Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘military’

Women vets don’t get same welcome home

In Uncategorized, Women on December 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

Female GIs at Baghram Airbase, near the deadly Pakistan border. All of them are carrying rifles.

Women soldiers who return from combat aren’t treated with the same honor and respect as men are, even though women  serve as turret gunners, convoy drivers and other shot-at positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That has left many women returning from war zones feeling rejected and depressed once their battlefield service is up, according to an Associated Press article.

“People didn’t come up to us and thank us for our service in the same way,” Sgt. Kayla Williams, 34,  told the Associated Press.  “They didn’t give us free beers in bars in the same way when we first got back.”

Joanne Lombardi, of Miller Place, a volunteer who helps wounded veterans, said women soldiers are often overlooked because combat traditionally has been associated with men.

“I’ve made the same mistake myself,” Lombardi said. “You see a woman in a restaurant with a group of soldiers and assume she is a wife or a girlfriend — not a soldier herself.”

Some female veterans say even male colleagues with whom they built strong soldier-to-soldier relationships while deployed shun them once they come home, often because spouses or girlfriends are suspicious of their professional closeness.

Isolation from colleagues  leaves war veterans more vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxieties, say psychological social workers at the Rosen Family Wellness Center, a treatment center for returning soldiers.  Lack of recognition also denies female veterans the social networks men enjoy, making it harder for them to find jobs and transition back to civilian life.

Many female vets have said they have come to doubt the value of their own service, and have not sought veterans services as frequently as men.

“What worries me is that women themselves still don’t see themselves as veterans, so they don’t get the care they need for post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injury or even sexual assault, which obviously is more unique to women,” said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee. “So we still have a long way to go.”

More than 185,000 women have been deployed since the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to a Dec. 5 resolution in Congress honoring women in the military. In all, 350,000 women currently are serving in the military.

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Tuskegee Airmen lose a pilot

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 8:54 am

The ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen lost one of their elite fliers Wednesday when Capt. Luther H. Smith Jr., an Iowa native who flew 132 missions in Europe before being captured near the end of WWII, died Wednesday at a hospital near his Villanova, Pa. home.

Smith, 89, who had a long career after the war as an aerospace engineer for General Electric, died of complications of an infection, according to his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He was captured Oct. 13, 1944 after the engine of his P-51 Mustang caught fire over Yugoslavia. A German SS officer asked him why he would risk his life for America if black people there were often the victims of lynchings and racial terrorism.

“He would become indignant and respond that he was proud to serve his country,” his son, Gordon, said.

Smith was among a group of black Army aviators who became known as the Tuskegee Airmen after completing an Army program to train African Americans as pilots during WWII.

Prior to the experimental program, offered at an airfield near Tuskegee, Alabama, the U.S. military’s policy of racial discrimination barred blacks from becoming pilots.

Smith was among the 994 black pilots who were commissioned during the program, which ran from 1941 to 1946. The 450 fighter pilots produced by the program served in all-black fighter squadrons, whose skill and reputation as bomber escorts made them among the most coveted during the war.

A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Wayne Methodist Church, 210 S. Wayne Ave., Wayne. He will be buried at Arlington Cemetery at a later date.

Military must treat stressed GIs, Vets advocate says

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Leaders of the 10th Mountain Division at upstate Ft. Drum are not doing enough to make sure soldiers of the  get adequate treatment from emotional trauma related to deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan, says the director of Citizen Soldier, a New York City-based veterans advocacy organization.

Tod Ensign, the organization’s director, cites the alleged May 11, 2009 murder of five soldiers at Camp Liberty, Iraq by Sgt. John Russell, of Sherman, Texas, as an example of how a lack of adequate psychological help endangers U.S. troops. He says there also have been two suspected suicides and a murder involving psychologically-stressed Ft. Drum personnel in separate incidents this year alone.

“General Terry, I am concerned that the incidents outlined above reveal a disturbing pattern of malfeasance and/or negligence toward mentally stressed soldiers at Ft Drum,” Ensign wrote in an open letter to Major General James Terry, Commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

Last month, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System announced an arrangement with Ft. Drum command staff under which LIJ would send a neuropsychologist to help military health workers at the fort treat soldiers suffering from war-related post-traumatic stress disorders.

Guard kids of deployed parents suffer more

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

A C-130 transport with the 106th Air Rescue unit being prepared for takeoff. The 106th has stationed rescue troops in Afghanistan several times this year. Newsday photo

Teens from military families, especially National Guard and others who don’t live on a military base, suffer more emotional stress and behavioral issues than other American youth, a Rand Corporation study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded.

Researchers found that across all age groups, children from military families reported significantly higher levels of emotional difficulties than children in the general population. Children whose caregiver also struggled emotionally and children in their teens were the most troubled.

The findings, published Dec. 7, are particularly significant to the large numbers of Army and Air Force National Guard troops on Long Island who have made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Long Island does not have large military bases that elsewhere provide emotional and material support to troops.

Last year, troops deployed from several Long-Island based Guard or Reserve units, including the Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, the 3rd Battalion/142 Aviation unit, the  2nd Battalion/25th Marine Reserve Regiment and the 106th Air Rescue Wing.

Nationwide, about 2 million U.S. children had a parent in either the active or reserve component of the military in 2009.

The Rand Corporation studied 1,500 children from military families across the country.

About one-third of them reported symptoms of anxiety, somewhat higher than the percentage reported in other studies of children.

Obama Decision Invites Long War

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Analysis of President Obama’s decision to double down in Afghanistan is beginning to take shape. The shape is certainly not a smiley face.

Defense Secretary Bill Gates said on the Sunday talk shows that Americans should expect to see big numbers of U.S. troops in Afghanistan for at least another 2-4 years, and that “There isn’t a deadline” for troop withdrawal.

Although the president said troops would begin leaving Afghanistan by July, 2011, Gates said the initial withdrawal likely will involve relatively few troops.

Meanwhile, a number of commentators point out that Afghanistan’s vast corruption, which extends all the way from local village elders to family members of Afghan President Karzai, will make it almost impossible to build the popular support among Afghan citizens needed for a stable government there. Who is going to fight for leaders who not only can’t protect them from violence, but surround themselves with public servants who demand bribes for almost everything.

There certainly are analysts who say more troops can “win” the war in Afghanistan, including the authors of this article in Foreign Affairs magazine, who argue that stability can be brought about by “flipping” the Taliban to the side of the good guys, as a flip in Iraq led to the Sunni awakening.

But compared to Afghanistan, Iraq was a secular democracy. It had a brutal, autocratic, but functioning central government that provided security, education, roads and other services pretty much border to border. The Afghan government has never done that. So I don’t think comparing the countries is particularly instructive with respect to constructing a unified military.

Even the Sunni awakening has been questioned by none less than the Iraqi government itself, which has expressed grave concerns that Sunni militias could turn their guns on Baghdad when the U.S. withdraws and stops paying for militia cooperation.

My take? Expect a difficult war that bankrupts America at a critical point in history – swallowing with it the retirements of baby boomers plus key social infrastructures, like the University of California system – or an inglorious withdrawal from an Afghanistan that quickly devolves into chaos.

Gov: Guard Troops to get pre-deployment guidance

In Deployments, Uncategorized on December 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm

N.Y. Governor David Paterson told members of the 442nd Military Police Company that they and all future National Guard units about to be deployed will receive pre-departure orientations to help them avoid family strife, financial troubles, psychological stress and other deployment-related problems.

“This is going to be policy,” said Paterson, who said America has “turned the corner” in achieving an increased appreciation for its debt to U.S. troops.

Paterson addressed about 170 soldiers plus wives, lovers and family members at a Guard-organized seminar Saturday morning at a hotel conference center in Tarrytown, N.Y.

An article and photographs covering the event will appear in tomorrow’s Newsday, as well as on the Newsday.com website.

Military officials say lack of pre-deployment planning can cause stresses among soldiers that undermines mission-readiness, and can lead to higher rates of stress-related psychological problems.

The 442nd will leave for Iraq in April to help train the Iraqi police force.

View from Lejeune

In Deployments on December 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune will be among the first to be sent to Afghanistan as part of the president’s 30,000 troop surge.

A Centereach mother of a Lejeune grunt, Claudia Gervais, was visiting her son Matthew at the 40,000-troop Marine base in North Carolina Tuesday night when the word came down.

She says Matthew, 23, a Lance Corporal who graduated from Centereach High School,  is not stressing about the surge. He just got back from Afghanistan the day before the president’s announcement, and expects to have to go back after a few months.

But she is not happy.

“I’m still trying to figure out what we’re trying to accomplish there,” she said. “The number of casualties and deaths are outstanding to me, and I don’t know what we will accomplish by staying there.”

Keep your weapon handy

In Deployments on December 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm

The Obama Surge in Afghanistan means the war in Iraq is pretty much done, right?

Ummmmm, not so much!

More of our guys from the NY-Long Island area are heading that way. The 442nd Military Police Company based in Jamaica, Queens, which includes lots of Long Islanders, will be sending about 200 soldiers to Iraq in the first part of next year, according to Eric Durr, a spokesman for the N.Y. Army National Guard.

One of the first things President Barack Obama did after being sworn last January was set an Aug. 31, 2010 deadline for withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq.

But he plans to leave 50,000 uniformed “advisors” to help the Iraqis train their police, build a credible army, and to avoid having all hell break loose while they try.

My advice to the “advisors” who will be stationed in post-combat Iraq?

Keep your weapon handy.

You are now Inside the Wire

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2009 at 6:50 am

Last night, we got word from President Obama that we will be fighting two wars for the foreseeable future. That means I have my work cut out for me.

I write about soldiers and veterans, particularly from the point of view of military folks and families living on Long Island and New York City.

Soldiers and their families here don’t have the luxury of living near big military bases, where people tend to be more understanding of the mess they go through.

That’s where I come in. Welcome to Inside the Wire. It’s safe here. People talk straight and have your back.

I hope to help provide a sense of community akin to a virtual military base, so that a National Guard soldier in Riverhead knows there is a guy in Jamaica, Queens who has been where he is now. Or that a female helicopter pilot who flies out of Ronkonkoma (yes you, Michelle) knows about other women who are just as cool and professional as she is.

Check me out daily to learn what’s happening that affects you, your military brothers and sisters, and you family. About what its like for guys who have been dodging IEDs in Kandahar to now have to drive the speed limit on the LIE. About what it’s like coming home to a wife and kids who did just fine while you were away and don’t want you messing things up now.

On Monday, I will tell you about a new study that says the longer you are deployed, the more emotional and behavioral problems your children suffer, with girls and older kids hurting the most. On Saturday I’ll post about a new National Guard pre-deployment orientation that organizers say will leave soldiers better prepared for their all-expenses-paid vacations in Iraq or Afghanistan (don’t worry if you don’t get your country of choice on the first trip: Uncle Sam will make sure you get a second, third and fourth chance). And after I spend the day talking to guys and gals at Saturday’s orientation and post their pictures, I’ll tell you whether they think it’s worth a damn.

So keep coming back. And leave comments to let me know what you are seeing and hearing from just beyond Inside the Wire.