Sunday, January 31, 2010

Former Army sergeant major is putting a face on suicide prevention

For sake of country, forsaken by country
Chaplain Kathie

When civilians are wounded by traumatic events so deeply felt they suffer with PTSD, we seem to understand it even when we cannot associate a name with it. Regular people we know will talk about something we never experienced but we can see the pain in their eyes and put ourselves into their place, knowing how hard it must have been for them.

Listen to a parent on the news after their child has been abducted or vanished. Any parent could understand that level of pain imagining what it would be like if it had been their child.

When the earthquake came to destroy Haiti, the rest of the world understood the suffering there. So much death and destruction with a natural disaster, people crying out for the loss while still in dire need of help touch everyone's heart. The outpouring of donations is still being sent as we are reminded so many are in need of help.

We can understand pain even if we have never lived through it. We can feel for them. We can feel the tug of our hearts to help them. So why is it so very hard for us to do the same when it comes to the men and women in this nation we ask so much of?

What do we expect when we send them into Haiti on humanitarian missions? We see on our TV sets what is going on there. We saw on CNN how they are putting bodies into mass graves, so it should be easy to assume the men and women in the military are seeing all of it first hand. We see the reporters talking about the wounded and we know they are seeing them as they try to help them. What we don't see, what we don't understand is that the responders to this disaster will be in need of help to recover as well.

We also do not seem to understand that many of the men and women sent into Haiti were on their way to Afghanistan but diverted there. They will end up going into Afghanistan after the crisis is over in Haiti.

Many of them are already wounded by combat from earlier deployments. They are carrying that burden inside of them as they are asked to carry even more because they are needed.

We do a great job responding to need of everyone but them.

Why can't we listen to them talk, see the pain in their eyes and put it all into the same human terms we have no problem doing it with others? Why can't we listen as they grieve for the loss of a friend knowing how hard it must be on them? Why can't we listen to them when they speak of a child that died, weighing heavily on their hearts? Why is it so easy to ignore them and forsake them?

When we send men and women into combat, our job has just begun but we can sit there and say caring about them after combat is not in our "job description" as humans. The numbers of PTSD wounded grow everyday but we do not seem to be as interested in them as we were when we sent them.

We complain when they self-medicate and drive. We want them arrested when they commit crimes, get into fights or cause any trouble at all without ever once wondering how someone could be so valuable, so unique they were ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of this nation, set aside their own personal needs, wants and desires, but then end up where they are. We don't care when their family falls apart or want to hear about the struggles they go through.

We do a great job caring about strangers as humans but a lousy job caring about the strangers we ask to take care of the rest of us.

We will see all the numbers go up until we manage to care enough to do something for their sake.

Former Army sergeant major is putting a face on suicide prevention
Posted Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010


McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes keeps pictures of the dead in his pockets.

They’re the faces of young soldiers whose eyes stare out resolutely from photocopied pages worn and creased by the ritual of unfolding them, smoothing them flat and refolding them.

They’re the faces of men who, haunted by problems at home or memories of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the dead children, the fallen comrades and the lingering smell of burnt flesh — pressed guns to their heads and pulled the triggers or tied ropes with military precision and hanged themselves.

The pictures remind Rhodes of how close he came to joining them and how, sometimes when the sadness presses in, dark and suffocating, he still mentally writes suicide notes.

"How many times have I written that letter in my head? I still think about suicide, but when I start thinking about it I have to think, 'What’s the impact on everyone I care about?’ "

It’s been roughly five years since Rhodes came home from his third tour in Iraq. And despite a highly decorated 29-year career in the Army, a new book, more than a hundred speaking engagements and praise from the likes of Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, for his efforts in suicide prevention, Rhodes still wrestles with his own demons. When he speaks to crowds and gently holds up the photos of fellow servicemen who’ve committed suicide, it’s as if he’s holding up a mirror.

"It’s not about me," he tells soldiers. "Every one of us can tell our own story. Start telling it. Change the culture of silence."
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The best help comes in person

Col. David Schall seems to understand there is a great need out there military families along with soldiers, and that's a good thing. He could have ignored it but he responded to a post on Spouse Calls. The problem is, he must not know that as he advises families to turn to Chaplains there are several problems with this.

The first one is that many military Chaplains, by their own admission, lack knowledge when it comes to PTSD. What good would it do to go talk to one if they have no understanding of what PTSD is, what it does to the soldier and what it's like living with them? It can cause more harm than good. On the flip side, if they do understand, then they are vital to healing. Keep in mind that PTSD is a wound to where the emotions are held, thus, where the soul lives. There can be great healing if Chaplains become as expert on PTSD as they are on scripture.

The other issue is that there are still some in the chain of command unable or unwilling to understand PTSD itself. Many do not know that PTSD is healable if not curable. Once one of their own heals, they can be better soldiers and ready to help others as well. These are unique men and women, especially in the all volunteer force and it's high time they were regarded as unique. They need to be understood before anyone can say they are taken care of.

This is a good step but they also need to remember the families are on the front line after combat because they will be first to notice the changes and know if their spouse needs help. They will be first to either support them while they seek help or get in the way if they don't understand it. To not include them in a place of healing so they can be helping is limiting what can be achieved with PTSD. To not provide them with a safe, secure place to find support so they can speak freely on every military installation is not using the first responders to their fullest potential.

The best help comes in person
By Terri Barnes, Special to Stars and Stripes
Scene, Sunday, January 31, 2010
Sheryl is a career Army wife affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. Struggling to obtain counseling for herself and her children, Sheryl wrote: "My next goal and challenge is to speak out and make the military listen to me. I don’t want this to happen to another family, and I will … speak out loud and try and make it better for those who are behind me."

Soon after her comments appeared in a recent Spouse Calls column, I received an e-mail from Col. David Schall, Command Surgeon for U.S. European Command.

He didn’t take issue with Sheryl’s complaint or send me a list of Web sites to prove the military is doing something for families affected by PTSD.

He asked what he could do to connect Sheryl with the help she needed.

Knowing that many more "Sheryls" are out there, I asked Schall about resources for families affected by PTSD.

He and Lt. Col. Marianne Schlitt of EUCOM’s Quality of Life component provided their insights about connecting people with needed care.

It seems to me that information about combat stress is everywhere. AFN commercials tell us to call our chaplains. A mouse click yields plenty of PTSD Web sites. Tricare brochures list "Behavioral Health Services" for members and families, including psychotherapy, psychological testing, family therapy and more.
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The best help comes in person

Lawmakers, Veterans for Common Sense Discuss Benefits Backlog

Lawmakers, Veterans Groups Discuss Benefits Backlog
Friday 29 January 2010

by: Mary Susan Littlepage, t r u t h o u t Report

Last week, Democratic and Republican members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs met with Chairman Bob Filner to talk with 40 veterans' service organizations to discuss priorities for Congress' second session.
The roundtable marked the second time during the 111th Congress that the committee has met with veterans' advocates to discuss issues facing the nation's veterans and plan how to best solve veterans' problems.
Filner said, "The purpose of today's meeting is to build upon the successes of the first session and collaborate on how we can better serve our veterans and wounded warriors going forward."
Chairman Filner detailed the committee's priorities, which include ensuring adequate VA budgets for the next two years. Following the passage of advance funding legislation, Congress will approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012.
Veterans for Common Sense presented its legislative and policy goals for 2010 for veterans and families.
"Our comments were received well, and several of the representatives spoke with me later; Chairman Filner said they would be reviewing all our concerns and he hoped to take action," said Paul Sullivan, VCS spokesperson. The group called for streamlining how the VA processes post-traumatic stress disorder disability claims.
read more here

VFW head: Health care for veterans improving

VFW head: Health care for veterans improving
By Karina Donica • • January 30, 2010
Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander-in-Chief Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. said Friday that the quality of health care for veterans is improving, but still more needs to be done.

Tradewell, a Vietnam War veteran who was elected in August, was in Alexandria on Friday for the Mid-Winter Louisiana VFW and Ladies Auxiliary conference being held this week at the Best Western.

Tradewell said he is pleased with the variety of programs that Veterans Affairs has in place to help veterans.

Currently, Tradewell said, the VA has hired additional staff and has established "benefits-due-at-discharge" sites in response to the influx of current servicemen and women being discharged from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tradewell also said he is pleased with the support of President Obama's administration.

During the State of the Union address, Obama said his administration has provided the largest investment for veterans in decades. Tradewell agreed.
read more here
Health care for veterans improving

Episcopal chaplains address healing from trauma

The people in the best position to help heal the warriors, are wounded warriors themselves. They get it. They suffered from it. They understand the needs because they had the same needs. Above all, they stand as an example that PTSD does not have to be the end of anything. It very well can be a new beginning.

Most veterans will say, "I just want to go back to the way I was." Families wish the same thing. The truth is this is impossible. No one is ever the same because every event in a human's life goes into "who" they are the next day. We all change. For veterans of combat, it is not just one traumatic event but many of them feeding off others. While they can never return to the same understanding, beliefs, reactions, hold the same hopes and dreams or have the same level of faith, they can grow from their experiences and be better than they were before.

Chaplain Packard is the kind of example the veterans need as well as anyone else trying to heal from traumatic events. A struggle with faith does not mean there is no faith at all. A struggle to recover from the traumas of war can mean a better person because of the steps taken to heal.

Episcopal chaplains address healing from trauma, honor Bishop George Packard
By Val Hymes, January 29, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal chaplains gathered in Washington, D.C. Jan. 19-23 for a Federal Ministries Conference to explore "Healing from Trauma, a Journey into the Holy," hearing from theologians, victims of tragedy, disaster experts, a chaplain on the ground in Afghanistan and two chaplain families dealing with the pain of war.

The also met to honor their boss, Bishop Suffragan of Federal Ministries George E. Packard, as he prepares to retire in May.

The chaplains shared their stories of how they have tried to heal the wounded in spirit from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and those fighting and injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They told of how their own lives were damaged, how they coped and worked to heal, where God was, and where they are now.

The conference included an afternoon and evening at Washington National Cathedral for the 70 chaplains and their spouses. There they examined their spiritual journeys in relation to God and the tragedies of the decade, visited the War Memorial Chapel and celebrated Eucharist at the high altar.

Packard has served as head of military, federal hospital and prison chaplains since 2000. No stranger to trauma, he served in Vietnam as an infantry officer, earning medals and coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder. He stayed in the reserves while attending seminary. After his ordination in 1974, he became an Army Reserves chaplain and served in Egypt and during the Gulf War at the Pentagon. As bishop, he has traveled to Iraq and Kuwait to counsel and pray with his chaplains on the ground.
read more here

Afghan Interpreter Kills 2 U.S. Troops

Afghan Interpreter Kills 2 U.S. Troops
NATO Official Says Assailant in Wardak Province Attack Killed U.S. Service Members Before Killing Self

(AP) A NATO official says an Afghan interpreter killed two U.S. service members before he was killed himself at a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan.

The new details emerged Saturday, a day after the deaths were announced in a brief statement.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, says the attack occurred in Wardak province.
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Afghan Interpreter Kills 2 U.S. Troops
linked from

also from BBC

An Afghan provincial official told Reuters the interpreter had argued with the soldiers over pay and treatment, before opening fire.

MIA Army Spc. Lawrence L. Aldrich's remains home from Vietnam

Soldier's remains recently returned from Vietnam
© 2010 The Associated Press
Jan. 29, 2010, 5:26PM

FORT WORTH, Texas — The remains of a Texas soldier killed in Vietnam have been returned to his family after more than four decades.

Army Spc. Lawrence L. Aldrich disappeared in 1968 when he and two fellow soldiers were battling enemy forces in South Vietnam.
go here for more

Remains buried under driveway are of lottery winner

Police: Remains buried under driveway are of lottery winner
By Mallory Simon, CNN
January 29, 2010 7:12 p.m. EST

NEW: Remains identified by fingerprints; autopsy results ready Monday
Remains are ex-truck driver Abraham Shakespeare
Remains buried 5 feet below recently added concrete in Plant City, Florida
Shakespeare disappeared two years after he won $31 million

(CNN) -- Police have identified human remains found buried under recently added concrete at a home in Plant City, Florida, as missing lottery millionaire Abraham Shakespeare, police said Friday.

Dr. Dollete White of the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office made the identification. CNN affiliate WTSP reported that the remains were identified from fingerprints.

The full results of an autopsy should be ready Monday, the medical examiner's office said, noting that it will work through the weekend to try to discover the cause of death.
read more here

Eight soldiers committed suicide in eight days of New Year

We were told year after year the Army "gets it" and has taken steps to stop the suicides. Year after year it has been proven the steps taken are not the right ones but they keep walking into a minefield. With all the efforts, all the programs they've come up with, all the efforts to reduce the stigma and all the money spent, the numbers went up instead of down. Will they ever understand that this is like buying more rubber bullets and hoping they will finally work once they have enough of them?

Perhaps the most frightening part of all of this is that while their attempts to prevent suicides have apparently failed, they must have been able to prevent at least some of them. If the suicide prevention hotlines along with the rest of the groups sprouting up around the country are any indication, some of what they have been doing has saved lives, but with the numbers going up, there is an untold story here. How many would have been saved if the Army had changed how they address suicides when their attempts had the reverse effect?

Would they have been able to save more lives if they understood why PTSD strikes some and not others? Would they have saved lives if they did more than just acknowledge the redeployments increased the risk of PTSD? Would they have saved lives if they stopped the practice of deploying soldiers with PTSD and a pocket full of pills back into combat? Would they have saved marriages?

They can hold as many conferences as they want, make as many speeches as they have vocal cords for, but while their intentions are good, if they have learned nothing thus far, then it is worse than doing nothing.

The suicides claiming more lives than the enemy, topped off with the suicides of veterans is only part of the story. When a soldier is discharged but is not yet in the VA system, no one is keeping track of them. How many more committed suicide after service but before the VA had seen them?

Chiarelli addresses early rash of 2010 suicides

By Gregg Zoroya - USA TODAY
Posted : Friday Jan 29, 2010 7:22:42 EST

WASHINGTON — Alarmed by the suicides of eight soldiers in the year’s first eight days, the Army’s No. 2 general told commanders to have face-to-face contact with GIs to remind them “each one is valued by our Army,” according to the Jan. 8 memorandum provided to USA TODAY.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, reinforced that message last week, telling leaders in a videoconference they must pay extra attention to soldiers who are moving from one installation to another and may need more help, says Col. Chris Philbrick, head of the Army’s suicide task force.

Although Army officials say the suicide rate has dropped since then, Chiarelli’s message illustrates the continuing challenge the service faces despite an anti-suicide campaign that started last year.

The military faces a suicide “crisis,” said Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a conference in Washington this month.

The 160 confirmed and suspected Army suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2009 was a record. Winter months were the worst, records show. Twenty-nine soldiers in all parts of the Army killed themselves in January 2009, nearly twice the 15 killed in combat that month. In February, 27 more committed suicide. The Marine Corps suffered a record 52 suicides last year.
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Chiarelli addresses early rash of 2010 suicides

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mystery soldier who helped with crash is identified

Mystery soldier who helped with crash is identified

By Megan Gildow
Updated 6:16 PM Friday, January 22, 2010
By Megan Gildow

Staff writer

SPRINGFIELD — With the icy roads and dangerous driving conditions the morning of Thursday, Jan. 7, Mike Combs’ family was worried about the soldier — who had just returned home from a 12-month tour in Iraq — driving to Columbus to see his girlfriend.

“He said ‘Okay, I’ll be careful,’” recalled Keith Price, Combs’ stepfather.

It turned out Pfc. Glen Michael Combs, a Dayton native, would be more than just careful that day — he would be heroic.
read more here
Mystery soldier who helped with crash is identified

Doctors study link between combat and brain disease

Doctors study link between combat and brain disease
By Seth Robbins, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, January 23, 2010

The California neuropathologist who discovered damage in the brains of former professional football players has found similar damage in the brain of a deceased Vietnam veteran — a potentially groundbreaking finding that suggests combat troops who suffer head trauma might be susceptible to a degenerative brain disease.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, an expert in forensic neuropathology and the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, Calif., said the 61-year-old Army veteran had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as psychotic behavior, much of which had been attributed to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But the autopsy showed something else: an abnormal buildup of harmful proteins in the vet’s brain, the same proteins linked to repetitive concussions in boxers, and now football players.

“This is a sentinel case,” Omalu said. “The brain findings in this deceased Army veteran are similar to the brain findings in the retired contact-sport athletes. Now, we need to look at more brains.”
read more here
Doctors study link between combat and brain disease

Local Faith Leaders Team Up to Fight Combat Stress Disorders

Local Faith Leaders Team Up to Fight Combat Stress Disorders

By: Patti Moon

COLORADO SPRINGS – Dozens of faith leaders say it's their responsibility to help soldiers and their families deal with combat stress disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

About 70% of soldiers who need medical attention don't seek help. Veterans say many times it's because they are scared it will damage their careers or soldiers are simply in denial.

That's why the Faith Community Education Collaborative sponsored a free training on Thursday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Colorado Springs. Faith leaders say more church communities need to get involved in helping soldiers and their families.
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Local Faith Leaders Team Up to Fight Combat Stress Disorders

Who Killed Staff Sergeant Amy Seyboth Tirador?

Soldier's mother expects suicide finding

Military says Seyboth-Tirador probe continues
January 22, 2010 4:50 PM
The mother of a U.S. soldier who grew up in Colonie says she expects military investigators to to conclude her daughter killed herself.

"It's going to come down a suicide," says Colleen Murphy, "and then there's going to be a fight."

Murphy says she does not believe her daughter's death was suicide and suggested to CBS 6 News reporter Craig Smith the prospect of exhuming her daughter's body to help prove it.

According to the military, 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Amy Seyboth Tirador died last year on November 4 from a non-combat related injury.

Murphy and Tirador's father, Gerard Seyboth have said their daughter was shot in the back of the head and they say it was not an accident. They have not suggested any theories on what may have happened. They say their daughter worked as an Arabic-speaking translator and interrogator in Iraq. Seyboth described his daughter as a "high-profile target" because of the nature of her work.

read more here

Report claims Roanoke Veterans Affairs office mismanaged disability claims

Report claims Roanoke Veterans Affairs office mismanaged disability claims

A federal Office of Inspector General report claims employees with Roanoke’s regional office of veteran’s affairs mismanaged several disability claims.

Between August 25th to September 2nd of last year, the report reads several inspectors were at the office inside Roanoke’s Poff federal building.

The inspectors looked at everything from the contents of some employees’ desks to what was in their trash cans.

The report found the office did not meet 6 of 14 important operational areas.

It also found employees mismanaged the claims of several vets.

Inspectors looked at a sample of claims filed between January and March of 2009.

Of the 901 disability claims filed during that time frame, the sample studied 118 of them.

Inspectors found 29 of those 118 claims contained errors.

read more here
Roanoke Veterans Affairs office mismanaged disability claims

When is counseling dangerous? When it's done wrong

Readers of this blog know my history with life threatening events in my own personal life. All the training I've taken, research, listening to veterans as well as living with my own, along the way I learned what separated them from me. I talked every time after until I was done talking. People listened and some added their advice beyond just telling me to get over it. They got me to see it in a different way when it got to a point there was nothing new for me to discover about how the event "hit" me. I believe so much in this that I became a chaplain, trained on crisis intervention and will keep taking more training. We can get ahead of this but only if we do it right.

So please think of the fact that anything can do more harm than good depending on how it is done and how long it takes to do it. The key is to be there to listen and not to make them talk. Give them a ear they feel safe with hearing them and let them know you care.

When Counseling is Dangerous
Psychological debriefing after disasters may do more harm than good.
Published on January 19, 2010
By Susan Pinker

Now that another huge humanitarian disaster is upon us, teachers, psychologists, counselors and social workers should be reminded that talking--and encouraging those who have suffered losses-- to talk and talk more--about their painful experiences is not the route to recovery. In fact, asking people to rehash terrifying events can be dangerous. Strong research evidence shows that psychological debriefing not only is ineffective, it can exacerbate trauma.

"People who received psychological debriefing exhibited more severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than controls; the intervention increased the risk of the stress disorder, and critical incident stress debriefing, in particular, was potentially harmful,"write Magdalena Szumilas, Yifeng Wei, and Stan Kutcher in an analysis of the research on psychological debriefing just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
read more here
When Counseling is Dangerous


Chaplain Kathie

When it comes down to living with PTSD, the SOS should actually be, Save Our Souls, since PTSD is a wound to the soul of veterans. There is only one way to have PTSD and that is after surviving a traumatic event, but there are many different kinds of traumatic events. As such, there are many different levels of PTSD, depth of cuts depending on the numbers of traumatic events to heal, but the hardest to heal from is combat.

While combat is not the most common cause of PTSD that is only because there are less combat veterans in this country. That in now way should indicate this is not the most serious one to focus on.

We all know that PTSD can strike anyone after a natural disaster. That one is a bit easier to recover from but depending on how fast the survivors are helped to return to "normal" living conditions, that is a predictor of how much they will be affected by the event itself. Once man is involved, there can be more "salt poured into the wound" adding to the aftermath. We know crime victims can end up with PTSD, as well as survivors of car accidents and fires. We also know that when they happen to a person more than once, it is harder and harder to recover from.

Then we have those who put themselves in between the harm and the helpless. Firefighters, EMT's, police officers, National Guards, all willing to put themselves in danger for the sake of someone else, exposing themselves to traumatic events over and over again. The same holds true for active military members. For them, it is not just one time out of their lives they face death or the fear of it, it is time after time.

Returning home from combat, they bring with them all the events as well as the time in between the events when they had the constant fear hanging over them.

With the practice of redeploying the forces continuing, there is no time for them to just breathe. They know they will have to go back instead of working on recovering, settling back into the "normal" world they left for a time. This is why redeployments increase the risk of PTSD.

It is also something that history has proven will be with us for decades. Vietnam veterans are still going to the VA for the first time even though they knew they needed help. They were just unaware of what they needed help for and what kind of help was available.

Vietnam Veteran talks about life with PTSD
By Rachel Welte
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- It is hard for civilians to imagine what a soldier goes through when at war, and it is even harder to imagine what they feel after returning home.

Experts say many combat veterans will suffer from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their lifetimes and added the key to dealing with and overcoming PTSD is talking with people who understand.

"When I returned I realized things were different, although I could not put my finger on it," Vietnam veteran Donald Griggs said.

Griggs spent one year in Vietnam, from 1966 to 1967. He said after returning home he sought help from the Army for his PTSD, but was told to just shake it off -- so Griggs said he turned to alcohol.

"That went on for around nine solid years, everyday, and then someone said to me, 'You are going to kill yourself,' so I decided to just stop drinking," Griggs said.

But his PTSD got worse. In fact, he said he spent 43 years alon dealing with his symptoms.

Then, two years ago, he decided to open up to his wife, and with her help, he went to a Veterans Administration (VA) clinic in Denver for PTSD.

That is when the Faith Community Education Collaborative began, an initiative among faith-based communities to help soldiers suffering from PTSD.

"We are trying to teach faith leaders, or members of the church, to be open, and once the veteran comes to them they can then direct the veteran to help in the community," Griggs said.

The faith leaders are not expected to be medical professionals, but rather tools to lead veterans and their families in the right direction.

read more here

Keep in mind that for most Vietnam veterans, it was one deployment and they didn't have to worry about going back for more exposures. Today, they don't have that sense of hope with the prospect of being deployed, even with PTSD already harming them, they know within a year or so, they will be training for another deployment.

We have female soldiers exposed to the same dangers because there are no "safe" zones where they can remain out of harms way. They know they better be able to use their weapons with deadly aim. They know an IED or RPG can take them out as easily as any male soldier they are with, no matter what MOS they were assigned. They also have the additional threat of physical attacks from within their own units.

When people are aware of what PTSD is, they acknowledge that it is a wound to their souls, all that they always knew is no longer carved in stone. All they believed in becomes a mountain of questions. All they felt is just one more open door to pain they do not want to carry and they freeze out all emotions except one, anger. Anger is safe. Anger is tough. Anger kept them alive. Anger keeps people from getting too close.

Just as important as it is to have a great psychiatrist to give the right medication in the right strength with the right combinations, therapy is vital with the right therapist. The key here is specially trained ones able to diagnose and treat PTSD properly. Without that extra education, without the awareness of the cause, it is easy to misdiagnose and impede healing.

The other, perhaps the most important area to treat, is the soul/spiritual factor. Without addressing this part of the human, all else takes longer, does not go far enough and misses the part of the mind needing the healing the most. Members of the clergy and especially military chaplains must be experts on PTSD in order to address it properly. There are many military chaplains with no training or understanding of PTSD at all. With all the advances in treating PTSD, it is beyond reason why this has not been taken seriously enough to have been training chaplains all along.

In the civilian world, chaplains are fully trained to respond to traumatic events for the responders as well as the survivors. Why hasn't the military done the same? How can there be only some and not all ready to respond? What good does it do to have them in combat areas ready to address what is in the Bible while they miss what else is in the Bible? It is filled with account after account dealing with what comes after combat for the ancient warriors. What good does it do to have them tell a soldier how much God or Christ loved them when they feel as if they have just been condemned by them because they do not understand what is happening inside of their own skin?

Clergy back home are just as important as the military chaplains. They do play an important role in the healing once the veterans are back in the civilian world. Families need just as much support and help to heal as the veteran because how they react either hurts or helps to heal the veteran. If members of the clergy are dismissing PTSD or ignoring it, they are not serving God because they are not healing the sick, allowing the veteran to sink into deeper depression, turn further way from God and taking the family down with them.

Not addressing the spiritual needs of the PTSD wounded is missing the origin of the wound itself. PTSD comes only after trauma, attacks the emotional part of the brain, the place where the soul lives. If the clergy, trained in dealing with the soul of man ignore this, they are ignoring the greatest mission of their ministries.

What good does it do to know God forgives if they will not hear about the things the soldiers feel they need forgiveness for? What good does it do to know that God created a warrior before He created man, the Archangel Michael, if they do not understand that Christ said the greatest act a man could do is to be willing to lay down his life for the sake of his friends? What good does it do to know the accounts of every person in the Bible if they do not speak of the failings each of the heroes of the Bible faced as well as their own failures or the fact that warfare has caused spiritual pain in every man in the Bible?

There is so much that can be accomplished if they become involved in helping these veterans heal far beyond the scientific if they get specific and address the spiritual as well as the psychological.

Suicides and attempted suicides increase as we fail to address their needs. Along with the numbers we read, there is also a family not being counted or helped. What does the avoidance of the clergy do to them? It pushes them away from God when they need God in their lives the most. Wouldn't it be serving God more if they helped heal instead? Wouldn't restoring faith in God add more to the flock for generations to come instead of pushing away generations because they would not help when they could?

We could very well decrease suicides, decrease divorce, homelessness, domestic violence and abuse simply by addressing the route PTSD takes to invade the lives of the veterans and their families.

Don't we owe them that much?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Veteran involved in police standoff

There are a lot of unanswered questions we may never have the answers to. Could this be one more case of a PTSD veteran and all the extreme events that followed him? What was he in the VA for? Why would they release him if he was not ready and if they didn't know what kind of state of mind he was in, why didn't they?

The good news is that the SWAT Team did the right thing and he is still alive. There is much greater awareness of what some veterans come home with so on this, thank God they were not out to just take him out and the police also showed great care as well.

Veteran involved in police standoff
By Michelle Mondo - Express-News
A man recently released from a veteran's hospital was in a two-hour standoff with San Antonio police Monday night, hurling objects at the officers and even hitting one in the head with a glass, officials said.

Police said that around 9 p.m., the man broke into his wife's home in the 9800 block of Camino Villa in the city's Northwest Side.

The woman has a protective order against him, officials said, and she fled the house, unharmed, and called police.
read more here
Veteran involved in police standoff

Son says VA is waiting for his mother to die

Veteran’s widow forced to fight for benefits
Son says VA is waiting for his mother to die
By Lou Michel
Updated: January 17, 2010, 7:09 am

Lawrence Henry enlisted twice to serve in World War I and then in World War II.

He died in 1963, but with the expectation that the Department of Veterans Affairs would honor benefits for his wife, Florence, if she ever needed them.

It turns out that his widow, now 91, does need help, but her family believes the VA is intentionally delaying crucial financial assistance to her in the hopes she will die first.

Though not in the best of health, Florence E. Henry is not thinking about dying any time soon. She says she is more worried about paying the rent for her costly assisted-living apartment in Williamsville.

“My savings are just about gone. I have been here for 3z years. Where I will go from here, I don’t know,” Henry said. “My husband was a very patriotic man, and although he was a little over 40, he enlisted in World War II and was very proud of it.”

Her 64-year-old son, Michael, has been leading the effort to get his mother a needs-based “aid and attendance” monthly benefit of about $1,000. And while not every widow qualifies, the benefit can be applied to the survivors of veterans if there is a demonstrated need for assistance in carrying out the daily tasks of living.
read more here

Cocoa shelter for homeless women vets important step

Our views: Comrades in arms (Jan. 26)
Cocoa shelter for homeless women vets important step
January 26, 2010

A few weeks ago in this space, we drew attention to the rising number of homeless veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to what we called a “perfect storm” of trouble.

Trouble with the ravaging effects of post-traumatic stress disorder from repeated combat tours, trouble finding a job in the recession and trouble putting food on the table for themselves and their families.

Among their ranks nationally and in our community are an alarming number of women veterans winding up on the streets with their children.

We said the situation demands more attention and we’re happy to report that’s happening along the Space Coast.

The Center for Drug Free Living broke ground Friday in Cocoa for the first local shelter dedicated to homeless women veterans and their kids. It’s an important, compassionate step that will help fight this unseen crisis.

The center will include seven, two-bedroom units with common living and dining areas along with housing, substance abuse and mental health services for 28 women.

The $1.6 million project was largely funded through the Department of Veterans Affairs, part of its ramped-up, $3.2 billion plan to help returning veterans, including the homeless.

Other money came locally, including $250,000 from an unnamed Brevard County donor who deserves a special thanks.
read more here
Cocoa shelter for homeless women vets important step

Vandals of Marine's Lehigh home arrested

Vandals of Marine's Lehigh home arrested
Anonymous tip to sheriff leads to 3 Lehigh teens
BY CRISTELA GUERRA • • January 27, 2010

1:10 A.M. — An anonymous tip to Sheriff Mike Scott himself led detectives to arrest three Lehigh Acres teenagers in connection with the burglary of a U.S. Marine's home.

Brian Dufrane, 16; Louis Estrada, 15; and Kevin Suarez, 14 were arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts each of burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief.

The Marine, Lance Cpl. Steven Von Soosten, 23, has been serving in Iraq since last April.

All three live in the same neighborhood as Von Soosten.

Von Soosten's mother, Nancy Gonzalez, discovered the house stripped of all appliances last week. Burglars also stole uniforms, military gear and medals, and generally trashed the house.
read more here
Vandals of Marine Lehigh home arrested

Military guests to attend State of the Union

Military guests to attend State of the Union

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jan 27, 2010 12:37:13 EST

The two police officers who took down the alleged shooter at Fort Hood are among the six people with ties to the military community who will be seated with first lady Michelle Obama at President Obama’s State of the Union address Wednesday, a White House official said.

White House officials have provided details about the 22 guests who will be seated with Obama and Jill Biden.

In addition to police officers Kim Munley and Mark Todd, other military-related guests will include:

Retired Army Spc. Scott Vycital
Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Rubin
Julia Frost
Janell Kellett
read their stories here
Military guests to attend State of the Union

Minn. researchers quickly diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder

Minn. researchers quickly diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder
By Renee Tessman

MINNEAPOLIS -- Researchers here in Minnesota have uncovered something that could impact thousands of military veterans. It's a way to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, with more than ninety percent accuracy, with something called magnetoencephalography.

Vietnam veteran, Gary Lore of Minnetonka, participated in the study.

Lore served in the U.S. Army infantry and then at the mortuary in Da-Nang from 1966 to 1968.

He has an old tin of memorabilia from his time there filled with patches, medals and photos. It's something he can easily store away and forget. Unfortunately, he can't do the same with his memories.

Lore lost many friends in the Vietnam War and also prepared the bodies of dead soldiers being sent home. He says, "It obviously imprinted; went into my brain and stayed there."

It wasn't until 20 years later, after seeing images from the Gulf War in 1991, that he was diagnosed with PTSD.
read more here

Nancy Kerrigan's father dies; brother charged in attack

Nancy Kerrigan's father dies; brother charged in attack

By Milton Valencia, Peter Schworm, and John R. Ellement, Globe Staff

WOBURN -- The brother of Olympics skating star Nancy Kerrigan was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail today, charged with assaulting their father, who was found unresponsive in his Stoneham home early Sunday morning and later died, authorities said.

"He [Mark Kerrigan] stated that he wanted to use the phone and his father would not let him,'' according to a Stoneham police report filed in court."He said that he struggled with his father and put his hands around his father's neck and his father fell to the floor. He said that his father was faking it.''

The death of 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan remains under investigation, and police said this morning that his son, 45-year-old Mark D. Kerrigan, has not been charged with murder. The cause of death for the elder Kerrigan is undetermined pending an autopsy by the state medical examiner's office.

Mark Kerrigan pleaded not guilty today to all charges and was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail. He was described by his attorney as an unemployed plumber and an Army veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who regularly receives counseling.
read more here

Marine found way in foster family, death near home

Marine found way in foster family, death near home
Serviceman was killed at party; crashers charged

By Justin Fenton

January 27, 2010

In Lennice Hudson's home, a refuge for foster children, Darius Ray found stability.

He became a track star at his Gaithersburg high school, graduated, flirted with college and ultimately joined the Marines. Between his foster brothers and sisters and Hudson's two biological children, he had a family, one he would join every week for dinner.

On Sunday, the family was planning to celebrate his 20th birthday.

"I love you and I want a red velvet cake," he texted Hudson in anticipation.

But Ray would not make it to his own celebration. He was fatally stabbed in Northeast Baltimore the day before at a party thrown by friends.

Three American service members or former service members have been slain in Baltimore since Dec. 20, more than the number of U.S. troops who have died in combat in Iraq during the same period.
read more here
Marine found way in foster family, death near home

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heads up on posting for a few days

A few people have wondered why I have not been posting as much lately so I thought I'd take the time now and fill everyone in. Friday I was attending a conference on working with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Saturday I had to work. Yes, work. Most of you know I have been without a steady paycheck for two years. The beginning of the month there was an ad for help moving a store from one location to another. I went to the job fair, along with 500 other people for this temporary job. I was lucky enough to have been one of temp workers hired.

Saturday and today, I fully understood what it was like to no longer be in my 20's, or 30's or 40's. This "old lady" was up and down on ladders, carrying stock and down on my knees cleaning shelves. While I held my own with 20 years olds, it was obvious they were moving a lot faster than me at the end of the day. I am working again tomorrow. On Wednesday I have a presentation to give on PTSD and then Thursday I have off. So between now and then, there will not be very many posts. I'm just too tired to read anything right.

My heart is tugged because I want to spend my days on veterans but I still have bills to pay. While being a Chaplain is the most spiritually rewarding thing I could imagine doing for the rest of my life, it does not pay very well. Donations are hard to come by and it seems everyone has their hands out because of the great need so please try to understand that.

Thousands of vets could get benefits upgrade for PTSD

Thousands of vets could get benefits upgrade

The Associated Press
Monday, January 25, 2010; 3:59 PM
WASHINGTON -- A military review could bring millions of dollars in benefits to thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The military has agreed to review the records of recent veterans discharged with PTSD to decide whether they were improperly denied benefits.

The agreement stems from a judge's order in a class action lawsuit originally filed by seven combat veterans. They alleged the military illegally denied benefits to those discharged, at least in part, because of the disorder during a six-year period that ended Oct. 14, 2008.
read more here
Thousands of vets could get benefits upgrade

Sunday, January 24, 2010

For better or worse, life changes all of us

For better or worse, life changes all of us
Chaplain Kathie

Every event in your life goes into who you are at this moment in time. You change as events happen. Some events are good. The first time you fall in love, graduating college, the first grown up job, marriage, having children, watching your children take their first steps and then witnessing the changes in them as events happen in their lives. Bad events come too. The end of your first love affair, graduating college and understanding from that point on, you are on your own two feet to make it or break it, losing your first real job when you have rent to pay, marriages that are not happy, children born with birth defects, watching your parents reach the end of their lives and you know, things will never be the same again. These events, pretty much we all go through and these events are part of us.

No one leaves this earth untouched or unchanged by living lives.

Sometimes the events are not very important on the surface. You walk into a grocery store, having a really bad day, feeling as if you are invisible, then a clerk at your local Publix smiles, talks to you and makes you feel special. When you leave the store, you feel differently about yourself and about other people. That change in your mood is carried on when you return home. Instead of thinking your life sucks and taking it out on your family, you have a nice night and enjoy their company. Had the clerk not been so nice to you when you needed it, things could have turned out a lot differently.

Sometimes events are very important. From the moment they happen, you know deep inside yourself, you will never be the same again. You went to work one day then a stranger decides it's the day he will try to kill others. You drive down the same road heading to work and it is the same day someone decides to get behind the wheel of their car drunk and you were unfortunate enough to have gotten in their way. We face these changes unwillingly. We find it easier to understand what happens in "normal" life and how it can all change in a moment, change how we feel about ourselves, other people, our families and our futures as well as how we feel about a relationship with God, yet we cannot bring ourselves to understand changes when someone puts themselves in harms way willingly every day as the job they do.

We don't see a police officer as a person with a life, family, friends, hopes and dreams, another human changed by what they encounter everyday. We don't see a firefighter changed by one too many fires where they have had to pull unrecognizable bodies out once too often. We don't see an EMT after they have had to collect the remains from a roadway after another accident when a drunk driver has killed a family. Above all, we don't see what comes when men and women return from combat.

All humans, just like us, facing the same troubles and triumphs we face but they see what we pray to God we never see with our own eyes. The death and destruction they witness weighs heavily on their soul. No one ever leaves traumatic events unchanged. Sometimes they push it in the backs of their memories and just move on. Other times they find themselves unable to just push it away and they see the person they were slip away.

For everyone trauma does not have to mean that there is no hope even though there is no hope of going back to the way you were before. It does however mean that with the right response to it, you can be better than you were before.

Even for the older veterans of combat, we have seen remarkable changes in them when they are finally treated for the life changing traumas they endured. They learn how to make it through the day without getting drunk, without having to have a gun at their side at all times, without having to push everyone away and without hating themselves for what they had to do. We have seen them learn to trust again enough so that they open up and show how human they are. We have also seen the greatness of their compassion change the lives of others. Nothing about PTSD is hopeless.

Once people get past wanting what is not possible they can enjoy what is achievable. It is not possible to be the way they were before any more than it is possible for anyone to turn back the clock to their perfect day where all was well with the world. What we can do is to take what has come into our lives, good and bad, and then make peace with it so that we can be happier. If you have PTSD, the nightmares may stay but they will not be as strong. The flashbacks will come but they will not happen as often and you will break out of it sooner. PTSD is not the end of you but the beginning of who you can become with the right help to get you there.

If you are seeking help make sure you are addressing all of you. You mind, body and soul, as well as your family. They can either help you heal or they can make it worse if they do not understand. Even the best psychologist can't break down the wall of pain if your family is handing you bricks because of what they do not understand. Make sure your psychologist is fully educated on what PTSD is so they will not misdiagnose or guess at how best to treat you, You wouldn't go to a dentist for a broken arm so you should not go to a doctor that does not specialize in PTSD.

Find support groups where you can feel as if you can be honest and open. Use your intuition and keep looking until you find the right one. The same goes for medication. If you are on medication that makes you feel worse or is not helping, then talk to your doctor so they can find the right one for you to be on. What works for friend may not work for you. Make sure you get therapy and not just medication. Talking is very important in healing.

All of this will all work better if you understand what PTSD is and make peace with the fact you have it because you are human exposed to events that were life changing. Know why you feel the way you do and why you react the way you do so that you can focus on doing something about it instead of spending your energy trying to hide it. The people in your life know you changed even though they can't understand why.

Life changes all of us but what we do in response to it will change the lives we live from this point on.

Respect and honor followed by ambivalence during soldier's funeral

Deputy injured during funeral procession for soldier
By GEORGE H. NEWMAN The Tampa Tribune
A Hillsborough County motorcycle deputy, working in the procession escort for Sgt. David A. Croft Jr., was hit by a pickup truck that cut into the procession line, causing serious injury to the deputy.

The accident occurred near the tail end of the procession at Reynolds Street West and John Martin Street, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The deputy – identified as Daryl Bowden, 55, a 10-year veteran – was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, the sheriff's office said.

The driver of the pickup – identified as Shannon Lima-Jones, 40, of Crystal Springs – received numerous citations: one charging her with failure to yield to a funeral procession, another with failure to yield the right of way and a third for having no insurance.

At about 3:25 p.m., Lima-Jones, who was at the wheel of a 2005 Chevrolet pickup truck, darted out of the parking lot of a Dairy Queen and cut into the funeral procession line, the sheriff's office said. Once in the line, she decided to turn left to get out of the procession line, driving into the path of the motor unit accompanying the funeral procession, deputies said.
Deputy injured during funeral procession for soldier

It is heartening so many people showed up to honor Sgt. Croft Jr and his family. Reports of his arrival at McDill, followed by the procession to the funeral home and then a couple of hundred people showing up for the funeral itself is very touching. The Patriot Guard Riders along with members of the Nam Knights stood in honor of this brave fallen soldier. What came after showed that while, thank God, there are more people caring about our men and women in the military, there are a few with absolutely no regard for them or anyone else.

Emotional homecoming for Plant City soldier
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY (Bay News 9) -- Sgt. David Croft, Jr. was supposed to be coming home from his deployment Thursday.

Instead, family and friends, now pay their respects.

A procession for the 22-year-old of Plant City traveled from MacDill Air Force Base to downtown Tampa and on to eastern Hillsborough County Wednesday.

Croft was killed earlier this month in Baghdad by a improvised explosive device.

His body was flown to MacDill Air Force Base early Wednesday morning.

Croft's older sister, Robin, an Air Force reservist, reminisced about her brother.

"I just want people to know that David was an awesome person, he had a great personality he enjoyed life, he lived his life to the fullest," she said.
go here for more and touching videoEmotional homecoming for Plant City soldier

What a difference this is from what happened after

Woman hits deputy's car in Plant City funeral procession
By Jessica Vander Velde, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Jan 23, 2010 07:01 PM

PLANT CITY — A woman exiting a Plant City Dairy Queen cut through a soldier's funeral procession and struck a deputy's car, sending the deputy to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Saturday afternoon, Hillsborough County deputies assisted with the funeral procession of Sgt. David A. Croft Jr., who was killed in Iraq on Jan. 5 after insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.

read more here
Woman hits deputys car in Plant City funeral procession

PTSD caused by duty spawns action across the nation

PTSD caused by duty spawns action across the nation
Chaplain Kathie
Massachusetts has reason to be ashamed when there is even one remaining branch of public service denying PTSD and what it brings to those who serve as well as their families. Haven't they read the newspaper articles about National Guardsman and women committing suicide? Haven't they read them about active duty servicemen and women trying to heal? If they do not recognize PTSD as being behind the suicides of those who serve, no matter in what capacity, then they are attacking all demographics with it.

This means they do not value the men and women serving as police officers, State Troopers or the National Guards or those in the military enough to learn much at all, yet they have one of the best Veteran's hospitals for PTSD in the nation right there in Bedford.

They have one of the best VA psychologists honored as an expert on PTSD, author of some of the best books on PTSD, Dr. Jonathan Shay, now retired from the Boston VA, but in all these years, he was right there to get them out of the dark ages.

When we know about something good being done, we assume it is happening everywhere but this is not the case when it comes to PTSD. One state may be far ahead of other states address the trauma first responders face everyday, but a neighboring state may still be totally oblivious to it. One state may have chaplains fully train on trauma and PTSD working with survivors but ignoring the responders, or visa versa. Civilians face trauma all the time but for most, it is only a one time event while responders face multiple traumas as part of their jobs. If we do not take care of the responders, then we are not honoring anyone's service. It's as simple as that.

My friend Lily Casura over at Healing Combat Trauma wanted to make sure I read the following. It makes me wonder what it will take for all of the people we count on everyday to be able to receive all the help they need to do it.

(Photograph by Webb Chappell)
A widow speaks "I have three children who need validation from someone other than their mother that this had nothing to do with them," says Janice McCarthy, whose trooper husband killed himself with his service weapon after years spent struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The police suicide problem
Being a cop is a dangerous job -- and not just for the obvious reasons. Suicide kills more officers every year than homicides or accidents at work. But what does society owe the families of those for whom this high-stress job is too much to take? One widow answers: respect.

By Julia Dahl
January 24, 2010

Early on the afternoon of July 28, 2006, Captain Paul McCarthy of the Massachusetts State Police put on his blue trooper uniform, holstered his gun, and got into the driver’s seat of his police cruiser. McCarthy was despondent, exhausted from 13 years of physical and emotional pain. It all began on an overtime shift back in 1993: a snowy March midnight when a man driving a stolen MBTA bus bulldozed his cruiser, crushing his legs and trapping him inside the vehicle. After that came the surgeries and months spent learning to walk again. He fought hard and, defying doctors’ predictions, after a year and a half made it back to active duty in the only job he’d ever wanted.
In June 2006, he poured his frustrations into a rambling eight-page letter of complaint to the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, writing: “The Massachusetts State police do not recognize Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an issue that affects the employees of the Mass State Police.”

It was all too much. On the last Friday of July, Janice and the kids were visiting family in Saratoga Springs, New York, when McCarthy stepped out of his apartment and got into his cruiser. At 6:30 p.m., he pulled up to a construction site in Canton at the junction of Route 128 and Interstate 95. A surveillance camera caught the last hour of his life: A passing thunderstorm roared through, then Paul got out of his cruiser and paced. At 7:30 p.m., he pulled out his gun and shot two rounds into a mound of dirt. Moments later, he turned the barrel around and fired a single shot into his chest. He was 41 years old.
When I went to Washington DC for Memorial Day last year, the Nam Knights also went to honor the officers as well. This picture is from the Memorial.
Janice took her case to the state retirement board, and in June 2007 her husband’s death was ruled “accidental.” The decision meant she would collect 72 percent of his pension (an “in the line of duty” death would have meant 100 percent and an additional one-time payment of nearly $100,000), but more important, it drew a line connecting his on-the-job injuries to his suicide, opening the door for what Janice McCarthy really wants -- her husband’s death to be ruled “line of duty” and his name added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In May of 2009, news of McCarthy’s quest reached Andy O’Hara, a former California highway patrolman and the founder of Badge of Life, a national advocacy group devoted to improving mental health training for law enforcement officers. The two began talking, and in December O’Hara and his colleagues established a working definition of line-of-duty suicide: “any police officer suicide in which work-related psychological trauma is a precipitant or significant contributor to the act of suicide.” To determine whether an officer suicide fits this definition, O’Hara suggests that outside mental health professionals conduct what’s called a “psychological autopsy,” collecting information through interviews with family and friends of the deceased and a review of his or her medical and job history.

O’Hara’s group is one of several like-minded organizations advocating for police mental health services. The National Police Suicide Foundation was begun in 1997 by a former Baltimore police officer and chaplain who lost a co-worker to suicide. In 1995, Teresa Tate of Cape Coral, Florida -- whose officer husband had taken his life in 1989 -- formed Survivors of Law Enforcement Suicide. Both groups are working to persuade departments across the country to add suicide prevention programs and awareness training for officers and to adopt more compassionate protocols for how to treat surviving families.

read more here
The police suicide problem

VA, DoD discuss suicide research, screening

After reading this I don't know if I want to scream or cry. How is it after all these years, they still don't get it? How can they not understand how the men and the women in the military think and react? Granted that there was very little research being done by the time Vietnam veterans came back, but that was in the 70's. Since then PTSD has been researched to death and there has not been enough results to prove new research has done any good at all. It may have made it worse aside from the findings that the changes in the brain of PTSD veterans can be seen with scans, the fact remains that suicides, attempted suicides and the complications of multiple traumatic events has claimed more and more lives every year.

Medication without therapy for PTSD does not work. So, stop sending them back into combat on medication and no therapy.

Make sure there are therapists deployed with them ready to listen as soon as they need to talk but you better make sure those therapist are trained when it comes to crisis intervention and fully educated on what PTSD is. So far, this has not happened enough. Civilians know what needs to be done following traumatic events when crisis teams rush in. So why has the military not learned this one yet?

Stop repeated deployments when the Army study showed the increase risk of doing this especially without enough dwell time in between them. When they are home, they need to make sure that the time back home is used to help them heal and not just rest so they regret.

Making sure families are aware of what PTSD and what part they play in either helping them heal or making it worse comes from what they understand. They need to be fully involved in all of this to make sure as the veteran heals, they are not making it worse, reversing the efforts or walking away from the veteran they couldn't wait to see again.

If the DOD and the VA want evidence on any of this all they have to do is to talk to families of Vietnam veterans still together and then they'll know what works. You can't stay married to someone with PTSD unless you know what works. The evidence is the life still being lived and the family still together despite all the odds against them. Normal marriages end with divorce rates as high as half, so to see marriages with PTSD in the family, you see all the evidence you need right in front of your eyes.

VA, DoD discuss suicide research, screening

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jan 24, 2010 8:38:39 EST

As Veterans Affairs and Defense Department officials gathered at a conference Jan. 12 to discuss what research tells them about suicide in the military, a young Army captain stood up to ask a question:

“What can we do at the unit level? That’s the only reason my commander sent me here.”

He left empty-handed.

“There are certainly things you could do, but there’s nothing evidence-based,” said Col. Carl Castro, a psychologist and director of operations for the Medicine Research Program in the Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command. “This is a very complex problem. Nobody has the answer.”

Castro called suicide the military’s “No. 2 or 3 priority, with [post-traumatic stress disorder] at No. 1.”read more here
VA, DoD discuss suicide research, screening

Lance Corporal Mathison Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap

Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap

Published: January 23, 2010

SHOSHARAK, Afghanistan — If luck is the battlefield’s final arbiter — the wild card that can trump fitness, training, teamwork, equipment, character and skill — then Lance Cpl. Ryan T. Mathison experienced its purest and most welcome form.

On a Marine foot patrol here through the predawn chill of Friday morning, he stepped on a pressure-plate rigged to roughly 25 pounds of explosives. The device, enough to destroy a pickup truck or tear apart several men, was buried beneath him in the dusty soil.

It did not explode.

Lance Corporal Mathison’s weight triggered the detonation of one of the booby trap’s two blasting caps. But upon giving an audible pop and tossing small stones into the air, the device failed to ignite its fuller charge — a powerful mix of Eastern Bloc mortar rounds and homemade explosives spiked with motorcycle parts, rusty spark plugs and jagged chunks of steel.

Lance Corporal Mathison and several Marines near him were spared. So began a brief journey through the Taliban’s shifting tactics and the vagaries of war, where an experience at the edge of death became instead an affirmation of friendship, and in which a veteran Marine reluctantly assumed for a morning one of the infantry’s most coveted roles: that of the charmed man.
Foot on Bomb, Marine Defies a Taliban Trap

Community comes together to help deployed Marine

Community helps repair Marine’s burglarized home
Posted: Jan 23, 2010 6:14 PM EST

LEE COUNTY: On Friday we reported a story about burglars who hit a Lehigh Acres Marine's home, and in less than 24 hours the community has reached out to help.

Steven Vonsooten, 23, is serving in Iraq while his mother is watching his new home.

During a check of the residence on Thursday his mother, Nancy Gonzalez, found five windows were broken and appliances were missing from the home.

We had many calls and e-mails come into our newsroom from people offering to help out.

Help also came when Captain John Bunch started receiving calls Saturday at 5:00 a.m. from nearly 50 people who were ready to help.

"With the economy right now, it's bringing out the worst in people, and virtually one day later, I'm seeing the best in people," said Gonzalez.
read more here

Marine from Potomac fatally stabbed at Baltimore party

Marine from Potomac fatally stabbed at Baltimore party
Saturday, January 23, 2010; 8:39 PM

A 20-year-old Marine from Potomac was stabbed to death early Saturday morning at a college party in Northeast Baltimore.

A second man was also stabbed at the gathering. His condition is unknown.

Darius Ray, who was stationed in the District, was taken to an area hospital for a stab wound to the upper torso. He was pronounced dead at 4:58 a.m.

The second unidentified male was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a stab wound, according to police spokesman Donny Moses. Police were called to the 6900 block of McClean Boulevard at around 4 a.m. for the report of a cutting.
read more here
Marine from Potomac fatally stabbed at Baltimore party

PTSD is a huge trust test that we have failed

PTSD is a huge trust test that we have failed
Chaplain Kathie

There are many things being done to address PTSD that were not being done when other veterans came home from combat. What it took to accomplish this is someone had to care about doing something about it instead of watching them suffer. PTSD is not new. It's what happens to one out of three humans after traumatic events. It has been around as long as man has walked this planet and will be around until the end of our existence here. We cannot control other people. We cannot control nature. We cannot stop all wars any more than we can stop all criminals from deciding they are of more value than anyone else. We cannot prevent all fires, car accidents, plane crashes, drowning deaths or anything else that has been proven to induce PTSD. What we can do is prevent what comes after. For what we cannot prevent, we can alleviate the hell after the trauma.

First look at the different types of trauma. Some are caused by nature and survivors have a little easier time making peace with it because there is no one to blame for it. They thank God they survived as they mourn the loss of those who did not. Some will walk away thinking God did it to them as some sort of punishment and they will have a harder time healing from it. It also gets harder to heal if what came after trauma was more suffering. As with Katrina, they survived the hurricane but then saw help delayed, bodies in the streets, families separated into different states and the list goes on. Much of what is happening in Haiti since the earthquake is worse for them than the earthquake itself. It will take much longer time to heal and a lot more effort to help them heal because of the aftermath.

A survivor of fires caused by nature will recover more easily than one caused by the acts of a person. The list goes on. What is harder to recover from is when someone else caused the traumatic event or made it worse.

This is why combat takes such a heavy toll on the men and women we send. Wars are all caused by man and they witness what man is capable of doing to man. The goal of war is to defeat and destroy what cannot be defeated. The terrorists actions we've seen have been done in order to cause as much suffering as possible because they know the survivors will suffer after constantly looking over their shoulder wondering when the next act of violence will strike. They have no control over what other people do. They operate under no rules. Civilians are their favorite target, men, women and children. The military has rules and while they train to take out "bad guys" they do not intend to take out civilians. With Iraq and Afghanistan, much like Vietnam, there were no clear targets to take out. Someone can appear to be just minding their own business only to turn around and blow themselves up. These unbelievable actions take hold. The soldiers know they cannot trust what they see and are forever changed by their experiences.

When they come home, if there is more suffering inflicted because there is only judgment against them, belittling when try to open up about what is going on inside of them or they are handed pills instead of help, it adds to their loss of trust. When their families, the people they are supposed to be able to trust, turn against them because they don't understand why they act the way they do, it adds to their loss of trust. When they turn to the government, the DOD or the VA, for help, are responded with delayed claims being processed or a series of denials and appeals, this adds to the loss of trust. When they do end up going to a mental health provider with no idea what PTSD is, this makes PTSD worse and they lose trust yet again.

PTSD is a huge trust test that we have failed.

There is also the spiritual aspect involved when some will survive traumatic events, especially in combat, then believe God has abandoned them, judged them and have left them on their own to suffer. With little ability to trust another human, the loss of ability to trust God removes hope. If a soldier turns to a military Chaplain with no understanding of what PTSD is, then it makes it all worse, yet if they have a full knowledge, there is great healing possible, restoring faith in God's compassion and also restoring faith in man knowing someone cares enough to help.

Friday I attended a conference, Clinical Issues for Clinicians Working With OEF and OIF Veterans and their Families. The people attending were from all walks, psychiatrists, psychologist, social workers, veterans and me. All of us trying to make lives better for our veterans. Some of the questions came from psychologists addressing the issue of patients saying they do not believe in God. When people survive combat, or any other traumatic event, most of the time it is not a matter of they never believed in God, but lost the ability to believe. Mental health providers need to ask if the patient believe in God before or never had reason to believe and then take it from there instead of just assuming they never did. The spiritual aspect is vital to healing PTSD especially if the patient had faith before because they are now dealing with the loss of the faith they always had before.

There are conferences all over the country trying to get ahead of what combat is doing to our veterans so that finally the suicide rate will go down instead of up because we know it will take buddies, the chain of command, chaplains and the mental health workers while they are still enlisted, but it will also take the VA, doctors, social workers, nurses, claims processors, communities, clergy and especially families to help these veterans heal. The knowledge gained by all will help restore trust in the combat veteran and thus, help them heal.

This is what the Montana National Guard is doing with their Yellow Ribbon Program. They are putting together an army of people to help these veterans heal. They understand it is not just a matter of welcoming them back home and then assume they are finally safe. We lose more after combat than during it. The Montana National Guard managed to think outside the box and it appears to be working.

Coming home is the moment that troops deployed abroad dream about, but it's also a traumatic moment because soldiers are changed by combat. The Montana National Guard's Yellow Ribbon program is designed in part to help soldiers reintegrate into their families, their jobs and their communities. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MONTANA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD)

Montana model for PTSD detection to face first major test
By ERIC NEWHOUSE • Tribune Projects Editor • January 24, 2010
One of the largest troop deployments in the state since World War II will test the Montana model for combat stress assessment and treatment over the next couple of years.

It is a particularly important test because Montana's model of preparing families for deployment, assessing soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder and mobilizing crisis response teams to help traumatized soldiers has become the nation's model.

"This would have been great stuff to have had on my first deployment," said Lt. Col. Ryck Cayer, commander of the 219th RED HORSE, who is facing his fourth tour of duty abroad. "I wish I'd had this kind of knowledge going in the first time."

The National Guard's determination to take better care of its soldiers who deploy was a result of the suicide of a former infantryman, Chris Dana from Helena, in March 2007.

Dana was one of approximately 700 soldiers from the 163rd Infantry who served in Iraq in 2004-05. Once he returned home, he began isolating himself. When he could no longer handle Guard drills, he received a less-than-honorable discharge and shot himself a few days later.

In a state with one of the nation's highest percentages of veterans per capita, Dana's death spurred calls for reform, which the Guard responded to immediately.

Among the Yellow Ribbon briefings are several on PTSD, alerting soldiers and their families of the danger signs such as hyper-vigilance, irritability, nightmares, flashbacks and excessive reliance on alcohol or drugs, as well as how to seek help if a service member displays those signs.

To make sure service members don't drop through the cracks, the Montana National Guard set up a system under which all service members returning from combat receive a mental health assessment — not just a self-report questionnaire — every six months for the first two years after their return.

"We've had problems with suicide and depression previously," Reiman said. "Combat is a new thing for many of these soldiers, and there's a lot of stress. It's a great benefit for returning airmen to provide an avenue to get them help.

"We can't judge them," he added. "We just have to give them help."

"Of the hundreds of guys that I talked with, every one of them had symptoms, things like hypersensitivity and irritability," he said. "And we had policemen and firemen and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) whose previous experiences may have contributed to their PTSD."
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Montana model for PTSD detection to face first major test

So far with the suicides of veterans as well as active duty, we have failed this test of trust. The good news is, at least many are trying to change what has been done wrong with knowledge and a true understanding of how to help.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stress symptoms rise with multiple tours

Deployments take heavy toll
Stress symptoms rise with multiple tours
Devon Haynie
The Journal Gazette

The day after President Obama announced the Afghanistan surge, Spc. Curt Kelley got a letter from the Department of Defense.

It was a letter he’d received twice before: First, in 2005, foreshadowing a tame tour of central Iraq. And again in 2007, foreshadowing a far more dangerous deployment – the bloody kind that he says still haunts his dreams.

As a former active Army soldier with two years left in the U.S. Army Individual Ready Reserve, Kelley feels honor-bound to go back to Iraq a third time. But his other side, his civilian side, is concerned about how his next deployment will affect his sleeping problems, his anxiety and his changing personality – symptoms he chalks up to self-diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

New caucus to address vets’ mental health

New caucus to address vets’ mental health

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jan 21, 2010 13:27:19 EST

After a year in which more service members across the military committed suicide than were killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, four lawmakers have formed a congressional caucus to push for improvements in military and veterans mental health services.

Reps. Michael McMahon, D-N.Y.; Harry Teague, D-N.M.; Phil Roe, R-Tenn.; and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., announced Thursday they are the founding members of Invisible Wounds Caucus in the House of Representatives.

The caucus has two basic goals:

• To promote more awareness of wounds like traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and mental disorders that may not be readily apparent.

• To push for expanded government treatment programs for those suffering from these so-called “invisible” wounds.

In a joint letter to colleagues inviting them to join the caucus, the founders say mental health for combat veterans is “becoming a pressing national issue worthy of our attention.”

“Not doing enough has had a high price paid by our returned service members and those close to them in the form of depression, lower quality of life, economic insecurity, substance abuse, and suicide,” the letter states.
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New caucus to address vets’ mental health

No More Jesus Rifles

No More Jesus Rifles
After ABC News Report, Trijicon Announces Plan to Remove Bible Codes from Gun Sights Provided to U.S. Military

Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes.

An ABC News report earlier this week revealed that the Michigan-based company, which has a contract to provide up to 800,000 scopes to the U.S. military, prints references to New Testament chapters and verses in code next to the model numbers of its scopes. The scopes are used by the U.S. Marine Corps and Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by U.S. allies in those countries, and for the training of Afghan and Iraqi troops.

Earlier today, Gen. David Petraeus, who commands CentCom, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, told a D.C. thinktank that the company's practice was "disturbing …and a serious concern for me" and field commanders. He said there had been considerable discussions within the Department of Defense about how to deal with Trijicon's practice.
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No More Jesus Rifles

The War Followed Him Home

The War Followed Him Home
Veterans discuss PTSD and the suicide of a brother in arms
By Marisa Demarco

Veteran Micah Shaw in Trebil, Iraq, on the Jordanian border Joseph Callan was shocked and saddened when he heard about the Jan. 13 death of Iraq veteran Kenneth Ellis III. And he was angry.

Callan is a combat veteran who did three tours of duty in Iraq, including the initial invasion of the country. He was an infantryman, but he left the Marine Corps in early 2008 and came back to Albuquerque. "I had every intention of being in the Marines for 20 years and retiring," he says, but he couldn't live with his conscience. "I couldn't believe what we were doing." When he returned to civilian life, he says he felt isolated and didn't have support from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the military. "I started to get angry." He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

So was Ellis, the man who died in front of the 7-Eleven at Constitution and Eubank last week. The 25-year-old was pulled over because his car had the wrong plates, according to news reports. He got out of the car and put a gun to his head while he was talking to his mother on his cell phone. Police shot him after he refused to put the weapon down.

Ellis had been part of an inpatient PTSD program at the VA Medical Center. Sonja Brown, spokesperson for the VA, would not confirm or deny Ellis was kicked out of the program, as has been reported. She wouldn’t comment on Ellis’ case due to patient privacy laws.
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The War Followed Him Home

At Vatican, U.S. military chaplains study PTSD

At Vatican, U.S. military chaplains study post-traumatic syndrome

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like chaplains in the U.S. military around the world, a group of Catholic chaplains meeting at the Vatican spent a full day studying how to provide pastoral and spiritual care to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, brought 40 U.S. Catholic chaplains, who are on active military duty, to the Vatican Jan. 19-21 to discuss what's going on in the archdiocese, learn more about responding to post-traumatic stress disorder and discuss preparations for using the new Mass translations.

With 285 active duty chaplains for the military and about 150 chaplains working in the hospitals, "we are terribly undermanned," he said.

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Canada looks at caring for veterans as a human rights issue

That is what it all boils down to isn't it? Replacing income because a combat veteran suffers for having served, having risked their life, having already paid the price few others will come close to understanding, leaving them without enough money to live off of, should be considered nothing less than a human rights issue. They are disabled and should be treated as disabled with the medical care and financial support they need just like anyone else but unlike anyone else, they would not be disabled unless they risked their lives for the sake of everyone else in the country. So how is it that they are forced to fight yet another battle to make sure they do not have to suffer even more for suffering in the first place?

Disabled vets wage new war

Thu. Jan 21 - 4:46 AM
It has become a sad truth that the path of an injured soldier to receive disability benefits in Canada is a minefield of obstacles. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear about some of them.

When Canadian Forces members are injured on duty, they receive pain and suffering payments from Veterans Affairs while keeping their full salary. If soldiers are so disabled as to be unemployable, they are kicked out of the military and paid 75 per cent of their salary through a long-term disability plan held by the Canadian Forces. Then, in some seemingly petty act of revenge, the Canadian Forces insurance plan deducts amounts for pain and suffering paid by Veterans Affairs.

No other long-term disability income plan in Canada is allowed to deduct Veterans Affairs payments for pain and suffering. This is why Nova Scotia resident Dennis Manuge has brought his case to the Supreme Court; his case represents more than 4,000 disabled soldiers similarly affected. I am one of the 4,000.

The National Defence ombudsman has called the deductions "profoundly unfair" and said that "the inequity might very well be serious enough to attract the protection of human rights legislation" including "the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which identifies physical and mental disabilities as prohibited grounds of discrimination."
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Trijicon said it has had such inscriptions on its products for three decades

N. Zealand to remove Bible verses from sights

By Ray Lilley - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jan 21, 2010 5:48:01 EST

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand said Thursday that Biblical citations inscribed on U.S.-manufactured weapon sights used by New Zealand’s troops in Afghanistan will be removed, saying they are inappropriate and could stoke religious tensions.

The inscriptions on products from defense contractor Trijicon of Wixom, Michigan, came to light this week in the U.S. where Army officials said Tuesday they would investigate whether the gun sights — also used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq — violate U.S. procurement laws.

Australia also said Thursday its military used the sights and was now assessing what to do.

Trijicon said it has had such inscriptions on its products for three decades and has never received complaints about them before. The inscriptions, which don’t include actual text from the Bible, refer numerically to passages from the book.

New Zealand defense force spokesman Maj. Kristian Dunne said that Trijicon would be instructed to remove the inscriptions from further orders of the gun sights for New Zealand and that the letters would be removed from gun sights already in use by troops.

“The inscriptions ... put us in a difficult situation. We were unaware of it and we’re unhappy that the manufacturer didn’t give us any indication that these were on there,” Dunne said. “We deem them to be inappropriate.”
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N. Zealand to remove Bible verses from sights