Life Changing Book for Vets

To merely categorize Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Eric Newhouse’s latest writing Faces of Recovery as “a book” is misleading. In actuality, it is several books in one, with varied reader-audiences.
Its subtitle, Treatments that Help PTSD, TBI and Moral Injury, covers vastly more information as well, including research, personal stories, interviews, perspectives, and compelling examples aimed at educating military veterans, their family members, veterans’ counselors, civilians, and decision-makers in our Veterans Administration.
His writing is in-depth; his reporting focuses on various past weaknesses and some current improvements slowly being made to assist veterans, but his ultimate conclusions are uplifting and positive.
There is hope for those suffering from war’s “invisible wounds” as well as those with more obvious scars. Many people who never faced combat but who suffer from PTSD and other injuries can learn methods to help them begin healing.
What readers will discover is an overview of how millions of American veterans and their families continue daily to confront issues that resulted from what they experienced first-hand in battle or witnessed as journalists/photo-journalists, or as military and medical personnel. Some never left our shores and yet have PTSD symptoms years after the original incidents occurred. Clearly, our society may be experiencing a vast and complex general condition: soul injury.
Newhouse’s numerous personal interviews combined with gut-wrenching and detailed stories are reinforced by scientific research and statistics backed by reliable medical studies and decades of veterans’ data which leave no doubt that prolonged combat increases emotional and physical injury.
A veteran himself, Newhouse reveals in a stunning description how he was suddenly, personally, and emotionally affected when, for the first time, he stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. He had served in the Army, but since he was never deployed to Vietnam, he felt he had left the service unscathed. It was his psychological experience at “The Wall” that triggered his mission to seek help for those millions of Americans who served, both in combat and on the home-front, still suffering the effects of lost innocence.
Memories of actions resulting in killing someone during combat can also cause life-long guilt and trauma, if left to fester. Moral injury, as he terms it, can be as catastrophic as brain injuries.
Newhouse often speaks to veterans’ groups and those who counsel vets. He consults with Veterans Administration planners, interviews those veterans and civilians who, through military service or their civilian jobs, have suffered everything from “shell-shock,” a term used following WWII, to PTSD and TBI or moral injury from Vietnam or Middle East combat.
His book also includes revealing writings and interviews from many combat vets as well as one woman journalist who witnessed, solely on television, a major natural disaster with resulting deaths when her hometown of New Orleans was forever changed. Still today, although improving, she is re-living some of the images. Newhouse outlines successful techniques and approaches to make progress on what can be a slow-but-sure road to recovery.
Having taught Marines and sailors for the past two years at Camp Pendleton in a volunteer program called, “Writing for Strength,” I am honored to be mentioned in Newhouse’s latest release, a sequel to his Faces of Combat, used extensively in counseling and other educational programs to help veterans and others start to recoup their lives.
His books are essential for those working with veterans. Counselors and chaplains who attended my program consider Newhouse’s methods vital for connecting with and helping vets begin their healing process. Individual Marines and sailors who participate in Camp Pendleton’s program report finding his techniques something they need to continue to practice. Newhouse shows how writing, physical exercise, counseling and education can be combined to assist those who are injured.
He continues to dedicate his own life to making a difference in the lives of others. Faces of Recovery is the latest of his superb guidebooks for those in need.

Julie Davey, Writing for Strength Program, Camp Pendleton

Prevalence of Suicide

My granddaughter is always asking me what she should do if someone tries to kidnap her. I give her a few self-defense tips, tell her to always be aware, and then try to alleviate her fear. I impress upon her the fact that in all my years, I have never met anyone who has been kidnapped nor have I ever met someone who knows someone who has been kidnapped. I explained that these facts lead me to believe that your chances of being kidnapped are lower than your chances of winning the lottery. (I actually know someone who won that.)

I used to feel the same way about suicide. Growing up I never heard of anyone neither I nor my family knew that committed suicide. I never even knew someone who knew someone. Now I know too many that have either been on the verge, tried, or even succeeded. Not only do I know people, people I love, I have been there myself. Talk to people. Tell them you care. Be available to talk. But you know what? You need to understand that if someone is truly intent on killing themselves, they are going to find a way. You can try with all your heart to prevent it, but they will just get crafty. They may even convince you that they are fine now so you start to relax and give them some space. The next day they are just gone.

It is NOT your fault. They are responsible for their own actions. You did NOT fail. Their own mind failed them. It convinced them that the only way to end their suffering was to end their existence. You cannot fight someone else’s inner demons. You can, however, not create demons of your own over their loss.
Please let them go. Feel sad that they lost their battle. Honor their memory and the love you shared. Understand that none of it was your fault. You cannot fight an enemy you cannot see. No one can truly see the inner workings of another’s mind. All you can really do is protect and nurture your own.

Where Has the Time Gone

My grandfather, Russell Fisher. A career Marine who served in WWII.

Yes, I watched the Royal wedding. Not only did I watch that one, but by staying up the whole night before Prince Harry wed, I was able to watch three other royal weddings as a prelude. Don’t judge me. I’m a history fan. Though the prince will never be king, assuming an asteroid doesn’t come down and take out the five people in line before him, I still like to get a glimpse of those people who personify the distant past. Specifically, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. I greatly admire both the Queen and her husband, but seeing them this time was a little different for me.

Intellectually, I understand that the Queen is 92 years old and the prince is 96, but in my heart, he is still the swashbuckling naval officer and she is still the young woman who so valiantly served her country in war. Though only a princess at the time, she enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) when she was 18 even though she was heir to the throne. As a result, she is also the only head of state in the world who served in World War II. We see that same grit in her grandsons, both veterans themselves.

And yet, upon seeing the obvious fragility of both queen and prince, I was struck by the heartbreaking realization that we will soon be reaching the end of an era. It was only 7 years ago that we said goodbye to the last surviving WWI veteran. Now, it appears that all too soon, we will losing our WWII veterans as well.

P.S. for a couple of really awesome pics of the Queen in service, click here.

Floating – The New therapy

15119919 – wellness – young woman floating in spa or swimming pool, she is very relaxed

To be honest, I had no idea that this was a real therapy. I just knew that it felt really good when I had the pool all to myself. According to those who know, here are the benefits of floating:

• Increased energy levels
• Improved quality of sleep
• Heightened production of endorphins
• Diminished anxiety, depression and tension
• Enhanced creativity and problem-solving abilities
• Increased concentration, memory and mental clarity
• Improved athletic performance
• Quickened rehabilitation and recovery
• Reduced blood pressure and heart rate
• Improved circulation
• Reduced instances of neuromuscular aches and pains, inflammation and tendonitis, sprains/strains
• Strengthened immune system

So what is it? It’s exactly what it sounds like except not in a big pool. Some places have small float chambers that are just a little bigger than a coffin while others have chambers as big as a small room measuring 8 ft long x 6 ft wide with an 8 ft ceiling. These enclosures are large enough to allow stretching out completely or standing up. Very little is necessary to prepare for a session though you don’t want to go in while you are too full or hungry. You also want to make sure you empty your bladder as they don’t want you peeing in this pool.

During a float, you step into a quiet, warm, private spa called a float tank and lay back in water in which 1000-1200 lbs of Epsom salts have been dissolved. The water is denser than the Dead Sea, so you will float right on top! You will be fully supported, and you will expend no physical energy to stay afloat. The water is kept at a constant temperature of around 95 degrees, which feels warm at first but soon becomes almost imperceptible. When you choose to turn out the lights, your eyes can rest in a comforting darkness that is the same whether you open or close them. External sounds are kept to an absolute minimum through extensive soundproofing, earplugs, and the design of the tanks themselves.
The length of a session varies, but you could choose to be in there for 90 minutes. I’m pretty good at entertaining myself, but I’m not sure if I could do it for that long. Perhaps if I can fall asleep as I often fall asleep during my 90 minute massage. I believe I’ll give it a try and let you know.

The One VA Benefit that Could Save Your Life

If you get your healthcare from the VA, then you can use their electronic records system called ebenefits. Through ebenefits you can renew prescriptions, make appointments, email your providers, track various aspects of your health and even request copies of your military records. But you know the best thing you can do on ebenefits? You can read your own medical records! And I don’t mean the general sheet they give you after an appointment that tells you your vital statistics for that day, I’m talking the nitty gritty.

Most places act like your medical records are top secret information. Next time you’re at the doctor and the nurse is writing in your chart, just ask her if you can see it. I bet she won’t. They never leave them anywhere where you might get access to them. Honestly, I have no idea why. There can’t be anything in there we don’t know, right?

With ebenefits, you get it all. Let’s say you go to the doctor with stomach pain. Your doctor suspects a stomach ulcer and decides to do a CT scan of your abdomen. You have the procedure and wait for your follow up visit to get the results. Meanwhile, the Radiologist reads the test and sends the results to your doctor. Your doctor looks at the result and tells you, “No, you don’t have an ulcer”, or, “Yes, you do have an ulcer.” Then he proceeds to treat you for said ulcer. But did you know that the Radiologist’s report actually goes over every organ in your abdomen? With ebenefits you get to read the whole thing.

This is how the above example could have gone differently. Prior to your follow up visit to get the results, you got on ebenefits and read the Radiologist’s full report so you already knew that you did or didn’t have an ulcer. But as you’re reading about the other organs in your body, you get to the pancreas and you see the words “possible IPMN – verify with ultrasound.” If you’re like most of the population, you have no idea what this means, so you turn to Google and find that this means you may have a tumor on your pancreas that 70% of the time turns into aggressive pancreatic cancer. Now, when you go to be told about the ulcer you already know about, you could ask about this pancreas thing. Because, remember? The doctor never mentioned the pancreas thing. He just told you about the ulcer because that is the only part of the report he looked at.

In the real life version of this story, the patient had read their records prior to the follow up and did ask the doctor about the pancreas. The doctor looked at the rest of the report right there and also had to Google “IPMN” to find out what it was. Thankfully, that patient is now being seen by the gut doctors.

If you have access to your medical records, READ them! Thoroughly!

A Home of Their Own

165492_1739178126037_5694844_nThough it shouldn’t, the lengths people will go in their get rich quick schemes and scams still amazes me. The very idea that they will use servicemembers, veterans and their families disgusts me. Everything from false injury notifications to obtain credit card information to fake charities that prey on America’s love for its military has been tried. The latter are some of the most heinous as they take monetary donations from caring people and then use that money as their own. It makes it hard for a person to know who they can trust to use their donation in the manner in which it was intended. This lack of trust created by continuing news stories of these fake charities or even real charity organizations who misuse funds can make it harder for those groups who operate with integrity. Today, however, I want to share with you a group that really “puts their money where their mouth is” and I pray they always will.

According to their website, Operation Homefront “assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance.” They also list a number of other programs. I don’t claim to know everything about this organization, but if they are pocketing money for themselves on the sly then they must receive record donations. I’ve heard complaints against large well-known charities that actually provide very little actual assistance to those they claim to serve. Operation Homefront (OPH) is not one of them. How do I know? Because I have seen what this group has done for just ONE military family.

My son-in-law joined the Army in 2009. The past seven years have been filled with the usual ups and downs that most military families can expect; deployments, sick children, births, and the death of family members far away. Through all of this, OPH has stood behind them. For this article, I asked my daughter if she could list everything they have been provided by OPH. She just laughed and said she would try. Here is the list, short one item, this one family received from OPH:

High chair
Electric breast pump
$500 in designer baby clothes
$50 gift card for Toys R Us
200 diapers
Christmas toys every year for 3 years
Christmas dinner every year for 3 years
$20 Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas ham every year for 3 years
Plane ticket home for a morale and welfare leave
Spouse night out which included dinner, pampering and a goodie 2 years
Back to school supplies 2 years

In itself, that is one impressive list, but you may have noticed that I had said this list was “short one item”. That’s because one item that this ONE family received deserves a discussion all its own. On 13 December 2016, this family will be presented the keys to a mortgage-free home. Now, as my son-in-law transitions out of the military and back to civilian life their biggest concern is no longer a worry. The monetary value of the gift is, of course, extraordinary, but that pales in comparison to the piece of mind and continued sense of stability this gift gives to this veteran family. That is a gift beyond measure and shows that OPH understands the true needs of our veteran population.

So how did they get a house and how can you get one, too? Visit Operation Homefront’s website at and check out their “Homes on the Homefront” program. It’s open to most veterans not just those transitioning from active duty. Look at the homes they have available and read up on the rules and such. It’s an amazing program.

Come on out to Mooresville, Indiana, on December 13th and join in the celebration as this family receives their house keys! Come out and support this organization that is doing great things for veterans and is deserving or your support. Hope to see you there!