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Support our troops
Topic: Support our troops (Read 23696 times)
Re: Support our troops
Reply #100 on:
February 21, 2011, 10:33:06 AM »
Upcoming military cuts
Reply #101 on:
September 08, 2011, 09:59:28 AM »
Wounded Warrior Project
Reply #102 on:
March 19, 2012, 08:41:43 PM »
I am ashamed to admit that it has taken me this long, but I finally got around to signing up to make a monthly donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.
How about each and every one of us?
Robert Bales was no ‘lone gunman’
Reply #103 on:
March 20, 2012, 03:12:14 PM »
This article touchs on many themes, but strikes me as, at root, a plea to support the troops. So it it here.
"Our country today is in the enviable position of being able to fight a gritty multi-front counterinsurgency far away in unfriendly and inhospitable terrain. And we’ve been doing it for over 10 years now. The average American hasn’t felt so much as a bump in the road for it. There has been no draft, no fuel rations, no chocolate shortages. When I served in Iraq, we used to say “the military is at war: America is at the mall.”
Since the recent murders committed by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan, the perpetrator as has been called “troubled,” “crazed” and other such adjectives. The military is probing for alcohol involvement. He received a medical exam prior to deployment but, no surprise, was given a clean bill of health by military doctors. He was injured twice and witnessed fellow soldiers maimed and killed on previous deployments. He was also reportedly having family troubles back home.
They’re looking for the reasons why Bales did it. Yet, none of these single things caused this incident on their own. All of these circumstances were caused by yet another circumstance: sending a man to Iraq three times and then to Afghanistan for a fourth tour."
Reply #104 on:
March 25, 2012, 08:34:56 AM »
I haven't read this long piece completely yet, and Pravda on the Hudson has been a suspect source with regard to PTSD previously, so caveat lector. That said, this time around the initial pages seem to actually be positive:
WSJ: Rove: Helping Veterans for Love of Country
Reply #105 on:
July 05, 2012, 04:35:12 PM »
By KARL ROVE
The great 19th-century French observer of our country, Alexis de Tocqueville, was amazed at how "Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations . . . proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men and . . . inducing them voluntarily to pursue it." Once combined, "they are no longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example and whose language is listened to."
This remains true today. Since 9/11, the American habit of voluntary associations has been particularly pronounced as groups have sprung into existence to support the military, especially combat wounded and families of the fallen. Many of these groups, including the Semper Fi Fund and Hope For The Warriors, were founded and are now led by military wives.
Karen Guenther is a nurse and the wife of a Marine. In 2003, she was working at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital in California when the first wave of wounded arrived from Iraq. She was standing next to a young military wife, when the woman saw her horribly injured husband for the first time. Shaken, she nearly collapsed.
As Karen quietly steadied the woman, she realized something more was needed to help families cope with the combat injuries and deaths of their loved ones. Karen and seven other determined women met around her kitchen table to talk about what to do. They were drawn together by the recognition that while government does an incredible job of binding up wounds and putting warriors on the road to recovery, it is a large, often impersonal, bureaucracy. Their response was to launch the Semper Fi Fund.
Taking its name from the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis" or "always faithful," the Fund provides a wide variety of services to wounded and critically ill military personnel from any branch who served in support of Marines, as well as their families.
More than 8,000 members of our armed forces and their families have benefited from the compassion of what Karen calls the Fund's "Mighty Mouse Team" of mostly military wives and family members. Over $63 million in Semper Fi Fund grants have made possible everything from travel assistance to adaptive equipment, housing and transportation, and from programs for those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder to children's camps and transition assistance.
On the other side of the country in North Carolina in 2006, Robin Kelleher, also the wife of a Marine, recognized the need to assist wounded soldiers, their families, and families of the fallen. This realization came when her husband's best friend Lt. Col. Timothy Maxwell returned home with a traumatic brain injury.
Out of Robin's compassion came Hope For The Warriors, which she co-founded with Shannon Maxwell, the wife of Lt. Col. Maxwell (USMC, Ret.) It supplies immediate help—with transportation, groceries and other such needs—for service members and families dealing with combat wounds and injuries. It also provides long-term assistance as they cope with challenges of rehabilitation and recovery, helping integrate warriors back into civilian life by (among other things) matching military skills and training with private sector opportunities. And why? "It seemed like the right thing to do," Robin replies simply.
Both national organizations are led and mostly staffed by military wives and draw on the extended community of active-duty military and veterans for support and leadership. They spend nearly 95 cents of every dollar on programs and because of their sharp focus, the respected watchdog organization Charity Navigators gives both high ratings. Both groups understand that their work will not be completed in days or months or even years. They are about the work of lifetimes.
Benjamin Rush, the physician and educator who signed the Declaration of Independence 236 years ago Wednesday, wrote, "Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families." The men and women who fight for America on battlefields across the world understand this. So do those who tend to them and their families. Love of country is what animates women of resolve like Karen Guenther and Robin Kelleher and the many others like them across this great land. God bless them and their work.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
New CA law protects military parents custody rights
Reply #106 on:
July 19, 2012, 08:43:33 PM »
New California Law Protects Military Parents Child Custody Rights
Assemblyman Paul Cook
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, Fathers and Families
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed into law AB 1807, protecting child custody rights for military parents. Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, introduced the legislation to protect our military parents.
Fathers and Families has lobbied and advocated for the rights of our military in child custody. This legislation is another success.
When a divorced couple shares custody of a child and one of the parents is deployed due to military orders, full custody of the child is given temporarily to the non-deployed parent. Often, when the deployed parent returns, a custody battle ensues.
Now, the parental rights of those deployed are protected. The original child custody agreement is reinstated post-deployment. Parent and child are reunited as soon as the parent returns home. This new legislation makes the process quick, efficient, and fair, without compromising the best interest of both the parent and the child.
Michael Robinson, policy consultant for Fathers and Families, stated, "It's a great day for military parents. Much appreciation to Cook for his dedication on not just one, but two bills helping military parents."
Cook explained, "This bill is all about the bond between parent and child and making sure our laws honor our values and that bond. The last thing military parents should be worrying about when deployed is a custody battle when they return home. This legislation will help end the courts' prejudice against military parents and right a terrible wrong that has plagued service members for too long. I'm very grateful for all the hard work Michael Robinson and Fathers and Families have done on this important subject."
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America-California State Council, and the Family Law Section of the State Bar support this law.
The Navy SEAL Foundation
Reply #107 on:
August 09, 2012, 10:57:37 AM »
I believe this to be reliable-- Marc
I apologize for the mass e-mail. It's not normal for me to correspond much less to reach out en mass. The combat loss of so many of our fellow countrymen in one fell swoop has prompted me to reach out to any and all addresses I have as a small token of effort to support our fallen and their families.
Thank you to those who have reached out both to me direct and through my family to check to see if I am okay and to extend thoughts and prayers and ask what can be done to help. Before we get too far into how to help I want to offer some background. On the night of 05 August 2011 38 brave souls and one canine boarded a CH-47 helicopter here in Afghanistan bound for combat operations to take the fight to our nation's enemies, as has been done nearly every single night of the now almost 10 year war. Tragically fate caught up to the men that border that helicopter as enemy forces engaged them with RPG fire. All 38 souls on board perished in the ensuing crash and explosions.
This constitutes the single greatest loss of life for our community and the selfless Army air crew and Airforce attachments since the onset of the Global War on Terrorism. A similar incident occurred in 2005 with the downing of a helicopter carrying my fellow brothers attempting to re-enforce troops already engaged in combat. This episode is highlighted in the New York Times best seller "Lone Survivor." Those events in 2005 sent shockwaves through Virginia Beach as the news of the mass casualties reached the families of the fallen. Over 3000 people were in attendance for the memorial service.
Events of 4 days ago double the loss from 2005 and tragically Virginia Beach is now engulfed in the loss of so many of our nation's finest men at once. The ultimate tragedy though is not the fallen. Our vocation is our calling. After a brief pause to pay our respects to the fallen we continue to board the same helicopters and continue to fly into harms way because that is what our nation asks of us. We will continue to bring justice to the doorsteps of our enemies so that our enemies do not bring tyranny and terror to ours. This does not change regardless of the toll or the danger. Of my graduating class in the training pipeline 1/5th have been killed in action to include two room mates. It does not deter, it solidifies our resolve and lends nobility to our lives and our nation. Ultimately, the tragedy lies in the remnants of a life that now must be pieced back to gather by the families and loved ones of the fallen. One loss constitutes ripple effects far and wide as all of those touched by the lives of the fallen deal with the grief and the loss. The number of lives touched by the loss of over 20 Frogmen in a single night is unfathomable.
So, as many have asked "how can I help" I want to provide a conduit to do so. Help can come in three forms. First and foremost, thank God that we have the privilege to be Americans. Take pause when you see our flag to think of what has been sacrificed to keep her flying as a light and a beacon to the rest of the world. Second comes in the form of spreading the word on how to help. Third comes in the form of donations. The Navy SEAL Foundation is a non for profit organization that pools money from charitable donations to support the families of the fallen. They will pay the lion's share of the cost to transport and house over 20 families to the memorial and funeral services and will establish endowments for the most effected by events -- the children left without a father. I am not attempting to solicit donations but if you feel as though you want to contribute to the families the information for the foundation is as follows:
The Navy SEAL Foundation
1619 D Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23459
or simply text "SEAL" to 90999 and it will automatically levy a $10.00 donation to the foundation out of your cell phone bill.
Again, I am not attempting to solicit donations. What I am asking everyone to do is to spread the word. There are literally thousands of Americans who feel helpless as they do not know how to help but want to. Take the information about the Navy SEAL Foundation and post it in every Church. Put it in every Gym. Put it in the local coffee shop. Put it in the office (if you are allowed to). Forward this e-mail to those whom you think might care and want to make a difference. Let the spider web of support extend out beyond my limited reach.
To ward off the inevitable questions, I am in one piece and doing well. I am about half way through a year long tour overseas and won't be back into the States for quite some time.
God Bless the United States of America.
Obama sends form letters to families of fallen SEALs...
Reply #108 on:
August 30, 2012, 01:42:26 PM »
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Reply #109 on:
September 20, 2012, 02:44:56 PM »
A Love Story In 22 Pictures
Reply #110 on:
November 29, 2012, 05:51:51 AM »
Re: Support our troops
Reply #111 on:
December 21, 2012, 10:13:53 AM »
War Tragedies Strike Families Twice .
By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
MILLTOWN, N.J.—One night in March 2008, William and Christine Koch opened their front door to see two soldiers in green dress uniforms bearing news that their son, Army Cpl. Steven Koch, had been killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
Two years later, Mr. and Mrs. Koch opened the door to see two police officers in blue. This time, they learned their daughter, Lynne, brokenhearted over her brother's death, had killed herself with an overdose of prescription drugs.
Christine Koch knelt at a memorial for her son Steven that the family erected at his elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes in Milltown, N.J. Cpl. Steven Koch died in Afghanistan in 2008.
"She is a casualty of this war, and I don't care what anybody says," Mrs. Koch said. "If my son was not killed, my daughter would be here."
The military tracks suicides among the troops. The Department of Veterans Affairs studies self-inflicted deaths among people who have left the service. Nobody collects data on suicides among the parents, siblings and spouses of the more than 6,500 Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But anecdotal evidence from military families, support groups and suicide survivors suggests that over the past 11 years of war, the U.S. has experienced a little-recognized suicide outbreak among the bereaved. This second round of tragedy often takes place years after a loved one's death, when the finality of the loss becomes inescapable.
"We've all had the idea of suicide at one time or another," said Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, Calif., whose son Patrick died in an ambush in Iraq in 2004. She said she personally knows a half dozen military parents who have killed themselves.
To learn more about war grief, researchers at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a federal institution in Bethesda, Md., are recruiting 3,000 people to participate in a first-ever U.S. study of bereavement among families of those killed on active duty.
"We don't know whether or in what ways military-service deaths—combat-related, accidents or suicides—differ from similarly sudden or violent civilian deaths in their impact on bereaved family members," said Stephen Cozza, a psychiatrist involved in the research.
The violent and faraway nature of combat death—often following months of dread—may make it harder to accept for those left behind, said Bonnie Carroll. She founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, after her husband, an Army general, died in a 1992 plane crash.
"To have someone come to the house and deliver this devastating information that you'd never see them again is impossible to absorb," Mrs. Carroll said. In her grief after her husband's death, she found herself taking high-speed, late-night drives along the Alaska coast, as if daring herself to join him.
"When you lose a loved one, death is very real," she said. "It's at the forefront of your every waking thought. It seems as if you just yearn to be reunited with your loved one."
The U.S. military assigns a casualty-assistance officer to families in the wake of a combat death, to help secure insurance payments and other benefits, and also to steer survivors to emotional help. Widows and children can retain their military health insurance, which covers antidepressants and psychiatric services. Since 2003, VA Veterans Centers also have offered counseling to all surviving family members.
"Support for our family members does not stop," said Marine Corps spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney. "It is always there and available if they want or need it."
TAPS and other private organizations offer grief camps for children, peer counseling groups for parents and spouses, as well as telephone hotlines.
Since April, seven family members of deceased service members have called TAPS in apparent suicide crises, the group said. Then there are the family members who either don't seek help or are immune to its consolations.
Jo Beth Brookshire, age 71, suffered from depression even before her 36-year-old son, Maj. Sid Brookshire, died in a bomb attack in Iraq in 2007, an example of how a combat death can be a final blow in an already-troubled life.
Soon after her son was killed, Ms. Brookshire guzzled vodka, swallowed a bottle of Excedrin PM and walked into the ocean at Laguna Beach, Calif. The surf beat her back to shore and passersby pulled her to safety. She survived two more attempts over the following years.
"I had a hard, hard time with life after Sid died," Ms. Brookshire said. "I've never loved anybody like I loved Sid."
Each year, roughly 12 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. kill themselves, according to 2010 data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No similar accounting exists for military families.
Mrs. Koch, who has wrestled with despondency since Steven's combat death and Lynne's suicide, said, "Nobody knows what goes on behind these closed doors of our house."
Lynne had a history of suicidal thoughts and mental-health problems, including bipolar disorder, according to medical records. She saw a therapist while a teenager, her mother said, but recovered her cheerfulness when she went to college.
As the eldest of three children, Lynne was a "little mom" to her brothers, Steven and Billy, her parents said. After college, she became an estimator at the electrical-contracting firm where her father worked.
Billy, the middle child, was a student at Pace University in Manhattan and on Sept. 11 watched as terrified office workers jumped to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center.
The terror attacks motivated Steven to enlist. He was 23 and five weeks from the end of his combat tour when an insurgent drove a truck filled with explosives into a building where his unit was resting. Mrs. Koch, a 55-year-old oncology nurse, had been telling patients that her son had called to say he was coming home soon.
When the uniformed soldiers came to the door, Mrs. Koch hit one of them on the shoulder each time he started to say, "We are sorry to inform you…"
"You have the wrong the house, you have the wrong soldier," she recalled screaming at him. "You misidentified. My son is coming home."
Lynne spoke at the dedication of a black-marble memorial to her brother at their elementary school, Our Lady of Lourdes, in Milltown.
"When once a sunrise meant so many new beginnings, it now rises to merely blossom what's left of the flowers at the ending of a season," Lynne said. "I find no glory in this sunrise, no comfort. I find no hope in this new day. My brother is gone."
Still, for more than a year after Cpl. Koch's death, Lynne sought refuge in the fantasy that Steven was alive in Afghanistan. She "worried she would 'fall apart'…if and when she allowed herself to acknowledge fully that Steven was dead," according to a therapist's report.
The bubble burst in 2009 when she wrote in an email to Mrs. Koch: "Mommy, I finally realize Steven isn't coming home."
During that period, she was on antidepressants, antipsychotics and other medications, her records show. She spent days in tears, chanting, "I want my brother," Mrs. Koch recalled.
In September 2009, the therapist became concerned about Lynne's "suicidal thoughts," although Lynne revealed no plan to kill herself, according to medical records. At the therapist's suggestion, Lynne's boyfriend delivered her to Hackensack University Medical Center, where, according to her mother, she stayed for about a week.
On May 6, 2010, Lynne emailed her parents: "I love you very much."
Mr. Koch was worried enough by the note to give her a call. Lynne assured her father she was fine and talked him out of making the hourlong drive to her home in Wayne, N.J., he said.
Lynne, then 29 years old, had been preparing her death for weeks, her mother believes. She left notes for her parents and Billy. She described where she wanted to be buried. On her bed she laid out the black gown and diamond necklace she wanted to wear. Then she swallowed a lethal mixture of medications.
At 2:20 in the morning, Mrs. Koch stood on the stairs as the two police officers talked to Mr. Koch. At first she thought they said Lynne had overdosed and was hospitalized. Then she saw the ashen face of one of the officers.
"Wait a minute," she said. "Are you trying to tell me my daughter is dead?"
"Yes, ma'am, I am," the officer said.
Mrs. Koch dropped weeping to the floor.
Earlier this year, Mr. and Mrs. Koch filed suit against Lynne's psychiatrist, nurse and pharmacy, alleging they were negligent in the care they provided her at a time the medical team should have known she was suicidal. The defendants deny the allegations.
"I don't know where we stand either, the three of us who are left," Mr. Koch said. "We're on the same line that she stood on. Hopefully you never cross that line like she did."
By early September 2008, George Vaughan thought his wife, Debra, was finally recovering. She laughed more than she had in the 17 months since their son, 20-year-old Michael Vaughan, had been killed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq. She volunteered to help train search-and-rescue dogs.
He said he now realizes she was apparently relieved to have made her decision.
The senior Vaughans met in the Army in 1987. He is fully disabled from his service in the first Gulf War; she was in military intelligence and then worked at the post office in Lincoln City, Ore. They signed the papers when Michael begged them to let him enlist at age 17. He became a scout in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The military advised the Vaughans not to view Michael's body. But Mrs. Vaughan rushed the casket to make sure it was her son inside. Mr. Vaughan went after her, and together they saw their son's head, wrapped in gauze, like a mummy. The funeral director took a photo of the crucifix tattoo on Michael's arm to assuage his mother's doubts.
Michael's death "just crushed Debra," recalled Mr. Vaughan, 50, who lives in Otis, Ore. She built a shrine in her son's bedroom—flags, medals and military tokens in an oak-and-glass cabinet. Mr. Vaughan discovered later she didn't take the antidepressants her doctor had prescribed.
On Sept. 27, 2008, the couple attended an event honoring veterans, where Mr. Vaughan was scheduled to speak. Mrs. Vaughan, 42 years old, left early, saying she wasn't feeling well. He returned home to find his wife's car gone.
When he reached her cellphone, she was at the cemetery in St. Paul, standing next to Michael's grave. "George, I love you," she said. "If I'm unsuccessful, I don't want life support."
He heard the gunshot. Debra's ashes are buried in Michael's grave, held in a wooden urn with a brass plaque that reads: "Rest in Peace with Mike."
Those who try and fail to take their own lives provide vivid insight into the motivations of those who complete suicides. Some talk of wanting to join lost sons or brothers. Others seek relief from anguish.
Scott Warner said he was numb for the first 18 months after his son, Pvt. Heath Warner, was killed by a hidden bomb in Iraq on Nov. 22, 2006. The remembrance ceremonies that accompany a military death helped keep the pain at bay for a while.
"The challenges of trying to work, hold the family together, the reality of Heath's death—my emotional reserves began to deplete," said Mr. Warner, 49 years old, from Canton, Ohio. "It was like part of your heart was torn out of you."
He would come home from work, go to his bedroom and mix booze and pills. The nadir came in 2010, when he and his wife learned that Heath's body may have been mislabeled or misplaced at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Warner went to Arlington for the disinterment of the body in his son's grave. "That sent me over the edge," he said, "because I had to look at this decomposed body." Mr. Warner could only tell it was Heath from the tattoo on his arm.
"I don't know how to describe the darkness," he said. "It was unlike anything I'd ever felt before." Four years after Heath's death, Mr. Warner took a handful of drugs and washed it down with gin.
He survived the night, and awoke to a gradual realization that his son would have wanted him to live. "You have to make a choice, either I'm going to live for the living or I'm going to stay living for the dead," Mr. Warner said.
Lance Cpl. Alex Arredondo's father, Carlos Arredondo, was painting his fence in Hollywood, Fla., when a Marine van arrived in 2004 to deliver the news that his 20-year-old son had been killed by a sniper.
"I was begging God to wake me up from this bad dream," Mr. Arredondo recalled. He tried to shoo the Marines off his property, but they decided to stay until his wife, Melida Arredondo, came home to comfort him.
Before his wife returned, Mr. Arredondo grabbed a hammer, a five-gallon can of gasoline and a propane torch from the garage. He smashed the Marine van's window, climbed inside and splashed gas around him, soaking his socks, pants and shirt. Then he ignited the torch.
The blast blew him out of the van. Ms. Arredondo, Alex's stepmother, arrived at the house and found her husband in flames. The Marines and others managed to put out the fire.
"It was this crazy moment I wasn't expecting," said Mr. Arredondo, 52 years old. "There are no scripts for how I'm supposed to handle all of this." He suffered burns on a quarter of his body.
A separate notification team had gone that day to the house of Lance Cpl. Arredondo's mother, Victoria Foley, age 47, in Norwood, Mass., where the Marine's 17-year-old brother Brian was living. Brian learned of the death and then saw his father burning on cable TV news.
Alex's death hit Brian hard. He dropped out of school, fell into drug use and got in trouble with the police. In March 2011, he threatened officers with a machete, saying, "Shoot me, shoot me," according to his parents. He landed in a psychiatric hospital and then in jail.
On Dec. 19, 2011, Brian hanged himself in the shed outside his mother's house. He was having girlfriend problems, and criminal charges were still pending. His father and mother said Brian's downward slide began when his brother was killed.
"He really didn't want to live after he lost his brother," said Mr. Arredondo.
Mr. Arredondo and his 47-year-old wife were hospitalized in 2010 for "rampant depression," Ms. Arredondo said. Mr. Arredondo is considering checking in again. Ms. Foley, Alex's mother, said she thought about suicide this year. Now, she said, she feels distraught but stable.
Marie Coon's suicide in 2009 followed two years of despondency over her stepson Jimmy's death in Iraq. Ms. Coon, formerly a welder in the Air Force, couldn't forgive herself for failing to talk him out of joining the Army, family members said.
"She thought it was her fault that he got killed," said her husband, James Coon, age 55. "She kept blaming herself even though he was 21 years old when he went in."
Ms. Coon, who sewed wedding dresses for a living, had a turbulent life and was estranged from two other children from previous marriages. She discussed killing herself, said her mother-in-law, Helen Hurd, who lived with the couple at the time.
Her sister, Cindy Gattenby, said Ms. Coon visited a psychic to communicate with Jimmy and make sure he didn't blame her for his death.
"I spent the last nine years doing things for his benefit and basing decisions on how it would affect him," Ms. Coon told the psychic in a recorded phone session months after Jimmy's death. "Now I don't know what to do or where to go."
With her marriage unraveling, she left her home in Paradise, Calif., and moved in with a Southern California couple who had also lost their son at war.
On Mother's Day, 2009, Ms. Coon, 48 years old, taped up the windows of her pickup truck and lighted two hibachi grills in the front seat. She crawled into the back seat and waited for the carbon monoxide to kill her.
The note she left behind said she was going to be with Jimmy. Tattooed on her arm was a portrait of him with the caption, "A mother's love is forever."
Last Marine Standing
Reply #112 on:
February 18, 2013, 05:16:11 PM »
Last Marine Standing: A Life Tormented by Survival .
By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
On August 3, 2005, Marine Lance Corporal Travis Williams lost his entire squad in an explosion in Iraq. Seven years later, the noise from his work making custom knives helps him drown out the memories. WSJ's Michael M. Phillips reports.
MISSOULA, Mont.—Many troops have lost a close friend in combat. Travis Williams lost them all.
Marine Lance Cpl. Williams is the sole survivor of his 12-man squad. His comrades were wiped out by a roadside bomb in Iraq, leaving him physically unharmed but with psychological wounds that remain unhealed seven years later.
Since the explosion, the 29-year-old has kept the world at arm's length. Gregarious on the outside, he lives a life of emotional isolation. He buries himself in work every day. He smokes marijuana every night. Like many vets who have seen the worst of combat, he feels that outsiders could never understand what he experienced.
On bad days he is tortured by guilt for having gotten out of Iraq alive. On good days he feels guilty for not having a bad day. "It's like I lost 11 family members, and I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it," Lance Cpl. Williams said.
During more than a decade of continuous war, the military has made a priority of treating post-traumatic stress disorder, learning lessons from Vietnam veterans whose psychological problems went unchecked. Now, clinicians fear many combat veterans are suffering from symptoms that PTSD treatment alone doesn't best address.
Cases like that of Lance Cpl. Williams might constitute a different kind of mental injury from war, some clinicians are concluding, one that falls into less-understood categories of "traumatic loss" and "moral injury."
PTSD is largely induced by fear, leaving sufferers impaired by their exaggerated responses to everyday events, says Shira Maguen, a research psychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
Those who suffer traumatic loss, by contrast, often experience guilt over surviving and tend to isolate themselves. Among Dr. Maguen's patients are a vet who killed a child who reminds him of his own son; a medic who, after saving a comrade's life, killed an enemy fighter in self-defense; and a veteran who was ordered to shoot into a crowd of unruly civilians.
Though he has been diagnosed with PTSD, Lance Cpl. Williams doesn't suffer from some classic symptoms, such as being jittery around loud noises. Instead, he remains furious about a fateful decision made by his company commander. He wrestles with memories of the moment when in a rage he fired a warning shot that narrowly missed an innocent Iraqi boy. And he weeps over his lost friends.
The VA's Dr. Maguen hasn't met Lance Cpl. Williams. But she says his symptoms are typical of these more-complicated cases "where there are many different elements of moral injury and loss acting together, making it challenging for [the patient] to recover."
Researchers are just beginning to study the prevalence of these types of psychological injury among combat veterans and seek treatments to supplement PTSD therapies. In small-scale studies, researchers have found that about 30% of Marines and soldiers seeking treatment reported that moral-injury experiences were the incidents that most haunted them on their return from war.
In a pilot program with the Marines, clinicians used "adaptive disclosure" therapy to treat traumatic loss and moral injury. Patients held mock conversations with dead friends and imagined aloud how their buddies would respond.
The Pentagon has agreed to fund a larger-scale trial among Marines, according to psychologist Brett Litz of the Boston VA, who along with Dr. Maguen is a pioneer in the field. Dr. Maguen, meanwhile, is recruiting candidates for a VA study of treatment for troops troubled by having taken the lives of others.
Lance Cpl. Williams enlisted in the Marines during his senior year in high school, in 2002. Smoking dope, he watched the movie "Behind Enemy Lines," in which Marines help rescue a downed Navy flier in Bosnia. Still stoned, he went to the recruiting office to join the Air Force, he said. The only recruiter there was a Marine, who badgered him about his manliness until he signed up for the reserves.
He was attached to Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, out of Columbus, Ohio. In 2005 he was sent to Iraq. In combat, Lance Cpl. Williams and 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, grew tight. They talked about the homecoming party they'd have, the trip to Thailand they'd take and the bar they'd buy together.
In early August, insurgents overran six Marine snipers on a hilltop in Barwanah, west of Baghdad. When reinforcements arrived, they found five bodies. Commanders tapped Lance Cpl. Williams's squad to search for the missing man, and sent a steak-and-lobster dinner to the front, a last-supper gesture the Marines found ominous.
At 6 a.m. the following day, the platoon moved out with a few truckloads of Iraqi security men. The Marines traveled in tracked armored vehicles. Lance Cpl. Williams sat next to his best friend, Lance Cpl. Aaron Reed, and fell asleep.
Lance Cpl. Aaron Reed.
Just before the column moved, platoon commander Lt. Col. Chris Toland—then a captain—leaned down from the command hatch and said he had to change vehicles to supervise the Iraqi troops. He wanted Lance Cpl. Williams, his radio man, at his side.
Lance Cpl. Williams didn't want to leave. But he clambered over groggy Marines and out the rear door. He turned and said, "I'll catch you on the flip side."
At first the Marines drove through the desert to avoid booby-traps on the roads. But the Iraqi trucks kept getting stuck, and the Lima Company commander, Lt. Col. Steve Lawson, ordered everyone onto the road.
They hadn't gone very far when Lance Cpl. Williams heard a tremendous explosion. He looked up at an Iraqi security man whose head was poking through a hatch, and saw an orange fireball reflected in his sunglasses.
The rear ramp dropped open, and Lance Cpl. Williams saw a blackened hull spouting flames 30 feet high. First Squad's vehicle had triggered a buried bomb containing artillery rounds and propane tanks. The explosion killed his 11 squad mates, a translator and two crewmen. The driver, not a member of 1st Squad, survived.
Lt. Col. Toland sent Lance Cpl. Williams to the roof of a nearby house to work the radio. The lance corporal watched 2nd and 3rd Squads pile into the building. It dawned on him: 1st Squad was gone.
Lance Cpl. Williams's squad members became some of his closest friends. Here, Lance Cpl. Timothy Bell.
Sgt. Justin Hoffman, the squad leader who "put our well-being before his own," and Lance Cpl. Reed, who "looked like Harry Potter." Gone. Lance Cpl. Chris Dyer, "I gave him the most god-awful Mohawk," and Lance Cpl. Eric Bernholtz, "like a big Dolph Lundgren except really nice." Gone. Lance Cpl. Edward "Auggie" Schroeder, who "would crack just the right joke at just the right time," and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem, who paid Iraqis for chicken dinners for the other Marines. Gone. Lance Cpl. Brett Wightman, Lance Cpl. Timothy Bell, Lance Cpl. Michael Cifuentes, Lance Cpl. Grant Fraser, and Cpl. Dave Kreuter, who had left a pregnant wife at home. All just gone.
Lance Cpl. Williams watched Marines cover body parts in blankets. He rampaged through the house, grabbed a rifle and returned to the roof, looking for someone to kill. He saw an Iraqi kid peek around a corner and fired a round near his head to scare him away. He didn't trust himself to miss the next time.
"I never understood what it meant to want to kill somebody until that day," he said.
For a week, the platoon went on with the search for the missing Marine sniper, whose body was eventually found.
Lt. Col. Lawson, Lima's commander, declined to comment. He wrote in a blog after the incident that the road had been swept for bombs, "otherwise I wouldn't have taken it."
Back at base, Lance Cpl. Williams and a few other Marines packed their dead friends' gear in seabags. He mailed the unsent letters he found on their bunks. He tore nametags from their spare uniforms and bundled them together for himself.
Commanders brought in four psychologists to talk to the men. Two fell asleep as the Marines told their stories, Lance Cpl. Williams says.
Lima Company returned home in October 2005.
The following month, the unit held its annual Marine Corps birthday ball. Lance Cpl. Williams was confronted with grieving widows and devastated parents and an infant who would never meet his father. They wanted him to tell stories about their loved ones.
He got drunk and fled into the streets of Columbus, tearing at his uniform.
That was the last time he saw the families. Every once in a while one of his friends' fathers will call him.
"Every time I talked to families from Ohio they'd want to know how I'm doing," said Lance Cpl. Williams. "I'm like, 'You lost a son.' I lost friends I'd known for seven months. I'm doing great. I'm doing s—. How do I answer that?"
Only rarely does he talk to other Lima Company veterans.
Lt. Col. Toland, the platoon leader, continues to be haunted by that day. He can't help but think about the decision to change vehicles before the ill-fated patrol. "I know he feels guilty—I feel the same way," says the 42-year-old from Missouri City, Texas. "There's not much he can say to me and I can say to him that will make it better."
Lt. Col. Toland found some solace by returning to combat, an Afghanistan tour in which none of his men were killed. He, too, spends little time with other Lima Company survivors.
"The assumption was we've built a bond up together and we'll be friends for life," said Lt. Col. Toland. "But then, after the events in August, the shared experience you have is a bad shared experience."
Lance Cpl. Williams returned to Montana and reserve status. He spent much of the next year in bed, when he wasn't working at a Best Buy BBY +7.38%store. He tried to return to Iraq, but the military was wary about his psychological state, he says.
“It's like I lost 11 family members, and I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it.”
Lance Cpl. Travis Williams
In 2006, he left the Marine Corps. On his 23rd birthday, he and a Marine friend, Wes Dudley, ended up drinking at a Missoula bar. Lance Cpl. Williams went to the alley to urinate. His thoughts flashed back to the moment he nearly shot the Iraqi boy.
When Mr. Dudley found him, he was banging his head against the brick wall "to stop thinking about it." Then he ran up an exterior staircase and launched himself over the railing some 18 feet to the alley below, breaking an ankle. To the extent he can parse his drunken intentions, Lance Cpl. Williams thinks it was a suicide attempt.
"He's employed and involved with his friends and stuff—he's not shut down," said Mr. Dudley, who was shot in the arm in Iraq in 2005. But, he added: "You really never know. We all pretty much just kind of live with the reality that any one of our Marine Corps buddies that went through that stuff could pretty much kill themselves any day."
Dr. Litz, the Boston VA psychologist, who hasn't met Lance Cpl. Williams, calls his symptoms a "really good example of how complex adaptation" is for troops exposed to traumatic loss and moral injury.
Lance Cpl. Williams enrolled in college with the intention of becoming a doctor. He couldn't concentrate in classes and dropped out. He became a paramedic so he would never have to feel helpless in an emergency again. He volunteered in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. He worked as a private investigator. He grew a goatee and let his hair get shaggy. He hiked and fished.
For a while he lived with a girlfriend, Mallory Mizelle. She recalls him as "the nicest guy." But "he would say that he just felt an overwhelming hopelessness," said Ms. Mizelle.
When they broke up in 2009, he punched a door so hard that his hand bled. He stuffed Ms. Mizelle's clothes in garbage bags and had a few drinks. Then he started playing with a loaded rifle, he recalls. When a friend tried to take the weapon away, it went off and the bullet hit the wall.
Lance Cpl. Williams, Lance Cpl. Bell and Sgt. Justin Hoffman ham it up.
These days, romantic relationships usually last a month before he breaks them off.
He misses the Marine Corps and even Iraq. Some days he puts on a chest-rack full of ammunition and practices quick reloads of his rifle. He plans how to defend his house from attack, "just to feel like a warrior again."
The government pays him $300 a month for his PTSD. Over the years, doctors have prescribed Adderall, Prozac, Wellbutrin, buspirone, Ritalin and amitriptyline. Some pills made him sleepy. Others kept him up. Some made him famished. Others killed his appetite. One helped him concentrate, but also made him feel like vomiting.
He sees a VA counselor, Dave Anderson, who completed two tours of Vietnam with a battalion that lost 747 dead over 48 months. Mr. Anderson keeps a list in his desk with death dates of close friends highlighted.
Lance Cpl. Williams likes confiding in a vet but feels his own losses can't measure up to Mr. Anderson's. He seems unable to forgive himself for coming home, a "lack of self-compassion" that the VA's Dr. Litz says is typical among troops suffering from moral injury and traumatic loss.
Mr. Anderson said he sees progress in Lance Cpl. Williams. His anger has ebbed, and he has reduced his drinking. "He has come a long ways," Mr. Anderson said. But "he definitely does continue to isolate."
In the mornings, Lance Cpl. Williams takes his three dogs to his job as an apprentice at Behring Made Knives, a maker of combat and hunting knives. He spends long hours hammering red-hot steel or grinding handles out of walrus ivory, musk-oxen horn and brass. The humming of machines and the clanging of steel keep his mind from drifting toward Iraq.
"Sometimes I wish life was just as easy as when I was in high school and didn't know about all of the s—, horrible things going around elsewhere," he said.
"On the other hand, I guess it makes me appreciate everything a lot more, knowing that one day I can be smoking and joking with my best friends in the world and the next day I'm f— lonely."
Write to Michael M. Phillips at
More than a card trick
Reply #113 on:
May 10, 2013, 05:23:48 PM »
Gen. Dempsey on Memorial Day
Reply #114 on:
May 25, 2013, 07:25:51 AM »
From the article:
A veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg, an English teacher named Joshua Chamberlain wrote, “In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays ... reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream...”
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