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!”

Veteran biker gangs protect funerals of fallen American service members from radicals

Christianity Today says about 79.4% of adults in America (247 million) identify themselves as Christian. However, according to Christianity Today, there are more than 1,500 different Christian faith groups in North America.

The Westboro Church is one of those Christian faith groups.

You may have heard of the Westboro Church, a group of about 40 radical American, independent Baptists known for extreme ideologies, especially those against homosexuality, and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals of American service members and desecrating the American flag.

This Baptist sect’s first public service was held in November 1955 so they have been around for a while but not as long as most.

The members of the Westboro Church are sort of like free-radicals that cause serious life-style diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The US military veteran biker gang that the video features is the antioxidant to counter the free-radicals that attend the funerals of US military troops killed in battle.

To me, this is cool—that those Veteran bikers are there to keep the lunatics at a distance.

Do the math, after we subtract the Westboro free-radicals from the rest of the Christians in America that leaves about 246,999,960 non-members of this hate mongering so-called Christian group.

Discover John Kerry, Purple Hearts, PTSD and WMDs

_______________________

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!”

From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 3/3

According to Vietnam: Looking Back at the Facts: “About 5,000 men assigned to Vietnam deserted and just 249 of those deserted while in Vietnam.”

Then there were crimes other than rape. Near the end of my 1996 combat tour, the armorer of our gun company was caught selling weapons on the black market in Vietnam—weapons that ended in the hands of the Viet Cong soldiers that ambushed a Marine patrol—The Marines won that fight, and that’s how they discovered the weapons that led back to our armorer.

The armorer was sentenced twenty years to life in a federal prison.

“Fragging” and “Combat Refusals” in Vietnam were not unknown and some of these incidents have been documented. I recall one fragging in my unit. A lieutenant, considered an asshole by many, was taking his shower at night when his quarters were fragged. He survived because he wasn’t in the tent. The next day, he was a different person—a reformed asshole turned nice guy.

The question of crimes such as ‘fragging’, ‘combat refusals’, desertion and AWOL within the Vietnam conflict is one which brings emotions to the fore. Many veterans deny that ‘fragging’ or ‘combat refusals’ occurred, whilst others feel desertion and AWOL was merely a means of resisting what was felt to be an unjust and illegal conflict.” Source: http://home.mweb.co.za/re/redcap/vietcrim.htm

Then there is the CIA’s role in moving drugs from the Golden Triangle to America where they were sold to fund illegal operations that the US Congress did not approve. To this day, the CIA denies doing this.

However, “The KMT exported their opium harvests usually by mule train across the mountains or by unmarked American C-47 transportation planes to Thailand for processing. Some was flown on to Taiwan. In 1950 the CIA purchased bankrupt Civil Air Transport (CAT) for $950,000 and used their fleet of planes to run weapons to KMT General Li Mi in Shan province, and the planes returned to Bangkok filled with opium.” Source: Dark Politricks.com

In addition, “Bob Kirkconnell, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant spent 27 years on active duty, and was involved in an investigation of heroin smuggling into the US using killed-in-action human remains out of Vietnam.” Source: http://www.wanttoknow.info/militarysmuggledheroin

For more information on drug smuggled into the US during the Vietnam War, I recommend reading The Cadaver Connection from History Net.

Then there was the Marine I met on the flight to Hong Kong from Vietnam. He asked me to share a hotel room with him—to double up because he was on his third tour in the combat zone (I was into my fifth month by then), and he had to have a white, round-eyed face wake him in the morning before any strange Asian, almond shaped eyed face (like the women or men that cleaned the hotel rooms in Hong Kong), came into the room while he was sleeping.

Note: the French left Vietnam in 1956, which is when the US sent advisers into Vietnam to start working with and training the South Vietnamese military. The National Liberation Front, known by us as the Viet Cong, wouldn’t be formed until 1960. The U.S. started using Agent Orange in 1962 and the Declaration of War by Congress would not become official until 1964.

The first time I crossed from my bed to his and shook his shoulder, he quickly rolled over, pulled a Colt forty-five from under his pillow, and centered the barrel between my eyes as he clicked off the safety.  He blinked to clear his vision and stared at me before he lowered the weapon.

He had a Chinese girlfriend in Hong Kong, and they had a child together.

After that first morning in Hong Kong, I didn’t see him for a while since he was staying with his Chinese girlfriend and child—that is until she got angry with him and threw him out.

At the time, no one had put a clinical, psychological name on PTSD and it wasn’t officially studied.  That wouldn’t happen for more than twenty years.  What’s ironic is that I now sleep with a .38 caliber loaded with hollow points and the first thing I do when I wake up each morning is to listen for any out of the ordinary sounds in the house before I get up and sweep the house to see if any of the windows and/or doors have been forced.  Once I’m satisfied the house is secure, I store my weapon in a safe place—not for me but for my family.

When my novel was completed to Miller’s satisfaction, she contacted a reputable agent to represent it. Several of the writers in the workshop were published thanks to Miller’s support. However, the agent for my work, which was originally called “Better a Dead Hero“, could not sell it. The publishers responded that the Vietnam War as a topic was not selling and they were not interested.  That was in the late 1980s.

The manuscript that is now  “Running With the Enemy” sat gathering dust for more than twenty-two years before I found it on a shelf in the garage, renamed it  and ran it through several edits and revisions. I expect the novel will be released in the next few months hopefully before the end of September 2012.

Return to From Memoir to Novel – the metamorphosis of a manuscript about war as hell – Part 2 or start with  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!”

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 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!”

Benefits for Military Veterans

This is the summary of a longer piece that appeared in the May & June 2010 issue of the AARP Magazine.

There are 23 million veterans in the United States.  About 8 million receive VA benefits.  Some don’t know they are eligible for benefits. I was one of those who didn’t know until a few years ago when another veteran told my wife and a friend that I was eligible.  When I retired from teaching English and journalism in the public schools at sixty, I left the classroom without medical coverage and expected to wait several years before I was eligible for Medicare. Now I have the VA for my medical.

Here are a few facts to know:

1. A service-connected disability need not be a combat injury. Any injury suffered or aggravated while in uniform can be considered—even injuries incurred while traveling to and from National Guard duty.

2. If a veteran’s net pension is below $11,830 for a single vet or $15,493 if married, the VA may provide a pension to bring the veteran’s income up to that level.

3. Eligibility to receive health care at any of the VA’s 1,400 hospitals, clinics and care centers is based on an income test and is not limited to veterans who served during wartime.

4. Limited In-Home care is available to all veterans who meet the income test.

5. Assisted Living—Vets and their spouses who reside in an assisted living facility may qualify for an aid and attendance pension/allowance to help pay for costs of additional care.

6. Prescription drugs—the VA drug plan provides drugs free or for an $8 co-pay, depending on income.

7. Nursing home care—The VA owns and runs 132 nursing homes.

8. VA-guaranteed mortgages—If a vet pays off an old VA mortgage, he or she is eligible to take advantage of this benefit again.

Note: For more information, check the original article at AARP Magazine on-line.

Learn 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!”

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!”