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Homeless, quadriplegic veteran living outside VA hospital struggles to get health care

A Navy veteran who is a quadriplegic has many health care needs. But he – and the people trying to help him – say the Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle continues to reject him for care. 

>> Watch the news report here

Mike Mikesell of Washington state is 49 years old. He’s a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged, according to a document from the Department of Veterans Affairs office. 

He needs medical service so often he's living in a tent just feet from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Mikesell said he had a good-paying job, but then he got very sick and became homeless.

Mikesell said he worked at Boeing until he developed an infection while on a trip to Mexico in 2016. 

“I went from that to this overnight,” Mikesell said. The infection spread to his spine and left him a quadriplegic. 

“I’m dead from the armpits down,” he said. 

Shortly after that, he lost his housing. 

>> Grieving military mom says coins stolen from son's grave: 'It just makes me sick'

In October 2017, he started living in a tent just outside the VA Hospital in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. 

“I can’t leave the hospital because there’s always some ailment happening. It wouldn’t be this way if I could wash up in a bathroom,” Mikesell said.

Since becoming homeless, his situation has continued to decline. His reclining electric wheelchair is broken, and now he struggles with a manual one that doesn’t recline. 

“I’ve been sleeping in this chair for a long time,” Mikesell said. 

“It’s torturing me not to give me an electric wheelchair. I can barely move myself along the ground with this thing and it’s really made things really difficult just trying to get into the hospital. I have that hill to go up,” he said. 

In June, Linda Soriano learned about Mikesell’s story. Soriano lives in Lynnwood and tries to help people who are homeless.

“It hurts me a lot,” Soriano said after learning about Mikesell’s story. 

She and a friend, Pam Keeley, shared it on Facebook with Mikesell’s consent

>> See the post here

They detailed what Mikesell is going through – how he needs a catheter, a colostomy bag and deals with chronic infections. 

“He suffers. He suffers!” Soriano said. “We’re not asking to treat this man like royalty. But that they would pay more attention and have a little more empathy and compassion.” 

The Facebook post has been shared more than 11,000 times as of Wednesday evening. But Soriano points out despite all the shares, Mikesell is still living in a tent outside the VA. 

“What does it take? Does this man have to die?” Soriano said. 

She and Keeley contacted the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and a staff member helped Mikesell secure a visit with a doctor and got him a housing voucher. 

>> Police kill Vietnam vet who killed intruder attacking grandson

But just hours later, Mikesell was back out on the street. 

“He’s a high-needs individual, and many of our services, including the veterans' hospital, are not set up to take up these high-need individuals. He now is back on the streets and I think it is a tragic situation,” Jayapal said. “Mike’s conditions – they make it challenging for him to get housing. So even though he has a housing voucher, we can’t get him in.” 

She plans to work on legislation that would bring more federal money to high-needs veterans. 

But Mikesell can't wait for legislation. 

He’s worried he won’t survive another winter.

“Hopeless,” Mikesell said with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” 

The VA said Mikesell needs to sign a consent form before they can say anything about his case. As of Wednesday night, KIRO7’s Deedee Sun got Mikesell to sign the form and sent it to the hospital. The VA said it will provide more detailed commentary about why it is not able to provide the level of care Mikesell believes he qualifies for and deserves. 

A spokesperson for the VA said the hospital will be contacting Mikesell directly to address his concerns. 

>> Read more trending news 

In the meantime, it sent this statement: 

“We care passionately about the health and well-being of our Veterans. We take pride in providing each of our patients with evidence-based medicine, and in our ability to help them understand the recommended courses of care as well as the programs and services available to them. Ultimately, it is the choice of each of our Veterans about the care they pursue. And we respect their rights and privacy about the choices they make. Veterans can find out more info about our services and programs by visit our website: www.pugetsound.va.gov.” 

Jayapal said she is also working with Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who represents the district where Mikesell lives, to follow up with his case. 

Grieving military mom says coins stolen from son's grave: 'It just makes me sick'

A Massachusetts military mother claims someone is stealing coins from her son's grave.

>> Watch the news report here

Lynda Kiernan lost her 18-year-old son, Pfc. Becket Kiernan, while he served in California earlier this year.

Kiernan says she's just barely getting by, and the idea that someone may be stealing from her son's grave only adds more pain to her grief. 

"There are very few places on Earth where I find any bit of peace, and this is one place that is peaceful to me," Kiernan said. "It's one of the only places where I know where my son is."

>> Grieving mom pleads for return of stolen necklace containing baby son's ashes

The 18-year-old Marine from Rochester died in February while serving in California after doctors diagnosed him with what they thought was the flu, but ended up being flesh-eating bacteria.

"By the time they found out, it was too late," Kiernan said.

Since his burial, Kiernan has spent countless hours at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne where her son's grave is covered in coins.

"I come here and I talk, and I talk to him," Kiernan said.

It's a military tradition for visitors to leave a penny if they knew the fallen. A nickel left at the grave means they were in boot camp together, a dime means they served together and a quarter means they were together when he or she died.

"It's just a more generalized sign of respect," Kiernan said.

However, over the last few weeks, the coins have gone missing, and at one point, they all disappeared. On a few other occasions, only the special coins have vanished.

"Another Gold Star mom whose son is buried here too came to visit Beck," Kiernan said. "She left a very special silver half dollar with him and I just knew, it's Saturday, special coin, and it's going to go missing – and within 24 hours, it was gone."

>> Read more trending news 

While cemeteries often collect coins to maintain the grounds or pay for burials, Kiernan says the cemetery director told her the groundskeepers may have blown away the coins while mowing the grass.

Yet Kiernan says that, based on how often the grass has been cut and the frequency of the coins’ disappearance, she's confident someone has been stealing them.

"It just makes me sick to think that someone thinks it's OK to take from him," Kiernan said.

She says she wants her pain to be a lesson for kids to never disrespect the dead while also hoping that whoever is responsible for it has a change of heart.

"I don't understand what's broken in them that they just see a coin and take it from an 18-year-old Marine who gave everything," Kiernan said.

State police say they have been stepping up their patrols at the cemetery and groundskeepers are keeping an eye out. 

In a statement to WFXT, State police spokesperson Dave Procopio said a trooper assigned to patrol Joint Base Cape Cod, which includes the cemetery, has been monitoring the area. Other patrols have also been made aware of the situation and check on the area as much as possible.

$20K reward offered in killing of soldier's wife on Georgia military base

Authorities are offering a reward for information in the death of a woman killed at Georgia's Fort Stewart while her husband was deployed overseas.

Abree Boykin, 24, was found dead in her on-post residence the night of July 10 by military police. Her husband, a soldier in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, was in South Korea at the time, according to Army authorities. Since his wife’s death, he has returned to Fort Stewart, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, officials said.

Investigators believe Boykin was killed in an isolated incident, and it’s possible she knew her attacker, Army criminal investigation spokesman Chris Grey said.

“We have no reason or evidence to believe that the Fort Stewart community is at further risk related to this tragic death,” he said.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command and the FBI have put up a $20,000 reward for information that will help them track down and convict her killer.

“We are seeking the public’s assistance and asking for them to come forward with any and all information they may have regarding this investigation,” Grey said. “We are asking for them to do the right thing and contact us if they have any information whatsoever, regardless of how trivial they may think that information is.” 

>> Read more trending news 

Special agents are also looking for Boykin’s black 2018 Honda Accord, which was missing from the home when her body was found. The Honda has the Georgia tag RLQ1762. 

No other details were released due to ongoing investigation.

Anyone with information should contact the FBI Atlanta Field Office at 770-216-3000 or email Army.CID.Crime.Tips@mail.mil. Tipsters can also call 1-844-276-9243.

Tips can be submitted anonymously to the degree allowable under the law, according to Army Criminal Investigation Command. 

Georgia woman's search for owner of Marine Corps ring found on Florida beach goes viral

A Georgia woman's search for the owner of a Marine Corps ring she found while visiting a Florida beach has gone viral.

According to WTVT, Suzanne Rogers found the ring, engraved with "PLT 1041 6/30/17" and "EL," while visiting Florida's Siesta Key on Sunday.

>> Read more trending news 

Rogers quickly took to social media to try to track down the ring's owner.

"Friends will you please share this post?!" she wrote on Facebook. "I found a Marine Corps ring on Siesta Key Beach today in Florida. I’m hoping to find the owner before we leave this week! Please share! If this is your ring, please message me! From what I can tell they were in platoon 1041 from Parris Island 2017. Please help me find the owner!!"

>> See the post here

She also shared the message on Twitter

By Tuesday morning, the posts had been shared hundreds of times.

If you have information about the ring's owner, please send Rogers a Facebook message or an email.

Veteran's American flag stolen; now a heartbreaking plea to get it back

The sign says, “Please return my flag, sentimental to me. I brought it back from Iraq. The bottom four stripes have my buddy’s blood on them.” 

“This was very important to him,” said Kim Phillips, who lives in Tacoma, Washington. She said veteran Nolan Gomez, also of Tacoma, was doing some yard work when someone stole his American flag. 

The flag usually flies on the back of Gomez's truck, but he took it down while using the truck to do some work and stood the flag up in a cone.

>> See the photos here

“He went to get gas or whatever, came back, it was gone,” Phillips said. 

Only after it went missing did she learn its significance.

“That came back from the war with him and it was very important to him and that was his buddy’s blood on the bottom,” Phillips said, tearing up. 

She said her family is also military, and her brother served in the front lines during the Vietnam War. 

She decided she had to help make the sign in hopes whoever took it would see it. 

Her neighbor took a photo of that sign and posted it in a Pierce County community page, where it’s been shared hundreds of times. 

“It’s crazy, everybody is mad,” said friend Jill Thurman. 

>> Read more trending news 

Since the post, multiple families have stepped up, offering their families’ American flags to the veteran. 

“Yesterday, four boys came over, they folded it up and said this is our uncle’s flag, and we want to give it to you to replace the one you lost,” Phillips said. 

They say it’s something incredible that came out of something heartbreaking, but they’re still hoping to help that veteran get his flag back.

“That’s defending us, all of us, our freedom. And he was injured in the war. So it’s another reason to get it back to him. If anyone knows where to look,” Phillips said.

Fort Hunter Liggett tent collapse: 22 injured at California military base, officials say

More than 20 people were injured late Wednesday when a tent collapsed at Fort Hunter Liggett in California, officials said.

Here is the latest information:

Update 9:50 a.m. EDT July 19: Base officials said Thursday morning in a Facebook post that the 22 soldiers reported injured at Fort Hunter Liggett had been released to their units.

Update 2:26 a.m. EDT July 19: According to the military base’s official Twitter account, 22 soldiers were hurt when “a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter landing’s rotor wash blew over a tent structure” in a “remote training area.” Officials said four soldiers were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

Contrary to earlier media reports, nobody was killed in the incident, officials said.

“This incident occurred during an annual U.S. Army Reserve exercise, Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) that trains Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers,” the base tweeted.

>> Read more trending news 

83-year-old Florida man posed as Marine Corps vet, collected $220K in benefits

An 83-year-old Pensacola man pleaded guilty to charges of theft of government funds and filing false and fraudulent benefit claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a news release by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida.

Richard Kohl claimed to have served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean war, and he forged government documents, so he could collect $220,000 in benefits, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

>> Read more trending news 

“By defrauding the federal government for personal gain, Kohl stole resources needed to help real veterans,” U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova said. “These benefits are meant for the brave men and women who have served our country.”

Kohl claimed he received a Purple Heart after being shot. He first filed for benefits in 1996, but the Department of Veterans Affairs denied it, saying it couldn't find his medical records.

In 2005, Kohl submitted a request for disability pension benefits and was accepted. They said he received more than $110,000 in pension benefits, plus costly medical care.

“Kohl never served in any branch of the United States military. Kohl used the false Form DD-214 as proof of his military service to obtain veterans’ benefits he was not entitled to receive,” the release said.

Kohl faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2018.

Rookie firefighter saves man suffering from heart attack on flight

A 25-year-old rookie firefighter from Massachusetts saved a man's life – while 30,000 feet up in the air.

>> Watch the news report here

Joe Manganaro is a Stoughton firefighter and paramedic who was recently promoted to sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves. 

Manganaro was on his way to California to conduct training with the Marines last month when his life-saving skills came in handy.

>> Starbucks employee helps deliver baby outside store

While aboard an American Airlines flight, a man began complaining of chest pains and showed signs that he was suffering a heart attack.

After no one spoke up when the captain asked if there were any doctors on board, Manganaro stepped up.

"I was looking around. I'm like, 'Seriously, there's no doctor here? There's like 200 people and no doctor. Alright, here we go,'" Manganaro said. "[The man] was really pale, sweating through his shirt. He was wearing a white shirt; he was drenched in sweat, out of it – he wasn't feeling well."

Manganaro evaluated the passenger's symptoms and was patched through to a doctor on the ground.

"[I] talked to him on phone, told him, 'Gotta take the bird down; he needs to go to a hospital,'" Manganaro said.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The pilot made an emergency landing in Washington, D.C. so the passenger could be rushed to a hospital.

Veteran firefighters say that, despite Manganaro only being with the department for a short time, they couldn't be prouder of one of their rookies.

"He was a little out of his element, you know we go in as a team here," said Stoughton Fire Department Deputy Chief Scott Breen. "He was by himself on a plane, thrown into a position he was probably a little bit uncomfortable with, but he stepped up."

>> Read more trending news 

Manganaro truly did step up and in a big way, saving a man's life.

"He [the passenger] sent me a message saying he's doing well, everything good on his end so it's really nice to hear he was very thankful and appreciative," Manganaro said.

Thieves steal identity, drain bank account of America's oldest WWII vet

America’s oldest living World War II veteran was robbed by thieves who drained his personal bank account through identity theft, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Richard Overton is 112 years old and lives in Austin, Texas. His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., discovered Thursday that a thief had robbed the bank by accessing Richard Overton’s Social Security and bank account numbers, CNN reported. 

“He’s a quite visible and well-known person, so if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone,” said Volma Overton, who did not reveal the amount taken.

Volma Overton did not disclose the amount that had been stolen from the personal bank account, but said it was “considerable” and that the account has been depleted for “a couple of months.” He discovered the theft when he made a deposit, checked the balance and realized the account only contained the money just deposited, according to Newsweek.

“We don’t know who did it,” Volma Overton told CNN. "It's a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously," he said. 

The bank account that was drained is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to pay Richard Overton’s 24-hour care, which costs $480 per day, according to Dallas Morning News.

Overton celebrated his 112th birthday on May 6, according to ancestry.com. He registered for the draft on Oct. 16, 1940, in Austin and enlisted in the Army on Sept. 3, 1942, according to military records.

He became a member of the Army's 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit that served in the Pacific theater, CNN reported.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama in a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Overton is the oldest man in America.

US Navy drops live bombs in Florida national forest

Residents in southern Marion, northern Lake or west Volusia counties should not be alarmed if they hear loud booms near their neighborhoods.

The US Navy began bomb training exercises this week at the Pine Castle Range Complex in the Ocala National Forest, officials said in a news release.

F-18 jets fly from Naval Air Station in Jacksonville and conduct the training.

Read: Navy Destroyer named after Winter Park veteran christened

Residents nearby might hear the training or feel the vibrations.

The exercises began Monday and continue Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

Officials said wildlife might be temporarily displaced and that drivers should use caution when driving through the Ocala National Forest and surrounding areas.

The telephone number for noise complaints is 1-800-874-5059. 

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