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21 Arkansas guardsmen bound for Balkans

Families and friends dressed in red, white and blue filled the 39th Brigade headquarters in North Little Rock to see off 21 Arkansas National Guardsmen for a nine-month mission Thursday morning. Among them, Shannan Rozenberg, who watched through tears the brief deployment ceremony for the troops heading to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It comforted Rozenberg to know that her husband’s mission, his third deployment, is a noncombat one. Nonetheless, it was difficult to say goodbye.

“It’s still not easy,” she said.

Thursday’s sendoff marked the final installment of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s three-part deployment this spring. The 130 soldiers will support the Kosovo Force, an ongoing NATO peacekeeping mission that began in response to the end of the war between the Serbian government and its autonomous province of Kosovo. The initial purpose of the mission was to help that nation recover from the conflict by relocating displaced people, removing mines, providing medical assistance, protecting ethnic minorities and supporting the establishment of civilian government. Now, the mission’s purpose is to maintain peace across the Balkans.

[EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox[1]]

Brig. Gen. Kirk Van Pelt told the soldiers that their work will continue to stabilize the region.

“The peace and support operations that you are about to undertake will be instrumental in maintaining the local security and to ensure the safety of the citizens of Kosovo for the next year,” Van Pelt said. Kosovo Force involves roughly 4,500 military members from 29 countries, according to the mission’s website.

Thirty Arkansas National Guardsmen were sent May 8, and 80 were sent May 29, Lt. Col. Joel Lynch said. They serve as the headquarters staff in Kosovo, while the troops sent off Thursday will work in training, advisory, supply and administration. In addition to the 21 at the ceremony, two soldiers from the same brigade have already been sent over for training, and four are completing a postal mission in Germany, Lt. Col. Miriam Carlisle said.

“We’re going to do this mission, and we’re going to be back soon,” Carlisle told the families. “Sooner than you think. I hope.”

The troops fly today to Fort Bliss in Texas for training before splitting up to leave for either Pristina, Kosovo, or Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Van Pelt thanked the families for their sacrifices.

“It’s your love and support that allow these soldiers to do what they do to serve our country and our nation,” he said.

Toddlers in their mothers’ laps waved small American flags. One soldier put his arm around his wife. His young son, sitting on the other side, grabbed his hand from behind the chair. The Arkansas National Guard drills one weekend a month, so most of the members deployed Thursday have full-time jobs. Rozenberg’s husband will leave his job as a school superintendent in Bearden. Living in a town with fewer than 1,000 people an hour and a half from Little Rock, Rozenberg isn’t part of a family support group. But this deployment will be easier than past ones, she said, because she’ll be able to video chat with her husband every day. She also knows it’s what her husband is meant to do.

“He could have retired 10 years ago, but he loves it,” Rozenberg said. “He’s going where he needs to go. He needs to do his part.”

Metro on 06/23/2017

References

  1. ^ EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox (www.arkansasonline.com)

GOP state legislator to run for Arkansas secretary of state

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK A Republican state representative from Russellville said Wednesday he will run for secretary of state next year. Rep. Trevor Drown said he will seek the office now held by Mark Martin, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to a third term. State Land Commissioner John Thurston has also said he will seek the Republican nomination for the office. Anthony Bland of Little Rock has said he will run for the office as a Democrat.

Drown was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014 and re-elected in 2016. He represents District 68, which includes parts of Pope and Van Buren counties. He retired from United Parcel Service in 2016 after a 27-year career. He also is a U.S. Army Green Beret who has served in special forces operations in Afghanistan and South Sudan. Drown maintains reserve status with the Army National Guard, where he continues his military service as a master sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Training Detachment. His decorations include the Bronze Star for Service and the Army Commendation Medal for Valor.

My entire career has been centered around organization, logistics and budgeting, Drown said in a news release. I want to use that experience in the secretary of state position to help save tax dollars, ensure fair elections and to make it easy to conduct business in Arkansas.

Drown said that if he elected, he would take a nonpartisan approach to redistricting. The secretary of state is one of three officials, along with the governor and the attorney general, responsible for redrawing state legislative districts every 10 years in response to population shifts.

Many voters are losing faith in our political system due in large part because of political gerrymandering. I believe it should be done in a consistent and uniform manner that considers geography and regional input first, Drown said. Drown also said his experiences as a Green Beret would serve him well in overseeing the security of the Capitol grounds, another responsibility of the secretary of state. He said that if elected he would work closely with the Capitol Police to enhance the current security protocol.

Every day our Capitol has visitors from around the state, nation and world. With all the unfortunate acts of violence and terrorism happening today, Arkansans need to know they can visit the Capitol without fear of attack, he said. Drown also said he would use his military experience to expand a veteran s outreach program within the office to ensure veterans have another avenue for obtaining answers to questions about our state s government and the many programs available to them.

Drown and his wife of 17 years, Kara, have two children, Ayden, 16, and Ella, 8.

Oklahoman first in line at Memphis free-care event

Oklahoman First In Line At Memphis Free-care EventPastor Fred Batten, Jr. meets Joann Slayvin, Lou Smith and Sherry Boyd who were waiting in line at Remote Area Medical’s Memphis free-care event Friday, June 16, 2017. (William W. Savage III) Oklahoman First In Line At Memphis Free-care Event

Sometimes, the realities of Oklahoma s insufficient and ineffective health care system follow me wherever I go.

This weekend was no different. During an attempt to take a few days off from NonDoc for the first time since we launched 22 months ago, I headed east on I-40 and drove headfirst into reminders that many Americans and Oklahomans, in specific lack access to the basic health services they need. This story starts in Arkansas.

It s a state state of mind

If we want to have healthy children, we need to have healthy parents, right? That s a key positive in the Natural State s decision to expand Medicaid through a hybrid private-insurance setup. Arkansas Works covers about 300,000 people[1] who would mostly be ineligible for state health insurance in Oklahoma.

One of those people is a NonDoc contributor: Angela A. Arcos[2]. In December, she wrote a piece[3] critiquing the riveting drivel contained within an editorial from The Oklahoman in opposition to expanded Medicaid coverage:

I am on Medicaid, but relax: I live in Arkansas, not Oklahoma. I am a single mother. I do not receive child support. My ex-husband fled the country and left a small mountain of debt and no forwarding address. I work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, and I pick up side gigs when possible. Still, we are barely making it.

Thursday, I drove from Oklahoma City to the small town in which Angela lives. I was on my way to Nashville and wanted to catch up and see how she was doing after a recent surgery. (She is doing well, albeit back to work while still healing.)

That surgery was critically important to her health, which in turn is critically important for the future of her young son. The surgery was covered by her Arkansas Medicaid. But if she still lived in Oklahoma, she would have been uninsured. You see, Oklahoma actually inhibits lower-income people from working by limiting adult SoonerCare coverage to only parents earning 37 percent of the federal poverty level or less. When such a policy means wonderful people like Angela can t have health insurance in Oklahoma, it s no wonder I spent six years of my life advocating for better access to health care.

And that s where this story moves to Tennessee.

I can t read anymore

Oklahoman First In Line At Memphis Free-care EventOne of Remote Area Medical s mobile vision laboratories sits outside of the Word of Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday, June 16, 2017. (William W. Savage III)

Joann Slayvin is a 73-year-old grandmother who lives in Seminole, Oklahoma. Three hours after departing my friend s house in Arkansas, I met Slayvin sitting outside the Word of Life Seventh-day Adventist Church[4] in Memphis, Tennessee. Along with her daughter, Slayvin was first in line for Remote Area Medical s 862nd free health care clinic set to open 16 hours later.

I m on a very low fixed income, and I ve needed my eyes checked, Slayvin said. The last time I paid for an eye exam and glasses, it was almost $500. Probably about five years ago. I don t get much more than that a month (from Social Security). With no income, insurance or immigration questions asked, RAM volunteers provide dental work and offer free eye exams. The organization makes free prescription glasses in its mobile vision laboratories.

It is wonderful, Slayvin said.

I agree, although I am biased. From 2010 to 2014, I coordinated three RAM events that provided care for about 5,000 patients at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. While Slayvin did not attend those events, she got a pair of glasses at her first RAM event in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and she also took her daughter to the 2016 event in Durant, Oklahoma. This weekend, the upbeat grandmother who worked for years as a caretaker at hospitals and nursing homes sought a new pair of glasses.

I sew a lot, and I have trouble sewing. I make quilts as a pastime, and I can t hardly see to thread the needle anymore, she said. And I can t read. I love to read, but I can t read anymore. And, yeah, I have to have them to drive.

The need is tremendous

The reasons a 73-year-old woman requires access to vision care need little explaining. But the fact three tanks of gas and an overnight camp out at a church are easier to afford than commercial glasses (even with Medicare[5]) remains an unfortunate reality.

RELATED

Oklahoman First In Line At Memphis Free-care Event

Oklahoma s Mission of Mercy: We need more access to dental care [6] by William W. Savage III

To that end, Oklahomans, Arkansans, Texans and Louisianans will all have a chance to access free dental, vision and limited medical care at RAM s event Aug. 5 and 6 in Idabel, Oklahoma. While my journalistic inclination has been to avoid covering RAM on NonDoc owing to my past affiliation, I ve realized I need to mention it because quite possibly no other media in Oklahoma City or Tulsa will. That was mostly the case with RAM s 2016 event in Durant, which I discussed in a personal Facebook note[7]. While I had stopped in Memphis on Friday simply to help old friends set up for their clinic, the presence of an Oklahoman first in line convinced me it was time to discuss the health care needs RAM meets in the richest nation on Earth.

The need is tremendous, said Word of Life pastor Fred Batten, Jr. There are people who have insurance for one area, but maybe insurance doesn t cover other areas. Or maybe deductibles are more than what they have in their budgets. Batten spoke with Slayvin, her Arkansan daughter, Lou Smith, and a woman from the Memphis area, Sherry Boyd, as we all took shelter from falling rain under his church s carport.

There are different categories in terms of economic resources and persons who may not have as much, Batten said. The Bible speaks to us and tells us we ought to be able to help those who are less fortunate or who do not have as much. Even in the Old Testament time, the Bible speaks of how those who had fields cause it was an agrarian society and they farmed if you didn t have the funds to feed yourself, the person who owned the field was supposed to leave something on the corners so that others who didn t have could come along and glean from the excess or that which you did not harvest.

Batten effortlessly connected RAM s free health care efforts to his preachings on Jesus Christ s teachings. The gathered women nodded their heads and said, That s right.

Oklahoman First In Line At Memphis Free-care EventRAM volunteers set up dental chairs for their Memphis, Tennessee, clinic Friday, June 16, 2017. (William W. Savage III)

Asked how people in need who might be ashamed to accept free care could feel better about receiving charity, Smith offered a simple solution.

Pay it forward, Smith said. Do another good deed somewhere down the line. If this helps you, you help somebody else across the street or carry somebody s groceries or help them mow their yard. Pay it forward. That sparked her mother s memory of a recent discussion with another family member.

My granddaughter came in the other day and said, Momma I need a box of groceries. She was working with this lady who has four kids and said she didn t know where her next meal was coming from for those kids, Slayvin explained. So the next morning, she took a great big box of groceries in and a 30-carton of eggs, and chicken and a big ol ham. And that lady couldn t express her gratitude enough. Those sort of things allow you to pay it forward. About that time, Slayvin and I noticed Boyd holding her mouth while she listened to the conversation. She said she was experiencing dental pain, and before I left I gave her some ibuprofen since she had another 16 hours before clinic doors opened.

Every time I talk, it s cutting my tongue back there, Boyd said.

As thunder rolled above us, Boyd expressed gratitude for the impending event, as well as for her new job as a security guard.

Thank God, thank God, she said. I m glad I ve got this job.

For more information on RAM s Idabel event, visit ramusa.org[8].

References

  1. ^ about 300,000 people (www.usnews.com)
  2. ^ Angela A. Arcos (nondoc.com)
  3. ^ wrote a piece (nondoc.com)
  4. ^ Word of Life Seventh-day Adventist Church (www.wordoflifememphis.org)
  5. ^ Medicare (www.ehealthmedicare.com)
  6. ^ Oklahoma s Mission of Mercy: We need more access to dental care (nondoc.com)
  7. ^ personal Facebook note (www.facebook.com)
  8. ^ ramusa.org (ramusa.org)
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