Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ranger veteran and actor Tim Abell, Grateful Nation, and more

Last week on GallantFew's The New American Veteran I interviewed Ranger veteran and actor Tim Abell.  Tim is a phenomenal guy who has made his own success.  Many successful film and TV stars lose their perspective and themselves in the process.  Tim is the opposite of that, and has used his success and applied his skills and abilities to help veterans.  Tim served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and continues to follow the Ranger Creed.

His latest project is being the host of Grateful Nation, a show sponsored by Beretta that features wounded veterans' stories - their service history, wounding and recovery - and then takes them on an incredible outdoors expedition.  The focus and theme of the show is thanking all veterans through the one featured on that episode as well as drawing attention to the great outdoors.  Grateful Nation was on ESPN2 last year and this year is moving to the Outdoors Channel.  This video says significantly more than I ever could (and is offered exclusively here for now):

Big Hollywood article on Grateful Nation's debut

This video interview is from the Playboy pre-ESPY party:

Tim's biography and some additional of his sites:

Tim is a new and marvelous supporter of GallantFew, and has joined our volunteer Advisory Board.  Go here to listen to the interview on your computer.  You can also find us on iTunes, search podcasts for gallantfew.

GallantFew exists to help veterans leaving active duty make a peaceful, successful transition to the civilian world.  It's not easy.  There are an estimated 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from symptoms of PTSD.  This news story sadly highlights the failures of our current system:  Veteran's suicide reveals problems in VA system.

Last week a Ranger buddy called me to find assistance for a brother veteran needing to talk to someone.  This veteran saw horrific things and sought mental care and emotional support through his local VA.  He was assigned a councilor, and was sleeping better, managing his emotions better.  Then the VA switched his councilor (not uncommon).  Back to square one - and the veteran quit going to the sessions.  He didn't want to revisit everything from the start and he wasn't comfortable with the new councilor.  He also feels embarrassed that he's having these "issues" as it seems like every one else that went through what he did is "just fine".

After a period of time this veteran began having nightmares, not sleeping, difficulty controlling anger and it was effecting his wife and child, so he turned to the VA again.  The VA's response:  We'll be glad to help, our next available appointment is in April.  Let me repeat that.  OUR NEXT AVAILABLE APPOINTMENT IS IN APRIL.

Are you kidding me?  This makes me angry just writing.  This is absolutely unacceptable.  So we went about finding alternate support - from a DAV service center to the Vetcenter to some of my personal connections.  One of the responses, from a former Ranger senior NCO:
"I feel like I don't even know who I am.  I was a stud.  I was bullet proof.  I had no fear.  I had no vulnerability......WRONG!  The hardest part is learning who you really are.  Putting all the pain away is a simple survival tool.  I felt soulless, lost, and not able to love.  I felt as if there was a big, black void where my heart should be, because if I had a heart, I couldn't have done what I did.  Now, I hide.  I can't control my emotions.  I pretend to try and hide from who I am.  I haven't really learned who I am yet, but I am trying.  I now accept the fact that I have seen done things that are not natural, and that I am a person.  If I didn't feel pain, what would that say about me?"
You can't communicate with someone feeling this way unless you've carried the same ruck, laced the same boots - and for someone who wore the boots and tan beret (actually then it was black) of a Ranger Platoon Sergeant to stand up and announce that war effected him is huge and sets the example for us all.

300,000.  Small number compared with the total US population.  Small number that carried the burden of the fight for us all.  That small 300,000 - and the other million that are also effected by their recent wartime experiences need to know that although it may feel this way YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

No more veteran unemployment.  No more veteran homelessness.  And damn it - no more veterans committing suicide.


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