Iraqi puppy decked out in red, white and blue arrives in US


Posted on 21st October 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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9:36 PM EDT, October 20, 2008

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER | Associated Press Writer

CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — A black puppy decked out in a red, white and blue bandanna jumped out of his crate and wagged his tail at the airport Monday, three flights and two days after leaving Iraq en route to his new home with a U.S. soldier.

Army Spc. Gwen Beberg of Minneapolis says she couldn’t have made it through her 13-month deployment without Ratchet, who she and another soldier rescued from a burning pile of trash in May. Ratchet, wearing a dog-bone-shaped collar with its name, will spend two nights in a kennel before flying to Minneapolis, where Beberg’s parents will pick him up. Beberg is scheduled to return home next month.

“I’m very excited that Ratchet will be waiting for me when I get home from Iraq! Words can’t describe it,” Beberg said in an e-mail to friends and family. “I hope that Ratchet’s story will inspire people to continue the efforts to bring more service members’ animals home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The dog was rescued by Baghdad Pups, run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International. The group, which has now brought 63 animals to the U.S., says the effort both saves dogs and cats and helps soldiers who benefit from the bond with the animals.

The military bars troops from caring for pets on duty or taking them home, citing reasons such as health issues and difficulties in caring for the animals. The U.S. military has said the dog was free to leave but American troops could not be responsible for its transportation.

Baghdad Pups coordinator Terri Crisp, who brought the puppy back from Iraq, said animals adopted by soldiers help them get through difficult times.

“I hope Ratchet and his story will lead to some dialogue with the military,” Crisp said as she stroked the puppy.

Ratchet flew on a charter flight to Kuwait, then flew commercial from Kuwait to Amsterdam and on to Washington. Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines picked up the cost of the last two legs.

Ratchet frolicked on a grassy patch outside the airport before heading off to Clocktower Animal Hospital in Herndon, Va., for a checkup and some shots.

“Your tail’s wagging!” said Dr. Chris Carskaddan, the veterinarian, as he greeted the dog. “So cute.”

Ratchet didn’t bark at all, but let out a whimper during the shots. Afterward, Carskaddan declared the dog “extremely healthy.”

Copyright 2008 Associated Press.

Baghdad Pups site:

Pa. widow sues US over Iraq vet-husband’s suicide


Posted on 7th October 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 10/7/2008 10:58 PM

Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The widow of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide while in outpatient care for depression at a Veterans Administration hospital has sued the federal government for negligence.

Tiera Woodward, 26, claims in her lawsuit that her late husband, Donald, sought treatment at a VA hospital in Lebanon after three failed suicide attempts but wasn’t seen by a psychiatrist for more than two months.

She says doctors were slow to diagnose her husband with major depression, and that once the diagnosis was made, a psychiatrist failed to schedule a follow-up meeting with her husband after he informed the doctor he had gone off his medication.

Donald Woodward killed himself in March 2006 at age 23.

“I intend to make them make changes,” said Donald Woodward’s mother, Lori Woodward. “I have too many friends whose kids are in Iraq. I have a nephew now in Iraq, in the same unit, and I can’t have my family go through this again.”

Alison Aikele, a VA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said the agency does not typically comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, seeks an unspecified amount for funeral expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

It echoes other lawsuits nationwide over VA mental-health services, despite legislation President Bush signed in November ordering improvements.

The family of Marine Jeffrey Lucey, also 23, has a federal suit pending in Massachusetts over his June 2004 suicide. And two veterans groups sued the VA in San Francisco seeking an overhaul of its health system, citing special concerns about mental health, but a judge dismissed the suit in June over venue issues.

More than 150,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have already sought mental health care from the VA, and another 200,000 have sought medical care, according to Veterans for Common Sense, one of the groups involved in the California lawsuit.

“Each tragic veteran suicide is yet another painful reminder of the human cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and VA’s abject failure to provide timely and appropriate mental health care,” said Paul Sullivan, the group’s executive director. “How many wake-up calls does (the) VA need?”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

What resources are available online for someone who is suicidal?


Posted on 6th July 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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I have devoted most of the last month to blogging about the interplay between emotional issues and brain damage, especially focused on military injuries. See Regardless of what the underlying cause of someone’s despair, it is critical that he or she reaches out for help. I asked my research assistant this question: What resources are available online for someone who is suicidal?

Here is what she put together for me:

The internet and 1-800 free hotlines seem to be quick and helpful sources of information for someone who has suicidal thoughts.

Since, there are so many websites, it is impossible to list them all. Here are some good starting points for help.

This website was written by Martha Ainsworth who based her information and inspiration from David Conroy, Ph. D. David Conroy is the Executive Director of Suicide Prevention Resource and author of a Suicide Prevention book, Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain.

The website features “The Samaritans” ( who are trained volunteers available 24 hours a day to listen by email or phone. A Samaritan volunteer can be reached by email at: or by phone at: 1-800-365-4044 and additional numbers can be found at:, which is an organization affiliated with The Samaritans.

The site also suggests that someone having suicidal thoughts could talk to a therapist online. Therapist online can answer your email questions and provide online counseling. All of the online therapists listed provide online counseling for a fee, however, The Samaritan remains free. The website for this information is:

There is also information about a Depression support group, Walkers in Darkness, who provide support and information for others who our suffering from depression.

The website for this information is:

Lastly, if you have the time and patience you can also find a therapist who can help you work through your suicidal problems. For information on how to pick the best therapist for you see:

It is important that someone who has suicidal thoughts talk to someone and does not keep the thoughts to themselves. There is plenty of helpful information out there and many people that want to help.