Book reviews list for Ilona Meagher's Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
Moving a Nation to Care was featured (with Haunted by Combat) in a 24-page book review essay [pdf] in the premiere issue of VA Board of Veterans' Appeals Veterans Law Review Vol 1 (2009):
Important and similar lessons can be learned from both books to help medical practitioners, veterans, veterans’ families, and the general public address the rising tide of PTSD victims. The authors of both books raise many areas where more research is needed before certain groups can be effectively addressed and treated. ...
Meagher’s book is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about PTSD and wants to figure out how he or she can help our returning veterans. It is also very useful for veterans returning from Iraq and their families to aid them in recognizing that other veterans are dealing with the same problems. While Paulson and Krippner’s book is targeted more towards medical practitioners seeking alternative ways to treat their mental health patients, they also purport to provide advice to veterans to help them through the therapeutic process.
Both books provide important lessons that can be learned by all parties involved in treating and addressing the needs of our returning military soldiers. The different areas each book identifies where more research is needed are useful for Congress and government agencies to consider when making policy decisions and determining where budgetary resources can most effectively be utilized.
August 8, 2008 - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HECSA Library:
Since our nation has been at war, an increasing number of soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from depression, sleep and anxiety disorders, and overusing alcohol or drugs. This book presents the symptoms of PTSD so that they are easily recognizable and provides background especially oriented for those outside the military community to help them understand the origins and consequences of this complex problem.
Meagher uses the personal stories of soldiers to illustrate the devastating effects of PTSD on these individuals and their families. She also describes how the military health care establishment and Veterans Administration is falling short in the identification and treatment of this condition. Meagher's intention with this book is to bring this failing to light so that the American public will be moved to improve the treatment of the men and women who protect their freedoms.
This book can be found in HECSA Library.
December 15, 2007 - DeKalb Daily Chronicle:
Northern Illinois University journalism student Ilona Meagher is making a difference. Meagher not only published a book earlier this year on veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, but testified Wednesday at a congressional committee hearing. She discussed with members of Congress information she has collected during the past two years on soldiers who have committed suicide after returning from war.
Awareness of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was heightened earlier this year when the Army said its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per 100,000 troops - the highest recorded rate in 26 years. It's always refreshing to see someone like Meagher who is willing to take the reins and shed light on an issue that may have otherwise been hidden in the shadows.
December 4, 2007 - Jay Hazen, Reading Liberally:
Often the human costs of war are obscured at the time of conflict and well beyond, and it is happening again. My conservative uncle is a big fan of chain emails with pictures of flashy billion-dollar fighter jets twisting into formation for a tight little bomb pattern. This book is a reminder that for all the rhetoric of movement conservatism, responsible government makes more of a difference than an extra three F-22 Raptors in the lives of our military families.
November 13, 2007 - Kathie Costos, Wounded Times:
25 years ago there were very few of us taking on Post Traumatic Stress. We were just beginning to understand the term. ...Today we have networks across the country where people are taking action. From veterans of Vietnam to the Gulf War, to Afghanistan and Iraq, they are fighting for all veterans. We have people like me who ended up fighting the battles for our the war our husbands fought in. And we also have angels like Ilona out there. She didn't have "skin in the game" but what she has managed to do, very few have even come close to. Because she cared, men and women across the nation are becoming more aware of PTSD. ...
Ilona's love and compassion has reached countless people across this country and because of her, there are more understanding PTSD is not their fault. Amazing people like Ilona bringing this to the attention of the media and the conscience of this nation will be instrumental in removing the stigma of PTSD once and for all.
September 12, 2007 - Columbia Free Times, Dan Cook:
[T]he new book Moving a Nation to Care lays out in both statistics and personal stories the cost American troops are paying for the continued occupation in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In the book, author Ilona Meagher notes that 40,000 soldiers have already been diagnosed with PTSD and that “in today’s theaters of war, where troops are dealing with extended and multiple deployments, twenty-four hour operations with no opportunity to unwind, sleep deprivation, ever-changing mission goals and guerilla warfare conditions where enemies and civilians blend together, it has been estimated that cases of PTSD may be higher than in past conflicts.”
Retired naval commander Jeff Huber says the book “is a must read for anyone who understands that the worth of a nation is best measured by how it treats its wounded heroes.”
July 18, 2007 - BellaOnline, Tracey-Kay Caldwell:
What would it take to move our nation to care about our troops who are returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Ilona Meag[h]er lays out the argument, trying to help us understand the issue, the lack of response we as a nation have shown, and the solutions to dealing with the issue. Meag[h]er takes us through the history of post-traumatic stress disorder, the lesson we have learned from each war, and how we are applying and how we are failing to apply those lessons in our current wars. She introduces us to soldiers like, Corporal Ken Dennis and Marine Private First Class Mathew G. Milczark who did not fall on the battlefield, but fell from their own hands; committing suicide, unable to come to terms with their war experiences.
We went to war unprepared to deal with the influx of returning veterans and their needs. According to Meag[h]er, “as of the end of 2006, one-in-four discharged Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (nearly 150,000) have filed disability claims, over 60,000 of which have been for mental health reasons.” We have failed to provide adequate funds for the Veterans Administration to deal with these disability claims. The Government Accountability Office in 2006 found that the Veterans Administration had based its budget requests not on the projected demand for health care services but on the amount the president was willing to request.
Senator Daniel Akaka, ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee remarked, “This administration does not count caring for veterans as part of the cost of war.” Leader of the American Legion, Thomas L. Bock said, “this budget model has turned our veterans into beggars, forced to beg for the medical care they earned and, by law, deserve.” There are good reasons for providing mental health care for our veterans early on, while they have the best chance to recover.
According to Steve Robinson, Director of Veterans Affairs for Veterans for America, “If a 24-year old soldier with one child were to develop PTSD to the degree of unemployability, that soldier could receive compensation payments from the VA of over $2,400 a month for the remainder of his life. Over an average male lifespan, such costs could amount to more than 1.3 million, not counting inflation.”
Modern warfare creates stresses that increase the probability of suffering from PTSD. These stresses are from Time, using night vision goggles and other industrial age tools, soldiers are able to conduct around the clock operations, resulting in fatigue and sleep deprivation. Space, unlike traditional battlefields there is no front or rear lines; danger comes from all directions. Target, guerilla warfare conditions make it difficult to distinguish between the enemy and civilians.
PTSD specialist, Dr. Arthur Bank in discussing the transition soldiers have to make back to civilian life said, “ The biggest adjustment is going from 18-hour days, seven days a week, with no days off, to working a 40-hour week based on the clock.” Meager points out that, “Up through the Korean War the slowness of travel ensured a gradual re-entry for the soldier returning from combat. Plodding along by horse or train or ship meant that, instead of being thrown back into society without a chance to decompress and process their wartime experiences, soldiers could spend time dealing with what they had experienced in a safe and quarantined environment.”
Having made her argument for why we should care, Meag[h]er spends a chapter showing us how to make a difference. She provides resources for learning more, for communicating with veterans, for lobbying our politicians. She provides resources volunteering and making sure our veterans and their families have the information they need to cope with PTSD. This book is an excellent resource for anyone concerned about our returning Veterans.
July 12, 2007 - IAVA, Rob Timmins:
I’ve come across many books that deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their aftermath. Recently though, I had the privilege of meeting Ilona Meag[h]er and read her book; a book that should be essential reading for anyone who wishes to help our returning veterans readjust back into society.
July 9, 2007 - Buzzflash, Mark Karlin:
Ilona Meagher is a product of the new citizen journalism.
Coming upon the plight of GIs with PTSD returning from Iraq, she decided to start an online account of the plight of troops with PTSD. In turn, this drew the attention of other blogs and websites. Eventually, she developed enough material for a compelling book that is a wake-up call to the nation to help those who served our country, but now are at high risk because of PTSD. In fact, estimates reach as high as 25% of our GIs returning from Iraq with varying forms of PTSD. ...
Behind all the false patriotic rhetoric in "support of our troops," Meagher documents how returning GIs with urgent mental health needs are being basically ignored.
Beyond the compelling subject matter of "Moving a Nation to Care," Meagher's book is evidence that citizen journalists are creating a new media that is more relevant, in many ways, than the mainstream media. ...
What makes "Moving a Nation to Care" particularly significant is that it is grounded in personal accounts of how many GIs with PTSD arrived at where they are. This is a well-researched book that combines facts, details and personal accounts into a compelling call for assisting our own victims of a fraudulent war.
Ilona Meagher truly supports our troops and cares about their well-being as they return to a country for which the Iraq War has been more faux jingistic sloganeering than real combat. Unlike Bush, Cheney and the self-serving pro-war, pandering GOP candidates for president, Meagher identified an injustice done to our troops and has sought to do something about it with the power of the pen.
That, our friends, is a true patriot.
July 4, 2007 - Bloomer [WI] Advance, Norma Hovland:
Suggested by a dear-friend, this book is a must-read for all patriotic Americans. An incident in the author's personal life prompted her to begin researching depression/suicide and, along the way, she found an all-too-frequent incidence of depression/suicide among returning Iraq veterans, setting off an alarm that pushed her to probe further.
Her interviews with many of these veterans and their families are shared with the reader and reveal serious gaps for treatment in a timely manner often with tragic results. The issues of an overstressed - - and underfunded - - VA Health Care System continue to escalate, burning out of control, and need to be addressed seriously by the powers-that-be.
During World War II, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was often diagnosed as cowardice, a yellow streak, frequently resulting in an other than honorable discharge. However, Meagher's findings reveal that much has been learned in the ensuing years. Yes, PTSD is real and needs to be treated with empathy; our veterans deserve the best care possible. Indeed, it should be the American way, so let's rally behind the troops with actions and deeds toward healing and hope!
As Ilona Meagher readily admits, she is not schooled as a doctor nor a therapist, just an ordinary citizen concerned about our returning veterans, those suffering disabling injuries, PTSD and their families trying to cope. Or to heal from losing them, cutting short unfulfilled lives caused by the ravages of war, bringing to mind: There but for the grace of God go I....John Bradford
A thought for this Independence Day: As we celebrate this July 4th, let us be grateful to the veterans of all wars, many of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom. A copy of this book is being donated to our public library. Thank you, Ilona, for sharing your research and moving a nation to care.
June 16, 2007 - Daily Kos, Susan G:
With Friday’s news that a Department of Defense task force is recommending that additional funding be provided to the mental health of our active-duty soldiers and returning veterans, it is hard not to credit our own Daily Kos member ilona with a smidgen of credit for keeping progressive activists’ attention focused on one of the most overlooked aspects of the current Iraq conflict.
Her consistent calls for political action and her creation of the collaborative ePluribus Media PTSD Timeline have served as an inspirational model for dedicated citizen expertise. And now her time has arrived to move into a new medium with the publication of her book, Moving a Nation to Care.
Meagher’s slim but powerful volume brings together the many strands of information about PTSD she has tirelessly pursued for the past several years in a comprehensive and readable fashion. Opening with the gripping story of the famed "Marlboro Man" whose picture was blasted around the world during the battle in Fallujah—weary, tough and dirty—who came home suffering from PTSD, she moves on to delineate the fascinating history of soldiers suffering from what has been documented for thousands of years under varying names ("nostalgia," "combat fatigue," "shell shock"). She traces the history of diagnosis and treatment from Roman times to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, tracking the varied explanations, treatments and stigmas associated with the disorder.
Throughout the book, as she moves on to describing such aspects as clinical diagnosis and what exactly is happening in the brain as it deals with the aftermath of serving in a war zone, she weaves the personal stories of the men and women currently suffering from PTSD, as well as the accounts of the survivors of those soldiers who have taken their lives in response to the unrecognized and usually untreated disorder. The long-term, life-changing fallout from PTSD are explored in detail.
Combined with the stigma of reporting mental health problems, the cursory self-reporting upon return to the United States—undertaken right when soldiers return home and face the prospect of being held on stateside bases for extra time for evaluation before returning to their families—the Veterans Administration has been struggling with underfunding to create something of an epidemic that’s running beneath the radar of public knowledge. The lack of VA staff and facilities, the shame returning vets often feel and the lack of a central record-keeping base are multiplying the problem, one that will haunt America long after the Iraq invasion is over.
Testimony to the long-reaching affects of PTSD are evidenced by the unanticipated uptick in Vietnam vets reporting to the VA that images and news about the current conflict are triggering new cases of the disorder in previously undiagnosed vets from the previous war. And while the traditional military services at least have nascent programs to help their members and their families cope with the aftereffects of serving in a war zone, the National Guard does not—and National Guard members in this war already suffer from being less well-trained and less supported even as they bear a larger brunt of frontline experience than in any other American conflict in history.
One of the most thought-provoking sections of the book considers how the speed of modern transport from battlefield to home has put extra pressure on those returning to adjust more quickly to the jolting transition to domestic life than ever before in history.
Moving a Nation to Care is a serious, reverent look at a difficult and nationally ignored problem. As lawmakers and VA staff struggle to deal with the life and death traumas of war on sufferers and family alike, it would be easy for citizens to feel powerless in a situation over which they perceive themselves as having little control. Meagher has spotted this possible paralysis and offered a wealth of contact information for organizations formed to help citizen activists find ways they can contribute to solving the problem. And despite the starkly depressing nature of the subject and the formidable challenge it presents, she has also offered up signs of hope...
Battle-scarred warriors reaching across generations to help fellow soldiers while healing themselves as well is a wonderful model for focused activism for all of us. Meagher deserves kudos of the highest order for providing insight into the PTSD experience and listing the tools for citizens to help. As a resource for anyone concerned with veterans or mental health issues in general, Moving a Nation to Care is unequalled in its simplicity and scope.
Meagher is currently on a book tour with her new work. Her schedule can be found at the Ig Publishing website. If we want to support the building of a true progressive infrastructure with a forum for new voices and subjects, I can think of no better place to start that with one of our own premier diarists, an independent publisher, a few book purchases and a visit to the author while on tour.
May 21, 2007 - Huffington Post, Taylor Marsh:
Even the bravest soldiers get PTSD.
He was known simply as "the Marlboro Man," the "Face of Fallujah." No one knew his name. Everyone was introduced to the myth. Back home he was simply known as Smokey. He was 20 years old when the photograph was taken. It was the real life version of a recruitment poster. But Marine Lance Corporal James Blake Miller, a member of Charlie Company, 1st Platoon, 8th Marines, was also a flesh and blood man underneath the bravura of the soldier everyone saw and was now worshiping, even wanting to be like.
How Miller became the myth is recounted in the first pages of Ilona Meagher's amazing book Moving a Nation to Care. It's not the story George W. Bush and the Republicans pushing escalation want to tell, but it's the reality of war, especially the Iraq war as it is being fought today. The real life recruitment story as seen through the picture that became synonymous with military heroism and self sacrifice long ago crumbled in on itself. "The Marlboro Man," "the Face of Fallujah," the war hero, Smokey, now has PTSD.
My uncle suffered from "battle fatigue." I'll never forget seeing him in the hospital with my mom when I was just a little girl. The once dandy of a man had shrunk to a shell of a human being. He flew bombing missions in WWII, my mom told me, with the never ending flights finally doing him in. Today battle fatigue is called PTSD. It is destroying our veterans and exploding inside families at alarming rates. Moving a Nation to Care tells the tale of what happens to our men and women who fight modern war. Battle fatigue has morphed into post traumatic stress syndrome, the soldier's illness that has the potential to deplete our armed forces like no man exploding bomb or EFP can.
Warfare has changed. It started with WWII when nighttime battles were ushered in. During Vietnam our soldiers were introduced to guerilla combat. Today in Iraq (and beyond), our fighting men and women are now barraged with 360 degree asymmetric hell. But especially in Iraq there is never any time to recoup from battles; no moment to regroup after a skirmish. Extended deployments have only made matters worse.
The other very real issue is that our soldiers are moving targets for everyone, because in the Iraq theater our soldiers don't know who is friend and who is foe. Being on guard 24/7 would deplete anyone's reserves and put your nerves on edge until you finally crack.
Now add female soldiers. As a strong proponent for women serving in combat positions, it's important to remember that women are indeed fighting and dying next to men, regardless of Mr. Bush saying they are not. According to Ilona's research, women suffer from PTSD at rates "twice that of men." Women deserve the right to fight in combat, as far as I'm concerned, but we need to know the costs they're paying when they choose soldiering.
Much needs to be done to bring PTSD out into the light, but we've come a long way from Patton's day, when artilleryman Paul G. Bennett said he couldn't stand the shelling any more and got a face full of one general's rage for what he was experiencing. ...The more we know about PTSD the more we can help. Ilona Meagher's book, Moving a Nation to Care is indispensable in the effort.
Mar 12, 2007 - Blurbs list
Feb 22, 2007 - ePluribus Media, Aaron Barlow:
Don' t expect a pretense of " objectivity" in this review. After all, Ilona Meagher has been writing on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for a year now on ePluribus Media. Many of us have been involved with her in the work on the PTSD Timeline (a searchable database of reported Iraq and Afghanistan Vet PTSD incidents), on her articles and blog posts, and even on her book. Though I have been concerned in only the most peripheral way, I have applauded the work at every step -- and I continue to do so with the publication of this book.
Still, I can promise two things in this review: an honest evaluation and a personal viewpoint. After all, Meagher's book is an attempt to move Americans to action on veterans' rights: She is honest in her concern and this is a book on a topic that has much more relevance to our individual lives, even those of us with no immediate family members in the military, than many of us might think. What happens to the members of our military matters to our lives, no matter who we are.
Before getting to the book, though, I want to share the opening verse to one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. It' s John Prine' s 1971 " Sam Stone" :Sam Stone came home,
To his wife and family
After serving in the conflict overseas.
And the time that he served,
Had shattered all his nerves,
And left a little shrapnel in his knee.
But the morphine eased the pain,
And the grass grew round his brain,
And gave him all the confidence he lacked,
With a Purple Heart and a monkey on his back.
Thirty-six years later -- a generation and a half later -- and things are no better.
If anything, they are worse.
And the Veterans Administration, the one organization in a position to do anything about it, is being choked to death by the twin forces of increased need and decreased effective funding. Meagher, through the stories in this book, makes that abundantly evident.
Now, the Veterans Administration has a special place in the hearts of my own family. To us, it was a cherished organization. My grandfather, who lost a leg as a National Guard officer in World War I, worked for the VA almost from the day it was established in 1926, eventually serving as its chief legal counsel in Ohio. My father graduated from high school in Brecksville, OH -- site of the VA hospital where my grandfather worked. The VA took care of my grandfather until the day he died in 1959, long after he'd been able to work. The VA did so well by him that none of us could speak of it without a hint of awe.
For they really took care of him. He had dedicated his own life to the service of veterans -- and that dedication was repaid.
Tonight, I picked up my mother at the airport. In the car, I told her about this book, and about today's VA. She was shocked. She remembers the VA as it once was, the VA that had been her father-in-law's life-- not the sorry shadow of its former self that it has become. She also knows the way our country once treated veterans -- my father went to college (and met her) on the GI Bill. They bought their first house because of loans for veterans. Like many, however, she wasn't aware that veterans are no longer treated so well.
Meagher's book sets out to change that.
As Meagher writes, PTSD is nothing new. My other grandfather, a WWI artilleryman, hated high, shrill noises the rest of his life. His only injury came from mustard gas, but the psychic scars stayed with him the rest of his life. Once, some years after returning to civilian life, my father was hit by a car while riding a bike. He did a forward summersault and landed on his feet in a crouch with his hands in front of them as though holding a rifle -- shocking the people on the sidewalk. Neither of these men had severe symptoms that could be equated to PTSD (though their reactions were typical), but war was among " the things they carried" for the rest of their lives.
All veterans carry their wars with them. They cannot help it. We who remained at home need to respect that and provide much more for them than a pat on the back and commendation for a job well done. We really need to provide more for those who have been disabled by the war, physically, mentally, or both.
And that, though she concentrates on PTSD (one of today's most crying yet unmet needs), is the point of Meagher' s book-- whatever we think of a particular war, we owe it to the veterans to insure they have the services they need, and for the rest of their lives. They can' t drop the war; we can't drop them (though we have).
Meagher's book is in three parts. The first two use personal stories to provide an understanding of PTSD for those of us who have never experienced it or war. This first part really has two purposes, to show that although PTSD is nothing new, it is a serious problem indeed. The second gets into the complexities of PTSD in contemporary American society, explaining why PTSD is different for veterans today, given the particulars of the contemporary Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In the third part, she brings it home -- literally, discussing, among other things, the impact of quick transport, picking people up from Iraq one day and dropping them home the next -- without any time for adjustment. It's here, also, that she provides lists for the activism that she hopes her "call to arms" will make necessary in each of our hearts -- places to contact, things to do relating to easing the impact of PTSD. In many ways, these are the purpose of the book. The point is to give Americans -- all of us, but particularly the veterans facing PTSD and their families -- information on how to proceed both in dealing with the trauma and in forcing our government to deal concretely with the problem.
The style of Meagher's writing is breezy; there's no anger in the prose. Meagher lets the examples she presents speak for themselves -- and that's good. The outrage is in the violence that PTSD victims have experienced and then recreate (most often against themselves) -- and in the help that comes too little and too late, if at all.
If I have any criticism at all, it's the title of the book. Moving a Nation to Care is probably too timid. A title that really carries the anger that we should all be feeling about the treatment of our veterans, however, would never be accepted on bookstore shelves.
This isn't only a book that each of us should read: it' s a roadmap to what we all should be doing, if we have any respect for ourselves and for the people who are willing to do the dirty work that (whether we agree with the specific or not) they do at "our" request.
Buy it, read it, and get busy.
Feb 14, 2007 - Unsolicited Opinion, Mark Fleming:
[Ilona Meagher, editor of PTSD Combat, sent me an advance copy of her forthcoming book, Moving A Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops. Being a dutiful admirer of her work, I wrote the following review.]
Moving A Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops is a timely and important reminder that war’s costs are often more subtle than the obvious dead and wounded casualties. Regardless of one’s view of the wisdom of any particular war, author Ilona Meagher clearly demonstrates that the psychological wounds of war require as much attention as the more visibly injured. Achingly illustrated with examples of soldiers’ experiences after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Moving A Nation to Care is a wake-up call to the wider public who may be tempted to dismiss the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder as something that veterans must simply "get over" upon returning to civilian life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is nothing new; it has been a consequence of war since ancient times. Nor is it limited to combat veterans. Ms. Meagher quotes the National Center for PTSD which defines it as "...a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents or violent personal assaults like rape." Any such trauma is likely to remain with individuals who experience them and affect their ability to function in society. But unlike accidents or even assaults, military combat occurs by the conscious decision of the nation. In going to war, society asks men and women to violate one of the most basic commandments: thou shall not kill.
In combat, the individual must be able to kill other human beings. Ms. Meagher shows how the modern American military trains soldiers to ignore this fundamental taboo. In the maelstrom of combat, when one’s own and one’s comrades lives are at risk, killing is a matter of survival. When the combat ends and the soldier returns to civilian life, the memories of those acts haunt many veterans, some more than others, often with tragic results. In contrast to the intensive training that conditions individuals to kill others, the military offers no opportunity for the soldier to decompress, no cleansing ritual to assist veterans in coming down from this extremely intense and even exhilarating experience.
Instead, individuals are left to fight their own personal wars as they relive and ponder their actions while the nation that sent them into combat holds on to an an image of war as noble and gallant. The all too vivid examples of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, murder and suicide in Moving A Nation to Care show that families, friends and the veterans themselves often pay the high cost of combat. If anything, the examples are overwhelming. I found myself dreading each new name because all too often the name introduced a story that ended in death. As difficult as reading these stories may be, however, the examples are necessary to bring attention to something society would rather ignore–the full cost of war.
Fortunately, Moving A Nation to Care is more than a litany of death and despair. It is also the story of activists–veterans and their families–like James Blake Miller, a veteran of the 2004 Marine assault on Fallujah. A photograph of Miller, battle weary, his face covered in dirt and blood, became an icon of Iraq combat, the "perfect image of a valiant and virtuous warrior". These days "...outspoken and open to a fault, suffering with PTSD, Miller no longer represents the mythic soldier. Yet his bluntness is the dose of reality we need...[he] asks us to consider the costs of war for the individual rather than endlessly, and mindlessly, perpetuating the myths of gallant battles and Teflon warriors." Captain Stefanie Pelkey, the widow of Captain Michael Jon Pelkey who committed suicide as a result of PTSD from his year in Iraq is another activist. So are Kevin and Joyce Lucey, whose son Jeffrey also took his own life after returning from Iraq. These dedicated individuals are helping tear down the Defense Department’s "wall of silence regarding PTSD" asking why, in preparing for war, was care for returning troops basically ignored?
For all that Ilona Meagher does in bringing this important issue to the public, even more significant, is the list of resources for concerned citizens presented in the final chapter. This chapter is Ms. Meagher’s effort to "move a nation to care". It offers sources for understanding the experience of war, how to communicate with returning veterans, opportunities for political action and page after page of organizations offering assistance and support to veterans and their families.
As a Vietnam veteran whose combat experience was mild compared to so many described in Moving A Nation to Care, I can appreciate its value. We returned from Vietnam to a nation unaware of PTSD. Many of us were ourselves largely unaware of PTSD. All we wanted was to get on with our lives, only to find that the war we thought we’d left behind had come home with us. Patient efforts by activists finally forced the nation and the Veterans Administration to begin addressing this problem. As the stories in Moving A Nation to Care illustrate, much work still remains if America is to fully heal the psychological wounds of war. Ilona Meagher’s thorough and well documented research is a valuable resource for all those who truly want to support the troops.
Have you read Moving a Nation to Care?
Review it at Amazon.com.