The second early review of Moving a Nation to Care arrived tonight via my colleagues at ePluribus Media. Aaron Barlow, author and English professor by day and store/gallery owner (of Shakespeare's Sister in Brooklyn, NY) by weekend and night, was kind enough to read and review my upcoming book:
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.
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Barlow weaves contemporary music lyrics and family recollections together to reveal how each generation is connected through the experience of war. Are we taking care of our our troops as well as previous generations took care of their own?
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.
As it turns out, one of the few (if only) VA hospitals I quote by name is the very same Brecksville VAMC that provided the resources his grandfather needed to rebuild his life after serving his country and losing so much. Not surprisingly, Brecksville was at the leading edge in 1985, when it was the only VAMC in the nation offering a fully-funded, comprehensive PTSD program.
Continuing the ePM review:
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.
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ePluribus Media announced the arrival of their review at their Community site as well as over at Daily Kos -- which became quite a warm embrace from the community cheering out work on combat PTSD. Not much objectivity, but much shared (dare I say) joy that our advocacy might do even a small measure of good.
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