PTSD Awareness Day: Resources for Native Vets

Indian Country Today Media Network

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

According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three service members returning from deployment will suffer from severe post-traumatic stress. Fewer than forty percent will seek help. The overall lack of understanding, awareness and available treatment options in this country is a national disgrace.

Following trauma, including combat service, most people experience stress reactions but many do not develop PTSD. Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not. However, if stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, help should be sought to determine if PTSD is a factor.

The purpose of PTSD Awareness Day and Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments so that everyone can help people affected by PTSD.

National Center for PTSD

All veterans and their family members should visit the National Center’s website, The abundant resources on the site can tell you about PTSD, where to get help and how to help someone who may suffer from the disorder.

Veterans Health Administration AboutFace

Learn about PTSD from Veterans who live with it every day. Hear their stories. Find out how treatment turned their lives around, go to AboutFace Also see the PTSD video playlist to hear veterans share their stories of recovery and growth and g>et answers from professionals about PTSD treatments that can help. For the YouTube video playlist click here.

Center for Health Reporting

Read the study War leaves PTSD scars on Native American vets



Marysville vet biking the U.S. to help the wounded

submitted photoKit Wennersten, of Marysville, takes a practice ride in Skagit Valley before embarking today on a cross-country trip to raise money to help veterans.

submitted photo
Kit Wennersten, of Marysville, takes a practice ride in Skagit Valley before embarking today on a cross-country trip to raise money to help veterans.

Gale Fiege, The Herald

MARYSVILLE — On his recumbent tricycle, veteran Kit Wennersten plans to make a cross-country ride to raise money to support veterans.

The 65-year-old Marysville man is scheduled to begin his trip today in Astoria, Ore. His goal is to ride with a group across 4,250 miles to Yorktown, Va.

Wennersten served in the Navy and the Marine Corps. After 23 years in the military, he retired as a Navy lieutenant and then worked as a police officer for 17 years. “I understand what our injured service members are going through as they return home,” Wennersten said. “My goal is to support our wounded veterans and their families. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars many Marines sustained life-changing injuries and they need our help more than ever.”

Wennersten is raising money through the Semper Fi Fund while participating in the Ride Across America for Charity 2013. He is riding an ICE Adventure tadpole trike, he said.

People can donate to the cause at

“Any amount people can give will help. No donation is too small, even 1 cent a mile is great,” Wennersten said.

Wennersten, who did a lot of his training rides on the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County also plans to maintain a blog for the trip at

Obama Signs Revised Stolen Valor Act Into Law, Veterans Groups Applaud

Indian Country Today Media Network

It’s again a federal crime for people to lie about having received military decorations or medals.

President Obama signed the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 into law yesterday, June 3. The bill, sponsored by Representative Joseph Heck (R-Nevada), passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming majorities (390-3 in the House, unanimous consent in the Senate) and was sent to the president on May 28.

Heck’s bill revised a broader 2005 version, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012. SCOTUS ruled that the First Amendment protected a person who lied about being a military hero, unless that person did so with intent to fradulently gain from the deceit. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 addressed that, including a provision that makes it illegal to make those claims to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits.

“I’m pleased that the valor and integrity of our military awards, along with the men and women who have earned them, are once again protected by law. Today’s bill signing marks the end of a process that began with a meeting of my local veterans advisory panel and has ended at the White House. It has been an incredibly rewarding process and I thank all of those who have helped along the way in making this bill a law,” Rep. Heck said in a press release.

“While the Stolen Valor Act has reached the end of the process, I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of those men and women who have worn the uniform and made great sacrifices to keep our nation safe.”

Veterans organizations are pleased that both Congress and the president acted quickly to produce this new law.

“I think this was necessary because people were using it to receive the benefits of decorations of valor, and they were getting monetary benefit from it,”John Stovall, director of national security and foreign relations for the American Legion told “That’s why we supported the amended version, not to infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights but to protect the reputation and meaning of the decorations.”



Bill Would Restore GI Bill Benefits for Millions of Veterans

Indian Country Today Media Network

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) has introduced new federal legislation that would repeal what he calls unfair and arbitrary time limits under the GI Bill, reports the Associated Press. Currently veterans have 10 years to use their Montgomery GI Bill (or 15 years to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill). The so-called delimiting date is determined by the veterans last discharge date.

For veterans to be eligible for training and education benefits in the program, service members must pay copy,200 before leaving the military and must use their benefits within 10 years of separating from the service. Blumenthal said more than 2 million veterans have been denied the benefits despite paying the copy, 200 because they missed the 10-year time limit.

“The G.I. Bill has provided millions of veterans vital educational opportunities to improve their lives and careers, enriching our economy and strengthening communities at the same time. However, millions of veterans are currently denied these opportunities due to restrictive, unfair and arbitrary time limits now in place,” Blumenthal said. “Given the changing nature of today’s job market and economy, many veterans are now choosing to go back to school and receive additional training and expertise more than a decade after separating from the military. These wise decisions should be supported for all veterans. The Veterans Back to School Act provides a simple fix to eliminate the unjust and unfair restrictions, and allows current and future generations of veterans to use these hard-earned benefits whenever it makes best sense for their futures, families and careers,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal announced his new bill May 28 at Capital Community College in Hartford. It would repeal the time limit and restore a Vietnam-era program that helped education institutions provide outreach and support to students who are veterans.

While the bill would not have an immediate effect on Post-9/11 vets, it would restore the GI Bill for many Vietnam, Cold-War, and Gulf-War era veterans who were unable to take advantage of their benefits within the 10 years after discharge, notes’s Terry Howell.

Track the bill’s progress in Congress here.



Standing tall for the fallen

A retired Marine’s journey aims to raise awareness for those wounded in war

Mark Mulligan / The HeraldChuck Lewis, a Marine Corps veteran living in Ronan, Mont., walks eastbound down U.S. 2morning toward Gold Bar on Monday, the second day of a 3,300 mile, 6-month journey across the U.S.

Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Chuck Lewis, a Marine Corps veteran living in Ronan, Mont., walks eastbound down U.S. 2morning toward Gold Bar on Monday, the second day of a 3,300 mile, 6-month journey across the U.S.

By Gale Fiege, The Herald

STARTUP — Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Chuck Lewis is walking for the fallen.

U.S. soldiers, sailors and Marines killed in war or those who returned with physical and mental disabilities are the focus of his cross-country campaign.

Lewis is committed to walk 3,300 miles from Everett to Washington, D.C., during the next six months to raise money and awareness for programs that help military veterans.

Lewis, 62, from Ronan, Mont., began his patriotic journey Easter morning at Legion Park in Everett where Bill Quistorf, an Army veteran who lives near the park, shook his hand. Lewis said goodbye to his wife and daughters and started walking down Marine View Drive to Hewitt Avenue headed to U.S. 2.

He won’t see his wife again until he reaches Kalispell, Mont. They’ll have another reunion in Dubuque, Iowa, and she plans to meet him in late September when he finishes at the Vietnam Memorial in the nation’s capital. Hoping to walk 25 miles a day, Lewis plans to reach Chicago, dip down to North Carolina and then up to Washington, D.C.

Lewis, a Vietnam veteran and retired electrical engineer, is pushing a flag-decorated cart loaded with a tent, a sleeping bag, clothes for any weather condition, a second pair of shoes and a solar panel to power his iPhone, which is interfaced with a SPOT global positioning system that allows his supporters to track his progress online.

He spent Sunday night at the Sultan Firehouse, where firefighters Steve Tonkin, Michelle Fox and Andrew Lowry decided to take Lewis out for supper.

“He’s got a long way to go, so we wanted to give him a good start,” said Tonkin, 47. “Chuck’s a good guy. I’m a veteran, too, so what he’s doing hits home in several ways.”

Though he was prepared for chilly rain, Lewis donned a pair of athletic shorts and a T-shirt Monday morning to continue his spring walk along U.S. 2 in the Skykomish River valley.

In Startup, Lewis wondered aloud if this was the community where he would begin to see some elevation gain.

“Is this where I start going up? I see the mountains ahead,” Lewis joked. “I already have a blister, but I’ve run 100-mile races and I’m prepared.”

While taking a break, Lewis told a story about two Marine Corps veterans who returned to Ronan last year from combat duty in Afghanistan. One came home missing his legs. The other killed himself three weeks later.

“In the military, these guys have a purpose and people who have their backs. When they get home, everybody is busy, so they have nobody to talk to. The economy is poor and they can’t find a job,” Lewis said. “I probably can’t help too many of these guys personally, but I can raise awareness and money for the programs that can.”

Lewis waves to the drivers who honk their horns. Occasionally people stop him to ask about his journey.

The side of his cart is decorated with a thermometer graphic that shows how much Lewis has raised for veterans. His goal is $50,000, but he has a second thermometer ready to go should people donate more.

Lewis invites people to walk with him through their towns. If anyone asks, he is able to give a presentation about his trip. He also welcomes help with places to sleep, shower and wash clothes.

To offer such help to Lewis and donate to the cause, go to