SFTT Medical Task Force to Focus on PTSD

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Dr. Henry Grayson, Ph.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task Force – Is a  psychologist practicing in New York City and Connecticut. He has a PhD from Boston University, as well as a postdoctoral certificate in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and a Theology degree from Emory University. He is the author or three books, founded both the National Institute for Psychotherapies and the Institute for Spirituality, Science and Psychotherapy, and the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy.

Dr. Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task ForceA Psychiatry professor at Michigan StateUniversity with degrees from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and the University of London. Formerly an associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, more recently he has been involved with numerous organizations dealing with PTSD including founding Gift From Within, a non-profit PTSD foundation, and consulting at Columbine High School in Colorado. In 2003 he received a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Dr. Grant Brenner, M.D A graduate of the New Jersey Medical School and as assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Beth Israel Medical Center. He is a member of Physicians for Human Rights and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Dr. Brenner is the director of trauma services at the William Alanson White Institute, a board member at the Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, and the author of Creating Spiritual and Psychological Resilience-Integrating Care in Disaster Relief Work.

Dr. Eric D. Caine, M.D. – A Psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Medical School, and a chair of the department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. In 2001 he received the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s Leadership in Training Award for Chair of the Year.

Dr. Robert Cancro, M.D A professor and chairman of psychiatry at the New York University Medical Center. He is a graduate of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has served as the director or the Nathan Kline Research Institute, a long time consultant of the U.S. Secret Service, and the recipient of numerous awards in the field of mental health including the New York State Office of Mental Health Award and the Irving Blumberg Human Rights Award.

Lorraine Cancro, MSW – A psychotherapist with a Masters from the New York University Silver School of Social Work. She is the executive director of the Global Stress Initiative, a senior consultant at The Barn Yard Group, and formerly the director of business development and military health editor at EP Magazine.

Jaine L. Darwin, Psy.D., ABPP A graduate of Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology is a psychologist-psychoanalyst specializing in trauma and PTSD, relationship issues and depression. Dr. Darwin has run a volunteer organization SOFAR that provided services to family members of military service members and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kathalynn Davis, MSW – A psychotherapist with Masters from Columbia University, a certified Sedona Method Coach, Life Coach certified at New York University and Practitioner for International Institute for Spiritual Living.

Dr. Stephen V. Eliot, Ph.D.,  A Psychoanalyst with private practice in Westport CT.

Dr. Mark Erlich, M.D. – is a graduate of the of Profiles & Contours, a clinical assistant professor at New York Medical College and Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine, and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is also the president of the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society.

Dr. Mitchell Flaum, Ph. D. – A clinical Psychologist with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Joseph Ganz, Ph.D.,  –  A psychotherapist and a graduate of the Stress Reduction Program from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  He is also trained in couples and family psychotherapy and is the co-founder, co-director and faculty member of The Metropolitan Center for Object Relations-New Jersey.

Dr. Stephen Gullo, Ph.D.,  –  received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, and for more than a decade, he was a professor and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. He is the former chair of the National Obesity and Weight Control Education Program of the American Institute for Life Threatening Illness at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. His first book, Thin Tastes Better, was a national best seller as was his second book, The Thin Commandments.  He has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Barbara Walters and has also made numerous appearances on Today, Good Morning America, and Hard Copy. Dr. Gullo is currently president of the Center for Health and Weight Sciences’ Center for Healthful Living in New York City.

Joan S. Kuehl, L.C.S.W. –  Is a social worker with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., –  A graduate of New York University, an adjunct faculty member at the Teacher’s College Columbia University and at Columbia Medical School. She has
provided “psychological first aid” after bombings in Israel, SARS in China, the tsunami in Asia, and after 9/11 in the US. She is a representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology and the International Council of Psychologists.

Dr. Robert Rawdin, D.D.S. –  A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Dentistry and New York University. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Prosthodontics and currently serves as president-elect and program chair of the Northeastern Gnathological Society. He is also a clinical assistant professor at the New York University College of Dentistry.

Dr. Stephen Ross, M.D.  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the UCLA School of Medicine. He is the director of the division of alcoholism and drug abuse at Bellevue Hospital, director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship, and director of the Bellevue Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.

Dr. John Setaro, M.D. – A graduate of Boston University, and a resident and fellow at Yale-New Haven Hospital, as well as an associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Editor’s Note: While these notable physician give freely of their time, there still remains the task of supporting our troops with “more than lip service.” The needs of our brave warriors are great and SFTT looks to your contributions to help support our Investigative, Information and Intervention campaigns. As a 501(c)(3) educational foundation, we rely on the contributions of concerned Americans to help get the proper treatment to those who need it most. Contribute what you can.


Honor, Stigma … and PTSD

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The following article entitled “Honor, Stigma…and PTSD” is written by Frank Ochberg who is the Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task Force.   Dr. Ochberg has been dealing with the complexities of PTSD for some 40 years.   His words resonate even more strongly today as many troubled veterans are returning home to environments which may appear to be less hostile on the surface, but are equally dangerous nonetheless.  Our institutions are simply unprepared and, perhaps, unwilling to deal with the complexities of PTSD and, as such, we run the risk of losing an entire generation of brave warriors to the stigma and horrors of PTSD: the “signature wound” of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Join SFTT and help get these brave warriors the treatment they deserve.


I’m an old guy from the Vietnam era, a psychiatrist who studied violence in the 1960s, who treated survivors of trauma in the ’70s and who helped create and nurture the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder through the ’80s.

There are a few dozen of us who are considered the pioneers of the modern era of traumatic-stress studies, and most of us are worried – deeply worried — on behalf of the current generation of veterans with invisible wounds.

We thought that by now there would be access to care whenever needed. We thought that by now there would be clear understanding that PTSD is a wound, not a weakness. We thought that a veteran who served honorably and received a compensable medical diagnosis for PTSD due to his or her service on the field of battle, would receive a medal for sacrifice.

But instead of honor, there is stigma. And this stigma must stop.

Stigma is an elusive concept. It means we mark a person or a whole caste of people for exclusion. Stigma may mean we mark ourselves as diminished, degraded and unsuited for inclusion and intimacy. Stigma is insidious, communicated in whispers, in gossip, and in gestures without words.

Why in the world, this enlightened world, would we stigmatize our veterans who come home with PTSD, or traumatic brain injury, or depression?

Perhaps we do it out of ignorance or fear or extrapolation from the few, atypical cases of domestic and criminal violence that grab headlines. When job opportunities are limited due to diagnostic labels, it is reasonable to avoid the label.

(MORE: Troop Mental Ills: Psychiatric or Organic?)

When advancement through the ranks is limited by labels, it is reasonable to reject diagnosis and treatment. So fearing the consequences to livelihood, some suffer in silence and, in a way, add to the climate of stigma.

There are now a growing number of us who have joined a campaign to change this climate of stigma. We cannot wait for the rate of suicide among young veterans to recede of its own accord. We cannot wait for the VA to catch up with its caseload of cases –veterans waiting months for an appointment. We want to change labels, to improve media coverage, to improve awareness, to emulate successful campaigns to reduce stigma, and to honor our veterans who bear invisible wounds.

Here are some activities we commend:

  • Support the request of former Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army, General (ret.) Peter Chiarelli to change the title PTSD to PTSI – for Injury. Anyone can endorse this campaign right here. But time is limited. It must be done by June 10 to be considered by those with the power to make the change. All the arguments for doing this are on the site.
  • Visit the Dart Center’s website, particularly if you are a journalist covering this topic. Reporters can do a better job covering trauma, war and PTSD. There are tools of the trade to improve accurate and sensitive reporting of those topics. Bloggers can benefit, too. Telling the true story of PTSD will reduce the stigma of PTSD.  (MORE: A Lone Madman or a Broken System?)
  • Attend National PTSD Awareness Day, June 27, on the Senate grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Sponsored by the veterans’ group, Honor For All, this gathering will honor all who have served and sacrificed, including those who took their own lives, struggling with “invisible wounds of war.”
  • Sign the petition calling on our president to establish a Presidential Advisory Committee to reduce the stigma of PTSD and related invisible injuries, earned in service to our country. This committee could tap leaders in all walks of American life, entertainment figures, professional athletes, architects of the successful campaigns on behalf of breast cancer. If football players can wear pink gloves to support breast cancer awareness, baseball players can swing purple bats on PTSD Awareness Day.

We will not defeat the stigma of PTSD easily. No single idea, petition, campaign or organization can turn public attitude around. Changing PTSD to PTSI is a significant step on the road to honor, away from stigma. The word, injury, is honorable in military culture and accurate in medical parlance. Let’s start there and move forward together.


Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., is the medical adviser of Honor For All, Co-Chair of Stand For The Troops Medical Task Force, having served in uniform during the Vietnam era. While Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, he helped define PTSD, then edited the first text on its treatment. At Michigan State University, he is clinical professor of psychiatry, formerly adjunct professor of criminal justice, and adjunct professor of journalism.





MAJ GEN John Batiste (US Army Retired) Elected President of SFTT Board

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MAJ GEN John BatisteEilhys England, Chairperson of Stand For The Troops, is pleased to announce that MAJ GEN John Batiste, US Army (Retired)  has been elected President of the Board of SFTT, a nonprofit 501(c)3 educational foundation based in Greenwich, CT.  General Batiste, President and CEO of Klein Steel, brings to SFTT the benefit of three decades of military service, organizational leadership, and advocacy for America’s frontline warriors. Six years to the day after the passing of Col. David ‘Hack’ Hackworth on May 5, 2005, the legacy foundation that he co-founded with his wife Eilhys England continues to build on his life work of safeguarding the physical, mental and emotional well-being of America’s frontline serving and returning troops.

General Batiste is the product of a military family, (the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers), a graduate from West Point who served for over 30 years and a two-time combat veteran who led troops in two war zones, including Iraq.  In 2005, as a two star General, he refused to accept his third star that would have promoted him to become the second-highest ranking military officer in Iraq.  Instead, he resigned in principle, in protest at the prosecution of the Iraq war.

In the tradition of SFFT founder David Hackworth, John Batiste made headlines again in 2006 when he and six other senior retired generals (Batiste was the only General who had  held a high level position in the Pentagon and had commanded troops in Iraq) went public with their condemnation of the prosecution of the war in Iraq and called for the immediate firing of then Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.  It was dubbed the ‘Night of the Generals’ by the media.

In the Army, General Batiste rose from infantry officer to commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division -the “Big Red One”- which conducted successful peace enforcement operations in Kosovo and combat operations in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom II). His deployments, assignments and commands took him from Fort Benning to Bosnia (Operation Joint Endeavor), NATO, the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. His final assignment in the US Army was commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” from August 2002 to June 2005.  After retiring from active duty in 2005, he joined Klein Steel, a Rochester, NY company as its president.  He is a graduate of West Point, the Army War College, and the financial management MBA program at Naval Postgraduate School.

General Batiste’s support of veterans and their families includes service as a board member of the Rochester-based Veterans Outreach Center, founding president of the Rochester Regional Veterans Business Council, and a member of the board of advisors of the First Division Museum at Cantigny. As Committee Chair of SFTT’s PTSD Initiative prior to his election to Board President, he has been instrumental in focusing attention and resources towards prevention and treatment of the PTSD epidemic (on average 18 veterans every day commit suicide in the United States).

General Batiste succeeds Fred Tanne, P.C., a senior corporate partner in the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Tanne is stepping down as President to co-chair SFTT’s critical new PTSD initiative that is working to establish diagnosis and treatment protocols, remove the stigma of PTSD that prevents many from seeking treatment, and get those most at risk into appropriate treatment. A resident of Mt. Kisco, he will continue to be available to the Foundation as a member of SFTT’s Advisory Board.

Continuing their service as SFTT Board officers, with Ms. England and General Batiste, are:

SFTT Vice Chair/Secretary Roger Charles, a Peabody award winning investigative journalist who’s been singled out for recognition for his coverage of the Oklahoma City bombings for ABC News and CBS 60 Minutes II – Abuse at Abu Ghraib – to mention just two.  At SFTT, he was also the driving force behind the May 2007 NBC Nightly News, Dateline and MSNBC investigative reports by Lisa Myers on inferior body armor.  Combined with Roger and Eilhys’ reaching out to US Senators, it resulted in a call for Congressional Hearings and further independent testing.  An Annapolis graduate, Roger Charles is a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War.

SFTT Board Treasurer Bob Evans, a national market manager for 3M in its Washington, DC office.  The son of a career Army Officer, Bob served as a division artillery aviation officer, artillery battery executive officer and troop commander at Fort Hood, Texas.   Bob is president of the prestigious National Order of Battlefield Commissions. It counts Audie Murphy and the late SFTT founder David Hackworth among its 1000 by invitation only members.

SFTT (www.sftt.org) is a non-partisan apolitical organization chaired by Eilhys England, a Greenwich resident who co-founded the organization with her late husband Col. David Hackworth, America’s most valor-decorated soldier.  SFTT is unique in its mission and uniquely qualified to carry out its mission to give a voice to our troops. SFTT provides a platform and voice for the brave men and women defending us on the frontlines, by educating the public and policy makers in Washington D.C. on the need to send our country’s brave warriors off and to welcome them back with the best available equipment, training and support to make it home alive in body, mind, and spirit.

For information on SFTT, visit the foundation’s website at www.sftt.org or phone 203–629-0288.


Treating Warriors with PTSD

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Last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Warriors Salute in Rochester, NY which has an innovative and expanding program to treat veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from PTSD.   I was fortunate to attend a training seminar hosted by Dr. Henry Grayson, Ph. D., for the clinical staff of Warriors Salute.  Dr. Grayson is the eminent psychologist who founded and directed the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City and the author of Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind.    He is also a founding member of SFTT’s Medical Task Force to help address the large and growing problem of veterans suffering from PTSD.

While SFTT will report more on Dr. Grayson’s innovative approach to treating trauma, it is evident that there is no “magic bullet” to deal with the tragic consequences of veterans suffering from PTSD.  With at least 1 in 5 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD, the ongoing cost to our society is enormous.   Unfortunately, our military court system and the V.A. are structured in such a way that many veterans suffering from PTSD may be effectively deprived of proper treatment.

In a far-reaching report summarized by Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune, Major Evan R. Seamone, a member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, argues that “courts-martial function as problem-generating courts when they result in punitive discharges that preclude mentally ill offenders from obtaining Veterans Affairs treatment. Such practices create a class of individuals whose untreated conditions endanger public safety and the veteran as they grow worse over time.”     In fact, Major Seamone’s 212 page report for the Military Law Journal may be accessed by clicking on this hyperlink:   The Military Court system and PTSD.

Major Seamone’s observations are clearly “on-target” when it comes to dealing with veterans suffering from PTSD.  Many – if not most – veterans who suffer from PTSD also have a substance abuse problem.   In fact, one experienced addiction specialist suggested that “upwards of 80% of veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction problem.”   Unfortunately, the V.A. and our military courts tend to address PTSD and substance abuse as separate issues thereby depriving large numbers of veterans with the comprehensive treatment they deserve.   Sadly, substance abuse is a common opiate for those that suffer from combat-related trauma.

Since the mid-1990, the US judicial system has recognized the need to deal with drug-related criminal activity and have established some 2,600 Drug Treatment Courts in the United States.  Drug treatment courts are specialized community courts designed to help stop the abuse of drugs, alcohol, and related criminal activity. Non-violent offenders who have been charged with simple possession of drugs are given the option to receive treatment instead of a jail sentence.   These programs have proven to be remarkably successful for reducing the level of recidivism in our prison system.

Capitalizing on the infrastructure and success of the Drug Treatment Courts, some 50 or so Veteran Courts have sprung up across the United States to deal with veterans who have committed a crime while suffering from substance abuse.  In many cases, these troubled vets have the support of other Vets (often from the Vietnam era) who “mentor” their military colleagues through the rehabilitation process.   Judge John Schwartz,  one of the early pioneers in the Vet Court system, said that “We offer hope to these troubled veterans who have served our country so valiantly.  It’s simply common sense.”

When communities reach out to help these brave warriors, our society is enriched. From our perspective, it’s simply a matter of doing the right thing!  We owe these brave young men and women big time!

Richard W. May


SFTT Editor Roger Charles Live on Radio

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We are thrilled to announce that  Geoff “Jeff” Metcalf will conduct a LIVE RADIO INTERVIEW with Col. Roger Charles, editor Stand For The Troops, Wed. Jan 4th at 8PM PST (11 PM EST) Topic: Procurement Scandal over Shoddy Dept. of Defense Approved body armor.    SFTT readers are encouraged to call in and listen to the interview by calling in on the following numbers:

703-836-0384 (land line, VOIP) and (cell)

703-980-7551 plus 2d land line (VOIP) 703-836-6736.

Roger Charles, Vice Chair / Secretary of Stand For The Troops

A career Marine Corps officer from 1967 to 1990, Roger Charles has enjoyed a second career as an award-winning investigative journalist. He was a member in 2004 of the 60 Minutes II production team that earned a Peabody Award for the segment “Abuse at Abu Ghraib.”

Among his other journalistic achievements: Charles was awarded a Medal for Excellence in Investigative Reporting by journalism’s Investigative Reporters and Editors (I.R.E.) association for his 1992 Newsweek cover story, “Sea of Lies,” and was an Emmy finalist for best investigative piece for the Nightlight Special “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War” in 1992.

For television, Charles has served as a consulting investigative reporter and contributor to segment development for 20/20 (a special project on the Oklahoma City bombing), ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, Frontline, Prime Time Live, BBC News, and CNN, among others.

Charles has served as an advisor on numerous stories for various print and electronic media outlets including: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and The New Yorker. He has been published in Newsweek, Insight, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, Soldier of Fortune, Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, and the Marine Corps Gazette, where he served as editorial board member from 1987-1989. In 1996, Charles broke the story of the fraudulent use of combat insignia by Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations.

“I saw while I was on active duty that many of the national media that cover security and defense issues are truly ill-informed about basic things they need to perform their job properly,” says Charles of his shift to a civilian role as an investigative journalist specializing in a range of national security issues. “This just destroys any kind of credibility this reporting has for any military audience.”

In 1998, Soldiers For The Truth Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan, apolitical, educational foundation whose purpose is meaningful reform of the U.S. defense establishment, was formed, with Charles serving as the editor-in-chief of its newsletter, Voice of the Grunt. Charles remained active on the non-profit’s Board of Trustees until December 2004, when an ailing Hackworth asked him to assume the foundation presidency and Charles now fills the role of Vice Chair, “The foundation was created around three issues: leadership, training, and equipment,” says Charles. “Think of a stool with three legs. Remove any one of those legs and the stool falls apart.”





Dr. Henry Grayson on Neuro Pathways: A Treatment for PTSD?

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As indicated earlier, SFTT is thrilled to have Dr. Henry Grayson as Chairman of SFTT’s Medical Task Force to help develop effective programs to treat our brave men and women suffering from PTSD. PTSD for veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is now reaching epidemic proportions. Government studies suggest that 1 in 5 veterans suffers from PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD manifest themselves differently from person to person – but make no mistake – PTSD is a serious problem and wrecks havoc on the lives of our citizen warriors and their loved ones.

Dr. Henry Grayson brings elegance and intelligence to this discussion of PTSD for which there is no simple cure or easy solutions. It requires patience and understanding. How we support our brave warriors will tell us much about our society. Over the coming months, SFTT will be reporting on “best practices” in treating PTSD and where and how service members can receive help. Found below, is a short video from Dr. Grayson discussing how a simple exercise can create new “neuro pathways” to reduce anxieties:

Clearly, the path to full recovery for our brave heroes is a long one, but thanks to the efforts of Dr. Grayson and many others who Stand for the Troops, we can help get our young men and women the help that they need. A world without hope is a dreary place indeed.



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STAND UP with SFTT on September 12th at Carolines on Broadway as we help suppport America’s serving men and women by safeguarding their physical and mental well being.

STAND FOR THE TROOPS has two main initiatives:

  • SFTT’s B.E.S.T. BASIC FIVE Campaign works to give our fighting men and women the best chance to make it home alive and in one piece by getting them the best personal combat gear: body armor, helmets, sidearms, rifles and boots.
  • SFTT’s PTSD Initiative includes mobilizing a top medical task force to give our seriously traumatized warriors access to the latest Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) therapies, collaborating with CDS Warrior Salute on a Rochester-based Pilot Treatment Program, and developing a resource for those seeking more local treatment.

Your support of this event helps STAND FOR THE TROOPS continue to address critical issues that directly affect our frontline troops’ ability to survive the physical and mental rigors of waging war. So consider yourself drafted and PLEASE JOIN US!

7:30PM  Monday September 12, 2011

All Tickets Include Two Drinks

6:30 PM Special VIP Reception and Seating – $150

General Admission Sales Through 9/10 – $50 

Day of Event Admission – $60



Sebastian Junger on Afghanistan

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The editor and writer, James Heidenry, talks to Sebastian Junger about his recent book, our troops.


What was the genesis for War?

Well, in 1996 I was asked to write a magazine story about some westerners who were kidnapped in Kashmir. They’d been kidnapped by former Mujahideen who continued training in Bin Laden’s camps. I said I’d do the assignment if I could go to Afghanistan to report on the broader problem. That was my first trip and I just kept going. Then I wanted to see what it’s like to be a soldier in the U.S. military.

How much time did you spend there?

I did five one-month trips with the platoon.

What was your take on the civilian population in Afghanistan?

When I was there in 2001 after the Taliban was tackled it was extremely positive, but a lot of goodwill was squandered by some pretty bad decisions. By the time I went back in 2007, the Afghan perspective was that it was only a matter of time until the U.S. pulled out—so they weren’t going to stick their necks out and get themselves killed.

What do you think of the gear the troops have?

If there is one complaint it’s the amount of stuff they have to carry. They are pretty loaded down and stuff just keeps getting added and the vests they wear are really heavy. They talk a lot about how it would be a different fight if they were more mobile. The Taliban probably moves 8 to 10 times faster than America soldiers. Basically it’s a naval battle where the U.S. is a sailboat and the Taliban are speedboats. Our troops have incredible firepower. They just cannot move, they literally cannot run.

How much gear are we talking about?

On multi-day operations each soldier was carrying upwards to 150 – 160 lbs, and on a regular patrol needed 100 – 120lbs just to leave the wire. Soldiers under all that weight break their ankles, their knees go. I mean they lost more guys in the platoon to broken ankles than they did to bullets.

What kind of trauma care do they get on the ground?

The medics were great. My friend Tim broke his leg and got taken out of there by Medevac. The army surgeon put a plate in his leg and did a superb job—Tim’s doctor back home was really impressed.

Col. Hackworth thought that generals too often got in the way of the men on the ground. What was your impression of the chain of command in Afghanistan?

The captain in my platoon would not have complained to me about the generals. So it’s hard for me to assess that. But I do know that the guys thought it was hysterical that the brigade commander had this sort of directive that the outpost wasn’t allowed any real tools. It was a matter of definition on paper, like “We don’t want that kind of outpost there.” But the guys were like, “It’s a 15-man outpost and we need to live somewhere.” So they ended up having to cut plywood with one guy’s Leatherman saw. The rule and the reality were not corresponding.

What did you learn from writing War?

You always hear about the sort of group bonding that happens in war and I had never really understood it until I was around it. It was somewhat of a collective experience, a shared fate. And even though I wasn’t a solider, whatever was happening to them was going to happen to me. And there was something about that which was extremely reassuring and calming. As a result—bad as it was out there—when the guys came back to the base, they all kind of missed it. There is sort of a weird question that society has trouble confronting, which is when men come back from war, why do they miss it? But it is an important one because it impedes. If the soldiers are missing something it impedes their ability to reintegrate, and if society can figure out what they’re missing it will be that much easier to reincorporate them. You can’t just say they’re adrenaline junkies now. This is not what it is. There are actually good, psychologically healthy things that they miss. My book is essentially trying to answer that question: What is it they miss?

Is it a brotherhood?

Yeah, that kind of brotherhood is a function of the danger they are all in. As a result it cannot exist back home because there is not that danger in society. That brotherhood is a very secure thing to belong to and it’s very hard to give up. They’re also totally self-defining. In society you’re seen a certain way if your dad has a certain job, you’re seen a certain way as a teenager, et cetera. But in combat it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, ugly or poor. All those 19-year-olds are able to completely define themselves in the group and gain the respect of the men around them simply through their actions. That for a young man is such a godsend.

Your documentary, Restrepo, which chronicles a year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan, has received an enormous amount of critical acclaim. What was it like to make it?

I loved using the camera and editing the film. The whole process was very hard but it was amazing. I hope audiences can leave their politics behind for 90 minutes and are able to sit down and appreciate and understand what soldiers go through.

An interview with Sebastain Junger by James Heidenry


Stand For The Troops

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Soldiers For The Truth has become Stand For The Troops. Our new name reflects exactly what we do on behalf of all concerned  Americans—stand for the troops—and more specifically, stand for our frontline troops, our young heroes who stand tall for us and our country out at the tip of the spear.   

 Our mission remains the same: to ensure that America’s frontline troops get the best available personal combat gear and protective equipment, including body armor and helmets. In fact, the military has been testing helmet sensors in Afghanistan for well over two years to evaluate the effect of IED attacks on our troops while the attacks continue to escalate with little being done to provide our warriors with more adequate head protection.   The sorry result is a near epidemic of troops suffering from traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) and post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) from their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

While senior military officials acknowledge that PTSD is a serious and growing problem, diagnosis and treatment remains disjointed, not to mention that admitting to the disorder on record seem to be a career stopper.  Meanwhile new stories break daily about veterans taking their own lives or behaving erratically despite desperate pleas by the families, friends and fellow service members to the chain of command for more easily available, more effective treatment. 

As part of Stand For The Troops’ expanded mission, we’re mobilizing a task force of eminent medical professionals to evaluate existing PTSD treatment within the military and general communities so that a comprehensive, targeted, more effective treatment protocol can be established and offered for the benefit of our warriors. For too long the military has allowed frontline troops to resume active duty while suffering from this debilitating condition—all too often resulting in devastating consequences for both our brave warriors and their loved ones.  

 We as citizens have a responsibility to Stand For The Troops and not allow PTSD—and TBI—to be the legacy of the war in Afghanistan.

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