Category Archives: Air Force

Worthless meds and destroyed documents make reuniting homeless veterans and their children in foster care even harder

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s a new excerpt from my forthcoming article about traumatized foster children who, as members of America’s armed forces, serve with honor and distinction. It’s also about traumatized military families struggling to keep their own kids from being removed from the home, perhaps never to return.

As an assistant district attorney tasked with deciding which kids to ask the judge to remove from their homes, I had a hand in saving some lives. I’m certain of it. But I’m also quite sure that I made mistakes. Errors that spell-check could never catch and which can’t be fixed with word-processing software. Wrong decisions for which others would pay a high price.”

. . .

Discussing why homelessness makes it even harder to reunite families will be left for another day. But here are two examples:

Even if one is eligible for, and takes advantage of, VA services, it’s exceptionally hard to protect from theft, time, and the elements the medications needed to strengthen or stabilize a parent so that he can get and keep work and secure a place for the family to live. Kaiser-Permanente tells those who have to take insulin, “Take steps to store your insulin correctly, or it might not work.” Some of those steps? “Keep your insulin away from heat and light. Any insulin that you don’t store in the refrigerator should be kept as cool as possible (between 56°F and 80°F.); never let your insulin freeze. If your insulin freezes, don’t use it, even after it’s thawed.”83 Other medications must also be refrigerated if they’re to do any good. Certain long-term antipsychotic medications are among those.84 At least in the communities that I’m familiar with, refrigeration facilities for these folks don’t exist.

Military – think DD214 – and other documents also get stolen or weather-beaten to the point that they’re no good. But it’s documents like these that rough-sleeping parents need if they are to take advantage of housing and other services that child welfare requires before returning their kids. A church in my community offers to protect critical documents for those on the streets and then makes copies when they’re needed to apply for a job, enroll their kids in school, or for other reasons”

[end of excerpt]

 

dogtags of warriors KIA. Helmund Province. image accessed via Google images 2018 200 x 301

One view from the streets: Homeless ID Project (Phoenix, Arizona)

During a month living on the streets in 1987, the founder of Phoenix, Arizona’s Homeless ID Project learned that “the lack of personal identification documents was a serious impediment, preventing the homeless from accessing services to aid them in regaining their self-sufficiency.” 

https://azhomeless.org/about-us.html

The Phoenix charity explains why documents are necessary, their process for helping folks get them, and the Homeless ID project’s document safe-keeping service at https://azhomeless.org/about-us-299083.html

Some examples of the kinds of information available at Homeless ID Project’s website:

A state I.D. is essential for ending homelessness. You need an I.D. to get a job or secure housing and to access services like food stamps and medical insurance. Without an I.D., you are unlikely to find permanent employment or gain admission to school. You may also run the risk of being arrested. You are encouraged to obtain an Arizona I.D. as soon as possible. [. . .]

Why might I need a birth certificate?

If you’ve never had an Arizona I.D. before, you will need a birth certificate as a first step to obtaining a state I.D. if no other form of primary documentation can be obtained. You may also need a birth certificate when applying for Medical Insurance or a housing program.

What kind of identifying documents will I need to obtain a birth certificate?

Everything about the process of applying for your birth certificate depends on the state where you were born. If you were born in:

– Kentucky, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, or West Virginia: you do not need any I.D. to apply.

– Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin: you need a valid Arizona I.D. card that lists your current address, where you would like your birth certificate sent.

All other states require a valid state ID, with no address requirements.

I was born in a state that requires I.D. to apply for a birth certificate, but I don’t have any I.D.. What do I do?

If you don’t have a state I.D., there may be other solutions, depending on the state where you were born. If you were born in:

– Arkansas, Cook County (IL), D.C., Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York City, North Carolina, Oklahoma: We can send a letter on your behalf. Some of these states require documents accompanying the letter; for example, Oklahoma requires a piece of mail in your name, Florida asks for any document with your name on it, and Mississippi wants a copy of your Human Services I.D..

– Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York City, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, or Wyoming: We can notarize the application if you have a witness with a valid state ID who can attest to your identity. A few states have odd exceptions. Georgia allows an Employee I.D.. Idaho will take a DOC ID. Illinois (except Cook County) will accept two forms of non-state ID. Pennsylvania will take a letter from a case manager at a shelter. New York  and New York City requires two letters sent to the same address within 6 months for NY and 60 days for New York City.

For all other states, there is no currently accepted alternative to a valid state I.D.. We will work with you on a case-by-case basis and do our best to find a solution.

My minor children need their birth certificates. Can I apply for them?
Yes, you can apply for your minor child’s birth certificate if you are the parent (name must be on birth certificate) or legal guardian. The same identification rules apply as if you were requesting a copy of your own birth certificate; you will need a copy of your state I.D. or an accepted alternative, depending on the state.

I am worried about my birth certificate being lost or stolen. What should I do?
We strongly encourage you to store your birth certificate in our office. We have a secure, fire-proof safe where you may store your birth certificate, Social Security card, or State I.D. to prevent loss, theft, or damage. You can retrieve your documents at any time during normal business hours, without waiting in line.​

For more info from the Homeless ID Project: https://azhomeless.org/about-us-299083.html

 

dd-214-sample-form-separation-document. image courtesy militarybenefits.info accessed via Google images 10 Oct 2018. 225 x 297There are a number of ways veterans, next-of-kin and authorized representatives can obtain a copy of the DD-214 form.  In most cases the process takes 3-4 weeks.  The DD-214 form is often needed for a job application, VA Loan, medical benefits, association membership, a veteran’s funeral benefit, school enrollment, reenlistment or proof of service for the many businesses offering military discounts.

https://militarybenefits.info/how-to-get-dd-214-copy/

Read more: https://militarybenefits.info/how-to-get-dd-214-copy/#ixzz5Tb0anYf1

 

Feature Image: Phoenix, Arizona USA. Image accessed at Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport via Google images on 10 October 2018.

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client – a combat-haunted Vietnam veteran – asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide, urge an American Soldier and a U.S. Marine

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

allcallsigns.org graphic 263 x 182 accessed google images 4 September 2018A QUICK WORD FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND RE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS THIS POST: “We’re shit at talking. It’s time to change that. All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. “

 

“Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide.”

[Please note: since this opinion piece came out last year, the VA has clarified that its reported veteran suicide data include, and have included, active-duty, guard, and reserve in addition to separated veterans (June 2018).]

The following is an excerpt from a 27 September 2017 opinion piece by a couple of veterans who know what they’re talking about:

Paula Broadwell is the director of the Think Broader Foundation, a co-host of On Point Women Warrior Writing Workshops, and an Army veteran.

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an assistant professor of Public Health at Charleston Southern University and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran

. . .

“Of the 40,000 veteran organizations offering services, a minute number have proposed these programs and even fewer have offered funding for existing initiatives. Even the big national non-profits that are focused on veteran support initiatives have a dearth of programs that are exclusive to women. Corporations who might support these programs seem unmoved by the statistics. We’ve been told frequently and verbatim by corporate funding entities that “they have sponsored their woman’s event for the year.”  Checking the box isn’t going to save female veterans lives any more than simply tweeting about the problem does.

“Improving access to women-specific programming matters for many reasons, not in the least because opening up in group therapy sessions with men who may have dismissed women’s service or even been perpetrators of harassment or assault can be difficult if not impossible, so many women opt out of co-ed programming and therapy altogether.”

“Earlier this year, Paula co-hosted with fellow service women a “women warriors writing workshop” in Tampa, Fla. The published mission was to provide skills training to aspiring female veteran historians, memoirists, novelists, and op-ed writers. Our implied mission, however, was to help create small tribe and provide mental health support for our sisters in need.

“Besides learning of their valor, adventures and inevitable mishaps along the way, several common issues surfaced in our discussions:

  1. Most women said they had never been a room with all female veterans in the past.
  2. Many women, including one of the authors of this column, had experienced depression or suicide ideation following some trauma in life but had avoided seeking VA help.
  3. All of them were eager for support and connectivity but many were challenged to find it in their civilian lives.
  4. Many of us feel our voices don’t matter; just look at the Army Chief of Staff’s recent recommended reading list (one of 115 authors is a woman, despite the plethora of excellent literature by female academics and historians.)”

[end of excerpt]

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/352728-dont-abandon-americas-female-veterans-to-staggering-risk-of-suicide#

These experts urge:

And to our sisters in arms, please reach out if you need help.

“If you or someone you know is at immediate risk for suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.”

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/education/signs-of-crisis

 

union-jack-with-royal-crest-250 x 147A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

 

 

Depression-DNI-SFW_0 image with Forces Radio story re allcallsigns.org 800 x 450

The following is taken verbatim from online content to accompany a 4 September 2018 broadcast on Forces Network BFBS Radio (this image accompanies the story.)

https://www.forces.net/radio/all-call-signs-veterans-fighting-your-mental-health

A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

The former soldiers’ battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) inspired them to set up a new peer to peer chat support network to help those struggling with mental health.

All Call Signs co-founders Steven James and Dan Arnold both served with The Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and created All Call Signs amid concerns over high waiting times for mental health services and a growing number of veteran suicides.

In the audio clip below Forces Radio BFBS Aldershot’s Natasha Reneaux caught up with the friends and first spoke to Steven to find out about the tri-service support network.
“We’ve got 60 plus users at the moment who are all ex-military, have all been in the same shoes as the people that are calling in.

“They understand the language; they’ve been in the same places so they get it.”

The ethos and mission statement of All Call Signs is “camaraderie in the face of adversity, whether in uniform or out.”

All Call Signs isn’t like a call centre. When someone clicks the Chat Now button you’re automatically connected to a volunteer via WhatsApp.

The volunteers have all served so understand what life is really like in the military.
“Once you’ve made that connection, you’ve got someone to chat to whenever you just need a pick me up…

“You can check up on each other and make sure you’re doing OK.”

However, this isn’t just a text service. The initial contact via WhatsApp can develop into a phone or video call, whatever the user feels most comfortable with.

It’s not just a service you can find on WhatsApp.

All Call Signs launched their Beacon, an AI-powered geo-location search assistance app in September which is already being embraced and used by the military community they are here to help.

The aim is for people to subscribe to Beacon on Facebook Messenger so that if a vulnerable member of the military community goes missing they will be sent an alert.
“Getting boots on the ground in response to an at risk person going off the radar can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“Our hope is that Beacon will prevent a lot of the misinformation and confusion that has hindered search efforts in the past.”

All Call Signs is designed to complement and not replace what’s already available for veterans.

Dan and Steve were increasingly becoming aware of suicides within the veteran community and felt like something more needed to be done to support the vulnerable members of their military family.

“There’s fantastic support out there with agencies like Combat Stress, The Royal British Legion and Hague Housing.

If you want to volunteer your time or are interested in looking after your mental health visit http://www.allcallsigns.org

https://allcallsigns.org/

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative that will continue to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

A cure for PTSD: swift. efficient. soul stealing.

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s the second of three excerpts from this author’s draft article mss about the successful effort by a clandestine, multi-national, public-private partnership to rescue from German-occupied Europe the bombardier of a B-17 downed over Holland in 1943.

* * *
“. . .

“Among American airmen forced to undergo lobotomies were “Melbert Peters, a bomber crewman given two lobotomies—one most likely performed with an ice pick inserted through his eye sockets. And Mr. Tritz, the son of a Wisconsin dairy farmer who flew a B-17 Flying Fortress on 34 combat missions over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.”

“But like a friend who drinks naively from a cocktail of radiator fluid and rat poison and then tells his friend, “Try it, you’ll like it,” American doctors encouraged British psychiatrists to take up the practice. As Hugh Levinson writes in his 2011 BBC News Magazine article The Strange and Curious History of Lobotomy, “From the early 1940s, it began to be seen as a miracle cure here in the UK, where surgeons performed proportionately more lobotomies than even in the US.”

“Naming the procedure for the sharp instrument that’s thrust into the brain, practitioners in Britain performed more than 1,000 leucotomies a year at its peak. “It was used to treat a range of illnesses, from schizophrenia to depression and compulsive disorders.” As recently deceased historian Ben Shephard pointed out in poignant detail, the Crown’s heroes from World War II were not spared the irreversible procedure.

“It’s disturbing to watch a combat veteran who beat terrible odds to make it home alive only to have his brain benevolently “stirred” with a sharp spike. And history has already begun to judge the procedure and its proponents with a declarative “WTF?”

“But if we’re to be honest with science and with history we might at least consider what Mr. Levinson says about why the procedure became so favored in Britain:

“’The reason for its popularity was simple – the alternative was worse.

‘When I visited mental hospitals . . . you saw straightjackets, padded cells, and it was patently apparent that some of the patients were, I’m sorry to say, subjected to physical violence,” recalls retired neurosurgeon Jason Brice.

‘The chance of a cure through lobotomy seemed preferable to the life sentence of incarceration in an institution.

‘We hoped it would offer a way out,’ says Mr. Brice. ‘We hoped it would help.’”

“. . . .”

(end of excerpt)

* * * 
The following information is from the endnotes that accompany the above text (content originally appeared on Facebook, which did not include foot/endnote numbering. However, sequence and content are the same as in the original draft mss):

Lobotomy Practitioners in the United States proselytized psychiatric communities elsewhere, including in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Rakefet Zalashik and Nadav Davidovitch. Last resort? Lobotomy operations in Israel, 1946-60, History of Psychiatry 17(1) 91-106. Sage Publications 2006.

Hugh Levinson. The strange and curious history of lobotomy. BBC News Magazine, 8 November 2011; http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15629160

See Ben Shephard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the 20th Century (Jonathan Cape 2000). See review by Philip Hoare in The Guardian: “And they called them cowards.” https://www.theguardian.com/…/nov/12/historybooks.firstworl…

One of the more intuitive reviews of War of Nerves appeared in The Village Voice: 
“Shephard didn’t write A War of Nerves with Iraq in mind; the bulk of it focuses on the two world wars and Vietnam, with a short section on the Falklands and the 1991 Gulf War at the end. But its unflinching look at the awkward intersection of psychiatry and the military offers a fascinating left-field perspective on war and its hidden costs. Weaving together a panoramic array of source materials (official reports, soldiers’ diaries, interviews with doctors, Pentagon memos, snatches from novels and academic treatises), he catalogs 20th-century attempts to lessen the agony of war, at least for the troops—an unenviable task.”—Joy Press, The Village Voice

* * *

Author Link:

https://combatresearchandprose.com/about-this-researcher/

 

(B-17F Flying Fortress and Crew 8th Air Force. Image attribution:  https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/b-17/b-17f-flying-fortress-and-crew-8th-air-force/ )

 

Declassified World War II escape and evasion record prompts forthcoming examination of combat trauma among Allied airmen flying bombing runs over occupied Europe.

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s an excerpt from the forthcoming article. It draws from a 2016 trauma medicine article by a decorated 24-year U.S. Navy veteran who served as a combat doctor in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In this excerpt, the trauma surgeon and his colleagues explain why a high-velocity round from a rifle such as the AK47, M4, and AR15, does vastly more damage to the human body than Hollywood’s led us to believe.

“Allied airmen who were lucky enough to make it back to Britain often had combat injuries that current day civilians in much of the world never encounter. Injuries that we cannot imagine but which all the time send our warriors back to us broken in part or in whole. Injuries that far too often send the ones we love back to us in boxes draped in our nations’ colors.

“Modern warfare is a lazy Susan, overstuffed with both new and old ways to kill. Each turn of the wheel and selection of another weapon lengthens the types and severities of the combat wounds that stow away in returning service members and then refuse to leave once those warriors get home.

“Writing in a 2005 article in Techniques in Orthopaedics, Montreal-born Dr. Richard Gosselin explains that when it comes to combat injuries, things are seldom as good as they look. “War wounds are often worse than they appear. High-energy projectiles, deep penetration of foreign material, dirty field conditions, delayed evacuation, and/or ill-advised initial treatment such as prolonged use of tourniquet or primary wound closure may all contribute to wounds with extensive tissue damage and severe contamination. Unless evacuation time is short, which for civilians is usually the exception, life-threatening injuries will have already self-triaged[i]

 

Screen-Shot-2015-11-18. Exit wound from M4 round. SOFREP article by Dr. Dan Pronk. TacMed Australia. 375 x 250
exit wound caused by high-energy round fired by an M-4. photo taken by Dr. Dan Pronk, former special operations doctor with the Australian Armed Forces. from December 19, 2015 SOFREP article “Why I’d Rather be Shot with an AK-47 Than an M4.  https://sofrep.com/45197/why-id-rather-be-shot-by-an-ak47-than-an-m4/

“Maybe a comparison of two injuries caused by two very different firearms can make it easier to imagine something of what those we send to fight for us often have to go through. Forensic surgeon Bill Smock explained in a recent interview that “If a bullet from a handgun strikes a liver, it injures the organ by poking a hole and causing tissue disruption around the path of the bullet. More specifically, a 9-millimeter handgun creates a hole that disrupts three-quarters of an inch around the bullets path, . . .”

 “. . .But with a rifle round, you have massive tissue disruption,’ Smock said. Rather than three quarters of an inch around the wound path, it is disrupted three to four inches around that same tissue.’”[ii]

 “Peter M. Rhee, a decorated 24-year U.S. Navy veteran and a combat doctor in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his colleagues explain in a 2016 article in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery why there’s so much destruction to the human body when it’s entered by a high-velocity round from a rifle such as the AK47, M4, and AR15:

 “Lacerating and Crushing

 “. . . high energy rounds may begin to tumble as energy is dissipated upon travel through deeper tissue. The natural tendency is that the high-energy bullets will become unstable as they decelerate. These bullets may pitch and yaw, and the back end of the bullet may become the leading edge. During this distance, the energy of the projectile is absorbed by the surrounding tissue, causing stretching and tearing of tissue.”[iii]

“Cavitation

 “Illustrated by a color photograph of a surgeon’s hand sticking through a gunshot wound in someone’s neck, the former U.S. Navy combat doctor puts it this way: “A bullet with sufficient energy will have a cavitation effect in addition to the penetrating track injury. As the bullet passes through the tissue, initially crushing then lacerating, the space left by the tissue forms a cavity, and this is called the permanent cavity. Higher-velocity bullets create a pressure wave that forces the tissues away, creating not only a permanent cavity the size of the caliber of the bullet but also a temporary cavity or secondary cavity, which is often many times larger than the bullet itself.”[iv]

“Lest we forget: the rounds that German fighters used to down Allied bombers and then their airmen descending by parachute, those rounds were designed to kill airplanes.[v]

 

[i] Richard A. Gosselin, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.S.(C).  War Injuries, Trauma, and Disaster Relief. Techniques in Orthopaedics 20(2):97, 99. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2005.

[ii] “What a bullet does to a human body. PBS NewsHour. Feb. 17, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/what-a-bullet-does-to-a-human-body

[iii] Peter M. Rhee, MD, MPH, Ernest E. Moore, MD, Bellal Joseph, MD, Andrew Tang, MD, Viraj Pandit, MD, and Gary Vercruysse, MD. Gunshot wounds: A review of ballistics, bullets, weapons, and myths. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 80(6): 853, 863 and Figure 13 A, B. Wolters Kluwer Health 2016.

[iv] Id. at 863.

[v] Re: German Luftwaffe ammo during WWII: http://www.inert-ord.net/luft02h/index.html

(END OF EXCERPT)

* * *

Author Link:

https://combatresearchandprose.com/about-this-researcher/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesbloeser/

(Photo: Wee Willie, Boeing B-17G-15-BO Flying Fortress 42-31333, is going down after hit by antiaircraft artillery over Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, 8 April 1945. (U.S.A.F.); Accessed at thisdayinaviation.com March 12, 2018).

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

Combat Trauma aka PTS(D) kills on and off the battlefield, say an HBO documentary and the author of The Invisible Front

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”   -Merriam Webster

***This 5-minute clip from a James Gandolfini/HBO documentary begins at minute 34:41 – 39:53 and is excerpted from John Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, and Matthew O’Neill with James Gandolfini, WARTORN: 1861-2010. HBO 2011; accessed at The Documentary Dude as published on YouTube on May 16, 2016. 

 

Yochi Dreazen is the author of The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Here’s an excerpt from an opinion piece that appeared in The Washington Post on November 7, 2014:

Jeremy Sears, a Marine who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, walked onto a shooting range outside San Diego on Oct. 6, placed a handgun to his head and calmly pulled the trigger. It was a local news story but didn’t attract attention outside San Diego for the most tragic of reasons. Military suicides have become so common — since 2001, more active-duty U.S. troops have killed themselves than have been killed in Afghanistan, and suicides among reservists and National Guard members are spiking — that they are now background noise to many Americans, unpleasant reminders of wars most of us have forgotten about. But we won’t be able to solve the problem until we understand it. Let’s get rid of some myths.

“Repeated tours through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan are often cited as a primary reason so many troops take their own lives. But the statistics don’t support that explanation. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that longer deployments, multiple deployments and combat experience didn’t elevate suicide risk. In fact, more than half the troops who had taken their lives had never deployed. A separate, massive Army study found that, while suicide rates for soldiers who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009, the rate for those who had never spent time in the war zones nearly tripled.

Since military suicides began increasing dramatically around the onset of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, there had been some hope that the numbers would come down once those wars were over. But the last U.S. combat forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, and the drawdown in Afghanistan is well under way. And yet the suicide rate within the military is holding steady. The number of active-duty suicides in 2013 dropped by 19 percent compared with 2012, but 2014 has seen them inch back up. This year, the military had lost 161 active-duty troops to suicide as of July, the most recent data available, compared with 154 during the same six-month time period in 2013. The numbers for the citizen-soldiers of the reserves and the National Guard have been even more dire, climbing 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, from 203 to 220. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told me in an interview, “I don’t think we’ve hit the top yet on suicides.”

. . .

Military culture has often derided soldiers suffering from PTSD or depression as cowards or worse. One unit at Colorado’s Fort Carson left mock forms titled “Hurt Feelings Report” near a sheet where troops sign out to see doctors. The document began, “Reasons for filing this report” and offered choices including “I am thin skinned,” “I am a cry baby” and “I want my mommy.”

The anonymous author might be surprised to know that Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and other elite troops from the military’s secretive Special Operations community are also killing themselves at record rates. Adm. William McRaven, who oversees those forces, said in April that he was worried about the well-being of his men — troops specially selected for their mental and physical toughness. “My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat. Hard combat. And anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It’s that simple,” McRaven told a conference in Tampa.

Mr. Dreazen’s complete opinion piece is available at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-suicide-in-the-military/2014/11/07/61ceb0aa-637b-11e4-836c-83bc4f26eb67_story.html?utm_term=.102c06441b61

An adapted excerpt from Mr. Dreazen’s book appears in Foreign Policy as “Tour of Duty: Ty Carter fought in Afghanistan and became a hero: now he has one more enemy to fight: PTSD.” https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/10/06/suicide-mission/

 

June 2018: VA clarifies its suicide statistics

A Stars and Stripes article posted June 25, 2018 on the blog of Special Forces Association Chapter IX suggests that the VA’s reporting of its suicide data has lacked precision:

For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day – an often-cited statistic that raised alarm nationwide about the rate of veteran suicide. However, the statistic has long been misunderstood, according to a report released this week. The VA has now revealed the average daily number of veteran suicides has always included deaths of active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans.

Craig Bryan, a psychologist and leader of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the new information could now help advocates in the fight against military and veteran suicide. “The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Bryan said. “The benefit of separating out subgroups is that it can help us identify higher risk subgroups of the whole, which may be able to help us determine where and how to best focus resources.”

The VA released its newest National Suicide Data Report on Monday, which includes data from 2005 through 2015. Much in the report remained unchanged from two years ago, when the VA reported suicide statistics through 2014. Veteran suicide rates are still higher than the rest of the population, particularly among women. In both reports, the VA said an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. In its newest version, the VA was more specific.

The report shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members who died by suicide in one year. The VA’s 2012 report stated 22 veterans succumbed to suicide every day – a number that’s still often cited incorrectly. That number also included active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday.  

https://sfachapterix.blogspot.com/2018/06/va-reveals-its-veteran-suicide.html

The VA encourages those who need help to reach out: “Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

(Featured image courtesy of Oliver Munday for The Washington Post. accompanied Nov. 7 2014 op ed by Yochi Dreazen.)

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, an open-source applied research initiative that will continue to do its part to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. Among his published research are works re Libyan-supported Jihadi terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, civilian-military law enforcement relations in the U.S., and the demands that an increasingly complex national security environment make for SOF forces. His research agenda includes national security/defense/veterans issues, with special attention to those facing challenges from combat stress/PTSD/TBI etc.

 

A Word About Suicides by Current and Past Female Service Members

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”   -Merriam Webster

 

Deana Martorella Orellana USMC. 325 x 325. photo courtesy NPR WUNC re female veterans suicides accessed 14 June 2018
RIP: United States Marine Deana Martorella Orellana

A Word About the Women

Barely over a month ago, a North Carolina Public Radio story explained that VA data show that female veterans take their own lives at a rate 250% that of women who’ve never served. And the “VA has recently received data showing that a startlingly high number of suicides come in the first days, weeks and months after veterans leave the military. . . .” This text and images are taken from that story.

The WUNC segment told the tragic story of Deana Martorella Orellana, a United States Marine who in 2010 deployed to a “particularly combat-torn part of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, . . .” The Marine “was assigned to a small female team that was attached to a male infantry unit. The team worked with the Afghan women and children they encountered. . . . When Deana came back, something had changed, said her family. . . . One of Deana’s siblings, Robin Jewell, said the problem had to do with something Deana saw or experienced involving Afghan children, but Deana never opened up about the details.

She said that she didn’t see things the same, and she could handle everything except for the kids,” Jewell said. “And I don’t know what that means. She just didn’t talk.”

The WUNC/NPR story explains that “[o]n March 4th, 2016, Deana went to the VA for help, her mother said. VA officials later told the family that Deana agreed to counseling.

But just hours after the VA appointment, Deana asked a friend to drop her at the house where she had lived with her boyfriend, who wasn’t home. She went in the bedroom and retrieved a .45-caliber handgun.

She sat on the floor and leaned against a wall. That’s how her body was found.

She wrote a note,” said her mother, sitting at Jewell’s kitchen table in Maryland.”

But not a real note,” Jewell added. “Not a Dear John.”

Her mother recalled what it said: “I’m sorry, call 911, take care of the dog, don’t come in the bedroom.”

Medical examiners’ reports have a line listing valuables found with a body. Deana was wearing a fitness band and a plastic bracelet.

In her pocket was a sheaf of handwritten inspirational quotes. Words, as they say, to live by.

She had been out of the Marines only a few months. . . .

. . .

The suicide rate for female veterans has soared 85 percent in recent years, leading the military, VA and advocacy groups to try new ways to improve women’s mental health care during and after service.

One key focus: how to tailor the sometimes tricky jump from the military to the civilian world.

Women’s experiences in the military are different from men’s, so their transition needs to be different, too, said retired Army Col. Ellen Haring, director of research for the advocacy group Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).

“The experiences you have on active duty carry with you, and then they manifest as mental wellness challenges as veterans,” she said. “When you’re transitioning out of the service, or when you return from a combat deployment to come back to a stateside demobilization and try to return to family or community, that’s a challenging period.”

When that transition doesn’t go well, the cost can be terrible. Female veterans are nearly 250 percent more likely to kill themselves than civilian women.

. . .

USAF veteran Cat Corchado featured in WUNC NPR story re females who've served and suicide 300 x 300
Air Force veteran Cat Corchado

A need for human connections

SWAN has just released a half dozen recommendations on the mental health needs of women service members and veterans. They were based on a poll that gauged the mental health needs of veterans and women on active duty.

A key recommendation is to establish stronger social support groups and networks for military women.

[Air Force veteran Cat Corchado leads support groups in Charlotte, N.C., specifically for female veterans. Her group is called  Women Veteran Network  , or WoVeN.]

. . . 

The meetings are only for female veterans, and they’ve started in a host of locations around the country over the past few weeks, thanks to a grant from the Walmart Foundation and with support from the VA. The idea is to build connections and community among women veterans.

Human connections are crucial for mental health, and especially when women are just getting out of the service, said Corchado.

“The military really made it seem like all you do is this, this and this, and you need LinkedIn and you’ll be good,” said Corchado, who’s a personal trainer and real estate agent.

Once out of the service, though, she didn’t feel tied in to any kind of support.

“You get into this free fall and you don’t know how to climb back out of it,” Corchado said. “But I didn’t realize until years later that every veteran, but especially female veterans go through that free fall.”

The VA says it has a host of suicide prevention efforts underway, including a system that harnesses the power of big data to identify veterans at particular risk. It analyzes more than 60 characteristics, including gender, age, geographic location, drug prescriptions and medical history. The VA can check in with veterans whom the system flags.

The agency also has been trying to train veterans and their families about gun safety, said Megan McCarthy, the VA’s deputy director for suicide protection.

“One of the reasons we think why women veterans die by suicide at higher rates than civilians do is because they are more likely to attempt suicide with a firearm than civilian women,” McCarthy said. “Firearms are a very lethal method of suicide.”

Data show that women who get VA care are less likely to kill themselves. But of the 20 or so male and female veterans a day who do commit suicide, about 14 aren’t in the VA’s care.

“We are really working hard to try to understand more about those 14 veterans who die by suicide each day who aren’t in VA healthcare and make sure they have the good care and support that they have earned,” McCarthy said.

More information from the VA about suicide prevention and mental health, including crisis contacts, can be found at:

www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

 

Battling Depression And Suicide Among Female Veterans

WUNC/NPR audio: 

https://www.npr.org/2018/05/29/614011243/battling-depression-and-suicide-among-female-veterans

WUNC/NPR transcript: 

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=614011243

 

June 2018: VA clarifies its suicide statistics

A Stars and Stripes article posted June 25, 2018 on the blog of Special Forces Association Chapter IX suggests that the VA’s reporting of its suicide data has lacked precision:

For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day – an often-cited statistic that raised alarm nationwide about the rate of veteran suicide. However, the statistic has long been misunderstood, according to a report released this week. The VA has now revealed the average daily number of veteran suicides has always included deaths of active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans.

Craig Bryan, a psychologist and leader of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the new information could now help advocates in the fight against military and veteran suicide. “The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Bryan said. “The benefit of separating out subgroups is that it can help us identify higher risk subgroups of the whole, which may be able to help us determine where and how to best focus resources.”

The VA released its newest National Suicide Data Report on Monday, which includes data from 2005 through 2015. Much in the report remained unchanged from two years ago, when the VA reported suicide statistics through 2014. Veteran suicide rates are still higher than the rest of the population, particularly among women. In both reports, the VA said an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. In its newest version, the VA was more specific.

The report shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members who died by suicide in one year. The VA’s 2012 report stated 22 veterans succumbed to suicide every day – a number that’s still often cited incorrectly. That number also included active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday.  

https://sfachapterix.blogspot.com/2018/06/va-reveals-its-veteran-suicide.html

The VA encourages those who need help to reach out: “Veterans, Service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care.” https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

 

Some of this content first appeared at the following research article: In 2018 we still need our warriors.  https://combatresearchandprose.com/2018/07/07/in-2018-we-still-need-our-warriors

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam