Coaches who care

Laf. council tables shelter fee hikes
September 16, 2014
Longevity a central issue in Senate race
September 16, 2014
Laf. council tables shelter fee hikes
September 16, 2014
Longevity a central issue in Senate race
September 16, 2014

While wars raged in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the pain of it was felt here in the Bayou Country by the parents, who serve their country in their way as the daughters and sons serve it in theirs.

Now there is talk of new war in the Middle East and they wonder how it can be waged without someone’s sons and daughters working on the ground, how a downed aircraft or some other calamity won’t result in a need for their children to be in harm’s way, and so they watch and wait.

I reached out to parents last week when the President of the United States spoke about how we shall go about dealing with these monsters who blaspheme their god and their prophet by committing atrocities in those names, who have already spilled the blood of an American and a Britisher who were armed with nothing but computers and pens.

These parents had little to say about the current situation, but I did get a phone call that was a stark reminder of the unfinished business we have.

Normally only people with names appear in this space the newspaper gives me, but for reasons you will understand that is not the case right now.

This mother opened up about her Marine Corps son, currently stationed on safe land in Asia, although you never know where they can end up.

Her boy did three tours in Afghanistan. He had buddies shot right next to him and he survived, and so bad was the survivor’s guilt that he even took upon his head the death of one he didn’t witness, so bad has been the toll on his mind.

Talk to somebody, she said. You are having problems, and you will have more, and the Marine Corps can help.

But it was like talking to a wall with this young man who lost grandparents during his deployments, whose wife, tired of the demons war had spawned within him, took off with the new baby. Now there’s a new wife and there are more demons, and nothing is being done about them.

The armed forces say they are trying to change the attitude that a soldier or Marine needs to buck up and deal with it all, and they have programs to help. But the professionals who work with cleaning up the mess that war makes inside the head say it is still taking a while for the bosses, the sergeants and lieutenants and all of those with higher rank, to recognize the warrior in need of help.

“I need support,” the distraught mom said, resigned that the young man who will one day return is likely to be a shell of himself, convinced that the man who returns will not be the one she kissed goodbye.

Some phone calls were made to find out more about post-traumatic stress syndrome and how families and service members are being helped, and a call to the much-maligned Veterans Affairs Department actually turned up some answers.


The National Center for PTSD does research on the problem, and they have, it turns out, a program called “Coaching Into Care.” The idea is for moms, dads, wives, husbands or anyone else close to a service member ignoring his or her own danger signs to get the needed help, while providing support for the loved ones, so that they too can be whole.

My fear was that bureaucracies being what they are, somebody would say this was only for those who have come home, not for those who currently serve.

The fear was unfounded. A really nice woman who described herself as a psychologist technician listened as I explained the Marine mom’s plight.

Yes, she said, we can help families of those who currently serve.

So I passed on the phone number and we’ll see how things go. Maybe there will be help. Maybe there won’t. But at least there is trying, and sometimes that’s all you’ve got.

If this mother gets some help, maybe she will tell others and they can get help, too, because so many need it and don’t get it, especially the ones still in uniform.

As we talk tough about how we want to stay safe and heap praise on the warriors who make that happen, we must be mindful of the need for the soft and the gentle care they will require, because when we ask them to do what we cannot do for ourselves, bad things can happen, which bandages, splints and surgeries can’t repair.

For those who read this and worry about a loved one in PTSD denial, whether a vet or a current service member, maybe spreading the word will help.

I leave you all with the phone number, which is 888-823-7458. And I leave with hopes that the need for programs like this, one day, will disappear.