Thursday, January 19, 2012

The singing veteran, PTSD and more

Brent Frazier (Nashville's News Channel 5, link has text and video) reports on Iraq War veteran Sal Gonzalez. Excerpt.

Brent Frazier: 26-year-old Sal Gonzalez will tell you he came to the CMA Music Fest back in 2006 and never left. Tonight the Los Angeles native played to a packed Exit/In and he hopes somebody in the crowd liked what they heard.

Sal Gonzalez: I'm an American. That's -- that's the only thing I am, that's the only thing I ever will be.

Brent Frazier: Retired US Marine Sal Gonzalez can tell you his story --

Sal Gonzalez: -- was a bomb, an IED. It was just placed on the side of the road, buried.

Brent Frazier: How he joined the military at 18 --

Sal Gonzalez: I'm not going to deny that I was a Marine and that I went to serve my country. I'm very proud of that fact.

Brent Frazier: How he dodged death overseas.

Sal Gonzalez: Going through combat, losing somebody

Brent Frazier: But he'd rather sing to you.

For more on Sal Gonzalez, you can watch this video which is another interview with him and features some of his music. He is on Facebook and he is on MySpace where you can stream some of his songs. And we'll embed this video of him performing two songs live at Marcy Jo's Mealhouse and Bakery.

Sal Gonzalez is attempting to get the word out on Not Alone which is a resource for service members and veterans (and their families) dealing with PTSD and combat stress.

Diana Marcum (Los Angeles Times) reports on the VA hospital in Fresno and its use of live music:

The hospital set out to provide simple distraction, but soon doctors noticed a marked improvement in many of their patients, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
Dr. Hani Khouzam, a psychiatrist who treats both disorders, said patients have been arriving for appointments so notably calmer that it takes him longer to make a diagnosis -- something he welcomes.
"You have to understand what it means for a combat veteran to be agitated in the waiting room. Their pupils are dilated. They are angry or waiting for something to happen," he said. "But when we have live music that day, they come to me far more relaxed. It's like an amazing miracle, and I don't say that lightly."

Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Robert Long was killed last week. Gia Vang (Kansas City's Fox 4 News -- link has text and video) reports that police were summoned when Long, brandishing a rifle, was threatening to kill his roommate and himself and police shot him after Long aimed his rifle at them (reports differ on his aiming at rifle, FYI):

Long's family said he was a conflicted soldier. They say Long had just gotten word he was headed to Afghanistan. He had worked hard to transfer to the U.S. Air Force Navy Reserves as a corpsman, or medic, so he could make a bigger impact. His family says in Iraq, he was mostly in transportation and restocking. But even though he was excited, his family says there were also troubled memories of his previous deployment in Iraq. He was there for six months in 2007 and 2008. They say his haunting memories were overwhelming and difficult to express.

Brian Burnes (Kansas City Star) quotes Brett Long who was the deceased's uncle, "After coming back from Iraq he had felt a bit helpless, given the role he had had in the Air Force. He had served in transportation, delivering supplies. But often, after his normal shift, he had spent time working at a hospital. That inspired him to want to swith to the Navy and become a corpsman." Ashley Hayes (CNN) notes recent acts of violence by or suspect by veterans and quotes National Veterans Foundation's Shad Meshad stating, "You're going to see this more and more over the next ten years. [. . .] There's a percentage that come back, depending on how much trauma and how much killing they're involved in, they're going to act out."

Most veterans, whether they suffer from PTSD or not, are not going to harm themselves or others violently. (They may be far more likely to harm themselves via self-medication over the long run if the VA fails to provide the help needed.) And not to dismiss or minimize the concerns or crimes that have taken place recently, but someone harming, at this point, physically harming, is still more likely to turn that inward and self-harm. The editorial board of the North County Times and The Californian note:

Last year saw a record number (175) of active-duty Marines attempt to take their own lives (with 33 successful); last July saw a record number of Army personnel commit suicide, with 32. In 2010, a record 54 members of the Air Force ended their own lives.

In fact, three years ago the total number of military suicides, including reserves, National Guard and the Coast Guard, since 9/11 was already roughly half of what we lost in combat operations in Iraq, and slightly more than have been killed in action in Afghanistan.

Throughout the wars, the government has refused (at least officially) to track the suicide rate among veterans. Thanks to the work of Senate Patty Murray and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, that's supposed to be no more and the government is now supposed to track, record and release statistics. Were it not for the tracking of service members, the alarming suicide rate could have easily been ignored.

On PTSD, Martin Mulcahey (The Atlantic) notes:

Researchers are one bureaucratic hurdle away from gaining approval for the first clinical examination on the benefits of marijuana for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), working under the auspices of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, are preparing a three-month study of combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan is on hold until the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Public Health Service (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) agrees to sell researchers the marijuana needed for research -- or until the marijuana can be legally imported. Social and political intrigue surrounding this research is far reaching, attracting opposing factions who must cede biases for the greater good and well-being of servicemen and servicewomen.

We'll cover veterans issues in today's snapshot because there's another major issue we don't have room for. If you're a community member who feels something above needs including in the snapshot e-mail the private account and put "Please include" in the heading. Martha and Shirley will pass it on. Otherwise, to address another topic, I may take the attitude of, 'We'll we covered it here already.'

Next month is the first ever scientific symposium on Burn Pits:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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