Tag Archives: United States

BBC World Service – Outlook, The African girl raised by Kim Il-sung

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“In the early 1970s Monica Macias was born in the tiny country of Equatorial Guinea, the daughter of the President, Francisco Macias Nguema. Her father was a notorious figure, described as one of the most brutal dictators the African continent has ever seen. But Monica never really knew him because at the age of six, she was sent to live in North Korea – a country under the authoritarian control of Kim Il-sung, a friend and ally of her father. Kim Il-sung would become a father figure to Monica, overseeing her life and education for the rest of her childhood.”
BBC World Service – Outlook, The African girl raised by Kim Il-sung

 

The following is excerpted from mom’s recently completed manuscript for her historical memoir, Vaccines & Bayonets: Fighting Smallpox in Africa amid Tribalism, Terror and the Cold War.www.vaccinesandbayonets.com

embassy seal 1.95MUSICAL MINISTERS – AGAIN

Excerpt from November 19, 1970 letter to William Foege, M.D., Director, Smallpox Eradication Program, CDC, Atlanta,

From Carl Bloeser, Operations Officer, Equatorial Guinea

Once again we’re having a week of ‘musical ministers,’ something we’re all getting used to. The Minister of Health has been appointed Minister of Mines and Industries. The Minister of Mines and Industries is the new Minister of Justice, and of course that means that Dr. Rafael Obiang, the Minister of Justice and head of the Juventud, is the new Minister of Health.

I think it would be fair to say that Dr. Obiang would win hands down any contest for Equatorial Guinea’s most sinister man.

He is out of the country now. I doubt I’ll have the chance to see the new Minister before next week….

Certainly in the months to come, we will have to consider the political override to our programming in Equatorial Guinea. I will keep you informed of developments in the monthly activity reports.

* * * 

THE TERROR

November 24, 1970

“Don’t speak. Just listen. Grab the kids and an overnight bag. Be ready in ten minutes.”

 Carl was calling from his office at the American Embassy. My husband could be a bottom-line person if he had to be, but this time his voice sounded different, wooden.

Questions whirled in my brain.

 What’s happening this time? Who’s coming for us? Where are we going?

No opportunity to ask. Not safe to ask. The phone clattered back into its cradle as I ran to get our children and a few essentials.

Minutes later our family and Chargé d’Affaires Al Williams rode in palpable silence through the sultry equatorial afternoon. The pungent smell of moist earth and decomposing undergrowth hung on our clothing and stuck to our skin. My preoccupied stare settled on the

American flag fluttering from the miniature flagstaff of the embassy car, its presence announcing that either the ambassador or the Chargé was in the car. In theory that would give us diplomatic protection. I counted on more than theory.

monster image. 315 x 175

No one spoke until we were safely inside the Embassy Residence and out of earshot of the driver, who we were sure worked for the police.

Answers to my questions came soon enough. We would spend at least this night under the protection of the flag. Dr. Obiang, the new Minister of Health, had let loose his gangs of armed youth against the Portuguese community, and they were slashing their way through the street three blocks away. Their clubs and machetes were demolishing shops and bludgeoning any Portuguese they could get their hands on.

Minutes earlier Carman had phoned the alert to the chancery. She had just left it herself and stumbled into the attacks as she walked the few blocks to the Residence. She escaped harm only because her hairdresser spotted her and rushed from the shop screaming to the mob.

“No es portuguesa! Es americana!”

We learned that farther up the West African coast, the citizens of Portuguese Guinea (later Guinea-Bissau) fighting for independence from Portugal believed they had sighted a submarine off their shores. On the heels of a November 22 Portuguese-led attack on their neighbor, Guinea-Conakry, the sighting triggered a massacre there. So Equatorial Guineans would also go after the Portuguese—a show of solidarity.

Our embassy residence with its spacious entry hall and curving staircase stood on a slight rise a block from the harbor. Across the street sprawled the hacienda-style police station. The juxtaposition was jarring—serenity and hospitality on one side of the street, official torture and murder on the other. But on this night, most of the killing was a few blocks away.

Al telephoned President Macias and told him he had gathered all the Americans at the American Embassy Residence, and that we were under the protection of the United States Government. He expressed confidence in Macias’s ability to make sure no harm would come to us.

It appeared that nothing could ruffle either of the Williams. Carman liked to “let her hair down”—I often pictured her in a hippie commune—but when she needed to observe protocol she did it with flair. Al epitomized the calm and collected diplomat. His stance when in peril: It’s just part of representation.

Now he and Carl periodically cracked the door for an instant to look and listen for any up-to-the-minute sliver of intelligence. They otherwise talked, smoked Cuban cigars, drank the Spanish brandy Fundador and looked for things to laugh about. Gallows humor. One had to distance oneself in order to survive this place.

The Residence had moved from smaller quarters a few weeks earlier. I helped Carman hem new draperies for the massive windows to the accompaniment of her upbeat conversation and laughter.

Charles and Ginger drew pictures and devised paper creations, hopefully not hearing enough conversation to be aware of our situation. (Later I would learn of Charles’s being traumatized by his memory of human screams coming from the police station.)

Just now, he looked over at his dad at the sound of furtive conversation and hollow laughter coming from the far corner of the room.

dad state ID. 250 x 166Al and Carl were discussing the embassy’s Escape and Evasion Plan.

Seriously? This was our E and E plan? We would sneak down the arm of the bay to the Bahia, and swim thirty yards to that tiny button of land that peered above the surface of the water. Al lowered his voice and I strained to hear the hushed exchange. I wondered at the few words I could make out.

…if we…rescue team…

Then I think I heard something about a submarine rescue. Would they really come for us?

Carl leaned forward, his balding head shiny with perspiration. He rubbed a hand across his chin, further muffling his voice.

…don’t like it, Al…kids…sharks…rather try rainforest…

I’d read somebody had invented an inflatable life boat. If only we had one of those.

So here we were, the six permanent Americans on this small island where tropical foliage and black sand beaches camouflaged the struggle for survival under a brutal and xenophobic government.

I felt oddly unafraid, and Al and Carman took their “just part of representation” attitude. But after they concluded that we should all go to bed for what was left of the night, a stealthy disquiet settled beneath my calm exterior. I was thankful for one thing—this was not, at least, one of the few times when Al had to be away and left Carl as acting de facto chargé d’affaires. I’d have hated for him to have to deal with such a touchy situation.

Sleep eluded me that night as the hands of the clock made their rounds. Thoughts picked their way through streets and alleyways of littered memories. I searched. I teased out threads.

Why on earth had Carl agreed to come to this place after reading all those cables? And what did he see when he came and investigated in person?

I knew he couldn’t share all that he learned. But whatever it was, he had said he was needed here. Being needed seemed to override everything else in Carl’s mind. He welcomed tasks that no one else would take on and thrived on accomplishing the impossible. It seemed to be something he could not resist.

In a high-ceilinged guest bedroom Carl’s quiet, regular breathing told me he was sound asleep. I was wide awake.

Can’t get comfortable. Will try not to wake Carl.

The brain that I could not turn off ruminated in a continuous loop. I worried about our UN friends. They were no longer allowed to have contact with embassy people. Where could they find a safe haven tonight?

I turned my pillow over. The cooler surface soothed me. Maybe now I could sleep.

Macias Ngueme coin 1978 president for life, ie. until 1979. 225 x 223But no. President Macias was on his way to slaughtering, imprisoning or driving into exile a third of his people. Amnesty International would attach the nicknames Dachau of Africa and Auschwitz of Africa.

Have to put these dark visions out of my brain. I need to pray. Why can’t I pray?

I slipped out of bed and wandered in silence through the darkened expanse of the Residence. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

Despite the night’s anxiety, neither escape option had to be employed, and in the morning Al deemed it safe for us to return to our own house. We exited the embassy into a sunny day and surface calm. There were no sounds, as yet, coming from the police station across the street. So far as I know, no one ever learned the body count for the night just passed.

 Carl put the crisis behind him and pursued his objective with even greater resolve. At home, we continued with what passed for normal. Carl and I added more pieces to the jigsaw puzzle on our dining room table. Ginger played with her dolls. Charles played in his fortress, barricaded behind its walls.

* * *

SINISTER MINISTER

Two days later, Carl wrote in a follow-up to the November 19th letter to Dr. Foege, that despite repeated requests to meet with the new Minister of Health, he had not yet succeeded. In understated bureaucratic-speak, chilling as I look at it now, he said:

“Dr. Obiang is just not available at present. He seems to be quite occupied at this time with Juventud activities. On Tuesday, November 24, the Juventud was unleashed on the Portuguese community of Fernando Po. It now appears that I may be able to meet with him on Monday, December 7….

“I would suggest that authorized personnel review two classified cables concerning this matter at an early date: [Carl listed two classified cable identifiers.]”

A representative from the International Commission of Jurists would report a few years later that the Juventud was responsible for much of the looting, killing, execution, torture, burning of villages and “informing on anyone.” His report says that they practiced “violence as a line of conduct generally aimed at terrorizing the population.”

The new Minister of Health was efficient.

 

The foregoing is excerpted from mom’s recently completed manuscript of her historical memoir, Vaccines & Bayonets: Fighting Smallpox in Africa amid Tribalism, Terror and the Cold War. vaccinesandbayonets.com

Image attribution: Seal of the United States Embassy, public domain; Mask of death from “Africa’s Greatest Dictators,” Vice.com (July 15, 2010); image of 1978 EG coin featuring Macias Nguema as “President for Life,” public domain.

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200About the Kid From the Fortress

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 this author to share with those best able to prevent 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

SOMETIMES THE AMERICAN FOSTER CHILD SYSTEM WORKS QUITE EFFICIENTLY; IT JUST DOES SO THE WRONG WAY

RE CHOICE OF FEATURE IMAGE:

The term “first responder” appears nowhere in this essay. But first responders are often the first persons to know that an orphaned child will be entering the foster child system. So many first responders are parents, so none should be surprised that being the first one to encounter a dead parent and, upon learning there’s no family to take in the orphaned children, can be a heavy burden to bear. This image, borrowed from a Five Finger Death Punch video that’s raising money for the Gary Sinese Foundation fbo first responders, is here to honor those who often know before anyone else that a child’s life is about to be turned upside down.

 

Homeless parents – veteran or otherwise – want their kids back, too.

This essay draws from my substantial experience as a courtroom lawyer participant in America’s foster care “system,” most notably in criminal and juvenile courts. But as I’ve written elsewhere, “during my four years with a [Tucson, Arizona] non-profit that still does a lot right by a lot of people – veterans included – I got better at looking forward and observing how one domino in someone’s life falls onto another. And that one falls onto the next one. And so on.”
This essay is another in a series of plain-English writings from Spring 2017, in which I turn over a few rocks so that we can better see how and why some folks end up homeless. How and why some folks seem to be always sleeping rough. This particular work shines a light on why it’s sometimes near impossible to put families back together again after their kids end up in America’s foster system.
Feature image attribution: The Resilience of Military Families | RAND
https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2016/06/the-resilience-of-military-families.html
time for some weaponized sarcasm.
I’ve encountered rough-sleeping moms and dads who’ve been told by child welfare workers that they can get their children back if they’ll just find a suitable place for their family to live. Of course, these are the same parents who aren’t eligible for much of the family housing that would satisfy child services because their children aren’t with them at the time. No, I have to tell them. No. It doesn’t make sense to me either. No. I don’t know what they’re supposed to do.
Even if homeless parents manage to get that housing, it’s too often not enough to get their kids back. Much of the time, child services tells parents that they’ll get their children back if they find a safe place for the family to live so long as they complete courses on parenting and anger management and what not.
“It’ll be easy,” says the child services worker. She then gives the parents a list of the classes they must complete by a certain deadline, names of the relevant providers, and phone numbers the parents must call to enroll in the classes. More phone numbers for caring ones who don’t respect these parents enough to return their calls. Calls left every day for three weeks. Messages that echo panic as the deadline to complete the required courses nears. And even if a class provider or Child services staff does eventually, perhaps on the eve of their court date, call, it may be too late. By that time maybe the parents lost phone service again for non-payment. And perhaps there’s no time left on the parents’ free “minute phone.” After all, it eats up a lot of minutes when you have to call and leave a bunch of pointless messages.
It’s all very sad, of course. But who knows? Maybe the foster family that’s been caring for their children is growing attached to the kids. And the family has a steady income. Money lets them pay the electric bill so that no one has to sleep in a car. The kids can have stable education. And the foster family will take them to a house of worship every week. Just think of the opportunities these kids’ll get!
You know it and I know it. The parents are losers. There’s no way that they’ll ever do any of that for them. Come on everybody. This is nobody’s first trip to the rodeo. We all know those kids’ll get such a better life with that foster family. When the parents’ court day finally arrives after weeks of unreturned calls, the “best interest of the child” clearly demands that the worker testify to the judge under oath that the parents haven’t complied.
And now it’s the parents’ turn to testify to a judge who’s barely taller than the stack of deprived child files that she drew theirs from. But this is the first time that either parent has been to a court. It’s all new. The pedestrian court room is so full that it snaps its buttons, and family members and attorneys spill into the hallway. A baby cries, and a bailiff quickly tells a mother to take her infant outside.
These parents may have been told by an appointed lawyer who first met them today that they will get a turn to speak to the judge. So as one case after another gets called, they wait their turn and try to focus and think of what they might say to the judge in this unfamiliar place with unfamiliar rules. They try to listen to the cases called before theirs for clues, but it’s hard to hear from where they sit. A thin buzz hovers around and through them while along the sidelines lawyers have hushed conversations with police officers and child welfare workers and attorneys for the State.
It gets even harder for these parents to focus each time they hear the stern woman in the black robe say it is ordered that a family’s children will not be returned at this time and a new court date will be set for several months from now. When that happens, wailing drenches and saturates the anxious courtroom.
And as these parents watch that family leave the courtroom, they hear those parents shatter courtroom decorum. Their anger and frustration trigger a line of cops against the far wall. Tired cops who just got off night shift and now wait to testify in their various cases. Those cops don’t want to be here. Too many don’t want to be questioned about what they filed with the court. They wrote their reports. Shouldn’t that be good enough? But they show up anyway. There’s just too big a chance that if they don’t, their cases will be dismissed. And that doesn’t look good to their higher ups. And sometimes it leaves kids with a truly dangerous predator who has hurt or killed before. “You said it was a slam dunk!” that other mother screams at her lawyer as she slams open the door into the hallway.
But now that these parents get to speak to the judge, what will they say? Somehow that worker who told them that all she wants to see is for this family to be reunited forgot to tell these parents to get a spiral notebook at the dollar store. A notebook they should use to write a note about every date and time anything happens that has something to do with their children’s case. Especially every time they try to do what Child services told them to do to get their kids back and every time they called or tried to call anyone about their case. Yes, somehow that worker who cares so much about reuniting their family just forgot to tell them to do this. Of course, the same worker has no excuse for not telling them. This was the 300th time she’s testified in a case like this.
But in the worker’s defense, maybe she’s simply trying to make the whole process run smoother. Or, run at all. You know, so that the law’s insistence that “the best interests of the child” can actually mean something. For at least some of the kids.
None of that can happen, of course, if the worker has to be bothered with one parent after another who’s prepared to contradict her testimony to the judge. With facts. With specificity. With credibility. She’s got too many kids on her caseload and too much paperwork already. She doesn’t have time for nonsense like that.
So, the worker testifies to the judge directly from her own notes, and her agency’s version of the parents’ compliance is the one the judge thinks is stronger. Far too often, unless the judge has a thorough – enough report from a court-appointed special advocate (CASA[i] worker) or a guardian ad-litem, almost the only thing the court will be allowed to consider as it decides whether to release the children to their parents is the sworn testimony of a government agency that cares.
After the lady in the black robes has heard from everyone who has a say in this proceeding, she finds that the parents have not complied and orders that it’s in the best interests of the children to stay in the care of child services. Without suitable family members anywhere close or who are suitable to take the kids in, the children will stay – either together or severed from one another – with whatever foster families the government puts the kids with. Another court date on the same issues is set for months from now. What else is the judge supposed to do in the brief minutes that she can spend on each case?
Maybe these parents, the ones who don’t have any of the resources that many of us assume we own by birthright, will somehow find a way to satisfy the worker and the Court enough to recover their children. But they may not, and a court may sever these siblings’ relationships with their parents as neatly and cleanly as a nurse clips an umbilical cord.
So, after the frost melts in the shadowed spaces between the trees and gives way to families and picnic baskets at the edge of a Civil War battlefield, and after summer is spent and the colors that fall to the ground take on regal hues, twice, I’ll run into those parents again.
If I’m careless, I’ll ask them, “so, how’s the family”?[ii]

Ponca City News article re swearing in as ADA. 350 x 267Researcher’s role as a participant in America’s “foster-child system”

The author’s responsibilities in criminal and civil matters while serving as an assistant district attorney for the State of Oklahoma were, among others:
(a) reviewing child welfare reports to determine which warranted applications for judicial child removal orders and possible criminal prosecution;
(b) representing the State’s interests in civil “deprived child” actions arising from these cases, as well as in civil cases alleging actions by minors that, if done by an adult, would be criminal offenses and subject to prosecution;
(c) learning whether a crime committed against or by a child occurred on land and under circumstances that authorized the State of Oklahoma to act (the judicial district I served is a patchwork of jurisdictions that include a number of Indian tribes and in which the land that the State couldn’t touch might be no bigger than the lot where the crimes occurred);
(d) primary assistant D.A. on call to respond to ER, courthouse, or other locations in order to seek, if necessary, order from the judge authorizing the emergency commitment of persons deemed danger to self or others, an order which, in the absence of suitable family, resulted in kids going into foster care;
(e) took turns with other assistant D.A.’s on call to respond to scenes of suicide and other deaths when requested by law enforcement;
(f) on occasion, participating in case conferencing with other relevant actors re children placed in the custody of child services and perhaps housed in foster homes; and
(g) serving as the District Attorney’s representative at some of the informal foster parent gatherings held in that judicial district.
Mr. Richardson and attorney Charles Bloeser State of Tennessee carjacking and murder trial. 375 x 210

Regardless of which side I’ve represented over the years, America’s foster system has always insisted on showing up, either openly or by lurking in the shadows in cases involving:
(a) criminal defendants, appellants, and petitioners who had been removed from their homes as children due to abuse, neglect or a parent’s inability to keep them housed, fed, and in school;
(b) clients whose children had been removed for any or all of the same reasons and who had not been reunited with their kids;
(c) persons arrested, charged and sometimes previously convicted for committing crimes against children, including sex crimes, assault, criminal neglect, and homicide; and
(d) persons who insisted on pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit or which the State couldn’t have proven at trial, under threat that child services would be sent into the home to remove their children if they did not plead guilty.

Feature Image courtesy National Military Family Association. Accessed on-line 5 Oct 2018. http://www.militaryfamily.org/kids-operation-purple/deployment.html
Endnotes
[i]“CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.” National CASA Association | 800.628.3233 | www.casaforchildren.org
[ii]“Marine family opens heart, home to foster children”
By Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson | 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing | October 13, 2016
https://www.3rdmaw.marines.mil/News/News-Article-Display/Article/973309/marine-family-opens-heart-home-to-foster-children/
2018 Women’s Day article features U.S. Army Lt. Col. whose family has – despite deployment to Iraq – taken in 34 foster children since first being approved by state officials in 2013: https://www.womansday.com/relationships/family-friends/a20962937/military-family-foster-parents/
PDF of 2016 U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services/Children’s Bureau factsheet for military families considering adoption (which in many cases begins with fostering children who can’t be or aren’t returned to their families): https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_militia.pdf
Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200

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

Hostile holidays? Give Sir Anthony Hopkins two minutes in Spielberg’s Amistad: a source to turn to when “there appears no hope at all”

“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).

 

Feature image attribution: Battle Bare for PTSD and Military Suicide, accessed online 21 November 2018 at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/292734044500114364/

 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles 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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

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

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

[end of excerpt]

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

These experts urge:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://allcallsigns.org/

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

* * *
“. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“. . . .”

(end of excerpt)

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Author Link:

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

 

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

 

NEW FROM STRIFE BLOG and this author: Part II of Henry: a wounded soldier forgotten by all in an American jail – by all except his brothers who fell beside him in Vietnam

Strife image 397 x 397The former soldier grimaced for just an instant as he lowered himself into a Spartan metal chair opposite mine in this cramped space we shared. A chair like the one he’d lowered himself into for his monitored telephone call with his wife. Their relationship described in Hebrew scriptures as one in which they cling to each other, becoming “one flesh.” Separated here for legitimate security reasons by a thick sheet of glass.  Those of us in “the biz” prefer to call that kind of visit a “no contact visit.” It just sounds a little better than “no human touch.”

Once he was seated, Henry and I greeted each other with mutual respect, but the veteran’s words were narrow and thin. He wore a state court detainee’s bright orange coveralls. But he couldn’t fill them out.

I glanced again at the booking photograph from six months earlier.  And I looked back at this veteran. These couldn’t be the same person. They mustn’t be the same person.

Henry confirmed the basic facts that his wife had given me out in the lobby. He said he’d been arrested before. For the same thing. Henry told me it wasn’t that way before he was sent to Vietnam.

Part I

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-part-i/

Part II

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/07/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam-part-ii/

sign-on-gate-of-kings-college-london 265About Strife

What is Strife?
“Strife is a dual format publication comprised of Strife academic blog, as well as the peer-reviewed academic journal, Strife Journal, which is published biannually. Strife is led by doctoral and graduate researchers based in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Our contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds including graduate and doctoral researchers, staff and faculty at King’s, and leading experts from around the world.”

 

 

 

 

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