Tag Archive: PTSD

I love a parade, but…

promoted by Rosi

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl, and I hope my friends who are Giants fans enjoyed their parade. I sure enjoyed the parade when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Governor Christie wanted the parade in New Jersey, since that is where the Giants play their home games, but I say lets let New Jersey reap the tax revenues and let New York City pay for the parade, which we cannot afford.

Now, some are calling for a parade to honor the returning veterans of the war in Iraq. I respectfully disagree. While I certainly appreciate the desire to honor the sacrifices of  those who gave so much, a day of jingoistic flag-waving is not the way to do it.

These veterans are coming home physically, mentally, and emotionally injured. They are coming back to a place where job prospects are weak. What they need is access to health care and job opportunities, not a parade.

As long as the war in Afghanistan continues, as long as drone attacks continue to kill innocent civilians and conduct targeted assassinations, including American citizens, as long as saber rattling replaces diplomacy with Iran, Syria and elsewhere, how about we hold off on the parades.

Let's end this state of perpetual war, and then we'll have something to celebrate.

NJ-12: “Bean Family”

Rush Holt has a new ad up in his race to keep the NJ-12 seat voters sent him to in 1998, he won a close race to keep in 2000, and has served since as one of the House’s most progressive members.

I have a military suicide in my family, many years ago during a war my older cousin was expected to fight when I was just a little kid. Tom’s death was called something else, not a suicide, and was attributed to other causes. The whole family (except my parents) went into decades-long denial. So, I’m happy to see the stresses on those we call to war talked about out loud, and systems put in place to get people the support and treatment they might need to to return to their home life after war. Holt’s legislation is named after Sergeant Coleman Bean. Holt wrote about Sergeant Bean for Blue Jersey. Many of us here have expressed that there’s little better we can do with our tax money than protect our soldiers the best we can during war, and take care of them best we can on their return.

Holt’s new ad, in his race against GOP hedge fund manager Scott Sipprelle, is called “Bean Family”. What do you think, Blue Jersey?


PSA featuring NJ Veteran honored with top advertising award

Congratulations to New Jersey Veteran Bryan Adams, who starred in what is now an award winning Public Service Announcement:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest non-partisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, received a Gold Ogilvy Award for the groundbreaking Public Service Announcement “Alone.”

Last March, the ad won an Addy award as well. You can view the PSA here:

The ad sought to draw attention to the troubles facing returning veterans as they try to rejoin the life they leave behind to defend our country.  In the first year, the campaign received almost $40 million in donated media. Congratulations to Bryan and IAVA for the honor and here’s a thanks to the work they are doing raising awareness.

Only you can stop PTSD

 You probably recognize the military medal to the left.  It’s the Purple Heart, awarded for sustaining an injury in battle.  It was the first medal ever authorized by General George Washington and it remains a mark of respect among veterans.  I believe it is held in the highest of regard among civilians, as well.

The unfortunate fact for far too many veterans is that the wound they take in battle doesn’t get noticed.  They get no Purple Heart because the wound can’t be seen.  When they come home, they are expected to act as if they’ve never been wounded.  The gaping, gasping hole in their soul goes unnoticed.  Many times, they deny the wound themselves.

For a long time, the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was officially denied.  Thankfully, those days are gone.  But the efforts at preventing, identifying, and treating PTSD remain painfully inadequate.  We have to change that.  Now.

The election season is just starting, and now is the time to press the claim on behalf of our veterans.  I’m asking people to contact their elected officials and the candidates for office and ask them to support the following measures (please use the comments to indicate any responses from officials/candidates):

1) Set aside sufficient funding specifically for an anti-PTSD campaign.  This will reach out to returning veterans, their families, and civilian employers to inform them of the symptoms of PTSD and create a national hotline to alert the VA when emergency intervention may be necessary.

2) Utilize existing VA centers to network with civilian resources in all fifty states to identify counseling resources for PTSD veterans and their families. Guarantee intake and/or emergency services be made immediately available to any veteran seeking treatment for PTSD.

3) Require all personnel deployed to active combat zones be screened for PTSD at regular intervals after returning – twice during the first year after return and annually for the next three years.

These are only three simple steps, but they are important steps.  We owe a debt of honor to our returning veterans.  It is a debt we simply cannot afford to be left unpaid.  

“All gave some.  Some gave all.”  It’s time to give back.  Some online resources are listed after the flip.

Do You Know A Servicemember Who Needs Help Getting Treatment?

Around the United States (including here in New Jersey) we see that the military is overwhelmed as it tries to assist servicemembers.

Here at Veterans For America, where I am proud to be Director of Policy, we are determined to do something to help the men and women who have served us. Part of our efforts include our easy-to-use registry that will help us get you the help you need (or help for someone you know).

Please click here to register with Veterans for America’s Wounded Warrior Registry.

If you or someone you know needs help, we will work to make sure that you get it — it’s as simple as that. We will answer every single request we get. Sometimes it can be just knowing how to fight through the bureaucracy and get the mental health appointment you need or it might be how to get your family counseling.

Please let us help you or someone you know get the help you need and deserve.

Veterans For America was founded over thirty years ago by Bobby Muller, who was paralyzed by a bullet in Vietnam while leading a Marine patrol.  Originally named the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, VFA now works all across the country, focusing on the high rates of mental health problems and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This Wounded Warrior Registry will help us determine how many military men and women need help and what is the best way to get them that help.

We also have recently published online “The American Veterans And Servicemembers Survival Guide.”Available free to all as a download, it is a great resource for veterans and servicemembers alike.

To learn more about what we do, and how we help servicemembers and veterans alike, please click here. Thank you for your help and support.

The Face of Success in Iraq

We’re being told that the President’s escalation is working.  I continue to hope so, even while I remain suspicious that any long-term progress is being made.  Even as the bar for measuring success is lowered until it looks like a limbo where we’re busy racing to the bottom, and the Iraqi government continues to invent false success stories, the car bombs continue and attrocities continue.  And the successes?  I’d have to say they are moderate at best – how else can you describe a drawdown that requires massive troop movements to deal with ongoing violence?

Then you hear something that really breaks your heart:

“I asked Sergeant Gaskins whether he thought about death,” the psychotherapist, Rosemary Masters, said in an interview on Thursday. “He said that death seemed like a good alternative to the way he was existing.”

That’s one of New Jersey’s finest who has sunken so low that death is nothing more than an escape from pain and misery – when life offers the embrace of a loving family.  How does he react?

He started biting his nails compulsively, a new habit, one of his aunts said. He slept little, and often woke up screaming and drenched in sweat. He became reclusive, locking himself in a darkened room at his grandmother’s apartment in Newark whenever her friends stopped by. His legs trembled as he watched images from Iraq on television. He yelled at his 2-year-old son for no apparent reason, his wife, Amber Gaskins, said. And once, she said, he placed a knife at her throat, as if he did not know who she was.

This is not the reactions of a healthy man.  Nor is it the quibbling of a cowardly man.  It is the sick reaction of a brave man who simply cannot handle the horrors he has been forced to endure. 

Fortunately, Sgt. Gaskins is on better mental terrain now.  But there is no guarantee that he will remain there because there is no guarantee that the Army will continue his counseling and treatment.  I believe the military does all it can to help, but PTSD is a cruel disorder.  When you see the ones you love as enemies and those who extend their hands to help you seem to have weapons, how do you get better?

The truth is that I can see more than a little bit of my self in Sgt. Gaskins.  He was young and idealistic and he signed up because he loved his country and saw service as a means of improving his life, just as I did when I was seventeen and sure that I knew how the world worked.  That he has been handed a much different world than he was promised should not be held against him.

Whatever we feel about the President or the war in Iraq, we owe it to young men and women like Sgt. Gaskins to help them put the pieces back together and be made whole.  My father was refused a military burial because his service records were sealed because of his activities in Viet Nam and Cambodia.  My grandfather had difficulties proving that the rice mold growing in his lungs came from exposure as a POW almost forty years in his past.  I’m proud of my own service and I’m proud of my family’s service – and I’m proud of young men like Sgt. Gaskins who still come forward to serve.  But we need to do better for them when they come back.  It is a soldier’s lot to endure whatever is cast at him in battle.  It is our lot to ensure that, when the battle is over, we are not found wanting in our support for their sacrifice.

Holy Toledo.  Can we quit bickering long enough to pay our debt of honor?  Who got to our so-called elected leadership that they can close an eye in comfort without speaking out on this subject?  There’s no comic relief here, folks.  Our freedom is paid for in blood.  It’s time we paid a little back.  Failure cannot be an option when New Jersey’s finest come marching home at last.

Facing PTSD – Support Our Troops

I can’t say whether or not my father suffered from PTSD.  I wasn’t around him much.  But I have listened very carefully to what people who knew him say about him and I’ve done a bit of digging through Navy orders, commendations, and various papers of all sorts. 

He came from a time and place where men didn’t talk about their feelings.  If it came out at all, it was when he was drunk and in emotional crisis – when something hurt so badly that he had to get it out before it crushed his spirit.  I firmly believe that Vietnam killed him – it just took seventeen years of drinking and smoking to do it.  From his days on the USS Forrestal, when the worst shipboard fire in history killed 132 men, to his special forces deployments into Laos and Cambodia, he certainly experienced enough to give a man a lifetime of memories he never wanted.

So I’m very proud of my boss, Congressman Steve Rothman, who has written a strong defense of the new defense appropriations bill – a bill that includes millions of dollars specifically dedicated to helping men like my father – and those who suffer much, much greater injuries – readjust to civilian life.

President Bush has promised to veto any spending bill that exceeds his requests – this includes requests that take care of the veterans his budget would ignore.  Mr. Rothman ends his post with this question:

All told, this spending bill provides for the largest single increase in funding in the 77 year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Every major veterans? service organization enthusiastically endorses it. One such group, the Disabled American Veterans, describes the bill as ?keeping faith with America?s veterans.? I call it ?supporting our troops.?

Now, I ask you – my fellow New Jerseyans – how would you describe this bill?

Rep. Rothman and Returning from Iraq

On Monday, I participated in a conference call that Rep. Steve Rothman had with bloggers upon his return from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Kuwait. It was a good conference call. We need more Congressmen doing more conference calls with bloggers. Yet we also need to think more about how we support our servicemen and women when they return.