Blog

Introducing Our New Look

Welcome to DVNF’s new website!

In an effort to improve our image and our services to veterans, we felt it was time for a fresh new look. We were long overdue for a new website, and since we are turning 10 this year, this was a great time to pursue this endeavor.

I hope you’ll find a cleaner, more user-friendly website. We want veterans who are in search of information and resources to be able to access it effortlessly. We also want to tell our story to donors better, because we think it’s important for people to know about the struggles and the successes of those who have stood in our defense.

Our New Logo

Another change you probably noticed is our new logo. With this new look, we’re hoping to incorporate our feelings of pride in those who have served our nation, and also those who are still serving. But we also hope to demonstrate a more modern approach to our programs and our image.

As DVNF works to ensure that our veterans are cared for, we are working to build new programs, and expand our current services. We feel that this new appearance will help set a solid foundation for the present and the future of the foundation.

I want to thank you for all your support of DVNF and the veterans we work to help. I hope you’ll continue to follow our work, and hope you enjoy the new look!

Working towards a better future for our heroes,

 

 

 

 

Joseph VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.)
CEO
Disabled Veterans National Foundation

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Are You Sleeping?

Featured image

By Ana Yelen, Executive Director, Healing Warriors Program

A good night’s sleep is more elusive than we think. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services studies assert that sleep disorders affect between 50 – 70 million Americans, or about 20% of the population.

In the armed services, sleep issues are the de facto norm because of training, job schedules, and the need for a military force that is on-call and available at a moment’s notice. But the cost of long-term sleep deprivation is high and linked to depression, anxiety and worsening of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“More so than even the amputations and traumatic brain injuries that have come to define the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, insomnia is the hidden wound that America’s warriors are bringing home. It’s largely unnoticed, under-prevented and untreated.”1

At Fort Hood, Texas, Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec, reported that between 2000 and 2009 they found a 19-fold increase in cases of insomnia; that is an 1800% increase in insomnia in less than a decade. “If this was anything else, it’d be labeled an epidemic,” the Army’s top sleep specialist said at a Seattle sleep conference, according to Peter Green of Van Winkle’s (http://vanwinkles.com/for-our-returning-troops-post-traumatic-sleep-disorders-are-nhe-new-ptsd).

“… Restoring sleep cycles is key to alleviating many post war ailments, including post traumatic stress.  It’s also the single most important factor, say military sleep researchers, for treating the post traumatic stress disorders that plague America’s returning veterans, keeping them on meds and out of work and preventing them from enjoying a normal life.2

We see this regularly at the Healing Warriors Program (HWP) clinic. Exhaustion from lack of sleep leads to high blood pressure, depression and often accompanies a sense of hopelessness. We all know this. We have all probably lived this. When we are over tired, what might be standard stressors become overwhelming making us feel engulfed, unable to swim out from the whirlpool.

So what can we do about this? We have some suggestions.

CREATE A ROUTINE

Those who have been in the military train themselves to perform certain tasks with specific cues, a process that usually started in boot camp. Through repetition and drill, muscle memory eventually and automatically takes over. It’s a good thing too, as it may be life-saving. In the same way, though, we need to signal our minds and bodies to relax, rest, and sleep by establishing those cues and creating a routine.

For example:

  • Take a hot bath using a scented bath salt or soap that you really like (this will also engage the sense of smell as a cue)
  • Brush your teeth and create yourself a pattern
  • Fluff your pillow with intent
  • Brush down your sheets and blankets to smooth out
  • Breathe – use conscious breathing techniques like resetting your breath to remind your body that it’s time to stop and cleanse
  • Smell – spritz an essential oil on the pillow (lavender, chamomile, valerian, vanilla) that you will begin to associate with going to sleep and will become your cue
  • Calm your mind – try using a short meditation or prayer to focus and calm the mind
  • Use guided Imagery which uses verbal suggestions in order to relax

All of these help you create a nightly ritual for going to bed that signals your body that it is time to power down and get some sleep. Best of all, it is a good way to practice self care.

LET’S GET PHYSICAL

When was your last physical? Do you get any exercise at all? How about taking a walk right after dinner? Walking helps keep the digestive system moving and increases oxygenation to the body.  Exercise helps all bodily functions work better because it stimulates the production of enzymes and hormones that keep us running well.

Speaking of running, it is important to include some cardio into your weekly routine.  Running, calisthenics, bicycling and even sex, are important ways to get that blood circulating and feeding the entire system.

Exercise also has the added benefit of helping soften the side effects of some medications that slow down digestion and elimination.  When our bodies are sluggish about processing waste, it adds more workload for our major organs.

Do you get healthy meals regularly? Are you drinking alcohol or consuming a lot of sugar before bed? Having a heavy, carbohydrate meal right before bed makes the digestive system, and our major organs, work even harder.  Worst of all, they can trigger the central nervous system into a state of agitation and anxiety. Again, we want to power down, not rev the engine.

Make sure you deliberately take in more vegetables and fruit.  These provide critical fuel and cleansers for your body.  The protein helps feed the creation of new cells and the fiber acts as internal scrubbers.  Even the simple act of munching on an apple or a carrot sets a host of enzymes and digestive processes in motion that clean and tune up your internal engine.

Always remember to eat and drink moderately in the evenings, and try to be kind to yourself. When your body doesn’t have the opportunity to digest properly, the result is churning and discomfort with resulting gas.

And remember, it’s ok to go to bed feeling a little hungry, but if you have to have a nightly snack, try a mug of hot chocolate or some hot milk with cinnamon. Keep it light.

Making some simple changes with your activity levels and with nourishment will make a big difference in how you feel.  You’ll have better rest and sleep.

KEEP COOL

A service member once told me a story about sleeping in the walk-in refrigerator on base. As odd as it may sound, studies have shown that we sleep better when the temperature is lower. Always keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.

If you’re having problems from different light sources, invest in black-out curtains for your bedroom. If you are having trouble sleeping because of a hot room, and you don’t have air conditioning, purchase a cooling gel pad for your mattress – good ones can be had from $30 to $100, and on up. If you do have air conditioning, try lowering the temperature at night 2-4 degrees.

Getting a good night’s sleep often hinges on our body’s memory. Use these suggestions, hit the reset button, and make valuable changes. If you live in the Colorado area, come down to a Healing Warriors Program clinic and participate in our 6-session sleep therapy series. You can restfully sleep again.

“…There is also a need for further research to evaluate the efficacy of innovative and promising treatment techniques that may fill treatment delivery gaps and be preferred by servicemembers, such as video teletherapy, therapies delivered through mobile technology, and CAM techniques  (e.g., meditation)….2

References

http://vanwinkles.com/for-our-returning-troops-post-traumatic-sleep-disorders-are-the-new-ptsd

2 Sleep in the Military: Promoting Healthy Sleep Among US Service Members, Wendy M. Troxel, Regina A. Shih,  Eric Pedersen, Lily Geyer, Michael P. Fisher, Beth Ann Griffin, Ann C. Haas,  Jeremy R. Kurz, Paul S. Steinberg  http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR739.html  pages             , 129

Other articles

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/co-occurring/sleep_problems_veterans_ptsd.asp

As Sleep Improves, So Does an Injured Brain http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/21/506452313/as-sleep-improves-so-does-an-injured-brain

How Soldiers Deal with Sleep Deprivation https://sleep.org/articles/how-soldiers-deal-with-sleep-deprivation/

An Epidemic of Sleeplessness, http://blog.healthjourneys.com/health-journeys-wellness-reports/an-epidemic-of-sleeplessness.html  f

Our Thoughts on the Ft. Lauderdale Tragedy

I heard the news Friday afternoon – a man opened fire in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, leaving several wounded and several killed.

When situations like this happen the first collective reaction is usually suspected terrorism. But once the media began to report more information about the suspect, my heart began to sink.

It was then reported he was a veteran who served a ten-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 with the Puerto Rico National Guard. According to the LA Times, he began to suffer from mental issues when he got back from Iraq. He willingly sought treatment but struggled to gain access to Puerto Rico’s apparently under-resourced VA hospital, so he moved to Alaska to seek better services.

Today, I don’t want to start pointing fingers at anyone as to how this happened. I want to express my deepest condolences to the victims and their family members of this horrible and frightening incident. Our hearts go out to you.

Right now, I think it is very important to recognize something we’ve mentioned in the past. Similar to the veteran who inexplicably shot and killed Chris Kyle, this type of situation is the exception, not the norm.

The false narrative of the troubled veteran cannot stigmatize others who need mental health treatment for issues associated with their service. It is rare for these extreme reactions to take place for veterans experiencing mental difficulty associated with combat.

And for veterans who are still suffering from psychological wounds, please don’t let this tragic incident deter you from seeking help. It can truly make a difference in your life and your overall wellbeing.

We express our sorrow for all those affected by this terrible shooting. Our hearts are with you.

Guest Blog: Honoring a Military Family

After reading They Marched Into Sunlight, a powerful book about two days during the Vietnam War, written by Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist David Maraniss, Robin Becker, Artistic Director of Robin Becker Dance, felt compelled to create an evening-length dance.

Deeply moved by the integrity, honor, and commitment of both those who fought the war, and those who fought against it, Robin Becker embarked upon the creation of this dance hoping that the universal language of the body would reflect and offer the same sense of healing that David’s words evoked in her.

In the audience during the company’s performance at Georgetown University was Lieutenant Clark Welch, one of the featured veterans in David’s book. Lieutenant Clark Welch was one of the most decorated soldiers during Vietnam. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his action at the battle of Ong Thanh, and also three Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts for his service.

Lt. Clark Welch (January 3, 1940 – April 12, 2016) with the dancers of Robin Becker Dance

After studying Clark’s history through the book, he became one of the lead inspirations for many of the dancers, and they were remarkably honored to meet him personally.

Sadly, this past spring, Clark Welch passed away. Now, Robin Becker Dance continues to honor his legacy through dedicating Into Sunlight to him.

Clark’s wife, Lacy Welch, shares with us the impact the dance work Into Sunlight had on her and Clark:

Into Sunlight made a profound impression on both Clark and me. When we first heard that there was to be a dance about the book, we were skeptical (camo tutus and combat boots?) Then, Clark went to the opening night performance; he called me to tell how beautiful and overpowering the dance was. The act portraying his fallen soldiers turning into angels mirrored his hopes that his men who had made the supreme sacrifice were transformed by their actions. He was moved to tears by the dance.”

“Clark’s life has always been about the responsibility and stewardship of those who came within his circle. He carried those emotions with him forever, particularly towards his beloved Delta company, and he felt that “Into Sunlight” reflected and honored those soldiers, indeed, all those who go in harm’s way. He came home with great anger towards the actions and after actions of the battle and struggled with what he saw as a betrayal by his Army that he loved and revered and he carried that anger for the rest of his life, but I think that some of his anguish was assuaged by the Dance. I know that he remained grateful that the experience had been so meaningfully and beautifully portrayed.”

Because of these strong reactions to the work, similar to Clark’s, Robin Becker Dance is now committed to sharing this piece to a wider military audience. The grant from the DVNF has helped us bring excerpts of Into Sunlight, along with movement workshops directly to the veterans, most recently at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. As this partnership continues, it is our mission to help facilitate feelings of hope, healing and understanding to many more military families.

Stephanie Grover is the Administrator of Robin Becker Dance. For more information about Into Sunlight, visit www.robinbeckerdance.org.

Also take a look at the Robin Becker Dance Facebook page.

Guest Blog: 3 Beneficial Activities for PTSD

Life with PTSD can be tricky. You have to learn to cope with the symptoms and learn new tactics for feeling better. While treatment is a very important part of living with PTSD, there are a few things you can do to improve your quality of life at home such as form a routine. Every human being does better if they cultivate a routine to follow.

This is especially true for those with mental illness. The orderly existence prevents triggers for a number of disorders, including PTSD. So, if you have PTSD, you may want to consider a few of these activities to work into your daily schedule. Continue reading “Guest Blog: 3 Beneficial Activities for PTSD”

September is Suicide Prevention Month – Spread the Word!

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Data has revealed that on average, approximately 22 veterans a day commit suicide. It’s a national crisis, and one that we need to do more to fight.

Some research has shown that the military and veteran suicide rate is 50 percent higher than that of civilians, which is as sad as it is alarming. But there is something I can do, and there is something you can do to help save the lives of these veterans. Continue reading “September is Suicide Prevention Month – Spread the Word!”