment of traumatic brain injuries, which Clinton calls "the signature wound" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would help train caregivers. And it would make it easier for wounded soldiers to collect disability benefits. David Sommerstein spoke with Senator Clinton on her cell phone yesterday. She says treating post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other mental illnesses is most difficult in rural areas like the North Country.  Go to full article

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