Dear Future President- An Open Letter by April Dykes Linder

Dear Future President,

I don’t know your name yet.  I don’t know what state you will come from.  I don’t know what party you will represent.  I don’t know what your platform will be.  But what I do know is that you have the potential to save at the very least 33,580 lives.

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That is the MINIMUM number of veterans and active duty service members that will commit suicide during your first term as our President.  Sir or Madam, that number will be higher than the entire population of Auburn, NY.   Should you be elected to a second term in office that number will jump to a MINIMUM of 67,160 which is roughly the same as the population of Santa Fe, NM.  Will you be able to sleep knowing that many men and women, who have given of themselves in service to our country, have taken their own lives under your watch?  I can’t sleep tonight after learning about just ONE in a state 10 hours away from me.

I emphasize the word MINIMUM because the statistic frequently used in the media of 22 veterans and 1 active duty suicide a day is a fallacy.  We don’t actually know the true and accurate number because every state doesn’t report their number – they aren’t required to report them.  If we can’t save these men and women in life then shouldn’t we at least be able to keep track of the accurate numbers after they are gone?  But then again, if we did know the accurate number then we would know how much more we have failed.   Mister or Madam President, I am not a fan of failure and I hope that you aren’t either.

Pennsylvania – March 2015, Colorado – April 2015, Arizona – May 2015, Tennessee – July 2015…these states are different Future Mr/Madam President.   You see, in the last four months all of these states have not only had veterans commit suicide but these particular suicides have actually happened on VA property.  THAT is a message.  THAT should be a warning. THAT should NEVER happen again!  I am a firm believer that suicide never actually ends the pain, it just transfers it.  It is transferred to the parents, the spouses, the children, the siblings, the friends, the neighbors and the co-workers.  But a suicide on VA property?  That pain was meant to be transferred to US!  We failed them.  We didn’t listen to them. We didn’t help them. We didn’t save them.  In return, they took their own life on VA property to send a final and lasting message – WE FAILED THEM.

No Mother in Louisiana should be told not to bring her suicidal son to his nearest VA clinic (40 miles according to the Choice Program) because it’s getting close to 5pm and to drive 2.5 hours to the next nearest VA hospital after he’s already bleeding.  No Master Sergeant should be treated with witch hazel and ointment for 8 years by the VA for hemorrhoids only to find out by a civilian hospital that he is actually in the final stages of rectal cancer.  No female MST (Military Sexual Trauma) victim in Michigan should not be offered counseling because there are no female therapists on staff.  No veteran in Iowa who was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury while at Walter Reed Hospital should be denied a rating for his TBI because he’s “already being paid for PTSD and they are almost the same thing”. No quadriplegic Ranger in Arizona should still be waiting over 7 months for VA approval to have a caregiver.  No, No, No to every other story I could tell you. WE ARE FAILING THEM.

For the next 15 or so months you will be busy on the campaign trail visiting many cities across this country.  You will be addressing a lot of issues, asked a lot of questions, giving a lot of speeches and making a lot of promises.  I beg of you – address the VA, ask about the VA, speak about the VA and promise to FIX THE VA…and on January 17, 2017 do it, because there will be a MINIMUM of 33,580 people whose lives are counting on you.

Originally published on July 17, 2015 at The Hill

April Dykes Linder works as an Independent Political Consultant in West Des Moines, Iowa and is a veterans advocate on a national level. Reprinted by Author’s permission

 

Sleep Disorders and PTSD Among Worst Issues Veterans Face

Sleep Disorders and PTSD Among Worst Issues Veterans Face

Sleepless night

(DGIwire) — When we think of all of the issues that American veterans face, a lineup of the usual suspects jumps to mind, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, less visible—but just as detrimental—to their health is another condition that might not be among the first we commonly think of: namely, sleep disorders. But in fact, researchers have detected a strong correlation between these two conditions.

For example, a study performed by the Sleep Disorders Laboratory at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, MS, and reported on the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, found that 70 to 90 percent of those suffering from PTSD also suffer from sleep disturbances. For example, PTSD sufferers have much higher prevalence of insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep and also sleep-related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea when compared to healthy cohorts.

The study further suggested that specific sleep treatments in the veteran population could lead to significant improvement in sleep and global PTSD symptoms.

Those who were in the military and think they may be affected by PTSD should consider speaking to their doctor about the latest clinical research study involving an investigational new drug as a treatment for PTSD, the AtEase Study. To protect the subjects’ identities and confidential medical information, the study organizers have obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to ensure their identities are shielded from all persons not connected with this clinical research project.

To see if they pre-qualify to participate in this research study, they can access the study website, AtEaseStudy.com, and learn more about it. The AtEase study is open to veterans or those currently serving in law enforcement, the Armed Forces or as a military contractor. Those serving in the Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service and Border Patrol are also eligible for this research study.

Currently there are no satisfactory approved drug treatments for PTSD. The investigational new drug used in the AtEase study represents a new approach to treating the condition. While symptoms of PTSD may improve or worsen while taking part in this study, participation will provide information about the study drug, a new approach to treating PTSD that might benefit others with the condition in the future.

By The Numbers: Disturbing Statistics

America, we are failing and it is devastating.

From Valiant Veterans:

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Did you know???

-30% return with PTSD
-1 in 4 homeless males is a veteran
-1 in 3 homeless females is a veteran
-23% of the homeless population are veterans
-6% of the US Population are veterans
-89% received honorable discharge
-76% experience alcohol, drug or mental problems
-May 2012 national unemployment rate at 8.1% and 12.7% among Iraq/Afghan Vets
-30% of veterans 18-24 are unemployed
-Veterans make up 7% of the US population yet account for 30% of all suicides each year
-22 veterans a day commit suicide, 1 every 63 minutes with only 21 states used in this data
-731 VA facilities with over 120,000 veterans enrolled in past year WAITING for care
-700,000 estimated veterans reside in correctional facilities
-Over 130 Veterans Courts have been established to assist with certain crimes committed indirectly to combat service
-An estimated 1 in 8 veterans struggle with substance abuse
-Most correctional facilities report the need or creation of veterans “blocks”

We can and must do better for our veterans! Valiant Veterans seeks to change how these issues above are addressed through the establishing of the LiveLife Center and many incredible collaborations to support veterans and their families.

Check them out on their website and on their Facebook page. Be a part of something that gives back to our American Military Family. They’ve earned it.

Don’t Be Their Headline, Be Yours!

 

Don’t be their headline, be yours!

Every day it seems there is another headline that attempts to denigrate Warfighters, belittle their service, disregard their deeds once they are out, highlight the isolated situations of those who are the exception to the general rule and cause fear in the hearts and minds of the American public for the demons they face now.  “PTSd means you’ll go crazy one day”, “Because you’ve seen combat you’re a liability”, “You’ve been in the service for 10 years, so you haven’t actually been in the workforce I guess”, all of this and more is what our national media has conditioned John Q. Public to believe.  Of course Warfighters, Caregivers and Patriots at heart know this not to be true, yet it happens. Why? It’s because we as a community allow it to happen.

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Oh sure, when the media tries to portray every Warfighter the same as one freak situation we sit behind our keyboards and deny, deny, deny.  We rant and we rave on our Facebook pages, in our groups, we hashtag, we tweet, we make angry YouTube videos and we commiserate with other Warfighters and likeminded people.  Then what?  For the most part it’s the sound of crickets….until the next headline and then we start the whole cycle over again.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  We all say we want change in our community for Warfighters everywhere but what exactly are we doing?  We are allowing THEM to pull OUR strings, to use US to increase THEIR clicks and shares.  We are letting them create the dialog that dictates the opinion of the general public.

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Getting mad is okay, I do it too.  But it’s time to do more than just get mad and be keyboard warriors (YES – that’s a warrior with a lower case ‘w’).  It’s time for us to dictate the message.   It’s up to us to provide the true narrative.  It’s easy to do.  Get out and give your community, your city and your state the REAL picture of a Warfighter.  Leave the vision of honor, duty and service embedded so deep in minds that when those twisted generalizing headlines appear they know in their hearts that that is NOT what the American Warfighter is all about.  Give them NO REASON to believe what they are told but give them EVERY reason to know that our nation has produced, trained and turned out its greatest assets – YOU!  For every negative article and media hype make sure that the average citizen knows 10 more stories of servitude from our community.  Be the face of our community to every person you meet but be the BEST face of our community possible.  DON’T BE THEIR HEADLINE – WRITE THEIR HEADLINE FOR THEM! Warfighters are the conquers, never the conquered.

Originally published at Warfighter Media on Feb 5, 2015

April Dykes Linder works as an Independent Political Consultant and lives in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reprinted by Author’s permission

Boone Cutler, Big Dogs To The Front (Video)

 

Here is a video of Warfighter, Boone Cutler at a meeting I attended with Chris Bemiss at The American Legion  in Norco, California last year. Boone is a tireless advocate for the Warfighter Community.

I was a bit hesitant to attend because I am just a civilian and Boone (along with a large segment of the Warfighter Community) have developed a general disdain for the public at large. Please watch as Boone explains why:

This divide is real and Hollywood is perpetuating it. Our men and women that serve have paid dearly for our compassion and respect. None of them want our pity. They want to come home and get a job, continue a career, be able to sleep without fear of nightmares, be able to adjust to everyday life, and be there for their families.

They do NOT want to “Assimilate” into a society that no longer values the very things that this nation was built on and made it great. It is my own opinion Warfighters can “Integrate” back into society, without giving up the very things that made them great.

Watch the video and listen to him spell it out. We had lunch together that day and I no longer shy away from leaders like Boone. We love the same country, love the same way of life and will do our damndest for a Veteran or Active Duty. Honestly, I am much more comfortable around men like Boone than the average person on the street. Truth

 

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Raised by a Marine; Boone ruined a family tradition by joining the Army in 1989. Sergeant Boone Cutler joined the Army Airborne Infantry immediately after America invaded Panama. His father, Drew, was a hard-charging career Marine who served in Vietnam. Grandpa Jack was a Marine in WWII who was captured by the Japanese and was held for five years in a prison camp. Boone didn’t make it to the war in Panama, instead he was sent to Germany and also missed the first Gulf War. Later, Boone transferred to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and served as a Paratrooper in the 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at the 82nd Airborne Division in the early 90’s. Three wars took place during Boone’s initial enlistment and he wasn’t sent to any of them. After leaving Ft. Bragg, he relocated to southern California and joined a Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne). He initially joined out of boredom for the civilian life. After getting married and starting a family he ended his time of fun and beer brawling hijinks in the military. He’d given up on going to war. However; like so many veterans, disabled or otherwise, Boone answered the Call to Arms after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and joined the military again. This time it wasn’t for adventure; it was for survival and Boone went to war in Iraq. He was sent to the Sadr City area of Baghdad. He documented the war as he’d never imagined it. After serving eleven-months in Iraq, he was Medically Evacuated and spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

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Boone Cutler is the author “Voodoo In Sadr City” and Warfighter Rights leader that has become the first nationally recognized on-air personality who is also a Warfighter from the current war. “Tipping Point with Boone Cutler” is the weekly stage for Boone’s raw Paratrooper, no-holds-barred style, becoming a hit over the air waves and online with ‘Soccer Moms’ and his fellow Warfighters that are still deployed in combat zones worldwide. Boone’s message is simple, “America has lost faith in what they used to believe were the heroes of Hollywood, America has become disgusted with the political climate of today so the only place to turn to and trust for leadership is the Warfighter”.

Boone can be found at BooneCutler,com, Warfighter Media, and on Facebook at Tipping Point With Boone Cutler

A Letter From A Civilian

 

While doing research for my own blog article regarding the Military/civilian divide, I was directed to this post on the Warfighter Media site by Boone Cutler. I was so taken by the authors statements and how they mirrored our own here at Granger Legacy that I requested to reprint it here in its entirety.

A Letter From A Civilian

by April Dykes Linder

Civilian.  I have mixed feelings about that word.  There’s no doubt that that’s what I am, I don’t deny it and I don’t pretend that I am not.  But in the circles that I am in, where that word is used, it is often said with disdain and disregard.  I understand it but sometimes it hurts.  It hurts because I would never look at a veteran and say “oh, all they did was join the service”.  You see, in life we all have our places, what we were called to do, what we were meant to do, what makes us the person we are and we all have the opportunity to fulfill that destiny.  I was not destined to be a warfighter.  I was not meant to sign on the dotted line, to raise my hand and take that oath to lay down my life for my country and fellow Battle.  There are many like me and quite frankly I am thankful that ‘civilians’ like me didn’t.  I only want the Best of the Best, those that were born to be warriors, the descendants of Sparta, those that feel the burning passion in their bellies to give of themselves in that way.

I will never pretend to know what war is like.  Even in my wildest dreams I could never imagine the feelings associated with war.  I am not ingrained with the fortitude that it would take to face war. What I am though is grateful for those who are and I put that gratitude into more than just words, I put it into everything that I do but more on that later.  I only know the fear of having a dear loved one gone and the joy of having them return.  I don’t know what it is like to readjust to a world after service but I know what it’s like to love someone who has.   I don’t know what it is like trying to forget while you also try to remember but I know what it’s like trying to love someone who is.  I don’t know what it is like to want to sleep but being afraid to close your eyes but I know what it’s like to love someone who does.  I am not a warfighter but I am from a long line of warfighters.  I am a proud Daughter of the Revolutionary War, Daughter of the Civil War, a granddaughter of a man who thought he was joining the Air Force only to find out he was tricked by an Army recruiter once he arrived at basic training, the daughter of a Navy Corpsman, and the very proud and lucky sister of a warfighter who returned home from our Nation’s latest engagements.  I am not my family’s warfighter.  I am a civilian.

Squire

But I am a civilian that the warfighter needs and there are many like me.   I did not spill my blood but I will fight until I have no breath for the warfighter who come home and need me. It is an honor for them to accept my help.  I did not pick up a weapon but I will use the weapons I have in my abilities to fight for all warfighters.  I did not use my talents against an enemy but I will use my talents to fight the non-warrior class that abuses our warfighters.  Why?  I was only borne to be blessed with one brother by birth but the brothers of my brother are my own.  The sisters of my brother are mine.  I did not take an oath that gave me an instant family bond but I have a brother, a father, a grandfather and countless who came before who did so their family IS my family.  I am not a descendant of Sparta but I am a descendant of those that Sparta chose.   Their service matters and I want nothing more than my service to them to matter as well.

For those who fought for me I fight for now – WE fight for now.  I am in the most distrusted and most disdainful career for a warfighter to accept.  I have chosen my weapon to fight with and it is politics.  I have chosen my battle and it is to fight for warfighters of all generations.  I have chosen my enemy and it is those who have not provided what they promised to warfighters. The enemy is the non-warrior class that has not followed through.  I have chosen my leaders and it IS the warfighter, for to listen and follow anyone else would be to lose the battle all together.

Perhaps, there are many like me – Sarah Palin, Dean Cain, Taya Kyle, ‘Joe the Plumber’, Cathy from Alabama, AJ from California, the list goes on and on. There are many that will come after me.  I don’t know the commitment level of the people I listed, but I commit my actions and deeds and am willing to die for the cause.

I was lost and could not find a place for my dedicated service until I heard Boone Cutler explain the concept of the Warrior Class.  Now I know where I belong.  He was right when he said there are only two classes in America, The Warrior Class and the non-Warrior Class and everything else is only a distraction. Either people serve a cause greater than themselves, or they serve themselves.  It’s that simple. Some of us civilians belong to the Warrior Class. I take up that mantle proudly and am willing to prove it. We are the ones who will help you carry the fight here at home once you return.  We are the ones who will have your 6.  We are the ones who will not only negotiate on your behalf but we will walk away from the table and elevate it to war against those who do not comply.  You see, there are many types of civilians but we are not all the same.  Just as in war you must have allies and now that you are home you must too.  Do not see civilians as just another enemy, until we individually define ourselves as such.  Teach your fellow civilians how to be your allies.  Trust your fellow civilians who have earned the right to be trusted. And in return be their allied force too. Together we make up the Warrior Class.  Your mission hasn’t ended, it’s just changed and now that you are home your fellow brotherhood and sisterhood has grown….if you’ll just have us.

I am proud to be more than” just a civilian” – I AM THE WARRIOR CLASS.  I did not fight there but I fight HERE.  I am a part of a growing family of those who know, those who recognize, those who respect, and those who will stand up and speak in favor of what warfighters have done for me.  WARRIOR CLASS.  That is who we are.  And we are proud to take up the fight, wherever it leads.

Originally published at Warfighter Media on January 27, 2015 April Dykes Linder works as an Independent Political Consultant and lives in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reprinted by Author’s permission

Faces, Flashbacks, And The Nod

by Captain Marie Gacke, United States Air Force (Retired)
I didn’t think I even had PTSD of any kind, being a 2 year flight nurse and 6 years as a military cardiac nurse before that, I figured I had seen it all and adjusted just fine.

Then I was in the post office one day when this woman began loudly describing the horrors of war to the lady next to her. She went on about “those poor kids” who were needlessly broken and blown up and went into graphic detail based on what the news showed.

As she continued to recount the news, I had flashbacks of the flightline at two am as they brought endless rows of stretchers to us, men and women missing parts and pieces, and their faces…so very many faces.

I saw them and remembered loading each one onto my aircraft and promising the best care we could give, we would get them back to Germany as quickly as we could, and yes, morphine was on the way…
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I never got to find out if my patients lived or died after we dropped them off, there were too many to track, but when I do finally fall asleep at night now, it’s knowing that my patients never died on my team’s watch – not one.

I don’t sleep well sometimes when I see the broken bodies and the faces, or relive the shock from the families and VIPs that boarded when we landed in Germany. We all shared tears at some point or another, sometimes we were the first faces these folks remembered as they look down and realized what happened. So many thought they were ready to handle it, they never were.

Now what that lady can’t know, because she didn’t see it, is the folks that lost most everything and still had a lop-sided smile and a smart-aleck comment to share with the wounded around them. Or the guys who squished together with inches from their face to the next guys stretcher in order to make room for their working dog – who saved their team that day from extra damage by taking the hit himself. Or the sheer determination of our amputees to get to the latrines without any extra help.

That woman kept yammering, I finally had enough and in a shaking voice told her whether she supported the war or not, this was not the time or place to bring up what so many of us had been reliving as she spoke. I realized that day I still have some work to do, but I did straighten up when several of us gave each other “the nod” as she got quiet. I wasn’t alone.

My aircrew looks like a different team now, some ride bikes, some grow gardens, some live entirely different lives. Just do me a favor, if you see me or another flight member out there, be sure and give us the nod?
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Capt. Marie Gacke Served August  2006  to December 2012 as a Military Cardiac Nurse as well as 2 years as a Flight Nurse. She was last  assigned  to  the  43d Aeromedical  Evacuation squadron  at Pope  Army Air  Field (Formerly  Pope Air  Force Base). She now lives with her husband in southern Arizona.
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