Please don’t frown on me because
I’m in prison.
I’m in here for an offense that revolves around my
PTSD. I’ve recently become an associate member of
VVA. We hold monthly meetings at this facility, the only
prison in the state that has actually conducted meetings
for incarcerated veterans. This facility has 1,200 inmates,
170-190 of whom are veterans.
I am writing in response to
the in-depth article in the May/June issue about PTSD.
I’m an Afghanistan veteran
(U.S.M.C.), honorably discharged in February 2004. Within
one year of my discharge I was diagnosed with having acquired
PTSD from the traumatic events I endured in combat. My
father, who served in Vietnam, also suffers from PTSD.
wouldn’t expect anyone who hasn’t acquired
PTSD to fully understand what it is like to have it. But
what concerns me greatly is that there are some professionals
out there in the mental health field such as Dr. Sally
Satel who are waging a campaign to discredit the disorder.
Why do they go to such great lengths to try and discredit
what they know truly exists? It makes me wonder what the
real reason is behind this outrageous skepticism.
signed up for the service, I knew that if anything was
to happen to me mentally or physically in combat, the VA
would take care of me. That’s what encouraged
me to join. If, back then, I had caught wind of what people
like Dr. Satel are saying and doing to discredit the illness,
I would have been reluctant to join.
WHAT THE VA THINKS
Regarding your article “PTSD Again
in the Eye of the Storm” in the May/June issue, the
truth is this is only the thin end of the wedge by the
Department of Veterans Affairs in reducing and, if possible,
eliminating disability compensation for a wide range of
Does the VA think that I and others like me
enjoy having trouble sleeping due to flashbacks, nightmares,
etc., because of what we went through while serving our
country? Do they think it’s funny when we “jump
out of our skin” due
to an unexpected noise? Do they wonder why a lot of us
keep to ourselves most of the time and avoid social events?
Do they wonder why so many veterans, suffering with PTSD,
turn to drink and drugs?
The Department of Veterans Affairs
is interested in cutting costs and saving money at the
expense of the veteran.
Woy Woy, New South Wales, Australia
ABANDONING A SEGMENT
As president of an incarcerated VVA
chapter, and speaking on its behalf,
I take umbrage at the recently announced decision by the
Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America to increase incarcerated
veteran associate members’ yearly dues to twenty
The average inmate income for our chapter associates
is eight dollars a month, which barely covers the essential
personal hygiene products and stationery we need to stay
in contact with our families. Add to that the cost of doing
legal work, filing fees, copies, case cites, and the like,
and most inmates can barely pay the previous one dollar
a year dues.
It appears that while we won’t abandon
a “generation,” it
is acceptable to abandon a segment of it for the sake of
increasing revenue to “work for improved benefits
for veterans,” benefits that most incarcerated veterans
will never be afforded.
Jimmy L. Williams
IT’S BROKEN: FIX IT
As a Life Member of VVA, I was
proud to see that our organization strongly and unreservedly
supports S-2694, the Veterans’ Choice
of Representation and Benefits Enhancements Act of 2006,
sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), the chair of the
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the companion
bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) of the House
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and by Rep. Lane Evans
(D-Ill.), the top Democrat on that committee. Passage of
these bills would allow a veteran to hire an attorney at
the beginning of the claims process before the VA and not
after a claim has been denied.
With more legal options,
veterans can make the best decisions. Better legal decisions
in favor of the veteran will provide a framework for those
seeking justice now and in the future. This is especially
important for a country in perpetual war.
Because we are witnessing a system that, in my opinion,
has become increasingly aloof to the needs of those who
have donned our nation’s uniform, professional legal
representation has become a necessity. The VA system is
broken. Veterans hiring attorneys will force those responsible
to fix it.
Matthew C. Ford, Jr.
Washington Township, New Jersey
My husband and I were absolutely appalled at
the cover for the May/June issue. It was an art piece called “Hands
up” by Roland Wolff.
What on earth were you thinking?
Do you have any idea how visually disturbing a piece like
that is for our veterans who are still dealing with PTSD
and other traumas from the horrors of the Vietnam War?
I was shocked and could not look at it. We had a suicide
in our family with the use of a firearm to the head, and
even though it had been years, I became physically ill
when I saw this cover.
I think you have been incredibly
insensitive to display something so horribly graphic. What
purpose is served? VVA needs to be there to support our
veterans, and this piece was so spiritually and emotionally
Please, in the future, you need to ask yourself
how veterans will be affected. Stop brutalizing our vets
with these horrible images.
When I first saw the cover of the May/June
issue, it sent a cold shiver through my spine. In simple
terms, it reflects what those of us who endure the pain,
suffering, and indignity of PTSD face every day of our
lives. What it said to me was, “Put your hands up,
shut your mouth, and listen!”
The general community
is detached from the everyday horrors of war and the residual
effects on those who served. People need to be reminded
from time to time that if not for Vietnam veterans forcing
the issue of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder nearly three
decades ago, children who are the victims of physical and
sexual abuse, rape victims, and other survivors of traumatic
experiences never would receive care, treatment, or more
importantly compassion from their communities, rather than
rejection and being labeled “whiners.”
to VVA for the courage to provide a visual image of what
PTSD is about. Please continue the groundbreaking work
that you do.
I was not pleased with your cover in the May/June
issue and failed to see the point you were trying to make
by displaying something so poor. Maybe you were trying
to show your lack of taste or some weird form of art.
got the July/August issue and had more questions as to
what you are trying to prove. I do not remember Garry Trudeau
being in favor of the military or our government. Why would
we, as veterans, want to give honor to anyone who is not
funny and lacking in good sense and morals?
I am afraid
you folk have forgotten what you are supposed to be about
and have jumped into the politically correct arena. I am
extremely unhappy about your choices and do not agree with
the approach you are taking.
Lonny E. Smith
My thoughts on Thomas Konieczko’s letter in the
May/June issue: He should be entitled to the Vietnam Service
Medal as he was in direct support of the Southeast Asia
mission. I also agree with him on the Vietnam veteran issue.
Like he said, in previous wars, you were considered a veteran
of that war whether or not you saw combat. The Vietnam
War is an exception: You must be an “in-country vet” to
be accepted and considered a Vietnam veteran.
I never left
the United States. I served my time at Fort Polk. I helped
train troops that were eventually deployed to Vietnam.
I did receive the National Defense Ribbon.
I am a founding member of my chapter. I recruited six members
for it. Once the chapter received its charter, I was no
longer welcome, because I was not an “in-country” vet.
So I stopped attending meetings and functions.
Am I still
a VVA member? Yes. Will I remain one? Yes, until someone
starts a Vietnam Era Veterans Association. Then I will
John E. Fischer
Longs, South Carolina