British photographer Jason Larkin has traveled to various countries, including Vietnam and Cuba photographing military museums. This venture was born out of curiosity how countries with brutal pasts have come to terms with that fact while honoring their history. Although different countries offer varied perspectives, as does art. Larkin embraces movies like Dr Strangelove or Thunderbirds, which explain that rememberance is in a way that is enigmatic. In Larkin’s opinion, he believes that “It’s too easily sanitised,” says Larkin. “There should be much more context and nuance.” You can represent a history that brings pain to learn about in a way that is not inherently political. Art opens doors for conversation and debate, but one doesn’t need to conjecture and make a hardship out of something that doesn’t need to be trifled with negative attention and pain. He goes on to say. “I didn’t want to make too much of a commentary on propaganda,” he tells BBC Culture. “What I became interested in was what really reinforces this view on history and what makes the public think that it’s true – the ways in which this history is being presented, the aesthetic choices being made by the curators and the museum staff.” And that is precisely why you should revel in this art piece as it is not one with a secret (or not so) agenda. Each country Larkin visited he was able to witness that poured their culture in their art and presented their pain and hardships in a unique lense. There is a complex narrative in the way each country transforms their history. However, he does go on to concede that. “It’s just a select few people at the top who get to decide on how museums are going to look,” he says. “There are a lot of people in the countries I’ve visited who would not agree with what’s in their museums – it’s just what the state or one rich influential group or the army want to say.” And that’s an important distinction. The goal is for people to embrace humanity and realize that their actions and thoughts and who they are matter in a world that seems to go dark, when violent brokenness is seen. It shows a journey and one that isn’t only full of struggle but one of hope and love. You will be able to see Larkin’s art soon. As noted in this article, his current series can be seen at London’s Flowers Gallery now, has put much focus on how these museums put together their displays.” Find out more information at http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180105-the-worlds-unusual-military-museums
Veteran healthcare is such a complex issue and among all the changes in legislature, traumatic situations may arise and color the way veterans see healthcare. And when that happens, it is the family’s right to receive retribution for unfortunate outcomes that didn’t have to come to be. And one Tamoca area family is grieving the loss of their family member, and a lawsuit has come out of this loss. George Walker was 75 when he died at home July 1, 2016. He was about a week shy of surgery at the local VA hospital - Puget Sound Health Care System for a new heart valve. The veteran also received service at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center. The surgery was delayed and if the procedure was taken care of sooner, Walker may very well could have had a very different outcome. His wife has sued, as she believes that the timing of the medical procedures could have helped lengthen her husband’s life. His livelihood was cut unnecessarily short. Peggy Walker added that, her husband served in the Air Force from 1959 to 1967. He was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.Walker held a commanding presence in so many people’s lives. For nearly three decades, he worked as a foreman at a Seattle warehouse, where he gained the respect with anyone he worked with. His family adored him and the loss resonates clearly with his family and friends. Walker’s wife’s lawsuit states that her husband, George Walker, called the VA’s American Lake Division on June 20, 2016 to try to see a doctor. He was experiencing shortness of breath and pain in his chest and his doctor told him to go to urgent care. Once there the next day, he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a hereditary narrowing of his aortic valve. He was assigned a surgery date nearly two weeks later. Walker did pass away before surgery. His wife believes that medical officials withheld lifesaving information. Jessica Holman Duthie, the attorney representing the Walker family states that “They (medical officials) absolutely shouldn’t have sent him home,” and the fact they didn’t is rightfully a sore spot. The VA Puget Sound did release a statement. There stated that ““mourns the loss of every Veteran. While VA does not typically comment on pending litigation, VA Puget Sound’s wait times at both our Seattle and Tacoma locations are better, on average, than local non-VA hospitals as we are continually striving to improve our service and efficiency.” It is a sadness and a hardship to go through when a death that could be prevented. It is one of life’s tragedies. You can find more information about this case at http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article193314309.html.
Anderson University is fusing education and kindness together by intertwining the two in their students’ studies. Ron Aderhold, a U.S. Army veteran earning a Bachelor of Business Administration, Health Care management class of 2017, is working on his Masters also at Anderson University. Over the summer, Aderhold participated in an internship with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans as a requirement for his degree. It was there when he realized that he realized how much of a social issue homelessness is and how simple it was to lend a hand to those in need. He was based in Washington DC and he noticed that the issue was particularly prevalent, as he became aware that the homeless men, women, and children lacked proper bedding. Once he noticed the issue, Aderhold took it on himself to work with similar organizations to bring in proper necessities for those in need. Operation Bedroll was on its way to become an option for those in need, thanks to other organizations and Aderhold’s drive and passion for the project. The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars became one of the first organizations to help as it had a surplus of comfortable bedding as those who used their service often left it there for the center to do with what it will. As the project got underway, on each floor at the center, you can find a place to deposit a donation of clean and comfortable bedding for those struggling to find the essentials. "When you're living in a room with six other people, having something new and all your own makes you feel like a human being," Aderhold said. “And in less than a year, Operation Bedroll has given gently-used bedding and cleaning supplies to about 600 veterans in the D.C. area.” Kathryn Monet, chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, commented that Ron Aderhold was "hands down the most motivated and engaging intern we have ever hosted," Monet said in a letter of recommendation for him. "He just took the initiative and ran with it," Monet said. "He put together this entire initiative, set up a drop-off center..." The operation is already looking to expand to other cities as soon as it is feasible. Aderhold looks at this operation as giving back. He was a United States Army Sergeant from 1988-1992. He was able to receive benefits but for decades chose to not to utilize them, citing pride as the main reason for his choice. Ultimately, he realizes helping the homeless is the right thing to do.
Saturday’s annual “Wreaths Across America” event at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies honored veterans. The tradition is in its’ twelfth year and takes place in four national cemeteries across the United States. “It’s overwhelming to see all these supporters,” said cemetery director Ronald Hestdalen. “It’s a sign of appreciation for veterans and their sacrifices.” Rocky Bleier is a former professional American football player as well as a veteran. He’s been the recipient of four Superbowl rings during his football career and during his military career, he obtained a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. His football accolades paled in comparison on Saturday as he approached the gravesite of Andrew Hawes, a staff sergeant in World War II. Hawes passed away in 2013, at home at the age of 94. Bleier was one out of approximately 3000 others that stopped by the cemetery to give respects to those who’ve fallen serving our country. Each veterans has their our personal story and Beleir is no different. During the time he served in the Vietnam War, Belier lost a foot due to a grenade. It is increasingly important to give proper recognition to those who fought for our country and paid the ultimate price. Their lives and what they left behind: their personal stories, friendships and families are one of the few things that have helped leave an impact and propel future generations to realize what was the cost of freedom. Since 2009, when Hestdalen arrived at the cemetery to be the director, attendance for the event had been somewhere between 300 and 400 people who put wreaths on gravesites. Now, the crowds and appreciation loomed larger. This year, the cemetery had a wreath for each of its more than 10,100 gravesites. Not only is this remarkable, it is simply comforting that the effort is more far reaching than it was a decade or so ago. The cost for the event is covered by many donors, but one of the most recognizable ones in the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a statement, team president Art Rooney II said the gift was intended to honor “a sacrifice that will always be remembered with gratitude and reverence.” As they should be.
The conversation regarding cannabis use is one that used to be fraught with tension regarding varying opinions and values. For veterans, the conversation is heating up. Although medical doctors don’t have permission yet to specifically encourage the usage of the drug, they are, by policy, mandated to be in conversation about it with military veterans. The policy is expected to take effect this month, right before the new year turns. The policy states that there’s a responsibility to “discuss with the Veteran marijuana use, due to its clinical relevance to patient care, and discuss marijuana use with any Veterans requesting information about marijuana." At the same time, this policy does not give veterans the ability to disregard federal law. A law that is mentioned is the Controlled Substances Act. It is stated that providers from the government that help veterans are “prohibited from completing forms or registering Veterans for participation in a State-approved marijuana program." V.A. Sec. David Shulki reports that there isn’t a law that specifically prohibits doctors from engaging in conversation or to recommend and present completed paperwork in states where that action is legal. Even if cannabis is not federally allowed. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court created a federal ruling, ensuring that doctors have a First Amendment right to recommend medical cannabis to patients, as long as they don't actually provide marijuana. This is something that has changed the course of medicine, especially in minors. One piece of the puzzle that isn’t in step quite yet is that doctors working in compliance with the government, is that the Veterans Affairs ’s office does not yet allow it. That is expected to change in the upcoming months. Shulki reports that some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful, and we're interested in looking at that and learning from that. He later concedes that, “until time the federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.” It does seem to point that conversation about the issue has become a turning point in the issue. Although it remains to be seen exactly what this will mean for future generations, the fact that the government and medical doctors are looking forward to reach a balance is a good thing.
Deportation is a real threat to many people that currently reside in America. It is a very scary thing to go through and families are split apart as well as countless lives. Such is the story of Marco Chavez. Chavez was a baby when his parents traveled to the United States. He later served four years in the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged. He was deported to Mexico after he was convicted of a minor offense. This was 15 years ago, and his family has lived apart from him all these years ago. The Chavez family did at one point live together in Mexico, but the change was too much for everyone involved. Ultimately, his wife and kids lived in America. Chavez decided to fight this ruling the best way he can so he can regain some of his life back. He wanted to regain full American residency. Chavez has three sons and those boys, now young men, did not have the privilege of being raised by their father. He says this of his children. "One of the things I wanted to let my kids know is they did have a father and I did not plan to leave them," said Chavez, who has been living in the border city of Tijuana. … I just want to be there to support them. They still might have resentment but that's understandable." Chavez started working with Hector Barajas-Varela. Barajas-Varela is the founder and executive director of the Deported Veterans Support House, which is based in Tijuana, Mexico. Barajas-Varela has been an integral part in regaining American residency. California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Chavez which ensured his safe delivery to the States. Brown said Chavez "served our country, earned a pardon and deserves to come back home.” Chavez has a plan to meet up with his parents at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Diego and continue to Los Angeles to finish the necessary paperwork. After that, he will live in Iowa and start rebuilding his relationship with his family. It has been nearly five years since Chavez has seen his children. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jennie Pasquarella reports that this experience will hopefully be an agent of hope for those in similar circumstances.
Sean Langley is a veteran. Langley served nine and a half years active duty in the Army. He served three tours in Iraq, one in Djibouti. "In the Army, I'm a valuable asset, but in the civilian world I might as well have no job experience," the 33-year-old Langley said. "A lot of people tell me 'thank you for your service' but it didn't translate into a job." An estimated 1 in 10 homeless people is a military veteran; roughly 40,000 veterans are homeless, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. An additional 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness because of poverty, a lack of support networks and poor living conditions in substandard housing. Upon arrival to the states, he found himself without a roof over his head. He did choose to couchsurf, but that was not a permanent solution. Today his mat that sits on the top shelf of his closet, a poignant reminder of the days he spent on the streets. After Thanksgiving, he began residing in James A. Peterson Veterans Village in Racine. The complex of 15 tiny homes and a community center with showers, laundry facilities, kitchen, food pantry and recreation areas that opened last month. Jeff Gustin was a bar manager in Racine who learned of a few veterans who needed furniture to start their civilian life. Gustin started to collect used chairs, tables and sofas and delivering them to veterans. Gustin soon had friends joining in on collecting pieces of furniture and after awhile, they filed a warehouse. The group started to be able to deliver furniture to the homes of about 20 veterans each month. Not long after, Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin was formed. Gustin, has a personal connection to veterans reacclimating to civilian life. His son is an Afghan War veteran. After he got back, he quickly realized that there was a need for housing. The idea to open a place for homeless veterans took root. "I couldn't imagine my son being homeless especially after what he did for me and for our country. If I can't imagine my son being homeless, I can't imagine someone else's son being homeless," said Gustin, perched on a stool next to the large kitchen in the S.C. Johnson Community Center adjacent to the tiny homes. "Most vets go on to great things after their service but a small fraction fall on hard times and we owe them for their service." Peterson Veterans Village has 15 homes, all for veterans. Each veteran gets his or her own abode with furnishings, television, a bed, kitchen appliances, and storage space. The center has a community center to engage conversation and friendship among the residents. The center additionally offers Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, counseling, art and music therapy, and a food pantry. Gustin pitched the idea of a veterans village of tiny homes to Mayor Dickert in February 2016. Dickert got on board right away and the idea picked up momentum after Gustin found a 2½ acre property and vacant building that had become newly available. The property and building were purchased for $104,000 and extensive renovations done by volunteers and contractors, many donating equipment and materials. In July 2016, a three-day workshop was held in Racine with Zack Giffin, co-host of the television program "Tiny Home Nation," helping build some of the abodes. "What Jeff (Gustin) and his team have designed — it's built like a camp, even with a fire pit in the middle where they can hang out like a platoon. They're with buddies, they're with comrades in arms," said Dickert, whose father and brother served in the Marines. Racine's village of tiny homes for homeless veterans could be a model for other cities, added Dickert, who was Racine mayor from 2009 until earlier this year. Finally, a few days after Thanksgiving, on November 30, eight of the tiny homes had been inspected with the other seven still undergoing work and waiting for inspection. Within two weeks of the facility opening shortly before Veteran ts Day, four tiny homes had occupants, including a female Vietnam veteran and Langley. On Gustin's desk there’s a stack of applications from veterans, interested in becoming a tenant. On a recent day, Langley was continuing to get settled into his home. It didn't take him long to unpack the few possessions he had in a knapsack. As he looked around his surroundings, vastly different from expected, he feels relief.
In Bennington County, Vermont, local and state officials who share a passion for advocating for veterans met last week to discuss collaborating their efforts to help veterans. This past meeting focused on food programs and how they could benefit veteran and their families. The Hunger Council of Bennington County, a local program which is in collaboration with Hunger Free Vermont hosted the meeting. Richard Gallo, of the Vermont Veterans Outreach Program, testified that there are more than 46,600 veterans in Vermont; 3,432 of which reside in Bennington County. Statewide, just 29,341 of eligible veterans are enrolled with the Veterans Administration; in Bennington County, 45 percent of its 3,432 eligible veterans are enrolled with the VA. He also accounted that the average veteran in Vermont is male, 65 to 84 years old, and served in the Vietnam War, Gallo said. The Outreach Program was created nearly a decade ago through funds made available by Vermont's congressional delegation. This program has helped give veterans and their families solace. This includes the opportunity to meet with a program specialist to check in with veterans to help with processing civilian life, helping them obtain much needed services if needed. The outreach program also works with local non-profit organizations such as open-door missions, community cupboards and other food programs, to help the veterans and their families receive what they need as they get settled, on their feet and thriving. "The one thing for Bennington that you should be aware of is that a lot of us in the service industry really depend on the interfaith community network, too," said Leigh Smith, healthcare for homeless veterans coordinator for Bennington County. "They do a lot of wonderful jobs coordinating meals that a lot of folks utilize." One of the centers, the Family Assistance Centers (FAC) program is meant "to provide resource referral and support assistance to service members and their families, of all military branches. When we talk about the 'six essential services,' and community resources and community outreach as one of our essential services, that is a very broad, all-encompassing term," including state and local services available to the community at large, said Glory O'Neil, of the FAC program. "It's exactly that: nutrition, food shelves, shelters, crisis (support) — whatever the case may be." Primarily, the service center works with people involved with the National Guard. O’Neil shares this: “ A lot of those soldiers have families and also work very low-paying jobs and have a hard time making ends meet living in a state like Vermont," O'Neil said. "And so those are the people that we see coming to us who are running out of money quick and need those food shelves and need those community resources. So that's why we're here trying to figure out exactly in our areas, in the areas that we're new to, what's available for those soldiers that don't have access to, and their families that don't have access, to the VA benefits and a lot those other benefits that are available to some of our other service members." Three veterans services personnel from the Bennington Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) also were in attendance. the meeting. The Bennington VA clinic is small, providing about 1,800 total patients primary care and mental health care. Smith spends his time largely with individuals that are mental health patients and some face homelessness. “We also are looking at food insecurity. We ask the questions, 'have you ever been worried about food in the last three months?' 'Gone without eating?' as well as the homeless piece," she said. "I can say for the folks that I tend to work with: they depend a lot on the food shelves in Bennington County. There's also a beneficial social aspect with the Meals on Wheels program or with the meals served at the Bennington Senior Center, "which we really encourage, especially for our older folk," she said. Smith continues and notes that “there is a small percentage of veterans who refuse to go to food shelves out of pride. As partnerships are being formed, conversation is fast becoming the first defense at ensuring these veterans and their families have the best opportunities accessible. For as long as this continues, veterans in Bennington County, Virginia are being taken care of.
Beekeeping is one of Mike Roche’s passions. In the 1970s, Roche and his wife, Diane, bought a do-it-yourself beehive kit. The plan was to raise bees on their farm in Virginia, but life had other plans. Roche is a Vietnam veteran and remains active in the U.S. Marine Corps, which has caused the family to move. As they prepared to move, the unused beehive kit stayed with them. Year passed, but eventually, when Mike was working for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the couple resettled in Virginia where they revived their dream of raising honey bees. One day, thousands of bees arrived by mail at the U.S. post office. The bees began thriving before long, and the Roche’s pattern of harvesting honey in the kitchen became a staple in their life. A few years later, the hive had died up and beekeeping was a former passion. But within a few years, their hive died off and beekeeping slipped out of their lives. After retirement, Roche had continued the hobby. Mike Roche served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, but he didn’t use beekeeping as therapy, says Diane. “It was something that was enjoyable, and peaceful and dealing with the bees that he just loved.” It was particularly telling what similarities serving your country and bees carried. “All bees work for the welfare of the hive, and that mattered a great deal to my husband. Particularly after his experience in Vietnam,” says Diane. He didn’t want to be the only veteran that knew the joy of beekeeping. In 2013, Masterman crossed paths with Mike and Diane Roche through the Bee Squad’s Hive to Bottle program, which exists to help beekeepers with managing colonies on their own property. One day on a visit to Roche’s farm, Masterman, mused after witnessessing Roche’s joy, about creating a beekeeping program specifically for military veterans. Mike Roche was immediately sold and told her that he’d write a blank check. That’s how the Bee Veterans program first got started. Bee Veterans is more than a program, it’s also a home. It’s location, by the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, is unique and the apiary feels homey. The Bee Veterans Apiary was christened in the fall of 2015. Since then, 20 veterans have participated in free hands-on programming. Veterans had decided to bring their loved ones on the venture, making the program a family friendly place. Such is the story of Air Force veteran Colin Moening. He worked side by side with his childhood friend Pete Schwen. Moening retired from the U.S. Air Force a couple of years ago after serving for “25 years, two months, and two days,” but his Air Force schedule always seemed to be a deterrent. Moening and Schwen spent many evenings at the Bee Veterans apiary. Today, the lifelong friends are learning about winterizing the bees. “I feel pretty privileged to be able to come here,” says Moening. He plans to start two bee colonies at his cabin north of St. Cloud next year, but the first step is learning about the hobby. Moening states, “You come back to the community after being in the military and you don't necessarily know a lot of people and where to go. It’s a great opportunity.” Christian Dahm, 29, is a U.S. Marine veteran and Bee Squad employee who built this hive as an experiment. Dahm has been part of the Bee Squad family ever since Masterman awarded him a veterans scholarship to take an introductory beekeeping class a few years ago. Roche will always live through the program. Masterman says she’s learned to let the veterans show her what the Bee Veterans program should look like. Early on, veterans told her that they wanted the apiary to be a space where they could separate their military experiences. A bench will eventually will be placed on the property with Roche’s name on it, to honor the man that started the vision.
Military personnel are not limited to the battles they fight while serving, at home they are often greeted with challenges that cramp their lives with struggle and sickness. Such is the case with Sergeant Major Rob Bowman. He passed away from cholangiocarcinoma, which is a rare form of bile duct cancer, at the age of 44. Unfortunately, Bowman’s cancer isn’t an isolated incident. “Of the 30 men in Rob’s platoon who returned home, nearly one-third of them developed uncommon cancers and medical conditions,” said Coleen Bowman, Rob’s surviving spouse, “and the first doctor we saw confirmed immediately that the cause of Rob’s cancer was environmental, not genetic.” Thankfully, action is coming, however delayed. Exposure is a serious issue, one that lawmakers, police enforcement, and medical professionals are making time to study and to make changes. The families, the professionals realize, deserve well thought out, medically accurate information that can be used to help other people The thread of toxin exposure is long, it goes back to the start of civilization. Sometimes, it’s even personal! It was reported that in 1776, Tory sympathizer attempted to poison George Washington. Those who study the harmful effects of toxins realize that they have become even more harmful as the 20th century progressed. “We need the VA and the DoD to acknowledge that this is how these soldiers are dying,” Bowman stated, “we need better screenings, both before and after deployments. Rob’s complaints were initially blown off by his doctors. We’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go.” Legislative progress is happening, slow as it may be. The National Defense Authorization Act recently passed, which is helpful in solving the issue, but has yet to solve the goal completely. Due to this issue, advocation of military personnel have chosen to help others, since they feel the law is not helping them consistently. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Vietnam Veterans of America worked together to apply for a grant that the Wounded Warrior Project was hosting. The grant’s purpose was to be a friend to the families of those affected in the way by toxins and to provide assistance to those whose loved ones passed away from access to military toxins. Generations have now dealt with the issues and the aforementioned nonprofits are here to support them. This issue will not go away overnight, but with supportive collaboration, progress is coming.