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

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War—the Waiting

Fear can be like a bone chewing pit-bull full of worry that will not let go.  For LBJ, after he was out of the White House, I believe his fear came from guilt. Years ago, I read a review about a book written by one of the Secret Service agents that guarded LBJ on his ranch after he left the White House.  This agent wrote that LBJ had a chapel on the ranch where the 36th President went daily to pray. The agent reported that LBJ talked a lot about dying. I think LBJ wanted to die—his way to escape the people he gifted with death, those that haunted him.

Waiting for something to happen is worse than when it happens. During the first Gulf War when the older Bush was President, most Americans, through the media, had an up-close view of war at its best and that image was misleading.

Wars seldom work as well as that one did—with so few causalities and so many quick kills and victories leading to the gates of Bagdad where GWB’s dad knew when to stop.  This morning, I read a great piece written by Christopher Torchia, an Associated Press reporter. In  “Afghanistan battle shows war rarely fought to plan“, Torchia captured the atmosphere of warriors waiting.

It reminded me that when a night patrol, an ambush or a field operation came along, most of us wanted to get outside the safety of the barbed wire so bad, we drew straws hoping to get the short one—the one that would put us in harm’s way.

Discover Before PTSD, it was called Combat Fatigue or Shell Shock

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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!”

Letters from Home

While I was in Vietnam, many Marines in my communication’s platoon didn’t get mail—ever. Since my family and friends wrote often and sent packages with cookies, candy and books like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I had books to fill the days when we weren’t in the field. At night when I was on radio watch in the bunker, I read too. I shared with my “brothers” in uniform who didn’t get anything. The cookies were popular. I loaned the books out too.

If someone who has never faught in a war listens to the news, it sounds like our troops are fighting 24/7. My mother believed it. Evertime she heard about combat and deaths on the news, she cried. My dad told me this after I came home.

Too bad, she didn’t know the truth.  During those down times, soldiers get lonely and think about home. For me, books helped fill the empty hours. Those books also helped get my mind off what was waiting at night and beyond the wire when I wasn’t on a field operation, out at night with patrols or was involved in ambushes that we were setting up. No one wants to be the target of an ambush we don’t plan—I was the target in a couple of those too.

Because of my experiences in Vietnam, during the first Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), I organized a letter writing campaign with my secondary English students in La Puente, California.  One girl’s older brother was in Kuwait, then he moved on to Iraq after the war started in earnest. When his letters arrived, class time was set aside for his sister to share what was happening to him. I feared we might hear he had been killed. But he was fortunate and made it back in one piece.

Recently, I joined Operation E-Book Drop. This program offers free e-books to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any troop with a computer may sign onto Smashwords.com and download a book if they have the coupon code. They have to request the codes through the program. More than two hundred authors and nine publishers have joined this program.

Another program, Book Readers for SF (Special Forces—kindlesf@gmailcom), is putting Kindles in the hands of troops that belong to Special Forces in Afghanistan. Many of these soldiers are stationed in remote, rugged, mountain outposts.

Now, I’m adopting a Spc. in an Aviation Regiment from Operation Desert Swap http://operationdesertswap.webs.com/.

I’m mailing a copy of my novel, My Splendid Concubine, and will send cards and gifts when holidays come along.  Once we have been in combat, I don’t think any veteran forgets what it was like.

Discover Stanford Study shows effects of PTSD trauma on brain

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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!”