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Archive for October, 2010

WARTORN – 1861-2010

The invitation was unexpected – to the premiere of the HBO film “WARTORN” – the most recent example of HBO and their strong support of the military in film. James Gandolfino (who couldn’t be there) is one of the executive producers and the only non military related “star” who appears as an interviewer of soldiers and asks the questions.

But he’s not the “Star” of this show. The leads in this are the soldiers and most heartbreakingly, the families.

The family of Noah Pierce, who committed suicide after 2 tours in Iraq – his mother’s anger flowed off the screen when she told us all “PTS, it kills from the inside out”, when she showed us the picture of her son taken downrange, with the anger and the pain in his eyes, when she cried reading us his last letter – when he said he had taken lives, now it was time to take his own.

The family of Jason Scheuerman, the kid who came from a family of soldiers, who tried desperately to get help, who was let down by the physicians who are supposed to help him but who fobbed him off after a 10 minute interview, told him to “man up” and who ignored his own words when he wrote he had contemplated suicide – who was given his gun, ammunition and told to go clean his weapon, after his barracks mates were told to leave him alone. The grief of that father when he talked about his son’s suicide was stunning, the anger at the military he loved that had let his son down, the military who let his family down, the brother who told us all that PTS doesn’t just hit the soldier, it hits the family too.

Nathan Damigo and his family, as he faces 6 years in prison for assaulting a cab driver of Middle Eastern descent 6 weeks after coming back from Iraq – he thought he was still back in his PTS nightmare and only woke up when he was cuffed and on the ground. His drunken rage snapped him back to Iraq. I was struck by the difference in the happy family when filmed at the airport before his homecoming and the tired sad eyes of a very young man when he talked to the reporter at the airport. Those were the eyes of an old man, angry, tired and so sad. His mother’s words after the sentencing ; he’s like Humpty Dumpty, but sometimes the pieces don’t go back together.

SFC Bill Fraas and his family as he tries to deal with his PTS after 3 tours in Iraq, as they deal with the hours he sits in front of his computer looking and looking at the pictures from downrange, his leg shaking and tapping; as he talks about the men he brought back intact, but all with the signature hidden wound of this conflict – as he said, if they don’t admit they have it, they’re lying. His frustration at the well meaning who say “get over it”, as if he wouldn’t rather be able to go to WalMart and be able to help with the shopping without getting panicked, as if he wouldn’t want to stop stammering when he gets to that “swivel” point, when he can’t handle the noise and the people. He was at the premiere, with his family and a lovely service dog, I hope it helps him get through the bad days, to have the love of that strong wife, great kids and the unquestioning affection and trust of that little dog.

The interviews with doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with General Chiarelli, with General Odierno and with two NCOs from the Louisiana National Guard in Baghdad, all reinforced the underlying theme. This is a REAL problem, this is something that we are going to be dealing with for years, and there are ways to deal with it that are healthy and that need to be military wide.

The film also showed us historical perspectives, ranging from a young soldier in the Civil War who went off to battle with all the youthful enthusiasm that only an 18 year old can show, who came back after 3 years shattered by “melancholia” and who committed suicide in the woods at 22 years of age; a Colonel from West Point who wrote so eloquently of his own battles with “shell shock” after WW1 in the Atlantic Monthly in Shell Shocked and After “what was wrong with my country” that would allow their soldiers to be treated in this way ; the WW2 veterans who hadn’t talked about their experiences for 50 years and left behind families who won’t talk to them, who still have nightmares – the former Marine who dreams of this again now that his grandson is in Afghanistan; Vietnam veteran Akinsanya Kambon, the young Marine who now can’t stop drawing pictures to remind us all what he lived through.

Admiral Mullen in his opening remarks talked about his discussions with Gandolfino, who said to him “ everyone complains about the kids today – these are the kids today, we should be proud of these kids over there risking their lives and take better care of them” General Casey talked about “shining a light” on PTS to contribute to the understanding of the problem and solutions, the stigma challenge, the resiliency training.

The panel discussion ended the evening with Greg Goldstein ( Marine Corps Combat and Operation Stress Control Program Manager), Buddy Bucha (Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam Veteran) Dr. Kathleen Chard (VA CPT Implementation Director, Director PTSD and Anxiety Disorder Division, Cincinnati VA Med Center), LT Col (Ret.) Gregory Harbin, USAF (OIF/OEF veteran pilot), General Peter Chiarelli, (Vice Chief of Staff, USArmy) and Hon. Tammy Duckworth (Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Dept. of Veterans Affairs) and it ranged from personal stories to future plans.

A prevalent theme was how long it took for the veterans to actually admit to a problem, the signs to look for, how to help. Bucha talked about how long it took him – 40 years! Harbin discussed the signs, both his determined pushing to go back to Afghanistan even when he was obviously not sleeping, eating, or able to function properly, or the habitually dour member of the team who suddenly became the happy go lucky life of the party who did finally realize he was not himself.

We need to shine a light on this, we need to let all of those who suffer from this invisible wound, and their families know that they are not alone!

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Here’s the latest and greatest to land on small business owners of which I am newly proud to be one,. As my friend Julie Pippert so beautifully points out in her post on the Momocrats, we are now subject to even more forms and tax paperwork.  Seriously folks, this is getting old.   From the Reuters story that a lot of us on Facebook have been reading:

The new rule requires all business to file 1099 forms for goods as well as services, if those goods cost over $600 annually (the current threshold). It also gets rid of the distinction between corporations, which previously did not need to receive 1099s, and unincorporated entities, which did. The rule is slated to go into effect in 2012.

This includes freelancers, bloggers, writers, virtual assistants (ahem, like me), consultants,  charities, and other tax exempt groups.  Yeah.  The sheer amount of paperwork, the complications – oh I can feel a migraine approaching!  So – what do we do?  Well, we start by reading up on it, figuring out who our Congress critters are (you may need to wait a couple of weeks for the House, until the elections are over) and then start calling, emailing etc.

Those of us who are military spouses and who are small business owners, need to make sure we figure out what we can do – and of course we have multiple  representatives to contact, right?!

A Facebook page has been started.  NO to 1099 Small Business Reform Join us.  Let’s start making some noise, share some information, get some calls made etc.

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OH MY – look at this – Jessica Simpson and the 4Troops.  This is just so typical, lots of “I support the troops” but when push comes to shove, who gets cut???  Could there be one less jiggle number from Blondie?

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I was asked to review a book about a military musical group, 4Troops. It comes with a Bonus CD with two songs. The group is made up of 4 former soldiers, all OIF veterans. Biographies of the singers lead off the book, with most of the focus on military service and family. The young former Captain Melcher, is the daughter of a now retired General, and her sister – a West Point graduate, so she’s got that “family business” perspective and the elder statesman of the group, SSG Henry, retired from the Army after over 20 years. Sgt Jens was in for over 5 years, seems to have carried a guitar absolutely everywhere (the picture of him with the guitar over his back near the Hands of Victory in Baghdad is a standout) Sgt. Clemo is another Army brat and seems to have overcome some problems by joining up himself. He joined up – September 6, 2001.  Timing!

The chapter on past entertainment was fascinating, including the army camp shows of the past, and one of my personal favorites, Irving Berlin’s This is the Army.

The book did hold a few surprises, especially when discussing how they chose the music for their CD. Did you know, they actually rewrote portions of Courtesy of the Red White and Blue to pasteurize them (with Toby Keith’s agreement). That takes guts. But it does point to something that I found by listening to the CD. The music is pleasant,  trying very hard to be spiritual and comforting, while telling the story of soldiers and families, but I found it a little bland.  Here’s to the Heroes is a real flagwaver, but painfully earnest. Since I only have these two songs to go by, I cannot say how they interpret some of their other songs. I particularly would love to hear their version of that great Jimmy Webb song, “Galveston”. Glen Campbell is a tough act to follow! Capt. Melcher, the female singer, has a lovely voice and I’d like to hear her version of Angel and SSG Henry – I think letting him let that big voice loose – that would be special.

The CD showed me pleasant voices, with some strength, and they do harmonize well, but I would love to hear something with more oomph to it, the selections were alright, but didn’t have any meat to them.   I wish the book had a CD with a better selection!  The book – a nice fan type book, with the little fillip of history on troop entertainment previously mentioned and the history of making their special and CD had some good “behind the scenes” information.

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