Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Returning vets can face problems

Find the original article here:

Returning vets can face problems

Published 4:49pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

When Jenny Camp became executive director of the DreamPeace Foundation in April 2011, she thought she knew what to expect.

The grassroots, non-profit provides free counseling to veterans and their families. Since Camp grew up in a military family, she thought she had a handle on veterans’ issues.

She thought wrong.

“What this job has shown me is how clueless we really all are,” Camp said. “If you haven’t actually gone and been in combat, you really don’t get it. We don’t understand. We’re not going to. But we can listen, and we can start paying attention.”

Of the 14,000 veterans in Shelby County, about 3,500 – or 25 percent – are 9/11 veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. When those veterans return home, they can face many challenges.

At the very least, experts say, it will take time for returning veterans to assimilate back into the society they left behind. At the very worst, the experts say, returning veterans can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and have extreme trouble finding jobs.

“We as a society are not doing a good enough job of transitioning them back,” Camp said. “Most of us want to help. It’s hard to know how.”


When veterans return home, they’re hailed as heroes for their service to their country. Parades are held in their honor. Physically, most veterans may appear fine. But mentally, all veterans have mental scars of war.

“Once you’ve been down that road, once you’ve seen the elephant, it is a hard, hard thing to go back to smoking and joking,” said Harry Moon, Shelby County’s veterans service officer. “It’s a difficult, difficult thing, and 99 percent of them never go back.”

Trying to fit back into the pre-war mold “is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” Moon said.

“It just doesn’t work anymore,” he added. “They feel this sense of inadequacy, or of total loss, that they can’t adapt. They feel like it’s their fault they’re not adapting, even though those around them can’t see it.”

Most veterans eventually adjust and learn to cope, Moon said. But sometimes those thoughts can come back, and veterans can have trouble dealing with them.

“Every so often it returns,” Moon said. “We have most of our problems when it does come forward. They really don’t know what direction to go in.”


Two of the biggest issues facing veterans are post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

PTSD is a severe anxiety from a traumatic situation, while TBI affects those who have suffered brain injuries, usually from explosives such as IEDs.

“Just as 9/11 affected all of us, those of us who have been on the battlefield have seen it first hand and have lost friends,” said Chaplain Raymo, who works at the Birmingham VA hospital. “Not only physically, but we’re touched emotionally.”

Unlike the loss of limbs, PTSD and TBI and “very subtle,” according to Jeff Hester, a spokesman for the VA hospital.

“If you were in those kind of IED explosion arenas, you typically do have some kind of TBI, and you may not even know it’s affecting you,” Hester said.

Civilians can help veterans suffering from both by listening to their stories, Raymo said.

“Don’t criticize or think they’re crazy, because what they’ve seen, felt and experienced with every sense of their being has had an affect on them,” Raymo said.

Ron Jefferson got the call late one night. It was the girlfriend of a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. She wanted Jefferson, a Vietnam veteran and former Green Beret, to diffuse a situation quickly spiraling out of control.

Locked in a nasty custody dispute with an ex-lover, the young veteran of multiple combat tours had gotten loaded on vodka and strapped down with six guns.

“He gets very angry very quickly,” Jefferson said. “Put that combination with some vodka and some Red Bull, and you’ve got a problem.”

Jefferson said he quickly diffused the situation, but worries it could happen to other veterans.

“That’s an isolated situation – or is it?” Jefferson said. “If you’ve got 500 of these kids in a small community like Alabaster, or Pelham, you tell me if it’s isolated.”


The job market is tough enough as it is, but for returning veterans it can be even more treacherous. Gone overseas for three to four years, they return home and have to compete for jobs with three to four years’ worth of new high school graduates.

“The way the economy is today, if an employer has five jobs, he can pick from 500 people. And here you are, behind the 8-ball because you don’t possess the same skills because you’ve been gone for four years,” Moon said. “You were driving tanks around for the last four years of your life. I can kill you 25 different ways, but can I program a computer?”

Veterans can bring several things civilians can’t to the job, Moon said. Veterans have strong discipline and organizational skills. Give a veteran a mission, and he or she will get the job done, Moon said.

Still, he said, it’s tough. How does a combat veteran go from fighting overseas to slinging hamburgers next to a 17-year-old kid at a burger joint?

“Not gonna happen,” Moon said. “Not gonna happen.”

Not every returning Shelby County veteran battles PTSD, has traumatic brain injury or spends years on the unemployment line. John C. Hand went back to school, got a job and, like many veterans, adjusted back into society.

Hand, now 27, signed up for the Army between his junior and senior year at Pelham High School. He served in Iraq in 2005 as a crewman on an Abraham’s tank.

When Hand returned from Iraq, he said his wife, Corey, told him he “acted like a different person.”

“It wasn’t PTSD, but I was on edge from being over there. I got over that after a few months. Even if you haven’t got PTSD or any other traumatic experiences, it’s definitely a different life. It takes some getting used to.”

Hand, who is now in the Army reserve, went back to school and graduated from the University of Montevallo. He works in corporate security but wants to transition into a law enforcement career.

When people call him a hero for his service, it feels “awkward,” Hand said.

“I hated taking that word upon myself,” he said. “I look at people in World War II, the big wars, they were the heroes. It feels awkward to me to be in that same league in people’s eyes.”

For those veterans who do have lingering mental issues, Moon said talking to other veterans is the best remedy.

“The best therapy is not sitting across the desk from a 25-year-old kid that’s never been in the military and just got his degree in psychology,” Moon said.

“It’s sitting around drinking a cold beer with a buddy – there’s no judgment there.”

Rise in PTSD cases from two wars strains resources

Find the original article here:

Rise in PTSD cases from two wars strains resources

Monday, November 28, 2011

Veterans find that their transition from combat to college can be difficult

Original Article Published:
Published On: 28 November 2011
By: Sandra G. Boodman

When Brian Hawthorne enrolled at George Washington University as a 23-year-old junior after two tours in Iraq, the former Army medic was unprepared for the adjustment.

“I felt like I was on another planet,” he said of his first semester in 2008. Hawthorne recalled feeling whipsawed by the abrupt transition of “going from an environment where people around you are dying every day and trying to kill you” to a campus where he was surrounded by people who didn’t know anyone in the military.

Academics provided no refuge. “I was very worried because I couldn’t concentrate,” said Hawthorne, who had graduated near the top of his Westchester County, N.Y., high school class. “I would read one page and forget what I’d just read.” In danger of flunking out, he sought help on campus and was referred to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the District, where doctors quickly diagnosed a mild traumatic brain injury caused by his proximity to bomb blasts.

Hawthorne’s experience is emblematic of the challenges — social, academic, psychological and medical — facing the rapidly growing population of veterans who are flocking to colleges around the country, and the health demands placed on the schools they are attending.

Propelled by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in 2009, 2 million veterans, many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are eligible for generous benefits that can amount to a full scholarship. At George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public school with more than 32,000 students, for example, the number of veterans has almost doubled, from 840 in 2009 to 1,575 last spring.

As a result, colleges are contending with adjustment problems and serious disorders far different from those for which their staffs have been trained: traumatic brain injury; post-traumatic stress related to combat and often accompanied by depression and substance abuse; and military sexual trauma, as sexual abuse in the service is known.

Many counseling offices don’t have a veteran on staff, nor have their workers been trained in these issues, said Ted C. Bonar, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Deployment Psychology, part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda. “It can be tough for a civilian provider to understand what vets have gone through,” he said.

A tough transition
For some, the move from combat to campus is relatively seamless. Unlike the hostility that greeted Vietnam veterans on campuses in the 1960s and ’70s, the current generation of student veterans, a quarter of whom are women, has largely been met with polite acceptance. But many describe an arduous transition for which they — and the campuses absorbing them — are ill-prepared.

Some student veterans say they have little in common with their younger, more sheltered classmates whose concerns typically revolve around their social lives and separating from their parents. They describe feeling both conspicuous and isolated, put on the spot when they are singled out in class by well-meaning faculty members who solicit their views on foreign policy; turned off by the unstructured, sometimes frivolous, college atmosphere; and loath to admit they are having difficulty. Many mourn the absence of the close friendships and intense sense of mission that are often the glue of military life, particularly in a war zone.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

VA’s Commitment to Health IT Through Blue Button

Original Article Found Here:
Published on: 10 November 2011

About the Blue Button
The VA’s Blue Button, which is hosted on MyHealtheVet, a secure Web portal, enables veterans to easily download and share their electronic VA medical records with physicians or family members.  Veterans can also download medical appointment schedules, laboratory results and prescription history, as well as actively participate and manage their health and health care by updating their records online.

“We wanted to give Veterans and their families easy access to their health data with the Blue Button so they can have greater control over the health care they receive,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in an October 25, 2011 press release.

Developed by the VA in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), along with the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup, the VA’s Blue Button launched in October 2010.

In less than a year, more than 400,000 veterans and members of the military have downloaded their electronic VA medical records using the Blue Button tool.

Blue Button Commitment Initiative
In coordination with ONC’s Health IT Pledge Campaign—which encourages both data holders (e.g., providers, hospitals, payers, retail pharmacies) and non-data holders to empower individuals to be partners in their care through health IT—the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Blue Button commitment initiative Exit Disclaimer . This initiative invites individuals and organizations to commit to making it easier for veterans and other consumers to access their health care information using Blue Button.  In addition to the VA, CMS, DoD and numerous other data holders have made Blue Button available to patients or are in the process of doing so. Using Blue Button is one of the ways in which data holders can fulfill a key part of ONC’s Health IT Pledge Campaign.

ONC supports the VA’s efforts to encourage veterans to actively participate in their health care through the use of EHRs and the Blue Button, as these tools can help veterans communicate effectively with their providers and become engaged in their health care.

Veteran Mike Tibbets, who served in the combat infantry with the Marine Corps, understands the value of having his health information stored electronically in EHRs.

“The big thing is if you are traveling, you can go to another hospital and they can pull up your VA medical records on the computer immediately, especially if say you’re seriously injured, they can check what medications you are on and everything else, and that’s really helpful and convenient,” said Tibbets.

Mobile Apps to Engage Veterans in Their Health Care
The VA and DoD are also working with organizations on developing mobile applications that help veterans become engaged in their health care. For example, a mobile app was recently developed to give veterans the ability to access their VA medical records on their mobile devices. This app builds on the idea of creating a strong and effective partnership between patients and their health care providers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guilt a top cause of PTSD, study shows

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Friday Nov 25, 2011 7:32:36 EST
A leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder is guilt that troops experience due to moral dilemmas faced in combat, according to preliminary findings of a study of active-duty Marines.

The conflicts that troops feel can range from survivor guilt from living through an attack where other troops died, to witnessing or participating in the unintentional killing of women or children, said researchers involved in the study.

“How do they come to terms with that? They have to forgive themselves for pulling the trigger,” said retired Navy Capt. Bill Nash, a psychiatrist and study co-author.

The idea of “moral injury” as a cause of PTSD is new to psychiatry. The American Psychiatric Association is only now considering new diagnostic criteria for the disorder that would include feelings of shame and guilt, said David Spiegel, a member of the working group rewriting the PTSD section.

Traditionally, PTSD symptoms such as nightmares or numbness to the world have been linked to combat violence, fear of being killed or loss of friends.

Half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated by the Veterans Affairs Department have been diagnosed with mental health issues and the most common is PTSD, which is experienced by nearly 200,000 of these veterans, according to VA.

PTSD caused by moral injury can lead to more severe reactions such as family violence or even suicide, said Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who has worked on military mental health policies.

The Marine Corps study helps expand the knowledge of the relationship between moral injury and PTSD, said Shira Maguen, a psychologist and VA researcher who has studied links between killing and the disorder among Vietnam, Gulf War and Iraq War veterans.

“This (Marine Corps) study is important because so little work has been done to understand moral injury in a scientific context,” Maguen said.

The ongoing research involves about 2,600 Marines and sailors examined before and after combat tours.
The preliminary findings on moral injury were gleaned from 208 Marines involved in severe combat in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. It showed that three months after coming home, 7 percent of the Marines likely had PTSD. Their condition was more closely linked to an inner conflict rather than threats to their lives, the sight of bodies or blood, or family problems, the study said.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prudential to contribute $6.2 million to support military veterans and their families

Original Article Found Here:
Posted On: 21 November 2011

NEWARK, N.J., Nov 21, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Prudential Financial, Inc. PRU -0.02% will contribute $6.2 million to 10 nonprofit groups that help U.S. military veterans and their families transition back into civilian life. 

"Prudential is committed to helping veterans develop meaningful careers after their military service and between deployments. Because this is not always easy, especially for wounded veterans, our contributions support nonprofit organizations that provide not just professional development but also a broad mix of services veterans critically need to successfully return to civilian life," said Lori High, president of Prudential Group Insurance and executive sponsor of Prudential's Veterans Initiative. 

The initial $6.2 million in grants will be disbursed over two years to organizations that provide important services to veterans and their families: 

-- $1.62 million to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the only nonprofit Veterans Service Organization chartered solely to offer compassionate care to those grieving the death of a loved one who died in military service to our nation. TAPS provides ongoing emotional help, hope, and healing, regardless of relationship to the deceased, geography, or circumstance of the death. ( ) 

-- $1.17 million to New Directions. New Directions provides a broad spectrum of highly-regarded services focusing on homeless Veterans and Veterans at risk for homelessness, with the aim of full community reintegration. All but the most severely mentally ill are placed in jobs that match both their skills and their limitations, and remain case-managed over the course of a year on the job. ( )
-- $900,000 to the Center for Innovation and Research. The Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, a research arm of the cutting-edge School of Military Social Work at USC, works to bridge the notable gaps between military and civilian communities through the development of education/training, the production of actionable research, and the facilitation of cross-sector partnerships. ( ) 

-- $800,000 to Swords to Plowshares. Swords to Plowshares' mission is to heal the wounds; to restore dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency to all Veterans in need; and to significantly reduce homelessness and poverty among Veterans through facilitating opportunities for dignified and sustainable housing and employment. ( ) 

-- $650,000 to The Pathway Home. The Pathway Home's mission is to support resiliency, recovery, and best possible functioning for post-9/11 Veterans experiencing combat-related stress reactions, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other post-combat (or military-related trauma) conditions, as they attempt to reintegrate with work and community. ( ) 

-- $500,000 to Veterans Village of San Diego. For over thirty years, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) has worked to meet its mission, "Leave No Veteran Behind." By providing housing, treatment, advocacy, and job placement services in a community-oriented, peer support setting, VVSD helps Veterans suffering from the short- and long-term impacts of war--including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, drug abuse, and homelessness--to overcome barriers to successful community reintegration. 
( ) 

-- $150,000 to the Farmer-Veterans Coalition. Farmer-Veterans Coalition exists to create viable and sustainable employment and career opportunities for the many Veterans who have experience with, knowledge of, and/or a deep interest in farming and the food industry. Its secondary purpose is to help Veterans reclaim a sense of continued service to our nation through growing healthy food for consumers. 
( ) 

-- $150,000 to Hire Heroes USA. Hire Heroes USA offers transition assistance training and career placement services to those who have honorably served in the military--and to their spouses--with a special focus on the two demographics statistically most likely to be unemployed: young Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Veterans who are wounded or disabled. Almost all are enlisted, and many are without advanced education or prior work experience. ( ) 

-- $150,000 to Student Veterans of America. Student Veterans of America's mission is to provide military Veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and after graduation. Their main focus is on Veterans' transitions from higher education to employment. ( ) 

-- $120,000 to the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation. The mission of Wall Street Warfighters Foundation is to identify, develop, and place service-disabled Veterans in careers in the financial services industry. The program is a six month in-residence course based at Drexel Hamilton, a service-disabled veteran owned and operated institutional broker-dealer, in Philadelphia, PA. The program is designed to expose Veterans to the broader aspects of the financial services industry and to help them gain access to rewarding careers. ( ) 

As part of Prudential's longstanding commitment to U.S. Veterans, active service members and veterans already in our employ, Prudential's Veterans Initiative team coordinates companywide efforts to create sustainable programs for transitioning veterans, and collaborates with corporate peers to support similar programs with an emphasis on providing veterans access to quality education, job training, and employment opportunities. These efforts include Prudential's sponsorship of VETalent, an innovative training and hiring program run by Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization with a proven track record. For more information, visit . 

Prudential Financial, Inc. PRU -0.02% , a financial services leader with approximately $871 billion of assets under management as of September 30, 2011, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential's diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services ,mutual funds, investment management, and real estate services. In the U.S., Prudential's iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit . 

Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. 

SOURCE: Prudential Financial, Inc.

Post-Traumatic Sleep Disorders Obstructive sleep apnea insomnia TBI and PTSD

Original Article Found Here:
Published On: 20 November 2011

Although one may understand the prevalence of horrifying dreams in our returning soldiers, the specific sleep disorders falling upon them seem to be unique to their own combat experience.

A recent study shows that the specific traumatic experience a soldier faces causes the variety of sleep disorder he or she is fated for if that soldier has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our nation's defenders find themselves overwhelmed by insomnia and sleep apnea, occurring in regards to their trigger.

If you have trouble sleeping, speak with a therapist.
Published in the journal Chest, this study oversaw 261 patients with either PTSD, TBI, or both. Even though the initial study was created to determine the prevalence of sleep disorders in these patients, in order to find specific correlations with these increased sleep disorder rates, clinical variables were incorporated and assessed.

The findings were as such:
  • 71% showed sleep fragmentation (inability to sleep through the night)
  • 87% showed hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness, usually during the day)
Further diagnostic sleep studies were performed on around 80% of patients:
  • 56% diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) 
  • 49% diagnosed with insomnia
Now particularly interesting in regards to physical injury, those with blunt trauma had twice as much OSA while those with blast injuries experienced almost 25% more insomnia cases.

The study authors, doctors from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, warn that, "an increased awareness of the high prevalence of sleep disorders in combat veterans is critical given the chronicity of these disorders, and extension beyond the military healthcare system."

The effects of these diseases are serious.  While TBI occurs with a blow to the head disrupting the brain's function, PTSD typically begins after a life-threatening experience and does not require physical injury to the victim.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is an anxiety disorder where sufferers typically feel "on edge," hold intense worry and guilt, and experience flashbacks or reoccurring nightmares.  PTSD patients tend to become reclusive and are prone to temperamental outbursts.

Families should encourage treatment and raise awareness in regards to the increasing prevalence of sleep disorders among our nation's heroes.  

Sleep Disorder
Over 50 million American adults have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. There are many different kinds of sleep disorders, but the most common ones deal with insomnia (not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep) and sleep apnea (poor sleep due to physical or neurological problems with breathing during sleep) and narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness).

Restless leg syndrome (need to move while falling asleep), and sleepwalking are less common, but often cause considerable distress and disability. Treatments for sleep disorders generally can be grouped into four categories: behavioral treatments, rehabilitation management, medications and other somatic treatments.
Diagnosis is often made by the patient going to a sleep lab, where breathing, heart rate, and brain activity is measured while the patient sleeps. Medications include sleep aids for insomnia (Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta), as well as over the counter remedies (Benadryl, Unisom, and melatonin).

Friday, November 18, 2011 Announces Formation of Cycling Team!

Good News! Family Of a Vet (FOV) is forming a cycling team! I have been working on getting a team together to participate in the WWP’s Soldier rides, and any other races we can find (Wheelchair races etc.) We need a total of ten people to make it official and to ride in the National Soldier races, we need at least 5 present at each race (or at each race we participate in). I am working on sponsorships now, and have already received a partial sponsorship with Aerospoke wheels. Aerospoke has offered us wheels at wholesale prices, and will likely be interested in further sponsorship in the spring. 

All riders are welcome. You do not have to be a competitive rider by any means. All styles of bikes/trikes are welcome as well. I myself with be on a Catrike 700 recumbent trike. Invite your spouses as well.

Soldier rides have multiple routes for recreational riders and competitive riders. They have a series of national races, with the schedule for 2012 here:

We will be looking for any additional races that we can participate in. 

I would like to make the most of this opportunity to accomplish three goals. First and foremost is to use this as therapy for all of us. We can get to know each other a lot better, and feel more comfortable with each other. This also helps our minds, bodies and souls as only a team sport exercise can do. This will also help us all with the facing the stress we all have in common.

Secondly, this will help us get the Family of a Vet name out there. Racing as a team while competing with our target audience, is a great opportunity. We will easily be identified and stand out with our FOV Cycling jerseys!

And lastly, this can be a great platform for FOV fundraising. We can ask for donations per mile in Soldier events, as well as our own, and can at some point have a tent set up at these events with FOV merchandise and information.

If you or your family would be interested, please contact me at

Hope to see you all on the road!
SFC (Retired) Tony Patchell
FOV Cycling Captain

Lubbock Homes for Heroes to build house for Iraq war veteran

Original Article Found Here:
Published On:  17 November 2011

 A wounded veteran and local hero, Louis Flores of Plainview is the 2012 home recipient for Lubbock Homes for Heroes, a non-profit founded by West Texas Home Builders Association.  

Flores, 28, his wife Olga and son Gabriel were surprised with the announcement at the Wounded Warrior game Saturday.  For the first time Thursday he and his family got to see their new neighborhood, Bacon Crest. 

Olga says this is more than a home; it's a way for her husband to recover from his injury. Recently, he was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Flores began serving his country on April 1, 2003 as an army medical specialist. It had always been his dream to become a doctor and follow in the footsteps of his father, an army veteran. 

On September 5, 2005, Flores was deployed to Iraq. While there he was involved in multiple IED explosions, where he helped wounded soldiers and innocent civilians. The breaking point was when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a public market. Flores spent nearly six hours treating innocent bystanders in a mass causality situation.

When Flores returned home to Lubbock in 2007, life was difficult and emotional for him and his family. He did not want to socialize and just wanted to be back helping his fellow soldiers, but he couldn't. Flores was told he could not re-enlist.

Since returning, Flores has struggled with his injury, realizing he can no longer follow his dream to be a doctor. Right now he is attending Texas Tech University majoring in exercise and sports science. He hopes to get his Masters and attend physical therapy school. In the future he hopes to help other wounded soldiers.
Therapy has helped work through some of Flores's struggles. His wife  wants to design a room especially for him.

"His own little section where he can relax and listen to the stuff they give him in therapy to follow through with his program," said Olga Flores.

Builders will break ground around Christmas time. The finished product will be in the 2012 Parade of Homes.
WTHBA needs all the help they can get, anything from monetary donations to volunteer labor. In fact, most of Texas Tech athletes have already scheduled to build at one point.
For more information on how to donate go to

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Real Simple Magazine - This Month's Issue Features Family Of a Vet VP!

You won't want to miss the opportunity to get to know Heather Hummert, Vice President of Family Of a Vet, Inc., and her family's inspiring story... a story featured in the December 2011 edition of Real Simple magazine which is available now at retailers.

Hummert's story, part of a special section featured on the cover entitled "Surviving Tough Times: 5 Inspiring True Stories," will be familiar to many military and veteran families who have faced combat-related injuries and the uncertainties that can result in their wake.

The "family" is so excited about Heather's part in this piece, grateful for the mention of the work we do, and hopeful that it will help us reach out to more heroes and families in need of real-world, plain language information, education, and support about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), and life after combat this holiday season!

There isn't an online version of the article available on the Real Simple website ( yet, so to view a PDF version of the article CLICK HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nationwide Campaign Launches Today to Tell the Love Stories of Heroes & Families

= = For Immediate Release = =

Talking About The Challenges of PTSD, TBI, and Life After Combat 
and Why Love Endures Despite Them

DAPHNE, Alabama, November 11, 2011 - In lives challenged by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), and other injuries caused by combat, loved ones and friends of heroes around the country are coming together to share the stories that started and are sustaining their families.

The idea for the project, dubbed The Love Letter Campaign, started when Brannan Vines, Founder and President of Family Of a Vet, Inc., posted an open love letter to her husband on the organization’s blog in October.  The letter was meant to address his question of “why?” she still loved him.

That letter (CLICK HERE to read it) received overwhelming response and many loved ones and caregivers wrote to explain that the letter had helped remind them, in the midst of sometimes extremely difficult daily challenges, of the “why’s” in the love stories of their own families.  Many who wrote also ask for permission to copy the format of Vines original letter to write one of their own.

Mrs.  Vines, said, “Living daily with the signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan can quickly tear down many relationships.  This campaign is about shoring them up… about reminding those who love a hero, and the heroes themselves, why our loves stories endure despite the difficulties we face together.”

The Love Letter Campaign begins today, Veterans’ Day, and will conclude on Valentine’s Day.  The love letters submitted (along with any photos) will be posted on Family Of a Vet’s PTSD & TBI Life Blog (  More information about the campaign can be found on the organization’s main website (

About Family Of a Vet, Inc.:

Family Of a Vet, Inc.,  is a national, federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families learn how to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and life after combat through real-world, plain language education and resources for heroes, families, and communities.   Family Of a Vet started as a small website offering information about coping with life after the battlefield and was founded in 2007 by the wife of a combat Veteran who was injured while serving in Iraq.  That website has since grown into a thriving non-profit organization with volunteers in 36 states and 3 countries that helps thousands of heroes and families each month.  

Contact Information:

Brannan Vines
Founder / President

To download a PDF version of this Press Release, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Improve Mental-Health Care for Our Troops

Original Article Published Here:
Published On: 08 November 2011
By: Robert David Jaffee

"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 the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." That quote from George Washington concludes a new study by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on the links between suicide and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

There is no question that veterans are treated better now than they were following the Vietnam War, but the CNAS study reveals that veterans and service members are committing suicide at alarming numbers -- one every 36 hours for service members, one every 80 minutes for veterans.

The study provides many recommendations, among them the need to maintain unit cohesion for 90 days following a return from deployment, a policy that has been used by the Marines for some time but not by the Army. This is a critical policy recommendation because it is precisely during times of non-deployment, when soldiers are living on a base away from combat, or are seeking a job in civilian life, that they are most at risk of suicide.

Why? Because during periods of non-deployment, soldiers, who have developed a camaraderie within the ranks and who typically feel a strong sense of purpose while in combat, can lose that sense of what the study's authors term "belongingness and usefulness." Those are two of the "protective" factors that have historically insulated soldiers from suicide. But when troops return to a garrison environment or to civilian life, where the roughly 12 percent unemployment rate for soldiers remains higher than that for the general population, they, in particular Guardsmen, Reservists and veterans, are at a higher risk of suicide than before.

The report recommends de-stigmatizing mental illness within the military by having commanders encourage troops when they come home to fill out a post-deployment health assessment (PDHA) honestly. An anonymous survey of service members, conducted in 2008, revealed that "rates of depression, PTSD, suicidal thoughts and interest in receiving care were two to four times higher as compared to the PDHA."

The Department of Defense has made strides in requiring that the PDHAs be conducted face to face and by trained medical or behavioral health professionals, two conditions that were often absent in the past. Those requirements, mandated by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, have spurred more troops to come forward when they are depressed or suicidal.

The CNAS report indicates that more and more service members are seeking help than before; 57 percent of military suicides sought help in 2010 compared to 36 percent in 2009. Sadly, that still leaves 43 percent who did not seek help, a failing that is no doubt due to the stigma of admitting to being mentally ill.

As I have written before, only one person can truly change the way our troops and veterans view mental illness, and that is President Obama, our commander-in-chief.

Obama should use the bully pulpit to urge troops and veterans to seek help if they are depressed, suffering from PTSD or suicidal. He should also trumpet legislation to fund more mental-health counselors for the armed forces and for veterans. Finally, he needs to overhaul the policy on condolence letters.

Following Memorial Day this year, I wrote a piece calling on Obama to write such letters to the families of all troops who commit suicide. A month later, the president did change the policy, but only partly. Rather than writing letters to all the families of military suicides, he decided to write such letters only when the suicide occurred in combat.

I praised Obama for improving the policy but criticized him for not changing it all the way. As I wrote in July, the vast majority of military suicides occur outside of a battlefield, so the policy is not only inadequate, it is "asinine" and "demeaning" to the families whose loved ones took their lives outside of combat.

Why should we value the life of a suicidal service member more if he took his life in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan than if he took his life back in the United States after serving in one of those theaters?
The answer is that we should not. All of those lives should be valued and memorialized.

With Veterans Day approaching, I urge President Obama to consider changing the policy once more. By writing condolence letters to the families of all troops who commit suicide, he will help to end the stigma against mental illness in the U.S. Armed Forces and in this country.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Military post offices in Iraq closing Nov. 17

Published On: 02 November 2011
By: Cheryl Pellerin

WASHINGTON - Because U.S. forces are coming home from Iraq by the end of the year, the U.S. Postal Service will stop accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq starting Nov. 17, Defense Department officials said Oct. 26.

Military post offices in Iraq also will stop processing mail Nov. 17, and service members there should begin now to advise those who send them mail about the Nov. 17 deadline.

Mail still in the postal system through Nov. 17 will be processed and delivered to service members in Iraq, officials said.

In November, U.S. military postal service responsibilities in Iraq will transition to State Department embassy or consulate post offices for service members assigned to Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

These sites will provide letter and parcel mail services to service members assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

The transition will be closely coordinated with the U.S. Postal Service Agency, which will delete ZIP codes for Iraq military post offices from the USPS database to prevent undeliverable mail from entering the postal system after Nov. 17, according to defense officials.

If APO mail arrives in Iraq after a service member departs, mail will be redirected to the new mailing address provided or, if no mailing address was provided, returned to sender.

Any mail mistakenly accepted by a USPS post office after Nov. 17 will be returned to sender once it reaches the International Gateway in New Jersey.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New campaign star approved for OEF medal

Find the original article here:

New campaign star approved for OEF medal

Staff report
Posted : Wednesday Nov 2, 2011 11:37:31 EDT

A new phase has been approved for the Afghanistan Campaign Medal that will allow qualifying troops to add an additional campaign star, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
ACM campaign stars recognize a service member’s participation in Defense Department-designated military campaigns in the medals area of eligibility.
Service members who have qualified for the ACM may display a bronze campaign star on their medal for each designated campaign phase in which they participated. The stars are worn on the suspension and campaign ribbon of the campaign medal.
The new campaign phase is labeled “Transition I” and is in effect from this past July 1 through a future date to be determined.
The four previously approved ACM phases are:
• Liberation of Afghanistan — Sept. 11, 2001 to Nov. 30, 2001.
• Consolidation I — Dec. 1, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2006.
• Consolidation II — Oct. 1, 2006 to Nov. 30, 2009.
• Consolidation III — Dec. 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011.