A Vietnam veteran was 'feasted on' by ants before his death at an Atlanta VA hospital, his daughter says

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(Department of Veterans Affairs)

A Vietnam vet stricken with cancer was overrun by ants and bitten more than 100 times days before he died at a VA hospital in Atlanta, his daughter said.


Laquna Ross noticed the scores of red bite marks and swelling when she visited her Air Force veteran dad Joel Marrable at the Eagle's Nest Community Living Center inside the Atlanta VA Medical Center Sept. 6, she told the Daily News.

She had just returned from a trip and hadn't seen her dad in 11 days.

"When I took his hand out, it was really swollen, and he flinched," she said. "I was really worried and asked a staffer if she could come take a look."

The staffer's response left her stunned.

"She said, 'Well, it's getting better…you know…from the ants,'" Ross recalled.

When the daughter appeared confused, the staffer described a horrific scene that unfolded days earlier.

"She said my dad had been covered in ants. One of the nurses came in and turned on the lights and just screamed," Ross said.

"She told me, 'We thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We didn't know what happened with all the ants. We jumped into action, took him into the shower and covered his nose so he could breathe while we washed them off,'" Ross told The News.

Ross found the description "terrifying." She took the case to hospital administrators and got them to agree in the middle of the night to move her dad to a new room.

Marrable, 74, was moved on Saturday, Sept. 7, and died within hours, Ross said.

"He had cancer for three years and spent 14 months at the VA. We made a bucket list and went to the Bahamas and laughed and joked up until the end. He was at peace with dying, so it's so unfortunate this happened right at the end," Ross said.

Ross first told her dad's story to WSB-TV in Atlanta.

In a statement obtained by the station, the VA Medical Center in Atlanta expressed its "heartfelt remorse and apology" to the families affected by the ant outbreak.

The hospital said it took several actions to mitigate the problem, including hiring a pest control company, stripping bedrooms and removing open food containers.

"The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted," the hospital said in its statement to WSB-TV.

Ross said she decided to speak out to hopefully prevent another patient from suffering through the same horror.

"I want to spread awareness. Do we understand the magnitude of how busy the VA is, the number of patients they have?" she asked in a phone interview with The News.

"I know the staff, without a shadow of doubt, respected my dad and even loved him. But what's their ability to assess situations and fix things?" she asked.

"I understand mistakes happen. I've had ants. But he was bit by ants two days in row," she said. "They feasted on him."

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©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

The top leaders of a Japan-based Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet squadron were fired after an investigation into a deadly mid-air collision last December found that poor training and an "unprofessional command climate" contributed to the crash that left six Marines dead, officials announced on Monday.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules and one Marine onboard an F/A-18D Hornet were killed in the Dec. 6, 2018 collision that took place about 200 miles off the Japanese coast. Another Marine aviator who was in the Hornet survived.

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A former Army soldier was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for stealing weapons from Fort Bliss, along with other charges.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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