Monday, September 28, 2009

Joint Chiefs chairman seeks brain-injury limit

By Nikola Solic, Reuters
Pfc. Cory Terry helps Spc. Michael Keenan after an improvised explosive device damaged their vehicle Saturday in Afghanistan's Logar province.

WASHINGTON — U.S. servicemembers who suffer up to three mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions during a deployment — typically from roadside bombs — could be pulled out of combat for the duration of their tour, according to a policy being pushed by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mullen has spoken out more in the last year about the risks of mild TBI caused by roadside bombs, often invoking a story of a young soldier who endured 30 blasts and is now suffering significant brain damage.

"I don't know what the right number is, but 30 is way too many. I'm literally on the verge of saying, you know, 'Hey, it's two or it's three (mild TBIs) and you're out,' " Mullen told an audience at Harvard University Medical School last month.

The military estimates the cost of Mullen's initiative — in troops removed from combat — may be minimal, with only about 1% to 2% of the 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan routinely exposed to roadside bombs sidelined during a period of several months, or about 150 to 400 people, says Army Col. Chris Macedonia, Mullen's medical science adviser.

Those troops would remain on forward operating bases performing other duties, even after any concussive symptoms go away, he says. The recommendations would also apply to Iraq, but the number of roadside bombings there have dropped dramatically in the past year.

"We have to remember we are fighting a kind of fight that is a multidimensional, long-term counterinsurgency — which means we have people going into rotations over and over again," Macedonia says. "We have to preserve those people for the follow-on fight."

Mullen's proposal stems, in part, from civilian research into football injuries showing the dangers of multiple mild TBIs, Macedonia says. The studies show that players with three or more concussions in one season are three times more likely to experience another mild TBI. They also begin to recover more slowly after suffering three concussions.

Marines initiated policy

Marines in Afghanistan started to pull troops out of combat in early 2008 based on a complex formula involving a history of multiple concussions during a tour, Macedonia says. The Marine Corps is revising and broadening the policy, says Capt. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman.

The Army is also crafting a new policy after Mullen sent a memo in June to the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, urging Casey to look at the Marine Corps efforts, says Macedonia and Cynthia Vaughan, an Army spokeswoman. The Army provides more than 60% of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The new policy "may mean that after a certain number of (concussions), a servicemember will remain in the forward operating base for the duration of the deployment," says Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, an assistant surgeon general for the Army.

Former football players who suffered multiple concussions were five times more likely to develop symptoms of a condition considered to be a precursor to Alzheimer's and three times more likely to become clinically depressed, says Kevin Guskiewicz, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Military scientists are still learning the full extent of brain damage caused by roadside bombs, even in cases in which soldiers or Marines may appear unscathed, says Air Force Col. Michael Jaffee, director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, devoted to clinical care, research and education about TBI. In some cases, the damage could be more severe than concussions occurring on the football field, Jaffee says.

A RAND Corp. study early last year estimated that up to 300,000 servicemembers may have suffered a mild TBI in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"He (Mullen) wants attention on this issue. That's what he's been pushing for," Macedonia says. "Despite the fact that we are applying principles based on the sports medicine literature, make no mistake about it, this is war and not a game. The stakes are a lot higher."

Not unlike Agent Orange

Macedonia led a team of military scientists sent by Mullen to Afghanistan in February to study the issue and the Marines' policy of pulling troops from combat after three mild TBIs.

Mullen compares the persistent mysteries surrounding blast-related brain injuries to diseases tied to Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam War that was ultimately found to cause illnesses in troops.

"It's not an exact analogy," Mullen said during the Harvard Medical School speech. "But it's one that resonates with me because there's so much to learn (about long-term blast-related effects on the brain)."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Over half of vets still waiting for G.I. Bill money

WASHINGTON — Nearly a month into the fall college semester, the Department of Veterans Affairs has paid benefits for fewer than half the former Iraq and Afghanistan veterans requesting under the new post-9/11 G.I. Bill, according to a VA estimate.

Keith Wilson, director of the VA Education Service office, said about half of the 50,000 veterans owed money for tuition and expenses have been paid. Others are still waiting .

Another estimated 60,000 veterans are waiting for money under an older version of the G.I. Bill, Wilson says.

"We realize we're not meeting everybody's expectations," he says.

"If you served your country, they (the U.S. government) promised to pay," says Jeff Kohler, 23, a Navy veteran of the Iraq war who now attends Ohio State University. However, he says, the $4,300 in initial tuition fees, housing and expenses promised under the new G.I. Bill have not arrived.

"They sort of dangle your education in front of you and then right when you're going to get it, they say, 'Oops, sorry,' " says Kohler.

Kohler says he's using money from federal grants to pay his tuition, and his father is covering other expenses from his own disability income.

Benefits were delayed because the VA did not assign enough people to process claims, Wilson said. There has since been new hiring, approved overtime and bringing back retired claims processors, he says.

"VA believes any delays … are unacceptable," says VA press secretary Katie Roberts.

There are no confirmed reports yet of anyone denied access to colleges because of tardy payments, although many veterans are complaining about using credit cards, savings or other sources of funding to make ends meet until the VA benefits come through, according to university officials, veterans advocates and students.

Wilson says the average delay in processing claims is 35 days. But at some colleges, such as Western Michigan University, officials say they have been told by the VA that the money may not arrive until November.

In the meantime, many schools are working to provide emergency funding until the VA benefits arrive.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Krakauer's 'Glory' recounts Pat Tillman's uncommon valor

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
By Jon Krakauer
Doubleday, 400 pp., $27.95
Jon Krakauer's sobering account of the life of Pat Tillman begins at the end — the day Taliban fighters ambushed his U.S. Army Ranger platoon in the craggy mountains of eastern Afghanistan, where a baffling incident of friendly fire left him dead.

Much of Tillman's remarkable story is widely known, but not all. You may recall he was the chiseled, long-haired National Football League star who, seven months after 9/11, decided to trade the football field for the battlefield.

Leaving behind a devoted wife, adoring family and friends and a $3.6 million contract, Tillman enlisted in the Army with his brother, Kevin. They endured boot camp, trained as elite Army Rangers, then spent an uneventful and disillusioning two months in Iraq. In 2004, the brothers were deployed to Afghanistan to do what they set out to do: fight America's enemies, the al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban insurgents.

Krakauer digs deeply into Tillman's California childhood, his love of the outdoors and his struggles as an undersized teen to make the high school varsity football team and take the next step to college football. His zeal for living led to on-field heroics as well as partying and drinking that almost jeopardized his future. Tillman met each new setback and challenge with amazing resolve.

Krakauer is a best-selling author (Into the Wild and Into Thin Air) whose narrative talents have chronicled the lives of other unforgettable characters. An adventurer himself, he clearly empathizes with Tillman's quest for reaching new heights (he loved cliff jumping) and testing his mettle. The author details turning points for this rugged individualist, such as a spectacular catch in a youth baseball game that instilled a lifetime of self-confidence, and a month in juvenile lockup for pummeling a kid in a fistfight, which turned him into an insatiable reader. (He eventually graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University.)

Seeking events and decisions that led Tillman into battle, Krakauer also inserts cogently crafted chapters on Afghanistan's modern war-torn history, the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the U.S. response to 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

But this riveting book isn't without flaws. Krakauer explores some threads that he never convincingly connects to influencing Tillman — from the large Afghan community in the Bay Area, where Tillman grew up, to the controversial outcome of the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election. More annoying, Krakauer inserts long passages in the Afghanistan and al-Qaeda chapters from books such as Steve Coll's Ghost Wars and Ahmed Rashid's Taliban that interrupt Krakauer's otherwise page-turning prose.

In the end, however, Krakauer circles back in disturbing detail to the moments when Tillman was accidentally killed by a Ranger in his own platoon. His narrative turns powerfully critical in examining the aftermath of lies, destroyed evidence and falsified documents in an unconscionable cover-up, which led Tillman's devastated family, the news media and the public to believe that Tillman had died heroically in a firefight with Taliban warriors.

Krakauer blames the cover-up on military bungling and what he says was the Bush administration's desire to exploit Tillman's death with a gung-ho fallen-hero tale to divert attention from scandalous disclosures soon to emerge from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Tillman indeed was a fallen hero who, while alive, shunned all efforts to make him the poster boy of a global war against terrorism. And Krakauer's gripping book about this extraordinary man who lived passionately and died unnecessarily sets the record

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Serviceman Lost in World War II Finally Returns Home



By Marcie Kobriger

The remains of a Green Bay serviceman lost at war more than six decades ago finally returned to Northeast Wisconsin.

At 81 years old, Joyce Clark can clearly recall the events of a Saturday nearly 66 years ago.

"I can remember that day. I was still in bed because it was a Saturday, and I remember someone knocking at the door, my mother going to the door, and having her say, 'Oh, no,' and I knew right away something."

Joyce was 15 years old. Her brother, Second Lieutenant Robert Streckenbach was just 21 when he was lost in action in World War II.

The plane he and ten other servicemen were in ran into bad weather over Papau, New Guinea.

But what exactly happened to them would remain a mystery for more than half a century.

"You wait and you wait and you wait. You know, every time the phone rings you think it's that somebody at the door."

Joyce would wait more than 60 years before she heard any more about her brother.

The military located Streckenbach's plane in 2004 and positively identified his remains just weeks ago.

Lieutenant Streckenbach returned to Northeast Wisconsin last week.

"You walked around the end of the plane. Here you see the cargo door open, and this casket there with the flag draped over it, and these seven soldiers standing there, and it just blows you away."

Blown away to be in the presence of her older brother once again and to know a son lost to her parents 66 years ago will soon lay beside them.

"Really this is a happy time, that after all these years he's finally going to be home," Joyce said.

Story and Video can be seen at http://www.wbay.com/Global/story.asp?S=11170553

Patrick LaLonde


Patrick LaLonde
Patrick LaLonde, 37, of Mequon, Wis., formerly of Menominee, passed away, Sunday September 20, 2009, as the result of a motorcycle accident. Donald Patrick LaLonde Jr., was born on November 20, 1971, in Menominee, Mich. to Donald Sr. "Skip" and Linda (Peterson) LaLonde.

Pat was a 1990 graduate of Menominee High School, and went on to receive a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. On March 8, 1991, Pat enlisted in the United States Air Force. Following basic training, Pat was stationed in Great Falls, Mont., a place and time he enjoyed very much. Pat spent time in Desert Storm. On March 20, 1993, he received the Achievement Medal Award of Active Heroism and Courage for saving a life. At the time of his death, Pat was a Master Sergeant with the 128th Refueling Wing of Milwaukee, serving as the lead accounting technician. Pat had a contagious personality and loved to be around people. He was known to be energetic, outgoing, and meticulously organized. Pat enjoyed hunting, fishing, boating, and going to camp, his love for life and adventure took him to places all over the world. Even in his death, he died doing something he loved.

Pat is survived by his parents, Skip and Linda of Menominee, Mich.; two brothers: Bryan (Allyson) of Mt. Laurell, N.J., and Chris (Casey) of Menominee, Mich.; four nieces: Ali, Drew, Ashlyn, and Breah; many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends young and old. Pat was preceded in death by his grandparents, Don and Wanda LaLonde and Harvey Peterson and Lorayne Olsen.

Family and friends may call on Thursday, September 24, 2009, at Cadieu Funeral Home from 4 to 8 p.m. with Parish Prayers at 7:30 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday September 25, 2009, at 11 a.m. at Resurrection Catholic Church, Menominee, Mich., with Father Rob Jurkovich officiating.

Burial will follow in Riverside Cemetery with full Military Honors.

A memorial fund has been established in Pat's name. "Pat will be greatly missed by family and many, many, close friends."

Reported by http://www.ehextra.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I lost my son

Friday, September 18, 2009

I lost my son -- let's save other returning warriors

From Kathy Rodrick of Racine.

Hello, I am a mother
of a Marine who recently committed suicide.
I have a few ideas that I would like someone to listen to and maybe adapt. Let’s do this so we can help our soldiers. First, according to the VFW NEWS WISCONSIN, the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program Adds Chat Service. This is a wonderful idea but I think it is too hard for soldiers to access. How many people do not have a computer and how long will it take to begin talking to a live source. I think that a business card with the front of it saying something like, “SUICIDE IS NOT PAINLESS TO THE LOVE ONE LEFT BEHIND” with the phone number of someone they can speak to instantly. This is something they should be given at their debrie
fing, something they are told to put in their wallet. At this time, I would impress upon them that it is not the strong person that thinks they can handle this on their own. It is the STRONG person that calls this number and ask for help. Also, Mandatory Counseling!

We need to impress upon our soldiers that it is the strong that seek help. They are not weak. Other people have these thoughts.

Even if we stress that they need to come to these group meetings to help their comrades, we all know that by helping others we are actually helping ourselves. Let these meetings be in the outlying areas, not everything at the VA. It would make it convenient for our soldiers and maybe they would find it easier to attend. Have the counselors and psychiatrist be mobile for our
soldiers, they were for us.

Second, maybe they need to find someone outside of the military who has been through this to talk to these returning soldiers so it becomes h
umanized. I don’t have all of the answers but I do know the pain that this has caused a loving family.





Cpl. Kevin E. Rodrick 1977 - 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SFC Jared C Monti Medal of Honor

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

(CBS/AP) President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor - the nation's top military decoration - to the family of a Massachusetts soldier who died saving the life of a wounded comrade in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama honored Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti of Rayham, Mass. during an East Room ceremony at the White House Thursday. Standing with Monti's parents, Janet and Paul, Obama said Monti personified the values of duty, honor, sacrifice and heroism.

Americans often toss around such words too freely, the president said.

"Do we really grasp the meanings of these values?" he asked.

Jared Monti of Raynham, Mass. died during a firefight with insurgents in Gowardesh, Afghanistan in June 2006. He helped his troop set up a defensive position following an ambush, called in air support, and then directly engaged the enemy with his rifle and a grenade - thwarting an attempt to flank the troop.

The 30-year-old Monti showed "conspicuous gallantry," the White House declared when announcing he would win the Medal of Honor for his role in the fight along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Medals of Honor awarded by Congress are the highest award for military valor, typically reserved for members of the military who risk their lives with gallantry beyond the call of duty.
http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/monti/remarks.html

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Fawn and the Cat

A sweet video! If they can cross the lines and love, we can all take a lesson from them!
video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. soldier alive despite word to family

Raymond Jasper of Niagara Falls, N.Y., received a call telling him his son had been killed in Afghanistan. Hours later, the family learned it had been a misunderstanding.
WASHINGTON — Raymond Jasper was on a camping trip in New York state with his wife, Robin, when he got a phone call about his son, a soldier in Afghanistan.

"I saw the look on his face, and I asked him, 'Is Jesse hurt? How bad is he hurt," Robin Jasper recalled Monday. "He said, 'He's dead.'

He dropped the phone, and we both hit the floor sobbing."

It wasn't true.

Their son, Staff Sgt. Jesse Jasper, 26, had not been killed in Afghanistan. The Army says the incorrect news was delivered to the Niagara Falls, N.Y., family by mistake by a member of an informal military support group. And it has the Jaspers looking for some answers.

"No family should have to go through this," Robin Jasper said.

Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman, said the Army does not notify families of soldiers' deaths by phone. An officer and a chaplain meet with families in person to break the news, he said.

Wright said the error came from a support group outside the Pentagon that helps families cope with a death.

"It was not malicious," Wright said.

The Pentagon said it is taking the incident seriously and was looking further into the matter, said WGRZ-TV in Buffalo.

But the Jaspers cannot forget the four hours they thought their son was gone.

During the phone call, the Jaspers were given a phone number to get more details about their son's death. But they decided to wait. Family and friends started to gather at their home and food was prepared for those mourning his death. Someone posted the news on Facebook.

It was then they got a call from Jesse's girlfriend, who saw the notice on Facebook. She said she had just talked to Jesse. He was alive. Raymond Jasper called the number he had for the military. His wife thought he was in denial when he told her, "He's alive!"

The Jaspers eventually talked to their son.

The man who died whose name was confused with Jasper's was Sgt. Tyler Juden, 23, of Winfield, Kan. He died Saturday in Turan, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked the unit with grenades and small-arms fire, according to the Pentagon. Juden was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

"Our hearts go out to his family," Robin Jasper said of Juden. "We're praying for them."

"It was the worst four hours of my life," Robin Jasper said.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's wrong with this picture? Wisconsin troops destroy beer in Iraq

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


From the Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office in Baghdad:
"Because U.S. soldiers are not allowed to possess or consume alcohol in a combat zone, a 5-ton truck crushes beer left behind at a foreign compound formerly occupied by those who don’t have such a rule. Alpha Troop, 105th Cavalry reports there wasn’t a dry eye on the base as the beer was destroyed. Photo provided by Troop A, 1-105th Cavalry." For more from the PAO, go to madison.com/wsj.
1 comments

We're recycling Camp Bucca


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lt. Col. Leah Moore of Monona is 6,714 miles from home at Forward Operating Base Bucca, aka Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq. She is the base deputy commander. When not deployed she works as the Wisconsin National Guard deputy surgeon in Madison, and commands the guard armory in Portage.

At FOB Bucca, there are several permanent infrastructures originally
built to sustain Army forces and missions. These include a brick factory capable of producing up to 1 million bricks per month, an ice plant capable of producing up to 45 tons of ice per day, and a Waste Water Treatment Plant with the ability to sustain a population of over 50,000 people.

In addition -- and most importantly -- we are also currently overseeing the completion of a new water treatment facility capable of producing 2 million gallons of water a day. FOB Bucca is located above the largest aquifer in the region. The new water treatment facility is able to drill down to the water, retrieve it, and then treat it so that it is drinkable. While deployed here, our goals are not only to see through the completion of the construction of this water treatment plant but also to complete several projects that will provide local cities/villages direct access to our water, waste plant, brick, and ice factory assets in the near future. We also intend to provide the vocational training required to sustain these assets after our departure.

As far as the future of Bucca -- based on our location and established
assets -- there are many potential uses. As of yet, a final decision has not been made on which if any of the uses will come to fruition. Regardless, we work daily not only to sustain normal operations incumbent to running a FOB (i.e. logistics, engineering, housing, safety, and contracting operations) but also to prepare the Base for its re-missioning (whatever that may be).

The challenge is to
keep what we need now, anticipate what we may need in the future, and reallocate the difference to help out our fellow forces and minimize waste and cost. So far, we've identified and reallocated over 8 million dollars worth of supplies and equipment that may have otherwise gone to waste. We are very proud of our work and success here.

LTC. Leah Moore


New York Times photo depicts a portion of Camp Bucca's detainee facilities months ago. Thousands of detainees have been moved north to other facilities for release or transfer to Iraqi custody.


More from Moore:
LTC. Moore, who works full time in the Wisconsin National Guard medical office in Madison, was among the experts quoted in Sunday's Wisconsin State

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Airman who served in Camp Bucca dies in car crash.

http://www.philly.com/philly/obituaries/20090909_Ingles_DosReis___Military_police_officer__22.html

SSG DosReis was going around a corner where there was another car crash he tried to swerve to miss and crashed himself. He was only 22.

Let's keep SSG DosReis in our prayers.

9-11


Least we never forget why Some Gave All after 9-11! They are fighting for our freedom, our freedom against terrorists. Fighting for the basic human rights of being safe and protected.



video



video

The Videos are from a former Army brother that served with me at the 123rd Signal BT in Wurzburg, Germany! Tom Crowder gave me permission to use his videos!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Support Our Troops


A well compiled site that has many links on how to help Support our Troops with many links.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Suicides a growing problem for military

Marine Cpl. Kevin Rodrick was stationed in Iraq for about six months. His mother and girlfriend say he told them almost nothing about where he was or what he did. His reticence was at least in part to maintain operational security, but Rodrick also was reluctant to talk about himself. He committed suicide Aug. 15. The military is ramping up efforts to prevent suicides, which have been increasing for several years.

STEVEN VERBURG sverburg@madison.com 608-252-6118 | Posted: Saturday, September 5, 2009 6:55 pm |

Iraq war veteran Kevin Rodrick of Racine took his own life Aug. 15, the day he was scheduled to meet with his Marine commanders and former comrades in Madison to discuss entering the reserves. A few days later, something arrived in the mail.

"On the day we buried Kevin, we got a postcard in the mail saying that he was due for a psych eval," said his mother, Kathy Rodrick.

Those who knew him say he was too independent and stubborn to accept counseling for personal problems, and that he would have given false answers on a psychological evaluation in order to fool the doctors. Regardless, Kathy Rodrick says the military must get smarter about helping troubled soldiers.

They're trying.

Stung by alarming increases in soldier suicides, the military has expanded testing and education around suicide, depression and related problems in recent years.

That drive will take on renewed urgency in Wisconsin early next year when about 3,300 Army National Guard men and women are scheduled to return from a yearlong deployment that includes about nine months in Iraq.

"We have so many deployed right now. The risk is probably going to rise two or three months to six months after they get back," said Bob Evans, the state guard director of psychological health. He commanded military mental health clinics during two tours of duty in wartime Baghdad.

The guard says three of their members have committed suicide in the last five years. They don't count suicides that occur after a guard member's duty contract expires. Similar numbers for other service branches aren't available.

The National Guard and other military services have long encouraged soldiers to recognize warning signs of depression or other possible precursors to suicide, and to seek counseling, spiritual guidance or medication, all of which are available at bases both overseas and in the U.S., as well as at Veterans Administration hospitals.

But many don't take advantage of the help, fearing that a medical problem will hurt their chances for advancement through the ranks or disqualify them from service. Many just don't want to show weakness in a culture that demands strength and toughness under high-stress conditions.

There is stigma about mental illness in all walks of life, but it can be greater in the military, said Evans.

"It's changing, but there is still a paradox," Evans said of resistance to treatment of psychological problems. "As a soldier I don't want to display my weaknesses. But if I don't display my weaknesses, I'm not going to be successful" as a soldier.

Nationally, experts agree that the stress and potential for depression has increased for soldiers. That's especially true for state guard members, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched past six years in length - longer than U.S. involvement in World War II.

After months of anticipating the homecoming, there is often a letdown. And soldiers who don't build social connections and support back home are more at risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, Evans said.

Kevin Rodrick wanted to join the Marines from the time he was in high school. A skin condition ruled him out and he spent years traveling and working maintenance jobs in schools.

Five years ago, he persuaded the Marines to agree that his skin was fine and he went to boot camp.

"They called him Colonel, because he was so much older than the others, and he could still outdo all the 18-year-olds. He enjoyed that," said his girlfriend, Chrisandra Linden. "He was in good shape. Not an ounce of fat on him."

Cpl. Rodrick was stationed in Quantico, Va., then deployed to Iraq for about six months last year. When he would talk to family back in Wisconsin, he wouldn't say much about what he did, except that he'd once fired a couple of warning shots and that he guarded prisoners.

He returned to Waterford just before Thanksgiving 2008. He became romantically involved with Linden and moved in with her and her 8-year-old daughter, Kyera, in Racine.

Rodrick was frustrated that he couldn't find work. Money wasn't a problem, but each morning he woke up and tried to make a plan for the day. And without work, that was sometimes difficult, Linden said.

Civilian life lacked the structure he enjoyed in the military, she said.

Rodrick made plans to attend UW-Milwaukee but had second thoughts because he didn't like large groups of people. He kept to himself.

About a month before he died, he told Linden he had thoughts about suicide.

"His thing was he didn't want to hurt anybody," she said. "He felt that just being around was hurting people."

He rejected Linden's suggestion he seek counseling or other support.

"He wouldn't have it," Linden said. "He didn't think it would help him. He was too damn stubborn."

She expressed concern he wasn't getting help, and he never again admitted to being troubled.

"He made sure I was fooled. Otherwise I wouldn't have let him out of the house," she said. "He was too smart for his own good."

On the morning of Aug. 15, Rodrick left the house. He told Linden he was going to Madison for a muster, a meeting with his Marine colleagues and commanders, and that he planned to sign up for the Marine Reserves at the meeting.

Instead, he drove to Waterford, parked near some railroad tracks behind a building not far from his parents' home. He ran hoses from his exhaust pipe into the car and asphyxiated himself.

Soldiers from Wisconsin like Rodrick have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first troops were dispatched soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the psychological impact of the combat has been well documented.

Lt. Col. Brad Anderson commands Wisconsin National Guard security units that patrol outside the security perimeter at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq about 500 meters from the Kuwait border. Soldiers in large armored vehicles have been rocked twice by homemade bombs hidden in the road, with no serious injuries. But the anticipation of a possible attack wears on his units. Duty in Iraq is stressful even for those who are unlikely to encounter combat.

Many other Wisconsin guard members have more mundane duties guarding detainees. The boredom and the regular contact with detainees who are hostile makes their duty stressful, prompting the chaplain to spend much time counseling them, Anderson said.

Camp Bucca's deputy commander, Lt. Col. Leah Moore, said the added emphasis of the latest training is to encourage soldiers to look for signs of emotional trouble in their comrades.

"It's what to look for, what to say, don't be afraid to address this. It's not just how you feel, but how you can help your buddy out," said Moore, whose unit is based in Portage. "We're not just trying to sweep something under the rug, but to do something today because tomorrow may be too late."

At the VA hospital in Milwaukee, suicide prevention efforts have accelerated over the last two and a half years, said Michelle Cornette, a psychologist who serves as suicide prevention and depression treatment leader.

But it's not easy to know what will work.

Enlisting fellow soldiers and educating family members to spot potential suicides is a good idea but not a cure-all, she said.

"Some people are chronically suicidal," Cornette said. "It's very difficult to know at any point in time if they might attempt a lethal suicide act."

And it's difficult to know how often military service is a major factor leading to suicide. It's equally possible that a high proportion of people at risk for suicide tend to join the military, Cornette said.

Kathy Rodrick praised the Marine Corps for its concern and assistance after her son died Aug. 15. But she confronted a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration about doing more to prevent suicides.

"He said, 'I'm sorry ma'am to tell you this has been happening more and more often,'" she said.

" 'Well then let's fix it,' " she told him. " 'You can't help Kevin, but you can help someone else.' "

"These guys don't know how to ask for help," she said. "They've been trained not to ask for help. We need to change that."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Iraq Star



Ryan Goede, E-6 in the Army Infantry, is a three time recipient of the Purple Heart medal from his Iraq assignments.




Iraq Star provides free reconstructive surgery to our Iraq and Afghanistan war wounded. www.IraqStar.org.


Friday, September 4, 2009

VA to increase benefits for mild brain trauma

WASHINGTON — The government plans to substantially increase disability benefits for veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries, acknowledging for the first time that veterans suffering from this less severe version of the Iraq war's signature wound will struggle to make a living.

"We're saying it's real," said Tom Pamperin, a deputy director for the Department of Veteran Affairs, about the significance of the change to benefits in the regulation the VA plans to publish today.

Up to 320,000 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered traumatic brain injury, a RAND Corp. study estimated this year. The vast majority of the cases are mild and came from exposure to an explosion, often from a roadside bomb. Most veterans with mild cases recover, Pamperin said, but some are left with permanent problems.

Compensation could reach $600 a month, the VA said. Currently, veterans with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears and irritability and insomnia collect $117.

After it takes effect in 30 days, the new regulation will benefit between 3,500 and 5,000 veterans a year, the department said. It estimated the changes would cost an extra $120 million through 2017.

More than 1.6 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. About half of those are now veterans, and slightly less than half of those veterans have sought health care from the VA, records show. In the past year, the department has screened 190,000 of these veterans for brain injury. About 20% showed signs of a brain injury, but only about 5% were confirmed as suffering the wound.

The regulation modifies a 1961 rating schedule for mild brain trauma and brings compensation for this ailment into the 21st Century, said Lonnie Bristow, chairman of an Institute of Medicine committee that studied veterans' benefits.

The old regulation failed to recognize that wounds such as brain injuries from blasts — which do not show up on scans — are only understood by what patients say they are suffering, Bristow said.

"VA has been assessing their injuries based on outdated science," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Veterans groups, such as the Disabled American Veterans, applauded the change. However, they said the estimated numbers of traumatic brain injury cases may prove low, because the science around blast damage to the brain is still new.

Veterans who have suffered the most severe brain injuries will not receive much, if any, extra money because existing regulations provided adequate compensation in serious cases, Pamperin said. Consolidating all brain injury standards into one regulation, he said, will make it easier for veterans to get extra benefits to pay for special circumstances such as being housebound by the injury.

AFTER THE NEW REGULATION

Projected number of veterans to receive benefits for traumatic brain injuries.

Year Number Annual cost
2009 3,546 $10.08 million
2010 3,746 $10.14 million
2011 3,946 $11.1 million
2012 4,146 $12.1 million
2013 4,346 $13.1 million
2014 4,546 $14.2 million
2015 4,746 $15.3 million
2016 4,94 $16.5 million
2017 5,146 $17.7 million

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs


Pentagon researches alternative treatments

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is seeking new ways to treat troops suffering from combat stress or brain damage by researching such alternative methods as acupuncture, meditation, yoga and the use of animals as therapy, military officials said.

"This new theme is a big departure for our cautious culture," Dr. S. Ward Casscells, the Pentagon's assistant secretary for health affairs, told USA TODAY.

Casscells said he pushed hard for the new research, because "we are struggling with" post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "as we are with suicide and we are increasingly willing to take a hard look at even soft therapies."

So far this year, the Pentagon is spending $5 million to study the therapies. In the previous two years, the Pentagon had not spent any money on similar research, records show.

About 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression, and about 320,000 may have experienced at least a mild concussion or brain injury in combat, according to a RAND Corp. study released this year.

The Army reported a record 115 suicides last year, and suicides this year are at a rate that may exceed that, said Col. Eddie Stephens, the Army's deputy director for human resources policy. The Department of Veterans Affairs reported last month that suicides among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans from all services reached a record high of 113 in 2006, the latest year for which there were figures.

Some military hospitals and installations already use alternative therapies, such as acupuncture as stress relievers for patients. The research will see whether the alternatives work so the Pentagon can use them more, said Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, head of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Many of the treatments have been used for centuries, Sutton said, "so it just makes sense to bring all potential therapies to bear."

Her office issued a request for research proposals this year on therapies ranging from art and dance, to the ancient Chinese healing art of qigong or a therapy of hands-on touching known as Reiki.

Sutton's office narrowed a list of 82 proposals to about 10 projects this year, and research should begin, with servicemembers as subjects in some cases, in the next few months, said Col. Karl Friedl, head of the Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, which oversees the work.

Friedl said research will include how meditation can improve emotional resilience; how holding and petting an animal can treat PTSD and how acupuncture pain relief can relieve headaches created by mild brain damage from blasts.

"We want to add everything we can to our tool kit" for these injuries, said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, an Army psychiatrist.

Some soldiers who suffer from PTSD are reluctant to share their experiences in traditional psychiatric therapy, said Col. Charles Engel, an Army psychiatric epidemiologist. He said those soldiers may be more willing to use acupuncture and other alternatives if they are effective.

Initial research this summer with combat veterans showed that acupuncture relieved PTSD symptoms and eased pain and depression, Engel said. "Improvements were relatively rapid and clinically significant," he said.

About one third of sailors and Marines use some types of alternative therapies, mostly herbal remedies, according to a survey conducted last year. A recent Army study shows that one in four soldiers with combat-caused PTSD turned to herbs, chiropractors, acupuncture or megavitamins for relief.

Although the Pentagon's study of alternative medicine for combat diseases is unique, research into such therapies for broad public use is not new, said Richard Nahin, a senior adviser for the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NIH spends about $300 million a year on similar research.

Military rethinking 'golden hour' for injuries

Army infantry troops carry a wounded soldier who was injured when rolling over a mine in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, on Friday. The soldier is to be medically evacuated. U.S. Army via AP

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military is rethinking its "golden hour" goal for critically injured troops, questioning whether it should spend a little longer evacuating patients to get them to a better hospital.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that troops in Afghanistan, where the craggy terrain makes medical evacuations difficult, get help as quickly as those in Iraq. Wounded troops in Iraq generally are reached, stabilized and hospitalized within what medical providers call the "golden hour" — the time it generally takes to deliver care needed to save a person's life.

But at the base hospital located on what Afghans call the "desert of death," doctors Tuesday told Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway that it's better to make sure patients who are wounded in battle zones get the best care possible, rather than be taken to the closest medical facility.

"Seventy minutes to the right place is better than 50 minutes to the wrong place," said Navy Capt. Joseph Rappolo, a trauma surgeon.

Conway, in Afghanistan visiting troops, said he could agree — as long as emergency evacuation teams on the scene provide some care first.

The Bastion hospital treats about 200 patients each week. It has an operating room, an intensive care unit and a morgue, and is one of the few hospitals in Afghanistan that provides full treatment for the critically injured.

Its medical staff says they care for as many wounded Afghan civilians as they do troops. Troops are generally treated and released — or flown out of the war zone — within a day or two. The Afghan patients, however, have few other places to go for care, and wind up staying longer.

Among them Tuesday was Sakhai, a little boy who was idly playing with a pink balloon as he lay on his hospital bed. He did not know his age or last name. The stump of his bandaged right leg, its foot blown off, stretched out in front of him.

Through an interpreter, Sakhai said he'd been in the hospital for four days. Sakhai said he was hurt when a mortar exploded in front of him in his Helmand Province village. His younger brother was killed in the blast. Helmand is a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.

Sakhai was asked if his leg hurt. No, he said, shaking his head solemnly. His parents had already gone home.

The Bastion hospital is run by U.S., Dutch and British staff — and receives more blood from donors than any medical facility in the United Kingdom, said British Staff Sgt. Darren Makin.

Given the golden hour debate, U.S. military commanders now are wondering if they should open additional high-care hospitals in southern Afghanistan, where troops might be pushing into in the future. Other military hospitals in Afghanistan, such as the one at Bagram Air Field outside Kabul, have top-of-the-line medical facilities. Most do not, however.

Navy Master Chief to receive Bronze Star for being at Camp Bucca!!

http://www.wlwt.com/news/20706214/detail.html

http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/story.php?id=5370

This is a great story about a Command Master Chief to receive a Bronze Star. He was stationed at Camp Bucca from June 2008 - June 2009 & did not have one count of misconduct. Wow what a great story to know nothing went wrong during his command at Bucca!!
Mischa.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Strikeouts For Troops

This is a non profit organization founded by Barry Zito of the SanFrancisco Giants.

For each strikeout, rbi or homerun they raise money for troops who were wounded. Being a huge baseball fan this is great for veterans like us who are not wounded or have a friend who is wounded. This is a great cause!!

http://www.strikeoutsfortroops.org/index.htm

Michelle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SGT Darrin K. Potter September 29, 2003 R.I.P


SGT Darrin K. Potter September 29, 2003 R.I.P

I had the honor of serving with SGT Potter so I figured I would put a tribute to him on this page since he was attached to Camp Bucca.

On a dark night in September 2003 SGT Potter was in a Hummer apprehending an insurgent who tried to hit his hummer with a mortar. So the vehicle he was in overturned in a canal. Before he could get out he made sure his troops could get out before him. Unfortunately he could not get out of the vehicle and drowned.

From the few times that I met SGT Potter he was a very fun, caring, looking out for everyone type of person. He always had a smile on his face.

The company SGT Potter was a part of is the 223rd MP Co which falled under my Battalion. The 724th MP BN was the company I was with. I remember the day I found out about the drowning. I was a cook and would go over to the 223rds cooks tent to see if they wanted to watch a movie or anything like that. Then they told me the horrible news and said they did not want to watch anything which I said oh I understand. The first thing I though was he was very good friends with a member of the BN I was with as well. She was home on leave when it happened. I was like oh man I feel so sorry for her to find out about this while on leave. I also remember going to his memorial service at Camp Bucca & the way his CPT spoke about him. He thought so high of him he was one of the best NCO's of the whole company.

So in conclusion I had the honor of serving with SGT Potter and will always think of him on September 29th and remember where I was when I found out. If we all could keep his family in our minds this month as it has to be hard for them. Let's make sure his memory never goes away as he was a great person who looked out for others.

Here are some websites about his legacy.

This is a very nice site with tributes to SGT Potter. I totally agree with what everyone is saying on this board.
http://www.fallenheroesmemorial.com/oif/profiles/potterdarrink.html

http://army.togetherweserved.com/army/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApps?cmd=PublicProfile&type=Person&ID=123479

http://www.iraqwarheroes.com/dpotter01/

http://www.militarycity.com/valor/256817.html

Gone but not forgotten.
SGT Potter a true american hero.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

VA won't pay benefits to Marine injured by vaccine

By David Goldstein | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — It wasn't a bullet or roadside bomb that felled Lance Cpl. Josef Lopez three years ago after nine days in Iraq. It was an injection into his arm before his unit left the states.

The then 20-year-old Marine from Springfield, Mo., suffered a rare adverse reaction to the smallpox vaccine. While the vaccine isn't mandatory, the military strongly encourages troops to take it.
However, it left Lopez in a coma, unable for a time to breathe on his own and paralyzed for weeks. Now he can walk, but with a limp. He has to wear a urine bag constantly, has short-term memory loss and must swallow 15 pills daily to control leg spasms and other ailments.
And even though his medical problems wouldn't have occurred if he hadn't been deployed, Lopez doesn't qualify for a special government benefit of as much as $100,000 for troops who suffer traumatic injuries.
The hangup? His injuries were caused by the vaccine.
"I could have easily died, or not been able to walk because of that," Lopez said. "It destroyed my world. It was pretty traumatic to me."
Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees the benefit program, said they're following what the agency has determined to be Congress' intent.
"It's for traumatic injury, not disease; not illness; not preventive medicine," said Stephen Wurtz, deputy assistant director for insurance at the VA. "It has nothing to do with not believing these people deserve some compensation for their losses."
The VA was unable to say how many claims have been rejected because of vaccine-related injuries. Wurtz and others familiar with the program said it probably wasn't a large amount.
As of July 1, the traumatic injury program has granted nearly 6,700 claims, a 63 percent approval rate, and paid $394 million in compensation, Wurtz said.
A representative for the Military Vaccine Agency, which oversees the vaccination of troops for smallpox, anthrax and other diseases, couldn't be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and a member of the Armed Services Committee, drafted a bill named after Lopez to widen the program to include vaccine-related injuries.
She became aware of his plight when he and his mother stopped in her Senate office last year looking for help. Lopez had come to Washington to compete in the wheelchair portion of the Marine Corps Marathon.
"The program was created with a broad mandate to provide financial assistance to folks with serious injuries and given to VA to determine the outlines," said Stephen Hedger, McCaskill's legislative director and an Army veteran of Iraq. The VA "took a narrower approach and defined in greater detail what injuries and illnesses qualified for payment. Our view is it was way too narrow."
Lopez's health insurance through the military has covered all his medical expenses. The VA has paid for his medical costs since he was discharged in June.
What he didn't get were benefits from a program called TSGLI, or Traumatic Servicemember Group Life Insurance. Congress created it in 2005 to provide short-term financial help to severely injured service members until their disability benefits could kick in. The compensation is retroactive to injuries suffered since Oct. 1, 2001.
It's intended to cover expenses such as the costs of having a family member temporarily relocate while an injured service member receives treatment at a military hospital. Another might be the costs of retrofitting a service member's home to accommodate a wheelchair or other medical equipment.
The injuries don't have be the result of combat, however. Service members could be eligible because of a car accident on the way to the grocery store. The fee is an additional $1 each month on top of their regular military life insurance premium.
Lopez seemed to fit the profile. His injuries affected his normal daily activities, one of the criteria to obtain coverage. His family also met another: financial hardship.
His mother, Barbara Lopez, took a leave from her job as a high school secretary to move to Maryland to be with him while he spent six weeks at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda. She also had to give up her second job, a part-time position as a cashier.
They'd to build a ramp and widen a door to accommodate his wheelchair at her home in Springfield, where he spent his recovery.
Barbara Lopez said she heard about TSGLI from families of other injured troops at Bethesda. Yet unlike many of them, whose wounds were obvious, her son's application was turned down. She still can't fathom it.
"In his spinal column, he has quite a bit of permanent scarring," Barbara Lopez said. "He takes medication to help his legs. He can walk unassisted, but never far, and he can't stand for very long. I kind of feel Joe was out there fighting the same fight they were. He should be just as eligible."
The military began the smallpox vaccination program in 2003 because of post-9/11 fears that terrorists might attack the U.S. with germ warfare. Plans for the invasion of Iraq were also under way. The military was concerned that Saddam Hussein might use biological weapons against American troops.
Smallpox is contagious and can be fatal. It has no known cure. However, on rare occasions, as in Lopez's case, the vaccine can be as dangerous as the disease. Side effects can range from a simple rash to swelling around the brain and heart, and even death.
Like the inoculation for anthrax, another pre-combat injection, troops are supposed to be informed of the side effects and told that taking the vaccine was optional. Many have said that it was made abundantly clear that refusing wasn't a good idea.
"No one said 'No,'" Lopez said. "I had no qualms. I had no reason not to."

http://militarylifecivilianlife.blogspot.com/

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/244/story/74566.html?storylink=omni_popular

"The Government Can"




http://militarylifecivilianlife.blogspot.com/

Program aims to curb Marine suicides

WASHINGTON — Faced with a rise in suicides among Marines, the service is ordering training for all immediate supervisors — sergeants and corporals — to become more involved and knowledgeable about the intimate details of the lives of their young charges.

"We as Marines always try to do the hard thing," Master Sgt. James Dinwoodie says in a training video aimed at promoting sensitivity to emotional problems Marines may be suffering. "Well, sometimes you need to do the soft thing."

Through July 16, there have been 30 confirmed or suspected Marine suicides this year. There were 42 during 2008, the highest since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have also been 89 attempted suicides this year, compared with 146 attempts in all of 2008.

The rate of Marine Corps suicides in 2008 reached 19.5 per 100,000, approaching the civilian rate of 19.9.

"We are very concerned (in the Marine Corps) because we are running ahead of last year's pace," says Navy Cmdr. Aaron Werbel, a clinical psychologist and suicide-prevention program manager for the Marine Corps.

Confirmed or suspected Army suicides have reached 88 this year, which is on pace to set another annual record, Army statistics show. The Army suicide rate is 20.2 per 100,000.

In a video introducing the Marines' training program, Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, says: "Marines are known for taking care of each other. ... This is about leadership. Our corporals and sergeants are our first line of defense. I expect each of you to step up and engage your Marines."

The training program, provided to USA TODAY, weaves a dramatic film about a suicidal Marine with a video featuring interviews with relatives of Marines who committed suicide and troops, talking about how to help other troops seek counseling. The mandatory training, which includes discussions and lectures, lasts three hours for trainers, who then spend half a day teaching other non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

The video includes footage of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Workman, who received the service's second-highest award for valor, the Navy Cross, for heroism in Iraq, discussing his post-traumatic stress disorder and his own suicide attempt in 2006.

"Guys that come back from Iraq or Afghanistan and take their lives, it's like an 8,000-mile sniper shot. And it's another victory for the enemy," he says, urging Marines to seek help.

Non-commissioned officers handle the training exclusively, as sergeants teach other sergeants and corporals, who will then conduct 20- or 30-minute sessions with individual squad or team members, Werbel says.

"NCOs can get out there and use some four-letter words, and they're going to get their (Marines) attention," Marine Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent says.

"We're not going to give each other a big group hug," says Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Proietto, a four-tour war veteran who is leading the training program. "But we're going to address it like Marines. We're going to say, 'What's going on there Devil Dog? If you got a problem, let's get it fixed.' "

"They're my kids and my best friends," says Sgt. Anthony Kondziella, 25, newly trained in the program. "I know this will work."

MARINE SUICIDES

The number of Marine suicides this year is on a record pace, reaching 30 through July 16. Annual totals:

Years
Suicides
2004 34
2005 28
2006 25
2007 33
2008 42

Source: U.S. Marine Corps

Navy research could speed troops' recovery

By David Goldman, AP
A helicopter lands Wednesday in Afghanistan to transport wounded soldiers after their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Wardak province.

Military scientists have identified genes and proteins called biomarkers that could enable doctors to tailor personalized treatments for troops suffering traumatic injuries, such as those caused by roadside bombs.

Researchers hope the troops will heal and recover faster, says Navy Cmdr. Eric Elster, a surgeon who co-authored the recent studies.

Roadside bombs cause nearly 65% of the wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon statistics. The bombs, also called improvised explosive devices or IEDs, have wounded more than 25,000 troops, records show.

By examining blood, body tissue and fluids at the site of a blast wound, scientists were able to identify the biomarkers that predicted how the body's immune system will react, says Doug Tadaki, an immunologist and co-author of recent naval studies.

The markers uncovered by the Navy research can help determine whether the gaping wounds left after a bomb explosion will fail and pull apart after surgery has been done to close the injury. Wound failure happens in about 17% of the cases where troops suffer multiple and severe wounds, commonly from blast, the Navy research shows. When failure occurs it can turn an war injury into a chronic ordeal, Elster says.

The result of the research may ultimately lead to tailored treatment, Elster says. If doctors can read these biomarkers shortly after wounded troops arrive from the battlefield, they can anticipate how the troop's body will react.

Research by Elster and other scientists at the Naval Medical Research Center also uncovered biomarkers that can predict whether troops suffering amputations from blast will develop painful bone spurs or abnormal bone growth at the site of amputation, a problem that occurs in about 60% of cases involving orthopedic injuries. Since 2003, about 850 troops have suffered major amputations, statistics show.

These growths can interfere with the sizing and fitting of prosthetics and often require further surgery to remove.

Wound failures and bone spurs occur in civilian cases where there are traumatic injuries, but at a far less frequent rate of occurrence, Tadaki says.

Still, the findings could also impact the care of civilians hurt in car accidents or suffering gunshot wounds, says Grant Bochicchio, an emergency room surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"This has a lot of potential benefits, even in our patients," Bochicchio says.

The Navy scientists — in two research studies published in May in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and recently online in the Annals of Surgery— found that problems such as wound failures or bone spurs occur when the body's immune system overreacts to the wide spectrum of physical damage that occurs when a servicemember is caught in an explosion.

Explosions can cause many injuries ranging from direct trauma from the explosion, to secondary wounds from flying debris or from the body being thrown against another surface, the researchers say.

"Your body doesn't know how to deal with that, so your immune response turns on and stays on," Elster says in an interview.

If the biomarkers suggest wounds could fail after surgery, scientists may soon develop ways to manipulate the immune system in an effort to control how it reacts.

"It's really the introduction of personalized medicine," Elster says.


Poor driving habits plague troops back from war


Aggressive driving habits used by troops to avoid ambushes or roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan may be placing them at risk on roadways at home, according to a small study that is prompting broader Pentagon research into the problem.

The behavior includes driving fast or down the middle of the road, or passing through intersections regardless of signals, say the study's authors, who are releasing results today.

"These behaviors become both automatic and inexorably linked to a sense of control and safety," says the study by sociologist Todd Rockwood and occupational therapist Erica Stern of the University of Minnesota.

"Unfortunately, when these same driving behaviors are inappropriately carried over to American roads, they endanger soldiers, their families and their communities," the study said.

The team surveyed 150 members of the Minnesota National Guard who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result of the findings, the Pentagon is paying to expand the study to survey 600 more troops, say Rockwood and Navy Capt. E. Melissa Kaime, director of the Defense Department's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

The Minnesota researchers found that during a 30-day period in 2007, 25% of the combat veterans admitted driving down the middle of a civilian street or running a stop sign. Ten percent said they drove erratically through an underpass or tunnel.

Much of this behavior seemed to diminish 90 days after soldiers returned home, Rockwood said.

But the soldiers remained apprehensive about driving even beyond 90 days, researchers found. Nearly half said they were uneasy when they felt boxed in by traffic, the study results say.

Kaime says the Pentagon wants to learn more.

"Can we somehow identify, predict who is likely to come back with the most erratic driving behavior?" she asked. This would help the military provide assistance to those most at risk, she says.

Fatal accidents involving soldiers increased after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, peaking in 2005, according to statistics.

They have since declined after aggressive Army efforts to monitor soldiers' driving behavior and educate them.