veterans

Gerard Albert III / WLRN

The ocean is a significant part of life in South Florida. But for many disabled veterans, accessing the water is not always easy. 

There are times when retired Staff Sgt. Matt Lammers doesn't look like he needs anyone's help — like when he was competing, and winning, races at the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

"We don't like to say the word 'can't' in our family," says Matt, who lost both his legs above the knee and his left arm to an explosion during his second deployment to Iraq in 2007.

By Stephanie Colombini

Some VA medical centers have realized that helping vets get back in the game can also help with their recovery.


FBI: Vet Shoots, Wounds Doctor Before Mental Health Check

Feb 28, 2019

The FBI says a 59-year-old U.S. Army veteran has shot and wounded a doctor just before a mental health evaluation at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Riviera Beach, Florida. 

The VA Mission Act passed into law with broad bipartisan support last year, but that unity began to wane immediately, when President Trump signaled after signing it that he wouldn't give it an additional stream of funding.

Encouraged by a Library of Congress initiative, volunteers and non-profit groups around the country are recording and preserving veterans' voices.

Nearly a decade ago, writer Rebecca Frankel started researching military working dogs — the intrepid canines deployed overseas to sniff out explosives or trap insurgents in caves. Her research led to the best-selling book “War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love.”

It also led Frankel to a retiring war dog named Dyngo, who needed a home.

Chris Kurtz is trying to keep his sense of humor. Even after the VA told him last summer that he no longer needs a caregiver.

"Apparently my legs grew back, I dunno," he says with a laugh, and sinks into his couch in Clarksville, Tenn. And then he mentions that he probably can't get out of the couch without help from his wife.

Seth Eisenberg

After finding herself in and out of homelessness for three years and receiving very little help, petty naval officer 3rd class, Ashley Esposito was at the end of her ropes when she met her “guardian angel” Seth Eisenberg.

Eisenberg is the president and founder of Operation Sacred Trust, a non profit organization that helps veterans like Ashley transition out of homelessness. Esposito is now pursuing a business degree at Florida International University, while working to help single parent veterans transition successfully into civilian life.

Purple Heart veterans
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

In the military, the Purple Heart medal is awarded to members of the armed forces injured in enemy combat. It's a sign of bravery and gratitude that can trace back its origins all the way to 1782, with General George Washington. 

Over the years, there have been different civilian initiatives to honor Purple Heart recipients. In the 90s, for example, some nature trails became designated as "Purple Heart Trails" so hikers could commemorate soldiers while they explored across the country. 

That idea spread. Now there are Purple Heart-designated cities, counties, and even whole states. 

Lighthouse Point is Broward County's latest city to write up a proclamation to remember recipients of the medal - and recently Broward County designated itself a Purple Heart County as well.

One local group of veterans led the charge to make that happen and they say they won't stop until they get the chance to talk to every municipality in the county about what it really means to be Purple Heart-designated.

The new secretary of veterans affairs pledged to the American Legion on Wednesday that he won't privatize his agency's health care services even as it increases options for veterans to seek care in the private sector.

Charles Claybaker spent five tours in Afghanistan, kicking in doors and taking out terrorists. But an aircraft crash in 2010 left the Army Ranger with a crushed leg, hip and spine and a traumatic brain injury.

Army doctors loaded him up with a dozen prescriptions to numb the pain and keep his PTSD in check.

President Trump's second VA secretary, Robert Wilkie, was confirmed 86-9 by the Senate on Monday. He takes the helm of the second largest department in the U.S. government, with more than 350,000 employees, a nearly $200 billion budget and almost 20 million American veterans depending on it for care and benefits.

That may sound like a herculean task. Now add that the department has been in turmoil since Trump sacked his first VA secretary, David Shulkin, with dozens of senior staff, subject matter experts and career officials quitting or being pushed out.

Most new laws approved during Florida's recent legislative session took effect Sunday with the start of the state's fiscal year.

The new statutes have an effect on Floridians of all ages, from bullying in schools to providing further protections against seniors.

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