803 – Another dark legacy of Vietnam is bubbling up

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Marines in Vietnam

In this episode another lingering dark legacy of the Vietnam War will be featured. It seems they never stop coming. If it’s not PTSD or Agent Orange diseases it’s something else. This time it is a parasite that can cause bile-duct cancer years after a Vietnam Veteran picks up the contemptible organism. An example of what can happen was highlighted in a story from KNX New Radio in Los Angles titled: Valencia Family Speaks Out About Rare Cancer That Killed Their Vietnam War Veteran Father.

Mike Brown of Valencia, California who was a 68 year old retired marine and Los Angeles police officer passed away in October of bile-duct cancer. That was three years after  was diagnosed with the disease. He left two children and five grandchildren behind. His family stepped forward and spoke out about how they believe the rare disease that killed their father is becoming a threat to more Vietnam Veterans. They are of the opinion the bile-duct cancer disease is linked to a parasite that is prevalent in Southeast Asia and a number of veterans could have inadvertently gotten the organism while in Vietnam.

The family has been searching for answers. Mike Brown’s son, Sean, has found there are hundreds of cases where Vietnam Veterans have the same diagnosis of the disease. Researchers believe there is a high probability that a parasite that is commonly found in undercooked river fish in Southeast Asia is linked to bile cancer. Sean Brown said he believes the data coming in from those parts of the world points verify the theory.

The VA initially rejected Mike Brown’s claim for assistance but after much effort on the part of Brown and his family the claim was approved one week before his death.

Notice to all Vietnam Veterans, if you ever consumed food in country and you have symptoms of jaundice or fatigue, get in as soon as possible and get it checked out. You may have this vile parasite swimming around in your body just waiting to manifest itself as bile-duct cancer.

802 – Hikers raise awareness of veteran suicides

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U.S. military veterans Terry Sharpe and Michael Boncek walk together along U.S. 1, south of St. Augustine, on Thursday, January 05, 2017. (Peter Willott/St. Augustine Record)

Not everyone is sitting around wringing their hands about the appalling figures the VA is putting out in reference to veteran suicides. Some are doing something about the fact that according to that government organization, 18 to 22 veterans commit suicide every day. In this podcast episode a story about two veterans who are doing something about the tragedy of veteran suicides in a unique fashion will be featured. The story comes from the Florida Times-Union website jacksonville.com. It originated at the St. Augustine Record where it was titled: Terry Sharpe, Michael Boncek walk busy St. Johns County roadside to raise awareness of veterans suicide and was submitted by Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record.

Michael Boncek is an Army veteran who served in Iraq. He was a mine detection specialist there and suffered a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in him being beset with PTSD. Terry Sharpe served with the Marines in Vietnam. He calls himself “The Walking Marine,” because since 2014 he has been walking to support veterans causes. The two men met on a Mountain to Sea Trail walk in North Carolina, a state both men call home. They have been walking together for veteran causes ever since.

The reporter for the St. Augustine Record, Sheldon Gardner, caught up with the two as they walked down US 1 in Florida near St Augustine. They had started out on an eight day hike down the highway to drum up awareness for the calamity of veteran suicides. They walk along the roads carrying American flags. The Marine Terry Sharpe also carries a Marine flag along with the stars and stripes.

Terry offers this advice when it comes to veterans: “Check on the veterans you know. Call them. Take them out to lunch. Do something. Check on them. Make sure they’re OK. If they don’t seem to be OK, try to get some help for them. That’s all you can do.”

More help for veterans can be found at the Veterans Crisis Line. The number to call is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for help or intervention for a mental health crisis.

For another excellent source of help for PTSD and its accompanying miseries check out Dave Dunklee’s Healing Box Project. He uses guitar music to treat the symptoms and has been very successful in helping veterans. CLICK HERE for more in Dave’s program.

CLICK HERE for Michael Boncek’s website: Walk by Faith

801 – Interview with Healing Box founder Dave Dunklee

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The Dunklees and a guitar student

Back in episode 794 of this podcast, Vietnam Veteran News, The Healing Box Project was featured. The Project is a program being carried out at the Truman VA Hospital in Columbia, Missouri by Dave Dunklee and his wife CJ. The purpose of the Project is to help veterans with PTSD with the magic of music, guitar music to be exact.

The method of operation and results or the Project are so astounding I felt the need to have Dave and CJ as guests on the podcast to tell us more about this outstanding method of dealing with the terrible effects of PTSD. They were kind enough to come on and share with us about the Project. Dave is a retired music teacher who lives in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. He and CJ heard about a program at the VA hospital intended to help veterans of the Gulf wars and he thought with his teaching talents he could help so he volunteered his services to the hospital.

The Dunklees immediately set up a program of teaching veterans how to assuage PTSD symptoms with playing guitars. Dave had developed a training procedure during his years of teaching that could have a totally novice playing tunes within five minutes. The program he was working with ended when the Gulf war slowed up but he was immediately requited by councilors to continue his program at the Truman VA Hospital.

The couple readily accepted the invitation and continued The Healing Box Project that had been started for Gulf War veterans. Now most of their clients are Vietnam Veterans. Their success rate has been phenomenal and it has prevented more than one contemplated suicide. All the work they do for the Project is voluntary and they receive no support from the VA other than a place to meet.

To date they have given away at no cost to the participating veterans 88 guitars. These instruments have an average cost of $270 each and they are all premium brands like Fender and Gibson. Funds for the guitars come from fundraisers and donations.

This is a tremendous program run by some wonderful people. You are encouraged to make a donation to the Project so the Dunklees can continue their important work.

CLICK HERE for their website.

CLICK HERE for their Facebook page

 

800 – Two stories about Vietnam Veterans

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This 800th episode of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News marks the third anniversary of its founding back in January of 2014. We are grateful to the many subscribers who have helped make it a success. This podcast is dedicated to the betterment of the Vietnam Veteran Universe. We feature stories about the veterans, the war and some of its lasting effects. We also advocate for veteran causes.

To help note the milestones of the podcast’s three year anniversary and 800th episode, two stories about Vietnam Veterans will be featured. The First comes from Long Beach, Mississippi. US Navy Vietnam Veteran Jerry Wayne Pino recently passed away. Jerry had made all the prearrangements for his funeral except for one thing – the pallbearers. Because he did not have any family, there was no one to carry his casket.

Vietnam Vet Jerry Wayne Pino Funeral, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

The six young men who volunteered as pallbearers for Vietnam Veteran Jerry Wayne Pino serving at the funeral in Long Beach, Mississippi.

A story in The Daily Mail website dailymail.com titled: Heart-wrenching scenes see six teens flank Vietnam War veteran’s coffin as they volunteer as pallbearers at his funeral because he didn’t have any family that was submitted by Kaileen Gaul lays out the details. Kaileen describes how a veteran who worked at Riemann Family Funeral Homes in Long Beach contacted a young man who found the six pallbearers needed for the service. Bailey Griffin, Joseph Ebberman, JT Tripp, Jake Strong, Kenny McNutt and James Kneiss stepped forward to perform the service. The flag that draped the casket was presented to the young men after the service.

Joe Freedman, from Danby, left, and Joe Giammichele, from Horseheads, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Joe Freedman, from Danby, left, and Joe Giammichele, from Horseheads.(Photo: Gay Huddle / Correspondent photo)

The other story featured in this episode comes from The Star Gazette and is titled: REUNION: Two area Vietnam vets renew friendship that was submitted by Gay Huddle. Huddle tells about two Air Force Vietnam Veterans who were good buddies in Vietnam where they served with the 6994th Security Squadron outside Saigon. The two of them flew a total of 214 dangerous combat missions involved in low-level flying, flushing out North Vietnamese and Viet Cong radio transmitters.

After the war they separated but unknowingly settled in two small towns (Horse Heads and Danby) in New York only 30 minutes apart. They located each other via Facebook and recently met for a four hour breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant in Ithaca to catch up on old times.

799 – Delay, deny, wait till I die – Apparent VA Agent Orange policy

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John Scarlett died of brain cancer in November 2015. His widow says she believes his disease is linked to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. She and other widows are battling the VA for benefits. (Andrew Burton for ProPublica)

One of the missions of this podcast, Vietnam Veteran News, is to inform and warn all about the residual effects of Agent Orange. The Vietnam War begot many egregious residuum for both the veterans themselves and for the country as a whole. One of the more odious hangovers from that war is the effects of the notorious super weed killer Agent Orange or to be more specific its insidious ingredient – dioxin. In this episode a story from ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot will be featured. It discusses the inconvenient truth about how the dangers of Agent Orange could be passed on to succeeding generations of the infected veterans. It appears the government in the form of the VA is adopting an attitude of: Delay, deny, wait until they die and then we can buy more office furniture and schedule more conferences in Las Vegas.

The aforementioned story if from the ProPublica and the Virginian-Pilot titled: Rethinking The Cost of War that was submitted by Charles Ornstein of ProPublica and Mike Hixenbaugh of the Virginian-Pilot. According to the findings of these resolute reporters, the rising tide of repeated recommendations by federal scientific advisory panels has motivated Congress to pass H.R.6416 – Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016. For what it is worth the bill directs the VA to “pursue research into toxic exposures and their potential effects across generations.” Two factors dampen the happiness of this bill’s passage. One is the fact the VA has already conducted such research over the years and promptly ignored the results. The other dampening reality is that it will take years and years for the VA to conduct new research. Victims of the condition need help now. They are rapidly dying out along with their effected off springs.

The country has an obligation to take care of its veterans including those and their off springs who are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange.

798 – John Kerry smeared American Vietnam military service

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John Kerry smearing American soldiers before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1971.

As Secretary of State John Kerry steps down from office it is important for all Vietnam Veterans to be aware of and remember his past activities relating to those veterans before he goes off into obscurity and works at spending his wife’s money. There was a story about Mr. Kerry in The Washington Free Beacon’s website freebeacon.com titled: That Time John Kerry Defamed America and American Soldiers that was submitted by Brent Scher. It reminds us of the despicable things he said about American soldiers when he appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee back in 1971. He followed up that appearance before the Senate with participation in a protest where he claimed he threw his medals on the White House lawn. Later he admitted the medals belonged to someone else.

One thing to keep in mind about John Kerry is that he was the son of a foreign service officer and grew up outside the United States. He lived in Berlin before going to a Swiss boarding school at age 11. Before joining the US Navy he relocated to New Haven, Connecticut where he matriculated and graduated from that bastion of conservative thought – Yale University.

In Scher’s story it is intimated that when Kerry said those terrible things about his own country’s troops, he was being used a tool by the Soviet Union propagandists. In the early 1970s Kerry became the spokesman of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), a group of a few thousand anti-war activists. Thomas Owens, a Naval War College professor who led a Marine platoon in the Vietnam War, has argued that much of what the VVAW was putting forward was based on Soviet Union propaganda. Kerry and the VVAW, Owen wrote, were essentially using “Americanized” Soviet propaganda to smear his own country’s troops.

All this sheds light on why John Kerry would smear the reputation of all Vietnam Veterans. Let’s hope someday he will fess up to his misdeeds the way his namesake Bob Kerry did. Bob Kerry admitted to taking part in a slaughter of more than an dozen unarmed villagers at Thanh Phong in 1967 during a CIA Phoenix Program operation.

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Bob Kerry along with some his fellow gallant warriors in Vietnam.

797 – Country Joe McDonald left an imprint on the Vietnam Era

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Country Joe and the Fish circa the Vietnam War Era

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Country Joe McDonald today

One of my favorite subjects for this podcast, the Vietnam Veteran News, is the musicians and their music of the era. According to the great humanities lecturer, Dr. Funkhouser, formerly of the University of Florida, music is an indescribable and mysterious thing that has an enduring effect on its listeners.

In this episode we will take a look at one of those Vietnam Era performers who is still making a difference today. His name is Joe McDonald and he was recently featured in a story found in The Boston Globe website titled: Country Joe McDonald, still bearing witness that was submitted by Matthew Guerrieri.

McDonald first saw the light of day in Washington, DC. His parents who were both members of the Communist Party relocated to California and young Joe grew up in El Monte. Before his parents became disillusioned with the Communist cause they named their son after Joseph Stalin, one of the most hated mass murderers in history. Young Joe joined the US Navy at the age of 17, served three years and then settled down in the Berkeley area to join the protest movement.

He formed up Country Joe and the Fish with fellow guitarist Barry Melton. Their biggest hit was “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” but he is best known to members of the Vietnam Era for his Vietnam War Song. The band became one of the more exploratory psychedelic acts of the late 1960s and some describe McDonald as one of the era’s most dedicated political conscience. McDonald saw his music as an alarm rather than a solution.

In the Mid 1970’s the band broke up and McDonald continued a solo career in promoting assorted causes. One cause was a renewed association with Vietnam Veterans with a particular on the contributions of military nurses.  He became an expert on Florence Nightingale and the history of nursing. That led to the creation of a one-man show about military nurses.

Joe McDonald remains relevant with his causes to this very day.

796 – Englishman Alastair Livingston fought with the Marines in Vietnam

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Alastair Livingston at November’s Remembrance Day Service at the NATO HQ in Pristina, Kosovo, along with the British Army Adviser to the General, Commanding the Kosovo Security Force, Lt Col Andy Layton

Not all the US Marines who served in the Vietnam War were from this county though most were. One exception was a remarkable Englishman named Alastair Livingston. His story is featured in this episode through a story in the Ilkley Gazette titled: War hero from Ilkley looks back on his service in Vietnam that was submitted by Annette McIntyre, a reporter for the publication. The occasion for the story was at November’s Remembrance Day Service at the NATO HQ in Pristina, Kosovo.

McIntyre relates Livingston’s story as follows: He was a young lad from Ilkley, North Yorkshire, UK who went to Canada and joined the army there. There was not enough action in the Canadian Army to suit the young lad from North Yorkshire so he moved south and joined up with the US Marines in 1968. Livingston became a Marine paratrooper and qualified as a Navy seal and on top of that he learned to speak Vietnamese. Naturally he ended up in Vietnam where he served almost three years with distinction. During his service in Vietnam he was highly decorated with awards including the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

After the Vietnam War Livingston remained in the Marines and retired in 1988. Since then he has gone on to work in a variety of roles including peacekeeping, conflict prevention, human rights and reconstruction with organizations including the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the UK Government and various NGOs.

His work has taken him to war-torn areas including Kosovo, Croatia, Baghdad, Sinai, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Among other things he has helped protect the rights of minorities, overseen a unique central Asian mine-action co-operation project, and advised on elections in Kosovo.

Livingston’s response when asked if he had any regrets for going to Vietnam with the US Marines is: “Did I ever regret my service, there, in my almost three years of service, or at any other time in my career, military or civilian…no, not at all. I made my decisions and then moved on with my life…to regret having made a decision that then couldn’t be changed in hindsight, would be counter-productive.”

Alastair Livingston is a truly outstanding servant for all mankind.

795 – Agent Orange questions for the VA in 2017

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Agent Orange, vietnam veteran news, mack payneAs the year 2016 comes to a close and 2017 gets ready for its debut, one of the most asperous legacies of the Vietnam War – the use of Agent Orange – that high powered weed killer with such high expectations but with such dire unintended consequence will continue to dominate the attention of  the VA with much controversy and acrimony.

Agent Orange and its relationship with the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans has been featured on this podcast many times in the past. For years that special group of Vietnam Veterans have been seeking assistance for its many members who are suffering from diseases that have been recognized as be caused by exposure to the dioxins found in Agent Orange from the VA. The VA has remained adamant in its policy of refusal toward the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans as the advocates for benefits continue their struggle for equity in benefits.

The new year that will bring a change in National leadership, offers encouragement to the advocates for equity. A story on the ProPublica website titled: Long List of Agent Orange Decisions Awaits VA in 2017 that that was produced by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica, and Mike Hixenbaugh of The Virginian-Pilot offers insight into the upcoming forks in the road the VA will approach in the near future.

One is whether to expand the list of diseases that are presumed to be linked to Agent Orange. Currently the VA recognizes 14 health conditions, including various cancers that are caused by exposure to Agent Orange. A federal panel of scientific experts said there is now evidence to suggest that Agent Orange exposure may be linked to bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. It also confirmed, as previous experts have said, that there is some evidence of an association with hypertension, stroke and various neurological ailments similar to Parkinson’s Disease. Despite new evidence of linkage, if past performance continues the VA will drag its feet as much as possible and hide behind funding excuses.

Another biggie is whether to make naval veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam eligible for benefits. this is the crux of the matter for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans.

Next is: Whether to extend coverage to service members who served along the Korean demilitarized zone during the Vietnam War and who say they were exposed, as well.

Last but definitely not least is the question of whether veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange can affect their descendants. This is without a doubt the most hideous of the lurking hazards related to exposure to Agent Orange.

Our country owes its veterans a solemn obligation of assistance when those veterans get sick as a result of something the country did while they were serving their country.

794 – The Healing Box Project helps veterans

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A few of The Healing Box Project participants with Dave Dunklee holding his guitar.

Many years ago I had a Professor in the Humanities Department at the University of Florida named Dr. Funkhouser. The one thing I remember him saying in one of his long lectures in Walker Auditorium was his characterization of music. He described it as a mysterious thing that has inscrutable effects on human beings. The story I am featuring on this podcast episode proves that theory out. It comes from The Charlotte Observer and is titled: Music project helps veterans coping with war memories that was submitted by Brittany Ruess of the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.

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C. J. Dunklee

Brittany tells about The Healing Box Project that was started by musician Dave Dunklee and his wife CJ. The Dunklees started The Healing Box Project at the Warrior Transition Unit in Fort Leonard Wood a few years ago, serving soldiers Dunklee described as “fresh off the battlefield.” Trying to cope with the wounds of war, music became part of their recovery process.

When the Warrior Transition Unit was closed down they wanted to go on with their work helping veterans even though they were not officially a part of the VA. Luckily they were contacted  by a peer specialist who invited them to continue The Healing Box Project at the Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital at Columbia, Missouri. Through the Program they give guitars and lessons to disabled Veterans. they give the joy of music through guitar playing. They use music to replace symptoms of PTSD and our motto is “the guitar is the box and healing begins with the first strum.” One of the primary goals of the Program is to prevent suicides.

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Dave Dunklee (on left) and a friend who presented him with a custom made guitar strap.

Today the Project is working with many Vietnam Veterans at Truman Memorial. Dunklee says: “When a veteran receives a guitar, the reaction is always the same. Maybe they haven’t smiled for a long, long time, but there’s always a smile.” And sometimes it’s like disbelief.”

You are encouraged to visit their website and discover more about this wonderful Project that is helping many Vietnam Veterans cope with the ravages of PTSD.

http://www.thehealingboxproject.org/aboutus