Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle and wife Kelly: a love story

jesse

By Debbie Gregory.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jesse Cottle of San Diego lost both legs when and improvised explosive device he was attempting to deactivate went off in 2009. He endured a long and painful recovery.

For most active Marines, this would have been devastating, but soon after Cottle returned home, he met Kelly, a beautiful, vivacious Boise State swimmer, in San Diego.  Jesse, who enjoyed an active lifestyle before the accident, was at a swim meet during his recovery when he was introduced to the woman who would be his wife.  As he learned to live a normal life, it was Kelly who stayed by his side. Jesse and Kelly married and, in a way, the improvised explosive device brought them together. He wore his prosthetics during their first wedding dance.

While the Cottles were visiting family in Boise, Idaho, the owner of ShutterHappy Photography, Sarah Ledford, captured an image that has gone viral.

The family portrait included Kelly Cottle, carrying her husband Jesse on her back, while wading in the creek with her family.

The picture of Kelly hoisting Jesse on her back is a reminder of the power of love. “I actually look at it very much as a symbol for our whole relationship in general,” Jesse Cottle said. “She’s physically carrying me, but there’s times where she’s carrying me emotionally. It’s a perfect representation of who Kelly is.”

Their love story, represented in the photo that has gone viral on the web, shows heroism, sacrifice, and how a couple overcame their challenges with hope and positivity. It’s a love story that instantly warms the heart and renews faith.

New Technology Leads to Proper Treatment of PTSD and Depression

new technology

By Debbie Gregory.

Saving our soldiers is of the utmost importance.  War veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, along with their families, say military commanders, policy-makers, health care providers, and communities need to take further steps to help make their transition into the civilian community seamless. That way, they say, the country can better deal with the results, including substance abuse, homelessness, rising divorce rates, and the mental anguish that can lead to suicide.

Brainwave research has led to new insights into psychiatric disorders, and help guide future development of new anti-psychotic drugs. This new research can greatly benefit returning veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and depression. Military veterans often suffer with depression and other mental health issues. Up until now, drugs have been the go-to solution for treating various mental issues, mostly on a trial and error basis.

PTSD and TBI coexist because brain injuries are often sustained in traumatic experiences.

So often people talk about the effects of traumatic brain injury or the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder as separate conditions — which they are. PTSD and TBI coexist because brain injuries are often sustained in traumatic experiences. But for the person who is living with the dual diagnosis of TBI and PTSD, it can be hard to separate them.

PTSD is a mental disorder, but the associated stress can cause physical damage. TBI is a neurological disorder caused by trauma to the brain. It can cause a wide range of impairments and changes in physical abilities, thinking and learning, vision, hearing, smell, taste, social skills, behaviors, and communication. The brain is so complex, the possible effects of a traumatic injury are extensive and different for each person.

When PTSD and TBI coexist, it’s often difficult to sort out what’s going on. Changes in cognition, such as memory and concentration, are common with both diagnoses. One basically feeds and reinforces the other, so it’s a complicated mix —the perfect storm. It may help to consider and compare changes commonly seen with TBI and PTSD.

Doctors using the PEER Interactive database to help predict which medications their patients will respond to have reported their success rates have improved two to threefold.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community began a clinical trial using PEER Interactive.  During the clinical trial military physicians will treat 2,000 volunteer patients with a primary diagnosis of depression.

Embracing the “8 Keys to Success”

keys

By Debbie Gregory.

A panel of experts, including Veteran students, have drafted the “8 Keys to Success,” specific steps that colleges and universities can take to better welcome, encourage and assist Veteran students. Now President Obama has challenged educational institutions to adopt these keys to help improve Veteran education.

“Let’s help our Veterans get that degree, get that credential and compete for the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow,” he told the crowd at the recent Disabled American Veterans National Convention in Orlando, Fla. More than 250 community colleges and universities have already answered his call, and signed on to implement the program in order to help their Veteran students.

The 8 Keys to Success to help schools improve their Veteran education programs are:

1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for Veteran students.

2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.

3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all Veteran students receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.

4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all Veteran students, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).

5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for Veteran students.

6. Use a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on Veteran students, including demographics, retention and degree completion.

7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to Veteran students.

8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for Veteran students.

The keys are being implemented in different ways across the country. Some of these implementations include hosting campus orientations specifically for Veterans, assigning every Veteran student a counselor, and creating partnerships with employers to help place Veteran graduates into jobs in high-demand and high-growth fields.

To further Veterans’ success in higher education and employment, the VA is also expanding its VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) and Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) programs, which connect Veterans to VA resources.  Thousands of colleges and universities are developing or expanding their Veterans Success Centers as a result of the VA’s VSOC and VITAL investments.

“This commitment made by colleges and universities will help Veterans better transition from military service into the classroom, graduate, and find a good job to help strengthen our economy,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Given the opportunity, Veterans will succeed because they possess exceptional character, team-building skills, discipline, and leadership.”

21st Century Rosie the Riveter

rosie_the_riveter

By Debbie Gregory.

Military spouses are anything but helpless and dependent. Military spouses are strong, smart, and resourceful, and they can do anything that they put their minds to. They are the foundation of the military family life and the pillar of continuity.

Military spouses run the household, have careers, and still manage to raise their children. They do this while waiting for their servicemember spouse to come home.

According to Department of Defense statistics, 85% of military spouses want or need jobs, 84% have some college, 25% have a bachelor’s degree, and 10% have an advanced degree.

Military spouses are used to relocating. Many have put their active duty spouse’s career before their own. However, technology is creating opportunities for military spouses to establish careers that travel with them.

Portable careers are a growing trend among military spouses. Frequent relocations that once caused career havoc for spouses can now involve little or no career upheaval. Military spouses can now use their talents, skills and abilities to launch viable online companies.

High-speed Internet access opens up jobs online, in real time, on the Web, jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world. From Alaska to Japan, from New York to Florida, spouses can sell products and services to clients around the globe.

Portable careers are especially appealing to military spouses who are self-disciplined, enjoy working alone and are comfortable using technology.

The types of military spouse jobs can include freelance writing, web design, graphics illustration, programming, event planning, secretarial support, virtual assistance, translation, transcription, information research and retrieval, photography, interviewing and more.

At MilitaryConnection.com, we are extremely proud of our Military Spouse section. We know the value of providing resources for military families, especially when a family member has been deployed. These families are facing challenges that the civilian population does not.  Military spouses bring their own value to the table. They make excellent employees. Many companies are realizing that this is an untapped talent pool. We strive to connect these candidates with the top employers on our website.

Wounded Warriors take on Former Packers

green bay

By Debbie Gregory.

Americans have a unique spirit.  Many wounded warriors go on to do great things after they’ve recovered from their injuries. Some compete in the Paralympic Games, while others even return to active duty.

The motto of the Wounded Warrior Project should be “yes I can”.  The Wounded Warrior Project programs are ever-evolving to help wounded veterans accomplish their goals.

A team of U.S. military “Wounded Warriors” took on a team of Green Bay Packers alumni in a flag football game, raising money and awareness.

On August 10, 2013, the Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team challenged the Packer and NFL Alumni at St. Norbert College. All proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team.  Zimmer Thompson, a distributor of orthopedics for Zimmer, Inc. hosted the game.

The game featuring the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team took place at St. Norbert’s Donald J. Schneider Stadium. Participating team members had all lost limbs while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leading the Packer and NFL Alumni team were five-time All-Pro offensive lineman Jerry Kramer, and 2013 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Dave Robinson. Also joining the team were Don Beebe, Ahman Green, Chris Jacke, Bill Schroeder, Harry Sydney, Randy Wright, and many other Green Bay Packer and NFL stars. There was also a free photo opportunity and autograph session prior to the start of the game, as well as a prize raffle, including a trip for two to San Francisco to attend the opening game of the Green Bay Packers 2013 NFL season.

Since 1927, Zimmer has been committed to providing effective joint replacement solutions.  They are a global leader in the design, development, manufacture and marketing of orthopedic reconstructive, spinal and trauma devices, biologics, dental implants and related surgical products.

While new improvements in in-theater medical care mean that more wounded soldiers are surviving disabling injuries. Those same soldiers are recovering faster and seeking more opportunities and challenges when it comes to overcoming their disabilities and resuming an active lifestyle.  One of those opportunities is through adaptive sports, which have been used in the physical therapy of injured servicemembers for decades. For more than 20 years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has partnered with organizations helping provide access to those sports to veterans.

Veterans can help recruiters hire Veterans

veterans can help recruiters

By Debbie Gregory.

Officials estimate that one million young servicemen and women will leave the military in the next five years. Many companies are willing to hire Veterans, but are having difficulty connecting with them. Now, civilian hiring recruiters are asking Veterans to help them connect with those jobs. In other words, Veterans need to learn to market their valuable military skills in civilian jargon and sell their brand: themselves.

Job seekers must think like recruiters and describe specifically how their experience and leadership skills will make that company successful. They must tailor their resume to show that they are the best candidate for that particular job.

Vets in Tech is an organization that helps Veterans land high-tech jobs. Many technology companies aggressively court Veterans. During a summer workshop, Vets in Tech taught Veteran job seekers how to refine their pitches to potential employers.

A poor pitch would relay vague and uninteresting information, such as where the candidate went to school, what field they want to work in, and the fact that they are Veterans. A more specific pitch would be a vast improvement, and the candidate would stand a much better chance of securing the job.

The key difficulty for transitioning service members is translating their experience and skills into a language understood by corporate America. Even military members who have achieved the highest ranks in uniform are having a difficulty selling themselves to civilian companies. According to Chris Galy, director of talent acquisition at Intuit, “We have thousands of candidates knocking on our door. And we really want to help Veterans. So instead of saying, ‘I’m a Veteran and I’d like a job,’ you should say, ‘there are three jobs I’m interested in, and here’s the one that best fits my background. Here’s how my technical and battlefield experience will help you achieve the outcome you’re looking for…”

 

Veterans want better system to respond to PTSD

Veterans want better system

By Debbie Gregory.

Doctors began tracking a psychological condition among WWI combat Veterans as early as 1919. The condition then was known as “shell shock”. Veterans were suffering from symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety, but science could offer little in the way of effective treat. That was early in the 20th century.

No one comes home from war unchanged. Soldiers are supposed to be tough, cool, and ethically confident. But what happens when they have seen and done things that haunt their consciences? New studies suggest that the pain of guilt may be a key factor in the rise of PTSD.

Sleeplessness, anger, anxiety and a sense of isolation are symptoms of PTSD. But with early detection and adequate access to counseling, the psychological and neurological effects of combat are treatable.

The Department of Defense has taken significant steps to expand research into psychological and neurological injuries. But inadequate screening and shortages of mental health professionals in the military have kept troops from getting the care they need.

PTSD is primarily treated with psychotherapy. An emerging field for the treatment of PTSD is animal therapy. Who better than man’s best friend to help Veterans overcome PTSD? An animal can draw out even the most isolated personality, and having to praise the animals helps traumatized Veterans overcome emotional numbness. Teaching a dog service commands develops a patient’s ability to communicate, to be assertive without being aggressive, a distinction some struggle with. Dogs can also relieve the hyper-vigilance common in Veterans with PTSD. Some participants report they finally got some sleep, knowing that a naturally alert soul was standing watch.

Another alternative therapy is yoga. Yoga is not usually the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about treatment for post traumatic stress disorder in Veterans. But from the Veterans Administration to the Pentagon, yoga classes are becoming not just commonplace, but in some rehabilitation programs, mandatory.

Veterans unhappy with traditional treatment alone should do their research and talk to their doctor.

DoD, VA Establish Two Multi-Institutional Consortia to Research PTSD and TBI

DoD VA Establish

By Debbie Gregory.

In 2012, President Obama issued an executive order that demanded federal agencies work together in order to provide better mental health services to veterans, service members and their families. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have found a way to do it, and they presented their plan this month.

The two departments will join with several universities to create the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) and develop the most effective ways to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate those who suffer from acute PTSD. CAP is also looking at how to prevent chronic PTSD and mild TBI.

While much of the research will be conducted in Virginia, the program to address PTSD will be centered mainly in Texas. The VA and the DOD is working with the University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio, San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Boston VA Medical Center to develop those new diagnosis and treatment plans. After California and Florida, Texas is the state with the next largest Veteran population.

The Virginia Commonwealth University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Richmond VA Medical Center will collaborate as the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium, and develop research that will hopefully improve diagnosis and treatment options for TBI. The group will also study the links between mild TBI and neurodegenerative disease. The pair of research teams in Virginia and Texas will cost $107 million over five years.

“VA is proud to join with its partners in the federal government and the academic community to support the President’s vision, and invest in research that could lead to innovative, new treatments for TBI and PTSD,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We must do all we can to deliver the high-quality care our Service members and Veterans have earned and deserve.”

Veteran Fights battle to fly U.S. Flag and Marine Corps colors at home

veteran fights battle

By Debbie Gregory.

Once a Marine, always a Marine. One veteran’s community manager, however, wants this former Marine to tone down his patriotic display.

Former Marine Captain Jim Lowe has flown the U.S. flag and the Marine Corps colors in front of his Georgia home for the past two years. The pair are hung on traditional flag poles, on either side of his garage.

Recently, however, managers for his community have asked him to remove one of them. The reason? Community covenants allow for only one flag to be flown per resident. Lowe said the Marine colors are not a flag at all and should not fall under the housing unit’s general flag rule.

“I don’t consider it a flag,” he told local television news stations. “Most people don’t. You talk to any Marine. Those are the colors.”

In 1925, Marine Corps Order No. 4 designated gold and scarlet the official colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. These colors were not realized until 1939, when a new design incorporating the colors was designed. This design has remained the Marine Corps standard ever since, and is the representation of the United States Marine Corps that you see today. The eagle represents the proud nation the Corps defend.  It stands at the ready, with our coastlines in sight, and the entire world within reach of its outstretched wings. The globe represents our worldwide presence. The anchor points both to the Marine Corps’ naval heritage and its ability to access any coastline in the world. Together, the eagle, globe and anchor symbolize the Marine Corps’ commitment to defend our nation-in the air, on land and at sea.

Community managers have threatened to charge Lowe $25 per day if he does not remove either the U.S. flag or the Marine colors. They have also threatened to move ahead with other legal action. Lowe said he has sent a letter asking the management to reconsider and withdraw their demands; however he has not received a response yet.

A New Resource

moving-forward

By Debbie Gregory.

A partnership between the National Center for Telehealth & Technology and the mental health informatics section of the Veterans Administration has developed an interactive educational and life-coaching program. The program, called “Moving Forward”, is an online resource to teach members of the military community coping skills, as well as problem-solving skills. This is achieved through a set of problem-solving exercises.

Moving Forward allows users to navigate through quizzes and problem-solving exercises. For those with chronic stress and chronic problems in their lives, Moving Forward can be the first step on the path to getting face-to-face care.

The skills learned in addressing any one problem can be transferred to addressing a variety of problems. By focusing on recognizing and addressing stress, the exercises give users a way to interact with the course, and learn how stress affects them.

The techniques on the site are based on a problem-solving therapy program that has been used successfully with service members and veterans across the country.

Approximately 20 percent of returning service members experience problems re-adjusting to civilian life. Most often, the problems manifest themselves via depression, anger and post-traumatic stress. The problems can arise at work or home, and often times, may include relationship issues.

One of the benefits of this online program is that it allows the user to remain anonymous, without the stigma that can be prevalent among those in the military. Another advantage is the elimination of waiting to be seen by a professional, which in and of itself can cause stress.

While Moving Forward has been designed to be especially helpful for service members, Veterans and their families, the skills that the user develops from the program can be useful to anyone dealing with issues that seem overwhelming.

To read more about the program, or to get started, click here.