Coming Back, Fitting In
Nancy Mullane

Homecoming (David McNew/Getty Images) View the Slideshow It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon
at the Concord Senior Center. Colorful military medals, unit patches and American flags fill the
multi-purpose room. At the East Bay Veterans Fair, vets of the past have come to help the newest of
their group transition from being at war to being a civilian.
So far, more than a million troops have been sent to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Army
studies have found at least 30 percent of those coming home suffer from depression, anxiety or
post-traumatic stress disorder. And the Government Accountability Office says there are some
200,000 homeless veterans from current and past wars living on American streets.
So veterans who've successfully made the transition hold events like this one. In one room,
employers from local businesses hand out business cards while in another larger room,
admissions counselors from nearby colleges and universities hold out financial aid applications.

Sitting behind the University of California at Berkeley's table, four Iraq war vets have come for the
day. They're offered up as role models of soldiers-turned-students. But to hear them tell it, the
transition wasn't easy.

Jason is the most outspoken of the small group. He was in the Army for 10 years. One was spent
in Iraq. "Things had wrapped up. We went to King Fahad Air Base and got on a plane," he
explained. "I think it was actually a Delta airlines plane with stewardesses and everything, and we
were full of sand and armed."
Almost immediately after the plane landed at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jason says he had one thing in
mind, to wash away the dirt and sand that he says was everywhere, in his eyelids and up his nose.

"I got off the plane, went home, and I took a metal folding chair and an icy six-pack of beer and I got
in the shower turned the shower on real hot," he said. "Got my metal folding chair out. Unfolded it
under the shower and sat there under the hot-ass shower and drank the whole six-pack. Then I got
dressed. I went off post. I got a great meal. Then I came back, I crawled into my bed and I went to

But after the initial relief, Jason woke up to a harsher reality. He realized it wasn't going to be so
easy to wash off the fact that he'd been fighting for his life in Iraq. He couldn't just change back to
being a civilian. He was deeply troubled, ready to hit anyone over a small misunderstanding.

"The expectation that you can move from one set of norms, a military set of norms to civilian set of
norms and function appropriately that expectation is absurd," he said.

"Veterans who have been in a fight and who go from a fight to their civilian home in just couple of
days feel like they've been dropped in from Mars," explained Jonathan Shay, a psychologist at the
Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Boston, Mass. "You have adapted both in mind
and in the physiology of your body to the real situation of other people trying to kill you … and often
doing a doggone good job of it."

Shay said there's a giant chasm between the returning combat soldier and the people waiting back
at home. For instance, take a soldier's adaptation to driving on a highway in Iraq. "Number one, you
drive as fast as you can. Number two, you try and stay equidistant from the two sides of the road.
Now you bring that back home, and you have an automatic setup for numerous moving traffic
violations when you're driving your own car if you flip into that surviving-in-Iraq mode."

Jason says he tried to tell his family and friends what he'd been through, and what he'd done in
Iraq. And why he was the person he'd become. But that didn't work.

"Everybody who's in the Army has the first time: 'What's a good story you have from the service?' And
you mention a little something you saw or did. You realize immediately to never ever to do that
again," he said. "That's the one mistake you never make again because that's the first-hand
experience. Nobody wants that. But at least be conscious of the fact that people had that
experience. Be aware of it."

A walk down just about any shopping street in America, there isn't much awareness of war. Posters
announce holiday sales, and bell-ringing Santas raise money for people struggling economically,
but the war? Not so much.

But there are people and organizations gearing up to help transitioning vets find their way. Joseph
Bobraw is a clinical psychologist and founder of the Coming Home Project, a non-profit group of
veterans, psychotherapists and interfaith leaders who provide daylong and weekend retreats for
returning vets and their families. There the team of professionals offers treatment in psychological
trauma, and they provide the vet with tools for stress management.

"It was like the saying of Hillel," Bobraw says, "'if not now when, if not me then who?'

"We try to create the conditions for healing. And those conditions are safety, trust, a sense of
unconditional acceptance, compassion. And in terms of the stress management techniques, we
offer meditation."

For returning vets, unfamiliar with meditation, Bobraw says, the Coming Home Project offers silent
writing and drawing sessions. "The writing is a very rich exercise which takes people even deeper,
and then in the small groups they can either read what they've written or show what they've drawn
and discuss, listen to one another. And that takes people to another level."

Meanwhile, deep in the Northern California Redwoods, another group is taking their support of
returning vets to another level. They're building a veterans' village, a four-story, dormitory-style
building that, beginning in January, will house up to 18 veterans from the Iraq war.

When the building is finished, the veterans living here will get long-term counseling, help finding
jobs and applying to college. But most importantly, the village offers vets, who have just gotten back
from combat, a chance to sit quietly under towering Redwoods with other vets who understand
where they've been and what they've been through.

Mark Knipper will manage the project. In Vietnam he served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine
and now he says this is the least he can do.

"We were at war every time we went to sea," he said. "I really thought I was going to die. I'm older
now and I need to have some legacy to leave behind. What better way than to help the folks coming
home now and welcome them? I didn't get welcomed home until 30 years after I served."

But even with efforts by individuals and organizations to help returning vets in their transition,
psychologist Jonathan Shay says something critical is missing. Throughout history, he said, from
the Ancient Greeks to the Roman Legions, societies held communal rites of purification. When
their soldiers returned from battle, there was a ritual in which the society accepted responsibility for
what the fighter had been asked to do in their name.

"We really need to pay attention to the health of our democracy," he said, "and this is part of the
invisible substructure of democracy, how veterans are returned to civilian society and how their
future flourishing is nourished or destroyed."

Back to the Concord Veterans Fair. Jason said the American people sent the troops to war and now
it's their responsibility to bring them back and help them heal. "It's the civilians, it's the society at
large who bears the responsibility, not just the ethical obligation but the moral obligation as well, to
take the people who have served in this capacity that their government has mandated, and then
transition them back to being a civilian."

Armed Forces Financial Aid Grants
The United State Army offers the Spouse Education Assistance Program (EAP) which is a grant for the spouses of
members who are serving in Europe, Korea, Japan, or Okinawa. There is a maximum of around $350 per term.
The Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP) is for service member serving overseas in the Navy. Your spouse may be
going to college part or full-time. It does not matter whether he or she is working towards a certificate or an
undergrad or graduate degree
The undergraduate study maximum gift ranges from $300 for a semester and $1500 for the year. Graduate
numbers are $350 and $1750, respectively.
Air Force
The Air Force's General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program assists children and spouses of active and
deceased Air Force members. Qualifying applicants receive around $2000.
This grant is need-based and also factors in family income and the cost of tuition. It is the most popular Air Force
college financial aid program.
The Admiral Mike Boorda Seaman-to-Admiral Educational Assistance Program offers grants of up to $2,000 per
year for active duty service members accepted to the following programs:
Enlisted Commissioning Program
Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program
Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program
Coast Guard
The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) program offers $150 per year to help with college bills. This money
can be used for any family member, but cannot be used for tuition. Any other education related expense such as
books, housing, and supplies may be purchased with these funds.
Tests such as the SAT and other admission exams may be paid with the CGMA program. Coast Guard employees
and eligible spouses may be able to take the CLEP and DANTES tests at no charge
I have written two article/blogs on the bill that you might find interesting....
By Carissa Picard

First, one just about the Webb GI Bill and the second compares it to the Republican version being offered
now as an alternative...

A Comprehensive GI Bill: Reward or Incentive?

(Apr. 15, 2008) The problem with McCain's vision for expanding the GI Bill is that: a) it is contrary to the spirit of the every other wartime GI Bill;
b) it fails to remedy the disparity in educational benefits for current combat veterans vis a vis earlier combat veterans; c) it forces our fighting
men and women to decide whether their lives are worth a higher education--which, by the way, the post-Iraq military lifestyle and deployments
make difficult to obtain while serving; and d) it turns a benefit into a bribe.
Senators Webb and Hagel have introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans' Educational Assistance Act (S22) to replace the existing GI Bill. S22
would increase educational benefits for servicemembers to cover the entire cost of full-time in-state tuition as well as provide a monthly
allowance for housing and a yearly stipend for books.

In order to fully appreciate why so many veterans and their advocates are dissatisfied with the existing educational benefits for military
service, and why they support S22, you have to understand the history and purpose of earlier GI Bills.
The first GI Bill was created by Congress in 1944 to help combat veterans successfully readjust to civilian life after returning from war.
Congress provided veterans with a variety of benefits, including educational assistance, home loan guaranties, and unemployment pay.
Although the original GI Bill expired in 1952, a new GI Bill was created, funded, and implemented for every military conflict following World War
The current GI Bill, and the basis for educational assistance today, was enacted in 1985 and is known as the Montgomery GI Bill ("MGIB").
Unlike previous GI Bills, the MGIB was created as an incentive program to maintain an all volunteer military force.
As a result, there are significant differences between the original GI Bill and the MGIB. Under the MGIB, servicemembers are not automatically
eligible for benefits (although they have to affirmatively elect NOT to "buy-in" to the program), nor are all the costs of college attendance
covered. In fact, the original GI Bill not only paid for the cost and tuition of attending the college of the veterans choice, it also provided a
stipend to live off of while enrolled. By contrast, today's maximum MGIB benefits only covers 60 to 75 percent of the tuition at a state college.
Although 97 percent of today's servicemembers sign up for the MGIB when they enlist, only 8 percent of servicemembers used all of their
educational benefits (over the past ten years) and 30 percent failed to use any of their benefits at all.
Supporters of the 21st Century GI Bill argue that the peacetime goals (e.g., force maintenance instead of veteran readjustment) of the MGIB
fails to acknowledge the needs and sacrifices of our OEF/OIF wartime veterans. Moreover, since Congress has created a comprehensive GI
Bill for every war since (and including) WWII, they should do the same for OEF and OIF.
Senators Obama and Clinton both support this increase in benefits.
Senator McCain does not.
Last year, Acting Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Manpower and Personnel, Tom Bush, testified before the House Veterans Affairs
subcommittee on economic opportunity that "attracting qualified [military] recruits using large, across-the-board basic benefits incurs the risk
that many who enter for the [G.I. Bill] benefits will leave as soon as they can use them."

In supporting the Pentagon's opposition to Webb's proposed expansion to veterans' educational benefits, McCain shared its concern that
servicemembers would opt to go to college instead of stay in the military. Consequently, McCain stated that he and his colleagues in the
Senate were working on an alternative version that would expand benefits but add an additional commitment to the military in order to take
advantage of those additional benefits.

The problem with McCain's vision for expanding the GI Bill is that: a) it is contrary to the spirit of the every other wartime GI Bill; b) it fails to
remedy the disparity in educational benefits for current combat veterans vis a vis earlier combat veterans; c) it forces our fighting men and
women to decide whether their lives are worth a higher education--which, by the way, the post-Iraq military lifestyle and deployments make
difficult to obtain while serving; and d) it turns a benefit into a bribe.

Why can't we value their existing service enough to compensate them accordingly? Why can't we honor that service by fulfilling the promise of
access to higher education that was made when they enlisted initially?
Why is this even being debated?

How do you feel about this issue?
Let your public officials know how you feel.

Sorry, Guys, No Beer Money Included...

(Apr. 23, 2008) In response to Senator Webb's ambitious post-9/11 Veterans' Educational Assistance Act, Senate Republicans (led by
Senator Burr) unveiled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention and Readjustment Through Education Act. The names of the respective
bills alone reveals the divergence in purposes between the two bills.

The Republican bill would increase monthly GI Bill payments for active duty servicemembers from $1,100 to $1,500 as well as provide a
yearly $500 book stipend (S22 would provide a $1,000 yearly book stipend). The Republican bill would also allow the servicemember to
transfer up to 18 months of benefits to his or her spouse or child after 6 years of service or 36 months of benefits after 12 years of service,
something that S22 lacks. Lastly, the bill make military academy and ROTC graduates eligible for these benefits if they serve an additional
five years beyond their initial service obligation.

Clearly the goal of the Republican bill is to provide enhanced benefits for servicemembers who make a career out of the military.

Senator Webb's bill, S22, however, seeks to bring the modern GI Bill in line with the spirit of previous GI Bills by expanding benefits for
veterans regardless of whether they choose to stay in after their initial service obligation. Thus, unlike the Republican version, there are no
"strings attached" to the GI Bill expansion of benefits. It also tries to ensure that these veterans have the means to actually USE these
benefits--something the majority of contemporary veterans cannot do because tuition costs generally exceed GI Bill payments and there is no
housing assistance.

As a result, S22 provides a monthly housing stipend (based on an E-5's BAH) to facilitate working part-time and going to school full-time
instead of vice versa. Moreover, S22 would cover the cost of the most expensive public university in the state of residence for the veteran
instead of setting an arbitrary cap on benefits regardless of where the veteran is living and attending college. The goal is simply to
economically empower (through access to higher education) the men and women who have fought in the defense of this country; a tacit
acknowledgment that the years the servicemember gave the military and our country has value in and of itself. Prior to OEF/OIF, our elected
officials believed this to be the case and the earlier GI Bills reflected that.

So one has to wonder why certain elected officials resist expanding educational benefits today, do they believe that the veterans of our
modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve less than the veterans of previous wars? The only difference between now and then is the
absence of the draft. In my mind, the fact that our modern military is comprised of volunteers (thus sparing millions of Americans from
involuntary service) should actually warrant even greater appreciation (on some level) rather than less. (Which makes me wonder, really, why
we can't have S22 as well as the Republicans' transferability provisions.)

Further, for the Pentagon to suggest that upon receiving a higher education, these men and women would never return to the military does a
disservice to those veterans (as well as to the men and women still serving). The implication is that their service was motivated purely by a
lack of other (read: better) opportunities as opposed to a heightened sense of duty or a love of country that exceeds the average citizen.

I believe, however, that if we showed our voluntary military force that we are prepared, as a nation, to take all necessary steps to ensure that
they can successfully reintegrate and thrive in the civilian world (this includes physical and mental health care as well as other support
services), the Pentagon will find many will return to the military; not because they lack anywhere else to go, but because that is where they
CHOOSE to be. Ultimately our entire force will be elevated and improved by the advanced education of the members and their purely optional
decision to remain in and/or return to the service.

Perhaps that is something Senator McCain and others should consider when choosing between these two competing bills.

I also take offense to the following characterization of our servicemembers from press conference by Senators Burr and Graham:

For active-duty members, monthly GI Bill benefits would rise Oct. 1 to $1,500, up from the current $1,101, enough to cover the average cost of
a four-year public college including room, board, tuition and fees, said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, ranking Republican on the
Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee.

Another $500 annual payment would help cover the cost of books and supplies.

Asked if he thought a living stipend was needed in addition to the basic benefit, Graham said room and board is factored into the cost. "We
don't have beer money included," he said.
Maybe it is just me, but I think a little more highly of our veterans than that.
I would hope Senator McCain does as well.

How do you feel about this issue?
Let your public officials know how you feel.
Carissa Picard, Esq.

Involve. Inform. Inspire.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in
the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who
at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither
victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt     

Post-War Suicides May Exceed Combat Deaths, U.S. Says
By Avram Goldstein

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the
combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said.
Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven't provided enough scientifically sound care,
especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.
Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers
have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S.
troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the
conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.
Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse
and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, ``it's quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric
mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths,'' Insel said.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, is the failure to cope after a major shock, such as an auto accident,
a rape or combat, Insel said. PTSD may remain dormant for months or years before it surfaces, and in about 10
percent of cases people never recover, he said.
go here for more

For many war veterans, blindness becomes a bitter legacy
Darryl E. Owens Sentinel Staff Writer

Sgt. David Kinney realized he had a problem when he struggled to read the e-mails his wife sent him in Afghanistan.
He suffered headaches and his vision grew steadily worse. Before long, the military shipped him home to DeLand.
Now he's considered legally blind.
"I didn't get blown up or knocked out, or have a big piece of my head missing like some of these guys," said Kinney,
who served in Orlando's 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Florida National Guard. "You didn't see it
coming."Kinney, 46, is among an increasing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans losing their eyesight not
because of bullet or bomb wounds but in what doctors suspect is a delayed reaction to the constant pounding of
nearby explosives.
His eyes aren't the problem. His brain is. (to read more click on the link below)

Darryl E. Owens can be reached at 407-420-5095 or

Firm 'misled' over malaria

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes
Cosmetics chain Neal's Yard has dropped the
sale of a homeopathic drug after watchdogs said
customers were being misled that it could treat

The Medicines and Healthcare products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the product was
"clearly intended to be viewed as a treatment or

Neal's yard accepted that there was no clinical
proof that Malaria Officinalis 30c worked.

The move follows a BBC Inside Out investigation
in Devon.

All homeopathic remedies are classed as
medicines and require prior authorisation by the
MHRA, but Malaria Officinalis 30c has none.

The presenter of Inside Out South West, Janine
Jansen, was sold the homeopathic remedy by
Neal's Yard in Exeter and was advised that she
could use it to help deal with malaria.

David Carter, head of the borderline team at the
MHRA, said: "This product was clearly intended
to be viewed as a treatment or preventive for
malaria, which is a serious and potentially
life-threatening disease.

"We regard the promotion of an unauthorised,
self-medicating product for such a serious
condition to be potentially harmful to public
health and misleading."
go here for more

MSC's Vice President, Pamela Stokes-Eggleston,
and I spent two days on Capital Hill meeting
congressional staff to promote DoD
Reintegration proposal for service members
returning from combat tours.  We are losing too
many service members and veterans to suicide.  
We believe that effective intervention before the
service member separates from the military may
help reduce the incidents of self-inflicted harm
(such as attempted and actual suicide).

We also believe that if this proposal is drafted
correctly and implemented, it may prevent some
of these Personality Disorder Discharges.

Moreover, Congress needs to realize that with
untreated PTSD, Americans pay for it one way or
another, sooner or later.  We can either pay for it
in a larger DoD budget now (for mental health
care and immediate crisis intervention and
treatment) or we can pay for it later at the state
level and federal level as our at-risk veterans
deteriorate and fail to successfully reintegrate
into peacetime society (thus placing increasing
demands on our emergency services, social
services, police services, etc.).

I would also like to emphasize that we (Military
Spouses for Change) realize that our service
members volunteered to join the military.  
However, the fact that they volunteered does not
absolve our country from its role in, and
responsibility for, the mental and physical
traumas that are inflicted upon them as a result
of their service.  In fact, as we face a crisis in
maintaining this all volunteer force, it is critical
that we now, more than ever, exhibit not only the
ability, but the WILLINGNESS, to effectively
identify and MEANINGFULLY treat those traumas.

I am pleased to report a few Senators were
actually receptive to our ideas.  I am in the
process of writing up a white paper and sample
Dear Colleague letter.

I am contacting you for one or more of the
following reasons:

1)  I found a statistic showing 5,500 soldiers were
discharged in the past 4 years for misconduct;
however, I believe that number is too low/small.  
Do any of you have any other figure or an idea
outside of a FOIA request (time consuming)
about finding our how many their have been?  
Do you know someone that could potentially help
us get this figure?

2)  For those of you with an advocacy
organization, would you be interested in learning
more about our proposal and/or possibly being
apart of submitting it to members of Congress?  

3)  Is there a contact with another organization
that you think I should be reaching out to?
If you are interested or can direct me to a better
number, please call or email me as soon as you
Take care,
Carissa Picard, Esq

Bush Proclaims September 28 Gold Star Mother's Day
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2008 -
President Bush has proclaimed Sept. 28 as Gold Star Mother's Day this year. The day honors the mothers of men
and women who were killed in the line of duty while serving the nation in the armed forces.
Congress designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day" in 1936, authorizing and
requesting the president to issue a proclamation in its observance each year.

"Throughout our history, the men and women of the armed forces have put our nation's security before their own,
doing their duty in the face of grave danger," Bush wrote in the proclamation issued by the White House
yesterday. "On Gold Star Mother's Day, we pay solemn tribute to the mothers of the patriots lost serving this great

The term Gold Star Mother comes from World War I. In that war, families with someone in the services placed a
blue star in the window of their homes. If the servicemember died on active duty, they replaced the blue star with a
gold one, indicating the sacrifice.

In 1929, a group of women who had lost sons or daughters in the Great War formed the American Gold Star
Mothers in Washington, D.C. The group now includes mothers "whose sons and daughters served and died in the
line of duty in the armed forces of the United States of America or its allies, or died as a result of injuries sustained
in such service," according to their charter.

"Gold Star Mothers inspire our nation with their deep devotion to family and country," Bush wrote. "These
extraordinary women serve their communities, dedicate their time to helping members of our armed forces and
veterans, and bring comfort and hope to families whose loved ones laid down their lives in the defense of our
liberty. Nothing can compensate for their sacrifice and loss, yet Gold Star Mothers demonstrate tremendous
courage and resolve while working to preserve the memory and legacy of all our fallen heroes."

Bush asked for God's blessings on these Gold Star families and called on all Americans to fly the U.S. flag on this
special day. "I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a
public expression of our nation's sympathy and respect for our Gold Star Mothers," he wrote.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Legislation to Create
the Gold Star Family License Plate

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced he has signed SB
1455 by Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), authorizing the creation of
the California Gold Star Family License Plate. The legislation paves
the way for families who have lost loved ones in current and prior
wars to obtain license plates honoring the sacrifices their families
have endured.

"I am very pleased to sign this bill to honor the sacrifices made
by our servicemen and women and their families," said Governor
Schwarzenegger. "When you see one of these license plates on the
road, think about those who have given their lives to defend our way
of life, and keep their families in your thoughts and prayers."

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Motor
Vehicles will fund the start up costs of the Gold Star Family License
Plates using private donations, allowing the state to honor Gold Star
Families without placing any burden on California taxpayers. Also,
as a token of the state's appreciation for their sacrifice, the bill
provides a special waiver of fees for Gold Star Families.

SB 1455 authorizes the creation of the Gold Star Family License
Plate and authorizes a family member of a member of the U.S. Armed
Forces killed on active duty to apply for the plate containing a gold
star and the words "Gold Star Family."


© 2006-2018  Nadia McCaffrey, the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation &  the Veteran's Village, all rights reserved ©
Formed in 2006, the organization is a peace based organization for
members of the military who have served in the war, we are focusing on the Iraq & Afghanistan conflicts, however, this foundation is to help all war veterans . We believe the best way to support our troops is to bring
them home now and take care of them when they get here.