Veterans: A Free Ranging Discourse, Part 3

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The following is Part Three, from a 4-part series that will conclude next week, titled “Veterans: A Free Ranging Discourse” written by local attorney and SAV volunteer, Rich DeJean. Part One   Part Two   Part Four

— Part 3 — (continued)

At their facilities along the Selway River, I witnessed a definite tendency among these veterans to gather together, often times late into the nighttime and, essentially “shooting the breeze” (yes, a few brewskis did help the breeze move along). The veterans keep a log book at this facility and I did not see one negative comment. To demonstrate some of their feelings, I quote from the log book:

“Robert Dawson – I was here June 5, 2014 – June 8 2014. I’m a city boy from San Diego, California and I’ve never been hunting so I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit worried because I am a wounded vet so a lot of equipment to a successful hunt was a challenge to me. Rick, Aaron, and Lauren were truly a blessing. My time was so awesome!!!”

“6/30/15 – Rick, thank you for everything. Please accept this “flag” (quilt) as a token of my appreciation for all the things you do for veterans like me. You provide a safe place to find ourselves and remind us that we are never alone. Very respectfully, Michelle Holloway.”

“1 June 14, quite the paradise you have here. And the fact that you opened up your home to enjoy demonstrates to me your love of nature and your caring for others. The opportunity you provided us wounded warriors to come share your paradise was something that I will always remember…all the best, Maj. Jason Waggoner.”

“With great thanks, Dustin Brown. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for people like you. The gratitude and support you show to veterans is absolutely amazing…the scenery and calming sounds of the river take me back to a simpler time and help me remember what it means to relax. Coming here helped me get away from the everyday hustle and bustle that drives me crazy. Without places and people like you, I’m not sure where I’d be today.”

“MSgt Raymond Soto, May 29, 2018. This was a truly therapeutic and relaxing experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Memorial Day than with a bunch of veterans who know what it’s like to serve…This is such a peaceful and beautiful place.”

In pursuing this assignment, on August 15, 2018, I met with Dr. Jonathan Bucholz, Medical Director, Inpatient Psychiatry – VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Dr. Bucholz confirmed what I had strongly suspected and that is that PTSD is the most common diagnosis for disabled veterans from Iraq/Afghanistan theaters. He pointed out that one difference between these wars and the Vietnam War was the urban setting in which so many of the Iraq/Afghanistan battles have occurred. This is not to say that PTSD is not a problem among Vietnam Veterans but the battles in Vietnam were fought mainly in rural and jungle settings. He related how the enemy could be almost anyone in these Iraq/Afghanistan cities including women and children. And the GIs’ anxiety level when entering these areas would be extremely high. Because of their multiple deployments, that anxiety level remains with many of them when they return stateside. When they go to, say, a Fred Meyer for shopping purposes, many of them without realizing it are still, at times, on the alert for danger because of the hypervigilance they maintained in Iraq/Afghanistan and which many of them carry over stateside. Indeed, Dr. Bucholz felt that assimilation back into society was the biggest obstacle that many of these Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans faced once their deployment was over.

As he stated, when they are released from service, many of them are without jobs and the thought process of many is “How do I fit in?” Dr. Bucholz also mentioned that a veteran’s response to stress changes if he/she is suffering from PTSD. And because of the stigma attached to a diagnosis of PTSD, many of the veterans do not come forward on their own. This is something, that if members of the Bar suspect when representing veterans, questions should be posed to bring this out and if it appears to be a factor, the veteran might be directed to seek treatment.

Dr. Bucholz mentioned one very important resource available to the veterans of which I was not aware and that is the existence of “Vet Centers” located throughout the United States. As he explained, these Vet Centers are organized to provide prompt assistance to the veterans. They are manned by, among others, social workers and therapists. As opposed to calling the VA where one might be switched several times between various departments and might be placed on “hold” for extended periods of time (and with veterans suffering from PTSD or high levels of stress, they will often abort the call). Vet Centers are designed to bring veterans into the system expeditiously and to get them the treatment they need. He also mentioned the American Legion and AmVets as two other resources available for these veterans. Of course, there is the relatively new USO Camp Lewis Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. There is a Vet Center in Tacoma. Dr. Bucholz stated that the opinion heard in various circles that the VA is not doing enough for the veterans is misplaced. He says that with the current VA administration, they are extremely helpful and that if one becomes aware of a veteran in need of assistance, to not let this popular misconception deter treatment. Get them enrolled with the VA and they will receive help.

(to be continued)

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