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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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.

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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.

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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

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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!”

A Repeat of Agent Orange in America’s Heartland?

An e-mail arrived this morning from the “Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation”. I signed up for this news feed because I served in the First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division in Okinawa and then Vietnam in 1965-1966.

The title of the e-mail speaks volumes about America’s political priorities when measured between health of the environment and the individual and corporate profits.

The title of the e-mail was “Dow & Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America’s Heartland”.  Source: Truth Out.org by Richard Schiffman

About Monsanto Company—it is the world’s largest provider of patented genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton, bringing in $10.5 billion this past year.

In fact, anything that makes food more expensive benefits Monsanto, which is why this corporation encourages the use of genetically engineered crops.

Schiffman says, “In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.”

Note from Blog host:  Because I served in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange, I am on the VA’s Agent Orange list. The VA (The United States Department of Veterans Affairs) lists these diseases on the VA Website as Veteran’s Diseases Associated with Agent Orange.

VA has recognized certain cancers and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.

Schiffman says, “The problem for corn farmers is that “superweeds” have been developing resistance to America’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup-resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.”

Note from Blog host: This actual article is much longer than what I’ve posted in this comment. You may find the rest at Truth Out.org

Discover Pain, Pollution and People

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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!”