Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts Hurt Veterans Who Need The Most Support
True story: A man goes to war many times. He loses buddies in battles. Carnage burns into his brain as trauma. His health, quality of life, and ability to fight diminish. Sad, no longer the effective warrior he wants to be, he contemplates suicide. And then he discovers a treatment facility supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. There, one day, he tells me: “Now that I have writing in my life, I don’t want to put a bullet in my head.”
Through that NEA-backed program, called the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I have worked with more than 1,000 service members like this man. A vet and artist myself, I teach creative writing as part of NICoE’s art-therapy program for active service members who have post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Mask by a military service member from art therapy sessions at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.National Museum of Health and Medicine photo
Currently, $2.6 million in yearly support goes to nine NEA-supported creative arts therapists at seven military treatment centers, in addition to supplies, research, and program support. That translates to more than 800 total patient encounters per month, and 500 hours a month of care coordination, program development, research, and community outreach, on average. Like the rest of the NEA — and just like the Marine Corps I served in — those therapists make a lot out of a little money.
I understand the “smaller government is better” fiscal priorities of the current administration. But the president’s proposed budget completely defunds the NEA, and that could mean the end of one the greatest treatment programs that exists for our bravest men and women.
Each week at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a small cohort of service members arrives for their holistic and intense four-week outpatient treatment. These patients include men and women who have survived seven, eight, even nine combat deployments. They are not well, sometimes in very invisible ways. But they love their country and want to get back in the fight, or to walk away proudly at their end of service.
As part of the clinical art therapy program, each service member designs a mask, empowering them to take traumatic, silent, unspeakable horrors they’ve witnessed and give them facial form. They’re able to craft personal mental wounds into something tangible. They’re able to control their memories instead of their memories controlling them.
In a November 2015 TED talk, NICoE art therapist Melissa Walker shared an anecdote about one patient in this course, a fairly high-ranking service member, couldn’t effectively lead, plagued by nightmares of a bloody face he’d seen. Through mask-making, he was able to recreate that face. He was able to stare it down. He was able to look through it, process that trauma, and then get better for himself and those under his charge.
Many other alternative treatments are offered to the service members — music therapy, dance therapy, therapeutic writing, creative writing (the session I help lead) — as part of the patient-centered, “what works for you?” approach. Each week, I tell the service members how writing helped me heal from my own combat stress. We do some creative writing prompts, and, well, this isn’t magic: Not every patient digs the writing part or benefits from it. But those who do can change profoundly.
Department of Defense photo
This is true, patient-centered care at a cutting edge research facility, and arts engagement is a core tenet of the treatment. Science and patient feedback have confirmed the program’s effectiveness; if it stays funded, it’s set to be replicated at 12 centers nationwide. The National Intrepid Center of Excellence clearly isn’t “veterans playing with popsicle sticks,” as a dismissive critic once told me on Twitter.
As the long war enters its 16th year, with new battles on the horizon, I can’t rationalize defunding the NEA and stripping away programs like this, which are using creativity to help our service members heal. The cost-benefit analysis of these cuts doesn’t add up. Why send men and women to war, while depriving them of a proven program that helps them work through the damage that war does to their psyches? What we can save in taxpayer dollars is nothing, next to what we owe these warriors.
Dario DiBattista is the editor of “Retire the Colors: Veterans & Civilians on Iraq & Afghanistan” He is working on a co-written screenplay about Marine’s homecoming from war. Follow him on Twitter.
CAIRO (Reuters) - After losing territory, ISIS fighters are turning to guerrilla war — and the group's newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.
In recent weeks, IS's al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.
The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.
A sprawling new survey says a ‘culture of resilience’ helped US military families weather housing woes for years
A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.
The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."
Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.
What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.
"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."
Judge approves negligence lawsuit against Air Force and Pentagon by victims of 2017 Sutherland Springs church massacre
The suit meets the criteria to fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek damages in certain cases if they can prove the U.S. Government was negligent, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Under most circumstances the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from lawsuits, but in this case U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez held that failure of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to log shooter Devin Kelley's history of mental health problems and violent behavior in an FBI database made them potentially liable.
ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- Loose lips sink ships, but do they reveal too much about the hugely anticipated "Top Gun" sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," filmed onboard in February?
Not on this carrier, they don't. Although sailors here dropped a few hints about spotting movie stars around the ship as it was docked in San Diego for the film shoot, no cats — or Tomcats — were let out of the bag.
"I can't talk about that," said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who commands the Roosevelt.