At first I was a little concerned and still am: Bob Woodruff was supposed to be the one sitting on the panel. I hope that this posting finds him in good health.
That being said, Lee Woodruff is Bob's wife and the co-founder of his Foundation. I was very impressed with her depth of knowledge on issues facing veterans returning home, especially PTSD and TBI. Lee is a lead from the front personality. She understands that we can't tackle these difficult issues sitting behind a desk in Washington and discussing policy. She is out on the front lines of this battle every day, meeting with veterans. She understands their concerns, their hopes.
Lee is not afraid to ask difficult questions. At the same time, she understands that antagonizing the VA or any organization dedicated to the welfare of our country's veterans is counterproductive. Yes, she voices a lot of concerns, but she understands that she and her organization need to work with the existing organizations and infrastructure to effect positive change in the system as a whole. Lee is aware that there are literally thousands of local organizations that want to help, but the bureaucracy in place that runs the current system makes it near impossible to work together. She is working to change that. She also brought to everyone's attention what she calls the 'hidden casualty' of this war: Intimacy
Lee recognizes that medical technology has advanced to the point where guys that are making it home never would have in previous conflicts. She also points out that a lot of these young wounded are concerned that the opposite sex won't be able to see past their wheel chair - that they will never be able to connect with someone romantically, intimately. This doesn't even take into account all of the folks with PTSD or TBI that have difficulties connecting emotionally or intimately with their spouses or loved ones. When we should be enjoying the prime of our lives, we are instead left wondering if we are ever going to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors, our sacrifices.
As a combat veterans with PTSD, I understood this a long time ago. What I failed to understand is that most of America has no clue. That's got to change and Lee is making sure it does. This is an issue that needs to be on everyone's radar.
*A Message to Lee Woodruff*
I applaud the efforts you and your husband make on the behalf of veterans everywhere. Your compassion for the plight of the young wounded, especially those with TBI or PTSD is a shining example that others should strive to emulate. We had started to discuss the disconnect between local organizations and the national ones when we were unceremoniously shooed out of the room and into the hallway. I would love to continue that discussion and see what we can do to work together to further the cause. Here's my email.
David Gregory did an admirable job of moderating the panel. He did a great job of keeping everyone on point. When folks would start to go off on a tangent about an unrelated subject to the question at hand, he would find a way to gently interrupt and refocus the panel.
David asked a lot of difficult to answer questions and didn't shy away from asking even more difficult follow-ups. As a mediator, his job was to not have an opinion on any of the subjects discussed and he did a great job remaining objective during even the most emotionally charged topics.
There is one point he brought up as a moderator that he felt very strongly about that he had to make sure he impressed upon the listeners and the panelists: Media Accountability
He brought up how the media has a responsibility to ensure that the plight of returning veterans does not fade from the collective consciousness of the general public. He didn't really expand upon how the media was going to do this, but it was nice to hear that coming from a prominent member of the media establishment. I will be interested to see how this plays out in the coming months.
*A Note to Mr. Gregory*
If you do, by chance, actually read this, I would love to hear more about your perspectives on media accountability and what you believe the media can do to advocate more effectively for veterans' rights and services. You can reach me by email.
Earlier this evening, I arrived home after a long and productive day in DC. I learned a lot about veterans' advocacy while I was there and what direction the discussion indicates we are headed. I want to be able to take the time to address this carefully and here's what I plan to do over the coming days:
After a long day, I am tired and ready for a good night sleep. I will catch everyone tomorrow with the first post: David Gregory: Moderator.
This is a touchy subject for everyone involved. Even family members of veterans with PTSD are stigmatized to some degree. This really needs to change and it needs to change on two fronts:
Later today, I travel down to DC. I will not be posting until after the panel, but be sure to stay tuned to twitter. I will be tweeting the subjects covered by the panel and any major developments. Also, I would love to hear what others think about today's vital issue of advocacy. Please chime in!
I am so freaking tired from the constant anxiety that this past week has caused. Small problem. I have the sleep study tonight and I am prohibited from napping and I am prohibited from drinking caffeine. By the time this evening rolls around, I am going to be a mess. At least the vast majority of what has caused my anxiety this week has passed. I am pretty confident I know the outcome of the sleep study. I just don't know what they plan on doing about it. I almost think I would prefer they take out my tonsils and adenoids. Guess we will see.
I am trying to keep the irascibility at a minimum today, for my wife's sake. She has been very patient with me this week. It would be nice if I could take a break from this feeling for a day. Just a day. I just want all of the hoopla to be over with. I want to be able to spend a day with my daughter without having to worry about the anxie
Veterans and Service Members have a serious image problem right now. We are seen as dangerous and amoral. We are increasingly becoming viewed and depicted as cold-blooded killers. Who do we have to thank for this wonderful phenomenon? The media - on TV, on the internet, in papers, every medium. Media outlets have this idea that negative press is the only thing that sells. Because of this flawed ideal, the only stories that get passed on are the ones that demonize our service members. In today's world, these horrible images are what everyone associates with our veterans and our service members. Guys posing with the body parts of insurgents, guys posing with tortured prisoners. These are the lasting images of this war that most who are outside of the military community identify our veterans and service members with.
Hey media: Get a Clue. I hear the words 'fair and balanced' and want to laugh. There is nothing fair or balanced about any of the media coverage we get nowadays. Just once, I would love to see a major media story about the loss and suffering that service members experience during their time overseas. A story of compassion and attempted understanding. It's one of the major reasons I am an advocate for 'After the Uniform. Bob Woodruff is one of the panel members. If anyone in today's media understands what service members and veterans feel and experience, it's the guy who almost died in an IED attack. I know he gets it. I can't say the same for most of these other politically-minded sycophants that pander to the party they ardently support.
This problem is not going to go away. The image of military service hasn't been this negative since Vietnam. Are you proud of yourselves, Media Outlets? Are you? I will say it now and I hope others carry the message to you as well. Find your ethics that you stashed somewhere and return to your roots of unbiased reporting.
We have made great strides in making education available to veterans when they return home from overseas. Just a few 'minor' problems:
OK, so maybe they are not 'minor' problems. These are very serious issues that really need to be addressed if we are going to give our returning veteran the best shot at success. Here are my ideas:
I think if we can address these major issues facing returning veterans, we can drastically improve their chances for quality employment and would be bolstering the local economies with solid workers in fields they need. The key has always been working together. Let's see what happens.
In today's day and age, the entire world is connected. We have access to traditional websites, phone apps, social media, and more. Let's take a look at how these are being effectively used to reach veterans and provide service for veterans.
These are the major issues. The general trend is that the average veteran is substantially more tech savvy than the providers of veterans' services. This needs to change. There are so many possibilities out there to reach veterans that wouldn't be reachable otherwise. Maybe it's time to think a little more creatively and crowdsource change. Maybe a VA sponsored hackathon is in order to get folks together, I don't know. I just know we need to get on top of this now, before we allow any more vets to fall through the cracks that don't have to.
I just got back from the pulmonary functions tests and the lady said there was significant obstruction, but that it didn't look like COPD - more like allergies. I didn't feel very confident that this lady knew what the hell she was talking about. If the allergies are constant and the lungs reaction is, therefore, also constant, how is it not chronic? I guess I will wait and see what the doc says for certain, but my anxiety went through the roof. It's my birthday and I am trying not to snap at everyone and everything.
I am trying to calm myself down and put all of this in a good perspective, but it is difficult. I have been scared to exercise. I was afraid of what might happen if I hadn't been to these tests yet. All these tests did was create more ambiguity and more questions. Historically, this is exactly the type of situation that would put me into a really deep funk and make me a real pleasure to be around. I know this and am trying to do make sure that doesn't happen. I have been extremely irritable the past few days and my wife doesn't deserve this.
The one thing I can't stop is the physiological change - my hands are shaking so badly from the adrenalin dump that I am having difficulty typing. I am going to focus on the part I CAN do something about - my attitude. Because of the PTSD, my mind is trained to think of the worst case scenarios with all of this. If I think about those, all that will happen is my anxiety and adrenalin will increase.
You know what? Fuck these tests. I am done with this. Come hell or high water I am going to enjoy my birthday today. I am going to start exercising my butt off - mind over matter. I am going to exercise to exorcise...
Historically, military experience has been viewed positively by employers. Employers knew that candidates with military experience would be mature for their age, responsible, mission/job focused, punctual, efficient, and in possession of strong leadership acumen. If all else was equal, the candidate with military experience invariably received the job offer.
Not any more. I have been on the receiving end of this new discrimination. When I graduated from college in 2007 I had lots of interviews for jobs. I didn't get a single job offer. The most common response I heard from employers: I was overqualified for entry level positions. After a few rejections like this, I looked at mid-level management requirements. I was supremely under-qualified. I realized that the reason for this discrimination was that I was a veteran. I even had one employer tell me that I illustrated a lack of initiative and ambition (I graduated Magna Cum Laude, won the Outstanding Achievement in International Business Award, and was a member of a select group students investing real money on behalf of a local foundation).
This new attitude by many employers that view military service as a negative don't get it. I have had many young people, especially in college say, "You are so intelligent, how did you get stuck in the Army?" The prevailing view of the younger generations of employers is that the only people who go into the service are those that:
WAKE UP FOLKS! There are thousands of vets out of work because of this ignorance! It's time for a change and it's got to start now. If you don't know what the military has to offer, teach yourself. One of the best things you can do for your business is give veterans a fighting chance - we are very loyal to those that afford us an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.