Nothing Better than Having an Effect–Good Effect…at OPWard57!

It’s a good feeling when you know you’re backing the good guys during a time of great duress…that’s why I was so pleased to get this headsup from our friends at OP Ward 57!

In SGT Hillyer’s own words:

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Deborah,

 It’s been a long time since I wrote to you as an Army Sergeant
deployed
to Baghdad (though I see you still have an excerpt form my email up
on the
website, which is very cool).  So, I thought I’d shoot an email and
give you
an update on me.  After redploying from Iraq in November of 2007 I
ETS’d and
began to enojoy the civilian side of life in February of 2008.  I
remained
in Germany after my discharge and soon got a job working for AAFES
here in
Schweinfurt.  Last November I took over the position of Family
Readiness
Support Technician for the 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery.  I
work as a
conduit of information for the Battalion Family readiness Groups,
keeping
family members informed and supporting the families and soldiers in
a
variety of ways.  The 1-77 FA deployed to Iraq last Thanksgiving and
it has
been a very trying time for the soldiers and their families.  But,
there is
a light at the end of the tunnel as we are beginning to make
preparations
for their return at the end of the year.
 I want to thank you and the good folks over at Operation Ward 57
for your
continuing efforts in support of the troops.  Keep doing what you
guys are
doing and know that your work is appreciated by many.  Thank you and
take
care.

v/r
Sean D. Hillyer
FRST, 1-77 FA
Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

If you’d like to help. Please go directly to OP Ward 57, or here: http://bamboochest.corkgraham.com/operation-ward-57-donation-campaign-begins/

And to all of you who have already purchased and donated through my own book donation campaign. Again: THANK YOU! :)

Be Safe. Be Well!

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Five Killed at Camp Liberty, Iraq by Soldier with PTS: Pres. Obama was surprised..?!

I can hear the machines going round and round again in Washington. The President and Congress will look into it…Their Generals and Admirals will repeat the promises of doing something about it…and I can’t help but be reminded that in my lifetime I’ve heard this so many times from the same kinds of people. Or, sadly, that I wasn’t surprised at all by the news today…

And what has happened? Most of anything good that has happened was the result of servicemen and women taking care of themselves. Why? It’s an administration problem. One administration is slapped in the face, like when Nixon was hit by the numbers of combat veterans coming back from Vietnam. A plan is put into place. Then, another administration is voted in and the priority of the last falls to the wayside.

In the film business, I like to call it the studio head amnesia affliction: you sell a script to a studio through one executive, then he or she loses their job, and the next one doesn’t want to have anything to do with any previous exec’s project because they want to shine under their projects they come up with themselves.

In the government, as we’ve seen, this amnesia affliction is occurring at a rapid rate. This administration doesn’t want anything do with what had come before it. And guess who’s going to suffer…you bet, not the disconnected in D.C.

As you know I’m not just into complaining. Just complaining is what’s been going on: Congress has a hearing on post-traumatic stress…a few researchers and writers come out and give their opinions (most of them, I might add, who end up on these panels talk about the subject from a 3rd person point of view—it’ll be nice when the majority of PTSR authorities called to such panels have actually walked in the mocassin’s of those who’re dealing with the effects of PTSR, don’t you think?).

Congressmen and women nod their heads. Perhaps a few get a little overheated in their speech for the cameras and constituents back home. Promises are made….then, you don’t hear anything—until an event comes back to the bite the public in the butt…or as I was told my first day as journalist way back in 1983: “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead!”

And blood there was at Camp Liberty in Iraq today. Five dead. Where were they shot? At the camp’s “Combat Stress Control Center”?! I’d say someone really dropped the ball on this…but when it comes to post-traumatic stress it’s hardly ever one person.

There was the one who should have checked the soldier’s weapon. There was the counselor who should had read the warning signs: yes, there are always warning signs—and, no, someone smiling and chipper is not a sign that all is good!

But, attention to details takes a lot of work and if you’re a psych and working an overload of patients, the good work doesn’t always get done…much less undivided attention to the tiny signals a person gives off…and that’s if you were trained in recognizing those tell-tale, minute facial expressions and other signals.

There were the soldier’s buddies who were so lost in their own preoccupations they didn’t pay attention to the easier to recognize signs. There were the higher-ups in command who have yet to really help turn public attention around so that everyone realizes the post-traumatic stress response it’s understood that it’s a regular part of combat—if we can all realize that a common cold is nothing more than the result of a stress weakened body open to contagion by a carrier, maybe one day everyone can understand what PTSR really is and remove the emotionally loaded interpretation it now has.

And, yes, even the press has yet to get on the ball on PTSR. Or, as I read in this article by Helen Kennedy of the Daily News, “shell-shock”—shell-shock? Did she have some kind of time transport to 1917 and the trenches of France?

Yes, it’s infuriating when good work is being done and part of that good work is to understand the importance of how stigma and public reaction to post-traumatic stress can be so affecting, and yet even the very people who are supposed to be informing the public are getting and disseminating information from the dark ages…Ever wonder why aside from WWI, post-traumatic stress wasn’t really a public concern until Vietnam?

It’s for two reasons: one is that when WWII veterans returned, they returned to a hero’s welcome. That in itself does profound work in helping a combat veteran deal with his or her PTSR. The other is that PTSR didn’t have the social stigma it has had since Vietnam…when a Vietnam Vet was always characterized on TV or in films as going off his rocker.

The subconscious mind works in really mysterious ways, but not that mysterious when you really take the time to look. Ever wonder why first love can be so exciting, or love loss is so impacting? Or how about why the most impacting experiences in life more often are the ones that are those interpreted as the most traumatic?

Yup, you heard me right: interpreted as the most traumatic. There is a lot to be said when you realize that, like old hypnotists and self-help gurus like to say: The world is what you make it…

If you make it to be a weakening and unsuccessful and injured world, everything in your subconscious will focus on that and remember to only bring to your conscious mind all that you see: half-full/half-empty glasses here. If you look at the post-traumatic stress response as a normal part of having been in a dangerous, or interpreted as dangerous, experience and nothing more: not crippling, or weird, then the emotional and subconscious effects of the memories of those events in war will not only not be a source of shame and fear, but will actually reinforce your confidence and be part of a stable of powerful experiences in your background to aid you in whatever you seek to do in the world after war.

My hope is now that the present Obama Administration is aware of it, at the cost of five men, they’ll take it to heart and really do something other than have just another congressional hearing, fading into a few adjustments made to the whole mental health programs in the military.

It never ceases to amaze me that with all the might and power and heavily degreed people in the government and military who compiled all the effective tactics and strategies from other ancient cultures, that make our military the most effective fighting force in the world, they have yet to collect the other half of all those teachings from all those cultures that were matched to help warriors come home, cleanse and be reintroduced as important components of a healthy society.

…ever wonder why it was never just The Iliad, a great book on military strategy. That for a full learning as a warrior you have to read The Iliad, and then The Odyssey…?

Filed in Belief/Religion,Books,Combat,Culture,Government,History,Military,Press/Media,PTSD/PTSR,Society,Stigma,Techniques/Tools One Response so far

Puppy Love

What is it about puppies? Children go crazy for them. Women melt. Men nod approvingly. They make the old feel young again. And wounded warriors regain a new spark for life. Was it any wonder that Navy SEAL and lone survivor of an ambush in Afghanistan, Marcus Latrell got a cute yellow Lab pup to help deal with his traumas?

Who would have thought that far from fighting the enemy, it would be his own countrymen who would inflict the worst crime—Four hoods killed his puppy with a .357 magnum at close range. Now there’s enough in the news about these jerks (one the Texas Rangers arrested actually threatened to kill Latrell and his mother—I’m thinkin’ yeah, try, please try it so Latrell can legally remove a rabid beast from society), but this column isn’t about revenge. It’s about how you can use the love of a puppy to help in the healing of your PTSR.

I’ll go into the hows and whys, and the beauty of it is that you need not know this for the connection of a puppy to do its magic. I will share with you the secrets about getting a puppy, and that’s important. First, you don’t pick the pup. It picks you.

When I was in Alaska, with the expressed objective of healing from the prior four years in the last tropical war of the Cold War [Fighting Memories], my friend and neighbor, Vinnie called me over and said which one do you want? In his yard were the most beautiful grizzly bear cub-looking Chesapeake Bay retriever pups I’d ever seen. Coming up to the pen, one of the little tikes ambled over to me and sniffed my hand. I picked him up, looked into blue eyes and said, “That’s him!”

A few weeks later, when they were weaned I put him in the pocket of my parka, and walked home. For the next nine years, before a pneumonia-like affliction forced me to put him down, we were inseparable. I named him Matahan Seochael, Scottish for Peaceful Bear, and trained him in one of my ancestral languages I was hoping to learn: Scots-Gaelic.

That we had our own little language tie made the experience that much more binding, though it wasn’t really necessary in the receiving and sharing the love that would reinforce and calm me when the memories of war creeped into my life.

See, the power of puppy love is in the subconscious manner in which it works. Consciously, there are a number of requirements we have to comply with: feeding, touching, playing, training, and connecting. These are skills and qualities that we received as children from our parents and Buy Valium throughout early childhood.

What about cats and kittens? Well, kittens yes, but kittens turn into cats and then there’s an immediate separation. Dogs on the other hand have such an ancient connection to us that goes back to a bond through hunting that requires such a deep connection of communication, so immediate and subconscious, that being taken care of like a child never really leaves the relationship the way it does with cats. And while a cat can move away and really only rely on you for food, dogs are pack animals and need that physical interaction that tells them what part of the pack hierarchy they are. These are provided through petting, grooming, feeding, and commands taught and given.

This forces the owner to be the following: nurturer, leader, trusting, provider and extremely interactive while regaining healthy boundaries. Compare this with someone dealing with the worst symptoms of PTSR: withdrawn, suspicious, overly rigid or inneffective boundaries, subconsciously wanting to be taken care of yet having a strong avoidance of intimacy and touch.

The puppy calls upon the repressed, deep inner-child response to nurture those who are weaker and smaller. As the relationship continues, and the variety of activities increase, housetraining, fetch training, and especially to hunting (a more advanced tool of healing that I’ll talk about in a later column and previously commented on by me in Moose Hunt, Healing Hunt in Dr. James A Swan’s compilation: The Sacred Art of Hunting), it’s an organic reaction that draws out a healing.

Now, you might be asking, will a pup from a shelter work?  Yes: a puppy’s youth and growth curve parallels a similar growth curve of a healthy, non-over reactive, maturing of the ego in one dealing with the symptoms of PTSR. What’s important is not where the dog came from, within reason, but that it’s a puppy.

ziggy10_06_2008_01
The Zigmeister

A puppy’s youth takes the one confronted with PTSR back to their childhood, and it does so in a away that forces you to care and connect with your pup in a “NOW” state. It puts you in the moment, and as you’ll see in future installments, the dastardly effects of PTSR occur when you’re not in the now, but putting your attention too much into the future or more likely leaving yourself all the way in the past, lost in the subconscious’s efforts to correct the should, coulda, wouldas…

More on puppies in a future column. I hope this one gets you thinking of the powerful effectiveness of puppies in dealing with the post-traumatic stress response. And here’s a photo of my latest family addition for your enjoyment: A Brittany I’ve named Ziggy!

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OPERATION WARD 57 Donation Campaign Begins!

“Would you like to help wounded veterans?”

Please read on…

 

May 1, 2009

One of many Operation Ward 57 aids in recovery!

In the summer of 1986, I was one of a group of four men hurriedly moving into position to defend a section of wall during what was quickly becoming a successful base overrun by the enemy. After only a few moments of exchanging small-arms fire, an RPG slammed into our position. I woke up in a hospital bed a day later with a bandage around my head. It took two weeks for the initial recovery from the concussion—I was the lucky one.

Two of the men next to me were killed out right by the shrapnel and blast. The other lost his left arm. So, even though I served as a corpsman, I Xanax really don’t like being in hospitals. I especially find it disturbing when hospitals are unable to deliver—either because of funds or bureaucratic inefficiency—what wounded warriors need in their recovery beyond the surgeries and food.

That’s what so impresses me about OPERATION WARD 57: filling that gap and helping veterans in so many ways as they’re processed through Walter Reed Hospital, the US entry point for many servicemen and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan—You probably read about what was happening in the news and it was atrocious!

A lot of people talk about how bad things have become and how something should be done, but how many people really put themselves out and do it?…Whichever reason, I want to congratulate you and assure you’re doing a very good thing!

OPERATION WARD 57 CASH DONATION

Filed in Belief,Books,Combat,Culture,Donation Campaigns,Family,Government,History,Medications,Military,Physical,Press/Media,PTSD/PTSR,Society,Techniques/Tools,Veterans Organizations No Responses yet

Great Collection of Books on PTSR at Amazon.com!

Kept on seeing this list of books collected by Lily G. Casura on my memoir’s page at Amazon. They’re pretty good and HGH I’ve read most of them. You might enjoy reading them, too. I compressed the Amazon URL for you here: Amazon PTSR Listmania

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Book Donation Campaign for OPERATION Ward 57 coming this week!

And it rises up even further… Great intro for our donation campaign we’ll be conducting with and for Operation Ward 57 this week. Until the page is up  by this Friday, please visit them now: http://www.operationward57.org/about.aspx

98kamazonscreenshotapr28_20091

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Amazon.com: THE BAMBOO CHEST rises to 98K!

For the first time since it was at #2 for three weeks on Amazon.com in 2004, The Bamboo Chest has risen to above 100K in ranking!

98kamazonscreenshotapr27_2009

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PTSD versus PTSR

In beginning the new launch of the site dedicated to helping those confronting post-traumatic stress, started with the book that went to #2 for three weeks on Amazon.com’s Topseller list in 2004, I’m going to look directly at the wording used to describe what I prefer to call Post-Traumatic Stress Response (PTSR).

And far be it from me to hide from controversy by also saying it’s NOT a disorder, something I’ll reveal in many posts. The PTSR is actually the appropriate subconscious reaction to events reminiscent of traumatic events. If you’re getting mortared were you not trained to hit the deck? The key is that having come home, you’re not being mortared (at least I hope not! :) ) and that’s why it’s not a direct response to a traumatic event, but a subconscious reaction to a historical traumatic event, and that it’s the lack in congruency that we’re working with.

Some in the mental health field have tried to remove the stigma of PTSD by calling it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Syndrome, disorder, these have only served to reinforce the much larger public lack of understanding that words such labels as “shell-shock” had in previous wars.

In the ten years that I have assisted those dealing with PTSR, I’m realizing completely that it’s the stigma and alienation that effectively magnifies the more disastrous reactions to PTSR such as an over-sensitivity, uncontrollable anger, insurmountable frustration, and emotional crippling and stifling—all of them adding to the inability to reintegrate healthfully into modern society. We will have many talks about society and how we work
with and around society to achieve inner and outer reintegration.

In an effort to remove this stigma and more effectively aid those dealing with the delayed response related to being in and surviving combat, I will as often as possible refer in this blog to what has historically been labeled shell-shock, combat fatigue, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) as Post-Traumatic Stress Response (PTSR).

Plain and simply PTSD is just a reaction, during times that may seem inappropriate, but still just a reaction like having an emotional reaction to a movie or song. You consciously know the movies not real, just like a combat veteran consciously knows he or she is not in combat anymore, but yet you have the reaction as though you were. When it’s a love song or romantic movie what could more enriching supporting than feel those pangs of love and share those tears of romance?

But, when you hearing your friends screaming in your mind, you’re afraid to go to sleep because you might wake punching and yelling, where’s the benefit in that? That’s what this work on conscious and subconscious reaction to memories of sorrow has been about for me and those I’ve helped: reacting in a healthful, beneficial manner to historical events that nearly killed us.

I look forward through the coming weeks, months and years providing as much information not just from an analytical and clinical point of view as a counselor, but also as one who had to use old tried tools, techniques and organic understandings but also create and confirm the new ones to survive my own coming home.

Onward and Upward!

Filed in Alcohol,Combat,Culture,Diet,Family,Government,History,Medications,Meditation,Military,Physical,Press/Media,PTSD/PTSR,Religion,Society,Stigma,Techniques/Tools,Uncontrolled Substances No Responses yet