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.

The VAF in Social Media:

The Veterans Art Foundation has recently renewed it’s facebook and twitter accounts with a passion.  We’ve driven in more traffic and fans then we have in months.  We have over 350 followers in the Art, Veteran, and nonprofit communities.  Our twitter grade is: 88 out of 100, which is a decent start.  It measures our influence, reach, and followers ratio.

The Facebook fan page now has 163 people “liking” it.  It’s a small number to start with, but we’ve increased 150% in the last few days.   Our links have been commented and re-posted across the net.  We’ve also started a new campaign for a massive project that will bring together artists and veterans on an unheard of scale.

Our Links to help out:  Twitter.com/veteransart Facebook: Veterans Art Foundation Homepage: VAF

Thanks for caring.

Anger

Whistle-blowers, corruption, news articles, police interrogations, and intrigue were among the issues I dealt with this week.  Until we can get enough money to work full-time on the foundation and pay our bills, we have to have day jobs.

My day job takes me to Waterbury every morning.  Waterbury, CT is known far and wide for it’s political corruption.   I clean up litter, a glorious occupation.  Often times, the populace confuses me with community service.  “What’d you do to get this punishment?”  Or “Where does community court meet up in the morning?”  Are typical comments.

One of the employees for the Blight Program got fed up with our Waterbury Development Corp boss and demanded a transfer.  The request set of a chain of events culminating in the resignation of our boss, the transfer of a police officer in charge, and media attention.

In the past week and a half, I’ve been interviewed by three detectives and thrown under the bus per se, in the local newspaper.  I made it no secret, I didn’t like our boss, but as a temp employee, I wouldn’t get involved with removing him by myself.   It looks like our group is part of the problem and corrupt itself.  This is untrue.

Being dragged through the mud and trying to watch out for our group, has been taking it’s toll on me.  I haven’t been able to sleep well.  However, my lack of anger towards the Whistle-blower surprises me.

I feel for him. He’s a drunk, no question and lives a terrible lifestyle, but blames others.  I’d caused some of his ire, trying to help and he tossed our group aside like nothing.  He acts like nothing happened and everything’s okay.  I cannot for the life of me get angry at this man.  I take my lack of rage to be a sign of my self improvement through therapy, the Vet Center, and the Art Foundation over the past couple of years.  No longer do I look for conflict and my road rage has subsided greatly.  I wouldn’t say I’m happy, but far from a rage-a-holic.   Improving one’s life takes time, something we don’t always have patience for.

Putting Together a Writer and A Hero: Not that easy

I am working on putting together a writer (a veteran himself) and Benny Alicea (retired, Silver Star awardee).  All this time, I figured it would be easy once I found a writer.  I’m a bit naive and admit that.  Everyone, besides myself has quite a bit on their plate.

I do hope this come to fruition and we can create a worthy book about this veteran’s wartime (Fallujah and Najaf) experiences, and readjustment issues when he came home to a different world.

Here’s a link to Sgt. Alicea’s story.  He’s a close personal friend of the foundation and a poet.

http://northshorejournal.org/heroes-sgt-benny-alicea

Waterbury Police Department Training

Training police about veterans’ issues can be a tricky endeavor.  Police on the whole are a tough group to break through when face to face during instructions.  One has to reach out to them on a level playing field.  Cops are reserved as a group and individually.  A great deal of veterans are officers of the law and that may help.

Veterans are slowly but surely causing issues within the criminal justice system.  Domestic violence, dui’s, alcohol, and drug abuse are becoming prevalent in our generation.  No one’s immune, in our cohort.  Whether you suffer or cause suffering isn’t always the issue.  Others around you will, and ignoring it will cause it to escalate to an epidemic.

Facing a group of police is nerve wracking when leading a discussion panel and questions and answers.  In order to reach them, you must make them understand   Cops usually respond to gallows humor, but today, mine fell short.  They listened carefully, sans one aloof officer, who didn’t keep his smirks to himself.  (I may have misinterpreted his ticks though).

Chris and I taught police signs of PTSD, depression, identifying and coping mechanisms for veterans.  We also share how to deescalate potentially violent situations through empathy.  In the end, some police officers approached us with questions and complements.  One of the greatest things we’ve heard has been “this has been the greatest training I’ve ever had in X years.”  It’s flattering and means we have reached at least some level of understanding within the law enforcement community.

Death of Dreams

I grew up, hoping to be one of two things.  A cop or an Archeologist (thanks, Indiana Jones!), and these at first seemed attainable.  Arguably the archeologist one still is.  I even graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Criminal Justice.  After failing to drift right into a police job, I joined the military.

Spending four years in the army was no cake-walk.  It also wasn’t too bad at times.  The 16 months of combat took its toll on my mental stability and anger management.  I went for disability and ended up walking away with 60%.  The choice I made of admitting my problems and seeking disability has rendered my dreams of ever becoming a cop virtually nonexistent.

I started the art foundation in response.  I’m no painter, but I love writing and film and appreciate all aspects of art.  I’ve written films, screenplays, and even shopped around a screenplay (failing, I might add) since being home.  This is my plan for the future.  (may do one of those Archeology vacations and hopefully fight off Nazis)

The problem with disability (mentally and/or physically) and admitting you have them, resounds throughout your life.  As a 60% vet, I cannot apply for police departments.  The state has the highest, at 50 percent acceptance.  Even then, I don’t think they’d allow me, with my depression and anxiety in.  These issues will affect large numbers of veterans with problems.  They have to balance their issues with job opportunities.

A large portion of combat vets seek jobs in law enforcement or the likes. Those jobs suite their needs and personality.  If they admit their issues, then they’re basically out of luck.  Finding other meaningful work, will be tough.  That’s why I hope to at least help  alleviate some stress with this foundation.  There will be thousands of disenfranchised veterans with little motivation when dreams disappear before their very eyes.  Something needs to change, whether it be laws or employment standards.  To deny veterans jobs, is a crime.