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Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Blog is on hiatus due to a disagreement with my disability company First Unum who might misconstrue the blog as a source of employment or income it is not and never was never will be. I am a Disabled Veteran I need my disability income so to avoid further hassle this blog for the first time ever since its inception in 2006 is on hiatus and to all you guys who enjoy the blog I apologize for this but until I know where I stand with this I will not be posting.

Sean

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Marine Missing in Action From World War I Identified

                The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War I, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

               U.S. Marine First Sergeant George H. Humphrey of Utica, N.Y., will be buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. On Sept. 15, 1918, Humphrey participated in the first U.S.-led offensive of the war under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. The battle with the Germans became known as the St. Mihiel Offensive. There were 7,000 Allied losses during this offensive and it was the first use of the American use of the term “D-Day” and the first use of tanks by American units.

                Humphrey, a member of the U.S. 6th Marine Regiment, attached to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, was killed in action during the battle and his remains were buried by fellow Marines the next day. In October 1919, a Marine who witnessed the death wrote a letter to Humphrey’s brother recounting the attack near the village of Rembercourt. He included a map of his recollection of the burial site.

                Attempts to locate Humphrey’s remains by U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel following the war were unsuccessful. In September 2009, French nationals hunting for war relics found artifacts near Rembercourt-sur-Mad they believed to be those of a World War I American soldier. A month later, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the area, recovering human remains and military-related items including a marksman’s badge with Humphrey’s name engraved on the back.

              Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC laboratory also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

              For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

Fallen Airmen Laid to Rest After 38 Years

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., June 18, 2010 – Unidentified remains of 14 fallen Air Force AC-130 gunship crewmembers were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery here yesterday, nearly 40 years after their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Families observe as an Air Force honor guard folds the flag that draped a casket containing unidentified remains during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, June 17, 2010. The ceremony honored 14 airmen who were killed in March 1972 when their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Lt. Col. Henry P. Brauner, Lt. Col. Richard Castillo, Lt. Col. Irving B. Ramsower II, Lt. Col. Howard D. Stephenson, Maj. Curtis D. Miller, Maj. Barclay B. Young, Capt. Richard C. Halpin, Capt. Charles J. Wanzel III, Chief Master Sgt. Edwin J. Pearce, Senior Master Sgt. James K. Caniford, Senior Master Sgt. Robert E. Simmons, Senior Master Sgt. Edward D. Smith Jr., Master Sgt. Merlyn L. Paulson and Master Sgt. William A. Todd were honored in a group burial with full military honors in the cemetery's Section 60.

The crew was killed in action March 29, 1972, in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark D. Shackelford presented an American flag to the families. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Anthony Wade and Rev. Martin McGill presided over the service.

Full military honors included a flag-draped casket and carrying team, a firing party, a band and bugler, a horse-drawn caisson and escorts from the Air Force Honor Guard. All 14 names will be included on the headstone.

Representatives from the families of 13 of the airmen attended the ceremony. Several members of Rolling Thunder, an advocacy group for the return of all prisoners of war and those missing in action, also attended the service.

Remains for Halpin, Wenzel, Caniford, Pearce, Simmons, Smith and Todd were positively identified and returned to their families. Young and Caniford were buried here individually in 2008, said Kaitlin Horst, a spokeswoman for the cemetery.

The remaining seven airmen could not be identified, but are accounted for, Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Joint Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Accounting Command, said in an interview today with American Forces Press Service.

Forensic anthropologists and scientists from the Defense Department are confident all 14 airmen were involved in the crash, Greer said. The scientists used identification tools, circumstantial evidence and DNA tests to match the crewmembers' remains with their families, Greer said. Scientists also used dental comparisons to identify remains.

"All of these men have been accounted for, and the families have accepted the identification," Greer said. "These final, full-honor services are to recognize the sacrifices that these men made and their families made, and all of us involved in this mission feel it an honor to bring closure to these families."

The crew's plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile during an armed reconnaissance mission. Search and rescue efforts were hindered because of heavy enemy activity in the area and were stopped after only a few days, Greer said.

The first remains were recovered in 1986 by a joint U.S.-Laos team, Greer said. Recovered items included two identification tags, life support equipment and aircraft wreckage, he added.

Between 1986 and 1998, nine members of the aircrew were positively identified. Follow-on surveys and excavations in 2005 and 2006 found more remains, personal effects and other equipment, he said.

The remains of more than 900 servicemembers killed in the Vietnam War have been returned to their families since 1972. More than 1,700 remain unaccounted-for.

In the past year, the Joint Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Accounting Command has accounted for 98 servicemembers missing from the Korean War, Vietnam War and World War II. More than 80,000 servicemembers from the three wars remain unaccounted-for. Nearly 2,000 from the same wars have been accounted for and returned to their families.
 

Related Sites:
Arlington National Cemetery
Joint Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Accounting Command
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office

Click photo for screen-resolution image An Air Force honor guard carries a casket holding unidentified remains during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, June 17, 2010. The ceremony honored 14 airmen who were killed in March 1972 when their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
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Click photo for screen-resolution image An Air Force honor guard provides military honors during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, June 17, 2010. The ceremony honored 14 airmen who were killed in March 1972 when their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
Download screen-resolution
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Click photo for screen-resolution image An Air Force honor guard provides honors at a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, June 17, 2010. The ceremony honored 14 airmen who were killed in March 1972 when their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
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Click photo for screen-resolution image Members of Rolling Thunder, a Vietnam War veterans group that works for the return of prisoners of war and those missing in action, pay their respects during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, June 17, 2010. The ceremony honored 14 airmen killed in March 1972 when their aircraft was shot down over southern Laos. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
Download screen-resolution
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Defense Department News Through Facebook On American Forces Press Service's Facebook page, you can post comments and share news, photos and videos. Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Forces-Press-Service/65137437532 or search for American Forces Press Service at Facebook.com.

Update your subscriptions, modify your password or e-mail address, or stop subscriptions at any time by clicking on your 'User Profile' page at https://service.govdelivery.com/service/user.html?code=USDOD. You will need to use your e-mail address to log in. If you have questions or problems with the subscription service, please e-mail support@govdelivery.com.

Have another inquiry? Visit the online FAQ at http://www.defense.gov/landing/questions.aspx for up-to-date information.

Get the help you, your family, and fellow servicemembers need, when you need it. Visit www.WarriorCare.mil to learn more.

Check out the National Resource Directory at www.nationalresourcedirectory.org, a new web-based resource for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, their families, families of the fallen and those who support them from the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

Veterans describe World War II, Cold War experiences

http://www.timesrepublican.com/page/content.detail/id/526331.html?nav=5005

Veterans Bill Baltisberger and Allan Packer of Marshalltown made World War II and early Cold War history come alive Thursday evening at the Historical Society of Marshall County's museum.

The setting was the HSMC's monthly "Third Thursday" history programs hosted by HSMC board member Julie Lang.

Both men graphically and sometimes lightheartedly, shared their extensive experiences to approximately 60 citizens, some of whom sat in an adjoining hallway. The men saw extensive action in World War II. Baltisberger was a navigator on B-17s. Packer piloted P-47 Thunderbolts.

But their service was not over. Baltisberger was recalled to serve during the Korean conflict from 1951-53. Packer remained in service, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy. He too would experience the Cold War during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The U.S. entry into World War II after Pearl Harbor changed the lives of both men dramatically.

"On Dec. 6, 1941, I knew what my destiny was going to be," Packer said, who opened the program.

He graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1942 and entered the U.S. Army Air Corps in December that same year.

After completing pilot training in April, 1944, he was stationed in Duxford, England flying in the 8th Air Force.

He was shot down in January, 1944 and was a POW in Germany until the war ended in May.

Much of Packer's recollections dealt with his stint as a POW.

"I was shot down over Hamburg in 1945 and we were liberated by Patton's 14th Armor in May," he said. "We spent our first night in a Hamburg jail with a bunch of German drunks who had been arrested for looting."

From Hamburg they were sent to Nuremberg.

Later, the Germans forced Packer and other GIs to walk from Nuremberg to Munich.

During the march Packer and several others escaped into the nearby countryside, but were re-captured after 17 days of freedom.

"It was very austere living," Packer said with a smile, recounting his days as a POW. "We learned to subsist on black bread, water and soup. We would look down into the vat of soup and hope there were bugs floating around to make it better."

Packer said a German guard's comments would prove to be prophetic.

"He said to us POWs, you are going to be back after this war fighting the Russians."

The audience listened intently as he described his duties commanding the Puerto Rico Air Defense Sector during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With Soviet state Cuba nearby, Russian planes were plentiful.

"It was a tense time," Packer said. "We had many eager, young pilots who were looking to make a name for themselves. We were allowed to follow Soviet planes but not shoot them down."

After Puerto Rico, Packer was assigned to other posts, among them the United States Air Force Headquarters and Tactical Air Command Headquarters. He retired in 1975 as a Colonel and farms near Marshalltown. He is extremely active in Marshall County veterans activities and serves on the Marshalltown Veterans Coliseum board of directors.

Baltisberger also graduated from MHS in 1942. After navigator training, he was deployed to a the 452nd Bomb Squad in England. He flew 31 missions into Russia, Italy, Germany and France. He flew two missions on D-Day.

Baltisberger vividly recounted the missions, his crewmen always on the alert for anti-aircraft fire and German fighter planes.

He was shot down twice. Once, they ditched into the English Channel and were rescued.

"We were up in the air the next day," he said.

He was shot down a second time in Germany and like Packer captured. However, Baltisberger and others were able to escape and hiked through the German countryside, raiding vacant farmhouses for food and clothing.

Once Baltisberger and a fellow crew mate dressed like a German couple on a German train, with Baltisberger dressed like a woman.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of the guys that didn't make it," he said. There were flights where most of the planes did not make it back to England."

An audience member said the two men were part of the "Greatest Generation."

Packer said he went on an Honor Flight recently.

"Looking at all of us old duffers, I wonder how we won the war," Packer said. "You were a lot younger then," someone said. "Thank God they were," another said.

"We did what we had to do," Baltisberger said.

Next month's Third Thursday program "Juke Boxes, Pool Halls and Duck Tails, is scheduled July 15 at Marshalltown's Orpheum Theatre.

Contact the HSMC at 641-752-6664 for additional information.

—-

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@ timesrepublican.com

IRAQ VETS FOR CONGRESS

                                     Iraq Veterans for  Congress:  Citizen Soldiers to Citizen Statesmen


SPECIAL OFFER:


 

Picture & Dinner Journal Listing with Donation

 

You have probably heard about our upcoming dinner on board the USS Intrepid with Monica Crowley this Monday, June 21st at 6:30pm….

 

….But did you know that even if you cannot join us on Monday, you can still support our candidates and help them go from "Citizen Soldiers to Citizen Statesmen"?

 

Simply make a contribution of $25 or more online today and we will list your name in the official Iraq Veterans for Congress Victory Dinner commemorative journal.

 

Complementary Picture!

 

As a thank you for your support of our veterans, we will also mail you a copy of the journal along with a picture of our Master of Ceremonies, Monica Crowley, and our platoon of 2010 IVC candidates who will be in attendance at the event.

 

This offer expires at 12:00pm ET Thursday, June 17th.

 

Be a part of history!  Make your $25 contribution today!

Share Your Poetry With Us

http://www.dcoe.health.mil/blog/article.aspx?id=1&postid=109

submission email Victoria.Shapiro.ctr@tma.osd.mil

Posted by Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton, DCoE Director on June 14, 2010
BG Sutton

DCoE Director Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton.

The DCoE Blog Team wants your poetry! Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the criteria for poem submissions. All poems should be e-mailed to Victoria.Shapiro.ctr@tma.osd.mil, in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment.

The tradition of Warrior poetry is thousands of years old. For as long as wars have been fought, Soldiers have expressed their feelings and experiences with poems and creative writing – a powerful outlet to help heal the invisible wounds of war and foster an unprecedented level of understanding.

Today marks the United States Army’s 235th Birthday, and it is also Flag Day. As the Nation commemorates both, and we’re thinking of our Warriors, Veterans and their loved ones, I encourage you to share your writings with us.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Service member, a loved one or a caring citizen; we want to read and share the poems you’ve written that express your thoughts and experiences – hardships and joys.

Below you'll find the Battle Haikus I wrote, and I look forward to reading yours.

Full of life’s promise
Proud to don this uniform
Here I am, send me

Our blood and treasure
Daughters and sons, brave and strong
Do we deserve them?

I’m fighting for you
Sisters and brothers in arms
Brave hearts in harm’s way

War followed me back
Sleepless nights, desperate days
Pain wracks my spent soul

One trip to the mall
Is enough to convince me
I am lost at home

Doc says treatment works
An act of courage and strength
Please don’t break my heart

Suck it up, Sarge says
Wish that it were so simple
Teach me a new way

Why did this happen?
My body and soul scream foul
Betrayal sinks deep

Respect yields true strength
Diversity is the glue
From the many, one

Show me a real man
Who got treatment and still leads
I need to believe

Babe what you done now
Let’s try that new normal thing
Don’t throw us away

You say you won’t go
Waging battles out of reach
Then do it for me

Who remembers us
Rusty magnets, fraying flags
Used and forgotten

Why am I still here
Guilt preys on lost innocence
Tracking my heart’s path

To murder or kill
Just tell me the difference
My soul aches to know

Just back from the ledge
Broken dreams and slaughtered hope
To try life once more

Tie my boots again
Keep hope on the horizon
Never surrender

Daddy, where are you?
I love you all the way to
Heaven, home and me

Mama, I need you
Hairbows, cookies and huge hugs
Are waiting for us

God, who am I now?
Where in my hell have you gone
My soul begs for grace

Keep the faith, brave hearts
War bonded us forever
All together now

Say now . . . 8-6-6
9-6-6 – 1-0-2-0
We are not alone

All together now~
Loree K. Sutton, MD
Brigadier General, MC, USA
Director
US Flag

Photo credit: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli, Colorado Army National Guard.

Criteria for Poem Submissions:
*Poems in compliance with the criteria for poem submissions will be published on The DCoE Blog

   * Poems should be one page or less and sent in the body of the e-mail. No attachments will be accepted
   * Submissions must comply with our comment policy regulations
   * Please include how you wish to be attributed as the author
   * You are welcome to include some background information on you, or the poem. The DCoE Blog Team retains the right to edit the information as necessary for publication on the blog.
   * Please send all submissions to Victoria.Shapiro.ctr@tma.osd.mil and include your contact information (best e-mail address and phone number), so we can reach you with any questions. The contact information you provide will be kept confidential.

VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster for Veterans Simpler Forms and New Program Reduce Paperwork and Speed Process

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2010) – As part of Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki's effort to break the back of the backlog, the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reducing the paperwork and
expediting the process for Veterans seeking compensation for
disabilities related to their military service.

"These reductions in paperwork, along with other improvements to
simplify and speed the claims process, symbolize changes underway to
make VA more responsive to Veterans and their families," said Secretary
Shinseki.

VA has shortened application forms to reduce paperwork for Veterans. The
new forms, which are being made available on VA's Web site at
www.va.gov/vaforms <http://www.va.gov/vaforms/> , include:

*       A shortened VA Form 21-526 for Veterans applying for the
first-time to VA for disability compensation or pension benefits.  This
form has been cut in half – from 23 to 10 pages.  It is immediately
available to Veterans via Web download, and will be available through
VA's online claim-filing process later this summer at
http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp

*       VA Form 21-526b for Veterans seeking increased benefits for
conditions already determined by VA to be service-connected.  This new
form more clearly describes the information needed to support claims for
increased benefits.

In order to make the claims process faster, VA has also introduced two
new forms for Veterans participating in the Department's new fully
developed claim (FDC) program, which is one of the fastest means to
receive a claims decision.

Gathering the information and evidence needed to support a Veteran's
disability claim often takes the largest portion of the processing time.
If VA receives all of the available evidence when the claim is
submitted, the remaining steps in the claims-decision process can be
expedited without compromising quality.

To participate in the FDC program, Veterans should complete and submit
an FDC Certification and VA Form 21-526EZ, "Fully Developed Claim
(Compensation)," for a compensation claim, or a VA Form 21-527EZ, "Fully
Developed Claim (Pension)," for a pension claim.

The forms were designed specifically for the FDC program.  These
six-page application forms include notification to applicants of all
information and evidence necessary to "fully develop" and substantiate
their claims.  With this notification, Veterans and their
representatives can "fully develop" their claims before submission to VA
for processing.

Along with the application and certification, Veterans must also submit
all relevant and pertinent evidence to "fully develop" their claims.  A
claim submitted as "fully developed" may still require some additional
evidence to be obtained by VA, to include certain federal records and a
VA medical examination.

VA provides compensation, pension, education, loan guaranty, vocational
rehabilitation, employment, and insurance benefits to Veterans and their
families through 57 VA regional offices.

Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a Veteran for
disabilities that are a result of — or made worse by — injuries or
diseases that happened while on active duty, active duty for training or
inactive duty training.  Pension is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans
with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age
65 or older.

For additional information, go to www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/>  or
call VA's toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster for Veterans Simpler Forms and New Program Reduce Paperwork and Speed Process

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2010) – As part of Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki's effort to break the back of the backlog, the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reducing the paperwork and
expediting the process for Veterans seeking compensation for
disabilities related to their military service.

"These reductions in paperwork, along with other improvements to
simplify and speed the claims process, symbolize changes underway to
make VA more responsive to Veterans and their families," said Secretary
Shinseki.

VA has shortened application forms to reduce paperwork for Veterans. The
new forms, which are being made available on VA's Web site at
www.va.gov/vaforms <http://www.va.gov/vaforms/> , include:

*       A shortened VA Form 21-526 for Veterans applying for the
first-time to VA for disability compensation or pension benefits.  This
form has been cut in half – from 23 to 10 pages.  It is immediately
available to Veterans via Web download, and will be available through
VA's online claim-filing process later this summer at
http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp

*       VA Form 21-526b for Veterans seeking increased benefits for
conditions already determined by VA to be service-connected.  This new
form more clearly describes the information needed to support claims for
increased benefits.

In order to make the claims process faster, VA has also introduced two
new forms for Veterans participating in the Department's new fully
developed claim (FDC) program, which is one of the fastest means to
receive a claims decision.

Gathering the information and evidence needed to support a Veteran's
disability claim often takes the largest portion of the processing time.
If VA receives all of the available evidence when the claim is
submitted, the remaining steps in the claims-decision process can be
expedited without compromising quality.

To participate in the FDC program, Veterans should complete and submit
an FDC Certification and VA Form 21-526EZ, "Fully Developed Claim
(Compensation)," for a compensation claim, or a VA Form 21-527EZ, "Fully
Developed Claim (Pension)," for a pension claim.

The forms were designed specifically for the FDC program.  These
six-page application forms include notification to applicants of all
information and evidence necessary to "fully develop" and substantiate
their claims.  With this notification, Veterans and their
representatives can "fully develop" their claims before submission to VA
for processing.

Along with the application and certification, Veterans must also submit
all relevant and pertinent evidence to "fully develop" their claims.  A
claim submitted as "fully developed" may still require some additional
evidence to be obtained by VA, to include certain federal records and a
VA medical examination.

VA provides compensation, pension, education, loan guaranty, vocational
rehabilitation, employment, and insurance benefits to Veterans and their
families through 57 VA regional offices.

Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a Veteran for
disabilities that are a result of — or made worse by — injuries or
diseases that happened while on active duty, active duty for training or
inactive duty training.  Pension is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans
with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age
65 or older.

For additional information, go to www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/>  or
call VA's toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

Survivor Shares Story to Combat Troop Suicides

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2010 – Kim Ruocco hung up the phone with her husband, relieved he had finally agreed to seek help for his increasingly severe bouts of depression.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Maj. John Ruocco poses for a picture with his wife, Kim, and children, Joey, right, and Billy, in November 2004. The major committed suicide in 2005 after a long battle with depression. His wife has devoted herself to suicide prevention and assisting survivors. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Still, she had a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. She decided to catch a red eye flight from Massachusetts to California, where her husband's reserve unit was located, so she could be with him when he sought help.

After Ruocco landed, she called the hospital. He wasn't there. She called his office. He hadn't shown up. A sinking feeling set in. Ruocco rented a car and raced over to the hotel where her husband had been staying. When she arrived, several Marines were walking out of his hotel room.

The Marines were crying.

"I didn't have to ask — I knew," she said. Her 40-year-old husband, Marine Corps Maj. John Ruocco, an accomplished AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot and father of two, had hung himself just hours after his conversation with his wife.

Ruocco struggled to make sense of the loss that shook her family to its core. Yearning to give her husband's death some meaning, she eventually immersed herself in efforts to combat suicide within the military.

Ruocco is now the director of suicide education and support for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families with a fallen military loved one. She has shared her story with thousands of troops across the nation, working to fight the stigma that kept her husband from seeking help.

"I wish I would have called the [military police] and told them there was someone in crisis," she said of that night five years ago. "I wish I would have taken the chance in having him feel like I betrayed him — but at least he'd be alive."

Her husband had battled bouts of depression for most of his adult life, Ruocco explained. Past incidents — including a fatal car accident in high school and aircraft crashes that took the lives of his friends – had stuck with him throughout the years. But he kept his feelings private, worried about disrupting his skyrocketing Marine Corps career.

After more than a decade in the Marines, Ruocco was at the pinnacle of his career field, his wife explained. An expert pilot, he had accepted an Air Force exchange position at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., where he trained new pilots on the T-37 jet.

Ruocco took his work "very seriously," she noted, and the demands of a fast-paced, post-9/11 military were wearing him down.

"It was taking a toll; the stress and pressure," she said. "He felt indebted to the Marine Corps and the Air Force, and indebted to us. He was trying to please everyone."

Backed by his family, Ruocco decided to separate from the Marines. His wife and their then-8- and 10-year-old sons were pleased, since they had grown tired of the frequent moves and school changes.

"People thought, at almost 15 years, it was a crazy time to get out," she said. "I felt it was better for the family."
The major separated from active duty in 2004 and joined a reserve unit in Pennsylvania. While moving his family to their new home in Boston, he began training to be a pilot with Southwest Airlines in Texas.

Two weeks after he joined the reserve unit, Ruocco was activated and deployed to Iraq. His deployment went well, his wife said. He flew 75 missions, was awarded an Air Medal, given for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight, and led his troops with pride, she noted.

But post-deployment, life took a downturn. The job with Southwest didn't pan out, and his Pennsylvania-based squadron had moved to California.

"The adrenaline with war was coming to a screeching halt," Kim Ruocco said. "He was having difficulty flying because of the anxiety and depression. It was the snowball effect you see so often with suicide.

"People often think suicide is one thing, such as a relationship breakup," she explained. "But that's the final straw of a multitude of things that build up and tear away at a [servicemember]."

John was living in a hotel room in California, she said, where his depression was worsening by the day. He was due to deploy to Iraq again in the spring, but doubted his ability to lead there and also was afraid of letting his unit down, she said.

John Ruocco died on Super Bowl Sunday 2005. His beloved New England Patriots edged out the Philadelphia Eagles for the coveted football victory. But he didn't watch the game. On their phone call that evening, Kim asked her husband if he was feeling so bad that he could kill himself. He told her he could never do that to her and the boys.

"He told me he was going to go on base and get help," she said. "But also said that would be the end of everything; that it would ruin his career.

"Nothing is more important to a military man or woman than how people view you," she added. The stigma of seeking help and the fear of being viewed differently prevented her husband from seeking the help he needed, Ruocco said.

"I believe he really meant it when he said he couldn't do that to me and the kids, but he probably sat there and thought about the consequences of getting help, the concept of death before dishonor, and that he was mentally incapable of doing his duty," she said. "That's the final straw for [servicemembers], when they don't feel they have anything to give anymore."

Ruocco said she's seen the same stories replayed on military installations throughout the world and hopes, by sharing her story, others will be inspired to come forward and seek help.
In her talks with troops, she stresses the importance of never leaving someone in emotional distress alone.

"I tell the troops to practice ACE – ask, care, escort," she said. "You can never leave a person who is in that much pain alone. You can't say, 'I'll call you tomorrow.' Grab their arm and escort them to help."

Ruocco also explains the signs of suicide: withdrawal; substance abuse; physical self-harm; talking about feeling hopeless or helpless; talking about wanting to die, even in a joking way; impulsiveness; lack of judgment; and as a sign of a possible imminent attempt, agitation and angry outbursts.

She's already seen positive signs of change, she said, thanks to Defense Department efforts to lower suicide rates and end the stigma of seeking help.

To illustrate, Ruocco described a visit to Fort Hood, Texas, about a year ago. Many soldiers approached her crying, and told her that was the first time they felt they could share their feelings. She returned there in the spring, and it was a different story, she said.

"A lot of soldiers came forward and said they got help or they noticed a soldier and took him to help," she said.

Ruocco praised the military for its recent suicide prevention efforts, but stressed more work remains. She serves on four Defense Department task groups dedicated to combating the military's suicide rate, and is focusing efforts on building up follow-on care for surviving families.

"They need a lot of help and often help is not there for them," she said. "We need to build up services more and build up funding."

Even one suicide is too many, she said.

"I've talked to thousands and thousands of troops and I really get the sense [military] leaders want to find out how to fix this," she said. "But it's so hard to keep people from falling through the cracks. It's hard and heartbreaking."

Ruocco also is working to combat the stigma associated with military suicides, something that plagued her in the days following her husband's death. Surviving family members often keep the cause of death from others, particularly from their community and church, for fear of judgment.

Five years ago, Kim kept the cause of death from her own children. In shock and unsure how to handle the situation, she told her sister, who was watching the kids, to tell them it was an accident. The secret only compounds the pain, she said.

Two weeks after her husband's death, Ruocco and her sons were driving to a restaurant and her older son said, "I think I killed Dad." Kim asked him what he meant. "I put salt on his nachos," he told her. "And he said it wasn't good for his heart. Maybe he got in an accident because of his heart. Is that why he died?"

Ruocco immediately pulled the car over and told her sons the truth, in terms they could understand. She talked to them of war and depression, and compared mental pain to that of physical pain.

"That day, we started again from scratch," she said. "They were angry and confused, but it was a relief to tell them. I didn't have to worry about them overhearing something anymore.
"You can't rebuild on a lie."

In the years since, Ruocco and her sons have worked on taking on healthy roles and building new, happy memories. They traveled to Florida and the Caribbean and immersed themselves in the military's and TAPS' support.

Ruocco now focuses on celebrating her husband's life, rather than dwelling on how he died. She cites Enid, Okla., as an example of a community that has created a touching celebration of life. She returns there to Vance Air Force Base, the family's last active-duty station, each year to visit with old friends.

On her last visit, she stopped by a town memorial, where a stone is placed for each military member from Oklahoma who died while serving the nation. To her surprise, the park included a plaque in memory of her husband.

"They were honoring not how he died, but how he lived," she said. "He served and sacrificed and stepped up, too, and they were acknowledging that. That's how it should be done."
 

Related Sites:
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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60 years on, ex-GIs remember their ‘forgotten’ war

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2010/06/10/60-years-ex-gis-remember-their-forgotten-war/print/

By CHARLES J. HANLEY/The Associated Press
June 10, 2010 | 5:36 p.m. CDT

WAEGWAN, South Korea — The old soldier stood erect on the riverbank, his cane at his side, a baseball cap emblazoned "2nd Infantry Division" square above his brow. He looked out, then turned away from the slow, silty Naktong.

"I've seen this river before," Carroll Garland said. "I don't want to remember. Too many memories."

The war that began in Korea 60 years ago, on June 25, 1950, a ghastly conflict that killed millions and left the peninsula in ruins, became "The Forgotten War" in many American minds.

To a shrinking corps of aging men, however, the soldiers of Korea 1950-53, it can never be forgotten. It damaged many physically, scarred many mentally and left many questioning their commanders' and their nation's wisdom.

They fought many enemies — not just the North Koreans and Chinese, but also the heat, the killing cold and the cursed hills, the thirst, hunger and filth, the incompetence and hubris of their own army, and the indifference of an American homeland still fixed on the "good" war, World War II, that had ended five years earlier.

Remembering Korea today might be painful, as ex-Sgt. Garland, 81, of Oxon Hill, Md., can attest. But when such men get together, the freeze frames of war's horrors and miseries, of lost comrades and paralyzing dread, inevitably emerge in sharp focus.

"At the reunions, they talk about it," said Lucille Macek, 76, wife of Shawnee, Kan., veteran Victor Macek. "And then they break down."

In a wartime arc of desperation, triumph, retreat and final stalemate in Korea, no U.S. division sacrificed as much as the 2nd Infantry Division, more than 7,000 were killed — one-fifth of the total U.S. deaths. And it is the 2nd Infantry Division that still stands guard over South Korea today.

Two days spent with a "2nd ID" group on a 60th-anniversary visit to old battlefields opened a window to the men and events of a lifetime ago, when what happened here, on the Naktong, on the Chongchon River of North Korea, in places like Kunu-ri and Heartbreak Ridge, neglected stories though they may be in today's textbooks, was nothing less than a pivotal turn in 20th-century history, when a cold war grew hot in America's confrontation with communism.

"We didn't have enough men," Henry Reed recalled of the division's ordeal on the Naktong.

"There were so many holes in the line, the North Koreans didn't have to try too hard. The enemy would get behind us, and we'd be fighting on all sides. Things were desperate."

It was called the Pusan Perimeter, a southeastern corner of Korea running 85 miles north to south along the Naktong, and 60 miles east to west. Here in mid-1950, in one of the most perilous U.S. military operations ever, outmanned U.S. and South Korean troops mounted a last-ditch defense against a closing North Korean vise.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. After the communist-led northerners struck south in their surprise invasion on June 25, two years after U.S. combat units withdrew from South Korea, U.S. commanders believed the simple reappearance of American troops would deter the North Koreans.

"At our base in Hawaii, we thought the war would be over, and we wouldn't get our Combat Infantryman's Badges," said Marvin House, 79, a veteran of the 5th Regimental Combat Team. "Boy, were we fooled."

The northern army battered the first-arriving U.S. units and shattered the South Korean divisions. It simply was better trained and better equipped, with Soviet-made T-34 tanks.

The U.S. government had shrunk the Army drastically after World War II, and training and equipment upgrades were neglected.

As the 2nd Division sailed from Ft. Lewis, Wash., to Korea in late July 1950, "we wound up training our soldiers to fire their weapons at tin cans thrown into the Pacific," said retired Col. Ralph M. Hockley, 84, of Houston, then a young artillery officer.

"Twenty percent of our vehicles had to be towed to the embarkation point," Walter Wallis of Palo Alto, Calif., recalled of the 2nd Division deployment. "We had some real crap, 4-year-old C-rations and stuff like that."

Not long after, on the Naktong, the 18-year-old radioman Wallis watched helplessly from a hilltop as a U.S. river-crossing patrol was slaughtered by the North Koreans. His batteries had failed. He couldn't call for help.

For House, a 57 mm-recoilless rifleman, it wasn't quality but the quantity: none. For a month after his 5th RCT took up position on the perimeter, he had no ammunition for his gun, leaving him to help mortar and other gun crews fight off the enemy.

The North Koreans, crossing the shallow Naktong at night on barges or over underwater "bridges" built of rice bags filled with rocks, hammered again and again at the U.S. and South Korean lines in August and early September 1950.

The "lines" were more a series of hills, road junctions and other points manned by under-strength units, sometimes a mile apart. Commanders would rush up reserves to fill the gaps as the North Koreans attacked.

For the GI, in the 100-plus-degree heat, amid tropical downpours and malarial mosquitoes, with water supplies scarce, soldiering became misery.

"Those weeks seemed like a lifetime," said House, of Bonne Terre, Mo.

Time and again, the 2nd and other U.S. and South Korean divisions held the North Koreans off, sometimes fighting hand to hand, at great cost to the defenders and even greater cost to the North Koreans. Finally, on Sept. 15, 1950, U.S. amphibious forces landed at Incheon, far to the North Koreans' rear, cutting them off from their supplies and recapturing Seoul from the invaders.

That set off a race north by the Pusan Perimeter divisions, a "breakout" whose momentum carried them by November to the Yalu River and the North Korean-Chinese border, as overall commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. leadership sought to conquer North Korea.

"We did what we had to do. We kept them out," twice-wounded ex-rifleman Reed, 78, of Butte, Mont., said of the Naktong campaign. "But we suffered plenty. In the first month, my company" — A Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment — "went down to 78 men from 200."

More suffering lay ahead. The lunge north had been ill-conceived, putting the American army on a collision course with the might of China deep inside North Korea.

Retired Lt. Col. Lynn A. Freeman, then a lieutenant at 23rd Infantry headquarters, remembered the night in late November 1950 when a Chinese attack materialized from nowhere, "blowing bugles and whistles and making a lot of noise," and penetrating into the regimental command post at the Chongchon River.

The regiment's 1st Battalion beat them back. "The bodies of wounded Chinese were frozen in the river's ice the next morning," recalled the soft-spoken Freeman, 87, of Concord, Calif. Meanwhile, young Wallis had an image frozen in his memory, of panicked U.S. soldiers trapped in sleeping bags and hopping down a hillside to escape the Chinese.

"The next day we went up there and saw a couple that didn't make it," he said.

But Chinese attacks all along the front forced the longest retreat in U.S. military history, a withdrawal by the entire U.S. Eighth Army some 160 miles back into South Korea.

For the 2nd Division, the pullback through Kunu-ri and the valley remembered as "The Gauntlet" was a descent into a wintry hell.

"It was sleepwalking, day and night marching, when the Chinese came in," remembered Rudy Ruiz, 77, of Las Vegas, a 38th Infantry Regiment rifleman.

Miles-long convoys of trucks, tanks and men pushed south under heavy fire from Chinese dug into the hills on both sides, crippled vehicles, blocked the narrow roadway and stranded knots of doomed men. In a single day, the division lost 3,000 killed, wounded or missing.

Even for those who escaped, the frigid temperatures and biting Siberian wind of an early winter could be as deadly of an enemy. Wounded men froze to death while waiting for help. Hundreds suffered frozen feet and fingertips, noses and ears. The Army had failed to deliver winter clothing to tens of thousands of troops.

"The worst was the cold," Ruiz said. "I've never been so cold. You'd dig a hole in the snow, and you'd all huddle together."

The "Big Bugout" retreat left the Eighth Army holding a line below the 38th Parallel, the North-South divide.

In February 1951, the Chinese mounted an all-out offensive, but were turned back at Chipyong-ni by the 2nd Division, ushering in a final long phase of the Korean War, the "war of the ridgelines," as the two sides jockeyed for advantage, winning hills, losing them, winning them back, while truce talks went on.

It was at Heartbreak Ridge, in September 1951, that "we got into trouble, when we tried to move north," recalled Ed Reeg, ex-machine gunner with the 23rd Infantry. "The night of 19 September, Love Company was under real heavy attack, and Lt. Monfore called for a machine gun."

Reeg climbed to Love's position, set up his .30-caliber gun, and suddenly the North Koreans were charging out of the darkness along the ridgeline. Reeg's team tried to hold them off and dodged their grenades, but finally "they found the mark." A bullet hit him above the hip, sending him rolling in pain.

As Love beat back the attack, at the cost of Lt. Monfore's life, Reeg was carried to a spot on the hillside, injected with morphine, roughly bandaged, and left lying there, as the sun rose, peaked and began to set.

"Here I'm thinking, it's over. What's my mom going to think?" In late afternoon, passing GIs realized he wasn't dead and sent him off to a medical station. The war was over for Ed Reeg, who would be awarded a Silver Star for bravery.

Too many memories.

On May 31 of this year, Reeg, 82, of Dubuque, Iowa, stood with his wife and son atop a ridgeline south of Korea's dividing Demilitarized Zone and looked out toward Heartbreak.

"To think we were so close to where I lay dying 59 years ago," he reflected later. "I never thought I'd get back here."

It wasn't the only pilgrimage this old soldier has made. In 2003, he found Lt. Monfore's grave in Springfield, S.D., and met with his family. "It seemed like my duty to go find him."

Duty and doubts, flashbacks and nightmares, pride and uncertainties — veterans of killing fields, in Korea or elsewhere, are often torn by conflicting feelings. Many Korea vets are open about the psychic legacy of their war.

"I had night sweats for years," Ruiz said. "Whatever, it's still blocked out." Reeg believes a nervous breakdown he suffered in 1960 may have stemmed from his time in Korea.

In their foxholes 60 years ago, many questioned why their lives were being risked in a far-off civil war. "As a young fellow, I did wonder what we were doing here," said the big Montanan and ex-rifleman Reed.

Their anniversary tour supplied an answer for some, as they gazed upon a prosperous and — in recent decades — democratic South Korea, whose government subsidizes such veterans' visits.

"This makes me feel it was worth it," Reeg said. "To see this country built up. It's amazing."

They recognize the picture is incomplete, however, since the peninsula remains divided.

"That's one thing I'm sorry for," Reed said.

In fact, John Manly long thought he would wait for Korean reunification before returning. Finally, at age 80, the old 23rd Infantry rifleman came, despite obvious misgivings about his war and its results.

"I am almost a pacifist," he told a reporter.

Equally obvious, as he spoke of a wartime friend killed in action, was his love for his fellow soldiers.

"Isn't a day goes by I don't think about him," Manly, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., said. "I'm glad to be alive. A lot of the guys in there tonight are happy to be alive," he said, nodding toward a banquet hall filled with fellow veterans.

That evening it was Manly's tenor voice that silenced the hall, drawing the gray heads of old soldiers together in thoughts only they could share, as he sang, to the tune of the World War II favorite "Lili Marlene," lyrics someone had improvised in 1952 as their own war dragged on:

"When the war is over, and the world is free,

We'll relive proud memories of bloody Kunu-ri.

Sayong and Heartbreak will be retold,

And Bloody Ridge will make us bold.

Our hearts will always be

With the 2nd Infantry."