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Jul-16-2009 01:40printcommentsVideo

I Would Walk 500 Miles for PTSD- Would You? (VIDEO)

Veterans will have a chance in September to walk in support of PTSD education.

Salem-News.com
Tim King with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan. November 2006 photo by Janet Arencibia.

(SALEM, Ore.) - I admit that when we first decided to produce an hour long documentary on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I thought it would be so widely supported that the actual production would be a piece of cake. I was wrong.

Mazur e Sharif, Afghanistan
Salem-News.com photos: Tim King

Companies that make literally billions off the wars overseas, won't so much as return a call to this producer. So I have another, much better idea. I am going to march 500 miles with fellow veterans to raise support for this important program. We don't need big corporate funding anyway, we just need more heart and soul, which is where this whole effort begins anyway.

The goal is to generate enough funding to produce this program at a high standard with all of the required components. The budget we gain from donations will allow us to make the best use of time, instead of everything being stretched and corners cut.

We don't want to see this documentary have to be a nickel and dime project. Veterans and their families deserve more than that. This is a subject where there are far more questions than answers.

Patrol out of Balad, Iraq. Salem-News.com photos by Tim King

The first PBS documentary that Bonnie and I produced took three years to complete and we funded it ourselves. That was the story of the sole survivor in a B-17 bomber crash on Oregon's Cape Lookout in 1943.

We located two of the men involved in the survivor's rescue half a century earlier, and introduced them on camera. The program aired twice on Oregon Public Broadcasting in 1993. It was titled "Fallen Fortress at Cape Lookout".

With the current documentary, we keep thinking that a group or business concerned with the welfare of veterans would want to have their name on a documentary about PTSD that will be seen by millions of people for years to come while saving the lives of our American combat veterans and restoring peace in families.

Without relying on big business for funding, we know we can band together and walk 500 miles, and receive donations at a whole lineup of fire departments, police and sheriff departments, churches, Veterans organizations, and anywhere else people want to help.

PTSD Education

Video

Tim King's PTSD interviews in Iraq

I spent time in Iraq last summer interviewing soldiers and Marines in different parts of the country about PTSD, asking what they are doing to prevent it from being a problem later in their lives. The interviews are very revealing.

Over time, I have gained contact with groups and individuals who have developed therapies and general ways to better deal with and live with Post Traumatic Stress. They span the nation dealing with a range of veterans, from WWII to today's conflicts, to those who never wore a uniform at all.

It is extremely important to note that PTSD is not exclusively something that affects people who served in combat. Sex abuse survivors, people who were in terrible car crashes, people who witnessed domestic abuse, people in abusive relationships, the list goes on and on.

Dr. Leveque & Bonnie King discuss PTSD Part 1

Experts like Dr. Phil Leveque who is also a Salem-News.com writer, say PTSD is a lifetime problem. A Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology and a retired Physician, he is also one of the only Forensic Toxicologists in America.

He probably knows more about PTSD from the perspective of a sufferer and doctor than any other living person.

Anti-Veteran Tactics

The VA on the other hand, is using right-leaning experts like Dr. Sally Satel of the American Enterprise Institute, to essentially rewrite the VA's policies so doctors and therapists, "don't reach too quickly for the permanent disability form".

With the nation's withering economy, the job right now for these highly paid politicians, clearly appears to downplaying PTSD.

Satel says "PTSD is not a permanent problem for veterans."

Dr. Leveque and several other PTSD combat vets associated with Salem-News.com, say that is "hogwash" and by all logical accounts he is right. The point Dr. Leveque always makes that is often surprising to Vets who hear it for the first time, is that PTSD like any other disorder, manifests on a scale of one to ten.

That sure isn't how the VA looks at it. They say a person either has it, or they don't. It sure seems like a less than scientific approach to something that affects so many people in often severe ways.

Unfortunately, many Veterans today see people like Satel and other operatives at high levels basically as the enemy. Satel is a highly educated doctor, but many VA decision makers are people that Dr. Leveque believes are unqualified to begin with. Yet they make decisions to set back veterans all day, every day, in every state.

From the policy influencing Satel, to the people handling actual claims at the VA, there is only one bottom line: they are denying Veteran's claims in order to save the government money. Uncle Sam gave it all away to Haliburton and now the people who fought the wars get to pay the price.

Politicians who are veterans are not taking care of the matter. Senator Dole would be one example, Senator McCain is another. Dr. Leveque asked in an article this week, "where are they"? There is plenty of money for PTSD, if they would just prioritize it.

We Americans have some big problems on our hands in the coming years with regard to PTSD, and it will probably mostly be mostly up to us to correct them.

Dr. Leveque & Bonnie King discuss PTSD Part 2

The therapies that the government utilizes are heavy morphine based narcotics and things like "Virtual Reality PTSD Therapy" which emerges a combat veteran into a video/audio environment that simulates being in combat in Baghdad. This is nothing but a trap and far too many veterans tell us that the drugs turn them into vegetables.

The U.S. government recruited the people who now have PTSD into the military. There were promises of great pay and benefits and they were told that as veterans, they would be taken care of by a grateful nation.

Now the government, the Veteran's Administration in particular, is busy devising ways to deny benefits, tell combat veterans that they don't have PTSD or won't be compensated for it, and in some cases they are prosecuting American combat veterans for "faking" PTSD which has to be about the most outrageous thing of all.

American People Support Veterans

Dr. Leveque & Bonnie King on PTSD, June 2007

The ironic thing is that the American people have done pretty well be these veterans, unlike those who served in the Vietnam period. But the nation itself, the government, is all too often just a big sad depressing joke and the fallout from that is a Veteran's suicide rate that is an absolute shame to our nation, not the Vets who served it.

The VA will always be the agency in charge of the life and decisions for veterans, but there is a lot that we can do also. We can save lives by providing answers to questions that go too long without replies. Our goal is complete and total honesty and transparency about PTSD. We have nothing to lose by offering the real information. The VA however does.

Veterans do not ask for PTSD. They don't seek terrible memories that cause ongoing nightmares. They don't set out to become abusive toward their spouses after being immersed in combat for too long, but it happens.

Iraq Checkpoint by Tim King

I have one letter after another from family members of PTSD Veterans who deal with people who are totally different than before they went to war.

Many go back again and again and again. Experts like Dr. Leveque say no human being can be assigned more than two combat tours without the potential for big problems. Many people keep them bottled up, some effectively, some not. All too many end up behind bars. Once they step over the line, there is usually no understanding in the court system. It is a vicious cycle.

My wife tells me this sounds angry, and I can not deny that. The anger has nothing to do with the documentary, it is a reaction to the suffering of my brother and sister veterans that bothers me. I'm putting a lot of hours into researching our current casualties and the numbers are up as everyone knows in Afghanistan. I feel we have an important effort on our hands, one worth walking a lot more than 500 miles.

The documentary's tentative time for completion is November 2009, not that far away.

Marching 500 Miles for PTSD

I will release more details about the 500 Mile March for PTSD in the near future. We are actively gathering interviews for the program right now and will be visiting a number of points on the west coast in August to record more interviews and gather footage of therapy programs.

Frank Talk About PTSD & War Trauma, Feb 08

The walk will take place in September. We will be travel on foot from Oregon to California, with exact departure and arrival points unknown at this time. There will be an escort vehicle and a safety-minded approach, well selected routes.

It will be an event to remember. We will be live on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and Justin.tv when signals allow. Veterans and non veterans can participate in the entire walk which I will personally do, or they can walk a mile or less. Along the way, we will visit Veteran's Halls, Fire and Police Departments, churches, City Halls, and make other stops to collect donations.

All media in each community we pass through will have ample notice of our arrival. National media will also be notified and provided footage and images and story content from the march, and we will do the same for the local media outlets.

I want the 500 Mile March to be far more than a fundraiser. It will be a fantastic way to raise awareness about PTSD, and we would like to have pamphlets and other material to hand out along the way.

We will also give coverage to the people and businesses and agencies that help us.

We anticipate that the march will generate sufficient funds to cover this documentary and also give something to other groups that work to help Vets and PTSD.

Then of course, the 500 Mile March would probably make a good documentary also, but we will keep things in order, one step at a time!

I will be calling Veteran's organizations inviting participation and seeking representatives who wish to serve on a committee that will help in outreach, organization and other participation. My email address is below in the last line of my bio.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Daniel Johnson August 1, 2009 6:08 pm (Pacific time)

I suspect that the companies who make the billions wouldn't support the project because the potential publicity could endanger their gravy train if more people starting questioning the war and what it costs everyone.


Anonymous July 17, 2009 2:29 pm (Pacific time)

Real PTSD vets may not be in a sizeable number with you on this hike. Something about treelines for many of us. Worrying about snipers and other bad things happening out in the open...

Editor: Well the last thing we want are casualties.  To be honest, whether the people walking 500 miles are "real" PTSD vets has absolutely nothing to do with it, which I'm sure you understand.  However, I think some people with advanced cases will understand the importance of this and still come out for it.  If people can't I know they will support us with their thoughts. 

To be clear, this isn't a contest and nobody qualifies to participate.  I support all veterans the same way but those who suffer PTSD are our priority.  One really interesting and important thing to say is that PTSD like any other disorder, comes on a scale of 1 to 10.  So some cases are much worse than others.  That of course is the point you are making.  I'm sorry that the VA has such a stark and non scientific approach to the diagnosis of this complicated disorder.  I thank God that I don't have it, and I am sorry for every person who does.  My only role here is education and putting information out to the public that saves lives.  Thanks for your comment.


jimmy July 16, 2009 4:31 pm (Pacific time)

You should start it at Ft. Lewis and go south from there. It might make your 500 miles a little less hilly without that pesky Siskiyou range. No worries, I'm still there... as I have been since long before that first documentary!

Editor: Jimmy, thanks for the idea, we are charting our course now and will take that under consideration.  Yes, you were there when we spent three years producing the other documentary and if I recall, you even came to the premier!  


Editor July 16, 2009 3:13 pm (Pacific time)

Barry, I do have this on paper and we are in heavy development stage at this point. I will gladly make that available, thanks so much.


Barry Switzer July 16, 2009 9:25 am (Pacific time)

Editor have you tried contacting different veterans organizations? Most of these groups have funding available and this would be something that would appeal to them and their membership. Have you a rough storyboard on how you would pursue your documentary? That would be a big plus for me to donate towards a project like this.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.