Multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan have impacted untold thousands of our Veterans with Stress Related Brain Injuries. The Department of Defense has documented that upwards of thirty percent of Veterans will experience PTSD after a tour of combat. How about after two or three tours? This ignores the impact of military sexual assault and domestic trauma. The number one cause of stress injuries in the US is car wrecks!
The point is that we have thousands of combat Veterans of all ages, going back to WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Somalia, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, as well as the younger Veterans, who have undiagnosed mental health wellness deficiencies. They avoid any contact with the VA, much less a diagnosis, much less treatment. And who can blame them?
The PTSD label is like a big L branded into the Veterans forehead. They are drinking, drugging, crashing their crotch rockets, messing up at work, breaking up their homes and families, getting in trouble with criminal justice, ending up in jail or killing themselves. Sadly, these Veterans don't have character defects; they have verifiable brain injuries. Most sadly, these injuries often break up families, causing kids to grow up without their parents, and Veterans are growing older without spouses, or their children. So what can we do about it? We in the community can accept the responsibility to help these Veterans:
- We can teach anyone who will listen that we have tens of thousands of Veterans out there suffering from stress related brain injuries and that these Veterans will go to extreme lengths to avoid a mental diagnosis because of the lifelong stigma attached.
- We teach that Recovery is within reach for Veterans and their families. The brain might always be damaged, but by working on a program that actually rewires the brain like Pavlov conditioned his dogs, symptoms can become virtually undiagnosable. These skills and tools are easily found online and are easily taught from one Veteran in Recovery to other Veteran. This is much the same way one alcoholic helps another to stay sober.
- One of the most crucial elements of Veteran Recovery is a "resilient social network" that accepts the Veteran and their brain injury, rather than condemning the Veteran as a loser with a character defect. Recovery begins with a desire in the heart to recover, but is carried out in the home and community. Nothing is more important to recovery than a caring family.
The Veterans Administration, in spite of massive budget and staff increases is falling further behind with the demand for mental health resources. This situation is only going to get worse. Today, only one in five Veterans with PTSD or brain injury are seeking aid. One high ranking mental health professional at the Salt Lake City VA said that "If every Veteran who qualifies for mental health services were to apply all at once; there would not be enough psychiatrists and psychologists in the entire country to fill the demand."
Meanwhile, our youngest Veterans are spiralling into Chaos. The earliest stages of stress injury include:
- Suddenly become angry or irritable
- Have a hard time sleeping
- Have trouble concentrating
- Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
- Be very startled when someone surprises you
- Drinking or drug problems
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Employment problems
- Relationships problems including domestic violence and divorce
- Physical symptoms
The Chinese have a saying: "Man wait long time for roast duck to fly in mouth." Veterans who wait for the government, especially the VA, to solve their problems are condemned to frustration and chaos.
The Solution Is a Community Based, Vet to Vet Organization that Teaches Veterans to Teach Veterans How to Recover Mental Wellness. We are suggesting that the only way to really help our Veterans is with the Veteran equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fortunately for Veterans, advanced neuro-imaging of the brain proves that ancient practices, like meditation, and adjusting breathing patterns can actually transform the wiring of the brain. The electricity in a thought behaves a lot like a raindrop on the window, following the path of least resistance. When we activly condition the brain to create new neural pathways, new habits of thought are formed. New ways of thinking have ultimate power over how we act. It is a fact that we can develop new neurons and neural pathways at any age. It takes practice. It is a process, not a destination.
Those doctors who taught us we could never recover from the trauma were right about one thing. A brain injured by trauma may never biologically recover. We may never remove tangled short circuit thought patterns. But we can build new neural super highways that simply bypass injured part of the brain, eliminating old self defeating behaviors. Experts agree that PTSD symptoms can become virtually undiagnosable.
VetXPRS is a Veteran to Veteran volunteer training organization. We hook Veterans up with other Veterans to enhance our community Recovery. It costs nothing to join. You can download tons of content for free. Recovery is real and belonging to VetXPRS can deliver the goods.
People join us when they want to share the camraderie and ways we can enrich each others lives and Recovery. We believe the most powerful action a Veteran can take to enhance their own recovery is to help someone else Recover Wellness. You learn something about Recovery and you share that wisdom with others.
We incorporate elements of 12 Step Programs such as "Recovery is predicated on a relationship with a higher power" and "Freedom allows us to choose our own way. We are not cursed or doomed by the past." We have wrapped Mental Health Wellness Recovery in non-threatening, non-denominational wrappings. No stigma. As Steven Covey teaches: "Truth is truth, but sometimes we can appreciate it anew by changing the context." And you don't need a Ph.D. to teach someone a different way to practice breathing.
For 40 years Veterans have been told that PTSD is a permanent injury and that the best we could hope for was to learn "Coping Skills." Todays' Veterans are learning that the VA has evidence that the best treatment for PTSD is Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (Read about the National Center for PTSD and CBT here:)
The Point is that there is Evidence that Cognitive Behavior Therapy actually works and that Recovery from PTSD is possible.
Unfortunately many Veterans find the Veterans Administration's policies and procedures to be stressful beyond bearing. They avoid any connection with the bureaucracy with every fiber of their being. These are the Veterans we are reaching with VetXPRS.
VetXPRS offers a treasure of Recovery alternatives for Veterans experiencing readjustment difficulties who wish to remain as far removed from the VA as possible. An powerful alternative to PTSD behavior is a form of Prayer or Meditation called Active Conditioning:
1. We breathe in Peace
1. We breath out Stress; making extra effort to exhale the stale air that gets caught in the bottom of our lungs
As we exhale we teach ourselves to
3. Relax the body.
As we relax, the shutter in our mind's eye opens for an instant and we can
4. Visualize what it is we desire at the time. In that moment of imagining what we want, we can create new filaments of neural pathways... actual nerve fibers grow and connect. Thousands of repetitons of the mindful breathing can create new neural pathways that are so powerful that our brains forget to think in the old, habitual ways... even if that old habitual way is a survival strategy that kept us and our buddies alive in combat
The Background of VetXPRS:
Vet Express is being organized by Veterans: W. Andrew Wilson, a Vietnam combat veteran who is Recovering from PTSD. Bob Debes, also a Vietnam Veteran who served as a Forward Air Controller. Gerald Hubbard was a Marine Corp Officer. He has been active in Veterans affairs for many years. We have been involved in PTSD Recovery efforts since 1980 when PTSD was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Wilson and Hubbard have recently been trained in Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Mindfulness Breathing at the Sheridan VA Hospital (2010). Wilson was found 100 percent disabled with PTSD by the VA in 2010
VetXPRS.org has grown out of UtVet.com, which grew out of the Utah County Veterans Council, which grew out of the Provo Veterans Council in 2003. Wilson was President, and Bob Debes was Vice President of the Utah County Veterans Council. The Veterans Council was comprised of the leadership of most of Utah County's Veterans Service Organization such a the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. UtVet.com was originally the newsletter for the County Veterans Council. We began with 30 subscribers in 2003. Now we have about 150,000 per month. They read a digest of content of interest to Veterans, gleaned from everywhere. Over the last two years more and more of the content has focused on Recovery and the barriers to recovery that Veterans and families often experience.
We are building a national organization of Veteran volunteers who want to serve other Veterans with good council, transportation, and friendship. The heart of the organization will be a scalable website: VetXPRS that can deliver online education, a video library, and other training and networking resources that will enhance individual Veteran's opportunities to Recover, learn skills, and gain insight about Mental Health Wellness. We do not have to invent these Recovery techniques and learning tools. By working closely with VetsPrevail.org, google for veterans, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, and the VA we can adapt their content, and deliver that content to Veterans and their families. Moreover, we can deliver content while we insulate the Veteran from the stigma of bearing a formal diagnosis of PTSD or other mental illness. (Which can prevent them from buying Life Insurance, and make other insurance more expensive.) Ironically, Recovery is good but a Mental Illness diagnosis is bad.
We assert that the Family is the fundamental pillar of a Veteran's recovery. There is nothing more central to a Veteran's recovery than living principles that preserve and enhance their families. We teach the correct principles. For example: Gravity always works. We don't have to like it. Lying never works. We don't have to like it. Recovery is a gradual program of learning new fundamental truth that actually change our brain chemistry.
Another role of the website is to facilitate relationships veteran to veteran, and family to family. We are helping organize training sessions where Veterans can teach each other how to create change within relationships that bolster and enhance mental health wellness recovery. A key element is that one of the best ways to assure Recovery is to get involved in teaching Recovery.
We want to raise money for spreading the work with e commerce. We want to sell books, DVDs, T-shirts, Decals, etcetera. We want to organize seminars and rallies to generate the excitement that Recovery is Actually Possible! Of course, donations to help accelerate the work are welcome.
Key Project Deliverables:
VetXPRS has a proprietary Recovery Program we call "Active Conditioning" that combines elements of "Mindfulness" and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (taught by the VA) with traditional self improvement literature going all the way back to "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiograpy". We link to, and advocate for, a number of other emerging excellent web based Recovery training programs such as www.VetsPrevail.org, the National Alliance of Mental Illness training programs, www.googleforveterans.com. These programs incorporate some of the best elements of the VA outpatient therapy programs. There is no stigma and no time limit and practically no expense. We have a burning desire to share the content. UtVet.com and VetXPRS.org are built to deliver the goods.
The site, as it grows, will provide info, an enrollment form that allows Veterans to volunteer, or to accept help, an RSS feed signup, Podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Our target audience is younger veterans, because their need is most pressing. Suicide is at tragic proportions among these heroes. We want to accomodate their preferences while respecting the technological limitations of The Vietnam generation that thinks eMail is the pinnacle of communication technology.
There is nothing more central to a Veteran's recovery than living principles that preserve and enhance their families. We can create a web site where we teach the correct principles. VetXPRS Recovery program works to stem a rising tide of young Veterans' incarceration, mental health hospital-izations, and suicide. We expect full cooperation with the VA, NAMI, and many others such as Intermountain Health Care; who will provide VetXPRS with some of the finest web based diabetes recovery info that exists. With a powerful, beautiful website we will create a network of hundreds and thousands of Veterans all dedicated to the idea that Recovery is not only desirable but also Achievable for themselves and their families. Change can take place where Acceptance, Awareness, and Hope intersect. VetXPRS is that intersection.
We need donations to help incorporate our non-profit corporation and build out our web sites. We want to hire a top MBA student to manage a team of student interns. We want the MBA Mentor because our cause is important to our community and because we want the strongest possible team, to obtain the best possible result. We believe student interns can help us promote a site that is far superior to anything we could afford to buy on the open market. That team will position us to obtain the necessary funding from sponsors that will allow us to quickly reach a national audience. We also are looking to civic organizations such as Rotary, the Exchange Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and Home Builders Associations to fund costs of travelling, web hosting, web development, printing, telephone, etcetera. More importantly, people in those organizations all know Veterans who "are just not the same since the war." The members of these organizations are like capilaries that reach into the community and feed Veterans into the Recovery movement; specifically into VetXPRS.