December 31, 2010

Cardiac Lab Procedure at the VA Hospital in Houston Texas


I had been having chest pains for a couple of months, which finally manifested themselves into my conscious realm of not being able to ignore them any longer. As it so happened I had chest pains while seeing my Prime Care doctor at the VA and he put me in the hospital. OK, we will find out what is going on.

Early the next morning a young woman came in pushing what I thought to be an EKG machine. It turned out to be my doctor pushing a notebook computer on a cart like contraption. I use the words young woman loosely; she did not look old enough to be out of high school. Really, no exaggeration on this point. She introduced herself as Dr. ??? and I said OK. She also informed me she would be the doctor performing my procedure in the ‘cath lab in a few minutes.’ In a few minutes; I had gone from waking up to being primed for a cardiac procedure in a few minutes. NEAT… Dr. ??? is asking me questions and typing her data into the computer as we speak. Man, this is neat… This doctor comes to my room herself to get my info. Wow… Did I mention that I was her first patient and that she was so excited that she literally ran all the way from the cath lab to my room to get her lab rat ready? She did not mention that to me at the time either.[...]

November 8, 2010

VA Celebrates National Family Caregiver Month

WASHINGTON (Nov. 8, 2010)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is marking National Family Caregiver Month by honoring the service of family members and friends who have dedicated their lives to caring for chronically ill, injured, or disabled Veterans.

"Caregivers are the family members and loved ones who take care of the severely injured Veterans who need assistance on a daily basis," said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. "These mothers, wives, fathers, husbands and other loved ones make tremendous sacrifices to be there every day for the Veterans who served this Nation. They are our partners in Veteran health care and they deserve our support."

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and VA medical centers nationwide will offer locally sponsored events for caregivers. Because caregivers often experience stress, burnout, or feel overwhelmed by the caregiving experience, planned activities will provide useful information about VA and community resources that offer support and assistance to caregivers and Veterans.

Caregivers provide a valuable service to Veterans by assisting them beyond the walls of VA medical facilities with support such as accessing the health care system, providing emotional and physical support, and allowing injured Veterans to stay in their homes rather than living their lives in an institutional setting.

Caregivers help Veterans maintain a better quality of life and gain more independence. As the Veteran population ages and continues to increase, the role of caregivers as partners in supporting Veterans is even more prevalent. The Veteran population aged 65 and older is expected to increase from 37.4 percent to 44.8 percent by the year 2020. VA is also treating a new era of younger, severely injured Servicemembers. Many Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will need lifetime care. VA recognizes the support of their caregivers is vital for these Veterans.

On May 5, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. Passed by Congress, this law will allow VA to care for those who provide supplemental help to family caregivers of the most severely wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. VA has been consulting with Veterans organizations, as well as individual Veterans and their family members, to ensure these new programs are implemented to provide the best possible support for those who have sacrificed so much.

These benefits will add to the wide range of compassionate and practical programs for Veteran caregivers that are already available from VA:
  • In-Home and Community Based Care: This includes skilled home health care, homemaker home health aide services, community adult day health care and home based primary care.
  • Respite care: Designed to temporarily relieve the family caregiver from caring for a chronically ill, injured or disabled Veteran at home, respite services can include in-home care, a short stay in a VA community living center or other institutional setting or adult day health care.
  • Caregiver education and training programs: VA provides multiple training opportunities which include pre-discharge care instruction and specialized caregiver programs such as polytrauma and traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury/disorders, and blind rehabilitation. VA has a caregiver assistance healthy living center Web page on My HealtheVet, www.myhealth.va.gov, as well as caregiver information on the VA's main Web page health site; both Websites include information on VA and community resources and caregiver health and wellness.
  • Family support services: These support services can be face to face or on the telephone. They include family counseling, spiritual and pastoral care. Polytrauma Centers also offer family leisure and recreational activities and temporary lodging in Fisher Houses
  • Other benefits: VA provides durable medical equipment and prosthetic and sensory aides to improve function, financial assistance with home modification to improve access and mobility, and transportation assistance for some Veterans to and from medical appointments.
Caregivers should contact their nearest VA medical center for caregiver activities in the local area. Facility locators and contact information can be found at www.va.gov.

October 29, 2010

Dreams


I took a couple of elective courses during my Masters’ work and came away feeling like the courses were established for “normal” people and not Combat PTSD veterans… I know you are going; DUHHH!!!  I was hoping to find some answers other than in the numerous psychopathology courses I had taken on why my dream world is so much better than my real world.  I don’t mean the night mares, flashbacks and hallucinations; I mean real pre-combat like dreams.  The think I wanted an answer for “why aren’t I an active part of the dreams?”

A phenomena related to the dreams is that I don’t even recognize the places or people, and I am not a part of the dream.  I am aware subconsciously that I am observing things; but I am not an active part of the interactions of the characters that make up my dream world.  Is this a preview of my next life?  Is my subconscious picking up on wishes and/or subconscious parts of my pre-combat self that was good and innocent to the cruelty that man can inflict on man in the name of war?  I am even able to feel emotion in these dreams; unlike my post-combat self that many times have to manufacture emotions to satisfy the needs of others.  I am not saying this is all of my dream world, because it is not.  But it is the part that I do not want to wake up from.  This dream world is so much better than the real world that I exist in on a daily bases.  Reaching out to satisfy others needs in not part of my dream world.  The emotions I observe are not pretentious, but overtly genuine.

How many of us have wanted to reach out and give our wife, husband, or child and give them a hug; but this terrible disorder keeps us at arm’s length?  My wife tells me she understands; but this is only empathy and not true understanding.  Myself, along with many of you, I am sure feel different levels of sorrow for our loves ones.  Why could they have not loved someone else?  Why did they get stuck with us?  Someone who is capable of returning true unadulterated love and emotions from a person that has not seen the horrors of war?  Why did our children have to have someone like us as a parent?  Why could they have not been blessed with a parent who still viewed the good in things and not the negativity that accompanies Combat PTSD?  I will talk more about this at a later date; but I hope this some small manner answers a few questions for the family members of Combat PTSD veterans.

Rob

October 24, 2010

MEDS


Psychotropic medications for Combat PTSD that are prescribed for you by your doctor; DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU START TAKING THE MEDS… 
After my crash I came in under the old VA model of fill your butt full of psychotropic meds and adjust downward.  The young warriors are under the new VA model of cognitive intervention along with medication as needed.  BUT NOT IN ALL CASES!

Do your homework on your meds. If you yourself are having too many problems to do the research, and when I mean research I am speaking of the side effects of the medications, have your wife, partner, or someone you trust Goggle or better yet if you have a psychopharmacology book look it up.  I will get into this in much greater detail in the future; but for now please don’t just stick meds down your throat because the VA says you need them.

You may wish to live with the disorder on a different level than the side effects of the meds dictate you to live your live on.  I will list all my meds that I have been on over the last ten years in a later post…  I decided pleasing my wife sexually, and dealing with the hallucinations and night terrors was preferable to the medications.  I am on a regiment of meds.  But it is a regiment that my psychiatrist at the VA and I have agreed upon and he had done his best to minimize the side effects that undesirable for me.  THINK… 
Rob

October 6, 2010

Some Horse Sense, A PTSD Caregiver on Caregiver Care


What This Blogger Learned From An Ass, Some Horses, Hula Hoops And Buckets Of Manure

So the burning questions that you all have and I have been eluding up until this point is...What did I learn and does it really work? Surprisingly, it does work. So what is it that I learned at this retreat that I can pass on to you?

Here are some of my top things:
  • Maintain a good sense of humor. Laughter is truly the key to maintaining a healthy attitude, plus crying gives me headaches!
  • Learn to acknowledge our Veterans will never be the same and adjust to the way they are and who they are now. We like our Veterans, often buck against sudden changes...we are still focusing on what are husbands used to be, and fighting what they have become now.
  • Don't put expectations on your Veteran based on who they were before combat, and what you as a spouse/caregiver expect. You are only setting them up for failure and setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Learn to let loose some of the control that we have and let the Veteran try to do things for themselves; even if they fail. "Try try and try again" is now one of my new mantras!
  • Set small tasks for our Veterans to accomplish and praise them wholeheartedly for a job well done, even if its not to your standards.
  • Sometimes we as caregivers don't give our Veterans room to breathe let alone do things for themselves. This can prevent them from helping themselves in coping, recovery and healing. This also leaves them feeling less masculine. Allow them opportunities to try, accomplish their own set goals, and beat on their chests for a while.
  • Help your Veteran if help is needed and asked for....otherwise, let them help themselves first. Don't rush to their sides for every little thing. If they ask, be willing to help; but they must learn that some things they can and need to do on their own.
  • Communicate your feelings and thoughts. Often times, arguments can be stemmed from either side not knowing what is going on with the other.
  • Don't engage in arguments with your Veteran. Often times they are in one of those "moods" and just want to start fights/nitpick. Walk away, ignore and let them know that you won't engage in battle with them.
  • Realize that it's ok to grieve for what we lost, its OK to be angry and feel resentment but, at the same time, learn that you have to let things go and let the past be the past.
  • Know that if you are feeling frustrated, angry and resentful towards your PTSD/TBI Veteran, then they might just be feeling the same way themselves.
  • Educate, educate, educate. For four years, I have been researching, reading and looking for information on PTSD/TBI. There were still things new that I learned about TBI and PTSD. Education is a key tool in learning coping skills, to function in a household with such issues, and allows for the rest of the family to understand what the Veteran is going through.
  • Allow for some failures; we all fail sometimes as caregivers and spouses...the same should be applied to our Veterans. There will be good days and bad days, but that's for anyone of us! We won't always get it the first time out of the gate, and neither will they. How else will we learn if not by our mistakes?
  • Understand that our Veterans can't help who they are, or often, control their behaviors and emotions.
  • As caregivers/Spouses, we are the most important aspect of the Veteran's well-being and care. If we are emotional train wrecks, we can impede any improvements for our Veterans and our abilities to provide effective care.
  • Our Veterans need to know there are consequences for their behavior. Being their personal verbal and physical punching bag IS NOT OK!
  • Don't allow your Veteran to hold power and control over you!
  • Realize that your Veteran and another Veteran's symptoms and issues may not be the same. Every one is different so don't compare! (I am really bad about this)
  • Understand that a few steps forward is awesome, but that sometimes there will be steps taken backwards too. That's ok! We as the human race aren't perfect!
  • Like the resident donkey, Eugene, our PTSD/TBI "asses" will be around. Use a visualization like Eugene to relieve stress. There is nothing wrong with having a fun mental image to fall back on when you need it!
  • Learned from the horses, that like our Veterans, they do not like to be told what to do. Sometimes they are stubborn, sometimes scared, and want to buck the help and support you give them. You just have to find ways to help them go around these obstacles and help, by finding ways that are most comfortable to them.
  • Lead by example, not by force. If you are stressed right when they walk in the door, then this will most likely set your Veterans off.
  • Learn there triggers and recognize what sets them off. If you find something new, write it down. Often times, avoiding things that trigger episodes can be very helpful.
  • Try to focus on more positives about your Veteran rather than recognize every little negative thing about them. This can ease up some of the frustrations and resentment both parties feel.

October 5, 2010

First Person: Combat PTSD

My name is Rob Honzell, Sr. and I am a Marine Combat Veteran who served in the Vietnam War. I served two tours with 1st Recon eventually assigned to the Phoenix Program. I am the author of First Person: Combat PTSD. The offering was self-published, not by necessity, but by choice. The two publishers that bid on the book wished to turn my life’s journey into a novel. I did not reveal very intimate details of my live to have it turned into something that the average combat vet and his/her family could not relate to. The most gratifying emails and comments concerning the book are, "I read your book and realize that this is my husband", "I now know why my dad acts the way he does", and "My wife is a different person since she came back from Iraq, now I know why." This is why I chronicled my life and laid it out for public scrutiny and examination, and why I gave up so much in doing so. In a later contribution if I will explain the previous statement in greater detail.

I still have family members and ex-wives not talking to me over the book. It is what it is; a detailed account of my combat experiences in a special operations unit. An account of the trauma that precipitated the onset of the anxiety disorder labeled as Combat PTSD.

October 2, 2010

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Between you and me, dear Readers.....You have read that I was pretty scared of horses, had a bitterness so deep within me for counselors and therapists, and that the Wounded Warrior Wives Retreat to Quantum Leap Farm, was somewhat of a trip full of skepticism in my case. The fear of meeting other wives who I felt would more than likely leave me out, the horses trampling me to death and the fact that this was "therapeutic", really left me with a ton of doubts the first day I arrived there.

So how could a bucket of horse poop, an ass, some hula hoops, horses and a turkey along with twelve other women cause a change of mind within this doubting Thomas? Well let me explain what we encountered upon this trip.............



As I mentioned in my first blog about this retreat, we were counseled over the weekend by Dr. Bridget Cantrell (author of Down Range: To Iraq and Back), Dr. Edie Dopking PHD (owner and founder of QLF/), Carla Staats (MA,LCDC,CAP/At E.A.S.E. Equine Self Exploration Program developer) and Jenna Miller (MA) all of whom are just wonderful and friendly. I can't leave out Lisa Reedy who is the financial guru and magician for Quantum Leap because she was there throughout the weekend making sure everything was taken care of. Most doctors and counselors I have encountered in the past four years of our turbulent ride of PTSD/TBI always seemed to focus solely on the medical book and really lack in beside manner not to mention, forgetting the impact of damage that is there within our veterans and our families. Along with their atrocious attitude, they often disregard the most important person in the veteran's care giving and healing processes, us.

September 28, 2010

Women of Warriors Retreat: Gone to the Horses

~This Weekend was more than I can write in one blog so will be breaking this down into several~




I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was attending a retreat sponsored by Operation Homefront's newest group, Wounded Warrior Wives. The retreat, W.O.W. (Women of Warriors) was held in Tampa, FL and was from Friday til Monday. I was fortunate that I was chosen to go on this trip and actually had reservations about going. It wasn't the "free" trip to Florida because from past Army trips, often times they aren't worth the hassle of flying, getting reimbursed, and the agenda not pertaining to our situation or helping. The retreat was to Quantum Leap Farms which really turned me off because Lord knows, I am more city than country. Therapeutic horses I didn't really think worked, am completely terrified of them to begin with, and the first thing I thought of was I am going to get bit or I am going to be around a TON of horse crap! The newest reservation I had was going with strangers I didn't know save one, and that was Wife of a Wounded Soldier through blogs only. I don't normally shy away from large crowds, and can fit in with others...but the thought of being around women honestly scares me somewhat. I guess it's a female anxiety because most women friends I have encountered in my life are catty, hateful and back stabbing except for a select few. Worries about what my husband would do while I was away, my kids and dealing with my mother in law in the process, I really did go back and forth on making my final decision. I am surprised that I actually got on the plane......

I am so glad I did.

September 3, 2010

My Scream List

I really don't know what is wrong with me this week but, I have been in a foul mood every single morning I wake up. A ton of things are bothering me and I just feel the need to get them out of my head and try to move on. So rather than being long winded and probably boring some of you, I am going to make myself a "Scream List"


  • I am tired, bone tired, and soul weary....So very tired that I can't get my brain to function correctly. I am getting less and less sleep, while my husband has done nothing BUT sleep for the past four days and sleeps all the time. His snoring is driving me insane, his CPAP machine for his unhuman like snoring helps, but now he is mumbling and even humming. Regardless of medications to knock him into a comatose state, he still suffers horribly from night sweats. This in turn makes him toss and turn, which leaves me to the edge of my side of the bed holding on for dear life and HOT. Knowing that he kept me up all night long, and after dealing with the kids and sickness, you would have thought I could have laid down during the day to rest. NOPE.

August 30, 2010

When PTSD Wins: A Veteran's Prayer - Battlefield of the Mind

We wage a raged filled battlefield ringing across our mindscape's eye; at times I witness up the periscope as the field of vision erupts with wreckage strewn across the grounds - not back in the place of death and decay, but at home - we brought it home.

I left everything that was good in me back there; I return there where I desire most to be, the me who I was before the me I am today. When I try and tap into the good part of me, the thing that took over me - has a death grip on my soul. I wage a battle today for my subconscious control that intercedes rather objectively when in spirit I pray for others and in deed serve others.

When do I who fought and continues to fight receive the help that I so greedily gave away? I pray this in His name.

August 29, 2010

When PTSD Leads Them Astray


I often search out other spouses who are suffering like I am.....perhaps to fulfill my own needs as far as acknowledgment of my own feelings and suffering. Most of them blogging about their days, their struggles and everyday lives living with Combat PTSD. While I like what I read and is somewhat comforting, I am seeking the unspoken subjects that I have endured and struggled with. Surely, I am not the ONLY spouse who is dealing with the taboo subjects which derive from PTSD and all the hell it leaves in its wake! Is there some unwritten code we as spouses are supposed to follow and not talk about? Are we not allowed to address these issues with the comforting knowledge that it's ok to talk about it? I thought long and hard about all these "hush hush" topics, but am going to grab the reins and run with them anyway!

Such a a simple word that can bring a whole hell of a lot of problems upon a family and a marriage. One of those subjects no one wants to talk about in the open and one that I gather should not be blogged about. My story started once my husband came home from Iraq. As you know from my previous blogs, my husband was not acting remotely normal and our marriage basically dissolved into thin air because of his issues. Coupled with not getting help, let's just say our house was not a happy home. When I found out I was pregnant with our third child, the whole world turned upside down and he lost whatever sanity he did come home with. The paranoia and disillusions really screwed his head up into believing that I somehow had an affair and must have been at the same time he was home for me to be pregnant. There were a lot of hurtful comments, lot of hatred and resentment from both of us. There were so many times in my head that I had wished I had cheated because it would have made his anger, resentment and the trouble he was giving me, worth it. Strongly a firm believer in marriage vows and coming from a family whose parents had issues such as these, I could not believe he would ever think or accuse me of doing such a thing.

August 27, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

I am a combat veteran of the first Gulf War and have been living with the debilitating effects of Combat PTSD for 19 years. I am 30% service-connected for PTSD and will soon receive an increase of at least 50% if not 70%. I have been under a psychiatrist and therapy for the last 5 years and still keep getting worse, I have flashbacks and hallucinations - both audio and visual continuously, I can tune it out sometimes but it it still swirling around me all day. I feel the need to hurt myself and other people, the anger and rage has returned along with the PTSD monster - I need help, I am asking for help. I keep asking for help and they give me another appointment.

I have an appointment on Sept 2 to sign papers for admission to an inpatient program, both my doctor and therapist think I need to go. But, from research I have done the waiting lists for most VA inpatient hospitals are beyond 2 to 4 months. I cannot wait that long, I need stability now. My mind is playing tricks on me, it is descending into oblivion and I can see it playing out over and over. The vivid combat scenes rage through my head, rolling along the crushing weight of treaded metal - fire ablaze everywhere. I should not be alone with my thoughts, but here I'll sit. Because I fear to take myself with me when I go anywhere.

I need a stable holistic environment to heal in, I am seeking help...I do not know if I can hang on much longer.

August 25, 2010

Operation Homefront: Help for the Combat PTSD Caregiver, We'll Give it a Shot



This is how they laid it out in the quotes beyond this paragraph. I recieved this in my email just reread it and had to post it in hopes that they can help our ladies here. Uncle Sam's Mistress I would like for you to take charge of finding out if this place is legit. You, USM have to do this part without your husband. He will be a while in coming back out from his latest battle with the PTSD Monster raging in his head. I pray this service can help.
MISSION: Operation Homefront (OH) provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors.

VISION: Through generous, widespread public support and a collaborative team of exceptional staff and volunteers, we aspire to become the provider of choice for emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. Where there is a need we do not provide, we will partner with others for the benefit of our military families.

Combat Vet Remembers More of the War: Jumbled Memories

This takes part after my formation took enemy artillery, where one of our BFV's lost their track and I disobeyed a direct order from both my TC and my CO. I saved our guys lives that day, but we took a multitude more in return. The story picks up from here.

We had boxed the enemy tanks in, after my unit withdrew from the line of engagement the tanks were brought up and began firing into the hemmed in enemy tanks and support vehicles. Our A-10 Warthogs were strafing them into the dust as we lobbed round after round of sabot metal punching spears, erupting into forced infernos where molten metal and steaming entrails form a fiery vaporizing spray. Erupting upwards hundreds of feet or so; turrets flipping end over end and fire blazing everywhere. I can hear the whole battalion over my headphones reporting the grim realities, friendly fire report comes in.

Now we are terrified somewhere in our minds that the pull of the trigger is killing my own; we must compact our overseer part whom questions so much and rely more on training than ever before. Thus cementing the thing blocking us today; the primitive mind becomes stuck as our way of engaging everything and everyone, where the capacity of engaging in mayhem lies. Some of us have tried to wrest away from the passion of vengeance and the kiss of ruination, to no avail as her talons dig deeper and we resist but the seduction of darkness and damnation lies hidden in all the shadows.

Ah, the smell of death at high noon as we sift through the hollowed detritus of war.

August 24, 2010

PTSD Caregiver: Military One Source Ineffective


Military One Source
Military What Source?

A dear friend asked me last week what my problem was with Military One Source since I had brought it up and thought this would be a good topic for this blog. Now my problem with MOS is not that I think they aren't a good company or have usable and reliable resources for many military families. My issue with this group is that they aren't helping us with anything remotely pertaining to PTSD or TBI, but I guess I should start at the beginning.

So throughout the deployment process, we as spouses were bombarded with all this information usually in the form of packets. MOS always being at the top of the list, providing handy dandy magnets to place on our fridges in case of emergencies. The Army or in our case, the Army Reserves, really shoved MOS down our throats before and during deployment, making sure we understood that this company was our number one place to go to for all that fails while our soldiers were gallantly serving overseas.

Now when my husband was deployed, my oldest son was almost 10 years old. A friend of his lost his daddy over in Iraq and my son really just freaked out over the fact that his dad was going overseas and he was going to get killed like so and so's dad. No matter what I tried to tell him or explain, and no matter the promises from my husband...my son really struggled with this deployment. Walking past the fridge one day, I spot the shiny magnet with the big number "1" on it and decide to call. The woman who answered was indeed, very friendly and supportive over the phone. MOS offered to send my struggling son to counseling or to see a therapist in which I gladly jumped at the offer, all while singing my praises to this fantastic resource! While being placed on hold, I felt so much better and somewhat relieved as this was our first deployment and never had to deal with my son in this type of emotional capacity. It went downhill from there...

August 22, 2010

Compassion Fatigue and the Combat PTSD Caregiver: Dismantling Super Woman

A comment was left on my previous blog and one that made me think for quite a while afterward. Anonymous posted,
Breathe, remember you are a parent with medical challenges to deal with. You are a full time caregiver to a warrior with multiple diagnoses.This can lead to burn out pretty darn fast. Please take care, take a moment, take off the super woman cape for a few minutes and take care of you.
Thank you Anonymous for the comment and kind words. When I read your comment, the first thing that popped in my head was "How do I do that?". Once I chewed on that thought, the next was...."how many of us Combat PTSD/TBI Veteran's Wives are wearing that proverbial Super Woman Cape and unable to shed it?".


Some days I am amazed how much I get accomplished and wonder how in the world I did it all. Of course, this would explain the exhaustion I feel most of the time but, still leaves me in awe that I was able to do it and get it done. I wake up at 6 a.m. and go until 12:00-1:00 a.m. and the days just seem to run into each other leaving me confused on what day it really is. Some days I feel like everything is piled up high and must leave myself notes around the house in order to remind myself of everything that I must do or remind someone else to do! There is one I must rouse out of bed at 6 a.m. to make the bus, one I must force out of bed to get him to Pre-K by 8:00, and then the little one who most of the time is just plain ticked off I had to wake him up! Once those three are done, then I must wake up my Pod Person which usually takes me an hour and a half of shaking, yelling and pulling off the covers because his medicine leaves him in a comatose state at night.

Breakfast is served to the little one while I am chugging what's left in the coffee pot, medicines are laid out for my husband, and then I am thinking of what to do about supper. Morning learning time for my little one, FRG paperwork/emails most days, and then tackling my other emails which involve blogging, candles, or just family and friends. Dishwasher has to be unloaded and laundry to be put in or folded/put away. The phone rings off the hook with my daily call from my Mother-in-law whether I want it or not, and my sister who usually calls me every day. Beds to be made, replies to emails and blogs that I just answered, and reminding my husband what he needs to do for the day. If I am lucky, I might be able to grab a quick shower to wash my hair and that is probably the reason why I just had it all cut off. I originally thought it was due to a mid-life crisis, but in all honesty, it was due to time constraints.

Prayer and Community: A Shelter from the Heat of the Day

Photo by Scott Lee
When I need inspiration I will pray on it and then turn it over to God and forget it...outside of writing it down, well usually, lol. I find most of my inspiration through conversations with other vets and advocates, God gives it to me through others, it is up to me to listen for the answers I prayed to God on and he returns my honor of Him and blesses me as he feeds me inspiration through the mouths of others in my community.

Praying and community; it all comes down to the most successful tools I have ever learned.

August 21, 2010

The Desert Storm Myth


When I first had to prove my combat experience and therefore my stressors, to finally receive my benefits, I had to research what the hell my unit did so I could piece my memory together with the After Action Reports. Upon my research I came across a website run by a Desert Storm Vet and found this account of my unit's three campaigns, of the 1st Armored Division, Delta Company, 6th Battalion, 6th Infantry, I was on point for the 3rd Brigade and we took the brunt of combat.

It was not a Desert Storm, it was a storm in Hell.
The 7th Corps under Lieutenant General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. was composed of the 1st British Armored Division, the 1st US Armored Division, the 3rd Armored Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

...On the US 7th Corps' right flank, the British 1st Armored Division continued to maul the Iraqi 7th Corps.3 In the center, the 2nd US Armored Cavalry Regiment led the 3rd US Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division towards the Iraqi Republican Guards. On the 7th Corps' left flank, the 1st Armored Division captured the large Iraqi supply installation at Al-Busayya (that stored food, water, medicine, fuel, repair parts, clothing, etc.) and then turned east, almost on line with the 3rd US Armored Division.

...The three armored mechanized divisions included the Tawakalna Division, which fought against the entire US 7th Corps as described in this article; the Medina Armored Division, which battled the 1st US Armored Division on the afternoon of 27 February 1991 west of the Al-Ruqta oil field; and the Hammurabi Armored Division, which fought against the 24th US Mechanized Division at Al-Tawr al-Hammar, on 2 March 1991, after the cease-fire.

...The Tawakalna Mechanized Division of the RGFC was positioned about 25 miles west of the Kuwait border, located exactly in the center of the US 7th Corps' sector; The Tawakalna was probably the best division in the Iraqi Army. It had fought with distinction during the war with Iran and was one of the lead divisions in Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 (4). Its two mechanized brigades and one armored brigade were equipped with the most advanced equipment available in the Iraqi Army, including 220 T-72 tanks and 278 infantry fighting vehicles. On 25 February it had moved into a blocking position west of the Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia (IPSA) pipeline about 80 miles from Kuwait city. In spite of the air campaign, most of this division was in position and ready to fight when the US 7th Corps arrived on 26 February 1991 (5).

...With the destruction of the Tawakalna Division, Franks was able to focus the combat power of the 7th Corps towards the other heavy divisions of the Republican Guard Forces Command. Although part of the Medina Division would stand and fight against the 1st US Armored Division, the Iraqi high command ordered the Hammurabi Division to start moving north, across the Euphrates River and away from the American attack in the west. The Tawakalna Division's defense gave the remainder of the Iraqi Army in Kuwait the time it needed to evacuate most of its mechanized forces to Basra.

...When the confusing mêlée was over, the 1st Division tanks discovered that they had destroyed five of their own M1 tanks and four Bradleys. Six brigade soldiers perished in these attacks and thirty others were wounded.

...While most of the Tawakalna Division commander's attention was focused to his division's front, its right flank was about to be attacked by a fourth American unit, the 1st Armored Division. Major General Ron Griffith's primary military target had been the Medina Division about thirty kilometers father east (54), but one battalion of the Tawakalna's 29th Mechanized Brigade occupied positions in Griffith's 1st Armored Division's zone of operations (55). That Iraqi battalion lay directly in the path of Colonel Dan Zanini's (one of Griffith's three maneuver brigades) 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (my unit baby, in the path of the Tawakalna Division!!!!!!!!!!!!!, we actually received credit for fighting all three Republican Guard divisions, 56).

August 20, 2010

Combat PTSD Vets Return to Combat: Easier than Coping Back Home

Comment from a reader on July 24, 2010 from the same dang awesome post I wrote on November 11, 2009. It shares with you a more complete picture or a typical face of Combat PTSD Home and its members; we are the Families of the Combat Veteran.
Scott, your blog has been an unbelievable insight into combat PTSD and given me so much to think about. Thank you. My friend came back from Afghanistan a few months ago and has found it quite difficult to re-adjust but I only realised how much he was suffering during a huge drunken breakdown a few weeks ago. I felt so helpless I didn't know what to say or do but I held him when he cried and left him alone when he asked.

The next day when he had sobered up I asked him how he was feeling and if he wanted to talk about it but he said no and I didn't want to push him. And then a few days later he said that he was going to apply to go back to Afghanistan. I was speechless. He said life was much simpler there and of course I have no comprehension of how it is over there but I really wanted to say I didn't think it was a good idea. But didn't feel like I had any right to say anything so I have kept silent. A few days ago he told me he put his application in and I was so upset, is there anything I can say? I know he is suffering and now from reading your blog I have a small idea just how much, I don't want him to feel even worse.....
Amy
My response,
Amy, this is a tough situation. First of all you will probably not be able to talk him out of it. Second, unconditional love is just that we love them, but we cannot and do not try to control them. This will put them on the defense and no one wants a combat vet on the defense receiving mixed up signals.

He will keep opening up, it took me 19 years for me to finally open up and talk about my combat experience, many will never talk about it.

This may not make much sense to someone who has never experienced it, but he will feel worlds better back in the battle-zone. He knows the risks, dangers and never goes without backup. He does not have to look over his shoulder, because his squad mate has it covered. He is told when to eat, drink, shit and sleep. He knows what to expect everyday for the next 365 days and he will never feel alone there.

I still feel the powerful bond I forged with my battle buddies that I will never forget. I long for their company as much today as when I left the theater of war. If I could go to war today, I know that my PTSD symptoms would vanish, as your veterans will if he goes back. This is an issue worth studying and researching as this trend is spreading. Our soldiers are on average 4 and 5 tours of duty.

August 19, 2010

Friends, Deployment and Community

I never realized just how important it was to be a good friend until I almost lost mine. You see, "L" and I have been friends for over 20 years. We met in elementary school and lived one street over from each other growing up. In high school I was self absorbed and had no time for other people's problems. I was so concerned with being popular and fitting in, that it was easy for me miss how many people I hurt, including my dear friend "L". After school, somehow she still managed to be my friend and I still treated her carelessly.

It wasn't until after my 1st marriage failed and I was left a single mother with no one to depend on that I started to really see what a great friend she was. She helped me to sell my wedding rings so I could file for my divorce. Her Hubby even went with me to the courthouse the day my divorce was finalized. When my Hubby deployed, she researched and found me the cheapest highest quality tires when mine were no longer drivable. She drove me around her town to get the tires replaced and aligned. She had me spend weekends to make sure I got out of the house after I lost my job. She took my daughter for weekends so I could have time to myself. Whenever I have needed her, she has always been there. I can't tell you how thankful I am that she has stuck by me all these years and the invaluable lesson she taught me...how to be a good friend.

In the last few years, I have been lucky enough to find 2 more amazing friends who have helped me through some of the hardest times in my life. "K" and I met when I was a clerk at a drugstore and she was my manager. That was almost 15 years ago. Our friendship has been seriously tested over the years. We have the same ex husband and lived together for 6 months and that almost ended our friendship for good. But, we were strong enough to get past it and we are closer than we have ever been. During my Husband's deployment, she helped shovel the driveway, clean my house, and fix me food when I couldn't get off the couch after falling down the stairs. Even when she was going through a grueling breakup she was still there. She is an angel.

Fight the Combat PTSD Monster

Drawing by Scott Lee 1991
Comment from a reader on July 21, 2010 from the article, hey hey you guessed it! Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs (not doing the link again...I know I could have done it by now...but...never mind.

Anonymous said...
I fight my monster every day....sometimes it gets the upper hand and I add to the problems I already have. I fight every day to keep sane, to be "normal", to keep my job and keep my family intact. I fought well in Iraq...and won. I am still fighting, but feel I am destined to loose this fight. God, how I want this monster to go away.
My Response,
Anony, Go the VA, yes they can suck big time sometimes. But, if you read in these sections under Resources for Soldiers, Veterans, Families and Loved Ones you will be able to get the hep you need:
You might be able to find some help along the way in reading here, if nothing else you will understand yourself better (Beware - Understanding why we do what we do will not change any of this...).

I have been where you are...you can make it home if you keep working at coming home everyday. We say 'Welcome Home' to our brothers and sisters in arms because the battle never leaves us, as we return home from combat everyday of our lives.

Your monster is not just your monster...it is the monster of all Warriors, we should carry it together. You are not meant to carry this burden alone, come home to your brothers and sisters. Seek us out in your community, we are there waiting for you.

The guilt and shame we carry we can share in and begin to heal.

August 18, 2010

Failure to Launch: VA and Tricare




I don't know whether it's just because I am emotionally and physically tired, but it seems like everything here lately is just so damn overwhelming. Between my little one being so sick, my other two in school, and then my husband....anything else is just like a big whopping smack in the face!

Recently, we found out that my husband must go before the Medical Review Board. Now, for those of you who know what I am talking about.....you will probably say "well you knew this was coming!". Ok, yes I did....My issue here is the confusion, the lack of no information or a straight answer and of course, trying to figure it out all again, on my own. We recently sent in for an increase of my husband's disability which was currently at 40%. He was 30% for PTSD and 10% for Tinnitus (ringing of the ears). After reading so many other horror stories of fellow PTSD Veterans, we should be thankful for what my husband was originally awarded. However, two statements later from his psychiatrists, they deemed him unemployable...and pretty much in both letters, stated he really didn't need to be out in the world on his own and as his wife....I know this statement is most definitely true!

His increase came back and of course, everything else was turned down. They considered that TBI was factored in, but he hadn't been to the doctor yet so they could not determine anything as of yet. Understandable. The thing that pissed me off, was yes he did get an increase of his PTSD to 50% but took away his original award of Tinnitus! 10% is a good chunk of change and we didn't realize they would take it away. Now he has hearing loss so severe that the VA placed hearing aids in both ears, and the ringing can last for hours in his head. Everywhere we looked on this paperwork stated DEFERRED DEFERRED DEFERRED! What does that even mean? Deferred for what? The VA originally gave it to him, and now they are asking for his paperwork from when he first signed up for Basic Training!The rest which was all documented and the VA is treating him for, of course, was turned down because they don't feel it's war related. We have documentation showing this! I figured I am going to have to put two large flags on each underlined word and then maybe they will read it!

We Gave the You, Joe Public the Right to be Condescending and Judgmental

This comment came from a reader from the article Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs, I tear Anonymous a Kentucky Fried Ass Whooping!
One cannot take human life (murder/kill) and remain normal. It is impossible. Life is sacred and it is a gift given to us by God. No one has a right to kill another. That is why we have the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" regardless of what governments, or individuals tell us.

We reap what we sow. It is painful indeed.
Anonymous,
We reap what we sow?

sow - to scatter (seed) over the ground for growing. To spread (land, for example) with seed. To strew something around or over (an area); distribute something over. To propagate; disseminate: sow rumors. To scatter seed for growing.

Idiom:
sow (one's) oats/wild oats, to indulge in dissolute or licentious behavior, especially to be sexually promiscuous, when young.

Usually used of men (from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sow).

Now, to employ such a devious and licentious projection (psychological term...go look it up) onto Combat PTSD Veterans labeling them as deviant. Now, I must ask you this. Do you know the suffering of a Combat PTSD Veteran who by no action of their own, barring signing a piece of paper, who feel the burden of a nation on their shoulders and nowhere to go because the system is already overloaded with Combat Veterans. It has been estimated by the Federal Prison Bureau the 10% of the American jails and prisons house veterans. The last time the incarcerated veteran population was in double digits was 10 years after the Vietnam War. We are now in double digits and the war is not over!

We do no have enough resources to help our warriors come home safely...never mind who started what and your personal opinion of the war. These men and women are not some hard statistic for you to say "Damn shame, they got it coming though for what they did says so in the bible."

They gave you the freedom to be condescending and judgmental! Painful indeed? Seriously? Sounds like you have no idea what such pain feels like, talking about it in such a flippant and caviler way!

August 17, 2010

PTSD is a Demon: First It Invades the Veteran, then the Family

Reader's comment on August 1, 2010 from the article Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs
For the life of me I cannot figure out why our government and the general public is not willing to do more for our Veterans.

PTSD is a demon. One that not only invades the mind of the soldier, but the mind of every individual that loves the soldier. It eats at the heart of the wife who watches her husband pace the living room without any explanation for his restlessness. It eats at the innocent soul of the child that watches their hero throw a toy across the room that startled him with it's sound.
Being an Army wife was not easy when he was away. And now that he has been safe at home for 4 years, I find myself wondering if it would have been easier if he had not made it. I know this is awful to put in writing. I understand that every wife or husband that has lost their soldier would do anything to have them back in any shape or form. I only mean to reflect on my personal 4 year struggle to be the "perfect" wife to a struggling hero.

Life has become littered with invisible obstacles that never seem to get easier. I feel for every soldier, every wife and husband, every child, every parent, every friend of a soldier. I pray that one day everyone will be fighting for our soldiers the way they have fought for us.

Combat Vet Girlfriend Finds Hope and Support at PASP

Photo by Scott Lee
ACK Girl said...Another comment from More Stupid Crap to Say to a Combat Veteran from February 18, 2010 12:12 PM (24 comments and growing),
I have been dating a veteran of the Iraq war for approximately 6 months now and I see how his PTSD effects everything aspect of his life. He was very forthcoming with his struggle right from the start. I thought I had a reasonably decent grasp on what I was getting involved with because my father was a war veteran as well. I was used to not being able to make loud noises, walk up behind him without warning, ask questions about his experiences (my father taught me to listen to the information offered but to never ever ask questions of a veteran), etc.

My father was a loving man but not an emotionally expressive one until the tail end of his life. It took the passing of my mother for him to finally let down some of his guard and show some real emotion. It was in the 9 years between my mom and dad's passing that I finally got to know my father as the man he truely was. He was wounded still, decades after he served in WWII. He struggled with his own deamons and yet he was still infinitely proud to have served his country. To him, it was his greatest accomplishment.

When I met my boyfriend there was so much about him that reminded me of my dad. He had all of the qualities that I loved about my own father. He is proud yet humble. He is strong yet vulnerable (not that he wants to show that, but I have seen it). He is wounded yet he carries on. I admire him in ways he will never know....the same way I admired my dad. I see his struggle with his PTSD and I wish I could help somehow. All I can do is listen when he wants to talk and do my best to not do the things that I know will set him off (like walking up behind him unexpectedly, discussing politics, religion or the war (any of them, and things like that).

We have had a hard time with certain aspects of our relationship but I know in my heart that he is a good, honest and loving man. I also know that he is deeply, deeply wounded in ways that I could not begin to imagine. So I will patiently work through the bumps with him because I believe in him. I believe in all of our veterans and service memebers. I owe my life to them, I owe my freedom to them and I owe my undying support and gratitude to them. It was an honor to have been raised by the man I called daddy. It is an honor to share my life with than man I call "honey". It is an honor to be an american citizen and I am fully aware of the price that has been paid and will be paid by those who defend our freedom and liberties.

Thank you for this blog. It helps to read these posts to gain better insight into how to help and support the veteran that I love so dearly.

August 15, 2010

Symbols of War, Responsibility and Remembrance

Another comment by a reader that I find should be included in our main pages. This one is from More Stupid Crap to Say to a Combat Veteran, one of our readers favorite to comment on.
OEF Combat Vet Wife says,
I have read your blog and keep returning to it. You have an insight that helps me. My husband is and OEF vet with ptsd. He does not talk much and obviously I will never understand the experience he or any of you vets have gone through.This blog helps. However, this comment "We do not wear our military memorabilia because we want people to ask us about them, we wear them to remind us of shit we will never be able to forget. If you cannot understand that then you have no business asking us about anything." leaves me a bit uneasy (for lack of a better word).
Photo by Scott Lee
When ANYONE wears any kind of symbol, saying, whatever it invites people to read, to notice and sometimes to talk. I do get wearing something as a reminder (I wear specific jewelry to remind me of those who have passed). I get to see it everyday but no one is any smarter about it. I do hope you will consider my comment and not get as upset when someone recognizes something you have on. For the most part, they probably mean no harm.
Again thank you for writing this blog.
My response,

August 14, 2010

Combat Vet Seeks VA Inpatient PTSD Treatment Hospital 19 Years After Combat


I am on a waiting list to go into a Combat PTSD Inpatient Hospital, some of the numbers being thrown around are 30-90 day waiting period...Seriously? Really?

It should come to no surprise to me - well, until I have to go through the damn hoops with the VA, AGAIN! I will keep everyone posted - Talk about fucking barriers to care...fuck me.

Upon admittance I will not be writing at PASP for up to 3 months, my therapist thinks it is important that I focus on me.

Operation Enduring Care & Caregivers

www.operationenduringcare.org
I received an email in regards to my blogging about this particular event going on for Wounded Warriors and their caregivers. Although I don't normally promote anything unless it has: a) is something/someone I have dealt with b) is related to my soldier and his issues or c) I know enough information to feel confident about passing it on, I felt this particular request was important enough for me to share. I am a huge fan of the USO and they did treat my husband like royalty when he got deployed. I remember him calling home from Maine in 2006, on a pre-paid cell phone the USO had given him when they landed. My husband told me that they had to stop and fuel up there before heading to Germany, and he was in line to get a full Maine lobster dinner. I was astounded at the way the USO volunteers set all this up for our guys and for the hour, they could eat and talk all they wanted. This act of kindness put my backwoods Tennessee man at ease on his first trip to Iraq and although jealous of my husband eating fresh Maine lobster, I knew my husband would be o.k. So in thanks, I am passing on this information because it also pertains to all of us who have Wounded Warriors and PTSD and because I appreciate what you did for my husband four years ago!

The VA: Protect the Budget Policy Breeds Barriers to Care for Veterans

Photo by Scott Lee
On August 19, 2009 at 2:22 PM, I had a conversation with a Combat Veteran's Mother pleading for help with the criminal charges her Combat PTSD son received during a flashback. Incarcerated Combat Vet Mom makes a critical connection on why so many veterans are not receiving the care they scream out for in the night.

Anonymous said,
My son is just begining to show signs of something after being placed in jail for domestic violence and robbery II. He's been in jail for over 4 months with a bail high as the sky and the VA Med Ctr not willing to accept him with a felony charge. My son, who was bail out 2 times in one week was place there for allegly attacking the victim again. My question is, he's wanting the bail lowered so we can get him out. Can I trust him?
Scott A. Lee said,
I would like to direct you to a woman who has been going through a similar situation. Her name is Sue, click here, her email is on her blogger profile.

I have been talking to her for about a year now and she has come a long way and making the best of her situation. She has become active in this area of concern and has gained some wisdom and insights that may help you.

August 12, 2010

Unknown Soldiers by Joe Garland, WWII Veteran


I recieved this comment on The Combat Veteran and Police Assisted Suicide on November 25, 2008,
Scott, sometimes it takes a long time to recognize that we have PTSD. My preface to my new book, Unknown Soldiers, (see below) is an account of my situation. I've finally written my place in history and that of my comrades from my point of view as a participant. My new book, "Unknown Soldiers," is a memoir of my days as a soldier serving in World War II in Europe.

Even as I, at eighty-five, close the book sixty-five years later, I confess in the recollection of it all to a tinge of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. No, none of us purposed our death when we purposed our services to President Roosevelt and to our country back in the 1940s.

This book was embarked upon in March 1943 in the form of a journal—a catch-as-catch-can record of whatever lay ahead of me, a bottom-of-the-pile volunteer in the United States Infantry when the USA was viewed as the last hope of a more or less civilized world grappling with the most evil force in the recorded history of mankind. Six months after I signed up for battle, not long after the Allied invasion of Italy, I landed in ravaged Naples with the first contingent of American casualty replacements in Europe and was assigned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon of about thirty front-line scouts and observers in the 45th Infantry Division's 157th Regiment, already baptized in the battle to drive the Germans from Sicily after their expulsion from North Africa.

August 9, 2010

Marine Widow Lost Her Combat Veteran to Suicide: Icarus Syndrome

Photo by Scott Lee
I received this comment on January 26, 2009 at 10:41 AM on an article I wrote, We Cannot Make it Through the Confines of Our Minds Without the Help of Others, it went viral on January 23, 2009 the day I published it. Here is the comment,
After watching my father, a 16 yr. Army WWII veteran, my uncle, a WWI Navy veteran, my husband, Marine Corps '68 in country, cousins, brothers-in-law, and friends, then reading correspondence from my great-grandfather after the Civil War, I have been left with an understanding of that life-altering change that you speak of that leaves ordinary life and its mundane, trivial worries a shadowy caricature of what you feel life is supposed to be.

Perhaps it is a chemical alteration the body undergoes, the pharmaceutical companies will be happy to help, but perhaps it is a more profound change, spiritual if you will. If you can find a way to channel that omniscient feeling into making our society function optimally, there would be a chance for us.

August 3, 2010

Military Dog Comes Homes Traumatized by War: Dog Tags

I came across this article this morning while working on my coffee, and thought this was pretty interesting enough to share. I have been around several K-9 units and myself had a German Shepard. Overall, I thought the article was somewhat validating and made a lot of sense. What do I mean by that? Well, let's look back on the last 30 years or more and PTSD has literally been swept to the side and still is today to an extent when it comes to getting full treatment and most definitely, VA benefits. I find that if a K-9 can come home with PTSD, then it's not just our military members who suddenly have an onset of "personality disorders" that are being tossed out there like candy on a parade float. It seems that if you can get a diagnosis, the Veteran's PTSD is not worth more than just a couple of prescription bottles.

I know with our GS, he was very in tune with his surroundings, the family and any little thing like stress, death, and even just arguments would upset him. Now I am not saying our military is subject to suffering PTSD because they are sensitive, but we are after all....discussing K-9s. Makes sense that if a military used K-9 can come home with PTSD then it really makes a huge statement in regards to our military personnel. Let's hope with more and more articles with PTSD in it, the more we can get help as military and as families; as long as the military doesn't start using treats to bribe our soldiers out in public!

Gone to the Dogs,




August 1, 2010

PTSD and Incarcerated Veterans

Hello! My name is Jamie Keyes, and I am the mother of an Iraq war veteran who has PTSD and is also in prison due to a PTSD related incident. I really don't know exactly how to start this blog other than to say that my son's service in the military, PTSD and subsequent incarceration has really sent me on a long and painful journey, but given me a new mission in life. That mission being a part of educating our country of the plight of our returning veterans and soldiers, so that the appropriate changes can be made to better support them.

Because of my advocacy and experience with these issues, I have been given many opportunities to reach out to the families of veterans who have PTSD and unfortunately been arrested and thrown into prisons all over this country because of their service to this country. On any given week I receive calls from many desperate family members who's young veterans have come home suffering the unseen wounds of war, fallen through the cracks, and ended up in prison. I have heard all their stories, and despite the different circumstances surrounding the arrests of their loved ones, the stories are all the same. It begins with the soldier who is still in the military. Commanders and those who are supposed to be taking care of their soldiers are not paying attention to the signs of distress or responding appropriately.

There is no seamless transition from the military to the V.A. and many of them are sent out into the civilian world having to fend for themselves. If they do make it to the VA, they are not taken care of in a timely and appropriate manner, and many end up in prison or morgues all over this country. Currently there is no way of telling how many of our current conflict veterans are in jails and prisons all over this country because there are no studies on the numbers, or ways of keeping track of them. I will tell you this. It is at epidemic proportions and the citizens in this country would be shocked if they really knew how many of our young soldiers were incarcerated due to their PTSD.

July 31, 2010

Jesse Dayton: I'm Coming Home

I came across this video by one of the members on Facebook page, it really hits home the striking difference we tell others we are OK in the field right before battle. When in fact we are under the most duress we have ever faced, until we bring it home with us.

I remember a similar conversation with my wife, I told her I was OK and she would not hear from me for several weeks. To not be alarmed, I was OK. I told her she would receive a letter to open it and read it, I did not tell her this may be the last she would ever receive. We were instructed to do this, we knew this was our last good bye and it felt like it. The tension was in the air, she knew I was going into combat under the hail of gunfire, bombs and hellfire. I said good bye, she did not cry, yet I knew she would collapse after the phone line went dead...





Thank you Positive for being there for me, may God bless you,

Scott

July 27, 2010

Family, Friends and the Army


I woke up in a funky mood this morning. Stayed up too late again and so I begin my coffee drip through IV while writing this. Lot of thoughts rolling around this mind of mine last night and for the life of me, just could not clear it to go to sleep! I guess I was trying to think of a new post I could add here as nothing as been worthy enough around the house or with my husband to write something interesting about. So I decided a topic I haven't discussed is family, friends and the Army.

I get a lot of comments that family and friends just don't understand. I completely understand that and can empathize. I don't have much family left on my side at all, so I am not really having to worry about them as much as I should I guess. My side of the family went through the Vietnam War and my uncles all passed away due to Agent Orange related cancers. I don't remember them ever exhibiting signs of PTSD but do remember them as alcoholics for as long as I could remember them. One was heavily into prescription drugs and my dad used to complain about how that was the coward way out. It probably was, but after knowing what I know now, it could be possible that my uncles had some serious issues. I don't have any relatives on my mother's side and after she passed away, that was it.

My grandmother on my dad's side never made it past the 6th grade of school and married young. Had quite a few children which her world revolved around and from the hills of TN, she really didn't experience much as far as gaining worldly knowledge. Her world revolves now around who is sick, how she is the sickest of them all because she has the same thing you had, and what you had for supper. I love her, but I find her to be so sheltered within that Tennessee mountain life that such things as PTSD just means they are "crazier than an outhouse rat". That is after you can get her to past the four letter word, PTSD, which you must repeat incessantly.

July 22, 2010

My Story Will Shatter the Jarhead Myth of the 'Bloodless War' of Desert Storm

An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft flies over a ...
Image via Wikipedia
It has been almost 20 years and I have finally healed enough and wish to share my war experience. My story will shatter the Jarhead myth of the 'Bloodless War' of Desert Storm.

I am a Combat PTSD Veteran of the First Gulf War, I saw hectares of blood stained sands strung as the death clock clicked, chimed and claimed 45,000 lives. I lay witness, on point for the 3rd brigade of the 1stAD and beheld the 20,000 lives my unit snuffed in three bloody campaigns that lasted 100 hours. I drove for 172 hours straight without sleeping, yes that's 7 days, on drugs they force me to take.

I wish to dispel the myth of my war and make a movie about it. It was the biggest over land tank battle in the history of war and our enemy had no chance of winning, yet they met our glare as our bullets and bombs fell their own. I took no pleasure in directing hellfire knowing full well people would die.

July 19, 2010

The Tradition of Military Tattoos

Tattoos are Incredibly Powerful Symbols

During my time spent working as a Corrections Officer I saw many inmates with homemade prison-style tattoos; human flesh used as prime real estate on which they eagerly advertise their affiliation with a gang, names of fallen friends, teardrops on the face, full sleeves, backs, chest and necks all adorned with crude bluish colored designs. On the right side of the law however, the decision to permanently mark ones body with ink is not carried out so lightly.

And then there are military tattoos; the Navy being the most synonymous with this age old tradition harking back to salty sea dogs emblazoned with Popeye style anchors on their forearms, or Hawaiian maidens manipulated by undulating abdominal muscles animating the Pacific Island beauty into a hula dance. But that was back in the day and tastes have become far more sophisticated since then.

In 2007, my husband began to bandy around the idea of getting another tattoo, one to memorialize his time in Iraq. The tattoo would pay tribute to the sacrifice made when he re-enlisted 10 years after leaving the Army National Guard volunteering to deploy down range with his Brigade Combat Team. He also wanted it to signify the pride he felt in having served, and despite wishing he wasn't injured if he had to do it all over again he would unwaveringly return to the Sand Box.

Being the artistic one in the family I felt in my own way I would also be honoring my husband by contributing to the tattoo's final design. I enjoyed sharing my draft concepts with him; like an excited teenager I would present one idea after the other... "What do you think of this one?" "Here's another variation on the same theme." And he would always give me constructive feedback on how it could be tweaked until finally he felt it captured all the important elements of his deployment; the 1st Cav patch that he wore on his right arm, the Stars and Stripes for the people he was serving, the dates of his deployment, and the M16 personalized with the same number on the stock and Aimpoint scope exactly replicating the rifle he carried in Iraq.

After weeks of back and forth, fine tuning every detail, in November 2007 (coincidentally the same month he received his Purple Heart three years earlier) he took the design to the tattoo artist here in our town who I'm sure you'll agree did a fine job replicating the final draft on my husbands upper right arm.

He now carries with him an eternal affiliation to his cause, his country, and a time in his life that permanently redefined who he is today.

July 15, 2010

Combat Veterans and Romance: Patsy Cline, Chardonnay and Dusty Lingerie


It must be due to hormones, lack of sleep and lack of sex that has made me a little sensitive these last couple of days.....not that I am remotely grumpy, or hateful to anyone in my family....just little things irritate the piss out of me. I have been somewhat saddened by my husband's latest comments in regards to ending his fight of PTSD. Well, to be honest, it scares the hell out of me. I have been drifting around the last couple of days in sort of a funk and not really sure the direction I need to be going. Taking my own advice, I have tried to concentrate on the past and what made me fall in love with my husband to begin with. I try to remember all the positive things albeit they are slowly drifting away from my memory as PTSD eats away at them.

So a few glasses of wine and fifteen Patsy Cline songs later...these are the things that have bothered me the most the last couple of days.

July 14, 2010

A Soldier's Expectations of Coming Home: The Trap of Flawless Execution

M6 Linebacker along the highway near Balad, Ir...
Image via Wikipedia
Hell, I made it through combat, going home will be a cakewalk (most soldiers and families).
In combat we have this fantasy of coming home and how if we can just get home then everything will be perfect, beware of expectations in ourselves and others for they can become the trap of flawless execution (TFE). To get past this razor edged pattern of thinking we must recognize it for what it is; our warrior values and operating system require us to become convinced of our invincibility. In combat the TFE would kill most enemies, but when we fall into this pattern of thinking back home we become dysfunctional and disorganized both in spirit and mind. When we come home we must purge our souls of the terror and horror of war, and when we have not been educated in the process we can run the risk of hurting ourselves or others.

We become so fixated in expectations that they change our perception of one another; the expectations become the focus of interest instead of a holistic meeting of one another where we are. A wise woman from Fort Knox Kentucky just recently told me, "Communication and education are key." A little bit of my Kentucky wit,
We must enter a rigid state of mind to enter into bliss, but to remain so this too we must let go (Scott Lee).

July 12, 2010

Rules for Combat PTSD Change within the VA Today

Obama Chronicles writes,
In the weekly address, President Obama outlined how his administration is making it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits they need. These new changes in the Department of Veterans Affairs take effect today.



We Combat PTSD Veterans, had to ‘prove’ we were in combat, even though I was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB). I applied 7 times over 15 years before I was diagnosed and starting receiving care and treatment.

July 11, 2010

VA Questions


So I have been trying to "help" my husband with his re-appeal of his 40% disability he received from the VA. We are appealing for 100% based on several things, and the Disabled American Veterans are helping us with my husband's case. I hate to say it, but man oh man, what a major pain in the ass! I know that nothing in life is free, especially with the VA and the systematic way they keep turning down our Veterans with PTSD. I know we were pretty lucky he was awarded the 40% the first "go at it" rather than a big fat "Sorry, no can do soldier".

I have no idea what I am doing on this stuff. We re-appealed and the DAV we haven't heard much from since it all started. Now we are members of this organization, and still unsure how all this process works but we are leaving it in their hands. However, there are so many questions I have that no one seems to know the answers to! Trying to navigate the mysterious VA website is like trying to fish in a black hole in outer space. Although college educated, I feel like a major idiot when it comes to understanding any of this stuff! What I wouldn't give for a "How to Get Your VA Disability Benefits" Book for Dummies! The more info you come across, the more no one seems to know about it or have any experience with it. I ask questions, and people all of a sudden get the bad case of "Just give me a call next week" which is rather frustrating because that is their job they get paid for. I leave messages with many no return phone calls in the process and I feel my questions are pretty damn important. Ok Ok Ok, I know.......everyone's questions are pretty important and not pouting or throwing a hissy because no one answers my questions. It's just that if I can't figure it out, how the hell am I supposed to help my husband? If I can't find it, how does everyone else do it?

July 9, 2010

Combat Veterans and Trigger Cues

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1
Image viaWikipedia
In a combat zone we look for regular angles in an irregular environment; the child holding a cell phone is, according to the law of probability, a death threat. At home these kind of distorted thinking patterns can become debilitating as everything has regular angles, therefore a 'threat or trigger cue' (TTC).

In a combat environment death and destruction rein supreme, where the laws of nature rage and rules, values an norms of the warrior prevail. In combat the leveled weapon in a haystack of chaos is registered and fired upon as one reaction; to do otherwise is to seek death.

The combat schemata (target=shoot) had registered a threat and acted upon it without hesitation saving the lives of her soldiers; but in doing so she has bound her life to those deaths. This highly imprinted schemata becomes entrenched and thus becomes our first line of defense for even vaguely perceived threats, the stuffing of society.

July 6, 2010

Scott Lee on America's Web Radio Tomorrow Morning with Michael Orban




Click the banner above to hear the interview!

LIVE INTERNET RADIO
MILITARY PTSD EXPOSED

Log on to listen live
www.americaswebradio.com

Guest Gulf War Combat Veteran and Veterans Issues Examiner Scott Lee

Hosted by Army Combat Veteran Michael S. Orban
Wednesday June 30 at 11:00am eastern
Same day replay at 11:00pm eastern
(adjust for your time zone)

for more information see my website

www.michaelorban.com

Combat Mistress' Mailbox Question and Answer Time

After the many emails over the weekend, I was somewhat surprised at the questions you ladies asked! I want to remind you I don't have all the answers nor do I pretend to know them. I am not a PTSD expert/doctor and can only answer based on what I have experienced with my combat veteran. I will attempt to answer these the best way I can and hope that it helps you or steers you in the right direction. Many thanks to each of you who gave me permission to use your question so others may see it......Here we go!

How do you deal with your vet? Is it ok for me to not want to stay with my husband? He has gotten so bad that I can't deal with him anymore. He was diagnosed with PTSD but he won't get help, it's been four years! I don't know what to do anymore and there are days where I really just hate him.
First off, I understand how you feel. I really really do. Is it o.k. for you to hate the man you love? YES! There are going to be days where each of us in a relationship are not going to get along. What you are feeling is completely normal and I can tell you there are days where I really just want to take a cast iron skillet to my husband's head! You can love some one to the depths of your very soul and still not like them some days. This doesn't necessarily mean Veteran's with PTSD/TBI and their spouses, it can be anyone including family members. Does this make you less of a person? NO! I get very angry most days, I am hurt, I feel betrayed, and some days I want to smack him upside the head and tell him to just get over it! He is home now, leave all this crap in the past! However, we must remember that PTSD/TBI is not something that just goes away and not something our Veterans caused to get this.

Educate yourself on the subjects, look into options for both you and your husband and learn together. Spouses of Combat PTSD Vets don't deal, we COPE. Most of us are on medications ourselves, others find things to get involved in, and others just take it from day to day bracing for the worst and hoping for the best. I found that by reading and researching PTSD and TBI is how I cope along with blogging about it.

July 5, 2010

Realities of Coming Home From Combat

This post is reproduced with my husband's permission from his blog One Veteran's Battle.

Every soldier whose been in combat cannot help but to be changed for life. It may be surprising to know, the veteran believes everything will be OK, that they will comforted if he can just get home. When they finally arrive, there's an element of euphoria, followed by disorientation. Veterans slip into what can only be described as an 'illusion of normalcy.' They pretend that nothing has changed.

As time passes, it could be 1 month, or 2 years, but most commonly it's approximately 3 to 6 months, the veteran can no longer suppress what he's become as a result of combat. His true self begins to emerge. This can be expressed in many forms, anger, depression, isolationism, even suicide. The veteran will become sensitive to being around others and startle easily, and may show little interest in doing the things he once enjoyed. His interests may be alcohol, drugs, porn, or absolutely nothing at all. But these things are not really the man. They are expressions of pain seeking an outlet. It wasn't long ago he was in combat in a shit hole world. Everything you can think of was discarded onto the streets, waste paper, plastic bottles, rubble, feces, urine, and even decomposing animals (both domesticated dogs, etc. and human) now he's in a 'civilized' world with no way to express himself in a normal, culturally accepted way. Therefore, veterans turn to violence, isolate themselves, or commit suicide. How can anyone that hasn't been 'In the shit' possibly know what fucked up shit veterans have dealt with? Pisses me off when I hear anyone call a veteran a freeloader. They have god damn clue what their talking about. I wish they were walking the streets of Baghdad in 2004. If they were to survive they'd shut the fuck-up.

Once the veteran crosses that boundary to the new 'true self,' both the veteran and his spouse must come to terms with the changes in their relationship together or it's doomed to fail. I represent a failed attempt to make the adjustment. I failed, or she refused to accept the changes in me, we ended up in divorce. I had no intention on giving up on the relationship; it was my intention to try and work it out. It was her decision to abandon our relationship. But I realize now, it was the best result possible. I'm just sorry she did it in such a mean spirited way (another post).

I'm a bad example because my marriage was in trouble when I left for Iraq, nonetheless, I think I observations of value. The bottom line is, if you had a good relationship prior to deployment, despite the seemingly insurmountable difficulties resulting from combat experience, much can be overcome with love. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. It's hard for the veteran because he's confused, most likely working out prescriptions through VA, suicidal at times, depressed, and anxious. He feels these things within the context of his love for you, his spouse. His spouse sees a changed man, someone she didn't marry. Some women understand the reason, others don't. The ones that do understand and stand with their man, that's true love and compassion. They will work it out in the end. Those relationships troubled before Iraq, as mine was, or those that cannot find common ground and understanding, will likely fail.

Saving a relationship after being separated by something so insidious as combat would be hard on any family. Coming home can provide initial relief from the realities of war, but soon the nightmares return, and we act out, unsure what to do with these emotions forged in war and expect them to fit-into a world that has no understanding of what they've become.