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PTSD

Sean Clouston

By Daniel Dunaief

Every year, the country pauses on 9/11, remembering the victims of the terrorist attacks and reflecting on the safety and security of the country. At the same time, a Stony Brook University study continues not only to remember the first responders but also to understand the physical and mental consequences of the work police, firefighters and other first responders performed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

Benjamin Luft

Recently, Sean Clouston, an associate professor in the Department of Family, Population & Preventive Medicine at SBU Renaissance School of Medicine, and Ben Luft, the director of the SBU WTC Health and Wellness Program since 2003, published research in which they demonstrated a link between a protein commonly connected with Alzheimer’s disease to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in first responders.

In a small preliminary study, the researchers found a difference in the level of the protein between first responders who are battling chronic PTSD and those who aren’t battling the condition. The Stony Brook scientists published their work in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

The researchers cautioned that the presence of the markers doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about present or future changes in cognitive function.“We don’t know the specificity of the markers,” Luft explained in an email.

Amyloid is generally considered the earliest marker of Alzheimer’s disease, which includes cognitive decline. Some people, however, have significant amounts of amyloid and don’t develop problems with their thinking. Neurodegenerative diseases without amyloid rarely have severe symptoms, which don’t appear to worsen with time.

“This paper doesn’t look at cognitive symptoms,” Clouston said. “We do have papers looking at cognitive impairment and other memory-based differences. It wasn’t a part of this paper.”

The newest research is part of an ongoing program in which the university follows 11,000 responders who came to the World Trade Center. The study for this paper involved a smaller subset of this population. This type of research can and does have application to other studies of people who have traumatic experiences, the scientists suggest.

Most traumatic experiences are unique to each person, as people who suffer physical and emotional trauma in combat often confront the aftereffects of head injuries. Among the first responder population who survived the attacks on 9/11, most of them “faired pretty well physically,” Clouston said. 

“We didn’t have a lot of head injuries. Understanding PTSD in this crowd is really useful for the literature as a whole because it allows us to focus on the long-term psychiatric fallout of an event without worrying about exposures that are different.”

The scientists had at least some idea of the timing and duration of exposures. This research suggests that it might be helpful to think about the kinds of problems that cognitive impairment can cause, which might involve managing other health-related problems.

Luft added that the population they are studying shows the benefit of immediate care. “One thing for sure is that the care of the first responders has to occur very quickly,” he said. “Now that we know the history, the greatest chance you have in mitigating the effect of this type of trauma is to deal with the problem from the get-go.” 

Sean Clouston with his daughter Quinn at Benner’s Farm in Setaukt. with his daughter Quinn. Photo by Rachel Kidman

First responders have benefited from psychotherapy as well as from various pharmacological treatments. Luft suggested that they might even benefit from having therapists available in the field, where they can receive near instantaneous psychological support.

In addition to the psychological trauma, first responders have had physical effects from their work in the aftermath of the attacks, such as respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, as well as autoimmunity issues.

People have these problems because “of the pro-inflammatory effect of PTSD itself,” said Luft. The researchers believe trauma can affect the immune system and the brain.

According to Clouston, the next step with this work is to replicate it with a larger scale. The experiment was “fairly expensive and untried in this population and novel in general, so we started small,” he explained in an email. The scientists would like to “get a larger range of responders and to examine issues surrounding symptomatology and other possible explanations.”

Clouston has been at Stony Brook for six years. Prior to his arrival on Long Island, he worked on a collaborative project that was shared between University College London and the University of Victoria. 

An expert in aging, he felt like his arrival came at just the right time for the WTC study, as many of the first responders were turning 50. After giving talks about the cognitive and physical effects of aging, he met Luft and the two decided to collaborate within six months of his arrival.

Clouston is focused on whether PTSD caused by the terrorist attacks themselves have caused early brain aging. A self-proclaimed genetics neophyte, he appreciates the opportunity to work with other researchers who have considerably more experience in searching for molecular signatures of trauma.

Clouston said his family has suffered through the trauma of cognitive decline during the aging process. His family’s struggles “definitely bring [the research] home,” reminding him of the “terror that many family members feel when they start noticing problems in their siblings, parents, spouses, etc.”

As for his work on the recent study, he said he is excited about the next steps. “Little is known about the subtypes of amyloid,” he suggested and there’s a “lot more to explore about the role [of this specific type] in the population. I do think it could be really informative about the types of symptoms.”

The Blanco family stands at the newly dedicated "L. Cpl. Michael E. Blanco" section of Wichard Boulevard in Commack. Photo from Ron Pacchiana

By Kyle Barr

A Commack street now bears the name of a U.S. Marine who lost his life in 2010 from the battle against post-traumatic stress disorder.

Town of Smithtown officials, local veteran groups and the Blanco family gathered July 1 on Wichard Boulevard in Commack to watch the unveiling of the sign dedicating a portion of roadway in memory of Lance Corporal Michael E. Blanco. It was erected on the street where Blanco grew up.

“It means to us that every time someone looks at that sign, they’ll remember however Michael touched their lives,” Blanco’s sister, Nicole Blanco-Abbate, said.

Smithtown Town officials, Suffolk County elected officials and member of the Blanco family at the July 1 ceremony. Photo from Ron Pacchiana

Those who knew Blanco recalled him as a selfless man who wouldn’t hesitate to do things for others. Blanco’s father, Bruce, remembered how when his son attended high school the young man asked for more lunch money, commenting that he was “a growing boy.” Later, he learned Blanco was giving that extra money anonymously to the kids who couldn’t afford lunch.

“My son was always known as the protector – he was the one who came out of nowhere to help people,” Blanco’s father said. “I get constant phone calls from his friends of what he’s done to help them. He stood up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.”

The Blanco family said they were humbled when nearly 100 people showed up to the ceremony at the intersection of Wichard Boulevard and Philson Court in support including including Suffolk County officials, members of the American Legion Ladies Post 1244, Smithtown and Nesconset Fire Departments, AM Vets, the Patriot Guard Riders, Missing in America Project, Veterans for Freedom, American Legion riders and American Legion Auxiliary Greenlawn Chapter 1244.

“There were so many people there, from small kids all the way to veterans in their 70s and 80s,” Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said. “This type of dedication leads to more acceptance. It shows there has to be something done about soldiers with PTSD.”

In September 2017, the U.S. Office of Veteran Affairs released a report on suicides amongst veterans of the armed services based on 55 million record dating from 1979  to 2014. It found that an average of 20 veterans die from suicide every day. PTSD is the leading cause of death for veterans and military service members.

Several veterans groups attended the July 1 ceremony in honor of Michael Blanco. Photo from Ron Pacchiana

“He still was a soldier – he still was a veteran,” Blanco’s mother, Donna, said. “With this sign, we are bringing awareness to the 22 veterans who die every day from PTSD.”

Both of Blanco’s parents agreed that this dedication does much to help the community remember their son and the struggles he faced.

“The worst fear a mother has when a son dies is that he won’t be remembered,” Blanco’s mother said. “Now I know my son will forever be memorialized and he will always be remembered.“

Bruce Blanco said he became involved the American Legion Riders Chapter 1244 after his son passed away, and he is now leading them as their president. Since then, the riders have been involved in many veterans memorials and events all around the Huntington and Smithtown areas. The chapter also participates in the Missing in America Project that tries to give proper military funerals to those veterans who died without family or who remain unremembered.

“One of the worst things for anyone is to ever be forgotten,” Blanco’s father said. “Everything throughout Smithtown is a remembrance for us, and this sign just adds to onto it.”

Attention all veterans and their caregivers:
Operation-Initiative Foundation will present a Holistic Healing Workshop for Veterans with PTSD and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 716 Route 25A, Rocky Point on Saturday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will feature speakers that will address the advances made in their respective disciplines and in Complementary and Alternative Medicine that are at the forefront in treating veterans who have been diagnosed as having PTSD. Additional discussion will focus on supportive needs of their family caregivers. All veterans and caregivers should bring a copy of their DD 214. All information is kept completely confidential. Seating is limited and lunch will be provided. To reserve your spot, call 631-744-9355.
The mission of the Operation-Initiative Foundation is to bring awareness, information and support to veterans and their caregivers who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen Pennington and Warrior Ranch Foundation Vice President Tony Simonetti spend time with Pennington’s horse Red. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

When Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro first stepped into the round pen with a horse at Warrior Ranch Foundation, her guard was up.

Castro, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2002 to 2004, and admittedly struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, was face to face with a 1,400-pound Friesian horse named BlackJack during a July demonstration by the Mount Sinai and Islip-based nonprofit, which pairs military and first-responder veterans with rescue horses in need of rehabilitation and training.

Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro bonds with
Vet therapy: Mount Sinai’s Warrior Ranch helps heal
her horse BlackJack. Photo from Warrior Ranch
Foundation

The tough-as-nails veteran was attempting to engage BlackJack in basic ground exercises, but the horse was not budging. Its guard was up too.

“I soon realized it was because I was terrified of him,” Castro later said. “When you’re with these horses they feel everything you’re feeling, even the emotions you think you’re hiding from everybody else. You can’t hide them from a horse.”

Castro relaxed, and as she calmed down, so did BlackJack. The horse began to lick and chew — a reflex associated with the animal’s release of stress.

“By the end of the session, I wound up with a friend,” she said of BlackJack. “With the horses, you have someone you’re actually bonding with in your own private, silent language. It’s beautiful.”

Officially incorporated in June 2016, the Warrior Ranch Foundation has helped reduce the stress levels and PTSD symptoms of more than a dozen veterans still recuperating from a wide range of conflicts — from the Korean War to Vietnam War to the war in Afghanistan — by teaching them how to groom, feed and train troubled horses. And much like the veterans, the nine residential horses, mostly retired race and show animals that have been trained their whole lives to compete and perform in high-stakes settings, are learning to adapt to a new, more relaxed world.

Cathie Doherty spends time with horse Cody.
Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“There’s a strong parallel between them and it’s amazing to see their emotional breakthroughs,” said Eileen Shanahan, the nonprofit’s founder and president. “While the race horses are trained to run, run, run, and as a result have emotional issues, the veterans are trained to go out there and do the best they can to protect and defend us. When they come back, they have to shut that off and that’s not so easy. We provide a safe haven for these humans and animals.”

Shanahan’s organization is the result of her lifelong love of country and horses. The Queens native, who shoots and produces television programs and commercials for a living, comes from a large military family with a father who served in the Marines, an uncle and brother in the Navy, nephews in the Army, as well as several first responders.

Although she mostly rode buses and subways growing up, Shanahan always admired horses from afar, seeing them as beautiful creatures.

When she got married and moved to East Quogue in the 1980s, she took up horseback riding and, 15 years ago, began adopting rescue horses and studying natural horsemanship — a variety of rapport-based horse training techniques.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

For nearly a decade, she dreamt of providing this outlet for local veterans and finally launched it with the help of longtime friends and equestrians specialists. While the group currently works out of two private barns, the future plan is to turn Warrior Ranch into a national organization.

“We want to eventually help hundreds of veterans and horses because it really works,” Shanahan said, explaining that interactions like Castro’s is very common at the ranch. “A lot of times when they come here, the veterans have their arms crossed, but by the end of the day, they have ear-to-ear grins. A lot of them break down and cry and it’s so powerful to watch.”

Tony Simonetti, Warrior Ranch’s vice president and top horse trainer, has made a career of rehabilitating emotionally distraught horses and re-interacting them with their human counterparts, resolving more than 500 extremely difficult horse cases for people across the country. When asked his most memorable veteran-horse interaction within the organization, he talked about Army Staff Sergeant Allen Pennington, Warrior Ranch’s first soldier to go through the program, and Red, a 4-year-old, retired race thoroughbred.

“[Allen’s] this big, rough and tough guy, and when the horse connected with him, I just saw all the stress he was holding inside bubble right up through his chest and then he just couldn’t keep himself composed,” Simonetti said. “He broke down and turned around and hugged that horse like it was his battle buddy. And I told him, ‘don’t feel bad about that. That’s what you’re here for.’”

During a testimonial on the Warrior Ranch website, Navy veteran Cathie Doherty, who was diagnosed with PTSD and put on medication for a number of years, said she was grateful to have attended a women veteran’s retreat at the nonprofit.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“It was really an amazing experience,” Doherty said. “I think it touched me much deeper than I imagined it would. I appreciated working with the horses and that I had to make a connection with them. I feel I was present in the moment. I didn’t care about my phone, I didn’t care what was going on around me. It was a beautiful experience for me.”

Castro said companionship with a horse might be more beneficial than a human’s.

“When you’re a veteran and you’re having a bad day, you don’t want to tell anybody, you don’t want to talk about it — you want to forget about it,” she said. “But I also don’t want to be alone and, so, when you’re there with the horse, and that horse knows what you’re going through and feeling, he feels it too. And because you love the horse and you don’t want the horse to feel that way, you’re going to try and make yourself feel better. It’s awe-inspiring.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who served four years in the Army, visited the ranch in Mount Sinai with his family Oct. 7 and saw firsthand the value of the nonprofit.

“It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to see the positive effects that you’re having on these horses, and from these horses the veterans are getting love that they possibly have never experienced
before,” Zeldin said. “In a way, you’re directly coping with the symptoms of PTSD while also productively escaping the worst of it. It’s a great concept and I’d love to see Warrior Ranch grow into something a whole lot bigger than it already is.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, fifth from left, meets with members of the Warrior Ranch Foundation. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

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From left, veteran Frank Lombardi, Alex Rohman from Time Capital and veteran Chris Levi work to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health issues. Photo from Frank Lombardi

By Colm Ashe

There are more convenient ways to travel from Connecticut to Port Jefferson than across the Long Island Sound on a kayak, but taking the easy way is not an option for two Army veterans.

Chris Levi and Frank Lombardi kayaked from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Port Jefferson Aug. 27 in an effort to raise money and awareness for veterans suffering from mental health issues.

The 22-mile trip took more than six hours to complete. “It was a long day,” Lombardi said with a laugh.

The distance between Bridgeport and Port Jefferson is less than 22 miles, but the pair traveled the extra mileage because of the number’s significance. According to 22Kill, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about veteran suicide and post traumatic stress disorder, 22 veterans commit suicide every day on average. Many of these suicides are directly related to PTSD-induced stress and depression, according to the organization’s website.

Lombardi said he was horrified by the statistic and is motivated to change it. “If we can give hope to just one veteran and prevent them from taking their own lives, we will consider the trip a huge success,” he said.

22Kill, along with four other regional and national nonprofit organizations collaborated to make the event happen.

Among the team of organizations was the War Writers Campaign, a publishing company on a mission to get veteran stories published. Levi and Lombardi raised $5,000 for their campaign by enlisting the help of local businesses like Southampton-based pool and environmental company the Tortorella Group.

“We called John [Tortorella, owner of the Tortorella Group] asking for a $500 donation,” Lombardi said. “He heard what we were doing and gave us $1,000.”

“They are true American heroes whose strength and perseverance can provide hope for the many veterans who need support to pick themselves up and show the world that they can do amazing things.”

— Alex Rohman

Time Capital donated another $1,000 and sponsored a kayak for the event. Alex Rohman, a partner of Time Capital, is an active supporter of the War Writers Campaign. He also recruited Levi and Lombardi for the kayak trip.

“I called Chris and Frank to see if they would be interested in supporting the trip and they immediately agreed,” Rohman said. “Within one day, they wanted to do more to not only support the War Writers Campaign, but wanted to expand the level of awareness to other organizations as well.”

Levi and Lombardi then reached out to other local businesses and organizations to further the cause. Angela’s House, W.B. Mason, Terranova Landscaping, the IGHL Foundation and the Ann Liguori Foundation contributed the remaining donations to the War Writers Campaign.

“Both Chris and Frank represent unconditional support for all veterans and have dedicated their lives to help those who are less fortunate,” Rohman said. “They are true American heroes whose strength and perseverance can provide hope for the many veterans who need support to pick themselves up and show the world that they can do amazing things.”

Beyond the War Writers Campaign and the event, Levi and Lombardi are both deeply involved in their own philanthropic pursuits.

Lombardi is an executive for Independent Group Home Living Program, a group that provides alternatives for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. He also serves on the National Advisory Board of World T.E.A.M Sports, an organization striving to bring together disabled and able-bodied citizens to participate in sports like mountain climbing, white-water rafting, bicycling and kayaking.

Levi is a frequent participant in World T.E.A.M. events. As a disabled veteran himself, Levi has overcome adversity in a big way.

In 2008, he was leading a convoy in Iraq when his Humvee was hit with rockets and IEDs. Levi lost both legs and took significant damage to his right hand and arm. He spent many years in numerous hospitals, but after countless surgeries and a difficult rehabilitation process, his spirit prevailed.

Since then, Levi has strived to become an inspiration in the lives of those who are suffering as an activist and an example. Levi’s goal during the 22-mile paddle across the Long Island Sound, was clear. He said he wanted to “show our fellow veterans that there is hope out there and with the right support, they can truly ‘Climb to Glory.’” This is also the motto of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in which both Levi and Lombardi served.

Lombardi believes the 10th Mountain Division’s motto represents “hope for all veterans who are suffering that they can climb out of the darkness and rise to achieve great things.”

Brig. Gen. Richard Sele speaks on the importance of treating veterans with care. Photo by Alex Petroski

In Suffolk County, veterans who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law now have a rehabilitation resource in a peer setting.

Veterans returning home from military service abroad often struggle assimilating into everyday civilian life. Suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional difficulties, some land in prison — for crimes such as those related to substance abuse — because of difficulty coping with the transition.

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C) announced the Incarcerated Veterans Re-Entry Initiative at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank last week. DeMarco spearheaded the new initiative along with Suffolk County Legislator Bill Lindsay (D-Holbrook), Judge John Toomey of the county’s Veterans Treatment Court, and veteran mentors from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 11.

A block of cells, also known as a pod, within the correctional facility will now be comprised completely of veterans, who will have access to mentors and other services provided by the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center and others, as well as the added benefit of being around others with similar backgrounds and experiences.

“I don’t know of any population of citizens that we would rather have reintegrated into our communities and into our society.”
—Thomas Croci

According to the sheriff, about 8 percent of inmates in the United States have served in the military. And there are about 174,000 military veterans living on Long Island alone.

DeMarco said in an interview after the event that Vietnam veterans have been approaching the sheriff about establishing a dedicated jail pod for many years, similar to what has been done for the adolescents who are separated from the rest of the jail population, but the county’s overcrowded facilities made it a challenge.

“Veterans who have served our country and have been honorably discharged, the lowest point of their lives [is] if they get incarcerated,” DeMarco said, adding that the program will focus on getting incarcerated veterans treatment through various nonprofits for PTSD, addictions or any other mental health problems their experiences in the service contributed to.

“I think we owe that to them. They put their lives on the line for us.”

Brig. Gen. Richard Sele was the keynote speaker and said it is important to treat these veterans with sympathy.

“As soldiers, in addition to the wide range of regulations and policies that we follow, we hold our soldiers accountable to values — very high values,” Sele said. “As a leader and someone who has commanded at various levels, I’ve done so in a very firm and fair manner. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that you also have to show compassion. You can still be firm and fair and show compassion.”

Ralph Zanchelli, of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 11, has been visiting jails on Long Island to serve as a mentor to veterans for about 16 years, and he spoke on behalf of the group.

“Housing veterans together is so very, very important,” he said. “They will be able to communicate with each other and support each other. We should never forget, when someone serves the country they sign a blank check, pledging to protect and serve the people of the United States of America, willing to give up their lives — and many have.”

“Veterans who have served our country and have been honorably discharged, the lowest point of their lives [is] if they get incarcerated.”
—Vincent DeMarco

New York State Sen. Thomas Croci (R-Sayville) spoke about the importance of rehabilitating returning soldiers with mental health issues.

“I don’t know of any population of citizens that we would rather have reintegrated into our communities and into our society,” he said. “These are exactly the people that we want back in our communities, running our businesses, sharing their experiences in school as teachers, and in law enforcement.”

DeMarco addressed the possible criticism that everyone should be held accountable for breaking the law without preferential treatment.

“They’re being held accountable for their crimes, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “They have to go to court. They’re going to be charged. They’re going to be sentenced. They’re not getting off easy. We’re just giving them a better place and services while they’re incarcerated.

DeMarco likened this jail block to a similar one established in 2011 for 16- to 22-year-olds, which included rehabilitative efforts and mentoring. He said the incarcerated population from that demographic has dropped 75 percent since then.

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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.”

Eight affordable rental housing parcels in the works

Veterans roll up a flag at a press conference on the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative. The county Legislature will vote on a measure to transfer properties to create affordabe housing for homeless veterans at its Sept. 9 meeting. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County has gained some footing in the war against veteran homelessness.

Last week, officials announced a proposal to transfer eight tax-defaulted properties over to nonprofit groups that will be charged with developing them into rental housing for homeless veterans or those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The units will be overseen and managed by the non-profit organizations.

The move is part of the Housing our Homeless Heroes legislative initiative, a package of four bills sponsored by Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills). Officials say there are about 750 Long Island veterans who are either homeless or who are expected to be homeless by the end of 2015.

In a phone interview on Monday, Stern said the county Legislature would vote on the transfer of the properties at its Sept. 9 meeting. He said he expects the resolution, which he is co-sponsoring with County Executive Steve Bellone (D), to gain unanimous support.

Stern, who is the chairman of the county’s Veterans and Seniors Committee, said in addition to housing resources, the veterans will receive additional services through these nonprofits, such as job training and placement; primary and mental health care; disability management and health care coordination; family counseling; financial training and substance abuse services.

“The Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative is the housing part of providing assistance to our veterans and families,” Stern said. “But it can never be just about four walls and a roof.”

Once transferred, the nonprofits would foot the construction bill through roughly $10 million in state and federal grant funding available for such projects, Stern said. Funding for the construction will be provided in part from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Two parcels in Central Islip will be transferred to the Concern for Independent Living for the construction of three single-family homes. Bay Shore-based United Veterans Beacon House has proposed to rehabilitate an existing home on a Copiague parcel, and build a single-family unit on a Yaphank parcel.

In addition, the Association for Mental Health and Wellness is proposing to build a new four-bedroom house for three senior disabled veterans and a live-in house manager on two parcels in Mastic; rehabilitate a house in Riverhead for one veteran family; and build a new set of four, single room occupancies for veterans on a parcel in Medford.

The Legislature approved the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative last year, and Bellone signed the legislation into law just days before Christmas. The four laws tackle the issue of veteran homelessness from different angles — one establishes a partnership between agencies and community advocates that serve veterans and their families and helps them set up an informational web portal on the county’s website to direct them to services available across all levels of government and within the nonprofit sector. Another maximizes access to available housing for veterans. The third amended the county’s human rights law by adding veterans as a group of individuals protected against discrimination in housing and employment opportunities. The last bill will require a veteran services officer to work at the county’s Department of Social Services on a regular basis. The officers must be veterans as well, in order to establish a peer-to-peer relationship between those they are helping.

“As an agency committed to ensuring empowering people to overcome the impact of health and mental health disabilities, it is our intent to devote these houses to assist male and female veterans who have been affected by service-connected and post-service transition mental health challenges,” Michael Stoltz, chief executive officer of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness said in a statement. “I thank Suffolk County for partnering with our organization to further assist us in supporting our veterans.”