Posted on Dec 11, 2019
SGT Kevin Hughes
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Tales from the Dark Side.

This is not my usual kind of post. But I had to share it. I went to the VA today to sort out the Health Ducks that have been nibbling at me for the last few months. Don't worry- I am fine. Still under warranty.

But I met a young man (forty years old) who was blown up in a Humvee a decade or so ago. He has (as you can imagine) shrapnel wounds, TBI, Closed Skull injuries, and a host of side effects that range from mild- to never ending.

Our conversation covered pain management - mobility, and flare ups that can last hours, or even days. Then he told me some things I really had to think about...in fact, I still am.

Here is just one of the things that Soldier told me:

"You know, you Vietnam Era guys had that Animals song as your Anthem. You wanted to get back to the "World."

(I think he meant : We gotta get out of this place.)

My generation has different songs. If you have been deployed twice, or more- then your Anthem is by White Buffalo, and it is called: "The Whistler."

I just listened to it before coming on here to post this conversation...and man, that song is scary. It rips your heart out to know that it resonates with so many Post 9/11 Service members. And I bet if Vietnam Vets listen to it, well, they will understand too. I listened to the Animals song too. Just like he said- much different vibe.

He told me that once you get that second Deployment under your belt, you fit better in War than you do in Civilian Life. He goes to meetings once a month for his Mental Health. He has a stress dog, does yoga (which he said is actually pretty theraputic) and is learning to meditate.

He says meditation is difficult for him, because when he empties his mind...to many thoughts rush in to fill the void. I gave him a hug and we went our separate ways.

I wanted him to be healthy, and I was filled with gratitude for two things: that the Whistler Song isn't for me- and that Heroes like him, continue to battle to have a life after war. The war doesn't end just because you came home.

I hope someday...peace is the common denominator.
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1SG Claims Assistant
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We all have to deal with the wounds of war in our own way, and in our own time. But I am struck that when I talk to older veterans - I am no spring chicken - that there is more in common than you think. That old Marine that was at Chosin - he gets it. That ponytailed former grunt who did two tours in Da Nang - he gets it. Mosul, Fallujah, Tarin Kowt, we understand each other.
What is more difficult to unpack is not being able to relate to my brother at Christmas, or my dad who served for 13 years and never "saw the elephant". Veterans need each other, no different than Soldiers or shipmates do.
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1SG Electrical Systems Planner Scheduler   Water/Wastewater Utility
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Having served in the Navy from 1979-1987 I have many navy buddies. Then I went into the Army 20 years later at 45, two tours later, 9 rows of medals, CAB, etc... I have nothing in common with them now, although I am very proud of my navy time. None of them have any association with the VA, I am 100% with a 70% PTSD rating. Again, they knew a different me.
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SGT Kevin Hughes
SGT Kevin Hughes
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1SG (Join to see) 1SG (Join to see) You know, after reading all the wonderful - bittersweet- powerful stories on this thread. I am reminded, in a much smaller way, how naive I was when I was single and told Married People how to handle their love lives. And later when I didn't have kids, how many times I gave parenting advice. And now...how I find myself telling young people how to enjoy their youth. And just like when I was in the Army- I was talking out my ass, and didn't realize it.
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1SG Electrical Systems Planner Scheduler   Water/Wastewater Utility
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1 mo
SGT Kevin Hughes - that's AWESOME. Trust me, when a single person gives me marital advice it goes in one ear and out the other, same when non-parents give parenting advice. Its like when a man tells his wife after taking a huge dump "now I know how childbirth feels"
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SGT Kevin Hughes
SGT Kevin Hughes
1 mo
1SG (Join to see) I had to laugh, my brother (I have five of them) used that line once on his wife. If looks could kill...LOL When you talk about loving your child, I am in the conversation, once childbirth comes up...I am out. Took a long time to learn that lesson, luckily most people are kind to us fools...at least for a little bit. LOL
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1SG Steven Imerman
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I just listened to both. "The Whistler" is astonishingly bleak.

"Get your god damn hands out, don't you look at me
No one's dying here alone
Well I came to get it on
Let's get it on"
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SGT Kevin Hughes
SGT Kevin Hughes
1 mo
@ I know Top. I listened to it twice. The Animals Song was much easier on me.
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1SG Steven Imerman
1SG Steven Imerman
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Me, too. It ends on a hopeful note.
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SSgt Richard Kensinger
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As a former AF ER medic and now a clinical psychologist and clinical social worker, here are my clinical observations based on my combat trauma research.
I have 4 published articles in this regard. You can reach me " [login to see] " for copies. Combat is brutal and gory. it is insanity in its worst expression. Continuous exposure leads to a host of biopsychosocial wounds. Complex PTSD, compacted grief and substance abuse are common. Psychotropic meds dull our sensations and reactions. Counseling/therapy are useful, esp. group therapy as it recapitulates the essential psychosocial unit: the squad.

Sadly the VA is not good at pre-engagement and continuous engagement in care. I sadly understand the reasons for high suicide rates among combatants. I've provided my findings to our local VAC w/ no success.
This breaks my heart!!
Rich
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1SG Claims Assistant
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1 mo
Keep up the good fight. If your work helps one, it is worth it.
I'll wager that you have helped more than one.
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SPC Melissa Foxworth
SPC Melissa Foxworth
1 mo
Hello Mr. Kensinger, My name is Melissa and I served in the Army in the first Gulf War. If you think it is bad for the men that serve, you should be a woman. I am disabled, rated at a 60% but of course they knocked it down to 50, and it took me over twenty years for anyone to even take me seriously about suffering from PTSD. I have received very little help from the VA, and they absolutely denied paying for any of the physical wounds that I suffered. Just wanted to make a statement that veterans come in all forms.
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SSgt Richard Kensinger
SSgt Richard Kensinger
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You are absolutely correct about how this affects men and women. Women do respond to trauma in some ways different than men. it is vital that we clinicians be gender competent. And based on my own research, vets are more satisfied w/their physical care than they are their psychological care. Wish I could help you. If you are interested in my research, contact me " [login to see] ".
Rich
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