US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King (Ret.) Receives Customized ELAN Smart Home from the Gary Sinise Foundation

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Master Sgt. Cedric King

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA, June, 2017 — On July 25, 2012, during his third deployment in Afghanistan, US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King’s platoon conducted a reconnaissance of a possible explosive distributor in an Afghan village.

As they approached the target, they fell under machine gun fire. Once the firefight ended, Cedric proceeded forward, only to step on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (IED). The blast lifted him from his feet, resulting in the loss of both of his legs and disfigurement of his right hand.

When the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) learned about King’s service, they decided to honor his bravery with a newly built, completely customized specially adapted smart home. The residence, based in Atlanta, relies on an ELAN Entertainment & Control System to enable control and automation of the home’s audio, video, lighting, security, and more.

“Core Brands’ Regional Sales Manager Jason Davis asked us if we could provide our services to Gary Sinise Foundation for this project, and we were honored to do so,” said Phillip Ampel of Atlanta Audio and Automation, the integration firm responsible for the project. “We built a sophisticated smart home that is highly functional, and jam-packed with exciting entertainment features. It truly offers Cedric and his family an elevated level of freedom — and fun.”

One ELAN gSC10 controller serves as the brains of the system, and is accessible through two ELAN TP7 touch panels in the master suite and living room, as wellSmart Home as an ELAN HR200 remote which they use for controlling the home’s surround-sound audio system. King can also use the ELAN App on his smartphone device to easily and simply make any adjustments throughout the home.

Atlanta Audio and Automation integrated an extensive Lutron lighting and climate system into the ELAN platform, enabling the King family to control the lighting — or automate its functionality — instantly. “The Lutron system includes lighting control through 24 dimmers and two Lutron thermostats,” Atlanta Audio & Automation explained. “It is so much easier to access all of three systems from the easy-to-use ELAN interface. King does not need to physically walk into each room to turn the lights on or off. It’s as simple as a tap on a screen.”

Atlanta Audio & Automation also integrated a security system with 6 IP cameras placed throughout the property to be accessed instantly through ELAN. “It was important for King to be able to easily manage the residence’s indoor and outdoor security feeds,” AAA commented. “ELAN is the ideal platform for checking in on security from anywhere and anytime. He could be in the living room checking out video of his backyard on a centrally located touch panel, or out-and-about watching from the ELAN Mobile App.”

In addition to its customized convenience, AAA tricked out the home with an entertainment system for the King family to enjoy. They designed an extensive multi-room audio and video system, enabled through an ELAN S1616A Multi-Room Controller, that distributes music and video to six different locations throughout the home. The entertainment system includes a surround sound system including Niles DS7HD and DS7FX in-ceiling speakers and three Sunfire HRS10 subwoofers.

For the King family’s outdoor enjoyment Atlanta Audio & Automation installed a waterproof Séura television on the patio. “Séura’s Outdoor Waterproof TV is completely functional outside, in any weather,” AAA said. “It’s a fantastic addition to their entertainment system.”

Since King relies heavily on his home’s technology for independence, Smart HomeAAA made sure to protect the equipment with a Panamax M4315-PRO Power Power Conditioner with key components protected by a Furman F1500 Uninterruptible Power Supply. Both feature BlueBOLT remote energy management. “Aside from the danger of catastrophic surges, ‘dirty power’ can interrupt high-end electronics so they won’t work as they should,” Atlanta Audio & Automation commented. “The Furman and Panamax products ensure that we can guarantee clean power, and as an integrator, I can check in on it or troubleshoot it remotely.”

According to Judy Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the home checks off all of the boxes for the King family. “We are honored to recognize Cedric’s service with this customized specially adapted smart home that really does give him a new level of independence,” she said. “Since his injury, Cedric has persevered, earning numerous medals and awards, he’s run marathons, and even climbed mountains. Cedric is a true inspiration and an American hero.”

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About ELAN

ELAN, from Core Brands, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The new ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award from the Consumer Technology Association’s Mark of Excellence Award Program Committee at CES 2017. To learn more, visit elanhomesystems.com.

 

About Core Brands

Anchored by the ELAN Smart Home Control Platform, Core Brands combines the strengths of its iconic control, audio, power management, connectivity and video distribution brands – ELAN®, SpeakerCraft®, Gefen®, Niles®, Panamax®, Proficient®, Furman®, Sunfire® and Xantech® – to deliver a portfolio of connected home and commercial solutions to its channel partners and end users. For further information, visit corebrands.com.

 

‘Therapy on ice’ helps vets heal, give back to community

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By Gary Sheftick

The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.

He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.

All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.

“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”

Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.

Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.

“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”

Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.

GIVING BACK

Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.

“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.

Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.

His time on the ice as a player-coach is extra.

“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.

He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.

“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.

He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.

Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.

He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.

“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”

SPREADING THE WORD

Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.

They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.

They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.

They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.

Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22 pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.

There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.

Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.

RAMADI RPG

In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.

“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.

“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.

After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.

“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.

“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”

He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.

“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.

“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”

About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.

Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.

“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”

So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.

Continue onto Army News to read the complete article.

World War II veteran gets 50,000 birthday cards after daughter’s plea

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Duane Sherman-Purple Heart Recipient

A 96-year-old World War II veteran from California will be spending plenty of time with family going through a mountain of birthday cards, after a request from his daughter on Facebook went viral.

Sue Morse had put out a request for friends to send birthday wishes to her father and Purple Heart medal recipient Duane Sherman, expecting she would get maybe 160 cards.

Instead, he received over 50,000.

“I was amazed, shocked and appreciative,” Sherman told the Orange County Register. “All the good comments people made, it just brightened my day.

Sherman’s wife of 57 years, Lois, died in 2011. His daughter told the Register the only mail her dad receives most days are just bills, and he’s outlived most of his friends.

“I wanted to him to feel special on his birthday,” Morse said.

Sherman enlisted in the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. He was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Lamson, a destroyer that saw several battles in the Pacific.

Continue on to Fox News to read the complete article.

Don’t miss SGT. Will Gardner, the movie, coming to select theaters and On Demand, January 11!

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SGT. Will Gardner tells the story of Iraq War veteran Will Gardner (Max Martini) who is suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) he sustained with his platoon while in combat.

His injuries make it difficult for him to reintegrate into society. After a series of setbacks, he embarks on a spirited motorcycle journey across America with the goal of reuniting with his son.

Along his journey, he tries to pick up the pieces of the life he’s lost since returning from combat. His PTSD causes frequent flashbacks to the Iraq War which he survives by having frequent conversations with Sam (Omari Hardwick), his best friend and war buddy.

SGT. WILL GARDNER will be released in select theaters, VOD, and Digital on January 11, 2019 from Cinedigm.

 
 

Director: Max Martini
Writer: Max Martini
Stars: Max Martini, Omari Hardwick, Gary Sinise. See complete cast list

WATCH THE TRAILER!

Facebook: @sgtwillgardnerthemovie
Twitter: @SgtWillGardner

Easterseals serves 20,000 vets and their families in 2018

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Angela Williams-Easterseals

In 2018, nearly 20,000 veterans and military family members received support through Easterseals through an extensive list of programs, including; advocacy and education and employment programs and job training.

Other programs include; military and veterans’ caregiver services, veteran community services and support and health and wellness programs. The organization is led by President and CEO Angela Williams, a retired United States Air Force officer, serving in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The iconic nonprofit kicks off its 100th anniversary celebration, furthering its mission of supporting the disabled and their families. Over the past century, Easterseals has provided a multitude of disability services to more than 1.5 million people, helping to meet individual and family needs.

Easterseals Military & Veterans Services
Our mission is to ensure that it’s possible for veterans and military families to live their lives to the fullest in every community. We work to break down barriers, engage organizations and communities, and connect veterans and military families with what they need for meaningful employment, education and overall wellness. Our grassroots outreach – through 71 local affiliates in communities nationwide– provide unmatched, accessible, and indispensable resources and support for veterans and military families.

Grassroots Solutions through Easterseals
The needs of veterans and military families are evolving, not disappearing. That’s why Easterseals specializes in identifying the needs of veterans and military families, particularly with employment, job training and support like family respite opportunities. We work to make solutions easily accessible in communities.

Learn More about Easterseals Military and Veterans Services

Discover how we’ve been successful so far in our mission.

Our work in action

  • Advocacy & Education
    Veterans and military families deserve services delivered in an appropriate, timely, and accessible manner. Our Washington, DC-based government relations team works to influence federal and state legislation affecting veterans and military families and actively engages with Congressional staff in pursuit of these goals.
  • Employment Programs and Job Training
    Our employment programs provide the necessary tools to achieve and maintain meaningful employment and a steady income. We offer skills training, job search assistance, employment preparation and guidance. For example, we partner with the Direct Employers Association, which has a membership of about 800 employers who want to hire veterans and people with disabilities. Through this partnership, Easterseals is offering a job search portal at easterseals.jobs, which features job postings from these employers.
  • Military and Veterans Caregiver Services 
    We strive to ensure military caregivers can access what they need to take on the enormous responsibility of caregiving—often, while still needing to work, navigate family life and take care of themselves. We embrace and support military caregivers, particularly as they transition into this new experience, life-long trajectory and unfamiliar — yet vital role — within their families and communities.
  • Veteran Community Services & Support 
    Veterans come home to their families and communities, so serving them must be a community undertaking. That’s why, across the country, we are delivering services that veterans and military families need to live productive, successful lives.
  • Health and Wellness Programs
    We aim to reach as many veterans and military families as possible to provide health resources and programs, including adult dayand medical rehabilitation services.

Additional resources

What are many veterans asking themselves these days? “What to wear?!”  As military members return to civilian life and face the job search, figuring out the right suit to wear to an interview can be the biggest challenge, while the job responsibilities are a breeze. Watch the video below to see why, and help spread the message that veterans are highly skilled and valuable employees. See all three of our military themed public service videos. 

In November 2015, Easterseals hosted Heroes Work Here, an event to educate corporate leaders on hiring and retaining veterans. With friends and partners, we gathered important advice about how to hire America’s best and brightest. Find tips on why and how to hire veterans here!
Watch Travis Mills explain how you can hire veterans with Easterseals’ help right now.

Veteran and Dancing with the Stars winner JR Martinez and veteran and author Travis Mills play word association with Easterseals, our veteran edition!

America’s Warrior Partnership Expands Veteran Suicide Prevention Study to Seven New Communities

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— Operation Deep Dive to be conducted in Cincinnati; Syracuse, N.Y.; Mobile, Ala.; Houston; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; and Las Vegas —

America’s Warrior Partnership today announced the addition of seven nonprofit organizations and city government groups that will participate in Operation Deep Dive, a community-based veteran suicide prevention study led by America’s Warrior Partnership and University of Alabama researchers with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

The seven new study participants are the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance (based in Cincinnati); Clear Path for Veterans (based in Syracuse, N.Y.); Veteran Recovery Resources (based in Mobile, Ala.); Combined Arms (based in Houston); Veterans Bridge Home (based in Charlotte, N.C.); the city government of Indianapolis; and the city government of Las Vegas.

“Since launching Operation Deep Dive a year ago, we have received a tremendous response from within the original communities where the study is currently being conducted,” said Jim Lorraine, president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership. “Suicide prevention is a critical public health issue, so we greatly appreciate the support of our partners in expanding the scope of this project. We welcome the expertise of these seven new community groups, and we look forward to working together in guiding the development of more effective outreach and prevention programs nationwide.”

Each of the participating organizations will lead the creation of a Community Action Team, which will consist of local medical examiners, coroners, veteran-serving organizations, civic leaders, veterans and their families and caregivers. These Community Action Teams will work with University of Alabama researchers to shape, review and direct the project within their region.

“This project’s unique approach of building local teams to work with national researchers promises to provide new insights into the community factors that affect veterans and their families,” said John Damonti, President of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “Expanding Operation Deep Dive to these seven new communities will ensure the project’s results are as comprehensive as possible.”

Operation Deep Dive is the first research endeavor to assess the effects that community environments have on the potential factors of suicides among veterans. Conducted in two phases, the first phase included a five-year retrospective investigation of the impact of less-than-honorable discharges on veterans, as well as the differences in suicide rates between those who received and did not receive support services from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).

During the second phase of the study, researchers will analyze information gathered by the Community Action Teams along with data from national sources, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and United Way Worldwide to identify trends, patterns and potential indicators of suicide. Results will ultimately guide the development of proactive, holistic prevention and outreach programs to reduce suicide and self-harm among veterans.

In addition to these seven new communities, Operation Deep Dive is currently being conducted in Atlanta; Orange County, Calif.; Buffalo, N.Y; Minneapolis, Minn.; the Panhandle region of Florida; and Greenville and Charleston, S.C.

For more information on Operation Deep Dive, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org/Deep-Dive.

About America’s Warrior Partnership

America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans. We fill the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy, improving their results and empowering their initiatives. America’s Warrior Partnership is a force multiplier for warrior community integration that enhances communities where great Americans choose to live and contribute. For more information on the organization and how to get involved, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.

 

About Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is committed to improving the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases by strengthening healthcare worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services, and addressing unmet medical need. The Foundation engages partners to develop, execute, evaluate and promote innovative programs to help patients with lung cancer and removing barriers to accessing care in the United States, HIV and comorbid diseases such as cervical and breast cancers and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B and C in China and India and veterans’ mental health and well-being in the U.S. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, visit us at BMS.com/Foundation.

Hampton Rose: The unbroken lens of a filmmaker

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Hampton Rose with his camer

Hampton Rose is a father of 7 who battles PTSD and was in two missions. He dreams of being a filmmaker to help other vets.

It’s 4 a.m. and instead of getting those precious hours of sleep – he’s doing homework. This moment of quiet gives him an opportunity to steal a few moments and get through his class assignments while the children sleep.

“Oh, yeah! I have seven kids and insomnia,” says the 46-year-old Hampton Rose who is about to graduate as he reflects on the constant juggle of a full course load in psychology, raising kids and completing homework before sunrise.

He’s straight to the point on his sleep disorder and the likely cause – a personal struggle with PTSD.

“I think more people should talk about it,” says Rose.

Rose is a military vet who served for 17 years and held several assignments including communications specialist. But, he switched jobs during his tenure and served as an Army medic, providing care in the toughest zones within Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I was called Doc, it was a sign of respect,” says Hampton about the nickname he earned within his unit. “I was a Charlie company senior medic. And as a medic you’re supposed to take care of the troops’ medical support, but what they don’t tell you is that you’re like their everything. Their doctor, their therapist, priest, big brother, and sometimes best friend, which is why I believe as medics, we suffer more because when a troop goes down, it’s not only a patient. Now, you’re looking at it with all eyes. And that’s the worst part, who wants to see all that in one person?”

In 2007, his career is nearly ended after a tumor was found inside his hip. For three months he spent time confined to a hospital and unable to walk.  “I couldn’t deploy and it was tough not being there for my fellow troops,” he said about his recovery period.

After Rose was cleared of the tumor, he rejoined his teammates and later deployed as part of a rapidHampton Rose response unit. However, in 2012, after serving for nearly two decades, his teenaged daughter Alexa asked him to stay and not leave home anymore – something that hit him harder than the tumor.

He decided to end his military career and one year later enrolled at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He selected to study psychology, because he desired to discover more about himself as he endures PTSD.

“The classroom and learning has been therapy,” he says. “And I wanted to know the ‘why’ of why I have twitches. I wanted to know my triggers.”

Rose suffers from severe social anxiety disorder too. Sometimes he gets gripped by fear to the point he cannot take a step.  A five-minute walking trajectory to the campus library can sometimes end up taking him 20 minutes.

“I even suffered panic attacks in class, it was horrible,” Rose said. “You think everyone is watching you. It’s beyond paranoia. But you have to remind yourself that you have to be patient, breathe and take your time, take your time.”

But there is a significant change for Rose, last year during a video class project, he was asked to produce a short film on any topic. Naturally, his work centered on the alienation he feels as a veteran and the difficulties he faces to reintegrate back to civilian life including attending school. The one assignment has resulted in three short films.

After graduation he plans to make it a go and launch a production company called “Nushottas,” borrowing from the street slang “shotta” for gangster, but also a nod to the transformation of the camera as his new weapon.

“Maybe I can help vets express themselves artistically and help others see the world the way I see it. I’m not broken, I just see it a little differently.”

After five years, Rose will now walk the commencement stage in December with dreams of meeting Spike Lee.

Author
Milady Nazir
The University of Texas San Antonio

Blind veteran pushing new documentary, anthem to bring attention to disabled vets

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Marty Klein on guitar

WOODSTOCK, N.Y.–A blind veteran from Woodstock has ambitious plans for his new full-length feature film and original theme song that grew out of it.

During the month of November, Marty Klein  was on a mission to get radio stations across the nation to play his “Veterans’ Anthem” and present his 54-minute documentary, “Why Can’t We Serve,” which he wrote, produced and directed, to a wide audience. He intends to keep the momentum going and shine the spotlight on helping disabled veterans.

The song, recorded at Natural Studios in Saugerties, features Klein on lead vocals. He is backed by famous musicians like John Sebastian on harmonica; folk singer Amy Fradon on backup vocals; Eric Parker on percussion; Jim Barbaro on guitar; and Cathie Malach on keyboard. Klein said the folksy anthem is intentionally upbeat to instill hope among America’s veterans.

Klein, who lost his sight to a rare eye disease called bilateral anterior uveitis while serving in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1960s, said the anthem was inspired by his film “Why Can’t We Serve,” which draws attention to high veteran suicide rates. According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans take their lives each day, amounting to about 8,000 deaths annually.

Klein said he could have been another statistic, particularly after his diagnosis, which included secondary glaucoma and minimal but progressive cataracts.

“Before that, I had 20-20 vision,” said the 70-year-old author, disability activist and yoga enthusiast, Marty in uniform shaking handswho was honorably discharged in 1970. “I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a total loss of vision.”

To make the film, Klein enlisted the talents of Hudson Valley photographer and videographer Mike Nelson as his cinematographer as well as other local experts and artists. He began working on the project in 2016 and raised funds to get it off the ground. The Kingston Veterans Association helped raise more than $8,000 for the project, according to Klein.

The movie, shot at various locations across the country, including California, North Carolina and New York, features interviews with veterans, policymakers and counselors. Among those interviewed are Bill Forte, the chairman of the Kingston Veterans Association, and Klein, who tells his story.

In 1967, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Air Force, mainly to appease his patriotic father. After basic training, he went to weather school in Champagne, Illinois, fulfilling a childhood dream of being a meteorologist.

He was about to be sent to Vietnam when he was stricken with the disease.

“I had my own Vietnam,” he said. “Losing my vision was no picnic. I went through seven years of hell, being totally lost and had to recreate who I was.”

In the years that followed, Klein moved around the country before landing in Woodstock, where he would become a longtime counselor at Family of Woodstock’s crisis intervention center. He has also authored three books, two screenplays and created a CD program called “Beginning Yoga for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” He also is the founder of a holistic learning center in Tallahassee, Florida, which operated for eight years.

Marty Klein anthem songKlein said his goals for the film and song are not for personal gain, but to improve the lives of wounded military personnel and disabled veterans.

“My premise was that when these soldiers go to combat and come back wounded, there is no place for them in the military, so I decided to expose this with this film,” he said. “They get discharged and are given a disability check and that’s that.

“Many want to keep serving, but now, they’re floundering and don’t know what to do. The military unintentionally is pushing away a large number of people who would make it stronger and more diverse.”

Klein hopes that in some small way, the film will be a catalyst for change, but he said it will likely be an uphill battle.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that all businesses and corporations hire people with disabilities,” he said. “This applies to most government agencies as well. The only exception is the United States military.”

Right now, Klein is pushing to get his song played at as many radio stations as he can and hoping to get his documentary screened at prominent venues, including next year’s GI Film Festival.

For the link to the film, please go to whycantweserve.com.

To listen to the song, A Veteran’s Anthem, download it here.

Helping Veterans Cope with PTSD during holidays

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army-man-sitting

The winter holiday season is regarded by many as a wonderful time of the year. However, the holidays can be a painful reminder of past times when life seemed better. Large groups of family and friends are often part of the holiday festivities, but this and other things may be stressful for someone with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Groups may tire a person out or make him or her feel overwhelmed. People may feel pressure to join family activities when they’re not up for it, or believe they must act happy when they’re not. People with PTSD may already find it difficult to get enough sleep or to relax and these added pressures can worsen those symptoms.

Someone with PTSD may be very sensitive to losses around the holiday.  Veterans and military families, in particular, tend to remember at the holidays those who did not make it home from war.  They may not know how to celebrate the holidays knowing those fallen heroes are no longer present.  There may also be recent losses: the death of a loved one, an emotional divorce, or separation from one’s children.  All of these circumstances may cause someone to feel melancholy about memories of holidays past.

Family and friends might ask the Veteran questions about his or her life or about PTSD. The person with PTSD may not feel comfortable answering these questions, but it is important that he or she keep in mind that their family may feel some of the same pressures, and may only be asking because they have a genuine concern for their wellbeing.

The holiday gathering may also be one of the few times family or friends are able to physically see the person with PTSD, and they may feel it is more appropriate they ask such questions in person rather than over the phone or online because they may think that is too impersonal. In either case, the person with PTSD has the power and right to not answer any questions.

Responding to sensitive questions

A polite way of handling these types of situations is by taking a few slow, deep breaths and calmly responding to someone, “I think it is nice of you to show you care by asking, but I’d rather not talk about that right now,” or “thanks for your concern, but I’m not comfortable answering questions about that.”  Then take the opportunity to redirect the conversation.  Ask that family member about work, their children, or their favorite sports team, and steer the conversation to safer ground.

Both people with and without PTSD can cope with holiday stress by following these tips:

  • Talk with your family about how you feel. Your family can help you. This does not mean you have to tell them everything, but let them know you’re feeling stressed.
  • Be honest about your stress level and let your friends and family know your plans ahead of time, especially if you are planning to take some time during the season to relax and de-stress by spending time away from home, work or people that bring stress into your life.
  • Set limits. Don’t join activities for longer than you can handle. You can choose when you want to be a part of the group.
  • Take breaks. Go for walks, or set aside a place where you can be alone for a while. This can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Get plenty of rest. You may already have difficulty sleeping, but do your best to maintain your usual bedtime or wake-up. Naps should be taken sparingly, as they may further disrupt your nighttime sleeping patterns.
  • Keep up with exercise routines. If you normally do yoga, go jogging, or lift weights, try to keep up those healthy routines.  These activities are all healthy ways to relieve stress.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Sometimes people who are feeling depressed find that if they go through the motions, they just might catch themselves having fun.  While the pain from the past hasn’t gone away, this is a chance to begin making new positive memories one step at a time.

One of the best tips to remember when coping with holiday stress is not drinking too much alcohol. Many people have a few drinks, thinking it will relax them, but instead, alcohol causes many people to have less control over their emotions and behavior.  As a result, your symptoms may be worse or you may end up having problems with your family. For those who are in recovery from alcohol, the suggestion from family or friends to “have just one” can be a big challenge. Carrying a glass of ginger ale or cola with you can help sidestep those offers without you having to share your personal matters with everyone.

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Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Qatar Harvey Fund Launch $6M Qatar Veterans Fund to Support Texas Veteran Communities Impacted by Hurricane Harvey

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Bob Woodruff Foundation

The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF), a nonprofit focused on creating long-lasting, positive outcomes for post-9/11 impacted veterans and their families, announced that it has established a­ partnership with the Qatar Harvey Fund to support veterans who continue to be impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The hurricane, which pummeled Texas in 2017, was one of the most damaging and costly in U.S. history.

BWF will establish the Qatar Veterans Fund using a grant from the Qatar Harvey Fund, a $30 million gift from the state intended to help the 41 Texas counties impacted by the storm.  The investment in the new veterans fund will be managed by BWF and will support Texas’ large population of former service personnel and military families.

“Following Hurricane Harvey, the State of Qatar established a $30 million fund to support the long-term recovery of the storm’s victims,” said His Excellency Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, U.S. Ambassador of the State of Qatar. “Our new partnership with BWF allows us to effectively and efficiently support the unique needs of the local veteran and military family population. The Qatar Harvey Fund is proud to be working with BWF with the shared objective of helping Texas veteran communities with the long-term rebuilding and recovery process so that they will thrive as they look to the future.”

The partnership was first announced by BWF board member and 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on stage at BWF’s 12th Annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit on Monday, November 5.

“During my 41 years of military service, I had the good fortune to spend time in Qatar, as do so many young Americans who are stationed at Al Udeid airbase, home to over 11,000 US servicemen and women,” said General Martin Dempsey. “I was proud to announce the partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation and look forward to seeing the impact that this partnership will bring to our veterans in southeast Texas.”

“This new partnership allows us to pursue a goal we share with the State of Qatar:  to support veterans and their families impacted by Hurricane Harvey via those best-in-class service providers who bring measurable outcomes and local activation,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, executive director at the Bob Woodruff Foundation. “We know that our veterans and their families face a range of existing and emerging challenges – all of which are likely exacerbated by the storm’s impact. We look forward to using our expertise and proven approach, alongside representatives of the Qatar Harvey Fund and the Embassy of Qatar, to address both immediate and long-range needs for Texan veterans.”

The Bob Woodruff Foundation will be working closely with the Qatar Harvey Fund to coordinate the distribution of funding to a range of programs and expects to make further announcements early in 2019 regarding the first initiatives from the Qatar Veterans Fund.

To learn more about the innovative programs that the Bob Woodruff Foundation finds, funds and shapes, please visit bobwoodrufffoundation.org.

About the Bob Woodruff Foundation

The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) was founded in 2006 after reporter Bob Woodruff was hit by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq. Since then, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has led an enduring call to action for people to stand up for heroes and meet the emerging and long-term needs of today’s veterans. To date, BWF has invested more than $57 million to Find, Fund and Shape™ programs that have empowered impacted veterans, service members and their families. For more information, please visit bobwoodrufffoundation.org or follow us on Twitter at @Stand4Heroes.

About the Qatar Harvey Fund and the State of Qatar

Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, the State of Qatar announced a gift of $30 million for the long-term recovery of the storms victims in Texas. The Qatar Harvey Fund was created to administer the gift.

Qatar is an independent state in the southern Arabian Gulf. It has a population of approximately 2.7 million people, the majority of whom live in and around Doha, the capital. Diplomatic relations with the United States were established in 1972; in the same year, Qatar’s first diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. opened. The relationship between the two countries has always been friendly, highly productive, and reciprocal. Qatar is home to many Americans, and the United States is both Qatar’s largest foreign investor and its largest source of imports. Qatar-U.S. relations are growing continuously in multiple areas: economic, political, military, educational, and cultural. Qatar is a close ally of the United States and a strong advocate of building a peaceful, prosperous, and stable Middle East. Qatar has provided significant humanitarian and development assistance to countries around the world, including the United States. In 2005, the State of Qatar announced the Qatar Katrina Fund, which provided $100M in grants for housing, healthcare and education projects directly to local partners across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to support long-term recovery in the region after Hurricane Katrina.

A new mission: retired Army veteran finds new way to serve her own

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Army veteran Becky Smith assisting veteran at the DAV

It seems the only thing retired about Army veteran Becky Smith is the word “retired.”

After a distinguished 20-year career in the Army, which included service as the Women in the Army Policy Officer at the Pentagon, Smith, and her husband, who is also a retired soldier, settled in the Clarksville, TN area. And while her email moniker might read, “retired2RV,” the reality is that the course of her days appear anything but. In fact, Smith is so busy assisting veterans through the charity DAV (Disabled American Veterans), that she and her husband sold their RV to a friend so it could actually be enjoyed for travel.

Smith, who was working in the Pentagon during the 9/11 attacks, now represents her fellow DAV members in her multi-state region. On a recent Friday afternoon in September, Smith assisted veterans at the DAV’s Mobile Service Office (MSO) stop in her newly adopted hometown. The assistance, which ensures justice for her fellow veterans, ensures they receive their benefits.

“The feeling of helping a fellow veteran is incredible,” said Smith, who recently assisted a homeless veteran through the claims process. “We were able to help him go from being homeless living on $100 a month to receiving close to $3,000 a month. These are benefits he earned and should receive. I was happy to help him.”

Smith has been a lifetime member of the DAV for 11 years.

DAV and Hankook Tire are hosting a series of MSO stops across the nation to assist veterans and educate them and their families on the benefits and services earned in service. This program extends DAV’s benefits assistance to veterans who might not be able to access it otherwise due to distance, transportation, health or other various reasons. Hankook continues its promise to help American veterans through mobility by doubling the number of Hankook-sponsored DAV MSO stops year-over-year with 12 MSO stops across the nation this year.

To learn more about Hankook Tire’s relationship with DAV, visit dav.org/hankook.

About Hankook Tire America Corp.

Hankook Tire America Corp. is a growing leader in the U.S. tire market, leveraging investments in technology, manufacturing and marketing to deliver high-quality, reliable products that are safer for consumers and the environment. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hankook America markets and distributes a complete line of high-performance and ultra-high-performance passenger tires, light truck and SUV tires as well as medium truck and bus tires in the United States. Hankook Tire America is a subsidiary of Hankook Tire Co., Ltd., a Forbes Global 2000 company headquartered in Seoul, Korea, and led by President and CEO Hyun Bum Cho.

About DAV

DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with more than 1 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at dav.org.