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Entries in Marines (3)

Monday
Oct082012

Legless Marine Conquers Marathon

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- When more than 38,000 competitors set off Sunday at the Chicago marathon, few of them likely had a more incredible journey to the start line than Ben Maenza.

Maenza, a Marine lance corporal, lost both his legs two years ago when they were blown off by a bomb in Afghanistan, weeks after his deployment there had begun.

But instead of losing his competitive nature, Maenza was fueled by his injuries. Using a hand bike, he has now competed in multiple marathons and even ridden across the country from Florida to California.

“People think you can’t do stuff like that without your legs, so being out there and proving that you can and making it happen, it’s really gratifying,” Maenza, 24, said in a phone interview from his hometown of Nashville, Tenn.

That motivation to succeed on his bike came at a crucial time for Maenza.

After leaving Afghanistan, he spent a year and a half in rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Medical Center outside of Washington, D.C. It was there that he started talking to Achilles International, a group that helps athletes with disabilities.

“It was exactly what I needed at that point in my recovery,” he said. “I was at a crossroads. They came in and gave me a way to get a sense of accomplishment. It gives you something to work towards, the knowledge that you are capable and you can do it.”

“I never really was a runner or a cyclist before, but when Achilles approached me and asked me to do it, it kind of lit a fire in me and, quite frankly, I’m pretty good at it.”

During his races, Maenza feeds off the crowds, mentioning the motivation he gets from seeing fans waving U.S. flags.

“When people cheer for you, I get goose bumps,” he said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Maenza had to overcome some equipment problems Sunday in Chicago, but he still managed to finish the marathon in an hour and 48 minutes.

“Obviously, I was a little slower than I intended, but I’ve got a good excuse, my wheel was broken,” he said.

Maenza also has academic goals to go with his athletic ones. He hopes to earn a college degree, and do it with a 3.0 GPA to boot.

“As silly as it may sound, the only thing that’s intimidated me is school. I am terrified of it,” he said. “People think you’re a Marine, you’re tough. But I’m a human being, you know? I’m just a normal guy, just missing my legs. That’s it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Marines Battalion Mentally Upbeat, Despite Record Deaths 

Jupiterimages/Comstock(NEW YORK) -- The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment returned home from one of Afghanistan's deadliest war zones this week after a grueling eight-month deployment with record casualties. Remarkably, military psychiatrists say the men appear to be relatively unscathed mentally.

"So far so good," said their second-in-command, Maj. Mark Carlton, who endured the 20-hour flight back with the first wave of Marines and Navy personnel from Afghanistan's Helmand Province to California's Camp Pendleton.

The battalion witnessed 25 dead, 140 wounded and more than a dozen amputees. But overall rates of combat stress among the 250 mostly infantrymen, at least in their first medical evaluations, appeared to be no higher than other units in the southern province, experts said.

Some wonder why that battalion -- nearly 1,000 in all in the heart of the Taliban insurgency -- appears so psychologically intact, when some reports show as many 37 percent of recent war veterans are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Carlton attributed much of the good mental health to the battalion's "proactive" small-unit leadership structure.

"They know each other and live with each other the entire deployment and are never far from someone on the team," he said. "If there's a change in behavior or signs of stress, it's immediately picked up by someone who knows the guy really well."

"You absolutely see that in a lot of places and not just the military," he said. "On high school sports teams, kids get tight over time. Common understanding can't be replicated."

The battalion faced combat almost immediately when they took control of the Sangin District from the British last September. One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, the personal military aide to Defense Secretary William Gates, the most senior officer to lose a child since American troops arrived in the country in 2001.

But as casualties mounted, visiting mental health professionals said they didn't see a comparable rise in mental health issues and were surprised by the unit's resiliency.

Now, back at Camp Pendleton, the Marines have ordered the unit to stay intact with their families for three months to allow them to decompress together. There, additional mental health professionals have been brought in to watch for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

An estimated 1 in 5 combat veterans will eventually be diagnosed with PTSD and 1 in 3 will have some emotional or neurological problems related to war, according to a New York University study of 300,000 returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan at veterans' hospitals.

"The majority of people are highly resilient," said Dr. Charles Marmar, chair of the psychology department at NYU's Langone School of Medicine and a psychiatrist who has studied PTSD among veterans since the Vietnam War.

He said unit cohesion, proper training and a healthy personal life are all protectors against PTSD.

PTSD was first known as "soldier's heart" during the Civil War. Later, in World War I, it was called "shell shock." Symptoms usually start soon after a traumatic event, but may not emerge until months or years later, according to the National Center for PTSD, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sufferers can relive the event in nightmares and flashbacks or even when just hearing a car back fire or seeing a car accident. Emotional numbness, hyperarousal and feelings of hopelessness are also symptoms.

Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among troops serving nearly a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq have been on the rise and has been directly related directly to combat exposure. Soldiers at greatest risk were under the age of 25, according to 2009 ABC reports. Suicides in that age group were also up.

In May, the American Psychiatric Association will devote part of its upcoming annual meeting to promising approaches in intervention and treatment in the military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Friday
Apr152011

Marines Battalion Mentally Upbeat, Despite Record Deaths

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment(CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.) -- The Marine 3-5 battalion returned home from one of Afghanistan's deadliest war zones this week after a grueling eight-month deployment with record casualties.

Remarkably, military psychiatrists say the men appear, for the most part, to be relatively unscathed mentally.

"So far so good," said their second-in-command, Maj. Mark Carlton, who endured the 20-hour flight back with the first wave of Marines and Navy personnel from Afghanistan's Helmand Province to California's Camp Pendleton.

The battalion witnessed 25 dead, 140 wounded and more than a dozen amputees.  But overall rates of combat stress among the 250 mostly infantrymen, at least in their first medical evaluations, appeared to be no higher than other units in the southern province, experts said.

Some wonder why that battalion -- nearly 1,000 in all in the heart of the Taliban insurgency -- appears so psychologically intact, when some reports show as many as 37 percent of recent war veterans are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Carlton attributed much of the good mental health to the battalion's "proactive" small-unit leadership structure.

"They know each other and live with each other the entire deployment and are never far from someone on the team," he said.  "If there's a change in behavior or signs of stress, it's immediately picked up by someone who knows the guy really well."

The 3-5 battalion faced combat almost immediately when they took control of the Sangin District from the British last September.  One of the fatalities was 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, son of Lt. Gen. John Kelly, the personal military aide to Defense Secretary William Gates, the most senior officer to lose a child since American troops arrived in the country in 2001.

But as casualties mounted, visiting mental health professionals said they didn't see a comparable rise in mental health issues and were surprised by the unit's resiliency.

Now, back at Camp Pendleton, the Marines have ordered the unit to stay intact with their families for three months to allow them to decompress together.  There, additional mental health professionals have been brought in to watch for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio