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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

December 2018

Honoring veterans from Flanders Field to North Carolina

David Cantara, founder of the Carolina Patriot Rovers Cantara called golden retrievers the flower child of the canine world, praising their long years of service and good spirits. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)

The NIEHS observance of Veterans Day and of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War One, was held Nov. 7 in a room decorated with 100 red poppies.

“Although our workloads are heavy, it’s really important for us to pay our respects to those who have sacrificed to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Speaking of the poppies, she said, “They are the symbol to never forget those who lost their lives defending their country.” Birnbaum thanked Laura Watson and Alison Eason, both from the Office of the Director, and Eli Ney, from NTP, for making the flowers.

Support for returning veterans

Laura Watson, a volunteer for MMIA Watson, who led the effort to make the paper poppies, spoke passionately of her volunteer work with a veteran through MMIA. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)

Several organizations that serve U.S. veterans sent representatives to the event, including Military Missions in Action (MMIA), the Veterans Administration (VA) Voluntary Service, and the Carolina Patriot Rovers. Federal employees may support veterans groups through the 2018 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC; see related story).

David Cantara, founder of the Carolina Patriot Rovers, explained the role of psychiatric service dogs in the health and healing of veterans. The organization trains golden retrievers and names them for soldiers from across North Carolina who have died.

The vets they train and pair with the dogs are introduced to the namesake’s family. “We create a family support network for families of the fallen,” he explained.

Watson, a volunteer for MMIA, introduced Mike Dorman from the group. Dorman described projects, such as modifying homes so disabled vets can live independently, working with homeless vets, and support for disabled children in military families.

Dorman once lived on the streets for four days so he would better understand the needs of homeless vets. His insights ranged from the simple — such as donating supplies in re-closable plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes, so they will stay dry in the rain — to the complex issues of addiction and mental illness.

Ronni Miller detailed services available through the Durham VA Voluntary Service, such as a food pantry, clothing, and referrals. “We are immediately able to help those who come in,” she said.

Audience members listening Thanks to donations, the Durham VA Voluntary Service provided 6,000 new coats to veterans in recent years, said Miller, right. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)

Inspired service

Pinkney Wilder, from the NIEHS Signal Transduction Laboratory, closed the event with poetry.

He read one of the best-known poems from World War One, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, from the Canadian Army (see sidebar).


Pinkney Wilder, from the NIEHS Signal Transduction Laboratory “Every time we lost a soldier, somebody in the unity would recite this poem,” said Wilder, referring to his service in Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)
Angela Davis, from the National Institutes of Health Office of Human Resources Angela Davis, from the National Institutes of Health Office of Human Resources, left, and Charletta Fowler, from the Office of Management, listened to the presentations in a room decorated with 100 poppies. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)
Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. listens to speaker Birnbaum welcomed the audience that packed the room and enjoyed the humor in Cantara’s talk of working with the dogs. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)
Latonya Washington, from the Neurobiology Laboratory Latonya Washington, from the Neurobiology Laboratory, was among the veterans honored at the event. (Photo courtesy of Michael Garske)
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