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.

Son of a Soldier Pays Tribute: The Path of the Warrior

Christopher Buck courtesy Humanity Healing Intl

Christopher Buck courtesy Humanity Healing Intl

Christopher Buck, CEO Humanity Healing International

I grew up in a military family. My father and grandfathers served. Every couple of years we would move to a new base and start the process of finding new friends and sometimes finding old ones from earlier postings.

I was 8 years old when my father went to serve in Vietnam. I was too young to understand the politics at the time, but I remember being angry at people I saw on television saying that soldiers in Vietnam were bad people. MY Dad wasn’t. I remember being afraid when I saw the green military sedan driving past and we would stop playing and watch to see if it was going to someones house the green sedan stopping meant somebody’s father was dead or hurt. I remember not knowing what to say to a friend that had lost his father and feeling guilty because I was so happy it wasn’t my Dad.

I have long wanted to do something to honor, not only my father and all those that have served their country in the military, but also the families that stay behind and wait. This video, The Path of the Warrior, is a small token of my respect and gratitude. I hope you will forward this letter, or at least the video link, to all those you know who either serve in the armed forces or wait behind.

What will I do this Memorial Day? I have not been to a parade since my children were little. In truth, I will probably be working on one of Humanity Healing’s projects and it is a good excuse for a barbecue; but at some point during the day, I will send a prayer of protection to those currently serving and their families, I will say a Blessing to those who did not return and a pray of comfort to their families, and I know that the fears of my eight year-old self will well up from the part of my soul they are hidden and I will say a prayer of gratitude that my Dad was one of those who did return.

Veterans of Six Different Wars: Why They Served

A LIFE IN UNIFORM: Powell in 1963 on his first tour (of two) in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Parade Magazine.

Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Army general, Colin Powell, writes about his military service and the lasting bonds with his “military family” in this week’s Parade Magazine.

By Gen. Colin L. Powell

I became an army lieutenant when I was 21, and more than five decades later, the people I knew in my early days—from college ROTC and my first assignment—I still know. I think of them as family. In every assignment since, I’ve found a new family, but each time it’s also felt like an old family. And even though I’ve been retired from the military for 18 years, I’ve never left that family.

You can read the full article HERE and also read the stories of six veterans of six different wars. Or watch their video below:

VA Fast Track for Agent Orange Retroactive Benefits

Photo courtesy of the VA website.

A year ago, the Veterans Affairs Department expanded its list of diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange to include Ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease,  hairy cell leukemia and other chronic B-cell leukemias.

Since then, about 89,000 Vietnam veterans and their survivors have received benefits exceeding $2 billion. But, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is encourage other potentially eligible Vietnam veterans to apply soon.

Those potentially eligible for Agent Orange Claims:

  • exposure based on duty or visitation in Vietnam or its inland waterways between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
  • exposure along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971
  • exposure due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases within and outside the United States

Claims related to the new conditions can be filed for fast track at the Agent Orange Claims Processing System.

Information about presumptive diseases and disability compensation is available at the VA Agent Orange website. Or you can call the VA’s Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387 and press 3.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day

My personal thanks to the website War on Terror News for remembering this day and for reminding us to recognize all Vietnam War veterans. Below is a part of the website entry as well as videos marking the significance of the sacrifices made by veterans from Vietnam War.

From War on Terror News

March 30 marks the anniversary of the day in 1973 that Congress ended combat and combat support unit operations in South Vietnam.  It is also recognized as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day”

Below you will find a few videos I found for my tribute to our Vietnam Veterans.

Thank you for your service.  Welcome Home!  God Bless You All.

It’s unimaginable to those who have never seen combat what extent humans can endure to help another – especially a battle buddy. The following video is a bit long, but worth watching as it chronicles the sacrifice of a Medal of Honor recipient Green Beret Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez known as Roy P or call sign (Tango Mike Mike).

Adm. Mullen: Fewer Military Moves, More Community Help

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I’ve got 40,000 physically wounded, I’ve got hundreds of thousands with [post-traumatic stress] ,” Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the World Congress on Disabilities Friday in Dallas, Texas.

He said the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs need to find new ways for ongoing care of injured warriors because the current “model” has “generated a homeless level, post-Vietnam … that we’re still dealing with 50, 60 years later.”

Mullen applauded advances in treating Traumatic Brain Injury especially in the battlefield and creating better prosthetics for amputees. He said more needs to be done to prevent suicide which is increasing in the military.

He talked about building resilience in the spouses and children of military families. One suggestion he believes could be adopted is to reduce the number of times military families are made to move. Mullen also called on community leaders to help with the education, employment and health care of the returning veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

To read the full article by Karen Parrish of the American Forces Press Service, on Adm. Mullen’s address, click here.

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