PBS began airing a mini-series on the Vietnam War this past Sunday. On Monday the Veterans Administration issued a release that they were concerned the show may increase the risk of PTSD among veterans. The series has 18 episodes, and I have already heard from a number of Vietnam veterans about the series. Several radio stations have called me about the impact the series might have on war vets. For information, I'm co-founder of a 501c3 non-profit foundation called Songs and Stories for Soldiers, LLC.
Ours is a free program designed to assist all veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sleep Deprivation, and Suicide Prevention.
Our program is currently used in 71 veterans hospitals, community-based clinics, vet centers, and homeless shelters. We help in the treatment of our veterans through an MP3-based system that provides both entertainment and sleep therapy. Our website Songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us has very robust content for the veteran to download for free. We have over 3 million songs, 100,000 plus audiobooks, and over 30,000 old time radio shows, as well as over 24 hours of specific sleep music. The website gets around 32,000 hits per month.
Why am I telling you about this? I have concerns based on e-mails and phone calls from veterans about the impact the PBS series might have on them and other vets. As a fellow veteran, I want to reach out to my brothers and sisters and say that if this Vietnam series makes you uncomfortable or brings to the surface memories you have worked very hard to suppress, I want you to go to the website and register and download one of our sleep audios. I know bad memories cannot be discarded by just changing the channel.
A veteran can change the channel, but he can't turn off the images of what he or she has experienced. The Veterans Administration tells us that as many as 30 percent of the people who served in Vietnam or in more current wars have PTSD. I think the numbers are perhaps more. Specifically, the VA also reports that 27 percent of women vets who served have PTSD.
Within the last year, the Veterans Administration has released the suicide rate for men and women. It states that male veterans kill themselves four times greater than their civilian counterparts. More shocking in this report is that women vets kill themselves 12 times more frequently than female civilians.
On Monday I had an unscheduled radio interview on a D.C. radio station. The host wanted to know if I had heard any reaction to the series. I said I had e-mails and phone calls from vets who were concerned about their own as well as other veterans' responses to the show. The host told me that he had a similar reaction and that some callers to his show raised concern about a possible spike in suicide attempts.
After watching the series preview, something struck me when I heard the comment, “It’s been at least 25 years and now would be a good time to review what happened during the war.” I’m not a historian, but I have spent lots of time with Vietnam vets. I’m not sure enough time has passed to reopen those wounds. The men and women in America who served in Vietnam are in their 60’s, 70’s, or 80s and they still have strong memories of how we treated them when they came home. The Vet Centers that were specifically set up after the war to deal with combat veterans who served in Vietnam are now after over 40 years still in use today for veterans from the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars.
Sometime ago Michelle Obama was reported as saying that nothing America has done in her adult life has made her proud of her country. America was not proud of our men and women who served in the Vietnam War. The way our returning soldiers were received when they came home caused just as much pain as losing a limb. The body and mind can never forget what has been lost to it.
We asked these men and women to go away and serve our country. Their reward was a Jane Fonda spit in the face and being called baby killers. Last fall I had the opportunity to listen to a discussion between two veterans. One fought in the Vietnam War while the other fought in Afghanistan. Most civilians might find it hard to understand the discussion. The Vietnam vet first said to the Afghan vet; “You had it a lot harder than me.” The Afghan vet replied, “How is that?” “I did a 13 month tour in Vietnam and then came home. You, on the other hand, served four tours with minimal downtime between each one before you went out again.” “That’s true. It’s taken me a long time to keep those memories at bay.” The Vietnam vet then said, “On the other hand, we didn’t have e-mail, Skype, Facebook and live television. Sometimes it was several weeks before we got any mail.” At the end of the day, every war is hard for those who fight in it.
I want you to help us help veterans that have either watched or are going to watch the Vietnam War series. If the veteran begins to have flashbacks, he or she needs to do two things. First, go to VA.gov and look under facilities for Vet Centers, find the closest one, and take him or her to the center. Second, have them go to Songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us and register for free and go to the Something Special menu and scroll down to one of the eight-hour sleep audios. Have the veteran download it to their smartphone and play it when it is time to go to bed. Lastly, if things get serious, have them call the VA Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-873-8255 press 1.
If you missed a chance to help a vet returning from the Vietnam War, then why not help one today. Vietnam veterans see the difference as to how we treat the veterans of today, and they remember how they were treated by us back then.
Dan Perkins is an author of both thrillers and children’s books. He appears on over 1,100 radio stations. Mr. Perkins appears regularly on international TV talk shows, he is current events commentator for seven blogs, and a philanthropist with his foundation for American veterans, Songs and Stories for Soldiers, Inc. More information about him, his writings, and other works are available on his website, DanPerkins.guru. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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