Tags Posts tagged with "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder"

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Chris Levi and Frank Lombardi, who organized the event, after their voyage. Photo by Kevin Redding

Despite some rough seas during a 22-mile trip from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Port Jefferson Aug. 31, military veterans paddled their kayaks onto the beach on Harborfront Park, with plenty to celebrate.

For the second year in a row, several local members of the armed forces and friends have taken part in The Veterans Kayak PTSD Awareness Challenge in an effort to raise money and awareness for veterans suffering from mental health issues and to help reduce the veteran suicide rate, is 22 suicides a day and more than 8,000 a year, according to data released by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2016.

Eight veteran-manned kayaks reach Port Jefferson from Bridgeport Connecticut Aug. 31. Photo by Kevin Redding

Many of these suicides are directly related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-induced stress and depression, according to the website for 22Kill, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about veterans’ issues.

But through the six-hour excursion, which began at the downtown Bridgeport Harbor at around 11 a.m. and ended at the Port Jeff shore at around 5 p.m., more than $60,000 was raised and will go toward the development of a new program to support the veterans in need.

As the eight kayaks came to shore, the veterans were greeted with cheers from a crowded pier.

“It was pretty rough out there today; it’s physical and mental because you can see Long Island from Connecticut, so it just never seems like Long Island is getting any closer,” said Army veteran Frank Lombardi with a laugh. “[But] we had the camaraderie out there to get us through it. It’s awesome, we’re kind of like our own little family.”

It was Lombardi who got the initiative in motion last year after he was horrified to learn the suicide rate statistics, he said. Together with fellow Army veteran Chris Levi, who lost both his legs in 2008 while serving in Iraq, he organized the veteran groups to take the trip across the Long Island Sound. He said he hope the fundraiser will only grow from here on out.

Lombardi, assistant to the CEO of Independent Group Home Living in Manorville, is developing the new program funded with the proceeds raised by the kayak journey, with the nonprofit Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, which provides services to domestic violence and rape victims, many of whom suffer  from PTSD.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gets 14,000 calls into the suicide hotline every week and they really can’t handle that volume so we really wanted to do something,” Lombardi said.

Levi, whose spirit prevailed after spending many years in hospitals undergoing surgery and a difficult rehabilitation process, said he loves spending time with his military brothers and sisters.

Chris Levy upon his arrival in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Being able to do these events are what bring us back together in groups and it’s something I always look forward to,” Levi said.

The veteran offered insight into just how difficult kayaking across the Long Island Sound is.

“If I were to quit, I wouldn’t be quitting myself, I’d be quitting the group,” he said. “If anybody gives up, we all give up. Also last year I never applied suntan lotion. This year I learned my lesson and applied copious amounts.”

Glenn Moody, a Marine Corps veteran and Port Jefferson resident who participated in the trek, said this was the first day he’d ever been on a kayak.

“It’s for a great cause and when you’ve got all these veterans out here doing the same thing, it’s enough to push you,” Moody said. “We’re trying to get together as a team and help veterans out. The suicide numbers are too high, and those of us who served don’t want to see our brothers and sisters keep dying. I didn’t even know any of these guys and we all became best friends on the water.”

The Veterans Comedy Assault team performs at the Comix Comedy Club at Mohegan Sun. Photo from Facebook

VFW Santora and Bonacasa Memorial Post 400 presents Comedy for a Cause featuring the Veterans Comedy Assault Team on Aug. 27, 8 p.m. at the Moose Lodge in Mount Sinai.

The Veterans Comedy Assault Team started in January 2015 as a part of Project 9 Line, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans with reintegration back to civilian life, and help those veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The team is made up of veterans from Long Island.

Since it’s inception, the group has performed various shows on Long Island as well as at the Broadway Comedy Club in Manhattan and the Comix Comedy Club at Mohegan Sun.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and all proceeds from this show will benefit a veteran family in need.

To purchase tickets, call 631-806-1699. Visit www.veteranscomedyassault.org for more information about the organization.

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Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

People who come home after serving our country overseas should not have to cope with mental illnesses stemming from their experiences, but the sad reality is that most veterans have seen or dealt with traumatic things. That means we have to do everything we can for those who return home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), an Iraq war veteran, is on the right track in addressing this. When he was in the state legislature, he established a peer program in which veterans could help one another battle mental issues, and now he is working to take that initiative to the national level.

Part of the reason this program is important is that it addresses the stigma surrounding mental illness. The shame people feel deters the average citizen from getting help, but think of how those feelings must be compounded in people who carry the weight of a reputation as one of our country’s bravest and strongest. And even without the fear of appearing weak, veterans have experienced many things others cannot truly understand if they have not served in the military. They need and deserve the support of people who have been in their shoes — people who know what they are going through. Mental illness is often woefully misunderstood as it is, so we must mitigate that as much as possible.

Ultimately, we would prefer more resources for military psychiatrists to better identify and treat issues with active servicemen, so they leave their PTSD or other mental or emotional problems overseas, but we will gladly support a national veterans’ peer program to assist those we have so far failed to help.

By Giselle Barkley

Independence — that’s what veteran Glen Moody is fighting for.

Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

As veterans still struggle with adjusting to life beyond the war, post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality for men and women like Moody, with 22 PTSD-stricken veterans committing suicide daily. Although Moody said he wasn’t suicidal, the California-based Patriotic Service Dog Foundation and a one-year-old red fox Labrador named Independence — Indy for short — are helping make his life a little less stressful.

On Saturday, at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, the 35-year-old Afghanistan and Iraqi vet led the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser, which aims to raise PTSD awareness and raise money to help veterans afford and obtain a PTSD service dog. These service dogs help veterans snap out of flashbacks, anxiety attacks and address other PTSD-related issues. Moody, who was born and raised in Miller Place, mentioned the dogs will also keep an eye on their war heroes — they are trained to guard or protect their vet by sitting in front, beside or behind them.

According to Moody, around 300 people attended the event. He said they raised $20,000 Saturday night, which is double what he hoped to raise. Typically, veterans will get their service dog from the foundation after the dog is 18 months old. But in light of the overwhelming community support on Saturday, Indy will live with Moody until January. This allows Indy to adjust to Moody’s lifestyle in New York.

“Tom was proud to tell me that … no one’s killed themselves [after getting a Tackett dog],” Moody said about the veterans who’ve obtained dogs from Tom Tackett’s foundation — Tackett is a trainer and the president of Patriotic Service Dog Foundation.

The absence of suicide attempts is an accomplishment for the foundation, whose goal is to reduce the statistic from 22 veterans committing suicide down to zero. Tackett could not be reached prior to publication due to technological difficulties, but Moody said he met Tackett after a fellow marine advised Moody’s family to get one of Tackett’s service dogs. The suggestion lead Moody to California in August, where he met Indy.

Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

Moody served as a Fleet Marine Force corpsman with the U.S. Marines from 1999 to 2005. While Moody fought in the front lines, he was also the doctor on the field.

“If anything bad happens, they’ll cry on my shoulder, or if they get shot or blown up, they all come to me,” Moody said. “I’m the one that’s got to treat them first hand.”

The experience left Moody with anxiety attacks and issues with his personal life when he returned to Long Island. He said his PTSD was to a point where it affected his everyday life and those around him. According to Moody’s aunt LynnAnne Daly, Moody didn’t have anyone to turn to during his time of service. She added that there should be more support for causes and providing service dogs for veterans.

“We need to get government funding for this,” Daly said about providing service dogs to veterans. “These men and women are fighting for us.”

According to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, around 460,000 veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffer from PTSD or brain injuries after or during their time of service. The training period for dogs like Indy starts at eight weeks old until they are 18 months old. With the large portion of veterans suffering from PTSD, Daly added that the fundraiser and the cause “is not just about Glen. It’s about spreading awareness.”

Moody agreed and said he is trying to make a difference, starting with the foundation, the fundraiser and his four-legged companion.

“I’m not the only guy [suffering] — I know I’m not,” Moody said about his PTSD. “When I talk to veterans they say the same thing. We need more awareness and that’s what I’m doing.”

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