This vet's son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by a myriad of traumatic events like car crashes and losing a baby during childbirth. However, combat has brought PTSD to the forefront of modern medicine. Known before as shell shock, the National Institute of Health estimates that over 500,000 veterans suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, the VA shows that 52 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD experiences nightmares that occur fairly often. This is in stark contrast to the 3 percent of the general public who have been diagnosed with PTSD and experience frequent nightmares. The son of one veteran decided to do something about it.

Tyler Skluzacek remembers his father as fun and outgoing before his combat tour in Iraq. When his father, Patrick, returned in 2007, Tyler said that his father had changed. Patrick was haunted by nightmares of commanding a convoy in Fallujah. He would sweat and thrash violently in his sleep. The nightmares were so terrible, that Patrick feared even closing his eyes. To help him fall asleep, he turned to alcohol and medication. This negatively affected his life in every aspect. “[I] pretty much lost everything,” he said. “My house, everything, my job, everything went.”

In 2015, Tyler was a senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN when he learned about a computer hackathon in Washington, D.C. The event brought developers from across the country together to develop prototypes in order to solve a specific problem. That year, the event focused on developing a mobile app to help people suffering from PTSD. Personally motivated to take on the challenge, Tyler saved up the money and bought a ticket out to D.C.

Tyler put together a team of developers to program a specialized smartwatch. The device would detect the onset of a nightmare by monitoring the wearer’s heart rate and movement. The concept was inspired by service dogs who are trained to recognize the signs of a nightmare and nudge or lick their human awake. Tyler said that the trick was to provide “just enough stimulus to pull them out of the deep REM cycle and allow the sleep to continue unaffected.”

Tyler continued to develop the software for his device by testing it on his father. Though Patrick agreed, early trials were very rocky. The watch would sometimes scare Patrick awake and, because he wore in full-time, Tyler received some surprising data. One time, while using an air hammer, the smartwatch indicated that Patrick’s heart rate was over 6,000 beats per minute. “I was terrified,” Tyler recalled. “Watching someone’s data 24/7, I feel like is a lot like having a baby. I don’t have a baby. But you’re suddenly very concerned at all hours.” However, with determination and some fine-tuning, Tyler perfected the software.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
The app is compatible with Apple Watches (NightWare)

By learning the sleep patterns of the user, the algorithm customizes a treatment to interrupt nightmares more appropriately and efficiently. “It was night and day when I put that watch on and it started working,” Patrick said. “The vibrations were little miracles.” After years of suffering from PTSD-induced nightmares, Patrick has found relief thanks to his son. He has since remarried and is working as a mechanic again. Though not cured of his nightmares, Patrick has control over his life.

Tyler’s invention is set to help more people like his father cope with their own PTSD. The software was purchased by an investor who started a company called NightWare. In November 2020, the FDA approved the app to treat PTSD-related nightmare disorders. The app is compatible with Apple Watches and is currently undergoing clinical trials through the Veterans Health Administration and the DoD Military Health System.

Articles

This WWII Navy vet finally received his service medals after 71 years

A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.


James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.

The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.

“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”

The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.

Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”

One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
The Purple Heart is one of many medals that veterans have waited decades to receive.

Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”

James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.

In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.

Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”

Also read: WWII veteran receives long overdue Purple Heart

The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.

“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.

“As often happens, service members do not receive all of their medals when they are released from the military, and so we’re going to try and make up for that today,” Deason said.

Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.

In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.

Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How you can get all of your old award and service documents

Most veterans look forward to that beautiful DD-214, the discharge form from active duty. Whether you’re a long-timer looking forward to retirement, a one-termer just waiting to get out and go to college or back to the civilian workforce, or a reservist or National Guardsman looking to end an active duty stint, the 214 is your ticket out.


But it’s not just a ticket, it’s also the primary record of everything you did while on active duty. It’s the document you use to prove where you served, what awards you earned, and more. But there are a couple potential problems.

First, what if your DD-214 isn’t perfect? What if things are missing? After all, the DD-214 is usually the last piece of paper an active duty service members needs to get their ticket home or back to their reserve component. If a couple missing pieces of text on the DD-214 are all that’s standing between the dude getting out and his trip to Florida for college and drinks, he may ignore the discrepancy and get on the road.

But if a DD-214 is incomplete or gets lost (oh, yeah, you’ve never lost a piece of paper. Congratulations), there’s a way to replace them, and it’s probably not the office you would expect.

The U.S. National Archives, the place that maintains a bunch of photos of the D-Day landings and the Declaration of Independence, also receives copies of most service records. If your admin shop processed it and it should go in your OMPF—the official military personnel file, there’s a decent chance the National Archives has a copy of it.

That NATO Medal you got in Afghanistan but lost the 638 while re-deploying home? The orders sending you to and from Korea? And, most importantly, the DD-214 from when you got out? Yup, there’s a solid chance the National Archives has a copy of it even though you lost it in literally your first barracks move after you got your copy.

And they’re happy to send you those records whether it’s for nostalgia or for proving a medical claim at the VA or just to back up your bar claims.

But you most likely don’t live near the National Archives, so how do you get your hands on it? Well, you can write them a letter including your complete name from your service records (so, whatever your legal name was while in the military), branch of service, social security number, service numbers, date of bi—

Uh, a lot. They want you to put a lot in the letter. But there’s also an online service where you just fill out a web form with all the info that would be in the letter. Since you’re reading this article on the internet, we’re going to assume that would be easier for you. (If the letter is easier for you, the required information is available here.)

Everyone who prefers to submit their request online can access eVetRecs, an online tool that looks like it was coded in 1994 but seems to work fine. Just fill out the online form and wait for the sweet military records to show up at your house.

But you will, likely, be waiting a little while. The National Personnel Records Center says it receives about 4,000-5,000 requests per day. When everything you’re looking for is in one spot and easy to get to, they can typically respond within 10 days. This is especially true if you just need a DD-214 that already exists.

But if your records were hit by the 1973 Fire, are older records, or just got spread to the winds by some crazy, rare error, then it could take six months or more to get your documents to you.

There is a carve-out for emergencies. Their examples are surgeries, funerals, and following natural disasters when the veteran or their next of kin needs end of service documents to get certain benefits. Those requests have to be made by phone or fax.

Veterans

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets did it again.


Her non-profit organization helps hospitalized veterans, sends gifts to deployed troops, and supports the spouses and families of service members.

Recently, that support went to Melissa Comeau, an advocate for military caregivers and wife of U.S. Marine and Purple Heart recipient Stephen Comeau.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Melissa and Stephen share a tender moment together. (From Melissa’s book, Sleeping With the War)

As a full-time caregiver to her husband, Comeau had little time to focus on her own wellbeing. So Elise decided it was time for a little pick-me-up in the form of a full-fledged makeover in classic Pin-Up style.

“When I first met Melissa, I could tell she was very special, and I wanted to do something to show our appreciation to the caregiver of one of our Marines,” Elise told We Are The Mighty.

When Comeau’s husband Stephen left for his fourth combat deployment, she prepared herself for the worst — but it never occurred to her to prepare for him to come home with a brain injury.

When he returned, Stephen was diagnosed with multiple combat injuries including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease.

Together, Melissa and Stephen researched his diagnoses and soon discovered that there is a significant difference between being a supportive wife and being a caregiver.

“I didn’t know I was a caregiver. I just thought of myself as his wife, doing what anyone would do,” Comeau explained. “But once I learned about that word, it opened up a new world.”

Comeau became a fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which helps strengthen and empower American military caregivers, and now works at the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, helping people identify as caregivers sooner and providing them with peer-to-peer support and assistance.

After meeting Comeau, Pin-Ups for Vets’ Elise knew she wanted to do something to show her appreciation.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

So Elise delivered a pin-up makeover for Comeau — complete with classic hair and make-up styling by Ana Vergara, vintage-inspired dresses by Voodoo Vixen, and a professional photoshoot by Jason Holmes of Retro Dolls.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Bombshell, indeed! (Photo by Jason Holmes)

Elise couldn’t wait to reveal Comeau’s pin-up look.

“It was a special moment when Melissa first saw herself in the mirror,” Elise said. “How we appear affects our confidence and this makeover brought out Melissa’s inner bombshell. I could see the shift towards happiness and excitement in that moment.”

According to Comeau, it’s tough to look after yourself when you’re focused on caring for others. As a mentor, she teaches, “If you take care of yourself, it makes you better for everyone. It all starts with you — and if you don’t nurture yourself, you’ll burn out.”

That’s why Elise was inspired to reach out to Comeau.

“I always want to bring awareness and attention to military families and the sacrifices they make,” Elise said. “Our military would be impossible without support from loved ones and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These old school vets work to help the next generation with PTSD

Monty Hutson knows a little something about post-traumatic stress. Hutson served in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne, and while he was in, he studied language patterns and hypnosis in order to better communicate with others. By the time he got out, he was starting to develop his own method of helping veterans deal with the psychological demands of military service. Now, with his non-profit, For Veterans Sake, he is able to take his efforts even further for a new generation of veterans.


The newest division of For Veterans Sake is its service dog division. It’s well-known to many by now that man’s best friend is one of the veteran’s most powerful guides on the road to post-traumatic stress recovery. Monty Hutson not only recognized this too, he added it to his non-profit.

For Veterans Sake pairs a veteran up with a dog, then specially trains the animal to respond to the unique needs of the veteran. The vet will train the service dog, who will be able to recognize the scent of a veteran who is being triggered and often responds to the veteran’s need before the vet even knows what’s happening. Best of all, For Veterans Sake uses many, many dogs from shelters and kennels, giving the animal a purpose and a much-needed and much-appreciated pal for life.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Hutson and his service dog.

Monty Hutson is uniquely poised to help our nation’s newest generation of veterans with not just PTS, but what he calls “the Military Condition” – a unique and demanding lifestyle that starts with your recruiter and continues through our time in service. For this and PTS, he developed a unique treatment called Neuro-Traumatic Resourcing (Non-Therapeutic). For Veterans Sake is founded on dealing with both PTS and the Military Condition and helping veterans improve their quality of life.

The help (of dogs) Hutson and For Veterans Sake offer American veterans is free of charge. But his organization, like every non-profit, runs on donations. Check out what Monty Hutson is doing for his fellow vets and maybe drop by his donation page and send him what you can spare. Remember, you’re also rescuing dogs – how can you go wrong?

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This World War II vet wants birthday cards for his 96th birthday

A World War II veteran who served in the Navy and earned the Purple Heart after suffering wounds when a kamikaze attack hit his destroyer in December, 1944, told his daughter that he wasn’t interested in celebrating his 96th birthday on December 30 because he didn’t have anyone to celebrate it with.

Now, his family is asking for birthday cards to help cheer him up.


This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

The USS Lamson burns after a successful kamikaze attacks that killed 25 on December 7, 1941.

(U.S. Navy)

Doug Sherman lives in California and served on the USS Lamson, a destroyer that was sometimes called the “Lucky Lamson.” Lamson was launched in 1936 and participated in the search for Amelia Earhart before World War II.

The ship made it through most of the war with little damage, but then suffered a devastating attack on December 7, 1944, when a three-plane kamikaze attack landed a massive hit on the ship just below the bridge.

Accounts from the attack differ, but one of the planes hit the ship, and 25 sailors died as a result. Another 50-85 sailors were wounded. The damage was so extensive that the squadron commander had written the ship off until another destroyer, the USS Flusser, was able to bring the fires under control.

Send a veteran a birthday card for this 96th birthday

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The ship was saved and the crew got her back to Leyte Gulf for repairs. After World War II ended, the Lamson was eventually decommissioned and used in a nuclear test near Bikini Atoll. Now, 74 years after the attack, Sherman and other survivors of the attack are part of a dying breed.

The 95-year-old veteran was content to sit out his birthday, taking place just a few weeks after the anniversary of the kamikaze attack, but his daughter Sue Morse is hoping that strangers will fill his mailbox with birthday wishes to raise his spirits.

For anyone interested in helping out, Sherman’s daughter is collecting the birthday cards and letters in a post office box at the following address:

Duane Sherman
c/o Sue Morse
P.O. Box 794
Highland, CA 92346

Articles

War-hardened vet: How accepting death made me a better soldier

The 2006 battle for Ramadi was one of the fiercest fights during the Iraq War.


Fear and grief were never an option for the soldiers, Marines, and Navy SEALs putting their lives on the line for control of the Al Anbar provincial capital. The fighting was intense; every troop had to remain focused and alert to stay alive.

Related: Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

For Army rookie Perfecto Sanchez, that meant becoming a better soldier by coming to terms with his mortality.

“I fully, fully accepted that I was going to die,” said Sanchez in the video below. “Once I came to terms with that, everything else was easy.”

The only thing Sanchez could not accept was letting his platoon down.

Watch Sanchez recall the moment he became a better warrior when it counted most:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

It’s tough to understand the physical, mental, and emotional stress combat places on our service members unless you’ve experienced it.

Sanchez’s story reveals a glimpse into the high costs of war: trauma, severe injury, and death.

He is the embodiment of the Seven Core Army Values, and a reminder that it’s not just mental and physical strength that troops need to survive war — it’s the men and women who have their backs.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are some of the best non-food freebies this Veterans Day

Companies grateful for the military’s service show their appreciation each year with free or discounted meals. Every Nov. 11, troops and vets map out an itinerary to maximize the best day ever.


The festivities can begin a week in advance and many troops stick with their tried and true classics. Cracker Barrel for breakfast, Red Robin for lunch, Hooter’s for Dinner, Old Chicago for beer and pizza with buddies.

If you really want to maximize your day, throw in a few things to do between meals. Be sure to grab your military or veteran ID and said buddies to share the Saturday of freebies with!

Free Haircuts

You can’t go out looking like a slob and expect civilians to take you seriously. After breakfast, why not grab a free haircut?

There are countless local and chain barbershops this year — too many to name. Everyone from Great Clips and Super Cuts to that place you like down the road (probably) are giving free hair cuts.

Give them a call in advance to verify.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
It also helps to book a time slot. (Image via Defense.mil)

Free Oil Change

If that light has been on for a bit too long on your dashboard, now is the time to get it checked out. You’ll need your car working in the best shape if you plan on driving all over for more deals.

Car care centers are also giving free oil changes including Meineke, Jiffy Lube, and many other local auto shops. Give them a call in advance to make sure.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
They’re like the motor pool for your personal ride. (Image via Trucker)

Free Car Wash

Speaking of car care things people have been pushing off for too long, it’s time to get your car cleaned if you plan on showing up in style.

The organization Grace For Vets is working with over 3,215 car wash locations across the world to offer free car washes for veterans.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
You may be paying 26% interest rate on it, but you’ve got to keep it looking good! (Image via Agency360)

Free Bowling

And to round the night out before the bars start opening up, have everyone meet up at the bowling ally for a game on the house. If you live near a Main Event bowling center, you even get a free entrée and $10 FUNcard to use at that location.

Many locations also offer free bowling Saturday, as with all the other fun deals, be sure to call in advance so you don’t end up being “that guy” who makes a scene about not getting a free round of bowling.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
And who doesn’t want to enjoy one of the only professional sports that allows you to drink? (Image via Military.com)

Free Wedding Dress

If you’ve got that one perfect date set in mind, now is the time to check one more thing off that list if you, or your fiancé, are military or a first responder.

Hands down the most impressive freebie this year is a free wedding dress. Granted, there are many stipulations on this one including: wedding in the next 18 months, you or your fiancé deployed in the last 5 years or about to deploy, and only certain deployed locations count. But submarine, Navy, and Special Ops orders all count. You can also qualify if you’ve had a civil ceremony in the past and are now planning a formal wedding.

To register through Brides Across America, click on this link here.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Saber arch not included (Image via af.mil)

Free Beer

There’s no way to finish a perfect day of freebies than by having a beer on the house.

Places like Mockery Brewing in Denver and Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas is offering up your first beer free while the First Division Museum is giving two “tastings.” Orlando Brewing in Orlando, FL; 38 State Brewing Co in Littleton, CO; and Blackfinn Ameripub in Vienna, VA all have variations on a “buy a vet a beer” program.

Many more exist out there. It all depends on how your local bar is handling it. Chances are, if you’re a regular and they know you’re a vet, the bartender will probably just slide you one on the house.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
And at the end of the day, isn’t a nice cold beer the best way to celebrate?

MIGHTY BRANDED

What Comcast does for veterans and the military will surprise you

Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.


This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.

In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.

These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.

In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.

The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.

But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.

One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What Chinese veterans of Korea think about their war

The Korean War is strange anomaly in the history of American wars, especially of the 20th Century. So much consideration is reserved for wars and the people who fought them in today’s culture that it makes the term “the forgotten war” seem like an impossibility. But that’s what we face with Korean War veterans.

Theirs is a very insular generation of veterans. Those who don’t share an experience in World War II or Vietnam because they only fought in Korea, they can only find an ever-dwindling number of fellow Korean War veterans.


Because of this, they have a very detailed memory and analysis of not just their part in the war, but of the entire war itself, so conversations tend to be lively between them. And, if you have a question, you will find a thoughtful answer. They’ve discussed every aspect of the war quite a bit.

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Some Korean War veterans, like the “Chosin Few” seen here, form alumni groups of single battles.

So it makes sense that whenever I talk to Korean War veterans, there’s one thing they all say they want to do: talk to veterans who were fighting on the other side of the fiercest battles. Whenever old adversaries get together, the talk generally comes to heal the emotional wounds of both parties, whether it’s between Americans and Germans, Japanese, or Vietnamese counterparts.

“They were fighting under the same orders I had,” Marine Corps veteran Joe Owen said when he told me about North Korean troops just days before his death in 2015. Owen was a lieutenant at the Chosin Reservoir. “They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them… I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

But Korean War veterans will likely never get this experience.

North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. It is extremely difficult to get in as an outsider, especially as a U.S. military veteran. North Korea did not fare well during the Korean War. Despite its early success, the North was pretty much ravaged and bombed away for three years and today’s North Koreans remember the war very differently than the rest of the world. An American Korean War veteran visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang would either have to be extremely diplomatic or agree to a vow of silence as he walked through.

Chinese veterans of the war are a different matter. China is a much more open, and relatively progressive country. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army sent upwards of a million Chinese to North Korea during the war, with many of the surviving veterans still alive, like Zhang Yuzeng. Zhang told Voice of America News that even though the two were allies, North Koreans generally acted independently and the two forces couldn’t understand each other.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
“There were few [North Koreans],” he said. “[They were] badly equipped and were not as good at fighting…”The North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped.”

To the Chinese fighters, they were protecting their country from American Imperialism, a protection they firmly believed was necessary. CNN interviewed a Chinese veteran of Korea at his retirement home in Henan Province. He proudly wears his Chinese Army dress uniform. He told CNN it was necessary to help the Korean people during the war.

“The people of Korea were suffering,” Duan said.”Seeing the people of Korea farming the land and being killed by enemy planes … what were they to do if they could not farm? The planes would just come and bomb them to death. We had to help protect the people of Korea.”

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

A United States Marine stands guard over captured North Koreans just after the Inchon Landing.

Now Read: 8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

Zhang Kuiyuan joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army at age 18 and was sent to Korea. He drove a supply truck to the front lines and also mentioned the lack of cooperation. They were not even to speak to or form relationships with the locals.

“We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he said. Duan Keke remarked that North Korean people today probably have no idea what sacrifices were made by the Chinese fighting man on their behalf, since they were not allowed to communicate on a personal level. He laments that the Koreans only know what their government wants them to know.

What the Chinese and American Korean War veterans have in common is that their war, decades old, remains “forgotten” – especially by the youth of their respective countries.

“Young people? Of course they don’t know,” says You Jie Xiang, a former infantry soldier who was assigned to guard American POWs. “These wars took place decades ago. All the young people have no idea.”

Like Joe Owen, the salty former lieutenant who commanded Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, these Chinese veterans harbor no ill will toward their former adversaries. They call Americans a “peaceful people” who “did not want a war in Korea.”

“War is death,” the old Chinese vets agree, nodding to each other.

Articles

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

When Army basic training soldier Jennifer Campbell was told to run through smoke on the obstacle course, she leaned into it and went for the awesome photo moment of charging through the thickest plume of smoke.


Want more? This is why officers should just stay in the office

Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t white smoke; it was o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, a potent form of tear gas used to teach basic trainees to trust their chemical masks and other gear. But Campbell wasn’t wearing chemical gear; she was running full speed and sucking down air on an obstacle course.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Jennifer Campbell, a U.S. Army basic trainee, cries after getting hit in the face with CS gas. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

So the young soldier got two lungs full of the agitating gas, forcing violent coughs as her drill sergeants got a good laugh and the other trainees scrambled to get their masks on.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Campbell got her own laughs when the winds shifted and the rest of her platoon got hit unprotected, including the drill sergeant who triggered her episode. See how it all went down in the Go90 video embedded at the top.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

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

Articles

This Disabled Veteran Describes His Scars Of War With Incredible Slam Poetry

Brian’s poem will give you perspective into how wide the civilian-military divide gap really is.


Related: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

On December 3, Brian’s mother posted a video of him reciting his poem on her Facebook wall. At the time of this writing, the video had been shared over 103,700 times. The video was intended to be shared with friends and family, but it had such a powerful effect that it was published to YouTube in order to mitigate comments to her Facebook account.

Brian delivers a powerful and sincere peek into his scars of war that were inspired by a grocery bagger’s clueless comments.

Clearly upset, he took to poetry to express his experience.

The video is very touching. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-CE69jv5EY

melanie fay/Youtube

We’ve transcribed Brian’s poem in case you can’t play it out loud:
The other night at the store, check out line with my wife

the bagger asked a question that cut with a knife.

He saw my beanie and tried to make conversation

asked me if I was a member by service or donation.

I looked at him and smiled, I’m used to small talk questions

said that I became a member after serving my nation.

I went to Iraq and to Stan played around did some time in the sand

and he responded with that patented, “oh thanks for your service man.”

Nothing else needed to be said, conversation through

but then he stepped back and looked at me from beanie to shoe.

He asked the question, I swear this is true

he looked at me again and asked, “well what’s wrong with you.”

Taken back by his question I quickly spout an answer, “that’s a little personal man”

then you won’t believe his candor.

“I’m sorry man I didn’t mean to offend,

just looking you over it looks like you have all your limbs”

I walked out the store angry but why?

That was a volatile observation by a dumbass guy

how could he see the blood behind these eyes.

I should have marched back in there and asked if he wanted to see all the scars.

Hey these seem to interest you

take a seat guy you’re about to need a tissue.

See my scars I don’t wear them on the surface of my skin

like most veterans the deepest scars are within.

Sound of screams of brothers dying

tears roll down from mothers crying

bullets hail and fly overhead

watch a bullet leave your best friends head.

Or the hands that I took hold

watched as the grip grew colder

maybe you want to hear about that time I had to shoot a child

or that other time I had to drag my brother’s body a quarter mile

just because I knew he’d be defiled.

See what you fail to understand is that no veteran ever comes back that whole of a man.

Whether it be limbs are gone or internal scars

we all search for answers at the bottom of glasses in the darkest of bars.

Who are you to ask what is wrong with me

are you now the wounded warrior judge and jury?

One thing I want to remind you kids, I’m not mad

as a matter of fact, your dumbass question made me glad.

My invisible injury, I wear with pride

it doesn’t matter that you don’t know my friends who died.

it doesn’t matter that when I go home you don’t see

that I could barely remember what I had to eat.

I also have brain damage you see

been through one too many explosions that shook my head

while you lay quietly at home sleeping in your bed.

And cause of blast of me flying through the air,

oh you want to see where I bounce… everywhere.

But its okay boy stand up let me brush you off

I know it’s impossible for you to understand the cost.

I see that tear, here’s that tissue

maybe next time you’ll just leave it at thank you.

But I didn’t do that, I just let it be

I couldn’t let someone’s ignorance violate me.

Instead I said no problem, don’t worry about it man

It’s something that takes time to understand.

So next time you see a vet don’t think you need to vet him

don’t look for stories of injuries like we all openly display them.

Don’t ask sh–t like, “did you kill anyone”

we share that sh–t when we want, boy don’t be dumb.

Again, I can say blame that those that ain’t been taught

but I will say, “dammit ain’t about time we stop living underneath a rock.”

I’m an American veteran been to Iraq and to Stan

yes I am disabled, no you don’t need to shake my hand.

Yes I’m slightly crazy but who wouldn’t be

just want to let you know exactly why you thank me.