Never forgotten, honored always.

The OEW team with wounded veteran honorees Tito Pineiro and Scott Casmiro are officially out of the starting blocks and on the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run course, 12 APR 2014.

2 Year Army Veteran SFC Tito Pineiro is a 12B Combat Engineer with the 82nd ABN who is Airborne, Ranger, and Sapper qualified. In his selfless career, SFC Pineiro has deployed three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, two in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and twice in support of tours in Southern Africa. In SFC Pineiro’s career, he has been awarded the Purple Heart five times, and from his combat wounds, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Tito resides in Fayetteville NC with his wife Nina, his daughter Ashlyn, and his son Tristan. Tito still continues to serve today with the 82nd ABN.

Sgt Casimiro enlisted as a 0331 Machine Gunner in the United States Marine Corps in 2007. Stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA, Norfolk, VA and Camp Lejeune, NC. While conducting combat operations during his third deployment in Afghanistan with 1st Battalion 6th Marines Bravo CO, Sgt. Casimiro was wounded by an IED and awarded the Purple Heart November 10, 2011. Sgt. Casimiro is now retired and married to Rebekah Casimiro, and they are expecting their first child, Harper E. Casimiro in May 2014. Sgt. Casimiro is also employed with the VA in Columbia, South Carolina as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (Counselor) in the Mental Health Department.

Bloodied but unbowed.

Cpl. Tyler J. Southern and Cpl. Todd Love plot a course on the map during the land navigation part of corporals course at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland. These Marines were part of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course.

The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16.

(Photos by Lance Corporal Daniel Wetzel, 12-16 JAN 2012.)

OEW: Doing what you can’t, on half the oxygen.
If you haven’t had the chance to witness the teamwork of Operation Enduring Warrior you won’t want to miss them April 12th!Join the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run in welcoming OEW back and witness firsthand how they Honor, Empower, and Motivate our Wounded Service Members.Never Forget!
Columbia/Gaston, South Carolina on 12 APR. Sign up to join in the run here: http://bit.ly/NCfwQu High-res

OEW: Doing what you can’t, on half the oxygen.

If you haven’t had the chance to witness the teamwork of Operation Enduring Warrior you won’t want to miss them April 12th!
Join the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run in welcoming OEW back and witness firsthand how they Honor, Empower, and Motivate our Wounded Service Members.
Never Forget!

Columbia/Gaston, South Carolina on 12 APR. Sign up to join in the run here: http://bit.ly/NCfwQu

OEW’s “Never Forget” Friday Hero: Earl Granville.

Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) helps Earl Granville, former U.S. Army and single leg amputee, complete challenges and obstacles during the Spartan Race, Winnsboro, S.C. OEW is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering wounded warriors.

(Photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 9 NOV 2013. Check out the entire album of photos from the event on OEW’s facebook.)

Victorious this day.
OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”) High-res

Victorious this day.

OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”)

Spirit unbroken, and nothing else matters.

OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation.

[Bottom photo: Scott Casimiro carrying Patrick VanLandingham during Mud Run course.]

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”)

The Warriors Unmasked.
OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”) High-res

The Warriors Unmasked.

OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”)

Strength found through solidarity.
OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”) High-res

Strength found through solidarity.

OEW X-Warriors and X-Athletes at United States Marine Corps Mud Run, Swansea, South Carolina. Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) is an organization that focuses on empowering wounded warriors through mental, emotional, and physical rehabilitation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 12 OCT 2013, via OEW on Facebook album “USMC Ultimate Challenge Mud Run 2013.”)

SOLDIER STORIES: Former Marine & Fire Captain recalls loss of sons

(Article by Amaani Lyle of American Forces Press Service, 21 MAY 2013. Source.)

BROOKLYN – Former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and retired New York City fire captain John Vigiano is all too familiar with what he calls bad days.

Speaking after the Armed Forces Wounded Warrior Mural Dedication Ceremony at the William McKinley Intermediate School here, the soft-spoken, silver-haired veterans’ advocate discussed his experiences as military member, first responder and grieving father.

Having spent nearly four decades as a firefighter in Brooklyn, he seldom considered his life-saving responsibilities as work so much as a passion.

“Thirty-six years … I think I went to work five days, maybe six,” Vigiano said. “The rest of it was just great.”

Other days, he remembered, were not so great.

“Those were days of pretty significant losses,” Vigiano said. “When a fireman dies in your hands, you never forget that. It’s not a good day. The first time you find someone burned to death, it’s not a good day.”

But nothing, he said, could ever prepare him for the events of Sept. 11, 2001 –- the morning that both of his sons, John Jr. and Joe, perished in the line of duty while saving lives as the World Trade Center collapsed.

“9/11 will take me to the grave; both my sons were killed that day,” he said, his head lowered. “You go to bed saying, ‘I hope I don’t dream about it again, but you do.’”

John Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps as a New York City firefighter, while his younger brother, Joe, served as a detective in the New York Police Department. That particular morning, Vigiano was home watching the tragedy unfold with the rest of the world.

“The police department took my wife and me down to headquarters that afternoon and I stayed there until they closed the site,” Vigiano said. “Everyday from 6:30 in the morning to midnight, I’d walk the pile.”

At his wife’s request, he did not dig.

“She said, ‘if anything happens to you, I have nobody,’” he recalled. “So I just stood in the back and when a body was recovered, I’d go down and say a prayer and go back.”

His voice trembling, Vigiano said rescue teams found Joe’s remains, but they never found John Jr.

The elder Vigiano said his young granddaughter grew to comprehend that the spirit of her father lives on.

“That’s taken a lot to try and explain to her that his soul is still with us – that the body doesn’t mean anything,” Vigiano said.

Still, John and his wife of 50 years, Jan, pray for the day they find the bit of DNA that can finally bring them some closure.

“My wife and I bond together and we had 34 and 36 great years,” Vigiano said of his sons’ respective lives and, ironically, John Jr’s badge number, 3436.

“The last words that I spoke to my sons: ‘I love you’ and they said ‘I love you. It don’t get better than that.”

VA and Vet Groups announce initiative to reduce claims backlog

(From a Department of Veterans Affairs News Release, 21 MAY 2013. Source.)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion today announced a new partnership to help in reducing the compensation claims backlog for veterans.

The effort — called the Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice — is a key part of VA’s overall transformation plan to end the backlog in 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98 percent accuracy, VA officials said.

VA can process fully developed claims in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim, officials noted.

"VA prides itself on our ongoing partnership with organizations that represent veterans throughout the claims process," said Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. "A fully developed claim is the most effective way to ensure a veteran’s claim never reaches the backlog and is the basis for this new initiative between VA and what we expect will be an ever-increasing number of veteran service organizations and others who represent veterans at various points of the claims process."

The new initiative “takes a common-sense approach to working smarter to better serve injured and ill veterans,” said Barry Jesinoski, Washington Headquarters executive director for Disabled American Veterans.

"DAV is pleased to be working with the VA to help improve the disability compensation system," Jesinoski added.

The American Legion has been working with VA since December on its fully developed claims process, said James E. Koutz, the American Legion’s national commander.

"Teams of our experts have already gone to VA regional offices in Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other cities to help identify best practices for [fully developed claims], and to further train our own service officers," Koutz said.

Claims are considered to be “fully developed” when veterans submit all available supporting evidence, such as private treatment records and notice of federal treatment records, to VA at the time they first file a formal claim and certify they have no more evidence to submit. This is the information that VA needs to make a determination on a disability claim, VA officials said.

The fully developed claims program supports the sharing of best practices across veteran service organizations that help thousands of veterans each year with their compensation claims, to identify up front all evidence necessary to support a veteran’s claim, officials explained. Veterans then certify that they have no additional evidence to submit, and VA can process the claim in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim, they added.

Veteran service organizations have long played an integral role in submitting veterans’ claims — often with representatives working within VA regional offices. VA has consulted with them throughout the development and implementation of its plan to end the backlog in 2015 to ensure best practices and their unique insights were incorporated, officials said.

The American Legion and DAV are the first to step forward to work with VA on the program, officials added, and that program has led to a much more efficient process.

This is the latest effort in support of the plan to reduce the backlog. Last month, VA announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for veterans who have waited one year or longer.

On April 19, VA began prioritizing claims decisions for veterans who have been waiting the longest by providing provisional decisions that allow eligible veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits quickly. With a provisional decision, a veteran has a year to submit additional information to support a claim before the decision becomes final.

On May 15, VA officials announced that the department is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices through the end of fiscal year 2013 to help eliminate the backlog, with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans filing fully developed claims.

As of May 17, the paperless claims processing system known as the Veterans Benefits Management System, or VBMS, has been deployed to 46 out of 56 regional office locations, and about 18 percent of VA’s current claim inventory is in an electronic format, officials said.

Claims for Wounded Warriors separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately and on a priority basis with the Defense Department through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, officials said. On average, they noted, wounded warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits in two months following their separation from service.
 

Related Sites:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The American Legion
Disabled American Veterans
Information on Filing Fully Developed Claims
VA Transformation Plan to Eliminate Compensation Claims Backlog