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September/october 2008

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / President's Message / Government Affairs / Member Notes / Veterans Healthcare / Homeless Veterans / Veterans Incarcerated / POW-MIA / PTSD / AVVA / Chapter 172 / Books In Review / Ross Grego Remembered / Anthony Russo / Letters / The Locator / Reunions / Taps / American Medals / Messer at the BVA

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During the opening session of the VA’s 2008 National Summit on Women Veterans’ Issues, which was held June 20-22 in Washington, D.C., Under Secretary for Health Michael J. Kussman promised to make all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Women Veterans Program Manager positions full-time, a goal that exceeds VVA’s Resolution WV-4-03. Kussman also promised that VHA would establish women veterans’ clinics at all VA Medical Centers, although no timetable was given. In addition, he has established a work group to ensure that every woman veteran has access to a primary-care provider who is competent in women’s health issues.
VVA participants at the conference, held once every four years, included Marsha Four, who chairs the VVA Women Veterans Committee; Sandy Miller; Connie Christensen; and Sara McVicker.

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By Ted Jorden
When Carolyn Cedillo began to experience occasional lapses in memory, she dismissed it as a sign of advancing age. But the memory failures became more frequent and she developed other physical problems, including dropping things. She grew unresponsive when spoken to and developed difficulties with her speech. Her husband Cid took her to see their family physician who admitted her into the hospital. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Worse, the tumor was malignant. Doctors told the family that radiation therapy was all that could be done, and they should take her home.

The family immediately sought other doctors and hospitals better equipped to fight this malignancy. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston agreed to see Carolyn Cedillo and confirmed the original diagnosis. But where previous doctors offered little hope, doctors at M.D. Anderson suggested an aggressive course of innovative cancer treatments. Surgery was performed, and 90 percent of the tumor removed. Then came an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy combined with radiation treatments. The treatment continued for several months, but afterward the prognosis was good.

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BY MARC LEEPSON, photos by Michael Keating

When you attend a VVA National Leadership Conference, you have to make choices. And that was certainly true with this year’s LC, which took place July 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. With many of the three dozen seminars offered concurrently over four days, conferees had to prioritize. On Thursday morning at 9:00, for example, Jim Lynch, the President of Chapter 905 in Porter County, Indiana, decided to take in the two-part Heath Care Issues seminar. It dealt with hepatitis C and Agent Orange and birth defects. Lynch, a veteran of eight VVA Conventions and Leadership Conferences, is mighty glad he chose that session.

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Sometimes while serving in Iraq, Jason Mouret would be drenched in sweat, fear clinging to him like his clothes. He would calm himself by thinking about the advice he had been given by someone who had seen it all, years ago.

Amid the terror and the tedium and the constant confusion, he heard a voice that gave him insight and suggested alternate courses of action. And when the action started and the battle raged, he had a friend and elder brother-in-arms who whispered, Be brave, Be strong.

This counsel and comfort came from letters from home, from Louisiana. At first, Mouret said, “it was a shock. My commanders looked at me like, ‘What’s up?’” The letters were stamped “inmate correspondence.” They were mailed from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Bill Kissinger served at Udupai, Thailand, and at Cam Ranh Bay in 1970-71 with the U.S. Air Force. For the past 19 years, he has been serving time at Angola. He’s a founder and the chair of Camp F VETS and president of VVA Chapter 689.

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By Philip Caputo

In print now for more than thirty years, it’s easy to take Philip Caputo’s Vietnam War memoir A Rumor of War for granted. Don’t. Powerfully written, painfully eloquent and precise, Caputo’s book is a classic.
We asked the former Marine lieutenant if we could run an excerpt from his book. It follows. We also asked him to write an essay especially for The VVA Veteran. Look for it in the November/December issue.

Dust spots appeared where bullets pecked the earth, and then a whorl of gray smoke rose from behind the ridgeline, followed immediately by the flat explosion of an M-79. The runner led me to Peterson, who was standing with studied calm next to his radio operator. The skipper told me to put my platoon in defilade beside a hill that stood at a right angle to the ridge.

This we did. Tester’s platoon was in front of mine, strung out in a long file against the hillside. Hot and winded, we squatted to wait while 1st platoon made a frontal assault, that quintessential Marine maneuver. It was nothing like those choreographed attacks we had practiced at Quantico or on Okinawa. The marines were more or less on line, bunched into knots in some places, spread apart in others. Some men were falling behind, some pushing out ahead and firing from the hip. A few seemed to be scrambling hand over hand where the slope was very steep. My imagination persuaded me that I saw the Viet Cong on the ridgeline. If I did, I did not see them for long. Several greenclad figures suddenly appeared on the crest. Then I heard a rhythmic popping that recalled the sound of a rifle range.

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