National PTSD Awareness Month

National PTSD Awareness Day (June 27, 2017) In order to bring greater awareness to the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the United States Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. In addition, June has been designated as PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD).

PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault. Personal factors, like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender, can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

Viewpoint: Sammie Lee Marler

 

Sammie Lee Marler

Viewpoint: Sammie Lee Marler

Branch: US Army

Job: MOS 91B20 Corpsman

Location: Lojwa, Marshall Islands

When: 6/11/1977-10/19/1977

Quote: “Live today like it’s your last, because it may very well be. The future is now…”

Viewpoint: Sammie Lee Marler

Q – Before you were sent to the Marshall Islands, what did you know about the location or the mission?

A – Nothing. But once I got there, my job entailed a lot of different things. We were just a bunch of young guys doing our jobs. Nobody thought about the possibility of anything being or going wrong.

Q – What was your job while you were there and what sort of protective equipment did you use?

A – I’d go to different islands with the soldiers and provide medical care as needed. I set up the work schedule for four of us medics, checked supplies and also took wet bulb temperatures. About those temps, what that entailed was basically checking the temps each day. If temperatures read over 120 degrees at any particular time, only half the guys in the details would work at a time. Thirty minutes would pass and the next batch of guys would rotate in. And as far as protective gear? On Enewetak, we were shown the yellow banana suits but I was never in one. I didn’t even have a dosimeter badge.

Q – When did you first realize or suspect that the work environment you were once subjected to wasn’t right?

A – I never knew until a few years ago that the place was toxic and that was only after I watched an episode of 60 Minutes.

Q – What prompted you to share your experiences with the world?

A – I was searching through the internet and came across an article about Enewetak Atoll. I investigated a little further and found out about all the other guys. I decided to share my experiences with the world because we were all deceived. We were told that the Marshall Islands were safer than Denver, Colorado. But now, a lot of the men who served there are suffering health problems in a variety of ways, cancer in particular.

Q – If you could commandeer the cameras and the mics at the next State of the Union Address, and address the entire nation about your time and the repercussions AFTER the Rock, what would be the message you would convey?

A – We went out of our way, through a lot of hardships for this nation. We should be taken care of as veterans. As for myself, I have PTSD pretty bad even to this day. While serving in the Marshall Islands, every night you’d have twenty maybe twenty-five rats crawl up on your bunk. Lojwa was overrun with them, big as full-grown cats some of them were. I have no idea how rats survived for so long on those islands particularly when people hadn’t been there for years.

The medics and firemen all slept in the same hooch. One night, we killed over fifty rats with a spear gun. We’d throw their bodies into a 55-gallon barrel outside the hooch. When we filled one up, we fed the sharks. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much on Lojwa. I was a mess when I got back home. At night, I’d wake up screaming thinking those rats were coming up on the bed.

I called bingo one night a week for the guys. Bingo was a big deal because they could win a lot of money. I also had a 9 member band (‘Singing Sam and the Superstuds) and we’d play at the club. As a matter of fact, Jim Androl played the drums. I was also the MC and comedian in the USO show that came. I kept the guys spirits up; helped them forget about home a little bit, so they respected that. Everyone knew me. I’m glad I could make them happy for a little while.

I am but one of a few of the survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission that took place in the Marshall Islands.

A major focus of this group has been to help one another with information and moral support during some of the challenging times we’ve encountered following our time in service at Enewetak.

A secondary focus/goal is to urge Congress to change current law and recognize Cold War Era soldiers of the Enewetak Cleanup Mission as “veterans who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

By obtaining this second goal, individuals experiencing health complications resulting from radiation exposure at Enewetak Atoll will be eligible to apply for benefits that have previously been set-aside for other Atomic Veterans who have already been recognized and acknowledged for their service by RECA.

We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to support legislation which will include Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Participants in the U.S. Government’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Article written by T-M Fitzgerald, a published author and self-professed Veterans Advocate.

Request for Interviews: Over 8,000 people participated in the 1977 – 1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission. I’ve already interviewed nearly 25% of the Atomic Cleanup Veterans who have reconnected with our group. If you participated in the mission, please contact me, T-M Fitzgerald so you can schedule your 30 minute interview too. I’ve been told I’m easy to talk with and I am not shy to say I feel honored every time I meet another Atomic Cleanup Veteran.

Atomic Cleanup Veteran – Johnny Deardorff

 

Runit

We are but a few of the Survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission in the Marshall Islands.

Our main focus is to help each other with information and moral support during challenging times.

Our secondary focus is to urge Congress to change the current laws and recognize soldiers of the atomic cleanup mission as “veterans who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Do you know a Veteran who suffers emotional challenges that were acquired while serving in the U.S. Military?

In a recent semi-private Enewetak Cleanup Vets group conversation one of our members shared his experiences in dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But first, let me give you some insight regarding Johnny Deardorff’s back story. Even though he says he is currently retired and enjoys life, there’s more to why he can say that.

 Johnny Ray Dearorff and a LARC

 From April – September of 1978, while serving in the U.S. Army’s 84th Engineer Battalion, Johnny Deardorff worked on the hottest island at Enewetak Atoll filling a 35’ deep 375 foot diameter crater in the coral reef of Runit Island with radioactive atomic debris and concrete until it became a concrete capped dome 55 feet higher than the surrounding ocean. It is the only island the U.S. Government will not return to the Enewetak People.

Deardorff’s duties involved quarry and asphalt paving, drill and blasting. He was the specialist responsible for operation of all crushers, generators and batch plant operations and all related equipment on Runit Island. He supervised debris separation from all foreign materials, bombs, shells, mortars, mines, bullets, wood, metal, all radioactive debris, machine guns, occasional grenades. All left over from WWII. He carried what was HOT to the crater to throw it in. At the end of the day, when not in operation at the plant, he detonated all the old ordinance. He policed the area of HOT junk and made 270 loads of hot concrete a day at peak production times.

Instead of treating him for radiation poisoning, he says the military claimed he had the flu in the 130 degree weather. After he left Enewetak Atoll, he joined the NBC Corps in 1984 and learned a lot about radiation poisoning and symptoms, doses, dose calculating. In his words- “We were screwed big time there and they knew it.”

Here are his comments and the advice he offers to Veterans suffering with emotional health issues:

I have a Counselor/Doctor out of West Linn, Oregon and she is the Best!!! Each VA Clinic and facility can set you up with a tele-conference person. I went to Klamath Falls CBOC and now I go to North Bend Outpatient Clinic.

Demand to talk to a person for mental health. They have to by law set you up for one. They’re all across the country. Once they schedule you an appointment at their facility, this is for their safety and yours, in case the stress gets to be too much, they can call help for you.

REMEMBER THIS IF NOTHING ELSE: He or She (the counselor), is required by law to report anything you say in which you make a statement. Even jokingly. Such as:

  • I was / am going to hurt myself or others.
  • I am thinking about suicide.
  • I am going to go shoot somebody.
  • I feel like going to shoot ANYONE.

Tip: Go to https://www.myhealth.va.gov/index.html and set up your accounts at eBenefits and myHealtheVet – these are ways to keep in contact thru private messaging and secure messaging to your counselor or doctor, order meds, get records, forms data, 201 files on digital discs.

It all started from me going and asking to see a counselor, because for years, all I was offered was drug after drug. Now I can manage. I’m NOT cured my nightmares. But it has helped me greatly. I can actually sleep three to four hours a night now, it has been a break-thru for me.

I highly recommend it to any veteran struggling to cope with problems. It is free and if after a few sessions, when they feel it necessary, you can be given the link and set up appointments to see your counselor at your home privately, but the same rules apply, if they think you’re a threat to yourself or others they will report it.

MyHealtheVet is where I would start, and if you do not yet have Ebenefits.va.gov next. Make sure when you sign up to make a separate file on your desktop to keep all your security questions handy. Because every 120 days you will be asked to change your password and you must remember all the answers to change anything. I have it a safe location, but this is the best thing I can tell you for now.

I have my counselor personal number in case I need to talk to her about anything, I am not sure all counselors will do that but mine does.

I have an appointment soon and I can/will find out from her where there are clinics in your areas if you e mail me your location. I’m here to help in any way – a brother vet.

Also if you tell them how many guns and that you have them in your home your name also goes on federal agency lists. As well I say I love hunting I love shooting sports and that’s the extent of my information to any government agencies that will do a check.

I have a tele-conference therapist in Oregon who is and has greatly helped me with the same thing because of that hell hole. You can be set up at most clinics or home depending on your internet capabilities.

Trust me. It destroyed two marriages. I am better. Just learned to deal with it with different methods. Not cured. But have better mental tools now.

We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to create legislation which will include all Marshall Island Atomic Cleanup Veterans in the U.S. Government Veterans Administration’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Article written by Girard Frank Bolton, III. 1977-1979 participant with C Company and HHC S-3 (Operations) 84th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) (Fwd) Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands.

Testimony of Johnny Deardorff’s personal experiences and opinions provided by Johnny Deardorff an Enewetak Atomic Cleanup Veteran and Facebook Group Member.