Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Packing boxes for soldiers

I stumbled across this great list of items to send to soldiers overseas. Having been there myself I have to give a seal of approval to the list that was constructed here…I added a note or two for extra ideas. I can also tell you that it is a big deal for a soldier to get a package from folks back home…reminds them that someone is remembering them and took the time to personally thank them by taking the time to mail. I will tell you it beats any verbal expression of support because it is tangible and genuine. So whether you’re a rookie at putting together care packages or trying to create your first one, this list has some great suggestions for the soldier you care for.
What to include in a care package
- Jelly beans
- Rice Krispie treats
- Altoids/mints
- Beef jerky (can be turkey, etc…)
- Snack mixes (any kind of canned nuts, raisons, etc)
- Sunflower seeds, pistachios
- Chewing gum
- Candy ( non melting – so no chocolate…perhaps licorice, mike and Ike, etc)
- Little Debbie’s or other brand snacks
-Coffee and creamer/sugar…. Small Equal tablets are great too.
- Gatorade (My experience was this was very available in dining facilities so may not be needed)
-Jaw breakers
-Cookies in individual packages
- Pasta and sauce
-Canned food items
- Spices, salt, pepper (small bottles of unique hot sauces are treasured)
-Smoked oysters and sardines
-Squeeze butter (this item surprised me – again usually available via dining facilities)
-Pringles chips
-Individual items – cheap stuff that would appeal to young kids that a typical 20 year old would laugh at here, will be the talk of buddies over there… the more unusual and stupid the better – imagine a group of soldiers playing with little parachutist plastic soldiers if you will.
-Microwave popcorn
-Ramen noodles
-Macaroni & cheese
-Olives, pickles, peppers (careful that plastic containers are used)
-Cereal bars/granola bars
-Hot cocoa mix
-Soup mix
-Koozies to keep water bottles and cans cool

Health/Personal Hygiene
-Body powder
-Foot powder
-Icy/hot patches
-Air activated heat wraps for muscle pain
-Foot massager
-Hand warmers
-Stress relief squeeze balls
-Toothbrushes & toothpaste
-Sewing kit
-Hand & face wipes
-Disposable shower towels

-Disposable camera
-Ink pens
-Word Puzzle books
- Poker game
-Playing cards
- Dice
- Music CD’s
-Poker chips
-Board games
-Paperback books (read them and forward)
- DVD’s
- Newspapers – (weeklies, sports, etc… even a few pages of Wall Street Journal will get read by soldiers)
- Magazines (a great idea is take last month of your subscription magazines and put them in the package after you read them …especially gender oriented to your soldier)
- posters, stuff from gag store, catalogs from gender oriented stores with gift cards (check to see if they will mail to APO, many will)
- Cigars, chewing tobacco, lighters
- Some locations/units have lots of interaction with kids – my group always was looking for pencils, erasers, basic simple school supplies and hard candy to foster a friendship. True story – I gave some kids as a remote site a bunch of beanie babies sent to me (note picture) and they led my group to a cache of hand grenades laying on the ground.

Other Useful Items
-AA batteries
-D batteries
-Shoe laces for gym shoes and boots
-Tan or Brown t-shirts
-Boot socks
-Long-distance phone cards
-Air fresheners
-Canned air
-Inflatable seat cushions
-Microwaveable plates, bowls, paper plates
-Inflatable pillow
-Ziploc bags

Getting a box that is personalized or silly is great… if you have the time, personalize the box for your solider. Cut out clippings from magazines, paint a design or, if you have kids, have them decorate the box with crayons and markers. Not only will this make the receipient smile, it will make their box easier to spot in a sea of brown boxes!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Guns or butter budgeting for the military

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s Todd Harrison has a new paper out warning that DOD is fast approaching a difficult choice: either fund the people or the weapons they operate, it will soon reach the point where it can’t do both.

Read more:

This article lays out what is the perennial “guns versus butter” debate. The butter includes pay and benefit increases that have what economists call “stickiness”: they are almost impossible to rollback. The increase in pay and benefits that congress allots DOD each year will crowd out investment in research and new weapons.

The issue with the costs that are being felt by the military are exacerbated by the myriad of deployments to non-hostile locations doing the work of other agencies and that which is not born by the United Nations. At the moment we have costly military contingents in Japan, Korea (ok, still not quite settled), Germany, Italy, South America, Haiti, Cuba, and other places. We also still use soldiers to recruit, liaison with congress, at embassies throughout the world, and train at college campuses. The mission workload at these non-critical locations drains manpower and resources from the focal point of our effort. I would suggest that a real serious adjustment of the missions and tasks which are not critical to the effort should be pared down. Congress and the executive branch have become too accustomed to asking the military to do State Department, USAID, UN, contract security, personnel acquisition, humanitarian, disaster relief and other tasks without regard to the costs.

That is not to say that some costly DoD items (healthcare at the top of the list) could not be considered for adjustment. I could see a plan to increase co-pays for senior Officers, Senior Enlisted members reflecting the normal healthcare costs for most Americans. The offset for the increases gradually imposed on service members and with sufficient alternatives. Military healthcare is far better and less costly to military retirees than equivalent civilian healthcare plans. I base this on my own observations as I pay for a civilian healthcare plan because as a grey area reserve Retiree I’m not eligible for military healthcare. Trust me, the Tricare plan costs are very reasonable (absolutely cheap!) and some more costs could be shouldered by those that use it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

5 years ago today

It was 5 years ago that we loaded up our armored vehicles and headed to Baqubah, Iraq. A warm spring day in Iraq and we had the task of going to look at several police stations, District police facilities and a couple potential military facilities. The day was going to be a long one – Easter Weekend in Iraq. We had lived a charmed life so far in the deployment up to that point. On the ground since September 2004 and few exciting incidents other than the daily impersonal bombings, mortar and rocket attacks in the IZ.

That all changed it seems the day I earned the Combat Action Badge. Easter Sunday, 27 March 2005 – 5 years ago. It was that day after an curiously inauspicious day in Baqubah that on our return – someone detonated a large IED aimed at taking us out… suddenly it got to be personal and direct.

Never before that day did we feel like anything other than invincible and immune from attack… after all we had led a charmed life…laughing as we drove past IEDs, charging through the streets of Baghdad, Ramadi, Mahmudiah and other towns with the chip on invincibility on our shoulders. We could not be concerned with the danger as we were completing our often overwhelming job of emplacing Iraqi Military Facilities. Afterall, we started our tour using Nissan Patrol SUVs with the windows down, cruising Route Irish when it was really dangerous…now we were armored. We were American Soldiers with all the answers and swagger we could muster…. until that day someone took it personal.

That day was the first of several ever more direct actions for our members in MNSTC-I. We had 5 months left in country and it suddenly became serious in a manner that I marvel at even to this day.

Ours was not a unique story…many had a far more dangerous task, many had it far safer… we all served honorably from our unit that went to Iraq. What I’m sure of, based upon the experience, is that we also were all changed by the trip and events…. 5 years ago.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gay service in the Military

I was a soldier for 24 years in a variety of assignments. Over the course of my career I came in contact with lots of different military personnel, and I never identified any one by their sexual preference while in the line of duty.

We discuss the concept of allowing gay soldiers to serve “openly”. The word "openly" bothers some people. To my knowledge we've never allowed a heterosexual soldier to practice his/her sexuality "openly." Nor should we allow a gay soldier to practice his/her sexuality “openly”.

When soldiers are off duty, they are allowed to pursue their own lives and interest within reason. And I am a fervent believer that what they do behind closed doors is their business. I don’t see the need to consider such activities as if we will suddenly be faced with some “open” sexuality issue within the ranks. As I have said in previous posts, I really don’t care what religion, hobbies, activities, music, party affiliation, color of underwear, etc… a soldier has or enjoys… it’s a matter of professional competence that determines who shares my foxhole.

It’s time to stop letting the media and special interest groups making soldier service by gays an issue. I’d say welcome all physically and mentally qualified people into the armed forces. I don’t need to know nor do I require you to proclaim your sexual preference. Don’t ask, don’t tell – replace it with doesn’t matter.

Practice your soldier skills, do them well, and we’ll get along just fine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alcohol in the Warzone

In the Marine Times this week is an article by Rick Maze – he describes comments by Senator Jim Webb regarding the alcohol policy in the warzone. The policy – known as General Order Number 1 is a policy of no alcohol, pornography, etc… that has been in force for deployed soldiers everywhere since at least 1991. As noted in the article found here

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent who now chairs the Senate panel that oversees military personnel policy, seemed to endorse the idea of letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.

We know that our soldier are highly stressed. Jim has taken a shot at the military’s sacred cow of moral righteousness – embodied in the general order. As he said

One thing worth investigating, Webb said, is whether a ban on alcohol consumption in the war zones — which he said is primarily a nod to host-nation sensitivities — should be lifted.

Well I agree with Jim to consider lifting the ban, but I believe the ban on alcohol is more an outright effort of the Defense Departments senior leadership to restrict any basic freedom not meeting a highly refined puritanical ideal embodied by a few high ranking members.

Soldiers are men and women - a few drinks in off hours, away from host nation members would go a long way towards reducing the burden they carry

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guard and Reserve Retirement Conference

The National guard is hosting a conference for its retirement Services Offeicers (The Army Reserve does not have such a person - yet- To jumpstart the flow of information between the National Guard Bureau and the states on retirement services, the Soldier Family Support and Services branch will convene March 1-5 in Savannah, Ga.

Geared toward the full-time program managers and state retirement services officers. The focus of this conference is to distribute information via stats to guard soldiers, notify soldiers of changes in policy, as well as things to think about for the future.

This conference also deals with the Army-wide certifications required of all retirement services personnel.

As noted by the conference organizers there are individuals that work pieces [within the retirement process], but there is not a retirement branch for Reserve components. Considering the gap in retirement or separation from the guard and reserve and the eventual reciept of retirement pay may be 20 years or more that would seem counter intuitive to efficient processing.

The conference isn't only for Soldiers in the Army Guard. The Army Reserve will also participate.

The Army Reserve does not have the structure that the guard has at state level, in fact, the Army Reserve does not even have RSOs in the structure. This conference offers an opportunity to try to get that developed.

You can get an excellent primer on Guard and Reserve retirement from The Army G-1 who has published an Army National Guard information guide regarding non-regular retirement.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How is your pay, soldier?

From the Stars and Stripes – this news item on the cancellation of the Defense Military integrated personnel transaction system - a system to update soldier records and pay:

After spending $1 billion and 12 years of effort, Defense officials have pulled the plug on a hapless plan to bring the four military branches under a single payroll and personnel records system.

"This program has been a disaster," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month. He said he applauded the decision to kill what proponents said would be the largest, fully-integrated human resource system in the world.

Well – interesting in its implications to deploying Reserve and National Guard soldiers. Many of us suffer problems when we deploy – as noted :

More than time and money had been lost, however. Military personnel, particularly Guard and Reserve members, increasingly have been frustrated by pay and personnel record errors. The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves urged two years ago that a single, integrated pay and personnel system was needed "as soon as possible" to rectify inadequacies in fragile legacy systems.

More than 90 percent of Army Reserve and Guard soldiers activated to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq through 2003 reported significant pay errors. Aggressive actions were taken to lower that rate but without the benefit of what was needed — a modern payroll system that no longer treated active and reserve component members differently.

Can you believe that – up to 90 percent pay errors for guard and reserve soldiers… such a dedicated workforce that bears this for years while waiting for a solution…now we are starting all over. Having been at the pay problem window myself, I can tell you it makes it hard on guard and reserve soldiers, but they are not in the service for the money. Lets hope a simple and effective solution can be found soon. You can find the entire stars and stripes article here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Duke Deluca - formerly of MNSTC-I J7

Saw the General Officer appointments this last week and its with pleasure that I noted the Col Peter "Duke" Deluca (USACE) was promoted to General Officer. Duke was the chief of the MNSTC-I J7 shop in Iraq in 2004-2005. He was a highly respected officer and motivator for his organization and he was amoung those active component members that recieved the 98th Division USAR soldiers and made them excell in their duties.

I have respect for Duke and know he will do well in his assignment at the Corp of Engineers. (I had a two month assignment with them for Hurricane Katrina and can vouch for the organization) Duke - congratulations to you - well deserved.

You can see his bio here

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LTG Helmly on the 98th Division Deployment

Found an Article about the 98th Division’s deployment to Iraq. (This is the unit I deployed with in Sep 2004) This deployment was discussed as a pivotal and sea state change deployment for the Army Reserve by the USAR Commander at the time LTG James R. Helmly.

As a side note -I had the opportunity to work for General Helmly when he was the 78th Division Commander where I was the senior Civilian for the 1st Brigade at the time. He was a no nonsense commander that worked thru all obstacles. I recall staff meetings where he regularly dammed the bureaucracy and insisted on getting tasks done quickly.

Here is some of the Combat Studies Institutes interview with LTG Helmly as it related to our deployment:

When the 98th Division (Institutional Training) deployed to Iraq in 2004-2005, Major General James R. Helmly was the chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of United States Army Reserve Command. In this interview, focusing on the 98th’s deployment and conduct of its Iraqi Army training and advisory mission and related larger issues, Helmly relates how early on he saw a need to reconstitute the Iraqi forces, a chronic shortage of US Special Forces to train them, and thought to himself, “Why can’t we use our table of distribution and allowances organized institutional training divisions and training support divisions?” The biggest problem he encountered in developing this idea was actually resident in his own staff. “That is, they kept coming back with the schoolbook answer. So we had a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting one day and I slammed the door and said to them, ‘Goddamn it! Let me make it abundantly clear what we’re going to do….You could sort of see the eyes opening on these guys and they finally understood.” After the concept was briefed and accepted, Helmly states that another group of problems arose from “this bastardized system of request for forces (RFF). Instead of being given
a mission or a task with commander’s intent and then allowing the units to generate the capability,” he explained, “we went to a bastardized thing off the back of some sloppy envelope for an RFF that was frankly just very cumbersome. It really tied our hands in terms of the flexibility of putting together a task organized unit of the 98th.” As the deployment of the 98th to Iraq proceeded, its employment varied considerably from his original concept. According to Helmly, “My original initiative was to use them in a training base capacity inside a foreign army…. What occurred, though, was that many of the 98th became embedded trainers inside Iraqi units.” Even so, he added, “the 98th soldiers did all very well and I admire and respect them greatly for that.” Helmly also notes that Iraq has focused the US Army on details, that the needs of “the long war” have been neglected, that the current method of foreign military sales and assistance is broken, and that an organization dedicated to training foreign militaries needs to exist. What’s more, personal agendas and institutional inertia contribute to these challenges.

With regard to the 98th Division deployment – LTG Helmly was asked what happened after the unit was deployed:

General Helmly: I visualized the FA-TRAC deploying and establishing a deployed version of an institutional training base. I saw us establishing a Fort Benning, Georgia or a Fort Knox, Kentucky inside Iraq and training civilians to become soldiers. What occurred, though, was that many of the 98th became embedded trainers inside Iraqi units. When I was a young private, when my unit was completing basic combat training it was announced that one of the drill sergeants I had was going to deploy as a platoon sergeant to Vietnam. A couple years later, I learned he had been killed – and he had been a very fine noncommissioned officer (NCO). The point of this is: everyone knows that the ultimate objective of any soldier is to engage in ground combat, but I thought the 98th would essentially do a training base kind of thing. But what actually happened was that many of these outstanding soldiers found themselves embedded inside Iraqi units. As a result, there were several who were killed or wounded in action who were operating more or less as advisors rather than trainers in a training base capacity. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have argued against using the 98th, but I would have understood things better from the beginning. My original initiative was to use them in a training base capacity inside a foreign army. After all, one of the things we’ve learned in this war is that clerks, cooks and truck drivers all have to be prepared to fight as infantrymen. I have to say, though, that the 98th soldiers did it all very well and I admire and respect them greatly for that.

The entire interview is fascinating reading – anyone with an interest in the workings at the Department of Army Level in 2004 and the revolutionary deployment of a training unit to the warzone to train and support the Iraqi Army under LTG Petraeus will want to scan the document found here.

And – thanks LTG Helmly – for the compliment to our unit at the end… and for the confidence in our 98th Division soldiers –

Interviewer: The first part was your assessment of the 98th’s experience and performance over there.

LTG Helmly: I think due to the ability, willingness and courage of the individual soldier and small groups of soldiers, it was a success. That is the cornerstone of success. It proved we could take an organization that was not designed to deploy, put it into a significantly different set of conditions, and the small units and lower-ranking leaders would cause it to succeed. I think they added great capability and I was extremely impressed with them. It’s a tremendous group of soldiers. I saw many of them off before they left and they were positive. There wasn’t any talk of why they had to go do this mission. Of course they harbored their own personal fears as individual soldiers, but they were very proud. By the way, people tend to put stereotypes on things. A lot of people said we were just weekend warriors and things like that. Well, a lot of that first group of the 98th that deployed were drill sergeants and officers who had a lot of active duty time and commanded MTOE formations. They were really a high-speed group of capable and professional leaders. They were excited about the ability to buy into training and building up the Iraqi Army. Nobody was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor but there were a lot of heroes out there who didn’t get accorded that honor but who were nonetheless heroes in their own right. They suffered some pretty serious casualties. It was some really significant and outstanding history.

Friday, January 22, 2010

MNSTC-I cases its colors

My unit in Iraq has ceased operations – this information from Army describes the inactivation which occurred on New Year’s Day;

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander of Multi-National Security and Transition Command-Iraq commander rendered final honors and cased MNSTC-I’s colors, signifying the commands’ official inactivation.

“Though we are activating a new headquarters today,” said Odierno, USF-I commanding general, “the support we give our Iraqi partners will be no different than they received under MNF-I.”

MNF-I was established May 15, 2004, taking over command for Combined Joint Task Force 7 to handle all strategic-level operations for coalition forces contributing to OIF.

“Troops from 30 different countries served in the Multi-National Force-Iraq,” Air Force Maj. Dennis Kruse, master of ceremonies, said at the ceremony. The major subordinate commands included MNC-I, MNSTC-I, the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq, and TF 38, he added.

Along with MNF-I, MNC-I was also activated May 15, 2004, as the operational-level headquarters overseeing multi-national divisions and forces in Iraq, which included Multi-National Divisions North, South, and Baghdad, Multi- National Force-West, 13th Expeditionary Support Command and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, as well as 13 separate task forces, brigades and battalion-sized organizations.

To organize, train and equip Iraq’s military and police forces, MNSTC-I was established on June 28, 2004. Working closely with the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior, MNSTC-I assisted in forming more than 250 Army and police battalions throughout the country.

“We’ve made tremendous strides together since the dark days of 2006, 2007,” Petraeus said. “The number of attacks per day, including Iraqi data, has been reduced from well over 200 per day in 2007, to fewer than 15 per day in recent months.”

I guess that means the mission of those organizations is done. From the time we in the 98th Divisioin (USAR) arrived as the first staff and soldiers in MNSTC-I in September 2004 through inactivation in 2010 MNSTC-I accomplished a lot. A great share of the organization was staffed by Reserve soldiers throughout its history. I hope that the success of a bunch of individuals from the Army Reserve deploying to a wartime command and completing mission is not lost to time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gray Area Army Retired

I am approaching 25 years service as an Army Civilian employee and my career as an Army Reserve soldier is occasionally referenced at the military facility where I work. With regard to that service, just 11 more years until I will be able to draw a retirement check for my 24 years of active and reserve service. There has been little movement in efforts to reduce the retirement age for those of us that answered the call to active service before 2008… with impending budget constraints; I doubt the momentum to consider such a reduction is very strong.

Someone asked me the other day what a gray area retiree was (I used the term to describe myself) so an explanation -

Members of the Retired Reserve under age 60 (not entitled to reserve retired pay until reaching age 60) are often referred to as Gray Area Retirees. These Gray Area Retirees are entitled to unlimited use of Military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities and commissaries.

Gray Area Retirees must have a valid military Reserve Identification Card. Eligible family members must have a Reserve Family Member ID Card. These cards are available at all military facilities that issue identification cards.

At age 60 and upon receiving retired pay, individuals must complete an application to receive the Retired (blue) ID Card. At that time we and our family members can become eligible for medical and dental care at military facilities (as provided by the installation); TRICARE programs; unlimited use of commissaries and exchanges; and unlimited space "A" travel.

Between the time of Reserve retirement and age 60 we essentially must fend for ourselves in medical insurance, etc…typically handled through our civilian employers. This includes any treatment for un-documented or uncharacterized service connected treatments. I.e. treatment for illness or injury which at time of treatment cannot be directly tied to service. So, for example if you were a Reserve soldier poisoned by KBR water treatment in Iraq and incur illness later on…hopefully your civilian health insurance and your wallet can cover the bill…

Is it time to reconsider this in light of National Health Care discussions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Don’t give up hope of resolving MIA cases

It all began on February 20, 1967 when a plane went down. Now more than 40 years later a piece of bone is discovered during an excavation in Vietnam. On January 8th 2010 Nellis Air Force pilot remains are found and identified. "This is the four inch bone fragment that was found," pilot's daughter, Christine Stonebraker says.

While it would take more than two years for DNA results to be confirmed, Christine Stonebraker now knows what happened to her father, Nellis based Air Force pilot and Thunderbird announcer, Russell Goodman.

"Don't give up hope, don't give up hope, there's always a chance you'll see your loved one's remains as well," Christine says.

Goodman was on a bombing mission in North Vietnam when his plane, an F-4 Phantom was hit with a surface to air missile. Goodman was presumed dead but no one knew for sure.

At our American Legion as well as most others we have a special table for POW/MIAs. It is represented by a place setting which is never used. From the Legion guide for the symbolism represented by the table:

The Tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their Country’s call to arms.

The table is being set for One, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her oppressors.

The Yellow Ribbon on the Vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of thousands who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper account of our comrades who are not among us.

The Single Rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting their return.

A Slice of Lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of their bitter fate, those captured and missing in a foreign land.

The Salt being sprinkled on the plate is to remind us of the countless tears of those who have never come home and of the tears of their families and friends, whose grief knows no end.

The Bible serves to remind us of the comfort of faith offered to those who face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and it also reminds us of our country being founded on the principle of One Nation Under God.

The Glass is inverted; they cannot toast with us this day/night.

The Candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.

The American Flag reminds us that many may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom.

The Chair is empty, our Comrades are missing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Zackery Bowen - Iraq vet -murder suicide

Saw there is a book out – seen here on Amazon – about an Iraqi Vet that served and returned home to New Orleans in time for Hurricane Katrina. Intrigued that his path somewhat matched my own as I returned home from Iraq and was deployed to Hurricane Katrina cleanup, I thought I’d take a look.

The story review from Publishers weekly

On October 17, 2006, 28-year-old Iraq war veteran Zackery Bowen leapt to his death from a New Orleans hotel roof, leaving a suicide note directing police to the dismembered body of his girlfriend, Addie Hall. In journalist Brown's (Snitch) account of Bowen's life, the deterioration of the vet suffering from PTSD parallels that of Katrina-whipped New Orleans, its residents left as stranded as unsupported veterans like Bowen. A high school dropout, New Orleans bartender and a father at age 18, Bowen was determined to improve himself and do well by his child and Lana, his wife, and enlisted in the army, serving as an MP in Kosovo and Iraq. Granted what Brown says was an unfair general (under honorable conditions) discharge, Bowen returned to New Orleans in late 2004, where, abandoned by Lana, he began a turbulent relationship with Hall, culminating in Bowen methodically dismembering and cooking her remains. After covering the murder-suicide for Penthouse in 2007, Brown moved to New Orleans, and his detailed reconstruction of both Bowen's life and the city's deterioration make heartbreaking reading. Perhaps most poignant is the message painted on Bowen's apartment wall: please help me stop the pain.

While I know first hand that the services for returning veterans are pathetic, I’m not convinced that the symptoms of PTSD lead you to become an individual as demented and or tortured as Zackery Bowen. The review of the book leads me to believe that the story may be worth a read…if not a little uncomfortable perhaps.

What bugs me a little bit is the constant blame given to PTSD for Veterans…are we becoming suspect more than other groups. They depicted Vietnam Vets in a socially unacceptable manner for years in the media and the stigma is pervasive in depictions of those that served. Are Iraq and Afghanistan Vets heading for the same treatment?