A Decade Later: Living in the Aftermath of the Ft. Hood Terror Attack
By Bill Perry
July 1, 2018
Almost nine years since the Ft. Hood Massacre and the victims and their families are still facing trauma every day, reliving the horror they went through on November 5, 2009, according to COL (RET), US Army, Dr. Kathy Platoni. She was on duty that day and is a survivor. The aftermath is still with her every day.
As a nationally renowned expert in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in 2015, COL Dr. Platoni was sworn in as a member of the 4th Civil Support and Sustainment Brigade, Ohio Military Reserve; and is now back in uniform for her 35th year, this time as Chief Psychologist for State Defense Forces. She has been a practicing clinical psychologist for more than 35 years and maintains her private practice in Centerville, Ohio. In service of her country and as an Army Reserve clinical psychologist, she has deployed on four occasions in time of war.
At 1:34 PM that fateful day, a US Army major and psychiatrist, Nidal Hasan, opened fire in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, killing 14 people including an unborn child and wounding 32. Dr. Platoni, who was scheduled to become the shooter’s supervisor and later was told that she was at the top of his kill list, lost a close friend, Capt. John Gaffney, who died at her knees.
Eyewitness statements indicate that after pausing to bow his head, the shooter, armed with an FN 5-7 pistol and a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum revolver, stood up, suddenly shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great), seconds before spraying a hail of bullets throughout the room and before taking direct aim at soldiers in uniform, one a pregnant soldier who pleaded for the life of her unborn child. In the ten minutes following and without regard for their own safety, dozens of soldiers rushed to save the lives of the fallen and to remove them from harm’s way.
As a survivor, Dr. Platoni’s efforts were very instrumental in the awarding of the Purple Heart Medal to the Fort Hood wounded and to the families of those who lost their lives on that tragic day. “They were awarded under a special clause of the National Defense Authorization Act, but not all medical compensation benefits are being awarded,” she emphasized. It is a hang-up that won’t go away because the Ft. Hood Massacre is not considered an act of terrorism, nor Nidal Hasan an enemy of the state. As a result, medical benefits, combat action badges and medical badges have not been awarded. “But this shooting happened when we were on active duty, getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan, which we did anyway,” she said.
Dr. Platoni has been an ardent activist and voice for reconsideration of this shooting incident as terror to assure that the wounded and the families of the deceased are awarded long overdue benefits. “I’ve had a lot of support from colleagues, but none as far as anybody in DoD, VA and the U.S. Government. The only one who has stepped up to help me is Congressman Warren Davidson (R-Ohio, 8th District) and his incredible staffer, Ben Thaeler, who has been working with me for six months.”
Dr. Platoni has been shut down despite all of the efforts from Congressman Davidson, because the House Armed Services Committee will not consider the proposed legislation to change the Fort Hood Massacre shooting designation to a terror incident. “In addition, Congressman Davidson was unable to get, through Freedom of Information requests that I submitted, the transcripts of the Court Marshall. I also was unable to get copies of any of the sworn statements taken in the aftermath of the shootings from the FBI, Army CID, and the Texas Rangers,” she said.
Survivors are not getting the entitlements they deserve because of government actions. Dr. Platoni said these benefits are always awarded as a result of military engagement for soldiers wounded in action. The benefits would include:
- Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
- Traumatic Injury Protect Under Service Member’s Group Life Insurance
- Social Security Disability
- TRICARE Benefits
- Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay
- Combat-Related Special Compensation
- Education and Training Benefits
Platoni said that additionally, the families of the deceased should also receive all entitlements due to them retroactive to November 5, 2009. This should include, but has not been provided:
- Full reimbursement for burial benefits for deceased service members killed in this terrorist attack, which includes a gravesite in any VA national cemetery with available space, perpetual care of the grave at no cost to the family, a government provided headstone or marker, Presidential Memorial Certificate, and provision of the American burial flag.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation monthly for surviving spouses, with additional benefits for dependent children.
- Life insurance carried at the highest level, currently $400,000.
- Access to Tricare benefits for surviving spouses and dependent children
- Refund in full of Service Members unused portions of GI Bill benefit contributions
- Educational assistance through the VA’s Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.
- VA-guaranteed home loan accessibility for surviving spouses and children.
A soldier injured in line-of-duty during the Fort Hood Massacre by other than gunshot wounds would also be entitled to these benefits.
At the time of the dedication of the Fort Hood Memorial in March of 2016, the Department of Defense and federal law enforcement agencies continued to classify the Fort Hood Massacre of 2009 an act of workplace violence by a disgruntled employee. All requests by the survivors and the family members of the slain to reclassify this mass execution as a terrorist act have been denied.
Families also filed suit against the government in November of 2011, charging willful negligence in preventing the acts of the shooter and compelling this reclassification as an unmistakable act of terrorism.
In addition, on November 5, 2012, a wrongful death suit was filed against the US Government, the shooter, and the estate of Anwar al-Awlaki by 148 plaintiffs, including the victims of the massacre and their families, alleging violations of due process, intentional misrepresentation, assault and battery, gross negligence, and civil conspiracy.
Al-Awlaki, considered a clear security threat to the United States by the FBI and the subject of several investigations by the Joint Terrorism Task Force because of his involvement in operational planning for the Islamic militant group, al Qaeda, had supported the shooter for his personal jihad against American Soldiers and blessed his acts against such military targets.
Dr. Platoni said the necessity of such legal proceedings has become a dagger to the souls of the victims of this rampage, as well as the grieving survivors and their loved ones, adding to the trauma and wounds that will last a lifetime, stemming from this mass murder.
She said most Americans have long forgotten this national tragedy and remain far removed from the long trail of damages that remain. Dr. Platoni vows to continue fighting for the services hoping that her efforts to continue speaking out will rekindle public interest and help to impact a change.
She admits that at this point, after all of her work and advocacy, the only way forward is a designation from President Donald Trump. Dr. Platoni has reached out to Congressman Davidson’s office to help her get a meeting with the President to request an executive order to reconsider the Fort Hood Massacre an act of terrorism.
When Women Veterans Become the Unseen Victims of PTSD
For these women, the challenges they faced on the battlefield were just the beginning
by Stephanie Russell-Kraft
May 25, 2018
In 2005, Elana Duffy was an Army interrogator deployed to Iraq when her vehicle was hit by an IED. Duffy was knocked out and bled briefly from her ears. She didn’t feel she was badly injured though, and continued on with her mission. “I didn’t want to get pulled off the road,” she tells Playboy. “My job was my job, I wanted to keep on doing it.” When she started experiencing symptoms like bad headaches, Duffy hid them: “I covered up for as long as I possibly could.”
Part of the reason she kept quiet, she said, was the fact that she is a woman. Standing at 5’4” and weighing just over 100 pounds, Duffy had worked hard to gain the respect of the infantrymen she served with. “It took initial weeks or months to prove myself to every platoon out there,” she says. But eventually, her symptoms worsened, and she began forgetting names of people and places. A teammate noticed, and she went to seek medical help. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The diagnosis didn’t quite fit, however. Duffy’s pain continued, but it wasn’t taken seriously. “They told me I was going crazy, that I was a fragile little lady,” she says. It took nearly two years for an Army doctor to recognize she had a traumatic brain injury and fly her off immediately to surgery, where they discovered a massive brain bleed. Duffy was later awarded a Purple Heart.
After Duffy was medically discharged in 2012, she developed anger problems, but she delayed seeking mental health treatment. “I wouldn’t admit that I couldn’t adjust, because for a woman to do that is so difficult, because the perception is that by admitting you have a problem you’re weak,” she says.
Duffy may be part of a small group of women who have received a Purple Heart, but her experience as a female military service member is quite common. The Service Women's Action Network recently convened a set of focus groups to ask women veterans and service members about their mental health experiences. Nearly all of the groups said they had developed resilience while in the military. But when they dug deeper, the women came to agree it was “fake resilience” that didn’t contribute to their mental well-being.
“The ‘resilience’ that women learn in the military is not really resilience at all but a method of suppressing negative experiences in order to ‘drive on’ which invariably, eventually, takes a toll on their mental health,” SWAN researchers wrote in their report. “You define resilience as being able to get up tomorrow and doing the job you've got to do and whatever it takes to do that, whether it’s healthy or not,” says Army Colonel Angie Holbrook. “If you let the crack in, it will be a watershed.”
Not every service in the VA is bad. There are some things they do correctly. But the culture was created for a man. It was never created with women in mind, and they need to break out of that shell.
Service women and veterans who spoke to Playboy about their mental health all told a similar version of events. Faced with expectations that they, as women, wouldn’t cut it in the military, they put up walls to mask any pain or stress they may have been feeling. For some, this meant taking years, and even decades, to confront their trauma stemming from combat stress or sexual assault.
In December 2006, then-Major Holbrook began a tour in Baghdad that would take her through the deadliest year for U.S. troops since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. As a casualty operations director, Holbrook was responsible for overseeing casualty reports for U.S. service members killed in action.
“They come in very raw, not what you would tell the families, and we would have to reconstruct it so we told the story but in a more palatable way,” she says. “Two things the loved one wants to know are, did my soldier suffer, and did they serve honorably? We didn’t make stuff up, but what we wrote on the narrative was what they read to the families.” During her 15 months in theater, Holbrook said she processed 884 deaths. “It was gross, and it was heinous,” she says.
During her first month on the job, Holbrook was assaulted and anally raped by a fellow service member while walking home one night. She couldn’t see who it was, only that he was wearing a uniform. After he finished, she went home, changed her clothes, and went to bed. She didn’t tell anyone. “Nobody wanted my job, so part of my decision matrix about what I did was, ‘I can’t tell anybody because then they’ll send me home, and who’s going to do my job?’” Holbrook says. “Even though it was not a fun duty, I felt I had a special skill, and I was able to do it well. Reporting my assault would have meant going home and not being able to do that.”
It wasn’t until 10 years later that she reported the assault. “I probably would have waited longer had I not broke. Physically, my body was breaking down so bad that it was affecting my emotional health.” She has since been diagnosed with PTSD stemming from both the assault and her work while on deployment, and she’s in the process of leaving the Army.
In conjunction with the focus groups, the Service Women’s Action Network polled 1,295 military women, including both veterans and active duty service members. Nearly 9 percent of the women polled said they left the service for mental health reasons and more than 50 percent of respondents said they had been diagnosed with PTSD at some point. There are approximately 1,601,292 women veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These women are much more likely non-white (34 percent) than their male counterparts (21 percent). They are also more likely to have a service-connected disability, have no personal income and be in poverty, according to the VA. The risk for suicide among women veterans is also 2.5 times higher than U.S. civilian women. Women are also the fastest-growing group of homeless veterans.
When it comes to women, the assumption is her PTSD or her trauma is not combat-related, or it’s not as bad as the man’s, and that's not true.
BriGette McCoy, who served in the Army from 1987 to 1991, says she didn’t even call herself a veteran until the mid-aughts, a decade during which she and her children were homeless off and on. (Veteran homeless shelters often don’t have room for women with children.)
During her time in service, McCoy was raped by a fellow service member, and when she came out, she had bouts of being “super depressed and sullen and isolated.” “The military taught us to support the process of the military and support the guys. It was always about the boys and the guys,” says McCoy. The sexual trauma also impacted her ability to keep a job. But, she says, she resisted seeking treatment for years because she was terrified of a mental health diagnosis. “Because now I’m scared I’m going to lose my children to the system,” she says. “I’m a woman of color, and it just was a concern of mine. I fell into all the problem demographics over and over again.”
Women veterans have historically been far less likely to access VA health benefits, and, although the numbers are increasing, they’re still less likely than men to use services. The VA offers women’s mental health services, but many servicewomen say these programs are either poorly implemented or not widely available. Many women and minority veterans face challenges with access to healthcare in the VA simply because the system was designed for white men. Nearly every woman who spoke to Playboy recounted an experience at the VA in which she was hit on, asked if she was there to visit a man who had served—rather than seek treatment stemming from her own military service.
“Before I go to the VA, I’m already ready for it,” says Michelle Dallocchio, a social worker who served in the Army from 1998 to 2006. “I’m thinking if I gotta fight somebody today.”
Dallocchio, who is Chamorro (an indigenous group of the Northern Mariana Islands), says her mental health struggles have been compounded not just by gender but by race, particularly when those concerns haven’t been taken seriously. “I’ve had a VA psychologist tell me, I don’t know how racism can cause trauma,” she says. “And I shit you not, his name was Dr. White.”
Freshly ousted VA Secretary David Shulkin recently testified before Congress that the VA is short 2,912 mental health providers. Advocates for women veterans hope the vacancies will be filled by clinicians who understand the unique challenges women encounter in the military.
“There are very few female mental health professionals who are also veterans who understand the plight of the female veteran,” says Kathy Platoni, a clinical psychologist and former Army colonel. “I can’t keep up with the number of referrals. I’m a certified non-VA provider, and I know of only one other psychologist who is a male, who is a veteran. Unless you’ve walked in those boots, you don’t get it.”
I have actually had people say to me, ‘How on earth did you get a Purple Heart? You’re a woman, you couldn’t have gotten one. What did you do, get a paper cut?
“If you’ve got trauma and all you’re around is predominantly men, it’s difficult,” says Trina McDonald, who was raped on several occasions while serving in the military from 1988 to 1990. “And people don’t comprehend why that’s a problem.” McDonald didn’t report her assault for a decade, during which time she was unable to find stable housing or a stable job.
Lucy C. Del Gaudio, who served in the Army from 1990 to 1998, is now a veteran advocate in New Jersey who’s working to make her state’s VA facilities more accessible to women. For example, at the VA’s Lyons campus, Del Gaudio says women on their way to the women’s PTSD clinic must walk through the waiting room of the men’s clinic, a process that can be triggering for survivors of sexual assault. Women there describe it as a walk of shame.
“Not every service in the VA is bad,” she says. “There are some things they do correctly. But the culture was created for a man. It was never created with women in mind, and they need to break out of that shell.”
There has been some good news recently. The recently-passed budget omnibus bill includes provisions to expand mental health services for veterans with a less-than-honorable discharge, many of whom were kicked out for reasons related to military sexual trauma or post-traumatic stress. But part of the reason women seek out VA services at a lower rate is that many feel isolated in the civilian world after their time in service.
“There’s a common narrative that we tell about military service, and this narrative has to do with camaraderie,” says Kiersten Downs, a VA researcher at the Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital (she stressed that she is not speaking on behalf of the VA). “This is a false narrative for so many people, for women and minority veterans.”
“When it comes to women, the assumption is her PTSD or her trauma is not combat-related, or it’s not as bad as the man’s, and that's not true,” says Colonel Holbrook.
Michelle Dallocchio is an Iraq War veteran, and her car has an Iraq War veteran sticker on it. But people have come up to her to ask her to thank her husband for his service. Elana Duffy is a Purple Heart recipient, and even her experiences are dismissed. “I have actually had people say to me, ‘How on earth did you get a Purple Heart? You’re a woman, you couldn’t have gotten one. What did you do, get a paper cut?’” she says.
Duffy has spoken publicly about her own history in part to increase the visibility of women veterans so their mental health challenges will be taken more seriously. “It’s always said that women don’t want to admit they’re weak, and that’s why they don’t want therapy,” says Duffy. “But the rate of suicide among women is much higher, and the rate of women seeking help for non-[sexual assault] issues is much much lower, largely because women don’t want to say, ‘Yeah, I had an issue with the fact that every time I went out on a raid, I was separating families. I had to be the one to walk up to the five-year-old—oh, no, daddy’s coming with us. Because I was the only one who could talk to women and children. That’s on me.’”
“The moral injury on the women who were in combat roles that weren’t combat roles, it’s huge,” she says.
The Fort Hood Massacre – A Blind Eye and a Deaf Ear
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
February 9, 2018
The 8th anniversary of the Fort Hood Massacre has come and gone. Save for the awarding of the Purple Hearts to the wounded and the families of the fallen in 2015, nothing has changed. Thirteen Soldiers and one Army retiree are still dead. Thirty-three of the wounded are still among the forgotten. Seven of the wounded and the survivors have taken their own lives. There will be more. Medical disabilities and other entitlements due those wounded and killed in action are being denied the wounded because Nidal Hasan is not an enemy of the state and the because the Fort Hood Massacre is still not an act of domestic terrorism.
After 8 years of everlasting shattered lives and misery, even into the new presidential administration, the Fort Hood Massacre is still considered no more than an act of workplace violence, perpetrated by a disgruntled employee. This continues to be a national disgrace and an assault on anyone who has ever donned the uniform. Per Dr. Kate Burch, the disgraceful manipulation of the facts surrounding this event, all for political purposes, is a blot on our country’s honor that must be redressed. There are no accidental falsehoods here. This is plainly and simply, an egregious and despicable coverup of the truths and a five-year trail of evidence that the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Army ignored and overlooked preceding the massacre. At the very least, they were wholly aware of the terrorist in their midst, yet these governmental agencies never bothered to communicate with one another or to apprehend this assassin when they had every conceivable opportunity to do so.
This is only a small fragment of the enormous assaults and countless broken promises that continue to plague the wounded, the survivors, and the families of the fallen, more than eight years after the fact. As a survivor of the Fort Hood Massacre, I have labored endlessly to right this ship, but my unceasing efforts have gone nowhere. Nineteen Congresspersons have failed to respond to date. In fact, I have been threatened to remain silent and called mentally ill by Senator Kaine’s office with respect to the massacre; this after this office requesting every document available pertaining to this mass shooting and offering undying promises to assist. This is not even a veiled threat. Of course, not one iota of help ever arrived. The same doors continue to be slammed in our faces, with absolutely no hope of resolution. Hope has run out for those of us who survived the largest mass shooting on any military installation in US history, leaving suicide as the only viable option for some who have given up and whose despair has come to suffocate them. God, the United States of America, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Army have continued to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the victims of the largest mass shooting in the history of this country. These are no less than acts of treason.
Judicial Watch’s “The Forgotten Soldier” is the first installment of a full expose about the hidden truths surrounding the Fort Hood Massacre. Mr. Howard Berry, father of the single wounded in action victim of the Fort Hood Massacre denied the Purple Heart Medal, SSG Joshua Berry, and I have labored unceasingly to obtain the long overdue recognition deserved by the victims and the benefits due them and their families. This 9-minute documentary chronicles the raw and disturbing facts leading up to the suicide of this young Soldier 5 years ago. Please join us in seeking justice by viewing this documentary and be willing pass it along to others so that they will be sufficiently compelled to join us in demanding the same for those who gave and continue to give the last full measure of devotion to our country.
While this national tragedy occurred 8 years ago, medical disability payments are still being denied the wounded because the shooter, Nidal Hasan, is not deemed an enemy of the state. The Fort Hood Massacre is not considered an act of domestic terrorism. There have been 7 suicides, per Mr. Berry, among the wounded and the survivors. Throughout the course of the last 5 years, more than 19 Congresspersons have been contacted for assistance and intervention on behalf of the wounded and the families of the fallen and all of them have failed to respond to our pleas. This is purely contemptible. Though the Purple Heart Medal was awarded to the 33 Soldiers and 13 KIA in 2015, the requisite benefits that accompany the Purple Heart have not. Furthermore, those who received other than gunshot wounds received nothing.
We remember only the name of the shooter. These are the names never to be forgotten.
The 13 Fatalities
PA Michael Grant Cahill, US Army (Retired), 62, of Cameron, TX
MAJ Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Woodbridge, VA
SSG Justin DeCrow, 32, of Plymouth, IN
Captain John Paul Gaffaney, 54, of San Diego, CA
SPC Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, TN
SPC Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Tillman, OK
SSG Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, WI
PFC Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of West Jordan, UT
PFC Michael Pearson, 22, of Bolingbrook, IL
Captain Russell Seager, 51, of Racine, WI
Private Francesca Velez and Her Unborn Child, 21, of Chicago, IL
Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman, 55, of Havre de Grace, MD
SPC Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, MN
(This incomplete list pertains only to those wounded by gunshot. Though others sustained other than gunshot wounds, these wounded Solidiers were not counted as victims of the Fort Hood Massacre, including SSG Joshua Berry of Cincinnati, OH, one of now 7 victims of suicide following this massacre.)
SPC James Armstrong
PVT Amber Bahr Gadlin
SGT Patrick Blue III
SPC Keara Bono Torkelson
SPC Logan Burnett
SPC Alan Carroll
CPT Dorothy Carskadon
SSG Joy Clark
SPC Matthew D. Cooke
SSG Chad Davis
PVT Mick Engnehl
PVT Joseph T. Foster
CPL Nathan Hewitt
SGT Alvin Howard
PVT Najee Hull
SSG Eric Williams Jackson
PVT Justin Johnson
SSG Alonzo Lunsford
SSG Shawn Manning
SSG Paul Martin
2LT Brandy Mason
SPC Grant Moxon
SGT Kimberly Munley, Fort Hood Civilian Police
SSG Thuan Nguyen
SGT John Pagel
MAJ Randy Royer
SPC Dayna Ferguson Roscoe
Chief Warrant Officer Chris Royal
PVT Raymondo Saucedo
SPC George O. Stratton III
SGT Miguel Valdivia
SSG Patrick Ziegler
*(Military ranks were current at the time of the Fort Hood Massacre and do not include the shooter among the wounded. The shooter is now a paraplegic on death row at the US Army Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, KS)
Please take a few minutes to watch this documentary and join us in taking action, whether active duty military, reserve forces, National Guard, civilian or simply interested in the pursuit of justice for the many victims of this tragedy.
Is Nothing Sacred? The Moral Decline of America
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
October 23, 2017
We have found the enemy and it is us. We are consumed with hatred for anything and everything that dares to offend our fragile egos, simply because there cannot be any viewpoint or belief systems other than ours. Depending on who or what one votes for or against, the Bombay doors are thrust open for far more than mean-spirited attacks. We are at war with one another, provoked by no more than simple disagreement to all-out taunts, verbal attacks, and physical assaults; treated to the piece of knowledge that we are not worthy of life if we have the audacity to disagree or lean a little too far to the right or the left.
Dismantling and erasing American history is the new national pastime, fueled by a warping of the fact that with all its warts and wrongdoings, pretending that it never happened further distorts the reality that our society finds increasingly unpalatable. Hacking statues to pieces and covering them with burkas and blankets is not going to change historical facts. This has launched us back at least 50 years into separatism, sucked into the wrestling ring of which bathroom to use. Nationalism and pride in the salad bowl that was once a celebration of our wide and diverse culture is dying.
We have become a festering stew of me-ness, bent on destruction of what once solidified us as a nation. Patriotism has become sinful. Freedom has come at the cost of tremendous bloodshed and the loss of countless lives in time of war and in service of our country, but this has been rendered meaningless. Duty, honor, and country have become irrelevant. The moral bankruptcy of America is well underway.
Taking a Knee
And now football games have become fodder for racial politics. This is a gross aberration of racial inequities and a purely deviant channel for attention-grabbing stunts during one of America’s favorite and traditional forms of amusement. Not only does this send a powerful message that self-interest rules, but sets a new low for the sinking ship of loyalty and devotion to God and country, sending us running for cover, lest we be the target of partisan politics, tarred and feathered for daring to salute the American flag and standing for the National Anthem.
Old Glory has been degraded and defamed. The degree of disrespect, disregard, and disdain shown for those who have fought for the very right for the boys of the NFL to get down on their patellar joints is colossal. For those who are paid multimillion dollar salaries for kneeling, take heed. Your lives matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Blue lives matter. We all matter. Civility has been forgotten. Skin color doesn’t make anybody special or better or worse than the next guy/girl. Get over yourselves.
It has become fashionable to allow ourselves to be overrun and overcome by an epidemic of self-absorption, selfishness and all things must necessarily be about me. We are rapidly becoming a godless society and a culture run amok with self-indulgence and greed. Anything else falls under the rubric of somebody feeling “disrespected” simply because no one ever bothered to tell them that they can’t always have it their way and that the universe does not revolve solely around them. Service and sacrifice to causes greater than ourselves have become an anachronism.
We have become spineless creatures that know nothing of selflessness or charity or simple human compassion. Personal accountability and responsibility have become obsolete. Shame no longer exists when someone suffers purposeful harm at the hands of another. We have become rabid with the gross insensitivity of “man’s inhumanity to man.” Our worth is determined by what we own and what we drive. We have come to cherish nothing but ourselves.
War is hell. What we have lived and suffered and sacrificed will always be unimaginable and far beyond reach to those who never walked in those boots. Coming home has become a worse hell. We are the Veterans left to live under the overpass of cities and towns from coast to coast; the Veterans whose lives lay splattered below the 6th floor windows of any number of Veterans’ Administration Medical Centers that have ignored our pleas for help that doesn’t come in the form of hefty bags spilling over with drugs; Veterans whose lack of belongingness and despair has murdered our souls at the hands of a country that has abandoned us.
We are fast becoming Soldiers and Marines and Airmen and Sailors and Coastguardsmen without a country. Kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem has become political drama, turning America into the Jerry Springer Show. This amounts to spitting on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those still standing for their willingness to do the same.
The enormous disconnect between Service Members, Veterans, and the 99 percent of the population who have never served in uniform has now taken center stage, digging a gorge as wide as the Continental Divide. This has propelled patriotism and the value, meaning, and purpose inherent in taking the Oath of Office and making the solemn promise, before God and country, to pledge our allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America, straight down the crapper.
Wearing the military uniform now brings dishonor and humiliation on the football field. This is a symptom of something far worse, as America becomes a fractured nation disintegrating at its seams. Discord is sending us back to the dark ages as we continue to lose our way. Wake up, America. Divided we will fall.
The Fort Hood Shooter’s Hunger Strike
~Full Court Press
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
April 6, 2017
Nearly 8 years have passed since the Fort Hood Massacre. The victims have been long forgotten; the voices of the families of the fallen, the wounded, and the survivors left to tell the truths have long been silenced. The facts surrounding the largest massacre on any military installation in US history remain buried in an unmarked grave, along with the terrible truths that have yet to come to the fore: that eight civilian and high ranking military officers knew that the shooter, former Major Nidal Hasan, was a ticking bomb who had promised to do lethal harm to those who would dare to send him to war. The toll of the systematic assassinations and those left to carry the burden of unmatched survivor guilt continues to rise. Furthermore, there have been six suicides among the survivors. Four have been confirmed.
Live from his cell on death row at the Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the shooter has announced by handwritten letter, dated March 27th 2017, that he is planning a 99-pound hunger strike in order to trim down and maintain this body weight. Thirteen (13) of my fellow Soldiers lost their lives so that the shooter could give rise to deadly political statements in support of his extremist platforms, injuring 33 more of them so that his message would stick in the hearts and minds of those who carry the indelible and terrible physical and psychological scars in what remains considered, to this very day, an act of workplace violence and not an act of domestic terrorism. What does screaming “Allahu Akbar” before opening fire with the lethal force of 214 rounds fired mean to those who retain any degree of sanity and reason? This has left the bitter taste of one of the greatest travesties of justice ever to make the news repeatedly and yet the press insists on reporting that the shooter is going on a diet.
What further offends those of us left to report the bona fide truth is that this self-serving soldier of Allah continues to receive free reign to defecate on the lives of the wounded, the families of the fallen, and the survivors with his unceasing demands to be heard and to promote his cause as a soldier of Allah. Who is here to speak for the victims, long ago muzzled? That he is uninterruptedly permitted to have any say on any subject is, in itself, both a charade and a mockery of any justice yet to be granted to those who carry with them the fallout from the enormous human tragedy of this long-forgotten massacre. That we remember the name of the assassin and have expunged and disregarded the names of the victims only serves to promote his cause into perpetuity and to immortalize his brand of domestic terrorism at the expense of so many suffering souls. That the shooter is given free reign, once again, to commit yet another heinous offense against the victims of the Fort Hood Massacre is treasonous.
Why Veteran Suicide?
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
April 1, 2017
It is the frayed and demolished life to which many Veterans return to in rocket velocity, without any opportunity to transition or de-escalate from combat to the comparative lavishness of civilian life, that often shatters their once firm foundation and sends Service Members into a rapid downward spiral.
For far too many returning Veterans, disembarking on American soil often makes eating the barrel of one’s weapon seem to be the preferable next meal.
The sobering nature of the issue is far too profound to be quantified. Whether in the wartime theater or the home front, wounds that do not bleed can still be ripped open, allowing spillage of immeasurable anguish and despair. It is the suffocating hopelessness and promises of only more of the same, the damnation of infinite burdens that can no longer be shaken off, and time and time again, coming face to face with the inevitability of one’s own demise, that makes it easy to find the belt or the barrel that will lead to desperately desired relief (Carlson, Task and Purpose, 2016). Accepting this offers the ease of sanctions that can readily lead to a simple squeeze of the trigger; “a flight from a world that just doesn’t care” and reprieve from an ugliness that cannot be put into words (Carlson, 2016).
For those of us who have ever worn the uniform, we have all been there and yearned to taste gun metal.
When there are more losses to post-war suicide than in combat, we have a serious problem on our hands. We are a long way from grasping the bona fide burdens of war that Veterans carry home. Enduring and suffering the plain awful experience of readjustment to civilian life, shackled by continuous back to back deployments, and further complicated by the 99 percent of the American populace that just “doesn’t get us,” makes for a new kind of isolated hell from everything that not so long before delivered tremendous value, meaning, and purpose to our lives.
We are ignored, misunderstood, alienated, and banished from the kingdom of life on the home front and a country that sent us off to war and forgot us when we came home from war,” says Parnell. In short, “we don’t have a policy shortfall, but a cultural shortfall.” This is hardly a recipe for the genuine cohesion and camaraderie that sustained us in war, but instead, one of desolation and alienation from a society pretends to welcome us with open arms, but remains largely untouched by war and its aftereffects.
Being hurled back into this reality sends us running for cover from a homeland that rejects us, forcing us to bear the true costs of war entirely alone.
Researchers who interviewed 72 Soldiers at Fort Carson, CO, found that among the 33 reasons given for their suicide attempts, the one that stood out among all the others was the overwhelming desire to stop the pain of intense emotional distress. According to now-retired Army COL Carl Castro, the desire to harm oneself is only secondary to the longing for the anguish and despair to stop, from which there seems to be no exit or escape.
The study also revealed that Soldiers typically listed an average of ten reasons for contemplating or attempting suicide, which clearly demonstrates the highly complex nature of the problem at hand. Additional commonplace reasons given by Soldiers studied include feeling compelled to put an end to “chronic sadness,” finding the means to escape people, presumably those who fail to understand such desperation, and using suicide as the pathway to express such utter despondency, says Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY.
The veil of purposeless and loss of camaraderie, the absence of belongingness, often lead to the confiscation of all things meaningful. The harshest consequences of war often come afterward. We, as a culture, continue to tone down the collateral damages of war (Senior, 2011) and the fact that we “may be more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy.” What sustained us in war has been torn away, leaving behind an amputated spirit and a life devoid of significance, usefulness, worth, or purpose.
There is no good place for one’s head to rest. Darkness is the only color so many of us come to know.
The collateral damage of war is that it embezzles your entire life as you knew it. There is no old self-hanging in the closet. Truthfully, there are too many of us who just want to make it stop… the anger, the unceasing threat level and the assurance that everyone around us is trying to hurt us, which is often not just supposition, and the overpowering desire to feel so alive just one more time.
Deficiencies in Care for US Veterans
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
February 7, 2017
Recently, significant numbers of older Veterans (those over the age of 50) are taking their lives by suicide, yet they receive the least attention. Several of us who are well over the age of 50 have also deployed multiple times to the combat theater of operations since 2001. Sadly, Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf War Veterans are very often overlooked with respect to mental health and VA legislation, as if they already fail to exist, providing only for service entitlements for Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans.
This is far more than a pathetic oversight. Hordes of Vietnam Veterans, unwelcomed, assaulted, abused upon their return, pelted with feces and other bodily fluids at airports from coast to coast, and frequently referred to as just crazy old homeless fools that live under the overpass, are those often most desperately in need of medical and mental health services.
The percentages of Vietnam Veterans suffering from post-war PTSD is estimated to be at 30 percent, as opposed to the 20 percent figure granted to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans. Both estimates are likely to be very seriously submerged, as many of these Veterans never interface with the system charged with service provision for them or seek intervention; oftentimes because they are unaware it exists or they avoid mental health and medical services through the VA at all costs.
The numbers of suicides in this age group is twice that for those 50 and older among their non-veteran counterparts. This is due in part to the stigma of obtaining mental health services so desperately needed, which continues to be an obstacle of a momentous magnitude. Add to this, as with the aging population in general, deteriorating health, the onset of chronic and intractable pain as a result of war injuries and any number of other progressive medical conditions, the increasing loss of mobility, as well as the rising numbers of losses all of us experience with the passage of years, and we have a formula for loneliness, abandonment, and further isolation, says Jordain Carney of National Journal.
As a nation, our stunted attention span allows us to quickly forget the sacrifices made by all war Veterans and to ignore a problem of such enormity, that is unlikely to change for Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans over time. They will ultimately inherit the very same problems.
As far back as 2001 when our nation began to gear up for the Global War on Terrorism, the VA should have known better than not to do the same. The failures of the system are incalculable and infinite, the stuff of enormous numbers of investigative reports. This is not fake news: the VA has failed to track veterans upon their departure from the military and there is no system in place to make this happen to the best of my knowledge. In fact, it is standard operating procedure and commonplace for military personnel not to receive information about the multiplicity of VA services for which they are entitled decades after leaving military service.
This is a problem that cannot be resolved simply by increasing VA funding and programming or by hiring 9000 more mental health professionals, many of whom have never served in the military themselves. The problems inherent in VA care too often involve a problem of access to it, but this is only a minuscule part the problem.
In my experience and in that of the Veterans I treat, there is also a huge disconnect between care provided by those who have served and those who have never worn the uniform. Primary among them is the absence of trust in those who have never served and a rapport that can never be established for that very reason. There is little basis for trust in providers whose experience does not include marching through the same trenches. If one has never been to war, there can be no understanding of the experiences and burdens that Veterans carry home; it is just that simple.
Understanding Veteran Suicides
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
February 7, 2017
Interestingly enough, a considerable body of recent research has indicated that within the armed forces, there is no clear or direct correlation between completed suicides and deployment. However, the 2016 Department of Defense Quarterly Suicide Report maintains that deployment overseas to the wartime theater is an extremely stressful and life-altering experience that disrupts the fabric of the family and the existing “social and interpersonal structure” of the Service Member’s life. The DOD correlates suicide with the “interplay of feelings of belongingness,” which can be affected by deployment.
According to the DOD, suicide risk factors are those associated with the increased potential for suicide attempts and successful suicides in the civilian, include major life transitions, and deployment is one. Alan Zarembo of LA Times writes that, while the trauma of deployment is obvious, we know that the problem exceeds and extends past the trauma of war–thus the Epidemic of Veteran Suicides.
The wartime theater demands some, if not an enormous degree of interpersonal support for psychological survival. Recent research suggests that the support and kinship of Service Members and their convergence during overseas wartime deployments constitute a protective factor, something that mitigates suicide risk. However, environmental differences between the various branches of the Armed Forces may dictate the provision of varying degrees of interpersonal support, often dependent upon factors such as geography, location, mission, and remoteness of assignments in the wartime theater. Furthermore, this may be dependent on the types and intensity of combat exposure, which is also likely to impact the acquired capability.
In order to decrease the likelihood of suicide, the 2016 DOD Quarterly Suicide Report recommends “unit level and community support and training interventions that increase protective factors within the culture of the military.” Unfortunately, as the data reveals, the DOD has fallen far short of this goal. Suicide prevention training is frequently perceived as a compulsory check-the-box class that generates just enough interest to put attendees to sleep. Beating the problem to death with power point presentations offers no cure for a problem of such immense proportions. Asking Soldiers to care about other Soldiers when leadership failures demonstrate otherwise, serves only to aggravate the existing problem of falling down the rabbit hole of isolation and desolation for those who believe themselves to be a terrible burden to everyone and every aspect of the world that surrounds them.
The Myth of 22 Veteran Suicides Per Day
By COL (Dr.) Kathy Platoni
January 31, 2017
The VA’s 2012 Suicide Date Report estimates twenty-two Veteran suicides a day. This is a misnomer and a widely misunderstood calculation, says Stacy Bare. This figure has rallied a nationwide movement and electrified the devotee mantra of promoting the performance of 22 pushups a day, and setting in motion hype of titanic proportions among media outlets and politicians. This has all come about at the expense of a highly inaccurate and misinterpreted context and the genuine problem of epidemic proportions that lies at the root of veteran suicides.
In the words of VA Secretary Shulkin, one Veteran suicide is already far too many. Shockingly, Veteran suicides have exceeded those killed in action in the combat theater for an extended period of time. This is a national tragedy of colossal proportions.
In 2012, it was the Veterans Administration that estimated that 22 veterans took their lives per day, but this data was extrapolated from records collected from only 21 states from 1999 to 2011. This constituted only a small sample of states providing data and “evidence of uncertainty in Veteran identifiers on US death certificates,” says Bare. Additionally, data from four larger states (California, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina) was not even included in these calculations, reports Patricia Kime. This suggests the need to interpret this data with considerable caution.
A survey of 1.3 million Veterans discharged from the military between 2001 and 2007 disclosed that 1650 Veterans died in the line of duty between 2001 and 2009, as compared to 7703 non-deployed Veteran deaths during the same time frame. Among these were 351 deaths by suicide within the population of deployed Veterans and 1517 suicides among non-deployed Veterans (Bare, 2015). In undertaking the math, this equals less than one Veteran death per day during a nine-year time period.
To be continued…