With older Americans at higher risk for social isolation, science may have a treatment
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MAKOTO FUNATSU
by Lynn Darling
“Genomics Researcher Steve Cole had never really thought much about loneliness and the pain it causes until he looked into a molecular microscope at a small sample of white blood cells. What he saw there changed his life.
“The sample was one of several that had been taken from a handful of very lonely men and women, and Cole’s observations were startling: In each of the samples, the blood cells appeared to be in a state of high alert, responding the way they would to a bacterial infection. It was as though the subjects were under mortal assault by a disease — the disease of loneliness.
“But even more surprising to Cole, a professor of medicine, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, was the public reaction to the subsequent study he coauthored, when it was published in 2007.
“‘The impact at the societal level — it really kind of shocked me,’ he says.”
The next time you apply for or renew your Pennsylvania driver’s license or photo ID or renew your motor vehicle registration, you will have an opportunity to make a $3 tax-deductible contribution to the Veterans Trust Fund [VTF]. Since this additional $3 is not part of the renewal fee printed on your renewal application, you will need to add the donated amount to your payment. The same process would be followed if you renew online via PennDOT’s website.
The Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF) was established in 2012 by Pennsylvania law (51 Pa. C. S. § 1721). The VTF is a special, non-lapsing fund of the Pennsylvania State Treasury. The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is authorized to solicit and accept donations to the VTF on behalf of the Commonwealth.
“I grew up thinking of my grandfather as a drunk. His spiral into self-destruction left a legacy of bitterness and addiction that will haunt our family for generations to come. But only recently have I begun to realize how much of that legacy is rooted in the war.” – Adam Linehan
Photo illustration by Jesse Draxler
by Adam Linehan
“My friend Paul Critchlow fought in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with valor. Then he returned home to Omaha, Neb., and nobody wanted to talk about it. So he did what many combat vets did after the war: He kept his head down and drove on, built a career, raised a family, avoided anything that reminded him of Vietnam, compartmentalized the trauma, drank heavily and abused drugs. He did as his old coach once advised after he broke his leg playing college football: “You’ve got to play above the pain, Critchlow.” It was a productive approach.
“He eventually landed on Wall Street and rose to become head of communications for Merrill Lynch. But then one morning in 1994, he woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t find the will to move. The doctors told him he had clinical depression. In Critchlow’s mind, however, it was much more specific than that: a hill in the Central Highlands of Vietnam that the Army numbered 102. Many of his close comrades died there during the battle in which he was wounded. He blamed himself.
“There were fewer than 200 American soldiers on Hill 102 when it came under siege by the entire Second North Vietnamese Army Division on the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1969. Critchlow was a 23-year-old forward observer for Charlie Company, responsible for calling in airstrikes and artillery barrages. As the Vietnamese troops advanced farther up the hill, the grunts dug in along the perimeter shouted over the radio to Critchlow for more and more bombs. The battle raged through the evening, and once it got dark, Critchlow lay on his back in a roofless French plantation house and used a strobe light to guide an AC-47 Spooky gunship to its targets. Just before midnight, a lone figure appeared in Critchlow’s periphery. He was armed with a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, and Critchlow knew he was an NVA soldier by the shape of his helmet. The explosion lifted Critchlow off the ground, and suddenly he was immersed in brilliant white light, spinning slowly through the air, certain he was dead. Five hours later, he was tossed onto a helicopter packed with bodies, and bullets pierced the fuselage as the bird lifted off the ground. Critchlow begged God not to let him die after all he had just survived. He prayed to go home. But as soon as he got there, he wanted to turn back around. He felt as if he had abandoned his men. ‘By putting myself in harm’s way, I left them behind,’ he recalled thinking after waking up in a hospital in Danang.”
This New York Times Magazine long read (below) is so important to gain insight into what warriors grapple with after returning from hostile actions in other nations.
I was convinced the deaths of my friends in combat were my fault. It took me years to realize this feeling had a name: survivor guilt.
Grant Opportunities: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is pleased to announce the opening of its fiscal year 2019-20 Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF) grant cycle.
A combined total of $800,000 in grant funding is available for the 2019-20 grant cycle.
$650,000 in funding is available for grants of up to $50,000 for the following types of eligible applicants:
- veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) with 501(c)(19) status under the Internal Revenue Code; and
- non-profit organizations with a mission of serving Pennsylvania veterans granted 501(c)(3) status under the the Internal Revenue Code.
$150,000 in funding is available for the following types of eligible applicants:
- individual eligible counties may receive up to the maximum of $20,000 per grant cycle;
- the State Association of County Directors of Veterans Affairs may receive up to the maximum of $150,000 per grant cycle.
The notice of funding announcement, grant guidelines, and grant application are combined in one document and can be found here.
“In addition to high rates of disability and psychological issues, some vets facing the end of life are confronting long-suppressed memories of the traumas of war.”
“Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times
“When Timothy Hellrung was told he had aggressive cancer this past June and had only days or weeks to live, he knew where he wanted to die.
“Mr. Hellrung, a 73-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War disabled by Agent Orange, spent his last 10 days in hospice care at the community living center of the V.A. Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan. The staff provided him with a roomy suite. A social worker wheeled in a bed for his wife of 44 years, Brenda, and gave her pajamas so she could be comfortable spending every night with him.
“‘The V.A. became family to us,’ Ms. Hellrung said. On his first day in hospice, a roomful of veterans honored Mr. Hellrung by placing a pin on his clothing with the American flag and the words ‘thank you for your service.’”
Click here to continue reading this New York Times article in its entirety.
This Link to Aging and Disability Resources partner agency, the South Central Veteran Community Partnership, is “a coalition of VA facilities; Community health providers, organizations and agencies; and Veterans and their caregivers.”
Many Link partner agencies are also Veteran Community Partnership agencies.
History of Veterans Day
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”