I joined the Air Force at age 18, in 1981. I after basic and technical school I arrived at MacDill AFB. I was the first woman in my career field assigned to my shop and was not accepted at all.
My first roll call I was told that I would not be there long as I had no business invaded this man's career field.
Melissa, founder of FightingPTSD will be attending and speaking about how service dogs can assist veterans with PTSD. Retrieving Freedom will also be present to help spread awareness. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and support your Mid-South Wounded Warriors!
NEED HELP PLEASE: Yesterday one of our (K9s for Warriors) Warriors entered, with his service dog , A PLUS AUTO IN WATERTOWN, N.Y. The treatment he received was beyond despicable. He was cussed at, told he was faking his injuries, told he was not disabled, told he would be sued if he did not leave.
Justin’s account of events:
Auto in Watertown NY is blacklisted from my books. I will never come back here again. I walk in and they say nothing and proceed to start the process to put on a tow hitch. Then two guys go out of ear shot to discuss my “pet”. They come back and say we cannot serve you unless your pet leaves and goes on about they can get sued for allergies. They then told me that they would sue me if they were ever sued for dog related allergies. The guy said “well look here, I’m a retired first sgt and I think your a fucking liar and I’m a disgrace to all veteran because a guy with no kegs can live without a service dog but since you can’t get the fucking sand out of your vagina you need an excuse to bring a dog into my place of business ” and mumbled slammed his door and that’s all I heard from him. His sales associate pointed to the sign and asked me to leave. I started to educate them and one of them says. There is nothing wrong with you so if your not blind then your dog has to leave. I sat down and they haven’t approached me after I put them in your place. I don’t know what to do now???? I’m no uncomfortable.
This is the worst case of abuse and discrimination we have had to date. Our Warrior Justin is an honored combat veteran suffering from PTSD. We are asking our followers to write, call, notify this establishment that there are laws protecting Justin and his service canine NIKKO. More importantly the treatment he received was UNACCEPTABLE and in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities act. Justin attempted to show his identification papers for he and NIKKO, and SERVICE CANINE was clearly visible on the vest. All proper procedures were followed.
Thank you, we cannot allow this discrimination, or abuse of anyone, particularly a Combat Veteran. Remember to BE POLITE!!!
INFO: A PLUS AUTO, 533 LeRay, Watertown, N.Y. 13601, 315-788-5555, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org or on their Facebook page. They also have a location at AAFES on Ft Drum, NY.
Grappling with the challenges of soldiers back from war is a challenge. Nothing makes that more clear than the up-and-down year that an Army doctor, Colonel Dallas Homas, the top doc at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, just went through:
-- In late 2011, 14 soldiers submitted separate complaints about their PTSD diagnoses to Army leaders and lawmakers.
Dr. Pete Linnerooth touched many people's lives.
He did his best, each and every day, to care for those who needed his help.
He did it at what ultimately became a terrible personal cost to him and his family.
He shares something in common with many other Soldiers who did their best each day during tremendously challenging times. Each only wanted to take care of the Soldier on their left and right, performing their duty to the best of their ability, fighting back fear of failure, injury, or death, all the while wishing they were home but never leaving their post.
The military loves to conduct after-action reports, hoping that whatever problems arose during an operation or exercise can be studied and prevented the next time. (The Army even has an outfit that calls itself the Center for Army Lessons Learned.)
The number of suicides in the ranks of the U.S. military has more than doubled since 9/11.
According to data released unofficially by the Pentagon on Monday, there were 349 suicides in the U.S. military in 2012, nearly one a day. That’s 118% more than 2001’s 160 suicides, and marks the Pentagon's highest annual self-inflicted death toll ever.
Three-hundred-and-ten U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in 2012.
I had to honor of being interviewed yesterday by Nicole with The PTSD Retreat Radio Show. We discussed service dogs for veterans with PTSD. We had a great time and shared a LOT of information and even several funny stories. Please give them a listen and perhaps we can get Nicole to share with us about The PTSD Retreat. The podcast is in two parts and I highly encourage you to listen to both. Part One and Part Two.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals
This is the first in a series of posts on the ethical issues associated with treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
These are the two so-called "signature wounds" of our post 9/11 wars. Unlike physical trauma, they can take years to surface. They're also not as easy to diagnose as typical war wounds. Treating them is going to become…
Don’t let the title fool you. I am not referring to a vain personal view of oneself. I am talking about those of us who have disabilities that aren’t readily visible. We don’t have wheelchairs, or orthopedic devices. We don’t have visible scars of our mental and/or physical traumas. Our disabilities are invisible and all too often, because of that, so are we. We’ve all heard it… “but you look fine”.
Unlike someone who uses a wheelchair, those of us with invisible disabilities are forced to navigate a world that can’t see our handicaps and therefore can’t accept our shortfalls. Too often we have heard “but you look fine”. While this may sound like a harmless observation, it also negates everything we have to endure. Just because you cannot see our disability does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Our lives do not operate based exclusively on what you perceive. It may be intended as a harmless comment or even a compliment, but its effects can be devastating.
The statistics are staggering. Everyday 18 veterans commit suicide. EIGHTEEN! Among active duty and reserve military personnel there is a suicide every 36 hours. These numbers, even when not combined, overshadow the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between the physical scars and the mental torment, far too many of our brothers and sisters are finding their burdens too much to bear. Couple this with the prevalent environment within our ranks and you have a perfect storm. We are trained to be tougher and stronger. We are taught to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are told that pain is weakness, and in seeking help for that pain we are somehow less than our fellows. This has to change.
It is time for us to come together as a cohesive unit. Our objective is to ensure that none of us has to feel like we are dealing with this alone. We need to find our battle buddies…our squads… our platoons. We need to know there is someone we can call when we are feeling desperate. We need to form the kind of camaraderie that truly never leaves a fellow brother or sister behind. It doesn’t matter the situation that caused the injuries or PTSD…what matters is we be there for each other as we navigate this new terrain. We need to dismiss the stereotypes. We need to share the tools we have learned to cope with our disabilities. We need to share the resources that can aid in recovery. We need to stand together in the face of our common enemy. That is our mission…will you accept it?
Redcon1 Soldier Hard
The events of the past two weeks have spanned from nervousness to rage, panic inducing to exhilarating, frustrating to inspiring. I have gone from feeling nervous about a presentation to feeling rage that it was canceled. A week later, I went from standing at the back of the room at a fundraiser to standing before the same room sharing my story in less than 10 minutes. A few nights later, I went from having a wonderful night to feeling cornered and frustrated in the same amount of time. Yet, what I have learned from this week is far more important than any single event or episode.
First, I have learned that, while I cannot control my initial emotional response to a situation, I can absolutely control my outward reaction. I can keep my cool and stay calm when all I want to do is scream in the face of injustice whether perceived or real. I may not be able to control my facial expressions (I have always had the worst poker face), and because of this others do know that I am not at all happy, but they won’t hear it from my lips until I’ve calmed down…well…unless I’m cornered and pushed into a response; but that’s just about anyone.
I have also learned that I am stronger than I give myself credit. I am more than capable of standing my ground without resorting to whatever ugliness I’m confronted with at that moment. I am able to maintain at least enough composure to remove myself from a situation until I’ve had a chance to calm down enough to handle it responsibly. Not only that, but I am comfortable standing up for others…more than comfortable, ready. I can overcome the fear of the moment to stand up and share my story with complete strangers…hell, with the world.
But, perhaps the most surprising thing I learned was just how many supporters there are out there. I knew my friends and family would have my back. What I didn’t know was just how many people in this world (literally) would have my back when I made my blog post. I am truly honored to know that there are people out of there who will take time out of their lives to show support and solidarity with someone they had never met. I wish I could thank each and every one of you, but this will have to suffice… Thank you!
As Chauncey and I move forward, there have been several non-profit agencies who have contacted me regarding speaking about this incident and about what Chauncey has done for me. I am honored! I promise I will do my utmost to ensure that I uphold all that each of you have inspired in me. Perhaps this happened for a reason; perhaps it’s time I stood up for more than just myself. Time will tell, but I will keep you posted!
We had our first access issue on 19 October, 2012. My husband and I had gone out for a date to one of our favorite restaurants. We had been there before with Chauncey without issue. It started when my husband and I entered through the patio and a waitress stopped us and said ‘no pets’. I calmly told her that Chauncey was not a pet, he was a service dog and by federal law he is allowed to accompany me. She obviously didn’t believe me, but told us we could take a seat anywhere. Our waitress brought us menus and got our drink orders just before one of the managers came out to our table with the same line “I’m sorry, we don’t allow pets”. Once again, I explained that Chauncey is not a pet; he is a service dog and tried to explain that he was allowed by federal law. She smiled and walked away. As our server brought out our drinks, I noticed that the manager and a couple other staff members were staring at us through the door. A few minutes later, the owner came out.
Now, mind you, I chose a table in the corner, away from the other guests which I often do so we can eat in peace without the other guests fawning over Chauncey, as well as to keep the staff from having to navigate around him. I also chose this table because it was the only one where I could have my back to a wall (PTSD). So, here we are, sitting away from the other guests (inside was packed, another reason we chose to sit outside), and he comes out with the exact same argument. He starts trying to say that the Health Department doesn’t allow animals. I tried to tell him that by federal law, he is allowed. Every time I tried to speak, he cut me off. He was trying to make it obvious that he wanted us to leave without actually telling us to leave; however I was NOT about to leave, at this point I had lost my appetite but was going to eat out of pure spite. Every time I tried to tell him about the ADA laws, he kept going on and on about how he has to follow local laws. My husband tried to explain that federal trumps state and local but he didn’t want to hear any of it. He told me that since I didn’t have an obvious disability (“you’re obviously not blind”) and didn’t have any documentation to prove he was a service dog that Chauncey couldn’t be there. I told him that by federal law, he couldn’t require documentation. Then he asked me “well, what do you need him for anyway”. I tried to explain that he couldn’t ask me that question and that’s when he started getting even more rude.
I told him he is violating my rights and his response was “yea, and I’m a democrat, but that’s neither here nor there”. He was extremely condescending to everything I tried to say to him. He tried to make the argument about liability “if your dog bit someone”, continued with the health inspector malarkey, and just went out of his way to interrupt me every time I tried to speak. Finally, when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to bully us to tuck tail and leave, he says “well, since its quiet out here, I’ll let it slide this time”.
As this is going on, my husband was pulling up the ADA access page from the ADA.gov website. He tried showing the owner but he said “I’ll look that stuff up on Monday, but I’m going to go by the local laws, not that stuff”.
I had the president of K9s for Warriors (where Chauncey and I graduated) call the owner and he was apparently just as condescending to her.
By the time we finished our dinner, I was still shaking and my husband was livid. By the way, the entire time this was going on…Chauncey was lying at my feet, he never moved and never did anything to draw attention to himself. By the time we left, there were several other customers sitting around us…none of them had a problem with Chauncey being there.
K9s for Warriors will be sending him a certified letter on Monday explaining the laws. We’re hoping this (and his own research, if he actually does it) will cause him to do the right thing…which at this point would be a sincere apology and retraining for his staff. If not, we are prepared to contact the ADA as well as the local news media.
**edited to add: Chauncey was wearing his service vest that evening. It is a Digital ACU (army uniform) print with two large patches that say “Service Dog” as well as other patches.
**PLEASE READ** I want to thank everyone for taking the time to share this blog and to voice your opinions and support. However, it has been brought to my attention that some people are leveling threats through the phone and email toward this business. It was NEVER my intent for any threats to be made against this man or his business. I am truly sorry that some people took this to an extreme. For those who have acted honorably, thank you. For those who haven’t, please stop immediately!
Mr. Robilio published an appology on his facebook page. I appreciate the appology. I will not, however, be leaving this issue. While it may no longer focus on what happened to me specifically…this is something that has been happening again and again, nationwide. There is a lot of work to do to help make sure no other Service Dog Team, civillian or veteran, whether their disability is visible or invisible, has to endure what we have dealt with these past few days.
There have also been two news stories done locally. Basically, one telling his side of the incident on WMC-TV (I will warn you, there are factual inaccuracies), and WREG’s story that tries to tell both sides. I would like to thank both news agencies for covering this story and bringing this to light (though for obvious reasons, I’m a little more biased to one than the other).
At this point, I urge you to use this entire situation as an educational tool. Help others to learn from it so that other veterans (and the disabled in general) don’t have to go through what we endured. Leave Mr. Robilio alone…he doesn’t need our help anymore.
Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since I posted; my apologies to you. You see, Chauncey and I have returned to school. That’s right, we’re full time college students. Chauncey wanted to study Astrophysics, but I made him settle for Human Services. We’re working on our Associates right now, then we plan to transfer to university to finish our degree and(hopefully) dual minor in Social Work and Disability/Rehabilitation Services. Ultimately, we want to work with other Veterans (either at the VA or through a non-profit that directly serves them).
For now, Chauncey is enjoying being the most popular guy on campus and I’m…well, I’m the lady attached to his leash.
We’re still fighting the fight, just getting more ammunition so we can help others fight as well.
In the PTSD community there seems to be a discord between those who’s PTSD was caused by combat action and those who saw no direct enemy action but were deployed and lastly, those with PTSD who never deployed. It is a longstanding view in the military that those who have never deployed are somehow less of a soldier than those who have and that lends greatly to this problem, but what about the group who has deployed but never once had to fire their weapon?
I will readily admit that I am a part of the second group. I deployed with a Combat Support Hospital. I never once fired my weapon; not that we were ever issued ammunition to defend ourselves if we had to…in fact, for my entire deployment, I never had a single round issued to me, even while I was outside the wire in Iraq (but that’s an entirely different story, the majority of my PTSD symptoms are related to multiple mass-casualty incidents throughout my career and an MST in 2002).
Excluding TBI, the symptoms of PTSD are the same, regardless of what the stressor was that caused the disorder. Some cases are much more severe and debilitating than others. That should not change the way we support each other. With all that we have endured, all that we still endure (our own demons, respect and common courtesy from our chains of command, the fight for our hard earned benefits, VA backlogs, etc) we should find a way to come together. The fact that we do have PTSD should be a uniting factor, not an issue that further divides us. We need to come together, support each other and work toward finding a way to heal, to remove the stigma, remove the barriers to effective treatment, fix the VA’s backlog and staffing issues, and to work to find a way to help those who will come behind us. Our predecessors have set the stage for us, it is up to us to carry that torch forward, but we cannot be divided in doing so. Its time for the pissing matches to come to an end. Its time to form a unified front and fight that battle that lies before us… The fight against PTSD.
I have struggled for the last month with a potential post. It has bounced around in my head repeatedly, sometimes angrily, others sorrowfully. I have continually talked myself out of posting it because I have this horrible habit of not wanting to offend others. Today, I have come to the conclusion that I am done renting space to this situation in my head.
I realize that everyone reacts to their stressors in different ways. Some people internalize, some people actually ask for help and I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience others lashing out in response to their stressors. While I will freely admit that I did have SOME part in what transpired, I am by no means the villain in the situation.
Anytime you get multiple people with PTSD together, there is always the possibility of volatility. When it’s a group of women, you also have the possibility of cattiness, cliques, and more drama than a prime-time soap opera. When one member of that group arbitrarily decides to play the mother roll and then step-child another member, well, things are bound to get ugly eventually.
I will admit this…I had some problems adjusting to this group dynamic. I know I have issues with isolation, I have different cleaning habits than others. For example, I eat a meal, step outside for a cigarette while others finish eating, THEN I go back inside to clean up. It is not my fault if you have differing habits.
I also have a HUGE problem waking up in the morning. At home, I have a couple alarms, a husband and several children who make sure I’m up on time. I mentioned this issue repeatedly and was repeatedly told no one would (not could, would) help me with that issue. Not only did they refuse to help, they (I’m using ‘they’ generically, in reality, it was one single member of the group) proceeded to cuss me out and verbally abuse me when I overslept. I am a grown adult. I also have PTSD (as do the other ladies in the discussed group) but it effects everyone differently.
I was, on more than one occasion, cussed out, made to feel inferior and ultimately called a hypocrite because I was “acting like a victim”. I’m sorry if my honesty as to what was going on with me (at YOUR inquisition), my inability to overcome some of my shortcomings, and your obvious problems with people who don’t measure up to YOUR predetermined stereotypes makes me a hypocrite. If you ask me what is wrong and I tell you, that does not make me a victim. If I ask you for help with a problem (again, at YOUR inquisition) and you refuse to help me and I can’t overcome that problem, that also does not make me a victim. It makes you a bully and honestly, I should have told you that to your face, especially after you lashed out at me while I was trying to do a nice thing for you.
During this whole experience (regardless of the above discussed issues, the intended purpose of the group was exceedingly and overwhelmingly positive, especially in the long run), and in the month since, I have allowed this situation to fester in my head. In doing so, I had forgotten something that I was taught while I was there…I can’t let the problems of other people rent space in my head. I can only control my own actions, not others reactions. In this situation, I can only control my reactions, not another person’s actions. I can honestly say I left knowing that I did not levy a single ounce of the abuse I received.
Considering all I gained from this very short period of my life and since, I am hereby serving a notice of eviction. No longer will I allow your abuse, your dual-faced friendship and your holier-than-thou attitude to continue to bother me. From this day forward, I will strive to remind myself that I did everything I needed to do, that I set out to do and I have improved because of and since that experience. You have only served to show me how to be grateful for those who have left my life, and to finally get me to stand up for myself. I know I was not fully innocent in the entirety of the situation, but I also know that enough other people saw the real you to know that they don’t believe I was the bad guy either. For that, I thank you. I wish you well in your life and hope you find some peace so no one else ever has to receive the abuse that I had to endure in your presence.
For those who have read this, thank you. I do apologize that this is not the typical post that I intended for this blog, however, for me it is something that I need to do to be able to move on. Sometimes we just need to get something out of our heads in order to view it for what it is and move on. That is what this post is about, nothing more…nothing less.
Thank you to everyone who has visited us here at Fighting PTSD. We have surpassed 3,000 views from thirty-six different countries in just under four months! Thank you!
Keep checking back! More authors and posts to come (and perhaps an end to my writers block). How quickly can we get to 4,000?
Controversial Army Policy Makes it Difficult for Soldiers to Get Service Dogs
by Rebecca Ruiz
MSNBC, June 4, 2012
One day this spring, Army Specialist David Bandrowsky, 27, played Russian roulette with his .38 revolver.
Bandrowsky planned to end his life, which had been at turns unbearable since he returned from a 16-month deployment in Iraq in 2008. He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury and depression as a result of his combat experience.
Opening $60-Million VA Mental Health Center in California Nothing But "Smoke and Mirrors" Critics Say
A Beautiful Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Center, But is it Enough?
by Gary Peterson and Mark Emmons
Bay Area News Group, June 21, 2012
Chris Hurt walked the wide-open halls of the new Mental Health Center at the VA Palo Alto campus, admiring the airy feel of an 80-bed unit that features enclosed courtyards and even an area to play basketball.
So, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted in a few weeks. There is a very good reason for that which was mentioned in previous posts. I just finished spending three weeks training with my new service dog, Chauncey. He is a pure breed Golden Retriever and he has already begun changing my life.
Before I left, I couldn’t even get through the grocery store without panicking and forget talking to someone, simply asking a sales associate a question had me stuttering and stammering until I was barely understandable. I can honestly report that I have not stuttered once since being partnered with Chauncey.
It truly is amazing how much your life can change in three short weeks. I can now face the world without fearing that I will melt into a puddle of sobbing nerves. I no longer fear taking my children out in public, going to the drug store, running errands, or simply existing outside of my house without my husband. I had never really considered myself a ‘dog person’, but Chauncey has changed that forever.
One event that happened while in Florida really sticks out as the moment I realized that Chauncey is truly mine. We had a visit from 15 wonderful women from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Chauncey was a complete ham with these women. He went from person to person trying to get them to pet him, play with him, rub his belly, etc. Every few minutes he would come over and lean against me for a moment before going back to being the center of attention. Todd, K9s Director of Operations, mentioned how different Chauncey is when he’s wearing his vest. Considering I had never seen that instant change due to the fact that we always rode in the van to get to a destination where he needed his vest, I decided to grab his vest for a demonstration. The instant I said “time to work” he was a completely different dog. Chauncey sat stoically and regally at my side. I was the sole focus of his attention as he simply leaned gently against my legs to let me know I was safe. After a few moments I took his vest off and he immediately returned to being a complete ham!
Since returning home, we have been on several outings. The chaos of learning a new home with so many children, a dog and cat is immediately erased as soon as I put his vest on. Chauncey is in his zone and everything is right in his world. He is going to be a completely spoiled member of the family and my best friend. I’ve been giving him a break from training (beyond the basics) so he can get used to being here and know this is his home. Unfortunately, when his vest is off, he is already trying to test boundaries; however, as soon as I say “time to work” the testing ends and he is focused on me.
In the coming days, I hope to write about my experiences at K9s, the wonderful people I met, and the things I learned…both about Chauncey as well as myself. I’d like to be able to give those who are waiting for their school dates a glimpse of what to expect, though I know nothing I could write would begin to touch on the individual growth that each warrior will experience through this process.
I would like to take a moment to thank everyone at K9s for Warriors as well as Veterans Airlift Command. Without either of these great organizations, I would not be where I am today…firmly on the road to recovery!