Monday, February 14, 2011

Closing One Chapter, Opening Another

Dear friends,

Since it's been mostly quiet here the past year, it's time for me to write a note. First come the thank yous.

To those of you who have read, shared and/or supported my Moving a Nation to Care project, you are appreciated. The slim volume made bigger waves than this little fish ever expected.

To all of you who, at one time or another over the past five years, visited PTSD Combat -- and most especially to its nearly 1,300 subscribers, who supported my writing with your vote of confidence -- thank you for sharing the journey.

For all the veterans and military family members and veterans advocates I have interacted with, or humbly was able to help in some small way, or even sadly could not help due to my own time and resource limitations, my deepest gratitude for all you do for our nation.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your life.

It's been five remarkable, unimaginably productive and ever-to-be-cherished years of veterans advocacy work. What eventually became Moving a Nation to Care, was first an issue that I simply stumbled into unwittingly back in 2005.

First, as a citizen journalist, and later as a recognized expert, my attempt to understand why some of our veterans were returning home from war only to commit suicide landed me on avenues I'd never plotted for myself. Life has a funny way of pointing you in the direction you're most needed to go, it seems.

I tried to do my best and rise to the occasion.

When an opportunity to push the issue of combat PTSD presented itself, with the blessing and backing of my husband and family, I did what I could to raise Americans' awareness.

I wasn't alone.

Many of the same seasoned advocates who welcomed and helped this unknown novice writer continue the work still today. I could list all of you; but, there are too many to count. You know who you are. Thank you for doing what you do.

The work is unrelenting, exigent, and often thankless.

I know. And I say, "Thank you."

I have been honored to have been a small grain of sand in this movement to raise awareness and exact change concerning issues of so much importance to our troops, veterans, military families and even citizens. But everyone needs to regenerate and refresh themselves every-so-often, and that is certainly the case here.

Sadly, PTSD Combat is officially being retired today.

I've been grappling with this for quite some time and took a long-needed break from blogging in 2010.

Thank you so much for allowing me to have a voice on an issue that I continue to care so much about. I also look to the stars and send a thank you to my late sister, Zsuzsanna, whom we lost to suicide 10 years ago. Through that pain, I gained a deep empathy for other families going through the same tragedy.

We have much to offer one another in the world.

Above all, I hope that we continue to work to remove the stigma of imperfection that defines the human experience. We are all just trying to make our way, doing the best that we can in an imperfect world.

Tragedy and challenge define our reality.

But we need not be defined by it. Marcel Proust said, "We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in full." My work here helped me, too. Let's continue to strive and work together so that we may all attain strength in body, peace of mind, and nourishment of spirit.

The load is much lighter, the road much brighter, together.

And there is so much healing in the doing,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pausing to Remember This Veterans Day

Known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, in America -- in towns and cities small and large -- we take a few moments this Thursday, on Veterans Day, to remember those who have served this land.

Events and gatherings, in fact, have already been in full swing since at least this past weekend, when I snapped the above series of photos in little Utica, Ill., population: 1000. Preparing for what is hailed as the largest such parade in the state, store windows held the usual wares alongside images of local heroes whose service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

It was a very moving display.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to visit -- for the first time -- the magnificent World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as return to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial once more. No matter how many times I stand in the Wall's wake, I'm revisted by quiet tears.

My husband and I were joined by our nephew (on his first visit to the Capitol) and we spent some time reflecting on the service and sacrifice of our service members, and the difficult times and trials of our military families over the years.

Sometimes it can seem almost dispiriting to think about all of the losses people have endured in the cause of war. We all yearn for peace; yet, no matter how many souls each generation offers in that vein, we never seem to be able to staunch the blood loss.

While I don't have any idea how or if we'll ever resolve such an evergreen condition of human nature and experience, I do know that it makes me feel better to stand with others to remember those who gave their very lives in a valiant attempt to forge a better world for those left behind -- even if what they yearned for is not yet fully realized.

This year, I'm looking forward to once more attending NIU's annual Veterans Day ceremony. [I'd also like to extend my oh-so-thrilled-for-you congratulations to everyone at Northern, which recently received the the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veterans Education. The recognition is well-deserved.]

Wherever your day takes you, please pause and remember those who have devoted a portion -- or even all -- of their lives to answer the nation's call. And moving beyond this day, it is my wish that we might also strive to be better to one another in honor of those sacrifices.

In extended, news clips in keeping with the day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

30 Years in the Making, National PTSD Awareness Day Arrives

This past week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution submitted by Sen. Kent Conrad [D-ND] marking today, June 27, as National PTSD Awareness Day. Boy, have we come a long way.

It's been three decades since post-traumatic stress disorder was first listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). Since then, the study of trauma has taken off, reflected in academic publications such as the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

In February, in fact, JTS devoted an entire issue specifically to combat PTSD as it has affected veterans and military families embroiled in our current wars in the Middle East.

A few stats from the issue's editorial [pdf]:

High-profile events such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 have contributed to an increased public recognition of trauma as well as greater professional interest. The number of articles on disaster increased substantially from the period in the 5 years before 9/11 to the period 5 years after by 145% in specialty disaster journals and 320% in general medical journals, with the largest increase being 2,340% in the New England Journal of Medicine (Kelen & Sauer, 2008). Other high-profile events -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombings in London and Madrid, Hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami in Southeast Asia -- have undoubtedly had a similar impact.

KFYR-NBC out of Bismarck, N.D., broadcast news of National PTSD Awareness Day in a segment now online. In extended, a few informative videos including a recent PBS interview with Dr. Jonathan Shay, noted VA psychologist, author and 2007 MacArthur Fellow.

I hope today will help to further chip away at the stigmas associated with seeking help for those battling traumatic injuries of all kinds.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Report: The Community Service Desires, Civic Lives of Returning OEF/OIF Veterans

Flush with important skill sets and valuable experiences, military veterans can be counted among a community's greatest assets. Unfortunately, one barrier they face when out of uniform and in a civilian capacity is a feeling of disconnection from the very people they wish to serve.

So says a a 44-page report, All Volunteer Force: From Military to Civilian Service [pdf]. Published last November on Veterans Day by public policy firm Civic Enterprises, it presents the findings of a first ever nationally representative survey focusing on veterans' homecoming transition and civic lives.

The survey found that "only 13 percent of veterans strongly agree their transitions are going well. Yet those veterans who said they had volunteered since returning home had better transitions than those who had not." More:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 veterans said Americans could learn something from their example of service, yet only half considered themselves leaders in their communities as a result of their military service.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 veterans had not been contacted by a community institution, local non-­‐profit, or place of worship after their return home.

  • 92 percent of OIF/OEF veterans agreed that serving their community is important to them.

  • Veterans said a diverse range of issues was important or very important to them: helping military families (90 percent), being involved with disaster relief (88 percent), working with at-risk youth (86 percent), and being involved with the environment/conservation (69 percent).

  • 7 in 10 non-volunteering veterans said they do not have enough information of meaningful service opportunities.

In extended, a portion of the report's statistic-heavy intro.

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2005: Sept Oct Nov Dec

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