In a San Diego, California neighborhood, debate is raging: The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to establish a residential treatment program for Veterans with PTSD and mild traumatic brain injuries.

On its face, the idea doesn’t seem controversial. After all, given two wars in the past decade, the U.S. government is doing what it can to provide Vets with the best care possible. But that’s not how some San Diegans view the situation. They say the facility will be too close to a school. They say it’s “just the wrong place.”

Without saying as much, this is an example where some in a community are simply not comfortable with what they view as damaged and potentially unstable Veterans being near a school. Of course, this attitude doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and it wasn’t formed recently.  There is a reason people have such views of those who once protected them.

If you’ve read the news lately, you may have seen one of several stories describing recent Veterans as “ticking time bombs” or as “dangerous” on account of post-traumatic stress. It’s a narrative that has persisted for decades, but a handful of recent high-profile incidents have resulted in headlines like these:

Police get help with vets who are ticking bombs (USA TODAY)

Experts: Vets’ PTSD, violence a growing problem (CNN)

Veteran charged with homeless murders: Hint of larger problem for US military? (Christian Science Monitor)

While these stories highlight horrific killings, the connection between disturbed murderers like Benjamin Barnes and Itzcoatl Ocampo and their service in combat is weak—despite what media reports and popular culture would have many believe.  And such rhetoric, when solidified in the public consciousness, can have negative consequences for both Veterans and society—like causing Veterans to avoid seeking help or employers to avoid hiring them.

“This is a huge misrepresentation of Veterans,” said Rich Blake, an Iraq War Veteran and psychology doctoral student at Loyola University Maryland. “Crazed? That’s even more extreme.”

For the past two years, Blake has worked with Veterans who have PTSD in the residential trauma recovery program and the women’s mental health clinic at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. He doesn’t shy away from the obvious—that combat and wartime experience can have mental health consequences—which can contribute to some Vets acting out. But he throws caution to the idea that this is an epidemic.

“[These incidents] are like shark attack stories,” said Blake. “People are scared of shark attacks but they don’t happen that often.”

In a 2007 report on Veterans in state and federal prison—the most current report of its kind—researchers at the Bureau of Justice Statistics worked to demystify the vagaries surrounding Veterans and crime. As it turned out, during the past three decades, the number of Veterans in state and federal prison had actually declined. And when the mental health of Veterans in prison was compared to that of their civilian counterparts, there seemed to be a trend: Civilians reported a higher rate of “any mental health problems” than Veterans—both in state and federal prison.

When it came to psychotic disorder, which represents the more extreme end of the spectrum of mental health problems, the rates remained higher among civilians as well.

When the survey was conducted in 2004, the Veteran population in the U.S. was 24 million. America’s prisons were home to 140,000 Vets—of which 21,000 had been convicted of murder. And while those numbers seem large, this accounts for less than 1/10 of one percent of the entire Veteran population. A far cry from what some in the media would lead us to believe.

While a small fraction of Veterans have been convicted of murder, it often matters little in a media atmosphere which can place a premium on sensational headlines. In such an environment, Veterans are often stereotyped by those with an unclear understanding of what it means to live with PTSD. And the fact is, there is no limit to the number of reasons why a person might choose to become violent.

“The headlines are irresponsible,” said Brian Hawthorne, an Iraq War Veteran and board member of Student Veterans of America. “Murder should be talked about but shouldn’t be centered on the instability of a few in our military population.”

According to Gerhard Falk’s Murder: An Analysis of Its Forms, Conditions, and Causes, the occupations most likely to include murderers are laborers, service workers, and students. A comparison of those findings with the FBI’s Most Wanted list for violent crimes in 2012 shows a similar occurrence of occupations. Overwhelmingly, the top three offenders by occupation are general laborers, construction workers, and gang members.

Of course, we rarely—if ever—see articles hinting at a larger problem within the laborer field or the construction field. Likely, this is because we inherently understand that occupation or work experience doesn’t typically factor into a propensity for murder. Then again, headlines that scream, “Man Yielding Concrete Mix Charged with Murder: Hint of a Larger Problem?” are likely not as profitable.

Unfortunately, this rehashed portrayal of PTSD, reminiscent of the Vietnam era, has the power to deter Veterans from openly speaking about their service—especially in today’s economic climate—when unemployment among younger Vets hovers between 20 and 30 percent. That concerns Iraq Veteran Ryan Gallucci, now with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Vietnam Veterans were stereotyped as the crazy Veteran, but over the years we’ve proven that isn’t the case,” said Gallucci, the VFW’s National Legislative Service Deputy Director. “What concerns us are today’s Veterans sitting down for a job interview and once they mention their military service, the tone of the conversation changes.”

While most can discern between sensationalized news stories, the reality is that less than one percent of the population serves in uniform—leaving many with a slim exposure to today’s Vets. And this is the image they are fed—as seen in a January issue of The Week:

Blackouts, flashbacks, night terrors, and sudden rages are common among veterans; suicide, alcoholism, and drug use have surged. PTSD has been cited as a factor in many acts of vets running amok. . .

As long as such language remains prevalent and acceptable, college admission offices, future employers, and those alike can peg today’s Veterans as “running amok” with the tendency to burst into “sudden rages”—quietly widening the divide further between Veterans and civilians.

“Overall this creates at most a hostile and at least uncomfortable situation for Veterans in school or the workplace,” said Hawthorne. “Teachers may not encourage Vets to share their opinions in the classroom out of fear of creating a negative environment.”

Dr. Sonja Batten, the Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty Mental Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs added, “The truth is, PTSD doesn’t have to and shouldn’t impede success in everyday life for Veterans. Years of research have demonstrated again and again that most people recover naturally after experiencing potentially traumatic events, and we have effective treatments for those who develop more significant problems with PTSD. I think what gets lost in these stories are the amazing strengths that our nation’s Veterans have.”

In fiscal year 2011, over 476,000 Veterans received treatment at VA medical centers and clinics across the country for PTSD. Of those, 99,000 were Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Dr. Batten expects more Vets to seek treatment in the coming years.

“We have made progress in the fight against PTSD stigma,” she said. “Veterans are now more likely to recognize if something is wrong and come forward so that they can move on with their lives.”

While the country has slowly begun to recognize post-traumatic stress—from “soldier’s heart” to “shell shock” to “combat fatigue”—there are still barriers preventing Veterans from seeking help. According to one survey of OEF/OIF Veterans, there is still legitimate concern over asking for care.

With imbalanced portrayals of PTSD, these ideas will continue to fuel misunderstandings like the type seen in San Diego. But we have the leverage to change this—to make a conscious decision to understand what it means to live with PTSD. And to give those who have served a fair shot by stripping away those unwarranted stereotypes and seeing Veterans for who they really are.

If you feel you might be struggling with post-traumatic stress, visit our PTSD resource directory for information on symptoms, treatments, issues specific to female Veterans, and more. For immediate help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. It’s open day and night, along with our online chat. If you prefer text messaging, send a message to 838255.

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Published on Mar. 6, 2012

Estimated reading time is 7.3 min.

Views to date: 1,051


  1. Ed March 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Our country sent our troops to war for corporate gain, greed and to commit murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent muslim people. They then hid the war dead from being covered in the media, didn’t provide adequate treatment for PTSD or TBI and didn’t provide compensation for injuries. The suicide rate among veterans raised because of multiple combat deployments which led to loss of marriages, jobs and their soles. The VA was given the power to deem veterans with PTSD and TBI incompitent so they could not carry firearms and they needed someone to handle their VA compensation payments for them (took away their guns and money). Those Veterans who were not given labels have not been compensated and have had to fall back on state assistance. But when a city doesn’t want those Veterans the VA labels, drugs up with toxic drug cocktails and kicks to the curb, its considered foul play. The bottom line is our military got hijacked, used and abused by war criminals like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wall Street, Isreal, Saudi Arabia, Neocons and Zionists and this is just the continued crapping on of Veterans by everyone. While veterans were at war, everyone else was at the mall and they still are at the mall! If you have served in the military since WW1, you have been a mercinary for US corporations and Wall Street. How many of you would have joined if you knew and understood that before you joined? How many of you are pissed that you didn’t get the spoils of war (Trillions of dollars) the US military industrial complex and the oil industry got? The oath to defend the constitution should be changed to ‘protect and defend the wealthy and US Corporations” and your cut for doing the killing and witnessing the atrocities is zilch!

  2. Ron Cooper March 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I am a Vietnam era Vet. In the 70’s I wrote this poem about what my brother went through. He was the real soldier and the best big brother ever. I miss him.

    The Final Act
    For Larry

    His soul was sained with blood
    When he left the plane
    His hand so scarred it never will
    Play his song again

    And he was certain he was right
    They all had told him so
    For countless years his country’s might
    Made heros like him go

    But now he’s back and where’s the band
    Where’s the waving crowd
    Where are the speeches filled with praise
    To clense and make him proud

    Instead the people turn away
    They avoid him at all cost
    And soon his mind begins to stray
    To lands best left uncrossed

    For he has slain six men
    Blown them straight to Hell
    Now he’s not certain it was right
    Or for his country’s lies he fell

    His mom, his dad, the men in charge
    Maybe they were wrong
    But he’s the one who held the gun
    Sang the killers song

    And now he’s the one who dreams
    He relives those scenes
    Over and over those vile events
    And he’s the one who screams

    And we’re the one’s who play
    We get our good nights sleep
    For those whose lives are constant rage
    We do not eveen weep

    Our best went through that cursed war
    And bear the burning scars
    Of countless cruel and vile acts
    But the final act is ours

    Ron Cooper

  3. jJACK R March 16, 2012 at 11:29 am

    The situation is sad overall. The manipulation of major media and fanatical special interests are in control.

    I am a Vietnam Era (2 enlistments). I proudly served my country with the purpose of preservation of FREEDOM and protection of this great Republic and Society. I served in the time of the anti-war protests and was looked upon by many of those in my age group at the time, as dirt and military scum. My service gave me a late career start in the civilian realm which still plagues me to this day. Over two years ago I got laid off from my mfg accounting position, and after applying to over two-thousand various positions, trying many income producing strategies, and taking advantage of any/all opportunites presented to me I recently lost everything. Too young even for reduced ssn and too old to be desireable. I now am barely avoiding living on the streets, am deteriorating physically and superficially, and involved in daily struggle without any social interaction. Being a single who would like a significant other this makes the chances of finding another almost non-existant. When I say reduced to poverty, it means even having difficulty coming up with enough money for toilet paper….

    Laws to promote Veteran preference are great, but employers often find ways to get around those. The true hope and chance for Veterans lies in Veterans establishing their own successful businesses or rising to top management positions and not forgeting their brothers down the road.

  4. Lew Waters March 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    The myth of the deranged Veteran has been spread for years, in spite of evidence that most of us successfully assimilated back into society with ease. Cases of actual problems are maximized by the media while the overall success stories fall by the side.

    For years we have been trying to correct the narrative of the Deranged Vietnam Veteran, with no acknowledgement from the media perpetuating it.

    Demonizing all Veterans does not help those who are truly in need of help.

  5. Ryan March 13, 2012 at 2:17 am

    I will write a little about my “PTSD” and I will be breif because I have told my story so many times while fighting the fallacies that the media conditions Americans to believe, only to be confronted with apathy. I did two tours in Iraq and was involved in no combat although I was in combat operations. I seperated and was fine. I then started going to school and continued as an athlete. I am very intelligent and was doing extremely well in school and also ranked number one in the nation as an amatuer in my sport. I then began my professional career. First I have to say that after my first deployment to Iraq I started getting muscle spasms and skin rashes. I was told that I was having heat rash and the spasms were a result of unknown nueropathic pain. Like I said I managed my symptoms and actually faired very well, until 2008.

    In 2008 I started to get severe abdominal itching and blood in my stool. I lost 30lbs in one month and had to drop out of school and quit sports. I went to the VA and told them something was wrong. The doctor responded by saying I looked fine and to go away because she had other patients to deal with and if I had a problem with that to get another doctor. That was doc number one. I got another doc and it took months to get in with him. In the mean time I started getting severe muscle spasms and fasciculations all over my body; to the point that I couldn’t breath because I couldn’t control my lungs. I continued to lose weight and my stool turned into green bile that was impossible to get out so my digestion stopped. About every two weeks I would discharge a big glob of gelatinous clear mucous with blood in it. This clear gel would often have hundreds of seed like segments in it. I then started to have spine, head and neck pain. I then bagan to lose my vision and would have bouts of unconciousness with convulsions.

    I continued to try to get health care from the VA. They refused to send me to a GI doctor, claiming it was an invasive procedure. I then started to get lesions all over my body, especially in my genitals. The VA still did not care. They would not give me any tests and minimized my illness by ignoring me. They eventually stopped returning my phone calls requesting medical care. I went down to the clinic and asked them why they woulndn’t call me back and I told them I needed a doctor immediately. They sent the security guard out to ask me if he could help. I told him that unless he was a doctor, no. He told me I couldn’t see a doctor. I asked him what they could do and he said make an appointment. So I made an…

    • Ryan March 13, 2012 at 2:23 am

      P.S. The VA has not given me one diagnosis, nothing! It has all come from private docs; Stanford, UCSF. If they would give me a diagnosis of PTSD then maybe we could go from there, but they know it’s too late for that. I caught them red handed. Now it’s just a matter of time before this generation of war veterans’ neglect and cover-ups come out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the moderator doesn’t allow my comment. We are watching and will document what you do. We have documents from the beginning. I am also doing a story with

      • Anthony March 18, 2012 at 7:03 am


        This does not sound like PTSD… Your full comment seems to have been cut off, perhaps it exceeded the character limit. I hope you’ve gotten some answers by now.

        A Gulf War and Somalia Veteran

  6. Jim Tilman March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Society today is so upside down. Our Vet’s don’t get any respect. I’m a veteran and if I was to die in combat (1990) my family would get $50,000; the averages pay out for Sept 11th victims were 4.2 million. Serve and protect or stay at home go figure.

  7. CommoDog79 March 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Hello. OIF I invadee here.

    The problems with the assessment and appropriate treatment of PTSD/TBI begins within in the Army itself. After redeploying back to garrison in Germany, I noticed things in my head weren’t quite right. I wanted nothing to do with anybody, couldn’t remember things over the short term (~30 minutes to an hour), was agitated all the time, turned to the bottle, and couldn’t sleep whatsoever. This after invading on March 20th, 2003, and a subsequent fall onto the back of my head, resulting in loss of consciousness in combat theater.

    When I first approached my squad leader about getting help, he looked at me like I was just being unreasonable. He didn’t want to start the wheels turning in getting me the necessary care, because he knew that his superiors (Platoon sergeant forward) viewed mental illness as either a leadership failure, or a sign of weakness within the unit.

    There was a prevalent stigma attached to it that I ensure you pervades the military today, despite efforts to curtail it publicly.

    I never got my help in Germany, despite being carted off once and my shoelaces taken and thrown in the brig for an extremely emotional outburst when the stress peaked.

    When I got to Fort Hood, the experience was eerily similar. I got transferred out of the receiving unit, into a “holding” unit, and placed on 3 Corp guard duty, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, for 7+ months.

    It took marching over to the TMC myself to get any sort of “treatment”, and even then, that doc was distinctly and definitively “coached” to not discuss PTSD and TBI symptoms, but to instead try to find something else to kick you out for. He never wanted to discuss my nightmares, cold sweats, lack of sleep, constant agitation, reflexive response to stimuli, forgetfulness, and seemingly bipolar mood swings. Instead he would ask things such as, “Did your mother and father get along? How is your relationship with your sisters? Were you abused growing up? Do you have a familial history of mental illness?” Anything he could to pin the new developments of unmistakable combat linked mental illness, to something present prior to my service (3.5 years at this point). Completely shameful.

    No discussion of the atrocities that many of us as vets have been subjected to. None whatsoever. Just an obvious attempt to get me escorted out as quickly and quietly as possible, despite my numerous awards for action and activity within Iraq, and previously STELLAR (280+ PT scores consistently, 100% annual job qualification scores) personnel record.

    Eventually he…

  8. popy March 9, 2012 at 3:43 am

    To a person, the men (and one woman) I met were quiet, respectful and gracious. I always felt comfortable around these good people, always came away from my time at American Lake feeling appreciated and even nurtured by these wounded warriors. The men and women who have served our country, and particularly those who experienced horrors and psychic shocks which resulted in PTSD, deserve our respect, sympathy and support, NOT knee-jerk reactionary stupidity, fear and stigma.

  9. Gloria Boberg, LSAC,CAC March 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    We have a residential treatment facility in Eagle Mountain. The people there were sceptical at first, but have opened their hearts to our Vets. These are honorable trusting men who are humble and greatful for EVERYTHING they get. I never have to ask them for help..they always jump up before I can get a word out. You would never know eight men live in our home. They keep it spotless and take such pride and are full of gratitude. Don’t forget, America. these are the people who fought for your freedoms. They are no “killers”. I stand behind this program and am so greatful for the VA staff that help us with our treatment and residential programs for these awesome men. By the way, my grandchildren live close by and visit the veterans and have even been in the parades with them. Open up your eyes, America, we are forgetting about who we are and what we stand for. My Uncles, Brothers, Grandparents all fought for this country. They would be devastated if they heard this type of NIMBY going on. (Not in my back yard). Of course, if you are perfect, you can ignore my comments.

  10. Mike M March 8, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Examining attitudes about Veterans held by the public at large reminds me of a retired Marine who lived on my Mom’s street. In his front yard, he had a neatly landscaped area with a bench and a flagpole with the American flag, and the Marine Corps flag just below it, which he took great care of and great pride in. For years, many neighbors actually complained about it being gaudy, and even made fun of him (not directly to him). They actually ridiculed him for his patriotism and the way he displayed it. When 9-11 happened, for a brief time, most of those same people on the same street put a flag up (for a short time).

  11. Charles March 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    How rich! Someone in our government upset (Riiiight) that the meme pushed by Homeland Security is taking hold. Read the MIAC Report. Google ‘Scouts trained to kill Veterans’.
    WAKE UP!

    • John Cameron March 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Law enforcement type Explorer Posts have been in existence since 1968 in the city i grew up in. I was in the first in my city prior to entering the Marine Corps in 1969. It is only a way to steer young men (maybe even girls these days) towards a law enforcement career. It was and still is an excellent idea to bond with young people and train them in all areas of community service. Also now more than ever it puts young very observant quality kids in a position to act as extra eyes and ears for Terrorists and Felons. They are actually more sharp to detail than a lot of us old timers. It is a wholesome idea put forward by wholesome vetted “American” LE officials. Who are you to call any of these good kids nazis. The game wardens in my state issued me a hunting license to hunt alone at 14 after taking their course. Did they make me a nazi?
      As to shooting vets? Well yeah, anyone pulling a weapon on a LEO meets with a continuum of force that does include lethal at the top. Where are you from? Welcome to our world buddy. Americans carry an olive branch in one hand and a weapon in the other. It’s your choice which one you want.

  12. janine smith March 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Here is what I have seen: that when one small ounce of prevention goes to the military personnel suddenly the labels are thrown around. People in my opinion forget that our military is only a small percentage of the national public; however this group of individuals always stands out in the media. Mostly with negative examples. What else to me is unfortunate that the people who are making the gains and progresses in personally working thru their mental problems are never really focused on.. Over the last decade the media has been there for every falter, each decline in reputation, but they have missed the ones where the Warriors are reintegrated successfully at home, where our injured service members are creating and organizing programs to help fellow vets and families who have now become survivors.

    If we ourselves are to look to the media.. then we need to be able to take a stand as well and change those perceptions. So yes, facebook, twitter, blogspot, tumbler, googlenet.. whatever the means people have to get the proper message out. As for San Diego.. that community is going to miss out on a great opportunity to meet and know and help these heroes and their families as they begin a new journey finding themselves on their way “home” again.

  13. Rick Osial March 7, 2012 at 9:48 am

    As it has been said by those wiser than I, “Everyone is affected by combat, it just varies to the degree.”

    One of the real dichotomies in bringing to bear the awareness of the unseen wounds of the past 10 years of conflict is that in the desire by military leadership to destigmatize combat, operational and post-deployment stress (as well as the associated injuries of TBI, PTSD and Suicide) by talking about the need thus allowing the servicemembers to seek help and assistance, we run the risk of leading people to believe that every returning veteran is so badly affected by their experiences that they are unable to reintegrate back into life and society. Thus we have neighborhood communities, like unbelievably this one in San Diego, thinking that a Vet’s center close to school is risky. Nothing is farther from the truth — and we know it.

    However, I would submit that if we look to “the Media” to be THE conduit to shape and form awareness as well as changing opinion, it is a proposition fraught with pitfalls.

    Why rely upon “the media”? The current communication environment allows for you who know the issue to identify what needs to said to what key audiences in a manner in which communicate that will help to reach your objective of these key audiences being more correctly informed.

    Spending time correcting errors of fact or perception by “the media,” although necessary, should be only a part of a robust communication strategy.

  14. Gloria Hutson March 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    My husband is a Vietnam War veteran. Vietnam vets got the same bad press until even people who knew them all their lives had doubts about returning veterans. It is a shame that sensationalism is necessary to get people to read a news piece. My vet husband and I have been married for 35 years now. He suffers from PTSD, 100 % service connected. Although he has problems that we have learned to cope with over the years, violence has never been an issue.

  15. jerry ashmore sr March 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Vietnam Nam and desert storm veteran no comment everything still remains the same. To hell with liberals.

  16. Joe DeLory March 6, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I am one of those who was able to reintegrate into society. I was able to pursue 2unrelated but parallel careers (on was part time @40-50 hours a week as a paramedic for 25 years) the other was 45 years (including time in service) as an electrician. I am fortunate that I have been getting VA care all along. I am blessed to have received most of my care at the Iowa City VA and now at the Minneapolis VA. Both are consistently rated amongst the top Hospitals in the country. (That is out of all hospitals not just VA Hospitals) I can assure you from personal experience that these ratings are deserved.
    When some one starts ragging on us seniors about our Social Security , military disability pay and Medical Care “entitlements” I tell them I am happy to let the taxpayers foot the bill for my care and and my income.

  17. Scott Clark March 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    It’s like we have a mercenary military now, in that 99% of our young people do not serve.
    Mostly, poorer kids trade military service in exchange for college aid afterwards.
    EVEN when these soldiers and marines are forced to do 3, 4, even 5 combat tours.

    This is ridiculous and a subject no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole. They don’t their kids going over there. Fortunately, they do their part by buying big SUV’s and putting yellow ribbons on the cars. Sacrifice is alive and well in America.

    So forget the rehab facilities, the public’s sacrifice has been made.

    • cas March 8, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Scott, I’m trying to understand your tirade, but it’s slightly incoherent… a “mercenary military” ?? Would you prefer that we reinstated the draft? Every US male citizen is STILL required to register with the selective service, you know, when they turn 18 (but not females…) But what would the military DO with them? The DoD is currently charged with REDUCING the numbers (almost across the board) of servicemen and women who WANT to remain in the service (who can blame them, with 20-30% unemployment?) Why is it considered such a bad deal for “poorer kids trade military service in exchange for college aid afterwards” ??
      Should we just hand them student loans and other benefits for NOT serving?
      I can’t really understand who (or what) you’re referring to in your 2nd paragraph, except maybe some obscure sarcasm that somehow society as a whole is somehow responsible for something or other (“they do their part by buying big SUV’s and putting yellow ribbons on the cars”) It is true that many do not even consider joining the military for even one enlistment, much less make it a career. Why do you think this is a bad thing? I can tell you (from personal experience) that not everyone is capable of the sacrifice and service necessary to serve in the military. So why insult those that do serve by calling them “mercenaries” ?

    • Spazmasterflex March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Scott Clark: wait for your meds to kick in before you blog there “sparky,” as a COHERENT argument is what truly advances intelligent dialogue!!!

      • LMT Haner March 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm

        I understand what Scott Clark is saying. The men and women that join these days are children (no disrespect), that have not had a chance to live and join the military in order to get that chance later on. Very few want to join but need to in order to pay for school or even to pay for every day things like food. The respect has gone in the last couple of years because those that want to be in are thrown out or are forcibly retired and all that is left are mercenaries (in the sense of the revolutionary war era – young individuals called up from the farms and school houses without proper education or an understanding of what war really is) and they end up serving 4 or more years and most of that time is spent on tour seeing and doing horrible things in order to survive. It’s no wonder their mental health has declined. And when they come home there isn’t anyone here to help them. Society looks down on them and treats them like a disease.

        Being a military brat, having more military friends than civilians, and family that has served (even my husband with 3 tours before his 21st birthday) I have seen the way people look at them. And what society sees as giving support. It’s like activism these days. Everyone forwarding the Kony2012 video online is what they consider activism. And buying a ribbon to stick on your car is giving support. If Americans really wanted to support their servicemen and women (who they agreed to send over in the first place) they should do more. Send care packages (some of these men and women don’t have family or they don’t have the money to send packages often), create a support system (so when damages/injured warriors come home they have people to talk to), do research (PTSD/TBI are complex illnesses and no two people respond the same, learn signs and how you can help them cope). There is so much that my husband needed and still needs in order to deal with his illness, and thinking that the VA alone would help is a joke.

        I had to go with him to his appointments because they didn’t understand the severity of his illness and what things were actually like. For most servicemen and women, they are instilled with the mentality that you have to be strong 24/7 and complaining is for the weak so he never complained, nor did he talk or confide or open up to anyone but me. And knowing how difficult it has been for him, it saddens me to see so many neglected and treated like scum because the people around them don’t want to deal with it.
        (I’m sorry if this last bit became a little scattered, thinking about all the hard work and…

  18. Warren Jason Street March 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you for doing the leg work on this issue. The myths that have sprung up over the years about Veterans being more prone to violence and more likely to go berserk and kill people are fed by a media narrative that wants to run with those stories. It’s an angle that helps them sell the images that come from the period after the Vietnam War and from the popular culture of that era.

    No war in our modern history has ever been more distorted or misrepresented than the Vietnam War. The actual facts of what happened, who fought it, and how they returned home and reintegrated themselves back into American society are not well understood by the American people.

    What has changed is this–it is now much more difficult to claim Veteran status. The outing and discrediting of numerous fakers and impostors has helped show that the American people have been sold a bill of goods about the Vietnam Veteran. This will help prevent fakers from stealing the valor of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and we need to be vigilant about making sure that ALL Veterans are properly represented and respected. Don’t believe the media when they try to run with the “violent Veteran” theme.

  19. James Laubler March 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Just wait. In a couple years, they will have taken all of us vets out of eyesight from civilians. I’m a graduate of the first Gulf War. Now, they are telling us that we have been damaged from a coctail of poisons and other unknowns. I’ve been trying for 4 years to get the disability straight. Until then, my 66 year old wife has to work for both of us.

    Welcome aboard my fellow nuts. Don’t go off an anybody who is innocent.

  20. R. Mason March 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks Kate for an interesting perspective and detailed insight on this plight so many veterans face and have faced over generations. As a civilian and an advocate of a legal services organization which provides free legal help to low-income veterans, I find the over-simplified portrayal of veterans and service members with PTSD and or TBI both disrespectful and dangerous. Hopefully, more advocates standing up for those men and women who have served our Nation will continue to spread the truth, that honor is found in service and that we need to care for our veterans. And that mental illnesses and mental health treatment are not isolated to veterans and they are not to be negatively sterotyped or over simplified if we are truly going to honor those who have sacrified for our country.

  21. Ann Keefer March 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I had the honor of collecting oral histories with Vietnam-era veterans, most of whom were undergoing residential PTSD treatment at the VA Medical Center at American Lake (near Tacoma, WA), during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when I was an undergraduate. To a person, the men (and one woman) I met were quiet, respectful and gracious. I always felt comfortable around these good people, always came away from my time at American Lake feeling appreciated and even nurtured by these wounded warriors. The men and women who have served our country, and particularly those who experienced horrors and psychic shocks which resulted in PTSD, deserve our respect, sympathy and support, NOT knee-jerk reactionary stupidity, fear and stigma.

  22. Michael Osgood March 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Too many Nam Vets are being denied any help at all…NONE! Why, because they have worked and earned a living and raised their families. Working for years with PTSD and Other Mental and Physical issues. They were successful in their jobs and made a nice income…all the while paying taxes to support others. Now, at age 50 plus, they are totally disabled and burnt out with no energy left in their bodies. So, time to go to the VA for help…NO,NO,NO! No help there as you make too much money? Crazy, violent, filled with anger and hatred toward a system that is running ‘BACKWARDS!’ I need help, you need help and he needs help and we are turned away by our own Country! So what do we do? Many turn to alcohol and drugs and become even more angry and violent. Read what I am saying here, as this is America today. Is anyone going to listen and make changes? I think not, and our Jails and Prisons and Graveyards are filled with ‘Dead Heroes’ who applied and asked for the help and benefits we were promised,only to be denied and left to die. I am one of those just waiting to ‘DIE’ because the system said I made too much money. What a cruel and inhumane way to treat a sick man who is asking for help. Something must change and quickly. Am I right?

    • John Cameron March 7, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      Well i’m a combat vet RVN Marine 0351 and 61 yrs old and when 53 had to stand down from my ops troubleshooter job with power company. The VA was there for me as i was starting to fail at my job and life after 32 yrs working. Had a disability on the books but kept working until unable to. They saved my life and today i live in a rural community where my very large family are, in Canada. I try to keep busy with the computer posting good stuff for others to view and found that this hobby helps me feel whole and making a difference and hopefully not a burden. In the city i was coming apart. Since standing down and visiting my doc at the VA…about 4 x a year i’ve found all involved in the VA wholesome and caring both in Brockton and Togus. There was one lady who was other than caring and if i had revealed her to my doc she would have been fired. They are very in tune to combat vets issues. 99% are caring and everyone has their bad apples. Being in an area that is very peaceful has been a great help. You must be patient while your case is reviewed and try your hardest to have a good attitude also. Liquor is a depressant and when thrown on a depressing situation it will kill you or ruin you avoid it like the plague. If you follow the VA on their websites and you follow and read up on other .gov sites you will find that many praise your service and if capable you can even work in areas including law enforcement. I suggest getting as much education as you can in the early stages of your separation from service. Do not hesitate to call a crisis line and ask for help when you need it. It is also true that the dark side will attempt to recruit people who are warriors and you must get in tune to that and that is what Ms Napolitano was referring a while back. She was spot on in her comments. DHS now offers more job opportunities than most people can imagine. Keep your butts out of trouble and take advantage of the many opportunities that are being offered today. Many that just weren’t there 42 yrs ago. People will stereotype you, but you must prove them wrong for all of your brothers and sisters. People with crPTSD
      are also falsely stereotyped as stupid by many….prove them wrong on that one too.
      Survivor guilt and numbness are nothing to be ashamed of. As for the hyper vigilance, put that to good use if you can. When you start pacing back and forth or you can’t retain
      your skills, when you start snapping at everyone, when you feel like ripping some violent felon’s head off…call a crisis center….seek a happy place…and tell it like it is. Good…

    • Patrick Lavin March 8, 2012 at 6:06 am

      I am agreement with Michael. Vietnam vets were and are totally ignored. I am a member of the Pennsylvania Vietnam Veterans of America. My position is the Chairman for Incarcerated Veterans. For twenty years I work inside a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania and I have worked with honorably discharged veterans who served in Vietnam. They came home to a world of hate. For those who remember we were called various names that totally destroyed our honor. For some of us we never mentioned the service we provided during that war. For the veterans that are incarcerated in our jails never came home from the war. Prior to 1980 no one knew what PTSD/TBI was and what caused that terrible mental health problem. Soldiers returning from NAM were the crazy people and for some of those honorable soldiers it resulted in crimes that ended in LIFE IN PRISON. As a Vietnam Veteran myself (Orange Vet), my current venture has led a two-way path. One is working the the Veteran Treatment Courts in my local county in Pennsylvania, and the second, is working with a group of concerned veterans (nationwide) on a Veterans Mitigation Bill that will address the aging veterans that were jailed due to the misunderstandings of our nation’s leaders. I am certainly upset with a number of issues with the veterans to include the store front programs for vets that our president has created. For those who are interested you can following my website with the Pennslvania Vietnam Veterans of America follow my tweets at Twitter.

  23. Beauzeaux March 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I would think that patriots — all of whom were happy to send soldiers to faraway places — would be anxious to do right by those who come home wounded. Not all damage can be repaired but we owe these men and women the best medical care and support available.
    Armchair warriors in particular need to step up and help the veterans. Demonizing vets as unstable and violent is just wrong.
    Personally, I’m of the opinion that the last “good” war was WWII. Even so, I think returning soldiers are entitled to anything and everything they need.

    • John Roane March 6, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Boy you have it right.

    • cas March 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

      “Personally, I’m of the opinion that the last “good” war was WWII. Beauzeaux, please explain this statement; are you under the mistaken impression that the servicemen and women are the ones who choose whom they will fight? Besides, as any veteran will tell you, there is no such thing as a “good” war, just destruction and mayhem, which is what causes the PTSD that some veterans experience. Politicians (which YOUR votes put into positions of power) and their appointees are the ones who decide who and when war will take place.

  24. Joe DeLory March 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    To put things in perspective, both San Diego and Long Beach CA have long relied on the military as the largest contributor to their economies. Yet it was in these 2 cities that I frequently saw signs in city parks stating “No Dogs or Sailors Allowed” . This was in the early to mid-sixties. But it was insulting to us. It was not only certain elements of society that disrespected us service men, it was the city. There were many other examples of this animosity. Police would often stop blocking the cross walks when the “walk” light would turn green, they would ticket us for jay walking if we step outside of the cross walk to get across the street. So it does not surprise me that this kind of attitude would crop up in San Diego. But unfortunately this NIMBY attitude can be found anywhere in the US, people clamor for “affordable housing” but not near my home, people often say they want parks but they don’t want folks from outside their neighborhoods using them.
    The fact is that very likely some vet with some degree of PTSD lives within spitting distance of their home. Treatment facilities residential or otherwise are much preferable to ignoring these men and women who were willing to put their life on the line to protect the freedom so many take for granted.
    Yes I am a veteran, (5 tours in ‘Nam ) it took me quite a while to rejoin the human race after I got out. Back then PTSD was pretty much was considered a character flaw and not an illness. We were told to “buck up and get over it” I thank family and friends, and primarily God for my recovery.
    No vets or active duty service men or women should be subjected to the crap we were.

    • JoyfulA March 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      My father has often said how hurtful such signs in Norfolk were to him in World War II—worse than his injuries. I am astounded that such signs appeared (or were still there) in the 1960s. Even though I have never been in either city, I apologize to you on their behalf, and on behalf of your country, which did not do right by you. May we treat our new veterans well.

    • Paul March 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

      That was a great trick for the cops in L.A. too. Call a Marine out on liberty across the street and then give him a ticket for jay-walking. Even worse was to have the s.o.b. cop laugh at you while he threw your military I.D. into the storm sewer. This was in 1982! I bet it still happens here and there.

    • Diana Liford March 12, 2012 at 1:03 am

      God Bless you, I remember that time well. It’s so sad to say that we’ve come no further today. My stepdad did 2 tours in Nam in the Navy, came home and after a year, he joined the Marines and went back for another. And, while in the Navy he was on the USS Forristell(probably spelled wrong, sorry) when it blew up with McCain in one of the fighters on deck, and through all of this, when he got home he was just as ostrisized as anyone else was. He married my mom in 1973, 8 years her junior and they just celebrated their 39th anniversary.He told me about 5 years ago that it was mom and me and my three sisters, making him a central hub in our family, that pulled him out of his nightmares and paranoia. I’m not sure if all that’s true, but I know he is a kind and wonderful ‘Dad’ and I can’t imagine any of our lives without him. He seems as if he just adores my mom more as time goes by and I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. He had already proven how selfless and giving he could be, I think the chance to continue that with us, as more of an outlet I should say, was what may have given him the purpose he needed. I pray every day for all of the vets who come back to the place they risked their very lives to defend and they’re bruised and battered and alone and here we push them away and treat them as if the demons in their heads is contagous. God forgive them. It’s usually the incredibly and ignorantly misinformed who claim to have all the answers, isn’t it. It’s just all too sad, and on behalf of an ungrateful nation, I say, Thank You from the bottom of my heart!!!!!

  25. Carl Wells March 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    This is a very real issue that first came to the forefront with the Vietnam generation of veterans. Fortunately for our newest generation of veterans there is are a lot more resources available for them than were ever considered back in the 70’s. The challenge now is to prevent the stereo type of the “wacko veteran” from taking hold in popular culture again. There is a segment of society that at a base level hates the military and veterans. They have been silenced by the growth of popular support that has grown over the past 20+ years. They will once again attempt to proliferate this stereotype as the norm. Its a shared duty of all veterans of all generations to stop this before it can take hold again.

    • Joe DeLory March 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks for your perspective.

    • Don Smith March 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Yes this is a very real problem in the United States today but nowhere did I see mentioned the other statement, made by Mrs Napolitano. She stated some time back that the greatest threat to the nation’s security was from retuning veterans and I have yet to see a retraction of that statement which at the time was seconded by other administration officials. This in and of itself is particularly poisonous to those that have served this nation and returned to face a population that does not want them living in their midst.

      • Christine March 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        She did not state that veterans were the greatest threat to national security; rather, she suggested that they were vulnerable to recruitment from extremist groups.

        • Spazmasterflex March 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm

          Yeah, Christine, she didn’t say it, but the posture of this administration makes it REEK of an insinuation!!!

      • Diana Liford March 12, 2012 at 12:44 am

        Are you kidding me? I’m floored. I’m disgusted. I’m actually downright mad. I realize that there IS a stigma in certain circles of (ahum) society thay are intimidated by the returning vet who may have PTSD or any other number of psychological ailmments r/t, oh, let’s say, watching the guy next to him who he was just talking to, now no longer has a head, or the guy who really helped him out when he first got there because he was flat-out terrified get blown up right in the same vehicle and all he can really make out as part of him is a foot, What the Hell is wrong with our “American People”? I am the mother of 5 boys and 2 girls and I was an Air Force brat, but it was 1954( year born) to 1958, so it was more or less peace time for those with families, and my second oldest son was in the gulf and I supported him in every way, as any mother would, The only thing I did was steer him to the Air Force like his grandparents, and not the army, and after he got out, he was glad I had, and although he came home just fine, there were friends of his who did not and to think that they’d be denied a place to go to heal or et help because somebody decided these boys or now grown men are too damaged to be close to them or their kids’ schools, let the naysayers move. Put our vets where we have a promised plce for them and those that don’t like it can go live somewhere where there isn’t anybody to “die for them, regardless of the outcome” and see how safe, as a whole they feel then. This disgusts me to my very core and I say, side with the vet. They sided with you.

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