Author Archives: stevesparks

About stevesparks

Depoe Bay, Oregon, United States A retired information technology sales and marketing executive following over 35 years beginning with the US Navy as a radioman in 1963. Graduated with a BA in Management from St. Mary's College, Moraga, California. Married to my soulmate Judy and living on the Oregon coast, I have 3 grown daughters and 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. My current passion and life work is mentoring and improving the education of K-12 kids, including helping the responsible nonprofit agency www.neighborsforkids.org achieve sustainability.

Stepping Up Initiative… A Lincoln County Oregon Community Solution for Those Suffering from Mental Illness and Addiction…

How to stop the revolving doors of jails and prisons…

Stepping Up Initiative, Lincoln County Oregon…

It has been a lifetime honor and privilege for me to help our community of Lincoln County Oregon launch this important initiative.

The Problem…quote from the above website…click here

“Each year, there are an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses admitted to jails across the nation. That’s equivalent to the populations of Vermont and New Hampshire—combined. Almost three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.”

Since the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on October 5, 2016 to start the formal process of implementing the Stepping Up Initiative, we have been hard at work to win public and stakeholder support to build a community owned treatment continuum that effectively diverts those with mental illness and addiction from being incarcerated in the first place.  As a community, we have ignored our responsiblity of caring for our less fortunate citizens for many generations.  For decades we have pushed folks with mental illness and addiction into County jails because being arrested and incarcerated was the only public safety option.  We have been grossly under resourced in communities all over America because we have failed to step up as a community to fix a problem we clearly own. We delegated our moral responsibility to law enforcement, criminal justice, hospitals, and public health resources for the last 40 years. Along the way with hard lessons learned, we discovered that the longer term solution must be owned by local communities as a family of peer support and services specialists, who are much better at intercepting our friends and family members who are suffering from medical and mental health illnesses, and addiction. We can do this work far better and at a much lower cost than our local government institutions.

To help my readers with where we are in Lincoln County Oregon with the Stepping Up Initiative, following is a report submitted on August 1st that shows where we are and where we are headed.  It is a very exciting time in Lincoln County and in other counties in our region to know that we are changing with a sense of urgency.

Stepping Up Initiative August 2017 Monthly Report… September 1, 2017

By Steve Sparks, Project Consultant, Lincoln County Oregon, Board of Commissioners (BOC)

Introduction

Quality preparation for the GAINS Center, Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) workshop on August 29/30 paid big dividends!  The attendance and participation far exceeded expectations.  Most importantly, everyone who attended the workshop came ready to be engaged in a meaningful way.  Everyone who has been involved in the leadership and planning for the Stepping Up Initiative and the SIM workshop planning this past year are just outstanding and professional in every respect.  We are well positioned to move forward with the post SIM priorities voted by participants during the workshop.  I will review these critical actions in this report, especially the top priority, intercepts 0-1.

SIM Workshop Participants… Stepping Up for Change…

Over 40 community stakeholders and treatment providers attended the SAMHSA GAINS Center Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) workshop on August 29 & 30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Research Associatesclick here

Click image to expand…

Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM)…click image to expand.

Sequential Intercept Mapping Priorities for Change

  1. Establish Intercept 0-1 diversion, including mobile crisis response, peer services, tri-county partnerships, etc. (17 votes)
  2. Establish Intercept 2 diversion through pre-trial services/intervention (14 votes)
  3. Increase cross-Intercept peer-delivered services and provide education regarding justice involvement (11 votes)
  4. Provide formalized reentry planning in Intercept 4 (i.e., closed loop referrals) (10 votes)
  5. Establish/increase supportive housing for individuals with mental illness (7 votes)
  6. Increase Intercept 1 diversion options for law enforcement (both voluntary and involuntary) (6 votes)
  7. Provide cross-training across Intercepts (6 votes)
  8. Establish Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the area (4 votes)
  9. Provide more timely access to services upon reentry (3 votes)
  10. Enhance recruitment and corporate housing for mental health staff across agencies (3 votes)
  11. Increase awareness and screening of gambling disorders and training/referrals to treatment (3 votes)
  12. Enhance care coordination model for community services in Intercept 0 (3 votes)
  13. Provide a faster handoff from law enforcement to the hospital, reducing wait times for officers (2 votes)
  14. Enhance cross-Intercept utilization of data and technology (1 vote)

What now?

The GAINS Center, Policy Research Associates, workshop facilitators, Travis Parker and Ashley Krider will prepare a detailed Sequential Intercept Map (SIM) tailored after the workshop outcomes presented as priorities above. We have very detailed and measurable post SIM forward actions developed in breakout groups during the 2nd morning of the workshop.  In the coming weeks and months, the breakout work teams will continue to be engaged in the process.  The excellent professional support from Policy Research Associates and facilitators, Travis Parker and Ashley Krider, will continue as we implement a sustainable strategic plan for Lincoln County that includes participation and collaboration from tri-county partners, Linn and Benton Counties, Samaritan Health Services Hospitals, Samaritan IHN-CCO, and a diversified group of community treatment stakeholders. All are dedicated to building a community treatment continuum that addresses the larger needs of jail diversion, jail re-entry transition, mobile crisis response and peer support services.  After the workshop, it was abundantly clear that we are all on the same team.

Establish Intercept 0-1 diversion, including mobile crisis response, peer services, tri-county partnerships, etc. (17 votes)

For starters, we are launching immediately into the highest priority action identified for intercept 0-1. In the near term, my role as project consultant will focus on orchestrating the forward progress of intercept 0-1. Lincoln County was awarded an OHA mobile crisis response grant over a year ago that has become a severe challenge to execute because of our inability to recruit and retain qualified crisis response clinical professionals to staff the 24/7 needs of a mobile crisis response business model.  The 0-1 intercept breakout group spent considerable time discussing this problem, the broader complexities, and implications. We agreed to move to a higher-level post SIM workshop action by engaging tri-county partners and other stakeholders in this effort to find solutions for Lincoln County, and potentially drive a stronger regional collaboration.  The peer support services component offers opportunities for scale, leverage, and staffing a more regionally focused mobile crisis response business model.   CHANCE, https://www.chancerecovery.org/ a peer services and support non-profit from Albany, is committed to supporting this effort and have in place existing peer services contracts with both Linn County and the IHN-CCO. Our goal is to maximize the potential of peer support and services in Lincoln County going forward. Also new in Lincoln County is Powerhouse Residential Treatment https://www.powerhousetreatment.com/ opening soon in Otis.  We have already started early discussions with Powerhouse to bring them into the Stepping Up Initiative mix. Also, on the table for discussion is a peer support and services criminal justice model in the State of Montana, Montana Peer Network, “Peers as Crisis Service Providers,” from SAMHSA. There is a strong business case and outcomes in the Montana model that could be considered and replicated in the LBL tri-county.  Reference the Montana business case… http://mtpeernetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/White-Paper.pdf

Future Funding Opportunities

As we all know, the funding environment is highly competitive.  The Stepping Up Initiative, especially the completion of the highly regarded SAMHSA GAINS Center Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) platform, will open funding opportunities for Lincoln County and LBL tri-county that we were previously not prepared to compete effectively and win support from diversified funding sources.  One such example we are looking into right now is the Laura and John Arnold Foundation RFP, just released.  We now know that private foundation funding is very much in the mix as we build a competitive public private partnership business strategy.

Outreach

My work continues to include high-level interactions with community stakeholders and tri-county partners to strengthen collaborations and build awareness.  Commissioner Hall and Sheriff Landers along with other team members have joined me consistently in various community venues, meetings, and radio programs to spread the word.  We are receiving much more media attention as well.  We are attracting more volunteers and attention from higher education. Keith Nelson, a retired IRS/DOJ professional has been volunteering his skills on baseline data collection and connecting Lincoln County to higher education resources at Washington State University, Criminal Justice, in Pullman and potentially OSU.  Shelby Houston, a Creighton University graduate student, is completing her practicum with Lincoln County Community Justice and Probation under the guidance of Suzi Gonzales and Jennifer Landers. LPSCC MH subcommittee, MHAC and APARC advisory groups are very important forums as well.  I personally and professionally enjoy the outreach role very much and appreciate the opportunity to reach out to our broader community.

Summary

As your Stepping Up Initiative project consultant, I couldn’t be more pleased with the leadership commitment and support this past year since the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners passed the Stepping Up Initiative Resolution on October 5, 2016. I have been able to do this work at a very high professional level with very few roadblocks. The wind is at our back as we move forward with the post SIM workshop action plan. We have the passion and motivation among all stakeholders to move to a sustainable business plan.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion

click here for my author page…

 

 

Caregivers and Compassion Fatigue. What do we know, and what can we do?

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project

My personal perspective of living with secondary post-traumatic stress…by Steve Sparks…

There were many years that the thought of my big brother getting hit in the head and knocked out by Dad triggered nightmares and uncontrolled emotions.  Although the nightmares rarely happen anymore, the events of that time stay with me.  The horrific nature of seeing my big brother almost killed by our father comes to me almost every day, sometimes more than once.  The never-ending toxic turmoil and dysfunction in our home left me feeling numb and without empathy and compassion for others.  The worst of post-trauma conditions is becoming self-absorbed, caring only about your own interests and survival.  There is no world larger than self in the worst case of emotional challenge in life after trauma.  My thoughts were mostly of self-defense and survival each and every day followed by self-medication at night.  Self-talk was filled with trauma from the past and fear and trepidation of the future.  I couldn’t talk to others about my feelings because no one else could possibly get it or understand.  Mental health was, and still is to a large extent, a risky topic to explore with others, especially family members and those you work with in your professional life.  Living in the moment and feeling safe is a life-long work in progress.

It was always challenging for me to trust others without some sort of escape plan and defensive position.  My feeling was that survival was an all-consuming occupation.  Even as kids we would avoid being visible or exposed for fear of being criticized and punished for being “bad, stupid, and sinful”.   For many years spirituality was something connected to religion, not my soul.  I didn’t know how to love until my mid-30s. I never trusted anyone completely and with unconditional love until later in life.

I have learned to live with and mostly mitigate the fear of failure and excessive insecurity in these later years.  For most of my life as a child, through adulthood and midlife years, my fear of failure served me well with intense hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal as a professional.  But these persistent and less than healthy post-trauma stress symptoms did not work well for me at home when free time should be used for peace of mind and relaxation…a mindfulness existence is a gift.

At home in a safe environment, I was always on the move and could not sit still.  When the pain creeped in during weekends, or holidays and sleep deprived nights, I became angry with outbursts and rage at times. The absolute worst part of my behavior is acknowledging how it hurt others close to me, especially my family.  What I know from research and awareness now is the larger tragedy of post-trauma stress on children and families. The transferred emotional pain often appears as a secondary post-trauma affliction in loved ones on the receiving end who become care givers and must try to live with the toxic behaviors of a parent, partner, or mentor. The generational consequences become a much bigger burden on others in your immediate family and society as a whole. 

I drank alcohol for self-medication until age 55.  I got addicted to narcotic pain and sleep medications in later years due to arthritic pain and joint replacements.  The combination of alcohol and prescription medications was a very bad cocktail and almost took me down.  The grace of God and my wonderful, loving, compassionate and caring spouse saved my life!

I believe now that healing from a painful and traumatic past is possible.  But it takes discipline, focus, and lots of love from family and friends.  Healing for me is fueled by my passion to make a difference for others who suffer from debilitating mental health conditions.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) Click here for my author page…

Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Dad’s Service to America… A Posthumous Purple Heart Medal Request…

Posthumous Purple Heart Medal Request for Vernon H. Sparks, BMC USN, 1936-1958.  WWII and Korean War.  Pearl Harbor Survivor, USS West Virginia, and WWII Pacific Theater, USS Belle Grove.

#####

Dear Friends and Family,

On this 4th of July we celebrate freedom in many ways, including honoring veterans of all wars. This year my family is honoring our Dad by applying for a Posthumous Purple Heart for injuries suffered during 66 months of combat duty before and during WWII.  The rules have changed in recent years to reflect injuries that are connected with moral injury or invisible wounds.  Our father, like countless other combat veterans, suffered an entire life time from too much war time trauma starting with Pearl Harbor and during the entire Pacific War…click here.

I want to thank my dear friend and Lincoln County Oregon, Commissioner Bill Hall, who helped me connect with Senator Ron Wyden’s office to get the application process started.  It is critical in the process of applying for posthumous recognition to have a congressional sponsor.  It is also important to have first hand accounts and/or medical records to prove physical and/or mental injuries from combat. I personally researched Dad’s war-time service by ordering his US Naval records, including medical, as next of kin.  My family holds on dearly to these records to preserve our father’s and military family legacy.  Descendents will never forget and will learn from our family experience for decades to come.  As descendents, we should make every effort capture and preserve forever the service of family members who served America in all wars. We should never forget the sacrifice of veterans who protected our freedoms.  Honor and remembrance is also healing, especially when family members are care givers for veterans who return home with battle wounds that can last a lifetime.  We served too!

Our family legacy is connected directly to America’s Armed Forces and service to America.  We are an American military family with US Navy roots, and very proud of this heritage. Dad was too proud to make a case for a Purple Heart even though he earned this honor and recognition for his injuries.  At one point Dad even discarded his old Chief’s Navy uniform with decorations attached because he was in such emotional pain.  As a family we didn’t understand his emotional pain and too often we didn’t act like we cared.  He did not want to remember his honorable and heroic service to America because his heart was broken and soul morally injured while watching his best friend and shipmate Roy Powers killed when the 2nd torpedo hit the USS West Virginia (BB48) on the morning of December 7, 1941.  In the years following Pearl Harbor, serving in the Pacific, he saw too much death and carnage for too long.  When he finally came home in June of 1945, Dad was a broken man.  Like thousands of veterans of that time and in future wars, he had to suck it up and start the long road home to make a living and raise a family.  We shall never forget!

Following is the first-hand account of Vernon H. Sparks, Coxswain, USS West Virginia, December 7, 1941:

National Park Service

Survivor Questionnaire – Persons Present December 7, 1941, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

Vernon H. Sparks, US Navy, Battleship USS West Virginia, Coxswain, Hometown: St. Paul, Mn

Brief Account of What Happened to You Before, During, & After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I was on the 3rd deck heading for the anchor windless room when the first torpedo hit the USS West Virginia.  From there, more bombing and torpedoes-when all hell broke loose.  Men in the brig were screaming for help.  I could not respond, there was no time…to check where the Marine guard was with the keys to the cells.  Evidently, he had already been hit.  The men in the brig were engulfed in water and perished.  I worked my way up to the 2nd deck with water up to my waist.  By this time, I came to a hatch with the manhole still open leading to the main deck.  I barely made it out of the escape hatch and was ordered by Lt. Stark to close that hatch.  The men were still down there but it was too late for them.  That was the first time I heard that the Japs were attacking our fleet…and the whole island.  I watched one of my best shipmates get himself killed-Roy Powers.  He stuck his head out the portside close to the ship-fitters shop; and about that time another torpedo hit and the concussion blew his head off.  His body fell back on deck headless.  After that it was a matter of surviving.  There was no defense, the ship was already listing to port at about 35 degrees angle.  I worked myself up further on the deck and observed the Commanding Officer, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion heading for the bridge.  The strafing and bombing was still on.  When I arrived on the main deck going forward to the number one turret…strafing still going on…I dived under the overhang of the turret.  Communications was out, so by word of mouth heard the order, “all hands abandon ship.”  Note: Capt. Bennion was lying on the wing of the bridge mortally wounded…He asked the doc, “What kind of chance he had?”  And was told, “Not much Captain.”  Then, Captain Bennion said, “Leave me on the bridge and this is my last order, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”  He died right after that order…  After that order, I jumped over the side to starboard and swam to Ford Island…Us guys that made it were standing on the beach watching the USS Arizona blow up sky high…what a helpless feeling.  I had torn my white uniform up to use as emergency treatment bandages for the wounded.  Anyway, to make a long story short, we dashed across the field under strafing conditions to shelter.  In the BOQ, we were able shower in there and salvage clothes from the lockers, and helped organize the Harbor Patrol.  And was with that duty for a few months – then assigned to new construction with the 5th Amphibious Force hitting the beaches of the South Pacific, all the way, then finally Iwo Jima, & Okinawa until the Peace Treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko, Japan.   People like myself could go on & on…but that would take a book…”

Vernon H. Sparks, December 7, 1941, Battleship USS West Virginia

From Ship’s Crew Muster:

Sparks, Vernon H.            328-41-29            Cox.       13           Jan.        36           10/12/39

Medical documentation showing combat injury:   Even though the record shows that he was recommended for limited duty, my father was deployed on the USS Andromeda during the Korean War.  This additional duty aboard ship made his post traumatic symptoms far worse during the 1950s and most of his life.  Dad passed away in 1998.  Our entire family was affected severely by the profoundly dysfunctional family circumstances, domestic violence, and alcohol addiction connected with Dad’s post war traumatic symptoms.  He was finally awarded a 40% PTSD disability during the 1980’s added to his Navy service pension.  Dad retired from the Navy in 1958 after 22 years of service, then served 18 years with the Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Prisons.  Dad never really recovered from the trauma of extended deployments during WWII and Korean War.  He was deployed for 66 months during WWII, much of the time in hard combat in the Asia Pacific Theater, including the USS West Virginia, December 7, 1941. Dad was too proud to apply for a Purple Heart Medal.

Dad’s diagnosis following his return from WWII…

“7-23-1945: Diagnosis: FATIGUE, COMBAT, #2172. Origin: NOT Misconduct. Tense, nervous, anxious, has shoulder that is easily dislocated.  Symptoms came on while at sea, tour of duty 66 months, ending some 6 weeks ago.  Sleeps poorly, wakens often, nightmares of combat. Appetite variable. Sensitive to noise and crowds.  Startle reaction. Moddy at times. Not suicidal. Is fatigued. Transferred this date to US Naval Hospital, Shoemaker, California for treatment and reclassification.”

It is heartbreaking to our family and healing at the same time to finally know what was going on with Dad for so many decades following the war.  We can now heal.  We can remember and honor his legacy.  We can forgive and love again… We can have peace of mind…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) Click here

 

 

 


 

Honoring Dad’s Service to America on Fathers Day 2017…

Vernon H. Sparks, BMC, USS Belle Grove (LSD 2) Asia Pacific Theater 1943…

USS Belle Grove (LSD2)
CAREER
Laid down: 27 October 1942
Launched: 17 February 1943
Commissioned: 9 August 1943
Decommissioned: 12 November 1969
Struck: 12 November 1969
Motto: “The Two Can Do!”
Fate: Sold for scrap, 24 July 1970Vernon Sparks, BMC, US Navy-USS Belle Grove (LSD2)

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Quoting Charles Minter
“Steve- My name is Charlie Minter. I served under Sparks on deck of the Belle Grove. I went aboard on Oct 43 was assigned to the 3rd. division aft. The first chewing out I ever got was from Bosn Sparks. He had the longest arm of any one I ever saw. You didn’t fool with him. He was fair as anyone this little 17 year old ever knew. . He could get loud too. I thought a lot of him on the ship. He was good to me as he got me a pie job on the ship. But with the understanding I would keep his uniforms pressed at all time which I did. Hope this helps.” Charles R. Minter P>O>Box 585 Daleville, Va.

USS Belle Grove (LSD-2) WWII Asiatic Pacific Theater…A workhorse support, supply, and repair ship that survived 7 campaigns. My Dad V. H. Sparks was the ship’s BMC… Quote from this website…read more about the USS Belle Grove history by clicking on this site…

1944
Belle Grove underwent repairs and alterations at that base before taking part in amphibious rehearsals at Maalaea Bay, Maui. On 22 January 1944, after embarking troops of the Army‘s 7th Infantry Division, she sailed for the Marshall Islands. The ship supported the seizure of Kwajalein Atoll, delivering troops and equipment ashore on 31 January, and then served as a floating dry dock and boat pool for the numerous landing craft required in an amphibious operation. These duties lasted until 8 February when she got underway for Pearl Harbor.
With her transport capabilities needed in the Solomons, Belle Grove headed for the Southwestern Pacific on 2 March. After a brief refueling stop at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, she unloaded troops, vehicles, and other equipment at Guadalcanal. The dock landing ship then took on a cargo of pontoon barges and pilings intended for a motor-torpedo-boat base under construction at Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago just north of New Ireland. On 25 March, despite heavy seas that wrenched her stern gate from its hinges, the LSD delivered the cargo to that island. After returning to Tulagi for fuel, she proceeded to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides for repairs. On 22 April, she steamed to Florida Island to deliver a cargo of landing craft. The ship also carried troops and equipment between Manus Island and the Russell Islands before turning north for Oahu.
#####
While there are many inspiring stories of WWII to write about, I often revisit my father Vernon’s years during the war in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.  Just like many boomers whose fathers served in WWII it has been healing for me to remember my father as a hero who served America with pride and honor.  Prior to researching and writing my book, it was mostly painful to think of my childhood living with a parent affected by the horrors of war.  Making it even more painful was not knowing or understanding how war damages the souls of veterans of all wars, including loved ones in life after war. 

It is no longer a subject for me to avoid or be in a lifetime state of denial.  I am without anger toward my father since writing and publishing my book in November of 2011.  No one should have to live with the pain of traumatic experiences in silence.  But the stigma of a diagnosis of PTSD and the knowledge of moral injury continues to haunt many who are still in need of treatment and relief from the emotional challenges that can live with us for a lifetime.

Although a work in progress, my own recovery has been amazing to me and remarkable to others who observe.  I am convinced that the journey of healing is a path worth seeking.  The outreach and human connectedness experienced from developing a healthy perspective of my father’s severe emotional challenges in life after war has made a world of difference for me.  I see clearly the generational consequences of war that cause children and loved ones to be affected with the same angry behaviors and mental health challenges as a parent who survived the horrors of war.

Rather than live with anger and painful flashbacks of those toxic childhood years, it is now healing to help others by writing about my own recovery and to share the success stories of others.  I write this blog with the goal to help those who are seeking awareness and more understanding of their own challenges and a healthy path to healing.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion…and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

Memorial Day 2017…Remembering Military Children and Families Who Served America Too!

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

“Saving your children, family and loved ones from intergenerational Post Trauma Stress (PTS)…”

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.” ~Pam Leo

Following is an excerpt from my new book released for the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII…

Chapters

  1. The Wrath of Stigma
  2. Local Community, Partnerships, and Responsibility
  3. Parents, Teachers, and Mentors
  4. Teaching Kids Empathy & Compassion…The dangers of emotional numbness & denial…
  5. How Does Moral Injury Damage Human Spirituality and the Soul?
  6. Museum of the American Military Family…Albuquerque, New Mexico
  7. Romance and Adventure with my Soulmate

Introduction

It has been almost 5 years since publishing my first non-fiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “chain and ball” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a high level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  It is proven that even babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and show symptoms of PTS as they become older.

The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.

Steve Sparks, Age 10, 1956, Navy Brat…click here for my author page…

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1… Click highlighted text for my author page.

Military Kids Exposed to the War at Home… How to help children cope and gain strength…

Teachers and mentors can help military kids and others who suffer from stressed out family circumstances at home…sometimes leading to child abuse and maltreatment.

Stressed out Military Families Need Peer Support…  Helping Children Cope…

“Deployments can be challenging for the entire military family. Even with the best preparation children may experience stress when one or both parents deploy. The at-home parent or caregiver may also experience stress as they adjust to new family roles and responsibilities. Although deployment may be challenging, military families often make adjustments that lead to new sources of strength and support.”

#####

It’s a new day! We didn’t have any awareness growing up as military kids from the boomer generation.  A toxic home life and scary circumstances connected to our family culture persisted without relief until it was time to leave home at age 17 to join the US Navy.  Following are my reflections of home life as a military child…

I have many vivid memories of violence in our home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My father was self medicated and angry most of the time and we never understood any of it…we were just scared all the time.  My mother was stressed out and never understood his outbursts and panic attacks either.  We woke up in the middle of the night to Dad’s nightmares reliving his combat experiences in the South Pacific while serving in the US Navy.   My parents would fight well into the evening hours making it difficult to go to sleep.  Mom did all she could do to just get through each day.  We siblings became a secondary priority and mostly neglected, except we always had food on the table.  The local public school was one of the only escapes during the day.  We felt isolated and ashamed like we were always doing something bad or looked stupid to others.  There was little or no encouragement or support at home for our school work because of the challenges of our parents in dealing with their own issues.  We didn’t talk about our experiences at home to other kids for fear of the consequences of our parents finding out.  We lied to teachers and coaches when they asked questions concerning our own sad and angry behaviors.  We moved often so were unable to make lasting friendships that made a difference.  We were hesitant to bring friends home for fear of unexpected angry outbursts and toxic behaviors in our home.  It was a blessing to spend time at the home of friends and their families where we could see love and kindness, and wished it for our home.

The pattern of child abuse is the same today, but we do have far more awareness and treatment strategies, including criminal action in the worse cases, to mitigate the sad circumstances of a toxic home.  The health of children can be affected for a lifetime from early child abuse and maltreatment.  Awareness is clearly the path to healing for survivors of trauma.  Education is the best solution to help parents become aware of how children are damaged and carry the emotional baggage into adulthood.

My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, was written specifically for parents, mentors, and teachers to help kids who suffer from trauma. Following is an excerpt from the book by way of introduction…

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

Click for larger view…

Introduction: It has been almost 6 years since publishing my first nonfiction book, Reconciliation:  A Son’s Story, November 2011.   My personal path of healing and mitigation of the “ball and chain” of life-long symptoms of anxiety and depression, takes me back to children living and growing up in a toxic home.   The ideal time to save kids from the emotional baggage carried forward as a result of child abuse and maltreatment connected with toxic parenting is from the very beginning.  When parents become abundantly aware of how their parenting behaviors affect children and the detrimental life-long damage of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they often become highly motivated to get help for themselves to save the kids if for nothing else.

Healing is about making a difference for others.  In the case of denial and ignorance on the part of parents who suffer from PTS, outrageous behaviors and angry outbursts, including physical abuse toward family members and loved ones, especially children, is common.  It’s too easy to pick on the loved ones in your life as a way to vent, but it is not always clear how much emotional damage is being done.  If parents knew the consequences of intergenerational PTS by inflicting emotional and physical pain onto children and family members, they would march down to the nearest alternative treatment center immediately and learn how to mitigate the symptoms effectively and begin the journey of healing.  In my experience and view, there would be no hesitation on the part of parents and adults if they had a higher level of awareness.  We could eventually break the intergenerational cycle of pain in a couple of decades if we started with our own kids very early.  Extensive research has shown babies will pick up on toxic circumstances and behaviors and demonstrate post trauma stress symptoms as they become older.The goal of My Journey of Healing, Part 2 is to specifically help parents with stress triggers to save their kids from becoming emotionally damaged during these critical years from birth to age 18.  Most of the content comes from my own research, resources, references, and experience as a survivor of child abuse and maltreatment.  Since publishing my first book, I have kept up writing consistently on my blog and website www.survivethriveptsd.com.  I will use the compilation of short essays on my blog as the primary reference point since it focuses almost completely on children and families in life after trauma.  I have been writing on this subject for a long time.  It is now the right time to consolidate and integrate all the postings into a single reference book designed as a guide for parents who are survivors of traumatic life events, including hard combat as a warrior, sole survivors of an accident, and victims of assault and rape.  The painful symptoms of PTS can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively.  More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.  Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.Understanding Child Traumatic Stress from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a painful read but highly useful in becoming more aware of how children respond to trauma.  The good news…more often than not child survivors of abuse, maltreatment, and neglect grow up with a high level of compassion, a motivation to succeed, and a desire to make a difference in the world.  This does not take away from the critical need to do all you can to love and care for your children as if your own life is at stake.  I feel blessed about my life at this point, but do envy the families who are free of post traumatic stress in their lives.  I worry most about the children who can suffer for a life-time from growing up in a violent home culture…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC)

 

Remembering The Greatest Generation of Mom’s…Happy Mothers Day!

Vernon and Marcella Sparks, c1940, Long Beach, California

The Military Wife and Mom click highlighted text for this excellent reference…

“I waited.

And waited.

And then…I waited some more.”

#####

During the worst of WWII starting with Pearl Harbor, my mom didn’t know if her husband, Vernon, was dead or alive for many weeks.  She first learned from the news about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  She also knew that Dad was aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) at the moment the first torpedoes struck his ship.  I can only imagine what was going through her mind at the time as a new mom holding my older brother Jerry in her arms… just 3 months old at the time.  For weeks it must have been a heart wrenching emotional roller coaster until she learned that Dad survived and that he would soon come home…she prayed and prayed.  Mother always had great faith in God and was raised as a Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But Mother waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Dad joined the Harbor Patrol right after his ship, USS West Virginia (BB48), was sunk in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day.  Mother had no idea when or how he would come home since in those years it was very difficult to communicate with loved ones who were fighting for our freedoms around the globe.  Then, Dad showed up one day many weeks after the start of WWII, but only for a short time to see his first born son.  Mother said good bye again a few days later not knowing whether her husband, Vernon, would return again.  I can only imagine how mother felt at the time.  I know she prayed constantly that he would return home safely.

I think of the strength and faith needed for military spouses and moms of that time to endure the emotional turmoil connected with the war.  Military wives like my mom had to keep the home fires burning and hold on dearly to faith that loved ones would return home safe.  They also knew that caring for the young children born before the war and during the war was of paramount importance to winning the war itself.  Military families serve too!

So, it was during this terrible period of American history, that Mother spent the next 4 years as a single mom waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more.  Finally, Dad returned home from the war in June 1945.  She was so happy and grateful that God spared her husband’s life when so many of her friends spouses were killed in action during that time.  But then, she soon discovered that the war came home with Vernon, starting with an extended post war “readjustment” period of mental health treatment at the US Naval Hospital in Shoemaker, Ca., near Oakland.  We didn’t know much about post trauma stress at the time.  It was called “battle fatique” but never discussed in any great detail nor did families know of the life long consequences of experiencing severe trauma in combat as we learned decades later following the Vietnam War.

On this Mothers Day, I honor and remember my mother’s service to America and all the military mom’s and spouses who served too!  For it is my belief that without the enduring love and faith of families everywhere, especially spouses and mothers, America would not be free today.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms who love us unconditionally! Pray for the mothers who are no longer with us…they live in our hearts and souls forever…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) click here for my author page…

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center… Call for stories for a new anthology…”War Child”

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, ND, Executive Director of the American Military Family & Learning Center in Tijeras New Mexico,, is an Army wife of twenty years and mother to an Army Veteran.. She taught in the overseas Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Caribbean and currently works forthe federal government. In 2016she and fellow Munich alum, Alexander George compiled the stories of University of Maryland, Munich, Germany alumni, resulting in a the third of a trilogy of books documenting the history of that campus’ 40-year history. She coedited the Museum’s first anthology, From the Frontlines to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War. She has been featured in the Army Times and has been quoted in scholarly books about growing up on military bases overseas.

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center click here for more.

Celebrating Almost 400 Years of American Military Family History…

Dear Friends of Military Families…

I’m writing to you because our museum (Museum of the American Military Family) has put out a call for stories for a new anthology. It’s called “War Child: Lessons Learned From Growing Up in War”and it will be focusing on stories of war from a child’s/teens perspective.

I’m inviting you to consider a short memory piece from your perspective ( recalling your past) and ending it with a reflection on lessons learned, or the impact war has had on your life–either living through war time, serving in a combat zone as a teen, or in dealing with your family’s aftermath-PTSD, injury, etc. If you know someone who might be interested in contributing a story, please feel free to pass this on. 

All proceeds of this book would go to fund educational programming at our museum– there would be no payment to you, but all contributors will be given a book and the opportunity to participate in various book-related activities. Our last book was supported by the NM Humanities Council and was used in multiple discussion groups…

This will become an important work as it will discuss what war does to children– through the voices of those children, and it will show how those lessons have shaped you as an adult–we hope to have this be part of a larger humanities project as well. 

Stories can be of pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment and legacy & aftermath.

We hope to get stories from many perspectives and age groups…I’d really appreciate your participation!

Submissions will be ongoing till June 30, 2017 and we are aiming for a October 2017 publishing date…

Please send stories to: mamfwriter@gmail.com

More information about this project and others can be found here:

https://mamfflatstanleyproject.wordpress.com/our-books/

We appreciate it! Thank you for helping us tell the story of America’s military families…

Circe

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Director

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center


546 B State Hwy 333 (Historic Route 66) Tijeras, NM 87059

Open SAT -SUN 12:30-6:00 PM;

FRI workshops & by appointment


Mail to:

PO Box 5085

Albuquerque, NM 87185

(505) 504-6830

Our Mission:

The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center brings together people with shared experiences showcasing and honoring those who also served–America’s Military Families.

 

April…Month of the Military Child… Honor military families who serve America too…

Honor our military kids and the families who serve too! Click here

Steve Sparks, Age 10, in 1956…US Navy Brat

“April is the Month of the Military Child. This awareness month was established to underscore the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. There are approximately 2 million military children, ranging in ages from newborn to 18 years old; 1.3 million military children are school-aged. Care of military children sustains our fighting force, and strengthens the health, security, and safety of our nation’s families and communities. The Network offers special thanks to all the NCTSN sites that provide care and support for our military children and families. To find out more about military children and families click here.”

#####

Anonymous said…

“I just came across this site.. I’m only 16 but my mom has suffered from PTSD my entire life. I had to “be the parent” at 7, and am constantly switching roles between the child and the adult. There should be more sites like this that offer support, but I can”t seem to find any.”

                                                             #####

In this link, Military Kids with PTSD, I wrote about my own observations and experience as a military child growing up with parents who suffered severely from the symptoms of PTSD.  As a military parent please take extra time to focus on your children.  Use not only this month of April…US Department of Defense News Article, but take your awareness forward and help your kids understand how war affects families of combat veterans, especially children.  Use the resources to educate your kids with love and kindness.  Do not allow them to grow up feeling isolated and alone with the memories that are often painful and misunderstood.  As a parent or teacher you can make a huge difference in the lives of your kids on this critical issue.  We owe it to our children to give them the opportunity to grow up to live a healthy, happy, and productive life…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) Click here for my author page…

Finding Forgiveness and Peace of Mind… Maya Angelou…”There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Oprah-Maya-Angelou

Maya Angelou… “There is no greater agony than bearing the untold story inside of you.”

Clice here for video clip…

Peace of mind in life after trauma…  Quote from this website article…

THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES: A healthy outlook on life makes full recovery more achievable:

  1. Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, “I always have bad luck…nothing will better from now on…everything is going wrong,” with, “Is there any real reason to think that…maybe things will change for the better.”

  2. Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace “I’ll never get through this,” with “I can do this, but it’s okay to feel scared.”

  3. Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a “power base.”

  4. Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, “I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life.”

  5. Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.

*****
I used to hate the thought of calling my Dad on most days, especially on his birthday.  I really didn’t see the point of saying “Happy Birthday” to someone who was perceived as an SOB.  I would rather celebrate his birthday by feeling the gift of freedom from his sphere of control and the chains of bondage…  Let’s all face it, my father’s behaviors were unacceptable and abusive toward loved ones, both emotionally and physically.  None of us really understood PTSD during our childhood and most of our adult life for that matter.  I spent my time trying to distance myself from Dad as a child and adult proving to him that I would not fail as his son; rather I would succeed beyond anybody’s dreams.  Although I was able to prove this to Dad before he passed away, it really didn’t feel very good.  It seemed like a no-win accomplishment.  We still had a rocky relationship and didn’t like each other, but know we loved each other still.  I do believe there was a kinship of sorts tucked away somewhere that needed to be released.  That didn’t happen until years after Dad passed away in 1998.  My anger was so deep I did not attend his memorial service.

It’s a new day!  I have a better relationship with Dad now than when he was alive.  I talk to him everyday through my work as an author, blogger, and speaker.  I am completely free of anger toward my parents in general.  The painful knot in my gut has been gone for over 6 years now since writing my book, starting this blog, and speaking at book signing events and participating in forums…keeping the PTSD awareness conversation going.  If I had known what I know today about Dad’s severe emotional suffering from combat stress during WWII and the Korean War, we would have had a different relationship.  I know our life together would have been different but not easy.  The difference would have been understanding the roots of his behavior and how the invisible wounds of war damaged his heart and soul.

I can’t go back and change anything.  I can go forward with my own journey of healing and help others heal along the way.  I am a survivor of traumatic life events, but now thrive with a sense of forgiveness, healing, and peace of mind never achieved until later in life.  My relationship with Dad also thrives, and now it is with honor to acknowledge his birthday each year. I do wish he were here though.  Our conversations would be far different today than they were before he left us in 1998.  But I have the feeling that he sees what is happening in my life and is very proud of his son taking up the cause of PTSD awareness to help others who are challenged each day with the painful symptoms of moral injury and PTSD…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, Mental Health Champion, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC).  Click here for my author page.