Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD

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People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the real danger has passed. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

While PTSD is often associated with combat veterans, any survivor of a natural disaster, physical abuse or other traumatic event may suffer from it. The good news is that with professional help, PTSD is treatable.

But the first steps in getting help are learning the risk factors, recognizing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options.

Knowing the risk factors

Several factors play a role in developing PTSD, such as individual personality, severity of the event, proximity to the event, the people involved in the event, duration of the trauma and the amount of support the person receives afterward.

You may be at higher risk if you:
 

  • Were directly involved in the traumatic event
  • Were injured or had a near-death experience
  • Survived an especially long-lasting or severe traumatic event
  • Truly believed your life or that of someone around you was in danger
  • Had a strong emotional or physical reaction during the event
  • Received little or no support following the event
  • Have multiple other sources of stress in your life

Recognizing the symptoms

Just as individual reactions to trauma vary, PTSD symptoms also differ from person to person. Symptoms may appear immediately after a traumatic event or they may appear weeks, months or even years later.

Although the symptoms of a “typical” stress reaction can resemble those of PTSD, true PTSD symptoms continue for a prolonged time period and often interfere with a person’s daily routines and commitments.

While only a trained medical professional can diagnose PTSD, possible signs of the disorder include:

Re-experiencing trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder frequently includes flashbacks, or moments in which the person relives the initial traumatic event or re-experiences the intense feelings of fear that surrounded it.

Avoidance/numbness. As a result of flashbacks or other negative feelings, people suffering from PTSD may avoid conversations or situations that remind them of the frightening event they survived.

Hyper arousal. Feeling constantly on edge, feeling irritable and having difficulty sleeping or concentrating are all possible signs of PTSD.

Children can also suffer from PTSD. In children, PTSD symptoms may differ from those seen in adults and may include trouble sleeping, acting out or regression in toilet training, speech or behavior. Parents of a child with PTSD may notice the child’s artwork or pretend play involves dark or violent themes or details.

Understanding the treatment options

Even suspecting you have PTSD is reason enough to get a professional opinion, especially when free help is available around the clock to service members and their families.

If you’re not sure whom to talk to, start with any of the following:

  • Military treatment facility or covered services.You can locate the nearest military treatment facility and covered services in the civilian community near you through the TRICARE website.
  • Your healthcare provider.If you receive health care in the community through a civilian provider, you can start by talking to your doctor.
  • Local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.If you are eligible to receive care through a VA hospital or clinic, find the nearest facility through the Veterans Health Administration website.
  • Military Crisis Line.If you or anyone you know ever experiences thoughts of suicide, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. The Military Crisis Line staff can connect you with mental health support and crisis counseling services for a wide range of issues.

Remember, you are not alone. Free help is available 24/7 to service members and their families. Seeking help is a sign of strength that helps to protect your loved ones, your career, and your mental and physical health.

Source: Militaryonesource.mil

The Leading Cause of Blindness for Veterans

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Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for veterans over 60. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.

The disease damages your eye’s optic nerve. It usually happens when fluid pressure builds up in the front part of your eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure on the optic nerve. It can reduce blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage and visual field loss.

Some forms of glaucoma can damage the optic nerve from reduced blood flow, even when the eye pressure is in the normal range during the eye exam. This can happen when the eye pressure becomes high at other times of the day and the patient does not feel the pressure elevation.

It can also happen when blood flow to the optic nerve becomes reduced below a critical level. That can happen during periods of very low blood pressure, even during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea can adversely affect glaucoma in some patients who take their hypertension medications right before bedtime, it can cause the blood pressure to drop too low during hours of sleep, and may also reduce the delivery of oxygen to the optic nerve.

VA research provides valuable tools for vision treatment

VA is at the forefront of vision research and glaucoma is one of its top priorities. A current study by Dr. Markus Kuehn is a Bioassay to Predict the Development and Progression of Glaucoma. The VA Rehabilitation, Research, and Development Division sponsors the study.

The project uses the recent discovery that glaucoma affects the development of a cellular autoimmune response that can further reduce vision. The investigators are testing if the strength of the reaction from a blood sample is predictive of future loss of vision and quality of life of the patient.

Using artificial intelligence to diagnose glaucoma severity

Another Iowa City VA study by Drs. Randy Kardon, Mona Garvin, Ray Wang, Young Kwon Johannes Ledolter and Michael Wall is using a new type of artificial intelligence of image analysis. This intelligence is called a deep learning variational encoder. It diagnoses the severity of glaucoma, detects the earliest signs of worsening vision and its response to treatment.

They are also relating the eye imaging to Veteran quality of life.

Early identification of patients at high risk to develop vision loss allows more aggressive treatment before the damage occurs. The development of a predictive assay and new types of eye imaging analysis will provide eye care providers with valuable new tools to preserve the quality of life for Veterans.

Veterans enrolled in VA health care can schedule appointments directly with Ophthalmology or Optometry without a referral from primary care. Schedule an eye exam at your VA health care facility today.

Source: va.gov

At the Intersection of Hearing and Mental Health

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By Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology & Senior Director of Audiology, Signia

When people think of hearing loss, many think of being unable to hear. Period. That’s understandable. A literal loss of hearing — the onset of silence — can have dramatic ramifications for a person’s life.

But other forms of hearing loss, characterized by difficulty hearing, can have equal impact. And we’re learning, especially in the case of military veterans, that it can have a related effect on their mental health.

Two of the most prominent conditions affecting veterans are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While prevalent in the general public, each is a uniquely common health problem for veterans based on the important jobs they’re asked to perform. Also common is tinnitus, that ringing in the ears that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans but disproportionally affects veterans. The combination of the three presents a possible long-term health concern that requires coordination among disparate specialties to handle effectively.

According to a recent study of injured military personnel, hearing loss and PTSD may be linked. The study’s authors found that “the odds of PTSD are approximately three times higher in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss [hearing loss in both ears] when compared to personnel without hearing loss.” The reason, at least in part, is that hearing loss — even partial — can affect a veteran’s ability to listen and communicate, which decreases their quality of life and exacerbates mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

The Case for Coordination

As an audiologist, I’ve seen the mental health effects of hearing loss firsthand. Again, a person doesn’t have to experience total hearing loss to suffer. NIHL, in particular, affects communication because it impacts sound frequencies that are common in speech. NIHL makes hearing voices more challenging, especially in spaces where ambient sound competes to be heard. As a result, those affected strain to hear, which often leads to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, or they may withdraw from social situations, adversely affecting their mental health.

hearing aids shown inside a plastic caseIn the case of tinnitus, the study’s authors found that because it often co-occurs with NIHL, it may also be associated with higher rates of PTSD. In some cases, tinnitus may impact traumatic flashbacks. “Sounds triggering exacerbation of tinnitus similarly affected PTSD symptom severity,” they wrote.

Tinnitus is not hearing loss, but research has indicated it can be a sign of hearing loss to come. Therefore, like hearing loss, tinnitus requires early identification and treatment.

In fact, veterans and their healthcare providers need to be on the lookout early for all interrelated signs of NIHL, tinnitus and PTSD. Delay could have a serious impact on quality of life. There also should be fresh coordination between audiologists and mental health professionals. In short: veterans with bilateral hearing loss need to be monitored for PTSD.

Better Hearing in Noise

On the audiology side, technology now exists that can dramatically improve a veterans’ ability to hear and communicate in various settings, addressing one of the subtler effects of NIHL on mental health. Signia recently created a platform called Augmented Xperience that features hearing aids with two different microprocessors built in to handle speech and background noise separately. This kind of split processing in hearing aids makes it so NIHL sufferers can listen and communicate more effectively in all environments — quiet, noisy or normal.

Most of Signia’s hearing products also include innovative notch therapy technology for helping suppress tinnitus. Notch therapy identifies the wearer’s unique tinnitus frequency and creates a frequency notch in their hearing aids that ultimately offsets and silences the tinnitus.

Unfortunately, most primary healthcare professionals don’t automatically screen for hearing loss or tinnitus, and patients usually don’t recognize the problems until they’ve been examined. Fortunately for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the heightened risk of NIHL and tinnitus from military service and covers diagnostic audiology from the moment a veteran exits the service. Healthcare professionals and veterans themselves should expand from there and begin exploring the possible connections between a vet’s hearing loss and PTSD.

Dr. Brian Taylor headshot
Dr. Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia.

We know hearing loss and PTSD are significant public health problems among military veterans. Although further research still needs to be done, there are indications that identifying and treating the former through hearing technology that enhances human performance can begin to address the latter. In all likelihood, a coordinated approach to hearing and mental health can boost veterans’ quality of life.

Brian Taylor is a Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed articles and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. Brian has nearly 30 years of experience as both a clinician, business manager and university instructor. His most recent textbook, Relationship-Centered Consultation Skills for Audiologists, was published in July 2021.

Resources for Veterans Struggling with Substance Use Addiction

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If you’re struggling with substance use problems, you’re not alone. Many veterans have problems with the use of alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and prescription medicines.

We’re here to help.

Find out how to get support for substance use problems through VA.

What services does VA provide for veterans with substance use problems?

We provide many options for veterans seeking treatment for substance use problems ranging from unhealthy alcohol use to life-threatening addiction.

The services we offer you depend on your specific needs.

We offer proven medication options, like:

  • Medically managed detoxification to stop substance use safely, and services to get stable
  • Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce cravings (like methadone and buprenorphine for opiate addiction)
  • Nicotine replacement or other medicines for stopping tobacco use
  • We offer counseling and other therapy options, like:
  • Short-term outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Residential (live-in) care
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention (making sure you don’t slip back into the same substance use problems)
  • Special programs for veterans with specific concerns (like women veterans, returning combat veterans, and homeless veterans)
  •  
    We also offer treatment and support for health conditions that can be related to substance use problems, like:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Learn more about treatment programs for substance use problems
  • How do I access VA services for substance use problems?

    The VA health care program covers services to treat substance use problems. To access these services, first apply for VA health care. Once you’ve signed up and have a VA primary care provider, talk to them about your substance use. Your provider can help you get screened for substance use problems and related issues (like PTSD or depression)—and can offer treatment and support as needed.

    If you don’t have a VA primary care provider or have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic:

    Call our general information hotline at 800-827-1000, or contact your local VA medical center. If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND), call your local VA medical center, and ask to speak to the OEF/OIF/OND coordinator.

    What if I don’t have VA health care benefits?

    You may still be able to get care:

    If you’ve served in a combat zone, get free private counseling, alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of our 300 community Vet Centers.

    If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless:

    Visit our website to learn about VA programs for veterans who are homeless or contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area. The call is free and confidential (private).

    Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Even if you don’t qualify for VA health care, our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.

    Where can I find more information and support?

    Go to our Make the Connection website at maketheconnection.net to hear stories from Veterans about their own experiences with overcoming drug and alcohol problems, and to get access to more resources and support. Visit our self-help resources guide to get links to books, web resources, and mobile applications that have been reviewed and recommended by VA experts.

    Visit the resources section of our VA website to find more trusted resources outside VA that can offer information and support.

    Download our Stay Quit Coach mobile app—designed to help veterans with PTSD quit smoking. We based this app on steps proven to work to help people quit smoking. It includes tools to control cravings and manage smoking triggers, messages to keep you going, medication reminders, and more.

    Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Helping Other Vets Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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    By Annie Nelson, Founder, American Soldier Network

    Throughout my life, I have been blessed to befriend some amazing men and women in military communities. They often do not just serve our nation while on active duty, but continue to do so long after they hang up their uniforms. Many of them strive to support their fellow veterans with their free time, some through their employers, and still others as entrepreneurs who create new businesses that serve our nation.

    I was fortunate to recently interview two of those veterans who are successful entrepreneurs – Scott Brauer a retired Navy SEAL, and Mark Holtzapple, PhD, a professor at Texas A&M. They have partnered up on a new business called NozeSealTM that addresses sleep apnea, a growing critical health concern for active-duty members, veterans, their families and friends.

    I sat down with Scott and Mark to ask them a few questions about their latest endeavor below:

    Annie Nelson: Scott, why is sleep apnea such a hot topic?

    Brauer: Annie, there are over 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, and likely another 10 million undiagnosed. The situation has been getting worse, especially within the military. A recent study shows that since 2005, there is a 30-fold increase in active-duty military members diagnosed with sleep apnea. In general, sleep disorders originate from a wide range of common issues found in the veteran community, such as sleep deprivation, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, pain, tinnitus, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), toxic pollution, emotional trauma, substance abuse and even substance withdrawal.

    Nelson: What are the health impacts of sleep apnea?

    Brauer: Poor sleep leads to many negative health effects, such as obesity, depression, irritability, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower sex drive, suppressed immune function, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. New studies are emphasizing the negative effects of sleep apnea on the health of the heart and the brain. A recent study showed that patients with severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had a significant increase in the number of both fatal and non-fatal cardiac events. The risk factor was nearly 3 times higher than normal! A key intervention for patients with severe OSA is treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for greater than 4 hours per night, which significantly reduces incidences of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events.

    Nelson: What are the challenges with PAP therapy?

    women holding up attached large breathing device
    The old way to sleep. Photo: Igor Kraguljac, DP Cinematographer & Photographer

    Brauer: Frankly, it can be a nightmare for many. The most frequently reported reason for discontinuing PAP therapy are side effects – leaks, discomfort and pain, facial marks and rashes, hair damage, anxiety and claustrophobia – which are experienced by approximately two-thirds of PAP users. By far, the most common complaint is leaks. Patients attempt to correct leaks by over-tightening the straps holding the mask in place, leading to the other side effects previously mentioned. Additionally, the PAP device compensates for leaks with higher air flow rates, which reduces nasal humidity contributing to nasal irritation, dryness and congestion. Leaking masks can cause eye irritation, infections and even swallowing air from increased PAP air pressures. All of these difficulties lead nearly half of those prescribed to use a PAP device to not comply with their doctor’s therapy, often quitting entirely.

    Nelson: How can we improve PAP compliance?

    Brauer: Results improve significantly by fitting masks properly and modifying a patient’s usual sleep position to reduce leaks. Minimalist masks – like a nasal mask or nasal pillow – can reduce air leakage and diminish claustrophobia. To improve comfort, seals and quietness, manufacturers continue to develop innovations for PAP masks and comfort accessories that minimize contact. Some of these innovative solutions include new nasal pillows, cushions, liners, wraps and accessories that eliminate headgear.

    Nelson: Mark, what led you to invent NozeSeal?

    Holtzapple: On my honeymoon, my wife informed me that I gasp for air in my sleep. Like most spouses, being woken nightly by snoring and gasping does not contribute to a happy marriage. After some prompting from my wife, I took a sleep study. Finally, after some struggles getting a proper diagnosis for sleep apnea, I received a PAP of my own. I quickly learned just how uncomfortable they are. On my second night, frustrated by excessive leaks, I threw my mask against the wall and shattered it!

    Fortunately, on the third night, my respiratory therapist gave me a nasal pillow to try. It leaked, but in a manageable way. I invented a way to hold the nasal pillow in place during the night using an adhesive that stuck it to my nose, keeping it in place all night! After many refinements and filing some global patents for our highly engineered, yet simple and elegant solution, the NozeSealTM adhesive strip was born! Since last fall, Scott and I have assembled a terrific team to scale up our business for the many patients who suffer from sleep apnea.

    Nelson: What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?

    Holtzapple: Nearly every week, our NozeSeal team gets a new 5-star review like this one:

    “I have suffered with uncomfortable CPAP masks for years and have had my sleep destroyed. NozeSeal is the best product on the market. No strap marks or bruises on my nose, no painful magnet attachments, no hair loss from head gear friction and no constant adjustments to eliminate mask air leakage. I can finally sleep in comfort and turn over as often as I need to with ease. I am so happy!!!!”

    These heart-felt messages truly inspire us to do our best every day to make a difference in patients struggling with sleep apnea!

    Nelson: What can folks expect from NozeSealTM?

    Holtzapple: The NozeSealTM adhesive strip is easy-to-use, inexpensive and compatible with any commercially available nasal pillow. We are blessed to deliver on our motto: “No Leaks, No Straps, Just a Great Night’s Sleep.” Please try one of our trial packs!

    Just a few months ago, I learned of a young USMC veteran, married with a wife and young children. One day he was at the Houston Astro’s baseball game and the very next morning, he never woke up. He had passed away from sleep apnea. This is a silent killer, one to be taken seriously. Men and women alike should not brush it off. I’m thankful we have people like Mark and Scott who are striving to make this condition easier to live and sleep with. To learn more, visit NozeSeal.com.

     

     

    Getting Help for Combat Stress

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    Learning to recognize the signs of combat stress in yourself, another service member or a family member who has returned from a war zone can help you call on the right resources to begin the healing process.

    Combat stress and stress injuries

    Combat stress is the natural response of the body and brain to the stressors of combat, traumatic experiences and the wear and tear of extended and demanding operations. Although there are many causes and signs of combat stress, certain key symptoms are common in most cases:

    • Problems sleeping
    • Uncharacteristic irritability or angry outbursts
    • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
    • Signs of depression such as apathy, changes in appetite, loss of interest in hobbies or activities or poor hygiene
    • Physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea or constipation
    • Other changes in behavior, personality or thinking

    Combat stress sometimes leads to stress injuries, which can cause physical changes to the brain that alter the way it processes information and handles stress.

    You should be aware of the following when dealing with a stress injury:

    • Stress injuries can change the way a person functions mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
    • The likelihood of having a combat stress injury rises as combat exposure increases.
    • The earlier you identify the signs of a stress injury, the faster a full recovery can occur.
    • If left untreated, a stress injury may develop into more chronic and hard-to-treat problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • There is no guaranteed way to prevent or protect yourself from a stress injury, but there are things you can do to help yourself and others recover.

    Stress reactions

    Different people handle stress — and combat stress — differently, and it’s not clear why one person may have a more severe reaction than another.

    Here’s what you need to know about stress reactions:

    • Stress reactions can last from a few days to a few weeks to as long as a year.
    • Delayed stress reactions can surface long after a traumatic incident or extended exposure to difficult conditions has occurred.
    • An inability to adapt to everyday life after returning from deployment can be a reaction to combat stress.

    How to get help

    If you or someone you know is suffering from a combat stress injury, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to one of the following resources if you have symptoms of combat stress or stress injury, or if you are experiencing severe stress reactions:

    • Combat Stress Control Teams provide on-site support during deployment.
    • Your unit chaplain may offer counseling and guidance on many issues that affect deployed or returning service members and their families.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs has readjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty, at community-based Vet Centers.
    • TRICARE provides medical counseling services either at a military treatment facility or through a network provider in your area. Contact your primary care manager or your regional TRICARE office for a referral.
    • The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence provides free resources on traumatic brain injury to help service members, veterans, family members and health care providers. Resources include educational materials, fact sheets, clinical recommendations and much more.
    • Veterans Crisis Line offers confidential support 24/7/365 and is staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs — some of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting to 838255.
    • Non-military support channels such as community-based or religious programs can offer guidance and help in your recovery.

    If you are suffering from combat stress, you are not alone. Reach out to get the help and treatment you need to be able to live your life fully.

    Source: Military OneSource

    Pentagon to require COVID vaccine for all troops by Sept. 15

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    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.

    “I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration “whichever comes first,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. He added that if infection rates rise and potentially affect military readiness, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”

    The memo is expected to go out Monday.

    Austin’s decision comes a bit more than a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. It reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world, as nations struggle with the highly contagious delta variant that has sent new U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths surging to heights not see since the peaks last winter.

    Austin said in his memo says that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented. The additional time, however, also is a nod to the bitter political divisiveness over the vaccine and the knowledge that making it mandatory will likely trigger opposition from vaccine opponents across the state and federal governments, Congress and the American population.

    It also provides time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. Without that formal approval, Austin would need a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.

    Troops often live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spreading. And any large outbreak of the virus in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in any national security crisis.

    Read the complete article posted on AP News.

    10 Activities You May Not Know That Help With PTSD

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    By Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, DiversityComm, Inc.

    More than 350 million war survivors around the globe suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to a 2019 report by the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.

    And while there are many types of psychotherapy treatments, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and medication that can help treat PTSD, did you know that caring for bees, taking a swim with dolphins and donning a pair of hockey skates can help as well?

    In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, we compiled a list of 10 activities and programs you may not have thought of that can help veterans, servicemembers and their families cope with PTSD:

    1. Horseback Riding – Stable Strides

    StableStrides (stablestrides.org), based in the large military community of Colorado Springs, Colo., provides equine therapy for veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. The non-profit promotes positive physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional and social development by fostering a connection with horses.

    1. Beekeeping – Hives for Heroes

    Hives for Heroes (hivesforheroes.com) is a national non-profit organization based in Houston, Tx., comprised of beekeepers and veterans that focus on honey bee conservation, suicide prevention and a healthy transition from service.

    1. Cycling – Petal Against PTSD

    Pedal Against PTSD (paptsd.org) aims to raise awareness regarding the severity of PTSD and to share the benefits that the sport of cycling brings to all military veterans and their families. The organization is recognized in all 50 states, as well as certain countries overseas, and seeks to provides vets with quality bicycles, create a strong community outreach program and contribute funds back to the research and development of PTSD.

    1. Service Dog Training – Warrior Canine Connection

    Warrior Canine Connection (warriorcanineconnection.org) is a Boyds, Md.-based organization that enlists recovering warriors in a therapeutic mission of training a dog from puppyhood to adulthood on how to become a service dog for fellow veterans with disabilities. As a result, Warrior trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection.

    1. Scuba Diving – Waves Project

    The Waves Project (wavesproject.org) in Temecula, Calif., was established to help wounded veterans experience the freedom and challenge of scuba diving. The organization believes the unique properties of an aquatic environment are ideal for wounded veterans as they rehabilitate from various injuries, including amputations, spinal cord injuries, Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD.

    1. Surfing – Warrior Surf

    Warrior Surf Foundation (warriorsurf.org) is a nonprofit program in Folly Beach, SC, that works to provide free surf therapy, wellness coaching, yoga and community to veterans struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

    1. Yoga – Veterans Yoga Project

    The Veterans Yoga Project (veteransyogaproject.org) in Alameda, Calif., teaches over 100 free yoga classes each week for veterans and their families in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of all veterans, whether they are currently struggling with severe symptoms or are focused on increasing resilience and giving back to others.

    1. Swimming with Dolphins – Island Dolphin Care

    The Key Largo, Fla.-based Island Dolphin Care (islanddolphincare.org) provides a unique, dolphin-assisted therapy program for veterans, military personnel, caregivers, family members and Gold Star spouses, children and parents. Each program is tailored to meet the needs of the participants and there is no cost for veterans to participate.

    1. Bird Keeping – Parrots for Patriots

    Many veterans have gained new meaning in life by taking in abandoned birds that have been trained and donated by Parrots for Patriots (parrotsforpatriots.org) – a non-profit organization located in Vancouver, Washington that matches unwanted or abandoned parrots with any veteran desiring companionship. To qualify, veterans pay a $25 application fee and agree to home visits and a training session before their adoptions are approved.

    1. Hockey – Veterans Hockey United

    The mission of Veterans Hockey United (veteranshockeyunited.com) is to bring the veteran, military and first responder community together to grow the game of hockey through no-cost player and team registration. The organization’s focus is on providing a positive outlet to raise awareness on suicide prevention, end the stigma of PTSD and mental health issues, and perform fundraising in support of Gold Star families.

    About DiversityComm

    DiversityComm, Inc. (DCI) is the proud publisher of six nationally recognized diversity focused magazines: Black EOE Journal, HISPANIC Network Magazine, Professional WOMAN’s Magazine, U.S. Veterans Magazine, Diversity in STEAM Magazine and DIVERSEability Magazine. We are dedicated to inform, educate, employ and provide equal opportunity within corporate America in order to create a more diverse workplace. For more information, visit www.diversitycomm.net

    The Gary Sinise Foundation Launches National Network to Combat PTSD

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    Actor, humanitarian and veteran supporter Gary Sinise and his Foundation have launched The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network — a cognitive health and mental wellness network providing transformative care to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse.

    The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network builds on the work of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health and the Boulder Crest Foundation’s Warrior PATHH program, and will establish 20 treatment sites nationwide to serve thousands of veterans, first responders and their families.

    Both are personally motivated to improve and expand upon the care provided to veterans and first responders, and the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network marks the first time that Marcus and Blank have partnered together since cofounding The Home Depot.

    “We’ve lost more veterans to suicide than we have on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Our veterans and their families put their lives on the line for us and they deserve the highest level of care available.” said Marcus.

    “We’ve found the perfect partner in the Gary Sinise Foundation to scale this idea into a national network that will provide cutting-edge care and improve the quality of life for our nation’s heroes. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS) affect nearly 1 out of every 3 military personnel deployed to war zones since 2001. An estimated 30 percent of our nation’s first responders also experience symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress.

    Though dubbed “invisible wounds,” the changes in psychological health that accompany these conditions have very visible manifestations, such as depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse, impacting of the most critical times in our history,” added Blank.

    Addressing an Epidemic of Invisible Wounds The national network’s name stems from Arthurian legend: Avalon was the sanctuary where King Arthur was taken to heal physically and spiritually after being wounded in battle.

    In that spirit, the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network is designed to address and help heal the epidemic of “invisible wounds” that afflict too many of our nation’s veterans and first responders. Traumatic brain injuries not just the veterans and first responders themselves, but their families as well. Unlike physical wounds, invisible wounds can be passed from one generation to the next.

    Tragically, these invisible wounds too often can lead to suicide.

    “When I formed the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, it was rooted in a personal mission to provide support, “This cognitive health and mental wellness network will help heal the invisible wounds afflicting too many of our veterans and first responders, transforming struggle into strength, and lifelong post-traumatic growth.”
    – Gary Sinise

    The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will expand on the Marcus Institute for Brain Health’s and Boulder Crest Foundation’s expertise and successes to create a nationwide, integrative traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress treatment and training network. By leveraging the science of  posttraumatic growth — a framework that explains the positive transformation that can occur following trauma— the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will empower veterans and first responders to cope with and overcome trauma, and in doing so, transform lives.

    The Motorcycle Club Helping Wounded Veterans

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    The back of an American Infidels motorcycle club member jacket displayed on man in group of other riders greeting each other in a room

    By Kellie Speed

    What started out with two US Marine veterans in Massachusetts looking for a way to help fellow veterans has turned into a federally recognized war veteran organization with numerous nationwide charters.

    “The motorcycle club culture was founded on veterans so we were only trying to get back to our roots,” said James Crosby, who co-founded the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle Club with Matt Nelson. “We have been able to give people that have lost their way purpose in life and that purpose being in the community and watching out for the people that they care about whether it’s people in the club or their family.

    We constructed the Club based on three major points of people’s lives – family, work and club. Those are the three major things that you need to be fully invested in in your life. If you are going to be in the Club, you’re going to need to be able to give the same type of effort to all of these. We were just trying to take the approach that we care and we were able to create this environment that people want.”

    Whether the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle Club is organizing nationwide runs for fallen warrior brothers like Mike “Wildman” Kennedy, Rob “Tinkle” Richards and Stephen “Jackel” Jackel, their mission is simple – honor the many freedoms we enjoy, which are “a direct result of the bloodshed on the battlefield by the warriors that have come before us.”

    “When I was in Iraq, this was something I had talked about with one of my buddies, Staff Sgt. William Callahan, who unfortunately ended up dying, so he’s part of this story,” Crosby said. “With the American Infidels, Matt and my goal was to create something – a purpose for people, for a portion of the population that signed up to do more for others and to be part of something bigger than themselves. What we do with the Club is we teach people how to get involved in their community and take care of each other. Semper Fi, always faithful – you don’t know what it truly means until you get out. You have no idea what you just signed up for because you just joined the biggest group of families. We are empowering people to stand up, have a voice and work with each other and that’s just what we have done with the Club.”

    The Club provides numerous undertakings on behalf of our nation’s veterans. “Each charter must accomplish the mission to stay in the organization or they will be removed,” Nelson added. “Some do free hunting trips, motorcycle runs and benefits that give directly to wounded vets or other vets causes, suicide prevention, career help through our network of friends, politicians and advocates, legal help, navigating healthcare available to vets, and on the day-to-day, we are supporting each other and fellow vets through the hard times of life. That’s probably the most underrated yet most beneficial. Getting people to socialize and help network before the real hard times come upon someone.”

    Nelson worked to have the American Infidels Veteran Motorcycle American Infidels motorcycle club members on a ride with several riding together in row Club become federally recognized. “Due to our membership criteria, we decided to file officially and follow the federal regulations in regards to 501c19 War Veterans’ Organizations,” he said. “There are two types of 501c19 veterans’ organizations – war veterans’ and veterans’ organizations. We keep 90 percent war time veterans and 10 percent “other,” which includes non-war time veterans and patriots. To put it in a common analogy, we are a step above the American Legion because the Legion is a veteran’s organization, not a war veteran’s organization. Being the latter, we are able to issue tax deductible receipts for donations to our organization without the need for a secondary 501c3 regular type charity with more specific guidelines.

    It’s a lot of red tape that we’ve done on our own and have recently contracted out to professionals. My proudest moment as one of the founders is when the brothers accomplish a mission. No matter how small. Especially when it’s helping a brother or sister vet in crisis. It’s not easy and it’s urgent so the ability for our network to react is extremely rewarding. Sadly, sometimes we hear of things too late or we just can’t affect the situation in a positive way. Those are the hardest and most discouraging moments. It’s a double-edged sword. Secondarily, when there are great social events and you can see the crowd and brothers having a great time.”

    Invictus Foundation to Launch the Invictus Storefront: A Veteran Themed E-Commerce Platform

    LinkedIn

    “When we launched the Invictus Foundation ten years ago we were certain of one thing. Our vision and mission to serve our military, veterans and their families struggling with traumatic brain injury and the psychic wounds of war would be achieved by exploring every potential to raise the funding to do so,” states Peter J Whalen, CEO of the Invictus Foundation.

    Mr. Whalen further states, “Now, ten years later, thanks to the love and generosity of our supporters we have decided a value-add to our efforts to raise funding for our programs and services would be a veteran themed e-commerce platform of which the features and benefits of the Invictus Storefront will be.”

    • A DISTRIUTION CHANNEL FOR PRODUCTS & SERVICES DEVELOPED BY TALENTED ENTREPENEURS WHOSE SKILL SETS DO NOT INCLUDE MARKETING THEM TO THE PUBLIC
    • WHO HAVE IN ABUNDANCE AN AFFINITY FOR VETERANS AND A RESPECT FOR THEIR COURAGE AND SACRIFICE
    • ARTISTS, MUSICIANS AND ENTREPENEURS OFFERING UNIQUE PRODUCTS, ART AND CRAFTS TO BENEFT THOSE SUFFERING FROM TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AND THE INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR
    • The INVICTUS FOUNDATION IS PROVIDING THIS AFFINITY GROUP THIS VETERAN THEMED E-PLATFORM AND INDIVIDUAL PARTITIONS TO MARKET THEIR ARTISTIC OFFERINGS AND PRODUCTS TO OUR SUPPORTERS TO RECOGNIZE THEIR AFFINITY FOR OUR MILITARY, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
    • SELLER’S ON THE INVICUS STOREFRONT WILL HAVE AN INDIVIDUAL PORTAL, A BRIEF BIO AND OVERVIEW OF THEIR ARTISTIC OFFERINGS OR PRODUCT AND A HYPERLINK TO THEIR OWN STOREFRONT WHERE THEY DISPLAY THEIR OFFERINGS AND PRODUCTS
    • THOSE ON THE INVICTUS STOREFRONT SITE HAVE AGREED TO ADOPT A “PAY IT FORWARD” Arrangement with the Invictus foundation WHERE 10% OF THEIR SALES WILL BE DONATED TO THE INVICTUS FOUNDATION FOR COMMUNITY OUTREACH SERVICES TO OUR MILITARY, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES

    Tharon Knittle, Chief Branding Officer for the Invictus Foundation states, “This is a natural evolutionary step in the growth of the Invictus Foundation. When I first started with the Invictus Foundation as its graphic designer we had a much smaller footprint of supporters. Our footprint in the Veteran’s space has grown significantly in ten years and we believe supports e-commerce platform selling merchandise and products that will appeal to donors who want to support our continuing efforts to help heal the invisible wounds of war.”

    Skye McGinn, Chief Technology Officer for the Invictus Foundation, states “it is our goal for the Invictus Storefront to open its doors in early September of 2021 for e-commerce traffic. We have been working for over a year to build the necessary interface between the Invictus Foundation’s Storefront’s Landing Page and the Invictus Foundation’s Home Page. We continue to work on integrating all the necessary functionality into the Invictus Storefront’s Landing Page and the features and benefits for each seller’s partition on the Invictus Storefront.”

    “We are pleased that fifteen months of work will culminate in the launch of the Invictus Storefront in September of 2021. This is yet another step forward in the evolution of our progress with the Invictus Foundation. We believe the Invictus Storefront will be a value-add in our continued efforts to find distribution channels that will help us underwrite the costs of providing programs and services to our military, veterans and their families who are experiencing physical and psychic difficulties after having been through the crucible of war,” states Mr. Whalen.

    Source: Invictus Foundation

    Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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