Friday, July 29, 2016

Real Warriors


No pictures today, just, perhaps, the most important post I have ever made. Please take the time to read it all, it may help you or someone you know or love.

I was sent the following by someone who cares about me and all vets. It rang a bell for me and I thought some of you might benefit, also. Many of us from the 'Nam era are struggling with PTSD and don't know it or won't admit it. On my travels I have met many of you and want to echo the message of this article and video. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned here, or even a concern about the possibility of PTSD, check it out. When I returned from 'Nam, I had some medical issues and went to the V.A. for help. I was treated very badly and I swore I would never enter a V.A. facility again. Many of us had that experience. Well, many years later, I was forced to return to the V.A. I was totally bummed out, put off going until I finally had no choice. Well, the difference was amazing. People were truly caring, respectful, helpful. I was stunned. It was much, much later that a friend said, "Well, you know, WE run it now!"

So, I encourage all of you who may have PTSD, or know someone you think might, to heed my advice. Read the following, watch the video and call the V.A.or your local Vet Center.

I am printing this just the way it was sent to me. I took out a bunch of links as they seem to prevent me from posting. I have included a link to the video mentioned in the article.

I wrote this quite some time ago, but never posted it. Since then, I have taken the advice Stacy gives. With encouragement from others, I finally went to the Vet Center in my area and was immediately seen by a therapist. That lead to joining a group of guys working out our shit and, now, several years later, I have to say I find it helpful. The nightmares have decreased a bit and I am even able to sleep some. The journey is not over and I often wonder if it will ever be complete, but we are walking the road.

I hope you will take the few minutes it takes to read this and then, if you are one the ones denying or avoiding, STOP IT, go to your nearest VET Center, they are there to help.

'Real Warrior' Finds Path to Physical, Emotional Healing

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2011 - Black-and-white photos of Vietnam-era veterans line the wall at a Veterans Affairs center. Some are smiling and others are gazing at a distant point, but in all, an unseen light catches the emotion in their eyes.

The photographer, Stacy Pearsall, a veteran of the more recent wars, strove to capture the character and the experience etched in their faces while listening to their recollections of war.

"Their stories are amazing," she said.

This line of photos on a wall in a VA center in Charleston, S.C., serves not only as Pearsall's veteran tribute, but also a milestone in her recovery from physical and emotional wounds of war.

Just a few months earlier, Pearsall had nearly given up hope of working as a photographer again or of taking photos that didn't serve as a haunting reminder of a painful past.

Pearsall's photography career took off while she was in the Air Force. As a combat photographer, she took thousands of pictures over the course of her Air Force career, earning her accolades and awards from leaders at all levels of her chain of command.
She traveled extensively for her job, so she felt prepared when she was tasked to deploy to Baghdad in September 2003.

As part of her duties, Pearsall documented a school rebuilding process, and when the school marked its opening with a ceremony in February 2004, she attended. After the ceremony, as the unit prepared to head out, the Humvee she was riding in was making a tight turn on a dead-end street when a roadside bomb detonated.

Pearsall was sitting behind the driver's seat. The impact threw her forward, and her head hit the back of the seat. But more concerned about her ears, which were bleeding from the concussive sound, she didn't feel the neck pain until hours later. She was seen by a doctor who chalked it up to whiplash, and she was back out on a mission the next day.

Months later, the headaches and vertigo lingered, as did the severe neck pain. But concerned about her Air Force career, Pearsall didn't seek treatment. Her deployment ended in March, and she became a student at Syracuse University for a year to hone her photography skills.

She had become accustomed to hiding her pain and the emotional after-effects of combat from others, but was unable to keep them from a friend -- a fellow photographer and Vietnam veteran -- who recognized the signs of post-traumatic stress. He connected her with a Vet Center, where she began counseling.

"It definitely helped me work through a lot of emotions and stress," she said. "I knew whatever I said to [my therapist] wouldn't go back to my active-duty command. There was no threat of losing my career."

After school, Pearsall went on back-to-back deployments, first to Africa, then to Lebanon and finally, back to Iraq. The difference between her first and second Iraq deployments was like night and day, she said. In 2003, she never fired her weapon, but in 2007, she fired it constantly.

Her unit experienced heavy casualties in Diyala province. Pearsall saw bodies of Iraqis who had been executed and mutilated, and comrades shot just a few feet away, which she later had to photograph. People getting wounded or killed was a daily occurrence, she said.

A series of back-to-back events took their toll. Pearsall lost three teammates, and a day later, her video partner was wounded and evacuated. Another friend had been shot in the head right in front of her. "Nothing prepares you for the death of your friends," she said.

Her photos from that time are haunting.

In one photo, three soldiers are gathered in a dimly lit room, faces downward as if in reflection, a single light shining through a window. Two days before, their teammate had been shot in the head just 10 feet away from where they were standing. In another photo, two soldiers are comforting each other, one close to tears, after the loss of a friend the day before.

"I'm eternally tied to the photographs that I made and those soldiers who were in those photographs," she said.

The photographer said she had to keep her emotions in check, for her teammates and for the troops who served under her. "I think I handled things pretty well by just not addressing the emotions at the time," she said.

Pearsall was injured again -- further damaging her neck -- when a roadside bomb detonated during a mission. A few months later, her unit was ambushed. She was running out to help a wounded soldier in the street when a cord attached to her helmet snapped her back. Her head slammed on a Stryker vehicle, again injuring her neck.

The next morning, she felt neck pain unlike anything she had felt before, and she knew it was time to get help. The doctors did an X-ray and she was on a helicopter that day. Her neck injury had grown so severe, the doctors told her, that if she had jolted her head one more time, it would have severed her spinal cord.

Pearsall's greatest fear -- losing her career -- was now at hand, she said. And her husband, a strong source of support, was deployed at the time. "It was a really ugly time in my life," she said.

The years of wearing 85 pounds of gear had wreaked havoc on her neck. The doctors told her she wouldn't be able to work as a photographer or pursue another passion, riding horses, again.

But Dr. Patrick Lovegrove, an Air Force flight surgeon at the time, offered her hope through prolotherapy treatment -- which involves insertion of a 4-inch needle down to the bone -- that lasted for more than two years. Pearsall was able to get off of the pain killers and finally on the road to physical recovery.

Invested in her recovery, her doctor separated from the Air Force, but continued to donate his services to her until the therapy ended in 2009 and she switched over to the VA system.

"I'll always owe him a debt of gratitude," she said. The therapy enabled her to ride horses and take photos again, but she knew she'd always have some degree of pain from her degenerative condition.

"It was either adapt to life or shrivel up and die," she said. Pearsall chose to adapt.

But the loss of her Air Force career affected her, as did the emotional wounds of war that she had pushed aside to focus on her physical recovery. She started seeing a mental health therapist about a year after her deployment.

"The military told me I couldn't be a photographer for them anymore," she said. "Mentally, that put me on a roller coaster. What am I good for?"

Pearsall found an answer at the VA medical center in Charleston. While she sat for hours in waiting rooms, she began to notice the men and women around her. Most of the veterans there were from the Vietnam era, and she reached out to hear their stories. She felt inspired to bring her camera and take their portraits, leading to the project that now fills a wall there.

"Just because I was disabled, didn't make me unable," she said. "Once I wrapped my own mind around that, I could do more."

Pearsall plans to keep up her veteran portrait work at VA hospitals in Georgia and North Carolina, then here, and to Maryland and Virginia as well. In another effort aimed at helping veterans, Pearsall provides horse therapy to veterans through a nonprofit group.

Most recently, Pearsall offered to have her story documented for the Defense Department's "Real Warriors" campaign in hopes of encouraging other veterans and service members to seek help. The campaign in sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and it features stories of service members who sought psychological treatment and continued successful military or civilian careers. Her profile is now posted on the Real Warriors website,

"My hope is that if they watch my story, they'll find a way to offload their burden," she said. "Everyone wears a different amount, but it's not necessary to carry it around with you all the time."

Pearsall said the stigma that kept her from getting help has been greatly reduced through projects such as the Real Warrior campaign and through efforts by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.

For service members still leery about getting care, Pearsall recommended online support networks, blogs and forums where people can go and shed their burdens. "You'll see you're not alone," she said. "The loss of sleep, nightmares, anxiety, road rage -- they're products of war."

Pearsall also hopes leaders will gain a greater understanding of mental health issues and, above all, avoid judgment.

"Be positive and supportive," she said. "You're the first in line for that service member."

While it's been difficult to discuss, Pearsall said, she believes it's important to share her story.

"If I get one person to get help if they're having issues, then I feel like I've been successful.

Read Stacy's blog here;

Next time, on August 3rd, we will visit the previously promised site in Anthem, AZ, so meet me there at 9:00am.

To see memorials, from any state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Washington VII

I guess to my frequent readers I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but, once again, I need to extol the people of small towns,

I was in Ephrata, Washington and found this memorial on the Grant County Court House lawn. At first glance one might not think too much of it, but in reading up on it I discovered that it was funded by raffles and Bingos and some direct contributions. In the 2010 census, Ephrata had 7664 citizens and they found away to honor their Vietnam vets.

 Another astounding thing I noticed. The memorial lists those who served in addition to those who were lost, a total of twenty.

Nine, 45%, were lost! Think about that for just a moment. If 45% of all who served in 'Nam had been lost the number would be about 1,500,000. Staggering! That number, by the way, is more than the estimated losses from ALL American wars from the Revolution through today. Again, staggering.

So, I will once again salute the small towns of America, their people, their heroes and their dedication to honoring their sons and daughters.

 The memorial may be found on the front lawn of the Court House, 35 C Street, Ephrata, Washington.

Next time, on the 29th, meet me again in Arizona, as always, at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Washington, or any other state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Texas XIV

I found this small memorial in a park while I was visiting Round Rock, Texas.

As you can see it honors LCPL Robert Hernandez, the only citizen of Round Rock lost in the war., Once again, what small towns do, for even one, is amazing.

There is very little information available except that he was killed by mortar fire in July of '68 and that the Middle School he attended in round rock changed its name to honor him.

Every site I found that mentioned him called him "private" but the memorial refers to him as LCPL, so I assume he was promoted posthumously, but I could find no details or confirmation. As always, I ask if you know something, to get in touch, I strive to be accurate here and in the past many of you have provided me with details and corrections. I greatly appreciate your help and input.

Next time, on the 24th, we take another look at Washington, so, as always, meet me there at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Texas, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pennsylvania XII

I have posted about the Philadelphia Vietnam Memorial a couple of times in the past. Last time, I reported that it had been partially torn down due to illicit activity within its bounds.

Well, over the 4th of July weekend, I returned to Philly to see the NEW memorial and I could not have been more pleased.

I always loved the original and was worried about what might happen to it in a renovation, but I needn't have been concerned. It is back and in my opinion better than ever.

Originally, it was a fairly enclosed space with a Wall for names in an amphitheater like setting. With your back to the Wall of names, you could sit upon the shallow "steps" and gaze at the several "Day in the life" scenes etched upon the opposite wall.

This as aforementioned created a closed space in which stuff could happen.

I rolled through Philly a couple of years ago to find the Wall of scenes torn down and much construction going on. I didn't know what to expect.

So, I returned and I think they did a great job. The site is more open and accessible.

The Wall has been opened up, seemingly rolled back, making the whole place, truthfully, more inviting.

Several features have been added, too and I will address them in a later post, for now, I am just thrilled that it is back.

So, next time, on the 19th, it is back to Texas, so join me there at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Pennsylvania, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Oregon VII

There is not too much info on this site to be found, I wonder how many times I have written those words on this site?

 Springfield, Oregon honors 16 from the area and Lane County with this memorial in a local park.

Located on the corner of Mohawk Blvd. and I Street it is guarded by a Howitzer and "old glory."

The Roses caught my eye as an interesting contrast to the granite and stone. Not the best pics I have ever taken, but it was raining and the light was very poor, I think you can get the idea.

So, next time, on the 14th, we will return, one more time, to Philadelphia. You may recall that part of the memorial was torn down not so long ago. Well, it has been rebuilt and I think better that ever, so check back on the 14th, as always, at 9:00am.

To see additional memorials from Oregon, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day 2016

Usually, I write about our forefathers and the sacrifices they and generation after generation have made for our country on the July 4th holiday. This year, at the LZ in Maryland I had the honor of meeting a guy who shared with me his artwork. He has created a carving/painting of the guys who wash The Wall, every month. weather permitting. They also take care of the Three Servicemen and The Women's Memorial, but are, generally, known as the guys who "wash the Wall."

Note that the piece is hinged so that it can be displayed at the same angles as the Wall

V.V.A. ( Vietnam Veterans of America) Chapter 641 is made up of a group of guys who have continued to serve their country and this got me thinking about service in general.

The woman is the red shirt is the wife of the Vietnamese soldier who comes each month to help

Service comes in many forms and I could never list them all, but these guys and Mike Higgs, the guy who created this artwork, are certainly to be admired for their never ending dedication to The Wall and their country.

The child in the center left is the grandson of the Vietnamese couple

Mike sent me the pics and permission to use them here and he told me that people come from all over to participate, to help, to say "Thank you."

Aussies and a South Vietnamese soldier and his family are regulars at the early Saturday morning cleanings. As Mike says, "comrades honoring comrades."

Mike with his work
 I met with Mike today and took some additional photos to include here. He told me that each of the figures in the work are actual people. He pointed out the Aussie and each member of the Vietnamese family and several of the VVA 641 members. It made the whole piece even more meaningful to me as I know a number of these guys. He, also, pointed out his wife and himself, along with a photographer from VVA.

Seeing it up close made it clear that he carves each figure and detail, and then paints them as he thinks fit. There is a surprise painted into the figures on the right side of the Wall. See if you can find it! I didn't see it at first, but when Mike pointed it out, I was amazed. If you can't find it, write me at this site and I will point it out.

That;s Mike with the hose at the end
So, service takes many forms and for many vets it continues through out their lives. This 4th of July, this Independence Day, enjoy the fire works (I can't) the cook outs, the beer and celebrations, but, also, remember the service and sacrifice made by so very many, so that you can celebrate as you choose.

Happy Birthday, America!

Next time, on the 9th, we will revisit Oregon, so meet me there at 9:00am.

To see Vietnam memorials from any state, click the state name on the left side of this page.