Jamie Summerlin, a former Marine, won’t have a quiet post-Christmas day. Instead, Summerlin will run 101 miles from Shepherdstown West Virginia, to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis MD for the Military Bowl football game. The goal? To raise awareness about the lives of wounded warriors, and to gain donations for a community-based organization in Morgantown WV, “Operation Welcome Home.” Find out more at his website (and donate), “Freedom Run USA.”
World T.E.A.M. Sports’ popular Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride from Washington to Gettysburg opened registration today for teams and individuals participating in the inclusive April 25-27, 2014 event.
Able-bodied civilians, active duty and retired military cyclists ride with disabled veterans from all service branches, beginning at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and concluding at the historic battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Face of America is fully supported for participants of all abilities, leisurely traveling 110 miles in two days, with an overnight stay in Frederick, Maryland. Experienced riders can select one or both 100 kilometer loop rides from Gettysburg on Saturday and Sunday. All participants receive a commemorative jersey at on-site registration, along with a gala dinner and a celebratory outdoor lunch in Gettysburg at the Sunday afternoon conclusion.
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.
CLICK HERE for additional resources.
Fire a weapon, crawl through an obstacle course, work with veterans with combat injuries. Experience a tiny bit of the world a combat veteran has gone through. This is open to all certified yoga teachers who aren’t afraid of a challenge, and want to gain a hands-on experience in a safe environment for a one-day workshop in New Hampshire.
“The Combat Connection presents Yoga For Vets 101 a one day/12 hour intensive training course for yoga teachers with no military experience who want to teach combat vets,in a clinical or studio environment. Becky Blais and Paul Zipes, both military veterans and certified yoga teachers will teach this one day/12 hour course designed to immerse all certified yoga teachers in a safe, supportive and high intensity environment.”
This is an experiential boot camp for certified yoga teachers that will give them a hands-on experience into the world of a combat veteran. What does a weapon feel like? What have they heard? Learn a proven methodology of what works for veterans Boost your confidence and skill set by receiving information on military protocol, and terminology. Learn the 3 most common injuries of combat veterans, and what’s hands “off” and hands “on” when teaching. Paul and Becky have thoughtfully put this workshop together…. don’t miss it!
Dear Mystery Veteran,
My name is MSgt Chris Eder…and I’m just shy of 23 years active duty service to THE United States of America as a Combat Correspondent in the Air Force. Since 9/11, I have found myself in some interesting places. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with people I had never met, and sometimes with people who I love(d) as a brother or a sister. I want to make it perfectly clear that anything I say is not meant to “one-up you,” try to be better than you, or try to compare to you. Rather, I want to provide perspective and insight as we both wear combat boots and serve as warriors & protectors of the USA!
I know exactly how it feels not to sleep. For many years, I just told people I was a “morning” person. That was maybe less than half true…as I really do enjoy being up before anyone else. Hot showers, fresh coffee, etc. But the truth was…I couldn’t sleep. I used to spend as many hours as possible working. People thought it was because I was a hard worker. OK…they were right! However, as I have learned over the years…working hard is also an unhealthy coping mechanism. Avoidance! It is hard to tell something is wrong when you continue to out-perform everyone!
In 2003, I found myself traveling throughout Iraq by any means possible. I was equipped with a 9mm, no ammunition, a flak vest I think my dad wore in Vietnam, and my camera gear. For a short period of time, I called the Al Rasheed Hotel home. That is until Oct 26, 2003 when insurgents attacked it with 68mm and 88mm rockets. Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was in the hotel that night. Check the story out, Sec Wolfowitz is wearing my flak vest! Things got worse after my second deployment to Baghdad during the “Surge of Operations.” Damn…the insurgents had our location dialed in! 20+ attacks a day seemed “normal” for so long.
So…why yoga? Hell…why not? What is the worst thing that can happen? I started yoga back in 1999 because of a pinched sciatic nerve and a diagnosis of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I instantly was hooked! During my 2007 deployment to Iraq, I was actually teaching 5-6 classes a week. Anyone…and I mean anyone… can do yoga. I introduce to you Lieutenant Colonel Tom Bryant.
Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, US Army is my friend/mentor and hands down the best person to ever come from Alabama. LTC Bryant is the last person I thought would try yoga. He is a typical Southern conservative, “Roll Tide!”-preaching, family loving, church going, hunting/fishing military kind of guy. He would often poke fun of me when we worked together about how I taught and practiced yoga. Tom recently sent me a Facebook message:
“Are you sitting down? You should.
Last night I did yoga. And since I’m deployed, you know I wasn’t drunk or high. It lasted 20 minutes, was cal
led relaxation yoga or something like that. Really just seemed like a lot of stretching to me, but this Japanese guy with a ponytail on the video kept talking about “seeing your breathing” and “step mindfully downward on your heels” and a bunch of other platitudinal crap I didn’t understand. But the stretching stuff was cool.”
Even this staunch yoga antagonist found yoga to be at the very least, “cool!” There is a good chance what you think Yoga is…is not at all what it really is. Yoga can be whatever you want it to be…killer workout, awesome stretch, or a time to reset and restore your batteries. For me, I *try* to start every day with 15-30 minutes of meditation and yoga. I also end each day with some grounding breath work to help clear and prepare my mind for sleep. Trust me…I know it sounds fruity, crazy, or even esoteric…but IT WORKS! I’ve been practicing yoga since 1999 and teaching since 2007. I often wonder where I would be today without yoga. I see my brothers and sisters-in-arms who share *our* nightmares, panic attacks, alertness, relationship issues, memory problems…the list can go on forever. I know just how tough my life is…and wonder how much tougher and often debilitating it would be without yoga in my life.
Lastly, I’d like for you to stop breathing for 20 minutes. What…you can’t? You think you might die. I agree! So…public math here…if I can increase both the quality and quantity of your breath…would that not increase the quality and quantity of your life? Check out this free sample from Suzanne Manafort:
As you know, I’ve just finished up work on a new documentary called HIGH GROUND. It’s a film that will appeal to a lot of our readers. Set in the lushness of the Khumbu valley, and the dramatic 20,000 ft peak of Mt Lobuche, 11 wounded warriors and 1 Gold star and Blue Star mother make their way to the top. Along with lessons learned, the share their stories of war with the back drop of the Himalayas. Stunning. Stream in online through netflix, amazon, or iTunes, or bring it to your town by writing to me here at WarRetreat.
I wanted to wrap things up, and found this apt poem by Donald Justice. It describes the coming home of veterans in relation to coming down off a mountain.
Our friends at Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness have partnered up with Sivana to form a Community Partnership. Thanks to this community partnership they now have a Warrior-inspired shirt. This an original designed Tee and a portion of the proceeds will go to support SFHW training and education programs.The Yoga Warrior logo represents the battle we all must fight to gain our liberation and find our true inner strength. The Om at the center represents our victory in this great battle. The Yoga Warrior Organic Tee is part of Sivana’s eco-friendly Alternative Earth Collection.
December 5 is Tim Hetherington’s Birthday. WarRetreat was started in his honor, following his untimely death this year in Libya. Tim will always be remembered for is his many embeds with the 2/503, Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. The relationships he formed with the men were the basis of the film Restrepo, Tim’s book Infidel, and Sebastian Junger’s book WAR. To mark Tim’s birthday, WarRetreat is pleased to have Eric Ortegren from Battle Company, share his thoughts.
By Eric Ortegren
We became hardened men in the Korengal. Most interaction with media was disliked and carried the weight of bad luck. This was really brought home to me when Al Jazeera English came to my remote Fire Base Vegas for a tour. While our Platoon Sergeant SFC Blaskowski was showing the reporter around, a single round rang out. We ran to our posts and lit up the whole forest, but no more shots came at us. After a brief lull we heard the shout for medic. I grabbed a radio and ran down, only to see SFC Ski sucking for air. It was one of the worst days of my life to work so hard to keep him alive, and watch as life left his eyes before the medevac bird even landed. Needless to say reporters had a stigma.
I met Sebastian and Tim while refitting at the KOP and was surprised to learn that I instantly liked them. It helped that I planned at that time to be a commercial fisherman when I got out and Sebastian had written the best fishing story (The Perfect Storm) since The Old Man And The Sea, which I had read multiple times.
These men were a genuine shock because they actually wanted to know us. They cared about us. Over a short time they proved to not get anyone killed, or cower and put us at risk. A paradigm shift occurred that I had never heard of in American military circles. We accepted them as our own.
We protected them just like the man to our left and right, which is a very sacred brotherhood that few are given the privilege to enter. I dare say: We grew to love them, and they grew to love us. It was because they took a new approach and wanted to report on us not the war.
Tim and Sebastian made us human in a war where the American public had become detached. They forced America to see that the men on the front lines who lived in fear and anticipation (every waking moment) and are now plagued by it in our nightmares –were the same kids that used to play football at the big homecoming games. The same guys who worked at the Subway down the street. (Sal Giunta) We weren’t superhuman assassins intent on killing, and we earned a Medal of Honor for one of the most laid back non overbearing men I have ever met. We were normal men doing extraordinary things all with the hope to bring your man to the left and right home alive.
Sebastian and Tim showed it in such an eloquent way in their film Restrepo that a country that was numb to our plight gained their long-lost empathy. For that we are forever indebted to them. For that Tim will be among the pantheon of heroes. His legend will go on inspiring a whole new generation of photojournalists to take it as far as they can.
I was medically retired after leaving the Korengal about nine months in. The transition back to civilian life was the most difficult time in my life. The lack of camaraderie is what made it so hard. My marriage suffered, my family suffered, my identity suffered. I came back a shattered remnant of the man I was before. Making peace with who I have become was amazingly difficult. But we are Sky Soldiers, and we drive on and continue the mission.
“There is but one god and he is death…all we say to him is not today”
Sure. There are lots of ways to give to veterans and those in active duty. We write checks, we participate online in forums. But the nagging questions always comes back to us: are we helping people in our community where we live?
Each week in the bucolic town of Orange, CA, a steady group of veterans and supporters retires the flag each Wednesday in the plaza at 6 PM. It’s a moving ceremony: taps is played, and once a month they read the names of those who have perished in the present day wars. Two of the regulars there are Buck and his wife Karin. WarRetreat is grateful that years after retirement, Buck is helping a new generation of veterans find their way in the aftermath of war. We are pleased to reprint this article with a photograph by Jeanine Hill, which appeared in the OrangeReview.
Know The Neighbors: Proud To Be An American!
By Karen Anderson
Having served in three wars during his military career, Orange resident Robert “Buck” Rogers has devoted a lifetime of service helping military veterans. As treasurer of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1024, Buck assists vets in obtaining health claims for military injuries, as well as other types of assistance for those in need.
This Veteran’s Day, Buck and his wife, Karin, plan to attend the evening of remembrance in Garden Grove.
“I like to stay active; it keeps my mind occupied,” said Buck, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945 and retired in 1974.
Working with aircraft his entire career, Buck began as a crew chief on R4Ds stateside in Virginia during World War II. In 1950, he went to Korea, where he served for two years as an R4D crew chief, taking supplies to the forward areas and transporting the wounded back to field hospitals. One of Buck’s most vivid memories of combat involves crossing enemy lines to drop flares.
“Each night, we were in charge of dropping flairs for our night fighters so they could see the enemy transportation driving by.”
After the war, Buck was transferred back to North Carolina, and then to El Toro, working on command aircraft under the general there. He then spent three years on O‘ahu as a crew chief on R5D aircraftfor the Command for the Pacific Area. He returned to El Toro, and then headed off to Vietnam, where he served from 1968 to ’69.
During the Vietnam War, Buck supervised aircraft maintenance for his squadron. He saw combat while delivering supplies and bringing back wounded.
“It was routine work that had to be done,” he recalls.
When Buck retired in 1974, he went to work for the Academy of Defensive Driving as an instructor, where he stayed until 1999. Living in the same house in Orange that he bought in 1961, Buck continues to work diligently on behalf of veterans.
“We need to bring our troops home,” Buck said. “There are so many wounded who need help to move forward and live a normal life. We encourage people to become associate members of a veteran’s group to help out.”