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Archive for April, 2011

There was a segment on Tell Me More yesterday, about the new Blue Star Families  PSA concerning suicide and in memory of Clay Hunt, a member of IAVA and decorated Marine who recently committed suicide.  It was a great piece.  But unfortunately on the site a couple of comments were posted, that are making some of us grind our teeth.  Someone who posted as Penny Lane put this out… [warning, you might want to throw something at your computer]

I, for one, am tired of being made to feel guilty and ungrateful.

I didn’t ask for the wars and I didn’t ask to have my tax dollars spent on the military machine. I didn’t walk around with signs saying “Invade Iraq” just because we can.

Why don’t you go to Crawford, Texas and talk to the man who decided we needed to avenge his daddy?

*************
Almost 10 years of solid war, and on more than two fronts.

What else were we expecting?

Time to decrease the military. We can’t afford it, on any level. It does not keep us safer. It actually increases our risk of being attacked.

Thank you for your service, but you volunteered.

Young people kill themselves every day, without experiencing the horror of war. I don’t know how you can claim to be different or special.

Now then… a friend of mine wrote a wonderful rebuttal at her blog – Smurfoflauge Cafe      here’s a brief segment of her response to Penny Lane (but I really recommend that you go over and read the whole thing)

We are asking that you STOP and do not callously cast aside those who work to fulfill American’s choices about our conduct with other nations. We ask you to stop using, “You volunteered” as an excuse to disregard us and our efforts to make this country better. We ask you to stop and listen to servicemembers, veterans and their families and try to understand the true costs of the war you have voted to engage in. We ask you to help us get the medical and mental health care we need and failing that, at least be kind. It is the smallest task to at least show you care enough about our Nation to be engaged in what you as a citizen have chosen and enacted.
Words hurt. Telling someone that they don’t deserve to have support from the American people, even minimal support in the form of medical and mental health coverage, is tantamount to spitting in military families faces. It’s saying that you are more than happy to use them up and then cast them out and step on them like the dust under your feet as soon as they are no longer physically or mentally able to serve your whims. It is the gravest of all insults and suggests that at least a large segment of the American people have forgotten that citizenship isn’t all about the right to watch American Idol while eating french fries, it’s about being responsible for choosing this Nation’s future and then acting upon those choices.

Military families are hurting, we are exhausted from multiple deployments, we are terribly proud of our spouses, we are proud of being military spouses.  But we’ve been doing this for 10 years.  We are the 1 percent, who don’t deserve to be scorned or told “you volunteered” so suck it up.

We aren’t talking about getting a discount at a store, we aren’t talking about someone paying for a coffee – we are talking about our family members committing suicide!  We are talking about our families disintegrating, about the despair that is driving too many of us to over medicate ourselves; and we are talking about reaching out and giving a person a hand or a shoulder.

Being treated with the scorn that Penny Lane decided to heap on, to know that she did that on a link to a radio show with the mother of Clay Hunt, is frankly stunning to me.  I assume that Ms. Lane (?) wouldn’t show that level of disrespect to anyone who had lost a child – so why WHY did she feel she could do this, should do this, to a dead Marine’s mother, to a veteran or a military spouse?  I have no idea – but I think she owes everyone on that show an apology.

KSF

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Suicide – new PSA

A video/Public Service Announcement from Blue Star Families – about a very important subject. Military Family Suicides. Pass it on. Please.  Because I do know what it’s like.  It’s a lonely time during deployment, and a fraught time before and after; but we aren’t alone.

If you know anyone in trouble, if you think someone is in pain – please please give them that phone number.  Give them your phone number.  Reach out.

KSF

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I happen to be a HUGE fan of Deborah Mullen, the wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. She is one of the best advocates for us, for military spouses. When I’ve met her, she’s been down to earth, ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She uses her voice, her status, to give us all a voice. This speech, given at the Military Health Services Annual Conference was one that made me stand up and cheer.

She talks about anticipatory grief, secondary PTS, the situation of children missing school because their parent is unable to get up; the abuse of alcohol and drugs.  She talks about the lack of tracking, the lack of ability to get to the spouses.  She talks about the stigma still attached to mental health issues, that we still worry about the negative impact on the servicemember’s career.  She discusses the spouse who is given 5 meds and no followup appointment and no referral to mental health; the 1/15 rule.  Why are we failing to look at the totality of the problem, why do we expect the young spouse to look after the service member, but not herself.

This line resonated with me:

You do not have to put on a pair of combat boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war. If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself — and frankly the military owes it to YOU — to get the help you need.

As Mrs. Mullen says, we have all sorts of programs, training, but we don’t have a place to find them all!  And we need time to recover.

They want time to explore and understand what is happening to them … and the patience and understanding of loved ones, friends and the system itself.

We need to reach out to each other.  We need to keep talking to each other.  Recently, a friend of mine decided to “go dark”  as she dealt with some stuff.  We made sure she was ok, safe and that she knew we were there.  Did we hover?  Maybe.  Did we think she was suicidal? No.  But did we want to make sure she knew we were there if she needed us?  Yes.  That’s the difference.

I talked to my husband about Jessica’s letter on her blog.  When he read it, he remarked that the symptoms seemed like those he had heard to watch out for during all his training – the infamous “don’t kill your self, don’t kick the wife or the dog” when you reintegrate training and the new resiliency training.  Since we aren’t (for another few days) in a unit that conducts resiliency training for families – I’m going to go find some at ACS.

I for one, would rather be a pest – I’d rather you hate me for being a pain in the ass – because you have to be alive to hate me.  That’s what I care about.  That you are alive.

KSF

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After a long day of looking at dinosaurs and  waving at the carousel horse as it went round and round with our granddaughter gleefully riding the horsie, we collapsed onto the Metro seat.  Staring at me was this picture.  This is an advertisement from the Sierra Club.

I figure Jasmine is about Koti’s age – 5 or so.  When they don’t stop, when they run and play, making up games on the playground, or doing laps in sheer joy and love of being outside; when they are growing and learning at the speed of light.  These children need to be able to breathe clean air, they need to use those quick brains and imaginations, they need to run and jump and play.  If their lungs are impacted by pollution, if they have ingested toxins that affect their brains, they won’t be able to think of games to play, they won’t be able to run around or climb that slide.

The proposed rules are entirely reasonable; they are already being utilized by power plants, large companies and small ones; and they didn’t send them reeling into the poorhouse either! These technologies remove smog, particulates and other pollutants from what comes out of the smokestack.  We have to reach some consensus here, we don’t want to drive all the companies out of business, but clean air is the right of all of us.  All of us.

For more information and other blogs about taking that deep breath, check out Mom’s Clean Air Force

KSF

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The story I linked to yesterday, by Alison Buckholtz, has some interesting comments. They run the gamut, from support for Jessica and other military spouses, to a not so supportive diatribe of bad grammar and suppositions that frankly flummoxed me. Especially when you realize, this is another military spouse who says

Well first off this is a sad story but on the other hand I dont feel that bad for her.. I know that sounds bad but I just think when she refers to how she wished her husband died in combat I just think she was refering to the money she would have recieved and not the support from the local army community (because she has no job,etc and now is single). Also there is a saying “If the Army wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one” … That being said they have improved many things for spouse “dependents” and I find it hard to believe they turned her away at any family support group especially when she had suidical thoughts…We might not be the first priority on the armys list but we are very important to them and not just to them but to our soldiers fighting the wars…I just cant feel that bad for this woman.. She put it out there so to me she was looking for attention… I just dont feel bad for woman who do this types of things when they are in a middle of a divorce and or just divorce a service member…. There are many things on base she could have seek help at and I just dont think she tried hard enough

Well,  lrsack, let me put you straight here.   She’s not looking for attention, she wanted to make her (thank goodness not successful) suicide actually mean something.  Having dealt with an FRG leader who refused help, informed us that she wasn’t there to make phone calls, or deal with families – she was there because her husband told her she had to do it, and she was going to raise lots of money to have the best holiday party ever – I can believe Jessica’s “cold shoulder” story.  If you aren’t a member of the in crowd or permanent party at a school post – they don’t want you.  Really.

If you’ve not been in this depth of depression, if you haven’t looked into that dark place, I don’t think you can understand why she felt this way.  What bothers me even more, is that an attitude like this isn’t that rare in the milspouse world.

So – what do you think.  Let’s have it!

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This week, a lot of us are going to be talking more about suicide in military families – the spouses and family members who have been “handling” 10 years of two wars and multiple deployments; and who are at a breaking point after being responsible for the home front for the same 10 years.

I’m going to be writing a lot about this in the next week, but for now I’m going to send you to the At War Blog from the New York Times – a fantastic article by Alison Buckholtz (who wrote Standing By, a great book if you haven’t read it yet).

This is a conversation we must have.  MUST HAVE.  As Mrs. Mullen said at a recent conference, no one at the Department of Defense is even keeping track of the suicide rate or attempted suicide rate of military spouses.  If they don’t even bother to track us – how can we make sure we are getting the amount of treatment we need for our population?

We’ll talk some more – but I’d love to hear from you on this.

KSF

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Earth Day 2011 – 41 years of commemorations big and small; trees will be planted, stream and river cleanups are going on all over the country and many are congratulating themselves on the progress that has been made. There has been progress; there’s no denying that. But that progress took time, and it took advocating and groups and petitions and then, it took laws. The Clean Air Act – the one that we are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of- gave the federal and state governments the ability to limit the emissions from industrial and mobile sources. We as a country realized we couldn’t continue to foul the air; we realized our children were getting sick from the pollutants spewing from factories, and the tailpipes of our cars; that the land was being sickened not only by the pollution we were burying in it, or the spills of toxic waste, or the water we were fouling with our effluent, but also by the very rain that should have been sustaining it, the rain that fell through the clouds of particulates and smog. That rain was no longer the cleanser of the leaves, it was corroding them; it carried the lead, the mercury, the arsenic and the rest of the contaminants into the ground, into the water and added to the pollution level we were surrounding ourselves with.

Planting a tree to help with CO2 and clean air is a great step, not only for the symbolism. But we also need to remember that we cannot do this alone. You and I can’t clean up the results of the Industrial Revolution’s garbage one trash clean up at a time; we need to do this together with those that have the clout, the influence, the science and yes – the money. We need to make sure that those who only see the bottom line, the profit and loss take a look up as well. We need to help those who only see their job security as important, to see their child’s welfare, his lungs and her brain as crucial.

How do we do that? We get phone numbers, we get pollution numbers, we get the facts about what mercury does to the brain of a child; or soot to the lungs of an old woman. What the acid in the rain is really doing to the water it falls into, the ground that it nourishes. We get the phone numbers of our elected officials and call them, email them, write to them, go to meetings with them. And we tell them that we want to breathe clean air, we want to drink clean water, we want to be able to eat what we raise, or what we bring out of a lake.

Today when you plant a tree, or pick up the litter from a roadside or the wrapper blowing across the parking lot – take it another step further. Call and make sure your elected official knows how you feel about the EPA and your local pollution control agency – tell them not to gut their ability to keep the air breathable, the water drinkable. Here’s a link to finding phone numbers for the House   and for the Senate. Thanks.

Happy Earth Day – to all of us.  For more information on what you can do – visit Mom’s Clean Air Force

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