Low VA Rates Lends Support to K9 Karma

Could Service Dogs be the Key to Battling PTSD?

The VA is currently conducting official research to scientifically determine the extent to which service dogs can help veterans with PTSD, but word-of-mouth from success stories is spreading the practice of using trained service dogs to assist veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.

LINDON, Utah – July 28, 2015 Low VA Rates, a company specializing in helping veterans utilize their VA loan benefits, has just donated several thousand dollars to a small non-profit specializing in training service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities and PTSD. This non-profit is called K9 Karma, and is still on a very small scale, but is making a world of difference in the lives of veterans they’ve been able to help so far. The “non-scientific” evidence of veterans with PTSD being helped by service dogs is overwhelming, and K9 Karma is working to help more veterans have access to one.

Daniel and Stacy, the two founders at K9 Karma, explain that it can cost upwards of $2,000 per dog to provide the training and supplies that the dog needs in order to fill the needs of a veteran with PTSD. This includes hiring a dog trainer, transportation and adoption fees, spaying or neutering, vaccinations, supplies for training, and everything else that might be necessary. Veterans are not charged for their service dog; the dog is given as a free gift.

Daniel is a veteran himself and still struggles with PTSD. When asked why he started K9 Karma, he said the following, “In the military, especially the Marine Corps, we have a saying: Leave No Man Behind. I feel that saying should also apply even when our military personnel return home.  Although physically they are home, mentally they’re not. Everyone deserves to live the normal life that they had led prior to being placed into a combat zone.”

Stacy, though not a veteran herself, comes from a military family with almost every single branch represented. “I’ve seen both sides of war when it comes to my family and friends. I’ve seen some come home and live life as if nothing was different and I saw other members that came home and were “crazy” in the eyes of society. I watched while the doctors just kept feeding them pills to help cope with the anger, depression, and anxiety, and yet nothing was working.”

K9 Karma is hungering for the ability to help more veterans. While they are not in need of volunteers at this time, they are always looking for assistance in covering the costs of training and providing a service dog, since they are mostly paying out of their own pockets at this time.

You can learn more about K9 Karma and make a tax-deductible donation at www.k9karmadogs.com. You can learn more about Low VA Rates (NMLS# 1109426) by visiting their website at www.lowvarates.com.

Women in Combat – Lessons Learned

By now you have likely heard about the changes that the U.S. Military has made regarding its policies for women serving in combat roles. The Department of Defense has openly recognized women’s contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as the nature of war has changed in the last decades, so have long-held attitudes and opinions about women serving in the military.

Most people would be surprised to know just how long there has been controversy concerning women’s roles in battle. Would you believe the debate goes back to the 18th century, back to the Revolutionary War? A woman by the name of Margaret Corbin manned a cannon during the battle of Ft. Washington in New York. She also became the first woman to receive a military pension, though it was half of what the men got.

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

The Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns began with US military policy prohibiting women from serving in combat roles. Army commanders got around the letter of the law by “attaching” women to combat units instead of having them assigned to the same.

The military found that women have the physical stamina to finish the job. Additionally, despite the fears of some, having women co-mingled in combat units has not disrupted the cohesion of those units. A recent NPR article weighs in on the debate concerning the combat readiness of female soldiers.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the military benefited from female soldiers in ways that surprised almost everyone. For instance, for cultural reasons, male soldiers were not allowed to search women for bombs or weapons. U.S. female soldiers, however, could and did.

There was an unforeseen benefit: it was soon apparent that the Iraqi and Afghanistan women would talk to other women. Female soldiers gathered intelligence that the men could not get.

Looking at the Details

The military still has to grapple with certain policies and figure out how to deal with the realities of men and women side-by-side on the battlefield.

For example, men and women will need separate bunks and bathrooms. And some women will be evacuated because of pregnancy. These are things that may require some new planning within the military.

Larger Issues Face by Women in the Military

Of utmost importance is that the US military take the proper steps to ensure sexist attitudes and practices are not perpetuated. Facing the military’s problem with sexual violence head-on is one of the most critical issues to face, and military leaders are currently working to address the issue—which is one that has attracted the attention of the House and Senate as well.

Another important issue women in the military face is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD hits 20 to 30 percent of veterans who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that these pressures can be tremendous, including intensified anger and a higher suicide rate than noncombatants, but it’s still too early to say whether the disorder affects women differently than men.

It will likely take some time to analyze women’s experiences with the trauma of combat. Some female soldiers have come forward for help, and there is at least some evidence that female soldiers feel pressure to hide their true feelings and struggles for fear of being perceived as feeble or weak.

We expect that those sorting out military policy in these relatively new areas will exercise caution. We should hope to find decision makers willing to set, adjust, and change policies according to data. We also hope that their decisions secure and promote the health, safety, and effectiveness of the military unit and those that form a part of it.

Honoring Women in Combat

Some 280,000 women have worn American uniforms in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 150 have died and over 800 have been injured. Hundreds of female soldiers have received a Combat Action Badge, awarded for actively engaging with a hostile enemy. Two women, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, and Specialist Monica Lin Brown, have been awarded Silver Stars—one of the highest military decorations awarded for valor in combat—for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We hope these women will always be honored and treated with the respect that all our veterans deserve.

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Veterans Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Working Together for Treatment

I have often wondered why this is an issue for both men and women in the military.  I have never served in the military so I don’t know what it would be like to always be on my guard and paranoid of attack and learning to suppress my feelings and taking orders all the time.  I can imaging for Veterans that it must be difficult to adapt to civilian life after years of service.  In my line of work I get the privilege of working with Veterans everyday and sometimes it comes up in conversation.  So what is going on to help deal with this situation?

Let me refer to an article that was published in Utah to help Veterans specifically to help deal with PTSD.

Dozens of Veterans are up in Park City for a week-long retreat, and they all have a few things in common.  They all suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Veterans back from war are invited to an outdoor retreat to meet others who are also dealing with the memories of war and dealing with PTSD.  It can be intense for the Veterans, but its also a lot of fun!  They are learning how to breath again and relax.  Veteran Erika Vandenberg said, “In Iraq and Afghanistan you were on alert all the time.  You didn’t know who was your friend or enemy, so you were always on alert”.  These Veterans can’t sleep and they’ve shut people out.  “Anxiety around people, being in a crowd, I still have issues with that” Vandenberg said.

The Veterans participate in team-building exercises, learning how to trust and cope with civilian life again, now that they are out of the military.  “Being in the Marine Corp. for six years does a lot to you,” said Veteran Rodriquez.  “You have to hide a lot of emotions and feelings”.

This retreat is a big step for those Veterans who attended and I can imagine that they all want the lives they had before they left for war.

There are things like this going on all over the country and there are support groups that are here to help those who continue to defend our freedoms.

WHAT IS PTSD?

  • You have reoccurring flashbacks and/or nightmaresPost Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • You avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma you experienced
  • You have a heightened state of arousal or anxiety that makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • You have trouble controlling your anger–this may or may not include aggression or violence, you just feel a lot of anger
  • You are hyper vigilant–meaning, you are almost always on the alert, looking around, watching other people, etc. as if you were expecting some kind of attack or crisis

This does not only affect the Veteran but it also affects their families too.  I know that there is help for this and I also recognize that some Veterans would not take advantage of that help because they might feel inadequate in admitting they suffer from the symptoms mentioned above, especially if they have learned to reject or “hide” their feelings due to the nature of how they have been trained.  The bottom line is this – you cannot let this go and it must be dealt with when its recognized.  A Vietnam Veteran named Randy Vest said it took him 30 years to finally get life back to normal.  This is probably an extreme case because of how the Veterans were treated after the Vietnam War.  The point is, the sooner a Veteran gets help the sooner life gets back to normal.  Look at it like this – Its just like combat, you don’t quit in the middle of it.  You just keep going until the mission is accomplished.

I didn’t want this to be taken as a charity plead for Veterans, I am simply point out that there are things being done to help our countries Veterans who suffer from PTSD.  Many Veterans don’t have PTSD and as far as I know there is no clues as to determine why some do and some don’t.  For those Veterans that don’t then please offer your friendship and advice to those that do.  If you are a Veteran that does then please contact your local Dept of Veteran Affairs and they can help.  Norman Schwarzkopf said “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it”

Good luck – we are with you all the way.

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