Category Archives: World War II

PTSD vets soon coming like tsunami

There is a scary article in the San Francisco Chronicle.  The article predicts a flood of new stressed out veterans as they return form Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are on the fast track to PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders compared to previous wars.   I’ve reprinted a little of it below, but you can find the rest at this link where it is reproduced in SGate.com.   

A flood of stressed vets is expected

C.W. Nevius

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(…) omitted illustrative story about a vet (Tim Chapman) contemplating suicide, find it at the link. 

First a few facts. Bobby Rosenthal, regional manager for homeless programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates that one third of the more than 6,000 homeless people – about 2,100 – in San Francisco are veterans.

And no wonder the number is so high. California leads the nation in homeless veterans by a mile, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The 2006 numbers showed 49,724 homeless vets in California. The next nearest state was New York with 21,147.

Now here’s the scary part. Compared with what’s coming, that’s nothing.

Roughly 750,000 troops served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with multiple tours of duty. Many are only now returning home. But unlike Vietnam veterans, who didn’t begin to demonstrate post-war trauma until five or 10 years after they left the war, this group seems to be on a fast track.

“Everything is speeded up,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of San Francisco’s Swords to Ploughshares program. “What we’re seeing in San Francisco is guys in their 20s with the kind of stress and trauma that makes it impossible to go on with their lives.”

It’s been called a health care tsunami. Because not only are the Iraq vets prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (something Chapman has battled) but with improved battlefield health care, far more are surviving traumatic injury. On one hand, that’s good news, but it also means many more vets who are severely disabled, having lost arms and legs. Both factors increase the chances that the returning troops will join the sad ranks of homeless veterans.

Cities all over the country are bracing themselves, although some, like San Francisco, are bound to be hit harder. Mayor Gavin Newsom says that at a recent conference of mayors, the group passed a resolution asking the VA “to tell us what you are going to do.”   “It’s great lip service,” Newsom said, “but show me the money.”

If history holds, the mayors shouldn’t hold their breath. If anything, benefits for veterans have been restricted. To take one example, many of us think of the World War II G.I. Bill as a shining example of a reward for service, paying for college for vets. But Blecker, of Swords for Ploughshares, says the current version “is in no way, shape, or form near enough” to pay for a degree.

As Newsom says, “Yeah, support the troops – as long as they are young, healthy and a great photo op.”

For San Francisco, the potential impact could be huge. An influx of traumatized, battle-scarred veterans presents a scary future. Consider the case of Scott Kehler, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who needed years to work through his demons. He recalls passing burned bodies and the constant fear that an explosion would suddenly erupt in the street.

“It was the things I didn’t want to see at night when I closed my eyes,” Kehler said. “I didn’t know what PTSD was. I only knew my dreams, my shame, my guilt, was all coming together.”

(…) omitted a few details, go to link to get the rest.

Kehler, who is mentoring Chapman, is testimony to the effectiveness of the Ploughshares slogan – “veterans helping veterans.”

“Especially now that we’ve got our veterans coming home from Iraq,” said Ploughshares counselor Tyrone Boyd, “we’re going to need people that have been in combat so they know what they are talking about.”

The challenges are unique. Wanda Heffernon, a program and clinical counselor for Ploughshares, said they had a new inductee who slept in the closet. It was the only place he felt safe.

It’s the sudden transition that gets them.  “One day they are fighting in a war,” said Kehler. “The next day they are sitting at their mother’s kitchen table.”

Is it any wonder they end up on the street? Kehler battled alcohol abuse, but Chapman is part of the new breed, who turn to methamphetamine. Married when he returned, he lost his wife and all contact with his parents. Eventually he ended up sleeping in an alley.Now drug-free, living at Treasure Island housing, holding down a full-time job, and reconnected with his mother, he is testimony to the idea that peer counseling seems to work. Ploughshares has earned support from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Imagine the impact it would have on the San Francisco homeless problem if one third of those on street were able to get help and housing.

But what the vets don’t have is funding.

“Why isn’t the federal government doing something about this? Why isn’t the Veterans Administration doing something?” Blecker asks. “The irresponsibility of our leaders, not to address this, makes me want to tear my hair out.”

The VA’s Rosenthal – who gets high marks from local leaders – says the problem is not being ignored.

“It’s a whole new set of challenges,” she said. “The VA is looking at it. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson from Vietnam.”

We can only hope.

“You know what scares me?” asks Boyd. “I haven’t heard a plan (from the federal government) about what they are going to do when the troops come home. What’s the plan?”

Well?

C.W. Nevius’ column appears Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. His blog C.W. Nevius.blog can be found at SFGate.com. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story illustrates what I’ve said all along.  PTSD and TBI are leading causes of homelessness among veterans.  It is a rapidly growing problem, approaching flash flood conditions for our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.   A tsunamis of real people, not just numbers, real people with real names.  Somebody’s sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.  Real people, all in serious trouble, heroes in despair  … we should be crying.  We should be helping, we should be calling on congress, questioning our candidates. 

Where is your voice, America?

Oldtimer  

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Returning Vets: GI Bill Failing Them

Returning Veterans:

GI Bill Earns Dunce Cap 

GI Bill earns dunce capGI Bill earns Dunce Cap 

 I found this story in today’s @issue section of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.   The author is Ellis Henican who is a columnist for Newsday.   He makes a point that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan arrive to an ugly surprise – the highly touted education they were promised is still limping along essentially at World War II rates of funding compared to actual costs of an education.   The GI Bill is failing them and failing us for the promises we make for our heroes that go off to war.

He says what too many of us have been saying for it not to be true:  Our members of Congress from both parties are constantly saying how much they support our troops, yet once again, they shortchange our warriors when they come home.    Read the excerpts and then go back to the link above and read the entire article:

Returning Vets find GI Bill earns dunce cap

by Ellis Henican 

Newsday

Published on: 11/30/07

They’re coming home, the lucky ones are, pulling their lives back together after harrowing times in the war zone.   And the GI Bill is there to help them, same as it was for “the greatest generation,” who returned to civilian society after World War II.

Um, well, not exactly.

American vets now coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are facing an ugly surprise — and I don’t just mean the iffy health care at their local VA hospital. The educational benefits that sounded so alluring in those upbeat recruiting ads? They don’t come close to covering the real costs of college.

“Four hundred dollars? Are you kidding?” Army Reserve Spc. Sheila Pion said of her monthly stipend. “Just my textbooks cost $410.”

A seven-year reservist back home in Long Island City, N.Y., and attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pion served at an Army hospital in Kuwait, tending to wounded soldiers. “It was important duty,” said Pion, 24. “I was happy to do it. But the whole point of me joining the military was to pay for my education. And the educational benefits are nothing like they lead you to believe.”

(…)

Under today’s GI Bill, regular-service combat vets get $1,101 a month, far less for fighting members of the National Guard and Reserve. No one’s going to Harvard or Columbia on that kind of money. And even to qualify, today’s soldiers are required to deposit $100 a month into their own education fund, months or years before they ever get a nickel back.

“A combat tax,” the troops have starting calling these paycheck deductions.

(…)  Read the rest at the link, please.

 “Supporting the troops”

should be more than just a slogan!

______________________________________________________

Note:  After posting this an hour or so ago, I came across this related information. 

Did you know that the “No Child Left Behind” act now carries a provision that requires primary schools (your child’s high school for example) to provide detailed contact information for every child in the school to military recruiters?

Military recruiters can blitz youngsters with uninvited phone calls to their homes and on-campus pitches replete with video war games. This is all possible under a little noted part of the law that requires schools to provide the names, addresses (campus addresses, too) and phone numbers of students or risk losing federal aid. The law provides an option to block the hard-sell recruitment – but only if parents demand in writing that the school deny this information to the military.

It is in the recruitment of lower middle class students, focused on minority blacks and Hispanics, where the education card is pushed hardest in order to meet the recruitment goals to fill the ranks of our military.  These are the kids most likely to see an educational opportunity as a blessing and also the most unlikely to realize that it will not be enough to get them a real education.  It is these recruits that are in most need that later find the GI Bill failing them most dramatically.

Oldtimer

 

Veterans conquer flag restriction

Veterans conquer flag restriction

Veterans don’t give up without a fight. Not when it comes to the flag. On Wednesday, they secured a victory for patriotism with Marietta (Georgia) officials. “I’m ready to fight any of ’em over the flag,” said James Ellis, past post commander of VFW Post 2681 and veteran of World War II and the Korean War.  
Marietta revises safety rule on distribution during parade after public outcry. 

(origianlly posted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
 YOLANDA RODRIGUEZ; Staff

Veterans don’t give up without a fight. Not when it comes to the flag. On Wednesday, they secured a victory for patriotism with Marietta (Georgia) officials. “I’m ready to fight any of ’em over the flag,” said James Ellis, past post commander of VFW Post 2681 and veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

The skirmish started when city officials told the vets that they couldn’t hand out miniature U.S. flags as they walked alongside their float during the annual Fourth of July parade. Citing safety concerns, the city said the veterans could only give the flags away before the parade starts. But after the story hit ajc.com — and after the city received several e-mails about the squabble — Marietta put out a news release that said the flags could be distributed during the parade. The one hitch: The veterans will have to do it from the sidewalks — among the crowds — and not from the parade route along Roswell Street as they walk next to their “Let Freedom Ring” float. “They will be where the people are,” Marietta city spokesman Matthew Daily said. “They will be on the sidewalk. They will not be able to do it on the street.”

But the veterans are not sure how that’s going to work. Last year’s parade attracted 35,000 spectators.  “It’s going to be hard to do it from the sidewalk because there are going to be a lot of people,” said Leon Dean, the post commander and a veteran of the Korean War. The city cited safety concerns — that someone might run out to grab a flag and get hurt — for its policy.

“It’s not just these guys. No one can pass anything out while the parade is going on,” Maggi Moss, the special events coordinator for Marietta’s parks and recreation department, said early Wednesday. Moss said the policy has been in place for years and that officials were not aware that the veterans were handing out the 3-by-5-inch flags. “Obviously, they have been handing them out very secretively,” she said. No one has ever been hurt during the parade, Moss said. Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn and Officer Mark Bishop will meet with the veterans this morning.  “We are as patriotic, if not more, than most from around here,” said Bishop, who recently returned from an 11-month tour of duty in Iraq with the Navy Reserve. “The bottom line is we want everyone to be safe.”

The parade —the theme this year is One Nation-United — kicks off Wednesday at 10 a.m. from Roswell Street Baptist Church and heads toward Marietta Square.

Update: VFW, Marietta

reach flag detente

By Yolanda Rodriguez
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 06/29/07

Marietta police Chief Dan Flynn and Marietta’s veterans worked out a compromise on Thursday so they can hand out Old Glory at next week’s parade.The pact: Some members of VFW Post 2681 will walk with other volunteers along Roswell Road handing out the flags before the parade starts.”I understand we put him [Flynn] on the spot too,” said Leon Dean, commander of the post on Thursday.

But some members say they plan to keep on doing what they have done for years.

“I’m walking, baby, and handing flags,” said Rose McDaniel, a member of the post’s Ladies Auxiliary and the incoming chairwoman of its Americanism committee. McDaniel was in the Navy from 1953 to 1957 and her husband, Bill McDaniel, was in the Navy for 22 years.

Citing safety concerns, the city has forbidden the veterans and any other parade participants from handing out anything while they walk in the parade alongside their floats during the Fourth of July parade.

City officials said the VFW members are welcome to hand out Old Glory from the sidewalks among parade viewers. But the veterans say that idea is not practical. Last year’s parade attracted more than 35,000 spectators along a route that is about 1 1/2 miles long.

The veterans maintain that they always have handed out the flags along the parade route without any problems. City officials say the rule has been in place to years and they never knew the veterans were handing out the flags.

Officer Mark Bishop, a police spokesman, said safety is the department’s main concern. “If the issue comes up, then we will address it,” he said.

Respect our flag,
Honor our Troops,
Honor our Veterans

Oldtimer’s Note:  Marietta, Ga. is where I live.  This is my town.  We should be ashamed for ever restricting our flag or prohibiting its distribution.