Category Archives: Life

The Merritt Center Veteran Program Restores A Father’s Soul

For five years running I had the honor to both attend one of these retreat circuits and then become a mentor to other returning veterans of war.  I can say without reservation that this program made me a better father.

Fatherhood, masculine identity, paternity, and the meaning of being a soldier in American culture can often create some internal conflicts that do not easily sort themselves out in a solitary state.

When a soldier is sent off to war, his role as a father is  stalled.  The nature of companionship and character development of his children is now a proxy job.  To segue back into that role upon returning home is a daunting task, particularly for those with multiple tours of duty.

To meld back into the social fabric, contribute to the engine of capitalism with learned military skills, maintain resiliency and equanimity, both at home and work,  and simultaneously function as a guide and role model for your children’s  development, does not come with the wave of a wand.

For us Vietnam Veterans it took decades to find and keep that treasured balance. At 64 years old, it remains a to be a daily task.  Now with the sage guidance of Betty Merritt and the platoon of men and women who are graduates of the Merritt Center Veterans Program,  I can access a tool box of skills to approach the day, and end it with a joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Should you have a giving program in your family and an inclination to support a cause, this is one that will make you sleep well!

Betty and Al Merritt have dedicated their lives to making veterans of war whole again. The most stand-out feature of this program which sets it apart from all others is that it is free to the veteran.

On this Father’s Day, you can be assured the Merritt Retreat Center is producing better dads.  I would call that a Father’s Day gift to America.

Happy Father’s Day, American Veterans!




The Merritt Center’s Vet Program: Basic Training for Life: Vets Helping Vets Return from Combat at The Merritt Lodge in Payson, Arizona was started in 2005 by Betty Merritt, The Merritt Center’s Board of Directors, and the veterans and Vet Mentors from combat areas.


It was designed to provide a safe space for veterans to come together in a talking circle to trust each to share and hold their words in confidence. A model of how the structures and transitions of the Cycle of Life is presented which allows each vet to understand how the military cycle of deployment and civilian life differ and the resulting processing needed to return to “normal”.   The program is educational teaching techniques to release the trauma of war and interrupt the triggers of trauma flashbacks. A vet mentor is available to each veteran as he/she enters the program.  The mentor provides a unique perspective as a veteran who has walked through the transition process to embrace a new life.


The Program is free to the combat veteran and consists of four weekend retreats over a six month period.  The first two weekends encourage the understanding of the traumatic events of combat; the third creates a ceremony to release the toxins of trauma making space for the fourth retreat:  which provides the environment to create a vision of the dream of a new life and ends with a family and friends graduation ceremony.


There is a dream waiting to come true in every person.  We all have a purpose.  Veterans have a need to serve so each vet is encouraged to return to give back by becoming a vet mentor.


We are now in our eighth program for men and our sixth program for women.  We have provided 320 free weekends to male vets and 200 free weekends to women vets.  We have seen men who had not had a healthy relationship since joining the service because they had lost the ability to feel and express emotions create a partnership based on healthy sharing of “feelings”.  We have witnessed vets who had decided to commit suicide decide there was a reason to live and now have healthy families. We have seen vets who have isolated because no one understood their pain join the program and connected with others who have walked their path in combat.


We now have over two dozen returning vet mentors for the men and for the women programs.


The program is sponsored by The Merritt Center, a non profit, 501C3 organization and the program is supported by donations.  It costs the Center $150 per veteran per retreat.  The cost of the entire program of four weekends is $6,000 to $10,000.  A program for men and a program for women is scheduled pre year with the expected cost of: $12,000 to $20,000.  As of this writing the Center has not received any grant from any governmental organization – so the 14 programs provided, to date, have been supported by personal donations. The Center is now seeking funds for next year’s programs.

There is a PayPal account access on the Veterans Page of The Merritt Center website:


Nam Jam 2011 on Saturday

Nam Jam Saturday

Don’t miss the 23rd annual Nam Jam Patriotic Event at Kino Sports Complex on Saturday, March 26th.


Car Show, Chili Cook-Off 10am-3pm


CONCERT:  12-6 pm      $5 admission, kids under 12 FREE


60’s Garage Band; Running Hot; Chuck Wagon & The Wheels; Borboletta; 2011 Battle of the Band Winner


Kids Play Area; Military Displays; Cold Drinks; Prizes; Food


Tickets available at Tucson area Catalina Marts or at the gate.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Linked to Death,Atherosclerosis in Veterans/ Semper Fi Magazine

Post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) more than doubles a veterans risk of death from any cause and is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2010.

The study states that doctors should offer as much preventive treatment for heart disease for clients with PTSD. The researchers, are Naser Ahmadi, MD, and Ramin Ebrahimi, MD.

The research studied the electronic medicals records of 286, 194 veterans, with an average age of 63, who are being treated at hospitals in Southern California and Nevada. The cohort group includes veterans of the Korean War.

The conclusion of the study indicated that veterans diagnosed with PTSD had 2.41 times the rate of death from all causes compared to veterans who have not experienced PTSD. Or at least not diagnosed with the symptoms. They then surmise that PTSD alone is an independent predictor of death from all causes.

Now, let Veteran Veritas  enter the picture. I cannot use the the adjective that first comes to mind for this study. So let your veteran imaginations take you there.

What I will say is that I first distrust this study because it smells of the subterranean influence of the Insurance industry that does not want to provide life insurance for the young soldiers returning from war, as a result of their pre-existing conditions —which is War!   A soldier who is diagnosed with PTSD cannot currently get life insurance. Truth.

Man is this a hard pill to swallow.

So, the citizen soldier who just defended the United States of America and our system of capitalism, the insurance industry being the very DNA of that system, can in turn not be defended by the very system they just defended.  There will  be an outcry beyond belief when this becomes known nationwide. Johnny can come marching home with ribbons of valor galore, but he cannot get life insurance if he seeks a little help for his nightmares of horific events, because he  is normal. All of the literature on PTSD indicates that, “it is a normal reaction to aberrant events.”  So, where am I going here? I believe studies like this should be scrutinized way beyond their practical value, for the core intent. I suspect that some of that intent is to have on record, medical data, to support the decline for life insurance.  Not unlike the bogus studies of a Psychiatrist named Sally Satel, who was on the payroll of the American Enterprise institute to conduct their dirty work in attempting to alter the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatry, DSM, so as to not have to award do many disability claims for PTSD, this study is akin to that effort that was suspended as a result of the incredible feedback from veterans, like this writer, who are up at night combing the net.  I will have more to say about this in future postings.

I would like to see what our readers have to say about this study and why from its initial reading it is laced with errors of science.  I will be revisiting this subject frequently over the next several months.

Next week I will be visiting with some high command at Camp Pendleton, and this topic is on the agenda.

As a footnote, many seasoned journalists have a bit of disdain for medical journalism as so much of it has hidden agendas of promotion of self and product, or is bent toward the pharmaceutical industry, meaning stockholders.

Second Year For No Cost Of Living Adjustment For Vets and Retirees

2011 COLA and Disability Comp Watch

Week of September 13, 2010

The current Consumer Price Index shows a negative rate of inflation for the first three quarters of 2010. The CPI is the determining factor for the annual COLA for VA Disability Compensation and pensions, Military Retirement, and Social Security. Based on the current CPI rate it appears that 2011 will mark the second year in a row without a Cost of Living Adjustment.

Do these folks never buy Gas?

Agent Orange; "The Gift That Keeps On Giving"

At the rate that Vietnam Veterans are dying from Agent Orange related illnesses, the cynicism in the ranks of us who have those illnesses, is such, that one might say, the contract disputes will assist in reducing the cost of delivery as many more will simply be dead before their claims are completed.
If a veteran dies with a disability rating and a service connected illness, the spouse will then be eligible for benefits.  Add those costs to the treatment costs of the returning combatants, and you have an actuarial nightmare.
There have already been grave concerns about the delays in Agent Orange claims for the past 30 years. One of those speculative concerns is that the bean counters realize, the longer the delay the less the outlay. They never quite planned for the overwhelming number of veterans with AO issues to still be in the system this long.
Now in our 60’s, we are a tenacious lot, evidenced by the 1980’s movie with the late John Ritter, titled, “Unnatural Causes.” A must see for anyone familiar with the subject. It is a docu-drama based on the true story of a Veterans Benefits Counselor named, Maude DeVictor, who refused to quit.
One thing is for sure, the true cost of war,  in prolonged real time,including the Un-Declared ones is now a matter of increasing transparency.
Must we really trouble ourselves with  wondering why there is no money left over for jobs?  How sophomoric to even worry about the answer.
While we build and prop up nations across the globe, without the substantial financial  support of our Allies, we cannot build or prop up our own.
Tax cuts, schmax cuts! Red State, Blue State.  Second Amendment

Mortality Clock

rights and Mosque mania, are all distractions from the cost of war. And they are working!

Humpty Dumpty  never did join a political party. He is awaiting his claim to be completed from his fall.
In my view, we are in an Alice and Wonderland, upside down world, America is the disabled veteran and we are the leaders, even with our Agent Orange, Senator Simpson.
The following is for your information and distribution to your members.
John A Miterko
Veterans Advocate

VA abruptly issues second contract for Agent Orange claims system

BY BOB BREWIN 09/08/2010

The Veterans Affairs Department awarded IBM a contract in July to develop within three months a system to process claims for veterans suffering from diseases related to the Vietnam-era chemical Agent Orange. But last week officials inexplicably issued another contract searching for a second contractor to do the job in one-third the time, while the IBM contract remains in place.

VA needs the new system to process up to 240,000 claims for 15 illnesses determined to be the result of military personnel being exposed to Agent Orange, a defoliant sprayed on the jungles during the Vietnam War. VA presumes all personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, and the 15 illnesses they might have are a result of coming into contact with the chemical.

According to VA, its policy of presuming the diseases are a result of exposure to the chemical will simplify the process for veterans receiving compensation because the department will forgo the normal process of requiring veterans to prove their illnesses began, or worsened, during their military service in Vietnam. Paying Agent Orange claims will cost the United States $13.4 billion.

Department officials decided this year to process the claims separate from the other systems the Veterans Benefits Administration uses. In March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said he wanted to tap private sector skills to fast-track the development of the system. “This will be a new way of doing business and a major step forward in how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next two years,” he said at the time.

VA initially planned to award the contract in April, but delays pushed that move up to July. IBM eventually won the $9.1 million pact. The procurement calls for delivery of a production-ready prototype by October and full production by December.

VA asked IBM to develop a fully automated system and a machine-readable claims form that veterans can electronically download and, at their option, electronically submit.

Officials want the forms to be shorter than the current document, well-suited to an automated processing method, and they expect IBM to use commercial systems to the fullest extent possible. They also want employees and veterans to be able to access the system via the Web, with a separate data repository linked to existing departmental systems.

But on Sept. 3, officials quietly posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website a second procurement for the same processing system. The document was not accompanied by any public announcement. The new procurement includes roughly the samerequirements as the original contract, but a shortened delivery deadline.

VA wants the selected contractor to demonstrate the capability to electronically process claims within 15 days of the award and to provide a production-ready system 15 days later, a daunting task, according to one contractor who declined to be identified.

The system must be operational next month, and bidders must submit their proposals by Friday, only a week after the solicitation was issued, which are due Friday.

Harold Gracey, a consultant with Topside Consulting who served as chief of staff at VA from 1994 to 1998, said he assumed the department put out the second procurement as a backup plan in case IBM cannot deliver its system on time.

Gracey added VA could find a second contractor to meet its requirements, but bidders also have to recognize the negative publicity that would result if they fail to deliver. A source familiar with VA said he viewed the second source procurement as a poke at IBM to fulfill its requirements on time.

Veterans groups said whatever the reasons behind the second procurement they were worried the department might not be able to meet its deadlines. “VA’s unusual announcement for a second contract, without any details released to the public, raises significant concerns among veterans about VA’s transparency and VA’s ability to process Agent Orange claims in a timely and accurate manner,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “We hope VA issues an explanation about this and puts to rest veterans’ concerns.”

VA officials did not reply to numerous requests from Nextgov to comment on the status of the IBM contract and did not respond to a query on why they issued a second procurement. IBM executives also did not reply to calls and e-mails about the status of the company’s contract.

God Bless
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

Suicide Rates Still Climbing

Suicides in the Armed Forces and the National Guard  and Reserves are still alarmingly on the rise. With all the due diligence and immense outreach that is ongoing in all 50 States, we cannot seem to abate the savage spirit that invades and intrudes the soul of our young veterans of war.

Sixty-five members of the Guard and Reserve have taken their lives in the first six months of 2010. This figure does not include veterans or the Navy and Marines. Even more alarming.

We have an epidemic of mental health issues in the military that all best efforts are not touching. Or, they are, and the numbers could be larger were it not for the ubiquitous prevention programs both in and out of the Armed Forces.  Everyone in the veteran advocacy business is on the look out for the signs of depression and deep despair.

I am trained in crisis and suicide prevention work and remain constantly vigilant through my contacts and network of associates. We man 24  hour hot-lines and spend endless hours on the phone assuring our comrades, who have weathered the horrors of war, that there is light on the other side of those nightmares.  Yet so much is related to place and timing. So few ever seem to be around when that dreaded moment and savage god enters the picture.

Just this week a Wisconsin National Guard Soldier, Matthew Magdzas, a 23 year old married man took the life of his pregnant wife and his dogs and then ended his own mortal life.  Impulse or plan? Flashbacks or internal rage? Who in God’s name knows.  It is when the antecedent conditions are not apparent that we remain impotent in the realm of prevention.  And of course the victim and victims are generally unaware moments before the act. How is that to be prevented?

I have the experience of  7 suicides in my life. Four of them Vietnam Veterans. One of them was my roommate Joe Herman, who had the world on his side, talent, looks, money. And the demons of war intruded one night and put a bullet in his head.  Could I have prevented it? I say yes. But again, we are never there, right there, when needed. How can you be there before those one car accidents when the vet elects to just run off the road, as was the case in the years from 1975-90.

58,000 died in Vietnam. It has been reported by Pointman Ministries and other Veteran Outreach programs, that another 110,000 committed suicide during those years; twice the fatalities in the war.

32 soldiers including 11 in the Guard and Reserves took their own lives in the month of June. That is a rate of  one a day and at level only matched by the period after the Vietnam War.   How do we address this as a citizenry not a military? And mind you, those are figures for active duty, not veterans who have been discharged.

Are we, are we, our brothers keeper?  Are we able to even address in polite company such a taboo subject? Are the figures simply so daunting that we are just left in a numbness of mind that has no direction of home.  When it was reported back in 2008 that a full 50% of the suicides amongst veterans were in the ranks of the Reserve and the Guard, did they slow down the deployment of these young men and women until we got a grip on the nuances of the Guard traninng? No, we needed numbers, big numbers for the General’s, “Surges”, all of them.  And now they are surging home, and the ghosts of war are at our doorstep. In the last two articles I asked our readers if we are ready for a reception that may not be as rosy as we wish.

Is it possible to have every neighborhood trained and armed with a compassionate platoon of listeners and go-to people for times of distress? We cannot just live behind the bumper stickers of support. we have to have some feet…or cliche as it sounds, some boots on the ground. We need a “surge” of  families and friends who will be at the vets side in a heartbeat. The now running national TV advertisement with all the Medal of Honor recipients, beseeching the young soldiers to get help, as many of them acknowledge they wish they had done, is a laudable move in the right direction.

The trail into the woods of suicide is dark and booby trapped. No single hypothesis has ever touched the ambiguous and complex motives that lead to suicide. Literature is strewn with attempts to grapple with the under-belly of this human particular. From Judas Iscariot, to the writings of,  T.S. Elliot’s Wasteland, the Myth of Sisphus,  Sartre’s  “No Exit,” Soren  Kierkegaard’s concept of despair that surpasses all clinical definitions of depression, to the endless tomes of poetry from the Greek tragedies to the modern Sylvia Plath, no one has captured the monster in a cage for lengthy study. It is time to come out of the closet and dance with the demons of war. so as to escort them off the floor.

“The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”  Michael Bakunin

The massive amount of material from sociologists and clinical psychiatrists only adds  to a pile of  documentation for professional journals and epidemiologists and not one iota of helpfulness for the layman. And most all of the research is ipso post facto. Prevention is vacant.

It may well be that no one wants to enter the shabby, chaotic, tortured and agonizing world of suicide.  With all of our revered Research Foundations and think tanks- the Heritages the Cato’s the Enterprise Institutes the Rand’s, et al, is there not a one of them that could  side-step long enough to research what is killing the souls of  our  young warriors?

Is this the arena for the Jeff Bazos and Bill Gates clan to direct their foundation monies?

Is the business of life and death to subconsciously abhorrent for study?

Life and death is the reason for war. One side must win. Suicide apparently elects to not take sides.

Only the dead know the end of war.

Ecstasy And War Resistant PTSD

Combat veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters of war are set for some new excitement–Ecstasy! Retro man!

Recently the FDA has approved the use of Ecstasy, on a trial basis coupled with ongoing psychotherapy, for the treatment of resistant forms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Some say this experiment is a step forward in the treatment of PTSD.  Au contraire, says me and a handful of my combat veteran pals; all of whom experience chronic PTSD and have been beneficiaries of alternative treatment programs sans the pharmaceutical cafeteria.

The Denver VA appears to be the premiere location for the administration of this new zapping treatment.  The premise is that the conventional treatment regimens of anti-depressants, psychotherapy and support groups have expired their usefulness. I am not a scientist, but I had plenty of science course work in Nursing School to question both the leaps of logic and the lack of scrutiny with the variables involved with pills, psychologists and the people involved in the support groups. For brevity, lets call this the PPP approach to treatment.

I have something to say about the spiritual dimension of the wounded warrior, which is outside the parameters of drugs and Doc’s, but I will reserve that for last.

As for the variables, pills are  intended to ameliorate the symptoms of a condition so as to peel back the behavioral and bio-chemical roadblocks to our insight into the core causes of the initial imbalance. The pills are a means to an end, not the cure.

The current claim in the use of  Ecstasy is that the initial results are excellent.  So how long is “initial?” And do the families of the veterans report the same results?

Timothy Leary, Dr. Richard Alpert and Dr. Albert Hofman  reported some dramatic results with the use of  LSD in the early 60’s. The theory that you can re-boot the brain and create a clean slate with Ecstasy is identical to the hypothesis of the early apostles of  LSD. Its  proponents included the former OSS officer turned spy; Captain Afred Hubbard, the Johnny Appleseed of LSD, Richard Helms, CIA Director, Major General William Creasy, chief officer of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps,Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, chief of CIA Technical Service Staff who ran the ran the super secret MK-Ultra program in the 1950’s.  Much of the testing was conducted and financed by millionaire William Mellon Hithcock at the Millbrook Estate in New York. These men were of the ilk that you had to “blow your mind to know your mind.”  Essentially clearing the slate,(temporary amnesia), so that new programing could occur.  Ergo, the reason for its potential use in International espionage work.  These men also spoke of  the use of LSD for the cure of a myriad of brands of mental conditions.  The revolution and abuse of this drug that followed was not their intent.  Can history repeat itself with the use of Ecstasy?

There are tomes of documents to read about the use of mind altering chemicals by the Department of the Army and the CIA. My observations are of a different order as they relate they relate to the use of  powerful chemicals in treatment programs for our returning combatants. However there is clearly an uncanny and alarming similarity to the experiments with LSD  with our soldiers at the Presidio in the early 1970’s.

Back to the variables and the experimentation that is required to determine  the efficacy of any treatment program.  Keep in mind that experimentation and diligent examination of variables takes time. Time is money to the Veterans Administration. And drugs cost a ton of money,(except the ones from Canada). PTSD is diagnosed as a chronic condition, meaning the time line for the medications for a veteran could be decades. The motivation for a “zapper” drug is quite high. Just when some of the variables are being worked out for other drugs.

By example, the use of Prazosin, which once went by the name of Mini-Press and was marketed for high blood pressure, has now become one the vogue drugs of choice for the treatment of PTSD. It has been discovered to remedy many of the hyper-vigilant symptoms of PTSD and somehow abates the bizzaro dreams and nightmares embedded in the brain of the combat soldier. That took time–easily decades to come to that scientific conclusion, inclusive of longitudinal studies and reports back from the veteran community.  The VA does not have that kind of time in the budget, particularly when we remain to be the Star Wars protectorate of the galaxy.

We are an instant gratification nation, with low tolerance for pain, both  psychological and financial. The drive to find a “Lourdes” like cure for the ravages of war is at the genesis of the use of Ecstasy.  Its efficacy and value will soon be known, yet I suggest that we remain vigilant with a prejudice, as there is a truckload of social engineering occurring as we sleep. To many, a medicated America is a safe America. Look out Second Ammendmenter’s, your bullet casings may have an aerosol!

Note, that I said nothing about the potency of  Ecstasy. It may well be the elixir of day. I am just making a siren caveat emptor call to be reminded of the widespread availability of alternative treatment programs for PTSD that do not fall in the zapper column and whose efficacy is known. They are not driven or guided by the Pharmaceutical industry. Watch closely the stock in the manufacturer of Ecstasy. With our luck the Chinese will buy the company!  Headline; China has cure for American Soldiers.

But my final musing is about the true nature of PTSD. It is first and foremost a violation of the soul. The bio-chemical stuff is secondary.

“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are”  Talmud

War at its root is an agent of negation. Our bodies and minds as warriors are the primary weapons of mass destruction. They need to be to survive. I was once one of those lean, mean, killing machines perfectly honed to warrior perfection by the Marine Corps. There is some conflicting Catholic guilt in the admission that I liked it, as I was always in the service of God, Country and Corps. However, when the show is over, the reconciling of love and death is a daily chore and a balancing act that takes decades of practice.

War remains encased in the barbed wire heart for many a moon.  War enslaves your imagination,(the Soul),  in a bunker that no pill can penetrate.  It is our soul that seeks love and intimacy. It is my body that was trained to kill. They need to re-unite. No pill can accomplish this. No pill can touch the heartstrings like some of the Native American rituals that know well the travels of the soul. Curiously, the VA uses many of the ceremonies of the Lakota Sioux in their treatment programs.

The Natives knew well that the terror of war makes the soul flee from the body. It is too dangerous to stay, so the soul leaves and gets stuck somewhere. I am not so sure that Ecstasy is the agent of the reunification of the soul and the body.

So, before trying the snap, crackle, pop of Ecstasy, I would suggest reversing the order of your existential triage.  Try some of the Retreat programs first. Many are free.

Plato spoke of soul as the seat of imagination. Attend a Retreat tailored for combat veterans and let your imagination run wild with fellow veterans. There is a high probability that you will experience your soul hopping back in your body, in the safe and secure environment of combat weary veterans. The validation of this collective experience exceeds any session with a non-combat psychologist or intern; (one of the variables).

To me, ecstasy, is the gut level laughing, crying and pain releasing roaring of battle buddies gathered together for the “soul” purpose of transcending our war.

I am not so sure that God wants us to forget war. What would that soul look like?

Resource:  Merritt Center Veteran Program/ Basic Training For Life

Merritt Retreat Center. Payson, Az.  800-414-9880– 928-474-4268

Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Transitioning Home From War

When Johnny and Joan come marching home to their beloved United States of  America after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, are we prepared?

Very soon tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airman and marines will be rotating to their hometowns. They will be physically rotating home but their battle minds may be lagging behind a bit. Are we prepared?

Some of us crusty Vietnam vets recall the days when, “Peace With Honor,” was  being implemented and our troops started rotating home in large numbers.  The transition to civilian life  was not the joy filled experience that many anticipated.. Given, the times have changed radically.  I believe the operative word here would be respect.  There is no question about the notable respect we have for our troops and the zeitgeist of  gratitude that fills the air. We have learned much from the tumultuous 60’s and 70″s.  The most salient of all learning being the ability to separate the war from the warrior.  But can the warrior do that? And, I say again, our we prepared to help them in that separation of parallel lives they will  lead for at least a year or two?

The times are no less adverse and probably more so in the polarization of  political  positions. Are we prepared to submerge our intractable penchant to have opinions when in the company of a soldier who may just want to be left alone?  Can Americans shut up long enough to be a bridge of support for these returning troops?

“Think where man’s glory begins and ends, And say, “My glory was I had such friends.”                      -William Yeats

Many of these soldiers will be looking for work, many will not find work.  Are we willing to be at their side while they struggle? The unemployment statistics for OEF/OIF veterans are not good.  Add them to the ranks of the currently unemployed and we have a cinder box,  not unlike 1973.

Where are the bridges? Who are the bridge people?  Maybe Tucson could have the first and finest program in the nation for training bridge people to welcome these men and women back into polite society.  Platoons of caring people trained at all the libraries in the city, with long office hours, even night shift workers, ready to listen and help.

“When you’re weary, feeling small/ When tears are in your eyes/I will dry them all/ I’m on your side/ When times get rough/And friends just can’t be found/ Like a bridge over troubled water/ I will lay me down.      -Paul Simon

I challenge Tucsonans and the leadership to the task of making Tucson, Arizona one of the friendliest places in the nation to return home from war.  I declare that Tucson is a Bridge City.

The Army National Guard Then And Now

What an incredible shift in trained and available manpower we have witnessed in the past 30 years in the Armed Forces.

As the son-in-law of a career Guardsman; SMSGT, James Orlando Benson(deceased), I have always taken interest in the participation of our loyal National Guard.

Approximately 9000 Army National Guard soldiers were deployed to Vietnam. 106 of the mobilized unit members died in Vietnam and eight Air National Guard were KIA.

Eight Army Guard units were sent to Vietnam: two artillery battalions and the 116th Combat Engineer Battalion from Idaho.

The only National Guard unit was from Indiana’s  D Company Rangers who performed long range recon patrols. They had 2 KIA and 100 WIA during 1969, which was the peak of the war.

The Kansas National Guard lost the most men in Vietnam in their 137th Infantry. 29 KIA. The 133rd Infantry  from Iowa was next with 12 KIA, and the 299th from Hawaii lost 10 men. All were assigned to regular Army units in Vietnam.

Two Officers who were with volunteer Guard Units were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

And now, it seems they are melded together with the Regular Army.  What will the future hold for those in harms way? And where are we to find them?

Source: VFW Magazine

A Marine Visits Fort Sam Houston Army Base

In my 50 years of living in the wild west with many excursions to innumerable places throughout the Republic of Texas, I never once visited the army base named after the first President of Texas, Sam Houston.

While traveling with an old friend, Tom Dorgan, to San Antonio, we stopped to visit his daughter who is stationed at Fort Sam Houston Army Base. Our casual intent was to attend an on-base soccer tournament between the brigades. My pal’s daughter is one of the stellar performers in the tourney, and very possibly a future soccer player for the Army squad. Little did I know what an enlightening experience I would have during our leisure time between matches.

At first glance, this may not appear to be a localized story were it not for the abiding faith I have in our Armed Forces to protect us in any locale, whatever the need, including natural disasters, internal unrest, and charitable aid to nations. It is our collective humanity that speaks through the young men and women who are the fruits of the training at Fort Sam Houston.

Fort Sam Houston has been the home of soldiers defending our nation for over a century. Prior to World War II, this was the largest base in the nation, and the home of Eisenhower and Patton. Military aviation was born here in 1910. In 1917, General Pershing housed 427 Chinese refugees from Mexico here, and subsequently employed them on the base. In 1921, the Chinese were granted legal residency in the United States. (There may be a modern day message here.) It is now the home of the U.S. Army Medical Department Regiment where much of the training for the Armed Forces is accomplished.

The U.S. Army Medical Department was formed on July 27th, 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized a medical service for an Army of 20,000. It created the Hospital Department, and named Dr. Benjamin Church of Boston the first Director General. In 1818, Congress passed an act establishing the role of Surgeon General, marking the beginning of the Medical Department of the Army.There was no formal regimental organization until WWI. In the 1950’s, the brigade replaced the regiment as a tactical unit.

The U.S. Army Medical Department Regiment was activated on July 28th, 1986 bringing together training for the Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard, contributing to the Total Army concept.

The Army Medical Department Museum is an eye opener for the average civilian. While this museum depicts the history of military medicine from 1775 to the present, it simultaneously provides a glimpse of the history of science and technology from the inception of the Republic. It’s archival, photographic, and reference materials are par excellence.

Without the work of Army medicine and research, we would not have had such rapid control of typhoid and typhus and smallpox, and very possibly not experienced the current level of world trade and travel. Infection control, water purification, use of penicillin, ether, and x-rays all had their test runs in the United States Army.

The storage of blood, and the understanding and correlations of weather and health had their genesis in Army Medical Specialties, both of which contribute to a readiness for any eventual mass casualty or disruption of nature.

Technology is clearly a force multiplier, and every citizen of this nation in every state of the nation is a beneficiary of the training and skills imparted at Fort Sam Houston.

The history of the Army may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do sleep well after touring this base, meeting the men and women who serve our nation in the capacity of nurses, combat medics, veterinarians, medical doctors, and the myriad support medical services. The esprit de corps of these soldiers from ages 17-60 is most impressive. Even for an old Marine!

Carry on Soldier!