Monthly Archives: May 2010

Resilience

This Memorial Day, I won’t just be remembering the fallen and thanking the heroes, I will be in the company of some of the nations strongest. I am going to be taking part in the Capital of Texas triathlon, whats more is that it is this year’s wounded warrior sports project triathlon. There will be Wounded Warriors and active duty service members and I am assuming a ton of veterans. I am not trying to boast but I am trying to give perspective, my first triathlon handed me my A#$ on a platter. It kicked my butt so bad I wanted to yack from start to finish. I am not wounded physically and I found it incredibly difficult. Some of the veterans that will be taking part in this race will have lost their arms or legs. They will not expect special treatment and in fact that special treatment is the exact reason they are out there, to prove they neither need nor want it. They are a testament to internal fortitude and resilience. They are an example to all of us that regardless of the scars and wounds life goes on. So if you are in the Austin, Tx area drop by auditorium shores on memorial day @ 7, 9, or 10 am to catch the Wounded Warriors start their battle for the day. I believe that you will leave with a greater appreciation for the warrior spirit and the ability to heal even when parts of you are gone forever.

So what does this tell us about PTSD? That it too shall fall to the wayside when the human will and spirit come to full bear. That no matter the trauma you saw, if the will drives it the mind and body will follow. Not feeling all this metaphysical well-being stuff? How about hard evidence? Neuroplasticity, the way your brain creates neural pathways, its called a lot of thing like muscle memory or recall. I think of it as a road building. The more you consciously focus on something more direct the pathway becomes, going from a dirt path to a 4 lane highway. So by applying the will and focus to get over the things that go bump in the night, the more you will see results. Mind over matter. That is what you can learn from the Wounded Warriors, they have lost a limb or are disabled in some way and yet, they are taking on a challenge that even the most physically fit and capable find very difficult. So when facing PTSD you realize that it is not that you are strong enough or smart enough to beat it but that you refuse to fail. My motto for this TRI is “Death Before DNF” (DNF- is tri speak for did not finish). So this Memorial Day, remember the fallen, thank a hero, and find strength in the fact that your will can not be broken.

Check out the wounded warrior project at: http://woundedwarriorproject.org/

And this is the Triathlon’s website: http://www.captextri.com/index.php


Ahead of His Time

Audie Murphy

28 May 1971.  Almost, 39 years ago today, War Hero, Actor, American Legend, and Victim of PTSD Audie Murphy died in a plane crash.

Sure, you have heard the rumors.  You have heard people tell stories about Audie Murphy in a negative light, even talk down about him.  Stories about Audie Murphy the Alcoholic, Audie Murphy the Womanizer, or even Audie Murphy the Wife Beater.  I say forget the haters.  These people have no understanding and no perspective.

Today I want to honor him.  This is my version of the story.  A story of a veteran, a brother, and one BAMF.

In his 27 months of combat, Audie Murphy was wounded three times, was credited with killing over 240 enemy Soldiers, quickly rose from an enlisted Private to receive a battlefield commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, and earned 33 awards and decorations to include the Medal of Honor, all before he was 21 years old.

Impressive?  At what cost?  Read what one article said of him, “Although he was wounded three times in battle, his deepest scars weren’t physical. He suffered from terrible nightmares, slept with the lights on and a gun under his pillow, gambled heavily, and found little to interest him after his high-stakes existence on the front lines.”

Those words sound almost familiar and could describe half a dozen men I know today.  Let’s see his award citations to understand the type of stuff that he went through:

Citation for Silver Star: First Lieutenant (then Staff Sergeant), Infantry, Company “B”, 15th Infantry Regiment. For gallantry in action. On the morning of 2 October 1944, near CLEURIE QUARRY, France, First Lieutenant MURPHY inched his way over rugged, uneven terrain, toward an enemy machine gun which had surprised a group of officers on reconnaissance. Getting to within fifteen yards of the German gun, First Lieutenant MURPHY stood up and, disregarding a burst of enemy fire delivered at such close range and which miraculously missed him, flung two hand grenades into the machine gun position, killing four Germans, wounding three more and destroying the position.

He described his actions in earning the Distinguished Service Cross as happening in a fit of rage following the death of his closest friend, Lattie Tipton.  He gave the award to Tipton’s daughter.

Citation for Distinguished Service Cross: Second Lieutenant, (then Staff Sergeant), Infantry, Company “B”, 15th Infantry Regiment, for extraordinary heroism in action. Landing near Ramatuelle, France, with the first wave of the assault infantry, at 0800 hours, 15 August until halted by intense machine gun and small arms fire from a boulder-covered hill to his front. Leaving his men in a covered position, he dashed forty yards through withering fire to a draw. Using this defiladed route, he went back toward the beaches, found a light machine gun squad and, returning up the rocky hill, placed the machine gun in position seventy-five yards in advance of his platoon. In the duel which ensued, Lieutenant Murphy silenced the enemy weapon, killed two of the crew and wounded a third. As he proceeded further up the draw, two Germans advanced toward him. Quickly destroying both of them, he dashed up the draw alone toward the enemy strongpoint, disregarding bullets which glanced off the rocks around him and hand grenades which exploded fifteen yards away. Closing in, he wounded two Germans with carbine fire, killed two more in a fierce, brief fire-fight, and forced the remaining five to surrender. His extraordinary heroism resulted in the capture of a fiercely contested enemy-held hill and the annihilation or capture of the entire enemy garrison.

Citation for Medal of Honor:  Earning the MedalSecond Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy, 15th Infantry, Army of the United States, on 26 January 1945, near Holtzwihr, France, commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Lieutenant Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him to his right one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer which was in danger of blowing up any instant and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to the German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he personally killed or wounded about 50. Lieutenant Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.

In later years, Audie suffered from what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was plagued by insomnia and depression. His first wife, Wanda Hendrix, often talked of his struggle with this condition, even claiming that he had held her at gunpoint once. During the mid-60’s he became dependent for a time on doctor prescribed sleeping pills called Placidyl. When he recognized that he had become addicted to this prescription drug, he locked himself in a motel room, stopped taking the sleeping pills and went through withdrawal symptoms for a week. One of the lowest points in his life came in 1970 when he was charged with assault after he beat up a man and fired a shot at him during an argument. He was eventually acquitted, but the negative publicity generated by the case proved tough to live down. (He and a friend had become engaged in an argument with the man, after the man abused a dog.)

Adultery and Womanizing?  Now, I don’t think I would question the fidelity or virtue of a man in uniform, past or present…So, Let’s look at Audie Murphy the Actor.  Audie Murphy starred in over 44 films, and in 1950 was voted the Most Popular Western Actor in America by the Motion Picture Exhibitors.  With that in mind, I just want to say; Tiger Woods, David Letterman, Jesse James, and Kobe Bryant. What about his spouse abuse?  You need to recognize not only the fact that he suffered from PTSD without the help available today, but the time period in which Audie Murphy lived.  Spouse abuse was not recognized as an issue in the 50’s.  The women’s movement did not pick up until the late 60’s, and modern attention to domestic violence did not begin until the 70’s.  Our own father’s and grandfather’s might have even been guilty of what we would consider spouse abuse today.  The husband was considered the provider and his decision was law.   I do not condone any form of spouse abuse, but we should take the time period into perspective before we pass judgments.

Always an advocate for the needs of veterans, Audie broke the taboo about discussing war related mental problems after this experience. In a effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Audie Murphy spoke-out candidly about his personal problems with PTSD, then known as “Battle Fatigue”. He publicly called for United States government to give more consideration and study to the emotional impact war has on veterans and to extend health care benefits to address PTSD and other mental health problems of returning war vets.

Ahead of his time, Audie broke a stigma that Veterans today are still fighting with.  Without his example Iraqi war Veterans, Brig. General Gary S. Patton and Gen. Carter Ham may not have come forward with their own battles.   Both Generals have sought counseling for the emotional trauma of their time in the Iraq.   By going public and speaking out about their own battles with PTSD, Patton and Ham hope they can remove the stigma that many soldiers say keeps them from getting help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After his death, Audie’s widow Pam Murphy continued to care for Veteran’s for another 35 years.

So, What is my point?  Basically Audie Murphy is one BAMF, a Chuck Norris Prototype if you will.  If Audie Murphy, the most decorated war hero of our time suffered from PTSD and spoke publicly about it…What shame should we have?

By Bryan H. Reed, Army Veteran OIF 07-09

Much of the information in this post was copied directly from the following sources:

http://www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm

http://www.audiemurphy.com/newsletter_pdf/amrf_news4.pdf

http://www.americainwwii.com/stories/audiemurphy.html

http://www.georgiaveterans.org/audie_murphy_ptsd.htm

http://www.answers.com/topic/audie-murphy

http://winoverptsd.com/wp/category/bringing-ptsd-out-of-the-shadows/

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2008-11-24-general_N.htm

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/04/16/pam-murphy-widow-of-actor-audie-murphy-was-veterans-friend-and-advocate/

http://www.warfoto.com/AudieMurphy.htm


Mike’s Radio Show

LIVE INTERNET RADIO
MILITARY PTSD EXPOSED

Log on to listen live www.americaswebradio.com Iraq Combat Veteran Bryangives me the honor of presenting very personal insights into the thoughts of a soldier returning home from war.Bryan also pays tribute to Lt. Audie Murphy the hero and Audie Murphy’s early warning of PTSD.
Hosted by Army Veteran Michael S. Orban
Wednesday May 26th at 11:00am eastern
Same day replay at 11:00pm eastern(adjust for your time zone)
for more information see my website

www.michaelorban.com


Back to School

As some of us Veteran Students get ready to do the Summer School thing:

Thanks in part to the new GI Bill, veterans are leaving the military and going to back to school in record numbers. Can you blame us, the money is good and alot of us are pretty tired of getting blown up and shot at. We sit in our platoon offices or while we are out on the PT route and dream about the so much greener grass on the outside. So we go through the motions and leave active duty and then, reality b#$%^ slaps you the first day you step on campus.

Adrenaline spikes as you cross through the masses of children that surround you. The quad or university center looks shockingly like baghdad or kabul or khe sanh. You make it safely to a classroom find your seat and realize your back is to not just one door but 10 and about 400 people. This all by itself is not the hard part, its the realization that everything you have worked for and once held so much pride in means absolutely nothing to these kids. They, luckily, have no idea what it means to have been to war and they do not tend to show the respect that slightly older people do towards veterans. At first this is a hard pill to swallow but it passes with time and you realize you aren’t an NCO or an officer any more. The next bomb that will drop on you: just how old you are. I am a young buck by just about any standards but most of the kids I am in class with they were in 7th grade when I was in Afghanistan. Thats a killer, you start to feel out of place or like the old guy at the party who needs to just go home and go to sleep cause its past his bed time. These series of challenges are difficult to overcome, add on the inherent challenge of a college education and a veteran can feel strained in a hurry. So what do we do? Same thing we always do pinky, try and take over the world…. or settle for the university.

Find other veterans. Make friends, build veteran groups. When I was briefly a paratrooper I learned about LGOPP’s (little groups of pissed off paratroopers), they form any time a mass jump happens, its where whatever group of joes you find yourself with, turns into a fire team and move outs for the mission. The rule of the LGOPP is as follows: After the demise of the best Airborne plan, a most terrifying effect occurs on the battlefield. This effect is known as the rule of the LGOPs. This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 19 year old American paratroopers. They are well-trained, armed to the teeth and lack serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander’s intent as “March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you…” or something like that. Happily they go about the day’s work….. We should use the same concept form LGOPVS (little groups of pissed off veteran students). Invade your university veteran center, take it over, all the assets are there we just need to use them. I hear so many vets gripe about feeling out of place or missing the camraderie when all we need to do is figure out some time to go paintballing/pub crawling and make it happen. I think that student veterans are in a unique position to be able to participate and get involved in veteran groups and that these same groups that make campus life a little bit more enjoyable could also benefit from the support network for when PTSD rears its ugly head.

So I have talked about school but what about the guys that aren’t slacking, who get out and go straight to work on the civillian side? Same deal but you have to search a little harder for other vets. Finding a group of veterans is about the best thing you can do during your transition to being a dirty civi. It takes the fear factor out of the equation and gives you something that is recognizable as everything around does a 180. Believe me, the first time you realize that its just you who decides when to get up, life changing.

Summer school starts in less than a week for me and I am just trying to get my head right because I have been doing the army reserve thing this whole break. Its like rebooting, forget tact, common courtesy, replace sir, ma’am, or sarge with dude. Greetings of the day are replaced with subtle head tilts. I have to remind myself that all those things I keyed into when I was in or working at the unit, no longer matter and its not worth getting the blood pressure up for. Time to remember that I am just a student and that this professor doesn’t know that the guy sitting in seat 3A once ran gun trucks up and down some of the deadliest roads on the planet, and the student should try to not to get offended when the professor calls him son (doesn’t work/ worth-a-try). But all in all, college ain’t bad and what is a little difficult can be made easier by finding others to embrace the suck with or drowned the difficulties in a couple of beers with. So when it comes time to get out, remember to not cut all ties and burn all bridges because most times you will find yourself missing a little part of the old life even mixed in with the new school.


Veteran Courts in Texas

http://www.texastribune.org/stories/2010/may/17/veterans-courts/

The article above outlines a new concept floating around the Texas Judicial System in regards to veterans.  The idea is that veterans returning from war tend to have issues, the article even calls it Shell-shock, which can lead to addiction and crime. They want to change the legal system to a form of ajudication where-by veteran’s who have broken the law can skip punishment and be entered into a treatment program for their PTSD instead.

I agree and disagree with this. I agree that there should be a treatment program for PTSD attached to any offender that pleades PTSD as their cause. However, I don’t feel it should be the get out of jail free card. I have PTSD and I don’t run around commiting crimes or using illegal drugs. What do you think?

Wilden


Predator PTSD

Mike Orban, veteran, author, radio show host, and contributer to this little blog, recently brought an article to my attention. In the article a woman, stakes the idea that PTSD is universal irregardless of how you got it. She says that, “Its a normal persons normal reaction to abnormal circumstances.” She states that she feels as though those of us that went to war suffer from the same form of PTSD as rape and theft victims. But there is one fundamenatl problem with that statement and it lies in the last word of the former sentence, victim. I have been many things while at war, newbie, gunner, warrior, protector, PITA, last thing a man see’s, saving grace, psychopath, buddist monk, pirate, old man (in soldier years), but never not once was I victim other than some pretty good practical jokes. I was the predator not the victim.

I was the not an unwilling participant but I was forced to act due to circumstances beyond my control. But more than that I was a witness to the fray. I was made to stand witness to the incredible depths of evil that man can produce. I was baptized by fire and left to either die or learn how to survive. I was not someone that got mugged or robbed or raped. I was a combatant. My version of PTSD is mixed in with my survival skills from war. I don’t cry out of fear, the only time I ever find the desire to cry is out of anger and remorse over lost brothers. I don’t get timid when something that reminds me of my trauma happens, I prepare for war and actively hunt for the cause. I am not saying that victim PTSD is weak or some how a lesser form but it is surely not the same as predator PTSD. I am the tiger that had to kill to survive not the gazelle that was nearly eaten. Thanks to evolution I have the ability to understand why I killed and why those close to me were killed around me, and thus predator PTSD is born. Also with our version of PTSD it is not a singular event. We have enough trauma trapped in the memory banks to make most grown men wet themselves. It is not a singular event with a singular trigger but a clouded murkey mixture of a thousand events all with multiple triggers. A thousand smells, sounds, sights, and feelings can trigger any number of repsonses from us; we do not a have a single trigger to watch out for.

Another side of the predator PTSD that makes it stand in defiance to victim PTSD, is the pride. Pride that is instilled by our common training, common background. We are taught that our PTSD is a shameful thing something to be hidden or “sucked up”. Victim PTSD, they are typically told its not their fault and they don’t have this common system and social network that fights against healing. They may fight their own wars and live in their dark places, but I tend to think we have not only seen the darkest depths of the human soul but have ourselves pushed those boundaries further.

“…now I am become Death [Shiva], the destroyer of worlds…”

Physicist Robert Oppenheimer


Daily Triggers and Alpha Dogs

I know that with my version of PTSD, there are little triggers that set me off. Its always seems that as soon as I have learned all my triggers and how to mitigate them, a new one will rear its head with a whole new set of problems. I try to rationalize my way through it and try to use the knowledge I have gained from the other triggers to lessen the effect but I know it will take time. Time and experience are the only way for me to dampen the trigger into a controllable place. Some of you that are reading this might be thinking, well what in the world would a civilian find in their little civilian world that would be a new trigger to PTSD. Quite frankly, just about anything can do, even just the change in habit or schedule can act as a trigger for a sympathetic response. What was my new trigger, a puppy. I know how ridiculous it sounds, a puppy triggered my PTSD. Not so much the puppy as his presence in the kennel in our room last night. That extra noise, the breathing maybe even the heartbeat elevated my level of awareness. I slept as I did when I was over there, just barely below conscious.

The Boltinator

I heard every noise he made, every breath he took, I had dreams about the dog because my brain wasn’t fully asleep. I woke several times from thumps he made on the cage and began the scramble for my gun. Its strange how a baby animal can freak me out so much, I mean really what’s he gonna do gum me to death. And yet there I was in a heightened state of awareness. I wonder if its not so much that he scared me as he is a puppy and perhaps I was worried about him. Either way he had my 6th sense of paranoia rocking last night.

So How to begin to deal with it? Well first I need to add him to the routine, the mental check list. If there is ever a bump in the night I go down the list of possible normal reasons, girlfriend, lola (our other dog), the pipes, the floorboards… I will cruise down my list and as long as another noise doesn’t happen and it falls into one of these things I am out like a light. I have done this for so long I tend to do it subconsciously. Now I need to add Bolt (FND) to the list. This will take some time and thought. The next thing I need to realize is that Bolt isn’t a threat but an asset. He has ears like satellite dishes and I am pretty sure he is picking up CNN right now. I need to realize that in the coming weeks he will become part of my little fire team and let me know when something is wrong. This should make me at ease with him. The third and probably the most simple and yet difficult one, is to chill out. Its a puppy, how could a freaking baby animal throw me so off kilter. Its a statement like that, that makes you realize how jacked up you really are. So I covered how to deal with a puppy as a trigger, how about the rest of the wide world? It has been the same habituation process for all of them. Add it to the assessment list, remove it from the threat matrix, and tell yourself to chill the hell out. All new triggers can be approached this way, even if that trigger is sleeping under your legs right now. How do you deal with new triggers? Can you think of any as weak as my puppy trigger, lol? What was the last new trigger you encountered?

There are going to start being more authors here shortly, and so we will now start including a “by line” like so.

By Dan “Wild Man” Wilden 31B2P/ Army, MP, Sgt, Airborne