VA News Episode 525

Uploaded by DeptVetAffairs on 08.01.2013

>> Happy New Year, everyone. Here are some of the stories we have to start the year.
The Fisher House Foundation opens a second home away from home at the busy Pittsburgh V.A. Healthcare System.
The newest "Vanguard" is out and is now in digital format on the web. The Wreaths Across America reached even farther
and wider than ever before. Stay with us for those stories and more coming up on "V.A. News."
>> Hello, I'm Chris Erbe with the National Cemetery Administration.
>> And I'm Brynn McGowan with the Office of Acquisition Operations. Thanks for watching.
The Pittsburgh Healthcare System is one of the busiest in
all of V.A. with three medical centers in the western Pennsylvania city.
One of them, the University Drive Campus, recently opened a
new Fisher House. This 10-bedroom home provides a place for families to stay while providing moral support
for their loved ones, receiving treatment and rehabilitation in
the hospital. Scott Guido sent us this story.
>> Our first Fisher House guest, a soft-spoken wife named Rhonda,
moved into her second-floor suite just seven days ago after spending more
than a week sleeping on a couch in one of our waiting rooms.
>> The waiting room, very uncomfortable furniture, but, yeah, I had
to do that. And I didn't mind. It was something I felt close
to him and so whatever it took, I had to do, I did.
>> Rhonda's husband, Clarence, a Navy veteran, was in the I.C.U. and she wanted to remain
close to him instead of making the five-hour trip between Pittsburgh and their home in
Ohio. The recently opened Pittsburgh Fisher House allows the family
of veterans to stay close to their loved ones during their treatment.
In addition to being a home away from home, it serves as a source of comfort for guests
while their loved one is receiving treatment. It will not be just about
logic. A support system will begin to take root here, a support system that will give families a shoulder to lean
on if they need it, a chance to share the joy of a good day when they have them, all while making
them better and more effective caregivers at the same time.
>> It's really an opportunity for families to come together
to work together as a team and really bond and support each other.
>> The Fisher House program was started by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher to provide temporary housing for family
members of veterans and service members receiving treatment at military and V.A. medical centers.
The newest Fisher House has 10 private guest suites and 9,500 total square feet of living space.
The house has a communal living setting, which includes a formal living room, dining room, spacious kitchen and a
family room. The family room opens up to a generous patio, which has a
spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh. From the ornate chandeliers
to the Pittsburgh-centric artwork, the house is full of those little touches, which makes the Fisher House a home.
A home, Rhonda says, that is definitely needed for those caring for
loved ones.
>> It's a blessing from God, that's for sure, because I know there's a lot of people out
there in the same situation that I am in. And hopefully they will hear
about this. I will certainly tell everyonethat I can possibly tell about
this, and to be close to their loved ones and it's just -- I'm just at a loss of words.
It's just amazing.
>> The final "Vanguard" for 2012 is now available in print and online. The edition is also the first
completely digital online version of the award-winning employee magazine.
Here's the editor, Lisa Gaegler, with a preview.
>> That's right, Chris. We've been working to publish the fully digital version of
"Vanguard" for more than a year and are proud to announce it's
up and running. In this edition we pay tribute to veterans
and Veterans Day with a cover photo at Arlington National Cemetery by Robert Turtil.
We have the second of a three-part series celebrating women's health
programs and advocating for women veterans. We take a look at Riverside
National Cemetery, now the busiest in the V.A. system. The cemetery near Los Angeles
varies an average of 35 veterans each day. We tell you how the Houston
V.A. Regional Office is testing a pilot program on easing service members' transition to
civilian life. In reducing the federal footprint, we show you how
planned moves of offices at V.A. headquarters will eventually save millions of dollars.
We have a feature on Dr. Andrew Schally, the Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher
and a celebration of Miami of his 50th year at the V.A. You'll see how a group of Texas
V.A. employees is brightening the lives of veterans at the Temple
V.A. Medical Center. We introduce you to Joey Carpenter and his mom,
Elizabeth, recipients of V.A .'s 20th millionth home loan guarantee.
We tell you about history-making Team Mercury, an all-women veteran team at V.A.
Summer Sports clinic. And finally, read how V.A. and the Wounded Warrior Project
employees help teach disabled veterans to kayak and sail in
the second annual Heroes on the Hudson. Of course, we've got news in
all the regular departments, including "News You Can Use," "Around Headquarters,"
"Introducing," "Medical Advances," "Have You Heard?", "Honors," and "Heroes."
You can pick up a copy at yourV.A. facility. It's also available online at
the address on the screen. If you have any story ideas, call me at 202-461-7427, or email me at
>> Remember, honor, teach. That is the mission of Wreaths Across America born 20 years
ago when the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine had a surplus of wreaths after the holidays.
Those wreaths were placed on graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
>> With a national network of volunteers in the U.S. and beyond, last year more than
220,000 wreaths were placed at graves in some 550 locations,
including Arlington, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, Bunker Hill,
Valley Forge, the sites of the 9/11 tragedies, and every national cemetery.
Here's "American Veteran" producer George Dwyer at Arlington National Cemetery
with a story about this year's Wreaths Across America.
>> In just over two decades, it has become an established seasonal tradition.
Trucks arrived at Arlington National Cemetery bearing thousands of memorial wreaths
for an event of honor and remembrance. More than 20,000 volunteers
were on hand to lay memorial wreaths across the entire expanse of the cemetery.
One group, the Maryland wing of the Civil Air Patrol has sent an honor guard for the
event. Michael D. Mercurio is cadet captain for the unit.
>> When you're here honoring these veterans, these soldiers who have died for the United
States, it's an incredible honor to be able to come here in uniform and do them a service that they truly
>> 2012 marks the 21st consecutive year of this event. And in Arlington
Section 60, a place where soldiers from America's most recent conflicts are laid to rest, a solemn
ceremony unfolds. The project's one millionth wreath is laid by the current President of the American
Gold Star Mothers, Mary Byers.
>> It's heartening to see the patriotism that our country still has and we don't
see that every day.
>> Many of those at Arlington Cemetery placed wreaths against headstones of veterans
they never knew. Others come with a more personal connection.
>> Here, Major General Charles Carr, a national commander for the Civil
Air Patrol, honors the memory of his predecessor, legendary Army and Air Force
General Henry "Hap" Arnold.
>> And I certainly hope that we are living up to his dreams in which he had high hopes for
when we got started.
>> Freeze and hup!
>> On this day, it is easy to believe that they are, but it is also inspiring to see the civilian support
at this event.
>> I love how many people, the size of the Air Patrol, come out to support this event, to
support our fallen troops.
>> The ceremonies at Arlington are part of a larger coordinated effort by Wreaths
Across America. 20 years ago that project began here. Today the project oversees the
laying of remembrance wreaths on the headstones of our nation's fallen military in all
50 states and in hundreds of sites overseas. This year nearly 200,000
volunteers placed some 420,000 memorial wreaths in celebration
of National Wreaths Across America Day.
>> Strong at the Broken Places, a multi-media project on the V.A. internet pages, remains on the V.
A. web pages. We encourage you to check it out at the address on the screen.
Here is another of the 12 veterans interviewed for the project.
>> Once I started working, started getting back into the role of things, it was pretty
good. But then I got deployment orders again for six months after I had just returned.
As National Guard, that was a lot, because I wasn't ready.
So I needed to figure something out. I fought it. Unfortunately,
I got out because of a shoulder injury, but I also realized I needed
some counseling, so I went to the V.A. I started talking to other
veterans, talking about my experiences and all that to kind of help me get through it.
>> I think this project is important to break down barriers between civilians and the stigma
they have against veterans. It's just making them realize we're normal. You wouldn't
notice me walking down the street. I'm not going to start screaming at you.
There's nothing about me that says veteran. So they walk among you.
You don't notice them because they're just like you. They may have different experiences, but
they are fully capable of functioning just the way you are.
>> Former Navy Lieutenant John Ennis is the subject of the December-January edition of
"Still Serving," our program about former members of the armed forces who
continue to help veterans. Ennis has transitioned into a civilian career, but
he has participated in writing a best-selling novel to raise money for veterans' causes and
he serves on the board for a group that flies families to be with their loved ones
while they recover from wounds of war. Here's a quick peek.
>> Volunteering for veterans seems not only like the logical choice for me to do as one and
knowing so many of them across my time in the military, it was
something that I knew needed to be done. I think that if there are any causes out there particularly
in this country that writer and -- that require and really he
will is its an emotional response from the American people, it's veterans care.
There are no folks out there in any profession in America that answer the call more
presciently, that do more for the freedoms and democracy of the United States than military servicemen and women.
And we owe them the same level of care and concern that they put into their jobs to protect
us, to facilitate a more easy transition when they get home,
whether they're wounded or not, whether service members have been killed and is assisting
their families. There is so much that we can do for veterans, and I just wanted
to be a small part of that.
>> The December-January edition of "Still Serving" is available for viewing now.
"Still Serving" can be found on the V.A. homepage. Just click on "media room,"
then "video." You can also watch it on the V.A. Youtube page, V.A.'s
Knowledge Network, the Content Distribution Network, and the Pentagon Channel.
>> Did you know Nobel Laureate Andrew Schally, a research scientist
at the Miami V.A. Healthcare System, recently celebrated 50 years of service
with the V.A.? Schally won the 1977 Nobel prize in medicine
for his breakthrough work considered the foundation of modern
endocrinology and believes he's hot on the trail of compounds
that will revolutionize cancer treatments. Schally joined the
V.A. in 1962, has authored or co-authored over 2,300 research
publications, and although well into his 80's, shows no signs
of slowing down. Schally relocated to Miami after Hurricane Katrina
destructed his work in New Orleans. Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Chief of V.
A. Research and Development, helped Miami V.A. employees celebrate Schally's golden
>> That's all we have for this week's "V.A. News." I'm Brynn McGowan.
>> And I'm Chris Erbe. Have a great day and happy January.
Captioned by the National Captioning Institute