It's a quiet week here on the veteran's front. Sometimes that happens at this time of year.
But that's not to say there isn't anything to talk about today. It is the middle of the holiday season...and we here in the civilian world often worry about mundane things like how not to gain weight over the holidays.
Surprisingly enough, it's a concern among veterans in regard to long-term health issues. We all have this image of a soldier. Young, muscular, and "in the best shape of their lives", as an old veteran friend of mine says. But after their service, and without the demands of training and combat, it's easy to pack on the pounds
A new survey by the Wounded Warrior Project finds that more post-9/11 veterans are using the GI Bill, receiving disability benefits, are homeowners and have jobs. But the same poll noted another rising trend that may affect these veterans' overall future well-being: more than half are rated as obese.
"Warriors are not as healthy as we would like," said Dr. Melanie Mousseau, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) director of metrics, of the finding that 51.7 percent of the more than 33,000 survey respondents were obese, according to their body max index, or BMI, and of that total, 6.2 percent were rated as "morbidly obese."
Previous WWP surveys showed that 50.9 percent were rated obese in 2017 and 48.6 percent in 2016.
The 2018 survey showed that 43.8 percent of female veterans had BMIs in the obesity range compared with 53.2 percent of males.
In addition, just 12.8 percent of the respondents in 2018 had BMI measures in the healthy weight or underweight range, according to the survey.
"Unfortunately, weight issues continue to be a major challenge for warriors and the trend is not improving," the survey noted.
The survey of more than 33,000 veterans registered with WWP helps guide the organization in "our internal decisions on where we put our money," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, chief executive officer of WWP.
It also is intended to "inform and prepare our troops and their families for future conflict while improving the support we provide when they return home," he added.
Throughout the survey and in the comments of veterans who participated, the importance of focusing on the transition from military to civilian life was stressed as the key factor in rehabilitation.
But the standout statistics were the ones on weight.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults overall was 39.8 percent from 2015 to 2016. The prevalence among adults aged 40 to 59, 42.8 percent, was higher than among adults aged 20 to 39, 35.7 percent.
There are many programs available for veterans of all stripes, helping them deal with drug abuse, PTSD, physical therapy for devastating wounds....but regarding obesity, most veterans are just like you and me. It's off to weight-watchers, and what for many becomes a lifetime struggle.
Staying on the health issue, right here in my backyard at the former Pease Air Force Base (Portsmouth, NH), there's been a 'cancer cluster' over the years. There was a 'listening session' recently at the old airbase
, and some of the stories are hitting a little close to home for your Loyal Trisec.
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- More than 200 people who turned out for a meeting at the 157th Air Refueling Wing heard story after story about guardsmen who died from cancer, or suffered with other health ailments after serving at the Pease Air National Guard base.
The guard hosted a "listening session" Friday afternoon to hear the health concerns of retirees, their widows and families, along with active duty guardsmen.
Led by Doris Brock, who lost her husband Kendall Brock, a 35-year member of the guard who died in June 2017 from bladder and prostate cancer, a group of widows and retirees have pushed the Air Force to conduct a health study because of what they believe is an unusually high number of cancers at the base.
Brock reminded the people in attendance that it took 35 years before the Veterans Administration sought presumptive disability status for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina with acknowledged water contamination.
"I don't want to wait that long for us. It has to be faster," Brock said. "We've lost a lot of good people."
She believes her husband's exposure to 12 different chemicals on the base known to be carcinogens -- along with drinking contaminated water at the former air base -- caused his cancer.
Patricia Brodeur-Gammon lost her husband Roger Brodeur to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 1997. She believes her husband's service at the guard base caused his cancer. Brodeur, who served at the base from 1975 to 1998, spent the last two years of his life going through treatment, his widow told the crowd gathered in a hangar Friday afternoon at the guard base.
"He did it with courage. He went through surgery after surgery, (along with) many chemo treatments," she said.
Finally, her husband received a bone marrow transplant and in September 2017 he was given the "all clear" as the couple readied to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
"Three and a half months later he was gone," she said.
Bonnie Peterman of Dover told the crowd she and retired guardsmen Wayne Perreault were married in April 2008. In June 2009, Perreault, whose family had no history of cancer, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, spleen, liver, stomach and pancreatic cancer. She believes his service at Pease caused the cancer.
Perreault died exactly two months after he was diagnosed, she said.
"It was heartbreaking. We truly had hoped for a longer time," she said.
Pamela Bapp of Durham said her husband and guardsman Gregory Bapp started bleeding rectally at age 39. After a couple of years with failed diagnoses, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, which ultimately claimed his life.
"What scares me here today is we're going to leave and someone is going to tell me we have to collect more data. If you want to collect more data, the first thing we have to do is test everybody," she said during Friday's meeting.
It's a near thing. I'm still mystified by my own cancer diagnosis. As a youth, I spent a weekend camping on the grounds of ol' Pease Air Force Base with Boy Scout Troop 61. This was more than 30 years ago now, but I still remember. Of course, my exposure to anything noxious was brief, but who really knows about that sort of thing?
Wrapping up today, I'll muse on the collision near Japan between a fighter jet and an aerial refueling tanker
. It goes back to that aforementioned Pease overnighter. At the time, it was a Strategic Air Command base, and they refueled bombers out over the Atlantic. One of our leaders asked the aircrew if they wore parachutes on the tanker, and the nice airman turned a little grim and noted they're flying 20,000 pounds of gasoline. They didn't bother to wear them, implying that if anything happened, they'd all blow up.