Sunday, July 8, 2012

When they gave their best to us

When they gave their best to us
by Chaplain Kathie
Wounded Times Blog
July 8, 2012

I had no intentions of writing a post like this this morning but as I was going through my emails there was a notice of a comment left on my post Why did we let Trevor Gould die? One more reminder of how much has been known about Combat PTSD and suicide. One more reminder of how ordinary citizens with courage and compassion, the very qualities the military looks for so they will be willing to die for each other, are the very things that can kill them after war if they are not helped to recover from where they've been and what they were asked to do. Or the fact they will never again be "an ordinary" citizen but will live the rest of their lives as a Combat Veteran.

Whenever I hear from a family member after a veteran has committed suicide, I grieve more because I am reminded again of how much I have failed since I started working online tracking these reports. On this blog alone there are over 15,000 posts, so I do not doubt what I know but I doubt my ability to do anything with what I know. I can't get anyone to listen. I don't have a PR firm or people behind me with deep pockets, so I do the best I can and try to find excuses to not give up.

I know should be happy about the lives I've managed to save and families kept together because of all of this but it is the ones I lost or never reached that stick in my mind the most.

In less than a week I managed to give up on a veteran that called me on accident. I couldn't take his attitude, his drinking any more than I could take the way he treated people he turned to for help. It wasn't just me. He did it to his Mom, his Grandmother, other relatives and in less than a week he was kicked out of two homes. Everyone gave up on him and I think it is because he gave up on himself first.

He served in Bosnia among other places but it was the Bosnia deployment that "messed" him up the most. None of it made sense to him. Judging by how few reports there are about veterans of Bosnia and Somalia, they don't seem to matter anymore than the veterans do. Even though they gave their best to this country while serving so far away and forgotten, pushed away as much as they pull away, we find excuses to forget.

We just celebrated our Independence but between cookouts, fireworks and beach time there wasn't much reflection of who is responsible for this nation being free. Even less reflection of the fact that while we sing a bunch of songs, we never really think of the lyrics or the price paid by those who fought for all of this. We don't think about the only rewards they ask for. They aren't medals or parades or monuments, even tough those things are appreciated by them. What they want most in return for their service is knowing the wounded are taken care of and their families have all they need to take care of them. That never happens. We have too much of a history in this country of failing them.

In January of 2011, news broke that Fort Hood sees twofold increase in suicides from prior year I wrote a post saying that it did little good to have been right back in 2009 when I warned it would happen and posted the link to the old post.

By 2010, I knew I was right but it didn't do any good for soldiers like Sgt. Douglas Hale Jr.
22 suicides in 2010 at Fort Hood
One was Army Sgt. Douglas Hale Jr., who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after completing his second tour in 2007. He texted his mother, Glenda Moss, on July 6 asking forgiveness before shooting himself to death in a restaurant bathroom near Fort Hood.

News came out on December 24, 2010 that McCain calls suicide prevention "overreach" and blocks bill it did not leave me with much hope that this country would ever get it right.

I knew it was going to get worse because of this among many other reports I read.

Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Test Comes Under Fire Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million "holistic fitness program" unveiled in late 2009 and aimed at reducing the number of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases, which have reached epidemic proportions over the past year due to multiple deployments to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the substandard care soldiers have received when they return from combat. The Army states that it can accomplish its goal by teaching its service members how to be psychologically resilient and resist "catastrophizing" traumatic events. Defense Department documents obtained by Truthout state CSF is Army Chief of Staff George Casey's "third highest priority."

"Military suicides show some families work through their grief, while others are left feeling angry and confused." was also reported in January of 2011. But this is something that doesn't get talked about enough.

We were also reading things like this.

Concerns Raised About Combat Troops Using Psychotropic Drugs
FOX News
Jan 19, 2011

As U.S. military leaders gathered Wednesday to give their latest update on the rash of Army suicides, new questions are being raised about a U.S. Central Command policy that allows troops to go to Iraq and Afghanistan with up to a six-month supply of psychotropic drugs.

Prescription drugs have already been linked to some military suicides, and a top Army official warned last year about the danger of soldiers abusing that medication. Psychiatrists are now coming down hard on the military for continuing to sanction certain psychotropic drugs for combat troops, saying the risk from side effects is too great.

“There’s no way on earth that these boys and girls are getting monitored on the field,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York-based psychiatrist who has extensively studied the side effects of psychiatric drugs. “The drugs simply shouldn’t be given to soldiers.”

Anxiety, violent behavior and “impulsivity” are all side effects of some of these medications, he said, the latter symptom being particularly dangerous in a war zone. Breggin said that if patients were given these medications in the civilian world and not monitored, it would amount to “malpractice.”

But we still see the numbers go up a year and a half later. People can pretend to be shocked by all of this. Military brass can say anything they want about what they are doing and promise to do more but when they are doing the same thing, it is just more of the same leading to more of the same results,,,,,deplorable. Politicians can keep saying they care but the truth comes out sooner or later when it is all getting worse,,,disgusting. And Moms will keep having to go visit their sons and daughter's graves instead of them.

Hello I am Sheri Johnson Trevor Gould's mother. A person does not know how hard they can ache until they lose a child. It hurts even more knowing my son did not get the help he need when he asked for it. He always acted strong around me because he was trained that way and thought he was my protector. We need to help our soldiers that come home and even the ones that are deployed. They need to be heard we need to be heard. I would give anything to hold my son one more time and tell him how much I love him, but I can't do this anymore and I want to change things so other parents and spouses can hold their loved ones every day.

In the following video I made back in 2009, there was a song that haunted me from Ken Burns The War sung beautifully by Norah Jones.

American Anthem” words and music by Gene Scheer

All that we’ve been given by those who came before,
The dream of a nation where freedom would endure.
The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day.
What shall be our legacy, what will our children say?
Let them say of me, I was one who believed in sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through,
America, America, I gave my best to you.
America, America, I gave my best to you.

Each generation from the plains to distant shores,
With the gifts they were given were determined to leave more.
Battles fought together, acts of conscience fought alone,
These are the seeds from which America has grown.
Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through,
America, America, I gave my best to you.
America, America, I gave my best to you.

For those who say they have nothing to share,
Who feel in their hearts there is no hero there,
Though each quiet act of dignity is that which fortifies,
The soul of a nation, that will never die.
Let them say of me that I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings I received.
Let me know in my heart when my days are through,
America, America, I gave my best to you.
America, America, I gave my best to you.

I point out often that it took Vietnam Veterans coming home and fighting for Combat PTSD to be treated and they did in fact give their best to America because they never gave up on us. If they had, there would be nothing for the veterans that came later back from where we sent them. The documentary The War was about WWII but when you read the lyrics from this song, I am sure you noticed that it does not just apply to that time in our history but to all times when ordinary citizens went where few others have been, yet have no regrets about their service no matte what happened to them afterwards. They gave their best to us, so why haven't we given our best to them?