Sunday, November 29, 2009

PTSD on trial, veteran receives acquittal

PTSD cited in vet’s murder acquittal
Kim Murphy Los Angeles Times
JOHN DAY, Ore. – When Jessie Bratcher’s fiancee told him the baby might not be his, that she had been raped two months earlier, he went quiet.

The former Oregon National Guardsman hung his head for the longest time. Then he went into the next room, put the barrel of an AK-47 in his mouth and took it out again.

He told Celena Davis not to expect to get any sleep that night. He walked up to her with a pair of scissors and slowly cut off her hair.

Two mornings later, they drove to the hardware store. While Davis waited in the truck, Bratcher went in and bought a gun. He came out, loaded it and asked: Do we go to the police? Or go find the guy? “Police,” Davis said.

Except that it was a Saturday, and the main door to the station was locked. Bratcher and Davis didn’t know there was an emergency door on the side of the building.

So they headed for Jose Ceja Medina’s trailer. At first Medina, standing on his porch in running shorts, denied knowing Davis. Then he said they’d had sex, but that he hadn’t raped her, and he offered to take care of the baby.
read more here

4 police officers killed in coffee shop ambush

4 police shot dead in coffee shop
November 29, 2009 2:21 p.m. EST
NEW: Police are looking for one man and possibly a second person in the attack
$10,000 reward offered for information leading to arrest, police spokesman says
Police were in coffee shop before the start of their shifts
Law enforcement official describes fatal shootings as an ambush

Lakewood, Washington (CNN) -- Four police officers were fatally shot Sunday in what police said was an ambush in a coffee shop near Tacoma, Washington.

The officers were sitting in the coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, before the start of their shifts, reading on their computers, when the shooting occurred, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Ed Troyer. He told reporters that authorities believe the officers were meeting and going over cases or doing paperwork.

"This was a targeted, selected ambush," Troyer told reporters. He said a gunman came inside, opened fire and shot all four officers. Two baristas and other customers inside the shop were unharmed -- "just the law enforcement officers were targeted."

Authorities know the identity of the four fallen officers, and were in the process of notifying family members and their departments, he said. He would not say what agencies the officers were from, but said, "they're all from this area."
read more here
4 police shot dead in coffee shop

HLN Clark Howard offers advice to the troops

Operation Clark Smart
Clark Howard has served for eight years as a member of his state guard. And now, he wants to serve his fellow military personnel!

Join Clark and HLN's Robin Meade at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, as they field the money questions from soldiers of nearby Fort Benning.

Troops have unique financial challenges, and Clark has the solutions -- from help for homeowners who've been ordered to relocate, to paying for moving expenses, and what kind of assistance is available for families of soldiers who've been deployed overseas.

You'll get money-saving tips you can use whether you're in the military or not. Clark talks retirement savings, paying off student loans, and buying cars.
Plus, Robin's stories from her own "Salute To Troops" on HLN's "Morning Express with Robin Meade."

And, Clark teaches soldiers how to get through a year-long deployment on just two razors! Tune in for "Operation Clark Smart" -- this weekend at 6 a.m., 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET.

Wisconsin State Veterans Affairs Secretary fired

Performance, politics or something more?

State Veterans Affairs Secretary fired

Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, November 29, 2009 7:06 AM CST

State Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos was fired Tuesday — just two months after returning from a tour in Iraq — and replaced with an agency official he had recently demoted.

Scocos, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs since 2003 and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, returned to work in late September after a year in Iraq, his second tour there.

The Veterans Affairs board has been signaling disapproval of the agency’s leadership for months, seeking a wide-ranging legislative audit of its workings and criticizing Scocos for failing to update them on the findings of an inquiry into alleged improper spending at a state veterans home.

After a one-and-a-half hour meeting during which board members sharply criticized Scocos’ communication and financial management, the board met briefly in private then voted 5-0 to fire Scocos and replace him with Ken Black, administrator of the agency’s Division of Veterans Benefits. Board chairman Marv Freedman was absent, and one unconfirmed board member, David Boetcher, was ineligible to vote.
read more here

Sometimes you have to laugh

The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SC WWII vet's battle ends in gunshot at VA clinic

SC WWII vet's battle ends in gunshot at VA clinic
By JEFFREY COLLINS (AP) – 3 hours ago

GREENVILLE, S.C. — On the last day of his long, troubled life, Grover Cleveland Chapman packed a black duffel bag, washed out his coffee cup, put it in the dish rack and fetched his Smith & Wesson.

He threw away his favorite slippers and left his house key on his bedside table in the two-bedroom yellow bungalow he shared with his daughter, tucked in an aging neighborhood full of 1950s starter homes a few miles from downtown Greenville.

Harriett Chapman called as she always did on her morning break at the Walmart deli, checking on her 89-year-old dad. Everything is fine, he told her.

As he shuffled down the steps that spring morning in 2008, Grover Chapman carried the latest letter denying him treatment at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Greenville, directing him instead to take a 200-mile round trip to the VA hospital in Columbia. This time it was about his prostate cancer, though Chapman had received plenty of notices just like it turning him down for help with his jumpiness and frayed nerves. He folded this letter neatly into the bag beside his bottles of medicine and settled into a taxi.

In a few weeks, candidate Barack Obama would take note of what Chapman would do upon arriving at the clinic this last time, calling it an indictment of society's treatment of disabled veterans.

And maybe that's what it was. Or maybe Chapman just didn't want his daughter to have to come home and find him.
read more here
SC WWII vet battle ends in gunshot at VA clinic

He restores my soul and defeats PTSD

Psalm 23 (New International Version)
A psalm of David
Psalm 23
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

He restores my soul and defeats PTSD
Chaplain Kathie

The military has forgotten one of the most important rules in combat. Know your enemy. No army on earth has ever been able to defeat an enemy until they understood them, knew how they thought, what they needed to in order for the enemy to be able to be subdued. When it comes to PTSD, they still don't understand it enough to have a good idea how to defeat it.

The evil that veterans fear comes when their compassion has been attacked. These are normal humans exposed to abnormal events while they risk their lives. They see what man is capable of. A picture of this reality is captured beyond their memories. It is embedded within their soul. They no longer see the moments before. They cannot remember what they were thinking right before "it" happened. If the military does not understand what PSTD is, where it comes from, why it chose them instead of others, then how in the world can the military ever really expect to do anything about it? This has been the biggest problem of all and no amount of funding can stop this enemy from killing more after war than are lost during it.

The military needs to understand all that makes the men and women serving so different from the rest of us is courage fed by compassion. The deeper the ability to feel the wider the door to PTSD swings open.

While dehumanizing the enemy allows them hold the "kill them all" attitude, that soon fades after the action is over. What is left is the fact the enemy they killed were still humans just like them. They had friends and families. They had hopes and dreams just like everyone else including the soldier who pulled the trigger. Under different circumstances, there would have been no need to kill. This haunts them. They forget what they did to try to prevent killing.

In Vietnam, innocent people were killed. The enemy hid among civilians. Kids with hands reaching out for candy with one hand held a grenade in the other. Women would attack the GIs as they thought they were in friendly territory. No one could be trusted. Nerves were on edge. Attempts to warn them to stay back were ignored and innocents were killed. The GI forgot what they tried to do to prevent having to react and only held onto the memory of what they were forced to do in order to protect their brothers.

This happened in Iraq as well. They were told to reduce the insurgents into a sub-human category. When they died, they were no longer humans but like animals on the ground. Body parts were not part of a human but parts of animals. The grief was reserved for their brothers as they were placed into body bags with gentleness. In the heat of the moment that image took over yet their subconscious took in the memories of what came before that moment. These images begin to be frozen as the anger is allowed to remain.

The compassion within the soldier, the very reason they wanted to serve by acting as defense for the rest of the population, becomes that which hurts them the most. Deep feelings enabling them to love, care about others, has a flip side. It also enables them to feel pain more deeply. Compassion is the doorway to PTSD.

When they know what to expect as the demons haunt them, they know how to take control over them, defeat the evil trying to capture all that is righteous inside of them. They stop wondering when they became evil, when God stopped being good and when the faith they had all their lives stopped being real. The images they have replaying in their mind's eye is able to be changed back to when they tried to prevent what they had to do. Then they are able to see that God is still good and He was there with them because even with all that was going on around them, they were still able to care, to feel and to grieve. Evil cannot inspire those things. The ability to still grieve after what they have been through is a testament to their soul. The ability to keep doing what is asked of them no matter how deeply they are in pain, is a testament to their commitment. The ability to still rush into danger no matter what has already happened is a testament to their courage. This is what they need to see within them.

PTSD is an emotional wound. It comes only after traumatic events. It does not come from within but it invades into the soul. There should be no shame in being a caring individual especially when that was the basis for why they wanted to serve in the first place.

When we think of King David, we remember the courage he had when he faced the "giant" while others ran from him. We think of the fact he was a warrior. Then we remember the sins he committed and how he was forgiven. What we tend to not see was the compassion and love he had. That is evident in the psalms he wrote. When we think of Christ, we remember the stories He told, the miracles He performed, His birth and His death with His last words being about forgiving those who nailed him to the cross. His story is also about having compassion and courage. Christ could have said He would not sacrifice His life as it was supposed to be, but we tend to forget that and thus, we dismiss the courage He showed all of His life.

The men and women in the military care. Some care for others more deeply. Some would willingly sacrifice their life even off duty. The depth of their compassion is what should be used to predict PTSD. The deeper they feel the deeper PTSD will cut them.

Just as there are different levels of PTSD, there are also different types of PTSD. For the military/veterans and law enforcement, there is the ability in their core to take lives in order to save lives. There is also the fact that there will be one too many times when they had to risk their lives, witnessed horrific events and participated in them. They either turn stone cold retaining no emotions other than anger or they grieve so deeply they cannot find their way out of the abyss. They are the "Michael" angels. Courage and compassion feed their soul.

For the emergency responders, including the National Guards, their core is different. They have it within them to risk their lives for the sake of someone else, but taking lives is beyond what they were intended to do. No amount of preparing can over come the "Gabriel" angel within them. When asked to do what they were not guided to do, their cuts go deeper. It is also depending on the number of times that became the time too many.

Survivors of traumatic events have a different type of PTSD and they also end up with survival guilt. After trauma there is the shock and then the reasoning. God saved them but why? God didn't save others but why? Why didn't God stop the perpetrator? Why did God allow any of it? How can God be good when all they just saw was evil? These questions come to all humans. What they see is evil and they do not consider that evil is not created by God. Just as if we believe in heaven, we must also believe in hell, we must also acknowledge that humans are capable of both as well.

While some will give their last dime to help someone else, someone else will take away a last dime from someone just because they want it. While some heroes get medals and refuse to call themselves hero, others will never do anything worthy but claim the valor they do not have, wear the medals they did not earn and pretend to be something they are not for whatever they feel they can gain. There is evil in every walk of life but there are more caring in every walk of life. They do not make the newspapers because good people still out number the evil ones. This makes the "good" ones wondering if everyone is out for themselves while in fact the "evil" ones are a minority.

They become evil because they avoid their destiny. They do not do what they were intended to do. They walk a path they have chosen and they become miserable.

When we follow our destiny, no matter what hardships we face, we find peace inside of us that overcomes whatever we face getting there. There are road blocks and obstacles trying to trip us up, hurt us, make us suffer. There are people we know able to help us, but they refuse to, all too often deciding to stand in our way. There are some who will judge instead of understand. Some will lash out instead of help up. Some will rejoice in our suffering as if they decided we deserve it while others only rejoice when we have overcome.

PTSD comes from that place inside of us causing us to question everything. Into our souls comes a struggle between that which is good within us and that which was evil we experienced. Seeing who we really are, what we were intended to become and what we intended at the time, enables us to fight off the hounds of hell trying to take over everything good within us, making us regret the tender hearts we have, confusing every part of our being. We think we are not courageous because we are soft and cry. We think we are evil because we were forced while fighting evil. We think we are now cursed instead of blessed. The inner struggle does not end unless there is the right help available to fight against it but the military still does not know what causes PTSD any more than they understand what makes the men and women in their command decide to serve in the first place.

The pay isn't great. The hours suck. Deployment after deployment followed by a transfer and having to uproot the entire family at the same time everyone is wondering if they will make it home again from yet another deployment. The fact that each day in combat could be their last or they may have to fly home because someone in their own family has die. Every moment they do not know what to expect from the next. Yet they are willing to do this. They are willing to forget their own individuality, give up making their own decisions and follow orders no matter what. Willing to sacrifice their lives should be a red flag to the military they have a unique caring individual among the ranks and this should be honored as well as cherished instead of being regarded as a thing of shame. They do not understand this,

Given the fact the civilian world responds with help after every crisis for the responders as well as the survivors, you'd think the military would understand they should do the same to avoid the breathing room PTSD needs to take control. The soldiers will go through hell and then minutes later go into the chow hall for a bite to eat sitting there without the strength to pick up a fork. Drained they sit in silence. They return to their bunks at the end of their shift with the images pounding in their heads, sounds in full volume pound their ears, smells grab hold in nostrils as they try to recover. Days, weeks, months later, they finally surrender to the fact they need help. When they need it they are told it is available, they may even be supported by commanders to seek it but when they go for it, they discover there is a long, long line in front of them or the person they are supposed to open their soul to does not have the slightest clue what PTSD is. This keeps happening.

Psychiatrist and psychologists fully educated in the workings of the human mind have not all been educated on PTSD. This has been omitted from the "training manuals" of common sense. They should all be experts on trauma considering combat is traumatic! Chaplains may have every chapter and verse committed to memory but what most of the words mean escapes them and they admit they know nothing about PTSD.

I belong to a group of chaplains comprised of walks from all life. Among the chaplains are VA psychiatrists as well as civilian psychiatrists. We have pastors and ministers, nurses and volunteers. We have law enforcement officers and emergency responders. All of us are dedicated to understanding PTSD before it become PTSD. Immediately after a traumatic event it is a crisis and we train for intervention. We do this to prevent the tearing away at the soul of the survivors. If we can understand this, why can't the military?

Are police officers less courageous? Are fire fighters? Are EMT's? They put their lives on the line everyday but they are expected to turn to a chaplain for support after or a trained professional. The military, well, they are expected to put their boots on and get back on duty no matter what. Even when they return to US soil they are not finding the help they need. They are not told what they should know and they are not helped in changing the images in their minds so they can make peace with the outcome.

There is so much the military does not understand and until they do, we will keep seeing the numbers of suicides and attempted suicides rise just as we see in the veteran population.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

If we allow evil to remain alive trapping out that which is good, then PTSD wins. They do not have to fear they are evil when they remember who they were and who sent them here. They can have a rod and staff to comfort them but only if that rod is the reason they grive and the staff is prepared for them to lean on as they heal. We need to help them remember that God is not evil and since He gave them that which is good inside of them making them want to be of service, they are not evil either.

Friday, November 27, 2009

When a soldier kills himself, no letter from any President

This has been one more heartache for the families who stood by as their family member was laid to rest as if they should have anything to be ashamed of. The practice of not sending letters of condolences to servicemen and women has been around about as long as the military itself. The presidents just don't do it. It's almost as if the sacrifice of a man or woman serving this nation somehow suddenly becomes less than something to honor if their life ends by their own hands. This last resort of humans in crisis so busily eating away at them should never be something to be ashamed of unless that shame is directed at all of us.

It's really that simple. We ask so much of them. We train them and then expect them to put their training to use following orders, facing dangers and witnessing events few others will ever know, yet then we expect them to just get over it with little or no help when they need it.

Even now as the Obama Administrations tries to play catch up, they are dealing with high flood waters with a tsunami getting ready to wipe it all out. Yes, what is coming is that catastrophic and many, too many more will end up taking their own life because the help that is there for them is too little, too late and most times, too inadequate. Believe it or not, there are many practicing mental health professionals with absolutely no training in PTSD, just as there are many Chaplains without a single clue what it is. Given the fact there are still misdiagnosis due to this, is it really any wonder why so many of them lose any hope they had of recovering?

More and more will be seeking help as the awareness rises and the stigma evaporates. What will they do then? Will the military still think the lives are not worthy of every effort to help them heal? Will they ever come to terms with PTSD the way the rest of the population has when crisis teams rush in for any traumatic event yet they are not sent in when soldiers face them? Will they ever get a clue that what they've been doing has been doing more harm than good? Will the President finally change this policy and honor the life of the fallen no matter how they passed away as if that life was just as worthy as the day they decided to dedicate it to serving the nation? See, we do a great job sending them away, but do are really lousy job of getting them back home. It's time for all leadership to get out of the box they've been operating in or at least cut a few windows so they can finally see what the hell they've been getting wrong for so very long.
When a soldier kills himself, no letter from President Obama
By Adam Levine, CNN
November 27, 2009 8:27 p.m. EST

Family of Spc. Chancellor Keesling, 25, wants condolence letter from President Obama
Parents believe his suicide brought on by stress of war, distance from loved ones
White House: "Inherited" policy only lets president write families of fallen soldiers
Family hopes President Obama would want to thank them for their sacrifice

Spc. Chancellor Keesling was given almost all the honors afforded a fallen service member after killing himself in June.

Washington (CNN) -- Gregg Keesling chooses his words carefully when he talks about the death of his son, Spc. Chancellor Keesling.

As far as he's concerned, the soldier didn't "take his own life" or "commit suicide."

His son "died by suicide," Keesling insists -- and he has his reasons why.

When 25-year old Chancellor Keesling shot himself in Iraq on June 19, his family received much support from the military and local officials. Gregg Keesling's son was given the honor afforded to a fallen service member.

The Keesling family went to Dover Air Force Base to watch as his body was flown back to Indiana six days later. At his burial, seven rifles fired three times each in true military tradition.

Later, the soldier's aunt created a memorial wall in the family's Indianapolis living room. On the wall hangs Spc. Keesling's uniform, the U.S. flag that was handed to his mother, Jannett, after the service, and the Indianapolis state flag that flew over the state capital in his honor.

Yet, there's an empty spot on the wall for an honor that never arrived -- a letter from the president.
read more here

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Oprah's Thanksgiving Gift to wounded warriors

If you've been with family today giving thanks for what you have in your life, you may have missed a special Oprah show. Today she gave the wounded warriors one of the greatest gifts possible. She gave them her attention as well as compassion.

Oprah on Location at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Oprah on Location at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Oprah visits Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet the real men, women and families behind the headlines. Then, a day in the life of a soldier and a mom.

When the physically wounded are being treated, it is assumed they have other wounds needing to be treated. Should they require help to heal emotionally, everyone around them has been watching for signs, or at least they should be.

Juanita Wilson talked to Oprah about how her husband couldn't understand why she didn't come home the same way. It happens all too often when the family members are unwilling to look beyond the body they see into the soul of the person they were closest to. Juanita lost her hand but her other wound is trying to take over the rest of her.

Ceremony Reenlists Injured Soldiers Into U.S. Army Reserve
WASHINGTON - APRIL 6: U.S. Army Reservist Sgt. 1st Class Juanita Wilson (C) is congratulated by Lt. Gen. James Helmly (L), Chief of the Army Reserve, after Wilson took the oath to reenlist in the Reserves on the West Steps of the U.S. Capitol April 6, 2006 in Washington, DC. Wilson's daughter, Kenyah Wilson, 7, is at right. Wilson lost her left hand to an improvised explosive device in Iraq in August, 2004. Wilson said she has no second thoughts about reenlisting. 'I was born and bred to be a solider,' she said.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Apr 06, 2006

Everything she spoke about pointed to PTSD but that in no way prevents her from serving. PTSD is not the end of a life. It's the end of the way they used to be because trauma always changes people. We all change with what happens in our own lives. For our troops and our veterans, the change came after they did what we asked them to do. That makes it all our responsibly and a continuation of our obligation.

Women on the Front Lines
More women than ever are enlisted. Meet Juanita Wilson, the first American mother to lose a limb in Iraq.

Combat Photography
A retired Air Force staff sergeant goes behind the lens...browse a gallery of Stacy Pearsall's moving photographs.

The Road to Recovery
At Walter Reed, our most critically injured soldiers begin to rebuild their lives. The visit Oprah won't soon forget.

In Their Own Words
In a split second, their lives were changed forever. Meet the soldiers at Walter Reed, and watch them tell their stories.

There is more to say but today is Thanksgiving and while I am thankful for much today, this program is now among the blessings I'm grateful for today. Please watch the clips if you did not see the show. If you did then please write to thank Oprah for this show.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Witnesses say reservist was a hero at Hood

Witnesses say reservist was a hero at Hood

By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Nov 25, 2009 13:18:26 EST

Three weeks after 13 people were shot and killed at Fort Hood, Texas, new details are emerging about an Army Reserve captain who died trying to fight off the gunman before police arrived.

Investigators are still sorting out the actions of Capt. John Gaffaney, 56, a psychiatric nurse. But according to varying eyewitness accounts, Gaffaney either picked up a chair and threw it at Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused killer, or physically rushed him from across the room.

Army Maj. Gen. Lie-Ping Chang, commander of the reserve force to which Gaffaney belonged, said that two eyewitnesses recounted how the reservist threw a folding chair and "tried to knock (Hasan) down or knock his gun down." Chang included this account in an essay submitted to USA Today.

Army Reserve Col. Kathy Platoni, a clinical psychologist who served with Gaffaney, said she was told that he rushed Hasan to within inches before being shot several times.

Platoni said she comforted Gaffaney as he lay dying in a building nearby where soldiers brought him after he was mortally wounded, ripping off pieces of their uniform to use as pressure bandages or tourniquets to stem his massive bleeding from multiple wounds.

“I just started talking to him and holding his hand and saying, ‘John, you're going to be OK. You're going to be OK. You've just got to fight,’” Platoni recalls.

He died shortly after that, she says. "I was still yelling, 'John, don't go. John, don't go.’”

Regardless of what actions Gaffaney took, soldiers were able to escape the gunman when Gaffaney confronted him, Chang says. Gaffaney's widow, Christine, said one female soldier told her that he saved her life.

"I have no idea precisely what his actions were," says Army spokesman Jay Adams at Fort Hood. "But … I am sure there is truth in those accounts."

The initial account of Gaffaney's actions came from a USA Today interview with Chang about plans to replace 16 mental-health workers killed or wounded at Fort Hood. Investigators are still trying to determine precise details, including which police officer shot and wounded Hasan.
read more here

Suspect killed by SWAT team; 4 children OK

Suspect killed by SWAT team; 4 children OK
By Bianca Prieto and Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel

November 25, 2009
An armed man who was fatally shot after Orlando police said he barricaded himself and four children in a downtown-area house was identified as local artist Palin Perez, 36.

Witnesses said Perez released four children from the home in the 1600 block of East Livingston, and the kids were helped out of the house by police. Afterwards, Perez came outside with a gun and was shot, Orlando police spokeswoman Barbara Jones said.

Although police identified the deceased as Palin Perez, friends said his full name was Palin Perez Jackson.

The kids are 2, 3, 8 and 9 years old, Jones said. All of the kids belonged to a woman who alerted police to the standoff about 9:30 this morning. The suspect was the father of two of the children.

"Physically, they're OK. Emotionally, I don't know," Jones said of the children. "At least they're safe now."
read more here
Suspect killed by SWAT team

Mom Befriends Wife of PTSD Vet Charged With Murder

Mom Befriends Wife of PTSD Vet Charged With Murder

Published: November 25, 2009
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- When the envelope arrived, Windy Horner was talking with her husband, Nick -- Windy on a cell phone, Nick in the Blair County jail.

Windy did not recognize the return address. She feared hate mail; her husband is charged with killing two men and robbing a sandwich shop, and she blames his actions on post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq, but others do not agree.

''Just because horner went to iraq,'' read one reader comment on a newspaper Web site, ''doesnt mean he shouldnt get what he deserves!!!!!!!''

Now, she wondered: Should she open the envelope? Go ahead, Nick said.

The note was from a complete stranger, a woman named Laurie Claar. It was written on a card decorated with a rainbow and flowers, bearing the message, ''Caring Thoughts Are With You.''

''I'm not sure what to say to you all except I understand and you all are in my prayers,'' Claar wrote. ''And I don't think bad of Nick as he needs help to deal with PTSD.''

Her words reached a young couple sorely in need of encouragement.

On April 26, Laurie Claar sat in the darkness next to her son's grave, cradling a doll she dressed in the clothes he had worn as a newborn. She was waiting for the clock to strike 11:04 p.m.

Exactly 25 years before, Matthew Claar had been born.

''I just had to be there at that time,'' Claar said tearfully. It comforted her, she said, to remember a time when she could still protect her son.

More than seven months before his mother's vigil, fueled by guilt and PTSD, the Marine Corps veteran had pulled the trigger on the 9mm pistol in his mouth.

read more here

Mom Befriends Wife of PTSD Vet Charged With Murder

Veterans' Chief goes from Hall of Fame to accused of hurting veterans

Arizona indicts former veteran's chiefPublished: Nov. 20, 2009 at 11:09 AM

PHOENIX, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The former head of Arizona's Department of Veterans' Services has been indicted on felony charges of fraud, misuse of public money and conflict of interest.

The indictment of Patrick Chorpenning Sr., a disabled Vietnam veteran, comes less than three weeks after he was inducted into the state Veterans Hall of Fame, The Arizona Republic reported Friday.

Chorpenning, who led the department from 1999 to 2007, is accused of enriching his friends and family at the same time as he was cutting benefits to the veterans he was hired to serve.
read more here
Arizona indicts former veterans chief

Pastor gives helping hand to homeless veteran

WILLIAM COLGIN/SUN HERALD Vietnam veteran, Early Johnson, is no longer homeless after being given an apartment by Pastor Lee Adams who sought out Johnson after reading about his situation in a Sun Herald story on Sunday.

Pastor gives helping hand to homeless veteran
Reverend provides apartment
GULFPORT — Navy veteran Early Johnson moved into a clean, spacious apartment Thursday in a quiet neighborhood near downtown.

For many South Mississippians, that wouldn’t be very noteworthy, but until he had unpacked his precious few belongings there, Johnson was one of an estimated 131,000 U.S. veterans who are homeless on any given night, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thanks to the generosity of the Rev. Lee Adams, pastor of Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport, the veteran of the Vietnam era now has a home. Adams had kept an apartment that he was letting a young couple use until they found a place to live. The couple moved out in August, and at the time, Adams felt he needed to keep the apartment, but he said he really wasn’t sure why.

Adams said it all became clear Sunday night when he read in the Sun Herald about Johnson’s life as a homeless veteran and dialysis patient, who is disabled and on waiting lists for public housing and not able to find a place of his own on the money he makes working part time at the Biloxi VA. It was Johnson’s quote that he was able to survive on the streets by putting his trust in God, whom he said took care of him, which spurred the reverend into action.
read more here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Finally justice may come:Senators seek review of military's personality-disorder discharges

One of my rants (among many)has been about this. It has broken the spirits of too many when they were kicked out instead of helped up to heal.

Senators seek review of military's personality-disorder discharges

David Goldstein, Mcclatchy Newspapers – Tue Oct 20, 5:22 pm ET
WASHINGTON -- In the Senate , Barack Obama fought for better mental-health care for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan .

Now that he's president, some of his former colleagues want him to pick up the gauntlet once more and make sure troops are getting the benefits they deserve.

"In 2007, we were partners in the fight against the military's misuse of personality disorder discharges," four senators -- Democrat Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa , Kit Bond of Missouri and Sam Brownback of Kansas -- wrote in a letter this week asking Obama for a report to Congress on the current use of the discharges. "Today we urge you to renew your commitment to address this critical issue facing thousands of returning service members."

Because the military views personality disorders as a pre-existing condition, many service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health problems have been unable to receive health benefits. There have been questions, however, about how scrupulous the military has been in making sure that the personality disorder discharges were proper.
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Senators seek review of military's personality-disorder discharges

'Military doesn't care about people with mental issues'

'Military doesn't care about people with mental issues'
By Nisa Islam Muhammad Staff Writer
Last updated: Nov 23, 2009

( - Vernelda Taylor-Harris is fighting mad about the tragedies at Ft. Hood, the tragedy that happened in early November with Major Nidal Hassan who is accused of killing 13 people and the tragedy with her daughter, PFC Sophia Taylor, while stationed at Ft. Hood.

“My daughter was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) while she was deployed in Iraq. She broke down and was medivaced to Ft. Hood for treatment. They did not treat her at all. In fact they just threw her under the bus. The military has no compassion for people with PTSD,” she told The Final Call.
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U.S. soldiers struggle with torment of war

Have you ever gotten the idea in your head that there was help available for whatever you're facing? For our soldiers, that idea is always there but until they start to look for help, they never imagine the help they are seeking cannot be found. It happens all the time.

While we read about the military and the VA trying to play catch up to the long line of combat veterans needing help to heal, they are still trying to figure out why they need the help in the first place. A recent report came out on another study to figure this out. Amazing considering how many years of studies they have already paid for.

If they are still trying to figure it out then why have they been investing millions on "treating" what they do not understand? None of what we're seeing is new in PTSD. There are very few programs treating the whole veteran even though most research has shown treating the mind-body and soul have the best results.

They know PTSD only comes after traumatic events. The term actually means after trauma and trauma is Greek for wound. They know it strikes the part of the brain where emotions live. They know there is survival guilt so deep they are remorseful they "were chosen" and survived when someone else didn't. They know they feel like criminals when they are in positions where they have to decide to take a life or not, take it and then find out the one they killed was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They know the pack reactions after facing extreme events can cause them to forget the body in front of them is not less than human but their minds remind them of the fact constantly.

They know medication alters the way the mind reacts but in most cases, talk therapy with the right fully PTSD educated psychologist, has the best results. Once they are able to talk about what it haunting them, it is no longer allowed to keep control. They also know that reconnecting the spiritual soul back to God, faith, forgiveness, mercy and compassion, restores hope and healing.

There is much they already know but too much they still don't understand. That's frightening. When you consider what is being done in the civilian world addressing the whole person's needs after traumatic events as crisis teams rush in. Some deliver food and water, clothing, shelter, all depending on the need. Some deliver a calming presence to listen to survivors talk and they remind them someone does care. In times when what help is available at that moment is not enough, then they are sent to the help they need. This is not done in the military. It's almost as if they forget the troops are still humans and still have the same reactions and needs as everyone else.

So they come home, after not getting what they need as soon as they need it, try to adjust to life as humans again in their own country, then they must come to terms with the need they have for help. Once this step is taken, then they have to find the help they need. Too often they are being sent to Chaplains without a clue what PTSD is. They are sent to psychologists and psychiatrists without a clue and end up being misdiagnosed leading to being treated for the wrong mental health need. This happens all the time because whatever mental illness the doctors are looking for, they will find it.

If they are looking for bipolar, they'll find it, just as they will find depression, paranoia, schizophrenia and "personality disorder" which caused the erroneous dishonorable discharges of over 22,000 soldiers. Yes, sometimes help does more harm than good.

They will not be able to stop the escalation of suicides and attempted suicides until they finally understand what makes humans human. Otherwise, claiming to be doing everything possible will only lead to more of the same mistakes and mistreatments they have been doing all along.

Military suicides increase as U.S. soldiers struggle with torment of war
By Star-Ledger Staff
November 22, 2009, 1:30PM

Reported by Tomas Dinges & Mark Mueller
Written by Mark Mueller

"His whole body just shut down," said Bean’s older brother, Nick. "He said he felt like he was being strangled by nothing."

The nightmares came back, too. And the rages, so intense they sometimes drove him to look for fights. Bean began drinking again, dulling the anxiety and the memories.

He’d seen women and children reduced to charred husks in a burning bus. He’d shot up a car as it charged a military checkpoint, finding afterward that he and his squad had killed not a suicide bomber but a child. He’d survived mortars and rocket-propelled grenades and snipers.

"The things he saw in Iraq ate at him," said his father, Greg Bean. "He was just drifting. And little by little, bits of hope dropped away."

On the morning of Sept. 6, 2008, after a late-night crash and his second arrest for driving under the influence, Army Sgt. Coleman Bean killed himself with a single shot to the head in his South River apartment. He was 25.
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Killeen police investigate Sunday murder of Ft. Hood soldier

Killeen police investigate Sunday murder of Ft. Hood soldier
By AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Monday, November 23, 2009, 04:29 PM

According to a statement by the Killeen Police Department:

Killeen Police are investigating the death of a 20 year old Fort Hood soldier that occurred on Sunday, November 22, 2009, just before 5:00am.

The victim, David Lester Middlebrooks, was pronounced deceased by Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin at 6:50am; an autopsy was ordered to be performed at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.

read more here

Killeen police investigate Sunday murder of Ft. Hood soldier

Police Chase Leads Reported Iraq War Vet to Jail

Police Chase Leads Reported Iraq War Vet to Jail
Suspect facing attempted murder charges
Updated 9:41 PM EST, Mon, Nov 23, 2009

A man reported to be an Iraq War veteran is behind bars in Prince George's County for allegedly leading police on a high-speed pursuit on the Beltway, from Prince George's County to Baltimore.

The driving was crazy enough to prompt witnesses to make frantic calls to police Saturday morning.

"If you use the term 'aggressive driver,' this would be it at its absolute worst," said Lt. C.D. Miller of Maryland State Police.

Christopher Miller, 30, weaved between cars for about 30 miles before he slammed his car into the side of a Maryland State Police cruiser on I-495, according to authorities. That cruiser spun out of control and hit another cruiser. The wreck put two troopers and another driver in the hospital. All three were back home recovering by Monday night.
read more here
Police Chase Leads Reported Iraq War Vet to Jail

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woman awarded $3M in assault claim against KBR

Woman awarded $3M in assault claim against KBR
By JUAN A. LOZANO (AP) – 3 days ago

HOUSTON — A woman who claimed she was raped in 2005 while working in Iraq for a former Halliburton Co. subsidiary has been awarded nearly $3 million by an arbitrator to settle her case.

Tracy Barker had sued U.S. contractor KBR Inc, its former parent company Halliburton and several affiliates in May 2007, claiming she was sexually attacked by a State Department employee while working as a civilian contractor in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

A federal judge in Houston had dismissed Barker's lawsuit in January 2008, ruling she had to abide by an employment agreement she signed that said any claims she made against the companies would have to be settled through arbitration and not the courts.

Court records filed this week show Barker was awarded a judgment of $2.93 million to settle her arbitration claim against KBR.

The Associated Press doesn't usually identify those who report they were sexually assaulted, but Barker made her identity public in her lawsuit.
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Woman awarded 3M in assault claim against KBR

The Messenger of death only comes sometimes

Watching the trailer for The Messenger, two officers arrive to notify families their husbands and wives, their sons and daughters, will not be walking in the door. Death is the end for the Soldier, the Marine, the Sailor, the Airman. It is also the end for the life the family used to have. It's all gone with this knock at the door.

When civilians are notified by a police chaplain someone they love is not coming home, they have to get past the shock, plan a funeral, make phone calls, decide what suit or dress to use for the last image they will ever have of someone they loved. After the funeral, they go back to their homes, deal with insurance polices and social security. Take names off bank accounts, then look at the empty chair in their living room.

Aside from funeral attire for the coffin, pretty much the military families have to go through the same things except when they go home, they have to wonder where they will move to now they are no longer able to live on government property. They have to move out to make room for another soldier's family to move in.

Sound painful? It is. One of the things we never seem to think about when the families live on base or post. With the deaths at Fort Hood recently, maybe this rule will end up being a blessing because they will not have to drive past where their soldier died at the hands of one of their own.

Military messengers do not always come. They do not come when a soldier has been discharged but died as a result of service. When they take their own lives, they are not counted as a war casualty. It doesn't matter that the suicide would not have happened if they had continued to live as a civilian far removed and detached from what few will ever know. The price paid is not paid in full until they are no longer alive. They will never really be a civilian again. They become Veteran. A veteran with a story still being written that few will ever read.

We don't think of what happens to the families after the flag is folded and handed off to the family member on "behalf of a grateful nation" any more than we know what happens to the rest of them after they come home.

If you go to see The Messenger, please keep this in mind as you watch. I have not seen the movie yet so I do not know if they address the fact families have to move away from their friends when they need support from them the most, but in case it does not, we need to think of this.

In his most powerful performance to date, Ben Foster stars as Will Montgomery, a U.S. Army officer who has just returned home from a tour in Iraq and is assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service. Partnered with fellow officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to bear the bad news to the loved ones of fallen soldiers, Will faces the challenge of completing his mission while seeking to find comfort and healing back on the home front. When he finds himself drawn to Olivia (Samantha Morton), to whom he has just delivered the news of her husband's death, Will's emotional detachment begins to dissolve and the film reveals itself as a surprising, humorous, moving and very human portrait of grief, friendship and survival.

Featuring tour-de-force performances from Foster, Harrelson and Morton, and a brilliant directorial debut by Moverman, 'The Messenger' brings us into the inner lives of these outwardly steely heroes to reveal their fragility with compassion and dignity.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2nd lt. overcomes severe combat wounds

2nd lt. overcomes severe combat wounds

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Nov 22, 2009 8:54:18 EST

One of 2nd Lt. Peter Sprenger’s goals in life is to lead soldiers in the 75th Ranger Regiment. He eventually wants to command a battalion and even a brigade.

His goals are not unusual for a young officer candidate who has already led men in combat, but Sprenger, 26, was not supposed to make it this far. On Nov. 19, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, he beat the odds — and the naysayers.

He was blinded by a car bomb blast in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2003, after nearly nine months in country, with 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry. The attack also shattered his teeth, blew out his eardrums and peppered him with shrapnel.

The suicide driver of a car laden with explosives smashed a jagged ribbon of concertina wire around the perimeter of the soldiers’ outpost and rammed through concrete barriers before one of Sprenger’s fellow soldiers, a squad automatic weapon gunner, sprayed the driver with gunfire. But he still blew his 1,000 pounds of TNT near an open door where Sprenger was sitting on duty. As Sprenger turned to run for the radio, the blast rocked his body and knocked him down.

Dozens of others were also wounded in the attack. As he was being medically evacuated from Tal Afar in northern Iraq, Sprenger remembers thinking he didn’t want to leave because he hadn’t helped the battalion finish its mission.
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DOD task force confronts suicide

DOD task force confronts suicide
By Ashley Rowland, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, November 24, 2009
SEOUL, South Korea — They’re often young, male, in the Army, and recently had their hearts broken.

Another thing they have in common: They fit the profile of many servicemembers who kill themselves.

The military has yet to understand thoroughly why more troops are committing suicide, or whether multiple deployments contribute to them, said Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, co-chairman of the new Defense Department suicide prevention task force conducting a study on the problem.

The 14-member task force, which includes seven civilians and seven servicemembers, began meeting about a month ago and will present its findings to the secretary of Defense next summer.

Volpe said the military tracks suicides only among current servicemembers. That means if a former servicemember with post-traumatic stress disorder or other deployment-related mental health problems commits suicide, the military doesn’t record it.

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DOD task force confronts suicide

Mental health cases tax police, emergency workers

My friend Lily Casura at Healing Combat Trauma sent this.

Mental health cases tax police, emergency workers
LISA RATHKE,Associated Press Writer

"Because they're completely falling through the cracks," he said. "They're not cracks, they're chasms."

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Police found him sitting on the floor of his old apartment near a bucket of urine, still dressed in his hospital gown.

The apartment had been condemned for the squalor — food on the floor, flies — and his smoking in bed. But the mentally ill man, just released from the hospital, had managed to get back in. For the second time in four days, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Three firefighters, a battalion chief, the police chief, two police officers, a code enforcement person and a housing official responded, and finally, an ambulance crew — at a cost of thousands of dollars, Police Chief Michael Schirling said.

Police and emergency responders around the nation have long struggled to deal with people who have mental illness, and some say the situation is only getting worse. A poor economy and cuts to institutional programs threaten to overwhelm personnel trained to deal with crime and vehicle accidents, not mental crises.

"The problem seems to be accelerating in scope and severity of late," the police chief said. "More folks in need of mental health services, more significant issues occurring on the street as a result, and fewer available services for folks in acute crisis or those who are service-resistant."

On the same day they removed the mental patient from the condemned apartment, police searched the other end of Burlington for a homeless man who'd been yelling at kids in a residential neighborhood. Parents wouldn't let their children out alone. Some called 911.

The man has paranoid schizophrenia and other mental illnesses but has refused treatment, so police charged him with disorderly conduct. The chief called it a "workaround," designed to get him into the mental health system by judicial order.

"It's a perversion of the system," he said.
read more here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We did it after WWII we can do it now

When WWII veterans returned from war in 1944, they were greeted by a nation united behind them, jobs, housing developments and they believed the nation really appreciated the fact they were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of this country.

Here is what was done when they came home.

(VA) The Department of Veterans Affairs was established on March 15, 1989, succeeding the Veterans Administration. It is responsible for providing federal benefits to veterans and their families. Headed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, VA is the second-largest of the 15 Cabinet departments and operates nationwide programs for health care, financial assistance and burial benefits.

Of the 23.4 million veterans currently alive, nearly three-quarters served during a war or an official period of conflict. About a quarter of the nation's population is potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.

The responsibility to care for veterans, spouses, survivors and dependents can last a long time. Two children of Civil War veterans still draw VA benefits. About 184 children and widows of Spanish-American War veterans still receive VA compensation or pensions.

VA's fiscal year 2009 spending is projected to be approximately $93.4 billion, including $40 billion for health care, $46.9 billion for benefits, and $230 million for the national cemetery system. This is more than a 7 percent increase from the department’s $87.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2009.

Compensation and Pension

Disability compensation is a payment to veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active military service. Wartime veterans with low incomes who are permanently and totally disabled may be eligible for financial support through VA’s pension program.

In fiscal year 2008, VA provided $38.9 billion in disability compensation, death compensation and pension to 3.7 million people. About 3.2 million veterans received disability compensation or pension from VA. In addition, about 554,700 spouses, children and parents of deceased veterans received VA benefits. Among them are 170,144 survivors of Vietnam-era veterans and 235,000 survivors of World War II veterans.

Medical Care

Perhaps the most visible of all VA benefits and services is health care. From 54 hospitals in 1930, VA’s health care system now includes 153 medical centers, with at least one in each state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. VA operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 909 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics, 135 nursing homes, 47 residential rehabilitation treatment programs, 232 Veterans Centers and 108 comprehensive home-care programs. VA health care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and rehabilitative care.

Almost 5.5 million people received care in VA health care facilities in 2008. By the end of fiscal year 2008, 78 percent of all disabled and low-income veterans had enrolled with VA for health care; 65 percent of them were treated by VA. In 2008, VA inpatient facilities treated 773,600 patients. VA’s outpatient clinics registered over 60 million visits.

VA manages the largest medical education and health professions training program in the United States. VA facilities are affiliated with 107 medical schools, 55 dental schools and more than 1,200 other schools across the country. Each year, about 90,000 health professionals are trained in VA medical centers. More than half of the physicians practicing in the United States had some of their professional education in the VA health care system.

VA’s medical system serves as a backup to the Defense Department during national emergencies and as a federal support organization during major disasters.

In 1996, VA put its health care facilities under 21 networks that provide more medical services to more veterans and family members than at any time during VA’s long history.

VA has experienced unprecedented growth in the medical system workload over the past few years. The number of patients treated increased by 29 percent from 4.2 million in 2001 to nearly 5.5 million in 2008.

To receive VA health care benefits most veterans must enroll. The VA health care system had nearly 7.9 million veterans who were enrolled as of October 2008. When they enroll, they are placed in priority groups or categories that help VA manage health care services within budgetary constraints and ensure quality care for those enrolled.

Some veterans are exempted from having to enroll. People who do not have to enroll include veterans with a service-connected disability of 50 percent or more, veterans who were discharged from the military within one year but have not yet been rated for a VA disability benefit and veterans seeking care for only a service-connected disability. Veterans with service-connected disabilities receive priority access to care for hospitalization and outpatient care. Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) are eligible to receive enhanced health care benefits for five years following their military separation date.

Since 1979, VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service has operated Vet Centers, which provide psychological counseling for war-related trauma, community outreach, case management and referral activities, plus supportive social services to veterans and family members. There are 232 Vet Centers.

Since the first Vet Center opened, more than 2 million veterans have been helped. Every year, the Vet Centers serve more than 130,000 veterans and accommodate more than a million visits by veterans and family members.

Vet Centers are open to any veteran who served in the military in a combat theater during wartime or anywhere during a period of armed hostilities. Vet Centers also provide trauma counseling to veterans who were sexually assaulted or harassed while on active duty, and bereavement counseling to the families of service members who die on active duty.

VA provides health care and benefits to more than 100,000 homeless veterans each year. Though the proportion of veterans among the homeless is declining, VA continues to engage veterans in outreach, medical care, benefits assistance, transitional housing, and case management for veterans in permanent housing. VA has made more than 450 grants for transitional housing, service centers and vans for outreach and transportation to state and local governments, tribal governments, non-profit community and faith-based service providers.

Indispensable to providing America’s veterans with quality medical care are nearly 127,000 active volunteers in VA’s Voluntary Service who donated more than 11 million hours in 2008 to bring companionship and care to hospitalized veterans. These hours equate to 5,519 full time employee-equivalent (FTEE) positions


VA research focuses on areas of concern to veterans. VA research has earned an international reputation for excellence in areas such as aging, chronic disease, prosthetics and mental health. Studies conducted within VA help improve medical care not only for the veterans enrolled in VA's health care system, but for the nation at large. Because seven in 10 VA researchers are also clinicians, VA is uniquely positioned to translate research results into improved patient care. VA scientists and clinicians collaborate across many disciplines, resulting in a synergistic flow of inquiry, discovery and innovation between labs and clinics.

VA investigators played key roles in developing the cardiac pacemaker, the CT scan, radioimmunoassay, and improvements in artificial limbs. The first liver transplant in the world was performed by a VA surgeon-researcher. VA clinical trials established the effectiveness of new treatments for tuberculosis, schizophrenia and high blood pressure. The “Seattle Foot” developed in VA has allowed people with amputations to run and jump. VA contributions to medical knowledge have won VA scientists many awards, including the Nobel Prize and the Lasker Award.

Special VA “centers of excellence” conduct leading-edge research in areas of prime importance to veterans, such as neurotrauma, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, hearing and vision loss, alcoholism, stroke, and health care disparities. Through VA's Cooperative Studies Program, researchers conduct multicenter clinical trials to investigate the best therapy for various diseases affecting large numbers of veterans. Examples of current projects include testing whether intensive control of blood sugar can reduce cardiovascular problems for patients with type 2 diabetes; and comparing deep brain stimulation with other treatments for Parkinson's disease.

Deployment health is a major priority for VA research. In addition to studies focused on recent veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, research continues on issues of special concern to veterans of earlier conflicts, such as the Gulf War and Vietnam War.

Home Loan Assistance

From 1944, when VA began helping veterans purchase homes under the original GI Bill, through December 2007, more than 18.4 million VA home loan guaranties have been issued, with a total value of $967 billion. VA ended fiscal year 2008 with almost 2.1 million active home loans, reflecting amortized loans totaling $220.8 billion.

What they also brought back with them was the hidden wounds carried deeply within them. Some tried to hide it, some hid it well, but others, well, it was just a family secret that was not to be talked about ever to anyone. Some were just too busy to even think of themselves as they tried to earn wages to support their families. It was not until they had retired they began to experience the awakening of the dark secrets they tried so hard to hide from everyone.

There wasn't the power of the Internet to connect them. Aside from hometown halls where they could connect with others, the realities they lived with were not well known.

It was the same when they came home from Korea.

One thing we don't talk about when we use the term MIA is how many from WWI, WWII and Korea were lost and not recovered as well. You can read more about this here.
Finding the Fallen

All of the veterans making it back home ended up raising the generation to come. They raised them to believe that the nation would respect their service, honor their willingness to sacrifice their lives, fully trusting should they return wounded, the nation would tend to those wounds and replace incomes they lost because of the wounds of war. Tough, proud, patriotic, and carrying a lot of pain they refused to show, they sent their sons off to Vietnam, usually cheering at the airport but cheering louder when they returned home for good.

The VA however, as well as the rest of the nation, was not so inclined to deliver on what generations before had received. They had to fight for a system not prepared for them and they fought to make sure the deep, dark secrets their fathers brought home would not be allowed to haunt them as well without proper care. Nostalgia, Soldier's Heart, Shell Shock died and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was born. Another birth was the attitude of "get over it" and "we don't want to hear about it" after the combat was sent into our TV sets during dinner every night. Local newspapers delivered on local stories about the fallen, the wounded and the awarding of medals. Pretty much, the American people thought we knew it all.

The Wall in Washington was joined by traveling Vietnam Memorial Walls.

So they kept fighting and by the time Saddam tried to take over Kuwait, the Gulf War began and ended soon after, the American people felt really badly about how they treated the Vietnam veterans, especially when so many of them were not given a choice about any of it as the draft notices came with the unlucky number. By the Gulf War, we had learned our lesson and the Vietnam veterans began to finally break through our bad impression of them. We knew we were wrong with how they were allowed to be treated when they came home so, we, always liking a winner, plus regretting how we treated the Vietnam Vets, went a bit overboard when it came to the Gulf War veterans, but that didn't last too long.

As they came home with the same wounds other generations did, Agent Orange was just beginning to break into the news reports, the Gulf War veterans had to deal with their own illness related to combat but no one was sure of what it was, what caused it or how to treat it. Considering how long they've had to figure it out, it's really a wonder they have not been able to put their finger on it yet. What they also returned to was a whole new world to reach from the comfort of their own homes. They were connected to other veterans across the country and internationally. What was discovered in one nation was found by a veteran in Boston. What was being complained about in California was being copied and sent by email across the world in a few days.

Now with Afghanistan and Iraq, the news reports are few. With the election of 2004 and 2006 over, the debate about the necessity of Iraq, left Afghanistan forgotten about and then Iraq began to be replaced by the economy in 2008. Iraq and Afghanistan were not mentioned that much and the news reports were more focused on the problems the veterans were facing coming back than the numbers of those killed or wounded on any given day unless there was something catastrophic to report on.

Looking back at what we managed to do after WWII and after the depression, it really should be looked at knowing what we could do for our veterans even though the rest of the country was hurting. At least back then, we thought about those we asked so much of but asked so little of us to do for them. Amazing what can happen when we put our minds to it.

So we showed up at when a coffin made it's way to the cemetery, waved a flag, put hand over heart or bent our elbow for a salute. Some offer a quick prayer then get back to our own lives while some complain about traffic that's being held up by the funeral procession or thinking "Oh, well, sad he/she was so young. Feel badly for the parents, young widow and kids, but we have our own problems." If you live near a National Guard armory, an Army post or Marine Camp or Navy base, then you may even show up to welcome them home. You may write a check or send a card. You may join a group to do what you can, but sooner or later, the feeling of being connected to them fades away. Sooner or later, you forget all about what they went through. Sooner or later, that veteran you welcomed home, felt honored to have met, becomes the "crazy vet" down the street with the police showing up again. What they brought back inside of them doesn't seem to matter any more to far too many of us.

The homeless veteran you read about dying in the woods means nothing to you because you may judge how they came to be homeless. They could have come back with PTSD and a family unable or unwilling to help them. They could have come back with no family to lean on and no jobs to go to. They could have come home wounded to the point even if they had a job, they wouldn't be able to do it and they can't get their VA claim out of the pile to be approved. Then they could also be among the members of the military always knowing they only wanted to be a Marine, a Soldier, an Airman or a Sailor and the was all they knew but now because they are wounded they cannot be one anymore.

See, when we say we "support the troops" we think that's all they need and they only need it when they are deployed with the rest of the "troops" and some of us are so lazy we forgot that one soldier is not called a "troop" but a soldier and a Marine is called a Marine, that there is an air National Guard and an Army National Guard. They need us when they wake up and when they finally get to find some few hours to sleep. They need us when they are out of danger just as much as when they are facing it. They need us in the hospital and out of it. They need us in the service to us just as much as they need us after. The question is, "when will we stop wanting to stop taking care of them in return for what they did for us?" We did it after WWII, we can do it now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Note said Hood-style shooting could happen at Fort Benning

Note said Hood-style shooting could happen

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Nov 20, 2009 18:23:44 EST

A box of hollow-point bullets and an anonymous note threatening an incident like the one at Fort Hood, Texas, were discovered Thursday at Fort Benning, Ga., sparking a criminal investigation and greater police presence, a witness told Army Times.

According to a witness at the scene, a box of 20 hollow-point shells and a handwritten note were found in the motor pool area between 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry, under the 197th Infantry Training Brigade.

“The note said ‘tell the commanding general to call off all charges or there will be a re-enactment of Fort Hood,’ ” the witness told Army Times. He spoke on condition he wouldn’t be identified.

After the discovery, he said, military police arrived with dogs, cordoned off a 20-foot perimeter around the box and began dusting for fingerprints and questioning people.
read more here

Nam Knights suffers loss after fatal accident

There should be a correction on this. Both of them were wearing helmets.

UPDATE names released
Gennaro Dilauri, Gerry was a really special man. He had a smile that would brighten any day. He was also very caring. We will miss him for a long time until we see him again one day. I can't say much more than that right now about him other than please hold his family in your prayers.

1 dead, 1 injured in motorcycle wrecks on I-75
The two motorcyclists were among about 25 who were traveling from Orlando to Lake City.
By Austin L. Miller
Staff writer

Published: Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 1:13 a.m.
A group of motorcyclists traveling together northbound on Interstate 75 on Friday morning were involved in a chain-reaction crash near the State Road 326 exit that claimed the life of a Merritt Island man.

According to Florida Highway Patrol officials, a bag fell from one of the motorcycles, causing several of the other motorcyclists to swerve to avoid hitting the bag, which caused the group to separate.

In the confusion, four riders were ejected off their motorcycles.

Officials said 69-year-old Gennaro Dilauri of Merritt Island was taken to Munroe Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Another cyclist, Jack Darrell Helton, 35, of Longwood, was taken to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville in critical condition.

Two other cyclists suffered minor injuries.
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Jack Darrell Helton is the son of Jack, a Nam Knight who passed away in August. Please hold this family in your prayers for all they are going through as they wait for Jack Darrell Helton to heal.

Jack Helton Share E-mail Visit Guest Book
HELTON, JACK, 56, of Orlando, FL passed away unexpectedly August 11, 2009. Jack will be remembered as a man of few words, who laughed often and had a heart of gold. He proudly served in the US Air Force for 13 years including a tour in Vietnam; he was the recipient of numerous awards and was medically retired in 1984. He also served 15 years at the U.S. Post Office in the University Branch, Winter Park, FL. While his greatest joy was his love for his children and grandchildren, he also had a special place in his heart for his Harley Davidson motorcycle and his brothers of the Nam Knights where he was one of the original six members who started the Orlando Chapter of the club. He is survived by his son Jack Darrell, Longwood and his daughter Joy Michelle Harris, Orlando; five grandchildren; his mother Jackie, Corbin, KY and three sisters and one brother. Funeral services will be held Friday, August 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM, at Asbury UMC, Maitland FL. In lieu of flowers the family asks that you consider a donation to: Nam Knights of America, 659 Hardwood Circle, FL 32828, Put in memo line: In Memory of Jack Helton.

Heart sick! Please hold them all in your prayers.

One dead in multiple motorcycle crash on I-75

Staff Report

Published: Friday, November 20, 2009 at 1:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 at 3:16 p.m.
OCALA - A group of motorcyclists traveling together northbound on Interstate 75 Friday morning were involved in a chain reaction accident just south of mile marker 358 that claimed the life of one man.

According to Florida Highway Patrol officials, a bag fell from one of the cycles. Several of the other motorcyclists swerved to avoid hitting the bag, which caused the group to separate.

In the confusion, two people were ejected.

Officials said a 69-year-old man from Merritt Island, who was taken to Munroe Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased.

The other cyclist was taken to Shands at the University of Florida Hospital in Gainesville in critical condition. The gender is not known at this time.

One member of the group, the Nam-Knights America, said they are based in Orlando and there about 25 cyclists. He said they were from the Orlando and Tampa area, met up in Wildwood this morning, and were traveling to Lake City, "just to get away."
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One dead in multiple motorcycle crash on I-75

Psychiatrist claims Marines getting shoddy care at Camp Lejeune

Do you believe him? I do. I've talked to enough Marines over the years to know they are supposed to be able to "train their brains" even more than soldiers are supposed to be able to. Having a Marine cry on my shoulder and feel it was necessary to apologize to me for doing it because as he put it, "I'm a Marine!" shows how little they have been doing to get them to understand it has nothing to do with being weak.

I also think it is horrible that this doctor is no longer there because he cared too much yet Maj. Hasan was kept on no matter how badly he did.

Dr. Kernan Manion poses for a photograph in his officer in Hampstead, N.C., Friday, Nov. 20, 2008. Dr. Manion a psychiatrist was fired after he complained about conditions for his patients at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., In e-mails shown to The Associated Press, Manion had questioned why the clinic, a series of bug-infested trailers with paper-thin walls, was located near a firing range on the 240-square-mile base. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) (Jim R. Bounds, AP / November 20, 2009)

Fired psychiatrist says Marines suffering from stress are getting shoddy care at Camp Lejeune

Associated Press Writer

5:59 p.m. EST, November 20, 2009
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — Marines treated at Camp Lejeune for post-traumatic stress had to undergo therapy for months in temporary trailers where they could hear bomb blasts, machine-gun fire and war cries through the thin walls, according to servicemen and their former psychiatrist.

The eight trailers were used for nearly two years, until a permanent clinic was completed in September in another location on the base, said a Camp Lejeune medical spokesman, Navy Lt. j.g. Mark Jean-Pierre.

The noise from training exercises "shook me up real bad. I couldn't take it. I almost ran out of there a couple of times," said a Marine patient who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. "My mind couldn't focus on the treatment. I couldn't tell the difference between the combat zone and the non-combat zone."

The allegations became public after the dismissal of Dr. Kernan Manion, a civilian psychiatrist who says he was fired for writing memos to his military superiors complaining of shoddy care of Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, a condition that can make patients jumpy, fearful of loud noises and prone to flashbacks.

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Call to America to help our veterans

Call To America

Hampton Inn Daytona Beach-Speedway

1715 West International Speedway Blvd.

Daytona Beach, Florida 32114

Sgt. Dave Matthews

Sgt. Dave Matthews a wounded veteran himself, tirelessly works to help "Brave-Aid" and its cause. We are remiss in not posting Sgt. Matthews sooner. There have been times when he has called the office to allow us to speak to homeless veterans he has just fed. Below are pictures of his latest effort to help Veterans at the Road to Recovery 10/16/09 event this past weekend. God bless you Sgt. Matthews, the world needs more people like you Sir. Just too look into the faces of our Homeless Veterans and the smile you put on their faces makes our hearts full.

There are presently over 19,000 homeless Veterans in Florida. On this night thanks to you some of those 19,000 had a good meal.

When you look into the eyes of Sgt. Matthews, you can see some pain there but above all, you can see true dedication to others. I've been with him during meetings when he has shown frustration that more people are not joining this organization even though considering the official kick off is not until tomorrow and hundreds have already joined, Sgt. Matthews is impatient to do more for the troops and our veterans. I've been with him when he was helping to feed the homeless in Orlando, again, frustrated that more is not being done. He is a member of the Florida National Guard, doing his duty this weekend and won't be able to go to the convention.

The thing most people do not understand is the members of Operation Warrior Support are not satisfied with just being frustrated. Just as Sgt. Matthews is not happy complaining and spends his days trying to make a difference, all of us with OWS are tired of complaining. Tired of seeing what is not being done and tired of seeing our veterans waiting for help.

We know what they are going through beyond waiting for their claims for benefits to be approved. We know what they go through between wound and compensation. Because too many have no income while they wait, they are falling through the cracks. Bill collectors don't want to hear the government has not paid their bill to a wounded veteran. They don't want to hear we'll pay when we get paid. They expect the debt to be paid on time without delay. It would be a wonderful time in this country if the veterans could be assured of the same consideration.

Then we have veterans coming home, like Sgt. Matthews, to a nation where the job they expected to return to is no longer there. The members of the National Guards do what they are supposed to do, deploy where they are sent for however long they are told to stay there. Do we ever think about what happens to them when they come home and have to still pay their bills? What about the debt we owe them?

The list of conditions our veterans return to is hardly coming close to being addressed. While I try to do what I can with my blog and website along with the videos, what you don't know about is the number of veterans and their families emailing me and the hours of phone calls trying to help them understand what they are not being told. What you do not see is the suffering from every state in this country and the families falling apart. We read numbers. We read some stories. Above all, we hear their voice.

Brave-Aid was established to help them. Operation Warrior Support is a member funded support for Brave-Aid. Consider organizations hiring professional fund raisers. Ever consider how much money they have to paid out of the donations you make? OWS is the fundraising arm. Please consider coming tomorrow to Daytona and get more information about this organization I am proud to be a member of.

I was not satisfied with being frustrated in 1982 when I tried to help. Not happy with being frustrated all these years since and I am certainly not happy just complaining now. It is not enough to just offer prayers and move on with your life when they cannot. It is not enough to show up when they come into the airports or try to show up when one of them is laid to rest. It is not enough to show up for Memorial Day or Veterans Day Parades. We need to be there when they need us just as they are always there when we need them.

If you cannot attend the convention, please go here and take a look at what you can do beyond being frustrated.

Patrick W. Dunne, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, to Step Down

Patrick W. Dunne, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, to Step Down

WASHINGTON (Nov. 20, 2009) - Patrick W. Dunne, the Under Secretary for
Benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), today announced
his resignation for early next year. Dunne, who attained the rank of
rear admiral while in the U.S. Navy, has been with VA since 2006.

As Under Secretary for Benefits since October 2008, Admiral Dunne has
directed the administration of VA's disability compensation, pension,
education, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation and employment,
and life insurance programs through a nationwide network of 57 regional
offices, other special processing centers, and Veterans Benefits
Administration headquarters.

"I've appreciated the wonderful opportunity VA has given me to serve our
nation's Veterans and their families," said Dunne. "We have an
obligation to care for our heroes and their dependents, and I will fully
support the transition of my successor to meet that moral

"Pat Dunne has guided the Veterans Benefits Administration through a
number of challenges during his tenure as Under Secretary. I applaud
his service and loyalty to our team and thank him for his unfailing
commitment to our nation's Veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki.

Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Troy, N.Y., Dunne earned his
undergraduate degree in mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy at
Annapolis and earned a master's in mathematics from the Naval
Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Navy's nuclear power
training program.

Secretary Shinseki Announces Study of Vietnam-Era Women Veterans

Secretary Shinseki Announces Study of Vietnam-Era Women Veterans

Comprehensive Study Will Help VA Provide High-Quality Care

WASHINGTON (Nov. 19, 2009) -Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching
a comprehensive study of women Veterans who served in the military
during the Vietnam War to explore the effects of their military service
upon their mental and physical health.

"One of my top priorities is to meet the needs of women Veterans," said
Secretary Shinseki. "Our Veterans have earned the very best care. VA
realizes that women Veterans require specialized programs, and this
study will help VA provide high-quality care for women Veterans of the
Vietnam era."

The study, which begins in November and lasts more than four years, will
contact approximately 10,000 women in a mailed survey, telephone
interview and a review of their medical records.

As women Vietnam Veterans approach their mid-sixties, it is important to
understand the impact of wartime deployment on health and mental
outcomes nearly 40 years later. The study will assess the prevalence of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical
health conditions for women Vietnam Veterans, and explore the
relationship between PTSD and other conditions.

VA will study women Vietnam Veterans who may have had direct exposure to
traumatic events, and for the first time, study those who served in
facilities near Vietnam. These women may have had similar, but less
direct exposures. Both women Veterans who receive their health care
from VA and those who receive health care from other providers will be
contacted to determine the prevalence of a variety of health conditions.

About 250,000 women Veterans served in the military during the Vietnam
War and about 7,000 were in or near Vietnam. Those who were in Vietnam,
those who served elsewhere in Southeast Asia and those who served in the
United States are potential study participants.

The study represents to date the most comprehensive examination of a
group of women Vietnam Veterans, and will be used to shape future
research on women Veterans in future wars. Such an understanding will
lay the groundwork for planning and providing appropriate services for
women Veterans, as well as for the aging Veteran population today.

Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran
population. There are approximately 1.8 million women Veterans among
the nation's total of 23 million living Veterans. Women comprise 7.8
percent of the total Veteran population and nearly 5.5 percent of all
Veterans who use VA health care services. VA estimates women Veterans
will constitute 10.5 percent of the Veteran population by 2020 and 9.5
percent of all VA patients.

In recent years, VA has undertaken a number of initiatives to create or
enhance services for women Veterans, including the implementation of
comprehensive primary care throughout the nation, staffing every VA
medical center with a women Veterans program manager, supporting a
multifaceted research program on women's health, improving communication
and outreach to women Veterans, and continuing the operation of
organizations like the Center for Women Veterans and the Women Veterans
Health Strategic Healthcare Group.

The study, to be managed by VA's Cooperative Studies Program, is
projected to cost $5.6 million.