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Tennessee couple hosts warrior hunts

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Like a lot of generous people, Eddie and Mary Bowen aren’t looking for attention or applause.

Lately, though, word is getting out about the couple, who host annual hunting events for wounded warriors at their Jackson, Tenn., lodge and property. What started a few years ago with four hunters and a lunch is growing fast; their latest hunt, on Nov. 19, included 12 wounded warriors, a community cookout, and music by Rockabilly Hall of Fame artist Stan Perkins.

“If it wasn’t for these men and women, we wouldn’t be able to do anything we’re doing today,” says Eddie, whose father, Edgar, was a World War II Army veteran. “I didn’t serve in the military. I wish now I had, but I didn’t. This is my way of giving a little bit back to them, with a place they enjoy.”

Tennessee Legionnaires recognized the Bowens at their department convention in June, thanking them for their commitment to veterans and youth. Besides offering deer and turkey hunts through Wounded Warrior Project, the couple support Hope Outdoors, which provides hunting and fishing opportunities for disabled children and adults.

Nancy Harper, commander of The American Legion Department of Tennessee, is a longtime friend of Eddie’s brother Jay Bowen, her counterpart in Colorado. He told Harper about Eddie’s and Mary’s hunting retreats for wounded post-9/11 veterans, and she’s encouraging local posts to do all they can to get involved.

“Eddie’s kept this low key for so long,” Harper says. “Now he’s probably going to get more support than he ever wanted.”

As their hunting weekends get bigger, the Bowens will probably need that help. Eddie has reached out to neighboring landowners to participate so they can accommodate more hunters, or even sponsor their own hunts for veterans.

“We just have a real good time,” Eddie says. “The ones who have come want to come back, and the ones who have heard about it want to come. As for the outpouring from the community, people here are supportive of the military and law enforcement. Since we started, people have been asking, ‘What can I do? What can I bring?’ It’s amazing.”

As commander of the Department of Tennessee’s 8th District, Lanny Davis says he has 1,500 Legionnaires in 21 posts ready to assist however they can.

“I offered Eddie several volunteers,” he says. “This isn’t just about going into the woods and shooting a deer. It’s about fellowship and camaraderie and making these wounded warriors feel like normal people again. It’s very important to the healing process. (Legionnaires) don’t have to raise money to help Eddie Bowen do this. All they need to do is give him some of their most valuable asset, and that’s time. Being around these guys who are severely injured and making them feel at home is so important.”

The Nov. 19 hunt was a perfect getaway for Bruce Heidelberg, an Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and member of American Legion Post 77 in Lexington.

“It’s a social event and a stress reliever,” he says. “A lot of these guys are from the city and can’t just go hunt. That’s what makes it special. It’s a bonding experience.”

Heidelberg was invited by buddy Jonathan Thomas, a fellow soldier and member of American Legion Post 122 in Cairo, Ga., who has participated in a turkey hunt and two deer hunts at the Bowens’ property.

Thomas was injured in combat twice: he took shrapnel in his leg from a rocket-propelled grenade during an ambush in 2004, and on another occasion he was shot in the chest and suffered broken ribs on his right side. Making matters worse, Thomas was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015. He underwent chemotherapy and is now in remission, but is facing spinal cord surgery as a result of past injuries.

“I’m 33 years old, but I feel like I’m 90,” Thomas says. “I’m just banged up real bad. But I’m realizing there are people out there who understand what I’ve been through. When I come here and I’m hanging out with other warriors, it’s a positive atmosphere ... it’s just what I need.

“Eddie and Mary are the kindest people I’ve met in my life. It’s like I’m one of their sons.”

Anita Darnell, immediate past department president for the Tennessee American Legion Auxiliary and a member of Unit 287 in Medina, met the Bowens last summer. They became fast friends, and when Eddie learned that Darnell’s project was to raise funds to buy three canines for disabled veterans through America’s VetDogs, he pitched in to help her buy three more.

Anita’s husband, Thomas, is membership director for the state’s Sons of The American Legion detachment. In addition to volunteering to cook for future hunts, he built a flag display for the Bowens’ lodge. Meanwhile, Anita brought over a table and chair for a POW/MIA “missing man” ceremony, part of a larger patriotic service preceding the meal.

Then, as a surprise, the Darnells presented Eddie and Mary with SAL and Auxiliary memberships.

“We all pull together to make sure Eddie and Mary have everything they need for this event,” Anita says. “We’re thankful to be a part of this great blessing they have brought to this community.”


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TALARC's KI0CW makes "National" news

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With a TALARC membership of 3,000, it's easy to believe that many are well grounded in amateur radio as well as in the organization they represent – the Legion, the Auxiliary, or the Sons. They are active in their post, their unit or their squadron and still find time to give to others through their ham radio work. One person, among many, who fits this definition is Bill Huntimer, KI0CW, of Dell Rapids, S.D. Bill was among the first to join TALARC when the club was established in the spring of 2011. He hit the ground running then and hasn't stopped. He regularly assists with K9TAL Special Event Station operations and has anchored the monthly 20-meter net, coordinating Net Control Station efforts with Everett, WA3DVO, since its start-up more than five years ago. Bill was recently recognized for his work in the Legion and in amateur radio with an article in the December issue of The American Legion Magazine, page 62. There is a companion article on the TALARC website [www.legion.org/hamradio], "Over the Air and Far Away," both video and written, that reflects on Bill's many years in the military and in amateur radio. This Korea/ Vietnam Marine-turned-Navy Seabee veteran with more than 22 years of military service has an inspiring story. We hope you'll check it out in the most recent Legion magazine and online. From the Board of Directors of TALARC to KI0CW goes our right-hand salute of respect and admiration for his selfless devotion to the club, to the Legion and to our nation. Thank you, Bill.

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IRLP Monthly Net coming to a close

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Last month's e-newsletter noted that the IRLP [Internet Radio Linking Project] Net that has operated monthly on IRLP Node 9735 for several years has, over the last six months, realized a sharp decline in participation. Because of this the TALARC board, after careful consideration, has decided to discontinue the IRLP Net, effective January 2017. The final IRLP operations will be on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. To those who are limited by their equipment or by HOAs that restrict large antenna arrays, IRLP is a means to reach out, virtually around the world, to other ham radio operators. An inexpensive VHF rig and close proximity to an IRLP repeater is pretty much all you need to access IRLP. It was this thought – ease of access – that moved the board to establish this net when the club was formed. The board will be looking at options through the coming months. We want to accommodate our members and, especially, we want to encourage newly minted Legion-affiliated amateurs to participate in net operations. We expect to offer alternatives to the current IRLP operations in late winter or early spring of 2017. In the meantime, there is an option to the IRLP net, and that's with TALARC's EchoLink net, which is conducted on the second Saturday of each month, noon EST. The equipment required is simple: a PC, a tablet, a smartphone, any one, or all three. EchoLink software is free and can be downloaded to most platforms that include iOS and Android software. Information about EchoLink is at: www.echolink.org.

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2016 Veterans Day Special Event Station

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This year's Veterans Day Special Event Station, call sign K9TAL, operated by The American Legion Amateur Radio Club from its facilities at Legion National HQ on Nov. 11, was a great one. More than 200 check-ins were logged through the seven-hour day. HF contacts led the way with 166. The balance came to us via IRLP and D-Star operations. For their assistance with the event, the TALARC board extends its thanks to Mark, W2UIS, for D-Star ops, and to both Everett, WA3DVO, and Bill, KI0CW, for their relay operations on the 20 Meter band. While those who worked K9TAL from the radio room at National HQ appreciated the two short breaks when Everett and Bill handled check-ins, more important to our efforts is that their QTHs in Maryland and South Dakota, respectively, gave opportunity for more of our members to participate in honoring our nation's veterans on their "special" day. Remember, those who contacted the K9TAL station are eligible to receive a certificate to commemorate the activity. If you haven't gotten your certificate yet, send a 9X12 inch self-addressed stamped envelope to The American Legion Amateur Radio Club, 700 N. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Turn-around time has been swift and those who have requested a certificate should have it in hand now, or very, very soon.

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USS Oklahoma 75 Years later: DNA is not just science, it's personal

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. –The USS Oklahoma was hit by multiple torpedoes and capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, resulting in the loss of 429 Navy and Marine personnel. Seventy-five years later the Department of Defense DNA Registry under the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System is still hard at work to bring those servicemen home to their families.

Sean Patterson, AFMES DoD DNA Registry DNA analyst, said he designed and created a board dedicated to the history of the USS Oklahoma as well as an identification board to remind people these are not just words on a page or DNA sequences that come up on their screens.

Sean Patterson, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Department of Defense DNA Registry DNA analyst, stands in front of the USS Oklahoma Identification Board Nov. 29, 2016, at AFMES on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The board provides a picture for all 393 unaccounted service members from the ship. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashlin Federick) Sean Patterson, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Department of Defense DNA Registry DNA analyst, stands in front of the USS Oklahoma Identification Board Nov. 29, 2016, at AFMES on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The board provides a picture for all 393 unaccounted service members from the ship. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashlin Federick)

“I think in any job it is easy to just go through the motions of looking at what is in front of you, stamping it and passing it on to the next person,” said Patterson. “These are people. The majority of them are young men who did not get the opportunity to have a life after high school. These are real people we are identifying and giving them back to their families.”

Of the 429 missing personnel, 36 were buried and identified in the years immediately following the incident. This left 393 buried among the unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the “Punchbowl”, making the unknowns from the USS Oklahoma the single largest group of buried unidentified servicemen from the Pearl Harbor attack.

Until recently, there were 44 graves of unknowns that contained 60 caskets directly associated with the USS Oklahoma in two areas of the Punchbowl.  All but one of these caskets was reported to contain multiple sets of unknowns. From mid-2015 through early 2016, they were all exhumed for anthropological examination of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii, who sent bone samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory under the DoD DNA Registry for DNA analysis.

Since the exhumations began AFDIL has assisted the DPAA in identifying 21 individuals and returning them to their families.

There are two boards associated with the USS Oklahoma. One is the history at Pearl Harbor and everything that happened during the attack and reasons it was difficult to identify all the personnel. The second board is considered the identification board which contains a picture for all 393 still unaccounted for individuals on the ship.

Everyone is given a white background and once identification has been made the color will change to either green or red. Green is for those identified by dental records and red is for those identified by DNA.

Patterson said the promise of no man left behind includes no man unaccounted for.

“We are doing a service to these people who have given their lives in service to our country,” said Patterson. “It is huge for us to realize that our job is not just putting data into a computer or processing something in a laboratory. These people have passed away and we are still working for them and their families.”


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