Veteran Medical Care through VA Neglected by Obama Administration and Congress

UPDATE for June 6, 2014

Maybe we can’t blame the Obama administration for all of what happened at the VA. Maybe the GOP is responsible for wrecking the VA medical system so it broke down and was failing in its mission long before Obama was sworn in as President and moved into the White House.

From Forbes, we learn: “In the “old days” of the VHA, before President Clinton, many of those eligible for care wouldn’t use the system – the care was considered sub-optimal. Through reforms implemented during the Clinton years by Dr. Kenneth Kizer, the VHA went through an amazing transformation – and patient enrollment surged. Great primary care, a beautiful and relatively easy to use electronic medical record, AND a culture of accountability. Veterans received wonderful care for a great price. Unfortunately, in 1999, the GOP made it clear they were going to refuse Dr. Kizer’s renomination, and instead of being slung through mud, he resigned and went to the private sector.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynmcclanahan/2014/06/04/fixing-the-veterans-healthcare-mess/

UPDATE for June 4, 2014

ProPublica reports: “The scandal surrounding long wait times within the Veterans Affairs’ health care system has garnered national attention as VA secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amidst growing opposition to his leadership. To help make sense of the institutional problems that led to the scandal, we’ve compiled some of the best reporting about chronic issues of mismanagement in the VA.”

http://www.propublica.org/article/the-veterans-affairs-scandal-and-more-muckreads-on-va-health-care?utm_source=et&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

UPDATE for May 29, 2014

“An array of lawmakers from both parties called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on Wednesday following the publication of a new report describing the “systemic” practice of mishandling medical appointments at a Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix that may have led to the deaths of 23 veterans.” – Foreign Policy Magazine

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/05/28/new_wave_of_lawmakers_call_on_shinseki_to_resign?wp_login_redirect=0

UPDATE for May 26, 2014

The American Legion reports that a Department of Veterans Affairs memorandum written four years ago warned that “inappropriate scheduling practices” were being used at some VA medical facilities “in order to improve scores on assorted access measures.” These practices were sometimes referred to as “gaming strategies.” The document, dated April 26, 2010, was written by William Schoenhard (appointed to the VA by President Obama in 2009), who then served as VA’s deputy under secretary for health operations and management. The nine-page memo lists several specific scheduling practices to avoid.

President Obama appointed Eric Shinseki as the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2009.

Arne Duncan, who is orchestrating the destruction and dismantling of the democratic U.S. Public schools was appointed by President Obama to be the US Secretary of Education in 2009.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was appointed by President Obama to lead the US Federal Communication Commission in 2013, and now he is attempting to end Internet Neutrality and allow corporations to control the Internet with pay to play power to choke anyone’s site from being easily accessed—a clear form of censorship.

Do you see the pattern here?

UPDATE for May 22, 2014

Only in this White House could a Cabinet Secretary (Eric Shinseki at the VA) get not just one but two public presidential statements of confidence. … as internal documents emerge ( a 2010 memo) showing that an agency (the VA) knew about fraud and left the problem to such an extent that people died while waiting for medical care. What does it take to get fired from a job in the Barack Obama Administration? (The Fiscal Times)

What does this tell us—that Arne Duncan after being connected to fraud and lies in the Department of Education will be with us until the end of 2016?  See Smoking Gun 1 and 2 to discover the scandal at the Department of Education and how that is also being ignored. When will memos and e-mails of Duncan’s incompetence and fraud be splashed across the media, and when will Republicans (the GOP) admit that America’s public schools are the best in the world and the problem is poverty (see Smoking Gun)?

The GOP continues to hammer the Obama White House over four deaths in Benghazi (after several Congressional investigations find nothing that leads to the White House) but ignores that fact that children are dying in the public schools due to cutbacks thanks to Arne Duncan’s Department of Education spending billions on useless testing leading to full-time nurses losing their jobs in the schools. See: Another student dies after falling sick at Philly school with no nurse on duty

UPDATE May 20, 2014

The top official for veterans’ health care resigned Friday, as the Obama administration and Congress begin to respond to a growing political firestorm over allegations of treatment delays and falsified records at veterans’ hospitals nationwide. The House has scheduled a vote for Wednesday on legislation that would give Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki greater authority to fire or demote senior executives and administrators at the agency and its 152 medical Centers. (You may read the rest of this report @ Military.com http://www.military.com/veterans-report/steps-taken-to-address-va-firestorm?ESRC=vr.nl)

First published May 13, 2014:

What’s going on? First the Public Schools and now the VA!

First: Under President Clinton and a Congress dominated by a GOP majority, the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 that was meant to protect the United States from another Great Depression was repealed in 1999 leading to the Great Recession of 2007-08 under President G. W. Bush, the 2nd worse global financial disaster since the Great Depression.

Second: President G. W. Bush—with approval from a GOP dominated Congress—enacts the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and the U.S. Government declares war on its own Public Schools under the false claims that the public schools are failing when they aren’t.

Third: President Obama, with overwhelming approval from Congress enacts Race to the Top in 2009 along with the Common Core Standards as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act escalating the White House’s war on Public Education to Machiavellian levels.

Fourth: In early April 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court—dominated by a conservative majority—wipes out the overall limit on what a wealthy donor can give to political parties and federal candidates during an election cycle with the McCutcheon decision. This ruling reinforced the unwritten iron law that now prevails in American politics: Pay to Play

Fifth: A very real threat to Net Neutrality. Network neutrality is basically the principle that Internet access providers—[including] companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast—shouldn’t discriminate in how they handle traffic on the Internet. And without this neutrality, the Internet also becomes “Pay to Play” or vanish into obscurity.

Sixth: Now medical care through the Veterans Administration (VA)! Since the late 1990s under President Bill Clinton, the VA became an efficient model medical care system, and President Obama can’t reform something that works so what’s the best way to change that? The answer: make sure it needs reforming by introducing corruption through the VA’s top leaders.

The Obama Administration and the Congress seem hell bent to privatize government. The public schools are in the middle of an all-out war with the federal government to turn education over to private sector Charter schools that are riddled with corruption and mostly worse than the public schools. It also seems that the VA is under attack as services and support has been eroding under the Obama White House and Congress.

Does this mean the VA has also been targeted to be privatized just like the public schools, prison systems, and even the military? After all, if the VA failed to provide adequate services, then the White House will have an excuse to demand reforms and that usually means privatization.

The American Legion.org reports: “At a May 5 press conference in Indianapolis, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger called for the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (appointed by President Obama in 2009), as well as Robert Petzel (appointed in 2010) and Allison Hickey (appointed in 2011), VA’s undersecretaries for health and benefits, respectively. It was a decision the Legion arrived at gradually, after years of support. …

“Dellinger noted two of the most recent revelations that finally convinced him that top VA leadership in Washington needed to change: allegations that the Phoenix VA medical center kept a secret list of patients waiting months for medical care, which was linked by CNN to preventable deaths of about 40 veterans; and findings by a VA investigation that workers at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., had been instructed on how to falsify appointment records. …

“The American Legion expects when such errors and lapses are discovered, that they are dealt with swiftly and that the responsible parties are held accountable,” Dellinger said. “This has not happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs. There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top.”

The American Legion may demand changes within the VA but the problem originates from the White House and a neo-liberal president and his administration, who have clearly signaled that they are allied with neo-conservatives in the Republican Party with a common goal to privatize most if not all of government services.

Once the VA, the public schools, the military and the prisons are turned over to private sector, for profit corporations, does that mean the Constitution and Bill of Rights will be meaningless. After all, what the Founding Fathers wrote in 1776 was meant to protect all U.S. citizens from their own elected government and not private sector corporations (that didn’t exist in the 18th century) run by billionaire oligarchs and CEO autocrats.

For instance, the 1st Amendment freedom of speech protections only protects Americans from their elected federal and state governments. The 2nd Amendment’s right to own and bear arms also protects America’s citizens only from our elected governments—the feds and the states can’t legally take away a citizen’s right to own firearms.

But what happens when there is only a puppet government owned by the wealthiest 1% of Americans and all federal and state services have been turned over to, for instance, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, the Koch brothers, the (Wall-Mart) Walton family, and Hedge Fund billionaire’s on Wall Street?

Imagine what will happen if the IRS is turned over to Microsoft or Rupert Murdock’s Media Corp; if the U.S. Forest Service is privatized and turned over to the Koch brothers, and if President Obama is successful in doing away with Internet Neutrality.

Also Recommended:

President Obama’s Failure of Leadership

Who crowned Bill Gates the Emperor of Education?

Education Bloggers Network Supporting the Public Schools

The compulsory Common Core standards and the facts behind the Controversy

The challenge of teaching At-Risk Kids reveals why Charter schools are abandoning them

The successful history of—and the threat to—Public Education in the United States

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ignorance of PTSD might be dangerous: Part 2 of 2

It’s been forty-seven years since I served in Vietnam, and over those years, the few times I’ve been in threatening situations, my thoughts are not of running away or breaking down in tears of fear. Instead, I’m thinking of the fastest way I can kill the person I perceive as a threat. If I’m close enough, I’ll be looking at his throat thinking about digging my teeth in and tearing out his jugular.

In the film “Patton”—played by George C. Scott—there is a scene where the general explodes in anger at troops who were in military hospitals suffering from severe PTSD—known as battle fatigue or shell shock back then.  The violence they had experienced had traumatized them severely. But General Patton thought anyone who suffered from PTSD was a coward and a fake.

I think that Russell Ireland, who owns the Big I’s Restaurant in Oxford, Massachusetts, is evidently an uneducated throw back to that World War II era, who does not think a war veteran suffering from PTSD deserves the same respect as a vet who lost body parts and probably also suffers from PTSD.

To Ireland’s way of thinking—just like General Patton—if the injury isn’t physical, it doesn’t count. For example, missing body parts.

I never know when my PTSD is going to flare or what may trigger it. When I’m awake, I’m always vigilant of my surroundings watching for threats.

 At night and early morning hours I often wake up and see enemy combatants in the darkness—they seem real but I’ve experienced this so many times over the decades that I often stare at them and maybe use a flashlight I keep by my bed to make sure it isn’t real before I can go back to sleep.  And by my side is a .45 caliber Glock automatic with a loaded magazine.  In the closet is a pump shotgun. In the gun safe are more weapons and boxes of ammo.

I did not buy these weapons to go hunting. I bought these weapons so I could sleep at night knowing I was prepared for the unexpected that my PTSD keeps reminding me is out there. Watching the daily news also doesn’t help so I avoid it most of the time. Before Vietnam, I read newspapers. After Vietnam, I stopped reading them. Newspapers are filled with reminders of crimes and violence in the United States that may trigger PTSD symptoms.

PTSD wasn’t recognized until the 1980s and then vets started to receive help from the VA.  I have carried the dark shadow of my PTSD with me since 1966 and didn’t get any help from the VA until after 2005 when I discovered that I was eligible.

And ignorant idiots like Russell Ireland don’t have any idea about the time bomb they may be triggering when they confront a vet with combat induced PTSD. He may have been fortunate that James Glaser had his trained service dog by his side.

By the way, it’s been forty-seven years since I served in Vietnam and I haven’t killed or physical attacked anyone yet. As for Dr. Phil, I’ve never been impressed by his show. It’s more of a shock and awe thing promoted by Oprah [she’s the billionaire who owns the show] while Dr. Phil acts the guru to an ignorant mob of fools—Dr. Phil’s net worth is estimated to be $200 million or more earned from his show.

Return or start with Ignorance of PTSD might be dangerous: Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Wounded Warriors Returning from the Abyss

Dawn Halfaker graduated from West Point as a 1st lieutenant and led a platoon in Iraq in 2004. A few weeks into her deployment, her platoon was ambushed, she was hit and when she woke up in the hospital days later, her right arm was gone.

With her military career over, she decided to help fellow wounded veterans. The Huffington Post interviewed Halfaker, and asked, “What happened on the day you got wounded?”

Halfaker replied, “It was a routine, 3-hour patrol mission looking for enemy activity on a relatively quiet night until, after about two and a half hours, we drove right into an ambush. I was in the first vehicle of the convoy, and one of the rocket-propelled grenades hit me and one of my squad leaders, severely injuring both of us.”

She launched Halfaker and Associates, and today it is an award winning professional services and technology solutions firm. She also is involved as the president of the Wounded Warrior Project that has a vision “to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

Serving her country, she lost an arm and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal along with a Purple Heart for her wounds in combat. But her success since that fateful day doesn’t mean she doesn’t have days where she doesn’t hate her life. In 2005, in a New York Times interview, she said, “Some days when I’m holding a cup of coffee, my ID, carrying a bag, trying to open the door at work, I spill coffee on myself. Those are the days I say, ‘I hate my life.’ I cry and think, Why do I have to be this way?”

But no matter how she feels on down days, she always rebounds and wonders how her life turned out so great.

If we learn anything from this retired Army captain, it is that there is no excuse to give up on life.

Why is it that some combat veterans become homeless alcoholics and drug users stricken with severe PTSD and others—for example Halfaker—end up becoming the successful CEO of her own business with 150 employees and a positive role model for the rest of us?

Discover A Prisoner of War for Life

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Combat casualties and battle-field medicine through the ages: Part 2/2

With the introduction of gun powder, combat casualties increased dramatically, but medical treatment in the battlefield also improved. Field hospitals were introduced by Napoleon. During the Civil War and later in World War I and World War II, trained military medics joined combat units to treat casualties in the field as troops were wounded.

By comparing deaths and the number wounded starting with World War I, we gain a better understanding of how those advances in battlefield medical care improved the odds of survival.

  • World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918—one year and eight months): 53,402 deaths and 204,002 wounded in action—an average of 32,170 combat deaths annually.
  • World War II (Dec. 1941 to Aug. 14, 1945—three years and about nine months): 407,300 deaths and 670,846 wounded in action—an average of 108,613 combat deaths annually.

The introduction of the helicopter in Korea and then Vietnam to quickly medevac wounded troops to field hospitals saved many lives.

  • Korea (1950 – 1953—three years): 54,246 deaths and 92,134 wounded in combat—an average of 18,082 combat deaths annually.
  • Vietnam (1956 – 1975—nineteen years): 58,193 deaths and 153,303 wounded in combat—an average of 3,063 combat deaths annually.
  • Desert Storm (1990 – 1991—seven months): 378 deaths and 1,000 wounded in combat—an average of 54 combat deaths a month.
  • Iraq (March 2003 – December 2011—about eight years): 4,403 deaths and 31,827 wounded in combat—an average of 550 combat deaths annually.
  • Afghanistan (October 7, 2001 to present—about eleven years) 2,094 and 18,584 wounded in action—an average of 190 combat deaths annually while back home in the United States more than 30,000 die in vehicle accidents on the roads and highways every year. Sources: Timeline of U.S. Wars and Conflicts and Defense.gov

Today, there are more casualties from suicide than combat. In 2012, the number of active-duty casualties from suicide actually outnumbered the combat deaths in all of Afghanistan, 349 -295.  But it’s even worse than that if you look at the number of suicides by America’s veterans. As of February 4th, TWENTY-TWO veterans kill themselves EVERY DAY. That’s one EVERY 65 MINUTES. Source: Innocence-Clinic.law

Now the challenge is to discover how to treat the invisible wounds and trauma of the mind.

Return to or start with Combat casualties and battle-field medicine through the ages: Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Unwanted Heroes

Many unwanted heroes defend our nation and fight its wars—right or wrong. When America’s leaders declare wars based on lies (for example: Vietnam and Iraq) or the truth (World War I, II, Afghanistan and Korea), unwanted heroes do the fighting and pay the price.

On the side of a bus at the VA medical clinic that I go to, it says, “All gave some; some gave all.” I have a credit card sized VA Department of Veterans Affairs ID card.  It says below my photo: “Service Connected.” That means I have a disability connected to my service in Vietnam in 1966 when I was serving in the US Marines.

What is the price many unwanted heroes pay for trusting their leaders?

This post has the same title of a novel that was recently released, and I had the privilege of editing Unwanted Heroes by Alon Shalev.

In Unwanted Heroes, Shalev brings together a long suffering, battle weary Chinese American Vietnam veteran suffering from the trauma of PTSD and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who both share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine.

Alon Shalev, the author, grew up in London, and has been a political activist since his early teens. He strives through his writing to highlight social and political injustice and to inspire action for change.

Moving to Israel, he helped establish a kibbutz where he lived for 20 years and served in the Israeli army.

Shalev then moved to the San Francisco Bay area and fell hopelessly in love with this unique city. Being new to the US, however, he was shocked to see so many war veterans on the streets. He regularly volunteers at initiatives such as Project Homeless Connect and the San Francisco Food Bank where he meets and talks with war veterans. These experiences lend authenticity to the novel.

In fact, according to NIH (the National Institute of Health) Medline Plus, “PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults” … and “members of the military exposed to war/combat and other groups at high risk for trauma exposure are at risk for developing PTSD.

“Among veterans returning from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD and mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often linked and their symptoms may overlap. Blast waves from explosions can cause TBI, rattling the brain inside the skull.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts almost 31% of Vietnam veterans; as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans; 11% of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, and 20% of Iraqi war veterans.”

NIH says, “PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.”

In addition, “between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year, and on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the US. … About 33% of homeless males in the US are veterans and veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. One of the primary causes of homelessness among veterans is combat-related mental health issues and disability.

The incident of PTSD and suicide rates among veterans is also climbing and 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness including PTSD. Source: Veterans Inc.org

The New York Times reported, “Suicide rates of military personnel and combat veterans have risen sharply since 2005, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intensified. Recently, the Pentagon established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office.”

“The CDC Vietnam Experience Study Mortality Assessment showed that during the first 5 years after discharge, deaths from suicide were 1.7 times more likely among Vietnam veterans than non-Vietnam veterans. …

Why? “The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.” Source: History.com – Statistics about the Vietnam War

I did not seek help for my PTSD for thirty-eight years, because I did not know the VA offered counseling.

Discover A Prisoner of War for Life

__________________________

Follow this Blog via Email — sign in near the top-right corner of this screen and click “Follow”

PTSD and Homeless Veterans

In the Marines, we learned to never leave the wounded or dead behind.

I have lived with the symptoms of PTSD for forty-six years. I was fortunate. I was capable of holding down a job. I haven’t forgotten the homeless veteran I met in an alley early one early morning in Pasadena, California. I wrote about it in A Prisoner of War for Life.

The key is to learn how to cope. If you have PTSD, you will never get rid of it as if it were a cold or the flu. PTSD stays with you for life.

USA Today reported, “War might be making young bodies old. … The tragic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield concussion are all too evident. Even more alarming for researchers is emerging evidence that these newest American combat veterans — former GIs and Marines in their 20s and 30s — appear to be growing old before their time. Scientists see early signs of heart disease and diabetes, slowed metabolisms and obesity — maladies more common to middle age or later.”

Some veterans are so damaged from combat experience, that they become homeless.

The population of the United States is more than 314 million people. The US Armed Forces that protects America’s civilians numbers 1.458 million—less than one-half-of-one-percent of the total US population. In addition, there are about 860 thousand military reservists.

In fact, the number of military veterans in the United States in 2012 was 21.8 million—6.94% of the total US population.

It doesn’t matter the reason a US citizen joins the military—patriotism or a financial need—and fights in one of America’s foreign wars. The fact that he or she served and put his or her life on the line or risked serious injury in combat,  I think that the ninety-three percent of the population that never served and risked life and limb owes those veterans an obligation.

That also means supporting homeless veterans with jobs and shelter.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says, “The nation’s homeless population … went from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. … The only increase was among those unsheltered.”

However, “The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. The rate for veterans was 31 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population.”


PBS Documentary on Homeless Veterans – WORTH WATCHING if you have the time.

The Veterans Administration is the only federal agency that provides substantial hand-on assistance directly to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Veteran homelessness is a problem of national importance. According to a count on a January night in 2011, there were 67,495 homeless Veterans. And an estimated 144,842 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in a recent year. Because of this, in 2009, President Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.

An estimated 144,842 Veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in one recent year.

Many other Veterans are considered at risk of homelessness because of poverty, lack of support from family and friends, substance use or mental health issues, and precarious living conditions.

The VA has a hot line to support veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. That number is: 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-4243-838) Source: VA.gov/Homeless

In recent months, I have been editing a novel about PTSD and homeless veterans.  It isn’t my work. It was written by Alon Shalev, the author of  The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale.  His next novel is titled, Unwanted Heroes (to be published soon). It’s a story about healing and/or the failure to heal from PTSD. A love story is part of the mix too.

_______________________
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

Low-Def Kindle Cover December 11His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

One Never Forgets

It has been forty-six years since I fought in Vietnam, and watching two movies rebooted my PTSD interrupting my sleep pattern. For years, I usually wake at least once a night and listen. However, since watching the movies, I wake every hour and listen to the night sounds.

In Brothers, one of the two brothers, a captain in the US Marines, goes to Afghanistan on his fourth tour of duty and becomes a tortured and abused POW.  After he is liberated and his captors killed, he returns home suffering from severe PTSD trauma. Tobey Maguire plays Marine Captain Sam Cahill and does a convincing job playing a veteran that is severely damaged by PTSD symptoms.

Watching Maguire act his part reminded me of my first decade back from Vietnam when I drank too much and often woke once or twice and carried a loaded weapon around the house checking the doors and windows.  More than once, when overwhelmed by a burst of anger, I punched holes in walls with fists.

The anger comes fast—one moment you are calm as a rusty doorknob and an instant later an exploding fragmentation grenade.

In the Valley of Elah, Tommy Lee Jones plays a father, who was also a Vietnam combat veteran, searching for answers to explain his son’s death soon after returning from Iraq. In this film, we see how war strips young men of their humanity—that thin veneer that comes with so-called civilization.

From Brothers, I was reminded of the homeless Vietnam veteran I met in an alley in Pasadena, California one early morning. He had been a prisoner of war and similar to the character Tobey Maguire plays, was severely traumatized with PTSD symptoms.

The VA rated the homeless vet I met in that Pasadena alley as 100% disabled by PTSD possibly explaining why he was homeless—not because he could not afford an apartment.  The disability from the VA was more than enough to support him.  However, most of that money went for drugs and booze for him and his homeless buddies.

Then there was another vivid image of a Vietcong POW being tortured by South Korean troops during a field operation I was on.  The South Koreans hung that Vietnamese POW by his heels from a tree limb and pealed the skin off his body while he lived.

In the Valley of Elah reminded me of an ambush where a team of Marines I was a member of went out in a heavy rain at sunset and after an hour or so of slogging through the gloomy downpour, we stopped in a rice paddy with water to our necks and stayed there for more than an hour waiting for complete darkness before moving into position. We shared that rice paddy with a very large king cobra.

In the Marines, one does not question orders—we do or die—so we stayed in that paddy knowing a king cobra was in the water with us.

Both of these films are dramatic examples of what war does to young men and their families.

Some combat veterans avoid seeing films such as these two. However, I do not. I do not want to return to that time where I avoided talking and thinking of my part in the Vietnam War, because at night when we struggle to sleep there is no escape. We cannot hide from the monster that came home with us living inside our skin as if it were an unwanted parasite.

Discover A Prisoner of War for Life

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”