Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Desert Storm Females feel the same

The self-proclaimed ‘skeptical, irascible, doubting, iconoclastic pontificator’ uses the second paragraph of her blog to ask, “Did you know that there are almost two million women veterans?”
Females have served in some capacity in all of America’s wars, but nearly 230,000 have served in the Middle East since September 2001, and according to the Department of Defense, at least 120 have died (and more than 600 have been wounded) while doing so.

And while the transition from military life to civilian society is difficult for any soldier, marine or seaman, women returning from war are finding a system both unprepared for their arrival and a populace that doesn’t understand the role women play on the modern battlefield.

“We just want to know that when we come home, America has our back,” Genevieve Chase, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, told the Associated Press. “That's the biggest thing. Women are over there. You want to feel like you're coming home to open arms, rather than to a public that doesn't acknowledge you for what you've just done and what you just sacrificed.”

Since the Defense Department bars women from serving in assignments where the primary mission is to engage in direct ground warfare, returning female warriors find themselves fighting the perception they hadn’t experienced ‘real’ combat.

Defense Department edict or not, women – serving in roles such as military police, pilots, convoy gunners and drivers – are often in the midst of battles.

“Oh, you didn't do anything or you were just on base,” was a regular response that Hammack received, even though the Army Reserve sergeant suffers from post-concussive headaches, ringing in her ears, and other health problems related to barack bomb blasts.

But the doubt regarding the extent of her ‘service’ went beyond civilian misconceptions; the Veterans Administration (VA) also downplayed her role in the fighting.

For the VA, the treatment of female service members now falls on a system long geared toward treating an aging male population. In the last budget year, the VA saw 281,000 female veterans, a 12 percent increase from two years earlier. Women currently represent one in 16 veterans in the system, but in 15 years are projected to represent one in seven.

And as was the case with Sergeant Hammack, some female veterans said the VA staff didn't believe them when they said they had been in combat. Other women described being mistaken for daughters or granddaughters of male patients.

“It's not the old guys group anymore,” Ann Brown, Director of the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, WV, told the AP. “It's women and it's younger, and the younger folks, they need more than just medical care. They've got family issues. They need help reintegrating in how to get back into their jobs.”

Statistics show that female service members have much higher rates of divorce and are more likely to be a single parent. When they do seek help at VA medical centers, they are screening positive at a higher rate for military sexual trauma, meaning they indicated experiencing sexual harassment, assault or rape.

Some studies have shown that female veterans are at greater risk for homelessness. The VA estimates that about 10 percent of homeless veterans are women.

The Veterans Administration has said it recognizes it needs to do more to improve care for these veterans, and as part of changes in the works, female coordinators are in place at each medical center to give women an advocate.

“Most of us, because we were women service members, are so used to not complaining and not voicing our issues, because in the military that's considered weak,” Chase told the AP. “Nobody wants to hear the girl whine.”

Venus Hammack

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SSG Venus Hammack remembered

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First war in gulf forgotten?

Remember the first war in Iraq, the one that pried Kuwait free from the grasp of Saddam Hussein in January 1991?
We won in short order, you may recall. Oh, how we cheered and waved flags as the victorious troops came marching home. We called them heroes and said we'd never forget their sacrifice and service.

Then we took down the fading yellow ribbons, packed away memories of Scud missiles and got on with life in the last decade of the 20th Century.

Desert Storm had come and gone.

But not for everyone. Those who knew and loved the 148 Americans killed in combat and the 145 nonbattle deaths and the 467 who were wounded will always carry emotional shrapnel in their hearts.

Charlie Smith is director of the state Division of Veterans Affairs. He's been trying for 12 years to get a memorial built to honor the North Carolinians who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

It's not that no one cares. The government of Kuwait sent a $100,000 check in 1997 to help pay for a state monument. North Carolina provided 20 percent of the troops in Desert Storm and is the only state to receive Kuwaiti funds for a memorial.

There have been gubernatorial commissions, a design chosen and a location picked, but still no memorial.

"We really haven't had a groundswell of support from Persian Gulf vets to do this," Smith said. "Some vets are interested, and some of the families who lost people want it, but overall, there's not much activity. Persian Gulf vets just haven't gotten organized and pushed for this.

"Some people say it was such a little war. But there are no little wars, not when you're in them. It's like 'friendly fire.' There's no such thing."

If it is ever built, it will be a beautiful and fitting tribute to the men and women of Desert Storm.

There are five tall brass columns engraved with images of home, of the war and the people who served in it. The memorial celebrates both their bravery and their sacrifice and does it with sensitivity and solemnity.

You can see the proposed memorial design at

It is to be installed on the mall between the state Education and Legislative buildings.

That's if it happens at all.

First comes money. Smith says his department needs another $300,000 to build and install the memorial. He hopes to get it from the legislature this session.

Smith said the state appropriated $150,000 toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and $450,000 toward the memorial honoring veterans of World War I, World War II and Korea "so the precedent has been set."

If you're a Persian Gulf vet and want to see a distinctive memorial saluting your fallen comrades, now's the time to speak up. If your family had a loved one wounded or killed, let your legislator know you want their sacrifice remembered.

One day an effort will begin to erect another war memorial, this one honoring those fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when that happens, those who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm may be in danger of having their service and their victory forgotten by everyone but themselves.

That would be a shame.

Dennis Rogers can be reached at 829-4750 or

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Brain Fog and Gulf War illness

It may be eighteen years after SSG Hammack battlefield expousres. she stil suffers the chronic sympthoms like Brain Fog.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War still affects hundreds of thousands of American Veterans from the "toxic soup" that cut some 30 years off many of their life-spans. There has been much discussion of the toxic soup's components that have taken the terrible toll on those exposed. The significant toxic exposures were aluminum and mercury in vaccines, the oil well fires, the nerve gases that hydrolyses to hydrogen fluoride, DEET, PB, high chlorine in drinking water, methanol from "Nutrasweet" soft drinks, and other insecticides.

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