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Jeremy Chwat, chief program officer at the Wounded Warrior Project, addresses the unique nature of the injuries suffered by veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The fact that people are being so petty about what this project is called saddens me. The only thing that matters is the fact that these men and woman need help after coming home from these horrible situations. I hate these wars and the politics behind them but that doesn't change the fact that they don't have a choice where they are sent. They have the choice to sign up for the military and thank god they make this sacrifice for us. All you anti-military people need to sit down and think for a moment about where this country would be if we didn't have the military we have??? Vote if you have a problem with how our military is being used but don't down-size the sacrifice these people are making for us everyday.
In my view, thanking someone for his or her military service implies that I am grateful for that person having engaging in violent actions against others. But I am not grateful. I am deeply saddened, and I wish that person had been spared the harm they may have suffered and the harm they may have caused. An alternative is say simply, "I'm glad you are home." Another possibility, if we are genuinely willing to listen and to learn, is to invite veterans (and civilians from war zones) to talk about their experiences. I have made a small start in this direction with the online audio documentary The Soldiers & Civilians Project. http://soldiersandcivilians.org. Please join in the conversation.
I appreciate the Veterans to No end. My mother was a vet, my brother, myself and my wife - all vets.
That said, I think the disability issue is going a little too far and needs looked at from bottom to top.
Virtually EVERYONE who's retiring gets at least a 20% for something... You're basically told to start building your profile a couple of years prior to retirement by going to sick call again and again for the same nebulous reasons. Low backpain of undetermined etiology is the best one. Anyone who's ever carried a ruck or did a road march qualifies - IF you build that profile.
I know a nurse who NEVER deployed, never carried a ruck or humped the boonies who got 40% for a bad back & knees.
I know a social worker who got enough disability for the VA to pay for retraining, so he became a massage therapist. Funny part is that his disability was for Carpal Tunnel (Repetitive Use) Syndrome because his hands hurt.
I have a relative who had a heart problem when he was 34 and got a 100% disability, medical retirement.
Any civilian who had the same issues wouldn't get a 100% disability for the rest of their life for that heart problem!!!!
Normal body deterioration (hearing, knees for example) happens to everyone, but if you're lucky enough to be in the service when something happens, or you've documented it ad nauseum, you get the brass ring...
Full disclosure mandates that I say both my wife and I have disability ratings from the Army and collect our monthly stipends, but had I spent that 20 years working on the economy, I wouldn't be getting a penny.
There needs to be way to weight what is natural and happens to everyone (especially heart problems) against what is duty-related and disabilities be awarded accordingly.
Psychiatry Vs Psychology
I just retired on 1 Nov and have been being treated for PTSD. When first diagnosed by Army Psychiatrists, I was put on about 6 different medications, told I'd fell better in 6 weeks or so and given a CPAP machine to help me breathe while I sleep.
* weeks later when I wasn't feeling any better, I self referred to the Warrior Resiliency Program for treatment.
After having my care picked up by an Army Psychologist, I was treated by Evidence Based therapies like Prolonged Exposure and CBT. I was also treated with massage therapy and acupuncture. After about 6 weeks, I didn't need the CPCP machine to sleep because my Psoas muscle (pucker muscle) had relaxed and wasn't inhibiting the travel of my diaphragm anymore.
I also didn't need to take 3 of drungs anymore!!!!!
The psychology folks told me that there's not many, if any studies that show medication is the preferred treatment for PTSD, but there are several hundred studies that are evidence-based and show positive response in PTSD treatment.
The Army psychiatrists areall trained by psychiatrists who are all grounded in prescribing medications.. As long as those psychiatrists are driving the bus, the in-service treatment for soldiers will continue to be pills first...
Why doesn't the Army wake up and smell the coffee and start retraining there own doctors with proper treatment or just put the Psychologists in charge of PTSD treatment?????????
I'm all for providing vets with the medical coverage they deserve and streamlining the system to make it easy to navigate and achieve results, but I'm also troubled that in the process we're institutionalizing a system that will continue the policy of constant war.
We are currently fighting two absurd, pointless and in the case of Iraq illegal wars. All of our efforts should be aimed at stopping those conflicts. Celebrating soldiers who enlisted for a variety of reasons - some may actually believe they are protecting our freedom, but many others joined because they ran out of options or for the opportunity to be a part of the most sophisticated military in the world and the chance to utilize advanced weaponry to kill other people - will not accomplish that goal. In fact it will only lead to the creation of a "warrior" class that will demand more conflicts.
Where is all of this info and these statistics when these people sign up for their military service? Perhaps, as a public health service, recruiters should have to prominently post the statistics, the effects of PTSD, and the likelihood of proper treatment - as we do on a pack of cigarettes?
Perhaps they would not think that military service is such a wonderful, glorious option?
Especially when the wars are meaningless wastes of life?
Would it be a bad thing if people thought long and hard before signing up to be a soldier?
And I think the government's lack of adequate care is despicable, but just as it would be despicable for any other on-the-job injury.
I also agree with some posters that there is a fetishization of military service going on (warriors?! is almost as creepy as "homeland" was when that was trotted out) , especially in the context of an all-volunteer force. It must be acknowledged that this is different than some poor kid conscripted into Vietnam.
It's heartbreaking - and I support the government taking responsibility for this - but we need to change our view and awareness of war and combat in our society.
THANK YOU TO ALL OUR VETERANS.
I just wish to highlight a local non-profit called Kula for Karma that offers yoga, nutritional and therapeutic support services to hundreds in the New York area, and one of the main communities they serve are former combat veterans with PTSD. Their yoga instructors are specially trained to work with survivors of traumatic stress, and the emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits of these programs are transformative. Program participants have reported that these classes have given them tools to deal with the heightened anxiety they sometimes experience in everyday situations. I believe they currently have a program at the Vet Center in Secaucus, NJ and you can contact their website at www.kulaforkarma.org for more area programs and info. They are also always in need of donations, volunteers, yoga teachers, and studio space.
Veterans should receive free healthcare anywhere in the Country - without question. My father received a 21 gun salute at his funeral but what he should have had access to was better healthcare so he would not have been buried at 36.
I'm also bothered by the use of the term "warriors," especially since Jeremy Chwat doesn't seem to be using any other term for the people he's trying to help (& I appreciate his efforts to help them). When he said the reactions they have when they come home are the ones that are normal in a combat situation, I realized why it bothers me: "warriors" sounds like an identity--what they are rather than what they do. And I think identifying that way is part of the problem, both for them & for the people who provide medical & other services to them.
I cannot help but wonder at the very short memories of those who voted against congresspeople , like mine ( for now ) John Hall. He is the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and worked on many issues - - like the G.I. bill that updated college tuition benefits.Hearing Shinseki reminded me of how low a priority caring for and even equiping our soldiers was under the Bush administration.
The whole notion of a professional voluntary army has created all of issues being talked about. We need to return to a draft system. Those who can mentally and physicalService are draft as citizen- soldiers for a period of time.The decision making class my have a harder time dragging this country into self-defeating military adventurism.Where you need police detectives to catch terrorists you do not send an army. Then end up with a burned out army, and have less standing or security on the global stage. Couple it all with an economy that cannot support any of it.
1) The VA does NOT have enough clinical staff to evaluate this volume of Veteran clients.
2) Overall, there are NOT enough clinicians in the US trained in trauma to handle this number of returning Vets/clients.
3) There IS established criteria for someone who may be more likely to manifest PTSD (although some conditions will likely impact ANYONE) but we are so "hungry" for recruits that it's unlikely they will undertake this type of screening for recruits.
Any Vet's be able to walk into any doctor's office or clinic? Imagine the opportunities for fraud with this idea!!!!
Why are soldiers now called 'warriors' ? It seems to glorify war in some medieval way. Does it make military personnel feel better personally to be called 'warrior'?
Thank you all for your service!
A very good friend of mine who served two tours in Iraq and was on permanent disability because of physical injuries, as well as sever PTSD, died of a heart attack at 37 two days after Christmas last year. He was heavily medicated all the time for his pain and for sleep disorder. His wife and child were denied all widow benefits because it was determined that he died of "natural" causes. The night he had the heart attack, he doubled up on his medication because he was getting pain that he thought was related to his back injurry. If he wasn't so overmedicated, maybe he could have been saved. If he put a bullet in his head, his wife and child would have received full benefits. But what 37 year old has a heart attack?
We hear a lot about men returning from these conflicts with PTSD, but what about women? I know women don't "officially" have combat roles, but we all know they end up in the line of fire. Do they suffer the same disorders? Where do they get help?
Too bad Congressman John Hall from New York's 19th district wasn't re-elected after all he did to help veterans, especially concerning PTSD health coverage by the VA.
What happened to the concept of citizen/solider? Now we have “warriors?’Where is retro, pre-demoracy word come from?
it is so troubling and so, so sad that these brave people have to go through this. how can george bush and the rest of his sociopathic underlings sleep at night? these men and women and their families are so much more evolved than i am because i don't think i could handle having one of my loved ones injured or killed for the political whims of a few elite, evil men who have never fought a day in their lives.watching bush on his current book tour with that goddamn smirk on his face makes me so angry, i could never understand how these brave people who have suffered because of him feel when they see him.
Veterans Day - Thank You For Your Service
Several years ago, I was waiting in line at a local bakery and there were several people ahead of me, including an older man wearing a World War II Veteran's Navy cap. I moved over next to him and said I admired his cap and inquired if he had served in the Navy during the war. He said he had, in the South Pacific, and I then offered him my hand, shaking his and thanking him for his service.
He began to cry - an audible whimper, and the girl behind the counter looked on quizzically and concernedly as did a few customers who had turned around and were now looking at us. I apologized to the man profoundly and asked if it was all right for me to wait for him outside. He indicated it was, so out I went.
A few minutes later he emerged with his pastry bag and I again offered my deep apologies for "ambushing" him and that it was the furthest thing from my mind, to embarrass him in public. He very graciously said it was no problem, but that what had disconcerted him was my thanking him for his service during the war. He said I was the very first person to do so and he had been back almost 60 years!
We spoke for a few minutes and he briefly described his Naval service aboard ship in the South Pacific. They had been kamakazied twice and he had lost a number of close buddies and shipmates. He went on to say nobody, friends or family, had ever asked about his service and he didn't want to bring it up for fear of appearing to be a braggart or a glory-hound.
I then told him that I had interviewed numerous World War Two Combat Veterans and that their situations were quite similar to his. Most just simply came home after the war, didn't talk about their experiences, went to work, married, raised families, put on a brave face and went on with their lives.
He then thanked me for thanking him, we shook hands and we parted - two strangers who shared a very special moment of friendship that neither will ever forget.
Today in our Country, a relatively small but growing number of families share an unusual and sobering historical legacy - three generations of living war Veterans - truly a shared generational Brotherhood. Fathers (World War II & Korea), Sons (Vietnam), and Grandsons/Granddaughters (Iraq & Afghanistan) - all Veterans.
If you have the chance, take the opportunity to thank them for their service. Just don't make my mistake by doing it in a crowd. Gently speak to the Veteran quietly and personally, one-on-one. It will be a very special moment, an experience neither of you will ever forget.
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