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Author and former marine Anthony Swofford gets to the bottom of an epidemic.
I was sitting next to Melissa, a call responder at the VA Crisis Hotline in Canandaigua, N.Y., when she looked at me and whispered, 'He just said he thinks he should walk out into traffic on Interstate 5 and end it all, that life is not worth living.'
They came from Walker Basin, a speck of a community at the edge of the Sequoia National Forest. From the farm town of Reedley, where a barber gives boys joining the military free haircuts before they ship out.
They came from San Francisco. Los Angeles. San Diego.
When they died, photos went up on post office walls in their hometowns. On Veterans Day, there are parades and charity golf tournaments. Buddies gather at graves to drink to the ones who are gone.
In the 11 years since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, 725 service members from California have been killed.
Many died young -- 41% were not yet 22. Sixty-three were still teenagers.
They were fun-loving singles. Forty-seven were engaged. They were married, leaving behind 307 wives and husbands. They had children -- 432 sons and daughters.
The Maui News,
Thanks to the local World War II 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans he has treated for decades, Makawao psychologist Richard Sword has developed a better way to assist those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sword has teamed up with internationally renowned psychologist and former Stanford University professor Philip Zimbardo on a new book released last month titled "The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy."
By Michael M. Phillips
Wall Street Journal
HOOVER, Ala.—Two years ago, Matthew Proctor dropped to his knees in the Afghan dirt and watched his best friend bleed to death.
These days, when dreams get disturbing or guilt eats at his gut, there is one person the former Marine corporal is likely to call: Thomas Rivers Sr., his dead friend's father.
When Mr. Rivers, 60 years old and a pharmaceutical executive, feels himself sinking into black depression or misses the pleasures of raising a son, it is the 24-year-old Cpl. Proctor he confides in or invites over for a boat ride. "He lost a best friend, and in a sense I lost a best friend as well as my son," says Mr. Rivers. "That is a bond we share."
War sunders some relationships and forges others. More than 6,500 Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving gaping holes in families across the nation. Out of duty or kindness, guilt or need, the troops who survived often step forward to fill the voids their buddies left.
By Robert Weintraub
New York Times
September 22, 2012
When No. 10 Clemson plays at No. 4 Florida State on Saturday night, Daniel Rodriguez, a walk-on wide receiver, will be a member of the Tigers' kickoff coverage unit. The sure-to-be frenzied atmosphere is not likely to affect him much.
That is partly because, at 24, Rodriguez is older than most college players. And also because his service in Iraq and Afghanistan will probably leave him unfazed by the raucous cheering of Seminoles fans.
On Oct. 3, 2009, Rodriguez was deployed in Nuristan Province, in the far northeastern corner of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. He was a sergeant and had experienced a year of fighting in Iraq. About 50 United States and Afghan soldiers manned Combat Outpost Keating, a forward operating base near the remote town of Kamdesh.
July saw a record number of suicides in the Army and among recent veterans. I was nearly one of them.
I suffer from both traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the two most common conditions of suicidal veterans. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming.
This summer, as has happened often before, I experienced severe depression, which leads to isolation. Then, when I was feeling most hopeless, I also started feeling tremendously reckless. I found myself feeling aggressive and impulsive, feelings that fuel erratic behavior. With each passing week of the summer, as I pushed yet another friend or family member away, it became easier to envision suicide as an option to break this insufferable tension.
By Mike Mullen and Steven A. Cohen
Our nation is finally emerging from one of the worst recessions in American history, yet for our military veterans there is no recovery in sight. The nation's unemployment rate is 8.1 percent. But the unemployment rate of our youngest military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan hovers at a stunning 29 percent.
Forensic Methods Led To Loss Of Pensions; Soldiers retested after problems at Madigan
The policy, obtained by The Seattle Times, specifically discounts tests used to determine whether soldiers are faking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It says that poor test results do not constitute malingering.
The written tests often were part of the Madigan screening process that overturned the PTSD diagnoses of more than 300 patients during the past five years.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton convened the first White House Summit on Mental Health. The aim of the conference and the public campaign that followed was, in part, to educate the media on the moral and ethical imperative related to dispelling the stigma associated with mental illness. In a radio address to announce the conference, Mr. Clinton said, "Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."
In recent years, the Department of Defense has made unprecedented progress toward eliminating the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues affecting service members. This cultural shift within the military is a sea change, as more and more of our service members are seeking and receiving the support they need and deserve from a grateful nation. In the face of that progress, itâ€™s unfortunate that some in the media continue to perpetuate a stigma linking military service to mental illness and violence.
WASHINGTON -- The roadside bomb that exploded outside Andrew Robinson's Humvee in Iraq six years ago broke the Marine staff sergeant's neck and left him without use of his legs. It also cast doubt on his ability to father a child, a gnawing emotional wound for a then-23-year-old who had planned to start a family with his wife of less than two years.
The catastrophic spinal cord injury meant the couple's best hope for children was in vitro fertilization, an expensive and time-consuming medical procedure whose cost isn't covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Robinson and his wife were forced to pay out of pocket, with help from a doctor's discount and drugs donated by other patients.
By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today
Most companies canvassed in a study published Monday say it's good business to hire veterans because of their leadership and teamwork skills, but some negative perceptions about veterans persist among business leaders.
By Patricia Kime, Army Times
An internal Pentagon task force is recommending the creation of a single defense health agency that would have broader reach and responsibilities than the current Tricare Management Activity, but would leave command of military treatment facilities within the individual services.
A bill to put veterans to work preserving and restoring national parks and other federal, state and local lands has become mired in a political fight, facing a procedural vote Wednesday in the Senate that could leave the legislation's future in doubt.
Democratic sponsors charge that the Veterans Job Corps bill is being held up by Republicans who refuse to allow any legislative victories to the Obama administration. Republicans counter that a GOP version of the legislation would lower veterans' unemployment without deepening the deficit.
The Democrats' bill is based on a proposal for a $1 billion program outlined by President Obama during his State of the Union address, but has been amended to include a number of Republican-sponsored provisions, including measures that would improve veterans' access to Internet tools to find jobs, and make it easier for troops leaving military service to get transition training for civilian life.
Tulsa, Oklahoma - World War II veteran Pietje Wall served in the Marine Corps from 1945 to 1950, with 13 months of that time on active duty.
Her job during active duty was to help give the military ships returning from combat new orders, she said. It was a time when women were finding their place in the military and were allowed to serve only in limited roles.
Now, female troops are serving in more positions in the military, and the number of female veterans is expected to rise in the coming years, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
By James Dao
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be prescribed opioid pain killers than other veterans with pain problems and more likely to use the opioids in risky ways, according to a study published Wednesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Many who served on battlefields seek refuge from and ways to cope with Fourth of July displays
He knows it's just fireworks, but Andrew Sabin's heart races anyway and he starts to sweat profusely.
The concussive booms sound like Iraq.
The 26-year-old Army veteran from Racine, Wis., didn't have trouble when he returned from the war. But gradually fireworks displays began to affect him.
This Fourth of July, many combat veterans like Sabin will try to stay far away from fireworks displays. Fireworks take them back to combat, when the sound of explosions meant death and injury, not colorful rockets lighting the sky on a peaceful, happy holiday.
More than 244,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with some form of brain injury over the past 12 years, according to Pentagon statistics.
They are the most common injuries among combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet little is known about how to treat these wounds or cure the illnesses that result from them, says Peter Chiarelli, retired four-star general and former vice chief of the Army.
For a nation that takes pride in taking care of its wounded soldiers, he laments, it is a shame that the so-called invisible wounds of war get so little attention.
Marine turned entrepreneur and filmmaker Zach Iscol on an extraordinary and undervalued talent pool.
Retired Master Sergeant Ken Holman was confused when Scott Miller and Paul Cotter approached him about applying for a job at Microsoft.
On Feb. 21, 2002, his vehicle flipped over during a training exercise. His seatbelt broke, flinging him against the windshield. He broke his neck in three places and shattered his lower vertebrae, leaving him partially paralyzed. He had to relearn how to talk, walk, read, and write.
He'd served 26 years in the Marines specializing in bulk fuel and later in acquisitions. Though he had run a 2:35 marathon, served as a drill instructor and as a Marine recruiter, he had zero IT background.
So why were they interested in hiring him?
More than 20,000 men and women have left the Army and Marines in the last four years with other-than-honorable discharges, jeopardizing their benefits and leaving some of them struggling to find treatment for health problems.
Jarrid Starks, a troubled Army veteran who received the Bronze Star for Valor but was dismissed from service with an other-than-honorable discharge, has been granted health-care benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Starks was featured in an Aug. 12 Seattle Times story that examined the plight of veterans whose other-than-honorable discharges have put their veteran's benefits at risk.
Starks had been told that it might take a year or more for the VA to undertake a review to see if he is eligible for benefits.
LESTER HOLT: Tonight we're proud to announce our NBC News network-wide initiative in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help more than a million unemployed veterans get back into the workforce. Tonight we're focusing on unemployed women veterans and the mentors helping them realize their full potential.
The Social Security numbers of Army recipients of the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross were inadvertently posted online by a Pentagon contractor and were available to the public until they were discovered by a Vietnam veteran who researches military medal awards.
The Social Security numbers of 31 recipients of the military's top two awards for valor in combat were posted by a contractor conducting medals research for the Pentagon.
WASHINGTON — Tanya L. Towne was wearing her full “battle rattle” when she got injured preparing for war. Now the Pentagon must explain why that should be treated differently from a combat-related injury.
What happens next will put the Defense Department on the spot. It also could mean a lot to veterans other than Towne, who served 17 years in the New York Army National Guard before her 2009 medical discharge.
By Greg Barnes, Staff writer
Fayetteville (NC) Observer
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick stood in front of 14,000 soldiers on Fort Bragg in February with a message:
"We have got to stop the violence."
Just weeks before, Helmick had closed out the combat mission in Iraq and brought the troops home. Now, as he congratulated them for a job well done, he could not ignore some disturbing numbers. In just the past six weeks, he knew of six suicides and 25 accusations of spousal abuse.
Since Helmick retired in May, the violence at home has only gotten worse.
Biden highlights drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, criticizes Romney during speech
By Amy Gardner and Scott Wilson
President Obama and the first lady will greet soldiers at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., on Friday at a time when his reelection campaign is focused more intently than ever on a novel and potentially fruitful voter set: military families.
Doug Sterner has for 14 years been doing what the Pentagon has failed to do: catalog all 350,000 recipients of top medals of valor.
ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- Doug Sterner drives from his cluttered apartment here to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., carrying a portable photocopier and a belief in American heroes.
Inside the Navy archives, he flips through thousands of typed index cards detailing bravery in battle. Sterner pulls out a card and starts reading. He's mesmerized by this story:
Charles Valentine August, a Navy pilot who shot down two enemy planes in World War II, was later shot down himself and captured in North Africa. After escaping, August returned to combat and was shot down again and taken prisoner by the Japanese.
Planned Invictus San Diego facility would treat veterans, and later civilians, who have had amputations or traumatic brain injuries
A group of military, veteran and community health care heavyweights began meeting last year in San Diego to think big about improving treatment for amputation and traumatic brain injury.
The plan that took shape is unlike any nationwide, organizers say: a community center offering medical treatment, family and mental health counseling, job placement and education services under one roof.
Despite a history of more than 150 years of courageous combat service, World War II left African-Americans serving in segregated units and primarily resulted in assignments to support functions instead of being allowed to fight. However, one unit specifically fought to prove the equal capability of African-Americans in combat -- the Tuskegee Airmen.
Trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Ala., 992 men graduated from pilot training, after which they were assigned to the all African-American 332nd Fighter Group in North Africa and Italy.
By James R. Carroll, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal
WASHINGTON -- If massive Defense Department cuts go through next year, little-noticed potential victims on the chopping block include the schools on military bases in the U.S. and abroad.
Petraeus -- Holly, that is -- makes mark on military by putting herself between soldiers and swindlers
By Rick Hampson, USA Today
When 18,000 members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division flew back to Fort Campbell, Ky., in 2004 after a year in Iraq, Holly Petraeus was there to meet them, no matter the hour, the weather or her other duties.
by Vince Delvin
"Many military veterans who fought for your freedom now fight for their own â€“ a freedom from symptoms of the post-traumatic stress disorder that threatens to take over their lives and relationships."
"Sadly, suicide is not an uncommon escape for those with PTSD. Jesse Roods, director and chairman of XSports4Vets â€“ as well as a wildland firefighter who served as a Marine in Iraq â€“ says an average of 17 veterans commit suicide every day in America."
POLSON â€“ Brandon Bryant has done most of his flying from the inside of trailers.
The U.S. Air Force veteran piloted drones over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya during his seven years on active duty. He steered the unmanned combat air vehicles with his feet firmly planted on a floor and his eyes not on the skies so much as on banks of computer screens.
So this was a little different, last weekend, when Bryant slipped on a helmet and took off from the Polson Airport on the back of what amounts to an open-air two-seat tricycle with a wing attached, and a motor capable of propelling it all through the sky at speeds up to 90 mph.
In the first comprehensive review of the government's programs for treating post-traumatic stress disorder in service members and veterans, a panel of experts recommended on Friday that the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs expand access to services, particularly for people in rural areas, in the National Guard or Reserves, or in combat zones.
The report, by the Institute of Medicine, also concluded that the two departments need to improve their assessment of how well their many treatment programs work, as well as find better ways of coordinating care that can begin overseas and then continue on bases or in small towns across the country.
October 8, 2012
CHARLESTON, South Carolina -- A new $10 million, three-year study will investigate whether daily doses of a common dietary supplement could help curb the number of suicides among military personnel and veterans, researchers said on Monday.
The study, set to begin in South Carolina in January, is part of the Defense Department's heightened focus on suicide prevention as the number of service members attempting to take their own lives has risen.
By Joseph Berger
After Eugene Ovsishcher returned from a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan, he experienced what his doctors called symptoms of post-traumatic stress: nightmares, flashbacks and a pervasive anxiety. A psychiatrist advised him to get a dog, and last August he did â€” a shaggy, mocha Shih Tzu puppy that Mr. Ovsishcher named Mickey because he crawled like a mouse.
For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide. It's time to broaden efforts against PTSD.
By Robert Morgenthau
Wall Street Journal
During the Civil War, they called it "soldier's heart." In World War I, doctors called it "shell shock." In World War II, the war I served in, we called it "battle fatigue." Now we know it as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The name may have changed, but one thing is clear: It is reaching epidemic proportions among our soldiers and veterans.
According to a Veterans Administration report released this March, current or former military personnel represent an estimated 20% of all known suicides in the United States—that's more than 7,000 veterans and service members each year. For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide.
SHL Launches Veterans' TotalMatch Solution to Improve Success Hiring Veterans into Private Sector Jobs
New Veterans Hiring Solution Uses a More Complete View of Experience, Competencies, and Interests to Help Companies Better Match Veterans to Civilian Jobs
ATLANTA, June 25, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- SHL, the global leader in talent measurement solutions, today announced the launch of Veterans' TotalMatch(TM) (VTM) Solution at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2012 Annual Conference & Exposition in Atlanta, GA, (Booth #1340). Developed by SHL government subsidiary PDRI, the VTM Solution utilizes assessment science to go beyond simple military skills translation to give a complete picture of new hire candidates returning from military service. This provides civilian employers with a true 360-degree view of a veteran's experience and potential, resulting in veterans being more accurately matched to a larger number of potential civilian jobs they are well suited to perform.
Baltimore VA center offers help to victims of attacks and harassment in military
By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
Machele Fredericks had to face her attacker every day.
She was in the Air Force. He was a fellow service member on the base. And he said that if she told anyone what he'd done, he'd kill her.
"You didn't hear much of people getting raped in the military back then," Fredericks said. "At least I didn't. So, you know, it was like fear every day: 'I hope he's not at the gate today.'
But vets must take first step: seek help
The most common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder is that there is no effective treatment.
Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD, is working to get the word out that it's "very treatable."
PTSD is more prevalent among service members today, with 17 percent to 20 percent of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from it, he said. But studies have shown that 80 percent of those, given proper treatment, are without symptoms after five years.
After leveling off in 2010 and 2011, suicides among U.S. service members have jumped to nearly one a day, catching many by surprise.
By Robert Burns, Associated Press
WASHINGTON â€” Suicides are surging among Americaâ€™s troops, averaging nearly one a day this year â€” the fastest pace in the nationâ€™s decade of war.
The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan â€” about 50 percent more â€” according to Pentagon statistics.
The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago.
For Johnnie Larmore, a veteran of three combat tours in Vietnam, living with post-traumatic stress disorder means bursts of anger followed by wells of depression.
Last week, the Port Angeles man left a recently expanded treatment program at VA Puget Sound American Lake Division in Lakewood. He calls it “the best staff and the best facility” he’s seen in his 41 years seeking help coping with Army combat-related PTSD.
By Agence France-Presse
The number of suicides in the US Army rose by 80 percent after the United States launched the war on Iraq, American military doctors reported on Thursday.
CNN Sunday Morning, 6:00 AM
RANDI KAYE: Thousands of U.S. troops are heading home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now many of them are fighting a war after the war. We're talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD. It is a term that we first started to talk about in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, but for today's troops, it is as relevant as ever. PTSD is a mental disorder that some get after seeing or living through a dangerous event such as war combat. A person may have a flashback or begin reliving the event. They may have bad memories or even nightmares. They might feel numb or become jittery, or always be on alert or on the lookout for danger.
Even knowing what PTSD does to a person, it's shocking that many veterans commit suicide in this country. How many? On average, as many as 18 every day. Mike Scotti is a former Marine lieutenant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has recovered from PTSD. Good morning, Mike, thanks for joining us this morning.
By Gopal Ratnam and Michelle Fay Cortez, Bloomberg News
No one knows better than Connie Chapman that almost 150 years since troops came home with "soldier's heart" after the Civil War, the U.S. military is still struggling to identify and treat what's now called PTSD.
The tragic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield concussion are all too evident. Even more alarming for researchers is emerging evidence that these newest American combat veterans -- former GIs and Marines in their 20s and 30s -- appear to be growing old before their time. Scientists see early signs of heart disease and diabetes, slowed metabolisms and obesity -- maladies more common to middle age or later.
All Things Considered (NPR), 4:10 PM
ROBERT SIEGEL: When sick or seriously wounded troops return home from combat duty, most are assigned to special units called Wounded Warrior battalions. These units aim to give thousands of soldiers and Marines the month they need to recover.
VA's Suicide Hot Line Begins Operations
July 30, 2007
Nicholson: “Help a Phone Call Away”
WASHINGTON – To ensure veterans with emotional crises have round-the-clock access to trained professionals, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun operation of a national suicide prevention hot line for veterans.
“Veterans need to know these VA professionals are literally a phone call away,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. “All service members who experience the stresses of combat can have wounds on their minds as well as their bodies. Veterans should see mental health services as another benefit they have earned, which the men and women of VA are honored to provide.”
The toll-free hot line number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). VA's hot line will be staffed by mental health professionals inCanandaigua, N.Y. They will take toll-free calls from across the country and work closely with local VA mental health providers to help callers.
American Combat Veterans of War (ACVOW) is a non-profit organization that enables combat veteran volunteers to mentor, coach and assist our warriors in the transition from combat, allowing them and their families to lead productive and fulfilling lives in the wake of combat.
ACVOW has numerous programs to help warriors adjust to life after combat. Learn about our Safe Warrior Outreach program, the Warrior Transition program, peer-to-peer mentoring and our VA benefit assistance services. Get the details here.
The Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) is a field operating agency of Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel.
AIR FORCE VETERAN INFORMATION
The following information is provided for individuals who have served in the United States Air Force and have retired or separated from service.
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is a U.S non-profit organization that was established to "help veterans and their families meet and overcome the challenges of blindness".
Services from BVA are available to all veterans who have become blind, either during or after active duty. The BVA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. BVA is a 503(c)(3) registered nonprofit; for the 2008-2009 Fiscal year, BVA's income was $4.2 million.
The following information is provided for individuals who have served in the United States Air Force and have retired or separated from service.
WATCH as we talk with 10th combat Aviation Brigade Bravo Company 277th Aviation Support Battalion soldiers in Bagram Air Field Afghanistan where they work on aircraft and more. We talked with SPC Sean Ginn from Midwest, Wyoming, SGT Joshua Maidinbaam with six years of service including an infantry division deployment to Iraq and now to Afghanistan. He is from Marmora, NJ, SPC James Henderson with 4 years of service and from Azle, Texas, PFC Joseph Wheelihan from Belleglade, FL, SPC Thomas Tipton from Phoenix, AZ, SGT Donald Wilkins with 5 years of service and from Louisville, KY, They talk about Care Packages especially from SoldiersAngels.org and OperationShoebox.org. They all give Shouts Outs to Family and Friends back home!