Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains
By JAMES DAO and CATRIN EINHORN
Published: December 30, 2010
Send To Phone
CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink WAUTOMA, Wis. — Life changed for Shawn Eisch with a phone call last January. His youngest brother, Brian, a soldier and single father, had just received orders to deploy from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Afghanistan and was mulling who might take his two boys for a year. Shawn volunteered.
A Year at War
The Home Front
Articles in this series are chronicling the yearlong deployment of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, based in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. The series follows the battalion’s part in the surge in northern Afghanistan and the impact of war on individual soldiers and their families back home.
So began a season of adjustments as the boys came to live in their uncle’s home here. Joey, the 8-year-old, got into fistfights at his new school. His 12-year-old brother, Isaac, rebelled against their uncle’s rules. And Shawn’s three children quietly resented sharing a bedroom, the family computer and, most of all, their parents’ attention with their younger cousins.
The once comfortable Eisch farmhouse suddenly felt crowded.
“It was a lot more traumatic than I ever pictured it, for them,” Shawn, 44, said. “And it was for me, too.”
The work of war is very much a family affair. Nearly 6 in 10 of the troops deployed today are married, and nearly half have children. Those families — more than a million of them since 2001 — have borne the brunt of the psychological and emotional strain of deployments.
Siblings and grandparents have become surrogate parents. Spouses have struggled with loneliness and stress. Children have felt confused and abandoned during the long separations. All have felt anxieties about the distant dangers of war.
Christina Narewski, 26, thought her husband’s second deployment might be easier for her than his first. But she awoke one night this summer feeling so anxious about his absence that she thought she was having a heart attack and called an ambulance. And she still jumps when the doorbell rings, worried it will be officers bearing unwanted news.
“You’re afraid to answer your door,” she said.
Social scientists are just beginning to document the rippling effects of multiple combat deployments on families — effects that those families themselves have intimately understood for years. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January found that wives of deployed soldiers sought mental health services more often than other Army wives.
They were also more likely to report mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and sleep disorder, the longer the deployments lasted.
And a paper published in the journal Pediatrics in late 2009 found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in civilian families. The longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the researchers found, the more likely the children were to have had difficulties in school and at home.
But those studies do not describe the myriad ways, often imperceptible to outsiders, in which families cope with deployments every day.
For Ms. Narewski, a mother of three, it has meant taking a grocery store job to distract her from thinking about her husband, a staff sergeant with the First Battalion, 87th Infantry, now in northern Afghanistan.
For Tim Sullivan, it has meant learning how to potty train, braid hair and fix dinner for his two young children while his wife, a sergeant in a support battalion to the 1-87, is deployed.
For young Joey Eisch, it meant crying himself to sleep for days after his father, a platoon sergeant with the battalion, left last spring. His older brother, Isaac, calm on the outside, was nervous on the inside.
“It’s pretty hard worrying if he’ll come back safe,” Isaac said. “I think about it like 10 or more times a day.”
Joining the Army Life
Soon after Christina and Francisco Narewski married in 2004, he applied for a job with the local sheriff’s office in Salinas, Calif. But he got tired of waiting and, after talking things over with Christina, enlisted in the Army instead.
“We both signed up for it,” Ms. Narewski said. “We knew deployments were going to come.”
That day arrived in the fall of 2007, when their third child was just 5 months old. Ms. Narewski missed Francisco dearly and sometimes cried just hearing his voice when he called from Iraq. But when he returned home in October 2008, it took them weeks to feel comfortable together again, she recalled.
“It’s almost like you’ve forgotten how to be with each other,” she said. “He’s been living in his spot for 15 months. Me and the kids have our own routine. It’s hard to get back to, ‘Oh, you’re home.’ ”
“I’ve never missed him as much as I do right now,” she said recently. “It doesn’t feel like we’re moving. It’s like you’re in a dream and you’re trying to get something and you can’t get it.”
Not all the spouses back home are women. Tim Sullivan’s days have revolved almost entirely around his two children, Austin, 4, and Leah, 2, since his wife, Sgt. Tamara Sullivan, deployed to Afghanistan in March.
He rises each weekday at 5:30 a.m. to dress and feed them before shuttling them to day care. Evenings are the reverse, usually ending with him dozing off in front of the television at their rented ranch-style house in Fayetteville, N.C.
He has moved twice and changed jobs three times in recent years to accommodate his wife’s military career. But he does not mind being home with the children, he says, because his father was not, having left the family when Mr. Sullivan was young.
“I’m not going to put my kids through that,” said Mr. Sullivan, 35, who handles child support cases for the county. “I’m going to be there.”
He worries about lost intimacy with his wife, saying that they have had a number of arguments by phone, usually about bill paying or child rearing. “She tells me: ‘Tim, you can’t just be Daddy, the hard person. You have to be Mommy, too,’” he said. “I tell her it’s not that easy.”
Yet he says that if she stays in the Army — as she has said she wants to do — he is prepared to move again or even endure another deployment. “I love her,” he said. “I’m already signed up. I made a decision to join the life that goes with that.”
Doing What Uncle Sam Asks
Isaac and Joey Eisch have also had to adjust to their father’s nomadic life. “I don’t try to get too attached to my friends because I move around a lot,” said Isaac, who has lived in five states and Germany with his father. (Joey has lived in three states.) “When I leave, it’s like, hard.”
When Sergeant Eisch got divorced in 2004, he took Isaac to an Army post in Germany while Joey stayed with his mother in Wisconsin. Soon after returning to the States in 2007, the sergeant became worried that his ex-wife was neglecting Joey. He petitioned family court for full custody of both boys and won.
In 2009, he transferred to Fort Drum and took the boys with him. Within months, he received orders for Afghanistan.
After nearly 17 years in the Army with no combat deployments, Sergeant Eisch, 36, was determined to go to war. The boys, he felt, were old enough to handle his leaving. Little did he know how hard it would be.
When Shawn put the boys in his truck at Fort Drum to take them to Wautoma, a two-stoplight town in central Wisconsin, Isaac clawed at the rear window “like a caged animal,” Sergeant Eisch said. He still tears up at the recollection.
“I question myself every day if I’m doing the right thing for my kids,” he said. “I’m trying to do my duty to my country and deploy, and do what Uncle Sam asks me to do. But what’s everybody asking my boys to do?”
Within a few weeks of arriving at his uncle’s home, Joey beat up a boy so badly that the school summoned the police. It was not the last time Shawn and his wife, Lisa, would be summoned to the principal’s office.
The boys were in pain, Shawn realized. “There was a lot more emotion,” he said, “than Lisa and I ever expected.”
Shawn, a state water conservation officer, decided he needed to set strict rules for homework and behavior. Violations led to chores, typically stacking wood. But there were carrots, too: for Joey, promises of going to Build-a-Bear if he obeyed his teachers; for Isaac, going hunting with his uncle was the prize. Gradually, the calls from the principal declined, though they have not ended.
In September, Sergeant Eisch returned for midtour leave and the homecoming was as joyful as his departure had been wrenching. Father and sons spent the first nights in hotels, visited an amusement park, went fishing and traveled to New York City, where they saw Times Square and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
But the two weeks were over in what seemed like hours. In his final days, Sergeant Eisch had prepped the boys for his departure, but that did not make it any easier.
“Why can’t we just, like, end the war?” Isaac asked at one point.
As they waited at the airport, father and sons clung to each other. “I’m going to have to drink like a gallon of water to replenish these tears,” the sergeant said. “Be safe,” Isaac implored him over and over.
Sergeant Eisch said he would, and then was gone.
Despite his worries, Isaac tried to reassure himself. “He’s halfway through, and he’s going to make it,” he said. “With all that training he’s probably not going to get shot. He knows if there’s a red dot on his chest, run. Not toward the enemy. Run, and shoot.”
But his father did not run.
Dad Comes Home
Just weeks after returning to Afghanistan, Sergeant Eisch, the senior noncommissioned officer for a reconnaissance and sniper platoon, was involved with Afghan police officers in a major offensive into a Taliban stronghold south of Kunduz city.
While directing fire from his armored truck, Sergeant Eisch saw a rocket-propelled grenade explode among a group of police officers standing in a field. The Afghans scattered, leaving behind a man writhing in pain. Sergeant Eisch ordered his medic to move their truck alongside the officer to shield him from gunfire. Then Sergeant Eisch got out.
“I just reacted,” he recalled. “I seen a guy hurt and nobody was helping him, so I went out there.”
The police officer was bleeding from several gaping wounds and seemed to have lost an eye. Sergeant Eisch started applying tourniquets when he heard the snap of bullets and felt “a chainsaw ripping through my legs.” He had been hit by machine gun fire, twice in the left leg, once in the right.
He crawled back into his truck and helped tighten tourniquets on his own legs. He was evacuated by helicopter and taken to a military hospital where, in a morphine daze, he called Shawn.
“Are you sitting down?” Brian asked woozily. “I’ve been shot.”
Shawn hung up and went into a quiet panic. He could not tell how badly Brian had been wounded. Would he lose his leg? He called the school and asked them to shield the boys from the news until he could get there.
Outside school, Shawn told Isaac, Joey and his 12-year-old daughter, Anna, about Brian’s injury. Only Isaac stayed relatively calm.
But later, Shawn found Isaac in his bedroom weeping quietly while looking at a photograph showing his father outside his tent, holding a rifle. Shawn helped him turn the photograph into a PowerPoint presentation titled, “I Love You Dad!”
For Shawn, a gentle and reserved man, his brother’s injury brought six months of family turmoil to a new level. Sensing his distress, Lisa urged him to go hunting, a favorite pastime. So he grabbed his bow and went to a wooded ridge on his 40 acres of property.
To his amazement, an eight-point buck wandered by. Shawn hit the deer, the largest he had ever killed with a bow. It seemed a good omen.
A few days later, Shawn flew with the boys, his father and Brian’s twin sister, Brenda, to Washington to visit Sergeant Eisch at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. At the entrance, they saw men in wheelchairs with no arms and no legs. Others were burned or missing eyes. Shawn feared what the boys would see inside Brian’s room.
But Brian, giddy from painkillers, was his cheerful self. His right leg seemed almost normal. His left leg, swollen and stapled together, looked terrible. But it was a real leg, and it was still attached. The boys felt relieved.
Within days, Brian was wheeling himself around the hospital and cracking jokes with nurses, a green-and-yellow Green Bay Packers cap on his head. While Joey lost himself in coloring books and television, Isaac attended to his father’s every need.
“I feel a little more grown up,” Isaac said. “I feel a lot more attached to him than I was when he left.”
One doctor told Brian that he would never be able to carry a rucksack or run again because of nerve damage in his left leg. Someone even asked him if he wanted the leg amputated, since he would certainly be able to run with a prosthetic. Brian refused, and vowed to prove the doctor wrong. By December, he was walking with a cane and driving.
For Shawn, too, the future had become murkier. It might be many weeks before Brian could reclaim his sons. But he also knew how glad the boys were to have their father back in one piece.
“Brian came home,” Shawn said one evening after visiting his brother in the hospital. “He didn’t come home like we hoped he would come home, but he came home.”
“Every single day I think about all those families and all those kids that are not going to have a dad come home from Afghanistan,” he said. “That hurts more than watching my brother try to take a step because I know my brother will take a step and I know he’s going to walk down the dock and get in his bass boat someday.”
It was late, and he had to get the boys up the next morning to visit their father at the hospital again. The holidays were fast approaching and the snow would soon be arriving in Wisconsin. Shawn wondered whether he could get Isaac out hunting before the season ended.
Yeah, he thought. He probably could.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Dec 30, 2010 13:03:36 EST
Some service members and veterans are being misled and possibly harmed by well-meaning charities promising to provide a trained service dog to help with medical needs, according to representatives of a major veterans service organization.
What o ften happens, according to officials from the organization AmVets, is that disabled veterans who might benefit from a dog trained to do certain tasks may end up with an animal that a charity group has rescued from a pound, has been taught no special skills and might not be a true “service dog” for legal purposes.
“A dog with little or no training might be a great companion, but that’s all,” said Cristina Roof, AmVets legislative director.
Is it a real service dog?
Minimum training standards for service dogs established by Assistance Dogs of America:
• 90 percent of the time, a service dog must respond the first time it is asked to do a basic obedience and skill task.
• By voic e command or hand signal, a service dog must sit, stay, lie down, come and heel.
• A service dog must perform at least three tasks to mitigate a disability.
• The dog must be clean, well-groomed and not have an “offensive odor.”
• Unnecessary barking, growling, whining or soliciting attention from other people is not allowed. That includes begging for or stealing food from the general public.
• When working, a dog should be calm and quiet, and not distracted (even by cats or squirrels). When not working, it should lie quietly without blocking aisles or doorways.
• Unless told otherwise, a dog should be within two feet of its handler at all times.
• In public, a service dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack or other clothing or equipment identifying it as a service dog.
Roof said some media stories about nonprofit groups providing veterans with dogs rescued from shelters give the incorrect impression that an untrained dog is essentially the same as a trained service dog.
“It is incredibly important to remember a service dog may not be a good fit for everyone,” Roof said. “It is also crucial to remember that a service dog is in no way a replacement for your rehabilitation, either.”
Roof said service members and veterans should never pay for a service dog and should try to deal only with groups accredited by Assistance Dogs International, which sets training g uidelines and placement standards.
Dogs not officially recognized as service dogs — sometimes called therapy dogs or emotional support dogs — are pets, and although they may have some basic training, they are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They may not have access to public spaces and may not enter military and veterans hospitals and clinics.
Roof said ADA rules cover guide dogs for the blind or deaf, seizure-alert dogs, and mobility dogs trained to pull a wheelchair, pick up dropped items and perform similar tasks. A month-old ADA policy revision now also allows public access for psychiatric service dogs if they are trained to perform a specific task.
The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments don’t have to abide by ADA rules, Roof said. VA operates on rules dating to 1994 that al low only seeing-eye dogs into VA facilities, but allow case-by-case access for other types of service dogs.
DoD has similar rules, giving discretion about allowing dogs into hospitals and clinics to base commanders, Roof said.
Roof said access restrictions on dogs can be embarrassing for service members and veterans who believe they have a trained and officially recognized dog but are later barred from bringing the animal into public buildings and medical facilities.
Having a companion dog rather than a recognized service dog also can make a difference in terms of benefits. VA can provide financial help to veterans for service dogs, covering some costs for food and health care, but those benefits don’t extend to emotional support or therapy dogs, said AmVets spokesman Ryan Gallucci.
“It’s a confusing situation,” Gallucci said.
One example of a potentially confusing message is from Pets For Vets, a California-based charity that takes animals from shelters and pairs them with veterans.
Pets for Vets does not claim its dogs are certified as service dogs, but says in promotional material that their program is “a win-win way to give back to our troops who have given so much to us.”
Veterans with physical and mental injuries can have a difficult transition to civilian life, and having a companion can help, the group says. “Our goal is to heal their wounds by bringing together man’s best friend and our returning soldiers while showing them both that we have not forgotten,” the group says.
P ets for Vets did not respond to calls for comment.
Roof said there is no industrywide standard for what skills a dog may need to be certified to help a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. VA is in the early stages of research to devise standard requirements for dogs to be trained to help veterans suffering from PTSD.
A Laurel, Md., nonprofit group, Fidos for Freedom, trains dogs in specific skills. They can be trained to open and close doors, retrieve objects, help someone keep their balance while walking, help someone get in or out of a chair, pull a wheelchair for short distances, assist in dressing or undressing, or help someone who has fallen get back on their feet.
The group also trains dogs to help the deaf or hearing impaired by responding to the phone, smoke detector, alarm c lock, microwave, someone knocking at the door or calling a name, the sound of something being dropped or even a baby’s cry.
Disabled troops, vets misled on service dogs
Monday, January 3, 2011
CIA Tries Again to Duck Responsibility for Doing Drug Experiments on Veterans
By MARIA DINZEO
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The Central Intelligence Agency in January will argue for dismissal of Vietnam veterans' claims that the CIA must provide them with information about the health effects of chemicals used on them during Cold War-era human experiments. The CIA also claims it is not obligated to provide the veterans with medical care for side effects of the drugs. It's the CIA's third attempt to get the case dismissed.
In a 2009 federal lawsuit, Vietnam Veterans of America claimed that the Army and CIA had used at least 7,800 soldiers as guinea pigs in "Project Paperclip." They were given at least 250 and as many as 400 types of drugs, among them sarin, one of the most deadly drugs known to man, amphetamines, barbiturates, mustard gas, phosgene gas and LSD.
Among the project's goals were to control human behavior, develop drugs that would cause confusion, promote weakness or temporarily cause loss of hearing or vision, create a drug to induce hypnosis and identify drugs that could enhance a person's ability to withstand torture.
The veterans say that some of the soldiers died, and others suffered grand mal seizures, epileptic seizures and paranoia. The veterans say the CIA promised in the 1970s to compensate those who were made guinea pigs, but the 2009 complaint states that the government "never made a sincere effort to locate the survivors."
In its 32-page motion to dismiss the group's third amended complaint, the CIA claims it has no legal obligation under the Administrative Procedures Act to provide the veterans with notice of the drugs' health effects and that the veterans' notice claim "rests solely on state common-law duty."
The CIA claims that the law on which the veterans base their claim for health care compensation stems from the Department of Defense and Army regulations, "which do not purport to have a binding affect on the CIA."
And it claims that the Defense Department "never intended nor committed to providing medical care for service member participants in the test programs."
In its response, the veterans group says the CIA has already tried, in past motions, "to re-argue issues already decided" by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in 2009. "Defendants argue that plaintiffs do not state a claim for relief under the APA against the CIA or the Department of Defense because they do not allege a legally enforceable duty against those agencies," the response states. "Defendants presented this argument in each of their previous motions to dismiss," but the court has already "rejected this line of argument," finding that a letter from the Department of Justice supports the groups' claim that the CIA is obligated to provide them with medical care.
"Contrary to the court's express direction, defendants now seek to use the addition of the new parties as a crass opportunity for another bite at the apple (their third), seeking to re-litigate issues the court already decided nearly a year ago," the group says.
The hearing is set for Jan. 13, 2011 before Judge Wilken. The case is expected to go to trial in 2012.
the writer made the mistake of calling these "7,800 soldiers as guinea pigs in Project Paperclip." The conde names used for the experiments were known as MKULTRA, Artichoke, Naomi, Blueberry etc Operation paperclip was the OSS/CIA project to bring Nazi war criminals into the US after WW2 as President Truman had stated that no known Nazi's could be brought in they had to be "good germans" so the agencies cleaned up the records of these 2100 men and their families and brought them in primarily thru Canada in the early 50s, men like Werner Von Braun, Dr Strughold men who would do great things for the science and medical communities of the US and many worked for American corporations after they spent a few years or a decade working for military programs at places like Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Detrick, Fort McClellan, Dugway Proving Grounds etc it is estimated that nine of them worked at Edgewood Arsenal during the years that human testing was done on enlisted Army volunteers, however none of the volunteers were ever told that some of the researchers were tied to the death camps of WW2 Europe, I get the feeling that the power to be knew that the soldiers would not have volunteered if they had been given that information. I know I would not have volunteered, knowing what I know now I feel that I was duped and lied to, and I think it is time for the government to tell these veterans all of the substances they were or might have been exposed to and the toxix water wells that were used until 1978, for the bases drinking water and other uses such as cooking and bathing, swimming pools etc, after the EPA conducted tests in 1978 all of the wells were capped on base and in the aquifer of Edgewood Maryland and water was then piped in from an outside source that was clean. The EPA superfund is still working on the clean up of Edgewood Arsenal in 2010, more than 30 years later, the base was really contaminated. The water could hardly be called "safe" before 1978 how much of the toxins were we exposed to and how many of mour medical problems are related to either the experiments themselves or the water? Will we ever know? Who is repsonsible? The Army declines to answer and the VA states we can't prove the water harmed us, can they prove it didn't harm us? What about reasonable doubt?
Seriously a program that has a 75% death and disability rate for men aged 45-65 just leaves a lot of questions and it seems that our government would prefer NOT to answer them, why? What about the PROMISE to care for military personnel either killed by service or harmed by service we have to fit in here some place.
They can stonewall the truth but the graves are full and more will be and that can not be changed. The right or wrong is now irrelevant helping the veterans and their widows should be the goal the misguided reasons for doing the experiments and the men who authorized them are mostly deceased as are most of the "volunteers" but some of them are still alive and they need medical care and compensation as do the widows. The children of these men also deserve the truth. Their fathers were not just crazy old men who felt abused by the Army, they were veterans who were abused by the Army and then the VA, the CIA just used some of the scientists at Edgewood Arsenal to share the data and in some cases guided the substances used to find what would be advantageous for men like Sidney Gottlieb.