Veteran Retreat Schedule for 2010

January marks the fifth year of our free retreats at the Merritt Center in Payson Arizona. These workshop weekends are the vision of the retreat founder, Betty Merritt. The entire weekend, food and lodging and workshop material is free to all combat veterans of all wars.

While the original outreach efforts were targeting just the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the directors and veteran mentors discovered in the third year that the mixture of the very broad demographic base of veterans, meaning WWll, Korea, Panama, Bosnian, Desert Storm, Vietnam, afforded a rather magical setting. War is war, and its psychic residue does not change much through time. Much of what Shakespeare and Steven Crane wrote about could be laid upon the soldier from Baghadad or Kabul.

The Soldier, Sailor, Marine, will not find anything like the Merritt Center in the conventional world of transition programs. One vet tagged this set of workshops as “a very fine dessert, after a superb meal.” I concur, having had the honor of participating for the past four years.

Warriors simply leave this place as a new and improved version, with tools in their psychological and spiritual arsenal that they heretofore did not even know they had available.

The mentors are not third party helpers either. They are all men and women who have been steeped in combat and have an uncanny ability to bond with others. Frankly, they just know the meaning of love.

This is not a Church program, and no one need fear any messy evangelizing. While many of us are affiliated with our own churches, we are not in the conversion business. This program is, straight away, focused on leaving the veteran with a healthy life soul and healthy life style and does so in ways where cognitive therapy leaves off. And did I say it is FREE?

Thanks to a stable of benefactors and grants the Merritt Center Board has been able to maintain this gratis offering. We pray that remains, and are always open to other grant and philanthropic opportunities.

The 2010 schedule is as follows:

January 15-17

March 5-7

May 14-16

July 9-11

The veteran may enter at session #2, after that it is closed. For applications go to the website at “” or call Mike Brewer/USMC at 520-360-6933

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good nights sleep!

Sit-Rep on Health Care Debate

Just want you all to know that Veteran Veritas is sitting here with drooped lids just about ready to bow out with fatigue, waiting for the final vote of the U.S. Senate on ending the debate on Health Care.
At 11:19 pm Tucson time the vote was 58 Democrats; 2 Independents; Aye. 40 Republicans Nay.

Lieberman, Lincoln and Ben Nelson were in favor of ending the debate.

The Talk Show hosts are going to have a hey day. Only can Jesus himself solve this one.

America's First Veteran

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues. Such was the man for whom the nation mourns.

John Marshall, official eulogy of George Washington
Delivered by Richard Henry Lee/ December 26th, 1799

My grandmother was a Lee. She used to tell us about the days when the English language was used to elevate and bring forth the best in all. Hard to imagine that in this day of in-your-face editorial and talk radio snippets.
This eulogy almost seems like fiction to the modern citizen soldier. Who might we emulate today that is both humble, virtuous, and a courageous leader combined?

Affordable Acupuncture for Veterans With Pain Issues

For release: Community acupuncture clinic brings health care reform to Tucson
As Congress debates and devises ways to reform our nation’s health care system, two local acupuncturists are already working to revolutionize alternative medicine in Tucson.

Keith Zabik and Larry Gatti say they founded Tucson Community Acupuncture last year in order to make acupuncture more affordable and accessible for residents in southern Arizona. The clinic, located at 2900 E. Broadway, is one of more than a hundred around the country that is using a “community model” where treatments are conducted in a large open setting and prices are set on a sliding scale starting as low as $15.

“Acupuncturists have been treating in this community-style for millennia in China,” Zabik says. “But in the U.S., private treatments are more the norm and typically cost $60 and up—a price most people can’t afford on a regular basis.”

Instead of treating people in isolated rooms and cubicles, the Tucson clinic treats people in a quiet, common area filled with comfortable recliners. The acupuncturists place hair-thin needles primarily in people’s hands, feet, legs, and arms in order to treat pain anywhere in the body and also to relieve a variety of common ailments.

“It’s like a big living room rather than a typical medical office,” Gatti says. “Many of our patients comment that the group setting is very relaxing and helps their healing.”

Since opening their doors in June 2008 the clinic has given more than 8000 treatments—with currently anywhere from 150 to 200 patient visits each week. Zabik notes that the clinic recently expanded their current operation by 700 square feet in order to provide additional treatment space and to be able to serve more Tucsonans.

“It’s bittersweet that we are one of the few businesses flourishing under such a bleak economy,” Zabik says. “I think it reflects how much people need affordable health care.”

In particular, Zabik and Gatti say they are reaching out to working- and middle-class Tucsonans who have never tried acupuncture before.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much acupuncture can help relieve pain, fatigue, and stress,” Gatti says. “Plus many who already know about the benefits would not try acupuncture due to the high cost. Our goal is to remove financial barriers and help people get better.”

Each time patients visit the clinic they are asked how much they wish to pay on the sliding scale of $15 to $35 (with a additional $10 fee for the first visit). Zabik emphasizes that the clinic does not ask patients to declare their salaries or require any proof of income.

“We recognize that people’s financial situations can change, even from week to week,” Zabik says. “Our sliding scale is one way to remove barriers and empower people in their medical choices—something that doesn’t seem to be happening right now in the current health care system.”

For more information contact:
Keith Zabik, L.Ac. or
Shoshana Mayden
(520) 400-5606 (cell)
(520) 881-1887 (clinic)

Related links:

Tucson Community Acupuncture website

Community Acupuncture Network

Link to Yes! Magazine article: Acupuncture for All (Winter 2008)

This concept just makes sense. So many of us combat vets are living with pain so much of the time that we just write it off, or rely on medications that ultimately are not very friendly to the kidneys over the long haul. Before you just cave into your chronic pain game, try some of these tiny magic sticks for an hour or so. I did, and now I can probably reach under the Christmas tree for the gifts!

VA Health Care Enrollment and Refunds For Combat Veterans

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 extended the period of enhanced enrollment eligibility and cost-free care for conditions potentially related to the theater of combat operations.

Major implications of this law are:

Any combat veteran currently enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system and new combat veteran enrollees who are discharged from active duty on or after January 28th, 2003, are eligible for enhanced enrollment placement into Priority Group 6,( unless eligible for higher priority group placement, for five years post discharge.

Combat veterans discharged from active duty before January 28, 2003 who did not previously enroll in the VA’s health care system and who apply for enrollment on or after Jan.28,2003, are eligible for enhanced enrollment placement into Prioriy 6 through January 27. 2011.

As a result of the National Defense Authorization Act, veterans who are eligible for retroactive refunds of co-payments they made for medical services and prescriptions associated with treatment related to combat experience.

VA medical facilities are currently conducting reviews to determine applicable co-payments which should be refunded to these veterans.

The Veterans Administration anticipates mailing letters to impacted veterans before the end of the year informing them that they are due a refund which will be issued by the end of December, 2009.

Veterans are asked to contact the VA’s Health Resources Center with any questions at 1-800-0932.

Update data provided by Disabled American Veterans.

I remind our readers that the VA Budget was approved back in October. The first time in 20 years the VA has budget has been signed off on before the end of the year. This is a good thing, as they have spent the last 60 days planning for 2010, which is assured to see a huge influx in the needs of returning vets.

The very reason for this Blog, is to impart information like this that never makes conventional news dailies. I hope you pass it on.

Veterans and Cops and Fireman

Veterans and Police and Fireman have alot in common. Loyalty, courage, and a huge aptitude and profile for serving and protecting.

After watching the City Council Study session this afternoon and some the heart wrenching testimony about the City budgetary plan to lay off Police and Fire, I am incensed at the lack of creativity and the absence of loyalty and courage to serve and protect the public. This is the best solution at hand? God save us.

One thing you cannot levy against the military is superfluous behavior. We have so many superfluous organizations in this city that are akin to protected classes that it is a crime to even think of cutting Police and Fire.

If a municipality is sinking, do you really need an Economic Development budget? Is not a safe and protected City a form of economic development? Is not the superfluity of some of these near frivolous and unaccountable organizations a travesty in the face of a budgetary crisis?

To what end does the Downtown Tucson Partnership serve at this time? Can they not be disbanded along with the improvement district and allocate those monies to basic services while we recover? Is anything less not a form of financial malfeasance?

I heard the City Manager. for whom I have great respect, indicate that selling off excess land is a long term solution, not short term. I would like to see this elaborated upon with some good journalism in our morning daily. “We need to leverage those properties for future development,” said the city manager Mike Lechter. I heard that mantra 19 years ago when I served on the City Budget Advisory. Leverage for whom, I now ask? Show me the leverage.

Why not renegotiate the sale-leasebacks of our City municipal buildings that are enriching private investors? Anonymous ones, mind you. We have investors making sweet returns while the Titanic slips.

So a veteran might say, “When the hill is being overrun you don’t plan a USO show.” That would be TREO. Why are they not laid off during this crisis as opposed to the police and fireman who are the real Tucson?

My Pal and My Sergeant in the Nam

Well, this is suppose to be site for advocacy, yet I cannot help reporting to you the pure joy I have tonight for my pal and my former Sgt. in the Marine Corps; Bob Boytor. After 5 years of tugging with the VA he was awarded his long overdue 100% disability rating today. Two tours in the Nam, one at Khe Sahn and 14 Operations. We met on Operation Meade River; the largest Helicopter assault in the War. And then did not hook up again until one night in 1999, when I was putszin’Vets for Us around with my new and first email address, and there popped up Bob on an instant message.

“Is that you Brewer?” I about fell off my chair. I had been trying to find him for 30 years.

Vietnam Veterans all rotated home alone you know, never in a Unit, so we were all pretty dispersed for years. Some say it was planned that way, so as to never be able to tell the truth of Vietnam in mass.

You always think you are in charge when you are looking for someone. Seldom does one think that someone is looking for you! So there we were on AOL IM in the middle of the night getting acquainted. It was 10 years ago this week. 41 years ago this week, we had just completed Operation Meade River. 41 years ago this week I was knocked unconscious with a blast injury. 42 years ago this week I joined the Marine Corps. 8 years ago this week, I completed a PTSD program at the VA, ending years of repression. 28 years ago this week I got the best job of my life running La Placita Village. And now this week in December my very close battle buddy gets his due.

Merry Christmas Bob Boytor! And may the peace of the season be as permanent as you wish.

And yes Bob, we do wonder why claims take so long in California.

Some Advice from Arizona Veterans Hall of Famer/ Larry Brown


Veterans and Friends:
We need to educate organizations to start fighting for veterans in the area of blood clots……
I know five veterans this year alone that have died from these, they are caused by blood thinners when veterans are in the hospital sick from lung cancer and other cancers and sickness, and need to thin the blood down they are getting these dreaded clots. They go directly to their lungs and kill them. So when the Veterans pass, the wife has to fight the VA to know end, because clots are not service connected, they do not want to continue pay for families under DIC. This is so wrong, if your sickness was a service connected disability when the veteran went in or became sick, and any technical problems occur when they are being treating for it, it should be part of the original sickness, not to say no…..Sorry, not service connected disability….
Thanks; Spread the word……
Larry Brown
Veterans Advocate

Please pass this along to all veterans, families of veterans or individuals with veterans in their family.
“Aid and Attendance” is an underutilized special monthly pension benefit offered by the Veterans Administration for veterans and surviving spouses who require in-home care or live in nursing homes.

To qualify, a veteran (includes the surviving spouse) must have served at least 90 days of active military service, one day of which is during a period of war, and must be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable..

The veteran’s benefit is $18,234 annually (paid monthly) and an increase to $21,615 if a veteran has a dependent.

The surviving spouse alone is $11,715 annually.

For more information, call 1-800-827-1000
Visit (type “Aid and Attendance” in the search block), or contact your local VA office.
Apply on-line at
PSS: Here is a good link to articles on Agent Orange:

“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another”.

Larry Brown is a decorated Marine and long time advocate for veterans.

Bloggers Unite

Tonight’s gathering of Tucson Citizen bloggers was reminiscent of my days on the Tucson Citizen’s Editorial Advisory Board. This new crop of citizen journalists is remarkably broad, notably intelligent, and clearly wired into the community, affording the reader a genuine sense of place. It is this sense of place that used to be the hallmark of the dailies.

“In the nineteenth-century newspaper, the relationship between the observer and the observed was reciprocal: the newspaper described the city; the newspaper in turn was sustained by readers who were curious about the strangers that circumstance had placed proximate to them.”
Richard Rodriguez; “Twilight of the American Newspaper” Harpers; Nov.2009

The irony of this loose connection of bloggers, is that they are fulfilling the mission that was once aspired to in the brainstorming sessions of the volunteer citizen panels of the 1990’s.

There is a phrase in the Mexican community that captures this group of local observers. “La vida es corta pero ancha” Loosely translated to mean, life is short, but ever so wide. That is the nature of news in my world.

Again, I turn to Richard Rodriguez, writing in the November issue of Harpers. ” It is like a giant newspaper being assembled at all hours, from every corner of the world, still with news but no roots in a place. Perhaps we do not need a sense of place anymore.”

A year from now the readers will speak, about the value of “,” and the sense of place it gives to our town. In the meantime, I am proud to be a member of a club that will have me. And I am equally proud to have made the acquaintance of some of you this evening. Carry on.

War and More War

Once upon a time….. it was a dark and stormy night…….when we increased the troops and the bombing in Vietnam, right before Christmas too. And we wonder why vets are freaked out over the holidays?

Where do I begin? Five calls tonight asking my take on the Presidents speech.

“Do I have to?” I say.

“Well yes,” my 85 year old World War ll pal says.

“How can you be in the advocacy business and not comment on War?”

One reason, is that the last time I outed my editorial brain, some blogger trolls slammed me for not being an advocate for veterans. Huh? So, advocates are supposed to be mindless puppets?

So, from the advocacy corner, where I have resided since 1972, I would say that the absence of any and all discussion about the impact of war on our family, friends and employers is so conspicuous that one wonders if we have so sanitized the entire affair and desensitized the citizenry that it is as if war has become a third party experience akin to reality TV.

My elderly friend then asked why I thought the President did not “rally” the people behind the war effort. Whew… where is Rosie the Riveter when we need her? I guess that is what he meant.

Well, “this is not your Fathers war I tell him” ( a bit of an anachronism for him, as he could be my father!). Meaning, there is no declared war and I do not see any major sacrifices being made for the war cause. Key word being “sacrifices,” a world of difference from “support.” We support now with bumper stickers and head out to Monday Night Football.

In the past 8 years name me the sacrifices the American people have made for the war effort? Rationing…? well yes, sort of, if you count the number of people out of work as a result of the cost of the war. How many in the neighborhood are packing up Christmas gifts for the troops? Is anyone contacting the families of the deployed to see if they need help? Do you know who the veterans are in your neighborhood? Have you welcomed them home.. personally?

You will not hear a political stance here…so keep calm blog trolls, I am remaining focused on the impact and intense need for advocacy that is on the horizon with the continued rotation and increase in troops.

The obvious effect of multiple tours is going to permeate our entire culture for the next ten years and hopefully abate beyond that. The Outreach programs with both the VA and private non-profits are going to be maxed. The medical facilities are going to be utilized to their tolerable limits, as the increase in Traumatic Brain Injury, which is now at about 240% above the days of the invasion of Iraq. The enemy has figured something out here. Possibly, how to fight the most well financed Army in the world. Ho Chi Minh used booby traps and tunnels that were impervious to bombs, to offset the Goliath. Now it is IED’s. An Iraq vet at one of our retreats said, “head injuries are the enemies memo to take home.” He had two, and will be compromised for life. His comment about a head injuries being an “invasion of our country..sorta,’ is a bit macabre.

The expected increase in the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress, in both the NCO and Officer ranks, now that it is okay for them to admit it, will take a toll that is a complete unknown. The fabric of the home-front will be altered in ways America has never experienced, as America has never experienced multiple tours in a war zone. Even the seasoned and highly skilled Psychologists are pondering the symptomatic cluster they will be confronted with in men and women who have served up to 5 tours of duty.

One Psychologist I met at a workshop in California said, “I have no idea, what kind of hybrid humans we are creating with so much exposure to a war.” “We were not trained for this, no one is, really,” he said.

As a trained combat Marine, I know full well what it is like to deal with a thinking and highly devious enemy who is hell bent for leather to wear down our morale. I frankly never thought I would experience another waking hell like this in my lifetime. But here we are. And the Soldiers,Sailors, Airman and Marines need us more now then ever.

As the saying goes, “the soldier is always subsidiary to the politician.”

The mission never changes. We need to Clear-Hold- Build,(the locals that is). That mission needs a ton of allies this time around. Our abacus does not have that many beads.

I say Semper Fi. But this time, the old war torn Marine says, “Semper Fi” to my brothers and sisters comin’ home. I am indeed my brothers keeper. And, as St Paul admonished us, we should “pray unceasingly,” that the decisions announced tonight will work out for the good of the order.
The symmetrical escalation and second guessing polemics that will hit the radio waves tomorrow, is not called supporting the troops.