Monthly Archives: February 2013

Children from the Post WWII generation are learning more about parents sacrifices…a journey of healing…

Tom Schmiedeler, geography professor at Washburn University, talked about tracing the path of his father’s reconnaisance unit across Europe in World War II. Schmiedeler and his wife made the trip in 2012.

http://m.cjonline.com/news/2013-02-16/son-retraces-dads-wwii-battles-europe  From this website…

The medals earned by his father weren’t on display in the family home in Tipton in Mitchell County, but three shotguns seized in Haberstadt, Germany, were cradled on elk antlers mounted on the wall. The shotguns, including one with three barrels, likely were seized from a German hunting lodge, he said.
“When you grew up, you knew those guns came from the war,” Schmiedeler said.
Schmiedeler had mulled over the trip to Europe to trace his father’s Army unit for 20 years. A brother had copied “The Diary of Troop B,” and that was Schmiedeler’s blueprint for the trip.
“The trip was a way of reconnecting with the memory of my father,” Schmiedeler said.
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I know the feeling of reconnecting with my own father after he passed away in 1998.  I know Dad so much better now and feel the connection with him each day while writing this blog and working with children and families of veterans who served America…  Recently written stories on this blog from my post WWII friends show the healing value of reconnecting with parents and learning about the sacrifices during WWII and in life after war…  Go to a post from my friend and colleague Byron Lewis as an example…http://livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com/2013/02/honoring-wwii-black-cats-squadron-and.html.  I know Byron felt a deep connection with his father following the family’s discovery of  writings and photos from WWII.  Learn about the famous “Black Cats Squadron” in Byron’s story when his father served during WWII in the Pacific… 

Our parents who served in combat during WWII were mostly silent about the subject of war.  They were often challenged with symptoms of PTSD and behaved in ways we didn’t understand.  When returning to the past and revisiting the memories of childhood it can be painful while healing because living with a parent who suffers from moral injury and PTSD causes children to be isolated and less than loved.  The feelings bottled up over the years never provide peace of mind until we open up and revisit the past.  Learning about our parents sacrifices and challenges during the war and in life after war provides a healing perspective that allows the children of war to move forward.  I have a whole new respect for my own father’s service to America and as a man who cared deeply but struggled his entire life with the emotional pain of experiencing the horror of war… 

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

“Coffee Bunker” A soul healing meeting place for veterans readjusting to life after war…

SOS: Serving Our Servicemembers PO Box 4680, Tulsa, OK 74159 info@sos-coffeebunker.com 918.637.3878 www.sos-coffeebunker.com

Mary Ligon, founder of Coffee Bunker, speaks Saturday about losing her son, a former soldier, to suicide. BRANDI SIMONS / For the Tulsa World

 

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=16&articleid=20100912_16_A10_CUTLIN782769

http://www.sos-coffeebunker.com/  From this website…

SOS is MISSION
SOS offers opportunities that support our service members and veterans toward successful reintegration with their families and communities.
SOS is VISION
In our community, service members and veterans are successfully reintegrated with their families and communities.

I am very happy to report on a great idea for veterans in local communities to meet on their own terms at a community center or faith community venue.  The “Coffee Bunker” is a non-profit veterans support organization based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The group started the local community owned concept to facilitate the reintegration of veterans returning home with their families and communities.  It is also a template for which other communities can follow.  A plan that appears to be relatively simple to execute by local community leaders.  I am committed to helping our local community in Depoe Bay, Oregon start a Coffee Bunker program through appropriate community centers, schools, and churches in the area.  One such place is www.neighborsforkids.org, a popular after-school program on the Central Coast of Oregon located on highway 101 just south of Depoe Bay.  We are exploring the idea and feasibility of appropriately using our community non-profit status and resources, including volunteers, to make our 7600 sf facility available during non-school hours for this purpose.  We have meeting rooms and a half gym that could be used effectively. 

This is an opportunity for communities everywhere to engage in providing veterans the soul healing and transition support so desperately needed in their own neighborhoods.  Local communities send young men and women to war.  Now it is our turn to welcome them back home to a healthy, happy, and productive life after war…

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

More on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) from the PTSD Forum…

The PTSD Forum  Quotes from this site…

“Welcome to PTSD Forum. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a life threatening, debilitating disorder that can break down a sufferer’s body through anxiety and stress. Further it poses a significant suicide risk resulting from the brains neurological imbalance and chemical depression. Sufferers often live in denial, thus this community is aimed at helping PTSD sufferers help themselves through others experiences, guidance and education. We are here for the sufferer, spouse and families surrounding PTSD. Spouses and family are too often forgotten in this equation, and often they receive all the worst that PTSD has to offer.

“Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others.”

My Husband and NLP Therapy…neuro linguistic programming (NLP)

More attention is given to NLP as an alternative treatment for severe symptoms of PTSD.  I hear and read about the favorable results of NLP and plan to focus more on this subject going forward with guest postings from the experts, including Byron Lewis, Author, The Magic of NLP Demystified and Sobriety Demystified.

Steve Sparks
Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
  Click to Order My Book-Proceeds Benefit Selected Charities

Moral Injury and PTSD…silent subjects in Russia? The former Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan was considered a political mistake and soon forgotten along with the brave soldiers who served…

Byron Lewis

Author of The Magic of NLP Demystified

and Sobriety Demystified
 

The Trauma of War: Research on Lithuanian Veterans of the Afghanistan War after Seventeen Years
[8:20:28 AM] Byron Lewis:  Here is a quote from a recent article posted on the web by the Department of Clinical and Organisational Psychology, Vilnius University, Lithuania:
 

“Compared to fighters in other wars, the situation of the Afghanistan War veteran is special in that the meaning imparted to the war was distorted from the beginning. Soldiers returning from a war are usually loved and respected. Society’s favourable attitude helps in giving a sense to the difficult experiences of the war, and reduces the intensity of the symptoms accompanying the trauma.
 
In this particular case, the public was not looking forward to the return of soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan. It was in no hurry to recognise their sacrifice or to help them. Rather, it was the other way round. Everything was kept secret. No information was given about the killed and wounded. Disabled soldiers did not receive any assistance. After the collapse of the USSR, the war was recognised as a major political mistake, and the politicians’ attitude was absorbed by the public. The response to the war and participants in it was negative. When Lithuania regained its independence, Afghanistan War veterans were seen as a part of the legacy of the Soviet Union beyond Lithuania’s concern. In 1997, the consequences of the Soviet and Nazi occupations were reassessed, and a law on the legal status of people injured by the occupations of 1939 to 1990 was passed. This law does not mention the participants in the Afghanistan War; they were not recognized as injured.”

                                                                             

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I am pleased to offer the following guest posting by Byron Lewis.  It is also timely to provide insight and perspective on how other countries have addressed moral injury and PTSD as a consequence in life after war…  In the example of the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Union, combat veterans who served in Afghanistan during a 10 year period were not welcomed home with pride and appreciation.  They were also left to fend for themselves in living and coping with the tragic symptoms of PTSD while readjusting to civilian life.  We must worry even more about the children and families of these brave soldiers who carry the burden of war forward with the same emotional challenges.  It is not too late for the Russian people to begin dealing with the multi-generational affects of PTSD…  We Americans have much empathy…

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Recently Steve shared with me some of the statistics about his blog. I was taken by the fact that his blog is at least as widely read in the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as in the United States. During a Skype conversation yesterday with a good friend and colleague in Odessa, the Ukraine, we talked about the how similar the experiences in Afghanistan were between the US and the USSR. This set me on a Google search where I found this gem. We are truly not alone in the problems facing our veterans of conflict overseas.

“It was my first day at peace.  The first day that I didn’t hit the dirt at the slightest rustle, that I didn’t have to hide in the shade of the trees, holding my gun at the ready.  The first day that it was possible to simply walk along the road, not thinking about anything at all, without having to look down all the time to avoid being blown up by a mine.  It was the first day I came back from Afghanistan.”

So starts the introduction to the book Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier’s Story by Vladislav Tamarov who was drafted into the Russian Army as a mine-sweeper in 1984 and was sent to Afghanistan at the age of 19.

And then, as a returning veteran of the conflict, Vladislav writes:
 

“Each one believed that he would return home, even though we knew that not all of us could return.
 
We dreamed about how, back home, we would be able to go walking in the forest without fear and without weapons; about how we wouldn’t be afraid of the dark or of sudden noises, or that we’d be blown up on the road.
 
I dreamed about this: I believed in these dreams. And I couldn’t ever have imagined that it wouldn’t be like that.
 
Very often I feel terror. I’m afraid to go in the forest by myself. I’m afraid of the bright moon, of dark bushes, of silence. I’m afraid to be alone. I’m afraid when someone is standing behind me. I’m afraid of hitting a person because I know I could lose control and start to kill him.
 
And it’s not because I am scared of dying: it’s because I want to live.”
 
We share common issues: the physical/mental/moral results of exposure to this kind of violence. While treatment is available, it is often difficult to obtain due to governmental bureaucratic paperwork, denial, and prohibitive costs of extensive and long-term treatment. This may be even more problematic in Russia than in the US.

With Steve’s permission, I will be posting shortly, findings regarding an extremely effective non-intrusive and non-chemical treatment for some of the symptoms of PTSD. I hope those who are suffering the symptoms described by Vladislav and thousands of veterans returning from our recent conflicts abroad can have access to such treatment. Their sacrifices should be rewarded with care and support, not indifference and denial.
 
Byron Lewis
Author
The Magic of NLP Demystified and Sobriety Demystified
 

 

 

 

Former Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo…”I can’t forgive myself…and the people who can forgive me are dead,” he says…

http://seattletimes.com/html/health/2020407740_apusmilitarymoralinjury.html

Associated Press
 

Former Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo walks among civilians carrying a burden of guilt most Americans don't want to share. A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kudo thinks of himself as a killer. "I can't forgive myself ... and the people who can forgive me are dead," he says.
JOHN MINCHILLO / AP

Former Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo walks among civilians carrying a burden of guilt most Americans don’t want to share. A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kudo thinks of himself as a killer. “I can’t forgive myself … and the people who can forgive me are dead,” he says.
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In the book, Soul Repair, by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettina (click the book cover to the right of this posting), you can begin to understand the depth and breath of moral injury among veterans who see themselves as “monsters” and “killers” when they return home to life after war.  Combat veterans are trained to kill and to be insensitive to killing while in combat…a killing machine, they say.  They are supported by intense training in the military culture and are able to rationalize killing on the battle field, but not when they come home.  Deep guilt emerges most often quietly and invisibly but can look like rage and anger showing symptoms of PTSD as time passes.  These men and women live with emotional pain and guilt 24/7 and need our help in more ways than providing prescription medications and once a week one on one therapy sessions. 
 
Spouses and loved ones, especially children are affected by being constantly exposed as care givers who most often do not have the background in mental health treatments and spiritual healing to make a difference immediately.  Families like my own can be damaged for a life time by the secondary and even primary exposure to the trauma connected while living with a parent who suffers from moral injury and PTSD.  It can be a very scary and traumatic experience growing up in a terribly toxic family culture.
 
It took me until age 64 to find out that I wasn’t such a bad guy after all…  In researching and writing my book, it became clear that countless others in my generation had been damaged by war and in life after war.  The journey of healing starts when awareness kicks in.  Those who love you and those near you as friends and neighbors need to become aware.  Most of us go about our daily lives and never notice a combat veteran in pain or even think about it.  But we do pay attention and wonder what we could have done to help when we hear about the suicide of a veteran in our community.  But then it is too late…  I can’t tell you how many folks in my own small rural community who don’t have a clue nor give this a second thought until a suicide occurs and gets in the news.  But it is back to business as usual because most do not get it or know what to do.  People do care, but the caring does not translate into action.
 
The best way to become aware is to begin reading and listening.  Try to understand and become an expert on the subjects of moral injury and PTSD.  Get engaged in your local community to help veterans when they return home to life after war.  Help me in this effort by sharing my blog postings with family and friends.  You might save a life along the way…
 
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
(click the book cover to left of this posting)
 
 

Related

 

The power of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” In honor of Vietnam War US Navy Veteran and POW Mike Christian…

Mike Christian, Vietnam War US Navy Veteran and POW

“The American Flag symbolizes the hope and inspiration that is the essence of everyone and everything in the US. There is another story that epitomizes the emotion and pride every American feels for the flag, and underscores the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance.”

“The Pledge of Allegiance” – by Senator John McCain

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved usfrom these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home. One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.  Mike came from a small town near Selma , Alabama.  He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old.   At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy.  He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School . Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. 

Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country and our military provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.  As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing.  Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt.  Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt onthe wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of ourday now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the mostimportant and meaningful event. One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.
That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could.  The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.  As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better.  He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.
So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world. You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
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I have to admit that while saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” this week at the Depoe Bay (Oregon) City Council meeting I was not thinking about the history and power of America’s pledge…  My friend US Army Col. Andy O’Meara (retired) sent me the above story of Mike Christian written by Senator John McCain.  The story moved me deeply as it will for readers of all generations of Americans.  We do not say the “Pledge of Allegiance” as often as we used to, and it is truly a shame.  As Americans we need to be reminded of the sacrifices of so many to protect the freedoms we enjoy.  And so, I am reminded and appreciate this opportunity to honor Mike Christian for his service to America.
Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story   

Shane Koyczan – Instructions for a Bad Day…a must listen video…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dkGLXw8RMs&feature=youtube_gdata_player  Quote from this website…

“Everytime I feel sad, everytime I feel angry, or depressed, or just.. alone. I play this. And every single damn time, I cry. and I feel… lighter. Relaxed. I love you Shane Koyczan. You are a blessing to have met.”

My pastor nephew and dear friend, Rich, from One Life Community Church in Seattle shared this video with me the other day.  Now, I want to share it with you…

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

No excuse for high unemployment rate for veterans returning home to life after war!!!

Veteran Unemployment Rate For 18 To 24-Year-Olds Was Higher Than 20 Percent Last Year

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/veteran-unemployment-rate_n_2715808.html?utm_hp_ref=business

http://livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com/2012/04/stigma-of-ptsd-for-combat-veterans.html

A re-post by Steve Sparks from April 2012…

“Whether a soldier comes home with or without PTSD, it appears that employers are hesitant or nervous about the perceived risks of hiring someone with military experience. This was true long ago and experienced by me directly in 1965 when interviewing for my first job following service in the US Navy. I didn’t get hired the first time because my DD214 noted a mental health condition at the time. At least now the DD214 medical notes are not included, but the stigma exists anyway. How can we expect our veterans to reach out for treatment of a PTSD condition if employers consider the issue as a risk in the hiring criteria? I kept my diagnosis a secret until age 64 when it was safe to do so while researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. Even with my diagnosis from the US Navy, and little or no treatment remedies at the time, I managed to carve out an excellent career in information technology industry and complete my college education along the way. The stigma of mental health issues, especially in the case of veterans who served in combat, is a national tragedy and must be addressed by Congress! Veterans receive outstanding vocational training in the armed forces of the US, and typically demonstrate excellent leadership qualities as well. Employers should be willing to put aside this apparent bias and hire the best candidate who could well be a young combat veteran with huge potential to make a difference in the corporate world. I would hire these young go getters instantly!”

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Remembering a WWII B-24 “Liberator” Crash Site on Mission Ridge near Wenatchee, Wa…

B-24 “Liberator” on Mission Ridge

Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Ambrosia
N 47° 16.774 W 120° 25.461
10T E 694786 N 5239449
Quick Description: This site is on top of Mission Ridge, in Wenatchee WA.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 8/15/2005 9:06:41 PM
Waymark Code: WM8
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member mtn-man
Views: 500
Sarah E. Sparks age 4 learning to ski at Mission Ridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Ridge_Ski_Area

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM8_B_24_Liberator_on_Mission_Ridge

This is what is written on the plaque:
“On a stormy night of September 30, 1944, Flight Crew 22, on a training mission from Walla Walla Army Air Base, found itself off course and lost above the rugged Cascade Mountain Range. They were flying a B – 24 “Liberator” Heavy Bomber. The night was rainy and the valley was enshrouded with heavy fog. Around 8:00 p.m. the Beehive Lookout reported Hearing the drone of a planes engines as it passed directly overhead. Within moments a fire was seen faintly illuminating the fog, alerting the lookout that the plane had probably crashed. Due to the darkness, weather. And terrain, search efforts were delayed. The next morning when a rescue party reached this rocky bowl, just 500 feet below the crest of Mission Ridge, they found the flames had been extinguished by the heavy rainfall from the previous night. Pieces of the wreckage were strewn hundreds of yards across the slope and the bodies of all six crew members were found. There were no survivors. – USFS, Vets of Foreign Wars of the U.S., Mission Ridge, Boy Scout Troop 5″

North Central Washington was our home for 15 years.  Mission Ridge near Wenatchee was our favorite ski resort and where little Sarah, learned how to ski at age 4.  Judy and I enrolled Sarah in the “Kids Club Ski School” and she became a star…  Sarah was a poster child at http://www.missionridge.com/ for quite awhile.  They were kind enough to give us a copy of the poster when we complained that permission was not given by us to advertise our little girl all over the world.  So Sarah learned how to ski and she loved it.  She would always tell me, “Daddy, I can do it.”  And still tells me so today at age 25…

Mission Ridge offers some of the best powder skiing and moderate to advanced runs in Washington State.  It is also the crash site of a WWII “Liberator” B24 aircraft that was on a training mission.  There were no survivors.  Mission Ridge honors the service and memory of the men who died protecting the freedoms of American citizens with “Bomber Bowl” a fun moderate ski run on the mountain.  When entering the area there is a piece of the Boeing B-24 Bomber Wing shown in the above photo for all of us to be reminded of the sacrifice of WWII.  The brave men who died here and veterans of all wars are honored at Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort in the resort lodge at the base as well.

The memories of Mission Ridge and our family experience will be remembered forever.  The poster shown above sits prominently in our home to this day.  Sarah can have it back some day to share with her children and grand children…  For now, we are holding on to it!

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Women in Combat…James Robert Webb…USMC Infantry Sgt, Embedded Photographer for Parade Magazine…


James Robert Webb

VA, United States

USMC Infantry Sgt, Embedded Photographer for Parade Magazine @sgtjrwebb on twitter
#Infantry #Marine. Embedded Photographer. Writer. History buff. Miscreant. Athlete. Hockey and Baseball nerd. Generally good dude.

http://puckingninja.blogspot.com/2013/02/women-in-infantry.html Quotes from this website…

“Furthermore, if you look at American culture, the ‘beta’ male has become the norm, or even the social ideal. While James Dean, or John Wayne used to be the ‘ideal’ American male, we now have Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake. Gone is the man’s man. This is no accident.”

“On the flip side, the Infantry is an old school, ‘man’s man’ environment. Furthermore, the majority of Americans have never even met an Infantryman, let alone know what it takes to make a unit effective in combat.”

More food for thought on this most important subject, “Women in Combat.”  As a journalist and blogger, my goal is to share ideas and opinions of those who are or have been deployed in combat while serving America.  My blog posts regarding this subject this past week have set records in website page reviews.  The high level of interest motivates me to share more.  I would love to hear from other combat veterans, especially the brave women warriors who have served in combat in the past or currently deployed. 

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story