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A Father traumatized by a son's wounds goes into action

By Horace Coleman

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The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the policies or stances of VVAW.

Wars ripple from the battlefront to the home front.

What if a troop, injured in body or mind—or both—doesn't have relatives or friends to help them through recovery and rehabilitation, encourage them if their spirit sags, interpret and slice through red tape and push for the best treatment?

Marriages can fray, friends drift away and conditions dismay but parents usually stay.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) are common wounds of the War on Terror. The latter is often caused by being blown up by roadside bombs—IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices—that cause many injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What if you get really unlucky and get a trifecta ("conventional" war wound, TBI and PTSD)? Then, hopefully, you have parents like Ryan Kahlor does—Tim and Laura Kahlor.

A tanker who did two tours in Iraq, Ryan survived several IED explosions. Among his injuries were a detached retina, a ruptured disc, vertigo, headaches, memory lapses and numbness in his arms. His ears leaked fluid. He also had TBI, PTSD, survivor's guilt and suicidal tendencies.

Ryan said in an LA Times interview that "my dad fought tooth and nail for me, knowing people in the military can't speak for themselves always. My dad pushed me to get help. He doesn't let me cut corners, and he's always on my butt."

Tim Kahlor is a whirlwind. At the Democratic National Convention he buttonholed delegates and talked to reporters at a press conference held by Military Families Speak Out members on Colorado's capitol steps. He explained to actress Susan Sarandon—he happened to see her on the street—who the person on the homemade poster he carried was and what happened to him in Iraq. Just as he did to a man in a mini park outside a mall. When he's on his home ground he does similar things to spread the word. Laura Kahlor works quietly in the background.

Tim brings attention to his son and thereby to every other wounded troop. He wonders if the parents of wounded warriors get "secondary PTSD." But, as Ryan does, Tim Kahlor keeps moving on.

Mini Book Review

Courage After Fire
Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families

Keith Armstrong, Suzanne Best, Paula Domenci; foreword by Senator Bob Dole
Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA, 2006 (www.ulyssespress.com)
$14.95; paperback, 239 pages
ISBN-10: 1-56975-513-2; ISBN-13: 978-1-56975-513-6

Written by a social worker and two psychologists, Courage After Fire has seven chapters and a Resources section.

You don't have to be a psychologist or a social worker to read and understand this clearly written book or benefit from the exercises in it. Its chapters are:

Reactions to War—Positive effects of war time service; common problems associated with it (e.g., anxiety, anger, alcohol and drug use, depression). How veterans and family members can understand why and how these problems develop.

Strengthening Your Mind and Body—Veterans identify and build on skills they already have. A series of relaxation exercises aimed at reducing war-related stress and techniques for improving self-care, including tips for sleep, exercise and healthy eating are given.

Coping Strategies—Ways to control unwanted war reactions.

Coping with Grief and Loss—Thoughts and feelings veterans have after wartime loss and dealing with then.

Changed Views of Self, Others, and the World—How wartime experiences change views about safety, trust, control, power, relationships and other ideas. Helpful strategies.

Returning to Civilian Life—Suggestions for readjusting to work, school and community. Responding to questions about war experiences. How employers can help veterans reenter the workforce.

Restoring Family Roles and Relationships—Changes that happen during a veteran's absence and adjusting to them. Talking to friends and family members about war experiences. Ways to reconnect with loved ones (including children). Recommendations for war veterans' parents.

"Resources"--Books and websites with information on issues related to readjustment.

Items of Interest

Last year National Public Radio broadcast a series of articles called "The Impact of War." These audio stories about U.S. troops at war and their families can be found at: http://www.npr.org/templates/topics/topic.php?topicId=1078

The following Rand Corporation publication, a free download in PDF form, is at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG720/

Invisible Wounds of War
Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery

Other Rand publications
(free downloads at http://www.rand.org/multi/military/veterans/ )

Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations for Addressing Psychological and Cognitive Injuries
Post Deployment Stress: What You Should Know, What You Can Do
Post Deployment Stress: What Families Should Know, What Families Can Do
Educating Military Personnel and Their Families About Post-Deployment Stress
Predicting the Immediate and Long-Term Consequences of Mental Health Problems in Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Essayist / poet/ photographer Horace Coleman lives in Long Beach, CA.
The second of three consecutive generations in his family who have served in American wars,
he was in the Air Force from 1965-70 and served in Vietnam from 1967-68.

Published in several anthologies, a number of literary magazines and at web sites,
Coleman has given lectures for the Modern Language Association and the Popular Culture Association.
He's taught at several universities and a community college and worked as a proposal planner,
editor / writer and document archivist, been a technical writer and a public information officer for a state health agency.

He is a member of VVAW

No pacifist, he hates unnecessary wars and bad moves.

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