Thursday, December 25, 2008

Large oaks from little acorns grow...

May we all work together to water the tree of change in 2009!

Happy Holidays from our Hearts and Homes to Yours!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

FREE On-Line Voice Recorded Cards w/ Photos for Mil Families!

Talking Medias LLC, has partnered with Military Spouses for Change to offer all military families FREE voice-recorded Christmas and New Year's personal greeting cards (created online), to send to their loved ones serving at home and abroad.

Imagine getting together Christmas eve (or New Year's Eve), recording yourselves directly online while uploading a few photo images and then, 10 seconds later, your loved one (dad, mom, son, daughter, sibling) serving in Iraq or Afghanistan gets to experience all of that! It's the best gift we can give our loved ones - hearing our voice and seeing our smile.

Now, I don't know what your experiences have been (for those of you with deployed servicemembers) but my husband and I cannot use the webcam at all, the internet is just too crummy. So when MSC was approached my Talking Medias, LLC, we thought this would be a nice alternative. We know this is late notice, but we figured better late than never!

I doubled checked and asked if there was any financial obligation to make this audio and visual on-line card and they assured me that there was not.

Please check out this link:

and share it with your friends, family, FRG groups,message boards, etc.

Send the link to your servicemember and if his or her internet allows, he or she can try to make one to send you back home!

Good luck and happy holidays,

Carissa Picard
President and Blue Star Wife
Military Spouses for Change


Friday, September 19, 2008

Are you a Republican or Independent Blue Star Spouse who Supports Obama?

Are you a Republican or Independent voter whose spouse is deployed and cannot bring yourself to support McCain this election?

If yes, I have been contacted by a film-maker who is looking for someone who is willing to participate in a short television advertisement endorsing Senator Obama.

This needs to be filmed ASAP.

If you are interested, please email me at and I will put you in touch with the film maker.

P.S. If someone needed a spouse for a pro-McCain endorsement, we would have posted a bulletin for them as well.

MILITARY SPOUSES FOR CHANGE DOES NOT ENDORSE EITHER CANDIDATE. We do, however, encourage our military spouses to be politically informed and active, no matter which candidate they support.

Feel free to repost this elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Attention Military Spouses!


The House of Representatives recently passed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. This bill, if it passes the Senate, will apply the same rules of residency to military spouses that currently apply to their active duty service member (so you would no longer have to worry about changing your driver's license, vehicle registration, voter's registration, etc., every time you move). The idea that we should be penalized for these moves WHEN IT IS THE MILITARY that is choosing to move us is ridiculous. Military spouses, like service members, simply go where the military tells them to go. The hardships associated with these frequent moves should be ALLEVIATED by Congress, not perpetuated.

Shockingly, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act is currently BEING CHALLENGED by the DoD as it is being considered by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. If this bill does not get approved by the VA Committee, it will never get voted on in the Senate and thus never become law. This is your chance to make a difference and to be heard. You need to call the Senators that are sitting on the VA Committee. Ask to speak with their legislative aide about the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act. Tell them that "the committee needs to support the Carter Military Spouse language." For some reason, the DoD does not believe that military spouses should have the same residency protections that service members do. Obviously, Military Spouses for Change disagrees with the DoD on this.

It will not cost the federal government anything to make this bill a law. It will not cost the Department of Defense anything. All we are asking for is a reprieve from the practical and financial burdens of having to change our state of residence every time the military decides to move our family. Either that or the military should start giving our married service members the option of staying at one duty station for his or her entire career. Since the latter is unlikely to happen, then the federal government should at least move to provide us with the same legal protections it provides our service members since we are no more immune to the change of duty stations than he or she is (absent divorcing or separating).

Print out the numbers below and take the time to call each office and tell them that military spouses deserve the same legal protections that their service members get when it comes to state residency laws. They say that the military recruits a service member but retains the family, well this is a step the federal government can take toward doing that.

Please feel free to copy this post and repost elsewhere.

Akaka, Daniel K. (D - HI) (202) 224-6361 Aide: Lisa F.
Brown, Sherrod (D - OH) (202) 224-2315 Aide: Diane Wilkinson
Burr, Richard (R - NC) (202) 224-3154 Aide: Kevin Tuess(??)
Craig, Larry E. (R - ID) (202) 224-2752 Aide: Patrick (Nielman??)
Graham, Lindsey (R - SC) (202) 224-5972 Aide: Adam Brake
Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R - TX) 224-5922
Isakson, Johnny (R - GA) (202) 224-3643 Aide: Lauren Walter/Houston Ernst)
Murray, Patty (D - WA) (202) 224-2621 Aide: Joshua Jacobs
Obama, Barack (D - IL) (202) 224-2854 Aide: Ruchi Bhowmik
Rockefeller, John D., IV (D - WV) 224-6472 Aide: Clete Johnson or Barbara Pryor
Sanders, Bernard (I - VT) (202) 224-5141 Aide: Janko Mitric
Specter, Arlen (R - PA) (202) 224-4254 Aide: Will Wagner
Tester, Jon (D - MT) (202) 224-2644 Aide: James Wise
Webb, Jim (D - VA) (202) 224-4024 Aide: William Edwards
Wicker, Roger F. (R - MS) (202) 224-6253

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stand Up 4 Vets

As we honor those who have fallen in service to our country, we must also remember those who returned from battle with the physical and psychological scars of war.

At, concerned Americans can sign a petition urging Congress and the President to take action so the men and women who fought to defend our nation don't have to fight to get the medical care they need and deserve.

For far too long, tight budgets and political posturing have kept some veterans from getting proper medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Disabled American Veterans is demanding that Congress enact new laws to require improved screening and treatment for psychological wounds, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injuries; increase support for family caregivers; and reform veterans health care funding so that it is sufficient, timely and predictable.

Thanks for any help you can provide in getting the word out to those who may want to get involved in our online mobilization and call for our government to stand up our veterans.

David E. Autry
Deputy National Director of Communications
Disabled American Veterans

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Should We Really Remember on Memorial Day?

(May 21, 2008) Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, so named for the decorating of soldier's graves by women's groups and others after the Civil War.

It is believed to have been an event that occurred spontaneously in dozens of places across the United States as we struggled to heal in the aftermath of that violent and prolonged conflict.

As the wife of a soldier about to deploy to Iraq, something about the idea of those women decorating the graves of soldiers after the Civil War simultaneously hurts and comforts me. It hurts because I know most of those women were widows. Yet it also comforts me to know that those women found solace in each other and in honoring their soldiers: in decorating those graves, they were acting to make a nation remember and recognize both their soldiers' sacrifice and their own sacrifice.

It was also an act of social activism. Those decorated graves said that no one life was to be forgotten, no one life was to be lost in vain. It was an act that said not only was a life lost, but their were lives left behind that were IMPACTED by the loss of that life.

While the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the men and women who gave their lives while serving our country, I propose it is even greater: it is a day to recognize not simply that the servicemember will have no more days ahead of him (or her) by virtue of their death, but that the days preceding his or her death were defined by hardship and courage. Thus, the sacrifice is more than just the death, it is everything leading up to it; all that was left undone (or was done without him or her) and all whom were left behind.

Please consider who and what we are really talking about when we say "dying in service of our country:"

We are talking about men and women who (post-Civil War era) die on foreign soil, thousands of miles away from parents, spouses, and children. Men and women who die not having seen their child being born or their parent pass away. Men and women who die not having seen their child's first steps or high school graduation. Men and women who die after spending their last holidays in jungles or deserts, or on mountains or ships, amid their "family" by circumstance but not by choice.

We are talking about men and women whose final words of love will never actually be heard by those they love. Men and women who were called baby killers in the 1970s and illiterate in 2008. Men and women whose voluntary service today prevent other men and women from being drafted and yet they are told they don't deserve a draft-era GI Bill because they volunteered for this.

These are the men and women we are remembering on Memorial Day.

Should my husband die in Iraq, I pray that he is remembered for his sacrifice. A sacrifice that, in my mind, begins the day he leaves our arms but for the rest of the world will be memorialized on the day he dies, thousands of miles away from us, having missed our youngest son's first day in Kindergarten, having possibly spent Christmas and our anniversary in the desert, and having called out for a mother who won't hear him (or maybe, just maybe, me), when he passes from this world to the next.

For my part, I know that I will join the long line of widows before me in decorating his grave to remind this country that he left behind many who loved him, many who do remember him even if the world doesn't, and that the sacrifice for this nation was not his alone.

Carissa Picard is a licensed attorney, the founder and President of a non-profit, non-partisan veterans and military advocacy organization, Military Spouses for Change, and the spouse of an active duty Army pilot soon to deploy to Iraq. She is also a writer for's 2008 Election Center and an op-ed contributor.

Military Wives Fight Army to Help Husbands

Listen Now [12 min 34 sec] add to playlist

Tammie LeCompte meticulously filed every Army document about Ryan LeCompte in chronological order in binders. Senate aides say these bulging binders helped convince them that Army officials were mistreating her husband.

By the time Ryan LeCompte was transferred to Walter Reed Army Hospital in late 2007, he was hardly walking or talking — or even eating on his own. He spent most of his time slumped, staring at the floor.

James Pitchford, aide to Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), is so outraged at how Fort Carson treated Ryan LeCompte that he made a rare exception to an unwritten rule on Capitol Hill that staff members never speak to the media, except anonymously "on background."

Army Spc. Ryan LeCompte's chief psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Hospital rejected a claim made by officers at Fort Carson that he was "faking" his symptoms — and concluded that he was severely ill as a result of the war. Read the diagnosis.

All Things Considered, May 16, 2008 · There's a formidable group of warriors out there — and they're fighting America's military. Spouses of troops who have come back from the war with serious mental health problems have made it their mission to force the military to give the troops the help they need.

In the process, they've transformed themselves from "the silent ranks," as the military traditionally calls wives, into vocal and effective activists.

Tammie LeCompte is among them. When her husband, Army Spc. Ryan LeCompte, came back to Fort Carson, Colo., after two tours in Iraq, he was a different man — angry, withdrawn and isolated. In 2007, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he eventually became so depressed and unable to function that doctors feared he might die.

So when Tammie LeCompte saw that the Army was not giving her husband intensive treatment — and, worse, his commanders were punishing him for not doing his job — she launched a campaign against the Army that eventually caught the ear of Congress. Today, doctors say that
Tammie LeCompte's battle may have saved her husband's life.

Carissa Picard, founder of a national group called Military Spouses for Change, has never met Tammie LeCompte, but she recently launched a Web site specifically to teach spouses how to pressure the military to give proper care to returning troops with health problems. Picard says

Tammie's own battle reflects how wives across the country have transformed themselves into advocates in order to save their own husbands.

"When I feel like the well-being of my husband or my family is at stake, that taps into a very fundamental place for women," says Picard, who is married to an Army helicopter pilot. "That's like a Mama Bear place. We're fighting to protect the people that we love."
Lecompte's Return from Iraq

When Ryan LeCompte came back from Iraq in January 2006, he started suffering from the classic symptoms that afflict large numbers of troops who've fought in wars. Back in Iraq, his officers hailed him as "one of the platoon's best soldiers," who always "worked tirelessly, without complaint."

But at home, he became a hermit. He avoided his family most of the time. When he didn't, he'd fly into a rage.

Tammie says she would hear cries in the middle of the night, and she'd find him curled in a ball on the floor. During the day, there'd be a loud noise, and he'd drop to the ground like someone was shooting.

But at least Ryan realized he needed help. His Army records prove it.

Tammie drew on the filing skills she learned as a clerk in the military's insurance program, and she started putting just about every document that the Army has ever written about her husband in clear, plastic sleeves in two huge black binders.

These records show that LeCompte started going to the mental health center soon after he got back from Iraq. The doctors sent him to classes on anger management and alcohol abuse, and group therapy, and they prescribed various drugs — but he didn't get intensive treatment.

And LeCompte kept getting worse. He'd show up late for formation. He seemed disoriented. He couldn't remember orders. So, according to Army records, his officers made him scrub the toilets and do other menial chores — to punish him.

Tammie says LeCompte took it out at home, shouting at her and sometimes violently shoving her. She says she started thinking about leaving him.

Activism Sparks

Tammie LeCompte was desperate. She went to Ryan's officers, and she begged them to support him instead of treating him as if he were malingering. They said he was an alcoholic and faking his symptoms. Tammie went to the inspector general at Fort Carson and asked him to investigate why Ryan wasn't getting proper treatment.

He dismissed her allegations and said the Army was acting appropriately.

So Tammie started sending letter after letter to just about anybody she could think of, including members of Congress and veterans advocates like Andrew Pogany, who helps soldiers with serious mental health problems get help dealing with the Army.

She pleaded with them to get Ryan better treatment. And finally, those vets and senators wrote Fort Carson, asking what was going on.

Michele Cassida, one of the key staff members at Fort Carson who handled the calls and letters from Congress, said Ryan is "very lucky" to have his wife as an advocate.

"I don't know if a lot of people would go through what she's been through," Cassida says.
Cassida pored over LeCompte's records, and she interviewed his officers and fellow soldiers.

"Ryan Lecompte is a very sick solder — very, very sick — and needs help," Cassida says. "I have seen him literally deteriorate in front of my eyes."

By the summer of 2007, LeCompte had stopped talking or walking. He wouldn't eat on his own, so Tammie had to spoon-feed him.

But Cassida says the more Tammie begged for help, the more his officers retaliated.

Cassida says she can understand that Ryan and Tammie might have rubbed some people the wrong way. People with PTSD can be infuriating. Tammie can be blunt and abrasive. But Cassida says that's no reason to mistreat them.

For instance, Ryan's officers ordered him to line up in formation every day, even though he was almost a vegetable. So Tammie would push him to formation in a wheelchair at 5:30 every morning. The officers cited LeCompte for conduct "unbecoming of a soldier," they demoted him and cut his pay, and then they started the process of kicking him out of the Army for "patterns of misconduct."

"I don't understand how they can victimize a family like they have done," Cassida says. "This is vindictiveness. This is evilness. This is not what the Army is about."

Commanders who were involved in LeCompte's case declined comment or didn't return phone calls from NPR. A spokeswoman at Fort Carson said she couldn't reach any one else qualified to talk about the case.

But commanders at Fort Carson sent letters to Congress stating, "LeCompte was given access to all appropriate medical and psychological treatment" and "was treated appropriately by his chain of command."

'Too Many Worries'

By late last year, Tammie seemed on the verge of a breakdown. She says she was borrowing money from relatives and friends. She looked and sounded exhausted, as she juggled raising their children and fighting the Army — and serving as a full-time nurse for Ryan. "I've got too many worries," she said at the time, fighting back tears. "I'm worried about my husband. I'm worried about my kids. And there's not 10 of me. I'm only one person."

But suddenly, just before Christmas last year, Tammie's two-year battle paid off. The congressional staff members and veterans groups who had been rallying around her persuaded Fort Carson to send Ryan to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Walter Reed has suffered its own share of scandal, but medical specialists generally agree that its doctors are among the best in the military.

Once he arrived there, Ryan LeCompte spent most of his time slumped on his bed, like a frail 90-year-old in a nursing home.

The team of psychiatrists on Ryan's case had already made their diagnosis: He was so depressed that his body was shutting down. The most widely used psychiatric manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, calls it "major depressive disorder ... with catatonic features."

Officials at the Pentagon refused to let Ryan's doctors talk with NPR. But sources who worked with them say the doctors believe that Ryan might have died, if Tammie's advocates hadn't persuaded commanders at Fort Carson to send him to Walter Reed.

Two of her most influential advocates are seasoned staff members on Capitol Hill — James Pitchford, who focuses on veterans' issues for Sen. Christoper Bond (R-MO), and Krista Lamoreaux, who works for Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). Commanders at Fort Carson sent Ryan to

Walter Reed only after the aides hinted that the senators might make trouble for the Army.
Pitchford says none of this would have happened without Tammie LeCompte. He says she reminds him of Erin Brockovich — the woman Julia Roberts played in the hit movie of the same name, after she exposed a corporation that was poisoning people.

Tammie is "a pit bull," Pitchford says. "She is a fighter." He says he hopes Julia Roberts or another famous actress will make "The LeCompte Story."

Doctors at Walter Reed have sent Ryan LeCompte back home to South Dakota. He's getting therapy and medical care at a nearby VA hospital.

Ryan and Tammie's battle isn't over, because Army officials still haven't announced whether they're going to kick Ryan out of the service for misconduct, as they had planned, or will retire him with honor and all his benefits, as members of Congress are insisting.

But Ryan's walking again, with a cane. He's talking a little. He feeds himself. And sometimes, Tammie says, he even smiles.

Related NPR Stories

Sep. 9, 2007Army Helps Wounded Soldiers Adjust
Dec. 4, 2006Soldiers Say Army Ignores, Punishes Mental Anguish
Aug. 22, 2007Grief Camp Helps Children Cope with War Losses

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Returning Warrior Mental Health Protection Act


1. To effectively identify service members in crisis upon return from a combat zone.
2. To provide a means by which returning warriors exhibiting signs of post-combat stress can receive mental health care, treatment, and evaluation before their behavior escalates to the point of involuntary separation from the military.
3. To create uniformity among military units in the management of service members engaging in misconduct or otherwise exhibiting signs of mental health distress upon return from a combat zone.

1) Definitions

a. Military mental health provider -- anyone licensed to provide mental health care and recognized by the Commander of the military treatment facility (MTF) as capable of administering such care.

2) Post-deployment misconduct

a. If a service member engages in misconduct within two years upon his or her return from a combat zone AND has no history of misconduct prior to his or her deployment, the Commander shall suspend disciplinary action and/or administrative discharge pending the following:

i. Service member must undergo a comprehensive mental health evaluation and TBI screening and be given 30 days to participate in any recommended programs offered by the MTF or otherwise recommended by the mental health provider.

ii. Upon completion of the initial mental health evaluation and recommendation by a military mental health provider, the service member will be given the option of continuing with treatment and/or care at the MTF or approved civilian mental health provider for up to 180 days (from the date of the referral).

3) Referral to Warrior Transition Unit

a. Upon recommendation of a military psychiatrist and agreement by the service member, the service member must be released from his or her current unit and transferred to the WTU for further care, treatment, and evaluation.

b. Any pending or suspended disciplinary actions and/or other charges may be forwarded for disposition by the WTU Commander.

4) Personality Disorder Discharges

a. If a service member meets the following criteria, the diagnosis of a personality disorder shall qualify for compensation as a recognized disability by the DoD and VA:

i. Has been active for at least 2 yrs;
ii. Has served in a combat zone; and
iii. Has no history of such disorder noted upon his or her entrance into service.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

MSC President on NPR Discussing Iraq Tour Reductions

To the Point with Warren Onley:

The President, the War in Iraq and American Soldiers

('Thu, 10 Apr 2008)

Listen to/Watch entire show:

Main Topic:
President Bush today accepted the recommendations of General David Petraeus. The draw-down of troops from Iraq will stop when the "surge" ends in July. Democratic leaders of Congress said, "He's just dragging this out, leaving a failed war and a failed economy on the doorstep of the next president." Because of strains on the troops, Mr. Bush also reduced tours of duty from 15 months to 12, but that won't start until August. We talk with soldiers about the state of morale after six years of war. What do multiple tours on the front lines mean for their families? What about recruitment, retention and readiness to meet future contingencies?


Mark Silva: White House Correspondent, Chicago Tribune

Carissa Picard: President, Military Spouses for Change

Sig Christenson: Military Reporter, San Antonio Express-News

Pete Hegseth: Executive Director, Vets for Freedom

Brandon Friedman: Editor,

Military Spouses for Change on CBS Evening News

The Military's Showdown with PTSD

FORT HOOD, Texas, April 17, 2008

(CBS) Twenty-two year old combat medic Jonathan Norrell volunteered for every mission during his year in Iraq.

He was bombed, ambushed, treating wounded under fire - and the memories still haunt him.

"The things that affected me the most weren't the IEDs, which I went through six or seven of, and all the firefights, and all the combat," Norrell said. "It was the psychological stuff, the people I failed to help."

By the time he came off his tour of duty he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks. Military doctors recommended immediate discharge and treatment but the command refused.

Instead they forced him into combat training exercises. He turned to drugs and alcohol.

"I just lost it," Norrell said. "I didn't wanna do it anymore."

So the Army he served so well in Iraq threatened to expel him without medical benefits.

Norrell's case reveals the showdown inside the military, between the new school and old school view on how to handle PTSD - one of the signature injuries of the Afghan and Iraq wars.

And experts warn there's a storm coming: a generation of soldiers coming home with PTSD.

CBS News has been given documents showing more than 100,000 vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are seeking help for mental health disorders.

Norrell decided to fight back by reaching out to veteran's groups and advocates like Carissa Picard of Military Spouses for Change. Picard's husband leaves for Iraq in June.

"Our soldiers didn't choose to wage this war; they didn't choose to go to Iraq or Afghanistan," she said. "We've sent them there. We need to take responsibility for what happens to them."

Norrell's struggle for help took months of meetings, phone calls, e-mails, lobbying Congressmen and the top levels of the Pentagon before she finally got help at Fort Hood.

We asked the man in charge there why it took so long.

"The field commander recognizes the soldier has a problem, and they request the soldier to be transferred to the warrior transition unit," said Col. Casper P. Jones III.

Dozier said: "That sounds great, but we know in this situation, for several months, it didn't happen."

"It didn't happen," Jones said. "I think there are lessons from this case that can help us all as we move forward."CBS News has learned that top Pentagon officials have made visits to bases across the country. They're telling Army commanders to take their doctors' diagnoses more seriously, and get the troops treatment.

Norrell hopes that by speaking out, other troops won't have to fight so hard to get the help they need.

"Hopefully what happened to me won't happen to any more soldiers," he said.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

MSC Launches MilSpouse Press

MILITARY SPOUSES FOR CHANGE (MSC) is proud is announce the launch of Military Spouse Press (, a blogging site for the spouses and partners of service members and veterans.

Mil Spouse Press seeks to:
1. Empower military spouses by encouraging personal and political expression;
2. Create a space for an honest and open dialogue about the military experience;
3. Promote awareness about the needs of our military and veteran communities; and,
4. Inspire advocacy on behalf of our servicemembers, our veterans, our families, and our spouses.

The insight and importance of the military spouse community cannot be over-stated. Our experiences with the military and our familiarity with military policies are second only to the servicemembers, yet we were are not similarly limited when it comes to expressing our concerns to the military, the public, and elected officials. Moreover, we have the unique distinction of bridging the gulf between the civilian community and the military community. As a result, we are not only best equipped to be our own advocates, we are best equipped to be our troops' advocates.

In times of war, the servicemember is not the only veteran in a military marriage: our battles may differ but our war is the same. No married servicemember serves his (or her) country alone. A military spouse may not wear her (or his) servicemember's rank, but we do share his (or her) burden--with tremendous pride. Military spouses are, above all, patriots. Although we may sometimes disagree on the means, we all agree on the ends: protecting our troops, our families, and our country. Until this is fully recognized, military spouses will remain an untapped resource for strengthening our military. The creation of Mil Spouse Press is the first of many steps MSC is taking towards tapping into that resource.

We would like to encourage you to share our site,, with others. Participation in the site is not limited to military spouses, although our primary bloggers and our Editorial Contributors will all be military spouses.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Carissa Picard, President of Military Spouses for Change at

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Soldier Memorial Event Cancelled

Because of politics. We had a member who wanted to politicize the event. She wanted this to be an anti-war memorial.

I will come out of the closet today. I do not believe that we should be in Iraq. I don't know what the solution is; I don't know that we should pull out quickly but I don't think staying there indefinitely is the answer either. I don't agree with out current policy. Personally, that is my position on Iraq. HOWEVER, as the President of MSC, I will not have MSC, as a whole, take a position on the war in Iraq.

I wanted this memorial to raise awareness about the fact that we ARE still at war and that this war is costing human lives. Period. A recent poll found that only 28 percent of Americans knew that nearly 4,000 service members have died in Iraq in the past five years. Most thought it was 3,000 or less.

I met with the council at the Trinity Lutheran Church yesterday about using their lawn for our memorial. I assured them that this was not an anti-war event. They were extremely supportive and they wanted to reach out to the chaplains on Fort Hood and to other churches in the area. They also encouraged me to get as much media as possible to cover the event.

The member who wanted to have this event and who secured the 600 crosses now refuses to participate in the memorial. She believes that the church is going to put a "positive spin" on the deaths of 600 soldiers and the 600 crosses. I disagree.

Nonetheless, I do not have the crosses and so the event is cancelled.

So much for raising awareness about the human cost of war and honoring our fallen soldiers.

Perhaps we can arrange something for Memorial Day weekend... we will keep you posted...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bearing Witness to Our Fallen (Fort Hood, Texas)

As the five year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, Military Spouses for Change (MSC) is inviting you to join us as we remember our fallen soldiers on Sunday, March 16th.

Fort Hood has lost the most soldiers in the nation to the war in Iraq. While the DoD considers the number to be 432, an NPR article about Fort Hood's Gold Star Families (written nearly a year ago) had that number at more than 600 (that would give us an average of two deaths per week). We suspect the DoD figure may only cover fatalities from hostile fire and not suicides, friendly fire, and/or deaths NOT immediately following their injuries.

MSC is going to be place a cross in the grass next to the Trinity Lutheran Church in Copperas Cove, Texas, for every soldier we believe has been lost to us here at Fort Hood. That means we are going to place 600 crosses in the grass so every person who drives by can see that the cost of war (any war) is best understood in human terms because it is being paid for with human lives--those of the soldiers and those of their families.

We would also like to remind those who pass by that there is nothing routine about the war in Iraq, nothing routine about any war. There is nothing routine about Katherine Cathey's last night with her husband:
Katherine Cathey.

We are nearly seven years into two wars with two countries and for the first time in American history we have had tax cuts instead of tax increases. As family members, we are told that the DoD doesn't have the funds to provide our servicemembers and our families with the medical and mental health professionals they need to cope the the physical and emotional hardships and traumas of these conflicts. Are we a nation at war or a military at war?

MSC is inviting members of the public as well as members of the military to read names off our list of Fort Hood fatalities. We currently have a list of 432 (from the DoD). We are going to look for additional names here at Fort Hood.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in helping put up crosses (we will start placing the crosses on the grass at 11 am), reading the names (we will start the roll call at 1 or 2 pm), speaking at the event, or otherwise helping with the event, please contact Cynthia Thomas at 254.768.8300.

Please pass this information on to anyone you think would like to participate. AND PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE APART OF READING A SOLDIER'S NAME.

Thank you.

Carissa Picard
Military Spouses for Change
Involve. Inform. Inspire.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Penalizing PTSD

We have just successfully intervened on behalf of another soldier at Fort Hood, TX. He joined the Army when he was 19 and was trained as a medic. He served a year in Iraq as a combat medic and returned with PTSD. Prior to his return, he was a good, reliable soldier. He was promoted to the rank of E-4 and was the personal medic to a major while in Iraq. He was also exposed to numerous explosions and suffered several concussions while in Iraq.

Private X is a soft-spoken and unimposing young man. Since returning from Iraq, he was diagnosed with PTSD and put on Celexa and Seroquel to help him with his depression and anxiety. His Army psychiatrist told his chain of command not to send him to the national training center, but they ordered him to go anyway. He felt ridiculed and ostracized for seeking help, resorting to alcohol and marijuana as "treatment", ultimately failing a urinalysis test. He also went AWOL for 20 days (to drive home to see his mother). He was stripped of his rank, had to forfeit more than half of his pay, and given a seven day duty schedule.

Although he was diagnosed with PTSD by the military doctors, his chain of command decided to initiate a chapter 14(a)(c) discharge (general) for his post-deployment misconduct. They told him that his recent misconduct undid any right he had to care for his PTSD. MSC intervened to stop the chapter and to have this soldier placed in the Warrior Transition Unit for evaluation and treatment instead--which should had happened in JULY when he was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. If his chain of command had acted appropriately last summer, this soldier would not have had to self-medicate and his misconduct would most likely not have occurred.

Additionally, we believe he may have an undiagnosed and untreated TBI. In the time that I spent with him, I noticed mental confusion and memory loss pertaining to conversations that we had, which is not consistent, I suspect, with the cognitive abilities of a medic. His unit says he was screened for a TBI, but he asserts that he was not.

MSC was able to stop the discharge and have Private X placed in the Warrior Transition Unit. He has been told he is going to be given a medical discharge now instead. Pending the medical discharge, he will be receiving comprehensive treatment for his PTSD.

The problem with existing DoD regulations is that the commanders are not required to follow the recommendations of the doctors who are evaluating and/or treating our returning wounded warriors. MSC is going to be approaching members of Congress to change that.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Politics of War

On January 3, 2008, military blogger Major Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq. Andrew wrote a blog to be published in the event of his death. While Americans were losing interest in Iraq, Andrew was trying to find the right words to express the peace he had made with the possibility of his death there. Like many who have written about Andrew Olmsted’s remarkable final words, I did not have the honor of knowing Andrew personally but wish now that I had.
Andrew’s blog is replete with self-deprecating humor, which I immediately find endearing. Andrew is also very clear about his reason for being in Iraq--which transcends the politics of war:

“Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) . . . Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if
you'll pardon the pun) live with that.”

At the same time, he writes that he hopes his death can be a reminder to others about the true costs of war—the costs that Americans, academics, and politicians tend to overlook when calculating the pros and cons of military engagements. The trouble, of course, is that there are no figures for these costs, no meaningful measurements. I believe that numbers alone are insufficient. The value of a human life, and the value of Andrew’s life, cannot be properly expressed by a number, any number.

At the end of his blog, Andrew worries about the suffering his wife will endure and wishes he had been a better husband. It is official. I adore Major Andrew Olmsted. A man I never met and never will. Which brings me to another soldier I posthumously adore: Specialist Justin Rollins.

Justin was part of the 82nd Airborne Division when his team found a litter of motherless puppies. They rescued the puppies and brought them back to their camp. Justin had his picture taken that night holding one of the puppies--a glimpse of the human heart beating beneath all that army-issued gear.

The following day, Justin was killed by a roadside bomb.

My husband asks me why I do things like this: cut Justin’s photo out of the paper and put it on our refrigerator, print out Andrew’s final blog. I do it because I have to. I do it because I don’t want to reduce a human life to a single digit. I do it because it isn’t about what we are losing when a solider dies, it is about who we have lost.

I just wish every other American was doing it too. If they were, maybe Iraq would still be the number one issue on voters’ minds in November and I would have less people to adore after they have died.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

John Stuart Mill