by Kimberly Heartsong
Early in 2011 the Dr. Oz Show did a special show that highlighted women Veterans that were homeless. Some had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had been raped or experienced a military sexual trauma (MST). It was the kind of show that presented Veterans in an honorable manner and allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to address the fact that many female Veterans fall through the cracks with normal routine VA care; let alone extreme cases such as homelessness and PTSD or MST. A VA representative mentioned the action teams in place in Washington, D.C. to study the problem of women Veterans and how they were establishing hotlines, and outreach programs.
As a combat zone Veteran with five deployments to the Middle East supporting the Persian Gulf War, I receive disability compensation and treatment at VA for PTSD and MST. I can tell you first hand that since my retirement in 2007 it has been an uphill battle to get the help I need. But I am getting help. Then I stumbled across a film that is going to be released in January 2012, called, “The Invisible War” that is supposed to address MST in particular. I talked to a few people I know in the industry about this, and discovered that one of the Veterans that was interviewed and may appear as a main character is a man that was raped and claims this rape caused him to become a pedophile—which he served criminal prison time for. I am writing this blog in the hopes to pre-empt the hate mail that the VA will receive after the public sees his interview in this film.
Yes, MST is a real issue and needs to be treated, and yes, the VA could be doing a better job, but I do not feel that linking MST to criminal pedophiles will do anything to enhance the medical assistance the veterans receive. If anything it will cause the public to revert to the era of Vietnam when people would spit on veterans in public. I would hope the VA would read this blog and be PRO-ACTIVE with a public affairs campaign for TV ads to advocate for the positive assistance for MST survivors to get treatment.
I am a Veteran. I am proud of my country. The VA is not perfect by any means, but I do not feel it is necessary to embarrass and degrade Veterans who have already suffered MST to be lumped in the same category as criminals who blame MST for their criminal behavior.
Kimberly L. Heartsong enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a weather observer in 1987 and supported three NASA space shuttle missions—she was commissioned in 1989. As an Aircraft Maintenance Officer and Logistician she worked for the Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, FL. Kim deployed five times in support of the Persian Gulf War to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey. She was medically retired as a Lt Colonel in 2007.
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