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Veteran’s Corner

SWFL IS PURPLE HEART PROUD

There is a growing number of Purple Heart cities in southwest Florida. Cape Coral became the first in 2015 and most recently, Fort Myers and then Naples became Purple Heart cities. The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. To become a Purple Heart city the requirement is simply “gratitude.”

John E. Bircher III, public relations director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said that the purple Heart City designation is, “an expression of gratitude to the sons and daughters of that community who gave their lives or were wounded in combat defending the freedoms that all Americans enjoy. The city recognizes that a number of it’s citizens have been awarded the purple heart and that formally proclaims itself a Purple Heart city that appreciates the sacrifices of its recipients and pledges to honor and support them.” Any city, town, state sports team, or any other entity can become a Purple Heart” entity. What a great way to show our appreciation to our growing veteran community.

August 7 was National Purple Heart Day and on that day Cape Coral unveiled the Florida Purple Heart Wall, a traveling display that chronicles the history of the award.

LET’S LEND A HAND

There are currently almost 100,000 veterans living in southwest Florida today. This bridges a plethora of potential issues to our area such as PTSD, suicide, homelessness, and as a result of our aging Vietnam veterans, the need for assisted living facilities and nursing homes that are skilled in caring for our veterans with unique needs.

PTSD AND SUICIDE

According to the VA, in 2014, 65% of all veterans who died by suicide, were age 50 or over. There was an alarming 22% increase in suicide rates among veterans, than non-veterans, most especially men. We currently have approximately 22 veterans committing suicide every day and out of that, 14 are not under VA care. With our aging Vietnam veterans (over 800,000 and all of them are over 60 years old) plus the growing population of veterans in our area, it is important to educate ourselves as to options to treat PTSD, provide counseling to those who are struggling with suicide, and to provide adequate facilities for our homeless and aging veterans.

PTSD – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A few common symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, sleeplessness, and anger or constantly being on guard. These feelings or symptoms may take months or even years to surface and if they persist or begin to disrupt daily life, it could be a warning sign of PTSD. The veteran may pull away from people or begin to drink more, or use drugs to numb the feelings and try to forget their experiences.

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 1 in 10 returning Iraq and Afghanistan war soldiers face problems with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 veterans seeking treatment for a substance use disorder also have PTSD.
  • The number of veterans who smoke is nearly double for those with PTSD, (6 in 10) compared to those without (3 in 10).

Professional therapy or counseling can help to understand thoughts and reactions and to learn coping techniques for challenging situations. Medications can also be used to help reduce tension or to improve sleep. Several states in the U.S. have approved the use of marijuana and/or derivative products for medical or recreational use. There is substantial evidence from clinical studies that suggest that treatment with cannabis may decrease PTSD symptoms including sleep quality and the frequency of nightmares, among other benefits. There is still a lot of controversy and legal issues surrounding it, but many veterans with PTSD claim that the benefits outweigh the risks. Limited, controlled research on THC and other cannabinoids; effects on patients with PTSD is being done, and is rapidly and constantly changing as more awareness is brought forward and the demand for alternative options in the treatment of PTSD increases.

As a community, it is our responsibility to show our gratitude and to get the word out to our veterans who proudly served that there is help. We need to let them know that there are options right here in southwest Florida. Please contact the VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat or text 838255 if you or a veteran you know needs assistance or who is homeless.

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