A few weeks back, PBS re-launched its Regarding War site and invited a number of bloggers to blog on experiences of reintegration of soldiers to the civilian world. I am fortunate to be one of the bloggers. In my third post (and in the fourth next week) I am addressing some misconceptions on PTSD (next week on some resources).
PTSD looks to be the diagnosis of the decade. Seems everyone has it, or wants to claim it. In the 80s the diagnosis was ADHD… In the 90s, was it narcissism? And now, PTSD: apparently you can get it soon after watching a movie, or years after some bad act. It’s all the rage in the news, and a convenient excuse for bad behavior. Even if someone has never personally experienced the trauma, it seems like they only have to hear about someone else’s trauma, and POOF — they have PTSD! Worse still are those who point to combat stress as proof that service members are the victims of some nefarious plot. If you believe the media and some politicians, every bad act by someone who happens to be a veteran is the result of some neglect or refusal to identify and treat this condition.
I was just thinking the other day about how lucky we are as parents of deployed children to be able to communicate with them during deployment. Do not get me wrong. It is still very hard to sleep with the phone, check email countless times and yes, I am sure we all know what it is like to “stalk” the mailman.
I recently spoke with some Patriot Guard friends who lived through the Vietnam area. They reminded me to be thankful for communication we enjoy these days as they like their counterparts in WWII and other previous wars had rely on a written letter. Skype was far from being a possibility in those days.
Now, we also have the overwhelming influence of Social Networking sights. I can hardly believe I can logon to FaceBook everyday and see pictures posting from the ship. Not to mention the Capt of the ship occasionally will post updates. I search Twitter everyday for info and I have been able to connect with other families with loved ones on this ship. Why, I almost set my 80-year-mother on FaceBook. She declined and just decided to follow the Shutterfly site I have set up where I add all the news stories and pictures I find concerning the deployment.
I saw a tweet from a pregnant wife appealing to the ship to contact her deployed sailor because she is ready to give birth and her husband had not called since the ship sailed. Unbelievably, the ship replied and told her to email privately and the contact person on the ship said he would see what he could do. That did not happen in previous conflicts.
The point is that even though it is still very hard for us to sit and wait, nearly shower with the phone, exhaust every search phrase on Google and make the mailman want to change routes, we are very lucky and blessed. We are all in the boat together as were all the parents, wives, children…before us.
What is it?
Soldiers, veterans and survivors of those whose service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2008 can apply to receive $500 for every month, or portion of a month, they served under Stop Loss. The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act established and largely funded the payment for all military services, but dictated that each service process and pay their own applicants. The Army estimates that 136,000 of the approximately 174,000 eligible servicemembers served in the Army.
What has the Army done?
The Army has created an application process for active-and-reserve component Soldiers, veterans, and survivors of Soldiers to process claims for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay. By law, the Army can only accept claims between October 21, 2009 and October 21, 2010. Eligible candidates must submit their request within this time frame, or the Army will not be able to process their request. The Army has set up an email address to field questions people have regarding the benefit.
How can people apply?
Candidates for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay must submit a claim at Retroactive Stop Loss Web site . This Web site is the preferred method for submitting applications; however, other means for doing so, such as by mail or fax, will be available to those without access to computers. Additional communications will provide instructions for alternative forms of submission. During the application process, candidates will be asked to show documentation that indicates the time they served under Stop Loss. The necessary documentation, depending on their type of service, includes the following:
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will review, process and pay qualified candidates as they submit their applications at Retroactive Stop Loss Web site. Candidates who meet the criteria and show the required documentation will receive their retroactive payment in a one lump sum. The Army will not accept applications submitted after October 21, 2010.
Resources: Retroactive Stop Loss Web site
Since beginning a new chapter of Blue Star Moms in February of this year, I have learned a lot. We have, as a group, done quite a bit, accomplished more in the past six months then some people do in a year. The support from local communities has been steadily advancing and I am amazed at the generousity of so many.
We recently had our second shipment of Care Packages go out. This time, we were able to send 55 packages to the deployed. The first time is was 22 to deployed Troops and 2 large boxes to the hospital overseas for our wounded. It may not seem like much in comparison to other groups who have been around longer but we are slowly spreading the word that there are needs that we, here at home, take for granted, that are not available to our Troops who are away from home.
Many are aware of our Troops being “down the road” but are unaware that many are still in the “sandbox” and that amazes me. I even had one woman ask me why we would send care packages to the sandbox when none of our Troops were there? Hello….Does no one watch the news or read the newspapers any more? I explained our mission and our goal so that she finally understood and she has now volunteered her services and that of several friends to help with our next packaging. YEA!!
So let me share what happened with our last packaging. One of our Moms has a son serving down the road and he had emailed her with an emergency listing of his Unit’s needs. Just 9 young men, not a tall order for us at all. Basically they were sharing deoderant, as many had run out, had several who never receive anything from home and their room was smelling a bit gamey (I won’t write what he said it actually smelled like-it was very much a guy comment though). smile….
We ended up putting out a call to those who are affiliated with us and the items began pouring in! Soap, toothpaste, Febreze, snacks, shampoo, body wash, M&M’s (a special request), amongst other items. We had calendars donated from a local Hooter’s, DVDs, CDs, books, games and postcards written by many attendees of different events that we collect as we attend. Those items were sent over the day after the packaging but not soon enough. Two of the men in his Unit were unable to enjoy these small bits of home as they did not make it back from a firefight. Another, the M&M requestor, grabbed the extra large bag of M&M’s, went to a corner, sat back and ate the entire bag by himself. He couldn’t get enough of home and the memories this small candy snack brought to him. This made me laugh and cry at the same time. He is only 18 years old and does not receive much, this was the least we could do. He is younger then my youngest son….
The smiles we were able to help create will be a part of us forever, the tears we shed when we receive the pictures back of them smiling with their packages, for the looks on their faces, fall silently and they will never see them rolling down our cheeks.
I sent my son homemade chocolate chip cookies and promised some to another soldier serving in the sandbox. I sent her those as a special treat, from me, Mamaw. I also sent over Cracker Jacks and sunscreen, she looked a little red in her recent photos. When she sent me the pictures of her and her unit with the cookies and the other items they received (we also sent them some care packages), I laughed out loud. Mind you, I was alone, at home, reading emails and posting updates and when I saw those pictures, I was in awe of how much this meant to our soldiers. It only took me a small portion of my day to bake those cookies and a little bit of my lunch hour to send them over to her. Since they were from me to her there was a bit of extra caring put into those cookies and a little bit more of the white chocolate chips too! The pictures of one young female soldier reading a card that was in a care package made me cry. The look on her face, the writing on the card, is visible and moving. The stillness of her composure impacted me in such a way that I have to hold back the tears thinking of her. It is a childs writing, with little flowers drawn on the border, completed with care, respect in the way that only a child can do, with innocence and love, completed without knowing who would be the recipient.
Another portion of our packages were given to a Chaplain as one young man that we had mailed them to did not really understand that he was to hand them out to those who would need them the most. His buddies were laughing when he kept coming back from the post office on base with more and more packages. He thought about it and came up with the idea to take them to the Chaplain so that those young men and women who were in dire need of a little bit of home, in need of an outpouring of love, and needing comfort, in need of knowing that they are indeed supported and thought of, would receive it.
These pictures and notes are not required for us to know that the packages are appreciated, we know, as Moms, that they are. Just like the items sent for the wounded, we knew what they needed because we asked for a list. These items are stored by the Chaplain at the hospital and for those who are in need (and ALL there are in need) can go to the locker area and “go shopping” for their sweats, t-shirts, shoes, flip flops, phone cards, what ever it is that is sent over and kept there for them. We send only new items for them (in all of our packages), they don’t deserve used, they have volunteered to put their lives on the line and we want them to know that we appreciate them.
It’s not about how much you spend or are able to spend, one trip to the Dollar Store can benefit several soldiers. It’s not about receiving kudos for what is sent, it’s knowing in your heart that you helped send a little bit of home and comfort to a Soldier who misses his family as much as they miss him. It’s what you do to show you are thinking of them and that you care.