July 1, 2008
As we all live our lives, we’re at times faced with traumatic situations or crisis situations that challenge our very being. We all face the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a traumatic injury or illness to ourselves or our loved ones. Some of us are able to deal with these situations and yet others don’t ever fully recover from the challenge that the traumatic event forced upon them. For each person, the traumatic situation will be different and each person will handle the after effects differently. Many of our Soldiers, coming back from downrange in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to traumatic events, sometimes multiple times and for sustained periods of time. Some of them struggle to deal with these events, while others seem to bounce back without problem. Those challenges can take a number of forms, from a divorce, a death of a loved one, or perhaps a serious injury.
In his book, I Will Not Be Broken, author Jerry White outlines 5 simple steps to overcoming a life crisis. I’m sure some of you are going to think, “Just what I need to hear about. Yet another shrink with yet another self-help book.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Jerry White writes his book, from the authority of someone who has been faced with a life-changing traumatic event and survived, in fact thrived. In 1984, while on a trip to Israel, White stepped on a landmine and lost his leg as well as almost his life. He openly tells about the struggles he faced coming to terms with his injuries and how he turned his tragedy into the will to live and move forward with his life. He’s been able to do amazing things with his life, despite an injury, that would cause many others to just give up on life.
White is the co-founder of Survivor Corps and has been awarded a Nobel Prize for his movement and work to ban landmines. The book doesn’t just tell White’s story, but instead is full of examples from different people, from various walks of life, who have faced some type of life-altering change in their life, over come those challenges and went on to lead full and fulfilling lives. White’s five steps to overcoming a life crisis are as follows:
1. Face Facts. A person needs to face the reality, that a bad thing happened, no matter how brutal those facts are. What’s happened, has happened and it can’t be changed, time can’t be rewound.
2. Chose Life: that is, in simple terms that the person needs to say “yes” to the future. They have to decide that they want to continue with their life in a positive way, instead of surrendering to death or stagnation. Let resentments go and look forward to the future, instead of looking back and asking yourself “what if?” This can be a daily process.
3. Reach out. Find peers, friends and family to help break the self imposed isolation and lonliness that often comes in the aftermath of a crisis. Seek out empathy from people instead of pity, from others who have been through a similar situation. It’s up to you to reach out for someone’s hand.
4. Get moving. Don’t sit back and wait for things to come to you. That gets you nowhere. Get out of bed, out of the house and generate momentum. We alone are responsible for our actions and we have to take that responsibility and decide how we want to live the rest of our lives. Decide for yourself, what steps you can take today towards achieving that goal.
5. Give back. White states that thriving and not just surviving requires the capacity to give again, through service and acts of kindness. Decide for yourself how you can be an asset to others around you, instead of a drain. Share your experiences and talents with others, which will in turn inspire others to do the same.
In his book, White doesn’t just tell his story, but tells a collection of the stories of other people who’ve survived a tragedy and turned their lives around. By sharing these stories, he’s able to show those who have experienced adversity, crisis and traumatic events, that there is hope, that they can persevere. While nothing makes these situations any easier to deal with, when they occur, the advice in this book, provides them with the ability and assistance necessary to make recovering from those situations easier. I would recommend this book, to anyone who is struggling to overcome challenges in their lives, especially to our Wounded Warriors, facing the traumas of things such as PTSD, TBI or perhaps a traumatic injury to themselves. Jerry White’s book shows that there is hope and that anyone can overcome the challenges that they face in their lives.
To find out more about Jerry White and Survivor Corps please visit their website.
June 16, 2008
September 11, 2001 is a day that will be forever etched into the minds of almost every American. It’s a day that most of us will never forget, a day that changed so many things in our country and in the world. For some people, September 11, 2001 changed their entire life forever.
When we think of that fateful day, most of us immediately think of the World Trade Center in New York City. Most of us give little thought to the many people who were killed and injured at the Pentagon and in that lonely field in Pennsylvania. We’ve often heard the conspiracy theories about the Pentagon, people claiming that there never was a plane that slammed into the building killing and severly injuring hundreds of innocent people.
In their book, Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11, Patrick Creed and Rick Newman tell the story of that day, from the moments right before the plane slammed into the building, to the weeks following. They tell the story of countless Heroes, firefighters, police officers, Paramedics, as well as Soldiers and civilians working inside the Pentagon, as this tragedy unfolded.
Eyewittness accounts of the moments following the tragedy, of very ordinary men and women who risked their own lives to save the lives of friends and collegues at the Pentagon. The authors tell the personal stories of the firefighters and rescuers, as they fought to save lives and save the parts of the Pentagon that were undamaged by the plane, yet were at risk due to the rapidly spreading fire, that was sparked by jet fuel that spewed from the plane upon impact. The story is one that needed to be told and Creed and Newman do a fine job, portraying the thoughts and feelings of the men and women who spent countless hours at the scene and the horror and trauma that they encountered, all the while fighting to ensure that the cornerstone of the U.S. national security command structure remain intact and operational. The challenges faced in the aftermath, at times seem overwhelming, yet the pride and dedication of the workers on the scene, drove them on, even when there was no chance of pulling any more survivors from the wreckage.
Firefight provides the reader with close and personal look at what these men and women faced that day and some of the demons that they have to deal with as a result of that day. If you want an upclose and personal look as the events unfolded at the Pentagon and what was a stake as those events unfolded, this book is a must read. It’s a book that will cause a wide range of emotions. From anger at the murders who commited these attacks that day, to awe and pride at the courage and dedication of the Heroes who set aside their day to day lives, in order to save the lives of the numerous victims in the Pentagon. It’s a book that you won’t regret reading, one that will give you a much better understanding of the chaos that occurred that day and the days following. This book is an important documentation to an event that will live in our Country’s history. It’s a must read, for anyone who wants to know what happened at the Pentagon that day.
May 18, 2008
Traditionally in the military, women have been banned from serving in direct combat units. Because of this, women are barred from certain jobs in the military … jobs that would take them into direct combat. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, those lines are blurred, there is no defined front line Women are placed in situations that take them into combat situations. They’ve stood side by side with their male counterparts and more than proved themselves in combat. Author, Kirsten Holmstedt wanted to tell their story and she did so in her book, Ð¼ÐµÐ±ÐµÐ»Ð¸Band of Sisters which was released July 4, 2007.
In her book, Kirsten tells the story of 12 different females in every branch of the military. She tells of their experiences in combat, how their roles in the military are continuing to evolve, as they heroically prove themselves as warriors. The story of women in combat, has really never been told before, because until now, women haven’t been the in position to be in combat. With no defined front line, they are in combat and their proving themselves every day. One Marine, who’s story was told, Gunnery Sgt Rosie Noel was injured in Iraq, her face bleeding and her jaw broken as a result of being struck by a 1 1/2 inch piece of shrapnel. Her only thoughts were to get back to her Marines. 48 hours after being injured, she returned to her Marines.
“Whenever you are in Iraq, you are on the battlefield,” she said. “And so far the consensus is, women are doing it and they are doing a good job.”
The author wanted to avoid politics with her book and tell the stories of the 12 women portrayed in the book. Due to the controversy over women being in the situations that place them in the heat of the battle in Iraq, it’s a touchy subject that unfortunately has a tendency to become politicized. At the time of the book’s release, Pentagon statistics showed that more than 167,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’ve performed their jobs well.
“Females are definitely breaking down barriers,” Noel said. “I still have people come up to me and ask: ‘You’re a Marine? Women can do that?’”
While I’ve not had the opportunity to read the book yet, I look forward to doing so. Having worked in Law Enforcement myself, I’ve been subject to the attitude that I was a women and therefore not able to do the job. I think this book shows the roles that woemn are taking more and more in today’s society as a whole. Taking on jobs that have been traditionally considered “Men’s Jobs” and performing those jobs with the same dedication, purpose and professionalism that their male counterparts do.
May 12, 2008
I know from the responses we’ve gotten here on our stories about Marcus Luttrell, that many of you are chomping at the bit, to get an opportunity to hear Marcus speak and perhaps get the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand and tell him how much you appreciate his service to our country. Well, if you’re in the Chicago area, that opportunity will be upon you before you know it!
I just recently got word from one of our reader’s Haole Wahine that Marcus has an appearance scheduled at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago on Monday, May 19th at 3pm. The event is free to the public. So, if you’re in the Chicago area and you’re able to attend this event, I encourage you to do so. Believe me when I say, you’ll be quite impressed with Marcus.
On Monday, May 19, Marcus Luttrell will appear at the Pritzker Military Library to discuss his memoir, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, in an interview with executive producer Ed Tracy. This event is free and open to the public. The presentation and live webcast will begin at 3:00 p.m. It will also be recorded for later broadcast on WYCC-TV/Channel 20. Please not that there will not be a reception prior to the event, but copies of Lone Survivor will be available for purchase and signing by Luttrell afterward.
On the same day, the Pritzker Military Library will also partner with The Book Stall at Chestnut Court and a downtown club for a luncheon featuring Marcus Luttrell.
For more information about this event, as well as ones planned in the future, visit the Pritzler Military Library website.
March 31, 2008
Unrealistic… Inaccurate… Inconsitent…
Those are the words that come to mind after seeing this movie on Sunday. The movie starts out portraying a military unit, dressed in DCU uniforms (Desert Camoflauge Uniform), conducting checkpoints in the middle of Tikrit, Iraq. That leads you to believe that the timeframe the movie is based in, is during the initial years of the conflict in Iraq. From the beginning, the movie is unrealistic, as it portrays the wrong way to set-up a checkpoint. As far as portraying what our Troops might encounter in this situation, that’s probably the most realistic part of the movie. Suddenly, they’re confronted by a white taxi-cab who refuses their orders to stop, as it approaches the checkpoint. As the Troops fire warning shots, the car turns and a passenger in the rear seat begins firing upon the Troops at the checkpoint. Realistic enough. They immediately radio in that they’re being fired up and in pursuit of the taxi. As they mount up and begin following the taxi, it’s driver turns into a narrow street or alley and the passengers pile out and run into a house. It turns out, they were led into an ambush. That’s when things begin to get even more unrealistic and it just gets worse from there.
Marty was with me at this movie, he’s been to Iraq 3 times and knows appropriate proceedures for entering and clearing a dwelling or building. Part of his job was to ensure that the Soldiers in his unit worked as a cohesive team an that they were skilled in the appropriate ways to enter and clear a building. Team work was and is stressed at all times.
“The initial stack, before they entered the building was allright. After that, they used poor techniques for entering the clearing the building. That’s not the way we do it.”We never went through a doorway like that. We always had 4 and sometimes 5 at a time in a doorway, cleared each corner of the room and then proceeded from there. They didn’t do it that way. Instead, they made it look as if our Troops are “cowboys” and that they don’t work as a team.”
During the course of the battle, their gunner, who was manning the gun atop the Humvee was blown up by an enemy RPG. The insurgents were well placed on top of the buildings surrounding the alley they were in, managing to kill or severely injure several other Troops. The next scene shows memorial ceremonies where the remaining Troops grieve their losses and honor each of the men they lost during the battle.
You then cut to a scene aboard a bus, headed to Brazos, Texas, the hometown of the two main characters in the movie, where they would be honored in a welcome home parade. At the start of this scene, a date in 2007 flashes across the screen. In 2007, our Troops were wearing ACU (Army Combat Uniform) which is now the only authorized uniform in the Army. One, the platoon leader, SSG Brandon King and his childhood friend SGT Steve Shriver. These two, the main characters in the movie, grew up together, enlisted together and were both looking forward to out-processing and getting out of the Army together. You see their commander speaking with the men on the bus, giving them instructions on how he expects them to conduct themselves. The typical pre-block leave briefings, stay out of trouble, watch your drinking, don’t beat your spouse, your kids and don’t kick your dog. Those in the military, know the routine well.
I found this to be, where the movie really began becoming unrealistic. The portrayal of the entire military unit going to the hometown of only two of it’s members, quite frankly doesn’t happen. While active duty Soldiers return to their home base and do often attend welcome home parades, it’s most generally not going to happen someplace where there’s not even a military base and it’s highly unlikely that the entire unit will go, even if such a parade was held. (After the Troops go on block leave, shortly after returning, they tend to go back to their own hometowns, spend time with their family and friends and possibly attend such parades in their hometowns). To give you some perspective, Brazos, Texas is 130 miles North of Fort Hood, 161 miles South of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 239 miles North and East of Fort Sam Houston, Tx and 559 miles North and East of Fort Bliss, Tx.
None the less, the entire platoon went back to Brazos, Texas and attend the parade. As they rode down the city street to the cheers of the citizen of Brazos, they were smiling and enjoying the welcome home. After the conclusion of the parade, Brandon meets a Senator, who tells him that if he needs anything at all, he’s welcome to call him at his office in Washington D.C., and if he ever makes it to Washington, to stop by his office, and he’ll show him around the capitol. Things change drastically after that. The next scenes takes you into the local bar, where the Soldiers are drinking (a considerable amount) and enjoying themselves and the company of their family and friends, who all somehow ended up in Brazos for the welcome home celebration as well. Suddenly, another patron of the bar walks up to a lady with the group and asks her to dance and she told him that she didn’t dance. The man asks her again and her husband, one of the Soldiers told him that his wife told him that she didn’t want to dance. The man apologizes and backs away. As he walks off, the Soldiers suddenly runs towards him and jumps him and begins fighting with him. His fellow Soldiers jump in, break up the fight and shortly afterwards, they leave the bar, all of them extremely intoxicated. This is where they begin showing almost all the Soldiers in the unit, start having flashbacks to the ambush and their reactions. I hate to tell the screen writers and directors, but even after an extremely horrendous battle, not every Soldier in the unit is going to walk away with PTSD and especially not the extreme symptoms that they portrayed. It just doesn’t happen that way and most generally, extreme PTSD symptoms occur over a much longer period of time than portrayed in the movie. (Mental Health experts say extreme PTSD symptoms will generally begin surfacing between 3-6 months after the traumatic event occurs, not less than a month afterwards). While the PTSD symptoms were fairly accurate portrayals of extreme cases of PTSD, the inaccuracy comes in the timing of the symptoms, as well as the fact that virtually all of the Soldiers were portrayed as suffering from these symptoms. That would be extremely rare for that many in the same unit to suffer PTSD to that extreme.
Everyone leaves the bar and goes their seperate ways. Suddenly King receives a phone call from Steve’s fiancee, asking for help. When he arrives at their house, his friend is in the middle of the front yard in his underwear, digging a trench and armed with a loaded pistol. He goes inside with his friends’ fiancee and leaves him in the yard, with his shovel and his pistol. (I don’t see that happening) There he finds out that his friend has continued drinking and has hit his fiancee. As they walk back outside, his friend has finished digging his trench, layed down in it with the pistol in his hand. Not once did he remove the pistol from his friend’s hand or attempt to assist him in any way. Instead, he makes the excuse to the fiancee that he’s just a “really drunk robo-soldier.”
Scenes like this continue, portraying each of the Soldiers suffering from severe symptoms of PTSD. Keep in mind, this is still only a few days after they returned home from Iraq and only about a month after the ambush in Iraq that opened up the movie.
Now we cut to Brandon going through the process of out-processing in order to get out of the Army and begin life as a civilian. You see Brandon and Steve walking across the base, dressed in BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform), yet around them, you see some Soldiers wearing the ACU’s and some wearing the DCUs. As I stated earlier, not only is that unrealtic but it’s inaccurate. Soldiers are no longer authorized to wear DCUs or BDUs and would face corrective action for doing so, on any military installation. At one of the last places he goes during the out-processing proceedure, he’s told that he’s not getting out, but instead is to report to a unit and return to Iraq. Marty and I both immediately said “Bull Shit!” Stop-loss doesn’t happen that way. Soldier’s aren’t stop-lossed on an indiviual basis, but instead as an entire unit. Brandon storms into the office of the commander, a Colonel to confront him about the stop-loss and to plead his case, saying “Just last month, we were being ambushed in Iraq and I’m not going back.” That’s really where bells and whistles start screaming. That’s just not realistic. A Soldier isn’t going to be stop-lossed and immediately sent back to Iraq, less than a month after returning from the battlefield. While it’s true, that sometimes, if a Soldier transfers to another unit, that is gearing up for deployment, they may be redeployed before the normal year downtime, it’s not the norm. As those of us who’ve have knowledge of the military know, the standard is to allow returning Soldiers at least a year dwell time at home, prior to redeployment.
The commander then turns to a Lt who is standing in the room and asked him if he heard Brandon refuse a direct order. The Lt. says that he did. The commander then orders the Lt and another Soldier to accompany Brandon to the disciplinary barracks for confinement, as he considers him a “fligh risk.” (Currently, most Army installations don’t operate their own disciplinary barracks to confine Soldiers. Instead if a Soldier has to be confined, they are confined in the jails operated by local law enforcement agencies). No MP’s were called, which in itself is unusual. As the Lt. and the other Soldier escourted him to the disciplinary barracks, Brandon suddenly attacks them and escapes. He’s officially AWOL.
When a Soldier goes AWOL from the Army, there is no manhunt, there is no APB, no civilian law enforcement agencies are called to assist in searching for them. That wasn’t the case in this movie. Brandon takes Steve’s jeep and leaves the post and after a short while calls Steve on his cell phone. Steve tells him that the commander has issued a APB for him and that he’s in serious trouble. Steve then drives to his parents ranch, hiding Steve’s jeep of course. As he’s walking to the house, he sees the local sheriff drive up. Brandon goes in the back door of the house and hears the Sheriff tell his parents that if they see him, the military has issued an APB for him and asks them to have Brandon turn himself in. After the sheriff leaves, Brandon lets his parents know he’s there and they discuss him leaving for Mexico, with his mother offering to take him, herself. He tells his parents that he’s not going to Mexico, but instead to Washington D.C. to see the senator. When his mom offers to take him there, he tells her no, saying that the military and the law enforcement authorities will be watching them. It’s then that Steve’s fiancee offers to take him to Washington D.C.
As they make their way from Texas to Washington D.C., they detour to Nashville, where visit the family of one of the Soldiers from Brandon’s unit that was killed in the ambush. While Brandon is talking to the parents of his fellow Soldier, Steve’s fiancee is talking with the fallen Soldier’s brother, who informs her about an underground network of AWOL Soldiers making their way to Canada. After leaving there, they meet up with a Soldier in this underground network, on the run, with his family, including an ill child, who provides him with a phone number to an attorney in New York City, who assists AWOL Soldiers in obtaining a new identity and helps them to get across the border into Canada. As they go back to their vehicle, they encounter 4 street thugs who had broken into their car. Brandon singlehandedly takes them on, even though one is armed with a pistol and has them on their knees, calling them hadji and threatening to send them to meet Allah. His female companion manages to convince him to hand her the gun and they eventually leave the street thugs in the alley, as they get into the car and get back on the road.
Their next stop is to a military hospital, presumably Walter Reed, where they visit one of Brandon’s Soldiers who was burned, blinded and lost 3 limbs in the ambush. Afterwards, Brandon decides to call the attorney in New York, instead of visiting the Senator, as he initially planned. Unbeknownst to Brandon, his female companion decided to call her fiancee after three days and Brandon is taken by surprise when he shows up at their motel door, dressed in his Class A uniform, with plans to take Brandon back to Texas. He explains to Brandon that the Colonel has agreed to drop any charges against him if he comes back. It’s then that Steve also tells his fiancee that he decided to reenlist and go to sniper school. She gets mad and tells him to leave and she and Brandon decide to once again take off for New York. They call the attorney, who tells Brandon that he’ll help him for $1,000. Not having that kind of money, they buy a motorcycle and sell the girls car, getting the required $1,000 that they needed. After meeting with the attorney and getting his new “identity papers,” Brandon calls home to speak with his parents. It’s then that he finds out, his fellow Soldier (remember the guy who started the bar fight) has shot and killed himself at his parents ranch back in Brazos.
The scene now moves back to Brazos, where the funeral for their fellow Soldier is underway. Steve and the other Soldiers in the unit are the honor guard and Steve presents the flag to the tearful widow. As everyone leaves, Steve remains behind and Brandon suddenly comes out from behind a tree. Steve and Brandon get into a fist fight in the middle of the cemetery.
Next we see Brandon and his parents, along with Steve’s fianacee driving towards Mexico. As they approach the border, they stop the car and Brandon gets out. He tells his parents that if he crosses the border then only a shell of himself will be living in Mexico, a fugitive. Brandon gets back in the car and they drive off.
The next thing you know, Brandon, Steve and the rest of their platoon are back on the bus, preparing to deploy. You see Steve sitting next to the window, seemingly deep in thought, and Brandon walking through the bus, visiting with various Soldiers as he makes his way to the seat beside Steve. Ironically enough, after jumping the two Soldiers escourting him to detention, escaping and going AWOL, Brandon didn’t lose any rank and remained a SSG.
For someone, having no knowledge of the military, they might find this movie convincing and realistic. For those of us, with even the most remedial knowledge of the military, it’s obvious that this is Hollywood’s latest attempt to make the military look bad and to glorify desertion.
This movie is not only degrading to our Troops, but portrays them as drunken and mentally-ill cowboys, who are’t team players, but as deserters as well. That is by far NOT the norm, though they would like you to believe that. The portrayal of PTSD issues was overall unrealistic. The portrayal of the stop-loss process is unrealistic and the glorification of a Soldier deserting and being able to maintain his rank as an NCO was laughable. This is definitely not a movie that I would recommend seeing.