I was approached by a man (and when I say approached, I mean e-mailed since very few of you know who I really am.. muahahaha)… anyway, about doing a guest post. He’s flexing his sea legs and thinking about starting a blog of his own and has been hosted on a few blogs where he passionately writes about veteran’s mental and physical health and the aspects of military service that can lead to chronic and terminal illness.. I present to you Tim Elliot….
Invisible Wounds: The New Battle For Many Military Families
by: Tim Elliot
Thousands of military families are facing a variety of new battles, sometimes even years after service members have retired from the military. One of the gravest fears of any military family is the fear that they’re soldier may be injured in combat. For thousands of years soldiers’ families have had to handle the responsibility of taking care of wounded soldiers, but lately an increasing amount of the most troublesome wounds that are affecting soldiers are entirely invisible, and can be extremely difficult to detect.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example, can be extremely difficult to diagnosis and treat despite being a very serious medical condition that affects thousands of soldiers a year. PTSD, which soldiers are at high-risk for because they commonly face life-threatening situations, currently is treated mostly through cognitive behavioral therapy, which is counseling to change how you think of your trauma. The problem is that many soldiers and veteran who have PTSD may not even realize it- but the main symptoms are flashbacks to the traumatic event, feeling emotionally numb, and having difficulty sleeping.
Like PTSD, the biggest problem with mesothelioma can be extremely difficult to diagnosis. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and is common among veterans because up until it was discovered it was dangerous in the late 1970’s the military used asbestos as insulation and fire-proofing in their barracks and ships. However, even current soldiers have a chance of being exposed to asbestos, as recently as 2008 dangerous levels were detected in Fort Bragg in North Carolina and it is commonly still found on older Navy ships, especially aircraft carriers. In the U.S. Air Force, asbestos was commonly used for insulation of valves and gaskets in the engines, and older planes occasionally still have the original asbestos components. Mesothelioma is extremely difficult to diagnosis because it has a latency period of 20-50 years during which the only symptoms of mesothelioma are having trouble breathing and a fluid-build up in the lungs. However, it’s extremely important for soldiers and veterans to get tested for mesothelioma regularly because without early detection the mesothelioma life expectancy is only about a year or two after diagnosis.
Luckily, as the number of veterans diagnosed with invisible wounds has increased the awareness of these wounds has as well. Recently the Veterans Benefit Programs Improvement Act of 2010 made it easier to claim benefits with improvements in “presumptions of service”. Also, programs like the Fisher House help support veterans’ families.
It’s tragic to imagine families who have already been through so much and given so much having to deal with such insidious and devastating wounds. But ultimately raising the awareness of these invisible wounds so that treatment for them is more widely available to veterans and soldiers is crucial to supporting our troops.
If you would like to contact him, please e-mail me and I’ll pass that information along.
As a wife, I know there is a ton of resources out there that are available to military members but the problem is we never know about them until it’s too late.