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

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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!”

The PTSD Connection – help from friends, family, loved ones and maybe marijuana

On the walk home from the theater after seeing the film Savages (Oliver Stone directed the film), I thought of one of the characters played by Taylor Kitsch—Chon is a former Navy Seal that served combat tours in Iraq and then Afghanistan.

Near the beginning of the film, it is obvious that Chon has PTSD but by the end Ophelia and Ben will have it too. What these characters experience in the film was traumatic in the worst way without joining the military and serving in a war.

If you see the movie or read the novel by Don Winslow, pay attention to how Chon deals with danger. There is one film scene in a restaurant where a server drops a tray of dishes and Chon, in a flash, is under the table with pistol in hand. He also handles dangerous situations ruthlessly.

In the movie, Chon and Ben produce high-quality marijuana and sell it legally and illegally, and all three of the main characters smoke their own product, which may be explained away by a study conducted at Haifa University in Israel that found rats with PTSD treated with marijuana within 24 hours of a traumatic experience successfully avoided any PTSD symptoms (maybe the US military should include some marijuana in the rations of all combat troops in Afghanistan).

However, that would not have helped me. I’m allergic to marijuana smoke and cannot be in the same room where someone else is smoking weed.

Winslow, the author of Savages, was once a private detective in New York City. His career as an investigator would repeatedly bring him to California to look into arson cases, so maybe he has some PTSD from that experience.

It is a fact that anyone can have PTSD—it isn’t exclusive to combat veterans. After all, Ophelia and Ben never served in the military and were not combat veterans from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, but by the end of the movie the odds are they both will have PTSD.

It doesn’t hurt that Oliver Stone, the film’s director, enlisted in the United States Army, fought in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division, then with the First Calvary Division, earning a Bronze Star with Combat V, an Army Commendation Medal and a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster before his discharge.

After Stone’s experience in Vietnam, PTSD may have followed him home adding authenticity to the film.

However, if you have PTSD or you know someone with PTSD and you have severe allergic reactions to smoking marijuana, as I do, then you may have to look for support from family, loved ones and friends.

That brings us to Charlene Rubush’s Blog—Win Over PTSD.


This video has nothing to do with Rubush’s Blog but does focus on PTSD.

Rubush’s experience as a former wife of a Vietnam veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder led to years of research on the subject, and she recently published a guest post by Ryan Rivera on How to Be the Partner of Someone with PTSD.

Rivera says, “One of the most important recovery tools for someone living with PTSD is social support. The more they know that they have real, true friends behind them, the better the outcome of their PTSD treatments. The problem is that PTSD can be hard to understand, and those in a relationship with someone living with PTSD often find that they are struggling with how to keep the relationship together.”

In Savages, Chon’s true friends are Ophelia and Ben. He knows he can count on them accepting him as he is, PTSD included—they are a family.

If you try the marijuana therapy, make sure to do it legally and if you don’t do it legally, don’t get caught. A term in prison may make the PTSD worse—a lot worse.

Discover Booze, the Veteran and coming home

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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!”

Furry Friendly Therapy for PTSD

Lauran Neergaard, writing for The Huffington Post, reported, “Brain Scans Reveals Invisible Damage of PTSD.”

Powerful scans measure how some of the brain’s regions are altered/damaged in the vicious cycle that is PTSD, where patients feel as if they are reliving a trauma instead of understanding that it’s just a memory.

With these scans, doctors may see how the brain has been changed in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In fact, Brain Facts.org reported that “Long-term or high levels of cortisol (brought on by PTSD) can also have damaging effects, causing toxicity and shrinkage of brain regions such as the hippocampus, a structure involved in memory formation.… an especially traumatic event can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which occurs when the stress system fails to recover from the event. This results in recurring flashbacks that can disrupt everyday life.”

However, Neergaard reports that these changes to the brain need not be permanent and may change with treatment.

One such treatment is canine therapy. In May 2010, the US Congress introduced the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act through H.R. 3885, which required the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a pilot program through which veterans diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health conditions would train service doges for use by disabled veterans. The pilot program would operate in three to five medical centers over a five-year period.

Next, in July 2011, VA.gov’s VAntage Point reported in Finding Solace in Companion Dogs that this new pilot program authorized by Congress was launched at the Marion VA Medical Center in Illinois. The focus has moved beyond the idea that dogs are only for guide purposes (example: the blind). The focus has shifted to their companionship
and therapeutic potential.

In addition, Palo Alto Online News reported that at the VA in Palo Alto: “Melissa Puckett, recreational therapist and PTSD supervisor in the men’s and women’s trauma-recovery program, said many vets deal with emotional numbness as part of PTSD. The dogs help them to receive touch and spontaneous affection and to express love — ‘things they thought they would never have again,’ she said.”

Then The New York Times reported in For the Battle-Scarred, Comfort at Leash’s End that “Veterans rely on their dogs to gauge the safety of their surroundings, allowing them to venture into public places without constantly scanning for snipers, hidden bombs and other dangers lurking in the minds of those with the disorder.”

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

_______________________

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!”

Casualties of the Mind (part 2 of 3)

In Vogt’s piece, one soldier says, “When you come back to here and you go to a combat stress from somebody who has a Ph.D. and whatnot and had never set foot in harm’s way, he’s only giving you textbook criteria or a pill to help you sleep better at night.”

The shrink says, “This is the kind of thing I hear a lot. Avoidance is typical. Each soldier’s timeline is different. There’s no predicting when a soldier will be ready to open up.”

It’s true. We all have different timelines, which may be unpredictable bombs ready to explode without warning. From 1966 until 1981, I didn’t even know my flashbacks, drinking and anger were from the combat I carried in my head.

The beasts come out at night and wake me to a nightmare world of combat where I hear the sniper round that touched my left ear—an inch to the right and I would have been dead or the time we were escorting a supply column north and one truck hit a landmine and we found only the foot (still in the boot) of the guy who was riding in that truck—he had two weeks left before he would have gone home.

Continued with Casualties of the Mind – Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

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!”

Casualties of the Mind (part 1 of 3)

Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt wrote “Casualties of the Mind”, and I read her piece in the Bay Area News Group about the trauma of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The copy I found on-line was from the Fresno Bee and had a different title, Dying faces, body bags: How trauma hits a US unit (you may read the whole piece here). I checked. It’s all there.

Vogt writes that 20% of the 1.6 million troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD).  I’m sure the numbers are higher.  After all, many do not report the symptoms.  Even if it were 20%, that’s still 320 thousand Causalities of the Mind, and the casualties from Vietnam, my war, may be higher.

Each troop interviewed by Vogt relates symptoms that are connected to the combat they experienced. For me, it was the long nights waiting for the enemy to infiltrate or hit our hill one more time or the night patrols and ambushes outside the wire moving through rice paddies on hyper alert in inky darkness because the enemy could be anywhere and hit at any time. The enemy could even be buried in the dirt we walked on waiting to blow off our legs if we stepped on one.

Then there were the field operations—one time I was part of a five or six man team on a recon thirty miles in front of our lines. We drove through a village where we saw no one but a radio antenna sticking from the top of a tree with a Vietcong flag flying from it.

Continued with Casualties of the Mind – Part 2 and/or 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!”

Trained Killers

That was me in 1966, a trained killer. That was what I was trained to do at MCRD—to kill the enemy and not fight him—but to destroy him or her.

When I read the title, The Threat From Within, Some soldiers become murderers by Jim Frederick, Time Magazine, February 22, 2010; my first thought was that this issue was more complicated than that.

I read the piece, and then looked up the author’s bio. I saw no mention that Frederick served in the military or in a combat zone as a member of the military. No matter how many military men he interviewed or how much research he did, Frederick will never understand what it is like to be the hunter or hunted in a combat zone and what it does to that person.

The Threat From Within never mentions PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have a PTSD VA rated disability from serving in combat in Vietnam in 1966. When I was in Vietnam, I knew men who did horrible things probably driven by PTSD.  Current research shows that PTSD causes permanent brain damage. I’m sure that the reason the military handles incidents that would appear to be crimes in a civilian world the way they do, is because the officers know the horrible blood price that comes with winning a war and many people like Jim Frederick do not.

Frederick indicates that the military should find a way to root out these potentially dangerous individuals so these types of killings do not take place. It’s bad enough that our soldiers are put in harm’s way with rules that do not allow them to shoot unless they see the shooter with weapon in hand. They did that to us in Vietnam and America lost that war.

After years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and a military stretched to the breaking point, if every solider damaged by PTSD were pulled from combat, there wouldn’t be enough troops left to accomplish winning a war America cannot afford to lose. Consider that Al-Qaida and their allies have sworn the utter and total destruction of our entire civilization.

In war, the military has a job to do. If that means sending partially damage troops into combat still capable of fighting and killing, that’s what’s done.

From history, we learned that great military minds like Alexander the Great understood that war is hell and must be fought as if the battlefield is hell itself. America fought like that in World War II and won. In a war zone, there are no innocent people no matter what the media prints or says and only ignorant people and fools support putting limits on our troops doing their job. Even in the Korean conflict, the harsh reality of war existed.

If the rules that our troops fight under today existed during World War II, America would have lost and eventually been split between Japan and Germany.  If you lived in the West, the flag to salute would have a rising sun and in the east a swastika.

In my opinion—Jim Frederick and people that think like him are ignorant fools. Let them have their say and politely ignore them.

Discover The Public Image of PTSD and the Vietnam Veteran

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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!”

“This Emotional Life” on PBS

PBS Tackles Happiness In ‘This Emotional Life’
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122207615

I understand that this series on PBS will also be discussing PTSD.  Since PBS offers Podcasts of programs that have aired, you may want to listen in.

_______________________

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!”

A Morning Burst of Anger

I woke up this morning and wanted to hit something. In the 1960s and 70s, I would have smashed a hole in the nearest drywall.

This is what set me off: “In the past six weeks, you’ve had the Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit … and they all underscored the clear philosophical difference between the administration and us,” said Rep. Pete Hiekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20091228/pl_politico/31016

The Republican spin machine is trying to score points blaming Obama for what almost happened last week on Northwest Flight 253.

Why did I get angry? Because I immediately flashed back to an incident in Vietnam.

We’d been out for hours on a night patrol slipping silently through the rice paddies that surrounded our hill, and we were returning as dawn arrived—tired but alert as we straggled along the dirt road that climbed into the hills where our Battalion CP was located.

A washed out blue sky was spreading from the east and it was still dark in the west. Then the ground trembled as if an earthquake were taking place.  The sound of the explosion blew over us. We stopped and turned to see flames and a thick spire of black smoke rising into the sky from where the airstrip was located. One of the jobs the 1st Marine Division at Chu Lai had in 1966 was to protect that airstrip and the jet fighters that used it.

One Vietcong had slipped past an entire Marine division and made it to the airstrip where he managed to blow up a large portion of the stored jet fuel. That Vietcong didn’t just slip past one defensive line, but several.

I “hate” dirty politics—the same kind that started wars like Vietnam and Iraq so young men as I was then, in our patriotic zeal, would fly off to war believing we were serving a just cause when in the truth, we had been lied to.

It is almost impossible to stop an individual from doing something like what happened on that airplane a few days ago just as an entire Marine division couldn’t stop that Vietcong from infiltrating our lines.

There were 300 people on Northwest Flight 253. For sure, someone will suffer some PTSD symptoms and have trouble sleeping as they relieve the moment they thought they might die. Some may never fly again.

If you agree with Rep. Pete Hiekstra, then George W. Bush is responsible for what happened on September 11, 2001.

Instead of pointing fingers of blame looking for a “scapegoat”, Republicans and Democrats should be looking for ways to do a better job than the Homeland Security our current president inherited.

Discover more about PTSD?

_______________________

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!”

Stanford Study shows effect of PTSD trauma on brain

There is current evidence that PTSD causes damage to areas of the brain. An ongoing study at the University of Stanford in California shows this to be true. http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_14014471?source=most_emailed&nclick_check=1

The history of PTSD http://www.psychiatric-disorders.com/articles/ptsd/causes-and-history/index.php says that this disorder wasn’t recognized until 1980. Although this means we have recognized PTSD for about thirty years now, that doesn’t mean we have reached a total understanding of what causes it and how to deal with it. Scientists and doctors are still learning. Compare PTSD to some cancers that modern medicine has dealt with for much longer and they still have no cure–just better ways to identify the cancer early and deal with it.  The earlier the discovery, the better chance for recovery and to live a life considered normal. Current evidence about PTSD is saying the same thing. If you have symptoms of cancer and ignore it, the odds are it won’t vanish. The same thing goes for PTSD.

I have read about research for other illnesses that show the longer a physical or psychologically health related problem is “not” treated, the less chance there is to overcome the damage caused.

One thing I’ve learned while living with PTSD for more than forty years is that a healthy lifestyle without booze helps me handle the trauma better.  Before I stopped drinking and eating an unhealthy diet, my PTSD symptoms were worse than they are now.  I still sleep with weapons and I still wake up at every sound and have trouble sleeping.  If I get four hours of sleep in one stretch, that’s good.

Before I sleep, I always do an inside perimeter check to make sure the windows and doors are locked. When I’m out in public, I’m alert to everything around me as if I were going to be attacked at any moment. I still have an unpredictable temper to watch over and there are times it escapes. Double that or triple it before I stopped drinking. The worse thing to do is be in denial and “not” to talk or write about it.  The first step to dealing with PTSD is to admit it is there and stop visiting the liquor store.

Imagine what life was like for people with PTSD before 1980.  How did WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans deal with PTSD when they came home?  I read recently that the average Vietnam veteran’s lifespan is in the fifty age bracket.  Why do you think that is so?

_______________________

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!”

Before PTSD, it was called Combat Fatigue or Shell Shock

In World War II, they called it combat fatigue or shell shock. After the Vietnam war, they called it post-Vietnam syndrome (as if it had never existed before Vietnam).

Now, it is called PTSD and the military is trying to do something about it. Researchers are testing soldiers to see if they can learn who will be more affected by traumatic events.  The ongoing wars have provided scientists with opportnuites to learn more.

Here’s a link to a piece by Alicia Chang, Associated Press: http://health.yahoo.com/news/ap/us_med_predicting_ptsd.html

Resource Guide  

_______________________

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!”