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A troubled veteran, a patch of desert and a perfect tribute

A troubled veteran, a patch of desert and a perfect tribute

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David Fields, a 69-year-old U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, stared at the American flag flying near the opening of an otherwise empty area of desert in Henderson.

As the wind picked up early Tuesday afternoon, so did the sounds of the flag flapping, snaps and pops in staccato bursts. The flagpole atop a mound of brown dirt bent very little, if at all. Surrounding it were broken pieces of cement, each painted red, white and blue.

“The guy who put that flag up did it solidly,” said Fields, who contacted the Review-Journal about the flag. “It’s nice to see someone putting up a flag instead of desecrating it. You can’t help but wonder about who the patriot is who did it.”

At the bottom of the flagpole were yellow cards — information about how homeless military veterans could get help.

As Fields talked, a car slowed at the corner of Dondero Drive and Harris Street. It stopped by a guard rail painted red, white and blue, with an arrow pointing to the nearby flag. “This reminds me of the flag flying at Iwo Jima,” yelled the driver, who walked over to the flag. He introduced himself as Joe Siriani, a 72-year-old Vietnam-era U.S. Marine.

“I wonder who did this,” Siriani said as 17-year-old Juan Cuellar walked up and shared what he knew.

“I think I saw him sleeping here this morning, under that blanket,” Cuellar said. “I never saw his face, but I bet it was him. It’s cool what he’s done.”

The man who put up the flag a week ago appeared Tuesday night. Lucas Patrick Payton said he was homeless and pointed to where he slept: in a hammock between two trees. In the glow afforded by the battery-powered lights he placed around the flag, he seemed younger than his 35 years. He laughed frequently.

“I want to bring attention to homeless veterans,” he said. “They deserve better.”

Payton said he didn’t do as well as he would have liked in the Army, but he added that what he learned has helped him be a better person. “Sometimes I got in trouble because of my sense of humor. Once I ran around with my gas mask on like a Tasmanian Devil. Another time I didn’t come back from leave on time.”

Payton’s military records reveal he entered the Army in Albany, New York, in 2002 and was forced out 18 months later in 2004 for “misconduct.” Given a general discharge, the man trained as a mechanic is eligible for few benefits. “I’m not mad at the Army,” he said. “I made my own problems.”

After leaving the Army, Payton said he came to Las Vegas to visit a friend. For awhile he installed satellite TV and had his own apartment. But he said a car he was a passenger in was hit by a drunken driver, and as a result he couldn’t work while recovering. A friend took him to California, and he started living on Venice Beach. He put up a flag on the beach, a story that made its way to YouTube.

“People liked I was helping vets,” he said. “People gave me money to live on just like they do now. I don’t panhandle.”

He said he seldom has problems with the law, but Payton admits returning to Las Vegas after spending 120 days in jail in California. Records show a conviction on drug charges — methamphetamine.

“I made a mistake,” he said.

Las Vegas Justice Court records show a Lucas Patrick Payton dealt with string of misdemeanors from 2006 to 2013, with charges ranging from domestic violence to trespassing.

As I talked with Payton late Tuesday night by the flag, Henderson police drove up. Three officers. We were told to drop everything and put our hands in the air. Their spotlight was blinding. We put our hands on the hood of one police car as they checked our identification to see if we had any outstanding criminal warrants.

I told them I was doing a story on the flag.

“I think what’s being done with the flag here is great,” an officer said.

As the officers drove off, Payton couldn’t have been happier.

“The police said they like my flag,” he said. “Isn’t that great?”


I’m a Veteran and I’ve Waited Over 10 Years for Disability Benefits

I’m a Veteran and I’ve Waited Over 10 Years for Disability Benefits

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My name is Leonard K. Jackson. I’m a single father of two daughters and a peacetime veteran living in Georgia. After serving overseas in the U.S. Army from 1980-1983, I’ve suffered from a range of physical and mental health issues. Like so many veterans, I rely on Veterans Affairs for my medical care and benefits. And, like so many veterans, I know that an improved veterans appeals process would mean a better life for both me and my family.

In 2001, I filed a claim for service-connected benefits but I was denied those benefits for injuries that happened to me while on active duty. I submitted several letters from VA doctors as evidence to back up my claim. These doctors agreed that my injuries happened while on active duty, and are service-related, yet my claim was still denied. I didn’t know what to do. I had no help, and barely knew how to file an appeal, so I let it go.

Around 2011, I opened a new claim. This time around, after getting some advice from other veterans, I did file for an appeal. I am still awaiting that decision. When I call to check on my status, they always tell me that it has just been assigned to someone, or that they are working on it.

There is a deep frustration in waiting two or three years for an answer, constantly sending new evidence to make your case — through email, mail, and fax (just to make sure) — only to one day be told no.

I suffer from depression, PTSD, and other mental issues on a daily basis due to my time in the military. It’s as if, on top of that misery, there’s an added layer of pain and frustration that comes with fighting to get a straight answer on the status of my benefits.

The biggest issue is that whenever I submit new evidence, my case basically goes back to the start of the process. So, the worse my conditions get, the further away I get from someone making a final decision on my claim.

Now, I don’t believe the VA as a whole is at fault. After all, the VA doctors who treat me believe in my case. I have been to the Atlanta regional office and met with a nice lady who agreed that I had some good evidence and that she would try to help me. But I do believe that the system could serve veterans better.

That’s why I am relieved that the Obama administration is working with the VA to provide a more simple and streamlined appeals process, giving us veterans multiple pathways toward settling a claim, and making sure that our initial claim date is preserved, rather than punting us back to the beginning of the process every time we file new evidence. This proposal would allow most veterans who file an appeal to receive a final decision within one year by 2021.

I am counting on this change. It would mean relief from the constant stress of wondering whether my case is being looked at, or whether it is just gathering dust, or whether there’s more I could do to fight for my case.

I know I cannot speak for all veterans, but I know that there are many veterans out there suffering from worse injuries, whose cases are even more desperate. This is a simple step that would benefit all of us. I hope that Congress does the right thing to make this a reality.


Oklahoma City funeral home inviting the public to attend unclaimed veteran’s funeral

Oklahoma City funeral home inviting the public to attend unclaimed veteran’s funeral

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An Oklahoma City funeral home is inviting the public to attend a funeral for an unclaimed veteran.

Mark Wayne Howell, 55, passed away at his Oklahoma City home on April 22, 2016.

OK Cremation and Funeral Home announced on its Facebook page that since Howell is an unclaimed veteran, the funeral home will be having a service with military honors that is open to the public.

“We would like to invite anyone to join us in honoring this veteran for his service to his country,” the funeral home said on Facebook.

When the group “Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said” got word that Howell had no family, the group asked their 1 million followers to “make sure that service is overflowing with troops and veterans to give our brother a proper send off.”

“No veteran should be laid to rest alone, so we want to make sure we PACK THAT SERVICE with his brothers and sisters in arms for a final send off. Dust of the dress uniforms, come in duty uniform if that is all you have and of course all veterans can wear what they want,” ASMDSS wrote on their website.

Funeral services for Howell will be held Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. at OK Cremation and Funeral Home Chapel, located at 2415 N Walnut Ave. in Oklahoma City.

Mark Wayne Howell was born February 15, 1961 in Harber City, CA to John Wayne Howell and Joan (Nolan). After graduating from high school, Mark enlisted in the US Air Force on Feb. 1983 in Boise, Idaho. He was stationed at Tinker AFB and was assigned to the AWACS unit. He received the Air Force Unit Award and Air Force Training Ribbon. Mark received an honorable discharge on Sept. 19, 1985. Mark worked as a computer programmer until his health declined. He passed away on April 22, 2016 at his residence in Oklahoma City at the age of 55. Mark is survived locally by his friends. Funeral services will be held on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 10:30 AM at OK Cremation and Funeral Home Chapel with military honors. Mark will be laid to rest at Ft. Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, OK.

Donations in honor of Mark Howell can be made to Honoring America’s Warriors.

OK Cremation and Funeral Home, LLC

last Thursday


We are honored to be providing services for Airman First Class Mark Wayne Howell. Mr. Howell passed away Friday, April 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, Mr. Howell is an unclaimed veteran and our funeral home will be having a service with military honors on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 10:30 in our chapel located at 2415 N. Walnut Ave. in Oklahoma City. We would like to invite anyone to join us in honoring this veteran for his service to his country. After the service, a procession will take place to Ft. Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, OK.

ASMDSS Nation! CALL TO ACTION! We got word that a Veteran in OKC will be laid to rest ALONE this Thursday. The funeral home wanted to get the word out so that there would be people to pay their respects.

As a veteran community we have done it before, its time to do it again. Lets make sure that service is overflowing with troops and veterans to give our brother a proper send off.

All the details for the service are at the link, help us get the word out.



A focus on veterans

A focus on veterans

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For Elizabeth Biney-Amissah, an M.P.A. candidate from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), volunteering to serve local veterans was a no-brainer.

“I heard ‘veterans,’” said Biney-Amissah before she hopped on a bus with 14 Harvard students to travel to a homeless shelter in Quincy on Friday. “I heard ‘giving back,’ I heard ‘impact,’ and I wanted to be part of it.”

At the shelter, which serves homeless vets and others in need, students prepared and served a meal, helped clean a storage shed, and did minor landscaping as part of Veterans Impact Day, a service initiative hosted by the HKS Center for Public Leadership and organized in part by student veterans.

More than 150 students from Harvard and other Boston-area colleges participated in the event, which stretched across six locations. Some helped veterans with resume-building and job searches, both at the JFK Veterans Administration Center in downtown Boston and at a Pine Street Inn facility in Chelsea. Others went to the Navy Yard in Charlestown to spend the day with active-duty sailors and take part in cannon fire drills and rowing races.

One group cleaned wheelchairs, helped with landscape maintenance, and greeted patients in the lobby of a hospital for veterans in West Roxbury. Another met with Navy personnel to come up with ideas to bridge divides between civilians and the military. For lunch some students had MREs, meals ready to eat, used by the military in combat zones.

Civilians and the military can learn from each other, said Professor David Gergen, co-director of the Center for Public Leadership.

“Your coming together today is very symbolic of what happens and can happen to your generation,” said Gergen, speaking to an audience of students and men and women in uniform at HKS. “It represents the future. You’re spending the day together, learning from each other about leadership techniques on each side. It’s a marvelous opportunity.”

Before students went on to do their service, they received words of advice and wisdom from a panel of veterans whose careers are example of resilience and bravery. The group talked about their war experiences and the important role the community plays in helping veterans transition from military to civilian life.

“When a soldier comes back from the battlefield and tries to reintegrate into society, there is no playbook for that,” said Army Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He added, “We have to rely on the community to help us get through that challenging period.”

The panelists agreed on the value of resilience and it how it can be achieved by learning from defeat and by taking life one moment at a time.

“If you’re going to run the marathon and you only think about the end, which is 26 miles away, that’d crush you,” said Dan Cnossen, HKS ’16, a former Navy SEAL who lost his legs during his service in Afghanistan and is now a Paralympian. “Take it a mile at a time.”

Skelton, Cnossen, and the other two panelists, Josh Mantz, an Army vet of the Iraq War, and Kristen Kavanaugh, a former Marine, commended the students for their participation in the day of service.

HKS student Vaiba Flomo, a peace activist in her home country of Liberia, said her involvement was an act of gratitude.

“I’m here to serve,” she said, “I’m here to give back to the community.”


Soldiers, wounded veteran start Everest climb to put spotlight on PTSD

Soldiers, wounded veteran start Everest climb to put spotlight on PTSD


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On his last duty assignment in 2013, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett served over the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was there that the highly decorated Purple Heart recipient was destined to meet Harold Earls, a freshman and “plebe” who was on the academy’s baseball team.

What began as a few questions Earls posed to Burnett about preparing for Army life turned into daily phone calls, meetings and conversations. Burnett became a mentor to Earls, and the two discussed everything from how to successfully captain the baseball team to working through ideas that Earls wanted to turn into a reality.
One of those dreams involved creating a team of the first active-duty soldiers to climb Mount Everest.
Unwittingly, this turned out to be a way for Burnett to put the spotlight on his own goal: to highlight the suffering of veterans.
Life after war
Burnett holds the record for surviving the most improvised explosive device attacks in the Army: more than 45 over his 30 years of service.
But in 2011, he began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and having suicidal thoughts. Anxiety would overtake him, and his moods would shift. On trains, he wanted to sit at the back to keep his eyes on everyone and prepare for an attack that wouldn’t come. He startled so easily that he would jump at the cry of a baby.
For years, Burnett had always pushed forward, jockeying back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan. But at West Point, life slowed down, and he was overtaken with guilt, wondering why he had survived so many blasts when others weren’t as fortunate.
Burnett believes that veterans struggle after combat because they become used to someone checking on them. When they return home and are expected to partake in normal life, it’s a challenge.
“When something triggers their PTSD and they feel like no one cares, they can make bad decisions,” Burnett said.
His wife of 26 years told him, “I love you to death, but I need you to see somebody.” He attended an inpatient program with the Army on pain management, working in groups that went on outings to experience golf, art and other outlets to help manage their anger. Surrounding himself with people who cared and finding new outlets helped Burnett “get beyond it and get better.”
‘Everyone has their own Everest’
To Burnett, Earls’ quest for Everest looked like the perfect chance to shine a light on veterans suffering in the dark. One in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been diagnosed with PTSD, which accounts for nearly 300,000 veterans, according to George Washington University.

Putting a small group together to create ties while achieving the unattainable was not unlike the Army, creating trust and an intense life experience they would never forget, Burnett told Earls. It could also enable the forging of bonds between soldiers old and new.
“I think the rate of suicide among veterans is driven by PTSD because they don’t have another person … they can call in the middle of the night when they struggle,” Burnett said.
An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States.
Together, Earls and Burnett founded the nonprofit organization U.S. Expeditions and Explorations, or USX, to shed light on the uphill battle veterans experiencing PTSD and suicidal thoughts face each day. USX also provides the chance for active-duty service members and veterans to go on team-building expeditions and participate in research initiatives together.
But the first goal is for this team of two active-duty soldiers and one combat-wounded veteran to make it to the top of Everest by Memorial Day weekend.
To take on the mountain, Earls used his outreach at West Point and went through other organizations to recruit a team of sergeants and captains. Emmy-winning director and best-selling author Sebastian Junger will film the expedition to document how everyone has their own form of Everest, be it a literal climb or battling PTSD. More than half the net proceeds raised by the climb will go toward helping soldiers who are struggling with PTSD.
“Amidst camaraderie, you can find a sense of purpose and bonding,” Earls said.
Climbing to combat stereotypes
For retired Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, this is personal. He was a lead gun truck commander on a supply convoy in northern Iraq when his vehicle was struck by an IED on December 17, 2006. The blast shattered his heel bone and broke his femur. He then contracted MRSA in the operating room, which destroyed the many bone fragments in his heel. Jukes chose to have his right leg amputated below the knee and to replace it with a customized prosthetic.
Although he battled waves of PTSD after losing his leg, Jukes found solace and relief in nature. Undeterred by his amputation, he pursued his high school hobby of rock climbing and also took up ice climbing, leaving him primed to take on Everest.
“Climbing, for me, whether it’s a mountain or an ice route, is a very present activity, like meditation,” Jukes said. “It forces me to have a clear mind, and it’s relaxing because out there, nothing else matters.”
Also on the team is 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy, who has long pursued things that many do not naturally associate with women: field artillery in the Army and Alpine climbing outside of it. She hopes being the first female active-duty soldier to climb Everest will inspire others to challenge themselves.
She likens being on a rope team for a climb to being deployed. “Their lives are in your hands. You’re roped together, and if one falls, you all fall,” she said.
For her — and many veterans — the war may be winding down, but the soldiers will continue to suffer from what they have seen and experienced. “It’s never over for them,” she said.
The challenge begins
Beginning Monday, the USX team — Jukes, Medvigy and Earls — will be climbing the north side of Everest. The route is somewhat less scenic than the more popular south side, but it comes with the bonus of fewer crowds. The downside is that the north side is more technical, the camps are higher, there is more exposure to the elements, and helicopter rescues aren’t possible because they can’t go up that high.
Jukes has the added challenge of making sure his prosthetic leg is up to the task. He will have to be mindful of frostbite and maintain the hygiene of his amputated leg, as his prosthetic fits over his residual limb and doesn’t allow the skin there to breathe. He must stay warm and clean to prevent the skin breaking down.
But a challenge is nothing new to the USX team.
“PTSD is so different for so many people,” Jukes said. “I think a lot of veterans have a feeling of hopelessness, and it feels as though the anxiety will never end. I want them to realize it doesn’t have to be a permanent thing.”

Park 16 years in the making pays tribute to Vietnam veterans and their letters home

Park 16 years in the making pays tribute to Vietnam veterans and their letters home

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It’s been nearly 47 years since Marine Pvt. Ernie Pinamonti was killed in Vietnam by small arms fire, and 16 since his grieving father donated land for a park in his son’s memory.

Carl Pinamonti died in 2007 without ever seeing the memorial built, but earlier this week the park he called “Ernie’s Place” finally was dedicated.

For the last five years, two of Ernie’s six siblings, Mary Ann and Rico Pinamonti, have worked with the northern San Diego County city of Vista to create a park that honored not only their brother’s heroism and sacrifice, but also that of many others who fought and died in the war.

The centerpiece of Veterans Memorial Park, built on a narrow 1-acre site at South Santa Fe Avenue near East Broadway, is a bronze statue of Ernie by a reflecting pond, reading a letter from home. The statue is surrounded by walls and walkways embedded with porcelain tiles that were engraved with dozens of letters from Vietnam written by Ernie and others.

“Don’t worry about what I have said. I am so healthy I can’t get a day out of the field and you know I’m too damn mean to die.” — Army 1st Lt. Dean Brooks Allen, in a 1969 letter to his wife, four days before he was killed by a land mine.

Mary Ann, who was 18 when her brother died, and Rico, who was 4, said they were pleased they could finally achieve their father’s vision — but they didn’t expect the punch in the gut it delivers nearly every time they visit.

“It comes in waves,” Mary Ann said. “I didn’t realize how exposed I would feel seeing Ernie’s letters out here in public. This is our family’s story. People come and they cry and they’re very moved. It’s more difficult than I expected it would be.”

“It’s really getting short now. Only 338 days left. I’m really proud of myself. Fifty-four days in Vietnam and I don’t have so much as a little scar.” — One of Ernie’s last letters to his parents, written eight days before he died while running to rescue a fellow Marine near An Hoa Combat Base in May 1969. He was 19.

Ernie didn’t tell his parents, Carl and Mary, when he secretly enlisted in the Marines, figuring he’d get a shorter deployment. They were deeply concerned but supportive during his basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and at Camp Pendleton. Mary Ann rode with her parents to March Air Force base in March 1969 to see him off, never imagining it would be the last time she’d see him.

Ernie’s death devastated his parents, who would eventually divorce. Carl was a developer and, in 2000, he donated a 3/4-acre parcel on Guajome Street to the city with the agreement it would be used for a Vietnam memorial. But Vista didn’t have the money to build the park, so the land sat vacant.

Carl died seven years later, then Mary in 2011. That year the city came to their adult children and offered to exchange the Guajome parcel for land on South Santa Fe, which it would pay to maintain in perpetuity if the family could underwrite the artistic and memorial monuments. With $100,000 raised through donations and in-kind services from friends in the construction business, the family’s vision took shape.

The park includes a children’s play area, one of Carl’s wishes, and the statue by Oregon sculptor Rip Caswell, who used photos of Ernie to create his likeness, including the correct style of uniform and boots and even the dog tags (taped together to avoid noise in the bush) that he would have worn.

The letter in the sculpture’s hand begins with the words “Dear Ernie.”

In his letters home, Ernie told his parents how mail time was the highlight of his day, a sentiment shared by other letter-writers featured at the park.

“For a while as I read your letters, I am a normal person. I’m not killing people, or worried about being killed … but proud to be an American and Marine and fighting in the company of men who make this world safe for ice skating, department stores and lampshades.” — Marine Capt. Rodney Chastant, who died in October 1968, a year after writing this letter reassuring his parents he enjoyed the trivial details of their news from home.


Veteran Groups Sue Federal Agency Over Lejeune Water Claims

Veteran Groups Sue Federal Agency Over Lejeune Water Claims

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Three veterans’ groups have sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over its handling of claims about contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

Multiple media outlets report the lawsuit was filed by Vietnam Veterans of America; The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten; and the Connecticut State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America.

The lawsuit says between 1953 and 1987 nearly one million Marines, sailors, civilian employees and family members unknowingly “drank, cooked with, and bathed in contaminated water” at Camp Lejeune.

Henry Huntley, a public affairs specialist with the Veterans Administration, told The Daily News of Jacksonville that he was not familiar with the lawsuit and could not comment.

WNCT in Greenville, North Carolina, reports the lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Connecticut with assistance from a veterans legal service team at Yale Law School.

The lawsuit challenges the department’s system set up to handle claims stemming from the medical problems suffered by those exposed to the water.

The groups say the claim approval rate has dropped from 25 percent to 8 percent since the program started in 2012.

The lawsuit says a group of 30 doctors works under the agency’s Subject Matter Expert Program and the veterans groups have not been able to determine the panel’s credentials and qualifications.

Those suing say they are also concerned about what they see as a selective implementation of the claims review panel.

“Camp Lejeune veterans are the only veterans that have been subjected to this so-called subject matter expert program,” said Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine and founder of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten.

All other veterans file normal claims, but the VA has a Camp Lejeune Task Force, Ensminger said he learned this week.



Veteran plans to open new vet center in Spokane

Veteran plans to open new vet center in Spokane

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A local veteran is getting attention from state officials because he wants to bring a new veterans center to Spokane.

Nick Richardson started a group called Greater Veterans. He is working on a new place for veterans called the EVAC, or Every Veterans Assistance Center.

The EVAC is a place where vets can get financial help and career assistance among other activities.

Richardson is a veteran himself, serving in the U.S. Army from 1999 until 2003.

He met with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers a few weeks ago to gain state support for getting veterans the help they need. He said the center will bring more veterans together, and better options.

“Not every veteran wants to sit and talk to someone,” he said. “Not every vet wants to sit and swallow a bunch of pills to take care of whatever issues they have.”

Richardson said having a blue collar approach to things will allow veterans to help themselves.

“More self service,” he said.

Greater Veterans is working on fundraising efforts to make the EVAC come to life.

Richardson is also reaching out to other avenues, such as country star and fellow veteran Joey James.

“I know how hard it is to go from being a veteran to being back in the real world you know,” James said. “I am really honored to work with Greater Veterans.”

A concert will be held in September to help raise money for the EVAC.




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Crews in Orange County were working hard for an important cause Monday morning as they were relocating a special military building to its new permanent location at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

It was history moving on wheels as the former Memorial Gardens building was moved from its current location on the east side of the property to its new permanent space on the south side of the O.C. Fairgrounds as part of the Heroes Hall veteran’s museum.

Transport crews began around 9 a.m. and used equipment similar to what was used to move the shuttle Endeavor.

The historic two-story building was an infirmary on what once was an army air base during WWII, before it became the O.C. Fairgrounds. A ceremony was held honoring the preservation of the building, which will be the centerpiece of the new veteran’s museum.

“This is hollowed ground, where 50 of those pilots trained here who went to WWII. Many of them did not return,” said Nick Berardno, a veteran.

The $3.8-million state-of-the-art exhibit will be available all year on the 150-acre property. It is expected to open on Veteran’s Day.

“It’s a little bit of history, and I want to be part of it,” said Bill Sandlin, also a veteran. “In Orange County, we do not have enough sites for veterans like this, and I think that this will be an ideal place for it.”




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Five brothers raised in the Valley will fly out to Washington D.C. to take part in the Central Valley Honor Flight.

It’s not often that you get a family of five who live in different parts of the country together, but when you do, there’s a lot of laughter and reminiscing about old times.

But their stories of brotherhood are not all fun and games, the men of the Fries family are all veterans.

“I served two years just at the end of the Korean War,” Bob said.

“World War II, Korea, I was in the service 20 years,” Donald said.

“I was in late World War II in the Marines,” Richard said.

“I was in the Merchant Marines and I was in World War II for two years,” John said.

“I was in the service for 2 years and during the Cold War,” said Harry.

The Fries brothers served their country from the Battle of the Bulge in WWII to the Vietnam War.

Though they fought in different wars, they will all board a plane Monday at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport and head off to Washington D.C. to visit the National World War II Memorial.

The trip organized by the Central Valley Honor Flight, which recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements.

“It’s really neat that a small group can get together and send veterans back there and do that what they do for us,” Harry exclaimed.

For Richard, this trip is a way for him to pay his respects to friends he lost.

“I was very lucky I didn’t get over on the same draft with a lot of the people,” he said. “I went through retraining and ended up in the Chosin Reservoir and I lost a whole bunch of people I knew there.

The brothers say they are appreciative for the trip of a lifetime and the volunteers who will make an experience they say they will likely never forget.

“We’re calling it our last hurrah,” the brothers said.