Written by Lt. Col. Jaime Parent
By: Patrick Donovan – Author/Screenwriter
Originally posted in The Hollywood Times – Moving Past PTSD, by permission: Valerie Milano publisher/editor
Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 6/20/19 – “…Moving Past PTSD Addresses Challenges Facing Our Nation’s Veterans…”
Chicago, IL, June 3, 2019 — From World War I through the present, the United States has neglected to provide adequate transition support to millions of veterans leaving military service. Instead of meaningful jobs, access to quality healthcare and education, and fair and equitable housing, what our veterans find when they return home is a new battle — against a failed bureaucracy that has let them down for the past 100 years.
As a nation, our misguided perception is that GI Joe and Jane can simply return home and pick up right where they left off. In truth, the military member who deployed overseas is often markedly different than the one coming home. The Joe and Jane who joined the military in the first place are gone, and they’re not coming back.
After months or years in highly structured organizational environments, often with deployments and horrific battlefield experiences, many military veterans have undergone paradigm shifts in their thinking, their character, and in the way they view themselves and others.
In his compelling new book, Moving Past PTSD: Consciousness, Understanding, and Appreciation for Military Veterans and Their Families, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jaime B. Parent tackles many issues facing our nation’s veterans, including mental illness, unemployment, discrimination, and many other challenges related to transitioning to civilian life. Using thought-provoking interviews with veterans, caregivers and family members, Lt. Col. Parent hopes to break the relentless cycle of misunderstanding that prevents far too many veterans from successfully reintegrating themselves into family lives and careers. Moving Past PTSD aims to change our understanding of who the 21st century veteran is. Through this understanding, we can change their lives — and the lives of those who love them — for the better.
Author Jaime B. Parent is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, Biomedical Science Corps, United States Air Force. He continues to serve by creating a unique fast track IT career internship, the EN-Abled Vet (http://www.en-abledvet.net), which has been adopted across 15 states. Lt. Col. Parent is a passionate advocate for inclusive communities. He now writes about his experiences with his fellow veterans. He is also a sought-after speaker at veterans and disability events as well as conferences in healthcare, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
Reviews of Lt. Col. Parent’s book: Moving Past PTSD
Dr. Kathy Platoni, Clinical Psychologist, COL (RET), US Army; Veteran, ODS, OIF and OEF (GTMO and Afghanistan), Survivor, Fort Hood Massacre — “This seminal book reveals the truth of the matter in ways no other piece on war’s aftermath has undertaken. … that the off switch for the war room in our heads simply doesn’t exist and that the fog of war will never be rescinded. And how very refreshing that LTC (RET) Parent has not strayed from the bona fide facts of recent wars; that military might remains handcuffed by political correctness, allowing evil to proliferate both across the pond and on US soil. Plainly and simply, this book nails it. Anyone who has worn the uniform in time of war must make this required reading. That’s an order!”
- Tracie Shea, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior — “This book offers a compelling and personal look at the varied experiences of veterans after returning from our most recent wars. Through narrative and personal stories, it conveys the critical role and power of human connection and meaningful work in making the transition back.”
The review by Patrick Donovan
As a US Navy Disabled Veteran, who suffers from over 25 years of depression coming out of the Navy but non-combat related PTSD, I loved this book. It not only told of the story of how far back PTSD went in our armed forces including Korea and Vietnam. My late father, served in Korea and through his life, he turned to alcohol and physically hit me which, I believe, came from his time in war, but being raised in a strict Italian family, which he passed on into my family.
I took the brunt of the attacks with him slapping me across the face where I had to raise my arms to protect my face. I loved my dad and miss him dearly and when he died on 3 DEC 1987, while I was serving in the US Navy, I was ‘still’ afraid of him when I was home for the funeral. I was sleeping in the living room where he died, and I couldn’t turn off the lights. I was 27 years old and afraid of the dark? Really? No, I was afraid of “HIM!”
As my father got sick from Lung Cancer, he smoked three packs of Lucky Strikes a day for most his life, I finally taught him to say, “I LOVE YOU” and hug me. But that was during the last 2 years of his life. What treatment could have done for him and my family, my mom, still alive and my brother, who suffered in his own way.
By the United States being in a constant state of War, with Afghanistan being the longest in US History, we are NOT helping our veterans but creating “more” veterans that need help and putting them into an already over bloated VA healthcare system as CBS’s SEAL TEAM showed in a couple episodes addressing not only PTSD but TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). These effects of war, on humans, mostly men, are destroying our fathers and brothers and it’s a cascading effect into the families!
There’s a quote in Jaime’s book stated by a “senior Pentagon official” with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq who like others, spoke on a condition of anonymity, is that “What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave.” This is so true! We have been in a constant state of WAR since 9-11 and how much longer will we be? How many more lives will be affected? How many more dysfunctional families will be created? With this war, like Jaime states, there is no clear-cut enemy, no country, no location because, not unlike the Matrix movie, they are “EVERYWHERE!” Unless and until we figure this out, which will take decades, our country will be in a constant state of war and that will lead to more and more veterans with PTSD, more dysfunctional families, more children reliving what their fathers and mothers experienced and yes, reliving the pain over and over and over again because you truly can never leave.
What this enemy is doing is killing our country from within not from without and if we don’t find solutions for Veterans coming home and from our government continually wanting to go to war putting ‘our’ fathers, brothers, sisters, and mothers in harms way without answers, America and it’s way of life will surely perish and the invisible enemy, PTSD and whoever we are fighting wherever they are, will slowly pick away at our country until there’s nothing left, until; THEY WIN!
Special Supplement: An exclusive Q&A with the producer and director Lt. Col. Jaime Parent.
PAT: When did you serve in the military and how long were you in and was there something that motivated you, in the service, to write your book?
JAIME: I served 20 years in the United States Air Force Medical Service, Biomedical Services Corp. My motivation to help veterans began in October 2013 when I came up with the idea of creating a 13-week fast track on the job training program for veterans who wanted to begin a career with healthcare information technology (http://en-abledvet.net). My wife and I have an adult son with autism, and we have been involved in the autism community for over 25 years, so I guess the seeds and the desire to help those in need were planted a long time ago.
PAT: Can you describe to me the history of mental illness in the military and how that affects morale and family?
JAIME: In doing research for the book, I found that PTSD is really nothing new. One hundred years ago after WWI, there were other terms of the day: combat stress, battle fatigue or shell-shocked to name a few. Many of us had uncles or dads from the greatest generation come back and they never talked about the war. They kept everything inside, suppressed, something we now call “invisible wounds.” These wounds affect the family as well. Going back to my son, I consider ours to be an “autism family” because my son Bryan’s disorder affects all of us. It’s the same with veterans with PTSD. I consider them to be part of a “PTSD family” for the same reason – the disorder affects every loved one in different ways.
PAT: I, myself, suffer from depression and non-combat related PTSD from being at the Pentagon, working 16 – 20-hour days at times. The pressure was insurmountable. I went through treatment at Bethesda Naval Hospital (it’s old name) and the group and individual therapy helped but still today, that period in my career has been a problem for me getting and holding jobs. Can you tell our readers what you have seen from working with Vets how PTSD affects not only their ability to get and hold jobs but family?
JAIME: I was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center before it became what is now known as the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I loved working for all three service branches, something we called a Tri-Service billet. The electronic medical record my team put in place in 2001 at Bethesda is still working! Anyway, in my opinion, the single most important aspect of a veteran needs, is to continue to serve with a sense of purpose. Think about it. Our young warriors go over, fight for our country, and have an enormous amount of responsibility at a young age. Imagine — they are responsible not just for the success of the people under them but their very SURVIVAL all before the age of 25. When they come home, what do they have to look forward to: a long unemployment line, work at a fast food restaurant or warehouse? I’m not knocking these jobs, they are good for some, but if you have had such advanced experience, you probably don’t want to sit behind a desk and be a 9 to 5’er. We need to understand this drive the military person has and to create opportunities where they can use these skills in every industry in America.
PAT: What do you believe is the importance of family support in treating PTSD in vets that have it and how that support helps the vet?
JAIME: Studies show that family involvement in the treatment of PTSD is absolutely critical and often underutilized. That is why such programs like the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago (http://www.roadhomeprogram.org) are so important. Not only do they involve the family in treatment modalities, something that the VA cannot do because of federal law, but the families become part of the solution. This is much more helpful than families sitting idle on the sidelines waiting for something to happen.
PAT: Recently, CBS’s “SEAL TEAM” did a couple episodes on PTSD and TBI. It was moving and what they showed about the VA and how what they portrayed of the lack of support for “Swanny” was not the norm but apparently “does” occur. I myself, have never experience that ‘lack’ of support in any of the VA facilities in the healthcare system.
JAIME: It’s been my experience that the media can hype a lot of things. Not all VA’s are bad, not all of them are good. I see the same thing in the autism community. When you are experiencing something without a definite cure, the frustration and the anxiety can be debilitating. The key is to find a provider or healthcare center that you believe works for you. Like looking for a good mechanic, keep searching and when you find one, stick with it. The recent 60 minutes program describing something called stellate ganglion block, or SGB, is being referred to as a game-changer in the treatment of PTSD. More info on this potential breakthrough can be found here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sgb-a-possible-breakthrough-treatment-for-ptsd-60-minutes-2019-06-16/
PAT: How do you believe, society is failing our veterans returning from a theatre of operations and what is the solution, in your professional opinion to combat the barriers that could help veterans?
JAIME: Going back to WWI, we are not learning from our mistakes. When “Johnny came marching home again” from WWI, he was greeted with overcrowded schools, limited access to healthcare, inadequate housing, and confusing choices related to benefits. Sound familiar? This was 1919, but the results are the similar in 2019. Our military does a great job of preparing warriors for battle: advance training, realistic scenarios, environmental adjustments, etc. So after 2-3 months of this, when they land in theater, surprises are minimal. No such training or preparation exists at that same level of intensity when they return. Would you believe that each branch of services has their own exit transitioning program? I think it makes sense to have training by individual service branches to be prepared for theater, but there is only theater coming back home: the good Ol’ United States. Why no synergy between the services and the VA? Several veterans told me that their trip over there was easier than the one back home! A crying shame, if you ask me.
I also believe that we as a society our letting down our LGBT veterans. I cannot say it any better than the VA website below:
“Research shows that LGBT Veterans expect to experience discrimination in VHA facilities which may prevent engagement in care. Research also shows that due to stigma, stress, and discrimination, LGBT Veterans as a group experience higher rates of several health conditions compared to non-LGBT Veterans, including higher risk for suicide. Therefore, VA is working to reduce minority stress and engage sexual and gender minority Veterans in order to provide health care that addresses their needs.
Find more about the unique needs of veterans at https://www.patientcare.va.gov/LGBT/index.asp
PAT: With your fantastic En-Abled Veterans Program (http://en-abledvet.net) and The Personal Computer deployment and maintenance program you have and manage, what do you believe is wrong with the hiring process and how can we fix this? I myself, have experience a ton of problems from fake interviews to hiring offshore workers that get paid far less than I do. I was recently hired by a great company back last April and after nearly 15 years of working as a contractor and fighting the system with hiring, I’m not appreciated for my experience and knowledge and seen as only one of 5 visionaries in my company. I was NOT tested for code like I always was and that, I believe is a way to weed out older workers which adds to the frustration level. Do you agree with that? What’s your opinion on potential discrimination of veterans and how can we stop that? Yes, I know, this is a long question with many parts, but I feel it’s important to hear you opinions.
JAIME: First let me say, that I believe bias exists on both sides, veteran and employer. Here is what I mean if I may speak in general terms. The veteran will go to the average job fair, stand in line in front of a table where job recruiters sit. When it’s her turn, she hands the resume to the recruiter, who with a marker, will say “fix this, ditch that acronym, move this up further, NEXT!” What has the veteran learned but one recruiter’s view of a general resume absolutely nothing about how to get a job. So the recruiter will tell me, “These resumes are horrible and the veterans lack job interview skills.” The veterans say, “These guys have no idea who I am what I have done and what I am capable of. I don’t think they want to hire veterans anyway.” Truth is the formula for success is somewhere in the middle.
At the EN-Abled Vet internship, veterans, employees and recruiters work in synergy to create the job market ready veteran. Instead of a talking to a veteran for minute or two at a job fair, the recruiters work extensively with veterans from the ground up, resume building, practice interviews, LinkedIn profile, the whole works. They do all of this work pro-bono. Why? Because when they place the veterans in a job, they get the finder’s fee. They have skin in the game and they prepare the veteran for all aspects of hiring because when the veteran is successful, THEY GET PAID. This is a lot better than taking courses or getting a degree and still not knowing how to land a job. And, it’s done in 13 weeks, not months or years!
I have a chapter in my book entitled: “You cured my PTSD?” It’s the story of Marine Colonel Bogumila “Bea” Kenny, a munitions expert and highly regarded marine sharpshooter. Bea has severe PTSD, often homebound, afraid of crowds and public places. Through the work of the great VA staff at the James A Lovell Federal Health-care Center in North Chicago, Bea came to the En-Abled Veteran program at Rush. She was scared, confused and almost hopeless. Bea would take the train to Rush 4 days a week, 2 hours EACH WAY. Often times, she would vomit on the train or be on edge when she came across what she thought to be a “suspicious” person.
At Rush, we saw Bea as a person, not a marine. With joy one day, she ran into my office telling me how happy she was that people were asking her to lunch, how she was making friends, and how great it was that nobody was asking her (assuming) how many people she killed. She was adamant that her PTSD was cured and that her doctor had cut her meds back dramatically. When I talked to psychiatrists, they indicated that while cured was a strong term, the environment she was in could significantly reduce PTSD symptoms and help with a better quality of life.
Why was Bea successful? Because we at Rush created a welcoming environment to make her successful. We took her under our wing, told her it was ok to make mistakes, helped her get along. At the end of the internship, sometimes we had an internal job for them but more often, veterans got jobs in Chicagoland and beyond. While not all veterans were successful, the model works and with the help of Epic Systems, a leader in electronic medical records, veterans have gotten jobs in over a dozen states.
PAT: With more the 20 Veterans committing suicide every day, can you give our readers insight to what you believe is the root cause and how we can help save our veteran through suicide prevention assistance?It’s not enough to just give a job. You have to understand, accept, nurture the veteran. When you do, the veteran is successful and you know what? Your staff looks at veterans and also looks at themselves. Teaser alert: if you want to know why a trainer who is Muslim man and a veteran who is a marine became like father and son, buy the book. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538126967/Moving-Past-PTSD-Consciousness-Understanding-and-Appreciation-for-Military-Veterans-and-Their-Families
JAIME: Many veterans find that they no longer “fit” into the home that was once there’s. In the book, you’ll learn about a guy whose wife was now doing the finances, his daughter who was now driving a car had metal on her face and a boyfriend named Thor, and his friends that he could no longer relate to. Happy hour started for this veteran at 9:30 AM waiting for the liquor store to open. If you know longer fit into the world you once knew and you just left a world are no longer a part of, isolation, despair and hopelessness creep in. Without hope, tragic events may occur.
PAT: Finally, your book, “Moving Past PTSD”, is a fantastic look into PTSD and how there is hope for veterans returning home and veterans who have been forgotten. What is some final thoughts you can give our readers about moving past PTSD and how they can get the help they so desperately need?
JAIME: Listen, love, accept. Try to find and renew that elusive sense of purpose. And by all means, try to get help for the veteran, your family and yes, yourself. Keep trying and never ever give up! And please, let us not forget the plight of those suffering from Military Sexual Trauma. They, too, suffer from PTSD and other health issues and are equally deserving of our love, respect and support.
Thank you for your wonderful book and work at Rush University Medical Center and for helping us veterans that need what you have created.
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