Researchers Work to Prevent Neglect Felt by Past Veterans

U.S. Marines Cpl. Ryan L. Avery, left, a crew chief and Lance Cpl. Michael J. McGrath, a CH-53E Super Stallion mechanic, both with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462), provide aerial security over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2013. HMH-462 supported Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during an interdiction operation in Gurjat Village. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia

U.S. Marines Cpl. Ryan L. Avery, left, a crew chief and Lance Cpl. Michael J. McGrath, a CH-53E Super Stallion mechanic, both with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462), provide aerial security over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2013. HMH-462 supported Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during an interdiction operation in Gurjat Village. Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia

An estimated 2.3 million men and women have served during the nation’s 12 years of war. And as they transition out of the military, the veterans will need care for immediate and long-term conditions like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

And many from health care professionals to retired military are concerned that the neglect of past veterans is not repeated with this new generation.

Troops in WWII came home in 1945 and went right back to work and college. There was no re-integration, no recognition of post-traumatic stress. So many WWII vets had to find their own ways to cope with the trauma of war.

“I never saw my father go to bed – in my entire life – sober. I never saw him go to work drunk,” said retired Lt. Gen. Martin Steele. “I always saw this tortured man with the self-discipline and commitment and resolve to live life one day at a time.”

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 29, 2013) Engineman 1st Class Kevin Ives, assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), embraces his sons during a homecoming celebration at Naval Base San Diego. Princeton conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 29, 2013) Engineman 1st Class Kevin Ives, assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), embraces his sons during a homecoming celebration at Naval Base San Diego. Princeton conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington

Alcohol was how Steele’s step-father, a WWII veteran, dealt with his trauma of having his fighter plane shot down, spending a year in a Prisoner of War camp and being tortured by the Germans.

His step-father’s story of survival transfixed Steele who joined the Marines at age 18 and served two tours in Vietnam.

“Many of my generation in Vietnam struggle every day. They’re not coming out,” said Steele, who retired as a three-star Marine Corps general.

Yet only recently, did two of his closest buddies from Vietnam confided to him that they suffered from post-traumatic stress. Steel said they told him in the hope that current PTSD research could possibly help them.

Steele now serves as associate vice president for Veterans Research at USF – home to several veterans health initiatives for treatment of Military PTSD. One example is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). Dr. Kevin Kip, head of research for the College of Nursing, runs the ART program.

U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M203 grenade launcher at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller

U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M203 grenade launcher at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller

“We do have a new study starting up for post-traumatic stress disorder many of whom the veterans will be treated at the C.W. Bill Young Building on campus,” Kip said.

The goal of academia is to apply the research as quickly as possible according to Interim Vice President of USF Health Dr. Donna Petersen.

“We simply can’t wait for the usual trickle down of our scientific papers and years later becoming accepted practice,” Petersen told a gathering at USF’s national conference on veterans health.

But research is just the first step in caring for the new generation of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans.

“This population that we now have who have served in this 12 years of protracted war that we have to have a net for them,” Steele said. “Yes, they have to take care of themselves but we have to have a net for them to be able to welcome them with open arms and provide all the resources this nation can bring to bear to ensure that they have a quality of life.”

And Steele added that caring for today’s veterans will help mitigate the lack of services provided to veterans of WWII and his generation from the Vietnam War.

You can hear the radio version of this story at WUSF News.org.

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A Green Beret Busting Myths About PTSD

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

The U.S. military is downsizing. The war in Iraq is over, and combat troops are due out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. So more than 1 million service members are expected to enter the civilian workforce in the coming years.

That’s why two veterans are on a mission to help employers and the community in general separate fact from fiction when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

First, not every veteran has PTSD. It affects only an estimated 20 to 25 percent of combat veterans, according to Saint Leo University associate professor Dr. Jim Whitworth, a 21-year Air Force veteran with a Ph.D. in social work.

There’s a lot to understand about post-traumatic stress and the best teachers are those with the diagnosis. However, most veterans are not comfortable talking about their traumatic experiences.

That’s where the bravery of Brian Anderson shines through. He is willing to share what can be painful details so clinicians, the public and employers have a better understanding of returning veterans.

Anderson joined the military because of September 11th. His first hitch in the Army was as a photo-print journalist with the 82nd Airborne Division. Anderson then became a Green Beret.

“I killed my first man on Dec. 31st 2008. And, you know, at that point it was more of a high-five type experience.  I was psyched. I was really pumped about it,” Anderson said. “The second deployment, I went in, our very first fire-fight was eight hours long. And we killed 39 Taliban that day and we had a couple of our guys wounded. Continue reading

Words of War Project Looking for Veterans’ Writings

Photo by Jackie Dorr

Photo by Jackie Dorr

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are invited to submit their writings to Words of War – an annual fundraiser that benefits the Headstrong Project, Team Rubicon, Team RWB, and Student Veterans of America.

Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their family members can submit poetry and prose.

The admissions form does not give a deadline.

However, it states that one writer will be selected by a panel of authors and flown to New York City, all expenses paid, to read their piece at the Words of War fundraiser May 8, 2013.

The selected writer also will have a chance to participate in a Google Hangout discussion about the importance of sharing war stories to document the wartime experience.

Submissions can be sent via this Google Form or by going to http:bit.ly/10fPnJf. Selected submissions will be edited and published in an e-book.

The Words of War event will include veterans’ performances along with celebrities, such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Adam Driver (from HBO’s Girls and the major motion picture Lincoln), and Joanne Tucker of Theater of War. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 2013 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at 555 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011.

 

The Iraq War Cost: 190,000 Lives, $2.2 Trillion

 Reckoning the costs of the Iraq WarMore than 70 percent of deaths from direct war violence have been civilians. That does not include indirect deaths from disease or injury suffered in conditions degraded by war. Credit: Kevin Holden for U.S. Army

Reckoning the costs of the Iraq War More than 70 percent of deaths from direct war violence have been civilians. That does not include indirect deaths from disease or injury suffered in conditions degraded by war. Credit: Kevin Holden for U.S. Army

Reuters is reporting that the cost of the Iraq War is on track to exceed $6 trillion when the price tag for the benefits and care for war veterans is taken into account:

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

The Costs of Wars Project at Brown University published in advance of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Among the group’s main findings:

  • More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
  • The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
  • Th $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
  • The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
  • Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
  • Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
  • The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.

You can read a summary of the Costs of War report HERE. The full findings have been posted online at Costs of War.org to initiate public discussion on the Iraq War.

 

A Tribute: NYT Faces of the Dead – “I See Them Every Day”

Photo courtesy of Paving the Road Back blog.

Rod Deaton is a psychiatrist who cares for veterans in Indianapolis.  He also writes the blog, Paving the Road Back: Serving those who have served in combat.

I follow his blog to gain insight, to find solutions, to share stories.

This time it’s one of his veterans who taught Deaton and me a lesson. It all started with the New York Times tribute to those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq with the photographic reminder, Faces of the Dead.

I encourage you to read Deaton’s full blog entry, but I’ll start you off with a portion:

BY ROD DEATON

I knew that I would end up having to write about this experience.  But before I could even get enough breathing room to consider doing that, within hours of my having viewed that screen, I was sitting before my patient.

He is not doing well.

He is not suicidal.  He is not giving up.  But he is tired.  He wants to move forward in his life.  He wants at least some of it, the pain, the memories, please, God, to stop.

I debate whether to say anything to him.  He is distressed already, after all.  Yet I also wanted him to know that I had not forgotten, neither him nor the name of his best friend.

“Have you seen the pictures in The Times?” I asked.

He hadn’t.

“Would you like to?”

He looked at me, an odd mixture of blankly and knowingly.  That was such a dangerous move for a therapist.  I’d taken the risk that he’d say “yes” for my sake, not his.  I might have misstepped.

“Yes,” he finally said.

I believed he meant it.  I was tempted to check that out.  I kept my mouth shut, though.  What’s done was done.  He didn’t owe me any more assurance than that.

Continue reading

Veteran Graduate Thankful for Battle Buddy, GI Bill and USF

Army Specialist Cheyenne Forsythe served on a Combat Stress Control Team in Iraq, 2003.

By Cheyenne Forsythe

Graduate of the University of South Florida: Green to Gold

Long after we come back from our deployments and our service to our country is officially over, we continue to serve our nation in ways you may not always see or hear about. Behind this anonymity, we take pride in continuing to serve the country and its citizens, which have given us so much.

We may not always show it, but we appreciate the New GI Bill, the opportunities for employment, housing for the disabled, and the “atta-boys” from our fellow countrymen.

Over the last several years, I’ve taken the opportunity granted by my service to use up all of the GI Bill that I was promised and some assistance Vocational Rehabilitation had granted me to complete the undergraduate portion of my education. On August 4th, 2012, after what seems like a lifetime of hard work and study, I’ll finally walk across the stage at my bachelor’s degree, commencement ceremony. Not only that, I’ll finally get to see the look on my mother’s face that I’ve been looking forward to.

Cheyenne and Joy share a quiet moment on a Pinellas County beach.

My son will also be there to see the example every father should have the opportunity to provide for their child. There were many people along the way that helped me keep my eyes focused on the prize and provided the right example for me. From my wife, Joy to my social worker, Ann, there have been many along the way who have been by my side from the very beginning of this journey at USF. I’ve been extremely lucky to find a great group of friends and professionals who were there, throughout my progress towards completing this degree. The staff at the university is a very special group of people. Any soldier looking for a university should put the University of South Florida at the top of the list.

I got the idea to attend the University of South Florida from a battle buddy I’d met, in 2003, while serving in Iraq. I met Andrew Pogany on a Tikrit palace compound in early October of that year. Andrew is an alumnus of the university. Many of you are familiar with Andrew’s story. He was the first soldier to be charged with cowardice since the Vietnam War. I came to my battle buddy’s defense when I wrote a letter to the editor after seeing his face on the cover of the Army Times with the word “Coward,” written beneath it.

Andrew was no coward and I promised him that I would stick by him while he worked on clearing his good name. Eventually, all of the charges were dropped. You see, in the Army, cowardice is deadly. It was once punished by trial and a firing squad.

Cheyenne represented veterans with “invisible wounds” during the 2010 Florida Ride 2 Recovery from Tampa’s MacDill AFB to Jacksonville.

From our initial meeting, through all of the legal proceedings, I followed his story and became a vocal advocate for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, Andrew, who was once an Army interrogator, has now also become a full time advocate for soldiers suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Over the years, we communicated via phone, text, and Facebook and together, we participated in a Ride 2 Recovery event from MacDill Air Force Base to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

See, I’d taken to isolating myself and the program helps disabled vets get motivated and out into society, once again, with a big accomplishment under their belt. You can visit the R2R website or on Facebook.

Throughout all the tests and all the late nights or whenever I had to buckle down and handle what I thought was a difficult situation, all I had to think was, “If Andrew can go through what he went through and make it out on top, then so can I.”

Well, Andrew, the circle is now complete. Your example has served to inspire me to this end. I hope I can do the same for any veteran reading this, getting off active duty, and heading back into the classroom.

Despite whatever you think might be standing in your way, whether physical or mental, you can dream big and make it happen. There are incredible people, all around you, waiting to support you. All you have to do is take the first step.

U.S. Marine Turned UFC Middleweight Shares His Tale of War

Brian Stann (photo courtesy of MMAUKblog.com)

Here’s a compelling video from Fuel TV of a U.S. Marine turned UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Middleweight. I admittedly am not knowledgeable about the “ultimate fighters” sport, but I have met enough Marines to understand that Brian Stann was an ultimate fighter for his country long before he went into the Octagon.

Watch the video and you’ll understand.

Stann gives details on his harrowing mission for which he was awarded the Silver Star. He continues to help his fellow soldiers working through Hire Heroes USA.

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