Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time for communities to stand up for National Guards

Time for communities to stand up for National Guards
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
January 27, 2013

"Connecticut suicides tied to military one a week" this about that for a second. Now think about all the members of the National Guards and Reservists and what they go through in our name. Aside from the obvious of being deployed to respond to natural disasters, they are deployed into combat as well. They are able, willing and ready to take care of the members of their communities as well as go wherever they are sent.

There is so much in this article to point out that it is hard to ignore any of this. It focuses on Connecticut "citizen soldiers" and how they are falling back home. There is an term used when a service member is killed in combat and the KIAs are "fallen soldiers" or "fallen Marine" but there doesn't seem to be such an honorable term for them when they take their own lives because of where they'd been, what they witnessed and endured in the nation's name.

For the Citizen soldiers of the Guards and Reserves, their identity is connected to serving others. That is why they join others, train to be able to respond to the needs of their communities. Most of them are employed in law enforcement, fire departments, emergency responders, medical fields and teaching. Some are employed in offices and other fields working side by side with people with little or no understanding of what they do as "weekend warriors" and even less of what they do as deployed into combat for a year while someone else has to take care of their jobs here at home.

How can they understand when few of them take an interest?

These men and women train with others from their own communities. As pointed out in this article, there is a bond that goes beyond meeting up with strangers on a military base and training. These are their neighbors. While the bonds in the military are strong, for them the bond has lasted longer.
"Schwartz noted the Guard and Reserve members are different than active Army because “they grow up together, they train together ... go to war together. It’s like going to war with your high school class. ... It’s just a very strong and intense bonding that people may never know.”

Most of the phone calls I receive from Moms come in from National Guardsmen and women, especially when they have been discharged. Their identity, much like the military members has been about service, so when they can no longer do it, they lose a part of their lives. With Citizen soldiers employed in law enforcement and fire departments, discovering they can no longer do those jobs or remain in the Guards, it is a loss too many can cope with. Everything tied to a lifetime of service has been taken from them. Who are they now? What are they supposed to do now? They spent their lives wanting nothing else, pulled into taking care of others to the point where they are willing to die for their sake.

To understand how deeply this can be connected to "who they are" just look at some of the news stories about amputees staying in the military. Civilians have a hard time understanding this.

But a Connecticut resident who serves in the Massachusetts National Guard saw it another way.

“The programs are there for the active-duty guys,” said Capt. Kyle Knowles. “The Guard guys, they’re put through the ringer of all these medical and psychological tests ... and then they go back into the civilian world, and you kind of lose track of them.”

Regular military members have a problem when they can no longer serve in the military due to combat wounds but hit harder when their wounds of combat come into them in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is hard for them when they never thought of doing anything else. Yet for members of the National Guards when they can no longer serve, it is harder because for them, disasters hit close to home and they must then cope with not being able to help as members of the Guards or for most, not being able to do their "day" jobs in law enforcement and as firefighters.

Here is just one example of a member of law enforcement and also a member of the National Guards
"Frederick L. Blohm Jr. , 42, is one such person. He has devoted his life to police work and the military and is now a corporal with the Indiana State Police and a second lieutenant with 113th Engineering Battalion of the Army National Guard, where he is an ordnance officer in Gary, IN.

He works about 60 hours a week as a trooper, while enthusiastically performing his Guard service one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. He actively responds to calls from both services when off duty while fulfilling the demands of family life, with a wife, two sons and five stepchildren. Along the way, Blohm makes time for physical fitness and has volunteered for deployment abroad.

Self-effacing, Blohm credits his colleagues, as well as the support of the state of Indiana, its governor, the leadership of the Guard and his wife for being able to do all this. But to understand why he does it, it helps to go back to his roots."

It is impossible to ignore how dedicated members of the Guards are, not just to their communities but to the whole nation.
In Connecticut, veteran suicides on rise
The Register Citizen
By Joe Amarante
January 26, 2013

It was Veterans Day 2011 and Connecticut Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz was on a float at a welcome-home parade in New York City, behind Connecticut singers performing the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic tunes.

“You’re going down 5th Avenue and it’s just like in the movies! People are waving, it’s all going well,” Schwartz recalls. “And then you come home and there’s a message on your phone, and someone is calling because their sister who had served in Bosnia ... committed suicide. And you say to yourself, here on this day, to feel so alone...”

Her voice trails off as she recalls the day she heard veteran Lisa Silberstein of Hamden had taken her own life at 37.

Silberstein’s death was one catalyst for the expansion of a state support program for veterans, but the wave of returning vets from two wars and multiple deployments has arguably stacked the deck and pushed military suicide totals to disturbing numbers nationwide.

Active-military suicides are running almost one a day in this country, according to new Pentagon figures. There were a record 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year, up from 301 the year before.

A records check by Scwhartz of those buried at one of two state veterans cemeteries shows suicides are running about one a week in this state for active and nonactive service people. Officials on the front lines of the suicide prevention fight are fighting back with a mix of outreach, local clinical help and programs that partner with the huge and plodding Department of Veterans Affairs.

“She was very devoted to her military service,” said Dubuque. “Her work was her life ... and her identity was so wrapped up in being a soldier. After she got out ... it was hard for her to make that transition to civilian life.” Especially in a new state.
read more here

They need more help when they come home to heal from where they've been and they need programs that not only work for them but for their families as well. They stood up when their communities needed them and it is time for communities to stand up for them when they are the ones needing help.

National Guards and Reservists don't stop risking their lives when they come home from combat. When they need help to heal, they need it more than ever.

PTSD I Grieve from Kathleen "Costos" DiCesare on Vimeo.

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