You Can Salute Dryhootch Today

Incredibly, Mother Goose is honking about yet another good cause! Today we salute an amazingly original organization headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but spreading like a virus throughout the Midwest.

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Dryhootch of America was organized by Vietnam veteran, Robert Curry, as a place where veterans of any era could gather in a safe, secure environment, a coffee shop, to connect and sort through their “stuff” on their journey of reintegration. Because of his own troubled life after the war, Mr. Curry knew there had to be a better way to adjust to life after combat.

With peer mentors, a great bunch of resources and some EXCELLENT coffee, Dryhootch is meeting the mission at hand:

“Helping those who survived the war, survive the peace.”

Mother Goose could go on and on about the troubles and the problems of our returning vets. She could write pages and books about the men and women she has met and helped along the way. Mother Goose could fly around the world sixteen times and never see the things that our vets have seen in their lifetimes.

But rather than bore you with my stories, I am asking you to visit their Kickstarter.com fundraising page and click on the first video that you see — then you’ll get a taste, then you’ll experience a bit of the flavor, you will feel the pain of our returning combat vets.

Please support Dryhootch of America. Please share this request with your own networks.

God bless you, dear and generous readers!

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An Important Announcement

In response to the epidemic of suicides among our nation’s and our city’s military veterans and active service members, the Chicago City Council will hold a hearing of the Human Relations Committee on Wednesday, February 19th to hear testimony and strategies for fixing this tragic problem.

Mother Goose salutes the Council for opening up this discussion and for building awareness of this crisis and for hearing the good ideas of those who are working with the vets in our communities. Mother Goose will be in attendance as a comrade of the Blue Star Family Platoon.

Chicago City Council Chambers

Here is a copy of the resolution submitted to the Council by Alderman James A. Balcer on the fifteenth of January requesting Wednesday’s hearing:

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The Blue Star Family Platoon would also invite you to read our statement which will be read at the hearing by member, Kevin Lewis. And here is a link to that very important document. Simply click on STATEMENT and you’ll find the document in its entirety.

The crisis of veteran (and active service member) suicides is frightening in its scope — most recent numbers indicate that twenty veterans commit suicide each day. That number was from a report in 2012 by the Veterans Health Administration.

Last month, new numbers were released by the VHA as part of a follow-up study. This study indicates that suicides have actually increased in the last two years among female vets as well as male vets under the age of 30 and especially between the ages of 18 and 24.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The Blue Star Family Platoon has made several viable recommendations in our statement to the City Council including an expanded utilization of our city’s library system to create a city-sponsored virtual network connecting our veterans to each other and to all resources available to them within Chicago’s city limits.

We also would recommend mobile devices be given to each and every veteran in order to allow them contact to the online resources they could access from the safety and security of their own homes. Many of our returning vets are experiencing post-traumatic stress which gives them fear of being in open spaces and public areas.

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We realize that having a sense of purpose and personal meaning is essential to combating depression and hopelessness. Our city could indeed lead the way by sponsoring and implementing a full-scale Veteran Olympic project. Let the current Warrior Games and Wounded Warrior Games go on steroids and let the participants realize their vital role as leaders and positive role models in our country.

I hope that you’ll stay tuned as we learn more about what Chicago can and will do to help solve the tragic crisis of veteran suicides. In the meantime, here’s what you can do!

Find a veteran in your community. Yes, shake his or her hand and thank them for their service regardless of the war or conflict in which they served. And then find a way to stay connected to them. Make them feel your pride in their service by being their friend. Yes, it’s as simple as that for most of us. Be a friend.

Just a friendly request and reminder from Mother Goose.

Sailor Recruits Enjoy A Magical Thanksgiving

“Welcome aboard the USS Thanksgiving! At the helm today, we have Captain George who will be steering us into a magical port called Oak Park, Illinois — a place where they have TVs….computers….phones….and good food.”

The thirty-four sailor recruits cheered and ooooorah’d as we pulled out of Great Lakes Naval Training Center heading for a Thanksgiving Day to remember. Most of them had been told they would be picked up and taken to a community soup kitchen to serve dinner to poor homeless people — they had no idea that Mother Goose and Company had made other plans for them!

The day started at 7:30 a.m. at the garage of Mid-America Charter Lines in Elk Grove Village, IL. Mother Goose had been chosen as the hostess with the mostest for this most exciting day — of course, as a Navy Mom, Mother Goose is very familiar with young sailors and relished the idea of riding the tour bus to pick up the recruits at the boot camp so bright and earlie in the morning.

With Captain George Kousakis and the USS Thanksgiving

With Captain George Kousakis and the USS Thanksgiving

We arrived at the base in plenty of time and with just a little bit of run-around, we loaded up the recruits. The U.S. Navy has implemented the Adopt-A-Sailor program for the recruits who can’t get home for the holidays. Organizations can apply to adopt as many recruits as they can accommodate, and if the application is accepted, you get to pick up your sailors for the day! It’s such a GREAT program! Look at their smiling faces!

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We arrived in our magical port where the computers, phones, TV and food were warmed up and ready for them. The sailors politely lined up to remove their coats, scarves, gloves, and covers (hats) and then politely asked where the computers and phones were. AND THEN THEY STARTED SMILING AND DIDN’T STOP SMILING FOR THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS!!!

In boot camp (also referred to as basic training), the recruits are completely unplugged. There are no TVs, no radios or music, no computers, no phones, no internet — nothing but marching and training and discipline and eating their meals in five minutes. They learn new names for things — the bathroom is now the “head”, hats are now “covers”, time is now measured in 24-hour segments, they are known by their last names only and there is no hugging.

So Mother Goose hugged them all day long.

These sailors immediately found their way to Facebook, their emails, their favorite online games and surprised their moms and dads with phone calls. Most of the guys and gals had not heard the voices of their folks since they left their hometowns for boot camp five or six weeks earlier! Imagine the tears on the cheeks of the moms all across the country as they heard the voices of their young sailors…

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Besides the young recruits, our amazing team at Easter Seals also invited the veterans in our community who participate in our programs and services. It was a wonderful mix of young and old, squids and old salts, volunteers from all walks of life serving turkeys and the fixin’s donated and cooked by so many gracious helpers. It was a team effort and those are the best kinds of efforts according to this goose.

Volunteer and retired Army drill sergeant, Daniel and his wife and son served all day long.  Check out their biz, Gruntstyle.com for GREAT patriotic apparel.

Volunteer and retired Army drill sergeant, Daniel and his wife and son served all day long. Check out their biz, Gruntstyle.com for GREAT patriotic apparel.

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Our dinner with the recruits and veterans had a full agenda, including the Presentation of Colors by the Oak Park Police Department, poetry reading by Ms Josie Pierce of the American Women of Oak Park and Austin, presentations of roses to veterans and live music by a really talented musician named Ernie.

And then it was time to climb back aboard the USS Thanksgiving and head back to the base…hugs and tears all around. As Mother Goose climbed onto the bus, the sailors started singing at the top of their lungs!

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh. Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay. Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam, Until we meet once more. Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God’s Sun Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done, On seven seas we learn Navy’s stern call: Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.”

When we arrived at the base, thirty four sailors filed out of the bus with thankful hearts and happy faces. Each and every one of them gave Mother Goose a GREAT BIG HUG and said “thank you” and “happy Thanksgiving” and “God bless you”. Mother Goose smiled…

Sgt. Minister Paula

Today Mother Goose is very proud to salute Sgt. Minister Paula Buchanan-Tolefree. I’d be happy to introduce you:

Sgt. Minister Paula has worn many hats over the years.

Sgt. Minister Paula

Sgt. Minister Paula

She’s a wife, a mother and grandmother. She was a nurse’s aide for twenty years. She served in the National Guard in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. She’s been a missionary, and now ministers as a Chaplain and Ordained Minister.

And these days she devotes her time and energy to online and phone counseling for veterans and prison inmates. Because she is disabled and home-bound in a wheelchair, she seldom leaves her comfortable abode in a quiet and secure west-side senior citizen complex.

All of her work is done from home, and yes, she answers phone calls and counsels troubled vets 24/7. Sgt. Minister Paula is connected to various resources, community events boards, helpful websites and forums. Many veterans who suffer from depression, PTSD and other emotional distress can receive her wise, Godly counsel in the privacy of their own homes, at any time of the day or night.

Her ministry is so very necessary in these days and times. She’s a blessing to so many confused and recovering addicts, lonely prisoners and veterans disabled physically or emotionally.

Sgt. Minister Paula asked me to please share her email address with my readers. You can contact her at williambuchana251@comcast.net.

And I hope that you’ll look for the helpers today and find yourself blessed!

Veterans on a Trek

Mother Goose salutes Anthony and Tom, two veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who will begin their WALKING trek across America this morning at 10:30. Beginning at Milwaukee County’s War Memorial, they will WALK every day until they reach their destination, Los Angeles! What? WHAT?

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And why? They are WALKING this journey for a number of reasons. Firstly to raise funds for a great coffee shop called Dryhootch whose mission is to serve and attend to our brave veterans. They provide coffee, companionship and peer mentoring for any veteran who walks through the door. A safe place! They have locations throughout Wisconsin, two in Illinois (Oak Park SOON!) and St. Louis. So far, the fundraising is going well!

Another purpose of this trek is raise awareness of veteran issues in our nation. Many people are simply not understanding that these men and women have risked their lives in support of freedom around the world, but not suffer the consequences of combat. There are physical and emotional scars that may never go away for these warriors.

You can follow the progress of these guys by going to their website or following them on Facebook or checking on their tweets. What an incredible journey!

Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss start their trek across America TODAY!

Anthony Anderson and Tom Voss start their trek across America TODAY!

Breaking News from our Oak Park Bureau

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 12, 2013

Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago is looking for America’s veterans. This newly-formed branch of the well-known charitable organization has the distinct focus of military and veteran supportive services and is easily accessible to Oak Park, the western suburbs and Austin community citizens. This facility, The Willett Center, is located at 120 West Madison Street in Oak Park.

All veterans are welcome!  Come on in!

All veterans are welcome! Come on in!

Laura Soteno, Program Manager for the military and veteran services group, says that her biggest challenge in this center is finding veterans in the area who want to take advantage of these services and benefits. Many people do not realize that Easter Seals has a special department devoted to veteran and military supportive services.

This prime-location space has been redesigned to provide workforce training, benefits counseling, financial literacy workshops, support services PLUS veterans and their families can soon relax and enjoy the camaraderie of others when DryHootch, a non-profit coffee shop for veterans, moves into the location.

Easter Seals recognizes that military culture is significantly different than civilian culture with different
values, attitudes, goals and even its own language and terminology. They are developing these special programs to meet the complex needs of our military veterans and are working with veteran volunteers to provide immediate services to veterans and their families.

The program concept is based on veteran peer-to-peer mentoring (combat veterans helping other combat veterans). Advocate mentors work side by side with veterans to assess their needs and then design an individual employment plan for them. Job readiness training begins with the assessment and then continues with the basics, such as dressing for work, employment behavior training, resume preparation and interview simulations.

Finding a job is commonly the priority mission for our veterans

Finding a job is commonly the priority mission for our veterans

The center houses one of the finest resource rooms in the area with computers, job postings and work areas for the veterans to get organized in their job searches.

Ms Soteno’s greatest joy is seeing the transforming power of peer mentoring for these men and women who have served our nation and defended liberty around the world.

Laura Soteno on the right with Josie Pierce, one of the case managers at The Willett Center

Laura Soteno on the right with Josie Pierce, one of the case managers at The Willett Center

For more information, please call The Willett Center (Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago) at 708/524-8700 or send an email to lsoteno@eastersealschicago.org.

A Blog from my friend, Max

Since his return from Iraq in 2004, U.S. Army Sgt. Max Harris has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and is an ACTIVE advocate for veterans who have experienced those symptoms. Max fights diligently as well against the stigma attached to that diagnosis. I thought it appropriate to share what he wrote last evening in remembrance of the night in Iraq ten years ago when he lost his friend, 1st Lt. Leif Nott to “friendly fire”.

Ten Years to the Day: The Night that Changed Me Forever
07/29/2013

TRIGGER WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

I have to work tomorrow. Tomorrow, of all days, is the last day I want to be around anyone. It’s the ‘anniversary’ of the incident that changed everything for me. I don’t normally write about the actual event that was a major contributing factor to my PTSD, but this anniversary is different.

It still feels like yesterday, but tomorrow makes ten years to the day that 1LT Leif Nott died in a friendly fire incident in Balad Ruz, Iraq. I still struggle with what happened every day. I remember the sounds, the smells, the feel, everything.

This is the first time that I have mentioned the incident specifically. I don’t know why I feel compelled to share it now. I just couldn’t let another year go by without honoring those that were injured and those that died that day.

I can’t bring myself to recount all that happened, but you can read about that night and the cover up HERE.

I tried to ‘suck it up’ but I landed myself in the Combat Stress Control Clinic at Balad Air Field a week later. Everyone back at the unit I had been attached to was acting like nothing had happened. I felt compelled to make sure the truth was known – so I contact JAG and CID and reported the friendly fire incident and violations of the rules of engagement. I also reported my suspicion of attempts to sweep the whole thing under the rug.

A week later, I was released back to duty by the clinic. My reporting the incident should have remained confidential. Somehow, it made its way back to the commanding officer of the unit I was supporting and I instantly became persona non grata.

Things went downhill fast from there. I was denied R&R and mid-tour leave because I was a ‘mission critical asset’ – yet the rest of my team and all of the other attached special operations teams we worked with got to rotate home for two weeks. I isolated and shunned by all but my colleagues. The sectarian violence ratcheted up soon after and the trauma continued to build.

Six months later, I found myself being sent home, a danger to myself and others.

The greatest travesty: The unsung heroes that never received the recognition they deserved for jumping into action.

When it became clear that we had shot up our own, the direct support Psy-Ops team, two young medics and myself ran out to conduct triage. It became evident that we needed another vehicle so I ran back to the TOC and ordered some privates to clear out the Psy-ops turtleback so that we could use it as an ambulance. The next few minutes were a blur. I remember SGT Anderson being carried into the medic bay. Same with SPC Devers. I remember returning to the scene to continue to help and things become disturbingly clear in my mind.

I remember the old man, blood and bone chips flowing away from the mangled mess of his leg to pool in the dust on the side of the road. Somehow we managed to stabilize him. When the medevac birds arrived I positioned myself to lift the old man’s upper half into the stretcher and discovered that he had a gaping wound on his back. I had put my arm, almost up to the elbow into his chest cavity. I cannot adequately describe the sensation of feeling someone’s heart beating from inside their body. Those sensations and smells will stay with me until the day I die.

To this day, I still don’t know if those two young medics or the Psy-Ops team were ever recognized for their actions. I know, like me, they ran out there in untied boots, brown t-shirts, no protective gear, and M-16’s on their backs. We didn’t think, we reacted. And it is with the utmost humility that I need to express my admiration for their actions that day.

I just wish, on tomorrow of all days, that I could remember the medics’ names, Or the Psy-Ops teams’ names. Maybe this blog will reach them somehow.

Most importantly, I need to express my most sincere condolences to the family of 1LT Leif Nott. Until this year, I couldn’t muster up the courage to even do that. The memories were too much to handle. Honestly, they still are, but it’s been ten years.

I couldn’t be silent, reticent anymore.

Requiescat in pace, Lief. It is in honor of your service and sacrifice that I have finally mustered up the courage to share this. May you and your family find the comfort and peace you deserve.

Rest in peace, brave soldier...

Rest in peace, brave soldier…

Remember Richard Casper?

Many of my lovable and loyal readers will remember the four-part series I wrote in February about Marine veteran Richard Casper — his adventures, his mishaps, the injuries he suffered as a result of being hit FOUR time by IEDs in Iraq, his return home and his eventual healing through arts and music.

Well, Richard is moving forward with this vision to help fellow injured veterans. Here’s a link to a blog beautifully written by Tiffany Schertz, wife of a brave Marine vet who lost his leg in Iraq and was badly burned by a suicide bomber there. Richard took her husband Jesse down to Nashville to write a country song with the band Blackjack Billy. Mother Goose could never have covered this follow-up story better than Tiffany who is a brave wife and mom herself.

http://amarineslove.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-few-weeks-ago-jesse-took-trip-to.html

Please read her story, and share the video of Richard singing Jesse’s song. We have to help one another and this is a great way to spread the word that our brave veterans aren’t just sick and injured — they have HOPE and great GIFTS to share with the rest of us.

God bless you today for caring about our servicemen and women!