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Author: Will in Chicago    Date: 2012-07-03 09:30:00

Good morning, bloggers! I am posting today’s blog while TriSec is recuperating at home today. I hope that TriSec can chime in on today’s blog.

Today's blog takes a look at several different issues impacting the military from mental health to education, as well as some tragic news.

For some reason, I had trouble finding the most recent casualty figures from Afghanistan. However, we find the cost of war passing through $1,348,424,855,617 as of about 11:30 PM Eastern Time on July 2, 2012.

In some news from the Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans of America has some resources on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). June was PTSD Awareness month. Jason Hansman wrote an article on PTSD and provided some links that IAVA trusts:

If you feel that you, or somebody you know, is struggling with readjustment, please know that you are never alone. We at IAVA have your back and want to make sure you have every resource you may need at your disposal.

• IAVA's Community of Veterans offers peer to peer support in an exclusive online community.
• The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends, with qualified and caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online or text 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day.
Give an Hour connects military personnel and their families with free mental health services in their area.
VetCenters, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, offer counseling and readjustment services in over 300 neighborhoods throughout the country and surrounding territories.
• Get the facts at Make The Connection, an organization providing information, stories and resources on issues affecting veterans and their families.

Also, this past week IAVA said farewell to Chief Police Officer Jonathan Schleifer.

IAVA Says Farewell to Chief Policy Officer Jonathan Schleifer
Posted by Tom Tarantino on June 29

Earlier this week, IAVA said goodbye to a great leader and advocate for veterans. For the last 3 years Jonathan Schleifer led IAVA’s policy team to major victories for veterans and their families. With Jonathan at the helm, VA health care became immune to the whims of the budget fight, the GI Bill was vastly expanded and improved, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, thousands of vets have or will find it easier to get a job, and millions will better understand the challenges that our veterans and their families face every day.

Jonathan is heading back to the world of education, joining the leadership at Educators 4 Excellence, where he will help make America the education powerhouse it needs by ensuring that the voices of classroom teachers are included in the decision-making process. We know that they will benefit from his leadership as much as we have.

While my thoughts go out to those who serve overseas, we should not forget those who are serving on the home front. There was a tragedy in North Dakota as a plane involved in fighting fires crashed and C-130 planes have been grounded. As I write this, it is uncertain how many North Carolina Air National Guard members died in a plane crash Sunday while fighting fires in South Dakota. As reported by the Charlotte Observer and cited in Stars and Stripes

At least one dead in Air Force C-130 firefighting crash in S.D.
The Charlotte Observer, N.C.
Published: July 2, 2012

A C-130 Hercules tanker from a Charlotte-based Air National Guard unit crashed late Sunday night while helping battle a wildfire in southwest South Dakota, according to U.S. military officials.

A Mooresville, N.C., man, Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, was killed in the crash, family members said. Five others were on board the plane.

The Air Force said in a statement that the plane was from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Air Wing, adding that some of the crew members were injured and others killed. But it did not specify the number of survivors.

Rescuers took three survivors to a hospital in Rapid City, S.D., according to authorities in South Dakota.

Meanwhile, veterans are struggling in making their way back to civilian life, particular in taking college courses. MSNBC reports:

Thousands of veterans failing in latest battlefield: college
By Bill Briggs

Among the approximately 800,000 military veterans now attending U.S. colleges, an estimated 88 percent drop out of school during their first year and only 3 percent graduate, according a report forwarded by the University of Colorado Denver, citing the analysis by U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor and Pensions.

Indeed, the vast, life-experience divide between war veterans and teens fresh out of high school – all now sharing the same classrooms – can make the scholastic transition awkward and arduous for ex-soldiers, said Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, a support network for ex-military college students. SVA now has chapters on more than 500 campuses

Mix in the fat gap of time between the vets’ high school days and their attempts to blend into college life and the reasons for the dropout rate become even more obvious.

“They are (taking) academically rigorous courses after being removed from the academic setting for so long,” Dakduk said.

This is one of many struggles that our veterans face. In March, IAVA released the results of a survey stating that veterans of our most recent conflicts have a 17 percent unemployment rate and have deep concerns about mental health issues:

  • Two-thirds of our members do not think troops and veterans are getting the care they need for mental health injuries, including combat-related stress or military sexual trauma.

    Thirty-seven percent of our members personally know someone they served with or another Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has committed suicide.

  • As unemployment is an issue for many veterans, recent cuts in food stamp benefits may hit both military families and veterans hard. Michael McAuliff has a recent article in the Huffington Post on this.

    Food Stamp Cuts Could Hit Military Members, Veterans

    WASHINGTON -- Congress' push to cut food stamps could cause collateral damage in the military, hitting everyone from active-duty members to retirees, who together have used more than $100 million in federal food aid on military bases over the past year, a Huffington Post review of the data found.

    HuffPost looked at data provided by the Defense Commissary Agency -- which serves a wide range of military members, including retirees -- and concluded that commissary customers have redeemed $101 million worth of food stamps since June 2011. According to a recent Stars and Stripes analysis, that figure was $31 million in 2008.

    In the broader population, Census data suggests that some 1.5 million households with a veteran were receiving SNAP benefits.

    Lawmakers who want to block cuts to food aid point out that the lingering effects of the recession are expected to drive food stamp rolls higher through 2014. They argue that any further reductions will necessarily impact people who have served their country and are already in need.

    As we prepare for Independence Day in the United States of America, we should remember that we should remember our veterans. Too often, we call on them to fulfill our nation’s foreign policy and they come back to be forgotten by the politicians who sang their praises. Let us take a stand and try to make a difference in our own communities, not just for the troops and those who served, but for everyone. Let us make the phrase E Pluribus Unum -- Out of Many, One -- a reality in our lives and in our own time.

    59 comments (Latest Comment: 07/04/2012 04:44:57 by Will in Chicago)
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