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No one who has seen the carnage and brutality of war can escape the experience unchanged.  Even for those vets who were lucky enough to avoid physical injuries, the emotional damage inflicted on them often turns strong men and women into ghosts of their former selves, unrecognizable even to their own loved ones.  It is to help make our veterans whole again, those service men and women who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and other combat-related mental afflictions ETHOS Together (Effectively Treating Our Heroes, Our Survivors) was established.  I am more than honored to be associated with them.

During the Vietnam War, when I entertained our troops there, I was able to speak with hundreds of them.  I sat with them in field hospitals— U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, “Mac Vs” they were called—and prayed with them that their wounds would eventually heal.  At the time, we had never even heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It wouldn’t be diagnosed until eight years after the Vietnam War was over.  Many of those veterans were afraid even to admit these strange and scary feelings that they were experiencing because there was weakness and frailty attached to this condition and a stigma toward any veteran who was not “quite right” as a result of the war.

After seeing the unspeakable horror of war, it took me three whole months to acclimate myself to the civilized world again, before the twitching and the nightmares stopped.  As National Spokesperson for the Trauma campaign of Mental Health America, until today, I still receive letters from veterans who have returned from Vietnam more than 40 years ago, veterans who still feel trapped in the jungle, hunted and haunted by an enemy that return to their nightmares which have never gone away.  Now, a new generation of service men and women are coming home, this time from the Middle East.  The military says that as many as 58% may be victims of PTSD and other brain disorders, and yet a majority of these veterans will still go untreated because the priority of our military in training them to fight in battle has not nearly been matched by our commitment to healing them once they come home. 

What are the symptoms of PTSD that our veterans are suffering from right now?  Those symptoms are very familiar to those vets, because they live with them night and day—sexual dysfunction, helplessness, hopelessness, disorientation and displacement, a feeling of being lost at sea, isolation from the real world, numbness, apathy, deep depression, despondency, the inability to concentrate, sudden outbursts of rage for no plausible reason to others, a tendency towards physical violence, the bleakness and uncertainty of the future and the fear of death, all of which I call a “displacement of the soul”.  Without the proper treatment, which is so lacking now, their symptoms often surface as alcoholism, drug dependency, spousal abuse, sexual dysfunction and even in criminal activity.          

The military has recently announced a staggering fact that in the last two wars, we have lost more veterans to suicide than those that were killed in battle.  This isn’t only an outrage but the ultimate tragedy for those who have laid their lives on the line to protect ours.  These service men and women have been trained to be killers, not lovers.  We expect them to turn off the switch as soon as they take off their uniforms.  Some can do it; most cannot.  There needs to be an often very lengthy period of adjustment, a period of transition which, incidentally, takes and incredible amount of patience and courage on the part of their loved ones, those, who like himself, weren’t there to witness the unspeakable and senseless savagery they did--no, not without causing serious injury to the brain, a hidden injury, just as grave as the loss of an arm or a leg.  For them, this transition takes time, patience and understanding, not only from trained professionals in PTSD, of which we are painfully lacking, but also the love, support and the TLC of their families, as well.

Before these vets even return home, their loved ones need to be given a heads up, some training to be able to help them successfully cope with this stranger who comes home to them, often bitter, broken and shattered, physically, emotionally and sometimes both.  It is not only a misfortune for the afflicted but it is a stain on the fabric of our country.

If this makes you as angry as it does me, it should.  I hope it does.  It is up to each of us to let these veterans know that there is hope for the better life that they deserve.  By visiting this website, you have already shown that you care.  Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to ETHOS Together.  It will be the generous contributions from the American people and hopefully from caring corporations that will make a difference in lives of our veterans and their families--funds which we will distribute, not limited to, the American Red Cross but many other organizations which have been doing such a dedicated job, an admirable job, in this area.  Your contributions will go towards medical attention, experts on PTSD, transitional care and family counseling, all of which are so urgently needed right now.

Turn your caring into action so that 40 years from now our veterans of today will no longer be trapped in the deserts of Iraq or in the craggy mountains of Afghanistan.  With the help of you, the American people, our country can become the beacon of hope and healing for those who have given so selflessly to serve our country.

What I envision is not a nation of disabled veterans but a nation of fully-functional and able ones.  We really owe them, don’t you think?  This is my dream.  I’m Connie Francis, and on behalf of all those heroes who have lived up to the highest ideals of service, bravery, the love of their country and of their fellow Americans, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you deeply.

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