“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, as John Quincy Adams presenting oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, in Amistad (1997). This two-and-a-half minute clip reminds us of an oft-forgotten well from which we might draw courage when “there appears no hope at all.”
“The other night I was talking with my friend, Cinque. He was over at my place, and we were out in the greenhouse together, and he was explaining to me how when a member of the Mende—that’s his people—how when a member of the Mende encounters a situation where there appears no hope at all, he evokes his ancestors . . . tradition. See, the Mende believe that if one can summon the spirit of one’s ancestors, then they have never left, and the wisdom and strength they fathered and inspired will come to his aid. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams . . . we have long resisted asking you for guidance. Perhaps, we have feared in doing so, we might acknowledge that our individuality, which we so, so revere, is not entirely our own. Perhaps, we’ve feared an appeal to you might be taken for weakness. But we’ve come to understand, finally, that this is not so. We understand now, that we’ve been made to understand, and to embrace the understanding, that who we are is who we were. We desperately need your strength and wisdom, to triumph over our fears, our prejudices, ourselves. Give us the courage to do what is right. And if it means civil war, then let it come. And when it does, may it be, finally, the last battle of the American Revolution.”
Legal citation for the real case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court:
The United States, Appellants, v. The Libellants And Claimants Of The Schooner Amistad, Her Tackle, Apparel, And Furniture, Together With Her Cargo, And The Africans Mentioned And Described In The Several Libels And Claims, Appellees, 40 U.S. 518; 10 L. Ed. 826 (1841).
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.
The Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm recently testified that there are more than 48,000 state and federal “collateral consequences” in the United States. These “hidden costs” of criminal convictions ar exactly what I was talking about when I wrote this on STRIFEBLOG in August:
“You do the best you can, though, because you swore you would and because the outcome of a criminal case – regardless of whether a client goes to prison – frequently inflicts significant consequences on the lives and fortunes of not just your client but also your client’s family. A criminal conviction, the criminal record that follows it, and any collateral consequences from the conviction, e.g., loss of professional license, reduction in amount of VA disability compensation, termination of VA pension payments, deportation, denial of access to public housing and federal student aid, etc., can hurt and even destroy families.”
Collateral Consequences: Protecting Public Safety or Encouraging Recidivism
“Since most ex-offenders—millions of them—at some point will be released from custody and return to our communities, it is important that we do everything we can to encourage them to become productive, law-abiding members of society and that we not put too many impediments, in the form of excessive collateral consequences, in their way that will hinder their efforts.
“More attention must be paid to this issue to avoid these dangerous and counterproductive results. In a time of intense polarization, this is one of the few issues people can rally around and find common ground. If people are pushed into the corner and denied opportunities for gainful employment and a stable environment for too long, they will have little choice but to recidivate. It is not in anybody’s best interest to relegate the formally incarcerated to a backwater of second-class citizenship status.”
John Malcolm. Vice President, Institute for Constitutional Government, Heritage Foundation.
*TITLE OF POST includes “48,000” in an effort to keep the message clear. Far too many of those 48,000 can shatter a family and thrust moms and dads and kids into homelessness but certainly not all of them.
“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]
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.”
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.
There 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.
Feature Image: Phoenix, Arizona USA. Image accessed at Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport via Google images on 10 October 2018.
Charles 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:
“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
A 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:
Most women said they had never been a room with all female veterans in the past.
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.
All of them were eager for support and connectivity but many were challenged to find it in their civilian lives.
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.
Charles 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:
“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” -Merriam Webster
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.
. . .
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:
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.
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
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.