Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘USMC’

Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

December 29, 2016

ALL MARINE RADIO

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Last summer I was made aware of a talk radio show called ALL MARINE RADIO which is ramrodded by retired Marine Mike “Mac” McNamara.

Mike started ALL MARINE RADIO to highlight combat veterans’ mental health needs with a major focus on suicide prevention. He also envisioned the station as a place where current and former Marines could stay connected or re-connect with their military culture. The mission of ALL MARINE RADIO also includes presentation of current affairs and issues that affect the everyday lives of current and former military personnel.

The list of guests includes current and former Marines, Army personnel, female Marines, historians, business coaches, authors, chefs, Marine wives, police officers, to name just a few categories.

Mike McNamara in the studio at ALL MARINE RADIO. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Mike McNamara in the studio at ALL MARINE RADIO. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

To be more specific, some of the guests have been Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, author Sebastian Junger, author and Marine Karl Marlantes, Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly (currently slated to become the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security), author Eric Hammel who has written extensively about Marines, Carrie Reilly who is a US Army widow who talks about dealing with suicide, and historian Albert Berger who most recently discussed Fidel Castro’s legacy.

And three times….me.

The first time I was on we talked about BRAVO! and Khe Sanh and Vietnam and post-deployment issues experienced and still being experienced by Vietnam veterans.

In my second appearance we talked about post-deployment and mental health issues of combat veterans in general and I think Mike was interested in seeing if I had anything to say that might help veterans of war, most specifically veterans of the Middle East conflicts.

The third time we talked about transitioning from being a Marine to becoming a filmmaker and we also touched on the notion of how it really helps to have something to involve yourself that is bigger than you–a cause, a purpose, a goal–when transitioning from service to civilian life or from work to retirement, or, I suppose, during any major life change.

Michael McNamara was born in California and his father was a major league baseball manager. He has extensive experience with radio media as a talk show host and as a station executive. The National Association of Broadcasters named Mike the “Small Market Personality of the Year” in 2007.

Mike McNamara in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Mike McNamara in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Mike was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1983 and he left active duty as a Captain in 1994. He returned to active duty with the USMC and deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2004, to Fallujah, Iraq in 2006 and to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010. After that, Mike remained on active duty until he retired in 2015.

He has four children, including two sons who are now officers in the United States Marine Corps.

Mike does most of the interviewing on the program and his interests cast a wide net. In a recent interview with Albert Berger, PhD, Professor of History at the University of North Dakota, Mac asked Dr. Berger about his thoughts on the legacy of Fidel Castro, who, for much of the last 60 years, has been a thorn in the side of many politicians, military officials and citizens of the United States.
Dr. Berger and Mike’s in-depth look at Castro, the history of Cuban-American relations in the last half century and some thoughts on the future of Cuban-US relations were informative and fascinating.

One of the things I like about Mike’s interviews is how the discussion invariably leads me into thoughts and memories of my own. I was a sophomore in high school when the Cuban Missile Crisis came about. At the time I lived in southern Arizona and we’d had a lot of rain on that normally dried-out Sonoran Desert, and the country was in flood. Every arroyo, wash and low spot was flowing with water.

Mike McNamara, center, with his two sons, John, left, & Patrick, right, at Patrick's Commissioning in 2015 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Mike McNamara with his two sons, John & Patrick at Patrick’s Commissioning in 2015 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

I remember riding on the back of one of my friend’s Harley out to the Santa Rosa, a sometimes river, a sometimes wash and most times a dry sandy arroyo. But on this day, it was at least a mile wide and water ripped through what had been cotton fields fecund with cotton stalks ready to be picked. I remember the ominous feeling at the time that filled my body with strange electricity that I was to later experience in combat.

Electricity spurred by fear. Back then, it was the dual threat of death by flood and death by nuclear attack because the Russians were placing nuclear missiles in Cuba.

In another recent interview, Mike interviewed US Marine Karl Marlantes, author of MATTERHORN and WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR, and one of the more striking moments in the interview was Karl Marlantes talking about the first time he visited The Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in Washington, DC, and how it affected him and that led my mind back to my visits to The Wall.

I first visited The Wall in 1993 with a large group of folks associated with the Khe Sanh Veterans. We went at night and the heat pressed down on us like the threat of attack and I recall being amazed at how so many of the tough men I knew broke down as they read and felt the names etched in that artful memorial. It didn’t affect me that way. What that experience did for me was to allow my mind to begin the long process of discovering and dealing with my feelings about the war and what role combat played in the man I had become.

Mike McNamara's children from left to right: Katherine, John, Colleen, Patrick. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Mike McNamara’s children: Katherine, John, Colleen, Patrick. Photo courtesy of Mike McNamara.

Some years later, I went back to the memorial and while searching the directory for the names of some of my school mates who are remembered on the memorial, I couldn’t keep tears from sneaking down my cheeks. It was all I could do to keep from busting wide open with an emotion that felt like that flood I witnessed back on the Santa Rosa.

So, thanks to Mike McNamara for hosting these interviews that allow me to retrieve my memories and thoughts.

If you are interested in all things Marine, or in what the current political and cultural pulse of America’s veterans are, or you are interested in history, cooking, mental health, post-combat issues, politics, the military in general, check out Mike’s programs.

You can access ALL MARINE RADIO here: http://www.allmarineradio.com/.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a teacher, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. For more information, go to https://bravotheproject.com/store/.

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Guest Blogs

May 14, 2014

All I Ever Did Was Love My Country: What we don’t—and can’t—know about PTSD (because we weren’t there).

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By Liza Long

“Oh yes, you asked me about the rocket attack on Danang, and well, honey, just don’t worry about rocket attacks at all—they’re really inaccurate. Of course, we’d take it very personally if one hit us, but they are very inaccurate, and since I’ve been here, rockets haven’t hit at all.”

Captain Theodore T. Long Jr., USMC, in an audiotape mailed from Vietnam to my mother in Layton, Utah, February 1970.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’m obsessed with the show Madmen. This season, the clothes get ugly, the soundtrack gets funky, and it’s time to talk about hard truths that never seemed possible in those early 60s Camelot times of JFK and Jackie, pearls and Hyannis Port. The one scene from an early Madmen episode that still stands out for me is Don Draper and his (then) wife, Betty, picnicking beneath stately trees in early summer with their picture-perfect children. When they leave, they don’t bother to clean up the mess they have left—why would they?

What a mess. That’s what a group of veterans told me on a Monday in late April 2014, when I was invited to visit a group of Warrior Pointe members in the recreation room of a cinderblock Christian church in Nampa, Idaho. The men ranged in age from grizzled Vietnam veterans to young soldiers who had just returned from Afghanistan. Their leader and Warrior Pointe founder, Reed Pacheco, walked in with a cell phone to his ear. He was talking with a family member of a veteran who had threatened suicide and needed an intervention fast.

Liza Long head shot 2013

Pacheco, himself a veteran, founded Warrior Pointe because he wanted to create a space where former soldiers could come together to talk about the issues that continue to haunt them. “The VA just isn’t there for us,” he said, as heads around the table nodded emphatically. This group of 20 men have taken a new mission upon themselves: no soldier left behind.

“The first thing people ask when you get back is ‘Did you kill somebody? How many people did you kill?’” one Vietnam veteran told me. “They just don’t understand how inappropriate that question is. We did what we had to do. You can’t know what it means to sit, 40 years later, in front of a television set reliving the same 40 seconds, over and over and over. You can’t know. You don’t want to know.”

I learned more than a few things about courage in my hour with this veterans’ group. And I also learned more than a few things about how the United States has let its soldiers down. I often wondered why so many veterans’ groups were opposed to the Affordable Care Act of 2010. “It’s the same thing as the VA,” one Afghanistan veteran told me. “You wait and wait and wait for care. And when you finally get in to see someone, they just give you painkillers instead of recommending surgery or something you need to actually fix the problem.”

That delay of care has been in the news recently, with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki facing allegations that VA clinics delayed treatment to vets who desperately needed it, then covered it up. You can read more about this issue here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/05/13/shinseki-set-to-testify-over-alleged-secret-list-hiding-va-treatment-delays/. No one disputes that patients died while waiting for care.

The Warrior Pointe organization recognizes that all of its members, no matter where or when they served, suffer from some sort of PTSD—Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. The controversial DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) revised criteria for the disorder which is now described as “a history of exposure to a traumatic event that meets specific stipulations and symptoms from each of four symptom clusters: intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.” You can find out more about that here: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp.

Pretty much everyone who went to war to defend our country could suffer from PTSD.

But the Warrior Pointe veterans feel empowered to help each other, where they feel the Veterans Administration has failed them. “We are all brothers,” says Tom Bosch, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. “We understand each other. We can talk to each other. We can support each other.”

My father served in Vietnam. While the Don Drapers of the world were enjoying three-martini lunches and free love, my dad sent anxious audiotapes to reassure my mother, who heard nothing but bad news about the war at home. Dad didn’t have to serve. He was his father’s only surviving child. He set out to write his senior thesis in Political Science to defend the Vietnam War. As he researched the subject, he concluded there was no justification for America’s involvement in Indochina. Then he graduated from college and went to Vietnam anyway.

Theodore and Liza Long

Theodore and Liza Long

My dad flew medical rescue missions. As far as I know, he never killed anyone. He came home to life as a husband and father and used the GI Bill to pursue his passion to study law. But I will never forget the morning we were running errands in Bakersfield, California. The road was blocked to allow a parade, a hero’s welcome for the warriors of Desert Storm.

When I looked at my dad, I was surprised to see tears streaming down his cheeks. “They spit on me when I got home,” he said quietly. “They called me a baby killer. All I ever did was love my country.”

And as a defender of our country, my dad most likely suffered from PTSD.

Liza Long is a writer, educator, mental health advocate, and mother of four children, one of whom has a mental illness. She lives in Boise, Idaho. You can read more of Liza Long’s thoughts here: http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/.