What We’re Reading: Week 6

By Chad Garland, News21

What We’re Reading:

Navy uniforms are flammable, and military knows it (Dianna Cahn, 1/9, The Virginian-Pilot) The Navy’s standard-issue working uniform is not flame-resistant and “when subjected to a flame, it will burn robustly until completely consumed,” according to Navy findings released in December. A Navy spokesman said the service knew about this when designing the uniform, but had no requirement for a fire-retardant uniform. A Navy Times editorial estimates that phasing in a flame-resistant uniform could carry a $20 million price tag.

Can Service Save Us? (Joe Klein, 6/20, Time) Several service-based veterans groups are helping veterans find a sense of purpose in civilian life after returning from war. Organizations like Mission Continues and Team Rubicon give veterans an opportunity to apply their unique skills and experience toward improving communities through volunteer service and disaster relief.

“I Am Sorry That It Has Come To This”: A Soldier’s Last Words (Daniel Somers, 6/22, Gawker) Daniel Somers’ suicide letter describes his struggle with the trauma he brought home from war in Iraq, including PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Somers was a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee on as many as 400 combat missions in Iraq in 2004-2005. He was 30 years old when he took his own life on June 10, 2013.

Veterans key to medical marijuana lobby efforts (Sophia Tareen, 6/21, Associated Press) Illinois Governor Pat Quinn faces a decision whether to sign legislation to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The Democratic governor has placed veterans’ issues at the top of his agenda and veterans lobbying for medical marijuana legalization may sway his decision.

In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims (James Dao, 6/23, The New York Times) As the Pentagon, Congress and even the White House grapple with the problem of sexual assault in the military, one aspect that has been largely overlooked is the fact that the majority of victims are men. Of the estimated 26,000 service members who experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, 53 percent are men, according to the Pentagon.

Navy veteran confronts trauma with exposure therapy

By Riley Johnson, News21

Jason Patterson, seen here in Saddam Hussein's office in the Baghdad Presidential Palace in 2004, served in the unit that governed Iraq after the invasion.  (Photo submitted by Patterson)

Jason Patterson, seen here in Saddam Hussein’s office in the Baghdad Presidential Palace in 2004, served in the unit that governed Iraq after the invasion. (Photo submitted by Patterson)

Jason Patterson’s traumatic experiences in Baghdad’s Green Zone no longer trigger anxiety in parking lots.

The 45-year-old Navy veteran saw a parking lot as a “death trap” with the openness creating easy targets for car bombs. Patterson’s daily stress over six months as a communications support officer in 2004 Baghdad seemed “like six years,” he said.

Patterson retired from the Navy in 2009, but his Iraq experiences crept up on him in ways he didn’t readily notice. On grocery trips in his La Vista, Neb., hometown, he’d park at the far end of the lot, fearing bombs, he said.

In March 2012, Patterson sought therapy for his post-traumatic stress through the Veterans Affairs hospital in Omaha. The program – prolonged exposure therapy –is one of an array of PTSD treatments allowed by the VA. A therapist would ask Patterson to talk about his trauma, and on his own, confront the situations that triggered it.

Terry North, director of the PTSD program for the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, said that prolonged exposure therapy is designed to help veterans “develop a more balanced view of the world. With trauma, their world turns into ‘The world is a dangerous place.’ ”

In his sessions, Patterson would close his eyes and recall his traumas.

“That’s how you open the gate,” he said.

Parked alone in his silver Honda Civic, Patterson confronted his anxiety. The first few times he’d abandon his one-hour goal and leave after 10 or 15 minutes. But over 12 weeks he began to feel more comfortable. He learned to close his eyes, and think of fishing.

Patterson doesn’t fish more than once or twice every few months in the summer, but fishing helps him cope, he said.

“It brings joy, excitement and a sense of peace,” he said. “As long as I’m fishing, I don’t care.”