Doc in the Sky

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Take Off!

Listen to the Podcast of Blog Post:

 

Today, it’s a blog I want to introduce to you.  With a title like Fighter Pilot to Physician, who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Chris Varani is, by his report, a medical student at the University of Colorado. But, hey, so what? After a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters of Science in Finance, what a little MD among friends?

Oh, yes, and after being a F-15E Strike Eagle fighter pilot for the United States Air Force.

Just another day at the hospital.

I write this column as an old guy who needs to sip his venti soy latte slowly in the morning just to get the juices flowing. Simply reading this man’s prose, I’m exhausted. In a very good way.

As I look back, though, on my third-year medical student experience, back when Morse Code was a required subject, I’ve got to admit: I’d have been exhausted by our young pilot-financier-student even then.  I was only twenty-two when I hit those wards, with plenty of energy, true, but certainly energy not even a tenth as focused as Chris Valenti’s has been for quite the while. Getting through the day was often a victory in itself.

I certainly would have admired him then. As I do now.  Age doesn’t temper all things, after all.

Combat veterans have also known what it is to focus even in the midst of chaos, in the air, on land, on the sea. I strongly suspect that Chris would urge his fellow veterans never to forget that. I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly.

When I was an attending at a teaching hospital, I always addressed the medical students as “Doctor.”  They’d already earned my respect for the name, I figured, even if they’d not yet earned all the credits for the diploma.

So here’s to you, Dr. Valenti, still having what it takes to do what needs to be done. I have no doubt whatsoever that you will fly into your future and, even more, into the future of your patients with the same vigor with which you flew those planes into the stratosphere.  Good for you.

Good for us all.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

Cafe New Life, Opening Soon

éSilhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Growing the Next Mission

Podcast of Blog Post:

 

Today I want to recognize a project that’s still in its early stages of development, yet one that, I think, has great promise. Maybe it’s my American, Middle-Western roots, but after all:  who couldn’t get behind a farmer with a little bit of attitude? The article for the day is from the website Food Tank, entitled “STAG VETS Showcases Veterans in Culinary and Agriculture.”

Jon Jackson is a former member of the United States Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Georgia, a veteran of six deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For those of you who might be wondering: yes, that means he was an Army Ranger.

And yes, therefore, he is a man who has known War up close and personal. He admits the scars that he bears as a result.

And he is determined never to forget that he still has what it takes to do what needs to be done.

As well as determined never to leave any veteran without at least one viable option to remember the same.

For you see: he wants to create an organization that can introduce homeless veterans who suffer from War’s wounds to the fine arts of growing food and then serving it up on a well-planned plate.

I have to smile at the thought of a former Army ranger turning his energies onto agribusiness and the restaurant industry.  Sort of reminds me of the opening scene of My Best Friend’s Wedding, when the late Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter, roars at this kitchen crew, “I will kill your whole family if you don’t get this right.”   Thank God for that staff that Julia Roberts was not that picky.

I hope that Mr. Jackson will forgive the joke, for in fact his goals are quite serious—and quite ingenious. He saw opportunities and he seized them, in a way a good combat veteran would: strategically, passionately, and with an eye to service to the public, a service that might not be about protection this time, but will still be about the highest quality product that can be provided.

And opening up a world to veterans who might otherwise have forgotten themselves in a world that has forgotten them.

Check out www.stagvetsinc.org.  Let’s get the food on the table.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

Quite the Bath

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

A Salty Recovery

Podcast of Blog Post:

 

Yesterday we found ourselves surfing the salty waters off Cornwall in the UK as a way to move forward into life. Today, it’s a different kind of salt water that beckons us. Out of Rochester, New York, USA, comes this interesting piece about, of all things, Epsom salts.  “Veterans Finding New Ways to Deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

It is a story about what is being called “flotation therapy.”  Using the properties of Epsom salts, which have long been known to have comforting qualities associated with them, some combat veterans are finding that when they spend time in warm water suffused with Epsom, they enter states of relaxation that can open them to reflecting upon their combat experiences in more controlled, more healing ways.

I am neither positive nor negative about any particular way of delivering a service. I’ve certainly known a few people who’ve found a good Epsom salt bath in their own tub to be quite rewarding for body and, yes, even soul. True, they’ve not needed flotation devices and 800 pounds of it (That’s roughly 365 kilos.), but I’m all for the entrepreneurial giving-it-a-try.

That’s not the point of this article, though, which is more about the work of a group in Rochester, in upstate New York, named Warrior Salute, a group dedicated to providing transitional services to combat veterans seeking to move forward in Life after war. It reminds us of an important truth about Life after combat trauma:

No one way of moving forward is going to get any particular combat veteran to a particular pre-War state. But as I always say, if you’re a combat veteran, you still have it takes to do what needs to be done.

Every mission that “needs to be done” has its times of activity and its times of rest. As any combat veteran knows, though, it’s hard “to rest” when one is surrounded by War. As many combat veterans have later found out as well, it can be hard to let go of that “surrounded” feeling even back home.

So if a little Epsom salt can bring a Life mission to rest every now and then, we’re in the positive column.  Don’t worry about amassing 800 pounds worth of it. Just follow the directions on the box or bag, and connect with a little calm, one bath at a time.

Every few minutes of even a little calm will help the body remember: we still have not only what it takes to do what needs to be done. We also still have what it takes to prepare, even quietly, for just that.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

To learn more about the transitional services at 

Warrior Salute in upstate New York

click here.

Surf’s Up!

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Life’s Up!

Podcast of Blog Post:

 

From the UK today, down on the coasts of Cornwall, comes an interesting article that puts a Celtic twist to the old Snoopy/Bart Simpson exclamation, “cowabunga!”: “Surfing Survivors: Charity Making Waves in Battle to Help Ex-Soldiers Beat the Blues.”

What a great way to do what needs to be done, eh?

From what I understand, folks down in Cornwall are pretty proud of their heritage, their language, and their land. And with beaches and waves like the ones the article shows, who wouldn’t be?

The ocean hits something very core in many of us, especially those who have lived their lives on islands such as the UK. In one way, the water always threatens to engulf us, draw us down, only to spit back what’s left of us into an uncaring world.

In other ways, though, it has a power that can lift us if we work with it, if we understand its backs and forths, if we give way to it when we should, if we take it on when it’s willing to give us a fighting chance.

Now if that doesn’t sound like a pretty good metaphor not only for the trauma of War, but also for how to take Life on afterwards, move forward, and use what it takes to do what needs to be done, I ask you: where are you going to find a better one?

But even if you do…

Down in coastal Cornwall, surf’s up. And with all those consonants in those Celtic languages, there’s got to be a good way to translate “cowabunga” into a Cornish tongue-twister that is more than adequate to bring any combat veteran back to life, one wave at time.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

To learn more about Surf Action in the UK

click here.

Evidence-Based Possibilities

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Daily-Based Lives

Podcast of Blog Entry:

 

Recently I read an article in the Military Times, an important news source for both active-duty forces and veterans of the United States military, written by Dr. Bret Moore, a psychologist who served two tours of duty in Iraq, as part of his Kevlar for the Mind column that he frequently writes. His article was entitled “Some PTSD Treatment Have Spotty Success.”

I admire Dr. Moore for his honesty and bravery as he describes the challenges still faced by some combat veterans after undergoing standardized treatments such as cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.

He is right, in my experience, on all accounts: it is not correct to say that standardized treatments are not helpful. For many, they have been and are.

Yet it is also not correct to say that we have even begun fully to explore and to understand what it takes to heal the emotional wounds of War.

I’m not here today to quibble about treatment methods. As always, I’m here to remind combat veterans of the truth that doesn’t need a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to justify its power: combat veterans still have what it takes to do what needs to be done.

What does that mean today? It means: don’t give up on treatments if you’ve tried one way with one person and didn’t find it that helpful. Don’t assume that “this is all there is” after a treatment.

You have what it takes. There are fellow combat veterans out there who also have what it takes.  Find them.

You have what it takes to use what your mental health clinicians might provide you. Keep going until you find one who “clicks”

You have what it takes to move beyond anything that any of us in my field can provide—and move forward into a life that does what needs to be done.

I’m committed to finding all the resources I can to help you reclaim what you have. Check out the Resources sections. Check organizations out. Check individuals out.

Don’t give up, on treatment, on improvement, on life. Let’s keep working together, one day at a time.

Please. For your loved one’s sake. For your sake.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

A Trip to the Mall

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

A Trip for a Lifetime

From the college town of Statesboro in eastern Georgia, USA, comes a short human-interest story about a Korean War veteran who found his way to Washington DC and to both his past and present:  “Puts You Right Back There: Korean War Vet Honored with Trip to Washington.”

A simple piece from a local paper: a man who has served his community, his church, his family for the past sixty years, yet who still finds himself moved by memories of children a continent and an ocean away, children who, had War not come to their homeland, might easily have been holding a great-grandchild right about now.

When I remind combat veterans that they still have what it takes, I do so not only to remind them of the go-getter who perhaps once had the audacity to try what an older man or woman wouldn’t dare.

I do so also to remind them of the younger man or woman who was willing to see what War brings—and to urge them to do what they can to make some difference in what they see before them now.

Perhaps, even for a country pastor, that’s not a bad way of thinking about being—and becoming—heroic.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

To learn more about Honor Flight Network

A non-profit organization dedicated to bringing veterans to their Memorials in Washington

How to Succeed in Business

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

By Really Trying

A recent article from the Miami Herald in the United States discussed the challenges and rewards facing veterans who wish to become, as they put it, vetrepeneurs: For Military Veterans Who Want to Become Entrepreneurs, the First Steps Are Usually the Hardest.”

An easy one today: how could I not feature an article that highlights so well how some veterans, in spite of their difficult War experiences, are finding ways not only to live out how they still have what it takes, but even more to reach out to show other veterans that they still have it as well.

About two-thirds through the article, you’ll find the following statement by a former United States Navy pilot, Rob Ceravolo, as he reflects on the challenges he faced starting up his Tropic Ocean Airways down in Key West:

Ceravolo said that he and [his partner] made “a lot of bad choices” in the early going. They also struggled to create a teamwork environment that they were used to in the military.

“We were hiring for skill instead of for attitude,” Ceravolo said. “In the military, they say hire for attitude and train for skill. We learned a lot of lessons in that.”

How many times I have heard combat veterans lament the lack of such values as teamwork and attitude in the broader communities to which they return. While at times I believe that they can be a bit hard on some of the civilians they encounter, many times:  they’re spot on.

Not everybody is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

That, my combat veteran friends, is exactly what you were not only taught to do. It’s what you went out and lived.

Sounds as if some folks in South Florida might be interested in finding out if you’re still willing to remember that.  Good luck.  To them.  And to you.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

For a list of links to organizations dedicated to 

Helping veterans move into businesses

Check out my Business Connections (Resources) page.

As Time Pains By

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Making Strength, 40 Years & Counting

There had been much in the media recently about recent work that demonstrated clearly what we’ve long known: combat trauma does not necessarily have an expiration date,  From U.S. News & World Report, for example, see “Vietnam Veterans Still Have PTSD 40 Years After War.”

I cannot deny that I can often find myself peeved, shall we say, that we still find newsworthy the truth that combat trauma stands the test of time, primarily because policy decisions about what is worth the expenditure of our tax dollars are far-too-often based on studies that assume that data generated at any one particular cross-section of time actually provide information that is not only accurate, but useful for making decisions as to who gets those dollars this year and who does not.

That was my polite self. It tends toward long, complicated sentences.

My less polite self would have said,”Oh, good Lord, people, come on: as if we hadn’t known all along that combat veterans not only lie to us about their problems, but lie to themselves as well. We don’t have a clue as to how bad it really is out there.”

That’s why I say, “Thank God for people like Diane Carlson Evans,” the Vietnam era nurse in the article who took action that led to the foundation of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation, an organization that was crucial to the erection of the Memorial that stands on the Mall in Washington DC and, even more, that is crucial to keeping all of us remembering that War takes it toll over time–and that it’s a toll that each of us in society must continue to pay so that our combat veterans don’t get stuck with the bill, both literally and figuratively, one lonely life at a time.

Another complicated sentence just to say, “Thanks, Diane, for reminding me and everyone else that we’re still all in this together. I admire that you had back then what it takes to get done what needed to be done. And I admire that you still have it.”

And also: “Thank you that you continue to inspire your fellow veterans to remember that they too still have what it takes, no matter how many years it has been.”

For they do. May they—and the rest of us—never forget that.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

To learn more about the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation

Headstrong and Headlong

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

And Keep the Pasta Comin’

From the website daily, Task & Purpose, a brief article about a Marine officer who was able to acknowledge grief without being consumed by it, who lives out semper fidelis by having become semper ad vitam obligatus: “This Marine Vet Overcame His PTSD and Rediscovered His Sense of Purpose.

Everywhere these days, combat veterans are finding ways to connect to each other, empower, engage, and energize, proving again and again that they still have what it takes.

How good—and how hopeful—it is that as a mental health professional, I see my place in the order of things, day by day, becoming perhaps not irrelevant, but more and more ancillary.

Exactly where it should be.

For even though our Marine today did find mental health assistance when he contacted The Headstrong Project, far more he found a group of fellow veterans committed to a fidelitas that was not only strong-headed, but like-minded.

And not only like of mind. Like of heart as well.

Similarly, his publisher, Task & Purpose, “is a news and culture site geared toward the next great generation of American veterans,” a group of veteran editors and contributors who “aren’t just trying to speak to the next great generation of military veterans: we are actively trying to build it.”

And I ask you: how could you not want to join an endeavor whose email sign-up pop-up says “Get military humor and news daily. It’s like getting a Chili Mac MRE in your Inbox.”

That’s “Meals Ready-to-Eat,” in case you were wondering.

Sign me up, please. Sharp cheddar for mine. Heavy on the cumin.

Oh, yes, and semper ad vitam obligatus?  Always committed toward life. Commitments can become stationary if one is not careful, remember.

Sounds as if you shouldn’t be expecting any of these ladies or gentlemen to be standing around with you, so chow down—and go.

For you still have what it takes.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

To learn more about The Headstrong Project
To learn more about the news and culture website
Task & Purpose

Telling New Stories

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

Speaking the Unspeakable

Thought-provoking article from New York Times columnist David Brooks last week, entitled, “Tales of the Super Survivors.”

I liked this piece, although I struggle with any implication thereby that I love pieces like it.

I agree completely with Mr. Brooks and his reference, Professor Tedeschi, for example, that the only meaningful way out of War is through the gate of not only “Find Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here!”, but even more “Find a New Tale to Tell!”

Yet I cannot deny it: Having spoken nearly every working day of my life for the past seven years with men and women who have told me—nearly every working day—that they purposely lied on the many surveys they had filled out both during and after their military careers about their sufferings from War, I have problems being reassured by data, no matter what kind of outcome the data claims to portend.

I get the math: my little n may say nothing about the great big N. But, boy, every day…

Still—and most importantly—I share the man’s hope. Stories, when told truthfully and when told to another willing to hear it all, can change everything.

Whether or not nations will tell tales worth telling, you or the combat veterans in your life can. If I may be so bold, you must.

Remember that, hope in that always.

Until tomorrow, be well,

Doc

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