Monday, August 20, 2007

Ignoring increased risk of PTSD in redeployments at our peril

Forgive me for posting this all over the place. I don't like to do this. I've been invited to post here and on a few other blogs. Up until now, I've been reluctant to repost, however this situation demands it. This has dropped off the media's attention and no one talking about this now. The increased suicides and attempts are a direct cause from the redeployments. Here is something else that you need to remember.

While the number of amputations are double the number from all other wars,

Nothing so gleaming exists for soldiers with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, who in the Army alone outnumber all of the war's amputees by 43 to 1.
Washington Post
June 18, 2007

Ignoring increased risk of PTSD in redeployments at our peril

by Kathie Costos

Repeat Iraq Tours Raise Risk of PTSD, Army Finds

By Ann Scott Tyson

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 20, 2006; Page A19

U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely than those with one tour to suffer from acute combat stress, raising their risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Army's first survey exploring how today's multiple war-zone rotations affect soldiers' mental health........

Searching for quotes for a new video, I kept finding the report of the increased risk associated with redeployments missing in action. Why? How could a report like this drop off the reports on PTSD when so many of them are coming out? Is this no longer important to the media considering some are on their fifth tour right now? How could they just drop this from their attention?

Easy. It does not fit in with the illusion of the "all volunteer" Army, the Marines, the Air Force or the National Guard. Think about it. Bush keeps saying "well their all volunteers" and this paints a picture in our minds that these men and women have no issues about going back over and over again. It paints a picture of everyone happily carrying out his orders.

We are sending back seriously wounded people. We need to remember they are people. Humans not machines of war. What do you see when you look into their eyes? If they have PTSD, you see a person haunted. It is deeper than being tired. Deeper than being homesick. Deeper than personal issues back home. All of these things are insignificant to what is behind those eyes. It is not something to mess around with. It is not something to ignore any more than it is something to treat with some pills, pat them on the head and send them back to be traumatized all over again.

They may have walked away from the first deployment without PTSD. They may have walked away from the second. Perhaps even the third but the odds are a lot greater they brought the combat back home with them as surely as they did their duffel bag. They are being forced to play a game of Russian roulette with their minds and their lives. Every time they go back, the risk of PTSD is 50% greater to them. Yet as the media have been reluctant to report on this crisis, the report drops off to the distant memories of the people getting the air time on cable news. You certainly won't hear any of the people supporting Bush's delusion discussing it.

The next time you hear any more figures, usually low balled, remember why the numbers are going up and then keep in mind, sometimes they won't show signs of PTSD until years later. Where will the reporters be then? Remember when they came home from Vietnam and the media ignored their problems. Less than ten years later, local newspapers were reporting on them in the obituary pages and the crime logs. Twenty years later they were reporting still in these sections but then occasionally finding the compassion to report on the homelessness of Vietnam Veterans. If we do nothing right now, if we do not keep the attention of the media right where it needs to be so that they are taken care of, how many of them will they be reporting on in the obituary pages and the crime logs ten years from now? Five years from now? Later on this year? How many families will pay the price as they watch someone they love helplessly fall apart and die a slow death? How many of them will come home one day and find they were actually a fatality of combat long after they stopped wearing their uniform?

Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington


RoseCovered Glasses said...

In 1968, I came home from serving two US Army tours in Vietnam, having been awarded five medals, including a Bronze Star. During my second tour I acquired post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Treatment would not become available for either ailment until the mid to late 1970's. Returning to the University of Minnesota at Morris, I found that most of my former classmates were either facing the military draft or were violently against the war. I was not their favorite person.

Moving to Minneapolis, I began a career in the Military Industrial Complex that would span over three decades. I thought that through working on defense systems, I could contribute to weapons that the next generation would take to war. Given a clearly defined mission and the best armaments and systems in the world, I believed that another Vietnam could be avoided for the American soldier. In pursuit of this goal I participated in the design, development and production of 25 large scale weapons systems under federal government and foreign military sales contracts. I worked in several different disciplines for the companies that produced these weapons, negotiating and controlling the associated contracts with procurement agencies in the US armed forces and in 16 allied countries. I found that accepting extreme challenges and succeeding at them became a way to displace PTSD and elevate depressive moods. For extended periods of time this method of self-management led to a satisfying, although somewhat adventurous and diversified life until I was forced by illness to retire in 2005. My last 11 years were spent with defense companies in Washington D.C.

I came to know many of the career military and civil servants who managed the government procurement process and their industrial counterparts. These individuals never went away, regardless of elections or politics. They developed the alternatives from which elected officials must choose. The American Public rarely heard from these powerful insiders, while the insiders slanted the choices supplied to elected officials in a self-perpetuating manner. I recognized the mirror image way in which procuring agencies and defense contractors organized their operations on the largest systems acquisitions. Key executives regularly moved back and forth between government and industry. I often observed the short, happy life of a defense company program manager. Appointed by the powerful insiders to head a single project, he had no authority over company resources, he perpetually competed with other program managers for the same talent pool and he always took the heat from management when things did not go well. His counterpart in the government quarters had similar experiences.

I was pleased to work on weapons systems in support of Operation Desert Storm, which had a clearly defined mission to liberate a small country from an aggressor. We accomplished that mission utilizing the best arms in the world. Unfortunately, we did not leave the area. The lessons of Vietnam have not been remembered and once again political factors govern our presence in several countries. The enemy has grown to become a formidable force, cable of striking without notice even within our own country. He threatens the world economy with violent disruptions in several domains at the same time. He is a product of our own creation, rebelling against the "US Police Force" with help from neighbors who play either benign or active roles. Our enemy knows his neighborhood far better than we do. US intelligence and military capabilities are strained to the maximum monitoring perceived hot spots all over the globe. We must face the fact that our long term presence in other countries is resented.

How much longer can we afford to be the "World's Policeman"? We are spending over $600B per year for defense, homeland security and nation building. Investments we are making in developing new democracies are draining our domestic programs such as health care, stifling the education of our young people and limiting research and development in valuable commercial technologies. The largest corporations selling weapons and associated support to our government are no more than extensions of our government in the cloak of industry. They are not in the business of making money for the stockholder. They are in the business of spending money for the Pentagon and the Intelligence Agencies.

My odyssey was driven by a need to manage illnesses acquired in warfare. I found a way to deal with the maladies for years by spreading myself thin and accepting every new challenge. I thrilled at success and moved on after defeat, pursuing a misguided goal. Out of necessity I have now been forced to look inward, wind down to a smaller perspective, take care of my health and begin serving the little guy.

Perhaps it is time for our country to consider a similar transition.

Jan M. Milligan said...

Isn't it amazing, we have the treatment for Migraine, a malaise you cannot see but accept it is painful.
We have the treatment for women's menstrual cramps, again, something you cannot see but know they exists. We even have a label and treatment for we women's monthly temper tantrums and yet, the military hierarchy willingly send our men back into theatre knowing that PTSD exists; but, because there is a war on and the recruitment figures are low, it suddenly becomes low priority.

I respectfully suggest the Hierarchy takes notice, if a soldier suffering from PTSD does not kill himself he will kill someone else....not in theatre. Who will carry the blame should such a scenario happen....the poor soldier of course and not the ones who should....the Military Hierarchy who closed their eyes and set a killer loose on our streets. Law Enforcement are not going to stop and ask when faced with an armed gunman "Eh, are you a soldier suffering from PTSD" are they?

Law Enforcement will shoot first and ask questions later and our total of war victims out of theatre will rise and continue to do so for many years to come. All because someone in the Pentagon failed in their duty of care to acknowledge PTSD is just as if not worse than a bullet wound.

Anonymous said...