The VAF’s second Podcast

Listen to our second podcast as I interview Matt Mack, a combat veteran from the early days of Iraq.  He was blown up by a suicide bomber in a car and lived to tell the tale.  Hear what it’s like to survive and recover from a bombing.

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We Tend Toward The Shadows (But We Long To See The Light)

We tend towards the shadows

But once we knew the light

We’ve stared into the gallows

While angels hushed “It’ll be alright”

We tend towards the shadows

Because we live in FEAR of light

For when you walk the shadows

The darkness protects from the enemy’s sights

We tend towards the shadows

Because there’d we know we’ll make it through one more night

We tend toward precious shadows

For there we know we’re safe to rest- and to look into the light

We tend towards the shadows

Awake through all of every night

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve seen– a time or two,

                              err, many more—

           the spark go out on LIFE.

We tend towards the shadows

Because we bear eternal fright

We tend towards the shadows

Because we’ve given with all our might

We’ve tended towards the shadows

But we long to be seen in the LIGHT.

 

—M.C.M., February 6, 2011; Vicinity 2227 hrs. “Moon in Scorpio” (or not)

****WRITTEN FOR, AND INSPIRED BY MICHAEL HAWLEY, MY WARRIOR-SOUL-BROTHER

21st Century ‘Band of Brothers’

 

     Following a usually fitful night of sleep (especially given some added remorse over the Patriots’ loss in Superbowl XLVI) I woke up to the phone ringing. I let it ring.. but then- as I began to wake- I went downstairs on second-thought and checked the caller ID. It was Ma.  But- what? Ma’s home?!  Called back… “I’m in the hospital– with your brother.” “Oh, God– what happened?” (It wasn’t serious, or what I fear hearing above all things.)

         Afterwords, I watched– for the millionth time– the video I took of me & Tali (my 11-month old daughter) and sobbed my eyes out. (I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, which felt like forever, and even the priceless time we spent felt numbered from the start. But alas, I digress…

       Today, February 6th, is the day I will go to the PolyTrauma center at the West Haven VA to have my brain examined for the first time since it was smashed inside my skull just over 7 years ago in a violent, point-blank suicide car bombing that left me wounded but “Walking & Talking.” After seven years, those of us who know me best (to include myself) aren’t sure how to segregate between problems caused by PTSD, and those caused by mTBI. As such, TODAY IS A BIG DAY. (And after the phone call and subsequent sob-fest, all I wanted to do was lay back down and sleep the day away.)

       Soon, though, the sun was up, and— with 200mg of Sertraline and 20mg of Adderall now traversing my bloodstream  as with every morning “as directed”— it was out for a smoke, followed by a stop by the “Inbox,” which only led to another sob-fest, but (as with the rest) it was a mixture of pain and hopeful optimism in spite of so much LOSS. And what I read went precisely as follows:  

        “Hi Matt, Please call me Bob, The ‘Welcome Home” is the most heartfelt Brother to Brother embrace a Vietnam Vet can offer another Vet. It took us twenty years to hear it from the American public. We made sure it would never happened again to our warriors, which is why our newest warriors are honored when they come home.  I guess you had to live through that vilification and rejection to fully get that one. Be patient with us VN vets when we say it, its our way of honoring you and your brother and sister Veterans. I just moved to Florida last Oct. after living in CT all my life. Hopefully I can visit with you all when I visit CT in the summers.  I was a regular at the VA West Haven for 18 years. I’m 45 years down range from combat now, and it has been a learning experience. Navigating the readjustment issues of coming home is like visiting a strange country by yourself, you can’t speak the language, and have have no maps. Finding a tour guide makes all the difference, so learn as fast and as much as you can from those who have gone through it. It’s like new guys counted on you when they arrived in country, we learn from others, as always.”   

         Well, folks, all I can say after that is, Thank God for Bob Johnsey, who–overnight– went from complete stranger to BROTHER with his own willingness to reach out to the “new generation” of wounded souls.  But if you can’t understand why this man’s words reduced me to a child-like outpouring of the soul,  you’ll never understand the PAIN and WEIGHT that is carried–and SHARED— by the “brotherhood” that no Hollywood special, no matter HOW moving, could ever capture such as it is felt in the hearts of SOLDIERS like me.. and, for that matter, Mr. Bob Johnsey.

—-M.C.M., February 6, 2012

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND RESEARCH INSTITUTES, INC.

71 West 23 Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010 · 212-845-4400 fax: 917-438-0894

Eloise E. Dunlap, Ph.D. Director, ISPR 212-845-4497   JoAnn Sacks,Ph.D. Executive Director/CEO, NDRI

The Veterans’ Health Study

The Institute for Special Populations Research (ISPR) within the National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) is conducting a health study with veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) who returned to and have been living in New York City for the past 6-24 months (‘recent veterans’). This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the V.A. Office of Research and Development. The goals of the study are to understand the reintegration process and to identify any specific challenges this population may face upon their return.

This study will use a method called respondent driven sampling (RDS) to recruit participants. Our staff must recruit up to 20 ‘recent veterans’ who are well networked to their peers. These will in turn recruit their friends, acquaintances and/or family members to also be part of the study. Our target sample size is 300 recent veterans.

Participating in the Veterans’ Reintegration study will involve taking a 1 1/2 hours survey on demographics, recent military experience, drug use history, HIV risk behavior, mental health history among other themes. All participants must give their informed consent to take the survey. All components of the study will be strictly confidential: no participant names will ever be collected in the survey. All participants will be financially compensated for their time.

National Development and Research Institutes contacts:

Morgan Cooley /Alex Bennett, PhD

Research Assistant/Project Director

646-361-7336 / 412-297-6026 (cell)

cooley@ndri.org / Bennett@ndri.org