We All Face Challenges

Atop the mountainMy husband doesn’t really enjoy accolades and he’ll tell you that he doesn’t handle compliments very well, to which I respond, “Get over it, because in this family you’re going to get both!” 🙂 This week my husband joined a group of 14 other combat veterans to participate in the Save a Warrior Project hosted here in Kentucky! For those of you who have not heard of this program, in a nutshell it is basically an awesome, tried & proven PTSD Detox program…

POW-MIA Recognition Ceremony

Military Missions has had the honor and privilege of participating in the POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony held at the Leestown Road Campus of the Lexington VA Medical Center for the past three years.    Asked to provide desserts, we had an abundance of food and our veterans and their families were amazed at the outpouring of support from our community.

We have been asked to provide desserts again this year and assist with serving lunch to these courageous veterans and their family members.

The ceremony will take place this Friday, September 21, 2012, at the VA Medical Center located at 2250 Leestown Road, Lexington, Kentucky.

We are looking for volunteers to help during the event, as well as volunteers who would be willing to provide a dessert.

EVENT VOLUNTEERS:

The ceremony begins at 10:30.  We have been asked to arrive by 9:30 am.  Your help will be needed until approximately 1:00 pm.   Please send an email to Ginny at volunteer@military-missions.org.  Include your contact information such as cell phone number so we can contact you on the day of the event if there is a need to do so.

If you are also planning to bring a dessert item with you on the day of the event, please indicate this information in your email when you sign up for the event.

DESSERT VOLUNTEERS:

If you can not attend the event, but would like to help by donating a dessert item, please send an email to Ginny at volunteer@military-missions.org.  Let us know which dessert you are planning to donate.

Desserts can be dropped off at our office at Millpond Center, 3650 Boston Rd., Suite 146, Lexington, KY,  on Thursday, September 20, between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM or dropped of directly at the VA Medical Center’s Leestown Road Campus on the morning of the event anytime after 9:00 AM.

SUGGESTIONS:

*Please try to donate items in disposable containers.

*Include a serving utensil for your dessert.

*If containers are not disposable, please mark items with your name.

*Slice items, such as cakes, prior to drop off.

*This event is outside. Please do not bring items which need to remain refrigerated prior to being served.

Thank you for supporting our veterans and honoring our POW’s.

Reboot-Refresh: Invisible Wounds Support Group

 

This month, Reboot-Refresh is taking a “field trip”.  We have found out that the documentary, Hell and Back Again, will be coming to Lexington, Kentucky, for one night only. Since the documentary is being presented at the same time we normally meet, we have decided to attend the showing of Hell and Back Again, and then meet afterwards to discuss the film.

We hope you will join us. Here are the details:

The movie is 90 minutes. It is being shown at LexArts, 161 N. Mill Street, Lexington, 40507.  It is free and open to the public. It is being presented by KET as part of the ITVS nationwide Community Cinema program.  We will meet in front of LexArts at 6:00 pm, Thursday, April 19.

Here is some information about our Invisible Wounds Care Group, Reboot-Refresh.   We meet on the third Thursday of each month.  We meet at Southland Christian Church, in Room B133.

Our focus is to support one another and learn to help one another through life after combat.  Many of us are playing a role of primary support for someone who has served in combat at some point in their past.

If you know your loved one is dealing with PTSD or a mild TBI, this group is for you.  If your loved one doesn’t have a diagnosis, but you know life is simply not the same anymore since their return from war, this group is for you.  Statistically, at least 20% of returning troops will have PTSD.  Realistically, everyone who serves will come back changed.

PTSD carries a stigma that we don’t speak of outside our homes. The symptomatic behaviors are often nothing to brag about and we prefer to keep problems to ourselves, hoping and praying that the situation will resolve itself in time. Thousands of veterans return home from war finding themselves unable to fit back into society. These men and women now face a battle on the homefront which can result in broken relationships, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, and suicide.

Even if your loved one is seeking treatment, there is much that we, as caregivers, need to learn so that we can help our loved one work towards health and healing.  Often times, our emotional reaction to what is happening will make the situation far worse.  You may even find that you are exhibiting symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress and you probably feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to how to get any help for yourself.

We are not experts, but we are survivors.  The purpose of this care group is to provide a safe atmosphere in which participants can share their hearts and their struggles. We have all experienced the spiritual, mental, and emotional battles that come with supporting and loving a combat veteran living with war’s invisible wounds.

We welcome anyone who has already walked this path in supporting a combat veteran.  You can show us some of the lessons and techniques you have learned and teach us to be a better support for our own combat veteran.

If you are a veteran who is willing to share your perspective about living with PTSD, we would welcome your participation and suggestions for helping family members learn to be a better support for their combat veteran.

If you are the parent, spouse, family member, or close friend to one of our nation’s veterans suffering with PTSD and TBI, we hope you will join us on the first and third Thursday nights of each month.  The group will meet monthly, on the third Thursday evening of the month from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.  Childcare is provided.  We will be meeting at Southland Christian Church, Room B133, located at 5001 Harrodsburg Rd., Nicholasville, KY For driving directions, click here.  For a building map, click here.

If you have any questions, please contact Beth at beth@military-missions.org.

Ask Dr Diaz about Secondary PTSD

Military Missions and Voice of Warriors join together each Tuesday night at 7:00 pm to bring you VOW Talk Radio.

When men and women return from combat, family members step up to care for them.  With ten years of war, thousands are returning home with Post Traumatic Stress.  When PTSD is brought into the home, the family is going to be directly affected.  Many family members find themselves experiencing their own symptoms of what is known as Secondary PTSD.

Dr. Rolando Diaz  joins VOW Talk Radio on Tuesday, April 10, at 7:00 pm (EDT) to answer your questions about Secondary PTSD.  Dr. Diaz, a Give an Hour provider, and clinical psychologist with an independent practice in Arlington, Virginia, joins our show on the second Tuesday of each month to answer your questions about surviving life after combat.

Dr. Diaz will be clarifying the distinction between true PTSD, secondary experiences that are tied to the trauma that the service member experienced (e.g., a wife having nightmares of her husband’s accident), and the experiences that result from living with someone with PTSD.  All of these get labeled the same way but represent very different circumstances and need different treatment approaches.

Listen live by clicking here or calling the show at 424-258-9240. Don’t forget to join our live chat during the show.

Signs and symptoms that may indicate Secondary PTSD

  • The survivor may lose interest in family or intimate activities and may become emotionally isolated or detached.  Family members may feel hurt, alienated, frustrated and discouraged.
  • The survivor may exhibit behaviors that indicate he is irritable, tense, anxious, worried, distractible, startled, enraged, controlling, overprotective, and demanding. Family members may feel like they live in a war zone, often reacting in anger, or purposely distancing themselves from the trauma survivor.
  • Even if the trauma occurred decades ago, the survivor may act feel as if the trauma is still happening.  Family members may also feel as if their secondary trauma is still happening.  As time passes, the family may begin to avoid activities with others, and become isolated from friends outside the family.  They may feel that no one outside the family could possibly understand their situation.
  • The trauma survivor often feels there is no future for which to look forward. Family members may find it very difficult to have a cooperative discussion with the survivor about important plans and decisions for the future.
  • The survivor may have difficulty listening and concentrating. He may become easily distracted, tense, or anxious. He may become hyper vigilant, displaying angry and overly suspicious behavior toward family members. The trauma survivor may become fearful about problems becoming terrible catastrophes. As well, the family may find it difficult to discuss personal or family problems because the survivor may become controlling, demanding, overprotective, and anxious.
  • Family members may become over involved with the lives of healthy family members due to need for positive emotional feedback, or they may ignore the healthy members of the family giving all of their attention to the trauma survivor.
  • Family members may find their sleep disrupted by the survivor’s sleep problems (reluctance to sleep at night, restlessness, severe nightmares or episodes of violent sleepwalking).  Family members also often find themselves having terrifying nightmares, leading to a fear of going to sleep, or difficulty getting a restful night’s sleep.
  • Ordinary activities, such as shopping, driving or attending a movie may trigger traumatic memories and flashbacks throwing one into “survival mode” suddenly and without explanation.  The survivor may shut down emotionally, or leave abruptly leaving family members feeling stranded, helpless, and worried.
  • Trauma survivors with PTSD often struggle with intense anger or rage and often have difficulty coping with the impulse to lash out verbally or physically. Family members can easily feel frightened and betrayed by the survivor, despite feeling love and concern for their loved one.
  • Family members are also frequently exposed to emotional, financial, and domestic problems. Survivors experiencing PTSD may seek relief and escape with alcohol or other drugs.  Addictive behaviors such as gambling and eating disorders are common.  Addictions offer false hope to the survivor by seeming to help for a short time.  Soon these addictions increase the fear, anxiety, tension, anger and emotional numbness which go hand in hand with PTSD.
  • When suicide is a danger, family members face the unavoidable strains of worry, guilt, grief, fear, and anger.

Legacy of Service

Not only will this little one grow up to realize that he lives in a free nation, but he will know that it is because of brave men like his daddy who serve and sacrifice for all of us. Military children have the privilege of being American citizens and the honor of knowing their parents are the ones who make it a reality for all of us.

Reflections of my Post 9.11 World

We all live in a Post 9/11 world where life will never be the same for any of us.  We all remember what we were doing ten years ago on that fateful day, at the very moment when we first heard the news of the planes hitting the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 went crashing into the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Click here to watch the podcast or go to the bottom of this page.

We are now a nation at war ten years, and we’ve come to expect long security lines at airports where bags are searched and nail clippers, now classified as dangerous weapons, are confiscated. Do you remember the Homeland Security Advisory System? Do you remember what all those colors were supposed to tell us? We don’t even use it anymore because it was used too frequently, never really meant anything, and we simply began to ignore it.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 comes to pass, and I reflect back on how that moment in time has come to change us all, I realize that it isn’t just those who lost a family member on that fateful day who now live differently, and it isn’t just the mundane rituals we endure at the airport that affect each of us.

As with many other American families, the changes that have taken place in my family member’s lives are significant because I know as sure as I’m standing here, that if that fateful day had never taken place, I would not be spending my days doing what I now do.  I honestly have no idea what I might be doing if September 11, 2001, had been just another ordinary day, because all that I was doing then, is now just a distant memory.

It has occurred to me that perhaps I need to try to remember back to what I was doing on September 10, 2001. I don’t have a clue what the specifics were for that day, but if I had known that September 11, would redefine the lives of each one in my family,  I would have certainly made more of a mental note of the day’s events.

Ten years ago, I was still teaching. I had left the classroom and was home educating my two youngest sons, who were at that time, ages 7 and 9.  My oldest son, age 15, was attending the local public high school. Our family was caught up in fall baseball, Tae Kwon Do tournaments, and learning as much as we could about our Christian American history.

I was fascinated by all that I had never been taught about history in my public school upbringing, and as I taught my children, we found that we were becoming very passionate patriotic people.  We were in awe of the government that had been set up, and the great men who had founded this nation. We were enjoying our freedoms given to us by those who have made sacrifices in the past, and I’m embarrassed to say that we simply took it all for granted.

And then, in an instant, our innocence was gone. For the first time in our lives, we were frightened, confused, grief stricken, and unsure of what was happening to our safe and free nation.

I know my oldest son was always planning to go into the military, but it never really sunk in because we weren’t at war and he was just a kid. My plan for him to go to college was the only thing on my mind, and when he decided to enlist two years after the events of September 11th took place, I was determined to talk him out of it.  I never once pictured myself as the mother of a United States Marine deployed to a war zone. I couldn’t imagine it, but one day I woke up and found that to be my reality.

I never thought that in sending care packages to those in my son’s Marine unit, I would find myself, seven years later, running a nonprofit organization which supports our troops, our veterans, and their families, but that is in fact, what I do every day.

When my husband and I decided to bring three children into the world, we never once imagined even one of our precious boys would live through the horrors of war, watch friends die, and come home as a disabled combat veteran.

I would have never guessed that, though my son was home from war, that the real battle was just beginning for our family.  Though I managed to survive three combat deployments here on the homefront, I feared for my son’s life more now, because he was stuck in a deplorable health care system which continues to produce unemployed, homeless veterans, high suicide rates, and staggering statistics for broken families.

Ten years ago, I could not have ever imagined myself as an advocate for wounded warriors. I would have laughed if you told me I would stand up against the highest ranks in the military, work side by side with congressional leaders, and that a Department of Defense Inspector General’s team would fly to Lexington, Kentucky, just to spend four days interviewing little old me, a mom to three boys.  Who would have thought that all of my note taking and letter writing would have actually come to make a difference in the lives of our wounded warriors.

Always having been more of an introvert, I would have never dreamed, in a million years, that I would start writing blogs that would grab the attention of national news media.  I barely had the nerve to post my opinion on the world wide web, and yet dishing out a piece of my mind began to have an impact.  Even more out of character is the fact that I now get up and speak in front of groups of people, do local television interviews, and host an internet radio show, but God has put the opportunities in front of me whether I want them or not, and He has put the words in my mouth to help Him make a difference in this Post 9/11 World.  He has empowered me to get up and do things that I would have never considered, even in my wildest dreams.

I’ve learned a lot more about that government that I was once so impressed by, and I’ve learned that the world is not a very nice place.  I have found that I am no longer naive. There has been a lot of pain and hurt in our lives over the past ten years. I’ve been to more military funerals than I care to count, including some for those who saw suicide as their only option.  I’ve got too many friends who have buried their children because of this war, and I’ve met too many veterans who are disabled, homeless, hopeless, and unappreciated.

I’ve watched the past decade take my innocent 15 year old boy, drag him through combat three times, and turn him into a hurt and frustrated man who served his country and feels that he is now all but forgotten.

Looking back, I realize that while my life has changed in a dramatic way, and I feel so changed by the past ten years, I also realize that maybe I’m not so different after all.  I was a full time mom back then, and my job called for me to teach my children and be the best team mom and wife in town.  I never really stopped being a mom.  I just ended up adopting a lot more kids along the way who happened to be wearing the uniform of the United States military.

If you haven’t taken some time to think about how this Post 9/11 World has changed your life in a personal way, I suggest you take a few moments to consider its impact. You might be as surprised, as I was, to realize that one moment in time can truly redefine each one of us in a remarkable way.

As for my family and me, we could be bitter and broken by this cruel path we have been forced to walk, but I’m grateful that we haven’t let this Post 9/11 World steal our joy.  We will keep moving forward, one day at a time. We will continue to give thanks that we haven’t had to make the same sacrifices which other families have been forced to make, and we will continue to step out and help those who need our support.  We can’t go back to that innocent world we lived in on September 10, 2001, but we can move forward and make the best out of the world we live in now.

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