Glasses for Homeless Vets Glasses for Homeless Vets by wuzhengqin


									VA n g u a rd                  outlook

                               July/August 2006

                Glasses for Homeless Vets
                Women Employees in Harm’s Way
                VA’s Newest Shrine
                The Search for Our World War I Vets
July/August 2006                               1
                                                             VA n g u a rd

                                                  Serving in Harm’s Way                                                      6
                                                  Part 2 of women employees deployed in the war on terror
                                                  Preparing for the Next One                                                 12
14                                                Facilities in hurricane-prone areas are ready for the 2006 season
                                                  VA’s Newest Shrine                                                         14
                                                  Georgia National Cemetery is dedicated in a June ceremony
                                                  Seeing a Way Out of Homelessness                                           16
                                                  A pilot program is helping to restore the vision of homeless veterans
                                                  Wrapping Up the Diamond Jubilee                                            18
                                                  VA’s yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary concludes
                                                  The Search for Our World War I Veterans                                    21
                                                  Time is running out to find and recognize the last of a vanishing breed
16                                                Privacy & Security Awareness Week                                          23
                                                  A look at how facilities around the country observed the event
                                                  The National Veterans Wheelchair Games                                     32
                                                  Ever wonder what it takes to put on this major event?

                                                  3       Letters
18                                                4       From the Secretary
                                                  5       Outlook
                                                  24      Around Headquarters
                                                  27      Introducing
                    VAnguard                      28      Medical Advances
                   VA’s Employee Magazine
                                                  29      Honors
                   July/August 2006
                   Vol. LII, No. 4
                                                  30      Have You Heard
Printed on 50% recycled paper

Editor: Lisa Respess
Assistant Editor/Senior Writer: Renee McElveen
Photo Editor: Robert Turtil
Published by the Office of Public Affairs (80D)
                                                                                   On the cover
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs                                                Formerly homeless veteran Gary Bracey
810 Vermont Ave., N.W.                                                             gets an eye exam at the Baltimore VA Medi-
Washington, D.C. 20420                                                             cal Center. He is one of the beneficiaries of
(202) 273-5746                                                                     a pilot program at the Baltimore VAMC and
E-mail:                                                            four other VA medical centers that is pro-                                                    viding glasses for homeless veterans who
                                                                                   would not normally qualify for VA eyewear.
                                                                                   photo by Robert Turtil

2                                                          July/August 2006
                                                            VA n g u a rd                                   letters

Warning Labels on                  64 percent of Americans are         in 2005.                             Retired and Still Serving
Fast Foods?                        overweight or obese, and 7                These increases are noth-      During my more than 27
When I have an appointment         percent (or 20.8 million) have      ing new. People who are              years of service with the U.S.
at the VA hospital, I like to      diabetes. Among veterans, it        health conscious have known          Army, I have had many occa-
get there early in order to read   said, these figures are higher,     this for years. What is new is       sions to use VA medical ser-
the veterans magazines. This       and the reason for this was the     that this is the first time a gov-   vices. I can say for myself, the
time I picked up the March/        emergence of the factory            ernment official has publicly        service was always of the best
April issue of VAnguard and        farm/fast food industry as well     stated this message. It seems        quality and I was treated with
read an article by the Secretary   as “processed” foods, which         that since the beef industry         respect.
of Veterans Affairs, Mr.           contain large doses of salt, fat    sued Oprah Winfrey, people                 I retired as of January
Nicholson, about the prob-         and sugar.                          of influence have been reluc-        2006 and am now a disabled
lems of obesity and diabetes            In a separate study of In-     tant to publicly state the           vet. I now have the honor of
among veterans, as well as the     diana residents, the obesity        health hazards of the factory        being part of the VA team as a
general population. The article    rate has gone from 25.5 per-        farm/fast food industry.             program support specialist at
went on to say that nationally,    cent in 2004 to 27.3 percent              Documentaries such as          the Vocational Rehabilitation
                                                                       “Super Size Me” and books            and Employment office in
                                                                       such as Fast Food Nation, al-        Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
                                                                       though critically acclaimed, go            I am pleased each day
                                                                       largely ignored by the public.       that I can now help my fellow
                                                                       Why? Some people have tried          disabled vets by helping the
                                                                       to claim that their obesity is a     very professional staff with the
                                                                       disease due to their addiction       daily office administrative
                                                                       to fast foods. Why do people         functions, thus allowing the
                                                                       who know something is harm-          counselors to have more time
                                                                       ful to them do it anyway?            to devote to my fellow dis-
                                                                       Maybe there is something in          abled vets.
                                                                       fast foods that is just as addic-                           Jerry Abney
                                                                       tive as cigarettes and alcohol.          Program Support Specialist
                                                                             Nutritionists say that we                          VR&E Office
                                                                       should frequent fast-food res-                   Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
                                                                       taurants no more than once a
                                                                       month. The FDA is now pro-
                                                                       posing that all restaurants (I
                                                                       believe they are doing this be-      Corrections
                                                                       cause they can’t single out fast-
                                                                       food restaurants) provide nu-        Credits for two photographs
                                                                       trition labels on what they sell.    we ran in the May/June issue
                                                                       Maybe what we need are               were incorrect. The photo on
                                                                       warning labels on fast foods,        page 18 was taken by JR
                                                                       the same as cigarettes.              Garza; the photo on page 21
                                                                                              Ray Wilson    was taken by Amanda
                                                                                New Middletown, Ind.        Stanislaw.

                                                                            We Want to Hear from You
                                                                            Have a comment on something you’ve seen in
                                                                            VAnguard? We invite reader feedback. Send your com-
                                                                            ments to You can also write to us at:
                                                      BILL ARMSTRONG
                                                                            VAnguard, Office of Public Affairs (80D), Department
Dance of Honor                                                              of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave., N.W., Wash-
Robert Nez of the Navajo Nation dances with others in the American
                                                                            ington, D.C., 20420, or fax your letter to (202) 273-
Indian Veterans Gourd Dance performed June 29 at the New Mexico             6702. Include your name, title and VA facility. We
VA Health Care System in Albuquerque. Known as a “warriors’                 won’t be able to publish every letter, but we’ll use rep-
dance,” the gourd dance honors all veterans. Nez has been a gourd
dancer for 11 years. He dances in honor of two uncles who died in
                                                                            resentative ones. We may need to edit your letter for
World War II. The dance was sponsored by the New Mexico VA’s Na-            length or clarity.
tive American Special Emphasis Committee.

                                                            July/August 2006                                                                3
          from the secretary                                     VA n g u a rd

                  The Yearlong Observance of VA’s 75th Anniversary
                  Jim Nicholson
                  Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The Diamond Jubilee of the         geles Times, came to VA for        that we will continue making       into the next era of VA ser-
Department of Veterans Af-         comment. As one reporter put       a difference in the lives of re-   vice, not the least of which is
fairs was a smashing success       it, VA was included in their       turning veterans and those of      addressing our handling of
and I could not have been          news coverage as “an example       the future by helping them         sensitive veteran data. The
more proud of the participa-       of somebody who does it            and their families have a home     theft of VA data earlier this
tion and effort of VA staff        right.”                            of their own.                      year was a wake-up call for
from Maine to Manila.                    The headline of a six-            VA’s disability compensa-     our entire agency, and we have
      From the opening mo-         page Business Week article on      tion and pension programs          already taken a number of
ments of our kick-off cer-         VA health care called it “The      also play a large part in ensur-   steps to remedy the situation
emony at Constitution Hall in      Best Medical Care in the           ing the security of veterans       and improve on it. Our goal is
Washington, D.C., last July to     U.S.,” and U.S. News & World       and their families. Last year,     simple: for VA to become the
the finale in the Capitol Ro-      Report published an article        VA provided $30.8 billion in       gold standard for information
tunda this July, the yearlong      that called VA hospitals “mod-     disability compensation, death     and data security, and to be-
observance of VA’s 75th anni-      els of top-notch care.” Clearly,   compensation and pensions to       come as widely respected for
versary highlighted the many       our anniversary year was one       some three-and-a-half million      this as we are for our elec-
achievements of VA and our         in which our fine reputation       veterans, and the spouses, chil-   tronic medical records.
dedicated employees, and           grew and received the recogni-     dren and parents of deceased            There always is and al-
showcased the proud legacy of      tion it deserved.                  veterans. The fulfillment of       ways will be more to do, and I
our service to veterans.                 During our 75th anniver-     this commitment does more          have every confidence that VA
      Now, we begin this next
period of VA history on solid
footing. The safety and effi-      The Diamond Jubilee was a smashing success and I could
ciency of our electronic health    not have been more proud of the participation and
records was recognized in July
by Harvard University, which       effort of VA staff from Maine to Manila.
awarded VA the very presti-
gious Innovations in Govern-       sary year, VA reached an im-       than provide money to veter-       will rise to this challenge. Be it
ment Award. More than 1,000        portant milestone in another       ans and their survivors; it        increased vigilance with sensi-
entries competed for this          way. The agency guaranteed         helps give them the peace of       tive information, compassion-
honor but at the end of the        its 18 millionth home loan as      mind that comes from eco-          ate health care, providing ben-
day, it was VA and our health      part of a program that has         nomic stability.                   efits to injured veterans or
care technology that were rec-     loomed large in making the              VA’s Diamond Jubilee          conducting a fitting burial for
ognized for excellence.            United States a nation of          year also saw major progress       a homeless veteran, VA has
      Awards are a fine testa-     homeowners. This 18 mil-           on our commitment to ex-           been there for more than 75
ment to things done well, but      lionth home loan guarantee         pand the national cemetery         years and we will continue to
the practical aspects of our       went to a young family in          system. America is saying its      be there for the next 75.
electronic health records and      Texas and it exemplifies not       final farewell to the generation         It is an honor for us to
prescription drug programs—        only our service to veterans       that fought and won World          serve together those who
which save lives every day—        but VA’s positive impact on        War II, with more than 1,000       served us in uniform. We are
are also being increasingly rec-   the nation and its economy.        veterans from that war dying       the agents of a grateful nation,
ognized by the media and the            Homeownership is a cor-       every day. To meet those           who take great pride in fulfill-
American public.                   nerstone of the American           needs, the number of national      ing our noble mission.
      Just days after VA re-       Dream and VA has been in           cemeteries, each of which is
ceived the Harvard award, the      the forefront of making this       maintained as a shrine to
Institute of Medicine issued a     dream a reality ever since         those who served, has grown         Read more about the con-
report on prescription drug er-    Franklin Roosevelt signed the      to 123 over the past year, and
                                                                                                          clusion of VA’s Diamond
rors in American health care       GI Bill into law in 1944. We       we remain on track to con-
and a number of news agen-         will guarantee millions more       tinue this expansion.               Jubilee year on page 18 of
cies, including ABC World          home loans over the next 75             There are also challenges      this issue.
News Tonight and the Los An-       years, and you can rest assured    that lie before us as we move

4                                                           July/August 2006
                                                            VA n g u a rd                               outlook

                  Looking Back With Pride in Our Accomplishments
                  Jonathan Perlin, M.D.
                  Under Secretary for Health

On Aug. 11, I will resign my       more than 6,000 lives just               Today, VHA is solidifying   laborative practice.
position as Under Secretary        among veterans with emphy-         our critical partnership with           I am proud to know that
for Health. I am honored to        sema.                              our academic affiliates on a      I will leave VHA better than it
have had the opportunity to              Veterans today are more      basis of trust, equity and syn-   was and with veterans receiv-
serve VA, veterans, and my         satisfied with their health care   ergy; our research program is     ing far better care than ever
fellow VHA employees since         than patients anywhere else.       squarely focused on its core      before. My goal for VHA has
1999. In that time, we have        VHA is the benchmark for in-       mission of improving the          always been that we be the
made VHA the gold standard         patient and outpatient care        health and well-being of veter-   leaders in providing safe, effec-
in health care, and have made      and pharmacy services in the       ans; and VHA leads America        tive, efficient and compassion-
great strides toward providing     externally administered            in adopting the principles of     ate health care. We will know
veterans with care that is safe,   American Customer Satisfac-        the President’s New Freedom       that we have reached this goal
effective, efficient and com-      tion Index. And Americans are      Commission on Mental              when every veteran receives
passionate. It has been my         more satisfied with the value      Health. We’ve also improved       such care without the need for
great privilege to be a part of    of the care we provide—The         the percentage of community-      an advocate. There is much
this renaissance.                  New York Times, The Washing-       based outpatient clinics offer-   work still to do, but I leave
     Our accomplishments           ton Post, Washington Monthly,      ing specialty mental health       VHA in the capable hands of
over the past few years have       Business Week and U.S. News        care services from 71 percent     Dr. Mike Kussman, who has
been widely recognized—by          & World Report all have lauded     two years ago to more than 90     been chosen as acting Under
the news media, by the health      VHA as a model health care         percent today.                    Secretary for Health, and my
care community, and, most          system, efficiently providing            In the future, genomic      other colleagues—men and
importantly, by veterans them-     the best care anywhere.            medicine offers the promise of    women who have already
selves. Just last month, for ex-         And even as VHA’s bud-       allowing us to treat each         brought about one revolution
ample, we received the presti-     get has doubled proportionate      patient’s disease uniquely, not   in health care, and are fully
gious Innovations in Govern-       to patient growth, and as our      just similarly to the way that    capable of bringing about an-
ment Award from Harvard            quality has improved to            disease is treated in other pa-   other.
University’s Kennedy School
of Government and the Ash
Institute for Democratic Gov-      I am proud to know that I will leave VHA better than
ernance and Innovation for         it was and with veterans receiving far better care than
our leadership in combining
performance measurement            ever before.
and electronic health records
to improve care for veterans.      benchmark status, our cost-        tients, and I hope that we will         Thank you all for your
     Last year, the RAND           per-patient remains un-            become the vanguard for col-      help and support—and for the
Corporation, an esteemed           changed from 1995; adjusted        laborative and interdiscipli-     honor and privilege of serving
health services research organi-   for inflation, VHA’s care is 32    nary training among physi-        with you, and serving the
zation, found that VA system-      percent less expensive than it     cians, just as VA, in the past,   nation’s veterans. I wish you
atically outperformed all other    was a decade ago.                  has been the vanguard for col-    all the best in the future.
health care providers across a
spectrum of 294 directly com-
parable measures of quality in       Kussman Named Acting Under Secretary for Health
disease prevention and treat-        Dr. Michael J. Kussman will serve as VA’s acting Under Secretary for Health while the De-
ment. This translates into the
                                     partment conducts a search to replace outgoing Under Secretary for Health Dr. Jonathan
best rates of immunization,
gender-specific health services      Perlin. Kussman, who becomes acting Under Secretary on Aug. 12, has served as VA’s
(such as breast and cervical         Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health since August 2005. Before coming to VA,
cancer screening) and diabetes       Kussman had a military medical career spanning three decades. His service included stints
care available anywhere. Im-         as commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System in Washington, D.C., and com-
proved pneumonia vaccina-            mander of the Europe Regional Medical Command.
tion rates alone have saved

                                                            July/August 2006                                                           5
                     feature                              VA n g u a rd

Second of two parts

         Serving In
           Harm’s Way
Women employees have been deploying in support of the war on terror
in record numbers. Here are some of their stories, in their own words.

             omen are serving on the front lines in the war    tack. I thought, “Well, I guess this is for real, I’m in the
             on terror in record numbers. Fifty-one women      war.”
             have been killed in Iraq and more than 370             The hardest part of my deployment was treating the
wounded as of April 2006, according to the Department          soldiers who had body parts missing due to IED explo-
of Defense.                                                    sions. These kids are younger than my children and their
     They are our mothers, daughters and friends. And in-      lives changed drastically in a flash. The most memorable
creasingly, they are our colleagues as well. More than 700     experience was the young soldier who had a gut wound
female VA employees have been called to active military        that we were dressing. He handed me his digital camera
service since 2001. Through an informal survey conducted       and asked me to take a picture of his wound as we took off
via e-mail to VA nurses, social workers and women vet-         the bandages … what a souvenir for him.
eran health managers, VAnguard uncovered the stories of             There is little in my normal military experience or ci-
about 50 women employees, most of whom deployed to             vilian job that could compare to my deployment to Iraq.
combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.                          When I left Iraq and rotated to Ramstein from August
     Their stories are raw and emotional. Many shared          2005 to January 2006, my role as the chief nurse was
similar fears, such as anxiety over the constant threat of     much like my job at the VA (management), except we
attack. Others struggled with the grim realities of treating   had to move and care for the wounded troops. I don’t
combat casualties. All shared the hardships of separation      “hump” litters in my civilian job.
from family and friends, and the lack of privacy or crea-
ture comforts. In the May/June issue, we shared some of
their stories with you. Here are more, in their own words.
Cookie S. Avvampato, R.N., nurse manager, Southern
Arizona VA Health Care System, Tucson
     I deployed on June 1, 2004, with the Air Force
Reserve’s 944th ASTS (Air Staging and Transportation
Squadron). We began in Camp Wolverine, Kuwait, and
later moved to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, and then
forward to Balad, Iraq. My job involved keeping track of
all injured troops in the Contingency Aeromedical Stag-
ing Facility and providing reports to the medical crew that
flew the patients to Ramstein, Germany, for advanced
care.                                                                                                          COURTESY COOKIE AVVAMPATO
     There were no real surprises about my deployment,         “There is little in my normal military experience or civilian job that
except when we went forward and were on the C-130 and          could compare to my deployment to Iraq,” says Cookie Avvampato,
were told we had to circle because the base was under at-      left, a nurse manager in Tucson.

6                                                     July/August 2006
                                                              VA n g u a rd                                   feature

                                                                                                                         COURTESY MICHELLE LAFFERTY

                                                                         Michelle Lafferty meets country singer Mark Wills during a visit orga-
                                                                         nized by the USO.

                                                                         Kathleen Michelle Lafferty, administrative support assis-
                                                                         tant, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston
                                                                              I am a Yeoman Third Class (E-4) who has been in the
                                                                         reserves for eight years. I have been serving in the Navy
                                                                         Cargo Handling Battalion 6 since 2001. We deployed to
                                                                         Kuwait to support the port operations and move equip-
                                                                         ment and supplies both in and out of theater and stayed
                                                                         from August 2004 to March 2005. My duties were to sup-
                                                                         port the headquarters with security clearance processing,
                                                                         transportation support, emergency leave paperwork and
                                                                         other duties.
                                                                              I shared a tent with about six other females that I
                                                COURTESY BARBARA BAKER
                                                                         didn’t know until I got there. Spent the Christmas holi-
Barbara Baker with her husband Bill, who has also served in Iraq         days away from my family but was well supported by the
and is there now. They were in theater at the same time for about        VA staff back home; I received two large boxes of goodies
three weeks. This photo was taken two days before she left for home.
                                                                         from my co-workers. I even made some wonderful lifelong
Barbara J. Baker, registered nurse, Charles Wilson                       friendships with fellow reservists from other parts of the
Outpatient Clinic, Lufkin, Texas                                         United States, as we were merged with other Cargo Han-
     I served as a registered nurse with the 228th Com-                  dling battalions from Ohio,
bat Support Hospital in Tikrit, Iraq, from Dec. 26, 2004,                Illinois and California.
to Dec. 1, 2005. I joined the service in 1983 right out of                    I have to say that I feel
high school for several reasons: I come from a military                  like I am a different person
family, to help pay for college, and I was pretty gung-ho                now that I have been to a
back then and wanted to serve my country.                                combat zone and defended
     There are several memories from my deployment that                  our country’s freedoms.
I will never forget. The first is the faces of the soldiers and          Karen Mack, nurse practi-
their buddies for every trauma I was involved with. Next                 tioner, VA Connecticut
are the people I served with. In the military, and especially            Healthcare System, West
on deployments, they become your family. You become so                   Haven
close so quickly and experience things that no one else                       I belonged to the 11th
will be able to understand or share. Then there were the                 Battalion Institutional
sandstorms. They were unbelievable; the sand just gets ev-               Training Unit and deployed
erywhere.                                                                to Baghdad in October
     What I missed the most about my life back home was                  2004. I worked in the                                COURTESY KAREN MACK
being away from my three boys, the freedom to do what I                  Green Zone with transla-           Karen Mack worked in Iraq’s
want when I want, and my bathtub.                                        tors, Iraqi medical doctors        Green Zone.

                                                              July/August 2006                                                                   7
                        feature                                   VA n g u a rd
and the surgeon general. We developed a medical training                way home.
program for the new Iraqi soldiers and life-saving skills for                One of my most memorable experiences was when I
new Iraqi police officers. We worked 12-hour days seven                 flew all over Kuwait and southern Iraq with the Medevac
days a week, except for four hours off on Friday mornings.              pilots in a Black Hawk. Other memorable experiences
     I guess the biggest surprise about my deployment was               were just being able to take care of young wounded and
living in the Green Zone. This area houses all Iraqi gov-               detainees and hoping to make a difference. Their faces
ernment buildings, American civilian contractors, security              looking up at you and trusting you with their care were
and the American Embassy, so I thought I was going to be                my most moving times.
safe.                                                                        I was gone about one-and-a-half years without being
     Well, the mortars started on the second night. They                able to come home on leave, so I missed grandchildren be-
were shot randomly and continually. We would have quiet                 ing born, green grass, my family and friends, and privacy
times, no mortars for a few days, but then it would start               (the only place you can be alone is in a port-a-john).
again with multiple rounds. They knew the best times to                 Mary Gary-Stephens, psychiatric nurse specialist, Louis
hit us were on American holidays and Election Day in                    Stokes VA Medical Center, Cleveland
November. I’ll never forget when our dining facility was                     I was assigned to Walter Reed Army Medical Center
hit on the night before the first Iraqi election and military           (WRAMC) in Washington, D.C., from March 2003 to
and civilians were killed.                                              March 2005. I was the clinical nurse specialist for Ward
Cheryl B. Proper, combat veteran coordinator,                           53 Psychiatric Continuity Services. On my departure, we
Indianapolis VA Medical Center                                          had provided clinical care coordination to around 400 ser-
      “I have been in the Army (active and reserve) for 25              vicemen and women evacuated for psychiatric reasons.
years. I am currently in the 801st Combat Support Hospi-                     One of the support duties for nursing service was to
tal (Army Reserve) and was deployed from March 2003 to                  provide triage on the arrival of air evacuation planes com-
                                                October 2004. I         ing from Andrews Air Force Base to WRAMC from Ger-
                                                joined the service      many. As an officer, I was assigned on a rotating basis as
                                                because I wanted to     the officer in charge. We could expect anywhere from a
                                                be an Army nurse        few injured soldiers up to 28, which was the most on one
                                                and I come from a       night.
                                                military family.             This by far was one of the most difficult duties of my
                                                     The biggest sur-   tour … welcoming injured troops back home, and assist-
                                                prise of my deploy-     ing families waiting for their arrival. I was always im-
                                                ment was being ex-      pressed with these young soldiers’ courage and good hu-
                                                tended for six          mor under difficult circumstances.
                                                months after our             My most memorable experiences included seeing
                                                year was up. We         some patients with severe post-traumatic stress disorder
                                                were actually in        and depression work hard on their traumas and make
                                                front of customs in     progress on the road to recovery. In my many years of ex-
                                                Kuwait with a plane     perience with WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veterans, I’ve
                                                planned in less than    found that they often wonder how things might have been
                                                24 hours to trans-      if they had sought treatment 50 or 30 years ago. This was
                                                port us home when       a great opportunity to put that to the test.
                                                we were asked to             Leaving my daughter, Taylor, who was 7 years old at
                                                stay to help take       the time, was the most difficult part of my entire experi-
                                                care of a large group   ence. Since I was stateside I tried to keep in frequent con-
                                                of wounded that         tact, and she was able to visit. I think once she saw what I
                         COURTESY CHERYL PROPER
                                                were expected.          was doing she was able to turn her fear into being proud of
Flying out of Iraq on her way home, Cheryl           One of the         her mom.
Proper “wanted to be joyous, but I had a        toughest experi-             This has been hard to attempt to separate my
flag-draped soldier at my feet in the back
of the transport plane.”                        ences was actually      thoughts and feelings and keep this short. As with my first
                                                the day we did get      deployment I always ask myself, “How have my experi-
to fly out of Iraq to go home. I wanted to be joyous, but I             ences helped me to provide better services to the veterans
had a flag-draped soldier at my feet in the back of the                 I care for?” I think I am still integrating all of this, but I
transport plane. I was happy that I was going home and I                know I am grateful for life, family, friends and purposeful
just wished he were going home in a different way. Actu-                work. I strive to always treat our veterans with a caring
ally I felt very honored to be able to escort him part of the           professionalism, and most of all to listen.
8                                                            July/August 2006
                                                                VA n g u a rd                                   feature

Lia A. Locasto, program support assistant, Santa Rosa,                     tive duty, well, it was a “no-brainer,” so here I am.
Calif., Outpatient Clinic
    I entered the Marine Corps in January 1981. Went to                    Editor’s Note: Gunnery Sgt. Locasto was recalled to active duty on
Okinawa, Japan, for a couple of years, then on to Marine                   April 11, 2006, and expects to remain at Camp Pendleton serving
Corps Air Station El Toro until 1988. I then got out for                   as a casualty assistance officer until July 2007.
about a year, just long enough to realize I was a better Ma-               Anniemarie Harrison Gray, registered nurse, Hunter
rine than civilian, so I came back in.                                     Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, Richmond, Va.
    By November 2002, I was in Kuwait. I remained there                         I served as a flight nurse with the Air Force Reserve’s
until the war started in March 2003. We then pushed                        459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron based at
through “The Line of Departure” and headed into Iraq,                      Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. My ini-
where I remained for the next couple of months. As our                     tial deployment was for eight months at Seeb Interna-
                                                                           tional Airport in Oman.
                                                                                Later, I was sent to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois
                                                                           where I coordinated aircraft for wounded troops. Finally, I
                                                                           returned to Andrews and worked on flights going to
                                                                           Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to pick
                                                                           up wounded soldiers and take them to hospitals in the
                                                                           United States. I ended up serving on active duty for 26
                                                                           months, from December 2002 to February 2005.
                                                                                My most memorable experiences came as I was caring
                                                                           for the wounded patients. I didn’t expect to see the things
                                                                           I saw … I mean guys who got blown up, missing limbs …
                                                                           that was my biggest wake-up call. Flight nurses are the
                                                  Behind the                Scenes of VET IT
                                                                           only ones who bring the boys home when they’re hurt.
                                                                           And our job never ended.
                                                    COURTESY LIA LOCASTO
                                                                           Lisa J. Cole, physician assistant, Michael E. DeBakey VA
Lia Locasto in a watch tower in Iraq in 2003. Recalled to active duty      Medical Center, Houston
in April, she’s serving as a casualty assistance officer at Camp
Pendleton, Calif.
                                                                                Capt. Cole served seven years in the Air Force and
                                                                           currently serves with the Army Reserve. From August
unit received casualties, we needed a casualties assistance                2003 to May 2004, she was activated and sent to the
calls officer back in the rear to tell the families of lost                Middle East. She was first stationed at Camp Wolverine
loved ones. After long, arduous meetings with the powers                   in Kuwait, where she performed post-deployment health
that be, I was picked to fulfill this billet.                              assessments for
     From May 2003 through November 2004, I ran the                        military person-
Casualties Assistance Calls Office for the 1st Marine Ex-                  nel to document
peditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif. On Nov. 24,                    health issues
2004, I retired from the Marine Corps after 22 years of                    and possible
faithful service.                                                          biological and
     My time deployed doesn’t compare to any other expe-                   chemical expo-
rience in my military or civilian career. Marines are a                    sures.
tight-knit family as it is, but get us in a war zone and the                    She was
camaraderie is off the charts. We’re closer than brothers,                 then deployed
closer than best friends. We will die for one another and                  to Camp Ana-
all the trust within us is put in another Marine’s hands                   conda in Balad,
and his trust in yours.                                                    Iraq, where she
     Once I left the Marines, I was like a fish out of water               also volunteered
and alone in the world. I’m from a small town, so going                    with the civil
back to the regular, mundane lifestyle was difficult. For                  affairs unit to
others, I became the talk of town. They’d listen to me                     perform health
speak or pay attention to my story, but then it was also as                outreach mis-
though they were intimidated. What have they done that                     sions to the lo-
compares? Would I be too hard to handle or too tough                       cal villages. She                                   COURTESY LISA COLE

and set in my ways? When I was called by my old com-                       is currently re-   While serving in Iraq, Lisa Cole volunteered for
mand and asked if I would be willing to come back on ac-                   deployed to Iraq. health outreach missions to local villages.
                                                                July/August 2006                                                                9
                       feature                                     VA n g u a rd

                                                                        Margaret Rains, clinical coordinator, VA Pacific Islands
                                                                        Health Care System, Honolulu
                                                                             I served with Company B, 193rd Aviation, Hawaii
                                                                        Army National Guard, as a commander and Black Hawk
                                                                        helicopter pilot in Kandahar, Afghanistan. … Our soldiers
                                                                        completed over 50,000 man hours in maintenance support
                                                                        to the 10th Mountain Division during nine months de-
                                                                             We blended right in with the active-duty 10th Moun-
                                                                        tain and became a total task force team. It truly exempli-
                                                                        fies the Army of One concept, with the same mission: to
                                                                        fight terrorism. We went as a team, worked as a team, and
                                                                        ensured success for the follow-on units.

                                              COURTESY MARGARET RAINS
                                                                        Editor’s Note: Our sincere thanks to all of the women who shared
Margaret Rains was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot with the Hawaii        their compelling stories of service for this feature. The stories and
Army National Guard in Afghanistan.                                     photos were gathered and compiled by Matt Bristol.

  Citizen Soldiers Called to Duty
  More than 700 women employees have been called to ac-
  tive military service since 2001. Many served on the front
  lines in Iraq and Afghanistan; others performed vital support
  functions here at home. Their commitment to service re-
  flects the true character of the citizen soldier—duty, honor,
  country. These are just a few of those who served:

  s Cheryl Adams, women’s health coordinator at the Bronx
  VAMC, who deployed to Iraq.
  s Marie Apelian, a nurse practitioner at the Cincinnati
  VAMC, who served with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital
  in Kuwait and Iraq.
  s Rene A. Bloomer, R.N., a nurse supervisor at the Albany,
  N.Y., VAMC, served as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force
  Reserve at Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, from September 2004 to
  January 2005.
  s Pamela J. Breedlove, from the Topeka, Kansas, VAMC,
  who served with a Combat Stress Control Unit.
  s Shirley L. Caldwell, the associate director of Patient Care/
  Nurse Executive at the Las Vegas VAMC, who served 14
  months on active duty.
  s Johnnie M. Carter, a nurse specialist at the Detroit VAMC,
  who serves as a lieutenant colonel with the Army Reserve
  and was activated and served at Fort Stewart, Ga., in 2003.
  s Daphne T. Cuyler, a human resources specialist at the
  Fresno VAMC, who served as a sergeant first class with the
  California Army National Guard in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait,
  from September 2004 to December 2005.                                                                                    COURTESY MARIE APELIAN

  s Jacqueline Deeds-Buford, a nurse practitioner at the
                                                                        Marie Apelian, a nurse practitioner at the Cincinnati VA Medical
  Fayetteville, Ark., VAMC, who deployed for two tours as a             Center, is one of the more than 700 women employees called to
  flight nurse with the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squad-             active military service since 2001.

10                                                           July/August 2006
                                                           VA n g u a rd                                  feature

                                                                      Virginia Army National Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in
                                                                      June 2005.
                                                                      s Jaime Perez, a social worker at the Springfield, Ill., Vet
                                                                      Center, who deployed to Iraq in 2003.
                                                                      s Marsha Shivley, nurse practitioner at the Poplar Bluff, Mo.,
                                                                      s Paula Smith, social worker at the Brockton, Mass., Vet
                                                                      Center, who deployed to Iraq in 2003.
                                                                      s Frances Snell, a registered nurse at the Cleveland VAMC,
                                                                      who served in Iraq.
                                                                      s Susan K. Sonnheim, a nurse at the Milwaukee VAMC, who
                                                                      served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and was
                                                                      wounded in Iraq.
                                                                      s Melissa D. Strickland, a research pharmacy technician at
                                                                      the Gainesville, Fla., VAMC, who deployed to Iraq from Feb-
                                                                      ruary 2003 to October 2004.
                                             COURTESY DAPHNE CUYLER   s Bridgette Stump, a member of the nursing staff at the
                                                                      Lebanon, Pa., VAMC and daughter of Hedy B. Stump (also at
Daphne Cuyler served in Kuwait with the National Guard.
                                                                      the Lebanon VAMC), who served with the Army Reserve in
ron and served in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the                Kuwait and Iraq.
Middle East.                                                          s Carole S. Wagner, from the St. Louis VAMC, who served at
s Carolyn Doherty, R.N., an operating room nurse at the               Tallil Airbase in southern Iraq.
Togus, Maine, VAMC, who served at Camp Doha, Kuwait,                  s Alicia J. Waters, R.N., VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System,
from June 2002 to June 2003.                                          who served with the 339th Combat Support Hospital in Op-
s Lynn Fisher, R.N., Cleveland VAMC, who served in Iraq.              eration Enduring Freedom in 2002.
s Darcie Greuel, a registered nurse at the Milwaukee                  s Sharon Webb, R.N., Martinsburg, W.Va., VAMC, served
VAMC, who deployed to Afghanistan during Operation En-                with the 167th Air National Guard and is currently on her
during Freedom.                                                       second deployment.
s Louise M. Guszick, a nurse practitioner at the Wilkes-              s Kathleen White, R.N., VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System,
Barre, Pa., VAMC, deployed to Camp Shelby, Miss., on Feb.             deployed from September 2004 to March 2006.
17, 2006, to medically clear soldiers for deployment over-            s Laura J. Williams, a program support assistant at the
seas.                                                                 Montrose, N.Y., VAMC, who served in Iraq from February
s Sherryl Kempton, a nurse practitioner at the Togus VAMC,            2004 to February 2005.
who was activated in June 2006 and expected to deploy to
s Elizabeth Lingenfelter, a registered nurse at the Togus,
Maine, VAMC, who is currently in Iraq doing mental health
s Roseanne C. McDermott, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare Sys-
tem, who deployed in 2003 and again in 2005.
s Bonnie McIntosh, social worker at the Providence, R.I.,
VAMC, who deployed to Iraq in 2003.
s Lorri A. McLaughlin, a social worker at the Cincinnati
VAMC, who served in Baghdad with an Army behavioral
health team.
s Kristina E. Miller, an informatics administrator at the
Phoenix VAMC, who served in Iraq.
s Courtney Monterusso, a registered nurse at the St. Louis
VAMC, who served with the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing in
Seeb Air Base, Sultanate of Oman.
s Mary Ann Noland, a licensed practical nurse at the                                                                   COURTESY LOUISE GUSZICK

Martinsburg, W.Va., VAMC, who is serving with the West                Louise Guszick helped medically clear soldiers for deployment.

                                                           July/August 2006                                                                11
                     feature                               VA n g u a rd

 for the
 Next One
  With memories of Katrina still
  fresh in everyone’s minds,
  facilities in hurricane-prone areas
  are ready for the 2006 season.
  A NOAA image of Hurricane Wilma, which
  struck southern Florida in 2005.

   n June, world-famous meteorologist      biggest problems” following Hurricane           Few can relate to that sentiment
   William M. Gray predicted, “We          Katrina, according to Christopher          better than Dr. Gustave Sison, chief
   continue to foresee another very        Alexander, Biloxi’s public affairs of-     of psychology service and the Em-
active Atlantic basin tropical cyclone     ficer.                                     ployee Assistance Program coordina-
season in 2006. Landfall probabilities          “It was important for us to com-      tor at the Biloxi VA Medical Center.
for the 2006 hurricane season are well     municate with our veterans,” he said,           “We talk with our people and
above their long-period averages.”         “but it was equally important that our     help prepare them emotionally by
     Now, nearly two months into the       staff was taken care of, because they      providing them with coping tech-
hurricane season, VA emergency             are our greatest asset, and they are the   niques, relaxation techniques and in-
management preparedness planners           ones who communicate with our pa-          dividual counseling,” said Sison. They
have kicked their efforts into high        tients.”                                   provide lots of information about how
gear, as the department gets ready for          Having plenty of supplies—water,      to prepare for a hurricane, too,
another hurricane season.                  medications and food—is critical for       through Web postings, brochures, and
     It’s a monumental task.               facilities in hurricane-prone areas like   as part of making rounds.
     From the pre-positioning of food,     Biloxi. Identifying key players, in ad-         With memories of Katrina still
supplies and medicines to preparing        vance, for each service team is a ne-      fresh, Sison notes there are “increased
employees for the mental stresses of       cessity. But preparing employees emo-      anxieties [among the staff], but there’s
disaster, VA employees are gearing up      tionally for disasters is becoming just    a certain resilience, too.” When the
in a variety of ways.                      as essential, according to Paul            next storm hits the Gulf Coast,
     Callers to the Biloxi, Miss., VA      Brannigan, an area emergency man-          Katrina survivors will likely see a
Medical Center get voice messaging         ager for the VA Southeast Network          spike in their anxiety level, he said.
about hurricane preparations. At the       (VISN 7) in Atlanta.                       But that increased anxiety is tem-
Miami VA Healthcare System, “on-                “I fully believe that the mental      pered by the knowledge that they are
hold” messaging advises patients,          health component of any disaster is        unlikely to experience another storm
families and staff members how to          critical and something we can plan         of the same magnitude.
prepare for emergencies.                   for, by preparing our employees,” he            “Our vulnerability is also our
     “Communicating was one of our         said.                                      strength,” he said.
12                                                     July/August 2006
                                                         VA n g u a rd                             feature

     Are veterans of the 2005 Gulf           Ward, a veteran of 1992’s Hurricane        line that is activated around-the-
Coast hurricanes any more vulnerable         Andrew, has prepared information for       clock in emergencies. Veterans, staff
this year? According to Alexander            employees and veterans to help them        members, families and media repre-
and Sison, yes and no.                       prior to hurricane season, and before,     sentatives can call the number for
     “We have folks still in trailers or     during and after a hurricane.              current information on facility clos-
temporary housing, so we need to                  “We’ve developed brochures on         ings or alternate reporting sites. If the
have adequate shelter for them,”             disaster preparedness, generator safety,   Lake City, Fla., campus of the North
Alexander said. At the same time,            safeguarding your valuables, even how      Florida/South Georgia Veterans
the entire VA South Central Health           employees can properly insure their        Health System, where the system is
Care Network (VISN 16) is more               homes,” Ward said. But as the facility     based, is incapacitated, the “Tel-Care”
prepared, and more likely to err on          public affairs officer, she also works     phone line rolls over to VISN 3 staff
the side of caution if another storm         with each service at the hospital to       in Bronx, N.Y.
should hit the Gulf Coast.                   get important operational status infor-         There’s one catch, though. In
     “‘Communication’ is always the
number one thing people say we
didn’t do well enough,” said                 “Awareness is half the game. Once people are
Brannigan, “and really, it’s one of the      aware, we start to build a ‘culture of prepared-
most critical roles we play. We have
to know what the on-scene condi-             ness,’ which in turn helps others prepare.”
tions are and we must have the abil-
ity to communicate to our people in          mation to local and state emergency        major hurricanes like Andrew or
the field.”                                  managers.                                  Katrina, phone service is, for the most
     He notes that every facility has             “Through the relationships we’ve      part, knocked out.
an emergency response plan and it is         developed with the federal, state and            To remedy that, satellite phones
constantly being updated, tested and         local governments, and our commu-          are being purchased for each facility
improved. These plans “are truly ‘liv-       nity partner hospitals, we are able to     in Florida and Puerto Rico. Satellite
ing documents,’” he said.                    use their emergency broadcast capa-        phones are “almost a sure thing,” said
     But plans only go so far. Training      bilities to communicate to our veter-      Miami-based area emergency manager
people, through table-top exercises or       ans and staff,” Ward said.                 Frank Maldonado.
full-scale mock disaster drills, is criti-        The VA Sunshine Healthcare                  “The mobile van (a mobile
cal. Doing—not just reading about—           Network (VISN 8) in Bay Pines, Fla.,       health clinic owned by Veterans of
how to prepare for an emergency is           has prepared employee and family           America of Florida and staffed by VA
what helps most.                             preparedness handbooks that are            health care professionals) has satellite
     “Awareness is half the game,”           posted on the network’s Intranet site.     phone capabilities and it was dis-
Brannigan said. “Once people are             There are links to policies, plans, and    patched to Biloxi after Katrina,”
aware, we start to build a ‘culture of       telephone hotlines; to FEMA and the        Maldonado said. “The beauty of satel-
preparedness,’ which in turn helps           Red Cross; even to radar and satellite     lite is that it provided not only voice
others prepare.”                             imagery.                                   and data capability, but also con-
     At the Miami VA Healthcare                   In addition, VISN 8 has insti-        nected us to VistA and CPRS (the
System, public affairs officer Susan         tuted a toll-free “Tel-Care” phone         computerized patient records sys-
                                                                                              After Katrina, VA was recognized
 Some Hurricane-related Web Resources                                                   for its ability to access patient records
 s (maintained by Department of Homeland Security):             electronically—records that might
 s National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Prediction Center:            otherwise have been destroyed.
 index.shtml                                                                                  “VA is so rich in resources, with
 s VA’s Emergency Management Strategic Healthcare Group:                   our doctors, nurses, lab techs, phar-
 emshg                                                                                  macists,” Maldonado said, “and we
 s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):                 are so prevalent in so many places
 ricane/index.shtm                                                                      that we reach into virtually every
 s American Red Cross:                                                 community. We are a potent force to
 s Salvation Army:                             provide assistance.”
 s VISN 8 Emergency Preparedness (Intranet only):
                                                                                        By Tom Thomas
                                                         July/August 2006                                                     13
                        feature                                   VA n g u a rd

     VA’s Newest Shrine
              Georgia National Cemetery is dedicated in a June ceremony.

             ith a thunderous roar,            within 75 miles of the national cem-          tribute to the sons and daughters of
             more than 300 veterans            etery and, if eligible, could request to      every generation who have answered
             on motorcycles—many               be buried on the hilltop overlooking          the call of service.”
with the American flag flying—rolled the Etowah River.                                            The new cemetery’s director,
through the hills of northern Georgia               William F. Tuerk, Under Secre-           Sandy Beckley, has been serving vet-
and onto the grounds of the Georgia            tary for Memorial Affairs, on hand for erans since 1972. She firmly believes
National Cemetery in Canton on                 the dedication, talked about VA’s his- she works for the greatest Ameri-
June 4. Once there, they joined 400            toric mission.                                cans—veterans and their families.
other veterans, dignitaries, citizens                “The opportunity to provide and              “It is a privilege for me to take
and invited guests to witness the              maintain memorials to the service of          part in building this national shrine,”
dedication of VA’s 123rd national              veterans is a sacred trust,” Tuerk said. Beckley said. “This cemetery is a
cemetery.                                      “VA continues a proud legacy of es-           beautiful final resting place for
     “We are gathered in a shrine to           tablishing national cemeteries—some Georgia’s veterans.”
the measure of bravery in this field of dating back to 1862—which stand in                        Burials began in April within an
immortality,” said VA Sec-
retary Jim Nicholson, key-
note speaker for the cer-
emony. “We who are here
should feel humbled to
dedicate to the memories of
the men and women who
stood for freedom in war
and those who stood in
peace with that uniform on
willing to be engaged in war
and all to whom we owe an
eternal debt of gratitude.”
     The 775-acre site was
donated to VA by the late
Scott Hudgens, an Atlanta
World War II veteran, land
developer and philanthro-
pist who had envisioned a
tribute to veterans similar
to the American cemetery
in Normandy, France. The
new cemetery is located in
Cherokee County, about 40
miles north of Atlanta, and                                                                                                                 PETER GRATTAN

is administered by VA.
                                Left to right: Pete Wheeler, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Affairs; Cole Hudgens, son of land do-
Nearly 400,000 veterans         nor Scott Hudgens; Jackie Hudgens, widow of Scott Hudgens; and VA Secretary Jim Nicholson were on hand to cel-
and their families live         ebrate the dedication of the new cemetery.

14                                                           July/August 2006
                                                             VA n g u a rd                              feature

                                                                                                Maps Added
                                                                                                to Online
                                                                                                Gravesite Locator
                                                                                                Finding the graves of more than 3
                                                                                                million veterans and dependents
                                                                                                buried in national cemeteries is
                                                                                                now even easier thanks to a new
                                                                                                map feature added to the gravesite
                                                                                                locator available online since April
                                                                                                      Someone looking for a
                                                                                                gravesite can now go to
                                                                                      , enter the
                                                                                                veteran’s name to search, click on
                                                                                                the burial location link, and a map
                                                                                  VICKY HOLLY
                                                                                                of the national cemetery is dis-
                                                                                                played, showing the section where
                                                                                                the grave is lo-
                                                                                                cated. These
                                                                                                maps of burial
                                                                                                sections can be
                                                                                                printed from
                                                                                                home comput-
                                                                                                ers and at na-
                                                                                                tional cemetery
                                                                                                      In a re-
                                                                                                lated develop-
                                                                                                ment, the cem-
                                                                                                eteries in
                                                                                                which 1.9 mil-
                                                                                PETER GRATTAN
                                                                                                lion veterans
Top: More than 300 veterans on motorcycles roared onto the grounds of the Georgia National      have been buried with VA grave
Cemetery for the dedication of VA’s 123rd national cemetery; above: Color guard at the cer-     markers have been added to the
emony, which drew some 700 people.
                                                                                                database. These are mostly private
initial phase of approximately 50              must be met. To meet these needs,                cemeteries. This addition brings the
acres, which includes one committal            VA is in the midst of the largest cem-           number of graves recorded in the
shelter and four burial sections. The          etery expansion since the Civil War.             locator to approximately 5 million.
burial sections have capacity for 8,119        With the opening of the Georgia Na-              Those with maps are in VA national
full-casket gravesites, consisting of          tional Cemetery, VA now operates                 cemeteries, state veterans cem-
5,923 pre-placed crypts and 2,196              123 national cemeteries in 39 states             eteries, and Arlington National
standard gravesites, and 3,129 in-             and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots            Cemetery for burials since 1999.
ground cremation gravesites.                   and monument sites. More than 3                        Beyond the 5 million records
     The National Cemetery Admin-              million Americans, including veter-              now available, approximately 1,000
istration continues to meet the needs          ans of every war and conflict—from               new records are being added to the
of veterans and their families by de-          the Revolutionary War to the global              online database each day. The ex-
veloping new cemeteries or expand-             war on terror—are buried in VA’s na-             act locations of veterans’
ing existing ones if space permits.            tional cemeteries on more than                   gravesites in the remaining state
     With the loss of more than 1,800          16,000 acres of land.                            veterans cemeteries will also be
veterans a day, 1,100 of which are                                                              added.
from WWII, the need for burial space           By Jurita Barber
                                                             July/August 2006                                                      15
                cover story                              VA n g u a rd

                                                                                  Kelliann Dignam, optometrist with the Balti-
                                                                                  more VA Medical Center, examines formerly
                                                                                  homeless veteran Gary Bracey.

              Seeing a Way                                                                                      RICHARD MILANICH

        Out of Homelessness
Vision problems are a frequent but little-known impediment for homeless
    veterans trying to get off the streets. A pilot program at five VA
                   facilities is working to change that.

              hen Pat Lane first met      the country for a project called Re-    tions provide funds or vouchers to
              Bill Taylor, a Vietnam      stored Vision for Homeless Veterans.    cover the cost of eyewear and eye ex-
              veteran living on the       The project was created by VA’s         ams. The majority of the sites main-
streets, he had one pair of clothing to   Community Homelessness Assess-          tain a partnership with local fran-
his name, and had not been able to        ment, Local Education and Network-      chises of LensCrafters, a national op-
read small print for more than a de-      ing Groups (CHALENG) through            tometry company that offers free or
cade.                                     the VA Center for Faith-Based and       reduced-price glasses through its “Gift
     “I knew I needed glasses, but I      Community Initiatives to provide        of Sight” charity program, supported
didn’t have the money,” said Taylor.      glasses for homeless veterans who       by community organizations such as
“Thanks to Pat I got my glasses.”         would not normally qualify for VA       Lions Club International.
     Lane is a social worker in the       eyewear.                                     VA homeless program coordina-
Health Care for Homeless Veterans              The Restored Vision program en-    tors say that obtaining eyeglasses is a
Program at the Baltimore VA Medical       gages faith-based and community or-     problem for homeless veterans that
Center, one of five pilot sites across    ganizations so that outside organiza-   can keep them on the streets. Ac-
16                                                   July/August 2006
                                                     VA n g u a rd                             cover story

cording to Allison Haberfield, home-      tiple, multiple outside organizations”    with outside as well as internal re-
less program coordinator at the           to fund the program. The Restored         sources, I was hesitant,” she said. “Af-
Asheville, N.C., VA Medical Center,       Vision fund in Montana has provided       ter reaching out to the community, I
98 percent of those registering with      glasses to 10 veterans. Mann’s only       was pleasantly surprised with the will-
VA’s homeless programs report vision      complaint? That she can’t travel more     ingness of everyone to come together
problems. And eyeglasses aren’t           to raise funds. “I’m a one-person of-     and work as a team.”
cheap; a pair can run up to $600 for      fice and out here everything is hours          The Baltimore Restored Vision
those with serious eye problems.          and hours away,” she said.                program is dynamic and growing.
     Lane’s program in Baltimore fits          Paul Maten, of the Jackson VA        Lane hopes to expand the program to
glasses for homeless veterans with        Medical Center, raved about his VA        non-homeless veterans who do not
sight problems ranging from far-          optometry department’s ability to fit     qualify for eyeglasses under VA’s op-
sightedness to glaucoma. Formerly         in unscheduled eye exams for home-        tometry policy. Ellen Mathes of the
homeless veteran Gary Bracey suffers      less veterans. Because homeless vets      Central Iowa Health Care System
from vision problems related to high      often maintain transient schedules, it    hopes to increase her faith-based con-
blood pressure. He knew he needed         is important that exams, fittings and     tacts through her VA medical center’s
glasses for the past eight years, but     follow-up move as quickly as possible.    chaplain. Haberfield is working to ex-
just recently received them thanks to          Charles Sherwood, ophthalmolo-       pand her funding from outside faith-
the Restored Vision program. His new      gist at the Jackson VAMC, receives        based and community organizations.
glasses allow him to use the comput-      pages from Maten while he’s in sur-            Nationally, McGuire hopes the
ers he needs for school and work.         gery or another appointment and of-       success of the pilot sites will offer
     “Glasses are essential to getting    ten schedules eye exams directly after-   models for other VA medical centers
off the streets,” said Jim McGuire,       wards. Sherwood praises this direct       to follow. He says that the enthusiasm
Ph.D., the VA program manager for         communication. “Instead of going          of individual homeless program coor-
homelessness prevention based in Los                                                dinators will remain the most impor-
Angeles. CHALENG pilot site home-         “Glasses are essential                    tant component of the project. “One
less coordinators agree: homeless vet-                                              thing I’ve learned is that these folks
erans with vision problems need           to getting off the                        are very dedicated to their homeless
glasses to read newspapers, street        streets.”                                 population,” said McGuire.
signs, and fill out forms or write re-                                                   Formerly homeless veterans Tay-
sumes. They need glasses to work on       through computers, [Maten] picks up       lor, Bracey and Clarence Christion in
computers at school or on the job.        the phone and pages me. … You get a       Baltimore had high praise for the pro-
They need glasses to socialize and rec-   fuller picture of what the patient        gram and for Lane herself. “This
ognize the faces of people they meet.     needs when you communicate di-            homeless program Pat’s got helped us
     McGuire and Craig Burnett,           rectly.”                                  out a great deal,” said Christion. “It
Ed.D., Project CHALENG coordina-               Lane’s version of the program in     helped us get established back into
tor, started planning the Restored Vi-    Baltimore runs a little differently.      society. … We got a couple of angels
sion program in May 2005 when the         When approached with the pilot pro-       here in VA.”
VA Center for Faith-Based and Com-        gram, Lane contacted the Maryland              That’s what Darin Selnick, direc-
munity Initiatives asked homeless         Society for Sight, which agreed to do-    tor of VA’s Center for Faith-Based
programs to think of new ways to en-      nate 10 pairs of glasses per month.       and Community Initiatives, is looking
gage outside faith-based and commu-       Sherry Rose, the adult services coor-     for every day—a few angels in VA
nity organizations to help VA serve       dinator for the society, visits the VA    and in the community willing to work
veterans. Over the course of a year       medical center to fit veterans for        together in innovative ways to meet
five programs began at VA medical         glasses on the last Thursday of every     veterans’ needs.
centers in Baltimore, Asheville, Ft.      month. On average, the Baltimore               “These Restored Vision pilot pro-
Harrison, Mont., Jackson, Miss., and      VAMC has provided eight homeless          grams are just the beginning,” he said.
the Central Iowa Health Care System       veterans with glasses each month          “The program will grow because
in Des Moines.                            since the program started in February.    there’s a real need and there are dedi-
     Each pilot program is tailored by         The Baltimore program’s success      cated people within VA and in our
the five homeless program coordina-       rests on Lane’s careful coordination      communities who can make great
tors to work within the unique envi-      with all parties involved—VA, veter-      things happen. They just need en-
ronments of their communities.            ans and the community. “When I was        couragement and a little support.”
     Pam Mann, of the Ft. Harrison        approached about the project and
VA Medical Center, contacted “mul-        looked at the need to collaborate         By Rachel Scheer
                                                      July/August 2006                                                   17
                       feature                                  VA n g u a rd

        Wrapping Up the
        Diamond Jubilee
           VA’s yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary concludes with
                       a pair of events held in Washington, D.C.

        he conclusion of VA’s yearlong            Veterans and their family mem-          Va., sat quietly in his wheelchair
        celebration of its 75th anni-       bers, members of Congress, represen-          looking through the program, waiting
        versary was marked with two         tatives of veterans service organiza-         for the ceremony to begin.
back-to-back ceremonies in Washing- tions, and VA employees assembled                          “I don’t know of any other coun-
ton, D.C., on July 18 and 19.               in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol            try that serves its veterans as America
     VA employees gathered in the           July 19 for special services marking          does,” Lawton said. “I’m honored to
G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans            the close of the anniversary obser-           be here.”
Conference Center in VA Central             vance.                                             He served in the Air Force from
Office July 18 to enjoy cake, lemon-              Surrounded by statues of Ameri-         1971 to 1993, retiring with the rank
ade and fellowship during an em-            can heroes and artwork recounting             of captain. Lawton is 100 percent dis-
ployee appreciation celebration. Sec-       the discovery and founding of this na- abled and now serves in a voluntary
retary Jim Nicholson praised VA em- tion, Edward F. Lawton of Fairfax,                    capacity as the national liaison for the
ployees who come to work
each day committed to
“making a difference in the
lives of veterans who have
made a difference for us,”
noting that the quality of its
workforce is what defines
VA as an organization.
     Nicholson recognized
two members of that
workforce: one of VA’s long-
est-serving employees and
one of its newest employees.
Marilyn Twombly, a pro-
gram specialist in the Office
of Management, has been
with VA for more than 39
years. Yvonne Stone, a
management analyst with
the Office of Asset Enter-
prise Management, has a lot
of catching up to do—she
joined VA six days before.
     “VA has been good to
me,” Twombly said. “I find                                                                                                            EMERSON SANDERS

the work challenging and it Left to right: Marilyn Twombly, one of VA’s longest-serving employees, Secretary Jim Nicholson, Under Secretary for Me-
is so great to help veterans, morial Affairs William Tuerk, and Yvonne Stone, one of the department’s newest employees, prepare to cut the cake at
at least in some capacity.”     the VA Central Office ceremony.

18                                                         July/August 2006
                                                                        VA n g u a rd                              feature

                                                                                Her husband served       polytrauma and blast-related injuries.
                                                                                in the Marine Corps            Senate Veterans’ Affairs Com-
                                                                                from 1950 to 1980,       mittee Chairman Larry Craig (R-
                                                                                retiring with the        Idaho), congratulated VA on winning
                                                                                rank of lieutenant       the prestigious Innovations in Ameri-
                                                                                colonel. Today           can Government Award from
                                                                                Smith monitors a         Harvard University in recognition of
                                                                                chat room for wid-       VA’s electronic health records system.
                                                                                ows of service-          (See story on page 24 of this issue.)
                                                                                members killed in        He related a personal experience he
                                                                                Iraq and Afghani-        had about a month ago receiving a
                                                                                stan. She answers        demonstration of a unique prosthetic
                                                                                their questions about    device developed by VA. Craig said
                                                                                legislation and survi-   he slipped the device over his arm,
                                                                                vor benefits. When       thought about what he wanted to do,
                                                                                Smith can’t answer       and the hand began to react, allowing
                                                                                their questions she      him to pick up a glass of water with
                                                                                turns to VA em-          the device.
                                                                                ployee Diane Fuller,           “That’s Veterans Affairs research
                                                                                assistant director for   at its best,” he said.
                                                                                veterans services in          Nicholson said that while he is
                                                                                the Veterans Ben-        proud that Harvard honored VA with
                                                                                efits Administration,    the award from more than 1,000 en-
                                                                                for advice.              tries, and Business Week magazine re-
                                                                                      House Veter-       cently named VA the best health care
                                                                                ans’ Affairs Com-        provider in America, he takes the
                                                                                mittee Chairman          most pride in the fact that “we are
                                                                                Steve Buyer (R-          taking good care of our veterans.”
                                                                                Ind.), offered the             Nicholson said that over the por-
                                                                                welcome and intro-       tal of many VA hospitals is inscribed
                                                                                ductory remarks. He      the phrase: “Enter here to witness the
                                                                                said today’s VA pro-     price of freedom.” In his travels to
                                                                                vides “what some say     visit veterans wounded in Iraq and
                                                                                is the best medical      Afghanistan, Nicholson said he al-
                                                                                care in the United       ways asks how he can help them.
                                                               MICHAEL L. MOORE States.”                 Time and time again, the injured sol-
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho) addresses          Buyer noted that    diers ask him, “Sir, can you help me
the crowd gathered in the Capitol Rotunda.                                      servicemembers           get back to my unit?” He said this un-
                                                                                fighting the global      selfish fighting spirit speaks volumes
             American Military Retirees Associa-            war on terror are “our newest veter-         about the character and commitment
             tion.                                          ans” and some are leaving the theater        of the nation’s warriors.
                  Wearing the distinctive gold uni- of operations with “horrific” injuries.                   “The VA’s noble mission is to
             form and garrison cap of the Gold              He said these veterans are receiving         honor our veterans’ sacrifices and to
             Star Wives of America, Edith G.                “state of the art” medical care              dignify the cause they served, by serv-
             Smith of Springfield, Va., mingled             through VA and thanked the mem-              ing them,” Nicholson said.
             with other VSO representatives as              bers of the Senate and House for their            House Minority Leader Nancy
             the U.S. Army Band began to play               leadership in funding VA’s four              Pelosi (D-Calif.), said that America
             the prelude music.                             Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers.           must honor its promise to veterans
                  Smith said she joined the organi- These centers were designed to meet                  that they have taken care of its citi-
             zation after her husband’s death from          the complex rehabilitation needs of          zens and the nation will take care of
             heart disease in 1998 because she saw severely injured servicemembers re-                   its veterans.
             the need to help other widows                  turning from Iraq and Afghanistan.                During a recent visit to troops
             “through the maze of legislative is-           They provide specialized treatment           stationed in the Persian Gulf, Pelosi
             sues” concerning survivor benefits.            and expanded clinical expertise in           said every question she fielded from
                                                                        July/August 2006                                                     19
                        feature                         VA n g u a rd

The ceremony in the Capitol Ro-
tunda drew veterans and their
family members, members of
Congress, veterans service orga-
nization representatives and VA
employees. Right: “I don’t know
of any other country that serves
its veterans as America does.
I’m honored to be here,” said
Edward Lawton (in wheelchair),
national liaison for the Ameri-
can Military Retirees Associa-
tion. Below: Edith Smith (far
left), a member of Gold Star
Wives of America, helps widows
of servicemembers killed in Iraq
and Afghanistan.

                                                                                                                                  ROBERT TURTIL

                                                                                        partment has ensured that our veter-
                                                                                        ans have gotten the square deal that
                                                                                        they deserve,” Stevens said.
                                                                                              Speaker of the House Dennis
                                                                                        Hastert (R-Ill.) wrapped up the cer-
                                                                                        emony by recognizing the most senior
                                                                                        veteran in the audience. Navy vet-
                                                                                        eran Lloyd Brown, age 104, served in
                                                                                        World War I. Today he lives alone in
                                                                                        his own home in Charlotte Hall, Md.
                                                                                             Following the ceremony, a num-
                                                                                        ber of veterans stood in line waiting
                                                                                        to speak to Nicholson and shake his
                                                                                        hand. One of them was Army Sgt.
                                                                                        Steven Allen of Thawville, Ill.
                                                                                             Allen has been undergoing sur-
                                                                                        geries and physical therapy at Walter
                                                                                        Reed Army Medical Center in Wash-
                                                                                        ington, D.C., for the past 14 months
                                                                        ROBERT TURTIL
                                                                                        after losing his right arm in an Impro-
                                                                                        vised Explosive Device explosion.
the troops seemed to be along the             Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)               The 23-year-old had been stationed at
same vein: how would they be treated     noted that it has been nearly 60               Al Asad Air Base in Iraq providing
when they came home?                     years since he returned from the               gun truck escorts for convoys.
     In times of war, Pelosi said sol-   fighting in World War II and praised                Allen said he attended the cer-
diers pledge that they will leave no     VA for continuing to honor its                 emony to support veterans, adding,
one behind on the battlefield. “As a     promise to today’s veterans stationed          “There are plenty of us around.”
nation, it must be our pledge to leave   in some of the most dangerous places
no veteran behind.”                      in the world. “For 75 years, your de-          By Renee McElveen
20                                                  July/August 2006
                                                        VA n g u a rd                                  feature

The Search for Our
World War I Veterans
    They are a vanishing breed. Time is running out to find and recognize
               the last remaining veterans of ‘The Great War.’

     n a voice as strong as men 30        nado, is producing for National Public          Everett said. It’s his mission to “tell
     years younger, Frank Buckles, a      Radio a two-hour special on World               the story through their experiences,
     spry 105-year-old, describes his     War I veterans that will air this Veter-        but honor them in the process.” But
personal experiences with a sense of      ans Day. Hosted by Walter Cronkite,             with only 17 known veterans, it is dif-
pride and, at the same time, wonder-      the “WWI Living History Project”                ficult to capture their experiences.
ment. His story isn’t wonder,             will feature interviews with Buckles                 His task is to conduct interviews
though—it’s fact.                         and other veterans of “The Great                with as many veterans—and their
      He sailed on the ship that res-     War.”                                           family members—as possible. “It’s like
cued survivors of the Titanic. He met          “World War I is such an under-             a jigsaw puzzle scattered around the
the famous World War I General            appreciated American conflict,”                 country, but there are only 17 pieces
John “Black Jack” Pershing. He was
an ambulance driver and a motorcy-
clist. At age 16, he became a veteran
of World War I, the “War to End All
      In the war after that, he was a
      “I’ve always been independent,”
Buckles said. “And as a boy of 16, I
was anxious to get to France.” The
lad from Harrison County, Mo., made
it to France. And he made it home.
Now, he’s one of 17 known American
veterans of World War I who are still
      The rolls of World War I veterans
have declined so rapidly that the day
is fast approaching when there will be
one remaining, then none. VA, with
assistance from historians, state agen-
cies and others, is keeping a roster of
those veterans.
      One key player helping keep
                                                                                                                         EMERSON SANDERS
track of them is William Everett, an
independent radio producer in South       Lloyd Brown, a 104-year-old Navy veteran of World War I, is greeted by members of the new-
                                          est generation of veterans at a recent ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.,
Padre Island, Texas.                      marking the end of VA’s yearlong observance of its 75th anniversary. Brown still lives on his
      Everett, a World War I aficio-      own in his Charlotte Hall, Md., home.

                                                        July/August 2006                                                             21
                        feature                                  VA n g u a rd

                                                                                                      Then there’s Samuel Goldberg,
                                                                                                 106. “He’s a healthy, vigorous man,”
                                                                                                 Everett recalled. A member of the
                                                                                                 U.S. Horse Cavalry during WWI,
                                                                                                 Goldberg lives in Rhode Island.
                                                                                                      “I’m looking for everyday life ex-
                                                                                                 periences—not war heroes—to help
                                                                                                 make their experiences relatable to
                                                                                                 today’s listener,” Everett said. But the
                                                                                                 bad food, monotony and military dis-
                                                                                                 cipline of a century gone by are prob-
                                                                                                 ably just as meaningful to today’s
                                                                                                      Rubin, who has interviewed 34
                                                                                                 WWI veterans for his book, Last of
                                                                                                 the Doughboys, talked about the im-
                                                                                                 portance of honoring all veterans and
                                                                                                 acknowledged that Americans have
                                                                                                 tried hard to recognize Vietnam and
                                                                                                 Korean War veterans in the last 20
                                                                                                 years or so. But he notes there is still
                                                                                                 time to honor those veterans; with
                                                                                                 WWI veterans, “time is running out,”
                                                                                                 he said.

                                                                                                 “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle
                                                                                                 scattered around the
                                                                                                 country, but there are
                                                                                                 only 17 pieces left.”
                                                                                 ROBERT TURTIL        Everett believes there may be
World War I veteran Lloyd Brown participated in this year’s National Memorial Day Parade in      other WWI veterans out there, per-
Washington, D.C.                                                                                 haps in private nursing homes or in
left. And only three of those can talk         searcher, author Richard Rubin, to                the care of family members. If they
about their experiences in trench              help generate a “final wave of aware-             didn’t receive VA benefits or weren’t
warfare. There are no aviators left,”          ness and interest in our quest to de-             featured in local news coverage, that
no one who can describe firsthand              velop a list of living World War I vet-           possibility exists. Scheer wants VA
what the early days of aviation war-           erans” and to attract the interest of             employees to be aware that the search
fare were like.                                those in the veterans community who               continues for information about any
      Everett’s quest to track down            will “work with us to identify those              remaining WWI veterans and that in-
World War I veterans began about               veterans.”                                        formation can be relayed to him in
three years ago, when he learned                    And from there, it took off.                 VA headquarters.
there were only about 250 remaining.                Everett’s detective work was                       “I’ll bet there’s more out there,”
His research eventually led him to             ratcheted up significantly last No-               Scheer said.
VA resources; namely, VA’s Office of           vember, when the idea of the radio                     Indeed there may be. If you know
Public Affairs and its director of me-         special gelled. Using the Internet and            of any remaining WWI veterans, no-
dia products, Chris Scheer.                    contacting other WWI buffs and                    tify your facility’s public affairs officer
      “I have attempted to develop a           writers, he began connecting with                 or contact Chris Scheer at the Office
definitive list of living World War I          veterans and their families.                      of Public Affairs in VA Central Of-
vets for VA purposes,” Scheer said.                 One of them is California’s last             fice, at (202) 273-5730.
He exchanged names “within privacy             WWI veteran—George Johnson, 112,
limits” with Everett and another re-           who is one of Everett’s favorites.                By Tom Thomas
22                                                          July/August 2006
                   VA n g u a rd                                   feature

               JAMES LUCAS

Privacy & Security                                                                        TOM MORLEY

Awareness Week
    June 26-30

                                                                                   CHRYS HIGGINBOTHAM

                              Clockwise from top left: Secretary Nicholson stopped by to check
                              out the booth in the lobby of VA Central Office;
                 TIM TERAN
                              The week’s activities at the Waco, Texas, VA Regional Office in-
                              cluded a special sequence check and folder reconciliation, here
                              performed by George “Gunny” Jimenez, files team coach at the re-
                              gional office;

                              Maggie Laustrup, left, and Shirley Blair, registered nurses at the
                              Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, Mo.,
                              display materials they received when the Information Security
                              Awareness Team visited their patient care unit;

                              “Men in Black” took over the lobby of the Dayton, Ohio, VA Medi-
                              cal Center to spread the theme Keep Information Safe and Secure
                              (K.I.S.S.). Left to right: Willie Payton, administrative intern; Joe
                              Battle, associate director; and Cory Cookson, information security

                              Birmingham, Ala., VA Medical Center employees Alverna Hudson
                              (left), patient care services, and Devin Harris, cancer care coordi-
                              nator, view an exhibit during the facility’s IT Privacy and Security
                              Awareness Fair held June 28 and 29.
                RAY KUMMER

                   July/August 2006                                                                  23
         around headquarters                                        VA n g u a rd

VA Takes Home Prestigious Award for Government Innovations
                                                                                                              ernment initiatives drawn
                                                                                                              from a pool of 1,000 appli-
                                                                                                              cants. Each winner takes a
                                                                                                              unique approach to meeting
                                                                                                              community needs and achiev-
                                                                                                              ing real results. Because each
                                                                                                              of these programs is a model
                                                                                                              for government’s capacity to
                                                                                                              do good, and do it well, the
                                                                                                              $100,000 prize specifically
                                                                                                              supports initiatives that dis-
                                                                                                              seminate their models and
                                                                                                              practices to other districts.
                                                                                                                    The Ash Institute distrib-
                                                                                                              utes awards annually to pro-
                                                                                                              grams or applications that
                                                                                                              promote creativity and excel-
                                                                                                              lence in government. The In-
                                                                                                              stitute evaluates entries based
                                                                                                              upon their novelty, effective-
                                                                                                              ness, significance and transfer-
                                                                                                              ability, and considers submis-
                                                                                            EMERSON SANDERS
                                                                                                              sions in six different catego-
Secretary Jim Nicholson accepts congratulations from Carl Fillichio, vice president, Council for Excellence   ries: Management and Gover-
in Government, at a news conference announcing that VA had won the Innovations in American Govern-            nance; Capital and Environ-
ment Award for its development and use of VistA.                                                              mental Services; Community
                                                                                                              and Economic Development;
VA’s groundbreaking elec-           Secretary for Health Dr.             for Excellence in Government,        Protective Services; Social Ser-
tronic health records system        Jonathan Perlin, and Washing-        founded the Innovations in           vices; and Education and
received top honors July 10         ton, D.C., VA Medical Center         American Government Award            Health Care, the category
from Harvard University and         Chief of Staff Dr. Ross              program in 1986.                     where VA was honored this
the Council for Excellence in       Fletcher spoke about the elec-             The award program rec-         year.
Government. The prestigious         tronic health records system         ognizes and promotes excel-                Stephen Goldsmith, the
Innovations in American Gov-        and how it has transformed           lence and creativity in the          former Indianapolis mayor
ernment Award specifically          VA’s health care system.             public sector. Through its an-       who heads the award pro-
recognizes VA’s development              VA was the only award           nual award competition, the          gram, had high praise for
and use of the Veterans Health      winner in the Health and             program demonstrates that            VistA at the news conference.
Information Systems and             Education category, and it is        government can improve qual-         “This program’s decentralized,
Technology Architecture             the second time in five years        ity of life for citizens and gen-    flexible approach has made
(VistA).                            the department has received          erate greater public trust.          our veterans the recipients of
     “This is a proud day for       the prestigious Innovations                Agencies and organiza-         the highest quality, lowest cost
us,” VA Secretary Jim               Award. In 2001, VA was rec-          tions across jurisdictions and       medical care in the country,”
Nicholson said at a news con-       ognized by the Ash Institute         in a variety of policy areas rep-    he said.
ference announcing the award        in the same category for its         licate many of the award-win-              VistA was first introduced
in VA Central Office. “This         National Center for Patient          ning programs while others           in 1996. It provides all needed
award tells the American            Safety, a program that radi-         are inspired to become fore-         information at the point-of-
people what millions of veter-      cally reduced preventable            runners for state and federal        care and it can work with off-
ans and their families have         medical errors by using “root        legislation. The program             the-shelf software and prod-
known for years—that VA             cause analyses.”                     serves as a catalyst for contin-     ucts so that the program can
provides world-class health              The Ash Institute for           ued progress in addressing the       be tailored to the needs of dif-
care in a professional, compas-     Democratic Governance and            nation’s most pressing public        ferent facilities.
sionate and high-tech environ-      Innovation at Harvard                concerns by highlighting ex-               More information about
ment.”                              University’s John F. Kennedy         emplary models of innovative         VistA and the Innovations
     During the news confer-        School of Government, in             performance.                         Award is available at www.
ence, Nicholson, VA Under           partnership with the Council               VistA is one of seven gov-

24                                                             July/August 2006
                                                               VA n g u a rd                               around headquarters

VA Honored for Role in Online Service to Help Katrina Evacuees
Employees accepting the Pinnacle Award for VA included (left to
right): Dr. Jennifer Delozier, physician, Altoona, Pa., VA Medical Cen-
ter; Dr. Robert Lynch, director, VA South Central Health Care Network
(VISN 16); Linda Fischetti, management analyst, VHA Office of Infor-
mation; William Feeley, Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Opera-
tions and Management; Stephania Putt, VHA privacy officer; Dan
Bruneau, director, VHA Office of Communications Management; and
David McDaniel, privacy specialist, VHA Office of Information.
VA was among the organizations honored recently for their role
in creating an online service to ensure that evacuees of Hurri-
cane Katrina received life-saving medications. The American
Pharmacists Association Foundation presented their 2006 Pin-
nacle Award in the Government Agencies/Non-profit Organiza-
tions Category to the group on June 13 in Washington, D.C.
     The online service,, provided authorized
health professionals access to evacuees’ medication information,
allowing them to renew prescriptions, prescribe new medica-
tions and coordinate care. The data and prescription informa-                                                                   ROBERT TURTIL
tion for the service was made available from a variety of govern-
ment and commercial sources. Sources included electronic data-            cluded the American Medical Association, Informed Decisions
bases from community pharmacies, government health insur-                 LLC, the Markle Foundation and SureScripts. The American
ance programs such as Medicaid, private insurers, and pharmacy            Pharmacists Association Foundation established the Pinnacle
benefits managers in the states most affected by the storm.               Awards in 1998 to celebrate significant contributions to the
     Other organizations recognized in the group award in-                medication use process.

Under Secretary for Health Perlin Returns to Private Sector
VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Jonathan Perlin, who led the Department’s health care transformation since 2004, resigned ef-
fective Aug. 11 to take a private sector position.
     “Jon Perlin’s dedicated service to our nation’s veterans is evidenced by the fact that VA’s health care is now widely recognized as
                                                                         a model for safety, efficiency, effectiveness and compassion,” VA
                                                                         Secretary Jim Nicholson said. “He has been an invaluable part
                                                                         of my senior leadership team. The skill, knowledge and leader-
                                                                         ship he brought to VA will be sorely missed. I wish him the best
                                                                         in this new endeavor.”
                                                                              Perlin, who has held several positions with VA since 1999,
                                                                         is accepting a position as chief medical officer and senior vice
                                                                         president for quality at HCA, a Nashville-based health care pro-
                                                                              “I thank the President and the Secretary for the tremen-
                                                                         dous opportunity I’ve had to serve America’s veterans,” Perlin
                                                                         said. “I am deeply humbled by our heroes’ sacrifices on behalf
                                                                         of our nation, and I am forever grateful to the thousands of
                                                                         men and women at VA who serve our privileged mission of car-
                                                                         ing for veterans.
                                                                              “I am also proud that I will leave VA better than it was and
                                                           ROBERT TURTIL with veterans receiving better care than ever before,” he added.
Dr. Jonathan Perlin has been Under Secretary for Health since April
                                                                               Under Perlin’s leadership, VA’s health care has received nu-
2005. Prior to that, he served a year as Acting Under Secretary for      merous accolades for innovation and continues to outperform
Health, and as Deputy Under Secretary for Health from 2002 to 2004.      the private sector in quality, safety and customer satisfaction.

 Coming Soon! New Personal Identification and Verification (PIV) Cards are coming soon. Look for more information about
 this program in the next issue of VAnguard. In the meantime, check out the following sites: (Intranet)
 and (Internet).

                                                               July/August 2006                                                           25
         around headquarters                                       VA n g u a rd

VA, Nationals Team Up for a Major League Salute to Veterans
VA and the Washington Na-
tionals teamed up for a major
league salute to veterans on
Flag Day. June 14 was “Veter-
ans Appreciation Day” at RFK
Stadium, where the Nationals
hosted the Colorado Rockies.
      The evening’s festivities
included a pre-game ceremony
featuring a military fly-over, a
performance by the United
States Marine Drum and
Bugle Corps, veterans service
organization color guards, cer-
emonial first pitches by VA
Secretary Jim Nicholson and
other veterans, and a display
of veterans’ photos on the
ballpark’s Jumbotron. Dis-
counted tickets were available
for veterans and VA employ-
                                                                                                                                  ROBERT TURTIL
      In addition to honoring
veterans, the event was also an     June 14 was “Veterans Appreciation Day” at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., as the Washington Nation-
opportunity to better inform        als took on the Colorado Rockies. As part of the evening’s festivities, Secretary Jim Nicholson threw the
attendees about the depart-         first pitch.
ment’s array of benefits for eli-
gible veterans, with VA offi-       vide benefits information.          said Nationals President Tony       ored to be able to say thank
cials staffing information               “We are excited to be able     Tavares. “The Washington            you to the heroes who have
booths at the stadium to pro-       to salute American veterans,”       Nationals baseball club is hon-     served our country.”

  DAV Names Deputy Secretary Disabled Veteran of the Year
  Citing his quarter-century of advocacy for all veterans and dedication to improving the lives of
  those injured during military service, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) named VA
  Deputy Secretary Gordon H. Mansfield their Disabled Veteran of the Year.
       Mansfield received DAV’s top honor Aug. 12 at the group’s national convention in Chi-
  cago. DAV has 1.3 million members.
       Mansfield was shot and suffered a spinal injury during the Tet Offensive of February 1968.
  His decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
  During his recovery, he earned a law degree from the University of Miami and began legal
  practice in Ocala, Fla., where he helped found a DAV chapter in Marion County.
       In 1981, he accepted the first of several positions with the Paralyzed Veterans of America
  (PVA), eventually serving as the group’s executive director from 1993 to 2001. His time with
  PVA was interrupted by a four-year tour as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal oppor-
  tunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
       Mansfield was instrumental in elevating VA to a cabinet-level department, creating the
  U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
       “Gordon Mansfield overcame his disability and turned it into strength,” said DAV Na-
  tional Commander Paul W. Jackson. “He is a person of determination who has become a pow-                  Gordon Mansfield
  erful advocate for his fellow veterans. Each day, his achievements mean better lives for disabled
  veterans and their families.”

26                                                            July/August 2006
                                                             VA n g u a rd                                   introducing

Jay Fondren
If a film were made about Jay
Fondren’s young life, the
opening scene might be a
public event where a hand-
some American hero—body
battered but spirit strength-
ened by faith, family, patrio-
tism and love for his fellow
soldier—brings a crowd to
tears, then to their feet, in-
spired by his courage and for-
      Flashback to his nine
months in Baghdad where,
beginning in March 2004,
Army Sgt. Jay Fondren led a
front-line combat observation
lasing team, directing close air
support and conducting re-
                                                                                                                                  JIM RICHMAN
connaissance and security op-
erations. When bad weather          Jay Fondren, a veterans service representative at the Waco, Texas, VA Regional Office, provides benefits
grounded Medevac helicopter         information and assistance to veterans at an outreach event held recently near Fort Worth, Texas.
flights, this unit of the 10th      Fondren was wounded in Iraq in November 2004.
Cavalry’s Charlie Troop es-         Fondren awoke at Walter             Army after sustaining his inju-     it would be something I’d en-
corted medical corps person-        Reed Army Medical Center in         ries, he felt that it was time to   joy doing, helping these guys
nel out to wounded G.I.s, be-       Washington, D.C. At his bed-        get out. He considered going        go through what I went
fore evacuating all of them         side was his wife Anne. His         back to school for his teaching     through.”
back to the Green Zone.             parents and a sister were also      degree, but had yet to make               It was a whirlwind time
      In that time, Fondren         there, all flown in by the          any firm decisions.                 of change. Anne gave birth to
had lost two comrades to            Army. His room was filled                 The rest of Fondren’s         their second child, William,
sniper and roadside bomb at-        with cards and flowers from         Army unit returned from Iraq        two days before Fondren took
tacks. “Over there, the men-        friends in his boyhood home         in March 2005. While attend-        the job at the Waco VARO, in
tality wasn’t if you were going     of Corsicana, Texas. Micah,         ing a memorial service for his      March 2006. The first few
to get hurt, but when and           his 6-month-old son, was at         fallen comrades, he was in-         months involved on-the-job-
how bad,” he told the Waco          home with relatives.                vited by a VA representative to     training, including claims pro-
Tribune-Herald. Then, on the              Recuperation from the         speak about his wartime and         cessing, veterans correspon-
day before Thanksgiving             devastating injuries was slow       separation experiences at Vet-      dence, and scheduling medical
2004, a roadside bomb shred-        but steady. Along with the loss     erans Appreciation Day cer-         verification exams, all using
ded his patrol vehicle.             of his legs, Fondren, 26, suf-      emonies at the Waco VA Re-          real cases from the office files.
      What Fondren remem-           fered wounds and nerve dam-         gional Office. “We were im-               Lowe reports that
bers of the attack and its after-   age to his right arm and hand.      mediately impressed with Jay’s      Fondren is “sincerely commit-
math—the mad dash across            After nine months of what he        alertness, capability and posi-     ted to serving veterans effec-
Baghdad, his legless body           describes as “exceptional care”     tive attitude,” said Waco           tively” and that his training is
strapped to the hood of a           at Walter Reed, he came home        VARO director Carl Lowe. As         progressing very well.
Humvee—is mercifully                to Killeen, Texas.                  a result, Fondren was asked if            “I like working at VA,”
cloudy. Still at the site were            Prior to his deployment       he’d be interested in applying      Fondren says. “Everything is
two injured comrades, as well       to Iraq, Fondren’s career was       for a position as a veterans ser-   new. Learning it all is the big-
as two Iraqi civilians killed in    on a fast track to warrant of-      vice representative there.          gest challenge. Hopefully, I’ll
the blast. His last memories        ficer. He’d been promoted to              “The offer came at a time     have an impact by helping to
before blacking out were of         staff sergeant a month before       when my wife was getting real       identify problem areas and
doctors yelling, “Hang in           he was wounded. Ultimately,         tired of me,” Fondren recalled.     streamline operations. I want
there!” as they cut off his two-    he hoped to fly helicopters         “She said, ‘You’ve got to figure    to make sure these [returning
year-old wedding ring and the       and make a career of the mili-      out what you want to do.            veterans] get what they need
rest of his tattered uniform.       tary. Now, though he had            Now hop to it.’ From their          and are taken care of.”
      Eighteen days later,          been asked to stay in the           description of the job, I knew      By Robert Turtil
                                                              July/August 2006                                                            27
             medical advances                                   VA n g u a rd

The Costs of Excessive             White, an assistant research                                              How frequently valley fe-
Teenage Drinking                   professor at Duke.                                                   ver actually causes a medi-
The costs of early heavy                 In 1995, researchers                                           cally important illness has
drinking for teenagers appear      placed delicate sensors inside                                       long been a source of uncer-
to extend far beyond the time      living brain slices from adoles-                                     tainty based upon previously
drinking takes away from           cent rats and discovered that                                        available information, said
homework, dating, and the re-      alcohol drastically suppressed                                       Dr. John Galgiani, director of
lated tasks of growing up, ac-     the activity of specific chemi-                                      the Valley Fever Center for
cording to researchers at the      cal receptors in the hippocam-                                       Excellence.
Durham, N.C., VA Medical           pus region.
Center and Duke University.              Normally, these receptors                                      Can Curry Reduce Risk
     Mounting research sug-        allow calcium to enter neu-                                          of Alzheimer’s?
gests that alcohol causes more     rons, setting off a cascade of                                       Intriguing studies suggest
damage to the developing           changes that help create re-                                         older adults from India may
brains of teenagers than was       peated connections between                                           have a reduced risk for
previously thought, injuring       cells, aiding in the efficient                                       Alzheimer’s, and investigators
                                                                      Dr. John Galgiani                 at VA’s Sepulveda, Calif., Ge-
them significantly more than       formation of new memories.
it does adult brains.              But at the equivalent of one or    community-acquired pneumo-        riatric Research Education and
                                   two alcoholic drinks, the re-      nia. Most of these patients are   Clinical Center (GRECC)
                                   ceptors’ activity slowed, and at   treated with antibiotics, as if   think they know why.
                                   higher doses, they shut down       they had a bacterial infection,         Greg M. Cole, Ph.D.,
                                   almost entirely. The research-     even though valley fever is       and Sally Frautschy, Ph.D., fo-
                                   ers, led by Dr. Scott              caused by a fungus and does       cus on dietary factors that
                                   Swartzwelder, a neuropsy-          not respond to drugs directed     fight inflammation in the
                                   chologist at the Durham            at bacteria.                      brain and reduce beta-amyloid
                                   VAMC and Duke, found that                The fungus lives in the     accumulation. Curry, widely
                                   the suppressive effect was sig-    soil of certain areas in the      used in Indian cuisine, is one
                                   nificantly stronger in adoles-     Southwest, Mexico and other       such anti-inflammatory. Its ac-
                                   cent rat brain cells than in the   regions of the western hemi-      tive ingredient, curcumin,
                                   brain cells of adult rats.         sphere. Most infections cause     gives curry its yellow color,
                                                                      respiratory symptoms such as      and in a recent study, Cole,
                                   Valley Fever at Record             cough, chest pain and short-      Frautschy and colleagues
                                   Levels in Arizona                  ness of breath. Other frequent    showed that the substance re-
                                   Reported cases of valley fever     symptoms include muscle and       duced brain amyloid in mice
                                   are at record levels in Arizona,   joint pain, skin rashes, weight   and improved other disease-re-
                                   according to an article in the     loss, and unusually intense fa-   lated factors.
Dr. Scott Swartzwelder             June edition of Emerging Infec-    tigue. These symptoms can               A pilot trial is now un-
     The new findings may          tious Diseases. As of the end of   last from weeks to many           derway to determine whether
help explain why people who        April, 2,305 cases of the infec-   months but usually go away        curcumin can do the same in
begin drinking at an early age     tion had been reported in Ari-     whether or not drug therapy is    Alzheimer’s.
face enormous risks of becom-      zona, four times the five-year     given.                                  The Sepulveda GRECC
ing alcoholics. According to       average for the January to               A small proportion of in-   team is also looking into the
the results of a national survey   April time period and more         fections leads to much more       protective potential of omega-
of 43,093 adults, published in     than 85 percent of the state’s     serious complications, includ-    3 fatty acids—“good” fats es-
the July 3 edition of Archives     five-year average of 2,732         ing progressively severe pneu-    sential for the health of neu-
of Pediatrics & Adolescent         cases per year.                    monia. The fungus also may        rons and nerve synapses that
Medicine, 47 percent of those           Dr. Lisa Valdivia and her     travel through the blood-         fall prey to Alzheimer’s. Epide-
who begin drinking alcohol         colleagues at the Valley Fever     stream from the lungs to other    miological studies associate
before the age of 14 become        Center for Excellence at the       parts of the body such as the     consumption of omega-3 fatty
alcohol dependent at some          Southern Arizona VA Health         skin, the bones or the brain.     acids found in fatty fish like
time in their lives, compared      Care System and the Univer-              While the cases of valley   salmon with reduced
with 9 percent of those who        sity of Arizona College of         fever reported in Arizona in      Alzheimer’s risk. The work of
wait at least until age 21.        Medicine report that valley fe-    recent years have numbered        Cole and Frautschy showed
     “There is no doubt about      ver, or coccidioidomycosis         less than 4,000 infections an-    that withholding omega-3 im-
it now: there are long-term        (cocci), is the culprit in ap-     nually, other epidemiologic es-   paired memory in mice, while
cognitive consequences to ex-      proximately one of every three     timates have suggested that       its supplementation preserved
cessive drinking of alcohol in     patients who are treated for       this is only one-tenth of the     memory and reduced brain
adolescence,” said Aaron           what their doctors think is a      actual number.                    amyloid levels.

28                                                          July/August 2006
                                                           VA n g u a rd                                 honors

                                                                      ceived the Outstanding Junior      cludes studies in diabetes, hy-
Magnet recognition for Portland                                       Investigator of the Year Award     pertension, and geriatric
                                                                      in Los Angeles in April. The       physical fitness—all of which
                                                                      award recognizes Society of        are of great interest to veterans
                                                                      General Internal Medicine          as well as the general health
                                                                      members at the level of assis-     care community. This award
                                                                      tant professor whose career        was created in 1973 as part of
                                                                      achievements and body of           the society’s efforts to formally
                                                                      work have had significant im-      recognize members of the or-
                                                                      pact on research through sus-      ganization who had carried
                                                                      tained and consistent accom-       out the mission of advancing
                                                                      plishment. Volpp’s research        medical research and the ex-
                                                                      makes innovative connections       change of knowledge, infor-
                                                                      between economics and the          mation and ideas.
                                                                      traditional agenda of general            Joan Antonaccio,
                                                                      internal medicine investiga-       Northport, N.Y., VA Medical
                                                       LARRY LEWTON   tion, including smoking cessa-     Center Guest Services coordi-
                                                                      tion, hypertension control,        nator, was one of only two
Stilt walkers perform as members of the March Fourth Marching
Band help Portland VAMC employees celebrate the news that the         resident work hours, racial dis-   volunteers in the nation to re-
medical center was awarded Magnet status.                             parities and health policy.        ceive the 2006 Disabled
                                                                           Arthur Bass, employment       American Veterans (DAV)
The Portland, Ore., VA Medical Center has joined an elite             coordinator for the New York       George H. Seal Memorial
group of only 3 percent of the nation’s hospitals by being            VA Regional Office, was            Award, at DAV’s national con-
named a nursing Magnet facility. Magnet designation recog-            named Vocational Rehabilita-       vention in July. This presti-
nizes facilities that provide the very best nursing care and          tion and Employment                gious award honors remark-
encourage an environment where nurses perform quality                 (VR&E) Employee of the Year        able volunteers who serve dis-
work. The Portland VAMC is the third VA medical center to             in the employment coordina-        abled veterans and their fami-
receive this recognition, joining Tampa and Houston.                  tor category during a May 17       lies through the VA Voluntary
                                                                      ceremony in St. Louis. Bass        Service (VAVS) program. The
                                                                      was selected for his excep-        award is given in memory of a
                                                                      tional contribution to the de-     World War II combat-disabled
     Leo P. Morgan has re-        Mayor Bill White. The               livery of vocational rehabilita-   paratrooper, former DAV di-
ceived the Silver Helmet          Mayor’s Volunteer Houston           tion and employment services       rector of Membership and
Award from AMVETS. The            Awards program is an annual         to veterans. He was instru-        Volunteer Services, and lead-
award, a replica of a World       citywide volunteer recognition      mental in developing the con-      ing organizer and administra-
War II helmet, is the highest     event held in partnership with      cept of a pre-employment           tor of the DAV VAVS pro-
honor given by AMVETS and         Volunteer Houston and the           work experience tryout, plac-      gram from 1952 until his
was presented to Morgan in        mayor’s office. Johnson was         ing potential VR&E veterans        death in 1977. As Northport’s
recognition of his volunteer-     one of 13 chosen from more          for a short trial at a worksite,   Guest Services coordinator,
ism at the group’s national       than 100 nominations for her        allowing veterans the opportu-     Antonaccio personally visits
convention on April 1. Mor-       outstanding volunteer work. A       nity to check out the job and      each new admission and pre-
gan was honored for his “out-     disabled Army veteran,              managers the opportunity to        sents the veteran with personal
standing leadership” at           Johnson has been an active          observe the work of these dis-     care items, a newspaper, and
AMVETS Post 19, and for his       volunteer at the DeBakey            abled veterans.                    any other small item that will
volunteer work at the             VAMC for the past 14 years,              Dr. Kent Kirchner, chief      make the inpatient stay more
Coatesville, Pa., VA Medical      accumulating a total of 3,135       of staff at the G.V. (Sonny)       pleasant.
Center, where he chairs the       hours of service. She volun-        Montgomery VA Medical                    Juan Maldonado, clinical
Voluntary Service executive       teers as a Peer Partner in the      Center in Jackson, Miss., has      pharmacy specialist with the
committee. In 2004, he was        Spinal Cord Injury Unit, shar-      been named recipient of the        VA Caribbean Healthcare
named the Pennsylvania            ing her experiences as a C4-5       2006 Founder’s Medal from          System in San Juan, has been
AMVET of the Year.                quadriplegic with newly-in-         the Southern Society for           named president-elect of the
     Rebecca Johnson, a vol-      jured veterans.                     Clinical Investigation.            Puerto Rico Society of Critical
unteer at the Michael E.                Kevin Volpp, M.D., a          Kirchner, a nephrologist and       Intensive and Coronary Care
DeBakey VA Medical Center         staff physician and researcher      internal medicine specialist,      Medicine. He will take office
in Houston, was recently rec-     at the Philadelphia VA Medi-        oversees the medical center’s      in 2008. It is the first time
ognized for her outstanding       cal Center and assistant pro-       active research program that       that a non-physician has been
volunteerism in the greater       fessor of medicine at the Uni-      includes about 70 studies.         elected president of this orga-
Houston area by Houston           versity of Pennsylvania, re-        Kirchner’s own research in-        nization.

                                                           July/August 2006                                                            29
                 have you heard                                         VA n g u a rd

                                                                             lowed by a fireworks display over the amphitheater lake.
     VA/DoD joint venture a model                                                  The annual event began in 2001 as part of a rededication
                                                                             ceremony for the cemetery’s National Medal of Honor Memo-
                                                                             rial, when more than two dozen names were added to the me-
                                                                             morial. The event has since become a tradition in the commu-
                                                                             nity. During this year’s concert, Cemetery Director Gill Gallo
                                                                             welcomed two Medal of Honor recipients: retired Army Col.
                                                                             Lewis Millett and Tibor Rubin, a survivor of Hitler’s concen-
                                                                             tration camps and a prisoner of war during the Korean War.
                                                                             Reaching out to returning troops in Arizona
                                                                             More than 9,000 active duty, National Guard and reserve mili-
                                                                             tary personnel have returned to Arizona after serving in Opera-
                                                                             tion Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. To assist
                                                                             them with a seamless transition from military to civilian life, VA
                                                                             facilities throughout the state—medical centers, regional office,
                                                                             vet centers and national cemeteries—have formed the Arizona
                                                                             OEF/OIF Summit.
                                                                                   Summit members Larry Johnson, of the Tucson Vet Cen-
                                                         MARY WATERMAN
                                                                             ter, and Annette Lavelle, of the Phoenix Vet Center, are OEF/

     Dr. Alchristian Villaruz examines 17-month-old Alexandar Todd,
     the first pediatric patient seen at the North Chicago VA Medical
     Center, as nursing assistant Deborah Davis and Alexander’s fa-
     ther James look on. The boy’s mother, Jeannette, is in the Navy.

     The second phase of a unique partnership between VA
     and the Department of Defense in Illinois to offer health
     care to veterans, active duty Navy personnel and their
     family members in a single facility was marked with a
     dedication ceremony at the North Chicago VA Medical
     Center on July 10. VA funded a $13 million expansion and
     renovation of the North Chicago VAMC’s emergency and
     operating room departments to absorb the shifting of in-
                                                                                                                                   PAUL PAQUETTE
     patient medical, surgery and emergency services from
     the Naval Hospital Great Lakes.
           The renovated emergency department features spe-                     Civil War soldiers home at last
     cialized areas for pediatrics, OB-GYN, trauma, proce-                      Six Union soldiers from the Civil War were returned home
     dures, orthopedics, and a dedicated radiology suite. Pedi-                 to Massachusetts 145 years after dying on a battlefield in
     atric care will be provided for Navy family members for                    northern Virginia. The soldiers were buried with full mili-
     the first time in a VA facility as a result of this partnership.           tary honors executed by Civil War re-enactors on June 10
           The first phase of this project was completed in 2003,               at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne
     when Naval Hospital Great Lakes shifted its inpatient                      (above).
     mental health to the North Chicago VAMC. The final                              The soldiers’ remains were discovered in 1997 at a
     phase of the partnership will be a $130 million DoD con-                   construction site in Centreville, Va. Scientists from the
     struction project to include a new federal ambulatory                      Smithsonian Institution identified the remains as soldiers
     care center co-located with the North Chicago VAMC,                        of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry who were killed on July
     and is scheduled for completion in 2010. The partnership                   18, 1861, during a skirmish known as Blackburn’s Ford.
     model these facilities are creating will be used for future                Scientists were unable to establish the identities of the
     VA/DoD joint ventures.                                                     soldiers.
                                                                                     The Massachusetts Sons of Union soldiers arranged
                                                                                for the transfer of the soldiers’ remains to their home
Independence Day concert for heroes
                                                                                state. Like other veterans of the armed forces, the Civil
Riverside National Cemetery in California hosted its annual
Fourth of July Concert for Heroes for an estimated crowd of                     War soldiers were eligible for burial in a VA-maintained
4,000. The concert featured a mix of classical and patriotic mu-                national cemetery.
sic by the Inland Empire/Riverside County Philharmonic fol-

30                                                              July/August 2006
                                                            VA n g u a rd                                    have you heard

OIF veterans who are able to provide insight into the needs of
returning servicemembers. The goal of the Summit is to en-                  A ‘golden moment’ in Biloxi
hance communications, review shared services, and provide out-
reach to servicemembers and their families. The Summit created
                                                                            A “golden
a One VA package to distribute at outreach events and National
Guard and reserve briefings. The package includes information               moment”
and contact information for all VA facilities and programs in               was created
Arizona.                                                                    for four pa-
                                                                            tients and
Beetle Bailey’s ‘Sarge’ signing on for stroke                               their wives
prevention campaign                                                         by the staff
Cartoonist Mort Walker, a World War II veteran and creator of               of the VA
the Beetle Bailey comic strip, donated custom cartoons for the
                                                                            Gulf Coast
VA Stroke Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI)
Center to use as part of an education and prevention project                Veterans
launched in May. The cartoons feature the Beetle Bailey charac-             Health Care
ter “Sarge” demonstrating behaviors considered high-risk for                System in
stroke, such as eating unhealthy foods and remaining sedentary,             Biloxi, Miss.
as well as some positive behaviors, such as eating fruit and walk-          Staff mem-                                            GARY MODICK

ing.                                                                        bers trans- Rev. Anthony Menz conducts a ceremony for
     The colorful posters featuring Walker’s cartoons were dis-             formed the (left to right) Joseph and Lena Barbera, renew-
played during National Stroke Awareness Month in May in                     Recreation ing their wedding vows after 67 years of mar-
waiting areas of selected VA sites in North/Central Florida and                            riage; and Albert and Ruby McKinney, renewing
                                                                            Hall into a    their vows after 56 years of marriage.
Indianapolis, Ind.                                                          wedding
                                                                            chapel so that the four long-married couples could renew
                                                                            their vows on June 28. Tissue paper wedding bells, silver
                                                                            streamers and white balloons created the backdrop for
                                                                            the ceremony.
                                                                                 A flower girl sprinkled pale pink rose petals down the
                                                                            wedding aisle before the brides walked down the aisle
                                                                            carrying bouquets of white roses. The brides joined their
                                                                            husbands, who were already seated in front of the Rev.
                                                                            Anthony Menz, one of the chaplains at the facility, who
                                                                            conducted the ceremony.
                                                                                 James and Dorothy Musgrove renewed their wed-
                                                                            ding vows after 36 years of marriage; Fondren and Eva
                                                                            Walsh after 53 years; Albert and Ruby McKinney after 56
                                                 CHRISTOPHER PACHECO        years; and Joseph and Lena Barbera after 67 years.
                                                                                 Following the ceremony, photographs were taken of
   On the road to better health                                             each couple cutting their individual wedding cake. Family
                                                                            members, friends, fellow residents of the Alzheimer’s/De-
   The Healthier US/HealthierUS Veterans program with                       mentia Unit, and staff members toasted the couples with
   King County Steps to Health was launched May 13 at the                   sparkling cider.
   VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. Veterans                        Mark Finch, a social worker in the Alzheimer’s/De-
   and local citizens attending the event received free                     mentia Unit, coordinated the logistics for family members
   health screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure and                  attending the event. He said it was “really touching to be
   cholesterol.                                                             able to witness such a joyous event.”
         Experts were on hand to dispense advice on nutri-                       Linda Mitchell, the nurse manager of the unit, said
   tion and fitness. Participants could also elect to walk one              she came up with the idea for the ceremony when the
   mile to the Columbia City Walks and Merchant Fair,                       wife of a patient remarked to her that “there are so few
   above, where they could get their “passports” stamped                    golden moments in our golden years, especially when one
   at various venues. The event was designed to bring                       spouse has Alzheimer’s.” Mitchell said she decided to
   awareness to the public about the growing rates of obe-                  plan the event with the staff because she thought it would
   sity, diabetes and high blood pressure in America.                       be a good memory for the couples.

                                                             July/August 2006                                                             31
                  heroes                 VA n g u a rd
National Veterans
Wheelchair Games:
What It Takes
                                                         Orlando Perez, an Army veteran from Or-
Ever wonder what it takes to                             lando, Fla., prepares to take a shot during a
put on the National Veterans                             basketball game at this year’s National Vet-
                                                         erans Wheelchair Games in Anchorage. A
Wheelchair Games, an event                               native of Puerto Rico, Perez won the Spirit
that draws more than 500 ath-                            of the Games Award as the most inspira-
letes, plus families, friends, of-                       tional athlete at last year’s Games in Minne-
                                                         apolis. “The National Veterans Wheelchair
ficials, staff and volunteers?                           Games are life to me,” he says.
To get an idea, take a look at
these stats from the 26th
Games, held July 3-8 in An-
chorage, Alaska.
s 18,000 bottles of water
s 2,000 towels
s 27 ramps for loading and un-
loading wheelchairs on buses
(a total of 7,800 feet of ramp)
s 35 buses for transporting
athletes and families
s Just under 2,000 Alaskan
volunteers (6,000 volunteer
shifts, totaling 2,400 hours in
shifts; 6,000 meals for volun-
s 800 hotel rooms for ath-
letes, families, friends, offi-
cials and staff
s 225,000-square-feet of tents
s 57 handcycles
s 30 quad rugby chairs
s 10 40-foot UPS trailers to
bring equipment to Alaska
s 20,000-square-feet of ware-
house space to store equip-
ment in Anchorage

32                                   July/August 2006

                                                                                           BOB PEDERSEN

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