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Refusing to quit, disabled veteran aims to inspire others
Sgt. Noah Galloway, who is retired from the U.S. Army, says he still "trains like a machine."
July 30th, 2012
06:38 PM ET

Refusing to quit, disabled veteran aims to inspire others

By Rebecca Angel Baer, CNN

(CNN) - Noah Galloway's daily workouts could intimidate the most seasoned athlete. He runs, climbs, does pull-ups and push-ups, and lifts weights for nearly two hours at a time. But what really sets this 30-year-old father of three apart is that he does it all with one arm and one leg.

In the aftermath of September 11, Galloway felt called to serve his country. At 19, he withdrew from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and enlisted in the United States Army.

"After we were attacked, I felt like it was what I needed to do. I quit school and started off on a new journey."

Galloway was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2003. After becoming a husband and father, he returned for a second tour in 2005.

"They put us in an area that was known as the triangle of death. It was southwest of Baghdad. The units that had been there before us had taken a beating. It was just a rough area."

Four months into his second deployment, he was trying to catch a bit of sleep between missions when his platoon leader woke him.

"He said, 'Hey, we're gonna go take these Humvees to go pick up the rest of the platoon.' Said there's nothing important going on. We're just going to pick them up, coming back. Just wanted you to know we're leaving."

But Galloway says he insisted on not only joining the convoy but driving the lead vehicle, a decision that put him in the path of a roadside bomb detonated by a trip wire.

Four days later, on Christmas morning, Galloway woke in Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

"I had no idea where I was or how I got there. I remember waking up and seeing my parents walking in. I knew I was somewhere safe because they were there, and something told me to smile because they'd know I was OK."

He lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee. His jaw needed to be reconstructed, and his mouth was wired shut. His recovery was as rough emotionally as it was physically, and during it he and his wife divorced.

"I remember thinking it was all over. I was very physical. I'd lost two limbs, a wife. You know, I remember thinking I much rather had died than wake up like this," Galloway said.

His attitude started to shift thanks, in part, to a fellow amputee: his father, who lost his hand at age 18 when a machine malfunction at the plant where he worked.

Read the full post

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Filed under: Disabilities • How we live • Veterans • Who we are
June 27th, 2012
07:30 PM ET

Montford Marines: Few, proud and black

Editor's Note: Today, Congress honored the Montford Marines with the highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. The following story, written in 2011 tells the history of the first African American Marines.

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Edwin J. Fizer got off the train to report for training at Montford Point, North Carolina in the summer of 1942. He, like all proud Marines, had to prove his mettle.

Except, Fizer had another tough hurdle. He was black, and until then, the U.S. Marine Corps had been all white.

But in June, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an order that began to erase discrimination in the armed forces. The Marines were the last to open up and the next year, Fizer was among 18,000 young black men who trained - not at Parris Island - but at a segregated facility in Montford Point, North Carolina.

"It was one of the worst times of my life," said Fizer, in Atlanta Saturday for the annual gathering of the Montford Point Marines. "I was fighting the war on racism and Jim Crow and at the same time getting ready to fight a war overseas."

The history-making Marines never received the same recognition as the famed Tuskegee Airmen, African-American pilots who fought in World War II. But the few Montford Marines who are still alive reunite each year at their convention and hope to spread the word about the path they paved.

Read the full story 

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Filed under: Black in America • History • Veterans • Who we are
May 29th, 2012
03:48 PM ET

Women sue for right to fight in combat

Two Army reservists have sued the Defense Department for excluding women from combat jobs.

"It stigmatizes women's service as not as important as male service," said Col. Ellen Haring, a plaintiff in the case."We're excluded from branches that allow career progression to the highest ranks."

Haring spoke to CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence for The Situation Room.

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Filed under: Gender • History • Veterans • Who we are • Women
Battlefield chaplain’s war unfolded on many fronts
Army chaplain Darren Turner, left, wound up quitting the Army for a spell after returning home from Iraq.
May 28th, 2012
09:15 AM ET

Battlefield chaplain’s war unfolded on many fronts

Editor’s note: CNN.com writer Moni Basu is author of “Chaplain Turner's War,” published by Agate Digital.

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) – Darren Turner insisted on going to war, even though the Army usually reserves desk jobs at home for new chaplains like him.

Turner was young and green, enthusiastic about taking God to the battlefield. The Army captain had learned that people in pain are often wide-open to inviting God into their lives.

Jesus always ran to crises. Turner was going to do the same.

He’d enrolled in seminary in 2004 at Regent University in Virginia, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. And early in his spiritual journey, he was inspired by Christian writer John Eldredge, who suggests that American men have abandoned the stuff of heroic dreams, aided by a Christianity that tells them to be "nice guys."

God, says Eldredge, designed men to be daring, even dangerous.

Read the full story on CNN's Belief blog

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Filed under: Religion • Veterans • Who we are
May 19th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

Life after war: Resources to help veterans get back on their feet

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of  In America's documentary series on American voters. J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CNN.

The transition back home after serving in the military can be a challenge for veterans and their families. Here is a list of resources:

Department of Veterans Affairs:

The VetSuccess program assists all veterans find work by providing military skills translators, job skills preparation and other assistance.

Gold Card:

This service provides six months of career guidance and job search assistance for all post 9/11 veterans.

Heroes 2 Hired:

This program helps all National Guard and Reserve component members find jobs with military-friendly companies.

Hiring Our Heroes:

Hiring Our Heroes helps all veterans and their spouses find employment through hiring fairs and other programs.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

This organization represents all veterans of the 21st century Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts  though advocacy, awareness and assistance, including job fairs and GI Bill information.

My Next Move:

My Next Move helps translate military skills into civilian skills and also provides resume writing help for all veterans.

Transition Assistance Program (TAP):

This program provides transition assistance to all veterans returning to civilian life with help for needs such as disability claims, job searches and counseling.

Veterans Job Bank:

This is a search engine that links all veterans to companies looking to hiring veterans.

VetJobs.Com:

This online service allows all veterans to search for jobs that are posted by companies looking to hire veterans, as well as posting their resume.

Vow to Hire Veterans Act:

This law was designed to provide seamless transitions for service members, expand education and training opportunities for veterans and provide tax credits for employers who hire veterans.

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program:

This program helps National Guard and Reserve soldiers adjust to post-deployment life by helping with health care, education/training opportunities, financial, legal benefits and more.

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Filed under: Economy • Family • Veterans • Who we are
May 11th, 2012
05:12 PM ET

Opinion: How to employ veterans when they come home

Editor’s Note: Ted Daywalt is president and CEO of VetJobs, a military job board. He served on active duty in the Navy as a line and intelligence officer and retired as a captain after 28 years. He later served in private industry as a plant manager and as an executive in the steel, electric utility, importing, chemical and recruiting industries. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of In America's documentary series on American voters.  J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary  re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CNN.

By Ted Daywalt, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The employment challenges facing veterans today are vastly different from those facing the post-Vietnam era soldiers.

In the 1970s, when I served, veterans would not mention they had been in the military, much less Vietnam. Discrimination against these veterans was immense, and in 1974, Congress passed the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act to prohibit the discrimination and provide more opportunities.

Today, the perspective on hiring veterans has improved, but National Guard and Army Reserve veterans still face serious employment challenges when they return home.

Now, we are more reliant than ever on the National Guard and reserves to protect our country.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Documentaries • Economy • Veterans • What we think
May 9th, 2012
07:00 PM ET

Voters in America: Vets Wanted? Educator and Parent Guide

Editors Note: This Educator and Parent Guide is provided for teachers and parents to use as a catalyst for discussion and learning if they choose to watch “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” with their students.  This is the first part of CNN In America's documentary series on American voters.  J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

(CNN) - Teachers and Parents: Watch with your students or record "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" when it airs on CNN on Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. ET and PT, or Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and PT. By recording the documentaries, you agree that you will use the documentaries for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose.

Documentary Description: Multiple deployments interrupt lives and careers and can lead to health and financial challenges. Narrated by former U.S. Army infantryman and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez, "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" looks at the unique burdens for families of men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it follows the reintegration of members of the Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineer Company into civilian life. Deployed to Afghanistan in December 2010, half of these veterans faced unemployment when they returned to the U.S. The documentary also examines whether the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Bill passed in November 2011 is of any help as our nation's heroes make full transitions back to the lives they left to defend America, and it offers insights into how veterans' unemployment may impact their decisions as they head to the polls this November.

Read the full guide

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Filed under: Documentaries • Veterans • Who we are
April 25th, 2012
03:03 PM ET

Latino soldier to fellow troops: 'Take the warrior mask off...get help'

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters In America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of CNN In America's documentary series on American voters. J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - When Army Master Sergeant Mike Martinez arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first assignment 22 years ago, he knew his experience in the infantry would make him “real tough, tough like nails.” But little did he know back then just how much those words would resonate now, in his new role as a voice for the invisible wounds of war.

Martinez, 42, shared his story in the USO’s first Invisible Wounds public service announcement to address post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries - the masked wounds encountered by many of the 300,000 troops returning home. He’s on a mission to educate Latino troops, in particular, whom he says are likely to feel a cultural stigma surrounding mental health treatment.

“I tell my Hispanic brothers that are still serving, don’t let pride get in the way," Martinez said. "Pride’s going to kill you. Take that warrior mask off and if you need to, get help. Get it in the beginning stages, and not later.”

Even veterans seeking help might not be getting a quick response from those who would care for them, according to an report released by the U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs this week. While the number of former service members seeking mental health care increased by 39% from 2005 to 2010, according to the Veterans Health Administration, the agency hasn't been meetings its goals to evaluate them within 24 hours and begin treatment within two weeks.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Documentaries • Health • How we live • Latino in America • Veterans
April 20th, 2012
05:14 PM ET

J.R. Martinez: We must find jobs for U.S. veterans

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters in America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. J.R. Martinez narrates the documentary re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

J.R. Martinez knows what it takes to survive after war, and what comes after - he found success acting, and as a "Dancing with the Stars" champion. But many vets face hardships, especially when it comes to employment.

“When they come home is really when the real battle begins.” Martinez said.

Martinez said the government has done a great job to help U.S vets, but there are still gaps that need to be filled.

“This is a good opportunity to educate America on what the gaps are and how we as everyday Americans can, and what we can do to contribute to closing this gap," he said.

April 11th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

Program helps vets open franchises

Editor's note: Overseas, they fight for freedom. In America, they fight for jobs. “Voters in America: Vets Wanted?” is the first part of a CNN In America documentary series on American voters. Narrated by J.R. Martinez and re-airing May 19th at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

The unemployment rate among veterans is 5% higher than last year, but initiatives in hopes of changing that are giving vets an opportunity to own their businesses through the franchising industry.

As more U.S. military members return from overseas deployments, they're trying to decide what's next. Thousands are going to school on the GI Bill and others are looking for new careers.

Some vets are finding opportunities through VetFran, which has helped more than 2,100 vets  since the 1990s. Even some who lack business experience are opening franchises - and taking advantage of programs that reduce the cost to do so.

UPS, for example, waived the near $30,000 franchising fee for 10 veterans. The franchisees still have to finance their own ventures, but UPS is guiding them on how to maintain and operate businesses on their own.

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