Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sec. Gates Overturns Dover Ban Without Consulting Military Families
Dear Military Families United Member and Supporter,
As many of you already know, Defense Secretary Robert Gates today announced that the current ban on the media photographing the transfer cases ceremony at Dover Air Force Base has been overturned. We at Military Families United are disappointed with this decision because we feel that the families of the fallen heroes were not consulted prior to announcing this unnecessary change in policy. Despite Sec. Gates saying that he received “input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and the organizations representing military families,” Military Families United, the largest military family organization, was not contacted or consulted. To read the Military Families United press statement about this click here
John Ellsworth, President of Military Families United, sent the following letter to Secretary Gates tonight.

Dear Secretary Gates:
Let me begin by thanking you for your service and your leadership for this country. I am a Gold Star father, and am painfully aware of the sacrifices that you have made and the tremendous successes that you have achieved with the surge in Iraq. With your leadership and guidance you have played a crucial role in fostering Iraq as a more stable and secure ally in the Middle East.
However, as the President of Military Families United, I am disappointed in your recent actions during your review process of the Dover AFB media ban at the transfer cases ceremony. At your press conference today you said that to make your decision to overturn this ban you received “input from a number of sources, including all of the military services and the organizations representing military families.”
As the nation’s leading military families organization, we are wondering why we were not consulted before your decision was announced today. We represent the largest number of military families around this nation, including those whose family members have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country. If you did not consult with the largest military family organization, who did you speak to you?
Last week, Families United asked our military families to tell us how they feel about the possibility of the media ban being overturned. We heard from nearly a thousand families and the overwhelming majority, more than 85%, told us not to overturn the ban. We heard from mothers terrified that their fallen hero would be used as political propaganda; from fathers who didn’t want to have to answer media questions as they watched their son come home; and from parents who wanted their solemn moment to remain private and far from the media lenses. We would have been happy to share these responses with you and play a role in your decision making process, but unfortunately that was not an option presented to us.
You have been an unwavering advocate for America’s military families and we know your heart aches with every fallen hero and their family. This is why this decision, and the “review process” that apparently advised it, was so out of character. We respectfully ask that as you form the task force to answer the many unresolved issues surrounding your decision, that you allow us a seat at the table. We would also like to know what military family organizations you consulted to make your decision to reverse the ban? We are America’s military families and our voices deserve to be heard.
John EllsworthProud Father of Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth (KIA 11/13/04)

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Pentagon study that reveals troop levels have remained relatively the same since 9/11. A more alarming statistic: 6% of active duty troops have served more than 25 months in a combat zone while 74% have less than twelve months in. The study concludes that the lower to mid enlisted and company grade officers are carrying the most burden.
Army sees sharp rise in suicide rate
It's the highest in 30 years. Military officials say in a report that prevention efforts are inadequate.
By Julian E. Barnes and Jia-Rui Chong January 30, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington --
The suicide rate among Army soldiers reached its highest level in three decades in 2008, military officials said Thursday in a report that pointed to the inadequacy of anti-suicide efforts undertaken in recent years.At least 128 Army soldiers took their own lives last year -- an estimated suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000, a sharp increase from the 2007 rate of 16.8.
It marked the first time the Army rate has exceeded the national suicide rate for the corresponding population group -- 19.5 per 100,000 -- since the Pentagon began systematically tracking suicides nearly 30 years ago.
The 2008 figure does not include 15 additional deaths under investigation that officials suspect were suicides.
Also Thursday, Marine Corps officials revised their suicide numbers upward, reporting a rate of 19.0 per 100,000 in 2008, the highest for the Marines since 1995.
"Why do the numbers keep going up? We cannot tell you," Army Secretary Pete Geren said.
Army officials believe that contributing factors include emotional and psychological stress caused by repeated combat deployments, along with the toll that the tours have taken on marriages.
About a third of suicides occur during deployments abroad, a third after deployments and a third among soldiers who never deploy.
"We all come to the table believing stress is a factor," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff.
Between 2003 and 2007, the Pentagon frequently extended combat tours and barred soldiers from leaving at the end of their enlistment.
In 2007, it extended all Army deployments abroad to 15 months, from 12.
The blanket extension ended last year, and units beginning new tours now will serve only a year. However, some units assigned 15-month tours must complete them before the longer deployments end later this year.
Dr. Judith Broder, founder of the Soldier's Project, a counseling service for troops and their families in the Los Angeles area, said the repeated deployments caused some soldiers and Marines to lose faith in religion or themselves. Some become suicidal after abusing drugs or alcohol and they lose rational judgment.
"They become extremely depressed and really hopeless, like, 'This is never going to end. I'm never going to be myself again. I'm never going to be able to be with my family again,' " she said.
Jose Coll, chairman of the Military Social Work Program at USC, also blamed frequent and lengthy deployments. "And when the soldier comes back, it's not like he's on vacation. He comes back to training, and that creates a lot of stress for the family," said Coll, who served in the Marine Corps.
Army officials said they realized that longer tours would increase strains on soldiers and their families, and they attempted to head off problems by increasing the money they spent on assistance programs to $1.5 billion, from $700 million.
"We could feel the pressure families and soldiers were under," Geren said.
The Army and Defense Department stepped up mental health screening and hired more mental health professionals. The military also devoted more resources to treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries -- battlefield wounds that have compounded stress on soldiers and their families. Still, some say those efforts -- particularly the mental health screening -- have been inadequate.
"Until the Department of Defense starts taking aggressive action, the suicide crisis will get worse," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. "We are looking at the tip of an iceberg of a social catastrophe unless the military and VA start fighting stigma and start getting help for the veteran."
Cindy Williams, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is an expert on military personnel systems, said that reporting a mental health infirmity cut against the ethos of the Army.
"In the Army, there is a culture that says you don't get sick," she said. "Even if the Army wants to change it.
In November, a Marine safety board called for bolstering suicide prevention efforts by improving training for officers and by incorporating anti- suicide training into the martial arts program.
In the Army, Geren said he had placed Chiarelli at the head of a new effort to reduce suicides. As a first step, the Army will begin training soldiers in how to identify people who may be at risk of suicide and how to get help.
"We obviously haven't turned this around yet," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army's top behavioral health expert. "This really has to be a national effort where everyone is reaching out to soldiers and their families."
Last year, the Army announced a five-year initiative with the National Institute of Mental Health to study military suicides and ways to prevent them.
The Army reported that in 2008, 31 suicides occurred in Iraq and seven in Afghanistan. There are far fewer U.S. troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq.
The Marine Corps this week reported that 41 Marines had committed suicide in 2008, for a rate of 19 per 100,000 troops, the highest rate since 1995 when it was slightly under 20 per 100,000. Among the 41 Marine suicides, six were in Iraq. The Marine Corps had said that the rate for 2008 was 16.8 per 100,000, only marginally higher than the 2007 rate of 16.5. But officials said that figure was incorrect because of a computational error.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Suicides- OIF and OEF Veterans

As stated in our two year reflection Our Fallen Soldier has expanded our mission to include the other tragedies of current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will seek and pursue any assitance we can offer to all OIF/OEF Veterans.

We were thankful to see that the main stream media has begun to report the alarming increase in suicides committed by warriors returning from mid-east wars.

Attributed to post traumatic stress disorders, and particularly to the strain caused by multiple deployment's and separation anxiety 128 suicides with 15 deaths under investigation have occcured. Two thirds of these men and women had served in the middle east.

What is alarming is that in January 2009, 29 suicides were reported. This exceeds the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan for the month.

Our organization has become involved with the Wounded Warrior Battalion West. Soon we will have the honor of meeting and assisting recovering soldiers at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Assistance programs have been placed for military use-
We commend our military for these efforts.

A veteran's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are unimaginable, and returning home isn't always easy. As a family member or friend of a veteran, you have the power to help, but knowing where to start can be difficult. Please refer to another website for tips, and stories

I'll add information as it is received. God Bless JC