Tag Archives: vet

Iraq veteran is valedictorian at York College


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

York College Commencement 2012.

While leading a patrol on a well-known supply route in Iraq from Fallujah to Ramadi, Marine Tony Wan spotted a slight disturbance on the path.

Following his training to question his suspicions, he drove closer.

When he realized it was an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) it was too late, and before he could turn back and finish yelling “I-E-D” to his comrades, his Humvee exploded.

Wan, now a 25-year-old resident of Fresh Meadows, survived the explosion with a minor concussion. In fact, it was the second explosion he’d survive while on tour in 2006.

“Going in I felt we were ready and well trained, but it was different than we expected,” Wan said of his tours.

During a later expedition Wan’s company lost two men, one his best friend, and today he wears a bracelet to commemorate them.

“It reminds me of the sacrifice that Marines like them make,” he said of the memento.

The veteran returned home after a second tour and enrolled at York College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY), in 2009.

Fast forward three years, and when York College hosted its 42nd commencement exercise for its largest graduating class on June 1, Wan was the valedictorian with a 3.99 GPA, standing out among the sea of 1,000 caps and gowns.

He was the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

For Wan, who majored in chemistry, the graduation marked a turnaround in his life.

Years earlier, he was struggling to graduate from Benjamin Cardozo High School. Ironically, he “failed chemistry three times,” and had to make up classes.

He voluntarily enlisted in the Marine Corps, because he realized his parents couldn’t afford to send both him and his brother to college.

However, he said the military was a positive experience, which enhanced his personality.

“Through the military I learned discipline and perseverance,” he said, which were the driving forces behind his return to the classroom.

With certificate in hand, he aims for a new goal — to go to medical school so he can help other veterans.

 

The challenges returning veterans face


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the IAVA

When Anthony Pike returned home from his first tour of duty in Baghdad in 2004 nothing was waiting for him.

For years he had worked in community affairs and wrote articles for newspapers while in the Marine Corps. He expected to work in journalism back at home, but instead he couldn’t find work anywhere and ended up taking a job hanging flyers and posters.

Many young returning vets find themselves in a similar situation after serving their country, according to Pike.

“It’s frustrating,” he said, adding that he finally became a membership coordinator last year for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America [IAVA]. “There’s no reason why a combat medic who served in Afghanistan shouldn’t have a certification to be an EMT.”

Pike, 30, of Astoria, said returning vets face the problem where employers don’t hire them, because they don’t have the academic documents to verify their abilities.

“It’s an epidemic,” he said. “It’s part of the reason why military unemployment is higher than civilian unemployment.”

Although he didn’t engage in battle, when Pike came home, he began suffering from nightmares and had problems adjusting, others issues vets have to deal with.

“I try to separate the two,” said Sean McCabe, a vet from Ozone Park. “Instead of waking up every day thinking someone’s trying to get you, coming back home is a relief.” McCabe, 28, said he was never diagnosed, but he faced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], in which sufferers have vivid memories of traumatic experiences. He credits his wife and his daughter with helping him overcome it.

“My wife has been the best,” McCabe said. “I could be in the darkest tunnel and she’ll walk out with me on the other side.”

He said many employers are also afraid to hire workers because they misunderstand PTSD, and the slim working availability makes him want to return to action.

“Not a day goes by where I think I wouldn’t mind being back there,” McCabe said. “I miss my guys and I was good at my job.”

To help vets get jobs and back to society, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder has drafted two bills.

Bill 9969 would enable veterans to take civil service exams at discounted rates, giving them access to more jobs; Bill 9872 would allow for military service to be deemed eligible credit for a high school diploma.

“In these tough economic times we got to give every person the opportunity to succeed and get back to work, especially the vets who put their lives on the line,” Goldfeder said.

McCabe, who supports Goldfeder’s bills, said there is a “positive shift” and pointed to the work of the Wounded Warriors Project and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, organizations dedicated to helping veterans acclimate to civilian society.

“It’s really come a long way, there is still more to do,” McCabe said. “But they’re making their way.”

Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Body of missing escort Shannan Gilbert likely found in Oak Beach, L.I. one year after disappearance
A year after the search for Shannan Gilbert led to the discovery of 10 bodies at Gilgo Beach, L.I., the missing escort’s corpse was found a few miles away, police said Tuesday. Gilbert’s purse, including her ID and cell phone, and her jeans and shoes were found in marshland last week, and police expanded their efforts to find her body. Skeletal remains were found at the Oak Beach site, and police said they believe they belong to Gilbert but have not confirmed it through forensics. Read More: Daily News

 

Seaburn Bookstore, Astoria’s only independent bookseller, to close this month 

The only independent book store in Astoria selling mainstream titles is slated to close its doors for good this month. Seaburn Bookstore has been losing money for years and its owner tried to shutter the shop last year. But an outpouring of community support at the time — and a jump in sales — prompted the owner, Sam Chekwas, to keep the beloved store open. He even remodelled and added an Internet cafe to appeal to new customers. Read More: Daily News

 

Disabled Flushing resident says the Veterans Administration botched his wheelchair

Matthew Raible, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, said he waited nine months for the Veterans Administration to give him a proper wheelchair that he desperately needed for his everyday life. And less than a week after it arrived, both wheels fell off, he said. This is one of many complaints that Raible, a quadriplegic, has with the VA, which is responsible for providing his wheelchairs and other health care services. Read More: Daily News

 

Teacher has students do ‘God’s’ work

A Queens high school teacher got students to unwittingly do volunteer work for a controversial religious charity run by the son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham that has been accused of mixing its celebrated aid to the poor with proselytizing. Students in John Bowne HS said their math teacher, Mr. Joseph, asked them in class last month if they would bring in shoe boxes filled with toys, clothes and teddy bears for the Samaritan’s Purse annual Operation Christmas Child program. Read More: New York Post