Combat stress subject of public forum Saturday
Travis to speak at forum
Two U.S. Army veterans, more than five decades apart in age, and a five-wars-with-U.S.-involvement difference, will share their stories and their experiences in making peace with the effects of war and combat, in the hope of reaching other wounded veterans.
World War II P-51 fighter pilot, Fairfield resident, author and co-chair of Operation Warrior Wellness, Jerry Yellin and Luke Jensen, a 12-year Army Reserves Military Police soldier, Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan veteran from Story County will join in a public forum at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.
The forum, Healing the Hidden Wounds of War, is open to everyone at no charge.
“The military is experiencing an extreme suicide rate,” said Yellin. “The July 23, 2012, Time magazine has a story, ‘War on Suicide’ on the cover. One U.S. soldier commits suicide each day. Why?”
Another chilling statistic: More soldiers have died by suicide than have been killed in combat in Afghanistan.
“A representative from the Surgeon General’s office is coming to our forum in Fairfield,” said Yellin.
Yellin and Jensen are authorities on the effects of combat stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yellin describes suffering from it for 30 years; Jensen is healing after struggling for nearly two years.
Yellin tells his story in his published book, “The Resilient Warrior.” He was 17-years-old on the day Japan attacked the U.S. navel fleet at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
“It felt as if someone had invaded my home, and I had to do something about it,” he wrote.
When talking about his story, Yellin says, “I lost 16 friends, other pilots. Do you want to hear their names?”
And he recites the 16 names beginning 69 years ago, how they died and when they died.
Yellin flew 19 long-range bombing missions over Japan from his base in Iwo Jima, in the company of 11 “other young pilots, all of them friends,” none who lived to return home.
But he returned home, to New Jersey, in December 1945. In his book, he describes himself as a former captain, a combat squadron leader, and a fighter pilot, but “emotionally I was just a 17-year old high school graduate. I was a lost soul, with no one to talk to and no real life experiences to fall back on,” he wrote.
“During the war, I had a purpose, it was clearly defined,” said Yellin from his 88-years’ perspective. “When I came home, I was completely empty.
“I developed an addiction — to golf,” he said. “I had no interest in working, no interest in furthering my education.
“I had dreams about my friends killed, I had nightmares about the ones lost and no bodies recovered,” he said. “I couldn’t think about the guys killed during the day.”
“Stress is like a virus of the brain,” said Yellin. “It needs something to relieve that stress. The best way I’ve found for relieving that stress is Transcendental Meditation.”
His wife Helene saw Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Merv Griffin TV show in 1975, and became interested in learning TM. After his wife and one of his sons learned, Yellin also decided to take the TM course.
“Thirty years after World War II, I found TM could take my stress away,” said Yellin.
His other three sons also learned and eventually, the family moved to Fairfield.
Since 2010, Yellin has been on a mission to help veterans, and their families, from any wars, learn TM to relieve stress, he said.
“I don’t want other veterans to go through what I went through,” he said.
Through Operation Warrior Wellness, supported by the David Lynch Foundation, offering this help, learning TM, is given at no cost to veterans and families.
Yellin has spoken about PTSD and TM in New York, Washington, D.C., South Dakota and Los Angeles. But it isn’t only from the podium to large crowds he makes his appeals; Yellin also deals up close and personal.
A year ago, his son brought home the Des Moines Register with a front-page story that grabbed Yellin’s attention.
“I don’t read newspapers a lot,” he admitted. “But the July 17, 2011, Register had the story of a young man, Luke Jensen and his family living in Story County, ‘A War with PTSD.’”
Des Moines Register writer Reid Forgrave wrote about Jensen, who grew up in a loving family, always wanted to be in law enforcement and joined the Army Reserves after high school.
The news story tells about Jensen’s hiring at the police department in Nevada, Iowa, in 2001, his yearlong deployment after 9/11 to seaports around the country, then upon returning, his advancement in local law enforcement. He worked on the Central Iowa Drug Task Force as an undercover cop, making drug buys, drug busts and felony arrests.
By 2009, he and his wife had two young daughters. His unit was called up to deploy to Afghanistan. He wasn’t looking forward to leaving his family, but it was his commitment and he would be deploying with his close-knit group of military buddies. But then, just before the unit left the states, the mission changed and the unit was split into smaller groups and dispersed to seven separate bases.
Jensen experienced soldiers dying and artillery fire shaking his bed day and night. Within a month, he felt defenseless, helpless, sleepless and eventually hopeless. He lost 25 pounds and experienced panic attacks all day long. He sweated profusely and was depressed. After 53 days he was medically evacuated.
Going through seven weeks of therapy at Fort Campbell, Ky., before returning to Iowa didn’t help. Relaxation classes, yoga and prescriptions didn’t help.
One April night in 2010 Forgrave wrote, Jensen finished drinking a 12-pack of beer and argued with his wife. He got his 45-caliber pistol and “stalked around his house, crouched toward the floor, making strange noises. ‘You don’t know what I’ve seen!’ he screamed at his wife” at 3 a.m.
When she said she was calling police, after locking herself and daughters in the bathroom, Jensen screamed he’d kill himself, wrote Forgrave.
That one-night crisis de-escalated, but Jensen was still very unbalanced. Then he lost his job as a Story County deputy. The family started going in debt.
Jensen vacillated between not sleeping and sleeping all the time. His blood pressure, at age 32, was very high. He was put on blood pressure medication. And he kept thinking about suicide, something he hadn’t really stopped thinking about since serving in Afghanistan.
He continued with counseling therapy and took a job in Story County Veteran Affairs Office, helping other veterans access services and file claims. He was making improvements, accepting his war experiences and his mental breakdown from it.
That’s the story Yellin read in the newspaper last summer. The following day, he called Story County Veterans Affairs Office and asked for Jensen.
“Yeah, he called me at the office,” said Jensen. “He told me he was an 87-year-old guy who knew what I’d been going through.”
“I told him about TM and offered to bring Luke and [his wife] Abi to Fairfield and learn TM, and it wouldn’t cost him anything,” said Yellin. “I told him I’d do anything I could for him. We put them up in a Fairfield inn, fed them and each of them took the TM course.”
It was all paid for through Operation Warrior Wellness.
“Jerry [Yellin] and I are still in constant contact,” said Jensen. “He wants to help other veterans and so do I. I have Jerry’s book in my office. I have brochures about TM and offer them to anybody who’s interested. Anytime I go to a conference or a training for Veterans Affairs, I do some local promoting about Transcendental Meditation and Operation Warrior Wellness. It has sparked some interesting conversations. And since I’m 33 and have been to Afghanistan, more younger veterans are finding their way into the office.”
Jensen said in the year since learning TM he has been able to get off his anxiety medications and sleep-aides, lower the doses on his blood pressure medication and depression medication.
“I’m sleeping much better,” he said. “I’m attending night classes through William Penn University, studying business management.
“I’ve recommended TM to family members, and besides my wife, an uncle and a cousin also learned.”
Abi also appreciates Yellin’s outreach.
“I felt we had a lot of support from family and had close military ties with Luke’s unit. I thought when he came home, we’d just go back to our former lives,” she said. “Even though I knew he had suicidal thoughts, I thought all that would go away once he was home again. I thought I was strong enough to overcome all of this.
“I didn’t want to know about all the hidden wounds, I didn’t want Luke to be changed,” she said. “One thing I’ve always adored about Luke is he’s a very tender, loving father.
“But I got to the point of being so overwhelmed,” said Abi. “I had a lot of anxiety about money. Seeing the changes in Luke was scary.”
She said learning TM over a weekend last summer, gave her hope.
“After one week of practicing TM, I could face what I needed to do, about money, about healing … it just blows me away,” she said. “Luke and I meditate together. It has helped so much. He’s better, a better husband, a better father, a better man, even now than he was before going to Afghanistan. He’s a happy guy to be around. And he’s become a good public speaker, I’m looking forward to this forum on Saturday.”
Yellin encourages anyone interested in the topic to attend Saturday’s forum
“We prefer if people register at www.operationwarriorwellness.org/iowa if they are attending,” he said.
Travis to speak at forum
Along with Luke Jensen and Jerry Yellin, Fred Travis. a professor at Maharishi University of Management and director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, will present information at Saturday’s forum, Healing the Hidden Wounds of War.
Travis is a published researcher about the functions of the brain and effects of Transcendental Meditation on the brain.
“The main point to remember, is experience changes the brain,” he said.
That is, whatever we view, are exposed to, listen to, learn or experience, affects our brains.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a natural response to an unnatural event,” said Travis. “The brain’s Amygdala attaches an emotional tag to any experience to remember it.
“PTSD is a way of the brain wanting you to remember an event, except it also causes hyper vigilance and low self-esteem and makes those experiencing PTSD not trust others,” said Travis.
“Just as experience can change the brain, Transcendental Meditation can change the brain,” he said. “When meditating in TM, the person transcends thought, which allows the brain to reset itself. If affects the body and the mind.
“How can I say this? Because we have research to back it up.”
Front page article reprinted with permission from The Fairfield Ledger
See: Military veterans speak on need to increase resiliency: by Diane Vance, Fairfield Ledger | WHO TV 13: WARRIOR WELLNESS: Healing Hidden Wounds | Des Moines Register: Fairfield and Ames war veterans team up to bring meditation (TM) to fellow Iowa vets with PTSD | KTVO: Veterans speak out on post-traumatic stress, offer a proven way to heal PTSD | Healing the Hidden Wounds of War: open forum for Iowa veterans and their families affected by PTSD, sponsored by Operation Warrior Wellness | Mark Newman: Courier: Iowa soldier seeks peace of mind through meditation and medication | KTVO News: How one soldier regained his life with help from WWII veteran and TM for PTSD | TM Blog: “TM saved my life”—Suicidal Afghanistan war veteran who suffered from PTSD
Tags: Center for Brain Consciousness and Cognition, Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Fred Travis, Jerry Yellin, Luke Jensen, Maharishi University of Management, military, military suicides, Operation Warrior Wellness, PTS, PTSD, Story County Veteran Affairs Office, suicide, The Fairfield Ledger, TM, Transcendental Meditation