Politics / News, Politics / News

Wounded Warriors Making a Proper Exit From War

Eleven wounded warriors returned to Iraq through Operation Proper Exit

Wounded Warriors return to war for a proper farewell.

Here’s what happens when a soldier is injured in battle: his friends give suppressive fire while a medic runs over and gives battlefield care, pressure dressing, tourniquet, etc; then the soldier is brought to a combat support hospital (either through vehicle or helicopter); the soldier is rushed through the E.R. and then straight into the O.R. (unless there’s a mass casualty situation, in that case, the soldier is tucked away while waiting his turn to be operated on); then once the soldier is stabilized, he is sent by helicopter to a military hospital in Germany; afterwards, once he is further stabilized, he is sent to a hospital in the United States.

Needless to say, it’s a harrowing process. A soldier faces weeks, sometimes months, of rehabilitation and physical therapy and he never gets to finish his deployment with his friends, his brothers. Operation Proper Exit is a program designed to give soldiers a proper battlefield farewell. Through OPE, soldiers return to Iraq and Afghanistan, meet with their fellow deployed soldiers, and then are allowed to make a proper exit from the theater of war.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of closure.

From the Troops First Foundation:

For those Wounded Warriors who are thriving in recovery and are capable of returning to theater, this program itinerary stages a meet-and-greet tour to forward operating bases with a group of recovered soldiers. Four specific objectives have been identified:

  1. The sense of brotherhood inherent in today’s military leaves a number of injured soldiers with the desire to return to theater after injury. By having a chance to visit, not only is their desire addressed but they can bring stories from home to deployed troops when they arrive.

  2. Soldiers who have witnessed the injuring of a battle buddy are often times left wondering how the situation turned out both short and long term. Upon the return of fully recovered soldiers, the minds of deployed troops are put to ease when they witness the results firsthand and hear about the journey and outstanding care being afforded to our Wounded Warriors.

  3. The Wounded Warriors will have a most important as well as unique opportunity to see the progress in Iraq that they, through their tremendous sacrifice, helped bring about.

  4. For troops that have been injured in battle, this initiative provides them the opportunity to make a “proper exit” on their own terms as they walk to the aircraft and climb the ramp rather than being medically evacuated. This component has a positively resounding effect in offering closure to that chapter of their lives.

More articles you might enjoy:

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Photo: DVIDSHUB/Wikipedia

Politics / News, Politics / News

Seeing War Through The Eyes of a Soldier


Experience war through a soldier’s letter home.

War is war. No matter which side you’re on and what you’re fighting for. The experience is always the same. That’s what was running through my mind as I watched the following video by Australian soldier Tom Abood. The video, titled HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (which is an Anglo-Norman phrase that can be translated to “Shamed be he who thinks evil of it”), placed third in the Australian Tropfest film competition.

In the short video (only five minutes long) Abood shares war through the eyes of a soldier. He shares his outlook on life, and everything the war has shown him. The video contains no violence. It’s simply a powerful video of a soldier talking.

Many soldiers are still fighting in Afghanistan, and six recently passed in a helicopter crash, the video is just a quick reminder of what our soldiers are experiencing mentally, emotionally, and physically.


Here’s a copy of the letter read in the film (in case you can’t watch the video for some reason).


Dear Mom,

Thanks for your letter. You and Dad look good. I’ll try to keep this short. You know how much I struggle with spelling. Tell auntie Cheryl thanks for the chocolates. The boy’s loved them, and they’re great for morale. Who would’ve thought that just over a year ago I couldn’t buy a round of beers for me mates but I could sign up to die for me country. Every day is a fucking Monday out here. Btu one thing I’ve learned is that I’m not fighting because I hate what’s in front of me. I’m fighting because I love what I left behind.

“Maybe the nightmares will stop by then.”

God I miss home. You always said I took shit for granted. And you were right. I miss the smell of eucalyptus in the bush. I miss the sound of the ocean. I miss the friendly faces of home. I’m out here trying to survive this war, but the locals they’re just trying to survive day to day. I remember as I kid I tried to pull sick out of school and you’d always make me go. These kids would do anything for just one day of school. I hear stories from other diggers. When we rip out of here that this place will change back to how it was. They say the Minister of Women has a hand in the brothels. And the Education Minister can’t read and write. It makes me think about our own politician. How many of their sons and daughters do you think are out here fighting among side us? They line their pockets while some diggers come back and they live in poverty. A lot of people hate what we do, and sometimes I do too. I keep reminding myself there’s a bigger picture. That’s why we’re here. Fighting for human rights. A wise man once said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present, are certain to miss the future.”

“I hope the nightmares stop.”

Mom, I know now it doesn’t really matter if you’re late for a meeting, if the restaurant gets your order wrong, or you get stuck in a traffic jam. We live in a beautiful country with limitless opportunity. We’re free to make our own way in this world without persecution and life-threatening danger. In the end, we’re all pretty fucking lucky.

When I finally get home, I’m going to take the time to live. Just breathe. Appreciate what so many have given their lives for. And try to let go of the memory of this eight month hell. I’ll be home soon. Maybe the nightmares will stop by then. I hope the nightmares stop. I love you.

More articles you might enjoy:

Judge to Vet: “Your service in Iraq makes you a threat to society.”

War and Veterans Submissions.

Photo: ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office/Wikipedia

Politics / News, Politics / News

Judge to Vet: Your Service In Iraq Makes You a Threat To Society…


How war led to a ten year prison sentence for Andrew Chambers.

People often talk of the daydreams that soldiers have while at war. The dreams of returning home to their wife and kids, reunions with brothers and sisters, a beer at the bar with old friends. But few talk about the dreams of going to war. In 2003 I joined the United States Army—after we were already engaged in two wars. Everyone in basic training knew we’d be going to war. We weren’t draftees, we were volunteers. We had volunteered to fight, to kill, and to die. We daydreamed about leaving that wife, kids, and job behind, going off to war. We daydreamed about spending time with our new friends. Writing those emotional letters home. Killing the enemy. Saving our friends. Fighting for something worthwhile. Being something more than we were back home.

“Find a veteran and listen to his story … a lot of us just need someone to talk to.”

The problem is, that like most parts of life, things never happen as we expect or hope. War happens, people die, things are seen, and then we begin having daydreams of coming home. But home isn’t what we expected either.

For Andrew “Sarge” Chambers, his journey back home ended with a ten year prison sentence for attempted man-slaughter; and it led a judge to declare, “Your service in Iraq makes you a threat to society.”

What follows is Andrew’s powerful story of coming home and how the dream of war led to the nightmare of reality.

“Find a veteran and listen to his story … a lot of us just need someone to talk to.”

In our new War & Veterans section here at GMP we’ll be doing just that. Giving a place where veterans, and family-members of veterans, can simply talk and share their stories.

About Andrew: Andrew “Sarge” Chambers proudly hails from Pickerington, Ohio. He served in the U.S. Army and has maintained the habit he acquired there of cursing just a bit too much. Throughout his service, Sarge was also able to maintain and hone his sense of honor and kindness, but the experience did slightly alter his sense of humor. While categorically not a morning person, when he is able to finally pry his eyes open, he always thinks to himself that he would rather be fishing. Most of his days are filled with coaching softball, Garth Brooks songs and thoughts of the family he hopes to be able to start soon. He is taking the stage to tell his story, parts of which can be seen in the documentary Operation Resurrection: The Warrior Returns. After TEDxMarionCorrectional he will work on his next unique thing.

–photo: Truthout.Org/flickr

Best Of, Politics / News, Politics / News, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

Soldiers and PTSD, Part 1: Going Vegan

Nad-e-Ali, Helmand

“Blood, blood, blood, makes the green grass grow,” was the mantra we used throughout basic training. Our young boots hitting the pavement, grass, and dirt, each heel giving the cue to yell the cadence “blood,” then again, “blood.”

This wasn’t done to turn us into blood-thirsty sadomasochists (as some would have you believe). It was done to prepare us for the realities of what we were facing. We were a platoon of soldiers, recruits, who had joined the military in 2004. Our country was in the midst of two wars, and we were being prepared to fight, to die, and to take lives. For the soldiers who came before us the question was always, “If we’ll go to war,” but for us, the question was no longer “If,” but “when.” We were being prepared to live, to fight, to kill, and to die for our country. There’s no other way to put it:

“Blood, blood, blood, makes the green grass grow.”

“There is no reverse basic training to teach us how to come home.”

The problem, though, facing the modern military isn’t with training us to become soldiers and to kill, the problem is with training us to come home. In basic training, a Drill Sergeant’s only job is to turn his soldiers into “Lean, Mean, Fighting-Machines.” And that’s what he does. He’s good at it. It’s why the United States has the most powerful military in the history of the world. But once soldiers fight. Kill. Come close to death.

Then come home. And that’s when the problems begin.

What war and the military does is light a fire in the belly of all who serve. A fire of intensity, for life, for passion, to be part of something greater than themselves. Coming home extinguishes our fire…but embers still burn, and there lies the trouble. In my own unit, since coming home, dozens have gone through drug, alcohol and PTSD clinics, dozens more have gone through divorces, and we’ve lost three to suicide. There is no reverse basic training to teach us how to come home, how to go back to the way we were, how to look at and deal with what we’ve seen and experienced. There’s no way to snuff out the final embers. The only option is to light the fire back up and channel it. It’s why service platoons and charities of veterans giving back to their community have become so popular. Because soldiers come home and they’re depressed, they’re anxious, and for a lot of them, the only thing that helps is giving back to their community. We’ve given until it hurts, and the only answer is to give back some more. It’s the irony of war.

For one soldier, Specialist Timothy Scott, his idea of giving back was to become a vegan (someone who doesn’t eat meat, eggs, dairy, or wear leather products, etc.). SPC Scott—a square-jawed, Flaming-Lips listening, southern boy, who’s an Iraq war veteran and former infantry soldier—was nice enough to sit down for an interview.

What inspired you to become a vegan and how did it relate to your service in Iraq?

“I got into it initially just as a diet. Like, I was having problems after I got back, stressed out, fighting with my girlfriend all the time, and just all kinds of shit was going on. It got pretty bad one night and I knew I needed to do something so I Googled some stuff on anxiety, and stuff about soldiers coming home. I don’t know how it happened, but I knew I needed to do something drastic. I somehow got onto a site about veganism and after a few hours reading things I don’t even know why, it didn’t seem like me, but I decided to give it a try. And I got my girlfriend to agree to do it with me.”

Yeah that’s definitely a drastic jump for someone to make. Did veganism help with anything? How?

“Yeah, it was weird once I got into it. I read the book China Study, and watched some YouTube videos like Earthlings, and, I don’t know, at first it was like this big distraction…”

What do you mean by distraction?

“I dove right into it and it just gave me something to focus on. I wasn’t yelling at my girlfriend anymore — I was suddenly yelling at my TV or the book I was reading. At first I was still… angry and stressed out and anxious, but it was like it just transferred from my girlfriend and family to the meat and farming industry. I guess it wasn’t much better, but it was a start. But that’s the thing. Before, what was stressing me out was reading about the wars in the paper—or the lack of reading about them—and then talking to people back home, and I don’t know…everything was just stressing me out, people’s attitudes just pissed me off. After I got into veganism though I just stopped focusing on the wars and how shitty I thought everyone was. I just focused all my rage on the farming and meat industry. It was like they were the ones who started the wars and who were poisoning us.”

So you were a vegan, and were angry and pissed off, that sounds about right. Then what happened?

“Then, I don’t know, I went to some meetings that I found on Meetups.com, and my girlfriend and I just joined this community. And I saw that people were pissed off and angry about issues but not like me, and then I don’t know. I didn’t notice anything really actually “Happen,” but my girlfriend and I started to become closer again, cooking food together, and bitching about how there’s nothing to buy at the store (but in a more fun light-hearted way) and we started to go to vegan dinners with people from the group…and…I still talked to all my friends but…it was like I was part of a new community. We ate together, talked about the same things, and the wars were still going on and people were still doing dumb shit, but I just stopped thinking about it so much. I feel guilty even saying it, that I stopped thinking about the wars and what was going on, but I needed to. I needed some space, something else to think of. Veganism offered that. Part of me feels like it could have been anything and it just happened to be veganism. But I’m glad it was. I feel healthier now, happier, and I can think about the wars and the military again, but more objectively now that I’ve had some space.”

What about veganism is it that you think helped you deal with your PTSD?

“I mean, it’s just like I said. It gave me something different to focus on. It could have been anything, but that night when I was on the computer it was just veganism that I started reading about. That’s the one thing I’d recommend to other vets. I’m not saying just to become a vegan—do your own research—and I know you’ll feel guilty for not constantly thinking about the wars and your friends, but just give yourself a break. Find something that can take your focus away because space from my thoughts was what I needed so I started thinking about something else. What a person focuses on grows…so just change what you focus on.”

The interview with SPC Scott went on a little bit longer, but the above questions and answers are the gist of the overall tone. And Scott seems to mirror what many self-help “guru’s” will often tell you, “what you focus on grows,” and it’s not to say that veganism is “The Answer,” or even that there is an answer, but what it seems SPC Scott wanted to share was that veganism gave him somewhere different to place his focus. And even though he was still angry and pissed-off, at first, what he did was break his patterns. His mind started to go someplace besides back to the war and all that had happened. Veganism helped change the way he looked at things, the world, his family, his friends, and his experiences.

About this Interview Series: We’ll explore stories from several different veterans—and family members of veterans—and what it is that they’ve done in their lives that has made a drastic impact in helping with their PTSD. Stay tuned for more articles and personal stories/transformations. Mine will be next up in the Series.


Full-disclosure: I’m a vegan, too, but for other reasons than Scott.

–Photo: Defence Images/Flickr

Politics / News

Style, Ties, and Helping Veterans

Several days ago I received and email from Antonio Centeno, he’s a former Marine and men’s style consultant.  Antonio has started a veteran suicide charity drive (he created military inspired ties, and each one sold, the profits go to helping veterans with suicide) he asked me to help spread the word.  Here’s his video:


Politics / News, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

The Transition from Military to Civilian

military civilianImagine being away for a long time, in a place that doesn’t even resemble the world you grew up in.  It used to be a feather pillow, jeans that fit just right and the smell of fresh cut grass that meant you were home.  Now you’ve dedicated yourself to being a soldier, bravely and lovingly protecting the place you call home from thousands of miles away. Hospital corners, camouflaged pants and the smell of smoking guns becomes your new norm.  What happens when your tour comes to an end and it’s time to trade in your combat gear for street clothes?  Will you be prepared? This life-changing transition of re-integrating into American society has the potential to knock even the most decorated soldier off his or her feet.

Planning Ahead

Transition planning is everything, especially coming back into a world that isn’t quite how you left it.  With unemployment rates high and an economy that has taken a hit, finding a job can be a much heftier mission that you might have originally anticipated.  Thus, financial planning for potential hardships when a soldier returns home is key in making the military to civilian transition as seamless as possible. To cover all bases, its best to make a three-fold monetary plan of action: prepare for deployment, ensure security for the duration of your tour and have an exit strategy in place, accounting for potential economic changes that might occur while deployed.

When creating your plan of action, it is important to take advantage of the military benefits available to you, like career counseling/placement and special investment vehicles. Seek out a recruiting firm that specializes in placing military personnel, meet with a representative to discuss your career interests, education and experience and keep in touch with the representative over the course of your tour.  Consider opening a thrift savings plan that can be managed for the duration of your deployment and thereafter, offering special tax advantages for military personnel saving for retirement. Start planning your return home 8-12 months in advance with your placement representative. They can act as a liaison between you and potential employers.

Integrating Back into Civilian Life

Many veterans experience waves of emotions when they are integrating back into civilian life such as fear, anxiety and frustration. Proper transitional planning will allow you to enjoy the experience of coming back home to your friends and family.  Minimize the negative emotions ahead of time through planning so when you reunite with your feather pillow, the jeans that fit just right, and the familiar smell of fresh cut grass, you can exhale and do so with a smile.

Jeffery Sterner writes and blogs about personal financial well-being and issues that influence it for Debt.org, America’s Debt Help Organization.

Blogishness, Politics / News, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

PTSD and Veteran Suicide in 2013

All Military Branches CartoonSo the statistics just came out and 2012 was the highest year so far in veteran suicides.  The number have constantly been going up for the past decade with each subsequent year the new highest year for veteran suicides.

On the same note, two of the most popular posts on my website have been posts about PTSD and what to do if you/a friend/or a spouse has PTSD.  A week doesn’t go by where I don’t get at least two or three emails of people looking for help, either for themselves or a friend.

Just thought I’d mention those two things.  Things don’t seem to be getting better, only worse.  What more can we do?

Related Posts:

PTSD: What to do when your spouse has PTSD

PTSD: Best ways to treat PTSD



Best Of, Politics / News, Politics / News

German War Poem: Translated by: Alexa Fleckenstein

German war poemA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with author Alexa Fleckenstein.  And somewhere, amongst our many topics of discussion, she began talking about an old German war poem, and given my background, she insisted on sharing the poem with me; and since she could not find an English translation, she translated it herself.  I figured that now, as we enter year twelve of the war in Afghanistan, was an appropriate time to share.  It is a beautiful poem and translation.  Read it below.


Erich Kästner: But when the next War seemed a certain fact

But when the next War seemed a certain fact,

The women said: No way!

And locked in brother, husband, son

And took the keys away.

In every country, every town, they stormed

Each sergeant’s, major’s, off’cer’s home,

And chased the guys, and got them tight,

And beat them with a broom.

They gave a beating to everyone who

had ordered to break the peace:

The bankers, brokers, ministers,

Generals and military police.

A lot of brooms were shattered then

And many a blowhard finished and done.

So many men cried, so many men whined.

The War was over before begun.

All that accomplished, the women went home

To brother, husband, son,

And said there was no War.

The men looked hard not in their eyes

But rather to the floor.

[translated by Alexa Fleckenstein 2012]

Best Of, Politics / News, Politics / News

My Trip To The 9/11 Memorial in NYC – With Pictures.

A few months back I got to take a trip to NYC and get a private tour of the World Trade Center memorial in NYC.  It was an intense experience, and I was accompanied by a close friend that I’d fought with in Iraq , so the exeperience was all the more etheral.  I thought I’d share my pictures today.

This is a shot of the construction from far away.

NYC word trade center construction from far away

Here’s an image of the pools from our hotel room. 

world trade center two pools