Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get dancing, puppet




These days puppets pull the strings


These days puppets pull the strings


Turning to the US, where 2009 saw the US army won convictions against 327 soldiers for going AWOL. Chie Saito (Austin's News 8 -- link has text and video) reports on Jacob Wade who went AWOL while back in the US on two weeks leave from his Iraq deployment.

Chie Saito: [. . .] he says the psychological effects from what he saw and experienced --

Jacob Wade: Riding through town we got attacked.

Chie Saito: -- in his first six months there --

Jacob Wade: I had a grenade go off like five feet behind me.

Chie Saito: -- made it impossible for him to go back.

Jacob Wade: I saw a lot of people die, saw a kid get shot.

Chie Saito: Images and memories which he says still haunt him today.

Jacob Wade: I wake up talking to myself about Iraq. Dreams about killing myself all alone.

Jade Ortego (Killeen Daily Herald) adds, "His psychiatrist, Dr. William Cross of Manilus, N.Y., who has agreed to testify on Wade's behalf at his sanity board, diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Wade also suffered physical injuries to his legs as a result of his service, and walks with a limp. Wade was scared to report and be redeployed, but was also afraid of the harassment and hazing from fellow soldiers that he heard comes with an admission of mental health issues due to service." Tod Ensign (Citizen Soldier) is representing Jacob Wade. Yesterday Iraq Veterans Against the War posted an update on Eric Jasinski who also suffers from PTSD and also self-checked out to get treatment for PTSD. The military responded by court-martialing him. He has served one month at Bell County Jail and been released from the jail. Their update includes a video by Stand with Honor filmed after the court-martial.

Eric Jasinski's mother Laura Barrett: He stood up. He knew -- he knew he was going to have to go to jail. He knew that would happen. But he also knew he had to have help. And he wants to make sure that the word -- the word gets out there. That's what I'm so proud of him for, that he wants to make sure that the word gets out that so many other young men and women need help psychological help. They're coming back damaged from what they make them do, make them participate in. Eric's going to stand up. He will inspire and help so many other people.

James Branum is Eric's attorney. PTSD is rarely taken seriously. The Congress continues to fund studies that find . . . further studies are needed. The system itself works against those suffering with it. Lyda Longa (Daytona Beach News Journal) reports 29-year-old Iraq War veteran Joshua James Gerard was shot at his home Sunday by Deputy Vidal Mejias when the sheriff's office responded to a 9-11 call placed by his wife. Gerard is said to suffer from PTSD. It is not known at this point whether or not he had sought help for his PTSD. Afghanistan War veteran Jennifer Crane did seek help once she returned home and found her life spiraling out of control. She shared her story with Lynn Harris and Marie Clare:

I completed two weeks of rehab, and then went to a three-month VA program for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. But after only one month there, the doctors, unbelievably, asked me to leave. They said the treatment wasn't really helping me -- although I disagreed -- and that as one of only two women in the group, I was distracting the male patients, who apparently found me attractive. I begged them, literally on my hands and knees, to let me stay; I knew I wasn't ready to go back into society. I knew what would happen if I tried. Incredibly, they said no. I left the VA Medical Center and went straight to my drug dealer's house. I told him I needed something strong to get rid of my pain. That day, I started smoking crack. I hit bottom so fast, it was amazing. I went from being happy with my progress to having no hope at all. I used all day, every day. I tried to hold down jobs -- bartender, waitress, receptionist -- but I was so strung out that I couldn't get out of bed to go to work. When I was at work, I was high. I got fired from every job. At one point, I just quit trying. I couldn't afford rent, I couldn't go to my mom's house unless I was clean, and I couldn't stop fighting with my boyfriend long enough to stay with him. That's how I wound up living in my car. For several months, in exchange for drugs, I ran errands for my dealer and cleaned his home. He also asked me to be a "dancer" -- in other words, dance privately for his friends and customers. Clinging to my last shred of dignity, I said no. But not long after, I had sex with him for drugs. I felt so disgusted afterward, I took out a lighter and burned the clothes I'd worn that night. Then, in August 2006, as I was driving away from my dealer's house, seven police cars suddenly surrounded me. I was handcuffed and arrested for possession of the crack cocaine I had with me. But when I wouldn't give them the name of my dealer (which would be suicide), they eventually gave up and let me go. The very next day, my old friends held a reunion on the anniversary of Steve's death. When I showed up, everyone stared. I was emaciated, with my eyes darting around and contusions all over my face from picking my skin, out of anxiety. When I spotted one of my oldest and dearest friends, Jason, he gently whispered, "What's wrong?" With his Timberlands, tattoos, and crew cut, he made me smile, and his simple question moved me. I told him, "I have to change my life, and I don't know how to do it." Jason sat up with me all night. I didn't get high. I cried and I shook, and he held me, saying, "I'm not letting you leave." That night -- those words -- changed everything. I finally felt ready to let someone help me. I began to imagine getting clean.

Jennifer Crane is now a spokesperson for the non-profit Give an Hour which provides "free medical health service to US military personnel and families affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." Alison St. John (KPBS -- link has text and audio) speaks with Iraq War veteran Sage Bird who has Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD which made returning to civilian life rough and, as she sought to self-medicate, she developed a drug addiction and ended up in jail where she "caught the attention of the jail authorities who saw her efforts, and that her violent behavior was connected to the traumas she experienced in Iraq. They gave her a second chance. She was given a lawyer who won her a reprieve, to spend six months at Veterans Village, working on healing herself." Last Friday on The World (PRI -- link has text and audio), Marco Werman spoke with journalist Joshua Kors about Sgt Chuck Luther who was forced to sign a statement claiming his injuries were a pre-existing personality disorder so the military could avoid paying for his care.

Joshua Kors: Well they're not accusations. This was two years of combing through the medical records kept by his doctor, confirmation from his commander who was there to watch his treatment, and from others who came to visit him while he was in confinement. Sgt. Luther had been wounded by mortar fire while serving in Iraq. Slammed his head against the concrete and ended up with severe traumatic brain injury. The headaches resulting from that blow to the head caused blindness, his vision to shut off in one eye. He said the other eye felt like someone was stabbing him in the eye with a knife. He went to the aid station to get care for that, but they told him that his blindness was caused by a personality disorder. He thought that was ridiculous, how could a problem with his personality cause blindness? But Marco, this is part of a larger story. For the last three years I've been reporting on wounded soldiers, pressed into signing these papers saying they have a personality disorder. [. . .] Sgt. Luther was put in a closet and held there for over a month under enforced sleep deprivation with the lights on all night, blasting heavy metal music at him all through the night, but when he tried to escape the closet they pinned him down, injected him with sleeping medication and dragged him back to the closet. Finally, at the end of a month, he was willing to sign anything and he did. He went ahead, signed papers saying that he had a pre-existing personality disorder. They flew him back to Fort Hood, and that's when they let him know the repercussions of that discharge. No disability pay for the rest of your life, no long term medical care, and here's a bill for $1,500.00. [. . .] Since 2001, 22,600 soldiers have been booted out of the military with personality disorder. Taking those wounded soldiers and sliding them out the side door with that mental illness is saving the military 12.5 billion dollars in disability and medical care. And that is why, then Senator Barack Obama was so up in arms about this issue. Along with Republican Senator Kid Bond, he put forward a bill to halt personality disorder discharges. That made him both a hero and a disappointment to so many veterans. A hero because he was addressing this critical issue; a disappointment because during his Presidential run, and now from the White House, he hasn't spoken at all about personality disorder. The result was that the issue sort of withered on the vine.

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