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  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Becoming More Resilient

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    U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

    Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

    Resilient people tend to overcome difficult situations and experience less adverse effects. They’re also less likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or mood or anxiety disorders. That’s why we continue to educate the military community about psychological resilience — healthy ways to adapt to stressful events.

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  • How to Build a Strong Personal Support Network

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    U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cheung

    Less stress; stronger sense of belonging; greater peace of mind; and more self-confidence are benefits to having a strong personal support network. And your support network should include people you trust and care about and who likewise care about you — friends, family and peers. For service members, your military unit is just one part of your support network.

    We depend on our support system to provide some kind of practical and emotional support on a daily basis and in emergencies. Having a solid support system makes it easier to cope with the unique challenges of military life — preparing for deployment or relocation; work-related stress; reintegration concerns; and balancing the demands of military and family life. There are so many advantages of having a personal support network — learn how you can strengthen and expand yours with these simple tips from the Real Warriors Campaign.

  • National Volunteer Month: Find Ways to Give Back

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    Air Force Capt. Kelly Nettleblad paints the door of a school building April 9, 2011, at the Sapang Bato Elementary School in Angeles City, Philippines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

    Pat Solomon hugs as many returning service members as she can. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, a gateway for many of our warriors headed to battle and back home, that’s a lot of hugs.

    One of four winners of the United Service Organization Volunteer of the Quarter Award, Solomon is at the airport first thing in the morning with her arms outstretched. She drives 70 miles a week gathering donations for service members and military families, and when they’re stranded at the airport, she stays with them until they can continue traveling.

    Volunteers are invaluable to the military community, and as many of our service members return home from deployment, now is the time to get involved. Many of them face reintegration challenges, such as adjusting to life at home and coping with psychological concerns or traumatic brain injury. Service members, veterans and families can use any extra help—help that shows their communities care.

  • My Injured Brain … My Wounded Heart

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    Master Sgt. David McCurry works on the automated balance trainer with Lt. Cmdr. Scott Mitchell, physical therapist and officer-in-charge of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. McCurry, a National Guardsman with the 168th Aviation Brigade from Pendleton, Ore., suffered moderate TBI after a recent deployment. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Texas)

    Loss and recovery are common themes for individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). In my interview with Army Sgt. Mike Ortiz, he revealed his loss and his hope. This is his story.

    It’ll be two years this June since I sustained a mild traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq … since I worked as an Army mechanic … since I felt wholly myself—funny, athletic, outgoing and caring … since my wife said goodbye.

    I’m stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, but hope to find a job as a mechanic closer to where my two-year-old son lives. The Army says I’m fit for duty now (some days I’m still not sure) except for the weight gain from my long rehab. I’ll fix that, but I don’t see my wife and me fixing things. My behavior after the injury was just too hard on her. But, I want to be there for my son.

    During my two tours in Iraq, I drove a wrecker, recovering blown-up vehicles and parts. One day, I was in a convoy on unfamiliar roads. In a convoy, you have to keep certain intervals for safety and we kept falling behind, so we punched it. What we didn’t see ahead was a hole in the road made by an improvised explosive device three feet deep and four feet wide—we hit it at 65mph. I tried to bounce with the seat, but there was so much force my head hit the roof like a projectile. When they asked me if I was ok, I said yes. Truth was my back was killing me—I didn’t even think about my head.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs TBI Resources

    When doctors at Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Va., told Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ricard he would walk again, he thought they were crazy. He sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device. He couldn’t move; he had nightmares and trouble communicating. Yet after seven months of rehabilitation, Ricard headed home, one step at a time.

    Ricard shares his story of recovery in the documentary “From Surviving to Thriving,” featuring personal stories of service members and veterans who received TBI treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

    “I feel like everybody at the VA had a place … and they were all at the right place at the right time,” said Ricard. “They all knew their job and they all knew what they had to do … they are the ones that kept me going, especially when I begged them to quit. They wouldn’t let me.”

  • Military Children of the Year

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    Operation Homefront's 2012 Military Child of the Year Award recipients Alena Deveau, Chelsea Rutherford, James Nathaniel Richards, Amelia McConnell and Erika Booth at the awards gala April 5 in Arlington, Va. (Photo by Operation Homefront)

    “Even though we are young, we still have great ideas. We can help. We can make a difference.”   — 9-year-old James Nathaniel Richards, Navy Military Child of the Year

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey shared this quote from Richards’ blog, Nate the Great: A Military Brat, to military and family members at the Operation Homefront 2012 Military Child of the Year awards gala April 5 in Arlington, Va.

    “I think that our military kids are who they are because of the hardships, the moves, the adaptability … our kids become who they are because of what we ask them to do, and what they see us do,” Dempsey said. “It’s incredible to me to watch our young men and women in military families grow up.”

    The annual ceremony honors one child from each military service for their selfless efforts reaching out to military communities and youth and for coping with life challenges while navigating the rigors of military life. Along with Richards, senior service leaders presented awards to Amelia McConnell (Army), Erika Booth (Marine Corps), Chelsea Rutherford (Air Force) and Alena Deveau (Coast Guard).