Ren's Ramblings & Writings

Contemplations on things tangible and intangible

Friday, August 27, 2010

my response to Andi's "Please, God. Not That..."

Andi wrote a beautiful synopsis of what goes through the minds of military spouses who know that their service member could be killed or captured while deployed. Find what she shared here Please, God. Not That...

My response:
Such a beautifully written glimpse of just a bit of what goes through the minds of military spouses. Those things in the dark recesses of our minds that no one talks about. It is completely normal to replay scenarios in your mind, imagining what we would do if we received this kind of news. Some of us imagine ourselves being strong, holding our chins high, being a rock for our kids (maybe not even telling them, not yet). Others can see themselves falling to pieces, crying, feeling helpless, powerless, not knowing where to turn. All of us knowing that our world would be upside down upon receipt of such news.

So, where do we go from here? Do we start talking about it openly? Do we keep our fears to ourselves? Do we just say we'll cross that bridge if or when we get to it?

Last night I heard Fort Carson Commander, Major General David Perkins talking of resilience. The Army is trying to determine why two individuals who experience the same trauma may walk away from it differently. One may be totally in shock, and may develop post traumatic stress symptoms. The other brushes off his pants and keeps right on going.

Whatever the difference, I would like to be the resilient one. Knowing that I would have this life with my Sapper over any other life without him, even if it means facing such a sacrifice on his part. I'll be able to hold my head high. I might not be the strong oak that I imagine myself being upon learning of his capture or loss; I may totally fall apart. But in the end, I will know that my Sapper knows, if he's alive, that he has great love waiting for him at home. And if he passes, he will go knowing he gave his all, and that his family will celebrate his life, and honor his passing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rolling Thunder 2010 - A Marine's Vigil

My response to AirforceWife's "The Meaning of Sacrifice"

Her beautiful editorial can be found here: AirforceWife's The Meaning of Sacrifice

I'm not going to bother to read the Sisk article, because I woke up feeling great today, and I don't want to spend the time it would take of me to respond, nor will I permit that indignity to interfere with my day. I do want to compliment you on your response, however. It is beautifully written and I think it portrays at least the essence of what military families feel.
I'm a retired soldier, as well as an Army wife, whose Sapper just made his 20 years. We chose this life, knowing full well there is sacrifice, but more than that, we chose this life BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE. Because this sacrifice gives to our lives something bigger than ourselves. Life meaning, which cannot be belittled by the purpose of "receiving a paycheck," among other things. I must state also that the 20 years I spent in uniform does not even begin to compare to the OPTEMPO my Sapper has been experiencing these past 8 years. I used to think we had it good compared to our grandparents who did not hear from their service mbers for years at a time during the early wars. After all, they didn't have satellite phone, Yahoo Messenger and web cams, and the most extraordinary postal system in the world. But I think this is all relative to the time. Their hardships and benefits were relative to their life experiences and demands. Our hardships and benefits are relative to our life experience. You cannot truly compare them because the variables are not the same. Really, it is like comparing apples and oranges. Never-the-less, people like Sisk are here for a purpose also. I have to constantly remind myself that I would have this life with my Sapper (which now includes PTSD, TBI, both our bad habits and a lifetime of emotional baggage) over any other life without him. And when I'm feeling negative, low, or depressed, it is people like Sisk and you, Airforcewife, who give words to our emotions about what Sisk wrote, who get me back on my personal bandwagon, return me to my personal place of spirited determination, and remind me of my higher purposes. Just because the OPTEMPO has changed, that doesn't mean our lifepurpose has changed, and sometimes, yes, I whine, and I need to be reminded to keep my eye on the ball-that ball that was our life purpose.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We are free-Maximus Remix from Gladiator

Love it love it love it~

My responses to the following online health care system discussion post

The initial student's post:
"Prof. and class...I am sorry to be the harbinger of doom and gloom, however, I do not see good things for the field of healthcare management in the future. Let me say this first...there are going to be some serious challenges to be faced in the near future because the specter of disaster, environmental changes, and terrorism looms close on the horizon. Medical personnel are the "first responders" in any disaster...however, our medical facilities are not equipped to handle mass emergencies as was evidenced with the most recent domestic disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Midwest tornadoes, or earthquakes.
I used to work in downtown Atlanta, about 2 blocks away from one of the largest hospital systems in the city, Grady Hospital. A report was released that said that the hospital would not be able to handle and was not prepared to handle a serious terrorist attack mainly because --- in the event of a disaster probably 50% of the medical personnel would be hurt or killed. I nearly lost my mind, but thankfully I don't work downtown anymore. But, that report stays in the back of my mind.
We already have existing shortages of medical personnel such as nurses. If I were 20 years younger and 30 years wiser I would go back to school for a medical career...if only to get the knowledge of what to do in an emergency and have the ability to actually make a difference in the world. I am quite sure my family would appreciate my knowledge of treating wounds and disease, rather than getting their taxes done, in the case of a terrorist attack."
My Responses:

       It's so easy to look at those situations and see all that is bad or isn't working, the inadequacies. To quote Jim Carrey:
"...It's when we watch the news, when we watch entertainment, it's about peoples' conflicts, tied together in the most exciting, possible way. And you imagine that the world is this explosive, horrifying place. And the news is all this negativity condensed. It really is not representative of what the world is, or what the world was."
Yes, there are seeming shortcomings that you see, but then look at what happens when good people come together. It's a terrific reminder that we really, truly are, ok.

I came across this story which involves doctors, and I'm sure, an innumerable network of medical and non-medical staff.. proving that the world (and the medical systems) are not the horrible thing they sometimes seem to be. Yes, we have uninsured in America and other countries, but look what happens when people pull together!  In this particular case, baby girl was rescued after spending two days in the hospital rubble after the recent earthquake in Haiti.  The baby, Landina, was in the hospital being treated for severe burns when the hospital was destroyed by the earthquake.  After rescue, she was brought to a field hospital run by Doctors without Borders, where a British surgeon had to amputate her right arm, and this same surgeon realized that without surgery for the burn injuries, she would die. Her brain had been so injured by the housefire that her brain was exposed, risking infection.  The doctor set her up with Facing the World, a British charity that brought Landina to Londay, paying for her travel and medical costs, and acting as her guardian.  A journalist then traveled to Haiti to try to find her parents, which was challenging because all hospital records had been destroyed, and they did not even know the baby's name. But, they eventually found Landina's family and she was reunited with her mother, after a DNA test proved that Seignon was Landina's mother. Facing the World even helped Seignon travel to London to her little girl who she'd not seen in at least six months, thinking the whole time that her baby was dead.

We definitely have to have a realistic view of the world, but it serves no positive or constructive purpose to focus on the bad things or what-ifs or negative possibilities. We are not alone-EVER! Even NY wasn't alone during 9-11. All of America, and even other countries responded! When it comes to disasters, we will never be alone, nor will we be expected to overcome it alone. Yes, our system is imperfect. And we can always benefit from average citizens being trained in 1st Aid and CPR. But the health field is making huge strides in all sectors, for-profit, nonprofit, and not-for-profit, always working to improve everyday healthcare access and service. And in this constant strive for improvement, we will also benefit during times of disasters, because, in our country, we are never alone.

Now, our imperfect system is made up of people, who can sometimes cause shortcomings, such as the country's slow response when Katrina hit. That was not a medical system problem, nor was it a shortcoming in the medical system of Louisiana. Nothing could be expected to survive Katrina; rather, the problems at that time were a combination of human-error and miscalculation, misjudgement, lack of coordination of relief efforts, etc (outside of Louisiana).

If something happens in Atlanta, just like NY, medical personnel and others will come to you. Because that's what America does.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My SpouseBuzz response to "Advisory panels say military benefits unsustainable", edited to send to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I am distressed about issues of significance to service members and military families. I have tried to contact congressmen and senators regarding previous issues, to no avail. So I am now writing to you.

I just read Advisory panels say military benefits unsustainable by Tom Philpott.

Military transition to civilian life at 20 years is not guaranteed, nor is it easy. My husband made 20 years this month. As you well know, if a service member retires, he/she can be called back at any time in the future. I know this, as I am a retired soldier as well as an Army wife. The service member who is actually able to retire at 20 (in this economy), and successfully begins their life anew, is fortunate, but still challenged to translate their military experience into civilian terms, and then to market him or herself successfully. Add to that mix any number of the disabilities that service members are taking with them as extra life baggage when they leave the military, and they have to work hard proving to a civilian employers that they’re actually employable. If, in fact, the service member is employable. Did you know that: the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states “Two-thirds[of homeless veterans] served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.” I interpret this as ONLY three years. Let’s talk about what more than three years does to a service member, especially with today’s OPTEMPO. Yep. Three years and you too can suffer the rest of your life from deployment injuries, both tangible and less tangible.

I also can’t fathom the fact that politicians think it’s perfectly acceptable to expect service members to jeopardize their lives so THEY, can sleep at night, and then leave service members stranded as a thank you in return. There is NO COMPARISON between an IT guy or a CEO who works cozily for any other corporation, and the lives of service members and their families. My husband has been deployed 4 times and been to Korea, and is preparing for another deployment, all since 2001! Add to that the fact that just because they’re not deployed, that does not mean they are at home! And I cannot BEGIN to describe what we’re dealing with now-PTSD AND TBI, both of which have effects that last well into years beyond, and which THE FAMILY gets to somehow learn how to cope with. With what I have to contend with for the next 40 years as his wife, I TOO deserve the relief of knowing that, even though we’ve got our work cut out for ourselves in years to come, personally and for our marriage in dealing with PTSD AND TBI, at least my husband will have his retirement benefits, giving us one less thing to worry about.

Service members don’t leave their families and go to Iraq because they’re expecting gifts or an easy life. My husband, a combat engineer, so loves his job, that he would do it even if the world didn’t give military discounts and even if old ladies didn’t stop him in the supermarket to thank him for his service. And he does it despite the long deployments and frequent, sporadic absences from his family. We’ve been in this house since February 2008, but my husband has yet to unpack and “nest.” He does not complain, and neither do we. I love living with a man who not only ADORES his job, but finds purpose and is good at it.

But today’s OPTEMPO demands have multiplied in the past 20 years, and ethics scream louder than ever on behalf of service members who deserve their retirement. And, as the article states, “…only 20 percent stay long enough to earn a retirement." What many fail to realize is what we Americans pay presidents who only serve AT MOST eight years:
“The retirement benefits received by former Presidents include a pension, Secret Service protection, and reimbursements for staff, travel, mail, and office expenses. The Presidential pension is not a fixed amount, rather it matches the current salary of Cabinet members (or Executive Level I personnel), which is $191,300/year as of March, 2008...”

Philpott quotes in this week’s article:

“But rapid expansion of military entitlements has become part of "the nation’s mandatory spending problems, "the task force found. Among "significant unsustainable trends" that the task force listed is paying military retirees and their families "for 60 years after they have served only 20."”
This statement leads to the erroneous conclusion that even though a service member, who has risked his or her life, and possibly has disabilities affecting not only him/herself, but also the family and every other area of his/her life, is somehow not entitled to 60 years of pension, since he or she only jeopardized and endured 20 physical years of service. How do you measure the quality of life that his or her service has so drastically and detrimentally affected for life? Is the service member somehow less deserving of having his/her quality of life maintained than a president?

Never mind that some veterans are so disabled by their duty experiences that some of them physically cannot work. We will just throw them to the curb and let them try to survive off of the already limited and overburdened VA system and social security benefits. My husband, and our family, thanks to PTSD AND TBI, will CONTINUE to contend with his disabilities, when he retires, FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. How do you put a price tag on my husband’s and our family’s quality of life, which the military is responsible for? All this, and the Army’s response is to prescribe more pills, keep deploying them when they’re not recovered, and then take away the one thing that compensates for all the crap: retirement and health benefits.

I cannot believe that it has come to this. Politicians, who do not truly care or take the time to know what military families truly need, want to focus on legislation that allows me, as a spouse, to take leave when my husband is about to deploy, like they think this is actually what I need. And even my own congressman could care less. Yet, politicians, who, to quote Hollywood, “rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom" that service members provide, want to take away the one benefit that career service members and their families truly need and look forward to in the years to come after military service has done its damage and taken its toll. Perhaps they should put on a uniform and pick up a rifle and participate in today’s OPTEMPO. Fight waste, fraud and abuse. Don’t harm the very people you rely on.

Monday, August 9, 2010

post test

Responses to Blue Star Family survey in May 2010

Effects of deployment on military children:
My 14yo son is at an age now where he needs his father around to help with everyday "teenage boy" and school issues (that moms can't help with).

Both boys are at stages where they respond better to dad's authority (by mere presence) than to female authority.

Both boys need more direct male interaction now (activities, socialization, etc).

My 14yo now understands better what dad is doing when he's deployed, and it worries him. He doesn't understand why his dad has to help other kids-"why those parents can't protect their own kids?"

How can the military help families deal with deployment:

Deployment is only part of the problem. Even when the soldiers are not deployed, they're still not at home (gone for 3 weeks here, 6weeks there, a school for 4 weeks here, training someone else to deploy for 3 weeks there...all over and above regular and irregular long hours). All these smaller absences add up; the family, as well as the soldier, have to deal with the soldier constantly coming and going, never able to actually reintegrate back into the family and household, since he's always got one foot out the door.

Add to this the effects of 4 deployments: the boys don’t understand why dad doesn’t wrestle anymore, or why he can’t handle loud sudden noises, or even what is normal everyday noise or background noise for us. Many of our extended family and friends actually don’t understand why, when the house gets busy (people/kids over, for example) dad goes to the bedroom to escape the over-stimulating “busyness.”

There are many nontraditional aids, holistic practices, non-western therapies that heal the entire mind-body-soul, that have been used for centuries, and are medically proven, but they’re not available to service members unless the service member can afford to pay out of pocket (acupuncture and other forms of Chinese medicine, hypnosis and meditation, shamanic healing practitioners, for example). Teaching simple meditation and yoga breathing can benefit soldiers immensely, not just at home, but when they’re away from home as well. Make holistic, non-western practices, healing, and therapies available to the military and their families!

How do Changes (deployments, PCS, other service member extended absences) affect the family:

Being a military family is just a way of life, not so different than families whose parents travel and/or work long hours...there are many people who look forward to moving, as change can pick you up out of present situations and new can be refreshing-but even positive change-is still change-and can still be stressful, or even distressing. My oldest is Aspergers, and my youngest is cognitively delayed, so change (especially big change) can be hard for them. This is part of why I retired-with my husband constantly gone now, my kids need someone who they know is always going to be here; their lives are fairly routine, consistent. We tend to avoid “Family Support” or “Family Readiness” anything, since, despite all positive intentions, those associations often are fraught with drama, soap operas, or are just often not the kind of situations I want take my kids into (special needs, or not

Entire families need productive consistency (not to be confused with rigid, unbending structure); enable and promote productive routine and consistency.

Entire families need to cope with everyday life stress, and holistic, non-western practices, especially things like meditation and yoga breathing, can benefit entire families.

What, if any, impact has being a military spouse had on your ability to pursue a career? Please select only one answer that best reflects your experience.

How has being a military spouse affected your career?

Being retired military myself, and a graduate level student, I consider myself autonomous as far as my career, generally. Though being a military spouse has other considerations:

1. I have to leave my job to handle all appointments, stay home with a sick child, or solve problems when the school calls.

2. Because handling everything is routine for me, I sometimes don't even think to ask my husband if he can handle something when he is home, which annoys him.

Military families need mind-body-spirit healing and coping tools, many of which are found in non-western practices. Most of what is available thru military channels is only a temporary fix, or it addresses only part of the wound (drugs/medicines for example), when science knows that much disease and stress, strength and healing is psychosomatic. The military needs to make accessible and promote those therapies and practices that have been around for centuries that do facilitate whole-person health, instead of just writing prescriptions and sending people only to counselors, who often cannot promote internal healing. Alternative, holistic therapies and practices are really practices for a healthy life that I believe can make families and service members strong every day, and these practices are an amazing complement to western medicine.

Holistic, mind-body-spirit health: our service members and families are proud, but sometimes it is easy to forget our service member's greater purpose when you are dealing with the everyday of life, especially life after so many deployments and constant absences. The service member and families also need time to reintegrate with each other without more absences so soon after return from deployment.

What is your suggestion for a program that Blue Star Families or another military support organization could launch that could significantly improve the lives of military families?
Teach, promote and facilitate mind-body-spirit healing and strengthening techniques to make Army families (including the soldiers) Army Strong. There are incredible practices that are available, such as meditation, shamanic journeying, yoga (yoga has many meditative qualities, in addition to being exercise), and hypnotherapy/self-hypnosis that people can PAY to learn, for DVDs/DCs, and to attend in group empowerment sessions, but the military does not help with any of these expenses, and does not promote these practices, many of which can be learned and practiced daily at home, and are enjoyable and empowering to do with a group.

Ren's attempts at setting up a new blog...

...sometimes I really do love the internet. When it works. So far, so good.