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
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
“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.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Iraq, Marines, PTSD, Reintegration, Research, Veterans | Tagged: Afghanistan, Iraq War, Martin Steele, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Veteran, Vietnam, World War II | 1 Comment »