When You Are Deployed, Getting There Can Be Very Hard

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Military news…

A known white supremacist serving in the Air Force is still in the ranks more than two months after his extremist views were first widely revealed. Airman 1st Class Shawn Michael McCaffrey, 28, has a track record of espousing white supremacist, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic beliefs on social media.

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For the first time in decades, service members who have suffered due to negligent medical care now have the chance to file a claim against the Department of Defense The Pentagon’s brand-new rules for doing so represent a turning point for service members and their families.

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The military is going ahead and doing sexual changes for trans dressers. The many changes that the military is making does not go well with me.

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I have some recommended military books to share with you. I have read them all, and they are all excellent:

  1. D-DAY: The Climactic Battle of World War II. A New York Times Bestseller. by Stephen E. Ambrose. Complete coverage from the first moment to the end.
  2. We Were Soldiers Once…And Young. By Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway. The story of the battle at Ia Drang. It change the war in Vietnam
  3. Band of Brothers by lt. Lynn “Buck” Compton Great personal stories of the Band of Brothers. (Had two of them live right in my hometown.) Met Buck. Great guy and signed his book for me.

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One of my interesting times in the military, was getting ready to shipped out to korea.

I signed up on the buddy plan. There were three of us. Two of us had one last party before we were to go to San Francisco, California to board a ship heading to Korea.

It was just two of us buddies doing the party. I was definitely not a drinker, but on this night I was going to party.

It turned out to be a big mistake. I drank far too much. I went into some kind of blackout after a couple of hours. I woke up once in the shower. My buddy was alternating hot water with cold water to try to bring me back. That was the worst thing he could do. It made me pretty sick.

The next time I woke up was on the bed. I was stark naked, and they were two girls there giggling. I was so embarrassed.

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We finally got to San Francisco, and spent the night at a USO hotel.

There was dancing, etc, going on in the ballroom, but I had enough partying, and headed up to my room.

I was waiting for the elevator when a guy came up to me and put his hand in my crotch. He said, “You are very gifted. Would you like to come to my room?”

The fear was overwhelming. My first experience with a gay guy.

I quickly got on the elevator to safety.

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The actual trip on the ship is another whole story. Thousands sick, but I wasn’t…

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These are some actual excerpts from my upcoming book, Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the trenches of life.

Be sure to come back to see more excerpts.

BETTER YET... Go to the top of this page and click on the subscribe button. When you do, all future posts will come directly to your inbox.

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How is your world today? Things not going to plan? Too much helter skelter?

FEAR NOT!

There are over 12,300 fellow veterans here who have your back.

If they aren’t enough right now, GET HELP!

Here is a toll free number you can call 24/7. There are highly qualified counselors there to help you. They will not hang up until they know you are OK.

Never face this not so friendly world alone.

1-800-273-8255 Option # 1 for texting…838255.

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

____________________________________

+If you like what you see, please subscribe at the top of this page where it says, “subscribe.” When you do, all future posts will come directly to your inbox. Also, if you know some else who could benefit from this site, please let them know about it.

Suicide is One of the Highest Risks for Service Members in the Military

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What follows is a very long article about suicide. I am sorry it is so long, but I am not sorry that I am asking you to read it to the end.

One of my priorities as a veteran has been to reach out to those who are suffering with depression, anxiety, and have suicidal thoughts.

This article is from the Task and Purpose organization. They have great reads about the military. You can look it up through Google and have it delivered to you inbox everyday.

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Years ago this soldier almost died by suicide. Now, he’s telling his story in hopes of saving someone else.

James McGuffey was 30 years old when he found himself lying in bed, half drunk, with a pistol in his mouth. 

That night in June 2008 was the culmination of years of trauma and stress that had gone unaddressed, and it wasn’t the first time he’d had thoughts about self-harm. A month prior in May, the Army Ranger, who was a sergeant first class at the time, chased “a bunch of pills” with Wild Turkey bourbon. Luckily some of his friends took him to the hospital where he got his stomach pumped. They told him they wouldn’t say anything. They begged him to get help.

But it wasn’t that easy. It rarely is. 

McGuffey, now a command sergeant major with the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, voiced the same fears a lot of service members mention when talking about behavioral health: How will it impact my career? What about my security clearance? How will I be perceived by my command, and by my peers?  But in a conversation at 3rd ID’s headquarters at Fort Stewart, Georgia, last week, he explained how getting the help he needed saved his life and his career, putting him on a path towards healing that before had felt out of reach. Now he shares his story with other soldiers in the hopes it will encourage them to take action and get the help they need — and prompt leaders to listen to their soldiers. It’s not a suicide prevention brief, he made sure to clarify; it’s about how to get through life.

The underlying theme is similar to another soldier in the unit, Capt. Chelsea Kay who lost her older brother, also a soldier, to suicide when she was a cadet at West Point, New York. Kay now gives presentations to help other soldiers recognize signs that someone may need help, so they can intervene and potentially save a life. 

Suicide prevention is one of the primary focuses of the Army’s This is My Squad initiative, which encourages leaders to get to know their soldiers, and soldiers to get to know their teammates. The goal is to build a culture where soldiers feel comfortable speaking up about challenges they might be facing, whether in the Army or in their personal lives. Frankly, it can’t happen soon enough; suicides had a reported increase of 30% among active-duty soldiers last year, with a 41% increase in the Army Reserve. 

“One thing I’ve learned is steel sharpens steel,” McGuffey explained. “I don’t want to talk to the chaplain or I would’ve gone to the chaplain — I want to talk to you, because you know, you’ve been in longer than me, you’ve experienced more than me. So part of this is, if you’re a leader, stop looking at situations through your lense. Look at it through different lenses, and listen to your soldiers. Let them tell you their story.” 

McGuffey’s story didn’t end the night his friends urged him to get help. In fact, it only got worse. After his attempted overdose in May, he said all he could think about was, “Oh my God, all my buddies have seen me vulnerable.” In the weeks that followed he was getting “drunk every night” until that night in June when he was renting a room from one of his Ranger buddies and getting even closer to ending his life. 

But as he laid there with a gun in his hand, his mom called. McGuffey, a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy,” answered the phone.

“My mom, in tears, she’s like ‘Something told me I had to call you,’” McGuffey said, nearly in tears himself. “So I broke down and started telling her everything I was dealing with.” 

She saved his life that night, and McGuffey said he’s made sure she knows it. But still, he couldn’t bring himself to get the help he needed until days later. He was at work at Fort Benning “just seeing red, everything was agitating me.” All it took was a joke from his boss that finally pushed him over the edge. 

“It was literally a joke … and I lost it. I blacked out, and by the time I came to I’ve got four Rangers, they literally had to hold me down and take me to our regimental psych at the time,” he said. “They forced me in there.” 

It wasn’t just one thing that had pushed McGuffey to that point, but a slow burn over many years and many deployments downrange. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, he was deploying “all the time.” Some of those deployments were “really, really good,” he said, and others were “really, really bad.” All in all, McGuffey has a total of 11 deployments to Afghanistan and two to Iraq under his belt. He’d also been through two divorces by that point — the first because his wife had “skipped town with my gunner at the time, which was cool,” and the second because of the demands of the Army, which kept him on the road more often than not.

“We were just two separate people,” he said of his second marriage. 

Despite the strain he was under, he couldn’t bring himself to ask for help. He said the stigma around post traumatic stress disorder was “at an all-time high.” He was worried about his career and his security clearance. But that day in June when his friends sat him down in the psychiatrist’s office, he “just broke down.” 

“I was a younger, faster, hotter model then,” McGuffey laughed. “So you’ve got this 265 pound Ranger, 8% body fat — totally bragging — hugging a pillow, just alligator tears.” 

The doctor didn’t say a word, just stayed on his computer and let him get it all out, McGuffey said, until finally he gave him the game plan: McGuffey was going to change into a set of civilian clothes in the office, go out the back door, and someone was going to drive him to see a psychologist named Dr. Rose in Columbus, Georgia.

That first session was “one of the greatest conversations” McGuffey said he ever had. He talked with Dr. Rose for two hours, and was ultimately put on some medication. But the second meeting was when he finally “started having hope.” 

“The dump truck that was parked on my chest was slowly backing off,” he said. “I was reinflating.” 

went back for appointments twice a week for three months, and then once a week for several more. He was taking his medication and it was actually helping, he said. It wasn’t long before some of those same friends who took him down to the psych’s office were asking him how it was going, how was he feeling? Was it working? 

He told them it was, and soon McGuffey was sharing his story with other soldiers as well. He said three months later, despite his fears that what had happened would hurt his career, he was promoted. He felt a “new sense of purpose” in helping others, which led him to where he is today, telling his story with the hope it helps someone else take that step towards healing. He doesn’t see the same amount of stigma around behavioral health as he did over a decade ago. McGuffey said he wants to encourage soldiers to use the resources available to them, and encourage junior leaders to know what resources to point their soldiers to.

And like so many other parts of the military, suicide prevention is often a team effort. Recognizing the signs that a teammate is under significant strain, could use someone to talk to, or is struggling with something in their personal life can make all the difference. That’s the message that Capt. Kay also emphasizes in her presentation — what to look for, and how to do something about it. 

Kay not only covers suicide prevention, but substance abuse. Her brother, who during her presentation is introduced only as Cpl. Flannery, was suffering from PTSD and bipolar disorder, and was injured in a vehicle roll-over during a deployment to Iraq. He was struggling in his personal life, trying to get custody of his two children and going through a divorce. 

She shows soldiers her brother’s Facebook posts to illustrate warning signs that could have been spotted those six years ago, things like posting about being sober and then posting about drinking again only two weeks later. “What he’s saying here is hey, I have a dependency,” Kay said. Next she showed posts about her brother selling his musical instruments, which as anyone who knew him would know meant the world to him. Then came the Facebook posts about failed relationships where it almost sounds like he’s saying goodbye. 

It’s things that someone who really knew him might have noticed as concerning, Kay said. And though at least one friend did notice something and comment on one of his posts asking Flannery to call him, and his cousin had him on the phone the night of his death, it ultimately hadn’t been enough.

“Feb. 10, 2015, I was in my last year in New York, and I woke up with three missed calls,” Kay explained. “And my Dad when I called him, he said ‘Chelsea, your brother killed himself.’” 

What she found out in the wake of her brother’s death was that he was “on a lot of painkillers” because of his accident, and when she and her family looked into them they found that the drugs he’d been prescribed directly counteracted the bipolar medication he was on. But no one knew, so no one could help. Had his friends and loved ones known about the painkillers and his struggles with alcohol, someone might have been able to intervene, and her brother might still be alive, Kay said.

It’s this level of involvement that Kay wants to encourage in leadership; knowing what their soldiers are going through, knowing what their struggles are so they can look out for them.

“When we consider This is My Squad, this is the level that we need to be at as leaders,” Kay said. “So I encourage all of my soldiers and my junior leaders and my senior leaders; we have to understand the difference between invasive and intrusive leadership versus involved leadership.” 

Knowing about the important relationships in a soldier’s life can be a game changer, Kay said, because those relationships falling apart is “one of the big factors that leads someone to reaching this dark place.”

It’s the same message McGuffey wants to impress on soldiers when he speaks to them: Take care of your teammates, know them enough so they trust you and are able to talk about their “deepest, darkest secrets,” whether that’s a relationship problem or financial issue. Building that trust and having that dialogue, McGuffey said, is paramount.

And ultimately, ask questions. Kay mentioned the Army’s “Ask Care Escort” (ACE) training program which centers around teaching soldiers how to intervene with those that may be at risk of suicide. Sometimes, she said, that includes directly asking: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

“That’s a very uncomfortable question. ‘Why would I ever do that?’” Kay said, explaining how soldiers can be hesitant to take that step. “The harder question is, ‘Why did I not?’”

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How are you doing? Have you had suicidal thoughts? I did many years ago, and I am still here to talk to you.

Fear Not!

There are over 11,970 fellow veterans subscribed to this site that have your back.

BUT!! If it is just too overwhelming for you right now, GET HELP!

Here is a toll free number you can call 24/7.

There are highly qualified counselors there to help you. They will not hang up until they know you are OK.

DO NOT go through another minute fighting the dark side.

1-800-273-8255 Option # 1

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

___________________________________

+If you like what you see, please subscribe at the top of this page where it says, “subscribe.” When you do, all future posts will come directly to your inbox. Also, if you know some else who could benefit from this site, please let them know about it.

Sexual Harassment and Rape Should Not be Allowed in the mIlitary at All

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Current news, and some real heroes…

The Marine Corps’s new battlewagon is a better tank-killer than the service’s tanks, general says.

Special Forces doctor awarded for saving lives despite his own injuries following a motorcycle accident.

Airman awarded for braving rocket fire to treat wounded troops during Camp Taji attack.

‘I don’t think I’m special’ says Marine who rescued a baby from a burning car.

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What I am going to share with you now is a true story about sexual harassment and rape. It isn’t pretty, but there are far too many situations like this in the military.

I got very serious about this when I interviewed a Va Nurse who told me some stories of rape, and the aftermath, for my upcoming book, Signs of Hope for the Military: In an Out of the Trenches of Life.

An airman who said her complaints of sexual harassment were ignored for months by Misawa Air Base command has finally secured a transfer to another duty station, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs said in a statement.

“In accordance with her request, Airman First Class Sarah Figueroa was transferred to another duty location,” the statement said. PACAF did not disclose the new location to protect Figueroa’s personal information. PACAF wrote that it had also investigated the male airman who was harassing Airman 1st Class Figueroa, and that the commander took “appropriate action” after consulting with the legal office.

“The Air Force takes all allegation of interpersonal violence, to include bullying and sexual harassment, very seriously,” it added.

That did not appear to be the case in October when Airman 1st Class Figueroa took to Instagram to express her frustration with her command for disregarding complaints that a male airman had been stalking and harassing her for months.  

“Last week, I was followed by the airman who sexually harassed and I feared for my life,” she said in her Oct. 13 post. “I thought I was going to die and I prayed over and over again while I was driving.”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass commented on the post, asking the airman to send her an email. Figueroa’s mother also spoke about her daughter’s desperate situation in a video interview posted to YouTube on Oct. 21.

Fatima Figueroa said the male airman was issued a no-contact order earlier this year (which is similar to a civilian restraining order), Figueroa said he has ignored the order and continued to follow Figueroa, making her feel scared for her life. 

The chain of command, military police, Equal Opportunity Office, and other authorities had not been helpful in resolving the situation, punishing the male airman, or helping Airman 1st Class Figueroa secure a transfer out of Misawa, Figueroa said at the time.

“This is a nightmare, this is a horror movie,” she said on YouTube in an interview with Kayla Rivera TV. “We shouldn’t be going through this. The only thing we’re asking is to transfer her out. That’s the only thing we want.”

Airman 1st Class Figueroa reported the initial harassment to military police and her chain of command. According to her mother, the Air Force investigated the case, decided it was a case of sexual harassment, and issued a no-contact order to the male airman.

However, since then, the male airman has parked next to Airman 1st Class Figueroa’s car, followed her, made more inappropriate comments towards her, and said hello to her “like nothing has happened,” her mother said.

Airman 1st Class Figueroa and her mother expressed frustration with base leadership. They said the commander claimed it was just a coincidence that the male airmen was following her ‘because it’s such a small base,’ they recalled him saying.

“She needs help. She needs to get out of there,” Fatima Figueroa said about her daughter in the YouTube interview. “Sarah should never have been placed in this predicament. Action should have been taken from the beginning.”

Now their request has finally been granted. On Oct. 29, Airman 1st Class Figueroa wrote on Instagram that she was given emergency orders to be transferred within 24 hours. She said her command expressed remorse for what happened.

“I just can’t believe it took this extreme of a measure for my chain of command to believe me,” she wrote. “On the way to the airport, my leadership shed tears in telling me they couldn’t believe it was true and that everyone felt horrible for thinking I was exaggerating.”

When asked if the Equal Opportunity Office, chain of command or military police at Misawa were being investigated for allegedly disregarding Airman 1st Class Figueroa’s complaints, PACAF wrote that there were no ongoing investigations on the matter.

“The Air Force’s investigative processes thoroughly address all persons and parties involved in incidents to ensure alleged victims and alleged perpetrators are protected under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” PACAF said. “In this case, helping agencies and the chain-of-command worked diligently to provide a solution for Airman First Class Figueroa.”

On Instagram on Oct. 29, Airman 1st Class Figueroa wrote that her leadership issued her a no-contact order detailing the places the male airman could not walk by, drive by, or be seen in unless he called leadership. The order also said he would have to call leadership any time he came across her and that he could not park his car next to any v “When I got this Order, I was angry and disappointed … I just kept looking at it in disbelief and wondering why this wasn’t given to me earlier,” Airman 1st Class Figueroa said. “I had just been notified that I was going to be transferred so it felt like too little too late until I was told this could last my entire military career to keep me safe.”

Still, she wrote that she saw the male airman’s car in her dormitory’s parking lot that night. She fled and said her leadership picked her up and drove her to the police station.

In one of her Instagram posts on Oct. 29, Airman First Class Figueroa wrote that she was “somewhere safe now,” but there are plenty of women in the military who are not. In her earlier posts, she compared her situation to that of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, a soldier who was sexually harassed and murdered by a fellow soldier in April.

Sorry for the negative story, but these these things need to be addressed.

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So how are you doing? Have you ever been harassed? Did it leave a scar on you?

You are not alone. There are over 11,120 veterans on this site who have your back..

If it is too overwhelming for you still GET HELP!!

Here is a toll free number to call 24/7. There are highly qualified counselors there to help you. They will not hang up on you until they know you are OK.

Do not take on this not so friendly world alone.

1-800-273-8255 Option # 1

__________________________________

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

____________________________________

+If you like what you see, please subscribe at the top of this page where it says, “subscribe.” When you do, all future posts will come directly to your inbox. Also, if you know some else who could benefit from this site, please let them know about it.