Spotlight on Active Soldiers, Veterans, and Suicide: A Guide for Concerned Loved Ones Part 1

Jul 14, 2016

In response to the recent announcement by the VA
(http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/07/07/veterans-suicides-young-men-women/86755132/) about the newly adjusted number of veteran suicides, here is an article written by pre-med student Jennifer McGregor. She highlights important information about veteran sucicide, warning signs, and how you can assist someone you suspect needs help.

This is a critical topic for The Home Front Cares, as 5% of our clients state that without our emergency assistance they were seriously considering death by sucicide. 

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Spotlight on Active Soldiers, Veterans, and Suicide: A Guide for Concerned Loved Ones 

For active-duty soldiers and veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), separation from loved ones, and rigorous training take their toll. Sometimes, our brave men and women cannot handle the trauma, anxiety, depression, and flashbacks, and they turn to alcohol or other drugs in order to cope, especially when they return home. Unfortunately, the suicide rate among both active-duty personnel and veterans is concerning.

In fact, the number of active-duty servicemen and women who commit suicide has doubled since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the reserves saw a 23% increase in its suicide rate in 2015. We shed some light on active soldiers, veterans, and suicide in this guide for concerned loved ones, with the hope that you will be better equipped to help your member of the service lead a happy, healthy life.

Addiction and suicide often go hand-in-hand for soldiers and veterans

Service members whose PTSD goes undiagnosed or untreated are at the greatest risk for addiction. They often use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to relax or forget their traumatic experiences. They also may use alcohol or drugs to cope with returning to civilian life. If the service member is struggling with depression in combination with PTSD or other mental health conditions, he is at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts.

One report linked addiction to soldiers and veterans because they often return home with PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, or pain and use illegal or prescription drugs to manage their condition(s). The research shows that opioid use is on the rise among veterans, and opioid addiction in veterans was attributed to chronic pain or a psychiatric disorder.

Additional research shows that large-scale heavy drinking is an issue with military personnel, and binge drinking was prevalent, at 53%, in a sample of recently deployed service members with combat exposure.

Still other research reveals the link between PTSD and substance abuse. The risk of suicide among veterans is higher than among non-veterans, and the risk of suicide increases even more for those veterans with substance abuse disorders or addiction. In 2012, the number of military suicides exceeded the number of deaths in combat, and the most common method of suicide attempts was the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

There also is a strong connection between veteran substance abuse, depression, and suicide; one study showed that the rate of substance use disorders and depression has increased among active members of the military and that the rate of suicide across military services has increased since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

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Check back for Part 2 next week! 

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Why I Support The Home Front Cares

Jan 28, 2016

By Rita Worster, THFC Board Member

The Home Front Cares fills an essential niche in our state.  I support THFC because of our military member and family clients, our staff and our volunteers.  Our clients have been in places and situations that most people avoid and as a result our military and their families are facing challenges that cause difficulties at work and at home.  This is all because they said yes to our country when most of us won’t or can’t say yes.  Our clients can see a brighter future but it is just out of reach due to a financial obstacle.  THFC provides a bridge past that obstacle so that the days ahead can stay brighter rather than become darker. 

I have been on the case review committee and have read the stories of many people who are facing difficulties I think I would crumble under.  They are trying hard and essentially apologize that they have to ask for help.  I want to apologize that as a country we haven’t stepped up enough to provide the treatment and support for the “unseen” injuries that have wounded our military members such as PTSD, anxiety, family stress that leads to divorce or loss of the family support, just to mention a few of the problems.

The assistance THFC provides is possible only because of our dedicated and hard-working staff and volunteers.  I am in awe of the amount of assistance that THFC accomplishes with just seven paid staff – they all deserve a hearty thank you.  Each of them likely could find a job that pays them more outside of the nonprofit sector but they choose to work where their hearts are.

The volunteers for THFC give above and beyond what I have seen at many other organizations.  Not just one or two, but many people give hundreds of hours each year in support of the mission of THFC.  I am humbled to be just a small part of the tremendous effort put forth by the volunteers.  Perhaps Winston Churchill sums it up best: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”   

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It’s Not a Job, It’s an Obligation

Dec 17, 2015

By George Hayward, Communications Manager

Working for The Home Front Cares, it is easy to feel appreciated. Each time I meet a donor, new or already known, warm gratitude always flows both ways.

“Thank you for your donation,” I’ll say.

“Thank you for what you do for our veterans,” will come the reply.

Or sometimes it’s the other way around; I’ll get thanked before I can thank. That is very humbling.

In a world too divided by politics, fear and even faith, it does the soul good to work for a cause so morally just, so justifiable, that you are appreciated in every circle for simply doing your job. The Home Front Cares’ mission does that to people. It almost sounds un-American for anyone to critique or not embrace what we do. After all, virtually nobody thinks it’s OK for veterans to be homeless. Virtually nobody thinks it’s OK for the children of military families to lack housing or heat.

In fact, the only drawback to what we do at THFC is that we have to do it at all. In a perfect world, our veterans wouldn’t need our help.

But they do.

One of our long-time board members (now retired), Dennis McCormack, said something a few years ago that resonated with me: “We sent them over there whole, and they came home broken. We have an obligation to take care of them.”

He was talking about today’s veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Men and women who were not drafted, but who volunteered to serve, out of patriotism, out of a sense of duty to their nation.

And when he said “we have an obligation to take care of them,” he wasn’t talking about us at The Home Front Cares. He was talking about America as a nation. The founding board members who built this nonprofit included many Vietnam veterans like Dennis. Led by Bob Carlone and Joe Henjum, they wanted a better life for today’s veterans and military families than the returning veterans of their era found. A nation conscripted Dennis’ generation, sent them to war, then failed too many of them when they came home. The people who built THFC recognized that, and vowed to never let it happen again.

No veteran or military family should face eviction or homelessness. Not in our nation.

That is not a belief, nor a cause, nor a job, nor a pie-in-the-sky aspiration. At The Home Front Cares, we know it is an obligation. 

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Welcome Home Heroes!

Nov 17, 2015

THFC's Hungry Heroes Program

Al Batey is proud of his city. "What great communities and caring people we have in Peregrine and Colorado Springs.” He and his wife Marilyn Prost are both Army veterans and very active in supporting our deployed soldiers and their families through The Home Front Cares. 

Shortly after the horrors of 9/11, Al started looking for ways he could get involved helping soldiers & families. He wanted them to know that our community supported them and wanted to insure these soldiers had a much better experience than Vietnam Vets had as they came home from the war zone.

Early in 2004, Al met Steve Bigari, a fellow West Point graduate, who in late 2003 had the idea to greet the soldiers returning from Iraq with a sand-free Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a soda. Bigari, who then owned 13 local McDonald’s franchises, presented the idea to Ft Carson leadership. He and his staff, with no publicity, waited on the tarmac at the Springs Jet Center as soldiers came off the plane, and gave each of them a cheeseburger and Coke, welcoming them back with an authentic American meal. The returning troops' smiles and gratitude made it worthwhile, and with a burger in their hand, they would often comment, "This is when I know I'm really home."

Steve and his McDonalds staff continued to bring cheeseburgers to over 4,000 returning "Hungry Heroes" at all hours of the day and night as their flights arrived, from Nov. 2003 until March 2004. He soon realized that, in order to continue this worthy tradition, he would need more help. That’s when, through a mutual friend, Steve & Al met.

In the spring of 2004, Steve continued supplying the burgers and Al organized the staffing, including volunteers from Mount St. Francis Catholic church, and First Command Financial, where Al has worked for over 20 years. Al soon realized they would need more than these two groups of volunteers, so he put the word out to other churches for volunteers from their congregations. Al also asked his friend and neighbor, Allen Matthews, if he was interested in finding people to help feed the heroes. Allen, at the time, worked for a defense contractor and found plenty of volunteers.

Summer 2011, The Home Front Cares and Mount St. Francis Council of the Knights of Columbus welcomed home about 230 soliders from 4BCT/4ID after a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan. THFC welcomes home every planeload of deployed troops as part of our Welcome Home Heroes program.

Since the start, Steve, Al and Allen have helped serve over 200,000 burgers to returning troops. Over the past 12 years, other volunteers have played key roles, such as Tom Miller, who organizes the donation of sodas to the families waiting for their solders in the Jet Center. Tom also arranges for other donated food items like Dominoes Pizza. Tom and Al met in 2005 to set up the Global War on Terror Heroes Fund (GWOT), the first formal structure for soliciting donations to benefit these returning soldiers and their families. The first donation was $3000 from TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

Al Batey realizes that helping these returning heroes "is the right thing to do. And it never gets old, welcoming these soldiers who are protecting our freedom oversees. Now they need us to protect them.”

The Home Front Cares continues to welcome home soldiers from deployment with Allen Mathews still at the helm of the effort. Several different groups and individual volunteers have assisted him this year, including First Presbyterian Church, Knights of Columbus, MCYM, Pikes Peak Patriots Fan Club, Tri-Lakes VFW, Ronald McDonald House, DAR Zeb Pike, DAR Cheyenne Mtn, Marriott, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Sam’s Club, Studio C3, Colorado Technical University, Security Service FCU (Ft Carson).

“Thank you and your folks for coming out at all hours of the day and night, work days and weekends, to greet over 4000 Hungry Heroes on 23 different airplanes,” says Mathews. “We should especially thank the Airport [Road] McDonald’s for cooking almost 4000 quarter pounders with cheese and Coca Cola for providing over 180 cases of beverages this year. We also thank the ladies of the A/DACG (Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group) for allowing us the privilege of being able to greet the returning soldiers at the A/DACG.”     

The groups recently met the last flight of returning soldiers for 2015. “As I said last year at this time, the Hungry Heroes program will go ‘quiet’ until we get the call that Hungry Heroes are returning home,” reported Mathews.   

If you are interested in welcoming home our deployed service members in 2016, please contact our Development Coordinator, Christina Webb, at c.webb@thehomefrontcares.org.


          

 

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Bringing a Military Mindset to Corporate America and Combating the Misconceptions about PTS(D)

Nov 02, 2015

In general, many Americans believe that there is a deep and wide crevasse running between the civilian world and the world of the military that is impossible to cross. We dress differently, use different lingo, even have our own separate police forces. Many civilians say they simply “could not ever survive in the military” because it is so vastly different from anything they have ever known. But, are the two worlds really that different? Does Corporate America operate on such a vastly different scale from day-to-day military operations?

SOLIDRed Concepts doesn’t think so.

SOLIDRed Concepts is a consulting organization working to bring the military mindset to Corporate America through training in leadership development, conflict management and the like. “As many U.S. soldiers exit their military service during one of the largest drawdowns in U.S. history, there is no better time for America’s business community to fully understand how to best leverage this highly-skilled labor force. This requires a shift in MINDSET,” SOLIDRed says on their associated website, intrepidprofessionals.com.

SOLIDRed was started by Chris Schafer, who retired from the Army after 25 years, where he served as a Green Beret, and his partner, Dr. Brent Carter, a consultant, university professor, and researcher in the fields of leadership behavioral & the brain sciences, crisis management, and organizational adaptation. The two work together to “metamorphasize people.” According to their website, their expertise is “turning inexperienced and mature leaders into lucid and precise sculptors of their organizations.”

Although from what most would say are vastly different backgrounds, the two believe that together, Corporate America and the Military Mindset can build strong companies.

However, one challenge that they see many of our service members facing upon exiting the military and reentering the civilian workforce is a backlash from employers due to their preconceived notions about veterans and PTS/PTSD.  

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after an individual experiences a terrifying ordeal involving physical or mental harm or the threat of such either to themselves or to loved ones. An individual does not have to be the one who suffered the harm directly to suffer the residual effects from the ordeal. Those who suffer from PTSD may feel stressed or frightened in particular situations, even after the ordeal is over. Crowds, loud noises, physical touch, harmful words or other things can serve as triggers for those with PTSD. Anyone who has experienced a traumatizing circumstance can suffer from PTSD, not just those who served in combat. Rape victims, witnesses of crimes, an individual who suffered a severe car crash, those who have lost loved ones, etc. – these could all suffer from PTSD.

Chris, who has been on 9 deployments with the Army, understands the mindset of the soldiers who, as the war continues today, continually have to prepare themselves and their families to come home, relax and then go back time and time again. He says this has a huge impact on your mental state after a few years. He believes that the public often misses this about our service members.

Chris and Brent have been studying this subject for 2 years now and they have taken very calculated efforts to understand what Corporate America really thinks about PTSD. What they have found is that 50% of Human Resource professionals think that those with PTSD require more resources and medication, which will, in turn, cost the company more, so they are often reluctant to hire veterans.

They’ve also found that if you’ve been in the service, and even if you haven’t been deployed, there is stigma with most civilians that all soldiers have PTSD and that they aren’t as capable as those without a military or combat background.  HR can’t ask the questions and so many HR departments believe that it is easier to choose not to hire veterans at all. Not only is this reducing the opportunities for employment for our veterans, many of whom have had much specialized training and are extremely capable, but it also makes soldiers feel like they are damaged goods. These individuals sacrificed so much to serve and protect our country and then they have doors closed on them when they return.  

Chris tells us, “there are so many different forms of PTSD. It’s always the soldier that has it and not one of your other coworkers and that is unfortunate. Why is it different for the soldier?”

Chris and Brent believe it is important to talk with business leaders and hiring managers about PTSD and to clear up the myths and misconceptions, and they are actively working to do so. Chris says, “it always goes back to PTSD. What does Corporate America have to go on besides what they heard on Fox News or CNN?”

This Thursday, November 5th, at Colorado Technical University, Chris and Brent are holding a session on Post Traumatic Stress for business leaders and hiring managers. During the session, they will discuss the different notions that individuals and employers have about PTS and PTSD as well as give the facts to help them understand it better. Their goal is to assist veterans in gaining meaningful employment by working to dispel the misconceptions that many hold. This free event will start at 4:30pm and is open to the public. You may RSVP for the event here.

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Veterans finding their niche in the workforce

Apr 24, 2014

Today, as more veterans are younger when coming back from war, they are looking to use their skills in a job in the civilian world .  Even though the two worlds are very different, many are able to find transferable skills.  This may involve going to a university or other programs that offer assistance in helping to adapt their skills. Many, such as in this article, are finding ways to become a part of current technology and contribute to the changing world.  While veterans know what they were trained to do and how to do it overseas in wartime, knowing how to transfer these skills an adapt them to a different situation is valuable. For any veterans out there, how have you been able to transfer your skills back to civilian life?

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Caring for Returning Heroes: Seeing Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg

Apr 24, 2014

The prominent place that the military community plays in Colorado means that returning troops are often on our mind. We witness the joyous images of deployed troops being reunited with their families with relief, happiness, and gratitude.  And yet, as the number of returnees grows, so does the need for help among those who have served. While we’re overjoyed that these troops are back safely, their return is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a bigger issue facing them—and all of us. To what, exactly, are these people returning? The world is about to change for many of our returning troops. A recent bloomberg.com story reported that the Pentagon is aiming to create a smaller, more agile military. And for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the Defense Department may force members of the military out of the services. Many who had planned to make the military their career will find themselves transitioning from military life to civilian life instead—and that’s not always an easy transition to make. In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the national unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2%, but the unemployment rate for young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan spiked to 12.7% — more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average. And according to a May 24, 2012 gazzette.com article, there are 21,000 unemployed veterans in Colorado. Despite efforts to encourage the hiring of veterans, many of those who served our country in the military aren’t just slipping into new jobs. They may be coming back to their families—but many are finding that the means they had to support those families are no longer available to them. While the military may provide some benefits for those who leave the service, there is often a gap between leaving military employment and the beginning of those benefits. It’s a gap many military families can’t bridge on their own. That’s why the help that The Home Front Cares provides is so essential. The financial “bridge” support they offer can buy a military family the time they need to begin that difficult transition back to the home front they have been protecting. We see our troops coming home—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of challenges “below the waterline” that we aren’t seeing. And those challenges won’t disappear when the last troops arrive back from Afghanistan. Coming home happens fairly quickly. Building a new life takes a little more time. As defenders, our troops stood in front of us. As members of the home front, we need to stand behind them now. This is their home front as well. Mike Smith is the owner of mikeWordSmith and a volunteer with The Home Front Cares.

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Veterans in need

Oct 27, 2013

We always see events working to send care packages overseas to our deployed military men and women and we note the importance of encouraging them while they are so far away from home.  We don't deny this is important but we also want to highlight the increasing need of encouragement right here in our backyard. Veterans who have returned home are in a difficult limbo phase where they are both processing their deployment experience (first or maybe third time) while also hitting the ground running trying to get caught up on life and be back in the loop of helping their families and finding work. This challenge can be difficult and many do not have the support they need from friends and family or feel bad about asking since they are supposed to be strong from serving their country.  We want you to know that these people are in need and we can show them our love and support every day.  You can support them financially by donating to The Home Front Cares or by educating yourself on the issues facing veterans of all ages.

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The Home Front Cares HAS NOT FORGOTTEN

Sep 11, 2013

Today, on the 12th Anniversary of 9/11 - when our Nation was attacked by  terrorists - I am comforted by the fact that The Home Front Cares has not forgotten.  We remember what America stands for, the Heroes who perished on that day, and those who answered the call to defend the freedoms we cherish. How do we show this?  We stand by our service members, veterans and military families who have deployed in harm's way since 9/11 and who now face financial challenges. Last fiscal year alone, The Home Front Cares granted support to 358 service members, veterans and military families in OUR Colorado communities who needed a financial bridge to get them through to a better place.  We granted over a HALF MILLION DOLLARS in direct support - to your community and mine - to prevent homelessness, turn on utilities, and provide hope for a better tomorrow. Please show our Heroes that YOU have not forgotten.  As you enjoy your freedoms and blessings, donate to The Home Front Cares - today.

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Don't lose your fervor

Aug 27, 2013

Last Wednesday, at The Home Front Cares (THFC) Board meeting, we had a sobering discussion about Veteran suicide, and the results of the "Senator Bennet's Panel on Veteran Suicide 2013" report, in which our own board member, Dennis McCormack, participated. When asked if THFC has any relation to/impact on this issue, Dennis replied that he believes so.  We may not be able to measure or "prove" that our support has a positive impact on veteran suicide - but think about this:  If THFC helps a veteran pay for car repairs - the veteran may not lose his job due to transportation issues - thus, the veteran may not lose his home due to lack of employment - thus, the veteran may not lose his family due to homelessness - thus the veteran may not feel so despondent and alone as to commit suicide. We currently ask clients to complete a survey about their assistance from THFC - more than one has mentioned feeling anxious, fearful, worried and even suicidal prior to our assistance.  They have also used words like "hopeful" and "thank you" in regard to our support. Last fiscal year alone, THFC assisted 358 clients (more than 1/day) and their families.  We distributed OVER a half million dollars in direct support to Service Members, Veterans and their families - all in our Colorado communities.  Most of this support helped our clients avoid homelessness and keep the lights on.  Most of these clients have children.  Most of these clients live near you and I.  Please don't loose your fervor for what we are able to do.  You may never know whose life you helped save today.  A life that stepped up to protect yours, and mine, after 9/11.

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