Entries in Veteran (8)


Army Vet Runs Across Country Planting Flags for Fallen Soldiers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GALVESTON, Texas) -- At each mile marker he crossed on his 2,146-mile trip from Minnesota to Texas, Mike Ehredt stopped running for a moment to plant a flag representing a fallen American soldier.

On his journey, Project America Run, he has jogged 26 miles a day across the country to memorialize soldiers who died in the Afghanistan war. In 2010 he ran from Oregon to Maine to honor those who died in Iraq.

"It's to honor and say thank you to those that died in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "I stop each mile, put a flag down that bears the name, rank, and hometown, in the numerical order of their deaths, and it creates an invisible wall across the country. I just wanted to do something for them, something genuine and pure that no one would replicate."

Ehredt, a 51-year-old Army veteran from Idaho, will be joined by hundreds of marathoners Sunday in Galveston, Texas for the last leg of his run to the Gulf, which began back in August. The marathoners will accompany Ehredt for the last 10 miles through the city, and then Ehredt will run the last mile alone, as he has many of the 2,000 before, and will plant his last flag at the edge of the water.

"There's a lot of satisfaction in that. Just being able to create that wall (of flags) from north to south and touch the water of the Gulf, you can't really explain it," he said.

Ehredt will speak at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston about his experiences later in the day, as well, as part of Veterans Day weekend. Ehredt said he's sure he'll field many questions about how a 51-year-old man's body can withstand 26 miles of running each day for 81 straight days.

"I never looked at the big picture," he said. "Never looked at the Gulf or the Atlantic. I just knew I could go out and move forward for five, six, eight hours. Like going to work."

A grandfather of three with a fourth grandchild on the way, Ehredt said he is more enthusiastic about Project America Run than he ever was during his working years.

"I can honestly say if I was this enthused about my work when I was working for the post office as much as I was enthused about this I would never have retired. I'm enthused about getting up every day," he said.

Part of his joy, he said, is knowing that he is remembering the fallen soldiers who fought overseas, soldiers whose families hear about his project and are grateful their son's or daughter's life is being remembered."

"I stayed with a family who had lost their son, and I had a mother meet me where her son's flag was being placed," he said. "There was even a lady from the Houston paper who did five miles with me, and I put flag in her hand, with the name on it, and it kind of gets them. It's powerful."

The trip from Minnesota to Galveston, Texas was meticulously plotted so that the number of miles would match the number of soldiers who died in Afghanistan. In each city, a host family, arranged ahead of time, has housed him and fed him.

Ehredt said that the 67 families, many of whom are associated with the American Legion or veterans' groups, were his favorite part of his days on the road.

"Sometimes they will think you want peace and quiet after your day, and put you up in a hotel and take you to dinner, but I prefer to stay at the homes because there's a community, and you learn from them, and learn about the area. I've been talking to myself all day. I'd prefer to talk to other people."

He also said the encounters he's had on the long stretches of road, especially through the scenic highways of Tennessee, southern Mississippi and Louisiana, have been highlights.

Ehredt's family, including his grown children who live on the East Coast and his partner who lives in Idaho, checked in periodically as he made his way south. His partner will join him in Galveston for the grand finale, he said.

When he is finished, he said, he will head home with her and get started on "a honey-do list a mile long" before running another marathon in three weeks.

"In a way it's bittersweet," he said. "I've been fortunate to see the country on foot from Oregon to Maine, and then to do it again to see even the Deep South now. It's sad that it all comes to an end and I'll never experience America like this again."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


93-Year-Old Bedridden War Veteran Casts Vote

Comstock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- Nothing in the world was going to stop 93-year-old Frank Tanabe from voting in this year’s election. With the help of his daughter Barbara, the bedridden World War II vet filled out his absentee ballot.

His grandson, Noah, posted a photo to the website Reddit of Tanabe filling out his ballot in his hospital bed in his daughter’s home in Honolulu.

“My sister just happened to be standing with her smartphone and decided to take a picture because she wanted to send it to family members on the mainland to show that my dad was still able to fully engage in activities that are very important,” Barbara Tanabe told ABC News.

Two months ago, Tanabe was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous tumor in his liver. Because of his condition, he can’t really speak, Barbara Tanabe said, but he was adamant about getting in his vote.

“I said, ‘This is for president,’ and I read him the four names on the ballot,” Barbara Tanabe said. “Then I went back and said, ‘Okay, Dad, now nod or shake your head for each.’”

Politics has always been important to Tanabe, a father of four and grandfather of five, his daughter said. In 2008, Tanabe and his wife, Setsuko, attended a rally in Honolulu for Hillary Clinton when Chelsea Clinton came.

“He and my mom were very big fans of Hillary Clinton because there was a possibility of having a woman break the barrier,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Tanabe is originally from Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington. He was pulled from college and taken to the Tule Lake internment camp in California after the start of World War II.  There, he volunteered to join the Army.

In 2008, the University of Washington gave Tanabe and several other second-generation Japanese students honorary degrees.

The photo of Tanabe on Reddit got tons of attention, with many people commenting about his patriotism and thanking him for his dedication.

“The fact that so many people viewed it and were inspired was very, very surprising and heartwarming for us,” Barbara Tanabe said.

One of the people most moved by Tanabe’s desire to vote was his grandson, Noah.

“He said from now on for the rest of his life he’s going to think about grandpa every time he votes, and that is a wonderful legacy,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Purple Heart-Winning Army Vet Playing Football for Clemson This Fall

Clemson SID Office(NEW YORK) -- Sports fans may refer to the football field as a place of battle, but Army Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez knows better.

"When I go to school I think of it as such a blessing to be alive.  I thought I was going to die," said Rodriguez, 24, of Clemson, S.C.  "If I die tomorrow, I'll live life to the fullest.  I don't complain anymore.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking something and then remind myself: hey, you're not in Afghanistan."

Rodriguez, a starter on the special teams for the Clemson Tigers this fall, spent four years in the Army and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He fought in a major battle in the mountains lining Pakistan, the Battle of Kamdesh, in October 2010.

"It was definitely an environment of combat," he said.  "I was furthest north on Pakistan border, rough terrain, we didn't have showers, one meal a day, we washed ourselves with baby wipes, there was fighting constantly.  We lived pretty much in a cave in the side of a mountain, and we ended up getting overrun, five months into our tour, during the Battle of Kamdesh."

Rodriguez took a bullet in his shoulder and shrapnel in his leg, though he says now that he was lucky compared to some of his best friends.  Eight soldiers died in the battle, and 21 were injured.  Rodriguez was awarded 16 medals for his bravery and service in the Middle East, including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

It was his time in the Army that shifted his perspective on life in the United States, Rodriguez told ABC News.  When he returned home, he began taking classes at a community college and playing football again, rising early each morning to train.

His friends encouraged him to make a highlight reel to impress college coaches, as high school athletes sometimes do, but Rodriguez felt that old highlights wouldn't showcase who he had become.

"I hired a production company to kind of shoot me working out, doing drills, and then they had me putting in highlights, and me telling my story," Rodriguez said.

He sent the video to schools, but they requested he make it easier to view and share, so he uploaded it to YouTube as well.

"The next morning I had 6,000 views.  Within a month it had 300,000 views," he said.

Clemson coaches, along with coaches from about 50 other college football programs, contacted Rodriguez.  He also received dozens of emails, text messages, and letters from fans that had seen his YouTube video; he replied to almost all of those messages, he said.

This summer, he began playing first-string on the special teams for Clemson.  He has played in two Atlantic Coast Conference games so far, helping the team score its first two victories.

"It's what motivates me," he said.  "A lot of people come back from war with the factor of what they've seen and gone through and it cripples them, but I find it liberating and inspiring.  I mean the horrors of war are real, I've lost over 20 friends to war.  But we fought for our country and now I can come home and do what I always wanted to do."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Volunteers Work to Provide Wounded Iraq Vet with Custom Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MCLEAN, Va.) -- After months of renovations, a wounded Iraq War veteran and his wife are ready to move into their new home, thanks to the efforts of a volunteer project that customizes homes for wounded veterans.

Capt. Patrick Horan was serving in Iraq in 2007 when he was struck by a bullet that penetrated his skull and exploded.  Horan was airlifted from Iraq to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where doctors removed half his skull, said his wife, Patty Horan.

"He had trouble speaking, but he also had trouble with the motor function of his mouth, just forming the words," she said.

For the past five years, Horan and his wife have moved around the country to get Horan the care he needs.  At last, they have a permanent home of their own, near family members and care givers, in McLean, Va.

"This house symbolizes enjoying life and just starting anew," said Patty Horan.  "We can actually live life again instead of living 10 hours a day in a hospital.  That's what we've been doing for five years."

Funding for the renovations came from a $10 million grant the Sears' Heroes at Home program gave to Rebuilding Together, a national volunteer home rehabilitation organization, specifically for veterans' housing, said Lee-Berkely Shaw, director of development at the Montgomery County, Va., chapter of Rebuilding Together.

Skilled and unskilled volunteers worked together from May until Tuesday morning to help rebuild the Horans' home, Shaw said.

"The family becomes probably the single greatest part of a veterans' recovery," said Tom Aiello, division vice president for Sears' Heroes at Home.  "And Patty is Patrick's lifeline.  She is his care giver, and she is his sense of normalcy."

The Horans had been looking for a home since the summer of 2011.  They were outbid on a house in Bethesda, Md., but found the McLean house in February.  But it had to be redesigned so that Patrick Horan could get around on his own, said project manager John Lowe.

"When you're working on a house, it's really important to know who you're accommodating, and in this case, what their injuries are," he said.

Lowe said that since Patrick Horan had been shot on the left side of his head, the right side of his body was extremely compromised.  The remodeling had to take this into account.

They had to add an elevator, make the master bathroom handicap accessible, lower the counter tops in the kitchen, widen doorways and swap door knobs for levers.

"It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to do the elevator, and then another $20,000 to do the bathroom," said Shaw.

Shaw said Monday was the first time that Patrick Horan had seen the home since the work began so many months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Injured Occupy Oakland Protester Identified as Iraq War Veteran

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- The group Iraq Veterans Against the War has identified the demonstrator who endured a skull fracture after Occupy Oakland protesters clashed with police Tuesday night.

According to the organization’s statement, Scott Olsen, also a member of Veterans for Peace, was “shot in the head with a police projectile while peacefully participating in the Occupy Oakland march.”

A news release from Mike Ferner, Occupy Oakland’s interim director, said that Olsen’s condition was stable but serious.

Olsen, 24, a former Marine, did two tours of duty in Iraq before leaving the military in 2010.  Formerly of Wisconsin, he now lives and works in Daly, Calif.

On Tuesday, a number of clashes erupted between police as a group of nearly 500 protesters marched from the main branch of the Oakland Public Library to City Hall to reclaim the camp they’d been evicted from earlier in the day.

According to Ferner, a video with slow-motion footage showed police tossing a flash-bang into a group of people standing around someone in the street, though it was not clear whether Olsen was the person on the ground.

Authorities have denied reports that they used flash-bang canisters to help break up the crowds, saying the loud noises came from large firecrackers.

During a late-night news conference, Oakland Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters that authorities had no other choice then to use tear gas, saying the protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at officers.

According to Ferner’s statement, a Veterans for Peace member, Josh Sheperd, who’d witnessed Olsen’s injury, said that after police fired tear gas, bean bags and flash-bangs and warned demonstrators to leave, “people in the rear of the crowd threw eggs at the police.”

The statement from the Iraq Veterans Against the War said that Olsen was sedated at a local hospital and would be examined by a neurosurgeon.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iraq War Vet Dies in Unlikely Air Tank Explosion

Zigy Kaluzny /Getty Images(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- An Iraq war veteran planning a diving expedition with two friends in Florida was killed Sunday morning when the scuba tank he was carrying exploded.

Russell Vanhorn III, a 23-year-old former Marine originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was carrying the tank into the parking lot of an apartment complex in St. Petersburg, Fla., when it ruptured. Vanhorn was treated for severe traumatic injuries at St. Petersburg General Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.

"The explosion was so big it damaged vehicles within 100 feet of the incident," said, Lt. Joel Granata of St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. "I've never seen anything like this."

St. Pete Fire and Rescue says Vanhorn was preparing for a scuba diving trip with two friends who live in the one-story apartment complex. They were both inside the apartment when the explosion occurred and were not injured.

"When we arrived we noticed the front door of the apartment was blown out, and the man was in the doorway -- half in, half out," said Granata.

The blast caused damages to several vehicles in the apartment complex parking lot, including broken windows and chipped paint. One car even suffered a door being blown out completely.

Granata said fire and police investigators along with a local dive master reported to the scene immediately. They inspected the remaining scuba supplies, checked pressures and bled the air out of a remaining nine tanks that were inside the apartment. The Tampa Bomb Squad also reported to the scene as a precaution.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Vanhorn learned to scuba dive at Camp Pendleton while serving in the Marine Corps. The Times quotes Vanhorn's father as saying that his son aspired to begin a career in scuba diving with another friend from Iowa.

Jill Heinerth, a technical diving expert and legal consultant, said this particular scenario is unusual but added that scuba tank explosions are not unheard of.

"Pressurized tanks can explode for a number of reasons," said Heinerth. "If a tank were to fall over for instance, and the oxygen valves move to an on position and let's suppose there's a source of ignition like a car that's running, if these mix then you've got all the right components for a massive explosion."

Heinerth stressed the importance of following the federal scuba guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Divers should have their tanks visually inspected by a certified technician once a year and every five years a hydrostatic test must be performed. If divers are using anything other than air in their tanks then they should have the tank oxygen cleaned annually by certified technicians.

Heinerth also recommended that people get their tanks filled at a reputable air fill station or dive shop to ensure they have clean air and that it's filled properly, this will lessen contamination that could potentially lead to an explosion.

Puetz said the St. Petersburg Police are investigating to determine if the tank was properly filled with oxygen, had proper attachments and determine if Vanhorn was carrying the tank when the explosion occurred or if he had set it down at the moment.

Vanhorn's friends have had to vacate their apartment, which police have boarded up.

Vanhorn is expected to be laid to rest in his hometown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Last American WWI Veteran, Frank Buckles, Dies at 110

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Frank Buckles, America's last living veteran of World War I, died on Sunday. He was 110.

Buckles passed away Sunday at his West Virginia farm, where he lived out the last half-century of his life in relative obscurity until a Pentagon ceremony in March 2008 honored him as the last living veteran to have served in the U.S. military during World War I.

As a 16-year-old Missouri farm boy, Buckles wanted to volunteer for the fight in Europe, but had been turned down by both the Marines and the Navy because he was too young. But he hoodwinked an Army recruiter into believing he was older than he was and he was sent to Europe.

"You lied to get into the Army?" reporters once asked him. "I didn't lie!" he said. "Nobody calls me a liar; I may have increased my age."

As an Army corporal he drove ambulances in the United Kingdom and France. After the armistice, he guarded German POWs and assisted with their transfer back to Germany.

After the war, Buckles would go on to sail the world as a ship's purser before making a fateful decision to take a steady job in the Philippines in 1941. It was there that he was captured by the Japanese and endured 39 months in a notorious Japanese POW camp from which few would emerge.

In his last years Buckles' newfound celebrity saw him heralded as America's last tangible tie to a war that saw nearly five million men take up the uniform to fight. He would even be received in the Oval Office by President George W. Bush.

On Monday, President Obama issued a statement on Buckles' passing, noting that "Frank Buckles lived the American Century."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pelosi Breaks Ground on Disabled Veterans Memorial

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – On the eve of Veteran’s Day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke ground on the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial at a ceremony in front of hundreds of disabled and able-bodied veterans.

"In the name of all veterans, past, present and future, we break ground today to ensure that time does not dim the glory of their deeds," Pelosi said.

Pelosi shared a personal story Wednesday as she recalled a memory of her uncle, Johnny D’Alesandrio, who died in the Battle of the Bulge. She said her father mourned his brother’s death daily, but took pride in the sacrifice he made for the country.

"As we approach Veteran’s Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the patriotism, the courage and service of all men and women in uniform, whether they’re in the theater of battle or wherever they serve our country," Pelosi said.

Pelosi also took a moment to applaud the bipartisan effort in Congress to extend benefits to American veterans. She also noted that a continued effort is needed to ensure veteran’s health does not become privatized.

Upon completion in 2012, the memorial will be the only permanent public tribute to America’s disabled veterans.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio