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Just A Thought For Families 
By Diane Giddings

February 19, 2005

"I know many families suffer with worry when a loved one is in a dangerous situation, with no way out and fighting for an unjusitfied war."

Just a thought for families. Coping with war is stressful, and I went through similar thoughts when my son was in Iraq during the initial start of the war. When I sent my son off to Iraq I chose to stay positive and focused on his safe return. I went on with my life trusting that he was safe and there was no need to worry until someone gave me information otherwise. He was one of the 3 Marine platoons that went into An Nasiriyah in Iraq. He was with the Alpha Co/Taskforce Tarawa. A very dangerous time. I later learned his company was in the planning and implementation of the rescue of Army personnel from the 507 convoy and rescue of Jessica Lynch along with a lot of other dangerous situations. The whole time he told me he was safe, not to worry he would be home. He thought more about protecting us and bringing his men home safe. Which he did both.

I know many families suffer with worry when a loved one is in a dangerous situation, with no way out and fighting for an unjusitfied war. I am also very angry that our government chose to send my son to war, with no regard for his safety there, nor once he was home and suffering from PTSD. He also fought without adequate equipment for their safety. I think comments included: there was not enough room for the chest armor, it weighed too much and the ultimate, "the parts to repair your weapons should be here before the war." But of course they went into battle with guns held together by good old duct tape and no body armor. Had I known that like most parents do now, I may have been more worried. But as a parent, I had to trust my son that he knew his job and would be safe. He needed me to believe in his strength and ability to do his job so he would be confident. I could not let my fears affect him.

The second trial of stress and worry with the war comes when your son returns home and is suffering from PTSD and the government he fought for slams the door in his face. His level of PTSD was so severe, it affected his ability to do his job, his drinking became severe to drown out the nightmare and because he didn't care and his thoughts were preoccupied, he ended up in a legal situation that resulted in a sentence in the brig. Every day he has to listen to the practice shooting and explosions on base and relives the trauma of the war. It increases his level of anxiety. Of course the military will not recogize his level of PTSD, regardless of the PTSD assessment that says due to the PTSD he acted differently than is normal for him. In fact the military denied us a PTSD assessment before the trial to use in his defense at his trial. It took contacting several senators and congressment and a congressional investigation just to get him his right to an assessment. It was a few months after the trial and his sentence that the command told him he could have a PTSD evaluation, due to pressure from congressmen. The Navy psychiatrist came to the brig and found he did have PTSD at the time of the event and it did affect his decision making. That his actions were not normal for my son. The clemency hearing refused to acknowledge this as well, despite the psychiatrist's findings and granted no clemency.

I know how hard it is to have a son in a very dangerous and unorganized war, but there is also the homefront war where you are unable to help your son through his trauma because, he lives 1200 miles away, cannot be moved closer, and you can only hold him briefly when you visit the brig every two months. I can receive collect $17.00 phone calls for 10 minutes of conversation, if those in the brig are having a good day and allow the detainees to make phone calls. He cannot receive medically appropriate treatment services because the government feels he will learn from his mistakes by being held in the brig. Doesn't matter that there are still nightmares, anxiety and other issues to resolve. There is minimal intervention with a PTSD support group by the social worker, but she also admits her hands are tied and she can do very little. It was actually easier for me knowing he was whole and very skilled and knew what he was doing during the war. Now I know there is harm and I can't do more than allow him to call, console him when he is upset in a 10 minute time frame or with letters and then work two jobs just to get enough money saved so we can visit him every two months and help comfort him. My phone bills are anywhere from $300.00 to $600.00 a month depending on his emotional state each month. I am his counselor and support where the government let him down. He was a top Marine. Made sergeant before his 3rd year. Has several medals including the Naval and Marine Corp achiement Medal for his excellance during the war. He also has the Presidential Unit Citation award and after his return he received a Good Conduct Medal because he had a perfect record since he enlisted. He received his first medal at boot camp. The deaths of innocent people and other traumas from the war, eat at him every day. This is a hell that parents also need to deal with. According to the social worker, the brigs on all the military bases are filling up with young men who cannot cope and act in ways that are out of character due to the level of PTSD they are experiencing from the war. Yet our goverment continues to look at this as bad behavior and takes no responsibility for their part in the trauma these service people face everyday. And refuse to offer professional support. Not only is my son dealing with the trauma of the war, he is dealing with the trauma of incarceration in the brig. One psychiatrist told me that this is a double trauma and it will take him more time to heal.

We need to find a way to find help for these individuals and their families as well. I am finally finding a level of sanity for myself. My anger and obsession to help my son, consumed my life for the past two years. I have worked endless hours with research, contacting political advocates, veterans groups, VA's etc etc. I found I can't move a system that has very few values, morals or regard for those who supported their mistakes. I have learned that our country is in trouble for more reasons than terrorists. We need to be saved from our own government as well.

Editor`s note: If anyone would like to write Josh, his address is:
Joshua J. Giddings, BLD 1041 PSC 20140, Camp Lejeune, NC 28542.

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