There are 470,390 Veterans living in Tennessee, 9.44% or 44,405 of these are Women Veterans. On May 15, 2021, Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee signed (House Bill) HB0504/(Senate Bill) SB0390 declaring June 12th as the annual Women’s Veterans Day as a way to honor the many Women Veterans who still feel invisible. The governor said, “Their contributions are immeasurable, we are deeply grateful for every woman that serves the men and women of Tennessee.”
The bill reads, “SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 15, Chapter 2, is amended by adding the following as a new section: June 12 of each year is to be observed as “Women’s Veterans Day,” to honor the efforts of our distinguished female veterans and pay tribute to their character and courage in answering the call of action with pride and conviction.”
While other states have added new laws making this a permanent day of recognition for Women Veterans it is not yet a National Holiday. It is important that the country honors the military service these women have provided throughout history. More so today, the role for women in the military has evolved into more dangerous missions as faced by their male counter parts.
I have discussed Military Sexual Trauma (MST) in previous columns that adds to the struggles Women Veterans have faced . They deserve the same treatment and respect that male Veterans have always received. Be sure to take time each day of the year to seek these women out and honor them.
I would like to share a few words about an incredible young Woman Veteran that I had the pleasure of meeting at a convention this past weekend. Her name is Sarah Lee, Founder of Waypoint Vets, who is from the Nashville area.
Her bio shares this of her military experience, “Sarah Lee is an Army OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) Combat Veteran and deployed to Iraq with the 216th Combat Engineers under the 1st Infantry Division in 2004. She joined at age 17, served for 8 years, and was honorably discharged as an E5/SGT in 2009.”
She told us of the days after she got out of the Army and that she felt detached form others. Remembering others that had been Killed In Action (KIA) she felt undeserving of living. Suffered from PTSD and depression. She felt life spiraled out of control and one night in 2016 she faced the thoughts of suicide. She made it through the night and realized she could not face another night like that again.
The next day she bought a bicycle and started an incredible journey. She formulated a plan to ride across the country from Virginia Beach to San Francisco. In 2018 she completed her unassisted 4,010-mile ride “A Vicious Journey.” This journey led her to start her Waypoint Vets nonprofit. She said, “I felt first-hand how much healing happens while detaching and being active in nature. I want to facilitate unique opportunities for other Veterans to “beast, bond, and heal” at No Cost to them.”
Sarah is planning more trips and they are free to all veterans. In an upcoming column I will be doing a more in-depth story about this remarkable young Veteran and her organization. She has trips coming in 2021 that still have an opening(s) so if you are interested in knowing more about this Veteran contact her at waypointvets.org.
PTSD PART 2
Last week I described the signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to begin PTSD Awareness Month. I am in a busy part of the “Veteran activities season” and have spent the last four days at a State Convention so I will be relying on preprinted information from the National Center for PTSD’s “Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment” to continue to tell you more about what PTSD is, how it affects the Veterans, and what help is available.
What can cause PTSD?
Any experience that threatens your life or someone else’s can cause PTSD. These types of events are sometimes called trauma. Types of traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:
• Combat and other military experiences
• Sexual or physical assault
• Learning about the violent or accidental death or injury of a loved one
• Child sexual or physical abuse
• Serious accidents, like a car wreck
• Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake
• Terrorist attacks
During this kind of event, you may not have any control over what’s happening, and you may feel very afraid. Anyone who has gone through something like this can develop PTSD.
Trauma can take many forms:
A traumatic event could be something that happened to you, or something you saw happen to someone else. Seeing the effects of a horrible or violent event can also be traumatic — for example, being a first responder after a terrorist attack.
You’re not alone:
Going through a traumatic event is not rare. At least half of Americans have had a traumatic event in their lives. Of people who have had trauma, about 1 in 10 men and 2 in 10 women will develop PTSD.
There are some things that make it more likely you’ll develop PTSD — for example, having very intense or long-lasting trauma, getting hurt, or having a strong reaction to the event (like shaking, throwing up, or feeling distant from your surroundings). It’s also more common to develop PTSD after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault. But there’s no way to know for sure who will develop PTSD.
Last week I shared that there are four types of symptoms and gave a bulleted list of examples of them. The National Center for PTSD explains them in a different way that I feel is an easier way for my readers to recognize these symptoms.
There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
Reliving the event:
Unwelcome memories about the trauma can come up at any time. They can feel very real and scary, as if the event is happening again. This is called a flashback. You may also have nightmares.
Memories of the trauma can happen because of a trigger — something that reminds you of the event. For example, seeing a news report about a disaster may trigger someone who lived through a hurricane. Or hearing a car backfire might bring back memories of gunfire for a combat Veteran.
Avoiding things that remind you of the event:
You may try to avoid certain people or situations that remind you of the event. For example, someone who was assaulted on the bus might avoid taking public transportation. Or a combat Veteran may avoid crowded places like shopping malls because it feels dangerous to be around so many people. You may also try to stay busy all the time, so you don’t have to talk or think about the event.
Having more negative thoughts and feelings than before:
You may feel more negative than you did before the trauma. You might be sad or numb — and lose interest in things you used to enjoy, like spending time with friends. You may feel that the world is dangerous, and you can’t trust anyone. It may be hard for you to feel or express happiness, or other positive emotions.
You might also feel guilt or shame about the traumatic event itself. For example, you may wish you had done more to keep it from happening.
Feeling on edge:
It’s common to feel jittery or “keyed up” — like it’s hard to relax. This is called hyperarousal. You might have trouble sleeping or concentrating or feel like you’re always on the lookout for danger. You may suddenly get angry and irritable — and if someone surprises you, you might startle easily. You may also act in unhealthy ways, like smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, or driving aggressively.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PTSD?
The only way to know for sure is to talk to a mental health care provider. He will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms, and any other problems you have.
If you think you might have PTSD, answer the questions in the screening tool below.
Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example, a serious accident or fire, a physical or sexual assault or abuse, an earthquake or flood, a war, seeing someone be killed or seriously injured, or having a loved one die through homicide or suicide.
Have you ever experienced this kind of event? Check Yes or No.
If yes, please answer the questions below.
In the past month, have you:
Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you didn’t want to?
• Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?
• Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
• Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
• Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused?
If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment. Answering “yes” to 3 or more questions does not mean you have PTSD. Only a mental health care provider can tell you for sure.
Next week I will continue to describe what PTSD looks and feels like and what you should do if you feel them. Again, if you feel any of these symptoms and “life” feels like it is closing in, please reach out for help. Get help if you’re in crisis If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else:
• Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) anytime to talk to a crisis counselor. Press “1” if you are a Veteran. The call is confidential (private) and free.
• Chat online with a crisis counselor anytime at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
For immediate help you can also call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
NEWS OF NOTE
AMVETS Post 75 - announced they will be the recipient of the proceeds from an auction being held at the Popcorn Sutton Jam on Saturday evening June 12. There are many different items from moonshine, patriotic signs and decorations, a beautiful Army motif lap quilt, a two-night stay at the Edgewater Hotel in Gatlinburg, and much, much more. The Jam starts Friday, June 11, and gates open at 3 p.m.
On Saturday, June 12 gates open at 11 a.m. at the Cocke County Fairgrounds. Bring lots of money to bid on these items, the proceeds will go to help Veterans and their families living in Cocke County.
American Legion Post 41, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 and the Major James T. Huff Camp #2243 – Sons of Confederate Veterans will also have booths there to share information about their organizations.
Major James T. Huff Camp #2243 – Sons of Confederate Veterans — meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) building on Pine Street in Old Town. The next meeting will be on June 15. For more information contact Shane McGaha, Commander and his number at 423-237-5713.
Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to PO Box 224 Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; email@example.com, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918.