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veterans

KUOW PHOTO / CASEY MARTIN

An American flag for every grave marker in Seattle's Evergreen Washelli Veterans Memorial Cemetery. 

That was the mission for dozens of volunteers at 7 o'clock Monday morning. 

Veterans, scouting troops, and family of service members scooped up their flags and started walking the rows, planting one U.S. flag for each white marble gravestone. 

Over 5000 times, in all.


Combat veterans from the Vietnam-era through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan often turn to Vet Center counselors for help with post-traumatic stress or depression. And some of these counselors are themselves feeling stress - in part, they say, because of what they're calling unrealistic productivity requirements.

Ted Blickwedel, 63, is a Marine Corps veteran living in Smithfield, R.I. And recently, when he was working as a clinical social worker at his local Vet Center in nearby Warwick, he began to think about suicide.

A New Jersey Air National Guard member checks the blood pressure of a homeless veteran
Flickr Photo/New Jersey National Guard (CC-BY-ND-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/TDycb7

Kim Malcolm talks with Marine Corps veteran Josh Penner and Navy veteran Rebecca Murch about the potential impact of privatizing healthcare services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The “Mobile Mouth”, a 42-foot long mobile dentist’s office, will stop in Portland and Spokane this week as part of a nationwide tour to provide free dental care to veterans. 

One of the Growlers in the Electronic Attack Squadron 134 based on Whidbey Island.
FLICKR PHOTO/TOMÁS DEL CORO (CC BY 2.0)/HTTPS://FLIC.KR/P/RWHRSX

Army veteran Chuck Nelson served in the military for 12 years, fighting in the first Gulf War and later in Somalia.

Today he lives right on the eastern border of Olympic National Park. He moved there for the solitude.


Lindsay Church started Minority Veterans for America after leaving her position as post commander at Ballard's American Legion.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

When Navy veteran Lindsay Church was elected commander of American Legion Post 40 in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, she looked around the room and saw the future. It didn't look promising.

“Basically what I was seeing was the post was dying,” Church said. 

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

A U.S. service member was killed in a "combat engagement" in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province on New Year's Day, and four other U.S. service members were injured, according to a U.S. military statement.

The U.S. military did not immediately explain what kind of combat the service members were engaged in at the time or whether they were fighting ISIS or the Taliban.

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four U.S. soldiers killed in a military operation in Niger on Oct. 4, told ABC's Good Morning America that President Trump "made me cry even worse" when he called to offer condolences last week.

The phone call between the president and Johnson has been a source of controversy for a week now, since Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who listened in on the call, revealed details of the conversation.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban after leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009, has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was freed in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban detainees.

Bergdahl, a native of Idaho, pleaded guilty before the military judge in the case, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, at a hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The King County Council decided to put a proposed property tax increase before voters this November. The levy renews funding for veterans and now also, seniors.

Memorial Day weekend is a time when a lot of Americans remember those who have served and lost their lives during war — and not all of those individuals were U.S. citizens.

When the Iraq war started, nearly 40,000 members of the military were not U.S. citizens. Army Pfc. Diego Rincon was one of them.

In 1989, his family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. In 2003, he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. He died for his country even though he wasn't a citizen.

Today, more Americans graduate high school and go on to college than ever before. But as the country becomes more diverse — the Census Bureau expects that by 2020 more than half of the nation's children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group — are colleges and universities ready to serve them?

The Washington Soldiers Home has been ordered to take steps to protect it residents. The order by outside regulators follows a recent investigation that found “widespread deficiencies” at the nursing home for veterans.

The Washington Soldiers Home is a state-run facility that serves veterans, their spouses or widows and Gold Star parents.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

The House has approved legislation that would make it harder to keep veterans who are "mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent" or prone to blackouts from buying guns. Critics of the bill say it could raise the suicide rate among veterans — a rate that has risen in the past decade.

At least a dozen Democrats joined Republicans to support the bill, which was approved by a 240-175 vote.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

William Owens, whose son William "Ryan" Owens became the first American to die in combat under the Trump administration, says that he refused a chance to meet President Trump and that he wants an investigation into his son's final mission — a raid in Yemen whose merits have been called into question.

Before they get to work on reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress and the White House might want to take a closer look at the last time they tried it — a $16 billion fix called the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, designed to get veterans medical care more quickly.

As promised, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It's a concern for those who might be left without health insurance — and especially for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may have to pick up some of the slack.

Carrie Farmer, a health policy researcher at the Rand Corp., says 3 million vets who are enrolled in the VA usually get their health care elsewhere — from their employer, or maybe from Obamacare exchanges. If those options go away, she has no idea just how many of those 3 million veterans will move over to the VA.

A survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who now lives in Lincoln City, Oregon, has vivid memories of the surprise strike on the Pacific Fleet that pushed the U.S. into World War II. Ed Johann, then a 17-year-old apprentice seaman, was crewing a hospital ship's water taxi when the first fighter bombers came over the horizon.

As museums and historians polish exhibits and remembrance programs for the 75th anniversary on Wednesday, Johann recalled the attack that killed more than 2,300 U.S. servicemen.

Jeff Lynch survived catastrophic injuries from his two deployments to Iraq, but they left him unable to have children naturally.
Brian Batista

When his convoy was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2007, Army sergeant Jeff Lynch was seriously wounded. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, was hospitalized for months, and underwent more than a hundred surgeries.


An Army review concludes that commanders did nothing wrong when they kicked out more than 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq or Afghanistan – even though all of those troops had been diagnosed with mental health problems or brain injuries.

The Army's report, ordered by Secretary Eric Fanning, seeks to reassure members of Congress that it's treating wounded soldiers fairly. But senators and military specialists say the report troubles them.

Transgender veterans hoping the veterans administration would cover their sex reassignment surgery were dealt a setback after the administration dropped the plan.

Editor's Note: NPR's Kara Frame made this short documentary film, I Will Go Back Tonight, on the battles with PTSD that her father and his Vietnam War comrades have faced in the decades since they served. On Veterans Day, here's their story, with an introduction from Kara.

Air Force veteran Katherine Pratt in front of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Pratt's detachment was responsible for the operational tests.
Courtesy of Katherine Pratt

For some military service members returning to civilian life can be disorienting.

The Native American community is reaching out to help vets with a modern day version of an ancient ceremony known as “calling home.”

Desmond Doss is credited with saving 75 soldiers during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the Pacific — and he did it without ever carrying a weapon. The battle at Hacksaw Ridge, on the island of Okinawa, was a close combat fight with heavy weaponry. Thousands of American and Japanese soldiers were killed, and the fact that Doss survived the battle and saved so many lives has confounded and awed those who know his story. Now, he's the subject of a new film directed by Mel Gibson called Hacksaw Ridge.

In most cases, when an employer pays a signing bonus to attract new workers, that payment is understood to be essentially unrecoverable. But the Pentagon has a different understanding — and it's ordering the California National Guard to claw back thousands of dollars paid to soldiers who re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's growing evidence that a physical injury to the brain can make people susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Patricia Murphy

The Department of Education is partnering with education nonprofits to help answer questions from students affected by the abrupt shutdown of ITT Technical Institute.

The 40,000 former students will have to find new schools if they want to pursue their education. But for the more than 6,000 of those ITT students who were veterans, the problems can be much more complicated.

An analysis of veterans suicides by the Department of Veterans Affairs sheds new light on high-risk groups of veterans.

The report, billed as the most comprehensive analysis to date, examined completed suicides between 2001 and 2014.


John Zimmerman, a nurse anesthetist for the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis, leans over a patient. Under a new rule, some nurse practicioners are allowed to work independently rather than under a physician's close supervision.
Association of Veterans Affairs Nurse Anesthetists

Nurses may soon do work doctors normally do at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This includes nurses performing work that anesthesiologists have been doing – and that has some physicians irate.

Local Veterans Affairs officials met with reporters this week to talk about some of the steps they're taking to improve accessibility and quality of care for veterans. 

One of the Seattle VA's new initiatives is to help veterans deal with chronic pain -- a problem that can often lead to opiate dependence and addiction. Another critical initiative addresses the 11 percent growth in VA Puget Sound's patient load. 


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