January 2021 – Perspective on Veterans
Over 100 years ago, in the year 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I hostilities formally ended. Initially called Armistice Day, this monumental day became Veterans Day, a day to commemorate the men and women who served the United States in war time and peace time, defending our nation’s security and values.
It is critical that supports and services are in place to give veterans who need it, the help they deserve. Warrior Salute Veteran Services is a small not-for-profit organization that supplements the services of large, government funded organizations, by providing highly personalized case managemen and transitional housing.
Realities of Military Service
More often than not, veterans experience physical and/or psychological consequences from their military service. Veterans Day 2020 also marked the 30 year anniversary of the Persian Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm, a conflict that demonstrates this point well. As with every war, everyone involved pays a price. The use of nerve gas (pyridostigmine bromide), which was used as a preventive measure for soldiers likely to be exposed to chemical warfare agents, later manifested itself as Gulf War Syndrome. This chronic, multi-symptomatic disorder encompassed a range of symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems, insomnia, rash and diarrhea. In addition to the physical symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, many veterans experienced PTSD and other negative psychological effects.
On Veterans Day and every day, we must venerate veterans yet also acknowledge that military service often causes trauma that can last a lifetime, especially if not addressed. Veterans make up roughly 11% of adults experiencing homelessness in the United States, even though they represent 7% of the total population. 70% of veterans experiencing homelessness also experience substance abuse and 50% suffer from mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some studies suggest that the rate of PTSD for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans ranges from 20 to 30%. Moreover, it is estimated that up to half of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have a mental health diagnosis.
PTSD and other military related trauma may manifest at any time, over many years. Negative aftereffects of military service may disrupt families, destroy relationships and compromise the safety, health, and wellbeing of veterans. Sadly, veterans have a suicide rate that is 1.5 times higher than the suicide rate of the general U.S. population, while female veterans have a suicide rate that is 2.5 times the rate of the general female population. Suicide rates are remarkably high in older veterans. These statistics are staggering and underscore the need for clinical and therapeutic interventions.
Telehealth – A New Model of Care
For many veterans needing clinical or therapeutic care, frequent travel to a clinic presents a significant hardship. The onset of a pandemic only magnifies that hardship. Somewhat of a silver lining, the COVID pandemic has changed the way that services are delivered to many veterans. Prior to the pandemic (up until early March 2020), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducted about 2,500 telehealth video sessions daily across the country. Throughout the ensuing months, the VA witnessed a thousandfold increase, now conducting nearly 25,000 telehealth sessions daily.
Re-entry into Civilian Life
Re-integrating into civilian life is a challenge for many veterans. Many civilians have no knowledge or understanding of what military life is like or what military personnel have experienced and so they may seem aloof, insensitive or disinterested. Re-integrating into family life can also be fraught with obstacles. Routines and patterns are likely to change during military absences and both military veterans and family members often need to adjust to these changes. It is the mission of Warrior Salute Veteran Services to help veterans and military families heal and transition back to civilian life through person-centered therapies and community support. Veterans deserve to live fulfilling lives and WSVS helps them to achieve this end.
Innovative Therapies for the Future
Pharmacologic and alternative treatments for PTSD alone and PTSD with co-morbidities continue to evolve. Medication and traditional psychotherapy may be displaced in part through advances in communications technology and immersive environments using cell phones, the internet and video games, ushering in a virtual environment to conduct therapy. In a different vein, more and more treatment programs are focusing on wellness through focus on mind, body, and spirit, as well as incorporating family members into the healing process and teaching them how to live a mentally healthy life.
On Veterans Day this year, Warrior Salute Veteran Services, an unfunded service of CDS Life Transitions, was thrilled to hold its annual Salute fundraising event virtually, in spite of the COVID pandemic. Warrior Salute Veteran Services welcomed Captain Eric McElvenny to speak to a virtual audience of supporters and donors about how he has transformed adversity into a new life’s journey following his years of military service. On his final tour as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, an incredible experience in Afghanistan, Eric was severely wounded after stepping on an IED, suffering the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
Eric approached this life altering event as a life changing opportunity, becoming an Ironman triathlete competitor and channeling his experiences to teach others about addressing challenges, facing adversity and realizing goals. Faced with a physical challenge and an uncertain future, Eric made a promise to himself to run an Ironman Triathlon. On his journey from the hospital bed in southern California to the finish line in Kona Hawaii, he realized that the challenge and adversity he was up against and the techniques he used to reach the finish line could be used to face the challenges we all entertain.
Here’s another link where Eric talks about starting Physical Therapy for the first time and the feeling of being surrounded by others like himself.
The sustainability of Warrior Salute Veteran Services depends on the support of corporate and individual donors. Sankar Sewnauth, President and CEO of CDS Life Transitions emphasizes the criticality of Warrior Salute Veteran Services and all of its donors.
Warrior Salute Veteran Services expresses deep gratitude to its dedicated supporters and invites any veterans in need to reach out at any time.
 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/.
 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/. Reisman, Miriam, Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T ); PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s Next, October 2016; 41 (10); 623-627, 63
 Hooper, Charles, MSW, April 2020, https://americanaddictioncenters.org/veterans/suicide-among-veterans ; Suicide Among Veterans
 Ogrysko, Nicole, Federal News Network, June 2020, https://www.google.com/amp/s/federalnewsnetwork.com/veterans-affairs/2020/06/how-va-drastically-expanded-telehealth-during-the-pandemic/amp