Perspective

Once we have a name for something, we sort of consider it solved. Such is the case with PTSD…

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This evening my son and I, with his Mom and another young war veteran, were sharing stories. Daniel related how the unit to which he had been assigned the 1-325th Red Falcons of the 82nd Airborne had recently been deployed to the Middle East. A young lieutenant that Daniel had gotten to know a little before he retired from the unit was killed by an IED. He shared how another soldier with whom he had gone through boot camp had been assigned to the Old Guard, the troops whose mission is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and provide honor guards at the Arlington National Cemetery. That young soldier had just committed suicide because of the bullying and hazing he had endured in the unit.

So often, once we have a name for something, we sort of consider it solved. Such is the case with PTSD, Post-Truamatic Stress Disorder. There, you see, we named it and now we know it so we don’t need to do any more with it. We can kind of tuck it away in the corner of our sub-conscious until we hear of the next young soldier’s death due to hazing and bulllying and we nod our heads knowingly. If so and so had just gotten some help for his PTSD maybe his suicide would not have happened, we say. That makes for an easy perspective when it isn’t your son, your husband, your father. Now my son owns two wrist bands, silver and shiny. Etched in them are the names of his battle buddy and of his Lieutenant.  It made me recall the POW/MIA bracelets of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I wonder whatever happened to mine? I began to wonder whatever became of my MIA… perspective.

The young veteran with whom we were talking shared how he hoped that when the tatoo he was in the process of getting down his arm is finished there will be a worn American flag there. Underneath the  flag will be the words, “Lest We Forget”… perspective.

Very recently, I attended a memorial service for a young firefighter, killed senselessly in a one car traffic crash. His 8-year-old son. who was also in the truck. was treated and released. I watched that young boy stand strong and true at the service, as I’m sure hie believed would make his daddy proud. I wondered about where he wouled be in ten years… perspective.

Quite some time ago I began work on my certification for trauma counseling for frist respoonders and for veterans and military personnel. But, I got busy. There was no deadline so I pushed it aside. Then, after awhile it made its way to my side table and then my bookshelf. It’s back on my desk again and that is the result of perspective.

One is Too Many

For over forty years I have been a member of the law enforcement profession. For almost as long, I have been proudly affiliated with the U.S. Armed Forces, specifically the U.S. Air Force Reserve. From the very beginning of my careers in the mid 1970’s, law enforcement was given the badge of dishonor of having one of the highest divorce rates and even worse, one of the highest suicide rates, particularly among retirees of similar professions. Already I can hear you thinking, this is going to be a downer of a message; I don’t think I care to keep reading, or listening. I don’t blame you, suicide is a sad, painful topic. But in the midst of that pain and sadness, I come to you with two kinds of good news, first about suicide rates and second about the ultimate option that can be used to prevent the rates from spiraling out of control again.

What prompted me to write this was an article I read recently in the publication of the Air Force Security Forces Association, of which I am proud to be a member. It also caused me to look up some information on police related suicides as well. Here is the first bit of good news. The suicide rates for the U.S. military for all branches declined from 2012 to 2013. In 2012 there were 522 suicide deaths among all services. Of those, fifty-seven were airmen. The data for 2013, though not complete, shows that service wide the number dropped to 474. Lt. General Michael Linnington, Military Deputy at the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (can you imagine putting that on your business card?) says that “With an 18 percent drop in 2013, something is going right.” I agree with the General with one glowing exception. The 48 deaths less from 2012 to 2013 is just over 10 percent. To get an 18 percent change, the Lt. General was only counting the fifty-eight deaths less from the 319 to 261 Active Duty suicides between 2012 and 2013. Fifty-eight is 18 percent of 319 but if we are really counting all of our members, then we should really count all of them. Still, almost 11 percent improvement is a good thing and when the Lt. General says, “something is going right” I agree. I also agree with his remark that “one suicide is too many.” He said that the services needed to focus their efforts on where they believe they are most needed.

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That comment struck me just a bit as I recalled an internet message I received just recently from the U.S. Navy Reserve unit based in Cleveland and Akron here in NE Ohio. I had written to the unit’s program manager. She had informed me that the unit only had a part time chaplain. I am completing training for trauma counseling with a focus on military personnel and I have been certified for trauma counseling through the American Association of Christian Counselors. I volunteered my services to this Reserve unit and after checking with her commander, she informed me that they had no need for trauma counseling. I trust that the commander of the U.S. Navy Reserve contingent in NE Ohio is very thankful that he has a unit free of trauma. I pray that he never has to face the family of a Reservist who has committed suicide, I really do.

Then, of course, there is the law enforcement side of the picture. Again, there is a decline in the number of suicides among police. I do not believe these numbers reflect police retirees, only active duty law enforcement. “The Badge of Life (BOL) just released their initial report on law enforcement suicides over the past year. The good news is that the police suicide rate dropped in 2012 when compared to 2009 (the last time a study was completed). The bad news is it didn’t drop enough. One hundred twenty six law enforcement officers committed suicide in 2012. Additionally, in 2012, 129 officers “died in the line of duty”

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When we consider retirees or, for the military, if we look at veterans, the numbers are not as encouraging. For example, veterans are committing suicide at more than double the U.S. civilian population. “Records from 48 states show the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared to a civilian rate of about 14 per 100,000. The suicide rate among veterans increased an average 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011, or more than double that of the 1.1 percent civilian rate, according to News21’s analysis of states’ mortality data.” Police retiree suicide numbers are not as traceable because so many leave law enforcement and go on to other careers, often their suicides are not considered linked to the police work and there is no central reporting mechanism for such events. It is often impossible to track the suicides of those retired through their pension systems because cause of death is not a question that is recorded.

There are several factors that make finding a specific cause or causes for these alarming rates nearly impossible. For example, in both the police community and in the military the vast diversity of types of personalities, backgrounds, faiths, family dynamics, education, and personal health all create variables that make defining the problem even more complex. Suicide rates nationally vary by regions, this affects the police numbers as well. Pre-employment screening is done in some places, not in others. Would such screening have identified certain officers as more likely to commit suicide? Intervention programs, where they exist, also vary greatly across the country. Some departments have complete mental health resources available to their personnel. Others are more like the Navy commander and don’t see a need for such intervention.

So there is ‘good news’ and ugh… not so good news. As the General said, even one is too many but we, as a society, or as subcultures of society, such as the police or military, are limited to how far we can go. Recent studies show that suicide rates for veterans are skyrocketing. Yes, while men and women are in the service or on the job, they have resources; but those resources diminish to nearly nothing once a person retires or is discharged from active duty. There are too many cracks through which someone can fall. The answer comes by way of something that, though it is an answer, it is still a double edged sword.

Just as with the vast majority of our society’s ills, the key ingredient, the most efficacious remedy, the strongest, most resilient binding for wounds that can help bring people through their horrific dark times is family. The erosion of the family unit in America is the primary event that has led to the inability to care for our own. It is at once, that simple and that complicated.

Suicide has touched almost everyone in some form or another. I know of two that are so very close to me that I can speak with some authority to this next point. Even when family is close, even when persons who care desperately attempt to intervene, sometimes it is not enough and – this next point is critical – it is NOT the fault of the family members left behind for something that they did or did not do. When an individual reaches a point of deciding to take their own life, I firmly believe that they are not capable of thinking rationally, nor clearly. Certainly, their actions may be well planned and seemingly thought through to the minutest detail, but the rational part of the mind that would allow them to see the pain that they will cause, the simple trading of one set of problems for others that may be eternally worse is not part of their thinking process. Their physical pain or mental torture has brought them to the brink of an abyss that no one can see but them and they seek, what they believe to be, a release from whatever demons are driving them. No family member, friend, or significant other should ever carry the guilt of another’s suicide but rather realize that the person who has fully acquiesced to self-inflicted death is beyond anyone’s ability to reason with them. Those who are brought back from the brink of that abyss were, I believe, not yet fully committed to the final act.

There is only one person who has the capability to fully understand that pain and have the ability to meet someone there in that pain and give that person the peace with life’s circumstances so as to help them back from the precipice. That person is Jesus Christ. That is the truly Good News that can make all of the difference in the world. I made the comment that when someone has reached that final point of despair they are beyond anyone’s ability to reason with them. When I say that I know that first, with God all things are possible but I also believe that Christ would not reason with them. His intervening in their lives would be of such an amazing of grace that it would be irresistible. However, God does permit man to choose his own path; but families and friends can pray and seek God’s intervention. God’s Word assures us that: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

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So here we are, several paragraphs later and to what good point has this discussion arrived? Has it illumined for you, dear reader, dear listener the plight of our veterans, our military active duty and reservists; or our law enforcement and encouraged you to pray for them and for their families? Has it stirred you to seek a deeper walk with Christ so that you might know better how to pray, that you might encourage someone to accept the grace of Christ Jesus, His forgiveness and His peace? Perhaps the next time you see a homeless person on the street, you may envision a former soldier, sailor or airmen who fought valiantly but later lost everything. ImageMaybe you will offer a word of encouragement instead of looking away, maybe even just a friendly glance. I am reminded of a story of a young man who can relate better than anyone what just such a kind gesture might mean. His name is Kevin Hines. He knows the statistics that over 1,300 people have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge to their death and only about a dozen have jumped and survived. Mr. Hines is one of them. I will let him tell you his story as retold by Dr. Robert Simon

“Mr. John Kevin Hines, who said he was one of only two persons to survive a jump from the bridge since 2000, was a presenter at the workshop. Mr. Hines’s description of his profound mental suffering and isolation that preceded his suicide attempt was gripping and emotionally moving. The audience asked many questions.

Mr. Hines described his struggle with a severe bipolar disorder that emerged during his adolescence and worsened over time. Mr. Hines was overwhelmed by paranoid delusions and command auditory hallucinations demanding that he kill himself. Unable to function, he withdrew from college and immediately took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. Like many people about to commit suicide, he was ambivalent about dying. He tarried at the bridge railing for about 40 minutes, trying to decide whether to go through with his plan to jump.

A number of people walked by him, oblivious to his anguish, unaware of his life-and-death struggle. Mr. Hines told us that “If someone had smiled and said, ‘Are you okay?’ I know I would have begged them to help me. I would have told them everything and asked for help. I would not have jumped. I just was unable to ask for help myself.” In fact, a foreign tourist did stop and talk with Mr. Hines. She asked him to take her picture, which he did. As she walked away, he felt more than ever that “Nobody really cares.” He jumped. On the way down, he changed his mind. He remembered thinking, “I want to live. Why am I doing this?” It was too late. Severely injured, Mr. Hines was kept afloat by a sea lion until rescuers arrived.

I asked Mr. Hines that if someone had smiled at him when he was on the bridge, given the severity of his mental illness, would it have prevented his suicide attempt. He answered, “Yes, a smile would have most definitely helped in my case. If the smile is genuine and caring, and it looks like the person is approachable, that person could have such an impact on a suicidal person at the moment of desperation. They could well save a life.”

As surely as Jonah was saved by a ‘big fish’ sent by God, it was God that sent that sea lion. What all of those people who passed by could have done, they did not; God had to use a sea lion instead. I do not profess to know much but as I consider the places that I travel to every single day here in Northeast Ohio, I know that there are no sea lions here, except in the zoo. So, I have decided that since God cannot depend on using a sea lion to help someone in desperate need; I will have to make certain that I am as ready as I can be so He can use me.

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BOSTON BOMBERS’ PLAN INTERCEPTED BY MOSCOW

As difficult as it may be for many Americans to understand the mindset that allows a mother to push her two children to commit mass murder and suicide for the sake of a “religion of peace,” even more daunting questions must be brought forward. If in fact, Russia has had these tapes of the conversations for two years, why do they just show up now?

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TODAY Reuters and Voice of Russia Reported that  Tapes Including the Boston Bombers and their Mother Talking Plans of JIHAD!

News source, that spoke on the condition of anonymity, announced today that intercepted telephone conversations between the Boston Bombers and their mother as they spoke of planning jihad action against Boston and against New York’s Times Square were turned over to the FBI. The first conversation was recorded between one of the brothers and their mother as early as 2011. It was reported by sources earlier this week that the boys’ mother, Zubeydat Tsarnaev, had pushed at least the eldest son toward Islamic Jihad. With three dead and over 200 gravely wounded, it is not certain the veracity of reports that they were planning on completing their bombing campaign with attacks in Times Square. Authorities have not responded to direct inquiries regarding the further plans of the two that could have included suicide by cop as an attempt at martyrdom. The elder brother, Tamerlan, did just that on April 19th succombing to his multiple gunshot wounds at a Boston hospital shortly after a shoot-out with police.. The second brother, Dzhokhar, was arrested on April 20th after a storied chase and search for him by police. The way in which he fought to get away and hide even when cornered indicates he must not have been quite ready for martyrdom.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, proud mother of Boston bombers  Photo: Reuters – Will she receive a lifetime financial benefit from AQAP as reward for pushing her sons to commit mass murder? At what point does a mothers’ heart do such a thing? How much money does it take? Could it really be such a devotion for a religion that practices barbaric forced sterilization on women, binds them in centuries of oppressive tradition and allows children to set a bomb at the feet of an 8 year old boy? This is all from the Allah they worship, the same who will arbitrarily decide whether to send a believer to his hell regardless of how pious a life has been led…  color us confused, and saddened, very saddened.

In a related post on the network between Chechnyan Muslims and AQAP (Al Qaeda on the Arabian Penninsula), Dr. Ross Riggs of Security Consulting Investigations, wrote that “It is within this context that Americans must now understand  their risk matrix is expanded by the probability of further attacks  against the U.S. by members of these Chechnyan groups that may well be  underwritten by some faction of Al Qaeda. A likely scenario is that the  AQAP (Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula) is the state sponsor of this  recent series of events in Massachusetts. An official situation report  states that the Boston attacks had “…unmistakable parallels with the  smaller scale terrorist attacks that radical Islamist groups based in  Yemen and Pakistan have attempted in the United States since 2001.” The situation report quoted here agrees with the analysis of the GCIS and  its Executive Council that groups such as AQAP and others have moved  toward smaller attacks that can be perpetrated by small cells operating  virtually independent of the team.”

As difficult as it may be for many Americans to understand the mindset that allows a mother to push her two children to commit mass murder and suicide for the sake of a “religion of peace,” even more daunting questions must be brought forward. If in fact, Russia has had these tapes of the conversations for two years, why do they just show up now? Why, if the FBI was notified by the FSB (former KGB) three years ago of intelligence on the two brothers and perhaps the parents, why were they not located then by the FBI and fully investigated and deported or charged? Reports to the media suggest they were never truly investigated. How is that possible? There is talk that at least one of the family, perhaps the mother, was on a no-fly list? And the father, returned to Chechnya; but the family continues here? The sons are here attending prestigious prep and high schools and then the extremely expensive universities that most American teens could never dream of  getting a scholarship to or even be considered in the first place. Were the Tsarnaeva brothers really that smart? Their escape “planning” doesn’t seem to verify that…. or were they backed by money from elsewhere and a complicit university system perhaps closes its eyes when funding comes from a person, place, entitiy or government that is known to be on the US Terrorist Watch List? When dad left to go back to Chechnya, was that a connection for furthering training, obtaining weapons and explosives or was he getting out of the country in preparation for the attacks? So many questions.

There are certainly, it seems, more questions than answers at this point. As additional revelations come out regarding the information that should have been known by authorities in the U.S. under this Administration’s watch, where is the public outcry, so incredibly silent since Benghazi? How many more little fellas need to lose their lives? How many more U.S. Ambassadors must be killed and shamefully dragged through the streets? Counterterrorism officers, federal agents, U.S. military and law enforcement officers work night and day trying to hold back the flood gates but their are too many holes in the dyke to be plugged, too few fingers to do the plugging. When will the American people get angry?Americans should be angry at the enemies of this nation who attack us and then take our “humanitarian aide” and angry at our President and Congress for sitting on their hands. When will Americans agree to  STAND UP WITH our friends, such as Israel and tell our enemies, like Iran and North Korea to SIT DOWN!… if they will not sit, then we shall knock them down?!

PC should be an electronic marvel that sits on my desk in my study – it should NOT be what drives our country’s foreign affiars, our military planning, our police officers’ responses, our immigration policy, and our safety as Americans.

In the iconic movie of the 1960’s,Green Beret, John Wayne plays Col. Kirby a strong leader in a tough war. At one point he tells his troops, “Remember, the word is alert!” It should not be necessary for SCI and others under our flag to remind the citizens that we are at war, but sometimes in the push of life, that happens. Our cops, firefighters, first responders, federal agents and military are all acutely aware of it. Maybe its time that someone tells the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and those at Capitol Hill the news.