Monday, June 30, 2008

Troops and cold medicine ‘Ultimately, it will destroy your life’

Soldiers hope battle with cold medicines serves as warning to others
‘Ultimately, it will destroy your life’
By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Pfc. Stephen Wanser’s typical Saturday breakfasts were the same as his Friday night dinners: 16 Coricidin Cold and Cough pills, water or soda optional.

Wanser and his roommate, Pfc. Gary Cooper, 22, remained in a hallucinatory daze most of the weekend before crashing on Sundays.

Even when Wanser thought he nearly choked to death after taking the pills — a sign from God, the deeply religious 24-year-old believed — it was only enough to keep him off the drug for a month.

Coricidin contains more dextromethorphan, also known as DM or DXM, than most cold medicines.

In small doses, DXM relieves a cough. But large doses produce abnormally elevated moods and hallucinations typically associated with drugs like PCP and LSD.

Although there are few, if any, military studies on dextromethorphan abuse, medical and 2007 sales data from Camp Casey’s post exchange stores attest to the drug’s popularity.

In a place where all soldiers receive free health care and prescriptions, Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores sold as many as 300 boxes of Coricidin and its generic equivalent in one week, according to a paper presented at a national medical conference in May.

They would often read the Bible while tripping, discussing Solomon, heaven, hell and their place in the world.

Wanser said he felt closer to God during those times.

But he acknowledges that taking potentially fatal doses of drugs is a bad way to get there.

He experienced hyper-religiosity, a relatively common phenomenon among mania-prone users of psychedelic drugs, said Area I support psychiatrist Maj. Christopher Perry.

"As people become more manic and grandiose in their thinking, religion plays a larger role in their life," Perry explains.
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also on this

Sales spikes, overdoses prompt drug restrictions
By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — When Pfc. Gary Cooper would go to the Camp Casey post exchange to get his fix of cold medicine, he had to act quickly.

"You get to the store and pick it up right away, because that stuff would sell so fast," Cooper said.

For several months last year, Cooper and Pfc. Stephen Wanser say they abused Coricidin Cough and Cold, which contains dextromethorphan, or DXM.

Wanser recalls other soldiers grabbing at the boxes as they were stocked. On another occasion, Wanser says a South Korean employee handed him four boxes when he asked for one.

By October, AAFES officials restricted sales of medicines with DXM to two boxes per month per servicemember, after consulting with medical officials.

Average sales dropped 57 percent following the restrictions, according to a study conducted by Area I support psychiatrist Maj. Christopher Perry and Capt. Eugene Chung.
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Young Marine "I'm no Vietnam vet, but a vet of Operation Iraqi Freedom"

From Healing Combat Trauma

PTSD: (That's Some) Pretty Terrible Sh*t (to Have to) Deal (With), Don't You Think?

Editor's Note: We commemorate the otherwise momentous, historic signing of the GI bill into law today with this little snippet of what life was like for someone who served recently. For everyone who doesn't "get" what sacrifice is, and that those who've served have earned their accolades and rewards, here's a grunt's-eye view of the experience of combat trauma, and how that relates to PTSD and various other topics in the news. It's doubtful that any one of us would like to have changed places with him, at such a young age. Herewith, his story, emphasis mine:

I'm no Vietnam vet, but a vet of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I turned 18 while in boot camp because I graduated high school at 17. I was discharged early for having "personality disorder" after I went to Iraq.

I was in the Marines, and my MOS was a ground communications electronics technician. A couple months after graduating my training for the job and going to my first unit, I was "volunteered" to join and train with another unit that was leaving soon. The new task I was given was "Mortuary Affairs".

This group was put together with a couple dozen other Marines from other sections. Our job was to go to locations where troops had been killed and not able to be retrieved by the group they were out with due to the fact they were under too much danger or whatever the case. I had no clue the effects this would have on me. It was a horrible experience.

It was not like going and picking up a corpse and that's it. For one, you were in a hot zone, where people were just killed, not just by gunfire.
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More than half firearm deaths are suicides

More than half firearm deaths are suicides
Story Highlights
Recent Supreme Court ruling on guns focused on protection from home invasion

Suicides accounted for 55 percent of nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005 in U.S.

More gun-related suicides than homicides and accidents in 20 of last 25 years

Research shows if gun in home, higher likelihood of suicide or homicide in home

ATLANTA, Georgia, (AP) -- The Supreme Court's landmark ruling on gun ownership last week focused on citizens' ability to defend themselves from intruders in their homes. But research shows that surprisingly often, gun owners use the weapons on themselves.

Suicides accounted for 55 percent of the nation's nearly 31,000 firearm deaths in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There was nothing unique about that year -- gun-related suicides have outnumbered firearm homicides and accidents for 20 of the last 25 years. In 2005, homicides accounted for 40 percent of gun deaths. Accidents accounted for 3 percent. The remaining 2 percent included legal killings, such as when police do the shooting, and cases that involve undetermined intent.

Public-health researchers have concluded that in homes where guns are present, the likelihood that someone in the home will die from suicide or homicide is much greater.

Studies have also shown that homes in which a suicide occurred were three to five times more likely to have a gun present than households that did not experience a suicide, even after accounting for other risk factors.
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Six Units Get Call for 2009 Iraq Deployment

Six Units Get Call for 2009 Iraq Deployment
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2008 – The Defense Department has alerted six combat units for deployment to Iraq from January to March 2009, officials said here today.
Though the announcement identifies forces for the current level of effort in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, it does not try to predict decisions down the road.

“It’s proper, prudent planning to give units the time to train and to ensure they are notified in a deliberate fashion and well in advance of when they would have to deploy,” Whitman said.

The four Army combat brigades and two Marine regimental combat teams cover about 33,000 personnel. These are normal rotation forces, and all of the units have the capability of performing full-spectrum combat operations.

The Marine units notified today are Regimental Combat Team 8 and Regimental Combat Team 6, both based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Army units are the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st and 2nd brigade combat teams, based at Fort Hood, Texas; the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Drum, N.Y.; and 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division.

The announcement for the 12-month deployments assumes a force level of 15 brigade combat teams in Iraq. “This is a planning effort for maintaining a 15-combat-brigade level,” Whitman said.

“That doesn’t mean decisions down the road couldn’t affect this,” he added. “You can always have units that redeploy earlier and deploy later. This is a planning effort to sustain the current level of operations.”

The last surge brigade will leave Iraq by the end of July. Some 45 days later, officials in Iraq, U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon will assess conditions in Iraq “post-surge,” Whitman said. Decisions after that review could affect deployments, he said.

VCS Appeals Court Ruling Because No Veteran Gets Left Behind

Keep one thing in mind as you read this. If the government had lived up to the thoughts we the people have as being grateful, no one would have to take them to court to make sure they finally do it.

VCS Appeals Court Ruling Because No Veteran Gets Left Behind
On Jun 25, 2008, U.S. Federal District Court Senior Judge Samuel Conti issued a detailed 82-page ruling where he concluded that VA is mired in crisis and that he is "troubled" by lengthy delays veterans face trying to obtain healthcare and benefits from VA. Sounds like the veterans won, right?

Unfortunately, Judge Conti said the Court lacks jurisdiction. We are deeply disappointed that he wants VA and Congress to fix VA's enormous problems.

VCS plans to press forward so our veterans receive prompt and high-quality VA healthcare as well as fast, complete, and accurate VA claims decisions. Either we repair VA now, or we face another generation of hundreds of thousands of veterans with broken homes, lost jobs, drug and alcohol problems, homelessness, and suicide.

That's why VCS will appeal the Court’s decision primarily on the Constitutional grounds that if the Judicial Branch does not enforce the law, then Legislative Branch actions become meaningless in the face of massive Executive Branch failures.

VCS needs your help to launch our lengthy and time-consuming appeal. Please click here to make a contribution to VCS today and support our work to overhaul VA for our veterans and their families.

Here are three important items about the Court's ruling:
1. The Army Times provides the best newspaper coverage about the facts.
2. CBS News / KPIX TV broadcast a thorough review of the verdict.
3. You can read the Court's decision and see VCS and Veterans United for Truth did the right thing to file suit.

VCS needs your help. In the past year we gathered veterans' stories, we obtained hundreds of pages of VA documents under the Freedom of Information Act, we worked closely for hundreds of hours with our attorneys at Morrison & Foerster and Disability Rights Advocates, and we flew to San Francisco for the two week trial.

Please consider setting up a monthly or quarterly contribution to VCS today so we can fight for our veterans.

Here is a sample of e-mails showing the broad public and veteran support of our lawsuit:
• "Your efforts will make life better for . . . veterans."

• "Thanks for all the hard work."

• "It was a great effort. The fact you were able to get the VA attitude out in the public, presented as evidence in a federal court, was of critical importance…. KEEP IT UP!"

• "I think you did a terrific job of exposing the tragedy of the veterans with the law suit."

• "All of you working on this should be proud of yourselves."

• "You have accomplished a great deal and there still things to do. This is only the beginning of the fight; end of round one."

There is a lot more work ahead as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue. As of April 2008, VA medical centers have treated 325,000 recent combat veterans, including 133,000 with a mental health condition, 75,000 of whom are diagnosed with PTSD.

Although we have a temporary setback, our landmark lawsuit with VUFT achieved several important goals for veterans:
• VA opened a suicide hotline, received tens of thousands of calls from highly distraught veterans, and "rescued" hundreds.

• VA hired thousands of new mental health professionals, including hundreds of suicide prevention coordinators at their hospitals and clinics.

• A trove of VA e-mails confirmed the suicide epidemic of 1,000 VA patient attempts per month. In addition, death statistics reveal that younger veterans are 3 to 4 times more likely to kill themselves than non-veterans of the same age group.

Read more of the facts uncovered by our lawsuit - facts Judge Conti agreed with.

Congress held several oversight hearings on VA's crisis where VCS testified. Now several critical pieces of legislation inspired by our lawsuit should become law by the end of 2008. VA was also forced to explain why they concealed the suicide epidemic and why some VA staff fought against proper healthcare and disability benefits for PTSD.

• Several major media outlets now have full- or part-time journalists dedicated to investigating the human consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Please give to VCS today so we can win our appeal on behalf of all our veterans!
Thank You,
Paul Sullivan

Executive Director

Veterans for Common Sense
VCS provides advocacy and publicity for issues related to veterans, national security, and civil liberties. VCS is registered with the IRS as a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity, and donations are tax deductible.

Chaplain Turner's War

Chapter 8 of 8: Chaplain Turner's War

A dangerous mission, a devastating night -- and God's foot soldier marches on

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 06/29/08

Baghdad — The story so far: Chaplain Darren Turner's battalion has lost another soldier. Now he must see three platoons off on a mission in unfamiliar territory. Before the day is over, more bad news tests the chaplain's emotional endurance.

Chaplain Darren Turner hurtles toward the motor pool at Forward Operating Base Falcon. He is anxious to see his men off to battle.

Turner is ordinarily not one for prayers before a mission — he abhors the idea of a soldier nurturing a 911 relationship with God: Pray before you roll out the gates. Pray when a buddy gets hurt.

Then stuff your Bible back into the trunk.

But Turner also understands the comfort that prayer can bring. And this mission to Baghdad's Sadr City is big.

It is March 28, and three 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment platoons in Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams tanks have been called up to support U.S. forces already in the thick of battle.

An impoverished enclave of 2.5 million Shiites, Sadr City is unfamiliar and raw territory for Turner's soldiers. The battalion has not yet experienced urban guerrilla warfare — it is more accustomed to the farmlands and villages of Arab Jabour.

"Hey, what's up, fellas?"

Turner greets the visibly nervous soldiers.

"Ready to ride?"

They reply in a chorus of "hooahs."

"I just wanted to come and encourage you guys before you head out."

Two men who Turner baptized on Good Friday are here. The chaplain notices several others who regularly seek him out.

With those who share his Christian faith, Turner takes extra risks to know them well, to love them as brothers. It's an emotional roll of the dice, because at war, any day could be a soldier's last.

Like today.

Turner reads aloud Psalm 140.

"Keep me safe from violent people ... who plot my downfall. The proud have set a trap for me; they have laid their snares, and along the path they have set traps to catch me."

King David's words resonate, as though they were written specifically about this war, where roads are booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices.

The soldiers bow their heads before the chaplain.

Several fall to their knees.

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Chapter 1: Comfort in toughest of places
Chapter 2: The invisible war
Chapter 3: Summer of death
Chapter 4: Formidable enemy
Chapter 5: Nightmare revisited
Chapter 6: Easter baptisms
Chapter 7: Tragedies test the armor of God
Chapter 8: A dangerous mission, a devastating night

Media report on homeless haven opened hearts

Published: June 29, 2008 6:00 a.m.
Aid pours in to finish off haven for vets
Frank Gray
A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the Shepherd’s House, a halfway house on Tennessee Avenue that has been trying to finish a suite that would serve as a shelter for homeless veterans.

The need for such a shelter was epitomized by a man named Julius, a homeless 18-year Air Force veteran with an alcohol problem. He had suffered two strokes and a heart attack and ended up partly paralyzed, getting around in a wheelchair and living outdoors in a wooded area near a golf course off Coliseum Boulevard.

Julius, forgotten and abandoned, was the subject of a lengthy search by local veterans officials and others who had heard about him but couldn’t find him.

When Julius was finally located, people willing to help were scant. Julius was rejected by some other shelters because he posed a liability, and there weren’t any shelters specifically designed for homeless vets.

But the Shepherd’s House agreed to give him a place to stay, and after a few months he was stable enough to get his own apartment.

Unfortunately, within weeks of setting back out on his own, Julius suffered a heart attack that left him in a coma, and he eventually died.

All the Shepherd’s House founder, Barb Cox, could do was look at the partly completed suite intended as a veterans shelter. For two years she had been trying to get it finished, and it would take only a few thousand dollars to get accomplished.

But money had been tight and finding donations had been hard.
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Blind SF soldier determined to serve

Blind SF soldier determined to serve

By Kevin Maurer - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 30, 2008 9:43:22 EDT

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — When Capt. Ivan Castro joined the Army, he set goals: to jump out of planes, kick in doors and lead soldiers into combat. He achieved them all. Then the mortar round landed five feet away, blasting away his sight.

“Once you’re blind, you have to set new goals,” Castro said.

He set them higher.

Not content with just staying in the Army, he is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces — the small, elite units famed for dropping behind enemy lines on combat missions.

“I am going to push the limits,” said the 40-year-old executive officer at the 7th Special Forces Group’s headquarters company in Fort Bragg. “I don’t want to go to Fort Bragg and show up and sit in an office. I want to work every day and have a mission.”

Since the war began in Iraq, more than 100 troops have been blinded and 247 others have lost sight in one eye. Only two other blind officers serve in the active-duty Army: one a captain studying to be an instructor at West Point, the other an instructor at the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Castro’s unit commander said his is no charity assignment. Rather, it draws on his experience as a Special Forces team member and platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.

“The only reason that anyone serves with 7th Special Forces Group is if they have real talents,” said Col. Sean Mulholland. “We don’t treat [Castro] as a public affairs or a recruiting tool.”

An 18-year Army veteran, Castro was a Ranger before completing Special Forces training, the grueling yearlong course many soldiers fail to finish. He joined the Special Forces as a weapons sergeant, earned an officer’s commission and moved on to the 82nd — hoping to return one day to the Special Forces as a team leader.

Then life changed on a rooftop outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, in September 2006.

Castro had relieved other paratroopers atop a house after a night of fighting. He never heard the incoming mortar round. There was just a flash of light, then darkness.

Shrapnel tore through his body, breaking his arm and shoulder and shredding the left side of his face. Two other paratroopers died.

When Castro awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his right eye was gone. Doctors were unable to save his left.
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A great example of if they want to serve and can serve, they should be allowed to no matter what their wounds are. If they can't, then take care of them. This is also an example of the magnificence of some of the men and women we have serving this country.

Two Medical helicopters collide midair, killing six

Medical helicopters collide midair, killing six
Nurse critically injured after crash over Flagstaff; two on ground wounded

updated 6:31 a.m. ET, Mon., June. 30, 2008
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A helicopter ferrying a patient with a medical emergency from the Grand Canyon collided into another chopper carrying a patient near a northern Arizona hospital, leaving six people dead and critically injuring a nurse.

The collision Sunday east of Flagstaff Medical Center was a few hundred yards away from a neighborhood that was spared the falling debris. Officials said they were unable to provide an account of what preceded the crash.

Lawrence Garduno, who lives about a half mile from the crash, said he heard a loud boom that rattled the windows. He drove toward the hospital and stopped to see the burning wreckage. “It kind of scares me,” Garduno said. “If this had happened a half mile closer, it could have fallen on our house.”

Blast on the ground
An explosion on one of the aircraft after the crash injured two emergency workers who arrived with a ground ambulance company. They suffered minor burns and were spending the night at the hospital, but their injuries were not life-threatening. The crash, about 130 miles north of Phoenix, also sparked a 10-acre brush fire that was contained.

One of the helicopters was operated by Air Methods from Englewood, Colo., and the other was from Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. Both aircraft were Bell 407 models, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Three people on the Air Methods aircraft, including the patient, died. On the Classic helicopter, the pilot, paramedic and patient all died. A flight nurse on the Classic helicopter suffered extensive injuries and was in critical condition at the hospital.
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Veterans Long to Reclaim the Name ‘Swift Boat’

John Kerry, hands on hips, and Roy F. Hoffmann, kneeling, in Vietnam. Mr. Hoffman helped start the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which criticized Mr. Kerry in his 2004 presidential bid.

Veterans Long to Reclaim the Name ‘Swift Boat’

Published: June 30, 2008
Years ago, when William Miller talked about being in the Vietnam War — if he talked about being in the Vietnam War — he would tell people he served on a Swift boat.

At least now they have heard of it. But not in the way he would like.

“I was proud of what I did, and all the guys I was with,” Mr. Miller said. “Now somebody says ‘Swift boat’ and it’s a whole different meaning. They don’t associate it with the guys we lost. That’s a shame.”

“Swift boat” has become the synonym for the nastiest of campaign smears, a shadow that hangs over the presidential race as pundits wait to proclaim that the Swiftboating has begun and candidates declare that they will not be Swiftboated.

Swift boat veterans — especially those who had nothing to do with the group that attacked Senator John Kerry’s military record in the 2004 election — want their good name back, and the good names of the men not lucky enough to come home alive.

“You would not hear the word ‘Swift boat’ and think of people that served their country and fought in Vietnam,” said Jim Newell, who spent a year as an officer in charge on one of the small Navy vessels in An Thoi and Qui Nhon. “You think about someone who was involved in a political attack on a member of a different party. It just comes across as negative. Everyone who is associated with a Swift boat is involved in political chicanery.”
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linked from RawStory

St. Cloud City Council ok's rehab for veterans

Military can open facility near school -- with strings
Kumari Kelly Sentinel Staff Writer
June 29, 2008
ST. CLOUD - A residential substance-abuse treatment facility for veterans and active-duty military members will be allowed to open near a playground for schoolchildren with strict limits on how the center is used, the City Council voted last week. Despite protests from parents and the principal at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, who expressed concern about the potential for crime and the safety of their children, the council voted 3-1 to allow Transition House to open an 80-bed center. It will be at 3800 Fifth St., about 500 feet west of Brown Chapel Road. The school is at 800 Brown Chapel Road, but its playground backs up near the property. The center is also about a half-mile from Lakeview Elementary School and within the two-mile boundary for 114 students who could be walking to school, a county school district official said. Officials with Transition House agreed that only veterans -- and no former inmates or those with criminal histories -- will be allowed at the house.

Researchers cannot predict PTSD

Researchers Unable to Agree on Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders

Melbourne, Australia — 30 June, 2008— Studies exploring potential predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) following major trauma have resulted in varied conclusions. While a number of risk factors such as injury severity, demographic factors and compensation-related factors have been identified, none is strong enough to reliably predict which patient will develop the disorder.

PTSD is characterized by flashbacks of the event, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Victims of major trauma are at significant risk of developing PTSD, with about 15% developing the disorder within a year of the injury.

A study in the July issue of ANZ Journal of Surgery titled "Predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following Major Trauma" by Professor Ian Harris et al. argues that the lack of consistency of previous PTSD studies is a result of methodological flaws such as selection bias, and poorly defined diagnostic criteria.
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After living with my husband and knowing him for over 25 years, plus talking to PTSD veterans for this long, there are some things they seem to have in common. Sensitivity for others and their relationship with God. The majority of them mention that they felt abandoned by God or that God judged them. They have a simple knowledge of scripture and depending on how they were raised, they may also have a twisted knowledge of God transforming Him from the loving God who sent Christ, back to the judgmental One inspiring the writings of the Old Testament. Scientist and researchers need to look seriously at the connection between mind, body and soul if they really want to find their answer.

Bush signs war funding, GI Bill overhaul

Bush signs war funding, GI Bill overhaul

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 30, 2008 10:17:41 EDT

A $162 billion war funding bill that includes a $63 billion overhaul of GI Bill education benefits was signed Monday by President Bush.

“The bill shows even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to stand behind our troops,” Bush said, predicting the GI Bill increases would be a boost to military recruiting and also a boon to families if educational benefits are transferred to family members.

The signing of HR 2642 brings an end to a Pentagon cash-flow crisis that threatened to disrupt military and civilian payroll, cancel or delay maintenance, and postpone nonessential training and travel.

And, for the first time since the Vietnam War, there will be a completely free veterans’ education benefit program that pays enough to fully cover the cost of getting a four-year college degree.

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NY City Council hears from veterans

Suicide, PTSD, Homelessness, High Unemployment Cited by Experts ...
PR Newswire (press release) - New York,NY,USA

Suicide, PTSD, Homelessness, High Unemployment Cited by Experts from Veterans Across America, NY Chamber of Commerce, Veterans' Groups, at Hearing Before NY City Council

One Solution: "Six Months to Success," Conference with Mentors

NEW YORK, June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A dispiriting litany of the many
problems New York-area military veterans are facing -- rising suicide
rates, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), homelessness, high
unemployment -- was voiced by a distinguished group of experts last week,
at a New York City Council hearing, "Exploring Employment Options for New
York City's Veterans," organized by the nonprofit Veterans Across America.

Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Gulf-War veteran (a Marine) who became
the first Latino elected to public office in Queens, held the hearing as
Chairman of the Council's Veterans' Committee.

Councilman Monserrate thanked Veterans Across America for gathering a
knowledgeable group of experts, and pledged his support for veterans.

Dr. Ray Healey, co-founder of Veterans Across America (VAA), announced
that VAA, partnering with the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, will
stage a veterans' employment conference, "Six Months to Success," in April
2009. Dr. Healey said the Conference would focus on the needs of wounded
and disabled veterans.
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As of tomorrow, ads will be gone

As of tomorrow, the ads will be gone from this site. They take up too much room and frankly, are a waste of the space. I'm hoping my readers will consider to make a donation to make up the difference. It would help me out a great deal if you do but the ads are gone as of July 1st. I will still have useful links that do have something to do with the troops and veterans.

A blind eye on soldiers' suicides

A blind eye on soldiers' suicides
By James Carroll
June 30, 2008
'SUPPORT THE troops" is an American lie. This nation is grievously and knowingly failing the young men and women who wear the uniform of its military services, and nothing demonstrates that more powerfully than the suicides of soldiers. According to the Army's own figures, the rate of suicide among active duty personnel nearly doubled between 2001 and 2006. The number then grew even higher in 2007, when suicide ranked third as the cause of death among members of the National Guard. Even if proximate causes vary from war zones to home fronts, such data are anomalous, since suicide rates among soldiers historically go down during wartime, not up.

Veterans, too, are in trouble. In May, the head of the National Institute of Mental Health warned of "a gathering storm." Thomas Insel told the American Psychiatric Association that one in five of the 1.6 million soldiers who have been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan (or more than 300,000) suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome or depression. Potentially life-threatening mental disorders, including self-destructive behavior like addiction, raise the prospect, in Insel's words, of "suicides and psychological mortality trumping combat deaths."

As America has steadily averted its gaze from the actualities of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so, too, has the nation refused to look at what is happening to those it sends to fight. Repeated deployments to war zones, combined with meager support upon returning home, are leaving many soldiers adrift. Each one who commits suicide, or attempts to (more than 2,000 last year), shows this. It would be presumptuous to draw conclusions from any single instance of such despair, but taken as a whole, these acts of self-destruction lay bare some difficult truths.

The war in Iraq, in particular, is an exercise in the obliteration of meaning. The war's essence is its lack of essence. The war's catch-22 is that its stated goal is social order, while the American presence itself creates disorder. Our troops know this. They arrive in the war zone with every intention of protecting an innocent population from the enemy, only to discover that the enemy and the population are indistinguishable. "Insurgents" often turn out to be, not ideologues, much less "terrorists," but only cousins of those already killed. Victims and victimizers are alike. Suspicion is ubiquitous. No one trusts Americans. Such contradictions make the war controversial in the United States, but in Iraq they make the soldiers' situation intolerable.
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Advocates Want Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage For PTSD

Received by email

NYAPRS Note: Following is today's piece in the Legislative Gazette
regarding last Tuesday's Albany new conference pressing a top priority
of members of NYAPRS and our state advocacy partners: extension of
Timothy's Law parity protections to include those with post traumatic
stress disorders, most notably returning veterans, victims of sexual
abuse and domestic violence and disasters.

Advocates Want Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage For Posttraumatic
Stress Disorder

By ARAMIS M. GRANT Legislative Gazette April 21, 2008

The number of soldiers returning home from war with mental health
problems is among the reasons advocates in Albany last week were pushing
for an expansion of Timothy's Law.

A coalition of mental health advocacy groups calling themselves the
Timothy's Law Campaign are lobbying the Legislature to broaden the scope
of the legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. George E. Pataki
in December 2006 to mandate parity in the private insurance industry's
coverage of physical and mental health illnesses.

The campaign wants an amendment that would include posttraumatic stress
disorder among the biologically based mental illnesses Timothy's Law
requires insurance companies provide coverage for.

The amendment (A.10078/S.6818) is being sponsored by the chairmen of the
Senate and Assembly's mental health committees: Sen. Thomas Morahan,
R,C,I,WF-New City, and Assemblyman Peter Rivera, D-Bronx, who met with
the coalition in Albany last week to speak about the importance of
coverage for posttraumatic stress disorder.

"Timothy's Law has significantly advanced access to mental health
treatment," said Morohan. "However, the exclusion of posttraumatic
stress disorder negatively impacts returning veterans, children and
adults who have suffered sexual abuse and trauma," he said.

"This is a great first step to expanding Timothy's Law to a population
who needs it," said Rivera. The assemblyman said the amendment could
help society deal with the problems suffered by troops returning home
from Iraq.

Timothy's Law was named for Timothy O'Clair, who in 2001 committed
suicide at the age of 12 after his parents reached the limit on what
their insurance carrier would cover for their son's treatments.

Timothy's Law covers major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia
(psychotic) disorders, delusional disorders, panic disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorders, anorexia and bulimia. The proposed
amendment would add posttraumatic stress disorder to the list.

The campaign argues that posttraumatic stress disorder was not
originally included into Timothy's Law, even though its inclusion was
proposed, due to the belief that treatment for soldiers would be covered
under benefits they receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans

But only 35 percent of veterans seek help from Veterans Affairs,
according to John Javis, chairman of the Veterans Health Alliance of
Long Island.

Javis said veterans are reluctant to seek help from the federal agency
for a number of reasons, including a concern that information about
their mental health problems will wind up on their personal records. And
Javis said there are also problems with access because the agency's
office hours usually conflict with veterans' work schedules and because
they might have to travel long distances to get to an office.

Javis also said women may be reluctant to visit a Veterans Affairs
facility because of sexual abuse experiences that may have taken place
during their time of service, making them fearful of personal

The coalition said for individuals in the acute phases of posttraumatic
stress disorder, the base mental health benefit required by Timothy's
Law might not cover all of their treatment needs. The proposed amendment
would cover treatment past the currently mandated 20 outpatient and 30
inpatient visits for insured individuals and cover all treatment for
posttraumatic stress disorder sufferers, even if they are only in an
acute phase of the condition, when more intensive inpatient and
outpatient treatment is medically necessary to help the person reach a
state of stability.

According to Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy at the
Coalition for the Homeless, there are about 20,000 to 25,000 people in
New York who would be covered by the amendment.

Nortz estimated it would cost insurance companies an additional $500,000
annually should the amendment pass. The amount is so small, she
explained, because few people require treatment past the 30 inpatient
visits already covered by Timothy's Law.

But the New York Health Plan Association, which represents 27 managed
care health plans it says provide comprehensive health care services to
nearly 6 million New Yorkers, is opposed to the proposed expansion of
Timothy's Law expansion proposal and said in a press release that the
inclusion of posttraumatic stress disorder would be costly and

"This bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem," said Paul
Macielak, Health Plan Association president. He said the majority of the
proposed amendment is aimed at helping returning soldiers and survivors
of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who already have access to services.

In addition to the cost-free health care services provided to veterans,
including reservists and National Guard members, the association pointed
out that in 2005, New York passed the World Trade Center disability law
to "provide that any injury or illness directly related to terrorist
attack on September 11, 2001, be presumptively eligible for an
accidental disability."

Also noted by the association was that in the crafting of Timothy's Law,
posttraumatic stress disorder was ultimately not included in the final
draft because "the Legislature made a decision to limit the scope of
covered conditions specifically so as to not require coverage of every
condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental
Disorders-IV" - a section of a handbook for mental health professionals
that lists different categories of mental disorders and the criteria for
diagnosing them.

Also, the association argues that a provision of Timothy's Law requires
the state Department of Insurance and the Office of Mental Health to
study the legislation's effectiveness.

"This study is to encompass two years of experience with the new law and
is not scheduled to be insued until April 1, 2009. Expanding the scope
of the law's coverage to include PTSD undermines the value of a
meaningful analysis," Macielak said.

Dr. Frank Dowling, a professor of psychiatry at the State University of
New York at Stony Brook, said posttraumatic stress disorder is a
treatable illness that develops after being witness to or victim of a
traumatic event. "The event stays with them ... reminders may trigger
thoughts of the event," said Dowling.

Dowling said that just like depression and panic disorders,
posttraumatic stress disorder is a common response to traumatic events.
"It should be covered just the same," Dowling argued. "It's all the same
spectrum and a response to the same types of events," he said.

Pat Purdie, who said she was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress
disorder a year ago after being sexually abused by family members, said
her abuse affected her significantly.

Purdie said she has tried to take her life on more than one occasion and
still experiences flashbacks, frustration and anger. She said treatment
for the illness has given her a "will to live," which Purdie said she
lost after her abuse and after experiencing the symptoms of
posttraumatic stress disorder.

"Who wouldn't want to add PTSD into the Timothy's Law today?" Purdie
asked. "Because without treatment, we couldn't make it out there ... I
wouldn't know where I would be today if I hadn't gotten treatment," she

The Assembly's version of the bill was referred from the Mental Health
Committee to the Ways and Means Committee on March 11, and the Senate
bill advanced to a third reading on Feb. 26.

------- End of forwarded message -------

Women At War with PTSD

Ghosts of war tug them back. It doesn't matter if the ghosts were born out of Vietnam, the Gulf War, or today's combat, the ghosts live on. Male or female, humans are wounded by events. While they are trained to do their jobs, they cannot control events. They can only adapt to them or withdraw from them.

Post-Iraq, veteran moms can't put stress to bed
Darryl E. Owens Sentinel Staff Writer
June 30, 2008
1 2 next Army Spc. Elizabeth Jackson shut down emotionally during her tour in Iraq. It was her way of dealing with the stress and danger.

Coming home, she found it hard to turn her feelings back on and become a mom again.

"I had a lump in my throat holding him, but [I] still couldn't cry yet," said Jackson, 26, of her reunion with Christopher just three days before his first birthday. "He was still my son, but it took me a little while to get the tenderness down. It was like a 'Why are you crying? Suck it up!' kind of thing."

Doctors later diagnosed Jackson with post-traumatic-stress disorder, or PTSD -- an old diagnosis that's finding a new gender to victimize. The Deltona woman is among thousands of female veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with the mental disorder that World War I veterans knew as "shell shock."

As the current war and multiple deployments continue, the numbers will only surge, experts fear.

Women are "being exposed to combat in ways never seen before and are coming in to seek care for PTSD," said Amy Street, a psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trend rises

158: Women the Orlando VA Medical Center treated for post-traumatic-stress disorder during the 6 months ending in March.

143: Treated during the previous 12 months.

3,005: U.S. Army servicewomen diagnosed.

40,000: Troops from all military branches diagnosed.

193,400: Women have served in or near Iraq and Afghanistan -- about 11% of troops deployed.

SOURCES: Pentagon, Veterans Affairs

Darryl E. Owens can be reached at or 407-420-5095.
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These women brought the ghosts back with them. No safe zones. Iraq horrors are gender neutral. Bombs do not remain intact when a woman drives up to them. Bullets do not change their path when a woman is walking by. Jets and helicopters are not suddenly provided with magic shields because a woman is the pilot. Add in the fact some men still will regard women as objects instead of worthy of respect. They have to worry about the enemy trying to kill them at the same time they have to worry about some of the men they serve with attacking them.

They have to fight for their right to be there, to serve the nation with just as much devotion as the males, doing jobs needing to be done with just as much courage. While men develop with less emotional tendencies as females, women have to fight against their emotions more than males do.

Yet women are the last to be served by the government. They have different physical and mental health care needs than men do but no one bothered to prepare for the increase in their numbers. Women do not want to see male doctors or male psychologists. Too many of them have endured sexual abuse and verbal abuse by men in the military and too many cannot trust a male to provide care to them. As the need to address this grows, they wait. Why?

Did they suddenly enter into the combat zones? Iraq was invaded in 2003 and women were there. Afghanistan was invaded in 2001 and women were there. The Gulf War was in 1991 and they were there. The rest of the combat missions came before that and women were there. Since the beginning of this nation, women were there on the front lines. They were not the last to serve so why are they the last to be served?

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Canada:Wounded Veterans, Wounded Families

Families of wounded military veterans struggling to cope and make ends meet
6 hours ago

CALGARY — They are the invisible victims of Canada's military efforts around the world.

The families of wounded soldiers released from active duty due to severe disabilities are poorer, less healthy and less socially active, says a study prepared for Veterans Affairs Canada.

It's a growing problem as Canadian soldiers continue to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and help keep the peace in global hot spots.

Soldiers who can no longer serve in the military receive full pensions, but the University of Alberta study suggests their families still struggle.

A Canada-wide review involved 142 wounded soldiers and 115 of their caretakers and paints a painful picture of what life is like at home.

"I tend to try to be positive, not negative, (but) ... I feel robbed because all our lives he has been ill, can't sit, walk, or stand too long," wrote one of the anonymous respondents.

The soldiers surveyed were between 25 and 65, were suffering full impairment to most of their bodies and were often battling emotional, psychiatric and psychological conditions.

The study found financial pressures and an overwhelming and relentless sense of responsibility for the caregiver.

"You don't dwell on it. You ... try to think of something good every day. You just try to keep going," wrote another woman. A few years ago I had to write a letter to Veterans Affairs and I thought, 'Oh my God. This is my life."'

The report, titled "Wounded Veterans, Wounded Families," revealed high levels of need for the severely disabled veterans and their families, many of whom were also trying to earn a living and raise young children.

"Are they suffering? Absolutely. And suffering in ways that their lives have been changed," said Norah Keating, a professor of human ecology, who co-authored the report with colleague Janet Fast.
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Veterans Prayer Project

Lew Poorman sent me a link to his sites about praying for the wounded and for the troops as well as veterans.

Veterans Prayer Project and

Often we may say that we will pray for someone, but then when we begin to pray, we just don't find the right words. To God, it is not a matter of the words we use as much as it is what is in our hearts. These sites may help you to find the words to begin to pray for yourself or for others.

PTSD:Treating Wounds You Can't See

Treating Wounds You Can't See
By Linda Blum
Sunday, June 29, 2008; Page B01

On the wall in my office at Fort Dix, N.J., hung a row of nature photos and some historical documents for my patients to look at: a land grant signed by James Madison, another signed by Abraham Lincoln's secretary in his name, a Lincoln campaign ballot. The soldier from Ohio studied the wall carefully. It was amazing, he said, how much the layout of those picture frames resembled the layout of the street in Tikrit that was seared in his memory; the similarity had leapt out at him the first time he came in for a session. He traced the linear space between the frames, showing me where his Humvee had turned and traveled down the block, and where the two Iraqi men had been standing, close -- too close -- to the road.

"I knew immediately something was wrong," he said. The explosion threw him out of the vehicle, with his comrades trapped inside, screaming. Lying on the ground, he returned fire until he drove off the insurgents. His fellow soldiers survived, but nearly four years later, their screams still haunted him. "I couldn't go to them," he told me, overwhelmed with guilt and imagined failure. "I couldn't help them."

That soldier from Ohio is one of the nearly 40,000 U.S. troops diagnosed by the military with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007; the number of diagnoses increased nearly 50 percent in 2007 over the previous year, the military said this spring. I saw a number of soldiers with war trauma while working as a psychologist for the U.S. Army.

In 2006, I went to Fort Dix as a civilian contractor to treat soldiers on their way to and return from those wars. I was drawn by the immediacy of the work and the opportunity to make a difference. What the raw numbers on war trauma can't show is what I saw every day in my office: the individual stories of men and women who have sustained emotional trauma as well as physical injury, people who are still fighting an arduous postwar battle to heal, to understand a mysterious psychological condition and re-enter civilian life.

As I think about the soldiers who will be rotating back home from Iraq this summer as part of the "pause" in the "surge," as well as those who will stay behind, I remember some of the people I met on their long journey back from the war.
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Memorial tattoo helps heal after Lake County twisters

After fatal Lake County twisters, families reunite, hearts begin to heal
Stephen Hudak Sentinel Staff Writer
June 29, 2008
LAKE MACK - Becky Nolan said it took a tattoo needle to finally mend her broken heart.The Lake County woman who lost her husband, Billy, and 7-year-old son, Jake, to the tornado that spun into their home on Cooter Pond Road said tattoos of her boy's face have provided her a peace she hadn't felt since the storm hit Feb. 2, 2007."It was so hard just getting through every day. I worried I might lose his pictures or that someday I'd forget what he looked like," she said, her eyes wet with tears. "Now, whenever I look in the mirror, I see his smile."She said the tattoos of Jake near her heart and on her thigh also may have helped to stitch together another tattered family.

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Six Flags death of teenager may have been caused by lost hat

Cannot imagine the shock of the family and church group as well as the people on the ride when this happened. I hope Six Flags has the wisdom to have trauma workers on staff for when things like this happen.

SC teen struck, killed by Six Flags coaster in Ga.
Associated Press
Published: Saturday June 28, 2008

AUSTELL, Ga. — A teenager was decapitated by a roller coaster after he hopped a pair of fences and entered a restricted area Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia, authorities said.

Six Flags officials are uncertain why the unidentified 17-year-old from Columbia, S.C. scaled two six-foot fences and passed signs that said the restricted area was both off-limits and dangerous to visitors, spokeswoman Hela Sheth said in a news release.

Authorities were investigating reports from witnesses who said the teenager jumped the fences to retrieve a hat he lost while riding the Batman roller coaster, said Cobb County police Sgt. Dana Pierce. Three security guards were keeping visitors away from the ride on Saturday.
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Mary's House offers women a chance at recovery, rebirth

Mary's House offers women a chance at recovery, rebirth
By Chandra Broadwater, Times Staff Writer
In print: Sunday, June 29, 2008


It was early Easter morning in 2006. Wendy Anderson lay in an Ocala field, bloody and battered, while paramedics pushed on her chest to get a heartbeat. Someone had heard her screams in the darkness and called 911. Police arrived to find a man on top of her naked body, raping her. She had been stabbed and hit in the head. Anderson had put herself in the path of danger with another round of crack cocaine and liquor. Home was a seedy motel room. She needed a ride, and got into a car with a strange man. That she survived his brutality is a miracle. That she is now getting her life back together is a testament to a special place many miles from that attack, in a peaceful, tree-shaded renovated farmhouse off Howell Avenue in Brooksville. A place called Mary's House. Anderson, 41, has been here since April. She's sober now and leaves no doubt how she feels about Hernando County's first and only women's shelter.

"I shouldn't be alive," she said. "But for some reason, I am. I know it's God's will that I'm at Mary's House."
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Orlando's Pathways mental-health center is crumbling, needs a hand

Orlando's Pathways mental-health center is crumbling, needs a hand
Kate Santich Sentinel Staff Writer
June 29, 2008
Edwin Hernandez spent a year and a half living in a tent in the woods, battling clinical depression.Then he found a place where he could eat, wash his clothes, take a shower and connect with people who became like family.It also helped him get on medication, move into an apartment and earn his GED. Hernandez, 24, recently started taking interior-design courses.Pathways, an Orlando drop-in center for the mentally ill, has helped hundreds of people like Hernandez get their lives turned around.
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Court sides with church in demon case

Court sides with church in demon case
Texas Supreme Court says it can't decide religious doctrine in teen exorcism case.
By Chuck Lindell


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Texas Supreme Court, showing continued deference to religious practice, on Friday tossed out a $188,000 judgment against members of a Pentecostal church who restrained a teenager they feared had come under demonic influence.

Laura Schubert claimed that rough handling during the hours-long 1996 incident — involving the "laying on of hands" and intensive prayer — left her disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jurors agreed, finding that Schubert, then 17, was falsely imprisoned and assaulted by a pastor, youth minister and members of Pleasant Glade Assembly of God church in suburban Fort Worth.

However, the state Supreme Court dismissed Schubert's case in a 6-3 ruling, saying her lawsuit violated the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protections on religious expression — the latest in a string of decisions limiting judicial oversight of religious institutions and practice.

"The case, as tried, presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in matters of church doctrine," said the majority opinion, written by Justice David Medina.

A dissent by Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, joined in part by two other justices, said the Pleasant Glade decision improperly confers sweeping immunity to those who "merely allege a religious motive."

Wrote Jefferson: "The First Amendment guards religious liberty; it does not sanction intentional abuse in religion's name."
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linked from

Amputees:Hero and his Harley


Rob Kislow shows off his prosthetic leg while sitting on his motorcycle at Independence Prosthetics Orthotics in Newark, Del., on June 9.

Young amputees put prosthetics to work

By Kristin Harty - The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
Posted : Sunday Jun 29, 2008 9:33:34 EDT

NEWARK, Del. — Bob Kislow arrived on a Harley, his high-tech prosthetic leg hidden beneath blue jeans and steel-toed boots.

Turning heads with his Mohawk and tattoos, Kislow strode with an even gait into the prostheticist’s office, a visit he’ll make regularly for the rest of his life.

Just 22, the Army veteran lost his lower right leg in 2005 after being shot five times by a sniper during a 10-hour firefight in Afghanistan.

Three years later, he’s back on his feet in earnest. He’s gone skydiving and rock climbing, played paintball, raced motorcycles and golfed.

He changes artificial legs like most people change socks.
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Barack Obama quietly visits wounded war veterans

Barack Obama quietly visits wounded war veterans

Published: 6/28/08, 1:25 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama stopped by Walter Reed Army Medical Center Saturday to visit wounded war veterans, a group that he has said endures substandard care under the Bush administration.

The presumed Democratic nominee, who was in Washington to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, spent about two hours inside the facility. On his way in and out, he did not speak to the small group of reporters who follow him, and the visit wasn't on his public schedule.

Obama has criticized the Bush administration for its treatment of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and has suggested Republican rival John McCain would continue Bush policies if elected.

The administration was roundly criticized last year after it was revealed that veterans at Walter Reed were housed in rundown accommodations and suffered neglectful care.
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Agent Orange:Vietnam veterans urged to seek testing

Vietnam veterans urged to seek testing
By William Johnson • • June 29, 2008

Link Savoie, a well-known local veteran's advocate, has recently been diagnosed with CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

While the diagnosis is scary, Savoie said he is fortunate for several reasons. The first is that CLL is a slow growing form of cancer. Many people with CLL lead normal and active lives for many years - in some cases for decades.

"My doctors tell me if I have to have one, this is the one to have," Savoie said.

But the most important reason is that, after years of court battles by veterans' groups, the disease is now listed as one of 11 that can be caused by exposure to Agent Orange, a herbicide widely used during the Vietnam War.

As a result, the Veteran's Administration offers compensation and disability payments to sufferers in addition to help with its treatment.
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Vets Back Expanded Family Mental-Health Care

Vets Back Expanded Family Mental-Health Care

Kelly Kennedy

Army Times

Jun 28, 2008
June 27, 2008 - A bill designed to provide mental-health services to family members of service members with non-service-connected disabilities received full support from veterans’ service organizations, as well as the Veterans Affairs Department.

"Many [veterans] are not rated as service-connected because they have not yet applied for benefits, or because of the length of time it takes VA to produce a decision on a claim," said Christopher Needham, senior legislative associate for Veterans of Foreign Wars. He testified June 26 before the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health.

He explained that counseling for family members helps them understand their veteran’s health issues, as well as how to support the veteran through it.

"We have seen with this conflict — especially with mental-health issues — that families are at the forefront of providing care and easing the service member’s transition back into civilian life," Needham said.

Military, civilian leaders faulted for Iraq aftermath

While we should be concerned for the welfare of all the men and women deployed into Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to pay more attention to the National Guard forces and Reservists.

It also reports that Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers have demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan that they "are a fully capable, and indeed, an absolutely essential part of the Army." But it warns that "the price paid by reservists and communities to sustain the long and repetitive mobilizations, however, may not be sustainable in the future."

Army's History of Iraq After Hussein Faults Pentagon
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 29, 2008; Page A03

A new Army history of the service's performance in Iraq immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein faults military and civilian leaders for their planning for the war's aftermath, and it suggests that the Pentagon's current way of using troops is breaking the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

The study, "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign," is an unclassified and unhindered look at U.S. Army operations in Iraq from May 2003 to January 2005. That critical era of the war has drawn widespread criticism because of a failure to anticipate the rise of an Iraqi insurgency and because policymakers provided too few U.S. troops and no strategy to maintain order after Iraq's decades-old regime was overthrown.

Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese, who authored the report along with the Army's Contemporary Operations Study Team, conclude that U.S. commanders and civilian leaders were too focused on only the military victory and lacked a realistic vision of what Iraq would look like following that triumph.
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What they thought they were getting into when most of them joined.

National Guard helps shore up Ottumwa sub-station
With water levels rising rapidly in Ottumwa by the hour, one of the city’s power sub-stations was in danger of being overrun. However, thanks to nearly 100 National Guard Soldiers, this central power supply was rescued through the construction of a three-foot tall levee...June 19, 2008

Air National Guard works to corral Mississippi
The men and women of the 185th Air Refueling Squadron from Sioux City, Iowa, are teaming with local farmers to maintain the 20 miles of levees, keeping the flooded Mississippi from inundating the 14 thousand acres of homes and farmland here...June 19, 2008

Guard ratchets up Missouri mission; tackles floods in five states
Missouri was the latest Midwest state to see increasing numbers of National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and –Airmen on duty in the face of the region’s worst flooding in 15 years...June 20, 2008

Guard aircraft, aircrews battling California wildfires
Army and Air National Guardmembers from California and North Carolina were supporting firefighting efforts in Northern California today following a state active duty call up by Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger and a request for airborne firefighting assets by the Interagency Fire Center...June 24, 2008

North Carolina Air National Guard fights California wildfires
The North Carolina Air National Guard deployed four C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with flight crews and support personnel to Northern California June 23 to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the governor in firefighting efforts to contain, control, and extinguish wildfires...June 25, 2008

Fighting floods and fires, National Guard on duty from coast-to-coast
National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and –Airmen fought Midwest flooding and California fires Thursday...June 26, 2008

National Guard Bureau chief: Firefighting and flood efforts “outstanding”
Assessing the National Guard’s California fire and Midwest flood-fighting efforts first-hand Thursday and Friday, the chief of the National Guard Bureau visited adjutants general and troops in impacted states....June 27, 2008

These reports are just from the this month. When they are helping the nation deal with natural disasters, they are able to still do their other jobs. Their jobs are what they base their personal budgets on. Often their incomes do not come close to taking care of their financial needs when they are deployed. This adds to the stress they are under when they are deployed into foreign lands. While it may be true they are highly trained to do their assigned jobs while deployed, they are not trained as fully as the regular military for the rest of what they have to go through.

When they come home, they return to family and friends, jobs they had (provided the jobs are still there) and are expected to pick up where they left off. Some return to businesses as craftsmen, offices, laborers, while others return to law enforcement positions and fire departments. They are expected to return the same way as they would if they were simply doing the same kinds of duties they carry out on our own soil, not unlike the reports above. Yet when they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, the long absences, they also carry with them the traumas of combat.

We have neglected their needs even more than we have neglected the needs of the regular military. At least when their deployment is over, they return with their brothers in arms by their side and have a watchful eye on them if there should be readjustment problems. The citizen soldiers however return to the lives they had before, the extra strain on their finances, families unaware of the wounds they carry within and no one around them able to understand.

Too often they return with PTSD, but as hard as it is to understand what they went through deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it is nearly impossible for others to understand the signs of wounds they cannot see. VA clinics and hospitals are too far away to get to on a regular basis for many of these soldiers. Civilian mental health providers do not all understand PTSD. Civilian doctors are also lacking knowledge of this wound and the physical illnesses spawned by PTSD. Local clergy are unaware of the wound, the strain on marriages as well as the spiritual wound that needs to be addressed. This is where the communities need to step up for the sake of the citizen soldiers. Why isn't this happening?

Local providers are trained to focus on all the problems civilians endure. While they can address some of the issues these citizen soldiers face, they cannot address the central issue to all of the problems, which is the horrors of war. We cannot keep neglecting their needs. We cannot keep treating them like the rest of the citizens.

This report on the mistakes made regarding Iraq and the increase of the Taliban's capabilities in Afghanistan should raise a red flag warning these occupations will go on much longer than civilians planned on requiring the more deployments of the citizen soldiers as well as their families. National Guard forces are reporting rates of PTSD at around 50%, yet they receive less help than regular military men and women receive. The citizen soldiers only have their communities to depend on in return for us depending upon them.

Even when they are returning to jobs usually associated with traumatic events, law enforcement and emergency responders, often their own commanders are unaware of PTSD at the levels deployments raise the risk of and depth of this wound. Again, they need more attention than civilian forces never deployed receive.

If we do not address the additional needs of the citizen soldiers, they will suffer needlessly. This is a moral duty for all of us as well as a financial one for every community across the nation.

Un-addressed PTSD leads to the break up of families, drug and alcohol use as self-medication, crimes, homelessness and suicides. This puts a strain on the finances of the local governments as they must deal with arrests, drunk driving, accidents, crimes, violence, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, growing need for health services in mental health care as well as the physical illnesses extreme stress causes. Reliance on social services are increased. This also leads to reduced incomes as all too often the citizen soldier's wound is neglected to the point they can no longer function on their jobs. We've already seen evidence of all of this because we still have not come to the awareness of PTSD in the citizen soldiers.

When are we going to do it? When will local officials put out an emergency call to all the people in their communities to address this? When will programs be in place across the nation to take care of them? When will the local clergy and physicians be educated to deal with the burdens the citizen soldiers carry? While the plans for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq found fault with the military and civilian planners, what is happening to the citizen soldiers is also caused by the same officials and lack of planning.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
International Fellowship of Chaplains
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sen. Kotowski, Alexian Unveil Program Aimed At PTSD

Reaching Out To Veterans
Kotowski, Alexian Unveil Program Aimed At PTSD


Journal Reporter

A new program to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for returning veterans was unveiled at Alexian Brothers Hospital Wednesday.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-33d) of Park Ridge attended. His bill helped fund the program.

Physicians at Wednesday's press conference explained that new state of the art equipment recently brought online at the hospital is helping doctors tell the difference between PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

"The one thing we can agree on is that we need to honor our veterans in a better way," said Kotowski.

Kotowski said the Pentagon identified 40,000 veterans who have sought treatment for PTSD. He explained that some groups estimate the true number of veterans suffering the condition is closer to 300,000.

Kotowski said through technology PTSD can be detected physically and not just through psychological examination.
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Morning the loss Marine Andrew Whitacre

Morning the loss of our beloved Marine Andrew Whitacre
June 26, 2008

The sun was shining over Jay County on Saturday morning. The sky was a glorious blue.

But there was a cloud over our heart.

Despite all logic, we had hoped that the community could make it through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without the loss of local life.

Last week, those hopes were dashed.

With the death of Andrew Whitacre, this community joins hundreds of others across America in mourning.

It is an occasion for solemnity. It is an occasion for dignity. And it is an occasion for honor.

On those three points, every American can agree.

This is not about politics. This is not about policy.

This is about a young man, one of our own, who is lost to us now.

Let us honor him now, with solemnity and with dignity and with enormous respect.

Let us honor and console his family and loved ones. Let us remind them that they are not alone.

They are part of a larger community and a nation that places great value on their sacrifice.

But, most of all, let us honor Andrew, a Marine, but also not much more than a kid.

A young man with the world and all its possibilities in front of him.

A young man so much like so many other young men and women who serve their country.

And let us acknowledge the painful passing of that cloud over our heart

This was found in the Commerical Review, Portland, Indiana

Good Lord, how I wish that everyone in this country could remember these exact words.

Community honors fallen Indiana Marine

Posted: June 26, 2008 11:57 AM EDT

Lance Corporal Andrew Whitacre died last Thursday in Afghanistan.

JAY COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) - A community is honoring a fallen Indiana Marine.

The body of Lance Corporal Andrew Whitacre arrived in Jay County Wednesday. Hundreds of people lined the streets.

The 21-year-old, from Bryant, died Thursday in Afghanistan.

Whitacre's visitation is going on now in Portland.

His funeral will be held on Friday at 10 a.m. at the Jay County High School.

Help on Four Legs, Sometimes Followed by Confusion

Help on Four Legs, Sometimes Followed by Confusion

Published: June 29, 2008
THE incident occurred about two years ago. Laura Damone, a 56-year-old resident of Gramercy Park who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, walked into the Union Square subway station with Buddy, who was her service dog at the time.

The dog, who wore a vest, attracted the attention of two transit workers, who, Ms. Damone says, humiliated her by backing her into a corner, demanding proof of her disability and giving her a ticket.

The confrontation exemplifies problems that can arise from what Assemblywoman Deborah Glick thinks is a vague city law.

Unlike state and federal law, which explicitly prohibits asking about or demanding proof of a disability, city law declares only that establishments provide “reasonable accommodation” to people with service animals. According to Bethany Jankunis, Ms. Glick’s chief of staff, this subjects people like Ms. Damone, who use service animals and whose disabilities are not plainly evident, to discrimination and embarrassment.
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Veterans for Common Sense fight goes on

From Paul Sullivan

I’m sure you are aware of Judge Samuel Conti’s detailed 82-page ruling that found VA is in crisis and that he was “troubled” by VA’s delays. Yet he decided that the Court lacks jurisdiction and that VA and Congress should fix VA’s problems. Although we are disappointed the Judge would not order VA to act, we are pleased he found in our favor on many facts of the case. VCS re-states our offer to provide Congressional staff with any information that could be used to reform VA so our veterans receive prompt and high-quality VA healthcare as well as fast, complete, and accurate VA claims decisions.

Attached for your review are four items regarding the U.S. District Court’s ruling in our lawsuit, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth v. James Peake (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs):

Link to Army Times news article:

Link to KPIX-TV (CBS News in San Francisco) television broadcast:
Link to VCS press release:
Attachment containing the Court’s ruling.

Our lawsuit enjoys broad support from veterans and the public. Here are just a few of the many overwhelmingly positive e-mails VCS received from our members about our landmark lawsuit with our co-plaintiff organization, Veterans United for Truth:

Your efforts will make life better for … veterans.
Thanks for all the hard work.
It was a great effort. The fact you were able to get the VA attitude out in the public, presented as evidence in a federal court, was of critical importance…. KEEP IT UP!
I think you did a terrific job of exposing the tragedy of the veterans with the law suit.
All of you working on this should be proud of yourselves.
You have accomplished a great deal and there still things to do. This is only the beginning of the fight; end of round one.
You are to be commended for your hard work.
You should be very proud of the effort you put into this. Because of you, there was a lot learned that would have remained hidden. You gave it your best as you always do.
It will pay off in the long. It will help.
Our fight is now in Congress.

As of April 2008, VA medical centers have treated 325,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including 133,000 with a mental health condition, 75,000 of whom are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. We remain alarmed that VA still has no national policy on what to do when a suicidal patient shows up at a VA medical facility. We remain concerned that veterans such as Jonathan Schulze and Jeffrey Lucey were improperly turned away by an under funded and under staffed VA.

Therefore, VCS plans to appeal the Court’s decision primarily on the grounds that the Judicial Branch must enforce the laws of the Legislative Branch ignored by the Executive Branch. Please contact VCS if you have any questions.

Thank you,


Paul Sullivan
Executive Director
Veterans for Common Sense
Post Office Box 15514
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-4553

My two cents

Because of this, because of the hard work they all did on this (as well as what they plan to do) things will change. It proved once and for all there are people in this country willing to step up and force the changes so that our veterans receive the care they not only earned but the care they all deserve. We have so many who were willing to lay down their lives for this country that need our help for what should never, ever, have been something they had to fight for. They did their fighting when they were deployed. They shouldn't have to keep fighting for their lives because they made it home.

Returning Veterans Conference

Returning Veterans Conference
Paving the Road Home: The National Behavioral Health Conference and Policy Academy on Returning Veterans and Their Families
Conference Date: August 11, 2008

Location: Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, MD
Registration begins June 16, 2008
This national conference and policy academy sponsored by SAMHSA will help Federal, State, and local partners improve and enhance mental health and substance abuse services for returning veterans and their families. The conference/policy academy will facilitate nationwide sharing of information on mental health and substance abuse services and supports across multiple health care delivery systems. Attendees will be provided science-based information to assist veterans and their families in building resiliency and preventing and/or treating complex conditions, including mental disorders (e.g., TBI, PTSD) substance use disorders, suicide, homelessness, domestic violence, and co-occurring disorders.
Visit the Conference Web site and Register

NAMI provides support to those facing PTSD

Group aids troops with combat stress
NAMI provides support to those facing PTSD

Kenneth McDonald was 17 when he joined the Army in 1968. After completing basic training at Fort Benning, he was deployed to the jungles of Thailand where his duties included loading the bodies of dead American soldiers onto airplanes to be transported home.

It was there in the hot, isolated jungle that McDonald says his troubles began.

After two years of active duty service, McDonald was stressed, depressed and worn. In 1971, he left the Army and enrolled in trade school. He was having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, however, and six months later McDonald dropped out of school and went to work at Fort Benning as a mechanic. When he was laid off from that job, he launched a landscaping business, then a catering and florist company, then a small antiques business. Nothing seemed to hold his attention and he spiralled deeper into depression.

It wasn't until 1990, more than two decades later, that a doctor told McDonald he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, schizo-affective disorder and bipolar disorder.

Help available

Some 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since 2003, according to Pentagon statistics released in May. It's a growing problem among veterans returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and one that is just beginning to get the attention it deserves, said Sue Marlowe, director of the Columbus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Combatting the stigma surrounding the disease is ostensibly more challenging than treating it, especially when soldiers are the ones effected.
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Dr. Loree Sutton, Brigadier General and Psychiatrist

Special to The Press-Enterprise
Loree Sutton says military service “changed my life in ways that I could not have anticipated.”

Loma Linda native is first female psychiatrist to attain rank of brigadier general
The Press-Enterprise

When Dr. Loree Sutton was born, Loma Linda did not yet have its university medical center.

"I'm old enough that I was born at the old sanitarium up on the hill," said Sutton, 49.

"The physician that delivered me, Dr. (Herbert) Henken, was actually one of my instructors when I was in medical school. Talk about a small town."
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Resident wants support for returning troops

Resident wants support for returning troops

June 26, 2008

Iraq veteran Jim Black, 26, returned home to fight a new war. He, and millions of other veterans, are battling brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

His father-in-law, Tim Corrigan of Mundelein, wants to do something about it.

Black served in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004. He originally lived in Tempe, Arizona before moving to Lake Villa in 2007. He is married to Jennifer and they have two boys, RJ, 5, and Gavin who will be a year old on Sept. 11.

Black originally joined the Army to get some training and college funding, Corrigan said.

"He didn't hesitate to go to war and he became a Recon Scout and saw lots of action as soon as he stepped foot in Iraq," Corrigan said.

He returned home to Tempe after finishing his active duty in June of 2004. He was called back to active duty but was already diagnosed with PTSD, which kept him from going back.
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Goodbye Jim Hinde, Tribute to Vietnam Vet

Goodbye Jim Hinde
Eat the State - USA
by Jim Page

Jim Hinde was the real deal. He was born and raised in Ohio. He was a Vietnam Vet who rambled homeless and broke in the early '70s, lived in the skid road missions, and rode the freights. He settled in Seattle as a father and musician, and wrote a whole bunch of songs. He became such a solid force in the Seattle busking scene that when he died unexpectedly the morning of June 9, the whole city gasped and half of the Pike Place Market went home early.

The wind blew real hard all that day. Jim didn't like the hard winds because they reminded him of the typhoons when he was in the Navy. That was a time that haunted him. It kept him from sleeping and woke him up with night sweats--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the shadow partner that Uncle Sam gives to his military veterans. Jim would spend the last years of his life pursuing his claim for service-related disability benefits from the Veterans Administration. Not just for himself but for all vets. Maybe it wore him out.

Jim was one of the founders of the Pike Market Performers Guild, an organizing body of Seattle street performers. With his work ethic and background, he was an enormous asset for getting all the nuts and bolts in place to create and produce the annual Pike Market Busker Festival. Organized collectively, the Guild seeks to raise the profile and legitimacy of street performers, who by nature are a little outside the social norm. Jim could bridge that gap. The festival has now become an established part of the city's culture, and busking a celebrated art form.
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PTSD education is veterans mission

PTSD education is veterans mission
MILFORD — U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran Charles Trumpower flips open his souvenir Zippo cigarette lighter, the one he carried with him through fields of blood and gore, to reveal its clever slogan. "I'm not here to die for my country," the lighter reads, in words inscribed just below the insignia of the Playboy Bunny with the erect ears and numerals for the year "1969."
"Let that other SOB die for his," it reads.

Trumpower, 61, didn't die for his country. But he did not make it out of the steaming Vietnamese jungle unscathed: in addition to bullet wounds and shrapnel that sent him home wounded in November 1969 after nearly 10 months in combat as a rifleman, Trumpower suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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