Veterans Aware: Managing PTSD; ‘The Invisible War,’ documentary on military sexual trauma

Image by Brett Barrett, St. George News


OPINION – “Post-traumatic stress disorder starts after some traumatic life-altering event and manifests through several symptoms, including irritation, nightmares and hyper-vigilance.  PTSD is diagnosed when the symptoms have lasted longer than a month and negatively affect one’s ability to work and socialize,” Kevin Smythe said; Smythe is a supervisory psychologist in the mental health department at Fayetteville Medical Center in Virginia. “There is no way to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, but those suffering from it can learn to manage it. Managing PTSD is currently the only option.”

PTSD is most commonly associated with military veterans who have served in combat, but also affects victims of rape, assault and physical and emotional abuse, regardless of age or gender. Five mental health researchers and clinicians participated in a panel in Fayetteville, N.C., which is near one of the largest military bases in the United States, Fort Bragg. Their purpose was to inform the community that “while there’s no cure for the diagnosis, family members and neighbors can work to address and soothe disorder symptoms.”

“Being friendly with soldier neighbors and knowing their normal behavior could make it easier to notice changes in their behavior after they return from war.  Even noticing changes and offering to assist those suffering from the disorder is only part of the equation,” the panel determined. “The only way someone can get better or remedy their symptoms is when they are ready to address their diagnosis.”

“Do you wanna live forever?” Some battle-hardened Hollywood warrior like Burt Lancaster or Vic Morrow snarls this at his chewed-up squad as he leads them up hill against withering machine gun fire, slithering between exploding mortar rounds to capture a dug-in enemy infantry division.  Of course, the enemy was captured, the hill secured, but at the expense of Sal Mineo dying and leaving Shirley Temple to raise their two youngsters alone.

Veterans, and not only combat veterans, know about being ordered to do ridiculous, repetitious, dangerous and often awful things without the benefit of being able to question, much less decline, the assignment. They know that their griping isn’t going to change anything, and they’re going to do the job – or else. Sometimes they know that they’re going to do the job and else.  Complaining about the way things are doesn’t work any better now than it did then; quit your crying and get the job done.

“Hard” isn’t having to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. “Hard” isn’t having to do something over again until it’s “right” (remember spending 18 hours digging a hole to bury your drill Sergeant’s dirt?) “Hard” is going down a road that you know is going to have artillery and small arms fire because it always has before. “Hard” is being told that there isn’t a Medevac, so you’ll have to hang on to your “whiskeys” for a couple more days and, oh yeah, sorry about those “kilos.”  “Hard” is thinking that you don’t remember how to win, or even keep going.

“Hard” never stopped you then, why would it stop you now?  All it takes to manage PTSD is to get “mindful.” Drop in to the St. George Vet Center and I’ll teach you how. Knock it off. Saddle up. Do you wanna live this way forever?  Ask Nick Backman about “quit.”

The Invisible War

If you haven’t heard the controversial news about military sexual trauma and other sexually oriented allegations, convictions, investigations and improprieties that are blitzing the media, you need to put in for a wake-up call. The wires are burning up with incidents, retirements, loss of command, convictions and sanctions pronounced upon military academies, training facilities, command infrastructures involving everyone from general officers to commanders.

On Thursday, the St. George Vet Center will show an exclusive free screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Invisible War.” The film informs audiences of the extent and severity of sexual predation within the military establishments of the United States. This is not an entertaining film, not a “traditional” patriotic film and certainly not a film that will have you leaving the theater feeling that all is well in this man’s Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

As much as I hated watching this film, it was a film I needed to watch; it snuggles right in there with the way so many oversights, misjudgments and outright mistakes are handled; ignore, deny, understate and misinform. I can understand you feeling that you don’t want to see this film, but you need to see this film. We have plenty of current examples of what happens when significant numbers of people refuse to face the truth or just pay attention to what is comfortable or that aligns with their feelings and beliefs; care enough about your country and its citizens to learn about what is happening right under our nose.

“The Invisible War” will be shown at the Dunford Auditorium inside the Browning Learning Resource Center on the Dixie State University campus. The film will begin at 7 p.m. and runs for 1 hour 37 minutes. Bring your own popcorn and RSVP to [email protected].

The St. George Vet Center is located at 1664 South Dixie Drive and can be reached at 435-673-4494.

Event recap

What: Screening of “The Invisible War”

When: June 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Dixie State University, Dunford Auditorium inside the Browning Learning Resource Center (No. 14 on the Campus Map linked here), 225 S. 700 E., St. George

Contact: Bruce Solomon, St. George Vet Center, 16644 South Dixie Drive, St. George – Telephone 435-673-4494 / Email [email protected].

RSVP requested to Bruce Solomon, contact above.

Related posts

Veterans Aware: Benefits for hospice care, Parkinson’s disease

St. George Vet Center aims to be ‘ground zero’ for local veterans

Walking minefields with combat veterans; St. George Vet Center support groups

Written by: Bruce C. Solomon, Readjustment Counselor, St. George Vet Center

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Image by Brett Barrett, St. George News
Image by Brett Barrett, St. George News

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  • fulldisclosure June 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    To add insult to injury, disabled vets are being singled out for illegal experimentation by the government: AFRL was involved in the psychological aspects of one of the most sadistic and bizarre illegal experimentation/torture programs in U.S. History: Chet Maciag, Colonel Lamar Parker, Lt. Col Bill Gregory:

  • Daniel Haszard June 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Current drug PTSD treatment for Veterans found ineffective.

    Eli Lilly made $70 billion on the Zyprexa franchise.Lilly was fined $1.4 billion for Zyprexa fraud!
    The atypical antipsychotics (Zyprexa,Risperdal,Seroquel) are like a ‘synthetic’ Thorazine,only they cost ten times more than the old fashioned typical antipsychotics.
    These newer generation drugs still pack their list of side effects like diabetes for the user.All these drugs work as so called ‘major tranquilizers’.This can be a contradiction with PTSD suffers as we are hyper vigilant and feel uncomfortable with a drug that puts you to sleep and makes you sluggish.
    That’s why drugs like Zyprexa don’t work for PTSD survivors like myself.
    Daniel Haszard

  • Bruce C Solomon June 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Unfortunately replies like “fulldisclosure” made here further compromise our ability to support vets with their PTSD difficulties because they add to the already voluminous amounts of doubts they already have about having PTSD difficulties, even wanting to find out if they have PTSD difficulties, much less feeling even a remote inclination to get into some treatment. I, “fulldisclosure,” do not in ANY WAY “experiment” on my clients; I am a Marine machine gunner who served 17 months in Vietnam, carried PTSD complications for 40 years before COMPLETELY breaking down and going into treatment. I am managing my PTSD and have determined that I am going to do whatever it takes to support every vet I can to get them in front of PTSD as soon as possible! Posting stuff like you did doesn’t do a darn thing for aid and support of our troops!

    Mr. Haszard, the state-of-the-art medications used by PTSD PROFESSIONALS (not family doctors or folks who believe they know how to treat PTSD) are intended to “knock the rough edges off of” the hypervigilance-caused anxiety and irritability attendant to PTSD symptomatics. While most folks require a little medication to get started in managing PTSD the meds are not necessarily a part of continuing management of the disorder. Anxiety must be dealt with as it defeats trust, and therapeutic rapport, which has to be a significant part of successful treatment. There are two evidence-based successful therapeutic interventions that are used to get PTSD in harness: Cognitive Processing Therapy (mostly done in groups), and Prolonged Exposure (mostly done one-on-one with a trained therapist); I completed both therapies in my treatment. Give us a try sir, we can help!

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