The number “22” is quickly becoming an iconic number. Especially among those of us whom have served during this time of war for our nation. The number 22 has come to remind me of the devastating loss of possibly the best human beings I have ever had the ability to even be around, let alone live with, sweat, bleed, and cry with. More Soldiers have died by our own hands, than the enemy has even come close to achieving through direct combat action in the 14 years of war we have endured.
The causes for our Soldiers could be attributed to many things. One of the biggest things I personally think is a contributing factor, is what we expect of our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen is just the vast expanse of rolls we expect them to perform. Focusing primarily on the foot soldiers that are on the ground inside the combat zones, we expect them to execute their job’s of bringing death to the enemy with extreme prejudice, and efficiency. We then as a society expect them to literally flip the light switch sometimes within seconds of bringing death and destruction to the enemy, to becoming “ an ambassador” of the American people.
The case in point that received national attention was a few years back when some young junior enlisted Marines got reprimanded (fairly harshly I might add) because they “relieved themselves” on the corpse of their enemy. There was another case where a Platoon Sergeant (PSG) , whom had just fought through an ambush initiated by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), was still dealing with the friendly wounded and dead, an unidentified car with busted out suspension rolled up to the scene. Fearing a secondary attack, the PSG ordered his men to engage the vehicle. Killing the occupants inside. It was later discovered that the vehicle’s occupants contained a doctor and his family whom had stopped to offer assistance ( so goes the story anyway). The PSG was “extradited” to Germany to face court martial. Though I believe the case was thrown out, it goes to show the extreme circumstance we expect our Soldiers to perform, and the extreme threats to ones career/life if they make a “wrong” decision in the heat of battle.
Despite the litany of things that could be attributed to the depression, and PTSD epidemic that is ravaging our ranks, there is a theory that with proper mental health treatment some relief could be granted to these soldiers who are fighting the demons that have manifested inside their heads. The first step would be diagnosis, without the diagnosis its hard to know if you have PTSD. In my case, I knew I was easily enraged by incompetence, and when my body finally does an “emergency system shut-down” from lack of sleep ( insomnia), I get the Night Terrors. But PTSD didn’t even occur to me. Once diagnosed the next step would be treatment. And here we get into the rabbit hole that has claimed so many lives.
A year or two ago, News reports started to come in of Soldiers who had died due to the caucophony of narcotic medicine that VA doctors were throwing at the Soldiers to battle the monsters in their heads. Stories of “whacked out vets” doing horrible things while on these narcotic cocktails began to surface. Once again, it was easy for various members of both our government, and the media to be able to paint all of us as some kind of lunatic fringe society that needs to be squashed. And shortly there after, the number 22 was being used.
I retired after 22 years of service last July ( literally two weeks short of one year ago today). It has taken from then until the end of May to get a “partial decision” letter from the VA, with the PTSD still being “reviewed”. However, with the partial decision percentage rating, The VA covers all health care issues even the ones that are not “service connected”. So, now I could actually pursue treatment for my insomnia. To keep the time frame correct, this is 11 months after separation, I could start seeking treatment through the VA. My coping mechanism was Marijuana. The VA so far as I know hasn’t fully endorsed that type of medication, though there is a lot of talk about it becoming approved and available within states where its legal through the VA. It is not legal in Texas. In Texas if they were to catch me, the drug laws are so strict that a popular saying is a rapist can get out of jail faster than a person who gets caught with a joint.
As a prior senior enlisted Soldier, it kills my soul to be doing illegal stuff, and I no longer utilize that avenue. I was finally seen this morning at the local Veterans clinic, now quickly approaching 12 months after separation. After spending three hours in the clinic to be seen, I was notified. “Mr. McDonald, we are not allowed to prescribe anything more than benedryl for the problems you are having because that is a mental health issue” ( not arguing that). I was notified the process was I would have to make an appointment for their mental health care givers, which would likely take till the end of August ( another 2 months).
Though the VA is required to outsource appointments that will take longer than a month to fill on their end, she informed me that many doctors have stopped accepting VA clients. Primarily because, the VA has not been paying their bills to the care providers. So as it looks now, barring the almost certain further road blocks, it will be 14 months before I can get any type of professional treatment through an organization that was instituted to provide timely medical care to those personnel whom have sacrificed (in some cases) everything short of their own life.
These problems are not new. I illustrate my problem as its first hand knowledge, of the bigger picture. The VA has been like this for decades. And somewhere along the line we as Veterans, and the private sector just brushed it off as “that’s just the way it is”. It has become so bad that even our elected officials in the House and Senate, and on the hill in Washington are powerless and cannot hold anyone accountable. In the 2 years since the situation has gained national attention, nothing has changed. The rates of suicide have climbed, and Veterans are waiting sometimes over a year to get any form of treatment. In the 2 years since the situation was recognized, 22 Soldiers a day end their own misery, in poverty, and by their own hands. Luckily, at least we can say the beuracracy works well enough that the senior politicians managing the VA can still get their annual million dollar bonuses. But the Soldiers are still left to die.
I have talked about this many times on this blog, other blogs and my radio shows. In fact I can be a testament myself as to the effects of military service and how the life-skills it builds can benefit a company. Recently one of my sons turned me onto this blog from postgradproblems.com and why companies should be hiring Veterans.
First and foremost, veterans have a great attitude when it comes to work. No matter the task, they’ll get it done, or at least give it their all. They won’t show up late. They’re used to working overtime. They’re disciplined. Discipline, “the mental attitude and state of training that renders willing obedience instinctively under all conditions,” means that a veteran will do what they’re told and do it right—the first time, every time. A veteran isn’t likely to show up to work hungover on Monday, but if he does, he’ll work just as diligently, effectively, and efficiently as he would on any other day.
I love how the author even highlights the fact that even if a veteran shows up hungover they will probably still work as effectively as any other day.
Even with these benefits, and the fact that great organizations like the Chamber of Commerce’s Hire Our Heroes, HireHeroes, and companies like Buffalo Paradigm Company who are teaming up with the Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY to host a Veteran’s Job Fair as part of a Veteran’s Day 5K fund-raising run there is still ignorance on the part of many employers. Then there are groups like Get It Done Consulting who have a specialized training program for disabled veterans that gets them certified in Project Management and other business skills.
I wrote this the the other day for a Veteran’s Day tribute on VeteransUnited.com. I would like to share it here too.
There is a difference between wanting to go to war and willing to go to war. Veterans Day is all about recognizing and thanking those who were “willing” to do the tough job that may be asked of our military. This day is for everyone who has served, from the airman who served three years in the 1980s and never saw combat, to the Soldier who served 20+ years and maybe spent a couple of years in combat. Regardless of branch, time spent serving or where they served, every man and woman who raised their hands and swore the oath to defend our country deserves to be thanked.
So please take a moment and thank anyone and everyone you know who ever raised their hand to “defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
For those veterans who read this blog, be sure and check out the links below in order to find great deals and offerings for you, on your day.
VeteransOwnedBusiness.com has put together a great list of Veteran Day events across the country for this weekend. Rather that re-type it all here I figured it would be easier if I just pasted the link for you to check it out and see if there is something happening where you live.
You may have noticed the Advertisement here on the right side of the blog about VA Loans. That is from my good friends over at Veteran’s United Home Loan (AKA VAMC) and the reason I put it so prominently there is because that is a huge benefit that not all veterans realize they qualify for. Every house I have ever purchased has been via a VA backed loan and I can tell from personal experience it is a benefit that those who don’t qualify wish they could get.
The reason I have the ad there is for you to click on and read the basics of a VA loan and if interested, to see if you qualify. Of course there is a lot more to getting a VA loan then just a few mouse clicks, but hey it gets you started.
So if you know or think you qualify check it out. The people at VUHL are awesome, and not just because they sponsor the You Served Blog and Radio show, but because they truly care. I have referred many friends to them and those friends have been treated well and with integrity. I have even talked to them about a re-finance and they were upfront and honest when they told me that there may be other places that could even give me a better deal then they could at the time.
Banana Republic stores are doing a little something to honor our military and give them a break on clothes. If you are a military member, retired, veteran, or a military family member they are giving you 50% off of up to three full-price items through Sunday, January 22nd. Sorry for the late notice but tomorrow is the last day.
After that they are giving the same folks 15% off all items from January 23-31.
This is great news if it goes through. It is about time that our troops who are in uniform, boots, etc. traveling through the airport on official duty get a break and not have to half-strip and be hassled over dog-tags and boots. It is a shame it has taken this long to actually be considered by our Congress or that TSA has never made this standard Operating Procedure already.
The House on Tuesday (Nov. 29th) voted unanimously to allow military travelers on official duty to get a special preference to move through airport security checks faster.
The bill, approved 404-0, would give the Homeland Security Department six months to devise a preference system for the armed forces. The legislation went to the Senate.
If the bill becomes law, the earliest beneficiaries would likely be troops returning from Afghanistan next year and their family members, who also would receive preferential treatment.
The government already has initiated, and is expanding, a more intelligence-driven trusted traveler program for civilians. Participants include travelers in American and Delta airlines’ frequent flier programs as well as people who are part of three other programs. These people volunteer more information about themselves so that the government can vet them before they arrive at airport security checkpoints.
Chief sponsor Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., said it takes longer for men and women in uniform to pass through security because of their gear, medals on their uniforms and boots that must be unlaced. Allowing them through security more quickly would speed up the waiting time for those not part of a preference program, he said.