Homecoming: The Post Deployment Needs of our Nation's Veterans and Families

and i’d like to welcome john henry parker and william rodriguez to our conversation tonight and i’m wondering if we could start by perhaps you John Henry introducing yourself and saying a little bit about what brings you here i co-founded an organization called veterans and Families org in 2003 with my son after he came back from two tours in Afghanistan and unfortunately he passed away about three and a half years ago from a motorcycle accident during Homecoming and we I got together with a bunch of parents and family members and we started looking at what was going on with the catastrophic losses of motorcycle accidents and suicides and it’s just so out of control we decided to repurpose what we were doing and rename the organization to purple star just like in the military there’s a gold star mothers of America which is for mothers and families who’ve lost their their their veterans and service their children and then there’s a blue star organization for families whose families are serving who’s veterans or military personnel are serving but there wasn’t a star organization for families going through homecoming and like our family families whose veterans weren’t surviving homecoming so we started purple star and what I’ve been doing is working with veterans like like William and others to look at what’s going on with decompression what’s going on with homecoming and what’s going on as importantly for the family members because after my son did two tours in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division I mean I never heard anything from anybody suggesting what we might be expecting when they when he came home because i know there’s you know there’s a lot of preparation in somebody coming into the army getting ready for deployment and going into deployment and as they begin to come home but there’s really nothing helping them really transition from military into the home life as I understand it well unfortunately there’s there are some programs in the works and they’re isolated there are a lot of good programs like even your research is gaining a lot of traction in the military but there’s nothing standardized and to this day what we typically hear is there’s a taps or an eight caps program which is a transition assistance program which focuses on your benefits your your you know civilian employment ideas maybe something about your financials but there’s nothing as as Charles Hogge he’s a of once a warrior always a warrior he clearly states that the programs aren’t addressing that the key contributors to suicide and hopelessness which are you know grief loss rage you know retribution depression alcohol drug abuse these are all major factors that need to be considered and all the underlying issues that are going on with it I have a question which i’d like to put out but and then i’d like to get Williams introduction but one I’d like to put on the table is if you had your dream wish and it’s the same thing for you even if you had your dream wish of what a person would go through in making that transition what kinds of things would they be offered that would help both the person who’s coming out but their families their children as you said their parents their grandparents the whole kind of network that is their support system so in a minute I’d really love to put that one on the table that kind of wish list love to talk about it great so I’d love you to introduce yourself you would we love william rodriguez I’m a three-time operation during Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran I served for over six years with the hundred first airborne division knows recon scout in the military and I had a lot of a lot of homes coming difficulties myself and coming through and I was really lost upon separation and homecoming in so I thought well I got to get some education on this so I started studying psychology and I wanted to I wanted to kind of figure out myself and and in turn maybe if I could if I can figure out some of the problems that I was going through that I could spread that information to other people and help soldiers that were coming back themselves and just as I graduated was my undergraduate undergraduate degree I USC had started up a military Social Work program was the first of its kind in the country to focus on post-traumatic stress homecoming traumatic brain injury and that sort of

thing and I was blessed enough to be part of their inaugural class and when I was one just as I was graduating I was thinking okay there’s got to be something else it can’t just be go to the VA or you know that there’s got to be something else so I was looking into starting at my own nonprofit and then you know the burden of dealing with my own my own post-traumatic stress and then counseling other soldiers and their families kind of I put up a lot of walls right I put up a lot of walls and then try to intellectualize a lot of things you know and those walls came crashing down and I was the one that needed help and so I was going through my things and I was looking for programs and I I met a met a woman at the California State Veterans Affairs Office and our the congressional office at in Sacramento and she gave me John Henry’s name and I talked to him for a little while and I found out what he was doing and it was exactly what I was what I was looking into there needed to be something done for education of the families and include the families because they are they are the safety net for returning soldiers and so I started looking into his organization a little more and it’s not well here’s one opportunity here’s my opportunity to get out there and really try to educate some people on some of the issues that are going on with today’s veterans and really make a difference make a difference and if you know so that’s kind of led us to talk to a lot of great people and get a lot of a lot of good perspectives and so when you are just starting out in that description you just gave you said you had a lot of difficulties in separation so I love it if you might comment and this might lead into the wishlist question but can you say a little bit more about what it’s like in that moment of separation because I get the hint you’re separating from something but now you’re coming home and I get the feeling you’re feeling separate yeah yeah so when you when you separate there’s a feeling of identity loss right like I was an NCO and I was at 24 years old i’m in charge of i’m in charge of other soldiers lives and i have a this terribly dangerous job that just sounds really cool and high kick in doors and and and you know you kind of hold that nobility and then when you leave you lose that sense of identity and then there’s that sense of now what and the reason i chose to separate is i had two daughters both of them were born when I was overseas at different times and it was it was becoming a choice of do I have a family and try to raise these children and you know I haven’t seen any of my children born and my youngest I got to listen to her be born when I was sitting on the tarmac waiting to fly to Iraq and then I seen her for the first time when she was a few months old and you just have to kind of take these things and put them aside and focus on the task at hand you know you you are in charge of other people’s lives and and you have to keep yourself alive all in the same thing so you know it was okay there has to be something else I can’t continue to put my family through this when you get out and you have a job like a like a reconnaissance scout or an infantryman or an artilleryman there’s not there’s there’s not very much crossover right so I got offered a lot of a lot of money to go overseas as a private contractor and do mercenary work and that sort of thing in security but once again it’s taking me away from my family so it wasn’t it wasn’t fitting and there’s nothing in the local newspaper this is wanted strong guy that can shoot well and carry heavy rucksack you know there’s there’s no there’s nothing for that and you know I just felt lost I felt completely lost yeah because you you use the word nobility so when you were in the service there was a feeling of doing a job and it had no ability to it mm-hmm but I get the sense then in transitioning how there’s a loss of that sense of nobility yeah yeah and you kind of because you you go into it at such a young age and you you’re giving your given so much responsibility at such a young age I mean this was all happening I’m 24 years old I’m 24 years old and I’m on my third combat tour you know 25 years old a third combat tour you know and I’m I have a squad of eight to ten guys at a time who you know and that’s

that’s a whole emotional experience as well because these aren’t just any people that you know that signed up for this like you know before you leave you know you have to talk to their mother and look her in the eye and say I’m going to bring them home don’t worry you know and when that doesn’t happen you have so much guilt and you have so much so much burden placed on you but at that time you kinda have to put everything else aside and believe that you can do this task that that you’re invincible there’s an era of instability that has to be there in order for you because what if you actually were to be mindful of the situation that you’re in and to say okay you know Here I am surrounded by bad guys and there’s only a few of us and we might not make it then you probably won’t you have to have that shield of that armor of saying no no nothing’s going to happen we’re we’re going to all get through this you know no matter no matter how many bombs go off no matter how many rounds get fired where we’re going to we’re going to make it through this and so you you put up these barriers you have these false beliefs and then you know the more time you have to reflect you know well after everything is all said and done then that’s when realization of what you were actually doing really starts to take hold you know so so I’m wondering this word invincibility and then all of a sudden you find yourself back home right and that moment of transition so I’d love to come back and visit that question which is if you had a wish list what would you like to be having happen to make this transition from such a noble adventure that they’re living out and this quality of invincibility and the tremendous responsibility that is being put in their hands which most 20 20 21 22 23 year old kids don’t have and all of a sudden they find themselves at home tremendous loss yeah and it what’s interesting is the family is less less than one half of one percent of the United States you know citizens have even served in the military so for the most part we’re not qualified to be handling traumatized combat veterans when they get home but yet when they when they get out they’re not really prepared for what’s really going to happen and so I’ll answer your question in two ways one for the parents and families one for the veterans that the challenge we have with with spouses and there are some spouses in the room here and military moms and dads and grandparents and I can tell you from personal experience there’s nothing worse and the need to be needed as a parent but being helpless to help you have no way to understand what do you need what can I do for you right now you know and they’re not going to tell you they’re going to luckily my son told me a lot of things and we were different and then a lot of families I was in the Marines my dad was in the Marines I’ll it’s peacetime I mean my dad was a combat vet so the families needing to understand how to be prepared before their veterans get home is probably the most important thing and there’s nothing standardized you have little towns and cities like San Diego is a great place for lots of big coalition’s there’s other veterans coalition’s around the country in Sacramento and they’re learning their way through this about how to come together as a community but there’s so much of the rural areas that are these guys and gals go back home and there’s no safety net there’s their miles or hours away from the closest VA so the first thing on the wish list would be to have nationally standardized homecoming preparedness resources that are readily available for families it’s where everybody hears and sees the same thing a best practices model you know world-class like what are what’s everybody doing not just a bunch of brochures there’s just there’s so much lacking from the veteran side and from the family side peer mentoring veterans won’t talk to anybody about another veteran about the real stuff and we know that everybody knows that so peer mentoring programs are taking hold and throughout the VA and the offense that our defense centers of excellence and probably the most important thing is the full fledged development and we’ve got we’ve got just so many Vietnam era veterans that have been through homecoming a lot of them still aren’t home and they’re willing to mentor and their spouses who have been military family members so we’ve got a ready-made mentoring you know legions of mentors that would be willing to get home coming right this time and then you’ve got from the first Gulf War to post 9-11 veterans who would jump on the fact that a peer mentoring certification program to get them on base a talk to veterans about hey I know you’ve been successful military it won’t necessarily translate to when you get home here’s what you

need to know first hand that would be if we just did that right off the bat I think we would start dropping the suicide rate I notice you’ve got some statistics here yeah yeah and it’s staggering and it’s horrible a lot of people who work with veterans on a daily basis understand that the statistics and when i first started advocating i guess i was quoting a teen suicides per day but 18 veteran suicides per day and since the VA came out with a new research it’s come out the 22 suicides per day so it’s not going down it’s going up there was a hundred and fifty thousand vietnam veterans that our names didn’t make it on the wall who died to their own hand after they got home so this isn’t this isn’t a new story this is an old story that’s been neglected and overlooked for for a long time veterans are five and a half more times likely to dine speed high speed related accidents eighty-eight percent college dropout rate within the first year one in four homeless men are veterans when my son passed away I started looking around for other families of motorcycle accidents and suicides and just the fatalities and I couldn’t find any other families you find lots of obituaries okay and I had to track him down by their name look for their hometown find their home phone never call around call the reporter and it was just arduous and so so we’ve got a way to start building that base but what I’m what we’re finding is that when when veterans get home there’s this huge barbecue where we all celebrate in the whole neighborhood knows about it and they celebrate and next thing you know when our veterans getting in trouble with the law they’re getting a DUI or they’re having domestic violence problems it’s not okay as a dad or a mom to tell anybody in the community that your hero’s having a problem because it will dishonor them you’re afraid that you’re going to have a conflict than with your veteran so nobody says anything so what people here is I’m fine when we hear from our veterans is I’m fine and families suffer in silos and so for the last 10 years I’ve been asking families well how many other families do you know in your same neighborhood that are going through homecoming and it’s usually 02 very few so what we really see is there’s no community and as long as we’re individualized we have not got we have no ability to change the way we do homecoming it’s a real paradox as well because in in basic training you’re broken down as an individual and brought back up as a unit so you’re taught and that the battle buddy system becomes crucial right you’d never go anywhere alone you always have a battle buddy but then when you’re out you don’t have a battle buddy you’re by yourself and so you’re you’re stuck in an unfamiliar territory and it’s very very difficult to wrap your mind around that like okay now I’m on my own and the military does a wonderful job of preparing soldiers and training soldiers and to get your question of what would a what would the perfect scenario be well I think we can we can I don’t know the answer to that but I think a lot of the lot of evidence can come from Battlefield medicine if you if you get injured regardless of how bad it is there’s over a ninety percent chance you’re going to make it home whether that’s a good idea or not well that that’s debatable but they’ve made tremendous strides in Battlefield medicine and I believe we’re the most one of them we have the most ingenuity in the world that we have dedicated the academics and people that actually care and research this that there’s enough evidence out there that if if the subject matter experts could sit down at the table and all come up with a collective solution I think we could figure out something that’s a lot better than than twenty two suicides right now you’re talking about homecoming medicine yeah yet was just just some sort of decompression I believe personally that little psychological tool such as trigger identification and these in these sorts of things just teaching guys hey if you become triggered just go go you know separate yourself take a few deep breaths maybe somebody you trust talk to them let them know you know going to support instead of always having that adapt and overcome mentality because you get into that well no matter what the situation is because you teach people right you teach people that have to endure some of the most harsh situations that a human being can actually go through that regardless of how bad the situation is you find a way and you figure it out and you get through it and then when you separate you have the VA who does a tremendous job and and the

work is doing what they can with what they have and but it’s still of volunteer service so these same guys that you told to adapt and overcome and just to make it now have to stand up and say I need help that’s the catch-22 that we’re that we want to address with purple star we’ve got a national petition right now that we’re that we’re gaining momentum with across the country and it’s really about a catch-22 that exists we train our military to get the job done or die trying but the only way to get services when you get out is to ask for help or the people who need it the most aren’t asking for it and everything is voluntary only for mental health services so what we’re doing is in the petition we’re the two parts of it one of my already covered that nationally standardized homecoming preparedness for family members the first part of it though is comprehensive homecoming preparedness and decompression training for military personnel before they separate while they’re preparing to leave the military and I just wrote a chapter for a book and I and I remember naming part of the title you know if you’re going to go duck hunting when do you load your guns when you see the Ducks I mean you don’t grab your pocket full of bullets when they’re flying off right and so that’s kinda what we’re doing is waiting for me to get home to see what happens and so we think by prevention and early intervention giving the tools I need and one of the reasons why we’re here is to experience something what is I rest what is integrative restoration and how can we use it for our own health develop our own capacity so so let me investigate that a little bit so you’ve been here for four days right and going through this training for the first time and so I’d love to get your reflections one how is it just the training for yourself so personally and then how do you see it as a work you might be carrying out and how it might be beneficial in these kinds of situations you’re talking about please well um I I had no no real knowledge of yoga or anything else when I came here so I had a bunch of I was ignorant to a lot of to a lot of facts and I had done a little bit of study on it and since I got here the concepts make so much sense it’s like taking a whole bunch of evidence-based practices and throwing them into one model right you have elements of of cognitive therapy of exposure therapy you have mindfulness you have meditation of all all these things and proven to work and in a 4,000 year old model right going back to the past to find the answers to the future and for me it’s it’s it’s been completely eye-opening you know coming in fresh and just saying okay well I’ll see how it goes and you know I came up here and I thought I I thought okay now would be a good time to quit smoking and that’s been a wonderful side effect of this process you know I haven’t had a cigarette since I’ve been here and I don’t think I don’t think I ever will and so I think that by being able to integrate all the pieces into the hole is the dream of any human right to be a fully functional human to understand all the elements of themselves so I think I think the concept is wonderful and I think the more people start to use it and and start to understand it and get over maybe some of the stigma that they may have I think that it can really make a difference I really do so I’m very grateful to be here and to have experienced this and with such a wonderful group of people from a variety of back I mean we have people here from you know a whole multitude of disciplines and bringing in various perspectives on you know from where they’re from and and everything else and it’s really just been an eye-opening experience and I I really am grateful I’m definitely blessed so you’re you’re mentioning the the various components of the program of I rest and how they’re bringing together different efficacy based elements of already been studied it was in one component package movie and then you talked about a sense of your own integration of wonder if you might comment on that how the process that you’ve been going through as you’ve been learning this both for yourself but also as a teacher how might you come in on how has it affected you in that integrated manner I think one of the most beneficial aspects of the training is knowing that anybody can do it it’s a human to human training you don’t need all these special skills and licenses to

do it you sit there and you you reflect questions and you ask and you’re just genuinely honest and I think the outcome is empowering to the individual right the object of good therapist is to work themselves out of a job right that’s that’s what we all should be doing and so to be able to to be able to sit there and to know that they came up with the answer themselves right it’s it’s tremendous for self-efficacy and empowerment and that you don’t need anybody else you just need to be able to talk and open up your feelings and and and just to have a true conversation about what’s really going on instead of always trying to wear these masks you know or depending on somebody else to do it I think that’s the most most beneficial part you know so a soldier seeing an IRS video on on TV and learning some of the the sacred mirror that you refer to learning some of those techniques and can look at another so under say hey man I understand you know why don’t we sit over here and have a talk you know that that conversation might save that soldier’s life you know you you never you never really know so well they’re commenting on that your have you had to disclose anything of your experiences here this week no and that’s that’s that’s probably the most important element is that you’re saying just be honest and open but there’s not a need with the integrated restoration process for you to disclose the details of an experience it’s just not happening yeah you know and and that’s that I find that a lot and it’s something that I’ve always thought was was fairly unethical like statements and forms right they want to know what happened what was your trauma event you’re sitting in your living room and you’re filling out this form and you’re thinking of these horrific incidences and you’re by yourself right you have to unpack all this and it’s up to you to repack it back in like I have you know I’ve had a several experiences I think that’ll last me forever and you know I I I was pretty pretty comfortable with them and then I just had to fill out one of those forms and I believe I’m fairly strong when it went when it comes to you know understanding and accepting and just knowing that everything happens for a reason but you know I i was i was in pretty bad shape for a couple days after that you know i started smelling the smells again and you know things just so slowly started to creep back so as you’ve been going through the training you’re both learning how to teach and work with another but you’re also participating in it so you’re you’re experiencing it for yourself and john enter you were just talking commenting where during the process we’re not asking people necessary that to say what’s going on inside them but to learn how to be with the experience and so I’d love again if you’d say more about how it was or how it is going through these processes where you have the opportunity to speak what may be important to say but you’re also being supported to not speak if that’s something that doesn’t want to happen yeah because it focuses so much on inner reflection right it focuses so much on internal reflection and you’re sitting there and weighing out the opposites and understanding where there’s evil there’s good right and and so I I think that not having having the flexibility in the program to work at your own pace and not being so invasive you know and to and it’s it’s it’s self regulated as I start to feel more comfortable maybe more information will flow but if I’m not ready for that I can still I can still utilize some of the methods in the protocol so I’m finding this it’s just fascinating that no matter what type of trauma or what type of problem we may have there’s a story to it but there’s also how it shows up in her body and for me the biggest impact has been I’ve been looking at therapies and healing modalities for many many many years but my son and I started researching this back in 2003 looking going through all different types of programs and actually had to unpack some things and leave it outside the door all week long because it wasn’t necessary to get into the big long story because what was going on for myself and for the people I was interacting with is yes they have a story yes they have trauma yes they have bad experiences but they could also identify very quickly and easily where its showing up in their body to know that it’s there but focus on the feeling of where it’s at in your body and then to be able to move that energy or that feeling to different do it using different questions and different processes it was incredibly helpful and it was very quick and I noticed a difference in how i was feeling and the people I was working with almost instantly I could observe a change and then coming back and just doing the work you could see that there was a evolution in there thinking how they were holding it they were looking and feeling better

they were breathing differently and they started commenting that they felt better you know and I experienced the same thing so William did you have some of the similar yeah yeah I certainly did as you all know when I before I came out here oh as I was going through my own struggles and then I was lucky enough to come here and have wonderful wonderful caring people to kind of open up to and share experiences with and at my own at my own pace in my own comfort and I started noticing right away that that my anxiety level was was dropping significantly i purposely didn’t bring any of the medications that i had been given and i haven’t needed them I’ve been my hyper vigilance is basically gone since I’ve been here you were talking earlier that if that doesn’t want to talk to anybody but a bet they feel like that’s the only person who’s going to understand them so in our gathering here we do have a number of veterans but most of the dyads most of the groups that you’ve been participating in I’m assuming and you could tell me wrong are not vets so you’re you’re getting a an ability to sit with people who don’t have that same shared experience that I’m curious because a lot of veterans if they’re watching this they’re going to be wondering what it’s like to sit with someone who doesn’t have my experience can they really understand me can I really felt understood I think I think civilians play a wonderful role in that in the treatment of the mental health conditions of returning veterans however some of the some of the gory stories some of the real war stories sometimes your hell is too hot your hell is too hot and it’s best just it’s best just to keep that aside and you know they’ll dela I’ve noticed a lot of veterans opening up to submitting counselors and them having wonderful results but some of the really really difficult things maybe may be best left for other veterans you know and you know here it didn’t require any of those stories it didn’t it didn’t require you to have to have to go into detail and have to relive all that experience it was more focused on on acceptance by other human beings and understanding that you know well it’s it’s going to be okay no matter what and that other people do care you know and I think that’s I think that’s a very very powerful tool you want to comment on that well I think that um you know the lack of lack of disclosure you know you don’t have to disclose all very much at all to get a pretty effective result as we as we talked early before we came to the training obviously we need more veterans like William to come through the training and eventually have you know groups of veterans training and imparting the work to other veterans is right now you’ve got great CDs that they can listen to the privacy of their own home or wherever they’re at they don’t have to be around anybody it’s confidential it’s self-paced they want to go online look at the I rest you know dot us website they can see lots of research that should give them evidence that something’s happening here then that real veterans are actually using and getting a result the results you got at Walter Reed where they were scoring and ranking I rest higher than other modalities there’s so much evidence that says this is working that I think that’s going to start having an effect but we really need to get groups of veterans going through so that way it’s starting to propagate the one thing in the military that has to self propagate you can have all the research in the world it’s just like when oakley sunglasses first came out all the Special Operations guys had them every private who couldn’t scrape up 50 bucks found 150 bucks to go buy a pair of oakleys because it was the thing to have right and there’s all kinds of things in the military that will point to self propagation so this is strong enough and simple enough and good enough for self-care once you learn it you can certainly help your buddy but you can also work on it yourself to reframe what’s happening in an instant and that’s really what I came here looking for was how can we find tools where when you get triggered you can collapse a time frame for when you get triggered when you recognize it down from hours or days two minutes and seconds in the nano seconds to where you can collapse that you can make the episodes shallower and shorter and far fewer and farther in between and that’s where life happens a lot living in your triggers you know and that’s when fortune what’s going on is that they either go really deep and depression or they get charged up and they go somewhere else but there is a

beginning and an end to an episode and what I see is when body sensations come up you’ve got some tools like I rest you can actually see where is it at what’s going on what’s happening and you’ve got a strategy and that’s what I think is the most important here and for families I mean I’ve talked to thousands of families and you know as a rule it’s typically the moms who are more stressed out and freaked out the dads are like I’m gonna go work on my truck you know they’re there they’re going to go do something to occupy themselves but there’s dads that are more occupied in involved in others but as a rule I see a lot of moms or like he’s suffering more than I’ll ever suffer and they show up and they keep their strong face on they they get their mama bear on us as we call it right and they’re there to show up and they’re stressed out there getting on meds they’re gaining weight they’re just like they’re just in a total fit over there the homecoming of their kids and we need self-care tools I mean people are stressing out and and all they can say at the end of the day is I’m he’s doing much worse or she’s doing much worse than I am I’ll be okay I’ll have to get through this and they show up like mom and dad but inside they’re just the families are getting torn apart so I think these types of tools and having the therapists that are here and the teachers that are here being able to focus not just on the veterans but send a flyer out to the community and find out where the moms and dads are I guarantee you they’ll be starting to show up and if you have started if you start identifying with them as a group as a tribe you know that it is a tribe and they and they pack together when they know about each other so I would encourage not just to focus on bet’s of course you know but those family members are in desperate need of resources so this is our interests as a training institute as a teaching institute looking at these different special interest groups veterans are a special interest group for us and bringing like the two of you in so you can get training so you can go out then and meet other vets so it’s that too that you’re ringing I rs2 other vets as of that and then our other teachers who may reach out to the families to the spouses in that way so we’re really interested in this peer-to-peer strategy I think as you’re saying that’s really going to be the one that makes the difference we can identify I mean Seth Godin he’s a arca ting proliant marketing guy he has a quote he said a crowd is simply a tribe without communication and leadership but a tribe with communication and leadership is a movement and that’s really what we’re talking about there’s 24 million living veterans in the United States and if you multiply it that number by spouses children mothers fathers grandparents sisters brothers aunts uncles you know cousins and friends co-workers is over a hundred million people that are impacted directly or indirectly by homecoming so there’s a huge demographic out there and as I was saying earlier for the most part people are suffering in silence especially if somebody dies from suicide the entire family loses their identity as a military family I crow my son passed away from a motorcycle accident we can easily say well that was his way he loved his motorcycle and we still got his plaque on the wall and everything is all Noble and he was a warrior and he died you know it just it’s the he doing something he loved we can at least say that but with with suicides it’s like the family just completely loses their identity so they need the care and the tools even even more so than the families are that are going through homecoming yeah so we’re looking at IRS as a as a tool chest as a set of self-care self management tools that we can teach to people and we can also interact with them on a one-to-one or in a group situation you mention this aspect of the helplessness that the parents when you mentioned especially the moms can feel when their son or their daughter has come home and they’re wounded inside they may not have an external wound but they can feel that wound inside and they don’t know what to do so they’re feeling that sense of helplessness or hopelessness as is the individual the son of the daughter and you know you’re commenting on coming home in this tremendous sense of separation one from your unit but what I’ve often heard is now they find themselves in their family unit but that sense of isolation and separation is very profound the parent isn’t able to help the spouse may not know what to do and so the situation can become very dire very quickly they need homecoming preparedness resources I just SAT with somebody yesterday one of the folks enter the ladies in the workshop and she

was talking about you know what I think what is a an example like most people would even think about this if you have a veteran that’s coming home and you go to a restaurant go in ahead of time and look for a table or when you’re going in with the veteran look for table in the back of the room in the corner so they’re back to me the wall and they can face everybody you wouldn’t think that that would be something that you would need to do but with veterans if their back is towards people they don’t know they’re gonna be real uncomfortable and most families don’t understand why can’t you just settle down and there’ll be smoke taking smoke breaks every three minutes or they’ll just have to get up and leave or those to be really uncomfortable but if you just were to go in and just find that seat over there make sure they’re backed in the corner and always give them that seat on an almost an unspoken level to be saying thank you you get what I’m going through so we’re trying to create peer group to peer group peer to peer in terms of say bringing this particular intervention I rest in that’s a part of what we’re trying to do that’s why I’m and really enjoying you being here you being here you can take that work out we’re trying to create teachers who can go out there and work with the children work with the spouses well because we’re doing research because one of your statistics I’m aware of as a divorce rate among veterans especially one who was deployed or if both deployed or 65 70 75 percent so we’re trying to see if we can help ameliorate that divorce rate and bring in a better sense of resiliency among the the married couple but i also think that’s what we’re trying to do with the families as well the whole social network there’s one area that I really wanted to ask you about Richard which is that there’s the standard is to give him meds like my son was on 6 meds a day for PTSD traumatic brain injury irritable bowel fibromyalgia pain he was addicted no not addictive but he was some smoking a lot of pot because he just wanted to check out full-time student dad you know husband all right all the stuff to pack in so he’s self-medicating with pot every day just to not be here and to get along and cope right and a lot of vets are just turning to the bottle they’re turning to drugs and they’re getting addicted to getting addicted to pain meds to opioids they’re they’re just going through all kinds of problems they don’t know how to get off of it so you’ve done some I arrest work with drug and alcohol rehab rehabilitation can you speak to some of the things you’re doing there well we’ve been doing researching with chemical dependency one of the things we’ve been told by veterans who’ve been going through our program is as they stay in the group they find they’re cutting back on their meds they’re using less and less meds the meds that they may need to stay on then they’re using less than and many are saying they’re going off their meds so they’re using less to control their pain because they’re finding resources through the IRS methodology to work with their pain their depression their sleeping through the night we’ve had a lot of reports say from veterans from Vietnam they say after their first IRS I had the first night’s sleep I’ve had since Vietnam we’re doing studies with traumatic brain injury chronic pain and post-traumatic stress and we’re getting the same feedback that they’re not sure why that’s what their self reports this but they’re sleeping through the night they’re using less meds they’re feeling a better sense of their own self esteem so we’re waiting to collate the actual results of the pre and post-test but just coming off the cuff of these self reports that’s what we’re finding so you’re right I think of these as a series of self-care tools that people can utilize to manage their stress to help ameliorate their stress do things like help stop smoking I think of it as an adjunctive program it’s not it’s it can be a standalone program but I think when it’s combined with things like 12 steps or other programs it’s a highly effective program one of the ways that we’re seeing it come into the VA I was recently at a VA where they have eight psychiatrists each psychiatrist sees on average a patient for about a year follows them for about a year year and a half on a kind of a weekly or bi-weekly basis but they’re getting 65 to 80 prefers per week they’re totally overwhelmed and so one of the things we were saying is by instituting a group like I rest we can help that transition period before they’re able to get perhaps that one-to-one care now they’re in a peer group they can start learning these kind of self management tools that can then support the work of the psychiatrists of the mental health workers or we’re coming in to palliative care we’re coming into the cancer wars

the amputee wards the burn units one of the things we also see is not just as you’re saying to that but the families but also the health care workers themselves because they’re getting vicarious PTSD in treating the vets so we’re also looking at our program as how do we help the health care workers with keeping their joy in what they’re doing and they’re sleeping well at night so they’re enthused to keep going and do the work that they’re needing to do so I I see I rests use in a lot of different ways I was telling the story the other day a couple of Marines came into one of the VA centers where we had one of our teachers and she’s also a yoga teacher and so she was teaching yoga class letting them know that they had yoga and they said well we don’t want yoga we want I rest and she said I teach I rest and they said no way and so they found themselves in a in a nice moment of being able to find a group that was set for them so I’m enthused we’re starting to come in too many VA centers we’re also coming in to active duty sites like Camp Lejeune and other places around the country I think the more we can come in the more benefit we’re going to see in these places like working with the drugs helping people cut back on their medications and find that there are other ways that they can heal than just through the meds well I think if there’s a vision for the future that it would be to have in three to five years with the right commitments just like blending was sitting with Battlefield medicine you know we can have a world-class best practices decompression model for especially for combat and combat related job specialties before these men and women are getting ready to come home and in the years to come by having a successful model imagine what it would be like to teach these self care tools going through boot camp and basic training where you’re teaching the warrior ultimately how to self-regulate you know you’re talking about a homecoming program I’d like to see these kinds of best practices integrated as you say right from the very beginning so they’re getting that skill not at the end but right at the very beginning they’re using that skill all the way through their service and so they’re seeing the impact of it moment to moment or day to day and so when they come out they’re not being taught that skill they already have that skill and then that skill is being reinforced so I would love to see these kinds of best practices integrated right from the very beginning I think the work that that you’ve been doing in the schools is another area for active duty military bases their children with deployed parents and having to go through it I remember growing up when my dad was deployed and like you know looking around and you know that was just kind of the normal thing but so you didn’t really want to talk about it in order to reopen any of those wounds but there’s so many kids having their you know their fathers and mothers that that are gone and I believe that by teaching IRS to these children and building resiliency in that way it will help strengthen the family and you know so i think that’s another very very promising avenue right we’d like to and we’re trying to do that institute in the recreational centers on bases so the spouse who’s at home and their children can have access to these kind of programs so they’re building that resiliency in so they’re dealing with their stress while the other spouse is deployed and they’re being able to handle that and then they’ve got that resiliency to better handle that homecoming themselves yeah because what I’ve seen with especially with soldiers that have multiple children who have older children right the the older child will have two will have to fill that role and it’s not fair or healthy to them and they’re in their development and so to have another program that can that can help the family holistically it’ll be a much better returning environment for the veteran when he gets home and then hopefully they can teach him that skill right like you like you had said that the children teaching their parents these skills and I think that’s what’s most promising about integrative restoration is that anybody can do it you know and probably the children are better than the adults you know when it comes to that sort of thing so so I like the idea of having this image of when a soldier is going through boot camp their spouse gets a package their parents get a package they’re already starting the post deployment preparation right at the

very beginning but it’s something that the whole family the whole support system is being tapped into there’s a particular spot in the homecoming the phases of homecoming where I think this is especially important and there’s there’s five stages there’s the anticipation stage which starts even before the person is deployed they can’t wait for them to get home right then there’s a reunion phase where there’s obviously the big celebration then there’s the realization of changes phase which happens in seconds or minutes probably not days but there’s a huge realization that people are different this person’s change from their experiences in like the guy comes home and his wife’s managing the checkbook and everything is all good and the screen door is fixed and he’s no longer needed you know or the woman comes home from from deployment and there’s other issues going on with the dad and family and so you’ve got that realization of changes phase when the family is looking at the vet that that’s looking at the family and then you’ve got the acceptance of changes phase which comes right on the heels of it and it can last a long time and if they make it through that to get to the new normal the challenge is the realization of changes in the acceptance of changes is where we’re losing relationships so keeping our vets alive and keep on keeping families together is really the big challenge at that particular point so that’s having self care tools more resiliency the ability to manage their state and their emotions when they get triggered in the families being able to hold a bigger space than what’s going on I’d love to take a few moments and see if we have any questions or reflections from the people who are listening in so I’d love to pass the mic around and see if we do have any questions or comments it’s interesting to me because I broke a lot with brain injury and a lot of these soldiers have a lot of brain injury a lot of comorbid disorders are going on at the same time head up in Anchorage there was a rash of spousal homicides on base and the pattern was that the spouses were found strangled in the back yard or the front yard and so the pattern kind of went like this the spouse would start yelling at the military member who had come back you know that why you acting like this why aren’t you talking and so on and so forth and the military member retreats trying to avoid the situation the spouse pursues the milk member goes outside the spouse pursues and then the spouse starts yelling and what do you do to get somebody stop yelling you strangle them and so there was a lot of talk about you know what’s the problem is it because their brain injured they don’t understand there’s cognitive problems are they over sensitive to sound those type of things which comes along with brain injury but it seems to me that it’s this self regulation piece and that’s why I’m here to learn about I rest because it’s really about self-regulation and being present is really what the problem is whether it’s PTSD brain injury alcohol drug abuse it’s about being present being mindful and so I think that’s I see I rest is a very fundamental piece to this these other it’s true that is it’s an adjunct of therapy but it’s really getting at the base of this fundamental problem and the medications and so forth can help deal with some of those symptoms but if we start with something like I arrest I think we can avoid a lot of that other interaction with other medications and those problems well you’re also bringing up the point which we were talking about earlier which is the teaching these skills to the veteran with sade TBI and helping them learn how to self-regulate and we do know the plasticity of the brain even if it’s been injured can change and grow and they can learn a lot of these skills but I also hear that by putting these tools in the hands of the spouse then we might not see that pursue kind of behavior that they’re beginning to understand what the response they need to do and how they may be reacting and so by taking themselves also self-regulating we can intervene on what otherwise becomes a very dangerous and deadly situation um as a VA psychologist ER and kind of see myself kind of growing up through my practice in VA because I’ve been since beginning of my graduate training at VA a lot of different departments poly trauma trauma services I do neuropsychology so to operate an injury and you know psychological assessment that intervention and all these other areas I can see this as having such a great impact in all kinds of areas whether it be in cognition issues whether it be in trauma services whether it be in general mental health issues substance abuse it can really integrate anywhere and be really fluid one thing I

was thinking commenting on is just the amount of red tape it takes to cut through the system what we’re doing in the civilian sector to to address this is I mean the parents that I talked to we don’t talk about religion or politics we talk about what’s going on you know with our kids and our family members and so you know it’s it’s pretty basic when you there’s nothing more more committed in a bit of a parent protecting their offspring of any species right and so you’ve got all these parents and the same consistent story that’s are surfacing is the recruiter told us that they were going to bring our kids home better than they found them right they’d be better contributors to society and so you’ve got you’ve got all these families who are suffering in silence or individually but yet when they start hearing a good message which seems like we’ve developed a pretty straightforward strategy it’s almost like we want to have a big parent teacher sit down conference with the DoD and then VA and everybody and just say look we’re failing we don’t know what to do and we think by having we had 22 veterans a day dining from suicide that’s eight thousand a year you know you multiply that out times the number of years just that number alone 20 or 30,000 family members saying you know we’ve already lost our kids we need to do something different make make our kids lives mean something right combined with all the other vets families that are that are going through all kinds of terrible challenges we think by having 20 30 hundred two hundred thousand you know families together that we will have a strong enough voice that it won’t be about this paralyzed system I mean and we get asked all the time well the VA doesn’t work this way or the DoD doesn’t work that way well who created a system when with the right right influence with people with the voting power maybe there is an opportunity to reshuffle the deck and to kind of piggyback on that point there’s over 3500 veterans organizations out there and if they all got together and focused on one thing that everyone knows is wrong and and stood up and united voice and said hey listen we don’t know what to do but we know something’s wrong and we know that there are people that have ideas on what to do just quickly that my spouse was a journalist in Afghanistan so this the situation i think is similar and i was the spouse that was pursuing and didn’t understand and didn’t have language it was very fearful and what i am now realizing is that the numbness that he experienced and tried so hard on day in and day out to describe to me and then the violence around the the numbness definitely triggered so much anxiety in me and i started to act in violent ways that I never knew I could act and it was that pursuer chaser and what I’m now realizing is that that numbness was there for a reason and my anxiety was there for and they were messengers and I didn’t know what the message was and I kept misinterpreting it and and that is unfortunate because numbness and anxiety that you were feeling and that he was feeling it was perfectly understandable and I judged it and I got mad at his feelings and I wanted to change him and and he wanted to change me and fix me and how many times did he say to me me just stop trying to fix me god damn it you’re trying to fix me and you’re trying to change me in your reading all those goddamn books get those books out of this house I feel like I’m an alien and you’re trying to fix me and I just wanted him to hug me and I wanted him to hold his child and he couldn’t hold his child and he still can’t hold his child he still can’t spend more than one or two days with his child before the violence starts coming and I know he’s in pain and now I am blessed because I can go home and maybe hold space for his numbness and not judge it and I just want to say well I’m sorry to him and I’m sorry that um hmm I hope one day we’ll be able to hold space for you because you deserve to be held and and and we need to learn how to support you and and it’s um it’s a beautiful journey to be on and so I just want to say that

thanks thank you you know i i’ve i’ve done done the traditional soldier’s tale I’ve ruined a couple marriages in the same way and I’ve heard things like well things were so much better when you just kept it all inside right like every day the household was good when you just kept everything and kept those barriers but why what I couldn’t convey to them and what they couldn’t understand was the more I put up those barriers that the more pressure came behind it and when those walls come down it becomes hard and like what I believe with you and in my case I knew that they were coming out of a place of love like their frustration was coming out of a caring place but sometimes you’re just not ready to receive that and you don’t know how and you’re scared to open that up you’re scared to to let the to let that floodgate go and to say okay you know it goes again so it’s kind of counterintuitive right then I love you so much that I’m so bad that you won’t do this and and and I think a lot of a lot of military families can relate to what you were saying they’re so thank you for sharing this is just a comment um I was married to a Navy pilot and this was he was a pilot in the 70s and 80s and we went through deployments six-month deployments I can still feel the emotional response to it with little children and I mean they would really there was no email there were no skype there was no skyping there was a passage of letters that never you know who would be trying to solve some problem and then it would be already solved by the time they got the letter and then they responded back and then and then there were phone there were phone stations where they would have to stand in line for nine hours to make a phone call not even knowing that their family members were going to be able to get the phone or you didn’t know the phone call was coming and in all of that there was never any preparation for the leaving or the coming there was never a community there was not a there were no conversations about coming and going people would just disappear and then reappear and so I am just sitting here in awe that the conversation is even happening I mean that is first off amazing that the conversation that this conversation is taking place and that the idea that and the imagination it would have been beyond my imagination but that the imagination and that people are being given skills and that is going to happen and that the conversation is happening to me is a miracle yes yeah and I’d love to comment on it that’s taking place at so many levels I’ve been invited to the State Department to give this kind of presentation because they’re interested because they’re seeing their embassies their embassies coming back with post-traumatic stress they’re wondering how do we integrate these kind of programs I know that the current administration is very interested in these kinds of programs and how do they implement them into all the different segments of the US government I’ve been at White House functions where we’ve had people from Dean Ornish with the integrative health program kabat-zinn myself Department of Defense this is a conversation that is really happening at a lot of different levels so i love that we’re having it here but to me this is just representative of what i’m participating in everywhere i’m part of a military mind-body consortium where we’re looking at what are best practices and we’ve been invited to be a consortium where then the military comes to us rather than somebody in a back room deciding what the best practices and they don’t have any idea about these practices and I think that’s wonderful like and that’s what John Henry and I talked about when we were stood when we were having a discussion on on starting chapters of purple star all across the country because then you have the macro element covered and then you have the micro I’m and the organic grassroots so it’s being handled from from the bottom up and from the top down and then we all meet in the middle and hopefully have a solution and there are decompression programs in place the Canadian military has a wonderful

decompression program on island of Cyprus we’re at were before they come home they go to they go to Cyprus and they have they have clinicians on there but they kind of format it as a little mini vacation just to calm down they receive some mental health treatment the USC school of social work in the center for innovation research for military veterans and Families that’s a mouthful they they’ve they’ve got over there and done some some wonderful research and giving them pointers and so it’s it’s wonderful to see that these programs are starting to be implemented and that that ideas are coming from all over the place from from civilians and like you said the heads of state and to touch on your comment on the initial invasion in Iraq I remember getting like one satellite phone call a month for five minutes that’s so that’s all we had and then you have a baby or something you know you kind of go with that and then going there afterwards you know with the invention of skype and everything else the accessibility of that technology it was almost worse right because people what I found at least in my own experience is people were giving me their problems from the United States and really they didn’t know that day I just I I kicked in 50 doors that day and I’m super tired and there’s all kinds of things and there could have been IED blasts and and and whatever what was going on but I can’t tell them that and they’re trying to unload stuff on me and then in even on days where it was good it was there was still a sense of there was still a sense of like now I can’t be here I can’t be here in this work because I see I see my family and I and I start to miss them and then it kind of clouds everything and then puts a damper on the day so i’m not sure if if the technology is is that beneficial I know it may be in moderation but I I had some difficulty and I know a lot of other guy did to you know just and it all comes back to lack of education they didn’t know they were just having a conversation about what was going on and really you’re sitting there going I’m in a war like you know I’m in a war but you know they’re just trying to relate the rate relate their daily experience and you’re just helpless you can’t do anything about it so you know sometimes technology can be can be a blessing and a curse all and all the same time John Henry and William I just wanted to know what we can do right now to help you in your very noble goal well right now we have about roughly eight thousand signatures we started the petition in September against the the heavy protest from a media advisor saying what are you doing in the middle of an election right you’re launching this petition we’re like well we’re not going to be talking to any politicians we want to talk to families and so throughout the election period just the word of mouth it was just trickling in and we didn’t do anything formerly any advertising or anything throughout through inauguration either so we got about eight thousand signatures right now on a petition and it’s on change.org and if you go to purple star families org you can see what we’re doing very clearly and what I like about it is we’ve got eight thousand signatures we have not one single email or phone call criticizing a message criticizing what we’re doing and as many as Williams said there’s 3,500 organizations out there we don’t want to replicate it and be another yet well intending nonprofit that wants to help we we don’t want to duplicate anything anybody’s do we want to bring attention to the good things that they’re doing but what we want to do is focus on policies policy change and so we feel with eight thousand signatures and no complaints we’ve done an effective test market the message is resonating about half the people of those 8,000 are actually giving us their contact information so now we’re starting to build a database of those sisters brothers aunts uncles grandparents and they’re telling us we want to be contacted we want this to be successful and about ten percent or actually leaving heartfelt comments as to why they’re signing it you know my dad died from suicide my husband died from suicide my uncle still ring from Vietnam and I mean you just get on change.org and look at the all all the comments and you’ll start getting a flavor of people want this to be successful and we have a bad day all we have to do is get on the survey and look at who just signed at eight hours ago and why they signed it and it just like okay we’re in the fight we’re still going and you know and people want it to be successful so our request would be that you go to purple star families org if you’re and there’s a little link that has a video you can watch a little more about what we’re doing and then there’s a link that says sign the petition if you like what we’re doing sign the petition to send out to everybody you know because chances are it may not be you that’s the center of influence that some of you know might be a huge center

of influence and we feel like it’s probably ready for national exposure where we have one good interview like what we’re doing right here and right now this conversation that we did this in some form of larger media and doesn’t have to be way more I we can week there’s several people that are on board with us that could actually have the interview that we feel like they would just go logarithmic and we’re going for a million signatures but I really think that if we just got a couple hundred thousand signatures with this kind of message it’s so straight forward it’s so clear we’re not asking for the moon we’re just you know we’re shooting for what’s realistic and we think that sitting down with the office of the president the DoD the VA some civilian sector organizations that if there was an ability to vet the nonprofits and the healing modalities that are getting results you know that we will find a model it won’t be today we’re not saying we demand it today we’re saying that we have to start today we have to create an expedition into brain research and into trauma and a TBI and we need to start today so that way in three to five years we’ve got something but if we don’t start today it’s just going to continue to spiral out of control so that’s how you can help sign the petition until your friends well Thank You Wayne thank you John Henry and I look forward to the petition signatures rolling back hmm thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you everyone