Shocking Military Suicide Rates and Identifying the Signs

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Suicide Prevention

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which makes it an important time to move the conversation about suicide forward. While suicide is a national problem, it is one that also affects smaller communities, including the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community.

These brave men and women have suffered losses not only on the battlefield, but from suicide in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, each day there are around 20 veterans who commit suicide. What’s more, they report that veterans’ suicides account for 18% of the suicide deaths in the country, while they only make up 8.5% of the adult population.

“There’s clearly a serious issue with suicides among active duty military service members, veterans and their families, and it’s one that we are passionate about addressing,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “Only when people are aware of what is going on can they begin to affect change.”

Suicide is a major concern with veterans and active duty military members. It’s especially shocking when viewing the suicide rates of active duty Army members. According to a research report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, the Army suicide rate increased 80% from 2004 to 2008. While the Army may have the most shocking suicide statistics, but no branch of the military is immune to the crisis. Among EOD technicians, suicide is considered to be at a crisis level. It’s an issue that the EOD Warrior Foundation is tackling and hoping to help change.

Suicide among EOD technicians is an issue that organizations such as the EOD Warrior Foundation are trying to not only raise awareness about, but are trying to help prevent. They are currently working with Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, of Columbia University. Dr. Gerstenhaber is the director of The Columbia Lighthouse Project, and has dedicated her life to saving others from suicide, as well as removing the stigma around the issue. She created the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and has shown that this is a critical tool in preventing suicide. We must identify to find those suffering in silence.

Those who suspect someone they know may be considering suicide should seek immediate professional assistance. The C-SSRS supports suicide risk assessment through a series of simple, plain-language questions that anyone can ask. The answers help users identify whether someone is at risk for suicide, assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and gauge the level of support that the person needs.

Users of the C-SSRS tool ask people:
• Whether and when they have thought about suicide (ideation)
• What actions they have taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
• Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition

“The suicide rate for our veterans and active duty is around 50% higher than for their civilian counterparts, showing what a serious issue we have on our hands,” says Dr. Gerstenhaber. “This group of people have a tremendous amount of stress and they need to know it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. We have programs in place that have been successful at helping to reduce the suicide rates, and we want to expand those to help others around the nation.”

These are questions everyone must ask. In order to continue working to eradicate suicide, we all must go beyond the medical model, and this is what the Dr. Gerstenhaber and the EOD Warrior Foundation are working together to do in the EOD community.

The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, and perform bomb disposal duties. Engaging in the most dangerous job in the military, EOD technicians often sustain serious injuries, lose limbs, or are killed in action. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, a scholarship program, care of the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of those who support the organization. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

About EOD Warrior Foundation
The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members with a priority on wounded EOD warriors and the families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness programs that include therapeutic healing retreats, and care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

Army veteran who said prosthetic legs were repossessed to get new pair from VA

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veteran Jerry Holliman pictured whose prosthetic leges repossessd

Last August, two months after doctors amputated his left leg, Holliman received a pair of prosthetic legs from Hanger. He had begun therapy sessions with the company at the Collins State Veterans Home to learn how to properly walk.

That all came to halt on Dec. 23 when a representative from Hanger repossessed his prosthetic legs after learning the VA would not pay for them. It was a huge blow to Holliman’s hopes of being able to return to home in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the holidays.

“It’s like somebody walked up to you and gave you a punch in the gut,” Holliman said. “Why would you come and take a veteran’s legs?’

The set of prosthetic legs were returned to Holliman a few days later. However, Holliman said Hanger would no longer make the needed adjustments that allowed him to properly use the prosthetic legs until someone paid for them.

The VA told Holliman that the prosthetics legs were obtained as a private purchase, which precluded them from paying for them on his behalf. Instead, he said he was told to use Medicare to pay for them. He refused that option because he said using Medicare would have required him to pay a co-pay.

Krisita Burkey, the vice president of public relations and communications at Hanger, told Fox News in a statement that patient privacy laws prevented the company from talking about Holliman’s case specifically. However, she said, “Hanger does not take back prosthetic devices once a patient signs for the delivery.

“A signed verification of delivery is a necessary step in the delivery process due to regulations, but actual payment is not required upon delivery to the patient,” the statement continued. “Payment is typically received from the applicable payer, whether it is a private insurer, Medicare/Medicaid or the VA, at a later date.”

Walker told Fox News that Holliman had come to the VA’s prosthetics department in Jackson shortly after his left leg was amputated. Holliman inquired about the VA making him a pair of prosthetic legs, but Walker said the VA was unable to begin the process at the time.

“We cannot begin a prosthetic evaluation until the skin is completely healed because of the pressure and the things that are required to wear and use a prosthetic device,” he explained.

Walker, who was given permission by Holliman to speak about the case to Fox News, said the 69-year-old never followed up with the VA after that visit. Instead, he said Holliman went to a private clinic and then to Hanger to obtain prosthetic legs.

“We want veterans to use us,” Walker said. “If a veteran chooses to go outside of our system, we cannot, unfortunately, take on the responsibilities for private purchases and that’s the case.”

Holliman denied that he had gone to Hanger on his own to get prosthetic legs. He said he had no authority to make his own appointments and was following directives from medical personnel at the state-run veterans home where he’s resided for the last year.

After the VA’s decision to give him a new set of prosthetic legs, Holliman told Fox News he accepted an appointment for later this month. However, after this ordeal, he remains skeptical.

“I can’t walk on proposals. I need to see it [to] fruition,” Holliman said. “I’m trying to recoup my life. I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the VA.”

Continue on to FOX News to read the complete article.

Healing at 40-feet Below

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Scuba diver sees statue of himself at a underwater memorial

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet to the seafloor, the memories of the soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicts a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War—a war Campbell fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, who is now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed, about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.

The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans, and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep-sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area where he grew up.

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, who is also a diving instructor, agrees, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing—I never even thought it was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one allows visitors to connect on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

Source: army.mil

A Texas man is making canes for veterans using hundreds of donated Christmas trees

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walking cane that has the engraved words canes for veterans

A man in Texas is designing canes for veterans, and he’s asking you to donate your Christmas tree to help him do it. US Army veteran Jamie Willis started Canes for Veterans Central Texas in 2016 when he realized he wasn’t the only veteran who needed a cane that was safe, sturdy “and not just ugly.”

After serving in the Army for eight years, Willis was left a 100 percent disabled veteran completely unable to work.

“I do this so I don’t sit home all day feeling sorry for myself,” Willis told CNN. “This is all out of kindness. I do everything out of pocket and from donations.”

When the cane he was given by the Veterans Affairs had no style, kept collapsing and wasn’t what he deemed trustworthy, Willis turned to a Florida organization called Free Canes for Veterans which was giving out 500 canes.

After he was told that they had no more canes, Oscar Morris, the man behind the organization, instead taught Willis how to make his own.

“When I successfully sat down and made my very first cane, I asked him if I could branch it off and start Cane for Veterans in Central Texas and he said he would love for me to do that,” Willis said.

Since then, the 50-year-old has made and delivered more than 200 canes to veterans who live all over the world.

The man behind the canes

Morris, the 54-year-old US Army veteran behind the original idea, said Willis was the fifth veteran he knows to start their own branch of Free Canes for Veterans.

“It would be a blessing to get the word out for more veterans to do this,” Morris said “Each of these veterans were on my original list of 500 in 2015. It was the act of kindness and a piece of wood that was their inspiration.”

The organizations take stripped a Christmas tree and transforms it into a cane for a veteran.

This is the second year Willis has asked for tree donations, but he says he has been overwhelmed with the support this year.

“It’s been an outpouring of donations this year, more than I ever thought I would get,” Willis told CNN. “Home Depot flooded me with trees, they’re sending me 400, and the rest of the community will be giving me about another 100 trees.”

Each tree is the equivalent of about one cane, which takes Willis an entire day to make, package, and ship to the veteran who will use it. While he sometimes asks them to cover shipping, Willis covers all costs from out of his own pockets as well as donations, and pays for shipping if the veteran can’t afford it.

“One day, grab a cane and walk with it,” Morris said. “You will feel broken because others will see you as broken. We make our canes for veterans to look ‘cool’ while giving honor for their service.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Marine is On a Mission to Live By Motto, Get His Pup Out of Afghanistan

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Marine sits near his rescue puppy in Afghanistan

The Guardians of Rescue is helping a Marine bring home a dog he rescued stuck in razor wire.

SMITHTOWN, New York – The Marines live by the motto of never leaving anyone behind. For some that includes a dog they have rescued during deployment, and have bonded with. The loyalty from Captain Dave and his unit and the dog that they rescued goes both ways, and now his wish is to bring her back home to the United States with him when he returns soon. Guardians of Rescue have helped other military members pull off this same mission, and they are seeking public donations to help pull it off again.

“Captain Dave’s loyalty to Sox is like no other, and he believes in the idea of not leaving her behind,” explains Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, an animal rescue organization. “We know that we can help bring Sox back to America to live out her life with him, but we need the public’s support, because it’s costly to do. We are grateful to be working with Nowzad shelter in Kabul, because without their assistance this pup would not have a chance of coming to America.”

Captain Dave is stationed in a remote area in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to come back home to the United States in early 2020. He can’t imagine leaving Sox behind because he loves her. He first saw Sox when she was a puppy, finding her caught in concertina wire in their camp. He freed her, gave her food and water, and sent her on her way. However, Sox had different plans.

In the days that followed, Sox started coming back to their campSox the rescur puppy pictured when first found each day, feeling safe around the unit and seeking food and water. Some of the other men had even seen the dog being abused out on the streets. Soon, Sox began staying by their side all of the time, even tagging along on some of their missions. On a recent patrol, Sox ventured too far away from the unit and was whipped with a stick by a local. It was at that time that Captain Dave knew he could never leave her behind to fend for herself.

“The bond I have with Sox is something I didn’t expect, but I just can’t leave her behind,” says Captain Dave. “If I don’t bring her home with me I am afraid I’ll always regret it and wonder about what happened to her. I appreciate any assistance people can give in helping me to bring her home with me.”

Relocating a dog from the Middle East to America can be done, but it comes at a high cost. Along with paying fees to allow the dog to leave, there is medical care, airfare, and other relocation expenses involved. Those would like to give a donation to help bring Sox home with Captain Dave can log online: https://guardiansofrescue.networkforgood.com/projects/88403-sox.

Guardians of Rescue provides assistance to animas out on the streets and investigates animal cruelty cases. They are located in New York and they help animals in many places around the country. They are also instrumental in helping military members with their pets. To learn more, get involved, or to make a donation to support the Guardians of Rescue, log onto www.guardiansofrescue.org.

About Guardians of Rescue
Based in New York, Guardians of Rescue is an organization whose mission is to protect the well-being of all animals. They provide aid to animals in distress, including rehabilitation, assisting other rescue groups, and providing support to families, both military and not, who need assistance due to economic factors. To learn more about Guardians of Rescue, visit the site at www.guardiansofrescue.org.

Global Edition Telehealth Veterans Affairs, Walmart open latest telehealth pilot site

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Walmart store front pictured

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retail giant Walmart have opened the latest location as part of a joint effort help Vets in rural areas get better access to medical services, the first location for a new telehealth pilot program.

WHY IT MATTERS
The store, located in Asheboro, North Carolina, is part of a public-private affiliation whereby Walmart donated equipment and space allowing Veterans to meet with a VA provider in a private room through video technology.

It’s all part of the VA’s Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations, or ATLAS, services initiative, which will provide clinical services – which the VA notes will vary by location – including primary care, nutrition, mental health and social work.

Other telehealth pilot sites are located in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, and the VA noted there were more than 1.3 million video telehealth encounters with more than 490,000 Veterans last year.

In addition to Walmart, ATLAS sites are currently located at American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Posts, allowing Vets to connect through the VA Video Connect platform.

It’s part of the VA’s Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations, or ATLAS, initiative, which will provide clinical services including primary care, mental health and social work.

The app also works on a wide range of device that have an Internet connection and a web camera, including Windows-based PCs and laptops, Windows mobile devices, iOS mobile devices and Android mobile devices.

The VA has also been working with companies like T-Mobile and Philips to pave the way for additional telehealth services for Vets.

THE LARGER TREND
Despite the department’s advances in telehealth services, Veterans Health Administration medical facilities are facing an enormous challenge as they scan and enter medical documentation into patients’ electronic health records.

According to an audit from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA medical facilities have a cumulative medical document backlog equivalent to more than five miles of stacked paper, with nearly 600,000 electronic files dating back to 2016.

Continue on to Healthcare IT News to read the complete article.

Florida man loses more than 180 pounds to join the Army

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Christopher Montijo speaks live on air about his weight loss

One Florida man is living proof that you can do anything if you want it badly enough. Christopher Montijo, a 28-year-old father of two, said his dream of joining the Army was put on the hold because he was almost 150 pounds over the weight limit, according to WOFL, an Orlando Fox affiliate.

It was “draining to walk, to sleep, to do anything,” he told WOFL; he knew if he wanted to see his children grow up, he’d have to make a major life change.

So he did.

Through cutting out soda and eating out along with walking more, Montijo has dropped over 180 pounds — almost half his body weight — and passed the Army’s physical fitness test. (It doesn’t appear he took a page out of this veteran’s book, who dropped weight by consuming beer and beer only for Lent.)

He told WOFL he “feels amazing,” and he’ll arrive at Fort Jackson at the beginning of 2020 with the rest of the recruits heading to basic training.

Continue on to Task and Purpose to read the complete article.

Stamp aims to raise awareness, funds for PTSD

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PTSD Stamp

Proceeds from sales of a new postage stamp issued recently will go to support post-traumatic stress disorder research and education at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD center, based at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, includes seven sites around the country that are focused on studying and treating PTSD, a mental health condition some people develop following a traumatic event such as combat, a natural disaster, sexual assault or a car accident. Symptoms may include reliving the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, negative thoughts and anxiety that linger long after the trauma.

While Paula Schnurr, the PTSD center’s executive director, said she is glad to have the revenue stream to support the center’s work, she also hopes the stamp brings awareness to the condition, which will affect tens of millions people in the U.S. — both veterans and civilians — in their lifetimes.

Schnurr said she hopes “people who have PTSD or family members see this and they might take some action.”

She spoke in a phone interview from Charlotte, N.C., where she participated in an event to celebrate the stamp’s release on Monday.

The stamp, which costs 65 cents, features a green plant sprouting from ground covered with fallen leaves that is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, according to a news release from the Postal Service. It was designed by Greg Breeding, the postal service’s art director, and includes original photography by Mark Laita, a Los Angeles-based commercial photographer.

Treatment for PTSD both through medication and therapy has improved in recent years, Schnurr said, noting that some of the center’s research is focused on the effectiveness of different treatments.

Public awareness of PTSD has grown following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, which caused many first responders and others to develop the condition, she said. Subsequent events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and numerous mass shootings — including one earlier this year at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the city where Monday’s stamp ceremony took place — have kept the condition in the public eye.

In addition to Schnurr, speakers at Monday’s event at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square also included representatives from the American Red Cross, The American Veteran Foundation, the Wounded Warriors Project and the Charlotte Chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Among the speakers was Chuck Denny, the founder of The American Veteran Foundation based in North Carolina, who was a major proponent of the PTSD stamp, in honor of his father, Garland Denny, who served in the Navy in the Korean War and, before his death in 2015, advocated for a stamp to raise money for veteran services.

“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semipostal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, said in a news release. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”

The price of the stamp includes the cost of a first-class stamp at the time of purchase — which is 55 cents currently — and an amount to fund PTSD research. They are available at post offices around the country, through an online shop at usps.com/store or by calling 800-STAMP24. Sheets of 20 can be purchased for $13.

Congress, through the Semipostal Authorization Act, allows the Postal Service to issue and sell “semipostal” stamps to benefit causes that are “in the national public interest and appropriate.”

Revenue from sales of the Healing PTSD stamp — less the cost of postage and reasonable costs incurred by the Postal Service — will go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Continue on to Valley News to read the complete article.

One-Man Show Transcends the Life of a Solider

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Douglas Taurel is sitting onstage in a green shirt, pants and headband lighting a cigarette

Douglas Taurel is not an American soldier. He’s never been to war. Yet veterans across the country are saluting him– thanking him for being “their voice,” for telling their stories and for showing the nation what military members go through in times of war and at home.

“I wanted to write something and I was very moved by the stories I was reading in the papers regarding combat veterans with PTSD and not having work. Some particular stories really moved me and started the spark (for the play,)” he said.

For the past five years, Taurel has fine-tuned his one-man show entitled, The American Soldier, which spans all of America’s significant war conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Taurel performs 14 different characters during his 80-minute show, which was performed following Veteran’s Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on November 13th.

The characters, which are based upon letters written by real servicemen in each war, include a father in the wake of his soldier son’s suicide; a soldier dealing with the loss of his limb; a wife and son dealing with a deployed father’s absence; and a grieving mother remembering her son at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Taurel said over the course of eight years, he spent hours a day at the New York City public library, reading veteran letters and researching each war for the play – reading 20-30 books and thousands of letters.

“I have a storyline that goes through the play,” Taurel says. “I try to talk about the different aspects of war, the challenges and what they [soliders] have to go through.

“The overall theme is thanking family members and veterans. The idea is to give the audience a sincere understanding of what it is that we ask our men and women in arms to do for us. That is the goal,” he added.

Audience members, veterans and critics alike are completely enthralled by Taurel’s performance and his heartfelt portrayal of soldiers and their families. He’s received hundreds of letter and comments regarding the show.

Here are just a few of them below:

“Words cannot express my profound gratitude in being able to Douglas Taurel headshotexperience your amazing performance. As you carried out each story, you truly transcended the audience into the life of a soldier.”

—Mother-in-law of a veteran

“Your performance was first class, moving, thoughtful, compassionate and heartfelt from the very beginning to the end. Tried holding back my tears, but that didn’t last long.”

—Desert Storm combat veteran

“Your passion for the stories you enact help us realize what the American soldier does and why they do it. Your inspiring portrayal of our veterans reminds us of the debt we owe our nations defenders.”

—Vietnam veteran

“I saw and felt the pain and journey of each character you created and remembered all of the tragedy I saw as a nurse in Vietnam.”

—Civilian nurse

Taurel has performed The American Solider more than 8,000 times in 11 different states. His play was one of 100—out of 3,500 entries—nominated for an Amnesty International Award.

But more than awards or reviews, Taurel says the years he spent researching and now portraying military members has given him a whole new appreciation for men and women in uniform.

“What I hope is to share how this allows our veterans to talk about their experiences,” he said. “It honors them and their families in their own words and gives them a voice.

“Now, as a society, we don’t have to make the same kind of commitment or sacrifices that previous generations made. Society functions efficiently even with war. We forget what they go through. My play reminds them.”

Join Will Smith, Dame Helen Mirren, Chris Martin and Team New Directions For Veterans in The World’s Big Sleep Out

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large group of people sleeping outside in sleeping bags

The World’s Big Sleep Out is a one-off global campaign where more than 50,000 change-makers, business-leaders and members of the public around the world will be sleeping out in unison on December 7th, 2019 to create the world’s largest display of solidarity with – and support of – those experiencing homelessness and displacement.

Join Will Smith, Dame Helen Mirren, Chris Martin and Team New Directions For Veterans in The World’s Big Sleep Out global campaign. Up to 2,000 participants will sleep outside the iconic Rose Bowl.

 

A Global Sleep Out to Call for an End to Global Homelessness

The World’s Big Sleep Out is a one-time global event that will see 50,000 people sleeping out in iconic locations like Times Square, the Rose Bowl and Trafalgar Square but also backyards, football fields and parking lots in more than 50 cities around the world to shine the global spotlight on homelessness and internationally displaced people.

The World’s Big Sleep Out will be held on Saturday, December 7, 2019 from 4:30pm to 6:00am.

A list celebrities such as Ziggy Marley, Seth Green, Ellie Goulding, Randy Jackson and Sean Kingston will be performing and reading bedtime stories and those impacted by homelessness will be telling their stories.

Claim your place to Sleep Out with TeamNewDirectionsForVeterans

Normally, you would have to pay a $20 fee to participate, but thanks to New Directions For Veterans’ support, we’ve covered that for you. While your ticket is free and you don’t have to pay to join the team, each of us on #TeamNewDirectionsForVeterans needs to commit to raising as much money as we can to help the charities in our area and throughout the world that are doing the work. Your own donation counts!

 

To claim your place on Team New Directions For Veterans all you have to do is:
Click here to claim your Pre-Paid Team Place and when prompted type in this password 7XNZB2 and then complete the required fields and you’ll be automatically assigned to Team New Directions For Veterans

·  Once you claimed your place on the team, you’ll begin the ‘on-boarding’ process and will receive a welcome email with useful information that generates your JustGiving online fundraising page so you can start fundraising with #ValenceMedia. (Note: If you’re not already on the JustGiving platform, you’ll need to create a JustGiving account).

·  Start spreading the word through your network to collect donations

·  And…if you reach a $1,000 or more individual fundraising goal, we will mark your achievement by including your name in a specially created mural that will be exhibited at the United Nations in February 2020 at an important homelessness summit.

To learn more about this one-off global event that New Directions For Veterans is proud to be a part of visit www.bigsleepout.com.

Kean University Student-Veteran Receives K-9 Service Dog

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K-9 Keen and Jason Pryor stand outside in a group photos with student body members

Jason Pryor of Elizabeth received the K-9, named Keen, as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

A special Veterans Day ceremony was held on Kean University’s Union campus as senior Jason Pryor, a U.S. Army veteran, introduced the K-9 service dog that he received through an on-campus fundraiser.

Pryor, a senior from Elizabeth majoring in exercise science, did tours in Iraq and Honduras and suffers from PTSD. He received the K-9, named Keen, at the start of the Fall semester as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

“Being with Keen has taught me to be more patient,” said Pryor, whose dog accompanies him to class. “Keen is used as a measure to help prevent me from going through the symptoms and effects of spiraling down, by me tending to his needs and having him tend to me.”

Kean is ranked first in the nation among large public schools for its programs supporting student-veterans, according to the Military Friendly Schools survey.

Student Government raised nearly $20,000 to support service dogs through Rebuilding Warriors, a volunteer non-profit organization whose mission is to provide trained service dogs to veterans. The bulk of the funds raised went toward training Pryor’s dog, and the rest was donated to Rebuilding Warriors to help train other K-9 dogs.

At the ceremony held outside Miron Student Center, Vito Zajda, director of Veteran Student Services at Kean and a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, called Pryor a remarkable student.

“He has been a big support and influential person in our program,” Zajda said. “He has helped open our eyes about how the University can best support its vets.”

Vice President of Rebuilding Warriors Jeff Mullins, also a veteran, said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can’t be seen by others. ”It’s invisible, stays with you your entire life, and it’s not easy sometimes,” he said. “Our goal is to provide veterans and first responders with a service dog to help them achieve their new normal.”

The University’s Veterans Day event included a color guard, a performance of the national anthem by the Kean Gospel Choir, and the presentation of other honors.

Juan Leon Torres, a senior from Spotswood also studying exercise science and a U.S. Navy veteran, received the 2019 Kean Veteran’s Award for OutstandingK-9 Keen service dog to U.S. Army Veteran pictured sitting next to his new owner Mentor. He develops transition opportunities and initiatives, and mentors a student-veteran each semester.

“Being a veteran and going back to school is super hard because you go from one community to a different lifestyle,” Torres said.

Zajda noted that it is important to support veterans at all times. “The importance of Veterans Day is to recognize that it’s 365 days a year, as veterans go through different highs and lows in their lives,” he said.

K-9 Keen, the service dog accompanying student-veteran Jason Pryor (pictured at top, left of center, in red shirt), is part of the Kean University community. The Kean Office of Student Government raised funds to donate the dog.

About Kean University

Founded in 1855, Kean University is one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, with a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving more than 16,000 students. The University’s six undergraduate colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers six doctoral degree programs and more than 80 options for graduate study leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. With campuses in Union, Toms River, Jefferson and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, Kean University furthers its mission by providing an affordable and accessible world-class education. Visit kean.edu.