07 October 2014

Guard Medico: 25% of Vermont Deployers have PTSD

According to news reports, a medical spokesperson for the Vermont National Guard claims that 25 percent of that state's citizen-soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-2010 may be diagnosable with various symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.). Approximately 3,000 Vermonters deployed to Afghanistan with 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.). One of those soldiers, Pfc. Joshua Pallotta, 25, committed suicide last month. His family cites PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.), injuries sustained during his deployment.

"We want people to know that our son took his life because he was struggling with PTSD that he couldn't get out of, he couldn't see another way out and we just don't wan't this to happen to another veteran ever again," his mother Valerie Pallotta told WCAX-TV in this Sept. 29 story.

An Oct. 3 news report from TV station WPTZ reads:
Col. Martin Lucenti, the Vermont Guard's chief medical officer, said earlier this year that about 25 percent of the 3,000 soldiers who were part of the Guard's 2010 deployment to Afghanistan have PTSD symptoms of varying degrees. [...]

Lucenti said another Guard suicide since Josh's is under investigation. Over the past decade, guard officials have tallied 10 suicides; nine from the Army side and one from the Air side, he said.

Lucenti estimated about 25 percent of service members returning from deployments have experienced some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. While that is a contributing risk factor to suicide, medical and behavioral health experts said there are many other risk factors, including stressors like employment, housing, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The 86th BCT was one of only three U.S. National Guard brigade-sized units ever to manage full-spectrum operations for assigned provinces while deployed to Afghanistan. The unit was followed in 2010-2011 by Iowa's 2nd BCT, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, and in 2011-2012 by Oklahoma's 45th Infantry "Thunderbird" BCT. The units' areas of responsibility included varying configurations of provinces within Eastern Afghanistan.

Pallotta served as a mortarman in Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry, a unit headquartered in Jericho, Vt. Again according to news reports, most of his deployment was spent at Combat Outpost Herrera, Paktiya Province, along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least two Vermont soldiers lost their lives fighting there in August 2010: Sgt. Tristan Southworth, 21, of Walden, Vt. and Sgt. Steven Deluzio, 21, of Glastonbury, Conn.

Pallotta committed suicide Sept. 23, 2014. A funeral was conducted Sept. 29.

Working together with the non-profit Blue Star Mothers of Vermont, the family has created a fund to assist citizen-soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD and/or TBI. The postal mailing address is: P.O. Box 195, Bakersfield, VT, 05441. A Facebook page is here. Or visit: www.bluestarmothersofvermont.org

A recent Facebook post by the organization reads, in part:
Donations have been pouring into the Josh Pallotta Fund, which will be used to help our Vermont Veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. For those who would like to donate through our website, the donation page has now been set up so you can designate specifically where your donation will be targeted. For those who have already donated, please be assured that those donations have been targeted specifically to the Josh Fund. Acknowledgement letters will be sent out as soon as possible. The Pallotta family and the Blue Star Mothers of Vermont are humbled by the support that is being received.
An oft-cited 2012 Veterans Affairs study estimates that up to 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The Pallotta family has also expressed hope that the story of their son would motivate individuals who are considering suicide to instead reach out to resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free and on-line resource staffed by trained Department of Veterans Affairs personnel, who can confidentially assist soldiers, veterans, families and friends toward local help and resources.

According to the Veterans Crisis Line website:
1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

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