Tag Archives: Marines

CBS Sunday Morning interviews reluctant MoH warrior who urged, “Dear Fellow Veterans: tell your war stories.”

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

The battle at Combat Outpost Keating remains one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan — and it is the first battle to produce two Medal of Honor recipients since the Battle of Mogadishu almost 20 years ago. . . .

“At least nine other soldiers from B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo., have been awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor, for their actions at COP Keating.”  MilitaryTimes.com 5 August 2013.

(Clinton Romesha is a former Army staff sergeant and author of “Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the defense of Combat Outpost Keating. This excerpt is from Sgt. Romesha’s May 29, 2016 opinion piece in the Washington Post.)

. . .

In October 2009, my cavalry troop was preparing to shut down a remote outpost in Afghanistan when we were assaulted by more than 300 Taliban-led insurgents. In violation of the most basic principles of warfare, our base, Combat Outpost Keating, had been built in a valley surrounded by three mountains. It is almost impossible to hold and defend your ground when the enemy is free to shoot from above while observing every move you make.

Within the first hour of the attack, the insurgents had breached our wire, driving most of Keating’s 50 U.S. guardians into our final defensive formation inside a cluster of three hard-shelled buildings, known as the Alamo position.

It was then that five enlisted men volunteered to join me in a counterattack meant to drive the enemy back beyond the wire, rescue missing comrades and retrieve the bodies of our dead.

During the next several hours, we achieved these goals. But by the time the battle was over, we’d lost eight men. Three days later, we were evacuated, and the outpost was leveled by a series of American Hellfire missiles.

As far as the Army was concerned, that was the end of Keating’s story. But the men who fought saw things differently.

How do you consecrate the memory of your fallen when the place where they lost their lives is off-limits, terrain to which you may never return?

Generally, soldiers don’t like to talk about their most painful experiences. Most combat veterans have shorthand, watered-down versions of what happened to us that we recite, politely and dutifully, when asked. The real stories are almost never shared.

For the most part, we prefer to keep those memories safely locked away.

Why? For one, because language is such an imperfect tool. Anyone who has survived combat knows that words are entirely incapable of conveying the horrors of battle. Soldiers assume that any attempt to communicate such truths will merely underscore the futility of trying. This creates its own kind of defeat, another loss to be added to the balance sheet.

I cannot speak for every soldier. But this has been true for me and the men who fought by my side. And something else I know: Our tour in Afghanistan left a hole in all of us — a hole we weren’t able to identify, much less repair, because the Army had done almost nothing to prepare us for it.

We were given exhaustive training for the tasks set before us as soldiers. But when it came to coping with challenges after we came home, we were provided almost no resources.

This may have been the central insight — dimly realized and barely articulated — that led a group of us to conclude that if there were a path forward through the thickets of grief and loss, we would have to create it ourselves.

And that is how we decided we needed to tell our story.

By “our” story, I don’t simply mean what happened at Keating. The most vital component was building a testament to the men who did not come back. Who they were. How they died. And to the extent possible, measuring whether their deaths held meaning, given that their lives were sacrificed for an outpost that probably never should have been built.

[end of excerpt]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dear-fellow-veterans-tell-your-war-stories/2016/05/29/ead52246-211e-11e6-9e7f-57890b612299_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c414a263595f

 

Courage at Keating: Second MoH, 9 Silver Stars for standout B Troop

https://www.militarytimes.com/2013/08/05/courage-at-keating-second-moh-9-silver-stars-for-standout-b-troop/

        Army.Mil Medal of Honor Page for US Army SSGT Clinton Romesha:

https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/romesha/

        Army.Mil Medal of Honor Page for US Army SSGT Ty Carter:

https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/carter/

Developing list of writing opportunities and resources for current and past military service members at combatresearchandprose.com:

https://combatresearchandprose.com/combat-research-and-prose-where-warriors-write/

 

PLEASE NOTE: This website template unacceptably crops the CENTCOM graphic that appears as the “feature image” for this post, resulting in the exclusion of the locations and means by which three more soldiers fell at COP Keating on 3 Oct. 2009. Here’s the complete list: Sgt. Joshua T. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine;  Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Ariz.; Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25, Savannah, Ga.; Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, Applegate, Calif.; Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, Villas, N.J.; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, 24, Kincheloe, Mich.; Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, Lovettsville, Va.; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, 22, Reno, Nev. And here’s the complete graphic:

CENTCOM image re 3 October 2009 Taliban attack at COP Keating 700 x 631

 

 

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

 

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