What are we doing for the Homeless Veterans in the Philadelphia area?

Penn State alumna, Cara Colantuono went on to start Support Homeless Veterans (SHV) — a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness among U.S. veterans in the Philadelphia region. Nation wide the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stated there are over 37,000 veterans that are homeless in any given night.

“She believed that our veterans are the heart and soul of the nation.”  “Thanking veterans for their service isn’t enough. We can’t expect men and women who have spent years in military systems to simply adjust to civilian life — it’s really up to our communities to care for them.”

In her role at Impact Services, Cara Colantuono worked with veterans in the organization’s transitional housing program who had dual diagnoses; meaning they suffered from drug or alcohol addiction, as well as conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. She noticed that while temporary transitional housing programs were a great resource, they often fell short in fully supporting veterans with dual diagnoses.

“Once the veterans left transitional housing and went out on their own, they would relapse because they just weren’t ready to be alone,” she said. “Sometimes transitional housing isn’t enough for veterans with more complicated backgrounds — they need more.”

Support Homeless Veterans (SHV), was founded to provide long-term, family-oriented living for homeless veterans in the Philadelphia region. Alternative housing options for veterans in need, including  transitional programs, shelters and boarding homes don’t provide the ‘family atmosphere’ that’s really required to combat ongoing mental health and addiction issues.

Camaraderie is a major part of being in the military. People join the military because they are willing to would ‘die for their country’ but they stay because they would ‘die for one another’. The same theory applies here. The veterans in a stable home environments support one another.

Since its founding in 2011, Support Homeless Veterans (VHV)  has housed more than 100 veterans and served approximately 750 through its other programs. Currently, the nonprofit has six active homes that support 22 veterans. Initial story written by Michael McDade, February 07, 2017

The tiny houses project was started by the Veteran Community Project (VCP). Former Missouri Secretary of State and former U.S. Army Intel  Officer Jason Kander, decided he was going to do something after he personally ran into some of the road blocks of seeking help from suffering from his P.T.S.D. (post-traumatic stress disorder). He had connections and he still had problems, so a normal veterans with problems really suffers.  

Tiny houses might work in rural or suburban area, but communities must be willing to accept them. Some communities push back. In a large city like Philadelphia abandoned buildings could be converted in apartments with common areas on the lower levels. Right now, rising living cost are driving veterans into the streets.

H.G.M.

 

 

 

Dr. West, Selected as one of the Best

Dr. Gladys Mae West was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018.  She was one of the ‘Hidden Figures’ that was responsible for the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the space program. 

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When she tells her story, she realized early on, that she didn’t want to work in the Virginia tobacco fields or the factory like the rest of the family. So when she heard that the top two high school students would receive a full-ride scholarship to college, she got busy. As a results, she graduated as the 1948 class valedictorian. She chose to major in math at Virginia State University, the first fully-supported state university of higher learning for Black students.

In 1956 she got a job with the Naval Proving Ground ( now called The Navel Surface Warfare Center). She worked for the Naval Center for 42 years and retired in 1998. Navy Captain Godfrey Weekes, Commander of the Naval Surface Center, Dahlgren Division said that she rose through the ranks but had no idea that her  would have such an impact on the world. She put her head down and continued to do the work.

She was also honored by the State of Virginia for her contribution. She was accompanied by her family. Her contributions to GPS were only uncovered when a member of West’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, read a short biography West had submitted for an alumni function.

Women are an integral part of American history, even Black women. Now because of  films like Hidden Figures their stories are being told.

The information is available because of the internet but you must ‘selectively search’ for it. Now you can hear from women who are making history.  When you learn the all of the history then you get a better appreciation.  Katherine Johnson who recently passes at 101 years said that we must search until we find what we need.

H.G.M.

American Space Pioneer passes at 101

Katherine Johnson recently passed on to glory (Aug. 29, 1918 – Feb. 24, 2020)  but her story was told in the 2016 movie ‘Hidden Figures’.  She was the first African American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics  became critical to NASA space flight success. In 1961 John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth asked for her ‘by name’ to verify the numbers of the main frame computer.

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Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the book Hidden Figures, made an unique observation …The astronaut who became a hero, looked to this Black Woman, in the still-segregated South to make sure his mission would be a success. For every hero who get a ‘ticker-tape parade’ there are countless other support people, most never hear about.  

Katherine Johnson overcame a lot of racial and gender barriers and tells her own story to Cathy Lewis of WHRO Public Media. She started off as a member of a ‘minority female pool’ called “West Area Computers”, their job was to preform mathematical  calculations to help the engineers, which were all white males.  Katherine was so  good that they forgot to return her to the pool.  

Katherine Johnson worked for NASA’s Langley Research Center for 33 years. While everybody was concerned about the U.S. getting into space,  she was concerned about getting them back home safety. As a results she is no longer a hidden figure, she became a “Shinning  Star”.

When asked to name her greatest contribution to space exploration Katherine Johnson talked about the calculations that helped sync project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the Moon-Orbiting Command and Service Module. At the age of 97 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the Unites States President Barrack Obama.

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She didn’t receive a ticker-tape parade but she had some buildings titled with her name. Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s Administrator called her an ‘American Hero’ who pioneering legacy will never be forgotten.  Hopefully little girls all over the world will learn of her fame.

H.G.M.

Dorie Miller to receive a special Honor

When ordinary people, do extraordinary things, during difficult times, they inspire others. In the Michael Bay, Jerry Buckheimer,  block buster movie “Pearl Harbor”, Cuba Gooding Jr. portrays the Mess Steward, Dorie Miller.

Miller manned an anti-aircraft gun and returned fire to aircraft during the attack on Naval forces during the  Pearl Harbor attack.  As a result he was awarded the Navy Cross by Navy Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1942. 

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Now (2020) the Acting Secretary of the Navy  is going to name the next aircraft carrier after him.  An air craft carrier is a symbol of American might; most are named after Presidents. History will be made, if it happens, because Dorie Miller was the grandson of slaves and the son of a share cropper. He served as a mess attendant in a segregated military and was not trained to fire weapons.

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I enlisted in the US Air Force to escape the assembly line in Detroit. I missed the battles in the jungles of Vietnam.  But ended up in the sand of Libya North Africa during the time of Col. Muammar Gadhafi. This was in the late 1960’s and there was still unrest in America. The military was officially desegregated but there were some who resisted change.

I was part of a small group of enlisted personnel that went in to see the ‘Black Base Commander’, to air some grievances. He listened to us then told us what to do. As a Tuskegee Airman, he understood where we were coming from, but we still had to do our job and if we didn’t, he would put us in jail, and throw away the key.  His name was Daniel ‘Chappie’ James Jr. and he was the ‘Black Colonel’  who became the First African American Four-Star- Generals for the United States Air Force.

H.G.M.

Smoke, fire and flame is part of my fame.

 I’m a two time military veteran ( Air Force Sergeant and US Army Captain) and I’m still sane. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things: Where there is smoke, it is usually followed by flame.

I purchased an old original copy of “Harper’s Weekly a Journal of Civilization” many years ago. It was dated January 6, 1866. Soon as I got it, I had it professionally framed, and matted. Harper’s Weekly featured illustrations of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The lithograph beneath the title cover, featured a ragged old man sitting on a tree stump. He leans on a tall walking stick, as he views barren land. In the background, is what was looks like a burned out chimney stack, of what was once, a little shack. At his feet lies an old whip, which was once covered with blood and dirt.

Beneath the photo is a small caption that reads; ‘The Last Chattel’.

That was the smoke, this is the flame. I recently read a book, and put some of the words of  it, in a frame. I titled it Fred remembers his grandmother   Memories from one of the most famous chattel.

She was remarkable, but unsung because she was born under bondage. She served the old master from youth to old age. She was the source of all his wealth. She had become the ‘great grandmother’ for all under his command. She populated his plantation with twelve children.

She rocked him in his infancy, attended him in his childhood, she served him throughout his lifetime, and raised his children’s children. At his death she wiped from his brow, the cold death-sweat, and closed his eyes forever.

She however, saw her own children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren divided, like so many sheep.

In the end, she became very old, having out lived the old master, and all his children, having seen the beginning, and the end of them all.

Now the present owners, find her to be of little value, because her frame is now weak and frail, with the pains of old age, over a body that was once active for many years. She is now seen as completely helpless, so they take her to the woods, built her a little hut, with a small mud chimney, and leave her to make do with whatever she can find.

She lives in total loneliness; she stands, she stumbles, and she falls, but there is no one to help her. There is no one to wipe the death-sweat from her wrinkled brow. There is no one to even place the sod beneath her fallen body.

How can this be? In the land of liberty; sometimes we forget, that there was bond and there was free. There is a difference between the ‘Christianity of the land’ and the “Christianity of Christ”. One is good, pure and holy while the other is bad, corrupt and wicked. To be friend to one, means one must be an enemy to the other. – Frederick Douglass in 1845 from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Fire can warm your body and your heart, and it can heal, or destroy your soul your very soul. 

I never met my mother’s mother (Bessie Green-Smith) because she died when my mother was only eight years old. Maybe that’s why my mom gave give birth to 14. She only ‘knew of her father’. When mom was checked into the convalescence home, we flew in from around the country; she was not left in the woods to fend for herself, and when she died at the age of 90, I learned the rest of her story.

The father she barely knew, was a Native American who kept count of all his offspring DURING his lifetime. When my mom was born in 1919, she was the last of HIS 33 children.

The roots run deep and there are many branches. Some of the branches broke off and some of the branches bloomed. I consider myself a late bloomer. At seven zero I decided to become my own hero. I didn’t just follow the crowd, I blazed my own trail. I claimed it, I framed it, and I put it in a book.

As a Quartermaster Officer, Issued resources to help soldiers to ‘survive and win’. As a writer with a warrior spirit I want you to ‘thrive and win’. I write to feed the brain, not entertain. It’s serious business to leave a powerful message behind, so I made some of it rhyme and some of it flow, but it’s designed to make YOU think before you fall into the brink.

As a blogger, I give you my link so you can read how I think: Standing in the Shadows, Listening to the Greats!!! Is my written story. If you don’t write YOUR own story, no one else will.

H.G.M.

Earl E. Hackett

Words for thought during the election cycle.

CBS Sunday Morning featured Mo Rocca’s new bookThe Reconstruction and Death of Representation. Most people would think that the 1950’s or the 1960’s would be the first time an African American served in the US Congress.  But this famed lithograph features the first African Americans of Congress after the Civil War  – All of them Southerners and Republicans. Least we forget, Abraham Lincoln was the “Republican President” who emancipated the slaves and fought to “preserve the Union and save “Democracy”.

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Hiram Revels from Mississippi was elected first. He had served as a Chaplin to Black Regiments during the Civil War. He filled the seat of Jefferson Davis who left his seat in the US Congress to become the President of the Confederate States of America. Only two of the men were born free the rest were slaves of other people.

D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation” was claimed a cinematic hit (as a two time US military veteran, I saw it as a propaganda tool); it portrayed Black legislators as uncouth and drunks while the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed as the heroes and protectors of the White Race. All US military members, pledge to protect the Constitution of the United States of American against all enemies foreign and domestic. We fight to give people have the right to protest, but intimidation is a federal offense.

When I was in high school back in the 1960’s, Reconstruction was treated as a footnote. It was the dark ages of African American history.  Dr. Henry Louis Gates has published a couple of books on the subject like Dark Sky Rising; Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow.

The Compromise of 1877 was a informal unwritten deal that settled the intensely disputed 1876 US Presidential election. It resulted in the United States government pulling troops out of the South which ended the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

Terms of the 1877 comprise

  1. Removal of all federal troops from Confederate States; North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia  Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee.
  2. Appoint one Southern Democrat to Hayes cabinet
  3. Start another construction project of the Transcontinental Railroad using Texas to the Pacific.
  4. Provide legislative help to restore the economy of the South
  5. Allow the states to use Home Rule without Northern/Federal interference

Progress was swept away with pseudo-governmental State government rules and regulations that disfranchised African Americans with Jim Crow laws and segregation.

If we don’t listen closely to the candidates and examine their record, we may be in trouble again. Greed and corruption is a human condition. All Democrats are not interested in the ‘Democratic process’ and all Republicans aren’t concerned about the Republic.

H.G.M.

“Beyond Glory” tells some of the stories

“Beyond Glory” was a solo (one man) show about war veterans recollecting their combat experiences, which led to them being awarded the United States highest military award for valor; the ‘Metal of Honor’. Film and Broadway actor Stephen Lang, portrays eight different service men from Larry Smith book with the same title containing the oral histories of veterans of several wars.

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Airing flesh-and-blood stories to the public is a worthwhile enterprise. It provides a reminder of the hardships, psychic stress and physical dangers men and women face on the front line. I enlisted in the Air Force to escape the assembly line during the Vietnam War and was sent to Germany to support the ‘Cold War’. My friend James was drafted in the Army and was involved in the ‘heat of battle’ in the jungles of Vietnam.

The military draft ended after the Vietnam War but we still have troops in harms way, all around the world. Most people don’t know about ‘the real military service’ unless they were in the service or someone from their family served. This one man play allowed the voices of military veterans to be heard without the drama associated with a war film.  Actual combat is more than the “Call of Duty game” because people die and they don’t get up when you hit a reset button. 

Mr. Lang individualized each of the eight portraits with precision and economy; a subtle adjustment of posture altered his physical presence, and a change of voice invokes a different hero, in edition, he did a good job of representing a diverse cross section of America – officers and enlisted men; men from European descent, African American and men of Hispanic descent.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdalte was the highest-ranking Navel Officer who was captured in Vietnam. Commander Stockdalte  (at the time) spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war. He said that a good officer suffers and endures, as much as possible, to set an example for the rest of the prisoners.

Daniel K. Inouye, the Senator from Hawaii was awarded his metal as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army during World War II in the year 2000, along with 21 other Japanese American heroes from President Bill Clinton. As a Japanese American he faced hostility when he returned and some of his comrades had families that were sent to internment camps from 1942 to 1945 but they received a formal apology in 1988 along with reparations.

When Stephen Lang talks about the art of telling real military stories he talks about some things I have heard from other combat military veterans.

First Lieutenant Vernon Baker  another World War II veteran who was part of the all-Black “Buffalo” division that fought in Europe led a group of men in a brutal battle uphill to take a hilltop castle in Italy.  First Lieutenant Baker received his Metal of Honor only after the Army did an investigation decades later. Art imitates life because the Marvel’s Comic’s Falcon, Sam Wilson is given Captain America’s, Steve Rogers shield and Thor’s hammer. But Lt. Baker had already laid the hammer down in real life.

U. S. Army Specialist Five Clarence Sasser, another African American Metal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War recalls the brutal slaughter in a rice paddy in Vietnam, in which only a dozen soldiers survived out of more than a hundred. He said the hardest thing was being pinned down in a rice paddy in the dark waiting for rescue and hearing others calling for help.

Staff Sergeant Nick Bacon  from Arkansan said He never felt anything about killing the enemy.  He was compassion for the the people.  The war was never personal with him, he said it was a game of survival. The soldiers in “Beyond Glory” survived, some with disfigured bodies but all with their moral and psychological faculties intact. But that is not always the case.

Many of the military veterans I speak with still want to do something before it time for them to leave. So far this blog and my book is my legacy. If you don’t write your own story, no body else will. Comments are encouraged but this is my passion and my therapy.

H.G.M.

Life is like a box of Chocolates

You never know what you are gonna get. These are the the lines to an iconic film that most of us know by heart. CBS Sunday Morning highlights two actors from the film serving their country long  after the camera stopped. As a Vietnam Era Veteran I looked at it as perfect timing – being the day before American is about to honor their military veterans on Veterans Day.

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Hard to believe that’s it been 25 years since the movie premiered all across the country, but it has become an American Classic. The commentator called it an ‘odyssey of innocence, not just a war movie’. Hidden in plain sight is a unique peek into American history that many want to forget.

In the speech where Pvt. Gump  receives his Metal of Honor. These are the words we didn’t hear – ” Sometimes when people go to Vietnam they go home to their mommas   without legs. Sometimes they don’t come home at all. That’s a bad thing. That’s all I have to say about that”. I know some, who physically came home but the war never left them.

In real life, the Metal of Honor was given to Pfc. Sammy Lee Davis and Tom Hanks head was superimposed over his, in the 2002 documentary – A time for Honor. The history inserts brought back memories I saw in the news at that time. The University of Alabama only accepted the three students in 1963 after President John F. Kennedy sent in Federal troops.

Another historical insert, had Forrest Gump calling to complain about people walking around in the middle of the night with flash lights. That was an indication that something strange was going on at the “Watergate Hotel”. In real life, Frank Wills  a security guard called it in.

Near the end where Jenny talks about being so sick with an unknown  virus that doctors had not cure, she was talking about AIDS. The movie follows Forrest and Jenny through a life-time of experiences. He was a unlikely war hero and many other things, she was the hippy girl who always wanted to be a folk singer.

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Pvt. Gump (Tom Hanks) and Lt. Dan (Gary Sinse) established a brotherhood that was formed during war. Life may be a box of chocolates but a battlefield is a box of horrors: You never know who is going to make it, who won’t and who is going to be wounded.  Gary Sinse never served in the military, but he had family that did. He now serves military veterans and first responders  with his foundation. The battles may be over in Vietnam but they wage on in other parts of the world.

Michael Conner Humpheys served 18 months in Iraq. At the age of 34 he struggles with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But when he was eight years old, he played the role of young Forrest Gump. He figured he got the role because of his Southern accent but Tom Hanks carried it throughout the movie.

Injuries and accidents happen even when not on the battlefield. They just happen on a larger scale in war.

H.G.M.

Mitch’s Mission was one of self-discovery

CBS Sunday Morning did a story titled “Mitch Albom’s Mission”. What appeared to be a story about a man who found a mission, becomes a story about a little girl who made a difference.

About ten years ago Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake killing more than a hundred thousand people and leaving millions more injured and homeless. Mitch who flew down from Detroit found an orphanage that was not destroyed but found children sleeping on the ground. He flew back home and put the word out that he needed help. Detroit is a blue collar town and he found twelfth who volunteered to help.

Years later Mitch was spending four days a month at the orphanage where he met a little girl named Chika. When Chika was five years old the director noticed that something was wrong because one of her eyes drooped.

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The one MRI scanner in Haiti revealed that she had a mass on her brain and there was no one in Haiti that could help her. Mitch and his wife Janine who had no kids of their own decided to take her to America where she could get the medical attention she needed. For two years they became family while battling her rare pediatric brain tumor.

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Mitch wrote a book about their journey together and titled it Finding Chika.  The orphanage keeps her memory alive by singing her favorite song at the end of each day – L.O.V.E.

How does one mend a broken family? We gather all the broken pieces and mend them together with God’s help.

H.G.M.

The Remarkable Journey of Harriet Tubman

CBS Sunday Morning (October 20, 2019) feature the remarkable journey of Harriet Tubman. Next month Cynthia Erivo will play her in the movie titled “Harriet”.  But to Judith Bryant (below) she was her great great great Aunt.

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She was small in stature but larger than real life; there are two National Parks dedicated to her story. She was separated from her parents at a young age. When she was 13, she was hit in the head with a 2-pound weight that was intended for a young runaway boy. As a result, she suffered from sudden epileptic seizures and visions for the rest of her life.

In 1849 she escaped from a place called Poplar Neck in Caroline County Maryland when she heard she was going to be sold. Along and on foot she traveled over one hundred miles to the Pennsylvania border.

While most would have settled for their freedom, but she traveled 13 times over 10 years to free others. As a results more than 70 people were freed from bondage. During the Civil War she became the first woman to lead troops into battle and liberated 750 enslaved people in the Combahee Ferry Raid.

Her friends included people like Fredrick Douglass, John Brown, and Susan B. Anthony. William Henry Steward, United States President Abraham Lincolns, Secretary of State even sold her seven acres of land.

Over time the curtail was been drawn back to highlight many American heroes that didn’t make the history books and hopefully many more will be revealed.

H.G.M.