[Thanks to 'KR' from CCN for putting this slideshow together for us.]
C-Span 2 is rebroadcasting the hearing in full at 8:00pm EST.
Mike and Kim Bowman, parents of local Illinois National Guardsman who committed suicide two years ago on Thanksgiving Day after having returned home from Iraq only eight months earlier, my husband and I flew home late last night following an incredible two days in Washington, D.C. testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the issue of veterans suicide.
I have a lot going on today as a result, but wanted to share a few things quickly now and promise to return to share some of my thoughts in full as soon as I can. But I want to say how honored and moved I was to have been in that room during the two breathtaking hours of testimony that Bowmans gave.
It seemed there really was very little left to have to say after their masterful and information-rich time in front of the committee. It just makes one all the more realize the inanity of having to do study after study and call in professional after professional to analyze data and point to what needs to be done.
If the VA and the DoD really want to know what we should be doing to assist military family members through the reintegration process, here's all they need to do: ask our military families. Fortunately, these types of hearings at least offer the rest of us -- and the VA and the DoD -- the opportunity to learn straight from the source what is needed.
We must listen, and then we absolutely must act.
View yesterday's hearing in C-Span archives (click on 'Watch' link on the right), or watch a rebroadcast coming up today at 3:45 pm (EST) on C-Span 3. They may rebroadcast it again (?) but C-Span doesn't offer much of a head's up on their program listings.
NBC News gave a fair shake to everyone involved in yesterday's testimony, focusing on the incredible testimony of Mike and Kim Bowman, but also including small mentions and short clips from me and author Penny Coleman:
Mike Bowman said the National Guard never prepared his son Tim for what he'd experience in Iraq.
Eight months after coming home, specialist Tim Bowman took his own life, on Thanksgiving. "His war was now over. His demons were gone," said Bowman.
Six years after Vietnam, Penny Coleman’s husband Daniel O’Donnell committed suicide. Coleman said, "He would wake up screaming and sweating and fighting something terrible that wasn't there."
"I thought that if I loved him enough I could fix him. I was wrong. I had no idea what I was up against," said Coleman. Families say veterans with post traumatic stress disorder don't seek mental help because they fear it'll end their military careers.
Author Ilona Meagher wrote the book "Moving a Nation to Care." She said, "They shouldn't be penalized for having to pick up the phone."
Yesterday's CBS Evening News Report:
And again NBC, this time the Nightly News:
I can't stress enough how incredibly powerful the Bowman's testimony was. In fact, because they were allowed to speak as long as they were, and because Chairman Filner allowed Penny and me to speak at length as well, many of those who were to testify after us were asked to be called back in January to a follow-up hearing.
After a short recess, the VA was brought before Congress to give their side of things. It wasn't what one might call necessarily pretty.
It was a stunning day, and unfortunately was not carried live and seems to have been overshadowed by all of the presidential race news and the CIA tape story. I do believe, however, that it was a watershed moment for this country on this issue. To see that these difficult topics were at long last aired and seriously broached, with family members continuing to have the opportunity to share their stories in such a way with us is heartening. Hopefully Chairman Filner and the rest of the committee will continue to do the important work of moving this issue forward with us.
Thank you Chairman Filner for your steady leadership.