Saturday, December 29, 2018

WONDER---Swalllows and Amazons & How To Love the Universe

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom (Overlook Press) Sometimes I yearn for  a kinder gentler place. In this 1930s classic (comparable to Harry Potter in its era) I found adventure sailing with  four English children--during WW2. The oldest, age 12, Captain John, commands a 14 ft. sailboat with Susan, his first mate, able seaman sister Titty and seaman Roger, the youngest. They sail across a large lake to a wooded island and camp out, without adult supervision. Unimaginable in modern parenting, their mother encourages them by leaving them alone.

But she does check on them to bring treats with baby Vicky or hears news from adults, when Captain John picks up milk from the "natives." Their voyage of exploration begins with permission from their dad at the front, an enigmatic telegram:  BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN. Does father think they will drown or that they are not duffers?  Mother clarifies that dad knows John can handle the boat taught him last summer.

John, though doubtful he will remember, takes the responsibility seriously as does first mate, Susan, who helps him navigate and eagerly plans their food. They call their ship The Swallow and the idyll begins.  They have fair weather, find a cove and claim their camp, though it does seem someone may have been there in the past. Imagination is the wind in their sales, as young Roger plays he's a ship and Tittie dives for pearls. She references Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, writing in her journal of visits by "quaint natives" (her mother) as well as real islanders who make charcoal.

Imaginary adventures give way to the real thing, as one day they spot  The Amazon,a white sailboat with a pirate flag and two girls wearing red hats. Friendly rivalry is inevitable, especially when the girls raid Captain Flint's (their uncle) houseboat  and The Swallow is held responsible.  As the two ships vie for capture, there are real pirates on the houseboat. Before the summer's over, The Swallow and The Amazon join forces to solve a mystery, there's a dangerous night sail, Captain Flint walks the plank, and Tittie finds buried treasure. What a summer. I enjoyed their company.

HOW TO LOVE THE UNIVERSE: A Scientist's Odes to the Hidden Beauty Behind the Visible World By Stefan Klein (The Experiment, the  This book is the most mind-bending book I read in 2018. I can't describe it without including the chapter headings.

1. The Poetry Of Reality--A rose makes us aware that nothing and nobody stands alone. The more we know about how things in the universe relate to each other, the more mysterious the world seems to us.

2. A Marble in the Cosmos--The Earth rises over the moon and we see the universe as it is being born. Much greater spaces are concealed behind the visible cosmos. Reality is quite different than how it seems to us.

In this book the more science you know, the more awe inspiring nature appears. "The scientist's sharp eye even revealed things that at first seem ugly or repulsive to us. The fading of the rose is a symbol of decline, but if you look closely, you can see the hip growing deep within the withering petals, Each seed of the rose is a miracle of its own, because in each tiny kernal, the complete embryo of a rose is waiting for the moment it can soak up water, expand, break out of the husk, and stretch out its seed-leaves to the sun."

This is ecstatic, wise, wonderful writing by Klein, who studied physics and analytical philosophy, completing his doctorate in theoretical biophysics, before turning to writing to "inspire people with a reality that is more exciting than any thriller."

Read this book to be amazed at the world, as you may have been as a young child. There is a thrill of discovery in these pages, along with the unsettling adult feeling that we know nothing. Humility can be awe-inspiring. Loved this book.

S.W.   Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

War Memoirs--Afghanistan Noir, BLINDSIDED BY THE TALIBAN and IN THE RED ZONE, post-Saddam Iraq


Let us talk about that most crazy and foolhardy of  free lance journalists, brave ones who cover wars and in our time the "forever wars" of Afghanistan and Iraq. Vietnam a different story, body bags being loaded on planes, front and center on the six o'clock news. People were riveted-overloaded by daily body counts like a dark casino jackpot ever rising. Until it was enough, and Americans--old and young, liberal and conservative, veteran and resistor, surged in the streets to end that war. That old coverage gets little play now but then the numbers were enough. (Today, without the nightly network focus, would it happen?)

This post is to celebrate this rare journalist in the present, when our wars merit scarce network attention and coverage is often but a distanced reminder of what is going on far away --the horrific daily reality of war.  But there are news outlets who occasionally run stories by journalists enbedded with soldiers and their allies, working inch by inch-year by year--to wrestle peace from overwhelming destruction.  Now that Trump has pulled troops out of Syria, how long before the Taliban's retaken that ground? Will our allies, the Kurds, survive? Will coverage be shown?

I am not a fan of  war memoirs but in 2007, my friend Steven Vincent, a free lance journalist, went to Iraq to cover the war on terror. I saw him in New York and asked him why he was going back, he wasn't a career war journalist. Was it the adrenoline thing, feeling alive in the middle of death; a search for truth in destruction--personal issues?  Steve mentioned help for a friend. But before he left, he wrote an OpEd in The NY Times about local corruption. Soon after he was attacked, his friend got out. He left his  memoir In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq described as: 

"an American journalist's account of his daring solo expeditions through post-Saddam Iraq, is a vivid, frank, and unforgettable portrayal of the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. An eyewitness of the 9/11 attacks, Steven Vincent went to Iraq to experience the daily realities of life and death in the crossfire of the war on terror. His report is essential for understanding America's enemies and allies in the critical but confusing struggle against radical Islam."

Carmen Gentile is another kind of freelancer, a veteran war journalist who covered Cairo in the 90's, unrest in the oil rich Niger Delta, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--embedding with soldiers on the front line. He's written for The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, though most outlets weren't doing a lot of war coverage, when USA Today agreed to send him back to Afghanistan. That was the trip he should have lost his life, he explains in his remarkable memoir Blindesided By The Taliban: A Journalist's Story of War, Trauma, Love and Loss (Skyhorse Publishers).

Gentile has to be the Philip Marlow of freelance journalists and his memoir is a kind of war noir, about one man's intolerable and ridiculous survival in extreme circumstances. Here is a guy who is struck in the face by a rocket powered grenade and survives. With humor and irony, he looks at the horror and idiocy of  his life before and after the near fatal attack. There's the dark humor of his comrades and  awful crawling heebie jeebies about going to the bathroom, when any movement spells death. And like Chandler's Marlow, he wonders why he's always putting himself in the way of bullets. 

A reluctant philosopher embedded with young soldiers half his age, Gentile probes why he's alive  when  helicopters evacuate men who won't make it to the hospital. After he's hit, he sees the shocked looks of others, wondering what's left of his face--his eye, before losing consciousness. Awakened after emergency surgery, Gentile questions the trajectory that got him to this place, lucky to be alive with a mutilated face. Self critical, in and out with meds, he  wonders what flaws inspired this nebulous career and his "perfect" woman to break off their engagement--by email.

Between multiple operations, state of the art experimental surgery to rebuild his eye, he finds some solace with another woman--while questioning what good he's doing her. He also plots a post  recovery rendez-vous with a lost love. Though painfully aware how passions override his judgement, Gentile's recovery is not negotiable.  Despite the welcome oblivion of painkillers, for weeks he must live looking down, unsure how and IF he's to go on. 

He recovers, facing truth and consequences. One day he finds Lucille, his aged motorcycle, and with one good eye takes a freezing ride to the Florida garage he calls the "Failure Cave"to figure out his life. Suffering flashbacks, he decides to cure himself by going back to Afghanistan. He embeds to the site of his most extreme trauma for MORE! And a few more embeds after that.  In the beginning of Blindsided By the Taliban, Gentile quotes  a friend who said "my greatest achievement is getting shot in the face." But he lived to do mind boggling work, looking through a sure and steady lens. 

Recommended for anyone who wants to know about the daily grind of war in Afghanistan and what it means to be a journalist embedded in the front lines. An outrageously honest, surreal and darkly funny memoir.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Prince of Orange County by Kareem Tayyar a YA for basketball lovers of any age

There are books that confound their genre and The Prince of Orange County (Pelekinesis) is not a formulaic  "coming of age" story but one that redefines the idea of what that means. From "Catcher in the Rye" you get  the bittersweet end of childhood fantasy lost in the torturous crucible of adolescence, with "Huck Finn" you do have a similar awakening to adventure and life, and you hope the hero will come to terms with the adult world. In The Prince of Orange County, the hero, at age thirteen, is already living a dream that just may happen.

Thomas Kabiri's "got game," meaning BASKETBALL, and is already playing with the big boys at his local playground court in southern California in 1986.  He can steal that ball and shoot and sling the "BS" with the other mavens in the local park. But it's not idle talk that his precocious skills might land him in the big-time--if he plays his cards right and grows to be more than 5'2". His moves have won games and earned the respect of his elder court buddies.

They are an odd assortment, from Bianchi, a guy never at a loss for words and girls, to Mississippi Rod with his natural glide and secret history of misfortune. Bianchi protects Thomas when he's dealing with players twice his size but no one censors talk about sex and drugs and, most of all, rock'n'roll. Thomas has come alive to music, whether it's his mom's Joni Mitchell or his own beloved Prince. He wants to hear more, and now he's got a whole summer!

Thomas the part-time player is about to go full-time. He's got his early morning paper route and has to be home at 6 for dinner with his eagle-eyed mother, otherwise hoops and adventure can fill his days. He tries not to think about his dad, who had to leave for Iran. Thomas' world also contains Mr. Roth, a legendary coach who gives tips with special sandwiches at his deli and Earl, a former star player from the East he meets on his paper route. Earl's from the big world of major teams. The fact he sees potential in Thomas as a player and a person is transformative.  When Earl takes him  to Tower Records, Thomas is bowled over by the history of all music, there for his selection.

Earl's reason for being there becomes a secret mission for Thomas, which takes him on a forbidden trip to Los Angeles, where he experiences the viccitudes of first love with a runaway (unlike himself) on her own quest. As Thomas tracks down a missing link from Earl's past, his world broadens to the basketball courts of L.A. and then beyond basketball. He learns about adult relationships, the emotional work and basic kindness crucial in friendships and romantce. He also experiences a sense of mortality. A complex world that awaits him--if only he were sixteen!

As Thomas' summer of adventures draws to a close, he's now thinking of basketball as an entry, a portal, to all the complexity that makes a life--flow on and off the courts.  Though this book is set in the 1980s, it's timeless funny and true. I completely enjoyed Kareem's journey in Orange County. Recommended for YA and adults, who can remember a certain summer when the world of adventure spread out before them.

Author Kareem Tayyar is a poet and novelist, as well as a Professor of English in Huntington Beach, California. He is a recipient of a 2019 Wurlitzer Fellowship for Poetry. This book is distributed by SPD (Small Press Distributors)


Monday, November 26, 2018

RESCUING SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE represents yrs as a military lawyer in prosecution & defense

This book, which represents years of research and experience serving as a military lawyer in both prosecution and defense....

This book, which represents years of research and experience serving as a military lawyer in both prosecution and defense, is an important reference for a variety of readers, including: law enforcement and first responders, corrections professionals, mental health providers, lawyers, judges, and anyone who desires to understand the challenges faced by military veterans in conflict with the law.
Seamone provides expert information to assess individual veteran offenders who may have identical records, but very, very different personal experiences related to their service. Whether a given veteran is still in the military, left only days ago, or has been separated for decades, this book considers various factors that will promote veterans’ recovery and aid in their readjustment to civilian society.
While some have criticized veteran-specific programming, Seamone clarifies the major differences between former military members and nonmili- tary offenders who may have their own pressing mental health needs.
First, having gone through basic training, which totally transforms a recruit from a civilian into a warrior, the veteran’s military experience cements very dif- ferent cultural values and assumptions that will stay with veterans for their lifetimes. Justice involvement may result from the conflict between these military values and civilian society’s divergent expectations and cultural norms.
Seamone provides a roadmap demonstrating how justice involvement offers unmatched opportunities for veterans to evaluate the manner in which deeply-held beliefs have contributed to or shaped behavior. Second, the vast majority of justice-involved veterans (roughly 80%) will have eligibility for benefits administered by the Veterans Administration even though many may have never used such benefits. Connecting veterans to benefits they right- fully earned, and helping veterans obtain upgrades of their discharge char- acterizations if they were separated less-than-honorably, can raise the quality of a veteran’s life through housing and healthcare while reducing recidi- vism.
I will turn to this volume as a ready resource for the practical knowledge it imparts and salute Major Seamone for mightily enriching the limited scholarship in this area. The book delivers on its objective to make the jus- tice system smarter along all points of the spectrum of justice Involvement from arrest to reentry. While we may never reach every veteran entangled in the criminal justice system, the guidance in this volume will amplify current attempts to finally end veterans’ personal wars that rage on after their return to the community.
Honorable Robert T. Russell, Jr.
Presiding Judge, Erie CountyVeterans Treatment Court

help elected officials, law enforcement, the legal system, and veterans’ advocates to develop relevant programs that do far more than simply warehouse some troublesome individuals. (From Preface)

Eventually, more than 90 percent of individuals, including incarcerated veterans, leave prison. However, if they do not have programs that are capable of meeting their needs while they are incarcerated, these returning convicts risk being recidivists and can cost their jurisdictions far more than what effective programming would have cost. Thus, this book provides ideas that public administrators and other leaders can use to strength- en the fabric of our society—often at a surprisingly low cost.
The approach in this book spans the post-World War I period to the pre- sent to show programs that promote successful readjustment from military service and treatment of combat and operational stress injuries during confine- ment. To strike a proper balance, the author also considers responses to the leading objections about veteran-specific interventions. At its core, this publication seeks to eliminate the guesswork from the formulation of responses to a special population. The aim is to identify responses that are verifiable and can be replicated by others.
One of the major challenges facing correctional institutions has been identification of inmates who are veterans. Because many veterans conceal their identities for fear of losing benefits or shame at the fact of arrest, the inability to quantify this group with any degree of certainty has traditionally limited options for addressing the problem of incarcerated veterans. Requests for military records could take months to obtain, if they were even available. Correctional administrators had to contend with the possibility that “fakers” would attempt to gain benefits if they offered programs without the capability of verifying veteran status.
In 1990, during congressional hearings on the readjustment and mental health needs of incarcerated veterans, J. Michael Quinlan, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, emphasized the need for a system to conduct computer matching of inmates with databases at the Department of Veterans Affairs The hearings underscored the fact that it was difficult to identify veterans and their needs for veteran-specific services be- cause of the lack of methods to confirm the veteran status of inmates.
After decades of concern and confusion, as a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Veterans Administration) intensified outreach efforts, on April 25, 2012, personnel at the Homeless Program Office developed a com- puterized system to quickly scan their own systems for confirmation of vet- eran status. The program, called the Veterans Reentry Search Service requires only a Social Security number to access basic information about vet- erans’ military records. To protect the information, prison administrators ob- tain basic confirmation of veteran status while Veterans Administration per- sonnel simultaneously receive a more detailed output including the charac- ter of the veteran’s discharge and other facts about the nature of an inmate’s military service and experiences.
The Veterans Administration fielded the VRSS in the state correctional systems of California, Iowa, and Maryland to determine how accurately the system could account for veterans within the institutions. Surprisingly, while California prisons had estimated their veteran population at 2.7 percent based on inmate self-identification, the results of the VRSS computer matching revealed more than double the amount—roughly 7.9 percent (J. McGuire, personal communication, December 30, 2013). In California’s example, the computerized search identified more than 5,000 previously not accounted for veteran inmates.
In the Middlesex County House of Correction, use of VRSS revealed more than 50 incarcerated veterans when most thought only a handful existed. Identification of this substantial population led the sheriff to develop a support group, then a separate Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV) dorm to respond to these inmates’ service-relat- ed needs. The VRSS program is now available in several correctional systems, and VA specialists have encouraged correc- tional professionals to use the system to provide services that will assist vet- erans in their readjustment to society.
While the VRSS program offers a relatively new capability for jails and prisons to identify veteran inmates, it poses a more daunting question—what do to with them once identified! Based on research on the topics of military service, combat, and criminal behavior, inevitably some portion of veterans in the offender population—perhaps quite small but still very significant— have dire needs to complete the process of readjusting to society after dis- charge from the military. Others—in another distinct subpopulation—have legitimate needs for treatment to address lingering operational stress injuries such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
For these combat-traumatized veterans, especially, there is a lingering question of how suitable correctional facilities are to address their specific needs. While the VRSS program offers new ability to confirm inmates’ vet eran status, it does not provide any means for the Veterans Administration to overcome 38 C.F.R. § 17.38, a regulatory ban against offering any in- or outpatient medical treatment services to an inmate (Schaffer, 2016). Undoubtedly, with the use of the VRSS program, there will be new pressure on correctional professionals to address the population of “forgotten warriors” who occupy their cells and dorms, but there is little Veterans Administration corresponding assistance in addressing these inmates’ needs during the period of incarceration, aside from transitional planning for the period of reentry.
Excerpt from Preface by Evan Seamone


1st comprehensive sourcebook of problems AND solutions that have followed many Veterans’ transitions from warriors to civilians in Criminal Justice-- from World War I to the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Major Seamone is a unique expert with blended lived experience, practice experience, and research knowledge. His book showcases his vast experience and knowledge about veterans involved in the criminal justice system. Through in-depth case examples, empirical data, and real-life stories, the book provides a rare important informational guide on how we can better serve our nation's veterans."

-Jack Tsai, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist, Department of Veterans Affairs
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University

"Drawn from the wealth of Evan Seamone's professional endeavors in combination with his personal military experience this exploration and integration of topical research and commentary regarding justice involved veterans is remarkable. Through this Evan provides a practical guide to services, along with an understanding of policy and program issues in need of further consideration. He most certainly accomplishes his stated goal to "remove the veil of ignorance" (regarding these matters).

--Joel Rosenthal, Ph.D., Retired National Training Director, VA Veterans Justice Programs

When Evan R. Seamone deployed as an Army lawyer in Iraq (2005-6), he became concerned about veterans in the criminal justice system after seeing many young soldiers facing harsh penalties because they suffered mental health symptoms after dedicated service. Now working with Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, Seamone helps obtain benefits for veterans who have been entangled in the military and civilian legal systems.  He wrote RESCUING SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE: A Full Spectrum Approach to Veterans in The Criminal Justice System from Arrest to Reentry (Charles C. Thomas Publishers-Dec 5th) to acknowledge historical lessons vital for mental health professionals, law enforcement, corrections, the courts, and anyone seeking to help veterans with a range of solutions, especially for those in conflict with the law.

The book details common pathways to criminal offending by military veterans, which may relate more to training and conditioning than combat trauma.  One major contributor is the impact of the military’s warrior indoctrination process. Basic training deliberately changes one’s values and perceptions in major ways that cannot be reversed. There is also the military’s comprehensive programs that provide soldiers with healthcare, housing expenses, and other living costs. While they free their focus, young soldiers can also be deprived of the opportunity to learn crucial skills, such as budgeting, needed to succeed in civilian life.  

Many young veterans are also impacted for generations to come by the modern day “scarlet letter” of the less-than-honorable discharge, characterizations that military members can receive for acts of misconduct. Often these common offenses, that result in “bad paper”, have no parallel in the civilian world. Seamone describes how a 19-year-old can be deemed ineligible for medical care, though he suffers from horrible wounds of war, and that his less-than-honorable discharge can place his family at risk because of continual exposure to his untreated symptoms. 

The book draws an important distinction between veterans who face a heightened risk of engaging in violent behavior and criminal involvement, and societal myths that portray significant populations of veterans as diseased and prone to committing crimes. Contrary to the media-supported Whacko-and Violent-Veteran models, the majority of veterans do not have mental health disorders. Even among those who do, the vast majority do not commit violent or other criminal offenses. The challenge is to address the small but still significant population of veterans who face these overlapping difficulties.

RESCUING SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE also relates solutions that are beneficial to all involved. When VA programs are allowed in prisons or jails, law enforcement benefits—even those who may not be veterans themselves. When police officers in Chicago, some of whom were veterans, learned the symptoms of PTSD, they were able to de-escalate both incidents in their own lives and encounters with veterans in the community. In incarcerated settings, veterans bring attributes, such as shouldering responsibility, following rules, loyalty to their group first, and pride in a mission, that make targeted programming more effective and safer. When incarcerated veterans are linked with community mentors, both the veterans and the community benefit. 

The tremendous effect of this partnership was recognized after World War I, when the American Legion teamed with the Veterans Bureau to identify incarcerated veterans throughout the nation and assist in providing treatment instead of punishment. The theme continued during World War II when the Indiana State Farm at Greencastle developed a program that matched incarcerated veterans with mentors in the nearby community. And Veterans Treatment Courts, which  develop individualized treatment plans to assist veterans in the community, have continued this best practice of linking participants with mentors.

Seamone explains the how the tacit agreement between the military and the public sector (the military fights war and civilian society assumes the burden of reintegration) has broken down..  Too often, the military’s ambivalence to the future treatment needs of young offenders creates major problems in society for generations.Yet there are many ways the military could aid the veteran before he leaves the base, such as suspending a “bad paper” discharge so benefits are intact and allowing probation for military crimes. Civilian organizations also need to be involved in the active duty stage. Because they have specialized expertise in responding to veterans in the criminal justice system, a landslide of negative consequences can be prevented.

RESCUING SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE offers a complete range of solutions for the treatment of veterans who are caught in the criminal justice system. It details both the different pathways to criminal offenses by veterans and specific solutions. It also explains how veterans involved in criminal justice may be entitled to benefits they have never received. These resources and tools can transform lives. The unique mission and duty of this book is to integrate those who have served and given all to our nation. Though physically back home, too many veterans are still fighting their wars.

This is an essential book for anyone who works with or for Veterans and civilians, who like me, are largely ignorant about the experience of Veterans. Their transition to civilian life is important to all of us, and communities can find ways to give back to those who gave so much.  
ISBN 978-0-398-09249-8
54.95 paper and ebook
December 5, 2018


FB: Rescuing Soldiers of Misfortune


Renewed Concern for Veteran Offenders
All members of the uniformed services are trained to be warriors first,
even if they have duties that may be comparable to the civilian sector
For example, military lawyers, doctors, dentists, and psychiatrists,
who are burdened with various professional duties, must still have
familiarity with basic combat skills. Proficiency in soldier tasks and physical
conditioning are nonnegotiable because these skilled personnel all wear the
same uniform as an infantryman or woman when deployed, and enemy
forces do not discriminate by occupational specialty in their attacks.

For years, commentators have seized on this distinction and tried to de -
monstrate a link between this basic duty description of waging war and criminal
offending in society. The connection might seem appealing on its face
because no other profession has a similar duty, not even those law enforcement
professionals who are authorized to use force in certain limited situations.
In other words, “[t]he only profession that explicitly trains its employees
to harm, disable, and destroy another human being is the profession of the
warrior—the soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine” (Moore et al., 2009, p. 307).

Researchers have historically attempted to explain connections to criminal
offending either with the “Violent Veteran” model, which attributes violent
crime to military service in general, or the “whacko-vet” myth, which attributes
violent crime to combat-traumatized service members. These models
are important to explore because, while neither one is valid, politicians, the
media, and veterans’ advocacy groups have interjected these models into the
discourse on programs for criminally involved veteran offenders.

There have been upticks in crime following most wars, in
most countries, which has led many to question whether returning veterans
are responsible for these results. Vietnam was the most evident one, with the
homicide rate rising from 4.5 per 100,000 in 1963 to 9.3 per 100,000 in 1973
(Archer & Gartner, 1984, p. 68). Accounting for scholars’ interest throughout
the centuries, historians Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner offered up the
theoretical “Violent Veteran” model as one of many possible explanations.

This model states that “the experience of war resocializes soldiers to be more ac -
cepting of violence and more proficient at it” Over the years, the media’s interest in veteran offending has provided support for the theory by raising the public consciousness of veteran offenders. In the 1920s, following World War I, newspapers frequently portrayed
veterans as a criminal class, with headlines such as “Ex-Soldier Kills Wife
and Self,” “Vet Loots Till,” “Homestead Hotel Man Slain; War Veteran
Blamed After Firing Shots into own Body”.

illustrator Bill Mauldin created a comic illustration to criticize the manner in
which the media presented a misleading picture of veteran criminality through
overreporting. The scene depicted a husband and wife sitting on the living
room couch reading a newspaper appropriately titled The Daily Dirt. Large
headlines indicated, “Veteran Kicks Aunt,” “Combat Veteran Argues with
Cop,” and “Jealous Vet Sees Judge.” The wife notes with interest, “There’s a
small item on page 17 about a triple ax murder. No veterans involved”
(Mauldin, 1947).

In his book, Back Home, Mauldin observed how “CRAZED VET RUN
AMOK” headlines “gave added impetus to the rumor that always appeared
in every country after war—that the returning soldiers are trained in killing
and assault and are potential menaces to society” (1947, p. 55). His criticisms
echo concerns over the manner in which the media portrayed Vietnam veterans
as ticking “time bombs” waiting to explode in violence at the slightest
provocation (Burkett & Whitley, 1998, p.150). Some have argued that similar
sensationalism exists in coverage of homicides committed by Iraq and
Afghanistan war veterans (Holbrook & Anderson, 2011) or exaggerations of
the number of “unstable” violent veterans returning from those wars (Moore
et al., 2009, p. 312).

Despite anecdotal support for the violent veteran theory, Archer and
Gartner’s very careful research concluded that it was completely insufficient,
and that large-scale crime waves following most wars are more likely attributable
to poor economic conditions and other social forces, rather than the
behaviors of ex-service members. Contrary to the violent veteran model, re -
search has shown that military service actually reduces overall rates of crime,
the most likely to commit violent offenses, the military, by recruiting from
the same at-risk population, is credited with providing a more constructive
outlet. Professor Ivan Y. Sun and his colleagues conclude that military service
has a distinctive crime-prevention role, in which the Armed Forces minimize
social “strain by providing many young individuals an opportunity to
achieve self-sufficiency and other social values and goals, which in turn make
crime involvement or the seeking of illegitimate means unattractive”

Because the violent veteran model focuses on military service in general,
a permutation of it suggests that combat is the crucial factor. In other words,
because even the strongest soldier will reach a breaking point in sustained
combat operations (Gabriel, 1987, p. 4; Blum, 2017), exposure to combat
conditions transforms the veterans and make them more likely to offend
once back in civilian society. Research has similarly debunked this permutation
of the violent veteran model. Even though combat veterans frequently
experience significant and life-altering negative experiences, the vast “ma -
jority of warriors return from the battlefield, resume normal lives, adjust, and
often succeed better than their non-serving peers and are never unusually
violent” (Moore et al., 2009, p. 314).

2. The Whacko-Vet Myth
Commentators have offered the whacko-vet myth as an explanation for
criminal offending in the community, attributing violent crimes to war-traumatized
veterans whose training in the art of war makes them a particularly
high risk to the community upon the activation of stress triggers. In the context
of interpersonal violence, the myth claims “that having been in combat
turns a man into a woman or child beater” (Matsakis, 2007, p. 235). This
belief may stem from an incident in 1949, when a World War II veteran with
sniper training reportedly “snapped” and went on a shooting spree with a
souvenir pistol killing twelve victims in Camden, New Jersey (Archer &
Gartner, 1984, p. 75).

Based on fears like these in the aftermath of World War II, some influential
New York socialites argued for special “identification patches” to designate
veterans in public and pushed for their isolation at “reorientation
camps” where they could be deprogrammed for the safety of the community
(Bourke, 1999, p. 352). As in the case of the “violent veteran” model,
media portrayals also fueled the myth, especially fictional stories such as
World War II era soap operas that depicted veterans as “perhaps the greatest
threat domestically” because many “returned from the war stripped of all
social restraints” (Shuker-Haines, 1995, p. 157). Later, following Vietnam, a
commentator noted the “Kojack Syndrome” in which television plots routinely
concluded, “If there is a bizarre crime, check out all the recently discharged
Vietnam veterans” (Camacho, 1980, p. 270). He examined the TV
Guide listings and cited the following entry from 1975 as a representative
example of recurring weekly programming: “A psychotic Vietnam veteran is
terrorizing hostages in a remote island hotel” (Camacho, 1980, p. 270).
The major problem with any stereotypes is that they usually hold some
small element of truth, even though the ultimate assertion is a baseless generalization.

The whacko-vet myth is such a stereotype. The partial truth is
that some portion of veterans who return from combat are forever transformed
by the experience, and, among them, some will experience symptoms
that contribute to or cause them to behave in a manner that is both
symptomatic of their mental condition and criminal (Seamone et al., 2014;
Seamone et al., 2018a). Inevitably, some combat veterans will engage in such
extreme violence as a result of their illness that they will be sentenced to
death for capital crimes (Wortzel & Arciniegas, 2010).

In fact, for some combat-traumatized veterans, criminal offending will
necessarily be a form of readjustment to civilian society (Brown, 2010; Sea -
mone, 2011; Seamone, 2013a). As Veterans Administration clinicians Bruce
Pentland and James Dwyer observed early on, some “Viet Nam veterans
come home via criminal behavior and incarceration” (1985, p. 405). The
problem with the whacko-vet myth is the exaggeration in which all is substituted
for some. Persons with mental illnesses—across the board—are unfairly
stigmatized as being more dangerous and violent simply because of their
mental condition.

Ultimately, mental illness, alone, does not increase the risk of violence
(Elbogen & Johnson, 2009). Simply having PTSD or another combat-related
condition does not make a veteran more likely to be violent. Nor does combat
experience predispose veterans to become more physically abusive to
their spouse and/or children. Compared to the population, veterans are less
likely to commit criminal offenses than members of the civilian community.
Veterans in prisons and jails are not exclusively combat veterans. Con sid -
ering the estimates of significant numbers of Vietnam veterans and Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans who suffer from PTSD, it remains the case that these
veterans, even with mental illness, are not only largely capable of, but largely
successful at, regulating their behavioral impulses.

The Problem of Unwarranted
Assumptions and Associational Leaps
The whacko-vet myth suffers from the inability to distinguish risk factors
from actual mental states: “It is overly simplistic to say that a veteran with
PTSD is at risk for violence despite PTSD being a validated risk factor”
(Elbogen et al., 2010, p. 601). Combat veterans, especially those who have
killed in combat (Maguen et al., 2012) or experienced events that challenged
their deeply-held moral beliefs (Litz et al., 2009), are at greater risk of developing
PTSD and combat and operational stress injuries that could potentially
result in violent symptoms. However, this hardly explains all combat
experiences. The jump from combat trauma to violent or criminal acts skips
several steps that could be affected by a wide range of variables.

Criminologists and psychologists suggest at least five major considerations
that severely limit the association:
1. Personal Thresholds. Not all individuals will develop the same mental
con ditions based on similar traumatic combat experiences. If individuals
have experienced prior trauma or other adversity, they might be more vulnerable
to the types of symptoms that commonly result in violence (Matsakis,
2007). However, a number of protective factors mitigate the risk, such as
one’s level of social support.

2. Trauma Types. Some types of combat experiences are more likely to re -
sult in violent behaviors than others. For example, individuals whose PTSD
resulted from the loss of someone close to them in combat are less likely to
engage in aggressive behaviors. Contrarily, “specific combat-related variables,
such as atrocities exposure . . . and perceived threat during war service
. . . predict violence, rather than general combat exposure itself”
(Elbogen et al., 2010, p. 598). Thus, the nature of combat trauma is often
context-specific and cannot be generalized to an entire population.

3. Symptoms of Anger Do Not Automatically Equate to Symptoms of Aggression.
PTSD is a mental condition with symptoms that often result in anger. Sim -
ilarly, the veteran will often experience anger in response to other combat
and operational stress injuries related to guilt and shame because the state
of rage helps to provide a temporary sense of control. Importantly, anger
does not automatically lead to aggression, which is a behavior rather than a
feeling: “It is possible to be angry without becoming verbally or physically
violent” (Matsakis, 2007, p. 191).

4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Other Mental Health Conditions Are Often
Temporary. Some say that individuals with combat trauma are forever transformed
by their experiences. This may lead to adjustment difficulties where
they will need to learn how to adjust their experience of symptoms like a
dial, rather than an off-switch (Hoge, 2010). But, it is misleading to believe
that all invisible injuries from combat are permanent. Recovery from PTSD
is possible. In many cases, the condition will resolve over time, even without
treatment from a clinician. Effective evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive-
behavioral therapies and exposure therapies can assist the great major
ity of veterans in their recovery even when conditions persist. Generally,
complete remission occurs in approximately 30 to 50 percent of the in stances
of PTSD (Seamone, 2012, p. 322). Granted PTSD can become chronic in
another 10 percent who will “never recover” (Seamone, 2012, p. 322). How -
ever, symptoms should never be assumed consistent and permanent in the
entire population of combat-traumatized veterans. The myth of the whackovet
entirely ignores the potential for recovery.

5. Violence Often Results from the Combination of PTSD Symptoms with Other
Psychosocial Factors. In many cases, combat trauma alone is not responsible
for violence, but rather becomes amplified by conditions such as unemployment
and homelessness. Without these different aggravating factors, the
veteran might not offend, even in the face of significant symptoms (Olusay -
naya, 2012, p. 692).

While the five reasons above describe severe limitations to the whackovet
myth, there are additional ones. Ultimately, each offender’s behavior necessarily
depends on the individual’s specific combat experiences and personal
history, making it difficult to draw connections between combat trauma
and offending. In a study, international researchers highlighted three reasons
why there is not yet a reliable model of the relationship, including the
failure of corrections systems to account for veteran status and inconstancies
in application of diagnostic criteria (Taylor, Parkes, Haw, & Jepson, 2012).
Other researchers have rejected the possibility of research links between
PTSD and violence committed by veterans based on the “complex number
of pathways to violence” (Grieger, Benedek, & Ursano, 2011, p. 208). The
section below describes how, in debunking the violent veteran and whackovet
myths, other commentators have spawned new myths, on the opposite
end of the spectrum.

Mythology Among Those Defending Veterans’ Honor
The sections above highlight the weaknesses of common attempts to connect
criminal offending to veteran status or combat trauma. Although the
media has portrayed these connections and anecdotal cases might lend support,
we cannot conclude that serving in the military or experiencing combat
trauma necessarily makes a given veteran more likely to commit a criminal
or violent act. The violent veteran and whacko-vet theories are myths as
applied to veterans at large. These popular theories, however, have contributed
to a larger fable that is far more devastating than unfair prejudice
and an assault on the pride of the veteran who has peacefully adjusted following
service: Based on the fact that veteran status and combat trauma do
not automatically lead to offending, other commentatnumber of veteran offenders is too small to matter on a grand scale and that those veterans who do offend engage in criminal behavior based on factors unrelated to the military.

The Myth of Insignificance
According to researcher Myra MacPherson, a major reason explaining
a lack of interest in incarcerated veterans is a commonly held position that
incarcerated veterans constitute so “miniscule” and “insignificant” a population
that they do not matter (1992, pp. 582–583). This theory contends, it is
an insult to the vast majority of law-abiding veterans to focus attention on
the smaller population. This theory distorts the other myths by suggesting
that any shift in focus to veteran offenders unfairly promotes the myth of the
whacko- or violent vet and further confirms the exaggerated media portrayals
that pervade society (McCormick-Goodhart, 2013). This was a way in which
conservative veterans from the “greatest generation” and prior wars were
able to distance themselves from Vietnam veterans, whom they believed would
tarnish their reputations through associations as veterans (MacPherson,

The position permeates literature on veteran offenders even today,
with authors adopting an apologetic stance when discussing these issues—if
they dare. As Clive Emsley explains, “there can be hostility to anyone who
addresses criminal offenses by service personnel, even in a serious academic
fashion” (2013, p. 6). He offers the following simple reason.
In an environment of concern over media portrayals of Iraq and Afghanistan
War veterans, some may inevitably criticize any concern over veteran criminality
as an overexaggeration.

The “Bad Apple” Myth
Separate from the idea that attention would unfairly magnify a small population
of offenders, another reason some may be ambivalent to the plight
of the incarcerated veteran is the notion that the offender was already prone
to crime prior to entry into the military. There is certainly evidence that a
number of recruits engaged in criminal behavior prior to entering the mili-ors may assume that the tary. Some came to the military under a program of moral waivers, which
relaxed eligibility standards prior to the economic crisis when recruiters had
trouble meeting their benchmarks (Alvarez, 2007).

Other studies reveal recruits who admitted that they had engaged in
attempted or completed rape or sexual assault prior to their entry into the
service. One revealed that 12 percent of Navy recruits in a sample admitted
to committing a completed rape, while 3 percent admitted to perpetrating
an attempted rape (Stander, Merrill, & Thomsen, 2008, p. 9). In other in -
stances, members of gangs and child predators may purposely join the military
for easier access to money or victims. In fact, very recently, researchers
have developed actuarial models to predict which recruits are at risk of committing
“non-familial major physical violent crime perpetration” (Rosellini et
al., 2016), and “sexual assault perpetration” (Rosellini et al., 2017). These
predictions have been based upon “administrative data,” such as prior
behavioral problems (Rosellini et al., 2016, p. 662).

While elevated risk suggests the need for preventive measures, none of
these facts support the generalization that all veteran offending is attributable
to factors unrelated to the military. Instead, there are varied reports of military
veterans entering the criminal justice system as first-time offenders following
their discharge or return from a deployment. Additionally, statistics
suggest that military members are more likely to be first-time offenders than
the general population (Bronson et al., 2015; Noonan & Mumola, 2007).

In 1975, the president of a court-martial panel shared this view, which
explained the military jury’s own collective opinion of how the military can
uniquely contribute to mental conditions that result in criminal offending.
After commenting on the convicted airman’s absence of a prior record and
clean upbringing, the major explained: “I felt strongly, and still do, that the
military environment in South East Asia brought about Airman McBride’s
change of attitude, and that the Air Force was therefore at least partially ob -
ligated to provide him medical or psychiatric treatment” (United States v.
McBride, 1975, p. 134, app. A). These comments represent the experiences
of a great many justice-involved veterans.

Chapter 4, in fact, describes the military’s own recognition of how combat
stress can directly result in mental health disorders and offenses falling
under the umbrella of “misconduct stress behaviors.” Perhaps former Chair -
man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, put it best in a letter
to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs: “Many of our returning veterans and
service members experience life-changing events, some of which may cause
them to react in adverse ways and get in trouble with the law” (Mullen, 2011,
p. 1).

 Accordingly, while the barrel of offenders may include a number
of bad apples, these spoils hardly account for all violent offenders.
In recognizing both extremes of the whacko- and violent vet myths on
the one hand, and the insignificant and bad-apple vet myths on the other, it
is vital to remember that legitimate connections between combat trauma
and offending inevitably do exist among some portion of veterans, even if
that subset is much smaller than the entire veteran population. Some combat-
traumatized veterans will be at greater risk of offending based on particular
experiences. To entirely ignore factors that would help distinguish
between myth and realty in this most important area is not only illogical, but
dangerous for the veterans who are truly at greatest risk of reoffending without
intervention. Not only are they at risk, but so are their families and communities.

The following chapter thus illustrates the manner in which military
service and combat influences that smaller subset of veterans for whom there
is a connection to their criminal offending.