Tag Archives: iraq

The Kurdish Catastrophe

daveinhospRecently I have been in the hospital after having a series of mini-strokes or T.I.A.’s. They are brought on from high blood pressure and stress and my entire right side went numb. The good news is that there is no permanent damage, but it is a long recovery because I am still very weak. I am recovering in an assisted living facility. The bad news is that it could be the sign of a regular stroke coming or an underlying disease. I am hoping it’s neither. However, while in the hospital I met a woman who worked in housekeeping and she noticed I had a Desert Storm veteran hat and she said my brother was in that war and never came home. I am constantly reminded of the fact that no matter how low my depression may get, no matter how bad my pain, no matter how bad my problems – there is always someone else who either has it worse or is no longer with us.

The world is full of pain and suffering which lives next door to beauty and passion. It’s been hard for me to see the beauty and passion in things lately with some of the things I have gone through in recent months. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and get caught up in self-pity, but I think that it’s important to try to find a way to rise above all that and do my very best to hold my head high even though it hurts, to smile in the face of adversity, and to laugh when I just feel like crying all day. I refuse to let the bastards who put me in this condition win. I will have my day in court and that day is coming in June – next month. I can hardly wait. My very first hearing with the VA in Detroit.

But getting back to the housekeeper in the hospital; her brother was in the Navy and he supposedly fell of the back of a jeep in Guam and was killed. Her family has always suspected this may have been a cover story for some foul play, but either way he is gone and it was during the war and he saw his share of the war. She gave me the following poem to publish and she said that General Colin Powell, Army (Retired), himself, read it and gave him an award for it posthumously. It is no wonder because it is truly inspiring.

The Kurdish Catastrophe
by CM2 Douglas Lanning, USN
May 1991
US Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 133
Zakho, Iraq

SADDAMI can’t explain all that I’ve seen, but I will do my best to say what I mean

The glow on their faces is almost enough, but you can still tell they’ve had it rough.

You look around, it seems so unreal, and you try to imagine how they must feel.

We came to provide comfort to the people here, they seem to trust us – it’s him they fear.

african american soldier in iraq_soldier_criesThe leader of so many – Saddam Hussein, has caused their suffering and their pain.

From the land mines that he placed all over the place, to the napalm burns and blisters on a young child’s face.

From the people living out in the street, to the ones in town without power and heat.

From the people washing clothes in the muddy waters, to the many who had to bury their own sons and daughters.

amputeeYou see a child selling whatever he can, all of this and more because of the man.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s all really all true, think about it a second, I’m not even through.

I’ve been to the hospital to visit a small boy, who picked up a hand grenade, thought it was a toy.

tankerYou cannot blame him, he’s just a curious kid, I can still remember vividly what his new toy did.

I really can’t believe they were able to save his hand, then I also can’t believe this was once all beautiful land.

The mountains from a distance, an eye-catching sight, they really are beautiful with their snow caps of white.

FE_DA_130319IraqIt’s just sad to think all of the people up there, a quarter million people, but he doesn’t seem to care.

When our operation is finally through, I cannot help but wonder what the people are gonna do.

Will they go on living the way they were before, or will the one man, their leader, kill even more?

I guess that is something only time will tell, from my observation, they’ve been through living hell.



The Burn Pit Registry

burnpitRecently the president approved a new burn pit registry for veterans who were exposed to burn pit fumes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in order to keep track of the veterans who were around the pits and to notify them of new treatments and monitor their existing health problems and health history. This is a long over-due step in the right direction. The provision was strongly supported by the Disabled American Veterans and other veteran’s organizations and is part of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act. Many veterans lived and worked in and amongst burn areas and it was painfully obvious that health risks were there, but as always following orders is what the military members do. For the troops deployed in support of contingency operations in a location where a burn pit was used are encouraged to register as well.
The National Adjutant of the DAV said, “This is a long overdue step in the right direction.” This same legislation also ensures the VA provide a casket or urn for veterans with no known next of kin and sets aside funds for a military cemetery in the Philippines.
burnpit2In addition the president also signed legislation that will give veterans access to better resources to achieve a quality education. It is called the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunites for Veterans Act.
For more information about how to register for the burn pit registry:

As of this post I don’t believe the registry is ready yet, but the VA is working on it and if you have questions you can contact your medical facilities’ Environmental Hazards Coordinator.

PTSD Dogs are a Veteran’s Best Friend

dogs1There is scientific proof that people with pets live longer. They also help you lift your mood, help to relieve stress, and provide emotional support. Personally, I like the fact that my dog doesn’t talk back and loves me unconditionally. Not only that he is always happy to see me. I know that since I got my dog a few months ago my mood has improved with him around. He is a very smart dog and loving too.
For veterans who suffer from various mental conditions such as PTSD it can be a great step in the right direction and provide you with therapy at home and everywhere you go because service dogs are allowed anywhere. All you have to do is talk with your mental health team at the VA and it is possible you might qualify for a service dog or emotional-support dog. In addition, you may be giving a dog a home that might otherwise be put down. I think that’s a definite win-win situation.
dogs2These dogs can help bring feelings of love, companionship, get you out of the house, and they are a great way to meet new people. The dogs are well-trained and used to taking orders. They are also very fun. If you are able to do physical things they can be trained to catch a frisbee or a ball which is a blast at the park.
dogs3Recovering from PTSD is no easy task, but these dogs have been known to literally save the lives of many veterans. If you see one with a service dog just ask them and they will tell you. The last time I talked to a Vietnam veteran with one he said that his wife died and he was very lonely and that’s when the PTSD started to get worse. He told his mental health team and they got him a dog. He told me that before that he was seriously thinking of suicide. He was smiling and petting the dog like it was his angel. I was almost in tears because I love it when these therapies work for my fellow veterans.
dogs4Have you ever felt uncomfortable in crowds or felt uneasy standing close to a stranger? Have you scanned a building for danger? Evidence-based treatments have proved that these dogs can help you deal with some parts of living with PTSD and you no longer will feel uncomfortable in these situations.
Of course, there are some people who still feel uncomfortable. For example, the dog may keep people from coming too close so that you could become dependant on the dog to provide security. success comes when the veteran trains the dog to allow certain people closer. I have heard from one veteran that he didn’t care for the dog because it would not allow him to branch out more, but he did learn from it somewhat and he was able to do more on his own and gave the dog back to help another veteran. Like any other therapy, everyone is different. However, on the whole, this is a great program for most.
What’s the difference between service dogs and emotional-support dogs? A service dog is one that is trained to do specific tasks for disabled veterans. They are able to pick up things, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. They even can be trained to get dangerous objects out of the way in case of seizure.
dogs5An emotional support dog is the one used for veterans with PTSD. They provide protection, give emotional support, or they can be a companion, your best buddy. They are also called comfort or support dogs. Usually a regular pet can be your emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes you a letter stating that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for treatment.
The emotional support dog is not always allowed in all public spaces such as restaurants or stores, but in some cases you can get permission to have them in places such as an apartment that doesn’t normally allow pets or an airplane. Most veterans I’ve seen with them take them to the VA where we all know that you will most likely be asked to hurry up and wait.
dogs8Of course pets require constant attention and that may not be up your alley. You have to be a responsible owner. They can cost a good deal of money as well between food and veterinarian’s bills. If you are unsure about this situation you should discuss it with your doctor first. If you have PTSD and you’re unsure if you can provide a safe and caring environment for a pet you may want to wait until after you have completed some treatment for PTSD first and then see where you are at.
For more information visit these sites:



Seeking Help & Compensation for PTSD

ptsd3Thousands of Veterans are struggling with the problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Many of these men and women are reluctant to get help for this problem. Let’s face it, it can be very hard to tell a complete stranger deep secrets. Sometimes there feelings are very violent and therefore they may fear reprisal by authorities. Or there are those who just don’t recognize the signs of PTSD and keep themselves isolated so it is hard for others to detect. This is often associated with not just PTSD, but depression and possibly other mental disorders. The VA Mental Health departments at any VA medical facility are no strangers to PTSD. Their doctors and therapists are used to dealing with Veterans with combat-related problems and they have some wonderful methods of dealing with them and some great programs as well. The first step is to ask for help. If you are really bad you may want to suggest that they keep you there for a while in a hospital setting and voluntarily, unless of course you are suicidal, in which case you should seek help immediately by calling the VA Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255. I have a friend who called and he is so much better today. He can’t talk about it, but let’s just say that he is looking to the future and on the right path.
ptsd1PTSD is also a service-connected disability. I have taken the test and I’m not sure if it is the same everywhere, but when I took it their where several questionnaires and scan-tron type tests. They ask a series of questions such as do you hear voices, do you like being in crowds etc.. and then you have a confidential meeting with a psychiatrist who is there to determine if you qualify for service-connected PTSD. He will most likely ask you about combat related incidents that disturb you to this day, how often you have nightmares and do you feel like hurting yourself or others. If you have claimed other mental disorders as service-connected he will ask you about these as well. Do not be offended by his demeanor as his job is to prove you are not service connected. You will most likely be turned down on the first try for this and have to repeat this exam which is called a compensation and pension exam. Remember not to take anything personally, but make sure to prove your case and do not hold back. If you are suffering let them know and don’t be afraid to answer their questions truthfully. If you don’t know the answer tell them that. It’s a pain, but it’s a necessary process, because unfortunately there are those who are looking to claim things that are untrue. It is a blow to those of us who suffer from these problems. ptsd2The main thing is just be yourself and it should go fine. If you do not get approved you can appeal.
Often times it is suggested that you also try and get a diagnosis from a regular physician outside the VA. This will not hurt your case at all and is worth the expense if you can afford it. See if you can get a list of physicians in your area from your VSO or your representative of physicians who see veterans and are familiar with PTSD and similar mental disorders. If you can’t get a list, try and call around and ask the person who answers the phone if their doctor would perform an evaluation for PTSD. Veteran’s organizations may know of Veteran doctors as well or you can ask your family doctor for a referral to a psychologist.
Vets with PTSDAs we are talking about PTSD anyway, I’d like to take a moment to address a myth. A lot of Veterans I speak to think that you have to be in combat to receive disability compensation for PTSD. That is simply not true. While I will admit that a combat Veteran is more likely to get this benefit, we have seen a lot of cases in which Veterans who served in peacetime, or never left the United States, were granted service connection for PTSD. Remember, Service Connection refers to disability that occurred while in service, as a result of your time in service, or made worse from your time in service. Many traumatic events from a Veteran’s time in service may cause PTSD. So, if you are a non-combat Veteran and experienced a traumatic event in service, you can still be granted service connection if you have a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Why are we making such a big deal about getting diagnosed? To put it simply, the lack of a diagnosis will automatically result in a denial for a PTSD claim.
I am writing this in honor of all those Veterans who did not get help and are not with us anymore. This is a very serious problem in the United States and with our allies as well. If you know a Veteran who is suffering from PTSD, please urge them to get help today. Time is very important and even though some people may seem okay does not mean anything, some people hide their emotions to avoid treatment. God bless.

Thinking of Gold Star Mothers Today


First of all, let me include a link to this great American organization for the incredible women who bond together to help each other and others in their time of loss after losing their child to war. http://www.goldstarmoms.com/
On my way from Wisconsin to Florida a man handed me a small package with a piece of an American flag – the star and on the back was a patriotic quote that I can’t recall. I was very tired from travelling and I said thanks to the man and stuck it in my wallet. I was thankful, but when I got to looking at it I couldn’t help think like many of us do that I’m no hero. I just signed up to do a job and followed through with it. It’s like marriage – for better or worse – it’s your job and it could be a good or bad experience at times, but it’s all yours and you made a promise to do something in front of god and country and our flag.

So this remained in my wallet for a while until we got settled in and I went to the local church. I was so happy to see some old friends and neighbors from when we lived here ten years ago. I was getting ready to go and a woman in the lobby noticed that I was talking to a man about my condition. All our lives we here “God works in mysterious ways”. Nothing could be more mysterious about a complete stranger and I just happening to run into each other. Somehow this woman and I started to talking next. She explained to me how she had lost her son about a year ago in the war. Of course I was overwhelmed.

I often am afraid of death as anyone else is, but what comforts me is moments like this and the hope that the goodness god has instilled in me comes out more often than not. So when I saw the pain in this loving mother’s eyes I suddenly remembered the star in my wallet. I was listening to her describe her son and how he was so liked by everyone and gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. My heart just pumped harder and my eyes swelled with tears that I was trying to hold back because I didn’t want to upset her further, but how can you not want to shed a tear for the fallen?

But, then I took out the star from my wallet and I looked at it and I looked at her.I told her the story about how a man had given me it on the way down from Wisconsin and I thought she deserved it more than me. I was so pleased to receive a long, warm embrace in return. I left her with a few words about how I’m sure he was a wonderful kid and she just nodded and smiled. I didn’t know what more to say, but I couldn’t help but think that we both were filled with god’s love and desire to make us both happy by serving others.
That’s what Gold Star Mothers of America is all about from my understanding. I’m not an expert, but from the ones that I have met and from looking at their website the concept is that when the mothers lose a child to war they don’t contain their grief and let it self-destruct, but instead they help other mothers after and they also do service to the veterans who come back from war never to return to their previous selves.
It is a noble thing, motherhood. In many ways I know it for a fact the my wife is an excellent mother and like all good mothers she would do anything to make sure her children are safe and comfortable and grow up to be happy Of course it’s not every mother’s dream for their child to grow up and go to war, but such is the way of our world and if we don’t protect our freedom we are weak to our enemies. Many mothers may not even understand and it and who could blame them for possibly having anger issues about it? But they all can find peace in serving and then somehow through the confusion and the black hole that is left inside of us as after loss we can find happiness in serving others and slowly heal that hole.

I want you all to hug your mothers today. I lost mine to ovarian cancer when I was 17 so this is always a hard day for me, but I know she is with me, possibly guiding my thoughts as I write this. God bless mothers and God bless the Gold Star Mothers.

Americans With Disabilities


I am perusing another webpage and I come across a forum where a gentleman who is 70%  VA service connected and seeking 100% Total and Permanent Disability with Individual Unemployability. He filed and was denied leaving him at 70%. If he is unsatisfied with this response he is able to appeal. It is best that he appeals and does not file a new claim, because if they approve him for 100% he will only be back paid to the time of his claim. So for the appeal it will date back to when he filed his initial but if he files a new claim he will only be paid back to the date of the new claim.

He also mentioned he was unable to obtain work due to his disabilities. Employers were nervous and hesitant about providing him refrigeration for his medications. He is protected and if you run into…

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