Veterans' Village

“Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the
way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness,
transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with
the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how
to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have
to use violence to resolve conflicts again”. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Problem
As the conflict continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the
prevalence of soldiers coming home with post traumatic stress
disorder
(PTSD) will become a major concern for our society. PTSD
is characterized by hyper-vigilance, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks,
anger, emotional numbness, paranoia, depression, and insomnia.
Any where from 13 to 16 percent of veterans are diagnosed with
PTSD but as many as 30 percent are affected. While the disease was
first named in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, still very little
headway has been made toward treatment in comparison to other
mental illnesses. Treatment can be very costly as medical insurance
often do not pay for a sustained treatment. The Veterans
Administration, facing financial strain, cannot provide adequate care
for all affected by the disease. Consequently, a disproportionate
number of veterans suffer from ill health, turn to substance abuse
and often end up estranged from their loved ones or unable to hold
down jobs, unemployed. The longer it is left untreated, the harder it
becomes for the veterans to recover. If left untreated, they will
become a social liability as they turn to criminal activity or drop out
and become homeless. A retreat center proposed herein can provide
a much needed sanctuary away from distractions and other daily
pressures for veterans traumatized by memories of war to find
peace and healing.

Project Description
Drawing upon palliative treatments such as meditation techniques
described by the veteran, Stephen Edwards, the goal of the Veterans’
Village is to create an oasis for healing as modeled by spiritual
leaders like Thich Nhat Hanh and Claude Anshin Thomas.

In the first phase, the Foundation will launch the building of the
Veterans’ Village complete with living quarters, conference center,
therapy center, recreation and art center, art gallery, restaurant, and a
common dining area. Consonant with the spirit of healing, the retreat
center will be constructed with ecology and energy efficiency in
mind. As a self-sustaining community, the living unit will have
organic vegetable gardens, solar energy panels, farm animals, and
possibly its own irrigation and potable water supply. All participants
will be expected to play a role in the upkeep and maintenance of the
physical grounds.

Upon completion of the building, the project will enter into its second
phase as the Veterans’ Village opens its doors. Health and wellness
activities such as exercise and massage, art therapy, and counseling
will be provided by trained staff and volunteers for veterans. The
Village will maintain a core permanent staff (FTE) including doctors,
nurses, psychologists, therapists, a career counselor, accountant,
nutritionist, receptionist, and a public relations representative; along
with trained volunteer counselors. Overseeing the coordination of all
activities in the Village will be Nadia McCaffrey. Ms. McCaffrey has
training as a nurse, over 5 years of experience providing care for
veterans and many more years in hospice care.

Read more.

Note: Today (02-15-07) C-Span broadcasted a congressional hearing on the proposed resolution against funding the escalation of the Iraq War, and Hawaii District 2 (all of Hawaii except Honolulu) U.S. Representative (and former Hawaii Lieutenant Governor) Mazie Hirono, made a stirring speech in which she criticized the Bush government for de-funding medical benefits for veterans at the same time as claiming to "support our troups."  She’s vocally against the war. Newly elected, Rep. Hirono has already joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  As one of her constituents, I’ve already emailed her my applause.

Here is her position on Iraq, as stated in her campaign website from 2006:

Had I been in Congress at the time, I would have voted with the rest of the Hawai`i delegation against the war.  Preemptive strike should not be the basis of our foreign policy – such an act should require a very high threshold of accurate information, which we did not have.

The Bush administration misled the country when it entered this war, and has shown no credible plan for winning the peace or for a safe exit strategy.  We should get out of the quagmire that is Iraq with a phased redeployment of U.S. forces that begins before the end of 2006 and significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty should also occur. The U.S. should play a leading role in promoting peace in the region.  As long as we are at war, we are severely compromised in our ability to do so.

Until the troops are out of harm’s way, they deserve the best available gear, armor, and moral support.  I support common sense measures such as providing padded, shock absorbent helmets for our Marines. For as little as $100 per helmet, we could prevent traumatic brain damage and loss of life.  Congress should require the Marine Corps to follow the Army’s lead in issuing these reinforced helmets to every service man and woman.

When our troops return home as veterans, we must provide adequate mental and physical health services, as well as economic and career assistance.  The President and his Republican Congress have repeatedly shown their willingness to cut VA services and funding while recklessly sending troops into battle.