Back from San Diego after a hopeful week on the road.
This time I visited the great Southwest and points along the West Coast on the second leg of my Moving a Nation to Care tour (first New England leg). Great to see communities across the country working together creatively to support their -- and our -- returning troops and military families on the homefront.
Every stop has its own unique flavor and flow. I've enjoyed being in these lovely bookstore spaces and chatting with those attending and those behind the scenes, too, especially the wonderful events coordinators. Thank you to Owen, Janet and Andrea at Moe's, Changing Hands, and Barnes & Noble respectively for making my visits all the more special for me. Thanks as well to fellow first-time author Matt Reed ("In the Death of Night"), a Marine who was my 'featured authors' partner yesterday at the Camp Pendleton-area B&N.
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The press has been great, too.
Big thanks to reporter Carey Peña of KTVK-TV Channel 3 and Air America-Phoenix' Jeff Farias for inviting me to talk about my book with their listeners (and a ^5 to Mark Fleming for shuttling me back and forth in time to make both of them).
My understanding is that Peña is working on a special two-part series on combat PTSD, and my taped interview will appear alongside local veterans and others involved in the issue. It's slated to air in a couple of weeks.
[UPDATE July 29, 2007] Here are both segments:
Incredible people coming out to share their knowledge and needs and time and resources with everyone assembled. Then they charge me up for the next stop on my journey.
And it's a good thing.
San Francisco on Monday, Berkeley and Oakland on Tuesday.
Wednesday it was Phoenix, Tempe, and then Tuscon followed on Thursday. On Friday morning, I rented a car and drove across the desert (through the Imperial Dunes with my mouth and eyes agape) and made my way to Oceanside, near Camp Pendleton, for a beachfront reception. Saturday, once more in Oceanside at my final book event before flying out of San Diego and calling it a successful week.
Much good happening on all fronts. Here's a snippet on my book tour from "Another War, Another PTSD Epidemic" at Kiko's House:
Ilona Meagher talks and writes about PTSD and frequently opens book events by listing a few of the 80 or so names for the disorder in the popular lexicon. These include Old Sergeant Syndrome, Railway Spine, Buck Fever, Swiss Disease, War Syndrome and that oldie but goodie – Shell Shock.
The multitude of names tell us a couple of things:
* Each generation has to rediscover the horrors of PTSD.
* Each generation does not want to have to deal with it.
Part of this is because there is genuine disagreement among doctors about what exactly PTSD is.This makes it even more of a political football at a time when the U.S. is deeply entrenched in an increasingly unpopular war being run by a president who has been notably insensitive the suffering of the men and women he has sent into combat.
Part of this also is that "cowardice" is never far away in discussing PTSD. The notion that "you have to be a man" and not admit to pain or emotional distress runs deep in the military psyche. While I did not expect my sergeant to kiss my boo-boo or read me a bedtime story, my one (non-combat) injury while serving in the Army was treated with disdain and ridicule.
Meagher...cuts to the chase when she writes:
"The reality is that combat PTSD – or whatever we once called it, or whatever we’re going to call it next – calls into question the human reliance on war to solve our problems.
"While we may wish that our smart bombs and our superior military power will so overwhelm our enemies that our wars can be clean, quick and painless – and without any blowback on us or those we’ve sent to fight in them – there’s no debating that war trauma has always existed, and it will exist as long as we wage war. In many aspects, the war trauma of today can be more debilitating that that of previous eras . . . but a lingering shock to the system following combat has been a common thread that ties each generation to the next."
A few tour shots are up on Flickr now (more to come).
And, finally, a big thanks to everyone who has come out and helped to make my tour memorable up to this point. Looking forward to meeting more of you in St. Louis, Boulder and Denver in the next two weeks as I begin the third leg of my tour:
St. Louis, MO
June 12, 2007 – 7:00 p.m.
Left Bank Books
399 North Euclid
June 20, 2007 – 7:30 p.m.
Boulder Book Store
1107 Pearl Street
June 21, 2007 – 7:30 p.m.
Tattered Cover Books (Historic LoDo Store)
1628 16th Street (at Wynkoop)
In the restored Morey Mercantile Building, directly across Wynkoop Street from the new EPA building next to Union Station just blocks from Coors Field. Hourly parking lots are located near the store and streetside parking is also available.
Download the Midwest tour press release [pdf] for more details, and pass it on.