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.

Vets Killing Themselves

I’m not going to go over the stats, the news stories, the army’s stance, etc.   Those are already covered enough in the media and blogging world.  My best friend who survived Fallujah, Najaf, and other major campaigns, a silver star recipient, has known three people who’ve committed the act.  By way of gun and car crash.  As of this post, no one I know has killed themselves, unfortunately I don’t think that will hold.

I personally suffer from major depression, permanently brought on by wartime experience.  (50% disability for that alone)  I’ve struggled with it since I was 18, (which I found amazing the VA awarded me the disability, I was honest with them) caused by repeated blows to my head during a terrible fist fight.  I haven’t been the same.  Suicide’s always a way out I guess, but it’s the end all.  Final.  I’m fairly certain that it won’t ever be a serious thought in my head.

This ‘epidemic’ has just begun.  As the war(s) close down and soldiers filter back into the U.S. and society in general, there will be more self bloodshed.  56,000 vets died in Vietnam, during the conflict.  I’ve heard more than double that killed themselves in the ensuing years.  Those statistics will probably carry over into our conflict.

The VA, Army, and other groups have programs in place, but there’s more to be done.  Our foundation will help to alleviate some of the issues, including mine.  The most important roadblock is the stigma attached to admitting you’ve got a problem.  This is so strong it will prevent even the most self sufficient vet into backpedaling away from help.  I was basically told I was “weak” by a close army friend the other weekend, because I had issues, or at least admitted them.  It stung, but it wasn’t enough.  It’s too late, I’m seeking help.  Somehow that issue needs to be overcome and rectified, once that happens, healing can begin.

Middletown Public Access

Jay White, Aaron Jones, Jesse and I filmed a show on Middletown Public access.  The show’s hosted by a veteran and deals primarily with veterans issues/needs and news.  The purpose of our visit was to discuss readjustment problems with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group discussion went well.  My only problems with it is the time limit.  It’s hard for rookies like myself to pare down our talks.  It was interesting to talk an older generation of veterans.   I had to watch my cursing though, and that’s tough sometimes.

Aaron as usual, impressed the producers and helped get our group offered a spot in one of their open time slots.  We hope to start the show sometime in the next month or tow.  In all probability, it will be formatted around art and veteran issues.

Watch the program on Tuesdays this month at 7 pm.

Combat Stress and Murder Part 1

Recently there’s been a spate of murders attributed to a unit out of Fort Carson, CO.  14 or so soldiers have been arrested in connection with homicides.  The mayhem was enough to warrant a study by the Army.

Normally the army sweeps some issues under the rug.  This time however, the bloodshed was so endemic that it was forced by the court of public opinion to investigate.  Some suggest combat stress compiled over multiple deployments led the outbreak.  The army however, may have different ideas.

I will be writing about this subject in coming days.  Anger, depression, violence, alcohol, and other issues with PTSD plague an untold number of vets going to war repeatedly.  You can decide.  I will include anecdotal evidence from myself with the essays.