On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress established a naval force, hoping that a small fleet of privateers could attack British commerce and offset British sea power., the original
On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress established a naval force, hoping that a small fleet of privateers could attack British commerce and offset British sea power., the original
Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, observed on the last Sunday in September each year, recognizes and honors mothers and families who have lost a child in the service of the U.S. military.
The Importance of PTSD Awareness Month
contributed by Melissa Lucas, Senior Staff Writer
The goal of PTSD Awareness Month is to “raise public awareness about issues related to PTSD, reduce the stigma associated with PTSD, and ensure that those suffering from the invisible wounds of war receive proper treatment.” S RES 481
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is psychological condition triggered by a traumatic event. Usually this trauma involves witnessing or experiencing the threat of injury or death.
PTSD has been plaguing trauma victims forever. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the disorder became widely recognized. That is when the term “shell shock” was used to describe the psychiatric symptoms often experienced by veterans of World War I.
In the years since, terms describing these symptoms have evolved. In 1980, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became an officially recognized diagnosis within the medical community.
In 2010 Senator Kent Conrad advocated for an official PTSD Awareness Day. This was in response to the suicide of Staff Sergeant Joe Biel in 2007. Not long after, Biel’s birthday (June 27th), was selected as the official PTSD Awareness Day.
In 2014, the Senate passed Resolution 481, which officially declared June as National PTSD Awareness Month.
Nearly 20% of those who experience a trauma will develop PTSD. At this time, it is estimated that 7 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder. Since many PTSD sufferers do not seek professional help, it is likely that the actual numbers are significantly higher.
During a traumatic experience, the sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones make it easier to fight or flee. Pupils dilate, resulting in improved visual acuity. Heart rate increases, flooding the circulatory system with additional oxygen. Blood flow is directed towards large muscles, providing a few moments of extra strength and speed.
Once the threat passes, a separate set of hormones is released that return everything to normal. Senses dull, heart rate slows, blood is again directed towards internal organs.
PTSD symptoms develop when stress hormones remain present for longer than normal. In this case, the body is unable to return to baseline. Human physiology is simply not equipped to withstand a heighted level of arousal for long periods of time.
So given the exact same trauma, what causes one person develop PTSD while another does not? At this time, the specific mechanism that prevents some people from “coming down” is not clearly understood. However, it seems likely that there are several physiological factors at play.
Scientists continue research to determine who is at greatest risk of PTSD. Extensions of these findings may eventually aid in the creation of both PTSD treatment as well as interventions which prevent or reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms before they occur.
The official PTSD definition can be a little misleading with its reference to the threat of injury or death. This is because the way a person perceives a traumatic situation determines whether they are at risk for developing PTSD. Meaning, it doesn’t matter whether a person’s life was actually at risk. It matters whether they believe it was.
Any and all types of trauma have the potential to cause PTSD, but several types of trauma are more likely to lead to a PTSD diagnosis than others. These include:
The early signs of PTSD can be easy to miss. Learning how to help someone with PTSD, or even simply identify symptoms, begins with recognition. This is why PTSD Awareness Month is so vital to the mental health of veterans and civilians alike.
Symptoms of PTSD generally develop within three months of a traumatic event. There are several types of PTSD symptoms, most of which fall into one of four categories.
This can come in many forms including flashbacks, repeated memories or nightmares, even adverse reactions to events which remind a person of their trauma.
Avoidance may mean general detachment, but often describes an inability to remember all or part of the traumatic event. It can also mean avoiding circumstances which elicit memories of the event itself.
Someone who struggles with altered arousal might startle easily, find it difficult to concentrate, experience outbursts of anger, or remain hypervigilant at all times.
Depressed mood and persistent guilt are common among PTSD sufferers. Mood alterations may result in social withdrawal and can have a negative impact on day-to-day functions.
Along with psychological symptoms, there are a few physical PTSD symptoms to be aware of as well:
There are several factors involved in diagnosing PTSD. Criteria include the type of symptoms, how long they’ve been going on, and their overall impact. Only a doctor can provide an official diagnosis, so it’s important to discuss all PTSD symptoms with a healthcare professional.
Treatment is available, even for those who have been living with PTSD for years. Of course, the first step to treating PTSD is receiving an accurate diagnosis.
It is important that trauma survivors manage their feelings and emotional experiences. Counselling, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) all have their place in an effective PTSD treatment plan.
Medications can be used to manage PTSD symptoms, too. Most fall into the category of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety prescription drugs. It’s important to note that every person responds differently to medications. Patience is key, as it can take a bit of trial and error to develop an effective drug protocol.
It’s no secret that physical activity can improve the quality of life for those who live with a psychological disorder. Movement helps the body produce anti-depressant and anti-stress hormones. For this reason, physical activity is especially helpful for PTSD patients.
While the symptoms of PTSD in veterans don’t differ from those in civilians, military personnel are much more likely to develop PTSD in general. Veterans who were stationed in combat zones, were injured in the line of duty, or who had tours longer than one year are more likely to develop PTSD.
By destigmatizing the disorder and bringing awareness to its symptoms, PTSD Awareness Month aims to ensure that our service men and women who suffer from PTSD have effective support systems and treatment options available.
If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering with PTSD, it is important to seek professional medical help. In addition, the following resources may be of value:
The lives of military children are marked by a unique culture and set of circumstances, oftentimes making them feel isolated from their non-military counterparts. The sacrifices these children make are easily overshadowed by the experiences of their active-duty family members. But make no mistake – a military kid has an inner strength like no other.
Coping with the deployment of one or both parents to war zones, frequent moves, living in cultures far different from their own – these types of experiences can set military children apart.
Studies show that there are some potentially positive outcomes of living a military life as a child. Military children tend to be very adaptable and resilient. They often have an increased cultural awareness and acceptance that can only come from connecting with various parts of the world first-hand. These kids tend to roll with the punches and shift gears with minimal stress because change is nothing new to them.
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. Along with the upsides of a military childhood come some potential struggles. The transitory lifestyle many military children live can hinder their ability to develop concrete relationships, which may be problematic both early on and later in life. Additional concerns can stem from the variations in availability of educational resources or even just educational paradigms within which military children must work as they move from place to place.
It’s fair to say that from a young age, this unique group of children faces challenges most civilians won’t ever have to navigate in their lifetime.
In an effort to honor the challenges faced and sacrifices made by our military kids, former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger established April as The Month of The Military Child. Not only is this a month to focus on military child support via special programs and activities, it is a time to honor the incredible resiliency this group of young, unsung American heroes displays every day.
Where Can I Learn About The Month of The Military Child Activities and Events?
Many of this months’ events will be hosted or sponsored by military communities across the globe. Check with the Office of Public Affairs on base to get started. Military Readiness Centers, on-base Child Development Centers, and The Department of Defense Dependent School can also be great resources to learn how your community is celebrating.
Creative Ways to Celebrate the Month of The Military Child
Wear Purple – April 22nd is Purple Up! Day. This is the day for communities, military and non-military alike, to don purple in a show of support for military children. Purple indicates that all branches of the Military are represented.
Eat Purple – Similar to green foods on St. Patricks Day, prepare a purple meal to show your military kids that they mean the world to you. Food coloring can easily transform everyday foods or beverages into a special treat. Think purple milk, purple mashed potatoes, or purple rice. If you want to go the more natural route, try adding purple cauliflower, grapes, or berries to your military child’s plate.
Make a Video – Make a purple- or military-themed video in honor of The Military Child Month, and then share it on your social pages. TikTok is a fantastic platform for creating videos with all kinds of fun effects.
Use Facebook – Engage your community online! Ask your kiddo a military-inspired question and post his or her answer. Call on other military parents to do the same and ask them share their childrens’ answers in the comments. A few ideas:
Tap Into Hashtags – Don’t forget to tag your posts with the best military child hashtags around. Here are some to get you started:
Present an “Official” Thank You – Search the web for printable certificates in honor of Month of The Military Child, or just use this one. Fill in your military kid’s name, print, and present it to him or her in a creative way.
Decorate! – Celebrate your military child with a special space in your home. It could be his or her bedroom door, the kitchen bulletin board, a wall in your dining room or anyplace else they see regularly. Add photos of them with their military family member, mementos from different places they’ve lived, maybe even some military memorabilia that has meaning to them.
Resources for the Military Child (and Their Families)
Whether you are expecting your first or transitioning your last to college, there are a plethora of resources available to support military children and their families.
Military Kids Connect – A place for military kids to connect with each other. The site offers opportunities for children to develop and build relationships with friends who understand what it’s like to be part of a military family.
Focus Project – FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) provides resilience training to military children and their families by teaching practical skills to help overcome common challenges. The program helps build on each child’s current strengths and teaches new strategies for communication, problem solving, goal setting, and creating a shared family story.
Military Installations New Parent Support Program – Helps military parents, including expectant parents, transition successfully into parenthood and provide a nurturing environment for their children. The program offers support and guidance for many of the unique challenges that face military families.
MilitaryChildcare.com – This secure DOD website provides a single location to find comprehensive information on military-operated and/or military-approved childcare programs worldwide. Once you create an account and household profile, you have access to all of these resources at any time from any location.
Military OneSource Digital Library – You’ll find ebooks and audiobooks on every topic imaginable. Also available are databases and reference books to help you learn a new skill and keep kids engaged.
Celebrate Your Military Child
There’s a reason that the dandelion is the unofficial flower of the Military Child. These incredible kids bloom everywhere the winds carry them. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate The Month of The Military Child, remember the goal is simple: remind military children across the world of how incredibly important they are to our country and to their families.
The Holidays and Military Service
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
As I write this piece for our blog, I feel a little bit of nostalgia coming on. We’re more than halfway through December, the snow has been falling for more than a day now, and the long-range forecast predicts that temperatures won’t be above freezing for the next few days. But after more than thirty years in uniform, my thoughts tend to drift, much like the snow. Drift, not so much to the days of my youth sledding on the hills of our farm, but to the holidays spent away from the ones I loved the most.
Like most of the old Soldiers I know, I have plenty of memories of time spent away from my family. Sometimes it was due to a field exercise or temporary duty somewhere, but the memories that really stick with you are those deployments that result in a family separation during the holidays.
For many, being apart during those holidays near the end of the year are the toughest. And while I’m a Christian, I’ve served with plenty of men and women of other faiths – and the separations as a result of military deployments are tough no matter what religious holidays you miss. For my family, the most special time of the year is Christmas…and I count my first and last deployments as my most memorable (and dreadful, and frightful) military experiences because of what I would rather have been doing during that time of year. I recently came upon a blog post on MilitaryTimes.com from Army wife Maria Cordova, where she shared survival tips from Military Spouses, tips for when loved ones are deployed during the holidays (https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2018/11/20/is-your-loved-one-deployed-during-the-holidays-military-spouses-share-their-survival-tips/). In that piece, she tells of a friend that was going to celebrate everything her Service Member was going to miss – celebrate those things before he deployed. And that’s exactly what my parents had planned for me, some 29 years ago.
My first family separation came as we were preparing to deploy in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in late 1990. I was a young Field Artillery officer with no wife and kids, but with parents and three sisters and an extended family that meant the world to me. From the time President Bush (the first) announced on TV what we were doing in response to the invasion of Kuwait, it was asses-to-elbows, with not much down time. We were painting vehicles, receiving pieces of equipment that had once been considered luxury items, and loading trains. After our equipment was headed to the port, we had a few days off…so I headed home to see my folks for what I thought would be the last time for a while.
As I said earlier, my parents wanted to celebrate everything I was going to miss, so on one night in early November 1990, we had a Thanksgiving feast in one room of our farmhouse, a Christmas tree loaded with presents in another, a New Year’s Eve party (complete with Father Time) in yet another, and several birthday cakes at the kitchen table. It seemed a bit unusual at the time, but it made for great memories that we still talk about today.
My last deployment was a bit harder to tough out. A decade ago, I deployed with the Missouri National Guard to Kosovo for a nearly-year-long mission that found me serving at spots all around that country. While I wasn’t being shot at or fighting insurgents in the middle of Iraq or Afghanistan like many of my colleagues, I did find myself leading men and women over the Christmas holiday at a remote outpost in the northern reaches of Kosovo. A small desktop Christmas tree, a visit from Santa Claus (who arrived on an Army helicopter), and a short Skype call to my wife and young boys as they were opening up their presents at home – that was our holiday season in late 2008. And though it sucked being separated from family, being there with others in uniform – with men and women that I admired and respected – made it bearable, and memorable.
Those deployment experiences of mine, however memorable, stand in stark contrast to one another, but any time spent away from home and family is hard. And I know that the holidays aren’t so special for a lot of folks, but they were for me. Looking back, I feel fortunate that, for those holidays and for those ‘everydays’ during which I was called away from my family to serve, I was able to break bread and chew the fat with my other family, my brothers and sisters in arms.
Yes, I’m a bit older these days, and hopefully a little bit wiser. I retired from the US Army a couple of years ago and there’s a bit more gray in my beard than I would like. I consider myself lucky, I suppose – luckier than some of my comrades that didn’t return, and just plain lucky to have served in a career that I love. My youngest son just turned 18 years old and my oldest will turn 21 in just a few days…that in itself makes me feel my age. But when I think about all those special times with my wife and kids, I also think about those holidays when we were apart so many years ago. Those were tough times, but I’m thankful because we made it through them…and now they’re a part of who we are and where we’ve been. This holiday season, I ask you to remember that we still have thousands of Service Members deployed around the world, separated from their families. Keep them in your thoughts and say a short prayer for them every now and then.
Until next time…