Metro-East News

Gym for vets with PTSD needs de-commissioned fire hoses

News-Democrat

Linas Grybinas, a Fairview Heights mental health specialist, is in the process of building a 1,500 square-foot “functional” gym in Fairview Heights for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The gym will focus on lifting and moving heavy stuff, like tires and other objects, In this connection, Grybinas is reaching out to firefighters for their help in finding old fire hoses that could be turned into “battle ropes,” a popular piece of gym apparatus used for building upper arm strength.

For nearly two years, Grybnias and his friends have raised money for these vets through a charity called Climb for PTSD. Much of their outreach centers on Grybinas, an experienced weightlifter and martial artist, hauling people with PTSD perched on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry up various tall objects, including Monk’s Mound near Collinsville.

If you can help Grybinas, contact him at 618-980-8318 or by email at linas.grybinas@theclimbs.org.

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The only way to eliminate taxpayer funding for commissaries is to shut them all down, according to Pentagon officials who have explored a number of alternatives, according to Military Times.

But that’s not an option, nor is drastically increasing prices, Pentagon officials said in a report to Congress: “Either action would significantly reduce the benefit available to commissary patrons, and would adversely impact the customer base of the military exchange system, reducing the availability of dividends for morale, welfare and recreation activities as well.”

And those eligible are using their benefit: 80 percent of eligible, active-duty households shopped at least once at a commissary in the 12 months ending Jan. 31, the report noted. More than 50 percent of those who shopped in commissaries during that period were active-duty households, according to the report.

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Military Times published a report about the growing dispute between the Pentagon and the Air Force’s former chief prosecutor over how the military handles sex assault cases — and the fact that it has reached the office of Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Retired Col. Don Christensen, who is now president of Protect our Defenders, a group that advocates for military service members who have been sexually harassed or assaulted, is pushing back hard on the Defense Department’s suggestion that Christensen and his group don’t understand how the sexual assault prosecution process works.

Christensen has asked Carter for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the problem in a letter dated June 3.

The dispute began in April, when Protect our Defenders released a report alleging the Pentagon misled Congress about sexual assault cases. The group said the military gave Congress inaccurate information on sexual assaults that made civilian prosecutors appear less willing to pursue cases than military commanders. Now-retired Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, who at the time was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used that information during a 2013 congressional hearing to argue against a bill taking prosecutions out of military hands.

The Associated Press also published a story based on records it obtained from Protect our Defenders.

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President Barack Obama is opposing suggestions the government privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve health care veterans receive.

In an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette, the president said his administration has made progress modernizing the VA and providing veterans with more timely health care following criticism over wait times. Privatizing the agency would delay that progress, he said.

The administration came under fire when it was disclosed that secret wait lists were uncovered at a VA health care system in Arizona amid reports that several veterans had died waiting for health care. Government investigations found significant system failures.

During that same time, the VA also had the biggest construction failure in its history — the new medical campus in Aurora where costs skyrocketed from an estimated $604 million in 2011 to an estimated $1.7 billion. Construction contracts were first awarded in 2010 for the project that is now expected to be completed in early 2018.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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