color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: June 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Invisible Wounds: The Army Still Doesn’t Get It.

Let me start this rant with a little perspective.

Every year around the 4th of July, a local church group puts on a patriotic play or show right smack in the middle of the town on our courthouse square that celebrates the military.
This year’s program was prefaced with a song called “Letters from War” that (surprise!) made me tear up. I leaned to the DH and said, “You know, these days I don’t think too much about how we almost lost him, but this song has brought all that rushing back.” He said, “I think about it every day.”

My son’s physical wounds have healed, but invisible ones remain.

My son knows he has PTSD. I know my son has PTSD. The doctors know that he has PTSD. The Army knows he has PTSD. And the Army knows it affects his ability to perform his duties because after a number of tries to continue in the Army, they have determined that he cannot be retained because of his PTSD. To be as blunt as I can, my son has had a hard time of it. I have written many times (although at my son’s request not in as much detail as I’d like) of his depression, anxiety, anger, vigilance, insomnia, nightmares. Things that happened to him and things that happened to his friends in Iraq prey on his mind.

With continued and intensive counseling and drug therapy he has slowly progressed since his lengthy hospitalization last summer and fall. He is so much better than he was last year... but he is not cured. He must take medications every day to stay afloat. Just as insulin will not cure diabetes nor completely diminish the ravages of the disease, medications and counseling cannot cure his PTSD, although the medications allow him to manage his symptoms and get through the day. There are many treatments for PTSD; there is no cure. He now understands the symptoms and the condition and he deals with it as best he can. He has good days and bad days. He accepts that. He does not run to the doctor for every little episode, but he still has bad spells and he still wrestles with some aspect of his PTSD every single day. Trust me on this.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a close enough relationship with my son -- pre- and post deployment -- to tell you honestly that I worry if he will always be this “new” person. I wonder if I will ever hear my son laugh again; I can’t remember the last time he did. My “glass half full” son now lives with a glass turned upside down.

The deliberative, frugal son that went to war returned a spendthrift, married a girl he had known just weeks (although that seems to be working out very well - whew! Hugs & kisses to you M!!), and can’t decide from day to day what he should do with the rest of this day let alone after the Army.

The “can do” guy who always did "what I have to do before I do what I want to do” procrastinates doing tasks that he knows must be done until he has let some chore or situation become a calamity. He can't seem to marshall the "umph" he needs to do more than his job most days. That's not to say he is laying around in a drug-induced stupor. He's not. He just doesn't focus and achieve the way he did before.

The easy-going young man who so willingly served his country has an angry seam that is too easily irritated. He is quick to apologize and I know he is genuinely sorry… and distressed that he cannot understand why some days his anger is beyond his control and flashes at innocuous and unimportant things. Can you imagine how these “new” traits will translate to the work force?

So the doctors have determined he is unfit for duty and have pronounced him to be suffering from chronic PTSD. The Army acknowledges that his condition is a combat (Line of Duty) injury. They have said it affects his performance. They have a (legal) obligation to determine to what degree his PTSD will impact civilian job performance (without consideration for any other physical effects he may have suffered that have not impacted his ability to be a soldier.) After taking more than 3+ months to get the paperwork together, after losing his medical records (multiple times!), after neglecting to tell him that he could be simultaneously evaluated by the VA, the 48 pages of records were informally reviewed by a Medical Evaluation Board and they made a determination. Privacy (my son’s) won’t permit me to say what his informal [disability] rating was, but (in my opinion) my son is about to get shafted.

It seems apparent to me that the people charged with looking at these cases and making a "fair" determination of the impact of a soldier’s wounds STILL cannot fathom the significant impact PTSD (and TBI) have on the daily existence of soldiers. They still have the mindset that “if you can’t see the injury, there isn’t one.” If the medications are masking or decreasing the symptoms (they certainly don’t cure the injury), then you must be “better”. If you aren’t cutting your wrists, drinking yourself into oblivion, if you’re not attacking people or if you’re not wanting to stand in a bell tower with an AK-- you must be “better” or “ok”. If you cannot see a disability, there must not be one… or if there is one, it can't be much.

They would never consider telling a soldier with a prosthetic hand that he was doing “better” because, after all, he has a new hand and he responded to treatment. Nor tell a soldier with hearing now assisted by hearing aids that his treatment was working and he must be doing “OK” and therefore his wounds will have little impact on civilian performance. Just as the soldiers with visible injuries will be impacted by those injuries, so, too, are soldiers with the invisible kinds of wounds, including those with TBI -- who still can function, but not as well as they did before they went to war as is the case of another soldier we know.

None of these wounded soldiers will ever be whole. Their lives and future performance will be impacted and they should be justly compensated. But it’s not happening for guys like D with TBI or my son with PTSD and, I fear, too many others. Is it because the military doesn't want to admit the degree to which PTSD and TBI impact soldiers? Is it that they want to shift the monetary burden to the Veterans Administration? Or is it that they truly don’t -- or won't -- acknowledge this serious problem and do what is right?

It just boggles my mind that with all the attention and focus in the press and in Congress and at DoD on PTSD and TBI -- and after all the studies, recommendations, howling and shouting and all the press releases about how they take PTSD seriously and how they will care for these Wounded Warriors, that when the rubber meets the road, the Army still doesn’t get it.


Just so we're clear, this is MY rant and MY opinion. Like so many others, there is pressure on these soldiers to just take the rating and leave... eager to get on with a life in limbo and implications that any appeal would be fruitless 'cause no one listens anyway... and you can actually get a rating even lower if you ask for reconsideration. There is something wrong with this picture...


I recently came upon a MySpace account of a veteran who served with my son in OIF3... now you can watch for yourself (multiple camera angles!) the insurgents’ videos up of the VBIED attack "that day" in 2005; despite the "holy #$%!&" size of the explosion, there were no deaths and only D & N had injuries requiring more than a band-aid. (The Arabic chanting and soundtrack are annoying, but it’s worth leaving the sound on.) That is where my journey as Some Soldier’s Mom got REALLY interesting (ok, maybe interesting is not exactly the word I’d have used two years ago…) The journey continues.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Damnit. Velvet Hammer

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died June 23 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when their unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small arms fire. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Michael D. Moody Jr., 31, of Richmond, Va.

Sgt. Chris Davis, 35, of Lubbock, Texas.

Pvt. Shane M. Stinson, 23, of Fullerton, Calif.

Rest in Peace, you good and faithful servants.
Noah's battalion/regiment has been in a comm blackout most of this past week (as they are now)... they have suffered some losses. Details when I'm certain the families have been notified. Please keep our soldiers and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Other units of the BCT have suffered losses:
On the 24th of June I was notified by LTC Q (3rd Brigade Rear-Detachment Commander) that our Battalion has suffered the loss of a Soldier from D/1-15 Infantry. The Soldier lost his life while conducting combat operations in Iraq. The next of kin of our fallen Soldier have been notified. I ask you for your prayers for this Sledgehammer Soldier and his Family.
Respectfully, CPT M 1-15 Rear Detachment Commander

Three from the 1-15:
Sgt. Glenn D. Hicks Jr., 24, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Pfc. Jay-D H. Ornsby-Adkins, 21, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Pvt. Cole E. Spencer, 21, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

Our 3ID family is mourning... and praying.


Monday, June 25, 2007

More News & Opinion

Michael Yon -- our intrepid boy reporter - is still in Baqubah and has riveting details of Operation Arrow Ripper. His reporting from Iraq continues to be a MUST READ for anyone interested in what's REALLY going on there (and should be required reading for Carl Levin, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et al.!)
Media reports indicating that many top leaders escaped before Arrowhead Ripper began appear to be mostly true. But other information suggests some AQI leaders are trapped just down the road from where I write. In addition to the seven men who were caught trying to escape while dressed as women, there is information that some AQI leaders remain trapped in a constricting cordon.
Be sure to read "Drilling for Justice" (and everyone please send it to your elected representatives in Washington, DC regardless of political affiliation or intelectual capacity... or maybe those are one & the same?)

Pete Hegseth, an Iraq War veteran and executive director of Vets for Freedom has an editorial today in the Washington Post in response to Carl Levin's OpEd piece last week.
In his op-ed, Sen. Levin invoked the example of Abraham Lincoln, who endured years of challenges before finding the right generals and strategy to win the Civil War. After four years of uncertainty in Iraq, America finally has both the general and the strategy to turn the tide. The question is whether 2007 will unfold like 1865 or 1969.

And someone should remind the Congress that this is what we're fighting [against]:
Iran’s state telecommunications company is offering rewards to citizens who turn in their neighbors for sending or receiving “immoral” messages on their cell phones, according to a report in The News International. -- FoxNews

Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had tarnished its name here by publicly attacking and murdering children, videotaping beheadings, all while imposing harsh punishments on Iraqi civilians found guilty of violating morality laws prohibiting activities like smoking. The AQI installed Sharia court had sanctioned the amputation of the two “smoking fingers” for those who violated anti-smoking laws. --
Michael Yon

Other AQI edicts included beatings for men who refused to grow beards, and corporal punishments for obscene sexual suggestiveness, defined by such “loose” behavior as carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag. -- Michael Yon

Militants will continue to target Westerners on the streets of Indonesia as they fight to impose full Islamic law, an accused terror leader told CNN. -- CNN

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our Guys Want to Kill Them, and That's the Plan.

If you really want to know what's going on in Iraq, GO READ THIS. It's from Michael Yon.

Our guys are tough. The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. That’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan.
Bookmark his site and check it every day. Go back and read what he wrote yesterday and the day before that and before that. He is in the thick of it in Baqubah. If you REALLY want to know, go. Read.

And just so you know: Michael Yon does not receive funding or financial support from Fox News, movie, book or television deals at this time. He is entirely reader supported. He relies on his readers to help him replace his equipment and cover his expenses so that he may remain in Iraq and bring you the stories of our soldiers. If you value his work, please consider supporting his mission. I do.
Michael Yon's regular address is: P. O. Box 416, Westport Pt MA 02791

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day (for REAL!) for a 3ID Soldier

The following is a "dialog" from a private support site for 3rd Infantry Division families. "Donna" is the Gramma-to-be -- Saturday to Father's Day...

6/16/07 10:21AM

Hello. My daughter called at 4 AM. She is now at the hosp, getting tests and monitored. Her contractions are sparse... Maybe I will be Gramma later today, maybe not. Please remember her in Prayer -- Donna

6/16/07 12:47PM
OK.. here is the scoop. After Dr 1 says she is staying, Dr 2 sends her home, LOL, par for the course. I told her that staying home as LONG as possible is the best way to go. But she is ready to get this baby OUT. How well I remember!! I told her pay back is hell. (She is having back labor) Thanks all. -- Donna

6/16/07 10:38PM
Hi there. She is back at the hosp now... waiting to hear what the Dr says. We were timing her contractions over the phone and they were 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. (this is her first baby and she did not do Lamaze). So I asked if she felt the urge to push, and she said no, but I need to go to the bathroom. I said, "call the Dr. that's the urge to push!!" I wish I could be there. --Donna And its a girl!!

6/17/07 12:40AM
Hello. She is still there, in labor and as soon as I hear something new I will post. Wish I could be there!! -- Donna

6/17/07 1:28AM
I think she is in for a long night... she sounded a bit loopy last phone call. They had given her something for the pain. They have not checked for dilation for a bit. I will update later when I hear more. -- Donna

6/17/07 11:58AM
Hi again. Its Sun. AM and she is 5 cm. Getting an epi soon. They are predicting this afternoon. I wish I could be with her. --Donna

6/17/07 2:18PM
She is at 8 cm now, and has her epi. So, by 1 pm or so I figure Gabby will fall out. [The baby's name is] Gabrielle Renee. -- Donna

6/17/07 3:14PM
OK, now she is pushing so It will be SOON. I am so excited!! I will be a Gramma!! --Donna

6/17/07 6:28PM
Hallelujah! 7 lbs 14 oz. 21 inches... and her husband was on the phone for the delivery... from Iraq.... now I can cry. --Donna

We all got teary-eyed... I always say it's hard to be a Soldier's Mom, but it's hard to be a Soldier's Wife, too.

Donna reports that Mom and babe are doing well. She is eager to see this little miracle... and she was thrilled that the Dad got to be on the phone... the nurse described everything, as her daughter was working very hard at the time!!

Welcome little Gabrielle and Congrats to the new Mom & Dad -- and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY -- FOR REAL!

Friday, June 15, 2007

DoD Receives Mental Health Task Force Results

I have a soldier son who has severe, chronic PTSD. I am someone who has had a heavy involvement in the past 2+ years with the DoD Mental Healthcare System, and I have a more than average knowledge of the topics covered within this report. Nothing here is a surprise to me -- but don't get me wrong: I am and will remain eternally grateful that they are asking the questions and recommending corrections, even if my son will have left the service by the time any of the recommendations are implemented. However, anything that will improve the care and services available to our military and their families will help to strengthen our military and, therefor, our Nation.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in or affected by the mental health of our service members take the time to read the 100 pages of this report and the recommendations. It is a thorough and exhaustive look at the problems of the system... but the proof is in the puddin'. Given the breadth of these recommendations (each of which will cost $$$), it will be interesting to see just how committed to this DoD and Congress -- and the American public -- really are. As you will see from my comments and personal experiences noted in red below, none of the findings is a surprise to me.

DoD Receives Mental Health Task Force Results

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health results and forwarded them to the Congress on June 14. The department will have six months to develop and implement a corrective action plan.

"This report points to significant shortfalls in achieving goals and taking care of our service members and their families," said Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "We will continue to address the need for mental health care in order to reinforce our commitment to providing the best care in the world to our service members and their families who deserve no less."

Significant findings include:

  • Mental health care stigma remains pervasive and is a significant barrier to care.
  • This is not just with those needing care, but with the senior enlisted who still maintain the "suck it up and drive on" mentality. Note to NCOs: soldiers with PTSD do not negatively reflect on you. Harassing, name-calling, belittling and demoting those who seek help for their combat stress and PTSD does reflect badly on you. NCOs should be held accountable when service members obviously needing or requesting assistance do not receive it. I know that NCOs can not "make" a soldier receive treatment he/she does not want, but many more soldiers would seek counseling much earlier if they knew it was "OK" with the Sarge. I never should have to hear (from many soldiers) that "they treat wife beaters better [in the PLT/CO] than guys being treated for PTSD."

  • Mental health professionals are not sufficiently accessible to service members and their families.
  • 13 in-patient beds at an Army base with 40,000 active duty/reserve personnel serving a 4th deployment in combat and a service community of an additional 100,000 contractors and family members should be judged criminal. The use of civilian-contracted facilities should be closely reviewed for competence and effectiveness. Every base should have a 24 hour emergency/crisis center or hotline. Service members and their family members should not have to seek a "referral" from their PCP to seek counseling in crisis -- nor should they have to wait weeks to see the PCP for the referral.

  • There are significant gaps in the continuum of care for psychological health.
  • Service personnel should not have to ask "permission" to atttend couseling or seek help for mental health issues. Treatment for combat stress or PTSD which has been diagnosed by a competent mental health professional should not be "optional". It should be mandatory.

  • The military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict.
  • [See comments, above and below.]

    Implementation of recommendations and remedies to support our service members has already begun, to include:

  • Military services have established dozens of deployment health clinics around the country.
  • Just dozens?? OK... it's a start.

  • Mental health providers have been embedded in line units in Iraq and Afghanistan to perform initial treatment for combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • I'd like to see some data or feedback as to whether these have been effective -- from both the soldiers' and command's perspectives.

  • Service members are receiving additional mental health training to de-stigmatize when they need to reach out for help.
  • Special training on de-stigmatizing needs to be given to NCOs and the PAs who are apt to tell those seeking help that the soldier's career "will be over" if they accept help. I know that not every NCO is a "bad guy" but I did not meet one in my interactions that did not in some way minimize the effects of PTSD. They all talked the talk... didn't see a whole lot of walking.

  • The services are currently proactively exploring options to adequately resource their mental health care providers.
  • What the hell does, "adequately resource their mental health care providers" mean? They need more counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists. And they need to pay more to those serving and to attract qualified individuals to this service. Tricare needs to increase the rate paid to private providers so long as there is a shortage of mental health care providers within the service communities. I have been informed that additional "beds" could easily be available in military hospitals -- but there are staffing limits ("head counts") that prevent hospital admins from staffing those needed beds. I don't know what the cost of providing mental health services is in military facilities -- but I am told that the outsourced cost is approximately $1,000 PER DAY PER SERVICE MEMBER... and you just KNOW the cost is less in-house.

    "I want to thank the members of the task force, the Congress, and especially our medical personnel who have been working so hard to provide compassionate care to our service members with the resources they have been given," Casscells said.
    Me, too. Thank you all.

    The Task Force on Mental Health was congressionally directed and organized in June 2006 to assess and recommend actions for improving the efficacy of mental health services provided to service members and their families. It includes seven DoD members and seven non-DoD members.

    The report can be viewed on the health affairs Web site at

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Bzzzzzzy Bzzzzzzzy Bzzzzzy

    Unpacking... sorting... cleaning... organizing... up to my eyeballs in MEB, MMRB, PEB, PEBLO, DVA, VASRD, USAPDA, AR635-40, AR40-501... it's a whole new vocabulary.

    Also looking at some things... Can anyone tell me why someone with the following TBI screening responses has symptoms that according to some in the Army are insufficient to warrant additional screening?? And why this failure cannot be raised in the context of a PEB?

    First picture of our next grandchild... Cute already, I can tell (grin)

    Happy Birthday to the US Army (HOOAH!!) and Salute our Flag which flies with immense pride at our home 24/7/365. Hugs & love to Vinny & Robert... goodies are in the mail!


    I also like this from Wikipedia:

    The American's Creed is the official creed of the United States of America. It was written in 1917 by William Tyler Page as an entry into a patriotic contest. It was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives the next year.

    The text of the American's Creed is:

    I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the People, by the People, for the People; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; A democracy in a republic, a sovereign Nation of many Sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Humanity for which American Patriots sacrificed their Lives and Fortunes.

    I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to Love it; to Support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to Respect its Flag; and to defend it against all enemies.

    In closing, this from Arizona History: June 14, 1882:

    And these things we demand of all politicians to take office: That thieving carpet-baggers must cease plundering the people of the South, and that savage Indians will not be shielded from punishment for crimes committed upon American citizens. The fierce passions engendered by the war, which have been fed to good purpose for foul objects, will be allayed, the 'Ship of State' will glide smoothly along.

    Seems if we change a few words and we're still talking today...

    Copyright 2007 Some Soldier's Mom. All rights reserved.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Home... and Waiting (Updated)

    Finally home in AZ after months away... Noah tells me that some of the soldiers in his unit have been wounded... we're waiting word. The waiting sucks...

    Please keep our soldiers in your thoughts and prayers.

    6/12/07 update: 11 were wounded: 8 returned to duty, 3 receiving additional care... whew. I think. Don't know if any of "Our Guys" are in the 8 RTD, but we know they are not among the 3 others. Praying for speedy recoveries for all.