VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs

This week I was given an incredible statistic: Just 20 years ago, VA served a little more than 150,000 women Veterans. This was before 9/11, an event that prompted so many American men and women to enlist and defend their country.

Today, VA is serving more than 740,000 women Veterans. That’s more than four times as many women coming to VA for the health care and benefits they earned through their service.

This dramatic growth is a welcome sign that opportunities are opening up for women in the armed forces more than ever before. It also represents a challenge for VA, which needs to evolve to meet the needs of these women patriots.

The good news is that thanks to your hard work, VA is meeting this challenge by making sure we have the capacity to care for every woman who walks through our doors.

We have at least two women’s health care providers at each of our health care facilities who provide gynecology, maternity, specialty care and mental health services for women. We are using our modernized electronic health record to more closely track breast and reproductive care in order to produce better health care outcomes for women. We are also reducing and eliminating gender disparities in areas like chronic disease management and prevention.

As a result, our latest outpatient surveys show that 83.8% of women trust the care they receive at VA. That trust reflects your ongoing commitment to making sure VA serves anyone who served this nation.

There is another kind of trust we need to instill at VA: trust that women will be treated with the respect they have earned. But we are making important progress here as well.

As soon as he took the job in 2018, Secretary Wilkie understood the importance of making sure all our women Veterans feel safe and comfortable here. VA has made it clear that this not a boy’s club, and that there is no tolerance for sexual harassment, assault or any other behavior that creates a hostile environment for women.

We have backed up that policy with action that has been supported by VA staff across the country. We have trained staff on our collective responsibility to serve women Veterans, stressed the importance of taking sexual harassment incidents seriously, committed resources aimed at preventing these incidents from happening, and pushed for the thorough investigation of these incidents when they do occur.

In 2019, VA established a Harassment and Assault Policy and Reporting Task Force to strengthen efforts to crack down on assault and harassment, and boost reporting procedures. Many of you participated in 2019’s Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now campaign, which encouraged patients, staff, visitors and volunteers to intervene whenever possible and report harassment to supervisors.

This year, I personally oversaw a council of experts within VA to ensure our efforts to keep women Veterans safe were strategically aligned and as strong as possible. VA also launched a database on sexual assault incident reporting that will help VA track and analyze sexual assault and harassment, and give us the information we need to target our efforts to reduce these incidents further.

And our Center for Women Veterans has amplified these messages to Veterans and staff through its “I Am Not Invisible” campaigns, new employee orientation sessions, outreach sessions with minority women Veterans, and more widely on social media.

When someone puts on the uniform, it doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman. What matters is that that person loves this country so much they are compelled to defend it, and that should compel us to do our very best to give them the respect and compassion they have earned when they arrive at VA.

I’m proud to be working with so many at VA who share this goal, and I thank you for getting us closer to it every day.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Veterans

5 reasons birds make the best support animals

Birds make excellent support animals because they have advantages that dogs and cats do not have. They’re fun to raise and they’re fun to play with – especially if you’ve taught them a few tricks. Birds can be affectionate, loyal and goofy. An investment in a bird as an Emotional Support Animal can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

1. Birds are low maintenance

They love cleaning themselves. Unlike a cat or a dog, birds like to take baths or showers under faucet. Set it to a slow, steady stream and they’ll hop around and splash away. Clean feathers are essential for them to fly. Cage cleaning is simple too. Take out the tray, dump out the detritus, wipe the tray down with hot soapy water or disinfectant, rinse thoroughly, replace, done!

2. You can teach them songs and tricks

One of the birds I owned was a Gold Parakeet named Frank. He used to sit on chairs like a person to which I reacted with ‘aww he thinks he’s people’. Birds train with repetition and positive reinforcement. They cannot learn with negative reinforcement, so, you have to be patient.

You can train a bird to not squawk and sing instead when it wants attention. Frank would scream when he wanted attention. You ignore them. When he would whistle, I would come into the room and give him positive attention and treats. He would scream and I would leave. I did this repeatedly until it clicked in his tiny brain that, ‘oh, only beautiful sounds attract humans.’

When giving them positive attention whistle or sing to them for them to learn a new song. I tried teaching Frank the Marine Corps Hymn but he didn’t like it. He did learn the whistle from Pumped Up Kicks. I guess the Corps don’t get one.

3. Birds are unbearably cute

cute bird
Just look at his little face!

Birds puff up, dance, fall over and get into mischief. Discovering their unique personalities is a lot of fun. Also, if you have guests over, after the pandemic, they’ll fawn over your little friend.

4. They’re really smart

According to scientific research, birds are the only animals who are able to replicate human speech. Birds are really intelligent creatures. This is the best reason to get a bird as your emotional support animal. Especially, parrots. If you teach your parrot how to speak, you will always have a communication partner with you. Your bird will be there for you to respond to you and talk to you using the words you taught it.

realesaletter.com

This is very true. Tried to teach my little sister’s bird, a lovebird named Rose, a bad word and it didn’t take. Rose did learn how to sit down, play hide and seek, not to bite, call commands and more. We can call our pets individually from another room and they would arrive to perch on our shoulders. It’s an awesome party trick.

You can teach them to play with objects like little soccer balls or place a tiny basketball in a hoop.

5. Birds are sensitive to emotions

When I’m feeling not my best, my little buddy knows it. They’ll flutter over and give all the love you require. You’re happy, they’re happy. You’re more than a source of food, you’re their flock. Birds, when cared for correctly, have long lifespans ensuring your sidekick will be there for the long haul.

Here’s a tip!

My favorite trick is teaching them how not to bite. Remember the ‘no negative reinforcement’ from earlier? When a new bird is biting you, do not yell to it or you will give it what it wants – a reaction. They are acutely aware of emotions and will sense fear. You have two options.

Option one, my go to: stare right at it as it’s biting showing no pain and the bird will think ‘damn, nothing I do is going to hurt this thing.’ They will give up on biting completely. You’re a warrior and it’s a tiny, frightened bird in a new home. Suck it up. It doesn’t hurt.

Option two: put them down and walk away. Do not acknowledge them and try to pick them up again later. When they feel lonely, they’ll stop pushing you away on their own. Also give them safe toys to bite instead.

Veterans

VA expands Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for dependents


For many, the opportunity to pursue education and training beyond high school is not easily within reach. When military members are asked why they serve, the available GI Bill® education benefits are often one reason why.

As a part of their earned benefits, active duty men and women can also transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse and/or dependent children. This is called Transfer of Entitlement (TOE). Those wishing to transfer entitlement to a dependent must be sure to do this while still on active duty.

The option to transfer education assistance to dependent family members provides them with the financial means to pay for their education and training. However, until recently, this benefit was not available to all dependent children. With the recent passing of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, commonly referred to as Isakson and Roe, beginning January 6, 2021, service members can transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to their ward or foster child. This new law changes how VA administers education benefits, and more importantly, is a major step in recognizing the diversity of the Nation’s military families and their unique needs.

According to the Department of Defense, more than five million people are part of today’s military family. The men and women who serve in our Nation’s armed forces are a diverse group. So, too, are their families, to include spouses, children and other family members who represent varying demographics, experiences and needs. With the implementation of Isakson and Roe, VA is able to address the needs of more families and ensure that the GI Bill’s purpose is further realized.

Now, even more military dependents can receive help paying for tuition, books and housing using Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. Eligible dependents, who are pursuing a degree or certification in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, can maximize their benefits through the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship. To help pay for higher out-of-state, private or graduate tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover, the Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional assistance. In addition to education and training, GI Bill benefits can provide other assistance to eligible students, such as help with paying for certain test fees and help with deciding on the right school or program, using the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

The spring months provide the Nation with an opportunity to celebrate those who serve and their families. As we celebrate service members and their families during Month of the Military Child in April and Military Appreciation Month in May, this is also an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of military families. In continued celebration of our Nation’s military families, VA will continue to do its part to acknowledge the differences that make them unique, while ensuring that their unique needs are also met.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.

The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.


Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.

A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.

The will to live

Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.

“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”

Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.

Flashbacks from the Gulf War

His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.

Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement

Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,

It gave me hope

Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.

“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”

Click here to read more of Henson’s story.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.


And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”

Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.

Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.

“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Doc Speed takes a moment for a photo op during his time in Vietnam. (Source: Mark Joyner/YouTube/ Screenshot)

Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.

Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.

“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Watch Mark Joyner‘s video below to hear the direct words from Vietnam Veterans about their first days in “The Nam.”

(Mark Joyner, YouTube)

Veterans

How T-Mobile is helping veterans thrive after leaving the military

For T-Mobile, dedication to the military is evidenced in so many parts of the company – from discounted rate plans, to hiring commitments to employee training programs and support networks. Support for the U.S. Military – active, Veterans, reservists and military families – is ingrained in the company’s culture. In November, T-Mobile is celebrating Veterans & Military Families Appreciation Month, to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices our military families make.

This company-wide commitment to the community goes well beyond the fact that T-Mobile offers the best discount in wireless for military and their families. For active duty, reserve and veteran, T-Mobile Magenta Military and Magenta Plus Military plans offer 50% off family lines.

As one of America’s leading Veteran employers, T-Mobile has pledged to hire 10,000 Veterans and military spouses by 2023. To help in this effort, T-Mobile collaborates with organizations like Warriors4Wireless, FourBlock and Hiring Our Heroes. Along with its hiring pledge, T-Mobile is helping to build the Department of Veterans Affairs’ telehealth infrastructure, bringing the real-time video that will soon be the future of VA service. And, with nearly 20,000 VA telehealth visits a day — an 800% surge from before the COVID-19 crisis began — T-Mobile is helping to keep more veterans connected to their doctors than ever before.

T-Mobile also supports FourBlock’s recruiting events, training programs, and career seminars that help Veterans continue their transition assistance beyond the mandatory Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class we all get. Fourblock’s tailored programs are much more intuitive than the one-size-fits-all TAP classes – and they offer more earned insight from real career experience.

And not only is T-Mobile a certified military friendly company, they’ve also been recognized for hiring military spouses. In fact, they have a Military & Diversity Sourcing team to accelerate its military hiring efforts.

Internally, the company has 12,500 members in the Veterans & Allies Network (VAN) that works to increase awareness of veteran culture and how the values of the military-veteran community align with the company’s own core values. VAN members are active in advising senior leadership on marketing, recruiting efforts, and community support.

The company also supports the continued service of veterans. T-Mobile has recognized that the post-9/11 generation of Vets has a distinctly different culture than the generations that came before. Ingrained in America’s youngest era of Veterans is the desire to continue serving our country and communities long after our military service ends.

To that end, T-Mobile makes it easier than ever for its military and Veteran employees to continue that service through a partnership with The Mission Continues, creating volunteer opportunities across the nation.

For more information about opportunities with T-Mobile, check out its military community page.

Articles

8 steps to evacuate casualties from combat zones

Technically, aeromedical evacuation has been around since World War I, bringing our wounded back home by way of aircraft. Present day, AE is still a critical component to getting injured troops back to safety.


AE crews, medics, and personnel outside the wire are expertly trained to care for combat-related injuries and conditions. With others’ lives on the line, it’s not surprising that the many-step process of evacuating a casualty of war has been refined to achieve the highest survival rate possible.

1. Triage

The injured are first examined by a medic, corpsman, or any medical personnel available to assess injuries. The medical personnel will continue to attend to the wounded until transportation arrives to transfer them to a higher level of care.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Soldiers conduct simulated casualty triage at Forward Operating Base, Solerno, Kandahar. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper)

2. Patient movement

It is of utmost importance to quickly transport the triaged to the nearest hospital or Mobile Air Staging Facility (MASF). The only hardened hospital capable of caring for critical combat-related injuries for a longer period of time is Bagram AB, Afghanistan.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Marines carry their comrade to Huey medevac helicopter. (photo by Stars and Stripes)

The means of transportation for moving a troop to Bagram AB is dependent on where they were injured. If the service member is injured just outside of base, then a Humvee is the obvious choice. If personnel are wounded at a Forward Operating Base, a Huey dust-off mission will be spun up to retrieve casualties.

3. Diagnosis

Once patients are transferred to the hospital, they are stabilized by doctors working in the facility and their diagnosis is entered into a database, called Tra2ces. Tra2ces is relatively new and is one of the sole reasons why the wounded have been tracked so efficiently on their journey from the point of injury to back home with their families.

4. TACC

After patients are successfully entered into the tracking system, the next step is to continue moving back to the States. Tactical Airlift Command and Control (TACC) is responsible for scheduling all planes flying in- and out-of-country.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Lt. Col. John Keagle coordinates a C-17 Globemaster mission to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Justin Brockhoff)

Depending on the injury, patients are categorized and listed in order of priority. In other words, the most critically wounded will top of the list and will typically be sent home first.

5. AEOT

It is the responsibility of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT), specifically the admin mission controller, to assign a medical crew to take care of patients in flight. The crews have strict guidelines and must be current in all of their medical training. There is zero tolerance for sandbagging in this career field.

6. AE medical crews

The AE crew consists of three enlisted medical technicians and two flight nurses. The crews are given all patient information and medical equipment needed before mission take-off.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Master Sgt. Russel Goodwater and Master Sgt. Timothy Starkey assess their checklist for proper protocol during a AE training mission. (photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

In the crew, each member has their own task and they work together to guarantee mission success. After all, they are caring for the most precious cargo — their fellow service members.

7. CASF

Before take-off, patients are moved from the hospital to the flight line. The Casualty Air Staging Facility (CASF) could be considered a tent hospital, located on the flight-line, close to the aircraft. Patients will be moved to the CASF in preparation and set up for the flight that will take them one step closer to home.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
CASF personnel litter carry a patient from an ambulance bus onto C-17 aircraft at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sergeant Adrian Cadiz)

8. Mission launch

After medical and ground personnel load all patients onto the aircraft, they are flown to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where they can get more in-depth medical care for their injuries. Bagram AB simply does not have the extended-care capability to continually treat critically injured patients.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Above, patients have been securely loaded onto a C-17 Loadmaster and await transport to Ramstein AFB.(Photo by Master Sgt. Christian Amezcua)

After a stay at Ramstein, patients are sent back to home base on another AE flight. All the while, AE medical crews are in the air with their patients, providing them with expert care, comfort, and, if needed, a hand to hold.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
A medical tech holds the hand of a patient during an Aeromedical Evacuation mission transporting patients from Kandahar to Bagram Air Base.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

MIGHTY TRENDING

US veterans are adopting this amazing creed of continued service

Eleven veterans organizations have adopted a “Veteran’s Creed” that acknowledges pride of service and a continuing shared commitment to values that strengthen the nation.

The fourth tenet of the creed states that “I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans.”

The creed, which was adopted on Flag Day 2018, at an event at the Reserve Officers Association, was the result of extensive discussions among veterans groups that began last fall at Georgetown University.


“The creed will help prepare veterans for their productive civilian lives,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Director of Veterans’ Initiatives at Georgetown University.

Retired Army Gen. George W. Case, Jr., the former Army chief of staff and commander of Multi-National Force Iraq, said the creed may motivate veterans to continue to give back.

“I believe the Veteran’s Creed could remind veterans of what they miss about their service and encourage them to continue to make a difference in their communities and across our country,” he said. “We need their talents.”

The Veteran’s Creed, similar to the Army’s Soldier’s Creed, was intended to underline the “altruistic ethos of veterans themselves.”

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
World War II veteran Zane Grimm.
(Photo by Frank Schulenburg)

It also purports to “remind Americans that the principles and values veterans learned in the military — integrity, leadership, teamwork, selfless service — can greatly benefit our country,” according to the veterans groups.

“In the Army I lived both the Soldier’s Creed and the NCO Creed,” said John Towles, Director of National Security & Foreign Affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“As veterans, we must realize that our service does not stop simply because we take off the uniform,” he added. “Many of us struggle to find our place once we leave the military, but now we have a new set of watchwords to guide and remind our brothers and our sisters in arms that our mission is far from over.”

The Creed is backed by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, HillVets, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Reserve Officers Association, Student Veterans of America, Team Rubicon Global, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project.

The Creed states:

1. I am an American veteran

2. I proudly served my country

3. I live the values I learned in the military

4. I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans

5. I maintain my physical and mental discipline

6. I continue to lead and improve

7. I make a difference

8. I honor and remember my fallen comrades

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a Special Forces sniper and one of NASCAR’s best have in common

At face value, it seems like no two professions could be further apart. The sniper lives in the world of slow and steady (if they move at all). Conversely, the NASCAR driver’s world is fast-paced and requires quick-thinking to react to new situations within fractions of a second. But life behind the wheel, just as behind the trigger, requires nerves of steel.


“Anyone can shoot a rifle, that’s probably the easiest part of the job,” says Mike Glover, a former U.S. Army Special Forces sniper. “But the mindset, the physical capabilities, the craft… those are all important elements to being a Special Forces sniper.”

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Kurt Busch taking range lessons from Mike Glover, a former Army Special Forces sniper
(We Are The Mighty)

Kurt Busch is no slouch himself. He won the famous high-speed, high-stakes Daytona 500 in 2017.

“To be a NASCAR driver means you’re one of the elite drivers in the world,” Says Busch. “It’s a special privilege each week to go out there and race the best of the best.”

Now, Busch is working with one of the U.S. Army’s best: a former Green Beret.

Glover recently took NASCAR’s Kurt Busch to the shooting range to teach him how to shoot a sniper’s rifle using a spotter. Busch, who drives the #41 Monster Energy Ford, quickly took to Glover’s instructions.

Busch hit his target with his second shot — only one correction required.

He credited the preparation Glover provided him, as well as having the proper fundamentals explained to him. The teamwork, of course, was key. It turns out they have a lot more in common than they thought.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Busch and Glover training with pistols.
(We Are The Mighty)

“When you’re zoned in to your element, that’s when everything slows down,” Busch says. “That’s when you’re able to digest what’s around you.” Glover agrees.

“That internalization, that zen approach, is how we [Special Forces] release the monster within.”

Watch Kurt Busch take Mike Glover for a ride in his world, doing donuts in a parking lot, at the end of the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Lone Survivor’ Navy SEAL went ‘John Wick’ on the guys who killed his dog

It was a regular April night around the Luttrell home near Huntsville, Texas. It had been five years since Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell fought the 2005 firefight with the Taliban that was portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. Since then, he received a Yellow Labrador puppy to help him recover from the unseen wounds of the war. He named the pup Dasy, an acronym of the names of his fellow SEALs — the ones that didn’t survive the battle.


A shot rang out throughout the area of the house. Luttrell sprang into action, grabbed a 9mm pistol, checked to see if his mother was alright, and then ran outside to check on Dasy. He found the puppy at the end of a trail of blood.

“When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ve got to take these guys out,'” Luttrell told NBC News.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs

Dasy was just four years old when gunmen shot and killed her.

(Marcus Luttrell)

He then spotted a suspicious vehicle nearby and tried to sneak up on it with a 9mm pistol. When he was 25 yards away, the car left — and Luttrell hopped in his pickup in hot pursuit.

“I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,” Luttrell said. “I could hear them laughing.”

He called the local emergency line and warned the 911 operator that he was chasing the men who killed his dog.

“I told them, ‘You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them, I’m going to kill them,'” Luttrell told the operator, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Navy Cross recipient stayed on with the emergency operator as he chased the gunmen across three Texas counties in a 40-mile, high-speed chase. Luttrell was still recovering from a recent surgery but it didn’t stop him from attempting to catch the fleeing suspects.

Dasy was more than just a therapy dog to Luttrell. The four-year-old dog helped Luttrell at a time when he wasn’t talking about what happened and had trouble sleeping. Dasy wasn’t just a pet, she was like a daughter to the former SEAL.

Luttrell’s pickup truck couldn’t keep up with the car in which the suspects fled the scene, but the Texas Rangers eventually stopped the vehicle, arresting two of them for cruelty to a non-livestock animal and the driver for not having a license. According to the Rangers, the shooting was the latest in a series of five dog killings in an area Luttrell describes as “the middle of nowhere.”

When Luttrell arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted the suspects, demanding to know which of them murdered Dasy. According to Luttrell, they started talking smack.

“Marcus is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training,” a Texas Ranger told NBC News. “I wouldn’t advocate to the general public to do what he has done — to follow them at that rate of speed.”
VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs

Luttrell and his new therapy dog, Rigby.

(Marcus Luttrell via Facebook)

Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Edmonds were convicted in 2012 of shooting Dasy with a .357 pistol that night. The conviction was later upheld by a Texas appellate court. Edmonds turned on Hernandez, pleading guilty and testifying against him. Edmonds received five years probation while Hernandez received the maximum sentence, two years confinement and a ,000 fine.

Luttrell said losing Dasy was a huge setback in his life but he soon had another therapy dog in his life, another Yellow Lab named “Rigby.”

Articles

Smooth talking your way through gear turn-in is a stinky proposition

Army Capt. Rebecca Murga had the same goals as anyone else at gear turn-in after deployment: get rid of this sh*t and get back home. But she made a rookie mistake when she left Afghanistan without double-checking her gear against her clothing list.


VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Capt. Rebecca Murga tries to find a missing Gore-Tex item while turning in items at the Central Issue Facility. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

That’s how she ended up at the Central Issue Facility with a desperate need to go home and no Gore-Tex. And since Army property values never match civilian price points, she’s left with the option of paying hundreds of dollars or weaving a Gore-Tex from cobwebs and unicorn dreams.

Anyone who has dealt with DoD civilians knows that it’s a recipe for frustration, but Murga manages to smooth talk her way through the facility only to find herself faced with something worse.

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs
Something much, much worse. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

See how Murga’s conscience clouds her homecoming in the No Sh*t There I Was episode embedded at the top.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

Why you should never run through smoke you didn’t throw

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

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