Saturday, August 2, 2008

Clinton, Schumer to carry Hall’s veterans’ benefits bill in Senate

Clinton, Schumer to carry Hall’s veterans’ benefits bill in Senate

WASHINGTON – New York’s two US senators have agreed to introduce in the Senate Congressman John Hall’s legislation to speed up the processing of veterans’ benefits.

The House earlier this week unanimously approved Hall’s bill. The bill would require significantly accelerated attention to veterans’ cases, particularly for vets who have suffered serious injuries.

Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton Friday announced they would introduce the bill in their house in hopes of improving the delivery of compensation to veterans, their families and survivors.

“As more and more service members return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA will face increased pressure to fairly and efficiently provide the benefits these men and women have earned,” said Clinton, “We owe our veterans a tremendous debt for their service to our country, but the current VA claims process burdens our veterans with bureaucratic obstacles and outdated rules.” She said steps must be taken to improve VA procedures to process claims and benefits in a timely fashion.

Schumer said the current VA system is “outdated and ineffective.” Our vets “deserve better than this and must be given the same level of committed care now and in the future.”

Hall, meanwhile, said he is “tremendously pleased” that Schumer and Clinton have signed on as Senate sponsors of the measure.

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How Do Vets View McCain?

How Do Vets View McCain?

From the McCain For President website:

John McCain has been a leader in Congress, fighting for all those who serve and their families, improving veterans' health care, providing veterans with the benefits they have earned, easing their transition to civilian life, and honoring the fallen. (Link)

I wonder how the various veterans organizations think he's doing?

— Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a grade of D for his record of voting against veterans. (By contrast, Obama got a B+.)

– Disabled Veterans of America noted McCain’s dismal 20 percent voting record on veterans’ issues. (Obama had an 80 percent.)

– In a list of “Key Votes,” Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) notes McCain “Voted Against Us” 15 times and “Voted For Us” only 8. (Obama voted for VVA 12 times, and against only once.)

I attempted and was unable to find any veterans group endorsing Senator McCain. If you know of some, let me know and I will post them.

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Guardsmen warned of possible chemical exposure

Guardsmen warned of possible chemical exposure

JASPER, Ind. — The Indiana National Guard is notifying nearly 600 soldiers who served in Iraq that they may have drunk water tainted with a carcinogen at an Iraqi treatment plant.

During a U.S. Senate hearing in June, senators learned that sodium dichromate — a cancer-causing chemical that can also cause breathing problems — was used at the Qarmat Ali water plant near Basra, Iraq.

Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson told The Herald of Jasper on Monday that the Guard has sent letters to most of the 140 current and former soldiers known to have been at that treatment plant between May and September 2003.

The addresses for 18 of those soldiers could not be found to send them letters notifying them of their possible exposure.

Thombleson said 448 other guardsmen are also being contacted to determine if they were ever at the plant. Of the 588 soldiers being sent letters, she said 138 are back in Iraq.

The letters encourage the soldiers to call a toll-free number to talk to medical personnel.

“We want to make sure there’s someone there that can answer any type of question a loved one may have or a soldier may have,” Thombleson told The Herald.

According to the testimony heard June 20 by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, sodium dichromate was used at the Basra facility as a corrosion inhibitor in water.

Indiana National Guard officials learned of the potential exposure June 27.

Paul Eckert of Jasper received his notification letter Friday. He served in the Guard for 10 years and was in Iraq with the Jasper-based 1st Battalion, 152nd Regiment from February 2003 to February 2004.

During his tour, Eckert went to the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant several times with a group to pick up water and supplies for their unit.

When he returned to Jasper in 2004, Eckert, 38, said he noticed a change in his health.

“I never snored or had breathing problems until I got back from Iraq,” he said Monday. “I have a lack of energy, and I didn’t know why. I’ve always been in top shape.”

Eckert also noticed blotches on his skin that burned and itched. When he got it checked out at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville, Ky., he said he was given a medicated lotion that didn’t help his condition, he said.

A fact sheet provided by the Guard states that exposure to sodium dichromate can cause sores in the nose and sores on the skin that tend not to heal.

Other symptoms include skin irritation, tearing and eye irritation, runny or bleeding nose as well as sneezing, coughing, wheezing and pain in the chest when breathing. Fever, nausea, vomiting and upset stomach are other symptoms.

Long-term exposure to the chemical can cause lung cancer, the Guard’s fact sheet says.

Eckert wonders if his late comrade, David Moore, might have been sickened by the chemical. Moore, of Dubois, died earlier this year from what doctors called interstitial lung disease.

While in Iraq, Moore escorted Eckert’s group to the water treatment plant and drank the water the team brought back, Eckert said.

Moore’s sister, Beth Pfau, said Monday that her brother had serious breathing problems after returning home in 2004. He saw specialists at Indiana University Hospital and elsewhere, but no one could figure out what was causing the problem.

“His breathing got worse and worse,” she said. “He was on oxygen at home for a while.”

Pfau said that in early January her brother checked into the VA hospital in Louisville, where he was eventually put on a ventilator. He was 42 when he died at the hospital Feb. 4.

Pfau said her family has not heard from the Guard but they plan to contact officials.

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Sexual assault in military 'jaw-dropping,' lawmaker says

Sexual assault in military 'jaw-dropping,' lawmaker says

A congresswoman said Thursday that her "jaw dropped" when military doctors told her that four in 10 women at a veterans hospital reported being sexually assaulted while in the military.

Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach said she was raped by a fellow Marine. A Marine has been charged in her death.

1 of 3 A government report indicates that the numbers could be even higher.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating the way the military handles reports of sexual assault.

She said she recently visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area, where women told her horror stories of being raped in the military.

"My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41 percent of the female veterans seen there say they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military," said Harman, who has long sought better protection of women in the military.

"Twenty-nine percent say they were raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and downward spirals many of their lives have taken since.

"We have an epidemic here," she said. "Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

As of July 24, 100 women had died in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

In 2007, Harman said, only 181 out of 2,212 reports of military sexual assaults, or 8 percent, were referred to courts martial. By comparison, she said, 40 percent of those arrested in the civilian world on such charges are prosecuted.

Defense statistics show that military commanders took unspecified action, which can include anything from punishment to dismissal, in an additional 419 cases.

But when it came time for the military to defend itself, the panel was told that the Pentagon's top official on sexual abuse, Dr. Kaye Whitley, was ordered not to show up despite a subpoena.

"I don't know what you're trying to cover up here, but we're not going to allow it," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said to the Defense official who relayed the news of Whitley's no-show. "This is unacceptable."

Rep. John Tierney, the panel's chairman and a Democrat from Massachusetts, angrily responded, "these actions by the Defense Department are inexplicable."

"The Defense Department appears to be willfully and blatantly advising Dr. Whitley not to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena," Tierney said.

An Army official who did testify said the Army takes allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously.

"Even one sexual assault violates the very essence of what it means to be a soldier, and it's a betrayal of the Army's core values," Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle said.

The committee also heard from Mary Lauterbach, the mother of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a 20-year-old pregnant Marine who was killed in December, allegedly by a fellow Marine.

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Mary Lauterbach said her daughter filed a rape claim with the military against Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean seven months before he was accused of killing her. Watch dead Marine's mom demand change »

"I believe that Maria would be alive today if the Marines had provided a more effective system to protect the victims of sexual assault," she said.

In the months after her daughter filed the rape claim, she said, the military didn't seem to take her seriously, and the onus was on "Maria to connect the dots."

"The victim should not have the burden to generate evidence for the command," Lauterbach told the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. "Maria is dead, but there will be many more victims in the future, I promise you. I'm here to ask you to do what you can to help change how the military treats victims of crime and to ensure the victims receive the support and protection they need and they deserve."

Another woman, Ingrid Torres, described being raped on a U.S. base in Korea when she worked with the American Red Cross.

"I was raped while I slept," she said.

The man who assaulted her, she said, was a flight director who was found guilty and dismissed from the Air Force.

Fighting back tears, Torres added, "he still comes after me in my dreams."

The Government Accountability Office released preliminary results from an investigation into sexual assaults in the military and the Coast Guard. The GAO found that the "occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported."

"At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 service members indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 service members indicated that they did not report the sexual assault," the GAO said.

The office found that the military and Coast Guard have established policies to address sexual assault but that the implementation of the programs is hampered by an array of factors, including that "most, but not all, commanders support the programs."

"Left unchecked, these challenges can discourage or prevent some service members from using the programs when needed," the GAO said.

Tierney said, "what's at stake here goes to the very core of the values of the military and the nation itself.

"When our sons and daughters put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us, the last thing they should fear is being attacked by one of our own."

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PTSD Influences Levels Of Depression And Pain

PTSD Influences Levels Of Depression And Pain

Psychology / Psychiatry News Useful Links

PTSD Influences Levels Of Depression And Pain
Main Category: Psychology / Psychiatry
Also Included In: Depression
Article Date: 22 Jul 2008 - 2:00 PDT

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Patients with accident or trauma related chronic pain often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. What isn't clearly known, however, is how PTSD relates to mood disorders and pain severity in chronic pain patients.

University of Michigan researchers examined the contribution of PTSD to the pain experience, functional disability and frequency of depressive symptoms. They studied 241 patients referred to the university hospital's pain rehabilitation program who reported their pain began after a traumatic injury. The subjects completed the McGill Pain Questionnaire and were administered the Pain Disability Index and the Post-traumatic Chronic Pain Test.

Results showed PTSD and depression are significantly correlated and both disorders are associated with perceived disability attributed to chronic pain. Therefore, in cases of disabling accident-related chronic pain with comorbid depression, symptoms of PTSD may be critical to understanding both disorders. The authors concluded that increased attention to treating PTSD as a primary focus in the rehabilitation of patients with chronic pain and comorbid depression is important when prior treatment efforts for pain and depression have not been successful.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Greatest "Swindle" of all time

Please distribute this far and wide to see if we can keep this up and running on Youtube. (The more that visit the site, the longer it stays up.) Use as needed on area TV Stations.

Send it to all your friends, relatives and your entire address book.

It’s the story of the broken promise made for a life time of healthcare to military retirees.

So many have completed their end of the deal and now they are without the promised healthcare.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

McCain Calls for Change in VA's Mission

McCain Calls for Change in VA's Mission

From CBS News’ John Bentley:

(SEDONA, ARIZ.) – The Veterans Administration should concentrate on treating soldiers with serious injuries and get out of the business of routine health care, John McCain said today.

“We have got to spend more effort and devote more time to the treatment of the battle wounds both seen and unseen,” McCain said, appearing via satellite at National Forum on Disability Issues. “I believe we need to relieve the burden on the VA from routine health care, put more of our assets in the unique capabilities of the VA for the treatment of combat wounds, both seen and unseen.”

McCain advocates giving each veteran a card that they can take to any doctor’s office, so the VA can concentrate on more serious, combat-related injuries, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“If you have a routine health care need, take it wherever you want, whatever doctor or health care provider and get the treatment you need, while we at the VA focus our attention, our care, our love, on these grievous wounds of war,” he said.

While McCain has been criticized for not supporting some types of funding for veterans programs because he believes they are not cost efficient or encourage soldiers to leave the armed services, the U.S. government spent over $80 billion on veterans in 2007, the largest expenditure in history.


CONFUSING MESSAGE -- Presidential-hopeful calls for

VA to get out of the business of "routine" healthcare.

Presidential-hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

There are lots of people trying to figure out what McCain means by this.

He wants the VA to get out of the business of "routine" healthcare and just treat "combat wounds."

This would mean that non-combat, service-connected conditions wouldn't be treated by the VA. This would mean that there would be no preventive medicine practiced at the VA.

A number of journalists have asked the McCain campaign for a clarification, but none has been offered at this time.

If McCain is being straight-up about this proposal, it would mean the end of the VA.

In the piece below, McCain again called for a "VA Card" that vets could use anywhere for their care. Again...this would mean the end of the VA. We have seen what happened when our military hospitals were closed and retirees were given a "card"...they ended up with an HMO (TRICARE) and many of them are paying dearly for their healthcare.

Even VA Secretary Peake is opposed to the "VA Card" concept, calling it "yellow-page medicine" and "potentially dangerous."

For more about McCain's "VA Card" proposal, use the VA Watchdog search here...

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Veteran needs your help

Veteran needs your help

Saddle up, River Region. A neighbor needs your help.

I'm passing along a request for prayer, and if you'd write a letter to your congressman or senators, that sure would help, too.

Joe Moody is a Vietnam Navy veteran who lives in
Deatsville. Like thousands of oth­er blue-water sailors who served our country during that unpopu­lar conflict, he has been denied service-related treatment for dia­betes mellitus, one of the diseases connected to Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide used in Vietnam. He has other diseases and medical problems associated with the diabetes and the poison.

Joe has had medical costs taken out of his Social Security check be­cause the rules of the Veterans Ad­ministration say only those who set foot in Vietnam are entitled to medical benefits related to Agent Orange.

But scientific studies show compelling evidence the Agent Or­ange that was sprayed in massive concentrations on the Vietnam mainland drifted offshore and were concentrated in U.S. ships' drinking water by the desalina­tion process. Too, sailors routinely handled supplies that had been ex­posed to Agent Orange.

Air Force and Navy veterans who flew over Vietnam have not been eligible for Agent Orange-re­lated medical benefits, either. Nei­ther have American veterans who served in Thailand. And they won't be, unless something changes.

Change may be in the wind.

As of last week, Joe has new hope -- somebody in Congress heard the cry for help.

Joe has not had much reason for hope. He has had the door slammed in his face repeatedly by Veterans Affairs officials. Earlier this summer, after years of ups and downs, a lawsuit by a Blue Wa­ter Navy commander against the DVA finally fizzled.

In desperation, Joe and several hundred members of bluewater­ mailed their Vietnam Service medals to Sen. Daniel Aka­ka of Hawaii and Rep. Bob Filner of California, respective chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs committees.

Chairman Filner called a news conference Wednesday to promote a bill that will provide benefits to all Vietnam veterans.

"If they were there, we should care," he said in a statement.

"We owe it to our veterans to fulfill the promises made to them as a result of their service," Filner said. "If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Or­ange and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would. And as a country at war, we must prove that we will be there for all of our veterans, no matter when they serve."

The veterans have been cheat­ed of their benefits, Filner said in the statement. Congress must act.

The Agent Orange Equity Act (HR 6562) is intended to clarify the law so every service member who received a Vietnam Service Medal, or who otherwise deployed "to land, sea or air in the Republic of Vietnam is fully covered by the comprehensive Agent Orange laws Congress passed in 1991."

Filner's bill probably faces an uphill battle -- but it should not. It transcends politics. It's the right thing to do.

Joe Moody volunteered to serve his country when that was not a popular thing to do. Vietnam vet­erans got the cold shoulder from their country and countrymen when they came home years ago and that hasn't changed since.

I believe most of our elected of­ficials would want this law to pass if they know about it, and I believe most of you would, too.

Rep. Terry Everett has an office at 3500 East Blvd., Suite 250, Mont­gomery 36116.

Two more local gentlemen, state Rep. Jay Love and Mayor Bobby Bright, are running for Mr. Everett's seat. Tell them what you think.

You can e-mail Sen. Richard Shelby at senator@shelby.sena­, or write him at 110 Hart Senate Office Building, Washing­ton, D.C. 20510.

You can write Sen. Jeff Ses­sions at 335 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510-0104.

Tom Ensey can be reached at 240-0192 or by e-mail at ten­ with ideas or suggestions for columns.

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Closing in on Vietnam spending

Closing in on Vietnam spending

WAR | U.S. outlay on Iraq operations: $648 billion

July 27, 2008Recommended (2)

WASHINGTON -- The total cost of the Iraq war is approaching the Vietnam War's expense, a congressional report estimates, while spending for military operations after 9/11 has exceeded it.

The new report by the Congressional Research Service estimates the U.S. has spent $648 billion on Iraq war operations, putting it in range with the $686 billion, in 2008 dollars, spent on the Vietnam War, the second most expensive war behind World War II. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. has doled out almost $860 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

All estimates, adjusted for inflation, are based on the costs of military operations and don't include expenses for veterans benefits, interest on war-related debts or assistance to war allies, according to the nonpartisan CRS.

The report underscores how the price tag has been gradually rising for the war in Iraq, which began in March 2003. In late 2002, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels estimated the Iraq war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion. A year later, L. Paul Bremer, then-chief of the U.S. occupation government in Iraq, said the war would cost $100 billion.

Yet the Iraq war has consumed less of the nation's gross domestic product than other pricey conflicts. The Iraq war's costs represented 1 percent of GDP in the peak year of the war. World War II, with a $4.1 trillion price tag in 2008 dollars, was nearly 36 percent of GDP and the Vietnam War was 2.3 percent of GDP in that wars' peak years.


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Closing in on Vietnam spending

Closing in on Vietnam spending

WAR | U.S. outlay on Iraq operations: $648 billion

July 27, 2008Recommended (2)

WASHINGTON -- The total cost of the Iraq war is approaching the Vietnam War's expense, a congressional report estimates, while spending for military operations after 9/11 has exceeded it.

The new report by the Congressional Research Service estimates the U.S. has spent $648 billion on Iraq war operations, putting it in range with the $686 billion, in 2008 dollars, spent on the Vietnam War, the second most expensive war behind World War II. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. has doled out almost $860 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

All estimates, adjusted for inflation, are based on the costs of military operations and don't include expenses for veterans benefits, interest on war-related debts or assistance to war allies, according to the nonpartisan CRS.

The report underscores how the price tag has been gradually rising for the war in Iraq, which began in March 2003. In late 2002, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels estimated the Iraq war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion. A year later, L. Paul Bremer, then-chief of the U.S. occupation government in Iraq, said the war would cost $100 billion.

Yet the Iraq war has consumed less of the nation's gross domestic product than other pricey conflicts. The Iraq war's costs represented 1 percent of GDP in the peak year of the war. World War II, with a $4.1 trillion price tag in 2008 dollars, was nearly 36 percent of GDP and the Vietnam War was 2.3 percent of GDP in that wars' peak years.


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Veterans seminar focuses on disability benefits

Veterans seminar focuses on disability benefits

Edition Date: 07/27/08

The Idaho Division of Veterans Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans will hold an informational seminar on VA disability benefits for veterans and their widows from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 12 at the DoubleTree Hotel Riverside, 2900 Chinden Blvd., Garden City. People interested in attending must pre-register by Aug. 7. The event is free and open to the public.

A focus of the seminar will be on the VA's non-service connected benefit, commonly referred to as an "Aid and Attendance" benefit, and how it may help eligible veterans or their surviving spouses pay for assisted living or skilled nursing care.

The event is open to veterans and their family members, care providers, social workers and others involved in veterans issues.

For more information call Gina Stamper at (208) 246-8761.

The Idaho Statesman is pleased to offer this opportunity to share information and observations about what's in the news. Some comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate but ask that you remain on topic. Comments that are profane, personal attacks or otherwise inappropriate are subject to removal. To register a complaint about another user's conduct, please send an e-mail to

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Tending to bonsai brings Killeen man peace

Tending to bonsai brings Killeen man peace

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) Thou shall not ignore thy tree.

If there were to be an 11th commandment, Ian Toland would say it should be something like that.

And he wouldn't be joking.

Trees are serious business at Toland's Killeen home.

For 10 years, he has dedicated two hours a day to the maintenance of his 125 bonsai trees.

''That's how I end my day out with the bonsais,'' Toland said. ''I like it that way.''

Tending to them caters to his desire to be outdoors.

''Never did I think I'd have to work at an inside job,'' Toland said, referring to his position as database administrator for the Killeen school district.

After eight years, Toland still is adjusting to life behind a desk. He misses his outdoor work the years he was a mechanic and in the U.S. Army.

''I'd still be working on cars if it wasn't for my shoulder,'' Toland said, explaining an injury that forced early retirement from the Army.

But he isn't bitter. If he'd not been injured, he would have never discovered the art of bonsai.


''My neurologist at the VA told me that I needed a soothing hobby that would relieve stress,'' Toland said. ''But it had to be one that didn't involve any heavy lifting.''

The outdoorsy Toland immediately looked to nature in search of something that would comply with his doctor's orders.

''Plants were always around when I grew up,'' Toland said. ''Before she died, my mom was a professional horticulturist, a landscaper in San Antonio. So we were always planting something. I guess the interest stuck.''

It was research and curiosity that led him to bonsai.

''I'm self-taught,'' he said. ''It was several years before I read the Bibles of Bonsai.''

His wife, Brooke, fetched two encyclopedia-sized books from another room. Toland's ''Bibles of Bonsai'' are the late John Naka's ''Bonsai Techniques, Volumes I and II.''

''John Naka was a Japanese master of bonsai. He moved to the USA and lived in California and wrote these books,'' Toland said. ''Everything I figured out on my own was supported in his books.''

The neurologist never learned what became Toland's hobby of choice. But Toland said the doc' would be pleased.

''It's very relaxing,'' he said.

Using gardening as a way to cope with anxiety is called horticultural therapy. Common among veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, studies show that it can improve self-esteem, mood and muscle tone.

''Bonsai is without stress,'' he said. ''It's about creation, concept and design. It's beauty.''

And it's been a welcome addition to his family life.

''My wife has her favorite ones that she likes to keep an eye on. And Tanner, he's 7, he waits for me to get home from work, so that he can say 'Daddy, it's time to go water the bonsais.' And Dale, he's 9, he likes to help plant seeds.''

The dad is a frequent guest at the boys' school as well.

''They want me there on Career Day,'' Toland said. ''But the teachers are more interested in bonsai than my real job.''


Bonsai may be relaxing, but it certainly isn't dull at least, it isn't for Toland.

With a vocabulary full of terms like ''Bibles of Bonsai,'' Toland applies humor in his homage to the ancient tradition.

If Toland shares one of his bonsais as a gift, his wife said he makes the recipient promise to return it ''if it goes bad.''

''People will think they want a bonsai,'' she said. ''But they don't realize how much work goes into taking care of it. It's not uncommon for it to come back.''

Toland nurses them back to health.

''It's bonsai rehab,'' he said, ''in the Toland Hospital for Criminally Neglected Trees.''

Orphan bonsais find their way to his house too in what he calls ''foster care.''

''I watch bonsais for friends while they're out of town,'' Toland said.

Sometimes trees appear without warning.

''They just pop up in the pots, trees that we didn't plant,'' Toland said. He calls them ''volunteers.''

''Surprise seeds,'' his wife said, starting to explain. ''A seed from somewhere else had to fall in the dirt, one from the wind or one that landed on one of the other plants.''

A couple of months ago, Toland gladly welcomed the presence of a crepe myrtle volunteer.

''I started to bonsai it,'' he said. ''It was doing great until it got this hot.''

The crepe myrtle bonsai isn't a lost cause, though. As he does for the rest of his trees, Toland will continue to care for it, forever readying it for spring.

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Last living WWI vet from Missouri

Last living WWI vet from Missouri

World War I, the war to end all wars, ignited on the European continent in 1914; collateral conflicts eventually surfaced in the far reaches of the globe.

The United States entered the war in 1917, and when the fighting stopped Nov. 11, 1918, several million U.S. military personnel began the process of returning to their homes and the routine of a peaceful society. At least for now, many felt they had made the world a safe place again.

Dec. 20, 2007, J. Russell Coffey of North Baltimore, Ohio, died at the age of 109. His passing left only two U.S. veterans of World War I: Harry Richard Landis, 108, of Sun City Center, Fla., and Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, W.V., who turned 107 Feb. 1. Landis died Feb. 4, leaving Buckles as the living legacy of the millions of U.S. citizens who made up the military might of our country in the Great War.

But what a strange, unique coincidence it is both Landis and Buckles were born in Missouri, the state which also produced two of the most iconic characters of World War I, Harry Truman and John Pershing.

Not to be forgotten, the only known Canadian veteran remaining lives in Spokane, Wash. John Babcock served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force 1916-18. He joined the U.S. Army in the 1920s and became a U.S. citizen in 1946. As of Jan. 20, 2008, France had one known veteran left from the war; the only known German veteran remaining died Jan. 1.

As late as 1997, the United States had approximately 6,800 World War I survivors, with Missouri alone claiming about 200. The last two World War I veterans living in Missouri were 105-year-old Jacob Robb, who died March 4, 2004, and, his brother, the Rev. Fred Robb, who died March 28, 2005, at the age of 108. They grew up at Wentworth with Fred serving in both World Wars.

Harry Landis

Harry Richard Landis, one of eight siblings, was born Dec. 12, 1899, on a farm near Palmyra. He enrolled in what now is Central Methodist College in Fayette, joining the Student Army Training Corps Oct. 14, 1918.


Drilling in the morning and attending classes in the afternoon, Landis and his fellow recruits got their uniforms a piece at a time, acquiring all of it just before the war's end.

In addition to a good deal of marching, Landis spent many hours cleaning an on-campus, make-shift ward for Spanish influenza victims. Though millions died worldwide from this pandemic, Landis' ability to resist illness saw him through. Even at the time of his death, his uncanny, healthy constitution permitted him to require only eye drops as a daily medicine.

After the war's end on Nov. 11, 1918, Landis' military unit disbanded. He made another effort to serve his country in 1941, but was rejected as too old.

Taking the role as a teacher and coach for several years after college, Harry then worked in private business with the S.S. Kresge Company, which later became better known as Kmart. He moved to Florida in 1988 with his wife Eleanor, who is herself 100 years old. His first wife Eunice died after 46 years of marriage. Landis' remains were to be interred beside hers at Gower.

Frank Buckles

Buckles was born in Harrison County, a few miles south of Bethany Feb. 1, 1901. His birthplace was only about 50 miles from the rural Laclede childhood home of Gen. John Pershing, commander of all U.S. forces in Europe in the World War I.

Moving later to the small community of Coffey (Davies County) where Frank started school, the Buckles family then bought a farm in Vernon County near Walker in 1910. At Walker, Buckles was only 25 miles from the Lamar birthplace of Harry Truman, who served as a captain in the 35th Division of the Missouri National Guard Field Artillery before finding a new home in the White House a few years later during another world war.

Buckles attended school in the Walker District until December of 1916, his sophomore year, at which time the family made another move.

Oakwood, Okla., then with a population of about 300, became the new home for the Buckles clan. During the move, Buckles escorted a boxcar load of draft horses and farm equipment - riding in the boxcar with the horses.

Buckles attended school and worked at a bank in Oakwood until the summer of 1917. The United States had entered the European conflict in April, and the ambitious, patriotic Buckles did not intend to miss out on the adventure. After a series of failed attempts to join the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy, the determined 16-year-old was able to outlast the scrutiny of the U.S. Army recruiting office in Oklahoma City and enlisted Aug. 14, 1917.

Until this time, Buckles was known only by his birth name, Wood Buckles. He meshed his name with that of a relative, Frank Woodruff, to satisfy the U.S. Army's requirement of three names for each soldier.

An old sergeant advised the fastest way to the action in France was in the Army Ambulance Service, so Buckles signed up and was sent to Fort Riley in Kansas for training in Ambulance Service and Trench Retrieval. His 102-man unit was titled the First Fort Riley Casual Detachment. They set sail for Europe from Hoboken, N.J., in Dec. 1917, aboard the H.M.S. Carpathia, the ship that sailed to the rescue of the White Star Liner Titanic's survivors in 1912. Several who had participated in the rescue still were aboard the Carpathia.

The unit was eventually based near Winchester, England, where Buckles served as a driver for an ambulance, as well as for visiting dignitaries.

Buckles finally garnered the opportunity he coveted when he was assigned to escort an officer to France. Once there, he was given various assignments at several locations in the war-torn country. After the Armistice Nov. 11, 1918, he was assigned to a prisoner of war escort company, whose job it was to return German prisoners back to their homeland.

He returned to the United States in January 1920 on the U.S.S. Pocahontas. After business school and a postal job, he was hired by the White Star Line Steamship Company in Toronto, Canada, as well as the Great Northwest Telegraph Company.

In 1921, he took a position with the prestigious Banker's Trust Company at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in New York City. He eventually returned to the shipping business, working several years with passenger and cargo ships around South America. In 1940, a new shipping position took him to Manila in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Japanese invaded in December 1941.

As a result, Frank was held prisoner for 3-1/2 years, first at the Santo Tomas prison camp, and then the Los Banos prison. He and his fellow prisoners were rescued in a daring raid Feb. 23, 1945, by the U.S. 11th Airborne Division.

Buckles married in 1946 and eventually moved back to the area near Charles Town, W.V., where his ancestors settled in the 1730s. His wife Audrey passed away in 1999, but Frank still helps manage his 330-acre cattle farm with his daughter and son-in-law.

For a man of 107 years, Buckles still has a very sharp mind and memory. He enjoys discussing events in his life and answering his mail, having done numerous interviews for historical societies and veteran projects. His travels and experiences go well beyond what can be managed in this article. It would be a major understatement to say he has led a full life, and still enjoys each day as it comes.

In our cell phone and computer constricted age of jet travel and space shuttles, it is difficult to imagine the different world Frank Woodruff Buckles grew up in, being born two years before the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. It is hard for us to grasp the thoughts of a man who crossed the Atlantic with rescuers of the Titanic's survivors. We would struggle to put ourselves in the mind of a man who conversed with World War I German prisoners as they trekked toward their homeland across the muddy, alien moonscape of 1918 France.

And Frank's post-war memories of international travel and being held prisoner himself, as well as his peacetime life, are enough for a separate story. But we can be proud of, and thankful for, the contributions Buckles and people like him have made toward our world in both peace and war.

We can acknowledge and be grateful for the sacrifice of time from the prime years of their youth they willingly gave toward a noble cause. And as the sun slowly sets on a time and world that can seem surreal for us to contemplate, we can vow to do one important thing - remember.

And people of Missouri should know and be proud of the fact their state's rural regions have produced such fine men as John Pershing, Harry Truman, Harry Landis and Frank Woodruff Buckles.

Mike Shores is a Lockwood junior high school social studies teacher who enjoys American history. He interviewed Frank Buckles via telephone and in person.


I envy Mike Shores his chance to speak with Frank Buckles, my father is basically or would have been the same age, my father was born Feb 24 1900. My father and his brother Gideon were put into the army in 1914 after their mother died by his step sister and her husband, they did not want to care for the boys. So they got them in the Army, they were both sent to the same unit D Troop 7th Calvary based in Douglas, Arizona a border town. They rode in the Mexican Expeditionary force under General John "Blackjack" Pershing after Pancho Villa, they were lucky they were discharged before the US got involved in WW1 and like Mr Buckles they were judged to be to old for WW2. My dad spent WW2 building tanks in Michigan. I imagine Mr Buckles could tell me a lot about the Army back then and the lifestyle he and my dad would have shared or at least similar experiences.

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