Tagged: Wounded Warriors
The Tough Mudder, a popular 12-mile adventure race complete with obstacles, plenty of mud, and a beer at the finish line, is reviewing its obstacles and procedures following the tragic death of a participant in a water obstacle at a Tough Mudder event at the Peacemaker National Training Center near Glengary, West Virginia.
Avishek Sengupta, a 28 year-old from Ellicott City, Maryland, was found in the water in the “Walk the Plank obstacle on Saturday, April 22nd, and died the following day at a hospital in Falls Church, Virginia.
Tough Mudder is a prominent supporter of the Wounded Warrior project, and has raised over $5.5 million dollars to fund programs for wounded servicemembers.
The Walk the Plan obstacle requires participants to climb a platform and then jump 15 feet into a pool of water, then swim out.
“We are undergoing a thorough review of the protocol for all obstacles, including the one that was involved in this incident. We are also internally reviewing how we brief and manage our water safety personnel,” Ashley Pinakiewicz, the corporate communications director for Tough Mudder said in a telephone interview with The Journal.
Peacemaker National Training Center director Cole McCullough said that despite the death and the 19 other people hospitalized, including two heart attacks, the event went “very well” overall, according to reporting from the Herald-Mail.
I know what you’re thinking: Where do I sign up for the next one?
Image courtesy of muddernation.com
Injured and wounded veterans aren’t used to worrying about public accommodations for the disabled… until they themselves become disabled. If you or a loved one is working through disability, though, simply being able to go out with friends to a restaurant, use a park, a public restroom or patronize a neighborhood business can be a real issue.
What can you expect of local businesses and other public venues? Do you have rights under the law? What are the exceptions?
First of all, become familiar with the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, more commonly referred to as the ADA, and its provisions regarding public accommodations.
What are public accommodations? According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA’s title III requirements for public accommodations.
More specifically, a place of public accommodation is a facility whose operations affect commerce and falls into at least one of these categories:
- Places of lodging (inns, hotels, or motels);
- Places that serve food or drink (restaurants and bars);
- Places of exhibition or entertainment (theaters, concert venues, stadiums, arenas);
- Places of public gathering (auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls);
- Sales or rental establishments (stores, shopping centers);
- Service establishments (laundromats, banks, beauty shops, travel services, repair services, funeral homes, gas stations, professional offices, pharmacies, insurance offices, hospitals);
- Public transportation terminals, depots or stations;
- Places of public display or collection (museums, libraries, galleries);
- Places of recreation (parks, zoos, amusement parks, gyms, pools);
- Places of education (nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate schools, trade or technical schools);
- Social service center establishments (day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies); or
- Places of exercise or recreation (gyms, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).
By and large, businesses and other public accommodations cannot discriminate against or screen out those with disabilities, except for the purposes of safety, or where including the disabled would fundamentally change the services or experiences offered. Operators of these venues cannot exclude the disabled for any other reason, whether by overt policy or by imposing restrictions that are, in practice, discriminatory. For example, a business cannot require a customer to present a drivers’ license and exclude all other forms of identification, because this would effectively discriminate against the blind. Obviously, though, if you’re going to want to drive a rental car, you’re going to have to present a drivers’ license.
Businesses and other public venues must make any accommodations that are “reasonable,” which the federal government defines as accommodations that can be made “without much effort or expense.” For example, a business may have to arrange tables and shelves to make it wheelchair accessible, or install a short ramp if it has a few steps. Generally, though, small businesses are not required to go through extensive retrofits or massive remodeling to make themselves wheelchair accessible or otherwise accommodate the disabled.
Furthermore, employers with fifteen employees or more cannot discriminate against applicants with disabilities, if the applicant is able to do the job with reasonable accommodation. We’ll visit the employment law aspects of the ADA in an upcoming article. I’m mentioning this to draw a distinction between the employment law provisions of the ADA and the public accommodation provisions. Under the federal law, the employment provisions apply to employers with over fifteen employees. But there is no such maximum for the applications of the public accommodations provisions. While the federal government recognizes that very small businesses do not have the same resources available to make accommodations that larger businesses and governments do, the general principles of the public accommodation provisions apply to venues of all sizes.
Generally, federal law requires public venue operators to allow service animals – defined as trained animals that perform a specific service for the disabled individual. Therapy animals do not count under this provision – though state laws may vary. Venues generally cannot charge extra nor charge a ‘pet deposit,’ because these animals are not pets under the law.
What to do if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against
If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against in violation of the ADA, and you cannot achieve satisfaction by working with the business or other venue operator directly, you can report them to the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.
If you are a big-shot journalist and liberal-leaning TV personality, the District of Attorney issues you a get-out-of-jail free card. If you’re a wounded warrior or veteran, not so much.
David Gregory hosts Meet the Press, a Sunday news and issues talk show that airs on NBC. In the wake of the Newtown school massacre last month, Gregory interviewed Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, on camera. During the course of the interview, in which Gregory attacked LaPierre’s suggestion that we take steps to provide schools with armed security or allow teachers to carry weapons, Gregory produced a 30 round AR-15 or M-16 magazine and waived it around on camera.
In so doing, Gregory, whose own children attend a Quaker school protected by armed guards, was committing a crime: The mere possession of high-capacity magazines within the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine, or up to 1 year in prison.
The Washington D.C. Metro Police Department investigated the alleged violation, and found that the violation of the law was clear. They then referred the matter to Washington D.C.’s Attorney General, Irvin B. Nathan – who evoked prosecutorial discretion and declined to take Gregory to court.
Nathan’s opinion: Gregory didn’t really pose a threat.
Here is the statement, issued at close of business on a Friday, from the Office of the Attorney General:
“OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.”
Unfortunately for the rest of us, people who don’t have high-profile TV shows and don’t send their kids to school with the President don’t get the same leeway from the District of Columbia.
David Gregory’s wife Beth Wilkinson poses with family friend D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan at a theater fundraiser in 2011.
SPC Adam Meckler
SPC Adam Meckler, an Army medic, hadn’t been off of active duty for a month when he was handcuffed, arrested, and frogmarched off to jail by Washington D.C. police. Why? He was going through a security checkpoint at the VFW, according to the Washington Times, and the X-Ray identified a few forgotten rounds of ammunition in his medic bag he had used on countless shooting ranges.
No weapon – just the ammunition.
The Washington D.C. Attorney General considers a medic and veteran a threat, and is vigorously prosecuting him, but not David Gregory.
From the Washington Times story:
The federal police officer asked Spc. Meckler if he knew that ammunition was illegal in the District. He said he did not. The officer replied that it was and began to read his Miranda Rights. Spc. Meckler said he interrupted to ask, “Am I really going to be arrested for this?’” The officer confirmed he was.
The D.C. attorney general’s spokesman, Ted Gest, told me that prosecution for unregistered ammunition is “common.”
Ultimately, Meckler – who didn’t have money or connections like David Gregory, pled guilty to one count of possession of unregistered ammunition. He got 30 days unsupervised probation, paid a $100 fine and was forced to make another $100 “donation” to a fund for victims of violent crime.
According to the Washington Times reporting, Meckler’s case wasn’t unusual: “There were 594 arrests for unregistered ammunition in 2011, according to MPD, but of those, only 64 of those were the top charge.”
The “top charge” means that the possession of the unregistered ammunition was the most serious offense these citizens were accused of.
That’s 64 Americans that didn’t receive the benefit of prosecutorial discretion from the AG.
Only one of them sends his kids to school with the President’s to our knowledge: David Gregory.
Additionally, at least 115 people were arrested in Washington D.C. for possession of an unregistered magazine. The Attorney General prosecuted 15 of them.
The Attorney General’s office even brags that they have a history of “aggressively prosecuting” the possession of magazines with capacities greater than ten rounds when circumstances warrant.
Lt. Augustine Kim
Augustine Kim, a lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard is another veteran who was prosecuted for violating gun laws in Washington, D.C. He also doesn’t send his children to school with the Obamas. He was wounded in combat while serving as a tank platoon leader, and had to spend weeks at Landstuhl and at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for reconstructive surgery on his face.
In the summer of 2010, after getting discharged from Walter Reed, he wanted to pick up some of his personally-owned weapons at his parents’ home in New Jersey and take them back to Charleston, South Carolina.
On the way back south, he wanted to stop at Walter Reed again to visit some of his wounded buddies. His firearms were stowed in the trunk, inaccessible, in accordance with federal firearms transportation guidelines.
Washington D.C. Metro Police officers stopped him and asked to search his vehicle. Kim consented to the search, thinking he was innocent. The District of Columbia sees this wounded warrior as a criminal. Not David Gregory. Lieutenant Kim. And treated him as such.
His attorney was able to convince prosecutors to reduce charges, allowing him to plead guilty to one misdemeanor. However, South Carolina congressmen had to browbeat District of Columbia officials for months to get them to return Kim’s firearms to him.
The Washington Times also details the case of James Brinkley, another Army veteran who was arrested and charged in Washington D.C., specifically for possession of high-capacity magazines – the exact same thing Gregory was doing on camera (I keep citing the Washington Times because The Washington Post is AWOL on these stories).
From the Washington Times:
Unlike Mr. Gregory, Mr. Brinkley followed the police orders by placing his Glock 22 in a box with a big padlock in the trunk of his Dodge Charger. The two ordinary, 15-round magazines were not in the gun, and he did not have any ammunition with him.
As he was dropping off his family at 11 a.m. on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Brinkley stopped to ask a Secret Service officer whether his wife could take the baby’s car seat into the White House. The officer saw Mr. Brinkley had an empty holster, which kicked off a traffic stop that ended in a search of the Charger’s trunk. Mr. Brinkley was booked on two counts of “high capacity” magazine possession (these are ordinary magazines nearly everywhere else in the country) and one count of possessing an unregistered gun.
Despite the evidence Mr. Brinkley had been legally transporting the gun, his attorney Richard Gardiner said the D.C. Office of the Attorney General “wouldn’t drop it.” This is the same office now showing apparent reluctance to charge Mr. Gregory.
No word yet on where Mr. Brinkley’s children go to school. But we’re betting it’s not Sidwell Friends.
Brinkley chose to go to trial – where he won. All the firearms charges were dropped, and all the DC Metro Police had on him at the end of it was a traffic ticket.
Jamison Koehler, a defense attorney who takes firearms cases in the District of Columbia, relates a case here of a severely wounded veteran who was sentenced to six months’ probation for possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of unregistered ammunition in his own home.
Want to sound off on the state of gun owndership and gun control laws? Here’s your chance to give your opinion. Comments are open.
The Department of Defense has formally singled out 17 wounded or disabled servicemembers or DoD employees for outstanding achievement. The 32nd Annual Department of Defense Disability Awards Ceremony was hosted December 4th by Frederick E. Vollrath, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for readiness and force management, in the Pentagon Auditorium.
Among those recognized:
SSG Alexander Shaw, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). SSGT lost his left leg below the knee to an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. A devoted runner, he despaired of being able to run again. But he worked closely with Bulow BioTech Prosthetics, which helped him develop a suitable prosthetic leg at no charge to the soldier. Eventually, Shaw was also able to run again, using a prosthetic foot developed by Össur. With the help of these two prosthetic devices, Shaw was able to remain on active duty. He is currently still assigned to a non-deployable section of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he plans to do a full 20-year career in the Army.
SSG Donald G. Sistrunk, Warrior Transition Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. SSG Sistrunk was selected for the award for his tremendous and selfless dedication to helping every veteran he meets, wounded or otherwise, on duty or off. Sistrunk is the post commander of his local VFW chapter, near Ft. Hood, Texas.
Sgt. Julian P. Torres, USMC. Sgt. Torres was wounded in Afghanistan early in his deployment, on July 15, 2010, when he lost both of his legs. His wife and journey through the Navy medical system is detailed here.
Capt. Ryan Maguire, USAF. Ryan’s leg had to be amputated after a boating accident over Labor Day weekend in 2009. Capt. Maguire completed a 26-mile walk just three months after strapping on his prosthetic for the first time. Despite the injury, Capt. Maguire was able to complete his training as a U.S. Air Force pilot, and graduated from his undergraduate pilot school last year. He is the first amputee to earn USAF pilot wings.
Those were the uniformed service members honored at the ceremony. The Department of Defense also honored a number of civilian employees who themselves had overcome the obstacle of a physical disability to excel at their jobs. Their names and agencies are:
- David L. Miller, Department of the Army
- Bruce Baraw, Department of the Navy
- LaVonne Rosenthal, National Guard Bureau
- Grayson J. Colegrove, Army and Air Force Exchange Service
- Billy W. Bowens, Defense Commissary Agency
- Thomas G. Pisoni, Defense Contract Audit Agency
- Samson Isaacs, Defense Contract Management Agency
- Edward L. Bright, Defense Finance and Accounting Service
- Sarah E. Gunn, Defense Intelligence Agency
- John A. Clark Jr., Defense Logistics Agency
- Carl Doeler, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- Julia G. Orth, National Security Agency
Jimmy Jackson was a sergeant in the Army who earned two Purple Hearts and two bronze stars serving in the Vietnam War. When his first cousin, Bill Jackson, passed away due to pancreatic cancer in 2009, the longtime Philadelphia resident, had a new mission: he became a surrogate father to his cousin’s son, newly drafted Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver DeSean Jackson.
“The more I hung around him and spent time with him, I could tell how fighting in Vietnam affected his life after the war – injuries, mentally,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I really couldn’t imagine what he went through and what he saw on an everyday basis when he was in the war.”
Jimmy Jackson became the inspiration for the Eagles’ receivers getting involved with the Wounded Warrior Project. In a presentation at Fort Dix, NJ on September 11, DeSean Jackson donated $50,000 to the organization.
“The Wounded Warrior Project is a great organization and this is something that I feel very grateful and blessed to be able to do,” Jackson said in a statement. “My cousin, Jimmy Jackson, was a Sergeant E5 and won two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars after serving in Vietnam.
“After seeing what he’s dealt with throughout his life, this is a cause that really hits home for me. The people in the military put their lives on the line for us every day. I think it’s important to recognize the great service they provide for this country, especially at this time of year.
“I’m excited to meet some of the soldiers and let them know how much I appreciate what they do. They are true heroes.”
After presenting his donation at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the athlete signed autographs for soldiers and alumni of Wounded Warrior, played cards, shot pool, posed for pictures, and tossed a football around.
(Photo credit: ABClocal)
The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to an individual who, while serving in or with the military of the United States, distinguishes him or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States or while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician 2nd Class (Diver) Taylor J. Morris was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” in a ceremony last month at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for his valorous conduct during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Morris was cited for exceptionally valorous conduct May 3 while serving with the Special Operations Task Force-South at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Morris was struck by an improvised explosive device while engaged in lead clearing for a combat reconnaissance patrol in an abandoned compound. He persisted and continued reporting details of the procedures he conducted to his EOD team leader, as well as potential other hazards, even though he had sustained catastrophic injuries to all four limbs.
His injuries required the amputation of both legs, his left arm and his right hand. A Purple Heart recipient, Morris is currently in recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is enrolled in Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy’s wounded warrior program.
Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Today, September 7, 2012 is not only the day US Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder competes for another gold medal. It’s also the one-year anniversary of the day he was blinded by an IED explosion while deployed in Afghanistan.
“It was pretty much immediate that I (decided I) was going to try and minimize my blindness as much as possible, and get out and pursue success,” the former Navy swim team captain told The Associated Press. “Thankfully my support network was pretty savvy and said, `You should check out this Paralympic swimming thing.'”
Not only did he check out this “Paralympic swimming thing,” he excelled at it. He’s already won gold in the 100-meter freestyle swim and a silver medal in the 50-meter swim in the 2012 Paralympics.
Lieutenant Snyder is one of 20 US veterans — six of whom were wounded in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — who came to compete in the Paralympics. In a Huffington Post interview, he states:
“I hope that my generation,” Snyder says, “the warriors coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq who are lying in bed missing a limb or whatever and they don’t know what’s next, can see my story and say: `Hey, that’s for me. If he can do it, I can too.'”
In a brief video blog for the US Paralympian team, he talks about the special meaning behind each of his tattoos.
“In my line of work, I had seen quite a few injuries due to blasts, and none of them were very good,” Snyder said. “I was able to see out of my left eye for a brief moment after I was blown up.
“I looked down and saw I had both my legs and both my arms, and immediately felt relatively optimistic about the outcome. I felt very thankful that maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.”
Through its partnerships with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the USOC Paralympic Military Program has impacted the lives of thousands of injured military personnel and veterans. They provide post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to service members who’ve sustained substantial physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, visual impairment/blindness and stroke. In clinics, camps and connections with other athletes, the program introduces veterans to adaptive sport techniques and opportunities.
There’s no question about the need for these programs. During the past two years, sports participation rates at Warrior Transition Units, Wounded Warrior Battalions/Detachments and other Wounded Warrior programs throughout the U.S. have increased from 31% to 54%.
If you are a wounded veteran or know a wounded veteran who could benefit with the camaraderie of and support from fellow soldiers like those in the US Paralympic Military Program, you can visit USParalympics.org/FindAClub to locate a program in your area.
Emotional distress is a leading factor in suicides among military members, concluded a crack team of researchers without apparent irony. Demonstrating an uncanny grasp of the obvious, the researchers from the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies, who had interviewed some 72 military members at Fort Carson, Colorado why they attempted to commit suicide stated that theirs was the first study to provide actual data that documents that suicides among military members was related to emotional distress, and a desire to end it.
The study has not yet been published, but the authors have already received their grant money from the taxpayer. Taxpayers have already committed at least $50 million to research and study of the problem of military suicides. That’s the size of the pot of money entrusted to Colonel Carl Castro.
The study comes on the heals of relevations that it takes veterans an average of 41 days just to get an appointment to see a VA health care professional. In some areas, including Tacoma, Washington, that waiting period lasts as long as 80 days, on average.
High Correlation with Divorces or Separations
Although the scintillating conclusions reached by the University of Utah’s researchers have somewhat, umm, truncated immediate utility, we do have data that ties suicide risk with recent separation or divorce. Suicide rates among this population of servicemembers reached 19 per 100,000 – a rate that is 24 percent higher than single troops. The suicide rate among young adults age 20 to 24 is 12.7 per 100,000, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. So it does appear that Houston, we do have a problem, with military members at higher risk than the population of young adults at large.
IF YOU NEED HELP…Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.
Jake and Meredith met at church and soon became fast friends. Friendship developed into even more, and they became engaged. Life, in that particular way it works, decided to get in the way. Throwing one thing after another after at Meredith and Jake, life quickly became complicated (and that’s an understatement). The money for an engagement ring was not there earlier; a wedding would most definitely have to wait. Unbeknownst to them, a friend had presented their story to Wish Upon A Wedding; Jake and Meredith became husband and wife in January 2012.
Why is this on a military blog? Because Jake is a Lance Corporal in the United State Marine Corps, and Meredith is a former Marine Corps officer. They were married at the United States Naval Academy, Meredith’s alma mater.
Wish Upon A Wedding (WUW) provides free wedding ceremonies and receptions for the terminally ill, for severely injured service members, and others having faced/are facing “seriously life-altering circumstances.” Formed in 2009, this non-profit organization wants to “to celebrate the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.” And with over 30 wishes granted in over two years, they are doing just that, and doing it well.
There are over 20 local chapters of WUW across the nation filled with wedding vendors who provide, free of charge, their services or products to ensure that those who are postponing their wedding because of dramatic circumstances have the opportunity to have a great wedding. Applicants first fill out the online application, which is forwarded on to the closest local chapter. The application not only asks for the basics (name, address, phone number) but also for medical information/other information to verify the situation. Information is verified, and decisions are made based on applicant circumstances and eligibility.
Once an applicant has been chosen, items covered in the wedding depend on the number and type of vendors involved as volunteers. What typically is covered is the officiant, venue, wedding planner, florist, cake, caterer, and most rentals. Often times, the gown and tuxedo is covered. What is never covered is alcohol; if you wish to provide alcohol to your guests, you must do so on your own and also provide liability insurance.
The wedding planner takes over for you once receiving your preferences. There are no guarantees; each chapter runs solely on volunteers. If there are no volunteers that specialize in lighting and a dance floor, it simply can’t be provided. Gathering multiple volunteers together for one event can sometimes be difficult; keep that in mind when you are requesting a wedding because you may not get the particular date you desire. Check here for the list of items that WUW can and cannot generally provide when planning a wedding.
If your circumstances prompt a wedding in less than six weeks, there is a limit of 25 guests. If you can wait longer than that, up to six months, you can invite up to 50 guests.
If you know of a couple, or are a couple, with extreme circumstances, visit Wish Upon A Wedding’s website. Like the national chapter on Facebook, as well as many of their regional chapters. You can help this unique organization in many ways; they offer eight suggestions, including financial donations, becoming a wish granter (donating time and service as a vendor), and directly volunteering with the local chapter, including helping to start a new chapter in your area.
(Disclaimer; I am a wedding vendor signed up to provide services in my local chapter. There has been no financial remuneration involved from WUW in the writing of this article. They are not aware of this article prior to its publication.)