What do coffee and our U.S. troops have in common? This past week, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, has donated $30 million to U.S. troops, and CBS News was only one of several news outlets who eagerly covered the story this past Wednesday.
Schultz confessed to CBS news that since American troops are being pulled out of the war in Afghanistan, he fears that “some Americans may forget too quickly about the needs of the 2.5 million who have served.” However, just because they have left the battlefield does not mean that they deserve to disappear from national attention, especially those who have developed both physical and mental illness during combat. In fact, Schutlz recognizes that “depending on who you talk to, 20, 30, [or] 40 percent of the two million people who have served are coming back with some kind of brain trauma or PTS”.
That’s why a large chunk of the $30 million is going towards PTS and TBI research, and hopefully develop some cures as a result.
For those who are unaware of PTS, or Post-Traumatic Stress, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs finds that one in five combat veterans develop PTS either during or after combat. Individuals can develop the disorder after either witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Combat veterans make excellent candidates for developing PTSD because of the battlefield’s highly-stressful and volatile nature.

The symptoms of PTS can be quite overwhelming, and the disorder itself has only been around for a relatively short time, at least, in comparison to how long humans have been engaged in combat. Truthfully, the medical community officially recognized PTS as an official psychological ailment a little over thirty years ago, and to this day, no cure exists. But surely Schultz’ contribution can help put scientists and psychologists on the right track to developing a cure.

In the meantime, ailing veterans must learn to simply cope with their symptoms, which, if left untreated, can eventually take control of (and destroy) their entire lives.

The symptoms of PTS, as defined by the MayoClinic, are divided into three main categories:re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyperarousal symptoms. These categories can be boiled down even further to include symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks, guilt and anger, and insomnia respectively. These symptoms can make a veteran completely withdraw from reality and stoop into deep depression, and 22 veterans even take their own lives every day due to their symptoms of either PTS or TBIs.

For this reason, it is imperative that veterans learn how to control their PTS. Additionally, Schultz agrees that veterans can become some of the most invaluable members of society, especially after combat. Rather than viewing them as potential risks and social hazards because of their “unstable” mental condition, Schultz instead believes in their overwhelming leadership abilities that no Harvard Business School could ever teach. That is why part of his donation is also going towards job training for veterans once they leave combat, so they can utilize their newly-crafted and unique skills for yet another greater good, all the while regaining control of their civilian lives.

Coincidentally, Schultz’ visions of rehabilitating veterans with both PTS and traumatic brain injuries align with a non-profit organization founded in 2012. The organization, named Operation: I.V, is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Abrams lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in March of 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTS flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTS- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.