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Warrior and Family Support


How to Prevent Drone Pilot PTSD: Blame the ‘Bot ( — The human operators who control America’s killer drones are susceptible to the same psychological stress that infantrymen sometimes experience after combat. But better drones and control systems could help reduce the controllers’ stress levels — by allowing the people to blame the robots for the awful human cost of remote air strikes.  But there’s a downside. Sometimes you don’t want drone operators avoiding feelings of guilt.  At least that’s what Stanford University researcher Ryan Calo has concluded.

One-in-29 in Americans suffer from PTSD ( — Post-traumatic stress disorder affects 1-in-29 Americans, including combat veterans, first responders, abuse victims and disaster survivors, U.S. officials say.  “PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through an event that caused or threatened serious harm or death,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “PTSD may result in sleep problems, irritability, anger, recurrent dreams about the trauma, intense reactions to reminders of the trauma, disturbances in relationships, and isolation. Some people may recover a few months after the event, but for others it may take years. For some, PTSD may begin long after the events occur.”

Caring for the Caregiver ( — I am increasingly worried about the toll on my Army medical colleagues still left on active duty. The American public and the media legitimately focus on the enlisted Soldier and those who have borne the brunt of the direct fighting.  But we must also concern themselves with the welfare of the nurses, doctors, medics and other staff who care for service members both in theater and back in garrison. And currently disheartening to the doctors, wading through the ever-increasing avalanche of paperwork.  Let me talk a little about the medical staff—of all the Services– on active duty and in the reserves.  Uniformly I have found them to be very bright, motivated, and patriotic enough to have both joined the military and stayed in, 10 years after 9/11, and through two long wars.  They have deployed, like every other service member. Usually several times.  Medical personnel are not kicking in doors, it is true. But they have been shelled, and shot, and sometimes killed.


Number of homeless veterans rising in Onslow County ( — The number of veterans checking into Onslow County homeless shelters is steadily rising.  The Department of Veterans Affairs released a recent draft report that said homelessness among veterans decreased by 12 percent over the past year. Onslow County hasn’t seen those changes.  In fact, the Onslow Homeless Shelter has seen the exact opposite.  “We’ve seen a noticeable increase in veterans,” said Theo McClammy, Executive Director of the Onslow Community Outreach Program.  The Onslow Homeless Shelter served 12 veterans in 2006. That number tripled and then almost doubled again when the shelter served 36 veterans in 2010 and 52 veterans in 2011, according to a press release.  That’s a 333-percent increase in the number of veterans served over the past five years.  Onslow Shelter Director Karin Hudson said they’ve already seen 12 veterans this year, and they’re expecting more.  “I feel that this should be a non-issue,” said Hudson. “But unfortunately it’s a huge issue.”

Tuscaloosa VA to open mental health unit to serve growing number of female veterans ( — The Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center is set to open a new women’s wing for its residential rehabilitation treatment program next week.  David Gay, homeless coordinator for the Tuscaloosa VA, said the $300,000, eight-bed unit was created based on a need to expand mental health care services for female veterans, whose numbers are increasing.  “It was decided by this administration to look into that need and to put together a place where female veterans could come back and rely on a residential program,” Gay said.  Many of those women the unit will serve are homeless, Gay said. A December 2011 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the number of female veterans who identified as homeless more than doubled from 2006 to 2010.  Veterans in the VA’s residential rehabilitation treatment program are required to have a minimum of four hours of treatment a day, Gay said. The center offers services including job skills training and individual therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and other diagnoses.  The new wing includes a living room/lounge area, laundry room and a spa that includes a whirlpool and a salon area.

Reaching Out to Fight Veteran Homelessness ( — The White House would like to congratulate the finalists dedicated to providing resources to our homeless veterans. On March 19, 2012, the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) launched Project REACH (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless), which involved public and nonprofit collaboration between the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and the Jon Bon Jovi (JBJ) Soul Foundation.  VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould, Mr. Bon Jovi, and HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones announced the finalists today at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Data Initiative Forum in Washington D.C., and each finalist received a $10,000 prize.  Project REACH challenges the nation’s developers to create a convenient mobile application so that local resources are available to those who need them most – our homeless veterans.

Swords to Plowshare Joins City-wide Initiative, SF Homes for Heroes ( — Swords to Plowshares along with the City of San Francisco, the Veteran’s Administration and the Department of Housing and Development (HUD) are partnering to house 50 homeless veterans in 100 days in the midst of an over-heated housing market.  A press conference is scheduled for June 7, 2012 at City Hall to mark the public announcement for this aggressively progressive housing initiative Homes for Heroes. This initiative aims to house 50 veterans over 100 days by working closely with small property owners, who will accept HUD VASH vouchers, which pay a portion of rent each month directly to landlords. But, unlike Section 8, VA case managers stand ready to help the veterans and landlord with any issues that may arise that could impact the veterans’ ability to maintain their housing.


4 Programs That Want to Pay for Your College (The Huffington Post) — Getting financial help with college was one of the major reasons why Benjamin Armstrong joined the Marine Corps. But when the veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally started using the G.I. Bill to attend Texas State University in 2004, he accidentally missed out on the Marine Corps College Fund, which would have paid $12,000 toward his education.  “I was not prepared at all” to make the best use of the military’s financial aid, Armstrong says.  After a few early stumbles, Armstrong earned his bachelor’s degree in 2008 and his master’s in 2011. And since G.I. Bill covered the vast majority of the costs, Armstrong finished school with minimal student loan debt.  “I basically got two degrees for $2,000” in student loans, he says. “I just feel blessed and excited.”  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the cost of college. The average university student graduates with over $25,000 in student loans, according to the Project on Student Loan Debt.


Why is it Difficult to Connect U.S. Veterans With Energy Jobs? ( — The electric utility industry needs to replace nearly half of its skilled workforce as a generation reaches retirement age in the next few years.  Soldiers, sailors and Marines separating from the armed forces bring education, discipline and a proven work ethic, but confront a higher-than-average unemployment rate.  Sounds like a ready-made match, so what’s stopping it?  That is the question that veterans, their advocates, and businesses are grappling with, experts told a Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) session May 22 in Washington DC.  The session highlighted release of a report by the National Commission on Energy Policy’s Task Force on American’s Future Energy Jobs, which calls for a series of federal initiatives to recognize the growing energy field opportunities, and for more funding for energy-related education to ensure critical jobs are filled.  The disconnects the experts identified include job search help that doesn’t start till a veteran leaves the service, rules that keep private employers from recruiting on military bases, a confusing plethora of state and federal programs that try to help but aren’t coordinated, and the sheer numbers of veterans leaving the service as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.


Program helps civilians understand veterans’ views ( — It’s a simple story, and to those with a connection to the Army or Marine Corps, it might even be a cliche. But when Eric Endries tells it to outsiders, particularly those in law enforcement, he says it packs just the right punch.  Now a civilian with the state-funded Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, Endries starts by explaining that he used to be in the Army and did three tours in Iraq. The longest was 15 months, and he spent a lot of that time behind the wheel of an armored vehicle. In part because the military drilled it into him in training and in part because he saw firsthand the grave dangers of driving in Iraq, he learned how to decrease the risks: – Look out for irregularities in dirt roads; they might indicate a buried explosive. – Never go in reverse; it leaves you vulnerable. – Avoid bridges and guardrails. – Be aggressive. – Don’t stop.  Then Endries explains how difficult it can be to dial those instincts down upon returning to the United States, and how, soon after his own homecoming, his wife made him hand over his keys because he was driving, in Endries’ words, “like a maniac.”


‘We Got Your Back!’ ( — The “We Got Your Back” group is creating a place where soldiers can gather in an informal setting and find support and encouragement from each other. Servicemen can share their experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and find out they are not alone in their battle.  The first informal, informational meeting will be held on Monday, June 11 at the meeting room in Country Kitchen restaurant on the I-75 Business Spur in Sault Ste. Marie at 7 p.m.  The meeting is open to the public and simply seeks to provide a support group where those dealing with PTSD to share with others in the same struggle.  “In the Civil War, for every death there was one survivor,” said Jason Allen, the Senior Deputy Director for Veterans Affairs in Michigan. “In this current conflict, there are over 24.”   Post Traumatic Brain Disorder and Traumatic Brian Injury are significant health challenge for this generation of veterans.”

Volunteers Honored for Hosting Homeless Kids’ Birthdays ( — Birthday Wishes, a Huntington-based nonprofit group that throws birthday parties for homeless children, celebrated their own birthday bash last week to mark three years of volunteerism on Long Island.  Lisa Vasiloff, executive director and co-founder of Birthday Wishes, traveled from the group’s Newton, Mass. headquarters for their LI Volunteer Appreciation Day and to speak about the how this grassroots organization has made a difference in the lives of more than 24,000 children in the past decade.  “We had hundreds and hundreds of people contact us about starting a Birthday Wishes branch in their area and Jamie was really the only person who really resonated with us and we could tell that she understood our philosophy and our values,” Vasiloff said of Jamie Rapfogel, who runs the LI affiliate. Rapfogel’s office is one of seven, including five in Massachusetts, one on LI and one in Rhode Island.

GI Go Fund and Mayor Cory Booker Announce the Nationwide Launch of “Midnight Missions” for Homeless Veterans, as seen on the Season Premiere of ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” ( — The announcement came during a live screening of the Season Premiere of ABC’s “Secret Millionaire”, which shows millionaires concealing their identity while volunteering with nonprofit groups as they assist people in their community. The first episode of the season highlighted the work that the GI Go Fund does with the homeless veteran population, specifically their “Midnight Missions”, where volunteers go out at 4:00 am to areas densely populated with homeless veterans, including Newark Penn Station and Newark Liberty International Airport, to provide them with food, clothes, emergency medical assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as to collect information critical to help homeless veterans get off the street and into a home of their own.  The episode also featured the GI Go Fund’s “Stand Down for Homeless Veterans”, which provides homeless veterans with food, clothing, medical screenings from the VA, legal assistance, haircuts, and connections to housing opportunities. Following these events, the organization was awarded a $75,000 donation by “Secret Millionaire” and acclaimed Harley Davidson artist Scott Jacobs and his daughter, Alexa.  The GI Go Fund has identified these two services, combined together, as the 21st century model to address the needs of the homeless veteran population and the most effective way to meet the goal set out by President Obama and the VA of ending homelessness among veterans within five years.

Fun event Saturday: Interactive concert to benefit veterans (Marshfield News) — A central Wisconsin-based band, Fragile, will perform a benefit concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Munson Bridge Winery, W6462 Bridge Road, Withee. The concert, “Rosewater,” will benefit homeless veterans in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  “Rosewater” is a musical experience centered around a shotgun wedding and features the members of Fragile. The music composed for the event centers on the theme of the young people being married and the lives that unfold before them.  The audience is requested to come dressed for a wedding reception, with women invited to wear old bridesmaids’ dresses that they might own. The audience members are guests of the wedding party during the concert and can bring wedding gifts of new or clean used blankets, quilts or sleeping bags that will be distributed to the homeless veterans in the area.

Operation Lima Foxtrot ( — They swore an oath to protect our country and the freedom we enjoy each day.  But through their service they made sacrifices.  In the case of Lima Foxtrot’s: Operation Night Vision that sacrifice is sight.  The recreational camp at the Lakeshore Foundation is for servicemen and women who have sustained a significant eye injury, visual impairment or blindness.  This years camp includes thirteen service men and women, many of whom are attending with their families.  Camps like these help them to remain active while adapting their skills to overcome their disabilities.  Scott Caudill says he enjoys the camp because, “To me, since I am limited because of my vision, I cannot go anywhere at night, so I refuse to stay home, I wanna get out and be more active, even with my vision”


Marriage and family — a hidden casualty of war ( — As we celebrated Memorial Day last weekend and remembered those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, many Americans spent the day with their families and friends, perhaps at a backyard barbecue or by a lake or the seashore. For others, the day was one of sadness as people across the country visited cemeteries and honored loved ones laid to rest. But there are those in our military who were, and are, grieving from a different kind of loss, a hidden casualty of war: military marriages.  I saw a lot of family heartache during my 34 years of service in the United States Marine Corps, but the last 10 years have proven to be the most difficult on military marriages and families.  Statistics from the Department of Defense report that since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001, the military divorce rate has continued to rise. Last year alone, the marriages of some 30,000 military personnel ended in divorce (USA Today, December 2011).

New effort at TCU focuses on combat veterans’ moral injuries (Stars and Stripes) — War changes people. That is indisputable.  The changes differ infinitely, depending on the individuals, their background, age and maturity, their war, when they served, the place they served. It is counterproductive to stereotype.  But amid all the discussion in recent years of post-traumatic stress disorder and its effects on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, a small group of mental-health professionals, military chaplains and civilian ministers now says some of the symptoms are what they call “moral injuries” that can involve guilt, shame, grief and betrayal.  In the medical model, all the bad mental-health things that can happen come from PTSD,” said Brett Litz, a clinical psychologist and professor in Boston who is conducting research funded by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. “That’s simplistic thinking. It says that the only harmful aspects of war are about life threats. That’s too narrow. Even though it’s controversial, it is critically important that we think about other ways that war affects people psychologically, biologically, spiritually and morally.”

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One Response to "Warrior and Family Support"

  1. Newt says:

    You are an amazing writer and blogger. No wonder the Society of Professional Journalists give you such a high award!

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