“I had 20 years of combat journalism – and no medical experience,” he disclosed to my surprise when I recently followed up with him on the phone for the first time since Hetherington’s heartbreaking death. “Some (of my colleagues) are cavalier, most are fatalists.” -Sebastian Junger, interviewed by Lauren Wissot in“Filmmaker Magazine”
One of the projects sparked by Tim Hetherington’s death in Misrata, is an effort to provide advanced life saving skills to journalists who venture into dangerous conflicts.
RISC is a multi-day course available for free, which takes journalists through scenarios to save the life of their colleagues –and perhaps even themselves. RISC originated in NYC. Another course will be offered in Istanbul. Mike Kamber, a NY Times journalist and a good friend of Tim’s, has hosted the course at the Bronx Documentary Workshop. RISC has expanded to London, and soon, Istanbul.
Wissot asks Sebastian about PTSD, and whether or not RISC addresses this. They did, in London, but with mixed results. Addressing PTSD is not straight forward. First, not everyone develops it. Second, even those who do have it, might not want to be reminded. But, RISC should keep trying because PTSD is like a pernicious weed.
In 2011, WarRetreat sponsored a retreat for combat journalists in Cambridge MA. Led by Dave Emerson, the program offered 2 days of yoga, acupuncture, massage, and talk about how PTSD manifests itself in the body. It was a very much welcome respite for the group, which unfortunately was cut short by Hurricane Irene. Perhaps WarRetreat needs to get back into the business of having our own WarRetreats. Or, perhaps RISC can change things up.
I wonder if RISC would consider it as a transition piece between the end of the class, and going out beyond the doors. Say, 20 minutes. A quick series of gentle yoga movements that call attention to body and breath awareness, while asking them to notice if they’re relaxing or clearing their mind, might be a gentler way to address the effects of trauma on the body. Plus, everyone will feel terrific when they leave. It might keep people open to the idea that PTSD does manifest itself in the body, and there is relief. In addition, if they have a teacher, it needs to be a person who has been through war. There’s just no two ways about. A person like Chris Eder, or Randy Hamlin, are leaps and bounds more accepted in any community that has been through war.
My Insane Life as a Marine Wife: A Conversation with the Founder of an Online Support Network
What would you do if the man you loved, the man you wanted to grow old with, the man who made you laugh, who made you smile, who made you feel special…changed? By change I mean, “very empty, angry, depressed, explosive, and rather unpredictable.” The man you knew like the back of your hand…now a shell of his former self. What if…you add three young kids to this equation: 7, 5, and 3 1/2. Not old enough to emotionally understand why “Daddy is sick!” Too young to digest the daily and nightly chaos. You and you alone left to mend their emotional wounds, while trying to maintain a healthy and stable environment for them. What would you do?
Too often in the military families…the answer is GET THE HELL OUT! I’m not here to debate what is right or wrong in situations like this…as I’m not a licensed marriage counselor. My name is Chris E. and I’m a 23 year Air Force veteran. I’ve witnessed families like this and have mentored warriors in these situations. I’m also aware there are environments where safety is a concern. In those cases…yeah…run don’t walk. However, I do know first hand that leaving is sometimes the “easier” thing to do.
Military families are “STRONG” by nature, design, and necessity. I firmly believe having been retired now for four months and staying home with my wife…that her job is way more tough than mine ever was. I would suggest, Rebecca’s job is tougher times infinity!
“Roughly a year after he returned from his deployment to Afghanistan is when my husband’s PTSD started to become a major problem. He returned home in February 2011 and in February 2012, things began to go downhill very quickly. It’s been a major uphill climb from there trying to pick up the broken pieces and do our best to stay together as a couple and as a family.”
Multiple deployments, long hours…and kids…let alone three kids under 10 can take its toll on anyone. Add to this, a special needs child. Her youngest has Sensory Processing Disorder and high-functioning Autism. Rebecca truly has the “warrior ethos” instilled. Maybe because she married a Marine, or maybe because that’s just who she is. She did not run. Instead, she has hunkered down. Drawing experience from each “battle” she faced to develop new or updated TTPs. Her husband, a Marine Staff Sergeant has been through what I call the PTSD gauntlet. He’s done an intensive six-week outpatient PTSD therapy, group therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and medications. He is currently on a high dose of an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer. Often times, finding the right meds, combo of meds, and dosage can be deadly. It is no walk in the park subjecting your body to these powerful “Black Box” meds. “Finding the right dosage was difficult, I do believe the medication has really helped my husband better control some of his symptoms. The therapy has also been a major necessity in helping him work through some of his inner demons. My husband still has a long way to go, but has also come a long way from the person he was at the beginning of this.”
“My husband very rarely discusses any information about his PTSD. I do wish that he would because communication is the key to understanding. I do know and understand though that my husband never intentionally wants to cause me any emotional pain or anguish.”
Rebecca took to the internet learning all she could about PTSD. She educated herself and sharpened her “battlefield skills.” She began journaling. “In the beginning of my struggles with my husband’s PTSD, a neighbor suggested I use a journal to help me “get things out”. I used it daily to help vent about the things I was going through or to say the things I needed to say to my husband but couldn’t.” With the help of her husband’s PTSD Therapist and PTSD Psychologist (who happened to be husband and wife) Rebecca began the first PTSD Spouse Support Group for the Wounded Warrior Battalion and associated mental health at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA. Still wanting to do more…she started a Facebook page called, My Insane Life as a Marine Wife.
“I started My Insane Life as a Marine Wife because I wanted to reach out to other spouses of Veterans with PTSD. When my husband’s PTSD initially took over and wreaked havoc on our lives, I felt very alone and isolated. There was no one I could talk to who understood what I was going through. I searched for support groups for spouses of Veterans with PTSD, but there just weren’t any in my area.” She says that the page has helped her immensely by having others to talk to who actually understand what she is going through. Collectively, these spouses take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in battling this beast known as PTSD.
Rebecca is no miracle worker…and she doesn’t “go it alone!” (Neither should you) She has a strong support group of family members, fellow spouses and loyal friends who have been by her side unconditionally. She says their love and support have helped her through the darkest of hours. Now, with the help of social media, she wants to be that “loyal friend” for others. “I’m just really hoping that others will be able to take comfort in knowing that they are not alone while battling their loved one’s PTSD. I want them to have a place to go to vent, ask questions or get advice from other spouses, to get resources and information on PTSD, and provide a place for spouses where others truly understand what they are going through. ” The facebook page has only been live for a short while and Rebecca has shared some intimate details of this not so glamourous life. She plans on sharing everything she can (within reason of course) in hopes it will help another spouse.
Connected Warriors has turned out to be the sprinting leader in helping certified yoga teachers gain the skill set to learn the best practices for teaching yoga for veterans. Thanks to an energetic and visionary group of founding veterans, board of directors and supporters, they fundraise enough to be able to offer this 1-day course and related support FREE to certified yoga teachers. Now they’re coming west to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Led by a team of Vietnam veterans, along with founder Judy Weaver, Connected Warriors has inspired many teachers to throw open their doors in their communities to offer free classes for veterans. The following is their upcoming schedule for free teacher trainings:
CONNECTED WARRIORS TEACHER TRAINING (See contact at each below):
So I’ve always been a rebel at heart. Getting into trouble as a kid, just out of being rebellious, nothing serious enough to bring in the law but sometimes borderline. Coming from a strict upbringing, I decided to step out on my own after high school and joined up with the Marine Corps. All that did was create an adrenaline junkie and when I returned from 2 tours in the Nam and I needed something to replace the high levels I was used to running on.
I did quite a bit of partying –rode Harleys with an outlaw group, did my share of smuggling down here in southern Florida. Don’t know if just getting older or smarter, but I changed my outlook on life. I realized I wasn’t invincible and needed to make a change, so my path changed dramatically. First, I started on a more healthy lifestyle: quit living the fast life and slowed down enough to listen. Lots of changes. Most for the good. Still, I have a lot of work to do. I think after all I’ve been through, the day came to do something outside of my box.
Enter Connected Warriors, a yoga group that was formed to work with military vets with issues, ie: PTSD & TBI. It was another step I needed to take. It provides the brotherhood that I was lacking, a carry over from leaving the Corps, feelings of isolation were always present and always watching my back. It provides a physical side which can be as challenging as you make it and the breathing part is the real kicker! It calms you enough to hear what my body has been trying to tell me. It’s working for me and has changed my life. Some of the baggage I’ve been carrying for the last thirty or forty years is melting away…. All because someone cared. I am very thankful for all those who selflessly give continuously to help guys like me.
A growth in the number of veterans reached through yoga has been noted by the non profit group, Connected Warriors. The organization offers an organized effort to provide free teacher training to yoga teachers who want to work with veterans, classes for veterans and family members in the communities where they live. Just recently, Judy Weaver, founder of Connected Warriors, shared these numbers:
“I just have to share the Connected Warriors attendance record for the month of January 2013. We served 792 service members. Number of Family Members: 636, Number of New Members: 137. We are assisting veterans and their family members in 9 states in 35 weekly classes. Thank you to everyone who supports our mission to provide free yoga, you rock.”
In addition, Connected Warriors was invited to the recent Challenge America Military Opportunities to introduce the benefits of yoga to military families and veterans. The event was held at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, and in attendance were over a thousand veterans and families who heard lectures and interviews by Dr. Oz. In addition, the attendees took part in seminars, symposiums and guest speakers from area veteran and family support organizations that addressed an array of transitional issues, including mental health, employment, housing and family issues. The evening entertainment was a concert from Vince Gill and Amy and Amy Grant and also Jenny Gill.
Connected Warriors brought staff in from Florida, and also worked with its local Texas yoga studio affiliates and set up a yoga area in the stadium. They worked with many military family members and veterans, who were encouraged to seek them out in the community and come to the Connected Warriors classes locally.
To find out more about, request training, take a class from Connected Warriors and make a donation, go to: Connected Warriors, and also follow them on Facebook. To find out more about upcoming CAMO events, please click on the photo on the left.
As I was driving home tonight, I stopped for a red light and 4 guys on Harleys pulled up next to me and one yelled over “Noticed your Purple Heart license plate, Thanks for Serving!”
All 4 were Iraqi Vets down from Chicago heading to the Keys. As they roared off with the sound that only a Harley makes, I flashed back to the days of having the feeling of steel and power between my legs. Ya, the old days… I not only rode for the feeling of pure freedom but it took me to my edge.
After being discharged from the military and having feelings of dis-association and isolation, the absence of “unit” and “brotherhood” I took refuge with the asphalt and the bike. As the light turned green, I looked over in the passenger seat and saw my rolled up yoga mat. I chuckled knowing I have that “unit”, that “brotherhood”, with CONNECTED WARRIORS.
At the close of 2012, I look back and remember when the inception began and Judy Weaver and Ralph Iovino just started getting vets to come to yoga and seeing now where Connected Warriors is, is amazing… After only a couple of years and a whole lot of dedicated volunteers who believe and know this mission works, we are serving over 600 vets and their families in 9 states every month and have taught 245 Certified Yoga Teachers… How fulfilling for me to travel from location to location documenting this through photos and text, meeting many vets, families, teachers and their assistants.
One of the complaints we’ve heard is lack of sleep, and finding they were always hypervigilant and they were not able to let go being in that stress state all of the time. So with the breathing practice, and this meditation and the easy asana (pose) postures, they are able to find the calmness and sleep, and other changes in their life so they can re-integrate back into society easier. -Judy Weaver, Vice President, Co-Founder and teacher at Connected Warriors Connected Warriors is a program that helps veterans through yoga with the aftermath of war. Started in southern Florida, the organization also has programs in Kentucky, Tennessee and is working to grow their program. A fundraiser is set for 8 March. Please see their website for a press release, and consider contributing or attending.