I recently had the excellent experience of interviewing Doctor David Rudd, of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. He was welcoming, funny, masterful, brilliant. His understanding of the issues that affect Veterans and their families is nuanced and particularly insightful. The work being done at the National Center should make Utahns proud. More importantly, this work can change Veterans lives! He deserves to be heard.
Dr Rudd is also the Dean of the School of Social Sciences. The work of the National Center is revolutionary. Their understanding of Veterans Suicide is perhaps the best approach in the nation right now! Their mission statement is a clarion call to all Veterans.
Unfortunately, many if not most of todays' Veterans want nothing to do with the ideas that they may be experiencing difficulty readjusting to civillian life. They are incredibly resistant to the idea that they have any problem. They seem to believe with every fiber that seeking help diminishes their manhood. Consequently, we have tens of thousands of our young Veterans walking around with un-diagnosed mental wellness issues. The Veterans unemployment, homelessness, and suicide rate speak for themselves.
This is doubly troubling because Recovery is possible. Seeking help does not diminish a Veterans manhood. Therapy can be helpful. Medication may be helpful. Stigma can be eliminated. Veterans and their families can recover an abundant, stable life. This is only a small part of the good news Veteran can find at the National Center. The National Center for Veterans Studies is a beacon of hope to all Veterans everywhere that there is reason for Hope! Recovery is possible.
The nation is facing a Veteran problem today that is a fact, not opinion. More than NINETY Percent of Veterans who experienced multiple tours in combat will have PTSD. Most of them will do Anything in their power to avoid a mental wellness diagnosis. We need to find a way to reach these resistant Veterans. We have to reach the Veterans with something like Fun and camraderie. This is the only way to share the message of recovery. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Janet Napalitano says disillusioned, disaffected Veterans are the number one target of extremist organizations. How many Timothy McVeighs are out there festering?
And the Government is the Problem, Not the Solution. The VA, for example, is growing as fast as it can and yet serves on about twenty percent of the Veterans who qualify for and need psychological services. The solution is, and has to be in the community. We need to motivate Veterans to act on the opportunity to share Recovery with other Veterans, much the same way that alcoholics help themselves stay sober by helping someone else stay sober. Real recovery takes place in the homes, gradually, over time. It does not happen in Rehab, in a month, all at once. Veterans with adjustment issues benefit greatly from camraderie and support from other Veterans.
Let's be clear that Veterans readjustment issues are the NORMAL response to unbelievable stress over time. Veterans readjustment issues are NOT A CHARACTER DEFECT! If a Veteran served ten years, it might take ten years or more to completely recover. It's a process, not a destination. Professionals call it psychological support. Others may just call it love.
Just as Veterans were gradually transformed from high school kids into Warriors, Veterans and their family members can actively condition their own brains to form new neural fibers, axions, dendrites. New science proves to us that Veterans can move far beyond simply coping with stress. These new, self created brain structures alter the path of least resistance for the electrical flow generated by the senses, and thoughts. A person can actively choose to learn to change their own brain chemistry.
When you can change the brain chemistry you can begin to change everything. What we are discribing is new technology in brain science that allows Veterans to reprogram the definition of "stressful". The symptoms of stress disorder can become undiagnosable. Veterans can reduce the need for coping skills, because life no longer stresses us out!
Dr Rudd laughed when I said that, at age 65, I felt that I had been released from a cage. I've been seriously interested how to bridge the gap between organizations, agencies, and institutions and deliver Recovery into the kitchens, living rooms, and hearts of the Veterans who need it most. I wondered aloud if their might be an opportunity for me to study this issue at the Service Acadamy that is evolving at the Center. I pitched Dr Rudd about my ideas about distributing "Active Conditioning" using the internet and social media. Dr Rudd invited me to write down some of ideas regarding overcoming the resistance. I think I caught his attention when I told him that Senator John Valentine says: "Active Conditioning: It's not therapy. It's friendship." And it has to be fun!
I can imagine an internet service where Veterans can anonymously volunteer to help another Veteran. For some unknown reason Veterans seem to have an uncanny ability to relate to other Veterans. One Nam Vet said he relates better to any Veteran than he does to any of his cousins, and two of his brothers.
I envision a Veterans web site that facilitates the ability of people who want to help Veterans and their families to make connection with people who are seeking help.
There can be a survey with four questions:
2. "Would you be willing to take a few hours off work to help a Veteran travel to an appointment?"
3. "Would you be willing to coach other Veterans at a Walk in Center?"
4. "Would you like more training in dealing with readjustment issues?"
Visitors could register their email address "handle", and zip code at the site. They will be able to watch Recovery videos or download the best Recovery information in the world. They could blog or chat. All anonymous. No stigma. Very much like Alcoholics Anonymous. What is said in the Walk in Center, stays in the Walk in Center.
Don't worry. This is not therapy. It's friendship. A Walk in Center can be started by anyone who wants to find a room at a church, hospital, or other place to meet with other Veterans. The website can maintain a data base listing all the Centers in the Network (Veterans Walk In Network). Log onto the site, enter the zip code of where you would like to meet other Veterans, and you will be shown where meetings are held, and offered the email address of another Veteran in your area.
(As an aside: QK Corporations that owns 16 Denny's Restaurants in Utah has expressed an interest in becomming The Veterans Un-Official Clubhouse...... and contributing to various Veterans projects like the Payson Veterans Nursing Home in Payson Utah. We believe this effort could easily spread to other Dennys across America.)
It's fortunate that it is not a government program. The need for Recovery is too big for any government program to address. The VA is already the second or third largest Federal Department based on whose numbers you believe. It's huge! Can you imagine the VA running AA or NA? No way.
The older guys have a lot of experience they would like to share with another Veteran. There are thousands of young Veterans who would appreciate a low stress way to help an older Vet. It might be something as simple as helping someone get to their doctors appointment.
We hope the Veterans site can become an effective facilitor to help introduce Veterans and deliver content that will be entertaining, informative, and instructive regarding Recovery. A primary goal is enhancing Veterans family bonds. I believe there is nothing more valuable for a Veteran to do than to invest in building loving relationships within their family. Research proves that if these loving relationships are built on a foundation of religious priciples that both partners can agree on, all the better!