|THU JUN 21, 2007, NPR, etc...
The Traumatic Stress of Combat
Iraq and PTSD (12:01P) Pentagon policy calls for equal time on and off duty, but troops in Iraq spend 15 months in
combat with just 12 months on leave. If President Bush decides to maintain the current build-up, tours may be
extended. A military report says the constant threat of death and exposure to atrocities leads to depression, anxiety
and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Mental health issues may be more severe than they were during Vietnam or
World War II. Senior commanders, veterans and their doctors agree that civilians don't understand the mental health
consequences of combat and its aftermath. We hear about flashbacks, panic attacks, fearful wives and frightened
children. Are Marines and soldiers getting the help they need when they have to return to combat or when they finally
come home to adjust to civilian life?;
Trading Arms for Farms
A new movement is finding work for returning Iraq veterans on small-scale farms
across the country. The results have been positive for vets -- and for struggling
Finally home from combat in Iraq, Steve Edwards felt detached from his friends and family.
Edwards had witnessed the highly publicized death of his friend, California National Guardsman Patrick McCaffrey,
in June 2004. Edwards was the first to tell Patrick's mother what the military would not: Patrick was shot by the Iraqi
soldier he was training. The Pentagon eventually acknowledged these claims in 2006.
Edwards himself was also injured by a roadside bomb that left him with a limp.
"I was happy to be home; I was happy to be with my wife and daughter again," Edwards said. "But even with family, I
just didn't feel like I belonged anymore. At least, I didn't feel like I belonged around people like my wife and daughter,
who were just innocent."
Suffering from acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Edwards withdrew. One particularly dark night, he called
Patrick's mother, Nadia McCaffrey, who had been counseling many veterans who had served with her son. Edwards
had locked himself in a room, and wouldn't come out, he told Nadia, until he understood what was happening to him.
The next day, Nadia arranged for Edwards to get help -- not through treatment at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital,
but at a monastery in Oregon. Edwards' plight solidified what Nadia had already been thinking: Struggling war
veterans need to get back to the land to find peace.
In 2007, Nadia created the Veterans’ Village, an organization seeking farmland where veterans can work and
rehabilitate. Construction is nearly finished on a farm in Sonoma County, California, and additional "villages" are
planned for upstate New York and North Carolina.
"The only thing that helped him was to get him to a different state of mind," she said. "I hear it over and over [from
vets] that they just want to be out in nature. Why? Because its freedom. It's not a challenge. And it's really satisfying
for them when they plant something and watch it grow. It's not for everybody. But many of the veterans will find
peace this way."
An Unfamiliar Life
Earlier this month, CBS reported that over 120 veterans committed suicide each week in 2005. Around the same
time, a U.S. Army survey found that 25 percent of active-duty soldiers and 50 percent of reservists were receiving or
needed mental health services after combat. Almost a quarter of America's homeless population are war veterans.
"Our veterans are coming home, but they're not being taken care of the way they should," Nadia said. Spit out by
the war machine, veterans often encounter red tape and hoops at the VA.
"Most vets, when they come back, especially the younger vets, they don't realize the benefits they have because the
military doesn't tell them," Edwards said. "And the VA doesn't exactly say, 'Hey, come on back to the VA, we'll help
you out.' They don't advertise. You don't know where to get help. You're lost."
Along with being rebuffed by the VA, Edwards said it was difficult when his family tried to understand what he had
been through in Iraq.
"You already feel awkward enough about what you've gone through," Edwards said. "But [your family is] sitting there
trying to understand you instead of accepting you; it makes you feel even more detached."
Day-to-day tasks became difficult for Edwards. Being in a crowd of people was especially trying. "There were a lot of
crowds [in Iraq], a lot of confusion and activity going on," Edwards said. "When I get out in crowds and around a lot
of people, I become very anxious and that army training, that hyper-vigilance of wanting to pay attention to
everything and everybody and look for escape routes, that kicks in."
Nadia, who has perhaps stepped in to help mentor veterans the way she would have comforted her own son, says
soldiers like Edwards are just not easily able to reintegrate into society.
"The life that was so familiar to them in the past has become something completely foreign to them," Nadia said.
"They don't fit anymore. They don't function as the father, the husband, or the son that they were."
When Nadia first began envisioning the Veterans’ Village, she asked Edwards to join her. He agreed, and is now a
board member of the organization.
Edwards is hopeful that a farming environment will be healing for veterans. "It's peaceful and tranquil," he said.
"You're getting back to nature. You're getting back to the earth. Just the serenity of being on a farm will really help a
great number of vets struggling with PTSD or finding their place in society again."
Veterans Make New Farmers
Nadia and Edwards aren't alone in their back-to-the-land philosophy. They're joined by dozens of other
organizations and small farms across the country looking to place struggling vets in agricultural communities.
Along with assisting Nadia with acquiring the land for the first Veterans’ Village in California, the organization Farms
Not Arms is helping veterans connect with seasonal jobs and internships on farms across the nation. The
organization is supported by the Family Farm Defenders, Global Exchange, and a long list of farms and businesses.
Farms are "a place to give [vets] work and vocational training and just a healthy living environment," said Michael
O'Gorman, one of the founders of Farms Not Arms.
Another coalition, the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, is bridging the relationship between farmers and vets. And the
organization Veteran Homestead has built "Victory Farm," a supportive housing program for veterans located on an
80-acre working organic vegetable farm in New Hampshire.
O'Gorman says the agriculture push is not one-sided. Just as veterans have been affected by the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, so too have rural and farming communities in the United States. According to a 2007 Carsey Institute
study, young adults from rural areas enlist in the military at disproportionately higher rates than other areas
because of lack of other opportunities. The study concluded that the death rate for rural soldiers was 48 percent
higher than the rate for soldiers from the city or suburbs.
"We're in such dire need of new farmers that maybe by bringing the veterans onto the farms as a place to heal, we
can also hopefully find some new young blood to go into agriculture," O'Gorman said. "It's kind of a mutual self-help
Since its inception, Farms Not Arms has been highlighting the affects of U.S. militarism on rural communities. He said
farmers are "being written off, or sacrificed for this war." Their anti-war message is rooted in opposing the
"enormous waste of resources" for war that threatens farm work, according to the Web site.
"We're really on the front lines of this war because of the heavy tolls it's taking on the rural communities," O'Gorman
said. "And we're on the front line of global warming because we deal with it in our vocation. We're dealing with the
loss of farmers and farm land. So we're really seeing all of these issues tied together as upside-down priorities of
O'Gorman, who has been farming for 37 years, says the biggest farming crisis is the lack of new, young farmers.
"With free trade agreements, people just think we can get the food from somewhere else," he said. "I don't think
that's healthy for our national security, or for the quality of our life or our food. We're going to wake up one day and
regret that we didn't train a new generation of people how to feed ourselves."
For Edwards, he's just hoping a little farm work will go a long way in helping veterans. "I don't care what war, what
era. I just want better help and better care for any and all veterans."
|DAN RATHER REPORTS
"HEROS AT HOME"
A Mother Story, A Wife Story
There are two parts. The first is about a Nat. Guard Unit, the second part (the better
of the two in my biased opinion) is about an infantry platoon commander in Falluja.
MILITARY: Conference targets war-born stresses
By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
Confronted with rising rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans, hundreds of Marine and Navy officers meet in San Diego next month to
address ways to limit war-born physical and psychological damage.
The officers, along with military and civilian medical specialists, are meeting Aug. 12-14 at the Manchester Grand
Hyatt to discuss the latest treatments for troops suffering as result of their combat experience.
The conference also will focus on the children and spouses of troops who have been disabled by
post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
In its first-ever such conference last year, Marine Corps leaders vowed to eliminate an institutional mind--set that
prevented some troops from seeking help for stress-related problems.
This year's "Combat Operational Stress Control Conference" includes updates on what service leaders have
done in the months since last year's inaugural symposium in Washington.
The effort comes as rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Marines continue to rise, nearly
seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan and more than five years after the invasion of Iraq. Through June of
this year, 25 Marines have committed suicide, a pace that would surpass the rate of 16.5 suicides per 100,000
troops reported by the service in 2007.
From 1996 through 2006, the suicide rate per 100,000 troops was 14.3 percent.
Between March 2003 and April 2007, the Marine Corps diagnosed 5,714 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder,
according to figures provided by the service. And in April, the Rand Corporation released a study contending that
nearly 20 percent of all service members ---- approximately 300,000 troops ---- have reported suffering from
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.
Marine Corps Commandant James Conway will not be at the conference, but several civilian and uniformed
members from the service's headquarters are scheduled to attend.
Among the brass making presentations are Camp Pendleton's Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commanding general of
Marine Corps installations throughout the West, and the top enlisted man in the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton
War zone treatment
Panel sessions include presentations on early treatment in war zones and ways to prevent and recognize combat
stress at the small unit level.
In May, Navy doctors in Iraq told a visiting North County Times reporter that they are increasingly treating troops
diagnosed with mild or moderate cases of post-traumatic stress by keeping them with their units in the war zone.
Having a support group of their peers around them was proving key to helping those whose cases did not require
evacuation back to the U.S., the doctors said.
Angela Drake, a neuropsychologist who manages the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center programs at Camp
Pendleton and in San Diego, said that approach is working.
and Marines have such a bond with each other, and that kind of support is critical. I think we'll see more of it in the
Drake will present a report at the conference on what small-unit-level commanders need to know about
post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, the latter a result of the head violently striking an object, the brain
being pierced or exposure to the detonation of a grenade or roadside bomb.
"My presentation is intended to help line officers be aware of what they should watch for and what to do when they
notice these issues," she said. "The message is that early screening and identification is vitally important, because
early treatment results in the best outcomes."
Conference sessions aimed at family members include presentations on helping children deal with parents'
deployments and one billed as "psychological first aid for military families." Another addresses the effect of combat
stress on couples and marriages.
The trigger pullers
Bill Rider of the American Combat Veterans of War, a local nonprofit group that works with active-duty and former
Marines on stress issues, said Marine Corps leader have made huge strides when it comes to setting aside the
warrior mentality to treat troops with mental health issues.
"The direction the Marine Corps is going is very promising," Rider said last week. "It says a lot about the leadership
at the higher levels."
At the same time, Rider said all the services need to pay more attention to the problems that arise for those
involved in heavy fighting.
"All troops are affected somewhat," he said. "But the trigger pullers, the ones killing people or getting shot at and
participating in collateral damage (civilian deaths), are impacted 100 percent across the board."
One improvement, he said, would be to increase the recognition of those troops.
"I feel very emphatically that one important way to help these young warriors get better is to recognize them for their
heroism," he said. "A lot of officers are recognized and given decorations and commendations, while a lot of the
enlisted men do not. There's something wrong with that."
Many of the current and former Marines who seek out his group's services tell him that one way to validate their
service and the mental health issues arising from combat is to speed delivery of disability compensation, Rider said.
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the upcoming Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress Control Conference, visit
Newsman Dan Rather will be in Tracy today talking to the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq for a
piece on recovering veterans.
By Jennifer Wadsworth
Photo - Veteran rights activist Nadia McCaffrey, shown with a close friend of her son, Sgt Patrick McCaffrey who died three
years ago, Stephen Edwards, Iraq Veteran, will be interviewed by Dan Rather as part of his series of interviews with veterans
and their families.
For the next week, veteran rights activist Nadia McCaffrey’s Tracy home will serve as a backdrop for reporter Dan Rather’s series of
interviews with veterans, their families, farmers and McCaffrey herself.
The interviews will be for an upcoming “Dan Rather Reports” show called “A Mother’s Story,” focused on McCaffrey, whose son Sgt.
Patrick McCaffrey died in Iraq three years ago, and her vision to create agrarian havens for veterans to peacefully recover from the
stress of combat.
Rather will interview several Tracy locals besides McCaffrey, including John Treantos, the president of the Tracy War Memorial.
McCaffrey said she could think of no one better than Rather to investigate the plight of veterans in what she describes as an age of
perpetual warfare, where there’s a constant influx of young, traumatized veterans.
One in six Iraq veterans suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The
same study reported that less than 40 percent sought professional help under the assumption that it would compromise their military
McCaffrey’s goal is to give veterans like these a place to live and stay active until they readjust to civilian life.
“One thing that many people don’t know is that Dan Rather was a Marine,” she said. “That’s why this topic is very dear to him, and very
close to his heart.”
The interviews will center on an informal coalition of professionals and farmers, dubbed Swords to Plowshares, looking for ways to pool
their resources to help veterans.
“This effort is politically neutral,” emphasized McCaffrey. “I don’t want people to mix up the political part of the issue with this.”
Farms Not Arms, one of the nonpartisan farm groups joining the cause, offers paid jobs and sometimes room and board to U.S. soldiers
returning from Iraq.
“It gives them a chance to get back on their feet,” McCaffrey said. “The big news there is that the farmers are opening up their farms to
help out the veterans. And not just here — there are farms in Mexico and across the country participating in this.”
Since the inception of Swords to Plowshares, people from all professions have found ways to contribute. Doctors offer medical
assistance, homeowners provide shelter and various businesses give paid job training.
Rather will interview several sources in McCaffrey’s home, and the show will follow them to the coalition’s international meeting at the
Santa Cruz Veteran’s Memorial Building this Sunday.
MILITARY: Veteran counseling centers planned for Temecula,
By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
With more troops suffering from stress and readjustment disorders after their military service, the Department of Veterans Affairs is
creating new counseling centers in Temecula and Chula Vista.
The centers are among 39 new ones being opened across the country next year, bringing the number of such clinics nationwide to 271.
California now has 22 counseling centers, including one in San Marcos.
"Nearly one-third of our clients now are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan," said Richard Talbott, the department's Pacific Western
regional manager in Fairfield. "There is an increasing need and we expect that to continue for several years."
Each center initially will be staffed by a team leader, three counselors and an officer manager. The staffing level is expected to grow as
more veterans seek assistance, Talbott said.
The centers provide free counseling on employment and family issues. They were first established by Congress in 1979 in response to
continuing problems experienced by many Vietnam War veterans.
Bereavement counseling is available to family members of troops killed on active duty, and counseling also is available for veterans who
were the victims of sexual harassment during their service.
The centers are a key component of the Veteran Affairs mental health programs, said department Secretary James Peake.
Now in the planning stages, the centers are not expected to open until the middle of next year. When they do, Talbott said, each is
expected to serve about 600 veterans and their families in their first year of operation.
The centers differ from the Veterans Affairs medical clinics; people who use the centers' services can opt for as much anonymity as
"We won't release anything that the veteran doesn't want us to," Talbott said.
The centers are generally more "vet friendly" than larger, multipurpose Veterans Affairs medical centers, said Bill Rider, president of the
independent San Diego County group American Combat Veterans of War.
"A lot of vets are more likely to come in and talk to their counselors because they won't report it back to the VA," said Rider, whose
group also offers outreach and counseling services. "One is especially needed in Riverside County because there are a lot of combat
veterans living without these kinds of services."
Talbott said Chula Vista was chosen to better serve the southern area of San Diego County.
"We're trying to cover the major population centers and with one already in downtown and one in San Marcos, I think our next step will
be to look at better serving the eastern part of the county," he said.
In May, the department announced it will build a $4 million outpatient clinic in a central Oceanside business park.
The 65,000-square-foot clinic will handle roughly 88,000 patient visits per year and offer general medical and dental care, rehabilitation
therapy and a host of other services.
The department has similar outpatient clinics in Vista and Escondido, serving more than 35,000 patients annually.
The main hospital is in La Jolla.
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or email@example.com.
Farming helps veterans ease back into civilian life
By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a plaid shirt and jeans, dusty boots and a billed cap, Matt Mccue surveyed a row of chili pepper plants in the
commercial garden he manages on a hillside west of Sebastopol.
Scott manchester / The Press DemocratMatt Mccue, an Iraq war veteran who runs the French Garden Farm which
grows produce for the nearby French Garden Restaurant west of Sebastopol, holds some just picked lemon
cucumbers at the farm on Thursday September 11, 2008.Mccue, 26, plucked a red, wrinkled chili from one stalk.
"It's sunburned," he said, taking a large bite.
"Whew," Mccue said. "That's got some flavor."
The tranquil, verdant setting at 25-acre French Garden Farm is as far removed as can be — physically and
psychologically — from the Iraqi desert, where Mccue served as a sergeant with the Army's 4th Infantry Division in
Outdoor work and the challenge of growing food suits Mccue, one of several dozen war veterans engaged in
farming and allied with a 16-month-old group called the Farmer-Veteran Coalition.
"We think it's a significant concept," said Michael O'Gorman, production manager of the 1,600-acre Del Cabo
organic farm operation in Baja, Mexico, and adviser to the coalition. "It's just getting started."
War vets need a place to decompress from the stresses of combat and the demands of military discipline, said
Sufyan Bunch, the coalition's veteran outreach coordinator who served with McCue at Fort Hood but did not go
"You can dress how you want, drive a tractor, grow a beard," Bunch said. Farm work is "a perfect fit," he said, for a
veteran who might feel uncomfortable in an office cubicle.
The coalition grew from a meeting between a group of farmers and three Gold Star mothers who lost their sons in
combat. They gathered at Swanton Berry Farm overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Davenport, north of Santa Cruz, in
One of the mothers was Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, whose son, Army Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, was killed in Iraq while
serving with a Petaluma-based National Guard unit in 2004.
The idea, said O'Gorman, is that farms can provide both employment and healing for war veterans. And it cuts both
ways, he said, because American agriculture — with five times as many farmers over age 65 as under 35 — needs
New farmers are needed not only to invigorate the industry, but also to propel the "green farming" movement toward
more wholesome, fresh, locally grown foods, O'Gorman said last week on a visit to French Garden Farm.
Sonoma County, he said, is a "ground zero" for the movement.
About half of French Garden Farm's produce goes to the nearby French Garden Restaurant, where the menu is
tailored to the seasonal harvest, said Dan Smith, a high-tech entrepreneur who owns the farm and upscale eatery.
Most of the rest is sold at farmers' markets, and if there is still more bounty, it goes to local food pantries, Smith said.
Mccue, who started work as the farm's foreman in December, said he feels at home among the long green rows of
some 20 different crops. "I have a relationship with these plants," he said.
Many people join the military for the challenge, and Mccue said farming is every bit as big a challenge — with no
one around to pick up your slack. He said he feels as if he's been promoted from private to general, responsible for
both daily decisions and the ultimate outcomes.
"You have to go all or nothing into farming," he said.
Mccue, who grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., left the Army in early 2005 and subsequently served with the Peace
Corps in Niger, an impoverished west African nation, raising millet and sesame with farmers who do all their work by
On the hillside west county, Mccue operates a tractor, trucks and drip irrigation lines. A spacious barn serves as the
farm's packing and storage area.
"I'm very lucky," Mccue said.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Memorial for Disabled Veterans
There are more than 3 million disabled American veterans living today, and more are added to the list every year as the war in
Iraq continues. Dr. Oz talks with philanthropist Lois Pope about treating wounded soldiers on the front lines and honoring them once
they return home with a life-altering injury.
For the past decade, Lois says she has been working toward an important goalto one day have a national memorial for wounded
veterans in Washington, D.C. "It is the only group of historically important heroes that have never been honored throughout American
history," Lois says. "This memorial will be a tribute to their courage, to their sacrifice."
Dr. Oz says as medical practices on the front lines of war improve, there will be more wounded veterans returning from war. "I think the
magnitude of the trauma nowadays is much greater and the ability to save these folks is much greater," Dr. Oz says. While more
veterans are being saved, he says their injuries will likely change them for life. "If you are wounded so badly that you would have died
because both of your legs have been blown offand now you are savedit is a life that is very different for you."
Lois says a memorial to honor living, injured soldiers is now taking shape, after a decade of raising awareness and funds. The
American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial won't likely be completed until 2010, but she says disabled veterans all around the
country are already feeling pride in being associated with a national memorial. "They really feel it would be a place where people of our
nation could go and say thank you for a job well done," Lois says. "They don't want any more than thatthat is all they want."
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Using alternative, mind-body medicine to treat war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is becoming a
practiced healing method around the world. Here in the United States, Dr. James Gordon is one of the leading mind-body medicine
experts. Dr. Oz talks to Dr. Gordon about treating PTSD and using practices outside the realm of conventional medicine to treat all
Causes: PTSD is common among people who have been in war or people who have experienced catastrophes such as Hurricane
Katrina. However, Dr. Gordon explains that events such as being abused as a child or losing a loved one in a violent way, without
much emotional support afterward, can also cause PTSD.
Symptoms: There are several symptoms of PTSD that Dr. Gordon says can occur after experiencing overwhelming stress that makes
coping difficult. These symptoms include: agitation, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, emotional numbness, flashbacks
or nightmares of the traumatic event you experienced, and avoiding reminders of the event.
Healing: Biologically, Dr. Gordon says people with PTSD have a continual output of stress hormones in their brain. Those hormones
can kill off brain cells related to memory and emotion. According to Dr. Gordon, because brain functions are affected by PTSD,
sufferers often cannot verbally express memories or flashbacks of the traumatic event to others. Through mind-body medicine, Dr.
Gordon teaches people with PTSD how to relax and helps them discover a "safe place" where they can quiet their nervous system.
Through techniques that include relaxation and using imagination and physical movements, Dr. Gordon helps sufferers develop tools
they can use to deal with the disorder on a daily basis. "This is not a one-day-a-week thing," Dr. Gordon says. "The symptoms of
PTSD may come at any time and people need to know how to deal with it themselves on a daily basis."
Taking an integrated approach that uses both conventional and mind-body medicine when treating illnesses is something Dr. Gordon
says should be a part of medical training in the United States. From comprehensive cancer care to stress management and PTSD, Dr.
Gordon recommends doctors and patients explore all options during medical treatment