VETERANS CORNER: Covid-19 presents hurdles for veterans seeking VA assistance

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Here we are closing in on the Fall season. Some are receiving this with great enthusiasm but others are not. Fall, for many is a thing of beauty and some are sighting in their bows and guns. The older veterans are starting to lean toward the beauty as they reach the fall of their lives. The younger vets still lean toward the action of the hunt. Time is so elusive. One day nothing can harm us, then father time plays his eternal game leading to closure. We become weak with time as the frailty sets in. We begin to worry where we go, what we do and how and where we do it. A couple of days ago a young driver almost ran me off the road. I said, “Oh, I would like to get my hands on him.” The truth retrospect of the matter is I was thinking through a previous time zone. (retrospect). That young man would have made mince meat out of me. We live in that never ending bubble which like hamsters take us round and round. I think it’s referred to as, “the second childhood.” We sometimes think through the eyes of time gone by.

We veterans have a mixed bag to carry. We were trained to be good God-fearing adults by our parents and with that came a code of ethics and morals. Of course, I am referring to the average everyday family. Then some of us answered the call of the duty to the country we so dearly love, (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard). With this call, we all underwent a new training with a slightly different code. We had to undergo a different training by a different relative, Uncle Sam. This training taught us a code that was necessary but not so nice and had different rules from those mom and dad.

So, of course, ultimately this left in its wake a group of confused men and women. Resulting from this we have many dismembered mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, who still have some of their parent’s teachings and some of what their country imparted in them. Sounds confusing doesn’t it. Well, for many of these veterans, it is. Most will never figure it out.

So, the fact of the matter is you have to adjust and live with it. Some live with it in real time and are fairly successful with the instilled conflict yet others live with an internal contentious summation of what life has dealt out; and who and what they should have been some call this nervous disorder, or PTSD. In any case it is a very heavy burden for the human psyche. For some the burdens are too great and they choose to leave this world by their own hand. Others, the fortunate ones, have close support groups, family, friends, clergy and other support venues such as the Veterans Administration.

Now we have a roadblock that has been placed in front of us called Covid-19. So, where am I going with this? A few of the veteran support groups are still in place but one of the most important is not, the V.A. Since the pandemic arrived the VA has for the most part shutdown. Emergent situations can be seen through emergency. Also in all fairness there are some doctors that have elected to do face to face. So don’t get lost in despair. If you need to talk to your Primary Care Physician call 207-623-8411 and push “0” when you get the recording. You will get a live person and just ask to be connected with your doctor. Another person will answer but your doctor will eventually get back to you. You can have a phone conference. If more is required then you will be allowed to go to Community Health Care. (Doctor of your Choice) this is a recent option set up by the federal government. Also, my website is maineveteranstalk@wixsite.com/vets. I am always there to help my fellow vets. It’s also a free service.

I really don’t want to hear the despair in your voices. Stop watching the news and go to happy programming. Trust me it is much better for you. The Covid-19 and violence in our streets are causing very bad things to happen in the minds of our children and our vets. It breaks my heart to hear, “I didn’t get this way for a country like this.” That’s a heart breaker as the wheelchair roles by.

I have recently written a letter to the president about ways to help, COLA is one of them. I have also contacted Senator Collins’ office. When the election is over let’s pray things will improve. This will be the time your voice will be heard. Make sure your feelings are shown and your concerns are heard.

If you need a better understanding about what is going on in our country, there are several great new books out there. The one I am finishing now is by Pete Hegseth, a retired Army Major, young, and has a wife and family. You’d never know it but he graduated from Harvard and Princeton as well. This book is for the advanced reader but it’s well worth the research. Barnes and Noble has this and can direct you to other books. I have read several already. The cost of the book is $28. Books are expensive these days.

In my next article I will explain some problems we are having with outside health care. In the meantime, take care of yourself and use the tools available to you; myself and this media source are just a couple as I have explained.

Stay faithful and strong. God be with you and yours.

ROTARY CORNER: Thankfully, we were able to complete mission

by Gary Kennedy

Well friends, it is so great to be back home and able to write for you, again.

Before I fill you in on the veterans issues I want to tell you of me and my team’s experiences in Southeast Asia. As you all are aware I, and my group, do humanitarian projects primarily for children in the Philippine Islands. There are thousands of children who don’t have the opportunity to go to school. This situation occurs mostly with those with no money for food, clothing and books. That’s where we come in. We are part of two groups, The Knights of Rizal and Rotary International.

We arrived in Manila on November 19, 2019. The first month and a half we had good weather and were able to accomplish a lot of our planned projects. We had shipped $2,000 in sports equipment, basket balls, soft balls, tennis balls, volley balls and even horse shoes. The plan was to eliminate some of the boredom and to give incentives for the kids to stay in school. They love sports, especially what they see the Americans do on TV. They have a passion for basketball and have some very impressive teams of their own. Other than that they have their national hero, Manny Pacquiao, whom we all know.

The Philippines is a country that is monetarily depressed so sports are a way to gain fame and fortune. They also have held titles such as Miss Philippines, Miss World and Miss Universe. Pacquiao has broken all records in boxing, I believe in two weight closes he is champion of the world more than once. He is an example of a person from humble beginnings to one of the riches men in the Philippines. Because of his great popularity he ran for a congressional seat and won. He is also a very nice person and contributes much to his community and the poor in general. I am proud to say he is recently a past president of the Manila Rotary Club.

Back to the original subject regarding our projects. The first month we traveled to the mountains of the province of Cagayan. This was part of our original plan. If you remember from Manila, the capital of the Philippines; it is a 21-hour journey via my van. The van is very large and two of the back seats needed to be removed to afford room for a thousand pounds of books, sports equipment and medical supplies. Part of our journey there was to keep the children in school. I have found these children are very bright and capable of great things. A very large part of the Philippines G.N.P. is export of its people to other countries such as Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, England, Italy and many other countries. They work there and send their money home. It’s a sad life as they have to be separated from their country and family for years. There are also many stories of abuse of all kinds. For me it is a shameful existence as the Philippines uses them as a large part of their existence. With all the wealth in those islands the people should be rich. They have gold, copper and silver for minerals and great fruits, vegetables and rice; to name only a few. All the banks in the Philippines are owned by the Chinese except two; one is a Philippine bank and the other is privately owned.

There is no reason for hunger, early death, lack of education and medical support. However, such is the case. People die from curable problems and starvation is on the list. The Knights of Rizal and Rotary work very hard to overcome these problems. Some church and other great organizations such as Kiwanis and the Masons have joined what I refer to as the Rizal fight inmitative. The fight for acceptance and equality has been going on for centuries. The fight for Nationalism is under an international existence now as the movement has taken root in many countries. The organizations previously mentioned have become international.

After we finished these projects in the Cagayan Mountains we made our journey to home base which is Silang, Cavite Luzon, Philippines. We no sooner arrived and the inactive volcano named Taal which has layed dormant for many years reared its ugly head and literally blew its top. Thank God we were close to home. I literally had to hold a bottle of water out the driver side window and run the wipers to be able to see anything. Our windshield washer wasn’t working. The ash was like a blinding snow storm. We made it through our security gate, parked and ran into our house there. We were in the ash for three weeks. Then all hell broke loose with the name of Covid-19.

Shortly thereafter we were in a lock down. We were not far from China and many of the Philippines inhabitance are Chinese and some of them travel back and forth over the South China Sea. United airlines abandoned us so we were unable to get a flight home with them even though we had round trip tickets. We were luckier than most as I have been doing these projects for years and had a little influence. My brother’s team was stuck there for a month and we all had to invest in new air tickets with Korean Airlines. We ended up flying to South Korea and, after a long lay over, flew to Detroit and then home. With the grace of God we were able to finish our projects and help feed hundreds of hungry before leaving.

I will give you all the new VA news this week. My phone has been ringing off the wall with veteran calls. Some of our vets are suffering and in pain, and I will do all that I can to answer all of your questions. I am visiting the VA and will be speaking to Senator Collins with your concerns.

ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Much more work to be done in Southeast Asia

Chelsea’s Gary Kennedy at the Knight of Rizal Biennial Assembly in Manila, Philippines, in 2018.

by Gary Kennedy

For most of our readers this article will have very little meaning, but for me and the many Filipinos that live here in Maine it will have a lot of meaning. The Filipino population here in Maine and maybe the entire country has been the largest minority population. If you check out our military as well as our VA system you will find many Asian appearing people holding positions there. They are a wonderful people with good educations, especially in the medical field. They have blessed us with their presence, especially with their eagerness to work and show appreciation for the opportunity given them. Also it would be good to mention that they applied for entry into the USA and tested and paid all expected fees for the privilege to live and work here.

I have been writing for this paper for many years now and have tried very hard to supply diversity and keep our readers up to date in regards to current events and general items of interest regarding my travels as well as many other subjects.

As most of you know I try to champion educational conditions both domestic and foreign. For years now I have traveled S.E. Asia trying to help the disadvantaged, especially the young who are struggling to receive an education with most everything stacked against them.

This past year I was unable to visit other countries as I have been struggling with spinal stenosis and other medical issues, which have left me without my legs. I am struggling with physical therapy and would like to thank the Veterans Adminis­tration, as well as the doctors, who have stood by me through my heart breaking times. What would a disabled veteran do without the medical support given by this great and wonderful organization? Most of the veterans know me as an advocate and I try my best to stand by them in their hour of need.

Recently, I received information from Northern Luzon, Philippines that one of the areas that I, with all your help, service regarding health and education. You will see that I occasionally ask for help with different projects in this area of the world. An area in particular is known as “Peñablanca” which is located in the far Northern Regions of Luzon Philippines. This place is mostly known by the near city of Tuguegarao. The area I have been working with is the mountainous area of Peñablanca. To go there you need to cross the Tawi Bridge which transcends the waters of the Tawi River. During flood season this bridge is either destroyed or under water. This area is the typhoon capital of the Philippine Islands. It gets extremely hot and wet in this area and many people have died trying to cross this bridge.

Dr. Jose Rizal

Because of my military connected back condition I was unable to deliver the supplies that I have always been able to do in the past. This year, howeve,r I will attempt the journey once again. I started writing articles for The Town Line many years ago because of my Rotary affiliation. Now I am also writing for veterans and have a veteran’s blog. In 2003 I was asked to join an organization which I have grown to love and to be very proud of, “The Knights of Rizal.” This organization, through the Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, physician, patriot and a man of letters inspired the Philippines Nationalist Movement.

Dr. Jose Rizal was born in 1861 in Calamba Laguna Philippines and died December 30, 1896 by a Spanish firing squad. He could have avoided his death but chose to be remembered by the people for what he believed. He was an Optometrist, a brilliant young surgeon who spoke many languages and loved his country and its people. He just sought God given rights and freedom for the people with a right to grow, and become equals with the people of the world; especially the Spanish. You can research his life on your own computer and it will give you some very interesting reading. I mention Dr. Jose Rizal as I find him, as well as Paul Harris, common denominators in the quest for freedom, education and a chance to grow within the purview of one’s abilities. Like Rotary, the Knights of Rizal have now spread throughout the world. However, the Knights of Rizal are the only government legislated group of its kind. So now when I do projects in Asia the assistance of both, Rotary and The Knights of Rizal are mentioned.

This all came to mind because of information that I recently received. The afore mentioned Tawi Bridge has recently gone under construction through the efforts of Governor Manuel Mamba, 3rd District of Cagayan. The money originated for this long overdue project from the caring oversight of President Rodrigo R. Duterte (KGCR) for those of you who don’t know, President Rodrigo is a high ranking member of the Knights. Both organizations are believers in “Service to Mankind”.

Remember it’s not what you take with you but what you leave behind. Remember also the foot print we leave in this world is how others will view us. Always be willing to give a hand if you can.

ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Worldwide humanitarian group seeks to establish chapter in central Maine

Gary Kennedy, second from right, of Chelsea, with his wife Julie, at the biennial assembly and election of Supreme Trustees of the Knights of Rizal for 2018-2020, in the Philippines. (Contributed photo)

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

As most of you know my brother and I have been involved in humanitarian projects for the poor in Southeast Asia for many years. We are mostly involved with projects that target the health and welfare of children as they are the future and they need and deserve a healthy start. We here in the USA are in a position to help and we should. That area of the world has been a safe haven for our men and woman in uniform through several wars; also, the Amerasian race is a product of our soldiers. These people are a beautiful and intelligent segment of the population there. Helping them, is a great pleasure for me.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it or not but approximately 16 years ago I was invited to join another humanitarian group with basically the same values that I have regarding the less fortunate. I had friends that were members so I spent a year studying the organization and finally decided that it was a great fit, as I spent so much of my life in Southeast Asia. I continued with my “Rotary” projects but added the new organization for particular projects. My traveling back and forth from USA to Southeast Asia stood in the way of my being promoted within the organization. This in the beginning wasn’t important to me until I noticed some friends that had joined with me were being promoted and even though I was doing many projects; I was hardly known. The organization that I am speaking of is the “Knights of Rizal.” I won’t go into the history of this organization as it is lengthy and can be found on line. Later perhaps I will address the organization in greater detail. For now I will just try to make you curious. If you want to know more, it would be my pleasure to share more with you.

I mentioned a few months ago that me and my group of volunteers spent time in the Cagayan mountains of the Philippines eradicating 400 cases of Scabies, in children under 12 years of age. Our efforts were successful. Someone in the Tanza Cavite, Philippines Knights of Rizal club, made our success known and opened the door for my upward advancement in the group. I have never been one for pomp and ceremony but this ended up giving me a great deal of pleasure.

I was promoted to the rank of commander. I have included a couple pictures so you will understand more clearly, what I am talking about. The Knights are the only legislated group of humanitarians who live under the umbrella of the martyr Dr. Jose Rizal.

Basically his philosophy was all men are created equal and should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and should not be in subservience to any one other than God. This organization acquired the ability to bring members into the organization through Knighthood. This allowed all new members accepted by the body to be knighted. This would be for a lifetime as long as the individual lived by the Knights of Rizal doctrine; a doctrine that is based in love and charity. Through the years this organization has spread throughout the world including the USA

I bring all this to you because there is a good chance the knights will start a branch of this organization here. I am the one encouraging this to happen. I would be interested in talking to anyone who would have an interest in becoming a knight and sharing humanitarianism here and throughout the world. Before you ask more use your computer and search Dr. Jose Rizal. You will learn what he stood for and how he became a martyr. Non Omnis Moriar ( not all in me will die). God bless.

ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Head lice (Scabies), a world problem to fight

Lice in the hair of an infected child in the Philippines. (Photo by Gary Kennedy)

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

Hello to my previous readers. I left last August 28, 2017, for Southeast Asia for a literacy mission and ended up returning August 14, 2018. My project there evolved from one of educational supplies to a medical mission. I decided to write this article after reading the September 6, 2018, issue of The Town Line, For Your Health. The article was a good article which made people aware that this situation involving lice is real and everywhere.

My project in the mountains of the Cagayan Valley, Philippines, turned out to be a Scabies epidemic of massive proportions. I am not an epidemiologist but after reading the article in The Town Line, on lice, I decided to expand on it so the impact might be more significant and visualized. It is an extremely important subject and I applaud the person who wrote the article, especially at the beginning of the school year.

Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the mite Sorcoptes Scabiei Hominis, human parasites that burrow in tunnels just under the skin and is easily transmitted. This vicious parasite loves crowded places such as schools and barracks. There is no clear association with poor hygiene but that could be a factor in the parasite’s rapid proliferation, increase in number. There are some persons more prone than others. The Australian Aborigines are a good example of a race of people very prone to this critter.

The primary symptom is the intense itching, classically worse at night. “Lice” by itself, Pediculosis, infests the scalp, body, pubis and eyelashes. Lice are transmitted by close contact; (sharing combs and such) treatments can differ by location. (Some ethnic strains are more resistant to common treatments.) Lice are blood sucking insects that generally infect the head and can cause serious infections if left untreated. We have had cases where antibiotics were essential to administer.

There are basically three kinds of lice, head, pubic and body lice. There are some differences in configuration, but for the most part they are identical with different preferences. Body lice live in clothing and the two others live on/in the body, burrowing under the skin. Although most are quite small some are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. Hygiene has nothing to do with the acquisition of lice nor does socioeconomic status. So that being said, the stigma of lice in relationship with poor hygiene or social order shouldn’t be a factor to the educated family. Lice are found in every country of the world; on every level of social status. Shame should never be a factor here.

Eventually, with fine tooth combs, magnifying glasses, good cameras, consent forms from the parents we were able to examine and catalog our findings. We proved our case with the examination of 400 individuals, especially children under eight years of age. I and my team of volunteers were able to successfully treat all of the children and had a better than 90 percent cure rate, after a one-week re-examination. The other 10 percent required a second treatment. All was documented and sent to the Department of Health.

Permethrin and Lindane were the treatments of choice mostly because they are fast and effective on most all louse infestations. From start to finish it takes only one half hour, where leave-on creams and ointments take 12 or more hours. Our studies made these treatment choices the best for us. We had many patients and very little time to accomplish our mission. Our medical source material suggested these as first line of defense as well.

Ivermectin is used in the case of tough strains of lice. It has been found that lice are becoming more resistant to most natural forms of treatment. Doctor’s instruction and instructional inserts are a must when dealing with these situations. In some countries the products needed can be purchased over the counter, but not in the USA. Pyrethri are natural by products of chrysanthemum flowers. Piperonyl butoxide is used in some to enhance efficacy. Last, but not least, when those evil critters are discovered everything possible should be washed, especially all bed garments, covers and clothing. Recommended chemicals should be used to wash the entire areas. Bleach is always good along with washing and drying at high temperatures. So, in conclusion, don’t be ashamed, be aware.

ROTARY CLUB NEWS: Rotary Club seeks books for overseas literacy program

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

Once again we are looking for good books, especially for educational projects in the Third World. There are so many thirsty minds with educational needs in the world.

I have been doing schools and libraries for so long now that I am able to see results. An educated world is a more peaceful world. If we understand each other and speak the same language then we will understand and be more patient and tolerant with each other. I have several degrees and saved all my school books and finally said to myself, “What for?” I gave them a new home with my name and email address inside and have had several emails over time. Forbes, National Geographic and other professional magazines are always in great demand. Everything from Kinder to PhD is needed in Third World countries. Don’t sell them for pennies, nor for those valuable treasures wither and mold. Give them a new life. Perhaps you would put your name and email address in there and make a new friend.

I was asked to speak at an elementary graduation and gladly said, “Yes!” There were two other guest speakers; one was the mayor’s daughter of Tanza Cavite, Philippines, and another was a young man from public health. We all gave our words of encouragement to the children and at the end the speaker from public health wanted to have a word with me.

He said, “I graduated from nursing college even though my family was very poor.” He told me a coincidence went through his mind and was my name Kennedy? He said, “I went to the mayor for help with books and he gave me many books from the library stock room with the last name of Kennedy in them.” It turned out they were my nursing school books which I had donated. What are the chances of that happening? It was a nice day for me. Maybe you could have such a nice day.

Don’t sell your books for pennies or let them decay in the cellar. Give them so others can have the chances that you were given. A college graduate in a Third World country not only assures his or herself a good life but they are much into family and will always help others along the road to knowledge and peace as well. Education is what will bring us together. Of that I am sure. If you have good quality books of any kind we will give them a new home and they will be given for free. You can reach me at 207-458-2832. God bless.