Saturday, July 25, 2009

Deliberate Justice: Considering What Society Owes Jailed PTSD-Diagnosed and Medicated Combat Veterans

Recently I received a heartbreaking email from the wife of a former Iraq veteran bearing a heavy burden and seeking help. Sue's husband, Joseph "Pat" Lamoureux, was arrested last fall after engaging in a shootout with police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. One officer was injured before Lamoureux was shot and subdued.

Like our OEF/OIF forces who turned to war blogging to engage the media and nation even while they were deployed, and the countless grieving military families who erected memorial Web pages after receiving the news that their loved one was killed in action, Sue has gone online to broadcast her appeal and organize a petition for help with her husband's case.

All of these efforts -- infused with passion, pain and complexity -- are also likely a form of writing therapy. They aren't set up to produce tempered and tested professional media pieces, so it's a good idea to visit with an extra helping of empathy for the individual doing the posting and consider sharing a contact or advice or whatever you feel is appropriate.

As much as possible, we must -- all sides -- tread these murky waters with calm, cool collection and a warm heart.

We owe that to one another.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Joining Forces: A Dialogue on Forging Military and Community Bonds w/Tyler Boudreau

Very excited to pass on this news!

We've secured what I think is a stellar venue for Iraq vet and author Tyler Boudreau's "The Other Side: Cross-Country Cycling Tour Summer 2009" stop in the Rockford area. Great thanks to the board members and Executive Director Kip Kirkland of Poplar Grove Airport Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum for agreeing to host this gathering on Monday, August 10, 2009, at 6:00 p.m.

The details we have so far are in extended.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

August 2009 Veterans' Reintegration Events

I've begun a long overdue updating of the Upcoming Events listings.

You'll find the full list by scrolling down and looking in the middle column on this page, just under the Considerable Quotes section. August's veterans' reintegration offerings can also be found in extended.

Volunteers Sought for Stanford PTSD Emotion Regulation Study

Received the following from the Department of Psychiatry at the
Stanford University School of Medicine:

Stanford University Anxiety Brain Imaging Study
Do you qualify?
  • Have you ever experienced, witnessed or had to deal with an extremely traumatic event?
  • During the past month, have you re-experienced that event in a distressing way, such as dreams, intense recollections or physical reactions?
  • Have you been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
We are seeking people who are currently experiencing anxiety and have been exposed to a traumatic event in the past to participate in a research study about how people process faces and emotional pictures.

The study is at Stanford University Medical Center and compensates up to $50 for participation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Natural Paths to Coming Home: Returning Veterans and the Great Outdoors

A whole range of programs are springing up across the country, pairing returning troops and veterans with the great outdoors.

For some of these efforts, reintegration support and/or PTSD therapy are the main goal; providing jobs or forming social networks is the main catalyst for others. But, no matter what the driving factor or framework, these offerings provide military families a way to reconnect with the land they so truly have sacrificed so much for.

In extended, a brief look at a handful of such programs. Please share others you may know of in your area in comments.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Netroots For the Troops Readying Care Packages for Service Members Overseas

A real thrill tonight to have a turn as a guest poster for the Netroots For The Troops [on facebook] series over at Daily Kos.

NFTT is a collaborative of online bloggers who came together at last years' Netroots Nation Convention, having collected donations and purchased needed care package items in advance, to pack boxes and ship them to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. By all accounts, it was a smashing success. So why mess with success?

Update on OEF/OIF Veterans' Mental Health, VA Benefit Issues

Building upon some of the data-rich news clips shared earlier this week, a few more grafs to consider.

Jia-Rui Chong, Los Angeles Times:

About 37% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from the last time the prevalence was calculated, according to a new study published today analyzing national Department of Veterans Affairs data.

The study, which examined the records of about 289,000 veterans who sought care at the VA between 2002 and 2008, also found higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. ... The previous study of national VA data, which examined Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking care between 2001 and 2005, found that 25% of those veterans received mental health diagnoses. About 13% were diagnosed with the anxiety disorder PTSD and 5% with depression.

The new study by Seal and her colleagues, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that 22% of the veterans in the study had PTSD and 17% had depression. When the researchers compared veterans of Afghanistan from early in the war to veterans of Iraq four years later, they found the rates of PTSD diagnosis more than tripled.

Friday, July 17, 2009

IAVA Petition Still 10,000+ Short of Making Stephen Colbert Honorary Member

Last month, the perennially self-important showbiz legend-in-his-own-mind Stephen Colbert went to Iraq at the behest of the USO, setting out to both entertain the troops and the folks back home by taping a week's worth of Colbert Report shows.

Dubbing his brief tour "Operation Iraqi Stephen: Going Commando," the Comedy Central comedian gained at least one fan for his efforts. Christina Everett, NY Daily News:

Colbert, 45, was a hit with the men and women of the armed services, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, who was a guest on Monday night’s episode. ...

One of the highlights of Colbert's trip was a video message from President Barack Obama ordering General Raymond Odierno to shave thehost's head in front of the audience of cheering troops.

Since the comedian's trip to Iraq was successful, Rieckhoff posed the question: If Colbert made it to Iraq and back in one piece, would he deserve to be an honorary IAVA Member?

Currently, 13,681 people have signed on to the IAVA petition, less than the 25,000 needed to reach the goal, so there's still a ways to go before Colbert receives the honor.

After learning about his partnership with to raise funds for military children and viewing some of my favorite clips of Colbert's 'deployment' (including the haircut sequence mentioned above as well as the hilarious boot camp segments) in extended, you make the call. Should Stephen be so honored?

Neuroscience and the Military: The Push to Unleash the Powers of the Mind

Nineteen years ago today, on July 17, 1990, as scientists embarked on the mapping of the human genome, Congress and former President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the 1990's to be the 'Decade of the Brain,' stating:

The human brain, a 3-pound mass of interwoven nerve cells that controls our activity, is one of the most magnificent--and mysterious--wonders of creation.

The seat of human intelligence, interpreter of senses, and controller of movement, this incredible organ continues to intrigue scientists and layman alike.

Over the years, our understanding of the brain--how it works, what goes wrong when it is injured or diseased--has increased dramatically. However, we still have much more to learn. ...

While the learning continues, the effort embedded the field of neuroscience into the nation's consciousness, and we witnessed a remarkable evolution regarding our study and knowledge of the master gland in the '90s. Some top examples included:
  1. The advent of modern brain scan imaging technology, which today is an indispensable tool used to detect both traumatic brain injury and even post-traumatic stress in injured troops.
  2. Scientists succeeding in using primate (monkey) brain impulses to physically move robotic arms, a sort of mind-machine melding in line with a special Navy helicopter flight suit that allows pilots hands-free, precision control of their craft.
  3. The discovery that new human brain cells can, indeed, be created, shattering the previous notion that we are born with a finite number.
But all of this has to do with the brain. What of the mind?
And what of the military?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Combat Clips: A Selection of OEF/OIF Veteran Statistics, July 2009

I'm always on the look-out for veteran-related stats, and I imagine that many of you are, too. In March 2007, I compiled a master list of data culled from news reports and studies; The War List: OEF/OIF Statistics quickly became (and remains) one of the most popular pages on this blog.

Unfortunately, I haven't had as much time as I'd like these past couple of years to return to it and overhaul it with fresh data. Until that can be done properly and fully, I'll begin occasionally saving and sharing some of the facts and figures I stumble upon during my research that I'd like to ferret away. Welcome to the first dose of random Combat Clips.

As 'cold' and sterile as a sea of numbers can be -- because, of course, the reality is that there is a warm body and full life attached to each of those figures -- taking a broad overview has its merits, too. So, let's get started, shall we?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on VA Gaps in Female Client Care

While most in Washington have been busily paying attention to the Sotomayor hearings this week, the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee met Tuesday morning to consider the quality of VA care provided to our nation's 1.8 million female veterans.

Some, but certainly not all, of their concerns regarding access to their health benefits reflect the same frustrations felt by their male counterparts. Carrie Wells, McClatchy News:

The Department of Veterans Affairs often fails to provide adequate medical care to female military veterans, five of them told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday.

A Veterans Affairs official agreed.

"At the root is a system that has not been responsive to the needs of women veterans," said Patricia Hayes, the department's national director of women's health care.

The five veterans said women sometimes aren't properly informed upon discharge that health benefits are still available. They described how dealing with government is frustrating and confusing, and that often their unique needs, such as child care and sexual assault counseling, aren't understood by government officials.

"I looked to the VA for help when I most needed it, but never succeeded in completing my enrollment, let alone actually receiving the care I needed," said Genevieve Chase, the founder and executive director of the American Women Veterans organization.

Hayes agreed. "Women don't really know about VA services," she said.

More coverage in extended.

The proceedings, Women Veterans: Bridging the Gap, lasted about two hours and can be viewed in full at the link.

OIF Vet, Author and Cross-Country Cyclist Tyler Boudreau's August Midwest Spin

In the Madison, Wisc., Rockford or Chicago, Ill., area and interested in supporting a returning veteran on an inspiring and, frankly, novel home front mission? Well, your chance arrives in early August in the form of Tyler Boudreau's 'The Other Side' Cross-Country Cycle Tour.

Currently Boudreau, a former 12-year Marine captain who served in Iraq and later wrote to tell about it in Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine, is at the midway point of his coast-to-coast trek. Having started in Seattle on June 15, tonight he's slated to appear in Billings, Mont., at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 7 p.m.

I spoke with Tyler this afternoon to begin nailing down his Midwest dates. Due to family responsibilities, he's having to ratchet up his pedaling somewhat to conclude the tour a bit earlier than expected. This means that remaining event dates have had to be shuffled around a bit.

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