FSRN Special: Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2013
- Families of veteran suicide victims honor their loved ones, fight for better services
- Suicide survivor creates Welcome Your Soldier Home project, becomes advocate for others with PTSD
- As sexual assault increases in the military, survivors demand accountability
- Following release of The Invisible War, some government leaders take action on military sexual assault
- Veterans create solutions, build community through art, writing and healing programs
On today’s FSRN, we look at veterans in the United States and the challenges they face responding to depression, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and military sexual trauma. We speak to relatives of soldiers who’ve committed suicide, veterans who’ve become outspoken advocates for soldiers’ mental health care, survivors of military sexual assault and those who are creating their own solutions and pushing both for accountability and to change military culture.
Resources for veterans:
Soldiers and family members in need of crisis assistance can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Another resource is stopsoldiersuicide.org. Survivors of military sexual trauma can call 1-877-995-5247 or go to safehelpline.org. The Military Rape Crisis Center helps survivors report crimes and find assistance and My Duty to Speak is a blog where survivors can share their experiences.
A project from the VA, Make the Connection, shares stories of sexual assault survivors and veterans coping with various forms of trauma and PTSD.
Special thanks to Ryan Harvey for permission to use his song, Ordinary Heroes.
Families of veteran suicide victims honor their loved ones, fight for better services
As people across the US mark Memorial Day, many families will be honoring a loved one in the military who lost his or her life due to suicide. Last year, more active duty and reserve troops committed suicide than were killed in combat in Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 22 veterans take their lives each day, though their assessment only includes information from 21 states through 2010. One of those service members is Jacob Andrews. On April 5, 2011, Andrews, a 22-year-old veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and possible traumatic brain injury, hanged himself outside his childhood home. FSRN’s Danny Wood met with Jacob’s mother Lauri Turner, at the family home in Kansas City, Missouri. Danny started by asking Lauri if Jacob told her much about what he was experiencing when he was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2009 where he was a gunner involved in heavy combat.
Suicide survivor creates Welcome Your Soldier Home project, becomes advocate for others with PTSD
The US government only recently began to respond to the problems of PTSD and soldier suicides. While gaps in treatment and support persist, a growing number of veterans and advocates are creating their own solutions and demanding the government and military leaders institute changes so more people can get the help they need. FSRN’s Jaisal Noor reports.
As sexual assault increases in the military, survivors demand accountability
Violence and trauma also result from another crisis in the military. The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, a drastic spike upward from an estimated 19,000 in 2011. US military leaders have promised for several years to seriously address the issue of widespread sexual assault in the Armed Forces. The Pentagon has opened up special units and offices charged with solving the problem, brought in outside groups like the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and Men Can Stop Rape, and assured the public that they have “zero tolerance” for sexual assault. But the sharp increase in military sexual assault indicates that these measures don’t appear to be working. Lawmakers and military sexual assault survivors say more systemic changes are needed. They are currently pushing for measures to overhaul how the US military trains servicemembers, prosecutes sexual assault cases and cares for survivors, who often experience lasting physical and mental damage. In Washington, D.C., FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
Following release of The Invisible War, some government leaders take action on military sexual assault
Some of the progress made in Washington to address sexual assault in the military has been attributed to the Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War. The stories of soldiers featured in the film offer insight into a deeply flawed system, where sexual assault is rampant in all branches and at all bases, and commanders fail or refuse to hold perpetrators accountable. The film has played an important role in raising awareness about the problem and helping survivors speak out. FSRN’s Anna Simonton has more.
Veterans create solutions, build community through art, writing and healing programs
Today, we’ve been looking at the continued push by veterans and their advocates to demand the government take action on soldier suicides, sexual assault and PTSD, and how in the absence of action, many are creating their own solutions. In addition to the projects we’ve featured in today’s program, there’s also the Texas-based Hope for PTSD Vets that uses meditation, reiki, mindfulness and art therapy to help veterans.
Other veterans-led projects that use the arts and the creative process to address trauma and promote healing include the Veterans Writing Project, Military Experience and the Arts and the US Veterans Artists Alliance. Another effort is Warrior Writers. The group uses writing workshops, readings and performances to create a community for veterans and allies. Amber Stone, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, is active with the group. She began as a participant and now leads workshops. For more, she joins us from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Amber Stone will be running a workshop with Warrior Writers at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on June 1st. You can also check out some of her work on Warrior Writers.