Giving thanks

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a camping tradition

Every November,  my friends and I go (tent) camping in Yosemite National Park before the first snow.   All of us are members of the same church in San Diego, but more than just “members”, we all make an effort to be united as Brothers, in Christ.  This is more than just a Sunday worship service,  or playing a game of Mexican Train together in a warm room of a Yosemite Valley hotel.  We have each others’ back and watch out for each other.

While my spiritual brothers and I share a bond of common faith,  it is not the same as the brothers – and sisters I have served alongside in the military.   For twenty-six years, I wore the uniform and swore my allegiance to serve the Constitution and nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.  And through several conflicts, long deployments, and looking out for families while others were deployed in war zones,  all were responsibilities my peers and I shouldered.  Many of us spent holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries away from loved ones.

While we give thanks for all the blessings we have in this life,  these do not come without responsibilities to act justly, practice gratitude,  give generously,  and to treat others with respect.   As military veterans and patriotic citizens,  we are also compelled to stand against those who would tear down what we have worked – some at the risk of bloodshed – to preserve.

So on this Thanksgiving holiday,  I think of all that my family has been experiencing this past year.   I have gratitude for my God, and my fellow veterans and their families.    Whether we are serving together now in the army of Christ,  or served ( or still serving)  in the uniform of our country.    May you have a safe and joyful holiday.

 

Family Support: Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, Addiction, PTSD

“Before you can break out of prison, you must realize you are locked up.”  – www.healthyplace.com

Everyone is affected by a terminal condition called “life”.   In every family, there are emotional or physical Illnesses that affect one member – the sufferer – yet also affect others – spouses or partners, parents, children, or siblings.   To a lesser degree, friends, co-workers, or neighbors may also be affected.   Disease and genetic disorders like  Lyme disease, asthma, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy or cancer are chronic conditions and are lifelong disabilities physically but emotional disorders, many linked to genetic predispositions, traumatic physical events or lifestyle choices can can radically change the family dynamics no less permanently.

In most cases, there is no preparation. no schooling or a “recommended reading list” in one’s formative years, for family members when a loved one has a mental illness like anorexia, depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders like agoraphobia.  These can also accompany or be elevated by an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or other substances.  A casual relationship may not reveal the extent of a sufferer’s condition.   But in a long-term relationship, marriage or one with frequent connection or intimacy, between spouses, or parents and children,  clues early in a person’s life may exist.  Of course, everyone experiences an illness, accident, depression or difficult circumstances that are temporary.  It takes long-term observation to note patterns that may indicate unhealthy behavior.

When a participant (an active observer, or even a co-dependent personality type) is not a professionally-trained counselor, experience, level of empathy and often spiritual foundation are the only tools available.  Behavior that later manifests in addiction,  mania and depression mood swings,  obsessive-compulsive activity, hyperactivity, sleeplessness or its opposite, and emotional disconnection may be subtle at first or have sudden onset.   With PTSD,  post-traumatic stress disorder, a life event such as death of child, a combat experience, a severe accident, sexual assault or abuse can severely damage a formerly healthy individual and ripple emotionally through a family. Triggering events may be a tone of voice, a certain time, a season, a smell, sounds or a characteristic that one person displays.   For someone in a relationship with another who experienced a traumatic event -even years in the past – “walking on eggshells” becomes normal.  Often in hindsight to a failed relationship, injury or death of the sufferer, particularly when a victim was unwilling or unable to seek help, guilt may emotionally affect those in the victim’s circle for years.   Yet PTSD is not a terminal condition, but requires compassion, professional treatment, cooperation, and ongoing engagement on the part of the sufferer and her close personal relationships.

For many, when it is a close family member, in late adolescence or early adulthood, it is a natural response to think the behavior  including addiction, is just a “phase” he or she is “going through”.   From the outside looking in,  the addict, when rational and sober, seems to be functioning individual – but it is a ruse.   Some are able to hold a job for a time.  They may frequently change jobs due to work stress or the addiction’s toll on a person’s performance.  It is a natural self-defense mechanism or social response for people not to ‘get involved’,  or to overlook indicators, but these are not compassionate responses of family and close friends.   However, an addict can also mask his or her  problems by being outgoing but shallow, and very reserved (personal details) to coworkers, family members or others in his or her circle of acquaintances.  One sort of behavior that may be due to embarrassment,  or pride is a need  to appear to be “holding it together”.   Limited engagement,  that is,  keeping visits short with family and family friends at holidays or other gatherings.

When the sufferer is an adult, who arguably is not a “danger to themselves or others”, there is little one can do more than to suggest, advise, or urge the sufferer to seek professional help.  The longer the addiction continues, the more the addict does damage to themselves physically and emotionally.   Hospitalization and treatment of the symptoms may give the addict an opportunity to be sober for a short time.

Treating the problem – the addiction – without a sustained, professional program to treat the emotions or physical underpinnings, is a temporary measure.   In the meantime,  the family and close friends have to endure their own emotional pain to partner in their loved one’s recovery.   For some,  replacing the destructive addiction with a positive one particularly through physical activity can be successful when partnered with professional counseling.  It may well be a lifelong activity. A new ‘normal’.

For those who are willing to consider a spiritual component to ongoing wellness,  study of the Bible offers examples of successful lives though suffering from illness, depression or anxieties.  The Bible offers hope in illustrations of several figures who suffered from depression.  King David is lauded as one of the most devout leaders in the Old Testament, but his Psalms are full of outpouring his anxieties, fears, troubles, and anger to God.

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God  – Psalm 42:11

Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament is another.  In 1 Kings 19:4

while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush,(A) sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life;(B) I am no better than my ancestors.”

the passage illustrates his depression.  Job also battled depression.  Examples:  Job 3: 26

26 I have no peace,(A) no quietness;
    I have no rest,(B) but only turmoil

and Job 10: 1:

“I loathe my very life;(A)
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.

While these figures went on to have great impact in the Bible and to adherents for thousands of years, there is no indication that they were freed from the emotional and physical ailments that people still endure today.

One of those who has been successful in ongoing recovery from anorexia, BeautyBeyondBones, offers her personal experience and resources that are instructive for eating disorders and other communities who are seeking support with emotional and physical disorders.

In the following article, there are some good tips for families dealing with the various demons affecting their loved ones.   But it is only a starting point.

Family Support: Dealing with Anxiety, Depression, Addiction, PTSD

Knowing where to look is THE battle

A veteran friend of mine reminded me that veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who served during the period of the “Cold War”,   September 2, 1945  – December 26, 1991,  can apply to receive a certificate of recognition.   The Department of the Army Human Resources Command is managing the issue of these certificates (there is NO DOD medal nor ribbon associated with this.)   I thought it would make a nice addition to my “I Love Me” wall.

Following normal online searching methods,  I went to the Department of the Navy public website, and entered a query.  Information returned on “Cold War Certificate” – among many other search returns- indicates that the Department of the Army manages the issue of these certificates for all military branches.  However,  the link provided leads nowhere.  Even when entered with an “https://”  it still is a broken path.

Going to the main official Army website, does not provide a link – though every search term does return a series of possible websites that are not “cold war”  but “cold” weather, or “war” or personnel certificates for various education achievement.   Fortunately,  I had a clue where to look.  The Human Resources Command of the US Army.

And in that specific website, when I entered the same search terms I had used all along, I found the application for Cold War service recognition.

And you, my fellow veterans, continue to hope that the Federal Government  – or any bureaucracy for that matter – has the tools and wherewithal to manage our earned benefits?

You have to know where to look.

Support “Blue Water” Vietnam Veterans

As a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I am motivated to act upon issues that affect my fellow veterans.    This is an action request for American citizens to send to your Senators urging them to support a measure to provide health care to eligible Vietnam veterans,  so-called “Blue Water Veterans”.  We know of the exposure to Agent Orange and others by troops on the ground, but there are those whose exposure is  from the handling, transport and storage of defoliant offshore, as well as use in the Korean DMZ and elsewhere.

Background: During the Vietnam War, veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam drank, bathed in, and cooked with water contaminated by Agent Orange. They are now arbitrarily and unjustly denied benefits for illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure. On July 25, 2018, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Please copy and send the following letter via email,  or print and send.  Your Senator ‘s contact information is found here.

 

SUBJECT:  Please Take Action on Blue Water Navy Bill

Honorable Senator ______:

As your constituent, I write to request you to urge the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the full Senate to swiftly pass H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018. This bipartisan bill was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives nearly three months ago and would end the injustice of denying care and benefits to veterans who suffer from life-threatening health conditions.

Recent statements by the Department of Veterans Affairs dispute scientific evidence that veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide that has been found to be associated with the development of rare cancers and other health conditions. However, the National Academy of Medicine (formally called the Institute of Medicine) study entitled Veterans and Agent Orange (Update 2014) found that existing evidence shows possible routes of exposure for Blue Water Navy veterans, which means existing evidence should not be used to exclude Blue Water Navy veterans. One thing is undeniable: thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans are suffering and dying from the same conditions as veterans who served in-country during the Vietnam War. Time is running out for many Blue Water Navy veterans. The Senate must not delay further while Blue Water Navy veterans sicken and die from diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.

The brave men and women who wear the uniform of our nation are asked to serve in the roughest and most dangerous environments on Earth. When they are injured or made ill as a result of such service, a grateful nation must provide them the care and benefits they need to cope with their disabilities. The Senate must do the right thing by passing H.R. 299 before the end of the year.

Sincerely,

<your name / mailing address>

 

VA Pensions

Are you, or do you know someone who served in the U.S. military, at least some of which was during a period of wartime, and has financial and/ or physical hardship?   Do they know that they may receive assistance from the Veterans Administration?

Reprinted from the VA website

Veterans Pension

Supplemental Income for Wartime Veterans

VA helps Veterans and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension benefit. Veterans Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans.

Eligibility

Generally, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a wartime period.

In addition to meeting minimum service requirements, the Veteran must be:

  • Age 65 or older, OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

Your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans Pension benefit. Learn more about income and net worth limitation, and see an example of how VA calculates the VA Pension benefit.

Additional Pension Allowances

Veterans or surviving spouses who are eligible for VA pension and are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible for an additional monetary payment.

How To Apply

You can apply for Veterans Pension online or download and complete VA Form 21P-527EZ, “Application for Pension”. You can mail your application to the Pension Management Center (PMC) that serves your state. You may also visit your local regional benefit office and turn in your application for processing. You can locate your local regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator

To apply for increased pension based on A&A or Housebound payments, write to the PMC that serves your state and provide medical evidence, such as a doctor’s report, that validates the need for an increased benefit.

Who better to lead

When I chose to make the military my career,  I vowed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Never in my nearly sixty years of age, did I think that, disagreements on policy priorities and governance aside, that our two-hundred forty year old nation would be so divided internally, and so poorly governed.

Since the first Gulf War, in 1991,  the members of Congress in particular, and the Government bureaucrats and advisers, generally, with military service -especially wartime combat service have declined.  With a world view fueled by lifelong academics with little to no experience abroad,  the men and women who are seeking to “fundamentally transform America” ( then-candidate Barack Obama) do not have American interests, nor practical American foreign policy concerns at heart.

Whether it is the shortsighted foreign policy objectives  or the politically-encumbered execution of military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia,  military men and women have been sent into harm’s way.  And the bureaucrats, industrial lobbyists, politicians, academics, and news media corporations, all vie for primacy while the American soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and our border enforcement agents all are treated shabbily.

When I heard today that Jeff Bezos of Amazon donated millions to a PAC, With Honor,  I started to look into it.   The idea that military, particularly combat-veterans, should run for political office and senior bureaucratic offices at all levels of government, cheers me.  It sounds intriguing.  I have served with some who have held offices in state governments and have brought a lot of wisdom and value to serving their constituents. But with electoral campaigns running into the millions of dollars, few can compete without well-connected benefactors.  There needs to be effective support systems that are independent of party affiliation.  And with veterans in the workings of government, there may be better opportunity to provide well-earned services to our veterans,  and to provide some sober judgement about policies that may send others into harms way.

More to come.