Veterans

Tommy Rieman in his office at Charlotte Bridge Home, with the action figure that bears his likeness.
Carol Jackson

Under different circumstances, Tommy Rieman could have been charged with a DUI when he got drunk and drove into a tree. But because he's a veteran he was enrolled in the state's first Veterans Treatment Court, a program designed to give support rather than punishment.

This chapter of Rieman's story starts in Iraq, 2003.

"Before the war started we were in Iraq, calling in air strikes you know?" he remembers. "I was 21, 22 years old. You're on top of the world."

This is a story about two new Americans: Webton Webley, a 26-year-old active service member of the U.S. Army, and his wife 23-year-old Sherell Perry-Webley, an U.S. Army reservist.

Sherell's and Webton's lives in the U.S. have been closely intertwined. They went to the same high school in Jamaica, and Sherell eventually got a green card through her mom, who was living in Fort Lauderdale. Webton arrived to Florida on a visa to study at Miami-Dade College. Webton says that's actually the first place they spoke.

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

This Veterans Day, Gov. Pat McCrory has high praise for the new U.S. Veterans Affairs secretary. He's also touting new programs to help former and active members of the Armed Forces in North Carolina. 

He tells Eric Hodge that showing gratitude to veterans is something he takes very personally.

McCrory's father was a Navy pilot and his father-in-law flew P-47s in the Army Air Corps. But his real role model was his cousin Paul. Paul was a Marine who trained at Camp Lejeune and served in the Vietnam War.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    

Nearly one in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

That’s a sobering statistic for the researchers and psychologists who are trying to understand and treat PTSD. It also means more veterans than ever are suffering from PTSD’s debilitating symptoms.

But the research is yielding new treatment strategies and veterans are finding new ways to fight the severe depression and anxiety that comes with the disorder.

Flag of the United States of America, backlit, windy day.
Jnn13 / Wikipedia

Communities across North Carolina are hosting events in honor of Veterans Day today. 

Airman First Class Fabiola Tan of Durham becomes an American citizen today. She is one of six U.S. military veterans and service members who naturalized in a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ceremony in Durham County this morning.

Tan came to the United States from the Dominican Republic before she turned four.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith and other members of the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, render a salute as the American flag passes by during the Veterans Day parade in San Angelo, Texas, Nov. 6, 2010. Airman Keith p
Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers / U.S. Air Force via Flickr/Creative Commons

Computer giant Lenovo is teaming up with the non-profit Dress for Success to help get female veterans into the civilian workforce.

Numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate among female veterans is nearly double what it is for male vets.

Beth Briggs is Executive Director of Dress for Success Triangle.  The organization trains women to get them back in the workforce and provides them with a wardrobe. 

Intrepid Life Coffee and Spirits owner and Marine veteran Matt Victoriano
Carol Jackson

Update 9/6/14:

Today is the last day of business for Durham's Intrepid Life Coffee and Spirits. Owner Matt Victoriano, who opened the shop earlier this year, was behind in rent after a lackluster summer. But area business owners and customers rallied behind Victoriano, a former Marine sniper. His Indiegogo campaign, and an auction, raised enough money to cover his immediate needs. Even so, the business will close, and open at a later date in a new location.

From Intrepid Life's Facebook page:

President Obama in Charlotte, 8/26/14
Tasnim Shamma / WFAE

President Barack Obama spoke today to hundreds of American Legion veterans who had gathered in Charlotte, NC, for their national convention. His remarks come just months after a health care scandal and leadership change at the top of the Veterans Administration. The President announced 19 new executive actions to improve veterans' care -- one of which focuses on the rising rate of suicides among former soldiers.

President Obama To Speak To Veterans In Charlotte Today

Aug 26, 2014
Obama speaking in Mooresville, NC.
The White House

President Barack Obama is coming to North Carolina to speak to the American Legion convention, where Sen. Kay Hagan says she will talk to him about Washington's commitment to the state's military veterans.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Fort Bragg is hosting a Transition Summit today and tomorrow to help out-going soldiers find jobs outside the military.

The federal unemployment rate for veterans is about six percent.  That's according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' July numbers.

Creative Commons

Islamic militants are slowly gaining more control of Iraq. 

The group known as the Islamic State is asserting its will in the northern part of the country. It has made Mosul its de facto capital, and has driven thousands of Christians out of the city.

But the battle is not just sectarian, it is political.

The U.S. has been unsuccessful in its push for the Shiite majority to be more inclusive toward Sunnis and Kurds, and some say a one-state solution cannot work.

The official statement might be the most passive aggressive technique in politics. And right now, there's a lot of passive aggression in the world of veterans affairs.

A picture of lights on a police car.
Alejandro Mejía Greene/JubiloHaku / Flickr Creative Commons

Police and community leaders in Fayetteville are working on a local incarnation of the Silent Siren program to help veterans in an emergency.

Fayetteville police responded last week to a call from a woman whose husband, a soldier, was parked outside a Walmart threatening to kill himself. Police approached the stand off without lights, sirens and shouting.  They were able get the soldier help.

Fayetteville wants to expand that gentle approach for emergencies involving veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injury.

map, states, veteran education assistants
Student Veterans of America / StudentVeterans.org

North Carolina is one of only eight states in the country where none of the state's schools offer in-state tuition or residency exemptions for veterans. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the number of veterans living in the state is expected to balloon by as much as 60,000.

This presents an opportunity for the state to change course and join the rest of the country in training service members who have called North Carolina home while in the military, though are technically residents of the states from which they enlisted.

Veteran Job Fair
Leoneda Inge

Hundreds of military veterans from across the Triangle region and beyond packed a special job fair Thursday in Raleigh. 

This job fair at Carter-Finley Stadium was for veterans like Jimmy Hicks of Cameron, near Ft. Bragg.

“Usually I get at least one or two calls back when I attend a job fair," said Hicks.  “Hey, if you get one, I think that’s a good thing."

Hicks retired from the Army in 2000.  He's looking for a career in telecommunications.  His job with Verizon was outsourced some years ago.

Veterans learning to fly fish.
Justin Lubke http://www.notyetbeguntofightfilm.com/?page_id=46

Retired Marine Colonel Eric Hastings used to dream about fly-fishing when he was in Vietnam. In 1969, he returned home to Montana and went quickly to the water. "I came back from combat and found I needed relief. And the more I was out there fly-fishing, the more I knew I needed more of it.  You know, this ... this river healed me," he says.

Here & Now’s Robin Young first met Matt Victoriano at the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte. He was struggling with PTSD and also struggling to open his own business. We’ve been following him ever since (hear Robin’s October interview with him here).

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans returning from deployment face a quickly-changing job market. Many have a difficult time explaining how their military experience has prepared them for the civilian work force. The unemployment rate for veterans is about 7-percent, on par with the national average.

The North Carolina National Guard Education and Employment Center helps guard members look for civilian jobs.

Manager and fellow veteran Austin Walther says they also help vets translate their military experience into civilian job skills.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

North Carolina is taking a day to recognize the estimated 700,000-plus veterans living in the state.

American Legion branches around North Carolina are honoring local veterans today after parades in Raleigh and Fayetteville over the weekend.  N.C. Central University is among those that have invited veterans to speak at their events today. 

Ann Jones of Fayetteville Technical Community College says the school is hosting its own Veterans Day ceremony Monday morning.  She says veterans who take classes there use their experience to help fellow students.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

First Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf of Raleigh lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan last year.  He received a Purple Heart and got two titanium legs when he returned. And on Thursday he'll be a new home owner.

GI Bill
UNC

With major military installations and affordable public higher education, North Carolina is well-suited to take advantage of the high number of veterans looking to attend college. The federal government has spent more than $30 billion on the post 9-11 GI bill since revamping it four years ago – a number that is likely to increase sharply as more military personnel are discharged.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

A group of young veterans in the state is working to make the transition to civilian life easier for former members of the military.  Veterans Leadership Council of North Carolina Cares is raising money to rehabilitate buildings at the John Umstead Property in Butner.  John Turner, executive director of the organization, says when it's completed the facility will provide mental health services, physical rehabilitation and job training for homeless and at risk vets. 

Veteran student, Fort Bragg
Fayetteville Tech Community College

East Carolina University has launched a crash course for veterans to learn modern manufacturing skills. 

The two-week pilot program started Monday morning.  The courses, which are free to veterans, are designed to help them reintegrate and work in North Carolina when they complete their service.

The Durham VA Medical Center
Durham VA Medical Center

The latest research suggests that for veterans, social support is just as important as medical care.

Host Frank Stasio talks with UNC Chapel Hill Associate Professor of Psychiatry Eric Elbogen, about his study showing that vets lacking social and financial stability are more likely to engage in violent behavior than those with posttraumatic stress disorder. Joining the conversation are Pete Tillman, public affairs officer for the Durham VA Medical Center, and Jason Hansman of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The weight of paper files at the VA's Winston-Salem office threatened to collapse the floor.
Office of the Inspector General/Department of Veterans Affairs

Hundreds of thousands of veterans have been waiting months - sometimes years - for their disability claims to be processed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Recently, piled up claims threatened to buckle the floor at the Winston-Salem office. 

Coming Home: Stories of Veterans Returning from War

More than two million veterans have come home so far from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For returning veterans, reintegrating into society can be a challenge. How do you find your place, when you’ve changed and the people you love don’t recognize you? When that old life is gone and you have to start a new one from scratch. In this hour State of the Re:Union explores reintegration and asks the question: how do you come back home from war?

Monday May 27 at noon and 9pm

Veteran student, Fort Bragg
Fayetteville Tech Community College

Veterans who want to go back to school will soon have access to academic counseling and career advice through a new program at Fayetteville Technical Community College.  The school has purchased a building on Fort Bragg Road to serve as a veterans center on campus.  President Larry Keen says veterans will be given special assessments and mentoring to help them graduate, get work, or start a new business.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

North Carolina will open its newest full-service State Veterans Home Thursday in Kinston.  Residents there can have on-site registered nurses, therapists and service officers to assist with VA benefits to deal with their physical injuries.  They will also be either next to, or a short drive from, a local hospital should they need more intensive medical care. 

The Fayetteville VA Medical Center and Womack Army Medical Center are joining forces on a new physical rehabilitation facility. The Community Rehabilitation Clinic will be built with $6.7 million in federal funds for initiatives to share resources between the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Fayetteville VA Medical Center Director Elizabeth Goolsby says collaborating with Womack will combine their resources and expertise to provide better care and save money.

America's veterans were honored today at a ceremony in Chapel Hill.

Master of Ceremony: World War II

Gurnal Scott: One by one...their conflicts were called.

Master of Ceremony: Korea

And those who served stood at attention.

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