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Fort Hood has been "home" to the USO for nearly a decade, and our Fort Hood Center, located a short distance away from the site of the shootings, was locked down for five hours, as 35 service members anxiously waited inside. Within minutes of the "all clear," the USO's Fort Hood Mobile Unit was driven directly to the site of the tragedy, and immediately began providing 24/7 support to first responders, FBI, SWAT teams, and Emergency Response Units. A second Mobile USO Unit arrived on site within hours of the incident, redoubling our efforts.
In the wake of this tragedy, the USO has gone all out to sustain the Fort Hood community in a variety of ways: helping to make counseling available to those who have lost a loved one or been emotionally impacted by the event... providing meals and snacks to GIs, their families, first responders, and the community at large... and offering troops a "safe haven" and a chance to gain some perspective on the violence so unexpectedly brought so close to home.
This tragic event could not have been anticipated (or even imagined), nor could we plan ahead to meet the sudden dramatic needs of the Fort Hood victims and their families. Fortunately, our Fort Hood USO Center is staffed with dedicated professionals and volunteers who have jumped into the fray to do whatever is needed.
But these sudden demands have created a sudden need for funds: to help the families of the fallen and the entire Fort Hood community. That's why we're emailing you, our most loyal donors, to ask for your help. We need to support not only the USO's efforts, but also those of other volunteer organizations working at Fort Hood in the aftermath of this tragedy. One hundred percent of every dollar you contribute will be used to assist the soldiers and families of Fort Hood who have been most directly affected by this tragedy. Won't you please give as generously as you can?
On behalf of the people of Fort Hood, and all those we serve, "Thanks!"
Saturday, November 14, 2009
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Monday, November 9, 2009
The President has proclaimed November 9 World Freedom Day. It is precisely this sort of repression and violence against the voices of freedom and reconciliation that World Freedom Day is meant to expose. We call on the Government of Cuba to ensure the full respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.
We have expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern with the assaults, and we are following up with inquiries to Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.
Steel recovered from the World Trade Center is displayed aboard the amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) New York (LPD 21)
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) provides a common language for diagnoses and assessment of trauma victims, including Holocaust survivors. Many of these survivors established post-war families and it is here that we began to witness the possibility of trauma transmission. Parental communication regarding the Holocaust, often characterized by obsessive re-telling or all-consuming silence, and strong family ties are implicated in the theoretical literature on trauma transmission. Terms such as vicarious, empathic, and secondary traumatization have been used to describe intergenerational trauma transmission. The crucial emergent question is whether a secondary PTSD syndrome, reflected in the current PTSD symptomology, is being transmitted from one generation to the next. There is evidence in the literature to support this hypothesis and a call is made for rigorous empirical studies as the test.
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD established in the DSM-IV provides a standardized means of assessing the effects of trauma. Concentration Camp Syndrome, Survivor Syndrome, Postincarceration Late Injury and Concentration Camp Neurosis among other terms were precursors to what is currently known as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In this article, PTSD will be used as an umbrella term encompassing earlier terms such as Survivor Syndrome. Regardless of the term used, extensive evidence exists suggesting that large numbers of Holocaust survivors suffered and continue to suffer from their traumatic experiences. Theories of trauma transmission from survivor to offspring have been proposed in psychological literature, but the exact nature of what is transmitted has gained little attention. Various researchers have suggested that since many Holocaust survivors suffer from PTSD, their offspring will also suffer from a syndrome of similar dimensions with diminished proportions (Barocas & Barocas, 1973, 1979; Solomon, 1990). In the following article, trauma will be described in terms of the PTSD diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV (APA, 1994). The primary focus of this article is to report upon literature-based evidence of PTSD symptom transmission in the second generation. Secondarily, a case for empirically based research further exploring this topic will be advanced.
PTSD in Holocaust Survivors
Much definitive evidence has become available acknowledging the occurrence of PTSD in large numbers of Holocaust survivors (Berger, 1975; Chodoff, 1970; Eaton, Sigal, & Weinfeld, 1982; Eissler, 1967; Hunter, 1988; Krystal, 1968; Rosenbloom, 1988; Rubenstein, Cutter, & Templer, 1989). In 1962, Eitinger described common effects of concentration camps on 100 prisoners 15 years after liberation. Some survivors were simply unable to feel, while others had the paradoxical response of euphoria mixed with emotional numbness. Remarkably, most survivors resumed work almost immediately after repatriation despite severe physical and emotional impairment. Eitinger used the term "concentration camp syndrome" to describe a series of symptoms notably similar to those currently known as PTSD that he found to be present in approximately 85% of his sample group.
You'll find often throughout this site that I reference a "wise Vietnam Veteran's wife" - that wonderful lady, who is the founder of the Vietnam Veteran Wives organization, was the first to tell me about secondary PTSD. Until that point, I really just thought I might be having a nervous breakdown.
The Many Faces of Secondary PTSD
Basically, when you're living with a veteran who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you become his (or her) caretaker. You slip into a role, without even noticing it, that has you constantly watching for people or circumstances that might "set him off." You're trying to make sure everything stays in line - that nothing aggravates or upsets your vet - that everything is "perfect." Despite your best efforts, you're still getting screamed at and berated by the person you're trying to help on a much too frequent basis.
Your vet is not emotionally "there" for you. When you're upset or happy, angry or sad, you have to deal with your emotions on your own. You begin to feel ignored and unloved and start "protecting" yourself by treating others - especially your vet - the same way.
You're also probably handling all household chores, childcare, financial management, etc. You get no help (or very little) from your spouse. You're the cook, chauffeur, secretary, accountant, yard guy, child care provider, laundry service, etc., etc., etc. Everything in your family feels like it's up to you. It is a 24x7 job at which you constantly fail. It's not humanly possible to do everything - or to prevent PTSD from creeping in.
This cycle takes its toll on many spouses. You lose yourself. It's impossible to tiptoe around your vet, day in and day out, while taking care of all of life's other duties (duties normally shared between two people), without feeling the strain. And that strain soon transforms into... ta da... Secondary PTSD.
Secondary PTSD may make you feel overly angry, depressed, exhausted (but, alas, unable to sleep), overwhelmed, and just plain unhappy with the world around you. I can honestly say there have been times when I found the idea of folding a load of laundry absolutely impossible. I felt like I could not do anything right. I cried a lot and was really, REALLY pissed at the world.
What to do if you think you have Secondary PTSD...
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we started this website is there aren't a lot of resources available for family and friends of veterans who are suffering from PTSD. There are a number of counseling options available (for free) to veterans, but spouses and children are pretty much left out in the cold.
If you can afford to seek counseling on your own, it may be a good idea. However, you should look carefully for a counselor who has experience dealing with veterans and their family members. Normal, "civilian" counselors may try their best to understand, but it's like trying to explain the military way of life to someone who has never lived it... it's almost impossible.
If you can't afford private counseling or can't find someone with the right background, there are still several things you can do on your own. Try the following recommendations to see which work best for you...
Find someone to talk to - Ideally, you should talk to a fellow vet spouse. Again, it goes back to the difficulties involved in trying to explain what you're dealing with to anyone who hasn't "walked the walk." Most importantly, though, you should talk to a friend who is a good listener and isn't judgmental. You're going to need to be able to express how you're feeling without worrying about whether or not they're going to think you are a "bad" person. (Living with a spouse who has post traumatic stress disorder doesn't always bring out the "pretty" side of a person.)
There are several websites, etc., for vet spouses. My favorite is the Vietnam Veteran Wives (VVW) site and organization. I've joined the group and started working with them on their online forum. If you'd like to visit the VVW, CLICK HERE. It's a great way to find other spouses of veterans with PTSD.
Give yourself permission to be less than perfect for a while - A family who is adjusting to a post-combat, PTSD world, is experiencing a crisis. It's not pretty. It's not nice. And it may zap your physical and mental strength like nothing you've ever experienced. That may mean your house is messy, you're not great at returning calls, remembering birthdays, etc., etc., etc. I'm not saying you should turn into an inconsiderate slob forever. But, I am saying you've got to be willing to admit you may not be at "the top of your game" for a while. That's okay!
Get involved - Find something that lets you help other people. Sometimes the simple act of putting yourself and your own troubles aside to help someone else can help you shift your focus.
Learn to count to 10 (or 20... or 30) - Many spouses with secondary PTSD find themselves getting angry at small, insignificant things. You may find that you have little or no patience with your spouse or children. First, hopefully it will make you feel a little better to know that this is "normal." Second, learn how you "feel" when you begin to lose control (your ears may ring, you may begin to fidget, or tap your foot, etc.). Knowing these signs can let you catch your anger before it's out of control. As soon as you start to feel them, stop, take a few deep breaths, and count slowly to yourself until you start to settle down.
Counseling available at VA Vet Centers for spouses.
The Veterans Administration is currently operating 207 "Vet Centers" throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These centers are designed to provide counseling and support for combat veterans. The description of the centers on the VA website, which says, "Services are also available for their family members for military related issues. Veterans have earned these benefits through their service and all are provided at no cost to the veteran or family," is a little misleading, though. Spouses are only eligible for family therapy AND only when the combat veteran is classified as a "clinical patient" with the Vet Center. The Vet Centers qualify someone as a clinical patient only when they are (1) enrolled in the center, (2) actively receiving counseling, and (3) have been to at least 3 appointments.
So, if you're interested in PTSD family therapy (marriage counseling), and you can get your hubby (or wife) to enroll for counseling, the centers are a great FREE resource. However, if you feel that you need individual counseling or your vet has refused to seek counseling, you're up a creek.
Don't get me wrong, the Vet Center that my husband is using is excellent, has a warm, friendly staff, and has been a great resource for him. I just REALLY disagree with the idea that family members cannot receive individual counseling and only qualify for services when a vet agrees to seek help. One of the hallmarks of vets with PTSD is they don't recognize they have a problem. This leaves the family out in the cold until the vet is ready to recognize his or her issues.
To view information about the Vet Centers, including locations, CLICK HERE to visit the VA's website.
To submit a message to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs to tell them you think family members of Veterans should have access to counseling, CLICK HERE.
Web Resources about Secondary PTSD
Walking on Egg Shells - A web article from VietNow
Dear Buttercup - A series of articles about primary & secondary PTSD from the Vietnam Veteran Wives organization. Written in a relaxed format that's a little funny & a little sarcastic, it's a nice way to read about something so serious.
Secondary PTSD Video on YouTube - 3 minutes 36 seconds - A good review of what Secondary PTSD is and how to avoid it.
Secondary PTSD Articles - A list of articles focused on Secondary PTSD available at ptsdforum.org
Key Elements in Couples Therapy for PTSD - This is a research article posted on the American Psychological Association website. It's very technical, but gives a wealth of information.
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