12/23-1/2: Holiday Help

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from The Veterans Administration site Myhealthevet. I will run this article, as is, through the new year.]

In the Spotlight

Looking for Help When the Holidays Aren’t Merry?

Holidays are not always the “merry and bright” events we often expect. For many people, including many Veterans, they can be downright depressing. The holiday season can trigger feelings of mourning, loss or loneliness. For some, episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface. For newly returning Veterans, the struggle to readjust to civilian life, find employment and establish social relationships can worsen at holiday time.

Dr. Ken Weingardt, a psychologist now at Northwestern University and previously with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), puts it simply. “The holidays promote this myth that everyone is having a warm, happy time basking in the love of family and friends. For Veterans who don’t have this or are feeling off balance, this contrast creates a huge disconnect that can make them feel worse.”

Because they are feeling pressured, Veterans may want to isolate themselves from friends and family. Avoiding emotions about past stressful events can lead to avoiding all emotions. Crowds can make a Veteran feel nervous and on edge, like they have to be on guard. Even when it is hard, being around others for support can improve things. Good help is available if these feelings continue.

Help is Available

“VA offers a full range of mental health services. Drop-in clinics, peer support programs, residential programs and medications are just a few,” Weingardt says. Veterans who are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues have many options for connecting and getting help.

Not sure you need help? Prefer to go it alone?

If you’re not sure you need help, or just want to work through things on your own, VA also has resources to help you through the holidays and anytime.

Brief, anonymous, screening tests available on My HealtheVet can help determine whether you may have PTSD, Depression, or a substance use problem.

Afterdeployment.org is a set of self-help resources for the military and Veteran communities from the Department of Defense. It includes modules on such topics as Depression, Life Stress, Families and relationships.

If you are in crisis and need help now, VA stands ready to help. Visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can connect with a licensed VA counselor by phone, instant message, or text messages, 24/7.

For mental health care, you can contact people who have years of experience in working with Veterans at your nearest VA Medical Center or community based outreach clinic. “The VA is required to help Veterans who reach out, and their mission is to make it easy for Veterans to find the services that are best for them.” Weingardt says, “the VA Medical Center staff will work with you to decide what kind of help will work best.”

These program locators can help you find the nearest VA facility, PTSD program, or Addiction Treatment program:

Good treatments are now available that can help. For more information see the Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families. (PDF)

If you are a combat Veteran, you can also get confidential help through the Vet Centers. http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ Vet Centers are small, community based counseling centers staffed by combat Veterans who have “been there, done that” and want to help you make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

  • Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-927-8387 (WAR-VETS) to talk to another combat Veteran.
  • Locate the nearest Vet Center

Make the Connection is a new website that helps connect Veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives. Hear inspiring stories of strength. Learn what has worked for other Veterans.

PTSD Coach Mobile App: If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. The PTSD Coach mobile app (for iPhone and Android) can help you learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work.
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.
  • Convenient, easy-to-use skills to help you handle stress symptoms.
  • Direct links to support and help.
  • Always with you when you need it.

Please note: Depression, Anxiety and PTSD are serious medical conditions that often require professional evaluation and treatment. These self-help resources are not intended to replace needed professional care. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone: VA stands ready to help.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-22: There for Each Other

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from The Veterans Administration site Myhealthevet. I will run this article, as is, through the new year.]

In the Spotlight

Looking for Help When the Holidays Aren’t Merry?

Holidays are not always the “merry and bright” events we often expect. For many people, including many Veterans, they can be downright depressing. The holiday season can trigger feelings of mourning, loss or loneliness. For some, episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface. For newly returning Veterans, the struggle to readjust to civilian life, find employment and establish social relationships can worsen at holiday time.

Dr. Ken Weingardt, a psychologist now at Northwestern University and previously with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), puts it simply. “The holidays promote this myth that everyone is having a warm, happy time basking in the love of family and friends. For Veterans who don’t have this or are feeling off balance, this contrast creates a huge disconnect that can make them feel worse.”

Because they are feeling pressured, Veterans may want to isolate themselves from friends and family. Avoiding emotions about past stressful events can lead to avoiding all emotions. Crowds can make a Veteran feel nervous and on edge, like they have to be on guard. Even when it is hard, being around others for support can improve things. Good help is available if these feelings continue.

Help is Available

“VA offers a full range of mental health services. Drop-in clinics, peer support programs, residential programs and medications are just a few,” Weingardt says. Veterans who are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues have many options for connecting and getting help.

Not sure you need help? Prefer to go it alone?

If you’re not sure you need help, or just want to work through things on your own, VA also has resources to help you through the holidays and anytime.

Brief, anonymous, screening tests available on My HealtheVet can help determine whether you may have PTSD, Depression, or a substance use problem.

Afterdeployment.org is a set of self-help resources for the military and Veteran communities from the Department of Defense. It includes modules on such topics as Depression, Life Stress, Families and relationships.

If you are in crisis and need help now, VA stands ready to help. Visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can connect with a licensed VA counselor by phone, instant message, or text messages, 24/7.

For mental health care, you can contact people who have years of experience in working with Veterans at your nearest VA Medical Center or community based outreach clinic. “The VA is required to help Veterans who reach out, and their mission is to make it easy for Veterans to find the services that are best for them.” Weingardt says, “the VA Medical Center staff will work with you to decide what kind of help will work best.”

These program locators can help you find the nearest VA facility, PTSD program, or Addiction Treatment program:

Good treatments are now available that can help. For more information see the Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families. (PDF)

If you are a combat Veteran, you can also get confidential help through the Vet Centers. http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ Vet Centers are small, community based counseling centers staffed by combat Veterans who have “been there, done that” and want to help you make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

  • Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-927-8387 (WAR-VETS) to talk to another combat Veteran.
  • Locate the nearest Vet Center

Make the Connection is a new website that helps connect Veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives. Hear inspiring stories of strength. Learn what has worked for other Veterans.

PTSD Coach Mobile App: If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. The PTSD Coach mobile app (for iPhone and Android) can help you learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work.
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.
  • Convenient, easy-to-use skills to help you handle stress symptoms.
  • Direct links to support and help.
  • Always with you when you need it.

Please note: Depression, Anxiety and PTSD are serious medical conditions that often require professional evaluation and treatment. These self-help resources are not intended to replace needed professional care. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone: VA stands ready to help.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-21: Stop the Haters

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece, a report by Mehran Mehrdad Ali from the New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights.]

Mehran Mehrdad Ali claims, in the title of a piece she wrote earlier this month,

We Want a Hate-Free City

Ali reports that

On December 2, hundreds of residents gathered at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights in Queens to call for their community to be made a “hate-free zone,” in response to the recent spike in hate crimes, assaults and incidents against people of oppressed groups….

It shouldn’t be naïve to believe that America is truly the land of the free. But it is, naïve that is. A nation of immigrants—not counting our indigenous brethren, of course—the thought of any group expressing dominance of any kind over any other group should be odious to all of us. But it isn’t. And too many of us opt to remain silent. Ali provides details of the event, beginning with the gathering at

“Diversity” Plaza

Participants gathered at Diversity Plaza for the rally and then marched to 89th Street, where a closing rally was held. Along the way, they chanted, “Here to stay, here to fight!” “When (immigrants/Muslim lives/women/trans folks/queer folks) are under attack, what do we do? Fight back, fight back!” “United we are stronger!”… The chant sheet distributed to marchers was in various languages, including Spanish, Hindi and Bengali.

The rally wasn’t just about people coexisting and tolerating each other or a particular oppressed group talking only about that group’s issues, but people facing different oppressions coming together to show true solidarity. There was a sense that

everyone is in this together.

Isn’t that true? Are we not all in this—this city, this nation, this world, this life—together?

… Two elderly women held up signs from Jewish Voice for Peace that read, “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia.” …

There was a call for people to come together with elected officials to create

hate-free zones.

The implications of that statement are startling and horrifying. The United States of America, by definition, if not by our Constitution, should be hate free.

… From snippets of conversation heard during the rally and the march, it was clear that people see the need to start getting organized themselves–and that they lack faith in elected officials….

The march was bold and confident. There were several large banners and organized contingents, as well as enthusiastic individuals. Hundreds of people marched proudly and loudly through the streets of Jackson Heights, and there was great support and solidarity for the march from the community.

This is the start of something that has the potential to grow much bigger and more powerful as people start to get organized to make our communities hate-free.

“… start … potential to grow …”

This is 2016 not 1516. Have we as a people regressed, or did we never even come close to reaching our potential? Why do we insist that in order for some among us to live the dream, so to speak, others must be denied? To my way of thinking, that is un-American.

All Deserve a Hate-Free America.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-20: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Huffington Post.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

We live in a dangerous, complex time, as evidenced by the headlines and excerpted articles below—all of which appeared yesterday. One day’s worth of news. Some (may, I hope) assault our sense of being American citizens of the world. All affect our humanity and decency.

Terrorism in Turkey

Russian Ambassador Shot and Killed in Turkish Capital of Ankara

ANKARA, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot in the back and killed as he gave a speech at an Ankara art gallery on Monday by an off-duty police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” and “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the death of envoy Andrei Karlov, calling it a “terrorist act.” Relations between Moscow and Ankara have long been strained over the conflict in Syria, with the two supporting opposing sides in the war.

… and whom do Americans we support?

Russia is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes helped Syrian forces end rebel resistance last week in the northern city of Aleppo. Turkey, which has long sought Assad’s ouster, has been repairing ties with Moscow after shooting down a Russian warplane over Syria last year….

Deja Vu! Another Truck, Another Mass Killing

Truck Plows into Crowd near Christmas Market in Berlin

BERLIN, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, police said….

The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. The attack was claimed by Islamic State….

Berlin police said nine people were killed….

… people praying …

Man Opens Fire in Zurich Mosque, Wounding Three People

ZURICH, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A man stormed into a Zurich mosque and opened fire on people praying on Monday evening, injuring three people, police said….

What happens to evacuees from a war zone?

Aleppo Evacuations Resume after Days-Long Standoff

Thousands were evacuated from the last rebel-held enclave of the city of Aleppo on Monday after a deal was reached to allow people to leave two besieged pro-government villages …

Convoys of buses from eastern Aleppo reached rebel-held areas of countryside to the west of the city in cold winter weather, according to a U.N. official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group….

What does it mean to be victorious?

The recapture of Aleppo is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory so far in the nearly six-year-old war, but the fighting is by no means over with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.

Buses Burned

On Sunday, some of the buses sent to al-Foua and Kefraya to carry evacuees out were attacked and torched by armed men, who shouted “God is greatest” and brandished their weapons in front of the burning vehicles …

 

Russian High-Stakes War Games, Playing for Real

Russian Military Plane Crashes in Siberia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that one of its planes had crashed in northeast Siberia with 39 people on board as it tried to make an emergency landing near a Soviet-era military base….

Putin “Remilitarizing” the Arctic. Why? Does Oil Have Anything to Do with This?

Tiksi, a coastal town of around 5,000 people inside the Arctic circle, hosts a Soviet-era military air base that has been renovated in recent years as part of President Vladimir Putin’s drive to remilitarize the Arctic.

Killing the Old Fashioned Way

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 49 Soldiers in Yemen

ADEN (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 49 soldiers … in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on Sunday … as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nothing New

Officials said at least 60 other troops were wounded in the attack, which occurred near al-Sawlaban military base in Aden’s Khor Maksar district, where another Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up a week ago killing 50 soldiers….

What will we do in the near term in the Philippines?

Philippines’ Duterte: ‘Bye-Bye America,’ We Don’t Need Your Money

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring “bye-bye America,” and “we don’t need your money.”…

The firebrand leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.

“We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many,” he said. “The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.”

And That Is Just One Day!

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-19: Does the South China Sea Belong to China?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Associated Press’s Christopher Bodeen, “Report: Beijing Adds Weapons to South China Sea Islands.”]

China Building Bases in South China Sea … Why?

According to AP’s Christopher Bodeen,

China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea … upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg.

Do you think? The question, of course, is why. Why does behemoth China feel it necessary to bolster their coastal defenses?

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report … that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.

What country would be foolish enough to fire missiles at China, and for what purpose?

The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military grade 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations and other infrastructure.

“… over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants …” How is the U.S. threatened by the existence of these bases? More to the point, I guess, is what U.S. interests are threatened? And, digging deeper, what are U.S. interests in and around the South China Sea?

Appropriate and Legal

In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry [said] that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”

“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.

Point taken. But who poses such a threat?

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing that he had no information about the reported weaponry, but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right.

The Philippines, which has troops and villagers stationed on some reefs and islands near China’s new artificial islands, expressed concern despite recently improving relations with China.

“If true, it is a big concern for us and the international community who uses the South China Sea lanes for trade,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good.”

China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” Center for Strategic and International Studies experts wrote in the report.

Now I get it.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” the report said.

Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region while downplaying their military utility. They also mark China’s claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea.

Dollars, Dollars, Dollars

It hardly seems plausible that America would attack such an important trade partner and debt holder as China.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year, while the U.S. Navy insists on its right to operate throughout the area, including in waters close to China’s new outposts. China has strongly criticized such missions, known as freedom of navigation operations….

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a visit to the U.S. last year that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area … Despite that, China considers it vital to equip the islands with defensive means given their distance — 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) — from the Chinese mainland, together with the nearby presence of forces from rival claimants such as Vietnam, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.

“As the matter of fact, these occupied islands have been armed and fortified for a long time,” Yue said. “No country in the world would only commit to providing civil services without considering its own security safety.”

Looking forward, the nature of China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the U.S., said the IISS’s Neill.

In or Out?

How do we Americans find ourselves so deeply involved in affairs such as this? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the U.S. Navy’s insistence “on its right to operate throughout the area.” Since WWII, we have established and expanded our military presence in Southeast Asia. After using weapons of mass destruction (the “bomb”) on Hiroshima and Nagasake, we wrote the Japanese Constitution which forbade that nation from rebuilding its military. We, the U.S.A. would instead impose our military in Japan in perpetuity.

Then came the Korean War. More troops, more need for permanent bases in South Korea. Then Vietnam. Air and naval bases in the Philippines. War. War. More war. How appalling it is that we commit our military so liberally and interminably. When it comes to war zones, we’re in.

The question we need to demand our leaders to answer is: How do we get out?

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-16: The Culture of War Persists

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from Henry Giroux at Truthout.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Beware the Repetition of History

Most of us are aware of some variation of George Santayana’s observation: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” which appeared in his 1905 work The Life of Reason. We generally pull out this wee packet of wise words in conversations about war. How ironic, then, that Santayana issued his warning at the beginning of the bloodiest century in the history of humankind. We didn’t listen. We didn’t learn. Apparently, we as a species content ourselves by talking “smart,” but not necessarily acting intelligently.

As Americans, we generally feel blessed that major military conflicts have not occurred within our borders. But that does not mean that American citizens, mostly men, and their immediate families have not been touched by the world’s wars. The fingers of our government and multinational corporations have manipulated our troops into myriad hostile environments, usually under the guise of the Pablum they feed us. “We are defending democracy.”

I used to believe that. I don’t anymore. I believe we as a society have devolved into an Orwellian existence in which our leaders tells us that “war is peace.” We have accepted the perpetual fighting “over there,” wherever that may be, as long as most of us do not partake in or witness the carnage. Consider what happened during the following years:

  • 1789     Congress created the War Department.
  • 1947     Congress passed the National Security Act (two years after the end of WWII).
  • 1947     Albert Camus wrote The Plague. (More on that later.)
  • 1948     George Orwell wrote 1984.
  • 1949     Congress amended the NSA of 1947 thereby creating the Department of the Army which it placed under the newly named Department of Defense.

So then, every deployment of U.S. troops since 1949 has been conducted in the hallowed name of self-defense. That’s what they tell us. I don’t believe that anymore.

War Culture, Militarism and Racist Violence …

Henry Giroux puts the danger of historical amnesia thus:

When history repeats itself with a vengeance, it generally signals a crisis of memory, historical consciousness and civic literacy. The ghosts of the past disappear in a comforting somnolence and a deadening market-driven culture of consumption, privatization, and individualization. As a mode of moral witnessing, memory withers, lost in forms of historical and social amnesia that usher in the dark clouds of authoritarianism, albeit in updated forms.

Albert Camus understood this as well as anyone, and viewed fascism as a deadly virus that could reappear in new forms. For Camus, the disease of fascism could only be fought with the antibody of consciousness–embracing the past as a way of protecting the present and the future against the damage now forgotten. The words that appear in the concluding paragraph of The Plague are as relevant today as they were when they were written. Camus writes:

[As] he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

Consider the utter destruction of the ancient city Aleppo today. A few days ago we heard “cries of joy rising from the town” as civilians and some soldiers were told they could leave. And then Assad rescinded his magnanimous decree. Erstwhile tears of joy succumbed to the flood waters of hate. Giroux cites an observation from Ulrich Beck, a German sociologist who died in 2015.

… “the distinctions between war and peace, military and police, war and crime, internal and external security” have collapsed. As violence and politics merge to produce an accelerating and lethal mix of bloodshed, pain, suffering, grief and death, American culture has been transformed into a culture of war.

Can the “greatest nation on earth” accept the musing of a German sociologist? Or does our swollen ego permit no intelligence from outside itself? Giroux also gives us reporting from Denver Nicks, a staff writer for Time magazine.

War culture reaches far beyond the machineries that enable the United States to ring the world with its military bases, produce vast stockpiles of weapons, deploy thousands of troops all over the globe and retain the shameful title of “the world’s preeminent exporter of arms, with more than 50 percent of the global weaponry market controlled by the United States.”

Do we see ourselves as the world sees us? Do we care?

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-15: Tribute to John Heuer, Veteran for Peace

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the veteransforpeace.org.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Veterans for Peace Lose One of their Own

Veterans for Peace lost a former chapter president last month: John Heuer. Although most folks have probably never heard of the organization, they are at once noble and noteworthy. Noble because they have served the nation, even and especially in most dire circumstances. Noteworthy because their goal is to prevent war, thereby eliminating the need for organizations such as their own. The world should take note. In their own words:

Veterans For Peace is an international organization made up of military veterans, military family members, and allies. We accept veteran members from all branches of service. We are dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war. Our networks are made up of over 120 chapters across the United States and abroad.

Statement of Purpose

We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others

  • To increase public awareness of the costs of war
  • To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
  • To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
  • To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
  • To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

To achieve these goals, members of Veterans for Peace pledge to use non-violent means and to maintain an organization that is both democratic and open with the understanding that all members are trusted to act in the best interests of the group for the larger purpose of world peace.

Imagine that. All members are trusted to do the right thing. In that they are neither fools nor foolhardy. To my mind the fools among us are those who send our troops to war, never having experienced it themselves. And it is those fools who have kept our country in a foolhardy near perpetual state of war for seven decades with no discernible end in sight. I wonder where they will find the next oil field on which to pour our (not their) blood.

From their website, here is the Veterans for Peace …

Tribute to John Heuer

The Veterans For Peace board of directors and staff offer our deepest sympathies upon hearing of the death of our dear brother John Heuer … after a long illness.

John was past president of Eisenhower Chapter 157 (North Carolina’s Triangle Area) and past secretary of the national board of directors….

John forfeited his student deferment by dropping out of college and signed on as an Ordinary Seaman on a ship bound for Viet Nam. What he saw in Qui Nhon confirmed his worst fears that our country was involved in great crimes against the people of Viet Nam, her neighbors, and our own service personnel. John refused induction into the Army of Richard Nixon in 1970. He applied for conscientious objector status, but was denied. Instead of going to Viet Nam, he emigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada. He came to North Carolina to restore his good citizenship as a VISTA volunteer in 1976 under President Ford’s offer of amnesty.

John spent the rest of his life working to end militarism and war and advance peace and justice in the United States and abroad….

We will honor John’s memory and legacy of service to the cause of peace and justice through our work to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable future for our children and grandchildren….

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”     -Mark 8:36

Having strived for earthly peace his entire adult life, may John Heuer now find eternal happiness. And may the rest of us learn from his example.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

12-14: American Vets Speak Out in Japan

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece with excerpts from an article which first appeared in Jacobin by Rory Fanning, author of Worth Fighting for: An Army Ranger’s Journey out of the Military and across America.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Not all combat veterans, thankfully, develop PTSD. But I feel it safe to say that those who do also develop an aversion to war. What follows is the tale of two combat veterans who carried their anti-war sentiments all the way to Japan.

Veterans on an Antiwar Mission to Japan

Rory Fanning … went on a speaking tour with … Michael Hanes, a former Marine Force Recon … staff sergeant who was part of the initial 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The article first appeared in Jacobin.

(As reported in Jacobin,) a vibrant antiwar movement is blooming in Japan right now. Trade unions, civic groups and an overwhelming number of young people are galvanizing the country around Article 9 of the Japanese constitution–the article that has kept Japan out of war for the last 70 years.

Article 9 keeps Japan out of war, but it also allows for over 100 active U.S. military bases within the country. One must wonder which country benefits more from the American omnipresence in Japan … and at what perpetual cost befalls American taxpayers.

Each weekend since March, between 5,000 and 10,000 people have gathered outside of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) in Tokyo to protest Shinzō Abe, Japan’s prime minister and the hawkish members of his Liberal Democratic Party who are trying to repeal Article 9. Abe … is a fierce defender of U.S. military bases inside of Japan and is making significant legislative gains towards ridding Japan of the article, which ensures Japan only takes up arms against another country when it is being directly attacked….

Michael Hanes and I (Fanning) … recently toured the country on a trip sponsored by Veterans for Peace and a group within the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) dedicated to protecting Article 9….

We aimed to express solidarity with those opposing the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in the 122 U.S. military sites inside of Japan and to help this emerging antiwar movement expose the many dangers and lies that accompany militarization.

… Echoes of David Swanson’s War Is a Lie. Vietnam was a lie, Iraq was a lie … and on and on.

[A key part of Fannin’s message:] “Every one of the million or so deaths–the vast majority being innocent civilians—resulting from U.S. military interventions around the world since 9/11 has been carried out in the name of ‘self-defense.’ Please don’t let your government sell you that same false argument to repeal Article 9” …

Japan Violates Its Own Law

Under Article 9, in order for Japan to justify sending the SDF into a country, a ceasefire agreement must be in place within the country; the SDF must have consent from the government in the conflict zone; the SDF mission must be conducting a nonpartisan operation; Tokyo must have the freedom to pull the plug if any conditions are not met; and finally the SDF must limit use of force.

None of these conditions are being met in South Sudan, making Japan’s military presence in the country a clear violation of Japanese law….

As we have seen in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and all the other countries the United States has invaded since 9/11, however, military intervention only makes a country less stable and more violent.…

Japanese Constitution an American-Authored Document

In early 1946, General Douglas MacArthur and his staff wrote the Japanese constitution and sought, in part, to ensure Japan never posed a military threat to the United States and the world again. Despite being written by a conquering general, 70 years on, large numbers of Japanese cherish this element of the existing constitution.

There was no oil!

Oh that our own Constitution would make it more difficult to conduct war, or that the citizenry would express greater outrage when we do. The bromide “Congress declares war” is also a lie. We allow our military to deploy worldwide and allow politicians to claim they do so in defense of democracy.

“The world is less safe.”

… We talked about our own military experience, the devastating effects our actions had on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, why the world is less safe as a result of U.S. military intervention around the world … We talked about how education, health care, infrastructure, and the environment all suffer as a result of militarization; we discussed how our leaders often overstate the threats to security to justify bloated military budgets and steal other countries’ resources through interventions….

In Japan, Mike and I saw a glimpse of what is possible when a country is able to resist its leaders’ demands for war and channel its resources to human development and flourishing. We saw the power of civilian diplomacy. We learned that ordinary Japanese have much more in common with ordinary Americans than we do with our respective leaders who send us off to kill each other in war….

Noble, If Not “Notable”

Mike and I have no notable profile; we are simply former American soldiers who went to Japan to support peace, not war. In a country that has embraced peace for 70 years but now fears war, this was national news….

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

12-13: Coping through the Holidays

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the National Center for PTSD.]

Holidays and PTSD

The holiday season is often difficult for people with PTSD, but there are healthy ways to cope and manage stress.

Here are some tips from our clinicians that can help you manage your PTSD symptoms over this holiday season:

  • Don’t overschedule. Leave time for yourself.
  • Make a plan to get things done. Set small, doable goals.
  • When stressed, remind yourself of what has helped in the past.
  • Use the tools from PTSD Coach app or PTSD Coach Online to help you manage stress
  • Reach out for support if you need it. Know you can rely on for help. If your symptoms are getting worse or you feel down, reach out to your provider or
  • Call the Crisis Line.

If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.

  • Educate yourself: Download and read Understand PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF), to learn more about how PTSD affects your loved one.
  • Talk to your family member about what they need to feel comfortable during the holidays. If your loved one needs services, call Coaching into Care for advice in talking to them about treatment.
  • Keep important resources at hand, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Crisis Line:

1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

Be sure to forward this update to others so they can subscribe. We send one update per month to keep you informed of the latest PTSD developments.

Thank you,

The Staff of VA’s National Center for PTSD

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-12: In Their Own Words

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece which I actually read on Veterans Day. It appeared on the website Healthy Living. The article “What Veterans Want You to Know about PTSD” was written by Carolyn Gregoire.]

Although I ran across this piece at a political source I visit often, I have edited out political portions, choosing rather to stick mainly to PTSD itself … with one exception. I transcribed the first paragraph in its entirety because it contains Ms. Gregoire’s stated purpose for writing the piece.

Deconstructing Myths and Stereotypes

For many, this Veterans Day comes with a little extra heaviness. Just days ago, our country elected a new president who has insulted decorated war veterans and suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder is a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately, PTSD myths and stereotypes like this are all too common. An estimated 8 million Americans― and up to 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 20 percent of Iraq veterans―suffer from PTSD …

But still, the disorder is poorly understood, stigmatized and often misrepresented, and the negative connotations surrounding PTSD are a major part of what keeps many veterans from seeking help …

… (H)ere are five things vets wish others knew about PTSD.

Most people have no idea what veterans have been through.

Anyone who refers to veterans with PTSD as “weak” has no idea what those people have seen and experienced in a war zone, or the toll that these experiences can take on an individual―no matter how “strong” they are.

Said one combat veteran:

“…Until you kill other human beings for survival, what could you possibly say about it?” He continued, “It assaults all your senses, the smell of death and the machines that cause it…. It is incomprehensible.”

The blog PTSD: A Soldier’s Perspective aims to share stories from and inspiration for veterans struggling with after-effects of their service.

“There is disconnection between everything human and what has to be done in combat,” a vet named Scott Lee wrote on the platform …

PTSD isn’t always easy to recognize.

Symptoms of the disorder often go masked and unnoticed. War journalist Sebastian Junger, who spent months embedded with American troops in Afghanistan, wrote a Vanity Fair essay about the experience last June. In it, he highlighted his own struggle to recognize PTSD.

“I had no idea that what I’d just experienced had anything to do with combat; I just thought I was going crazy,” he wrote. “For the next several months I kept having panic attacks whenever I was in a small place with too many people — airplanes, ski gondolas, crowded bars. Gradually the incidents stopped, and I didn’t think about them again until I found myself talking to a woman at a picnic who worked as a psychotherapist. She asked whether I’d been affected by my war experiences, and I said no, I didn’t think so. But for some reason I described my puzzling panic attack in the subway. ‘That’s called post-traumatic stress disorder,’ she said.”

Much of the suffering of PTSD is silent. 

PTSD survivors often suffer in silence, trying to present a strong face to the world and not seeking help for fear of being seen as weak. A veteran who served in Baghdad … opened up about the struggle to admit to himself that he needed care.

“The few nights a week I’d get drunk and start crying inconsolably, although often silently, I tried to shake off as simple moments of weakness,” he wrote ... “I should be tough …”

“Some of the toughest guys I had ended up the worst off” he added….

PTSD doesn’t make you violent. 

A harmful stereotype about PTSD is that it leads to aggressive behavior. But research indicates that the prevalence of violence among individuals with PTSD is only slightly higher than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

… It pains me when I listen to the news and every time a veteran commits a crime (or commits suicide) it is automatically linked to and blamed on PTSD….

Recovery is possible.

One of the most damaging stereotypes about PTSD is the idea that people with the disorder are somehow broken or can’t heal.

Roy Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD and insomnia for four decades, told CBS News about his recovery through yoga and meditation.

“I did feel at total peace, like I hadn’t known in years. You don’t have all those thoughts flying through your mind at night,” he said.

Iraq veteran Gordon Ewell, who has overcome PTSD, sent a message of hope to his fellow veterans: Recovery is always possible, and you’re never alone.

“You may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I promise it is there,” he said in an interview published in Denning’s book. “I promise you can get through anything. I also promise that there are people willing to walk with you every step of the way.”

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; three points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box, and 3) your name and address will never be shared.