Veterans Roundup: Army Deals With Issues Around Nazis, New Programs to Help Incarcerated Veterans, New Military Suicide Research, and Much More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Program aims to keep military veterans from returning to Hillsborough jail
Tampa Bay Times, Divya Kumar (@divyadivyadivya) 

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, FL recently launched a program called “The Veterans Resurgence Program.” It is designed to reduce the tendency of a convicted felon from reoffending. According to the article, the program works to “restore a sense of pride” that participants felt “from their military days.” The veterans are able to access services through the program like individual therapy sessions and connection to resources for “job placement, housing, mental health and substance abuse counseling upon graduation”—all things that the prison population writ large could benefit from, veteran or not. It says that 30 people have graduated from the program so far, but there is no indication of program success. Hopefully funding was also allocated for a program evaluation, as that is the only viable way to measure programmatic impact over time. Support programs for incarcerated veterans are becoming more common place. The veteran’s treatment court model, designed to help rehabilitate incarcerated veterans by requiring them to attend regular court appearance, participate in mandatory treatment sessions and learn how to access other benefits that may be available to them, are becoming more common place. The idea is that veterans respond favorably to the structured format of the programs and in turn this lowers the rate of reoffending. The judges and people involved with the treatment courts have knowledge and connection to the veteran community which aids with understanding of some of the unique issues veterans might face in connection with their military service, like PTSD, TBI, substance abuse of MST. All good things. But as I was reading the article, I did question one thing because it has come up repeatedly in research I have been involved with. It appears that the program launched by Hillsborough County makes an assumption that all veterans automatically identify with what we describe as “pride in service.” This might be true for some veterans, but it is important to remember that many veterans don’t associate their military service as something positive or “with pride.” Military symbolism like overt displays of patriotism in the form of flags and uniforms can be off-putting at best and very triggering at worst, and ultimately a barrier to program participation and success for those who do not take pride in their history of military service. I often find that “camaraderie” is a blanket term used in programmatic design within the veteran community far too often. People assume we all experienced “camaraderie” while in the military, but in reality, this is a very male-centric experience. In my research I found that military service for women can be very isolating and camaraderie is an experience defined differently by many, if experienced at all. I really believe in the importance of rehabilitative programs for incarcerated veterans. I just hope that thought is given to how differently people might feel about their military service and that program design takes this into account. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

‘Vile and disturbing’: Army unit marks Battle of the Bulge with picture of Nazi war criminal who massacred Americans
Washington Post, Katie Shepherd (@katemshepherd)

Nazis sure came up a lot this week for the military. It started with a huge amount of confusion around the ‘OK’ hand sign being used by Cadets and Midshipmen at the Army-Navy game to prominintly featuring a convicted war criminal Nazi general on XVIII Airborne Corps social media channels. Both set off pretty serious discussions on social media and at least a few investigations surrounding the Army-Navy game activities. The Battle of the Bulge 75th anniversary post from XVIII Corps seems to have been an attempt at telling the story of the battle through the eyes of the Germans and the American soldiers who fought them across several weeks. Unfortunately, the photo chosen was a colorized version from what appears to be a Czech Nazi sympathizer and the write up appeared to be glowing, leaving out the context that the officer would later order the execution of American prisoners at Malmedy. Condemnation came from within the Army as other PAO’s reacted in disbelief as the post was shared by other U.S. Army headquarters and even the Department of Defense official pages. I actually spoke with the officer who wrote the post and he was shocked and “humiliated” by how it had ended up being seen by so many and doesn’t appear to have had any ill intent or admiration for the Nazi in question. It was simply a lack of understanding of how it would be viewed. In both cases, we are seeing the same explanations. Were the students flashing the 4Chan created White Power hand sign or more likely simply playing the old ‘circle game,’ where you try to get another guy to look at your circled fingers near your crotch and if they do they get punched? Is either explanation really any better than the other? Most military officials are saying they had no idea that the White Power interpretation was even a thing, even though it has been commonly known for almost two years among many people who follow the white supremacist issues. This is a perfect issue to highlight the importance of understanding that communication is a two-way street. There is the sender and the receiver of your message. That target audience is influenced by many things in their environment and the sender needs to understand that so things aren’t misinterpreted. In this case, the military appears to be saying they are completely oblivious to the worries U.S. citizens have about white supremacists in the ranks and are unaware that these two incidents are feeding those concerns. They need to be aware. They need to take it seriously and service members need to be taught that their seemingly innocent games or tendency to respect our enemies of old can be completely seen as being sympathetic to those ideologies. Whether we like it or not, that is the political and communications environment we find ourselves in today. I harken back to the 1990’s when we had to inspect soldiers tattoos to see if they had gang affiliations and I found kids who had no idea their “innocent” spider web tat was also used by gangs to identify members. They had to learn then and we need to learn now. Hopefully these are both turning points in that awareness. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Congress to VA: Tell us your plan for adding diseases to Agent Orange presumptives list
Military Times, Patricia Kime

Legislation introduced Monday regarding a federal funding bill has a provision “requiring VA to report to Congress within 30 days the reasons for a two-year delay in announcing any decisions, a cost estimate for adding new diseases [to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list] and the date VA plans to implement a decision.” With evidence suggesting bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like tremors and hypertension are linked to herbicide and defoliant exposure, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said, “[They’ll] now have 30 days to deliver a plan detailing how they’ll get veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure the coverage they need.” After years awaiting a decision from VA, Rep. Josh Harder, D-C.A. said, “Veterans like my constituent Joshua Melendez — who has bladder cancer — can’t wait for the bureaucracy to get the help they need. It’s time to get going here.” For more information on military service and exposure to toxic chemicals like Agent Orange, check out ScoutInsight’s article on the topic here.

Cancers strike veterans who deployed to Uzbek base where black goo oozed, ponds glowed
McClatchy DC, Reshma Kirpalani (@Reshma416) and Tara Copp (@TaraCopp)

“To call this site a landfill is an insult to landfills,” states a Nov. 15, 2001 document obtained by McClatchy on the assessment of Uzbekistan military site, Karshi-Khanabad (K2), an old Soviet base leased to the U.S. military shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks due to its close proximity to al Qaeda and Taliban targets. As this base was a vital hub early on in the war, providing support to troops in Afghanistan, “At least 61 of the men and women who served at K2 had been diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.” However, according to a 2015 Army study, the number does not include some special operations forces who were left uncounted due to secrecy of the missions. Some individuals who served there are planning to send a letter to Congress for their help. Retired Lt. Col. Omar Hamada, flight surgeon for the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group writes, “Please come to our aid to assist us in dealing with these illnesses that have forever altered the courses of our lives and the lives of our families.”

Newest ‘Star Wars’ movie: The force will be with about 10,000 deployed troops, for free
Military Times, Karen Jowers

Through a partnership between the Walt Disney Studios and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be shown “at locations where AAFES doesn’t operate its Reel Time theaters.” From Dec. 18, 2019 to Jan. 5, 2020, the film is expected to be shown for free to about 10,000 deployed service members in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates and undisclosed locations in Southwest Asia. Ken Caldwell, Executive Vice President and General Sales Manager for North American Sales and Distribution at The Walt Disney Studios, said, “This is our way of thanking our troops for their service.”

Our veterans deserve the well-being that medical cannabis can provide
Military Times, Nick Etten (@nicholasetten)

Nick Etten, the founder of the Veterans Cannabis Project, argues in a Military Times opinion piece that veterans’ access to medical cannabis is an important way to “recognize the sacrifices veterans have made to protect our country.” Research shows that medical marijuana use is an “effective” strategy to manage “debilitating conditions” that veterans experience, but “until there is full federal regulation of cannabis, the [VA] is not permitted to prescribe or assist veterans in obtaining cannabis.” Etten comments that legislators must “expand access to effective and reliable medical cannabis treatments for post-war conditions” in order to provide veterans with “all treatments that could…help them manage the often-severe medical consequences of combat.” For more information on veterans and medical marijuana, check out ScoutInsight’s article on the topic here.

Historic data on military suicide shows no clear link with combat operations
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

Researchers released a study that analyzed “historic” Defense Department data–specifically rates of Army suicides from the 1840s to the present–and concluded that “increased combat operations do not lead to more military suicides and may actually result in fewer troops engaging in self harm.” Dr. Christopher Frueh, a professor at the University of Hawaii and one of the authors of the study, noted that the findings provide “a reminder that the motivations behind suicide aren’t singular, simple factors,” and that the perceptions that veteran suicide is linked to combat experience “hurts efforts to discover the real causes between military suicides.” Frueh said that the researchers will next compare their military data to civilian suicide rates to explore whether “military trends match or deviate from [trends in] broader American society.”

Housing. Money. Benefits. Military Wives Can Lose It All When They Report Domestic Abuse.
HuffPost, Tara Haelle (@tarahaelle)

HuffPost traced the story of Laura, a former Army wife who recounted her struggle for support when she faced domestic violence from her husband when stationed overseas. While HuffPost “discovered that when military spouses ask for help, they don’t get the support they need,” spouses stationed internationally often have even fewer resources and support structures than spouses stationed in the US. Casey Taft, a principal investigator in the Behavioral Science Division of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, noted that domestic abuse in military families is “heavily underreported” due to fear of repercussions, leaving victims in a “no-win situation,” and military programs to address domestic abuse often clash with civilian authorities. Other military-affiliated domestic violence survivors who were interviewed by HuffPost shared the same narrative of trying “to get some acknowledgement from the military about what happened…and the response was silence.”

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2019 12:30 pm

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