“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
After years of interrogating and defending witnesses in the criminal courts, detecting patterns and pattern breaks in people’s oral and written speech and in their behaviors is instinctive.
But it’s also instinct to identify other types of patterns. So, while at the Southern Arizona Veterans Cemetery last month, I took time to consider some of the patterns that are visible among the granite niche plates of the veterans who share a columbarium with my dad:
Too many of the niche plates are hard to read from just ten feet away;
The types of diversity among the names suggests that the ethnic, historical, and linguistic heritage among the veterans who share the columbarium with dad is broad, a reminder that those who fight America’s wars come from far and near;
These niche plates and others adjacent to them reveal a near, if not total, absence of any identifier that would draw distinctions among veterans based on race;
That the decedent be personally identified with, or perhaps insured by, religion or spirituality appears to be, at the very least, important to the good folks he or she came from;
As would be expected, most of these men and women who’ve died in the last few years served this nation’s military as enlisted personnel, rather than as officers;
Among these niche plates and others adjacent to them, there is a near, if not total, absence of any markings by which one might distinguish among combat warriors and other military veterans based on whether that veteran was gay, straight, or otherwise;
Many of the service men and women on these and other columbaria would have experienced the existential threats that this Nation faced during World War II, while they were still children; others came of age and perhaps served, when the U.S. and its allies fought the Communist scourge on and around the Korean Peninsula and around and above an island just 90 miles from the continental U.S.; during more than ten years of the Vietnam War and in the decades that followed, most, if not all of these veterans time and again saw those who mattered to them most die in whole or in part, regardless of which political party held power in Washington; and like every other person on the planet, each of them woke every day with a promise from the nuclear age: mutually assured destruction if any of us screws up; and
Among those niche plates that contain additional remarks in the space below the veteran’s official lifespan, almost all forego terms like “hero” and “warrior” in favor of terms that speak to the human connection that those left behind feel and will continue to feel for the veteran they’ve lost.
Today’s opinion column by wounded warrior caregiver and USA Today contributor Ms. Sarah Verardo yanks the cover away from a national tragedy that the Trump Administration is working to fix.
The focus of her essay is those veterans – and their caregivers – who are deemed eligible for VA benefits. It does not extend to the tens of thousands of veterans who’ve been deemed ineligible for VA services due to “bad paper” discharges.
Although by law, Congress denies veterans’ services only to those “discharged under dishonorable conditions,” the VA has interpreted the intent of the law as excluding anyone with Dishonorable discharges as well as all veterans with Bad Conduct or OTH discharges, regardless of whether or not these latter discharges were related to any action understood as ‘dishonorable.’”
Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg. “Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans 6. Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, Brown University. 20 June 2017 (citations omitted).
The following is excerpted from Ms. Verardo’s opinion piece in USA Today:
“Eight years ago, my husband stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He lost his left leg and much of his left arm, and barely survived. . . .
“As many as 5.5 million caregivers struggle to care for disabled veterans like my husband. These wounded warriors, especially catastrophically disabled, need round-the-clock assistance because they have a hard time completing the tasks associated with daily living — such as going to the bathroom or getting out of bed.
“In our case, my husband needs assistance to complete all his daily tasks, from dressing, to getting cleaned and ready, to planning the day. Every day, I am constantly thinking for two people.
“Catastrophically wounded vets also require lots of medical care. In addition to his surgeries [119 of them], my husband has gone through years of speech, visual, physical and occupational therapy.
. . .
“The Department of Veterans Affairs offers caregivers support for coordinating these services as well as a stipend.
“Caregivers could receive $7,800 to $30,000 in any given year. To calculate caregiver stipends, the VA looks at a typical home health aide’s hourly wage in a veteran’s geographic location, as well as the number of hours of care that veteran needs. The VA caps the hours of care at 40 per week.
“That’s almost insulting. I am a caregiver every second of every day. One-fifth of caregivers report caring for their veterans 80 hours a week.
. . .
“Fortunately, federal officials are beginning to take action. As part of the recently passed VA MISSION Act, Congress will expand caregiver support to all veterans — not just those injured after 9/11.“
“My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.
“Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!”
Michael, MSG – U.S. ARMY VETERAN WITH 17 YEARS IN SERVICE
“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.”
Per Connected Warriors:
“The Connected Warriors mission is to empower Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through Trauma-Conscious Yoga.”
“Thanks to our synergistic partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Connected Warriors is at the forefront of clinical studies on yoga’s positive effects. Out of every dollar we raise, 92¢ cents goes into our programs in 9 countries worldwide, 24 states, and Washington D.C.”
Two Vietnam veterans talk about the Connected Warriors program in 2011 South Florida article re former sex crimes and homicide prosecutor who left to teach yoga full time:
“I always thought that yoga had something to do with meditation, but I didn’t know it was so strenuous,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Hodge Jr., 66, a Lauderhill retiree. He said a weekly class with Frankel has helped him sleep through the night for the first time in 40 years.
“This is not a sissy thing, you know,” Hodge said.
Fellow Vietnam veteran Tom Turnberger, 63, a former Marine, praised Frankel’s non-critical manner. “He goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome,” said Turnberger, of Plantation. “He said he appreciates what we’ve done as veterans, and that is not something those of us who served in Vietnam heard a lot.
“I don’t know how this works, but it gives me a sense of calm,” he added. “I’ve been searching for this.”
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.
“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]
“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 bullet’s 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]
“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.
[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.
(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).
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.