PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder RAP and Video

This music video offers a snapshot of the journey a service member may go through when diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. It also is meant to give the general public an idea of what it’s like to experience PTSD, an “invisible wound.” The video is a joint production of A Backpack Journalist and the Nashville Film Institute.

A Backpack Journalist is a service that helps military kids find their voice and build resiliency through writing, music, broadcast journalism, filmmaking and poetry. Components of this music video, PTSD Won’t Stop ME, aRAP section, and a chorus and chant. A Backpack Intern  (USARC) performs the RAP. There’s video, courtesy of DVIDS – Department of Defense,  that depicts combat related scenes, as well as homecomings and other military related events.

The video production staff’s request: Provide kindness, understanding and support to the returning service members!

http://vimeo.com/39446291

A Soldier’s Homecoming with His Dog Chuck

A boxer named Chuck welcomes home his soldier after an 8 month deployment. This YouTube video has already gone viral with more than 2 million views. Watch it and you’ll understand. However the second video below, from the soldier’s previous deployment, has had fewer views.

Chuck, just like many military families, has gone through more than one deployment. Here he is from 2011 (the video was posted in February) when his friend and “daddy” returned from another deployment.

Do you have a video to share from a homecoming? Send me the YouTube link bobrien@wusf.org and I’ll share it.

Army Sergeant Sacrifices His Life to Save Afghan Child

Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr., a Rhode Island Army National Guard infantryman mobilized with Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, sits inside a Black Hawk helicopter prior to a mission earlier in his deployment in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army courtesy photo)

Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. died in Afghanistan while saving the life of an Afghan child. His sacrifice has been noted elsewhere in the media including ABC Good Morning America and the following account from Kris Gonzalex U.S. Army.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (3/29/12) — The actions of one Rhode Island National Guard Soldier epitomized the Army Value of selfless service, “doing one’s duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain,” as he heroically saved an Afghan child without regard for his own life.

Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. died March 22, from injuries sustained when he was struck by an armored fighting vehicle after moving an Afghan child to safety.

“Sadly, today we realized the death of a Rhode Island National Guard Soldier in a combat zone, and we are once again reminded of the enduring sacrifice our Soldiers and Airmen have made, and continue to make, in service to this great country,” said Army Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard, in a press release March 23.

Weichel, an infantryman, mobilized with Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 56th Troop Command, to Camp Atterbury, Ind. in November 2011, and then deployed forward to Afghanistan in early March.

On the morning of March 22, Weichel and members of his unit were leaving the Black Hills Firing Range in Laghman province, Afghanistan, when they encountered multiple Afghan children in the path of their convoy. Weichel was among several Soldiers who dismounted to disperse the children away from the vehicles.

As one child attempted to retrieve an item from underneath a U.S. Army mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, , known as an MRAP, Weichel moved her to safety and was struck by the MRAP in the process.

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Warriors Resilience Conference and “Brothers at War” Film

Building a formidable fighting force takes more than physical strength, it also takes psychological, spiritual and social resilience.

Learning how to build those strengths is the focus of the U.S. Defense Department’s fourth annual Warrior Resilience Conference titled “Restoring Readiness: Individual, Unit, Community and Family.”

The conference is being held March 29-30, Thursday and Friday, in Washington D.C. Yet, you can follow it live streaming online or follow comments on the conference through the Twitter hashtag: #WRC12.

Some comments from Twitter #WRC12:

  • I am impressed by both the questions and answers presented. Thank you.
  • Bureaucracy is the defined wedge between what’s needed and how long it will take.
  • @SEAC_JCS closes this morning’s senior enlisted panel with 3 key messages: Stay fit. Stay strong. Stay Resilient.
  • @DCoEPage Reaching out IS a sign of strength! Visit @realwarriors

The conference’s mission is to provide service members, units, families and communities with resilience-building techniques and tools that can be used “in garrison or in the field.”

Conference speakers include Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and Army Brig. Gen. Bryan Gamble, deputy director of TRICARE Management Activity.

As part of the Warriors Resilience Conference 2012, the documentary “Brothers at War” will be shown Thursday night and some of the film’s participants will be available for a “meet and greet” after the showing. Here’s the official trailer:

Air Force History: First Four-Star Female General Confirmed

Gen. Wolfenbarger (U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

The Senate confirmed Air Force Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger for promotion Monday, March 26, making her the first female four-star general in Air Force history according to the official U.S. Air Force website.

Wolfenbarger currently serves as the military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, but with her promotion she will take over command of Air Force Materiel Command headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on June 5.

A native of Beavercreek, Ohio, she graduated in the first class with female cadets at the Air Force Academy and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1980. Wolfenbarger also holds a graduate degree in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

The general has held several positions in the F-22 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; served as the F-22 lead program element monitor at the Pentagon, and was the B-2 System program director for the Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB.

PTSD Paradox: Fighting Stigma on Two Fronts

Image courtesy of the VA Research on PTSD.

The paradox of PTSD for military personnel: “The outside world assumes vets are broken. Yet while they are in the military, they feel they are under pressure to hide their problems,” according to a National Public Radio story on the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Raising Awareness

The public needs to become better educated on PTSD to prevent furthering its stigma. One place to start is with Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and a column in the Huffington Post where he debunks misinformation surrounding Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ case.

Dispelling Assumptions

“There’s no good data linking PTSD to acts of extreme violence like the kinds that have been in the news,” Lisa Jaycox, behavioral scientist at Rand Corporation, told NPR.

The case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier charged with killing 17 Afghan villagers, has led the Army to review how troops are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs say they have invested heavily in the treatment of PTSD to deal with a growing caseload.

But the stigma associated with the disorder continues to complicate efforts to treat it. It has also fueled serious misconceptions about its effects — such as the notion that PTSD causes acts of extreme violence.

You can read the full NPR story and listen to it HERE.

Homeless Veterans: Permanent Housing Vouchers Funded

Homeless Woman Iraqi War Veteran in Wheelchair...

Homeless Woman Iraqi War Veteran in Wheelchair and her Chihuahua, at San Diego Stand Down. Photograph by Patty Mooney of San Diego, California, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two federal agencies have joined forces to provide $72.6 million to fund permanent housing and staff to handle case management for homeless veterans in all 50 states.

The departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development are working with local housing agencies to provide some 10,000 homeless veterans rental vouchers and the local VA Medical Centers staff  will furnish comprehensive case management.

It’s the goal of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to prevent and eliminate homelessness among Veterans by 2015. The latest estimate, according to the VA, shows that the number of homeless Veterans dropped by almost 12 percent.

A state-by-state breakdown of the housing voucher grants is available HERE.

An overview of the HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) program is available HERE.

Military Dog Picture of the Week

“Dude, put your tongue away. You are embarrassing me.”
“Sorry dad, I’m just excited to go find things for you.”
Photo and caption by Kevin Hanrahan.

Kevin Hanrahan’s blog is quickly becoming a favorite  in part because of his Military Dog Pictures of the week. Here he shares photos from a recent visit to the Inter-Service Advanced Skills K-9 (IASK) Course, YUMA Proving Grounds Arizona.

Hanrahan is a 20-year Army veteran who served three combat tours. While in Afghanistan, he was instrumental in spearheading the surge of dogs into Afghanistan and lobbied the Army to adopt the explosive detecting dog program.

He is a writer working on a novel, Paws on the Ground, about U.S. Soldiers and the dogs that protect them in the treacherous and alien terrain of Afghanistan.

Hanrahan also is advocating for a national monument honoring the Military Working Dog Teams. The monument has been approved by congress. Now, supporters are raising public funds to get it built. You can visit the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument website for details.

Vietnam Veterans “Welcome Home Day” in Charlotte, NC

Photo courtesy of VAnatage - the VA blog.

The following comes from a VAntage blog entry by Alex Horton:

It has been more than three decades since my uncle came home from his tour in Vietnam, but he wore the battle on his face for many years. Even when I was little, I understood the man in my family who walked jungle trails as a Marine grunt was different from my other relatives. He didn’t talk about his experiences much, to the detriment of our family and our history.

My uncle’s story is hardly unique among Vietnam Veterans, and the less than welcoming reception from the public played a role in how comfortable many were in speaking about his experiences. As the Marine Corps blog noted, Vietnam Veterans never received a welcome fit for their honor and sacrifice.

Last year, the Senate recognized March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” to right the wrongs of our past.

This year, the USO of North Carolina is organizing an event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on March 31, Saturday, to thank Vietnam Veterans. The VA will have mobile sites set up to help Veterans sign up for health care and benefits. Veteran Service Organizations will be there and there will be live entertainment including the Charlie Daniels Band and George Clinton. Details on the event are available HERE.

You can read Alex Horton’s full blog posting HERE.

Military Families: In Their Words

Combat boots and a little girl's "Daddy Comes Home" shoes.

This marks the 600th entry to my blog Off the Base. The best way to note that milestone is to turn it over to some thoughts from military family members. The families – the grandparents, mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, children – and veterans are the reason I created the blog. I wanted a place that gave them a voice and that could help civilians better understand the stresses and successes military families and veterans experience.

He’s My Brother – from Get Out of the Cube

“My little brother is a little less than half way through his first deployment to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit. He and I have always been really close. He’s 8 years younger than me (he’s 31), and he was always my side-kick.

“For me personally right now, I would say the strongest feelings I have are 1) constant worry, 2) frustration that I can’t do anything to protect him, and 3) guilt.

“The guilt thing is strange. It’s like I don’t want to enjoy things, since it seems so unfair and selfish for me to be relaxing or laughing it up, when at the same moment he could be fighting for his life. Being optimistic is a challenge, especially given the sentiment there from recent events combined with what my brother’s role is. It’s no walk in the park. I can’t imagine how he feels. Putting on a positive public face is a daily challenge.”

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