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.

Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman Shares his Secrets to Being a Leader and What it Takes to Overcome

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Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman and service dog Kharma stand next to each other on the grass

By Kellie Speed

Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman certainly knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a true leader and overcome adversity.

After all, the Ohio native and author of “The Trident” and “Overcome,” is the recipient of numerous prestigious military awards, including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (five awards), Combat Action Ribbon (two awards) and US Army Ranger Tab.

On September 13, 2007, during a special ops mission as Assault Force Commander to capture an Al Qaeda High Value Individual, Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy fire. Despite being shot several times, including once in the face, he and his team fought valiantly to do what he does best—overcome.

“I wouldn’t have made it through SEAL training if I didn’t have some level of mindset that I could overcome adversity, but it really got tested several years prior to getting shot,” Redman said. “It was through leadership failure and having to push forward despite a whole lot of people not believing in me and, as a matter of fact, being resentful that I just didn’t leave. That, by far, was the longest and hardest road I have ever fought—much harder than my injuries.

“Having climbed out of that hole and built back my professional leadership and tactical reputation over the last several years, both in training and in combat, put me in a position that when I was wounded, don’t get me wrong it sucked, but I was like, you have climbed out of worse holes so this is no different.”

Redman said, “The number one lesson in leadership is you have to lead yourself. You have to set the example. You have to pull forward. The great news is that when you do that consistently over time, people will follow you.”

When writing that now infamous orange sign he hung on his hospital door, it served as a reminder to him and others to come forward with a positive attitude. “I wrote it as a little bit of a warning to people coming into my room that I wasn’t going to tolerate sorrow,” he said. “It’s hard enough to stay positive when times are really hard and it makes it obviously that much harder if you are surrounded by other people that are going to pull you down and inject a bunch of negativity into a hard situation.

“I said, I am going to set the bar and forward focus, and if you can’t handle that, then I don’t want you to come in here. There’s a flip side to that coin that I’ll be honest I don’t think I put a lot of thought into but it set the bar for myself. It gave me a benchmark, setting a destination and a course that I have followed and sometimes it was hard,” Redman said. “Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of hard days when I was having setbacks, when I was having infections, when I was having problems, and to be like, man I don’t want to be motivated. I want to sit on the X and feel sorry for myself. But I was like, you can’t do that, look at your sign. I think that’s important in life when you say, this is what I am going to do and when you put it out there to the world, you set a level of expectation not only for yourself, but for other people.”

What advice does Redman have for a veteran who may be struggling in civilian life? “You have to believe the power resides in you,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. I know I struggled a lot with post-traumatic stress and anxiety after my injuries and I hit a really low point a few years after I came home and was spiraling down.

“My wife is amazing. I had always taken for granted that she would always be there, but she kind of hit me with, hey, this is not working for me and our family. So, that’s when I went and got help. At the end of the day, to the veterans out there, you have to be proactive,” Redman explained. “Sometimes you need to recognize that you need to reach out and get somebody to help you. I am not afraid to reach out when I need to. But, you, the individual on that X, have to take the first step to get off it and recognize it may take several times to make progress. Just recognize those initial first tries are going to be the hardest, but if you continue and you grind and you have the discipline to keep pushing for that change, you will make momentum.”

Image Credit: Michelle Quilon – 3’s a Charm Photography

Marriage Enrichment Programs

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man in military fatigues hugging his wife smiling

With deployments and frequent relocations, military relationships can be put to the test. You’ve aced military life. Now can you bring that same strength and sense of adventure to your marriage?

You can access free, confidential, relationship consultation services like Building Healthy Relationships, as well as non-medical counseling through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 or chat online with our trained professional consultants.

Also, each military service branch offers programs designed to enrich marriage and maintain a healthy relationship by helping couples develop better communication skills and rekindle the romance.

These programs are generally:

  • Run by chaplains and supported by commanders, Military and Family Support Centers, and installation family readiness programs
  • Non-faith-specific
  • Either low-cost or free to service members and spouses

To find out about programs available through your service branch and installation, check with your chaplain or local Military and Family Support Center. Through the center, Military and Family Life Counselors are available on installations and embedded in units.

Here are some service-specific programs:

Army

Installation chaplains offer the Strong Bonds Program. The program features:

  • Weekend retreats that help couples build relationship resiliency
  • Specific retreats for couples, families, single soldiers and for those facing deployment
  • Activities for unit members who are on the same duty cycle

Marine Corps

The Marine Corps offers the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program. This program:

  • Benefits newlyweds and seasoned couples alike
  • Helps couples improve their communication skills and build strong relationships
  • Offers workshops through chaplains and Marine Corps Family Team Building

Navy

Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operations offer marriage enrichment retreats. More information is available on the Navy’s ChaplainCare website. These getaways include:

  • Weekend retreats that help couples focus on their relationships while enjoying food, fun and romance
  • The opportunity for couples to learn about handling conflict, growing their marriage, building intimacy, communication and understanding each other

Air Force

The Air Force Chaplain Corps offers the MarriageCare program. Check with your installation’s chaplain to see what’s available in your area. The MarriageCare program offers:

  • Weekend retreats to help couples to revitalize their marriage while taking a break from military duty
  • A chance to work on communication, forgiveness and other skills
  • Other programs offered by chaplains on Air Force installations

MilSpouse Toolkit

From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may be experiencing a disconnect from their family and need to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Veterans with Crohn’s or Colitis, We Need Your Input!

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Female soldier in fatigues pictured looking somber facing forward with the text Crohn's & Colitis Foundation at the top

If you are a veteran of the U.S. military, and have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, we need your input!

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation invites veterans affected by these diseases to participate in a survey that will help us understand their healthcare needs. Participants of who qualify and complete the survey can be entered for a chance to win a $300 gift card

Start our survey now!

The mission of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults who are affected by these diseases. The Foundation works to fulfill its mission by funding research; providing educational resources for patients and their families, medical professionals, and the public; and furnishing supportive services for those afflicted with IBD.

For more information about the Foundation, visit: www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org

Victorious Veteran Combats A Hidden Enemy

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Brandi Benson looks back at camera over her shoulder wearing a survivor shirt

Imagine joining the military in the hopes of playing soccer for your country to only end up fighting your own battle to survive a sudden, terminal illness. Out of the 17.4 million veterans in the U.S., almost 3% of them experience a cancer diagnosis annually.

A vibrant, fit 24 year old in perfect health, Brandi L. Benson faced an unexpected type of war that required the weapons of faith, hope, and strength. Fresh out of basic training and only three months in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, an aeroplane ride to a hospital in Germany ironically propelled her toward an internal battle that left her reeling in shock: Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects only 12,000 people.

Brandi was told she would need to have her leg amputated, which would crush her dreams of being a world class athlete for the Army. She was placed in a ward with 12 people who had different forms of cancer and she was the only one to survive.

“I fought hard to overcome my diagnosis,” says Brandi. “I was determined not to become a victim to statistics.”

Brandi dealt with feelings of hopelessness due to outdated treatment methods, spirals of negative thinking, self blame and denial. She pushed her way through by journaling her experience for her then two year old nephew to have memories to hold onto. Beating the odds of the 6,000 who will die and the 3,000 who will not live to the five-year mark from this illness, she embraced her new identity as a disfigured and disabled veteran, cancer survivor and now author.

Brandi turned her journal into a book, “The Enemy Inside Me,” a story of inspiration for survivors of life’s battles. Her mission is to provide an effective blueprint of strategies and resources that survivors, their loved ones and anyone struggling with “an enemy” in whatever form, can use to improve their overall wellbeing.

About Brandi L. Benson

Brandi L. Benson is a 36-year-old veteran, speaker, author and cancer advocate based in Miami, FL (from Novato, Calif.). Joining the military in hopes of playing soccer for her country, she ended up with her own battle. Fresh out of basic training and only three months stationed in Iraq, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ewing Sarcoma, at age 24. Walking away with one less muscle in her left leg, she triumphantly defied odds. Brandi has written magazine blogs for Conquer Magazine, Cancer Wellness Magazine, American Cancer Society and more sharing her story. She is spokesperson for Bristol Myers Squibb alongside ABC’s This is Us Sterling K. Brown, has signed a modeling contract with HOP Models & Talent Agency and is the author of The Enemy Inside Me, available on Amazon. For more information, visit https://brandilbenson.com/.

20 US Veterans, Aged 28-92, to Skydive at the National WWI Museum and Memorial this Veterans Day

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older veteran shaking hands with a group of younf soldiers in uniform

In commemoration of Veterans Day, the National WWI Museum and Memorial serves as a fitting place to honor those who have served — and continue to serve — our country. To recognize these men and women, admission to the Museum and Memorial is free for veterans and active duty military personnel from Saturday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 15. General admission for the public is half-price on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11.

A “Legacy Jump” will kick off the Nov. 11 Veterans Day activities at 6:30 a.m. CT Led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, the “Legacy Jump” will feature an All Veteran Group parachute team who will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. The veterans range in age from 28 to 92.

Parrott will cap off the jump with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial Tower in honor of POW-MIAs and a war that is talked about infrequently. The “Legacy Jump” will bring together generations of veterans, including news host Pete Hegseth, to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder causes through the Bird’s Eye View Project.

“We’re excited to host this special ‘Legacy Jump’ on Veterans Day,” says Dr. Matthew Naylor, president & CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.  “We are proud to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

Additionally, the Museum and Memorial will offer a wide variety of events throughout Veterans Day. A free, public Veterans Day Ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. CT in the Memorial Courtyard with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony, along with all other Veterans Day special events, will be held outdoors with social distancing and masks to ensure the public can celebrate our veterans safely.

Following the ceremony, at 11 a.m. CT, locally-based Cars 4 Heroes will be giving away 11 vehicles to veterans on the North Lawn. The bi-annual Walk of Honor dedication ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. CT, followed by a special outdoor performance from the Kansas City Symphony. Their Mobile Music Box will be on the Southeast Lawn from 3 – 5 p.m. CT.

Support for Veterans Day is provided by Jackson County Executive and County Legislators and Weather or Not.

VETERANS DAY ACTIVITIES: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020

LEGACY JUMP

When: 6:30 a.m. CT

Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn

What: Organized by the Bird’s Eye View Project and led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL from Team 7 and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott. An All Veteran Group parachute team will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. Parrott will cap off the event with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower.

VETERANS DAY CEREMONY

When: 10 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: Join us for a moving ceremony honoring our nation’s veterans with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony will be outdoors to ensure we can celebrate our veterans safely. Please dress warmly, practice social distancing and wear a mask. FREE to the public.

LIVING HISTORY VOLUNTEERS

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard and Paul Sunderland Bridge
What: History is brought to life with our Living History Volunteers who will be available for social distanced pictures. FREE to the public.

CARS 4 HEROES CEREMONY

When: 11 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn
What: For 24 years, Cars 4 Heroes has provided free, basic, reliable transportation to Veterans, First Responders and their families, that otherwise are not able to obtain transportation for themselves. Join us for a moving ceremony as the organization hands over the keys of 11 cars to deserving individuals.

WALK OF HONOR DEDICATION CEREMONY

When: 2 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: More than 100 new Walk of Honor granite bricks will be dedicated during a special ceremony. The Walk of Honor is divided into three sections: bricks dedicated solely to those who served in World War I; bricks dedicated to veterans of any military service; and bricks that honor civilian friends, family or organizations. Walk of Honor bricks are dedicated twice each year during Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. FREE to the public.

KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE

When: 3 – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Southeast Lawn
What: At a time when audiences cannot visit indoor venues, the Symphony is taking the music on the road to reach music lovers and families in every corner of the metropolitan area. Kansas City Symphony’s new outdoor stage on wheels, the Mobile Music Box, will be on the Museum and Memorial’s Southeast Lawn for a 3 p.m. CT performance. FREE to the public.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.

About the Birds Eye View Project

The Birds Eye View Project (BEVP) uses extreme sports to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder charities. Veteran and former Navy SEAL, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott knew that it takes big events to make a significant impact. That’s what this is. That’s why we are here. One man’s idea of running from Dallas to Waco in 24 hours to raise $100K for charity, turned into a charity that performs over-the-top stunts to impact those who need it most – veteran and First-responders injured in the line of duty – raising funds and awareness for small charities that need help doing their awesome work.

Photo Credit: The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Best Wellness Apps

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Soldier working on a laptop with US Flag in the background

Your wellness is a top priority, and there are many resources out there to help you manage stress and access all the benefits and tools that will help you stay strong in body and mind. Below are self-care mobile applications developed within the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs and other partners. All mobile applications are free and all are for iOS and/or Android devices.

Breathe2Relax
Trains you on the “belly breathing” technique that has proven benefits for your overall mental health. Use the app’s breathing exercises to learn and practice on your own or as part of a stress management program supervised by your health care provider.

App Store

Google Play

Positive Activity Jackpot
Helps users who may be overwhelmed by depression find nearby enjoyable activities. Can’t decide?  Let the app’s jackpot function make the choice.

App Store

Google Play

LifeArmor
Touch-screen technology allows the user to browse information on 17 topics, including sleep, depression, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress.

App Store

Google Play

Virtual Hope Box
Contains simple tools to help users with coping, relaxation, distraction and positive thinking using personalized audio, video, pictures, games, mindfulness exercises, activity planning, inspirational quotes and coping statements.

App  Store

Google Play

Parenting2Go
Helps veterans and service members reconnect with their children and provides convenient tools to strengthen parenting skills. The app addresses challenges that come with parenting children of all ages and backgrounds.

App Store

Breathe, Think, Do
Laugh and learn as you help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges. This app helps your child learn Sesame’s Breathe, Think, Do strategy for problem solving.

App Store

Google Play

Moving Forward
Provides on-the-go tools and teaches problem solving skills to overcome obstacles and deal with stress. The app is designed for veterans and service members, but is useful for anyone with stressful problems.

App Store

Provider Resilience
Offers self-assessment and stress reduction tools along with a dashboard to track your daily resilience rating.

App Store

Google Play

Big Moving Adventure
With Sesame’s Street’s Big Moving Adventure, your young child can create his or her own Muppet friend and help him or her through the moving process, including: Packing, saying goodbye, expressing feelings, traveling, and making new friends.

App Store

Google Play

COVID Coach
The COVID Coach app was created for everyone, including veterans and service members, to support self-care and overall mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

App Store

Google Play

Source: militaryonesource.mil/health-wellness/recommended-wellness-apps

PTSD Breakthrough

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Jonathan Lubecky in dress blues looking over shoulder smiling with others in the background carrying US flags

By: Matt Saintsing

When it comes to treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nothing is better than trauma-focused psychotherapies, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

By centering on the memory or meaning of harrowing and often painful events, veterans can process and make sense of their most stressful experiences in war.

But momentum is steadily growing behind the use of alternative medicine to battle the symptoms of PTSD, including one illicit substance that’s showing tremendous promise in recent studies. MDMA, commonly known as the street drug ecstasy or Molly, is culturally linked to the rave scene of the 1990s. First synthesized in 1912 for pharmacological purposes, the CIA experimented with the substance as a potential psychological weapon during the Cold War.

More recently, however, it’s shown to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms when paired with psychotherapy. The research has been so promising that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted the drug “breakthrough” status and is fast-tracking final phases of clinical trials, in the hopes of developing a new countermeasure to PTSD.

Army and Marine Corps veteran Jonathan Lubecky told DAV—a nonprofit organization that helps over a million veterans each year— that he knows the challenges of living with the invisible scars of war all too well. While he was deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2006, an enemy mortar crashed down inside the portable toilet he was using. He was left without a single physical scratch, but he would later learn he suffered a traumatic brain injury and developed severe PTSD.

(Above image: Wearing his dress blues, Lubecky is an advocate for alternative therapies, including MDMA, which he says helped to cure him of PTSD).

This event marked the beginning of a life-changing and dangerous journey involving daily suicidal thoughts, which he acted on five separate times. After retiring from the Army in 2009, he began self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana, masking the underlying problems. He also tried the medication prescribed to him by the VA, at one point taking 42 pills per day. But help seemed beyond his grasp.“Most of what I was thinking was, is this going to be my life for the rest of it? Nightmares every night?” he said. “I felt like the world would be better without me in it.”

But in 2014, Lubecky signed up to take part in a study involving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, organized and conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization working to advance the science of potentially beneficial compounds like MDMA.

MAPS’ multiple clinical MDMA trials have shown to reduce PTSD dramatically. Under close observation, Lubecky ingested MDMA three times over 12 weeks in conjunction with psychotherapy sessions. “It worked,” said Lubecky. “Five years later, and I still don’t have PTSD, and I haven’t done MDMA since.”

According to Dr. Michael Mithoefer, the acting medical director for MAPS and a psychiatrist who is heavily involved in the clinical trials, MDMA can break down barriers some may have with PTSD and encourage trust—a vital component of a patient-therapist relationship.

According to Mithoefer, MDMA helps reverse the brain functions that can paralyze people when trauma is triggered. MDMA’s ability to overcome fear and defensiveness, increase empathy and compassion, and heighten introspection can significantly improve psychotherapy for PTSD. Of the 103 patients that had chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD who completed MAPS’ Phase 2 trials, just over half no longer met the qualification for PTSD diagnosis in the months following treatment.

At the one-year mark, 68% no longer qualified. The stunning results were published in the journal Psychopharmacology in May 2019. Phase 3 trials, the final step of research required by the Food and Drug Administration before deciding to approve a drug for treatment, are currently underway at 14 sites across the United States, Canada and Israel. Mithoefer is hopeful that following these stages, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be an accepted treatment for PTSD by 2022.

However, MDMA, like other psychedelics, remains illegal and can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Under the current regimen, MDMA is never given as a take-home drug, and patients only receive it two or three times over several months.

“DAV is supportive of nontraditional therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and expanded treatment options for veterans,” said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “Anything that can safely help our veterans heal from the lasting psychological impacts of war, particularly for those who tried treatment before without success, is worth studying further, which these trials are attempting to do.”

To learn more about how DAV helps veterans, visit DAV.org.

Travis Mills: A Profile in True Courage

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Travis Mills seated on couch wearing two prosthetic legs smiling

By Kellie Speed

Eight years ago, Travis Mills’ life was forever changed when he became one of only five servicemen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ever to survive his injuries as a quadruple amputee.

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne was critically wounded in action on April 10, 2012 by an IED on his third deployment in Afghanistan, but with a positive attitude, he refuses to let his injuries define him.

“In the beginning it was a little difficult not being able to look in the mirror for six months” he told us. “There were times when you wonder why this happened and how can you go back in time. After a while, you just realize that it’s never going to change so you might as well make the best of it.”

Mills said he had wonderful doctors, nurses, and medical staff as well as therapists (occupational, physical, driving rehab) that would get him back on his feet. His wife and his daughter were right there with him, literally every step of the way.

“I learned to walk with my daughter as she was learning how to walk,” he said. “Once you peel back the layers and realize this is the rest of your life, stop dwelling on it, get moving and reminisce about what you had, life gets a lot easier.”

Mills said the mental part was the toughest, and that he struggled with the ‘why?”

“Am I a bad person? Why didn’t I just die? Things like that go through your head,” he said. “I realized for the first five weeks of my injuries that I had to have someone feed me, have someone help me change my clothes, help me use the restroom, things that you wouldn’t think of. It’s like being an adult baby that can’t do anything for themselves. It has taught me patience.”

Today, the motivational speaker, actor, author and advocate for veterans and amputees whose motto “never give up; never quit” continues to inspire everyone he meets, while living “a pretty normal, hectic, crazy all-American dream life” with his wife, Kelsey, and two children.

Mills and his wife founded the Travis Mills Foundation to assist post 9/11 veterans who have been injured in active duty or as a result of their service to our nation. Through the foundation, they have created a Veterans Retreat where veterans and their families receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid vacation to Maine to participate in adaptive activities.

“The original vision in creating the foundation was just care packages overseas, because I would see a lot of guys who wouldn’t get care packages,” he said. “I thought, ‘let’s just send them peanut butter M&Ms, beef jerky that’s peppered, of course, because that’s the delicious one, and a few other items.’ So, we started with that idea.”

Then Mills, who could still go kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and snowboarding, would take these trips with his wife and enjoyed them so much, it sparked his next idea. “I thought how great it would be to bring people out and show them they can do things adaptively with their family?” he said. “It just kind of progressed to a small camp in the woods with little cabins to this huge facility. We don’t even say camp anymore because it’s more of a retreat at a huge estate (the former Elizabeth Arden Estate). We have been able to expand greatly.”

Mills’ advice for veterans who may be struggling with injuries suffered during combat? “I just tell people never be too strong to reach out for help, and understand there are ways to get over post-traumatic stress. And if they are physically injured, every day is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I am always so grateful and thankful when I think about what could have happened. I lost some really, really close friends of mine, and their families would give anything to have them back—their children, parents, spouses, their siblings and friends would give anything. So, when I think about it in that aspect, I know I was given a chance to live, move forward and make the most of every day.”

The $100 Bet That Forever Changed Kaleb Wilson’s Life

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Kaleb Wilson in wheelchair on a pier with his wife in his lap

Seven years ago, Coast Guard veteran and PVA member Kaleb Wilson took a $100 bet that changed his life.

Some friends dared him to jump off a pier. He was 22 years old, and he figured he’d do it—it’s $100, right?

So, he dove in headfirst and hit the bottom, shattering several vertebrae. Instead of celebrating his win with friends, he found himself in a New Orleans Trauma Center, paralyzed.

One Goal

With his sweetheart Brittany by his side, he fought tooth and nail with one goal in mind: He wanted to walk down the aisle on their wedding day. She had been there for him during his recovery and rehab, and now he made it his mission to be there for her, standing across from her at the altar, and dancing at their wedding. With a lot of love, support, and hard work, he made it happen.

Wilson had been interested in joining the military ever since he was a little boy. He was a swimmer in high school, and started looking into programs with the Navy and the Air Force. But it was the Coast Guard that caught his attention. He was drawn to rescue swimming. “I knew it was where I needed to be,” he says.

He was a part of the Coast Guard for three years. After he graduated from boot camp he was assigned to a station in New Orleans, where he worked doing search and rescue missions, intercepting drug shipments, escorting vessels into the Gulf, and patrolling rivers and lakes. He loved his job, and he enjoyed the culture in New Orleans. He was a young man enjoying his career, living in a lively city, in love with a beautiful girl. Wilson was on the list to go to “A” school in November of 2012 when he took that fateful dare that landed him in a wheelchair.

A New Normal

Becoming paralyzed presents a whole host of challenges, of course, not just for the injured, but for those closest to them. Wilson and Brittany had to work together with trust and focus in order to adjust to their new normal. They relied on each other, and became stronger together. He proposed in 2013; they married in 2014, both of them standing for the ceremony.

Kaleb, in wheelchair and Brittany Wilson pose outside with their two young daughters, all smiling
Kaleb and Brittany Wilson with their two daughters

They also relied on Paralyzed Veterans of America. During rehab and recovery, PVA helped Wilson with benefits information, and later on, with vocational rehab benefits allowing him to return to school to pursue a chemical engineering degree. A couple of years ago, Wilson competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in swimming, and was inspired to join the Mountain State chapter of PVA, serving on the Board and as Treasurer.

He has attended two Games so far, most recently in Louisville, where he brought home seven medals in swimming, rugby, and field events. “It’s nice to be around people who are in a similar situation as I am, who understand what you are going through,” he says. “Brittany loves it, too, because she gets to socialize with other wives who know what we’re dealing with, and we get to come together with friends who live around the country.”

Giving Back

He and Brittany are in the process of moving to Illinois, where he will transfer his membership to the Vaughn chapter of PVA and do some volunteering for fellow veteran Noah Currier with his Oscar Mike Foundation.

“It’s not just money that keeps these programs running, it’s volunteers, too. I don’t want to be somebody who just takes, takes, takes. I want to give back.”

Today, Wilson is a loving and happy husband, and delighted father of two little girls, with a third child on the way. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

“Seven years ago, I sustained my injury that ended my time actively serving in the Coast Guard, but that did not take away the fact that I still am a Coastie. I still feel at home around my fellow Coasties; I still feel connected in the way I always have. I may not serve beside them anymore, but I will always be a part of them!”

Source: https://blog.pva.org & craighospital.org/blog/wilsonwedding

VA resumes in-person benefits services halted by the COVID-19 response

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woman working at VA meeting with veteran about benefits wearing face mask for social distancing

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced  the reestablishment of in-person benefits services in select locations throughout the country.

Currently, there are 11 regional offices (RO) open to the public and more are expected to reopen in the coming weeks as reopening phases will vary by RO and local conditions.

“During the last few months, VA regional offices continued performing our essential mission virtually — to provide benefits to Veterans and eligible family members,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We have robust safety measures in place that will allow us to resume in-person services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families and our team members who serve them.”

ROs will continue adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which includes the use of social distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizer and asking sick individuals to stay at home.

Veterans can continue to interact with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) virtually for accessing benefits information online or when filing a claim online. For claim-specific questions call 1-800-827-1000. To check the availability of an RO near you, visit VA benefits offices.

VBA’s return to normal, pre-COVID-19 public-facing operations align with White House guidelines for re-opening. Read more about our response to COVID-19.

Source: va.gov

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