Friday, July 20, 2018


I know this a subject nobody wants to discuss, but remember get educated and find reliable people to help you. The Carlson Law Firm is who you want in your corner....


Posted in Family Law April 26, 2018

Military divorce differs from civilian divorce in many ways. For example, when active members of the military—or their spouses—file for a divorce, they are subject to special and unique circumstances. When filing for a divorce, there are several elements that the military influences that you need to consider. Including:
  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
  • Where the divorce can be filed
  • Child custody and visitation
  • How support is calculated
  • How divorce affects military pay
  • Property and retirement division

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that can affect your divorce or child custody case in many ways. The SCRA protects servicemembers from having a court order entered in their absence due to military services. This allows the servicemember to focus on their missions abroad. Because of this, the SCRA allows servicemembers to request a delay in any court or agency proceeding that might affect their relationships with their children where they are unable to appear, due to their military service.
While the SCRA is good for servicemembers, it can be frustrating for non-military spouses if servicemembers delay proceedings. However, the SCRA protects servicemembers from courts issuing permanent decisions until they can arrange to be there. Courts must balance the rights of military and civilian spouses.

Where Can I File My Divorce?

For many military spouses, the difficult decision to divorce may arise in a state where you have just moved. In some cases, one spouse may have moved back to the state they are from originally from. Courts need to establish jurisdiction over you and your spouse to determine your case. Consult with a family law attorney to determine if Texas is the right state to file for divorce.

Active Duty Child Custody and Visitation

State law determines child custody and visitation. Active-duty families face unique challenges that civilian families do not. For example, active duty service members may receive orders that station them at a base in a different state or deploy to various parts of the world. This can put a strain on existing arrangements and create stress for parents and children.
A qualified Military Divorce Attorney can help you navigate these circumstances and advocate for make-up time upon a return from mobilization or deployment.

How is Military Divorce Support Calculated?

Child Support

Active-duty servicemembers can be legally required to support their children just like anyone else. In Texas, all income you receive, including base pay, BAH, BAS, and even disability pay, is used to calculate the state-guideline child support amount.
Additionally, parents will be required to maintain health insurance for the child. If the person ordered to pay child support does not have health insurance available to them at a reasonable rate, the person ordered to pay child support may be required to reimburse the parent paying for insurance.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is very fact specific to each case. In Texas, a spouse may be eligible to receive temporary spousal support while the divorce is pending and spousal maintenance once the case is finalized.

How Will Divorce Affect My Pay?

Divorce and BAH

BAH allowance post-divorce depends on whether or not you are the primary custodian of the children, pay child support, and/or live in single-type Government quarters. If you are the primary custodian of your children, then you are authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate if not assigned adequate family-type Government quarters. If your former spouse is the primary custodian and you are paying child support (at least in an amount of your BAH-DIFF rate) you are authorized BAH at the with-dependent rate if not in Government quarters or BAH-DIFF if assigned single-type Government quarters.
BAH-DIFF is the housing allowance amount for a member who is assigned to single-type quarters and who is authorized a BAH solely by reason of the member’s payment of child support. A member is not authorized BAH-DIFF if the monthly rate of that child support is less than the BAH-DIFF amount. The BAH-DIFF amounts, originally calculated in 1997, are updated annually based on changes in the Basic Pay tables. For more information, contact your servicing finance office.

Is My Military Retirement Subject to Division?

Property and Retirement

All property, including retirement, acquired during the marriage is subject to division by the Court. Former spouses might receive a portion of the service member’s retirement pay directly from DFAS if the couple’s marriage lasted at least ten years and the service member performed at least ten years of creditable military service during the marriage. If you were married less than ten years, the service member spouse might be required to pay the former spouse a portion of their retirement directly to the former spouse post-retirement.
Former spouses can continue accessing military benefits (healthcare and commissary) if the couple’s marriage lasted at least 20 years and the servicemember performed at least 20 years of creditable military service during the marriage.
In both child support and spousal support, the military requires servicemembers to meet their obligations described in the divorce decree or court order. When a servicemember does not meet those obligations, they may face military discipline and in addition to enforcement through civil court.
Please contact The Carlson Law Firm for a free consultation with a qualified Military Divorce Attorney to discuss your legal options today.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

When Angels Sleep

When Angels Sleep

By Gene Hicks

It's 2 am or maybe later. 
The shadow cast from the single light bulb over the stove told me lies.
I poured a whisky, straight up, no ice and certainly no water. 
Just me and the delicate tastes washing over my tongue.
I closed my eyes and immediately I was taken to a memory of her.
God Damn, she was beautiful but.....
Her soul was as black as this starless night over a beautiful city. 
I pounded my fists against the counter, the Evil was done.

I took my whisky laid down on the couch my mother had bought me.
Being single was hard enough without your mother deciding to become Martha Stewart.
It was soft, I sunk deeper into it.
Like loving arms it embraced me.

Alass, sleep would not come to me this night.
Demons spoke to me.
offering words of praise.
No angels came to me that night.
I think they were ashamed.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act & The Hiring Heroes Act: What is it?

 Legislation and political context
                The Hire Heroes amends the Wounded Warrior Act to extend through 2014 providing the same rehabilitation and vocational benefits to members of the Armed Forces with severe injuries or illnesses as are provided to veterans.  (Bill Summary & Status 112th Congress (2011 - 2012), 2012). The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) and the Hire Heroes Act are bipartisan, comprehensive legislation that combines provisions of Chairman Miller’s Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act - which passed the House on October 12, 2011 - (H.R. 2433; Report #112-242), and Chairman Murray’s Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-36), and veterans’ tax credits into a comprehensive jobs package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veterans' unemployment.
The Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act combines provisions of the Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-242) which was first introduced by Florida Representative Jeff Miller as a way to assist veterans either retired or leaving the active duty forces a way to transition seamlessly into the civilian workforce. Representative Millers VOW Act was initially introduced on July 7, 2011 with 31 cosponsors it highlighted three key areas; Retraining Veterans, Improving the Transition Assistance Program, and Improving the Transition of Veterans to Civilian Employment.
                Retraining the Force allows the Secretary of Labor through the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the ability to provide up to 12 months of financial assistance for qualified Veterans for retraining assistance. One of the important aspects of this retraining is it targets the veterans between the ages of 35 to 60. This demographic is often the service member who has spent decades of their life in the military and often do not have skills that are comparable to the civilian workforce. 
                Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) revises the guidelines for releasing military bases that primarily provide the TAP services to departing military members whether retiring or who have reached their Expiration Term of Service (ETS) with requirements to provide specific services to military members such as counseling, employment, and training services. Services members will be required to participate in these services unless a documented operational requirement prevents them for participating in the services.  Key elements to TAP are:
·         Employment and career goals
·         Education and training
·         Financial Readiness
·         Health and Well-being
·         Relocation and housing assistance
                Improving the Transition of Veterans to Civilian Employment directs the Secretary of Labor along with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to select five but not more than ten Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that through a coalition of state governors can cross over to state licensing and credentialing.  This allows departing military member with specialized training the ability to become licensed or credentialed in their home state without having to duplicate training or schooling.
                Another important piece to this legislation is that it provides employers with incentives to hire veterans by providing tax incentives. These tax incentives provide up to $5,600 for each veteran hired and up to $9,600 for each disabled veteran hired, if the veteran has been looking for work for six months or longer.
                Supporters loosely modeled their proposal of the VOW Hire our Heroes after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps used during the Great Depression to put people to work planting trees, building parks and constructing dams. (Freking, 2012)

 Problem Analysis
                According to the Labor Department, there are 3.4 million job openings right now in the United States. Yet, many employers are finding that workers do not have the skills or training they need to qualify for them.
There are nearly 900,000 unemployed veterans in the United States–a staggering figure. The latest Department of Labor unemployment report shows that in October 2011, the average unemployment rate among all veterans was 7.7% and 12.1% for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Equally troubling, veterans between the ages of 35 and 64, the group with the highest financial obligations and the fewest available VA education and training options, continue to make up nearly two-thirds of all unemployed veterans. Overall, nearly one in twelve of our nation’s heroes can’t find a job to support their family, don’t have an income that provides stability, and don’t have work that provides them with the confidence and pride that is so critical to their transition home (House Commitee on Veteran's Affairs, 2012). For a comparative analysis provided by the Department of Labor for unemployed veterans compared to civilian populations in the demographic age of 18 and older see Table 1.
Employers, community colleges, local workforce investment and career training organizations have proven that public-private collaboration can be highly effective at preparing and placing veterans in new positions where their skills are needed. Continued support for public-private partnerships will help transition veterans into civilian jobs (Jones, 2012).
                There is a conservative figure that 1.5 million service members will make the transition from military life to the civilian sector over the next five years.  While in Idaho these figures will be substantially lower the impact on the community which as of August 2012 was ranked 23 in the United States with an unemployment rate of 7.4% or 57,081.
Idaho Department of Labor does not have any current data that tracks veterans who were unemployed prior to the most recent deployment of the 116th Cavalry out of Gowen Field. Nor does it have data that tracks the number of veterans and Soldiers that were re-hired or simply re-integrated back into their former jobs but it is believed that at least 40% were unemployed prior to the deployment  (Associated Press, 2011)

 Existing Resources to Deal with the Problem
On September 20, 2012 the Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have established a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans back to work tending to the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. (Freking, 2012) Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma stated the federal already has six job-training programs available to veterans. Stating the problem is not with helping veterans return to the job market but there is no way of knowing how well the programs in place are working.  Senator Coburn argued that the best way to help veterans is by first fixing the nation’s debt this would be a long term solution that would help veterans and their families.
Some federal programs currently being offered are: Veterans Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) and VetSuccess which provides a Veteran who is found eligible for the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, and who has an employment handicap vocational rehabilitation services. Following the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor's determination that a Veteran has met the entitlement criteria, the counselor and Veteran will jointly develop a plan for a rehabilitation program with a goal typically leading toward employment. In some cases, the plan goal may be related to an independent living need. This plan will provide all of the needed services and assistance identified through the initial evaluation.  In those cases when a Veteran is not found to be entitled, the VA Counselor will assist him or her to use the information gathered in the initial evaluation to identify other options, goals, and programs that should contribute to sound vocational adjustment, for example, referral to the State Vocational Rehabilitation program, information about financial aid, and referral to the Department of Labor's Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) program.

Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows agencies, to appoint eligible veterans without competition. An eligible veteran can be appointed under this authority at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. Agencies can also use VRA to fill temporary (not to exceed 1 year) or term (more than 1 year but not to exceed 4 years) positions.  Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA) is a competitive service appointing authority that can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. It cannot be used to fill excepted service positions. It allows veterans to apply to announcements that are only open to so called "status" candidates, which means "current competitive service employees."
 The most recent federally funded program is the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) this program this program is currently limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. Participants of the program must attend school full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program ($1,564 effective October 1, 2012). The Department of Labor will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program. Participants of the program must be enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school and the program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation.

Currently there are more than 70 cosponsors to the Hiring our Heroes Act.  President Obama has been a firm supporter of federally funding programs that put the veteran back into the workforce. Unfortunately as of September 20, 2012 Senate Republicans blocked the bill saying that the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year. Senate Democrats fell two votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to waive the objection forcing the legislation back into committee (Freking, 2012).
Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA) denounced the vote saying “This bill was bipartisan policy that would have put veterans back into service for their communities as policeman, firefighters and first responders, but the results of today’s vote creates tremendous doubt that this Congress will be able to pass any additional veterans legislation in 2012. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans should not have to wait until 2013 for critical support from Congress” (Freking, 2012).
With 2012 being an election year the stake holders for the Hire our Heroes legislation are the President and candidate Mitt Romney.  This legislation is vital is showing support for the military and the transitioning members of the service. The drawdown of Afghanistan by 2014 will only compound the problems associated with veteran joblessness. The VA has estimated that more than 500,000 new disability claims will be filed over the next five years. This number does not represent the number of veterans and disabled veterans using the current resources available to them to promote job education and eventually stable employment.

Friday, November 6, 2015

“Is a leader made or Born?”

“Is a leader made or Born?”
This is a question that has been included into the syllabi of every leadership school I have attended from Primary Leadership Development Course to the Senior Leader Course. There is no definitive answer to whether a person is born a leader or made a leader. Instead it seems that leadership is a combination of intelligence and aptitude.  For this paper I will discuss the history of the study of leadership and also how the Biological approach and the humanistic approach would explain the personality traits that are associated with the subject of leadership.
            To understand leadership and the development or nurturing of it I thought it was important to look at the way leadership has been studied over the years. Two early foundations of the leadership concept are; philosophy and moral law.
            Leadership has numerous theoretical roots. Socrates in Plato’s Republic, said that the “leadership of civil institutions were to be reserved for the “specially” trained philosopher-kings, not to the ill-trained or uniformed masses who were meant to be followers.” (Hays, 1967)  Many military classes at West Point or The Naval Academy still quote Sun Tzu when discussing senior and subordinate relationships. Aristotle described moral conduct and behaviors that all leaders should poses, these “codes” influenced many great leaders notably Alexander the Great. Machiavelli describes the cruelty, dishonesty, and sometimes brutality that were shown by leaders in his book The Prince.
            Moral Codes affect many concepts of leadership. Marcus Aurelius spoke often of the moral and ethical responsibilities leaders were held too under the Roman Empire. Judaeo-Christian teachings emphasize the divine source from which all leadership is derived from.      These teaching have emphasized the necessity for the utmost ethical standards by all leaders.  Moral Codes were the foundations for the formation of the Japanese code of conduct known commonly as Bushido or the “The Warriors Way” which emphasized tenets such as honor, loyalty, and frugality. The west had a much similar concept known as chivalry which also emphasized the duty to your king, to your God, and to your women. In today’s Army Officers and Non-Commissioned officers are consistently judged on their moral and ethical standards.
              The psychological and trait approach to leadership can raise numerous questions about the development and the emergence of the leadership trait or quality. Using the biological approach or more specifically Hans Eysenck’s theory on personality a leader exhibits some of his personality dimensions on certain levels. The first being extroversion, a leader can usually be described as an A-Type personality. The leader is usually outspoken and can excel within the group dynamic, the leader is usually an outgoing person that has many contacts. Most leaders are usually not introverted, but in my experience I have seen some of the more effective leaders that were border line introverted. Much of their leadership was derived from charisma and their knowledge of their profession, this in turn prompted respect from their subordinates. Neuroticism is a trait that a leader does not want exhibit because having very strong emotional reactions to minor frustrations may not solve the problem but may in fact exacerbate the problem, especially with subordinates, because a leader needs to be a level headed person that weight facts objectively without investing to much emotional bias into the problem. But then again a leader does not want to display the psychoticism super trait because he does not want to appear cold or impersonal to the subordinate. A good leader needs to be empathetic and show concern for them.
            The humanistic approach to leadership would say that the leader is in a position that he chooses to be in and that nobody is forcing him to take the responsibility that he has chosen to take. The humanistic approach would say that a leader takes personal responsibility for the actions he or she chooses to take or not take and in effect suffer the consequences of their action or bask in the glory that may come from the decision to act. From the humanistic perspective a psychologist may say that a leader is ineffective because they spend too much time planning on the future or reflecting on the past. The humanistic psychologist may also say that a leader should remember their past experiences but should not allow them to dictate what they are. We all know that much of leadership is derived from the experiences that they gain throughout their career.
            Leaders can be classified into different categories. The first category is the manner in which the leader achieves his or her position. In informal groups a leader may emerge from the group by asserting himself or herself.  This can be an example of the “born” theory, in which the individual is able to shut down his competition and take over. In the Army we often call this “initiative” and it is part of the Army’s definition of leadership which is; “the ability to influence others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” The charismatic leader is much like the emergent leader. The charismatic leader is that person that can walk into a room and all eyes turn to look and people seem to just gravitate towards.  The charismatic leader may not have the technical or the tactical experience that some other leaders may have but they still have the ability to influence people to follow them an example of this type of leader is Adolph Hitler.
            The second category is the more formal raise in the hierarchy of leadership.  The rise to a leadership position may either through a democratic process, such as our elected officials.  These leaders were “made” in the sense that they went through the education process and climbed through the ranks to get to that position. In the Army I came in as a private and served first as a rifleman, then progressed to the position of team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant.  In my experience it is important for a leader to progress through the ranks and serve in those positions where “the rubber meets the road”.  Each position capitalizes on the experience of the previous position.  
Arghandab Valley Afghanistan 2010
 (L-R Doc Chaney, 1SG Hicks, SSG Benuelos, SSG Vinyard)
            An example of great leadership can be found in the movie We were Soldiers. In this movie Mel Gibson plays Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Hal Moore the Commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. General Moore graduated from West Point in 1945 and attended graduate school at George Washington and Harvard University. Later in his career he taught at West Point where General Norman Schwarzkopf was one of his students.  General Schwarzkopf would later comment that General Moore was the biggest influence in his decision to become an Infantry officer. The 7th Cavalry was the unit General George Armstrong Custer led in the Battle of the little big horn.  Prior to their deployment to Vietnam LTC Moore gives a speech to his Soldiers saying;  "Look around you, in the 7th Cavalry, we got a Captain from the Ukraine, another from Puerto Rico, we got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indian, Jews and Gentiles, all American. Now here in the States some men in this unit may experience discrimination because of race or creed, but for you and me now, all that is gone. We're moving into the valley of the shadow of death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won't care what color he is or by what name he calls God. Let us understand the situation; we're going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear: when we go into battle, I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God."
General Hal More

LTC Moore was able to draw from his experiences leading Soldiers and from his education which taught him the principles of leadership. These experiences would later be passed on to his students at West Point. All leaders draw upon their experiences as a foundation for developing their own style of leadership. So is a leader made or born? With the proper education I believe that anybody has the potential to be a leader but at different levels of responsibility. Leadership is a lifelong process and when you think you have seen it all you get blindsided by some new situation or a subordinate that you just can’t seem to figure out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How the values I learned in the Military got me fired

Dear Employer,

            I have been pondering the idea of writing a letter to you after you let me go on 7/15/2015. I knew that it would not make a difference to you so I decided to write and post it here, so that my fellow Veterans and Social Workers can see how you have turned a vulnerable population in dollar signs. 

             When I came and talked to you about ethical conflicts that I had with the way you handled a very serious situation you chose to terminate me rather than understand the egregiousness of your decision. You failed to uphold the ethical principles and ethical standards for a population of individuals we are supposed to protect, advocate for and be role models too.
            How do you ask? Well, you made the decision to allow an individual with numerous mental deficits stay the night with a convicted sexual offender and then when you found out that that individual had been “possibly molested or raped or taken advantage of” you  used me as your scape goat.  When potential information came forward that this was not an isolated incident and may have been happening for a while you simply shrugged it off saying “how can we know if the victim is really telling the truth, because of his mental state” you also stated that “this happened a long time ago.”  After the family became enraged you simply hid and allowed your staff to take the brunt of the repercussions. That Sir is not leadership that is cowardice.
            When a victim of sexual or physical abuse comes forward to law enforcement they are simply not told “well sir/ma’am it happened a long time ago”. Instead, proactive measures are taken to ensure those who allowed it or perpetrated the crime are held accountable. When the criminal in this case could not pass two polygraph tests you still did nothing.
            When I received my Master’s Degree in Social Work I agreed to adhere to ethics and standards set forth by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). These were presented in every class, role playing scenarios and re-enforced in the 1100 hours of clinical internships I participated in. The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Professional ethics are at the core of social work. The profession has an obligation to articulate its basic values, ethical principles, and ethical standards. The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth these values, principles, and standards to guide social workers’ conduct. The Code is relevant to all social workers and social work students, regardless of their professional functions, the settings in which they work, or the populations they serve. (NASW)
My example to you is in Ethics is:
Value: Integrity - Social workers are continually aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations with which they are affiliated.
My example to you in the Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to Clients is:
1.01 Commitment to Clients: Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clients’ interests are primary. However, social workers’ responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised.
My final example to you is in the area of NASW compromised standards and ethics is:

6.04 Social and Political Action –
            (d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

            We (I say we because in the military we take responsibility for our actions or inactions) failed to do that Sir and for bringing it to your attention I was fired….
            These principles of conduct were not new to me for 22 years I modeled these in foreign countries and places where the United States was not a welcomed visitor. These are known and the Seven Army Values:
Loyalty - Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. constitution, the Army, and other soldiers.
Be loyal to the nation and its heritage.
Duty - Fulfill your obligations. Accept responsibility for your own actions and those entrusted to your care.
Respect - Rely upon the golden rule. How we consider others reflects upon each of us, both personally and as a professional organization.
Selfless Service - Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service leads to organizational teamwork and encompasses discipline, self-control and faith in the system.
Honor - Live up to all the Army values.
Integrity - Do what is right, legally and morally. Be willing to do what is right even when no one is looking. It is our "moral compass" an inner voice.
Personal Courage - Our ability to face fear, danger, or adversity, both physical and moral courage.

            Has the civilian society lost its moral compass? Are people with disabilities simply seen as equity? When a Director, Program Manager or Leader of any sort is questioned by a subordinate or employee about the morality of a decision is it easier to avoid the problem and just get rid of it? I think so…I now understand why veterans these days are finding it hard to maintain or even get a job in this society. Because we are not afraid “to do the right thing” we are not afraid to “accept responsibility for our actions” we are not afraid to “stand up for what is right” and I think that scares employers.  

            Case in point: I retired after 22 years in the military. I hold the nation’s 3rd highest award for Valor the Bronze Star with Combat “V”, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work has this helped me find a job? NO, I believe that it has prevented me from even getting an interview. My military service, and the fact that I have been to combat plus I am a disabled veteran with tBI’s prevents me from even getting in the door. I applied for an interviewed for a Vocational Rehabilitation position for the State of Idaho, I did not get it. Seriously I am a disabled veteran and I was not qualified to work with people with disabilities?

            Where did we go wrong? Society sees veterans as an enigma something that can’t be understood, something that people don’t want to understand and something that is volatile “hey that guy’s a vet watch out he may come back and shoot us all.” But we are not, we are people who are trying to fit back into society; we are simply people and families trying to transition back onto the civilian world. I feel disappointed that I fought and did the dirty work for our country to come back and be shit upon.

            So in reality maybe you did me a favor by letting me go, maybe you did you a favor by not having to look at yourself in the mirror and see that you allowed something so sinful to happen. But you won’t because your paycheck as an administrator and your new Lexus will help you forget.

            I, Sir will not forget because I will continue to speak for those who can’t and I will continue to bring THEIR value as people not as income to the fore front!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Into War with an Empty Gun: The Story of a Korean Veteran

I had the great pleasure to interview Robert “Bob” Brownbridge. I had first met Bob at a meeting held by the Boise City Police Department concerning the development of a resource manual that would be geared specifically towards helping veterans in any stage of life or circumstance. This resource manual would be a complete set of resources identifying various agencies and individuals throughout the local community that could be readily used by local agencies and law enforcement officers when they came into contact with them.
            Bob was immediately drawn to the fact that I had retired from the military and had started my graduate program in Social Work with the hope to help veterans after graduation. He had received his master’s degree in Social Work from UC Berkeley, where he was the founder and first editor of the Berkley Journal of Social Welfare. Bob lived in the bay area until 2009 and worked for over forty years as a psychotherapist and community organizer. Bob confided in me that since he had moved to Boise he began to see the need for a community outreach program specifically for veterans that would be sponsored by the local religious organizations. He had the idea but did not know how to bring this all together. We soon began to meet regularly speaking about our drive to help others and he has since been a friend and a mentor for me. When I started this assignment I could not think of a better person to write about than Bob Brownbridge.
            Bob Brownbridge was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1930. A small rural town of 60,000 people spread out over various plots of land in which “neighbors would rely on each other for everything” (Brownbridge, 2013). Bob describes the culture as “farm town mid-western values in which hard work, integrity and faith was vital for the survival and social existence of the families” (Brownbridge, 2013). Because his family worked the land he was instilled with work ethic that revolved around hard back breaking work. The emphasis on education was down played because you did not need college to farm. When asked about how the rural world has changed Bob replied that the “small town farmer is gone, but there is still the core beliefs that I was brought up with” (Brownbridge, 2013). One of the biggest changes he has seen over the years is a decline in the value of hard work; instead people now rely on technology.
            Bob described his family as very close and church orientated, but there was an underlying cynicism that began to evolve in front of him. At age eight Bob began to see a hypocritical side of his family and this revelation would foster a desire to leave them and Iowa. He describes his family as secretly critical of outsiders and those who were of different cultures and ethnicities. They would not confront or say prejudicial things in front of others but when it was just the family they would talk about the “blacks and the Jews” as so different they could not be classified as a human. He began to withdraw from his family and started to cultivate his creative talents. He loved to write poetry, read books and paint, but this was frowned upon by his family because as he described it “it was looked at as individuality and in our small town and especially in my family if you were not part of the norm then you were different and different did not survive” (Brownbridge, 2013)
            There were two influential people in his life, the first being his aunt. She was a woman who had been all over the world, who had many boyfriends, and who would tell Bob about the fast paced life of a woman neither committed to anything or anyone. She was candid with him and would tell him of lovers and parties she would attend in places like Paris and Honolulu. He wished that he could just leave with her and get away from Iowa. He likened it to the 1958 movie Auntie Mame “Mame is an unconventional individualist socialite from the roaring 20's. When her brother dies, she is forced to raise her nephew Patrick. However, Patrick's father has designated an executor to his will to protect the boy from absorbing too much of Mame's rather unconventional perspective. Patrick and Mame become devoted to each other in spite of this restriction, and together journey through Patrick's childhood and the great depression, amidst some rather zany adventures.” (Thompson, 2013) He confided that he wished that she could have been his mother. The second person was his grandfather, who Bob was “ordered” by his mother and father to not like. He described his grandfather as good at everything, he was a huge man who had played minor league baseball, was a master craftsman and was known around town as a womanizer. Bob described a man that was not afraid of anything and would not back down from a fight and could drink with boys. Having been told to not like him made Bob like him even more and he began to set his sights as far outside Iowa as he could. At 12 years old he remembers his mother commenting “I just don’t know what happened to Bob, he changed” (Brownbridge, 2013).
            The rift with his family dynamic grew and by age 15 he decided to leave the family church and thus began his self-described “rebellious” stage began. He began hanging out with the boys who were known simply in town as the “bad crowd”. He spent nights drinking, gambling and fighting.
            When Bob turned 17 years his mother tired of being poor and living a meager life off of the $225 per month his father made as a distributer of farm supplies decided to uproot the family and move to Spokane, Washington. His father would get a job with the same company as a salesman, a poor decision that did not last long due to his father being extremely introverted. This forced his mother to work as the primary bread winner of the family and Bob seeing that the family was in need of additional income began to work as well. Bob would continue to work all through his junior and senior year of high school and would even pay for his college tuition at Whitman College. While Bob’s younger years would shape him it was after he moved out of the home and struck his independence that he describes as the “real formative years”.
            Bob first began his secondary education at the University of Washington where he described as “not very successful”. Bob found the temptation of being out on his own for the first time drawn towards parties and drinking on campus. He spent only one semester there and then decided to move to Whitman College which was a smaller school located in Walla Walla Washington a small rural town that seemed a little like Iowa, a place he had looked forward to leaving but a place that now alone provided some comfort. While attending college Bob was active in sports playing basketball for the school and he describes himself as a “great athlete”. During the summers he would work for the Forest Service at Priest Lake, Idaho, located in the northernmost portion of the Idaho Panhandle, 80 miles north of Spokane, Washington. His modest earnings of $1,500 per summer would help pay his tuition at Whitman College. It was here that Bob would learn about the Korean War, the draft, and what life really had in store for him.
            Sitting on a mountain side overlooking Upper Priest Lake his Forest Service Supervisor sat with him at lunch and asked him “did you hear about the war that broke out yesterday in Korea?” (Brownbridge, Into War with an Empty Gun, 2012) Not knowing what or where Korea was Bob was to learn the next day that Congress had reinstated the World War II national draft and would begin to supply soldiers for the new war that was now labeled a “police action” by President Truman. He began to contemplate his future and the grim reality that being drafted was a distinct possibility. What would happen to his goals? What would happen if he was killed or even worse maimed in combat? Would he have to kill someone?
This lead to questioning the validity of the war and why Americans were in a place that did not put any Americans in harm’s way, the thought of running to Canada briefly entered his mind. Growing up in the family he had and the values that his community held that risking one’s life, even dying, was a better way to live with oneself than being forever disgraced as a coward and a draft dodger. So the draft was the only real patriotic option, but if there was a way to beat it, Bob knew he had to find it.
After a failed attempt to get into the U.S. Naval Officer’s Candidate School in New London, Connecticut he found himself in at reception in Fort Lewis, Washington and then off to the Army’s Signal Corps Training School at San Luis Obispo, California. On September 29, Bob began eight weeks of Basic Infantry Training followed by eight more weeks of specialty training in communications. “I found myself to be in excellent physical shape but failed to achieve the Army’s other three objectives; weapons proficiency, military teamwork and adherence and respect for military authority” (Brownbridge, 2013).
No matter how much training on weapons and marksmanship he went through he could not overcome his ineptness at using the weapons, “the M1 rifle, said to be a soldier’s best friend, never befriended me.” (Brownbridge, 2013). Learning to work with others proved to be a very task for Bob because of his resistance to cooperate with others. Killing another person weighed so heavily on his conscience he applied resistance to develop and foster any type of teamwork cohesion, he simply felt “whether working separately or as part of a team I could not bring myself to work with them so I simply practiced passive aggressive methods of personal rebellion” (Brownbridge, 2013).
Respect for military authority was simply drawn from his fear of how authority would be used against him, “I obeyed, but not out of respect” (Brownbridge, 2013).  In one instance Bob had a run in with one of the training sergeants who, during a weapons inspection informed him that his weapon was dirty, after arguing that it was not his weekend pass was revoked and he was given seven days of Kitchen Patrol (KP) with a stern follow on threat that additional punitive actions may be taken to “correct” his insubordinate behavior. After this encounter he learned that it was easier for him to just stay out the sergeant’s way, and found that by not being noticed he quietly excelled, even though he felt poorly prepared and ill equipped to serve in war.

Figure 1 Private Robert Brownbridge, Basic Training Honor Guard January 1953.
            Upon completion of Basic and Specialty training Bob headed home to spend a few weeks with his family before heading to Korea. While at home he spent the obligatory time with his parents but found himself looking for his old girlfriends and the promiscuity that a soldier going to war can hope to engage in. Time would speed by and Bob would give a heartfelt farewell to his parents and silently contemplate whether he would ever see them again as he watched them disappear as the train pulled away from the station.
He embarked on a 21-day trip from Fort Mason on San Francisco Bay and arrived in Yokohama, Japan. The inevitability of war loomed over him and he felt the first pains of loneliness and fear. Bob had turned away from the church as a 15 year old boy in Iowa soon found himself trying to remember those bible passages and he repeats a popular proverb many of us who have seen combat remember “there are no atheists in foxholes”.

Figure 2 Corporal Robert Brownbridge

On July 27, 1953 Bob came out of his tents to the shouts of “The truce is signed, The War is over, we’re going home” (Brownbridge, 2013). Although this news brought joy and celebration to him and the troops around him, Bob was dealing with another problem. A problem that moved slowly and like the enemy he had fought over the years slowly tore at his well being and resolve. He was getting sick.
Not a sickness like a cold but a he knew something was wrong. He would pass out and find himself waking up on the floor of his tent nauseous and tired and he was having almost regular seizures. He went to the medic repeatedly only to be told that it was exhaustion and he just needed to get some rest.  As he was doing his discharge physical the doctor found what he called a “corpus callosum, a body of nerve tissues that lies between your two hemispheres,” he continued “is off center; it’s to the left of where of where it should be” (Brownbridge, Into War with an Empty Gun, 2012) The doctor told Bob that he was going to send him to Tokyo immediately.
Bob went on to describe numerous tests done by the doctors that left him writhing in pain and many times simply passing out because his body and mind would shut down to “save me from simply giving up” (Brownbridge, 2013). Finally there came some results it was found that he had a brain tumor. The doctors were amazed and commended him several times for his work on the front lines of Korea even though he was suffering from physical pain and regular seizures. After surgery Bob told me a story that happened almost ten years after the surgery that would save his life.
While attending college he was sitting in his apartment speaking with a friend and his fiancĂ© abut there upcoming wedding when her ten year old son sat on Bob’s lap. He looked right into his eyes and he could see his gaze travel to the burr on his forehead. “What’s that” he asked. Bob was caught by surprise because nobody had ever been that bold before.
“Well Danny, I was very sick once and the doctors looked inside my head” he said. Danny sat back looked intently and said “Does it hurt?” I responded, “No, it doesn’t Danny. Not anymore” With a satisfied look on his face , the boy declared, “God took good care of you, didn’t he?”
Bob told me his eyes moistened before he could manage to respond, “Yes….Yes, he did, Danny”.
While I could continue to write about Bob’s fascinating story while serving in Korea and his fight and eventual successful win in his fight with cancer for the sake of this post and brevity I will move onto the next section.
Critical Analysis
Religion played various roles in Bob’s life. It was a defining factor in his family dynamic as well as a forceful and visual way for him to show his individuality and rebel. “Humanistic theories provide two foundational concepts for transpersonal theory: self-actualization and self-transcendence” (Robbins, 2012). As a child around 12 years old, Bob began to develop and express his creative side. These actions are seen in the definition of self-actualization which is “a natural inherent tendency of people to express their innate potentials for love, creativity, and spirituality” (Robbins, 2012). The strictness and the harsh environment that he grew up in left him with little means to express his love for the world and those around him. Bob related that the only time he ever hugged his father was when he was leaving for war, that image is still ingrained in his memories. Although he did not receive the conventional nurturing that Maslow describes, Bob was able to find the necessary nurturing from other people around him such as his Aunt who prompted him to have a world view as well as encouraged him to write and paint. At his current stage in life Bob has achieved a transegoic state of understanding that there is a larger purpose for him in the world. This purpose is to help those who have seen war and suffer from the environmental factors that block access to care, stigma associated with care and community acceptance of a systemic problem.
In Erickson’s stages of adult development, Bob has reached the generativity vs. stagnation stage. In the generativity stage the person works on being productive within society and essentially leaving behind a personal legacy. In this stage typically people work within three domains: procreative domain, productive domain and creative domain. In the procreative domain Bob is being a mentor helping students such as myself who are working to get into the field of work that he has been successful at for 40 years. His continued contributions to the community of veterans here in Boise has been relentless are an example of the creative domain. Another example of this domain is his current endeavor to bring together various religious groups in a community outreach program that will provide peer support for veterans suffering from substance abuse and homelessness.
In stage eight of Erickson’s adult development Ego Integrity vs. Despair “despair is signified by a fear of one's own death, as well as the loss of self-sufficiency, and of loved partners and friends” (Davis, 2013). I am confident that from all that Bob has experienced with the war and secondary illness that almost took his life his fear of death is very negligible. During our interview he expressed “content that I have been blessed with a life of accomplishments and experiences that I have been able to walk away from” (Brownbridge, 2013). That does not mean that he does not fear for the death of his wife or family members. I have seen in many combat veterans after they return from war the feeling of contentment that life was not swept away from them and that since they got to come home and some of their buddies did not than living life to fullest carries a new meaning, it is the feeling that to waste your time would be a dishonor to those who did not have the choice whether they got to live theirs.
Levinson’s stages of adult life early adulthood “ranges from about 17 to 45 this is the era of "greatest energy and abundance and greatest contradiction and stress." It is the most productive time of a person's life, during which one carves one's niche in the adult world. The satisfactions can be rich, but the stresses can be "crushing." "We incur heavy financial obligations when our earning power is still relatively low," notes Levinson. Important choices about marriage, family, and work are made before the person necessarily has enough maturity to choose wisely” (Dewey, 2007). During this phase of Bob’s life he had made the decision to move out of the family home and attend college. Although he did not do very well his first year due to “extracurricular” activities he was none the less able to begin to carve his place into society. After seeing that he was not mature enough to handle a big school Bob moved to a smaller school where he was more comfortable. After being drafted into the Army he found himself back into a transitional institution, he was away from his family but he was still under the control of his training sergeant’s and those appointed over him in the platoon. He did not have a dream per se but he did have immediate goals such as graduating from college and entering the work force. This was cut short after he was drafted into the Army and the imminent reality of death removed all hope to achieve any goal he may have set for himself earlier.
In Piaget’s Cognitive Theory age seven to eleven is referred to as the concrete operational phase. This is a phase when “children can use logic, but tend to be literalistic and abstract concepts are not easily understood” (Robbins, 2012). As mentioned before at the age of eight Bob began to see the hypocritical side of his family when behind closed doors. How they would smile at someone then talk behind their backs. Bob was able to use this logic to know that just because someone was black did not make them “not human”. This is because he became less egocentric and better at conservation tasks meaning that he was able to understand that although the appearance of something changes, the thing itself does not.
Fowler’s Theory of Faith Development in stage five states that “critical thinking allows for developing one’s own personal beliefs and practices and the determination of whether one remains in a traditional religious context or not takes place. Another way to view this is “The adolescent also develop interpersonal multi-perspective cognition's and begin to desire a personal relationship with God in which they feel loved in a deep and comprehensive way” (Fowler, 2005). During this time Bob decided to turn away from formal religion and turn away from the rules that had been established by his family and those that were practiced by the members of his community. Not because Bob did not believe in God but because he did not understand the concept behind being a good Christian at church but a gossiper and hypocrite behind doors. Bob stated during our interview his feeling on his decision to leave the church “if you believe in god and have faith you should have it all the time not just when someone is watching you” (Brownbridge, 2013). This belief would eventually evolve to the present where he is an active member of his church community as well as a strong proponent to faith based community services.


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