Archive for the ‘PTSD’ Category

PTSD and Senior Military Officers

March 7, 2009

Anyone can suffer from the torment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I spoke to a retired General Officer just today who suffers from PTSD.  He was in a huge battle in Vietnam in 1968.

CNN has a story about how Generals returning from Iraq want the Army to handle PTSD which is very insightful.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03
/06/generals.ptsd/index.html

Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton says he wants the military to change the way it views post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton says he wants the military to change the way it views post-traumatic stress disorder.

I wrote a six part series on PTSD and below is what I found among senior officers:
.
Very little is written about the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the “Commander, “ meaning Field Grade Officers and above.

Company Grade Officers, Captains and below, are generally believed to be impacted by PTSD about the same way as their combat GI’s. But the officers in the rank of Major and above experience war from a different vantage point: they send men into destruction, make the plans that lead to horrific death, and bring together the fighting forces that create the nightmares and the ghosts the poet in Part II refers to.

The Commanders leave the battlefield and return to a very different life from that encountered by the junior enlisted men. The Commanders are unlikely to be eating in soup kitchens, seeking treatment from the VA, or ending up in shelters.

The Commanders are almost always highly educated with families and money to fall back on. Therefore, after the Commander leave the battlefield, they bypass the normal PTSD “tracking system” of VA statistical analyses.

So how do we know about The Commanders and their PTSD experience?

Well, what we know is mostly anecdotal.

Peace and Freedom sought out the Commanders through research in the Northern Virginia community of Vietnam war veterans. The officers interviewed, all now retired, were brigade and battalion commanders, pilots and air wing commanders, ship Commanding Officers and the like. One was a Navy SEAL, two were green Berets, one a Marine Colonel.

The Commanders told us that they, like the front line combat soldiers, felt PTSD very deeply but that their place in the community generally shielded their lives from any public scrutiny. Many told us they suffered from alcoholism or alcohol abuse and one even told us he was addicted to drugs.

The Commanders generally lived their lives in a very structured, orderly environment. Therefore, more so than with the frontline combat veterans, these veterans have a low incidence of DUI, public drunkenness and other aberrant behaviors that might involve the police.

One Vietnam Veteran Commander, Mike, said to us, “The Commanders, as you call us, are just as sick, just as disassociated, just as traumatized by war as the guy who led a platoon, maybe more so. I figure I sent about 800 men to their deaths and that doesn’t sit well with me. Moreover, I came home to an America I couldn’t understand. I guess when you think about it, I left the United States for Korea and the Army in the early 1950s. When I got back to Virginia in the early 1980s and looked around — I was in a foreign country. Nobody much understood me. Nobody much had any use for me. And I couldn’t relate to many people or many things in my environment.”

What did you do? I asked him.

“Well, I drank for a few years because I could and then I decided God still had some things for me to do. I joined the church, got involved in a lot of activities, and so it goes.”

What activities?

“I am the President of the Church Council, I drive for Meals of Wheels, I dance one night a week, I teach college one night a week, I take my dog to the hospital to amuse patients on Wednesdays, that sort of thing. It keeps the mind active and helps the community a little I guess.”

Mike is now 77 years young and still going strong.

Sam graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1965. As a young Lieutenant he led a platoon in Vietnam, then a Company, and then, as a Major he served in a staff.

“I guess I am more like a GI than most of the guys you refer to as ‘commanders,’” Sam told us.

“But I did witness the anguish up close of a General Officer who had to put these wonderful young men into combat. All pay-grades suffer PTSD. It is just that senior officers don’t readily admit to it. It tears them up inside and often tears their lives up, tears up their families. Often senior officers who have returned from combat have trouble relating to people, even their own wives and children. They suffer and relive the war and the battles alone. Mentally, what I’ve seen, there seems to be a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease and that sort of thing as they age. I know there are no statistics on this but I feel I am right. I know it is true.”

George told us, “I was the guy who shook the hand of the soldier, the young sergeant and their captain. Then I had the unfortunate duty to send them to their ends. Then I had to tell their families what I had done. War hurts every participant. Sometimes I think it is the lucky one who died.”

John E. Carey

Read Part I at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/15/war-wounds
-of-the-mind-part-i-historical-perspective-on-ptsd/

Read Part II at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/war-
wounds-of-the-mind-part-ii-discussions-with-p
tsd-sufferers/

My blog on PTSD:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/category/po
st-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Part IV:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/ope
dne_john_car_070221_war_wounds_o
f_the_mi.htm

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Gaza: Lasting Images of War May Make Children Adult Terrorists

January 6, 2009

Psychiatrists in Gaza say the experience of bolldshed and war at the hands of an oppressive army could be responsible a frightening future.

The violence the children of Gaza children are witnessing now can one day spark future violence.

Nic Robertson from CNN has a report.

Having studied and reported upon illnesses and irregularities  of the mind including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the Robertson report should cause us all pause and alarm.

There is sometimes a seemingly endless progression of violence and war that gets into the psyche and can take generations to die away or fester….

From CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/
meast/01/05/gaza.children/index.html

Military veterans’ mental traumas

December 28, 2008

More that ever before, the wounds of war are of and in the mind and the Veterans Administration has been learning how best to provide treatment…

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General ... 
President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General Eric K. Shinseki as nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary during a news conference in Chicago, December 7, 2008.REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

Service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq increasingly are suffering from mental trauma that dampens their homecomings, hobbles their re-entry into civilian life and imperils their continued military service – a situation the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sought to address with treatment, counseling and even drug experimentation.

But even as the VA has worked to provide quality health care for millions of veterans at its facilities across the country, it has endured a series of failures – from not notifying test subjects about new drug warnings to ignoring safeguards during experiments. Those failures have damaged the reputation of the agency charged with supporting vulnerable veterans.

But it also has compromised the speedy recovery of those vets.

By Audry Hudson
the Washington Times

President-elect Barack Obama, who has named retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as incoming VA secretary, will have to deal with those long-standing discrepancies in the agency, as well as seek out new solutions to remedy the mental health problems plaguing an ever-growing population of veterans.

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/200
8/dec/28/va-grapples-returning-veterans-mental-traumas/

War Scars, Army Recruiting and Suicides Spark Investigation

December 23, 2008

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson, a strapping Iraq combat veteran, spent the last, miserable months of his life as an Army recruiter, cold-calling dozens of people a day from his strip-mall office and sitting in strangers’ living rooms, trying to sign up their sons and daughters for an unpopular war.

He put in 13-hour days, six days a week, often encountering abuse from young people or their parents. When he and other recruiters would gripe about the pressure to meet their quotas, their superiors would snarl that they ought to be grateful they were not in Iraq, according to his widow.

By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press

Less than a year into the job, Henderson — afflicted by flashbacks and sleeplessness after his tour of battle in Iraq — went into his backyard shed, slid the chain lock in place, and hanged himself with a dog chain.

He became, at age 35, the fourth member of the Army’s Houston Recruiting Battalion to commit suicide in the past three years — something Henderson’s widow and others blame on the psychological scars of combat, combined with the pressure-cooker job of trying to sell the war.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081222/ap_
on_re_us/recruiter_suicides

Obama: No person ‘more qualified’ than Shinseki to head VA

December 7, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.

CNN

Obama names Shinseki as choice for VA chief 

“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/1
2/07/obama.shinseki/index.html

Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary

December 7, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.

General Shinseki Is A Spectacular Pick!

Obama will announce the selection of Shinseki, the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry, at a news conference Sunday in Chicago. He will be the first Asian-American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary, adding to the growing diversity of Obama’s Cabinet.

“I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to be broadcast Sunday.

NBC released a transcript of the interview after The Associated Press reported that Shinseki was Obama’s pick.

By Hope Yen, Associated Press WriterShinseki’s tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

 

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as “wildly off the mark” and the army general was ousted within months. But Shinseki’s words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a “surge” of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he chose Shinseki for the VA post because he “was right” in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081207/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/oba
ma_veterans_affairs;_ylt=Am9B9OU36FH.uoTOzSUjkpKs0NUE

In this July 21, 2000 file photo, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. ... 
In this July 21, 2000 file photo, then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki talks with reporters Pentagon in Washington. Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama has selected Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary.(AP Photo/Kamenko Pajic, File)