Warrior Gateway Attends Vietnam Veterans Memorial Event in Times Square

Warrior Gateway was honored to attend the “Call for Photos” event in Times Square, New York City on Tuesday, October 11, 2011.  The event, which featured a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., was the first in a series of ceremonies to be hosted during the coming month by The History Channel’s upcoming series, “Vietnam in HD,” and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, both Vietnam veterans, spoke to the audience about remembering our fallen heroes. “We owe it to those who died that we remember; we owe it to them that we tell their stories of how and why they gave their lives; and we owe it to them that we honor the ideals by which they lived,” the NYPD commissioner and Marine Corps veteran added.

One of the main purposes of the campaign is to publicize a “call for photos” of those whose names are featured on the wall.  The photos will be included on the upcoming Education Center at the Wall, expected to break ground in 2012.  Organizers want to collect photos for all of the fallen service members listed on the memorial.  According to a statement, more than 35,000 are still missing.

Check out more photos from the event on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/warriorgateway

May is Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Month. This is a month for us to reflect on the impact and prevalence of mental health issues. It’s a month to speak openly and freely about issues which are common, but commonly stigmatized.

Which is why this month the Warrior Gateway will be posting a series of resources, stories, and other information related to mental health and the military community. Stay posted for more!

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Veterans put their own stories on film

Despite the Hurt Locker‘s critical success (including a Best Picture and Best Director win at Monday’s Academy Awards ceremony), many veterans have taken issue with factual liberties taken in the film–they say Director Katheryn Bigelow chose spectacle over realism.

A new program sponsored by the Brave New Foundation, however, will allow five veterans to tell their own stories about the reality in Iraq and Afghanistan on film.

“What we are hoping to do is to get . . . a perspective we may not have seen, or that we see very infrequently, and that is the direct perspective of the veteran,” said Richard Ray Perez, executive producer of “In Their Boots,” a Web series on the wars’ effects in the U.S.

That perspective is readily available in print. One of the veterans, Clint Van Winkle, 32, of Phoenix has published an unflinching account, “Soft Spots: A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” But because a film is more difficult to produce, most war documentaries are the product of civilian filmmakers.

Although their subjects vary, the filmmakers share a desire to challenge the stereotypes about veterans.

“It’s almost a cliche. I’m a vet with PTSD,” said Van Winkle, who plans to take up the subject again in a film about a friend wrestling with survivor’s guilt after escorting home the remains of a fellow Marine.

“But I’m not on the street. I went to school. I have two degrees. I’m a functioning person, but I have issues.”

Read the full article here.

The struggles of female veterans

This week in the news there were a number of articles describing the challenges faced by recent OEF/OIF female veterans.

Former Army Pvt. Margaret Ortiz holds a photo of herself from Iraq in her room at the women’s shelter in Long Beach, Calif. Image courtesy of the AP

Former Army Pvt. Margaret Ortiz holds a photo of herself from Iraq in her room at the women’s shelter in Long Beach, Calif. Image courtesy of the AP

First, the AP has written up a nice article giving some detail on the situation of female homeless veterans. Female homeless veterans face increased risks in that they are usually younger and often have children in their care. Also, in many housing programs like VA-run homeless shelters, only men are eligible to be taken in.

“People think we’re just coming out of the military and we should have our stuff together,” said Tiffany Belle, 33, a former Navy sailor who served in the Philippines after 9-11 and lives with Ortiz at the U.S. Vets program. “It gets really hard. Some people don’t know where to go, what to do.”

Next, also from the AP, is an article about the other challenges even non-homeless female veterans face. Upon coming home, male veterans are clapped on the back, have drinks bought for them at bars, and are generally welcomed into an established network of support and thanks. For female veterans, fitting back in and being warmly welcomed often isn’t so easy. Common challenges like coping with past sexual harassment, PTSD, and a lack of recognition of their service to the country can create a sense of isolation during the process of transitioning back to civilian life.

“What worries me is that women themselves still don’t see themselves as veterans, so they don’t get the care they need for post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injury or even sexual assault, which obviously is more unique to women, so we still have a long ways to go,” said Murray, D-Wash.

Finding healing through gardening

The New York Times has a great article on veterans finding camaraderie and healing around the soil of a garden at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in East Orange, NJ. It tells the story of Reggie Mourning, a Vietnam veteran who spent many years driving a truck and, in the early 2000s, approaching homelessness. A man who wears 9mm pistol rounds on a chain around his neck and battled substance abuse for many years, he seems an unlikely candidate to embrace gardening. However Mourning, like many other veterans at the VA Center, has found solace in the gardening program, which has been undertaken in partnership with Planetree. The veterans at the Center plant, weed, tend to, and pick a variety of crops — harvesting some 1,000 pounds of vegetables this past summer.

For many of the veterans, the experience has been less about growing food and more about learning about themselves. So Mr. Mourning has felt a special kinship with Josh Urban, a 30-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had also found himself isolated, unable to fully reintegrate into the world outside the war zone, until tilling the soil with his fellow veterans helped him make his peace with life back home.

Patrick Corcoran, who served with the Marines in Lebanon, said: “It just lowers the volume in my head. It allows me to think on a rational level.”

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Read the full article here.