Veterans

Chuck Quirmbach

As the nation takes time to celebrate the women and men who have served in our armed forces this Veterans Day, a local initiative is working toward better serving the medical needs of this community.

The “My Life, My Story” initiative at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center is asking veterans to share stories they find important with their health care providers. The idea is that by sharing these stories, health care workers can empathize with veterans and better understand their medical needs.

Screenshot / YouTube / Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs

Wednesday is Veterans Day. This year, part of the story is the COVID-19 toll at Wisconsin state veterans homes and federal VA facilities.

The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs says there have been 30 COVID-19-related deaths at the largest veterans home — King in central Wisconsin. Ten residents have died of COVID-19 at the mid-sized Union Grove facility. One died at a smaller state home in Chippewa Falls.

Chuck Quirmbach

It happened during the first week of September in 1945: Japan signed formal surrender papers aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing an end to World War II.

This week, Milwaukee's War Memorial Center marked the 75th anniversary of the signing with a ceremony that included World War II veterans and advice about what it takes to keep nations out of wars.

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

When the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, no one imagined the conflict would last nearly two decades. But 19 years later, there are still U.S. troops on the ground. Although the U.S. government is currently withdrawing some troops from the war-torn country, the landmark peace agreement signed in late February by the U.S. and the Taliban is now in question. Intel suggests the Taliban has no intention of sticking to the agreement.

Chuck Quirmbach

The quality of health care for veterans may be closely watched this election year due to frequent presidential promises to take care of those who served in the military.

Some doctors at the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee say they're proud of the cancer treatment they're able to offer, and satisfaction at Zablocki apparently remains high. But a nurses union says a recent announcement threatens to weaken services for vets who may be in crisis.

Teran Powell

African American men and women in the armed forces, past and present, are being honored in a new mural at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. It’s the first work dedicated to black veterans in the war memorial’s 62-year history.

Dozens of veterans, military families, and others gathered for the mural’s unveiling on Monday.

Chuck Quirmbach

The Trump administration is moving ahead with an effort to help more military veterans receive health care services away from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Milwaukee labor and vets groups have been arguing against the change for months, even holding a snowy protest on Veterans Day outside the VA hospital in West Milwaukee. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie weighed in on the dispute Wednesday from Washington.

Milwaukee's 'Guitars For Vets' Helps Veterans With PTSD One Guitar At A Time

Nov 11, 2019
Courtesy of Guitars for Vets

During World War I, soldiers coined the term "shell shock" to describe their post-traumatic reactions to war. "Battle fatigue" came along during World War II and Korea, and by Vietnam it was called "combat stress reaction." It was all post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Suzanne Gordon / https://suzannecgordon.com/books/wounds-of-war/

It’s Veterans Day — a national holiday to honor the service of the country’s more than 18 million living veterans. There will be parades, speeches and a lot of applause. But Suzanne Gordon says that one of the key players in veteran services and one that works well, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), is being slowly gutted.

Repurposed wood creates an American flag right at the entrance of Green Up Solutions.
Olivia Richardson

Updated Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT

For people who've served in the military, they say getting back into the swing of civilian life can be difficult. That's because the military trains members to be supportive and solutions-oriented, which is not always the case in civilian life. But some veterans are starting businesses as a means of working for purpose rather than money.

Screenshot / U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Three Milwaukee institutions — Marquette University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the VA Medical Center — are continuing their work on a "blast-test" dummy. The dummy could help reduce harm to U.S. armed forces caused by explosions under their military vehicles. 

In the United Kingdom, Veterans Day is celebrated with red paper poppies pinned to lapels in remembrance of those who served in World War I. The practice caught on after the bloody battlefields of France bloomed with red poppies following the war. Every year, British people wear these red flower pins for about a month leading up to Nov. 11, and buying one of these paper flowers funds veterans groups. The U.K. memorializes the end of World War I with purpose and style.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

Walter Dixon had been married for just five days when he shipped off to Korea for his second war deployment.

About a year later, at age 22, he was declared dead. When his obituary was published in the local paper, his wife back home in Waynesville, Mo., had no way of knowing that the news was premature.

In reality, Dixon was alive behind enemy lines.

Benjamin Slane / Milwaukee VA

Prescription painkillers have a notorious reputation in the veteran community. In response to an opioid scandal in 2016, Wisconsin's Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center has reformed the way they treat pain.  

"We were in the middle of a crisis," says U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie, who recently visited the Tomah VA and Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center (Milwaukee VA Medical Center). "Traditionally [people use] pain medicine and go off on their own, into the shadows. Tomah broke the mold on how we think about that."

Audrey Nowakowski

Editor's note: This piece originally aired on May 29, 2017. We are revisiting it in honor of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day observations started early for some in Milwaukee with the official dedication of the Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial Plaza in front of the General Mitchell International Airport on May 26th.

Gene Russell / United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Robert Wilkie was appointed as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last July. Wilkie grew up at Fort Bragg in a military family and still serves as an officer in the Air Force Reserve. As secretary of the cabinet level department, he’s responsible for ensuring the VA serves veterans’ physical, mental, and emotional needs to the best of its ability.

A Wisconsin combat veteran was driving down the highway in February when he suddenly found his name, license plate number and mental health information broadcast on the radio, on television and posted on electronic billboards across the state.

"It felt very violating. Because I didn't want everyone who doesn't know me to know I have problems. It made me want to crawl into a bigger hole," he told NPR.

But the "Green Alert" might have saved his life.

New Book Gathers Stories Of Wisconsin Veterans

Dec 6, 2018
courtesy Veterans Story Project

Dec. 7, 2018 marks the 77th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the event that tipped the scales and brought the United States into World War II. Sixteen million Americans served in World War II — more than 300, 000 from Wisconsin. 

But the youngest people who fought in World War II are already 90 years old, and their first-hand stories are fast disappearing. Milwaukee journalist Mark Concannon has been among a group of people working to make sure the stories of Wisconsin veterans — of all wars — are preserved. 

veterans-day-armistice-day-milwaukee
Chuck Quirmbach

Banks and post offices are closed Monday for the federal Veterans Day holiday. 

About 100 people gathered Sunday night at Milwaukee City Hall to remember that Veterans Day was previously known as Armistice Day and dedicated to peace. Another message was that world peace remains elusive.

It's been 100 years since the end of World War I, a conflict in which millions died. Paul Moriarty of the Milwaukee chapter of Veterans for Peace says the war was bloody through its last morning.

Maayan Silver

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects hundreds of thousands of veterans nationwide. Many find ways to cope through counseling and support services, but some are finding volunteering to be a useful tool in further healing. 

William Sims knows this first-hand. He's a Vietnam combat veteran and says he had, what would now be classified as, PTSD symptoms when he returned from battle.

Teran Powell

A fellowship program designed to match veterans with prospective employment opportunities could soon take root in Wisconsin. It’s called the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program.

A collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held an information session about the program at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center on Monday.

Andrey Popov / Fotolia

The Zablocki VA Medical Center and UW-Milwaukee have discovered they make good partners in providing military veterans with a wide range of services. For the past few years, the Zablocki VA has teamed up with UWM's Military and Veterans Resource Center, or MAVRC, to hold a veterans mental health summit. The sixth annual summit takes place this Saturday, June 23 at UWM's student union.

Maayan Silver

Memorial Day is more than just a day off of work. 

Veterans living at the non-profit Vets Place Central on 33rd and Wells spoke about what the holiday means to them.

Mount Liptak

Ever been to Antarctica? Maybe not, but if you find yourself there, make note of a peak known as Mount Liptak. When Milwaukee filmmaker Ryan Allsop found out that that very mountain is named after his uncle, Navy veteran Lester Liptak, - he knew he had a story to share.

"When I heard the final story about how he had a mountain named after him on Antarctica, being a filmmaker and one who tells a lot of stories and loves writing - it just clicked," says Allsop. "It was just the final thing, 'this is a movie right here, this is incredible.'"

Photos: Milwaukee Soldiers Home, Circa 2017

Nov 10, 2017
Mitch & Charlie Teich

For more than 120 years the Milwaukee Soldiers Home served veterans of conflicts from the Civil War through Vietnam. But for the past 28 years, the original 1867 building, called Old Main, has stood vacant, even as it remained an iconic piece of the skyline west of downtown.

Today, the building is closed to the public, and the few visitors who are allowed inside are required to wear hard hats and are offered respirators to guard against the dust, mold, and peeling paint.

'Othello - Deployed': Shakespeare With Veterans

Nov 2, 2017
Feast of Crispian

In a neon-lit rehearsal room in the basement of the UW-Milwaukee theatre building, a troupe of actors is blocking a scene from Othello. As Shakespeare’s words fill the room, you begin to notice the unit patches on the actors' jackets, the pins on hats.

Screenshot from Skip Navigation LinksWisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Video

The Wisconsin’s Veterans Affairs secretary took the hot seat at the State Capital on Tuesday. He updated lawmakers on conditions at the Veterans Home in King, after an audit found widespread nursing shortages and worker dissatisfaction there. 

Some legislators are concerned that patient care at the nursing home could be threatened. The VA Secretary promised his department is working aggressively to tackle the problems.

photo courtesty of the Veterans Administration

Like most Veteran’s Administration hospitals and clinics around the country, the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee sees a majority of male patients. Women make up just a little over 15 percent of current active and reserve military members across all services and about 10 percent of the total US veteran population. But especially now that women can and do serve in combat, it’s crucial that the VA respond appropriately.

Photo courtesy of Christine Black

Lake Effect recently spoke with experts from the VA and the LGBT Resource Center at UW-Milwaukee.  They’re among those who are presenting the Zablocki VA Medical Center’s fifth annual mental health summit at UW-Milwaukee on Friday, with a focus on issues faced by LGBTQ+ veterans.

READ: VA Mental Health Summit Focuses on LGBT Veterans

psphotography / Fotolia

From physical ailments to post-traumatic stress disorder - the health issues facing veterans are getting much more attention than they used to. In the Milwaukee area, most of the care veterans of all ages receive happens through the Veterans Administration and the Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center. But the VA doesn’t always go it alone.

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