In response to Southpaw's guest post, two of my really good friends, who have first hand experience with the issues in that post, sent me this response. I decided to post it as a new post on the subject. There is no more noble place the government should spend our tax money than for veterans who fight and die for the rest of us to live free!
Here is their response completely unedited:
I wanted to start by saying Thank you To Southpaw. I thought it was a fabulous blog and one that hits close to home.
It amazes me how the service members and their families suffer at the hands of politics. I don't care whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. I don't care if you agree with the war, our President, or Congress. I don't care what belief system you hold to be true. Please, please support the families.
How do you support other than Southpaw's thoughts...This comes from a military brat and former military wife. Support their jobs! Remember that these men and women are dedicated to their country and do what Congress and the President ask. Remember that our service members are just doing their job as any other employee would, they simply have different kinds of jobs.
Take a tour of your local VA hospital and see what limited facilities and care we provide to men and women who have risked their lives to protect us. Contact your Congressman regarding your experience and demand changes. My husband and I have been in 3 VA hospitals. I was appalled by the conditions in Arkansas with its stained or missing ceiling tiles, rude staff and the 8 hour wait to get one x-ray. I was frustrated with the scheduling in Kansas City. How can you expect a veteran to come in at 1 pm for a first appointment if you will be fired for not being at work on time? I don't care if the physician sets his appointments or not. Why can't you be more flexible with a veteran who is trying to work! Thank God for the VA Clinic in Colorado Springs. We found a nurse practitioner who is on his game and is taking really good care of my husband. Each state is so different, what will you do to help.
Ask your Congressman to propose or support additional funding to the VA facilities, especially the mental health clinics. We wait 3 months for follow up visits with the psychiatrist and there are only 3 therapists on staff to see an enormous amount of veterans. They need more qualified staff with passion for veterans.
Support organizations who advocate for our troops. We have found such incredible support from the Disabled American Veterans. They walked us through the process of filing for disability, filing a disagreement when the VA told us there is no way my husband is service connected for his PTSD, even though he dreams about things in Iraq that I cannot mention for fear of their impact on you, my reader. We have been fighting this for 3 years and the DAV has been there every step of the way.
Allow the service members to tell their stories. Sometimes a listening ear can help. Please do not debate if they were doing the right thing or not, most service members believe in their job and take pride in what they do. If they are close friends or relatives, maybe you suggesting they should see someone will make the difference. Southpaw is right, the stigma applied to mental health issues is one of weakness inside the military, and that stigma follows our veterans.
Veterans feel disrespected and forgotten by their country. Some people have asked me why so many Vietnam veterans are homeless. The answer to that is complicated but I will do my best. First, an amazing amount of Vietnam veterans saw horrible things and therefore many have PTSD. They drink or do drugs to make the symptoms (flashbacks, anxiety, tremors, etc) dissipate. There is a certain level of control they try to gain from living outdoors. Here they control their life; there are no bills, responsibilities, etc. One final thought, when they are alone they are less likely to physically harm the ones they love. During flashbacks they are not in the same world we are, usually they do not remember their actions here, and for many that is very scary. My husband always asks after one of these flashbacks if he has hurt me.
There needs to be more training for the military spouses about Anxiety conditions and PTSD. What do they need to look for in their service member or veteran. The spouse is the first line of defense. There needs to be reintegration training for everyone returning. We had a few suicides here around the bases when my husband was in Iraq, including some officers and Special Forces individuals. Anyone is susceptible.
These brave men and women are haunted by their heroic jobs and deserve the utmost respect. I support my veteran by fighting the VA for his disability rating, by demanding the best care at VA facilities, standing by him and fighting the PTSD together, and I say thank you to every veteran I meet. As Southpaw said every one has a different way of supporting the troops, but I challenge you do put some rubber to the road and create some action. I'd love to hear your ideas.