“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.
For more info from the Homeless ID Project: https://azhomeless.org/about-us-299083.html
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
- 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.
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
“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
By far more than anyone else, United States Marines and their supporters have reacted to and commented on this solemn, snow-shrouded image that I posted on Facebook mere hours ago. It’s an anecdotal truth for this author that those in and around the USMC are quick, respectful, and openly compassionate when it comes to honoring the noble dead. Collectively, the kind of fight that our Marines take to America’s enemies is a lot different than that we ask of our airmen. So, WTF? The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.
Here’s an excerpt from the following March 2016 report as accessed online 21 December 2018:
Swords to Plowshares, in conjunction with National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School have published Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.
Complete report available at:
Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the veteran has less than a General discharge, the VA creates obstacles to getting health care, benefits, homeless resources and other services. Most of these veterans are simply turned away. Congress never meant for eligibility to be so exclusive, it intended that only veterans who served dishonorably be denied access. The VA’s own discretionary policies unnecessarily deny hundreds of thousands veterans benefits, who are often those most in need of the VA’s support. These former service members are more likely to have mental health disabilities and twice as likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless and to be involved with the criminal justice system.
KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT
. . .
(Excerpted from p. 12 and following)
VA Regulations Result in Unequal Exclusion Rates Between Branches
The historically unprecedented exclusion rate today
is due almost enti rely to the VA’s discretionary choice
to presume ineligibility for veterans who received
administrative Other Than Honorable discharges.
That choice deprives tens of thousands of veterans of
needed care, despite the fact that their service would
not be considered “Dishonorable”—and was not
deemed Dishonorable by the military. What is more, significant disparities exist among the administrative separati on practices of the various service branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each has its own separation regulations and policies. Moreover, within each branch, different units and commands may implement those regulations and policies in a different manner. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive disparate treatment: one may be retained, another may be discharged under General conditions, another discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions.
This is due to different leadership styles, not differences in degrees of “dishonor.” A report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on discharge characterization documented the range of discharge practices and ascribed disparities to differences in leadership and management styles rather than a measurable difference in “honor” or “character.” The GAO compared Marines and Airmen with the same misconduct, service length, and performance history, and found that the Air Force was thirteen times more likely to give a discharge Under Honorable conditions than the Marine Corps.
Because the VA presumptively excludes veterans
with non-punitive Other Than Honorable discharges,
this discrepancy results in significant differences
in VA eligibility. For service members with equivalent conduct histories, Airmen are 13 times more
likely than Marines to be deemed presumptively
eligible—and recognized as a “veteran”—by the VA.
This results in significant differences in aggregate.
Whereas 98% of veterans who have served in the Air
Force since 2001 can access the VA when they leave
the service, only 88% of Marines from the period are
presumptively recognized as “veterans” by the VA.
(See Table K.9). The VA has effectively decided that
Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.
This disparity provides a potent reminder for why Congress decided to exclude only veterans who received or should have received a Dishonorable discharge by Court-Martial. Although there are wide discrepancies among services in their administrative discharge practices, the service branches are remarkably similar in how they use punitive discharges. Congress specifically noted that the discretion given to commanders for administrative separations can result in unfair outcomes, and gave veterans the benefit of the doubt by only excluding those who received or deserved a Dishonorable discharge by court-martial. Because the VA’s regulations have presumptively excluded all veterans with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges, the VA is failing to act in accordance with Congress’s decision.
Eligibility Decisions Fail To Adequately Consider Mental Health Conditions that May Have Contributed to Discharge.
Overall, the VA’s COD regulations prevent consideration—except in narrow and specifi c circumstances—of facts that Congress intended the VA to take into account: mitigating factors, extenuating circum-
stances, and positive facts. As one example, the VA’s regulations provide little room for consideration
of whether any mental health condition explains
or mitigates the conduct that led to the veteran’s
bad-paper discharge. It is deeply unfair—and contrary to Congress’s intent—to exclude veterans from basic veteran services for behavior that is symptomatic of mental health conditions that may be related to their service.
It is well established that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, operational stress, and other mental health conditions can lead to behavioral changes. In some cases, military commanders incorrectly attribute those behaviors to bad character, rather than as signs of distress and disease. Indeed, a 2010 study of Marines who deployed to Iraq found that those who were diagnosed with PTSD were eleven times more likely to be discharged for misconduct and eight times more likely to be discharged for substance abuse than Marines without a PTSD diagnosis.
Yet, the VA’s regulati ons contain only one narrow
provision related to mental health: misconduct
leading to discharge may be overlooked if the veteran
was “insane” at the time of the misconduct leading
to discharge. The VA’s definition of “insanity” is
antiquated—out of step with the practices of modern
psychology and psychiatry, which no longer deem
people “insane.” . . .
Eligibility Decisions Do Not Consider Whether the Veteran Served In Combat or Other Hardship Conditions
Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .
Among additional expert analyses of what bad paper discharges do to those who’ve served and their families is:
“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans
In a forthcoming article, this author points to another problem facing those with bad paper discharges:
“Veterans with bad paper discharges can get screwed all the way around. Not only are they often – but not always – excluded from VA services and healthcare, they “may be excluded from access to community resources also; many community programs follow the eligibility requirements set by the VA.”
Research Review: Underserved, How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans With Bad Paper. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org/blog May 3, 2016
BAD PAPER UPDATE
Veterans may sue over discharges they say were result of untreated mental health problems
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
“Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
“When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
This version of a warrior’s reflections on pursuing a life unencumbered by a fear of death, as well as the following remarks and featured image are pulled from http://nativeheritageproject.com. I’m indebted to a great American and great friend, who posted the foregoing guiding principles on social media.
“This beautiful passage is attributed to Tecumseh, although it is disputed and also attributed to some of the Wapasha Chiefs, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Wovoka.
“Tecumseh did indeed die as a hero. Mortally wounded, as shown in the carving above, Tecumseh gave the orders, “One of my legs is shot off! But leave me one or two guns loaded — I am going to have a last shot. Be quick and go!”
The following background quote re Shawnee warrior Tecumseh is taken from a 1995 Smithsonian Magazine article by Bil Gibson and accessed at smithsonianmag.com:
“Tecumseh was a warrior at 15; later he became a renowned field commander and a charismatic orator. By the early 1800s he had conceived of a Pan-Indian federation. In this union he hoped old tribal rivalries would be set aside so that the indigenous people of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley could act as one in resisting the advancing whites. From a base on the Tippecanoe River in northern Indiana, he traveled from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico promoting this federation. His ambition was probably an impossible one; the Indian population of this territory was then less than 100,000 and that of the United States nearly seven million. Still, rumors of what he was up to greatly alarmed many frontier whites, including William Henry Harrison, the federal governor of the Indiana Territory. Formerly a Regular Army officer, Harrison negotiated with Tecumseh face-to-face on two occasions and assessed him as “one of those uncommon geniuses who spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things.”
FEATURE IMAGE, summary description, and linked-to add’l information courtesy office of the Architect of the Capitol:
“The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. . . .” – Dr. Robert Foley, Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC), the Defence Academy of the UK. Dr. Foley is author of “Verdun: The Killing Field.” 66(9) History Today (September 2016). https://www.historytoday.com/robert-foley/verdun-killing-field
A word about the American veteran who penned the following 8-paragraph essay:
Like the combat warrior whose name has been entrusted to me, dad was an Army Veteran. But he also served as a medic in the USAF. And some years before brain cancer came calling, several autumns before my mom accepted the thanks of a grateful nation for dad’s faithful and dedicated service, dad wrote these 8 paragraphs about a return visit he made to soldiers who died in combat in what was to have been the last war. Ever.
“The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month”[i]
by Carl H. Bloeser, M.P.H, M.A.P.A., U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force veteran, 1939-2014
It was on the 11th day of the 11th month sixty nine years after the Armistace that I found myself once again at Verdun. I had traveled there the previous night under a full moon that did its best to illuminate plowed fields and meadows that were covered with a low and concealing fog. The only movement I could see off the road was a tractor slowly plowing in the distance with its lights disappearing and then re-appearing as it moved along the edges of crafted rows. A thousand ghosts had to enjoy the serenity and the tranquility of that night.
Verdun was ahead and it was late. As in earlier years I would look for a room in a loft and one above the [b]ar and a place to eat. The small hotel I chose brought life to the night in a town where death had consumed so many. The chill so common to that part of France in November was broken by the laughter and the talking of a family around a long and ancient table close to where I had chosen to finish my day with a glass of wine and a sandwich.
Early on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I went out to walk the streets. The very best of Europe I have often found in the quiet of early morning. It was cold. I had to wonder how many armies slept and drank and did what armies do in the streets and the shops and the bars and the homes all in sight of the towers of Verdun’s cathedral. The only sounds I heard were the voices of Arabs talking and laughing with each other. I wondered if they were from Algeria or Morocco or from some other place far from home. In that, we both had something in common. The smell of the morning was from the bakery making [croissants.] The day was just beginning . . . the hour of eleven on the eleventh month of the eleventh day sixty nine years later was still off in the distance.
It was time to return to the warmth of the hotel and a hot cup of coffee. As I passed through the hotel door the proprietor didn’t look in my direction. After all, over many years numbers of people must have come and gone through that door at all times, days and seasons. One more wouldn’t warrant his attention. Breakfast appeared to be his morning obsession. As he walked from behind the hotel bar he seemed determined to maneuver the half-smoked and dangling cigarette away from the coffee pot he carried. Morning bread was already on the table along with jams and jellies of various types and colors in petite bowls of clear crystal. Creamy butters with curled ridges adorned the small plates next to each bowl. At each end of the table two white bowls filled with boiled eggs stood in command over his temporary work of art. Silver, plates, cups and cloth napkins were gathered on a small table nearby. Nothing was packaged. What an insult that would have been to this man. Everything was in its proper place. It was time for the morning breakfast concert to begin. Only then did he look up, say good morning and slowly limp from the room.
After breakfast I toted my bag to where the car was parked, opened the door, tossed the bag in the back seat and reached for an open map. I decided that the day would center around visits to towns and villages of the living, monuments to those who had died, and to those places where the dead are buried. I knew from visits long before [that] I wouldn’t have to drive far in any direction.
As I approached my first mark on the map I found an area in which to park. Walking toward the first place to visit I remember looking up at a nearby building. Of many frosted windows one caught my eye. Lace adorned its glass. A small smiling face pressed her nose against the window and smiled to this stranger walking in the cold. I smiled back. Her smile warmed the moment.
The building of the living wasn’t that far from the graves. Close-by a painted sign read “Cimetieaes Militaires Francais.” Buried there were those who died in the “War to end all Wars.” They would never know of that failure nor did they know that their sons and daughters would join them soon in Flanders [F]ields. A late fall leaf had landed on a boundary wire. The frigid wind poked at it to join the dead. A gentle mist fell from the wire as though shedding tears for those buried here. A small bird nearby searched for food – but even it did so in silence. This was indeed a place of the dead. The eleventh hour had come and gone. . . .
Carl H. Bloeser. “The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month.” Unpublished work. Copyright 2001. Repost 11 November 2018 by Charles LK Bloeser at https://combatresearchandprose.com.
[i] Dad died from brain cancer before he could put the finishing touches on this essay. As such, the version of dad’s essay that first appeared on LinkedIn/Pulse contains a parenthetical note that the essay is a “work in progress.” A ninth paragraph that is not necessary to this essay and which doesn’t follow the textual pattern of the 8 paragraphs presented here – has been excluded. The 8 paragraphs presented here are as dad wrote them – except for minor typographic adjustments for clarity and the decision to use common spelling of “croissant.” Because this essay was created after Jan. 1, 1978, copyright protection is asserted on behalf of Carl H. Bloeser from date of creation, i.e., 2001. Endnotes are not part of the original manuscript but have been added to provide further context. Endnotes by Charles Bloeser https://charlesbloeser.com
[ii] Dr. Robert Foley is Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) at the Defence Academy of the UK. Inter alia, Dr. Foley was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize for his work, German Strategy and The Path to Verdun (Cambridge, 2004).
In the preview to a 2012 article about the Battle of Verdun, Dean Foley provides this summary: “The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. The battle ended in obvious defeat for the German army, which led to the replacement of the German chief of the general staff, General Erich Falkenhayn. . . .” Military History: Battle of Verdun | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021 (published online February 2012); preview accessed Jan. 1, 2018 at: http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021# (endnote not original with author of essay)
[iii]Dr. Foley explains that “. . . the British historian A. J. P. Taylor once described the battle of Verdun as “the most senseless episode in a war not distinguished for sense anywhere.” Id. (endnote not original with author of essay)
Feature Image of Verdun Ossuary accessed 11 November 2018 at http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2013/12/18-december-1916-battle-of-verdun-ends.html (“Right at the heart of the Verdun battlefield is the massive Ossuary. This was inaugurated in 1932, and inside the base of the building are collected the bones recovered from this battlefield – an estimated 130,000 skeletons. Walking around the building one can peer through the small windows to see these grisly reminders of the bloodshed here. Through some of the windows can be seen neatly piled long-bones; through others jumbles and scraps of bones as well as skulls.” http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/others/verdun/)
A Dare . . .
The featured image from just one alcove of the Douaumont Ossuary at Verdun offers up a sobering challenge. It dares us to see how many fellow human beings, French and German, we can count among the bones. But no matter how many brothers and sons and uncles and fathers and husbands and lovers we can count, the image still isn’t satisfied. Now it demands that we take that number and calculate for each of the fallen our best estimate of how many fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and lovers and lost-loves have, in one generation after another spanning the last 100 years, been changed because their loved one didn’t come home. Or . . . if he did, because the man who came home was not the man who went to war.
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 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
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(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/ )