Tuesday, March 27, 2007

VA Unable To Keep Up

Most of the folks at the VA really do try hard to serve our troops.

Unfortunately, they often don't have the people or resources to meet all of the needs of the veterans.

An Associated Press article in the Marine Corps Times had some alarming statistics, and some warnings about the long term effects of PTSD or trauma.

According to the Pentagon and several independent studies, at least a third of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer some level of mental illness. By some estimates, a fifth of those 1.5 million veterans will, like Griego, develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Of the 2,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan so far enrolled at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, between 25 and 30 percent are receiving mental health services, hospital officials say.

Unfortunately, though the demand is great, the entiresystem is unable to cope:

A congressional investigation released late last year found that VA had failed to spend much of a $300 million appropriation designed to fill gaps in mental health care, and some of what it did spend went in other directions.

A Navy commander said at a congressional hearing that 90 percent of the military mental health care providers he surveyed weren’t trained to treat PTSD.

It's a tough situation, but the fact remains that the veterans need to seek the help that they need. You can't be helped unless you're willing to work at it.

To your healing.


Monday, March 26, 2007

A Quiz With A Twist?

I took a quiz today, asking about any health issues that I may have encountered during my most recent tour on active duty. It was online, and already populated with my identifying information.

It asked a variety of questions about where I was stationed, for how long, what job duties did I perform, etc... It asked about how many times I visited a doctor, and reasons why.

So far, it all seemed to be right in line with what I would expect on a medical survey, but then the other questions began.

Did you see anyone wounded, killed or dead during this deployment?
Were you engaged in direct combat where you discharged your weapon?

It then asked specifically about symptoms associated with suicide, PTSD, and other anxiety issues. For example, "In the past month have you felt numb or detached from others, activities and your surroundings?"

It then asks about exposure to various chemicals and hazardous situations.

On the surface, it seems like a fair set of questions to ask if you want to detect someone dealing with issues or at greater risk from various exposures...

I have two concerns:

One, that a young soldier dealing with issues internally may falsely answer the questions and not get the help that they really need for fear of looking bad... In other words, the survey could be used to justify not taking the time to talk to each soldier...

Two, that the Army could or would bring this survey up later to defend against granting benefits to a soldier whose issues emerge later... " Why is Private Smith claiming that he suffers from nightmares now when his post-deployment survey showed that he didn't have any nightmares when he left the service?"

Ultimately, I think it's important for everyone in the system to deal honestly with each other. A soldier who has nightmares or other exposures should honestly answer the questions, and shouldn't hold back. (e.g. "I won't answer yes to the nightmares question because I don't have them often... Besides, I don't want to talk about it, I want to go home...")

Secondly, it looks like the Army needs to be VERY careful about how they use the information provided on the forms... They need to heal those who have been wounded in the service of our country.

To your healing.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Few Days Too Late

I got an e-mail from a friend a few days ago suggesting that I visit a particular soldier who had lost a leg, and was recuperating at Walter Reed.

Through Soldier's Angels, she had heard that he was there. I had a few busy days planned, so I decided to visit him Sunday evening. It's a bit of a drive across town, but I found it soon enough, and entered the installation.

He was staying in the "hotel" on the base, but unfortunately had checked out the day before I got the e-mail...

I hope he made it home ok, to loved ones who are grateful to have him. I pray that he is strengthened to overcome his new physical challenge.

Most importantly, I pray for his soul and his outlook to be positive.

Since I was there, I went into the lounge to see if anyone was just sitting around and could use someone to talk to. There were several soldiers there, chatting with friends or playing video games. (They had a video Basketball tournament going on...)

It actually seemed peaceful... But I was in the hotel, and the troops there were soon to be on their way home. I'm sure that some of our other veterans aren't in as good moods...

It was dark, and the installation was quiet as I returned to my car.
I thought about that soldier as I drove home.

I don't know him.

But I miss him.

To your healing.


Saturday, March 24, 2007


I've spent the day around some incredible people, and I've met some folks who will be helping us in the near future.

Things are looking good.

I also came across this powerful and moving video in my internet travels today.

It honors one of our fallen warriors, and is worth watching.

To your healing!


Friday, March 23, 2007

What A Day!

Lots of things happening today in my world, as I'm learning some new ways to spread the word.

Politics is at work today in DC... Go figure.

HR 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act of 2007 is the bill that passed 218 - 212/

The bill adds $3.5 billion to funding for veterans over what the president's budget includes.

That's all well and good, but the bill is also tied to the the eventual withdrawal of our troops from Iraq by 2008. I won't debate that issue here, but I will say that tieing these issues together is a political ploy that does a disservice to our troops.

The funding should be there for our troops because there is a need, not because they want to pile it onto another issue.

You can read the entire text of HR 1591 to educate yourself on the issue.

To your healing!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

But He's Got A Great Personality...Disorder?

A recent article in The Nation talks about how Army doctors may be diagnosing soldiers with personality disorders in order to process them quickly out of the military. Unfortunately, that usually means that the soldier loses benefits and treatment because of being diagnosed with the "pre-existing condition."

The article starts:

Jon Town has spent the last few years fighting two battles, one against his body, the other against the US Army. Both began in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was standing in the doorway of his battalion's headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble.

"The next thing I remember is waking up on the ground." Men from his unit had gathered around his body and were screaming his name. "They started shaking me. But I was numb all over," he says. "And it's weird because... because for a few minutes you feel like you're not really there. I could see them, but I couldn't hear them. I couldn't hear anything. I started shaking because I thought I was dead."

After two more years, Town was inexplicably given a personality disorder discharge and told that he would never receive disability or medical benefits. The report alleges that this is becoming a pattern, and a way that the Army is using to save money and rapidly separate injured soldiers.

The entire article is worth reading if you know anyone suffering from these types of issues. Unfortunately, people with PTSD symptoms can be misdiagnosed if they are not careful, losing benefits and more importantly, the care that they need.

The bottom line is that our soldiers need to be educated and protected from being shafted by a few people in positions of power. Although most doctors and medical officers will do the right thing, the troops need to be aware of what they are facing and to be prepared to fight against the machine if necessary.

I think that most veterans want to be completely healed, and go on to live productive lives. Those who are disabled shouldn't have to fight blindly against the system. One resource that has been spoken highly of is The Veteran's Survival Guide - 2nd Edition by John D. Roche.

Mr. Roche used to be a claims adjudication specialist for the VA, and this book provides a step by step way to construct a legitimate claim. The Veteran's PTSD Handbook is another book that he has written specifically to help troops overcome the obstacles that they may face when attempting to file for disability and treatment benefits. (Out on April 30)

If you're struggling with these issues, imagine how good it will feel when you have the rules of the VA system laid out in front of you. You'll feel more confident and able to pursue the benefits that you have rightfully earned.

To your healing!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Congress Unanimous?

How often does Congress agree on anything?

I'd never heard of it happening.

For once though, the U.S. House of Representatives came together to pass a bill designed to reduce the number of veterans committing suicide.

The Joshua Omvig Veterans' Suicide Prevention Act was introduced by Congressman Leonard Boswell, and is in honor of Joshua Omvig, a young man from Iowa who took his own life after returning home from an 11-month tour in Iraq.

Boswell said, “With more and more veterans returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, new issues have arisen regarding veterans mental health care that have not received attention in the past.”

“Some estimates have found that almost one thousand veterans receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs commit suicide each year and one out of five suicides in the United States is a veteran. We must do better for our veterans, and I believe this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

This bill requires patients at Veterans Administration hospitals to be screened for suicide risk factors. It also requires the medical centers to designate suicide prevention counselors and provide other types of outreach. They'll also be establishing a hotline number. A companion bill has been introduced in the senate by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

This is a great step, but it unfortunately may only reach those troops already in treatment for various issues. A large number of troops may need some help, but may be unwilling or unable to seek treatment at the VA.

I'm glad that they are coming together to address some of these issues. We also intend to provide resources to help our veterans.

To your healing!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Take Time To Be

To be, or not to be?

So many times we are trying to do things and be things that may seem unnatural to us.

It's important to ask ourselves some questions...

What do I really want?

What keeps me from having that?

What would propel me forward?

If you knew that you could achieve your desires, would you pursue them?

These types of questions can be asked in almost any context, and can provide you with some valuable insight if you truly think about them.

For example, if you want to be rid of anxiety, your combat memories may keep you from being able to relax fully. Perhaps some method of taking the emotional charge out of those memories could propel you forward.

If you thought it would work, would you try it?

Take time to ask yourself these questions. Be yourself, and then allow positive change into your life.

To your healing!


Monday, March 19, 2007

Laughter Is Healing!

A friend of mine, Tammy Nerby, was featured on her local news channel in Minnesota.

She's a comedian and very involved in Soldier's Angels, a group that supports our troops in a variety of ways.

Check out the story and the video at:


We all need to learn to laugh at the issues we face.

War experiences tend to put a lot of things into perspective.

Another friend of mine is a Vietnam Veteran. He told me that after spending days out on patrol, he came back to a firebase and laid down on the ground to rest. Someone came by and handed him an ice cold soda.

He decided to that as long he had somewhere to sit and something to drink and he was never going to complain.

To your healing.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Little Protest Is A Healthy Thing

I went to the area of the Vietnam Memorial yesterday where the Gathering of Eagles was taking place opposite of the antiwar protest.

People on both sides of the debate carried signs, shouted slogans, and walked around the area.

Each side had a stage from which to speak to the crowd.

I put together a video showing my viewpoint of the event.

I talked to a few vets along the way.
I hope that you enjoy it.

To Your Healing!


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Weeks Growth Down The Drain

For two weeks, I've been a team player.

My Air Force buddies invited me to join them for "Mustache March" as they all started growing mustaches on the first of March.

Slowly at first, the hairs began to grow in. For two weeks, I let it grow.

I decided to shave it this morning. What had taken two weeks to grow, was cut down in one minute.

It's always that way in life. It's difficult to create, but easy to destroy.

Today, I spent a few hours in the vicinity of the Vietnam Veteran's memorial, watching the interactions of the various crowds in the area. On the east side of the monument, the Gathering of Eagles had a stage and a variety of speakers professing their love of country, their support of the troops, and their mission.

Vietnam veterans were out in force, and other veterans were in attendance.

To the west of the memorial was another group. They had a myriad of mixed messages, but they did seem united in their hatred of the Bush Administration. Drop Acid, Not Bombs. Impeach Bush.

Slowly, so very slowly, they were "marching" across the Memorial Bridge enroute to the Pentagon for their protest.

I appreciate everyone's right to state their opinion, and protest. It did seem to me that the majority of the media in the area were covering the protest, although there were a few in the "Eagles" area.

The main message of the folks supporting our troops is to complete the mission.

Just like my fledgling mustache was cut off in only a minute, they stress that our progress overseas will all be lost if we leave too soon. Those who have supported us will most likely be killed.

I hugged a few vets, and thanked many more for their service.

Our goal is to thank and help many more.

To your healing!


Friday, March 16, 2007

It Turned My Stomach

Yesterday, I fell down.

It hurt.

Today, my ribs ache.

I was talking to a couple of soldiers and mentioned that I had gotten hurt, but was hoping that I'd heal in the next few days. I was surprised by the direction that the conversation turned next.

One of the soldiers, told me to make sure that I go to the doctor and get a report of the injury in my file in case something develops from it. That's good advice, to cover my backside in case complications arise in the coming weeks.

Since I'm coming off of duty soon, the other said to "file a claim" with the VA.

I said, "Why file a claim?"

Then he said the thing that turned my stomach...

"It's like the lottery... You can't win if you don't play."

These weren't my soldiers, so I thanked them for their advice, and went on my way.

I wanted to chastise them for their attitude of trying to "game the system." I wanted to point out how that type of attitude forces the VA to go through the horrifically long procedures that they do in order to determine which injury claims are valid.

It reminded me of how many of our soldiers are stuck waiting for a determination of disability for months or even years as their paperwork works its way through the system. Meanwhile, they wait. And wait.

I have aches and pains from my service that I carry with me. That fall in 1989 that made me limp for weeks... Is the occasional pain in my hip socket related? Probably.

Some injuries can just happen, regardless of your experiences in the service.

Other injuries are clearly combat or service related. The process of determining just how disabling the injuries are takes too long and is too cumbersome for a typical injured soldier who just wants to get back home and get on with their life.

Recent interviews have repeatedly quoted former service members claiming that they signed whatever they were offered just so they could go home.

There are many resources available to help those who are truly injured get fairly treated and get through the system... We'll provide links and information about some of them in our resource guide which will be coming out soon.

To your healing!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Every Single Day

Every single day I go to work.

Every single day I deal with challenges.

Every single day I return safely home.

There are exceptions, but they are rare. Like last week, I didn't return safely home like I normally do. I got in my car, started up, and backed out. Just as I was shifting into drive to move out, I noticed it. Dark, Shining and wet... My car had left a puddle of oil.

I park in the same spot at home each day, so I knew that my car wasn't in the habit of dropping oil everywhere...

I immediately drove to the auto service shop on the base, and had the car put up on a lift.

A blown seal was the diagnosis, and the repairs would cost several hundred dollars.

I considered driving home, but envisioned myself with a seized engine on the middle of the freeway holding up thousands of angry commuters... I took the metro instead... And eventually got home safely, but much later than I intended.

How's this relate to trauma or PTSD? Think about it:

Just like an oil leak can drain an engine, struggling with trauma and anxiety each and every day can slowly allow the will to live to disappear. When you lose hope and you lose faith each day, the struggles become more intense. Eventually, you may "seize up" and become unable to function at all.

Adding oil to a leaking engine only delays the inevitable. Though it may keep things running for a while, you'll leave a messy trail behind you as the leak gets worse.

Many veterans are trying to "add oil" and ease their pains by drinking or doing drugs. Unfortunately, "self-medicating" doesn't lead to permanent change or relief. It becomes self destructive.

The only real "cure" is to do what needs to be done.

Fix what needs to be fixed, even if it's expensive or inconvenient. In the case of severe PTSD, it may require proper medications, counseling, therapy, and even a hospital stay.

For less severe cases, it could be learning some simple coping techniques, and learning how to feel safe at home again.

That's the goal of the Reintegration Program: To help our veterans feel welcome and safe at home.

A few of us will be on the mall in Washington DC this Saturday to hug some veterans and thank them for their service. I've started another site, www.freehugsforvets.com to share the message throughout the country.

We want to welcome our vets home with open arms.

Every Single Day.

To your healing!


Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I was talking with a friend about compassion this evening.

We talked about how we often get wrapped up in whatever project that we are working on. Sometimes, opportunities to help someone and to show compassion can be missed because we are focused on something else.

My wife demonstrated this principle to me years ago. We were on our way to visit the temple in Mesa, Arizona. We were visiting family, and were taking a side trip.

When we were just a few blocks away, I could see my destination. As we sat and waited for the light to turn green, my wife noticed a man who was carrying a box of food who looked very tired.

"He looks like he needs some help," she said. I looked over at him, leaning against a streetlight, resting in the got Arizona sun. He did look tired, and he was near a bus stop, so I said something brilliant, like, "He'll be all right, he's just waiting for a bus."

My compassionate wife insisted that we help him, even though we were only two blocks away from our destination, where we were going to learn about... Compassion...

Mildly chagrined at my single mindedness, I turned around and we asked the man if he needed a ride. He accepted, and loudly praised the Lord all the way to his home, where two young children were waiting for him to return with the food.

Our small detour didn't seem like much trouble afterwards. We still accomplished our goals for the day, and we were able to assist someone in need.

Our troops need compassion also. They need people to work with them, and care for them.

Take the opportunity to help those who cross your path. It blesses you and them both!

To your healing!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hope Is A Wonderful Thing

Bad news is easy to find.

Another vet commits suicide.

Another vet gets arrested.

Another vet loses control.

These and other dramatic and traumatic events happen routinely. Yet those who are healing rarely just suddenly wake up "All Better." Instead, they generally improve gradually, a little each day. They'll even have ups and downs, but you can maintain hope and recover.

Often, the lack of hope is a real factor for those who are suffering with PTSD and other trauma issues. You may feel that you are "broken," and can't be repaired. You may feel that the relationships that you've had will never be the same.

You may miss friends that you lost in combat, and you may suffer in so many ways.

Hope can help. There are a variety of methods to deal with these issues. No one method can guarantee a quick fix, but many technigues can help people speed the process of healing. Certainly, those without hope will have a harder time dealing with their afflictions.

Hope is a key to health. Each day is another opportunity to live again, to cope a little better, and to heal a little more.

Maintain Hope. Guard it like a precious jewel. Write down five things that went well in a success journal. As you focus each day on what has gone right, you'll discover that things flow more easily for you.

To your healing!


Monday, March 12, 2007

Can A Hug Help?

I mentioned a few days ago how I was touched by the "Free Hugs" video that I saw.

It inspired me to think about how I could extend the message of connection and love to our returning veterans. I thought about it for a while, and came up with an idea...

www.freehugsforvets.com was born. You can go look at it now if you want, but there's not too much to see yet. It will provide yet another way for us to spread the message of love, acceptance, and healing that the reintegration program is all about.

This Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, I'll be spending part of the day in the area of the Vietnam Memorial attending the Gathering of Eagles. At the same time, some anti-war protesters plan to do their thing.

I'm in the Army, so I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Where I am totally clear is that I love and support the troops who are shouldering the heaviest part of the load for the American people. I am clear that my intention is to help as many people as possible heal from the debilitating trauma issues that they face.

I'll be out, by myself or with a few friends hugging veterans and thanking them for their service and sacrifice this Saturday morning.

Let us know how we can help you.

We're generating resources and creating partnerships behind the scenes, and hope to introduce the first resource within days.

To your healing!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

What Happens When The Providers Get Tired

A Newsweek article on MSNBC talks about the issues that the health care providers are starting to see after treating many combat veterans. Week after week they are sharing the pain of the trauma with the patients. Week after week, they can suffer with the imagery, the feelings and the memories of what they have discussed.

Here's a short excerpt... The full article is titled "To Share In The Horror."

Night is when suicidal vets usually show up at the emergency room of the San Francisco VA Medical Center. But a few weeks ago, the ER had one who came in at 10 a.m., frantic and saying he had a gun. "He was haunted, desperate," says Chad Peterson, medical director of the center's posttraumatic-stress-disorder team. "He was going to be redeployed to Iraq and said suicide was his only way out." Peterson managed to talk the man out of killing himself and into a program, but weeks later the counselor is still struggling with memories of what the man told him. "How can you sleep after something like that?" he asks. Peterson has spent thousands of hours treating vets who came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, and their horror stories have gradually rubbed off on him. "I'll hear about the things they've seen or done, the close calls, and my pulse quickens," he says. "I'll get agitated or feel hopeless because I can't take this person's pain away."

The article goes on to discuss the issue, labled secondary PTSD, vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue, or the Army's choice, provider fatigue.

Certainly the doctors, nurses, therapists and counselors workin with these wounded souls suffer along with them.

I'm not sure if you can imagine how difficult it can be for loved ones to deal with their wounded spouses, siblings, children or parents. The person they knew has returned in a different mental state, and often it's not one that they're comfortable with.

They suffer as well.

I've had some interesting conversations the last few days as we are assembling this program. It is truly going to be a team effort, and I appreciate those who have e-mailed to let us know what kind of help that you are looking for.

Although it always takes longer than we'd like, big things will be coming soon.

To your healing.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Lot to Think About

Well my friends, there sure are a lot of things to think about when defining and creating a product or series of products to help a variety of people.

Everyone is different, had different experiences, and different reactions to those experiences.
Yet many people are also very much the same in how they process the things that have happened to them.

That's one reason that group therapy is used by many people with PTSD or trauma. In the group, as people share their experiences, they can begin their personal healing, and also provide insight to those around them.

They are not alone, but surrounded by people who truly understand what they have been through. They recieve empathy, compassion, and even love that they may not find easily out in the world.

The key point is that you are not alone. For most people, the reactions that they are having are normal reactions to abnormal events. War is an abnormal thing, no matter how often it occurs.

People often feel guilt, remorse, or even shock when they consider what they did or what happened to them and their friends throughout the course of the war.

We're asking the questions... What do you need to let go of? What do you need to learn to do?
What do you want to achieve?

We'd like to ask you about your experiences, and how we can best help you.
Send me an e-mail, and I'll give you a call. Let's talk.

To Your Healing!


Friday, March 9, 2007

I Didn't Think It Could Happen To Me...

In November of 2005, I arrived in Louisiana to spend 100 days in uniform, helping to clean up the devastation that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had left behind. We had a group of counselors with us, to help anyone who needed assistance in coping with the magnitude of the destruction.

Honestly, the worst part was over. The floodwaters had receded, and the people who had been stranded without food and water had mostly been transported to a safe place and were being taken care of in some form or another.

But still, those counselors were there. They talked about the various ways stress and trauma can overwhelm a person, how talking about feelings can help, and even how something small may provoke a large emotional response. Like most soldiers, I smiled, thanked them, and went about my business.

I worked 12 hours days for weeks on end. Most days I was doing paperwork and reporting to the leadership. Some days I checked on my soldiers who were supervising debris removal crews. Some days I went to where new temporary schools and facilities were being built.

Some days I explored the previously flooded areas, passing house after house that had been gutted by crews removing all of the damaged materials from the homes.
They weren't hard to find. Houses and debris went on for block after block after block. Trees were down, cars flooded, windows broken, and the waterline had left a stain across each house.

Last night, I saw that vision again. I met a gentleman from Louisiana, and as we were talking I felt a chill come over me. In my mind I saw the waterline mark left upon the thousands of homes by the flooding which followed the hurricane. It stretched for as far as the eye could see.

Each house had been searched at some point, and the rescuers had painted symbols on the side of the house. At many houses, the symbols were painted on the roof, just above the waterline...

The power which accompanied that vision shocked me. Certainly, I had thought about this before, but it hadn't affected me in that way. I suddenly "got it."

I understood why so many of our vets are suffering, but not seeking help. I understood why they needed that help, and resolved to work harder to get our program off the ground.

Although I was never seriously threatened in New Orleans, I feel even more empathy for those who have put their lives on the line. My experiences at the time were overwhelming in some ways, but not overly frightening.

I can only imagine having to deal with the fear and stress of combat.

I'll be talking with some of my partners tomorrow as we move closer to take off.

To your healing!


Thursday, March 8, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

An editorial out in the Denver Post today points out that Fort Carson is having a hard time caring for their soldiers who need mental health care.

"When Iraq veteran Jessica Rich was killed in a collision driving the wrong way on Interstate 25 last month, the Fort Carson Army reservist was undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder - after having been on a waiting list for more than a year. "

In 2005, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, on leave from Iraq, killed his wife and himself days after returning to Fort Carson. He had been a "stellar soldier."

Returning from an overseas tour or from combat is going to be stressful no matter how you do it. The fact remains that obtaining care in a timely manner is key to beginning to make progress.

PTSD is being called the invisible but most widespread wound suffered by perhaps tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cause can be emotional or stem from injuries caused by explosives jarring delicate brain tissue. The injuries later manifest themselves in such symptoms as depression, suicidal tendencies, nightmares, anxiety and flashbacks.

We need to ensure that our government provides the appropriate care for our troops who need the most intensive treatment. Unfortunately, if the best care is only available after months of waiting, it may be too late.

We'll be exploring the current methods used by the government to treat PTSD and trauma, along with a variety of alternatives. Keep watching, 'cause good things are coming!

To your healing.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Let's Review.

The Army Times wrote an interesting article about the review program the Army is putting in place to address the issues that our veterans at Walter Reed and throughout the DOD system are facing.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “after the war itself, fixing the problems associated with the care of our wounded is possibly our highest priority.”

President Bush also promised to support a program to support our wounded warriors. He said, "I am concerned that soldiers and their families are not getting the treatment that they deserve having volunteered to defend our country."

I'm confident that their review will show plenty of issues that need to be addressed. Hopefully, they'll make some massive progress and help our veterans. Realistically, I think it'll be a long slow typical government process, even with the additional focus and media attention.

We'll help along the way.

To your healing!


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

So, How's The Family?

All sorts of issues can pop up for our returning war veterans, and they affect more than just the service member. Combat Stress and Trauma can cause extreme difficulty for their families.

A returning service member may find it difficult to trust and be close to others, cutting off their families. Troops having anger issues be difficult to relate to, and cause a dynamic of fear to enter family life.

Veterans may focus on trying to keep everyone safe, and lose interest in activities that they may have enjoyed previously. They may become distant from their spouse, parents, siblings and friends.

Family members then inherit many of these tendencies by default. Even if they feel hurt or depressed because of the painful situation, they may be reluctant to seek help themselves. They may want to avoid bring up the painful subject, or just avoid the veteran's reaction.

Bottom line is that the family members can grow apart from the service member if they're not careful. It's important for families to stick together as much as possible to assist the veteran, help him/her adjust, and often just provide a sense of companionship and belonging.

If you have a veteran suffering from these issues, find out what you can do to help.
It may be therapy for them and you will get you on the right track.

To your healing.


Monday, March 5, 2007

"It's A New Technique... "

I was talking with a social worker/psychologist today about various ways to help people suffering from trauma, anxiety, or PTSD. We discussed the difficulties that some of our troops face as they confront these challenges.

She discussed a therapy technique that she thought would be useful, using computers and a biofeedback type system to help train the mind to control anxiety and to maintain healthy brainwaves. Unfortunately, the equipment is expensive, and requires training.

She said, "It's a new technique. Not many therapists are trained in it."

I asked how long it's been around. She replied, "Ten years."

I literally smacked myself in the forehead. Ten years is too late for so many of our troops. They need help now.

One young Marine that a friend of mine is helping lives in his truck and self medicates with alcohol between his therapy sessions. He's making no real progress and losing hope...

The recent articles about Walter Reed have brought this issue to the forefront, but it's not going away soon. The conventional therapies and techniques used can work for people, but they are often expensive, time consuming, and are too little too late for our troops. Our Marine friend needs more help than he's getting.

While we'll make no claims to "cure" anyone outright, we plan to provide techniques to help people make a positive difference in their lives right away. The healing power is within us all.

To your healing,


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Hydrate Or Die!

If you like to run around in the outdoors, you may recognize that saying as the slogan used by Camelbak, the makers of personal hydration systems, backpacks and other outdoor equipment.

I bought one several years ago for bike riding and hiking, and loved the convenience of having a drink of water always available. I drink a lot of water. All of us need to drink water to keep our bodies working effectively. The slogan is true. If you don't drink water, you will die.

In a similar fashion, we need to drink spiritually as well. We need to soak in the human feelings of being connected, appreciated, understood, and loved.

Unfortunately, many coming home from the war have been parched for so long, that it's difficult for them to return to those emotions. The safe thing to do in a war seems to be to shield yourself, and to be tough. Hard things have to be done. Trauma and anxiety result.

I don't know if you could imagine how refreshing it would be to start to drink in those loving feelings after wandering around in the desert for months. Think about it. How nice would it be to have that love returning, and filling you up with light from your toes all the way to the top of your head.

Once you've been filled with love, it's always easier to give love to those around you. Sometimes people have guilt and difficulty forgiving themselves for things that have happened. Forgiveness of yourself is the valve that allows the love to flow back into your life.

Forgive yourself first, and move forward from there.

To your healing!


Saturday, March 3, 2007

I Cried Like A Baby!

A friend told me about this Video about Free Hugs online.

I encourage you to watch it, enjoy the music, and then read my reaction/thoughts below...

The video and message is about everyone's need for a human connection.

It starts with the man standing alone, offering Free Hugs, but being ignored, avoided and even challenged about his position. But soon, the ice breaks, and he begins to share his hugs, people join him in giving hugs, and joy, peace, acceptance and love follow...

That itself touched me, but as I thought about our returning veterans, I drew parallels that really did bring me to tears. Lucky for me, I had my Kleenex nearby and no one in the house.

I sobbed as I thought of our soldiers, who have returned home, and now, even when in a crowd, feel different and alone. I thought of the despair that they must feel as they attempt to go about their daily lives surrounded by people who don't understand them, their thoughts, and their fears.

I thought about the people struggling to make it through the day with their anxiety, depressions, and desperate circumstances...

And then I thought of how we intend to help. Give love, acceptance, and support to those in need. Provide them with the understanding that they are not alone. People understand them and what they are going through. People want to help, and metaphorically as well as physically will welcome them home into open arms.

Imagine how we can take those veterans and envelop them in love, help them work through their issues and send them on their way stronger, standing taller, and smiling.

This drawing from a talented young artist, Rebecca Jacobson, show the feelings involved, and I can identify with it in so many ways. Help us free the spirits of those who are wounded. Big things are coming.

To Your Healing,


Friday, March 2, 2007

Will The Army Pay Up?

A soldier suffering from PTSD, or combat stress may have more than just their anxiety to worry about. Often, long term care may be required, and the troops have to deal with the mental and the financial issues that follow.

Living on disability is not much of a living, particularly if you have a family to support.

Much of the stress involved in the situation is from troops trying to argue with the military to get fair compensation and treatment for their issues.

An article on Axis of Logic really goes into some depth in the subject:

Indeed, the Army's system for allocating disability pay to traumatized vets is another source of their frustration and anger. An Army panel at Walter Reed, called the Physical Evaluation Board, decides what percentage of income each soldier should get from the military to compensate him if he is too ill to serve any longer. The doctors decide whether wounds are combat related, and then the board decides how much disability the Army will pay. The board's decision is critical for soldiers trying to make a living after leaving the Army with what can be a debilitating mental condition. Fighting with the hospital about disability pay is a source of considerable stress just as these soldiers are trying to heal their minds.

Some of the soldiers are fighting decisions by the board at Walter Reed. Out of the 14 soldiers interviewed, five have left Walter Reed. Three ended up getting zero percent of their income as disability pay, despite what they said was serious mental stress that made it more difficult or impossible to work. Even those who got a third of their pay still had trouble making ends meet. (In every case I followed, the Department of Veterans Affairs made a later determination that the soldiers deserved more. The soldiers can choose to take the higher percentage of pay from the V.A., but in some cases if they do so, they must pay back what they have received so far from the Army.)

This exact situation happening to a soldier who couldn't go back to work because of PTSD is what inspired us to start working on this project.

To your healing!


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Heads Will Roll

According to the AP, the Army relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who was commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command as well as Walter Reed hospital.

In a brief announcement, the Army said service leaders had "lost trust and confidence" in Weightman's leadership abilities "to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care" at Walter Reed.

"A bedrock principle of our military system is that we empower commanders with the responsibility, authority and resources necessary to carry out their mission," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "With responsibility comes accountability."

If you read the articles, the issue wasn't with the severly injured soldiers... They were getting good medical care. It's the soldiers who weren't critical who were left to fend for themselves, even if their injuries were debilitating.

The focus of our program is to care for these troops that are suffering mentally from PTSD, anxiety or other combat stress related issues. The ones who don't need critical care, but who still need help.

Keep watching and keep sending your stories and ideas. Let us know how we can help YOU personally.

To your healing!