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Posts Tagged ‘veterans’

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Image: Wellcome Collection

Loss of hearing has been on my mind lately. I’m getting near the age my mother started to lose her hearing. She made it work for her, though, pretending she didn’t hear you when she didn’t want to answer your question.

I, on the other hand, will look into hearing aids. Jane Brody at the New York Times reported recently that getting a hearing aid before your hearing is really bad is associated with slowing the onset of dementia. I like the sound of that.

Meanwhile, at National Public Radio (NPR), we learn that everyone’s hearing is being adversely affected by our noisy world.

Dave Davies at WHYY’s Fresh Air interviews the author of a new book on the topic.

“Our ears are complicated, delicate instruments that largely evolved in far quieter times than the age we currently inhabit — an early world without rock concerts, loud restaurants, power tools and earbuds.

“Writer David Owen describes our current age as a ‘deafening’ one, and in his new book, Volume Control, he explains how the loud noises we live with are harming our ears.

“Owen warns that even small household appliances like food processors and hair dryers can generate noise at levels that lead to permanent damage. He notes that people who live in places without significant background noises tend to experience less hearing loss.

‘There have been a couple of studies done with populations of indigenous people who live in places where there is very little background noise and elderly people in those populations tend to hear as well as infants do,’ he says.

“Owen recommends that people carry earplugs with them — and not be bashful about using them. Recently he popped in a pair of musician’s earplugs before watching Dunkirk, a movie long on explosions and short on dialogue. …

” ‘People who have trouble hearing tend to have more unrelated health issues of all kinds. It, sort of, overworks our brains. If you can’t quite hear what people are saying, you have to work harder to figure it out, and the brainpower that you use to do that is brainpower that you can’t use for anything else. People who have trouble hearing also tend to withdraw. … If you have trouble seeing things, you get glasses. But people tend to put off getting hearing aids for a long time. …

” ‘The largest single purchaser of hearing aids in the United States is the [Department of Veterans Affairs]. The No. 1 and No. 2 service-related health claims made by military veterans are hearing loss and tinnitus. Exposure to gunfire, especially exposure to blast explosions, but then also just the extraordinarily high sound levels of military service, even on a base outside of combat. One of the loudest work environments in the world is an aircraft carrier. And simply sleeping on an aircraft carrier, you can expose yourself to sound at levels that are sufficient to do permanent damage to your hearing. …

” ‘I learned from reading about tinnitus that there’s basically nothing you can do. You can’t make it go away. There is no known cure for it. The therapy for tinnitus is to learn to accommodate it. …

” ‘Sometimes hearing aids can help you. If you have some hearing loss and you eliminate that, you bring up the sound of everything else. Then this phantom noise becomes less bothersome. You can’t hear it as much. A therapist described it to me as, “You’re in a room with a candle. The candle is the tinnitus. But if you turn on the lights, then the candle is less noticeable.” And that’s what sometimes happens with hearing aids with somebody who has tinnitus. …

“Classical musicians — just like rock musicians — experience hearing loss. ‘The impact on your hearing probably has less to do with the instrument that you play than with the instrument that the person who sits behind you plays. So if you have a loud instrument right behind you, you’re the one who gets the impact. … It’s not only in those performances. Musicians practice, especially nowadays, for hours and hours and in small rooms with loud instruments and it takes a toll on their hearing very definitely. …

” ‘The revolution that’s coming is that it’s going to be increasingly possible to buy over-the-counter, less expensive hearing improvement products — hearing aids and other products. … I have a friend who lost a lot of hearing, wears hearing aids. He wore [Bose] Hearphones to a restaurant and found them much superior to his hearing aids — the quality of the sound, the ability to focus on people that he wanted to listen to.”

More at NPR, here.

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File photo of a man clinging to the top of a vehicle in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans

Photo: Robert Galbraith/Reuters/Corbis
Clinging to the top of a vehicle before being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard from the flooded streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, 2005. The city’s homelessness problem grew exponentially after Katrina. Then a unique collaborative decided to do something about it.

Homelessness is increasing all over this wealthy, unequal land of ours. And you know what? It’s possible to do something about it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider this effort in New Orleans, as reported by Jeremy Hobson on WBUR’s Here and Now.

“Across the U.S., more than a half million people have been identified as homeless. New Orleans faced a major crisis in homelessness following Hurricane Katrina.

In 2007, two years after the storm, there were more than 11,600 homeless people in the city. Since then, New Orleans stepped up its effort to tackle homelessness and has brought that number down 90 percent.

“Martha Kegel, executive director of Unity of Greater New Orleans, tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson the strategy to tackle the ‘unprecedented explosion’ of homelessness in the city following Katrina was threefold.

“First, Kegel says, Unity of Greater New Orleans — a nonprofit leading a collaborative of organizations providing housing and services to the homeless — had to assemble an outreach team that ‘was willing to go anywhere and do anything to rescue and rehouse a homeless person.’

“Second, Kegel says the group put all its effort behind gathering a rent assistance fund. ‘We went directly to Congress,’ she says. …

“And lastly, she says, the team took a ‘Housing First’ approach, which is ‘simply the idea that you accept people as they are,’ whether they are sober or not. … ‘Once they’re in their apartment, you immediately wrap all the services around them that they need to stay stable and live the highest quality life that they can live.

” ‘Actually, this is a very cost-effective approach, because when you think about it, it is costing the taxpayer a tremendous amount of money to leave people on the street. They’re constantly cycling in and out of jail on charges that wouldn’t even be relevant if they had an apartment, things like urinating in public, drinking in public, obstructing the sidewalk because they’re having to sleep on the sidewalk. Homeless offenses, in other words, that are costing the taxpayers a lot of money to be putting them in jail and processing them through the criminal justice system. Their health is deteriorating while they’re out on the street. They’re being taken by ambulance to the emergency room constantly. Those are huge charges.

” ‘Really what you need is, you know, a relatively small amount of money to pay for some rent assistance and they can contribute some of that rent as well with disability benefits or if they’re able to work with, you know, employment income and a little bit of case-management assistance. It really has been proven over and over again in studies to be very cost effective.

” ‘This is permanent housing. How long the rent assistance lasts depends on what people need. And we’re kind of masters at trying to spread what is always an inadequate amount of money as far as it’ll spread. …

” ‘We have reached what we call “functional zero,” which means that we compiled a list using our outreach team [and] using our shelter lists that are updated every night. We housed, in their own apartments, every veteran on that list except nine that had refused housing, mostly because of mental illness. And we continued to work with those nine, at that point, [we] have housed four more of them. Then going forward, we have made a commitment that any time a veteran becomes newly homeless, we house them in an apartment within an average of 30 days or less. And we’ve maintained that now for over four years and we’re extremely proud of that. It is very hard work. It requires a lot of organizations working together — and the VA and the Housing Authority — everybody working together to make that happen.’ ”

Think about those homeless veterans this Memorial Day. If we do “war” to them, can we also do housing with services? It’s about compassion and taking responsibility.

And I like how Kegel says, “You have to love the people in your community and want your community to thrive and care very deeply about the vulnerable people in it, that you’re willing to do, what we say, whatever it takes.”

More here.

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For Veterans Day, I want to give a thought to the people who wait, the families left behind, the people who love the service member and who try to stay upbeat and keep their worry from showing.

There’s a song that captures what the person left behind feels when alone and not obliged to put up a brave front. It’s called “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Let’s start with what Wikipedia has to say about the song’s history.

” ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is a popular song, with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal. Published in 1938, it was inserted into the Broadway musical Right This Way, which closed after fifteen performances. …

“The musical theme has emotional power, and was much loved during World War II, when it became an anthem for those serving overseas (both British and American soldiers). The lyrics begin, in Bert Ambrose’s and Vera Lynn’s recorded versions, with a preamble:

Cathedral bells were tolling and our hearts sang on
Was it the spell of Paris or the April dawn?
Who knows if we shall meet again?
But when the morning chimes ring sweet again

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you

 

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Photo: WeWork
Global shared-workspace company WeWork offers coffee, local beer, ample space for community events — and jobs for refugees and veterans.

Here’s a business that expects to do well by doing good. It’s shared-workspace company WeWork, which a news outlet in Philadelphia says has started offering jobs to refugees.

Marielle Mondon at PhillyVoice reports, “WeWork, one of the biggest companies spearheading the transition from traditional offices to millennial-luring co-working spaces, has announced a new commitment to hire 1,500 refugees globally in the next five years.

“The announcement comes just days after the company announced it would also hire the same number of veterans in its offices over the next five years. WeWork began seeking refugee employees through a pilot program based in New York [in 2017], working with the International Rescue Committee for a total of 50 hires. …

“In addition to encouraging WeWork offices to reach their hiring quotas, the company will also help provide refugees with mentorships and language courses. …

“Several other companies have made public initiatives to offer refugees a means of employment as they try to establish their new lives. … Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022. … Companies including Chobani and Uber made similar promises.

“WeWork CEO Adam Neumann told the Washington Post that the refugee pledge was … a way to help solve the growing problem of refugee displacement.

“The Post reports that the refugee jobs during the pilot program in New York [involved] workers taking care of the daily maintenance and tenant assistance needed in WeWork spaces.” More here.

You know what? Although the WeWork target client is a millennial, I can easily see an elderly person who can afford office space signing up to use his computer there and hang around young people — the way some older folks use libraries. I wonder if anyone would mind.

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My former Minnesota boss, Ann Ribbens, has always quilted, even when her day job was something completely different. Her quilts have been in a number of shows and in a book published by Mary Ann’s company, Quarry: 1000 Quilt Inspirations, by Sandra Sider.

Recently, one of Ann’s quilts was accepted by the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Massachusetts, for an art exhibit honoring veterans. The show was diverse and included military artifacts, paintings, and photography. I thought Ann’s quilt was especially wonderful.

The quilt narrates the stories of three family members who served — one in the Boer War (lower left panel), one in World War II (upper left), and one in Vietnam (upper right). The fourth panel expresses her longing for peace and an end to all that veterans suffer in war and on their return from war.

I love the combination of gratitude and hope that these portraits represent, the war colors expressing the heat of battle and the cool blue expressing serenity.

The exhibit was presented in conjunction with Ironstone Farm of Andover, Massachusetts, which provides veterans who have experienced trauma and anxiety with a healing “equine encounter” one day a week for eight weeks. (“I never thought a horse could teach me so much about myself,” says one participant.)

101817-Lowell-MA-Ribbens-quilt

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Shakespeare continues to make headlines, working his magic on people from all walks of life — prisoners, refugee children, veterans, and more.

Recently, New York Times reporter Laura Collins-Hughes interviewed an Army veteran who found Shakespeare helped him over a trauma and who now uses the Bard to help other veterans.

Collins-Hughes writes, “Stephan Wolfert was drunk when he hopped off an Amtrak train somewhere in Montana, toting a rucksack of clothes and a cooler stocked with ice, peanut butter, bread and Miller High Life — bottles, not cans. It was 1991, he was 24, and he had recently seen his best friend fatally wounded in a military training exercise.

“His mind in need of a salve, he went to a play: ‘Richard III,’ the story of a king who was also a soldier. In Shakespeare’s words, he heard an echo of his own experience, and though he had been raised to believe that being a tough guy was the only way to be a man, something cracked open inside him.

“ ‘I was sobbing,’ Mr. Wolfert, now 50 and an actor, said recently over coffee in Chelsea. ‘I didn’t know you could have emotions out loud.’

“That road-to-Damascus moment — not coming to Jesus, but coming to Shakespeare — is part of the story that Mr. Wolfert tells in his solo show, ‘Cry Havoc!’ … Taking its title from Mark Antony’s speech over the slain Caesar in ‘Julius Caesar,’ it intercuts Mr. Wolfert’s own memories with text borrowed from Shakespeare. Decoupling those lines from their plays, Mr. Wolfert uses them to explore strength and duty, bravery and trauma, examining what it is to be in the military and what it is to carry that experience back into civilian life. …

“To Mr. Wolfert, who teaches controlled methods of accessing charged memories, the need to retool a lethal skill set for civilian life is a vital task that the military leaves people to figure out on their own.

“ ‘That’s something that we hold uniquely, I think, as veterans,’ he told [a] class. ‘We know what we’re capable of — even for the so-called peacetime or Cold War vets. The training’s still there. And I don’t care if you’re a clerk typist. You still fired a weapon at a human silhouette.’

“This, he believes, is where Shakespeare can prove an ally: as a means to understand trauma, and to start coming back from it.”

More at the NY Times, here. For more on Wolpert, check out a Shakespeare & Co. interview from last summer, here.

Photo: Folger Theatre
Actor Stephan Wolfert in 2014, performing his one-man show Cry “Havoc!” at the Folger Theatre in Washington, DC. The line is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

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Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
From left, Army veteran Kevin Faherty speaking with Paul Connor, veteran services coordinator, and Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian in January.

A sad fact of war is that those who serve too often come back suffering from emotional trauma or addiction.

Fortunately, there are understanding people who can help them move on. We just need more of them.

Kevin Cullen at the Boston Globe describes what one Massachusetts sheriff is doing to make veterans’ lives more hopeful.

“For the past year, with hardly any attention, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and his staff have developed an innovative approach that is transforming lives for the better, lowering recidivism rates and raising the odds that those who have served their country can become more responsible, productive citizens.

“[Jan. 13] marked the first anniversary of the Housing Unit for Military Veterans at the Middlesex jail and house of correction, the first of its kind in New England, and really the only one quite like it nationwide. Its acronym is HUMV, or Humvee, an armored vehicle that once protected many of the younger vets in the unit. …

“Koutoujian tapped Paul Connor, an Army veteran, to run the unit. They got a waiver from the state, so that pre-trial prisoners and inmates already serving their sentences could be housed together. The HUMV is set up like a barracks, bunks lined up in the self-contained unit. …

“The men in the unit are broken down into squads, sharing chores and other duties, which builds camaraderie and accountability. …

“Connor’s veteran status makes a real connection with those in the unit. His decade of sobriety, meanwhile, makes him a role model. Like the vast majority of inmates in the general population, most of the vets in the HUMV have struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. …

“Amy Bonneau, a social worker from the Boston Vets Center, runs a support group at the HUMV.

” ‘For a lot of these guys, their underlying issues can be traced back to their service,’ she said. ‘If we don’t treat what got them here, they end up coming back. What we see is the camaraderie that this unit fosters makes them more willing to take the treatment seriously. It’s more than helping themselves. They don’t want to let down their brothers.’

“Connor, still a captain in the National Guard, puts it in terms that everybody in the unit understands.

“ ‘In boot camp, they break you down,’ he said. ‘A lot of these guys come in here broken. We are building them back up.’ ”

More here.

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