Ohio Vets Hall of Fame

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By Joe “Ragman” Tarnovsky

This past November 8th, 2012, Dr. Walter P. Knake (Ka-NOCK-E), Jr., PhD was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall Of Fame for his continued efforts to reach out to the Veterans Community after having served in the United States Army as a captain and a psychologist at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC. The ceremonies took place at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Museum located in Dayton, Ohio. Doc, as he is affectionately called by the men and women veterans he has served for the last 47 years, accepted his award with his usual humility and grace but he was also very proud to be recognized as a pioneer in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dr. Knake treated his first Vietnam Combat Veterans in 1966 and was way ahead of his time in recognizing the emotional and mental upheaval exhibited in the lives of the Veterans of the Vietnam War upon returning home after a year of combat in a guerilla jungle war and then be met by hostility, disdain and disrespect from fellow citizens and government agencies alike.

PROJECT 100,000

Starting in 1965, the Secretary Of The Defense at the time, Robert Strange McNamara, started his infamous PROJECT 100,000 program to fill the ranks with young American boys and then sending them over to fight in Vietnam. Many of these men, certainly not all, scored in the lowest quarter of the tests given for mental qualification and aptitude, commonly referred to as CATEGORY IV’s at that time. The young boys that scored in the lowest quarter of these tests had IQ’s of 65 and some even lower.

When the “esteemed” Secretary Of Defense, McNamara, was touting this program at a conference in Washington, DC and Dr. Knake was in attendance because he was serving at Walter Reed Army Hospital treating psychologically wounded Vietnam Veterans, Dr. Knake stood up and as a mere captain in the United States Army and told McNamara, “What you are doing is wrong!” Doc had BRASS then, and he has maintained that BRASS throughout his entire life even having to constantly fight the Cleveland, Ohio, Wade Park, Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital.The Wade Park VA Hospital is where I had the good fortune to have Doc come into my life, and I am so thankful for that encounter back in November of 1981.

McNamara’s Son, Robert Craig McNamara

Robert Craig McNamara, son of the Secretary Of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, his father being one of the main architects of the Vietnam War and the shameful PROJECT 100,000 program, openly objected to the Vietnam War and entered Stanford University in 1969 which would have afforded him the coveted II2 Student Draft Deferment. The son left Standford and traveled around Mexico and South America for several years and then enrolled in the University Of California, Davis and received a degree in 1976. ( Wikipedia). It has been stated that the ulcers he developed at the age of 17 kept him out of the military and Vietnam, ulcers he developed according to him because of how society was out of whack during the 1960’s and 70’s (Cosmo Garvin, newsreview.com).

 

CONTINUING TO SERVE AFTER ACTIVE MILITARY DUTY

After Doctor Knake left active military duty, he then secured employment with the Wade Park Veterans Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Of course it would not be long before the Department Of Veterans Affairs bureaucracy would start to put pressure on him from within to kowtow to their philosophy of treating the Veteran to their way of thinking; patronizing the angry Veteran with bags full of medications and no rap therapy groups.

Doc started some of us jogging during our sessions with him which greatly helped because the physical activity provided relief from the stress and as we ran, the Veteran and Doc could talk back and forth which was essential to help heal the Veteran’s psychological wounds and try to make some sense and come to terms with the Vietnam Experience.

It felt so good to get back into shape physically, talk to a professional that really cared and to enjoy the outdoors at the same time, sun shining, birds singing and the colors of nature. What a great way to start to heal, but the Wade Park Veterans Hospital would have none of it. Doctor Knake was ordered to stop this form of successful therapy, and it was back to sitting in an office. Doc started rap therapy groups for Vietnam Veterans, and this, too, was very successful. Sometimes the emotions of those in attendance would get heated, sometimes loud, as expected, but Doc always maintained order, got us to quiet down and always stressed respect for others, including the staff of the mental health department even though many of them were apathetic to Vietnam Veterans.

Often times when Vietnam Veterans would seek help with post-traumatic stress issues after Vietnam at a Veterans Hospital, it was not unusual that the people we were seeking help from could not relate to us because many turned out to be the draft dodgers and Vietnam War slackers that hid out in college to avoid serving in the military and Vietnam. In retrospect, I think that hearing their peers talk about what they had been through during combat in Vietnam, many of the Department Of Veterans Affairs psychiatrists and psychologists that dodged the draft felt inferior to the decorated combat Veteran sitting in front of them.

I guess it is much easier to downplay how the combat experience in Vietnam and the negative homecoming plagued returning Vietnam Veterans and to blame it on a pre-morbid personality or a dysfunctional family, that way, the doctor that dodged the draft and the Vietnam War would not have to feel guilty and inferior to the Vietnam Veteran he was treating.

When the Department Of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, known as Wade Park shut down our rap therapy group for Vietnam Veterans in the early 1990’s, they called in the Cleveland Police Swat Team to set up a command post and be on standby while we had a meeting with the DVA Official in charge of the Mental Health Clinic. Talk about being scared and paranoid, they certainly were because they knew what they were doing was wrong.

PRIVATE PRACTICE

It was shortly after the Vietnam Veterans rap therapy group was disbanded by the DVA Hospital known as Wade Park that Doc told the DVA what was the title of the song Johnny Paycheck recorded in 1977, “Take This Job And Shove It.” Doc decided to start his private practice, and he has been very successful since the beginning, and although semi-retired, he still keeps office hours because he knows there is a need for compassionate counselors to treat Veterans and civilians for Post-traumatic stress.

Considered a pioneer in the field for treating stress disorders and listed in Town And Country Magazine as one of the best psychologists in the United States to counsel and treat victims of trauma, Doc still is there to help people. His German Shepherd, Trier, recently retired as a therapy dog, has sat in on many a session with me and others suffering from post traumatic stress, and it was comforting to have her there as I talked with Doc. Trier now spends her time with Doc’s lovely wife, Mary, when Mary isn’t doing the billing and coding for the practice.

It was not until about two years ago that Doctor Knake finally raised his rates after 20 years, a whopping $10, and along with his rap therapy groups for Vietnam Veterans which he has also kept artificially low, many people that would never be able to afford therapy for stress are able to get the help they need from a caring and compassionate psychologist. Over the years, sadly, Doctor Knake has attended the funerals for 177 Veterans and his mission in life of giving much needed assistance of compassion, healing and understanding continues to the family of the departed Veteran.

HUMILITY, COMPASSION, PROFESSIONALISM AND RESPECT

Dr. Knake possesses all of these personality traits and always tries to exhibit them in his daily interactions with individuals even when those same attributes are not reciprocal by others that he may engage in dialogue, discussion or debate. Recently, Doc went down to the Wade Park Department Of Veterans Affairs Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio at the request of a Vietnam Veteran that he has known for years, and the Vietnam Veteran wanted Doc to speak with the a mental health professional about a situation involving the Wade Park VA and the Veteran in question.

As Doc reached out in conversation with the mental health professional about this Vietnam Veteran, the Wade Park employee told Dr. Knake, “You are the most unprofessional psychologist I have ever met.” I also know the Vietnam Veteran in question, a highly educated man, honorable, and as an officer in Vietnam, he always looked out for and cared for his men.

I could just imagine his reaction when this Veterans Hospital employee made that statement to Dr. Knake, because like most Veterans that have dealt with Doc, he and the rest of us love, admire and look up to Dr. Knake and we try to emulate Doc’s personal behavior when dealing with those that are disrespectful to us and resent our status as a Vietnam Veteran or any other type of Veteran; understanding, non-violent and try to find the good in that individual. I would have to wonder in this situation just who is the unprofessional, Doc or the mental health counselor that made that negative statement during this discussion in front of a Vietnam Veteran that has post-traumatic stress and is trying to obtain help from an institution that owes him the best care and respect they can give by virtue of his military service in a war zone, something many of the mental health professionals doing the counseling at the Department Of Veterans Affairs Hospital, Wade Park, do not possess nor did they think was important enough to serve our country in a military uniform.

With his characteristic patience, understanding and a genuine love for his fellow human being and always trying to assist those that treat Veterans with post traumatic stress, Doc put a book on the table for this Wade Park employee and respectfully suggested it might be worth reading; a book about combat trauma. In characteristic fashion, something that the Wade Park Cleveland Veterans Hospital has always been known for, the employee scoffed at the suggestion and pushed the book back at Dr. Knake.

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

The song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, has been recorded by a number of artists over the years, but most of us that participated in the Vietnam War or served in the military during the Vietnam Era, the recordings by Neil Diamond and the group, The Hollies, seem to be the most recognized versions. This song also happens to be one of Doctor Knake’s favorites, but for Doc, it is more than a favorite song, it is his belief and philosophy in which he lives his own personal life. As the saying goes, “He Not Only Talks The Talk, But Also Walks The Walk.” There are many Veterans and trauma victims that have been helped in substantial ways due to Doc’s knowledge, patience and most importantly, his compassion. His loving family has sacrificed so much over the years as their husband/father has continually helped others, but like Doc, they are a selfless group that seeks neither attention nor accolades as they want others suffering from post-traumatic stress and other symptoms associated with this malady to be helped, so they may lead a productive life and not suffer.

I had the honor and privilege to be asked to attend the ceremonies for Doctor Knake’s induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall Of Fame, and it was so wonderful to see him, his lovely wife, Mary, and their sons, Jim and Ed. Having lost my father at age ten, I know what it is like as a young boy to miss the dad you idolize and although Doctor Knake, thankfully, is still with his family today, his wife and sons have sacrificed a lot of precious time with him they never will be able to retrieve. When I said to Jim and Ed, “Thank you for all the time you have sacrificed with your father, so he may help Veterans like me” the reply was compassionate but concise and to the point: “It was worth it, Joe.” Like father, like sons, and we, as Veterans and other victims of trauma are just as grateful to Mary, Jim and Ed as we are to Dr. Knake.

CONGRATULATIONS

Congratulations to Dr. Walter P. Knake, Jr., PhD, his lovely wife, Mary, sons, Jim and Ed and therapy dog and loving family pet, Trier the German Shepherd, on his selection and induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall Of Fame. Doc would be quick to point out to anyone offering their congratulations and well wishes, he could not have achieved all the successes in life as a psychologist without the love and support of his family. There is no doubt that Doc will use this accolade as he has used every other award, and recognition for his work with Veterans and other trauma victims, to ensure those affected by man made and natural traumas will be treated with respect, dignity and compassion in order for them to get their lives back on track, so they may live with some normality and to continue to educate the public about post-traumatic stress, with emphasis in the area of combat veterans.

During the induction ceremonies, Doc was already approached by an individual that works for an agency that assists combat veterans and was asked to be a part of this worthwhile organization and Dr. Knake readily agreed. When we use to speak with students at schools and universities, Doc would always close out the presentation explaining to the audience about military courtesy and how enlisted men would have to salute officers of which Doc was one in the Army. He then would tell the audience how much respect and love he had for the men in attendance, most of us enlisted men and he would call us to attention and render a salute of respect, love and admiration to us.

So, Doc, turn about is fair play and not only is my salute rendered to you, but also Mary, Jim, Ed and Trier for your induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall Of Fame, but more importantly, for all that you and your family have given to trauma victims over the years, I shudder to think where I might be right now if I hadn’t been so fortunate to cross life’s path with you and the Knake family.

SALUTE RENDERED TO DOC & HIS FAMILY

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Joe is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, having served 26 months in the Republic Of South Vietnam, 10 months with Company A, 27th Combat Engineers, 28 August 1968 to June 1969, and 16 months as a crewchief/doorgunner with the 240th Assault Helicopter company on UH-1C Hueys, the Mad Dog Gunship Platoon from July 1969 to 22 October 1970. Joe graduated from Cuyahoga Community College in 1982 with a Associate Of Arts Degree and from Cleveland State University in 1986 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology; he also accumulated 12 hours of graduate work at Cleveland State. He lives with his best friend, his wife, and they have 34 rescued cats, 7 rescued dogs. Joe has spoken at high schools and colleges for 25 years about PTSD, war and how not to treat returning veterans when they come home to America after fighting for their country.