Dr Oz Tearful Recap: Women on the Front Lines of War and Homeless Female Vets

The first half of the Doctor Oz Show today was about women on the front lines of war I will frankly admit that I cried through most of this segment. I am so proud of these women and my heart goes out to them!

To begin with, Dr. Oz said that in Iraq and Afghanistan, 130 women have died fighting in those wars, and the ones who have survived are scarred emotionally and physically. Today we discussed what happens when women return from war.

Dr. Oz’s guests today were: Colonel Rebecca Porter, chief of Behavioral Health Division/Office of the Army Surgeon General; Victoria Givens, a former Marine Staff Sergeant;  and Sonja V. Batten, a psychiatrist with the Dept. of Veteran Affairs Office of Mental Health Services.

Dr. Batten said that they have several studies now that show women and men are equally resilient when faced with the stress of combat, and she seemed to have an agenda to make sure that we all know men have the same problems as the women Dr. Oz was focusing on.

For example, a soldier in the audience had to leave her child when she got called up for active duty, and she is still grieving for the things she missed while she was gone. Dr. Batten spoke to that, and said fathers have the same problem, and that for women their social relationships are important to the readjustment when they get home.

Victoria was a survivor of military sexual trauma, she said, and when she came home she had issues that her husband didn’t know about. She said she essentially brought the war home to her family, and she and her husband had to go to counseling but so far their marriage has survived.

Colonel Porter said these situations are more common than you might think, and talked about a chaplains program called Strong Bonds which helps couples reconnect after deployment.

Dr. Oz asked AGAIN if women are affected by war differently from men, and AGAIN Dr. Batten said that the rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are “really pretty equivalent.” She said women are a little more likely to experience depression where men are a little more likely to experience alcohol abuse.

The symptoms of PTSD are:

Re-Experiencing Symptoms like nightmares and having unwanted thoughts pop in your head

Avoidance Symptoms like avoiding things that might remind you of the event, such as being unwilling to talk about it.

Arousal Symptoms like feeling jumpy, startling easily, not sleeping, reacting violently to non-threatening situations

Dr. Oz said that about 1 in 5 female military members experience PTSD when they come home from war, but he thinks that number is low. Colonel Porter agreed, especially since sometimes it can be quite a while after someone gets home that they get diagnosed.

Dr Oz’s next guest, Sergeant First Class Kara Hutchinson had PTSD from an exploding car bomb during a routine patrol in February of 2006. She lost her leg but she said learning to live with one leg was not as hard as recovering from PTSD. She had nightmares and panic attacks. She became incapacitated whenever she saw a parked car somewhere. She pushed everyone away.

Her friends and family helped her to recover, and she says that finding something she loves to do was key. That was when the dark cloud lifted and the sun came out again. Now she says she does things with one leg that she never did with two legs.

Kara and everyone in the audience said they would serve in the military again.

In the next segment we learned that there are nearly 13,000 homeless women veterans on our streets. Dr. Oz hit the streets to find out what is going on. He went to the Beacon House in Long Island, New York. It’s a homeless shelter that offers help to veterans. He featured four women from the House that are fighting their way back from being homeless.

Sergeant Evelyn Nowlin, served from 1976-1980 and was homeless for three years. She says the structure of the house is similar to her military experience, with everything clean and orderly. Dr. Oz cleaned a bathroom for her.

Petty Officer Gail Barnette, served 1978-1991, suffered chronic pain and depression after service and was homeless for over 6 years. She showed Dr. Oz the thrift store for veterans. She had PTSD too when she came home and it sounds like she’s still got some issues.

Petty Officer Patricia Rene served from 1988-1992, lived in a car for six months and ate out of dumpsters. She’s working in the office now and happy to be helping other people when she was the one who needed assistance at one time.

Specialist Michelle Martin, served 1982-1987, lost her job and her house after she served. She handles the food service at the Beacon House.

Patty explained that it’s untreated sexual trauma, PTSD and lack of job skill coming out that causes women vets to become homeless. The jobs in the service don’t necessarily translate to employable skills.

Jackie DeLeonardis, VP of the United Veterans Beacon House, says that women have a more difficult time coming back from war because they’re the core of their families and have so many responsibilities that they have to put in place before they can leave for deployment. Hear! Hear!

Gail spoke to how she doesn’t feel she’s worth anything. She’s working on it through the MST program that she’s in now and she thinks it’s helping.

Dr. Batten got the next-to-the-last word on the segment, saying that we should focus on the strength of these women, and not just their challenges, because women are the strongest part of our society.

Doctor Oz wrapped up the first half the show by thanking everyone for their service.

As I said before, I cried during parts of this show today and especially my heart goes out to Gail, who is obviously still in need of help. Bless her for being honest about her feelings, and I sincerely hope she gets to feeling better about herself soon, because it’s obvious she’s an angel!

Here is a link to the United Veterans Beacon House in New York: http://www.vvnw.org/Veteran_Services/Beacon_House/uvbh-NY.htm in case you want to donate. They are currently trying to raise money to pay off their debt and purchase more locations. There’s a donate button on the left-hand blue sidebar.

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