Archive for November, 2010


How many Americans know someone fighting in Afghanistan or recently returned from there or Iraq?   I began wondering this after realizing that because combat PTSD has been getting a great deal of media attention in the last couple of years, most people believe that our troops and veterans suffering from PTSD get the help they need from the military and the VA.  Most people have no idea what our troops and their families experience before, during, and after deployment.  This situation, the result of a volunteer force, is creating a military that exists totally separate from the civilian world.

This is immoral to the point of being criminal.  The separate worlds creates an independent military to which civilians have little, if any, relationship.  Civilians cannot know what sacrifices are being made in their name and so don’t know the necessity of engaging in the consequences of those sacrifices.

In World War II, sixteen million Americans—11% of the country–were drafted or enlisted into the military.  Today our troops are one percent of our population.

How easy it is to go to war, to be at war, when—other than the occasional articles and documentaries such as “WarTorn”–we have no idea what going to war entails.  How easy it becomes for our politicians to choose war as our response.

Let’s think about the consequences of having a volunteer force.  Who volunteers? Those from career military families—but often those people go to officer candidate school and don’t end up in the infantry.  The great majority of our combat soldiers come from working class families, families that have felt the recession the hardest, families who cannot afford to send their children to college. We can be sure that virtually no one of wealth and/or power has a family member or good friend among the combat forces (I think of that great scene in the movie “9/11” where Michael Moore approached members of Congress to ask if they would be willing to let their son or daughter go to war.)

As an October 19th op-ed piece by R. Tyson Smith in the Philadelphia Inquirer said, “American civilians continue to love what veterans represent – duty, sacrifice, strength, leadership – but we have less and less true understanding of the veteran experience. Although the United States is in the 10th year of a war, veterans have become increasingly marginalized, accounting for a dwindling share of middle-class and public life.”

For the first time since WWII, there is no veteran among our Supreme Court judges. Only four of our U.S. senators are veterans, compared with sixty-nine  in 1970. The proportion in the House during this same time period has dropped from 75 percent to 22 percent today.  We can count on one hand the number of members of Congress whose children serve in combat.  No wonder that veterans feel like aliens, do not come forward to find help.

And no wonder most Americans have no idea of the isolation veterans with PTSD feel, the anger of trying to get immediate help from a huge bureaucracy that seems to exist only to create obstacles rather than help.  While it might be impossible for most of us to imagine being in combat, (as  many veterans say, even the best movie does not involve smell), we have much more capacity to imagine trauma.  We have seen car accidents or been in one, we have received sudden news of a loved one’s death; we have been attacked by a dog.   While these do not begin to compare to the trauma of combat, the traumas of civilian life give us a clue, open a window into what on a much more powerful, profound level, veterans suffer.

We owe our troops and veterans that use of our imagination.  We owe them taking the time to read and listen to their stories.  The web offers many excellent sources.  Begin with this one, a collection of blogs:

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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This was forwarded to me by a veteran friend who received it from the Soldiers Angels Living Legends Team.

A Fallen Iraqi Army Hero – Daniel E. Duefield

Please wrap your wings around the family of Daniel E. Duefield:

Family members are mourning the loss of a 24-year-old veteran of the Iraq war who came home two years ago a changed man suffering the after-effects of a traumatic war experience.

Daniel E. Duefield, who served two tours in Iraq before being honorably discharged following injuries he sustained in an explosion, was found dead at his home in Grafton on Wednesday, his mother, Ruth Duefield, said Friday.

“I really am heartbroken,” she said.

An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, said his uncle, Frederick Duefield. Ruth said Daniel suffered a seizure at about 3 a.m. Wednesday. She said he’d had several seizures in recent months from complications due to the lingering effects of a traumatic brain injury suffered in the explosion.

Ruth and Frederick said the family has not ruled out suicide, as Daniel was suffering from the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and may have taken as many as 70 methadone pills in a two-day period.

“He died at his battlefield here at home, in his head,” Frederick said. “He didn’t die on the battlefield in Iraq. If it wasn’t suicide, then it’s going to come back that he died from a seizure from his injuries.”

Daniel’s death was the end of a “nightmare” six-day stretch that began Nov. 12 when Daniel became irate, got a hold of a gun and made threats to kill himself and others, prompting a response from state police, Ruth said. “The only thing that may have saved us was the fact that he didn’t have any bullets,” she said. “It was a nightmare in hell.”

Frederick said he took Daniel to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vt., that night, where he was admitted against his will. But he was released the next day and on Monday was able to get a prescription for methadone refilled, Ruth said, despite her reports to the VA that he was abusing the drug, which is often used to treat chronic pain. Meanwhile, no counselor tried to contact Daniel after last weekend’s incident, she said.

“Why they ever gave him methadone I’ll never know,” she said. “I feel the VA is partially responsible for his death. I’m just saying the truth as I see it. I just feel that the VA should have followed up a lot more.”

He was dead two days later. Of the 80 pills in the bottle on Monday, just 10 were found on Wednesday, Ruth said. She performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, even though she knew it was too late.

“Why was he released from the hospital?” Frederick asked. “He shouldn’t have died. He shouldn’t have been released from the hospital.”

A message left with the VA hospital Friday evening wasn’t returned. On its website, the VA says it offers many avenues for veterans with PTSD or depression to seek help, including a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline that connects veterans to a trained professional.

Frederick and Ruth said Daniel also didn’t follow through with the counseling he was offered. Ruth said he went to only one counseling session in six months. “I’m not putting all the blame on the hospital,” Frederick said. “I blame a portion of this on (Daniel) for not seeking help.”

However, he said, “if the disease of PTSD is what it is, you put yourself in denial,” he said. “He came back wounded.”

According to the VA, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a traumatic event. Symptoms include confusion, anger and depression. The disorder can lead to many problems, including drug addictions and trouble maintaining relationships and employment.

Ruth said Daniel immediately showed signs of PTSD after his discharge from the Army. He enlisted in the Army in 2005 and was stationed with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. He was a gunner on a Humvee while stationed in Iraq, where he fought in the “Triangle of Death” area south of Baghdad, which saw heavy combat against insurgents.

“Before, he was happy-go-lucky. He was always laughing, always smiling,” she said. “After the war, he was very much more reserved, very quiet. He started to keep to himself more.”

His military vehicle was rocked by an explosion in 2008, resulting in Daniel’s injuries and a different person than the one who enlisted in the Army with great enthusiasm, Frederick said.

“He was a great guy. He was loved by his family and friends,” he said. “But the war changed him.”

“He was a hero,” Frederick said. “We were all so proud that he wanted to serve his country and that’s how we want him to be remembered, as a hero.”

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Chantuers 2

Last week I went to hear Les Petites Chanteuses, a choir of Haitian boys who were visiting Austin to raise funds for the Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince. The school founded the choir in 1986, providing a general education to one thousand children, as well as training them to sing. But the January earthquake, considered to be the most lethal natural disaster in the last twenty years, destroyed the school–the building as well as all its instruments. The miracle was that of the staff and students, only two people died, and most of the school was on the third floor of the building when the earthquake hit. Now they believe they have a special mission to help heal their fellow country people with music.

At the concert, as I watched the faces of these boys, ten to thirteen years old, I saw the map of pain the earthquake created. But I also saw hope and strength that singing brings them. As they sang their first song, a song replete with sorrow and grief, one boy often wiped his eyes, eyes of someone decades older than ten. Eyes that had witnessed what few of us dare to even imagine: the destruction of his entire universe in thirty seconds. We, the audience, do not know what personal losses these boys suffered beyond the doors of their school. But the death toll from the quake reached twelve percent of Haiti’s population, so even if they did not lose a family member, they lost people in their communities, including the 21-year -old principal Alti of their choir.

What would it be like to emerge from a ruined building that had been your shelter and see in every direction crumpled buildings, twisted bodies and hear screams? The trauma created by natural disaster must devastate one’s fundamental ability to feel safe anywhere. But less than a year later, these boys are able to smile and create beauty with their voices.

They make clear: music has made their healing possible. Their tour of the U.S. this fall testifies to the power of music, of art. Art connects us to our ability to prevail, to the transcendent value of life. Take a look at these boys’ face, listen to their music, and become inspired.

Watch from 7:25 minutes to the end:

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On November 3rd and 4th the Carter Center in Atlanta held the annual Rosalyn Carter Symposium for Mental Health. This year the subject was: “A Veteran’s Journey Home: Reintegrating Our National Guard and Reservists Into Family, Community and the Workplace.” Most of us don’t know that unlike in any prior war, the burden of the eight-year-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fallen onto the shoulders of our National Guards and Reservists. One-third of the troops deployed are from the National Guard and Reserves, due to the strain such protracted conflicts are creating for our all volunteer army. So these women and men are deployed two, three, even four times, barely having time to reconnect with their families and themselves before being deployed again.

As a result, they are suffering PTSD in very high numbers: one in five. The rates of substance abuse, divorces, and suicide are disproportionately high among these troops.

The Director of the Carter’s Mental Health Care Program, Thomas Bornemann, Ed.D, said that our challenge “… is to meet our moral obligation to serve the men and women who served and suffer … taking a public health approach, where we understand a population of people in need and develop solutions that advance national policy and practices.”

Dr. Lloyd Seder did an excellent job of reporting on the symposium for the Huffington Post.
While the military has come light years in recognizing and legitimizing war’s invisible wounds, many veterans do not find at their workplaces understanding or support. Many still encounter great difficulty finding work; rates of homelessness among new vets is climbing. The single greatest obstacle vets face is a perceived stigma of having a mental health problem. So even when community services are available, vets aren’t availing themselves of the services. “Too few mental health professionals know the military culture,” Dr. Sederer reports, “or are experienced delivering effective treatments for the mental health disorders that war produces.”
I have not yet watched the webcast of the symposium
But I will be interested to see if it addressed how at the lower echelons of the army, officers do not give PTSD and TBI the same legitimacy as the generals do. I have heard reports recently from active troops that they observe and experience severe harassment of troops expressing concerns about mental health and a reliance on medications rather than individualized treatment. Today the San Diego paper reports on such a situation:
Perhaps it takes a while for new attitudes to trickle down, and events like the symposium are a critical change. But it is sad that my local newspaper did not report on the symposium and most troops probably have little idea it occurred. And in the meanwhile, people are suffering- soldiers in active duty, veterans and their families at home.

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On the occasion of Veterans’ Day and the first anniversary of Veterans’ Children, we are honored to feature a guest post by World War II veteran, Jerry Yellin, author of Of War and WeddingsThe Blackened CanteenThe Letter, and The Resilient Warrior.  Jerry is working hard to make possible veterans having the opportunity to learn Transcendental Meditation as a means of healing from PTSD.

I was one of the 16 million people who served our country in World War Two. I was 18 when I enlisted, 19 when I graduated Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona and three weeks into my 21st year when I landed on Iwo Jima, an eight8 square mile island 650 miles from Japan. I quickly became familiar with death.

On March 7, 1945 our squadron landed on Iwo Jima on a dirt runway at the foot of Mount Suribachi. I looked out at the landscape as I taxied my Mustang to our parking area and saw huge piles of dead Japanese soldiers being pushed into mass graves, the sight and smell indelibly imprinted on my mind. It was a shocking sight for a young man just entering his 21st year to see.    Our squadron area was next to a Marine mortuary where hundreds of dead Marines were being readied for burial, a sight that continued until the remains of nearly 7000 American Marines were buried in the cemetery.

The fighting was fierce on this eight square mile Island 650 miles from Japan. Twenty one thousand Japanese soldiers lost their lives there and nearly 7000 Marines were killed.

I flew ninteen very long range missions over Japan from Iwo Jima and flew with eleven young pilots, all of them friends, who did not return home. All in all I flew with sixteen pilots who did not come back.

On one mission Al Sherren, my classmate from flying school called in “I’m hit and can’t see,” and he was gone. Robert “Pudgy” Carr also disappeared on that day. He was my tent mate.  Three of those killed were my wingmen. Danny Mathis in a mid-air collision with 26 other fighters when my wisdom teeth were pulled and I was grounded, Dick Schroeppel who was following me on a strafing run over Chichi Jima and Phil Schlamberg who disappeared from my wing in clouds on August 14, 1945 the day the war ended.

All of us knew who were fighting and why. Then it was over, one day a fighter pilot the next a civilian, no buddies, no airplane, nothing to hold on to, and no one to talk to. Life, as it was for me from 1945 to 1975 was empty. The highs I had experienced in combat became the lows of daily living. I had absolutely no connection to my parents, my sister, my relatives or my friends. I listened to some of the guys I knew talk about their experiences in combat and I knew they had never been in a battle let alone a war zone. No one that I knew who had seen their friends die could talk about it. The Army Air Corps had trained me and prepared me to fly combat missions but there was no training on how to fit into society when the war was over and I stopped flying.

I was not able to find any contentment, any reason to succeed, any connection to anyone that had meaning or value. I was depressed, unhappy and lonely even though I was surrounded by a loving wife and four sons. That feeling of disconnect, lack of emotions, restlessness, empty feeling of hopelessness lasted until 1975.

In 1975 I learned to meditate—I learned a technique called Transcendental Meditation. In just a few months life became meaningful to me and now, at 86.8 years of living, I can say that this meditation has brought me peace and contentment.

What makes the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so difficult for our troops? War is always difficult for those on the front lines, but these wars are being fought in the countries of our enemies, on their territory, their homeland, their cities, and there are no established front lines or objectives to capture. Every citizen can be looked at as “the enemy,” every road as a dangerous road to travel, every pile of garbage might contain an IED ready to explode.

As I write this today, in October 2010, there have been 5745 of our servicemen and women killed and 86,175 evacuated from wounds or illness, 21.7% of the approximately two million who have seen active duty.

It has been estimated that 35-40% of those who have served since 2003 are victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since the average age of the current military is 21, these veterans will require care for 50 or 60 years. The cost to care for our veterans as estimated by Stiglitz and Bilmes in their book The Three Trillion Dollar War will be  $5,765.00 per veteran per year; a total that could reach 717 Billion Dollars just to service the estimated 2.1 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This does not take into account additional costs to the Government for benefits to the families of the wounded and mentally ill veterans. Every veteran, either wounded or mentally ill affects everyone in his household adversely. The entire family suffers and has needs.

If I am an example of a recovered PTSD veteran, Transcendental Meditation should be offered to all veterans as an option. The cost per veteran for a lifetime of health is just one-fourth of the annual projected cost to the VA for one year of treatment. Why aren’t we pursuing this 5000 year old modality to help our young veterans and their families recover from the profound affect Iraq and Afghanistan has had on our military?

Jerry Yellin, member The Military Writers Society of America, CO-Chair Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation


Of War and Weddings

The Blackened Canteen

The Letter

The Resilient Warrior.

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مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی گن لاغری شکم بند لاغری تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ بوی دهان بوی بد دهان