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| issue 6








open and free for women veterans! may 30-31, 2020 | riverhouse convention center | bend, oregon



DIRECTOR Kelly Fitzpatrick

Forging strong partnerships for the mission ahead


hrough the bipartisan leadership of Gov. Kate Brown and the legislature, Oregon has once again approved a significant investment in veteran services to ensure the health, education and economic well-being of our veterans and their families. There is a particular focus on continuing ODVA’s efforts to mobilize partnerships to better support veterans on campus, ensure all veterans have access to health and behavioral health care resources, and prevent veterans from becoming homeless. As we continue to build and sustain programs to better serve veterans, we are intensifying the efforts to reach underserved veteran populations. This work would not be possible without the strong support and dedicated efforts of our government, nonprofit and local partners across the state.

like the one about an Oregon veteran who was living in his car, unable to access his earned federal benefits because, due to a paperwork mix-up, the federal VA thought that he was dead. Using ODVA’s knowledge and understanding of the VA system and leveraging the skills and experiences of other partners, we were able to help that veteran, and open the door for him to experience a much better life. But it was not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. It never is. When it comes to the problem of veterans experiencing homelessness, there simply isn’t a single, cookiecutter solution. Some Oregonians experience homelessness because of substance abuse or behavioral health issues. Some experience homelessness because of systemic and societal inequities related to their race, country of origin, language, education, gender identity, sexual orientation or other aspect of their background. Some experience homelessness because of a lack of access to resources in their rural communities.

Pooling our shared resources, knowledge and expertise ensures we are pulling in the same direction.

In the last year, ODVA has worked closely with Oregon Housing and Community Services as well as Oregon Health Authority to focus services, share our expertise and knowledge, and begin to build our collective intelligence to improve outcomes for those who need assistance. We are forging stronger partnerships for the mission ahead to end veteran homelessness and improve access to behavioral health services. The results of this work are already impacting key segments of the veteran community in positive ways, and you can read about some of these impacts in this issue of Oregon Veterans News Magazine. Every veteran experiencing homelessness or behavioral health challenges has a unique story. Some stories are hard to forget,

It’s a complicated problem. That’s why we must continue to work together. We must pool our resources, our knowledge, our skills and our expertise. With those shared resources — that shared intelligence — with our common goals, and with many dedicated partners pulling in the same direction, we can make good on the promise to end veteran homelessness in our state. And we will.


Published November 2019



Oregon Veterans News Magazine is a free publication by the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Each issue contains current information impacting veterans in Oregon including federal VA topics and state, regional and local happenings. ODVA reaches more than 25,000 veterans and their families through this print and electronic publication. We welcome ideas and tips about veteran concerns, issues and programs that are important, informative and/ or a great story that veterans would enjoy reading about. To inquire or submit a piece for consideration, please use the contact information below. Submissions for the next issue must be received by March 26, 2020.

Oregon Veterans News Magazine 700 Summer St. NE, Salem, OR 97301 503-373-2389 | Executive Editor: Nicole Hoeft Managing Editor: Tyler Francke Digital & Visual Editor: Sarah Paris Copy Editor: Kathie Dalton


Former U.S. Army Spc. and Oregon veterans Jessie Miller. Photo by Tyler Francke.

28 Contents IN THE COMMUNITY 6

A new program is engaging urban vets in agriculture.


How a writing workshop is healing Portland veterans.


A new partnership is filling the gaps for homeless vets.


The goal of Operation Welcome Home was to house 500 vets. Thanks to many dedicated partners, it housed 529.


Heroes on the Water keeps it simple. Boats, poles, a quiet place to fish and some good company.


State is studying ways to improve behavioral care.


The Navy christens its newest sub: the USS Oregon



12 24


The Marines in Ramadi needed a female soldier for missions that only a woman could do. They found Jessie Miller. This is her story.




The holidays can be an especially challenging time for veterans in need. The VA stands ready to help all who have worn the uniform.




The 555th thought they were bound for Europe. But their commanders had something very different in mind.


WWII B-24 navigator named Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award for valor.



Federal and state veteran benefit updates for 2019.

Caricaturing your CO is not typically a good idea, but Phil Fehrenbacher is not your typical cartoonist. Things to do for Oregon veterans and their families.


The federal VA shares how to talk with a veteran in crisis, and new information about the MISSION Act.

Joshua Franklin, Kwame Bey, Tess Acosta and Debbie Debozy construct a wash-and-pack station for Boots 2 Roots PDX.

Room to grow: Boots 2 roots PDX offers therapeuticvocational mix to engage veterans in agriculture




arrie Allen had to go no farther than across the street to learn about gardening while growing up in Battle Ground. From the time she was 8 until she joined the U.S. Navy at 18, Allen would cross the street to work in her aunt’s impressive garden, which was the size of a residential lot. “As an 8-year-old, I’m sure I wasn’t any help,” she said. Allen, who served one enlistment as a boatswain’s mate, recently moved to an apartment in Vancouver. She could grow a few shade-tolerant flowers there, but not the sun-loving dahlias she adores — and certainly not on the scale she enjoyed in Battle Ground. To fill that void, Allen has her eyes on the southwest corner of the VA Portland Health Care System’s Vancouver Campus. “I can’t wait to get my hands into the soil,” she said. Allen is one of 10 Portland-Vancouver area veterans participating in Boots 2 Roots PDX. The nine-month program is both vocational — training veterans for jobs in horticulture and farming — and therapeutic by getting them outside growing vegetables, herbs and flowers.

By Jeffrey Mize, The Columbian. Reprinted with permission.

IN THE Community

‘I Can’t Wait to Get My Hands into the Soil’ “You can’t write a prescription for sunshine and fresh air,” said Kelli Roesch, public affairs specialist for the VA in Vancouver. Scott Hoffman, a VA horticulturist and Boots 2 Roots PDX coordinator, said the program is part of the VA’s “Whole Health for Life” approach that emphasizes diet, exercise, sleep and social interaction, in addition to traditional medical care. “If you grow your own food, you are likely to eat better,” he said. Boots 2 Roots PDX is one of 10 pilot programs at VA facilities across the nation, all of which take a different approach to engaging veterans in agriculture, Hoffman said. The local program provides 720 hours of training, 20 hours a week. It started in February with the veterans attending Oregon State University Extension Service courses to be certified as master gardeners. Boots 2 Roots PDX partners with Mudbone Grown LLC, a Portland company that promotes urban farming and encourages people of color to farm. Mudbone Grown works with the Oregon Food Bank to operate the nearly 1-acre Unity Farm next to the food bank’s headquarters on Northeast 33rd Drive in Portland. “We really specialize in helping people create farm businesses,” said Shantae Johnson, program manager for Mudbone Grown. Johnson said gardening is horticulture on a smaller scale, often in boxes or containers, while farming is larger-scale production of food grown in the ground. Last week, veterans took the first step toward growing at the Vancouver VA campus, north of the Veterans Museum. They worked with the ReBuilding Center, a Portland nonprofit that sells used building materials at below-market prices, to construct a wash-and-pack-station for harvested vegetables and herbs. Hoffman and Johnson will help the program’s 10 veterans grow a cornucopia of vegetables and herbs, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, onions and carrots. Program participants will erect a greenhouse, to be assembled from a kit, to grow vegetables and herbs from seeds. It will include a hardening-off zone where seedlings will become accustomed to strong sunlight, cool nights, wind and rain.

Once seedlings have acclimated, they will be planted in a large in-ground plot or in raised beds 1 to 3 feet tall to allow veterans in wheelchairs to participate during upcoming “Garden Explorers” classes at the Vancouver VA campus. Roots 2 Boots PDX participants also will work at the Veterans Community Garden in Fairview, Ore., and at the Veterans Healing Garden on the Portland VA campus. Hoffman designed the Healing Garden in 2015 to help veterans connect with nature and improve their well-being in a pleasant yet intriguing environment. The Vancouver VA campus will include a compost area and lots of flowers to support bees and other pollinators. Allen said she would love to see a cutting garden brimming with brightly colored blossoms, ideal for creating bouquets. “When you take a flower away, it’s like a little piece of joy on a stick,” she said. “It’s just good for the soul.” Raymond Malone is another one of the 10 veterans in Boots 2 Roots PDX. He spent 17 1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force as a crew chief inspecting and maintaining helicopters before a chronic back injury forced his retirement in 2014. “I’m just another minion like the other nine,” he said. “I’ve always liked being outdoors, gardening and planting things.” Malone grew up in western Pennsylvania, but his wife is from Brush Prairie. After leaving the Air Force, Malone and his wife decided to come to Clark County. After three back surgeries and two fusions, Malone still manages to garden at his Orchards home, with an 80-20 split between vegetables and flowers. “My wife has asked for a plant intervention,” Malone said. “I no longer have counter space in the garage.” Allen said all 10 of the program’s participants have diverse backgrounds and perspectives. “We are as different as snowflakes, so each person is going to get something different out the program,” she said. “For those who want to continue in agriculture, this is an amazing thing to put on a resume.” Allen sees the future gardens at the Vancouver VA campus as a sanctuary to escape from the stresses of everyday life. “This will be my happy place,” she said. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS


in the community

By Ruth Zhang, VA Portland Health Care System. Reprinted with permission.

How Writing Helps Heal Veterans

A writing workshop at the Portland VA Medical Center gave participants an opportunity to write, share ideas and learn how to begin and sustain a writing practice that heals.


arlier this year, more than 40 veterans, family members, VA caregivers, and members of the community attended a writing retreat at the Portland VA Medical Center. The afternoon gave participants an opportunity to write, share ideas and learn how to begin and sustain a writing practice. The event was initiated by Craig Ling, dentist and Chief of Dental Service with support from Kim Stafford, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, who facilitated the event. Outside of the hospital, Ling (fifth from the right — front row — in the photo above) enjoys reading and loves to write poetry. “Many of my patients write stories and poetry,” said Ling. “One of my patients once told me that it wasn’t until he started writing that he started to heal after Vietnam because it allowed him to say what was on his mind and in his heart.” Ling brought the idea of creating a writing event for veterans to a few of his fellow coworkers including nurse Judy Ulibarri, Helen Lee, VA Nurse Residency Program Director, and Nathan Davis, administrative assistant for VA Dental Service. Together Ling and Stafford worked out all the details to make a writing workshop happen — and it was a huge success. The theme of the event was related to healing. During the writing workshop, Stafford asked participants, “Is the question, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ or ‘What matters to you?’” There was full capacity at the event. Throughout the day, participants were engaged in conversation with Stafford and other writers, and everyone walked away with a notebook full of poems, ideas and scribbles. “When you write, no one will tell you what you write is wrong,” said Stafford. “When you write about something good 8


you’ve lost, you can recover it.” Many of the Veterans and participants shared that they have a need for writing and that writing helps them heal. The workshop gave everyone the opportunity to connect with one another, learn new skills, and write about healing topics. The group included writers of all levels from individuals learning about writing to experienced authors. Chaplain Gregory Widmer is an outpatient mental health chaplain with VA Portland and a combat Veteran of the Iraq War. He joined the workshop in an official capacity but was also a participant and found the time very rewarding and had these thoughts: “This writing workshop addressed the whole person. Each Veteran was encouraged to write from the heart. Sharing was optional. We used writing prompts to go deeper into our journeys. As an Iraq War Veteran, I had not journaled for years. There was too much pain and confusion inside. “However, there was something cathartic about this event that broke the dam of emotions. Sometimes it’s easier to write than speak. I left feeling full and spoke with others who felt the same. Writing seems to be an untapped tool with tremendous potential to heal Veterans and to process the chaos of trauma.” There were many different programs and organizations in attendance to show their support including Write Around Portland, Northwest Narrative Medicine Collaborative, StoryCorps, Art Therapy from Lewis and Clark, and Portland VA’s “My Life, My Story” program. “We want to continue working with the arts,” said Ling. “This event was one of many ways we can touch people and continue to care for them.”

By Rachel Alexander, Salem Reporter. Reprinted with permission.

In the Community

Filling the Gap When homeless Salem vets get housing, they usually don’t have cookware, cleaning supplies, and other things that make a house a home. That’s where Edie Higgins comes in. Trenton Allinson, left, who helps house veterans for EasterSeals Oregon in Salem, buys raffle tickets from Salem Elks Lodge #336 President Blake Whitson.


die Higgins has a talent for conjuring kitchen supplies out of thin air. In her work for EasterSeals Oregon, Higgins helps homeless veterans in the Salem area find housing. Many have been homeless for a long time and own no furniture, cleaning supplies, cookware or other items to make their new apartments into homes. Higgins does her best to find donors willing to help. “They start out with nothing,” she said. Now, the task will be easier thanks to a new effort from Salem Elks Lodge #336, which is applying a $2,000 national grant toward supplying basic household goods to newly housed veterans. The lodge plans to build 20 move-in kits over the first year of the program and will consider expanding if that goes well, lodge President Blake Whitson said. EasterSeals operates a veteran housing program through a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but is restricted on how it can spend those funds, Higgins said. They can help pay rental expenses but aren’t able to buy basic items for people moving into housing. Most are starting fresh and don’t have disposable income to outfit their homes. “Sometimes, food stamps is their only income,” Higgins said. Most veterans they help are from the Vietnam era, but Higgins said some older veterans in their 80s are also struggling with housing after seeing rent rise to the point they’re forced to go back to work to make ends meet. Oregon also has a number of homeless veterans from the wars in

Iraq and Afghanistan, though the veterans of these eras are less likely to seek help, she said. “They think, ‘I’m young, I can sleep on my friend’s couch.’ We definitely would like to serve that population,” she said. The move-in help grew out of the lodge’s existing program to provide Christmas gifts to the children of veterans and National Guard members in need, Whitson said. For the past four years, they’ve taken a $2,000 grant from the national Elks organization and put it toward presents, often stretching the funds using coupons and reward programs to make sure every kid gets what they want. “I can’t tell you how much some of our members love Kohl’s cash,” Whitson said with a laugh. Last year, they helped 13 families with 42 children. Several families lodge members shopped for last Christmas were homeless and living in hotels. Whitson said that led to a discussion between their lodge and EasterSeals about how they could do more. Whitson said the lodge will buy what individual veterans or families need as they get requests from EasterSeals. Lodge members will likely chip in their own money or donate cleaning supplies, and the lodge is holding a raffle of a 2003 Harley Davidson XLH883 Hugger motorcycle to raise funds for their veteran programs. The lodge will continue its existing veteran programs this year, including the Christmas presents and a free Veterans Day meal. “I would love for this to be a partnership that builds,” Whitson said. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS


Operation Welcome Home A partnership between ODVA and OHCS moves ending veteran homelessness one step closer


ore than 500 Oregon veterans, along with countless family members, have stable housing this year, thanks to a new partnership between the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Oregon Housing and Community Services. Funded by Oregon Lottery dollars made possible through voter approval of Measure 96 in 2016, and with the invaluable support of local housing partners and nonprofits, Operation Welcome Home launched last November. The short-term campaign helped ten communities develop a collaborative infrastructure with the long-term goal of ending veteran homelessness in Benton, Clackamas, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties. The operation helped realize new veteran housing projects in the participating communities, such as Seavey Meadows in Corvallis and Ash Creek Terrace in Independence, while also helping establish an infrastructure to better coordinate and assist veterans experiencing homelessness. Each of the ten participating communities created a veteran leadership team of community partners that serve veterans. These teams work together to identify the most holistic and timely resources for veterans, considering the unique needs of each

veteran experiencing homelessness. The funding for the program was allocated to improve outcomes for veterans by the 2017 Legislature, and supports local communities as they work to end veteran homelessness — a firm goal that Governor Kate Brown has made one of her administration’s top priorities. When the initiative launched in November, the collective goal was to house 500 veterans before the completion of the campaign. That goal was exceeded and 529 homeless Oregon veterans and their families now have a place to call home. Operation Welcome Home has had a transformative impact on not just the veterans served, but on their children, families, and community. Thanks to partnerships and leveraging shared resources, and thanks especially to the dedicated work of community partners, hundreds and even thousands of lives have been impacted through Operation Welcome Home. More needs to be done, but the state recognizes that we cannot do it alone. Veteran homelessness is bigger than any one organization, and addressing it needs to continue to be a coordinated effort across Oregon at the state, federal, and local level. This broad, multi-agency, multi-sector partnership is just the first step.

Left: David Hubbard, of Oregon Coast Community Action, signs the Operation Welcome Home “commitment statement” at the launch event in November 2018. The statement includes the signatures of the 10 local partnering organizations committed to helping accomplish the Operation’s goals in their communities. Right: Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Kelly Fitzpatrick and Oregon Housing and Community Services Director Margaret Salazar celebrate the launch of the Operation Welcome Home program in November 2018, at Seavey Meadows, a veterans affordable housing complex in Corvallis.



By ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick and OHCS Director Margaret Salazar


Above: Gov. Kate Brown, pictured here with ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick and Harry, a U.S. Army veteran, toured Seavey Meadows in September. Left: Seavey Meadows, a new permanent housing complex with dedicated housing for veterans, was completed in 2017.



Healing on the Water

Marine veteran Koya Leyden enjoys a relaxing time kayak fishing on the Nehalem River during a recent Heroes on the Water event, a kayak fishing trip coordinated by the Portland and North Oregon Coast chapters.



By Tyler Francke, Oregon Veterans News Magazine


arine veteran Koya Leyden, of Astoria, sits on a camp chair on the banks of the Nehalem River, barefoot and relaxed. He’s enjoying his second outing with Heroes on the Water, a nonprofit dedicated to providing no-cost kayak fishing trips and other therapeutic experiences to veterans, first responders and active-duty military, along with their families. This trip, in early September, is a joint effort of the Portland and North Oregon Coast chapters. For Koya Leyden, who grew up fishing and first heard about Heroes on the Water at a stand down in Astoria, these trips provide him an outlet he can’t find anywhere else. “It helps. It’s really calming, just being out on the water,” he said. “Floating with the fish. And you’re surrounded by other vets, who have a similar background.” The simplicity of the exercise and the opportunity to reconnect with nature are important parts of the rehabilitative process, but the time spent with other veterans is a vital component. “Most civilians go, ‘Thank you for your service,’ but they don’t understand what you’ve been through,” Leyden said. “I just think it’s great to get back, and have camaraderie with my brothers and sisters in the armed forces.” Interestingly, the coordinators of the Portland and North Oregon Coast chapters, Anthony Stickel and Ray Zimmerman, are both civilians. For them, it’s a chance to give back. “I just put them together,” Stickel said of the veterans, first responders and active military who participate in these trips. “I make sure they have what they need to fish, then I back out of


the picture. I just watch over them and make sure everybody’s safe. They can talk about their problems, if they want to, and if they just want to talk about fishing, that’s great, too.” U.S. Air Force veteran Jim Dolan founded Heroes on the Water in 2007 after taking a group of vets on a fishing trip at the Port Lavaca, Texas, ranch of a man named Will Manske, and Stickel said they try to keep that same spirit with their own trips. “Men and women who served were a name, rank and serial number when they were in,” he said. “We want to grow, but we also want to keep that feeling of camaraderie. We don’t want to make people feel like they’re just a number out here.” Like Stickel, Zimmerman said the fellowship with others who have a shared bond of service and similar background is a key part of the healing. “These guys and gals see a lot of things that they can’t unsee,” Zimmerman said. “First responders, firefighters and police — there’s a lot they deal with every day. And it’s the same with the military. This helps them to unplug from that. It’s nice and peaceful on the water and helps with the stress.” Stickel said one of the big things that motivates him is remembering the men who served with his father during the Vietnam War, many of whom had “unhappy endings.” “I carry those people in my heart,” he said. “It does get to be a grind sometimes. But then I think, you know, I have it pretty good, and the reason I do is because of the freedoms I enjoy that these guys all fought for.” For more information about Heroes on the Water, or to find a trip or chapter near you, visit OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS


in the community

OHA, ODVA Partner on Behavioral Health A study and community forums help shape the future of veteran behavioral health resources

ODVA and OHA partnered to conduct community forums in 17 locations across the state including highly rural areas where access to behavioral health care is limited.


he Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs wrapped up a statewide tour in October aimed at soliciting input from communities across Oregon regarding veterans behavioral health needs and services. The Oregon Legislature invested $3.1 million over two biennia toward veterans behavioral health. OHA and ODVA dedicated a portion of the funding to commission a needs assessment study to identify challenges and opportunities for reforms. The resulting study, written by Portland-based consulting firm Rede Group is available on the OHA website. “Unfortunately, the recent report confirms what many who serve veterans and those in the field of behavioral health already knew: too many Oregon veterans are not getting the services and care they need and deserve. The state is committed to reversing this trend. To truly make a difference, we will need the involvement of informed, active community-level partners and stakeholders throughout the state,” said ODVA director Kelly Fitzpatrick. The report, Oregon Veterans’ Behavioral Health Services Improvement Study, describes the availability of behavioral health services for Oregon veterans and provides findings regarding barriers veterans face in accessing behavioral health services. The recommendations include proposed steps to strengthen

services and outreach for veterans, including: • Reducing stigma about behavioral health issues to help more veterans feel comfortable seeking care. • Strengthen suicide prevention programs. • Improve care coordination for veterans and tailor services to better address the experiences those who have served in the military have faced. • Expand the number of peer specialists who have their own first-hand knowledge of veterans issues and can provide effective support. • Recruit more treatment providers to serve veterans. The community engagement tour, which began in August in Bend and ended mid October in Medford, fulfills the Rede Group’s first recommendation in the report: Provide communities a forum for local-level problem solving. At the local meetings, OHA and ODVA sought feedback from local veterans, service providers and policymakers on the Rede Group’s 16 total recommendations. Input from these sessions will be used to develop OHA’s five-year strategic plan to better meet the behavioral health needs of Oregon veterans, in close collaboration with ODVA and the federal VA. The strategic plan is expected to be published in early 2020.

Read the full behavioral health study and learn more at 14


Story by the Associated Press. Reprinted with permission.

In the Community

The USS Oregon is a Virginia-class attack submarine, like the USS Virginia, pictured here.

Future USS Oregon Christened


he U.S. Navy’s newest attack submarine, the future USS Oregon, was christened in Connecticut on Oct. 5. Politicians, shipyard leaders and Navy officials gathered for a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, where they spoke about the importance of Virginia-class submarines and praised the skills of the thousands of shipyard workers in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia who built the Oregon. Vice Adm. James Kilby said the Oregon, outfitted with the most modern weapons and sensors, will disappear beneath the waves and never be detected until a time and place of its choosing. It “truly represents naval combat power,” said Kilby, a deputy chief of naval operations. The submarine is expected to cost about $2.7 billion and join the fleet next year. It will officially become the USS Oregon when it’s commissioned. Electric Boat, which has facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island, builds attack submarines with Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, said the submarine represents the “very best of American innovation, quality and pride.” Inside the shipyard, the ship’s sponsor, Dana Richardson,

christened the nuclear submarine with sparkling wine from Oregon and water from Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Richardson, a native of Corvallis, Oregon, said the privilege of being a ship sponsor is beyond her wildest dreams. She’s married to retired Adm. John Richardson, who served as the chief of naval operations from 2015 until this summer. The submarine is the third Navy ship to honor the state. It will carry on the proud legacy of its predecessors, said Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who delivered the keynote address. Walden said the submarine has the capability to prevent nuclear war. Construction began in the fall of 2014. It’s the 20th Virginia-class submarine. The class of submarines, equipped with torpedoes and missiles, are designed to carry out a wide range of missions, including surveillance work and the delivery of Special Operations forces. The Oregon is part of a group of submarines with design changes so the submarines will need one less period in the shipyard for maintenance over their lifespan, according to the Navy. Consequently, they will be able to do one more deployment over their lifespan, for a total of about 15 deployments. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS


In Iraq, Spc. Jessie Miller became the first female to do solo missions for the Army. The lessons she learned there would change her life forever.

LI N Former U.S. Army Spc. Jessie Miller stands on campus at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she is a full-time student veteran. 16





Spc. Jessie Miller and Spc. Shannon Morgan are photographed with Iraqi women at a school. Many of the women were later killed for becoming informants for the U.S. Armed Forces.


he was the soldier who was never supposed to exist, the product of a central Oregon upbringing in which military service had never been even remotely on the radar for her future career. Jessie Miller enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001, not as the result of a considered evaluation of her options, or in the surge of post-9/11 patriotism (she actually joined in February), but rather because of an ultimatum from then-Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley. “I was getting in trouble, fist fighting a lot. Sheriff Hensley used to chase me around town,” she says. “One day, he sat me down and said, ‘You’re getting older, so you need to either get your stuff together and go into the Army, or I’m going to have to start arresting you.’” She decided to take him up on it. She had been looking for a way out of Prineville anyway, and hey — how hard could it be? “I thought, ‘I can do that. I’m a tough girl right?’” She laughs. “It was so funny. I went into basic training, and the first week there, I was bawling my eyes out. I wanted to come home. I wasn’t as tough as I thought.” Not yet, anyway. When her NCO, Staff Sergeant Johnson, recommended her to become the first and only female member of a decon platoon attached to the 1st Engineer Battalion, toughening up became her only option if she wanted to survive. The soldiers of the 1st Engineer Battalion, a decorated Army 18


unit that traces its lineage to the original Company of Sappers and Miners organized at West Point in 1846, were not happy. “They were like, ‘We don’t want to babysit her,’” she recalled. “They were angry that I was there.” They hazed her, literally running circles around her during PT to show how slow she was. But she didn’t give up. She pushed herself until she earned the respect of the men she now calls “brothers.” And looking back, she’s grateful for the experience. “It took me forever to get up to their level, and it was very hard for me,” she says, “but if I hadn’t done that, there’s no way I would have kept up with the Marines when we deployed. No possible way.” The need for their only female engineer to keep up with Marines was probably not something her platoon commanders had contemplated before deployment. After all, in 2003, women were not allowed on the front lines or in combat roles, as a matter of official military policy. But on the ground in Ramadi, as U.S. forces and our allies fought to secure the city, they found they would need female soldiers for jobs that only women could do. Miller says that in the early weeks and months of the invasion of Iraq, many men either fled the city or were killed or captured in battle. They left behind women, who — under the strict codes of their culture, society and religion — were forbidden to speak with or be touched by men who were not their husbands.

By Tyler Francke, Oregon Veterans News Magazine

FeatureD Veteran

Spc. Jessie Miller is pictured with her company before their deployment in 2003 as part of the so-called “Run, Shoot, Blast” march. Miller was the first and only female member of her platoon, and later became the first woman in U.S. military history to do solo combat missions for the Army and Marines. Below: Miller (left) is pictured during her deployment.

This, of course, included the male service members who were under orders to search and interrogate the people they found on patrol and in house-to-house sweeps. “The Marines approached my commander and said, ‘The women won’t talk to us or have anything to do with us,’” she said. “They said, ‘We need a female,’ and well, we had one.” Initially, she was a solo operator, assigned to other Army units or other branches. In this, she became the first female to do missions by herself for the Army and the Marines. She had no way of knowing she was a prototype for a new operation, and a new type of soldier. They would come to be known as the lionesses: the first women in American history sent into direct ground combat, fighting in some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War and returning home as part of the United States’ first generation of female combat veterans. Eventually, Miller would be partnered with another specialist, Shannon Morgan, who would later be profiled in the 2008 PBS documentary Lioness. “That’s when we really started kicking down doors, looking for specific people, interrogating women, that sort of thing,” she says. “Over time, we were able to build enough trust that the women started telling us the locations of weapons caches, escape routes, communications routes, even two members of the deck of cards. They were caught as a result of Lioness intel.” Now, 15 years later, she looks back and still has a hard time believing she saw and experienced some of the things she did. Like her first time in Ramadi, shortly after the initial raid. “There were buildings on fire, blown up things everywhere,” she says. “People suffering and severely, severely wounded, and I’m just watching this as we drive by. Seeing people suffer like that was insane. Even to this day, I’m still digesting some of the things that I saw over there.” She remembers the chaos. But, she also remembers the many

life lessons she gained from her service. “Kindness matters,” she says, when asked what those lessons were. You learned that in a war zone? “Yes, absolutely: Where the smallest kindness can have the largest impact,” she says. She also learned hard lessons about her limitations. She described the conditions she often found Iraqi women living in. “They were on the floor with the dogs,” she said. “It was filthy. They weren’t allowed to go outside. They weren’t allowed to drive. They weren’t allowed to do anything. That was their everyday life, and had been ever since they could remember.” It made her angry, and she wanted to do something about it. She would pick the women up, dust them off and shame the men for treating them that way. “I’d say, ‘See? She’s a human, too,’” she recalled. “Then later, when I would see that woman in pieces, or tortured in the street, I realized that I can’t take these people home with me.” It taught her the stakes she was playing with. This was life and death, not some childish, “I’m going to teach you a lesson” game. “I learned that to really communicate with people, you have to do it within their reality, or you’re going to cause a lot of pain,” she said. “And that’s not what I wanted to do.” Despite the often difficult, dangerous and trying circumstances of her service overseas, Miller said she looks back positively on the experience and, especially, the positive growth and wisdom it developed in her. Among other things, it gave her a deep respect for life and an appreciation of her country and the many freedoms it affords, especially to women. “It was honestly the best move I could have made,” she said of her decision to enlist. “It changed the trajectory of my life for the better.” OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS




By Robert Wilkie Vantage Point blog, Dec 2018. Reprinted with permission.

Guest Contribution

Handling PTSD During the Holidays H

olidays can be especially tough for troops deployed abroad, but they can also be challenging for veterans in need. And this holiday season, we have an important message for those who have worn the uniform: the Department of Veterans Affairs is here to help. Suicide prevention is the federal VA’s No. 1 clinical priority, but getting more veterans into care is one of our greatest challenges. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day. Of those 20, 14 have not received recent VA care. That’s why we’re working closely with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to implement President Trump’s Jan. 9, 2018, executive order to ensure that all new veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service. This critical period is marked by a high risk for suicide, and President Trump’s executive order is helping us ensure that service members learn about VA benefits and start VA health care enrollment before becoming veterans. In July 2018, nearly 8,000 transitioning service members attended VA Transition Assistance Program modules in person, and more than 2,700 registered for VA health care before, during, or after their class attendance date. We are also working to ensure that any newly transitioned veteran can go to a VA medical center or Vet Center and start receiving mental health care right away. VA’s available resources are extensive. To get the word out, VA spent $12.2 million on suicide prevention outreach in fiscal year 2018, including $1.5 million on paid media. We’ve also made great use of unpaid media through our partnership with Johnson & Johnson to produce a public service announcement featuring Tom Hanks—at no cost to VA. That partnership helped put VA in the top 10 of the Nielson ratings for PSAs. Its YouTube version drew tens of thousands of views. Our promotional efforts are working, as more and more Americans are taking advantage of our suicide prevention resources. The Veterans Crisis Line helps about 2,000 callers every day. In the past 10 years, it has answered over 3.5 million calls, engaged in over 413,000 online chats, and responded to over 98,000 text messages. Most of the callers to the Veterans Crisis Line are veterans, but many are also concerned family members and friends calling on behalf of a veteran close to them. The VA is there to help them, too. Our suicide prevention coordinators conducted over 22,000 outreach events last year, reaching 2.2 million people. And anyone can take the VA’s S.A.V.E. suicide prevention training for free on the PsychArmor Institute website. Over 17,000 Americans already have taken this step. For VA employees, annual S.A.V.E. training is mandatory. In September alone, over 52,000 employees completed it. But no one organization can tackle suicide prevention on its own. To save veterans’ lives, we must ensure that multiple systems are working in a coordinated way to reach veterans when and where they need assistance. In other words, the VA needs everyone’s help. So if you know a veteran in crisis, point him or her toward the nearest VA facility, where they can get same day urgent mental health services. Have them call the Veteran Crisis Line at call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or even make that call yourself. Every death by suicide is a tragedy, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect the veterans in need with lifesaving support. The VA is here to help, and we need everyone’s help in spreading that message.



Lt. Clifford Allen, of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, better known as the “Triple Nickles.” Based in Pendleton, it was an all-black airborne unit of the United States Army during World War II. Opposite page: Left: The Triple Nickles equip themselves and prepare to parachute over a forest fire in 1945. Right: Dedication of a new marker in Pendleton, which commemorates the legacy of the nation’s first black paratroopers. 22


By Tyler Francke, Veterans News Magazine

As You Were

The Smoke Jumpers I n November 1944, a group of 300 black soldiers stationed at Fort Mackall in North Carolina made military history when their unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. They would be nicknamed the “Triple Nickles” (the spelling derives from Old English), because of their numerical designation and the fact that 17 of the original 20 members came from 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division. (This was a time when “buffalo nickels” were still in circulation.) Because of their work, they would also come to be known by a different name: The Smoke Jumpers. It was the first all-black airborne unit in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. Like other airborne units, they were all volunteers. And, like other airborne units, they expected to play a critical role overseas in the Second World War. When the call finally came, the only order they were given was to get on a train to Pendleton. “They thought they were going to be shipped overseas to join the war,” said Robert Bartlett, a Vietnam veteran and professor of sociology at Eastern Washington University. “Instead, they got classified orders.”

When they finally arrived at Pendleton Air Field (where the Doolittle Raiders had been trained and stationed several years earlier), they were assigned to a classified mission: Operation Firefly. They would not be going to Japan, as they had suspected. They would be protecting the home front. During the winter of 1945, the Japanese sent an estimated 9,300 “balloon bombs” toward North America. More sophisticated than they may sound, each hydrogen balloon carried over 70 pounds worth of explosives and incendiaries. Japan’s goal was to set the entire West Coast ablaze. The Triple Nickles’ job was to stop them, to find the bombs and dismantle them, and to keep it all quiet. (The government feared a panic if the public knew about the bombs.) They were not merely firefighters. More than half their missions in the summer and fall of 1945 would require them to put their airborne training to use: parachuting into burning forests, also known as “smoke jumping.” It was a job that required ingenuity, adaptability, specialized skills and extreme courage. And, during a time when the military — like much of the United States — was still deeply segregated, it also required a deep and unusual patriotism.

“I grew up hearing stories about how hard it was for them to get in the back of the bus, when the men at the front of the bus were German POWs,” Bartlett said of his father and uncle, who both served as combat medics during WWII. “But they served, because they strongly believed in America. It was their home. And whatever it took to preserve the freedoms of their home, they were willing to do it.” Bartlett returned to Pendleton this summer to witness the dedication of a new marker in that city, which commemorates the legacy of the nation’s first black paratroopers. A project of the Oregon Travel Information Council, with support from Umatilla County, Travel Pendleton, Pendleton Underground Tours and the state of Oregon, the new panel proudly sits on Main Street, sharing information about the Triple Nickles and their clandestine work, while also frankly acknowledging the discrimination they experienced. “I’ve been here several times, and now it feels like coming home,” Bartlett said. “This is such an amazing thing the city of Pendleton has done. Statues, historical markers, and all these kinds of things: They’re value statements. They tell us the things we value. And this is a huge value statement.”



as you were

By Kathie Dalton, Oregon Veterans News Magazine

D-Ring, Americanski, and a Nunnery How Oregon veteran Jack Ferris, who recently received France’s highest honor for heroic and courageous acts during World War II, tells the story of that time in histroy


aptain Jack Ferris returned from the European Theater of WWII with a D-Ring in his pocket. Not the usual souvenir, but it had special meaning. Ferris arrived in Foggia, Italy, in July 1944. East of Naples, this complex of about a dozen air bases was home to the 15th Air Force under Major General Nathan Twining and General Jimmy Doolittle. As part of the 848th Bombardment Squadron tasked with targeting oil refineries, oil storage plants, aircraft factories, heavy industry and communications, Ferris’ 10-man crew had flown 21 successful missions. Bombing runs for the group were planned in a five to six hundred mile radius which made for a 6-to-8-hour round trip. On Feb 1, 1945, the pilot’s flimsy for the 484th Bombardment Group detailed a mission for 300-plus B-17s and B-24s to bomb the oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, Austria. The Moosbierbaum/ Vienna area was heavily defended. It was the Germans’ fuel source, second only to Ploesti. By early 1945, nearby Vienna had already faced 1,800 bombs and both Vienna and Moosbierbaum had flak towers and antiaircraft batteries set up around the cities. “They had us bracketed,” said Ferris. “They knew we would come in at 22,000-24,000 feet and followed us in to the target. There is not a lot of evasive action you can take.” That day was the third opportunity for the 484th. They flew the typical route, saw no fighters and had a good flight in, according to Ferris. Once there, though, the German 88-mm shells turned the sky black. The plane maintained the altitude, course and airspeed for the 20 minutes or so the bombardier had the plane. The 20-pound shells blew out the No. 2 engine, then the No. 3 engine. The bombardier dropped the bombs and the pilot peeled off the target. Normally they stay with the group to protect against fighter intercept. This time though, they knew they were out of commission. As navigator, Ferris quickly plotted a course past Lake Balaton where the Russians were far enough west to provide some degree of safety. “We set on a 135-degree heading,” remembered Ferris. “We transferred fuel from the No. 2 and No. 3 engines. We were losing altitude and our fuel and oxygen lines were damaged. We repaired what we could.” They were fortunate to have no injuries. Once at 3,500 feet, 24


the pilot put the plane on auto pilot and got ready to bail out. The guys in the back bailed out at regular intervals. Then, the six in the front got ready. “The catwalk in a B-24 is about eight inches wide,” said Ferris “We had to go sideways with our chutes in one hand and oxygen bottles in the other.” O’Sullivan, the crew’s dead reckoning officer, sat in the hatch and put his legs out in the air. The wind was ferocious. “I helped him a little,” smiles Ferris. “Then I went. I pulled that D-ring. As I looked down, I was glad to see the snow. It should be soft. I thought I’d float down gracefully in all that softness, but saw the plane coming back at me. I tried to spill the chute which may have been dumb, but we had no practice jumps. I didn’t know what to do.” Ferris landed on a trail with an incline and a westerly path. The crew was all spread out. As Ferris detached from his chute a farmer driving a horse drawn sled approached him and began asking questions in Russian. “Americanski,” Ferris replied to the Russian farmer. Ferris had dinner with the family, and the next day, the farmer took him into the village, where the entire crew reunited. “I met some lovely people,” said Ferris. “We had noodles three times a day and were shipped out on an old school bus. Then, we were loaded into a boxcar with three other crews and went to Bucharest. It took seven days to go 300 miles. We stayed in a nunnery for two more weeks. It was a marvelous experience. “We had bombed all the bridges on the Danube, so we had to cross in these little wooden boxes strung on a cable across the river they used to shuttle supplies. They gave us a new plane — not the shiny silver plane delivered by a WASP, but almost a brand-new B-24 — and were told not to lose this one. Then we got to fly some more!” Ferris flew several more missions as radar navigator with the lead crews before he and his crew were sent to Provence and Estre to support Patton’s drive across France. There they flew one to two missions daily for about three weeks. Ferris would later be awarded France’s highest honor — Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour — in recognition of heroic and courageous acts in France during World War II. On May 9, 1945, the crew returned their plane to the states safely. Upon their arrival in Bradley, Conn., at 4 p.m., they heard horns honking and headlights flashing all around. It was Memorial Day. And they were home.

Top left and middle: Ferris posing alone and with a crew mate while on leave. Top right: The B-24 originally depicted an hourglass showing Hitler’s time was running out; the hourglass became known as a bow tie whin it had to be set on its side in order to fit on the aileron. Ferris’ daughter Susan has red bow ties created to symbolize the red “bow ties” on the squadron’s tail fin, which nearly 30 family members wore to witness him receiving France’s highest honor for heroic and courageous acts during WWII. Bottom: In addition to the D-ring, Ferris still has the map he used to navigate in 1944-45 marked with the placement of German anti-craft installations between the eastern and western fronts of the European theater. At the top left of the map is the area covered by Ferris’ B-24 on the way to the Russian front. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS


BEnefits Corner



VA releases free mobile app to streamline health care access for veterans and caregivers

VA launches new health care options under MISSION Act

VA Launchpad for Veterans is a new mobile app that arranges all of VA’s dozens of apps into one convenient location to help manage health care needs. Download the app at:

The VA launched its new and improved Veterans Community Care Program on June 6, 2019, implementing portions of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 and ending the Veterans Choice Program. For more information:

Veterans Legacy Memorial honors deceased veterans online

Now through March 31, 2020, veterans enrolled with VA can receive a no-cost flu shot at any Walgreens in addition to local VA health care facilities simply by showing their Veterans Health Identification Card and photo ID. For more info: blogs.

JThe Veterans Legacy Memorial, the country’s first digital platform dedicated entirely to memory preservation for the millions of veterans interred in VA national cemeteries, launched Aug. 14. Each veteran will have their own memorial page on the VLM platform. Future capabilities may be expanded to allow families, survivors, fellow veterans and others to add historic photos and share memories to a deceased veteran’s memorial page. Visit

Smoke-free policy begins October 1 at all VA medical facilities

2019 Caregiver Resource Directory released

Patients, employees, and visitors will begin to see a smoke-free policy at VA health care facilities starting October 1. The policy applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes (including electronic and e-cigarettes) and vape pens or e-cigars. For tools and tips to quit smoking:

The Department of Defense has released the 2019 Caregiver Resource Directory which includes 114 pages of information on resources and programs, including those that assist caregivers of wounded, ill and injured veterans and service members. Download at

VA shares electronic health records


Free flu shots for veterans at your local Walgreens

As of January 2020, VA will automatically begin sharing veterans’ health information with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange. To opt out, submit VA Form 10-10164 at any VA Medical Center. To learn more and download forms: Purple Heart Recipents exempt from VA Home Loan funding fees begining Jan. 2020

If you are in the market for a home loan and have been awarded a Purple Heart you may be able to save thousands of dollars on your loan thanks to a new law that takes effect early next year. Purple Heart recipients will be exempt from the funding fee that the Department of Veterans Affairs charges on their guaranteed home loans starting Jan. 1, 2020. Visit VA’s Home Loan website:

New text feature available through VA’s Women Veterans Call Center

Women veterans can now text 855-829-6636 to receive answers and guidance about VA services. The Women Veterans Call Center is staffed by trained female VA employees who can link callers to available resources. Visit programoverview/wvcc.asp. VET TEC, a high-tech training pilot program, is now taking veteran applications

VET TEC allows veterans to receive accelerated training in coding bootcamps and similar programs in information science, computer programming, computer software, media application, and data processing. To find out more and apply: 26



Roseburg VA health care system partners with urgent care facilities

Urgent care facilities around Roseburg are partnering with the VA to offer urgent care benefits. To find a location near you visit Department of State Lands now has database for unclaimed medals

The Oregon Department of State Lands, longtime steward of unclaimed property, has added a webpage for military medals and decorations in an effort to connect them with family members or descendants. Visit MilitaryMedals.aspx. New design, other changes coming to Oregon Wounded Warrior Parking Placard/Decal

After receiving feedback from customers and parking enforcement officials, Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) determined a redesign of the Oregon Wounded Warrior sticker was necessary to better meet the needs of Oregonians. This sticker replaces the original design: a rectangular sticker with a black background with white letters that read, “OREGON WOUNDED WARRIOR.” To ensure consistency, DMV will re-issue new stickers to all current holders of Wounded Warrior placards and decals. DMV expects to begin sending stickers out to customers by early November. For more information, call 503945-5000 or 503-299-9999 (Portland metro area), or visit

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Benefits Corner

Benefits Now Extended to ‘Blue Water Navy’ Veterans

Troops from the First Cavalry Air Mobile Division watch the carrier USS Boxer after arrival at Qui Nhon, Vietnam, on Sept. 12, 1965.


he U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is preparing to process Agent Orange exposure claims for “Blue Water Navy” Veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. These Veterans may be eligible for presumption of herbicide exposure through Public Law 116-23, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law June 25, 2019, and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. They may also qualify for a presumption of service connection if they have a disease that is recognized as being associated with herbicide exposure. The bipartisan Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act gives VA until Jan. 1, 2020, to begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims. By staying claims decisions until that date, VA is complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed. “VA is dedicated to ensuring that all Veterans receive the benefits they have earned,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are working to ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water Veteran community and minimize the impact on all Veterans filing for disability compensation.” Blue Water Navy Veterans are encouraged to submit disability compensation claims for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. Veterans over age 85 or with lifethreatening illnesses will have priority in claims processing. Veterans who previously were denied for an Agent Orange related presumptive condition can file a new claim based on the change in law. Eligible survivors of deceased Blue Water Navy Veterans also may benefit from the new law and may file claims for benefits based on the Veterans’ service. The new law affects Veterans who served on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation

line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, as defined in Public Law 116-23. An estimated 420,000 to 560,000 Vietnam-era Veterans may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans. To qualify under the new law, these Veterans must have a disease associated with herbicide exposure, as listed in 38 Code of Federal Regulations section 3.309(e). Agent Orange presumptive conditions are: • AL amyloidosis • Chloracne or similar acneform disease • Chronic B-cell leukemias • Diabetes mellitus Type 2 • Hodgkin’s lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease • Ischemic heart disease • Multiple myeloma • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as NonHodgkin’s lymphoma • Parkinson’s disease • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset • Porphyria cutanea tarda • Prostate cancer • Respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea) • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or mesothelioma) For more information about Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam waters (Blue Water Navy Veterans), visit https://www. agent-orange/navy-coast-guard-ships-vietnam/.

Veterans seeking more information should contact their Veterans Service Officer, call VA’s toll-free number at 800-827-1000 or visit the VA Blue Water Navy Agent Orange website. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS



By Tyler Francke, Veterans News Magazine

Introducing a new regular feature in Oregon Veterans News Magazine

In-Country by Oregon Veteran Phil Fehrenbacher


hil Fehrenbacher was in trouble. Big trouble. The lifelong Portland resident had enlisted in the Army out of high school with three buddies. They were all still in basic training. The trouble was, Fehrenbacher liked to draw. He had been doing it all his life, and he seemed to have a real knack for it. He could illustrate just about anything, but he particularly loved the medium of cartoons. I guess no one ever told Fehrenbacher that cartoons and caricatures poking fun at his commanding officers wasn’t a great idea. He showed them around to his buddies on the sly, and they all got a kick out of them. Then, one day, he got called into the orderly’s office, and there were his drawings, lying on the orderly’s desk. His heart sank immediately, and he knew he was in for it. “He chewed me up one side and down the other,” Fehrenbacher recalled. “Then, finally, he laughed and said, ‘How’d you like to do this for the Army?’ I said, ‘Well, heck yeah.’” After basic, he received the assignment of Army illustrator and stationed in Germany, where he drew slides and helped present nuclear deployment stategies to senior staff. He loved his 16 months in Germany, where he played for the German basketball team and learned karate in his spare time. THen, he got orders for Vietnam. “I went from three feet of snow to 100 and whatever degrees,” Fehrenbacher said. “Landed right there in Tet (the Vietnamese New Year) of ’68.” He was supposed to be an illustrator for PsyOps, but was eventually reassigned to a military intelligence batallion, where he served the remaining 21 months of his enlistment. After he got out, he returned to Oregon, where he found a job working for a T-shirt shop. He designed a number of shirts that proved popular with one of the shop’s clients, Harley-Davidson. Fehrenbacher estimated he made 80 to 90 designs for the iconic motorcycle manufacturer. He eventually settled in the Salem area, working as a graphic designer for the Public Utilty Commission, and then the Department of Consumer and Business Services, before his retirement in 2003. 28


It was then that he returned to his first love, cartoons, with two strips: Gray Area, which chronicles Baby Boomer grandparents and their interactions with younger generations, the modern world and getting older; and In-Country, which deals with the memories of his time in Vietnam in ways that are sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. “It was kind of a goal. I wanted to put it down,” Fehrenbacher said. “I see a lot of guys will write out their stories, like in memoirs, but I’ve always liked cartoons.” He started posting the panels on Facebook and was blown away by the response. To date, the In-Country Facebook page has over 17,000 followers, and each new post generates hundreds of likes and comments. “The thing that’s really worthwhile to me aren’t the cartoons as much as the comments you get,” he said. “Some are support, some are line units. Army, Navy, all the different branches. And they all had a different experience about the subject of the cartoon. My daughter thinks it’s cathartic for me to do this.” Fehrenbacher said some veteran support groups have asked to use the strip because their members find it helpful in dealing with their PTSD. “The thing that’s most amazing to me, though, is how younger vets have taken to this,” he said. “Even though it was a different time period, it’s still happening now, the same situations.” And it’s not just on Facebook that Fehrenbacher has been reaching fellow Vietnam vets with his memories and stories, which they often share. Rolling Thunder, a reenactment group based in England, has been a big supporter, as have 1o or 12 other groups all around the world who have asked to use the strip. He was even interviewed one time for a newspaper in Budapest. “It’s kind of funny to see them pop up in a different language,” Fehrenbacher said. For more information, visit InCountryCartoons. You can also see more of his work in future editions of Oregon Veterans News Magazine.


Volunteer Disabled American Veterans

DAV is looking for more volunteer more volunteer drivers nationwide to meet the growing transportation need of veterans. Without this program, many veterans would not have access to the VA health care they’ve earned. Applicants can also request the route area they prefer.

See ‘Lodestar’ Independent film

“Lodestar,” a documentary by graduate student and veteran Army Ranger Paul Kirby, explores coastal access as an under-utilized mental health treatment — told through the story of one veteran’s experiences kayaking the Oregon coast. Watch online now at

In-Country: Memories of a Tour of Duty in South Vietnam Phillip B. Fehrenbacher

Longtime cartoonist, illustrator and Vietnam War Army veteran Phil Fehrenbacher has turned his popular online comic strip “In-Country” into a book! Featuring more than 100 cartoons depicting the experiences and memories of veterans who served in South Vietnam. “The cartoons are not always funny,” Fehrenbacher says, “but hopefully jog the memories of those who were there and inform those who were not.”

Operation Firefly Liane Young

A compelling work of historical fiction written by former director of corporate communications for the Office of Naval Research Liane Young, “Operation Firefly” reveals the amazing true story of the smokejumpers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, also known as the “Triple Nickles,” the U.S. Army’s first all-black test platoon. Young draws you into this riveting, little-known chapter of American history by masterfully weaving the story of Captain Tucker Freeman and several other fictionalized characters into factual accounts.

Connect Veterans Day Event Celebrations

Visit ODVA’s blog to find a list of Veterans Day celebrations happening across the state. ODVA will be hosting its annual Statewide Veterans Day Celebration at 3 p.m. Nov. 11 at the World War II Memorial on the grounds of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

Relax Warfighters Outfitters

Warfighter Outfitters provides absolutely free outings and excursions to wounded and disabled rated veterans of any conflict and campaign on hunting, fishing, and engagement opportunities. Their mission is veterans helping veterans, on the waters and beyond. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS




veteran service office Directory The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs, county veteran service officers (CVSOs) and national service organizations provide claims assistance free of charge to all veterans and family members. Service officers are also available to assist with other veteran benefits and resources. To schedule an appointment, contact the office nearest you. BAKER 541 523 8223 BENTON 541 758 1595 CLACKAMAS 503 650 5631 CLATSOP 503 791 9983 COLUMBIA 503 366 6580 COOS 541 396 7590 CROOK 541 447 5304 CURRY 866 298 0404

Find easy to understand information about VA’s new Mission Act and how it impacts and enhances your options for care including:

DESCHUTES 541 385 3214 DOUGLAS 541 440 4219 GILLIAM 541 384 6712 GRANT 541 575 1631 HARNEY 541 573 1342 HOOD RIVER 541 386 1080 JACKSON 541 774 8214 JEFFERSON 541 475 5228 JOSEPHINE 541 474 5454 KLAMATH 541 883 4274 LAKE 541 947 6043 LANE 541 682 4191 LINCOLN 541 265 0570 LINN 541 967 3882 MALHEUR 541 889 6649


MARION 971 707 4400

MORROW 541 922 6420 MULTNOMAH 503 988 8387 POLK 503 623 9188 SHERMAN 541 565 3408 TILLAMOOK 503 842 4358 UMATILLA 541 667 3125 UNION 541 962 8802 WALLOWA 541 426 0539 WASCO 541 506 2502 WASHINGTON 503 846 3060 WHEELER 541 763 3032 YAMHILL 503 434 7503 CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF UMATILLA 541 429 7389 AMERICAN LEGION 503 412 4706 DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS 503 412 4750 MILITARY ORDER OF THE PURPLE HEART 503 412 4770 NABVETS OF AMERICA 503 412 4159 PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA 503 412 4762 VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS 503 412 4757 VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA 541 604 0963




PRSRT STD U S Po s t a g e PA I D Pe r m i t N o . 2 2 Salem, OR


Oregonians voted to have Lottery dollars support Veteran Services. In fact, $18.7 million in Lottery funds are helping to provide more direct and critical services like healthcare, job placement and education to veterans right in their local communities.

Lottery games are based on chance and should be played for entertainment only.

Veterans_8.75X8.5_V2_RD2.indd 1

10/8/18 11:15 AM

Profile for Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs

Oregon Veterans News Magazine Issue 6