January 31, 2009

Statistics, Effects and the Realities of Multiple Deployments

Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...
Image via Wikipedia
If you found this site looking for combat PTSD statistics you have hit the jackpot! Please take your time and read the post, vote in the poll and I encourage you to give your feedback. I will respond later with the results in another article.

I finally found the data that I have been looking for. I have been scouring the internet for raw statistics on how many deployments soldiers have been on. I actually found it by not looking for it. I was checking out the website Veterans for America (VFA) and came across some reports on the strains on the Guard units fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For our WWI and WWII vets it was to suffer in silence, for our Korean and Vietnam vets the denial of such suffering, and for my generation of Desert Storm vets the myth of the "Jarhead" movie as a common experience and of the denial of the Gulf War Syndrome (which was recently acknowledged by the US government) and now with our modern veterans, the effects and realities of multiple deployments.

Preliminary self-reported rates of PTSD from OIF and OEF have reached 15% already according to Hoge et al. (with a 15-40% lifetime rate after combat; Hoge and Castro, 2005 para. 2) and we continue to have naysayers saying the problem could not be as bad as we say it is. How many times have our veterans been on the receiving end of this same kind of generational denial and recrimination?
Rand (2008b) reports,
[O]f the 1.64 million service members who had been deployed for OEF/OIF as of October 2007, we estimate that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 individuals experienced a probable TBI during deployment (p. xxi).
These figures taken with the above place estimate levels of PTSD today in soldiers and veterans of our nations modern wars at 23%.

The data on multiple tours was quite disturbing, due the fact that soldiers and veterans who have more than one deployment have significantly higher rates of mental health problems. Quoted directly from the horses mouth, the Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) V, the military's own research arm reports,
Soldiers on multiple deployments report low morale, more mental health problems, and more stress-related work problems. Soldiers on their third/fourth deployment are at particular risk of reporting mental health problems (MHAT V, 2008, Sec. 2.2.2, No. 8).
VFA reported on October 8, 2008 that 1,321,019 soldiers had been deployed to wars abroad, 796,483 (60%) had been deployed once, and that 469,095 soldiers had been deployed 2 to 3 times (36%), and 55,441 (4%) had been deployed 4 to 6 times. With multiple tours our modern veterans will become exponentially more vulnerable to join the ranks of the walking wounded.

In the monograph, a truncated report, titled “Invisible Wounds of War,” recently published by Rand (2008a),
Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments—many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations—may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat related injuries in particular: posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Many recent reports have referred to these as the signature wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. With the increasing concern about the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise (p. iii).
The report adds,
The pace of the deployments in these current conflicts is unprecedented in the history of the all-volunteer force (Belasco, 2007; Bruner, 2006). Not only is a higher proportion of the armed forces being deployed, but deployments have been longer, redeployment to combat has been common, and breaks between deployments have been infrequent (Hosek, Kavanagh, and Miller, 2006). At the same time, episodes of intense combat notwithstanding, these conflicts have produced casualty rates of killed or wounded that are historically lower than in earlier prolonged conflicts, such as Vietnam and Korea. Advances in both medical technology and body armor mean that more servicemembers are surviving experiences that would have led to death in prior wars (Regan, 2004; Warden, 2006). However, casualties of a different kind—invisible wounds, such as mental health conditions and cognitive impairments resulting from deployment experiences—are just beginning to emerge (p. 2).
The Psychiatric Times reports a “gathering storm” due to the estimate that 70% of soldiers and veterans will not seek help from federal agencies (DoD or the VA), placing an undue strain on private facilities and practitioners. With this in mind the public sector of mental health has little to no preparation for the oncoming onslaught of help seeking veterans and soldiers.

At the website VA Watchdog, a reprint story on a Massachusetts commission found that veterans were not “receiving adequate treatment and readjustment assistance.” A summation of a member of the commission, state Rep. Harold P. Naughton,
said the public also should understand that the operational tempo of the current wars has exposed troops to combat for upward of 200 days at a time, far longer periods of uninterrupted combat exposure than most troops experienced in World War II or Vietnam (VAWatchdog.org).
The much reported mental health screening process during processing from combat duty has little to no effect on reporting the actual numbers of soldiers who have received psychological damage.
More than 50% of those referred for a mental health reason were documented to receive follow-up care although less than 10% of all service members who received mental health treatment were referred through the screening program (Hoge, Auchterlonie, and Milliken, 2006, p. 1023).
Hoge et al. (2006) goes on to ponder the reasons for such high numbers of non-diagnosed veterans,
This study shows that approximately one third of OIF veterans accessed mental health services in their first year after deployment, 12% per year received a diagnosis of a mental health problem, and an additional 23% per year were seen in mental health clinics but did not receive a diagnosis. It is not clear why there was such high use of mental health services without a mental illness diagnosis (p. 1030).
Hmmmmm, let me take a wild stab at it. Take it from a combat veteran who had attempted to receive help for PTSD through the combative VA system 7 times over 15 years. The systemic denial of veterans benefits has a strong bureaucratic resistance to give any compensable diagnosis coupled with “protecting the budget.”

Compounding the issue for veterans and soldiers receiving help for mental health issues is the stigma attached to such help. Stereotypical views within the military culture still hold a pervasive foothold in the minds of soldiers as to the nature and problem of psychological wounds.
Similarly, Hoge et al. [2004] found that of the soldiers and Marines who met the criteria for being diagnosed with a mental health problem, only 38 to 45% indicated an interest in receiving help: furthermore, within the previous year, only 23 to 40% reported actually receiving professional help (Brit, Greene-Shortridge, and Thomas, 2007, p. 1).
I witnessed this mentality of denial when looking into the eyes of my primary care and mental health personnel as I cycled through suicidal ideation, several episodes of psychosis, severe depression, addiction, homelessness, unemployability and complete disengagements from reality, society and loved ones. Proof positive of this phenomenon, quoted from the infamous email from a VA hospital’s PTSD program coordinator, Norma Perez,
Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veteran, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnoses of PTSD straight out. consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O [rule out] PTSD (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington).
Repeated deployments will have unforeseen consequences for our veterans and soldiers. Never before in the history of warfare have we exposed our soldiers to such prolonged combat and sustained redeployments with little to no down time needed for decompressing stressed out psyches. Combine this with the governments slow to respond, cavalier attitudes and dismissal of the magnitude and scope of the problem, our veterans and soldiers suffer in silence and when the killing, death and deprivation becomes to much to bare, they take their own lives in alarming rates.

It is perplexing to realize that we keep having to do the same thing over and over again with the issues that our veterans encounter. To educate the public of the plight our veterans face on a daily basis, while combating the governments complete denial, as our veterans die each day.

January 30, 2009

PTSD-Where Does It Hurt?

I followed a comment to another blog and found this article by Peg at PegSpot. She is a Family Physician who has decided to branch out and take up creative writing. I heard her voice in this piece and felt it from within, I wanted to share this with you.

People speak of PTSD as if it were all the same.

"He fought in Iraq and now he has PTSD." End of story, as if those 4 little letters explain it all. Oh, yes, PTSD. Now we know what he's going through.

I don't believe it. Are all physical wounds the same? Of course not. You wouldn't say, "He had a fracture" and expect his suffering to be explained. There's a big difference between a fractured pinky and a fractured pelvis.

And what about a flesh wound? Well, there's flesh and then there's flesh. A suturable laceration in the leg, muscle-deep but no deeper, is worlds apart from a face half blown off, but both are "flesh wounds." The wounded person's experience is vastly different in these two scenarios.

Body parts matter when it comes to understanding wounds and healing. In the same way, I think mind parts matter when it comes to wounds of the psyche. I'm not talking necessarily about sections of the brain as an organ, although there is clearly correlation between the two, but about regions of the mind. What part was hurt? What coping pathway was railroaded? What belief system was shattered? What concept of self was blasted to smithereens? It matters.

When the body suffers a wound, it helps to know what weapon delivered the damage. What about the mind? What was the weapon, the injuring event, the final blow? We need to know. It helps assess and predict the damage. It makes a difference.

Finally, what about healing? If it is a wound of the body, do we suture? Splint and cast? Perform surgery, even, perhaps, amputate? Do we provide medicine, pills, creams, crutches? Not all treatments are equal, because not all wounds are equal. It's ludicrous to think otherwise.

So too wounds of the soul. What kind of healing is right for this crushed confidence? This lacerated faith? This broken, tender self? We can't treat them all the same, with the same drug cocktail, the same kind of therapy, even the same questions. It could be as bad as trying to sew a bone. Ineffective at best, at worst, deadly.

PTSD. The wounds are as individual as the wounded. We need to remember that.

My reply,
Peg, you have summed up the questions that riddles the horizon of the wound that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One can see the distant scene and tell a delineation has split the skyline, a horizontal demarcation subdividing the plane.

No two sunsets have the same qualities or appearance. Upon walking toward this vista we find it forever escaping us, we can reach out in desperation and try to grasp it to find our fingers full of emptiness.

Tis much the same when we who have PTSD know nothing of its name and wrestle within repudiation, ever wrenching whilst the slipknot of insanity strengthens its grasp.

January 29, 2009

PTSD Catharsis Channel Revisited

I have referred to this blog as my PTSD catharsis channel, a place to find absolution and communion. I have been receiving such thoughtful feedback lately. I wanted to thank everyone who has commented or emailed me. It helps to know that my message has been received and appreciated. I welcome all to comment and get involved with my quest for advocacy.

Today I have a place to let out my pain and I have a great support system of people who care and have an awareness of where I am in life today. I attend therapy every three weeks and have a caring and loving partner, she has a unique empathy and understanding.

As to my catharsis, sometimes when I write here I have major revelations about myself that I never recognized in the past. Such as the

…unconsciously reformed that attachment on the one thing that I could take home with me, my guilt. In losing my squad-selves and my subsequent identifying with the enemy soldiers, I unwittingly formed a festoon of guilt and hung it upon my soul (I Was the Driver..., para. 3).

Man, that was never something that I had connected with, my guilt of 18 years that had attachments to the lost souls of the enemy fallen. Heavy, heavy shit man. I will be talking to my therapist about that one for sure.

There was a time when I wish that this had not happened to me, but today I know that God has a plan for me and my experiences where not in vain. My purpose has revealed itself to me from my past and illuminates my path. Today I know my life's mission and would not want it any other way. To help others who have been where I have been and assist them in achieving self awareness and a higher quality of life.

January 27, 2009

Questions on How I Was Able to Arrest The Major Symptoms of Complex PTSD

A friend of mine had these questions from one of my last postings,
I finally received help after 15 years ... Follow the links in the side bar and see how I came through to the other side...It made me wonder, what specifically are you pointing to that you felt helped you? And are you saying "helped" as in "over with," or helped as in I'm dealing with it, but it's better?
Thanks!
I would describe it as better and definitely not over it. What helped me was a mash-up of modalities similar to Phase-Oriented Treatment. I actually intuitively (and with advice from an empathic counselor who never quit on me) took this route without being introduced to it. I started out with cognitive-behavioral restructuring of the mind, while learning interpersonal and social skills, and simultaneously I attended traditional psychoanalysis concentrating on childhood issues (sexual and physical abuse) to give me a foundation to where I could begin to tackle the integration of my combat experiences. I have just begun exposure therapy to do just this

All this took about three years (actually there was a period of about 4 years where I relapsed back into insanity in between this time period) of continuous and extensive therapy which I would not have been able to do if I was not in a treatment center for homeless veterans where I resided for 20 months. I took a break from therapy for about 1 1/2 years to concentrate on school and work

As I said before, I took a much needed break from therapy and have recently begun the exposure therapy. I was highly suspicious of this type of therapy, but have recently done some research from researchers that I trust and they have found that traumatic memories and emotional ties (structural Dissociation) to them have been separated and that's why they have such a profound hold on the mind. Exposure therapy is geared toward the integration of said memories and emotionality

The links under the heading "A Suggested Guide to PTSD Management" detail how I was able to arrest the major symptomology of complex combat PTSD.

January 26, 2009

To Ignore Our Humanity is Deal in Death and Destruction

We live in a world society that dissects everything into an dichotomous orgy of categorical righteous indignation. We deny that everywhere we look and see a negative, that sitting there staring back at us is a positive. The higher order of existence has no separation of right-wrong, black-white, justice-injustice, and evil or purity. What we have in all its glory, the human experience. To ignore this facet of our humanity is to deal in death and destruction while ignoring the whole truth and reality of our shared existence.

I know of this experience, I lived it for years. I had to separate my humanity from my higher self, to do what needed to be done in the moment and I remained there for over 15 years. I was taught the negative half of these lessons and had to learn the rest through the fiery forge of exposure from a warriors perspective.

What I was not taught was how to reintegrate that which had been torn asunder. It felt as if I had burned away all that was me and had in its place a hollow shell of guilt and remorse. A facade of contempt and bitterness that saw no more reason or rhyme, only absurdity and no other reason to live.

For so long I concentrated on all the shit my war had caused me while I assumed a negatively slanted unipolar view of the world. For so long I failed to see that I could use my experiences to help others. I was so caught up in anger, resentments and hate that I could not see or even try and hear that some good had come from my combat experiences.

I would not be the man I am today without having witnessed and participated in situations of extreme stress. As I see it today, I could never have found my purpose in life had God not chose to have me where I may suffer. I feel as though my trauma filled life has been in preparation for the battle to come. Waking America up to the realities of modern warfare and the mental health epidemic that our veterans will come to face in the next 20 years.

January 25, 2009

Some Insights From Ilona Meagher on Presence of Mind

The more I write here, the more blessings God gives me. Lately I have been talking with people on the national scene, some of the leading PTSD advocates. A high profile PTSD lawyer, some of the leading proponents in the veterans court movement, and authors. Such as the veteran blogger of PTSD: Winning the War Within, Ilona Meagher, who had commented on one of my latest articles. Additionally, Ilona has authored Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops. I do not think that she will mind me dropping her name (I hope).


Scott, this is a remarkable piece.

You're on the leading edge of something magnificent, using new media to add your insightful observations to the mix. To me, that is the power of the era we are living in today. The immediacy of the exchange of these thoughts and observations is going far to change the way we view these grand issues we all grapple with, veterans and civilians alike.

So, I do believe that your work here...to help raise awareness and advance a higher consciousness forged out of your experiences is a great gift to the rest of society -- and humanity as well. It is one of the positive aspects of the dichotomy of war, that its participants often struggle yet often rise out of those struggles to become even better leaders and providers of truth and knowledge. Thank you for your continued service to us.

Wanted to let you know that I'm going to include some of your words and insights here in my Honors Capstone paper (which I hope to present at Purdue University and get published in a peer-reviewed journal afterward). They are directly on target for what I'm researching and will help to move my thesis forward.

Thank you for what you're doing!

---

P.S. I have talked about this facet of feeling so 'alive' combat that you point to here. I have a certain theory on this, culled from a lot of reading and researching the issue of consciousness and presence, etc. over the past years.

One of the reasons why I believe you feel so 'alive' at those moments is not merely because you're faced with your own mortality. But rather, imho, it's because your situation demands that your mind be fully present in the moment. Your mind knows that the only way it can survive is if your physical body survives, and so it shuts itself down for a change and becomes clear and present in the moment.

The mind tamps down all of its usual destructive 'mind chatter' (that most people usually have going on in their heads all the time) in those times of danger. It pushes out the usual stuff that takes us away from being in the moment every moment: those endless loops of thoughts on resentments or hang-ups over past situations (like how your parents or friend or girlfriend did this or that to you last week or last year or last decade and you can't forgive them or you are damaged because of them, etc.).

And your mind in those 'alive' moments also for a change gives up its power and control over your peace of mind, allowing streams of anxiety or worry over the future dissipate.

In those moments, where your mind melts away and you become alert and present to where you are at that very moment, you have clarity and an awesome and powerful feeling and knowledge of your aliveness because you're present in the moment liked you've never been before. When I mentioned this recently to an Iraq veteran who I am friendly with, he looked at me with a kind of 'ah-ah' look on his face and said that definitely makes a lot of sense.

Now, the reason why I think this is important to consider if you're a former combat veteran grieving a bit over the 'loss' of that feeling of aliveness, is that knowing why you felt alive actually opens up a pathway to returning to that state -- but without having to have fear or having to be in mortal danger be the fuel for it.

There are a lot of ways to presence.

While today's moments may not 'live up' to the exciting moments of your days in combat, they are the only moments you really have. The past is gone (and it's not coming back), and the future is never guaranteed. All we as humans should focus on is bringing our full attention and energy into experiencing the present moments that we live in.

Our minds play funny tricks on us, have you noticed? Our mind devalues the present. It actively places a higher value on the past (that's why memories are usually more rose-colored than not), and it also places a higher value on the future (life will be better when I get to x,y,z...).

But 'aliveness' is not experienced in the past or the future -- no matter how much the mind would like you to think that it does. The present is the only vehicle to feeling alive, because it's the only time we really are. I know this is long and maybe a bit difficult to get a handle on (I'm still working on understanding it all as well), but your incredible post here drove me to wish to share these musings with you.

Again, keep up the great work, (((((Scott))))).

You are an important element in the progress we see today in our treatment and understanding of the issues that surround war and the search for meaning and peace with ourselves and the environment that envelops us.

January 23, 2009

We Cannot Make it Through the Confines of Our Minds Without the Help of Others

I am a Gulf War I vet, I felt the same as you when I returned home from combat. For me it was the total sense of feeling alive and being apart of my squad that I missed, although I did not figure this out until after 15 years of insanity.

In the mix, blood pounds through the veins and I received a powerful sense of completeness that I still chase today. The intensiveness of combat will never be matched in the civilian world, all the mundane things we did before seem totally a way to piss us off today. When faced with survival we let all the silly shit slough off of us and become one with the universe.

Our field of vision opens completely to encompass all within our sight, the tiny reflection in the corner of the eye becomes a sharp focus without having to direct attention its way. Time becomes suspended and we know and feel what omnipresence really means. How can anything else ever compare to this experiential endeavor?

I finally received help after 15 years, I could not drink enough alcohol, smoke enough weed, or seek out enough violence to get past the feelings of emptiness. I felt such an utterly and complete loss of self and sense of identity. We were trained to feel invincible, and it may even have seemed that way at times, but we did not get through combat without the help from the soldier next to us. We cannot make it through the confines of our minds without the help of others. We could not do it alone in combat, what makes you think that you can make it alone today?

Follow the links in the side bar and see how I came through to the other side (under the heading "A Suggested Guide to PTSD Management).

January 22, 2009

Not One, But Two Stars Died to Make You

I posted my last article over at A Soldier's Perspective and received this comment that I would like to share with you. It was a beautiful gesture from a special person. Thank you Zoe for your truly kind words:

For my sins, in between architecting submarine combat systems and suchlike, I've worked on the Australian Dept of Veterans Affairs computer systems. Specifically the medical databases. So I know a bit about this stuff.

I hope you're getting sufficient support from the VA. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder causes visible changes in the brain, you can see them in MRI scans.

So these feelings are not you: they're caused by some neurology that's gone awry. Neurology that is plastic to some degree, and can be corrected with the right therapeutic intervention. Often just time.. and that may be decades. Often just knowing someone gives a damn about you, someone who shows some understanding, can help you heal yourself. Medication to re-balance the neurotransmitters can also help, like a splint on a broken leg.

You hurt because you were in a position where people just like you were trying to kill you, and you had to kill them. And because people like me do our darnedest to make sure that it's *not* a fair fight, that the guys and gals depending on us have the best systems we can think of, you massacred them. As we intended you should.

Please put the blame where it lies. And because we are not perfect, we are not godlike, sometimes the boys and girls who depend on us die horrible deaths. We know that, it's a thought that's with us decades later. So we try to do better the next time.

And if that doesn't work… try something that I do. On a clear night, look up at the stars. Reflect that each of those tiny points of light is actually a vast ball of gas, more vast than you can imagine, burning matter into energy. And that they were there long before you or anyone you have ever heard of existed. That they will be there long after everything you know has turned to dust. Reflect on just how little even great tragedies matter in the grand scheme of things. How insignificant all our concerns are!

Now look again, and realize that every atom in your body has been created by mighty stars like those dying: it took one star dying to make the elements lower than iron, and then a Supernova, an exploding star, to twice-bake every atom of phosphorus, or calcium, or magnesium, or any of the dozens of other elements in your body. Not one, but two stars died to make you.

Then realize that each star you see generated photons, often many thousands of years ago, just so your eyeball could detect them on this one night. You are special, something rare and wonderful in the Universe.

It works for me.

Zoe, I do get help from the VA, I have therapy every three weeks and am starting exposure therapy next week. The therapist I am seeing has an awesome command of competency and skills. I trust her. I am 4 years sober, attend college at the Kent School of Social Work and have found my place and purpose in this vast stellar orchestra. Today I am working on the nuances of PTSD, as I have arrested the major symptomology, such as anger, resentments, and behavioral problems.

I have learned coping skills and have completed cognitive and behavioral restructuring. Today I feel the most prevalent problem I face would be the grief and guilt of witnessing such slaughter and surviving. I am not so sure that this spiritual wound will ever heal completely.

January 21, 2009

Dissociation, Fructose, Insomnia and Escape

I was just having a moment of depersonalization and derealization, where I felt apart from self in away that I felt as if I was beginning to float above myself. No, I am not under the influence of any mind altering drugs. I am doing research on PTSD, mental health and veterans. It is 3:16 AM and I took my nighttime meds (100mg hydroxyzine and 1600 gabapentin) at about midnight and just ate four ice cream sandwiches (I know, I have to get a hold of this sugar addiction).

I am feeling kind of tired, and have been having insomnia for the past three nights. Four or five nights ago I had a nightmare that I tried waking up from and could not awaken myself So, that was a run down on where my mind set is right now, I am in a zone of dissociative self-states. I feel outside of myself, that my boundaries have been blurred. I think that I sometimes get caught up in feeling like this as a means to escape I realized this state of mind when eating the last ice cream sandwich and felt as though rising above myself, I looked down at my hand and it was out of focus. When I refocused and landed it back onto myself and felt the resolidifying of self

January 15, 2009

I Was The Driver, On Point For The Division, So I Saw It All

I was writing about the "troop organism" and the squad mentality in my last paper. This line of inquiry took me back to a time when I felt totality, never since have I been more alive and whole. A complete sense of unity, an omnipresence with my squad so whole within my surroundings, including the enemy snuffed, especially those souls. I carry them today; the weight of such suffering that I now hold within. I have a sense of responsibility to those lives we took, I hold such guilt that at times it overwhelms me to the point of incapacitation.

My surviving has had such an impact on my life that many times I find myself not being worthy of having survived, and I know that this thought is not rational, but at times I cannot shake it. Many times in my life I thought of killing myself because of the crushing guilt, all due to my survival and inability to put behind me these thoughts of incompleteness.

Thinking back now, I feel that the absence of the completeness I felt back in 1991 coupled with the guilt of surviving have combined to form a disorganized attachment to the soldiers that were killed. In losing my attachment to the troop-organism, I unconsciously reformed that attachment on the one thing that I could take home with me, my guilt. In losing my squad-selves and my subsequent identifying with the enemy soldiers, I unwittingly formed a festoon of guilt and hung it upon my soul.

I know that they were the enemy, it was kill or be killed...But my God, when we were shooting and hitting them I saw their tanks and vehicles blowing up in grand fashion, it seemed so beautiful. I remember the sight was so awe inspiring, the turrets flipping end over end, fire spraying upwards to a hundred feet. I could feel in the back of my mind, my humanity, trying to tell me that there were people in those tanks. My mind tried to tell that I could actually see the bodies felling over and over, within the upwelling of fire...no, no that cannot be...I was too far from them to actually see. So I told myself.

The reality set in when we saw the charred remains of the vehicles and realizing that no one could have lived through that. I remember trying not to think of my vehicle getting hit like that. The guilt began to creep up on me when we saw the pitiful encampments of the regular soldiers; we saw their food stocks...rice and rotting tomatoes...nothing more, and little of that. We joked of how we were glad to be on our side, again I felt the little bit of guilt niggling at me to witness and take in what we saw.

Today, I carry the guilt of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives to the meat grinder of the US Army by way of the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle tank sabot rounds, of the Apache helicopter hellfire missiles, the 30mm A10 Warthog Gatling guns, multiple launch rocket systems and the 105 mm howitzer to name a few.

To find out how bravely the Iraqi Republican Guard units fought against an over whelming foe, follow this link (then click on "correcting myths").

I still chase that sense of totality...I was the driver, on point for the division, so I saw it all.

January 10, 2009

Dedicated Soldiers, Combat Values and the Shattering of a Mind

Without dedicated soldiers we could not enjoy the freedoms and way of life that we experience today. They lead on when all seems to be the contrary and the insurmountable becomes their triumphs. Testaments to the Corp, the Queen of Battle and to moral imperatives most will never understand.

That does not mean that there will be no conflicts, just that more will see their struggles as a way to grow instead of digress. For the veteran or soldier whose mind has been compartmentalized from complex PTSD, recovery can take years. I had to learn coping skills to deal with my mind wanting to constantly shut down, zone out or detach from emotions, people and life in general. By becoming aware of this automatic emotional response I can generally reverse the effects most of the time, unless I have been experiencing severe stress which I do not always realize.

In a combat environment overcoming the initial emotional crisis takes an ability to close off our humanity to engage in combat. We must develop a combat-values system with a preset conditional internal guidance system pre-programmed to engage within the "troop-organism." Being removed from the protective feeling that this state of mind, the troop can develop a deep feeling of loss and guilt combined with a profound solitary disengagement from others who they now cannot identify with. Going from a deep sense of belonging and protection the troop gets the feeling of facing the world alone.

Some of our soldiers become stuck in this combat-mind state, and they seek behavior reminiscent of that combat edge, usually without realizing why. The combat-mind is one of survival and instantaneous decision making without much consideration to consequences. In society individuals stuck in this dysfunctional mode can find themselves having to deal with serious consequences.

None of this is an excuse for his behavior, but a foray into my behavior and an understanding of my actions. Thinking patterns and processes underlying our everyday activities and greatly influence our beliefs and emotional states. If we cannot examine them we will be led by them. By constantly challenging our beliefs we can become free from the rigid ideological military indoctrination and can engage in a meaningful exchange within our communities.

This is the beginning of a mental health epidemic for our Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. Check out my blog as it chronicles my journey with PTSD and its effects on my life as it relates to what will be coming for our veterans coming home. We will see more of our veterans succumb to addiction, put in prison, commit suicide, or institutionalized, all a growing national trend that we need to face and overcome.

January 9, 2009

Veterans and Problems With Attachments to Significant Others

We may not even be aware of the changes that have occurred in ourselves or home life, and could deny it all. If this happens, do not try and convince them otherwise as they may perceive this as an attack and shut you out emotionally. By giving him or her the information and time to process it you have done what you could for now.

It took many years before I felt that i needed help. By educating yourself on the psychological impact of war on the mind, you can encourage and support your soldier or veteran. We do not want to be coddled, but some understanding of our new way of thinking can go a long way in negating misunderstandings. Our fundamental thinking patterns have been altered and will take some time to adjust and reincorporate a different conceptualization into our lives.

In a combat environment overcoming the initial emotional crisis takes an fundamental alteration of our cognitive structure which closes off our humanity to engage in combat. We must develop a combat-values system with a preset conditional internal guidance system pre-programmed to engage within the "troop-organism." The squad level of interpersonal identification, an extension of the battle buddies self.

Being removed from the protective feeling that this state of mind brings, the troop can develop a deep feeling of loss and guilt combined with a profound solitary disengagement from others who they now cannot identify with. Going from a deep sense of belonging and protection the troop gets the feeling of facing the world alone, even in the midst of family and friends.

The splits in personal structures of the combat veteran or soldier, a recognition and extension of differing personal identifications of self along with partnerships with the battle buddies, individuality ceases to exist to engage the machinations of combat and killing. Reconciling this wound of the soul will take time.

Long after the war ends, the battle still rages.

January 3, 2009

Update on Me, My Life and Chaos

I have been talking with some veteran advocates from around the country looking into the possibility of starting a veterans court here in Louisville, KY. I start a practicum at the KY Advocacy Program to serve indigent clients. I am certain I will run across some veterans in the course of my activities within the court. I just completed a class in social work and the law, my professor is well connected with the legal system here and everything seems to be coming together for the perfect storm and flurry of new found inspiration and direction by Gods hand. For who else could arraigned things so intricately so as to see no other way than to do his bidding? Yet, for most of my life I have missed his guidance most of the time.

School is getting ready to start and I have been doing some recuperating from all the writing that I have been doing over the last six months. The last paper that I wrote took a lot out of me, I struggled to write all the way till the deadline. THANK GOD for deadlines! Speaking of deadlines, I think that I have been doing everything at the last minute this past semester as a means to seek out chaos and engage the hyper-states toward dissociative states.

Well, such is the life of a combat veterans drama, at least today I can realize, accept and not let my chaos become me.