military

Kevin Willis

Some retired military veterans are asking Kentucky lawmakers to commit funding for a new long-term care facility for veterans that would be located in Bowling Green.

The commonwealth currently has only three such facilities, with a fourth veterans nursing home scheduled to open next summer in Hardin County.

Dr. Ray Biggerstaff served in Vietnam as a Captain with the 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell. He told state lawmakers in Frankfort that the number of veterans in the south-central Kentucky region makes Warren County a logical location for a long-term care operation.

“When we take a look at the demographic data for Bowling Green and the Barren River Area Development District, we’re looking at a total of 20,000 veterans in that particular area. Surrounding the area, we have an additional 22,000 veterans that are in the perimeter,” said Biggerstaff.

Biggerstaff said he also thought a long-term care facility for veterans in southern Kentucky could attract veterans who live in northern Tennessee.

In testimony before a joint committee on State Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection, Biggerstaff said backers of the proposed veteran’s nursing home in Warren County have identified a 30-acre site off I-65 near the Kentucky Transpark as a possible location for the facility.

The nursing home being built in Hardin County will sit on 195 acres of land donated by the Defense Department, and feature a dozen ten-person homes providing full nursing services to 120 veterans. It’s scheduled to open next June.

Kentucky’s three nursing homes for veterans currently in operation are in Hopkins, Jessamine, and Perry counties.

Ft. Campbell

The Army has analyzed the impact of cutting 16,000 personnel from Fort Campbell, which would be about half of its current population.

This analysis was part of the Army’s Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment 2020 Force Structure Realignment,(SPEA) which studied the impacts of reducing the force from around 500,000 to between 440,000 to 450,000. The draft study found there would be no significant impact from the Army’s force reductions, though there are many factors to be assessed before reduction numbers are finalized for the 30 individual locations, including Fort Campbell.

The assessment indicates Fort Campbell is a major economic influence in Christian County, Kentucky, and Montgomery County, Tennessee, where the Armed Forces accounts for 23 percent and 14 percent of the workforce respectively. Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp says the SPEA is only a study and has not affected Hopkinsville’s planning. He says there was no impact on Fort Campbell after a similar evaluation was done two years ago.

“We don’t know if anything will happen but we expect that there would not be a significant reduction at Fort Campbell because Fort Campbell is one of the most strategic military posts in the country,” Kemp said. “We’ve been briefed at Fort Campbell by the command down there and we’ve endeavored to obtain as much information as we can.”

Kentucky’s Veterans Affairs Commissioner is stepping down to oversee the construction of the state’s new long-term care facility for veterans in Hardin County.

Governor Steve Beshear announced Friday that Ken Lucas is leaving the post, and being replaced by Heather French Henry.

Lucas is a former U.S. Congressman from Kentucky’s Fourth House District and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. Beshear appointed him head of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009.

He’ll now oversee the construction of what will be the state’s fourth veterans nursing home. The Radcliff Veterans Center is scheduled to open in September of 2015, and will provide 120 beds to veterans in the Hardin County region. Featuring a dozen ten-person homes, the facility will sit on 195 acres of land donated by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Taking over as head of the Veterans Affairs Department on July 1 will be Heather French Henry.  She began the Heather French Foundation for Veterans in 1999, shortly after she was crowned Miss America.

Updated at 2:33 p.m. ET

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told a Senate panel today [Thursday] that he hoped to have a preliminary report within three weeks on the problem of delayed treatment and preventable deaths at VA facilities across the nation.

His testimony came amid allegations that such conditions persisted at a VA hospital in Phoenix. Shinseki said he was "mad as hell" about the reports.

Injured military veterans, troops, and supporters are cycling through our region this week to benefit programs that aid in physical and mental rehabilitation.

Over 200 cyclists departed Covington, Kentucky, on Sunday, in honor of a program called Riding 2 Recovery, which helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling.

Cyclists are scheduled to bike from Elizabethtown to Bowling Green Wednesday and eventually make their way to Nashville by Saturday.

Some of the bicycles used by participants have been custom-fitted to the physical needs of the rider.

Over the course of the seven-day event, Ride 2 Recovery participants will bike over 450 miles between northern Kentucky and the Tennessee capital.

Ft. Campbell Unit to Case Colors Before Deployment

Jan 8, 2014

A Fort Campbell-based battalion is set to case its colors before deploying to Afghanistan later this year.

The 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment will conduct the ceremony Jan. 10 at the sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.

The unit colors are a flag that represents the unit on the battlefield, and casing it symbolizes the unit is prepared for movement.

Once in Afghanistan, the battalion will provide protection for coalition forces across Afghanistan against the threat of indirect fire.

The "Strike Fear" battalion deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, when its members worked to protect Forward Operating Base Shank in the Logar province of eastern Afghanistan, in the north of the city of Gardez.

Nearly 300 Ft. Knox soldiers are home for the holidays after serving a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.

The soldiers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division were honored during a ceremony Sunday night at the Hardin County Army post. The 285 troops had been operating in the roughly 7,000–square-mile Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan, assisting Afghan security forces, government representatives, and police forces.

The unit will continue to send soldiers home through next May, with the majority of the brigade home before March.

Lisa Autry

Inside a gym on the Fort Knox Army post, a group of soldiers show up ready to play ball, but not in jerseys and cleats. 

The uniform here is camouflage.

BJ Levis has come to Fort Knox to introduce Beep Baseball.  Levis works for Metro Parks and Recreation in Louisville.  One of the programs she oversees is adaptive sports for people with disabilities. 

“A lot of times when people have a recent injury and their life has changed it’s like 'I’m not going to be able to do anything I could do before,'" says Levis.  "We like to introduce different sports and say 'Yes you can.'  There’s just some simple adaptations or some simple equipment you might need so you still can participate in sports or start some you’ve never even done before which is really cool.”

Ft. Knox

Nearly 250 Ft. Knox soldiers will be welcomed home Wednesday following a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division have been operating in the southern province of Zabul, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Ft. Knox soldiers assisted Afghan security forces, government, and police forces as they transitioned to independent security and governance.

Soldiers in the unit will continue to return to Ft. Knox in small groups through May of next year.

Wednesday’s welcome home ceremony is being held at 4:30 am eastern, at the Natcher Physical Fitness Center.

A new report says the number of homeless veterans in Kentucky has increased in recent years.

Numbers released by the Kentucky Housing Corporation show the number of homeless veterans jumped 37 percent in the last four years. The report indicates that the higher numbers are in part a result of troop withdrawals in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The proportion of veterans in the overall homeless population in Kentucky increased this year as well, to over 10 percent.

Kent Johnson

Monday is Veteran's Day, and all across our region and nation, people are taking part in parades and ceremonies honoring those who have served in the military.

With U.S. personnel still fighting in Afghanistan, and following eight years of fighting in Iraq that formally ended in 2011, we thought we would introduce you to a young veteran from our region who is now helping other veterans create new lives after leaving the active service.

Kent Johnson joined the U.S. Marines in 2004 after graduating from high school in Columbia, Tennessee. As a member of a Marine Corp Infantry Unit, Kent served two tours in the Middle East, including a combat deployment to a town outside of Fallujah, Iraq. He got out of the service in 2008.

Here are some excerpts from our interview with Kent:

What was life like for you after you got out of the Marines?

On this Veterans Day, a video showing a homeless veteran's transformation as a stylist cuts his hair, trims his beard and puts him in a new suit, is going viral. It's already drawn more than 10 million views in just 5 days.

Kentucky has received a $2.2 million federal grant to help pay for an electronic system for delivering election ballots to soldiers deployed overseas.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced the grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. Tuesday.

Grimes said the money will help with the cost of an electronic system that could be used in place of U.S. mail to get ballots to military personnel.

Lawmakers approved legislation earlier this year to allow soldiers and civilians living overseas to receive ballots electronically to speed up the process.

The secretary of state's office is in the preliminary stages of developing the system, which is expected to be in place for next year's general election.

No visible ink. That's the gist of a new regulation approved by the secretary of the Army that prohibits fresh recruits from showing tattoos while in uniform.

Josh Smith, a reporter with Stars and Stripes, says the rules on tattoos were loosened in 2006 when the Army was looking to increase recruitment.

Work has begun on a veteran's center planned in Hardin County even though officials are still awaiting final approval from federal officials.

Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Ken Lucas told The News-Enterprise that the project in Radcliff has gotten preliminary approval and there's no indication that it won't get final approval soon.

A construction bid for the Radcliff Veterans Center nursing facility has already been awarded and excavation at the site, which is adjacent to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central, is underway.

Lucas says the final cost of the facility is estimated at $40 million, with the state paying 35% and the federal government paying 65%.

He said it will be the fourth nursing center in Kentucky authorized specifically for veterans.

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