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Researchers try to verify whether canines help patients with PTSD

For dog lovers, it's an absolute: The unconditional love of a canine companion heals the soul, reaching into the heart to cross canyons of loneliness and despair.

Military researchers now are trying to learn if there's real science behind that semimystical link — and if so, whether it can help treat the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A $5 million study is underway at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to evaluate whether and how training service dogs may help patients with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Participating troops are paired with puppies that they will raise for two years to serve as assistance dogs for other injured veterans.

Two more VA officials resign

Two more high-ranking Veterans Affairs officials announced plans to step down from their leadership roles Wednesday, the latest personnel overhaul for an embattled department already lacking multiple top administrators.

Dr. Robert Jesse, the acting VA undersecretary for health and the official in charge of heading the department's response to the recent care delay scandals, will step aside from that role and his principal deputy post.

He'll be replaced by assistant deputy undersecretary for health Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who has worked at the department for less than a year. Jesse was working as a temporary replacement for Dr. Robert Petzel, who resigned as undersecretary in May.

VA general counsel Will Gunn will also step down from his post, which he has held since 2009. Principal deputy general counsel Tammy Kennedy will serve as acting counsel until a permanent replacement is named.

Man found dead at Arlington National Cemetery

A man found dead of a gunshot wound Friday at Arlington National Cemetery has been identified as retired Air Force Col. Robert Stanton Terrill, 92, of Falls Church, Va.

"Although we have not completely ruled it out in order to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, we do not suspect foul play at this point in the investigation," said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, the lead agency investigating the death.

Terrill's neighbors confirmed that his late wife, Helen, who died in 2009, is buried at Arlington. The cemetery's online grave finder lists Helen Terrill as being buried in Section 64, where Terrill was found dead.

Airmen on standby to support operations in Iraq

The military is increasing surveillance flights over Iraq to identify possible targets for air strikes, President Obama said Thursday, while a team of airmen waits outside the country to set up and secure air operations if needed.

President Obama told reporters Thursday that the military is increasing its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights in Iraq to track fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and counter the threat posed by the insurgents.

"Because of our increased intelligence resources, we're developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL and going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it," Obama said.

The announcement comes as two key senators call for U.S. airstrikes to stop ISIL advances.

Military advisers also fight, history tells us

WASHINGTON — President Obama's announcement that he's sending military advisers to Iraq raises questions — in some quarters, red flags — about whether that could mean a return to warfare under another name.

Obama says flatly: "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again." Yet the mission as he's defined it — sending up to 300 military advisers "to assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces" — is open-ended enough to chance putting at least a limited number of Americans back into the thick of battle.

Modern American history has examples of military advisers limiting themselves to just that job, such as times during the Cold War when the U.S. helped arm and train military forces in developing countries aligned with Washington. It also has examples of mission creep, most infamously in Vietnam.

Robins receives new Marine Commander

A new Marine commander has been named at Robins Air Force Base.

After two years of service, Lt. Col. David Steele relinquished command to Lt. Col. Philip Eilertson.

Eilertson will have about 160 active duty Marines and 150 reservists under his authority.

Aircraft wise, he has a total of 5 helicopters and is hoping to have a total of 8 before the year is over.

He says in order to keep the branch successful, both sides must work together.

Iraq War vets angry, distraught as insurgents gain ground

Veterans of the Iraq War and their families are watching with dismay and alarm as Sunni insurgents overrun large swaths of Iraq, including cities like Mosul, where hundreds of U.S. troops died.

"I completely disagreed with the decision to walk away from Iraq," said former Army Sgt. Kenneth Mancanares. "Now, to be honest, I'm trying to think if there's even a way I could get back out there. I'm sure there are a lot of guys feeling that way. I really wish that I could sign up on something tomorrow and join a volunteer group that's going there to stand up for these people."

Mancanares spent more than two years in Iraq, first in Ramadi and then in Baghdad.