Today in Oregon, the Governor and the Legislature have passed a long overdue and important bill designating today, March 30, as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
This is big news for many of those Vets who still feel no appreciation and little respect for the time they served in that war, and I think it is an important symbolic step in healing some of the wounds that still fester. More than that, this is an acknowledgment that highlights the importance of these men (mostly) who fought for our country, whether we agreed with the war or not. This acknowledgment is respect, and this respect implies that they have something deeply important to offer to the rest of us, so this move actually means something.
Yesterday I received an article from Ken Kraft, one of the Vets that is part of “The Welcome” movie, about a friend and colleague whose job it was to uncover, examine and catalogue for evidence, the bodies of the thousands who had been summarily executed and buried by Saddam in Iraq. It was a very disturbing article, as you can imagine, as it described how this man, who had been doing this work in Bosnia, Rwanda and other places in hell, had finally become unable to be in the presence of this kind of evil.
I bring this up because of the contrast - on the one hand, final acceptance and acknowledgment, even an honoring of warriors, and on the other, disgust, horror and ultimately the inability of one man to bear the truth of what humans are capable of. In order for there to be some sense of closure, reconnection and even actual healing, the rest of us are going to have to openly accept the men and women who have been put in places where they meet hell face to face. Otherwise it is only their burden to carry, and that is clearly too much, as is evidenced by the soaring suicide rates, substance abuse, violence and cold isolation felt by so many returning Vets - and their family members.
So, congratulations to Oregon, to the Vietnam Vets and by extension, to all vets who have served this country, whether we civilians agree with the wars they fought or not.
In order to help prepare civilians and military alike for this “acceptance”, we have made the documentary film, “The Welcome”. The film is available for purchase at:
The first public screening of this film will happen on Saturday, April 9 at noon at the Ashland Armory, in Ashland, Or. This is part of the Ashland Independent Film Festival (www.ashlandfilm.org) and tickets are now on sale. Please come, please help spread the word!
The Welcome Home Project
Today in Oregon, the Governor and the Legislature have passed a long overdue and important bill designating today, March 30, as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
Hope everyone is well out there. A couple of important announcements about the documentary film, The Welcome, that you have all been so patiently following for so many months.
As many of you know, the film will open in a special screening at the Ashland Independent Film Festival on Saturday, April 9 at noon. This will take place at the Historic Ashland Armory at Oak and B streets, and as an added bonus most of the Veterans and family members featured in the film will be present to answer questions after the showing. We believe that this will be a dramatic and poignant reunion of Veterans and the community of Southern Oregon after the powerful Memorial Day event in 2008 that is the subject of this film.
So we are inviting all of you to come if you can, and if you can’t make it please spread the word to others in the area who you believe would have an interest in being at the screening.
Naturally, we are hoping to sell out the venue (about 500 seats), so we recommend that you check out the festival box office at www.ashlandfilm.org and purchase tickets early. Tickets go on sale for the general public this coming Sunday, March 20.
Also, the new web site for the film is now up and running - www.TheWelcomeTheMovie.com, and we invite you to log on and check it out. We are still building the site and we will change it as we get feedback, so please have a look and let us know what works and what doesn’t. We expect this site to be a primary public meeting place for people interested in the subject of Veterans, their families and a constructive dialogue between Veterans and civilians. So your input will be very helpful to us as we get that going.
We’ll have more announcements soon, so please stay tuned! See you on April 9th, I hope.
Best to you all,
News from the Soldier’s Project - major conference on Women and War:
The Soldiers Project
This conference is for mental health professionals, students, military service members, Veterans, families (not small children), and the general public. Please pass this on to anyone who would be interested.
CONFERENCE ON WOMEN AND WAR:
Hidden Strengths – Hidden Wounds
April 15-16, 2011
The Davidson Conference Center
University of Southern California
3415 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90089
Opening Reception: Friday, April 15, 6-9pm
7:30pm Screening of the Academy Award-nominated Documentary Short
followed by Q&A with Director Sara Nesson
and Robynn Murray—the “Poster Girl”
(Light refreshments & drinks provided on Friday)
Conference: Saturday April 16, 8am – 6pm
9:00am Performance by
“Into the Fire – Voices of Veterans & Families”
Panels: Women Who Serve, Women at Home,
Marine women from the Female Engagement Team share their stories
of reaching out to Afghani women
Workshops: Military Sexual Trauma, Combat Stress, Challenges for Families
Additional workshops to be announced
12:30 Luncheon with Keynote Speaker
Author of The Lonely Soldier—The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq
(Full breakfast, lunch & refreshments provided on Saturday)
$100 pre-registration before April 1st
$120 after April 1st
$60 Student and Military with ID
$30 Friday Opening Reception and Film only
Register online at: www.thesoldiersproject.org or send check to:
The Soldiers Project, PO Box 1751, Studio City, CA 91614
* Earn 6.5 CME/CEUs *
CME Accreditation Statement and Credit Designation
LAISPS is accredited by the Institute for Medical Quality/California Medical Association (IMQ/CMA) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. LAISPS takes responsibility for the content, quality and scientific integrity of this CME activity.
Physicians: LAISPS designates this educational activity for a maximum of (6.5) AMA PRA Category 1 Credits. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. This credit may also be applied to the CMA Certificate in Continuing Medical Education.
Psychologists: LAISPS is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer Mandatory Continuing Education for psychologists. This activity is designated for a maximum of (6.5) credit hours. Psychologists will be responsible for reporting their own hours to MCEP using the Attendance Certificate issued at the completion of this activity.
Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists: LAISPS is approved by the Board of Behavioral Sciences to grant continuing education credit to those holding LCSW and MFT licenses. (Provider #PCE311) This activity is designated for (6.5) credit hours.
Nurses: LAISPS is approved by the CA Board of Registered Nursing to grant continuing education credit to nurses. This activity is designated for (6.5) credit hours.
Dear Friends and Supporters of Veterans, their families and The Welcome Home Project,
We are excited to announce that The Welcome, the documentary film begun almost exactly three years ago, will be making its homecoming in a special screening at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, on April 9, at the Historic Ashland Armory (Oak and B St.). The show begins at 12:00 noon. This will be the very first public screening of the film.
Even better, many of the Veterans and family members from the film will be in attendance.
We hope to sell the place out, so please check with the AIFF web site for ticket information. Tickets will go on sale to the public on March 19. (see below). We hope to see all of you there!!!
a Documentary Film
"The Welcome" offers a fiercely intimate view of life after war: the fear, anger and isolation of post-traumatic stress that affects vets and family members alike. As we join them in a small room for an unusual five day healing retreat, we witness how the ruins of war can be transformed into the beauty of poetry. Here our perceptions are changed, our psyches strained, and our hearts broken. And at the end, when this poetry is shared with a large civilian audience, we begin to understand that all of us are a vital piece of the Welcome as Veterans try to find the way back home. Their examples of unflinching honesty, courage and love lift us up, inspiring all of us once again to feel our common humanity, so often the first casualty of war.
Ashland Independent Film Festival
Saturday, April 9, 12:00 Noon
Ashland Armory, Oak and B Streets
Ticket information can be found at www.ashlandfilm.org
Dear Friends and Supporters of Veterans and The Welcome Home Project,
At long last, today we finished the movie. It is called The Welcome, it is just over an hour and a half long, and we have already begun applying to festivals around the country. We are not sure where we will formally premier it, but there will be a special showing at the Ashland Independent Film Festival (April 7-11 - the Festival has not posted details yet) - Please come if you can, and DVD’s will be available soon. There will also be a new website dedicated to the film (www.TheWelcomeTheMovie.com) which will be up in a few weeks. We’ll let you know about that as well.
Thanks for supporting the birth of this baby - so many of you have contributed in so many ways that there are “parents” all over the country. Congratulate yourselves and spread the word!
Bill and Kim
Dear Friends and Supporters of the Welcome Home Project,
As we prepare to finally finish the documentary (2/16 we will have official dvd’s) it seems important to hold to the idea that healing and dialogue are primary goals. In that light, and following from some past thoughts on Veteran Civilian dialogue, I was reminded by the author of the comments below in response to the suicide of SSG McDowell, a member of his company, that this dialogue must begin amongst the veterans themselves.
If we are lucky, we civilians may be able to partake in this conversation but I don’t believe that we can start it. Make ourselves available, yes, but I think it may be an invitation only event. A respectful but visible waiting.
This was passed along to us by Niels Dammon, one of the amazing Veterans from the Welcome Home Project:
"For those of you in the 671st I would humbly like to offer my thoughts and support.
While I was amongst you, you were a family to me, my brothers and sisters in arms. I am grateful for that opportunity to have been a leader for many of you through 9-11 and up to your deployment on OIF. National caveats prevented me from joining you in the 'good fight' and the loss of Specialist Tobler has weighed heavily on me for many years now. And now the news of further loss leaves me truly saddened.
I will offer this not from the perspective of one who has shared your direct experiences in Iraq, but as one who has experienced other conflicts. Each experience is unique yet similarities remain.
The Army, the big green machine, is a vast system that has a mission to accomplish, and is given material by the nation to do so. As a consequence, the machine has no soul and cannot cater to individual need. The mission is paramount and the negative results are presumed to be necessary sacrifices for the greater good. Further, our political and bureaucratic masters do not share our common ethos and the camaraderie that comes from the profession of arms.
So, I say to you all that you will not achieve good by asking the system to provide. You must now look to yourselves for collective healing. As Col Dave Grossman has so eloquently said, for a soldier to survive the horrors of war, to build a bullet-proof mind, there must be no Macho Men and no Pity Parties. My wife, who is also a soldier, is fond of reminding me of that! The one who survives is the one or many who have the courage to admit that they have a problem and seek help to overcome it. You must collectively share the burden of the pain you are individually feeling and the strong must provide support to those of you who need help the most. You must overcome your pride and your fear of admission that there are wounds that cannot be seen. Talk about those things that bring this pain, share the experiences with those who can understand so well what it was all about.
For many years I myself was unwilling to admit that I had PTSD as a result of my own experiences in war. By seeking help and embracing the demons that threatened to consume me I have been able to take control of my destiny once more. That process was actually harder to go through than I thought it would be to simply go back to having an enemy trying to kill me once again. No good comes from thinking like that.
So I encourage you to put your words and your sorrow into action and get together to simply talk and be amongst those who can understand. Bring your loved ones along and make the attempt to share your experiences with them as well. For they also suffer when you do and they most of all desire to understand what it is that hurts you so that they can support you through it."
I just saw this article by Leila Levinson, a daughter of a WWII Vet, who makes the point that the effects of war deeply impact the family members, generations down the line, in ways that are often unrecognized or misunderstood. This isn’t new information, exactly (and she tends to downplay the situation with Vietnam Vets, I think) but her point is powerful and very personal nonetheless. Thought you all might be interested.
Stay in touch, more news soon.
The Welcome Home Project
Hi Friends and supporters of Veterans and The Welcome Home Project,
Following from the last two blog entries on reintegrating the public, I thought I would pass along the words of the mother of a Marine whose son was deployed at the time of the writing (He is back, safe). The last blog suggested that families of Vets be included as a way to bring civilians into the dialogue, and this piece could be seen as an introduction to some simple truths lived by family members that go mostly unnoticed by the rest of us civilians. This is from Mary Ellen Salzano, founder and facilitator of the California Statewide Collaborative for our Military and Families (an amazing group, by the way).
“Meeting people and sharing about our son's military service is always a unique experience. Never knowing if this revelation will bring out the wrath or the respect of the person I am speaking with. Sometimes I am asked, "How do you do this?" So, for a slice of reality, I'll share how many military parents feel on a day to day, minute by minute basis.
You see me everyday going about my life as usual, or so it appears to you. I am your co-worker, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you at church, or at a ball game. I shop at the same grocery stores and fill my car at the same places you do. You can find me anywhere; you might see me anywhere, but do not be deceived by the normalcy of my actions and words. I have not been "normal" for months. I am the mother/father of an American soldier/Marine.
I am the one with the frayed yellow ribbon or photo of my son/daughter pinned on my clothing. It was fresh and new when our loved one first deployed months ago. We know the war is not over and will not be over...the war on terrorism is with us to stay. My child is in a place where bullets and grenades are as common as the birds singing outside your windows. I am dedicated to wearing my ribbon or pin until he comes home, because this reminds me and others to pray for him. So please, when you see someone wearing a yellow ribbon or a support your troops pin, whisper a prayer for their child or children and for all the others still protecting our country while facing the holidays and birthdays and celebrations without their families and friends.
My house is the one with the faded yellow ribbons and the United We Stand placards. Always remembering how our lives were changed on September 11, 2001. There is an American flag on a pole attached to the front porch, and black ribbons get attached on days of remembrance. A small red and white banner with a blue star in the middle hangs in a window. We were presented with this by our local American Legion. Gold Star parents are the ones whose sons or daughters do not return home. Our hearts are in a constant ache for them and a piece of our heart and soul is with them.
My heart is warmed each time I pass a home or car with a yellow ribbon or support your troops magnet as I know you have an idea of the sacrifices being made. Thank you. For many, emails are received sporadically as well as phone calls, yet at times, there are no calls or letters for weeks at a time, and the papers are filled with stories of wounded and casualties or negative comments and it pierces our souls.
When I read of a soldier or Marine that has been killed and the name has not yet been released by the Department of Defense pending notification of family, restlessness, depression, insomnia and even physical illness can rule my life until 24 hours have passed and the men in dress uniforms have not appeared at my door. You learn how to scan your neighborhood before you pull into your driveway, hoping there are no government cars parked outside your door. You then feel guilty as the relief turns to grief as you know others will be getting a visit. The days of taking a full breath are long passed, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to breathe.
Going to the store is a chore that many of us avoid until the cupboards run bare. If you see someone standing in front of the snack foods, with tears streaming down their face, stop and give them a hug. If you see a man and woman at the store buying tuna and crackers, beef jerky, hand sanitizers and baby wipes take a moment and see if they are filling a care package, and if you can, ask what you can provide. If you see a woman buying more than 3 sympathy cards at one time, and tears rolling down her face, know she is a part of an online support group who sends cards to those parents whose child has paid full price.
I am here among you, trying to carry on a semblance of a normal life and my holiday table will have a place setting and chair ready for our loved one whom we know will not be with us. Like so many others I am the parent, the mother of an child serving in the military. Because of their sacrifices, we sleep in our bed at night safe and free. Your prayers and words of love mean the world.
May your holy/holly/holidays be filled with the Light of Spirit, the love of the Divine, the Joy of Creation, and the Compassion of the Eternal. As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and look forward to sharing a new year filled with wonders and joys. May each moment of your life be overflowing with blessings, prosperity, love and grace.”
Mary Ellen Salzano, Mother.