National PTSD Awareness Day-Tuesday, June 27th

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Douglas and Marc

Most people do not realize just how much Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects the general population until National PTSD Awareness Day comes around on June 27 every year.

One astonishing fact that most people don’t realize is 70% of people in the U.S. have experienced some type of highly traumatic event at least once in their lives, that’s approximately 223 million people and up to 20% of these people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Zeroing in on the veteran population alone, Studies have shown that roughly 20 veterans with PTSD commit suicide each day, but what about those people that “conquered” the statistic and walked away with a second chance at life?

Marc Raciti is a PA-C, veteran, published author, philanthropist and suicide survivor who served 24 years in the military and is on an active mission to continue serving his community by properly educating people about PTSD and how to have their own “second  chance” at life. Marc works side-by-side with his wife, Sonja who happens to be a psychologist and veteran, to make a substantial difference with their inspiring story. Since the moment they met, Sonja has been helping Marc with his symptoms and gaining that second chance at life and now they have been married for five years with a child of their own.

Marc Raciti shares what it was likely to personally go through (and Marc Raciti Book Covercontinue to go through) the side-effects of PTSD and how to slowly but surely overcome those demons one step (and one day) at a time in his new book, “I Just Want To See Trees: A Journey Through PTSD.” Sonja Raciti shares the external perception of PTSD from the standpoint of a wife and on the opposite end of the spectrum, as a psychologist and she delves into how to handle someone close to you who is struggling with anxiety, depression PTSD etc.

Marc and Sonja share how they started the charitable foundation, Healing Wounds to help all walks of life who are struggling with PTSD through organized motorcycle rides, video-blogging and public speaking opportunities.

 

About Marc Raciti

Marc C. Raciti is a veteran and author behind “I Just Want to See Trees: A Journey Through P.T.S.D.” Marc enlisted into the Army in 1989 as a clerk typist (71L). Shortly after completing basic training and advanced individual training, he deployed to Bahrain in the Middle East, in support of Operation Desert Storm with the 47th Field Hospital. It was there where he fell in love with medicine and decided to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant (PA). In 1997, he graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and was commissioned to second lieutenant. In 2001, he complete d his Fellowship in Orthopedics through Womack Army Community Hospital.

Marc spent the rest of his army career treating and caring for the sick and wounded. He deployed four more times, twice to Iraq, the Balkans and to Africa; frequently providing good medicine in dangerous places. In 2013, after 24 years of service, he retired from the Army as a Major. His last assignment was in Hawaii where he met his current wife Sonja. Marc presently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with Sonja and his adult son, Marco, and baby, Makana.

He continues riding his motorcycle with a veteran motorcycle club, working as an orthopedic PA and serving a very active role in the veteran community. Douglas, his service dog, is happy living out his days basking in the Arizona sun and gobbling down any and all treats.

 

About Sonja L. Raciti LPC, ABPP, Psy.D, CSAC

Sonja Raciti has an extensive and comprehensive background in psychology and pre-medical clinical studies with an emphasis in family and child therapy. Being originally from Germany and having lived on the West Coast and Hawaii for years, Sonja has a well-cultured, diversified background that has led to her ultimate passion, aiding the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of others.

Sonja graduated with her bachelor of arts and science in Psychology and Pre-Medical Studies from Hawaii Pacific University and then went on to receive her Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University in San Francisco. Upon completing her rigorous educational programs, Sonja spent time teaching at the college level about addiction and substance abuse disorders and provided various forms of counseling to adults and then children.

In 2006, Sonja received her Post-Doctoral Psychology Residency/Fellowship at Kapi’olani Child Protection Center where she conducted psychological evaluations for both children and adults, specifically addressing issues of child maltreatment.

After providing various forms of therapy for two years, Sonja started working for the Hawaii Army National Guard as a Clinical Psychologist and then moved to the Department of Defense at the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic to specialize in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy within the Child and Adolescent Assistance Center.

In 2013, Sonja made the move to Arizona with her husband and business partner, Marc Raciti, to her first duty station as a captain at Luke Air Force Base andwas responsible for training technicians to become certified alcohol and drug counselors while also directing the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program and later heading the Family Advocacy Program.

At the beginning of 2016, Sonja decided to take on her own business Sonja Racitiventure as the owner and director of Healing Wounds, LLC, a private practice with an emphasis on treating children and patients suffering from trauma while offering individual, family, marital and group counseling depending on the needs ofclients. Sonja and Marc released their first book together based off of Marc’s personal journey with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) after serving in the military for 24 years. They now reside in Scottsdale, Ariz. with their child, Makana and service dog, Douglas.

FDA agrees to expand access to ecstasy for PTS treatment

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Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

MDMA, an illegal psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly, could be used to treat post-traumatic stress, researchers say. But access to the drug for testing has been difficult, even though the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 designated it as a “breakthrough therapy” for PTS treatment.

Veterans experience PTS at a higher rate than the rest of the population. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 11-20 percent of veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTS, compared to about 8 percent of non-veterans.

Clinical tests of the drug are in their third phase, but people whose moderate or severe PTS  is resistant to other treatments could potentially benefit from early access to MDMA, according to the nonprofit research group, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

MAPS plans to allow early access to “potentially beneficial investigational therapies for people facing a serious or life-threatening condition for whom currently available treatments have not worked,” according to a MAPS news release

Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing for the drug’s use in treating PTS, but the new approval from FDA will allow a select 50 patients at up to 10 sites in the U.S. earlier access to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Clinical trials are expected to be completed by 2021, meaning the FDA could approve the drug as soon as 2022.

MDMA is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, producing an energizing effect, distortions in perception, increased self-awareness and empathy and “enhanced enjoyment from sensory experiences,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The resurgence of research into using drugs such as MDMA to catalyze psychotherapy is the most promising and exciting development I’ve seen in my psychiatric career,” Dr. Michael Mithoefer, acting medical director for MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, said in a statement.

MAPS hopes FDA will provide additional expanded access once it shows the drug helped its first 35 patients.

Patients who participate in the treatment take a dose of the drug in a controlled clinical environment as part of a course of psychotherapy. They’ll also be responsible for the costs of their treatment, unlike in the clinical trials.

After the drug is approved, patients will still not be able to take MDMA at home, and won’t fill prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The drug will only be available through a certified doctor in a supervised therapeutic setting, MAPS said.

The expanded access or “compassionate use,” requires at least one therapist involved in treatment have a medical or clinical doctorate degree.

Selection of the 10 sites that will offer the treatment is expected to be announced in the coming months. More than 120 sites have applied, according to MAPS. Once the program starts, patients can apply to their preferred site.

Continue on to ConnectingVets.com to read the complete article.

7 stress resources Veterans can use right now

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Man having medical consultation in doctor's office

As a Veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. The VA is here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be.

VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that Veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.

Seven mental health resources Veterans can use right now

  1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center. Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a Veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.
  2. Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of Veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.
  3. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  4. Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible Veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.
  5. Coaching Into Care provides guidance to Veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a Veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
  6. The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help Veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with Veterans and their families.
  7. AboutFace features stories of Veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

Learn more

For more information about VA’s mental health resources and behavioral health services, please visit VA’s Mental Health Services website at MentalHealth.va.gov, or the Vet Center website (for combat Veterans) at www.vetcenter.va.gov. For a more detailed view of VA mental health service offerings, explore the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Guidebook.

Army veteran who said prosthetic legs were repossessed to get new pair from VA

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veteran Jerry Holliman pictured whose prosthetic leges repossessd

Last August, two months after doctors amputated his left leg, Holliman received a pair of prosthetic legs from Hanger. He had begun therapy sessions with the company at the Collins State Veterans Home to learn how to properly walk.

That all came to halt on Dec. 23 when a representative from Hanger repossessed his prosthetic legs after learning the VA would not pay for them. It was a huge blow to Holliman’s hopes of being able to return to home in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the holidays.

“It’s like somebody walked up to you and gave you a punch in the gut,” Holliman said. “Why would you come and take a veteran’s legs?’

The set of prosthetic legs were returned to Holliman a few days later. However, Holliman said Hanger would no longer make the needed adjustments that allowed him to properly use the prosthetic legs until someone paid for them.

The VA told Holliman that the prosthetics legs were obtained as a private purchase, which precluded them from paying for them on his behalf. Instead, he said he was told to use Medicare to pay for them. He refused that option because he said using Medicare would have required him to pay a co-pay.

Krisita Burkey, the vice president of public relations and communications at Hanger, told Fox News in a statement that patient privacy laws prevented the company from talking about Holliman’s case specifically. However, she said, “Hanger does not take back prosthetic devices once a patient signs for the delivery.

“A signed verification of delivery is a necessary step in the delivery process due to regulations, but actual payment is not required upon delivery to the patient,” the statement continued. “Payment is typically received from the applicable payer, whether it is a private insurer, Medicare/Medicaid or the VA, at a later date.”

Walker told Fox News that Holliman had come to the VA’s prosthetics department in Jackson shortly after his left leg was amputated. Holliman inquired about the VA making him a pair of prosthetic legs, but Walker said the VA was unable to begin the process at the time.

“We cannot begin a prosthetic evaluation until the skin is completely healed because of the pressure and the things that are required to wear and use a prosthetic device,” he explained.

Walker, who was given permission by Holliman to speak about the case to Fox News, said the 69-year-old never followed up with the VA after that visit. Instead, he said Holliman went to a private clinic and then to Hanger to obtain prosthetic legs.

“We want veterans to use us,” Walker said. “If a veteran chooses to go outside of our system, we cannot, unfortunately, take on the responsibilities for private purchases and that’s the case.”

Holliman denied that he had gone to Hanger on his own to get prosthetic legs. He said he had no authority to make his own appointments and was following directives from medical personnel at the state-run veterans home where he’s resided for the last year.

After the VA’s decision to give him a new set of prosthetic legs, Holliman told Fox News he accepted an appointment for later this month. However, after this ordeal, he remains skeptical.

“I can’t walk on proposals. I need to see it [to] fruition,” Holliman said. “I’m trying to recoup my life. I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the VA.”

Continue on to FOX News to read the complete article.

Healing at 40-feet Below

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Scuba diver sees statue of himself at a underwater memorial

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet to the seafloor, the memories of the soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicts a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War—a war Campbell fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, who is now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed, about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.

The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans, and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep-sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area where he grew up.

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, who is also a diving instructor, agrees, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing—I never even thought it was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one allows visitors to connect on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

Source: army.mil

A Texas man is making canes for veterans using hundreds of donated Christmas trees

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walking cane that has the engraved words canes for veterans

A man in Texas is designing canes for veterans, and he’s asking you to donate your Christmas tree to help him do it. US Army veteran Jamie Willis started Canes for Veterans Central Texas in 2016 when he realized he wasn’t the only veteran who needed a cane that was safe, sturdy “and not just ugly.”

After serving in the Army for eight years, Willis was left a 100 percent disabled veteran completely unable to work.

“I do this so I don’t sit home all day feeling sorry for myself,” Willis told CNN. “This is all out of kindness. I do everything out of pocket and from donations.”

When the cane he was given by the Veterans Affairs had no style, kept collapsing and wasn’t what he deemed trustworthy, Willis turned to a Florida organization called Free Canes for Veterans which was giving out 500 canes.

After he was told that they had no more canes, Oscar Morris, the man behind the organization, instead taught Willis how to make his own.

“When I successfully sat down and made my very first cane, I asked him if I could branch it off and start Cane for Veterans in Central Texas and he said he would love for me to do that,” Willis said.

Since then, the 50-year-old has made and delivered more than 200 canes to veterans who live all over the world.

The man behind the canes

Morris, the 54-year-old US Army veteran behind the original idea, said Willis was the fifth veteran he knows to start their own branch of Free Canes for Veterans.

“It would be a blessing to get the word out for more veterans to do this,” Morris said “Each of these veterans were on my original list of 500 in 2015. It was the act of kindness and a piece of wood that was their inspiration.”

The organizations take stripped a Christmas tree and transforms it into a cane for a veteran.

This is the second year Willis has asked for tree donations, but he says he has been overwhelmed with the support this year.

“It’s been an outpouring of donations this year, more than I ever thought I would get,” Willis told CNN. “Home Depot flooded me with trees, they’re sending me 400, and the rest of the community will be giving me about another 100 trees.”

Each tree is the equivalent of about one cane, which takes Willis an entire day to make, package, and ship to the veteran who will use it. While he sometimes asks them to cover shipping, Willis covers all costs from out of his own pockets as well as donations, and pays for shipping if the veteran can’t afford it.

“One day, grab a cane and walk with it,” Morris said. “You will feel broken because others will see you as broken. We make our canes for veterans to look ‘cool’ while giving honor for their service.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Marine is On a Mission to Live By Motto, Get His Pup Out of Afghanistan

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Marine sits near his rescue puppy in Afghanistan

The Guardians of Rescue is helping a Marine bring home a dog he rescued stuck in razor wire.

SMITHTOWN, New York – The Marines live by the motto of never leaving anyone behind. For some that includes a dog they have rescued during deployment, and have bonded with. The loyalty from Captain Dave and his unit and the dog that they rescued goes both ways, and now his wish is to bring her back home to the United States with him when he returns soon. Guardians of Rescue have helped other military members pull off this same mission, and they are seeking public donations to help pull it off again.

“Captain Dave’s loyalty to Sox is like no other, and he believes in the idea of not leaving her behind,” explains Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, an animal rescue organization. “We know that we can help bring Sox back to America to live out her life with him, but we need the public’s support, because it’s costly to do. We are grateful to be working with Nowzad shelter in Kabul, because without their assistance this pup would not have a chance of coming to America.”

Captain Dave is stationed in a remote area in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to come back home to the United States in early 2020. He can’t imagine leaving Sox behind because he loves her. He first saw Sox when she was a puppy, finding her caught in concertina wire in their camp. He freed her, gave her food and water, and sent her on her way. However, Sox had different plans.

In the days that followed, Sox started coming back to their campSox the rescur puppy pictured when first found each day, feeling safe around the unit and seeking food and water. Some of the other men had even seen the dog being abused out on the streets. Soon, Sox began staying by their side all of the time, even tagging along on some of their missions. On a recent patrol, Sox ventured too far away from the unit and was whipped with a stick by a local. It was at that time that Captain Dave knew he could never leave her behind to fend for herself.

“The bond I have with Sox is something I didn’t expect, but I just can’t leave her behind,” says Captain Dave. “If I don’t bring her home with me I am afraid I’ll always regret it and wonder about what happened to her. I appreciate any assistance people can give in helping me to bring her home with me.”

Relocating a dog from the Middle East to America can be done, but it comes at a high cost. Along with paying fees to allow the dog to leave, there is medical care, airfare, and other relocation expenses involved. Those would like to give a donation to help bring Sox home with Captain Dave can log online: https://guardiansofrescue.networkforgood.com/projects/88403-sox.

Guardians of Rescue provides assistance to animas out on the streets and investigates animal cruelty cases. They are located in New York and they help animals in many places around the country. They are also instrumental in helping military members with their pets. To learn more, get involved, or to make a donation to support the Guardians of Rescue, log onto www.guardiansofrescue.org.

About Guardians of Rescue
Based in New York, Guardians of Rescue is an organization whose mission is to protect the well-being of all animals. They provide aid to animals in distress, including rehabilitation, assisting other rescue groups, and providing support to families, both military and not, who need assistance due to economic factors. To learn more about Guardians of Rescue, visit the site at www.guardiansofrescue.org.

Global Edition Telehealth Veterans Affairs, Walmart open latest telehealth pilot site

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Walmart store front pictured

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and retail giant Walmart have opened the latest location as part of a joint effort help Vets in rural areas get better access to medical services, the first location for a new telehealth pilot program.

WHY IT MATTERS
The store, located in Asheboro, North Carolina, is part of a public-private affiliation whereby Walmart donated equipment and space allowing Veterans to meet with a VA provider in a private room through video technology.

It’s all part of the VA’s Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations, or ATLAS, services initiative, which will provide clinical services – which the VA notes will vary by location – including primary care, nutrition, mental health and social work.

Other telehealth pilot sites are located in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, and the VA noted there were more than 1.3 million video telehealth encounters with more than 490,000 Veterans last year.

In addition to Walmart, ATLAS sites are currently located at American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Posts, allowing Vets to connect through the VA Video Connect platform.

It’s part of the VA’s Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations, or ATLAS, initiative, which will provide clinical services including primary care, mental health and social work.

The app also works on a wide range of device that have an Internet connection and a web camera, including Windows-based PCs and laptops, Windows mobile devices, iOS mobile devices and Android mobile devices.

The VA has also been working with companies like T-Mobile and Philips to pave the way for additional telehealth services for Vets.

THE LARGER TREND
Despite the department’s advances in telehealth services, Veterans Health Administration medical facilities are facing an enormous challenge as they scan and enter medical documentation into patients’ electronic health records.

According to an audit from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA medical facilities have a cumulative medical document backlog equivalent to more than five miles of stacked paper, with nearly 600,000 electronic files dating back to 2016.

Continue on to Healthcare IT News to read the complete article.

Florida man loses more than 180 pounds to join the Army

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Christopher Montijo speaks live on air about his weight loss

One Florida man is living proof that you can do anything if you want it badly enough. Christopher Montijo, a 28-year-old father of two, said his dream of joining the Army was put on the hold because he was almost 150 pounds over the weight limit, according to WOFL, an Orlando Fox affiliate.

It was “draining to walk, to sleep, to do anything,” he told WOFL; he knew if he wanted to see his children grow up, he’d have to make a major life change.

So he did.

Through cutting out soda and eating out along with walking more, Montijo has dropped over 180 pounds — almost half his body weight — and passed the Army’s physical fitness test. (It doesn’t appear he took a page out of this veteran’s book, who dropped weight by consuming beer and beer only for Lent.)

He told WOFL he “feels amazing,” and he’ll arrive at Fort Jackson at the beginning of 2020 with the rest of the recruits heading to basic training.

Continue on to Task and Purpose to read the complete article.

Stamp aims to raise awareness, funds for PTSD

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PTSD Stamp

Proceeds from sales of a new postage stamp issued recently will go to support post-traumatic stress disorder research and education at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD center, based at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, includes seven sites around the country that are focused on studying and treating PTSD, a mental health condition some people develop following a traumatic event such as combat, a natural disaster, sexual assault or a car accident. Symptoms may include reliving the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, negative thoughts and anxiety that linger long after the trauma.

While Paula Schnurr, the PTSD center’s executive director, said she is glad to have the revenue stream to support the center’s work, she also hopes the stamp brings awareness to the condition, which will affect tens of millions people in the U.S. — both veterans and civilians — in their lifetimes.

Schnurr said she hopes “people who have PTSD or family members see this and they might take some action.”

She spoke in a phone interview from Charlotte, N.C., where she participated in an event to celebrate the stamp’s release on Monday.

The stamp, which costs 65 cents, features a green plant sprouting from ground covered with fallen leaves that is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, according to a news release from the Postal Service. It was designed by Greg Breeding, the postal service’s art director, and includes original photography by Mark Laita, a Los Angeles-based commercial photographer.

Treatment for PTSD both through medication and therapy has improved in recent years, Schnurr said, noting that some of the center’s research is focused on the effectiveness of different treatments.

Public awareness of PTSD has grown following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, which caused many first responders and others to develop the condition, she said. Subsequent events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and numerous mass shootings — including one earlier this year at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the city where Monday’s stamp ceremony took place — have kept the condition in the public eye.

In addition to Schnurr, speakers at Monday’s event at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square also included representatives from the American Red Cross, The American Veteran Foundation, the Wounded Warriors Project and the Charlotte Chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Among the speakers was Chuck Denny, the founder of The American Veteran Foundation based in North Carolina, who was a major proponent of the PTSD stamp, in honor of his father, Garland Denny, who served in the Navy in the Korean War and, before his death in 2015, advocated for a stamp to raise money for veteran services.

“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semipostal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, said in a news release. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”

The price of the stamp includes the cost of a first-class stamp at the time of purchase — which is 55 cents currently — and an amount to fund PTSD research. They are available at post offices around the country, through an online shop at usps.com/store or by calling 800-STAMP24. Sheets of 20 can be purchased for $13.

Congress, through the Semipostal Authorization Act, allows the Postal Service to issue and sell “semipostal” stamps to benefit causes that are “in the national public interest and appropriate.”

Revenue from sales of the Healing PTSD stamp — less the cost of postage and reasonable costs incurred by the Postal Service — will go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Continue on to Valley News to read the complete article.

One-Man Show Transcends the Life of a Solider

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Douglas Taurel is sitting onstage in a green shirt, pants and headband lighting a cigarette

Douglas Taurel is not an American soldier. He’s never been to war. Yet veterans across the country are saluting him– thanking him for being “their voice,” for telling their stories and for showing the nation what military members go through in times of war and at home.

“I wanted to write something and I was very moved by the stories I was reading in the papers regarding combat veterans with PTSD and not having work. Some particular stories really moved me and started the spark (for the play,)” he said.

For the past five years, Taurel has fine-tuned his one-man show entitled, The American Soldier, which spans all of America’s significant war conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Taurel performs 14 different characters during his 80-minute show, which was performed following Veteran’s Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on November 13th.

The characters, which are based upon letters written by real servicemen in each war, include a father in the wake of his soldier son’s suicide; a soldier dealing with the loss of his limb; a wife and son dealing with a deployed father’s absence; and a grieving mother remembering her son at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Taurel said over the course of eight years, he spent hours a day at the New York City public library, reading veteran letters and researching each war for the play – reading 20-30 books and thousands of letters.

“I have a storyline that goes through the play,” Taurel says. “I try to talk about the different aspects of war, the challenges and what they [soliders] have to go through.

“The overall theme is thanking family members and veterans. The idea is to give the audience a sincere understanding of what it is that we ask our men and women in arms to do for us. That is the goal,” he added.

Audience members, veterans and critics alike are completely enthralled by Taurel’s performance and his heartfelt portrayal of soldiers and their families. He’s received hundreds of letter and comments regarding the show.

Here are just a few of them below:

“Words cannot express my profound gratitude in being able to Douglas Taurel headshotexperience your amazing performance. As you carried out each story, you truly transcended the audience into the life of a soldier.”

—Mother-in-law of a veteran

“Your performance was first class, moving, thoughtful, compassionate and heartfelt from the very beginning to the end. Tried holding back my tears, but that didn’t last long.”

—Desert Storm combat veteran

“Your passion for the stories you enact help us realize what the American soldier does and why they do it. Your inspiring portrayal of our veterans reminds us of the debt we owe our nations defenders.”

—Vietnam veteran

“I saw and felt the pain and journey of each character you created and remembered all of the tragedy I saw as a nurse in Vietnam.”

—Civilian nurse

Taurel has performed The American Solider more than 8,000 times in 11 different states. His play was one of 100—out of 3,500 entries—nominated for an Amnesty International Award.

But more than awards or reviews, Taurel says the years he spent researching and now portraying military members has given him a whole new appreciation for men and women in uniform.

“What I hope is to share how this allows our veterans to talk about their experiences,” he said. “It honors them and their families in their own words and gives them a voice.

“Now, as a society, we don’t have to make the same kind of commitment or sacrifices that previous generations made. Society functions efficiently even with war. We forget what they go through. My play reminds them.”