Monthly Archives: March 2012

Veterans Treatment Court Legislation

http://www.nadcp.org/vets

Quoted from the above website.

Services, Education, and Rehabilitation for Veterans (SERV) Act

“In the 111th Congress, NADCP was honored to work with members of the House and Senate to produce the bipartisan SERV Act. The SERV Act would have provided funding for communities with existing Drug Courts that serve veterans or will establish new Veterans Treatment Courts. This critical legislation is the key to providing the resources necessary to expand Veterans Treatment Courts throughout the country.”
Veterans Treatment Court Mentor Court Program
“NADCP and its professional services branch, the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), is proud to announce the formation of the new NDCI Veterans Treatment Courts Mentor Court Program. Developed in collaboration with the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Mentor Veterans Treatment Courts will play a significant role in Veterans Treatment Court training, technical assistance and research.” Learn more.
Veterans and local communities must become educated on this new legislation, similar to “Drug Courts.”  Veterans often have special needs to be considered, and as a community we owe it to all veterans with combat related disabilities to provide treatment as a part of any criminal punishment handed down by our courts.  Rather than sending our former soldiers to prison, considering military service, especially combat experience, is often a way to help rehabilitate and put an individual back on the right path to a healthy and productive civilian life.  The mentor program referred to above is an excellent model to engage local citizens, especially veterans who can relate, to facilitate the process on behalf of another veteran accused of a crime.  This “buddy” system can make a huge difference for the healthy recovery of a former soldier.
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Combat Veteran Marches to Raise Money for Wounded Comrades.

http://www.wdtv.com/wdtv.cfm?func=view&section=5-News&item=Ohio-Man-Marches-400-Miles-to-Arlington1760

Quote from the above link and article by Lindsey Burnworth

“I have a lot of good friends that were hurt in Afghanistan or Iraq, so whenever I want to quit or whatever, I kinda think about them and think about regardless of how much I’m hurting, how much easier I have it than some of these guys that have lost limbs, and you know, can’t walk,” Kuhel said.

One of the greatest ways to get relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression is to help others.  In this case, 23 year-old former Marine, Justin Kuhel, is walking 400 miles from Columbus, Ohio to Arlington National Cemetery to benefit the Wounded Warrior’s Project.  Justin is making a big difference for others, while raising awareness for fellow combat veterans, and getting some excellent physical exercise along the way.  I have found that doing something larger than yourself is healing.  Keeping up a regular exercise regimen is also good for the soul.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Veterans can serve again as educators!

http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Sub%20Pages/TTT/TTT_Main.html

Following is a quote from the above website.

“Troops to Teachers (TTT) provides Counseling and Referral services to military personnel interested in beginning a second career in public education as a teacher. The DANTES Troops to Teachers office will help applicants identify teacher certification requirements, programs leading to certification and employment opportunities.”

Veterans have special skills in many areas when leaving the military.  My training in the US Navy was in radio communications and electronics, which translated to information technology and telecommunications in the private sector.  With additional vocational training outside of the military and continuing my college education, I became highly qualified as a trainer in my career and was able to teach at the community college level.  Veterans can choose now to go right into education with the help of the Department of Education.  Teaching is a noble career and veterans can make a huge difference, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  America needs great teachers and our veterans leaving the military with a robust vocational education should take a look at becoming a teacher as a career option.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Kids for Our Troops

http://www.kidsforourtroops.org/

I am really excited about the above site, which promotes getting kids involved in helping our troops!  This resource goes to the heart of my passion and support for Neighbors for Kids, www.neighborsforkids.org, and other after-school programs on the Oregon coast and elsewhere.  Kids have unique opportunities after school to gather and pursue meaningful projects for learning and growing into healthy and productive adults.  Starting early and getting involved in one of our most important community challenges right now includes supporting our troops when they come home.  Adjusting to civilian life is not a cake walk for many veterans when they return home.  Our kids can make a huge difference in this effort by coming out and demonstrating their support through local community non-profit groups like Neighbors for Kids and faith based organizations.  As a long time board member of Neighbors for Kids, I plan to make a special effort to get our students involved in this noble cause.

Steve Sparks
Vice Chair
Neighbors for Kids
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Suicides among veterans continues to shock the public and test the VA support system.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/us/recent-california-suicides-highlight-failures-of-veterans-support-system.xml

By AARON GLANTZ

Published: March 25, 2012
“Francis Guilfoyle, a 55-year-old homeless veteran, drove his 1985 Toyota Camry to the Department of Veterans Affairs campus in Menlo Park early in the morning of Dec. 3, took a stepladder and a rope out of the car, threw the rope over a tree limb and hanged himself.
It was an hour before his body was cut down, according to the county coroner’s report.
“When I saw him, my heart just sank,” said Dennis Robinson, 51, a formerly homeless Army veteran who discovered Mr. Guilfoyle’s body. “This is supposed to be a safe place where a vet can get help. Something failed him.”
Although it is sad and shocking to hear about these incidents of suicide among those who served in the armed forces and fought for our freedoms, public awareness is critical.  America makes big decisions together to send our kids to war, but we seem to forget about the soldiers’ emotional well being and challenges when they return home.  All too often, combat veterans are broken and wounded emotionally when they return home.  The conditions and symptoms of anxiety and depression can lead to a toxic life at home and in the communities they reside.  The nation and communities at large must come together to do more when soldiers come home.  They are not alone on the battle field, and they shouldn’t be alone when they get home.
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Military wife becomes champion for Veterans with PTSD.

The women of WWII were quiet heroines, raising children as single parents, and not knowing for weeks and sometimes months at a time, whether their husbands were alive or if and when they would come home.  I write in my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, that when my father finally came home for good at the end of WWII in the summer of 1945, he was a different man.  Mother had little or no information on the long term emotional effects on her husband.  It was assumed at the time that once the war was over life would be good and all the earlier dreams of happiness as a family would come true.  It didn’t take long to discover that Dad was a different man, broken and wounded emotionally from extended combat duty.  The dreams of getting on with life would have to wait, for my mother was in for the biggest challenge of her life.  How would she cope with this man who’s behavior was that of a different person than when he sailed off to Pearl Harbor on the USS West Virginia in the summer of 1941?  My brother Jerry was born in September 1941, three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Jerry would get to know his Dad for the first time as a 4 year old boy.

I am heartened by the article in the following link http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/321735The women of 21st Century wars are heroines too, but they are more educated, aware, independent, and have a voice with help from social media technology.  They demand answers and they have a strong desire to help their husbands, sons, and daughters when they return home from extended deployments.  Following is a quote from the link, including an article from Digital Journal by Samantha A. Torrence dated March 24, 2012.
“Shawn Gourley who has gone through hell and back to save her husband and family has broken her silence and put her story out there for everyone to see. Her courageous effort to bring light to PTSD in her book The War at Home has been a beacon for veterans and their caretakers. Many who have read the book have said “Finally, someone who knows. Someone who is going through what I am going through!” These spouses and veterans began to gather at a Facebook page Shawn set up to help promote her free minibook. The page is called simply Military with PTSD and has now become a support group that is responsible for saving lives and marriages since it was established in August 2010.”

It is an honor and privilege for me to share this story with my blog readers and social media followers.  We should all be grateful for the determination and brave work of Shawn Gourley.
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Report on wounded and broken soldiers; questions concerning Sgt.Robert Bales case.

http://the99report.blogspot.com/2012/03/special-99-report-today-4pm-broken-and.html?spref=tw

Quotes from the above link and story, including update on the Madigan Army Base PTSD evaluations.

“After his brain injury in 2010 Bales did not think ( per the article) he was being sent back into a war zone, he actually had already started training to be a Recruiter. And then in December they sent him to Afghanistan. It is unclear in this article why or who made this decision. My Question is did he receive his Medical Treatment and care at Madigan ? Is he one of the ones who suffered PTSD and did not receive proper diagnosis and care ? In the news reports it is said that he saw a friends leg blown off the day prior to the Killing Incident, which begs the question what happened the day before ? Was he witness to a bloody battle or was he wounded as well ? There is too much silence and too many Questions at this point.”

“Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department.Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.”

The Sgt. Robert Bales tragedy is terrible news, but will force our nation to take a closer look at extended deployments and the longer term effects on soldiers.  This is not a new problem to be sure.  In my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, my father spent 66 months in continuous combat duty during World War II.  Dad was broken and wounded with life time emotional challenges when he came home.  None of us in our family or the community understood him nor his behaviors.  He was okay at work while still in the US Navy and later in his career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  But at home he was not the same man.  He acted out and vented his anger on my mother and we siblings.  We could only conclude the least path of resistance, Dad was just mean and drank too much…  As his son, I feel terrible for not knowing enough while Dad was alive to respond differently, and possibly be more compassionate toward him.  It is also apparent that family members are affected with secondary PTSD as the result of living with a troubled combat veteran who does not receive adequate treatment or chooses not to.  Long deployments are inhuman and cause moral injury and invisible wounds.  Our nation must now take a giant step to change the policies regarding combat theater deployments.  Our communities must also step up and take more responsibility for learning how to reintegrate combat veterans who are coming home.  The real cost of war far exceeds deaths, physical injury, and emotional wounds in combat; and the huge impact on the national debt for which future generations will pay dearly as a legacy of war.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Try “Mindfulness” for treating symptoms of PTSD.

http://ptsd.about.com/od/selfhelp/ht/mindfulexe2.htm

“Using mindfulness for PTSD may be a good way of coping. Mindfulness has been around for ages. However, mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that mindfulness can have many benefits for people suffering from difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being completely in-touch with the present moment. So often in our lives, we are stuck in our heads, caught up in the anxiety and worries of daily life.”

I have been amazed at the increased awareness connected with yoga as treatment for the symptoms of TBI/PTSD.  The move is spreading all over the country, started by Connected Warriors Yoga, www.connectedwarriorsyoga.org in Florida.  The above link, including article written by, ,  is another helpful resource on using the concept of “mindfulness” as a self help meditation connected with yoga practice.  I am anxious to get started as soon as the right yoga trainer is available in my rural neighborhood on the Oregon coast.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

It is not easy to “just stop thinking about” a traumatic life experience or event.

http://www.ptsd-is-normal.com/2012/03/what-my-ptsd-is-like.html

“Sometimes, when well-meaning but ill-informed people presume to tell me that if I would JUST STOP THINKING ABOUT THE PAST, all of my PTSD symptoms will magically disappear, I want to SCREAM. Just stop thinking about that annoying song that keeps playing over and over again in your head, that’s all you have to do to make it go away! Right? At least those annoying “ear-worm” songs don’t usually last more than a few hours, or a day or two, before your head goes back to normal. Intrusive traumatic memory thoughts almost NEVER STOP. I’m talking NEVER, as in DECADES will go by, and those trauma memories are STILL cycling around and around and around on an endless loop.”  by Elaina* ~ PTSD-is-Normal.com

I was compelled to share the above blog link posted by a family who suffers severely from the symptoms of PTSD.  The quote by Elaina captured my attention immediately since “intrusive thoughts” can be the mainstay of daily living for a person with PTSD.  The story is also important to me because my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, was written from a family life perspective where childhood dreams and a normal safety net are non existent when a child lives in fear.  The story has additional meaning to me because Elaina’s husband is a disabled Vietnam combat veteran who also suffers from the symptoms of PTSD.  In the context of  PTSD awareness, this story is real and offers another example of how lives are broken and challenged with PTSD.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story