Nominating Military Families as Time’s “Person of the Year”

December 2010 homecoming for soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 124th Infantry Regiment with Florida National Guard's 53rd Brigade based in Pinellas Park. Photo by: Army SPC Christopher Vann.

There’s a grassroots campaign to encourage Time Magazine editors to name “Military Families” as the 2011 “Person of the Year.”

Those supporting the idea do so not to “put military families on a pedestal” but instead to “recognize the indisputable impact they’ve had, and the resilience they’ve shown and continue to show, after a decade of dealing with their own effects of war and deployments.”

There’s a March 4th Letter  writing campaign that provides a form letter and prize incentives. For a copy of the form letter, should you want one, click here.

Or use your own words and mail the letter to this address: TIME Magazine Letters / Time & Life Building / Rockefeller Center / New York, NY 10020.

My appreciation to  for highlighting this campaign and for providing the following links on how to participate.

Military Family – Time’s Next Person of the Year? – explains how the military family fit’s TIME’s Person of the Year criteria.

I Have a Confession – explains why the movement and the upcoming letter-writing campaign are important.

March 4th is Mail Your Letter to TIME Day – explains the letter writing campaign (coming soon – March 4th [or, March forth! – it seemed appropriate]).

And this is just a fascinating and evocative pictorial timeline of the military family from 1917 – present day.

Supporters say “snail mail” letters are important and hope to generate a big impact by rallying folks to write and mail a letter this Friday, March 4th.

You Know You Are a Military Spouse When …

Jackie Dorr with her daughters, Paisley and Anastin.

You know you’re a military spouse when: You’ve mowed more lawns than your husband because he’s never there to do it himself.

You use an “L” shaped flashlight with the red lens during power outages because it’s the only one you can ever find in the house.

You know that it’s normal to set fire to shoe polish or use a heat gun and that the best way to spit-shine boots is with cotton balls.

Your husband is a land nav expert, but takes a GPS for a trip to the mall.

You only write in pencil because EVERYTHING can and will change.

You need a translator to talk to your civilian friends, only because they have no idea what DFAS, AER, TDY, ACS, NPD, PCS, and ETS mean.*

You never put curtains up because by the time you do it is time to move.

You track time in duty stations and deployments, not years.

You know that “back home” doesn’t mean at the house you live in now, it refers to your last duty station.

You know that a two month separation IS short, no matter what your civilian friends say.

You know better than to go to the PX or commissary between 11:30 and 13:00, or on payday unless it’s a life or death emergency (seriously).

You know that any reference to “sand” or a “box” describes NTC at Ft. Irwin, Iraq, or Afghanistan, not your kid’s backyard toys.

You have a stock in flat rate shipping boxes, in varying sizes.

You don’t have to think about what time 21:30 is.

You’ve spent more time apart than you have together.

You’ve ever been referred to as “Household 6.”

You know his friends and people he works with only by their last names.

You stand for the National Anthem at a movie theater.

You carry shipping tape, sharpies, and customs forms (already filled out) in your vehicle.

It only costs you $30 to have a child.

You can spot a soldier in civilian clothes a mile away by their posture, haircut and that certain “air about them.”

You pick apart uniforms on TV and in the movies, even though you used to yell at your husband for doing the same thing.

You know your husbands SSN better than your phone number.

You have “we moved!” cards on hand.

You run for the phone,every time it rings.

You spell everything using the phonetic alphabet, Alpha, Bravo …

*DFAS – Defense Finance Accounting System; AER – Army Emergency Relief; TDY – Temporary Duty; ACS – Army Community Service (among others for ACS); NPE – Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (Fund); PCS – Permanent Change of Station; ETS – Estimated Time of Separation.

After reading several different blog entries on the theme – You Know You’re Military When … – I asked Jackie Dorr, President of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, to write about her experiences. I invite any readers, military or civilian, to contribute their personal insights or spins such as – You Know You’re a Civilian When … – I look forward to reading your humorous, thoughtful and creative responses.

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

Care packages being prepared for Citadel Cadets prior to Christmas.

Parents at The Citadel are like parents at any school or university. We care deeply for our children and their well being. Some of the Citadel cadets have obligations to the military which may require them to be deployed while they are still students.  When one mother learned about this, she leapt into action and started The Citadel Heroes project. That mom’s son is now a graduate and serves in the Air Force, but the work continues through parent volunteers and staff support.

Started about four years ago, The Citadel Heroes Project is an all volunteer program.  Volunteers donate money and items to be sent in care packages to the deployed cadets and recent graduates. The staff of the Health, Exercise & Sport Science Department coordinate sending the boxes several times a year.

The next mailing will go out after the annual Corps Day weekend, March 17 – 20. During the weekend events, visitors will be asked to sign cards and drop off donations for the care packages. Money is also needed to cover the postage to mail the boxes.

Family and volunteers continue to support Citadel Cadets with hundreds of care packages as they deploy.

If you would like to help this effort, you can send a check made out to The Citadel Heroes Project and mail it to: The Citadel Heroes, c/o Col. John Carter, Dept of HESS, 171 Moultrie St., Charleston, SC 29409.

If you would like to be added to the email list for future announcements, contact Gwen Christ, The Citadel Heroes Project Manager:

A Fallen Hero Comes Home

A photo from a prior Fallen Heroes escort along Bayshore Boulevard. Photo courtesy of Barbara Wright Brown Guzzon.

This morning shortly before 10, women wearing their bright red, MacDill AFB Enlisted Spouses Club shirts will assemble along Florida Keys Avenue, near the base theater.

Some will carry flags, some will bring their children not yet school age. They will be joined by active duty personnel, veterans and civilian staff who work on base. Hundreds will come together to pay tribute to a fallen airman who is coming home for a final time through MacDill Air Force Base.

It’s a sobering moment, a mixture of pride, tears and reflection on those currently deployed. Off the Base contributor Jackie Dorr, president of the MacDill ESC, describes what it’s like for her to attend such tributes in her recent blog: A Reality Check: Fallen Heroes.

An honor escort from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office will accompany Airman First Class Christoffer Johnson, 20, from MacDill to Bushnell National Cemetery.

Airman Johnson lived in Clarksville, Tenn. He was supporting Operation New Dawn and died Feb. 17 due to a non-combat related incident in Southwest Asia.  Johnson was assigned to the 423rd Security Forces Squadron, Royal Air Force Alconbury, England. His parents live in Florida.

Outside the MacDill gates, dozens of citizens will join the tribute, taking a moment to pay respect. The Lutz Patriots and the Troop Support Alliance plan to meet at The Colonnade Restaurant for the Honor Escort according to Shelly Vail. They’ll come with flags and banners to watch as the escort drives north on Bayshore to Platt St., Florida Ave., Scott St. to I-275 northbound.

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Bravo Company cadets retake the Cadet Oath on Marion Square the historic site of The Citadel.

Cadets at The Citadel don’t show much emotion. There are two times in the last four years that I’ve seen my son and his classmates show shear joy, Recognition Day and Ring Weekend.

Recognition Day is the biggest day in the life of a first year cadet, or Knob as they are called. This day is the official end of the Fourth Class System. They cease being Knobs and are full members of the Corps of Cadets. The freshmen are recognized by the upperclassmen, being called by their first names for the first time since they arrived at The Citadel.  They no longer have to address the upperclassmen as Mr. or Ms. (although this can take some getting used to.)

Cadet Nelson Lalli After being Recognized with his mother, Dorie Griggs and sister, Chelle.

On the designated morning, the first year cadets and the upperclassmen get up early and do a series of tough physical training exercises.  The morning ends with each company in the barracks. The Knobs do a series of push ups then crawl to the company Guidon and repeat the cadet prayer together. They then stand together and hear the announcement over the loud speakers that ends with “The Fourth Class System is no longer in effect.” 

I’m told the emotions run very high and many cadets have tears of joy, relief and pride streaming down their faces. After a BBQ lunch in the barracks, they get ready for their march to Marion Square, the site of the original building of The Citadel to repeat the Cadet Oath.

My son’s Knob year my daughter and I went to Charleston to watch the march into Marion Square. We arrived on campus just in time to peer through the sally port, the gateway entrance in to the barracks, to hear the announcement. Some parents and family members had been there all morning watching from a distance. As we got ready to leave for Marion Square, we caught a glimpse of Nelson and other Bravo Company cadets practicing with the Guidon. As one of the new company clerks he would carry the Guidon in front of the company during parades.

Senior Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his ring. Photo by Stanley Leary.

He actually had a minute to run out and take photos with us, which we were extremely surprised (and happy) about since we were told that the cadets would have little if any time with their family this day. A huge grin across his face.

Three years later I saw that joy in his face again as he and the other senior cadets received their rings. Unlike other colleges, cadets at The Citadel earn the right to wear the ring. They must meet the strict guidelines for grades, discipline, etc. before they can get their ring. To understand the significance of the ring you really need to spend time with the cadets. You can get a glimpse of the significance of the Band of Gold to the graduates by reading Pat Conroy’s commencement address from 2001. I can’t read this speech without tearing up.

Bravo Company seniors show off their new rings. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Just a few months ago, we prepared to travel to Charleston to watch as our cadet and his classmates received their rings on a Friday afternoon. Since my husband, Stanley, is a photographer, Nelson asked if he’d  take photos as the cadets ran back into the barracks with their rings to toast each other in front of the company letter. Stanley was given permission to be in the Battalion from the 1St Battalion TAC officer, the staff person who oversees the each company and the barracks. My daughter and I watched from the side gates.

Cadet Nelson Lalli escorts his mother, Dorie Griggs and his date, Leslie Manzano. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Up until a few years ago, the cadets received their rings in the Summerall Chapel. The shear number of people attending led the ceremony to be moved to the McAlister Field House.  Once the cadets get their rings and are dismissed, they run out of the field house, across the parade field to the Chapel, then back to their Battalion to toast each other. They then emerge from the Battalion grinning ear to ear with their right hand held to display their new class ring. It is the first time I’d really seen so many cadets exude shear joy.  That joy lasted throughout the weekend.

One last tradition around Parents/Ring Weekend is the Ring Ceremony that takes place Friday evening. The cadets escort their mother and a date or other family member through a giant replica of the Ring and through the Junior Sword Arch as the name of the cadet and the people being escort are announced. As a Mom, it was one of those moments where I was grinning ear to ear, very proud of my son and his accomplishments.

Dorie Griggs and her father, L.M. Griggs in 1980 at her Junior Ring Dance.

That evening I was brought back memories for me of an evening thirty years before at my Junior Ring Dance. I was escorted by my father down the grand staircase of the Jefferson Hotel as the Class of 1981 of Westhampton College of the University of Richmond was presented.  My mother died when I was pregnant with Nelson and my father died a few years later.  They would have been so proud of their grandson.  In a very real way, I felt that I represented our whole family that evening last fall.

It’s so fun to look through the photos from that weekend.  The shear joy of the cadets, their families and friends come shining through. One photo struck me as I reviewed the scores Stanley had taken.  After they toasted each other and threw the glasses at the company letter and then took a photo in front of the Bravo Company letter, the seniors of Bravo Company gathered in a tight circle with their right hands in front of them, bowed their heads and repeated the cadet prayer, like they had done three years before on Recognition Day.

Bravo Company seniors gather together to recite the Cadet Prayer. Photo by Stanley Leary

video: The Citadel, Golf Company Recognition Day 2009

Previous entries by Dorie Griggs:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

Bittersweet Goodbyes: “You Know How to Do This”

A father captures a few more moments with his twin toddlers before deploying.

A friend of mine, Rachel, asked me to take pictures of her husband leaving.  Her request was nice actually; she stated she knew it might be difficult for me emotionally as my husband is still gone.  I told her not to worry and that I would be happy to oblige.  I met them at the terminal on base early Sunday morning and started snapping away from the distance.  Catching pictures of them candidly.

Dale played with his twins, Jacob and Olivia, knowing that in 6 months they will have grown and changed so much.    It was interesting to watch the phases of a day as an “outsider” and not the one saying goodbye.  At first, they are okay. They both knew what was coming, but the two of them played with Jacob and Olivia to distract themselves and keep the babies happy.

As the time passed, I could see the pain settling in on both of their faces.  As I snapped pictures, tears flowed down my cheeks. I knew the pain they were feeling all too well.  This was a bittersweet moment; Dales group would be relieving my husband’s. So while goodbye is never easy, it means my husband is coming home soon.  Memories of saying goodbye to Brian welled up inside me.

A family holds on tight before having to let go.

Dale embraced Rachel as they both whispered to each other, kissed each other and kissed their beautiful children.  Dale wiped tears away from Rachel’s face and then away from his own.   In the same room, there was an airman telling her son that she wanted him to write her every day and have his Daddy mail it to her.  It seems unreal, parents having to say goodbye for extended periods of time.

“We need everyone in the terminal we are leaving in 5,” a voice said loudly.  Dale looked at Rachel gathered up his bags, he thanked us for coming and being with her, as he knew she needed it.  Then we walked to the other room.

They called names one by one (very different than Brian’s they left as a large group).  I took more pictures while they held each other, knots building in their stomachs, as it got closer to his spot in the alphabet.

I felt like I was almost intruding on such a personal moment, but knew they wanted these captured.  They cried, smiled, whispered and kissed softly soaking in every moment, knowing how long it will be till they can do this again.

They called his name, one final embrace and kiss and he walks away.

As I took pictures of him walking away from her, I knew how she felt. I remember it all to well, wanting to shout, “No don’t go! Don’t leave me here!” knowing that you can’t. I stepped up and held her, as she cried.It is funny my husband has left so many times and I still couldn’t tell you the right thing to say to someone as they watch their spouse leave.

I heard some whimpering from the stroller, and knelt down to see that it was Olivia. I thought to myself they are lucky and unlucky all at the same time. They are lucky that they have no idea what is going on, but that makes them unlucky as well.We walked out of the terminal to watch the buses take the troops to the plane, and waved goodbye as the four buses drove off.

I looked at Rachel and told her something a friend told me once “You know how to do this”.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base.  Her other entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

An Army Wife Thing: Giving Birth Over the Phone


Yoga Helps Many Living with PTSD

Contributor Cheyenne Forsythe (CF) shares his “Facebook conversation” with a high school buddy (NF) who knew nothing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their exchange started after Cheyenne posted a comment about this article: How Transcendental Meditation May Alleviate PTSD by Jerry Chautin.

Cheyenne Forsythe participated in the Ride 2 Recovery from Tampa to Jacksonville. He finds physical exercise helps him handle symptoms of PTSD.

NF: What’s PTSD? Forgive my ignorance…

CF: We’re doing a better job of getting the word out. It’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rape victims, combat veterans, and anyone else who’s ever experienced anything where they thought their lives were in danger, are all highly susceptible to suffering from this disorder. Signs of it include a hyper-aroused flight or fight response, flash backs, trouble sleeping, irritability, substance abuse, isolating, homicidal or suicidal ideations, and/or depression that lasts for more than a month and negatively impacts an individual’s daily life.

It leads to a lot of acting out if not treated aggressively. Soldiers from these wars are coming back with it by the thousands. We’ve seen the effects on military families for the last five or six years. We’re talking homicides, suicides, domestic violence, substance abuse, and a whole host of other self destructive behaviors.

What we’ve found with yoga; it gives the individual back a sense of humanity that combat strips away. The destructive behaviors of combat find a way to slip into normal life and individuals living with PTSD can find themselves divorced, alone, in jail, unemployed, or even homeless.

Most of the homeless veterans on the street started out with simple PTSD that should have been treated. I get a lot of thanks from Vietnam veterans who see what we’re doing to make sure this generation of soldiers do not go through what they experienced. That’s the goal. We’re going to make sure we take better care of those that look after us.

Yoga has been accepted as legitimate treatment by the VA. So, we’re telling anyone who will listen to get to a yoga class, or one of my favorites, acupuncture.

I’ve learned first hand exactly how the two mesh. Acupuncture forces the body to stay still and breath, otherwise those needles get uncomfortable. You learn how to be still; learn to trust someone putting needles in you; learn to take time out to just be. Trust is a major issue with veterans. We’ve seen human beings at their worst, so it’s understandable, but it can be managed.

Yoga is a follow-up to acupuncture, allowing you to become comfortable with your humanity, once you’ve calmed down. The hyper-aroused state is intense and can last a whole day causing havoc in an individual’s life. If you aren’t aware of your condition, this can lead to panic attacks, which have put me in a fetal position on the floor on more than one occasion.

Later on, with more yoga, you get to explore your own renewed, refreshed, almost reborn, mind, body, and spirit. For veterans, this can be a matter of life and death. Dwelling on the horrors of war can put someone in a very unhealthy state of mind. We’re close to a “cure” here if there were such a thing.

Spread the word.

NF: Wow, great info. Thanks, Cheyenne.

Contributor Cheyenne Forsythe is a University of South Florida student and a 6-year Army veteran who served with the 85th Medical Detachment. He was on one of the first Combat Stress Control Teams sent to Iraq’s frontlines in 2003 to help soldiers with combat stress symptoms while still “in country.” After surviving two IED attacks, Cheyenne now lives with PTSD as well.  Speaking out on veterans’ issues has become his self-ascribed mission because as he puts it: “It’s just the right thing to do.”  His other contributions include:

Learning to Take a Break

Serving on a Combat Stress Control Team

Dissipating My PTSD: Working on Large Crowds

Deadline for Stop Loss Retroactive Pay Looms

The deadline has been extended twice, but now there are only two weeks left for military and veterans to claim Stop Loss Retro Pay. The deadline is March 4, 2011.

An estimated 145,000 people are eligible for the special pay, yet only about 77,000 claims have been paid. Other claims are being processed.

You qualify for  Stop Loss Retro Pay if your military service was involuntarily extended or your retirement suspended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009.

If you qualify, you will receive retroactive payments of $500 for each month of your extended service under the “Stop Loss” policy. The program also applies to beneficiaries who lost loved ones in the ultimate sacrifice during their service.

Each service has details on eligibility and on how to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP):

Army web site or call 877-736-5554.

Navy documentation or call 901-874-4427.

Marines web site or call 877-242-2830.

Air Force web site or call 800-525-0102.

You can applying through the Internet or by mail. Once eligibility is established, the money is directly deposited in your bank account.

A Boot Camp Marine’s First Letter Home

Already signed up for the Marine Delayed Enlistment Program, Jared Agle and his parents, April and Roger Agle, celebrate his graduation from Zephyrhills High School, 2010.

By April Agle, a new Marine Mom

I remember thinking that there was so much that I wanted Jared to know before he left.  I wanted him to remember that even when he thinks he is alone, that God is always, always with him.  I had these fears of the drill instructors tearing down Jared’s self confidence.  I wanted him to remember that no matter what anyone says that he is a wonderful person.  I wanted him to know that he was likely to get home sick and that it was okay.  We would be praying for him and that the separation would only be for just over 12 weeks.

I remember Jared telling me he did not want me to go to the Recruiter’s Office to drop him off on Sunday.  At first, I was crushed and yes, my feelings were hurt.  It took me a bit to figure out why he did not want me to go with him.  It was more than he was afraid I would embarrass him – I figured it out – if I cried he would cry and he did not want to do that in front of anyone especially another Marine or another Recruit. 

Jared Agle the day he was dropped off at the Recruiter's Office, August 8, 2010.

So I told him I was going, all of us were taking him, and I promised not to embarrass him.  I made a point of speaking positive and smiling on our way to the Recruiter’s  Office on Sunday.  I was Miss Positive Attitude with no crying.  We go to the Recruiter’s and only the Recruiter was there.  We all hugged Jared.  I held him tight and told him I was so proud of him and that I knew he would be an excellent Marine.  And then we left him. 

Wow.  I felt a huge weight.  Roger,  Rylee and I were all very stoic and I think we were containing our emotions.  All it would take was for one of us to let loose and we would all lose it.  I guess we were being strong for each other.

The plan was that Jared was to stay in a hotel in Tampa and on Monday morning he would go to fill out his final paperwork and then board a bus heading to Paris Island, South Carolina.

Monday, August 9, 2010 at 11:00pm Roger’s phone rang.  Roger barely said hello and you could hear Jared almost shouting in a shaky voice.  “Recruit Agle has reached destination Paris Island.  Please do not attempt to contact me. Please do not send any bulky packages. …. That is all”.  And he hung up. 

You could tell he was reading a script of some kind.  Wow and that was it.  Roger and I looked at each other almost in shock.  I was a bit upset because we did not get to tell Jared anything, not I love you, not how was your trip, nothing.  No one really prepared me for that. 

High school senior Jared celebrates his last "spring break" with his younger sister, Rylee, on a family cruise 2010.

I spent a good deal of time over his life teaching Jared the importance of calling or texting me so I knew where he was at.  I found out the Marine’s don’t really care what your mama wants.  So I guess this was a reality check for me.  Jared was going to need a lot of prayer and I was going to do that.

 The house seemed different right away.  Jared had been gone before on trips with the fire department for maybe four days.  This time it was different.  The house was quieter and felt less full somehow.  Jared was not due back for quite a while.

And so we waited.  And we waited.  Every day we checked the mail box.  And we waited some more.  We wondered, we prayed, and we waited some more.  No letter.  Yes – I was a bit unrealistic.  I wanted a letter within days of his leaving with his address so I could send him mail.  The day Jared left I started writing him.  A paragraph each day so he would be aware that he was not out of our thoughts.  And so the training of a Marine’s mother began.

The people that I work with are just terrific and they have helped me each step of the way.  I constantly was talking about Jared and they listened.  Everyone has been very supportive.  I work with a lot of veterans and former military.  They would share stories with me and were always available to listen to me. Without this tolerance and support, I think I would have gone crazy.  It was very helpful to be able to talk about Jared.  I appreciate their on-going interest in Jared’s career, it means so much to me.

Finally, one week later, we received something in the mail with Jared’s writing on the envelope.  We were thrilled only to be somewhat disappointed.  It was a form letter.  But,  it had his address finally also, a whole list of what not to send.  The only hand written note was a line that said ‘Can send Cliff bars’.  Okay excellent something to do for the mom who is missing her son. 

The banner reads "See You in Two Weeks." October 2010, Jared's family gathered for a wedding, the first big family event without him. This photo was taken to let Jared know his family was thinking of him.

I had a mission and I was glad of it.  The only problem was that I had no idea what a Cliff bar was, but if my son wanted Cliff bars he was going to get them.  And so I found out that a Cliff bar is a protein bar.  We mailed them to him the next day and I felt relieved that I was able to do something. 

 I now had Jared’s address and another ‘mom to do’ thing which I so wanted.   I made up mailing labels for his grandparents and everyone.  The address is quite a big address so I thought labels would help everyone.  I have some advice for anyone that is sending their child to boot camp – make address labels.  I made up return address labels for Jared’s boot camp address and mailing labels of our home address so he send us mail.  Jared said these were wonderful because he never had much time and he was tired and rushed.  The labels saved him time.  Also, send stamps.  They don’t really have time to buy stamps and who wants to wait on them to get around to buying postage. 
Mail became our link to Jared.  Our family used to go 3-4 days before we would check the mail.  Now, we were checking the mail every day.We finally received a hand written real letter from Jared a couple of days after the form letter.  We all got teary and I think we read and discussed his letter for days.  He had a ‘p.s.’ at the bottom of the letter that said, “Went to church. I look forward to going Sunday.”  I was pleased about this and knew it would help Jared.  I also know that he probably was only going to church because it got him away from the drill instructors.  But hey he was going to church no matter the reason.

April Agle works in WUSF’s business office and among her many duties, she helps me and other staff with Human Resource issues. Her other contributions:

In Training to Become a Marine Mom

A Marine Mom Lets Go a Week Early

Here’s a link to WUSF’s  first story when Jared graduated boot camp.

A Journey from the Brink of Suicide

The RAND Report: The War Within is available online.

Imagine having a truck veer in your traffic lane – you don’t swerve away – instead you’re disappointed it didn’t hit you. A true experience of a courageous major who wrote a powerful commentary for the  Air Force news. A portion of the commentary and link to read the entire piece is below.

The topic is timely because the RAND National Defense Research Institute this week released a new report on military suicides: The War Within: Preventing Suicides in the Military.

The Rand report contains information on the epidemiology of suicide; reviews of scientific evidence and suicide prevention activities; a summary of funding and responsibilities; prevention programs assessments; and specific recommendations for suicide prevention.

The following partial commentary is from the Air Force Space Command news:

By Maj. Karry Gladden
Air Force Network Integration Center

2/16/2011 – SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — I recently celebrated two important anniversaries. On Jan. 30, 2010, I decided when and how I was going to end my life. The night before, I went to bed and slept for two hours – as I had for the previous nine or so months. Once I was sure my wife was asleep, I got out my laptop and researched how long it would take to bleed out from a femoral artery injury. This bit of information helped me narrow down the when and how… it also took away the last stumbling block. It had to look like an accident, primarily to ensure my sweetheart didn’t spend the rest of her life wondering why I committed suicide or blamed herself.

It is important to know that I got to the brink of suicide the same way most people do – a series of stressors in my life built up until they simply got the better of me. To make matters worse I had chronic back pain, which had been increasing since an injury a year ago, resulted in less and less exercise – an important way to relieve stress. And although I made sure members of my family received counseling for the major life events we were all facing, I just “manned up.” Through it all, I continued my duties as a flight commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany and later, as an executive officer at Scott AFB.

Here are signs I ignored:
– On the way home from work one day a truck veered into my lane. I made no effort to move and was disappointed when it didn’t hit me.
– I was sleeping less and less, lying awake with racing thoughts, only falling asleep when exhausted.
– I wasn’t eating (ironically though, I gained a lot of weight).
– I went through the motions of life; I went to work because I had a responsibility to my family (and the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

You can read Maj. Karry Gladden’s entire commentary here.

I met Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, at the Carter Center in January 2010. During his presentation on how to improve coverage of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Sullivan told journalists if we did nothing else when  reporting on veterans be sure to always include suicide prevention information:

Information is available online at Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Additionally, the VCS follows cases where veterans have had difficulty getting help from the VA. Here’s a story on the Veterans for Common Sense lawsuit in California on veteran suicide.

And the Defense Centers for Excellence has information for families on suicide prevention.

Tips:  What if someone I know Needs Help.

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