Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Mission Evolves:
Swift Boat Vets to PTSD...
Willie Hager
(Sometimes AKA Wilder)

Vetspeak has been in a state of evolution, from day one. Originally conceived, it was to be a one-stop on-line writers group and a forum for veterans with an aspiration for writing. It quickly evolved into an on-line magazine, but time and money ultimately became too big of a hurdle in providing an attractive, timely, and informational site for the veteran perspective. The current format as a blog-site seems to be, for now, a workable forum for topics that directly affect veterans and their quality of life, as well as the circumstances that they find themselves in sometimes, as a direct result of their unselfish service to their country.

Given the present day situation with the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and now in combat operations in Somalia, again; it seems that topically the debate follows the mood of the rest of the country, and polemics always bubble to the top. Everyone demands that everyone else adapt whatever opinion they might have about the war on terror, regardless of facts; whether they are for it, or against it. Sadly, often times these opinions are bereft of the facts (often by design). Folks who hold dogmatic opinions ears and minds are for the most part closed to input of any other, often more factually informed sources, with differing perspectives.

This is also true when it comes to electoral politics due to the mis- and dis-information campaigns mounted by both the Left and the Right through the mechanics of the two major political parties, who, up until this election haven’t listened to the Peoples voice in a very long time, and have spent most of their time and resources in publicly name-calling and personally trashing anyone who disagrees with them. Political Correctness from the Left would be a prime example of this, as would the act of “Swift-Boating”, from the right. Would that these were the only two examples of my point! But, they are not. There are far too many to go into here. The problem with all of this is that Objective Truth always suffers and uncivil debate always ensues, thereby often successfully smoke-screening the True trail to a solution.

It is with this in mind that as the debate roars on over what to do in Iraq, and in the War on Terror everywhere else on the globe; will be shifting its focus to a problem that is growing at an alarming rate. One which results from direct active participation in all of the above mentioned arenas; and that is the inability to reconcile one’s experience as a warrior in these conflicts with a normal, productive, American Dream kind of life.

This was a problem which was first brought to America’s attention back in the 1970s by the veterans returning from Vietnam, themselves. They called it Post Vietnam Syndrome. After years of debate and politics, it was finally accepted in the early 1980s by the V.A. and the Mental Health Community at large, recognized on the pages of the DSM, their diagnostic Bible, as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a now “legitimate” diagnosis described as an anxiety disorder resulting from psychological and social trauma. A problem that ultimately affects, at some point, each and everyone of ours’ dealings with our returning service personnel as they wander unprepared into the mine field of readjustment, encountering the unexpected changes at every level in the social order of things, as they remember it being on the home-front. They only remember the home-front that they originally left to defend, even with their very lives if necessary. It is seldom that the home-front of their hopes and dreams is the one that they return to. It is often very traumatically different.

In the ‘70s, research demonstrated that 15% of returning vets were experiencing problems to some degree. Today, that figure is a reported 30% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets. That’s double the number of those experiencing problems from Vietnam, from a much smaller population of candidates and a much shorter time span of stressor opportunity, than in the Vietnam era research populations. Houston; we have a problem…! Dare we hem and haw about who is right and who was wrong? Or, shall we put aside our pro-war, anti-war, and party politics, and on these pages and elsewhere combine our resources to get it right this time. Can we work together to give this problem the time, attention, and possible available remedies that have, to date, been overlooked; and that it and our returning troops deserve?

I don’t know the answer to that, but is gonna try. We hope that regardless of political affiliation or philosophy, those who read these words will join us. I assure you that there will be plenty of opportunities to participate as we move forward on this mission. A mission begun by Diane Ford Wood, co-founder of VetSpeak, with a proposal at a National Vietnam Veterans Against The War Annual meeting, just over a year ago, in Chicago. That proposal; to pull together a national PTSD Symposium too draw attention to this obviously unsolved problem from as far back as Vietnam, and now again a rapidly growing problem for a new generation of troops.

In our preparatory research for our proposal, we found that there was already such a National Symposium that had recently had their inaugural gathering at Florida State University, under the direction of Dr. Charles Figley, PHD, and were in preparation for the 2nd National Symposium at Florida State University . After meeting with Dr. Figley, and reviewing the results and conclusions from the First Annual Symposium, National Symposium on Combat Stress Injuries, we felt that rather than duplicate already existing efforts; we would offer whatever support that we might have access to, in order to bring about the most important purpose of our original proposal; to create a forum of renown such as a National PTSD Symposium for the purpose of examining not only “accepted”, or Politically Correct thinking on the topic, but to re-examine what has been done or has not been done by the Pentagon and by the V.A. and is so obviously not working.

Another purpose would be to also incorporate alternative thought, research, and functionally successful community level projects and groups. This secondary purpose would be to gather and archive as many research papers from un-official sources, and to data base the successes and the failures of alternative grass-roots “treatment” projects, as well as “institutionalized” programs such as the Vet Centers and the V.A. This centralization in clearing house fashion, and continued support for successive Symposiums at FSU could provide the beginnings for really getting it right, for all of the right reasons, this time.

We hope that you will join us. If so, you can begin by checking out the Symposium on-line and possibly registering to attend, or by donating either in kind resources, lot’s of E-mail Attaboys, or just good ol’ American Tender to help off-set the cost of even having a Symposium by visiting 2nd National Symposium at Florida State University.

Semper Fi!

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